From the Archives: Christian Patience and Humility
MAY GOD THE FATHER of all consolation and all patience support you in all your anxiety, through Jesus Christ His beloved Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Best-loved in Christ! Since we daily learn that our adversary, the devil, not only goes about like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, but also now as always has aroused his members to fight openly against the friends of God intending to lead them away from the truth that is in Christ, it is necessary to walk in sobriety, that is, in divine wisdom; to watch, to pray, and to look constantly to God; to implore Him with tears and to beg Him not to forsake us, but to watch graciously over the work begun in us . . . .
Above all things we need the patience of Jesus Christ and of the saints of God, wherein we may daily exercise ourselves and possess our souls, as our Lord admonished. Since it happens through divine providence that we have to be everyone’s refuse for Christ’s sake, thank God, you must consider how soberly we must walk before God and in what great danger we stand. Wherefore we should be fully prepared every moment and equipped with the armor of God. The Word of life which Paul calls the sword of the spirit, wherewith the Lord also has girded us poor, unworthy sinners, is the beginning of His kingdom. This shall finally help us to conquer all our enemies.
Meanwhile, however, we should perceive what patience is, yea what Christian patience is. The wicked and the world have their patience, if they cannot turn away their injury, cannot better matters, or otherwise seek their own benefit under it. Christian patience is one of the highest virtues on earth, namely, a gentle, kind, benevolent heart toward all those who wrong us. There must be thorough, sincere forgiveness and a ready benevolence toward all our debtors, otherwise we will obtain no forgiveness from our God our heavenly Father, as the Lord Christ taught His disciples: Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you.
I would like to write you something about patience, if only I were sufficiently able and it would pour itself out in my heart according to the measure received. Apart from that, you well know that in the sight of God we can neither write or speak rightly, nor do what is beneficial. It must proceed out of living experience as you no doubt have found in the book: Christian Warfare, the Knighthood of God, and self-Knowledge. Pray God the Lord, in the name of Christ, that for the sake of His unspeakable mercy, He take away from us poor sinners all impatience and help us to forget every trial and sincerely to forgive everyone, as is done now-a-days, thank God, to the praise of God’s grace. To Him be all honor, praise, and glory forever. Amen.
In like manner, however, as Christian patience comes for God the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ alone, so impatience comes from the devil who in the beginning corrupted our flesh in Adam and Eve. Consequently it is by nature full of impatience (although not everyone thinks so, much less perceives it). Satan became impatient that the man Jesus Christ in heaven should become his Lord. Impatience brought on pride and therefore he was cast out. Soon he breathed these two vices into our first parents. He filled them with the spirit of impatience and pride so that they would not wait for God, be resigned to Him, or let Him alone be wise. Hence all flesh, as the fruit of the first tree, became wholly corrupt and poisoned . . . .
Consider, my loved ones, why Christ came into the flesh, and what it means when He says: Learn of me, for I am lowly in heart (that is, wholly patient, as also patience is called the mother of all gentleness and mercy) . . . .
Patience and humility guide love. They bring it ever more fully into the heart by the grace of God; they teach it true confession; and by it also the Holy Spirit most of all rules the flesh and makes it subservient; they confirm a Christian, and without them no one can be a Christian. Where these two virtues are not found, there is not weakness, to which the flesh always resorts, but pure malice, vanity, pomp, self-will, and impatience in the old carnal being.
Thus we see two malicious vices and two glorious virtues set over against each other in the first and in the second Adam. Almighty God Himself is an example for us of all patience and humility in that He lets the sun shine on the good and the evil, yea, He tolerates with great forbearance the evil, godless, infamous men who revile, persecute, and esteem Him and His children lightly. He gives His enemies fruitful things, grain, growing plants, rain, wine, and all necessities, and endures those continually who would like to eradicate His name under heaven. Oh! patience beyond patience. Oh! Thou Father of all patience, make us participant of Thy divine patience and forbearance . . . .
My beloved! This was written for our instruction because we, out of the grace of God have now also come out of captivity and have been transposed into Christian liberty, so that with regard to our conscience we may not be bound here or there, but may praise our God freely and voluntarily and thus may see how matters stand in all parties and may know how to be on our guard (which I write to the honor of Christ, our spiritual Moses). We should not become impatient though the universal visitation and gracious coming of the Lord be long delayed. We should not murmur against the Lord, but rather prepare ourselves in patience and wait patiently for Him though he delay for forty years; we should commend to Him all His affairs and meanwhile sacrifice to the arch-shepherd of our souls, and give honor, praise, and thanks to His grace . . . .
There are many causes of impatience, all of which, however, are resolved and summed up in self-love. A man’s soul often is moved to impatience because of want of temporal nourishment, of poverty, of misery, and because of frustration. But we must remember that we came into this world nude and bare and will be taken away from here nude and bare; also, that the spirit of God admonishes us in Holy Scripture to learn in Christ to disdain the world with all its goods, riches, and honor. The poor always have some advantage in entering the kingdom of heaven, as is written in the gospel . . . .
Corpus Schwenckfeldianorurn, vol. 5, 697–709
Translated by Selina Gerhard Schultz
By Caspar Schwenckfeld
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #21 in 1989]
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