(Kersten, The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2, Part 8)

The Law of God

Lord's Day 34

Psalter No. 428 st. 1
Read Malachi 4
Psalter No. 1 st. 1, 2
Psalter No. 222 st. 4
Psalter No. 431 st. 3, 4, 5


    Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Covenant, closes the canon of
the Old Testament Scriptures with a very serious admonition to all who
fear the Lord, to remember the law of Moses. We find this in the fourth
verse of the chapter which we read to you, "Remember ye the law of
Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel,
with the statutes and judgments." A serious warning it is, for the day
is coming that shall burn as an oven. The vengeance of God is
pronounced upon wicked Israel, that tramples upon God's holy law and
says, "It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept
His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of
hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness
are set up." "But all they that work wickedness," says the prophet,
"shall be stubble; and the day that comets shall burn them up, saith
the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."
    They that fear the Lord, loving and keeping His commandments
unfeignedly, will one day see the destruction of the enemies of God.
For unto them shall the Sun of righteousness arise; they will have
justice by and by and in that day God's righteousness shall arise over
them as a shining sun. The judgment which is to fall upon the wicked
will be to the eternal salvation of the righteous and they will tread
down the wicked; for the wicked will be ashes under the soles of their
feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Then
comes that serious admonition, "Remember ye the law of Moses."
    Down through the history of the world and its troubles, the Lord is
preparing the final redemption of His church, and they who fear His
name are yearning for the fulfillment of God's promises. What then
should their work be as they wait for the Lord? How are they to live to
be found guiltless in the day of God's wrath? They are to remember the
law of Moses. The law of Moses is the means given by God to believe in
the Messiah. The word law signifies to show the way. "Good and upright
is the Lord," sings David, "therefore will He teach sinners in the
way." To remember the law of Moses means to meditate on it continually
and to keep it diligently, so that the life of faith may be directed
according to it and may become manifest in it. God has not given His
law for men to build up their righteousness before God by the works of
the law, but in the words of Moses God has revealed to His church what
is necessary for salvation. In remembering the law of Moses, the Lord
was glorified in His people and the life of faith was revealed in the
true Israelite, whose heart was directed only to Him Who was symbolized
in the law, namely the Messiah, the Great Fulfiller of the law.
    It was a very serious admonition to remember the law of Moses,
because after Malachi, the Lord would not give another prophet among
the people to direct them constantly to the law of Moses, until Eliah
should come to prepare the way and announce the coming of the Sun of
righteousness. The church was approaching a time of thick darkness of
four hundred years' duration, that would make her more eager to seek
refuge with the Sun of Righteousness, under whose wings alone healing
is to be found.
    Hence it is stated with so much emphasis, "Remember ye the law of
Moses", so that in time of darkness the church of God might be
strengthened in her hope of the Messiah, and might not be carried away
with the multitude of those who would rob the law of its force, as the
Pharisees and the scribes, who in their blind hatred would cry out,
"Away with Him; crucify Him, crucify Him."
    But this admonition: "Remember ye the law of Moses" applies also to
the church of the new dispensation, for not one of God's words shall
fall to the earth. The law of God given on Horeb in two tables of
stone, has not been abrogated or abolished by the coming of the Lord's
Christ, but God has given that holy law also to the church of the new
testament as a rule of life, as a proof of the uprightness of faith and
for the exercise and growth of sanctification.
    It is this law of God that we shall now consider with each other,
and we shall follow the explanation of the instructor in Lord's Day 34
of the Heidelberg Catechism.
    Lord's Day 34
Q. 92. What is the law of God?

A. God spake all these words, Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, saying: I am
    the Lord thy God, which has brought thee out of the land of Egypt,
    out of the house of bondage.

    I. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

    II. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the
    likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth
    beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down
    thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a
    jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the
    children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
    me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and
    keep my commandments.

    III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for
    the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh His name in

    IV. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; six days shalt thou
    labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of
    the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, nor
    thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant,
    nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in
    six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in
    them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed
    the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

    V. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in
    the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

    VI. Thou shalt not kill.

    VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

    VIII. Thou shalt not steal.

    IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

    X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; thou shalt not covet
    thy neighbor's wife, nor his man servant, nor his maid servant,
    nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Q. 93. How are these commandments divided?

A. Into two tables; the first of which teaches us how we must behave
    towards God; the second, what duties we owe to our neighbor.

Q. 94. What does God enjoin in the first commandment?

A. That I, as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own soul, avoid
    and flee from all idolatry, sorcery, soothsaying, superstition,
    invocation of saints, or any other creatures; and learn rightly to
    know the only true God; trust in him alone, with humility and
    patience submit to him; expect all good things from him only;
    love, fear, and glorify him with my whole heart; so that I
    renounce and forsake all creatures, rather than commit even the
    least thing contrary to his will.

Q. 95. What is idolatry?

A. Idolatry is, instead of, or besides that one true God, who has
    manifested himself in his word, to contrive, or have any other
    object, in which men place their trust.
    Our subject for consideration is the law of God, and we ask your
attention to:
      I. the giving,
     II. the division, and
    III. the maxim of the law.
    The Giving of the Law
    You will understand that I can make only very brief remarks. It is
with a purpose that I spoke of the law as something that is given. In
the previous Lord's Day we were taught that only those works are good
that are performed in true faith, according to God's law, and to His
glory. Now the instructor is about to explain each commandment of that
law with reference to gratitude, as a rule for those who are purchased
by the blood of Christ and renewed by the Holy Spirit, to whom He
fulfill His promise, namely, "I will cause you to walk in My statutes."
That the law is given by the administration of God's grace is evident
from the title of the law. The first question that arises is: Who gave
the law? "I, the Lord, thy God, which has brought thee out of the house
of bondage." It is Jehovah, the God of the oath and of the covenant,
the Unchangeable and Faithful One, Who gave His holy law on Mt. Sinai.
The law has a cursing power, saying "Cursed is everyone that continueth
not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
The people therefore would have been consumed thereby, but the Lord
gives the law in the glorification of His grace, so that the law, which
was four hundred thirty years after, as Paul writes in the epistle to
the Galatians, could not make the promise of none effect. Therefore
when the Lord gave the law to His people Israel on Mount Sinai, and did
not cancel the promise which He gave to Abraham and in him to all His
elect, namely the promise of Christ and all the benefits of the
covenant of grace, then it becomes evident that the law serves as a
means of discovery for His people and as a rule of gratitude of which
they have fulfillment only in Him Who has said, "From Me is thy fruit
found." This law then was given by Jehovah, the God of the oath and of
the covenant, as is said in Acts 7:53, "Who have received the law by
the disposition of angels", that is to say, out of the hand of Christ.
Now Moses received the law out of the hand of Christ, while at the same
time there was laid upon the people not merely the Ten Commandments as
such, but they were joined in the ceremonial ordinances to ceremonial
and civil laws which the Lord gave Israel. Both of the latter laws
pointed to the blood of Christ, and to the promise of Him Who should
triumph as Zion's eternal King. Christ was glorified in the giving of
the law, in order that He as the great Fulfiller of the law might
deliver His people from the curse of the law and give His elect
strength to seek Him and to do His commandments.
    The second question that presents itself is, "How was that law
given?" It was given as a covenant at Sinai. Now beloved, we should
notice especially in these days when such dreadful, erroneous doctrines
are taught about the covenant, that at Sinai the covenant of grace was
established. With man who had fallen in Adam, God could not establish a
new covenant of works. The covenant of works existed before the fall
and was broken by voluntary disobedience. Since man placed himself
under the judgment of God and into the state of death, God does not
again establish a covenant of works with man, nor does the covenant at
Mt. Sinai deal only with external benefits. Here is the establishment
of the covenant of grace, in which God testifies, seals and grants the
salvation which is in Christ, to those whom He has purchased with His
precious blood. Therefore the people are sprinkled with the blood of
the covenant. For a second proof that it concerns more than external
benefits, notice this: When the Lord said to Moses, after Israel had
provoked the Lord with their golden calf, "I will not go up in the
midst of thee, but I will send an angel before thee to Canaan," Moses
continually pleaded until the Lord said, "My presence shall go with
thee." Moses needed God to dwell in the midst of His people. Moses was
concerned with more than just the land flowing with milk and honey. He
needed the grace of God given to His church in Christ.
    God made a covenant with Noah which concerns all men, yea, even the
beasts and the grass of the field. That covenant with Noah did not
include a single promise of salvation, and was therefore not meant to
glorify God's election; but it includes only the promise that the earth
shall not again be destroyed by water. This is then the covenant of
common grace and is outside of the atonement of Christ. Let me exhort
you and especially the youth seriously to study this matter, namely
that the world does not share in the atonement of Christ, and not one
blade of grass springs up because Christ shed His blood; but because
God upholds the world for the great purpose of showing His mercy to the
elect and His wrath and justice to the wicked. This is the contents of
the covenant with Noah.
    Concerning man's eternal state there are two covenants, two and not
three. The two covenants concerning man's eternal state are: the
covenant of works in the state of rectitude, and the covenant of grace
which God revealed immediately after the fall. This is the covenant of
grace of which I now speak, which was entered into by the people of
Israel at Sinai and revealed to them. This covenant of grace is in
Christ. It was established in Him before the foundation of the world.
He stood before His Father in eternity. There He gave Himself, and His
delights were with the sons of men, for the Lamb was slain before the
foundation of the world. In that eternal covenant, Christ agreed to
fulfill all the conditions. In that covenant all the elect were given
to Him as His inheritance, and what He took upon Himself He
accomplished in time. Ascending to heaven as their Head, He took the
elect with Him to prepare their place at the right hand of the Father.
They are set with Him in heavenly places. Christ is therefore called in
Scripture the last Adam. Why? Because as Adam represented all men,
Christ represented all His elect. He is the covenant head. Adam was the
covenant head of all men in the covenant of works. Christ is the
covenant head of His elect. Remember this, beloved. He is the Mediator
of the New Testament because He stands between two. Is not a mediator
someone who seeks to bring two parties together. Modern writers speak
of a mediator of creation. But tell me: Who is it that stands between
God and creation? Such new theories should not be credited among us.
There is one Mediator between God and man. Christ stood between an
angry God and an elect sinner, to bring them together. Therefore He is
the Mediator of the covenant and He is the Surety of the covenant,
because as Surety He obligated Himself to pay the debt of His elect.
Read Romans 5:12-19 where the Apostle compares the two covenant heads.
    I repeat once more: the covenant of grace is established in
eternity with the elect in their representative Head. We are all in the
covenant of works, because God established that covenant of works with
us in the state of rectitude in our representative head, namely Adam.
The elect are in the covenant of grace in Christ and they are
represented in Him before the foundation of the world. Justus Vermeer
has written an excellent treatise on the covenant of grace, which I
recommend to everyone for further study. That eternal covenant, also
called the Council of Peace (to borrow an expression from those who
advocate three covenants), is not different from the covenant of grace
as to its nature and essence. All our fathers have taught this. In time
the Lord delivers the elect sinner, who is also fallen in Adam in the
broken covenant of works, from that broken covenant and from under the
curse, and places him in the covenant of grace. This takes place at
regeneration when he is actually in-stated in that covenant.
    The Form for the administration of baptism states very clearly that
we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, except we are born again. We
must be born again in order to be included in the covenant of grace. In
that covenant the Eternal Father grants salvation to the elect in
Christ Jesus. In subscribing to that covenant they receive subjectively
what they need for their salvation, namely Christ and all His benefits
by faith, which God plants in the hearts of His people. The Lord gives
His people exercises of faith concerning the firmness of this covenant
of grace, so that His children may learn to understand more and more
that they are saved by grace and are in covenant relationship to Him
Who says, "I shall be to you a God, and ye shall be My sons and
    They who are in the covenant are made partakers of salvation. The
covenant is not what it is often said to be, only an offer of
salvation, for an offer does not place one in a covenant relation to
God. If we are to enter into the covenant, it is necessary for us to
have communion with Christ by faith, wrought by the Holy Spirit. I
repeat: the covenant of grace actually makes those who are in it to
become partakers of Christ and His benefits. Moreover, the immovable
firmness of that covenant is indicated when it is called a covenant of
reconciliation, of salt, or of peace. If it could be broken, the
salvation of God's people would be uncertain, because then there would
be something of ourselves in it. But the covenant is firm in God who
has said, "For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me; for as I have
sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have
I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the
mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall
not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be
removed." The covenant of God is therefore unbreakable.
    But now a question rises.
    In the first place: The twelve tribes of Israel were encamped at
Sinai, but with many of them God was not pleased; they were destroyed
in the wilderness by unbelief and did not obtain the promise. Were they
not all in the covenant? No! Read what Perkins says about it, who shows
so clearly that they were indeed called the people of the covenant and
therefore are said to have broken the covenant, but they themselves had
never entered into the covenant. We must always make a difference
between the external relationship to the covenant into which Israel as
a people had entered and a personal in-being in the covenant by faith.
    We are all in an external relationship to the covenant of grace.
This is confirmed in our baptism. They who live outside of the church
cannot be baptized. They are not in an external relationship to the
    My hearers, what led our fathers to speak of such a vital
difference between the external relationship and a spiritual in-being
in the covenant, when they said there is a twofold relationship to the
covenant? The covenant is one; but the relationship in which we stand
to the covenant differs. It is either external or internal.
    Let me give you an example. The Lord placed the entire nation of
Israel in that external relationship to serve Him alone. Then when the
Lord said, "You have broken the covenant", we must ask, how did they
break the covenant? Thus: that they no longer served God alone, but
bowed before the idols of the heathens. They broke the external
relationship to the covenant, not the covenant itself. That is
impossible because in God it is unbreakable. But they did break the
external relationship. Just as when we go into the world and transgress
God's commandments and so become guilty before the Lord, because of
having broken the external relationship to the Lord; so the Lord
pronounced Israel guilty and His judgments came upon them. If our
nation forsakes God in unbelief and superstition and both the
government and the people bow before those that are no gods, we must
certainly expect God's judgments. So it was with Israel. Therefore the
Apostle warns us, "Let us not fall into the same example of unbelief."
    We cannot rest in the fact that we are external members of the
church and stand in an external relationship to the covenant, but we
must become living members of the church.
    Is the doctrine of the three covenants as erroneous as we say? Yes,
indeed! You will soon see the consequences of it. When it is said, "We
and our children are children of the covenant; all of us have a right
to the promises of the covenant and to eternal life; without question
God gives us a right to eternal life, and if we believe this, all is
well." Then I answer you, my hearers, just read your Bible and you will
be filled with abhorrence for this covenant theory. I hope that we
shall guard against it. The Lord says very simply in His Word, but very
emphatically, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of
    To what do we have a right by nature? We have a right to the
judgment of eternal death. When God opens one's eyes to show him the
state he is in, what is it he then confesses? "I have deserved eternal
death. Enter not into judgment with me; for in Thy sight shall no man
living be justified." But when we say, "All of you have a right to
eternal life", we become builders upon a false, sandy ground and as a
minister said recently, we substitute a covenant relationship for the
work of the Holy Spirit and the experience of God's people. At Sinai
God established the covenant of grace. He makes the true Israel
partakers of Christ by faith. In that covenant the Lord incorporates
His holy law, as He wrote that law in the heart of Adam. As the law
after the fall exercised its cursing power upon fallen man (before the
fall the law also had its cursing power but did not exercise it) so the
incorporation of the law in the covenant of grace means that God's
people shall see the glory of the law in Christ Jesus as the Fulfiller
of the law and shall behold the favour of God. Since we cannot possibly
keep the law, neither have God's children any power to observe it, the
Lord Himself (as we noted in the previous Lord's Day) works that
gratitude in His people, granting them what they can never produce
namely, that they are indebted to God for their gratitude to Him and
not He to His people. He teaches them to understand that of themselves
they are unable to do anything, but that it is in Christ Jesus through
the administration of the covenant of grace. From Me is thy fruit
found. There you have the giving of the law in its entirety, as it was
delivered on Sinai, in which God's people find their delight, and which
they long to keep. Their desire is: Oh, let Thy Spirit be my constant
    The Division of the law
    I come now to our second main thought, namely, the division of the
law. The ten commandments were given on two tables of stone.
    The first contains four, and the second, six commandments.
    Here we differ immediately with Rome which has three on the first
and seven on the second. Rome combines the first and second
commandments into one and divides the tenth into two commandments. In
this way there is conflict with either Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5, but
Rome is not concerned provided the second commandment is deprived of
its strength. The second commandment as you know forbids image worship.
    If there is one thing above all others that accuses Rome, it is the
fact that they do not scruple to rob the second commandment of God's
law of its power, saying, "We join image worship to the first
commandment and use the images to serve God and to honour the saints."
But the difference between the first and second commandment lies in
this, that the first commandment tells us *whom* we shall serve (namely
God) and the second *how* we shall serve God, not by dumb images, but
according to His Word. Therefore we may have no images in the church
and no images in our homes, as we shall learn from the following
commandment. There are then four commandments in the first table and
six in the second. The first table tells us what our soul's attitude to
God shall be. God wants to be glorified and honored as the Lord says in
Matthew 22: 37-40, where He summarizes the four commandments and says
that we must honour God above all. The six commandments of the second
table which are not inferior to those of the first tell us, "Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself; on these two commandments hang all the
law and the prophets."
    What then does God require in the ten commandments? Love to God and
to our neighbor. "For all the law is fulfilled in one word," says the
Apostle and that one word is love.
    This makes it so impossible to keep the law because by nature we
are prone to hate God and our neighbor. That tendency lies deeply
rooted in our hearts and so we reveal ourselves in our whole being.
When we hate, it is impossible to love. Let us take a common example
out of everyday life. In my ministry I have often met parents who
demanded of their children that they choose that boy or that girl,
while the children said, "I cannot love him or her." If it is
impossible in our natural life to arouse love, how much less is that
possible in spiritual life. How can we truly love God and our neighbor,
while by nature we are haters of God and of each other. Whatever we do,
however scrupulously we manage our lives to keep God's commandments,
although we do not desecrate His day or blaspheme His Name, and though
we abstain from sinning and walk according to His commandments in all
things like the rich young man, notwithstanding all this we have never
really kept one of God's commandments. For if the fulfillment consisted
of doing or forbearing, we could compete with one another to see who
excelled, as Paul says, "I was zealous with all that was in me to keep
the law of Moses." That same Paul declared: I was alive without the law
once. I knew not the law; I did not know the content and the spiritual
scope of the law. I was alive without the law. I was a transgressor,
yea I am the chief of sinners. In following the law I persecuted the
church of God. Hence, God demands what we can never fulfill.
    Because we can never give God our love, all our works are of no
value as ground of acceptance. We do not give anyone a license to sin,
for our sin will testify against us and our punishment will be greater
according to the measure in which we have multiplied sin. But God's
Word takes away our confidence in our works and convinces us of the
fact that we can never keep one of God's commandments. For God demands
what we do not have and cannot produce. God demands love. Notice the
fruit of the covenant of grace: He gives that love to His people, so
that they learn to love Him because He first loved them. When He brings
them into the bond of the covenant, He works that love in His children.
He captures their hearts and they reach forth unto perfection in all
they do, in order that they may apprehend that for which they are
apprehended of Jesus Christ. In the division of the law lies the love
to God and the love to our neighbor.
    What is the maxim of the entire law?
    Let us consider this briefly in the third place.
    The maxim of the law.
    The maxim is given in the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no
other gods before Me", that is: That I, as sincerely as I desire the
salvation of my soul, avoid and flee from all idolatry, sorcery,
soothsaying, superstition, and the invocation of saints or any other
    The first commandment demands that we acknowledge God as God.
    Now, the dreadfulness and the wretchedness of our deep fall lies in
this, that we have robbed God of His glory and defied His authority,
which is nothing but revolution against God. God must be thrust from
his throne while we occupy it. We cannot acknowledge God as God,
because we hate Him. The maxim of God's law is, "Have no other gods
before Me," to acknowledge them as God or to rely upon them. Avoid all
things that are contrary to this maxim, such as:
    First, idolatry: that is, instead of or besides the one true God
... to contrive or have any other object in which men place their trust
instead of God, as the heathens who do not know the only and true God,
but have idols whom they trust and to whom they ascribe such events as
wars and adversities - but also besides Him. Although we say: "There is
one God", in our hearts we trust in idols. Take, for example, the Roman
Catholic Church or ancient Israel which served other gods besides the
Lord. The Israelites cleaved to the God of their fathers, but also
bowed to idols. Think also of idolatry in a spiritual sense such as is
committed by the Remonstrants and advocates of free-will, who build
their hope upon that which is no God. Let us not forget ourselves, how
we trust in our own strength and in our own wisdom when we are young.
Our idols are many.
    How often do we acknowledge our dependence upon God? We make idols
of our confession and church attendance. In our very hearts we have
many idols upon which we depend instead of or besides God.
    As travelers to eternity we base our trust upon our god fearing
parents, upon our baptism, upon our ministers. Whatever it may be, God
demands in the first commandment that we forsake all idols.
    Secondly, sorcery and soothsaying.
    That is the work of the devil. Only God can do miracles. He is God
alone and does wondrous things. The devil tries to imitate them. What
counterfeiting is done by Satan! The devil also does wonderful things.
He imitated Aaron. The magicians did much by the power of Satan.
Soothsaying is imitating God in His prophetical revelation. The
soothsayer presumes to tell you what will happen next year or when the
end of the world will come, or what your lot will be, but God only can
do that. Why? Because it lies in God's eternal counsel in which no man
ever locked. The devil says, "I will alienate men from God; I will show
that I can also cause my servants to prophecy." If you go to a
soothsayer or to a fortuneteller to find out what will happen to you,
remember that it is the work of the devil. Anyone who will venture upon
such means entrusts himself to the guidance of Satan to his own
destruction, however pleasant it may seem. Remember, Satan had no part
in God's council. God only knows and works all things after the counsel
of His own will.
    Further, the Catechism speaks of superstition. We think of Rome
with its superstitions, its patron saints to ward against evil, its
attention to enchantments and to the howling of a dog to frighten
people, telling them falsely that this or that will happen. Add to
these the invocation of saints. Rome says: "Saint Peter, Saint John,
Saint Mary, pray for us." Are there no saints? Yes, they are in heaven.
They are also on earth, washed and cleansed in the blood of Christ. But
they are not to be worshipped. The angel said to John on Patmos,
"Worship God." The saints may not be worshipped because they are saved
only by grace. Therefore worshipping the saints is desecration instead
of adoration. We should sincerely loath such practices and not be so
indifferent about them. Do realize that it concerns God's honour and
    "Learn rightly to know the only true God." In the first commandment
we are taught in the first place to refrain from that which is
forbidden, but in the second place to do that which is commanded,
namely, to learn to know the only true God rightly, for we are without
the knowledge of God; but we must learn to know Him rightly and we must
set our hearts upon His Word, so that He may reveal Himself to us as He
is known in Christ Jesus.
    "Trust in Him alone"; that is depend so entirely upon Him as to
commend our souls to Him for eternity, but also to trust in Him alone
for our temporal life, to reject all that is outside of Him so that He
alone becomes our refuge, who never puts to shame them that trust in
    "With humility and patience to submit to Him alone", in bitter and
difficult ways. This is hard for flesh and blood. Think of Asaph in
Psalm 73 where he objected to God's government. Asaph was peevish and
fretful until he entered the sanctuary. We cannot acknowledge God as
God; we cannot resign ourselves to God. We cannot, but neither do we
want to resign ourselves. It is required of us to be submissive to Him
in quietness and confidence as a child weaned of his mother, so that He
may be glorified and we may "expect all good things from Him only."
That means: Look not to the right nor to the left, but above, for with
Him there are deliverances for His people, even in the face of death.
    "Love Him with all my heart." This is the main thing, namely love,
of which I spoke earlier. There is also a fearing of Him with childlike
fear. Think of children with respect to their parents. If there is love
there is also childlike fear. Love leads to obedience. Love brings no
grief to the parents. This childlike fear springs from love. So the
Lord should not find it necessary to complain about His people. They
will honour Him alone and do His will, although the whole world should
oppose it, and it should cost them their goods and their blood.
    And all this "as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own
soul," for my salvation depends on it. Not honoring God as God leads to
destruction, but salvation lies in acknowledging and trusting in the
living God. Salvation is dear to God's children. They are not
indifferent about it whether they are saved or lost. Salvation is
precious to their souls. They cry for it, as it was evident on the day
of Pentecost: "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" They
learn to know, fear and glorify the only true God in order that He may
be glorified in His saints, and that they shall offer no strange
worship as we now sing from Psalter No. 222:4:
    "O My people, hear My pleadings;
    O that thou wouldst hearken now:
    No strange worship shalt thou offer,
    Nor to idols shalt thou bow."
    Now just a few words more. I could wish that every one of us would
study diligently the doctrine of our old fathers. I foresee our
congregations becoming engaged in a severe battle, because most of
those who can still be labeled Reformed, have departed from the old
truth, especially regarding the covenant of grace. Therefore I counsel
you not only with all boldness, but admonish you most seriously to
study what our old theologians taught.
    Boys and girls, I see the value of your societies; I appreciate
them and would have all of you attend them if you reject the new
theology. Otherwise it is better to break them up. For I wish to make
myself free, not only of your blood but also of the blood of all the
congregations. Perhaps my time here is short, but you will never be
able to say that I have taught something different from our Reformed
theologians. Arminius was the first to make a difference between the
Council of Peace or the Covenant of Redemption from eternity and the
Covenant of Grace. This Arminius did in his oration. Let us consider
whose footsteps we follow with the new doctrine and if we follow it,
remember that we are placing our feet on paths that will lead us
astray. If God makes us partakers of the promises in Christ, in Whom
all the promises are yea and amen, then we shall be saved, because God
cannot lie. "Shall I speak and shall I not do it or have I spoken and
shall I not make it good?" saith the Lord.
    When He gives us and our children the promises and applies them to
us, will He not fulfill them? What kind of a covenant doctrine is it
that says, "If you do not fulfill the condition of believing, you will
not get there?" Where must I go to obtain such a faith? Is the granting
of faith not included in the covenant? Is that not precisely the
promise of the covenant that God will grant faith? Now we have the
privilege of living under the revelation of the covenant and under its
administration. God's Word is brought to us. We stand in a certain
relationship to the covenant of grace. Some day God will call us to
account. For that reason it is so necessary to enter personally into
the covenant, so that there may be covenant dealings between God and
our souls.
    Now the Lord requires you to love God and to trust in Him. That
kind of disposition of heart does not consist in an outward inclination
only. I can rejoice when I see that there is a desire to go to God's
house, and that many of our young people are inclined to come, while
many outside of us leave the truth. However, we must learn to know
something more than an outward inclination and an outward delight in
the Word of God. The work of God the Holy Spirit in our hearts is
indispensable to our salvation. Set your heart upon seeking the Lord,
lest He cast you aside in the end. Then the separation will come. For
the Lord will separate the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the
goats. Then the verdict will be weighed in the balances and, with all
our righteousness, found wanting, because we have not learned to know
Christ as our portion, and because His righteousness has not become our
righteousness before God. It is written very plainly, except we are
born again, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
    My poor, unconverted hearer, seek this covenant relation with God
in Christ. May the Lord confirm His Word and bind it upon your heart as
the means He has given you. May He bless this word for your eternal
welfare. Then you would gain what a thousand worlds cannot give you: A
benefit that is constant and durable, one that no one can take from
you, because God has laid it away in Christ for those who fear Him. Who
knows how soon the world will be ablaze, what wars we are facing, more
terrible than we have ever experienced. Even when the whole world burns
up, the work of the covenant shall endure. God confirms His covenant
eternally to gather His people and to bring them through all the woes
of the world into the glory that He has prepared before the foundation
of the world. Do seek that one thing needful. Seek that above all. Seek
ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the Lord will
care for your temporal needs; all these things will be added unto you.
    Allow me to repeat: God demands love and we do not have it nor can
we make it. God Himself works that love in our heart. He has loved them
with an everlasting love. Here in time they become subjectively objects
of His love and by the glorification of God's love in their hearts,
they learn to love God. Thus a childlike fear enters their hearts, so
that they forsake sin and are displeased with all that displeases God.
So it is in the hearts of God's people. It is not only a speaking about
love, but it is the practice of their inmost hearts. Even the smallest
in grace can testify that it is so.
    But oh, how that first commandment condemns us. We are to hate all
idols in which we place our trust instead of or besides the Lord. Our
manner of life, however, shows that we do not. Flesh and blood will not
inherit the Kingdom of God. How much there is outside of Christ upon
which you place your trust. How much there is which prevents you from
embracing God as the God of your salvation. How hard it is to surrender
ourselves in order that He may be all and in all. What then is
necessary for us to obtain that blessing? The discovering work of the
Holy Spirit, which will enable us to die more and more unto self and to
trust in God alone. Bear in mind throughout the course of life that we
are to walk through this world in such a way that we agree with God
always and in all things. How great is the number of adversities!
Notwithstanding this, we are to agree with God unconditionally. I have
known people who praised God while looking at the ruins of what was
once their home. They had lost everything, but said in sweet
submission, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be
the name of the Lord." We must agree with God unconditionally, however
deep His ways may be. For we are but clay in His hands. In life and
death, to practice total submission, that is what the first commandment
requires of us. Now I am willing to be the first to say: How little do
we find of this in ourselves. If we had more of the love of God in our
hearts so that we could always say with Asaph, "Truly God is good to
Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart", then we would walk more
with the Lord, we would have more union with Him and more submission to
Him. That would enable us to wend our way cheerfully in all our
circumstances since He is Jehovah, the God of the oath and of the
covenant Who keeps faith forever. He will certainly fulfill His
promises to His people in His own time and way, however impossible it
may seem. They will then glorify God with songs of praise. Soon, when
all that is in part shall be done away, they will ascribe to Him
perfectly all glory and honour and blessing. They will then be before
His throne to serve Him day and night without sin. To honour this God
as God, even in the greatest distresses will enable us to walk
according to His commandments and to keep His precepts.
    May He cause His kindly face to shine upon us in Christ, so that we
may rejoice in Him. For this God is our God for ever and ever. He will
be our guide even unto death. Amen. 

Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2
(continued in part 9...)

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