Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Week Reflection, I

As part of my on-going studies I recently took a class on Lutheran Orthodoxy by Dr. Robert Kolb, of Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.  This book was one of the required texts.  This edition is a new translation offered by a Lutheran minister in a nearby community.  It should be noted that Gerhard wrote this volume at the ripe old age of 23.  It is available at Amazon.com.

For those who have never heard of Johann Gerhard, let me give you this snippet from the preface: 

Johann Gerhardt (1582-1637) is widely recognized as the third most important Lutheran theologian, with only Luther himself and "the other Martin," Chemnitz, ranked ahead of him.  His twenty-three volume study of biblical doctrine, published between 1610 and 1622 is rgarded as the most outstanding work of Lutheran dogmatics... Gerhard belongs not only to the first rank of dogmaticians but to the first rank of devotional writers...Gerhard wrote in Latin, but already in his own lifetime he was the most popular writer of devotional works in England, where his works went through many English editions." 

During this week leading up to Easter I'd like to offer a couple of selections from this work.

I. Concerning True Knowledge of Sin

Holy God, Righteous Judge, my sins are clear to the eyes and the spirit (Leviticus 11:45).  I think about death every hour because in every hour death is near (Psalm 7:12).  I think about the judgment every day because for every day a reckoning will have to be rendered (2 Cor. 5:10).  I examine my life and recognize that it is entirly vain and profane. Vain and worthless are many of my actions, even more vain are many of my words, still more vain are the majority of my thoughts.  My life is not only vain, but also profane and impious.  I find nothing good in it.  Even if something in it appears good, it is certainly not good and perfect, because it is corrupted by the contagion of original sin and the sinful nature...

Our own righteousness , which appears to be righteous in our eyes, is merely unrighteousness when compared with your divine righteousness.  A lamp stands out when it shines in the darkness, but is hidden when enveloped by the rays of the sun.  A stick is often considered straight if it is not held next to a ruler, but if it is compared to the ruler, one soon discovers that the stick has crooked spots...Nevertheless, the eye of the Maker discerns many imperfections.  It often happens, therefore, that a thing that shines in the estimation of the one doing it is foul in the judgment of a judge.  One is the judgment of man, the other of God...

The very voice of God himself, namely the divine law, accuses me.  Either the divine law must be fulfilled or I am going to perish.  But for me to fulfill the law is impossible, to perish in eternity intolerable.  God accuses me, whom I am unable to decieve, the most severe judge and most powerful executioner of his own eternal law, accuses me...To where then can I flee (Psalm 139:7)? 

To you, O pious Christ, our sole Redeemer and Savior, I can flee.  Great are my sins, but greater is your satisfaction.  Great is my unrighteousness, but greater your righteousness....In me there is nothing but damnable sin.  In you there is nothing but saving merit...My sins cry to heaven, but your blood, poured out for my sins, cries louder (Hebrews 12:24).  My sins are persuasively accusing me in the presence of God, but your more persuasive passion is defending me.  My unrighteous life is clamoring for my damnation, but your more powerful righteousness is my salvation.  I appeal from the throne of justice to the throne of mercy.  I do not want to come to the judgment except with your own holiest merit standing between me and your judgment.

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