(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 22)

The Church of God

Lord's Day 21

Psalter No. 166 St. 1, 2, 3
Read Rom. 9:6-33
Psalter No. 420 St. 3, 5
Psalter No. 280 St. 3, 4
Psalter No. 425 St. 4, 5, 6

    In the Song of Solomon Christ and His dearly purchased church
vie together in praising each other. For certainly, in spite of what
other commentaries say of this book, we must apply this book to
Christ and the church. He is the Bridegroom, she is His bride, who
has all her salvation and beauty in Christ, and receives it from
Him. Hence whenever she is praised, it is only because of the glory
with which He has arrayed her. The daughters of Jerusalem, who were
no strangers to grace, but stood afar in the matter of appropriating
by faith, often looked upon the bride in amazement, as those
concerned about their state look upon the established ones when they
may enjoy communion with Christ and may glory in Him by faith. This
caused the daughters of Jerusalem to cry out in Chapter 6: "Who is
she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as
the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?" With increasing
glory the daughters saw the beauty of the bride as that of the dawn,
which after the dark of night casts its first beams of light upon
the earth, as that of the moon which in full glory lightens the dark
night, yea, as that of the sun which blinds us with its light.
    But how can so much praise be given to the bride of Christ? Has
she not fallen as all men in Adam? Does she not carry within her the
remnants of sin, that cause her to cry out continually, "I have a
law in my members, warring against the law of my mind?" Yea,
considered in themselves God's people are and remain poor sinners.
But the bride of Christ receives her beauty in her Bridegroom. In
Him she is perfect; He arrays her with the garments of salvation and
covers her with the robe of righteousness; in Him she is pleasant to
the Father and having communion with Him by faith she may display
her beauty. Moreover, she is unconquerable; she is "terrible as an
army with banners", as a well-organized army before whom no enemy,
however mighty he may be, can stand. For the Lion out of the tribe
of Judah has conquered, and in Him she is more than conqueror. May
it be given us to see her in that glory and strength, both in her
inward and in her visible appearance, as we now hear in the
twenty-first Lord's Day of our Heidelberg Catechism what the church
of God is and which benefits are granted her. This Lord's Day reads
as follows:
    Lord's Day 21
Q. 54: What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of

A. That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world,
    gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and
    word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to
    everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and for
    ever shall remain, a living member thereof.

Q. 55: What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?

A. First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of
    Christ, are in common, partakers of Him, and of all His riches
    and gifts; secondly, that everyone must know it to be his duty,
    readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage
    and salvation of other members.

Q. 56: What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?

A. That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more
    remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I
    have to struggle all my life long; but will graciously impute
    to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be
    condemned before the tribunal of God.
    This Lord's Day deals with the Church of God and describes it
      I. in its essence
     II. in its spiritual unit
    III. in its special privilege.
    The church of God exists; it has been from the beginning and it
will be on earth until the end of the world. Immediately after the
fall the Lord instituted His Church by saving Adam and Eve, and He
shall maintain it on earth until it enters into eternal glory. This
does not concern only its inward being, but also its visible
manifestation. The church is invisible as concerns the working of
the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the elect. It is visible, since
Zion's eternal King has given it the laws and ordinances by which it
is known in this life as the church of God. The Papists know only a
visible world church, but the Reformers always held that according
to the Word of God the church must be considered as visible and
    Not all those that are in the visible church are true members of
the church of Christ; and on the other hand some of God's children
roam about outside of the visible church. As a result of the sad
condition of the church they have withdrawn themselves to meet in
conventicles outside of the church. They are segregated from the
church; instead of doing their utmost to reform the church or
instituting it anew, they reject it. Without the official ministry
of the Word, without baptism for their children, without having the
Lord's Supper, they agreed with the error of Darby that God has
rejected His church. The sad results thereof should be bemoaned
rather than computed. The Lord Jesus Himself commanded His church to
show the Lord's death by the breaking of bread and the pouring of
wine till He come, and that is possible only in the visible church.
Therefore there shall always be, however dark the times may become,
not only converted people on earth, but also a visible church, even
as it has happened in days of bitter persecutions, they must meet in
holes or caves. In the new Jerusalem, that is in heaven, there is no
temple, there shall be no preaching; there the elders need not have
the oversight anymore; there deacons shall not be needed. But as
long as the world exists the church shall have a visible form in
which the ordinances of God are observed, and as our Confession
states, "Every one is bound to join himself to the true Church."
    Of that true church the Catechism says that it is holy, catholic
and Christian. It is holy, because it is washed in the blood and by
the Spirit of Christ. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal
priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show
forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His
marvelous light." However black the church may be in itself, it is
perfect in Christ, its Head, and by faith it partakes of His
    Drawn out of all nations it is catholic. The church of Rome
unjustly calls itself the catholic church. It is a false church and
does not merit the name catholic. Catholic or universal is the true
church of God which partakes of Christ's anointing. Therefore it is
also called the Christian Church, or the Church of Christ. It is the
spiritual body of Christ. Although in its visible manifestation all
those who belong to it by virtue of birth, baptism or confession.
should be distinct from the world in their walk and conversation,
yet only those who were taken out of their state of death and were
made spiritually alive are the real members and compose the true
church of God. They are the elect gathered by the Spirit and Word of
God, agreeing in true faith. The elect! Is there then an election?
Yes, as well as a reprobation. In predestination God has in eternity
of His sovereign good pleasure determined who shall and who shall
not be saved. He has appointed some to wrath and some to obtain
salvation (I Thess. 5:9). "Jacob have I loved", said the Lord, "and
Esau have I hated." Reprobation does not mean that God neglects
those not elected and lets them lie in their destruction, but that
before the foundation of the world He has determined to glorify His
righteousness in them and His mercy in the elect. Just as foreseen
faith or good works did not influence God's sovereign election, so
the sins of the reprobate did not determine their reprobation.
Against the Armenians who revived the error of Pelagius that had
already been condemned in the fifth century, our fathers in Dort
defended God's sovereignty. The creation and the fall, also
determined by God, serve predestination which is the decree of God
concerning the eternal state of rational creatures: angels and men.
    The elect angels are not chosen out of the fallen angels, why
then should men be chosen out of fallen men as the Infralapsarians
hold. The Lord Jesus thanked the Father for both the election and
reprobation, and ascribes both of God's pleasure, "Even so, Father:
for so it seemed good in Thy sight." The election then is no act of
God's mercy, nor the reprobation an act of His justice, but
predestination is of pure sovereignty. "Therefore has He mercy on
whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth." This decree
of God is eternal and immutable. No reprobate shall inherit
salvation, even if he sought with tears a place of repentance, as
Esau did; no elect shall be lost, even if, as Paul, he was the chief
of sinners. "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure,
having this seal, 'The Lord knoweth them that are His.'" Hence it is
unchangeably decreed in God's eternal counsel who shall be saved and
who shall not be saved. "My counsel shall stand," says the Lord,
"and I will do all my pleasure."
    Hence the election is not general, not all people are elected to
be saved, as Paul teaches clearly in Romans 9. "Many are called,"
says the Lord in Matthew 20, "but few are chosen." We ourselves
therefore do not determine our eternal state, but God has decided it
from eternity. That is the great abomination of Arminianism, that it
takes the right to determine our eternal destiny out of God's hand
to place it in man's hands. Man does not take a step on earth
outside of God's plan; would God then not determine his eternal lot?
But would it not be better to say nothing in the pulpit about
predestination, but preach only that Jesus Christ came into the
world to save sinners? Do we not give men an excuse that misuse
predestination, and while hastening on the road of sin say "Of what
use is our church attendance, prayer and Bible reading if I am not
elected, and if I am, God will bring me there at the right time."
No, my beloved, no! The foundation of the preaching of the gospel is
undermined if predestination does not govern all the preaching,
since not for all people, but only for the elect did Christ die,
arise, and ascend to heaven, and He applies salvation only to them
who were given Him by the Father.
    As far as the abuse of this comforting doctrine is concerned, it
is both unreasonable and wicked. Nobody talks or acts that way in
natural matters. It is in vain to rise up early, to sit up late, to
eat the bread of sorrows, if the Lord withholds His blessing. Yet
nobody who takes his business to heart says, "If God wills it, the
matters will come about, but if He does not, all my efforts will be
in vain." If in temporal matters we use with all our powers the
means God has ordained, much more should we use the means God has
ordained to our salvation. Moreover, no one standing before God's
judgment seat will plead, "I was not elected." Or do you think Esau,
Saul, and Judas could make a fig leaf of their reprobation before
God? Were they not lost because of their own sin, although they by
their wickedness executed God's counsel? God shall judge us by our
actions; yea, they shall give account of every idle word that men
shall speak. Those that despise the means given for salvation shall
one day hear, "Ye would not."
    The doctrine of predestination does not make men careless and
profane, but it acknowledges each person's full responsibility for
all his deeds, words, and thoughts. It is also a comfort for God's
children. The foundation of their salvation lies above the reach of
every enemy. In their heart Satan and sin and many enemies may
attack them so that the posts shake; but the ground of their
salvation is immovable, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give
them the kingdom. He has chosen them in Christ before the foundation
of the world unto the adoption of children to Himself according to
the good pleasure of His will. Would you then tamper with
predestination? be silent about it? God's people are saved because
God wills it, and their only boast is, "In Thy favour our horn shall
be exalted." May it more and more become their glory, "Thy sovereign
grace is e'er our fortress and our tower."
    According to this firm, unchangeable predestination, the Son of
God gathers His church by His Spirit and Word. He sends His servants
out unto the end of the world, praying the sinner as though God did
beseech him by them, "Be ye reconciled to God." That preaching of
the Word works divine miracles. No, not of itself. The external call
is a privilege given by God, but our enmity against salvation by
grace is so great that the external call alone cannot make us come
to Christ. It is the Spirit that quickens and makes the word
effective to salvation in the hearts of the elect. "As many as were
ordained to eternal life believed." By that Spirit "the arrows are
sharp in the heart of the King's enemies whereby the people fall
under Him." Yea, even the rebellious shall dwell with Him. In the
wickedness of our heart we can resist the external call of the Word,
but in the internal call God the Holy Spirit works irresistibly to
salvation when He opens the heart as in Lydia. Thus the church is
gathered by His Spirit and Word. It pleases God the Holy Spirit to
make use of the Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word
of God. By the foolishness of preaching, which is a stumbling block
to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, it has pleased God to
save those that believe.
    Oh, that the Church of God would shout the Word to the ends of
the earth and bring the gospel to the blind heathen. Support the
missions so that one generation of the heathens after another be not
lost. For how shall they believe if they have not heard? From the
beginning of the earth to the end Christ gathers His church in that
way. He will never use another way. That binds us to the means.
God's people are also built up in that way in the most holy faith
and in Communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, and
also in exercising the communion with the saints, upon which the
second question of Lord's Day 21 lets its light fall.
    We view there the church of God
in its spiritual unity.
    To the question, What do you understand by "the communion of
saints?" the instructor answers "First, that all and everyone who
believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of Him,
and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know
it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for
the advantage and salvation of other members."
    The well spring of the communion of saints among each other lies
in the communion with the Lord Christ and with all His riches and
gifts. That is the fountain of life and vitality for the true
members of the church. That is the portion of the members of
Christ's body, of them who by the grace of Christ are called out of
death to life. By nature we do not belong to the body of Christ; out
of our covenant head Adam we all brought with us an eternal enmity
against God and against His Anointed. We do not want to be saved by
Christ; we are enemies of free grace. But that is the quickening act
of which all God's people became partakers, that the Lord cut them
out of the old stock and grafted them in Christ, conquered them in
His eternal love and killed their enmity. Since that time they are
partakers of all the riches and gifts of the Mediator. However much
hell tries to deny this fact and accused Job of serving God for
temporary advantages, however much he attacks the church, and the
world calls it a hypocrite, although all within and without try to
tear the bond laid by God between Christ and the church, He that
sits in heaven laughs. They are vain attempts of those that hate
    Who shall pluck the elect out of the Mediator's hands? Salvation
lies immovably firm in a Triune God. It shall remain the bulwark
against which every attack of the enemy shall utterly fail, that in
the Lord's right hand there are pleasures for evermore. No, the
firmness of salvation does not lie in our hand. If God's people had
to hold on to Christ, they would be lost; they would faint at the
moment; even those who are led farthest in grace would be lost. But
now, since the foundation lies in God, oh, take courage, all ye who
are called by Christ Himself; He sustains His church with His hand.
This should cause the church to seek the stability of its salvation
outside of self. The church often loses her comfort because she
measures God's love by her feeling of grace, and thinks her
salvation is firm in her feeling, more than by faith in God.
    How necessary and how profitable it is especially in these dark
days that we stir each other up, and that the truth of God drives us
out of ourselves that we may find our rest and life in Christ alone.
Truly the blessed comfort that our communion with Christ is
unbreakable and that we are partakers of His riches and gifts would
flow abundantly to us. The riches of Christ are so great. He is
given us of the Father for wisdom and righteousness, and
sanctification and redemption. Although God's children wander like
sheep, He shall cause them to walk upon a way in which fools shall
not err. The people that walk in darkness shall see a great light;
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them shall
the light shine. In those riches of Christ the black ones are comely
and the poor, guilty sinner is rich. Truly God's people usually live
on too low a plane. The world seeks to attain a higher plane, grasps
for more. It is a sad state which shall be bemoaned more and more,
that kingdoms and peoples, rich and poor, live on a higher plane
than they should, even under the judgments of God. But God's
children live too low. They have been endowed with eternal riches
and gifts; all the millions, and billions, and trillions are nothing
compared to what is given to God's children. All is yours and ye are
Christ's and Christ is God's. Let man worry about his earthly
possessions, whether hard times will cast him into poverty and
misery; whether robbery, war, fire, earthquake or whatever it may be
will bereave him of his goods; God's people need not fear; their
portion is safe in the Father's house whence Christ went to prepare
their place. Their goods shall not decrease, their riches cannot be
emptied, because they are in Christ and they have communion with
    Out of that communion with Christ as the Head of His church,
flows forth the communion of God's children toward each other, since
they are one body. That communion is spiritual, and its love
surpasses the love of women. Moses loved His people and chose rather
to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the
pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ
greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Does not that communion
with God's people flow out of the communion with Christ? It was the
same with Ruth when she, in contradistinction to Orpah, and in spite
of the outlook of poverty and a dark future, made he choice, not to
be repented of, "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."
Ahab the harlot may also serve as a proof. She forsook her people
and her idols, and "by faith she perished not with them that
believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." And all
in whom God's grace is glorified know something of that fellowship
with those that fear the Lord. The choice of Moses, Ahab, Ruth and
David becomes the choice of them all. "See how they love one
another." They see God's image restored in them, they are the saints
of the most High. They learn to love each other in Christ, and are
one body with Him.
    This also calls them to employ their gifts readily and
cheerfully for the advantage and salvation of other members. Bear ye
one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. The Lord
Himself said, "The poor always ye have with you," and there are
times when because of oppressions this word of the apostle is
especially applicable, "Let us do good unto all men, especially unto
them who are of the household of faith." Moreover, the children of
God must teach each other spiritually and employ their gifts for the
advantage and salvation of others, and let their light shine in the
world to provoke them to jealousy. The Lord especially grants
official gifts to those whom He calls to serve His church as elder,
or deacon, or minister. With what a diversity God gives those gifts.
Let no man despise what God granted. We are so prone to bury the
talent God gave; it is so small, others have much greater talents
and graces. But hear not only what Christ says reprovingly in the
parable of the talents, but also what Paul teaches in I Cor. 12: "If
the foot shall say, 'Because I am not the hand, I am not of the
body', is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say,
'Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body', is it therefore
not of the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.
And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of thee.' Nay,
much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble,
are necessary."
    Thus every one is called to employ his gifts for the benefit of
others. He should work with his gifts in the place and in the
circumstances in which God puts him. That calling can be terribly
difficult, so difficult that we would cast off from our shoulders
that which God laid upon them, so that a deacon here or an elder
there, or a minister yonder would leave because of discouragement;
or, if you will, a gracious person would rather withdraw himself
from life than make his voice to be heard where he should. What then
sustains the upright? What gives their soul so much liberty in
faith? The strengthening of the Holy Spirit; He, the Comforter takes
from the fulness of Christ and distributes to them that are His as
He wills. Those gifts every one is called to employ readily and
cheerfully for the advantage and salvation of the other members.
"The necessity is laid upon me;" writes Paul, "Yea, woe is unto me,
if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have
a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation is committed unto
me." God grant us something of that ready willingness so that these
gifts may be as spikenard, sending forth a good smell. We would
partake more of Christ's propitiatory death if we would heed this
holy calling more conscientiously. How the special privilege given
to the church of God would be embraced by faith. That special
privilege we would now consider as it is discussed in Question 56.
    What believest thou concerning the forgiveness of sins? That
God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my
sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle
all my life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness
of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
In these words the Catechism describes the benefit the church enjoys
namely, the forgiveness of sins. Soon, in Lord's Day 23, we shall be
taught that the profit of faith is the justification of the sinner
before God, and thus the forgiveness of sins by faith will be
discussed more extensively, especially the way in which this takes
place. Here the instructor only wants to show us the forgiveness of
sins as a blessing which is enjoyed only by God's elect church.
    In the explanation given we see first of all that God forgives
sins. No one outside of Him can free us from sins committed against
Him. All papal indulgences and priestly absolutions have no value in
heaven, but is a caricature, mocking the true forgiving of sins.
Even the Pharisees understood that God alone can forgive sins. When
Christ said to the sick of the palsy, "Son, thy sins be forgiven
thee," they made the remark, "Who can forgive sins but God only?"
Christ did not contradict them, but showed them that not as *a*, but
as *the* Son of man He was very God, and therefore, as the Messiah
sent by the Father, by Whom God one day would judge the world, has
power on earth to forgive sins. Only God's acquittal shall free us
from guilt and punishment. "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy
transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins."
    Thus in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and
shall glory. Forgiving sins does not mean that God overlooks sins.
When we people, forgive each other, we do it to our equals, who are
just as corrupt and guilty as we are. God is above us and over
against us as Judge. His justice demands satisfaction for the wrong
committed; acquittance of punishment can only occur when perfect,
satisfaction is rendered to the violated justice. God could not
remain God if He dropped even one penny from the demand of full
payment. God cannot be satisfied with anything less than full
payment. That full payment is given by God Himself; never, no, never
could man weigh up anything to God's justice. God gave His Only
begotten, the Son was anointed in eternity. Out of sovereign love He
took upon Himself to weigh the ransom into His Father's hand. He
gave satisfaction in the fulness of time. Because God's justice
cannot make adjustments, Christ had to drink the cup of God's wrath
to the last drop, without any mitigation. Therefore His soul was
sorrowful unto death and His sweat was as it were great drops of
blood falling down to the ground; therefore He hung on the cross as
an accursed one, and He was forsaken of God, while the sun was
darkened at noon as in such a manner as no natural sun eclipse can
take place; therefore He had to die the ignominious, painful and
cursed death of the cross. In one word, He had to suffer everything
to which His people were subject eternally so that He could say, "It
is finished." Then God's justice was satisfied.
    In the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the Father showed
that He was satisfied with the sacrifice brought. Christ is raised
for our justification. The quittance has been given; pardon has been
proclaimed from heaven. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of
God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?
This only is the ground of the forgiveness of sins. Since God by God
Himself has been satisfied, the sins of a sinner that is lost in
Adam can be forgiven by a gracious pardon without any merits of his
own. But then Christ's righteousness must become ours. It is not
ours by nature and does not become ours by bringing up and
instruction in the truth; it is not to be laid hold on by human
strength. The application of His righteousness is the work of Christ
as well as the meriting. If the sinner can say in truth that God for
the sake of Christ's satisfaction will no more remember his sins,
then that must be the testimony of faith, founded in the work of the
Holy Spirit by which the lost sinner is ingrafted in Christ.
    God comes to the sinner acquainting him with his sins; He opens
his eyes to see the way he is traveling and persuades him that that
way leads to eternal perdition. Oh, what distress is here
experienced. God's justice demands payment, and the harder the
uncovered sinner works, the greater his guilt becomes. Every day the
debt is greater, every hour the judgment more just. There is no
escape. If those weary souls could but look to Jesus! But it is as
if they had never heard of Jesus; they go to their broken pitchers,
that hold no water, until as totally undone, they bow under the
justice of God, and agree perfectly that they deserve eternal death,
and give up all hope in themselves and in all creatures. They must
come to that place ere Jesus shall come into their soul; but the
Lord does not leave His people there in distress. The Sun of
righteousness arises, the Surety of the covenant reveals Himself. In
Him, oh, in Him is righteousness to pay all debts, in Him there is a
possibility to be saved.
    What a joyful hope now fills the heart of the dejected sinner.
There is a way to be reconciled to God. That way was closed for the
soul before; that reconciliation was considered impossible, but now
it is revealed in Christ. How precious He becomes to everyone that
believes, and with what kindly invitation does He urge all that are
weary and heavy laden to come to Him. Oh, how can that
reconciliation with the Father seem so far away. It seems to be
spoken to the concerned soul as it was to Lot when he was led out of
Sodom, "Haste thee, escape thither." For there can be no rest until
the sinner has entered the Zoar of safety. If you want me to say it
with other words, God's people can be afraid because their soul
fears they are not truly partakers of Christ.
    A common conviction can go so far; the wife of Lot died on the
road to safety. As long as God does not seal the true communion with
Christ to the sinner and cast his sins into the depths of the sea,
until then the fear always comes back that all shall still be found
wanting. Although the Lord sustains the soul with the promise that
He will not forsake the work of His own hands, the lively yearning
remains for the testimony of God's perfect satisfaction in Christ's
sacrifice, not only for others but also for me. Then, then we
embrace that God by faith, Who for the sake of Christ's
satisfaction, has forgiven all our sins, and will not remember our
corrupt nature against which God's children have to struggle all
their life. If the Lord looked upon His people in themselves they
would be lost. But He looks upon them in Christ and forgives their
sins, also those which cleave unto them continually. Oh, then their
soul finds rest; then they sing the hymn of praise which we shall
sing from Psalm 103, Psalter No. 280 St. 3 and 4:
        "Yea, the Lord is full of mercy," etc.
    And so the church of God is still on earth, even in our dark
days, and it will remain here until the judgment day. Do not listen
to them who say, "There is no church anymore." How guilty even God's
children make themselves by withdrawing from the church and by not
employing their gifts for the advantage of others. They could in the
various offices which Christ has ordained serve the church well. But
they withdraw themselves and prefer to gather with their family and
a few friends in their house instead of gathering in God's house. I
say this to their shame. Seek with your children to come faithfully
under the preaching of the Word, and to join yourself to the church
to which you already belong by birth and baptism. You cannot remain
baptismal members. Confirm by your confession that you do not wish
to leave the church, but perpetuate in confession and conversation
the blessing God gave you of being reckoned to belong to His visible
church. Let the consistories arouse, admonish and urge baptismal
members to do so. A baptismal member is a minor for whom the parents
are responsible. When however you assume responsibility for
yourself, you are obliged to join yourself to the church, or else
you withdraw from the church and choose the world for your portion,
treading upon a way that surely will lead to destruction. Oh, young
men and young women, do not despise the statutes of the Lord.
    Must everyone then who makes confession, be regarded as
regenerated? Far from it. God made you a member of the visible
church by birth and baptism, and in making confession you declare
that you want to remain that. Could the Lord have made a mistake
when He made you a member when you were still unconverted? That is
not possible, and therefore we need not consider every confessing
member to be regenerated. The church is, as is said of the Kingdom
of heaven, as a group of five wise and five foolish virgins, as a
field in which wheat and tares grow, as a threshing floor upon which
wheat and tares lie, as a net in which good and bad fish are. They
who want a church of converted people only fall into the
objectionable doctrine of DeLabadie. But everyone must search
himself whether he is a living member of the church. For one day the
Lord shall come with the fan in His hand and thoroughly purge His
    Oh, unconverted members of the visible church, how terrible your
lot shall be then. The chaff will be burned with unquenchable fire,
and your lot shall be with the wicked forever in the fire that shall
not be quenched. Were they not all Israelites of whom it is written,
"But with many of them God was not well pleased"? I pray you, do not
rest upon your membership in the visible church, but let the
necessity of regeneration weigh upon your heart. Life and death is
placed before you from Sabbath to Sabbath in the pure preaching of
the Word of God. Would you just lay that serious preaching beside
you and think no more about it? Are your thoughts during the
preaching and your conversation at the close of the service only
about worldly things? How then shall the ministry of God's testimony
ever work upon your conscience? You are withdrawing yourself from
its influence. Do not lay the blame upon God then if you live on
unconverted, although it is only free grace if the Word is
sanctified to you for salvation. Testify here before God whether the
Lord did not faithfully warn you about your approaching destruction
and invite you to salvation in Christ. If you cannot justify
yourself before the bar of the gospel, how will you acquit yourself
before God's judgment seat?
    Do not let your poor soul be misled with the advice that has
become so common, "Just believe and be converted." May the Lord use
His Word, baptism and confessing members of His visible church to
discover to you the state of your misery. May one day the arrow that
Christ shoots from the bow in His hand strike you so that you leave
the church crying, "It is lost." Oh, may we never lose sight of the
necessity of the knowledge of our misery, the necessity of becoming
a living member of the church by regenerating grace, so that all the
benefits God has bestowed on us will not testify against us in the
day of days. Do not use sovereign election and reprobation as a fig
leaf. God's eternal council shall surely be fulfilled, but we
fulfill it, and one day we shall be judged according to our sins.
Oh, how our conscience shall then gnaw as a worm in the fire that
shall not be quenched, and reproach us saying, "Your own fault, your
own fault." May God sanctify to your heart the benefit He gave you
of belonging to His visible church and living under His Word to your
salvation. He gathers His elect by His Spirit and Word.
    Oh, what a change when God the Holy Spirit makes His Word
fruitful and regenerates one by that Word as by an incorruptible
seed. Let God's dear people testify how they left the church as
never before, how they knew themselves as lost before God. Their
judgment was pronounced, and still the preaching of Christ for the
salvation of sinners drew them to God's house. The church is born
out of eternity, receives the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake
and is prepared for eternal glory in spite of Satan, the world and
sin. May it be given to the church while losing its own life, to
glory in Him of Whom the apostle testifies, "Has not the potter
power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto
honour, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show His
wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering
the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that He might make
known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He had
fore prepared unto glory. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom
and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and his
ways past finding out!" God's people may say with Bunyan, "All the
bells of heaven will toll, when I enter." "Thou art the glory of
their strength, and in Thy favour our horn shall be exalted." Amen.

(continued in part 23...)

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