On May 11, 1972, John Mitchell, OPC minister and editor of the Presbyterian Guardian, published an open letter that he had sent to President Richard Nixon.
Dear Mr. Nixon:
Let me express my sympathy with you in the loss of your good friend, J. Edgar Hoover. I can understand the depth of feeling in your words of eulogy at his funeral.
Yet, there was one note in your remarks that disturbed me. You spoke of Mr. Hoover’s having “earned the right” to heaven. This was most unfortunate, and misleading to your hearers, for The Word of God plainly says that no man—except God’s own Son—has ever earned the “right” to heaven.
The Bible says that all men sin and fall short of perfection—the only standard for admission to heaven that a perfect God would set. All of us have sinned, you and I and Mr. Hoover; and “the wages of sin is death.” Death to all eternity is a fact that we all face.
What hope is there? Our only hope is in the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, and his death in the place of those sinners who put their whole trust in him alone. Your friend Mr. Hoover professed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not know his heart, but if he is in heaven, he is there because he trusted his Savior to bring him there, not because he earned it.
Please, Mr. Nixon, for your own sake and hope of heaven, do not be misled in thinking that a man may earn his way into God’s heaven. Scripture plainly contradicts this delusion. I pray that you will seek the truth in God’s Word (in Romans 1–5, perhaps) and ask your friend Billy Graham to explain it further. Or, I would be honored to discuss it with you.
Respectfully and earnestly, in Christ’s name,
John J. Mitchell
Photos: Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover