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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Luke 16,1-9. The 9. Sunday after Trinity. Henric Schartau

Luke 16,1-9
The 9. Sunday after Trinity
Henric Schartau (1757-1825)

1. (140) In the Name of the Great Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
2. What shall I do? The steward in our text put this question to himself, when he realized that he was near his fall. In a wretched world, full of toil and sorrow, this sad question is not infrequently heard. Men have fascinating speculations, but some unexpected accident upsets their plans, and they are cast into greater difficulties than before. Then all shrewdness disappears, and hope is changed into perplexity. In this condition a person looks round about everywhere for counsel and help, inquiring with anxiety: “What shall I do?” Luke 16,3.
3. With most people this concern extends only to the misery pertaining to this life. O confident sinner, either you never think as far as eternity, or you consider it an easy matter to be saved. You consider it great, important, and fortunate to feel good while here, to be glad, to get what you want in life, but thoughts concerning your eternal welfare you leave for an advanced age, for the sick-bed, or for the time of death, as though the reflections of a few brief moments, and a few sighs were thinking enough, provision enough, for your soul and for eternity, while your whole lifetime has not sufficed for the innumerable concerns for this world and for your body.
4. (141) If you stopped to think why you have come into this world, and whither you will go when you must depart; how helpless you are with reference to your soul’s salvation; how many and powerful enemies surround you; how unexpectedly death may come upon you; how great is your guilt before God; how long eternity is, and how impossible it is there to repent -- if you meditate on these matters, then, like the steward, you would begin to worry and, even with reference to your salvation, earnestly inquire: “What shall I do?”
5. Indeed, you cannot do anything for your salvation. Your Savior has done everything to purchase it for you. The Holy Spirit ha undertaken to do everything to have you share salvation. The only thing for you to do is to use the means of grace, accept grace, and not resist the workings of the Holy Spirit. We do not wish to enter more deeply into these meditations, until we have found occasion in the Gospel of the day and sought God’s grace for the performance. We ask this in the Savior’s Name, praying: “Our Father,” etc.

The First Workings of Grace by which the Holy Spirit Seeks to Awaken Confident Sinners to Anxiety for their Eternal Salvation

The first workings of grace.
A great number act in an entirely wrong way when spiritual emotions arise.
The correct and only way to take when anxiety for salvation arises in the soul.

(142) First Part.
The First Workings of Grace whereby the Holy Spirit Seeks to Awaken Secure Sinners to Anxiety for Their Eternal Election.

6. “There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he was wasting his goods.” So we read in the Gospel. God is this rich man, “the same Lord of all,rich unto all who call upon Him.” A lot of this riches, both in the reign of nature and of grace, He has given you, as stewards, to use and to care for. The servant in the Gospel wasted his master’s goods. There are, indeed, many who act no better with reference to the goods of their Lord. Here is one who has good health but it is being destroyed, either by vice or in riotous enjoyments. Here is one whom God has given opportunity to acquire great learning, but it is being lazily neglected. Here is another on whom God has lavished worldly riches, but he squanders it as a profligate or he hoards it as a miser. To each one of you God has given the most precious of all His treasures, His only begotten Son, but a large number of you pass Him by in unbelief. God grants you emotions of grace, but you either resist the or misinterpret them to the appropriation of false comfort. He gives you time for repentance,but you abuse it and move heedlessly on in sins and impenitence. Nor is this, as you wish to (143) pretend, done by reason of your weakness, because you are an imperfect human being. No, it is done by reason of your impenitence, by reason of an obdurate soul, which is unwilling to accept the grace of God unto repentance.
7. The unrighteous steward did not think of a day of reckoning before him. Like another “evil servant,” mentioned in Matthew 24,48, he probably thought: “My Lord tarries”; but while he was suing his master’s goods in an unjustifiable manner, the report of his faithlessness went abroad, and his master returned. When the steward least expected it, a message arrived from his master, summoning the steward to give an account. In like mann you also, O unconcerned soul, are wasting your Lord’s goods and neglecting His grace. You may, indeed, cherish the thought that death will tarry, and that in the meantime you are without responsibility; but when you feel most secure, perchance, in the midst of a sinful life, a fearful message reaches you from God. A few words from the preacher arrive like arrows from the Lord and pierce your hardened heart,causing pain and anxiety. A few lines in a devotional book become to you like the message of the Lord to Ezekiel: “Written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning and woe.” Sometimes the Holy Spirit makes use of some word which has lain inactive in your memory. This work becomes heavy and weighty, sinking down into the heart, and setting it in motion,. These first workings of grace, this first anxiety for salvation, are results of the Holy Spirit’s operation through the Word, just as the master in our Gospel “called the steward (144) and said unto him: What is this that I hear of you?” Even if outward occurrences contribute to this result, as in the case of the jailer in Philippi, it is nevertheless the Word which brings about true anxiety for the soul’s salvation; and it is the redemption wrought by Jesus which is the foundation of it all. His “blood speaks better than that of Abel.” It calls to God even for the unconverted sinner, lest it be in vain for him, and in order that he may experience its power unto spiritual awakening. It calls and, as it were, admonishes the Spirit of grace to try His utmost to arouse the sinner to an earnest concern for a share in the propitiation which this blood has wrought before God.
8. 1. This results from the upbraidings of conscience. “What is this that I hear of you?” said the master in our text to his servant. Although everything is silent in the dormant heart of a sinner, still conscience occasionally raises its voice, upbraiding him: “Thus you are doing, that is how you live.” Do you suppose that “The Lord shall not see, Neither shall the God of Jacob consider? He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?” the evil that you are doing? Shall He not hear your sinful speech? Does not the great searcher of hearts know the abominations, which you are harboring in your mind? Indeed, it is He who inquires: “What is this that I hear of you?” Is it right to live thus? Or why do you do this? Your oaths and curses -- are they your songs of praise for the good which the (145) Lord has done even to you? Your intentional sins -- are they the compensation for His goodness? The hostility, hardness, and indifference of your heart to your Savior -- are they your acknowledgement of His poverty, of His labor, of the hatred which He endured, of His anxiety, of His wound, of His pain of His death? May we not ask with Jeremiah: “Shall evil be recompensed for good?” Or in the words of our text: “What is this that I hear of you?” Such thoughts are often considered to be merely self-assumed fancies, or at best a natural consequence of a manifestly wicked life, but they are not the works of nature; they are the works of grace. It is the Holy Spirit, who thus quickens the conscience and arouses the sinner to think. If this supreme custodian of the conscience did not awaken sinners, they would never awake themselves after having once fallen asleep.
9. 2. The first workings of grace appear with unexpected reminders of death. “You can no longer be steward,” the master said in our text to his servant. He had to leave his stewardship. Such will be your lot in death. Then you must leave the world and its goods. The master in our text prepared his servant for the final dismissal. In like manner God reminds you that you must die, and He does this before death arrives. He does not reveal when or how death will arrive, but He reminds you of the brevity of life and of mortality. You live on a long time without thinking of this, but all at once there arrives a thought of death. Dear friends pass away, and you reflect today of what may happen to you tomorrow. Accidents and dangers represent death as more probable and, as it (146) were, near at hand. A certain fear follows upon such presentiments of the approaching King of Terror. Nor are these thoughts of death merely vain fancies or natural fears, for they sometimes occur without any apparent reason. No, it is the Holy Spirit, who would “teach you to number your days, so that you may get an heart of wisdom,” so that you may consider the aim of life and realize that you must soon “fly away.”
10. 3. The Holy Spirit awakens a sinner with secret dread of the day of reckoning, of judgment and of punishment: “Render the account of your stewardship.” The servant had received his stewardship with the understanding that he should render account tt his master. God gives freely, but He expects an account. In death it will appear how you have used the talent entrusted to you. If you wish to know what you have to hope or fear, just ask your conscience how your account stands, The judgment there found is written by the finger of God. It is the same judgment which will eventually be pronounced against you before the world, but God warns you while it may yet be altered. Believe me, the dread of eternity, which occasionally arises in your soul, the fear of hell, which often causes your heart to shudder -- these are the workings of grace wrought by the Holy Spirit, who seeks to awaken you to an earnest anxiety for your eternal welfare and salvation.

Second Part.
How a Great Number of People Act in an Entirely Wrong Way, When Such Anxiety Arises in Their Heart

11. The unfaithful steward is represented as being in anxiety over his situation. He gave expression to his uneasiness of mind, as we recall from the introduction. He realized his sad predicament, but he was not heartily concerned about regaining his master’s favor; no, he was merely concerned about how he might be supported during the rest of his life. So, likewise, the great majority of men, when they first become concerned about their soul’s salvation, seek not for grace that they may be saved, but only how they may quiet their anxiety and get rid of their uneasiness of mind. They stop with these first emotions and do not advance farther on the way of repentance.
12. 1. Some turn away from the first hardships that meet them on the way of repentance; they do this by reason of physical effeminacy and love of comfort. “I have not the strength to dig,” said the unfaithful steward. He was accustomed to luxury and did not think that he could endure hard work. He loved comfort and had no desire to try any human hardships. He therefore said: “I do not have the strength to dig.” In like manner you act with reference to your your salvation, O careless soul! When the Holy Spirit begins to arouse your conscience,your flesh and blood begin to wail. When the salt of the Holy Scriptures smart in the wounds of sin, you say as some of the followers of Jesus once said: “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” It appears to you that the representations of Scripture are (148) altogether too severe. You make the claim that you have a delicate and sensitive heart, which might in this way easily be brought to pangs of conscience and despair, and so you allow the fear of such pangs of conscience and despair to frighten you, and you fear them to the extent that you continue securely on the way to hell. Indeed, I believe, and make the confident assertion, that this foolish fear of despair is like a public thoroughfare on which most people journey to eternal perdition. O how utterly perverse to act thus! To begin and not finish! To be moved and yet remain unwilling to be converted! To see danger and not attempt to be saved, but rather grasp the wretched comfort of running into it with folded eyes! Even if it should cost you the most bitter tears of penitence, thus surely cannot be worse than the condition found where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Even though you should in your awakening experience the most awful agony, this cannot rise to the heat that prevails in “the lake of fire, which burns with fire and brimstone.”
13. 2. Others turn back by reason of false modesty. They say: “I am ashamed to beg.” You are ashamed of that which is not disgraceful. When the workings of grace become apparent, so that they attract the notice of the world, then you are ashamed to weep, and hence you endeavor to conceal and quench your emotions. The steward presumably thought that it would cost him too dearly to beg, after he had enjoyed plenty, even to the extent that he had been able to give to others. In like manner, it appears difficult for you who have looked upon yourself as a good Christian, and have been so considered by others, now to acknowledge that you are (149) a sinner under condemnation. You are ashamed to acknowledge that you need comfort, since you have comforted others. But you area fool; you are ashamed of that which is the greatest honor, namely, that the great God is drawing near to your heart. Do you suppose that you will gain greater honor by being thus ashamed? No, by trying to escape from temporal scorn, you put yourself in danger of eternal shame. You are now ashamed before a crowd of blind and ignorant people, but some day you may with them stand ashamed before the Majesty of God, before the heavenly hosts, yes, before the whole world; for Jesus has said: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He arrives in His glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.”
14. At first the steward had been at a loss to know what he should do, but when he was unwilling to do what he ought to have done, he chose perverse means out of his misery. When the first anxiety was over, he saw his way clear. He said: “I am resolved what to do.,” In consultation with his master’s creditors he thereupon falsified their bonds. He doubtless altered his accounts also, so that bonds and accounts might agree. In this way, too, his own indebtedness appeared far less, the books as well as bonds showing smaller receipts. What is the significance of all your excuses? Are they not counterfeits,falsifying God’s rights and your debts? You say: “I do the best I can,” and that, you imagine, is all that God can expect. You feel sure that He cannot demand more. But do you not know that God demands your whole heart? He says: “Give me, my son, (150) your heart.” Does he get it? No, you give your heart to the world. It is only a few externals you leave for God, and you thus make a deceitful subtraction from the great requirement of God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your might.”
15. Another expedient resorted to by sinners in their spiritual anxiety is that of looking to men for comfort. The unfaithful steward did this instead of going to his master and taking refuge in his mercy. In like manner, you do not exactly seek for grace and salvation, but to be comforted and to find peace. Of course, I do not mean to deny that an awakened sinner whose heart is filled with godly sorrow should have comfort. This he obtains from the God of all comfort, who has said: “Comfort, comfort My people.” No, but it is unreasonable to look for comfort before you are really sad at heart. Indeed, you wish to be comforted, in order that you may not be thus grieved, and that the first spark of unrest may be quenched before it develops into real anxiety. People are constantly crying for comfort, but they do not turn to God for it, but to men, even to men as blind and perverse as they themselves. These mighty comforters then sing to them the same lull-a-by, whereby they are accustomed to put their own conscience to sleep, and so “the blind lead the blind,” and both come nearer to the pit, the pit, whereof Isaiah says that “it is prepared of old, made deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood.” Is a sore healed merely because the pain has once subsided? No be assured that it will return and that, if you never wish to be sorrowful unto repentance, you shall eventually, (151) without repentance, land where there is indescribable sorrow and, eternally, no comfort.

Third Part.
The Correct and Only Way to Be Taken, When Anxiety for Salvation Arises in the Soul.

16. Some earnestly anxious soul may now ask: “shall I do so that I may be saved?” To this I reply, You must, in a way, do precisely what the steward was unwilling to do, what he felt unable and ashamed to do, dig and beg.
17. 1. You must dig, not in a bodily way, nor in such a spiritual way as if it were my counsel to a sorrowful soul that he should make every effort to work and thus try to help himself. Neither do I mean that you should try to dig yourself deeper and deeper into the knowledge of your sinful depravity, deeper than the Holy Spirit finds profitable and admits. Alas, no! There was digging enough for the purchasing of grace, when the earth was opened on Calvary, when the cross was planted on which the Son of God died as a curse or sinners. There was digging enough, when the thorns of His crown made deep pits in the head of the King of kings. There was digging enough, when the lashes of the scourging plowed deep furrows in His back. There was digging enough, when His side was pierced, after He had finished His labor for our sins and ended His toil for our transgressions. Consequently, there has been digging enough in the redemption of Jesus for the establishment of salvation. But your heart is like bedrock, unmoved by the love of Jesus, until it is torn by (152) the strokes of God’s mighty Word and leaves room for the power of redemption unto purity and sanctification. Prior to this, it is like a smoothened road, where the seed cannot strike root, until the earth has been plowed. Hence, Jeremiah says: “Break up your fallow ground and do not sow among thorns,” and Paul speaks of the human heart and the work of grace thereon as “God’s husbandry.” It is, then, not your own work of which I speak but that of the Holy Spirit, who begins and perfects such good work. It is He, who must examine how deeply the digging and plowing must go to cause humility and contrition, and it is He who must bring it about.
18. The only work of digging allowed you is that commanded by the Savior: “Search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they that bear witness of Me.” The Savior here had in mind the faithful work, the untiring thoughtfulness, with which miners dig in the earth and examine into its crevices in search of precious metals and the treasures of the earth. Thus He would have you not grow weary, but search the Scriptures with increasing diligence and devout care, so that you may there, in Christ, the rock of salvation, find the incorruptible treasures of heaven. This takes place, when you are rightly enlightened by the Spirit to understand, and by the mighty workings of God enabled to believe, the testimony of Christ, of which the Scriptures are full. “To Him bear all the prophets witness, that through His Name every one who believes on Him will receive remission of sins.”
19. 2. In the second place, a soul that is concerned about (153) salvation may beg. Begging in the usuals sense is by no means commendable, nor profitable for the body or the soul, but in spiritual trials begging is the only way of receiving grace and salvation. When a person is destitute and cannot earn anything for his livelihood, he takes to begging. So too, when you are poor in spirit, when you find that there is not the slightest good in you, nothing that can meet the approval of the holy and righteous God, when you realize that you cannot purchase or merit anything that will help you to obtain God’s grace and the inheritance of His reign, then the only means remaining is to ask or grace and to beg for mercy. You must, in the first place, come as a beggar to receive grace, but you must not on your way for spiritual alms proceed in your rags. You cannot conceal your wretchedness and nakedness before the omniscient God, nor even before men, for your filth is nevertheless apparent. The only thing you ay bring with you is a staff wherewith to support your fatigued soul and, like beggars, to defend yourself and chase the dogs away. I mean a bold hope in God’s mercy and grace for the sake of the merits of His only begotten Son. This is the staff on which you must lean when you approach the mercy seat. By it you are to drive away the dogs who come against you with chains of darkness, the impure spirits who are wont to attack the souls that seek for mercy, to tempt and trouble them with disheartening doubts. Come, then, though vile, approach the door of grace with timid boldness, knock with heartfelt sighing, and beg earnestly even for a crumb of the bread of grace in Jesus’ Name. If you find no immediate response, if the door remains shut (154) for a little while, if everything is quiet and it seems as though the Lord had not heard your raping nor heeded your prayer, you must still not depart in disheartening impatience, but wait quietly for the fulfillment of the promise: “Every one who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” Only continue, with earnest perseverance, to sigh and pray for forgiveness, for the sake of the redemption of Jesus, and for the Father’s grace by reason of the merits of His Son, and you shall eventually be admitted into the reign of grace, yes, be received, not as a faithless servant, but as a beloved child and a dear friend. Then shall the Lord blot out your guilt with the blood of Jesus and compensate for your faults and sins with His perfect righteousness. He shall also endow you with wisdom and power and a mind to understand and obey the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

20. It is remarkable that there is no one who has not at some time been noticeably moved by the Word of God. This is the first workings of grace by which the Holy Spirit seeks to awaken you to anxiety for salvation. It may seem hard for flesh and blood, but do not turn away fro this first step on the way of life, even though you fear still greater and more formidable difficulties. If you willingly submit to the workings of the Holy Spirit, heed His reminders, and follow His guidance; if you carefully use the grace He grants you, the first anxiety will become easier than you had expected.
21. O you anxious sinners, do not feel ashamed of this, (155) nor quench the anxiety of your soul. Be assured that although the world despises and hates you at times, it nevertheless harbors an inward feeling of respect for an upright form of Christianity. There will also come a time when the worldly minded will feel constrained to wish that they were like you, saying, with Balaam: 
 “Let me die the death of the righteous, and my last end be like his!”
22. Let not your natural egotism deceive you to make excuses and to minimize your guilt before God. Is it not easier to have it all blotted out at once and remitted for the sake of the payment made by Jesus than to make a vain attempt at falsify your bonds or, with your own righteousness, to pay the last farthing of an infinite debt? Bewared of the false comforts of men. They help you merely “from the ashes into the fire.”
23. You, my friends, who have passed through the first anxiety of repentance and have found comfort and peace in your Savior through faith in Him, do not let the love of worldly comfort entice you away from the cross. “If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow Me.” Consider how your Savior, in order to save you from eternal woe, gave up the joy of heaven and the comfort of the earth to the extent that He could say, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.” Do not feel ashamed of Him and His gospel, for He was not ashamed of your wretchedness. He took it upon Himself and became, in your stead, “despised and rejected of men.” Nor is He in His exaltation and glory ashamed of the wretchedness (156) and infirmity of His children. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Only continue to sink your hearts by faith into His wounds, into the boundless knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Press forward to a nearer and more intimate, loving and childlike confidence in Him. Do this by daily using His Word aright, begging for His grace and mercy. He will then eventually in a blessed death take you away from all manner of anxiety and grant you the salvation which He has purchased for you.
24. Lord Jesus! You have been anxious and grieved for our sins. Grant that Your power, thus obtained, may work in the hearts of sinners an earnest anxiety for the salvation which You have so dearly purchased. Mercifully do this for the sake of Your anxiety during thirty years, for the sake of Your indescribable anguish and Your eternal pain. Amen, Lord Jesus, amen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Matthew 7,13-14. The 8. Sunday after Trinity. Henric Schartau

Matthew 7,13-14
The 8. Sunday after Trinity
Henric Schartau (1757-1825)

(127) Introduction.
Enter in by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way that leads unto life, and few are they who find it.

1. This admonition of our Lord Jesus embraces the chief thing a person should accomplish while here on earth. It also describes the two different ways people walk upon. One of these you are certainly going! Note, then, their character, and hear how they terminate, so that you may understand which way you are on, and that you may know beforehand where you will eventually stop., “Enter in by the narrow gate, etc.” Matthew 7,13-14.

2. The Savior uses the figure of a way to set forth the spiritual attitude of a person toward God, but the entering into this attitude He represents as a matter by itself, just as a gate is quite a different thing from the way to which it gives access. In like manner the beginning both of the way to life and of the way to destruction is something quite different from the continuous walking upon the way. To pass through a gate and to enter upon the way to which the gate give access requires but little time. Similarly the (128) entrance through the narrow gate of repentance leading to faith is of comparatively brief duration; so likewise the lapsing away from faith into intentional sins, leading in upon the way to destruction, can be quickly accomplished. There is this difference, however, that just as it is easier to pass through a wide gate than a narrow one, so it is easier to fall away from God than to return to Him. There is this similarity, nevertheless, that as soon as one has passed through either gate, one is immediately upon the way, advancing nearer and nearer to the place whither that way leads. As soon as you have come to faith in Jesus, you are on the way to heaven,m constantly approaching your full salvation; while, on the other hand, if you have turned away form God into intentional sins, you are already on the way to hell, approaching it nearer and nearer, day by day.

3. Our Savior described the conditions appertaining to these ways, saying that many enter by the wide gate, while they are few that find the narrow gate and the way to life. There are many walking on the broad way to destruction. They enter, as it were by chance, without search or effort On the contrary, it also happens that some who seek for the narrow way of life do not find it, for they do not seek it in the right manner. They use blind guides, follow false doctrines, depend on feelings, or strive after good deeds. There are not many who seek after the way of life at all, and only a few of these find what they seek. Jesus says concerning this way, “Few are they that find it.”

4. It was by reason of these facts that Jesus gave His admonition unto repentance, “Enter in by the (129) narrow gate.” He thereupon immediately speaks about the wide gate and the broad way,m wishing to show that, if you have not experienced a true conversion, you must certainly have entered by the wide gate, and you are now on the broad way. The Savior nevertheless also represents your condition in such a way, as if there were frequent opportunities and occasions to repent, yes, as if you were often near the gate of repentance. He does not wish to have you leave it thus, however. Jesus is not satisfied to have you near the narrow gate; He wishes you to enter thereby. He does not say, “Come near the gate,” nor, “Stand in the narrow gate.” No, He says, “Enter by the narrow gate.” You are not on the way to life until you have passed through the narrow gate. If you have experienced emotions only, you have merely come to the gate, but you have not entered, you have not come to faith. If you have begun to realize that your condition is not right, you are, as it were, standing in the gate, you are in the process of repentance. But, dear friends, see to it that you enter and pass through this narrow gate, that by means of prayer and the Word you may come to an earnest seeking after grace in Christ. The wide gate is near at hand,m and it may fare with you as with many others who have stood in the gate and looked in upon the way of life, but who thought that the gate was too narrow or the way too much straitened, or were frightened into retreat or were enticed to return. They have thus come out of the narrow gate and found the broad gate close at hand. Satan then induces them to enter in by this gate, and they pass through rapidly and advance at full speed on the broad way.

(130) Proposition.
Some Remarkable Differences Between the Way of Salvation and the Way of Destruction.

1. In their beginning.
2. In their continuation.
3. In their termination.

First Part.
The Differences Between the Way of Salvation and the Way of Destruction in Their Beginnings.

5. Paul described the way of destruction, saying that men there live according to the flesh, and he adds that such a life terminates with a condition which he calls death, “If you live after the flesh, you must die.” When the word “flesh” is used in such a connection in the Scriptures so that we can understand that it signifies something evil and harmful, then it signifies our sinful depravity, the original sin, the inherent evil, and the constant inclination to transgress the law. When a man begins to live in such a way that the law is being recklessly transgressed, when he pursues his evil desires, permitting evil to prevail in his life, then such an one begins “to live after the flesh,” and he is at the beginning of the way to destruction.

6. The entrance to the way of destruction is wide and easy. It is not hard to find it,m and it seems so easy for a person to begin such a life. He gets rid of the troublesome studying of the Word, and he chooses some other kind of literature to read or, at any rate, some other way of passing the time and spending his leisure (131) moments. To be alone seems depressive and horrible, but no recourse is taken to prayer. Then the fallen sinner puts no restraint upon his evil propensities, for the entrance upon the way of destruction takes place precisely when the passions are given freedom, when a person consents to sin.

7. The entrance to the way of destruction is dark. When a person neglects to “walk in the light and believe on the light,” he gets into gloominess and darkness. He becomes blind and cannot see the light, nor receive enlightenment and come to certainty. Soon he cannot even endure the light, but “hates the light, and comes not to the light, let his works should be reproved.” He “walks in the darkness and knows not whither he goes, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” While in the state of slumber and sleeping he has slowly and imperceptibly come upon the way of destruction, and he even advances a long way thereon, before he becomes aware that he has gone astray.

8. Paul describes the way of life, saying, that when a person walks on it, there is in him something which the apostle calls “spirit,” by which a person overcomes the deeds of the flesh. This way terminates with a condition which the apostle calls “to live.” “If by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.” When the word “spirit” is used in the Scriptures, referring to something characteristic of those who are converted, something at war against our inherent evil, then this word signifies the new spiritual mind, which has been wrought by the Spirit of God in a regenerated heart, and the new spiritual powers granted by the same Spirit, enabling a person to “mortify the deeds (132) of the body.” The beginning on the way of life, then, takes place when a person gets this spirit, as David expresses it, “O God, renew a right spirit within me.”

9. The beginning on the way of life is narrow and difficult. It is hard to give up a false hope, to tear away the very foundation on which one has so long built, and to surrender the treacherous comfort to which one has so tenaciously clung. It is hard to feel the judgment with which one has been judged, “because he has not believed on the Name of the only begotten Son of God,” to see oneself lost and to perceive that one is entirely ruined. The entrance also becomes narrow, by virtue of the fact that, since a sinner cannot take any of his sins with him through the narrow gate, the evil desires of the flesh press on, endeavoring to prevent the creation of a new spirit in the heart. Satan and his people surround a person who is about to be converted, and crowd him, as it were, in the gate to life with insinuations and mockery, thus endeavoring to worry and hinder him.

10. The entrance to the way of life is, however, also light. Even is there is no comfort in the beginning of conversion, there is nevertheless enlightenment. If the awakened sinner cannot remember the Word as he would like, he can at any rate read and understand it. Where before there was ignorance there is now knowledge, and where there had been knowledge, or where knowledge has been acquired, there now arises enlightenment, for the light of the Word shines in the heart. It is becoming day, and the ruddy dawn of a larger measure of grace is already heralding the approach of “the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.”

Second Part.
The Difference between the Way of Salvation and the Way of Perdition in Their Continuation.

11. The continuation on the way of salvation takes place when one converted is busy at mortifying the deeds of the flesh by the spirit. “Deeds of the flesh,” these are the things wrought, or brought about, by the flesh, inwardly and outwardly. Though the spirit cannot put the flesh itself to death, but must leave it alive even in one rightly converted, it can at least “mortify the deeds of the flesh.” As soon as the deeds of the fleshy come forth,they are attacked in spirit by the believer and demolished quite as completely as the flesh itself will be destroyed in a blessed death. The passions are suppressed with prayer, faults are rectified with watching and self-denial, the will is broken during sore temptations, and the residue of bad habits is consumed in the fire of affliction.

12. Such progress cannot take place without difficulties, for the way of life is narrow. You cannot there go where you will, for there is not room for the choice, on so narrow a way. It therefore seems difficult even to God’s children. They do not alway fare as they think and had supposed that they should. They are not left free to choose the conditions they are to pass through, nor to stake out the changes they are to experience. The way of life is narrow. You cannot travel with comfort on it, nor carry with you much baggage. A believing soul cannot follow his own willfulness, nor leave room for the persuasions of his temperament, but must remember, “That through many (134) tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” The narrow way leads to the end that we may be “glorified with Christ” but it also leads “through the great tribulation,” where we must suffer with Christ. One must be careful when journeying along a narrow way, for there are many obstacles, not, indeed, right on the way, but beside it, always near at hand, for the way is narrow. True Christianity, indeed,offers no obstacles to our progress in grace, but we have many associations that offer conflicting duties, thus impeding our way.

13. It is true that progress on the way of salvation is made with difficulty, but progress is nevertheless made, for it is promoted by the Spirit of God. Upon this way the believers enjoy the companionship of the Holy Spirit. The apostle says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God,” but we may also say that as many as are God’s children are thus led by the Spirit. They are by Him urged to advance, lest slothfulness might deter them. They are led by the Holy Spirit, lest, when stumbling by reason of their infirmity, they might fall and destroy themselves. The Holy Spirit makes their steps more certain and their walk more secure the more He is permitted to remove the spirit of bondage and to discipline them in the right spirit of adoption, “Whereby we constantly cry, Abba, dear Father.” When some great suffering or temptation impends and is near at hand, the children of God are strengthened by the Spirit of God, “who bears witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God.”

14. Progress along the way to perdition is made, when (135) the unconverted “live after the flesh.” The carnal mind becomes the chief originator and motive power impelling the sinner in all he actions. Original sin dominates his life. Indeed, he lives in sin and finds his life there.

15. Progress along this way takes place imperceptibly, for the way to perdition is broad. It resembles a large, broad field, where one cannot know with any real certitude how far one has advanced. Hence, secure sinners cannot notice any particular change in their life, whether for better or worse. This is especially the case with those who feel secure by reason of their honesty. Their inward evil increases. An unconverted man gains more and more stability in his carnal mind. He become stronger and stronger in his prejudices and erroneous principles. He becomes more and more unresponsive to the Word of God and, at the same time, all the more obstinate in his false hope,. It is the inward carnal life which especially increases in these apparently honest sinners.

16. The progress on the way to perdition becomes even more imperceptible in those who have the appearance of actually walking on the way of salvation. They have the appearance of spirituality, while they live after the flesh. Their speech is spiritual, but their mind is carnal. They advance more and more in hypocrisy, and their false godliness makes them more and more like him who transforms himself to resemble an angel of light.

17. Progress on the way to perdition is associated with great freedom from care. Indeed, it is the increase of this freedom from care which shows what a person is on (136) the way to condemnation. The way is so broad that there is little need of carefulness to remain thereon. The unconverted have the whole field of sins before them. They may choose whatever they best like, and all the byways lead to eternal destruction. Yes, on so broad a way there is ample room for all lusts, plenty of room for a careless life, and nothing to hinder a person from serving and enjoying the lusts. This freedom from care becomes especially great in the case of those who have been awakened and concerned for their salvation, but who have stifled the cry of conscience. When a person who has harbored one devil has swept his house clean and has thereupon received eight in his heart; when a person who has fallen into gross sins stops his remorse and feels satisfied with a decent life; when the quickenings of conscience are turned into false comfort and a specious spirituality, arising from false learning; and when one who has walked in his own self-righteousness ends with the abuse of evangelical grace, then progress along the way to perdition takes place with all the more freedom from care, inasmuch as these people advance along another side of the road than before, and hence suppose that they are walking on another road.

Third Part.
The Difference between the Way of Salvation and the Way of Destruction in Their Termination.

18. The end of this way is perdition, for the way ends at the place whither it leads. The apostle calls this termination “to die,” which, he says, is the sequence of a life after the flesh. It is also clear that he does not (137) here means bodily death, for the whole man never dies, the soul never in eternity loses its essential life, but lives on in death and after death. The apostle means eternal death, that is the eternal separation from God which takes place when the bodily death finds a person without union with Christ. After the struggles of bodily death are finished, the lost soul finds that, although it is parted from the body, the pangs of death still exist, yes, are every moment renewed and shall so continue forever. What a gnawing feeling of want must then fill the lost soul, when God has departed, with all His goodness, mercy, and comfort! What horror the unfortunate one must experience, when he perceives the presence of the evil spirit, and must remain under its control! What an affliction to hear the moaning of the condemned as well as one’s own, to see their agony and to suffer inexpressible pain! Here the way of destruction terminates in torment never to be allayed, never to cease, in “the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth,” in hell and the flames of fire, “the lake of fire, which is the second death.”

19. The way of salvation, on the other hand, ends in eternal glory and joy. This the apostle calls “to live,” saying, “If you mortify the deeds of the body by the spirit, then you shall live.” The life of a Christian, which is a constant warfare of the spirit to put the deeds of the flesh to death, terminates with death, and then life eternal begins. In death a man begins to live aright, never more to die. If his condition is then blessed, it may be called life indeed, as the Scriptures also call it. If the beginning of a Christian’s journey along the way of (138) salvation has been difficult, the end nevertheless is full of joy. If, in the continuation, he has passed through much wretchedness, the end eventually attained is indesribably glorious. At the end of this race-course there is the eternal prize of grace, “the crown of glory that does not fade away.” The narrow way terminates “in the bosom of Abraham,” where Lazarus enjoys comfort; in paradise, where the repentant thief even on the day of his death was with Christ; in the Father’s house in the many mansions, where the Son has prepared a room for every disciple. After much tribulation the faithful soul finds rest from its labor, even “the sabbath rest, which remains for the people of God.” He forgets the dangers he has passed through and finds “fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore,” in the presence of God, in the “kingdom prepared form the foundation of the world.”

20. I have today set before you the way to life and the way to death. I have described the way of salvation and the way of destruction. See to it that you may ascertain what way you are on. May it be that you have never seen or understood this? Surely, you should not thus walk to eternity by chance; you should know wither you are going, lest you may land where you had not expected and find that you had gone astray, when you cannot return.

21. If you notice that you are on the “way of wickedness,” then this is the beginning leading to the right way. Take the Word for your enlightenment and pray the Holy Spirit to be your companion. You will then (139) certainly enter upon the right way, for you thus come to Christ, who is the right way of life. If you have advanced to the extent that you have a spirit which puts to death the deeds of the flesh, then take these words of the Lord for your guide, “This is the way, walk in it; when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.: Be concerned that, by a right use of the Word, of prayer, and of Holy Communion, you may advance more and more along the way of salvation to the mortification and the laying off of the flesh and the deeds thereof, by the spirit which gathers strength unto assurance in faith through increasing knowledge of Jesus Christ, unto earnestness in love, and patience in hope, thus being assured that you are on the way of life, “for few are they who find it.” Amen.

Matthew 17,1-9. The 7. Sunday after Trinity. Henric Schartau

Matthew 17,1-9
Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Henric Schartau (1757-1825) 
Jesus Only


1. Lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, save Jesus only. In this way Matthew concludes his story of the peculiar occurrence described in the seventeenth chapter.
2. When Jesus had at one time gone apart with a few of His disciples to a mountain, it happened that the “form of a servant,” which He had taken upon Himself, was changed into the royal glory which belonged to Him ever since He had been born to be a king. The disciples who were accustomed to see Jesus associating with sinners, now found Him in conversation with two of the “Spirits of the New Jerusalem.” They found themselves infolded in a cloud and possessed with great joy, but when they again came to themselves and “lifted up their eyes, they saw no one, Save Jesus only.”
3. When a sinner first opens the eyes of his understanding, they are turned down upon his unsaved soul and lost condition. Shame and timidity are associated with downcast eyes. Ezra describes the dejection of an awakened soul in such wise, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our guiltiness is grown up into the heavens.” The law enjoins men to look especially upon themselves. It urges them to compare their depravity with God’s holiness, and their guilt with His righteousness. The Holy Spirit, however, thereupon lifts the eye of their understanding to Jesus only. The glory of Christ, emanating from the words of the gospel, enlightens their heart and attracts their thoughts to Jesus, while the love of God revealed in His promises comforts their frightened heart and gives them courage to turn to Jesus.
4. It is blessed when a believing soul looks in the Scriptures for Jesus only. He is the center and essential part of the word, and the Scriptures bear testimony of Him. When therefore the soul has learned to consider everything in the Word of God as leading to Jesus or derived from Him, then its searching has discovered the true treasure and the costly pearl.
5. It is a blessed thing when the believing soul in prayer fixes his uplifted eyes of faith upon Jesus only, not looking about for his dispersed thoughts, nor backward upon Satan, who threatens with the assertion that the prayers are to no avail, nor inwardly upon his own slothfulness and slight devotion, but above himself to Jesus, “who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” 
6. As Jesus only was the main object of Paul’s preaching, so that he “determined not to know anything” except that which was related to the Savior who once had been crucified, so shall also my main topic be Jesus Only. May He alone grant us enlightenment in the Word, strength and salvation through the Word, and may God hear us, when we ask for this for Jesus’ sake. “Our Father,” etc.


I. In the awakening, as its object
II. In justification and the new birth, as its foundation
III. In sanctification, as its power

First Part.
7. It is Jesus only who has provided that the Holy Spirit works upon a secure heart unto its awakening. Paul says that the awakening takes place with reference to Jesus, in connection with, and as a result of, His redemption, which was perfected when God awakened Jesus from the dead. The blood of Jesus was shed even for those who have “counted it an unholy thing,” and it bespeaks mercy even for them. God is jealous for the honor of His Son; He desires to show that the atonement is valid and powerful, and He therefore permits His Holy Spirit to quicken the slumbering consciences. Jesus gave His life for the wandering sheep, and He “goes after that which is lost.” It is the suffering of Jesus that pleads for pardon. It is His prayer which quickens the movements of grace in dead hearts, and it is by virtue of His merits that gifts are provided even for those who have fallen away.
8. Jesus only is the basis of a sinner’s awakening, but He is also the object thereof, for it is the object of the law to urge sinners to accept the grace offered by the gospel. Paul teaches that Christ and justification through faith in Christ are the objects of the law, “Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one who believes.” Then again he describes the end of awakening as follows, “The law has been our tutor unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Hear then, O man, that the law causes grief in order that you may eagerly accept the comfort proclaimed in the gospel: that Jesus has paid for all your sins. The law frightens you, threatening you with eternal torment, in order that you may take the refuge which is being offered you with Jesus. When God, in His law, demands perfection in everything, His true object is that you may become a partaker of the righteousness of your Savior, who has fulfilled the law for you.

Second Part.
9. A person becomes justified through faith alone, but Jesus only is the foundation of faith. He has provided that an awakened sinner can come to faith. Therefore an apostle says that “Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith.” Jesus has not only atoned for sins and purchased righteousness, but He has also provided that a sinner shall become a partaker of this grace. And since this is done by faith, Jesus has also provided that the Holy Spirit shall work to that end and grant a true faith, in order that the works of grace may be perfected and that man may appropriate and enjoy the fruits of redemption.
10. Jesus is the foundation of faith, for it is He of whom the gospel says that He has purchased all the good which the gospel offers to those who are rightly awakened. It is only through the gospel that a man can come to faith, for the gospel speaks of Jesus and, indeed, concerning Jesus only. Any doctrine that does not speak of Jesus, whatever experience and glory it may proclaim, is not the gospel. So then Jesus is in the Word. His suffering, His blood, His obedience and death are proclaimed in the Word, and this is the only means of coming to the right faith.
11. It is Jesus only whom faith embraces and on whom it relies. When a person, after seeing the awful depth of his own misery, has once caught a right vision of Jesus, he cannot turn his thoughts from Him. Jesus becomes everything to such an one, and everything else is “counted as loss and dung.” He seeks for Jesus, comes to Him, longs for His righteousness, prays in His name, and hopes in Him alone. He presses on that he may grasp Christ more securely, and that he may trust Him with more certainty and with greater boldness.
12. Jesus only is the basis and main cause of justification. Jesus only is considered by God when He makes a person righteous. God merely sees that the sinner has accepted Christ and that he is in Christ, in fellowship with Him. God does not wrathfully count such a person’s sins, for they are covered with the blood of Jesus. The Savior is sinless, and a justified man is considered quite as free from guilt as Jesus was when He had paid the whole debt of sin, and as pure, free from the corruption of sin, as Jesus has always been. Nor does God graciously look upon a person’s good deeds; no, He looks only on His beloved Son. If He were to look upon our good deeds, He would also see the sins wherewith these good deeds are contaminated, and He would by virtue of His righteousness be compelled to exact punishment. God looks upon His beloved Son only, in order that He may find something perfect to rest His holy eyes upon. The atonement and righteousness of Jesus only are then by God attributed to the justified sinner. Nothing else will avail and satisfy an awakened soul. Nothing else suffices for our salvation from eternal fire; no other righteousness is valid and pleasing before God than that of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. It is by reason of this alone that God forgives sins and receives us into sonship with Him. Sins are forgiven, because Jesus “blotted out the bond against us” with His pierced, bleeding hand, and for the sake of His childlike obedience every one that believes on Him becomes a child of God. For Jesus’ sake every child of God is considered like Jesus Himself, and a like verdict is rendered in heaven at the time of every act of justification as was proclaimed with reference to Jesus at the transfiguration, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
13. Jesus only is the basis of the new birth, for it is faith in Him alone that brings regeneration of the heart. Paul expresses this is Ephesians 2,6, saying, “God made us to sit with Christ in the heavenly places.” When a man fixes his attention upon Jesus alone and upon the holiness which He purchased and perfected when He had “His delight in the law of the Lord,” he receives the Spirit which grants full enlightenment in the Word of God. The believer then becomes like the Lord Jesus, being “transformed into the same image.” The light of the glory of Jesus enlightens the soul to see aright and to perceive clearly the heavenly light in the Word of God, when the Sun of Righteousness arises and God takes His dwelling in the soul. God then also grants the believer a new mind, “the mind which was also in Christ Jesus.” His will becomes our will, and we thereupon always desire to be humble like Jesus, meek like Jesus, obedient like Jesus, pure in heart like Jesus, and occasionally we are also able to be thus, for in the new birth we received “a clean heart and a right spirit” and a mind like that “which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Third Part.
14. It is in sanctification that the power of our Lord Jesus Christ is best shown, for it is Jesus who provides the power to put off the old man and put on the new. If you are to get rid of your wicked thoughts, if you are to quench your evil desires, if you are to succeed in overcoming your old sinful habits, verily, there is no other help for this in heaven or on earth than that provided by Jesus only. He has conquered sin, and “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us,” for He is “the Lord which sanctifies.” “The sanctification of the spirit” is a sure result of His redemption. If you were unable to resist sin, if you were compelled to fall therein again, then the forgiveness would be useless and the atonement in vain. But His merit is complete and perfect, and He has arranged that the merit imputed to you at once and immediately in justification shall also gradually be wrought in you in sanctification. Jesus has not only stood in your stead as a just man who has had His delight in God’s commandments and whose righteousness is imputed to you as though you had always been just, but He has also brought about that you actually become just and obtain more and more delight in God’s law according to the inner man.
15. The more a person grows in faith in the Lord Jesus, the more he will also increase in good works. You do not, as you may suppose, receive more faith and grace from God by virtue of your watchfulness, meekness, patience, and devotion, but quite the reverse. In the proportion that Jesus becomes great and glorious to you, in the proportion that He becomes indispensable, you will increase in all the virtues that derive their strength from Him. The more faith, which is the origin of love, increases, the more will also love, which is the result of faith, increase.
16. Love for Jesus is the chief motive unto sanctification in a converted soul. It is love for Jesus that makes the believers submissive to Him in trials and sorrow, enabling them to bear His cross when the Lord finds it needful for their sanctification. Paul designates the knowledge of the love of Christ as the most immediate cause leading to one’s being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” In like manner it is love for Jesus that makes the most pleasing sins abominable and the most grievous duties light. It is love for Jesus that enables us to love all men, because He has deigned to make them all objects of His love. It is love for Jesus which opens our heart so that we may have confidence in those who are known to be partakers of that same love of Christ. It is love for Jesus which quenches our anger when we are offended, which kills hatred and enables the believer to love his enemies, since Jesus has loved them too, precisely as He loved us even while we were yet His enemies.
17. Jesus is the most splendid and only perfect pattern to follow in sanctification. Do not ask to become like this one or that one, but pray that you may become like Jesus. Do not attempt to imitate the talents of others, nor their measure of grace, but walk in the footsteps of your Savior. Along that way you shall more and more attain to that whereunto by your election you were ordained, namely, to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” 


18. Do you, O confident sinner, know whom you are warring against, whom you are scoffing at? It is not the servant who proclaims the message which you contradict, not human beings whom you mock for their spiritual interests, but Jesus only, Jesus, whose words are being spoken to you and whose members they are whom you vituperate. Rest assured that Jesus alone is able to overrule your wickedness and to judge and punish you. How dreadful it will be for you when you lie upon your death bed at the end of the way to realize that the Son’s wrath is upon you! How awful the mere appearance of Jesus when, in the resurrection, you raise your head form the grave!
19. Take heed to what you have heard, O mournful souls, remember that Jesus only is the object of your awakening. Do not therefore seek for more regret nor for an immediate improvement in your course of life, but seek for Jesus only. Where, indeed, can you look for salvation except to your Savior? Where can you find salvation except in Him? It is nowhere else to be found. When you have found Him and in Him righteousness and strength, when His righteousness is your support in temptations, when His might is your succor, lo, then you have enough in Him, for you have all in Him. If then it should ever happen that you, like the first disciples, should in spirit see somewhat of His glory and “taste the powers of the age to come,” and if this glory should thereupon disappear, then do not look for Moses or Elias, but be content with the grace granted to those early disciples of whom we read, “When they lifted their eyes, they saw no one, save Jesus only.”
20. When the peace of Christ has brought you reinvigoration and His promises have given you assurance of grace, then it shall also be your lot, at the approach of death, when your eyes can no longer see the things of this world, then the vision of your soul shall be opened and endowed with heavenly light to see the great glory, world without end, face to face, – Jesus only. Amen. 

This English translation of the sermon is from Henric Schartau and the Order of Grace by S.G. Hagglund (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1928).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

1. Corinthians 9,24-10,5. Septuagesima. Henrik Schartau

1. Corinthians 9,24-10,5
Henric Schartau (1757-1825)

And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last. Luke 13,30.

1. (88) The Lord Jesus says that there will be a peculiar interchange of places in His glorious reign, quite different from that which might reasonably be expected.
2. A. Some who have been known as being outside of the reign of God’s grace will, contrary to the expectations of many, be found to be within that glorious reign.
3. No one who at the time of his death stands outside of the reign of grace will ever be found within the reign of glory.
4. But some who have lived in such a way that all who have had knowledge in the Word of God might know that they were not true Christians become such, though the world which saw their former condition may not have observed the latter.
5. B. Some who were expected to be seen in the reign of glory will not be seen there.
6. Fear not, O sorrowful heart! No one who, by reason of the Word of God, can be expected in the reign of glory, shall be wanting there.
7. But some who have been called by grace and have (89) apparently attained to faith have nevertheless remained in their natural condition; and some who have had the true faith have fallen away. these shall be missed in heaven, though it appeared as if they would surely arrive there.
8. C. Many who have had great gifts, who have been sanctified by grace, and who have thus been brilliant, but nevertheless in personal character fundamentally weak -- these belong there.
9. Those who have had exalted positions and who, by virtue of this, have shown enlightenment and power, but who have in themselves been weak -- these may also belong there.
10. D. Some who have been considered humble and of low degree shall there be first, indeed, some who have had slight gifts and who have had external faults so that they scarcely seemed to be Christians.

The Text.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 1. Corinthians 9,24-10,5.
11. In Greece, and especially in the city of Corinth to which the apostle wrote this letter, there were among other physical exercises also those of races on specially made race-tracks, A large number of young people, even from far distant countries, came to take part in the games. After due training, to which belonged temperance in all things, they all exerted themselves to the (90) utmost to reach the goal first and thus to receive the prize.
12. The apostle here finds an analogy to the racing for the reign of God. He imagines how the athletes rushed on, and he urges the Christian racers to all the more eagerness, inasmuch as they are racing for a crown of greater glory. We can well understand how it frequently happened that some who were last at the beginning of the race gathered strength and advanced to be among the first, and vice versa.

A Great Interchange of Places on the Way to Heaven
I. The last become first.
II. The first become last.

First Part.
The Last Become First.

13. The last are also on the way, though they are last at the very first beginning of the race. They have a heartfelt desire to hear and read the Word of God, and they are often moved thereby, though nothing more. They have not yet been enlightened by the Word to see their depravity, nor have they been moved by its power to seek after salvation.
14. A. Some remain last. There are last which shall be first, says the Savior, and this implies that not all who are last shall be first, but only a few. “Awake up righteously, and do not sin; for some have no knowledge of God.” Some Corinthians were awakened, but (91) not rightly awake, persons who did not know God, but remained lying in their sins.
15. There are some who gladly hear and read the Word, and are moved to tears, but nothing more. Some can remain in this condition for many years. They are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” They are being driven by their learning in the Scriptures and appear to be in the race, but they get nowhere; they ever remain last.
16. B. Some attain a righteous life in Christ, though they do not become first. They were for some time, perhaps a long while, among the last, but they permitted the Holy Spirit to quicken them to earnestness, and thus eventually attained a righteous life, though they have not made great progress. They are like those of whom we read in Revelation 3,8: “You have little power.” Those who were ignorant have at least learned the rudiments which are necessary fro salvation, “the first principles of the oracles of God.” These become saved, but scarcely so.
17. C. Some become first, though they were last. They were last, but they gathered new strength and began to rush eagerly along, passing by all their competitors. They were ignorant, but finally, like David, they became more learned than their teachers. Like the Syro-Phenician woman, they advanced so far from their heathen unbelief that they received the testimony which she received of the Lord Jesus: “Your faith is great.” Instead of merely longing for feeling and relying on them, they have attained a faith like that of Thomas, to see not, and yet believe.
18. Such were the Thessalonians. Their faith grew (92) exceedingly, and their love to each other abounded. Their patience had become perfected to the extent that, like Moses, they considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” and thy had gained such stability in their hope that,like Paul, they were sure that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Second Part.
The First Who Shall Be Last.

19. What do we mean with the first? We mean those who have just been described, who have attained the greatest measure and the highest degree of the love of Christ.
20. A. Some are first and remain first. They keep the faith unto the end. Jesus can say to them as He did to His apostles, “You are they who have continued with Me in My temptations.” Other Christians can also give them the same testimony, as for instance, Peter gives his fellow Christians (Acts 1,21). These keep the faith and a good conscience. They remain “always steadfast and unmovable” The apostle John calls them “fathers” and says concerning them that they “knew him who is from the beginning.” They have thus “attained unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” they are experienced in mind, and they walk steadfastly with their feet.
21. B. Some come near being last, but do not become last. This was the case with the pastor in Ephesus, (93) Revelation 2,1-5, also with Peter in Antioch, and with the Corinthians and the Galatians.
22. The pastor in Ephesus had left his first love, but he nevertheless still had faith, and he labored for the sake of Jesus. The Apostle Peter came near being one of the last in Antioch, where he fell into hypocrisy, eating with the Gentiles while alone with them, but withdrawing from them when other Jews arrived. But he gathered new power when reprimanded by Paul. The Corinthians had fallen back to the extent that there were factions and quarrels among them, and that they even condoned a manifest work of the devil in their midst. But they accepted the reproof in Paul’s first letter to them and repented, so that in his second letter he was enabled to express satisfaction with the results of the reproof.
23. C. Some who have been first become last, but do not remain such; they remain anew.
24. Peter had been one of the first. Jesus had borne testimony that Peter had a knowledge of Christ, not attainable by flesh and blood, but the result of a revelation given him by the Heavenly Father Himself. He become one of the last when he cursed and swore and denied that he knew Jesus. But he was awakened when the rooter crowed, he was convicted by the look of Jesus and became converted. He again advanced in the love of Jesus and could appeal to the omniscience of his Master, asserting that he still loved Him.
25. The Galatians had been among the foremost. Jesus had been set before their eyes as crucified. They had become last when they had fallen from grace and endeavored to become justified by the law. But they revived (94) when Paul was “again in travail until Christ was formed in them”. He hoped that they would become steadfast in Christ, and he had the assurance that the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit were still to be found among them. He had the confidence that there were still spiritually minded people among them who could restore those who had fallen in sin.
26. D. Some who have been first become last, and remain thus.
27. This was the case with a large number of Jesus’ own disciples who had been with Him a long time. Many went back when Jesus had spoken to them about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and we have no record that they ever returned to Him. Judas Iscariot had been one of the first of the apostles who rejoiced to find that the devils were subject to them in the Name of Jesus: but he became one of the last. He sold his Lord, and he departed into the outer darkness, in despair having taken his own life. Demas had been one of Paul’s disciples, but he left his master, “having loved this present world”, and we nowhere read that he again began to long for the reign of God. In Hebrews 6,4-6, we read of others who had been first. They had “once been enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good Word of God , and the powers of the age to come”. Then we are told how they became last, how they “fell away, crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame”. Indeed, we are told that (95) these remain last, for “it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.”

28. If you imagine that you are one of the first, or at least nearly so, then you are certainly one of the last, and in danger of drifting away from the way of life. “Wherefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
29. If you admit that you are one of the last and desire to remain so, not wishing to advance, then you are not even on the way of salvation. Though you imagine that this is spiritual poverty and humility, it is nothing but hypocrisy whereby you attempt to cover your laziness and indifference. You desire to stand, as it were,on the boundary between the reign of Satan and the reign of God. You wish to have a little of each and to serve God and Mammon. You wish to have the grace of God and the friendship of the world, to find pleasure in the Word of God and to enjoy yourself in the Vanity Fair. But beware, lest Satan lay hold on you and pull you back into his dominion,. Yes, look and see, if you are not already there. I know how you would like to have it. You would like to be in the world, and you feel quite satisfied, if you but enter the door of heaven, but let me tell you the truth: if you are thus satisfied and not striving to advance, you will not even enter through the door. No, you will become one of those who will remain standing outside of the door forever.
30. Do you begin to realize how blind you have been, think that you were one of the first, whereas you (96) now find with anxiety that you are not even on the way? Behold, this is a prompting of the Holy Spirit. If you are deeply concerned about entering on the right way, then let it be your comfort that God is of a like mind. Awake rightly and be concerned about your salvation before you fall asleep in death. You still have an opportunity. Everything thus far neglected can still be retrieved and made good. The race course of life lies open before you, and the crown of life may yet be obtained. But neglect it no longer; you have slept long enough. This is the time to arise out of your slumber and to run the race set before you, so that you may receive the prize. Pray earnestly that you may be heard. Search the Scriptures carefully, so that God may enlighten, grieve, and comfort,and transform your heart.
31. You know that you are on the way, though you do not know whether you are one of the last or one of the first. Let me advise you to press on as diligently to obtain the crown of life, as if you really expected to be one of the first. Though it may see to you as if you were one of the last, you will nevertheless advance farther into heaven than you expected, and will there find greater blessedness than you had supposed. Amen.