Lehre und Wehre (Vol. LXXVI)
Magazin fuer Ev.-Luth. Homiletik (Vol. LIV)
TheoI. Quarterly (1897-1920)-Theol. Monthly (Vol. X)
Vol. I December, 1930 No. 12
FUERBRINGER, L.: Paulus in Athen ....... ' ............. 881
ENGELDER, TH.: The Active Obedience of Christ ....... 888
GRAEBNER, TH.: Reformed Tendencies in Certain Amer-
ican Lutheran Churches ............................... 897
'BERNER, E.: Abhaltung einer Gemeindevisitation ........ 902
ivruELLER, J. T.: Address on Rom. 14, 7-9 at the Memo-
rial Service for Mr. Erling Teigen......... . . . . . . . . . . .. 911
STREUFERT, F. C.: Pastoral Visits. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 916
Dispositionen ueber die von der Synodalkonferenz ange-
nommene Serie alttestamentlicher Texte............... 920
Theological Observer. - Kirchlich-Zeitgeschichtliches. . . . .. 933
Book Review. - Literatur .................................. 953
Em Prediger muss nicht allein weiden,
also dass er die Schafe unterweise, wie
sie rechte Ohristen Bollen sein, sondern
auch daneben den Woelfen wehren, dass
sie die Schafe nicht angreifen und mit
falscher Lehre verfuehren Imd Irrtum ein-
fuehren. - Luthe'r.
Es ist kein Ding, das die Leute mehr
bei der Kirche behaelt denn die gute
Predigt. - Apologie, Art. ~4.
If the trumpet give an uncertain sound,
who shall prepare himself to the battle?
1 Oor.14, 8.
Published for the
Ev. Luth. Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States"
CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE, St. Louis, Mo.,
916 Pastoral Visits.
Visiting a Prisoner.
One of the saddest duties of a pastor is to minister to the spiritual
needs of such of his members as are confined in penal institutions.
We all agree that these unfortunates are in particular need of our
spiritual ministrations. Such visits afford us an opportunity to speak
not only of sin and its fearful consequences, but also of God's un-
ending love and of Ohrist, our Savior and Redeemer. The prisoner
behind the bars has had many hours, in many instances even days
and years, for reflection. Quite frequently his former friends and
even the relatives have severed all connections with him. He is
indeed an outcast. Noone has an interest in his well-being, often
not even his former pastor. Some of the penal institutions are served
by a missionary especially called for this purpose or by the pastor
living near by. Nevertheless a pastor should keep in close touch with
such a prisoner, either by corresponding with him or, better still, by
occasionally visiting him. A prisoner surely stands closer to his own
pastor than to the city missionary, and the former no doubt is better
qualified to look after his spiritual needs. True, some of the criminals
are "hard-boiled," and all our efforts may be in vain, but the majority
will bid you a hearty welcome and willingly accept your services.
Permit me to adduce a personal experience.
It was on a joyous Ohristmas Day, at 6 A. ~L, just before the
opening of the service, when one of the deacons rushed into the vestry
holding in his hand the morning's issue of the newspaper. In bold
type across the top of the front page it was written: "Mr. R. killed
Mrs. S., shot Mr. S., and then shot himself. Murderer not expected
to live." Mr. R., though formerly a Lutheran, had long ago turned to
evil ways. Only a few days before I had met him at the house of
one of his friends. My first thought now was: If he still lives, is
there any pastor to minister to him? What could I do to rescue the
perishing soul? Such and similar thoughts filled my mind when
I entered the pulpit and again when I left it. When the second
service of that notable Ohristmas Day was ended, I forthwith went
to the parents of the young man, with whom I was acquainted, too,
to express my sympathy and to give them a word of comfort,
above all, however, to ascertain what could be done to save the soul
of that young man who was at the brink of death. Upon my question
whether the son was still a member of the church, I was told that
he long ago had forsaken His Savior, but that he had attended the
Ohristian day-school at one of our sister congregations and that
Pastor X. had confirmed him, that later he had been given to drink
and had long ago turned his back to the church. Nevertheless I urged
the mother to go forthwith to his former pastor and to tell him of
Pastoral Visits. 917
all that had happened and that he was now lying in the prison hospital
with a bullet wound in his head. Strange, the pastor refused to see
him "because he long ago severed his connections with the church"!
I offered my services and went to the hospital that same afternoon.
There he lay on his cot. Though the bullet had torn away one side
of his temple, he had regained consciousness. He immediately recog-
nized me. "My friend, what have you done~" said I and then held
up before him the mirror of God's divine Law, pleading with him to
think of his confirmation day, then on his past life and the sins he
committed, and to consider well that he had provoked God's wrath
and displeasure. With feeble voice he murmured: "I am a poor
sinner. What did I do? Pastor, pastor, is it too late? Will.r esus
forgive me?" It is not necessary to state that I now presented to
him the message of God's redeeming love, a love which is as high
as the heavens, as deep and fathomless as the ocean, as wide as the
universe and as everlasting as the ages to come. I pointed him to
the case of David, who, too, had committed murder, but was assured
of forgiveness by God's prophet when he showed himself a truly peni-
For a long time this man hovered between life and death. In
the first few weeks I came to see him every day. Gradually he re-
covered. He was then transferred to the jail. For half an hour each
week I was permitted to see "him, being locked up with him in his cell.
Those were precious visits indeed. Each visit was a Bible hour and
an hour of prayer. Three months had already elapsed since the ter-
rible crime had been committed, and he had not been called for the
preliminary hearing. True, he had been charged with assault to
murder, which covered the lesser part of his crime against Mr. S.
(who also recovered); but, strange to say, the records knew nothing
of the murder he had committed. So one day, after a visit at the
jail, I happened to meet the attorney who was to defend the young
man. As we met in the corridor of the jail, I asked what chances his
client might have on the day of his trial. "Sorry," said he, "no hope
whatsoever. I see nothing but the gallows." I expressed my surprise
that his case had not yet been called although nearly three months
had elapsed and asked whether there was not a law in our State ac-
cording to which a prisoner could demand his freedom if for some
reason or other he had not been brought to trial within a certain time.
The attorney admitted that there was such a law. Excitedly he
begged to be excused to go down to see the records. In a few minutes
he returned, stating that, if they failed to call him within ten days,
he indeed had every right to claim his discharge. He was not called
to trial until three weeks later.
When the court was called to order, the case of Mr. R. was an-
nounced. The attorney for the defense requested me to step up, so
918 Pastoral Visits.
that I might hear the entire proceedings. After the usual preliminary
remarks the attorney for the defense addressed the court, requesting
that the client be discharged because he had not been called to trial
within the specified time. When the judge asked how much time had
elapsed, he was given the desired information. The State's attorney
was taken by surprise and demanded a postponement of the trial to
give him time to look into the matter. But what was I, his pastor,
to do? It was no fault of the prisoner's that he had been forgotten
in his cell and had not been called to trial. To say the least, these
were trying moments for me. Just how must I properly advise him,
so that, even should his life be spared, he might have a good con-
science as long as he lived? I finally urged him to tell the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, no matter what the
ultimate result for him might be, and told him to be ready to re-
ceive the extreme penalty. - This, too, was the substance of my dis-
cussion with the attorney, whom I met a few days later. I stated,
however, that in my opinion the judge might be requested to be
lenient with the prisoner. I believed if the prisoner pleaded guilty
of murder (with which crime, according to the records, he had by
default of the State's attorney, not been charged), the court might
be asked to inflict on him the minimum punishment for murder and
strike out the charge of assault with intent to kill. In this way, in
my opinion, the department of the State's attorney would forestall
just criticism, while, on the other hand, the prisoner would have a
good conscience for all time to come.
Finally the day for his trial was set. I will never forget the
moments as we stood before the judge - the prisoner and I in the
center, the attorney for the defense to the left, and the prosecuting
attorney to the right. The judge, it seemed, had carefully studied
the case. It was evident that some one had failed to do his duty.
The judge asked the prosecuting attorney as to his intentions in the
case pending at this time. As he shrugged his shoulders, the attorney
for the defense begged leave to submit a statement. "Your Honor,"
said he, "the Rev. F. O. S., here present, pastor of the client, has
a solution, I believe, for the problem confronting us. Will His Honor
permit him to submit his opinion?" "The reverend gentleman may
speak," said the judge. Thereupon I briefly stated that I had been
in close touch with the prisoner from the day when the crime was
committed until that hour; that I at all times had felt it to be my
duty to impress upon him the seriousness of the crime committed by
him and to advice him to plead guilty and be prepared to suffer the
extreme penalty; that I, however, believed that His Honor might be
lenient in his verdict if he pleaded guilty of murder inasmuch as the
prisoner had not been properly called to trial and therefore, accord-
ing to law, was at least entitled to such leniency. If it would please
Pastoral Visits. 919
the court, I would suggest that, if the prisoner plead guilty, His
Honor inflict the minmum punishment for murder and strike out the
charge of assault with the intent to kill which is pending. The
prosecuting attorney consented, and the judge ordered the prisoner
"to be taken to his cell and the reverend gentleman be closeted with
him to induce him to enter his plea of guilty and upon conclusion
of their deliberations to return to this court."
The prisoner and I were led away. Being alone, I explained to
him what it all meant. His first question was: "Pastor, do you
think that it will be the right thing for me to do?" He did not for
a moment think of denying his guilt in court, - no, he was ready to
admit everything, - but it was not clear to him what "minimum
punishment" meant. He was convinced that he deserved nothing less
than the gallows. I again urged him to tell the whole truth and to
plead guilty; but the outcome of the trial, I said, was in the hands
of God, who according to His unbounded wisdom governs everything
in human affairs; also the heart of the judge, I added, was in His
hands. Being satisfied that he was not burdening his conscience by
his plea of guilty, we informed the clerk that we stood ready to re-
appear before the judge.
Half an hour later the plea of guilty was entered, and the verdict
was: "Remanded to the State Prison at J. for a term of from one to
fourteen years and the other charge of assault with intent to kill
I felt it my duty to visit him once each month at the state prison.
How grateful he was to see me, especially as his wife, his relatives,
and his friends had turned away from him. How strange that some-
times even some of the Ohristians of whom we should expect it least
resent any effort on the part of their pastor to win the souls of such
outcasts! But we know that there is joy in heaven over even such
criminals if they repent. This criminal was truly penitent. He daily
read Das walte Gott! the book of devotions collected from Dr. Wal-
ther's writings. His Bible and his prayer-book were his constant com-
panions. On good behavior he was released after seven years and four
months. At a time of a serious riot at the prison he valiantly stood
by the prison authorities and thereby reduced his term considerably.
How necessary such visits at the penal institutions are everyone
can readily see that has made an attempt to minister to the spiritual
needs of any of his flock confined there. While I was seated at a table
with a prisoner under my spiritual care, a prisoner on the other end
of the table whispered to me, "When you get through with your man,
will you see me, too?" I did. Then he, who was a stranger to me,
said, "Pastor, you do not know me, but I know you. About five years
ago you preached at our church at a mission-festival. I never forgot
what you said, not even your text." And he mentiollAd it, With
920 SDis\Jofitionen tibet dne 5erie altteftamentHd)et ste&te.
tears in his eyes he then related that at one time he had been a good
member of his church, attending the services fairly regularly. He
then spoke of his downfall; he had pilfered money from letters at
the post-office. He was sorry for his deeds; indeed, he was on the
verge of despondency, so that even the thought of doing away with
himself and "ending it all" had entered his mind. Yet a few Bible-
verses that he remembered had always given him strength to over-
come the temptation. "But I can hardly bear it any longer. All have
turned against me - my family, my friends, and seemingly also my
pastor. I never saw him since I was committed to jail; I never re-
ceived a word or letter from him. Oh, how it would cheer me to re-
ceive only a card!" And in that same strain he continued. I gave
him ample time to unbosom his heart, and I listened attentively.
This gave me an opportunity to diagnose his case and to ponder which
remedy I might offer him from "God's Medicine Ohest," which is so
complete that it has not only one specific, but remedies for all the
sorrows of a troubled soul. I pointed out to him that his misdeeds
were sins indeed, with which he had offended his Lord and God and
given offense to his church, his family, and his friends, and that he
deserved the punishment he was suffering now. Yet he should not
despair. Though all had seemingly turned against him, he still had
one Friend whose love never grows cold, who was always ready to
receive him and always willing to listen to his prayer. And as to his
pastor, he surely remembered him in his prayers. Would his pastor
not welcome a line or two from him in which he would express his
regret for his misconduct and for the offense given ? No doubt he
would then write to him or even come to console him. - Before I bade
him farewell he was visibly cheered, and he requested me to call on
him at my next visit to the penal institution.
Let us remain in contact with such unfortunate prisoners and
do all in our power to save their souls. Fortunate is he who need
not wend his way to the prison door to look after such erring sheep.
Ohicago, Ill. F. O. STREUFERT.
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