Archive for the ‘John Calvin’ Category

We have seen this morning how the Son of God, having to sustain so difficult a fight as to appear before the judgment-seat of God His Father to receive sentence of condemnation as our security, was made strong by prayer.  For it was necessary that human weakness appear in Him, and it takes nothing away from His divine majesty when He has so bowed down to the dust to bring about our salvation.

Praying Persistently

Now we have to note that it was not only once that He prayed.  By which we see that by His example, He has exhorted us not to faint if we are not heard as soon as we would wish.  So, those who lose courage when our God does not respond to their first wish show that they do not know what it is to pray.  For the certain rule for finding our refuge in God involves perseverance.  Thus, it is that the principal exercise of our faith is prayer.  Now faith cannot exist without waiting.  It is not possible for God to humor us as soon as we have opened our mouths and formed our request.  But it is needful that He delay and that He let us languish oftentimes so that we may know what it is to call upon Him sincerely and without pretense, so that we may declare that our faith is so founded upon the Word of God that it checks us as a bridle so that we may be patient to endure until the opportune time to help us shall have come.  Let us note well, then, that our Lord Jesus Christ did not pray to God His Father only once, but that He returned to it a second time.

Praying Unselfishly

Besides, we have to consider what we have already touched upon: that is, to know that our Lord Jesus has not formed here any trivial prayer, but He has, as it were, been willing to lay aside all selfish considerations.  He who is the power of God His Father, by whom all the world is supported, nevertheless, forasmuch as He had to show Himself a weak man, taking our place, being there in our stead; He has declared when He thus reiterated His prayer that it was not as a spectacle that He did it (thus several profane people imagine that when Jesus Christ appeared He suffered nothing), but it was so that we might be taught that we cannot escape the hand of God and His curse except by this means.

Now it is here declared to us (as it was this morning) that our Lord Jesus was crushed to the limit, even so far as that the burden He had received was unsupportable unless the invincible power of the Spirit of God had operated in Him.  We must not think that it was superfluous language when He repeated these same words.  For what is said in the other passage, that in praying to God we must not use a long babble, as those who believe that in dabbling in words they get much more, does not imply that we should not continue in our prayers, but it is to tax the hypocrisy and superstition of those who believe in breaking God’s ear drums (after a manner of speaking) to persuade Him of what they want.  As we see, how this folly has prevailed in the world!  Again, how many there are among us who use this sorcery, how many who say no more than their Ave Maria, to whom it seems as if they have gained a great deal every time they say their Lord’s Prayer, and that God will count all their words in which they dabble when they pray!  Now I call that real sorcery.  For they wretchedly profane the prayer which has been given us by our Lord Jesus Christ, in which He has comprehended in a brief summary all that we can ask of God and what is lawful for us to desire or ask for.

However, that does not imply that if a man is crushed in agony he should not return often to God, and that when he shall have heaved some sighs he should not begin again immediately afterwards.  Supposing we come to it without ambition and without display and then that we have no idea of having gained anything by our babble, but that a dear feeling urges us on, then we have the true perseverance, similar to that of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Agreement with God in Prayer

Now there is this article to note, as we have said, that the principal thing in all our prayers is that God should control us to such a degree that there is an agreement on our part to conform to His good will.  That, surely, is necessary for us.  Behold our Lord Jesus Christ, though all His affections were upright, holy, and conformed to righteousness, that, however, insofar as He was natural man, yet He had to fight against the agony and sorrow which might have crushed Him and He had to hold Himself captive under obedience to God His Father.  How will it be with us who have nothing but malice and rebellion and who are so corrupted that we did not know how to apply our senses to anything whatever?

Would not God be utterly offended?  Since that is so, let us learn in praying to God so to hold ourselves in check that no one may give himself such license as he is accustomed to in following his own appetites.  But let us know that we shall have profited much, being able to hold ourselves captives, in order that God may be complete master over us.

The Necessity of Prayer – that you enter not into temptation

It is also a noteworthy sentence when our Lord Jesus says to His disciples, “Watch and pray in order not to enter into temptation; for if the Spirit is ready, the flesh is weak.”  He showed here, then, that the principal spur which ought to goad us to call upon God is that we have to fight, that our enemies are near, and that they are strong, and that we shall not be able to resist them without being helped and aided from on high, and that God fight for us.  Now we know that when man is assured, he asks only to be given all his comforts and to sleep.  For we do not voluntarily accept anxiety or melancholy unless necessity forces it upon us.  To be sure, it is a sovereign good to have rest, or else we would be tired out.  Nevertheless it is very necessary that necessity press us to be vigilant.  Our Lord Jesus, then, not without cause declares that we have to sustain many alarms.  For what is said only once to His disciples pertains to all of us in general, since in our lives we must always be ready to meet many temptations.  For the devil is our perpetual enemy, if we are members of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There will be, then, open war without ending and without ceasing.  Then let us notice what kind of enemy we have to deal with.  It is not only one, but the number is infinite.  Moreover the devil has a vast number of means to cast us down; now he strikes openly, now he plots underground, and by craftiness he will have surprised us a hundred thousand times before we have thought of it.  When it is only as St. Paul says that our enemies are powers who dwell in the air over our heads and that we are here as poor earthworms who only crawl below, that certainly ought to cause us to be concerned.  As also St. Peter alleges this reason, that our enemy is like a lion who roars and seeks prey and who never rests.  That, then, is what we have to observe in the saying of our Lord Jesus that we must be on our guard in order not to enter into temptation.  Besides, although we are vigilant, though we keep good watch, yet we cannot be exempt from the devil’s raising himself against us or our being assailed by him in many and diverse ways.  We cannot, then, repulse the blows from afar.  But before entering into combat, we must be on our guard lest we be plunged into temptation.

Let us learn, then, although the believers and children of God desire to have rest, nevertheless, they must not desire to be here at their ease.  But let it be sufficient for them that God perfects His power in their weakness, as also St. Paul says that he had to pass through that.  It is, I say, the condition of all the children of God to battle in this world, because they cannot serve God without opposition.  But although they are weak, although they can be impeded, even often beaten down, may they be content to be helped and aided by the hand of God, and may they always lean upon this promise, that our faith will be victorious over all the world.

Yet, also the remedy proposed to us is that we fight.  To be sure, Satan is always making new beginnings to assail us, but Jesus Christ also commands us to watch.  Besides, He shows that those who presume upon their own strength will be conquered by Satan a hundred thousand times before the you obtain a single victory.

The Protection of God through Prayer

What is needed, then?  That, confessing with all humility that we can do nothing, we come to our God.  Here, then, are our real arms.  It is He Who takes from us all fear and terror.  It is He Who can give us assurance and resolution, that even to the end we shall remain safe and sound, that is, when we call upon God.  As Solomon says in Proverbs 18:10, “His Name is a strong tower and the righteous man will have in Him his good and assured retreat.”  Also says the Prophet Joel, “Although the world be turned upside down, whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.”  That is especially applied to the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that we may be entirely persuaded that, although our salvation may be, as it were, in suspense, and though we may see, as it were, a thousand hazards, yet God will always keep us in His protection, and we shall feel that His power is always near us, and ready to help us, provided we seek it by prayer of mouth and heart.  That, then, in summary is what we have to remember.

In order that we may be better confirmed in this doctrine, let us note that our Lord Jesus in praying not only called upon God for Himself and for His own use, but He has dedicated all our requests and prayers so that they are holy and God approves them and finds them acceptable.  As it says in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John, He sanctifies Himself in order that we all may be sanctified in Him.  Surely, we must also conclude that He prayed in order that His prayer may avail today, and that it might have its full strength, and that by this means we might all be heard.

This consideration is very valuable when he adds, “The Spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak.”  For it is to show that all have need of the advice which He here urged upon His disciples.  For many think that they have gained all if they have some good desire.  That makes them indifferent.  Soon afterwards they are seized with such laziness and coldness that they recoil from God and despise His help.  That is also the cause why God often withdraws Himself and hides His power.  For it is a good thing that men who confide too much in themselves find themselves frustrated and God mocks their arrogance and foolish imagination.  In order, then, that both great and small may know that they cannot dispense with the help of God, and whatever graces they have received, God must still maintain in them what He has put there and even augment it that they may be strengthened, it is here said, “The Spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak.”  That is, since we feel in us some good will, and God has already set us on the way, and has extended to us His hand, may we experience that He really governs us by His Holy Spirit.  Although, then, we may have all of that, yet we must not be slow to pray.  And why not?  Let us consider whether there is in us only the Spirit.  Surely, we shall find many infirmities remaining.  Although God may have already worked in such a way that we may have whereof to offer thanks to Him and to magnify His goodness; yet there is reason to bow our heads and to see that, if He left us we would very soon be, I do not say weakened, but altogether fainting.

Humility and Dependence in Prayer

In a word, our Lord Jesus here wished to show that those who are the most perfect, the most advanced, and upon whom God has poured the graces and powers of His Holy Spirit, still must be humble, and they must walk in fear and carefulness, must call upon God every hour, knowing that it is not enough that He has begun if He does not finish.  Surely every good must come from Him.  When He has given the goodwill, He must continue to carry it out more fully, since perseverance is the most singular and the most rare gift there is.  That is why our Lord Jesus wished to exhort us.  Now if those who can be called spiritual, that is, who have an ardent zeal to serve God, who are fully accustomed to have recourse to Him, who are exercised in prayer of mouth and heart to God, are still so weak that in a single moment they can be ruined unless they are calling upon God; what will happen to those who are still so earthly and so pitiably weighed down that they cannot drag their legs and they hardly have a good impulse or a single good thought?  How they must have to struggle for the prize!  So then, may each one of us examine himself, and we shall find that we are so lax and so dull in the matter of praying to God that there is sometimes more ceremony than feeling.  Seeing that, may we learn to be displeased with ourselves for such a vice and such laxity.

May we even detest such a corruption, may we take pains to call upon God, and to raise our spirits on high and to seek the remedy which is here proposed for us.  That, then, in a word, is what we have to remember.

Now when it is said that the disciples went to sleep for the third time, even though they had been spurred so sharply (beyond what we discussed this morning, that is, that we see how Jesus Christ to perfect our salvation sought no other companion) let us also contemplate how slow we are.  For it is certain that we have no more ability than these three who are here mentioned, and yet they were the most excellent of the company, and those whom Jesus Christ had marked as the flower of the twelve, who were to publish the Gospel to all the world.  Although, then, there was already such a good beginning, yet we see how they weakened.  Now it is in order that we may have recourse only to the Son of God and that we may seek in Him all that is lacking in us, and that we may not lose courage when we feel such a weakness in us.  It is true that the example of the Apostles gives us no occasion at all to flatter ourselves (as many will say that they have as much right to sleep as Peter and John and James) but rather to make us displeased with our vices, that we may always know that our Lord Jesus is ready to receive us, provided we come to Him.

Furthermore, there is always this special reason that we declared this morning, that it was necessary that everything that is man should give way in order that we may know that the accomplishment of our salvation is in Him who was appointed by God as our Mediator.  We must also note when we are near our Lord Jesus Christ that it is then that we must be more vigilant.  For the worldlings and those whom God has cut off entirely as rotten members whom He abandons, have no great fight.  For the devil already has dominion over them.  And that is why they can sleep at their ease.  But according as our Lord Jesus exercises toward us the grace to call us to Himself, and to draw near to us familiarly, the battles are also instigated by Satan, because he wishes to draw us back from the  obedience of the Son of God.  When I say he sees that we are on the right track, then we have all the more rude assaults.  Thus may each one prepare himself, knowing for what he was called by God, and what is his charge.  This, then, is, in summary, what we have to remember.

Besides, when it is said, “Sleep and rest, the hour has come” that is, as it were, a declaration that they would soon be surprised unless God watched over them.  However, He rebukes them by saying, “How now?  Look where you are.  For the devil is making every effort for the perdition of mankind, and in My Person the Kingdom of God must be recovered, or all creatures will perish.  Yet here you are sleeping.”  Now this admonition hardly served for that time.  But as time passed the disciples knew they must attribute all praise for their salvation to God, in view of their ingratitude, which was displayed in such brutish cowardice.  So now we are admonished (as I have already mentioned) that the Son of God had to be shown to be our Redeemer by Himself alone and without aid.  Besides, let us also learn that it is absolutely necessary that God watch over us even while we sleep.  For how many times will it happen that the devil would have oppressed us a hundred thousand times?  Yet what means have we to resist him, unless God have pity on us, although He sees us, as it were, reduced to insensibility.  So that must not give us occasion to go astray and to quit addressing God in prayer.  But still we must always remember this sentence from the Psalm, “He who watches over Israel never sleeps; what is more He slumbers not” (Psalm 121:4).  So for our part let us be vigilant, even as we are urged by this exhortation.  But let us recognize that however vigilant we ourselves may be, God must still keep a careful watch.  Otherwise our enemies would soon win against us.

It follows that Jesus Christ says to His disciples, “Let us go; he who betrays Me draws near.”  He does not wish them to keep Him company (as we have already declared) except that they see how He does not spare Himself for their sakes, nor for the sake of the human race.  For He presented Himself to receive all the blows and to exempt them from them, as it was necessary that this word might be fulfilled.  “He let nothing perish of that which the heavenly Father had given Him and committed to His charge and protection.”  But by that he declares that He went voluntarily to death, following what we have treated this morning, that the sacrifice of obedience had to answer to wipe out all our rebellions.  If Jesus Christ of His free will had not been offered to appease the wrath of God His Father, His death and passion would not have been of any use to us.  But He holds Himself to it and declares that as He has put on our nature in order to accomplish our redemption, now in the supreme act, He did not wish to fail in His office.

The Betrayal of a Friend

According to the narrative, “Judas had given a sign of Him Whom he betrayed, that it was Jesus, and that He was seized, and having arrived he kisses Him and says to Him, ‘Hail, Master!’”  Now let us note that this was a manner of greeting.  As in some nations they embrace, in other nations they shake hands.  The Jews were entirely accustomed to this kiss, as one sees by Holy Scripture.  Besides, one would find it strange that Judas, being part of the company of Jesus Christ a little while before, that is, even that same night, returns and kisses Him as if he came from a distant journey.  But he uses this ceremony, because he comes there as a frightened man.  And that is why the other Gospel-writer says, “Rabbi, Rabbi, Hail!”  He makes believe, then, that he is very sorry that his master is thus assailed.  When he sees such a company who come to surprise Him, he draws near and kisses Jesus Christ, as if to say, “O my Master, they are looking for You, here are Your enemies who surround You, they seek to exterminate You, You will be cut off from the midst of men, once they put their hands upon You.”  That, then, is a sign of pity and compassion which Judas gives.

Further, it is said that Jesus Christ reproaches him, “Friend, why art thou come?” which is as if He said, “You villain, you who have been with Me at My table, you have been, as it were, of My blood, when we were united as children of God (for I being your Head, so I have recognized you as My members) and yet you come to betray Me, even by a kiss.”  Upon which let us note that the Son of God had to be marked, in order that Scripture might be so much better proved, and that it might be known that it was He Whom God had elected as our Redeemer.  For all this had been typified in the person of David, who was, as it were, a mirror and image of the Son of God.  Now it says that it is not strangers nor those who have openly declared themselves His enemies who molested and tormented Him, but “He (says He) who ate bread at My table has kicked up his heel for betrayal, he has surrounded Me, he has betrayed Me falsely.”  Indeed, even he (as He says in the other passage) who accompanied Me to go together into the house of the Lord.”  As if God said there was not only a private and human friendship, as it would be between those living in common, but that there was holy brotherhood dedicated to the name of God.  This, then, is what the Holy Spirit wished to show us, that nothing happened to the Son of God which had not been testified previously and which had not been typified, in order that we may be all the better assured that it is He Who from all time had been established by God, since He bears such infallible marks.

Besides, in the person of Judas, we see that the Church of God will always be subject to many betrayals.  To be sure, it is something to have Satan with all his paraphernalia for an enemy, and everything we have already declared, and to have also those who fight openly against God and seek only the confusion of His Church.  It is something (I say) that we have to fight against such enemies, but God still wills to prove our patience in this respect, that in our midst there may always be domestic enemies, who are full of betrayal and disloyalty.  Although this plague is detestable, yet the Church never will be purged of it.  Surely we must guard against it, and each one must try, as much as it is in his power, to scrape such an odor and infection.  But when we shall have done all, still God will always permit that there be Judases.  For since it was typified in David, and since it was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be conformed to Him (as Saint Paul says), for He carries, as it were, the coat of arms of the house of God, being the first-born among; all believers.  We must, then, have this condition in common with Him. But we can see here that it is from a frightened conscience, when God put there the spirit of disturbance, frenzy or stupidity, as He often spoke of it by His prophets.  Judas, then, shows us the penalty of those who knowingly fight against God, that they must be so lost that they no longer have either sense of reason.  However, they try to hide everything by hypocrisy even to saying that God forces them and that He leads them even to their final condemnation.

At first glance, it surely seems that these two things are opposed: (1) that a man comes to throw himself like a savage bull against God, that he has forgotten that it won’t do him any good to spit at the sun, that often he wishes to spite nature, and (2) yet tries to hide himself by subterfuges, and he thinks to gain something by his hypocrisy.  One will say that those two things are incompatible.  But they are seen in Judas.  For he had  experienced the heavenly power of our Lord Jesus Christ, he had seen so many miracles, and on his part he had done them, even in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Having known, then, that the Son of God has all power both over life and over death, he betrays Him, and says he did justly.  For otherwise, he would have immediately escaped.  Judas, then, is entirely depraved of sense and reason, and is, as it were, frantic.  So it is only by a kiss and by these sweet words, saying “Alas my Master,” he does not yet allow himself to have subterfuges, thinking he will be acquitted by this means.  But that is how Satan dazzles his lackeys.

The Need for Humble Dependence in Prayer

Let us learn, then, in the first place, to humble ourselves that no one throw himself against this rock which is too hard.  That is, may we not wage war against our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us watch carefully, then, lest we stand in this devilish rage, lest we fight against the truth, and lest we contend against our conscience, so that we knowingly provoke the wrath of God, as if we wished to defy Him.  Let us guard against that. Let us not so flatter ourselves in our hypocrisy and in our fictions that we are finally cheated and deceived by them.  For we see what happened to Judas (as it is mentioned in the account), that it was not necessary that a judge condemn him, that it was not necessary to compel him to recant.  But he confessed that he had sold and betrayed righteous blood.  However, he did not ask pardon for his misdeed, but he went away in despair to hang himself and he burst asunder.  Let us be well advised, then, not to give such access to Satan that he tears our eyes when we are asleep in our sins, and not to expect by this means to escape the hand of God.  But let us remove all this make-believe.

Besides, let us recognize that it is certainly commanded to us to kiss the Son of God in Psalm 2:12, but that is to do Him homage as our King and as Him Who has sovereign Dominion over all creatures.  For the word “Kiss” implies only reverence and a solemn protestation that we are His own.  As He said, “You call me Master, and you do well.”  But in coming to Him let us be advised not to call Him Master from the tip of the tongue while we are yet enemies to Him, not to practice toward Him a false reverence in order to kick against Him and to give Him the boot.  That is, may we not be stubborn and peevish by our disloyalty, but may we show that we have sought to maintain ourselves in His Church only in order to serve our God.  Let us, then, be admonished of all that.  Besides, although the word of our Lord Jesus Christ did not immediately take effect upon Judas, finally by virtue of this word he had to hang himself without waiting for other condemnation.

The Power of His Words

In fact, Saint John tells us how our Lord Jesus struck like lightning, although He used only a single word against all those who came to seek Him, saying, “I am He.”  There is a band sent by Pilate.  There is a force of men gathered by the Priests.  They come there furnished with clubs, swords, and other blades.  Jesus Christ is alone.  He is as a lamb led to the slaughter-house, as Isaiah says.  And what word does He use?  “I am He.”  And all are thrown down.  All fall immediately.  And how comes this fall?  By it we see that our Lord Jesus, although He is humbled for a time, even emptied of everything, never ceased to retain, when it seemed good to Him, His heavenly power in order to cast down all His enemies, if He had wished.  Let us compare our times with what was done then.  Jesus Christ had to be bound and fastened.  He had to let His enemies rule.  For Satan had unleashed the bridle to urge them on to every rage and cruelty.  This is what is called by St. Luke, “This is the reign of darkness.”  Be that as it may, when He said “I am He,” His enemies had to be confounded.  What will it be, then, when He comes in His majesty with all His Angels?  When He comes to make all those who have resisted Him His footstool?  When He comes with a dreadful face and an incomprehensible wrath?  As Saint Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Then how can wicked despisers of the majesty of God and of the word of our Lord Jesus Christ exist before His face?  When He had thus thrown down His enemies, then He was ready to suffer and He did not use any defense.  I say, even that of God His Father.  As He said, He could ask that a million Angels might be sent to Him.  But He abstained.  Yet He surely wished to show that by His voice alone He could cast down everyone who was against Him, if He had wished.

By this, we are taught to fear the word of our Lord Jesus.  Although He does not converse here in a visible manner in our midst, yet since the Gospel is preached by His authority and He says, “He who hears you, hears Me;” let us learn to receive what is preached to us in His name with all reverence and to subject ourselves to it.  We shall find that this word, which so caused to fall the guards and those who came against Him, will be our only foundation and prop.  For how can we rejoice, except when the Son of God appear to us, and we see that He is near us, and He show us Who He is, and why He has been sent to us by God His Father?  So then, it is in this word “I am He” that we may know, when it will please our Lord Jesus to manifest Himself as He does to all His believers, that in this word He declares to us why He calls us to Himself, why He has descended to us, and why He dwells in us by the power of His Holy Spirit, and that is wherein consists all our good and all our rest.  But if we wish to be peevish and scorn the Word of God like many profane people, let us be assured that it will be a thunderbolt to cast us down into the depth of hell.

So let us fear, and yet may our Lord Jesus open to us the door, and may He say to us in another fashion, “Here am I,” as He has not done to those who were already His declared enemies.  Let us learn to come to Him.  Besides, let us also learn so to bear in patience the betrayals which we see today in the Church no matter how outrageous they may be to us, so that we shall show that we really cling to the Son of God, for He is our Head.  Then may we have His truth.  May we so converse with one another that we may be united in true concord and brotherhood together.  That is what we have to remember.

But whatever else may be, may we accept the principal article of instruction which we must remember from this passage: namely, that the Son of God made Himself obedient in everything and by everything in order to make reparation for our rebellions.  It is true (as I have said) that all the members of His body ought to be ruled by His example.  There is good reason, since He Who has entire mastery and superiority is so humbled, that we be ready to obey our God unto life and unto death.  Yet let us recognize that the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ in this place is special, that is, because of the fruit and the effect which proceeded from it.

The Apostles have well chosen the death of Jesus Christ for an example.  For they were strengthened for their needs when they had to fight for the witness of the Gospel.  They were not then asleep.  We see the vigilance which was in them and that they were ready to follow their calling.  They even had fear neither of torments nor of the death which was presented to them when God called them for the glory of His Name, and the confession of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet they insisted principally on showing that by the pouring out of the blood of our Redeemer we are washed and cleansed of all our spots, that He made payment to God His Father for all our debts by which we were obliged, that He acquired for us perfect righteousness.

He Prayed; We Must Pray Also

Let us recognize, then, the difference between the Head and the members.  Let us learn that, though by nature, we are entirely given to evil, and although God may have regenerated us in part, still our flesh does not cease to chafe against God.  However, by virtue of the obedience which we see in our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not cease to be acceptable to our God.  If we do not yet do the good that we will, but the evil oftentimes pushes us, and there may be many failures, or perhaps we may be too slow to do good, let us look at what the Son of God suffered in order to make reparation for all our faults.  Let us notice how He fought in such a way that there was no contradiction in Him when our crimes and sins were imputed to Him, as was explained more at length this morning.  Let us see, then, how our Lord Jesus has made satisfaction in everything and for everything, but we today, although having taken the trouble to obey God, are not able to succeed, but we always droop our wings, must constantly repeat this: that we know that we shall not cease to be acceptable to God and that our imperfections will always be abolished by the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they will not come into account before God.

Besides, may each one according to the measure of his faith and of the grace which he has received exert himself to fight until we come to the heavenly rest.  Seeing our weaknesses are still so great, being convinced that we shall not even know how to have a single good thought, and that having stumbled we shall not be able to raise ourselves, unless God extended to us His hand and strengthened us each minute, may we be advised to pray that He may augment in us the graces of His Holy Spirit; as He has promised it to us, and offers to us Jesus Christ for our Head and Captain, in order that after we are able to arrive at the victory which He acquired for us, of which we already experience the fruit, we shall experience it in perfection.

Now we shall bow in humble reverence before the majesty of our God.

Second sermon on the passion of our Lord.

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Demonstrated In His Work

Accordingly, we ought to seek from the same source proof of the deity of the Spirit.  Indeed, that testimony of Moses in the history of the Creation is very clear, that “the Spirit of God was spread over the deeps” [Genesis 1:2, cf. Vg.], or formless matter; for it shows not only that the beauty of the universe (which we now perceive) owes its strength and preservation to the power of the Spirit but that, before this adornment was added, even then the Spirit was occupied with tending that confused mass.

And men cannot subtly explain away Isaiah’s utterance, “And now Jehovah has sent me, and his Spirit” [Isaiah 48:16], for in sending the prophets, he shares the highest power with the Holy Spirit.  From this, his divine majesty shines forth.  But the best confirmation for us, as I have said, will be from familiar use.  For what Scripture attributes to him and we ourselves learn by the sure experience of godliness is far removed from the creatures.  For it is the Spirit who, everywhere diffused, sustains all things, causes them to grow, and quickens them in heaven and in earth.  Because he is circumscribed by no limits, he is excepted from the category of creatures; but in transfusing into all things his energy, and breathing into them essence, life, and movement, he is indeed plainly divine.

Again, if regeneration into incorruptible life is higher and much more excellent than any present growth, what ought we to think of him from whose power it proceeds?  Now, Scripture teaches in many places that he is the author of regeneration not by borrowing but by his very own energy; and not of this only, but of future immortality as well.

In short, upon him, as upon the Son, are conferred functions that especially belong to divinity.  “For the Spirit searches…even the depths of God” [1 Corinthians 2:10], who has no counselor among the creatures [Romans 11:34].  He bestows wisdom and the faculty of speaking [1 Corinthians 12:10], although the Lord declares to Moses that it is his work alone [Exodus 4:11].  Thus, through him, we come into communion with God, so that we in a way feel his life-giving power toward us.

Our justification is his work; from him is power, sanctification [1 Corinthians 6:11], truth, grace, and every good thing that can be conceived, since there is but one Spirit from whom flows every sort of gift [1 Corinthians 12:11].

Especially worth noting is this saying of Paul’s: “Although there are divers gifts” [1 Corinthians 12:4] and manifold and varied distribution [cf. Hebrews 2:4], “but the same Spirit” [1 Corinthians 12:4]; because this makes him not only the beginning or source, but also the author.  This Paul also more clearly expresses a little later in these words: “One and the same Spirit apportions all things as he will” [1 Corinthians 12:11].  For if the Spirit were not an entity subsisting in God, choice and will would by no means be conceded to him.  Paul, therefore, very clearly attributes to the Spirit divine power, and shows that He resides hypostatically in God.

Demonstrated in the Testimony of Scripture

Nor, indeed, does Scripture in speaking of him refrain from the designation “God.”  For Paul concludes that we are the temple of God from the fact that his Spirit dwells in us [1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16].  We are not lightly to pass over this fact.  For, while God indeed frequently promises that he will choose us as a temple for himself, this promise is not otherwise fulfilled than by his Spirit dwelling in us.

Certainly, as Augustine very clearly states: “If we are bidden to make a temple for the Spirit out of wood and stone, because this honor is due to God alone, such a command would be a clear proof of the Spirit’s divinity.  Now, then, how much clearer is it that we ought not to make a temple for him, but ought ourselves to be that temple?  And the apostle himself sometimes writes that “we are God’s temple” [1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16], at other times, in the same sense, “the temple of the Holy Spirit” [1 Corinthians 6:19].  Indeed, Peter, rebuking Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit, says that he has lied not to men but to God [Acts 5:3-4].  And where Isaiah introduces the Lord of Hosts speaking, Paul teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who speaks [Isaiah 6:9; Acts 28:25-26].

Indeed, where the prophets usually say that the words they utter are those of the Lord of Hosts, Christ and the apostles refer them to the Holy Spirit [cf. 2 Peter 1:21].  It therefore follows that he who is pre-eminently the author of prophecies is truly Jehovah.  Again, where God complains that he was provoked to anger by the stubbornness of his people, Isaiah writes that “his Holy Spirit was grieved” [Isaiah 63:10].

Finally, if blasphemy against the Spirit is remitted neither in this age nor in the age to come, although he who has blasphemed against the Son may obtain pardon [Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10], by this his divine majesty, to injure or diminish which is an inexpiable crime, is openly declared.  I deliberately omit many testimonies that the church fathers used.  They thought it justifiable to cite from David, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established, and all their power by the spirit of his mouth” [Psalm 33:6], to prove that the universe was no less the work of the Holy Spirit than of the Son.  But since it is common practice in The Psalms to repeat the same thing twice, and since in Isaiah “spirit of the mouth” means the same thing as “the word” [Isaiah 11:4], that was a weak reason.  Thus I have chosen to touch only a few things upon which godly minds may securely rest.

From The Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 13, Sections 14-15.

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Prayer by John Calvin

Faith And Prayer

From those matters so far discussed, we clearly see how destitute and devoid of all good things man is, and how he lacks all aids to salvation.  Therefore, if he seeks resources to succor him in his need, he must go outside himself and get them elsewhere.  It was afterward explained to us that the Lord willingly and freely reveals himself in his Christ.  For in Christ, he offers all happiness in place of our misery, all wealth in place of our neediness; in him he opens to us the heavenly treasures that our whole faith may contemplate his beloved Son, our whole expectation depend upon him, and our whole hope cleave to and rest in him.  This, indeed, is that secret and hidden philosophy which cannot be wrested from syllogisms.  But they whose eyes God has opened surely learn it by heart, that in his light they may see light (Psalm 36:9).

But after we have been instructed by faith to recognize that whatever we need and whatever we lack is in God, and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father willed all the fullness of his bounty to abide (cf. Colossians 1:19; John 1:16) so that we may all draw from it as from an overflowing spring, it remains for us to seek in him, and in prayers to ask of him, what we have learned to be in him.  Otherwise, to know God as the master and bestower of all good things, who invites us to request them of him, and still not go to him and not ask of him—this would be of as little profit as for a man to neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to him.  Accordingly, the apostle, in order to show that true faith cannot be indifferent about calling upon God, has laid down this order: just as faith is born from the gospel, so through it our hearts are trained to call upon God’s name (Romans 10:14-17).  And this is precisely what he had said a little before: the Spirit of adoption, who seals the witness of the gospel in our hearts (Romans 8:16), raises up our spirits to dare show forth to God their desires, to stir up unspeakable groanings (Romans 8:26), and confidently cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).

Now we must more fully discuss this last point, since it was previously only mentioned in passing and, as it were, cursorily touched upon.

The Necessity Of Prayer

It is, therefore, by the benefit of prayer that we reach those riches which are laid up for us with the Heavenly Father.  For there is a communion of men with God by which, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, they appeal to him in person concerning his promises in order to experience, where necessity so demands, that what they believed was not vain, although he had promised it in word alone.  Therefore we see that to us nothing is promised to be expected from the Lord, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers.  So true is it that we dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord’s gospel, and which our faith has gazed upon.

Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable.  Surely, with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is in calling upon his name (cf. Joel 2:32).  By so doing, we invoke the presence both of his providence, through which he watches over and guards our affairs, and of his power, through which he sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of his goodness, through which he receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace; and, in short, it is by prayer that we call him to reveal himself as wholly present to us.  Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences.  For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take the best care of us.

Objection: Is Prayer Not Superfluous?  Six Reasons For It

But, someone will say, does God not know, even without being reminded, both in what respect we are troubled and what is expedient for us, so that it may seem in a sense superfluous that he should be stirred up by our prayers—as if he were drowsily blinking or even sleeping until he is aroused by our voice?  But they who thus reason do not observe to what end the Lord instructed his people to pray, for he ordained it not so much for his own sake as for ours.  Now he wills—as is right—that his due be rendered to him, in the recognition that everything men desire and account conducive to their own profit comes from him, and in the attestation of this by prayers.  But the profit of this sacrifice also, by which he is worshiped, returns to us.  Accordingly, the holy fathers, the more confidently they extolled God’s benefits among themselves and others, were the more keenly aroused to pray.  It will be enough for us to note the single example of Elijah, who, sure of God’s purpose, after he has deliberately promised rain to King Ahab, still anxiously prays with his head between his knees, and sends his servant seven times to look (1 Kings 18:42), not because he would discredit his prophecy, but because he knew it was his duty, lest his faith be sleepy or sluggish, to lay his desires before God.

Therefore, even though, while we grow dull and stupid toward our miseries, he watches and keeps guard on our behalf, and sometimes even helps us unasked, still it is very important for us to call upon him.

  1. First, that our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love, and serve him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor.
  2. Secondly, that there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our wishes before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.
  3. Thirdly, that we be prepared to receive his benefits with true gratitude of heart and thanksgiving, benefits that our prayer reminds us come from his hand (cf. Psalm 145:15-16).
  4. Fourthly, moreover, that, having obtained what we were seeking, and being convinced that he has answered our prayers, we should be led to meditate upon his kindness more ardently.
  5. And fifthly, that at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by prayers.
  6. Finally, that use and experience may, according to the measure of our feebleness, confirm his providence, while we understand not only that he promises never to fail us, and of his own will opens the way to call upon him at the very point of necessity, but also that he ever extends his hand to help his own, not wet-nursing them with words but defending them with present help.

On account of these things, our most merciful Father, although he never either sleeps or idles, still very often gives the impression of one sleeping or idling in order that he may thus train us, otherwise idle and lazy, to seek, ask, and entreat him to our great good.  Therefore they act with excessive foolishness who, to call men’s minds away from prayer, babble that God’s providence, standing guard over all things, is vainly importuned with our entreaties, inasmuch as the Lord has not, on the contrary, vainly attested that “he is near… to all who call upon his name in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

Quite like this is what others prate: that it is superfluous for them to petition for things that the Lord is gladly ready to bestow, while those very things which flow to us from his voluntary liberality he would have us recognize as granted to our prayers.  That memorable saying of the psalm attests this, and to it many similar passages correspond: “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears toward their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12).  This sentence so commends the providence of God—intent of his own accord upon caring for the salvation of the godly—as yet not to omit the exercise of faith, by which men’s minds are cleansed of indolence.  The eyes of God are therefore watchful to assist the blind in their necessity, but he is willing in turn to hear our groanings that he may the better prove his love toward us.  And so both are true: “that the keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121:4) and yet that he is inactive, as if forgetting us, when he sees us idle and mute.

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God’s Abundant Grace by John Calvin

Now Saint Paul adds further that this cleansing was poured out upon us ‘abundantly;’ in other words, God did not pour it out a drop at a time, so to speak, as if he had been stingy with us, but he showed himself to be so generous that we have good reason to be content with it.  And this serves a double purpose.

The first is to stir us up all the more to magnify the riches of our God as they deserve. For although our God showers ever so many blessings upon us, to our way of thinking, it is nothing.  We are, as it were, locked up, so that instead of opening our hearts, affections and thoughts to receive God’s grace that is offered to us, we are so entangled in unbelief and unthankfulness that God can find no such way of gaining access or entrance to us as would be required for his gracious gifts to be received as they deserve.  For this reason he speaks here of the abundance which we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.  So abundant is this grace that if we rightly understand God’s mercy as it is expressed in him, we shall have both length and breadth enough to fill and satisfy us thoroughly.

And secondly, he intends also to draw us away from every tendency to put our trust in vain objects — something into which we stray too easily.  How many are there who rest themselves wholly upon Jesus Christ?  It is true indeed that we will confess him as our Savior, and say that he is the one by whom we are reconciled to God, yet at the same time we also seek other, additional sources of help.  We never come to an end of this, because we are so prone to ranging far and wide and cannot rest wholly upon Jesus Christ and assure ourselves that all the perfection of our welfare is to be found in him.

Saint Paul shows us here that we must indeed be guilty of gross ingratitude, since we are not satisfied with the goodness that God shows us in his only Son.  And why is this?  Because in him, such riches are to be found that it must be said that we are never capable of being satisfied when we cannot confine our­selves to him.  There are the two reasons why Saint Paul used the word ‘abundantly.’

Aspects of our salvation

Now he first says that God ‘saved us,’ and then he adds that this is so that ‘we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’  We must see how these two matters agree —namely, that God has saved us, and that he will make us ‘heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’  Now, first of all, he has shown us here that, as far as God and our Lord Jesus Christ are concerned, our salvation is already perfect and there is nothing lacking in it; and yet, in spite of that, we do not yet possess it, except by hope.  We do not as yet experience the full accomplishment of it in practice.

These, therefore, are the two points we have to note.  The first is that as soon as we believe in Jesus Christ we have passed from death to life, as it is said in the fifth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel [5:24].  And we must not imagine, as the papists do, that Jesus Christ has merely opened to us the gate of salvation and that it is then in our power to enter if we wish; in other words, that he has only begun [the work], and it is up to us to finish it.  Those are wicked and accursed blasphemies.  But let us assure our­selves that our salvation is complete and perfect, at least as far as God is concerned.  Nevertheless, we do not enjoy it as yet, for ills incumbent on us to fight, here in this mortal life; we must experience trouble and disquiet, so much so that it may seem as if we are surrounded by death a thousand times over and plunged into the depths of hell.

Our salvation is thus hidden, as we are told in the eighth chapter of Romans.  Yet for all that, there is a sense in which we are already heirs by hope; that is to say, we are sure that al­though God tries us and we feel our own infirmities, which might cast us into anguish of mind and doubting, yet we stead­fastly believe that God does not change.  And since he has chosen us and given us assurance of his adoption, our hope which we have in him feeds and maintains the certainty of our faith.  And even though we must wait, the inheritance is now ready for us, and it remains only for us to take possession of it when the day comes.

Practical application

Now that we see what the teaching of this text is, it remains for us to put it to use.  And whenever anyone speaks to us of God’s mercy, let us be sure that all trust in our own merits is demol­ished, and consequently any glory we might have is utterly defaced, so that we have no grounds for boasting, because we bring nothing to God but receive all things from him.

We also need to know that we could not even conceive of the goodness and love of our God if we did not have a pledge of it in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore let us not enter into lofty or profound speculations when we want to be assured of our salvation, as we know many do, their heads being full of fantasies.  Some are never content till [their ideas] have encom­passed both heaven and earth.  But let us go at once to Jesus Christ, for God bears with our weakness in that he will have us to be grounded upon his only Son.  And we need not travel by any long or circuitous route to come to our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has come down here to us — so much so that he was abased lower than all men, according to the psalm which says that he was the laughing-stock of the world and made as naked as an earthworm (Ps. 22:6).

Again, it is said by the prophet Isaiah that he was disfigured like one afflicted with a loathsome disease (Isa. 52:14).  And why was this?  So that we might receive the grace that he offers us.  And how was he so abased?  Saint Paul uses the same word also in his epistle to the Philippians (Phil. 2:7-8).  He does not cease to draw us daily to himself and he does this so graciously and with the greatest gentleness and kindness imaginable.  For he wills us by his gospel to come; yet he does so by encourag­ing and beseeching us, as Saint Paul says in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (5:20).

Seeing, then, that our Lord Jesus Christ is so loving, that this message is daily brought to us, that he desires only to count us as members of his body and that our Lord’s invitation ought to sound continually in our ears: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I give you rest … and you will find rest for your souls’ — seeing that all this is so, I say, let us not wilfully run astray, but let us be firmly anchored on Jesus Christ, for we cannot go wrong in resorting to him.  And when we know that we are reconciled to God the Father by his means and are given a full righteousness, let us likewise understand that he distributes all these things to us by his Holy Spirit.

The principal thing is that we should remain content with Jesus Christ, not seeking to add anything to the grace that he brings us.  And that we should not deal as the papists do, who when they have confessed that Jesus Christ is the mediator, look to various saints to be their patrons and advocates and attempt to lay hold on the merits of the apostles and martyrs.  It seems to them that the satisfaction [of God’s justice] made by our Lord Jesus Christ is nothing unless they add bits and pieces to it.  They are also under the impression that they can serve up a more appetizing mixture by the addition of their own merits.  Not content with the perfect sustenance that is given for their souls in the Son of God, they add to it their own sauces which they have concocted out of their own heads and brains.  But let us, for our part, take care that we are completely satisfied with the riches of God’s goodness, which he has made available to us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And along with that, let us understand (as I said earlier) that Jesus Christ does not communicate his grace to us, unless he has made us partakers of his Holy Spirit.  For what shall it avail us that our Lord Jesus Christ has shed his blood, if we are not washed with it by the Holy Spirit?  What shall it avail us that Jesus Christ has taken away sin and the tyranny of the devil by being crucified, if we are not brought and united to him by the grace of his Holy Spirit?  So then, let us pray to our good God to put us in possession of the thing which he has purchased for us by the death and resurrection of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ by pouring out the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon us.

How do we receive these gifts?  First, by being enlightened and given faith, that we may know that God is our Father and may be assured in our own experience of his goodness.  Sec­ondly, by having a spirit of godly fear, so that we may renounce our own wicked lusts and desires and devote ourselves to serv­ing the one who rightly rules over us.  Thirdly, by having a spirit of strength and constancy, which will enable us to fight against all the assaults that Satan makes upon us, and to withstand all his temptations.  And finally, by having a spirit of wisdom to keep us from all the crafty schemes of our enemy.  To that pos­ition we must come, so that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ may profit us, and that his resurrection may have its full power and effect in us.  And let us understand that all these things are witnessed to us in baptism.

Therefore, if we are conscious that we lack the gifts of the Holy Spirit, let us not doubt that we shall have them if we need them.  Why?  Because God did not deceive us when he ordained the figure of baptism, for in it we have a sure sign that he is not stingy towards us but pours out generously (at least insofar as he sees it to be appropriate for us) all the gifts that we lack and that we stand in need of.

Do we, then, perceive a lack of strength in ourselves?  Do we perceive that there is the darkness of ignorance in us?  Do we perceive that we are so entangled in this world that we cannot attain to the spiritual things?  Then let us run to God, and let our baptism act as a sign pointing us to him.  For, as I have already said, in baptism our Lord shows us that he will not fail us in any way, if only we flee to him for refuge.  But, on the other hand, we need to take note that the mere fact of being baptized is nothing.  When we have received the visible sign, to what end will it serve us, except to our greater condem­nation, if we do not also have that which it represents?  And the responsibility for that will be laid at our door.  If we find that there is any shortcoming in this respect, we must lay the blame on our own unbelief more than we do.

But again, Saint Paul attributes the power of our renewal and regeneration to this washing that he speaks of.  However, he is addressing the faithful, who do not reject God’s grace, but open their mouths that he may fill them, according as we are ex­horted to do in the psalm (Ps. 81:10).  Let us take good note of the fact that unbelievers are like a covered pot; God showers his gifts upon them, but they do not receive them, for they are so tightly covered that there is no getting into them.  Or else they are as hard as rocks.  It may rain for a whole day on a rock, yet the rock will not have absorbed any of the moisture, be-cause it is too hard.  That is how it is with all who refuse God’s grace.  But if we have our mouths open by faith, we shall be filled.  And therefore it is not without good reason that Saint Paul addresses himself to the faithful, saying that God has poured out this spiritual cleansing upon them and has made them par­takers of it.  Oh, how we ought to put into practice the doctrine which is contained in this passage!

The hope of eternal life

And now let us come to the last part of the text, where he says that we are saved because we are ‘heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’  Saint Paul shows us what our faith is grounded upon and in what it consists, namely, in our being heirs of God.  For properly speaking, our salvation is ours only by rights of inheritanceWe are not heirs by nature, but by adoption, be­cause it pleases God to take us as his children.  We are born as children of wrath — that is to say, we are under a curse — and, far from our being able to call God our Father, he utterly rejects us. Yet for all that, he does not refrain from adopting us.  How is this possible?  Saint Paul sends us back to our Lord Jesus Christ, who with good reason is called the only Son of God.  For he is God’s only Son by nature, and that title belongs to him by right.  Nevertheless, inasmuch as we are grafted into his body and have become his members, we too are adopted as God’s children.  This is how we come to inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Are we heirs?  Then we are saved.  But let us note that it is as yet only by hope.

It is helpful to us to be reminded of this, for God will not have us to be idle in this world.  Even though he has perfected our salvation in the person of his Son, he will lead us to it by the order he has laid down, which is, that when we have once received assurance of his goodness and received the thing that he offers us by his gospel — that is, justification by his grace alone — he will also keep us occupied in fighting against Satan, and that not for one day only, but throughout our whole life­time we must go through with all the baffles that God is pleased to send our way.  And moreover, we must strive to forsake all our own affections, lusts and desires — yes, and even our own wisdom.  For the area in which God chiefly intends to test our obedience is that of bringing our own personal desires into sub­mission, so that we may not be too wise in our own opinion, but instead may seek to submit ourselves wholly unto him, so that when our own desires would drive us hither and thither, we may have a bridle to hold us back; and that, even in the teeth of our own desires, our own passions may not reign over us, but that God may have the mastery.

So then, seeing it is God’s will to keep us occupied in this manner all the days of our life, let us learn to turn for encourage­ment to what is said here concerning hope.  Why do we need to do this?  Because, if someone tells us that we are saved, we also see how the devil does not cease trying to bring about our ruin, and that he has the means to bring it about, were we not preserved by the wonderful power of our God.  Then again, on the other hand, we see what mysteries surround us, and that our life is so wretched that even unbe­lievers are in a better situation than we are, and seem to enjoy a happier state than that of God’s children.  We see all these things, and they would be enough to dismay us, if we were not assured of that which Saint Paul tells us in this text, namely, that we are heirs through hope.  That, I say, is the thing which main­tains us in the certainty of our faith, so that even if we are mocked in this world by unbelievers and they work against us in a thousand spiteful and outrageous ways, yet we must never cease to assure ourselves that we enjoy God’s favor.

And again, although our true life is hidden and we seem to be on the point of being overthrown, and although we may be like sheep led to the slaughter (as it is said in Romans 8:36) and though we may be trampled under foot, rejected by the world and scorned by all men — yet we must not let that prevent us from taking hold by faith of the inheritance that is prepared for us in heaven, and from concluding from this that, although we may seem to face utter ruin, yet, even so, we shall not fail to be saved.  And why is that?  Because our salvation is in good and safe hands; God is the one who keeps it safe.

‘Yes, that is all very well, but still we are assailed on all sides.’  Well, even if that is so, we shall not be a prey to Satan, since God the Father will exert his strength to defend us, and our Lord Jesus Christ will carry out the func­tions of his office, because he has taken responsibility for us.  We know how he has said that he will not allow any of those who have been given to him to perish (John 6:39).  And we know that inasmuch as God is almighty, our salvation is exempt from all danger. See how we may take comfort from this, and how we may defy both Satan and the world, and, indeed, all the temptations that may assail us!

In short, we may already speak confidently of everlasting life, even though we are not merely on the very edge of the abyss, but even on the point of being made to tumble in, and though we may be threatened with death every minute of the hour.  But let us also take note that when Saint Paul speaks of eternal life, he intends to draw us away from this world, to which we are too closely wedded.  There is no one who does not naturally desire to live, and to live well, but we lack the wisdom to choose the true life.  Instead, we take hold of a mere shadow, as though a man were to try to catch the moon be­tween his teeth, as they say.

The word ‘life’ is enough to make us madly in love with it, but, at the present time, we only catch a shadow of the real thing.  Everyone clings to this fleeting life, and the world keeps us entangled in its web, and, at the same time, we despise the everlasting life to which God calls us, and which has been pur­chased for us by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So let us bear in mind that we are only passing through this world, and that in this passage Saint Paul spurs us on in order to rouse us to aspire to the heavenly life and to make us run at a fast pace through this world and not be halted in it for anything.  And because we are so weak and our reason is unable to climb so high, let us always fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ.  And since we know that God’s Son came down here and will here­after receive us into his glory — and, indeed, that God has made him head over the angels as well as over us — let us be assured that, although we are in this world, we are here only as pilgrims and do not cease to be citizens of heaven, to which we are being led by hope.  This is why Paul says in another place that we are seated already in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).  How is that?  By hope.

So then, let us note well that hope is not a dead thing, nor a light fancy of our own devising.  It is rather the Holy Spirit work­ing in us in such a way that, although we are trapped in these bodies which are subject to decay; although we feel such a heavy burden that it seems to us that we are about to be dragged down into hell; although our sight is so pitifully short and dim, and even though all our strength should fail us — yet God, notwithstanding all these things, works by the power of his Holy Spirit in such a way that we are still lifted up and enabled to keep on our way and press on to reach the inheritance that has been prepared for us, not doubting that we shall arrive, because our Lord Jesus Christ will then appear, and that life which at the present time is hidden from us will finally be revealed.

A portion from a sermon on Titus 3:4-7.

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