In the Name of Jesus

16 February 1790

First page of the sermon text (Credit: Mennonite Library and Archives)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in truth and love, be with you all. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ, as the Lord Jesus saw that the scribes and Pharisees loved the darkness more than the light - they did not want to accept his holy teaching - he spoke through John the Evangelist in the 8th chapter verse 12: Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Dear friends, both the Holy Scriptures as well as daily experience teach us that from Cain and Abel to the present there have always been two kinds of people in the world. One kind are the children of darkness, who walk the broad way of destruction, and this is always the most numerous and greatest crowd. The other kind are children of light, children of God who walk in the light, on the narrow way of life, of which Christ speaks in Matt. 7:13. As in nature, light and darkness can never unite but are always separate, as Paul testifies in II Cor. 6:14-15 where he says, What communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel? Christ says in our previously noted verse, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

So the Pharisees said to him, verse 13, You bear record of thyself; your record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but you cannot tell whence I came, and whither I go.

A photograph that was paper-clipped to the sermon booklet. Presumably Heinrich Peter Balzer and his wife. (Credit: Mennonite Library and Archives)

Note that though the Pharisees said that Jesus drove out the devils through Beelzebub (Luke 11:15), they still did not want to believe his miracles and signs. Thus the evangelists write that Jesus heard their thoughts. It appears here that they did not want to speak this blasphemy so freely in front of the Lord so that he heard it, but only said it secretly among the people to awaken an evil and false suspicion against the Lord among them, because they were afraid that the people would believe in Him and accept him as the Messiah. They knew that he acted with divine power; for that reason their consciences convicted them so that they could not come into the open with their blasphemy, since they indeed had the appearance of a godly life but His power - that is, the true light - they denied and loved the darkness more than the true and godly light.

For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth (that is, one who truly seeks to follow the Lord Jesus) comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. John 3:20-21.

So we see in Jesus himself. His holy life and walk was known to all men, and thus he could walk openly before all and say, Which of you can convict me of sin? John 8:46. The scribes and Pharisees and all the people knew this. They saw the holy life of Jesus. They had to admit that nothing could be said against him. Indeed, they were astonished about his holy teaching, because he taught with authority and not as the scribes. Matt. 7:28. And Nicodemus confessed and said, We know that you are a teacher come from God, John 3:2. For no man can do the miracles that you do except God be with him.

So, I say, these evil men acted against their consciences. They saw and knew that Jesus was from God, because no one does good except God, and they called that which was from God demonic. That was not the sin against the Holy Spirit of which Christ speaks in Matt. 12:31-32 where it says, I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him. But whosoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Here we see what the sin against the Holy Spirit actually is, namely if a man against knowledge and conscience calls good evil and attributes to the Devil that which is done by the power of the holy and good Spirit of God, and thus calls God’s work and truth something evil and demonic, so he commits the sin against the Holy Spirit, as the Pharisees blasphemed the Holy Spirit and the power of God, which, as Christ says, it shall not be forgiven unto men. Luke 12:10

Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy! For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light. Luke 12:1-3.

Thus it says in our selected verse, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. So let us, dear souls, follow our savior as the divine light of the world, in faith, in godly life, in patience. So we will walk not in darkness, in unbelief, in fear of eternal death, but have the light of eternal life.

God has left nothing lacking in showing us the right way by which we can arrive at eternal salvation. He omits nothing in calling us to true repentance and conversion through his Word. He is often near to us in spirit and calms our hearts. He offers us sufficient power that we can completely turn to him, but the blind one will not let himself be enlightened, the sleeper will not awake from his sins, the dead will not live, and the sinner will not leave the camp of sin.

Oh how the betrayed souls will be dismayed on that day when they recognize that only those come into the kingdom of God who are born again, that only they obtain the crown of righteousness who here fight the good fight of faith, who have completed the race, and kept the faith; that only they reach the prize placed before them who have here forgotten those things which are behind and with great yearning of their souls have reached forth unto those things which are before. Oh may the merciful God yet open our eyes that we might learn to know ourselves rightly! Oh that we may fear for our sins! Oh that on this day a great number of those who heretofore have made themselves weary in the service of the Devil may reach a decision to become through the almighty power of God loyal subjects in the Kingdom of Jesus!

Since thus we walk in the light, as He (namely God) is in the light. Thus we have fellowship with one another. About these words I would like to say a bit more. May the Lord send his light and his power. He gives each one to see how he is made, bestows grace on us all, that we might hurry and snatch our souls from eternal destruction.

Text: I Joh. 1:6-7

If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin.

From these words of the Apostle John we want to consider, if God grant it, in the fear of the Lord, in our first part: the character of the uncoverted, and secondly, the character of the converted.

Prayer

Now, omniscient and omni-present God, enlighten us with your divine light, and discover to us our sins, cleanse us from all stain of the flesh and the spirit, make us children of light, and let us walk in your light unmoved before you, that we might in eternity bask in your glory and praise your name that you have done so much good to us. Send us the light and your truth, that we may do it and bring us to the place where we can be in fellowship with you. Hitherto help us Oh Jesus for the sake of your great love and true will. Amen.

First Part

The character of the unconverted is expressed as it says at the beginning of our text, If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. This expression teaches us two things: 1) unbelievers are in the darkness 2) in this darkness they increase in evil, since it says, They are in the darkness or are darkness, Eph. 5:8, since as natural men they receive nothing from the Spirit of God. It is to them foolishness (I Cor 2:14) and the Prince of Darkness has blinded their eyes, so that they do not see or recognize the bright light of the gospel in the clarity of Christ, II Cor 4:4. Their sins are unknown to them and the great danger which sweeps over them they do not see. The eyes of their spirits are closed to the eternal splendor in which the children of God take part. Since what God has prepared for those who love him he reveals through his spirit only to those who allow themselves to be enlightened by him. The eye of the natural man, however, does not see it; the ear of the uncoverted sinner does not hear it, and in the heart of an unbelieving man it does not come, I Cor 2:9, 10, 12. The will of an unsound man is likewise completely wrong and always goes astray. Since all who live in darkness choose sin, which is a deadly poison. They remain with the appearance of goodness of this world, and think therein to have found their well-being. They walk the broad way that leads to destruction, and follow after the course of this world, in the desires of their flesh. They do the will of the flesh and of reason and follow the impulse of Satan who has made them his works as children of unbelief, Eph. 2:2-3. They are turned away from God, have no desire to pray, and make many and diverse objections against the righteous conduct of Christianity.

The unrepentant are not only in darkness, but walk in darkness. They remain gladly and with pleasure in the ways of sin, which bring them to the place where utmost darkness, wailing, and gnashing of teeth are eternal. They give no thought to repentance even if God calls them and warns them. They love the darkness more than the light, and do not come to the light, lest their deeds be reproved. John 3:19-20. They take part daily in evil and go from one injustice to another. Thus their condition is from day to day more wretched and dangerous. They distance themselves ever further from God, the fundamental light, so that God finally in righteous judgement gives them up to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient. Rom 1:28. Their hearts become stubborn, their ears become deaf, and their eyes blinded, so that with their eyes they cannot see, with their ears they cannot hear, nor with their hearts cannot understand. They run to meet their eternal ruin completely aimlessly.

But many people do not completely believe that their condition looks so miserable, but may well say, according to the expression in our text, that they have fellowship with God and thus they boast, while they do the works of darkness, that they are children of light. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.

Beware the godless! Since they are wicked and it will be repaid to them as they deserve. Isaiah 3:8 1. They have a name that they live, and are dead. Rev. 3:1. They say, We are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Rev. 3:17. They want to be seen as good Christians and are angry with those who do not want to hold them as children of God.

Their false and sandy ground is this: They have learned to speak the language of righteous Christianity and imagine that it is enough to be true Christians if they can recognize divine truths and chat about it on occasion. But they should know that the kingdom of God is not in words but in power. I Cor. 4:20.

God’s Word names completely different signs by which we can be certain of our state of grace. Then we know Jesus as the propitiation for our sins if we keep his commandments. Whoever says that he is a true Christian walks even as Christ walked. I Joh. 2:3, 6. For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps. I Pet. 2:21. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother. I Joh. 3:10.

By these signs we must examine whether in truth we belong to the number of the children of God. Not good opinions, not unfounded imagination, not seductive sham virtues give us the certainty of our state of grace; rather, it comes from the inner condition of the heart and from the godly walk after the example of Christ. Whoever is not born again does not see the Kingdom of God. Whoever does not walk in the footsteps of Jesus does not belong to Christ.

This is the reason why John expressly says of those people who boast without justification of their fellowship with God, If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. Here there is no exception. John even includes himself and testifies that if he himself walks in darkness and wants to say of himself that he has fellowship with God, he would be a liar and do not the truth. But he speaks about himself so that others might be moved to see themselves and to thoroughly examine themselves, so that no one flatters themselves with perverted self-love and is betrayed through unfounded assumptions. For all those who still walk in darkness and stand under the power of sin have no fellowship with God. They may very well imagine such; their pretense is a lie. And they will not be able to stand before the judgement seat of God on the day of judgement. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. I Joh. 1:5. He is not a God who has pleasure in wickedness. Evil does not dwell with him. He hates all workers of iniquity. He destroys them that speak lies. He abhors the bloody and deceitful man. (Ps. 5:6-7) Our iniquities have separated us and our God. Is. 59:2. We are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts. Eph. 4:18. Yes, we are incapable of all good works as long as we still walk in darkness. Thus we belong among those of whom Jesus says Matt. 12:34: O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. On that day, Jesus will spew such hypocrites out of his mouth. Rev. 3:16.

So put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members of one another. Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, and grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. Eph. 4:22-32.

Second Part

Now in the first part I have shown the sad state of character of the unrepentant. So now let us in our second part look at the actual character of the converted, the difference between the children of light and of darkness.

Of the converted it is said that they walk in the light even as God is in the light. God is called a light, I Joh. 1:5, because he, according to his omniscience, knows everything precisely, and before him nothing is hidden. He is always present, all-seeing, all-knowing. There is no darkness in God. As now God is in the light, so also are believers in the light; indeed, they are according to Eph. 5:8-9 a light in the Lord and children of the light. They walk in the light, since they have attained the mind of God through the second birth and participate in the divine nature. In the light of God they recognize God the true light, since God who called the light to shine out of the darkness, put a brightness in their hearts, Is. 9:1 2, what no natural eyes see. This God has revealed through his spirit. Jesus, who of God is made unto them wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. I Cor. 1:30. They teach the true wisdom that makes a knowing distinction between the true and the false. They seek always to walk carefully, not as the foolish but as the wise and test scrupulously what the Lord’s will is. They say with David, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24.

The fire of divine love ignites in them a sincere love. They love God with their whole hearts, and by God’s will love their neighbors fervently. They pursue sanctification with all seriousness. They have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness and let their lights shine before men, so that others see their good works and praise the Father in heaven.

As believers are a light in the Lord, so also they walk in the light. They faithfully follow the example of Jesus, who is the light of the world, and whom they have to thank that they are a light in the Lord. As much as they walk in his footsteps, so they walk not in darkness but have the light of life. Joh. 8:12. They grow daily in the knowledge of God and their Savior Jesus Christ. The more their knowledge increases, however, the more carefully they walk before God in Christ Jesus. They increase in [self?] denial. They hold all things for loss and dung that they may win Christ. Phil. 3:8. They have a heavenly mind; they know that they have here no enduring city, so they seek a coming one. They strive not for what is earthly but what is in heaven. They seek what is above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. They seek after the promised prize which is held up before them, the heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus. They make haste with great energy to come nearer to their goal, that they may become ever more like the image of their God.

See, dear souls, those who walk in the light have fellowship with God as well as with one another. They are able to do all things through him who strengthens them, and their hearts rely on his almighty power and aid. His gracious oversight quickens them. His wise government empowers them. His constant presence encourages them. From his righteousness they await a reward of grace. They receive his holiness with humble respect before his face. They have peace with God. They enjoy a comfortable rest and have in them a divine joy. God takes them as members of his household. He cares for them. He is their God for eternity and they are his children without ceasing.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Col. 3:12-14. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another. Joh. 13:35.

Oh if only all wrathful and intransigent men would consider this, those who for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years hate and are unreconciled with their neighbors, and do not consider that the Apostle so earnestly admonishes us not to let the sun go down on our wrath. Eph. 4:26. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another. Rom 12:10. He that says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, since the darkness has blinded his eyes. I Joh. 2. He is a liar and there is no truth in him. Whoever does not the truth is not from God, and whoever does not love his brother.

If we walk in the light, as he (namely God) is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Oh be therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor. Eph. 5:1-2. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Tit. 2:11-14.

From our vain conversation we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. I Pet. 1:18. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. I Joh. 2:2. He is our defender, our ransom. We have redemption in him through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Col. 1:14. We may not walk in darkness, since he, namely God, is in the light. So we must seek to walk in the light and then we will have fellowship with God and one another, and the blood of Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin.

See dear souls, no one thinks that the blood of Christ cleanses us from our sins or reconciles us with God unless they walk in the light of God, since it says in our text, If we walk in the light, etc. We should as Christians let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. Matt. 5:16. For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps. I Pet. 2:21.

Of what does this following of Christ consist, or, how shall we follow him? Christ teaches us in Matt. 15:24, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Here we see that true following of Jesus consists of true denial of our own will, that is, we must lay aside the former walk (the old man) which is destroying itself in error, so that the new man created according to God’s pattern can come alive in us. If this happens, we will walk in the light and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, makes us free from all sin. Christ’s blood gives us also the power to grow and become more complete in goodness. We wash our garments and make our garments bright in the blood of the Lamb through which we are brought to life that is from God. By his will we receive righteousness that is valid before God. Whoever experiences the power of the blood of Jesus earnestly seeks sanctification. By the will of this blood we will be preserved through the power of the Holy Spirit for eternal salvation. We overcome all our enemies through the Lamb’s blood, and as ones who are sprinkled with Jesus’ blood we will finally enter into the new Jerusalem, where forevermore joy will be the abundant and delightful reality.

Application

Now, I have, my friends, according to that which the Lord has bestowed on my lowly self - dust and ashes - explained the words of the text, and have shown therefrom the difference between the children of light and the children of darkness, and also have shown the signs by which you may prove and by which you can conclude to which class you actually belong. How is it with you now, my dearly beloved souls? How does it look for our changeable character? Are we in truth such as boast of fellowship with God? That one imagines and even says with the mouth that one is a true Christian is not enough, rather a fundamental proof is needed.

Are we, dear friends, through the power of the Holy Spirit a light in the Lord? And have we, as children of the light, walked until now in the light before God? Have we with the precious blood of Christ conducted ourselves until now that we have experienced justifying and saving grace in our souls? If we do not know anything foundational, then we still belong to the kingdom of darkness. We have no fellowship with God, and if we boast with the mouth, it is not only useless but very dangerous and harmful. The Holy Spirit declares us to be liars and says there is no truth in us. With our lives and walk we must demostrate whether we are children of the light. Our walk must reveal it. For you all, my dear friends, the way stands open to come to blessed fellowship with God. God has had it proclaimed to you that Jesus the life has appeared to you and that through him you shall have life eternal. He gives you the assurance that in him you shall taste an unspeakably great joy. As long as you remain in sin, so long sin divides you and your God from each other. As long as you remain dead in sin, so long you have no divine life in you. As long as you walk on the broad way that leads to destruction, so long will you not find the way of peace, and the salvation that Jesus has obtained for you remains hidden. Oh think on this well and remain no longer children of darkness, of death and hell. There is yet a little time of light for you, the night of death approaches. Walk while you have light and while the sun of grace shines for you, that eternal darkness does not overtake you, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, that you will be thrust out. You will have only yourselves to blame on the day of judgement if you are lost, since God has done everything, and does it to this moment, to draw you to himself, and to transplant you into his fellwoship. If you will not boldly turn in this time of grace, nor carefully think on it, you will certainly regret for all eternity that you forfeited such a great salvation.

Mark this especially, those of you who cherish good opinions of yourselves without justification and see your souls’ condition better that it really is. Do not betray yourselves with an outward respectability, but go into your hearts and ask God to reveal through his spirit your inner character. Not the knowledge of divine truths but the doing and the practice of the will of God makes a true Christian. Not speaking of Jesus’ blood and wounds with the mouth, but experiencing the power of the same in one’s self makes us righteous and blessed. The kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. Without true rebirth no one enters into the kingdom of God. Without sanctification no one will see the Lord. Whoever does not run with all his powers towards the goal set before us will not earn the heavenly prize. So teaches God’s Word and by this Word we will be judged on that day. Therefore let no man deceive you: He that does righteousness is righteous, even as Christ is righteous. (I Joh. 3:7) If we know that God is righteous, we know that every one that does righteousness is born of him and is a child of God. I Joh. 2:29. Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother. I Joh. 3:9-10.

Make no mistake; God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world with righteousness. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. II Cor. 5:10. Good for those who judge themselves by this, and through true and honest repentance seek grace and forgiveness of sins from God; they shall not be judged. Good for him who here sees his hateful character in the light of God, and lets God work in him; he shall, as a child and heir of God, enter into the kingdom of glory on that day.

See dear souls, believers know that they have fellowship with God, since they walk in the light and Jesus’ blood cleanses them daily from all sin that still clings to them. Rather, as believers who have received God in rebirth they lead their entire walk before God. As Jesus has accepted them so they walk in him and seek after sanctification with all seriousness. Hebr. 12. They daily lay aside the sins that cling to them, and receive power and run with patience the race that is set before them. And because they have the blood of Jesus to thank for the grace and power of God, they remember daily the blood service of their savior. Christ’s blood gives them courage and joy.

[Listing of occasions at which the sermon was presented:]

  1. 22 August 1790 at Rosenort this sermon was presented to the church, and after the sermon we sang Merkt auf ihr Völker No. 481. 3
  2. 29 August 1790 at Rosenort, Was giebst du denn o meine Seele No. 323.
  3. 5 September 1790 at Rosenort, Eitler Mensch der hier auf Erden No. 432.
  4. 12 September 1790 at Rosenort
  5. 26 September 1790 at Rosenort
  6. 31 October 1790 at Neudorf at Johann Neysteter’s [Neustädter], Wer Christi Name nennt No. 249.
  7. 7 November 1790 at Tiegenhagen, Wer das Kleinod will erlangen No. 215.
  8. 5 December 1790 at Einlage, Nun danket alle Gott No. 353
  9. 2 January 1791 at Klein Mausdorferfeld at Johann Andres’ Herr Jesu Christ du höchste No. 99
  10. 30 January 1791 at Ellerwald, Schaffet das ihr... No. 156

[in a different handwriting:] This booklet received from Peter Regier, Tiegerweide, Volost Halbstadt, Berdjansk County, Taurida Province [Russia] in 1894 as a gift.

Heinrich Peter Balzer 1894.