(Kersten, The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2, Part 18)

The Fountain of Sin Discovered

Lord's Day 44

Psalter No. 71 st. 3, 4
Read Zephaniah 3
Psalter No. 140 st. 2 & 3
Psalter No. 384 st 1, 5
Psalter No. 41 st. 4, 5, 6, 7


    A portion of the prophecy of Zephaniah was read to you. This
prophet lived in the days of the god fearing king Josiah. Huldah had
announced the judgment written in the book of the law which Hilkiah,
the high priest had found, while repairing the house of the Lord. These
judgments would certainly come upon the kingdom of Judah. Zephaniah
prophesied at the same time of the deliverance that the Lord would give
when He returned His people from their captivity. They would return as
an afflicted and poor people who would trust in the name of the Lord.
They would be an afflicted and poor people, not a poor and afflicted
people, for affliction does not come from poverty. They would be poor
because they were afflicted, but will be satisfied out of the riches of
God's grace. Therefore that people who trust in the Name of the Lord,
will not be put to shame. In that afflicted multitude that returned
from Babylon, we may see the people of God whom the Lord guides by His
Holy Spirit and leads to the fulness that is in Christ. They too, are
an afflicted people, because they like all of us by nature, are as
exiles excluded from communion with God. They are therefore in a state
of poverty out of which no one can deliver them, except He Who was rich
but became poor for the sake of His people, so that they may become
rich in Him. Hence they are a people who have come to know themselves
as afflicted and poor, and by God the Holy Spirit have become
acquainted with the state of nature in which they are. By the
discovering light of the Holy Spirit they come to understand more and
more the meaning of the words: "I will leave in the midst of thee an
afflicted and poor people." However afflicted and poor they are in
themselves, they will trust in the Lord, destitute of all other ground,
they sink upon the firm foundation of Him Who is the Rock that remains
solid forever.
    In order to teach His church her misery and poverty, the Lord
writes His holy law in the hearts of His people; for by the law is the
knowledge of sin. These revelations of the law continue throughout
their lives. The more God's law is revealed, the more thorough the
knowledge of sin becomes. Thereby Christ shall be more glorified in His
people. Thus the preaching of God's law is necessary for His people. It
tends to the discovery, the ever deeper discovery of sin. Does not
God's holy law tell us that covetousness is sin? Let us examine this
truth more closely according to the explanation given us in the
forty-fourth Lord's Day of our Heidelberg Catechism.
    Lord's Day 44
Q. 113. What does the tenth commandment require of us?

A. That even the smallest inclination or thought, contrary to any of
    God's commandments, never rise in our hearts; but that at all
    times we hate all sin with our whole heart, and delight in all

Q. 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these

A. No; but even the holiest men while in this life, have only a small
    beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere
    resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all
    the commandments of God.

Q. 115. Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly
    preached, since no man in this life can keep them?

A. First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our
    sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the
    remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ: likewise, that we
    constantly endeavor and pray to God for the grace of the Holy
    Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image
    of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life
    to come.

    In this Lord's Day the fountain of sin is discovered:
      I. in sinful covetousness,
     II. to probe more deeply the hearts of God's people,
    III. to demonstrate the necessity of preaching the law.
    In the first place the Catechism tells us as we consider the tenth
commandment, that the fountain of sin lies in sinful coveting. What
does the tenth commandment require of us? Thou shalt not covet; thou
shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; thou shalt not covet thy
neighbor's wife, nor any thing that is thy neighbors. How then must we
understand this commandment? The instructor teaches us that the
smallest inclination or thought, contrary to God's commandments, may
never rise in our hearts.
    When we discussed the other commandments, following the footsteps
of the instructor who guided us therein correctly, we were shown the
spiritual content of the law. To mention a few examples: when it is
written, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me", the instructor not
only said that the blind heathens do this as in Isaiah 40, which states
they make images of wood and say, "This is my god"; but he taught in
such a way that no one left the church without having to say (if he
understood anything of the explanation), "I, I am an idolater. Although
I do not bow my knee to an idol, my guilt lies in this, that I place my
trust in something beside the Lord alone." When speaking about the
misuse of the Lord's name, the instructor called attention not only to
him who swears, but to all dishonoring of the name of the Lord, which
dwells in our hearts, when we do not use that Name aright. In addition
to this, by nature we are not true worshipers. We are impressed once
more by the fact that we are all transgressors of the third
commandment. We are sabbath breakers because the fourth commandment
tells us we must begin the eternal sabbath in this life; this we do not
do. We are murderers, adulterers, thieves. Follow one commandment after
another from the first and second table; is it not true as we are shown
repeatedly, that God's commandments apply to each one of us, even
though the Lord keeps us from external and visible transgressions?
    We are guilty of transgressing all the commandments of the Lord.
Therefore we need the righteousness of Christ for our guilt. In our
hearts are these evil inclinations and these transgressions committed
in thought, word and deed. Now comes the question to which I call your
attention: How must we understand the tenth commandment where we are
told, specifically, "Thou shalt not covet"? Thou shalt not covet
anything that is thy neighbor's his house, nor his wife, nor his goods.
This commandment goes much deeper, namely that the smallest inclination
or thought contrary to any of God's commandments shall ever rise in our
hearts. The Lord has laid in us or created in us natural desires, such
as a desire for food and drink to sustain our weak bodies. He gives
hunger and thirst so that we shall take food and drink to replenish our
strength. There is a civil desire for temporal goods to provide for
ourselves and our families, as is proper. There is more than this; a
holy desire of which the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 27, namely, to dwell
in the house of the Lord and to walk before God. Hence it is clear that
desiring or coveting itself does not condemn us. Yet the tenth
commandment says, "Thou shalt not covet."
    The tenth commandment was not written into the law of Moses without
purpose. This commandment has a broader application than we have
indicated, namely, if the dishonoring of God's name or the desire to
take another's goods arises in our hearts, even though we do not commit
the act, this desire already is judged by God to be a transgression of
His commandment.
    What the instructor tells us, as I have already said, that sinful
coveting is condemned as the fountain of all sin and unrighteousness.
Because of our deep fall in Adam all the inclinations of our hearts,
all our thinking and will are sin before God. This is what is told us
in this Lord's Day. Is it not written of Eve that she saw that the tree
was to be desired to make one wise? Is not this the source of the
transgression, the fountain of iniquity that is in our hearts and makes
us guilty before God, even though our will has not been inclined to
commit the evil? Yes, though there may be a conflict in our will to
abstain from that to which our desire is tempting us, yet the desire of
our nature is sin in the sight of God.
    The Pelagians say that this is no sin. Rome also says that if we do
not come to the deed there is no sin or guilt. The Apostle Paul teaches
us differently in Romans 7: he did not know lust to be sin except the
law had said, "Thou shalt not covet." The law had made him feel guilty,
so guilty that he even testified: "I am the chief of sinners, because I
persecuted the church of God." He was convinced of his deed, although
he thought he pleased God. Nevertheless on the way to Damascus he
clearly learned what he thought was a good work, well pleasing to God,
was only enmity against Him and a persecution of Christ. His deed was
condemned and he saw himself lost, in order that he might find his
salvation in Christ. He says in Romans 7:7 that he was not only
concerned about his deed, but "I had not known lust to be sin except
the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." That which lived within him,
namely, his sinful corruption and total spiritual leprosy because of
unrighteousness, was only sin in the sight of God. Therefore the
instructor shows us very clearly the extent of the tenth commandment
when he says, "That even the smallest inclination or thought, contrary
to any of God's commandments may never rise in our hearts."
    It is just those desires, inclinations and thoughts, contrary to
God's laws, that reign in us by nature; the remains thereof are in the
hearts of God's people. Therefore they need the cleansing of which the
Lord Jesus spoke during the washing of feet in the hall of the
Passover, saying in effect to Peter, "You are clean, but you have need
that your feet be washed." God's people are cleansed and sanctified in
Christ, but they need a continual cleansing of the heart. The heart is
evil; out of it come the issues of corruption and the conflict between
the spirit and the flesh. The spirit desires to hate all sin at all
times with the whole heart and to delight in all righteousness. Yes,
God's people become enemies to all sin, not only to sins against this
or that commandment, but to all sin; because the Lord teaches His
people what they do not know by nature, namely the God-dishonoring
character of sin. It is precisely in this way that they acknowledge
themselves to be guilty before God and worthy of the sentence of
eternal death. In addition they are given repentance and sorrow for sin
which makes them cry out, "Get thee hence." At such times they have a
sincere delight in all righteousness, so if it were possible, they
might live and walk perfectly before God. The Lord who knows their
hearts, knows it is not mere words, but that it is the exercise of the
heart to hate sin. Sin has become their enemy and by the renewing of
the Holy Spirit, they delight in all righteousness. In one word what
does the tenth commandment say? "Be ye therefore perfect even as your
Father which is in heaven is perfect", in order that your conduct may
reflect a continual hatred of sin and a love of righteousness, both
externally and internally, living by faith in communion with Christ,
and having your conversation above sin and unrighteousness. The apostle
Paul states it so clearly: "Not as though I had already attained or
were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that
for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Paul means to say
that he was apprehended for perfection at the last day, when he will be
made perfect before God in order to serve Him without sin.
    Thus the tenth commandment teaches that even sinful desires prove
us guilty before God, of transgressing all His commandments, even
though these desires struggle against our will as a result of our
inborn knowledge of God. God condemns sinful desires; therefore His
people can stand only in the perfect righteousness of Christ. For this
reason, as I come now to my second point,
    the discovery of the fountain of sin serues also to probe more
deeply the hearts of God's people, in order to bring them to a closer
and deeper knowledge of self.
    The question is asked, "But can those who are converted to God keep
these commandments perfectly?" The question is asked about those who
are converted to God. They who are not converted, do not keep God's
commandments at all. What we do or fail to do by nature, whatsoever
proceeds from our nature is only iniquity. Think only of that one word,
"Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." By nature we do not have this
saving faith; therefore all that an unconverted person does is sin and
iniquity before God.
    In this Lord's Day we are concerned with those who are converted to
God. They have received a new life. They are implanted in Christ and
live out of another root, namely, out of Him Who has begun the good
work in them. Can they who are converted to God and whose delight it is
to walk in God's commandments and hate sin, keep God's commandments
perfectly? The answer is: No. They can say with the Psalmist in Psalm
119, "How I love Thy law, O Lord! Daily joy its truths afford." But
they also say with Paul, "When I would do good, evil is present with
me." This does not mean that because of their inability to keep God's
commandments, they escape all responsibility for their deeds as the
antinomian does when he says, "I have nothing to do with sin. Christ
has given Himself in my stead and sacrificed Himself for me. He
fulfilled the law for me. Therefore all that worrying about keeping the
law and about sanctification pleases the devil very much." He says,
"the more I sin the greater does the righteousness of Christ become for
    I need not enlarge upon this, for the apostle Paul contended with
antinomians in the churches earlier, and committed them to the judgment
of God. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.
Read what Paul says about this in Romans 3 and Romans 6. The antinomian
is opposed to the law. He makes Christ the scapegoat and does not count
sin as sin. He separates flesh and spirit, while Christ Himself
sanctifies His people, in order that they may walk in God's
commandments and keep those laws with sincere delight.
    But can those who are converted to God keep these commandments
perfectly? By no means. It is emphatically denied, not to erase sin or
approve of it or to give it license; but on the contrary, to oppose
those who abuse the liberty in Christ for an occasion to the flesh.
God's people ought really to beware of this.
    It is not only in the writings of Paul, but also in the Revelation
of John that you find this conflict described, as it existed in the
churches of Asia Minor, with the antinomians who were there called
Nicolaitanes. They held the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to
cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel. They said there
must be something good in sin, because if we enter the sieve of Satan,
we learn to know the greatness of the redemption in Christ. Did not
Balaam give counsel to have the wicked and lustful feast of Baal-Peor
celebrated before the eyes of the people of Israel? But God's
indignation was poured out upon them. This was the language of the
Nicolaitanes in the churches of Asia Minor. The Lord reproved them,
saying: "I will come with my judgments and will remove the candlestick
out of his place and pour out my indignation upon you." Therefore God's
people ought to be watchful lest they fall into the snares of the
antinomian and think lightly of sin. This is especially true if by
grace they are enabled to make their calling and election sure and
privileged to confirm their state in Christ, whereby they receive rest
and peace by being delivered from assaults and strife. In that case
they must be doubly on guard, lest they lose that rest and fall into
the service of sin in the flesh.
    On the other hand, this answer is written in opposition to all
those who look for the perfection of God's people in this life. They
are called Perfectionists. Perfectionists are people who claim that
God's people can attain perfection in this life. I have already quoted
the words of Paul from the epistle to the Philippians. The truth which
these words contain becomes the experience of all God's people: "Not as
though I were already perfect; but I follow after if that I may
apprehend." Let the examples in God's Word speak. They tell us very
clearly that God's people cannot keep His commandments perfectly.
Abraham was the father of the faithful; he was called a friend of God.
We know the weakness he fell into through fear that he would be killed,
so he called Sarah his sister. Think of Jacob, to obtain the blessing
even used the Lord's Name, when he said the Lord had brought the
venison to him. Think of Lot, who became drunk and fell into that
dreadful sin with his daughters. Finally, think of David; think of
Peter. The Bible is not silent about these things, but tells us clearly
that God's people do not attain perfection in this life, but that the
warfare against sin will continue unto the end of their lives, when
they shall enter the glorious perfection of heaven.
    When the fountain of sin is discovered, this is a motive for God's
dear people to seek their righteousness and holiness not in self, but
only in Christ. These examples of Bible saints are recorded to warn
everyone, especially God's people, to avoid sin so that they do not
expose themselves to spiritual dangers. On the other hand they will
perceive that the indwelling sin of their hearts, drives them to seek
their righteousness in Him Who was given to His church for wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
    On the 31st of October, Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the
door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This produced a great
disturbance among the people. By this act the tyranny of Rome was
broken and the church delivered from the servitude it had been under
for so many centuries. What was the main point of contention? It was
that man cannot be justified by works, because no good thing dwells in
us whereby we can stand before God; but that all righteousness and
holiness that is necessary is found in Christ Jesus. What does the Lord
reveal to us in this tenth commandment? What does the giving of the
entire Law teach us? It teaches that by nature we cannot keep the law
of God and even they who are converted to God must complain, "I see
another law in my members warring against the law of my mind." All of
this is designed to lead them to humble themselves and bring them to
such self knowledge, so they may loath themselves more to seek their
life outside of self in Christ Jesus only. Therefore the preaching of
the law is not in vain. This brings us to our third main thought,
    the discovery of the fountain of our sin and misery serves to
demonstrate the necessity of preaching the law. The instructor asks,
"Why will God have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no
man in this life can keep them?" Why is it still necessary? Not to
influence us to put forth our efforts to satisfy God's law in our own
strength and thus build up a righteousness before God. We can never
merit salvation. From the Roman Catholic point of view we may as well
cease preaching the law. Preaching the law is necessary, in spite of
our inability to keep it. It is for this purpose that all our lifetime
we may learn more to know our sinful nature and thus become more
earnest in seeking the remission of sin and righteousness in Christ.
Christ merited the remission of sin and righteousness by His suffering
and death, and now sits at the right hand of God to make intercession
for His people continually. This means that the glorified Mediator
presents His sacrifice before the Father day and night without
intermission. Upon that ground He demands the remission of all the sins
of His people.
    The important thing for God's people is that they may make use of
these benefits by faith. The divine work of application goes before as
God applies Christ to His people and covers them with His righteousness
and holiness. Then follows in further experience the constant use of
Christ as He is seated at the right hand of the Father. Therefore
discovering light and an increasing knowledge of our sinful nature are
very necessary so we may become the more earnest in seeking the
remission of sin and righteousness in Christ.
    What do God's people need from God? Discovering light as well as
conviction of sin. On the way to Damascus, Paul learned by the law to
see his sinful deeds. He was shown who he was with all his good works
and his best intentions, namely: an enemy of God and a persecutor of
Christ. The work of the law went further. After conviction came
self-knowledge, which is the progressive discovery and acquaintance of
self. After receiving grace, God's people learn more to know who they
are, and that nothing would become of them if God would leave them to
themselves. Does not David say in Psalm 51, "I was shapen in iniquity?"
It is profitable to learn more of our sinful nature and the deep
corruption of sin and iniquity.
    This knowledge caused Job to cry out, "I abhor myself and repent in
dust and ashes." Job was a righteous man. The first verse of the first
chapter states this. He was perfect and upright. He stood in a right
relation to God. The Lord stripped him of his righteousness and piety,
as a ground of acceptance. What was the result? He cried out, "I abhor
myself and repent in dust and ashes." So deeply was he humbled before
the Lord God!
    When God's people are brought to these discoveries they are brought
very low. If they walk in pride they have no use for Christ. It is
necessary to come into the depths of self-abhorrence to need Christ in
a lively manner, so He may glorify Himself in the riches of His grace.
This causes us constantly to be instant in prayer to God for the grace
of the Holy Spirit. A thorough knowledge of self produces the precious
fruit of longing after and seeking the grace of the Holy Spirit; to be
renewed more and more by the power of that Spirit; to be under the
dominion of the Holy Spirit, and be led by the Spirit to walk in God's
    It is one of the great promises of God to His church: "I will cause
you to walk in My statutes." David complained that he had gone astray
like a lost sheep. In order that God's people may be more desirous for
perfection by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they must confess day
by day that they do nothing other than go astray and turn aside. The
knowledge of the person and work of the Holy Ghost is closely related
to the discovery of and acquaintance with self. It is only through this
knowledge that we learn our need of that Spirit in order to know Him in
His person and works of grace as merited by Christ. There is a
heart-felt longing to become more and more renewed by the Spirit after
the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection which is proposed to
us, in a life to come. The day is coming when God's people shall
overcome sin. They will arrive at the perfection which is proposed to
them in Christ. After this life there will be no more sin and no
transgression of God's commandments. For this their hearts are longing
in order that the Lord may be glorified in them, according to His
infinite good pleasure by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Then all of
God's children will be added as stones to that temple whose Builder and
Maker is God.
    The discoveries of the Holy Spirit humble the soul, leaving an
afflicted and poor people, who shall trust in the Name of the Lord. On
the one hand, this cause a bowing in the dust, and an abhorrence of
self before God; on the other hand this provides a free access in
Christ to God's throne of grace, by the Spirit of grace and
supplication unto greater sanctification and purification. These
discoveries clear the way for communion with God, because the secret of
Jehovah is with those who fear His Name; also to pour out his whole
heart before the Omniscient One, as the Psalmist did in Psalm 139:
         O Lord, my inmost heart and thought
         Thy searching eye does see;
         Wherever I rest, wherever I go,
         My ways are known to Thee.
         Search me, O God, and know my heart,
         Try me, my thoughts to know;
         O lead me, if in sin I stray,
         In paths of life to go.
                Psalter No. 384:1, 5
    We have now come to the close of our discussion of the law. Has it
ever occurred to you to include the ten commandments under the doctrine
of gratitude means that we are not to make the keeping of the
commandments a legalistic work, and that we are not only to consider
what we may and what we may not do, but also to be convinced in the
first place that our very existence makes us guilty before God, so that
we with all our good works cannot stand before God. In the second place
it means that the discourses on God's holy law must lead us to Christ,
so that by the working of the Holy Spirit and in the exercise of faith
we may find our righteousness in Him alone, and have our sanctification
from Him alone. For Christ is the end of the law. If we confine
ourselves to outward observances, we ignore the instruction of the
Catechism which always reaches out to spiritual life. It also teaches
us plainly that the rich, young man's attitude is not the keeping of
God's law, for then we are establishing our own righteousness before
God by our works.
    On the one hand it behooves us to walk very carefully according to
God's commandments in public or in private, and on the other hand we
can never admonish each other enough against the transgression of God's
law; nevertheless, for our salvation it is necessary that we learn to
know ourselves as guilty before God. It is not enough to say, "I fall
far short." Certainly, every man falls far short; but by the light of
the Holy Spirit we must say, "I lack all things. All my thoughts, words
and deeds are enmity against God." Hear what the Apostle says: "The
carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of
God, neither indeed can be." It cannot be said more clearly than the
Apostle expresses it, that all we do or fail to do is enmity against
God, except we be converted unto Him.
    The law is preached strictly because God demands perfect obedience,
a perfect keeping of all that is written in the law, and because He
takes no pleasure (as the Pelagian says), in our good intentions, but
demands a perfect keeping of the law. Otherwise, God's law pronounces
the curse, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which
are written in the book of the law to do them."
    O, unconverted hearer, it should make an impression that you are
guilty of transgressing all God's commandments, even though kept from
the evils of the world. I hope that the Lord will keep watch over your
children and mine, and that by His law He may give us so many checks of
conscience that we shall fear to choose the way of sin. Be not lax in
your duties towards God's laws and ordinances. Seek as much as possible
to keep close to the Word of God. The world demands much of our time -
for study, for daily labor, or for other purposes; but let us put forth
every effort to be kept by the power of the Word from sin and from the
broad paths of iniquity. Bear in mind, however, that our best works are
shining sins before God. All that we bring forth, all that comes from
self, cannot meet with God's approval, not even what God's people do.
What God's people do must be sanctified by the ministration of Christ,
otherwise God is not pleased with it.
    If then it is true the law is strict in its demands, what is an
unconverted person to do when God demands the perfect keeping of the
law? When God convinced Paul on the way to Damascus, his whole life
became guilt in spite of his good intentions. He thought he was doing a
work that was pleasing to God. He was zealous beyond measure to keep
the law of Moses. Then he learned that he had never understood the
spiritual meaning of the law. He says it so clearly: I was alive
without the law once, when I thought I was keeping the law strictly. If
a man such as Paul must say this, what must become of us? Oh, that it
might drive us to seek a Surety. For God's justice shall one day demand
from us satisfaction to the law, and without the covering of the
righteousness of Christ, our portion shall be in the lake of fire which
burns forever, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hear what
the Word of the Lord says, as it calls to us in the day of grace,
"Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith." May God bind it upon
our hearts to make profitable use of His Word for eternity because the
day passes away as the chaff. Soon we shall stand before God's judgment
seat and then it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Simon than for
    It is the purpose of God's law to convince of sin. God brings His
people under conviction when He calls them out of the state of death
unto life, and they are given to see what they have done all their
lives. It is written that one day the books, that is the consciences of
men, shall be opened. This takes place more than once in the first
conviction of sin. When those books are opened before the all-knowing
and all-seeing eye of God, not one sin remains covered. Then follows
the dreadful thought that in the judgment which is soon to come, all
that was done in the body must be punished. These are the experiences
of God's children. Let all who are truly convicted, give testimony, how
the Lord showed them what they had done all their lives in their walk,
conversation, and all their ways. Though their conduct may have been
blameless, they learned to know themselves as guilty of all the
commandments of God from the first to the last. They judged themselves
to be deserving of God's judgment and saw that they were subject to
death. They expected nothing but eternal destruction. This was the
result of the working of God's holy law by the operation of the Holy
Spirit. In a moment the Spirit places all their deeds in the light of
the omniscience of God, and so a lost person is born, who says, "It is
hopeless." He sought to be justified by the works of the law, but his
guilt increased daily. Oh, it became impossible to be saved. Let such
people testify.
    Perhaps there are among us such convinced souls who say, "I come
short in everything and it becomes worse every day. Sometimes I have
hope, but I dare not speak of it, for it is soon gone and I cannot
stand before God. Oh, what will it come to, and where will it end?"
Where will it end, do you ask? At the end of the law, namely Christ.
"The law came four hundred years after", says the Apostle Paul. At
Sinai God gave His people the ten commandments and brought them under
the ceremonial administration. Why? To bring them to Christ so that
they might find in Him all that is necessary for their salvation. May
it also become your portion to be drawn to Christ through the
conviction of your sin, to learn to know your guilt and your lost
state, so that you may find rest for your soul in Him. May he become
your foundation more and more so that you may know nothing save Jesus
Christ, and Him crucified.
    Oh, there is so much satisfaction in Him. There is much more
satisfaction in pointing others to Jesus than in building each other up
in frames and feelings, and encouraging others through tears and
experiences. The fountain of comfort for the church of God does not lie
in these things, but only in Christ, Who is the end of the law. Perhaps
you say, "That is stern language!" Oh, I wish I could be so stern that
you would shrink within yourselves, for the more guilty God's people
know themselves to be, the more precious Christ becomes. Then the soul
has but one desire, namely, to be saved in Christ, for He has fulfilled
the law in His passive and active obedience, so that sinners may be
reconciled with God.
    Now there is another aspect of the law which pertains to the way of
sanctification. This aspect of God's law belongs to the doctrine of
thankfulness. David says of it,
        "Thy testimonies I have kept,
        They are my chief delight;
        Observant of Thy law and truth,
        I walk before Thy sight."
    Also in this the people of God come short. On the one hand the Lord
imparts a holy zeal to keep His commandments, with the result that
God's children do not think lightly of sin. Soon Satan lays his snares
and God hides His face. The life of some of God's dear children, of
whom we have already mentioned a few, shows that if God leaves us for a
moment, we fall into the way of sin. Therefore they are happy who fear
alway, who are afraid of sin, of transgressing God's commandments, of
the temptations of Satan and of their own flesh. Happy are they that
fear alway, for they are kept near to the Lord. That is why the Lord
sometimes sends affliction upon His people. He wants them to crucify
and mortify their flesh, so that they shall partake more and more of
the righteousness of God which is in Christ Jesus.
    Thus on the one hand the Lord imparts a holy zeal against sin. On
the other hand, the experience of God's people, in their wrestling
against sin which is sometimes very painful, they say, "I wish I had
never been among the people of God, for soon I shall with Demas love
the present world." Therefore in that bitter conflict, they are very
dependent upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, so that God may save
them from sin, the roots being deep in their hearts. There is no sin
that does not dwell in the heart. It happens often that immediately
following the lively frames and desires of the soul, fleshly desires
enter. What I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch.
    In the third place, I would call your attention to one more matter.
Do you know why the people are so thoughtless in our days? Why are
there so few of God's exercised people? Why has the Lord taken so many
to heaven and so few take their places? Are we not compelled to say as
we think of those old exercised people who have gone through these deep
exercises, "Jacob has become very lean."? What is the cause? The cause
lies in this, that there is little discovery of self. When that is
lacking, and self-knowledge is not discernible through increased
discovery and removal of false grounds, we can easily do without Christ
and yet remain Christians. We then have another ground to rest upon,
namely this, "God has wrought a work in me", or "He has led me to
Christ", or "He has confirmed me in my state, and that was not done in
a corner." But with all these, the exercises of the new life are
lacking. One can notice this at once when it comes to the practice, for
there is no need of Christ. Is it then for naught that He is glorified
in heaven and sits at the right hand of His Father to pray for His
church day and night? When there is no need for Christ, there are no
exercises of faith, no growth in grace. For that reason the Catechism
says, "Why will God then have the law so strictly preached?" So
strictly in the part of thankfulness? So strictly for the people of
God? Why must the law be expounded in such great detail and so closely
applied to the conscience, since Christ has fulfilled the law for His
people? So that we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature.
Oh, how God's people are humbled here, coming down as it were from
Lebanon. How deeply was Paul abased, and how do all God's children come
down in the dust of humiliation. Also in the way of sanctification,
they must come to an end of their own endeavors, so that Christ alone
shall be their sanctification. Only in Him can they meet their God and
Father, and find access by faith to the throne of grace.
    For that reason may the Lord not withhold His Holy Spirit. People
of God, ask much for the continual working of the Holy Spirit, so you
may learn to know His Person and Work; to need Him to be led, guided
and kept by Him, even when there are secret faults within and the enemy
seeks occasion to sink his claws into God's elect. At such times He
will spread His wings over them, and in all this, prepare them for
eternal glory.
    These two things always go together: employment of Christ as a
fruit of the discovering work of the Holy Spirit. Thou shalt not covet,
because our whole being is enmity against God, meaning that in us, that
is in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing. But employing Christ by faith,
gives a longing for eternal glory, there to serve God eternally without
sin. One day we shall be above all affliction, misery, scorn and sin,
people of God, to praise and glorify God eternally. May that encourage
and strengthen us and cause us to say continually with Paul: "I follow
after, if that I may apprehend. I desire to depart and to be with
Christ which is far better." The Lord grant us also that agreement with
His will which the Apostle adds: "Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is
more needful for you." God leads His church through conflict that they
may soon receive the crown.
    The Lord grant that we may have need for the discovering light of
the Holy Spirit. Ask much that the Lord may grant His servants this
light. Otherwise opinions are delivered from the pulpit about the
weightiest matters, but how it is obtained is missing, and God's poor
people are saddened because they are not satisfied. But if they
themselves would learn to speak out of the depths of true humiliation
in their sermons, the Lord could lead His church through them. His
people might then obtain the fruit of Christ being formed in them and
glorified in them, in all His offices as Prophet, Priest and King. In
this way they would walk in the ways of God and obtain a free access to
God's heart of love in the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of His
thrice-holy Name. Amen.

Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2
(continued in part 19...)

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