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Let Christ be the Rule of thy Life

Johann Gerhard

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

THE holy life of Christ is the most perfect model of virtue we can have; every action of His is rich in instruction for us. Many wish to attain to Christ, but refuse to follow Him; many wish to enjoy Christ, but not to imitate Him. “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. xi. 29), says our Saviour. Unless thou art willing to be a disciple of Christ, thou wilt never be a true Christian. Let the passion of Christ be thy merit, but at the same time let His holy life be the model for thine. Thy Beloved is white and ruddy (Cant. v. 10); and so mayest thou be ruddy by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and white by the imitation of His life. How dost thou truly love Christ, if thou dost not love His holy life? “If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” says the Saviour (John xiv. 15, 23). Hence he who keepeth not His commandments loveth Him not.

The holy life of Christ is a perfect rule of conduct for our lives, and a rule that is to be preferred to all the rules of such saints as Francis and Benedict. If thou wouldst be an adopted son of God, behold how thy Saviour, the only-begotten Son of God, lived in this world. If thou wouldst be a joint heir with Christ, thou shouldst also be an imitator of Christ. He who voluntarily lives in open vice has given himself to the service of the devil. But how can such an one live the life of Christ? To love vice is to love the devil; because all sin is of the devil (1 John iii. 8). And how can a man be a true lover of Christ who is a lover of the devil? To love God is to love a holy life, because every holy life is of God; how can one then be a lover of God who is not a lover of a holy life? The proof of love is in our works; it is characteristic of love to obey the loved one, to be in perfect accord in mind and heart with the loved one. If then thou truly lovest Christ, thou wilt obey His commands, thou will love a holy life with Him, and being renewed in the spirit of thy mind, thou wilt meditate upon heavenly things (Eph. iv. 23). Life eternal is a knowledge of Christ (John xvii. 3): but he who loves not Christ does not even know Him; he who loves not humility, purity, gentleness, temperance, charity, does not love Christ, for the life of Christ is nothing else than the embodiment of these several virtues. Christ says that He knows not those who do not the will of His Father (Matt. vii. 21); hence those who disobey the will of the heavenly Father do not know Christ. But what is the will of the Father? “Our sanctification” (1 Thess. iv. 3) says the apostle. He that hath not the Spirit of Christ is none of His (Rom. viii. 9); but where the Spirit is there His gifts and fruits will manifest themselves. But what are fruits of the Spirit? “Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. v. 22). As the Spirit rested upon Christ (Is. xi. 2), so He rests also upon all those united to Christ by true faith, for the beloved of Christ rejoices in the savor of His good ointments (Cant. i. 3). He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Cor. vi. 17). Just as a man and a woman joined together in holy matrimony are no more twain but one flesh (Matt. xix. 6) so the spiritual union of Christ and the believing soul makes of them one spirit. But where there is one spirit, there is the same will; and where there is the same will, there will be the same actions also. And thus if one’s life conform not to the life of Christ, it is clearly evident that he is neither clinging to Christ nor has the Spirit of Christ. Is it not proper that our whole life should be conformed to Christ’s, since He has conformed Himself to our low estate out of pure love for us? God manifesting Himself in the flesh (1 Tim. iii. 16), has afforded us a perfect example of a holy life, so that no one might excuse his failure to live such a life by appealing to the weakness of the flesh. No life can be more joyful and tranquil than Christ’s, because Christ was true God; and what can be more joyful and tranquil than the true God Himself, the highest good? Life in this world affords but short-lived joy, but even that is followed by eternal sorrow. To whom thou dost conform thyself in this life, to him thou shalt be conformed in the resurrection. If thou dost begin to conform thyself to the life of Christ here, then in the resurrection thou wilt be more fully conformed to Him; but if thou art like the devil here in sin, then in the resurrection thou wilt be like him in torment.

“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily,” says our Saviour (Mat. xvi. 24). If in this life thou dost deny thyself, then in the judgment Christ will acknowledge thee as His own. If for Christ’s sake thou dost renounce in this life thine own honor, thine own love, thine own will, then in the future life Christ will graciously make thee a sharer of His own honor, His own love, His own will. If thou bearest the cross after Him here, thou shalt share in His eternal glory over there. If thou art a partaker of tribulation with Him here, thou wilt be a partaker of His heavenly consolation over there. If thou sufferest persecution with Him in this world, thou shalt participate in the glorious recompense of reward in the world to come. “Whosoever shall confess Me before men,” says Christ, “him will I also confess before My father which is in heaven” (Matt. x. 32). And indeed we ought to confess Christ not only by a profession of the truth He taught, but also by conforming our lives to His; and so at last, in the day of judgment, will He acknowledge us as His before His Father in heaven. “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven” (Matt. x. 33). Now we may deny Christ not only in so many words, but by an ungodly life. If any man denies Christ by his deeds in this world, Christ will also deny him by His actions at the judgment. He is not a Christian who has not a true faith in Christ; but a true faith in Christ engrafts us as branches into Him (John xv. 4). Every branch in Christ that beareth not fruit the heavenly husbandman taketh away. But he who abides in Christ and in whom Christ dwells by faith (Eph. iii. 17), bears much fruit. The branch that draws not its life-force from the vine is not really in the vine. And the soul that does not draw love, its spiritual nourishment from Christ by faith, is really not united to Christ by faith.

Make us more and more like Thee, O blessed Jesus, that in the world to come we may be perfectly conformed to Thee!

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