4. How it happens that this representation is so difficult to grasp, and how we can help ourselves with it. 12-14.
5. How and why this representation is foreign to reason.
* Of the union of Christ with the believing souls. a. How and why this union is worthy of the highest admiration. 16f. b. How and by what means this union is effected. 17-18. c. How this union should comfort the believer. 19-20, d. How Christ sets forth this union in many ways.
4. Such a divinekingdom can be governed, built up, protected, extended and maintained only by means of the external office of the Word and of the Sacraments, through which the Holy Spirit is powerful and works in the hearts etc., as I have often said in speaking on this theme.
God here by our own lives and experiences will make known and reflect as in a mirror what we have in Christ; and also by the common state of marriage on earth, in which we were born and reared and now live, he delivers a daily sermon and admonition in order that we should remember and consider this great mystery (for so St. Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:32), that the conjugal life of a man and wife, instituted by God, should be a great, beautiful and wonderful sign, and a tangible, yet spiritual picture, that points out and explains something special, excellent and great, hidden to and inconceivable by the human reason, namely, Christ and his church.
7. Out of such love and heartconfidence follows now also the fellowship in all they have in common with one another or in all that befalls them, good or bad; so that each must accept it as his or her own, and add and impart help to the other with his or her means, and both suffer and enjoy, rejoice and mourn together, according as it may be well or ill with them.
11. Therefore a hearty confidence in him should grow and increase in thee that he called and chose thee through baptism to his fellowship through his inexpressible hearty love and received thee, to release thee from sin, eternaldeath and the power of satan, and imparted to thee his body and life, and all that he has; yea, he so completely gave himself to thee, that thou mayest not only glory in what he did for thy sake and gave to thee, but thou mayest comfortably and joyfully glory in him as being thine. And as a bride relies with hearty confidence upon her bridegroom and holds the heart of the bridegroom as her own heart, so do thou rely from the depth of thy heart upon the love of Christ, and entertain no doubt that he is not otherwise disposed to thee than as thy own heart is.
12. But this is opposed beyond measure in us by our old Adam, our flesh and blood, our blindness and the stiffened hardness of our hearts, which does not permit us to see or believe it; especially if we see and experience in ourselves and in this miserablelife other things before our eyes and senses. For reason sees and understands it well that the marriagefeast and bridal love are in themselves a lovely and cheerful picture, and it may be taught that Christ is a beautiful, noble, pious and faithful bridegroom, and his church a glorious, blessedbride. But things come to a stop later, when everyone is to believe for himself that he is also of Christ and a member of his body and Christ bears such a heart and love toward him. The reason is that I do not see such excellent glory in myself, but on the contrary my weakness and unworthiness, and feel nothing but sorrow, sadness and all kinds of suffering and even death, the grave, and maggots, which are about to consume me.
13. But in the face of this you should learn to believe the Word Christ himself speaks to you and God commands you to believe, that it is true (unless you wish to give God the lie) regardless of what you feel in your heart. For if you should believe, you must not cleave to what your thoughts and feelings say to you, but to what Godís Word says, no matter how little of it you may experience. Therefore, if you are a person who feels his need and misery and desires from the heart to partake of this comfort and love of Christ, then incline your ears and heart hither to Christ, and lay hold of this comforting picture he presents to you, wherewith he shows that he will have himself known and believed by you, that he has in his heart a much warmer love and a more loyal fidelity to you, than any bridegroom to his belovedbride. And on the other hand you should have a much heartier and greater confidence and joy in him than any bride has to her bridegroom. So that here you may justly chastise yourself because of your unbelief, and say: Behold, can the bridal love cause such hearty confidence and joy between the bride and the bridegroom, which is still of a low order and transitory? Why do I not rejoice much more over my holy and faithfulSavior, Christ, who gave himself for me and to me wholly as my own?
Shame on me because of my unbelief, that my heart is not here full of laughter and eternaljoy, when I hear and know how he says to me through his Word that he will be my beloved bridegroom. Should I not much rather have here another, a higher joy, and my eyes, thoughts, heart, and whole lifecleave more to my belovedSavior, than a bride to her bridegroom, who, if she is a pious and true bride, sees and hears indeed nothing more gladly than her spouse? Yea, even when she does not see him and he is absent from her, her heart cleaves to him, so that she can not but think of him.
Therefore it is and will doubtless continue to be, as St. Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:32, a mystery, a secret, deep, hidden, incomprehensible thing, but yet a something great, excellent and wonderful. Not only to the blind, foolish world, that cannot think or understand anything at all of these high divine things; but also for the belovedapostles and advanced Christians, that herein they have enough to learn and believe, and they themselves are compelled to confess how long they labored with it, preached about it, strove after it, and it is to them still a mystery in this life.
For St. Paul himself often complained that it did not work so powerfully in him, because of his flesh and blood, as it should work if it were as fully understood and apprehended as it should be; for he and other saints would not have been so anxious, sad and terrified, as he often was, and the prophetDavid also lamented in many Psalms; but their hearts would have soared in pure joy. However, they will be free from all this in the life beyond, where they will see without any covering and dimness to the vision, and be filled with joy and live forever. For the present it remains a mysterious, hidden; spiritualmarriagefeast, that one does not see with the eyes, nor grasp with the reason; but faith alone is able to grasp it, as faith holds only to the word it hears concerning it, and yet grasps it still very weakly on account of our perverseflesh.
15. For this marriagefeast is so totally foreign to reason, that it is terrified when it thinks how great it is. I speak now still of the Christians; for the others do not come to it, they hold it simply as impossible, yea, as mere talk of fools and a fable, when they hear that God becomes manís bridegroom; but the Christians who have commenced to believe it, must be shocked and amazed at its greatness: Dear God, how shall I exalt myself so highly as to boast of being Godís bride, and Godís Son my bridegroom?
16. But hear well that God desires it to be so. In Ephesians 5:25-27 he says: I will dress and place before me a bride, who shall be my church, that is glorious, of the glory I myself have and not having spot or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish, etc., just as I am. He does not speak of a bride that he finds in this state, pure, holy, blameless, without spot, etc.; such a bride he should not seek on the earth, but he should have remained among his angels in heaven to find her there. But he revealed himself through his Word to men, surely not for the sake of this life, but that he might be praised forever through her; and therefore he must have had in mind something greater, to do with and through her. The great mystery is that he did not take upon himself the nature of angels, but united himself with the human nature.
18. Here no one sees how excellent a work is accomplished thus hidden and secretly through Godís Word, baptism and our faith; and yet by it the result is accomplished that this company of poorsinful men, who were not worthy to behold God at a distance because of their great filthiness, are made through this bath and washing clean, beautiful and holy, so that they are well pleasing to God as the bride of his beloved Son and as his lovingdaughter; and this purifying commenced in this life, he develops and continues constantly in her until she is presented to him purer and more beautiful than the light and brightness of the sun.
19. Therefore a Christian must learn to believe this, so that he in the future does not consider himself in the light of his first birth, as he was born from Adam; but as he is called to Christ and baptized into him, and like all Christians confides in and is united with him; so they should cling to him as to their bridegroom, who through the same washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, while they are still unclean he continually purifies and adorns them until the day he presents his church to himself, not only without a spot or stain, but also without a wrinkle, very beautiful, sleek and perfect, like freshyouth.
20. Therefore do not be terrified if you feel too entirely unworthy and impure; for if your thoughts are fixed on that you will forget and lose this confidence and trust in Christ. But you must heed the Word Christ speaks to you: Although you are full of sin, death and perdition, yet you have here my righteousness and life, which I apply and give to you. If you are impure and filthy, you have here the washing of baptism and of my Word, through which I wash you and pronounce you clean, and will constantly cleanse you for ever and ever until you shall stand before me and all creatures perfectly beautiful and pure.
21. This he tells us not only through his Word; but in order that we might not complain being left without admonition and preaching, he presents it to us in so many different every-day pictures and parables of wedded love, yea, of the first warmth and fervency between a bride and groom; when we see how both hearts cling to one another and one has joy and pleasure in the other. Here the bride does not fear in the least that her groom will cause her suffering or harm or cast her away; but in hearty affection confides in him and doubts not he will take her into his arms, sit with her at the table, and give her as her own whatever he has. We should in this also truly know Christís heart, and not allow ourselves to picture him otherwise than we hear and see him both in his own Word and in the parables and signs which present him to us, that we may indeed never dare to complain, except of ourselves and of our old Adam that hinders us in our beautifuljoy.
22. For should not man become his own enemy, and only wish that death might soon do away with him, for the reason that he knows not himself and cannot rightly, as he should, taste and enjoy his great treasure, joy and blessedness? And so perhaps it might be best for us, except that this life with its temptations, cross and sufferings is to be the school in which always and daily we more and more learn to know what he is in us and we in him, and in which therefore we also work for this that we may seize him, even as he ran after us and seized us, in that he fetched and won us for his own with his sweat and blood. Alas, however, that we are too weak, lazy and slow thus to run after him in this life!
23. Behold, such is the glorious royalwedding in this kingdom, which Christ calls the kingdom of heaven, and to which we, all of us, bidden and unbidden, Jews and Gentiles, come by means of the Gospel resounding in all the world, as called by fifes and drums which, after the manner of the Scriptures, are called the voices of the bridegroom and the bride. That is to say, a marriagelike voice or sound and tone, that is a token of the wedding and the joys, and is to announce unto everyone such joy and call us thereunto.
These are not common and ordinary people, but the best, wisest and holiest of all, who are occupied with far higher and more needful things than to be persuaded to come to this wedding, to receive good things for nothing, and to be helped into heaven. They know much better for themselves how, by their own precious life, to bring about great works, the lawís holiness and Godís service. Hereof more is said in the Gospelstory of the great supper (Luke 14), concerning those who excuse themselves and would not come.
26. Like unto these are also all such as are by the Gospel called to faith and the knowledge of Christ, but will not hear and accept the same. These are always the greatest and best part of the world, who as we know, wish to be called Godís people and the church. They also have to attend to far greater and better things, ó how they may keep up their fine and glorious estate and condition, which they call the government and glory of the church. Of that they will not hear, and esteem it an innovation and change of the good and praiseworthy old order, etc. And the more one urges them to obey the Gospel, the less will they listen to it, and the more bitterly do they pursue it, as we always have it before our eyes in the world.
Thus they have themselves experienced and the belief, as it were, has come into their hands, that he has told them no lyingstory, but that it has proved only too true that the king has sent out his host and slain these murderers the which for now 1,500 years experience has confirmed, namely, that this judgment has not been removed, and that thus finally wrath has come over them and they shall remain as naught. For he himself shows that it has never yet repented him, in that he thereupon forthwith says to his men. ďThe wedding is ready, but the guests were not worthy,Ē etc.
28. Which is, also for other scorners and presecutors, a terrible token and example of the final wrathresolved against them and of such punishment wherewith he will altogether make an end also of them, because they would not partake of and enjoy this feast: as has already happened to Greece and Rome, and will likewise happen to our blasphemers and pursuers, unless the day of judgment come between.
29. These then have received their judgment as they would have it. In order, however, that Christ may still get people to his weddingfeast, his servants must continually go on with their preaching, and bid and call whomsoever they find, until they fetch so many together that the tables are full, not indeed of the great ones, the holy and mighty men (who were first bidden but would not come). Rather must the poor, the cripples and the halt, as he elsewhere says, rejoice at being allowed to come to this feast ó that is, the heathen, who are not numbered among Godís people and have nothing whereof they might be proud.
But among this company who are here sitting at table, there is also found a rogue, whom the king, in looking over the guests, speedily recognizes and judges to have no weddinggarment, and to have come, not in honor of the wedding, but as disgracing the bridegroom and the lord who has invited him. Now these are such as also permit themselves to be numbered among true Christians, hear the Gospel, are in the outward communion of the right church and make before the people as if they also might be of the Gospel ó and still they are not in earnest about it.
30. With this Christ shows who on earth are that community which is called the church, to wit, not those who pursue Godís Word and his servants of the Gospel. For these are already wholly excluded and removed by his final judgment, aye, they have spilt their own milk by their public and self-confessed act of not accepting and suffering this preaching of the Gospel, and should not and cannot among Christians be considered members of the church, because they have not its doctrine and faith. Just as little can one consider professed heathen, Turks and Jews as the church or its members.
Such judgment we must now also pass on our persecutors and blasphemers of the Gospel, as for example the Pope and his following, and entirely separate ourselves from them, as they do not in the least belong to the church of Christ, but are damned by their own judgment; to which they testify by having turned us away as outlaws and outcasts. The church on earth, however, if we speak of the outward community, is a gathering of such as hear, believe and confess the right teaching of the Gospel of Christ, and have with them the Holy Ghost who sanctifies them and works in them by the Word and sacraments. Yet among these some are false Christians and hypocrites, who nevertheless are at one with them in the same doctrine and also hold communion in the sacraments and other outward offices of the church.
31. Aye, such people the Christians must suffer in their gathering and cannot, as men are, avoid it or prevent them from being amongst them, nor can they remove them or turn them out of their gathering. They cannot, indeed, judge and recognize them all, but must bear them and suffer their company, but only till God himself comes with his judgment, so that they become manifest and give themselves away by their wickedlife or false belief and spirit of heresy as not being true and honestChristians. Of this St. Paul speaks, 1 Corinthians 11:19: ďThere must be also heresies among you, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you,Ē and on the other hand also those who are not approved.
33. Therefore the Christians, who are the right and dear guests at this wedding, at all times have this comfort that the others who do not belong thereto, that is both persecutors and false brethren, shall not enjoy the same. For even as the former, the persecutors, manifest themselves as not being members of the church, in that they exclude themselves and go apart; thus the others, who for a time have crept in and have falsely sought cover under the name and semblance of true Christians, shall also finally become manifest. This also St. Paul says, 1 Timothy 5:24-25: ďSome menís sins are evident, going before unto judgment; and some men also they follow after. In like manner also there are good works that are evident: and such as are otherwise cannot be hid.Ē