Back to The Believer, The Temple of the Holy Ghost
The Believer, the Temple of the Holy Ghost
by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769)
III. The Unshaken Consolation of a True Christian
Great as are the duties of a Christian, so great and immutable is the constant and abiding comfort in life and death which results from a strict observance of them. But this comfort arises from this cause, that we are not our own but God's. This we have often learnt from the catechism in our youth, for when it is there asked, "What is thy sole consolation in life and death?" the answer is: "This, that with body and soul, both in life and death, I am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ."
Yes, verily, herein lies the most secure and unshaken consolation for true Christian believers: "I am no longer my own, but have become God's by the purchase and acceptance of Christ." As long as a poor girl is her own master, she is chargeable with all her debts, but as soon as she has given consent to a very rich man, who is willing to betroth himself to her, all her debts are paid. O, this is a very important consolation! He who has become God's property has no longer need to vex and burden himself with the guilt of his sins. This is a real truth, a most sure and immutable consolation in life and death.
How miserable it is, to live with a disturbed and ever accusing conscience in this world! Let the individual do what he pleases in order to deliver himself from the pungent accusations of conscience; let him hasten for this purpose from one amusement to another, from one society to another—all will nevertheless be in vain. It is like a creditor who always duns and accuses, who gives the debtor no rest wherever he may betake himself and whatever he may undertake. If, however, in real heartfelt conversion and in consequence of having given our sincere consent to Christ, we are become His and are therefore no longer our own, Christ takes upon Himself all the debt transferred over to Him. . . .
As long as a maiden has not given her consent, she may have many suitors and be much hurried about by them. Thus it is with our poor hearts as long as we do not come to Christ. As long as we do not give ourselves sincerely, fully and thoroughly to Christ, the devil, the world, and the corrupt flesh seek to draw the soul first one way and then another and to disturb it in a variety of ways. Happy, yea, thrice happy, therefore. is he who has thoroughly and sincerely given himself to Christ and by an undisembled consent has betrothed himself to Him in eternal fidelity. Such an one can most justly say and sing in the words of the poet:
I am betrothed. Sin, world, and self depart!
Ye woo in vain a God-devoted heart.
What charms have ye to fascinate my love?
Sorrow and death result from your embrace;
Filled with disgust, I turn away my face
And scorn your honors and your joys to prove.
Nay, though you should, with all your might oppose,
You never more shall trouble my repose.
. . . Further, as a virgin when betrothed has no longer need care for her support, but leaves her bridegroom to provide for her, so likewise those souls who, by true conversion and presentation, have become Christ's own, need no longer care for themselves, either as it respects body or soul. God, who in Christ has now become their God and reconciled Father knows that they require meat and drink and also raiment to cover their nakedness. They now stand under the peculiar oversight and protection of their heavenly Father, so that, according to the letter of Scripture, "Without the will of their Father in heaven not a hair of their head shall fall to the ground."
They have only a single thing to observe and carefully to attend to, and with this one, everything is accomplished: "Give me, my son, thy heart." Inasmuch as they sincerely resign this, and eternally yield it up to Christ, they may divest themselves entirely of all other cares. Therefore it is said further, "And let thine eyes observe my ways." The Holy Spirit intends to say by this, "Thou needst take no more thought concerning what thou shalt eat and drink and wherewithal thou shalt be clothed, in what manner, and howsoever it may fair with thee in future with respect to body and soul. No, I will provide for everything. I will do all things well. Only let My ways please thee, however I may act or ordain concerning thee. Whether I send thee health or sickness, riches or poverty, or whether I exalt or abase thee, be ever pleased with My ways, and thou shalt know that all things shall serve for thy good, whether it be a state of barrenness or spiritual enjoyment, whether light or darkness, etc." Is not this a great and unspeakable consolation?
He that belongs to Christ need not be afraid of his enemies, nor of their power and subtlety. Ah! I can scarcely bear that men make Satan so omnipotent, as if he could do what he pleased, as if he could retain people captive as long as he chose to do so. This is by no means the case. Christ has taken from him all power and all right over us. On which account those who have sincerely yielded themselves up to Christ and are really His property, have nothing more to fear from the devil. Let us much rather be afraid of ourselves, of our own evil and corrupt hearts, and place a mistrust in ourselves. Let us only thoroughly and without any reserve resign our hearts to Christ who has so dearly bought us, and then the devil and the world will be afraid of us.... Those souls that have devoted themselves to God can say with David, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear" (Ps 27: 1). "God is our refuge and strength, therefore will we not fear" (Ps 46).
Finally, it is also a great and immutable privilege to be no longer our own but to have become God's, both in body and soul, and particularly so in the hour of death. O, the dreadful hour, dreadful to all the unconverted! Dreadful to nature! In the hour of death, when there is no consolation either in Heaven or on earth, this is and continues to be a sure and unshaken consolation, "Thou art not thine own but God's."
But if I am no longer my own but God's and belong to Christ, I therefore need not care, nor be afraid, nor apprehensive of an evil result. If I belong to Christ, He will not suffer that which is His to be lost, nor let it be taken from Him, but He will know how to preserve me after giving and presenting myself to Him so as that I shall not be again taken from Him. For He has Himself said, "Father, I have lost none of those whom thou hast given me."
He has continually preserved them as the apple of His eye. And though the body may moulder in the ground and become a putrefying carcass and millions of atoms, this does not trouble me. It is not my body, but it is become God's. Therefore I am unconcerned about it. Christ is Lord both of life and death. He will eventually again bring forth the body, which is equally His, and make it like unto His glorious body. In short, it is impossible to find a more complete consolation than this, that we are God's and not our own. A true believer, in his dying hour, may therefore say to Christ, in truth and reality, in the words of the hymn:
That I to Thee united am,
Brings comfort to my heart;
With Thee connected I remain,
Nor pain nor death shall part;
For though I die I shall forever live.
Since Thou has risen from the dead,
I shall not in the grave remain,
Thy rising is my comfort made;
The fear of death assaults in vain,
For where Thou art, there I shall be.
Where Christ is, thither I must also come. Hence He says, "I will that where I am, they may be also, whom the Father has given me.”
I ought now, in conclusion, to make an application of the great and much implying expression, "Know ye not?" and institute an examination upon it but the time has elapsed. I would otherwise have said to the unconverted, "Know ye not your unhappiness? Know ye not, that if the Holy Spirit does not dwell in your heart, another spirit inhabits there, namely a wicked spirit, and that you consequently belong to it?"
O what an unhappy and dreadful state!
Know ye not, ye unhappy children of men, know ye not that ye will be his portion in death to whom ye have belonged in life? O what a misfortune is that! Know ye not that a day will come in which each will take his own to himself? Christ shall appear in His glory and place those that belong to Him on His right hand as sheep, but those that belong to the prince of hell as goats on His left hand! What a dreadful thought!
Know ye not that this is now the time of grace, a time in which the precious Gospel is still preached and offered to you? Know ye not that you are really not your own, that you are bought with a price? Ye may even now become happy men and children of God. Are you well aware of this? ... O reflect with true seriousness whether it is possible for you to have a single quiet hour as long as you do not seriously give yourselves to God.
I have still to address these words to you my fellow-called. Know ye not that ye are a temple of the Holy Ghost? Know ye not to what a high and superlative dignity ye are created, redeemed, and called and how you are under the operation of the Holy Ghost? Are you aware what creatures we are? Are you aware what grace has been bestowed upon us, what God, even our God, purposes respecting us and to what we may attain ever here in this present time of grace?
Ah, we only know it by the understanding, whilst the heart has not the slightest impression of it; the mind is entirely unaffected by it, otherwise we would certainly pursue calling with far greater diligence…. Know ye not that this is your most imperative duty and obligation? Yes, we know it when we read of it occasionally, when we are sometimes reminded of it, but scarcely is this done, scarcely is the book closed, the word of admonition over, than we afterwards think little of that which we have heard. Ah, my dear friends, do not let it be as a passing sound. Let it not continue mere head knowledge. Let the word at this time penetrate deeply into your heart.... I now break off in order to leave our worthy minister time and place to address to us a further word of awakening and edification for the establishment and confirmation of the truth.
You can find this sermon and many others, along with Tersteegen's wonderful hymns and poems in Sermons and Hymns of Gerhard Tersteegen Vol. 2" by Harvey & Tait
Back to The Believer, The Temple of the Holy Ghost