(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 3)

Of the Knowledge of Our Misery
Lord's Day 2

Psalter No. 40 st. 1, 2, 3
Read Galatians 2
Psalter No. 111 st. 1 & 4
Psalter No. 362 st. 1
Psalter No. 103 st. 1 & 4

    By the ministrations of the Holy Spirit the law has a mortifying
power in God's people. "For I," writes Paul in Gal. 2:19, "through
the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." Paul is
dead to the law. Formerly he sought life in the fulfillment of the
law in his own power. He was second to none in his zeal to be
justified by the works of the law. If anyone thought he had grounds
to trust in the flesh, that is, in the works of the law, he had more
grounds: "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the
tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law a
Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the
righteousness which is in the law, blameless." This record he could
freely place before the enemies of free grace. If it were possible
to be saved through the works of the law, Paul surely would have
merited heaven. But that way is cut off; the covenant of works is
broken as far as its ability to save men is concerned. On the path
which Paul trod, he was hastening to his eternal destruction with
all those who place their confidence in the law. How great then was
the grace glorified in him, when the Lord stopped that raging
persecutor of the church of God, yea of Christ himself, on the way
to Damascus, and delivered him from the bonds of the law which held
him under its implacable demand and curse; when God called him from
death to life and changed him from an enemy to a friend. Then he was
dead to the law, that is, free from the dominion of the law, seeking
life therein and justification through the works of the law.
    This dying unto the law is necessary for all men in order that
they may by faith seek salvation only by grace. The law has no power
to save lost sinners, for it was weak through the flesh. "For what
the law could not do, God sending His own Son in the likeness of
sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." And this
happened through the perfect satisfaction given by Christ to the
law, so that it lost its reigning and condemning power over those
which are in Christ.
    Dying to the law, however, does not mean living in sin, free
from the law. On the contrary, dying to the law occurs, says Paul,
"That I might live unto God". The law remains a rule of gratitude, a
rule of living unto God. Therefore the law has a strict demand upon
everyone which must be fulfilled, and it remains a rule of life in
the exercise of gratitude. In the first respect, Paul states that he
has died to the law and that through the law itself. Nevertheless,
the law continues to demand; it pursues those who seek life by it,
it is a schoolmaster who drives on and gives no rest; a revenger of
blood who demands death. This restless working of the law is wrought
in us by the irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit, so that
God's children, cast off from their own powers, are driven to Christ
and obtain peace with God in Him. Thus the knowledge of sin is
obtained out of the law and of that knowledge of sin the second
Lord's Day of our Heidelberg Catechism speaks, to which we now give
our attention.
    This Lord's Day reads as follows:
Q. 3: Whence knowest thou thy misery?
A. Out of the law of God.
Q. 4: What does the law of God require of us?
A. Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, "Thou shalt love
    the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and
    with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first
    and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou
    shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments
    hang all the law and the prophets."
Q. 5: Can't thou keep all these things perfectly?
A. In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.
    This Lord's Day then deals with the knowledge of our misery.
    We shall hear:
      I What this knowledge pertains to,
     II Out of what this knowledge is obtained;
    III What impotence this knowledge reveals.
    In the first Lord's Day, the way by which the only comfort in
life and death is obtained was clearly shown. To obtain that
comfort, we need knowledge of misery, deliverance and gratitude. The
Catechism now deals with these three matters in succession; hence
about our misery in the first place.
    This first matter is of the very greatest importance. No one can
rightly deal with the redemption in Christ unless he teaches the
doctrine of man's misery rightly according to God's Word. Is it any
wonder that our instructor spends three Lord's Days on that doctrine
of the misery of man? In those three Lord's Days the instructor
delves deeper and deeper into the matter. In the second Lord's Day
he speaks of the knowledge, in the third Lord's Day he speaks of the
origin, and in the fourth Lord's Day he speaks of the inevitableness
of our misery. On the side of man, deliverance is wholly impossible.
God can not leave sin unpunished, but will punish them in His just
judgment temporarily and eternally. Only when this is well
understood have we any need for deliverance in Christ. The way by
which the Holy Spirit leads those whom He delivers from the state of
misery corresponds exactly with the way described by the catechism,
in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. The convicted sinner who
must sign his death sentence, seeks too much to escape the just
judgment by fleeing to the broken cisterns of his own powers. He
wants to pay the debts he has made, and better himself, but his
experience is that he increases the debt day by day. Still he would
not give up the attempt, if he did not learn to know how he broke
the covenant in Adam, so that he is conceived and born in sin. Here
lies the origin of his misery that cuts off all hope of deliverance,
and causes him to fall totally helpless under the righteousness of
    By nature we are ignorant of our misery, even though we bear the
consequences of it daily. Yea, we bemoan the consequences; but we do
not reach down to its root, namely, sin, until the Holy Spirit
effectually discovers it to us by means of the preaching of the law
of God. How necessary it is then to uncover the state of man's
misery, notwithstanding the bitter enmity that has revealed and
raised itself throughout the ages especially against this doctrine.
If we carry all this opposition to the pure doctrine back to its
beginning, we shall see again that the root lies in the denial of
man's state of death in Adam. Pelagius especially contended bitterly
in the fifth century to ascribe to man a free will and the ability
to believe and attain salvation by his own powers. The
Semi-Pelagians, including the Roman Catholics, followed in his
steps; the Armenians stirred up trouble for a long time in the
Netherlands, especially by their denial of the state of man's
misery. And, oh, that they, after their condemnation only died out!
Alas, the church in the Netherlands is still filled with their
theses. Yea, even those who want to be called Reformed place the
command to believe so strongly in the foreground, that nothing is
said of man's unwillingness or inability. Men must be comforted! Men
must be exhorted to believe in Christ, to accept Him as our Savior,
as if ever any man would come to Christ without having been awakened
to see his misery! We do not want to be saved by grace; the letter
of pardon from heaven has no value for us unless by the quickening
and efficacious work of the Holy Spirit we have received true
knowledge of our misery. When the great Reformers, Luther and
Calvin, explained the doctrine of man's misery in conformity to the
Scriptures, Rome trembled upon its foundations. Never would it have
gained as many adherents among the descendants o$ the Reformers as
it now has, if those descendants had clung to the doctrine that man
by nature lives without God in the world, banished from his Maker
and Creator. As Absalom was banished from David after the murder of
Ammon, so we are banished from communion with God. We are without
God in the world. We are objects of God's holy wrath, subjects of
eternal judgment upon soul and body. Moreover we are become slaves
of sin and Satan; we are born, yea, conceived in the state of
misery, unable, and even unwilling to save ourselves. Why do men
speak of taking hold of the life-line, Christ? One day two men were
drowned in a harbor. A crew member had fallen overboard, and his
skipper jumped in after him to rescue him, but too soon. The
drowning man clung to him, and both of them perished. Had the
skipper only waited until the drowning man had become powerless!
Thus many want to offer Jesus as a Savior to sinners; but unless the
knowledge of our misery has first made us entirely hopeless, we
shall certainly perish with a Christ we have taken.
    It is the Holy Ghost who makes us know our misery. He will
convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. That
conviction is a personal conviction. "Whence knowest thou thy
misery?" asks the instructor. The devil is the most miserable o$ all
creatures, for him all hope of deliverance is eternally cut off. God
has reserved him in everlasting chains under darkness unto the
judgment of the great day. (Jude 6) The whole creation groaneth and
travaileth in pain, for the earth is cursed because of our sin.
Beside the devil, there is no more miserable creature than an
unconverted person. However, the catechism does not enquire about
our neighbor, but our own misery "thy misery". The Lord deals
personally with His people. By nature we say with the Laodiceans, "I
am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing",
nevertheless it is true of all of us: "Thou knowest not that thou
art wretched and miserable and poor, and blind and naked". Knowledge
of our misery is necessary. Without that knowledge obtained by the
conviction of the Holy Spirit, we will never buy gold tried in the
fire, that we may be rich; and white raiment that we may be clothed
and the shame of our nakedness appear not, and eye salve that we may
see. How necessary it is then for everyone, whether old or young to
receive knowledge of the state of our deep misery, a knowledge not
gained by historical confessions, a knowledge that the Lord Himself
works effectually, by which we say with Ephraim, "I repented; and
after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed,
yea, even confounded."
    True knowledge of our misery is to be distinguished from the
mere historical knowledge in that we are unhappy, and from an
intense general conviction of sin which many experience for a time
and consider to be a saving conviction of the Holy Ghost. Although
they are often beset with the pains of hell, which cause them to
leave their gross sins for a longer or shorter time, to join with
God's people, and to use the means of grace more seriously than
before; they lack, however, the true characteristics of the real
knowledge of sin, and they often speak of unscriptural matters and
experiences upon which they build their hope. Above all, they lack
true humility which is a decisive characteristic of grace. The
indispensable knowledge of our misery causes our soul to bow down
under the judgment of God. We ascribe righteousness unto God, even
if He should eternally condemn us. The almost-Christian never
reaches that point, no matter what convictions he may speak of. His
soul fears the punishment of sin, but sin itself he does not know.
God's people, however, learn to hate sin as an affront upon all the
perfections of God, and they justify the judgment of God. However
with much slavish fears they are often possessed, they must justify
God and condemn themselves, so that it shall be fulfilled that
whosoever condemns himself shall not be called into judgment. That
knowledge of our misery causes us to see ourselves as banished from
communion with God, and arouses a godly sorrow which worketh
repentance to salvation, not to be repented of. Our Reformed fathers
were right when they confessed that for God's people missing God is
worse than death, and whoever has learned to know his misery cannot
rest until he knows that he is restored into God's favour and
communion. That knowledge takes us off from all false foundations
and causes the afflicted and poor people to make supplication to
their Judge. It prepares the soul for the revelation of Christ, by
whom the law is disarmed of its curse. How necessary then is the
knowledge of our misery in order that we obtain that only comfort in
life and death.
    The knowledge is obtained out of the law. To that we will now
give our attention as we notice in the second place:
    The means by which this knowledge is obtained.
    The instructor asks:
    Whence knowest thou thy misery?
    Answer: Out of the law of God.
    We are placed before the demand of God's law which Christ
summarized for us in Matth. 22:37-40, which summary is quoted in the
second answer of this Lord's Day.
    The instructor speaks the clear language of Paul in Rom. 3:20,
"By the law is the knowledge of sin." Of himself Paul said in Rom.
7:7, "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not
covet." Man's reasoning and common sense, so highly praised in the
world, are not able to reveal to him the state of his deep misery.
The law of God is a mirror in which we by the light of the Spirit
see ourselves, as we have become through sin. It is not the work of
faith to acquaint us with our misery. The law reveals every
transgression and declares us guilty. "Cursed is every one that
continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the
law to do them." Faith, on the other hand, causes the guilty sinner
out of the depth of his misery to seek refuge with God in Christ,
and raises him out of his state of misery.
    The knowledge of our misery we therefore obtain out of the law.
God had written that law in Adam's heart and embodied it in the
Covenant of Works; and He demands of each man perfect obedience to
it. After the fall the remnants of the knowledge of that law are not
only in the hearts of all men, (Rom. 2:14) but the Lord implants it
in His people and pronounced it in the ten commandments from Mount
Sinai when He established the Covenant of Grace; which grants
salvation only to God's elect, with His Israel, and gave it a
national form. Certainly there can be no doubt in anyone that
submits to the teachings of Scripture that the covenant established
at Sinai was the Covenant of Grace, made in eternity with the elect
in Christ their representative head, revealed in the first promise,
Gen. 3:15, after which God's favorites were included from time to
time. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, are clear examples.
    When the Lord established the covenant with Israel they were
given the law written in two tables of stone. God did not merely lay
this law upon them, for then they would have been consumed. Moses
received the law out of the hands of Christ, (Acts 7:38) Who by His
active and passive obedience satisfied and glorified the law. His
blood, the blood of the covenant, was sprinkled upon the people. "I
am," thus spoke the Lord, "Jehovah, thy God, the God of the
covenant." Therefore the giving of the Ten Commandments was fringed
by the ceremonial laws, all of which foreshadowed the Christ. No,
indeed, this covenant did not promise only a fruitful Canaan. When
the Lord told Moses that He would send an angel before them to lead
them to the land flowing with milk and honey, that He Himself would
not go with them, Moses pleaded, "If Thy presence go not with me,
carry us not up hence." (Ex. 33:15) Moses' main object was communion
with God. That was the contents of the covenant, communion with God
in Christ Jesus.
    The Covenant of grace which not only offers but also promises
salvation to God's elect, attained at Mount Sinai a national form,
not to be confused with the essence of the covenant. In that form
all Israel was brought into a covenant relation, although all Israel
did not partake of that covenant, and all did not enter into that
covenant; wherefore they died in the wilderness because of their
unbelief. This has happened so that we who are externally related to
the covenant because of our birth, baptism and confession, but are
not grafted into the covenant by regeneration, should take warning.
By giving the law at Mt. Sinai in two tables of stone when the
Covenant of Grace was proclaimed, the function of the law is clearly
set forth as it is explained in our catechism, both in the part
about our misery and that of our gratitude. In the latter part it is
explained from commandment to commandment, so that God's children
shall understand all the better who they are and shall remain in
themselves, even after having received grace, and that Christ shall
become more precious and indispensable to them in every part.
However, when dealing with man's misery the instructor discusses the
law in brief! Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman of one sin, but
she felt and acknowledged that He saw through her entire life, and
cried out, "He told me all things that ever I did." Thus it is in
the conviction of an elect sinner. God's omniscience cuts through
the soul as lightning and renders it guilty to all God's
commandments, which are condensed into one. Oh, it is sufficient!
The convicted soul surrenders to the just and equitable sentence
pronounced upon him. He is as a beast before Him; he is entirely
lost, a transgressor of all God's commandments from his youth. That
is the fruit in God's people of the Work of the Holy Spirit which is
powerful in the Covenant of Grace. This caused Paul, although his
life according to the law was irreproachable, to cry out, "For I was
alive without the law once." But God wrote His holy law upon the
tables of his heart, and thereby wrought within him a knowledge of
his state of misery, causing him to testify with all God's people,
"I lived without the law."
    The Ten Commandments were written by the hand of God upon two
tables of stone that Moses had hewn, after he had broken the first
ones. Four commandments were on the first table and six on the
second. The Roman Catholic Church had no scruples about lifting the
second commandment out of the law and dividing the tenth commandment
into two, thus removing the commandment against image worship. Thus
there would have been three commandments written on the first and
seven commandments on the second table. However, the first
commandment tells us *Whom* we shall worship: God alone, and the
second *how* God wants to be worshiped; moreover, the order of the
objects we may not covet, according to the tenth commandment, varies
between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Which then is the ninth, and
which is the tenth commandment? But Rome would rather mutilate the
law of God than give up its image worship.
    And what is the contents of the four commandments of the first
table? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and
with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."
"With all thy heart" means with your inmost being, the heart, out of
which are the issues of life and not merely in the outward
revelation only. "With all thy soul" means with all affections so
that all your desire is directed toward having the Lord for your
portion, and pleasing the Lord. "With all thy mind" means that your
thoughts are fixed upon Him, to know Him, to know Him in Christ,
diligently searching what He has revealed of Himself and counting
that revelation to be your greatest delight, and partaking of His
love. "With all thy strength" means serving Him with all your
faculties of soul and body. This does not mean that we in our
strength can bring God anything; on the contrary, as we shall soon
see, with our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength we are
transgressors of God's commandments. The demand of the law which God
inscribed upon Adam's heart and which applies to us all, is the
demand of perfect love to God and to our neighbors. The commandments
of the first table are called the great commandment, but not the
greatest; the second commandment, consisting of the six commandments
of the second table, is also great, and is like unto the first,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
    "Thy neighbor!" Who is our neighbor? The Lord Jesus has told us
in the parable of the Good Samaritan, when a lawyer sought to
relieve his embarrassment with the question, "Who is my neighbor?"
The Lord really answered him with another question. Ask the man who
fell among the thieves. Would he have said that priest or that
Levite, who as if they had not seen him walked on without pity? Or
would he have said, "My enemy, a Samaritan, was my neighbor?"
"Therefore do so," says the Lord, "that your enemy must say, 'My
enemy, he is my neighbor'." For is not all mankind made of one
blood? Your neighbor means all people; them you must love as
yourself, with the same love with which you must seek that which is
truly good for yourself, for time and eternity, seeking all that
could serve your soul's salvation. The more you love yourself, the
stronger the demand of the second table of the law is and the more
the violation of that law will testify against us.
    Oh, do not think this is a light matter! "On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets." They stand or fall
with these two commandments. All that God spoke through Moses and
the prophets hangs on the two tables of the law; and is built upon
it as a foundation. He who deals lightly with the ten commandments
mocks the entire revelation of God. Our seeking and desiring to live
according to that law cannot allow us to stand in the judgment. As
we have already stated, Paul lived (externally with the best of
intentions) irreproachably, but he did not know the spiritual
contents of the law. After his inmost being had been revealed to him
he said, "I lived without the law." We also live without the law.
God demands perfect obedience, perfect love toward Him and toward
our neighbor. The demand of the law has not lost its power because
of our fall and our subsequent impotence. The covenant of works is
broken, but only in respect to its ability to justify even one
person. The demand remains the same, "If thou wilt enter into life,
keep the commandments," and that is impossible for us, impossible
because God demands love, and we have none. Now when God's perfect
law is bound upon our hearts, and comes to us with all its demands,
we shall learn to understand that we cannot keep one of his
commandments. That we shall consider in the third place, namely:
    What impotence this knowledge reveals.
    The third question of this Lord's Day directs us to this: The
question asks, "Can't thou keep all these things perfectly?" Answer:
"In no wise, for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor."
    Is not that answer much too strong? I am inclined to love my
neighbor, my father and mother and children and brothers and
sisters. Is there not natural love? If it were not so the world
could not continue. Even among people who do not know God's Word and
care nothing about His law, that love is found, and sometimes puts
professors of the truth to shame. That is true, but it does not
contradict what our instructor states. We did not bring that natural
love with us out of the fall of Adam, in which we died the spiritual
death. Rather, it is a gift of God, a gift of God's common grace, by
which God the Father by His work of providence upholds the world
until the end determined by Him. That natural love does not seek the
true well-being of our neighbor. Moreover, what are the inclinations
of our heart? What is the natural life of fallen men? They are
hateful, and hating one another, says Scripture, Titus 3:3. This
becomes very evident when God withdraws His hand and we see it in
the spirits that arise from the bottomless pit, even in our days.
Yea, the state of our misery is so deep that we have not only become
strangers to God, living without God in the world, but haters of
God. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7)
    That is the state by nature of all people, even if we were born
of religious, yea of God-fearing parents, were carried by them into
the church, and lived under the influence of the Word of God from
the time that we were scarcely able to walk, and were commended to
God. The sign and seal of baptism did not remove that enmity, nor
did our conscientious religious and moral life. Adam and Eve not
only sought to flee from God (Gen. 3:8), but God's Word tells us
that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil
continually. (Gen. 6:5.) Thus the elect were reconciled to God while
they were enemies. (Rom. 5:10.) They, too, were formerly enemies in
their mind by wicked works. (Col. 1:21.) This is the root of our
natural life; we are inclined to all evil. Hence "inclined" does not
mean that there are certain inclinations to evil, and also
counteracting good inclinations. No, all that is in us, all our
inclinations are only to evil, so that we transgress all of God's
commandments with thoughts, words, and deeds. If God's law demanded
only that we do this and refrain from doing that, perhaps by really
exerting ourselves we could go as far as the rich young man who
could say, "All these things have I kept from my youth up." But
God's law demands love, while we hate God and our neighbor, and we
cannot make love, not even natural love. Just think of so many
marriages that are unhappy because love, that root of close
fellowship, is lacking. How then can we with our corrupt, hateful
heart, love God and our neighbor? The law declares us to be guilty
in all the commandments which we transgress with thoughts, words and
deeds. No bitter fountain can give forth sweet water; no soul full
of hatred can bring forth love. "Verily, there is not a just man
upon earth, that does good, and sinneth not," (Eccles. 7:20). As it
is written, "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10). In
this state of misery man lacks the love and inclination of the heart
toward God, all true knowledge of his Creator and all seeking of His
honour. On the contrary, he wants to do the lust of the devil. He
seeks the world, serves sin, and has self for his main goal. Thus he
hastens to perdition, and drags his neighbor with him. However, the
law continues to demand perfect obedience, and pronounces the curse
upon every fallen son of Adam. The curse is pronounced on Mt. Sinai,
but we are so hardened by nature that no one notices it or is broken
by it.
    How necessary it is then that God the Holy Spirit reveals the
demand and the curse of the law and binds it upon our heart. In the
life of those who shall be saved there comes a moment that they are
summoned before the judgment seat of God to give an account, that
their whole life with its best intentions are revealed by the law of
God to be entirely sinful. The ungodly Manasseh, the legalistic
Paul, the religious Lydia, the thief on the cross, however their
lives may have been, the law declares them guilty throughout their
lives. God's omniscience lays their thoughts, words and actions bare
before Him, and they acknowledge that they are justly subject to the
sentence of eternal death. They pray with Daniel, "We have sinned,
and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly and have
rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and Thy judgments:
neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants, the prophets." (Dan.
9:5, 6) The knowledge of our misery is wrought by the law, and
causes us to know ourselves as haters of God and of our neighbor, so
that we can not stand before the righteousness of God. "We are all
as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have
taken us away." (Isa. 64:6)
    And still in this revealing of all our sins, in that showing us
our guiltiness in regard to all the commandments, there is a drawing
of the love of God that causes us to flee to Him, and seek
forgiveness with Him. Uncovered by the law of God the convicted
sinner confesses what we now sing out of Psalter No. 363 st. 2:
    "Lord, if Thou shouldst mark transgressions,
    In Thy presence who shall stand?
    But with Thee there is forgiveness,
    That Thy Name may fear command."
    And now there is the question for each one of us, both old and
young: whether we have rightly learned to know our misery? Hold
fast, beloved, to the pure doctrine of Scripture, never depart from
it. If you stand immovably firm upon what Scripture tells you
concerning the state of man's misery, you will be kept from sliding
to the paths of falsely imagining that a person can be converted,
even if he or someone else cannot notice anything of it, or that the
promises of God are given to you, which you as being in the Covenant
of Grace, only have to accept. By virtue of our relationship to Adam
we are born in a broken Covenant of Works, and in that covenant we
are under the curse and wrath of God. Only when God the Holy Spirit
cuts us off from Adam and grafts us into Christ, Who is the Head of
the Covenant of Grace, as Paul clearly teaches in Rom. 5:12-19, then
alone do we become children of the covenant and partakers of the
covenant promises, which God has in eternity given to the elect in
Christ. Regarding man's eternal state, there are only two covenants;
and only by regeneration a child of Adam enters the Covenant of
Grace. Although by birth and baptism we stand in an outward relation
to the covenant, we are truly in this covenant when God's grace is
glorified in us, and not merely by an "offer of grace." We are dead
or alive; we live for ourselves, or we are translated from death
into life; we are in Christ, or without Christ, one or the other. By
nature, that is, as we are born, we are without God in the world,
and without Christ, and without hope for eternity. Alas, all vain
hope shall soon fall away, when we must die and appear before God's
judgment seat. Do ask yourself whether there ever was a time in your
life at which your state of misery was revealed to you. Was there
ever an hour in which all your sin was placed before your eyes, and
you could subscribe to your death sentence as a transgressor of all
God's commandments?
    How many are there among us who although they agree with the
doctrine of man's misery, have never learned to know themselves as
utterly wretched and lost before God? How many have never felt the
depth of their misery and have never seen themselves banished from
the communion with God because of their sin? They lack, therefore,
the seriousness of purpose, to find refuge in Christ and to seek in
Him their righteousness before God. My dear fellow traveler to
eternity, I would cry to you with the words of the apostle, "Awake
thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give
thee light." You are thoroughly convinced that a wonder of God must
be wrought in your soul, shall it be well with you. May that
conviction remain with you; but do not allow it to lull you into a
false security, into living at ease. May the Lord impress the clear
and true doctrine of our misery upon your heart before the time of
grace shall have passed. Do consider that your impotence is no fig
leaf behind which you can hide; for our impotence is caused by our
sin, and according to that sin we shall be judged. May God bind upon
our hearts the truth that we are haters of Him and of our neighbors,
and that we transgress God's commandments with thoughts, words and
deeds. Then we will receive a true knowledge of our misery and we
will learn to take refuge in the last Adam, in Whom deliverance out
of our misery is possible.
    Many trust in common convictions, which however, never led to
true humility before God, even though their conscience was troubled
for a while for fear of punishment, and a Psalm verse came to their
thoughts, from which they concluded that their soul was saved. Poor
people! Do ask for a Holy Spirit conviction which alone can reveal
your misery to you and can lead you to Christ. The doctrine of our
misery is of so great significance. It makes us understand that we
have not and cannot keep even one of God's commandments; that we are
enemies, haters of God, and of our neighbor; that we can never show
that love which is the fulfillment of the law, and which God demands
of us. Before death comes to you as a traveler, and your lot shall
be cast for eternity, do try yourself by this: whether you have been
changed from a hater to a lover of God. That is a determining mark
of the grace of God that we condemn ourselves as being a
transgressor of all God's laws, and justify God if He should condemn
us eternally. That would I bind upon your hearts lest you should be
deceived in the last day.
    Ask the least among God's children, those who are beginners on
that way, and they shall say, "I have transgressed all God's
commandments." When God stopped them on their way of sin, caused
them to flee from shows and taverns, or shot them as a bird out of
their tree of self-righteousness, their own way and conversation was
revealed to them as all sin. Their whole life was a transgression of
God's commandments, and, however much they exerted themselves, they
were unable to give satisfaction to the law of God. Are there any
among us who know themselves thus guilty before God, who can find no
rest for their souls, even though there are moments when the love of
God throbs in their heart and His loving kindness causes them to bow
in the dust before Him? Oh, beloved, may you be humbled more and
more by the law of God, so that you will lose all hope in yourself
and place all your hope in Him, Who shall not forsake the work of
His hands. "Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring
forth?, saith the Lord. Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the
womb? saith thy God." Oh, do not give up hope, but desire to know
your guilt and sin more and more to be justified and sanctified in
Christ before God. Knowledge of our misery is indispensable, but in
that knowledge itself is no ground or hope. It serves to drive us to
Christ. May the Lord draw you with His rich promises, "He shall
spare the poor and needy, and shall save the soul of the needy." May
He cause you to be truly poor and needy. May the law be a
schoolmaster to drive you to Christ and give you no rest than where
your soul shall rest in God. Do not build up one another upon sweet
frames; do not rest upon the judgment of people who say, the Lord
has begun a good work in you, but seek after the assurance of your
union with Him, Who was sent by the Father, made of a woman, made
under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might
receive the adoption of sons. Amen.

(continued in part 4...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-03.txt