An Open Letter to the Graduates of 1959

Dear Graduates: 

A day to which you looked forward for years has come; and the graduation hour that stood out in the month gone by is now a moment, of the past. You have graduated either from what we usually—although erroneously—call the Grade School or Grammar School, or from High School or College. You have reached a milestone which marks a measure of progress in your education and training. Whether it has been an easy road on which you seemed to be coasting because of the ease with which you mastered your subjects, or whether it was a continual struggle, an uphill climb, you both have arrived at this point that marks a prescribed goal. You have reached it with honor or with difficulty; but you have reached it and received a certificate that testifies of this to all who read. 

I cannot help but wonder, as I sit here contemplating the commencement exercises I attended last night and the night before, just what the motto was that was chosen by your class? I am not able to trace the origin of this custom of having a class motto. I do not know how and when it originated. But a custom in our land it surely is. And it is quite proper that you choose a class motto. You choose a class flower. You have your class colors. Perhaps you also have a class song. A class motto is quite in order. But I wonder what motto it is that you have chosen. There are good mottos of which we may read in our newspapers; and there are bad ones, decidedly bad ones full of worldly, wicked, atheistic, God-dishonoring sentiment. Only too often they are nothing but carnal boasts of the proud heart of man. But there are also mottos that express faith in God and mottos that are the prayer that rises in the heart of the child of God. Here in this community we have been informed by local papers of the mottos of three of the local schools. These three mottos are the following, “Onward, Ever Upward,”; “Grant Us Knowledge To Know What Is Right And Courage Enough To Do It”; and “Lead Me To The Rock That Is Higher Than I.” 

If you have been reading these lines in The Standard Bearer which we call In His Fear—and you ought to read them for your own instruction in His fear—you will know that we prefer that last one because it is literally the Word of God, You cannot improve upon that! Your prayer may be, as you journey relentlessly onward from birth to death, that your walk of life may ever be upward, seeking the things which are above, walking as a pilgrim and stranger who seeks that heavenly city that now is above but will descend at the end of time to be the Holy City of God. And if I were asked to speak on the motto, “Grant Us Knowledge to Know What is Right And Courage Enough To Do It,” I could explain that courage requires grace and that it is not simply a matter of courage to do what is right but the grace of God to cause us to love Him and what is right. Many a sinner knows what is right and having no fear of his fellowmen dares to do that which is right but never does it because he does not love God. The devil knows what is right and has plenty of courage to disregard all the thoughts of men; yet he never does that which he knows to be right. No, give me the Word of God: Lead Me To The Rock That Higher Is Than I. That is a nice motto. And the more we live in this world, the more it becomes plain to the child of God that he needs that guidance to that Rock Which is Christ. 

But now to return. <>i>Your motto. What was it? Was it a prayer to God? Was it an expression of faith in Him? Was it a declaration of praise and thanksgiving to Him? Say, let us not forget that. You graduated. You were given these years of life on God’s earth. You breathed in His air. You walked on His earth. With a mind that He gave you were you able to receive knowledge. I will not take the time now to call your attention in detail to what wonderful things He gave you: a sound mind (what an amazing thing the human brain), an eye of which the man-made movie camera is a very limited imitation, an ear that functions so wonderfully and fills such an important role in our learning, a faculty of memory, of speech, of perceiving and of calculation. We could continue; but is it not plain that with all our education and learning our motto surely could very fittingly be an expression of praise to this great God Who has given us all things natural and spiritual? 

But more interested than in your motto I am interested to know what it is that you learned and is represented by that diploma which you received. Often it is, indeed, that this motto reveals the spiritual principle behind that which you have been taught. You may have read the amusing news item in your newspaper which relates that the graduating class of a certain High School had chosen for its motto: “Today We Launch Out; Tomorrow We Sail,” only to have the whole commencement exercise rained out by a cloudburst. There was too much water for them even to launch out that day. O, such a motto overlooks that there is a God in heaven and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It was a proud boast of man of what he was going to do. But the God in heaven, though men may ignore Him and rule Him out of their educational system, is still there; and He let His presence be felt by the torrent of rain which He sent at His prescribed moment. A motto of worldly philosophy reveals that all the instruction has been colored by such materialistic, atheistic, God-dishonoring philosophy. I remember having the privilege to speak to the graduates of one of our own schools some years ago—a school I can never forget, and I can only wish that all of God’s children could attend such a school. I hope that the graduates of that school are reading these lines even as I know that they have discussed in school in the past the lines of this department. The theme or motto of that class was, “Our God is King.” What an education, what a wonderful knowledge, what a priceless wisdom to be able to see in all the spheres of our earthly lives that God is King and that this King is our King! If that motto expresses also the viewpoint, the principle that governed all the teaching—and I have no reason to believe that it was not but rather every reason to believe that it actually was the case by the grace of God amid all our human frailties—those graduates and their fellow students in school, received a covenant training. 

Your motto may be different, graduates. All cannot have that same one. All need not have this same one. But did you learn that in school? Did you see God in all things which He has made? What a privilege has been given to you. But what are you going to do with it now? A motto means nothing if it is discarded as soon as the day of commencement exercises is a thing of history. An education and training in His fear means nothing if we walk contrary to it. No, these do mean something. They mean that our punishment will be the greater. For these things will testify against us in the day of days when we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body. That diploma you will save. Your graduation picture you will have framed and keep for future reference (and perhaps amusement). But your education in the fear of God’s name, do you want to cast that from you as soon as you received a passing grade upon it and are proclaimed a graduate? 

May that not be the case. In this letter we wish to congratulate you on this achievement of graduating. This, of course, is meant only for those who have as children of God’s covenant reached this milestone in their lives. We cannot find the words to congratulate those who have learned to rule God out of His great and wide creation. We can only find words to express our sympathy and pity to you that are so deprived of the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. We cannot rejoice in such an achievement. We cannot honestly before God say that we are glad to see you reach this goal. 

But do not misunderstand, we still write this open letter to you. And in it we plead with you to cast off this philosophy that pictures the whole world as revolving about man instead of being centered in God. Let the Word of God be a lamp unto your feet and a light upon your pathway. Turn away from the vain philosophies of men. Accept nothing that the world may teach you that is contrary to the teaching of the Word of God. It may receive the approval of the world and may seem to be the smart thing to do. But do not forget that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the psalmist declares in Psalm 119:98-100, “Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.” Many a teacher today gives instruction in foolishness rather than in wisdom because in his teaching he opposes the Word of God. Never mind trying to harmonize the Word of God with science. Follow not after an instructor who walks in that way. Reject his teachings, and you have more understanding and wisdom than he. Do not let him teach you that God created the world in millions of years. Such an one in spite of all his degrees and experience does not know the A B C’s of truth. The principle, the beginning of all wisdom is to fear God and to take Him at His Word. It is folly to contradict His Word because some unbelieving “scientist” has made a discovery which he does not understand and cannot explain in the light of God’s Word. And surely it is folly for man who lives on this side of the Flood and knows absolutely nothing of conditions before the Flood to base all his theories on the present conditions and to rule out the possibility of vastly different conditions in an age of which man today has no knowledge. That is not even scientific. Rest assured that if we knew the conditions of that era when men lived to be nine hundred years old, and a mist came up and watered the face of the earth, when there was a tree of life that had fruit which was able to sustain man’s earthly life—(shall we deny this, too, because no “scientific” evidence can demonstrate and prove its reality today?) we might well have an explanation of these things as the life of carbon-14. At any rate, the Scriptures declare that the serpent was cursed and was caused to go on its belly. That is not evolution but degradation. No “scientific” evidence of this. Shall we deny it too and say that Scripture gives only a figure of speech? What then can we believe?

No, graduates, regardless of what your class motto was, let me give you one we all should accept and by which we should live, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee,” Psalm 119:11. May God bless you when you seek further education at a higher level. May He bless you if you have come to the end of your formal education and be with you in the work to which you have set your hands. May He keep you in His fear and make you wise unto salvation. 

Fraternally yours in Christ, 

—J.A.H.