Evening Address – Ralph W. Schlosser, President of Elizabethtown College
Personally, I should have enjoyed listening to some more of these testimonials; they surely are more interesting, I am sure, than anything I can bring you from the outside on an occasion like this. I certainly appreciated being here and listening to the testimonials.
In the time that is allotted to me, I want to speak briefly on a theme that I hope will challenge us tonight. There are two texts of scripture I want to read. Now in Isaiah 54, 2nd verse, “Enlarge, lengthen the rope and strengthen the stakes.” Now let me read to you a few stakes from 2 Peter, first chapter, 5th verse.
Now the words of the prophet Isaiah have reference to a distinct period in the life of the children of Israel. The Book of Isaiah is in two parts; the first part dealing with the Assyrian Period when Isaiah lived and the second Part of the Book depicts the time of exile. The text I read fits into the period of exile.
The prophet Isaiah had many reasons to be discouraged with the conduct of the children of Israel, but he dips his pen into the ink, as it were, looks into the future and says to the children of Israel, don’t be discouraged, don’t be discouraged, enlarge the place of your tent, stretch. Notice the words enlarge, stretch, spare not, lengthen, strengthen and finally fear not, if you read on further.
A wonderful challenge that he gives to these people who are more capable. He urges them to go forward to the time when their tent should be enlarged, when the cause of God shall spread over the earth and take in nation after nation. Yea, lengthen the ropes and strengthen the stakes. Now that is a very important principle to learn when you go out tenting. Woe unto you if you lengthen the ropes and forget to strengthen the stakes. Comparatively speaking you cannot afford to lengthen the ropes of a tent without strengthening the stakes. Just as that principle is true in building a tent, so it is likewise true in the building of the cause of Jesus Christ.
Surely we need to reach out, and how beautifully we have heard this afternoon and this evening of the reaching out of the Codorus congregation, reaching out one way, stretching out the other way, but the success of it all, dear Brethren and Sisters, I am convinced, is the, fact that by the lengthening of the ropes you strengthened the stakes and the future of this congregation as well as, the future of any congregation depends upon both lengthening and strengthening. The two must be done. That is true wherever you look about you in nature.
Man is like a tree, a congregation is like a tree. If the tree has root it can live in the face of a storm, but woe unto the tree that faces the storm if it is not rooted, down it goes. I remember in your County of’ York someone pointed out to me a tract of timberland. I remember that someone owned it, prided himself in it very much. The time came when the timber should be cut and the owner agreed with the sawyer to have the timber taken from the tract but there was one oak tree in the tract that was the prize of his life. He told the sawyer he would give him $150.00 if he would let the beautiful oak tree stand in the middle of the tract, as he would like to have that. They sawed down all the trees with the exception of that majestic oak. It happened a thunder storm came along. The sky darkened, the thunder crashed and the storm beat upon the tree; down it went, because it never stood alone.
My dear Brethren and Sisters, a congregation, a Church, any organization, if you want to make any progress you must throw out the ropes but must not forget to strengthen the stakes. That’s true in every organization.
You find in large cathedrals there is a principal balance; you find for every large dome, for every vast expanse above your head, there is somewhere on the outside, the buttress to support it.
Lengthen the ropes? Yes, we are commanded to do it; reach out, spread the Gospel, but we are also told in the same text to strengthen fine stakes for fear the whole thing collapses. What is the benefit in the final outcome if the ropes are long and the stakes woefully weak? That’s a principle that must be observed. The trouble with us is that we are so apt in a materialistic, modernistic age, to think of ropes only. We think in terms of ropes and fail to, think about the stakes and consequently ruin and calamity face us. Many a life, many a business, many an organization, just because of that is a failure.
Let us notice, just briefly this evening, in what respect we have lengthened the ropes. I think you will all agree with me tonight that we have lengthened the ropes in the channels of knowledge. How many things do we know in the fields of science, in the field of inventions. It is marvelous to say the least. Just the other day I heard one man describe how in Washington, in the Capital of the United States, there are men sitting before instruments and as the decision in Congress is made, it is clicked off on those machines and all over the receiving instruments who put that thing into typewritten form without the touch of a human hand and in less than ten minutes time the news is on the street.
Lengthen the ropes? We certainly have. We have developed speed of a hundred miles an hour on the land and two hundred and two hundred and fifty, maybe more, in the air, and so we might go on.
Lengthen the ropes. But what about the stakes? I might speak to you about the wonderful achievements of the radio, wonderful achievements in the field of surgery, the combating of diseases, the passing out practically of some types of disease, and yet it must not be forgotten that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” There are a good many people who know a great deal about rocks but they don’t know the Rock of Ages. They know about the plants or flowers of the earth, they can tell you where they all grow, that’s practically true of some botanists, but they know nothing at all about the Lily of the Valley or the Rose of Sharon. They know about the Kings of the earth, Rulers, Potentates, know about them, can tell you their life history, but oh how meager is their knowledge of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They know about the stars in the heavens, they can foretell the eclipse to the second; they know the path of the sun and the moon and what don’t they know; they don’t know the Son of Righteousness nor the Morning Star. They know nothing about them.
Friends, I mean to say we have lengthened the ropes of material things and that it’s right that we do. God gives us minds to use and we should improve them and gain knowledge, but don’t forget with the lengthening of the ropes let us not forget to strengthen the stakes. With what do you think we ought to stake down this rope of knowledge? I read to you from the Book of Peter. Well, you notice he says add something. We should add as a stake to the knowledge of our day faith, faith, no matter how long the rope of knowledge gets, no matter how far we think the thoughts of God, we must always remember that we can never know it all, can never understand it all. God is not irrational, God is Supernatural, beyond the power of our minds to understand. We are finite, and He is Infinite. There wilt never come a time when you and I will not need to exercise faith. I am convinced that the man or the woman who uses the stake of faith, is the humblest person you will find and the more enlightened the person really is the more humble he is also. We may pride ourselves in our knowledge but woe unto us unless we use the stake of faith to hold us, for after all is said and done, faith is the victory; faith, without which it is impossible to please God.
Now, in the second place, we have also in this age greatly lengthened, wonderfully lengthened, the ropes of pleasure. We are in a pleasure loving age, have been for same time. Pleasure inventions have been made which are conducive to the pleasure of men and I think man should be happy. But man has been captivated by the rope of pleasure and has gone woefully far out on that rope of pleasure. Think of the amount of money spent on pleasure and amusement in our day. An ordinary world series baseball game brings in maybe a million dollars, close to it. A Prize Fight among the so-called great pugnalists, in a single night will also bring in a hundred thousand dollars. If the weather had been nice out on the California Coast, I don’t know how much would have gone in on the foot-ball game in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. I don’t know how much money is taken in in football and base ball games on Sunday in Pennsylvania and I think we gave them the privilege to do it. Haven’t we voted that way? Maybe you didn’t vote far it, but not enough to hold on to what we believe is right. And we like to use tobacco to tho extent of one billion dollars or more in a year and we are heading again to the use of drink, I hope not to the sum of two billion dollars a year. We spend money like water and yet they say we are in depression. We like pleasure. One and a half million radios now in Pennsylvania; one for every six people. There is nothing wrong with the radio, I am simply trying to show you how we go after the thing that entertains us. We love pleasure. More people out on the road in their automobiles on Sunday than going to Church I am quite sure, and a lot of professing Church Members at that; and they are swimming pool on a hot day, that are crowded far in excess of Sunday School rooms; circuses patronized far more than Prayer Meetings. We have lengthened the ropes of pleasure; and so I could go on enumerating a number of things.
I think God wants us to be happy but Brethren we need to make a difference in the quality of our pleasures and not think so much upon the quantity. We must have quality instead of quantity. God wants us to be happy. A Christian should be the happiest person on the face of the earth, but if you lengthen the ropes of your pleasure be sure you use the stake of Godliness that Peter refers to. If this rope of pleasure has at the end of it godliness, if that determines the end of the rope then you can be happy to your heart’s content, but there must be godliness in the higher pleasures of life.
We have had beautiful fellowship here since we gathered here, this morning, this afternoon, this evening. Fellowship in singing the beautiful hymns of the Church, fellowship in listening to the Word of God. A keen interest in the things of the Kingdom. Brethren and Sisters, if you will have pleasure add Godliness as the stake and we will find our joy in the things of the Kingdom more than we do. So, in the second place then, we are permitted to have pleasure for the Book says, “At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” if we determine them and test them as to whether Godliness is found in them. Those that have no Godliness; that don’t stake down our faith and light up in the godly life, that rope is in the wrong direction; but when you throw it in the direction of Godliness, throw it out to the hills unto God, always.
In the third place. We are in an age in which the rope of liberty has been thrown out very far. We are in a day when young people particularly want no restrictions, no chaperons, no advice, liberty to do as I think. What is wrong, is liberty wrong? No, God wants us to be happy and free, God wants us to exercise liberty in this life but I want you to notice that young or old who disregard advice, disregard traditions, who disregard them, axe not in the path of genuine liberty. We must not confuse liberty and license. The individual who takes feelings for his guide, as I said this afternoon, is not in the path of liberty. The one who merely guides himself by conscience is not necessarily on the path of truth alone. The apostle Paul was conscientious also, he persecuted the Christians, took them bound to Jerusalem. He was conscientious, but wrong. It is more necessary than to feel like doing as you please, yet stake down that rope of liberty with the good, strong peg of virtue, any peg in the direction of virtue is right. So if your liberty guides you in the path of virtue you are happy and convinced you are on the right road. Many, many people today are not concerned about beauty, about virtue, about Godliness, merely concerned about pleasure, having a good time, assume no responsibility. I wish I could impress the youth of the need of looking at life a little more serious. Maybe I was like that when 19 or 20, some times I think we were not quite that way. I don’t know how you look at things. Today you find a great many young people who have no desire to look forward to building a home, no desire of rearing a family, don’t want to be bothered with any of that, just want to be happy. They hope to get happiness by running around where their conscience takes them. They do not want to be told about it.
My dear people, there is something wrong when young or old throw to the winds all tradition, all customs, all disregard: for you must remember that some of the finest things the world bas to offer came down through custom Yes. may I plead with youth particularly somehow to catch the impression that God wants you to take life a little more seriously, more godly, and more liberty but have virtue as the goal. Lengthen the rope of liberty, sure, providing you strengthen the stake of virtue.
Time for one thing more. We have in the last 25 years of this century, lengthened the ropes of wealth. Now maybe we do not feel that way about it now, but as you travel the road and go along day after day, there is still evidence of a great amount of wealth in this land of ours. It may be in the hands of fewer people then in former years, that may be true. I am here to say tonight, my dear people, that when we consider the amount of money that is spent for luxury, part of which I referred to a while ago. I have some statistics on the amount spent on jewelry, perfume, candy, etc. It is alarming isn’t it; runs into billions of dollars. Well times are hard enough for some people tonight, I know that, but in spite of that, there are a number of people who are living in luxury and I do not propose to discuss the economic situation tonight but with this all you see that the U. S. has come to the place where she is the richest nation in the face of the globe. We have lengthened the ropes of wealth but when you do that remember there is a stake that needs to be driven in mighty deep or there will be a crash sometime. You cannot lengthen the rope of wealth indefinitely without seriously considering the stake. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter heaven.” You say with what would you stake it down? There is one stake that is sure to hold and my dear Brethren that stake is found in Second Peter, it is the stake of love. You can launch out all you will, into channels of wealth, into channels of industry, into commerce, into what not, providing underneath it all holding down that rope is the stake of Love, then there need be no fear.
“Where wealth accumulates, there men decay,” said Goldsmith. Where there is love, there is not the spirit of help yourself, I help myself. What this nation needs, is not necessarily a pulling in on the ropes, stopping our manufacturers, stopping the raising of products, God wants us to raise things I, think; God wants us to manufacture things, but if we lengthen our ropes in those channels, we must not let Satan meddle into the thing with his spirit of jealousy and grief. Put love into our economic system today and we will solve our troubles. Love casteth out fear, it solves our troubles. Yes, the story of the Good Samaritan is the cure for all our ills.
We must put the spirit of love into the lengthening of the rope in industry and have more concern and regard for others. A spirit of sharing somewhere or other must go into a system that reaches out into industry and lengthen its ropes. Lengthen the rope, certainly; God tells us to enlarge the tent, certainly, reach out, fear not; but don’t forget if you lengthen the rope you must then strengthen the stake and love is that stake which strengthens that rope.
As you go forward in the work of the Church here, as we labor in our work in the College, as you go back to your profession tomorrow morning, don’t forget the text, “Lengthen the rope, but strengthen the stake.”