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An Acknowledgment of a Fault Heals It

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

O HOLY God (Lev. xi. 45), Thou just Judge (Ps. vii. 12), my sins are ever before Thine eyes and present to Thy thought. Every hour do I think of death, for every hour death threatens me. Every day do I think of the judgment (2 Cor. v. 10), because for every day I must give an account at the Day of Judgment. I examined my life, and lo! it is altogether vain and wicked. Vain and unprofitable are many of my actions; vainer still are very many of my words; whilst full of vanity are the most of my thoughts. Nor is my life only vanity; it is also unholy and wicked; nothing good do I find in it. Even if I should find in it anything apparently good, yet it is not really good and perfect, because tainted with original sin and a corrupt nature. The godly Job said (Job ix. 28): "I am afraid of all my works;" and if so pious a saint thus complains, what must I, a miserable sinner, say of myself? "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Is. lxiv. 6). If such be our righteousness, what then will be our unrighteousness? "When ye shall have done," said the Saviour (Luke xvii. 10), "all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants." If we are unprofitable when we obey, surely we shall be abominable when we transgress His commands. If I owe Thee, O holy God, myself and all I can do, when I commit no sin, what can I possibly render Thee when I sin? Our righteousness, however excellent it seems to us, compared with Thine, is naught but unrighteousness. A lamp that gleams in the darkness is obscured in the light of the sun. Often a stick is supposed to be straight, until compared with a rule, its crookedness appears. Frequently the impression of a seal appears perfect to the ordinary beholder, whilst the eyes of the artificer will discover many defects. And thus often a deed that glows in the opinion of the doer, appears mean in the thought of the Judge; for the judgments of men are one thing, the judgments of God another. The remembrance of my many sins terrifies me; but oh! how many more escape my memory! "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults" (Ps. xix. 12), O Lord. To heaven I dare not lift up my eyes (Luke viii. 13), because I have offended Him who dwelleth in the heavens. Nor can I find any refuge upon earth. For how dare I hope for any favor from the creature, since I have offended the Lord of all creatures? My adversary, the devil, accuses me (Rev. xii. 10): "Thou righteous Judge," says he to God, "adjudge him mine on account of his sin, who would not be Thine through the offer of Thy grace; Thine he is by nature, mine by his willful delight in sin; Thine he is through Thy passion, mine through my persuasion; disobedient to Thee, he has been obedient to me; from Thee he received the robe of immortality and innocence, from me he has received these tattered garments of unrighteousness; Thy robe he has lost, in mine he comes to Thee. Adjudge him then to be mine, and condemn him to share my eternal damnation."

All the elements rise in judgment against me. The heavens cry out, "I have comforted thee with light." The air exclaims, "I have given thee every variety of birds for thy pleasure." The waters say, "I have given thee every kind of fish for thy sustenance." The earth declares, "I have supplied thee with bread and wine for thy nourishment. Yet hast thou abused all these things, and hast brought our common Creator into contempt; let all our blessings therefore be turned into instruments to torture thee!" The fire cries out, "Let him be burnt in me!" The water says, "Let him be drowned in me." The air calls out, "Let him be tossed and driven by my tempests." The earth exclaims, "Let him be swallowed up by me." The fire again says, "Let my flames devour him."

The holy angels, whom God hath given to be my ministering spirits and my companions in the future life, accuse me also; and, alas! by my sins I have deprived myself of their holy ministry in this life and of the blessed hope of their fellowship in the life that is to come. The very voice of God, the divine law, is also my accuser: that law I must either keep, or perish; but for me to fulfill that law is plainly impossible, and the thought of perishing is absolutely intolerable. And God, the inflexible Judge, the almighty executor of His own external law, accuses me; Him I cannot deceive, for He is wisdom itself; from Him I cannot flee, for everywhere His power reigneth. Whither, then, shall I flee (Ps. cxxxix. 7)? To Thee, O blessed Christ, my only Redeemer and Saviour, do I fly for refuge. Great indeed are my sins; but greater far is the satisfaction Thou hast made for them; great is my unrighteousness, but greater far is Thy righteousness. I admit my sin, oh, do Thou graciously remit its penalty. I reveal it, do Thou mercifully conceal it. I penitently uncover it, do Thou graciously hide it. In me there is nothing but sin that deserves Thy condemnation; in Thee there is nothing but grace, that affords me blessed hope of salvation. I have committed many sins for which I could be most justly condemned; but Thou hast omitted nothing, that Thou mightest most graciously save me. I hear a voice in Canticles (ii. 14), which bids me, hide in the clefts of the rock. Thou art the immovable rock (I Cor. x. 4), and Thy wounds its clefts; in them I will hide me against the accusations of the whole world. My sins cry aloud to heaven for vengeance; but still more strongly cries out Thy blood shed for my sins (Heb. xii. 24). My sins mightily accuse me before God; but Thy passion is mightier for my defense. My dreadfully wicked life clamors for my condemnation; but Thy holy and righteous life pleads more powerfully still for my salvation. I appeal from the throne of Thy justice to the throne of Thy mercy; nor do I desire to come before Thy judgment bar, unless Thy most holy merit interpose between me and Thy judgment.

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