TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM HAZLITT, Esq.
The Lutheran Publication Society
Typed by: Kathy Sewell firstname.lastname@example.org
June 1, 1997
This book is in the public domain
David's fall was very offensive, for the holy man fell into adultery, murder, and despising of God. He was afterwards visited and punished by God in such sort, that the whole nation forsook him. His counsellors - yea, his best beloved son, conspired and made a league against him, who before had such high fortune, and was held in such esteem. On account of these offences, the ungodly, doubtless, boasted, and said: "Where is the king now? where is now his God? what has become of his good fortune and prosperity?" For no doubt there were many kings more powerful than David; as the king of the Moabites, whom Isaiah calls a three-yeared cow; that is, strong, powerful, and fat.
It has always been so in the world - that it has gone evil with the godly, and well with the ungodly; of this complaint is made in many Psalms. We see at this day, that the popish bishops and ungodly princes live in great honor, wealth, and power, while good and God-fearing people are in poverty, disgrace, and trouble.
The Greek tragedies are not to be compared to the history of David.
All kings, princes, rulers, and ministers, sin of necessity, and therefore have special need of the remission of sins. I am persuaded that Ahab was saved, inasmuch as God said to the prophets: "Seest thou not how Ahab boweth himself before sin?" For to whom God affords speech, that is, his word and promise, with him it stands well. Therefore, doubtless, he was saved, notwithstanding the Scriptures witness against him, even to his death. He believed the promise of the Messiah, and so at his death got hold of the forgiveness of sins. In like manner I am persuaded also of all those of whom the Scripture says: "And he slept with is fathers," that they are all in heaven. For this word, slept, shows some good in the Scriptures. But of whom it is written: They were made away and slain by the enemies, or were devoured and torn in pieces by wild beasts, I am persuaded they are lost and damned.
Although God charged David to build the temple, he could not perform it, because he had shed much blood, and had carried the sword; not that he did wrong therein, but that he could not be the figure or type of Christ, who must have a peaceable kingdom, without shedding of blood. But Solomon was to accomplish it, who is called peaceable, through which Christ's kingdom was signified.
It is with us, as it was in the time of Judas Maccabaeus, who defended his people, and yet was not able to suppress the enemies who possessed the government; while his own people were unthankful, and wrought him great mischief; these two oppressions make one weary.
The legends of the patriarchs far excelled the holiness of all the saints; for they went on in simple obedience towards God, in the works of their vocation. They performed such things as came to their hand, according to God's command, without respect; therefore, Sara, Abraham's wife, excels all other women.
Philip Melancthon demanded of Luther: How it was, that though David was instituted and ordained a king immediately of God, yet he had many tribulations and plagues, as his psalms show? Luther said: David was not acquainted with many good days: he was plagued by the ungodly and false teachers, he saw that his people banded against him, he endured and suffered many insurrections and tumults, which taught him his lesson to pray. When he was without tribulation, he grew giddy-headed and secure, as we see in his adultery, and his murder of Uriah.
Ah, Lord God! how is it thou sufferest such great people to fall? This David had six wives, who doubtless were wise and understanding women; as was the wise Abigail; if they were all such, he was furnished with surpassing wives. Moreover, he had ten concubines; yet, notwithstanding, he was an adulterer.
Job had many tribulations; he was also plagued of his friends, who fiercely assaulted him. The text says, that his friends fell upon him, and were full of wrath against him; they tormented him thoroughly, but he held his peace, suffered them to talk their talk, as if he should say, you know not what you prate about. Job is an example of God's goodness and mercy; for how upright and holy soever he was, yet he sorely fell into temptation; but he was not forsaken, he was again delivered and redeemed through God's grace and mercy.
Melancthon discoursing with Luther touching the prophets, who continually boast thus: "Thus saith the Lord," asked whether God in person spoke with them or no. Luther replied: They were very holy, spiritual people, who seriously contemplated upon holy and divine things; Therefore God spake with them in their consciences, which the prophets held as sure and certain revelations.
We read in the books of the Jews that Isaiah was slain by king Ahaz, because he said: "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne," etc. Doubtless, Ahaz said unto him: Thou wretch! how darest thou presume to say, "Thou hast seen the Lord?" whereas God said to Moses, "Shall a man see me, and live?" Thou art an insane heretic; thou blasphemest God; thou art worthy of death; take him away. And many think it quite just that Isaiah was slain for this, not enduring that any man should say he had done or seen greater things than Moses.
The history of Elijah is awful, and almost incredible. It was a fierce anger indeed, that so holy a man should pray it might not rain; but he saw that the teachers were slain, and that good and God-fearing people were hunted down, and persecuted. Therefore he prayed against those upon whom, with words and preaching, he could not prevail.
The majesty of the prophet Jonah is surpassing. He has but four chapters, and yet he moved therewith the whole kingdom, so that in his weakness, he was justly a figure and a sign of the Lord Christ. Indeed, it is surprising, that Christ should recur to this but in four words. Moses likewise, in few words describes the creation, the history of Abraham, and other great mysteries; but he spends much time in describing the tent, the external sacrifices, the kidneys and so on; the reason is, he saw that the world greatly esteemed outward things, which they beheld with their carnal eyes, but that which was spiritual, they soon forgot.
The history of the prophet Jonah is almost incredible, sounding more strange than any poet's fable; if it were not in the Bible, I should take it for a lie; for consider, how for the space of three days he was in the great belly of the whale, whereas in three hours he might have been digested and changed into the nature, flesh and blood of that monster; may not this be said, to live in the midst of death? In comparison to this miracle, the wonderful passage through the Red Sea was nothing.
But what appears more strange is, that after he was delivered, he began to be angry, and to expostulate with the gracious God, touching a small matter not worth a straw. It is a great mystery. I am ashamed of my exposition upon this prophet, in that I so weakly touch the main point of this wonderful miracle.
The harsh and sharp words of the prophets go to the heart, yet when they say: "Jerusalem shall fall and be destroyed," the Jews held such preaching merely heretical, and would not endure it.
Even so say I: the Romish church shall fail, and be destroyed; but the papists will neither believe nor endure it; it is impossible, say they, for it is written in the article: "I believe in the holy Christian church." Many kings are destroyed before Jerusalem, as Sennacherib, etc.; when the prophet Jeremiah said: "Jerusalem shall be destroyed," which he spake through the Holy Ghost, so it fell out.
If the pope should bring against me only one such argument as the Jews had against Jeremiah and other prophets, it were not possible for me to subsist. But the pope disputes with me, not according to justice and equity, but with the sword and his power. He uses no written law, but club law. If I had no other argument against the pope than de facto, I would instantly hang myself, but my dispute is just.
An upright Christian is like unto Jonah, who was cast into the sea, that is, into hell. He beheld the mouth of the monster gaping to devour him, and lay three days in its dark belly, without consuming. This history should be unto us one of the greatest comforts, and a manifest sign of the resurrection from the dead.
In such sort does God humble those that are his. But afterwards, Jonah went too far; he presumed to command God Almighty, and became a great man-slayer and a murderer, for he desired that a great city and many people should be utterly destroyed, though God chose to spare them. This was a strange saint.
To translate the prophets well from the Hebrew tongue, is a precious, great, and glorious work; no man before me well attained thereunto, and to me it is a hard task; let me be once clear from it, it shall rest.
It is easy to be conceived, that David dealt uprightly, and repentingly, in not rejecting Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, but marrying her. Forasmuch as he had shamed her, it was fitting for him to restore her to honor. God was also pleased with that conjunction; yet, for a punishment of the adultry, God caused the son, begotten in it, soon to die.
No man, since the apostles time, has rightly understood the legend of Abraham. The apostles themselves did not sufficiently extol or explain Abraham's faith, according to its worth and greatness. I much marvel that Moses so slightly remembers him.
Job at one time lost ten children, and all his cattle; he was punished in body and in goods, yet it was nothing in comparison of David's troubles, for though David had the promise which could neither fail nor deceive - namely, where God says: "Thou shalt be king," God thoroughly powdered and peppered his kingdom for his tooth; no miserable man ever surpassed David.
Adam had more children than the three that are mentioned in the Bible. The reason why particular mention is made of Seth, is the genealogy of our Lord Christ, who was descended from that patriarch. Adam, doubtless, had many sons and daughters, full two hundred, I am persuaded, for he lived to a great, great age, nine hundred and thirty years. It is likely that Cain was born thirty years after the fall of his parents, as they were then comforted again. I believe they were often comforted by the angels, otherwise it had been impossible for them to enjoy each other's society, by reason they were filled with great sorrows and fears. At the last day, it will be known that Eve exceeded all women in sorrow and misery. Never came into the world a more miserable woman than Eve; she saw that for her sake we were all to die. Some affirm that Cain was conceived before the promise of the seed that should crush the serpent's head. But I am persuaded that the promise was made not half a day after the fall; for they entered into the garden about noon, and having appetites to eat, she took the apple; then, about two of the clock, according to our account, was the fall.
The reason that Abraham gave to Agar, his concubine, and Ishmael, his son, only one flagon of wine, was that she might know she had no right to demand anything of the inheritance, but that what was given her proceeded out of good will, not of any obligation or reason of law, yet that, nevertheless, she might repair again to Abraham, and fetch more.
The text in Genesis say: "Isaac and Ishmeal buried Abraham;" hence it appears that Ishmael was not always with is father but was nurtured out of the father's goodness and bounty, which was done to this end, that Abraham, intending to lead Christ through the right line, therefore Ishmale was separated like Esau.
I hold that Jacob was a poor perplexed man; I would willingly, if I could, frame a Laban out of the rich glutton in the gospel of Luke, and a Jacob out of Lazarus who lay before the gate. I am glad that Rachael sat upon the idols, thereby to spite her father Laban.
Neither Cicero, nor Virgil, nor Demosthenes, are to be compared with David, in point of eloquence, as we see in the 119th Psalm, which he divides into two and twenty parts, each composed of eight verses, and yet all having but one thought - thy law is good. He had great gifts, and was highly favored of God. I hold that God suffered him to fall so horribly, lest he should become too haughty and proud.
Some are of opinion that David acted not well in that, upon his death-bed, he commanded Solomon his son to punish Shimei, who had cursed and thrown dirt at him, in his flight before Absalom. But I say he did well, for the office of a magistrate is to punish the guilty, and wicked malefactors. He had made a vow, indeed, not to punish him, but that was to hold only so long as he lived.
In so strange and confused a government, where no man knew who was cook or who butler, as we used to say, David was often constrained to look through the fingers at many abuses and wrongs. But afterwards, when in Solomon's time, there was peace, then through Solomon he punished. In tumultuous governments, a ruler dares not preceed as in time of peace, yet, at last, it is fitting that evil be punished; and as David says: Maledixit mihi maledictionem malam.
Hezekiah was a very good and pious king, full of faith, yet he fell. God cannot endure that a human creature should trust and depend upon his own works. No man can enter into heaven, without the remission of sins.
Elisha dealt uprightly, in permitting the children to be torn in pieces by two bears, for calling him baldpate, since they mocked not him, but his God. And so as to the jeering and mocking of Elijah: "Thou man of God," etc., `twas just that fire came down from heaven and devoured the mockers.
Many strange things, according to human sense and reason, are written in the books of the kings; they seem to be slight and simple books, but in the spirit they are of great weight. David endured much; Saul persecuted and plagued him ten whole years; yet David remained constant in faith, and believed that the kingdom pertained unto him. I should have gone my way, and said: Lord! thou hast deceived me; wilt thou make me a king, and sufferest me in this sort to be tormented, persecuted, and plagued? But David was like a strong wall. He was also a good and a godly man; he refused to lay hands on the king when he had fit opportunity; for he had God's Word, and that made him remain so steadfast; he was sure that God's Word and promise never would or could fail him.
Surely Jonathan was an honest man, whom David loved entirely; he marked well that the kingdom belonged to David, therefore he entreated David not to root out him and his. Jonathan also wrought wonders, when he, alone with his armor-bearer, went over the mountain, and slew and destroyed the Philistines; for, doubtless, he said in himself, the Lord that overcomes with many, is able also to overcome with few. His death was a great grief to David. So it often happens, that the good are punished for the sake of the wicked and ungodly. The Son of God himself was not spared.
The reason why the papists boast more of St Peter than of St Paul is this: St Paul had the sword, St Peter the keys, and they esteem more of the keys, to open the coffers, to filch and steal, and to fill their thievish purse, than of the sword. That Caiaphas, Pilate, and St Peter came to Rome, and appeared before the emperor, is mere fable; the histories touching that point do not accord. Christ died in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, who governed five years after his death. All histories unanimously agree, that St Peter and St Paul died under the emperor Nero, whose last year was the five and twentieth year after the death of Christ. But St Peter was eighteen years at Jerusalem after Christ's death, as the Epistle to the Galatians witnesses; and after that, he was seven years at Antioch. Then, as they fable, he ruled afterwards five and twenty years at Rome. No pope among them all yet ruled five and twenty years; and, according to this reckoning, St Peter was not crucified under Nero. St Luke writes, that St Paul was two whole years at liberty in Rome, and went abroad; he mentions nothing at all of St Peter. It is a thing not to be believed that St Peter ever was at Rome.
Saint John the Evangelist wrote, at first, touching the true nature of faith - that our salvation depends only upon Christ the Son of God and Mary, who purchased it with his bitter passion and death, and through the Word is received into the heart by faith, out of his mere mercy and grace. At last he was constrained to write in his epistle also of works, by reason of the wickedness of those that, void of all shame, abused the Gospel through indulging the flesh.
An angel is a spiritual creature created by God without a body, for the service of Christendom and of the church.
The acknowledgment of angels is needful in the church. Therefore godly preachers should teach them logically. First, they should show what angels are, namely, spiritual creatures without bodies. Secondly, what manner of spirits they are, namely, good spirits and not evil; and here evil spirits must also be spoken of, not created evil by God, but made so by their rebellion against God, and their consequent fall; this hatred began in Paradise, and will continue and remain against Christ and his church to the world's end. Thirdly, they must speak touching their function, which, as the epistle to the Hebrews (chap. i. v. 14) shows, is to present a mirror of humility to godly Christians, in that such pure and perfect creatures as the angels do minister unto us, poor and wretched people, in household and temporal policy, and in religion. They are our true and trusty servants, performing offices and works that one poor miserable mendicant would be ashamed to do for another. In this sort ought we to teach with care, method, and attention, touching the sweet and loving angels. Whoso speaks of them not in the order prescribed by logic, may speak of many irrelevant things, but little or nothing to edification.
The angels are near to us, to those creatures whom by God's command they are to preserve, to the end we receive no hurt of the devil, though, withal, they behold God's face, and stand before him. Therefore when the devil intends to hurt us, then the loving holy angels resist and drive him away; for the angels have long arms, and although they stand before the face and in the presence of God and his son Christ, yet they are hard by and about us in those affairs, which by God we are commanded to take in hand. The devil is also near and about us, incessantly tracking our steps, in order to deprive us of our lives, our saving health, and salvation. But the holy angels defend us from him, insomuch that he is not able to work us such mischief as willingly he would.
It were not good for us to know how earnestly the holy angels strive for us against the devil, or how hard a combat it is. If we could see for how many angels one devil makes work, we should be in despair. Therefore the Holy Scriptures refers to them in few words: "He hath given his angels charge over thee," etc. Also, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about those that fear him," etc. Now, whosoever thou art, that fearest the Lord, be of good courage, take thou no care, neither be faint-hearted, nor make any doubt of the angels watching and protection; for most certainly they are about thee, and carry thee upon their hands. How or in what manner it is done, take thou no heed. God says it, therefore it is most sure and certain.
I believe that the angels are all up in arms, are putting on their harness, and girding their swords about them. For the last judgment draws nigh, and the angels prepare themselves for the combat, and to strike down Turk and pope into the bottomless pit.
The greatest punishment God can afflict on the wicked, is when the church, to chastise them, delivers them over to Satan, who, with God's permission, kills them, or makes them undergo great calamities. Many devils are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark pooly places, ready to hurt and prejudice people; some are also in the thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightnings, and thunderings, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds. When these things happen, then the philosophers and physicians say, it is natural, ascribing it to the planets, and showing I know not what reasons for such misfortunes and plagues as ensue.
Whoso would see the true picture, shape, or image of the devil, and know how he is qualified and disposed, let him mark well all the commandments of God, one after another, and then let him place before his eyes an offensive, shameless, lying, despairing, ungodly, insolent, and blasphemous man or woman, whose mind and conceptions are directed in every way against God, and who takes delight in doing people hurt and mischief; there thou seest the right devil, carnal and corporal. First, in such a person there is no fear, no love, no faith or confidence in God, but altogether contempt, hatred, unbelief, despair, and blaspheming of God. There thou seest the devil's head, directly opposing the first commandment. Secondly, a believing Christian takes God's name not in vain, but spreads abroad God's Word, calls upon him from his heart, thanks Him for his benefits, confesses Him. But this picture and child of the devil does quite the contrary; he holds God's Word for a fable, fearfully abuses God's name, blasphemes God, and withal swears and rages abominably, calls upon the evil one and yields unto him. There thou seest the mouth and the tongue of the devil, directed against the second commandment. Thirdly, a true Christian esteems worthily of the office of preaching; he hears and learns God's Word with true earnestness and diligence, according to Christ's institution and command, not only to the amendment and comfort of himself, but also for good example to others; he honors and defends good and godly servants of the Word, permits them not to suffer want, etc. But this image and child of the devil regards no preaching, hears not God's Word, or very negligently, speaks evil thereof, perverts it, and makes scoff thereat; yea, hates the servants thereof, who, for ought he cares, may famish for want of food. There thou seest the ears of the devil, his throat and neck of steel, directly against the third commandment. Further, desirest thou to know how the body of the devil is shaped and fashioned, then hearken to the following commandments of the second table, and take good heed thereunto. For first, a good Christian honors his parents, and hearkens unto them, to the magistrates, and to the shepherds of souls, according as God has commanded. But this child of the devil hearkens not to his parents, serves and helps them not; nay, dishonors, condemns, and vexes them, forsakes them in their need, is ashamed of them when they are poor, and scorns them in their old age; he is disobedient to magistrates, and shows unto them no reverence, but speaks evil of them; he regards no admonition, reproof, civility, or honesty. There thou seest the breast of the devil. Secondly, an upright and true Christian envies not his neighbor, he bears no ill-will towards him, he desires not to be revenged of him, though he have cause, yea, he condoles with his neighbor, when hurt and grief assault him, helps, and to his power defends him against those who seek his life. But this child of the devil, although he cannot hurt his neighbor in body and life, or murder him with his fist, yet he hates and envies him, he is angry with him, and is his enemy in his heart, wishes his death, and when it goes evil with him, is glad and laughs in his sleeve, etc. There thou seest the devil's wrathful and murdering heart. Thirdly, a God-fearing Christian lives modestly and honestly, shuns all manner of wrongful dealing, stands in fear of God's wrath and everlasting punishment. But the child of the devil does quite the contrary, is void of all shame and chastity, in words, behavior, and act. There thou seest the belly of the devil. Fourthly, a godly Christian lives by his labor, by his trade, with a good conscience; he deceives no man of that which is his; nay, lends, helps, and gives to the needy according to his ability. But this devilish child helps none, no, not in the least, but he trades in usury, covets, robs, and steals as he may, by power and deceit; he takes all manner of advantage to cheat and cozen his neighbor, by false wares, measures, weights, etc. There thou seest the hands, and sharp-pointed claws of the devil. Fifthly, a godly creature speaks evil of no man, belies not his neighbor, nor bears false witness against him; yea, though he knows his neighbor faulty, yet out of love he covers his infirmities and sins, except by the magistrate he be called to confess this truth. But this child of the devil does quite the contrary; he slanders and backbites, betrays, and falsely accuses his neighbor, and perverts that which he has rightly spoken. There thou seest the devil's evil and wicked will. Sixth, and lastly, a true Christian covets not his neighbor's house, inheritance, or wealth, misleads not his wife or his daughter, entices not away his servants, covets nothing that is his; yea, according to his power, he helps to keep and preserve that which belongs to him. But this child of the devil imagines, endeavors, and, day and night, seeks opportunity to defraud his neighbor of his house, his grounds, lands, and people, to draw and entice his wife away unto himself, to flatter away his servants, to instigate his neighbor's tenants against him, to get his cattle from him, etc. There thou seest the devil's lust. Through lies, under the color of the truth, he seduces and deceives godly people, like as he did Adam and Eve in Paradise; therefore the more holy the people be, the greater is the danger they stand in. For this cause, we ought to beware of the devil, and to take our refuge in Christ, who crushed his head, and delivered us from his lies.
Dr. Luther was asked, whether the Samuel who appeared to king Saul, upon the invocation of the pythoness, as is related in the first Book of Kings, was really the prophet Samuel. The doctor answered: "No, `twas a spectre, an evil spirit, assuming his form. What proves this is, that God, by the laws of Moses, had forbidden man to question the dead; consequently, it must have been a demon which presented itself under the form of the man of God. In like manner, abbot of Spanheim, a sorcerer, exhibited to the emperor Maximilian all the emperors his predecessors, and all the most celebrated heroes of past times, who defiled before him each in the costume of his time. Among them were Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. There was also the emperor's betrothed, whom Charles of France stole from him. But these apparitions were all the work of the demon."
No malady comes upon us from God, who is good, and wishes us well; they all emanate from the devil, who is the cause and author of plagues, fevers, etc. When he is at work with jurisconsults, he engenders all sorts of dissensions and machinations, turning justice into injustice. Approaches he great lords, princes, kings; he gives birth to wars and massacres. Gains he access to divines, which seduce and ruin men's souls. God alone can check so many calamities.
The devil vexes and harasses the workmen in the mines. He makes them think they have found fine new veins of silver, which, when they have labored and labored, turn out to be more illusions. Even in open day, on the surface of the earth, he causes people to think they see a treasure before them, which vanishes when they would pick it up. At times, treasure is really found, but this is by the special grace of God. I never had any success in the mines, but such was God's will, and I am content.
The emperor Frederick, father of Maximilian, invited a necromancer to dine with him, and, by his knowledge of magic, turned his guest's hands into griffins claws. He then wanted him to eat, but the man, ashamed, hid his claws under the table.
He took his revenge, however, for the jest played upon him. He caused it to seem that a loud altercation was going on in the court yard, and when the emperor put his head out of a window to see what was the matter, he, by his art, clapped on him a pair of huge stag's horns, so that the emperor could not get his head into the room again until he had cured the necromancer of his disfigurement. I am delighted, said Luther, when one devil plagues another. They are not all, however, of equal power.
There was at Nieuburg a magician named Wildferer, who, one day, swallowed a countryman, with his horse and cart. A few hours afterwards, man, horse, and cart, were all found in a slough, some miles off. I have heard, too, of a seeming monk, who asked a wagoner, that was taking some hay to market, how much he would charge to let him eat his fill of hay? The man said, a kreutzer, whereupon the monk set to work, and had nearly devoured the whole load, when the wagoner drove him off.
August 25, 1538, the conversation fell upon witches who spoil milk, eggs, and butter in farm yards. Dr. Luther said: "I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn all of them. We read in the old law, that the priests threw the first stone at such malefactors, `Tis said this stolen butter turns rancid, and falls to the ground when any one goes to eat it. He who attempts to counteract and chastise these witches, is himself corporally plagued and tormented by their master, the devil. Sundry schoolmasters and ministers have often experienced this. Our ordinary sins offend and anger God. What, then, must be his wrath against witchcraft, which we may justly designate high treason against divine majesty, a revolt against the infinite power of God. The jurisconsults who have so learnedly and pertinently treated of rebellion, affirm that the subject who rebels against his sovereign, is worthy of death. Does not witchcraft, then, merit death, which is a revolt of the creature against the Creator, a denial to God of the authority it accords to the demon?"
Dr. Luther discoursed at length concerning witchcraft and charms. He said, that his mother had had to undergo infinite annoyance from one of her neighbors, who was a witch, and whom she was fain to conciliate with all sorts of attentions; for this witch could throw a charm upon children, which made them cry themselves to death. A pastor having punished her for some knavery, she cast a spell upon him by means of some earth upon which he had walked, and which she bewitched. The poor man hereupon fell sick of a malady which no remedy could remove, and shortly after died.
It was asked: Can good Christians and God fearing people also undergo witchcraft? Luther replied: Yes; for our bodies are always exposed to the attacks of Satan. The maladies I suffer are not natural, but devil's spells.
When I was young, some one told me this story: Satan had, in vain, set all his craft and subtlety at work to separate a married pair that lived together in perfect harmony and love. At last, having concealed a razor under each of their pillows, he visited the husband, disguised as an old woman, and told him that his wife had formed the project of killing him; he next told the same thing to the wife. The husband, finding the razor under his wife's pillow, became furious with anger at her supposed wickedness, and cut her throat. So powerful is Satan in his malice.
Luther, taking up a caterpillar, said: `Tis an emblem of the devil in its crawling walk, and bears his colors in its changing hue.
Dr. Luther said he had heard from the elector of Saxony, John Frederick, that a powerful family in Germany was descended from the devil, the founder having been born of a succubus. He added this story: A gentleman had a young and beautiful wife, who, dying, was buried. Shortly afterwards, this gentleman and one of his servants sleeping in the same chamber, the wife, who was dead, came at night, bent over the bed of the gentleman, as though she were conversing with him, and, after a while, went away again. The servant, having twice observed this circumstance, asked his master whether he knew that, every night, a woman, clothed in white, stood by his bedside. The master replied, that he had slept soundly, and had observed nothing of the sort. The next night, he took care to remain awake. The woman came, and he asked her who she was, and what she wanted. She answered, that she was his wife. He returned: my wife is dead and buried. She answered, she had died by reason of his sins, but that if he would receive her again, she would return to him in life. He said, if it were possible, he should be well content. She told him he must undertake not to swear, as he was wont to do; for that if he ever did so, she should once more die, and permanently quit him. He promised this, and the dead woman, returning to seeming life, dwelt with him, ate, drank, and slept with him, and had children by him. One day that he had guests, his wife went to fetch some cakes from an adjoining apartment, and remained a long time absent. The gentleman grew impatient, and broke out into his old oaths. The wife not returning, the gentleman, with his friends, went to seek her, but she had disappeared; only the clothes she had worn lay on the floor. She was never again seen.
The devil seduces us at first by all the allurements of sin, in order thereafter to plunge us into despair; he pampers up the flesh, that he may, by and bye, prostrate the spirit. We feel no pain in the act of sin, but the soul after it is sad, and the conscience disturbed.
He who will have, for his master and king, Jesus Christ, the son of the Virgin, who took upon himself our flesh and our blood, will have the devil for his enemy.
It is very certain that, as to all persons who have hanged themselves, or killed themselves in any other way, `tis the devil who has put the cord round their necks, or the knife to their throats.
A man had a habit, whenever he fell, of saying: "Devil take me." He was advised to discontinue this evil custom, lest some day the devil should take him at his word. He promised to vent his impatience by some other phrase; but, one day, having stumbled, he called upon the devil, in the way I have mentioned, and was killed upon the spot, falling on a sharp pointed piece of wood.
A pastor, near Torgau, came to Luther, and complained that the devil tormented him without intermission. The Doctor replied: He plagues and harasses me too, but I resist him with the arms of faith. I know of one person at Magdeburg, who put Satan to the rout, by spitting at him; but this example is not to be lightly followed; for the devil is a presumptuous spirit, and not disposed to yield. We run great risk when, with him, we attempt more than we can do. One man, who relied implicitly on his baptism, when the devil presented himself to him, his head furnished with horns, tore off one of the horns; but another man, of less faith, who attempted the same thing, was killed by the devil.
Henning, the Bohemian, asked Dr. Luther, why the devil bore so furious a hatred to the human race? The Doctor replied: "That ought not to surprise you; see what a hate prince George bears me, so that, day and night, he is ever meditating how he shall injure me. Nothing would delight him more, than to see me undergo a thousand tortures. If such be the hatred of man, what must the hatred of the devil be?"
The devil cannot but be our enemy, since we are against him with God's Word, wherewith we destroy his kingdom. He is a prince and god of the world, and has a greater power than all the kings, potentates, and princes upon earth; wherefore he would be revenged of us, and assaults us without ceasing, as we both see and feel. We have against the devil, a great advantage; powerful, wicked, and cunning as he is, he cannot hurt us, since `tis not against him we have sinned, but against God. Therefore we have nothing to do with that arch-enemy; but we confess, and say: "Against thee, Lord, have we sinned," etc. We know, through God's grace, that we have a gracious God, and a merciful Father in heaven, whose wrath against us, Christ Jesus, our only Lord and Saviour, has appeased with his precious blood. Now, forasmuch as through Christ we have remission of sins and peace with God, so must the envious devil be content to let us alone, in peace, so that henceforward he can neither upbraid nor hit us in the teeth concerning our sins against God's laws, for Christ has cancelled and torn in pieces the handwriting of our consciences, which was a witness against us, and nailed the same to his cross; to God be everlasting honor, praise, and glory in Christ Jesus, for the same. Amen.
The devil knows the thoughts of the ungodly, for he inspires them therewith. He sees and rules the hearts of all such people as are not kept safe and preserved by God's Word; yea, holds them captive in his snares, so that they must think, do, and speak according to his will. And St Paul says: "The god of this world blindeth the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them," etc. And Christ gives a reason how it comes to pass, that many hear the Word, yet neither understand nor keep the same, where he says: "The devil cometh, and taketh the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe, and be saved." Therefore it is no marvel that the devil, through his prophets, declares what shall happen and come to pass.
The Scripture clearly shows that the devil gives unto mankind evil thoughts, and suggests evil projects to the ungodly; as of Judas is written that the devil put it into his heart to betray Christ. And he not only instigated Cain to hate his brother Abel, but, moreover, to murder him. But the devil knows not the thoughts of the righteous, until they utter them. He knew not the thoughts of Christ's heart, nor knows he the thoughts of the godly, in whose heart Christ dwells. `Tis a powerful, crafty, and subtle spirit. Christ names him the Prince of the World; he goes about shooting all thoughts, his fiery darts, into the hearts even of the godly, as discord, hatred to God, despair, blaspheming, etc. St Paul well understood all these assaults, and bitterly complains of them.
The apostle gives this title to the devil: "That he hath the power of death." And Christ calls him a murderer. He is so skilled, that he is able to cause death even with the leaf of a tree; he has more boxes and pots full of poisons, wherewith he destroys men, than all the apothecaries in the world have of healing medicine; if one poison will not dispatch, another will. In a word, the power of the devil is greater than we can imagine; `tis only God's finger can resist him.
I maintain that Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is the prince of death. St Peter speaks of Christ as healing all that are oppressed of the devil. He not only cured those who were possessed, but he restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, strength to the paralytic; therefore I think all grave infirmities are blows and strokes of the devil, which he employs as an assassin uses the sword or other weapon. So God employs natural means to maintain the health and life of man, such as sleep, meat, drink, etc. The devil has other means of injury; he poisons the air, etc.
A physician repairs the work of God when damaged corporally; we, divines, spiritually; we mend the soul that the devil has spoiled. The devil gives poison to kill men; a physician gives theriacum, or some other drug, to save them; so the creature, through creatures, helping creatures. Physic has not its descent and origin out of books; God revealed it; or, as Syrach says: "It cometh from the Most Highest; the Lord hath created medicines out of the earth." Therefore we may justly use corporal physic, as God's creature. Our burgomaster here at Wittenberg lately asked me, if it were against God's will to use physic? for, said he, Doctor Carlstad has preached, that whoso falls sick, shall use no physic, but commit his case to God, praying that His will be done. I asked him: Did he eat when he was hungry? He answered, yes. Then, said I, even so you may use physic, which is God's creature, as well as meat and drink, or whatever else we use for the preservation of life.
Satan plagues and torments people all manner of ways. Some he affrights in their sleep, with heavy dreams and visions, so that the whole body sweats in anguish of heart. Some he leads, sleeping, out of their beds and chambers, up into high dangerous places, so that if, by the loving angels who are about them, they were not preserved, he would throw them down and cause their death. The superstitious papists say, that these sleep-walkers are persons who have never been baptized; or if they have been, that the priest was drunk when he administered the sacrament.
No creature can prevail against the devil, but only Christ, and he made trial of his art even upon him, as when he said unto him; "If thou wilt fall down and worship me, I will give thee all the kingdoms of the whole world."
No man can rightly comprehend this temptation; I would willingly die, on condition I could fundamentally preach thereof. Doubtless, the devil moved Christ much when he said: "All this is mine, and I give it to whom I will;" for they are words of Divine Majesty, and belong only to God. True, the devil gives, but let us make a strong distinction between the real giver, who gives all that we have and are, and the dissembling murderer, who gives to those that serve and worship him for a short time, yet so that they must everlastingly perish. Christ contradicts him not, that he is a lord and a prince of the world; but he will not therefore worship him, but says: Avoid Satan. Even so ought we to do. He must be, indeed, a most wicked, poisoned, and thirsty spirit, that he durst presume to tempt the Son of God to fall down and worship him. The arch villain, doubtless, in the twinkling of an eye, laid before the Lord a delusion of all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, as Luke writes, thereby to move and allure him to the end he should think: such honor might one receive, and yet nevertheless be the child of God.
When that envious, poisoned spirit, the devil, plagues and torments us, as is his custom, by reason of our sins, intending thereby to lead us into despair, we must meet him in this manner: "thou deceitful and wicked spirit! how darest thou presume to persuade me to such things? Knowest thou not that Christ Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, who crushed thy head, has forbidden me to believe thee, yea, even when thou speakest the truth, in that he names thee a murderer, a liar, and the father, of lies? I do not admit to thee, that I, as thy captive shall be condemned to everlasting death and hellish torments, by reason of my sins, as thou falsely suggestest; but thou, thyself, on the contrary, long since, by Christ my Lord and Saviour, wert stripped, judged, and with everlasting bonds and chains of darkness, art bound, cast down, and delivered to hell, reserved to the judgment of the great day, and finally, with all the ungodly, shalt be thrown into the bottomless pit of hell. Further, I demand of thee, by what authority thou presumest to exercise such power and right against me? whereas thou hast given me neither life, wife, nor child; no, not the least thing that I have; neither art thou my lord, much less the creator of my body and soul; neither hast thou made the members wherewith I have sinned. How, then, thou wicked and false spirit, art thou so insolent as to domineer over that which is mine, as if thou wert God himself?"
The people who in popedom are possessed of the devil, get not rid of him by such arts, words, or gestures as their charmers use; the devil suffers not himself to be driven out with mere phrases, as: "Come out, thou unclean spirit," for these charmers mean it not earnestly. The power of God must effect it.
The devil may be driven out, either by the prayers of the whole church, when all Christians join their supplications together in a prayer so powerful, that it pierces the clouds, - or the person that would drive out the wicked enemy by himself, must be of highly enlightened mind, and of strong and steadfast courage, certain of his cause; as Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Paul, etc.
The cause that so many poor people in the time of Christ were possessed, was, that the true doctrine was almost sunk and quenched by the people of Israel, a few excepted, - as Zacharias, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, etc. And I believe if the Pharisees had continued to rule, and that Christ had not come, Judaism would have been turned into Paganism, - as, before the shining of the gospel, was seen in popedom, where the people understood as little of Christ and his Word, as the Turks and heathens.
The devil well knew the Scripture, where it is said: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a child." Also: "Unto us a child is born." But because Christ has carried himself humbly and lowly, went about with public sinners, and by reason thereof was held in no esteem, - therefore the devil looked another way over Christ, and knew him not; for the devil looks a-squint upwards, after that which is high and pompous, not downwards, nor on that which is humble and lowly. But the everlasting merciful God does quite the contrary; he beholds that which is lowly, as the 113th Psalm shows: "Our God hath his dwelling on high, and yet humbleth to behold what is in heaven and on earth." And Isaiah: "I will look to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." God cares not for that which is high; yea, it is an abomination before him. St Luke says: "That which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God." Therefore he that intends to climb high, let him beware of the devil, lest he throw him down; for the nature and manner of the devil is, first to hoist up into heaven, and afterwards to cast down into hell.
In cases of melancholy and sickness, I conclude it is merely the work of the devil. For God makes us not melancholy, nor affrights nor kills us, for he is a God of the living. Hence the Scripture: "Rejoice, and be of good comfort." God's Word and prayer is physic against spiritual tribulations.
I would rather die through the devil than through the emperor or pope; for then I should die through a great and mighty prince of the world. But if he eat a bit of me `twill be his bane; he shall spew me out again; and, at the day of judgment, I in requital will devour him.
The devil needs not to tell me I am not good or upright; neither would I wish to be so, that is, to be without feeling of my sins, or to think I need no remission of them; for, if that were the case, all the treasure of Christ were lost on me, seeing he says himself: "He came not for the sake of the just, but to call sinners to repentance."
I hold that a devil, once overcome with God's Word and Spirit, must be gone, and dare not return again with the same temptation; Christ says: "Avoid Satan." And in another place: "Come out, thou unclean spirit." Then say the devils: "Suffer us to enter into the herd of swine." Origen says: "I believe that the saints strangle and slay many devils in combating" - that is, break their power.
Witchcraft is the devil's own proper work, wherewith, when God permits, he not only hurts people, but often makes away with them; for in this world we are as guests and strangers, body and soul cast under the devil; he is god of this world, and all things are under his power, whereby we are preserved in temporal life, - as meat, drink, air, etc.
The devil is so crafty a spirit, that he can ape and deceive our senses. He can cause one to think he sees something, which he sees not, that he hears thunder, or a trumpet, which he hears not. Like as the soldiers of Julius Caesar thought they heard the sound of a trumpet, as Suetonius writes, and yet there was no such thing. Oh, Satan is a master in aping and deceiving people, and every human sense.
And especially, is he artful when he deceives people spiritually, bewitching and deceiving the hearts and consciences, in such sort that they hold and receive erroneous and ungodly doctrine and opinion, for the upright and divine truth.
We see at this day how easy a matter it is for him so to do, by the sectaries and seducers; for he has so bewitched and deceived their hearts, that they hold that for the clear truth, which is altogether lies, errors, and abominable darkness. They hold themselves wise and learned in divine matters; other people they regard as geese, which neither see nor understand anything.
The poisonous serpent takes such delight in doing mischief, that he not only deceives secure and proud spirits with his delusions, but also undertakes, through his deceptions, to bring into error those who are well instructed and grounded in God's Word. He vexes me often so powerfully, and assaults me so fiercely with heavy and melancholy thoughts, that I forget my loving Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus, or at least behold him far otherwise than he is to be beheld. There is none of us so free, but that often he is thus deceived and bewitched with false opinions. Therefore we should learn how to know this conjuror, to the end he may not come behind us, being sleepy and secure, and so delude us with his witchcraft. And truly, if he find us not sober and watching, and not armed with spiritual weapons, that is, with God's Word and with faith, then most surely he will overcome us.
When I could not be rid of the devil with sentences out of the Holy Scripture, I made him often fly with jerring words; sometimes I said unto him: Saint Satan! if Christ's blood, which was shed for my sins, be not sufficient, then I desire that thou wouldest pray to God for me. When he finds me idle, with nothing in hand, he is very busy, and before I am aware, he wrings from me a bitter sweat; but when I offer him the pointed spear, God's Word, he flies; yet, before he goes, makes a grievous hurricane. When I began to write against the pope, and the Gospel was going on, the devil set himself strongly to work, rumbling and raging about, for he would willingly have preserved purgatory at Magdeburg. There was a citizen, whose child died, for whom he refused to have vigils and masses sung. The devil played his freaks, came every night, about twelve o'clock, into the chamber where the boy died, and made a whining like a young child. The good citizen being therewith full of sorrow, knew not what course to take. The popish priests said: O, now you see how it goes when vigils are not solemnized. Whereupon the citizen sent to me, desiring my advice, (for the sermon I had lately preached on this text: "They have Moses and the prophets," had been printed, and been read by him); and I wrote to him from Wittenberg, and advised him not to suffer any vigils at all to be held, for he might be fully assured that these were merely pranks of the devil; whereupon, the children and servants in the house jeered the devil, and said: What doest thou, Satan? Avoid, thou cursed spirit, get thee gone to the place, where thou oughtest to be, to the pit of hell. When the devil marked their contempt, he left off his game, and came there no more. He is a proud spirit, and cannot endure scorn.
Though Satan ceases not to plague the Christians, and to shoot at us his fiery darts, `tis very good and profitable for us, for thereby he makes us the more sure of the word and doctrine, so that faith increases, and is stronger in us. We are often shaken, and, indeed, now and then the devil drives out of us a sour and bitter sweat, but he cannot bring us to despair; for Christ always has kept the field, and through us will keep it still. Through hope, in all manner of trials and temptations, we hold ourselves on Christ.
`Tis a fearful thing when Satan torments the sorrowful conscience with melancholy; then the wicked villain, masterlike, disguises himself in the person of Christ, so that it is impossible for a poor creature, whose conscience is troubled, to discover the knavery. Hence many of those, that neither know nor understand the same, run headlong into despair, and make away with themselves; for they are blinded and deceived so powerfully by him, that they are fully persuaded it is not the devil, but Christ himself, that thus vexes and torments them.
I am a doctor of Holy Scripture, and for many years have preached Christ; yet, to this day, I am not able to put Satan off, or to drive him away from me, as I would; neither am I able so to comprehend Christ and to take hold on him, as in Holy Scripture he is placed before me; but the devil continually seeks how to put another Christ into my mind. Yet, nevertheless, we ought to render humble thanks to Almighty God, who has hitherto preserved us by his holy Word, through faith and by prayer, so that we know how to walk before him in humility and fear, and not to depend or presume on our own wisdom, righteousness, strength, and power, but to cheer and comfort ourselves in Christ, who is always more than sufficiently strong and powerful; and, although we be weak and faint, yet we continually vanquish and overcome through his power and strength in us poor, weak, and feeble creatures. For this may his holy name be blessed and magnified for evermore. Amen.
The devil has two occupations, to which he applies himself incessantly, and which are the foundation stones of his kingdom - lying and murder. God says: "Thou shalt do no murder." "Thou shalt have none other gods but me." Against these two commandments, the devil, with all his force, fights without intermission.
He now plays no more with people, as heretofore, by means of rumbling spirits, for he sees that the condition of the time is far otherwise than what it was twenty years past. He now begins at the right end, and uses great diligence. The rumbling spirits are mute among us; but the spirits of sedition increase above measure, and get the upper hand. God resist them.
The power the devil exercises is not by God commanded, but God resists him not, suffering him to make tumults, yet no longer or further than he wills, for God has set him a mark, beyond which he neither can nor dare step.
When God said, concerning Job, to Satan: "Behold, he is in thy hands, yet spare his life," this power was by God permitted, as if God should say: I will so far permit and give you leave, but touch not his life.
It is almost incredible how God enables us, weak flesh and blood, to enter combat with the devil, and to beat and overcome so powerful a spirit as he, and with no other weapon only his Word, which by faith we take hold on. This must needs grieve and vex that great and powerful enemy.
The devil is like a fowler; of the birds he catches, he wrings most of their necks, but keeps a few alive, to allure other birds to his snare, by singing the song he will have in a cage. I hope he will not get me into his cage.
Let not man flatter himself that the devil is in hell, far from the ungodly, as the archbishop of Mayence thinks; the devil dwells in his hard heart, and impels him according to his will and pleasure. For if the devil had no power but to plague us in body and goods, and vexed and tormented us only with the cares and troubles of this life, he were no devil to make account of. But he has learned a higher art; he takes away and falsifies the article of justification privitive et positive, and either tears the same quite out of our hearts, as in popedom, or defiles it through sects and heresies, which hang thereon a gloss about works, or what not, leaving the husks of the nuts to the hearers, but the kernels are gone.
The devil has two manner of shapes or forms, wherein he disguises himself; he either appears in the shape of a serpent, to affright and kill, or else in the form of a silly sheep, to lie and deceive; these are his two court colors. The devil is a foolish spirit, for he gives means and occasions for Christ to defend himself, in that he plagues the poor and weak Christians; for thereby he confirms the authority of Christ and his apostles; as when they make the sick whole and sound, the devil had rather he had left them at peace and quiet, but his wicked desire to do mischief drives him forward, to the end he may be brought to confusion.
Our songs and Psalms sorely vex and grieve the devil, whereas our passions and impatiences, our complainings and cryings, our "alas!" or "woe is me!" please him well, so that he laughs in his fist. He takes delight in tormenting us, especially when we confess, praise, preach, and laud Christ. For seeing the devil is a prince of this world, and our utter enemy, we must be content to let him pass through his country he will needs have imposts and customs of us, and strike our bodies with manifold plagues.
God gives to the devil and to witches power over human creatures in two ways; first, over the ungodly, when he will punish them by reason of their sins; secondly, over the just and godly, when he intends to try whether they will be constant in the faith, and remain in his obedience. Without God's will and our own consent, the devil cannot hurt us; for God says: "Whoso touches you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." And Christ: "There cannot fall an hair from your head, without your heavenly Father's notice."
The devil's power is not so well seen in the fall of carnal people, and of the wise of this world, who live like senseless creatures and heathen, as in the fall of the saints who were endued with the Holy Ghost; as Adam, David, Solomon, Peter, etc., who committed great sins, and fell by God's will, to the end they should not proudly exalt themselves by reason of God's gifts.
By good experience, I know the devil's craft and subtilty, that he not only blows the law into us, to terrify and affright us, and out of mole-hills to make mountains, - that is, to make a very hell of what is but a small and little sin, which as a wondrous juggler he can perform artfully; but also, can sometimes make such to be great and heavy sins which are no sins; for he brings one threatening sentence or other out of the Holy Scriptures, and before we are aware, gives so hard a blow to our hearts, in a moment, that we lose all light and sight, and take him to be the true Christ, whereas it is only the envious devil.
When tribulations approach, excommunicate them in the name of Christ Jesus, and say: God has forbidden me to receive that coin, because it is minted by the devil; we reject it as prohibited.
When heavy temptations come upon thee, expel them by what means thou best mayest; talk with good friends, of such things as thou takest delight in.
When I write against the pope, I am not melancholy, for then I labor with the brains and understanding, then I write with joy of heart; so that not long since Dr. Reisenpusch said to me: I much marvel you can be so merry; if the case were mine, it would go near to kill me. Whereupon I answered: Not the pope or all his shaven retinue can make me sad; for I know that they are Christ's enemies; therefore I fight against him with joyful courage.
The devil gives heaven to people before they sin, but after they sin, brings their consciences into despair. Christ deals quite contrary, for he gives heaven after sins committed, and makes consciences joyful.
Last night as I waked out of my sleep, the devil came and said: God is far from thee, and hears not thy prayers. Whereupon I said: Very well, I will call and cry the louder. I will place before my sight the world's unthankfulness, and the ungodly doings of kings, potentates and princes; I will also think upon the raging heretics; all these will inflame my praying.
The hound of hell, in Greek, is called Cerberus; in Hebrew, Scorphur: he has three throats - sin, the law, and death.
In Job are two chapters (xl. and xli.) concerning Behemoth the whale, before whom no man is in safety. "Wilt thou (saith the text) draw leviathan out with a hook? Will he make many supplications unto thee? Will he speak soft words unto thee?" These are images and figures whereby the devil is signified.
At Mohlburg, in Thuringia, not far from Erfurt, there was a musician, who gained his living by playing at merry makings. This man came to the minister of his parish, and complained that he was every day assailed by the devil, who threatened to carry him off, because he had played at an unlawful marriage. The minister consoled him, prayed for him, recited to him numerous passages of Scripture, directed against the devil; and, with some other pious men, watched over the unfortunate man, day and night, fastening the doors and windows, so that he might not be carried off. At length the musician said: "I feel that Satan cannot harm my soul, but he will assuredly remove my body;" and that very night, at eight o'clock, though the watch was doubled, the devil came in the shape of a furious wind, broke the windows, and carried off the musician, whose body was found next morning, stiff and black, stuck on a nut tree. `Tis a most sure and certain story, added Luther.
We cannot expel demons with certain ceremonies and words, as Jesus Christ, the prophets, and the apostles did. All we can do is, in the name of Jesus Christ, to pray the Lord God, of his infinite mercy, to deliver the possessed persons. And if our prayer is offered up in full faith, we are assured by Christ himself (St John xvi.23) that it will be efficacious, and overcome all the devil's resistance. I might mention many instances of this. But we cannot of ourselves expel the evil spirits, nor must we even attempt it.
Men are possessed by the devil in two ways; corporally and spiritually. Those whom he possesses corporally, as mad people, he has permission from God to vex and agitate, but he has no power over their souls. The impious, who persecute the divine doctrine, and treat the truth as a lie, and who, unhappily, are very numerous in our time, these the devil possesses spiritually. They cannot be delivered, but remain, horrible to relate, his prisoners, as in the time of Jesus Christ were Annas, Caiaphas, and all the other impious Jews whom Jesus himself could not deliver, and as nowadays, are the pope, his cardinals, bishops, tyrants, and partisans.
When Satan says in thy heart: "God will not pardon thy sins, nor be gracious unto thee," I pray, how wilt thou then, as a poor sinner, raise up and comfort thyself, especially when other signs of God's wrath beat upon thee, as sickness, poverty, etc. And when thy heart begins to preach and say: behold, here thou liest in sickness; thou art poor and forsaken of every one; why, thou must turn thyself to the other side, and say: Well, let it outwardly seem as it will, yea, though mine own heart felt infinitely more sorrow, yet I know for certain, that I am united and made one with my Lord and Saviour Christ; I have his word to assure me of the same, which can neither fail nor deceive me, for God is true, and performs what he promises.
The devil often casts this into my breast: How if thy doctrine be false and erroneous, wherewith the pope, the mass, friars and nuns are thus dejected and startled? at which the s our sweat has drizzled from me. But at last, when I saw he would not leave, I gave him this answer: Avoid, Satan; address thyself to my God, and talk with him about it, for the doctrine is not mine, but his; he has commanded me to hearken unto this Christ.
Whoso, without the word of grace and prayer, disputes with the devil touching sin and the law, will lose; therefore let him leave off betimes. For the devil is armed against us with Goliah's sword, with his spear and weapons; that is he has on his side to assist him, the testimony of our own consciences, which witness against us in that we have transgressed all God's commandments; therefore the devil has a very great advantage against us. The devil often assaults me, by objecting, that out of my doctrine great offences and much evil have proceeded, and with this he many a time vehemently perplexes me. And although I make him this answer: That much good is also raised thereby, which by God's grace is true, yet he is so nimble a spirit, and so crafty a rhetorician, that, master-like, he can pervert this into sin. He was never so fierce and full of rage as he is now. I feel him well.
But when I remember myself, and take hold on the Gospel, and meet him therewith, then I overcome him and confute all his arguments; yet for a time I often fail. He says: The law is also God's Word; why, then, is the Gospel always objected against me? I say: True: the law is also God's Word; but it is as far different from the Gospel, as heaven from earth; for in the Gospel, God offers unto us his grace; he will be our God merely out of love, and he presents unto us his only begotten Son, who delivers us from sin and death, and has purchased for us everlasting righteousness and life; thereon do I hold, and will not make God a liar. God indeed has also given the law, but in every respect for another use and purpose.
What I teach and preach, I teach openly, by clear daylight, not in a corner. I direct the same by the Gospel, by baptism, and by the Lord's prayer. Here Christ stands, him I cannot deny; upon the Gospel do I ground my cause, etc. Yet the devil, with his crafty disputing, brings it so near unto me, that the sweat of anguish drops from me.
Thus was St Paul constrained to defend himself at Philippi, when both Jews and Gentiles hit him in the teeth, saying: That he troubled their city." And, at Thesalonica, saying: "These are they who turn the world upside down; they do contrary to the decrees of Caesar. And at Caesarea, saying: "This is a pestilent fellow, that hath moved sedition among all the Jews throughout the world." So the devil stirred up the Jews against Christ, accusing him of rebellion, that he forbad to pay tribute unto Caesar, and that he blasphemed, in calling himself the Son of God. So I say to Satan: Like as thou camest to confusion by Christ and St Paul, even so, Mr. Devil, shall it go with thee if thou meddlest with me.
All heaviness of mind and melancholy come of the devil; especially these thoughts, that God is not gracious unto him: that God will have no mercy upon him, etc. Whosoever thou art, possessed with such heavy thoughts, know for certain, that they are a work of the devil. God sent his Son into the world, not to affright, but to comfort.
Therefore be of good courage, and think, that henceforward thou art not the child of a human creature, but of God, through faith in Christ, in whose name thou art baptized; therefore the spear of death cannot enter into thee; he has no right unto thee, much less can he hurt or prejudice thee, for he is everlastingly swallowed up through Christ.
It is better for a Christian to be sorrowful than secure, as the people of this world are. Well is it for him that stands always in fear, yet knows he has in heaven a gracious God, for Christ's sake; as the Psalm says: "The Lord's delight is in them that fear him, and put their trust in his mercy."
There are two sorts of tribulations; one, of the spirit; another, of the flesh. Satan torments the conscience with lies, perverting that which is done uprightly, and according to God's Word; but the body or flesh, he plagues in another kind.
No man ought to lay across upon himself, or to adopt tribulation, as is done in Popedom; but if a cross or tribulation come upon him, then let him suffer it patiently, and know that it is good and profitable to him.
Luther being informed of one that was fiercely tempted and plagued in his conscience, because he found not in himself a complete righteousness, that he was not so righteous as God in the law required, and that, in praying, he always felt blaspheming against Christ, said: It is a good sign; for blaspheming of God is two-fold; one active, or operative, when one willfully seeks occasion to blaspheme God; the other a constrained blaspheming of God, passive, when the devil, against our wills, possesses us with evil cogitations, which we desire to resist. With such, God will have us to be exercised, to the end we may not lie snoring in laziness, but strive and pray against them. By this means, such things, in time, will vanish away and cease, especially at our last end; for then the Holy Ghost is present with his Christians, stands by them, drives away the devil, and makes a sweet, quiet, and peaceable conscience. Wherefore, for his spiritual disease, let him take this my physic; that he trouble not himself about anything, but be of good comfort, trust in God, and hold on to the Word - the devil, of his own accord, will soon cease from stirring up such temptation.
Concerning this tribulation, that he finds not a full and complete righteousness in himself, let him know, that no human creature finds it in this life; it is altogether angelical, which shall fall unto us in the life to come. Here we must content ourselves with Christ's righteousness, which he fully merited for us, with his innocent and spotless life.
Christ said to the adulteress: "Neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more." To the murderer, he said: "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." But to the Scribes and Pharisees, who set themselves against the righteousness of the gospel, Christ said: "Woe be unto you."
When one out of weakness denies God's Word, as many at this time do, under Prince George, it is no sin against the Holy Ghost. Peter sinned in denying Christ, but not against the Holy Ghost. On the contrary, Judas persisted in sinning; he repented not aright, but remained hardened.
It is impossible for a human heart, without crosses and tribulations, to think upon God.
Not all can bear tribulations alike; some are better able to bear a blow of the devil; as we three, Philip Melancthon, John Calvin, and myself.
David, doubtless, had worse devils than we, for without great tribulations, he could not have had so great and glorious revelations. David made psalms: we also will make psalms, and sing as well as we can, to the honor of our Lord God, and to spite and mock the devil and his spouse.
When David sang his song: "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son," etc. Ah! how sorrowful and perplexed a man was he. The very words denote that his grief of heart was excessive.
The good and holy king had vehement tribulations and crosses, which altogether eclipsed and darkened the promises made by God unto him. They were fearful and horrible examples. To hold fast and sure to the Word, in time of such trials and vexations, as David did, Oh! this is of inestimable value.
The upright and true Christian church has to strive not only with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness in high places. The spiritual combat is most heavy and dangerous; flesh and blood take away but only body, wife and children, house, land, and what is temporal; but the spiritual evil takes away the soul, everlasting life and salvation.
The Lord our God is a God of humble and perplexed hearts, who are in need, tribulation, and danger. If we were strong, we should be proud and haughty. God shows his anger in our weakness; he will not quench the glimmering flax, neither will he break in pieces the bruised reed.
Faith's tribulation is the greatest and sharpest torment, for faith must overcome all other tribulations; so that if faith be foiled, all other tribulations must needs fall upon human creatures; but if faith hold up her head, and be sound and in health, all other tribulations and vexations must grow sick, weak, and decrease. This tribulation of faith was that thorn which St Paul felt, and which pierced through flesh and spirit, through soul and body. Such tribulations was David possessed with, when he made this psalm: "Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger." No doubt he would rather have been slain with a sword, than have suffered such wrath and indignation from God.
Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies; when the soul is oppressed, so is the body. Augustine said well: Anima plus est ubi amat, quam ubi animat. When cares, heavy cogitations, sorrow, and passions superabound, they weaken the body, which, without the soul, is dead, or like a horse without a driver. But when the heart is at rest, and quiet, then it takes care of the body, and gives it what pertains thereunto. Therefore we ought to abandon and resist anxious thoughts, by all possible means.
The life of no human creature is without discontent; every one has his tribulations, and many a one, rather than be without them, will procure disquietness to himself. No man is content with that which God gives him.
Ah! how willingly would I now die, for I am faint and overwrought, and at this time I have a joyful and peaceable heart and conscience. I know full well, so soon as I shall be again in health, I neither shall have peace nor rest, but sorrow, weariness, and tribulations. But even that great man, St Paul, could not be exempt from tribulations.
When spiritual tribulations approach, we say: cursed be the day wherein I was born; and we begin to sweat. In such tribulations was our blessed Saviour Christ, in the garden, when he said: "Father, let this cup pass from me." Here the will was against the will, yet he turned himself presently according to his Father's will, and was comforted by an angel. Christ, who in our flesh was plagued and tempted, is the best mediator and advocate with God, in our tribulation. He is president, when we are only respondents, if we will but suffer him to meditate. Seems it God is angry with us when we are in tribulation and temptation; yet when we repent and believe, we shall find, that under such anger God's grace and goodness towards us lie hid. Therefore, let us patiently attend God's leisure, and constantly remain in hope.
On the 8th of August, 1529, Luther, with his wife, lay sick of a fever. Overwhelmed with dysentery, sciatica, and a dozen other maladies, he said: God has touched me sorely, and I have been impatient: but God knows better than we whereto it serves. Our Lord God is like a printer, who sets the letters backwards, so that here we must so read them; when we are printed off, yonder, in the life to come, we shall read all clear and straightforward. Meantime we must have patience.
Tribulation is a right school and exercise of flesh and blood. The Psalms, almost in every verse, speak of nothing but tribulations, perplexities, sorrows, and troubles; they are a book of tribulations.
Christ received the thief on the cross, and Paul, after so many blasphemings and prosecutions. We, then, have no cause at all to doubt. And, indeed, we must all in that way attain to salvation. Yet, though we have no cause to fear God's wrath, for old Adam's sake we must stand in fear; for we cannot take such hold on the grace and mercy of God as we ought. He had but only the first six words in the creed: "I believe in God the Father," yet these were far above his natural wisdom, reason, and understanding.
The devil plagues and torments us in the place where we are most tender and weak. In Paradise, he fell not upon Adam, but upon Eve. It commonly rains where it was wet enough before.
When one is possessed with doubt, that though he call upon the Lord he cannot be heard, and that God has turned his heart from him, and is angry, cogitations which we suffer, which are forced upon us, he must against them arm himself with God's Word, promising to hear him. As to the when and how God will hear him, this is stark naught; place, time, and person are accidental things; the substance and essence is the promise.
I have often need, in my tribulations, to talk even with a child, in order to expel such thoughts as the devil possesses me with; and this teaches me not to boast, as if of myself I were able to help myself, and to subsist without the strength of Christ. I need one, at times, to help me, who, in his whole body, has not so much divinity as I have in one finger.
In this life are many different degrees of tribulations, as there are different persons. Had another had the tribulations which I have suffered, he would long since have died; while I could not have endured the buffetings which St Paul did, nor St Paul the tribulations which Christ suffered. The greatest and heaviest grief is, when one dies in the twinkling of an eye. But hereof we ought not to dispute, but to refer the same to God's judgment.
When I am assailed with heavy tribulations, I rush out among my pigs, rather than remain alone by myself. The human heart is like a millstone in a mill; when you put wheat under it, it turns and grinds and bruises the wheat to flour; if you put no wheat, it still grinds on, but then `tis itself it grinds and wears away. So the human heart, unless it be occupied with some employment, leaves space for the devil, who wriggles himself in, and brings with him a whole host of evil thoughts, temptations, and tribulations, which grind out the heart.
No papist among them will throw himself into the flames for his doctrine, whereas our people readily encounter fire and death, following therein the example of the holy martyrs, St Agnes, St Agatha, St Vincent, St Lawrence, etc. We are sheep for the slaughter. Only the other day, they burned, at Paris, two nobles and two magistrates, victims in the cause of the Gospel, the king himself (Francis I.) setting fire to the faggots.
My tribulations are more necessary for me than meat and drink; and all they feel them ought to accustom themselves thereunto, and learn to bear them.
If Satan had not so plagued and exercised me, I should not have been so great an enemy unto him, or have been able to do him such hurt. Tribulations keep us from pride, and therewith increase the acknowledgment of Christ and of God's gifts and benefits. For, from the time I began to be in tribulation, God have me the victory of overcoming that confounded, cursed, and blasphemous life wherein I lived in popedom. God did the business in such a way, that neither the emperor nor the pope was able to suppress me, but the devil must come and set upon me, to the end God's strength may be known in my weakness.
Our tribulations and doubts, wherewith the devil plagues us, can be driven away by no better means than by condemning him; as when one condemns a fierce cur, in passing quietly by him, the dog then not only desists from biting, but also from barking; but when one enrages him by timorously throwing something at him, then he falls upon and bites him. Even so, when the devil sees that we fear him, he ceases not to torment and plague us.
A woman at Eisenach lay very sick, having endured horrible paroxysms, which no physician was able to cure, for it was directly a work of the devil. She had had swoonings, and four paroxysms, each lasting three or four hours. Her hands and feet bent in the form of a horn; she was chill and cold; her tongue rough and dry; her body much swollen. She seeing Luther, who came to visit her, was much rejoiced thereat, raised herself up, and said: Ah! my loving father in Christ, I have a heavy burden upon me, pray to God for me; and so fell down in her bed again. Whereupon Luther sighed, and said: "God rebuke thee, Satan, and command thee that thou suffer this, his divine creature to be at peace." Then turning himself towards the standers by, he said: "She is plagued of the devil in the body, but the soul is safe, and shall be preserved; therefore let us give thanks to God, and pray for her;" and so they all prayed aloud the Lord's prayer. After which, Luther concluded with these words: "Lord God heavenly Father! who hast commanded us to pray for the sick, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ, the only beloved Son, that thou wouldst deliver this thy servant from her sickness, and from the hands of the devil. Spare, O Lord, her soul, which, together with her body, thou hast purchased and redeemed from the power of sin, of death, and of the devil." Whereupon the sick woman said: "Amen." The night following she took rest, and the next day was graciously delivered from her disease and sickness.
A letter, written by Luther to Doctor Benedict Paul, whose son had lately been killed by a fall from the top of a house: - "Although it be nowhere forbidden in Holy Scripture to mourn and grieve for the death of a godly child or friend - nay, we have many examples of the godly, who have bewailed the death of their children and friends - yet there ought to be a measure in sorrowing and mourning. Therefore, loving doctor, while you do well to mourn and lament the death of your son, let not your grief exceed the measure of a Christian, in refusing to be comforted. I would have you, first, consider that `twas God gave that son unto you, and took him from you again; secondly, I would wish you to follow the example of that just and godly man, Job, who, when he had lost all his children, all his wealth and substance, said: "Have we received good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil? The hand of the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord," etc. He rightly considered that both good and evil come of the Lord; even so do you likewise; then you shall see that you have much greater gifts and benefits left of God to you than the evil you now feel. But you look now only upon the evil that your son is dead; and, meantime, you forget the glorious treasure God has given you, in the true knowledge of his Word, a good and peaceable conscience, which alone should overweigh all evil which may happen unto you; why, then, do you plague and torment yourself with the death of your son? But, admit the loss a great and heavy one, `tis no new thing; you are not alone therein, but have companions who have had like misfortunes. - Abraham had much more sorrow of heart, concerning his son, while he was yet living, than if he had been dead. How think ye was it within his heart, when, with his naked word, he was to strike off the head of his son? How was it also, think you, with Jacob, when he was informed that his loved son Joseph was torn in pieces by wild beasts? Or what father was ever perplexed and troubled in heart like David, when by his son Absalom he was persecuted and driven out of his kingdom, and when that son, in a state of rebellion, was slain and damned? Doubtless, David's heart at that time, with great grief, might have melted. Therefore, when you rightly behold and consider these and like examples of such high, enlightened people, you ought to feel that this your sorrow of heart is nothing comparable with theirs. Therefore know, loving brother, that God's mercy is greater than our tribulations. You have, indeed, cause to mourn, as you think, but it is nothing else than sugar mingled with vinegar; your son is very well provided for; he lives now with Christ; oh! would to God that I, too, had finished my course; I would not wish myself here again. Your suffering is only a corporal cross. You are a good logician, and teach others that art; make use thereof yourself now; put it in practice; define, divide, conclude, distinguish that which is spiritual, and separate it from that which is corporal."
When Satan will not leave off tempting thee, then bear with patience, hold on, hand and foot, nor faint, as if there would be no end thereof, but stand courageously, and attend God's leisure, knowing that what the devil cannot accomplish by his sudden and powerful assaults, he thinks to gain by craft, by perservering to vex and tempt thee, thereby to make thee faint and weary, as in the Psalm is noted: "Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth up; yet they have not prevailed against me," etc. But be fully assured, that in this sport with the devil, God, with all his holy angels, takes delight and joy; and assure thyself, also, that the end thereof will be blessed and happy, which thou shalt certainly find to thy everlasting comfort.
Concerning predestination, it is best to begin below, at Christ, as then we both hear and find the Father; for all those that have begun at the top have broken their necks. I have been thoroughly plagued and tormented with such cogitations of predestination; I would needs know how God intended to deal with me, etc. But at last, God be praised! I clean left them; I took hold again on God's revealed Word; higher I was not able to bring it, for a human creature can never search out the celestial will of God; this God hides, for the sake of the devil, to the end the crafty spirit may be deceived and put to confusion. The revealed will of God the devil has learned from us, but God reserves his secret will to himself. It is sufficient for us to learn and know Christ in his humanity, in which the Father has revealed himself.
Christ, on the tenth day, came again into Jerusalem, and on the fourteenth day he was killed. His cogitations and tribulations then were concerning the sins of the whole world, concerning God's wrath and death, of which all ought to stand in fear. But before he was thus personally made sin for us, he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; his tribulations were concerning his labor and pains, which he knew would be spent in vain upon his own nation, the Jews, and over which he wept bitterly, because they knew not the time of their visitation.
More and greater sins are committed when people are alone than when they are in society. When Eve, in paradise, walked by herself, the devil deceived her. In solitary places are committed murders, robberies, adulteries, etc.; for in solitude the devil has place and occasion to mislead people. But whosoever is in honest company is ashamed to sin, or at least has no opportunity for it; and, moreover, our Saviour Christ promised: "Where two or three be gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them."
When king David was idle and alone, and went not out to the wars, then he fell into adultry and murder. I myself have found that I never fell into more sin than when I was alone. God has created mankind for fellowship, and not for solitariness, which is clearly proved by this strong argument: God, in the creation of the world, created man and woman, to the end that the man in the woman should have a fellow.
We find in no history any human creature oppressed with such sorrow as to sweat blood, therefore this history of Christ is wonderful; no man can understand or conceive what his bloody sweat is. And it is more wonderful, that the Lord of grace and of wrath, of life and of death, should be so weak, and made so sorrowful, as to be constrained to seek for solace and comfort of poor and miserable sinners, and to say: Ah, loving disciples! sleep not, wake yet a little, and talk one with another, that at least I may hear some people are about me. Here the Psalm was rightly applied, which says: "Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels," etc. Ah, Saviour Christ Jesus, through the immeasurable heavy burden which lay on his innocent back; namely, the sins of the universal world, against which, doubtless, he prayed: "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure."
Such fellows as Tetzel, Cochlaeus, Lemnius, I nothing regard. We should have no dealing with such backbiters and slanderers, they are most detestable; they appear not openly in the field, nor come right in our sight, but, in their poisoned hatred, scorn everything we do. They boast highly of the Fathers; let them; we have one Father, which is in heaven who is above all fathers; their piece and patchwork is of no weight. They write under the inspiration of a corrupt and vicious heart, and we all know that their works are mere impudent lies. The article of the Holy Trinity is nowhere written expressly in Holy Scripture, yet it is believed; therefore, they say, we ought also to believe traditions and ordinances of men without God's Word.
This Wetzell they have preferred at Leipzig, is a mischievous fellow. He was condemned to die, and would have been executed, but was saved at my intercession, and honorable entertained; now he requites me by his insolences. However, `tis a wretch that has condemned himself; he is not worthy to be answered; he will have a judge. The papists will gain nothing by their railing. When they blaspheme, we should pray, and be silent, and not carry wood to the fire.
I am glad this fellow is at Leipzig; he is there like a mouse taken in a trap, for he is full of evil opinions; when they break out, he will get his payment. He got much poison from Campanus, who wrote a blasphemous book under this title: Against all that were and are in the world since the apostle's time. He has lost the general praise. He is reserved in his preachings; and cold, colder than ice. He dares not break out and say what he has in his heart; he goes like a shackled hare; he fears his hearers; his mouth is shut, his words captive, as in a dungeon. The words of an eloquent man should move others, and pierce the heart. But they that teach nothing uprightly or purely, are but half-learned; dunce-like, bold and presumptuous: as Carlstad is with his Touto, out of which he made Autos.
The emperor Sigismund was, as it were, made captive by the papists. They made him do what they pleased; to wear a deacon's coat, and at Christmas, to read the Gospel to the pope; so that every emperor is now said to be a deacon of the Romish Church, the pope's mass-servant. The emperor, after he performed this ceremony, had never any success against the Turks or in Germany. The kingdom of Bohemia is fallen, which before was a very fair kingdom.
Latomus was the best among all my adversaries: his point was this: "What is received of the church, ought not to be rejected." As the Jews said: "We are God's people;" so the papists cry: "The church cannot err." This was the argument against which the prophets and apostles fought; Moses says: "They moved me to jealousy with that which was not God, and I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." And St Paul: "That he is a Jew which is one inwardly;" and Isaiah: "In him shall the Gentiles trust."
"It is impossible," say they, "that God should forsake his church, for he declares, `I am with you always, unto the end of the world,'" The question is, to whom do these words: with you, refer? which is the true church whereof Christ spake? The perplexed, broken and contrite in heart, or the Romish curtexans and knaves?
Philip Melancthon showing Luther a letter from Augsburg, wherein he was informed, that a very learned divine, a papist, in that city, was converted, and had received the Gospel. Luther said: I like those best that do not fall off suddenly, but ponder the case with considerable discretion, compare together the writings and arguments of both parties, and lay them on the gold balance, and in God's fear search after the upright truth; out of such, fit people are made, able to stand in controversy. Such a man was St Paul, who at first was a strict Pharisee and man of works, who stiffly and earnestly held over and defended the law; but afterwards preached Christ in the best and purest manner against the whole nation of the Jews.
That impious knave, Martin Cellarius, thought to flatter me by saying: "Thy calling is superior to that of the apostles;" but I at once checked him, replying sharply: "By no means; I am in no degree comparable to the apostles." He sent me four treatises he had written about Moses temple and the allegories it involved; but I returned them at once, for they were full of the most arrogant self-glorification.
Erasmus of Rotterdam is the vilest miscreant that ever disgraced the earth. He made several attempts to draw me into his snares, and I should have been in danger, but that God lent me special aid. In 1525, he sent one of his doctors, with 200 Hungarian ducats, as a present to my wife; but I refused to accept them, and enjoined my wife to meddle not in these matters. He is a very Caiaphas.
"Qui Satanam non odit, amet tua carmina Erasme,
Atque idem jungat furias et mulgeat orcum."
Erasmus is very pitiful with his prefaces, though he tries to smooth them over; he appears to see no difference between Jesus Christ our Saviour, and the wise pagan legislator Solon. He sneers at St Paul and St John; and ventures to say, that the Epistle to the Romans, what ever it might have been at a former period, is not applicable to the present state of things. Shame upon thee, accursed wretch! `Tis a mere Momus, making his mows and mocks at everything and everybody, at God and man, at papist and protestant, but all the while using such shuffling and double-meaning terms, that no one can lay hold of him to any effectual purpose. Whenever I pray, I pray for a curse upon Erasmus.
Carlstadt opposed me merely out of ambition, for he flattered himself that on earth was not a more learned man than he. And although in his writings he imitated me, yet he played strange tricks with my manner. He wanted to be the great man, and truly I would willingly have left the honor to him, so far as it had not been against God. For, I praise my God, I was never so presumptuous as to think myself wiser than another man. When at first I wrote against indulgences, I designed simply to have opposed them, thinking that, afterwards, others would come and accomplish what I had begun.
We ought utterly to condemn and reject Campanus, and not to esteem him worthy of an answer, for thereby he becomes more audacious and insolent. Let us despise him, so will he soonest be smothered and suppressed.
Luther being informed that the preaching of James Schenck was everywhere extolled, said: O! how acceptable to me would this report be, if with his preaching he brought not in such sweet-mouthed, smooth, and stately words, of which St Paul complains to the Romans, whereby hearers are deceived. They are like the wind Cecias, which blows so mild and still, so soft and warm, that the blossoms of trees, and other herbs and flowers, are enticed to spring forth to their destruction. Even so the devil, when he preaches Christ in his ministers, intends to destroy Christ; and although he speak the truth, yet even therewith he lies. An honest man may well go up the stairs when a knave lies hid behind them; for the devil can well endure that Christ sit upon the tongue, meantime he himself lies hid under it, so that the people are tickled and inflamed with what they hear; but such smooth tattling last not long; for Satan, through his gospel, will pervert the Gospel, because presumptuous and secure spirits acknowledge not their sins. And where there is no tinder to make it catch, there Christ has no room or place wherein he may work; for he is come only to them that are of perplexed, broken hearts and spirits. But these condemners of the law are haughty and proud spirits, just as the people in Popedom, under the tradition of the law, were far from observing the law, that being altogether strange to them. Therefore the preaching of the law is a preparation for the Gospel, and gives matter for Christ to work upon, who is the only work-master of faith.
On the 15th of April, 1539, certain positions, printed at Leipzig, were sent to Luther, wherein John Hammer subtly maintained that the law concerned the Christians nothing at all; he also divided repentance into three parts, and said: The Jews had one kind of repentance, the Gentiles another king, and the Christians a third. Whereupon Luther said: Who could have ever thought such extravagant spirits should come? `Tis an utter and mischievous error, to distinguish repentance according to persons, whereas there is only one kind of repentance given to all mankind, seeing that all, one as well as another, have angered and offended one only God, whether Jews, Gentiles, or Christians. `Tis as gross, abominable, and manifest error, as it were to say that man have another kind of repentance than women have; princes than subjects; masters than servants; rich than poor - making God to be a respecter of persons: as though the prophets had not taught uprightly of repentance, and as though the repentance of the Ninevites was not upright and true; whence, at last would follow, that if we preached not repentance out of law, Christ was not under the law, whereas he was, for our sakes under the curse of the law.
On the 13th of September, 1538, a warm disputation was held, nearly five hours long, in which Luther powerfully inveighed against innovators, telling them that they would destroy the Gospel, and abolish the law, and would bring to evil those minds which were too secure. He said he would resist them to his last breath, did it cost him his life. In the evening, he discoursed of the heresy of Arius; when that innovator began to preach his doctrine, Peter, patriarch of Alexandria, denounced it as erroneous, and against Christ's honor, seeing that he who denies the divinity of Christ, certainly deprives him of his honor. Arius began be denying that Christ was God, affirming that he was only a creature, though a perfect creature. But when the godly bishops resisted him, he said, secondly, that Christ, the most perfect of creatures, yea, above the angels, had made all other creatures. Thirdly, he alleged that Christ was God, emanating from God, as light from light; and he taught so subtly, that many people joined him, and shared his opinions. The pious bishop of Milan, Auxentius, against whom Hilary wrote an epistle, fell into his errors.
Arius finished by saying, that Christ was not born of the Father, equal God, but was of one substance with the Father, and would not give up this assertion as to his creation. Then began the strife about the word Homousion, which was inserted in the Athanasian creed, but which is nowhere written in the Holy Scripture, that he was born of the Father, yet it was pertinent, and in respect to his human nature rightly spoken.
The heresies of Arius continued very long, above three hundred years. There were in highest flourish under Constantine; under Domitian they tyrannized; under Jovian, Valentinian, and Gratian, they somewhat decreased. They lasted the time of seven emperors, until the Goths came. The great Turk, to this day, is an Arian. We thus see that there is no heresy, no error, no idolatry, however gross, which does not obtain partisans and supporters. `Tis manifest, in the present day, at Rome, where the pope is honored as a God.
Philip Melancthon has a good conscience, and therefore takes matters to heart. Christ well and thoroughly exercised our forefathers; he who belongs to Christ must feel the serpent's sting in the heel. No doubt the mother of our Lord was a poor maid, for she was betrothed to a carpenter, also poor.
Let us then be merry and contented in poverty and trouble, and remember that we have a rich Master, who will not leave us without help and comfort; in so doing, we shall have peaceful consciences, let it go with us as God please. The ungodly want this peace in their hearts; as Isaiah says: "They are as the waves of the sea; neither have the covetous usurers any peace of conscience."
Erasmus was poisoned at Rome and at Venice with epicurean doctrines. He extols the Arians more highly than the Papists; he ventured to say that Christ is named God but once in St John, where Thomas says: "My Lord and my God." His chief doctrine is, we must carry ourselves according to the time, or, as the proverb goes, hang the clock according to the wind; he only looked to himself, to have good and easy days, and so died like an epicurean, without any one comfort of God.
This do I leave behind me as my will and testament, whereunto I make you witnesses. I hold Erasmus of Rotterdam to be Christ's most bitter enemy. In his catechism, of all his writings that which I can least endure, he teaches nothing decided; not one word says: Do this, or do not this; he only therein throws error and despair into youthful consciences. He wrote a book against me, called Hyperaspites, wherein he proposed to defend his work on free-will, against which I wrote my De servo Arbitrio, which has never yet been confuted, nor will it ever be by Erasmus, for I am certain that what I wrote on the matter is the unchangeable truth of God. If God live in heaven, Erasmus will one day know and feel what he has done.
Erasmus is the enemy to true religion, the open adversary of Christ, the complete and faithful picture and image of Epicurus and of Lucian.
I care not at all for an open enemy of the church, such as the papists with their power and persecutions; I regard them not, for by them the true church cannot receive hurt, nor can they hinder God's Word; nay, the church, through their raging and persecution, rather increases. But it is the inward evil of false brethren that will do mischief to the church. Judas betrayed Christ; the false apostles confused and falsified the Gospel. Such are the real fellows through whom the devil rages and spoils the church.
I know not well how to render the word hypocrita. Mere hypocrite, as we commonly accept it, is too mild and soft a name for a false brother; it should convey almost as much as sycophanta, a wicked villain, who for his own private gain does mischief to others. Such hypocrites were the servants of king Saul, who, for the sake of their bellies, spake against righteous David, backbiting him in the king's presence, whereby the land was stained. Hypocrita is not only a hypocrite or a flatterer that pretends love towards one, and speaks that which tickles the ears, but one that produces mischief under color of holiness, as the examples in the twenty-third of Matthew clearly show. St Jerome says: Feigned holiness is a double evil.
The greatest and fiercest strife that Christians have, is with false brethren. If a false brother would openly say: I am a Pilate, a Herod, an Annas, that is, if he would put off the name of a believing Christian, and profess himself an open enemy to Christ, then we would patiently endure all the evil he could work upon us. But that such should bear the name of Christians, we cannot and will not endure; this rule and government over the conscience, we divines take properly unto us, and say: It is ours through the Word, we will not suffer ourselves to be bereaved of it, by any means.
We have hooted away the friars and priests, by the preaching of the Gospel, and now the false brethren plague us. Truly, `tis a right sentence: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
I marvel that nothing is written of the villany Judas did to Christ. I am persuaded he did it for the most part with the tongue; for Christ, not in vain, complains of him in the 41st Psalm. Doubtless, he went to the high priests and elders, and spake grievously against Christ, saying: I baptize also, but now I see, `tis frivolous and nothing worth. Moreover, he was a thief; he thought to make great gain in betraying Christ (as Wetzell and others think by our means to be made great lords); he was a wicked, desperate villain, or Christ would have forgiven him, as he forgave Peter. But Peter fell out of weakness; Judas out of wickedness.
Judas was as necessary among the apostles as any three of them. For he confuted many arguments of the heretics, who alleged that no man can baptize, but he that has the Holy Ghost. What he did in his office was good and right, but when he played the thief, he did wrong and sinned. Therefore we must separate and distinguish his person from his office; for Christ commanded him not to steal, but to execute his office, to preach, to baptize, etc. Judas likewise confuted what some object to us, who say: There are among you protestants, many wicked wretches, false brethren, and unchristian-like offenders. Herein comes Judas and says: I was also an apostle, I behaved and carried myself, as an understanding worldly-wise companion and politician, much better than the others, may fellow apostles; no man thought that such mischief was hid in me. Judas at the Lord's supper, was directly the pope, who also has got hold of the purse, is a covetous wretch, a thief, and belly-god, who will also speak in praise of Christ: in truth, `tis a right Iscariot.
When we read that Judas hanged himself, that his belly burst in pieces, and that his bowels fell out, we may take this as a sample how it will go with all Christ's enemies. The Jews ought to have made a mirror of Judas, and have seen therein how they in like manner should be destroyed. An allegory or mystery herein lies hid, for the belly signifies the whole kingdom of the Jews, which shall fall away and be destroyed, so that nothing thereof remain. When we read that the bowels fell out, this shows that the posterity of the Jews, their whole generation, shall be spoiled and go to the ground.
I may compare the state of a Christian to a goose tied up over a wolf's pit to catch wolves. About the pit stand many ravening wolves, that would willingly devour the goose, but she is preserved alive, while they, leaping at her, fall into the pit, are taken and destroyed. Even so, we that are Christians are preserved by the sweet loving angels, so that the devils, those ravening wolves, the tyrants and persecutors, cannot destroy us,
We little know how good and necessary it is for us to have adversaries, and for heretics to hold up their heads against us. For if Cerinthus had not been, then St John the Evangelist had not written his gospel; but when Cerinthus opposed the godhead in our Lord Christ, John was constrained to write and say: In the beginning was the Word; making the distinction of the three persons so clear, that nothing could be clearer. So when I began to write against indulgences and against the pope, Dr. Eck set upon me, and aroused me out of my drowsiness. I wish from my heart this man might be turned the right way, and be converted; for that I would give one of my fingers; but if he will remain where he is, I wish he were made pope, for he has well deserved it; for hitherto he has had upon him the whole burthen of popedom, in disputing and writing against me. Besides him, they have none that dare fall upon me; he raised my first cogitations against the pope, and brought me so far, or otherwise I never should have gone on.
A liar is far worse, and does greater mischief, than a murderer on the highway; for a liar and false teacher deceives people, seduces souls, and destroys them under the color of God's Word; such a liar and murderer was Judas, like his father the devil. It was a marvel how Judas should sit at the table with Christ, and not blush for shame, when Christ said: "One of you shall betray me," etc. The other disciples had not the least thought that Judas should betray Christ; each was rather afraid of himself, thinking Christ meant him: for Christ trusted Judas with the purse, and the whole management of the house-keeping, whence he was held in great repute by the apostles.
A scorpion thinks when his head lies hid under a leaf, that he cannot be seen; even so the hypocrites and false saints think, when they have hoisted up one or two good works, that all their sins therewith are covered and hid.
False Christians that boast of the Gospel, and yet bring no good fruits, are like the clouds without rain, wherewith the whole element is overshadowed, gloomy and dark, and yet no rain falls to fructify the ground; even so, many Christians affect great sanctity and holiness, but they have neither faith nor love towards God, nor love towards their neighbor.
Job says: "The life of a human creature is a warfare upon earth." A human creature, especially a Christian, must be a soldier, ever striving and fighting with the enemy. And St Paul describes the armor of a Christian, Ephes. vi., thus: -
First - The girdle of truth; that is, the confession of the pure doctrine of the Gospel, an upright, not a hypocritical or feigned faith.
Secondly - The breast-plate of righteousness, by which is not meant the righteousness of a good conscience, although this be also needful: for it is written, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant," etc.; and St Paul: "I know nothing of myself, yet I am not thereby justified," but the righteousness of faith, and of the remission of sins, which Paul means in that place, touching which Moses spake, Gen. xv.: "Abraham believed God, and that was imputed unto him for righteousness."
Thirdly - The shoes wherewith the feet are shod; viz., the works of the vocation, whereby we ought to remain, and not to go further, or to break out beyond the appointed mark.
Fourthly - The shield of faith; similar to this is the fable of Perseus with the head of Gorgon, upon which whoso looked died immediately; as Perseus held and threw Gorgon's head before his enemies, and thereby got the victory, even so a Christian must likewise hold and cast the Son of God, as Gorgon's head, before all the evil instigations and crafts of the devil, and then most certainly he shall prevail and get the victory.
Fifthly - The helmet of salvation; that is the hope of everlasting life. The weapon wherewith a Christian fights the enemy is: "The sword of the spirit," 1 Thess. v., that is, God's Word and prayer; for as the lion is frightened at nothing more than at the crowing of a cock, so the devil can be overcome and vanquished with nothing else than with God's Word and prayer; of this Christ himself has given us an example.
Our life is like the sailing of a ship; as the mariners in the ship have before them a haven towards which they direct their course, and where they will be secure from all danger, even so the promise of everlasting life is made unto us, that we therein, as in a safe haven, may rest calm and secure. But seeing our ship is weak, and the winds and waves beat upon us, as though they would overwhelm us, therefore we have need of a good and experienced pilot, who with his counsel and advice may rule and govern the vessel, that it run not on a rock, or utterly sink and go down. Such a pilot is our blessed Saviour Christ Jesus.
Ingratitude is a very irksome thing, which no human creature can tolerate; yet our Lord God can endure it. If I had had to do with the Jews, patience would have failed me; I had never been able so long to endure their stubbornness. The prophets were always poor, condemned people; plagued and persecuted not only by outward and open, but also by inward and secret enemies, for the most part of their own people. That which the pope does against us is nothing to compare with that which Jeckel and others do, to our sorrow of heart.
We ought diligently to be aware of sophistry, which not only consists in doubtful and uncertain words, that may be construed and turned as one pleases, but also, in each profession, in all high arts, as in religion, covers and cloaks itself with the fair name of Holy Scripture, alleging to be God's Word, and spoken from heaven. Those are unworthy of praise who can pervert everything, screwing, condemning and rejecting the meanings and opinions of others, and, like the philosopher Carneades, disputing in utraque parte, and yet conclude nothing certain. These are knavish tricks and sophistical inventions. But a fine understanding, honestly disposed, that seeks after truth, and loves that which is plain and upright, is worthy of all honor and praise.
Offences by Christians are far more abominable than those by the heathen. The prophet Jeremiah says: "The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people, is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom," etc. And Ezekiel: "Thou hast justified Sodom with thine abomintions." And Christ: "It will be more tolerable for Sodom at the day of judgment than with thee." But so it must be; "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Truly this makes the godly altogether faint and out of heart, so that they rather desire death, for, with sorrow of heart, we find that many of our people offend others. We ought to diligently to pray to God against offences, to the end his name may be hallowed. St Paul says: "Also of our own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Therefore the church has no external esteem or succession; it inherits not.
True, much offence proceeds out of my doctrine; but I comfort myself, as St Paul did Titus; whereas this doctrine is revealed for the sake of the faith of God's chosen, for whose sake we also preach, we mean it earnestly. For the sake of others I would not drop one word. I have cracked many hollow nuts, and yet I thought they had been good, but they fouled my mouth, and filled it with dust; Carlstad and Erasmus are mere hollow nuts, and foul the mouth.
It has been asked: Is an offence, committed in a moment of intoxication, therefore excusable? Most assuredly not; on the contrary, drunkenness aggravates the fault. Hidden sins unveil themselves when a man's self-possession goes from him; that which the sober man keeps in his breast, the drunken man lets out at the lips. Astute people, when they want to ascertain a man's true character, make him drunk. This same drunkenness is a grievous vice among us Germans, and should be heavily chastised by the temporal magistrate, since the fear of God will not suffice to keep the brawling guzzlers in check.
A rich Jew, on his death bed, ordered that his remains should be conveyed to Ratisbon. His friends, knowing that even the corpse of a Jew could not travel without paying heavy toll, devised the expedient of packing the carcass in a barrel of wine, which they then forwarded in the ordinary way. The wagoners, not knowing what lay within, tapped the barrel, and swilled away right joyously, till they found out they had been drinking Jew's pickle! How it fared with them you may imagine.