Saint Tikhon’s of Zadonsk
Journey to Heaven
Part I and II
Part I. On loving God. Remember the love of God. The Law of God. On conscience.
Part II. The Way of Salvation. The Gospel of Salvation. Holy Baptism. On repentance. The Deliverer. Ye are a chosen Race. Honoring our fellow Christians.
Born in 1724 in the village of Korotsk, in the Novgorod region, into a simple, peasant family, he received the monastic habit at the age of thirty-four and very soon, because of his ascesis and spiritual wisdom, was given higher and higher service until he was consecrated Bishop of Voronezh. He served as bishop for a little under seven years and then, because of ill-health, retired to the monastery of Zadonsk and entered into rest there in 1783. His wonderworking relics are kept there to this day. A great ascetic of the Russian Church, he was a rare shepherd, a man of prayer and the writer of beautiful spiritual works. In his wisdom, his holiness and asceticism, he could be counted an equal of the great Fathers of the Orthodox Church of former times. Because of the many witnessed miracles that were performed over his relics, he was first proclaimed a saint by the people, and then officially by the Church in 1861. He is commemorated on August 26 (August 13 old calendar).
Troparion, Tone 8
From thy youth thou didst love Christ, O blessed one/ and wast a model in word, life, love, spirit, faith and humility./ Now thou art dwelling in the heavenly mansions where thou dost stand before the throne of the Most Holy Trinity./ Holy Father Tikhon, pray that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion, Tone 8
O successor of the Apostles, adornment of Hierarchs and teacher of the Orthodox Church:/ pray to the Lord of all that He grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls.
On Loving God
Beloved Christians, all Christians say, "How can we not love God?" Or, "Whom shall we love, if not God?" This is a true saying, "How can we not love God?" And likewise, "Whom shall we love, if not God?" God is the supreme good, uncreated, without beginning, without end, existent, and without change. As the sun always shines, as fire always warms, so God is by nature good; He is and always does good, since "there is none good, but One, that is God" (Mt. 19:17). God even does good when He chastises us, for He chastises us so that He may correct us. He strikes us so that He may have mercy on us, He gives us sorrows so that He may truly console us. "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb.12:6). How then can one not love so great a good as God? God is our Creator. He created us out of nothing. We were not, and behold, we live, move, and have being. His almighty hands formed and created us. He created us, O men, not like other creatures, senseless and irrational. He created us by His own special divine counsel, "Let Us make man" (Gen. 1:26). Of other creatures it is said, "He spake, and they came to be, He commanded, and they were created" (Ps. 148:5), but not so with man. What then? Let Us, it says, create man.
O most holy, O most beloved counsel! The Tri-hypostatic God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, said of man, "Let Us create man." What sort of man? "In Our image," it says, "and likeness." O the marvelous goodness of God toward man! O the most exalted honor of man! Man was created by God in the image and likeness of God. On what creature has God bestowed such honor? We know none like it. It was bestowed on man and he was honored with the image of God. O the most beloved and beautiful of God's creation, man, the image of God! He bears it in himself as a royal seal. As the king is honored, so is his portrait. As to God the Heavenly King is due all honor, so to His image, man. God poured forth this goodness on us in our creation, O Christian. How then can we not love God?
We fell and we perished. We cannot mourn sufficiently over this: "And man being in honour did not understand, he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them" (LXX-Ps. 48:13 [KJV-Ps. 49:12]). But even so, God Who loves mankind did not forsake us, but He found a wonderful means for our salvation. He sent us His only-begotten Son to save us and to gather us to Himself. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (Jn. 3:16-17). How then shall we not love God, Who loves us so? As we all call Him, God is the Lover of Mankind; then man must be a lover of God. For nothing can be given in return for love but love and gratitude.
God is our provider. He takes thought for us and cares for us. He gives us our food, clothing, and home. His sun, moon, and stars give us light. His fire warms us and we cook our food with it. His water washes us and refreshes us. His beasts serve us. His air enlivens us and keeps us alive. In a word, we are surrounded with His blessings and love, and without them we are not able to live for a moment. Then how can we not love God Who loves us so? We love a man who does good; all the more should we love God Who does good, Whose we are and everything we may possess. All creation, and man himself is God's possession. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" (LXX-Ps. 23:1 [KJV-Ps. 24:1]).
God is our Father. We pray to Him and say, "Our Father, Who art in heaven" and so on. How then can we not love God the Father? Good children necessarily love their father. If then we wish to be true children of God, and unhypocritically call Him Father, then we must also love Him as Father.
Truly is it said by all, "How can we not love God?" Love, like every other virtue, must also reside in our heart. For if love does not reside in the heart, then it does not exist. God does not say, "Love, be humble, be compassionate, pray, beseech, call unto Me," and so on, to our lips, but to our heart. Then love, humility, compassion, prayer, and the rest, must reside in the heart. And if it abides in the heart, then it will inevitably appear outwardly like a belch from stomach. A hidden fire gives itself away by its heat, and a fragrant balm by its smell. Thus David showed the holy love which he had for God by his most sweet hymns to God, "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my foundation, and my refuge, and my deliverer. My God is my helper, and I will hope in Him, my defender, and the horn of my salvation, and my helper" (LXX-Ps. 17:2-3 [KJV-Ps. 18:2-3]), and in many other places. Though love may hide in the heart, nevertheless it cannot be concealed, but it gives itself away by outward signs.
The Signs of Love for God
But let us see what the signs of love for God are, so that we may not have a false dream of love instead of love itself. In nothing does a man deceive himself so much as in love. The signs of this love are:
1. God Himself indicates this, saying, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (Jn. 14:21). For the true lover of God will preserve himself from everything that is repugnant to God, and hastens to fulfil everything that is pleasing to God. Wherefore he keeps His holy commandments. From this it follows that those Christians that neglect the commandments have no love for God. Such are the malicious and those that harm others in any way. Such are the profligate, adulterers and all defilers. Such are robbers, bandits, thieves, and all those that unjustly appropriate the goods of others. Such are slanderers and those that curse others. Such are the sly, the crooked, the guileful, deceivers and hypocrites. Such are sorcerers and those that call on them. Such are all evildoers. All such love neither the Law of God nor God himself. They love themselves and their own appetites, but not God or His holy Law.
2. A manifest sign of love for God is a heartfelt gladness in God, for we rejoice in what we love. Likewise love of God cannot exist without joy, and whenever a man feels the sweetness of the love of God within his heart, he rejoices in God. For so sweet a virtue as love cannot be felt without joy. As honey sweetens our throat when we taste of it, so the love of God makes our heart glad when we taste and see that the Lord is good (LXX-Ps. 33:9 [KJV-Ps. 34:8]). Such joy in God is found in many places in Holy Scriptures, and is portrayed most of all in the holy Psalms. This joy is spiritual and heavenly, and is a foretaste of the sweetness of eternal life.
3. The true lover of God disdains the world and all that is in the world, and strives toward God, his most beloved. He counts honor, glory, riches, and all the comforts of this world which the sons of this age seek, as nothing. For him only God, the uncreated and most beloved good, suffices. In Him alone he finds perfect honor, glory, riches and comfort. For him God alone is the pearl without price, for the sake of which he holds everything else as little. Such a one desires nothing in heaven or on earth besides God. Such love is portrayed in the very words of the Psalter, "For what have I in heaven? And besides Thee what have I desired upon earth? My heart and my flesh have failed, O God of my heart, and God is my portion forever" (LXX-Ps. 72:25 [KJV-Ps. 73:25]). He uses food, drink, clothing, and everything else only as needful, and not for sensual pleasure.
From this it follows that whoever loves the world does not love God. According to the witness of the Apostle, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:15). Such are those that find pleasure only in the pride and pomp of this world, in rich homes, in rich carriages, in rich tables, in dressing in rich clothing, to be glorified and admired by all, and so on. Such people love the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 Jn. 2:16) which are all repugnant to God, but they do not love God.
4. The true lover of God keeps God ever in mind, and His love toward us and His benefactions. We see this even in human love, for we often remember the one we love. So whoever loves God remembers Him, thinks of Him, and finds consolation in Him, and is enrapt in Him. For wherever his treasure is, there his heart is also (Mt. 6:21). To him the priceless and most beloved treasury is God. Therefore his heart also holds itself inseparably before Him. Whence it is that he also remembers His holy name often and with love. For the heart filled with the love of God reveals outward signs of love. From this we see that those who forget God do not love Him, for forgetfulness is a manifest sign of no love for God. The lover can never forget his beloved.
5. One who loves, desires never to be separated from the one he loves. Many Christians desire to be with Christ the Lord when He is glorified, but they do not wish to be with Him in dishonor and reproach, nor to carry their cross. They entreat Him that they may come into His Kingdom, but they do not wish to suffer in the world, and thereby they show that their heart is not right and that they do not truly love Christ. And to tell the truth, they love themselves more than Christ. For this reason the Lord says, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Mt. 10:38). A true friend is known in misfortune. He is our true friend and one who loves us who does not forsake us in misfortune. Likewise the true lover of Christ is he who abides with Christ in this world, and cleaves to Him in his heart, and uncomplainingly endures the cross with Him, and desires to be with Him inseparably in the age to come. Such a one says unto Christ, "It is good for me to cleave unto God" (LXX-Ps. 72:28 [KJV-Ps. 73:28]).
6. A sign of the love of God is love for neighbor. He who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. He who loves the lover loves what is loved by him. The source of love for neighbor is love for God, but the love of God is known from love for neighbor. Hence it is apparent that he who does not love his neighbor does not love God either. As the Apostle teaches, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (1 Jn. 4:20-21). These are the signs of love for God hidden in the heart of a man.
Dear Christians, let us repent and turn away from the vanity of the world, and cleanse our hearts with repentance and contrition, that the love of God may abide in us. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 Jn. 4:16).
Why Should we Love God?
God is the supreme good from Whom every good thing flows, and all blessing that is and ever shall be.
Without God all blessedness is cursedness and woe, life is death, joy and sweetness are bitterness. To live with God is happiness in misfortune, riches in poverty, glory in dishonor, and consolation in sorrow. Without God there cannot be true repose, peace and consolation.
Therefore love Him as your supreme good and blessedness, love Him above every creature, above father and mother, above wife and children, and above your own self. Cleave to Him alone in your heart, and above all, desire Him alone because He is your eternal good and blessedness without Whom there is neither life or blessedness in this age or the next.
Every creature of God is good, but their Creator is incomparably better. Love, then, and desire that good as it is existent, without beginning, without end, everexistent, and without change, from Whom all creatures are created good.
the Love of God
Everywhere and in every endeavor remember the Lord your God and His holy love for us. Everything that you may see in heaven and on earth and in your house awakens you to the remembrance of the Lord your God and His holy love. We are enveloped in God's love. Every creature of God bears witness to His love for us. When you see God's creation and make use of it, say to yourself thus: This is the work of the hands of the Lord my God, and it was created for my sake. These luminaries of the heavens, the sun, the moon, and the stars, are the creations of the Lord my God, and they illumine all the world and me. This earth on which I live, which bears fruit for me and my cattle, and all that may be upon it, is the creation of the Lord my God. This water which waters me and my cattle is a blessing of my Lord. This cattle which serves me is the, creation of my Lord and was given by Him to serve me. This house in which I live is God's blessing and was given me by Him for my repose. This food which I taste is God's gift to me given for the strengthening and consolation of my weak flesh. This garment with which I am clothed the Lord my God gave me for the sake of covering my naked body. And so on.
This icon is the image of Christ; the image of my Saviour, Who for my sake came to this unfortunate world to save me who have perished, and He suffered and died for me, and so He redeemed me from sin, the devil, death and hell. I worship His unspeakable love for man.
This icon is the image of the Theotokos, the image of that Most-Holy Virgin, who gave birth in the flesh without seed to Jesus Christ my Lord and God. Blessed among women is the Mother that bore God incarnate, and blessed is the fruit of her womb (Lk. 1:42)! Blessed is the womb that bore my Lord, and the paps which He has sucked (Lk. 11:27)!
This is the icon of the Forerunner; it is the image of that great prophet who was sent from God before the face of my Saviour Jesus Christ, and to the people he preached Him already come into the world, and pointed Him out, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world!" (Jn. 1:29), and he was found worthy to baptize Him in the streams of the Jordan.
This is the icon of the apostle; it is the image of the disciple of my Saviour, who saw Him in person, who went with Him, and saw Him work miracles, and heard Him preach, saw Him suffer for the salvation of the world, and rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. This is the icon of the martyr; it is the image of that struggler who withstood even to blood for the honor of my Saviour Jesus Christ, and did not spare even his own holy life for His name, and he established our pious faith as true by pouring forth his own blood; and so on.
This word, the Sacred Scripture which I hear, is the word of God, it is the word of His mouth. The mouth of my Lord spoke this, and through it my God speaks to me, "The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver" (LXX-Ps. 118:72 [KJV-Ps. 119:72]). O Lord, grant me ears to hear Thy holy word.
This holy house, the church in which I stand, is the temple of God in which prayer and glorification are offered up to my God in common from the faithful, my brethren. These voices, this glorification and common prayer are those voices by which hymns, thanksgiving, praise and glorification are sent up to the holy name of my God.
This consecrated man, the bishop or priest, is the closest servant of my God, who offers prayers to Him for me a sinner and for all the world. This man, the preacher of the word of God, is the messenger of my God, who makes known the way of salvation to me and to the rest of the people my brethren.
This brother of mine, every man, is the beloved creature of my God, and like myself is a creature created after the image and likeness of God. And having fallen he was redeemed, like myself, by the Blood of the Son of God my Saviour, and is called to everlasting life by the Word of God. I must love him as the beloved creature of my God, love him as I love myself. And I must not do to him anything that I myself do not love, and I must do to him what I desire for myself, for that is what my God commanded me. In a word, every occasion and every thing can and must inspire you to a loving remembrance of the Lord your God, and must show you His love toward you, since even His chastisement comes from His love toward us. According to the Scripture, "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6). Remember, then, everywhere and on every occasion and in all things, the name of the Lord your God. Take care not to forget your Benefactor when you enjoy His benefactions, lest you appear ungrateful to Him; for forgetfulness of a benefactor is a clear sign of ingratitude.
God is your creator, deliverer, supreme benefactor, and good provider. He created you just as He gives you every good thing, since without His goodness you could not live even for a minute. You do not see your Benefactor with these eyes, but you see the benefits He has given you. You see the sun, the moon and His stars which illumine you. You see the fire that warms you and cooks your food. You see the food which satisfies you, you see the clothing by which your naked body is covered. You see all other countless blessings which He gave you for your needs and comfort.
Seeing, then, and receiving these benefits, remember your unseen Benefactor everywhere and always with love, and thank Him for all His benefits with a pure heart. The greatest and highest of all His blessings is that by His good will Christ, His Only-Begotten Son, came to us and redeemed us by His precious Blood and suffering from the devil, hell, and death. In this work He showed us His unspeakable goodness to us. We must, then, always gaze with faith upon this great work of God so incomprehensible to the mind, and remember God Who so loved us unworthy ones. We must thank Him from our whole heart, worship Him, praise, hymn, and glorify Him with out heart and lips. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David" (Lk. 1:68-69).
You, too, should always remember this great work of God and marvel at it, and thank God from your heart, and live as it pleases God, Who came into the world to save sinners, lest you offend Him with your ingratitude. He desires to save you, since He came into the world for your sake, and suffered and died in His holy flesh. You should fulfil His holy will, then, and take care for the salvation of your soul with all diligence. Be thankful to Him, and live in the world humbly, with love, meekly and patiently, as He Himself lived. He also desires the same of you.
Endeavor to please God with faith and obedience, that is, do what He desires and what is pleasing to Him, and do not do what He does not desire and what is not pleasing to Him. Without obedience, whatever a man may do is not pleasing to God.
Reverence Toward God
Do not worship God with material things and superficially, but with a good conscience, fear, love, obedience, thanksgiving, prayer and faith. For God is Spirit, nonmaterial, and is therefore worshipped in nothing else but in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).
Mention the name of God with all reverence, fear and devotion, and that only when and where we ought to mention it, because the name of God is holy and aweful, and those that mention it without reverence sin grievously. Render, then, all reverence to the name of God as to God Himself. You mention the name of an earthly king with respect; that is as it should be. How much more should we mention the name of God the Heavenly King, which is revered, beloved and sweet to angels and to the souls of the saints, with extreme reverence.
The name of God is rightly mentioned in prayer, in glorification, in thanksgiving, in praise, and spiritual songs and in conversations and discourse befitting of Christians. That is when the conversation is about the Holy Word of God, about the Law and the Gospel, about the advent of Christ into the world, about His life on earth, His suffering and death which He endured for our sake, about death, about the Judgement of Christ, about eternal torment and everlasting life, and so on.
Do not mention it in other conversations without extreme need, and if there is need to mention it, mention it with all caution and due reverence.
Guard against mentioning the name of God in lies and jests, lest God's judgement come upon you at that moment. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).
Without living faith and the fear of God it is impossible to live in a godly way. Living faith is inspired in the human heart by contemplation of the word of God and by the Holy Spirit. For this reason we should read and heed the word of God and pray that God Himself ignite the lamp of faith in our heart. The fear of God arises most often from contemplation of the omnipresence of God and His omniscience. God is in essence everywhere present; and wherever we may be, He is with us; and whatever we may do, say, think, and undertake, we do, say, think, and undertake all before His holy eyes. And He knows our deeds far better than we do ourselves. Think about this, O Christian, and heed it, and with God's help the fear of God will be born in you. The fear of God will guard you and correct you everywhere and in all things, and will turn you away from every evil deed, and confirm you in every good deed. Thus day by day you will become better.
Keep God, then, before your spiritual eyes and you will have the fear of God, imitating the Psalmist, "I beheld the Lord ever before me"(Ps. 15:8). But what you ought to do will be made clear to you in subsequent points. Take heed, then, and endeavor to comply with it.
While standing in church attend diligently to the reading and singing. This gives birth to compunction, true prayer, heartfelt singing and thanksgiving. Avoid, then, standing bodily in church while wandering outside the church in mind, and standing bodily before God while wandering about in spirit in worldly affairs, lest that saying be applied to you, "his people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me" (Mt. 15:8). While standing bodily in church, then, stand with heart and spirit as you stand before God. When you look upon the icons of the saints, call to mind that One is the Creator that created them and you, and that His purpose was the same for them as it is for you, that is, to save both them and you. They are glorified, and before you lies the same glory, only imitate their lives and you shall be saved.
Prayer consists not only in standing and bowing before God in body, and in reading written prayers, but even without that it is possible to pray in mind and spirit at all times and in everyplace. You can do it while walking, sitting, reclining, among people, and in solitude. Raise up your mind and heart to God, and so beg mercy and help from Him. For God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open, and it is easy to approach Him, not as with man. And we can approach Him with faith and with our prayer everywhere and at all times, and in every need and circumstance. We can say to Him mentally at any time, "Lord, have mercy, Lord help!" and so on.
The Law of God
Love the Word of God, that is the Scriptures, handed down to us by the prophets and apostles, as God Himself. For the word of God is the word of God's mouth. If you love God, then without fail you will love the word of God also. For the word of God is God's epistle or letter to us unworthy ones, and is His supreme gift to us for the sake of our salvation. If you love the Sender, then also love the letter which is sent from Him to you. For the word of God is given by God to me, to you, and to everyone, so that everyone who desires to be saved may receive salvation through it.
You love it when an earthly king writes you a letter, and you read it with love and joy. How much more must we read the letter of the Heavenly King with love and joy.
The word of God was not given to you so that it should lay written only on paper, but so that we may use it spiritually, that we may be enlightened and guided in the true way and salvation, that our morals may be corrected, and that we may live according to its rule in this world, and that we may please God. If you wish, therefore, to be a true Christian, then without fail you must take care to live by its rule. For the word of God is a heavenly seed. It must, then, yield fruit in us after its kind, that is a holy and heavenly life, otherwise it will accuse us on the day of the fearful Judgement of Christ. Live, therefore, as the word of God teaches, and then correct yourself. Do not pry idly into the mysteries.
Of the mystery of the All-Holy Trinity, the Most-Holy Eucharist, and other such things that are not revealed to us in the holy word of God, do not inquire idly, lest you fall into the snare of the devil and be tangled in it, and not be able to escape from thence, and so perish. For that which requires faith alone transcends our reasoning, and it is very dangerous to pry into these things. Keep yourself, then, from prying into things which are above you. Believe in all things as the Holy Scriptures teach, and as the Holy Church believes and establishes in accordance with it.
When God created man He set a conscience within his soul so that he may be governed by it as by a rule, and so that he may be guided in what to do and what to avoid. Conscience is nothing other than natural or innate law, which is why it also agrees with the written Law of God. For whatever the Law of God teaches, conscience teaches also.
The Law of God commands us to know the one God; conscience teaches the same. Wherefore even pagans, convinced by conscience, acknowledged one God.
The Law of God commands us to reverence God above all creatures and to render supreme honor to God alone; conscience teaches the same. The Law of God teaches us not to hold anything equal to God; conscience teaches the same. The Law of God commands us to show submissiveness, subordination and obedience to God as the supreme authority; conscience teaches the same. The Law of God commands us to fear God as the most righteous Judge; we hear the same from conscience. The Law of God commands us to punish those that blaspheme the name of God; our conscience cannot endure it either. The Law of God teaches us to listen to God more than to man; conscience teaches the same. The Law of God demands that we love God above all things; conscience demands the same. For God is the most exalted and supreme good and the source of all good, therefore we must love Him above all created good things.
The Law of God teaches us to thank God for all things; conscience teaches us the same, for conscience itself convinces us to be thankful to our Benefactor.
The Law of God commands us to put all our hope in God; conscience commands the same. For God alone is able to do all things as Almighty. Every created thing is powerless without God and apart from God, therefore hope in them is inconstant and infirm. The Law of God commands us to submit and give honor to parents and all authorities sent by God; we hear the same thing from our conscience.
The Law of God forbids us to harm a man and to deprive him of life; conscience forbids the same thing. The Law of God commands us to help a man in misfortune and need; conscience commands the same. The Law of God forbids adultery and fornication; a man hears the same from his conscience, and it thunders within him not to defile himself with uncleanliness.
The Law of God forbids us to lay hold of the goods of others without the consent of the proprietor; conscience cries out the same. The Law of God forbids lying, flattery, and deceit; conscience forbids it too. The Law of God commands us not to desire anything that belongs to another; conscience commands it too. Thus the Law of God and conscience mutually agree and are appointed for the same end, that is our blessedness, whence even the pagans, enlightened by philosophical teaching wrote many useful precepts. This comes from nothing other than conscience or natural law illumined by much labor and instruction.
Therefore everyone who sins against conscience also sins against the Law of God and against the Lawgiver Himself, God. Whoever does not listen to his conscience listens neither to the Law of God nor to God Himself. Whoever does not obey his conscience obeys neither the Law of God nor God Himself. Whoever offends his own conscience also offends God Himself.
Those Christians who sin against their conscience do not truly worship God, but are hypocrites, for it is impossible to worship God without a clean conscience. A true Christian does not wish to, and keeps himself from sinning against his conscience, and so break the Law of God. He would rather suffer than sin. Faith rests in such a conscience and makes a man joyful; for where there is a clean conscience, there is faith and joy. Just as the Law of God accuses a man of sin, so likewise conscience accuses him also. So it is that when a word of reproof is spoken in general, then sinners are wounded in conscience and troubled.
Thus the profligate are troubled when profligacy is spoken of; thieves and robbers are troubled when thievery and robbery are spoken of; flatterers and liars are troubled when deceit and lies are spoken of; they are troubled and even show some outward signs. This is the accusation of conscience working in them.
Just as the Law of God puts the fear of God's judgement into a sinner, so likewise conscience puts fear into him and cries within the sinner, "Man, it shall go miserably for you." Just as the effect of the Law of God and of conscience are the same, so shall they be the same at the Judgement of Christ. There the Law of God which he violated will accuse the sinner; the conscience offended by his sins will also accuse him.
There, these two, conscience and the Law of God, will be the witnesses and the accusers against every sinner. It happens that an evil conscience is as though asleep; but when it awakens and begins to accuse the sinner, then cruel torment will come upon him through his conscience, whence it is that many kill themselves, not enduring the pangs of conscience.
For just as there is no better repose than from a pure conscience, so likewise there is no greater disquiet and torment than from a wicked conscience. If conscience torments so much here, how shall it torment a sinner in the age to come when all his sins shall stand before him and it accuses him of them and torments him?
O sinners, why do we sleep? Let us awaken and repent and cleanse our sins by repentance and contrition of heart, and let us correct ourselves and cease from sinning and offending our conscience, lest we appear before the Judgement of Christ with an evil conscience blackened with sins, when the books of the conscience shall be opened and each shall receive according to his works.
Do not do what conscience forbids you to do, for an unerring conscience forbids what the Law of God also forbids. For a good conscience is in agreement with the Law of God. The Law of God says, "Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:13,15), and so on. You also hear the same within your conscience, and it tells you the same thing. Avoid, then, doing what conscience forbids, lest having wounded your conscience you wound your soul.
The Way of Salvation
The Gospel of Salvation
Beloved Christians! Nothing is more pleasant, lovelier, and sweeter to us sinners than the Gospel. More welcome than bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, freedom to captives and those in prison, is the Gospel to sinners who understand their misfortune.
"The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Lk. 19:10). This is the exceedingly sweet voice of the Gospel. Who is this Son of Man? He is the Son of God, the King of Heaven, sent from His Heavenly Father, the One Who willed for our sake to be called the Son of Man. For what cause did He come? To seek out and to save us who are lost and to bring us into His eternal Kingdom. What could be more welcome and desirable to us who are lost? But let us see what the Gospel is, and what it requires of us, and to whom it is rightly preached.
1. From its very name the Gospel is the gladdest of tidings. To all the world it preaches Christ the Saviour of the world Who came to seek out and to save the lost. Listen all you lost sinners, listen to that exceedingly sweet voice of the Gospel! It cries out to us all, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost."
It is a fearful thing for us to be found in sin before God. The Gospel preaches that our sins are forgiven for Christ's name's sake and that Christ is our justification before God. In Thee, my Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, am I justified. Thou art my truth and enlightenment.
It is a fearful thing for us to be found at enmity with God. The Gospel preaches that Christ has reconciled us to God, and having come He preached peace to all near and far. A fearful thing for us is the curse of the Law, for we are all sinners; it subjects the sinner to both temporal and eternal punishment. The Gospel preaches that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become the curse for us. A fearful thing for us is death. The Gospel preaches that Christ is our resurrection and life.
A fearful thing for us are Gehenna and hell. The Gospel preaches that Christ delivered us from hell and all its calamities. It is a fearful thing for us to be separated from God. The Gospel preaches that we shall be with the Lord always in His eternal Kingdom.
This, blessed Christians, is the most sweet voice of the Gospel, "Taste," then, "and see that the Lord is good" (LXX-Ps. 33:9 [KJV-Ps. 34:8]). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned" (Jn. 3:16-18). "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn salvation for us in the house of His servant David" (Lk. 1:68-69).
2. It is demanded of us, Christians, that we receive these heavenly and most sweet tidings gratefully as they are sent from Heaven, and that from a pure heart we always give thanks to God our Benefactor, Who so freely had mercy on us, and that we show holy obedience and compliance in all thankfulness. For conscience itself instructs and convinces us to be thankful to our Benefactor. He loved us who are unworthy Let us also love Him Who is worthy of all love. Love requires that we never offend the beloved. God is offended by every sin. Let us keep away from every sin and let us do His holy will that we may not offend Him as our compassionate Father and Benefactor. "Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," and so on (Mt. 6:9-10).
3. To whom is the Gospel preached? Christ answers us, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for Whose sake He hath anointed Me to preach to the poor, He hath sent Me to heal the broken hearted" (Lk.4:18). In other words, to those people who, acknowledging their sins, see their poverty, misfortune, and wretchedness, and have a contrite heart with fear of God's judgement and sorrow, to them the Gospel is rightly preached as a healing plaster is applied to a wounded body. Hear, you sorrowful and contrite souls, hear the most sweet voice of the Gospel! "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost!" This healing plaster of the Gospel most sweet is applied to your wounded souls. By this saving medicine heal your broken hearts. "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost," He seeks you and saves you, because you are one of those that He came to seek. Accept and confess yourselves to be sinners before God. Your sins are also forgiven for Christ's name's sake. Repent of your sins and lament for God, for salvation is prepared for you, too, by God.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief" (1 Tim. 1:15). The Holy Spirit speaks to you through His servant, "The sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit, a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise" (LXX-Ps. 50:19 [KJV-Ps. 51:17]). This sacrifice is offered to God from a repentant and contrite heart and is more acceptable to Him than any other offering. God looks mercifully upon such a sacrifice and sends His grace down upon it.
And so you see, O Christian, that the Gospel is not intended for those Christians who live recklessly and in iniquity, and do not recognize their sins, poverty and misfortune, and do not have a contrite heart. For of what use is oil to a rock? A plaster is applied to a wound, and healing is given to him who recognizes and admits his weakness. To such people is it said, "Repent, be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy into heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up" (Jas. 4:9-10). And again: "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire" (Mt. 3:10).
Sinners! Let us fear the judgement of God and endeavor to have a contrite and humble heart, that we also may draw from the Gospel as from a saving font of living water of refreshment and consolation, and that we may water our souls and so receive everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages.
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Our Lord and Saviour gave us this saying for our confirmation and consolation. For what is more comforting to a faithful and baptized soul than this saying that promises it eternal salvation?
Beloved Christians, glory be to God that we both believe in the Gospel and are enlightened with holy Baptism. But let us look at the power of holy Baptism and we shall see what we were before Baptism and what we became after Baptism, that we may receive lively consolation from this.
Through holy Baptism we were delivered from every calamity and we received all true blessedness by the grace of God. Before Baptism we were far from God, but through Baptism we became close to God. Before Baptism we were enemies of God, but through Baptism we became reconciled to God, and God was reconciled to us. Before Baptism we were children of God's wrath, but through Baptism we were made vessels of God's mercy. Before Baptism we were children of darkness and children of the devil, but through Baptism we were made children of light and children of God. Before Baptism we were defiled in sins, but through Baptism we were washed, sanctified and justified.
Before Baptism we were lost, but through Baptism we were saved. Before Baptism the doors to everlasting life and the Kingdom of Heaven were closed to us, but through Baptism they were opened and those that preserve the grace of holy Baptism enter in unhindered. We receive these and other benefits of God through holy Baptism. We receive them freely without any merit on our part, solely from His love for man, for what can he deserve who is lost? Glory to the goodness of God! Glory to His love for mankind! Glory to His compassion! Glory to His generosity! "Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for ever more!" (LXX-Ps. 112:2 [KJV-Ps. 113:2]).
The Only-Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour, earned this supreme mercy from God for all of us. He earned it through His most precious Blood and His death. Beloved Christians, let us remember holy Baptism, and let us consider whether we live worthily of holy Baptism, lest that holy Baptism be to our greater condemnation on the day of Christ's Dread Judgement, where every iniquitous word, deed, and thought will be judged.
Holy Baptism is like a door by which those that are baptized enter into the holy Church and become "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19). But not just so, but before Baptism there are renunciations and vows:
1. We then renounced Satan and all his evil works. Satan is a wicked and evil spirit. He was created good by God, but he and those of like mind with him apostatized from Him, and so from light they became dark, and from good they became evil and wicked. His works are idolatry, pride, deceit, falsehood, flattery, guile, envy, malice, plunder, adultery, prodigality, all uncleanliness, slander, blasphemy and every sin; for he is the inventor of sin, and he beguiled our ancestors in paradise and led them into sin and apostasy from God. We renounce this wicked spirit and all his evil works before Baptism.
2. We renounce every vanity, pride and pomp of this world, as ones called to and renewed for everlasting life.
3. We promise to serve Christ the Son of God in faith and in truth together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to follow in His footsteps.
4. Thus we establish a covenant between God and us. We, who have renounced Satan, promise to serve God and be faithful to Him. God accepts us in His supreme mercy and promises us an inheritance in everlasting life and the Kingdom, and washes us who are defiled by sin in the laver of Baptism. He sanctifies and justifies us, as the priest says over everyone who is baptized, "Thou art washed, thou art sanctified, thou art justified" (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11).
Beloved Christians, let us remember these renunciations and vows, and consider whether we keep them; for it is a grave thing to lie to God, and it is very dangerous to be found false before Him. Let us consider, then, whether any of us have not gone back to Satan, whether we have not renounced Christ and abandoned Him? Let us consider on whose side we find ourselves, on Satan's or on Christ's. One serves and belongs to him whose will he performs. He renounces Christ not only he who renounces His holy name and does not confess Him to be the Son of God and his Saviour, but also he who sins against conscience and recklessly breaks His holy commandments. This is the teaching of the Apostles. For the Apostle says, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, and the rest" (Tit. 1:16).
Do you see that people reject God in works too, and not just with their lips? Is anyone a prodigal, and does he commit adultery? He rejects Christ. Does anyone hate his neighbor and seek him out to harm him? He has apostatized from Christ. Does anyone steal; does he rob and take away his neighbor's goods? He has departed from Christ. Does anyone deceive and flatter his neighbor? He is no longer with Christ, but in all these things he submits to the enemy of salvation, and so he does not stand in the promises which he made to God, and so he has lied to God. Let us examine then, beloved, our conscience and our life. To which side do we belong, to Christ's or to His enemy's? To the good, or to the evil? To the lot of the saved or to that of the lost? He that is not with Christ is the enemy of Christ. For Christ Himself said, "He that is not with Me is against Me" (Mt. 12:30).
Beloved, let us watch ourselves and let us be with Christ here in this world, as we have vowed at Baptism: let us be with Christ here that we may be with Christ in the age to come, according to His promise that cannot lie, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be" (Jn. 12:26). Let us serve Him here as our King and God, that on the Day of Judgement He will acknowledge us as His laborers and number us with His faithful servants and open unto us the doors of everlasting joy. Remember the vows made at Baptism.
So that you may act on the aforementioned points, you must remember the vows you made at holy Baptism. For though not you yourself but your sponsor made those vows before God on your behalf, you promised then, spitting on Satan, and on his pride, and on his service, and on his evil works - you promised, I say - and vowed to serve Jesus Christ your Lord and Redeemer in faith and in truth, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Consider, Christian, what vows you made and to Whom. It is a grievous thing to lie to a man, how incomparably more grievous it is to lie to God. "God is not mocked" (Gal. 6:7). When a Christian does not stand on his promises and does not keep them, what mercy, then, should he expect from God, to Whom he lied? He that keeps his promises shall find himself in God's mercy and in His Kingdom. He remains faithful to God, and God will hold him in mercy and in His protection as His own. And this is what the prophet sings to God, "With the holy man wilt Thou be holy, and with the innocent man wilt Thou be innocent. And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse" (LXX-Ps. 17:26-27 [KJV-Ps. 18:25-26]).
Christians! All they that commit iniquity and act against their conscience do not keep their vows. These include fornicators, adulterers, and all defilers, robbers, thieves, brigands, the sly, the crafty, deceivers and the guileful, revilers and men of evil speech, drunkards, fault finders, the hateful, and the malicious, they that live in the pride and pomp of this world, and all that do not fear God. They have all lied to God and have not kept their vows, and are outside of the holy Church, though they may even go to churches and pray and receive the Mysteries and build churches and adorn them and display other signs of a Christian. Since they shall be powerfully put to the test at the Judgement of Christ and tormented more there than Turks and idolaters, avoid these deeds, Christian, and do not imitate the aforementioned doers of iniquity, lest you be condemned with them to eternal fire by the just judgement of God, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:44, 46, 48), but by all means endeavor so to live and act as the word of God teaches, as was said above. Keep in mind those vows of yours, and this will guide you toward the Christian life and restrain you from every evil and do you good. If you notice that you yourself do not keep those vows, then repent and begin the Christian life anew, lest you appear before God in a lie, and perish with liars. "The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Apoc. 21:8).
It is impossible to adequately describe and weep over the unfortunate condition of that Christian who has given himself over to lawless acts after holy Baptism, and commits iniquity. He is deprived of all that blessedness of which he had been found worthy in Baptism by the grace of God, and of his own will he casts himself into that calamity from which he had been delivered. But rather, he falls into a greater calamity, for he had known the truth but he did not wish to live in it. He knew God, but he did not wish to worship Him.
He knew the way that leads to eternal blessedness, but he did not wish to walk in it. He vowed to work for God, but he lied to Him. He was washed, he was sanctified, he was justified, but he was deprived of it all. He became a child of God, but he lost that most glorious nobility. He became an heir of everlasting life and the Kingdom, but he wasted that inheritance. And this is what the Apostle says about such ones, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 Pet. 2:21).
See, O Christian, how great is the calamity of a Christian who has committed iniquity! It is not apparent now, since it is not seen with bodily eyes, but with spiritual: but it will become evident then, when all our secret and manifest deeds are revealed before the whole world, that is at the second coming of Christ.
Then that poor Christian will know and will behold his great calamity and destruction. We must truly bewail the condition of such a Christian with much tears and weeping. For just as one washed in a bath is again sullied with dirt and mud, so likewise a Christian washed in the laver of Baptism is defiled again with iniquity.
Just as one who out of filthy rags was clothed in purple and fine linen again takes off those beautiful garments and puts that foul rag on again, so everyone who commits iniquity after holy Baptism does likewise. For out of the rags of sin he was also clothed in Christ's robe of justification, but having spurned that beautiful garment he again puts on the rag of sin.
Just as one who comes from the darkness into the light and again returns to the darkness, so it is likewise with him who came from the darkness of sin to the light of Christ, the true Light, and returned again to that same darkness. Just as one who was freed from slavery and captivity comes to freedom and again returns to that same bitter bondage, so likewise a Christian who commits iniquity was delivered by the grace of Christ from the bitter slavery and captivity of the devil, but he returns to that misfortune.
Just as a man delivered from a deep pit falls again into that pit, so likewise a Christian that commits iniquity has been delivered from the pit of eternal perdition, but of his own will he casts himself again into that pit. "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. 2:22). To this calamitous condition belong
Beloved Christians, washed in the laver of holy Baptism, let us examine ourselves, whether any of us have not turned away from Christ and fallen into the calamitous condition mentioned above. Whoever opposes the law works for the devil and is already far removed from Christ.
Woe to Christians that commit iniquity after holy Baptism! "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the Day of Judgement than for such Christians" (Mt. 10:15)!
Poor Christian, examine yourself and beware lest you become the eternal captive of the devil and destruction. "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:44). O God, spare Thy rational creature, made in Thine own image!
To those that have sinned after holy Baptism the only remaining hope is true repentance. Glory to God for that! Glory to God, that we have not yet perished, O sinners! A hope yet remains. God's compassions have not yet come to an end. Repentance is still preached to sinners. The poor are still given glad tidings. The Heavenly King still proclaims His mercy everywhere. The doors of compassion are not yet shut. The grace of God is still open to all. The Gospel and the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world are still preached. The Kingdom of God is still proclaimed.
Sinners that repent are still saved; both publicans and fornicators cleansed by repentance enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The compassionate God still calls to Himself all that have turned away, and He awaits them and promises them mercy. The loving Father still receives His prodigal sons come back from a far country and He opens the doors of His house and clothes them in the best robe, and gives them each a ring on their hand and shoes on their feet and commands all the saints to rejoice in them.
"Rejoice, ye angels, and all My elect! Sinners return to Me, men, My creatures, made in My image and likeness, they that have perished are now saved, they that were dead are alive again, they that were lost are found." Glory to His goodness! Glory to His love for man! Glory to His compassion! Glory to His bounties! Poor sinners, why do we yet tarry in a distant country and not go toward our Father? Why do we perish from hunger? Why do we fill ourselves with iniquities as with husks? In the house of our Father is everything in abundance. There, even the hired servants have enough and to spare.
Our Father awaits us with great zeal and desire, and with love He will see us returning from afar, and He will look upon us with compassionate eyes, and we shall be dear to Him, and He will fall on our neck running and embrace us and kiss us with His holy love. He will not reproach us, and He will no longer remember our sins and iniquities, and all the holy Angels and all His elect will begin to rejoice over us.
Let us come to ourselves, and arise, and go and hasten to our Father, and let every one say to Him with humility and sorrow, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, And am no more worthy to be called Thy son; make me as one of Thy hired servants" (Lk. 15:18-19). Let us hasten, hasten, O sinners, while the time has not yet passed, while the Father awaits, while the doors of His holy house are not shut. Let us repent while the mercy of God still operates, lest we experience the operation of God's righteousness, eternal judgement.
Do not despair of whatever sins you may have committed since Baptism and find yourself in true repentance, but await God's mercy. However many and however great and burdensome your sins may be, with God there is greater mercy. Just as His majesty is, so likewise is His mercy. Only guard yourself from sinning henceforth, and walk according to the aforementioned points.
If you have transgressed in this as a man, and have sinned, do not despair. But at that very moment, confess your sin and fall down with humility before the compassionate eyes of God and ask mercy with the voice of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Lk. 18:13), and your sins will be forgiven you.
True repentance demands that a man turn away from sins and from the vanity of this world and turn toward God with all his heart, that he be changed within, and that he become different from what he was before, and so work out his salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12), and so endeavor to do nothing else but only to please God and so be saved. For if you wish to be in true repentance and so be saved, change yourself and be renewed, and become different from what you were before, and take care for nothing else but only to please God and be saved, and so shall you be a new creature in Christ. For every Christian that wishes to be a true Christian, and not false, ought to be a new or renewed man or a new creature. Do not, then, indulge your flesh, and do not do everything it may desire. It must be crucified "with its affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24) when you wish to be a Christian, that is, Christ's. Much effort and labor is needed, for a man to be changed and to be the good tree that brings forth good fruit. Strive, then, for nothing else but to change, renew, and correct yourself. And pray for this, and sigh often and with all zeal to Christ the Lord, that He Himself might renew you and make you good, for without Him our renewal and correction cannot take place. And when you are renewed inwardly and good, then your outward life and works shall also be good.
The very incarnation of the Son of God and His coming into the world strongly encourages sinners to repentance. For whose sake did Christ come into the world? For the sake of sinners. To what end? For the sake of their salvation. O how dear to God was our salvation! He Himself came into the world, O sinners, for the sake of our salvation.
Listen, sinners, and understand! God Himself came into the world for the sake of our salvation, and He came in our image. O truly great is the mystery of piety! God appeared in the flesh. "Lord, what is man, that Thou art made known unto him? Or the son of man, that Thou takest account of him?" (LXX-Ps. 143:3 [KJV-Ps. 144:3]).
Truly wonderful is the grace of God toward man, wonderful also is this work of His. Foreseeing this the prophet cried out to Him with fear and terror, "Lord, I have heard Thy report, and I was afraid; O Lord, I considered Thy works, and I was amazed" (Abbac. 3:1-2). Sinners, let us call to mind this great work of God, which He wrought for our sake, and let us repent. Let us remember how for our sake He was born of a Virgin and became a child, and was nourished on His mother's milk. The Invisible became manifest, and He that was without beginning had a beginning, and He that was intangible became tangible and was wrapped as an infant in swaddling bands: "And the Word was made flesh" (Jn. 1:14).
Let us recall how while yet a child He fled from the murderers of Herod the King. Let us recall how He lived on earth and was a stranger, how He went from place to place, and labored for the sake of our salvation. Let us recall how He Who is unapproachable to the Cherubim and Seraphim kept company with sinners; How He who has Heaven as His throne and the earth as the footstool of His feet and Who abides in light unapproachable, had nowhere to lay His head; How He who was rich became poor, that by His poverty we may become rich.
Let us recall how He who clothes Himself with light as with a garment, put on the garment of corruption. How He Who gives food to all flesh ate earthly bread. How the Almighty became weak, and He that gives strength to all did labor.
Let us recall how He Who is above all honor and glory, was blasphemed, cursed, and mocked by the lips of transgressors.
Let us recall how He ailed, suffered, sorrowed, wept, and was filled with horror. Let us recall how He was sold and betrayed by an ungrateful disciple and was forsaken by the rest of the disciples; how He was bound and brought to trial; how He was judged by transgressors. He was reviled. He was scourged. He was clad in the robe of mockery, He was mockingly hailed as King, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (Jn. 19:3). He was crowned with a crown of thorns, beaten on the head with a reed, He heard from His lawless people, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him" (Jn. 19:15). He was led to crucifixion between two evildoers and died on the Cross.
All these things the Son of God did for the sake of our salvation. O sinners, in Adam we lost our salvation and all our blessedness, but Christ, the Son of God, by the good will of His Heavenly Father, has brought it all back to us. Let us, then, consider, O sinners, whether the very Blood of Christ, shed for the sake of our salvation, and all His Suffering do not cry out to us. Let us repent and so let us not be deprived of eternal salvation, for without repentance there is no salvation for anyone, but nevertheless the wretched sinner still does not understand.
God loves man so much that He revealed His wonderful providence for him that he should repent and so be saved, but the sinner still does not understand.
Christ the Son of God shows him His coming into the world for his sake, in the Gospel. He presents to him His willing self-emptying, His willing poverty, His willing and deep humility, His labors, pains, tribulations, sorrows, sufferings and death, and even a death on the Cross. And He says to him, "Man, I took all this on Myself and endured it for your sake and for your salvation. But you neglect your salvation, and take no thought that you should repent and cease from your sins, to make use of My Blood and live."
But the sinner, even though he hears this so plaintive and sweet voice of Christ in the Gospel, nevertheless still does not understand. Christ promises not to remember his sins and transgressions when he turns to Him, but the sinner still does not understand. Christ calls him to Himself and promises him rest, but the sinner does not understand. He remains uncorrected as he was and transgresses as he transgressed before. He commits evil deeds, as he did before; he loves darkness as he loved it before; he hates the light as he hated it before; and for this reason he does not come to the Light, but remains with the devil, the prince of darkness.
O poor sinner, awaken and come to your senses. If you do not, the very Blood of Christ shed for your sake will cry out against you for retribution. Listen to what the prophet of God sings to you in the person of God, "I will reprove thee, and bring thy sins before thy face" (LXX-Ps. 49:21 [KJV-Ps. 50:21]); that is, all your evil deeds, words, thoughts, intentions and undertakings will follow you into the next world and will appear at the universal Judgement of Christ, and you shall receive your just reward for them. You do not wish now to repent to your benefit, and so be saved by the grace of Christ; then you shall repent, but too late and in vain. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph. 5:14). Blessed be God above all forever.
Set your salvation on nothing else but on Christ Jesus alone, the Saviour of the world. If you truly believe that He suffered and died for you and is your Saviour, then love him with all your heart, obey Him and please Him, as your Saviour, and lay and confirm all your hope of salvation on Him alone. We must unfailingly do good works as Christians, but we must ask and await salvation from Christ alone.
Ye Are a Chosen Race
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 Jn. 3:1), and so we are. O blessedness! O God's love for man! O how much God's love has accomplished! O how profusely has God's grace abounded! Poor and rejected sinners are made the children of God! The Apostle of Christ wonders at this and says, Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God, and so we are. For what is more astonishing than that a sinner should become a child of God? God's love toward man has wrought this. What is more glorious than to be called and to really be a child of God? God's grace has bestowed this on man. It is glorious to be the child of an earthly king; it is incomparably more glorious to be the child of God the Heavenly King. This honor, glory, merit, nobility, and name is more excellent than all titles of this world. For this, glory to God Who loves mankind!
If Christians are children of God, they are also heirs, heirs, then, "of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). If they are children of God, what then, and whom should they fear? Why fear traitors, enemies, the devil, demons, death and hell? God shall stand up for them. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). We receive this most exalted gift of God in Baptism, for then we men are born of God and receive this most glorious title.
Beloved Christians! Let us remember our holy Baptism and this most exalted mercy which God then showed us: we then became children of God. Glory to God for this! But it is required of children that they should be like their parents, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (Jn. 3:6). Therefore Christians must be like God as they are born of God. Let us therefore show in deed that we are children of God. God is holy, let us also be holy. God is righteous, let us also be righteous. God is good, "for He maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt. 5:45); let us also be good and do good both to our friends and to our enemies, to those that love us and to those that hate us. God is compassionate, let us also be compassionate and show mercy to our unfortunate brethren. God hates sin, let us also hate every sin and turn away from it. God loves us, let us also love one another. God forgives us our transgressions when we repent, let us also forgive men their transgressions.
The Apostle of Christ admonishes us to do this: "Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children" (Eph. 5:1). When we show such character in ourselves, then we shall be true children of God and we shall receive both the inheritance and all good things promised to the children of God in Jesus Christ the Lord.
Beloved Christians, I cannot wonder enough at the goodness of God and His compassionate love for us men; and contemplating this, I cannot but exclaim with the Prophet, "O Lord, what is man, that Thou art made known unto him? Or the son of man, that Thou takest account of him?" (LXX-Ps. 143:3 [KJV-Ps. 144:3]), when I consider what honor the Lord has granted man! The honor and nobility which God bestows on men who are true Christians is so great and so high that it is impossible not only to describe it or to explain it in words, but even to comprehend it with the mind. "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9), says the true Apostle of Christ.
From what can we see the incomprehensible goodness and compassionate love of God toward man? Let us but look and set the honor and nobility of a Christian before our inward eyes, that we may be zealous for it and seek it out with eagerness. Open then, the hearing of your souls, and you shall hear a word told about true Christians.
1. They are called and truly are the children of God. What is more glorious to man than this name? The Apostle of Christ rightly wonders at this and with wonder he says to Christians, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God?" (1 Jn. 3:1-2), and so we are. Whence Christians also pray to God as to their Father and raise up to the one voice to Him, "Our Father, Who art in the heavens" (Mt. 6:9) and the rest.
O the wonder! Sinners say to the All-Holy God, "Our Father!" O our great nobility and honor and consolation. O beloved Christians! The Father of the OnlyBegotten Son of God is our Father, His God is our God, as He Himself says to our great consolation, "I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God" (Jn. 20:17).
2. True Christians have a close union and fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle of Christ assures us of this saying, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn. 1:3). How great this is you can see for yourself.
People account it a great thing to have friendship and fellowship with an earthly king; how incomparably greater is the privilege of having fellowship and friendship with God, Who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and abides in light unapproachable! O how much have God's goodness and love toward man wrought! Look, O Christian, and you shall see the nobility and merit of Christians. They have communion with the great and incomprehensible God.
God, Thy goodness is multiplied and wonderful, and Thy love for us fallen and poor men is beyond any words and conceiving!
3. In true Christians as in spiritual temples, God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, abides with love. The Lord says of this, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode in him" (Jn. 14:23). What can be more honorable and noble than that soul in which the Tri-hypostatic God abides with grace and love? It is a glorious thing for people to receive an earthly king into their house; it is incomparably more glorious to receive the Heavenly King into the house of their soul, and to have Him living therein. What also could be more blessed than that soul in which God lives as in a temple? The paradise of sweetness and joy, the Kingdom of God is in it. O blessedness! O the worthiness! O the nobility of the Christian soul! God, a Being that is without beginning, without end, supremely good, and uncreated, wills to live in the holy Christian soul rather than in heaven or in any other temple.
O most good and lovely God, our Maker and Creator, come and visit our weary souls, the souls created by Thee after Thine image and likeness!
4. True Christians are spiritual members of the most heavenly Head, Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Apostle says concerning this, "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. 5:30).
Holy Christian souls! raise up your eyes and see where your Head is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father. By whom is He venerated and worshipped? By angels and archangels and by all the hosts of heaven and by every creature. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth" (Philip. 2:9-10). You are members of this most exalted Head. As the Head is glorified, so also do His members partake of His glory. This is the glory of true Christians, this is their nobility and merit! They are the spiritual members of the most exalted Head, Jesus Christ.
5. The souls of true Christians are betrothed to the immortal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. The Apostle bears witness of this: "I have espoused you," O Christians, "to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). "This is a great mystery" (Eph. 5:32). As the Bridegroom is glorious, so also does His bride partake of His glory. What is more honorable and noble than Jesus the Son of God? What is more noble and honorable than a Christian soul betrothed to Him?
6. True Christians are "heirs of God," and "joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Theirs are the eternal and heavenly Kingdom and all good things. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). These and others are the names and titles that the Holy Spirit attributes to true Christians. Behold, then, O listeners, the glory and nobility of the Christian. All the glory of this world is nothing compared to it. Confess, therefore, that there is nothing more noble and glorious than a true Christian. Jesus Christ the Son of God, has earned this nobility and glory for us by His suffering and death, His Heavenly Father bestows it on us. The Holy Spirit perfects it, and true repentance combined with faith receives it. This nobility and glory are acquired or is lost here in this world. They are acquired by true repentance and faith; they are lost by unrepentance and unbelief.
O you who seek the vain glory of this world and are praised and exalted in your nobility, names, and titles! Turn your inward eyes to the glory and honor of a Christian and seek those, that you may truly be noble and glorious. The glory of true Christians is not now manifest, but can only be attained and known by faith. It shall be opened in the revelation of the children of God. Beloved, says the Apostle, "now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him" (1 Jn. 3:2). "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Mt. 13:43).
Go to the top
Missionary Leaflet # EA28
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran