Sermon at the Installation of Two College Professors


Walther’s “Rede bei Einfuhrung zweier Gymnasiallehrer” was delivered in 1856 at the installation of Adolph Friedrich Theodor Biewend as the new Rector or President of the “Classical Department” or Gymnasium that was attached to Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. A new Co-rector, Georg Schick, was also installed on this occasion. The address was originally published in Der Lutheraner (edited by Walther), Vol. XII (June 3, 1856), p. 164. It was later reprinted in Lutherische Brosamen (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1897), pp. 346 ff. The English translation that appears here was prepared by John W. Klotz, and was published with the title “Sermon at the Installation of Two College Professors” in the Lutheran Sentinel, Vol. 32, No. 6 (March 28, 1949), pp. 82-89. Some lengthy excerpts from the address were also later translated afresh by Carl Lawrenz, and were included in his essay, “An Evaluation of Walther’s Theses on the Church and Ministry,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 2 (Spring 1982), pp. 128-30. Lawrenz’s version is the source of most of the alternate translations that are shown in brackets within the text.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord Who made heaven and earth. Lord, have mercy upon us! Christ, have mercy upon us! Lord, have mercy upon us! Amen.

Dear Friends in Christ, Worthy Friends, Patrons, and Guests of our School, esteemed President-elect and Co-rector-elect:

“And the Lord said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”

It is thus that the Messiah speaks, as the great Evangelist of the Old Testament [Isaiah] testifies to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the 49th chapter of the book of his prophecy.

Certainly this text is not intended to show that the Messiah was once seized with despair and perplexity in regard to His office: rather it shows us the breadth and the length and the depth and the height of the love of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, toward sinners.

All men had become His enemies and with that the children of eternal damnation. And nothing could save them but that He, the Son of God, assume the office not only of a Prophet and a King, but also that of a High Priest, who should offer Himself on the altar of the greatest disgrace and shame, yes, even that of a bloody, painful death on the tree of the cross. And behold! He, the Son of God, accepts this very call of His Heavenly Father.

The Father spoke:

“Go forth, my Son,” the Father saith,
“And free men from the fear of death,
From guilt and condemnation.
The wrath and stripes are hard to bear,
But by Thy Passion men shall share
The fruit of Thy salvation.”

And the Son answered:

“Yea, Father, yea most willingly,
I’ll bear what Thou commandest;
My will conforms to Thy decree,
I do what Thou demandest.”

Certainly to this we must add with the blessed poet:

O wondrous Love, what hast Thou done!
The Father offers up His Son!
The Son, content descendeth!
O Love, how strong Thou art to save!
Thou beddest Him within the grave
Whose word the mountains rendeth.

And yet the holy prophet Isaiah leads us in the words we have just quoted up to a still greater height and down to an even greater depth of the love of God’s Son. He tells us that He planned this already in eternity, even though He well knew that so far as millions were concerned He would work in vain and that His efforts would be futile and profitless. Even then already, by virtue of His omniscience, He saw millions to whom He would extend the blessings of His blood sink down eternally lost into the pool of Hell. And what does He do? He does not for this reason choose only some whom He will [wants to] save. He wants the responsibility for the death of not a single sinner. He assumed the difficult task, the bloody work for all, and He comforts Himself that His work is the Lord’s and His office that of His God.

Dear friends, it is not without purpose that I have attempted to direct your attention to the words of the Son of God in the hour in which it has fallen to me to address you. We have here before us two faithful, highly respected men, both of whom have concerned themselves with the various aspects of human knowledge from their youth up in order that at last they might follow the Savior’s bidding: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Their real goal was to save other souls for the Savior, since He had redeemed them, to tell sinners what great things God had done for them, and to comfort the believers with the same comfort that had reassured them: in short, their goal was to assume the office of preaching reconciliation, to call to the lost and condemned world: “Be ye reconciled to God,” and to break the Bread of Life for the redeemed children of God.

And yet the church has directed another call to them, has called them to work here as professors at one of her institutions of higher learning, and has committed to the one in the name of the Triune God the presidency of this institution and to the other the office of co-rector. Now the time has come for them to speak their solemn, public acceptance of the calls that have been directed to them in the name of the Triune God.

And so I trust that it is not superfluous that I, for their encouragement and for ours, seek to answer on the basis of the Messiah’s words the question: “What shall be our comfort when men who have prepared themselves for the pastoral office [the office of rescuing souls] and have even worked successfully in that office accept the call of the church to serve as professors at our institutions of higher learning?”

I answer: we should be comforted because their office also is the office of our God and their work also is the work of our Lord.

It is certainly true, beloved hearers, that the office which has the particular task and great privilege of proclaiming the Word of reconciliation publicly in the church of Jesus Christ and of sealing the precious Gospel of the unmerited grace of God in Christ by celebrating the holy sacraments, it is certainly true that this office offers to those who serve in it a satisfaction in all their struggles and anxiety of soul that is offered by no other office in home, state, and church. For if a pastor can bring back into the fold of Christ just one wandering, lost sheep, he tastes already here the joy that the angels of God enjoy in heaven. For that reason he who gives up this office for that of instructor at an institution of higher learning brings a great sacrifice. It is also true that when a theologian assumes this office, he sees covered over in an instant the precious vein that he has exposed by careful prospecting and years of back-breaking labor from his youth up, the vein from which he planned to give to the world many a specimen of the gold and silver of God’s revelation which he himself had carefully dug out of God’s Word.

And yet, even though the holy apostle was right when he wrote to Timothy: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work,” and even though this precious truth of the apostle can very easily lay low us theologians who teach at an institution of learning, still we have this as our prime comfort that our office is the office of our God.

For God really has founded only one office and that is the office of gathering His church on earth in His name, the work of building, governing, caring for, and keeping it. It is this office that the Lord established and gave to His church when He gave to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven and when again at the end of His earthly ministry, He proclaimed to all His disciples: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

Accordingly, this office not only has a great number of duties and tasks of various kinds, but it requires so many different abilities that no man is able to carry out all this work by himself, even in a small group [sphere]. Just as the Messianic office of Christ is divided into three offices – those of prophet, priest, and king – so also the work [office] of the church falls to offices which require the most varied and most diverse gifts of the Spirit. To the complete carrying out of the work [office] of the church there certainly belongs not only that those who bear this office pasture and fight for the flock of Christ themselves, but above all that they see to it that young men who will be true shepherds and faithful defenders of the truth are ready to take from them the shepherd’s staff that they must give up and the sword that death will snatch out of their hands, are ready to bear these, and use them.

It is, of course, true that the first shepherds and warriors for Christ were prepared and equipped for the work by Christ Himself and by the special gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet it is also true that even today true shepherds and warriors for Christ go forth only from His school and the school of the Holy Spirit. Only it has pleased Christ to bestow the ability to carry out this office – that ability which at the time of the first founding of His church He bestowed suddenly and instantaneously in a supernatural way – from the time of Pentecost on to this time as the result of earnest study and sincere prayer under the guidance of faithful teachers.

The pure knowledge and careful understanding that filled and illuminated the souls of the apostles with lightning speed on the first Pentecost; the sufficiency of spirit to preach the truth and to refute errors that arise that was given to the apostles in a moment on that birthday of the Christian Church, just as Aaron’s barren rod blossomed and bore fruit in a single night; finally the knowledge of all the languages in which they were to preach and the ability to speak these which came upon them instantly, in a moment, on that first Pentecost like the fire of Elijah – all these, as we have said, must be sought and mastered by unremitting toil under the leadership of faithful teachers.

For that reason, it is not by human arrangement that there are men in the church who bring up and instruct God-fearing boys, so that they may some day carry out the office of preaching reconciliation. Their office is a holy, divine office, a branch of the office that Christ once founded and established by entrusting to His disciples on earth the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. For not only the gifts that are needed to lead a boy deeper into the appreciation of the divine truths, but also the gifts that are needed to build up especially the character of a boy and teach him the different languages, both living and dead, also these are gifts of the Holy Spirit that the ascended Savior showers down on His church for the founding and maintenance of holy offices. For it is written: “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” “Now there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. To one the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”

Let us, then, think of this today, my esteemed coworkers here at this institution of higher learning and let us encourage ourselves with this: Our office, too, is God’s office; we, too, stand and work here in God’s place; we, too, are the tools of the Holy Spirit. The first language teacher in the Christian church was God the Holy Ghost. If He who searches all things, yea, the deep things of God, was not ashamed of this office, how can we be ashamed of it? Rather let us say with Jesus Christ: “Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord and my work is with my God.”

This, though, leads me to the second answer to my question: “What shall be our comfort when men who have prepared themselves for the pastoral office [the office of rescuing souls] and have even worked successfully in that office accept the call of the church to serve as professors at our institutions of higher learning?” My second answer is: We should also comfort ourselves that their work is also the work of the Lord.

It is indeed a great comfort to us that also our office is God’s office, that by assuming the office of professor at this school we are not going from a spiritual to a secular calling, not going from a divine to a human office. Of course, it is true that also the offices in the state have been founded by God. But these do not have as their final goal the great business of God, the glorifying of His Name, and the salvation of the lost and condemned world; but rather the happiness and welfare of the life that now is.

But it is not so with our office. Not only has it been founded by God, but all its works have no other final goal, no other ultimate purpose, than glorifying God’s Name and saving the lost and condemned world.

In particular, you, the venerable president-elect of this school, are from this time on in every sense of the word the guardian, the spiritual father, and the family pastor of the boys and young men at our college. Not only do these make up a real family church and family congregation of precious, eternal souls that were bought with a price, the responsibility for which God lays on your soul as president from this time on; not only are these to be educated and brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord and above all to be led to heaven. No, more than this. Whatever we teach here in addition to God’s Word, whether it be ancient or modern languages, the original texts of the Scriptures or those of secular writers, whether it is church history or world history, or geography or mathematics or science, or the beautiful arts, music and painting – all, all are to be taught with this goal and this intention, that men are educated here who will have both the necessary general education and the particular abilities, the required character, the necessary love, self-abasement, and sacrifice to invite into Christ’s Kingdom men of all classes, all occupations, and all educational levels, to pasture Christ’s flock, and to carry on the warfare of Christ.

In that way we ourselves, it is true, are not by virtue of our office to save souls, but we are to train the soul winners; we indeed are not by virtue of our office to teach the world publicly, but we are to train the teachers for that work; we ourselves are not by virtue of our office to lead God’s congregation, but we are to train the leaders for hundreds of congregations; we are not by virtue of our office to slay the hosts of Christ’s enemies, but we are to enlist His soldiers, supply them with weapons, and teach them the strategy of spiritual warfare.

Very properly, therefore, we can make the comfort of the Messiah our comfort: “I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.” We are carrying out here nothing less that the Lord’s work and business. The final goal of everything that we do here is the destruction of Satan’s kingdom on earth and the spreading abroad of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the triumph of light, truth, and righteousness over darkness, untruth, and sin; the conquest of all the kingdoms of the world for that of Christ the Lord, the victory of the Gospel over all the heights and ramparts of human reason, the flooding of all lands with the knowledge of the Lord as with the waters of the sea, the subjugation of all powers to the scepter of the Lord of lords, the rebuilding of paradise lost; in short, the glory of God, the rescue of immortal souls, and the salvation of this lost and condemned world.

It is for that reason that we, too, may expect the gracious help of our God and Savior and may expect our prayers for wisdom, power, courage, and success to be heard. We, too, may look forward to the crown which awaits all true teachers and laborers in the Lord’s vineyard, and we may comfort ourselves with the promise because it has been given also to us: “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

May this be spoken, esteemed colleagues, to your comfort as you are installed in this office that is both important and trying. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy going in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

And you, my dear students at this school, consider what I now say. Think of this: our school is a school of the prophets, a portico of the temple where Jesus sits in the midst of pupils and teachers, yes, the true basement of the church. The office of these professors, who have been given you now by God, is therefore God’s office and their work is the Lord’s work. Receive them as God’s messengers in His stead and be assured that what you do unto them you do unto God. Let yourselves be led through the vestibule of learning into the sanctuary of the Scriptures so that when we sleep in our graves you may stand in the holy places as God’s messengers, and that you may speak in the light what we have told you in darkness and what you have heard with your ears you may shout from the housetops. Finally may you appear with us and with the many souls that you have saved before the Lord’s throne in heaven and with us and them praise Him forever and ever. Amen.

C. F. W. Walther

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