Taken from Christian Discourses, 1848, trans. by Howard and Edna Hong.
1 John 3:20 … even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts.
Even if our hearts condemn us. When the Pharisees and the Scribes had brought to Christ in the temple a woman seized in open sin in order to accuse her and when later, shamed by his answer, they had all gone away, Christ said to her, “Has no one condemned you?” but she said, “No one, Lord.”
Thus there was no one who condemned her. So is it also here in this sanctuary, there is no one who condemns you; if your heart condemns you, you yourself alone must know…. A heart may indeed accuse itself, but from this it still does not follow that it must condemn itself…. Yet we all, we whose hearts do not acquit us, essentially need the same comfort: God’s greatness, that he is greater than our hearts.
God’s greatness is in forgiving, in showing mercy, and in this, his greatness, he is greater than the heart that condemns itself…. God’s greatness in nature is manifest, but God’s greatness in showing mercy is a mystery, which must be believed.
Let no one be in a hurry in seeking, let no one be too hasty in wanting to have found a comparison for God’s greatness in showing mercy. Every mouth is to be stopped; everyone is to beat his breast – because there is only one comparison that is any at all, a troubled heart that condemns itself. But God is greater than this heart! … whether it was something terrible that so weighed upon your conscience that your heart condemned itself – God is greater! If you will not believe, if you dare not believe without seeing a sign, it is now offered to you. He who came to the world and died, he died also for you, also for you. … Do not torture yourself, remember that woman, that there was no one who condemned her, and bear in mind that this same thing can be expressed also in another way: Christ was present. Precisely because he was present, there was no one who condemned her.
Let us then here in your holy house praise your greatness, O God, you who incomprehensibly showed mercy and reconciled the world to yourself. Out there stars proclaim your majesty, and the perfection of everything proclaims your greatness, but in here it is the imperfect, it is sinners who praise your even greater greatness! – The supper of remembrance is once again prepared; may you then beforehand be brought to mind and thanked for your greatness in showing mercy.