(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 Beloved, 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 righteousness. Q. 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments? 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. I 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, II 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 me." 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, III 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 commandment. 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 you. 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...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc2-18.txt .