TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM HAZLITT, Esq.
The Lutheran Publication Society
Typed by: Kathy Sewell email@example.com
June 1, 1997
This book is in the public domain
A Christian's worshipping is not the external, hypocritical mask that our spiritual friars wear, when they chastise their bodies, torment and make themselves faint, with ostentatious fasting, watching, singing, wearing hair shirts, scourging themselves, etc. Such worshipping God desires not.
`Tis a great blindness of people's hearts that they cannot accept of the treasure of grace presented unto them. Such people are we, that though we are baptized, have Christ, with all his precious gifts, faith, the sacraments, his Word, all which we confess to be holy, yet we can neither say nor think that we ourselves are holy; we deem it too much to say, we are holy; whereas the name Christian is far more glorious and greater than the name holy.
We can call consecrated robes, dead men's bones, and such trumpery, holy, but not a Christian; the reason is, we gaze upon the outward mask, we look after the seeming saint, who leads an austere life. Hence that vain opinion in popedom, that they call the dead, saints; an error strengthened by Zwinglius. Human wisdom gapes at holy workers, thinking whoso does good works, is just and righteous before God.
There's no better death than St Stephen's, who said: "Lord, receive my spirit." We should lay aside the register of our sins and deserts, and die in reliance only upon God's mere grace and mercy.
We ought to retain the feast of John the Baptist, with whom the New Testament began, for it is written: "All the prophets and the law prophesied until John," etc. We should observe it, too, for the sake of the fair song, which in popedom we read, but understood not, of Zachariah, which, indeed, is a most excellent song, as is shown in St Luke's preface, where he says: "And Zachariah was full of the Holy Ghost," etc.
A householder instructs his servants and family in this manner: Deal uprightly and honestly, be diligent in that which I command you, and ye may then eat, drink, and clothe yourselves as ye please. Even so, our Lord God regards not what we eat, drink, or how we clothe ourselves; all such matters, being ceremonies or middle things, he leaves freely to us, on the understanding, however, that we ground nothing thereon as being necessary to salvation.
`Twas a strange thing the world should be offended at him who raised the dead, made the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, etc. They who would deem such a man a devil, what kind of a God would they have? But here it is. Christ would give to the world the kingdom of heaven, but they will have the kingdom of the earth, and here they part; for the highest wisdom and sanctity of the hypocrites sees nothing but temporal honor, carnal will, mundane life, good days, money and wealth, all of which must vanish and cease.
The whole world takes offence at the plainness of the second table of God's ten commandments, because human sense and reason partly understand what is done contrary thereto. When God and his Word is condemned, the world is silent and regards it not; but when a monastery is taken, or flesh eaten on a Friday, or a friar marries, O, then the world cries out: Here are abominable offences.
The obedience towards God is the obedience of faith and good works; that is, he who believes in God, and does what God has commanded, is obedient unto him; but the obedience toward the devil is superstiton and evil works; that is, who trusts not in God, but is unbelieving, and does evil, is obedient unto the devil.
In the Old Testament are two sorts of sacrifices; the first was called the early morning sacrifice; thereby is shown that we first should offer unto Christ, not oxen or cattle, but ourselves, acknowledging God's gifts, corporal and spiritual, temporal and eternal, and giving him thanks for them. Secondly, the evening sacrifice; whereby is signified that a Christian should offer a broken, humble and a contrite heart, consider his necessities, and dangers, both corporal and spiritual, and call upon God for help.
God will, say some, that we should serve him freely and willingly, whereas he that serves God out of fear of punishment, of hell, or out of a hope and love of recompense, serves and honors God not uprightly or truly. This argument is of the stoics, who reject the affections of human nature. It is true we ought willingly to serve, love, and fear God, as the chief good. But God can well endure that we love him for his promise's sake, and pray unto him for corporal and spiritual benefits; he therefore has commanded us to pray. So God can also endure that we fear him for the punishment's sake, as the prophets remember. Indeed, it is somewhat, that a human creature can acknowledge God's everlasting punishments and rewards. And if one looks thereupon, as not being the chief end and cause, then it hurts him not, especially if he has regard to God himself, as the final cause, who gives everything for nothing, out of mere grace, without our deserts.
The word, to worship, means to stoop and bow down the body with external gestures; to serve in the work. But to worship God in spirit is the service and honor of the heart; it comprehends faith and fear in God. The worshipping of God is two-fold, outward and inward - that is, to acknowledge God's benefits, and to be thankful unto him.
A certain prince of Germany, well known to me, went to Compostella in Spain, where they pretend St James, brother of the Evangelist St John, lies buried. This prince made his confession to a Franciscan, an honest man, who asked him if he were a German? The prince answered, yes. Then the friar said: "O, loving child, why seekest thou so far away that which thou hast much better in Germany? I have seen and read the writings of an Augustine friar, touching indulgences and the pardons of sin, wherein he powerfully proves that the true remission of sins consists in the merits and sufferings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. O loving son, remain thereby, and permit not thyself to be otherwise persuaded. I purpose shortly, God willing, to leave this unchristian life, to repair into German, and to join the Augustine friar.
Since the Gospel has been preached, which is not above twenty years, such great wonders have been done as were not in many hundred years before. No man ever thought such alterations should happen; that so many monasteries would be made empty, that the private mass should be abolished in Germany, despite heretics, sectaries, and tyrants. Rome has twice been ravaged, and many great princes, who persecuted the Gospel, have been thrown down to the ground and destroyed.
Government is a sign of the divine grace, of the mercy of God, who has no pleasure in murdering, killing, and strangling. If God left all things to go which they would, as among the Turks and other nations, without good government, we should quickly dispatch one another out of this world.
Parents keep their children with greater diligence and care than rulers and governors keep their subjects. Fathers and mothers are masters naturally and willingly; it is a self-grown dominion; but rulers and magistrates have a compulsory mastery; they act by force, with a prepared dominion; when father and mother can rule no more, the public police must take the matter in hand. Rulers and magistrates must watch over the sixth commandment.
The temporal magistrate is even like a fish net, set before the fish in a pond or a lake, but God is the plunger, who drives the fish into it. For when a thief, robber, adulterer, murderer, is ripe, he hunts him into the net, that is, causes him to be taken by the magistrate, and punished; for it is written: "God is judge upon earth." Therefore repent, or thou must be punished.
Princes and rulers should maintain the laws and statutes, or they will be condemned. They should, above all, hold the Gospel in honor, and bear it ever in their hands, for it aids and preserves them, and ennobles the state and office of magistracy, so that they know where their vocation and calling is, and that with good and safe conscience they may execute the works of their office. At Rome, the executioner always craved pardon of the condemned malefactor, when he was to execute his office, as though he were doing wrong, or sinning in executing the criminal; whereas `tis his proper office, which God has set.
St Paul says: "He beareth not the sword in vain;" he is God's minister, a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that does evil. When the magistrate punishes, God himself punishes.
It is impossible that where a prince or potentate is ungodly, his counsellors should not be ungodly. As is the master, such are also his servants. This follows necessarily and certainly. Solomon says: "A master that hath pleasure in lying, his servants are ungodly;" it never fails.
The magistracy is a necessary state in the world, and to be held in honor; therefore we ought to pray for magistrates, who may easily be corrupted and spoiled. Honores mutant mores, numquam in meliores: Honors alter a man's manners, and seldom for the better. The prince who governs without laws, according to his own brain, is a monster, worse than a wild beast; but he who governs according to the prescribed laws and rights, is like unto God, who is an erector and founder of laws and rights.
Governors should be wise, of a courageous spirit, and should know how to rule alone without their counsellors.
Temporal government is preserved not only by laws and rights, but by divine authority; `tis God maintains governments, otherwise the greatest sins in the world would remain unpunished. Our Lord God, in the law, shows what his will is, and how the evil should be punished. And forasmuch as the law punishes not a potentate, prince, or ruler, therefore our Lord God, one day, will call him to an account and punish him. In this life, governors and rulers catch but only gnats and little flies with their laws, but the wasps and great humble bees tear through, as through a cobweb; that is, the small offences and offenders are punished, but the abominable extortioners and oppressors who grind the faces of the poor, the fatherless and widows, go scotfree, and are held in high honor.
To the business of government appertain, not common, illiterate people, or servants, but champions; understanding, wise, and courageous men, who are to be trusted, and who aim at the common good and prosperity, not seeking their own gain and profit, or following their own desires, pleasures, and delights; but how few governors and rulers think hereon? They make a trade and traffic of government; they cannot govern themselves: how, then, should they govern great territories and multitudes of people. Solomon says: "A man that can rule and curb his mind, is better than he that assaulteth and overcometh cities." etc..
I could well wish that Scipio, that much-honored champion, were in heaven; he was able to govern and overcome himself, and to curb his mind, the highest and most laudable victory. Frederick, prince elector of Saxony, was another such prince; he could curb himself, though by nature of an angry mood. In the song of Solomon, it is said: "My vineyard which is mine, is before me;" that is, God has taken the government to himself, to the end no man may brag and boast thereof. God will be the king and ruler; he will be minister and pastor; he will be master in the house; he alone will be governor; pastor, espiscopus, Caesar, rex, vir et uxor errant, sed non Deus.
Potentates and princes, nowadays, when they take in hand an enterprise, do not pray before they begin, but set to work calculating: three time three makes nine, twice seven are fourteen - so and so will do so and so - in this manner will the business surely take effect - but our Lord God says unto them: For whom, then, do ye hold me? for a cypher? Do I sit here above in vain, and to no purpose? You shall know, that I will twist your accounts about finely, and make the mall false reckonings.
Pilate was a more honest and just man than any papist prince of the empire. I could name many of these, who are in no degree comparable with Pilate; for he kept strictly to the Roman laws. He would not that the innocent should be executed and slain without hearing, and he availed himself of all just means whereby to release Christ; but when they threatened him with the emperor's disfavor, he was dazzled, and forsook the imperial laws, thinking, it is but the loss of one man, who is both poor and condemned; no man takes his part; what hurt can I receive by his death? Better it is that one man die, than that the whole nation be against me.
Dr. Mathesius and Pomer debated this question, why Pilate scourged Christ, and asked: What is truth? The former argued that Pilate did i out of compassion; but the other, that it was done out of tyranny and contempt. Whereupon Luther said: Pilate scourged Christ out of compassion, to the end he might still thereby, the insatiable wrath and raging of the Jews. And in that he said to Christ: What is truth: he meant: Why wilt thou dispute concerning truth in these wicked times? Truth is here of no value. Thou must think of some other plan; adopt some lawyer's quiddity, and then, perchance, thou mayest be released.
Philip Melancthon and myself have justly deserved at God's hands, as much riches in this world as any one cardinal possesses; for we have done more in his business than a hundred cardinals. But God says unto us: Be contented that ye have me. When we have him, then have we also the purse; for although we had the purse and had not God, so had we nothing.
God said to Ezekiel: "Thou son of man, Nebuchadnezzar caused his army to serve a great service against Tyre, yet he had no wages; what shall I give him? I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar, that shall be his wages." So plays God with great kingdoms, taking them from one, and giving them to another.
At the imperial diet, at Augsburg, certain princes there spoke in praise of the riches and advantages of their respective principalities. The prince elector of Saxony said: He had, in his country, store of silver mines, which brought him great revenues. The prince elector palatine extolled his vineyards on the Rhine. When it became the turn of Eberhard, prince of Wirtemberg, he said: "I am, indeed, but a poor prince, and not to be compared with either of you; yet, nevertheless, I have also in my country a rich and precious jewel; namely, that if at any time I should ride astray in my country, and were left all alone in the fields, yet I could safely and securely sleep in the bosom of any one of my subjects, who all, for my service, are ready to venture body, goods, and blood." And, indeed, his people esteemed him as a pater patrice. When the other two princes heard this, they confessed that, in truth, his was the most rich and precious jewel.
I invited to dinner, at my house at Wittenberg, prince Ernest of Luneburg, and prince William of Mecklenburg, who much complained of the immeasurable swilling and drinking kind of life at courts; and yet they will all be good Christians. I said: The potentates and princes ought to look into this. Then prince Ernest said: Ah! sir, we that are princes do even so ourselves, otherwise `twould have gone down long since; confessing that the intemperance of princes caused the intemperance of the people. And truly, when the abbot throws the dice, the whole convent will play. The example of governors greatly influences the subjects.
Some one asked, whether Sir Thomas More was executed for the Gospel's sake or no? I answered: No, in no wise; he was a cruel tyrant; he was the king's chief counsellor; a very learned and wise man, doubtless, but he shed the blood of many innocent Christians that confessed the Gospel; he tormented them with strange instruments, like a hangman; first, he personally examined them under a green tree, and then cruelly tortured them in prison. At last, he opposed the edict of the king and kingdom. He was disobedient, and was punished.
We have this advantage; no council has condemned us for heretics; the laws of the empire define a heretic to be one who obstinately maintains errors, which we have never done, but have shown and produced witnesses out of God's Word, and the Holy Scriptures; we willingly hear the opinions of others, but we will not endure the pope to be judge; we make him a party.
The emperor Maximilian in his campaigns was very superstitious. In times of danger, he would make a vow to offer up as sacrifice what first met him. One of his captains had taken captive a very fair virgin of an ancient family in Germany, and of the protestant religion, whom he loved exceedingly; but he was forced by the emperor to kill her with his own hands. We Christians have a great advantage in war against our enemies, that of faith in prayer, whereas the infidels know nothing of faith or prayer.
Not long since king Ferdinand came into a monastery where I was, and going over it was attracted by these letters, written in large characters on a wall: "M.N.M.G.M.M.M.M" After reflecting for some time on their meaning, he turned to his secretary, and asked him what he thought they signified: the secretary replied: "No, truly," said the king. "Well, then," returned the secretary, I expound the letters thus: M.N. Mentitur Nausea (the archbishop of Vienna); M.G. Mentitur Gallus (the court preacher); M.M.M.M. Mentiuntur Majores (the Franciscans); Minores, (the Carmelites); Minotaurii (monks of the Alps); all are liars." The king hit his lips, and passed on. `Twas a very ingenious explanation of Mr. Secretary's.
Princes, nowadays, have no order in the administration of their household. Four imperial towns spend more in luxuries and junkettings in one day, than Solomon spent, throughout all his kingdom, in a month. They are poor creatures, these princes, well entitled to our compassion.
God deals with great potentates, kings, and princes, even as children with playing cards. While they have good cards, they hold them in their hands; when they had bad, they get weary of them, and throw them under the chair; just so does God with great potentates; while they are governing well, he holds them for good; but so soon as they exceed, and govern ill, he throws them down from their seat, and there he lets them lie.
The 10th of February, 1546, John, Prince elector of Saxony said: A controversy were easily settled, if the parties would exhibit some concord. Luther said: We would willingly have concord, but no man seeks after the medium of concord, which is charity. We seek riches, but no man seeks after the right means how to be rich, namely, through God's blessing. We all desire to be saved, but the world refuses the means how to be saved - the Mediator Christ.
In former times potentates and princes referred their controversies to faithful people, and did not so readily thrust them into the lawyer's hands. When people desire to be reconciled and to come to an agreement, one party must yield, and give way to the other. If God and mankind should be reconciled and agreed, God must give over his right and justice, and must lay aside his wrath; and we, mankind, must also lay down our own righteousness, for we also would needs be gods in Paradise; we thought ourselves wise as God, through the serpent's seduction; then Christ was fain to make an agreement between us; he interposed in the cause, and would be a mediator between God and man; this Mediator for his pains got the portion of a peace-maker, namely, the cross; he that parts two fighters, commonly gets the hardest knocks for himself. Even so Christ suffered and presented us with his passion and death; he died for our sakes. and for the sake of our justification he arose again. Thus the generation of mankind became reconciled with God.
When two goats meet upon a narrow bridge over deep water, how do they behave? neither of them can turn back again, neither can pass the other, because the bridge is too narrow; if they should thrust one another, they might both fall into the water and be drowned; nature, then, has taught them, that if the one lays himself down and permits the other to go over him, both remain without hurt. Even so people should rather endure to be trod upon, than to fall into debate and discord one with another.
A Christian, for the sake of his own person, neither curses nor revenges himself; but faith curses and revenges itself. To understand this rightly, we must distinguish God and man, the person and cause. In what concerns God and his cause, we must have no patience, nor bless; as for example, when the ungodly persecute the Gospel, this touches God and his cause, and then we are not to bless or to wish good success, but rather to curse the persecutors and their proceedings. Such is called faith's cursing, which, rather than it would suffer God's Word to be suppressed and heresy maintained, would have all creatures go to wreck; for through heresy we lose God himself, Numbers xvi. But individuals personally ought not to revenge themselves, but to suffer all things, and according to Christ's doctrine and the nature of love, to do good to their enemies.
When young children cry lustily, they grow well and rapidly, for through crying, the members and veins are stretched out, which have no other exercise.
A question was put to Luther: How these two sentences in Scripture might be reconciled together; first, concerning the sick of the palsy, where Christ says: "Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." Where Christ intimates that sin was the cause of the palsy, and of every sickness. Second, touching him that was born blind, where John says: "That neither he nor his parents had sinned." Luther answered: In these words Christ testifies that the blind had not sinned, and sin is not the cause of blindness, for only active sins, which one commits personally, are the cause of sicknesses and plagues, not original sin; therefore the sins which the sick of the palsy himself committed were the cause of the palsy, whereas original sin was not the cause of the blindness of him that was born blind, or all people must be born blind, or be sick of the palsy.
Experience has proved the toad to be endowed with valuable qualities. If you run a stick through three toads, and, after having dried them in the sun, apply them to any pestilent tumor, they draw out all the poison, and the malady will disappear.
The cramp is the lightest sickness, and I believe the falling sickness a piece of the cramp, the one in the head, the other in the feet and legs; when the person feeling either moves quickly, or runs, it vanishes.
Sleep is a most useful and most salutary operation of nature. Scarcely any minor annoyance angers me more than the being suddenly awakened out of a pleasant slumber. I understand that in Italy they torture poor people by depriving them of sleep. `Tis a torture that cannot long be endured.
The physicians in sickness consider only of what natural causes the malady preceeds, and this they cure, or not, with their physic. But they see not that often the devil casts a sickness upon one without any natural causes. A higher physic must be required to resist the devil's diseases; namely, faith and prayer, which physic may be fetched out of God's Word. The 31st Psalm is good thereunto, where David says: "Into thine hand I commit my spirit." This passage I learned, in my sickness, to correct; in the first translation, I applied it only to the hour of death; but it should be said: My health, my happiness, my life, misfortune, sickness, death, etc., stand all in thy hands. Experience testifies this; for when we think, now we will be joyful and merry, easy and healthy, God soon sends what makes us quite the contrary.
When I was ill at Schmalcalden, the physicians made me take as much medicine as though I had been a great bull. Alack for him that depends upon the aid of physic. I do not deny that medicine is a gift of God, nor do I refuse to acknowledge science in the skill of many physicians; but, take the best of them, how far are they from perfection? A sound regimen produces excellent effects. When I feel indisposed, by observing a strict diet and going to bed early, I generally manage to get round again, that is, if I can keep my mind tolerably at rest. I have no objection to the doctors acting upon certain theories, but, at the same time, they must not expect us to be the slaves of their fancies. We find Avicenna and Galen, living in other times and in other countries, prescribing wholly different remedies for the same disorders. I won't pin my faith to any of them, ancient or modern. On the other hand, nothing can well be more deplorable than the proceeding of those fellows, ignorant as they are complaisant, who let their patients follow exactly their own fancies; `tis these wretches who more especially people the graveyards. Able, cautious, and experienced physicians, are gifts of God. They are the ministers of nature, to whom human life is confided; but a moment's negligence may ruin every thing. No physician should take a single step, but in humility and the fear of God; they who are without the fear of God are mere homicides. I expect that exercise and change of air do more good than all their purgings and bleedings; but when we do employ medical remedies, we should be careful to do so under the advice of a judicious physician. See what happened to Peter Lupinus, who died from taking internally a mixture designed for external application. I remember hearing of a great lawsuit, arising out of a dose of appium being given instead of a dose of opium.
`Tis a curious thing that certain remedies, which, applied by princes and great lords, are efficacious and curative, are wholly powerless when administered by a physician. I have heard that the electors of Saxony, John and Frederick, have a water, which cures diseases of the eye, when they themselves apply it, whether the disorder arise from heat or from cold; but `tis quite useless when administered by a physician. So in spiritual matters, a preacher has more unction, and produces more effect upon the conscience than can a layman.
To die for the sake of Christ's word, is esteemed precious and glorious before God. We are mortal, and must die for the sake of our sins, but when we die for the sake of Christ and his Word, and freely confess them, we die an honorable death; we are thereby made altogether holy relics, and have sold our hides dear enough. But when we Christians pray for peace and long life, `tis not for our sake, to whom death is merely gain, but for the sake of the church, and of posterity. The fear of death is merely death itself; he who abolishes that fear from the heart, neither tastes nor feels death. A human creature lying asleep is very like one that is dead; whence the ancients said, sleep is the brother of death. In like manner, life and death are pictured to us in the day and night, and in the change and alteration of the seasons.
The dream I had lately, will be made true; `twas that I was dead, and stood by my grave, covered with rags. Thus am I long since condemned to die, and yet I live.
"Whoso keepeth my saying, shall never see death." Luther expounded this passage of St John thus: We must die and suffer death, but whoso holds on God's Word, shall not feel death, but depart as in a sleep, and concerning him it shall not be said: "I die, but I am forced to sleep." On the other hand, whoso finds not himself furnished with God's Word, must die in anguish; therefore, when thou comest to die, make no dispute at all, but from thy heart say: I believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God; I ask no more.
One's thirty eighth year is an evil and dangerous year, bringing many heavy and great sicknesses; naturally, by reason perhaps, of the comets and conjunctions of Saturn and of Mars, but spiritually, by reason of the innumerable sins of the people.
Pliny, the heathen writer, says, book xx. cap. 1: The best physic for a human creature is, soon to die; Julius Caesar condemned death, and was careless of danger; he said: `Tis better to die once than continually to be afraid of dying; this was well enough for a heathen, yet we ought not to tempt God, but to use the means which he gives, and then commit ourselves to his mercy.
It were a light and easy matter for a Christian to overcome death, if he knew it was not God's wrath; that quality makes death bitter to us. But a heathen dies securely; he neither sees nor feels that it is God's wrath, but thinks it is merely the end of nature. The epicurean says: `Tis but to endure one evil hour.
When I hear that a good and godly man is dead, I am affrighted, and fear that God hates the world, and is taking away the upright and good, to the end he may fall upon and punish the wicked. Though I die, it makes no great matter; for I am in the pope's curse and excommunication; I am his devil, therefore he hates and persecutes me. At Coburg, I went about, and sought me out a place for my grave; I thought to have beel laid in the chancel under the table, but now I am of another mind. I know I have not long to live, for my head is like a knife, from which the steel is wholly whetted away, and which is become mere iron; the iron will cut no more, even so it is with my head. Now, loving Lord God, I hope my time is not for hence; God help me, and give me a happy hour; I desire to live no longer.
We read of St Vincent, that, about to die, and seeing death at his feet, he said: Death! what wilt thou? Thinkest thou to gain anything of a Christian? Knowest thou not that I am a Christian? Even so should we learn to condemn, scorn, and deride death. Likewise, it is written in the history of St Martin, that being near his death, he saw the devil standing at his bed's feet, and boldly said: Why standest thou there, thou horrible beast? thou hast nothing to do with me. These were right words of faith. Such and the like ought we to cull out of the legends of the saints, wholly omitting the fooleries that the papists have stuffed therein.
Luther, at Wittenberg, seeing a very melancholy man, said to him: Ah! human creature, what dost thou? Hast thou nothing else in hand but to think of thy sins, on death, and damnation? Turn thine eyes quickly away, and look hither to this man Christ, of whom it is written; "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, buried, descended into hell, the third day arose again from the dead, and ascended up into heaven," etc. Dost think all this was done to no end? Comfort thyself against death, and sin; be not afraid nor faint, for thou hast no cause; Christ suffered death for thee, and prevailed for thy comfort and defense, and for that cause he sits at the right hand of God, his heavenly Father, to deliver thee.
So many members as we have, so many deaths have we. Death peeps out at every limb. The devil, a causer and lord of death, is our adversary, and hunts after our life; he has sworn our death, and we have deserved it; but the devil will not gain much by strangling the godly; he will crack a hollow nut. Let us die, that so the devil may be at rest. I have deserved death twofold; first, in that I have sinned against God, for which I am heartily sorry; secondly, I have deserved death at the devil's hands, whose kingdom of lying and murdering, through God's assistance, grace, and mercy, I have destroyed; therefore he justly wishes my death.
"There shall arise false prophets, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." This sentence was fulfilled, in the fathers; as in Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, Bernard, and others; they were seduced into errors, but remained not therein. St Bernard wrote many evil and ungodly things, especially concerning the Virgin Mary; but when he was near his death, he said: "I have lived wickedly. Thou, loving Lord Jesus Christ, hast a twofold right to the kingdom of heaven; first, it is thine inheritance, for thou art the only begotten Son of the Father; this affords me no comfort or hope of heaven. But, secondly, thou hast purchased the same with thy suffering and death; thou hast stilled the Father's wrath, hast unlocked heaven, and presented the same unto me as thy purchased good; of this have I joy and comfort." Therefore he died well and happy. Likewise when St Augustine was to die, he prayed the seven penitential Psalms. When these fathers were in health, they thought not on this doctrine; but when they were upon their death beds, they found in their hearts what they were to trust to; they felt it high time to abandon human fopperies, and to betake themselves only to Christ, and to rely upon his rich and precious merits.
Almighty, everlasting God, merciful heavenly Father - Father of our loving Lord Jesus Christ, I know assuredly, that everything which thou hast said, thou wilt and canst perform, for thou canst not lie; thy Word is upright and true. In the beginning, thou didst promise unto me thy loving and only begotten Son Jesus Christ; the same has come, and has delivered me from the devil, from death, hell, and sin. Out of his gracious will he has presented unto me the sacraments, which I have used in faith, and have depended on thy Word; wherefore I make no doubt at all, but that I am well secured, and settled in peace; therefore if this be my hour, and thy divine will, so am I willing to depart hence with joy.
The school of faith is said to go about with death. Death is swallowed up in victory. If death, then sin. If death, then all diseases. If death, then all misery. If death, then all the power of the devil. If death, then all the fury of the world.
But these things do not appear, but rather the contrary; therefore there is need of faith; for an open manifestation of things follow faith in due time, when the things, now invisible, will be seen.
When Adam lived, that is, when he sinned, death devoured life; when Christ died, that is, was justified, then life, which is Christ, swallowed up and devoured death; therefore God be praised, that Christ died, and has got the victory.