How one, that is arrived at faith and forgiveness, is preserved in the state of faith and grace.
The whole work of grace consists of penitence and faith: This St. Paul has preached, Acts xx, 21, and called it the counsel of God to our salvation.
1st, In penitence to God we have to do with the holy and just judge, before whom an affrighted sinner would be willing to make his bed in hell, Ps. cxxxix, 8. In such a state Christ is not quite so clear yet.
2nd, In the faith on Jesus we have to do with a sweet friendly Saviour, with a conciliated, gracious, dear Father. Thereby the flesh and outward man perish, yet the spirit and the inward man is strengthened and renewed day by day, 2 Cor. iv. 16.
The first seed of repentance and faith, are laid already in the precursory grace, partly by law, partly by gospel movements, wholesome knowledge, and sweet drawings of grace. Herewith are adopted the means of the preparing grace, law and gospel; the law kills and condemns; the gospel gives life and salvation, Rom. i, 16. To this point likewise the two sacraments and seals. Baptism has to do with the renunciation, drowning and killing of the old man, the holy Eucharist with nourishing and strengthening the new man. The Holy Spirit begins this work in us and continues it.
Although when Jesus is transfigured. Moses and Elias disappear, and Jesus alone remains the one and all; although legal anxiety and servile fear cease, yet repentance and faith proceed daily, but in a gospel manner, to wit: (a) daily and deeper humiliation, and more knowledge of the unspeakable misery; (b) daily and deeper foundation and confirmation in the crucified Saviour. The branches of the vine, if they are to produce fruit, suck not only the juice, but they are likewise pruned and cleansed, that is, the faithful receive not only forgiveness of sins, but all their diseases are also healed, Ps. ciii. 3.
As the first and principal work of the Spirit of God is; that he brings men, by a powerful conviction of their great misery of sin, to a deep humiliation, honest alteration of mind and true poorness of spirit, whereby they are drawn off, not only from all false doings, own running, self-assistance, from a false foundation, own justice, false rest and peace, but also to long and hunger, to beg and pray for grace, and are made capable of faith: So the object of the second principal work of the spirit of God is to introduce the spirituality poor, through the gospel into faith, and into the full plenitude of the expiation, and to replace all the loss of false doings, by the superabundant riches of true grace. Even to draw the poor and believing souls further into poorness of spirit and into faith, to preserve the same, and settle in the same more and more. And these things, which appear to reason, so contrary to one another, the spirit of God reconciles most beautifully, as David when he played joyfully before the Lord, said, “I will yet become more vile than thus, and will be base in my own sight,” 2 Sam. vi, 22. The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel, Isa. xxix, 19. All deviations from this pure path of grace are dangerous.
In order that the spiritual life presented to us may be preserved, and the soul in grace, and again the grace in the soul, and in this manner both the new wine and the bottles are saved, St. Mark ix. 17. There is a sufficient quantity of spirit given to her, which is called THE UNCTION, 1 John, ii, 20, or the anointing oil, whereby she is sealed unto the day of redemption. 2 Cor. i, 22, Eph. iv. 30.
This unction shows itself, First, by a wholesome discipline, by an inward and motherly reproof in case of deviations, faithlessness and faults, by various cleansings, and purifications of the yet remaining dross and impurities of self-love, and love of the world, whereby the soul is exercised and preserved in daily penitence.
Secondly, by strong influence, favors and increase of faith, the soul is mightily supported in all occurrences, whereby she might be removed out of a state of grace. In tribulations, she is tried and confirmed. (Tribulations on the attacks and temptations of the flesh, world and satan to sin, unbelief and backwardness.) We cannot pray that we shall not be tempted, as little as a soldier can, that he shall not fight an enemy; but we may pray for support and victory, that God will preserve us, that the devil, the world and our own flesh do not seduce and deceive us, that we may not fall again into the snares and dominion of sin; but, we mast not imprudently, and of our own accord, venture upon things, and bring ourselves thereby into temptations and tribulations. To go to fight without orders, will never be approved of in a soldier. To be attacked by sin or to be governed by it, is a very different thing. The unconverted are governed, they are willing slaves; the converted are assaulted, they are warriors. — What assaults me, I do not want; but what I suffer and harbor willingly and knowingly, that governs. Whoever in temptations and in the spiritual warfare, does not show fidelity to his general, does not fight against the enemy, and is not watchful, he will be taken prisoner, and governed. Therefore it is said in the catechism: “We pray that God will protect and preserve us, and though we may be tempted and assaulted, we nevertheless conquer and obtain the victory.
Thirdly, The unction manifests itself in the gift of trying spirits, as John explains it, 1 John ii, that we be not tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind, of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Eph. iv, 14, but may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, of whom the whole body is composed, vs. 15. — Also this growing is necessary, if we want to be preserved in grace and with Christ. O, how many are else led away, and fall from their own steadfastness, 2 Pet. iii, 17; for the remedy, see vs. 18, where it says: But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whenever this oil of the Holy Spirit flows into the soul, then she will be preserved by Jesus Christ, (N. B. by Jesus Christ) in the true only faith. Whoever does not abide on the vine, shall wither, 1 John xv. Now little children abide in him, that you may not be ashamed before him, 1 John ii, 28.
Fourthly, The unction shows itself also in the gift of mutual edification and strengthening of the children of God amongst on another, when Zion’s pilgrims, give one another the hand, observe one another, encourage one another, to have meetings, Heb. x, 25, to exhort one another, as anointed spiritual priests, admonish and guide one another, that they may not lose the crown of life. Then grows the whole body, or some members who live at the same place, by a brotherly regulation to the head, and one member adheres to the other, and assist one another for improvement, Eph. iv. 16. The article of the fellowship of saints, was in great practice amongst the first Christians, Acts ii, 42. O the fellowship of saints and believers has a great blessing; the dead bones move, they join at the preaching of the gospel, the wind or the spirit of God breathes upon them, that they live, Ezk. xxxvii, 9. Philadelphia, the congregation of brethren, who has not denied the name of the Saviour, has an open door, Rev. iii, 8, and a public blessing, vs. 9. Something like this, we have seen in our days. May the Lord bring this article of the fellowship of the faithful more and more into practice. It is a glorious means, to make the souls exercise in goodness, and that they remain constant! Paul says, Eph. iv, 16, It makes increase of the body, not only according to grace, but also according to number; the small number increases.
(A) Self-deception of the relapsed.
It is a great self-deception, if persons relapsed, who have entered the world again, and left their post, 1st, will depend upon their former awakening, and the grace that was given them, and gaze steadfastly at it, when they nevertheless have already forfeited the same. They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy, Jonas ii, 8.
2nd, If such relapsed and declining persons, and also totally unconverted, will confide without any spiritual sensation, which is only a lesson for very miserable souls, who are hungry after grace, but otherwise are honestly inclined.
(B) Whereby the remaining in Christ is made difficult, and many souls are induced to relapse.
Three enemies render it difficult to get through and hold out, the flesh, the world, and the devil. Whoever does apply the grace which has been given him, 1st, to a constant distrust and watchfulness against his innate corruption: Whoever 2nd, does not use it for purification of the love of the world, and the people of the world, 2 Tim. ii, 21, does not suffer himself to be saved from the untoward generation, Acts ii, 40, and does not come out from among them, 2 Cor. vi, 17. Whoever does not apply the grace given to him, 3rd, to daily watching and praying against the roaring and arch fiend: Who finally, 4th, hates instruction, and turns away again, Ps. xlix 16, 17, he shall not get through.
(C) When a relapse has actually taken place,
A certain relapse there is, if only one of the just now mentioned points does not proceed in true humiliation and faith, and particularly, 1st, If a man withdraws from the wholesome discipline of the spirit, and the brotherly correction, and necessary humiliation, then grace also draws back, and man falls into a reprehensible licentiousness; liberty and impudence of the flesh, and enters upon things, that before would have given him the greatest anxiety. It goes likewise backward, 2nd, If one falls out of the blessed strong-hold of commiseration and conviction; and then he falls most certainly, and at the same time into a servile, anxious, self-working, weakness and debility. — Whoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace, Gal. v, 4.
3rd, If finally we get tired of the means, get a surfeit of the word of God, suffer deleteriousness and coolness in prayer gain strength, and obtain the government again. God preserves all through certain means! Nobody lives in nature, without meat and drink. No one can remain in the grace without prayer and the word of God, St. Mat. iv, 4. ”
4th, The relapse is likewise promoted by sparing conversations with the children and servants of God, if by degrees we begin to avoid them, and fly from them; but on the contrary, get into an unnecessary and spontaneous connexion with the children of the world. When Peter ventured amongst the enemies of Jesus, he denied his Lord.
(D) In how many different manners the relapse may happen.
The relapse happens in two different ways. When a child of God suffers the love of the world to govern him again, not watching closely its attacks and incitements, falls into a shameful care of the body, suffers himself to be drawn away from the principal, and from the Only care, follows covetousness and wants to become rich; then he falls into temptations and the snares of foolish and dangerous lusts, which draw him into perdition and errs from faith, 1 Tim. vi, 6, 10. Whoever loves the vain, voluptuous ways of the world and sinful lusts, in him is not the love of the Father. How many are again entangled in the world! 2 Pet. ii, 2. This is the fall of Adam!
Secondly, The relapse happens with children of God, When they suffer self-love to take the dominion again, when they let Satan lead them upon the heights, upon the pinnacle of the temple, upon own spirituality, self-complacency, much knowledge and talking, and to be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, 2 Cor. xi, 3, when they want to be something, blow themselves up, and become spiritually and sometimes carnally proud. The best gifts are spoiled by egotism. Do not look upon your own deeds, else the fortress is actually betrayed to the enemy! O how dangerous is this! this is the fall of Lucifer. How many are already turned aside after satan, 1 Tim, v, 15.
To this we may come also, if by our own gluttonousness we fall from the gospel upon unwholesome, poisoned pasture and writings; then we begin to swell immediately. Christ must increase and we must decrease. The larger Christ becomes to us, the smaller we become in our own eyes, — The further the moon is from the sun, the greater is her light or appearance — the nearer the smaller. At noon, shadows are smallest. The further we advance in grace, the poorer, the smaller we are in our own eyes. Do those become nothing, let Christ be all.
(E) What injury a relapse occasions.
The injury by a relapse is, (a) the last is worse than the first, or, than the first state, before conversion. Satan returns with seven spirits worse than himself. Yea, it waxes worse and worse, 2 Tim. iii, 13.
(b) A difficult conversion follows. Paul says, Gal. iv, 19. Of them he must travail in birth again.
(c) Even if you obtain grace again, you will but seldom arrive at your first lot. In Conversion, you receive with the grace a certain lot, situation, place and function, in the house of God, according to your capacity. One vessel is more glorious than the other. One is a foot, the other a hand, or an eye of the body — this is the first lot, situation and place forfeited by the relapse, which we must know — others step up into their place.
(F) Advantages for constancy and to endure.
The advantages for constancy and to endure are, 1st, Keep what thou hast, that nobody take the crown from thee. The grace which you give up, another will take.
If you will not, others are ready — the crumbs which you tread under your feet, others gather with the greatest eagerness. Through the fall of the Jews, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, Rom. ii, 11. The chandelier of the gospel draws from one place to another.
2nd, Learn to estimate Christ and his grace more and more.
3rd, Be obedient to discipline and unction, do not offend the spirit of God.
4th, Become more and more hungry after grace, more eager after the word, more thirsty after true salvation. — Remain in the poorness of the spirit. How good it is to feel ourselves so, that we want daily nourishment and refreshment out of the word of God — those who think themselves above this, are deluded by satan.
5th, Flee the unnecessary connexion with the world, or you will repent it too late.
6th, Remain steadfast in the doctrines of the apostles, in the fellowship with honest souls, and in prayer, Acts ii, 42.
7th, Let nothing remove you out of the poorness of spirit and the assurance of faith. Hasten daily with the sinners, who have been but just now awakened; yea, as the most miserable amongst them, ask no preference before the greatest of sinners, throw yourself along with them, at the feet of the Lamb.
8th, Believe that there is grace enough for constancy; the Saviour does not suffer himself to be robbed of any one sheep, unless it breaks willfully out of its enclosure; and before it comes so far, many warnings precede.
9th, Suffer yourself now to be brought into the blessed and daily fellowship of the cross and death of Christ, being made conformable unto his death, Phil, iii, 10. Hereby you will now be advanced, and this must (after the expiation) be your care and end.
(G) Advantages for the preservation of faith and forgiveness.
Here observe in particular the following: 1st, If with the sense of our misery we learn to believe, then our misery cannot draw us away from faith.
2nd, Temptations of sin and unbelief may attack our faith, but they must not rob us thereof.
3rd, Faults and transgressions, which we commit against our sense and will, demand and occasion repentance and humiliation, but they do not abolish grace, consequently not faith; they are all paid at once. In the old covenant, they never could get done with sacrifices, but as often as they sinned, so often must they offer them again, Heb. x, 1. But Christ by one offering has perfected for ever them that are sanctified, vs. 14, and brought everlasting righteousness, Dan. x, 24. This is the case with all our faults, Heb. x, 12, only that we must not sin willfully, vs. 26 — 1 John ii, 1, 2.
4th, We must love the reprehensions of the spirit, rejoice at it, and remain faithful.
I renounce all own ways and choice, and follow the word and the discipline of the spirit. Amen!