The one deepest, highest, truest, most wholesome suffering must be generated in the wicked by a vision of the hideousness of their lives, of the horror of the wrongs they have done. Physical suffering may be a factor in rousing this mental pain; but “I would I had never been born!” must be the cry of Judas, not because of the hell-fire around him, but because he loathes the man that betrayed his friend, the world’s friend. When a man loathes himself, he has begun to be saved. Punishment tends to this result. Not for its own sake, not as a make-up for sin, not for divine revenge—horrible word—not for any satisfaction to justice, can punishment exist. It is for the sake of amendment and atonement. God is bound by his love to punish sin in order to deliver his creature; he is bound by his justice to destroy sin in his creation. Love is justice—the fulfilling of the law, for God as well as for his children. This is the reason for punishment; this is why justice requires that the wicked shall not go unpunished—that they, through the eye-opening power of pain, may come to see and do justice, may be brought to desire and make all possible amends, and so become just. Such punishment concerns justice in the deepest degree. For Justice, that is God, is bound in himself to see justice done by his children—not in the mere outward act, but in their very being. He is bound in himself to make up for wrong done by his children, and he can do nothing to make up for wrong done but by bringing about the repentance of the wrong-doer.
by Leah Morency
The first question in the Heidelberg Catechism, which as a child I was taught to memorize, begins with understanding our comfort, and what God has done and continues to do to redeem us to himself, through each part of himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit the comforter.
Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
And the truth is, my comfort has been that I do belong to Christ. I often would recite this truth to myself in midst of suffering. Not that I am perfect and obedient, since that is impossible, but rather, that although I wander, am tempted, fall, and believe lies, I do not command the ability to escape belonging to His ultimate plan. He has bested the devil, the power of the devil does not prevail, my flesh is not allowed to be offered for eternity, to the destruction of the devil, even of its own power, for God IS greater. He gives the Life, provides the way, and patiently works out in me the way to Him. We all exist in the reality of the God who is these things fully, Just, Merciful, Loving.
Question 4 follows and groups all of us, God's created children, according to our condition; imperfect, needing to be lifted above and out of our self and united fully and intimately with God.
4. What does the Law of God require of us?
Christ teaches us in sum, Mt. 22: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Incapable, in our temporary journey across this material world in our bodies of flesh, of achieving this perfect love, some of us may see the Truth more and less than others, and long to live it out. None of us, not seeing Him, could accomplish this unity with God. I am comforted again, knowing that God's character, his essence and being, is to redeem us to him, all of us. He is found in the law, its standard of harmony with Him, and he is found in us when He brings us to Himself. Suffering comes and goes, it is not the final word. I have since left many of the Calvinist teachings that attach themselves to this catechism, but there is much simple truth spelled out, as it is a summary of many great truths in the Word. Our comfort, even the Holy Spirit the comforter, has the final word.