(Kersten, The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2, Part 6)

The Necessity of God Works

Lord's Day 32

Psalter No. 415 st. 8
Read Hosea 14
Psalter No. 277 st. 1, 2, 3, 4
Psalter No. 428 st. 10
Psalter No. 236 st. 1, 2


    God reveals Himself in a two-fold manner. In the first place by the
creation, maintenance, and government of the universe; which is, as our
Confession of Faith states, before our eyes as a most elegant book.
Therein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters
leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely, His
power and divinity, as the apostle Paul saith, Romans 1:19, 20. The
creation proclaims to us day by day and night by night the greatness
and majesty of the Creator. Yet no one can truly see the majesty of God
in nature unless the revelation of God in His Word has been sanctified
to his heart. Much less can man, fallen in Adam, come to know the way
of salvation by observing the works of God in nature. However much the
goodness of God shines forth in those works, they do not break our
hearts or show us the way of salvation. God's revelation in nature is
sufficient to take away all of man's excuses, as Paul says of the
heathens: "So that they are without excuse."
    Therefore when the poet of Psalm 19 sang of the glorious revelation
of God, he did so through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, Who
caused him to say, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the
firmament showeth his handiwork; day unto day uttereth speech, and
night unto night showeth knowledge." But how much more glorious and
precious was the testimony of the Lord through which he could
understand all this, and in which the way of salvation was made known.
This caused him to sing:
         "Most perfect is the law of God,
         Restoring those that stray."
    By the law of God, David does not mean the law as it was
incorporated in the Covenant of Works, demanding: "Do this and thou
shalt live", and condemning the transgressor with the sentence of
death; but by the law the royal singer means the law of the Covenant of
Grace. There it discovers to the sinner the state of his deep misery,
leads him to Christ, Who is the end of the law, and then becomes for
him a rule of life. Keeping God's law is therefore the delight of those
who are renewed by the Holy Spirit, so that they say with David, "The
law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the
Lord is sure, making wise the simple." It is right and pure, clean and
true, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes; and it endures
forever. But the law of works is not a delight to fallen man; to him it
is the ministration of condemnation. Neither did Paul know the law to
be a delight when he sought salvation in his own works, living
blameless according to the law. Being blind to the spiritual content of
the law, when God overcame him he had to acknowledge, "I was alive
without the law once." However full of self-righteousness a man may be,
he does not know the fulness of the law of God given to His children in
the Covenant of Grace. This law has a broad meaning in David's psalm,
including the entire revelation of the Lord from which His grace, love
and favour shine forth for His people. It is in this way that the
Lord's saints learn to abhor all their own works as imperfect, and it
causes them to seek salvation in Christ alone. The doctrine of free
grace does not make men careless and profane, but impels men to keep
God's laws and to practice good works. Consequently it must follow that
those who are redeemed by Christ through free grace, will die unto sin
that they may live unto God.
    The Catechism teaches this when dealing with the doctrine of
thankfulness in Lord's Days 32 to 52. We are now about to consider that
doctrine, and I therefore call your attention to the thirty second
Lord's Day of the Heidelberg Catechism, which reads thus:
    Lord's Day 32
Q. 86: Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace,
    through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do
    good works?

A. Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also
    renews us by His Holy Spirit, after His own image; that so we may
    testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for His
    blessings, and that He may be praised by us; also, that every one
    may be assured in himself of His faith, by the fruits thereof; and
    that, by our godly conversation, others may be gained to Christ.

Q. 87: Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and
    ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?

A. By no means; for the holy Scripture declares that no unchaste
    person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard,
    slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of
    In this Lord's Day we are dealing with the necessity of good works
      I. because of the redemption by Christ;
     II. because of the renewing by the Holy Spirit;
    III. because of the perfection of God;
     IV. because of the profit for God's people.
    The necessity of good works because of the redemption by Christ.
    We have now come to discuss the doctrine of thankfulness to which
the Catechism devotes Lord's Days 32 to 52. Three things are necessary
to know as we were taught in the beginning of the Catechism, in order
to live and die in comfort, namely: misery, deliverance and gratitude.
The knowledge of none of these three may be lacking. We may speak
highly of the redemption prepared by Christ for His own, but if the
inward knowledge of misery is lacking, all those words are nothing but
hollow phrases, since true gratitude only flows forth from redemption
wrought within us. Therefore the instructor asks: "Why must they still
do good works who are delivered from their misery merely of grace
through Christ, without any merits of their own?" If there is no
deliverance, we cannot speak of doing good works. The Pelagian who
denies man's state of death, the Roman Catholic who prates of a
weakened will, and the Modernist who is only a disguised Armenian, may
each in his own way ascribe to man the ability to do good works; but
the Word of God tells us that the carnal mind is enmity against God;
for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Every
imagination of man's heart is only evil from his youth, and just as a
bitter fountain will not yield sweet water, neither will one do good
that is accustomed to do evil. Because of our fall in Adam, we are by
nature slaves of sin, bound under the tyranny of Satan, who keeps us in
his power as the jailer does a prisoner. That is the state of each of
us who are born under the light of the Gospel, and have the privilege
of joining and staying with the Church of God. Although we are kept
from many sins, we are no better than those who by their wicked lives
make their condemnation all the more just. We must all undergo a change
of state if it is to be well with us. Christ merited that change for
His people when He bought them with His precious blood, and He makes
them partaker thereof by grace. In ourselves we are unable to do any
good work. Before God all our works are as filthy rags. Whatever
changes we may have experienced, even though we were converted from the
tavern to the church, without the application of the redemption of
Christ, we are and remain dead in trespasses and sins. As a dead person
discharges only the pestilence of death, so we bear only fruit unto
death, unless we are saved out of our misery by Christ. If the need for
redemption were bound more upon our hearts, we would not, as many are
now doing, find rest so easily upon any kind of foundation, and upon
works and experiences which we think good; but we would feel the
insufficiency of all works and seek to be found in Christ. It is
therefore a characteristic of the upright who have been saved by
Christ, that they learn to know as sin before God, not only their
transgression in trampling upon God's law, but also their best works.
It is another characteristic of the upright, that they can find no
satisfaction in the fruits of their new life, in their tears, desires,
hungering and thirsting and whatever exercises they may have; although
they would not exchange them for the whole world. It is their aim to
win Christ and in His power to walk according to God's commandments. He
paid the debt of His people, but what is more, He was also made sin for
them. He suffered as an unholy one outside the gate, as one who was
unworthy to remain any longer in the holy city Jerusalem, where God had
His dwelling place. Thereby He redeemed His people from their sins and
opened the gates of righteousness. He presents them to His Father as a
chaste virgin without spot or wrinkle. United with Him by faith, they
obtain in Him not only the propitiation of their guilt, but also
deliverance from the dominion of sin, so that sin shall no longer rule
in them; and by His conquering grace they go outside of the camp,
bearing His reproach. Doing good works then has its foundation in the
redemption by Christ. The redeemed must do good works, not by
compulsion, but by virtue of this redemption from the dominion of sin.
This was the purpose of the passion and death of Christ. To that end He
shed His blood, so that He would purify unto Himself a peculiar people,
zealous of good works. For God's people then, it becomes a matter of
following after, as Paul says, "if that they may apprehend that for
which they are apprehended of Christ Jesus." And they are apprehended
for the perfection which they shall one day enjoy when they shall enter
eternal glory where sin shall be no more.
    The sanctification of God's people and the doing of good works will
necessarily follow then from the redemption by the blood of Christ. But
this redemption must be applied. By nature we have no part in it.
However religious we may be, by nature we live without Christ in the
world; we are and remain dead. To conclude, the application of
redemption whereby the power of Christ is glorified in us, is the work
of the Holy Spirit. He renews the elect, making good works necessary,
as we observe in the second place.
    The necessity of good works because of the renewing by the Holy
    After Christ had purchased and delivered His people with His blood,
He also renews them by His Holy Spirit to be conformed to His image.
The renewing by the Holy Spirit rests upon Christ's purchase. He had to
finish His work, not only humbling Himself unto death and rising again,
but also ascending to heaven so that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit
could come. As the third Person in the Godhead, the Holy Spirit
performs His work. He worked in creation, "moving upon the face of the
waters"; He works by common convictions and the external calling by the
Word, causing even those who shall be lost to taste the good word of
God and the powers of the world to come. Let it be clearly understood
that in His saving operations, the Holy Spirit rests upon the finished
mediatorial work of Christ, making us partakers of Him and of His
benefits. Therefore the apostle says: "Now if any man have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of His (namely Christ)." In His work of
grace, merited by Christ, the Holy Spirit renews those who were
purchased and delivered by the blood of the Mediator. He makes them new
creatures in Christ Jesus. His work of grace in His people is so great
that it is called a new creation. How then can the renewed in heart
live in sin? By virtue of that renewal they must do good works. It
cannot be otherwise! It is gross slander to say that the doctrine of
sovereign grace gives license to sin. Such slander is not new. Paul was
already the object of it. He rejected the accusation, for in Romans 3:8
he writes, "And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as
some affirm that we say), Let us do evil that good may come?" Paul had
spoken before about the sovereignty of God in rejecting the privileged
Jew whose unbelief does not make the faith of God without effect. But
does this argue in favour of unbelief? Shall we then do evil that good
may come? Whereupon Paul did cast off the antinomian objection so
completely that in his answer he says, "whose damnation is just". Oh,
let all antinomians take it to heart. They misuse the doctrine of free
grace to their own condemnation and as Balaam, lay a stumbling block
before others. Faith does not make the law void - God forbid - but we
establish the law. That takes place when we do good works. The renewing
which is according to the image of God by the Holy Spirit prompts this.
"Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" The antinomians
affirm this. The more they sin, the more grace abounds. Paul answers,
"God forbid." (Rom. 6:1, 2) God forbids living in sin. Although sin
cleaves to God's people in this life, and they must strive against it
day by day, they do not live in sin; as they are not only redeemed from
sin by the blood of Christ, but also renewed by the Holy Ghost after
His image. "They are buried with Christ by baptism into death; (not by
the external water, but by the thing signified in baptism) that like as
Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so
we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted
together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness
of His resurrection." Having discussed this in Lord's Day 24, we shall
let these strong proof texts suffice to show that the necessity of good
works flows both from the purchase and redemption by the blood of
Christ, and from the renewing by the Holy Spirit.
    This condemns all those who lead offensive lives. Sanctification
may not be separated from justification, although contrary to Rome, we
do distinguish these two benefits of the Covenant of Grace. Although
good works are of no avail for justification, they are and remain
necessary by virtue of the renewing by the Holy Ghost and the purchase
by Christ. In Romans 8 Paul describes the eternal good pleasure of God
in Christ with these words: "Whom He justified, them He also
sanctified." Shall not those then who are sanctified bring forth fruits
of faith? Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may
bring forth more fruit. Truly, we need not produce more testimony to
confirm what the instructor says, that they who are delivered by grace
through Christ must do good works. This flows from the nature of that
new life.
    When the Lord in the hour of love draws His people out of their
state of sin, they desire immediately to live perfectly before God. It
becomes impossible for them to continue in the way of unrighteousness
or to walk in the way of self-righteousness. The worldling calls them
hypocrites, a people who imagine they are better than others; but the
Lord knows how they humble themselves before Him as the greatest of
sinners. No, they are not better than others; they persisted in their
rebellion against God as long as they could. But the Lord overcame
them. Since that time they would rather die than live in sin any
longer. Even though the members of their households become their
enemies, they can no longer continue in the service of sin.
    Sometimes there are sad partings. Not only must they leave many
friends, but sometimes even husband and wife become estranged.
Sometimes they who are renewed after the image of God, experience much
sorrow because their children whom they formerly led on the way of sin,
obstinately refuse to follow them now in walking according to God's law
in spite of all admonitions. No matter how many bitter tears they weep
and though their lives may be endangered, they cannot do differently.
In uprightness of heart they have chosen between Baal and Jehovah, and
in this way they learn to understand something of what Christ said in
Matthew 10: "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy
of Me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of
Me." Thus, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, a line of distinction is
drawn between God's people and the world, between the living and the
dead; although the last named often put God's children to shame in
their zeal to keep the law in external matters. Think only of Paul, who
in his pharisaical zeal lived blamelessly according to the law, but did
nothing that was pleasing to God. On the contrary, he was a persecutor
of the church of God, an enemy whom the Lord felled on the way to
Damascus, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?"
    God desires truth in the inward parts. It is the disposition of the
heart that counts. For good works are those which proceed from a true
faith, which answer to the law of God, and are done to the glory of
God. Such works no unregenerate person can produce. They are a fruit of
grace, of the redemption by the blood of Christ from the dominion of
sin, and of the renewing by the Holy Spirit. They then, who are not
strangers to this grace, must by virtue of the renewal after the image
of God, produce the fruit of good works. They can be known by the fact
that they can no longer live in sin, although sin cleaves to them in
this life and the conflict between the flesh and the spirit does not
end. The Lord, however, will keep them in grace, so that they do not
entirely fall away, and by His power alone they bear the fruit of
gratitude in doing good works.
    How clearly the instructor speaks of this when he shows, as we
shall now hear in the third place,
    The necessity of doing good works because of the perfection of God.
    We read further: "that so we may testify, by the whole of our
conduct, our gratitude to God for His blessings, and that He may be
praised by us." What a remarkable expression! "That we may testify, by
the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God." What does that "may"
mean? It means that we of ourselves and even God's people do not have
that gratitude. Alas, how poor are those people who think they are
praising and thanking God, but have never understood that there is
nothing in us that can please God. We should be grieved when we hear
statements from people who profess the Reformed faith saying, "Thank
God we can tell you" this or that. Do they not by their very words deny
that man does not like to retain God in his knowledge? Are they then so
thankful? Is God in need of our thanks? When men do good to us, we feel
obliged to show them our gratitude, but what shall we render unto the
Lord? We have not even a grateful heart. There is nothing in us which
enables us to give thanks unto the Lord. The Lord Himself must work
that gratitude in us. Therefore, if there is any to be found, we are
obligated to God for it and entirely dependent on Him, as the precious
Confession of Faith says: "We are beholden to God for the good works we
do, and not He to us, since it is He that worketh in us both to will
and to do of His good pleasure." Thus God's people find themselves
entirely unable to produce this grace, notwithstanding all their good
intentions and all their efforts! The Lord is glorified by His own work
in His saints. Oh, how necessary it is, beloved, to die unto all that
is of ourselves, so that the strength of God may be made perfect in our
weakness. How deeply God leads His people. They never would have
thought that the way to heaven would go the way they now experience.
They acknowledge that they lie in the midst of death. Even after they
have received grace they can bring forth nothing that is pleasing to
God. "I shall cause them," says the Lord, "to loath themselves." But
the Lord glorifies Himself in them, and by the ministration of the Holy
Spirit they bear the fruits of gratitude in the performance of good
works. If a good branch is grafted into the vine and the husband man
does not use his pruning knife, the old vine would overgrow and choke
the graft. The Lord Himself has said that the wild branches will be cut
off so that the good graft will bear fruit, and every branch that bears
fruit He purges, so that it will bear more fruit. Cutting off the
natural branches is necessary, and it is the continual work of the Holy
Spirit in His people. To that end discovering grace is necessary. To
that end the Lord often uses deep ways of affliction and trials. We
must die to all our own strength and expectations so that the Lord may
be glorified in us, and that we may show gratitude to God for all His
blessings, through Him Who is not only the trespass offering, but also
the peace offering for His people. Thus God's people acknowledge that
it is by grace and by grace only that they may bear fruit unto God.
Therefore it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in man,
inasmuch as we do not speak of a vain faith, but of a faith which is
called in Scripture "a faith that works by love," and excites man to
the performance of those works which God has commanded in His Word.
These works as they proceed from the good root of faith are good and
acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by
His grace.
    Oh, beloved, what exercises of faith are necessary for God's
children to understand this rightly. Neither our works nor our
gratitude can be pleasing to God. Only His work glorified in us can
please Him, and out of it flow forth the good works which are natural
to the new life, therefore must be performed by those who are redeemed
in Christ. If a man lives in sin, he is a stranger to grace and is
excluded from the Kingdom of heaven. The honour of God requires the
doing of good works. To that end He chose His people and regenerates
them, making them partakers of the death and resurrection of Christ.
They themselves therefore have the benefit of the practice of good
works, since their neighbor is thereby won for Christ. This is the last
proof which the instructor advances for the necessity of good works.
    In the fourth place, these works are necessary because of the
profit for God's people.
    For the last part of the answer to question 86 reads as follows:
"Also, that everyone may be assured in himself of his faith, by the
fruits thereof, and that by our godly conversation, others may be
gained to Christ", while in question 87 they are excluded from
salvation "who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are
not converted to God." This last is very evident for Scripture declares
that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man,
drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the
kingdom of God. They, then, who continue in their wicked lives and are
not converted to God, are excluded from salvation. O how misleading is
the doctrine of presumptive regeneration which obliges us to believe
that we are partakers of salvation, even though we live in sin, only to
persist in believing that you are born again, and to repent. But God's
Word tells you that you do not belong to the Kingdom of God, that you
are going to hell, unless you are brought to a true conversion.
    We are now concerned with the question of how God's people are
assured of their faith by good works as the fruits of their faith. Is
this assurance produced by the fruit, or is it an act of the Holy
Spirit by which we can say with Job, "I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that He will stand at the latter day upon the earth"? Certainly,
the assurance of which Job speaks is not a weak assurance. It supports
the soul in the gates of death. It assures the soul of being a partaker
of Christ and of all His benefits, of reconciliation with God, and of
the salvation which God's children shall inherit. All of God's people
are duty bound to seek this assurance, although salvation does not
depend upon it, but upon the uprightness of their faith, however weak
it may be in its exercise.
    This Lord's Day speaks of the assurance of the uprightness of
faith. That assurance depends upon the practice of good works which are
pleasing to God in Christ. To understand this better, consider what a
judgment results from falling into and committing sin. When God's
children fall into sin, "they very highly offend God, incur a deadly
guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, interrupt the exercise of faith, very
grievously wound their consciences, and sometimes lose the sense of
God's favour, for a time."(Canons of Dort, Art. 5) Tell me, what can
they do now with the grace they have received? What assurance do they
now have in their hearts? God hides His face from them. They call on
Him in vain, and their souls experience God's displeasure with sin.
    "But if his children e'er forsake My law appointed,
    And walk not in the ways decreed by Mine Anointed,
    Then truly will I come in holy indignation,
    And chastise them with rods for all their provocation."
    What can the assurance of the goodness of their state now avail
them? God withdraws Himself from their souls. Satan distresses them on
all sides. God's chastening rod is over them. When they call they
receive no answer. Oh, these are dark days for God's people. Now
compare these things to the blessed manifestations of God's love and to
the light of God's kindly face when the Lord's children walk in His
ways. In such times they are assured of the uprightness of their faith
and they receive a free access to God's throne of grace. David
complained that his bones waxed old through his roaring all the day,
when being forsaken by God, he continued in his sin. But he glorified
in God's goodness when he was delivered out of his misery and might see
God's face again. We conclude then that there is an assurance of the
uprightness of faith in the practice of good works. A conscientious
life gives a free access to God, and eventually an easy death. God's
people are always ready to halt. They go astray like a sheep, but the
Lord is their Keeper. Therefore, in dependence upon the ministry of the
Spirit they must continually acknowledge with the psalmist in Psalm
    Psalter No. 428:10, which we now sing:
    "Grant life unto my soul, O Lord I pray;
    Shed still the brightness of Thy presence o'er me;
    Then shall I praise Thee in a perfect way,
    Yea, let Thy judgments quicken and restore me.
    Thy servant like a sheep has gone astray,
    Yet Thy commandments I will keep before me."
    In all that the Catechism has now taught us concerning the
necessity of good works, there lies a very serious admonition for
everyone, whether young or old, converted or unconverted, not to walk
in sinful ways. I do not mean in any way to weaken the doctrine of free
grace which is glorified in Christ on behalf of sinners who are dead,
spiritually dead, and therefore never able to do any work which is good
before God. Christ died unto sin and lives unto God. He has not only
made satisfaction for the sins of His people, but He has also robbed
sin of its ruling power. Moreover, in Him His people are perfect, and
one day they shall enjoy that perfection with Him forever in blessed
communion with God. No one can bring forth anything of himself that is
pleasing to God. If we are to show gratitude to God in Christ and do
good works, the renewing of the Holy Spirit is necessary for us whether
we are outwardly pious or wicked. This does not mean that we are at
liberty to commit sin, even though we continue in our natural state.
The perfection of God by virtue of which He hates sin, should make such
an impression upon our consciences, that we would shun the ways of sin.
I ask you, boys and girls, would you dare to do in the presence of your
parents what you often do in secret? Are you not always trying to keep
from them what you know will make them angry? Do not your hearts
palpitate with fear when the thought enters your mind that your secrets
will be found out? How much more then should you and all others,
including those of advanced years, be afraid of sin which is always
committed in the presence of God, under His all-seeing eye! Or does it
never enter your mind that He is the spotlessly Holy One, the
absolutely Righteous One, the eternal, the omnipresent God; that He
sees us in the dark as well as in the light, on the quiet paths, as
well as in the hustle and bustle of the crowds, in the city and at
Vanity Fair? Look up to heaven and fear God who will not hold the
guilty guiltless. Some day you will stand before God's judgment seat to
give account, and the least impression of God's wrath will make you
fear sin.
    Once a man with wild eyes entered my Catechism room and asked, yes
even begged me to go with him. He had fled to the street, knowing
nothing of God or His law, but he sought a minister and asked God if He
would cause him to find one. Thus he entered the Catechism room. After
closing, I went and found the man and his wife in great despair. They
had lived grossly in sin, kept a brothel, had attended a theater where
it seemed as if hell had been opened for them, and then they fled. Oh,
their life, their whole life testified against them. Hell, the
unquenchable fire, lay before them. In her youth the woman had heard of
God and His Word, but instead of attending Catechism, she had deceived
her mother and visited the places of vanity. She became worse and worse
until she abandoned herself to commit the most abominable sins. There
they sat, both of them horror stricken under the dreadful terrors of
their consciences. "Pray", shouted the man, "Pray to the God in whose
existence I would not believe." Oh, I shall never forget the awful
anguish in which those people were. Perhaps there are some in our
audience who disregard the voice of their consciences, who do not heed
the warnings of their father and mother, who neglect Catechism and
church. Let the example I mentioned be a warning to you. Perhaps there
are some who are not always at ease when they sin; nevertheless they do
so repeatedly and unceasingly. Their friends seduce them. When they are
in church, they understand nothing of the sermon, because their minds
are occupied with other things. Or they do indeed understand it, and it
is always the same; man is fallen in Adam, and must be saved by Christ.
They become impatient and ... they leave! To these I must bring the
Word of God. The day of recompense is coming. Some day your consciences
will awaken, perhaps already in this life, perhaps on your deathbed.
But certainly they will awaken on that day when you will stand before
God's judgment seat, and will be cast into the fire where the knawing
worm does not die and where forever you will be tormented with the
accusation: "Your own fault, your own fault." Oh, dear, young people,
remember your Creator! Walk carefully. Have nothing to do with the
service of the world. Search God's Word day by day. Remember its
admonitions, not only in the days of your youth, but also as you grow
older. We hasten through life as on wings. Redeem the time before it
becomes necessary for you to cry out, "If only, if only I had done
differently", and the door of grace will be closed forever.
    I do not say these things, my beloved hearers, to put you to work
as though by works you could come one step nearer to heaven. The most
faithful churchgoer and the most zealous doer of good works has not the
least ground to stand before God. Nevertheless it remains true, that
God will never judge us for sins we have not committed, for His
judgment is just and in proportion to our sins which are weighed in the
balances of His righteousness. In those balances only the righteousness
of Christ has any weight. With less we cannot stand before God, and
without the renewing of the Holy Spirit we have never done one deed or
formed one thought that is good in God's sight. Be careful never to
lean upon a broken reed that will pierce your hand. May the Lord subdue
you as He did a wicked Manasseh and a pious Saul. May the Lord cause
you by His sovereign grace to fall before Him as a lost and undone
sinner, so that as a new creature by the renewing of the Holy Spirit
you may bear fruits of gratitude in the practice of good works.
    They who are converted to God by free grace only and who will
inherit salvation in the end by persevering grace, must necessarily do
good works; it cannot be otherwise. Let it be declared before Him Who
searches the heart and the mind, whether you could do otherwise than to
leave your former life, even if there were no heaven or hell. Did not
the love of God constrain you to seek after perfection. Is it likely
that God would make Antinomians, that is, people who have pleasure in
sin? Certainly not! If you must suffer enmity or oppression, may the
Lord lighten your burden with continual evidences of His favour. Never
succumb to the pressure of your family or friends to refrain from
living in accordance with God's laws. The approval of God is more than
the love of all that are on earth, and the renewing of the free favour
which God bestows upon you gives you again and again the assurance of
which we spoke, which we will not have if we depart from God's law. Are
not the doubts of your soul taken away from time to time as you taste
that the Lord is good. Does not the burden of your sins then fall away?
Yea, however impossible it is for you oftentimes to believe that the
Lord has begun a good work in you, at that time you must believe it.
Thus already in the beginning of your way you are assured by good works
as the fruits of faith. Persevere and entreat the Lord. May He
establish you in Christ Who bought His church with a price and
delivered her from the power of the devil. Seek to be assured of your
interest in Him, and may the Lord grant you the privilege of abiding in
the vine by which you will bear more fruit. Therein your Father is
    May the Lord prevent us from falling into sin. To that end may He
not withhold from us the chastisements of His love. He knows what is
necessary for His people to die unto sin and He causes them to feel
what it means to sin against God. When the prophet Nathan said to
David, "Your sins are forgiven," the Lord did not refrain from showing
the king His wrath against sin. The vine must not be spared the pruning
knife. If so, do not glory in your justification, but may the Lord fill
you with humility, so that, as one incapable of doing any good in self,
you will need continually the power of Christ and the evidences of the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Even God's children, whose delight it is
to keep the law of God, cannot bring forth anything that is pleasing to
God, except in Christ. God views His church only in Him; then their
good works follow, sanctified upon the altar.
    May the love of God, the precious redemption of Christ, and the
renewing of the Holy Spirit direct us on the narrow way that leads to
life, so that the world may testify that this is a people which fears
God. May the peace of God that passes all understanding fill our
hearts. Amen.

Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2
(continued in part 7...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc2-06.txt