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The Cross of Christ is our Crown

Johann Gerhard

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

(Written during a very severe illness, January 1, 1604.)

ALL the glory of the godly is in the shame of our Lord's passion. All their rest is in the wounds of our crucified Saviour. His death is our life; His exaltation is our glory. How great is Thy mercy, O heavenly Father, O Almighty God! By mine own power have I offended Thee; but by mine own power has it been impossible to please Thee! Thou, therefore, in Christ art reconciling me to Thyself. Behold, O holy God, the sacred mystery of Thy flesh, and remit the guilt of my flesh. Graciously regard what Thy blessed Son hath patiently suffered, and overlook what Thy sinful servant hath done. My flesh hath provoked Thee to anger; let the flesh of Thy Son, I pray Thee, incline Thee to mercy. My sins deserve the severest punishment at Thy hands, but far more hath the devotion of my Redeemer merited Thy mercy. Great is my unrighteousness, but greater far is the righteousness of my Redeemer. As far as the mighty God is above puny man, so far is my wickedness beneath His goodness, in quality as well as in quantity. All that I am is Thine, because Thou hast created me; grant, O Lord, that it may be wholly Thine also by free and happy choice. Thou dost lead me to ask (Matt. vii. 7), grant that I may also receive! Thou dost give me the disposition to seek, grant that I may find. Thou dost teach me to knock, open unto me, I beseech Thee, when I do knock. From Thee cometh the desire, may the power to obtain come also from Thee. From Thee I have the power to will, grant me also the power to do (Phil. ii. 13).

Holy God, just Judge, if my sins are concealed (Ps. xxxii. 3), they are incurable; if seen, they are detestable; they greviously distress me; but more than all, they oppress me with a horrible fear. Withhold not, I beseech Thee, O God, Thy real and tender compassion, where Thou seest such real and awful misery! Where sin abounds, may grace much more abound. Holy Father, do not, I pray Thee, pour out upon me Thy wrath, since for my sins Thou hast smitten Thy blessed Son! Holy Jesus, deliver me, I beseech Thee, from divine wrath, for that Thou hast borne upon the cross for my sake! Holy Spirit, protect me, I implore Thee, with Thy blessed consolation from the wrath of God, who in the gospel hath announced mercy to the penitent and contrite soul. O holy God, O righteous Judge, no whither can I flee from the face of Thy wrath. "If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I descend into hell, behold Thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me." (Ps. cxxxix. 7-10.) To Christ, therefore, will I flee, and in His wounds will I hide me. O merciful God, behold the body of Thy Son so sorely wounded in every part, and regard not the wounds of my sins. Let the blood of Thy Son cleanse me from every sinful stain (I John i. 7). Hear Thou His most earnest prayer, offered for the salvation of His chosen ones (John xvii. 9).

O holy God, Thou righteous Judge, my life terrifies me; for a diligent examination of it discloses only sin and unfruitfulness, and what fruit does appear therein is either so false, or imperfect, or in some way so corrupted, that it either cannot please Thee or is absolutely displeasing to Thine eyes. Truly, my whole life is, on the one hand, sinful and worthy of Thy condemnation, and on the other unfruitful and wretched. But why do I distinguish between unfruitful and worthy of condemnation? For certainly if it is unfruitful it is to be condemned; for every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cast into the fire (Matt. iii. 10). And not only shall that tree be burned which bears evil fruit, but that also which bears no fruit. When I think of those on Thy left hand in the judgment, I am sore afraid, since they are there not because they have done anything bad, but because they have done nothing good (Matt. xxv. 32): to the hungry they gave no food; to the thirsty, no drink.

O fruitless tree, thou art dry and useless, and fit only for the eternal flames. What answer wilt thou make in that dread day when, in the twinkling of an eye, thy whole life shall lie open before thee, and the righteous Judge shall sternly demand how thou hast spent it? Not a hair of thy head shall perish unnoticed, nor a moment of thy life pass unjudged! Oh, what a strait to be in! On the one hand will be thy sins accusing thee, on the other God's righteousness striking terror into thy soul! Beneath thee, the horrible pit of hell shall gape with wide-open mouth, and above they shall sit the righteously angry Judge! Within thee, a burning conscience; without thee, a burning world! The righteous shall scarcely be saved; whither then shall a guilty sinner turn (1 Pet. iv. 18)? To hide will be impossible, and yet to appear before God intolerable. How then can I possibly be saved? With whom shall I take counsel? Who is He that is called the Wonderful, the Counsellor (Is. ix. 6)? It is Jesus Himself, the very same who is my Judge, and in whose hands I am trembling with fear. Take courage then, O my soul, and despair not. Hope thou in Him whom thou dost fear; flee thou to Him for refuge, from whom thou hast fled in fear. O Jesus Christ, for Thy name's sake, deal with me according to Thy name. Mercifully regard me, a miserable sinner, as I call upon Thy name. If Thou shouldst admit me within the capacious bosom of Thy compassion, it will not be the more straitened on my account. True is it, O Lord, that my participation in sin merits condemnation, and my penitence can never satisfy Thee; but certain is it also that Thy mercy exceeds all my offense. In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust, let me not be confounded forever.

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