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My Great-Grandmother’s Confirmation Book


I found this book in the crate that I keep devotional books in in my office.  It is called Be Thou My Guide!  A handbook of advice and comfort for young Lutherans newly confirmed.  It is an English book but it was published by Concordia in 1910.  On the inside it says “Sadie Irene Olson on the day of her confirmation October 2, 1910 from her Pastor N.P.N. Hvals (or Hvale?)”* Sadie Olson was my great-grandmother on my mother’s side.  She was confirmed in the Norwegian Synod in Iowa.  I can’t remember if that was before or after the little Norwegian synod split away and entered fellowship with Wisconsin and the Missouri Synod. (It was in 1917 that the little Norwegian synod split off.  Prior to that the whole Norwegian synod was part of the Synodical Conference with the Missouri Synod.)

At any rate, this is the book she got when she was confirmed.  The fifth chapter is called, “How must you work together with God if you do not wish to fall from His grace?”  As much as I feel like typing follows.

“It is true, my child, you have not by your own reason or strength brought yourself to faith in Christ and thus to life everlasting.  ‘Ye have not chosen me,’ says Christ to His disciples, ‘but I have chosen you,’  John 15, 16.  Neither can you keep yourself in the true and saving faith unto your end.  The Apostle Peter rather declares: ‘You are kept by the power of God unto salvation,’ 1 Peter 1, 5.  And it is your Savior’s earnest will and purpose to preserve also you in the one true faith, for: ‘Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it,’ 1 Thess. 5, 24.  But what follows, my dear child?  may you now carelessly think and say: ‘Oh, if God alone can and will save me, then I need not bother about my getting to heaven, then I will let the Lord look out for me!’?  Nevermore, my dear child!  For listen: Though no man can give himself this bodily life, he can do a great deal toward shortening it, yes, through his own fault even lose it!  Though you cannot gain eternal life by your own powers, my dear child, you can, nevertheless, by your own neglect and guilt, again lose it, for in His great mercy your dear Savior has already given it to you in your blessed Baptism.  But that you may not again lose it, your Catechism puts the solemn question: ‘What does such baptizing with water signify?’  Answer: ‘It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by dail contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lust, and aagain a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.’

Your Baptism, therefore, pledges you to lead a godly and pious life.  Standing now in grace, you are to work together with God, as Paul says 2 Cor. 6, 1, in order that you may not receive the grace of God in vain.  Therefore, do not say in your youthful carelessness: I need not worry about getting to heaven; I am young but once, and must therefore first enjoy life and its many pleasures.  When I have grown old and am tired of this world, or if I should take sick and death draws near, then i have time enough to convert myself and think about eternity.  Young people thinking this way have already received the grace of God in vain and have already fallen from grace.  But I beseech you, my dear Christian child, by the great and holy love of your Savior, never give that wicked thought room in your heart…

As you, therefore, stand in the saving grace of your Savior to-day, so you, today and every day of your life, are to work together with God that you may not again lose grace and salvation.  Hence the Apostle Paul writes, Phi. 2,12.13: ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’  That is not said to the unconverted children of this world, for they never trouble about their salvation, but it is said to believing Christians, and hence also to you.   Every day of your life you are to think with fear and trembling that it is possible for you to again lose the saving grace of your God.  Hence, every day you are to renew and confirm your baptismal vow and renounce the devil, with all his works and ways.  Every day you are to humble yourslef before your God as a poor sinner in true repentance; every day cling in true faith to your Savior jesus Christ and comfort yourself with the forgiveness of your sins in His precious blood; every day, in the power of his grace, you are to follow after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.  ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation teaches us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, rightouesly, and godly in this present world…’ Tit. 2, 11-14.  Saving grace is also sanctifying grace!  Every day we are to crucify our flesh and the lusts thereof, every day deny ourselves, take upon ourselves the cross of our Lord Jesus Chrsit and follow in His footsteps.  And because we cannot do that, nor want to do it by ourselves, we must earnestly pray to God every day to help us, and sigh with David: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!’  ‘Watch and pray,’ says our Savior, Matt. 26, 41, ‘that you enter not into temptation; for the spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

Think not, my dear child, that this is asking too much and that it is impossible to lead such a pious and godly life as Scripture demands.  It is certainly true, even the best of Christians will never grow perfectly holy in this world.  When our Savior says,  Matt 5, 48: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect,’ He wants to remind us of our imperfections and hold up to us the goal for which we ought to strive, as the Apostle Paul declares, Phil. 3, 12: ‘Not as though I had already attained, either were perfect,but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”  Though you can never perfectly keep your baptismal vow, you are nevertheless earnestly to endeavor and strive to do so.  Therein your whole Christian life is to consist.  For such striving after holiness, such working out of your own salvation with fear and trembling, God Himself will give you strength, as the apostle expressly declares for your comfort when he says, Phil 2, 13: ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’  When we thus earnestly strive to win our salvation in Christ Jesus, God Himself will be with us and will give us both the will and the power to fight the good fight of faith and to obtain the victory. 

O my child, my dear child, never forget it, you are on the journey to long, long Eternity!  ‘For it is appointed unto men once to die and after this the Judgment!’ Hebr. 9,27.  Your way will also lead you through many powerful foes and many threatening dangers, as was the case with Israel in its journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.  But why did only a few of the countless thousands that marched out of Egypt, only the two men Joshua and Caleb, reach the Promised Land?  Because they received the grace of God in vain, because they did not strive after holiness, and because they lusted again after evil things, therefore they were overthrown in the wilderness, 1 Cor. 10.

O my child, will you arrive safely in the Canaan above?  Yes, without a doubt, if you abide in the way which your blessed Savior points out in His holy Word; if you work out your salvation with fear and trembling and also avoid the ‘graves of lust’ as they lurk and threaten by the thousands in the alluring wilderness of this wicked world.”

When was the last time you heard a sermon like that?

*It’s Hvale, and I found this record of him.  Maybe my mother will find this interesting.  http://lis.luther.edu/norlie/finalpageresults.php?moreinfo=11033

Apparently he served as a school teacher until he was 59, and then served for three years at my great grandmother’s congregation in Iowa.

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  1. Joyce Becker
    July 2, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Niels Peder Nielsen Hvale was my great-grandfather. Want to know more – contact me.

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