From the Archives: Christian Self-Surrender

. . . THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE, who, if they do not constantly experience outward and inward comfort from God as often as they would like, think they are lost, that God has forgotten them completely, or has withdrawn Himself from them. At such times we must take care that we do not seek our own self-interest, but that we remain on the right path to salvation, whether. . in wealth or in poverty. If we seek God only for the sake of His pure goodness, and not desire more than His pleasure, reward will follow without our seeking.

God must be sought without self-interest, apart from the reward, entirely out of a pure spirit and heart. Those who fail to do so, often fall this way and that, and praise God in their works only as long as He does good to them, Ps. 49:18. But when God hides Himself, wants to try them a little, (for the faith of the children of God must be tried in various ways like gold, whether they will praise and serve Him in want, without outward comfort and pleasure and a feeling of weakness and ignorance, when the Lord thus withdraws the brightness of His wisdom, comfort, and goodness, causing them to consider themselves naked and miserable, yes, without any comfort, they become vexed, despondent, and sad and genuine earnestness and zeal fail them.

At this stage they must lift themselves up to God anew, remember all former gifts, awaken these in themselves, and be resigned to God. They are to abide immovably in God, whether He give much or little; they are to seek and crave the giver rather than the gifts, and not fall upon the gifts, works, and favours of God when they are at hand, namely, rest on them, and also veer from His love and kindness when these are not at hand; they are to surrender and offer themselves completely, saying sincerely and truly: O Lord, gracious Father, I do not desire what is Thine, but Thee, Thyself, I crave and seek in my Lord Jesus Christ. Thou art not dearer to me when Thou givest me much and when all is well with me, and not less dear when Thou givest me little and when all is not well with me. It is right and just that Thou shouldst give me much as Thou wilt, and makest of me what Thou wilt. Thou hast the right and the authority. Thou art the Lord; I am but Thy poor, worthless servant. Thou hast the right and the power over me, but not I over Thee. Hence I will ever be conscious of Thee and calm my heart in Thy goodness. I will neither be or not be, neither live nor die, know or not know, have or lack, only what Thou wilt, as much as Thou wilt give me, for that will I wait daily, will adapt and prepare myself thereto, and love Thee equally well. Thy will be done, O my God, Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From this it follows then that Christians should know themselves so thoroughly that they dare not request or desire anything except that which comes through grace, and they should deem themselves quite unworthy of all that they have received from God, as well as of that which they may yet receive. Then a little ray of grace becomes pure gold and precious stones for them. They accept it with sincere gratitude and thus grow to the fullness of God in a secret, hidden way of which they themselves are not conscious.

Such people make the world too narrow for Satan. Nothing can harm them because they look to God in Christ Jesus through a firm faith. When Satan attacks them, they overcome through such self-surrender in faith, whereby all things are overcome. These are also the genuinely devout Christians and children of God who are moved through the Spirit of God not to set for Him limits of goal, time, or measure, but in all things to diligently pay attention to His impulse and inspiration. They do not follow their own will but the will of the Father who is in heaven; Him they serve, and His Son Jesus Christ, not for the sake of His gifts as do the hirelings but for His own sake. Indeed, if they already knew that they would receive no gift and that there were no heaven or hell, they would nevertheless serve God out of pure love as their Creator, and Jesus Christ as their Redeemer, purely for His own sake, for the Lord is good; His loving-kindness endureth forever, Ps. 106:1. But with many, a genuine and strong faith is lacking. Therefore we must often call with the disciples: O Lord, increase my faith, Lk. 17:6 . . . .

Furthermore, it is also necessary that those to whom God distributes His gifts do not take them as their possessions, or appropriate them for themselves, but be quite resigned and consign them again to God. But those who would aspire to be something and regard others as inferior, encroach upon the honor, goodness and omnipotence of God. Therefore humility must have precedence everywhere, and by it all things will be regulated in the spirit of God.

To realize one’s sickness, weakness, and ignorance, indeed, to accept the unmortified condition of one’s flesh, is a good sign that the spirit of God is at work. But one must always direct one’s heart upward, to Christ Jesus, to the fountain of all grace and praise and thank Him in this, not become disheartened, but seek all strength and help with Him, and wait patiently for it. Then the Lord will not remain absent with his visitation, at the opportune time, so far as it is beneficial and salutary for us.

We must study long before we attain perfection. As a result, we must not be so readily grieved if we do not have high spiritual gifts. But we are to be grieved when we anger the Giver . . . .

Entrance into the Christian Sabbath, that is, into divine rest, also has its degree and proportion to the nature of faith. It does not readily occur in the highest degree. However, what it is and when and how it is experienced, I hope the Lord will grant in answer to our diligent prayer and petition, so that we may understand this and all that we need according to His will. Amen.

Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum, 
vol. 6, 1–4

By Caspar Schwenckfeld

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #21 in 1989]

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