And The Books Were Opened

Fort Worth Star-Telegram – Saturday, April 4, 1936


Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris, Sunday Night, April 5, 1936

(Stenographically Reported)

DR. NORRIS: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened.”

Not in the history of the whole human race has there ever been a criminal case that has challenged the attention of the whole world like the Hauptmann case. All races and of every clime, even to the depths of dark Africa, and the fartherest unknown spot in the Amazon valley, people wept when a little babe was snatched from its cradle by cruel murderous hands. The hearts not only of America but of the world, were in their throats. The chivalry of the manhood of the nation was challenged. The machinery of the law enforcement agencies, city, state and national, and other nations were laid under tribute. More pages of the daily papers have been given over to this tragedy than to any, or a dozen battles in the history of the world.

At last a man was convicted and sent to the electric chair by the state of New Jersey. The court tried him. A jury heard the evidence. They were the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses. A judge presided, ruled on questions of law, admissibility of testimony, and the verdict of death was rendered. The case was appealed to the highest and last court of resort. Twice the board of pardons passed on it, and reaffirmed the sentence of death.

As to whether the German carpenter was guilty of the world’s greatest and most cowardly crime I know not. We may have our opinions, and they are only opinions. But as you read the other night how that the guards, strong men, and representatives of the government of that state, one took one of his hands and another strong young man took the other hand, and they strapped him hard and fast to that chair of death, then strapped his knees and fastened the cap over his head, while a man with a job I wouldn’t have for all the world, turned a little wheel, without any emotion whatsoever, having turned it more than two hundred times to send the souls of men and women unshriven out to meet their God There was the writhing, the contortions of flesh, there was the paralyzing of brain and heart, and a life was taken whether guilty or innocent. We have to wait till the books of “that day” shall be opened.


I come to another scene – I see some guards, strong men, soldiers with their uniforms, coats of mail, with shining steel helmets. I see them taking a hand, and one of them holds it against the bar of wood, another with a sharp spike and hammer, drives the spear into that hand, and the blood comes spouting and falls onto the ground. I see another guard and soldier take that right hand, and with hammer and spike he pierces through, and I see two other soldiers take those feet and drive the cruel spike through till the blood gushes, and I see them as they life up and up, and then with a heavy thud the cross comes down into the crevice of the rock. I see His blessed face covered with blood. And there are no questions as to His innocence or guilt, for the Judge presiding at His trial said that no fault was to be found in Him. He had two mock trials where the voice of the mob prevailed above the vice of justice. The Roman jurist said. “Bring your testimony.” They hailed Him before the Jewish Sanhedrin on an indictment of blasphemy. They said: “He claims to be the Son of God” – He said, “I am.” When they stand before the Roman court with the howling mob crying, “Crucify Him,” they charged Him with sedition. They said, “He claims to be a king.” When Pilot asked Him, “Is it true?” He said, “I am a king.”

He died – listen to me now – for no sin or guilt of His own, and yet He died for, and in the place of the worst criminal or criminals of all time.

You, many of you, millions throughout America, millions in Germany, and other lands tonight are shedding their tears of pity because a man, who at best was a sinner, was put to death, and yet you never shed a tear for another man who was God, who was guilty of no sin, who did no wrong, who never let an evil word fall from His blessed lips, who helped every soul that He touched, who healed all manner of diseases, who wept over the wicked city of Jerusalem, who mixed and mingled with the poor, who took little babes from mother’s arms and blessed them, who wrote forgiveness on the ground for scarlet women, who spoke peace and pardon to the sinner who was tossed and torn by demons in the tombs, and sent him home to his wife and children, who on the cross said to the dying thief, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” and even at His trial Pilate said, “I know He is innocent.” So he said to the keepers, “Go bring that hardened criminal” – that man who was to that day what Jesse James and John Dillinger were to their day – “Bring out that man with the hard face, criminal features, blood shot eyes, a terror to the nation – Who is there that when they hear his name will not shrink and be afraid when they come into his presence – bring him and stand him up here; the man whose name is Barabbas.” – Who is he? He is the nation’s enemy number one. He struck terror to the people of this country – They say, “What is he going to do with him?” This crowd is afraid of him. He robbed and killed by the hundreds. Who is this man when his name is spoken he sends a shiver through the souls of everybody; when they hear he is coming in this direction they run the other way, people are afraid to put their heads out doors for he might come along with his murderous band.There he stands dishevelled; yes, the devil incarnate – He put another by his side, gentle, loving, kind, perfect in feature, form, conduct and character, never a word, never a thought that was evil. What a contrast! All there is of hell stands incarnate in this man – All there is of heaven is incarnate in Jesus. All the powers of darkness express themselves, are summed up in this desperate criminal that sends terror to the hearts of everybody. All there is of the fullness of the Godhead, holiness, glory, power, truth, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation, express themselves in this other man.

Now says the Roman Judge, I am going to let you set one man free; I am going to let you decide; look at the contrast, tell me which of these two shall ye release? Your word shall be the final verdict. From that verdict there shall be no appeal.”

You would think this crowd, standing in the fear of Barabbas, this crowd that knew Jesus never did anybody any harm, you would think there would be no question as to which they would release. But with one tremendous angry shout they called for the release of this noted criminal and bandit, and shouted:

“Crucify Jesus!”

Pilate who had driven the bargain stuck to his verdict and said:

“You can crucify Him.”


Nations now and in the past have had various forms of executing their criminals. During the “Reign of Terror,” there was the guillotine named for the man who proposed it.

When Louis XVI of France was put to death he asked them not to bind his eyes and to lay him on his back so he could look up, and in a split fraction of a second he saw that huge knife coming: and his head rolled into the wicker basket. When his wife, Marie Antoinette was put to death, they granted her the act of mercy by placing her face down, and she could only hear when the lever was pulled, and the same sharp blade severed her head, and it fell in the same basket.

Ancient Rome invented the tortuous method of crucifixion. They would impale their worst criminals on the wooden cross and go off and leave them to a slow agonizing death. Often the vultures would come and light on the cross waiting until the agonizing, bleeding victim dies.

In our day the prevailing method has been death by hanging.

Now the prevailing method in this country is the electric chair. Some states like Nevada have the lethal gas route. But what hanging is in this day, and the electric chair in the state prisons like Huntsville, Trenton, New Jersey, Sing Sing, New York, crucifixion was the method of putting hardened criminals to death in the times of Ancient Rome. That’s why Jesus was crucified. The method of the Jews was to stone them to death. But the Jews didn’t have the power to put a man to death; therefore, they had to go to a Roman Court, and a Roman Court never sentenced a man to be stoned to death. When they put a criminal to death, the extreme penalty, the most excruciating, the most tortuous slow death of crucifixion was used. Some times they would hang suspended on the cross for a day and night before they died, agonizing, suffering, thirsty, calling for water.

So when this day came, that their sabbath day not be desecrated – (no man was allowed to hang on the cross on their sabbath day) – therefore they go break their bones that death may be hastened. Their sabbath began at sundown, so these same hardened soldiers who drove the spikes through the tender flesh come to the three crosses and with their heavy hammers crush the bones of these two criminals, but when they came to Jesus they note something peculiar; He was not writhing; He was not breathing; there was no twitching of muscles; His head was bowed over. They stepped back and looked at Him with astonishment. He was no weakling; there was no tainted blood coursing through his veins. He was stronger than either of these two who were not dead. They said, “We will make the test to see if he is really dead,” and they took the long sharp, keen spear and thrust it in his left side. Oh, cruelty of cruelties, out came water and blood. Why? The pericardium, the sack that held the heart was broken and the heart emptied itself. It was broken physically as well as Spiritually. The heart of Jesus literally broke. He died of a broken heart. His grief was so great in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweat came from the pores of His skin that cold April night and blood fell on the old cursed earth, and when He arose after He had prayed the third time His garments were drenched in His own red blood; death was on Him. The cup was being pressed to His blessed lips. That is why when carrying the weight of the cross to Golgotha he fell under it, because of loss of blood, and when He died from that wound in His heart and side out came the last drop of blood.

“And the books were opened” – They may be opened tomorrow. The trump of God may sound even tonight. And as we talk over the radio and our words go sweeping through the night air, we may hear a sound we have never heard before. But we will recognize it. It will stop armies marching to battle. It will stop the councils of war. There won’t be a bank opened tomorrow if that trump sounds tonight. Over yonder in the graveyards with the fresh new made graves, the righteous dead will come forth to die no more. The prison bars will swing ajar. The weeping widow will dry her tears. And the little mother who told me this morning as she went out holding her babe in her arms, “Please pray for my husband. He is drinking himself to death” – thanks be unto God when that trump shall sound her tears will be wiped away with God’s own And then and then only will we know the tender hand. things we do not understand now.

My friends I want to be ready when that trump shall sound. When it does, I will not be interested in skyscrapers, nor will you. But when we stand before Him and see angels and arch angels attendant upon Him, the hundreds of millions of white winged angels present, and all have been raised from the dead from Adam to the last soul brought in, and we hear the angel calling the roll – He is calling my name – He is calling yours – He is calling the names of paupers and millionaires – He is calling the name of Bruno Hauptmann – He is calling the name of Charles A. Lindbergh – He is calling the name of that attorney who prosecuted Hauptmann – He is calling the name of Governor Hoffman who stood for him – He is calling the names of all the policemen – He is calling the names of all the detectives, and if they framed testimony, what will their answer be? But, “And the books were opened!” He is calling the roll – Wait a minute – He is calling the name of the biggest oil man in the world. Some fellow goes up to him and says, “Say, you have a ten thousand-barrel oil well gushing in” – He answers, “I am not interested in oil wells.” But wait a minute, there is the woman who was going to give a great social next week, spend lots of money while people are dying for bread – what is she saying now? She is not interested now in parties, the roll is being called. Wait, they are calling Benito Mussolini – What is he going to do now? Destroy and murder a people who cannot help themselves? He says, “I am not interested now in conquering territory.” They are calling the name of Adolph Hitler – What is he going to do now? He is not interested
in Germany now. They are calling the name of Joseph Stalin – You have a red army, who has set out to destroy the governments of the world, what are you going to do?” He bows and says, “I am not interested.” The name of J. P. Morgan is being called, “What are you going to do with your banks?” “I am not interested in banks.”

They are calling the roll – They call my name, what will I say? I will shout and sing, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Way back yonder in the little country home, a timid lad, I went up one night when the old Methodist preacher was preaching, and the best I knew how I got down on my knees and trusted Jesus,accepted Him as my Saviour – I have had a lot of sorrow, a lot of darkness, a lot of trouble, but thanks be unto God, I will join with old Simon Peter, and thank God for that word when he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”

“And the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life.” Let us stand. Who will repent – Come – be saved tonight? Hell is opening beneath you. Heaven’s door awaits you, the cross, the mercy seat is before you – Mercy, mercy, that’s all – “God be merciful to me.”

“With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry;
Thy pardoning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me!

I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppressed;
Christ and his cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me!

Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me!

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be
God has been merciful to me!”