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WORKS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
THE SEVENTH IMAGE
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THE SUPERNAL EVIL, OR THE EVIL ABOVE US
FINALLY, let us lift up our hearts, and ascend with the Bride into the mountain of myrrh. ( Song of Solomon 4:6) This is Jesus Christ the Crucified, Head of all saints, and Prince of all sufferers; of Whom many have written many things, and all all things, as it is meet. F218 His memory is commended to the Bride, when it is said, “Set Me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm.” ( Song of Solomon 8:6) The blood of this Lamb, signed upon the threshold, wards off the destroying angel. ( Exodus 12:7,13) By Him is the Bride praised, because “the hair of her head is as the king’s purple” ( Song of Solomon 7:5); that is, her meditation glows red with the remembrance of the Passion of Christ. This is that tree which Moses was commanded to cast into the waters of Marah (that is, the bitterness of suffering), and they were made sweet. ( Exodus 15:23 ff.) There is nothing that this Passion cannot sweeten, not even death itself; as the Bride saith, “His lips are lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” ( Song of Solomon 5:13) What resemblance is there between lips and lilies, since lips are red and lilies white? But she says this in a mystery, signifying that the words of Christ are most fair and pure, and that there is in them naught of blood-red bitterness or guile; nevertheless, in them He drops precious and chosen myrrh, that is, the bitterness of death.
These most pure lips and sweet have power to make the bitterest death sweet and fair and bright and dear, — death that, like precious myrrh, removes at once all of sin’s corruption.
How does this come to pass? When, forsooth, you hear that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, hath, by His most holy touch, consecrated and hallowed all sufferings, even death itself, hath blessed the curse, glorified shame, and enriched poverty, so that death has been made a door to life, curse a fount of blessing, and shame the mother of glory: how can you then be so hard and ungrateful as not to long for and to love all manner of sufferings, now that they have been touched by Christ’s most pure and holy flesh and blood, and made unto you holy, harmless, wholesome, blessed, and full of joy?
For if Christ, by the touch of His most innocent flesh, has hallowed all waters unto baptism, yea, and every creature besides; how much more has He, by the same contact of His most innocent flesh and blood, hallowed every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame, unto the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood! Even as He saith of this same baptism of His Passion, in Luke 12:50, “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!” Behold, how He is straitened, how He pants and thirsts, to sanctify suffering and death, and make them things to be loved! For He sees how we stand in fear of suffering, He marks how we tremble and shrink from death. And so, like a godly pastor or faithful physician, He hastens to set bounds to this our evil, and is impatient to die and by His contact to commend suffering and death unto us. So that the death of a Christian is henceforth to be regarded as the brazen serpent of Moses, which indeed hath in all things the appearance of a serpent, yet is quite without life, without motion, without venom, without sting. ( Numbers 21:8) Even so the righteous seem, in the sight of the unwise, to die; but they are in peace. (Wisdom 3:2,3) We resemble them that die, nor is the outward appearance of our dying unlike that of others; but the thing itself is different, because for us death is dead.
In like manner all our sufferings are like the sufferings of other men; but it is only in the appearance. In reality our sufferings are the beginning of our freedom from suffering, as our death is the beginning of our life. This is that which Christ saith in John 8:51, “If a man keep my saying he shall never see death.” How shall he not see it? Because when he dies, he begins to live, and so he cannot see death for the life that he sees. For here the night shineth as the day; since the life that breaks upon him is brighter far than departing death. ( <19D912> Psalm 139:12) These things are assured to all who believe in Christ, to the unbelieving they are not.
Therefore, if you kiss, caress, and embrace, as most sweet relics, f220 consecrated by His touch, the robe of Christ, the vessels, waterpots, and what things soever He touched and used; why will you not the rather caress, embrace, and kiss the pains and evils of this world, disgrace and death, which He not only hallowed by His touch, but sprinkled and blessed with His most holy blood, yea, embraced with willing heart, and great constraining love? The more, since in these there are for you far greater merits, rewards, and blessings than in those relics; for in them there is offered to you the victory over death, and hell, and all sins, but in those relics nothing at all. O could we but see the heart of Christ, when, hanging on the Cross, He was so eager to slay death, and hold it up to our contempt! With what grace and ardor He embraced death and pain for us timid ones, who shrink from them! How willingly He first drinks this cup for us sick ones, that we may not dread to drink it after Him! For we see that naught of evil befell Him, but only good, in His resurrection. Could we see this, then doubtless that precious myrrh, dropping from Christ’s lips, and commended by His words, would grow most sweet and pleasant unto us, even as the beauty and fragrance of lilies. Thus saith also St. Peter, 1 Peter 4:1, “Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.” And St. Paul, Hebrews 12:3, “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
If we have learned, in the foregoing images, beneath us and above us, to bear our evils with patience, surely in this last, lifted above and out of ourselves, caught up unto Christ, and made superior to all evils, we ought not only to bear with them, but to love them, desire them, and seek them out. Whoever is yet far from this state of mind, for him the Passion of Christ has little value; as it is with those who use the sign and arms of Christ to ward off evils and death, that so they may neither suffer pain nor endure death, which is altogether contrary to the cross and death of Christ. Hence, in this image, whatever evils we may have to bear must be swallowed up and consumed, so that they shall not only cause us no pain, but even delight us; if indeed this image find its way into our heart, and fix itself in the inmost affections of our mind.
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