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A Godly Life is the Wisest Life

Johann Gerhard

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

EVERY day thou livest thou art approaching nearer and nearer to death, to the judgment, and to eternity. Consider, therefore, day by day, how thou shalt meet the hour of death, stand the severe test of the judgment, and live during all eternity. We must exercise diligent care respecting all our thoughts, our words, our deeds; for we must render a strict account for all these in the day of judgment (Matt. xii. 36). Consider every evening that death may overtake thee this night; and let thy thought be every morning that death may come to thee this day. Put not off conversion and the exercise of good works until to-morrow, for it is not certain that thou shalt see to-morrow, but death is certain, and it is always threatening thee. Nothing is more fatal to godliness than procrastination. If thou continuest to despise the inward call of the Holy Spirit, thou wilt never be truly converted. Delay not conversion and good works until old age; but offer to God the power and the bloom of thy youth. It is not at all certain that the young shall attain to old age, but it is certain that destruction is prepared for the young who die in impenitency. No time of life is more suitable for the service of God than youth, with its flourishing activities of body and mind. Thou shouldest never commit an evil deed to win the favor of any man, for not that man but God Himself shall one day judge thy life; never deem, therefore, the favor of any man preferable to the grace of thy God. We are either making progress or losing ground in the way of the Lord; examine thy life daily, therefore, to see whether thou art advancing in the pursuit of godliness or retrograding. To stand still in the way of the Lord is really to retrograde; congratulate thyself, therefore, if thou art not standing still the course of a godly life, but strive earnestly always to walk forward in the way of the Lord. In thy conversation be pleasant to all, be harsh to none, and familiar with few. Live piously towards God, chastely with thyself, justly towards thy neighbor. Treat thy friends kindly, thine enemies patiently, and all benevolently, and as far as possible also beneficently. Whilst thou livest die daily to thyself and to thy vices, that when thou diest thou mayest live unto God.

Let mercy always be manifest in thy disposition of mind; kindness in thy countenance, humility in thy manner, modesty in thy intercourse with others, and patience in thy tribulations. Always consider the past with respect to these three things: the evil I have committed, the good I have omitted, and the time I have lost. Always consider the present with respect to these three things: the brevity of my present life, the difficulty of salvation, and the fewness of the saved. Always consider the future with respect to these three: death, than which nothing is more horrible; the judgment, than which nothing is more terrible; and the fires of hell, than which nothing can be more intolerable. Let thine evening prayers correct the sins of the day just past; and let the last day of the week correct the faults of the preceding days. Think every evening, how many have gone headlong into hell this day, and give thanks to God that He hath granted thee longer time for repentance. There are three things above thee, of which thou shouldst never lose sight: the all-seeing eye of God, His all-hearing ear, and His books in which all things are recorded. God hath given Himself wholly to thee; do thou give thyself wholly to thy neighbor. The best life on earth is that which is wholly spent in serving others. Reverence and obey thy superiors; counsel and aid thine equals; watch over and teach thine inferiors. Keep thy body in subjection to thy mind, and thy mind to God. Lament thy past misdeeds; do not overvalue thy present good, and with thy whole heart strive after those future blessings which God hath set before thee. Remember thy sins, that thou mayst bewail them; be mindful of death, that thou mayst avoid sin; keep in mind the divine justice, that thou mayst fear to sin; and above all remember the mercy of thy God, lest thou yield to despair.

As far as possible withdraw from the world, and give thyself wholly to the service of the Lord. Always bear in mind that thy purity is imperiled by the pleasures of the world, thy humility by its riches, and thy godliness by its business cares. Seek to please no one but Christ, and fear to displease no one but Christ. Always pray God that He may command that which is pleasing to Him, and may give thee what He thus commands; that He may cover what thou hast done amiss, and may control all thy future course. Be in reality what thou desirest to appear to be, for God judgeth not according to the appearance but according to truth. In speech, let thy words be few, for every idle word must be accounted for at the judgment. Thy works, whatever they are, do not pass away, but are scattered abroad, as it were, as seeds that shall spring up in eternity. “For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. vi. 8). The honors of this world shall not follow thee after death, nor all thy gathered riches, nor worldly pleasures or vanities; but the deeds which thou hast done shall follow thee beyond the bounds of this life (Rev. xiv. 13). As therefore thou wouldst stand before God in the judgment, thou shouldst appear in His sight to-day. Consider not so much what thou hast, as what is lacking in thee; instead of priding thyself upon what has been given thee, rather humble thyself because of what has been denied thee. Learn to live rightly, whilst thou art permitted to live. In this life eternal life is either won or lost; after death the time for works has past, and the time for receiving the reward of our present works begins.

Let holy meditation produce in thee a knowledge of thy true condition, and this lead thee to conviction of sin, and conviction beget in thee a spirit of devotion, and this indite thy prayer. Silence of the mouth is an excellent thing for peace of heart.

The more thou art separated from the world, the more pleasing thou wilt be to God. Whatever thou wouldst have, ask God for it; whatever thou hast already, ascribe it to God. He is not worthy of new blessings who is not grateful for those already given. The streams of heavenly blessing cease to flow down to us, when there are no return-streams of gratitude and praise to God. Turn to good account whatever befalls thee; if prosperity attends thy steps, think what an opportunity this affords thee of blessing and praising God; if adversity overtakes thee, think what an admonition it is to penitence and conversion. Employ thy power in aiding the weak, thy wisdom in instructing the ignorant, and thy riches in benefactions to the poor. Let not adversity crush thee, nor prosperity unduly exalt thee. Let Christ be the aim of thy life; follow Him in this world, that thou mayst come at last into His fellowship in the heavenly fatherland. In all things let thy greatest care be to manifest deep humility and glowing love. Lovingly lift up thy heart to God and cling to Him; let humility so affect thy heart as to save thee from pride. Look upon God as thy Father in His clemency toward thee, and as thy Lord in His discipline of thee; as thy Father in the gentler exercise of His power, as thy Lord in its severer; love Him affectionately as thy Heavenly Father; fear Him, of necessity, as thy Lord and Master. Love Him because He delights in mercy; fear Him because He delights not in sin. Fear the Lord, and hope thou in Him (Ps. xxxvii.5); acknowledge thine own unworthiness, and tell forth the wonders of His grace.

O God, Thou who hast given us the desire to please Thee, give us also the grace to do that which is well-pleasing in Thy sight!

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