Gracious, merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, here before your face is assembled a company of children who are redeemed through the precious blood of your Son. We have proclaimed to them your holy Word and now they have come today to publicly confess their faith, to solemnly present themselves to you, to declare themselves to be your servants and maids and you to be their God and Lord, and to swear faithfulness to you until death.
O Lord God, it is you alone who can make them capable of this, who can set their hearts on fire, and who can open their mouths for a candid confession and for a sincere vow. It is you alone who can help them to also keep what they promise for the glorification of your great name and so one day their souls may joyfully enter into the eternal fellowship of all your crowned, blessed confessors. Yes, you alone can equip these children for this through the light and power of your Holy Spirit.
Therefore we first present them here to you. We cast them into your arms and lay them on your gentle fatherly heart and fervently beg you in Jesus’ name: Hasten to help these children! Come to them so they may come to you. Pour out streams of living water upon them so that their mouths may overflow in the truth of your praise. Be their strength so they will be strong enough to overcome everything which wants to hinder them from keeping their precious oath until the end.
Lord, we call to you for grace for their souls. We sigh to you in heartfelt fellowship. We implore you on their behalf in one spirit, in the confidence of your dear Son with whom you are well-pleased: Oh, hear us, hear us, merciful God! And let this be a blessed hour for these children, for their parents, for this entire congregation, for all these hearers, yes, for all among whom these children will walk in the future and confess their faith.
Lord, we trust your precious promise to hear prayers. You can and you will do even what we have prayed you here. Therefore in faith we cry, “Amen! In Jesus’ name, Amen!”
Precious children, sincerely loved!
A glorious day has arrived for you, for today you will publically repeat your baptismal vow with your own mouths. At that time through Baptism you were received into a covenant with the triune God. At that time you still could not talk. At that time your godparents had to express in your place the affirmation that you would accept God as your God and Savior and Comforter, believe in him, and serve him. But through the goodness of God you have now grown up. You have gotten to know your God from his Word. You have heard about the blessed covenant which you have entered into with him as babies. You have learned his love for you. Therefore you will also now not be silent any longer. You will also now confess before all the world what the world should have to expect from you from now on, what your heart believes, what you have recognized to be the truth, to what you hold firm, yes, for what you now also will fight and, if necessary, suffer and die. Today you will confess to the world to which Lord you pay homage, to which party you belong, and on which path you will go from now on out of free choice.
Oh how happy I am because by grace God chose me, along with your precious teacher, to instruct you in the first foundations of our most holy faith! How happy I am that you have decided to confess the triune God particularly from today on! I see in you a new little army of God’s champions who rise against Satan and all his tools in the world. And I sigh to the God of all grace: Oh may you support and complete the good work which you have begun in these children! Oh may you strengthen them, the weak, and let nothing rip them out of your hand.
With trembling joy and tearful eyes your parents, foster parents, siblings, relatives, and godparents have gathered around you. With thanks they look today to our faithful Father and Leader in heaven and praise him that he has brought you thus far and also pour out their inner wishes for your future temporal and eternal well-being on his lap. They say, “Lord, your eye has watched over the souls of these children up to now. Continue to take them into your faithful protection and preserve them for eternal life with you. Let our worries and troubles, let our tears and sighs, not be lost on them.”
This entire congregation also now looks at you with blessing hearts. Certainly some believing souls among them are now silently saying to God, “Lord, be gracious and kind to these children. Illuminate them, forgive them their sins, and keep them always in your truth and grace now and in eternity.”
Yes, even the holy angels, who have guided you thus far as guardian spirits, are now assembled here together and rejoice to hear the good confession from your young lips. They are ready to love you more and more and to never leave your side until death unites you with them eternally.
But above all—oh, listen, my greatly loved children—above all Jesus Christ himself, your most faithful Savior, is here among us. He will now hear his praise from your mouths. He will hear as you cry, “Yes, O Jesus, we are yours. We want to belong to you. We want to stay and persist with you until the last beat of our hearts. Your cross shall be our flag which we follow, your love our glory, your will our blessedness.” Oh, that will be precious harmonious music to your Jesus! Therefore he will also enclose you in his arms and present you to his Father as his lambs marked with his blood. He will not leave you until he has brought you into the dwellings of peace and eternal joy.
But before we go further, first let us give an answer about the reason for the hope which is in you.
In the name of the holy highly-praised Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” These are, my precious children, the words of our beloved Savior, which you find in Matthew 24:13. In the preceding verses, the Savior had described the last times of the world and said that it will look absolutely sad on earth at this time. Then Christians everywhere will be hated for the sake of Jesus’ name, many false prophets will appear and deceive many people, so that, if it were possible, even the elect would be mislead into error, and because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, even in Christians. Therefore there will be a great danger of falling away from Christ along with them and so to go lost.
This time, my friends, has now come. It has happened as Christ has predicted it. It is undeniable that your life has taken place in those last troubled times full of temptations. Therefore if there is any passage at all of the Holy Scriptures that you have to imprint deep upon your heart ahead of all others in the present hour, then it is our faithful Savior’s word of warning for the last times:
“He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Therefore before you express your precious vow, I first want to briefly lay this word on your heart and show you how you should stand firm:
- In faith and the confession of the truth, and
- In love and the practice of godliness.
You have, my sincerely beloved children, lived a truly blessed life until now. Through God’s goodness and through the faithful care of your dear parents you have so far enjoyed a good instruction in the saving Christian truth. You have been like young plants of God which he has had carefully fenced in, watered, and cultivated in the garden of school and of your parents’ house. You silently went there and were able to learn and confess God’s Word and no one has disturbed you.
It will not always stay like this now. From today on you walk an entirely new path. You will now not only leave your precious school where until now you were daily instructed, effectively warned and encouraged in your faith, but you must now also go further and further out into the world, oh, into a world so full of temptations! You are now transplanted from the peaceful garden of school into the wide field of the crowd of men where you are no longer watched as tender plants, but are turned loose and exposed to every storm of temptation.
The peaceful spring of your life has now come to an end. You now run with the little ship of your faith out of the quiet harbor of your childhood into the middle of the wild ocean of this life. So far you have been quietly taught your Catechism and allowed to believe in the Word of God and in your Lord Jesus Christ and confess him, but now the world will soon behave entirely differently toward you. You will soon get to know unbelievers who will be out to rip your precious faith out of your hearts. You will come together with people who will say to you, “You should not believe in the Bible. It is not God’s Word. It is a human book like any other. And, to be sure, the Savior was a wise and pious man, but still just a man like anyone else.” Now if you oppose such unbelievers they will call you simple fools and idiots and say, “You still have an old dark superstition, which was fine to have when the people had not been so enlightened. But now we have progressed. Now we have a much better light.” Yes, dear children, you will now often come across such unbelievers who speak like this, who will want to make the most precious truths of revelation suspect to you, and who will mock and ridicule all the mysteries of your faith. Oh, when you discover that, then think of the words of your Savior: “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Do not believe that unbelief is a new wisdom. It is nothing new at all, for the unbelievers have already been saying this for more than a millennium, and the heathens and Jews already scoffed at Christianity in the times of the Apostles. Therefore the Apostles say that already at that time the message of the cross is foolishness to all those who are perishing, and that they preached Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks, and that they had to become fools in front of the world for Christ’s sake. At all times all holy martyrs and all Christians have been viewed as such fools. Now the only difference is that in accordance with the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures also almost all Christians have fallen from faith and become mockers. Therefore do not let yourself be deceived by the beautiful term “Enlightenment.” Unbelief is not an enlightenment but a dreadful heathen darkness. Oh, do not therefore let yourself be called fools by the world for the sake of your old Christian faith. You are, after all, the ones who are truly wise and smart before God, the ones who will save their souls and have eternal life. You must resign yourself to the fact that this is just the way it goes in this world. All those who will live godly lives in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution, disgrace, scorn, and ridicule.
Of course, my friends, in your life you will get to know not only such course deceivers, but also ones who are more refined. You will also get to know people who admit that the Bible is God’s Word and that Christ is God’s Son and that faith in him saves but also clearly depart from God’s Word in one or more articles of the Christian faith. You will get to know many preachers, especially in this new homeland of ours, who display great zeal and have a great show of holiness and in doing so mislead many souls to their false teaching and draw them into the net of the enthusiast sects. These people will say that you should just follow them, that you would not fall away from your faith because of this, that you would still remain good Lutherans, that you would not break your oath, which you have sworn in your Baptism, because of this. But my sincerely beloved, also when such apparent deceivers come, think of the word of your Savior: “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Do not believe that it would mean nothing if you depart from the clear Word of God in only some points. Rather, believe that if you abandon and deny the divine truth in one point, you abandon and deny it all. It is a great chain which connects heaven and earth, but if you take out just one link, then the entire chain is broken and the connection is completely undone. Therefore you may turn away neither to the right nor to the left, neither add a word to it nor subtract a word from it. A single word of God must stand higher for you than all the wisdom of this world. If you yield to one false teacher on one false teaching you sell the entire truth and become Judases, that is, traitors to Christ. You have heard the pure evangelical Lutheran teaching. You have seen that in the Lutheran church God’s Word is strictly followed in all points. Therefore if you fall away from this church, you knowingly and willingly fall away not only from a man, but from Christ, the Son of God. You fall away from divine truth itself. For if you break your baptismal covenant, then you are committing apostasy and perjury and in this condition you can no longer comfort yourself with the grace of God and your salvation.
Oh, therefore let yourselves be warned. Let yourselves be admonished. Stand firm in the truth you have known. Abandon it for no man. Never deny it to gain the favor of men or other earthly benefits. What good will it be for you if you gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Prefer to suffer all scorn and derision, all persecution, poverty, misery, and imprisonment, before you should let go of even just one single letter of the Holy Scriptures. Yes, be prepared to die, to suffer the most excruciating death, rather than deny the truth which alone can save you. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Think of the many millions of martyrs who have already shed their blood for the sake of the truth. What has it hurt them that they abandoned and sacrificed everything for it? They are now eternally blessed and triumph with Christ eternally in heaven. But what has it helped those who betrayed or denied the truth out of fear of men our out of love for gold? They, of course, eventually had to die and are now disgraced, eternally cast from Christ into the fiery abyss of hell. Oh how comforted you will meet death if you have remained firm and steadfast in the truth! How glorious it will be when you leave behind this earthly battlefield and are carried by the angels into heaven as victors and are there adorned with the crown of eternal life!
Of course, precious children, Christ does not only want you to endure in faith and the confession of the truth in these last times, but also in love and the practice of godliness. No one can remain in the faith, in Christ, and in the truth who is living in sin, serving his flesh, and letting the thinking of the world rule within him. On the contrary Christ says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32), that is, free from the rule of sin and all ungodly character.
Therefore when in your holy Baptism you swore yourself to Christ’s flag and by publicly repeating it today, you are promising at the same time with a precious oath: You will during your entire life not walk the wide way of the world and the flesh, but the narrow way of the cross of Jesus Christ. You will not conform to the pattern of this world, but will be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You will not take part in the vanities of the world nor run with it in its vile, disorderly character. You promise you will above all seek salvation, be a sworn enemy of sin, and fight against the world and your flesh and blood day and night. You will watch over your heart that you are not deceived by Satan and lead astray into sin and shame. You will pray continually for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and especially when you are in need call upon God alone and seek help in him. You will daily meditate upon God’s Word and hold especially high the public preaching, and gladly hear and learn it. You will live to Jesus’ honor and regard his disgrace higher than all the treasures of this earth. You will often celebrate his holy Supper in true repentance and go with him into death. You will let your light shine before men in every Christian virtue, in humility, in patience, in love, in kindness, in gentleness, faithfulness and honesty, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Consider well, my much beloved, what you are promising today, and also the true, honest seriousness you must have. Otherwise you are just mocking God by having yourselves confirmed and pretending that you want to renew you baptismal covenant. If you do not persist on this narrow way of godliness, you cannot be saved, you cannot obtain the crown of life, and you cannot come into heaven. If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.
But oh, how soon you will now be tempted to abandon this narrow way and walk the wide, fun way of the flesh and do what your poor, corrupt heart craves! How soon you boys in particular will be tempted to either entirely forget God’s Word or to view it as just a trivial matter and above all seek after a great income of money, after riches and honor before men! And you girls, how soon you will now be tempted to throw yourself into the arms of the world, to dress yourselves up for its pleasure, to pursue its amusements, to seek its honor and so forget the Word of God which has been planted in your hearts and the humble, despised Jesus! Oh, I wistfully think about how many I have already confirmed who received the Word of God with desire and gave glorious hope that they would become jewels of the Christian congregation. They were trees standing in full blossoming splendor. And oh, how are they now? The first frost, the first storm of April destroyed all hopes! They have forgotten everything which they have sworn to their Savior in Baptism. They have become victims of the world and now only seek after not how they may please Christ, but rather the world. They now laugh about what once moved them to tears.
Oh, my precious ones, will you do that too? Will you abandon the way of truth and godliness too? Will you soon turn your back on Jesus, your Savior crucified for you? Will that be your thanks for his inexpressible love? Will you despise, forfeit, and lose the heavenly jewel and finally die unsaved? You say, “Oh, no, that is impossible! We will hold unbreakably what we are vowing to him today in the sight of Jesus Christ!” Blessed, oh, eternally blessed you are to me, my beloved, if you think so in your hearts. But know that being faithful does not stand in your might. God’s grace must work it in you. Therefore ask God for it daily, and daily remember the words which are exclaimed to you today: “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Oh, stand firm then, if you remain with your Jesus, then you will have it good. Sin is the corruption of people. It enters sweetly like milk and honey, but eventually it reveals that it is bitter gall, that it is a poison which prepares the torments of hell and eventually plunges you into eternal death. With Jesus it is reversed. If you choose him then you will have your share of trouble in this world. Your own heart will tempt you, Satan will continuously torment you, and the world will seek to lead you astray to apostasy, sometimes by enticement, other times by force. It costs you watching, praying, fighting, and many tears in quiet chambers, but oh how glorious, how blessed, how unspeakably lovely is the exit from this thorn-filled way! Its end is salvation, eternal joy, eternal bliss, eternal pleasure, eternal delight, in fellowship with all the blessed and elect and angles before God’s face.
Therefore think about this, about this glorious end, and hold out until this end.
Oh stay, lambs, stay! And think upon this day
When you before the world this oath have spoken.
To Christ who knocked and struck in ev’ry way
Until in love he your poor heart had broken.
Keep well in mind what you said as you wept:
“I Christ accept.” Amen.
The children’s confirmation song.
So then take, precious congregation, these precious children devoted to Christ. Take them back from the hands of their teachers and kindly receive them into your midst. Do not cause them to stumble, for on that day their blood will be demanded of you. Remind them often of the promise they have made here. Shine before them and prove yourselves to be spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters until we all stand assembled around God’s throne.
Let us now begin our heartfelt care for the preservation of these souls by praying together:
You have heard, O God, that these children want to stand firm with you until the end. You have heard it, the precious oath, that they want to keep the covenant which you entered with them in holy Baptism. They want to remain in faith and the confession of the truth. They want to remain in love and the practice of godliness. Nothing, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate them from your love. We all shall be their witnesses that they have given their word and shaken hands on it for forever, both now and in eternity.
But, O Lord, from where will they receive power to finish the good fight and reach eternal victory? Their hearts are deceitful. Satan sets out to devour them. The world lays thousands of nets and traps of temptation for them. The times are evil. Sin and corruption now covers the world as waves of the ocean.
To you, yes, to you we flee and ask you in the name of Jesus Christ: Remember the covenant which you entered with them and the precious oath which you swore to them that you will be their God, their Father, their Savior, their Comforter. Lord, when it grows dark around them, be their light. Be their help in need, their redemption from sin, their strength in weakness. Depart not from their side. Be a fiery wall around them. May your wisdom be their leader, your blessing their riches, your omnipotence their shield, your love their sun, your compassion their always open castle.
Do not let them fall, and if they do fall raise them back up. Do not let them lose their way, and if they do lose their way, seek them out again. Do not let them become lost, and if they fall prey to the hellish wolf, then rip them from its jaws with your might.
O Lord God the Father who created them, have mercy on them, remember what kind of creatures they are and that they are dust, and help them in body and soul. O Lord God the Son, Jesus Christ, who has redeemed them, have mercy on them, remember that they are the lost whom you came to seek and to save, and preserve them for salvation through your might. Lord God the Holy Spirit who sanctified them, have mercy on them, remember that they are weak, dark, dead, and powerless without you, and stand with them in life and in the hour of death. O Holy Trinity, remember that these children are yours. They live to you. They die to you. Whether they live or die, they belong to you. Do not let them go lost! We poor sinners pray you. Hear us! Hear us! But we do not doubt. You save those who will be saved. You help those who will be helped. Therefore may your name be praised forever, both now and in eternity. Alleluia! Amen.