TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM HAZLITT, Esq.
The Lutheran Publication Society
Typed by: Kathy Sewell email@example.com
June 1, 1997
This book is in the public domain
The Holy Ghost has two offices: first, he is a Spirit of grace, that makes God gracious unto us, and receive us as his acceptable children, for Christ's sake. Secondly, he is a Spirit of prayer, that prays for us, and for the whole world, to the end that all evil may be turned from us, and that all good may happen to us. The spirit of grace teaches people; the spirit of prayer prays. It is a wonder how one thing is accomplished various ways. It is one thing to have the Holy Spirit as a spirit of prophecy, and another to have the revealing of the same; for many have had the Holy Spirit before the birth of Christ, and yet he was not revealed unto them. We do not separate the Holy Ghost from faith; neither do we teach that he is against faith; for he is the certainty itself in the world, that makes us sure and certain of the Word; so that, without all wavering or doubting, we certainly believe that it is even so and no otherwise than as God's Word says and is delivered unto us. But the Holy Ghost is given to none without the Word.
Mohammed, the pope, papists, Antinomians, and other sectaries, have no certainty at all, neither can they be sure of these things; for they depend not on God's Word, but on their own righteousness. And when they have done many and great works, yet they always stand in doubt, and say: Who knows whether this which we have done be pleasing to God or no; or, whether we have done works enough or no? They must continually think with themselves, We are still unworthy.
But a true and godly Christian, between these two doubts, is sure and certain, and says: I nothing regard these doubtings; I neither look upon my holiness, nor upon my unworthiness, but I believe in Jesus Christ, who is both holy and worthy; and whether I be holy or unholy, yet I am sure and certain, that Christ gives himself, with all his holiness, worthiness, and what he is and has, to be mine own. For my part, I am a poor sinner, and that I am sure of out of God's Word. Therefore, the Holy Ghost only and alone is able to say: Jesus Christ is the Lord; the Holy Ghost teaches, preaches, and declares Christ.
The Holy Ghost goes first and before in what pertains to teaching; but in what concerns hearing, the Word goes first and before, and then the Holy Ghost follows after. For we must first hear the Word, and then afterwards the Holy Ghost works in our hearts; he works in the hearts of whom he will, and how he will, but never without the Word.
The Holy Ghost began his office and his work openly on Whitsunday; for he gave to the apostles and disciples of Christ, a true and certain comfort in their hearts, and a secure and joyful courage, insomuch that they regarded not whether the world and the devil were merry or sad, friends or enemies, angry or pleased. They went in all security up and down the streets of the city, and doubtless they had these, or the like thoughts: We regard neither Annas or Caiaphas, Pilate nor Herod; they are nothing worth, we all in all; they are our subjects and servants, we their lords and rulers.
So went the loving apostles on, in all courage, without seeking leave or license.
They asked not whether they should preach or no, or whether the priests and people would allow it. O, no! They went on boldly, they opened their mouths freely, and reproved all the people, rulers and subjects, as murderers, wicked wretches, and traitors, who had slain the Prince of Life.
And this spirit, so needful and necessary at that time for the apostles and disciples, is now needful for us: for our adversaries accuse us, like as were the apostles, as rebels and disturbers of the peace of the Church. Whatsoever evil happens, that, say they, have we done or caused. In popedom, say they, it was not so evil as it is since this doctrine came in; now we have all manner of mischiefs, dearth, wars, and the Turks. Of this they lay all the fault to our preaching, and, if they could, would charge us with being the cause of the devil's falling from heaven; yea, would say we had crucified and slain Christ also.
Therefore the Whitsuntide sermons of the Holy Ghost are very needful for us, that thereby we may be comforted, and with boldness condemn and slight such blaspheming, and that the Holy Ghost may put boldness and courage into our hearts, that we may stoutly thrust ourselves forward, let who will be offended, and let who will reproach us, and, that although, sects and heresies arise, we may not regard them. Such a courage there must be that cares for nothing, but boldly and freely acknowledges and preaches Christ, who of wicked hands was crucified and slain.
The preached gospel is offensive in all places of the world, rejected and condemned.
If the gospel did not offend and anger citizen or countryman, prince or bishop, then it would be a fine and acceptable preaching, and might well be tolerated, and people would willingly hear and receive it. But seeing it is a kind of preaching which makes people angry, especially the great and powerful, and deep-learned ones of the world, great courage is necessary, and the Holy Ghost, to those that intend to preach it.
It was, indeed, undaunted courage in the poor fishers, the apostles, to stand up and preach so that the whole council at Jerusalem were offended, to bring upon themselves the wrath of the whole government, spiritual and temporal - yea, of the Roman emperor himself. Truly this could not have been done without the Holy Ghost. `Twas a great wonder that the high-priest, and Pontius Pilate, did not cause these preachers that hour to be put to death, what they said smacking so much of rebellion against the spiritual and temporal government; yet both high-priest and Pilate were struck with fear to the end that God might show his power in the apostle's weakness.
Thus it is with the church of Christ: it goes on in apparent weakness; and yet in its weakness, there is such mighty strength and power, that all the worldlywise and powerful must stand amazed therat and fear.
It is testified by Holy Scripture, and the Nicene creed out of Holy Scripture teaches that the Holy Ghost is he who makes alive, and, together with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified.
Therefore the Holy Ghost, of necessity, must be true and everlasting God with the Father and the Son, in one only essence. For if he were not true and everlasting God, then could not be attributed and given unto him the divine power and honor that he makes alive, and together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified; on this point the Fathers powerfully set themselves against the heretics, upon the strength of the Holy Scripture.
The Holy Ghost is not such a comforter as the world is, where neither truth nor constancy is, but he is a true, an everlasting, and a constant comforter, without deceit and lies; he is one whom no man can deceive. He is called a witness, because he bears witness only of Christ and of none other; without his testimony concerning Christ, there is no true or firm comfort. Therefore all rests on this, that we take sure hold of the text, and say: I believe in Jesus Christ, who died for me; and I know that the Holy Ghost, who is called, and is a witness and a comforter, preaches and witnesses in Christendom of none, but only of Christ, therewith to strengthen and comfort all sad and sorrowful hearts. Thereon will I also remain, depending upon none other for comfort. Our blessed Saviour Christ himself preaches that the Holy Ghost is everlasting and Almighty God. Otherwise he would not have directed his commission thus: Go, and teach all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and teach them to keep and observe all things whatsoever I have commanded of you. It must needs follow, that the Holy Ghost is true, eternal God, equal in power and might with the Father, and the Son, without all end. Likewise Christ says: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." Mark well this sentence, for herein we find the difference of the three persons distinctly held out unto us: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter." Here we have two persons - Christ the Son that prays, and the Father that is prayed unto. Now, if the Father shall give such a comforter, then the Father himself cannot be that comforter; neither can Christ, that prays, be the same; so that very significantly the three persons are here plainly pictured and portrayed unto us. For even as the Father and the Son are two distinct and sundry persons, so the third person of the Holy Ghost is another distinct person, and yet notwithstanding there is but one only everlasting God.
Now, what the same third person is, Christ teaches (John, xv.): "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me."
In this place, Christ speaks not only of the office and work of the Holy Ghost, but also of his essence and substance, and says: "He proceedeth from the Father;" that is, his proceeding is without beginning, and is everlasting. Therefore the holy prophets attribute and give unto him this title and call him "The Spirit of the Lord."
None of the Fathers of the Church made mention of original sin until Augustine came, who made a difference between original and actual sin; namely, that original sin is to covet, lust, and desire, which is the root and cause of actual sin; such lust and desire in the faithful, God forgives, imputing it not unto them, for the sake of Christ, seeing they resist it by the assistance of the Holy Ghost. As St Paul, Rom. viii. The papists and other sinners oppose the known truth. St Paul says: "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition, rejects," knowing that such an one sins, being condemned of himself. And Christ says: "Let them alone, they are blind leaders of the blind." If one err through ignorance, he will be instructed; but if he be hardened, and will not yield to the truth, like Pharaoh, who would not acknowledge his sins, or humble himself before God, and therefore was destroyed in the Red Sea, even so will he be destroyed. We are all sinner by nature - conceived and born in sin; sin has poisoned us through and through; we have from Adam a will, which continually sets itself against God, unless by the Holy Ghost it be renewed and changed. Of this neither the philosophers nor the lawyers know anything; therefore they are justly excluded from the circuit of divinity, not grounding their doctrine upon God's Word.
Sins against the Holy Ghost are, first, presumption; second, despair; third, opposition to and condemnation of the known truth; fourth, not to wish well, but to grudge one's brother or neighbor the grace of God; fifth, to be hardened; sixth, to be impenitent.
The greatest sins committed against God, are the violations of the first table of the law. No man understands or feels these sins, but he that has the Holy Ghost and the grace of God. Therefore people feeling secure, though they draw God's wrath upon them, yet flatter themselves they still remain in God's favor. Yea, they corrupt the Word of God, and condemn it; yet think they do that which is pleasing and a special service to God. As for example: Paul held the law of God to be the highest and most precious treasure on earth, as we do the gospel. He would venture life and blood to maintain it; and he thought he wanted neither understanding, wisdom, nor power. But before he could rightly look about him, and while he thought his cause most sure, then he heard another lesson, he got another manner of commission, and it was told him plainly, that all his works, actions, diligence and zeal, were quite against God. Yet his doings carried a fair favor with the learned and seeming holy people, who said, Paul dealt herein uprightly, and performed divine and holy works, in showing such zeal for God's honor and for the law.
But God struck him on the ear, that he fell to the ground, and heard, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? As if he should say, Saul, even with that wherein thou thinkest to do me service, thou dost nothing but persecute me, as my greatest enemy. It is true, thou boastest that thou hast my word, that thou understandest the law, and wilt earnestly defend and maintain it; thou receivest testimony and authority from the elders and scribes, and in such they conceit and blind zeal thou proceedest. But know, that in my law I have commanded, that whoso taketh my name in vain shall die. Thou, Saul, takest my name in vain; therefore thou art justly punished. Whereupon he said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Mark, this man was a master in the law of Moses, and yet he asked what he should do.
We have within us many sins against our Lord God, and which justly displease him: such as anger, impatience, covetousness, greediness, incontinence, hatred, malice, etc. These are great sins, which everywhere in the world go on with power, and get the upper hand. Yet these are nothing in comparison of condemning of God's Word; yea, all these would remain uncommitted, if we did but love and reverence that. But, alas! the whole world is drowned in this sin. No man cares a flip for the gospel, all snarl at and persecute it, holding it as no sin. I behold with wonder in the church, that among the hearers, one looks this way, another that; and that among so great a multitude, few come to hear the sermon. This sin is so common, that people will not confess it to be like other sins; every one deems it a slight thing to hear a discourse without attention, and not diligently to mark, learn and inwardly digest it. It is not so about other sins; as murder, adultery, thieving, etc. For, after these sins, in due time follow grief, sorrow of heart, and remorse. But not to hear God's Word with diligence, yea, to condemn, to persecute it, of this man makes no account. Yet it is a sin so fearful, that for the committing it both land and people must be destroyed, as it went with Jerusalem, with Rome, Greece, and other kingdoms.
Christ well knew how to discriminate sins; we see in the gospel how harsh he was towards the Pharisees, by reason of their great hatred and envy against him and his Word, while, on the contrary, how mild and friendly he was towards the woman who was a sinner. That same envy will needs rob Christ of his Word, for he is a bitter enemy unto it, and in the end will crucify it. But the woman, as the greatest sinner, takes hold on the Word, hears Christ, and believes that he is the only Saviour of the world; she washes his feet, and anoints him with a costly water.
Let us not think ourselves more just than was the poor sinner and murderer on the cross. I believe if the apostles had not fallen, they would not have believed in the remission of sins. Therefore, when the devil upbraids me, touching my sins, then I say; Good St Peter, although I am a great sinner, yet I have not denied Christ my Saviour, as you did. In such instances the forgiveness of sins remains confirmed. And although the apostles were sinners, yet our Saviour Christ always excused them, as when they plucked the ears of corn; but, on the contrary, he jeered the Pharisees touching the paying of tribute, and commonly showed his disapprobation of them; but the disciples he always comforted, as Peter, where he says: "Fear not, thou shalt henceforth catch men."
No sinner can escape his punishment, unless he be sorry for his sins. For though one go scot free for awhile, yet at last he will be snapped, as the Psalm says: "God indeed is still judge on earth."
Our Lord God suffers the ungodly to be surprised and taken captive in very slight and small things, when they think not of it, when they are most secure, and live in delight and pleasure, leaping for joy. In such manner was the pope surprised by me, about his indulgences and pardons, comparatively a slight matter.
A magistrate, a father or mother, a master or dame, tradesmen and others, must now and then look through the fingers at their citizens, children, and servants, if their faults and offences be not too gross and frequent; for where we will have summum jus, there follows often summa injuria, so that all must go to wreck. Neither do they which are in office always hit it aright, but err and sin themselves, and must therefore desire the forgiveness of sins.
God forgives sins merely out of grace for Christ's sake; but we must not abuse the grace of God. God has given signs and tokens enough, that our sins shall be forgiven; namely, the preaching of the gospel, baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Holy Ghost in our hearts.
Now it is also needful we testify in our works that we have received the forgiveness of sins, by each forgiving the faults of his brother. There is no comparison between God's remitting of sins and ours. For what are one hundred pence, in comparison with ten thousand pounds? as Christ says, naught. And although we deserve nothing by our forgiving, yet we must forgive that thereby we may prove and give testimony that we from God have received forgiveness of our sins.
The forgiveness of sins is declared only in God's Word, and there we must seek it; for it is grounded on God's promises. God forgives thee thy sins, not because thou feelest them and art sorry, for this sin itself produces, without deserving, but he forgives thy sins because he is merciful, and because he has promised to forgive for Christ's sake.
When God said to Cain, through Adam: "If thou do well shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou dost not well sin lieth at the door," he shows the appearance of sinners, and speaks with Cain as with the most hypocritical and poisonous Capuchin; `twas as if Adam had said: Thou hast heard how it went with me in Paradise; I also would willingly have hid my offence with fig leaves, lurking behind a tree, but know, good fellow, our Lord God will not be so deceived; the fig leaves would not serve the turn.
Ah! it was, doubtless, to Adam, a heart-breaking and painful task, when he was compelled to banish and proscribe his first born and only son, to hunt him out of his house, and to say: Depart from me, and come no more in my sight; I still feel what I have already lost in Paradise, I will lose no more for thy sake; I will now, with more diligence, take heed to my God's commands. And no doubt Adam afterwards preached with redoubled diligence.
These two sins, hatred and pride, deck and trim themselves out, as the devil clothed himself, in the Godhead. Hatred will be godlike; pride will be truth. These two are right deadly sins: hatred is killing; pride is lying.
It can be hurtful to none to acknowledge and confess his sins. Hast thou done this or that sin? - what then? We freely, in God's name, acknowledge the same, and deny it not, but from our hearts say: O Lord God! I have done this sin.
Although thou hast not committed this or that sin, yet, nevertheless, thou art an ungodly creature; and if thou hast not done that sin which another has done, so has he not committed that sin which thou hast done; therefore cry quits one with another. `Tis as the man said, that had young wolves to sell; he was asked which of them was the best? He answered: If one be good, then they are all good; they are all like one another. If thou hast been a murderer, an adulterer, a drunkard, etc., so have I been a blasphemer of God, who for the space of fifteen years was a friar, and blasphemed God with celebrating that abominable idol, the mass. It had been better for me I had been a partaker of other great wickednesses instead; but what is done cannot be undone; he that has stolen, let him henceforward steal no more.
The sins of common, untutored people are nothing in comparison with the sins committed by great and high persons, that are in spiritual and temporal offices.
What are the sins done by a poor wretch, that according to law and justice is hanged, or the offences of a poor strumpet, compared with the sins of a false teacher, who daily makes away with many poor people, and kills them both body and soul? The sins committed against the first table of God's ten commandments, are not so much regarded by the world, as those committed against the second table.
Original sin, after regeneration, is like a wound that begins to heal; though it be a wound, yet it is in course of healing, though it still runs and is sore.
So original sin remains in Christians until they die, yet itself is mortified and continually dying. Its head is crushed in pieces, so that it cannot condemn us.
All natural inclinations are either without God or against him; therefore none are good. I prove it thus: All affections, desires, and inclinations of mankind are evil, wicked, and spoiled, as the Scripture says.
Experience testifies this; for no man is so virtuous as to marry a wife, only thereby to have children, to love and to bring them up in the fear of God.
No hero undertakes great enterprises for the common good, but out of ambition, for which he is justly condemned: hence it must needs follow, that such original, natural desires and inclinations are wicked. But God bears with them and lets them pass, in those that believe in Christ.
Schenck proceeds in a most monstrous manner, haranguing, without the least discernment, on the subject of sin. I, myself, have heard him say, in the pulpit at Eisenach, without any qualification whatever, "Sin, sin is nothing; God will receive sinners; He himself tells us they shall enter the kingdom of heaven." Schenck makes no distinction between sins committed, sins committing, and sins to be committed, so that when the common people hear him say, "Sin, for God will receive sinners;" they very readily repeat, "Well, we'll sin then." `Tis a most erroneous doctrine. What is announced as to God's receiving sinners, applies to sinners who have repented; there is all the difference in the world between agnitum peccatum, attended by repentance, and velle peccare, which is an inspiration of the devil.
The very name, Free-will, was odious to all the Fathers. I, for my part, admit that God gave to mankind a free will, but the question is, whether this same freedom be in our power and strength, or no? We may very fitly call it a subverted, perverse, fickle, and wavering will, for it is only God that works in us, and we must suffer and be subject to his pleasure. Even as a potter out of his clay makes a pot or vessel, s he wills, so it is for our free will, to suffer and not to work. It stands not in our strength; for we are not able to do anything that is good in divine matters.
I have often been resolved to live uprightly, and to lead a true godly life, and to set everything aside that would hinder this, but it was far from being put in execution; even as it was with Peter, when he swore he would lay down his life for Christ.
I will not lie or dissemble before my God, but will freely confess, I am not able to effect that good which I intend, but await the happy hour when God shall be pleased to meet me with his grace.
The will of mankind is either presumptuous or despairing. No human creature can satisfy the law. For the law of God discourses with me, as it were, after this manner: Here is a great, a high, and a steep mountain, and thou must go over it; whereupon my flesh and free-will say, I will go over it; but my conscience says, Thou canst not go over it; then comes despair, and says, If I cannot, then I must forbear. In this sort does the law work in mankind either presumption or despair; yet the law must be preached and taught, for if we preach not the law, then people grow rude and confident, whereas if we preach it, we make them afraid.
Saint Augustine writes, that free-will, without God's grace and the Holy Ghost, can do nothing but sin; which sentence sorely troubles the school-divines. They say, Augustine spoke hyperbolice, and too much; for they understand that part of the Scripture to be spoken only of those people who lived before the deluge, which says: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," etc.; whereas he speaks in a general way, which these poor school-divines do not see any more than what the Holy Ghost says, soon after the deluge, in almost the same words: "And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth."
Hence, we conclude in general, that man, without the Holy Ghost and God's grace, can do nothing but sin; he proceeds therein without intermission, and from one sin falls into another. Now, if man will not suffer wholesome doctrine, but condemns the all-saving Word, and resists the Holy Ghost, then through the effects and strength of his free-will he becomes God's enemy; he blasphemes the Holy Ghost, and follows the lusts and desires of his own heart, as examples in all times clearly show.
But we must diligently weigh the words which the Holy Ghost speaks through Moses: "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil continually:" so that when a man is able to conceive with his thoughts, with his understanding and free-will, by highest diligence, is evil, and not once or twice, but evil continually; without the Holy Ghost, man's reason, will, and understanding, are without the knowledge of God; and to be without the knowledge of God, is nothing else than to be ungodly, to walk in darkness, and to hold that for best which is direct worst.
I speak only of that which is good in divine things, and according to the holy Scripture; for we must make a difference between that which is temporal, and that which is spiritual, between politics and divinity; for God also allows of the government of the ungodly, and rewards their virtues, yet only so far as belongs to this temporal life; for man's will and understanding conceive that to be good which is external and temporal - nay, take it to be, not only good, but the chief good.
But when we divines speak of free-will, we ask what man's free-will is able to accomplish in divine and spiritual matters, not in outward and temporal affairs; and we conclude that man, without the Holy Ghost, is altogether wicked before God, although he were decked up and trimmed with all the virtues of the heathen, and had all their works.
For, indeed, there are fair and glorious examples in heathendom, of many virtues, where men were temperate, chaste, bountiful; loved their country, parents, wives, and children; were men of courage, and behaved themselves magnanimously and generously.
But the ideas of mankind concerning God, the true worship of God, and God's will, are altogether stark blindness and darkness. For the light of human wisdom, reason, and understanding, which alone is given to man, comprehends only what is good and profitable outwardly. And although we see that the heathen philosophers now and then discoursed touching God and his wisdom very pertinently, so that some have made prophets of Socrates, of Xenophon, of Plato, etc., yet, because they knew not that God sent his Son Christ to save sinners, such fair, glorious, and wise-seeming speeches and disputations are nothing but mere blindness and ignorance.
Ah, Lord God! why should be boast of our free-will, as if it were able to do anything ever so small, in divine and spiritual matters? when we consider what horrible miseries the devil has brought upon us through sin, we might shame ourselves to death.
For, first, free-will led us into original sin, and brought death upon us: afterwards, upon sin followed not only death, but all manner of mischiefs, as we daily find in the world, murder, lying, deceiving, stealing, and other evils, so that no man is safe the twinkling of an eye, in body or goods, but always stands in danger.
And, besides these evils, is afflicted with yet a greater, as is noted in the gospel - namely, that he is possessed of the devil, who makes him mad and raging.
We know not rightly what we become after the fall of our first parents; what from our mothers we have brought with us. For we have altogether, a confounded, corrupt, and poisoned nature, both in body and soul; throughout the whole of man is nothing that is good.
This is my absolute opinion: he that will maintain that man's free-will is able to do or work anything in spiritual cases be they never so small, denies Christ. This I have maintained in my writings, especially in those against Erasmus, one of the learnedest men in the whole world, and thereby will I remain, for I know it to be the truth, though all the world should be against it; yea, the decree of Divine Majesty must stand fast against the gates of hell.
I confess that mankind has a free-will, but it is to milk kine, to build houses, etc., and no further; for so long as a man is at ease and in safety, and is in no want, so long he things he has a free-will, which is able to do something; but when want and need appear, so that there is neither meat, drink, nor money, where is then free-will? It is utterly lost, and cannot stand when it comes to the pinch. Faith only stands fast and sure, and seeks Christ. Therefore faith is far another thing than free-will: nay, free-will is nothing at all, but faith is all in all. Art thou bold and stout, and canst thou carry it lustily with thy free-will when plague, wars, and times of dearth and famine are at hand? No: in time of plague, thou knowest not what to do for fear; thou wishest thyself a hundred miles off. In time of dearth thou thinkest: Where shall I find to eat; Thy will cannot so much as give thy heart the smallest comfort in these times of need, but the longer thou strivest, the more it makes thy heart faint and feeble, insomuch that it is affrighted even at the rushing and shaking of a leaf. These are the valiant acts our free-will can achieve.
Some few divines allege, that the Holy Ghost works not in those that resist him, but only in such as are willing and give consent thereto, whence it would appear that free-will is only a cause and helper of faith, and that consequently faith alone justifies not, and that the Holy Ghost does not alone work through the Word, but that our will does something therein.
But I say it is not so; the will of mankind works nothing at all in his conversion and justification; Non est efficiens causa justificationis sed marerialis tantum. It is the matter on which the Holy Ghost works (as a potter makes a pot out of clay), equally in those that resist and are averse, as in St Paul. But after the Holy Ghost has wrought in the wills of such resistants, then he also manages that the will be consenting thereunto.
They say and allege further, That the example of St Paul's conversion is a particular and special work of God, and therefore cannot be brought in for a general rule. I answer: even like as St Paul was converted, just so are all others converted; for we all resist God, but the Holy Ghost draws the will of mankind, when he pleases, through preaching.
Even as no man may lawfully have children, except in a state of matrimony, though many married people have no children, so the Holy Ghost works not always through the Word but when it pleases him, so that free-will does nothing inwardly in our conversion and justification before God, neither does it work with our strength - no, not in the least, unless we be prepared and made fit by the Holy Ghost.
The sentences in Holy Scripture touching predestination, as, "No man can come to me except the Father draweth him," seem to terrify and affright us; yet they but show that we can do nothing of our own strength and will that is good before God, and put the godly also in mind to pray. When people do this, they may conclude they are predestinated.
Ah! why should we boast that our free-will can do aught in man's conversion? We see the reverse in those poor people, who are corporally possessed of the devil, how he rends, and tears, and spitefully deals with them, and with what difficulty he is driven out. Truly, the Holy Ghost alone must drive him out, as Christ says: "If I, with the finger of God, do drive out devils, then no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you." As much as to say, If the kingdom of God shall come upon you, then the devil must first be driven out, for his kingdom is opposed to God's kingdom, as ye yourselves confess. Now the devil will not be driven out through God's finger, then the kingdom of the devil subsists there; and where the devil's kingdom is, there is not God's kingdom.
And again, so long as the Holy Ghost comes not into us, we are not only unable to do anything good, but we are, so long, in the kingdom of the devil, and do what is pleasing unto him.
What could St Paul have done to be freed from the devil, though all the people on earth had been present to help him? Truly, nothing at all; he was forced to do and suffer that which the devil, his lord and master, pleased, until our blessed Saviour Christ came, with divine power.
Now, if he could not be quit of the devil, corporally from his body, how should he be quit of him spiritually from his soul, through his own will, strength, and power? For the soul was the cause why the body was possessed, which also was a punishment for sin. It is a matter more difficult to be delivered from sin than from the punishment; the soul is always heavier possessed than the body; the devil leaves to the body its natural strength and activity; but the soul he bereaves of understanding, reason, and power, as we see in possessed people.
Let us mark how Christ pictures forth the devil. He names him a strong giant that keeps a castle; that is, the devil has not only the world in possession, as his own kingdom, but he fortifies it in such a way that no human creature can take it from him, and he keeps it also in such subordination that he does even what he wills to have done. Now, as much as a castle is able to defend itself against the tyrant which is therein, even so much is free-will and human strength able to defend itself against the devil; that is, no way able at all. And even as the castle must first be overcome by a stronger giant, to be won from the tyrant, even so mankind must be delivered and regained from the devil through Christ. Hereby, we see plainly that our doings and righteousness can help nothing towards our deliverance, but only by God's grace and power.
O! how excellent and comfortable a gospel is that, in which our Saviour Christ shows what a loving heart he bears towards us poor sinners, who are able to do nothing at all for ourselves to our salvation.
For as a silly sheep cannot take heed to itself, that it err not, nor go astray, unless the shepherd always leads it; yea, and when it has erred, gone astray, and is lost, cannot find the right way, nor come to the shepherd, but the shepherd must go after it, and seek until he find it, and when he has found it, must carry it, to the end it be not scared from him again, go astray, or be torn by the wolf: so neither can we help ourselves, nor attain a peaceful conscience, nor outrun the devil, death and hell, unless Christ himself seek and call us through his Word; and when we are come unto him, and posses the true faith, yet we of ourselves are not able to keep ourselves therein, nor to stand, unless he always holds us up through the Word and spirit, seeing that the devil everywhere lies lurking for us, like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.
I fain would know how he who knows nothing of God, should know how to govern himself; how he, who is conceived and born in sin, as we all are, and is by nature a child of wrath, and God's enemy, should know how to find the right way and to remain therein, when, as Isaiah says: "We can do nothing else but go astray." How is it possible we should defend ourselves against the devil, who is a Prince of this world, and we his prisoners, when, with all our strength, we are not able so much as to hinder a leaf or a fly from doing us hurt? I say, how may we poor miserable wretches presume to boast of comfort, help, and counsel against God's judgment, his wrath and everlasting death, when we cannot tell which way to seek help, or comfort, or counsel, no, not in the least of our corporal necessities, as daily experience teaches us, either for ourselves or others?
Therefore, thou mayest boldly conclude, that as little as a sheep can help itself, but must needs wait for all assistance from the shepherd, so little, yea, much less, can a human creature find comfort, help, and advice of himself, in cases pertaining to salvation, but must expect and wait for these only from God, his shepherd, who is a thousand times more willing to do every good thing for his sheep than any temporal shepherd for his.
Now, seeing that human nature, through original sin, is wholly spoiled and perverted, outwardly and inwardly, in body and soul, where is then free-will and human strength? Where human traditions, and the preachers of works, who teach that we must make use of our own abilities, and by our own works obtain God's grace, and so, as they say, be children of salvation? O! foolish, false doctrine! - for we are altogether unprepared with our abilities, with our strength and works, when it comes to the combat, to stand or hold out. How can that man be reconciled to God, whom he cannot endure to hear, but flies from to a human creature, expecting more love and favor from one that is a sinner, than he does from God. Is not this a fine free-will for reconciliation and atonement?
The children of Israel on Mount Sinai, when God gave them the Ten commandments, showed plainly that human nature and free-will can do nothing, or subsist before God; for they feared that God would suddenly strike among them, holding him merely for a devil, a hangman, and a tormentor, who did nothing but fret and fume.
I believe the words of the apostles creed to be the work of the Holy Ghost; the Holy Spirit alone could have enunciated things so grand, in terms so precise, so expressive, so powerful. No human creature could have done it, nor all the human creatures of ten thousand worlds. This creed, then, should be the constant object of our most serious attention. For myself, I cannot too highly admire or venerate it.
The catechism must govern the church, and remain lord and ruler; that is, the ten commandments, the creed, the Lord's Prayer, the sacraments, etc. And although there may be many that set themselves against it, yet it shall stand fast, and keep the pre-eminence, through him of whom it is written, "Thou art a priest for ever:" for he will be a priest, and will also have priests, despite the devil and all his instruments on earth.
Sermons very little edify children, who learn little thereby; it is more needful they be taught and well instructed in schools, and at home, and that they be heard and examined what they have learned; this way profits much; `tis very wearisome, but very necessary. The papists avoid such pains, so that their children are neglected and forsaken.
In the catechism, we have a very exact, direct, and short way to the whole Christian religion. For God himself gave the ten commandments, Christ himself penned and taught the Lord's Prayer, the Holy Ghost brought together the articles of faith. These three pieces are set down so excellently, that never could any thing have been better; but they are slighted and condemned by us as things of small value, because the little children daily say them.
The catechism is the most complete and best doctrine, and therefore should continually be preached; all public sermons should be grounded and built thereupon. I could wish we preached it daily, and distinctly read it out of the book. But our preachers and hearers have it at their fingers ends; they have already swallowed it all up; they are ashamed of this slight and simple doctrine, as they hold it, and will be thought of higher learning. The parishioners say: Our preachers fiddle always one tune; they preach nothing but the catechism, the ten commandments, the creed, the Lord's prayer, baptism, and the Lord's supper; all which we know well enough already; but the catechism, I insist, is the right Bible of the laity, wherein is contained the whole sum of Christian doctrine necessary to be known by every Christian for salvation.
First, there are the ten commandments of God, Doctrina Doctrinarum, the doctrine of all doctrines, by which God's will is known, what God will have of us, and what is wanting in us. Secondly, there is the confession of faith in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ; Historia Historiarum, the history of histories, or highest history, wherein are delivered unto us the wonderful works of the divine Majesty from the beginning to all eternity; how we and all creatures are created by God; how we are delivered by the Son of God through his humanity, his passion, death, and resurrection; and also how we are renewed and collected together, the one people of God, and have remission of sins and everlasting life.
Thirdly, there is the Lord's prayer, Oratio Orationum, the prayer above all prayers, a prayer which the most high Master taught us, wherein are comprehended all spiritual and temporal blessings, and the strongest comforts in all trials, temptations, and troubles, even in the hour of death.
Fourthly, there are the blessed sacraments, Cerimoniae Cerimoniarum, the highest ceremonies, which God himself has instituted and ordained, and therein assured us of his grace. We should esteem and love the catechism, for therein is the ancient, pure, divine doctrine of the Christian church. And whatsoever is contrary thereunto is new and false doctrine, though it have ever so glorious a show and lustre, and we must take good heed how we meddle therewith. In all my youth I never heard any preaching, either of the ten commandments, or of the Lord's prayer.
Future heresies will darken this light, but now we have the catechism, God be praised, purer in the pulpits, than has been for the last thousand years. So much could not be collected out of all the books of the Fathers, as, by God's grace, is now taught out of the little catechism. I only read in the Bible at Erfurt, in the monastery; and God then wonderfully wrought, contrary to all human expectation, so that I was constrained to depart from Erfurt, and was called to Wittenberg, where, under God, I gave the devil, the pope of Rome, such a blow, as no emperor, king, or potentate, could have given him; yet it was not I, but God by me, his poor, weak, and unworthy instrument.
The Decalogue - that is, the ten commandments of God, are a looking-glass and brief sum of all virtues and doctrines, both how we ought to behave towards God and also our neighbour; that is, towards all mankind.
There never was at any time written a more excellent, complete, or compendious book of virtues.
God says: "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God." Now, God is jealous two manner of ways; first, God is angry as one that is jealous of them that fall from him, and become false and treacherous, that prefer the creature before the Creator; that build upon the favors of the great; that depend upon their friends, upon their own power - riches, arts, wisdom, etc.; that forsake the righteousness of faith, and condemn it, and will be justified and saved by and through their own good works. God is also vehemently angry with those that boast and brag of their power and strength; as we see in Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who boasted of his great power, and thought utterly to destroy Jerusalem. Likewise in king Saul, who also thought to defend and keep the kingdom through his strength and power, and to pass it on to his children when he had suppressed David and rooted him out.
Secondly, God is jealous for them that love him and highly esteem his Word; such God loves again, defends, and keeps as the apple of his eye, and resists their adversaries, beating them back, that they are not able to perform what they intended. Therefore, this word jealous comprehends both hatred and love, revenge and protection; for which cause it requires both fear and faith; fear, that we provoke not God to anger, or work his displeasure; faith, that in trouble we believe he will help, nourish, and defend us in this life, and will pardon and forgive us our sins, and for Christ's sake preserve us to life everlasting. For faith must rule and govern, in and over all things, both spiritual and temporal; the heart must believe most certainly that God looks upon us, loves, helps, and will not forsake us, as the Psalm says: "Call upon me in the time of trouble, so will I deliver thee, and thou shalt praise me," etc. Also "The Lord is nigh unto all those that call upon him; yea, all that call upon him faithfully." And, "He that calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Further, the Lord says: "And will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation," etc. This is a terrible word of threatening, which justly affrights our hearts, and stirs up fears in us. It is quite contrary to our reason, for we conceive it to be a very unjust proceeding, that the children and posterity should be punished for their fathers and forefathers offences. But forasmuch as God has so decreed, and is pleased so to proceed, therefore our duty is to know and acknowledge that he is a just God, and that he wrongs none. Seeing that these fearful threatenings are contrary to our understanding, therefore flesh and blood regard them not, but cast them in the wind, as though they signified no more than the hissing of a goose. But we that are true Christians believe the same to be certain, when the Holy Ghost touches our hearts, and that this proceeding is just and right, and thereby we stand in the fear of God. Here again we may see what man's free-will can do, in that it understands and fears nothing. If we did but feel and know how earnest a threatening this is, we should for fear instantly fall down dead; and we have examples, as where God said: that for the sins of Manasseh he will cast the people into miserable captivity.
But some may argue: Then I see well that the posterity have no hope of grace when their parents sin. I answer: Those that repent, from them is the law taken away and abolished, so that their parents sins do not hurt them; as the prophet Ezekiel says: "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father;" yet God permits the external and corporal punishment to go on, yea, sometimes over the penitent children also for examples, to the end that others may fly from sin and lead a godly life.
"But he will do good and be merciful unto thousands," etc. This is a great, a glorious, and comfortable promise, far surpassing all human reason and understanding, that, for the sake of one godly person, so many should be partakers of undeserved blessings and mercies. For we find many examples, that a multitude of people have enjoyed mercies and benefits for the sake of one godly man; as for Abraham's sake, many people were preserved and blessed, and also for Isaac's sake; and for the sake of Naaman the whole kingdom of Assyria was blessed of God.
To love God is, that we certainly hold and believe that God is gracious unto us, that he helps, assists, and does us good. Therefore, love proceeds from faith, and God requires faith, to believe that he promises all good unto us.
The first commandment will stand and remain, that God is our God; this will not be accomplished in the present, but in the life everlasting. All the other commandments will cease and end; for, in the life to come, the world will cease and end together with all external worship of God, all world policy and government; only God and the first commandment will remain everlastingly, both here and there.
We ought well to mark with what great diligence and ability Moses handles the first commandment, and explains it. He was doubtless an excellent doctor. David afterwards was a gate or a door out of Moses. For he had well studied in Moses, and so he became a fine poet and orator; the Psalms are altogether syllogisms, or concluding sentences out of the first commandment. Major, the first, is God's Word itself; Minor, the second, faith. The conclusion is the act, work, and execution, so that it is done as we believe. As, Major: Misericors Deus, respicit miseros: Minor: Ego sum miser; Conclusio; Ergo Deus me queoque respicit.
When we believe the first commandment, and so please God, then all our actions are pleasing unto him. If thou hearest his Word, if thou prayest, mortifiest thyself, then says God unto thee: I am well pleased with what thou doest. Moreover, when we observe the first commandment, then that placet goes through all the other commandments and works. Art thou a Christian? wilt thou marry a wife? wilt thou buy and sell? wilt thou labor in the works of thy vocation? wilt thou punish and condemn wicked and ungodly wretches? wilt thou eat, drink, sleep? etc. God says continually: Placet.
But if thou keepest not the first commandment, then says God to all thy works and actions, Non placent, they please me not. Christ takes the first commandment upon himself, where he says: "He that honoreth me, honoreth the Father; he that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father."
We must reject those who so highly boast of Moses laws, as to temporal affairs, for we have our written imperial and country laws, under which we live, and unto which we are sworn. Neither Naaman the Assyrian, nor Job, nor Joseph, nor Daniel, nor many other good and godly Jews, observed Moses laws out of their country, but those of the Gentiles among whom they lived. Moses law bound and obliged only the Jews in that place which God mad choice of. Now they are free. If we should keep and observe the laws and rites of Moses, we must also be circumcised, and keep the mosaical ceremonies; for there is no difference; he that holds one to be necessary, must hold the rest so too. Therefore let us leave Moses to his laws, excepting only the Moralia, which God has planted in nature, as the ten commandments, which concern God's true worshipping and service, and a civil life.
The particular and only office of the law is, as St Paul teaches, that transgressions thereby should be acknowledged; for it was added, because of transgressions, till seed should come, to whom the promise was made. These are the express and plain words of St Paul; therefore we trouble not ourselves with what the papists allege to the contrary, and spin out of human reason, extolling the maintainers and seeming observers of Moses law.
God gives to the emperor the sword, the emperor delivers it to the judge, and causes thieves, murderers, etc., to be punished and executed. Afterwards, when God pleases, he takes the sword from the emperor again; even so does God touching the law; he leaves it to the devil, and permits him therewith to affright sinners.
The law is used in two ways; first, for this worldly life, because God has ordained all temporal laws and statutes to prevent and hinder sin. But here some one may object: If the law hinder sin, then also it justifies. I answer: Oh! no, this does not follow; that I do not murder, commit adultery, steal, etc., is not because I love virtue and righteousness, but because I fear the hangman, who threatens me with the gallows, sword, etc. It is the hangman that hinders me from sinning, as chains, ropes, and strong bands hinder bears, lions, and other wild beasts from tearing and rending in pieces all that come in their way.
Hence we may understand, That the same can be no righteousness that is performed out of fear of the curse, but sin and unrighteousness; for the law binds mankind, who by nature are prone to wickedness, that they do not sin, as willingly they would.
Therefore this is the first point concerning the law, that it must be used to deter the ungodly from their wicked and mischievous intentions. For the devil, who is an abbot and prince of this world, allures people to work all manner of sin and wickedness; wherefore God has ordained magistrates, elders, schoolmasters, laws and statutes, to the end, if they can do no more, that at least they may bind the claws of the devil, and hinder him from raging and swelling so powerfully in those who are his, according to his will and pleasure.
Secondly, we use the law spiritually, as thus: To make transgressions seem greater, as St Paul says, or to reveal and discover to people their sins, blindness, and ungodly doings, wherein they were conceived and born; namely, that they are ignorant of God, and are his enemies, and therefore have justly deserved death, hell, God's judgments, his everlasting wrath and indignation. But the hypocritical sophists in universities know nothing thereof, neither do those who are of opinion that they are justified by the law and their own works.
But to the end that God might put to silence, smother, suppress and beat down to the ground these mischievous and furious beats, he has appointed and ordained a particular Hercules with a club, powerfully to lay hold on such beasts, take them captive, strike them down, and so dispatch them out of the way; that is, he gave the law upon the hill of Sinai, with such fearful thundering and lightning, that all people thereat were amazed and affrighted.
It is exceeding necessary for us to know this use of the law. For he that is not an open and a public murderer, an adulterer, or a thief, holds himself to be an upright and godly man; as did the Pharisee, so blinded and possessed spiritually of the devil, that he could neither see nor feel his sins, nor his miserable case, but exalted himself touching his good works and deserts. Such hypocrites and haughty saints can God by no better means humble and soften, than by and through the law; for that is the right club or hammer, the thunderclap from heaven, the axe of God's wrath, that strikes through, beats down, and batters such stock-blind, hardened hypocrites. For this cause, it is no small matter that we should rightly understand what the law is, whereto it serves, and what is its proper work and office. We do not reject the law and the works thereof, but on the contrary, confirm them, and teach that we ought to do good works, and that the law is very good and profitable, if we merely give it its right, and keep it to its own proper work and office.
The law opens not nor makes visible God's grace and mercy, or the righteousness whereby we obtain everlasting life and salvation; but our sins, our weakness, death, God's wrath and judgment.
The light of the gospel is a far different manner of light, enlightening affrighted, broken, sorrowful, and contrite hearts, and reviving, comforting, and refreshing them. For it declares that God is merciful to unworthy, condemned sinners, for the sake of Christ, and that a blessing thereby is presented unto them who believe; that is, grace, remission of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life.
When in this way we distinguish the law and the gospel, then we attribute and give to each its right work and office. Therefore, I pray and admonish all lovers of godliness and pure religion, especially those who in time are to be teachers of others, that with highest diligence they study this matter, which I much fear, after our time, will be darkened again, if not altogether extinguished.
Never was a bolder, harsher sermon preached in the world than that wherein St Paul abolished Moses and his law, as insufficient for a sinner's salvation.
Hence the continual dissension and strife which this apostle had with the Jews. And if Moses had not cashiered and put himself out of his office, with these words: "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee another prophet out of thy brethren, him shalt thou here;" who then would or could have believed the gospel, and forsaken Moses?
Hence the vehement accusation brought by the worthy Jews, who suborned certain men to accuse the beloved Stephen, saying: "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." Likewise, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against the holy place and the law," etc. For to preach and teach that the observing of the law was not necessary to salvation, was to the Jews as horrible, as though one should stand up and preach among us Christians: Christ is not the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. St Paul could have been content they had kept and observed the law, had they not asserted it was necessary to salvation. But the Jews would no more endure this, than the papists, with their fopperies, will now endure that we hold and observe the ceremonies, so that every one shall be at liberty either to observe or not observe them, according as occasion serves, and that the conscience therein may not be bound or ensnared, and that God's Word freely be preached and taught. But Jews and papists are ungodly wretches; they are two stockings made of one piece of cloth.
Moses with his law is most terrible; there never was any equal to him in perplexing, affrighting, tyrannizing, threatening, preaching, and thundering; for he lays sharp hold on the conscience, and fearfully works it, but all by God's express command. When we are affrighted, feeling our sins, God's wrath and judgments, most certainly, in the law is no justification; therein is nothing celestial and divine, but `tis altogether of the world, which world is the kingdom of the devil. Therefore it is clear and apparent that the law can do nothing that is vivifying, saving, celestial, or divine; what it does is altogether temporal; that is, it gives us to know what evil is in the world, outwardly and inwardly. But, besides this, the Holy Ghost must come over the law, and speak thus in thy heart; God will not have thee affright thyself to death, only that through the law thou shouldest know thy misery, and yet not despair, but believe in Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness.
St Paul now and then speaks scornfully of the law, but he means not that we should condemn the law; he would rather we should esteem and hold it precious. But where he teaches how we become justified before God, it was necessary for him so to speak; for it is far another thing when we talk how we may be justified before God, than when we talk about the law. When we have in hand the righteousness that justifies before God, we cannot too much disdain or undervalue the law.
The conscience must have regard to nothing but Christ; wherefore we must with all diligence, endeavor to remove Moses with his law far from us out of sight, when we intend to stand justified before God.
It is impossible for thy human strength, whosoever thou art, without God's assistance, when Moses sets upon thee with his law, accuses and threatens thee with God's wrath, and death, to possess such peace as if no law or sin had ever been.
When thou feelest the terror of the law, thou mayest say thus: Madam Law! I have no time to hear you speak; your language is very rough and unfriendly; I would have you know that your reign is over, therefore I am now free, I will endure your bondage no longer. When we thus address the law, we shall find the difference between the law of grace and the law of thundering Moses; and how great a divine and celestial gift it is to hope against hope, when there seems nothing to hope for; and how true the speech of St Paul is, where he says: "Through faith in Christ we are justified, and not through the works of the law." When, indeed, justification is not the matter in hand, we ought highly to esteem the law, extol it, and with St Paul, call it good, true, spiritual, and divine, as in truth it is.
God will keep his Word through the writing pen upon earth; the divines are the heads or quills of the pens, the lawyers the stumps. If the world will not keep the heads and quills, that is, if they will not hear the divines, they must keep the stumps, that is, they must hear the lawyers, who will teach them manners.
I will have none of Moses with his law, for he is an enemy to my Lord and Saviour Christ. If Moses will go to law with me, I will give him his dispatch, and say: Here stands Christ.
At the day of judgment Moses will doubtless look upon me, and say: Thou didst understand me rightly, and didst well distinguish between me and the law of faith; therefore we are now friends.
We must reject the law when it seeks to affright the conscience, and when we feel God's anger against our sins, then we must eat, drink, and be cheerful, to spite the devil. But human wisdom is more inclined to understand the law of Moses, than the law of the Gospel. Old Adam will not out.
Together with the law, Satan torments the conscience by picturing Christ before our eyes, as an angry and stern judge, saying: God is an enemy to sinners, for he is a just God; thou art a sinner, therefore God is thy enemy. Hereat is the conscience dejected, beaten down, and taken captive. Now he that can make a true difference in this case, will say: Devil! thou art deceived, it is not so as thou pretendest; for God is not an enemy to all sinners, but only to the ungodly and impenitent sinners and persecutors of his Word. For even as sin is two-fold, even so is righteousness two-fold.
Two learned men came to me, and asked whether the law of God revealed sin to people without the particular motion of the Holy Ghost? the one affirming that it was so, the other denying it. The first would prove his opinion out of St Paul, where he says: "By the law is the knowledge of sin;" but the other alleged, that this was the work and office of the Holy Ghost through the law; for many heard the preaching of the law, and yet did not acknowledge their sins.
I answered them: Ye are both in the right if ye well understood one another; your difference consists only in words; for the law must be understood two manner of ways; first, as a law described and heard; when it reveals not the strength or the sting of sin, it goes in at one ear and out at the other; it neither touches nor strikes the heart at all.
Secondly, when the law is taught, and the Holy Ghost comes thereunto, touches the heart, and gives strength to the Word, and the heart confesses sin, feels God's wrath, and says: Ah! this concerns me; I have sinned against God, and have offended. Then the law has well and rightly finished its work and office.
After these came a third, and said: `tis one matter to be simply a law, and another to be God's law; for the law of God must always have its operation and strength, which the law of man has not. To him I made this answer:
The law must be distinguished, understood, and divided three-fold: first, a written law, second, a verbal, third, a spiritual law. The written law, which is written in the book, is like a block, which, without motion, remains lying; that law does nothing except we read therein. The verbal law reveals and shows sin; yea, in the ungodly; for when adulterers hear the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," then they understand that this reproves them; but they either condemn it, or else they persecute those by whom they are reproved. But the spiritual law cannot be without the motion of the Holy Ghost, which touches the heart, and moves it, so that a man not only ceases to persecute, but has sorrow for sins committed, and desires to be better.
The same person urged: St Paul says, that the word works in the hearers; I answered: the word which in that place St Paul speaks of, must be understood of the gospel; for even that Word, whether written or verbal, taught or preached, does nothing without the Holy Ghost, which must kindle it in their hearts, reviving and strengthening them.
Every law or commandment contains two profitable points: first, a promise; second, a threatening; for every law is, or should be, good, upright, and holy, Rom. vii. It commands that which is good, and forbids that which is evil: it rewards and defends the good and godly, but punishes and resists the wicked; as St Paul says: "Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good." And St Peter: "For the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well." And the imperial laws teach the same. Now, seeing there are promises and threatenings in temporal laws, how much more so are they fitting in God's laws, which require faith. The emperor's laws, indeed, require faith, true or feigned; for those who do not fear or believe that the emperor will punish or protect, observe not his laws, as we see, but those observe them that fear and believe, whether from the heart or not. Now, where in Scripture there is a promise without the law, there faith only is necessary: as, when Abraham was promised that his seed should multiply as the stars of heaven; he was not commanded at that time to accomplish any work, but he heard of a work which God would accomplish, and which he himself was not able to do. Thus is Christ promised unto us, and is described to have done a work which we cannot do; therefore in this case, faith is needful for us, because by works we cannot take hold thereof.
The law, with its righteousness, is like a cloud without rain, which promises rain but gives none; even so does the law promise salvation, but gives it not, for the law was not assigned to that end, as St Paul says, Gal. iii.
The Gospel preaches nothing of the merit of works; he that says the Gospel requires works for salvation, I say, flat and plain, is a liar.
Nothing that is properly good proceeds out of the works of the law, unless grace be present; for what we are forced to do, goes not from the heart, nor is acceptable. The people under Mosts were always in a murmuring state, would fain have stoned him, and were rather his enemies than his friends.
He that will dispute with the devil out of the law, will be beaten and taken captive; but he that disputes with him out of the Gospel, conquers him. The devil has the written bond against us; therefore, let no man presume to dispute with him of the law or sin. When the devil says to me: behold, much evil proceeds from thy doctrine, then I say to him: much good and profit come also from it. O! replies the devil, that is nothing to the purpose. The devil is an artful orator; he can make out of a mote a beam, and falsify that which is good; he was never in all his life so angry and vexed as he is now; I feel him well.
It baptism, if the sacrament, if the Gospel be false, and if Christ be not in heaven and governs not, then indeed I am in the wrong; but if these are of God's instituting and ordaining, and if Christ is in heaven and rules, then I am sure that the cause I have in hand is good; for what I teach and do openly in the church is altogether of the Gospel, of baptism, of the Lord's supper, of prayer, etc. Christ and his Gospel are here present; therein I must and will continue.
If we diligently mark the world, we shall find that it is governed merely by its conceited opinions; sophistry, hypocrisy, and tyranny rule it; the upright, pure and clear divine Word must be their handmaid, and by them controlled. Therefore, let us beware of sophistry, which consists not only in a double tongue, in twisting words, which may be construed any way, but also blossoms and flourishes in all arts and vocations, and will likewise have room and place in religion, where it has usurped a fine, fictitious color.
Nothing is more pernicious than sophistry; we are by nature prone to believe lies rather than truth. Few people know what an evil sophistry is; Plato, the heathen writer, made thereof a wonderful definition. For my part, I compare it with a lie, which, like a snowball, the more it is rolled the greater it becomes.
Therefore, I approve not of such as pervert everything, undervaluing and finding fault with other men's opinions, though they be good and sound. I like not brains that can dispute on both sides, and yet conclude nothing certain. Such sophistications are mere crafty and subtle inventions and contrivances, to cozen and deceive people.
But I love an honest and well affected mind, that seeks after truth simply and plainly, and goes not about with fantasies and cheating tricks.
St Paul says: "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," etc. That is, Christ is the sum of all; he is the right, the pure meaning and contents of the law. Whoso has Christ, has rightly fulfilled the law. But to take away the law altogether, which sticks in nature, and is written in our hearts and born in us, is a thing impossible and against God. And whereas the law of nature is somewhat darker, and speaks only of works, therefore, Moses and the Holy Ghost more clearly declare and expound it, by naming those works which God will have us to do, and to leave undone. Hence Christ also says: "I am not come to destroy the law." Worldly people would willingly give him royal entertainment who could bring this to pass, and make out that Moses, through Christ, is quite taken away. O, then we should quickly see what a fine kind of life there would be in the world! But God forbid, and keep us from such errors, and suffer us not to live to see the same.
We must preach the law for the sake of evil and wicked, but for the most part it lights upon the good and godly, who, although they need it not, except so far as may concern the old Adam, flesh and blood, yet accept it. The preaching of the Gospel we must have for the sake of the good and godly, yet it falls among the wicked and ungodly, who take it to themselves, whereas it profits them not; for they abuse it, and are thereby made confident. It is even as when it rains in the water or on a desert wilderness, and meantime, the good pastures and grounds are parched and dried up. The ungodly out of the gospel suck only a carnal freedom, and become worse thereby; therefore, not the Gospel, but the law belongs to them. Even as when my little son John offends, if then I should not whip him, but call him to the table to me, and give him sugar plums, thereby I should make him worse, yea, quite spoil him.
The Gospel is like a fresh, mild, and cool air in the extreme heat of summer, a solace and comfort in the anguish of conscience. But as this heat proceeds from the rays of the sun, so likewise the terrifying of the conscience must proceed from the preaching of the law, to the end we may know that we have offended against the laws of God.
Now, when the mind is refreshed and quickened again by the cool air of the Gospel, then we must not be idle, lie down and sleep. That is, when our consciences are settled in peace, quieted and comforted through God's Spirit, we must prove our faith by such good works as God has commanded. But so long as we live in this vale of misery, we shall be plagued and vexed with flies, with beetles, and vermin, that is, with the devil, the world, and our own flesh; yet we must press through, and not suffer ourselves to recoil.
In what darkness, unbelief, traditions, and ordinances of men have we lived, and in how many conflicts of the conscience we have been ensnared, confounded, and captivated under popedom, is testified by the books of the papists, and by many people now living. From all which snares and horrors we are now delivered and freed by Jesus Christ and his Gospel, and are called to the true righteousness of faith; insomuch that with good and peaceable consciences we now believe in God the Father, we trust in him, and have just cause to boast that we have sure and certain remission of our sins through the death of Christ Jesus, dearly bought and purchased. Who can sufficiently extol these treasures of the conscience, which everywhere are spread abroad, offered and presented merely by grace? We are now conquerors of sin, of the law, of death, and of the devil; freed and delivered from all human traditions. If we would but consider the tyranny of auricular confession, one of the least things we have escaped from, we could not show ourselves sufficiently thankful to God for loosing us out of that one snare. When popedom stood and flourished among us, then every king would willingly have given ten hundred thousand guilders, a prince one hundred thousand, a nobleman one thousand, a gentleman one hundred, a citizen or countryman twenty or ten, to have been freed from that tyranny. But now seeing that such freedom is obtained for nothing, by grace, it is not much regarded, neither give we thanks to God for it.
The Old Testament is chiefly a law-book, teaching what we should do or not do, and showing examples and acts how such laws are observed and transgressed. But besides the law, there are certain promises and sentences of grace, whereby the holy patriarchs and prophets were preserved then, as we are now. But the New Testament is a book wherein is written the gospel of God's promises, and the acts of those that believed, and those that believed not. And it is an open and public preaching and declaration of Christ, as set down in the sentences of the Old Testament, and accomplished by him. And like as the proper and chief doctrine of the New Testament is grace and peace, through the forgiveness of sins declared in Christ, so the proper and chief doctrine of the Old Testament is, through the law, to discover sin, and to require good works and obedience.
We must take good heed that we make not a Moses out of Christ, nor out of Christ as Moses, as often has been done. But where Christ and his apostles, in the Gospel, give out commands and doctrines expounding the law, these are as important as the other works and benefits of Christ. Yet to only know Gospel precepts, is not to know the Gospel; but when the voice sounds which says, Christ is thine own, with life and works, with death and resurrection, with all what he is, and all he has, by this we see that he forces not, but teaches amicably, saying: "Bless are the poor," etc., "Come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden," etc. and the apostles use the words: "I admonish," "I exhort," "I pray," etc.; so that we see in every place that the Gospel is not a law-book, but a mild preaching of Christ's merits, given to be our own, if we believe.
Hence it follows that no law is given to the faithful whereby they become justified before God, as St. Paul says, because they are already justified and saved by faith; but they show and prove their faith by their works, they confess and teach the gospel before people freely and undauntedly, and thereupon venture their lives; and whatsoever they take in hand, they direct to the good and profit of their neighbor, and so follow Christ's example. For, where works and love do not break through and appear, there faith is not.
We must make a clear distinction; we must place the Gospel in heaven, and leave the law on earth; we must receive of the Gospel a heavenly and a divine righteousness; while we value the law as an earthly and human righteousness, and thus directly and diligently separate the righteousness of the gospel from the righteousness of the law, even as God has separated and distinguished heaven from earth, light from darkness, day from night, etc., so that the righteousness of the Gospel be the light and the day, but the righteousness of the law, darkness and night. Therefore all Christians should learn rightly to discern the law and grace in their hearts, and know how to keep one from the other, in deed and in truth, not merely in words, as the pope and other heretics do, who mingle them together, and, as it were, make thereout a cake not fit to eat.
Augustine pictured the strength, office, and operation of the law, by a very fit similitude, to show, that it discovers our sins, and God's wrath against sin, and places them in our sight. "The law," says he, "is not in fault, but our evil and wicked nature; even as a heap of lime is still and quiet, until water be poured thereon, but then it begins to smoke and burn, not from the fault of the water, but from the nature and kind of the lime, which will not endure water; whereas, if oil, instead, be poured upon it, then it lies still, and burns not; even so it is with the law and the Gospel."
On this matter of the righteousness of the law, St Paul thoroughly bestirred himself against God's professing people, as in Rom. ix., x., xi., he strives with powerful, well-based arguments; it produced him much sorrow of heart.
The Jews argument was this: Paul kept the law at Jerusalem, therefore, said they, we must also keep it. Answer: True, Paul for a certain time kept the law, by reason of the weak, to win them; but, in this our time, it is not so, and agrees not in any way therewith; as the ancient father well said: Distinguish times, and we may easily reconcile the Scriptures together.
It is impossible for a papist to understand this article: "I believe the forgiveness of sins." For the papists are drowned in their opinions, as I also was when among them, of the cleaving to or inherent righteousness. The Scripture names the faithful, saints and people of God. It is a sin and shame that we should forget this glorious and comfortable name and title. But the papists are such direct sinners, that they will not be reckoned sinners; and again, they will neither be holy nor held so to be. And in this sort it goes on with them untoward and crosswise, so that they neither believe the Gospel which comforts, nor the law which punishes.
But here one may say: the sins which we daily commit, offend and anger God; how then can we be holy? Answer: A mother's love to her child is much stronger than the distaste of the scurf upon the child's head. Even so, God's love towards us is far stronger than our uncleanness. Therefore, though we be sinners, yet we lose not thereby our childhood, neither do we fall from grace by reason of our sins.
Another may say; we sin without ceasing, and where sin is, there the Holy Spirit is not; therefore we are not holy, because the Holy Spirit is not in us, which makes holy. Answer: The text says plainly; "The Holy Ghost shall glorify me." Now where Christ is, there is the Holy Spirit. Now Christ is in the faithful, although they have and feel, and confess sins, and with sorrow of heart complain thereof, therefore sins do not separate Christ from those that believe.
The God of the Turks helps no longer or further, as they think, than as they are godly people; in like manner also the God of the papists. So when Turk and papist begin to feel their sins and unworthiness, as in time of trial and temptation, or in death, then they tremble and despair.
But a true Christian says: "I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour," who gave himself for my sins, and is at God's right hand, and intercedes for me; fall I into sin, as, alas! oftentimes I do, I am sorry for it; I rise again, and am an enemy unto sin. So that we plainly see, the true Christian faith is far different from the faith and religion of the pope and Turk. But human strength and nature are not able to accomplish this true Christian faith without the Holy Spirit. It can do no more than take refuge in its own deserts.
But he that can say: "I am a child of God through Christ, who is my righteousness," and despairs not, though he be deficient in good works, which always fail us, he believes rightly. But grace is so great that it amazes a human creature, and is very difficult to be believed. Insomuch that faith gives the honor to God, that he can and will perform what he promised, namely, to make sinners righteous, Rom. iv., though `tis an exceeding hard matter to believe that God is merciful unto us for the sake of Christ. O! man's heart is too strait and narrow to entertain or take hold of this.
All men, indeed, are not alike strong, so that in some many faults, weaknesses, and offences, are found; but these do not hinder them of sanctification, if they sin not of evil purposes and premeditation, but only out of weakness. For a Christian, indeed, feels the lusts of the flesh, but he resists them, and they have not dominion over him; and although, now and then, he stumbles and falls into sin, yet it is forgiven him, whom he raises again, and holds on to Christ, who will not "That the lost sheep be hunted away, but he sought after."
Why do Christians make use of their natural wisdom and understanding, seeing it must be set aside in matters of faith, as not only not understanding them, but also as striving against them?
Answer: The natural wisdom of a human creature in matters of faith, until he be regenerate and born anew, is altogether darkness, knowing nothing in divine cases. But in a faithful person, regenerate and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, through the Word, it is a fair and glorious instrument, and work of God: for even as all God's gifts, natural instruments, and expert faculties, are hurtful to the ungodly, even so are they wholesome and saving to the good and godly.
The understanding, through faith, receives life from faith; that which was dead, is made alive again; like as our bodies, in light day, when it is clear and bright, and better disposed, rise, move, walk, etc., more readily and safely than they do in the dark night, so it is with human reason, which strives not against faith, when enlightened, but rather furthers and advances it.
So the tongue, which before blasphemed God, now lauds, extols, and praises God and his grace, as my tongue, now it is enlightened, is now another manner of tongue than it was in popedome; a regeneration done by the Holy Ghost through the Word.
A sanctified and upright Christian says: My wife, my children, my art, my wisdom, my money and wealth, help and avail me nothing in heaven; yet I cast them not away nor reject them when God bestows such benefits upon me, but part and separate the substance from the vanity and foolery which cleave thereunto. Gold is and remains gold as well when a strumpet carries it about her, as when `tis with an honest, good, and godly woman. The body of a strumpet is even as well God's creature, as the body of an honest matron. In this manner ought we to part and separate vanity and folly from the thing and substance, or from the creature given and God who created it.
Upright and faithful Christians ever think they are not faithful, nor believe as they ought; and therefore they constantly strive, wrestle, and are diligent to keep and to increase faith, as good workmen always see that something is wanting in their workmanship. But the botchers think that nothing is wanting in what they do, but that everything is well and complete. Like as the Jews conceive they have the ten commandments at their fingers end, whereas, in truth, they neither learn nor regard them.
Truly it is held for presumption in a human creature that he dare boast of his own proper righteousness of faith; `tis a hard matter for a man to say: I am the child of God, and am comforted and solaced through the immeasurable grace and mercy of my heavenly Father. To do this from the heart, is not in every man's power. Therefore no man is able to teach pure and aright touching faith, nor to reject the righteousness of works, without sound practice and experience. St Paul was well exercised in this art; he speaks more vilely of the law than any arch heretic can speak of the sacrament of the altar, of baptism, or than the Jews have spoken thereof; for he names the law, the ministration of death, the ministration of sin, and the ministration of condemnation; yea, he holds all the works of the law, and what the law requires, without Christ, dangerous and hurtful, which Mosts, if he had then lived, would doubtless have taken very ill at Paul's hands. It was, according to human reason, spoken too scornfully.
Faith and hope are variously distinguishable. And, first, in regard of the subject, wherein everything subsists: faith consists in a person's understanding, hope in the will; these two cannot be separated; they are like the two cherubim over the mercy seat.
Secondly, in regard of the office; faith indites, distinguishes, and teaches, and is the knowledge and acknowledgment; hope admonishes, awakens, hears, expects, and suffers.
Thirdly, in regard to the object: faith looks to the word or promise, which is truth; but hope to that which the Word promises, which is the good or benefit.
Fourthly, in regard of order in degree: faith is first, and before all adversities and troubles, and is the beginning of life. Heb. xi. But hope follows after, and springs up in trouble. Rom. v.
Fifthly, by reason of the contrariety: faith fights against errors and heresies; it proves and judges spirits and doctrines. But hope strives against troubles and vexations, and among the evil it expects good.
Faith in divinity, is the wisdom and providence, and belongs to the doctrine. But hope is the courage and joyfulness in divinity, and pertains to admonition. Faith is the dialectica, for it is altogether prudence and wisdom; hope is the rhetorica, an elevation of the heart and mind. As wisdom without courage is futile, even so faith without hope is nothing worth; for hope endures and overcomes misfortune and evil. And as a joyous valor without understanding is but rashness, so hope without faith is spiritual presumption. Faith is the key to the sacred Scriptures, the right Cabata or exposition, which one receives of tradition, as the prophets left this doctrine to their disciples. `Tis said St Peter wept whenever he thought of the gentleness with which Jesus taught. Faith is given from one to another, and remains continually in one school. Faith is not a quality, as the schoolmen say, but a gift of God.
Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No husbandman would sow one grain of corn, if he hoped not it would grow up and become seed; no bachelor would marry a wife, if he hope not to have children; no merchant or tradesman would set himself to work, if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby, etc. How much more, then, does hope urge us on to everlasting life and salvation?
Faith's substance is our will; its manner is that we take hold on Christ by divine instinct; its final cause and fruit, that it purifies the heart, makes us children of God, and brings with it the remission of sins.
Adam received the promise of the woman's seed ere he had done any work or sacrifice, to the end God's truth might stand fast - namely, that we are justified before God altogether without works, and obtain forgiveness of sins merely by grace. Whoso is able to believe this well and steadfastly, is a doctor above all the doctors in the world.
Faith is not only necessary, that thereby the ungodly may become justified and saved before God, and their hearts be settled in peace, but it is necessary in every other respect. St Paul says: "Now that we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Joseph of Arimathea had a faith in Christ, like as the apostles had; he thought Christ would have been a worldly and temporal potentate; therefore he took care of him as a good friend, and buried him honorably. He believed not that Christ should raise again from death, and become a spiritual and everlasting king.
When Abraham shall rise again at the last day, then he will chide us for our unbelief, and will say: I had not the hundredth part of the promises which ye have, and yet I believed. That example of Abraham exceeds all human natural reason, who, overcoming the paternal love he bore towards his only son, Isaac, was all obedient to God, and against the law of nature, would have sacrificed that son. What, for the space of three days, he felt in his breast, how his heart yearned and panted, what hesitations and trials he had, cannot be expressed.
All heretics have continually failed in this one point, that they do not rightly understand or know the article of justification. If we had not this article certain and clear, it were impossible we could criticize the pope's false doctrine of indulgences and other abominable errors, much less be able to overcome greater spiritual errors and vexations. If we only permit Christ to be our Saviour, then we have won, for he is the only girdle which clasps the whole body together, as St Paul excellently teaches. If we look to the spiritual birth and substance of a true Christian, we shall soon extinguish all deserts of good works; for they serve us to no use, neither to purchase sanctification, nor to deliver us from sin, death, devil or hell.
Little children are saved only by faith, without any good works; therefore faith alone justifies. If God's power be able to effect that in one, then he is also able to accomplish it in all; for the power of the child effects it not, but the power of faith; neither is it done through the child's weakness or disability; for then that weakness would be merit of itself, or equivalent to merit. It is a mischievous thing that we miserable, sinful wretches will upbraid God, and hit him in the teeth with our works, and think thereby to be justified before him; but God will not allow it.
This article, how we are saved, is the chief of the whole Christian doctrine, to which all divine disputations must be directed. All the prophets were chiefly engaged upon it, and sometimes much perplexed about it. For when this article is kept fast and sure by a constant faith, then all other articles draw on softly after, as that of the Holy Trinity, etc. God has declared no article so plainly and openly as this, that we are saved only by Christ; though he speaks much of the Holy Trinity, yet he dwells continually upon this article of the salvation of our souls; other articles are of great weight, but this surpasses all.
A capuchin says: wear a grey coat and a hood, a rope round thy body, and sandals on thy feet. A cordelier says: put on a black hood; an ordinary papist says: do this or that work, hear mass, pray, fast, give alms, etc. But a true Christian says: I am justified and saved only by faith in Christ, without any works or merits of my own; compare these together, and judge which is the true righteousness.
Christ says: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak;" St Paul also says: the spirit willingly would give itself wholly unto God, would trust in him, and be obedient; but natural reason and understanding, flesh and blood, resist and will not go forward. Therefore our Lord God must needs have patience and bear with us. God will not put out the glimmering flax; the faithful have as yet but only the first fruits of the spirit; they have not the fulfilling, but the tenth.
I well understand that St Paul was also weak in faith, whence he boasted and said, "I am a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ." An angel stood by him at sea, and comforted him, and when he came to Rome, he was comforted as he saw the brethren come out to meet him. Hereby we see what the communion and company does of such as fear God. The Lord commanded the disciples to remain together in one place, before they received the Holy Ghost, and to comfort one another; for Christ well knew that adversaries would assault them.
A Christian must be well armed, grounded, and furnished with sentences out of God's Word, that so he may stand and defend religion and himself against the devil, in case he should be asked to embrace another doctrine.
When at the last day we shall live again, we shall blush for shame, and say to ourselves: "fie on thee, in that thou hast not been more courageous, bold, and strong to believe in Christ, and to endure all manner of adversities, crosses, and persecutions, seeing his glory is so great. If I were now in the world, I would not stick to suffer ten thousand times more."
Although a man knew, and could do as much as the angels in heaven, yet all this would not make him a Christian, unless he knew Christ and believed in him. God says: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which doth exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness," etc.
The article of our justification before God is as with a son who is born heir to all his father's goods, and comes not thereunto by deserts, but naturally, or ordinary course. But yet, meantime, his father admonishes him to do such and such things, and promises him gifts to make him the more willing. As when he says to him: if thou wilt be good, be obedient, study diligently, then I will buy thee a fine coat; or, come hither to me, and I will give thee an apple. In such sort does he teach his son industry; though the whole inheritance belongs unto him of course, yet will he make him, by promises, pliable and willing to do what he would have done.
Even so God deals with us; he is loving unto us with friendly and sweet words, promises us spiritual and temporal blessings, though everlasting life is presented unto thee who believe in Christ, by mere grace and mercy, gratis, without any merits, works, or worthynesses.
And this ought we to teach in the church and in the assembly of God, that God will have upright and good works, which he has commanded, not such as we ourselves take in hand, of our own choice and devotion, or well meaning, as the friars and priests teach in popedom, for such works are not pleasing to God, as Christ says: "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," etc. We must teach of good works, yet always so that the article of justification remain pure and unfalseified. For Christ neither can nor will endure any beside himself; he will have the bride alone; he is full of jealousy.
Should we teach: if thou believest, thou shalt be saved, whatsoever thou doest; that were stark naught; for faith is either false or feigned, or, though it be upright, yet is eclipsed, when people wittingly and willfully sin against God's command. And the Holy Spirit, which is given to the faithful, departs by reason of evil works done against the conscience, as the example of David sufficiently testifies.
As to ceremonies and ordinances, the kingdom of love must have precedence and government, and not tyranny. It must be a willing, not a halter love; it must altogether be directed and construed for the good and profit of the neighbor; and the greater he that governs, the more he ought to serve according to love.
The love towards our neighbor must be like the pure and chaste love between bride and bridegroom, where all faults are connived at and borne with, and only the virtues regarded.
Believest thou? then thou wilt speak boldly. Speakest thou boldly? then thou must suffer. Sufferest thou? then thou shalt be comforted. For faith, the confession thereof, and the cross, follow one upon another.
Give and it shall be given unto you: this is a fine maxim, and makes people poor and rich; it is that which maintains my house. I would not boast, but I well know what I give away in the year. If my gracious lord and master, the prince elector, should give a gentleman two thousand florins, this should hardly answer to the cost of my housekeeping for one year; and yet I have but three hundred florins a year, but God blesses these and makes them suffice.
There is in Austria a monastery, which, in former times, was very rich, and remained rich so long as it was charitable to the poor; but when it ceased to give, then it became indigent, and is so to this day. Not long since, a poor man went there and solicited alms, which was denied him; he demanded the cause why they refused to give for God's sake? The porter of the monastery answered: We are become poor; whereupon the mendicant said: The cause of your poverty is this: ye had formerly in this monastery two brethren, the one named Date (give), and the other Dabitur (it shall be given you). The former ye thrust out; the other went away of himself.
We are bound to help one's neighbor three manner of ways - with giving, lending, and selling. But no man gives; every one scrapes and claws all to himself; each would willingly steal, but give nothing, and lend but upon usury. No man sells unless he can over-reach his neighbor; therefore is Dabitur gone, and our Lord God will bless us no more so richly. Beloved, he that desires to have anything, must also give: a liberal hand was never in want, or empty.
Desert is a work nowhere to be found, for Christ gives a reward by reason of the promise. If the prince elector should say to me: Come to the court, and I will give thee one hundred florins, I perform a work in going to the court, yet I receive not the gift by reason of my work in going thither, but by reason of the promise the prince made me.
I marvel at the madness and bitterness of Wetzell, in undertaking to write so much against the Protestants, assailing us without rhyme or reason, and, as we say, getting a case out of hedge; as where he rages against this principle of ours, that the works and acts of a farmer, husbandman, or any other good and godly Christian, if done in faith, are far more precious in the sight of God, than all the works of monks, friars, nuns, etc. This poor, ignorant fellow gets very angry against us, regarding not the works which God has commanded and imposed upon each man in his vocation, state and calling. He heeds only superstitious practices, devised for show and effect, which God neither commands nor approves of.
St Paul, in his epistles, wrote of good works and virtues more energetically and truthfully than all the philosophers; for he extols highly the works of godly Christians, in their respective vocations and callings. Let Wetzell know that David's wars and battles were more pleasing to God than the fastings and prayings even of the holiest of the old monks, setting aside altogether the works of the monks of our time, which are simply ridiculous.
I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.
Dr. Justus Jonas asked me if the thoughts and words of the prophet Jeremiah were Christianlike, when he cursed the day of his birth. I said: We must now and then wake up our Lord God with such words. Jeremiah had cause to murmur in this way. Did not our Saviour Christ say: "O faithless and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" Moses also took God in hand, where he said: "Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them?"
A man must needs be plunged in bitter affliction when in his heart he means good, and yet is not regarded. I can never get rid of these cogitations, wishing I had never begun this business with the pope. So, too, I desire myself rather dead than to hear or see God's Word and his servants condemned; but `tis the frailty of our nature to be thus discouraged.
They who condemn the movement of anger against antagonists, are theologians who deal in mere speculations; they play with words, and occupy themselves with subtleties, but when they are aroused, and take a real interest in the matter, they are touched sensibly.
"In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." This sentence I expounded thus: If thou intendest to vanquish the greatest, the most abominable and wickedest enemy, who is able to do thee mischief both in body and soul, and against whom thou preparest all sorts of weapons, but canst not overcome; then know that there is a sweet and loving physical herb to serve thee, named Patienta.
Thou wilt say: how may I attain this physic? Take unto thee faith, which says: no creature can do me mischief without the will of God. In case thou receivest hurt and mischief by thine enemy, this is done by the sweet and gracious will of God, in such sort that the enemy hurts himself a thousand times more than he does thee. Hence flows unto us, a Christian, the love which says: I will, instead of the evil which mine enemy does unto me, do him all the good I can; I will heap coals of fire upon his head. This is the Christian armor and weapon, wherewith to beat and overcome those enemies that seem to be like huge mountains. In a word, love teaches to suffer and endure all things.
A certain honest and God-fearing man at Wittenberg, told me, that though he lived peaceably with every one, hurt no man, was ever quiet, yet many people were enemies unto him. I comforted him in this manner: Arm thyself with patience, and be not angry though they hate thee; what offence, I pray, do we give the devil? What ails him to be so great an enemy unto us? only because he has not that which God has; I know no other cause of his vehement hatred towards us. If God give thee to eat, eat; if he cause thee to fast, be resigned thereto; gives he the honors? take them; hurt or shame? endure it; casts he thee into prison? murmur not; will he make thee a king? obey him; casts he thee down again? heed it not.
Patience is the most excellent of the virtues, and, in Sacred Writ, highly praised and recommended by the Holy Ghost. The learned heathen philosophers applaud it, but they do not know its genuine basis, being without the assistance of God. Epictetus, the wise and judicious Greek, said very well: "Suffer and abstain."
It was the custom of old, in burying the dead, to lay their heads towards the sun-rising, by reason of a spiritual mystery and signification therein manifested; but this was not an enforced law. So all laws and ceremonies should be free in the church, and not be done on compulsion, being things which neither justify nor condemn in the sight of God, but are observed merely for the sake of orderly discipline.
The righteousness of works and hypocrisy are the most mischievous diseases born in us, and not easily expelled, especially when they are confirmed and settled upon us by use and practice; for all mankind will have dealings with Almighty God, and dispute with him, according to their human natural understanding, and will make satisfaction to God for their sins, with their own strength and self-chosen works. For my part, I have so often deceived our Lord God by promising to be upright and good, that I will promise no more, but will only pray for a happy hour, when it shall please God to make me good.
A popish priest once once argued with me in this manner: Evil works are damned, therefore good works justify. I answered: This your argument is nothing worth; it concludes not ratione contrariorum; the things are not in connection; evil works are evil in complete measure, because they proceed from a heart that is altogether spoiled and evil; but good works, yea, even in an upright Christian, are incompletely good; for they proceed out of a weak obedience but little recovered and restored. Whoso can say from his heart, I am a sinner, but God is righteous; and who, at the point of death, from his heart can say; Lord Jesus Christ, I commit my spirit into thy hands, may assure himself of true righteousness, and that he is not of the number of those that blaspheme God, in relying upon their own works and righteousness.
None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience. It is a great matter when in extreme need, to take hold on prayer. I know, whenever I have earnestly prayed, I have been amply heard, and have obtained more than I prayed for; God, indeed, sometimes delayed, but at last he came.
Ecclesiasticus says: "The prayer of a good and godly Christian availeth more to health, than the physician's physic."
O how great a thing, how marvellous, a godly Christian's prayer is! how powerful with God; that a poor human creature should speak with God's high Majesty in heaven, and not be affrighted, but, on the contrary, know that God smiles upon him for Christ's sake, his dearly beloved Son. The heart and conscience, in this act of praying, must not fly and recoil backwards by reason of our sins and unworthiness, or stand in doubt, or be scared away. We must not do as the Bavarian did, who, with great devotion, called upon St Leonard, an idol set up in a church in Bavaria, behind which idol stood one who answered the Bavarian, and said: Fie on thee, Bavarian; and in that sort often repulsed and would not hear him, till at last, the Bavarian went away, and said: Fie on thee, Leonard.
When we pray, we must not let it come to: Fie upon thee; but certainly hold and believe, that we are already heard in that for which we pray, with faith in Christ. Therefore the ancients ably defined prayer an Accensus mentis ad Deum, a climbing up of the heart unto God.
Our Saviour Christ as excellency as briefly comprehends in the Lord's prayer all things needful and necessary. Except under troubles, trials, and vexations, prayer cannot rightly be made. God says: "Call on me in the time of trouble;" without trouble it is only a bald prattling, and not from the heart; `tis a common saying: "Need teaches to pray." And though the papists say that God well understands all the words of those that pray, yet St Bernard is far of another opinion, who says: God hears not the words of one that prays, unless he that prays first hears them himself. The pope is a mere tormentor of the conscience. The assemblies of his greased crew, in prayer, were altogether like the croaking of frogs, which edified nothing at all; mere sophistry and deceit, fruitless and unprofitable. Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a godly Christian's weapon, which no man knows or finds, but only he who has the spirit of grace and of prayer.
The three first petitions in our Lord's prayer comprehend such great and celestial things, that no heart is able to search them out. The fourth contains the whole policy and economy of temporal and house government, and all things necessary for this life. The fifth fights against our own evil consciences, and against original and actual sins, which trouble them. Truly that prayer was penned by wisdom itself; none but God could have done it.
Prayer in popedom is mere tongue-threshing; not prayer, but a work of obedience. Thence a confused sea of Horae Canonicae, the howling and babbling in cells and monasteries, where they read and sing the psalms and collects, without any spiritual devotion, understanding neither the words, sentences, nor meaning.
How I tormented myself with those Horae Canonicae before the Gospel came, which by reason of much business I often intermitted, I cannot express. On the Saturdays, I used to lock myself up in my cell, and accomplish what the whole week I had neglected. But at last I was troubled with so many affairs, that I was fain often to omit also my Saturday's devotions. At length, when I saw that Amsdorf and others derided such devotion, then I quite left it off.
From this great torment we are now delivered by the Gospel. Though I had done no more but only freed people from that torment, they might well give me thanks for it.
We cannot pray without faith in Christ, the Mediator. Turks, Jews, and papists may repeat the words of prayer, but they cannot pray. And although the Apostles were taught this Lord's prayer by Christ, and prayed often, yet they prayed not as they should have prayed; for Christ says: "Hitherto ye have not prayed in my name;" whereas, doubtless, they had prayed much, speaking the words. But when the Holy Ghost came, then they prayed aright in the name of Christ. If praying and reading of prayer be but only a bare work, as the papists hold, then the righteousness of the law is nothing worth. The upright prayer of the godly Christian is a strong hedge, as God himself says: "And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none."
When Moses, with the children of Israel, came to the Red Sea, then he cried with trembling and quaking; yet he opened not his mouth, neither was his voice heard on earth by the people; doubtless he cried and sighed in his heart, and said: Ah, Lord God! what course shall I now take? Which way shall I now turn myself? How am I come to this strait? No help or counsel can save us; before us is the sea; behind us are our enemies the Egyptians; on both sides high and huge mountains; I am the cause that all this people shall now be destroyed. Then answered God, and said: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" as if God should say: What an alarm dost thou make, that the whole heavens ring! Human reason is not able to search this passage out. The way through the Red Sea is full as broad and wide, if not wider, than Wittenberg lies from Coburg, that so, doubtless, the people were constrained in the night season to rest and to eat therein; for six hundred thousand men, besides women and children, would require a good time to pass through, though they went one hundred and fifty abreast.
It is impossible that God should not hear the prayers which with faith are made in Christ, though he give not according to the measure, manner, and time we dictate, for he will not be tied. In such sort dealt God with the mother of St Augustine; she prayed to God that her son might be converted, but as yet it would not be; then she ran to the learned, entreating them to persuade and advise him thereunto. She propounded unto him a marriage with a Christian virgin, that thereby he might be drawn and brought to the Christian faith, but all would not do as yet. But when our Lord God came thereto, he cam to purpose, and made of him such an Augustine, that he became a great light to the church. St James says: "Pray one for another, for the prayer of the righteous availeth much." Prayer is a powerful thing, for God has bound and tied himself thereunto.
Christ gave the Lord's prayer, according to the ideas of the Jews - that is, he directed it only to the Father, whereas they that pray, should pray as though they were to be heard for the Son's sake. This was because Christ would not be praised before his death.
Justice Jonas asked Luther if these sentences in Scripture did not contradict each other; where God says to Abraham: "If I find ten in Sodom, I will not destroy it;" and where Ezekiel says: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, yet would I not hear," etc.; and where Jeremiah says: "Therefore pray not thou for this people." Luther answered; No, they are not against one another; for in Ezekiel it was forbidden them to pray, but it was not so with Abraham. Therefore we must have regard to the Word; when God says: thou shalt not pray, then we may well cease.
When governors and rulers are enemies to God's Word, then our duty is to depart, to sell and forsake all we have; to fly from one place to another, as Christ commands. We must make for ourselves no tumults, by reason of the Gospel, but suffer all things.
Upright Christians pray without ceasing; though they pray not always with their mouths, yet their hearts pray continually, sleeping and waking; for the sigh of a true Christian is a prayer. As the Psalm saith: "Because of the deep sighing of the poor, I will up, saith the Lord," etc. In like manner a true Christian always carried the cross, though he feel it not always.
The Lord's prayer binds the people together, and knits them one to another, so that one prays for another, and together one with another; and it is so strong and powerful that it even drives away the fear of death.
Prayer preserves the church, and hitherto has done the best for the church; therefore, we must continually pray. Hence Christ says: "Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
First, when we are in trouble, he will have us to pray; for God often, as it were, hides himself, and will not hear; yea, will not suffer himself to be found. Then we must seek him; that is, we must continue in prayer. When we seek him, he often locks himself up, as it were, in a private chamber; if we intend to come in unto him, then we must knock, and when we have knocked once or twice, then he begins a little to hear. At last, when we make much knocking, then he opens, and says: What will ye have? Lord, say we, we would have this or that; then, say he, Take it unto you. In such sort must we persist in praying, and waken God up.