(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 5) God's Righteousness Vindicated Against Fallen Man Lord's Day 4 Psalter No. 12 st. 1, 2, 3 Read Rom. 1:16-32 Psalter No. 244 st. 3, 4 Psalter No. 338 st. 1, 2 Psalter No. 83 st. 1, 2, 3 Beloved: In the saving conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit, knowledge of God and the knowledge of self go together to humble the people of God before the Lord. There is also a common working of the Spirit, but that does not rest upon the reconciliation by Christ's sacrifice, and it lacks the characteristic of humility; the sinner remains in the state of misery in which he willfully cast himself in his covenant head Adam. Cain, who could not deny his guilt anymore, hardened himself, and lacking humility of soul and the refuge in the blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel, cried out, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." Esau found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears, having tears of bitterness but not humbled by his guilt. Judas acknowledged, "I have sinned, betraying innocent blood," but in despair he went out and hanged himself. There are common convictions of sin in the reprobate and in the elect before their conversion which many take for saving convictions, but these convictions never cause a man to come to God as a poor lost sinner with true contrition to seek deliverance in Christ, even though some of them may, as Orpah, have a degree of respect and love to God's people. The true knowledge of God and of self is lacking however, and it is very necessary, especially in these days, to give our attention to this matter, lest we deceive ourselves for an all-decisive eternity. True conviction summons us before the judgment seat of God and works in us a deep humiliation, so that we know ourselves to be guilty of all God's commandments. It cuts off all hope of improvement by showing us our deep fall in our covenant head Adam, by which we became incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil. It causes us to acknowledge God's justice even though it would condemn us forever. This true humiliation causes us to seek refuge in God and to beseech Him for mercy. The deeper the discovering work of the Holy Spirit is, the more the soul justifies the Lord, and discards all excuses. This our instructor shows us according to God's Word in the 4th Lord's Day of the Heidelberg Catechism. Lord's Day 4 Q. 9. Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform? A. Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own willful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts. Q. 10: Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished? A. By no means; but is terribly displeased with our original as well as actual sins; and will punish them in his just judgment temporally and eternally as he has declared, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them." Q. 11: Is not God then also merciful? A. God is indeed merciful, but also just; therefore his justice requires that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul. In this Lord's Day God's righteousness is vindicated against fallen man. I Notwithstanding his inability to fulfill the law's demand; II In the outpouring of God's terrible wrath; III In perfect agreement with God's mercy. I As he uncovered the source of our misery, the breach of the covenant by Adam, the instructor has cut off all hope of man's improvement. Our nature is so corrupt that we are incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness. Fallen man shall never be able to perform any good in the sight of God. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one." Neither the morality of the ancient heathens, estranged from the Word of God, which has been revived from age to age in newer forms, and even in our days has been reintroduced under the name of Christian humanism, nor the ethical moralist brought to baptized crowds for their conversion, that is, for their improvement, shows the way out of the state of man's misery. "We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin," said the Apostle. Whether Jew or Gentile, we are, in Adam, guilty before God, children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins. Nevertheless, God's justice continues to demand perfect obedience from guilty men who are entirely incapable of doing any good, but able only to bear fruit unto death. "Does not God then do injustice to man?" "Yes, that is unjust," cries the Pelagian. Pelagius was a British monk who lived around the year 450 A. D., and denied not only the perfect creation after the image of God, but also our fall in Adam. "Man is not incapable of doing any spiritual good; after the fall man has a free will; if he wishes, he can do good; the fall in Adam did not corrupt him, and if God demands obedience, man must be able to render it; God does not demand the impossible, that would be unjust." Thus Pelagius taught, and hundreds in our day agree with him, all that ascribe a free will to man: the Armenians, the Roman Catholics, and Modernists; all walk in the ways of Pelagius, yea, the inclination to it lies in all our hearts. We challenge God's right to demand what we cannot render. To our mind it is an unsolvable problem: to be lost because of our own sin, but to be saved by free grace. Preach that men must pray and then God will give it, that we must knock, and then God will open to us, then we will work and God will fulfill His promises. Do not say man is entirely incapable of doing any good, for then you take away all his hope; then, they cry, there is no comfort in all your preaching for the unconverted; then we remain in our impotency. What does our church attendance, our prayers, all our religion avail us? But, beloved, is salvation then of works or of grace? If it is of grace, all our works fall away entirely. Do you not feel that this entire presentation as if God shall fulfill His promises, if we pray for it, on condition that we knock, etc., does away with sovereign grace? And yet many, even under the name of Reformed, present it this way, in order as they aver, to hold the true doctrine high, and to maintain man's responsibility. Nevertheless they do not see that in this way natural man, however religious he may be, is lulled to sleep and is set upon a sandy foundation. No, and no again, we do not pray, seek, or knock. We are unwilling and unable to do so. Shall we then just say nothing about man's responsibility? Shall we hide behind our inability? Oh, my beloved, if we had any understanding of the doctrine concerning the origin of our fall, we would know that we are guilty, because the hardening of our heart even under the richest presentation of the gospel that offers free salvation without our works, is our own fault; because refusing to be saved by grace, in spite of the offer of Christ in the gospel, shall increase our condemnation. No, indeed, God did not publish a new law under the new covenant, a kind of law in which he demands faith, conversion, prayer, seeking and knocking; but He still demands perfect obedience to the law which was inscribed in Adam's heart and proclaimed from Mount Sinai. We show our enmity to God's justice by the false pretenses of saying that God gave His promises to all and we baptized people are all taken up in His covenant of grace, and that by His promises He is obliged to give us salvation, if we render to Him covenant obedience, and believe and convert ourselves. We demand a reward for our church attendance, for our prayers, for our religion, although we say that it is all of grace. But it is and remains as the catechism says: "God does not do man an injustice by requiring perfect obedience to the broken law, which we cannot give because we are incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness. Do we by this doctrine minimize at all the responsibility of man? In no wise! One day each person shall be judged according to his deeds, and his hardness in respect to the calling of the gospel which God's faithful ministers urge upon him with holy solemnity, shall increase his condemnation in that great day. Not being willing to have that man reign over us, increases our sins as we have more knowledge of God's Word and still live out the fall of Adam. Despise the warnings, callings, impressions of conscience, but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Return, beloved, go back to Paradise, to our creation, which was so perfect that we could keep God's law perfectly. God does man no injustice when he requires from him in his law that which he cannot perform. This we learn to acknowledge by the saving operation of the Holy Spirit. Then our eyes are opened for the fact that God's demand is just, and we are condemnable before Him. Our father was an Amorite, and our mother a Hittite, and because of the loathing of our soul we were cast out upon the open field. In a moment, by the lightning of God's omniscience, all our sins are then set before us; all the mercy God has shown, all the callings of the gospel and then, yes, then, but then only shall we acknowledge that we bear the full responsibility, and we shall not lay the blame upon God. God's people learn to cry, pray, and knock because of their agony of soul, and yet they know themselves to be lost, more and more. God demands in His law what we cannot perform. Not a penny of the debt is to be canceled. Not only the gross sins we have committed, but also our best works render us guilty before God. Why do men speak of pleading upon God's promises, who are total strangers of it? The uncovered sinner is placed before the inexorable demand of God's justice, his breach of the covenant is shown to him, and although the riches of grace break his heart when the promises are opened to him, either under the reading or the preaching of God's Word, yet he lacks the power of application. The promises are for God's people, and he is far from applying them to himself, although he has a glimpse of their riches. God's justice must be satisfied. That justice demands perfect obedience to the law which he has broken. Thus more and more it becomes a lost case with him. The publican would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven. Such souls learn to pray, to knock and to cry. Finally the prayer, the supplication of those who acknowledge God's justice in His perfect demand becomes, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." Grace only can save him from death; grace that blots out guilt and sin. Indeed, so it is. God demands perfect obedience from fallen man and in so doing God does not do man an injustice, "for God made man capable of performing it, but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own willful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts." We have heard in the previous Lord's Day that God created man good, and after His own image in true knowledge, righteousness and holiness. God granted to man all the powers and gifts to obey perfectly that law which God had inscribed in their hearts and set forth as a condition of the Covenant of Works to receive life eternal. In the state of rectitude that was all his desire, for the love of God constrained them to dedicate themselves to God. His mind meditated with holy joy and admiration the thoughts of God revealed to him. It was his will to do perfectly what God commanded. His affections were entirely set upon being pleasing to God. Without any especially added grace, man was capable because of his creation to do all that God commanded. Oh, in what a glorious state did God create man! Was God unjust, then, when He demanded perfect obedience? And is it unjust that God still demands that obedience also after man has wasted all those gifts and powers in the fall? No, for "man, by the instigation of the devil and his own willful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts." God's Word does not tell us how long Adam and Eve stayed in that state of rectitude. We know that on the sixth day "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." Hence before the sixth day neither angel nor man had fallen. And on the seventh day God rested from all His works, that is, God rejoiced in them. It is hard then to set the fall on the seventh day, as Luther did. Van Maastricht was of the opinion that Adam and Eve persevered in that state at least a few days, yes, for a week. Although God's Word does not tell the duration of life in Paradise, our theologians feel it was but a short time. However, it is indisputable that "man by the instigation of the devil and his own willful disobedience deprived himself and all his posterity of the divine gifts" necessary to keep God's law. By his own doing he fell out of the glorious state of rectitude into the slavery of Satan and of sin. But the demand of God's righteousness was not thereby removed. God demands that man shall fulfill that for which He created him and gave him his ability. The fault of our inability to keep God's law does not lie in God, but in ourselves. By our willful disobedience we have sold ourselves to do evil. Would God then relinquish His right? He would then deny Himself and cease to be God. And this does not refer only to Adam and Eve. We were included in Adam. Do not believe that one of us would have refused to lend our ears to the words of Satan and to eat of the forbidden tree. Do not think that one person would have done better than Adam, for our human nature could not have been more perfect than that of Adam. In Adam's fall our nature also was corrupted. As we have already heard, his sin is imputed to us because of our covenant relationship. By his fall we have become debtors to God's justice, subject to the sentence of death, and corrupt, leprous from the crown of our head to the sole of our feet. By His righteous judgment God withdraws His image from the soul as it enters the body. Therefore because of the imputation of Adam's sin, we are born in such a state of misery that we cannot keep God's law, not even one commandment for one moment. Our guilt is here placed before our eyes in the light of God's righteousness. And if it shall be well with us, our guilt must become our guilt by the discovering work of the Holy Spirit, and not by the superficial confession and admission that we are sinners. If this happens in truth, God's people must give up all hope in themselves, they must justify the demand of God; their best works become filthy rags and all our commissions and omissions become glaring sins. And still God's law must be obeyed perfectly; God's demand also rests upon the distressed soul as long as he has not found peace in the blood of the Lamb although, Christ has fulfilled the law for all His people. He can not withdraw himself from that demand, but drawn by the love of God, and by the bands of loving kindness, he agrees with that demand and justifies the Lord. God does no injustice to man when he requires from him that which he can no more perform. But man is therefore subject to temporal and eternal punishment. God's justice toward fallen man is maintained, as we now shall hear, II in the pouring out of God's dreadful wrath. Q. 10: Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished? A. By no means. Let the Socinian prattle about God's forgiving sin without having received satisfaction in Christ, the answer of our instructor cuts off all excuses. Briefly and to the point he answers, "By no means." Faustus Socinus, born in 1539, held that righteousness does not belong to the essence and nature of God, but to His will; which again is not an immutable attribute of God by which God can will the glorification of all His perfections, but an arbitrary and changeable will. Punishment and forgiveness would then be decided by an arbitrary will in God. If He forgives sin, He demands no satisfaction. Does not remission preclude satisfaction? But Socinus does not know the God of the Scriptures. His justice does not rest upon arbitrariness, but belongs to His unchangeable nature. He punishes sin in His only begotten Son and forgives them in His people, who cannot pay a penny. But in thus forgiving sin God does not subtract the least bit of His justice. The Son of God was never the object of His wrath. Even when He was in the form of a servant, the Father spoke both at His baptism and on the mount of Transfiguration, "This is My beloved Son." Therefore He was never the object, but He was the bearer of the wrath of God. Thus the Father maintaining the righteousness of God, showed in the highest degree that He is terribly displeased with our original and actual sins, and will punish them in His just judgment temporally and eternally. He has not spared His own Son when He gave Himself into judgment, to render satisfaction for the sins of the elect. His justice demanded vengeance upon sin. If the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper, sin must be punished and God's holy wrath must be poured out, even upon His own beloved Son in Whom He is well-pleased. If He could not relinquish His right when His own Son stepped in as Surety for His elect, how then could He relinquish His right when it concerned man, who tried to rob Him of His royal power and glory? No, indeed, God will not let sin go unpunished; but He is terribly displeased with our original and actual sins. The wrath of God is holy, the perfect abhorrence of, and vengeance upon sin. "Thou art," cries Habakkuk, "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can't not look on iniquity." "For Thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with Thee. The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity." (Ps. 5) And God's wrath is upon original as well as actual sins, hence upon our original sins and those that we commit with thoughts, words and deeds. Sinless children are not born. All are conceived and born in sin, except Christ, Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost. God's wrath rests upon us from the time we enter this world, and day by day, heartbeat by heartbeat we increase our guilt and provoke God to wrath. No sins are remissible in themselves, as Rome teaches. Every sin provokes God's wrath: "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Even the sins of God's people deserve punishment, when viewed in themselves. Their punishment is taken away only by the satisfaction of Christ. God does not punish His people, although He chastises them for their sins. However this does not alter the fact that the Lord is terribly displeased with all sins and will certainly punish them. The wages of sin is death. God's people learn to know something of the wrath of God. This brings the sorrows of death upon them. They cry out with the Psalmist, "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." They testify that the punishments of God are all righteous, both in and after this life. For also in this life God punishes sin, although He is merciful and slow to anger. His judgments are sent over the whole world; the seals are opened, the trumpets sound, the vials are poured out. Both in the lives of individuals, and in the nation at large, God shows that He hates and punishes sin. Moreover He punishes sin eternally in both soul and body in hell, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and where the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever. And that sentence is passed "in His just judgment." In that judgment the sins are placed before His bar and God as judge passes judgment accordingly. One day, on the judgment day, the books shall be opened and then it shall be evident that God does no injustice. Let the wicked cry, "We call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered;" the Lord hears it, and the day of just recompence shall come. Certainly, that day shall come, and he whose soul is not hid in Christ, shall not be able to stand in the judgment. All excuses shall fall away. Many shall claim that they have done signs and wonders in the Lord's Name, and they shall be condemned, because God demands a perfect obedience, that removes the guilt and sins which was rendered by Christ alone. The revelation of God's righteousness must lead us to know ourselves as lost before God, condemnable, unable to expect anything but the righteous sentence of death, that Zion may be redeemed by judgment. God postpones the righteous judgment according to His pleasure, but He shall never abstain from performing it. He is sovereign in the exercise of His justice, but they shall be ashamed who say, "Every one that does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?" The whole world is becoming ripe for the righteous judgment, according to which God shall certainly punish the sinner, both in time and in eternity. The righteous judgment, and that is our third main thought for which we now ask your attention briefly, is III in complete accord with God's mercy. Q. 11: Is not God then also merciful? There, that is the last evasion that arises out of our rebellious heart against the righteousness of God and that which the enemy of the true doctrine of man's guilt casts up. All those that hold to the free will of man are asking this question, and particularly the Socinian in whom, as Comrie writes, is all the poison of hell; for he teaches that God forgives sin without having received satisfaction for His righteousness. Remember also all Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, which last ones were followers of Cassianus (Cassianus was a disciple of Chrysostom, his disciples were called Semi Pelagians or Massilians because he was abbot of Massiliae), who hold that the image of God and man's free will were only weakened. The Roman Catholic Church especially holds this Semi-Pelagian view: God is merciful, and we need only helping grace. Arminius uttered his heresy very clearly when he said that to save a sinner, God descents from His justice and ascends His throne of mercy, as if God God could deny Himself. How carefully and faithfully the Instructor gives the answer, "God is indeed merciful, but also just." God's mercy is praised in Scripture continually. God's heart burns with eternal love to glorify Himself in the salvation of His elect. His mercies have been ever of old. (Ps. 25) His mercies are a multitude (Ps. 51). His mercies are great. (2 Sam. 24:14) God is rich in mercy. (Eph. 2:4) Yes, indeed, God is merciful. This He shows in the Son of His good pleasure. In Him He forgives the sins of His people and casts them in the sea of eternal forgetfulness. Mercy is one of the perfect attributes of God in which His entire being lies. If God were not merciful, no child of Adam could be saved; all would be cast in the pool of fire and brimstone. And those mercies are not aroused by viewing man's misery. God does not become merciful by seeing man's pitiable state. He is the merciful One, as He revealed Himself to Moses, when He went before Him, when not Moses, (let us all notice that) but God Himself proclaimed, "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth." (Exod. 34:6) By sovereign mercy God's people are saved from eternal perdition. Thus they are saved only by grace, according to the Father's good pleasure. He crowns them with mercy. Being saved then becomes an indescribable wonder, a wonder of God's mercy. But that mercy does not violate God's justice. "His justice requires that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul." The mercy of God is glorified in executing His righteousness. Therefore He gave His only begotten Son, who in our human nature was made under the law and bore the wrath of God. On the cross He cried out, "It is finished." He paid the last penny to God's justice, and in His resurrection from the dead, the Father as Judge declared that His justice was satisfied. Only thus can the mercy of God run its course and be glorified in sinners. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment. God's people learn to know this by experience. They learn to know themselves guilty under God's justice, as transgressors of all God's laws. There is no escape. They are subject to death and damnation. False Christianity may appeal to their baptism, confession and covenant, without any true soul's experience of their guilt; the almost Christian may be satisfied with an outward change or with qualms of conscience; God's elect are placed before God's justice, which He cannot relinquish. The love, the mercy of God obtains an opening only in the satisfaction of His righteousness. God requires satisfaction, while we have no penny to pay and increase our debts with more debts. Thus, not only is all hope of being saved by our works cut off, but it is impossible because of God's righteousness. O beloved, being saved becomes a wonder of God, glorified in satisfying the justice of the Lord that is violated by our sins, but gratified only in Christ Jesus. God does a short work in us. We must lose our life to find it, and thus this verse from Psalm 119 becomes the language of God's dear people, and we shall sing it now as found in Psalter No. 338 st. 1, 2. Application But if it is so that man can never satisfy the requirements of God's law, what value does it have to preach that law? To the Pelagian who might ask this question we answer: in preaching God's demand to keep His law perfectly, God's righteousness is maintained to His glory; He glorifies Himself in the judgment He passes over the wicked according to His holy law, and by the preaching He wants to convince His people of guilt and sin, that they may justify Him and acknowledge the necessity of rendering satisfaction to God's righteousness. Do cast away all Pelagian and Socinian thoughts as if God's mercy without complete satisfaction to God's justice can save us. Even the devils tremble at the realization that there is a God. Would we then not fear? God requires of you and me as descendants of Adam perfect obedience to his law, and then also bearing the punishment threatened upon sin. The maintaining of His justice flows forth from His perfect, divine nature, and obliges us to perfect satisfaction, because He had created us so that we could keep the law completely. Oh, my unconverted hearer, what else can you expect but the eternal sentence of damnation when you shall soon appear before the judgment seat of God? And who can say how soon this shall be? There is but a hand breadth between us and death. Do you never think about it that you shall soon be judged by your Judge? Can you live on in your deadly carelessness? Must you not admit that your confession, as orthodox as it may be, shall fall away at death? Whether you are old or young, I would bind the seriousness of life upon your heart. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, by ye reconciled to God. You are yet in the day of grace; the door of salvation is not yet closed for you. The Lord still works in your soul; He calls you by His Word; He shows you the way of life. What could the Lord have done more to His vineyard that He had done in it? Does not your own conscience testify that you will be lost, yea, are lost, because of your own guilt? How much more shall every excuse disappear before God's judgment seat. Oh, that the righteousness of God were bound upon your heart, and that you would find no rest until you know by faith that this righteousness is perfectly satisfied for you. Do not trust your immortal soul upon any ground other than the glorification of this righteousness. Your baptism, your orthodox creed, your troubled conscience, the psalms that come to your mind, all these things are but a garment that will not cover you before God. God's justice requires perfect satisfaction and that satisfaction is only in Christ. For your soul you need that Surety, Who has satisfied God's righteousness and in Whom God's mercy is glorified. But is not this doctrine much too sharp? Does not such preaching take away all hope of being saved? Does it not hurt the concerned people of God, the little ones in grace? No, my beloved, no! It takes away all hope that man builds upon his own strength and work, all hope upon God's mercy without the glorification of His righteousness. It casts us down into the judgment of death. Why do you speak of the little ones in grace? Are they not those who with their whole heart agree that God is righteous, even though he should condemn them eternally? Perhaps there are some among us who, burdened by their guilt, see their ground fall away with all their comforts when the righteousness of God is bound upon their heart time and again. Their tears, their supplications, their groans, their encouragements and comforts, all, all are found wanting in the balances of God's righteousness. Their soul has no rest. Even their looking upon Christ as the way of life, their walk by faith with Him Who is their heavenly Advocate, causes them to know themselves as guilty, as lost; their debt to God's justice is still unpaid, and that troubles them, and causes them to yearn for the peace of God that passes all understanding. Oh that everything that is outside of Christ might be cut off. God is indeed merciful, but also righteous. He requires His image again, and payment for the debt we made. The Lord keep us from building each other up in frames, no matter how gladdening and comforting they are, but give that we shall maintain the justice of God in teaching and preaching. God does no injustice to man by requiring from him in His law that which he cannot perform. May He cause us to bow under that justice, that Christ may become indispensable, and we may be found in Him not having our righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. God does a short work upon earth and those people are happy who may know of it in consciousness of soul. The Lord guide us, may He cause us to know His justice, to justify, yea, love His judgment, even more than our salvation, so that mercy may rejoice against a well-merited judgment. The Lord to that end takes away all false grounds and encourages His seeking people, and causes us to glory in Him Who was announced by Jeremiah with the well-known words, "In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is the name whereby He shall be called, 'The Lord Our Righteousness'." In Him may God's mercy be upon you from eternity to eternity. Amen. (continued in part 6...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-05.txt .