Letter XVIII

From A Collection of Letters by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769)


Much esteemed and dearly beloved sister in Jesus, whose Spirit be with your spirit !


     I have duly received your very welcome letter, and have perused with much union of heart, the precious truths it contains. It is true that self-love has struck its roots much deeper within us than one would imagine. The eye of God alone can trace them out, and his hand can alone eradicate them. He that perceives but little of this self-love, goes, as he ought to do, to his labor; but he that perceives much of it, gives up his work, and resigns it to the all-piercing eye of God, and his adorable and faithful hand, which there makes its commencement and beginning, where we leave off, and where, after being brought into judgment by his justice, we must confess with Job, (14:4.) “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” Escaping and departing from one selfish principle is often but the introduction to another, until we see no more possibility of escaping and reforming, give God in judgment the glory, and by suffering, die unto self, in order to make room for the divine life of Jesus Christ, which alone is pure.

     It is, however, as you say, by looking back, that we first of all discover that to have been self-love, which we mistook for the pure love of God. But how much ought we to praise and love the Lord, that he discovers this, and many other things to us in the sequel, and not on the outset! His divine hand makes use even of the evil that is in us, in more ways than one, to make us better. Self-love, which in its way, makes us fear hell, and love heaven, is that which generally excites men to listen to converting grace ; and the Spirit of God employs, throughout the Bible, such inducements as these, because fallen man is incapable and unsusceptible of any other. And not only so, but I well remember to have read, what you may now find in “Berniere’s Hidden Life”, that we ought not to desire perfection, because it is such an exalted state, but because it is the will of God, that we should attain to it, etc. It is now nearly thirty years since I read this, in French, in the writings of that departed saint, and through it received a kind of sentence of death to my self-love, which was hit in the most susceptible part by this expression. But I thank God that I did not meet with or understand it sooner, because I required another wind to bring me thither. And how much has been since discovered of this evil, which for a while seemed good, until the leprosy had spread and insinuated itself into everything, from head to foot, both inwardly and outwardly! (Lev. 13,) and I found myself obliged to submit myself, helpless and without advice, solely to the decision and the hand of the Divine High-priest. And herein we will continue with God; that he may fulfill in us all the good pleasure of his will; and sincerely consenting to our own nothingness, cordially rest in his all sufficiency, and in this, that no one is good, pure, and lovely but God alone, and what he works. O yes, my dear sister, in this we may rest, with childlike confidence, and sweetly rejoice, and really feel happy, that the Lord our God is what he is, that we are such nothings, and that He is God alone! O how good and excellent it is, that seeing there is nothing more in us that can boast, and that the Lord acts towards us so wonderfully, and that although we have nothing, yet that we can be so satisfied and tranquil in the conviction that he is our purity, our treasure, our peace, and all our salvation, from pure unspeakable love to man! This he will be to us, more and more essentially. We must not reflect on our own purity or impurity, but close our eyes in childlike confidence, casting ourselves wholly upon him, and waiting for his operating influences and his salvation. Amen.

     I must now break off, dear sister, whilst cordially saluting you, and presenting you as a living sacrifice to the Lord, in his presence. Be He your life, your peace, your all, in every inward and outward circumstance! I remain through grace,


          In tender affection, your obliged brother.