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A hope fixed in God will never fail us

Johann Gerhard

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

O HOLY Lord Jesus, Thou blessed Bridegroom of my soul, when wilt Thou lead me into the solemnities of Thy nuptials, the marriage-supper of the Lamb (Rev. xix. 7)? A sojourner am I upon the earth, and exiled from Thee, yet most firmly do I believe, doubting nothing, that ere long, released from the fetters of the body, I shall appear before Thy face (Ps. xvii. 15). “Fear and trembling are come upon me” (Ps. lv. 6), because I carry my treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor. iv. 7). Prone is my mind to error, prone is my will to sin, so that I cannot even say that the spirit is always willing (Matt. xxvi. 41) though the flesh is always weak; sin hath taken me captive, and the law of my members wars against the law of my mind (Rom. vi. 23). Fear and trembling are come upon me because Satan is continually plotting against my treasure; to extreme cunning he adds an intense desire to work my ruin, and the greatest power. Adam he deceived in paradise (Gen. iii.); Judas, under the instruction of our Saviour Himself (John xiii. 27); how can I, a poor miserable sinner, hope to be secure from his insidious arts? Fear and trembling are come upon me because I am still in this world, and this “whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John v. 19). The delights of the world tempt me, difficulties in the way of the Lord terrify me, the allurements of the world charm me, the whole world is full of snares to entangle my unwary feet; unhappy man that I am, how can I escape? Even my joys dispute my advance in the Christian life; sorrow opposes my way; O, wretched man that I am, how shall I be able to stand? Fear and trembling are come upon me because it is God who worketh in me both to will and to do (Phil. ii. 13). I fear lest my sinful negligence and carelessness should lead God in holy indignation to take His good-will from me which He hath given me. So unworthily do I use the remission of sins He has granted me, and so disdainfully do I treat His first proffers of grace to me, that I greatly fear lest by a secret and righteous judgment of God I shall be deservedly deprived of that which I have so unworthily used. I tremble lest I may be deserted by Him, whom I time and again since my conversion have so shamefully deserted. What anguish does the thought give me that a heavier and severer judgment may follow these great benefits the Lord has conferred upon me, if it shall appear that I have abused them. And yet I am comforted by the thought of the infinite mercy of God, who, as He has given me the power to will, will give me, also, the power to do, for He is a God that changeth not (Mal. iii. 6); “His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever” (Ps. cxvii. 2). “The foundation of the Lord standeth sure” (2 Tim. ii. 19). Certainly it standeth sure, because it is in God Himself, with whom is no variableness; and because it is confirmed by the blood of Christ, which ever speaks with eloquent voice before the throne of God (Heb. xii. 24), and because it is securely sealed to us in the holy sacraments which He has instituted.

If I should seek for some grounds of salvation, however small, in myself, I would certainly be obliged to doubt of my salvation; but as I am justified solely for Christ’s sake, so my hopes of salvation are grounded only in Him. If I had laid hold on Christ as my Saviour by a free exercise of my own will, unassisted by divine grace, then would I have cause to fear greatly, that by a change of my fickle will I might also lose Christ; but since Christ has been found by me who sought not for Him, surely after He has thus been found, He will not withdraw Himself from me. Surely, He who hath led me out of the very shadow of death (Luke i. 79) into His marvelous light and liberty, will not allow me to be forced back into the awful darkness that formerly enveloped my soul. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom xi. 29), so far as God’s will is concerned; and oh, that I might be just as unchangeable in my holy desires and purposes! The treasury of divine grace and blessing is always at hand, but oh, how languid and weak ofttimes becomes the hand of faith to lay hold of its gifts! But I shall be able fully to apprehend Christ, for I know that, inasmuch as He has revealed Himself to me in His word and promises, He will most mercifully grant me grace to rest confidently in His word and promises. I will guard my faith by a use of all the supports and comforts and defences of earnest prayer, and like Jacob of old (Gen. xxxii. 26), I will not let the Lord go until He bless me with His salvation. By the power of God it is possible for me to be kept unto eternal salvation (1 Pet. i. 5); this power of God cheers and comforts my soul, whilst the thought of my own weakness oppresses and saddens me. And the Lord’s “strength shall be made perfect in my weakness” (2 Cor. xii 9); ah! He will strengthen me, from whom alone cometh all strength of faith. The grace of God cheers my heart, whilst my own unworthiness in His sight terrifies me. And yet, if I were worthy in myself, my salvation would not be of grace but of merit (Rom. i. 6); and if it be of works, it surely can not be of grace. For grace is not grace at all, unless it is altogether and entirely gratuitous. And so I look not upon my works for any ground of salvation; what is wrong in them God will correct; what is lacking He will graciously supply; what is sinful He will mercifully blot out. What He will not impute to me is just as if it had never been. And hence only as my salvation is of God is it sure and unchangeable.

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