“Whenever we, on the ground of our righteousness, wisdom, or power, are haughty or angry with those who are unrighteous, foolish, or less powerful than we . . . —and this is the greatest perversion—righteousness works against righteousness, wisdom against wisdom, power against power. For you are powerful, not that you may make the weak weaker by oppression, but that you may make them powerful by raising them up and defending them. You are wise, not in order to laugh at the foolish and thereby make them more foolish, but that you may undertake to teach them as you yourself would wish to be taught. You are righteous that you may vindicate and pardon the unrighteous, not that you may only condemn, disparage, judge, and punish. For this is Christ’s example for us, as he says, ‘For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:17). He further says in Luke 9:55-56, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.'” Martin Luther
Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)
By John Newton:
The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed—but in respect of their own apprehensions, and the great difficulties they are brought through! But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of Jesus—He becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not ascribe anything to themselves—but are glad to acknowledge, that they must have perished (humanly speaking) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their shepherd, and their shield. When they were wandering—he brought them back; when fallen—he raised them; when wounded—he healed them; when fainting—he revived them! By him, out of weakness—they have been made strong! He has taught their hands to war, and covered their heads in the day of battle. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the humiliating proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him—if they had not known so much of themselves!
Further, a spirit of humiliation, which is both the strength and beauty of our profession, is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord—he has promised to dwell with those who have it. Experience shows, that the exercise of all our graces, is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature.
That we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only taught it. Indeed, if we could receive, and habitually maintain, a right judgment of ourselves, by what is plainly declared in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour! But experience is the Lord’s school, and those who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom—by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength—by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption, which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees, they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves! They feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me—you can do nothing;” and the necessity of crying with David, “O lead me and guide me!”
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.
The hungry sheep, that crave the living Bread,
Grow few, and lean, and feeble as can be
When fed not Gospel but philosophy,
Not love’s eternal story, no, not this,
But apt allusion, keen analysis,
Discourse well framed—forgot as soon as heard—
Man’s thin dilution of the living Word.
O Preacher, leave the rhetorician’s arts;
Preach Christ, the Food of hungry human hearts;
Hold fast to science, history, or creed,
But preach the Answer to our human need,
That in this place, at least, it may be said
No hungry sheep looks up and is not fed.
—Robert Hammond Adams (1883–1975)
O, LORD, when condemnation
And guilt oppress my soul,
Then let Thy bitter Passion
The rising storm control.
Remind me that Thy Blood was spilt
For me, oh, most unworthy,
To take away my guilt.
Oh wonder beyond measure,
To faith’s enlightened eye,
For slaves it was the pleasure
Of their own LORD to die!
The Mighty God stoops from on high
For me, lost ruined creature,
And deigns as Man to die!
LORD, let Thy bitter Passion
My soul with strength inspire
To flee with indignation
Each sinful low desire.
Ah never would I, LORD, forget
The greatness of that Ransom,
Which paid my endless debt.
Should earthly griefs assail me,
If need be shame and scorn,
Let patience never fail me
To bear as Thou hast borne.
Grant that the world I may forsake
And Thee for my example
Oh may I daily take.
Henceforth my heart shall bless Thee
Whilst here its pulses move.
Its songs of praise address Thee
For all Thy dying love.
Thy wrongs and last deep agony
Shall be my meditation
Till I am called to Thee
How many, alas, of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers, if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance…. shall we say their faith went away in the departure of their assurance? How oft then in a year may a believer be no believer? even as often as God withdraws and leaves the creature in the dark. Assurance is like the sun-flower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God’s face; if that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can “walk in darkness, and yet trust in the name of the Lord.”
O, God, who has become our Father through Christ. We give thanks that you have taught us to pray and promised us that you will much less deny us what we ask in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things. Teach us not to think of your heavenly majesty in an earthly manner, and to expect from your almighty power all things we need for body and soul. Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you, and sanctify, glorify, and praise you in all your works, in which shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words, and actions – that your name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised.
By your Word and Spirit, govern us that more and more we would submit to you. Grant that your Church would be preserved and increased here on earth. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against you, and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do all this until the fullness of your kingdom comes, wherein you shall be all in all.
Assist us that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey your will, for it alone is good. Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you.
For the sake of Christ’s blood,do not impute to us, wretched sinners; any of our transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us, as we also find this evidence of your grace in us that we are fully determined wholeheartedly to forgive our neighbour.
In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment. Moreover, our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – do not cease to attack us. Therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat, but always firmly resist our enemies, until we finally obtain the complete victory.
All this we ask knowing that as our King, having power over all things, You are both willing and able to give us all that is good, and because your holy name will be forever glorified. We confess and take comfort that you have much more certainly heard our prayer than we feel in our hearts that we desire this of you. Amen.
-Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, LD 46-52