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ST. PAUL’S EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS -
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I myself can hardly believe I was as verbose when I lectured on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, as this volume indicates. But since I recognize as mine all the thoughts which the brethren have taken such pains to set down in it, I am forced to admit that I said as much and perhaps even more. For the one doctrine which I have supremely at heart, is that of faith in Christ, from whom, through whom and unto whom all my theological thinking flows back and forth day and night. Not that I find I have grasped anything of a wisdom so high, so broad and so profound, beyond a few meager rudiments and fragments; and I am ashamed that my poor, uninspired comments on so great an Apostle and chosen instrument of God should be published. Yet I am compelled to forget my shame and be quite shameless in view of the horrible profanation and abomination which have always raged in the Church of God, and still rage to-day, against this, one solid rock which we call the doctrine of justification. I mean the doctrine that we are redeemed from sin, death and the devil, and made partakers of eternal life, not by ourselves (and certainly not by our works, which are less than ourselves), but by the help of another, the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.
This rock was shaken by Satan in Paradise, when he persuaded our first parents that they might by their own wisdom and power become like God, abandoning faith in God, who had given them life and promised its continuance. Shortly afterwards, that liar and murderer (always true to himself) incited a brother to murder his brother, for no other reason than that the latter, a godly man, had offered by faith a more excellent sacrifice, while he himself, being ungodly, had offered his own works without faith and had not pleased God. After this there followed a ceaseless and intolerable persecution of this same faith by Satan through the sons of Cain, until God was compelled to purge the world and defend Noah, the preacher of righteousness, by means of the Flood. ‘Nevertheless, Satan continued his work in Ham, the third son of Noah, and in others too many to mention. Thereafter the whole world acted like a madman against this faith, inventing innumerable idols and religions with which everyone (as St. Paul says) went his own way, hoping to placate a god or goddess, gods or goddesses, by his own works; that is, hoping without the aid of Christ and by his own works to redeem himself from evils and sins. All this is sufficiently evidenced by the doings and writings of all nations.
But these are nothing in comparison with that people of God, Israel, or the Synagogue, who were blessed beyond all others, not only with the sure promise given to the Fathers and with the Law given by God through angels, but also with the constant testimony of the words, miracles and examples of the prophets. Yet even among them, Satan (i.e. the fury of self-righteousness) had such success that after killing all the prophets they killed the very Son of God himself, their promised Messiah; and all for the same reason, namely, that they taught that we men are received into the favor of God by the grace of God, not by our own righteousness. This is the sum of the doctrine of the devil and the world from the beginning: ‘We will not appear to do evil, but whatever we do, God must approve of it and all his prophets must agree. If they do not, let them die. Let Abel perish and Cain live. Let this be our law.’ And so it is.
In the Church of the Gentiles, however, things have been and are even worse, so that the madness of the Synagogue may well seem mere child’s play in comparison. For the Jews, as St. Paul says, did not know their Messiah; otherwise they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But the Church of the Gentiles has accepted Christ and confesses him to be the Son of God, who has been made our righteousness; and this it publicly sings, reads and teaches. Yet despite this confession, those who claim to be the Church kill, persecute and rage against those who believe and teach by word and deed nothing else but that Christ is precisely what they themselves are compelled (though insincerely) to confess him to be. For they are in power to-day under the name of Christ; but if they could keep their power without the name of Christ, they would openly declare him to be what in their hearts they think him. They have a far lower opinion of him than the Jews, who at least take him for a thola, a thief who deserved his crucifixion, whereas our people regard him as a fable, like some invented god of the heathen, as can be seen at Rome in the Papal Curia and almost everywhere in Italy.
Since, therefore, Christ is made a mockery among his Christians (for so they wish to be called), and Cain kills Abel continually and the abomination of Satan now reigns supreme, it is necessary to pay the very closest heed to this doctrine, and to oppose Satan with it, whether we are eloquent or not, learned or not. For if all men kept silence, this rock ought to be proclaimed by tile very rocks and stones themselves. Hence I am willing to do my duty and let this extremely verbose Commentary be published in order to stir up my brethren in Christ against the wiles and malice of Satan, who in these last days has become so infuriated at the recovery of the sound knowledge of Christ, that whereas it has hitherto seemed as if men were possessed by demons and raving mad, it now seems as if the demons themselves are possessed by worse demons and raving with a more than demonic madness — which strongly suggests that the Enemy of truth and life feels the Day of Judgment to be imminent; a dreadful day of destruction for him, but a lovely day of redemption and the end of his tyranny for us.
For he has reason to be alarmed, when all his members and his powers are so assailed, just as a thief or adulterer is alarmed when the dawn breaks upon him and he is caught in his act.
For, leaving aside the abominations of the Pope, whoever heard of such an outbreak of monsters as we see to-day in the Anabaptists alone? Truly, in them Satan is stirring up his own everywhere with frightful commotions, as if he were intent on breathing out the last blast of his kingdom, and were seeking all of a sudden, not only to subvert the whole world with seditions, but also to swallow up completely Christ and his Church through innumerable sects. He does not vent such rage on other kinds of life or thought, like those of adulterers, thieves, murderers, perjurers, the ungodly, the sacrilegious, the unbelieving. On the contrary, he keeps them in peace in his court, pampering and indulging them in everything. Just as in the earliest days of the Church he not only tolerated but splendidly supported all the idolatries and religions of the whole world, while he everywhere harrassed the Church and religion of Christ, so to-day he has no other concern than the one that is always peculiarly his own, to persecute Christ (who is, our righteousness without any works of ours) as it is written: ‘Thou shalt bruise his heel.’ f44 But these thoughts of mine on this Epistle are being published not so much against these people as for our people, who will either thank me for my pains or pardon my weakness and temerity. I have certainly no wish that the impious should approve of them, but rather that they and their god should be irritated by them; for I produced them (with much toil) only for such as those to whom St. Paul himself wrote his Epistle — the troubled, afflicted and tempted (who alone understand these things), wretched Galatians in the faith. Those who are not such may listen to the Papists, monks, Anabaptists and all the other masters of infinite wisdom and religion, heartily despising what we say and do, without even caring to understand it.
For the Papists and Anabaptists are to-day agreed on this one point against the Church of God (even if their words disguise it), namely, that the work of God depends on the worthiness of the person. According to the Anabaptists, baptism is nothing unless the person is a believer. From this principle (as it is called) it must follow that all the works of God are nothing if man is not good. If baptism, which is a work of God, ceases to be a work of God when man is evil, it follows that the married state, the office of a magistrate, and the station of a servant, which are works of God, are no longer works of God because men are evil. The ungodly have the sun, moon, earth, water, air, and all that is subject to man; yet since they are not godly, it must follow that the sun is not the sun, and moon, earth, water, air, are not what they are. The Anabaptists themselves had bodies and souls before they were re-baptized, but because they were not godly, they had not real bodies and souls. Similarly, their parents were not really married — as they admit — because they were not re-baptized, and therefore the Anabaptists themselves are all illegitimate and their parents were adulterers and fornicators. Yet they inherit their parents’ property, although they admit themselves to be illegitimate and without right of inheritance.
Who cannot see here in the Anabaptists, not men possessed by demons, but demons themselves possessed by worse demons? So also the Papists still to this day insist on works and the worthiness of the person, contrary to grace, thus giving strong support (in words at least) to their brethren the Anabaptists. For these foxes are tied together by the tails, even though their heads look in opposite directions. While they outwardly profess to be great enemies, inwardly they think, teach and defend one and the same thing against our one and only Savior Christ, who alone is our righteousness. Let him who can, then, hold fast to this one article; and let the rest, who make shipwreck, be driven by the wind and waves until they either return to the ship or swim to the shore. But more about the Anabaptists another time, if the Lord Christ wills. Amen. [The foregoing formed the preface to the first edition (1535). In the second edition (1538) and subsequent editions, the following paragraphs were added after ‘swim to the shore.’] The sum and end of the complaint is that there is no hope of peace or an end of complaint so long as Christ and Belial do not agree. One generation passes, another comes. If one heresy dies, another springs up, for the devil neither slumbers nor sleeps. I myself — although I am nothing — who have now been in the ministry of Christ for twenty years, can testify that I have been attacked by more than twenty sects, of which some have entirely perished, while others still show signs of life, like parts of dismembered insects.
But Satan, that god of all factious men, daily raises up new sects, and the latest is one which I should least of all have foreseen or expected. I mean those who teach that the Ten Commandments ought to be taken out of the Church, and that men ought not to be put in fear of the Law, but sweetly exhorted by the grace of Christ; that the saying of the prophet Micah might be fulfilled, that no man should reprove another: ‘Thou shalt not drop upon us.’ As if we did not know, or had never taught, that afflicted and contrite spirits are to be raised up through Christ, but that hard-hearted Pharaohs to whom the grace of God is preached in vain, must be put in fear of the Law. Why, they themselves are compelled to invent revelations of wrath against the wicked and unbelieving — as if the Law were or could be something other than a revelation of Wrath! Such is the blindness and pride of those self-condemned men.
Ministers of the Word, therefore, if they would be counted faithful and prudent on the Day of Christ, ought to be very sure that St. Paul did not speak empty words or prophesy of a thing of nought, when he said: ‘There must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. Let the minister of Christ know, I say, that as long as he preaches Christ purely, there will be no lack of perverse persons, even among our own people, who will make it their business to cause trouble in the Church. And he may comfort himself with the thought that there is no peace between Christ and Belial, or between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent. Indeed, he may rejoice in the trouble he is caused by sects and the constant succession of seditious spirits. For this is our glory, the testimony of our conscience that we are found standing and fighting on the side of the Seed of the woman against the seed of the Serpent. Let him bite our heel and never cease biting; we for our part will not cease to crush his head through Christ, the first to crush it, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
I HAVE taken in hand, in the name of the Lord, yet once again to expound this Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians: not because I do desire to teach new things, or such as ye have not heard before, especially since that, by the grace of God, Paul is now thoroughly known unto you: but for that (as I have often forewarned you) this we have to fear as the greatest and nearest danger, lest Satan take from us the pure doctrine of faith, and bring into the Church again the doctrine of works and men’s traditions.
Wherefore it is very necessary, that this doctrine be kept in continual practice and public exercise both of reading and hearing. And although it be never so well known, never so exactly learned, yet the devil our adversary, who continually rangeth about seeking to devour us, is not dead; likewise our flesh and old man is yet alive; besides this, all kinds of temptations vex and oppress us on every side. Wherefore this doctrine can never be taught, urged, and repeated enough. If this doctrine be lost, then is also the whole knowledge of truth, life and salvation lost and gone. If this doctrine flourish, then all good things flourish, religion, the true service of God, the glory of God, the right knowledge of all things and states of life. Because therefore we would be occupied and not idle, we will there begin now where we made an end, according to the saying of the son of Sirach: ‘When a man hath done what he can, he must begin again’ (Ecclus. 18:6).
THE ARGUMENT OF THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
First of all it behooveth that we speak of the argument of this Epistle: that is to say, what matter St. Paul here chiefly treateth of. The argument therefore is this.
St. Paul goeth about to establish the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness, to the end that we may have a perfect knowledge and difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness. For there be divers sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers and lawyers deal withal. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which the traditions of men do teach. This righteousness parents and schoolmasters may teach without danger, because they do not attribute unto it any power to satisfy for sin, to placate God, or to deserve grace: but they teach such ceremonies as are only necessary for the correction of manners, and certain observations concerning this life.
Besides these, there is another righteousness called the righteousness of the law, or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teacheth. This do we also teach after the doctrine of faith.
There is yet another righteousness which is above all these: to wit, the righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness, the which we must diligently discern from the other afore-rehearsed: for they are quite contrary to this righteousness, both because they flow out of the laws of emperors, the traditions of the Pope, and the commandments of God, and also because they consist in our works, and may be wrought of us either by our pure natural strength (as the sophisters term it) or else by the gift of God. For these kinds of righteousness are also of the gift of God, like as other good things are which we do enjoy.
But this most excellent righteousness, of faith I mean (which God through Christ, without works, imputeth unto us), is neither political nor ceremonial, nor the righteousness of God’s law, nor consisteth in our works, but is clean contrary: that is to say, a mere passive righteousness, as the other above are active. For in this we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but only we receive and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God. Therefore it seemeth good unto me to call this righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, the passive righteousness.
This is a righteousness hidden in a mystery, which the world doth not know, yea, Christians themselves do not thoroughly understand it, and can hardly take hold of it in their temptations. Therefore it must be diligently taught and continually practiced. And whoso doth not understand or apprehend this righteousness in afflictions and terrors of conscience, must needs be overthrown. For there is no comfort of conscience so firm and so sure, as this passive righteousness is.
But man’s weakness and misery is so great, that in the terrors of conscience and danger of death, we behold nothing else but our works, our worthiness and the law: which when it sheweth unto us our sin, by and by our evil life past cometh to remembrance. Then the poor sinner with great anguish of spirit groaneth, and thus thinketh with himself: ‘Alas! how desperately have I lived! Would to God I might live longer: then would I amend my life.’ Thus man’s reason cannot restrain itself from the sight and beholding of this active or working righteousness, that is to say, her own righteousness: nor lift up her eyes to the beholding of the passive or Christian righteousness, but resteth altogether in the active righteousness: so deeply is this evil rooted in us.
On the other side, Satan abusing the infirmity of our nature, doth increase and aggravate these cogitations in us. Then can it not be but that the poor conscience must be more grievously troubled, terrified and confounded.
For it is impossible that the mind of man itself should conceive any comfort, or look up unto grace only, in the feeling and horror of sin, or constantly reject all disputing and reasoning about works. For this is far above man’s strength and capacity, yea and above the law of God also.
True it is, that of all things in the world, the law is most excellent: yet is it not able to quiet a troubled conscience, but increaseth terrors, and driveth it to desperation; for by the commandment sin is made exceeding sinful ( Romans 7:13) Wherefore the afflicted and troubled conscience hath no remedy against desperation and eternal death, unless it take hold of the promise of grace freely offered in Christ, that is to say, this passive righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness. Which if it can apprehend, then may it be at quiet and boldly say: I seek not the active or working righteousness, although I know that I ought to have it, and also to fulfill it. But be it so that I had it, and did fulfill it indeed, yet notwithstanding I cannot trust unto it, neither dare I set it against the judgment of God. Thus I abandon myself from all active righteousness, both of mine own and of God’s law, and embrace only that passive righteousness, which is the righteousness of grace, mercy and forgiveness of sins. Briefly, [I rest only upon] the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, which we do not, but suffer, and have not, but receive; God the Father freely giving it unto us through Jesus Christ.
Like as the earth engendereth not rain, nor is able by her own strength, labor and travail to procure the same, but receiveth it of the mere gift of God from above: so this heavenly righteousness is given us of God without our works or descryings. As much therefore as the earth of itself is able to do in getting and procuring to itself seasonable showers of rain to make it fruitful, even so much are we men able to do by our strength and works in winning this heavenly and eternal righteousness; and therefore we shall never be able to attain unto it, unless God himself by mere imputation and by his unspeakable gift do bestow it upon us. The greatest knowledge, then, and the greatest wisdom of Christians is, not to know the law, to be ignorant of works and of the whole active righteousness, especially when the conscience wrestleth with the judgment of God. Like as on the contrary, amongst those which are not of the number of God’s people, the greatest point of wisdom is, to know and earnestly to urge the law, works, and the active righteousness.
But it is a thing very strange and unknown to the world, to teach Christians to learn to be ignorant of the law, and so to live before God, as if there were no law: notwithstanding, except thou be ignorant of the law, and be assuredly persuaded in thine heart that there is now no law nor wrath of God, but altogether grace and mercy for Christ’s sake, thou canst not be saved; for by the law cometh the knowledge of sin ( Romans 3:20).
Contrariwise, works and the keeping of the law must be so straitly required in the world, as if there were no promise or grace; and that because of the stubborn, proud and hard-hearted, before whose eyes nothing must be set but the law, that they may be terrified and humbled. For the law is given to terrify and kill such, and to exercise the old man; and both the word of grace and of wrath must be rightly divided, according to the Apostle ( Timothy 2:25 f.).
Here is then required a wise and faithful disposer of the Word of God, which can so moderate the law, that it may be kept within his bounds. He that teacheth that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passeth the bounds of the law, and confoundeth these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, and is but an ill logician, for he doth not rightly divide. Contrariwise, he that setteth forth the law and works to the old man, and the promise of forgiveness of sins and God’s mercy to the new man, divideth the Word well. For the flesh or the old man must be coupled with the law and works: the spirit or new man must be joined with the promise of God and his mercy. Wherefore when I see a man that is bruised enough already, oppressed with the law, terrified with sin, and thirsting for comfort, it is time that I should remove out of his sight the law and active righteousness, and that should set before him by the Gospel the Christian and passive righteousness, which excluding Moses with his law, offereth the promise made in Christ, who came for the afflicted and for sinners. Here is man raised up again and conceiveth good hope, neither is he any longer under the law, but under grace ( Romans 6:14). How not under the law? According to the new man, to whom the law doth not appertain. For the law hath his bounds unto Christ, as Paul saith afterwards: ‘The end of the law is Christ’ ( Galatians 3:24; Romans 10:4); who being come, Moses ceaseth with his law, circumcision, the sacrifices, the sabbaths, yea and all the prophets.
This is our divinity, whereby we teach how to put a difference between these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive: to the end that manners and faith, works and grace, policy and religion should not be confounded, or taken the one for the other. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their bounds: Christian righteousness appertaineth to the new man, and the righteousness of the law appertaineth to the old man, which is born of flesh and blood. Upon this old man, as upon an ass, there must be laid a burden that may press him down, and he must not enjoy the freedom of the Spirit, or grace, except he first put upon him the new man by faith in Christ (which notwithstanding is not fully done in this life); then may he enjoy the kingdom and unspeakable gift of grace.
This I say to the end that no man should think we reject or forbid good works, as the Papists do most falsely slander us, neither understanding what they themselves say, nor what we teach. They know nothing but the righteousness of the law, and yet they will judge of that doctrine which is far above the law, of which it is impossible that the carnal man should be able to judge. Therefore they must needs be offended, for they can see no higher than the law. Whatsoever then is above the law, is to them a great offense.
But we imagine as it were two worlds, the one heavenly and the other earthly. In these we place these two kinds of righteousness, being separate the one far from the other. The righteousness of the law is earthly and hath to do with earthly things, and by it we do good works. But as the earth bringeth not forth fruit except first it be watered and made fruitful from above (for the earth cannot judge, renew and rule the heaven, but contrariwise the heaven judgeth, reneweth, ruleth and maketh fruitful the earth, that it may do what the Lord hath commanded): even so by the righteousness of the law, in doing many things we do nothing, and in fulfilling of the law we fulfill it not, except first, without any merit or work of ours, we be made righteous by the Christian righteousness, which nothing appertaineth to the righteousness of the law, or to the earthly and active righteousness. But this righteousness is heavenly and passive: which we have not of ourselves, but receive it from heaven: which we work not, but apprehend it by faith; whereby we mount up above all laws and works.
Wherefore like as we have borne (as St. Paul saith) the image of the earthly Adam, so let us bear the image of the heavenly ( 1 Corinthians 15:49), which is the new man in a new world, where is no law, no sin, no sting of conscience, no death, but perfect joy, righteousness, grace, peace, life, salvation and glory.
Why, do we then nothing? Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer: Nothing at all. For the nature of this righteousness is, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing whatsoever of the law or of works, but to know and to believe this only, that Christ is gone to the Father and is not now seen: that he sitteth in heaven at the right hand of his Father, not as a judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption: briefly, that he is our high-priest entreating for us, and reigning over us and in us by race.
Here no sin is perceived, no terror or remorse of conscience felt; for in this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place for there is no law, and where no law is, there can be no transgression ( Romans 4:15).
Seeing then that sin hath here no place, there can be no anguish of conscience, no fear, no heaviness. Therefore St. John saith: ‘He that is born of God cannot sin’ ( 1 John 3:9). But if there be any fear or grief of conscience, it is a token that this righteousness is withdrawn, that grace is hidden, and that Christ is darkened and out of sight. But where Christ is truly seen indeed, there must needs be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which most certainly thus thinketh: Although I am a sinner by the law, as touching the righteousness of the law, yet I despair not, yet I die not, because Christ liveth, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting and heavenly life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin, no sting of conscience, no care of death. I am indeed a sinner as touching this present life and the righteousness thereof, as the child of Adam: where the law accuseth me, death reigneth over me, and at length would devour me. But I have another righteousness and life above this life, which is Christ the Son of God, who knoweth no sin nor death, but is righteousness and life eternal: by whom even this my body, being dead and brought into dust, shall be raised up again and delivered from the bondage of the law and sin, and shall be sanctified together with the spirit.
So both these continue whilst we here live. The flesh is accused, exercised with temptations, oppressed with heaviness and sorrow, bruised by the active righteousness of the law; but the spirit reigneth, rejoiceth and is saved by this passive and Christian righteousness, because it knoweth that it hath a Lord in heaven at the right hand of the Father, who hath abolished the law, sin, death, and hath trodden under his feet all evils, led them captive and triumphed over them in himself ( Colossians 2:15).
St. Paul therefore in this Epistle goeth about diligently to instruct us, to comfort us, to hold us in the perfect knowledge of this most Christian and excellent righteousness. For if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost. And as many as are in the world that hold not this doctrine, are either Jews, Turks, Papists or heretics. For between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Christ, or between active and passive righteousness, there is no mean. He then that strayeth from this Christian righteousness, must needs fall into the active righteousness; that is to say, when he hath lost Christ, he must fall into the confidence of his own works.
This we see at this day in the fantastical spirits and authors of sects, which teach nothing, neither can teach anything aright, concerning this righteousness of grace. The words indeed they have taken out of our mouth and writings, and these only do they speak and write. But the thing itself they are not able to deliver and straitly to urge, because they neither do nor can understand it, since they cleave only to the righteousness of the law. Therefore they are and remain exactors of the law, having no power to ascend higher than that active righteousness. And so they remain the same as they were under the Pope, save that they invent new names and new works, and yet notwithstanding the thing remaineth the same: even as the Turks do other works than the Papists, and the Papists than the Jews, etc. But albeit that some do works more splendid, great, and difficult by far than others, notwithstanding the substance is the same, the quality only is different: that is to say, the works do differ in appearance and name only, and not in very deed, for they are works notwithstanding, and they which do them are and remain, not Christians, but hirelings, whether they be called Jews, Mahometists, Papists, etc.
Therefore do we so earnestly set forth and so often repeat this doctrine of faith or Christian righteousness, that by this means it may be kept in continual exercise, and may be plainly discerned from the active righteousness of the law. (For by this only doctrine the Church is built, and in this it consisteth.) Otherwise we shall never be able to hold the true divinity, but by and by we shall either become canonists, observers of ceremonies, observers of the law, or Papists, and Christ so darkened that none in the Church shall be either rightly taught or comforted. Wherefore, if we will be teachers and leaders of others, it behooveth us to have great care of these matters, and to mark well this distinction between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Christ. And this distinction is easy to be uttered in words, but in use and experience it is very hard, although it be never so diligently exercised and practiced; for in the hour of death, or in other agonies of the conscience, these two sorts of righteousness do encounter more near together than thou wouldest wish or desire.
Where I do admonish you, especially such as shall become instructors and guiders of consciences, and also every one apart, that ye exercise yourselves continually by study, by reading, by meditation of the Word and by prayer, that in the time of temptation ye may be able to instruct and comfort both your own consciences and others, and to bring them from the law to grace, from active and working righteousness to the passive and received righteousness, and, to conclude, from Moses to Christ. For the devil is wont, in affliction and in the conflict of conscience, by the law to make us afraid, and to lay against us the guilt of sin, our wicked life past, the wrath and judgment of God, hell and eternal death, that by this means he may drive us to desperation, make us bond-slaves to himself, and pluck us from Christ. Furthermore, he is wont to set against us those places of the Gospel, wherein Christ himself requireth works of us, and with plain words threateneth damnation to those who do them not. Now, if here we be not able to judge between these two kinds of righteousness, if we take not by faith hold of Christ sitting at the right hand of God, who maketh intercession unto the Father for us wretched sinners ( Hebrews 7:25), then are we under the law and not under grace, and Christ is no more a savior, but a lawgiver. Then can there remain no more salvation, but a certain desperation and everlasting death must needs follow.
Let us then diligently learn to judge between these two kinds of righteousness, that we may know how far we ought to obey the law. Now we have said before, that the law in a Christian ought not to pass his bounds, but ought to have dominion only over the flesh, which is in subjection unto it, and remaineth under the same. When it is thus, the law is kept within his bounds. But if it shall presume to creep into thy conscience, and there seek to reign, see thou play the cunning logician, and make the true division. Give no more to the law than belongeth unto it, but say thou: O law, thou wouldest climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reign and reprove it of sin, and wouldest take from me the joy of my heart, which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation, that I might be without all hope, and utterly perish. This thou dost besides thine office: keep thyself within thy bounds, and exercise thy power upon the flesh, but touch not my conscience; for I am baptized, and by the Gospel am called to the partaking of righteousness and of everlasting life, to the kingdom of Christ, wherein my conscience is at rest, where no law is, but altogether forgiveness of sins, peace, quietness, joy, health and everlasting life. Trouble me not in these matters, for I will not suffer thee, so intolerable a tyrant and cruel tormentor, to reign in my conscience, for it is the seat and temple of Christ the Son of God, who is the king of righteousness and peace, and my most sweet savior and mediator: he shall keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound and pure doctrine of the Gospel, and in the knowledge of this passive and heavenly righteousness.
When I have this righteousness reigning in my heart, I descend from heaven as the rain making fruitful the earth that is to say, I come forth into another kingdom, and I do good works, how and whensoever occasion is offered. If I be a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the brokenhearted, I administer the Sacraments. If I be an householder, I govern my house and my family, I bring up my children in the knowledge and fear of God. If I be a magistrate, the charge that is given me from above I diligently execute. If I be a servant, I do my master’s business faithfully. To conclude: whosoever he be that is assuredly persuaded that Christ is his righteousness, doth not only cheerfully and gladly work well in his vocation, but also submitteth himself through love to the magistrates and to their laws, yea though they be severe, sharp and cruel, and (if necessity do so require) to all manner of burdens and dangers of this present life, because he knoweth that this is the will of God, and that this obedience pleaseth him.
Thus far as concerning the argument of this Epistle, whereof Paul intreateth, taking occasion of false teachers who had darkened this righteousness of faith among the Galatians, against whom he setteth himself in defending and commending his authority and office.
PAUL, AN APOSTLE (NOT OF MEN, NEITHER BY MAN, BUT BY JESUS CHRIST, AND GOD THE FATHER, WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD).
NOW that we have declared the argument and sum of this Epistle to the Galatians, we think it good, before we come to the matter itself, to shew what was the occasion St. Paul wrote this Epistle. He had planted among the Galatians the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the righteousness of faith; but by and by after his departure, there crept in certain false teachers, which overthrew all that he had planted and truly taught among them. For the devil cannot but furiously impugn this doctrine with all force and subtlety, neither can he rest so long as he seeth any spark thereof remaining. We also, for this only cause, that we preach the Gospel, do suffer of the world, the devil, and his ministers, all the mischief that they can work against us, both on the right hand and on the left.
For the Gospel is such a doctrine as teacheth a far higher matter than is the wisdom, righteousness, and religion of the world, that is to say, free remission of sins through Christ, etc. It leaveth those things in their degree, to be as they are, and commendeth them as the good creatures of God. But the world preferreth these creatures before the Creator, and moreover, by them would put away sin, be delivered from death, and deserve everlasting life. This doth the Gospel condemn. Contrariwise, the world cannot suffer those things to be condemned which it most esteemeth and best liketh of, and therefore it chargeth the Gospel that it is a seditious doctrine and full of errors, that it overthroweth commonwealths, countries, dominions, kingdoms and empires, and therefore offendeth both against God and the Emperor, abolisheth laws, corrupteth good manners, and setteth all men at liberty to do what they list. Wherefore, with just zeal and high service to God (as it would seem) it persecuteth this doctrine, and abhorreth the teachers and professors thereof as the greatest plague that can be in the whole earth.
Moreover, by the preaching of this doctrine, the devil is overthrown, his kingdom is destroyed, the law, sin and death (wherewith, as most mighty and invincible tyrants, he hath brought all mankind in subjection under his dominion) are wrested out of his hands: briefly, his prisoners are translated out of the kingdom of darkness, Into the kingdom of light and liberty.
Should the devil suffer all this? Should not the father of lies employ all his force and subtle policies, to darken, to corrupt, and utterly to root out this doctrine of salvation and everlasting life? Indeed, St. Paul complaineth in this and all other his epistles, that even in his time the devil through his apostles shewed himself a cunning workman in this business.
Likewise we also at this day do complain and lament, that Satan hath wrought greater harm to our Gospel by his ministers, the fantastical spirits, than by all the tyrants, kings, princes and bishops that have persecuted it and still do persecute it by force. And had we not watched and labored with such diligence in planting and teaching this doctrine of faith, we had not so long time remained in concord, but among us also there had long since arisen sects. But because we abide constantly in this doctrine, and it is ceaselessly urged by us, it preserveth us in fullest unity and peace. But others, who either neglect it or desire to teach (as they think) something more exalted, do fall into various pernicious errors and sects whereof there is no end, and so they perish.
We thought good to shew here by the way, that the Gospel is such a doctrine as condemneth all manner of righteousness, and preacheth the only righteousness of Christ, and to them that embrace the same, it bringeth peace of conscience and all good things; and yet, notwithstanding, the world hateth and persecuteth it most bitterly.
I have said before, that the occasion why St. Paul wrote this Epistle, was for that by and by after his departure, false teachers had destroyed those things among the Galatians which he with long and great travail had built.
And these false apostles being of the circumcision and sect of the Pharisees, were men of great estimation and authority, who bragged among the people that they were of that holy and chosen stock of the Jews ( John 8, Romans 4:4 ff.), that they were Israelites of the seed of Abraham, that they had the promises and the fathers; and finally, that they were the ministers of Christ, and the Apostles’ scholars, with whom they had been conversant, and had seen their miracles, and perhaps had also wrought some signs or miracles themselves for Christ witnesseth ( Matthew 7:22) that the wicked also do work miracles. When men having such authority come into any country or city, by and by the people have them in great admiration, and under this color of godliness and religion, they do not only deceive the simple, but also the learned; yea, and those also which seem to be somewhat confirmed in the faith: especially when they brag (as these did) that they are the offspring of the Patriarchs, the ministers of Christ, the Apostles’ scholars, etc. Moreover, these false apostles, by all the crafty means they could devise, defaced the authority of St. Paul, saying: ‘Why do ye so highly esteem of Paul? Why have ye him in so great reverence? Forsooth, he was but the last of all that were converted unto Christ. But we are the disciples of the Apostles, and were familiarly conversant with them. We have seen Christ working miracles, and heard him preach. Paul came after us, and is inferior unto us: and it is not possible that God should suffer us to err who are of his holy people, the ministers of Christ, and have received the Holy Ghost. Again, we are many, and Paul is but one, and alone, who neither is conversant with the Apostles, nor hath seen Christ. Yea, he persecuted the Church of Christ a great while. Would God (think ye) for Paul’s sake only, suffer so many churches to be deceived?’
Even so the Pope at this day, when he hath no authority of the Scripture to defend himself withal, useth this one argument continually against us, ‘The Church, the Church.’ ‘Thinkest thou that God is so offended, that for a few heretics of Luther’s sect he will cast off his whole Church? Thinkest thou that he would leave his Church in error so many hundred years?’ And this he mightily maintaineth, that the Church can never be overthrown. Now, like as many are moved with this argument at this day, so in Paul’s time these false apostles, through great bragging and setting forth of their own praises, blinded the eyes of the Galatians, so that Paul lost his authority among them, and his doctrine was brought in suspicion.
Against this vain bragging and boasting of the false apostles, Paul with great constancy and boldness setteth his apostolic authority, highly commending his vocation, and defending his ministry. And (although elsewhere he never doth the like) he will not give place to any, no, not to the Apostles themselves, much less to any of their scholars. And to abate their pharisaical pride and shameless boldness, he maketh mention of the history done in Antioch, where he withstood Peter himself. Besides this, not regarding the offense that might arise thereof, he saith plainly in the text, that he was bold to accuse and reprove Peter himself, the chief of the Apostles, who had seen Christ, and had been most familarly conversant with him. I am an Apostle (saith he) and such a one as pass not what others are: yea, I was not afraid to chide the very pillar of all the rest of the Apostles. And to conclude, in the first two chapters, he doth, in a manner, nothing else but set out his vocation, his office and his Gospel, affirming that it was not of men, and that he had not received it by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ: also, that if he, or an angel from heaven, should bring any other gospel than that which he had preached, he should be holden accursed.
THE CERTAINTY OF CALLING.
But what meaneth Paul by this boasting? I answer: This common place serveth to this end, that every minister of God’s Word should be sure of his calling, that before God and man he may with a bold conscience glory therein, that he preacheth the Gospel as one that is called and sent: even as the ambassador of a king glorieth and vaunteth in this, that he cometh not as a private person, but as the king’s ambassador; and because of this dignity, that he is the king’s ambassador, he is honored and set in the highest place: which honor should not be given unto him if he came as a private person. Wherefore, let the preacher of the Gospel be certain that his calling is from God. And it is expedient, that according to the example of Paul, he should magnify this his calling, to the end that he may win credit and authority among the people, like as the king’s ambassador magnifieth his office and calling. And thus to glory is not vain, but a necessary kind of glorying, because he glorieth not in himself, but in the king which hath sent him, whose authority he desireth to be honored and magnified. And when in the name of the king he willeth aught to be done by his subjects, he saith not: We pray you, but: We command, we will this to ‘be done, etc.
But for his private person he saith: We pray, etc.
Likewise, when Paul so highly commendeth his calling, he seeketh not his own praise, but with a necessary and a holy pride he magnifieth his ministry; as to the Romans ( 11:13) he saith: ‘Forasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I will magnify mine office,’ that is to say, I will that men receive me, not as Paul of Tarsus, but as Paul the apostle or ambassador of Jesus Christ. And this he doth of necessity, to maintain his authority, that the people in hearing this, might be more attaint and willing to give ear unto him. For they hear not only Paul, but in Paul Christ himself, and God the Father sending him out in his message: whose authority and majesty, like as men ought religiously to honor, so ought they with great reverence to receive and to hear also his messengers bringing his word and message.
This is a notable place, therefore, wherein Paul so glorieth and boasteth as touching his vocation, that he despiseth all others. If any man, after the manner of the world, should despise all others in respect of himself, and attribute all unto himself alone, he should not only show himself a very fool, but also grievously sin. But this manner of boasting is necessary, and pertaineth not to the glory of Paul, but to the glory of God, whereby is offered unto him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. For by this boasting, the name, the grace, and the mercy of God, is made known unto the world. Thus therefore he beginneth his Epistle.
PAUL AN APOSTLE, NOT OF MEN, ETC.
Here in the very beginning he toucheth those false teachers which boasted themselves to be the disciples of the Apostles, and to be sent of them, but despised Paul as one that was neither the Apostles’ scholar, nor sent of any to preach the Gospel, but came in some other way, and of his own head thrust himself into that office. Against those Paul defendeth his calling, saying: My calling seemeth base to your preachers; but whosoever they be which are come unto you, are sent either of men, or by man; that is to say, they have entered either of themselves, being not called, or else called by others. But my calling is not of men, nor by man, but it is above all manner of calling that can be made after the Apostles, for it is ‘by Jesus Christ, and by God the Father,’ etc.
Where he saith ‘of men,’ I mean such as call and thrust in themselves, when neither God nor man calleth or sendeth them, but they run and speak of themselves; as at this day certain fantastical spirits do, which either lurk in corners and seek places where they may pour out their poison, and come not into public congregations, or else they resort thither where the Gospel is planted already. These I call such as are of men. But where he saith ‘by man,’ I understand such as have a divine calling, but yet by man as by means. God calleth in two manner of ways: by means and without means.
He calleth us all to the ministry of his Word at this day, not immediately by himself, but by other means; that is to say, by man. But the Apostles were called immediately of Christ himself, as the prophets in the Old Testament were called of God himself, Afterwards the Apostles called their disciples, as Paul called Timothy, Titus, etc. These men called bishops (as in <560101>Titus 1), and the bishops their successors down to our own times, and so on to the end of the world. And this is a mediated calling, since it is done by man; yet notwithstanding it is of God.
So when a prince or magistrate or I call any man, that man hath his calling by man; and this is the general manner of calling in the world since the Apostles’ time. Nor ought it to be changed, but magnified, on account of the fantastical heads, which contemn it and boast of another calling, whereby they say they are impelled by the Spirit to teach. But they are liars and impostors, for they are driven by a spirit which is not good, but evil. For it is not lawful for me to leave my appointed place as a preacher and go unto another city where I am not called, and there preach although as a Doctor of Divinity I might preach in the whole Papacy, would they but tolerate me); no, not even if I hear that falsehoods are bring taught, and souls seduced and damned which I might snatch from error and damnation by my sound doctrine. But I ought to commit the matter unto God, who in his own time wilt find occasion of lawfully calling ministers and giving the Word. For he is the Lord of the harvest, who will send laborers into his harvest; our part is to pray ( Matthew 9:38).
Wherefore we ought not to force our way into another’s harvest, as the devil is wont to stir up his ministers to do, so that they run without being called and profess with most ardent zeal to be grieved that men are being so miserably seduced, and to desire to teach them the truth and snatch than from the snares of the devil. Even, therefore, if a man with a godly zeal and a good intent seeketh by his own sound doctrine to deliver from error them that are led astray, notwithstanding there ariseth hereof a bad example, whereby occasion is given to ungodly teachers to thrust themselves in, through whom Satan afterwards occupieth the chair; and this example worketh very great harm.
But when the prince or other magistrate calleth me, then can I with assured confidence boast against the devil and the enemies of the Gospel, that I am called by the command of God through the voice of a man. For there is the command of God through the mouth of the prince; and these are true vocations. We also, therefore, are called by divine authority, not indeed immediately by Christ, as the Apostles were, but ‘by man.’
Now this place concerning the certainty of calling is very necessary on account of those pestilential and satanic spirits, so that every minister of the Word may boast with John the Baptist: ‘The word of the Lord is come upon me’ ( Luke 3:2). When, there, re, I preach, baptize, administer the sacraments, I do these things as one commanded and called, because the voice of the Lord is come unto me: not in a corner, as the fantastical spirits do boast, but through the mouth of a man who is in the exercise of his lawful right. But if one or two citizens should ask me to preach, I ought not to follow such a private calling, since a window is thereby opened to the ministers of Satan, who following this example do harm, as we have said above. But when they which hold public offices ask me, then I ought to obey.
Therefore, when Paul saith, ‘Not of men, neither by man,’ he beateth down the false apostles; as though he would say: Although those vipers brag never so much, what can they brag more than that they are either come ‘of men,’ that is to say, of themselves without any calling, or ‘by man,’ that is to say, sent of others? I pass not upon any of these things, neither ought you to regard them. As for me, I am called and sent neither of men, nor by man, but without means, that is to wit, by Jesus Christ himself, and my calling is like in all points the calling of the Apostles, and I am indeed an Apostle. Paul, therefore, handleth this place, of the calling of the Apostles, effectually. And elsewhere, he separateth the degree of apostleship from others, as in 1 Corinthians 12:28, and in Ephesians 4, where he saith: ‘And God hath ordained some in the Church, as first Apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers’ etc., setting Apostles in the first place; so that they be properly called Apostles, which are sent immediately of God himself, without any other person as means.
So Matthias was called only of God ( Acts 1:23 ff.), for when the other Apostles had appointed two, they durst not choose the one nor the other, but they cast lots, and prayed that God would show which of them he would have. For, seeing he should be an Apostle, it behoved that he should be called of God. So was Paul called to be the Apostle of the Gentiles ( Acts 9:15). Hereof the Apostles also are called saints; for they are sure of their calling and doctrine, and have continued faithful in their office, and none of them became a castaway saving Judas, because their calling is holy.
This is the first assault that Paul maketh against the false apostles, which ran when no man sent them. Calling, therefore, is not to be despised; for it is not enough for a man to have the Word and pure doctrine, but also he must be assured of his calling; and he that entereth without this assurance, entereth to no other end but to kill and destroy. For God never prospereth the labor of those that are not called. And although they teach some good and profitable matters, yet they edify not. So at this day, our fantastical spirits have the words of faith in their mouths, but yet they yield no fruit, but their chief end and purpose is to draw men to their false and perverse opinions. They that have a certain and holy calling must ofttimes sustain many and great conflicts, as they must do whose doctrine is pure and sound, that they may constantly abide in their salutary office, against the infinite and continual assaults of the devil and rage of the world. Here, what should he do whose calling is uncertain, and doctrine corrupt?
This is therefore our comfort, which are in the ministry of the Word, that we have an office which is heavenly and holy, to the which we being lawfully called, do triumph against all the gates of hell. On the other side, it is an horrible thing when the conscience saith: ‘This thou hast done without any lawful calling.’ Here such terror shaketh a man’s mind which is not called, that he would wish he had never heard the Word which he teacheth; for by his disobedience he maketh all his works evil, were they never so good, insomuch that even his greatest works and labors become his greatest sins.
We see then how good and necessary this boasting and glorying of our ministry is. In times past, when I was but a young divine, methought Paul did unwisely in glorying so oft of his calling in his epistles; but I did not understand his purpose; for I knew not that the ministry of God’s Word was so weighty a matter. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith and a true conscience indeed, for that there was then no certainty taught in either the schools or churches, but all was full of sophistical subtleties of the schoolmen; and therefore no man was able to understand the dignity and power of this holy and spiritual boasting of the true and lawful calling, which serveth first to the glory of God, and secondly to the advancing of our ministry, and moreover, to the salvation of ourselves and of the people.
For by this our boasting we seek not estimation in the world, or praise among men, or money, or pleasures, or favor of the world; but forasmuch as we be in a divine calling, and in the work of God, and the people have great need to be assured of our calling, that they may know our word to be the Word of God, therefore we proudly vaunt and boast of it. It is not then a vain, but a most holy pride against the devil and the world, and true humility before God.
AND BY GOD THE FATHER, WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD
Paul is so inflamed here with zeal, that he cannot tarry till he come to the matter itself, but forthwith, in the very title, he bursteth out and uttereth what he hath in his heart. His intent in this Epistle is, to treat of the righteousness that cometh by faith, and to defend the same: again, to beat down the law, and the righteousness that cometh by works. Of such cogitations he is full, and out of this wonderful and exceeding great abundance of the excellent wisdom and knowledge of Christ in his heart, his mouth speaketh. This flame, this great burning fire of his heart, cannot be hid, nor suffer him to hold his tongue; and therefore he thought it not enough to say that he was an Apostle sent by Jesus Christ, but also addeth: ‘by God the Father, who hath raised him up from the dead.’
But it seemeth here, that the adding of these words: ‘And by God the Father, etc.’ is not necessary. But because (as I said) Paul speaketh out of the abundance of his heart, his mind burneth with desire to set forth, even in the very entry of his Epistle, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to preach the righteousness of God, which is called the resurrection of the dead. Christ, who liveth and is risen again, speaketh out of him, and moveth him thus to Speak; therefore not without cause he addeth, that he is also an Apostle ‘by God the Father, who hath raised up Jesus Christ from the dead.’ As if he should say, I have to deal with Satan, and with those vipers, the instruments of Satan, which go about to spoil me of the righteousness of Christ, who was raised up by God the Father from the dead; by the which alone we are made righteous, by the which also we shall be raised up at the last day, from death to everlasting life. But they that in such sort go about to overthrow the righteousness of Christ, do resist the Father and the Son, and the work of them both.
Thus Paul, even at the first entrance, bursteth out into the whole matter whereof he entreateth in this Epistle. For (as I said) he treateth of the resurrection of Christ, who rose again to make us righteous, and in so doing he hath overcome the law, sin, death, hell, and all evils ( Romans 4:25). Christ’s victory, then, is the overcoming of the law, of sin, our flesh, the world, the devil, death, hell and all evils: and this his victory he hath given unto us. Although, then, these tyrants and these enemies of ours do accuse us and make us afraid, yet can they not drive us to despair, nor condemn us; for Christ, whom God the Father hath raised up from the dead, is our righteousness and victory ( 1 Corinthians 15:57).
Therefore, thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
But mark how fitly and to the purpose Paul here speaketh. He saith not: By God who hath made heaven and earth, who is Lord of Angels, who commanded Abraham to go out of his own country, who sent Moses to Pharaoh the king, who brought Israel out of Egypt (as the false prophets did, who boasted of the God of their fathers, the Creator, Maintainer, and Preserver of all things, working wonders among his people); but Paul had another thing in his heart, namely, the righteousness of Christ, and therefore he speaketh words that make much for this his purpose, saying: ‘I am an Apostle, neither of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who hath raised him up from the dead.’ Ye see, then, with what fervency of spirit Paul is led in this matter, which he goeth about to establish and maintain against the whole kingdom of hell, the power and wisdom of the world, and against the devil and his apostles.
AND ALL THE BRETHREN WITH ME
This maketh much for the stopping of the mouths of these false apostles; for all his arguments tend to the advancing and magnifying of his ministry, and contrariwise, to the discrediting of theirs; as if he should thus say:
Although it be enough, that through a divine calling am sent as an Apostle by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who hath raised him up from the dead; yet lest I should be alone, I add over and besides (which is more than needeth) all the brethren, which are not Apostles, but fellow-soldiers: they write this epistle as well as I, and bear witness with me that my doctrine as true and godly. Wherefore we be sure that Christ is present with us, and that he teacheth and speaketh in the midst of us, and in our Church. As for the false apostles, if they be anything, they be but sent either of men or by man; but I am sent of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, who is our life and resurrection ( John 11:25). My other brethren are sent from God, howbeit by man, that is to wit, by me. Therefore, lest they might say that I alone set myself proudly against so many, I have my brethren with me, all of one mind, as faithful witnesses, which think, write, and teach the selfsame thing that I do.
UNTO THE CHURCHES OF GALATIA
Paul had preached the Gospel throughout all Galatia, and albeit he had not wholly converted it unto Christ, yet he had many churches in it, into the which the false apostles, Satan’s ministers, had crept. So likewise at this day, the fantastical spirits come not to those places where the adversaries of the Gospel bear rule, but where Christians and good men are which love the Gospel. With such they wind in themselves even in the dominions of tyrants and persecutors of the Gospel: where they, creeping into houses under crafty pretense, pour out their poison to the subversion of many. But why go they not rather into the cities, countries, and dominions of the Papists, and there profess and maintain their doctrine in the presence of wicked princes, bishops, and doctors in the universities, as we by God’s help and assistance have done? These tender martyrs will adventure no peril, but they resort thither where the Gospel hath an harbor already, where they may live without danger in great peace and quietness. So the false apostles would not endanger themselves to come to Jerusalem to Caiaphas, or to Rome to the emperor, or to other places where no man had preached afore, as Paul and the other Apostles did: but they came into Galatia, which was won unto Christ already by the labor and travail of Paul, and into Asia, and Corinth, and such other places, where good men were that professed the name of Christ, persecuting no man, but suffering all things quietly There might the enemies of Christ’s cross live in great security, and without any persecution.
And here we may learn that it is the lot of godly preachers, that besides the persecution which they suffer of the wicked and unthankful world, and the great travail which they sustain in planting of churches, they are compelled to suffer that thing, which they of long time before had purely taught, to be quickly overthrown of fantastical spirits, who afterwards reign and rule over them. This grieveth godly ministers more than any persecution of tyrants. Therefore, let him not be a minister of the Gospel, which is not content to be thus despised, or is loath to bear this reproach: or if he be, let him give over his charge to another. We also at this day do find the same thing to be true by experience. We are miserably contemned and vexed outwardly by tyrants, inwardly by those whom we have restored to liberty by the Gospel, and also by false brethren. But this is our comfort and glory, that being called of God, we have a promise of everlasting life, and look for that reward ‘which eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:9). For when the great shepherd Christ shall appear, we shall receive an incorruptible crown of glory ( 1 Peter 5:4): who here also in this world will not suffer us to perish for hunger.
Jerome moveth here a great question, why Paul calleth those churches, which were no churches: for Paul (saith he) writeth to the Galatians that were perverted and turned back from Christ and from grace, unto Moses and the law. Hereunto I answer, that Paul calleth them the churches of Galatia, by putting a part for the whole, which is a common thing in the Scriptures. For writing in like manner to the Corinthians, he rejoiceth on their behalf, that the grace of God was given them in Christ, namely, that they were made rich through him in all utterance and knowledge. And yet many of them were misled by false apostles, and believed not the resurrection of the dead. So we also at this day call the Roman church holy, and all its bishoprics holy, even though they be abused and the ministers of them ungodly. For God ‘ruleth in the midst of his enemies’ ( <19B002>Psalm 110:2), ‘Antichrist sitteth in the temple of God’ ( Thessalonians 2:4), and Satan is present in the midst of the sons of God ( Job 1:6). Even if the Church is ‘in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation’ (as Paul saith, Philippians 2:15), even if it is in the midst of wolves and robbers, that is to say, spiritual tyrants, it is none the less the Church. Although the city of Rome is worse than Sodom and Gomorrha, yet there remain in it Baptism, the Sacrament, the voice and text of the Gospel, the Holy Scripture, the Ministries, the name of Christ and the name of God. Those who have these things, have them; those who have not are not excused, for the treasure is there. Therefore the Roman church is holy, because it hath the holy name of God, the Gospel, Baptism, etc. If these things are found among a people, that people is called holy. So our Wittenberg is a holy town, and we are truly holy because we have been baptized, communicated, taught and called of God; we have God’s works among us, namely the Word and Sacraments, and these make us holy.
I say these things to the end that we may diligently distinguish Christian holiness from other kinds of holiness. The monks called their orders holy (although they durst not call themselves holy); but they are not holy; because, as we said above, Christian holiness is not active, but passive holiness. Wherefore let no man call himself holy on account of his manner of life or his works, if he fasteth, prayeth, scourgeth his body, giveth alms to the poor, comforteth the sorrowful and afflicted, etc. Else should the Pharisee in Luke ( 18:11 f.) also be holy. The works indeed are good, and God straitly requireth them of us, but they make us not holy. Thou and I are holy, Church, city and people are holy, not by their own, but by an alien holiness, not by active, but by passive holiness, because they possess divine and holy things, to wit, the vocation of the ministry, the Gospel, baptism, etc., whereby they are holy.
Albeit then, that the Galatians were fallen away from the doctrine of Paul, yet did Baptism, the Word, and the name of Christ, remain among them.
There were also some good men that were not revolted, which had a right opinion of the Word and Sacraments, and used them well. Moreover, these things could not be defiled through them that were revolted. For Baptism, the Gospel, and other things, are not therefore made unholy, because many are polluted and unholy, and have an evil opinion of them: but they abide holy and the same that they were, whether they be among the godly or the ungodly: by whom they can neither be polluted, nor made holy. By our good or evil conversation, by our good or evil life and manners, they be polluted or made holy in the sight of the heathen, but not afore God. Wherefore, the Church is holy even where fantastical spirits do reign, if only they deny not the Word and Sacraments. For if these be denied, there cannot be the Church. Wherefore, wheresoever the substance of the Word and Sacraments remaineth, there is the holy Church, although Antichrist there reign, who (as the Scripture witnesseth) sitteth not in a stable of fiends, or in a swine-sty, or in a company of infidels, but in the highest and holiest place of all, namely, in the temple of God. Wherefore, although spiritual tyrants reign, yet there must be a temple of God, and the same must be preserved under them. Therefore I answer briefly to this question, that the Church is universal throughout the whole world, wheresoever the Gospel of God and the Sacraments be. The Jews, the Turks, and other vain spirits, are not the Church, because they fight against these things and deny them. Hitherto as touching the title or inscription of this Epistle. Now followeth the salutation or greeting of Paul.
GRACE BE WITH YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER, AND FROM OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
I hope ye are not ignorant what grace and peace meaneth, seeing that these terms are common in Paul, and now not obscure or unknown. But forasmuch as we take in hand to expound this Epistle (which we do, not because it is needful, or for any hardness that is in it, but that our consciences may be confirmed against heresies yet to come), let it not be tedious unto you, if we repeat these things again, that elsewhere and at other times we teach, preach, sing, and set out by writing. For if we lose the article of justification, we lose all things together. Therefore most necessary it is, chiefly and above all things, that we teach and repeat this article continually; like as Moses saith of his law. For it cannot be beaten into our ears enough or too much. Yea, though we learn it and understand it well, yet is there none that taketh hold of it perfectly, or believeth it with all his heart. ‘So frail a thing is our flesh, and disobedient to the spirit.
The greeting of the Apostle is strange unto the world, and was never heard of before the preaching of the Gospel. And these two words, grace and peace, comprehend in them whatsoever belongeth to Christianity. Grace releaseth sin, and peace maketh the conscience quiet. The two fiends that torment us are sin and conscience. But Christ hath vanquished these two monsters, and trodden them under foot, both in this world and the world to come. This the world doth not know, and therefore it can teach no certainty of the overcoming of sin, conscience and death. Only Christians have this kind of doctrine, and are exercised and armed with it, to get victory against sin, despair and everlasting death. And it is a kind of doctrine neither proceeding of free-will, nor invented by the reason or wisdom of man, but given from above. Moreover, these two words, grace and peace, do contain in them the whole sum of Christianity. Grace containeth the remission of sins, peace a quiet and joyful conscience. But peace of conscience can never be had, unless sin be first forgiven. But sin is not forgiven for the fulfilling of the law: for no man is able to satisfy the law. But the law doth rather show sin, accuse and terrify the conscience, declare the wrath of God, and drive to desperation. Much less is sin taken away by the works and inventions of men, as wicked worshippings, strange religions, vows and pilgrimages. Finally, there is no work that can take away sin; but sin is rather increased by works. For the justiciaries and merit-mongers, the more they labor and sweat to bring themselves out of sin, the deeper they are plunged therein. For there is no means to take away sin, but grace alone. Therefore Paul, in all the greetings of his epistles, setteth grace and peace against sin and an evil conscience. This thing must be diligently marked. The words are easy; but in temptation it is the hardest thing that can be, to be certainly persuaded in our hearts, that by grace alone, all other means either in heaven or in earth set apart, we have remission of sins and peace with God.
The world understandeth not this doctrine; and therefore it neither will nor can abide it, but condemneth it as heretical and wicked. It braggeth of freewill, of the light of reason, of the soundness of the powers and qualities of nature, and of good works, as means whereby it could deserve and attain grace and peace; that is to say, forgiveness of sins and a quiet conscience.
But at is impossible that the conscience should be quiet and joyful, unless it have peace through grace; that is to say, through the forgiveness of sins promised in Christ. Many have carefully labored, by finding out diverse and sundry religious orders and exercises for this purpose, to attain peace and quietness of conscience; but by so doing they have plunged themselves in more and greater miseries: for all such devices are but means to increase doubtfulness and despair. Therefore there shall be no rest to my bones or thine, unless we hear the word of grace, and cleave unto it steadfastly and faithfully. Then shall our conscience undoubtedly find grace and peace.
The Apostle doth fitly distinguish this grace and peace from all other kinds of grace and peace whatsoever. He wisheth to the Galatians grace and peace, not from the emperor, or kings and princes: for these do commonly persecute the godly, and rise up against the Lord and Christ his anointed ( Psalm 2:1); nor from the world (‘for in the world,’ saith Christ, ‘ye shall have trouble,’ John 14:33), but from God our Father etc., which is as much as to say, he wished unto them a heavenly peace. So Christ saith: ‘My peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth it, do I give it unto you’ ( John 14:27). The peace of the world granteth nothing but the peace of our goods and bodies. So the grace or favor of the world giveth us leave to enjoy our goods, and casteth us not out of our possessions. But in affliction and in the hour of death, the grace and favor of the world cannot help us, they cannot deliver us from affliction, despair and death. But when the grace and peace of God are in the heart, then is a man strong, so that he can neither be cast down with adversity, nor puffed up with prosperity, but walketh on plainly and keepeth the highway. For he taketh heart and courage in the victory of Christ’s death; and the confidence thereof beginneth to reign in his conscience over sin and death; because through him he hath assured forgiveness of his sins: which after he hath once obtained, his conscience is at rest, and by the word of grace is comforted. So then a man being comforted and heartened by the grace of God (that is, by forgiveness of sins and by this peace of conscience), is able valiantly to bear and overcome all troubles, yea even death itself. This peace of God is not given to the world, because the world never longeth after it nor understandeth it, but to them that believe. And this cometh to pass by no other mean, than by the only grace of God.
A rule to be observed, that men ought to abstain from the curious searching of God’s majesty.
But why doth the Apostle add moreover in this salutation: ‘And from our Lord Jesus Christ’? Was it not enough to say: ‘And from God our Father’?
Why then doth he couple Jesus Christ with the Father? Ye have oftentimes heard of us, how it is a rule and principle in the Scriptures, diligently to be marked, that we must abstain from the curious searching of God’s majesty, which is intolerable to man’s body, and much more to his mind. ‘No man’ (saith the Lord) ‘shall see me and live’ ( Exodus 33:20). The Pope, the Turks, the Jews, land all such as trust in their own merits, regard not this rule, and therefore removing the mediator Christ out of their sight, they speak only of God, and before him only they pray, and do all that they do.
As for example, the monk imagineth thus: ‘These works which I do, please God, God will regard these my vows, and for them will save me.’ The Turk saith: ‘If I keep the things which are commanded in the Alcoran, God will accept me, and give me everlasting life.’ The Jew thinketh thus: ‘If I keep those things which the law commandeth, I shall find God merciful to me, and so shall I be saved.’ So also a sort of fond heads at this day, bragging of the spirit of revelations, of visions, and such other monstrous matters, I wot not what, do walk in wonders above their reaches. These new monks have invented a new cross and new works, and they dream that by doing them they please God. To be brief, as many as know not the article of justification, take away Christ the mercy seat, and will needs comprehend God in his majesty by the judgement of reason, and pacify him with their own works.
But true Christian divinity (as I give you often warning) setteth not God forth unto us in his majesty, as Moses and other doctrines do. It commandeth us not to search out the nature of God: but to know his will set out to us in Christ, whom he would have to take our flesh upon him, to be born and to die for our sins, and that this should be preached among all nations. For seeing the world by wisdom knew not God in the wisdom of God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe ( 1 Corinthians 1:21 ff.). Wherefore, when thy conscience standeth in the conflict, wrestling against the law, sin and death in the presence of God, there is nothing more dangerous than to wander with curious speculations in heaven, and there to search out God in his incomprehensible power, wisdom and majesty, how he created the world, and how he governeth it. If thou seek thus to comprehend God, and wouldest pacify him without Christ the mediator, making thy works a means between him and thyself, it cannot be but that thou must fall as Lucifer did, and in horrible despair lose God and all together. For as God is in his own nature unmeasurable, incomprehensible, and infinite, so is he to man’s nature intolerable.
Wherefore if thou wouldest be in safety, and out of peril of conscience and salvation, bridle this climbing and presumptuous spirit, and so seek God as Paul teacheth thee ( 1 Corinthians 1:21 ff.): ‘We (saith he) preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block unto the Jews, and foolishness unto the Grecians: but unto them which are called, both Jews and Grecians, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ Therefore begin thou there where Christ began, namely, in the womb of the Virgin, in the manger, and at his mother’s breasts, etc. For to this end he came down, was born, was conversant among men, suffered, was crucified and died, that by all means he might set forth himself plainly before our eyes, and fasten the eyes of our hearts upon himself, that he thereby might keep us from climbing up into heaven, and from the curious searching of the divine majesty.
Whensoever thou hast to do therefore in the matter of justification, and disputest with thyself how God is to be found that justifieth or accepteth sinners: where and in what sort he is to be sought; then know thou that there is no other God besides this man Christ Jesus. Embrace him, and cleave to him with thy whole heart, setting aside all curious speculations of the divine majesty, for he that is a searcher of God’s majesty shall be overwhelmed of his glory. I know by experience what I say. But these vain spirits which so deal with God that they exclude the mediator, do not believe me. Christ himself saith: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh to the Father but by me’ ( John 14:6). Therefore besides this way Christ, thou shalt find no other way to the Father, but wandering: no verity, but hypocrisy and lying: no life but eternal death. Wherefore mark this well in the matter of justification, that when any of us shall have to wrestle with the law, sin, death and all other evils, we must look upon no other God, but only this God incarnate and clothed with man’s nature.
But out of the matter of justification, when thou must dispute with Jews, Turks, Papists, Heretics etc., concerning the power, wisdom and majesty of God, then employ all thy wit and industry to that end, and be as profound and as subtle a disputer as thou canst: for then thou art in another vein. But in the case of conscience, of righteousness and life (which I wish here diligently to be marked) against the law, sin, death and the devil, or in the matter of satisfaction, of remission of sins, of reconciliation, and of everlasting life, thou must withdraw thy mind wholly from all cogitations and searching of the majesty of God, and look only upon this man Jesus Christ, who setteth himself forth unto us to be a mediator, and saith: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you’ ( Matthew 11:28). Thus doing, thou shalt perceive the love, goodness and sweetness of God thou shalt see his wisdom, power and majesty sweetened and tempered to thy capacity: yea, and thou shalt find in this mirror and pleasant contemplation, all things according to that saying of Paul to the Colossians: ‘In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,’ and: ‘For in him dwelleth the fullness of the godhead bodily’ ( Colossians 2:3; 2:9). The world is ignorant of this, and therefore it searcheth out the will of God, setting aside the promise in Christ, to its own great peril. ‘For no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him’ ( Matthew 11:27).
And this is the cause why Paul is wont so often to couple Jesus Christ with God the Father, even to teach us what true Christian religion is, which beginneth not at the highest, as other religions do, but at the lowest. It will have us to climb up by Jacob’s ladder, whereupon God himself leaneth, whose feet touch the very earth, hard by the head of Jacob (Genesis 28;12). Wherefore, whensoever thou art occupied in the matter of thy salvation, setting aside all curious speculations of God’s unsearchable majesty, all cogitations of works, of traditions, of philosophy, yea and of God’s law too, run straight to the manger, and embrace this infant, and the Virgin’s little babe in thine arms, and behold him as he was born, sucking, growing up, conversant among men, teaching, dying, rising again, ascending up above all the heavens, and having power above all things. By this means shalt thou be able to shake off all terrors and errors, like as the sun driveth away the clouds. And this sight and contemplation will keep thee in the right way, that thou mayest follow whither Christ is gone.
Therefore Paul, in wishing grace and peace not only from God the Father, but also from Jesus Christ, teacheth first, that we should abstain from curious searching of the divine majesty (for God no man knoweth) and to hear Christ, who is in the bosom of the Father, and uttereth to us his will, who also is appointed of the Father to be our teacher, to the end that we should all hear him.
CHRIST IS GOD BY NATURE.
The other thing that Paul teacheth here, is a confirmation of our faith that Christ is very God. And such like sentences as this is, concerning the godhead of Christ, are to be gathered together and marked diligently, not only against the Arians and other heretics, which either have been or shall be hereafter, but also for the confirmation of our faith: for Satan will not fail to impugn in us all the articles of our faith ere we die. He is a most deadly enemy to faith, because he knoweth that it is the victory which overcometh the world ( 1 John 5:4). Wherefore it standeth us in hand to labor that our faith may be certain, and may increase and be strengthened by diligent and continual exercise of the Word and fervent prayer, that we may be able to withstand Satan.
Now, that Christ is very God, it is manifestly declared, in that Paul attributeth the same things equally unto him which he doth unto the Father, namely, the giving of grace, the forgiveness of sins, peace of conscience, life, victory over sin, death, the devil and hell. This were by no means lawful for him to do, nay, it were sacrilege this to do, except Christ were very God, according to that saying: ‘I will not give my glory unto another’ ( Isaiah 42:8). Again: no man giveth that to others which he himself hath not. But seeing Christ giveth grace, peace and the Holy Ghost, delivereth from the power of the devil, from sin and death, it is certain that he hath an infinite and divine power, equal in all points to the power of the Father.
Neither doth Christ give grace and peace as the Apostles gave and brought the same unto men by preaching of the Gospel; but he giveth it as the Author and Creator. The Father createth and giveth life, grace, peace, and all other good things. The self-same things also the Son createth and giveth. Now, to give grace, peace, everlasting life, to forgive sins, to make righteous, to quicken, to deliver from death and the devil, are not the works of any creature, but of the Divine Majesty alone. The angels can neither create nor give these things; therefore these works pertain only to the glory of the sovereign Majesty, the Maker of all things: and seeing Paul doth attribute the self-same power of creating and giving all these things, unto Christ equally with the Father, it must needs follow that Christ is verily and naturally God.
Many such arguments are in John, where it is proved and concluded by the works which are attributed to the Son as well as to the Father, that the divinity of the Father and of the Son is all one. Therefore the gifts which we receive of the Father, and which we receive of the Son, are all one. For else Paul would have spoken otherwise, after this manner: Grace from God the Father, and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ. But in knitting them both together, he attributeth them equally, as well to the Son as to the Father. I do therefore so diligently admonish you of this thing, because it is dangerous lest among so many errors, and in so great variety and confusion of sects, there might step up some Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians, and such other heretics, that might do harm to the churches with their subtilty.
Indeed the Arians were sharp and subtle fellows. They granted that Christ hath two natures, and that he is called very God of very God, howbeit in name only. Christ (said they) is a most noble and perfect creature, above the angels, whereby God afterward created heaven and earth, and all other things. So Mahomet also speaketh honorably of Christ.’ But all this is nothing else but goodly imaginations, and words pleasant and plausible to man’s reason, whereby the fantastical spirits do deceive men, except they take good heed. But Paul speaketh otherwise of Christ. Ye (saith he) are rooted and established in this belief, namely, that Christ is not only a perfect creature, but very God, who doth the self-same things that God the Father doth. He hath the divine works not of a creature, but of the Creator, because he giveth grace and peace: and to give them is to condemn sin, to vanquish death, and to tread the devil under foot. These things no angel can give. But seeing they are attributed unto Christ, it must needs follow that he is very God by nature.
WHICH GAVE HIMSELF FOR OUR SINS
Paul in a manner in every word handleth the argument of this Epistle. He hath nothing in his mouth but Christ; and therefore in every word there is a fervency of spirit and life. And mark how well and to the purpose he speaketh. He saith not: Which hath received our works at our hands, nor, which hath received the sacrifices of Moses’s law, worshippings, religions, masses, vows, and pilgrimages; but ‘hath given’ — What? Not gold, nor silver, nor beasts, nor paschal lambs, nor an angel, but ‘himself.’ For what?
Not for a crown, not for a kingdom, not for our holiness or righteousness, but ‘for our sins.’ These words are very thunder-claps from heaven against all kinds of righteousness; like as is also this sentence of John: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.’ Therefore we must with diligent attention mark every word of Paul, and not slenderly consider them or lightly pass them over; for they are full of consolation, and confirm fearful consciences exceedingly.
But how may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answereth, that the man which is called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, hath given himself for them. These are excellent and comfortable words, and are promises of the old law, that our sins are taken away by none other mean, than by the Son of God delivered unto death. With such gunshot and such artillery must the Papacy be destroyed, and all the religions of the heathen, all works, all merits and superstitious ceremonies. For if our sins may be taken away by our own works, merits and satisfactions, what needed the Son of God to be given for them? But seeing he was given for them, it followeth that we cannot put them away by our own works.
Again, by this sentence it is declared, that our sins are so great, so infinite and invincible, that it is impossible for the whole world to satisfy for one of them. And surely the greatness of the ransom (namely, Christ the Son of God, who gave himself for our sins) declareth sufficiently, that we can neither satisfy for sin nor have dominion over it. The force and power of sin is set forth and amplified exceedingly by these words: ‘Which gave himself for our sins.’ Therefore here is to be marked the infinite greatness of the price bestowed for it, and then it will appear evidently that the power of it is so great, that by no means it could be put away, but that the Son of God must needs be given for it. He that considereth these things well, understandeth that this one word ‘sin’ comprehendeth God’s everlasting wrath and the whole kingdom of Satan, and that it is a thing more horrible than can be expressed; which ought to move us and make us afraid indeed. But we are careless, yea we make light of sin, and a matter of nothing: which although it bring with it the sting and remorse of conscience, yet notwithstanding we think it not to be of such weight and force, but that by some little work or merit we may put it away.
This sentence therefore witnesseth, that all men are servants and bondslaves to sin, and (as Paul saith in another place) are ‘sold under sin’ ( Romans 7:14); and again, that sin is a most cruel and mighty tyrant over all men; which cannot be vanquished by the power of any creatures, whether they be angels or men, but only by the sovereign and infinite power of Jesus Christ, who hath given himself for the same.
Furthermore, this sentence setteth out to the consciences of all men which are terrified with the greatness of their sins, a singular comfort. For, albeit sin be never so invincible a tyrant, yet notwithstanding, forasmuch as Christ hath overcome it through his death, it cannot hurt them that believe in him.
Moreover, if we arm ourselves with this belief, and cleave with all our hearts unto this man Christ Jesus, then is there a light opened and a sound judgment given unto us, so as we may most certainly and freely judge of all kinds of life. For when we hear that sin is such an invincible tyrant, thus incontinent by a necessary consequence we infer: Then what do the Papists, monks, nuns, priests, Mahometists, Anabaptists, and all such as trust in their works, which will abolish and overcome sin by their own traditions, works preparative, satisfactions, etc.? Here forthwith we judge all those sects to be wicked and pernicious; whereby the glory of God and of Christ is not only defaced, but also utterly taken away, and our own advanced and established.
But weigh diligently every word of Paul, and specially mark well this pronoun, ‘our’; for the effect altogether consisteth in the well applying of the pronouns, which we find very often in the Scriptures; wherein also there is ever some vehemency and power. Thou wilt easily say and believe that Christ the Son of God was given for the sins of Peter, of Paul, and of other saints, whom we account to have been worthy of this grace; but it is a very hard thing that thou which judgest thyself unworthy of this grace, shouldest from thy heart say and believe that Christ was given for thine invincible, infinite and horrible sins. Therefore generally and without the pronoun, it is an easy matter to magnify and amplify the benefit of Christ, namely, that Christ was given for sins, but for other men’s sins, which are worthy. But when it cometh to the putting to of this pronoun ‘our,’ there our weak nature and reason starteth back, and dare not come near unto God, nor promise to herself that so great a treasure shall be freely given unto her; and therefore she will not have to do with God, except first she be pure and without sin. Wherefore, although she read or hear this sentence: ‘Which gave himself for our sins,’ or such like, yet doth she not apply this pronoun ‘our’ unto herself, but unto others which are worthy and holy; and as for herself, she will tarry till she be made worthy by her own works.
This then is nothing else, but that man’s reason fain would that sin were of no greater force and power than she herself dreameth it to be. Hereof it cometh that the hypocrites, being ignorant of Christ, although they feel the remorse of sin, do think notwithstanding that they shall be able easily to put it away by their good works and merits; and secretly in their hearts they wish that these words, ‘Which gave himself for our sins,’ were but as words spoken in humility, and would have their sins not to be true and very sins indeed, but light and small matters. To be short, man’s reason would fain bring and present unto God a reigned and counterfeit sinner, which is nothing afraid nor hath any feeling of sin. It would bring him that is whole, and not him that hath need of a physician; and when it feeleth no sin, then would it believe that Christ was given for our sins.
The whole world is thus affected, and especially they that would be counted more holy and religious than others, as monks, and all justiciaries.
These confess with their mouths that they are sinners, and they confess also that they commit sins daily, howbeit not so great and many, but that they are able to put them away by their own works: yea and besides all this, they will bring their righteousness and deserts to Christ’s judgment-seat, and demand the recompense of eternal life for them at the judge’s hand. In the meanwhile notwithstanding (as they pretend great humility), because they will not vaunt themselves to be utterly void of sin, they feign certain sins, that for the forgiveness thereof they may with great devotion pray with the publican: ‘God be merciful unto me a sinner’ ( Luke 18:13). Unto them, these words of St. Paul, ‘for our sins,’ seem to be but light and trifling; therefore they neither understand them, nor in temptation, when they feel sin indeed, can they take any comfort of them, but are compelled flatly to despair.
This is then the chief knowledge and true wisdom of Christians, to count these words of Paul, that Christ was delivered to death, not for our righteousness or holiness, but for our sins (which are very sins indeed, great, many, yea infinite and invincible), to be most true, effectual and of great importance. Therefore, think them not to be small, and such as may be done away by thine own works; neither yet despair thou for the greatness of them, if thou feel thyself oppressed therewith, either in life or death; but learn here of Paul to believe that Christ was given, not for feigned or counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for vanquished sins (for no man, no nor angel, is able to overcome the least sin that is), but for invincible sins.
And except thou be found in the number of those that say ‘our sins,’ that is, which have this doctrine of faith, and teach, hear, learn, love and believe the same, there is no salvation for thee.
Labor therefore diligently, that not only out of the time of temptation, but also in the time and conflict of death, when thy conscience is thoroughly afraid with the remembrance of thy sins past, and the devil assaileth thee with great violence, going about to overwhelm thee with heaps, floods and whole seas of sins, to terrify thee, to draw thee from Christ, and to drive thee to despair; that then I say, thou mayest be able to say with sure confidence: Christ the Son of God was given, not for the righteous and holy, but for the unrighteous and sinners. If I were righteous and had no sin, I should have no need of Christ to be my reconciler. Why then, O thou peevish holy Satan, wilt thou make me to be holy and to seek righteousness in myself, when in very deed I have nothing in me but sins, and most grievous sins? Not feigned or trifling sins, but such as are against the first Table: to wit, great infidelity, doubting, despair, contempt of God, hatred, ignorance and blaspheming of God, unthankfulhess, abusing of God’s name, neglecting, loathing and despising the Word of God, and such like.
And moreover, these carnal sins against the second Table: as not to yield honor to my parents, not to obey the magistrates, to covet another man’s goods, his wife, and such like; albeit that these be light faults in respect of those former sins. And admit that I have not committed murder, whoredom, theft and such other sins against the second Table, in fact; yet I have committed them in heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all God’s commandments, and the multitude of my sins is so great that they cannot be numbered: ‘For I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea’ (Prayer of Manasses, 9).
Besides this, Satan is such a cunning juggler, that he can make of my righteousness and good works, great sins. For so much, then, as my sins are so weighty, so infinite, so horrible and invincible, and that my righteousness doth nothing further me, but rather hinder me before God: therefore Christ the Son of God was given to death for them, to put them away, and so save all men which believe. Herein therefore consisteth the effect of eternal salvation, namely, in taking these words to be effectual, true, and of great importance. I say not this for nought, for I have oftentimes proved by experience, and I still daily find, what an hard matter it is to believe (especially in the conflict of conscience) that Christ was given, not for the holy, righteous, worthy, and such as were his friends, but for the ungodly, for sinners, for the unworthy, and for his enemies, which have deserved God’s wrath and everlasting death.
Let us therefore arm ourselves with these and such like sentences of the holy Scripture, that we may be able to answer the devil (accusing us, and saying: Thou art a sinner, and therefore thou art damned) in this sort:
Because thou sayest I am a sinner, therefore will I be righteous and saved.
Nay (saith the devil) thou shalt be damned. No (say I) for I fly unto Christ, who hath given himself for my sins; therefore, Satan, thou shalt not prevail against me in that thou goest about to terrify me in setting forth the greatness of my sins, and so to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt and blaspheming of God. Yea rather, in that thou sayest I am a sinner, thou givest me armor and weapon against thyself, that with thine own sword I may cut thy throat, and tread thee under my feet: for Christ died for sinners. Moreover, thou thyself preachest unto me the glory of God; for thou puttest me in mind of God’s fatherly love towards me, wretched and damned sinner: ‘Who so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ ( John 3:16). And as often as thou objectest that I am a sinner, so often thou callest me to remembrance of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins; for ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,’ and ‘for the transgressions of his people was he smitten,’ ( Isaiah 53:6,8).
Wherefore, when thou sayest I am a sinner, thou dost not terrify me, but comfort me above measure.
Whoso knoweth this one point of cunning well, shall easily avoid all the engines and snares of the devil, who, by putting man in mind of his sin, driveth him to despair and destroyeth him, unless he withstand him with this cunning and with this heavenly wisdom, whereby alone sin, death and the devil are overcome. But the man that putteth not away the remembrance of his sin, but keepeth it still and tormenteth himself with his own cogitations, thinking either to help himself by his own strength, or to tarry the time till his conscience may be quieted, falleth into Satan’s snares and miserably afflicteth himself, and at length is overcome with the continuance of the temptation; for the devil will never cease to accuse his conscience.
Against this temptation we must use these words of St. Paul, in the which he giveth a very good and true definition of Christ in this manner: Christ is the Son of God and of the Virgin, delivered and put to death for our sins.
Here, if the devil allege any other definition of Christ, say thou: The definition and the thing defined are false; therefore I will not receive this definition. I speak not this without cause, for I know what moveth me to be so earnest that we should learn to define Christ out of the words of Paul. For indeed Christ is no cruel exactor, but a forgiver of the sins of the whole world. Wherefore if thou be a sinner (as indeed we are all) set not Christ down upon the rainbow as a judge, (for so shalt thou be terrified, and despair of his mercy), but take hold of his true definition, namely, that Christ the Son of God and of the Virgin is a person, not that terrifieth, not that afflicteth, not that condemneth us of sin, not that demandeth an account of us for our life evil passed; but that hath given himself for our sins, and with one oblation hath put away the sins of the whole world, hath fastened them upon the cross, and put them clean out by himself ( Colossians 2:14).
Learn this definition diligently, and especially so exercise this pronoun ‘our,’ that this one syllable being believed may swallow up all thy sins; that is to say, that thou mayest know assuredly, that Christ hath taken away the sins, not of certain men only, but also of thee, yea and of the whole world.
Then let not thy sins be sins only, but even thy own sins indeed; that is to wit, believe thou that Christ was not only given for other men’s sins, but also for thine. Hold this fast and suffer not thyself by any means to be drawn away from this most sweet definition of Christ, which rejoiceth even the very angels in heaven that is to say, that Christ, according to the proper and true definition, is no Moses, no lawgiver, no tyrant, but a mediator for sins, a free giver of grace, righteousness, and life; who gave himself, not for our merits, holiness, righteousness and godly life, but for our sins.
Indeed Christ doth interpret the law, but that is not his proper and principal office.
These things, as touching the words, we know well enough and can talk of them. But in practice and in the conflict, when the devil goeth about to deface Christ, and to pluck the word of grace out of our hearts, we find that we do not yet know them well and as we should do. He that at that time could define Christ truly, and could magnify him and behold him as his most sweet Savior and High-priest, and not as a strait judge, this man had overcome all evils, and were already in the kingdom of heaven. But this to do in the conflict, is of all things the most hard. I speak this by experience.
For I know the devil’s subtleties, who at that time not only goeth about to fear us with the terror of the law, yea and also of a little mote maketh many beams; that is to say, of that which is no sin he maketh a very hell (for he is marvellous crafty both in aggravating sin and in puffing up the conscience even in good works), but also is wont to fear us with the very person of the mediator; into the which he transformeth himself and, laying before us some place of Scripture or saying of Christ, suddenly he striketh our hearts, and sheweth himself unto us in such sort as if he were Christ indeed, leaving us sticking so fast in that cogitation, that our conscience would swear it were the same Christ whose saying he alleged. Moreover, such is the subtlety of the enemy, that he will not set before us Christ entirely and wholly, but a piece of Christ only, namely, that he is the Son of God, and man born of the Virgin. And by and by he patcheth thereto some other thing, that is to say, some saying of Christ, wherewith he terrifieth the impenitent sinners, such as that is the thirteenth of Luke: ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ And so, corrupting the true definition of Christ with his poison, he bringeth to pass that albeit we believe Christ to be the mediator, yet in very deed our troubled conscience feeleth and judgeth him to be a tyrant and a judge. Thus we being deceived by Satan, do easily lose that sweet sight of our High-priest and Savior Christ; which being once lost, we shun him no less than the devil himself.
And this is the cause why I do so earnestly call upon you to learn the true and proper definition of Christ out of these words of Paul: ‘which gave himself for our sins.’ If he gave himself to death for our sins, then undoubtedly he is no tyrant or judge which will condemn us for our sins.
He is no caster-down of the afflicted, but a raiser-up of those that are fallen, a merciful reliever and comforter of the heavy and broken-hearted.
Else should Paul lie in saying: ‘which gave himself for our sins.’ If I define Christ thus, I define him rightly, and take hold of the true Christ, and possess him indeed. And here I let pass all curious speculations touching the divine majesty, and stay myself in the humanity of Christ, and possess him indeed. And here I let pass all curious speculations touching the divine majesty, and stay myself in the humanity of Christ, and so I learn truly to know the will of God. Here is then no fear, but altogether sweetness, joy, peace of conscience, and such like. And herewithal there is a light opened, which sheweth me the true knowledge of God, of myself, of all creatures, and of all the iniquity of the devil’s kingdom. We teach no new thing, but we repeat and establish old things, which the apostles and all godly teachers have taught before us. And would to God we could so teach and establish them, that we might not only have them in our mouth, but also well-grounded in the bottom of our heart, and especially that we might be able to use them in the agony and conflict of death.
THAT HE MIGHT DELIVER US FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD
In these words also Paul effectually handleth the argument of this Epistle.
He calleth this whole world, which hath been, is, and shall be, the present world, to put a difference between this and the everlasting world to come.
Moreover, he calleth it evil, because that whatsoever is in this world, is subject to the malice of the devil reigning over the whole world. For this cause the world is the kingdom of the devil. For there is in it nothing but ignorance, contempt, blasphemy, hatred of God, and disobedience against all the words and works of God. In and under this kingdom of the world are we.
Here again you see that no man is able by his own works or his own power to put away sins, because this present world is evil and (as St. John saith) ‘lieth in the evil One’ ( 1 John 5:19). As many therefore as are in the world, are the captive members of the devil, constrained to serve him and do all things at his pleasure. What availed it then, to set up so many orders of religion for the abolishing of sins; to devise so many great and most painful works, as to wear shirts of hair, to beat the body with whips till the blood flowed, to go on pilgrimage to St. James in harness, and such other like? Be it so that thou doest all these things, yet notwithstanding this is true, that thou art in this present evil world, and not in the kingdom of Christ. And if thou be not in the kingdom of Christ, it is certain that thou belongest to the kingdom of Satan, which is this evil world. Therefore all the gifts, either of the body or of the mind, which thou enjoyest, as wisdom, righteousness, holiness, eloquence, power, beauty, and riches, are but the slavish instruments of the devil, and with all these thou art compelled to serve him, and to advance his kingdom.
First, with thy wisdom thou darkenest the wisdom and knowledge of Christ, and by thy wicked doctrine leadest men out of the way, that they cannot come to the grace and knowledge of Christ. Thou settest out and preachest thine own righteousness and holiness; but the righteousness of Christ, by which only we are justified and quickened, thou dost hate and condemn as wicked and devilish. To be brief, by thy power thou destroyest the kingdom of Christ, and abusest the same to root out the Gospel, to persecute and kill the ministers of Christ and so many as hear them.
Wherefore, if thou be without Christ, this thy wisdom is double foolishness, thy righteousness double sin and impiety, because it knoweth not the wisdom and righteousness of Christ: moreover, it darkeneth, hindereth, blasphemeth, and persecuteth the same. Therefore Paul doth rightly call it the evil or wicked world; for when it is at the best, then is it worst. In the religious, wise, and learned men, the world is at the best, and yet in very deed in them it is double evil. I overpass those gross vices which are against the second Table, as disobedience to parents, to magistrates, adulteries, whoredoms, covetousness, thefts, murders, and maliciousness, wherein the world is altogether drowned, which notwithstanding are light faults, if ye compare them with the wisdom and righteousness of the wicked, whereby they fight against the first Table.
This white devil, which forceth men to commit spiritual sins that cry themselves up for righteousness, is far more dangerous than the black devil, which only enforceth them to commit fleshly sins, which even the world acknowledgeth to be sins.
By these words then, ‘That he might deliver us’ etc., Paul sheweth what is the argument of this Epistle: to wit, that we have need of grace and of Christ, and that no creature, neither man nor angel, can deliver man out of this present evil world. For these are works belonging only to the divine majesty, and are not in the power of any, either man or angel: namely, that Christ hath put away sin, and hath delivered us from the tyranny and kingdom of the devil; that is to say, from this wicked world, which is an obedient servant and a willing follower of the devil his god. Whatsoever the murderer and father of lies either doth or speaketh, that the world, as his most loyal and obedient son, diligently followeth and performeth. And therefore it is full of the ignorance of God, of hatred, lying, errors, blasphemy, and of the contempt of God; moreover, of gross sins, as murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, robberies, and such like, because he followeth his father the devil, who is a liar and a murderer. And the more wise, righteous, and holy that men are without Christ, so much the more hurt they do to the Gospel. So we also, that were religious men, were double wicked in the papacy, before God did lighten us with the knowledge of his Gospel, and yet notwithstanding under the color of true piety and holiness.
Let these words then of Paul remain as they are indeed, true and effectual, not colored or counterfeit, namely, that this present world is evil. Let it nothing at all move thee, that in a great number of men there be many excellent virtues, and that there is so great a shew of holiness in hypocrites.
But mark thou rather what Paul saith, out of whose words thou mayest boldly and freely pronounce this sentence against the world, that the world with all his wisdom, power and righteousness, is the kingdom of the devil; out of the which God alone is able to deliver us by his only begotten Son.
Therefore let us praise God the Father, and give him hearty thanks for this his unmeasurable mercy, that hath delivered us out of the kingdom of the devil (in the which we were holden captives) by his own Son, when it was impossible to be done by our own strength. And let us acknowledge together with Paul, that all our works and righteousness (with all which, we could not make the devil to stoop one hair’s breadth) are but loss and dung ( Philippians 3:8). Also let us cast under our feet and utterly abhor all the power of free-will, all pharisaical wisdom and righteousness, all religious orders, all masses, ceremonies, vows, fastings, and such like, as a most filthy defiled cloth ( Isaiah 64:6) and as the most dangerous poison of the devil. Contrariwise, let us extol and magnify the glory of Christ, who hath delivered us by his death, not from this world only, but from this evil world.
Paul then by this word ‘evil,’ sheweth that the kingdom of the world, or the devil’s kingdom, is the kingdom of iniquity, ignorance, error, sin, death, blasphemy, desperation and everlasting damnation. On the other side, the kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of equity, light, grace, remission of sins, peace, consolation, saving health, and everlasting life, into the which we are translated ( Colossians 1:13) by our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory world without end. Amen.
ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD AND OUR FATHER
Here Paul so placeth and ordereth every word, that there is not one of them but it fighteth against those false apostles for the article of justification. Christ (saith he) hath delivered us from this wicked kingdom of the devil and the world; and this hath he done according to the will, good pleasure, and commandment of the Father. Wherefore we be not delivered by our own will or cunning ( Romans 9:16), nor by our own wisdom or policy, but for that God hath taken mercy upon us, and hath loved us; like as it is written also in another place: ‘Herein hath appeared the great love of God towards us, not that we have loved God, but that he hath loved us, and hath sent his only begotten Son to be a reconciliation for our sins’ ( 1 John 4:10). That we are then delivered from this present evil world, it is of mere grace, and no desert of ours. Paul is so plentiful and so vehement in amplifying and extolling the grace of God, that he sharpeneth and directeth every word against the false apostles.
There is also another cause why Paul here maketh mention of the Father’s will, which also in many places of St. John’s gospel is declared, where Christ, commending his office, calleth us back to his Father’s will, that in his words and works we should not so much look upon him, as upon the Father. For Christ came into the world and took man’s nature upon him, that he might be made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and so reconcile us to God the Father; and that he alone might declare unto us how that this was done through the good pleasure of his Father, that we, by fastening our eyes upon Christ, might be drawn and carried straight unto the Father.
For we must not think (as before we have warned you) that by the curious searching of the majesty of God, any thing concerning God can be known to our salvation, but by taking hold of Christ, who according to the will of the Father hath given himself to death for our sins. When thou shalt acknowledge this to be the will of God through Christ, then wrath ceaseth, fear and trembling vanisheth away, neither doth God appear any other than merciful, who by his determinate counsel would that his Son should die for us, that we might live through him. This knowledge maketh the heart cheerful, so that it steadfastly believeth that God is not angry, but that he so loveth us poor and wretched sinners, that he gave his only begotten Son for us. It is not for nought, therefore, that Paul doth so often repeat and beat into our minds, that Christ was given for our sins, and that by the good will of the Father. On the contrary part, the curious searching of the majesty of God, and his dreadful judgments, namely, how he destroyed the whole world with the flood, how he destroyed Sodom, and such other things, are very dangerous, for they bring men to desperation, and cast them down headlong into utter destruction, as I have shewed before.
OF GOD AND OUR FATHER
This word ‘our’ must be referred to both, that the meaning may be this: ‘of our God and of our Father.’ Then is Christ’s Father and our Father all one.
So in the twentieth of John, Christ saith to Mary Magdalene: ‘Go to my brethren, and say unto them: I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.’ Therefore God is our Father and our God, but through Christ. And this is an apostolic manner of speech, and even Paul’s own phrase, who indeed speaketh not with such picked and gay words, but yet very fit and to the purpose, and full of burning zeal.
TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN
The Hebrews are wont in their writings to intermingle praise and giving of thanks. This custom the Hebrews and the Apostles themselves do observe.
Which thing may be very often seen in Paul. For the name of the Lord ought to be had in great reverence, and never to be named without praise and thanksgiving. And thus to do, is a certain kind of worship and service to God. So in worldly matters, when we mention the names of kings or princes, we are wont to do it with some comely gesture, reverence, and bowing of the knee: much more ought we when we speak of God, to bow the knee of our heart, and to name the name of God with thankfulness and great reverence.
I MARVEL Ye see here how Paul handleth his Galatians, which were fallen away and seduced by the false apostles. He doth not at the first set upon them with vehement and rigorous words, but after a very fatherly sort, not only patiently bearing their fall, but also in a manner excusing the same.
Furthermore, he sheweth towards them a motherly affection, and speaketh them very fair, and yet in such sort, that he reproveth them notwithstanding: howbeit with very fit words and wisely framed to the purpose. Contrariwise he is very hot and full of indignation against those false apostles their seducers, upon whom he layeth the whole fault: and therefore forthwith, even in the entrance of his Epistle, he bursteth out into plain thunderings and lightnings against them. ‘If any man’ (saith he) ‘preach any other Gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed’ ( Galatians 1:9). And afterwards in the fifth chapter, he threatened damnation unto them: ‘Whoso troubleth you shall bear his condemnation, whatsoever he be’ ( Galatians 5:10 ff.). Moreover, he curseth them with horrible words, saying: ‘Would to God they were cut off which trouble you.’ These are dreadful thunderclaps against the righteousness of the flesh or of the law.
He might have handled the Galatians more uncourteously, and have inveighed against them more roughly after this manner: Out upon this backsliding, I am ashamed of you, your unthankfulness grieveth me, I am angry with you; or else thus tragically have cried out against them: O ungracious world, O wicked dealings, etc.! But forasmuch as his purpose is to raise up them that were fallen, and with a fatherly care to call them back again from their error to the purity of the Gospel, he leaveth those rough and sharp words, especially in the first entrance, and most gently and mildly he speaketh unto them. For, seeing he went about to heal them that were wounded, it was not meet that he should now further vex their green wound by laying to it a sharp and a fretting plaster, and so rather hurt the wounded than heal them. Therefore, of all the sweetest and mildest words, he could not have chosen any one more fit than this: ‘I marvel’; whereby he signifieth both that it grieved him and also displeased him, that they had fallen away from him.
And here Paul is mindful of his own rule, which he giveth hereafter in the sixth chapter, where he saith: ‘Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one with the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.’ This example must we also follow, that we may shew ourselves to bear like affection toward such as are misled, as parents bear towards their children, that they may perceive our fatherly and motherly affection towards them, and may see that we seek not their destruction, but their welfare. But as for the devil and his ministers, the authors of false doctrine and sects, against them we ought, by the example of the Apostle, to be impatient, proud, sharp and bitter, detesting and condemning their false jugglings and deceits with as much rigor and severity as may be. So parents, when their child is hurt with the biting of a dog, are wont to pursue the dog only, but the weeping child they bemoan and speak fair unto it, comforting it with the most sweet words.
The Spirit therefore that is in Paul, is wonderful cunning in handling the afflicted consciences of such as are fallen. Contrariwise, the Pope breaketh out violently like a tyrant, and rappeth out his thunder-cracks and cursings against the miserable and terrified in conscience: which thing may be seen in his bulls, and especially in that bull touching the Lord’s Supper. The bishops also do their duty never a whit better. They teach not the Gospel, they are not careful for the saving of men’s souls, but only they seek lordship and sovereignty over them, and therefore their speakings and doings are altogether to maintain and support the same. In like manner are all the vain-glorious doctors and teachers affected.
THAT SO SOON
Ye see how Paul complaineth, that to fall in faith is an easy matter. In respect whereof, he warneth Christians in another place, that he which standeth, should take heed that he fall not ( 1 Corinthians 10:12). We also do daily prove by experience, how hardly the mind conceiveth and retaineth a sound and steadfast faith; also with what great difficulty a perfect people is gotten to the Lord. A man may labor half a score years ere he shall get some little church to be rightly and religiously ordered; and when it is so ordered, there creepeth in some mad brain, yea and a very unlearned idiot, which can do nothing else but speak slanderously and spitefully against sincere preachers of the Word, and he in one moment overthroweth all. Whom would not this wicked and outrageous dealing move?
We by the grace of God have gotten here at Wittenberg the form of a Christian church. The Word among us is purely taught, the sacraments are rightly used, exhortations and prayers are made also for all estates, and to be brief, all things go forward prosperously. This most happy course of the Gospel some mad head would soon stop, and in one moment would overturn all that we in many years with great labor have builded. Even so it befell to Paul, the elect vessel of Christ. He had won the churches of Galatia with great care and travail, which the false apostles in a short time after his departure overthrew, as this and diverse other of his epistles do witness. So great is the weakness and wretchedness of this present life, and so walk we in the midst of Satan’s snares, that one fantastical head may destroy and utterly overthrow in a short space, all that which many true ministers, laboring night and day, have builded up many years before. This we learn at this day by experience to our great grief, and yet we cannot remedy this enormity.
Seeing then that the Church is so soft and so tender a thing, and is so soon overthrown, men must watch cheerfully against these fantastical spirits; who, when they have heard two sermons, or have read a few leaves in the Holy Scriptures, by and by they make themselves masters and controllers of all learners and teachers, contrary to the authority of all men. Many such also thou mayest find at this day among handy-crafts men, bold and malapert fellows, who, because they have been tried by no temptations, did never learn to fear God, nor had any taste or feeling of grace. These, for that they are void of the Holy Ghost, teach what liketh themselves best, and such things as are plausible and pleasant to the common people. Then the unskilful multitude, longing to hear news, do by and by join themselves unto them. Yea, and many also which think themselves well seen in the doctrine of faith, and after a sort have been tried with temptations, are seduced by them.
Since that Paul therefore by his own experience may teach us, that congregations which are won by great labor, are easily and soon overthrown, we ought with singular care to watch against the devil ranging everywhere, lest he come while we sleep, and sow tares among the wheat.
For though the shepherds be never so watchful and diligent, yet is the Christian flock in danger of Satan. For Paul (as I said) with singular study and diligence had planted churches in Galatia, and yet he had scarcely set his foot (as they say) out of the door, but by and by the false apostles overthrew some, whose fall afterward was the cause of great ruin in the churches of Galatia. This so sudden and so great a loss, no doubt, was more bitter unto the Apostle than death itself. Therefore let us watch diligently, first every one for himself, secondly all teachers, not only for themselves, but also for the whole Church, that we enter not into temptation.
YE ARE REMOVED AWAY
Here once again he useth not a sharp, but a most gentle word. ‘He saith not I marvel that ye so suddenly fall away, that ye are so disobedient, light, inconstant, unthankful; but, that ye are so soon removed. As if he should say: Ye are altogether patients or sufferers; for ye have done no harm, but ye have suffered and received harm. To the intent therefore, that he might call back again those backsliders, he rather accuseth those that did remove, than those that were removed; and yet very modestly he blameth them also, when he complaineth that they were removed. As if he would say: Albeit I embrace you with a fatherly affection, and know that ye are fallen, not by your own default, but by the default of the false apostles; yet notwithstanding, I would have wished that ye had been grown up a little more in the strength of sound doctrine. Ye took not hold enough upon the Word, ye rooted not yourselves deep enough in it, and that is the cause that with so light a blast of wind ye are carried and removed.
Jerome thinketh that Paul meant to interpret this word ‘Galatians’ by alluding to the Hebrew word Calath, which is as much to say, as ‘fallen or carried away.’ As though he would say: Ye are right Galatians, both in name and in deed; that is to say, fallen or removed away. Some think that the Germans are descended of the Galatians, neither is this divination perhaps untrue. For the Germans are not much unlike to them in nature.
And I myself also am constrained to wish to my countrymen more steadfastness and constancy; for in all things we do, at the first brunt we be very hot but when the heat of our affections is allayed, anon we become more slack, and with what rashness we begin things, with the same we give them over and utterly reject them.
At the first when the light of the Gospel, after so great darkness of men’s traditions, began to appear, many were zealously turned to godliness: they heard sermons greedily, and had the ministers of God’s Word in reverence.
But now, when religion is happily reformed with so great increase of God’s Word, many which before seemed to be earnest disciples, are become contemners and very enemies thereof. Who not only cast off the study and zeal of God’s Word, and despise the ministers thereof, but also hate all good learning, and become plain hogs and belly-gods, worthy (doubtless) to be compared unto the foolish and inconstant Galatians.
FROM HIM THAT HATH CALLED YOU IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST
This place is somewhat doubtful, and therefore it hath a double understanding. The first is: From that Christ that hath called you in grace.
The other is: From him (that is to say, from God) which hath called you in the grace of Christ. I embrace the former. For it liketh me, that even as Paul a little before made Christ the Redeemer, who by his death delivereth us from this present evil world, and also the Giver of grace and peace equally with God the Father; so he should make him here also the Caller in grace: for Paul’s special purpose is, to beat into our minds the benefit of Christ, by whom we come unto the Father.
There is also in these words — ‘from him that hath called you in grace’ — a great vehemency; wherein is contained withal a contrary relation, as if he should say: Alas how lightly do you suffer yourselves to be withdrawn and removed from Christ, which hath called you, not as Moses did, to the law, works, sin, wrath and damnation, but altogether to grace! So we also complain at this day with Paul, that the blindness and perverseness of men is horrible, in that none will receive the doctrine of grace and salvation. Or if there be any that receive it, yet they quickly slide back again and fall from it; whereas notwithstanding, it bringeth with it all good things, as well ghostly as bodily, namely, forgiveness of sins, true righteousness, peace of conscience, and everlasting life. Moreover it bringeth light, and sound judgment of all kinds of doctrine and trades of life; it approveth and — establisheth civil government, household government, and all kinds of life that are ordained and appointed of God; it rooteth up all doctrines of error, sedition, confusion, and such like; it putteth away the fear of sin and death; and to be short, it discovereth all the subtle sleights and works of the devil, and openeth the benefits and love of God towards us in Christ. What (with a mischief) means the world to hate this Word, this glad tidings of everlasting comfort, grace, salvation and eternal life, so bitterly, and to persecute it with such hellish outrage?
Paul before called this present world evil and wicked, that is to say, the devil’s kingdom; for else it would acknowledge the benefit and mercy of God. But forasmuch as it is under the power of the devil, therefore doth it most spitefully hate and persecute the same; loving darkness, errors, and the kingdom of the devil, more than the light, the truth, and the kingdom of Christ ( John 3:19). And thus it doth not through ignorance or error, but through the malice of the devil; which thing hereby may sufficiently appear, in that Christ the Son of God, by giving himself to death for the sins of all men, hath thereby gained nothing else of this perverse and damnable world, but that for this his inestimable benefit, it blasphemeth him and persecuteth his most healthful Word, and fain would yet still nail him to the cross if it could; therefore, not only the world dwelleth in darkness, but it is darkness itself, as it is written in the first of John.
Paul therefore standeth much upon these words ‘From Christ who hath called you’; as though he would say: My preaching was not of the hard laws of Moses, neither taught I that ye should be bond-slaves under the yoke; but I preached mere grace and freedom from the law, sin, etc., that is to say, that Christ hath mercifully called you in grace, that ye should be freemen under Christ, and not bondmen under Moses, whose disciples ye are now become again by the means of your false apostles, who by the law of Moses called you not unto grace, but unto wrath, to the hating of God, to sin and death. But Christ’s calling bringeth grace and saving health; for they that be called by him, instead of the law that worketh sorrow, do gain the glad tidings of the Gospel, and are translated out of God’s wrath into his favor, out of sin into righteousness, and out of death into life. And will you suffer yourselves to be carried, yea and that so soon and so easily, another way, from such a living fountain, full of grace and life? Now, if Moses by the law of God call men to God’s wrath and to sin, whither shall the Pope call men by his own traditions? The other sense, that the Father calleth in the grace of Christ, is also good; but the former sense concerning Christ serveth more fitly for the comforting of afflicted consciences.
UNTO ANOTHER GOSPEL
Here we may learn to espy the crafty sleights and subtleties of the devil. No heretic cometh under the title of errors and of the devil, neither doth the devil himself come as a devil in his own likeness, especially that white devil which we spake of before. Yea, even the black devil, which forceth men to manifest wickedness, maketh a cloak for them to cover that sin which they commit or purpose to commit. The murderer, in his rage, seeth not that murder is so great and horrible a sin as it is indeed, for that he hath a cloak to cover the same. Whoremongers, thieves, covetous persons, drunkards, and such other, have wherewith to flatter themselves and cover their sins.
So the black devil also cometh out disguised and counterfeit in all his works and devices. But in spiritual matters, where Satan cometh forth not black, but white, an the likeness of an angel, or of God himself, there he passeth himself with most crafty dissimulation and wonderful sleights, and is wont to set forth to sale his most deadly poison for the doctrine of grace, for the Word of God, for the Gospel of Christ. For this cause, Paul calleth the doctrine of the false apostles, Satan’s ministers, a gospel also, saying: ‘Unto another gospel’; but in derision, as though he would say: Ye Galatians have now other evangelists and another gospel; my Gospel is now despised of you; it is now no more an estimation among you.
Hereby it may easily be gathered, that these false apostles had condemned the Gospel of Paul among the Galatians, saying Paul indeed hath begun well, but to have begun well is not enough, for there remain yet many higher matters; like as they say in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts: It is not enough for you to believe in Christ, or to be baptized, but it behooveth also that ye be circumcised; ‘for except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.’ This is as much to say, as that Christ is a good workman, which hath indeed begun a building, but he hath not finished it; for this must Moses do.
So at this day, when the fantastical spirits, Anabaptists and others cannot manifestly condemn us, they say: These Lutherans have the spirit of fearfulness, they dare not frankly and freely profess the truth, and go through with it. Indeed they have laid a foundation, that is to say, they have well taught faith in Christ; but the beginning, the middle and the end must be joined together. To bring this to pass, God hath not given unto them, but hath left it unto us. So these perverse and devilish spirits extol and magnify their cursed doctrine, calling it the Word of God, and so under the color of God’s name they deceive many. For the devil will not be ugly and black in his ministers, but fair and white; and to the end he may appear to be such a one, he setteth forth and decketh all his words and works with the color of truth, and with the name of God. Hereof is sprung that common proverb among the Germans: ‘In God’s name beginneth all mischief.’
Wherefore let us learn that this is a special point of the devil’s cunning, that if he cannot hurt by persecuting and destroying, he doth it under a color of correcting and building up. So nowadays he persecuteth us with power and sword, that when we are once taken away and dispatched, he may not only deface the Gospel, but utterly overthrow it. But hitherto he hath prevailed nothing, for he hath slain many who have constantly confessed this our doctrine to be holy and heavenly, through whose blood the Church is not destroyed, but watered. Forasmuch, therefore, as he could prevail nothing that way, he stirreth up wicked spirits and ungodly teachers, which at the first allow our doctrine, and teach the same with a common consent together with us; yet afterwards they say that it is our vocation to teach the first principles of Christian doctrine, but that the true mysteries of the Scriptures are revealed unto them from above, by God himself; and that they are called for this purpose, that they should open them to the world.
After this manner doth the devil hinder the course of the Gospel, both on the right hand and on the left, but more on the right hand (as I said before) by building and correcting, than on the left by persecuting and destroying; wherefore, it behooveth us to pray without ceasing, to read the Holy Scriptures, to cleave fast unto Christ and his holy Word, that we may overcome the devil’s subtleties, with the which he assaileth us both on the fight hand and on the left. ‘For we wrestle not again flesh and blood, etc.’ ( Ephesians 6:12).
WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER GOSPEL, BUT THAT THERE BE SOME WHICH TROUBLE YOU
Here again he excuseth the Galatians, and most bitterly reproveth the false apostles, as though he would say: Ye Galatians are borne in hand, that the Gospel which ye have received of me, is not the true and sincere Gospel, and therefore ye think ye do well to receive that new gospel which the false apostles teach, and seemeth to be better than mine. I do not so much charge you with this fault, as those disturbers which trouble your consciences and pull you out of my hand. Here you see again how vehement and hot he is against those deceivers, and with what rough and sharp words he painteth them out, calling them troublers of the churches, which do nothing else but seduce and deceive innumerable poor consciences, giving occasions of horrible mischiefs and calamities in the congregations. This great enormity we also at this day are constrained to see, to the great grief of our hearts, and yet are we no more able to remedy it than Paul was at that time. This place witnesseth, that those false apostles had reported Paul to be an imperfect apostle, and also a weak and erroneous preacher; therefore he again here calleth them the troublers of the churches, and overthrowers of the Gospel of Christ. Thus they condemned each other. The false apostles condemned Paul, and Paul again the false apostles. The like contending and condemning is always in the Church, especially when the doctrine of the Gospel flourisheth; to wit, that wicked teachers do persecute, condemn and oppress the godly; and on the other side, that the godly do reprove and condemn the ungodly.
The Papists and the fantastical spirits do at this day hate us deadly, and condemn our doctrine as wicked and erroneous; yea moreover, they lie in wait for our goods and lives: and we again do with a perfect hatred detest and condemn their cursed and blasphemous doctrine. In the meantime, the miserable people are at no stay, wavering hither and thither, as uncertain and doubtful to which part they may lean, or whom they may safely follow; for it is not given to every one to judge Christianly of such weighty matters. But the end will shew which part teacheth truly, and justly condemneth the other. Sure it is that we persecute no man, oppress no man, put no man to death, neither doth our doctrine trouble men’s consciences, but delivereth them out of innumerable errors and snares of the devil. For the truth hereof, we have the testimony of many good men who give thanks unto God, for that by our doctrine they have received certain and sure consolation to their consciences. Wherefore, like as Paul at that time was not to be blamed that the churches were troubled, but the false apostles, so at this day it is not our fault, but the fault of the Anabaptists, Sacramentarians and other frantic spirits that many and great troubles are in the Church.
Mark here diligently, that every teacher of works and of the righteousness of the law, is a troubler of the Church and of the consciences of men. And who would ever have believed that the Pope, cardinals, bishops, monks, and that whole synagogue of Satan, specially the founders of those religious orders (of which number, nevertheless, God might save some by miracle) were troublers of men’s consciences? Yea, verily, they be yet far worse than were those false apostles; for the false apostles taught, that besides faith in Christ, the works of the law of God were also necessary to salvation; but the Papists, omitting faith, have taught men’s traditions and works not commanded of God, but devised by themselves without and against the Word of God: and these have they not only made equal with the Word of God, but also exalted them far above it. But the more holy the heretics seem to be in outward shew, so much the more mischief they do; for if the false apostles had not been endued with notable gifts, with great authority, and a shew of holiness, and had not vaunted themselves to be Christ’s ministers, the apostles, disciples, and sincere preachers of the Gospel, they could not so easily have defaced Paul’s authority, and led the Galatians out of the way.
Now, the cause why he setteth himself so sharply against them, calling them the troublers of the churches, is for that besides faith in Christ, they taught that circumcision and keeping of the law was necessary to salvation.
The which thing Paul himself witnesseth in the fifth chapter following; and Luke in Acts 15 declareth the same thing in these words: ‘That certain men coming down from Judaea, taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.’ Wherefore the false apostles most earnestly and obstinately contended that the law ought to be observed; unto whom the stiff-necked Jews forthwith joined themselves, and so afterwards easily persuaded such as were not established in the faith, that Paul was not a sincere teacher, because he regarded not the law. For it seemed unto them a very strange thing, that the law of God should utterly be taken away, and the Jews, which had always until that time been counted the people of God, to whom also the promises were made, should now be rejected. Yea, it seemed yet a more strange thing unto them, that the Gentiles, being wicked idolators, should attain to this glory and dignity, to be the people of God, without circumcision and without the works of the law, by grace only and faith in Christ.
These things had the false apostles amplified and set forth to the uttermost, that they might bring Paul into more hatred among the Galatians. And to the end that they might set them the more sharply against him, they said that he preached unto the Gentiles freedom from the law, to bring into contempt, yea and utterly to abolish, the law of God and the whole kingdom of the Jews, contrary to the law of God, contrary to the custom of the Jewish nation, contrary to the example of the Apostles, and to be short, contrary to his own example: wherefore, he was to be shunned as an open blasphemer against God, and a rebel against the whole commonweal of the Jews; saying that they themselves ought rather to be heard, who, besides that they preached the Gospel rightly, were also the very disciples of the Apostles, with whom Paul was never conversant. By this policy they defamed and defaced Paul among the Galatians, so that by this their perverse dealing, of very necessity Paul was compelled with all his might to set himself against these false apostles, whom he boldly reproveth and condemneth, saying that they are the troublers of the churches and overthrowers of Christ’s Gospel, as followeth.
AND INTEND TO PERVERT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
That is to say, they do not only go about to trouble you, but also utterly to abolish and overthrow Christ’s Gospel. For these two things the devil practiceth most busily: first, he is not contented to trouble and deceive many by his ungodly apostles, but moreover he laboreth by them utterly to overthrow the Gospel, and never resteth till he hath brought it to pass. Yet such perveters of the Gospel can abide nothing less than to hear that they are the apostles of the devil; nay, rather they glory above others in the name of Christ, and boast themselves to be the most sincere preachers of the Gospel. But because they mingle the law with the Gospel, they must needs be perverters of the Gospel. For either Christ must remain, and the law perish, or the law must remain, and Christ perish; for Christ and the law can by no means agree and reign together in the conscience. Where the righteousness of the law ruleth, there cannot the righteousness of grace rule; and again, where the righteousness of grace reigneth, there cannot the righteousness of the law reign; for one of them must needs give place unto the other. And if thou canst not believe that God will forgive thy sins for Christ’s sake, whom he sent into the world to be our high priest; how then, pray thee, wilt thou believe that he will forgive the same for the works of the law, which thou couldest never perform, or for thine own works, which (as thou must be constrained to confess) be such, as it is impossible for them to countervail the judgment of God? Wherefore, the doctrine of grace can by no means stand with the doctrine of the law. The one must simply be refused and abolished, and the other confirmed or established. But even as the Jews were averse from this doctrine of faith and grace, so are we also averse from it. I myself would willingly keep both the one and the other: to wit, the righteousness of grace as that which justifieth, and the righteousness of the law as that for which God should have respect unto me. But as Paul saith here, to mingle the one with the other is to overthrow the Gospel of Christ. And yet, if it come to debating, the greater part overcometh the better. For Christ with his side is weak, and the Gospel but a foolish preaching. Contrariwise, the kingdom of the world, and the devil the prince thereof, are strong. Besides that, the wisdom and righteousness of the flesh carry a goodly shew. And by this means, the righteousness of grace and faith is lost, and the other righteousness of the law and works advanced and maintained. But this is our comfort, that the devil with all his limbs cannot do what he would. He may trouble many, but he cannot overthrow Christ’s Gospel. The truth may be endangered, but it cannot perish; assailed it is, but vanquished it cannot be; for ‘the Word of the Lord endureth for ever’ ( 1 Peter 1:25).
It seemeth to be a light matter to mingle the law and the Gospel, faith and works, together; but it doth more mischief than a man’s reason can conceive, for it doth not only blemish and darken the knowledge of grace, but also it taketh away Christ with all his benefits, and it utterly overthroweth the Gospel, as Paul saith in this place. The cause of this great evil is our flesh, which, being plunged in sins, seeth no way how to get out but by works, and therefore it would live in the righteousness of the law, and rest in the trust and confidence of her own works. Wherefore, it is utterly ignorant of the doctrine of faith and grace, without the which, notwithstanding, it is impossible for the conscience to find rest and quietness.
It appeareth also by these words of Paul: ‘And intend to pervert the Gospel of Christ,’ that the false apostles were exceeding bold and shameless, which with all their might set themselves against Paul. Wherefore he again, using his spirit of zeal and fervency, and being fully persuaded of the certainty of his calling, setteth himself strongly against them, and wonderfully magnifieth his ministry, saying:
BUT THOUGH THAT WE, OR AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, PREACH UNTO YOU OTHERWISE THAN THAT WE HAVE PREACHED UNTO YOU, LET HIM BE ACCURSED
Here Paul casteth out very flames of fire, and his zeal is so fervent that he beginneth also almost to curse the angels. Although, saith he, that we ourselves, even I and my brethren Timothy and Titus, and as many as teach Christ purely with me (I speak not now of those seducers of consciences), yea, or if an angel from heaven preach unto you, etc.; notwithstanding I would rather that I myself, my brethren, yea and the very angels from heaven also, should be holden accursed, than that my Gospel should be overthrown. This is indeed a vehement zeal, that he dare so boldly curse, not only himself and his brethren, but also even an angel from heaven.
The Greek word anathema, in Hebrew herem, signifieth a thing accursed, execrable, and detestable, which hath nothing to do, no participation or communion with God. So saith Joshua: Let the city of Jericho be a perpetual anathema, that it be never built again ( Joshua 6:17,26). And in the last of Leviticus it is written: If a man or any beast shall have been devoted to anathema, let him be slain and not permitted to live ( Leviticus 27:28). So God had appointed that Amalech and certain other cities accursed by God’s own sentence, should be utterly razed and destroyed ( Exodus 17:13 f.). This then is the mind of Paul I had rather that myself, and other my brethren, yea, and an angel from heaven, should be accursed, than that we or others should preach any other gospel than that we have preached already. So Paul first curseth himself; for cunning artificers are wont first to find fault with themselves, that they may the more freely and sharply afterwards reprove others.
Paul therefore concludeth, that there is no other Gospel beside that which he himself had preached. But he preached not a Gospel which he had himself devised, but the same which God promised before by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures (Romans 1). Therefore he pronounceth himself and others, yea, even an angel from heaven, to be undoubtedly accursed, if they teach any thing contrary to the former Gospel: for the voice of the Gospel once set forth, shall not be called back again till the Day of Judgment.
AS WE SAID BEFORE, SO SAY WE NOW AGAIN, IF ANY MAN PREACH UNTO YOU OTHERWISE THAN THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED, LET HIM BE ACCURSED
He repeateth the self-same thing; only changing the persons. Before, he cursed himself, his brethren, and an angel from heaven; here, if there be any (saith he) besides us, which preach unto you any other gospel than that ye have received of us, let them also be accursed. Therefore, he plainly excommunicateth and curseth all teachers in general, himself, his brethren, an angel, and moreover all others whatsoever, namely, all those false teachers his adversaries. Here appeareth an exceeding great fervency of spirit in the Apostle, that he dare curse all teachers throughout the whole world and in heaven, which pervert his Gospel and teach any other: for all men must either believe that Gospel that Paul preached, or else they must be accursed and condemned. Would to God this terrible sentence of the Apostle might strike a fear into their hearts that seek to pervert the Gospel of Paul; of which sort at this day (the more it is to be lamented) the world is full.
This changing of persons is here to be marked. For Paul speaketh otherwise in his first cursing than he doth in the second. In the first he saith: ‘If we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other gospel than that we have preached unto you’; in the second: ‘Than that ye have received.’ And this he doth of purpose, lest the Galatians should say: We, O Paul, do not pervert the Gospel that thou hast preached unto us; we understood thee not rightly, but the teachers that came after thee have declared unto us the true meaning thereof. This (saith he) will I in no case admit. They ought to add nothing, neither to correct it; but that which ye heard of me is the sincere Word of God; let this only remain. Neither do I desire myself to be another manner of teacher than I was, nor you to be other disciples. Wherefore, if ye hear any man bringing any other gospel than that ye have heard of me, or bragging that he will deliver better things than ye have received of me, let him and his disciples be both accursed. But such is the nature of the ministers of Satan, that on this crafty wise they know how to creep and steal into the minds of men: they confess that they which taught the Gospel before them, began well indeed, but that this is not enough. So at this day the fantastical heads do grant unto us this meed of praise, that we have rightly begun the business of the Gospel. But because we detest and condemn their blasphemous doctrine, they call us new papists, twice as bad as the old. In this wise the thieves and robbers make entrance for themselves into the sheepfold of the Lord, that they may steal and kill and destroy ( <431001>John 10:1,10): for first they confirm our teaching, then they correct us and expound more clearly (as they dream) that which we have not sufficiently, or less rightly, understood. In the same manner the false apostles gained access to the Galatians. Paul (they said) hath indeed laid the foundation of Christian doctrine, but the true way of justification he doth not hold, because he teacheth men to turn aside from the law: this, therefore, that he was not able rightly to deliver unto you, receive ye from us. But Paul will have naught else taught by any, nor aught else heard and received by the Galatians, save that which he himself taught them before, and they heard and received from him.
They, then, (saith he) which do teach or receive aught else, let them be anathema.
The first two chapters, in a manner, contain nothing else but defenses of his doctrine, and confutations of errors; so that, until he cometh to the end of the second chapter, he toucheth not the chiefest matter which he handleth in this Epistle, namely, the article of justification. Notwithstanding, this sentence of Paul ought to admonish us, that so many as think the Pope to be judge of the Scripture, or the Church to have authority over the Scripture, are accursed: which thing the [popish] schoolmen have wickedly taught, standing upon this ground: The Church hath allowed four gospels only, therefore there are but four; for if it had allowed more, there had been more. Now, seeing the Church might receive and allow such and so many gospels as it would, therefore the Church is above the Gospel. A goodly argument, forsooth. I approve the Scripture, ergo I am above the Scripture! John Baptist acknowledgeth and confesseth Christ, and pointeth to him with his finger, therefore he is above Christ! The Church approveth the Christian faith and doctrine, therefore the Church is above them! For the overthrowing of this their wicked and blasphemous doctrine, thou hast here a plain text like a thunderbolt, wherein Paul subjecteth both himself and an angel from heaven, and doctors upon earth, and all other teachers and masters whatsoever, under the authority of the Scripture. This queen ought to rule, and all ought to obey and be subject unto her. They ought not to be masters, judges, or arbiters, but only witnesses, disciples, and confessors of the Scripture, whether it be the Pope, Luther, Augustine, Paul, or an angel from heaven. Neither ought any doctrine to be taught or heard in the Church besides the pure Word of God, that is to say, the holy Scripture; otherwise, accursed be both the teachers and hearers together with their doctrine.
FOR NOW PREACH I MAN’S DOCTRINE, OR GOD’S? F54
These words are spoken with the same vehemency of spirit that the former were, as if he should say: Am I, Paul, so unknown amongst you, which have preached so openly in your churches? Are my bitter conflicts, and so many sharp battles against the Jews, yet unknown to you? It appeareth (I think) sufficiently unto you by my preaching and by so many and so great afflictions which I have suffered, whether I serve men or God. For all men see that by this my preaching, I have not only stirred up persecution against me in every place, but have also procured the cruel hatred both of mine own nation and of all other men. I shew therefore plainly enough, that I seek not by my preaching the favor or praise of men, but to set forth the benefit and glory of God.
Neither do we seek the favor of men by our doctrine; for we teach that all men are ungodly by nature, and the children of wrath ( Ephesians 2:3).
We condemn man’s free-will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness, and all religion of man’s own devising: and to be short, we say that there is nothing in us that is able to deserve grace and the forgiveness of sins; but we preach that we obtain this grace by the free mercy of God only, for Christ’s sake: for so the heavens shew forth the glory of God and his works, condemning all men generally with their works ( Psalm 19:1 f.).
This is not to preach for the favor of men and of the world. For the world can abide nothing less than to hear his wisdom, righteousness, religion and power condemned; and to speak against those mighty and glorious gifts of the world, is not to flatter the world, but rather to procure hatred and indignation of the world. For if we speak against men, or any thing else that pertaineth to their glory, it cannot be but that cruel hatred, persecutions, excommunications, murders and condemnations must needs follow.
If then (saith Paul) they see other matters, why see they not this also, that I teach the things that are of God, and not of men? That is to say, that I seek no man’s favor by my doctrine, but I set out God’s mercy offered unto us in Christ; for if I sought the favor of men I would not condemn their works. Now, forasmuch as I condemn men’s works, that is to say, because I shew God’s judgment out of his Word (whereof I am a minister and apostle) against all men, how that they are sinners, unrighteous, ungodly, children of wrath, bondslaves of the devil and damned; and that they are not made righteous by works or by circumcision, but by grace only, and faith in Christ: therefore I procure unto myself the deadly hate of men; for they can abide nothing less than to hear that they are such; nay rather, they would be praised for wise, righteous and holy. Wherefore, this witnesseth sufficiently, that I teach not man’s doctrine. After the same manner Christ speaketh also in the seventh of John: ‘The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil’ ( John 7:7), and in the third of John: ‘This is condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness more than light, because their works were evil’ ( John 3:19).
Now, that I teach the things which are of God, saith the Apostle, hereby it may sufficiently appear, that I preach the only grace, the mercy, the goodness and the glory of God. Moreover, he that speaketh, as Christ saith, those things which his Lord and Master hath commanded him, and glorifieth not himself, but him whose Apostle he is, bringeth and teacheth the sure Word of God. But I teach those things only which are commanded me from above: neither glorify myself, but him that sent me. Besides that, I stir up against myself the wrath and indignation of both the Jews and Gentiles: therefore my doctrine is true, sincere, certain, and of God, neither can there be any other, much less any better, than this my doctrine is.
Wherefore, whatsoever doctrine else teacheth not as mine doth, that all men are sinners, and are justified by faith only in Christ, must needs be false, wicked, blasphemous, accursed and devilish; and even such also are they which either teach it or receive it.
So we with Paul do boldly pronounce all such doctrine to be accursed as agreeth not with ours. For neither do we seek by our preaching the praise of men, or the favor of princes or bishops, but the favor of God alone, whose only grace and mercy we preach, despising and treading under foot whatsoever is of ourselves. Whosoever he be, then, which shall teach any other gospel, or that which is contrary to ours, we are bold to say that he is sent of the devil, and hold him accursed.
OR GO I ABOUT TO PLEASE MEN?
That is, do I serve men or God? He hath always a glance at the false apostles. These, saith he, must needs seek to please and to flatter men; for by this means they seek, that they again may glory in their flesh. Moreover, because they will not bear the hatred and persecution of men, they teach circumcision, only to avoid the persecution of the Cross of Christ: ‘as followeth in the fifth chapter ( Galatians 5:11).
So at this day ye may find many which seek to please men, and to the end they may live in peace and security of the flesh, they teach the things which are of men, that is to say, ungodly things; or else they allow the blasphemies and wicked judgments of the adversaries, contrary to the Word of God, against their own conscience, that they may keep still the favor of princes and bishops and not lose their goods. But we, because we endeavor to please God and not men, do stir up against us the malice of the devil and hell itself: we suffer the reproaches and slanders of the world, death and all the mischiefs that can be devised against us.
So saith Paul here: I seek not to please men, that they may raise my doctrine, and report me to be an excellent teacher, but I desire only to please God; and by this means I make men my mortal enemies. Which thing I find by experience to be most true; for they requite me with infamy, slander, imprisonment, the sword, etc. Contrariwise the false apostles teach the things that are of men, that is to say, such things as be pleasant and plausible to man’s reason; and that to the end they may live in ease, and purchase the favor, good-will and praise of the people. And such men find that they seek for: for they are praised and magnified of men. So saith Christ also ( Matthew 6:2), that hypocrites do all things to be praised of men. And in the fifth of John he sharply reproveth such: ‘How can ye believe,’ saith he, ‘which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh of God alone?’ ( John 5:44). The things which Paul hath hitherto taught, are in a manner examples only. In the meantime, notwithstanding, he is very earnest everywhere in proving his doctrine to be sincere and sound. Therefore he exhorteth the Galatians that they forsake it not for any other doctrine.
FOR IF I SHOULD YET PLEASE MEN, I WERE NOT THE SERVANT OF CHRIST
These things are to be referred to the whole office and ministry of Paul, to shew what a contrariety there was between his conversation before in the Jewish law, and his conversation now under the Gospel. As if he would say: Do ye think that I go about still to please men, as I did in times past?
So he speaketh afterwards in the fifth chapter: ‘If I yet preach circumcision, why do I suffer persecution?’ ( Galatians 5:11). As though he would say: Do ye not see and hear of my daily conflicts, great persecutions and afflictions? After I was converted and called to the office of apostleship, I never taught man’s doctrine, neither sought I to please men, but God alone. That is to say, I seek not by my ministry and doctrine the praise and favor of men, but of God.
Here again is to be marked, how maliciously and craftily the false apostles went about to bring Paul into hatred among the Galatians. They picked out of his preachings and writings certain contradictions (as our adversaries at this day do out of our books) and by this means they would have convinced him that he had taught contrary things. Wherefore they said, that there was no credit to be given unto him; but that circumcision and the law ought to be kept: which thing he himself also by his example had allowed, because he had circumcised Timothy according to the law, had purified himself with other four men in the temple at Jerusalem, and had shaven his head at Cenchrea, etc. ( Acts 16:3; 21:24; 18:18). These things they craftily surmised, that Paul by the commandment and authority of the Apostles was constrained to do: which notwithstanding he had kept freely, bearing with the infirmity of the weak brethren (which yet understood not the Christian liberty) lest they should be offended. To whose cavillations thus he answereth: How true it is which the false apostles forge against me for the overthrowing of my Gospel, and setting up of the law and circumcision again, the matter itself sufficiently declareth. For if I would preach the law and circumcision, and commend the strength, the power, and the will of men, I should not be so odious unto them, but should please them.
NOW I CERTIFY YOU, BRETHREN, THAT THE GOSPEL WHICH WAS PREACHED OF ME, WAS NOT AFTER MAN. FOR NEITHER RECEIVED I IT OF MAN, NEITHER WAS I TAUGHT IT BUT BY THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.
Here is the principal point of this matter: which containeth a confutation of his adversaries, and a defense of his doctrine, to the end of the second chapter; and it is a kind of perpetual history which Paul here reciteth. In the harmonizing whereof, St. Jerome turneth himself anxiously about and laboureth exceedingly. But he toucheth not the heart of the matter, for he considereth not what Paul purposeth, or whereunto he hath regard.
Now the histories in the Scriptures are oftentimes briefly told and out of due order, so that they cannot easily be harmonised : as for example, the denials of Peter and the history of the passion of Christ, etc. So here Paul reciteth not the entire history. Therefore I labor not, neither am much troubled about the harmonising of it, but here I consider only what is the mind of Paul, and whereunto he hath regard.
Now here is the principal point of this matter: My Gospel is not according to man, neither received I it of man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ.
Upon this he standeth, this he urgeth and with an oath confirmeth, that he learned not his Gospel of any man, but received it by the revelation of Jesus Christ. And in that he sweareth, he is constrained so to do, that the Galatians may believe him, and also, that they should give no ear to the false apostles: whom he reproveth as liars, because they had said that he learned and received his Gospel of the Apostles.
Where he saith that his Gospel is not after man, he meaneth not that his Gospel is not earthly, for that is manifest of itself; and the false apostles bragged also that their doctrine was not earthly f56a but heavenly: but he meaneth that he learned not his Gospel by the ministry of men, or received it by any earthly means, as we all learn it either by the ministry of men, or else receive it by some earthly means, some by hearing, some by reading, and some by writing, etc.; but he received the same only by the revelation of Jesus Christ. If any man list to make any other distinction, I am not against it. Here the Apostle sheweth by the way, that Christ is not only man, but that he is both true God and man, when he saith that he received not his Gospel by man.
Now, Paul received his Gospel in the way as he was going to Damascus, where Christ appeared unto him and talked with him. Afterwards also he talked with him in the temple at Jerusalem ( Acts 22:17 ff.). But he received his Gospel in the way, as Luke reciteth the story in the ninth of the Acts. ‘Arise,’ saith Christ, ‘and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.’ He doth not bid him go into the city, that he might learn the Gospel of Ananias; but Ananias was bid to go and baptize him, to lay his hands upon him, to commit the ministry of the Word unto him, and to commend him unto the Church, and not to teach him the Gospel, which he had received afore (as he glorieth in the same place) by the only revelation of Jesus Christ. And this Ananias himself confesseth, saying: ‘Brother Saul, the Lord which appeared to thee in the way, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight.’ Therefore he received not his doctrine of Ananias, but being already called, lightened and taught of Christ in the way, he was sent to Ananias that he might also have the testimony of men, that he was called of God to preach the Gospel of Christ.
This Paul was constrained to recite, to put away the slander of the false apostles, who labored to bring him into hatred with the Galatians, saying that Paul was inferior to the rest of the Apostles’ scholars, who had received of the Apostles that which they taught and kept; whose conversation also they had seen a long time, and that Paul himself had also received the same things of them, although he did now deny it. Why then would they rather obey an inferior, and despise the authority of the Apostles themselves, who were not only the fore-elders and teachers of the Galatians, but also of all the churches throughout the whole world?
This argument, which the false apostles grounded upon the authority of the Apostles, was strong and mighty, whereby the Galatians were suddenly overthrown, especially in this matter. I would never have believed, had I not been taught by these examples of the churches of Galatia, of the Corinthians and others, that they which had received the Word of God in the beginning with such joy (among whom were many notable men) could so quickly be overthrown. O good Lord, what horrible and infinite mischiefs may one only argument easily bring, which so pierceth a man’s conscience, when God withdraweth his grace, that in one moment he loseth all together. By this subtilty then the false apostles did easily deceive the Galatians, being not fully stablished and grounded, but as yet weak in the faith.
Moreover, the matter of justification is brittle: not of itself, for of itself it is most sure and certain, but in respect of us. Whereof I myself have good experience. For I know in what hours of darkness I sometimes wrestle. I know how often I suddenly lose the beams of the Gospel and grace, as being shadowed from me with thick dark clouds. Briefly, I know in what a slippery place even such also do stand as are well exercised and seem to have sure footing in matters of faith. We have good experience of this matter: for we are able to teach it unto others, and this is a sure token that we understand it; for no man can teach unto others that whereof he himself is ignorant. But when in the very conflict we should use the Gospel, which is the Word of grace, consolation and life, there doth the law, the Word of wrath, heaviness and death prevent the Gospel, and beginneth to rage; and the terrors which it raiseth up in the conscience, are no less than was that horrible shew in the mount Sinai ( Exodus 19:16). So that even one place of the Scripture containing some threatening of the law overwhelmeth and drowneth all consolations besides, and so shaketh all our inward, powers, that it maketh us to forget justification, grace, Christ, the Gospel, and all together.
Therefore in respect of us, it is a very brittle matter, because we are brittle.
Again, we have against us even the one half of ourselves: that is to say, reason, and all the powers thereof. Besides all this, the flesh resisteth the spirit, for it cannot believe assuredly that the promises of God are true.
It fighteth therefore against the spirit, and (as Paul saith) it holdeth the spirit captive ( Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:23), so that it cannot believe so steadfastly as it would. Wherefore we teach continually, that the knowledge of Christ and of faith is no work of man, but simply the gift of God, who as he createth faith, so doth he keep it in us. And even as he first giveth faith unto us through the Word, so afterwards he exerciseth, increaseth, strengtheneth and maketh perfect the same in us by the Word.
Therefore the highest worship that a man can offer unto God, and the very sabbath of sabbaths, is to exercise himself in true godliness, diligently to hear and to read the Word. Contrariwise, there is nothing more dangerous than to be weary of the Word. He therefore that is so cold, that he thinketh himself to know enough, and beginneth by little and little to loathe the Word, that man hath lost Christ and the Gospel, and that which he thinketh himself to know, he attaineth only by bare speculation; and he is like unto a man, as St. James saith, ‘who beholding his face in a glass, goeth his way, and by and by forgetteth what his countenance was’ ( James 1:23,24).
Wherefore let every faithful man labor and strive with all diligence to learn and to keep this doctrine: and to that end, let him use humble and hearty prayer, with continual study and meditation of the Word. And when we have done never so much, yet shall we have enough to keep us occupied.
For we have to do with no small enemies, but strong and mighty, and such as are in continual war against us, namely, our own flesh, all the dangers of the world, the law, sin, death, the wrath and judgment of God, and the devil himself, who never ceaseth to tempt us inwardly by his fiery darts, and outwardly by his false apostles, to the end that he may overthrow, if not all, yet the most part of us.
This argument therefore of the false apostles had a goodly shew, and seemed to be very strong. Which also at this day prevaileth with many, namely, that the Apostles, the holy fathers and their successors have so taught; that the Church so thinketh and believeth. Moreover, that it is impossible that Christ should suffer his Church so long time to err. Art thou alone, say they, wiser than so many holy men, wiser than the whole Church? After this manner the devil, being changed into an angel of light, setteth upon us craftily at this day by certain pestiferous hypocrites, who say: We pass not for the Pope or bishops, the greatest despisers and persecutors of the Word, and we abhor the hypocrisy of monks, and such like; but we would have the authority of the holy catholic Church to remain untouched. The Church hath thus believed and taught this long time. So have all the doctors of the primitive Church, holy men, more ancient and better learned than thou. Who art thou, that darest dissent from all these, and bring unto us a contrary doctrine? When Satan reasoneth thus, conspiring with the flesh and reason, then is thy conscience terrified and utterly despaireth, unless thou constantly return to thyself again, and say:
Whether it be St. Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, either St. Peter, Paul, or John, yea or an angel from heaven, that teacheth otherwise, yet this I know assuredly, that I teach not the things of men, but of God that is to say, I attribute all things to God alone, and nothing to men.
When I first took upon me the defense of the Gospel, I remember that Doctor Staupitius, a most worthy man and Vicar of the Augustinian order, said thus unto me: This liketh me well, that this doctrine which thou preachest, yieldeth glory and all things else unto God alone, and nothing unto men: for unto God (it is clear as day) there cannot be attributed too much glory, goodness, etc. This saying did then greatly comfort and confirm me. And true it is, that the doctrine of the Gospel taketh from men all glory, wisdom, righteousness, etc., and giveth the same to the Creator alone, who maketh all things of nothing. We may also more safely attribute too much unto God, than unto man: for in this case I may say boldly: Be it so, that the Church, Augustine and other doctors, also Peter and Apollos, yea even an angel from heaven, teach a contrary doctrine, yet my doctrine is such, that it setteth forth and preacheth the grace and glory of God alone, and in the matter of salvation, it condemneth the righteousness and wisdom of all men. In this I cannot offend, because I give both to God and man that which properly and truly belongeth unto them both.
But thou wilt say: the Church is holy, the Fathers are holy. It is true; notwithstanding, albeit the Church be holy, yet is it compelled to pray: ‘Forgive us our trespasses’ ( Matthew 6:12). So, though the Fathers be holy, yet are they saved through the forgiveness of sins. Therefore neither am I to be believed, nor the Church, nor the Fathers, nor the Apostles, no, nor an angel from heaven, if we teach any thing against the Word of God; but let the Word of the Lord abide for ever for else this argument of the false apostles had mightily prevailed against Paul’s doctrine. For indeed it was a great matter, a great matter I say, to set before the Galatians the whole Church, with all the company of the Apostles, against Paul alone, but lately sprung up and of small authority. This was therefore a strong argument, and concluded mightily. For no man saith willingly that the Church erreth, and yet it is necessary to say that it erreth, if it teach any thing besides or against God’s Word.
Peter, the chief of the Apostles, taught both in life and doctrine besides God’s Word; therefore he erred and was deceived. Neither did Paul dissemble that error (although it seemed to be but a light fault) because he saw it would turn to the hurt of the whole Church, but withstood him even to his face, because he walked not after the truth of the Gospel ( Galatians 2:11). Therefore neither is the Church, nor Peter, nor the Apostles, nor angels from heaven, to be heard, unless they bring and teach the pure Word of God.
This argument, even at this day, is not a little prejudicial to our cause. For if we may neither believe the Pope, nor the Fathers, nor Luther, nor any other, except they teach us the pure Word of God, whom shall we then believe? Who, in the meanwhile, shall certify our consciences, which part teacheth the pure Word of God, we or our adversaries? For they brag that they also have the pure Word of God and teach it. Again, we believe not the Papists, because they teach not the Word of God, neither can they teach it. Contrariwise, they hate us most bitterly, and persecute us as most pestilent heretics and seducers of the people. What is to be done in this case? Shall it be lawful for every fantastical spirit, to teach what himself listeth, seeing the world can neither hear nor abide our doctrine? For although we glory with Paul, that we teach the pure Gospel of Christ (to the which not only ought the Emperor, the Pope and the whole world to yield, but they ought also to receive it with outstretched hands, embrace it lovingly, and give diligent care that it be everywhere taught. But if any man teach otherwise, whether the Pope, or St. Augustine, or an Apostle, or an angel from heaven, let him be anathema with his gospel), yet we profit nothing, but are compelled to hear that this our glorying is not only vain, rash, and arrogant, but also devilish and full of blasphemy. But if we abase ourselves, and give place to the rage of our adversaries, then both the Papists and Sectaries wax proud. The Sectaries will vaunt that they bring and teach some strange thing which the world never heard of before.
The Papists will set up again and establish their old abominations. Let every man therefore take heed, that he be most sure of his calling and doctrine, that he may boldly say with Paul: ‘Although we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you otherwise than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed’ ( Galatians 1:8).
FOR YE HAVE HEARD OF MY CONVERSATION IN TIMES PAST IN JEWISH RELIGION, HOW THAT I PERSECUTED THE CHURCH OF GOD EXTREMELY AND WASTED IT: AND PROFITED IN THE JEWISH RELIGION, ABOVE MANY OF MY COMPANIONS OF MINE OWN NATION
This place hath in it no singular doctrine. Notwithstanding, Paul allegeth here his own example, saying: I have defended the traditions of the Pharisees, and the Jewish religion, more constantly than ye and all your false teachers. Wherefore, if the righteousness of the law had been anything worth, I had not turned back from it: in the keeping whereof, notwithstanding, before I knew Christ I did so exercise myself, and so profit therein, that I excelled many of my companions of mine own nation.
Moreover, I was so zealous in defense of the same, that I persecuted the Church of God extremely, and wasted it. For having received authority of the high priests, I put many of the saints in prison ( Acts 26:10), and when they should be put to death,’ I pronounced the sentence; and punishing them throughout all the synagogues, I compelled them to blaspheme, and was so exceeding mad upon them, that I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
AND WAS MUCH MORE ZEALOUS OF THE TRADITIONS OF MY FATHERS
He calleth not here the traditions of the fathers, pharisaical or human traditions; for in this place he treateth not of the pharisaical traditions, but of a far higher matter, and therefore he calleth even that holy law of Moses, the fathers’ traditions: that is to say, received and left as an inheritance from the fathers. For these, saith he, when I was in the Jewish religion, I was very zealous. He speaketh after the same manner to the Philippians: ‘As concerning the law,’ saith he, ‘I was a Pharisee, concerning zeal, I persecuted the Church, and as concerning the righteousness of the law, I was unrebukable’ ( Philippians 3:6). As though he would say: Here I may glory, and may compare with the whole nation of the Jews, yea even with the best and holiest of all those which are of the circumcision; let them show me, if they can, a more zealous and earnest defender of Moses’ law, than I have been. This thing (O ye Galatians) ought to have persuaded you not to believe these deceivers, which magnify the righteousness of the law as a matter of great importance; whereas, if there were any cause to glory in the righteousness of the law, I have more cause to glory than any other.
In like manner say I of myself, that before I was lightened with the knowledge of the Gospel, I was as zealous for the papistical laws and traditions of the fathers, as ever any was, most earnestly maintaining and defending them as holy and necessary to salvation. Moreover, I endeavored to observe and keep them myself, as much as was possible for me to do; punishing my poor body with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises, more than all they which at this day do so bitterly hate and persecute me, because now I take from them the glory of justifying by works and merits. For I was so diligent and superstitious in the observation hereof, that I laid more upon my body than without danger of health it was able to bear. I honored the Pope of mere conscience, and unfeignedly, not seeking after prebends, promotions and livings: but whatsoever I did, I did it with a single heart, of a good zeal, and for the glory of God. But those things which then were gainful unto me, now with Paul I count to be but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. But our adversaries, as idle bellies, and tried with no temptations, believe not that I and many others have endured such things: I speak of such as with great desire sought for peace and quietness of conscience, which notwithstanding in so great darkness it was not possible for them to find.
BUT WHEN IT HAD PLEASED GOD (WHICH HAD SEPARATED ME FROM MY MOTHER’S WOMB, AND CALLED ME BY HIS GRACE) TO REVEAL HIS SON IN ME, THAT I SHOULD PREACH HIM AMONG THE GENTILES, IMMEDIATELY I COMMUNICATED NOT WITH FLESH AND BLOOD. NEITHER CAME I AGAIN TO JERUSALEM, TO THEM WHICH WERE APOSTLES BEFORE ME, BUT I WENT INTO ARABIA, AND TURNED AGAIN UNTO DAMASCUS
This is the first journey of Paul. Jerome here toileth hard, saying that Luke in the Acts writeth nothing of the journey of Paul into Arabia; as if it were needful to set down the events and doings of every single day, when that were impossible. Let it suffice that we have some particulars and a certain number of histories out of which we can take examples and instruction.
And here he witnesseth that straightway, after he was called by the grace of God to preach Christ among the Gentiles, he went into Arabia, without the advice of any man, to that work whereunto he was called. And this place witnesseth by whom he was taught, and by what means he came to the knowledge of the Gospel and to his apostleship. ‘When it had pleased God,’ saith he. As if he would say: I have not deserved it, because I was zealous of the law of God without judgment, nay rather, this foolish and wicked zeal stirred me up, that God so permitting, I fell headlong into more abominable and outrageous sins. I persecuted the Church of God, I was an enemy to Christ, I blasphemed his Gospel, and to conclude, I was the author of shedding much innocent blood. This was my desert. In the midst of this cruel rage, I was called to such inestimable grace. What? Was it because of this outrageous cruelty? No forsooth. But the abundant grace of God, who calleth and showeth mercy to whom he will, pardoned and forgave me all those blasphemies; and for these my horrible sins, which then I thought to be perfect righteousness, and an acceptable service unto God, he gave unto me his grace, the knowledge of his truth, and called me to be an Apostle.
We also are come at this day to the knowledge of grace by the self-same merits. I crucified Christ daily in my monkish life, and blasphemed God through my false faith, wherein I then continually lived. Outwardly I was not as other men, extortioners, unjust, whoremongers; but I kept chastity, poverty and obedience. Moreover, I was free from the cares of this present life. I was only given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses, and such like. Notwithstanding, in the meantime, I fostered under this cloaked holiness and trust in mine own righteousness, continual mistrust, doubtfulness, fear, hatred and blasphemy against God. And this my righteousness was nothing else but a filthy puddle, and the very kingdom of the devil. For Satan loveth such saints, and accounteth them for his dear darlings, who destroy their own bodies and souls, and deprive themselves of all the blessings of God’s gifts. In the meantime notwithstanding, wickedness, blindness, contempt of God, ignorance of the Gospel, profanation of the Sacraments, blaspheming and treading of Christ under foot, and the abuse of all the benefits and gifts of God, do reign in them at the full. To conclude, such saints are the bondslaves of Satan, and therefore are driven to think, speak and do whatsoever he will, although outwardly they seem to excel all others in good works, in holiness and strictness of life.
Such we were under the Popedom: verily no less, if not more, contumelious and blasphemous against Christ and his Gospel, than Paul himself, and specially I; for I did so highly esteem the Pope’s authority, that to dissent from him, even in the least point, I thought it a sin worthy of everlasting death. And that wicked opinion caused me to think that John Hus was a cursed heretic, yea and I accounted it an heinous offense but once to think of him; and I would myself, in defense of the Pope’s authority, have ministered fire and sword for the burning and destroying of that heretic, and thought it an high service unto God so to do. Wherefore if you compare publicans and harlots with these holy hypocrites, they are not evil. For they, when they offend, have remorse of conscience, and do not justify their wicked doings; but these men are so far from acknowledging their abominations, idolatries, wicked will-worshippings and ceremonies to be sins, that they affirm the same to be righteousness, and a most acceptable sacrifice unto God, yea, they adore them as matters of singular holiness, and through them do promise salvation unto others, and also sell them for money, as things available to salvation.
This is then our goodly righteousness, this is our high merit, which bringeth us unto the knowledge of grace: to wit, that we have so deadly and so devilishly persecuted, blasphemed, trodden under foot, and condemned God, Christ, the Gospel, faith, the Sacraments, all godly men, the true worship of God, and have taught and stablished quite contrary things. And the more holy we were, the more were we blinded, and the more did we worship the devil. There was not one of us but he was a bloodsucker, if not in deed, yet in heart.
WHEN IT PLEASED GOD
As though he would say: It is the alone and inestimable favor of God, that not only he hath spared me, so wicked and so cursed a wretch, such a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a rebel against God, but beside, that, hath also given unto me the knowledge of salvation, his Spirit, Christ his Son, the office of an Apostle, and everlasting life. So God beholding us guilty in the like sins, hath not only pardoned our impieties and blasphemies of his mere mercy for Christ’s sake, but hath also overwhelmed us with great benefits and spiritual gifts. But many of us are not only unthankful unto God for this his inestimable grace, and as it is written ( 2 Peter 1:9), do forget the cleansing of their old sins; but also opening again a window to the devil, they begin to loathe his Word, and many also do pervert and corrupt it, and so become authors of new errors. The ends of these men are worse than the beginnings ( Matthew 12:45).
WHICH HAD SEPARATED ME FROM MY MOTHER’S WOMB
This is an Hebrew phrase. As if he said: Which had sanctified, ordained, and prepared me. That is, God had appointed, when I was yet in my mother’s womb, that I should so rage against his Church, and that afterwards he would mercifully call me back again from the midst of my cruelty and blasphemy, by his mere grace, into the way of truth and salvation. To be short, when I was not yet born, I was an Apostle in the sight of God, and when the time was come, I was declared an Apostle before the whole world.
Thus Paul cutteth off all deserts, and giveth glory to God alone, but to himself all shame and confusion. As though he would say: All the gifts both small and great, as well spiritual as corporal, which God purposed to give unto me, and all the good things which at any time in all my life I should do, God himself had before appointed when I was yet in my mother’s womb, where I could neither wish, think, nor do any good thing. Therefore this gift came unto me by the mere predestination and free mercy of God before I was yet born. Moreover, after I was born, he supported me, being laden with innumerable and most horrible iniquities. And that he might the more manifestly declare the unspeakable and inestimable greatness of his mercy towards me, he of his mere grace forgave my abominable and infinite sins, and moreover replenished me with such plenty of his grace, that I did not only know what things are given unto us in Christ, but preached the same also unto others. Such are the deserts and merits of all men, and especially of those old dotards, who exercise themselves wholly in the stinking puddles of man’s own righteousness.
AND CALLED ME BY HIS GRACE
Mark the diligence of the Apostle. ‘He called me,’ saith he. How? Was it for my pharisaical religion, or for my blameless and holy life? For my prayers, fastings and works? No. Much less for my blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions. How then? By his mere grace alone.
TO REVEAL HIS SON IN ME
You hear in this place, what manner of doctrine is given and committed to Paul: to wit, the doctrine of the Gospel, which is the revelation of the Son of God. This is a doctrine quite contrary to the law, which revealeth not the Son of God, but it showeth forth sin, it terrifieth the conscience, it revealeth death, the wrath and judgment of God, and hell. The Gospel therefore is such a doctrine, as admitteth no law yea, it must be separate as far from the law, as there is distance between heaven and earth. This difference in itself is easy and plain, but unto us it is hard and full of difficulty. For it is an easy matter to say, that the Gospel is nothing else but the revealing of the Son of God, or the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and not the revealing of the law. But in the agony and conflict of conscience, to hold this fast and to practice it indeed, it is a hard matter, yea to them also that be most exercised therein.
Now, if the Gospel be the revealing of the Son of God, as Paul defineth it in this place, then surely it accuseth not, it terrifieth not the conscience, it threateneth not death, it bringeth not to despair, as the law doth; but it is a doctrine concerning Christ, who is assuredly neither law nor work, but our righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption ( 1 Corinthians 1:30). Although this thing be more clear than the sunlight, yet notwithstanding, the madness and blindness of the Papists hath been so great, that of the Gospel they have made a law of charity, and of Christ a lawmaker, giving more strait and heavy commandments than Moses himself. But the Gospel teacheth, that Christ came not to set forth a new law, and to give commandments as touching manners: but that he came to this end, that he might be made an oblation for the sins of the whole world, and that our sins might be forgiven, and everlasting life given unto us for his sake, and not for the works of the law, or for our own righteousness.
Of this inestimable treasure freely bestowed upon us, the Gospel properly preacheth unto us. Wherefore it is a kind of doctrine that is not learned or gotten by any study, diligence, or wisdom of man, nor yet by the law of God, but is revealed by God himself, as Paul saith in this place; first by the external Word, then by the working of God’s spirit inwardly. The Gospel therefore is a divine Word that came down from heaven, and is revealed by the Holy Ghost, who was also sent for the same purpose: yet in such sort notwithstanding, that the outward Word must go before. For Paul himself had no inward revelation, until he had heard the outward. Word from heaven, which was this, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ ( Acts 9:4). First, therefore, he heard the outward Word, then afterwards followed revelations, the knowledge of the Word, faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
THAT I SHOULD PREACH HIM AMONG THE GENTILES
‘It pleased God,’ saith he, ‘to reveal his Son in me.’ To what purpose? Not only that I myself should believe in the Son of God, but also that I should preach him among the Gentiles. And why not among the Jews? Lo, here we see that Paul is properly the Apostle of the Gentiles, albeit he preached Christ among the Jews also.
Paul comprehendeth here in a few words, as he is wont, his whole divinity, which is: to preach Christ among the Gentiles. As if he would say: I will not burden the Gentiles with the law, because I am the Apostle and evangelist of the Gentiles, and not their lawgiver. Thus he directeth all his words against the false apostles. As though he would say: O ye Galatians, ye have not heard the righteousness of the law, or of works, to be taught by me; for this belongeth to Moses, and not to me, Paul, being the Apostle of the Gentiles. For my office and ministry is to bring the Gospel unto you, and to show unto you the same revelation which I myself have had.
Therefore ought you to hear no teacher that teacheth the law. For among the Gentiles, the law ought not to be preached, but the Gospel; not Moses, but the Son of God; not the righteousness of works, but the righteousness of faith. This is the preaching that properly belongeth to the Gentiles.
IMMEDIATELY I COMMUNICATED NOT WITH FLESH AND BLOOD
St. Jerome hath here a great contention against Porphyrius and Julian, which charge Paul with arrogance because he would not confer his Gospel with the rest of the Apostles; also because Paul calleth the Apostles ‘flesh and blood.’ But Paul here making mention of flesh and blood, speaketh not of the Apostles. For by and by he addeth: ‘Neither came I again to Jerusalem, to them which were apostles before me.’ But this is Paul’s meaning, that after he had once received the revelation of the Gospel from Christ, he consulted not with any man in Damascus, much less did he desire any man to teach him the Gospel; again, that he went not to Jerusalem, to Peter and the other Apostles, to learn the Gospel of them, but that forthwith in Damascus, where he received baptism of Ananias, and imposition of hands (for it was necessary for him to have the outward sign and testimony of his calling), he preached Jesus as the Son of God. The same also writeth Luke, Acts 9.
NEITHER CAME I TO JERUSALEM, TO THEM THAT WERE APOSTLES BEFORE ME, BUT WENT INTO ARABIA, AND TURNED AGAIN UNTO DAMASCUS
That is, I went into Arabia before I saw the Apostles or consulted with them, and forthwith I took upon me the office of preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles: for thereunto I was called, and had also received a revelation from God. In vain therefore doth Jerome inquire what Paul did in Arabia. For what else should he do, but preach Christ? For to this end (saith he) was the Son of God revealed in him, that he might preach him among the Gentiles. Wherefore he betaketh himself forthwith from Damascus, a Gentile city, unto Arabia, where also were Gentiles, and there doeth his office with his might. He did not then receive his Gospel of any man, or of the Apostles themselves, but was content with his heavenly calling, and with the revelation of Jesus Christ alone. Wherefore this whole place is a confutation of the false apostles’ argument, which they used against Paul, saying that he was but a scholar and a hearer of the Apostles, who lived after the law; and moreover, that Paul himself also had lived according to the law, and therefore it was necessary that the Gentiles themselves should keep the law, and be circumcised. To the end therefore that he might stop the mouths of these cavillers, he rehearseth this long history: Before my conversion, saith he, I learned not my Gospel of the Apostles, nor of any other of the brethren that believed (for I persecuted extremely, not only this doctrine, but also the Church of God, and wasted it); neither after my conversion, for forthwith I preached, not Moses with his law, but Jesus Christ at Damascus, consulting with no man, neither as yet having seen any of the Apostles. So we also can boast, that we have not received our doctrine from the Pope. The holy Scripture and the outward symbols we have indeed from him, but not the doctrine, which hath come unto us by the gift of God alone. Whereunto hath been added our own study, reading and inquiry.
The argument of our adversaries, therefore, is a thing of naught, which they use at this day, saying: Who should believe your doctrine, ye Lutherans, seeing ye are in no public office? Ye ought to take your doctrine from the Pope and the bishops, which are ordained and in a lawful function, etc.
THEN AFTER THREE YEARS I CAME AGAIN TO JERUSALEM, TO VISIT PETER, AND ABODE WITH HIM FIFTEEN DAYS.
AND NONE OTHER OF THE APOSTLES SAW I, SAVE JAMES, THE LORD’S BROTHER.
Paul granteth that he was with the Apostles, but not with all the Apostles.
Howbeit he declareth that he went up to Jerusalem to them, not commanded, but of his own accord, not to learn any thing of them, but only to see Peter. The same thing Luke also writeth in the ninth chapter of the Acts, that Barnabas led Paul to the Apostles, and declared to .them, how that he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he spake unto him; also that he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. This witness beareth Barnabas of him. All his words are so framed, that they prove his Gospel not to be of man. Indeed he granteth that he had seen Peter, and James the brother of our Lord, but none other of the Apostles besides these two, and that he learned nothing of them.
He granteth therefore, that he was at Jerusalem with the Apostles; and this did the false apostles rightly report. He granteth moreover, that he had lived after the manner of the Jews, but yet only among the Jews. For this rule did Paul keep: ‘When thou art at Rome, live after the Roman manner.’
And this is it which he saith in 1 Corinthians 9 (19 ff.): ‘When I was free from all men, I made myself servant to all men, that I might win the more.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, etc. I was made all things to all men, that I might save all.’ He granteth therefore, that he was at Jerusalem with the Apostles, but he denieth that he had learned his Gospel of them. Also he denieth that he was constrained to teach the Gospel as the Apostles had prescribed. The whole effect then of this matter lieth in this word, ‘to see’:
I went, saith he, to see Peter, and not to learn of him. Therefore neither is Peter my master, nor yet James. And as for the other Apostles, he utterly denieth that he saw any of them.
But why doth Paul repeat this so often, that he learned not his Gospel of men, nor of the Apostles themselves? His purpose is this, to persuade the churches of Galatia, which were now led away by the false apostles, and to put them out of all doubt that his Gospel was the true Word of God; and for this cause he repeateth it so often. And if he had not prevailed herein, he never could have stopped the mouths of the false apostles. For thus they would have objected against him: We are as good as Paul, we are disciples of the Apostles as well as he; moreover, he is but one alone, and we are many; therefore we excel him, both in authority and in number also.
Here Paul was constrained to glory, to affirm and swear, that he learned not his Gospel of any man, neither received it of the Apostles themselves. It was most necessary for him thus to glory, and it was no vain boasting, as Porphyrius and Julian falsely declare, who perceived not (as Jerome likewise did not) what Paul was about. For his ministry was here in great danger, and all the churches likewise, which had used him as their chief pastor and teacher. The necessity therefore of his ministry, and of all the churches, required that with a necessary and holy pride he should vaunt of his vocation, and of the knowledge of the Gospel revealed unto him by Christ, that their consciences might be thoroughly persuaded that his doctrine was the true Word of God. Here had Paul a weighty matter in hand: namely, that all the churches might be kept in sound doctrine; yea, the controversy was in deed, as touching life and death everlasting. For if the pure Word of God be once taken away, there remaineth no consolation, no life, no salvation. The cause therefore why he reciteth these things,, is to retain the churches in true and sound doctrine. His purpose is therefore to show by this history, that he received his Gospel of no man.
Again, that he preached for a certain time, namely, the space of three or four years, both in Damascus and Arabia, by revelation from God, before he had seen any of the Apostles, even the selfsame Gospel that the Apostles had preached. Jerome here maketh sport with the mystery of the fifteen days. He saith also that Paul in those fifteen days was taught of Peter and instructed in the mystery of the Ogdoad and Hebdoad. But these things have nothing to do with the fact. For Paul saith in plain words that he came to Jerusalem to see Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days. If his purpose had been to learn the Gospel of Peter, he must needs have stayed there several years.
In fifteen days he could not have been made so great an apostle and teacher of the Gentiles — not to mention that in these fifteen days (as Luke testifieth, Acts 9:28 ff.) he spake with boldness in the name of the Lord and disputed with the Greeks, etc.
AND NOW THE THINGS WHICH I WRITE UNTO YOU, BEHOLD I WITNESS BEFORE GOD I LIE NOT
Wherefore addeth he an oath? Because he reporteth an history. He is constrained to swear, to the end that the churches might believe him; lest the false apostles should say: Who knoweth whether Paul speaketh the truth or no? Here you see that Paul, the elect vessel of Christ, was in so great contempt among his own Galatians, to whom he had preached Christ, that it was necessary for him to swear that he spake the truth. If this happened then to the Apostles, to have so mighty adversaries that they durst despise them and accuse them of lying, what marvel is it if the like at this day happen unto us, which in no respect are worthy to be compared with the Apostles? He sweareth in a matter (as it seemeth) of no weight, that he speaketh the truth, namely, that he tarried not with Peter to learn of him, but only to see him; but if you weigh the matter diligently, it is very weighty and of great importance, as may appear by what is said before. In like manner we swear after the example of Paul, in this wise: God knoweth that we lie not, etc.
AFTER THAT, I WENT INTO THE COASTS OF SYRIA AND CILICIA
Syria and Cilicia are countries near situate together. This is it that he still goeth about to persuade, that as well before he had seen the Apostles as after, he was always a teacher of the Gospel, and that he received it by the revelation of Christ, and was never any disciple of the Apostles.
FOR I WAS UNKNOWN BY FACE UNTO THE CHURCHES OF JUDAEA WHICH WERE IN CHRIST. BUT THEY HEARD ONLY SOME SAY, HE WHICH PERSECUTED US IN TIMES PAST, NOW PREACHETH THE FAITH WHICH BEFORE HE DESTROYED. AND THEY GLORIFIED GOD IN ME
This he addeth for the sequel and continuance of the history, that after he had seen Peter, he went into Syria and Cilicia, and there preached, and so preached, that he won the testimony of all the churches in Judaea. As though he would say: I appeal to the testimony of all the churches, yea even of those which are in Judaea; for the churches do witness, not only in Damascus, Arabia, Syria and Cilicia, but also in Judaea, that I have preached the same faith which I once withstood and persecuted. And they glorified God in me, not because I taught that circumcision and the law of Moses ought to be kept, but for the preaching of faith, and for the edifying of the churches by my ministry in the Gospel. Ye therefore have the testimony not only of the people of Damascus and of Arabia, etc., but also of the whole catholic Church in Judaea, etc.
CHAPTER - THEN FOURTEEN YEARS AFTER, I WENT UP AGAIN TO JERUSALEM
PAUL taught that the Gentiles were justified by faith only, without the works of the law. This doctrine when he had published abroad among the Gentiles, he cometh to Antioch, and declareth to the disciples what he had done. Then they which had been trained up in the old customs of the law, rose against Paul with great indignation, for that he preached to the Gentiles liberty from the bondage of the law. Whereupon followed great dissension, which afterwards stirred up new troubles. Paul and Barnabas stood strongly to the truth, and testified, saying: Wheresoever we preached among the Gentiles, the Holy Ghost came and fell upon those which heard the Word; and this was done throughout all the churches of the Gentiles.
But we preached not circumcision, neither did we require the keeping of the law, but we preached only faith in Jesus Christ; and at this preaching of faith, God gave to the hearers the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, therefore, doth approve the faith of the Gentiles, without the law and circumcision; for if the preaching of the Gospel, and faith of the Gentiles in Christ, had not pleased him, he had not come down in a visible shape upon the uncircumcised which heard the Word. Seeing then by the only hearing of faith he came down upon them, it is certain that the Holy Ghost by this sign hath approved the faith of the Gentiles; for it doth not appear that this was ever done before at the preaching of the law.
Then the Jews and many of the Pharisees which did believe, and notwithstanding bare yet a great zeal to the law, earnestly striving to maintain the glory thereof, set themselves fiercely against Paul (who alarmed that the Gentiles were justified by faith only, without the works of the law), contending that the law ought to be kept, and that the Gentiles ought to be circumcised; for otherwise they could not be saved, And no marvel; for the very name of the law of God is holy and dreadful. The heathen man, which never knew any thing of the law of God, if he hear any man say: This doctrine is the law of God, he is moved therewith. How then could it be but the Jews must needs be moved, and vehemently contend for the maintenance of the law of God, which even from their infancy had been nusled and trained up therein?
We see at this day, how obstinate the Papists be in defending their traditions and doctrines of devils; wherefore, it was much less to be marveled that the Jews did so vehemently and zealously strive for the maintenance of their law, which they had received from God. Custom is of such force, that whereas nature is of itself inclined to the observation of the law, by long continuance it so confirmeth nature, that now it becometh a double nature. Therefore, it was not possible for the Jews which were newly converted to Christ, suddenly to forsake the law; who, though they had received the faith of Christ, thought it necessary notwithstanding to observe the law. And with this their weakness God did bear for a time, until the doctrine of the Gospel might be plainly discerned from the law. So he bare with the infirmity of Israel in the time of king Ahab, when the people halted between two religions. He bare also with our weakness whilst we were under the blindness of the Pope. For he is long-suffering, and full of mercy. But we must not abuse this goodness and patience of the Lord, nor continue still in our weakness and error, since the truth is now revealed by the clear light of the Gospel.
Moreover, they that stood against Paul, affirming that the Gentiles ought to be circumcised, had to lay for themselves, first the law and custom of the country, theft the example of the Apostles, and last of all, the example of Paul himself, who had circumcised Timothy. Wherefore, if Paul in his defense said that he did not this of necessity, but for Christian love and liberty, lest they which were weak in faith should be offended, which of them would comprehend or believe him? Hereunto all the people would answer: Since it is evident that thou hast circumcised Timothy, thou mayest say what thou wilt; notwithstanding thou hast done it. For this is a matter far passing all man’s capacity, and therefore they could not understand it.
Moreover, no defense can serve when a man hath lost the favor of the people, and is fallen into such deadly hatred and contempt. Paul therefore seeing this contention and these clamors daily to increase more and more, and being also warned by revelation from God, after fourteen years (besides those wherein he had preached in Damascus and Arabia) goeth up again to Jerusalem, to confer his Gospel with the other Apostles; yet not for his own cause, but for the people’s sake.
Now, this contention touching the observation of the law, exercised Paul a long time after, and wrought him much trouble; but I do not think that this is the contention which Luke speaketh of in the fifteenth of the Acts, which happened, as it appeareth, by and by after the beginning of the Gospel; but this history which Paul here mentioneth, seemeth to be done long after, when Paul had now almost eighteen years preached the Gospel.
WITH BARNABAS, AND TOOK WITH ME TITUS
He joineth unto himself two witnesses, Barnabas and Titus. Barnabas was Paul’s companion in preaching to the Gentiles freedom from the servitude of the law. He was also a witness of all those things which Paul did, and had seen the Holy Ghost given unto the Gentiles, which were uncircumcised and free from Moses’s law, by the only preaching of faith in Jesus Christ. And he alone stuck to Paul in this point, that it was not necessary that the Gentiles should be burdened with the law, but that it was enough for them to believe in Christ. Wherefore, by his own experience he testifieth with Paul against the Jews, that the Gentiles were made the children of God and saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ, without the law of circumcision.
Titus was not only a Christian, but also the chief overseer in Crete; for unto him Paul had committed the charge of governing the churches there ( Titus 1); and this Titus was a Gentile.
AND I WENT UP BY REVELATION
For unless Paul had been admonished by revelation, he had not gone up to Jerusalem: but because God warned him by a special revelation, and commanded him to go up, therefore he went. And this he did to bridle, or at least to appease, the Jews that believed and yet obstinately contended about the keeping of the law, to the end that the truth of the Gospel might the more be advanced and confirmed.
AND I COMMUNICATED WITH THEM TOUCHING THE GOSPEL
You hear then, that at length after eighteen years he went up to Jerusalem, and conferred with the Apostles touching his Gospel.
WHICH I PREACH AMONG THE GENTILES
For among the Jews he suffered the law and circumcision for a time, as the other Apostles did: ‘I am made all things unto all men,’ saith he ( Corinthians 9:22); yet ever holding the true doctrine of the Gospel, which he preferred above the law, circumcision, the Apostles, yea and an angel from heaven. For thus saith he unto the Jews: ‘Through this Christ, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.’ And he addeth very plainly: ‘and from all things, from the which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses, by him every one that believeth is justified ‘ ( Acts 13:38 f.). For this cause he teacheth and defendeth the doctrine of the Gospel so diligently every where, and never suffereth it to come in danger.
Notwithstanding, he did not suddenly break out at the first but had regard unto the weak. And because the weak should not be offended, there is no doubt but he spake to the Jews after this manner: If that unprofitable service of Moses’ law, which nothing availeth to righteousness, do so highly please you, ye may keep it still for me, so that the Gentiles which are not bound to this law, be not charged therewithal.
Paul therefore confesseth, that he conferred the Gospel with the Apostles.
But (saith he) they profited me or taught me nothing: but I rather for the defense of the liberty, of the Gospel, in the presence of the Apostles, did constantly resist those which would needs force the observation of the law upon the Gentiles, and so did overcome them. Wherefore your false apostles lie, in saying that I circumcised Timothy, that I shaved my head in Cenchrea, and that I went up to Jerusalem, at the commandment of the Apostles. Nay rather, I glory that in going up to Jerusalem by the revelation of God, and not at the commandment of the Apostles, and there conferring my Gospel with them, I brought to pass the contrary, that is to say, obtained that the Apostles did approve me, and not those which were against me.
Now, the question whereupon the Apostles conferred together in this assembly, was this: whether the keeping the law were necessary to justification or no. To this Paul answered: I have preached unto the Gentiles, according to my Gospel which I received from God, faith in Christ, and not the law, and at this preaching of faith, they received the Holy Ghost; and hereof Barnabas shall bear me witness. Wherefore I conclude, that the Gentiles ought not to be burdened with the law, nor to be circumcised. Notwithstanding, I give no restraint to the Jews herein: who if they will needs keep the law and be circumcised, I am not against it, so that they do it with freedom of conscience. And thus have I taught and lived among the Jews, ‘being made a Jew unto the Jews;’ holding ever the truth of my Gospel notwithstanding.
BUT PARTICULARLY WITH THEM THAT WERE THE CHIEFEST
That is to say, I did not only confer with the brethren, but with those that were the chiefest among them.
LEST BY ANY MEANS I SHOULD RUN, OR HAD RUN IN VAIN
Not that Paul doubted, that he ran or had run in vain, forasmuch as he had now preached the Gospel eighteen years, (for it followeth incontinent in the text, that he had continued firm and constant all this while, and had prevailed); but for that many did think that Paul had therefore preached the Gospel so many years in vain, because he had set the Gentiles at liberty from the observation of the law. Moreover, this opinion daily more and more increased, that the law was necessary to justification. Wherefore, in going up to Jerusalem by revelation, he meant so to remedy this evil, that by this comerence all men might plainly see his Gospel to be in no point contrary to the doctrine of the other Apostles, to the end that by this means he might stop the mouths of the adversaries, which would else have said that he ran or had run in vain. Note here by the way, the virtue of man’s own righteousness, or the righteousness of the law, to be such that they which teach it, do run and live in vain.
BUT NEITHER YET TITUS WHICH WAS WITH ME, THOUGH HE WERE A GRECIAN, WAS COMPELLED TO BE CIRCUMCISED
This word ‘was compelled’ sufficiently declareth what the conference and conclusion was: to wit, that the Gentiles should not be constrained to be circumcised, but that circumcision should be permitted to the Jews for a time: not as necessary to righteousness, but for the reverence to the fathers: and for charity’s sake towards the weak, lest they should be offended, until they were grown up more strong in faith. For it might have seemed a very strange and unseemly thing, upon a sudden to forsake the law and traditions of the fathers, which had been given to this people from God with so great glory.
Paul then did not reject circumcision as a damnable thing, neither did he by word or deed enforce the Jews to forsake it. For in 1 Corinthians 7:18 he saith: ‘If any man be called being circumcised, let him not add uncircumcision.’ But he rejected circumcision as a thing not necessary to righteousness, seeing the fathers themselves were not justified thereby, but it was unto them as a sign only, or a seal of righteousness ( Romans 4:11), whereby they testified and exercised their faith. Notwithstanding, the believing Jews which were yet weak and bare a zeal to the law, hearing that circumcision was not necessary to righteousness, could understand this no otherwise, but that it was altogether unprofitable and damnable. And this fond opinion of the weak Jews the false apostles did increase, to the end that, the hearts of the people being stirred up against Paul by this occasion, they might thoroughly discredit his doctrine. So we at this day do not reject fasting and other good exercises as damnable things; but we teach that by these exercises we do not obtain remission of sins. When the people hear this, by and by they judge us to speak against good works.
And this opinion the Papists do confirm and increase by their preachings and writings. But they lie, and do us great wrong. For many years past, there was never any that taught more sound and godly doctrine as touching good works, than we do at this day.
Paul therefore did not so condemn circumcision, as though it were sin to receive it or keep it: for the Jews would have been highly offended: but it was decided in this conference and council, that it was not necessary to justification, and therefore not to be forced upon the Gentiles. So this moderation was found, that for the reverence of the fathers, and charity towards the weak in faith, the Jews should keep the law and circumcision still for a time; notwithstanding they should not thereby seek to be Justified. And moreover, that the Gentiles should not be burdened therewith, both because it would have been to them a very strange thing, and also a burden intolerable ( Acts 15:10). Briefly, that none should be constrained to be circumcised, or any restrained from circumcision. Jerome and Augustine do sharply contend concerning this place of Paul.
This word ‘was compelled’ maketh for the defense of Augustine. Jerome understood not the matter. For it is not here in dispute, what Peter or Paul did in the matter of circumcising or not circumcising, as Jerome thinketh.
Wherefore he marvelleth how Paul durst reprehend in Peter that which he himself, did; for (saith he) Paul circumcised Timothy, and lived as a Gentile with the Gentiles and as a Jew with the Jews, etc. He thinketh it to be no serious matter that is here in dispute. Therefore he concludeth that neither had sinned; but he feigneth that both had dissembled with an official falsehood, But in truth, all these their disputings were and are serious and concerning matters of very great weight. Therefore they did nothing by dissimulation.
Now this was the principal question: Whether the law be necessary to justification or no? Concerning this especial theme, whereon hangeth the whole sum of Christian doctrine, Paul and Peter do here contend. Paul was too grave a man to assail and rebuke Peter thus freely in the presence of the whole church of Antioch for the sake of a trifling matter. He assaileth him for the sake of the chief article of Christian doctrine. For when the Jews were absent, Peter ate with the Gentiles, but when the came, he withdrew himself, etc. There Paul reprehendeth him because by his dissimulation he compelled the Gentiles to do as the Jews. The whole force lieth in the word, ‘thou compellest.’ This Jerome seeth not.
Paul therefore compelled none that would be circumcised, to remain uncircumcised, so that he knew circumcision not to be necessary to justification. This constraint would Paul take away. Therefore he suffered the Jews to keep the law, so that fa6a they did it with a free conscience. For he had ever taught, as well the Jews as the Gentiles, that in conscience they ought to be free from the law and circumcision; like as all the patriarchs and all the faithful in the Old Testament were free in conscience and justified by faith, and not by the law or circumcision. And indeed, Paul might have suffered Titus to be circumcised; but because he saw that they would compel him thereunto, he would not. For if they had prevailed therein, by and by they would have gathered that it had been necessary to justification, and so through this sufferance, they would have triumphed against Paul. So also we leave every man free to put on or put off a cowl, to enter or to leave a monastery, to eat flesh or herbs; only, let him do these things freely and without offense of conscience, to please a brother or as an example of charity; and let him know that all of these things avail nothing in the matter of satisfying for sins and obtaining grace, etc. But as in Paul’s time the false apostles would not leave circumcision and the observation of the law indifferent, but required the same as necessary to salvation, so at this day our adversaries do obstinately contend that men’s traditions cannot be omitted without peril of salvation: and thus of an example of charity, they make an example of faith, when notwithstanding there is but one example of faith, which is to believe in Jesus Christ. And this, as it is alone necessary to salvation, so doth it also indifferently pertain to all men. Notwithstanding the adversaries would rather worship the devil ten times instead of God, than they would suffer this. Therefore they are daily hardened more and more, and seek to establish their impieties and blasphemies against God, defending the same by force and tyranny, and will not agree or consent unto us in any point. But what then? Let us go on boldly in the name of the Lord of Hosts, setting forth the glory of Jesus Christ and fighting valiantly against the kingdom of Antichrist by the Word and by prayer, that the name of God alone may be sanctified, that his kingdom may come, and that his will may be done ( Matthew 6:9 f.).
And that this may speedily come to pass, we desire even from the bottom of our hearts, and say, Amen, Amen.
This triumph of Paul therefore was very glorious: namely, that Titus who was a Gentile, although he were in the midst of the Apostles and all the faithful, where this question was so vehemently debated, was yet not constrained to be circumcised. This victory Paul carrieth away, and saith that in this conference it was decided by the consent of all the Apostles, the whole Church also approving the same, that Titus should not be circumcised. This is a strong argument, and maketh very much against the false apostles. And with this argument, ‘Neither was Titus corn-peeled to be circumcised,’ Paul was able to repress and mightily to convince all his adversaries. As if he should say: Why do these counterfeit apostles so falsely report of me, saying that I am compelled to keep circumcision by the commandment of the Apostles, seeing I have the witness of all the faithful in Jerusalem, and moreover of the Apostles themselves, that by my pursuit and travail the contrary was there determined? And I did not only there prevail that Titus should not be circumcised, but the Apostles also did approve and ratify the same. Your counterfeit apostles therefore do lie deadly, which slander me under the name of the Apostles, and thereby deceive you; for I have the Apostles and all the faithful, not against me, but with me; and this I prove by the example of Titus.
Notwithstanding, Paul, as I have often said, did not condemn circumcision as an unprofitable thing, neither constrained he any man thereunto. For it is neither sin nor righteousness to be circumcised or uncircumcised, as it is neither sin nor righteousness to eat or drink. For whether thou eat or eat not, thou art neither better nor worse ( 1 Corinthians 8:8). But if any man should add thereto either sin or righteousness, and say: If thou eat thou sinnest, if thou abstain thou art righteous (or the contrary), he should show himself both foolish and wicked. Therefore to join ceremonies with sin or righteousness, is great impiety: as the Pope doth, who in his form of excommunication threateneth to all those that do not obey the law of the Bishop of Rome, the peril of their souls, and so maketh all his laws necessary to salvation. Wherefore the devil himself speaketh in the person Of the Pope and in all such decrees of the Pope. For if salvation consisteth in keeping of the Pope’s laws, what need have we of Christ to be our justifier and Savior?
BECAUSE OF THE FALSE BRETHREN THAT CREPT IN, WHO CAME IN PRIVILY TO ESPY OUT OUR LIBERTY WHICH WE HAVE IN CHRIST JESUS, THAT THEY MIGHT BRING US INTO BONDAGE. TO WHOM WE GAVE NOT PLACE BY SUBJECTION FOR AN HOUR, THAT THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL MIGHT CONTINUE WITH YOU
Here Paul sheweth the cause why he went up to Jerusalem, and there conferred his Gospel with the other Apostles, and why he would not circumcise Titus: not that he might be the more certain, or confirmed in the Gospel by the Apostles, for he nothing doubted thereof: but that the truth of the Gospel might continue in the churches of the Galatians, and in all the churches of the Gentiles. We see then. that the business of Paul was no light matter.
Now, where he speaketh of the truth of the Gospel, he sheweth that there be two gospels, a true and a false gospel. Indeed, the Gospel of itself is one, simple, true, and sincere: but by the malice of Satan’s ministers it is corrupt and defaced. Therefore where he saith: ‘the truth of the Gospel,’ he would have us to understand also the contrary. As if he would say: The false apostles do also preach a faith and a gospel, but they are both false; therefore have I set myself so constantly against them. And in that I would not give place unto them, this have I brought to pass, that the truth of the Gospel continueth with you. So the Pope and the fantastical spirits do brag at this day, that they teach the Gospel and faith in Christ. True it is: but with such fruit as the false apostles once did, whom Paul calleth before in the first chapter, troublers of the churches and subverters of the Gospel of Christ. On the other side, he saith that he teacheth the truth of the Gospel As if he should say: Those things which the false apostles teach, brag they never so much that they teach the truth, are nothing else but stark lies. So all heretics pretend the name of God, of Christ, of the Church, etc. Also they pretend that they will not teach errors or lies, but most certain truth and the purest Gospel of Christ.
Now the truth of the Gospel is, that our righteousness cometh by faith alone, without the works of the law. The corruption or falsehood of the Gospel is, that we are justified by faith, but not without the works of the law. With this condition annexed, the false apostles preached the Gospel.
Even so do our sophisters and Papists at this day. For they say that we must believe in Christ, and that faith is the foundation of our salvation: but it justifieth not, except it be furnished with charity. This is not the truth of the Gospel, but falsehood and dissimulation. But the true Gospel indeed is, that works of charity are not the ornament or perfection of faith: but that faith of itself is God’s gift and God’s work in our hearts, which therefore justifieth us, because it apprehendeth Christ our redeemer. Man’s reason hath the law for his object, thus thinking with itself: This I have done, this I have not done. But faith being in her own proper office, hath no other object but Jesus Christ the Son of God, delivered to death for the sins of the whole world It looketh not to charity; it saith not What have I done?
What have I offended? What have I deserved? But [it saith]: What hath Christ done? What hath he deserved? Here the truth of the Gospel answereth thee: He hath redeemed thee from sin, from tile devil, and from eternal death. Faith therefore acknowledgeth that in this one person, Jesus Christ, it hath forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He that turneth his eyes away from this object, hath no true faith, but a fantasy and a vain opinion, and turneth his eyes from the promise to the law, which terrifieth and driveth to desperation.
Wherefore those things which the popish schoolmen have taught concerning the justifying faith being furnished with charity, are nothing else but mere dreams. For that faith which apprehendeth Christ the Son of God, and is furnished with him, is the same faith that justifieth, and not the faith W rich includeth charity. For faith, if it is to be sure and steadfast, must lay hold upon nothing else but Christ alone, and in the conflict and terrors of conscience it hath nothing else to lean unto, but this precious pearl Christ Jesus. Wherefore he that apprehendeth Christ by faith, although he be never so much terrified with the law, and oppressed with the weight of his sins, yet may he be bold to glory that he is righteous. How, or by what means? Even by that precious jewel Christ Jesus, which he possesseth by faith. This our adversaries understand not, and therefore they cast away this precious pearl Christ, and in his place they set charity, which they say is their precious jewel. Now, when they cannot tell what faith is, it is impossible that they should have faith; much less can they teach it unto others. And as for that which they will seem to have, it is nothing else but natural reason, an opinion, a very dream, and no faith.
This I say, to the end ye may perceive and note that by these words, ‘the truth of the Gospel,’ Paul vehemently reproveth the contrary. For thereby he reprehendeth the false apostles, because they had taught a false gospel, requiring circumcision and the observation of the law as necessary to salvation, Moreover, they went about by wonderful craft and subtilty to entrap Paul; for they watched him narrowly, to see whether he would circumcise Titus or no; also, whether he durst withstand them in the presence of the Apostles: and for this cause he reprehendeth them bitterly. ‘They went about,’ saith he, ‘to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.’ Wherefore the false apostles armed themselves on every side, that they might convince and confound him before the whole congregation. Besides this, they went about to abuse the authority of the Apostles, in whose presence they accused him, saying’ Paul hath brought Titus, being uncircumcised, into the company of all the faithful; he denieth and condemneth the law in your presence, which are Apostles. If he dare be so bold to attempt this here and before you, what will not he attempt in your absence among the Gentiles?
Wherefore when he perceived that he was so craftily assailed, he strongly withstood the false apostles, saying: We did not suffer our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus to come in danger, although the false brethren sought by all means to snare us and put us to much trouble; but we overcame them even by the judgment of the Apostles themselves, and we would not yield unto them, no not one hour (for, no doubt, their drift was to have caused Paul to surcease from this liberty at least for a time), since we saw that they required the observation of the law as necessary to salvation. But if they had alleged nothing else but charitable bearing with the brethren, no doubt but Paul would have given them place. But it was another thing that they sought: to wit, that they might bring Paul, and all that stuck to his doctrine, into bondage. Therefore he would not yield unto them, no, not the space of one moment.
In like manner do we also offer to the Papists all that is to be offered, yea and more than we ought. Only we except the liberty of conscience which we have in Christ Jesus. For we will not be compelled or suffer our consciences to be bound to any work, so that by doing this thing or that, we should be righteous, or leaving the same undone we should be damned.
We are contented to eat the same meats that they eat, we will keep their feasts and fasting days, so they will suffer us to do the same with a free conscience, and leave these threatening words, wherewith they have terrified and brought under their subjection the whole world, saying: We command, we charge, we charge again, we excommunicate, etc. But this liberty we cannot obtain; like as Paul also could not in his time. Therefore we do as he did. For when he saw that he could not obtain this liberty, he would not give place to the false apostles even the space of one hour.
Wherefore, like as our adversaries will not leave this free unto us, that only faith in Chris justifieth: so on the other side, neither will we nor can we give place unto them, that faith furnished with charity justifieth. Here we will and we ought also to be rebellious and obstinate against them, for else we should lose the truth of the Gospel: we should lose our liberty which we have, not in the emperor, not in the kings and princes, not in the Pope, not in the world, not in flesh, blood, reason etc., but which we have in Christ Jesus. We should lose faith in Christ, which, as before I have said, apprehendeth nothing else but that precious jewel Christ Jesus. This faith, whereby we are regenerate, justified, and engrafted into Christ, if our adversaries will leave unto us sound and uncorrupt, we offer unto them that we will do all things, so that they be not contrary to this faith. But because we cannot obtain this at their hands, we again for our part will not yield unto them one hair’s breadth. For the matter Which we have in hand is weighty and of great importance, even touching the death of the Son of God: who by the will and commandment of the Father was made flesh, was crucified, and died for the sins of the world. If faith here give place, then is this death, resurrection etc. of the Son of God in vain: then is it but a fable that Christ is the Savior of the world: then is God found a liar, because he hath not performed that he promised. Our stoutness therefore in this matter is godly and holy; for by it we seek to preserve our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, and thereby to retain the truth of the Gospel ;. which if we lose, then do we also lose God, Christ, all the promises, faith, righteousness, and everlasting life.
But here will some man say: The law is divine and holy. Let the law have his glory; but yet no law, be it never so divine and holy, ought to teach me that I am justified and shall live through it. I grant, it may teach me that I ought to love God and my neighbor; also to live in chastity, soberness, patience, etc.; but it ought not to shew me how I should be delivered from sin, the devil, death and hell. Here I must take counsel of the Gospel, I must hearken to the Gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do (for that is the proper office of the Law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The Gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the Gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually. For as it is very tender, so it is soon hurt. This Paul had well tried, and of this have all the godly also good experience.
To conclude, Paul would not circumcise Titus, and (as he saith) for no other cause, but for that certain false brethren were crept in, to espy out their liberty, and would have constrained Paul to circumcise Titus. Paul seeing this constraint and necessity, would give no place, no, not for one hour, but strongly resisted them; and therefore he saith: ‘Neither Titus which was with me, being a Gentile, was compelled to be circumcised’ etc. ( Galatians 2:3). If they had required this in the way of brotherly charity, doubtless he would not have denied it. But seeing they would have done it as a necessary thing, and that by compulsion, to the evil example of others, to the overthrowing of the Gospel, and to bring men’s consciences into bondage, therefore he set himself mightily against them, and prevailed so, that Titus was not circumcised.
It may seem but a small matter to be circumcised, or not circumcised. But when a man hath an affiance in keeping of it, or else is in fear for not keeping of it, here God is denied, Christ is rejected, the grace and all the promises of God are refused. But if .circumcision be kept without this addition, there is no danger. If the Pope would in this sort require of us the keeping of his traditions, as bare ceremonies, it should not be so grievous unto us to keep them. For what labor were it to wear a cowl, or to go about with a shaven crown, seeing we otherwise use ceremonies? But to add there: to this great evil, that in this trifle, nay, this thing of naught, there lieth either life or death everlasting, it is devilish and blasphemous.
In this matter, whosoever thou art that keepest silence, be thou anathema.
I will eat, drink, wear the cowl, and do whatsoever the Pope desireth, only so that he will suffer all these things to be free. But seeing he will exact them as necessary to salvation, binding consciences to them and placing the service of God in them, here we must by all means resist. It doeth no hurt to carve wood, stone, a statue, but to set it up for the service of God, and to attribute divinity to the wood, stone, or statue, this is to worship an idol in the place of God. Therefore we must diligently consider what matter Paul hath in hand, lest we speak foolishly as Jerome doth, who supposed the question and disputation to be about the things themselves.
In this he erred. For the question is not whether wood is wood, or stone is stone, but it concerneth the addition, that is to say, the use of the things: to wit, whether this wood is God, whether divinity dwelleth in this stone.
Here we answer that wood is wood, etc. So ‘circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing,’ saith Paul ( 1 Corinthians 7:19), but to place righteousness, the fear of God, the confidence of salvation, the fear of death, in these things, it is to attribute divinity to ceremonies. Therefore not an hair’s breadth must we yield to our adversaries, as Paul yielded not to the false apostles; for neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, nor tonsure, nor cowl pertaineth unto righteousness, but grace only and alone.
This is ‘the truth of the Gospel.’
BUT OF THEM WHICH SEEMED TO BE SOMEWHAT (WHAT THEY WERE IN TIMES PAST) IT IS NO MATTER. TO ME) ETC.
His speech is elliptical, for there are wanting the words: ‘I received nothing.’ But it is a light fault in the Holy Ghost speaking in Paul if he offendeth somewhat against the grammar. He speaketh with great fervency, and he that is fervent cannot so exactly in speaking observe grammatical rules and rhetorical precepts.
Now this is a vehement and a stout Confutation. For he giveth not to the true Apostles themselves any glorious title; but as it were abasing their dignity, he saith: ‘Which seemed to be somewhat,’ that is, which were in authority, upon whom the determination of all matters depended.
Notwithstanding, the authority of the Apostles was indeed very great in all the churches, and Paul also did not seek any whir to diminish their authority. But he thus contemptuously answereth the false apostles, which set the authority and dignity of the Apostles against Paul in all the churches, that thereby they might weaken his authority, and bring his whole ministry into suspicion. This Paul might not suffer. To the end, therefore, that the truth of the Gospel and liberty of conscience in Christ might continue among the Galatians, and in all the churches of the Gentiles, he answereth stoutly to the false apostles, that he passed not how great the Apostles were, or what they had been in times past; and whereas they alleged the authority of the name of the Apostles against him, it touched him nothing at all. He confesseth that the Apostles are indeed somewhat, and their authority is to be reverenced: notwithstanding, his Gospel and ministry ought not to be overthrown for the name or title of any, how great soever he be, whether an Apostle, or an angel from heaven.
And this was one of the greatest arguments that the false apostles used against Paul. The Apostles, said they, were familiarly conversant with Christ for the space of three years. They heard and Saw all his preachings and miracles. Moreover, they themselves preached and wrought miracles while Christ was yet living in the world: whom Paul never saw in the flesh, and as touching his conversion, it was long after the glorification of Christ.
Wherefore they should now consider which of these they ought more to believe: Paul which was but one and alone, and also but a disciple, yea and one of the last of all; or the chiefest and most excellent Apostles, which long before Paul were sent and confirmed by Christ himself. To this Paul answereth: What of all this? This argument concludeth nothing. Let the Apostles be never so great, yea let them be angels from heaven, it is no matter to me. The controversy is not here concerning the excellency of the Apostles, but concerning the Word of God and the truth of the Gospel.
This ought to be kept pure and uncorrupt; this ought to be preferred above all things. Therefore how great Peter and the other Apostles have been, what great miracles they have wrought, it is no matter to me. This is it that I only seek, even that the truth of the Gospel may continue among you.
This seemeth to be but a slender answer of Paul, when of purpose he so condemneth the authority of the Apostles, which the false apostles alleged against him, and giveth no other solution to their mighty argument than this: It is no matter to me. Notwithstanding, he addeth a reason of the confutation:
GOD ACCEPTETH NO MAN’S PERSON
This place he allegeth out of Moses, who useth the same, not once but many times: ‘Thou shalt not accept in judgment the person of the rich man or of the poor’ ( Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17). And this is a principle of divinity: ‘God is no accepter of persons’ ( Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25). With the which saying he stoppeth the mouths of the false apostles. As though he would say: Ye set those against me which seem to be somewhat; but God careth not for such things. He regardeth not the office of an Apostle, or Bishop, or Prince. It is not the dignity or authority of men that he looketh upon. And in token hereof, he suffered Judas, one of the chiefest Apostles, and Saul one of the greatest kings, yea and the first of all, to fall away and to be damned.
Ishmael also and Esau he refused, being both first-born. So shall you find throughout all the whole Scripture, that God oftentimes, rejected those which in outward shew were very .good and holy men. And in these examples God seemeth sometimes to be cruel; but it was most necessary that such fearful examples should be shewn, and also be written. For this vice is naturally grafted in us, that we highly esteem the persons and dignity of men, and more regard the same than the Word of God. Contrariwise God will have us to fix our eyes, and to rest wholly upon the Word itself; he will not have us to reverence and adore the apostleship in the persons of Peter and Paul, but Christ speaking in them, and the Word which they bring and preach unto us.
This the natural man cannot see: but the spiritual man only discerneth the person from the Word, the veil of God from God himself. Now this veil of God is every creature. Moreover, God here in this life dealeth not with us face to face, but veiled and shadowed from us; that is, as Paul saith in another place: ‘We see him now through a glass darkly: but then face to face’ life ( 1 Corinthians 13:12). Therefore we cannot be without veils in this life. But here wisdom is required, which can discern the veil from God himself; and this wisdom the world hath not. The covetous man, hearing that man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God ( Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4), eateth the bread, but he seeth not God in the bread; for he beholdeth the veil only [and outward shew]. So he doth with gold and other creatures, trusting to them so long as he hath them: but when they leave him, he despaireth. And thus he honoreth not the Creator, but the creatures, not God, but his own belly.
This I speak, lest any man should think that Paul utterly condemneth these [outward] veils or persons. For he saith not, that there ought to be no person, but that there is no respect of persons with God. There must be persons and outward veils; God hath given them, and they are his good creatures; but we must not worship them. All the matter as in the using of things, and not in the things themselves, as before I have said. There is no fault in circumcision or uncircumcision (‘for circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing’), but in the use thereof. To worship circumcision and put righteousness in it, and unrighteousness in uncircumcision, that use is damnable, and ought to be taken away: which being removed, both circumcision and uncircumcision are good things.
So the prince, the magistrate, the preacher, the school-master, the scholar, the father, the mother, the children, the master, the servant, are persons and [outward] veils, which God will have us to acknowledge, love, and reverence as his creatures, which also must needs be had in this life; but he will not have us to worship them, that is, so to reverence them that we trust unto them and forget him. And to the end that we should not too much magnify the [outward] persons, or put any trust in them, God leaveth in them offenses and sins, yea great and foul sins, to teach us what difference there is between the person and God himself. David, that good king, because he should not seem to be a person upon whom men should trust, fell into horrible sins, adultery and murder. Peter, that excellent Apostle, denied Christ. These and such-like examples, whereof the Scripture is full, ought to warn us, that we repose not our trust in the person [and outward veil], nor think that when we have the person we have all things; as it is in popery, where they judge all things according to the outward veil, and therefore all popery is nothing else but a mere respecting of persons. God hath given his creatures to our use, and to do us service, and not as idols, that we should do service unto them. Let us then use bread, wine, apparel, possessions, gold, silver, and all other creatures. But let us not trust or glory in them; for we must trust and glory in God alone. He only is to be loved, he only is to be feared and honored.
Paul calleth here the apostleship or office of the Apostles (which wrought, many and great miracles, taught and converted many to the faith, and were also familiar with Christ) the person of man.
Briefly, this word ‘person’ comprehendeth the whole outward conversation of the Apostles, which was holy, and their authority, which was great.
Notwithstanding, saith he, God esteemeth not these things; not that he esteemeth them not at all, but in the matter of justification he regardeth them not, be they never so great and so glorious. For we must diligently mark this distinction, that in matters of divinity we must speak far otherwise than in matters of policy. In matters of policy, as I have said, God will have us to honor and reverence these outward veils or persons as his instruments by whom he governeth and preserveth the world. But when the question is as touching religion, conscience, the fear of God, faith, and the service of God, we must not fear these outward persons, we must put no trust in them, look for no comfort from them, or hope deliverance by them, either corporally or spiritually. For this cause God will have no respect of persons in judgment; for judgment is a divine thing. Wherefore I ought neither to fear the judge, nor trust in the judge; but my fear and trust ought to be in God alone, who is the true Judge. The civil judge or magistrate, I ought indeed to reverence for God’s cause, whose minister he is: but my conscience may not stay or trust upon his justice and equity, or be feared through his unjust dealing or tyranny, whereby I might fall into any offense against God, in lying, in bearing false witness, in denying the truth, etc. Otherwise I will reverence and honor the magistrate with all my heart.
So I would also honor the Pope and love his person, if he would leave my conscience free, and not compel me to sin against God. But he will so be feared and adored, as cannot be done without offense to the majesty of God. Here since we must needs lose the one, let us lose the person and stick to God. We could be content to suffer the dominion of the Pope, but because he abuseth the same so tyrannously against us, and would compel us to deny and blaspheme God, and him only to acknowledge as our lord and master, clogging our consciences, and spoiling us of fear and trust which we should have in God, therefore we are compelled by the commandment of God to resist the Pope; for it is written: ‘We must rather obey God than men’ ( Acts 5:29). Therefore, without offense of conscience, which is our singular comfort, we contemn the authority of the Pope. Muntzer and other mad heads desired the destruction of the Pope, but they sought to accomplish this with arms, not with the Word; and so they withstood him for the sake of his person, and not for God’s sake. We for our part would gladly shew favor to Behemoth and his scales, with all the persons and dignities which they have, if they would but leave us Christ. But because we cannot obtain this of them, we contemn their persons’ and say boldly with Paul: ‘God respecteth no man’s person.’ There is a certain vehemency therefore to be noted in the word ‘God.’ For in the cause of religion and the Word of God, there must be no respect of persons. But out of religion, and in matters of policy, we must have regard to the person: for otherwise there must needs follow confusion and an end of all reverence and order, In this world God will have an order, a reverence, and a difference of persons. For else the child, the scholar, the servant, the subject would say: I am a Christian as well as my father, my school-master, my master, my prince; why then should I reverence him?
Before God, then, mere is no respect of persons, neither of Grecian nor of Jew, but all are one in Christ; although not so before the world.
Thus Paul confuteth the argument of the false apostles as touching the authority of the Apostles, and saith that it is nothing to the purpose. For the question is not here concerning the respect of persons, but there is a far weightier matter in hand, that is to say, a divine matter concerning God and his Word, and whether this Word ought to be preferred before the apostleship or no. Whereunto Paul answereth: So that the truth of the Gospel may continue, so that the Word of God and the righteousness of faith may be kept pure and uncorrupt, let the apostleship go, let an angel from heaven, let Peter, let Paul altogether perish.
NEVERTHELESS THEY THAT SEEMED TO BE THE CHIEF, DID COMMUNICATE NOTHING WITH ME
As though he would say I did not so confer with the Apostles, that they taught me any thing. For what should they teach me, since Christ by his revelation had before sufficiently taught me all things, and since I have now preached the Gospel the space of eighteen years among the Gentries, and Christ hath wrought so many miracles by me, whereby he hath confirmed my doctrine? Wherefore it was but a conference, and no disputation.
Wherein I learned nothing, neither did I recant, nor yet defend my cause, but only declared what things I had done’ to wit, that I had preached to the Gentiles faith only in Christ, without the law, and that by this preaching of faith the Holy Ghost came down upon the Gentiles, which immediately spoke with divers tongues. Which thing when the Apostles heard, they witnessed that I had taught the truth; wherefore the false apostles do me great wrong, which pervert and turn all these things clean contrary. Now this pride of Paul, whereby he saith that the other Apostles communicated nothing unto him, is not a fault, but most necessary; for had he yielded here, the truth of the Gospel had perished. But if Paul would give no place to the false apostles, which set the authority of the true Apostles against him, much less ought we to give place to our adversaries, which have nothing else to brag of but the authority of their idol the Pope. I know that the godly ought to be humble, but against the Pope I will and I ought to be proud with an holy pride, and say: Thou Pope, I will not be subject unto thee; I will not take thee for my master, for I am sure that my doctrine is true and godly. But the Pope will not hear this doctrine; nay, he would force me to obey his laws and his decrees, and if I will not, he will by and by excommunicate and condemn me as a heretic and deserter of the Church. Such pride therefore against the Pope is most necessary. And if we should not be thus stout and proud, and in the Holy Ghost utterly condemn both him with all his doctrine, and the devil, the father of lies, speaking in him, we should never be able to defend this article of the righteousness of faith. We do not then contemn the authority of the Pope because we would bear rule over him, neither would we go about to exalt ourselves above all sovereign power, since it is evident that we teach all men to humble and submit themselves to the higher powers ordained of God; but this is it that we only seek, that the glory of God may be maintained, and the righteousness of faith may be kept pure and sound.
Wherefore, if the Pope will grant unto us, that God alone by his mere grace through Christ doth justify sinners, we will not only carry him in our hands, but will also kiss his feet. But since we cannot obtain this, we again in God are proud against him above measure, and will give no place, no, not one hair’s breadth, to all the angels in heaven, not to Peter, not to Paul, not to an hundred emperors, nor to a thousand popes, nor to the whole world. Be it far from us that we should here humble ourselves, since they would take from us our glory, even God himself that hath created us and given us all things, and Jesus Christ who hath redeemed us with his blood. Let this be then the conclusion of all together, that we will suffer our goods to be taken away, our name, our life, and all that we have; but the Gospel, our faith, Jesus Christ, we will never suffer to be wrested from us. And cursed be that humility which here abaseth and submitteth itself. Nay rather let every Christian man here be proud and spare not, except he will deny Christ.
Wherefore, God assisting me, my forehead shall be more hard than all men’s foreheads. Here I take upon me this rifle, according to the proverb: cedo nulli, I give place to none. Yea, I am glad even with all my heart, in this point to seem rebellious and obstinate. And here I confess that I am and ever will be stout and stern, and will not one inch give place to any creature. Charity giveth place, for it ‘beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things’ ( 1 Corinthians 13:7), but faith giveth no place, yea it can suffer nothing, according to this ancient verse: Non patitur ludum fama, fides, oculus; that is, Man’s good name, his faith, and his eye, will not be dallied withal. Wherefore, a Christian, as touching his faith, can never be too proud nor too stout, neither must he relent or give place, no, not the breadth of one hair: for faith maketh a man here like unto God ( 2 Peter 1:4): but God suffereth nothing, he giveth place to none, for he is immutable; so is faith immutable, and therefore may suffer nothing, give place to no man. But as touching charity, let a Christian man yield and suffer all things, for therein he is but a man.
BUT CONTRARIWISE, WHEN THEY SAW THAT THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION WAS COMMITTED UNTO ME, AS THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION WAS UNTO PETER (FOR HE THAT WAS MIGHTY BY PETER IN THE APOSTLESHIP OF THE CIRCUMCISION, WAS ALSO MIGHTY BY ME TOWARDS THE GENTILES), &C.
With these words Paul mightily confuteth the false apostles, for here he challengeth to himself the same authority which the false apostles attributed to the true Apostles; and he useth here a figure which is called an inversion, returning their argument against themselves. The false apostles, saith he, do allege against me the authority of the great Apostles, to maintain their cause; but I, contrariwise, do allege the same against them for my defense, for the Apostles are on my side. Wherefore, O my Galatians, believe not these counterfeit apostles, which brag so much of the authority of the Apostles against me. For the Apostles, when they saw the Gospel of the uncircumcision to be committed to me, and knew of the grace that to me was given, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, approving my. ministry and giving thanks unto God for the gifts which I had received. Thus he returneth the argument of the false apostles upon themselves. And in these words there is an ardent vehemency, and more contained in matter, than in words is able to be expressed. Wherefore also it cometh to pass that Paul, forgetting the grammar, hath confounded the construction.
Now when he saith: ‘which were reputed to be pillars,’ this was no empty shew, but they were in very truth held to be pillars. For the Apostles were reverenced and honored throughout the whole Church, and with them was the authority to approve and publish the doctrine of the truth, and to condemn the contrary. This is a very notable text, wherein Paul saith that the Gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him, and of the circumcision unto Peter, when notwithstanding, Paul almost everywhere preached to the Jews in their synagogues, and Peter likewise to the Gentiles. There are examples and testimonies of both in the Acts. Peter converted the Centurion with his family, which was a Gentile ( Acts 10:1 ff.). He wrote also to the Gentiles, as his first Epistle testifieth. Paul, preaching Christ among the Gentiles, entereth notwithstanding into the synagogues of the Jews, and there preacheth the Gospel ( Acts 9:20; etc.). And our Savior Christ, in Matthew and Mark, commandeth his Apostles to go throughout the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature ( Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). Paul likewise saith: ‘the Gospel preached to every creature which is under heaven’ ( Colossians 1:23). Why then doth he call himself the Apostle of the Gentiles, and Peter with the other, the Apostles of the circumcision?
Paul hath respect unto this, that the other Apostles remained specially in Judea and Jerusalem, until God called them .unto other places. Thus stood the matter then for the time, that while the political state of the Jews continued, the Apostles still remained m Judaea; but when the destruction of Jerusalem approached, they were dispersed throughout the whole world.
But Paul, as it is written in the Acts (13:2), by a singular vocation was chosen to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, and being sent out of Judaea, he traveled through the countries of the Gentiles. Now were the Jews dispersed almost throughout the whole world, and dwelt here and there in cities and other places among the Gentiles. Paul coming thither, was wont to go into the synagogues of the Jews, and by this occasion he first brought unto them, as the children of the kingdom, this glad tidings, that the promises made unto the fathers were accomplished by Jesus Christ. When they would not hear this, he turned to the Gentiles, as Luke witnesseth, Acts 13:46, where he bringeth in Paul thus boldly speaking against the Jews: ‘It was necessary that we should first preach the word of God unto you; but seeing ye reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles;’ and Acts 28:28: ‘Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they shall hear it.’ Wherefore, Paul was sent specially unto the Gentiles.
But because he was a debtor unto all, and became all things unto all men, therefore occasion being offered, he went into the synagogues of the Jews, where not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles, heard him preaching Christ.
Otherwhiles, he preached publicly in the market-place, in houses, and by the rivers’ sides. He was specially then the Apostle of the Gentiles, as Peter was of the Jews; who, notwithstanding, preached Christ to the Gentiles also when occasion was offered.
And here he calleth uncircumcision the Gentiles, and circumcision the Jews, by a figure named synecdoche, which under a part comprehendeth the whole; which figure is commonly used m the Scripture: the Gospel then of the uncircumcision, is that which was appointed to be sent unto the Gentiles. This Gospel, saith he, was committed unto him, as the Gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; for as Peter preached the Gospel among the Jews, so did he among the Gentiles. Here it is to be noted, that the Hebrews take the genitive construction variously, now actively, now passively ; which oftentimes obscureth the sense. Examples are to be found everywhere in Paul and in the whole Scripture; as for example this phrase, ‘the glory of God,’ which is not a little obscure, since it can be interpreted both actively and passively.
Actively, the glory of God is that glory which God hath in himself; passively, it is that wherewith we glory in God. Likewise fides Christi, or ‘the faith of Christ,’ etc. We for the most part interpret such phrases passively, thus: the faith of Christ is that wherewith Christ is believed. In like manner, ‘the Gospel of God’ is taken actively, as that which God alone giveth and sendeth into the world, but ‘the Gospel of the circumcision and of the uncircumcision’ is taken passively, as that which is sent to the Gentiles and the Jews and is received of them. Now Paul meaneth nothing else but that the Gospel of the uncircumcision, that is to say, the Gospel which was to be sent to the Gentiles, had been committed unto him, like as the Gospel of the circumcision had been committed unto Peter.
This he often repeateth, that Peter, James, and John, which seemed to be the pillars of the church, taught him nothing, nor committed unto him the office of preaching the Gospel, as having authority and rule over him.
But they themselves, saith he, did see that the Gospel was committed unto me, but not by Peter; for as I did not receive or learn the Gospel of man, so did I receive no commandment by man to preach the same, but both the knowledge and the commandment to preach it among the Gentiles, I received immediately from Christ; like as the charge was given of God unto Peter to preach the same among the Jews.
This place witnesseth very plainly that the Apostles had like calling, like charge, and all one Gospel. Peter preached no other Gospel than the rest of the Apostles did, neither did he appoint to others their charge and office; but there was an equality among them all, for they were all taught and called of God, that is, both their vocation and charge was wholly and immediately from God. There was none, therefore, greater than other, none that had any prerogative above other. And therefore, when the Pope vaunteth that Peter was the chief of the Apostles, that thereby he might confirm and establish his primacy, it is an impudent lie.
FOR HE THAT WAS MIGHTY BY PETER ETC.
This is a confutation of another argument of the false apostles. Why do the false apostles boast, saith he, that the Gospel of Peter was mighty, that he converted many, that he wrought many and great miracles, raised up the dead, and with his shadow healed the sick? ( Acts 5:15). I grant all these things to be true: but Peter received this power from heaven. God gave a virtue to his word, so that many did believe him, and great miracles were wrought by him. The same power had I also; which I received not of Peter, but the same God and the same Spirit which was mighty in Peter, was mighty in me also. I had the same grace; I taught many; I wrought many miracles, and through my shadow also I healed the sick. And this Luke testifieth in these words: ‘And God wrought no small miracles by the hands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto the sick napkins and handkerchiefs, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them’ ( Acts 19:11 f.). Read more hereof in Acts 13,16,20,28.
To conclude, Paul will be counted in no point inferior to the rest of the Apostles; and herein he glorieth with a godly and a holy pride. Necessity constrained him stoutly to withstand Peter, and the burning zeal he had for the glory of God moved him so to do. Certain profane spirits, as Julian and Porphyrius, not considering this, thought it to be but a carnal pride that caused Paul thus to do; such as at this day we see in the Pope and his bishops. But Paul had not here his own business in hand, but a matter of faith. Now, as concerning faith we ought to be invincible, and more hard, if it might be, than the adamant stone; but as touching charity, we ought to be soft, and more flexible than the reed or leaf that is shaken with the wind, and ready to yield to every thing. Therefore the controversy was not here touching the glory of Paul, but the glory of God, the Word of God, the true worship of God, true religion, and the righteousness of faith, to the end that these things might still remain pure and uncorrupt.
AND WHEN THEY KNEW OF THE GRACE THAT WAS GIVEN UNTO ME, JAMES AND CEPHAS AND JOHN (WHICH WERE COUNTED TO BE PILLARS) GAVE TO ME AND TO BARNABAS THE RIGHT HANDS OF FELLOWSHIP, THAT WE SHOULD PREACH UNTO THE GENTILES, AND THEY UNTO THE CIRCUMCISION
That is to say, when they heard that I had received my calling and charge from God, to preach the Gospel among the Gentiles, and that God had wrought so many miracles by me; moreover, that so great a number of the Gentiles were come to the knowledge of Christ through my ministry, and that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost, without the law and circumcision, by the only hearing of faith; they glorified God for this grace which was given unto me.
He calleth grace here, whatsoever he had received of God: to wit, that of a persecutor and waster of the Church he was made an Apostle, was taught by Jesus Christ, and enriched with spiritual gifts. And here withal he sheweth, that Peter gave testimony unto him that he was a true Apostle, sent and taught not by himself, nor by the other Apostles, but by God alone; and so he not only humbly acknowledged the ministry and authority of Paul, and the gifts of the Spirit which were in him, as heavenly things, but also approved and confirmed the same, and yet not as a superior and ruler, but as a brother and witness. James and John did likewise the same. Wherefore he concludeth that they which are esteemed for the chief pillars among the Apostles, are wholly with him, and not against him.
THE RIGHT HANDS OF FELLOWSHIP
As if they should have said: We, O Paul, in preaching the Gospel, do agree with thee in all things; therefore in doctrine we are companions, and have fellowship together therein; that is to say, we have all one doctrine, for we preach one Gospel, one baptism, one Christ, and one faith. Wherefore we can teach or enjoin thee nothing, since there is one mutual consent betwixt us in all things. For we do not teach any other or more excellent things than thou dost; but the same gift which we have, we see to be in thee also, saving that to thee is committed the Gospel. of the uncircumcision, as the Gospel of the circumcision is unto us. But we conclude here, that neither uncircumcision nor circumcision ought to hinder our society and fellowship, since it is but one Gospel which we both preach. This place admonisheth us that there is but one and the same Gospel for both Gentiles and Jews, monks and laymen, young and old, men and women, etc. There is no respect of persons, but for all men the Word and doctrine is one and the same. Whosoever heareth and believeth it, is saved, no matter whether he be uncircumcised or circumcised.
Hitherto Paul hath proved by manifest witness, not only from God, but also from man, that is to say, the Apostles, that he had truly and faithfully preached the Gospel. Therefore he sheweth that whatsoever the false apostles said to diminish his authority, is but feigned and forged matter, and that the testimony of the Apostles maketh for him, and not for the false apostles. But for that he is alone and without witness, therefore he addeth an oath, and calleth God to record that the things which he hath spoken are true.
WARNING ONLY THAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER. THE POOR, WHICH THING ALSO I WAS DILIGENT TO DO.
After the preaching of the Gospel, the office and charge of a true and faithful pastor is, to be mindful of the poor. For where the Church is, there must needs be poor; who for the most part are the only true disciples of the Gospel, as Christ saith: ‘The poor have the glad tidings of the Gospel preached unto them’ ( Matthew 11:5) For the world and the devil do persecute the Church, and bring many to poverty, who are afterwards forsaken and despised of the world. Moreover, the world not only offendeth herein, but also is careless for the preservation of the Gospel, true religion, and the true service of God, there is none that will now take any care for the maintenance of the ministers of the Church, and erecting of schools; but for the erecting and establishing of false worship, superstition and idolatry, no cost was spared, but every man was ready to give most liberally and largely. And hereof came so many monasteries, so many cathedral churches, so many bishoprics in the Pope’s church, where all impiety reigned, With so great revenues provided for their sustentation; whereas now a whole city thinketh much to support one or two poor ministers and preachers of the. Gospel, which before, while the Pope and all impiety reigned, did sustain sundry monasteries of monks, friars, nuns, and whole swarms of massing priests etc. To be brief, true religion is ever in need, and Christ complaineth that he is hungry, thirsty, harborless, naked, and sick ( Matthew 25:35). Contrariwise, false religion and impiety flourisheth and aboundeth With all worldly wealth and prosperity.
Wherefore a true and faithful pastor must have a care of the poor also: and this care Paul here confesseth that he had.
AND WHEN PETER WAS COME TO ANTIOCHIA, I WITHSTOOD HIM TO HIS FACE: FOR HE WAS TO BE BLAMED
Paul goeth on still in his confutation, saying that he not only hath for his defense the testimony of Peter and the other Apostles Which were at Jerusalem, but also that he withstood Peter in the presence of the whole church of Antioch. He sheweth here a matter not done in a corner, but in the face of the whole church. And this is a marvellous history, which hath given occasion of false accusation to many, as Porphyrius, Celsus, Julian and other, which charge Paul with pride, because he assailed the chief of the Apostles, and that in the face of the whole church; whereby (say they) he exceeded the bounds of Christian modesty and humility. But it is no marvel that they thus think and speak who perceive not the point of this disputation of Paul. For, as I before have said, he hath here no trifling matter in hand, but the chiefest article of all Christian doctrine. The utility and majesty whereof whoso rightly esteemeth, to him all other things shall seem but vile and nothing worth. For what is Peter? What is Paul? What is an angel from heaven? What are all other creatures to the article of justification? Which if we know, then are we in the clear light: but if we be ignorant thereof, then are we in most miserable darkness. Wherefore, if ye see this article impugned, or defaced, fear not to resist either Peter or an angel from heaven. For it cannot be sufficiently extolled. But Porphyrius and the others, beholding the great dignity of Peter, do admire his person and forget the majesty of this article. Paul doeth the contrary: he doth not sharply inveigh against Peter, but handleth him with reverence enough; but because he seeth the majesty of this article of justification to be in danger for the dignity of Peter, he taketh no account of his dignity, that he may keep the same pure and uncorrupt. For it is written: ‘He that loveth father or mother, or his own life more than me, is not worthy of me’ ( Matthew 10:37).
Wherefore we are not ashamed, for the defense of the truth, to be counted and called of the hypocrites, proud and obstinate, and such as will be only wise, will hear none, will give place to none. Here we must needs be obstinate and inflexible. For the cause why we offend man, that is to say, tread down the majesty of the person or of the world, is so great, that the sins which the world judgeth to be most heinous, are counted singular virtues before God. In that we love our parents, honor the magistrates, shew reverence to Peter and other ministers of the Word, we do well. But here we have in hand the cause neither of Peter, nor parents, nor magistrate, nor of the world, nor of any other creature, but of God himself.
Here if I give no place to my parents, to the magistrate, or an angel from heaven, I do well. For what is the creature in respect of the Creator? Yea, what are all creatures, being compared unto him? Even as one drop of water in respect of the whole sea. Why then should I so highly esteem Peter, which is but a little drop, and set God aside, which is the whole sea?
Let the drop therefore give place to the sea, and let Peter give place unto God. This I say to the end that ye should diligently weigh and consider the matter whereof Paul intreateth: for he intreateth of the Word of God, which can never be magnified enough. Augustine hath better weighed this matter than Jerome, who hath respect unto the dignity and authority of Peter, and reasoneth thus: Peter was the chief Apostle, therefore it was not meet that he should be reproved of Paul; and if Paul reproved him, he did but dissemble therein. Thus unto Paul he attributeth dissimulation, alleging that he feigned Peter to be reprovable to the end that he might promote his own apostleship and defend his Gentiles: but Peter he excuseth every way, and attributeth unto him the truth. This is a most untoward inversion of the text, which plainly declareth that Peter was reprovable and had strayed from the truth; also that other Jews had dissembled with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by them into that dissimulation. These plain words Jerome seeth not, for he sticketh only to this: Peter was an Apostle, therefore he was unreprovable and could not sin. To this sentence Augustine answereth, saying: It is not to be borne that there should be dissimulation in Paul, seeing he confirmeth with an oath that he speaketh the truth.
Wherefore Jerome and Erasmus do injury to Paul, when they interpret these words: ‘to his face’ to mean: ‘on the face of it,’ that is, not from the heart, but in outward shew only; alleging that Paul resisted Peter, not sincerely, but with a necessary dissimulation, lest the Gentiles should be offended if he altogether kept silence. But ‘to his face’ signifieth ‘in his sight’; for he resisted Peter openly and not in a corner, Peter himself being present and the whole church standing by.
And where he saith ‘to his face,’ this clause maketh specially against the venomous vipers and apostles of Satan, which slander those that are absent, and in their presence dare not once open their mouth; as the false apostles did, whom also here he toucheth by the way, which durst not speak evil of him in his presence, but in his absence slandered him most spitefully. So did not I (saith he) speak evil of Peter, but frankly and openly I withstood him, not of any colorable pretense, ambition, or other carnal affection, or disease of the mind, but because he was to be blamed and sharply removed.
Here let other men debate whether an Apostle may sin or no: this say I, that we ought not to make Peter’s fault less than it was indeed. The prophets themselves have sometimes erred and been deceived. Nathan of his own spirit said unto David, that he should build the house of the Lord ( 2 Samuel 7:3). But this prophecy was by and by after corrected by a revelation from God, that it should not be David, because he was a man of war and had shed much blood, but his son Solomon, that should build up the house of the Lord. So did the Apostles err also: for they imagined that the kingdom of Christ should be carnal and worldly, as we may see in the first of the Acts, when they asked of Christ, saying: ‘Lord wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ ( Acts 1:6); and Peter, although he heard this commandment of Christ: ‘Go into the whole world,’ etc. ( Mark 16:15), had not gone unto Cornelius, if he had not been admonished by a vision ( Acts 10:9 ff.) And in this matter he did not only err, but also committed a great sin, and if Paul had not resisted him, all the Gentiles which did believe, had been constrained to receive circumcision and to keep the law. The believing Jews also had been confirmed in their opinion: to wit, that the observation of these things were necessary to salvation; and by this means they had received again the law instead of the Gospel, Moses instead of Christ. And of all this great enormity and horrible sin, Peter by his dissimulation had been the only occasion. Therefore we may not attribute to the saints such perfection as though they could not sin.
Luke witnesseth that there was such great dissension between Paul and Barnabas (which were put apart together for the ministry of the Gospel among the Gentiles, and had traveled through many regions and preached unto them the Gospel) that the one departed from the other. Here we must needs say, that there was a fault either in Paul or Barnabas. And doubtless it could not be, but that the discord was exceeding great which separated these two, being joined together in such a holy fellowship, as the text witnesseth. Such examples are written for our consolation. For it is a great comfort unto us, when we hear that even the saints, which have the Spirit of God, do sin. Which comfort they would take from us which say that the saints cannot sin.
Samson, David, and many other excellent men, full of the Holy Ghost, fell into great sins; Job and Jeremiah curse the day of their nativity ( Job 3:3 ff.; Jeremiah 20:14); Elijah and Jonah are weary of their life, and desire death ( 1 Kings 19:4; Jonah 4:8). Such errors and offenses of the saints, the Scripture setteth forth to the comfort of those that are afflicted and oppressed with desperation, and to the terror of the proud. No man hath so grievously fallen at any time, but he may rise again. And on the other side, no man taketh so fast footing, but he may fall. If Peter fell, I may likewise fall. If he rose again, I may also rise again. And such examples as these are, the weakhearted, and tender consciences ought to make much of, that they may the better understand what they pray for when they say: ‘Forgive us our trespasses,’ and: ‘I believe the forgiveness of sins.’ We have the self-same spirit of grace and prayer which the Apostles and all the saints had, neither had they any prerogative above us.
We have the same gifts which they had, the same Christ, Baptism, Word, forgiveness of sins; all which they had no less need of than we have, and by the same are sanctified and saved as we be. And this I say against the monstrous commendations and praises wherewith the foolish sophisters and monks have adorned the saints, and have said that the Church is in such wise holy as being altogether without sin. indeed the Church is holy, as our faith confesseth : ‘I believe a holy church,’ etc.; and yet notwithstanding it hath sin. Therefore also it believeth the remission of sins, and prayeth : ‘Forgive us our debts’ ( Matthew 6:12). Wherefore the Church is not said to be holy formally, as the wall is said to be white from the whiteness inhering. That inherent holiness is not enough, but Christ is its perfect and entire holiness; and where that which inhereth is not enough, Christ is enough.
FOR BEFORE THAT CERTAIN CAME FROM JAMES, HE DID EAT WITH THE GENTILES
The Gentiles which were converted to the faith did eat meats forbidden by the law, and Peter being conversant with the Gentiles which were converted, did eat with them, and drunk wine also which was forbidden, knowing that herein he did well, and therefore boldly transgressed the law with the Gentiles. Paul confesseth that he also did the like, when he saith, that he became as a Jew to the Jews, and to them that were without law, as though he were without law: that is to say, with the Gentiles he did eat and drink like a Gentile, and kept no law at all; with the Jews, according to the law, he abstained from all things forbidden in the law; for he labored to serve and please all men, that he might gain all ( 1 Corinthians 9:19 ff.).
Wherefore Peter in eating and drinking with the Gentiles stoned not, but did well, and knew that it was lawful for him so to do. For he shewed by this transgression that the law was not necessary to righteousness, and also delivered the Gentiles from the observation of the law. For if it were lawful for Peter in one thing to break, the law, it was lawful for him to break it in all things. And Paul doth not here reprove Peter for his transgression, but for his dissimulation, as followeth.
BUT WHEN THEY WERE COME, HE WITHDREW AND SEPARATED HIMSELF, FEARING THEM WHICH WERE OF THE CIRCUMCISION
Here then ye see Peter’s offense, as Paul plainly setteth it forth. Paul accuseth him not of malice or ignorance, but of dissimulation and infirmity, in that he abstained from meats forbidden in the law, fearing lest the Jews which came from James should be offended thereby, and had more respect to the Jews than to the Gentiles. Hereby he gave occasion, as much as in him was, to overthrow Christian liberty and the truth of the Gospel. For in that he did withdraw and utterly separate himself, abstaining from meats forbidden in the law (which notwithstanding he had eaten of before), he ministered a scruple of conscience to the faithful, thus to gather upon his example: Peter abstaineth from meats forbidden in the law; therefore he that eateth meats forbidden in the law, sinneth and transgresseth the law; but he that abstaineth is righteous and keepeth the law, for else would not Peter have withdrawn himself; but because he hath done so, and of purpose refuseth those meats which before he did eat, it is a sure argument that such as eat against the law do sin, and such as abstain from meats which the law forbiddeth, do keep the law, and are justified thereby.
Here note (as Jerome doth not), that the end of this act of Peter is reproved of Paul, and not the act itself; for the act in itself was not evil. To eat and drink, or not to eat or drink, is nothing; but the end, that is’ ‘if thou eat, thou sinnest; if thou abstain, thou art righteous,’ is evil. So circumcision of itself is good, but this end is evil: ‘if thou be not circumcised after the law of Moses, thou canst not be saved.’ Also to eat meats prohibited in the law, is not evil but this shrinking and dissimulation of Peter is evil. For it might be said: Peter abstaineth from meats forbidden in the law; wherefore if thou dost not likewise abstain, thou canst not be saved. This Paul might in no wise dissemble; for the truth of the Gospel was here in danger. To the end therefore that this truth might continue sound and uncorrupt, he resisted Peter to his face.
And here we must make a distinction. For meats may be refused two manner of ways. First, for Christian charity’s sake. And herein there is no danger: for to bear with the infirmity of my brother, is good. So Paul himself both bid and taught. Secondly, by abstaining from them to obtain righteousness and salvation, and for not abstaining, to sin and to be damned. Here accursed be charity with all the service and works of charity whatsoever. For thus to refrain from meats, is to deny Christ, to tread his blood under our feet, to blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and to despise God and all holy things. Wherefore, if we must lose the one, let us rather lose man our friend and brother, than God our Father. For if we lose God our Father, man our friend and brother cannot continue.
Jerome, not seeing this, understood neither this place nor the whole Epistle besides. He thinketh this to be but a feigned reprehension of Paul, and therefore he excuseth Peter’s fall, saying that it was done by ignorance. But Peter offended not through ignorance, but through dissimulation, and thereby had established the necessity of the law, had constrained both Gentiles and Jews to revolt from the truth of the Gospel, had given them great occasion to forsake Christ, to deny grace, to return to the Jewish religion, and to bear all the burdens of the law, if Paul had not reproved him, and by that means revoked the Gentiles and Jews which were offended through this example of Peter, to the liberty which is in Christ Jesus, and to the truth of the Gospel. Wherefore if a man would here set forth and amplify Peter’s offense, it should appear to be very great, and yet was it not done by malice or ignorance, but by occasion and fear only.
Thus we see what ruins may come by one man’s fall and offense, if it be not well seen to and corrected in time. Wherefore, we may not trifle with this article of justification; neither is it without good cause that we do so often and so diligently put you in mind thereof.
And it is much to be marveled that Peter, being such an excellent Apostle, should thus do: who before, in the Council of Jerusalem, stood in a manner alone in defense of this article, and prevailed therein, namely, that righteousness cometh by faith without the law. He that before did so constantly defend the truth and liberty of the Gospel, now by his fall in abstaining from meats forbidden in the law, is not only the cause of great offense, but also offendeth against his own decree. ‘Wherefore let him which thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall’ ( 1 Corinthians 10:12).
No man would think what danger there is in traditions and ceremonies: which notwithstanding we cannot want. What is more necessary in the world than the law and the works thereof? Yet there is great danger lest by the same, men be brought to the denial of Christ. For of the law cometh oftentimes a trust and affiance in works, and where that is, there can be no trust in Christ. Christ therefore is soon denied and soon lost, as we may see in Peter; who knew this article of justification better than we do, and yet how easily should he have given occasion of such an horrible ruin, if Paul had not withstood him, that all the Gentiles should thereby have fallen away from the preaching of Paul, and by this means should have lost the Gospel and Christ himself? And this should have been done under a holy pretense. For they might have said: Paul, hitherto thou hast taught us that we must be justified by grace without the law; thou seest now that Peter doth the contrary: for he abstaineth from meats forbidden in the law, and hereby he teacheth us that we cannot be saved except we receive circumcision and observe the law, etc.
AND THE OTHER JEWS DISSEMBLED LIKEWISE WITH HIM INSOMUCH THAT BARNABAS WAS BROUGHT INTO THEIR DISSIMULATION ALSO
Here you may plainly see, that Paul chargeth Peter with dissimulation. (Contrariwise, St. Jerome chargeth Paul.) If Peter dissembled, then did he certainly know what was the truth, and what was not. He that dissembleth, sinneth not of ignorance, but deceiveth by a color which he knoweth himself to be false. ‘And other,’ saith he, ‘dissembled likewise with Peter, insomuch that Barnabas also (who was Paul’s companion, and had now a long time preached among the Gentiles faith in Christ without the law, together with Paul) was brought into their dissimulation.’ Ye have here then Peter’s offense plainly described to be mere dissimulation, which afterwards had been an occasion of the ruin of the Gospel then newly received, if Paul had not resisted him.
And this is a wonderful matter, that God preserved the Church, being yet but young, and the Gospel itself, by one only person. Paul alone standeth to the truth; for he had lost Barnabas his companion, and Peter was against him. So sometimes one man is able to do more in a council than the whole council besides. Which things the Papists themselves do witness. And for example they allege Paphnutius, who withstood the whole council of Nicaea (which was the best of all that were after the council of the Apostles at Jerusalem), and prevailed against it.
This I say, to the end that we should diligently learn the article of justification, and make a plain difference between the law and the Gospel, and that in this matter we should do nothing by dissimulation, nor give place to any man, if we will retain the truth of the Gospel, and faith sound and uncorrupt which, as I have said, are soon hurt. Wherefore in this case, away with reason, that enemy to faith, which in temptations of sin and death, leaneth not to the righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness (for thereof it is utterly ignorant), but to her own righteousness, or at the least, to the righteousness of the law. Now, as soon as the law and reason join together, faith 1oseth her virginity; for nothing fighteth more strongly against faith than the law and reason. And these two enemies cannot be conquered, but with great labor and difficulty; which we must conquer notwithstanding, if we will be saved.
Wherefore, when thy conscience is terrified with the law, and wrestleth with the judgment of God, ask counsel neither of reason nor of the law, but rest only upon grace and the word of consolation, and so stand herein, as if thou hadst never heard anything of the law, ascending up into the darkness, where neither the law nor reason do shine, but only the dim light of faith, which assureth us that we are saved by Christ alone without any law.
Thus the Gospel leadeth us beyond and above the light of the law and reason, into the deep secrets of faith, where the law and reason have nothing to do. Notwithstanding we must hearken also unto the law, but in place and time. Moses, while he was in the mountain where he talked with God face to face, had no law, made no law, ministered no law. But when he was come down from the mountain, he was a law-giver, and governed the people by the law. So the conscience must be free from the law, but the body must be obedient to the law.
Hereby it appeareth that Paul reproved Peter for no light matter, but for the chiefest article of all Christian doctrine, which by Peter’s dissimulation was in great danger. For Barnabas and the other Jews dissembled together with him, which did all offend, not through ignorance or malice, but for fear of the Jews; whereby their hearts were so blinded, that they did not see their sin. And certainly it is much to be marveled, that such excellent men as Peter, Barnabas, and other, should so suddenly and so lightly fall, especially in that thing which they knew to be well done, and had also before taught unto others. It is a perilous thing therefore (as Dr. Staupitius often admonished us), to trust to our own strength, be we never as holy, never so well learned, and although we think ourselves never so sure of that we know; for in that whereof we think ourselves most sure, we may err and fall, and bring ourselves and others into great danger. Let us therefore diligently, and with all humility, exercise ourselves in the study of the holy Scriptures, and let us heartily pray that we never lose the truth of the Gospel.
Thus we see then, that we are nothing with all our gifts, be they never so great, except God assist us. When he leaveth us to ourselves, our wisdom and knowledge is nothing. Except he sustain us continually, not even the highest learning, no, not divinity her very self, availeth anything at all.
For in the hour of temptation it may suddenly come to pass, that by the subtilty of the devil, all the comfortable places of the Scripture shall be taken out of our sight, and such places only as contain threatenings, shall be set before our eyes, which shall oppress us and utterly confound us. Let us learn therefore, that if God withdraw his hand, we may soon be overthrown; and let no man glory of his own righteousness, wisdom, and other gifts, but let him humble himself and pray with the Apostles, ‘Lord, increase our faith! ( Luke 17:5).
BUT WHEN I SAW THAT THEY WENT NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
This is a wonderful example of such excellent men and pillars of the churches. There is none but Paul that hath his eyes open, and seeth the offense of Peter, of Barnabas and the other Jews which dissembled with Peter. On the other side, they do not see their own offense; nay, they rather think that they do well in bearing charitably with the infirmity of the weak Jews. Wherefore it was very necessary that Paul should reprove their offense, and not dissemble it, and therefore he accuseth Peter, Barnabas and other, that they went not the right way to the truth of the Gospel; that is to say, they swerved from the truth of the Gospel. It is a great matter that Peter should be accused of Paul as one that was fallen from the truth of the Gospel. He could not be more grievously reprehended. Yet he suffered it patiently; and no doubt but he gladly acknowledged his offense.
I said before, that many have the Gospel, but not the truth of the Gospel.
So Paul saith here, that Peter, Barnabas, and other of the Jews, went not the right way to the truth of the Gospel: that is to say, they had the Gospel, but they walked not uprightly according to the Gospel. For albeit they preached the Gospel, yet through their dissimulation (which could not stand with the truth of the Gospel) they established the law: but the establishing of the law is the abolishing of the Gospel.
Whoso then can rightly judge between the law and the Gospel, let him thank God, and know that he is a right divine. In the time of temptation I confess that I myself do not know how to do it as I ought. Now the way to discern the one from the other, is to place the Gospel in heaven, and the law on the earth; to call the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly and divine, and the righteousness of the law earthly and human, and to put as great difference between the righteousness of the Gospel and of the law, as God hath made between heaven and earth, between light and darkness, between day and night. Let the one be as the light and the day; and the other as the darkness and the night. And would to God we could further separate the one from the other. Wherefore, if the question be concerning the matter of faith or conscience, let us utterly exclude the law, and leave it on the earth; but, if we have to do with works, then let us light the lantern of works and of the righteousness of the law. So let the sun and the inestimable light of the Gospel and grace shine in the day, and the lantern of the law in the night. Wherefore, if thy conscience be terrified with the sense and feeling of sin, think thus with thyself: Thou art now remaining upon earth; there let the ass labor and travail; there let him serve and carry the burden that is laid upon him; that is to say, let the body with his members be subject to the law. But when thou mounted up into heaven, then leave the ass with his burden on the earth; for the conscience hath nothing to do with the law or works, or with the earthly righteousness. So doth the ass remain in the valley, but the conscience ascendeth with Isaac into the mountain, knowing nothing at all of the law or the works thereof, but only looking to the remission of sins and pure righteousness offered and freely given unto us in Christ.
Contrariwise in civil policy, obedience to the law must be severely required. There nothing must be known as concerning the Gospel, conscience, grace, remission of sins, heavenly righteousness, or Christ himself, but Moses only with the law and the works thereof. If we mark well this distinction, neither the one nor the other shall pass his bounds, but the law shall abide without heaven; that is, without the heart and conscience: and contrariwise, the liberty of the Gospel shall abide without the earth; that is to say, without the body and members thereof. Now therefore, as soon as the law and sin come into heaven (that is, into the conscience), let them by and by be cast out. For the conscience, being feared with the terror of the wrath and judgment of God, ought to know nothing of the law and sin, but of Christ only. And on the other side, when grace and liberty come into the earth (that is, into the body), then say:
Thou oughtest not to dwell in the dregs and dunghill of this corporal life, but thou belongest unto heaven, etc.
This distinction of the law and the Gospel, Peter confounded through his dissimulation, and thereby persuaded the believing Jews, that they must be justified by the Gospel and the law together. This might not Paul suffer, and therefore he reproved Peter; not to put him to any reproach, but to the end that he might again establish a plain difference between these two; namely, that the Gospel justifieth in heaven, and the law on earth. But the Pope hath not only mixed the law with the Gospel, but also of the Gospel hath made mere laws, yea and such as are ceremonial only. He hath also confounded and mixed political and ecclesiastical matters together; which is a devilish and hellish confusion.
This place, touching the difference between the law and the Gospel, is very necessary to be known, for it containeth the sum of all Christian doctrine.
Wherefore let all that would love and fear God, diligently learn to discern the one from the other, not only in words, but in deed and in practice; that is to say, in heart and conscience. For as touching the words, the distinction is easy: but in time of temptation thou shalt find the Gospel but as a stranger and a rare guest in thy conscience; but the law, contrariwise, thou shalt find a familiar and a continual dweller within thee; for reason hath the knowledge of the law naturally. Wherefore when thy conscience is terrified with sin,. which the law revealeth and increaseth, then say thou:
There is a time to die and a time to live; there is a time to hear the law, and a time to despise the law; there is a time to hear the Gospel, and there is a time to be ignorant of the Gospel. Let the law now depart, and let the Gospel come; for there is now no time to hear the law, but the Gospel. But thou hast done no good: nay, thou hast done wickedly, and hast grievously sinned. I grant; notwithstanding I have the remission of sins through Christ, for whose sake all my sins are forgiven me. But out of the conflict of conscience, when external duties must be done, then, whether thou be a minister of the Word, a magistrate, a husband, a teacher, a scholar, etc., there is no time to hearken to the Gospel, but thou must hear the law and follow thy vocation.
I SAID UNTO PETER OPENLY: IF THOU, BEING A JEW LIVEST AS THE GENTILES AND NOT AS THE JEWS, WHY CONSTRAINEST THOU THE GENTILES TO DO LIKE THE JEWS?
That is to wit, thou art a Jew, and therefore thou art bound to live like a Jew; that is, to abstain from meats forbidden in the law. Notwithstanding thou livest like a Gentile; that is to say, thou freely doest contrary to the law, and transgressest the law. For, as a Gentile which is free from the law, thou eatest common and unclean meats, and therein thou doest well. But in that thou, being afraid at the presence of the brethren converted from the Jewish religion, abstainest from meats forbidden in the law, and keepest the law, thou compellest the Gentiles to do as the Jews; that is, thou constrainest them of necessity to observe the law. For in that thou abstainest from profane meats, thou givest occasion to the Gentiles thus to think Peter abstaineth from those meats which the Gentiles use to eat, which also he himself before did eat; therefore we ought likewise to avoid the same, and to live after the manner of the Jews; otherwise we cannot be justified or saved. We see then that Paul reproveth not ignorance in Peter (for he knew that he might freely eat with the Gentiles all manner of meats), but dissimulation, whereby he compelleth the Gentiles to live like the Jews.
Here I say again, that to live as the Jew, is not evil of itself; for it is a thing indifferent, either to eat swine’s flesh, or any other meats. But so to play the Jew, that for conscience sake thou abstainest from certain meats, this is to deny Christ, and to overthrow the Gospel. Therefore when Paul saw that Peter’s act tended to this end, he withstood him, and said: Thou knowest that the keeping of the law is not necessary to righteousness, but that we are justified only through faith in Christ, and therefore thou keepest not the law, but transgressest the law, and eatest all manner of meats.
Notwithstanding, by thy example thou constrainest the Gentiles to forsake Christ and to return to the law. For thou givest them occasion thus to think: Faith only is not sufficient to righteousness, but the law and works are also required; and this Peter teacheth us by his example: therefore the observation of the law must needs be joined with faith in Christ, if we will be justified. Wherefore, Peter by his example is not only prejudicial to the purity of doctrine, but also to the truth of faith and Christian righteousness.
For the Gentiles received this thereof, that the keeping of the law was necessary to righteousness; which error in case it be admitted, then doth Christ profit us nothing at all.
Hereby it plainly appeareth to what end this discord between Paul and Peter tendeth. Paul doth nothing by dissimulation, but dealeth sincerely, and goeth plainly to work; but Peter dissembleth, as the text plainly saith, and his dissimulation Paul reproveth. Wherefore, in Paul there is no dissimulation, but pure and Christian severity and holy pride, which had been a fault if Peter had committed but some light sin, and had not sinned against the principal article of Christian doctrine. But because the truth of the Gospel suffereth by the fault of Peter, Paul neither will nor can leave off his defense of it; and to the end that it may be kept sound and uncorrupt, he hath no care of Peter, and Barnabas and all the rest are nothing to him.
Wherefore Porphyrius and Julian do wrong unto Paul, when they allege that he of mere arrogance did reprehend Peter. Nay, even reason itself, if it do but perceive the end of the matter which Paul hath in hand, is forced to confess that it is better that Peter should be set aside, than that the majesty of God should give place and faith be put in danger. For that is the issue which is here in debate: either Peter must be severely rebuked, or Christ removed utterly away. Here it is better that Peter should perish and depart into hell, if need be, than that Christ should be lost. To this sentence ought Porphyrius and all other to assent; and no man can deny but that Paul in this case did well and godly. If it had been a disputation about some indifferent matter (as in comparison of it, that discord between Paul and Barnabas, Acts 15:39, is plainly but a vain thing and a jest), then might Paul have yielded. But in this the greatest of causes, he must give no place at all. Let every Christian therefore be proud after the example of Paul. Charity beareth all things, believeth and hopeth all things, but faith ruleth, commandeth, triumpheth, and doeth all things, giving place unto none; for all things ought to be subject and give place unto faith — all peoples and nations, kings and Judges of the earth, as it is said in Psalm 2:10 f. : ‘grow therefore be wise, O ye kings; be instructed O ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, etc. Else shall ye perish from the way.’ Therefore the effects, offices and virtues of charity and of faith are plainly contrary the one to the other.
Therefore the whole force lieth in this clause: ‘Thou compellest the Gentiles to do as the Jews,’ that is to say, thou compellest them to fall from grace and faith to the law and works, and to deny Christ, as though he had sinned and died in vain, etc. This word: ‘Thou compellest,’ containeth all those perils and sins, which Paul urgeth and amplifieth throughout all this Epistle. For if that compulsion or necessity be admitted, then is faith abolished; and where faith perisheth, all the promises of God are made void, all the gifts of the Holy Ghost trodden under foot, and all men must of necessity simply perish and be damned.
Many properties of this kind doth Paul attribute to the righteousness of the law throughout this whole Epistle.
Since then it is so dangerous a thing to have to do with the law, and that this fall was so sudden and so great, as it had been from heaven above even down into hell, let every Christian diligently learn to discern between the law and the Gospel. Let him suffer the law to rule over the body and the members thereof, but not over the conscience. For that queen and spouse may not be defiled with the law, but must be kept without spot for her only husband Christ, as Paul saith ( 2 Corinthians 11:2): ‘I have espoused you to one husband, etc.’ Let the conscience have her bride-chamber, not in the low valley, but in the high mountain: m the which let Christ lie and there rule and reign, who doth not terrify and afflict sinners, but comforteth them, pardoneth their sins, and sayeth them Wherefore let the afflicted conscience think upon nothing, know nothing, set nothing against the judgment of God, but the word of Christ, which is the word of grace, of remission of sins, of salvation and everlasting life. But this to perform indeed, is a hard matter For man’s reason and nature cannot steadfastly cleave unto Christ, but oftentimes it is carried away with the cogitations of the law and sin, and so always seeketh to be at liberty after the flesh, but according to conscience a servant and slave.
WE WHICH ARE JEWS BY NATURE, AND NOT SINNERS OF THE GENTILES
That is to say, we are born unto the righteousness of the law, to Moses, and to circumcision, and even in our birth we bring the law with us. We have the righteousness of the law not by choice, as the Gentiles, but by nature, as Paul before saith of himself in the first chapter: ‘being zealous of the traditions of the fathers etc. Wherefore, if we be compared with the Gentiles, we are no sinners; we are not without the law and without works, like unto the Gentiles: but we are Jews born, we are born righteous, and brought up in righteousness. Our righteousness beginneth even with our birth; for the Jewish religion is natural unto us. For God commanded Abraham to circumcise every man-child the eighth day ( Genesis 17:10 ff.). This law of circumcision, received from the fathers, Moses afterwards confirmed. It is a great matter therefore, that we are Jews by nature.
Notwithstanding, although we have this prerogative, that we are righteous by nature, born to the law and the works thereof, and are not sinners as the Gentiles, yet are we not therefore righteous before God. Even though thou shewest me there, re a man most excellent, that is a Jew by birth, and from his birth hath kept the law most perfectly, yet is he not therefore righteous before God. We are indeed circumcised, but we are not justified thereby. For circumcision is a ‘seal of righteousness’ ( Romans 4:11); and children circumcised in the faith of Abraham are not saved for their circumcision, but for their faith. Be we never so much Jews born, and never so holy, and able to glory against the Gentiles that we have the justification of the law, the true worship of God, the promises, the fathers, (which is great glory indeed), yet are we not therefore righteous before God, neither have any advantage over the Gentiles.
Hereby it is evident, that Paul speaketh not here of ceremonies, saying that after the revelation of Christ they are deadly, as Origen and Jerome do affirm, but of a far weightier matter, namely, of the nativity of the Jews, whom he denieth to be righteous although they be born holy, be circumcised, keep the law, have the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the fathers, the true worship, God, Christ, the promises, live in them and glory in the same — as they say: ‘We are the seed of Abraham,’ and: ‘We have one father, which is God’ ( John 8:33,41); and in the Epistle to the Romans ( 2:17): ‘Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law,’ etc. Wherefore, although Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles were the children of God, righteous according to the law, and very Apostles of Christ, yet they were not therefore pronounced righteous before God. For although thou hast all these together — the law, the works and the righteousness thereof, circumcision, the adoption, the covenants, the promises, the apostleship, etc. — yet Christian righteousness cometh not thereby: for none of all these is faith in Christ, which only (as followeth in the text) justifieth, and not the law. Not that the law is evil or damnable; for the law, circumcision and such-like, are not therefore condemned because they justify not: but Paul therefore taketh from them the office of justification, because the false apostles contended that by them, without faith, and only by the work wrought, men are justified and saved. This was not to be suffered of Paul; for without faith all things are deadly. The law, circumcision, the adoption, the Temple, the worship of God, the promises, yea God and Christ himself, without faith, profit nothing. Paul therefore speaketh generally against all things which are contrary to faith, and not against ceremonies only.
KNOWING THAT A MAN IS NOT JUSTIFIED BY THE WORKS OF THE LAWS BUT BY THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST
This word, ‘the work of the law,’ reacheth far and comprehendeth much. This I say because of the secure and idle sophisters and monks, which do obscure such words in Paul, yea they obscure and corrupt his whole argument concerning justification, with their foolish and wicked glosses which even they themselves do not understand. Take thou the work of the law therefore generally for that which is contrary to grace. Whatsoever is not grace, is the law, whether it be judicial, ceremonial, or the Ten Commandments. Wherefore if thou couldest do the work of the law according to this commandment: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,’ etc. (not to say here that no man yet ever did or could do so), yet thou shouldest not be justified before God; for a man is not justified by the works of the law. But hereof we will speak more largely hereafter.
The work of the law then, according to Paul, signifieth the work of the whole law, whether it be judicial, ceremonial, or moral, Now, if the work of the moral law fa23a do not justify, much less doth circumcision justify, which is a work of the ceremonial law. Wherefore, when Paul saith (as he oftentimes doth) that a man is not justified by the law, or by the works of the law (which are both one) he speaketh generally of the whole law, setting the righteousness of faith against the righteousness of the whole law, or all that can be done, whether by divine power or by man’s own strength, according to the law. For by the righteousness of the law, saith he, a man is not pronounced righteous before God but the righteousness of faith God imputeth freely through grace, for Christ’s sake.
The law, no doubt, is holy, righteous and good, and consequently the works of the law are holy, righteous and good: yet notwithstanding a man is not justified thereby before God. We must therefore reject the opinion of Jerome and others, which dream that Paul here speaketh not of the works of the moral law, but of the ceremonial law, although they are forced to admit that the ceremonial law also was good and holy. For assuredly circumcision and other laws concerning the rites of the Temple were righteous and holy; for they were no less commanded and ordained of God than the moral laws. But here they say: But after Christ the laws of ceremonies were deadly. This they invent out of their own head. Neither doth Paul speak here of the Gentiles, unto whom the ceremonies are deadly, but of the Jews, unto whom they were good; yea, and Paul himself did keep them. Therefore even at that time, when the laws of ceremonies were holy and just and good, they could not justify.
Paul therefore speaketh not of a part of the law only (which also is good and holy), but of the whole law, saying that a work done according to the whole law justifieth not. Neither speaketh he of sin against the law, or a work of the flesh, but of the work of the law,’ that is, a work done according to the law. Therefore, to do no murder, not to commit adultery, etc., whether it be done according to nature, or the strength of man, or free-will, or according to the gift and power of God, yet it justifieth not.
Now the works of the law may be done either before justification or after.
Before justification, many good men even amongst the pagans, as Xenophon, Aristides, Fabius, Cicero, Pomponius Atticus and others, performed the deeds of the law and did notable works. Cicero suffered death valiantly in a good and just cause. Pomponius was a constant man, and loved truth, for he never made a lie himself, nor could suffer the same in any other. Now, constancy and truth are noble virtues and excellent works of the law, and yet were they not justified thereby. After justification, Peter, Paul, and all other Christians have done and do the works of the law, yet are they not justified thereby. ‘I know not myself guilty in any thing (saith Paul) and yet am I not thereby justified ‘ ( 1 Corinthians 4:4). We see then that he speaketh not of any part of the law, and not of sins against the law, but of the whole law and all the works thereof.
The Divinity of the Popish Sophisters, commonly called the Schoolmen. Wherefore the wicked and pernicious opinion of the Papists is utterly to be condemned, which attribute the merit of grace and remission of sins to the work wrought. For they say that a good work before grace, is able to obtain grace of congruence [which they call meritum de congruo because it is meet that God should reward such a work]. But when grace is obtained, the work following deserveth everlasting life of due debt and worthiness which they call meritum de condigno ]. As for example if a man being in deadly sin, without grace, do a good work of his own good natural inclination — that is, if he say or hear a mass, or give alms and such like — this man of congruence deserveth grace. When he hath thus obtained grace, he doth now a work which of worthiness deserveth everlasting life.
For the first, God is no debtor; but because he is just and good, it behooveth him to approve such a good work, though it be done in deadly sin, and to give grace for such a service. But when grace is obtained, God is become a debtor, and is constrained of right and duty to give eternal life.
For now it is not only a work of free will, done according to the substance, but also done in grace which maketh a man acceptable unto God, that is to say, an charity. This is the divinity of the Antichristian kingdom; which here I recite, to the end that the disputation of Paul may be the better understood (for two contrary things being set together, may be the better known); and moreover, that all men may see how far from the truth these blind guides and leaders of the blind ( Matthew 23:18) have wandered, and how by this wicked and blasphemous doctrine they have not only darkened the Gospel, but have taken it clean away, and buried Christ utterly. For if I being in deadly sin, can do any little work which is not only acceptable in God’s sight of itself, and according to the substance, but also is able to deserve grace of congruence, and when I have received grace, I may do works according to grace, that is to say, according to charity, and get of right and duty eternal life; what need have I now of the grace of God, forgiveness of sins, of the promise, and of the death and victory of Christ?
Christ is now to me unprofitable, and his benefit of none effect; for I have free will and power to do good works, whereby I deserve grace of congruence, and afterwards by the worthiness of my work, eternal life.
Such monstrous and horrible blasphemies should have been set forth to the Turks and Jews, and not to the Church of Christ. And hereby it plainly appeareth, that the Pope with his bishops, doctors, monks, and all his religious rabble, had no knowledge or regard of holy matters, and that they were not careful for the health of the silly and miserable scattered flock.
For if they had seen, but as it were through a cloud, what Paul calleth sin, and what he calleth grace, they would never have compelled the people to believe such abominations and execrable lies. By deadly sin they understood only the external work committed against the law, as murder, adultery, theft, and such like. They could not see that ignorance, hatred, and contempt of God in the heart, ingratitude, murmuring against God, and resisting the will of God, are also deadly sin, and that the flesh cannot think, speak, or do, anything but that which is devilish and altogether against God. If they had seen these mischiefs fast rooted m the nature of man, they would never have devised such impudent and execrable dreams touching the desert of congruence and worthiness.
Wherefore we must properly and plainly define what a wicked man or deadly sinner is. He is such a holy and bloody hypocrite as Paul was when he went to Damascus, to persecute Jesus of Nazareth, to abolish the doctrine of the Gospel, to murder the faithful, and utterly to overthrow the Church of Christ. And who will not say, but that these were horrible sins against God? Yet could not Paul see them. For he was so blinded with a perverse zeal of God, that he thought these abominations to be perfect righteousness and most acceptable service unto God: and shall we say that such as defend these horrible sins to be perfect righteousness, do deserve grace?
Wherefore with Paul, we utterly deny the merit of congruence and worthiness, and affirm that these speculations are nothing else but mere deceits of Satan, which were never done in deed, nor notified by any examples. For God never gave to any man grace and everlasting life for the merit of congruence or worthiness. These disputations therefore of the schoolmen touching the merit of congruence and worthiness, are nothing else but vain toys and dreams of idle brains. Yet hereupon is the whole Papacy grounded. For there is no religious person, but he hath this imagination I am able by the observation of my holy order to deserve grace of congruence, and by the works which I do after that I have received this grace, I am able to heap up such treasure of merit, as shall not only be sufficient for me to obtain eternal life, but also. too give or sell unto others.
Thus have all the religious orders taught, and thus have they lived. And to defend this horrible blasphemy against Christ, the Papists do at this day attempt against us what they can; and there is not one of them all, but the more holy hypocrite and meritmonger he is, the most cruel and deadly enemy he is to the Gospel of Christ.
THE TRUE WAY TO CHRISTIANITY. FA30 Now, the true way to Christianity is this, that a man do first acknowledge himself by the law, to be a sinner, and that it is impossible for him to do any good work. For the law saith: Thou art an evil tree, and therefore all that thou thinkest, speakest, or doest, is against God. Thou canst not therefore deserve grace by thy works which if thou go about to do, thou doublest thy offense; for since thou art an evil tree, thou canst not but bring forth evil fruits, that is to say, sins. ‘For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin’ ( Romans 14:23). Wherefore he that would deserve grace by works going before faith, goeth about to please God with sins, which is nothing else but to heap sin upon sin, to mock God, and to provoke his wrath.
When a man is thus taught and instructed by the law, then is he terrified and humbled, then he seeth indeed the greatness of his sin, and cannot find in himself one spark of the love of God: therefore he justifieth God in his Word, and confesseth that he is guilty of death and eternal damnation. The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance, and the knowledge of ourselves.
The second part is: if thou wilt be saved, thou mayest not seek salvation by works; for God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. He was crucified and died for thee, and bare thy sins in his own body. Here is no congruence or work done before grace, but wrath, sin, terror and death. Wherefore the law doth nothing else but utter sin, terrify and humble, and by this means prepareth us to justification, and driveth us to Christ. For God hath revealed unto us by his Word, that he will be unto us a merciful father, and without our deserts (seeing we can deserve nothing) will freely give unto us remission of sins, righteousness and life everlasting, for Christ his Son’s sake. For God giveth his gifts freely unto all men, and that is the praise and glory of his divinity. But the justiciaries and merit-mongers will not receive grace and everlasting life of him freely, but will deserve the same by their own works. For this cause they would utterly take from him the glory of his divinity. To the end therefore that he may maintain and defend the same, he is constrained to send his law before, which as a lightning and thundering from heaven, may bruise and break those hard rocks.
This briefly is our doctrine as touching Christian righteousness, contrary to the abominations and blasphemies of the schoolmen concerning the merit of congruence and worthiness, or works before grace and after grace.
Which monstrous dreams were devised by such as were never exercised with any temptations, never had any true feeling of sin, or of the terror of death, and therefore they know not what they say, or what they teach.
Moreover, they can shew no example of any work done either before or after grace that could justify before God. Wherefore they are nothing else but vain toys and foolish fables, whereby the Papists deceive both themselves and other. For Paul here plainly affirmeth, that no man is justified by the works of the law either going before grace (whereof he speaketh in this place) or coming after grace. You see then that Christian righteousness is not such an essential quality engrafted in the nature of man, as the schoolmen do imagine, when they say:
THE DIVINITY OF THE SCHOOLMEN. FA32 When a man doth any good work, God accepteth it, and for that work he poureth into him charity, which they call charity infused. This charity, say they, is a quality remaining in the heart, and this they call formal righteousness (which manner of speaking it is expedient for you to know), and they can abide nothing less than to heart hat this quality forming and adorning the soul, as whiteness doth the wall, should not be counted righteousness. They can climb no higher than to this cogitation of man’s reason, that man is righteous by his own formal righteousness, which is grace making him acceptable unto God, that is to say, charity. So to this quality cleaving unto the soul, that is to wit, charity (which is a work after the law, for the law saith: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,’ etc.), they attribute formal righteousness [that is to say, true Christian righteousness], and they say that this righteousness is worthy of everlasting life, and he that hath it is formally righteous; and moreover he is effectually or actually righteous, because he now doth good works, whereunto everlasting life is due. This is the opinion of the Popish schoolmen, yea, even of the best of them all.
Some others there be which are not so good, as Scotus and Occam, which said, that for the obtaining of the grace of God, this charity infused or given of God, is not necessary; but that a man even by his own natural strength, may procure this charity above all things. For so reasoneth Scotus If a man may love a creature, a young man a maiden, a covetous man money, which are the less good, he may also love God, which is the greater good. If he have a love of the creature through his natural strength, much more hath he a love of the Creator. With this argument were all the sophisters convicted, and none of them all was able to refute it.
Notwithstanding thus they reply:
The Scripture compelleth us to confess (say they) that God, besides that natural love and charity which is engrafted in us (wherewith alone he is not contented), requireth also charity which he himself giveth. And hereby they accuse God as a tyrant and a cruel exactor, who is not content that we keep and fulfill his law, but above the law (which we ourselves are well able to fulfill), requireth also that we should accomplish it with other circumstance and furniture, as apparel to the same. As if a mistress should not be contented that her cook had dressed her meat excellently well, but should chide her for that she did not prepare the same, being decked with precious apparel, and adorned with a crown of gold. Now what a mistress were this, who when her cook had done all that she was bound to do, and also exactly performed the same, would moreover require that she should wear such ornaments as she could not have? Even so, what a one should God be, if he should require his law to be fulfilled of us (which notwithstanding by our own natural strength we observe and fulfill) with such furniture as we cannot have?
But here lest they should seem to avouch contrary things, they make a distinction, and say that the law is fulfilled two manner of ways: first according to the substance of the deed, and secondly, according to the mind of the commander. According to the substance of the deed, say they, we may fulfill all things which the law commandeth, but not according to the mind of the commander, which is, that God is not contented that thou hast done and fulfilled all things which are commanded in the law (although he hath no more to require of thee), but he further requireth, that thou shouldest fulfill the law in charity not that charity which thou hast by nature, but that which is above nature and heavenly, which he himself giveth. And what is this else but to make of God a tyrant and a tormentor, which requireth that of us which we are not able to perform? And it is in a manner as much as if they should say, that the fault is not in us if we be damned, but in God, which with this circumstance requireth his law to be accomplished of us.
These things I do the more diligently repeat, that you may see how far they have strayed from the true sense of the Scripture, which have said that by our own natural strength we may love God above all things, or at least, by the work wrought we may deserve grace and everlasting life. And because God is not content that we fulfill the law according to the substance of the deed, but will have us also to fulfill the same according to the mind of the commander, therefore the Scripture further compelleth us to have a quality above nature poured into us from above; and that is charity, which they call formal righteousness, adorning and beautifying faith, being also the cause that faith justifieth us. So faith is the body and the shell: charity the life, the kernel, the form and furniture. These are the monstrous dreams of the schoolmen.
But we, in the stead of this charity do place faith, and whereas they say that faith is the bare outline, and charity the lively colouring and filling up of the same, we say contrariwise that faith Jesus Christ, who is the form which adorneth and furnisheth faith, as the color adorneth and beautifieth the wall. Christian faith therefore is not an idle quality or empty husk in the heart, which may be in deadly sin until charity come and quicken it: but if it be true faith, it is a sure trust and confidence of the heart, and a firm consent whereby Christ is apprehended: so that Christ is the object of faith, yea rather he is not the object, but, as it were, in the faith itself Christ is present. Faith therefore is a certain obscure knowledge, or rather darkness which seeth nothing, and yet Christ apprehended by faith sitteth in this darkness like as God in Sinai and in the Temple sat in the midst of darkness ( Exodus 19:9, 20:21: 1 Kings 8:10,12). Wherefore our formal righteousness is not charity furnishing and beautifying faith, but it is faith itself, which is, as it were, a certain cloud in our hearts: that is to say, a steadfast trust and affiance in the thing which we see not, which is Christ: who although he be not seen at all, yet he is present.
Faith therefore justifieth, because it apprehendeth and possesseth this treasure, even Christ present. But the manner of this presence cannot be comprehended of us, because it is in darkness, as I have said. Wherefore, where assured trust and affiance of the heart is, there Christ is present, yea even in the cloud and obscurity of faith. And this is the true formal righteousness, whereby a man is justified, and not by charity, as the popish schoolmen do affirm.
To conclude, like as the schoolmen say that charity furnisheth and adorneth faith, so do we say that it is Christ which furnisheth and adorneth faith, or which is the form and perfection of faith. Wherefore Christ apprehended by faith, and dwelling in the heart, is the true Christian righteousness, for the which God counteth us righteous and giveth us eternal life. Here is no work of the law, no charity, but a far other manner of righteousness, and a certain new world beyond and above the law. For Christ or faith is not the law nor the work of the law. But concerning this matter, which the schoolmen neither taught nor understood, we intend to speak more largely hereafter. Now it shall be enough that we have shewed, that Paul speaketh not here of the ceremonial law only, but of the whole law. I have plainly declared already, how great is the error of the schooldivines, which have taught that a man thus obtaineth remission of sins and justification, namely, if by works going before, which they call merits of congruence, he deserve grace, which to them is a quality that cleaveth to the will, being given by God over and above that love which we have by our natural powers. When a man hath received this grace (say they), he is formally righteous and truly a Christian. This, I say, is an ungodly and pestilent opinion, for it maketh not a Christian, but a Turk, a Jew, an Anabaptist, a fantastical head, etc. For what man is there that would not be able by his own strength without grace to do a good work and in this way merit grace, etc.? After this manner have these dreamers made of faith an empty quality in the soul, which alone and without charity availeth nothing at all, but when charity is added thereto, it is effective and justifieth. And the works that do follow (say they) have power to merit eternal life of worthiness, since God for the sake of the charity which he hath infused into man’s will, doth accept the work following unto eternal life. For thus say they that God accepteth a good work unto eternal life, but an evil work he non-accepteth unto condemnation and eternal punishment. They have heard somewhat in a dream concerning acceptation, and then they have attributed this relation unto works. All these things are false and blasphemous against Christ. Howbeit not all speak so well, but some, as we have said, have taught that we are able of our own natural strength to love God above all things. It is profitable to know these things, to the end that the argument of Paul may be made the more clear.
THE TRUE RULE OF CHRISTIANITY. FA44 Contrary to these vain trifles and doting dreams (as we have also noted before) we teach faith, and give a true rule of Christianity in this sort: first, that a man must be taught by the law to know himself, that so he may learn to say with the prophet: ‘All have sinned and have need of the glory of God’ ( Romans 3:23); also, ‘There is not one righteous, no not one: not one that understandeth, not one that seeketh after God: all have gone astray’ ( Romans 3:10 ff.; Psalm 14:1 ff.; 53:1 ff.); also: ‘Against thee only have I sinned’ ( Psalm 51:4). Thus we by a contrary way do drive men from the merit of congruence and worthiness. Now, when a man is humbled by the law, and brought to the knowledge of himself, then followeth true repentance (for true repentance beginneth at the fear and judgment of God), and he seeth himself to be so great a sinner that he can find no means how he may be delivered from his sin by his own strength, endeavor and works. Then he perceiveth well what Paul meaneth when he saith that man is the servant and bond-slave of sin ( Romans 7:14); also that God hath shut up all under sin ( Romans 11:52; Galatians 3:22) and that the whole world is guilty before God ( Romans 3:19). Then he seeth that all the divinity of the schoolmen touching the merit of congruence and worthiness, is nothing else but mere foolishness, and that by this means the whole Papacy falleth.
Here now he beginneth to sigh, and saith in this wise: Who then can give succor? For he being thus terrified with the law, utterly despaireth of his own strength: he looketh about, and sigheth for the help of a mediator and Savior. Here then cometh in good time the healthful word of the Gospel, and saith: ‘Son, thy sins are forgiven thee’ ( Matthew 9:2). Believe in Christ Jesus crucified for thy sins, etc. If thou feel thy sins and the burden thereof, look not upon them in thyself, but remember that they are translated and laid upon Christ, whose stripes have made thee whole ( Isaiah 53:5).
This is the beginning of health and salvation. By this means we are delivered from sin, justified and made inheritors of everlasting life; not for our own works and deserts, but for our faith, whereby we lay hold upon Christ. Wherefore we also do acknowledge a quality and a formal righteousness in the heart: not charity (as the sophisters do) but faith; and yet so notwithstanding, that the heart must behold and apprehend nothing but Christ the Savior. And here it is necessary that you know the true definition of Christ. The schoolmen being utterly ignorant hereof, have made Christ a judge and a tormentor, devising this fond fancy concerning the merit of congruence and worthiness.
But Christ, according to his true definition, is no lawgiver, but a forgiver of sins and a Savior. This doth faith apprehend and undoubtedly believe, that he hath wrought works and merits of congruence and worthiness abundantly. For he might have satisfied for all the sins of the world by one only drop of his blood; but now he hath shed it plentifully, and hath satisfied abundantly. ‘By his own blood hath he entered into the holy place once for all, and obtained eternal redemption’ ( Hebrews 9:12); and ‘We are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a reconciliation unto us, through faith in his blood’ ( Romans 3:24 f.). Wherefore it is a great matter, by faith, to lay hold upon Christ bearing the sins of the world. And this faith alone is counted for righteousness (Romans 3-4).
Here is to be noted, that these three things, faith, Christ, acceptation, or imputation, must be joined together. Faith taketh hold of Christ, and hath him present, and holdeth him inclosed, as the ring doth the precious stone.
And whosoever shall be found having this confidence in Christ apprehended in the heart, him will God account for righteous. This is the mean, and this is the merit whereby we attain the remission of sins and righteousness. Because thou believest in me, saith the Lord, and thy faith layeth hold upon Christ, whom I have freely given unto thee that he might be thy mediator and high priest, therefore be thou justified and righteous.
Wherefore God doth accept or account us as righteous, only for our faith in Christ.
And this acceptation, or imputation, is very necessary: first, because we are not yet perfectly righteous, but while we remain in this life, sin dwelleth still in our flesh; and this remnant of sin God purgeth in us. Moreover, we are sometimes left of the Holy Ghost, and fall into sins, as did Peter, David, and other holy men. Notwithstanding we have always recourse to this article: that our sins are covered, and that God will not lay them to our charge (Romans iv.). Not that sin is not in us (as the sophisters have taught, saying, that we must be always working well until we feel that there is no sin remaining in us): yea, sin is indeed always in us, and the godly do feel it, but it is covered, and is not imputed unto us of God for Christ’s sake; whom because we do apprehend by faith, all our sins are now no sins.
But where Christ and faith be not, there is no remission or covering of sins, but mere imputation of sins and condemnation. Thus will God glorify his Son, and will be glorified himself in us through him.
When we have thus taught faith in Christ, then do we teach also good works. Because thou hast laid hold upon Christ by faith, through whom thou art made righteous, begin now to work well. Love God and thy neighbor, call upon God, give thanks unto him, praise him, confess him. Do good to thy neighbor and serve him: fulfill thine office. These are good works indeed, which flow out of this faith and this cheerfulness conceived in the heart, for that we have remission of sins freely by Christ.
Now what cross or affliction soever do afterwards ensue, they are easily borne, and cheerfully suffered. For the yoke that Christ layeth upon us, is sweet, and his burden is light ( Matthew 11:30). When sin is pardoned, and the conscience delivered from the burden and sting of sin, then may a Christian bear all things easily: because he feeleth all things within sweet and comfortable, therefore he doeth and suffereth all things willingly. But when a man walketh in his own righteousness, whatsoever he doeth is grievous and tedious unto him, because he doeth it unwillingly.
We therefore do make this definition of a Christian, that a Christian is not he which hath no sin, or feeleth no sin, but he to whom God imputeth not his sin because of his faith in Christ. This doctrine bringeth strong consolation to afflicted consciences in serious and inward terrors. It is not without good cause, therefore, that we do so often repeat and beat into your minds the forgiveness of sins, and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake: also that a Christian hath nothing to do with the law and sin, especially in the time of temptation. For inasmuch as he is a Christian, he is above the law and sin. For he hath Christ the Lord of the law present and inclosed in his heart (as we have said) even as a ring hath a jewel or precious stone inclosed in it. Therefore when the law accuseth and sin terrifieth him, he looketh upon Christ, and when he hath apprehended him by faith, he hath present with him the conqueror of the law, sin, death and the devil: who reigneth and ruleth over them, so that they cannot hurt him.
Wherefore a Christian man, if ye define him rightly, is free from all laws, and is not subject unto any creature, either within or without: inasmuch as he is a Christian, I say, and not inasmuch as he is a man or a woman, that is to say, inasmuch as he hath his conscience adorned and beautified and enriched with this faith, with this great and inestimable treasure, or, as Paul saith, ‘this unspeakable gift’ ( 2 Corinthians 9:15), which cannot be magnified and praised enough, for it maketh us the children and heirs of God. And by this means a Christian is greater than the whole world. For he hath such a gift, such a treasure in his heart, that although it seemeth to be but little, yet notwithstanding the smallness thereof, is .greater than heaven and earth, because Christ, which is this gift, is greater.
While this doctrine, pacifying and quieting the conscience, remaineth pure and uncorrupt, Christians are made judges over all kinds of doctrine, and are lords over the laws of the whole world. Then can they certainly judge that the Turk with his Alcoran is damned, because he goeth not the right way, that is, he acknowledgeth not himself to be a miserable and damnable sinner, nor apprehendeth Christ by faith, for whose sake he might be assured that his sins are pardoned. In like manner they boldly pronounce sentence against the Pope, that he is condemned with all his kingdom, because he so walketh and so teacheth (with all his religious rabble of sophisters and schoolmen), that by the merit of congruence we must come to grace, and that afterward by the merit of worthiness we are received into heaven. Here saith the Christian: this is not the right way to justify us, neither doth this way lead to heaven. For I cannot, saith he, by my works going before grace, deserve grace of congruence, nor by my works following grace, obtain eternal life of worthiness: but to him that believeth in Christ, sin is pardoned and righteousness imputed. This trust and this confidence maketh him the child of God and heir of his kingdom; for in hope he possesseth already everlasting life, assured unto him by promise. Through faith in Christ therefore all things are given unto us, grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, salvation and everlasting life, and not for the merit of congruence and worthiness.
Wherefore this doctrine of the schoolmen, with their ceremonies, masses, and infinite foundations of the papistical kingdom, are most abominable blasphemies against God, sacrileges and plain denials of Christ, as Peter hath foretold in these words: ‘There shall be,’ saith he, ‘false teachers among you, which shall privily bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that hath bought them,’ etc. ( 2 Peter 2:1). As though he would say: The Lord hath redeemed and bought us with his blood, that he might justify and save us; this is the way of righteousness and salvation. But there shall come false teachers, which denying the Lord, shall blaspheme the way of truth, of righteousness and salvation; they shall find out new ways of falsehood and destruction, and many shall follow their damnable ways.
Peter throughout this whole chapter most lively painteth out the Papacy, which neglecting and despising the Gospel and faith in Christ, hath taught the works and traditions of men: as the merit of congruence and worthiness, the difference of days, meats and persons, vows, invocation of saints, pilgrimages, purgatory, and such like. In these fantastical opinions the Papists are so misled, that it is impossible for them to understand one syllable of the Gospel, of faith, or of Christ.
And this the thing itself doth well declare. For they take that privilege unto themselves which belongeth unto Christ alone. He only delivereth from sins, he only giveth righteousness and everlasting life; and they most impudently and wickedly do vaunt that we are able to obtain these things apart from Christ by the merits of congruence and worthiness. This, saith Peter and the other Apostles, is to bring in damnable heresies and sects of perdition. For by these means they deny Christ, tread his blood under their feet, blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and despise the grace of God. Wherefore no man can sufficiently conceive how horrible the idolatry of the Papists is.
As inestimable as the gift is which is offered unto us by Christ, even so and no less abominable are these profanations of the Papists. Wherefore they ought not to be lightly esteemed or forgotten, but diligently weighed and considered. And this maketh very much also for the amplifying of the grace of God and the benefit of Christ, as by the contrary. For the more we know the profanation of the papistical Mass, so much the more we abhor the detest the same, and embrace the true use of the Mass, which the Pope hath taken away, and hath made merchandise thereof, that being bought for money, it might profit others. For he saith that the massing priest, an apostate denying Christ and blaspheming the Holy Ghost, standing at the altar, doth a good work, not only for himself, but also for others, both quick and dead, and for the whole Church, and that only by the work wrought, and by no other means.
Wherefore even by this we may plainly see the inestimable patience of God, in that he hath not long ago destroyed the whole Papacy, and consumed it with fire and brimstone, as he did Sodom and Gomorrah. But now these jolly fellows go about, not only to cover, but highly to advance their impiety and filthiness. This we may in no case dissemble, We must therefore with all diligence set forth the article of justification, that as a most clear sun, it may bring to light the darkness of their hypocrisy, and discover their filthiness and shame. For this cause we do so often repeat and so earnestly set forth the righteousness of faith, that the adversaries may be confounded and this article established and confirmed in our hearts.
And this is a most necessary thing: for if we once lose this sun, we fall again into our former darkness. And most horrible it is, that the Pope should ever be able to bring this to pass in the Church, that Christ should be denied, trodden under foot, spit upon, blasphemed, yea and that even by the Gospel and sacraments; which he hath so darkened, and turned into such an horrible abuse, that he hath made them to serve him against Christ, for the establishing and confirming of his detestable abominations. O deep darkness! O horrible wrath of God!
EVEN WE, I SAY, HAVE BELIEVED IN CHRIST JESUS, THAT WE MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED ETC.
This is the true mean of becoming a Christian, even to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by the works of the law. Here we must stand, not upon the wicked gloss of the schoolmen, which say, that faith then justifieth, when charity and good works are joined withal. With this pestilent gloss the sophisters have darkened and corrupted this and other like sentences in Paul, wherein he manifestly attributeth justification to faith only in Christ. But when a man heareth that he ought to believe in Christ, and yet notwithstanding faith justifieth not except it be formed and furnished with charity, by and by he falleth from faith, and thus he thinketh:
If faith without charity justifieth not, then is faith in vain and unprofitable, and charity alone justifieth; for except faith be formed and beautified with charity, it is nothing.
And to confirm this pernicious and pestilent gloss, the adversaries do allege this place, 1 Corinthians 13:1 f.: ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, etc., and have no love, I am nothing.’ And this place is their brazen wall. But they are men without understanding, and therefore they can see or understand nothing in Paul; and by this false interpretation, they have not only perverted the words of Paul, but have also denied Christ, and buried all his benefits. Wherefore we must avoid this gloss as a most deadly and devilish poison, and conclude with Paul, that we are justified, not by faith furnished with charity, but by faith only and alone. We must not attribute the power of justifying to that form [sc. charity] which maketh a man acceptable unto God, but we must attribute it to faith, which apprehendeth and possesseth in the heart Christ the Savior himself.
This faith justifieth without and before charity.
We grant that we must teach also good works and charity, but it must be done in time and place, that is to say, when the question is concerning works, and toucheth not this article of justification. But here the question is, by what means we are justified and attain eternal life. To this we answer with Paul, that by faith only in Christ we are pronounced righteous, and not by the works of the law or charity not because we reject good works, as our adversaries accuse us, but for that we will not suffer ourselves to be turned aside from the principal point of this present matter as Satan most desireth. Wherefore since we are now in the matter of justification, we reject and condemn all good works’ for this place will admit no disputation of good works. In this matter therefore we do generally cut off all laws and all the works of the law.
But the law is good, just, and holy. True, it is. But when we are disputing of justification, there is no time or place to speak of the law; but the question is, what Christ is, and what benefit he hath brought unto us.
Christ is not the law, he is not my work, or the work of the law, he is not my charity, he is not my chastity, obedience, or poverty, but he is the Lord of life and death, a mediator and a Savior of sinners, a redeemer of those that are under the law. In him we are by faith, and he in us. This bridegroom must be alone with the bride in his secret chamber, all the servants and family being put apart. But afterwards, when he openeth the door and cometh forth, then let the servants and handmaidens return, to fulfill their ministry. There let charity do her office, and let good works be done.
We must learn therefore to discern all laws, yea even the law of God, and all works, from the promise of the Gospel and from faith, that we may define Christ rightly. For Christ is no law, and therefore he is no exactor of the law and works, but he is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world ( John 1:29). This doth faith alone lay hold of, and not charity, which not withstanding, as a certain thankfulness, must follow faith.
Wherefore victory over sin and death, salvation and everlasting life, come not by the law, nor by the works of the law, nor yet by the power of freewill, but by the Lord Jesus Christ only and alone. Therefore faith alone apprehending this justifieth, as appeareth by a sufficient division and induction: The victory over sin and death cometh by Jesus Christ only and alone: therefore it cometh not by the works of the law, nor yet by our will, etc. Here we will gladly suffer ourselves to be called ‘solarians’ by our adversaries, which understand nothing of this disputation of Paul.
THAT WE MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN CHRIST AND NOT BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW Paul speaketh not here of the ceremonial law only, as before we have said, but of the whole law. For the ceremonial law was as well the law of God as the moral law was. As for example, circumcision, the institution of the priesthood, the service and ceremonies of the Temple, were as well commanded of God, as the Ten Commandments. Moreover, when Abraham was commanded to offer up his son Isaac in sacrifice, it was a law. This work of Abraham pleased God no less than other works of the ceremonial law did, and yet was he not justified by this work, but by faith; for the Scripture saith: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness’ ( Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).
But since the revealing of Christ, say they, the ceremonial law killeth and bringeth death. Yea, so doth the law of the Ten Commandments also, without faith in Christ. Moreover, there may no law be suffered to reign in the conscience, but only the law of the spirit of life, whereby we are made free in Christ from the law of the letter and of death, from the works thereof, and from all sins: not because the law is evil, but for that it is not able to justify us; for it hath a plain contrary effect and working. It is an high and an excellent matter to be at peace with God, and therefore in this case, we have need of a far other mediator than Moses or the law, than our own will, yea even than that grace which they call the love of God. Here we ourselves must be nothing at all, but only receive the treasure which is Christ, apprehended in our hearts by faith, although we feel ourselves to be never so full of sin. These words therefore of the Apostle ‘That we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law,’ are very effectual, and not in vain or unprofitable, as the schoolmen think, and therefore they pass them over so lightly.
Hitherto ye have heard the words of Paul which he spake unto Peter; wherein he hath briefly comprised the principal article of all Christian doctrine, which maketh true Christians indeed. Now he turneth to the Galatians, to whom he writeth, and thus he concludeth: Since it is so, that we are justified by faith in Christ, then by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
BECAUSE BY THE DEEDS OF THE LAW, NO FLESH SHALL BE JUSTIFIED ‘Non omnis caro’ is a Hebraism which offendeth against the grammar. So Genesis 4:5: ‘That not every one that findeth him should smite him.’
The Greeks and Latins speak not so. ‘Not every one’ signifieth ‘no one’ and ‘not all flesh’ signifieth ‘no flesh.’ But ‘not all flesh’ in Latin seemeth to say ‘some flesh.’ Howbeit the Holy Ghost keepeth not this strictness of the grammar.
Now ‘flesh,’ in Paul, doth not signify (as the schoolmen dream) manifest and gross sins; for those he useth to call by their proper names, as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and such like ( Galatians 5:19 ff.): but by flesh, Paul meaneth here, as Christ doth in the third chapter of John: ‘That which is born of the flesh, is flesh’ ( John 3:6). Flesh therefore signifieth the whole nature of man, with reason and all other powers whatsoever do belong to man. This flesh, saith he, is not justified by works, no not even of the law. He saith not: Flesh is not justified by works contrary to the law, as are murder, adultery, drunkenness, and such like, but by works done according to the law, which are good. Flesh therefore, according to Paul, signifieth all the righteousness, wisdom, devotion, religion, understanding and will, that is possible to be in a natural man. Now if a Jew is not justified by works done according to the law of God, much less shall a monk be justified by his order, a priest by the mass and canonical hours, a philosopher by his wisdom, a divine by his divinity, a Turk by the Alcoran.
Briefly, though a man be never so wise and righteous according to reason and the law of God, yet with all his righteousness, works, merits, devotion and religion, he is not justified.
This the Papists do not believe, but being blind and obstinate, they defend their abominations against their own conscience, and continue still in this their blasphemy, having in their mouths these execrable words: He that doth this good work or that, deserveth forgiveness of his sins; whosoever entereth into this or that holy order, and keepeth his rule, to him we assuredly promise everlasting life. It cannot be uttered what an horrible blasphemy it is to attribute that to the doctrines of devils, to the decrees and ordinances of men, to the wicked traditions of the Pope, to the works and merits of monks and friars, which Paul the Apostle of Christ taketh from the law of God and the works thereof. For if no flesh be justified by the works of the law of God, much less shall it be justified by the rule of Benedict, Francis, or Augustine, in which there is not one jot of true faith in Christ: but this only they teach, that whosoever keepeth these things hath life everlasting.
Wherefore I have much and often marveled, that these sects of perdition reigning so many years in so great darkness and errors, the Church could endure and continue as it hath done. Some there were whom God called purely by the text of the Gospel (which notwithstanding remained in the pulpit) and by Baptism. These walked in simplicity and humbleness of heart, thinking the monks and friars and such only as were anointed of the bishops, to be religious and holy, and themselves to be profane and secular, and not worthy to be compared unto them. Wherefore they finding in themselves no good works to set against the wrath and judgment of God, did fly to the death and passion of Christ, and were saved in this simplicity.
Horrible and unspeakable is the wrath of God, in that he hath so long time punished the contempt of the Gospel and Christ in the Papists, and also their ingratitude, in giving them over unto a reprobate mind ( Romans 1:24. ff.), insomuch that they blaspheming and denying Christ altogether as touching his office, instead of the Gospel, received the execrable rules, ordinances and traditions of men, which they devoutly adored and honored, yea and preferred the same far above the Word of God, until at length they were forbidden to marry, and were bound to that incestuous single life; wherein they were outwardly polluted and defiled with all kinds of horrible wickedness, as adultery, whoredom, uncleanness, sodomy, and such other abominations. This was the fruit of that filthy single life.
So God, punishing sin with sin, inwardly gave them over unto a reprobate mind, and outwardly suffered them to fall into such horrible crimes, and that justly, because they blasphemed the only Son of God, in whom the Father would be glorified, and whom he delivered to death, that all which believe in him might be saved by him, and not by their own rules and orders. ‘Him that honoreth me,’ saith he, ‘I will honor’ ( 1 Samuel 2:30). Now, God is honored in his Son ( John 5:23). Whoso then believeth that the Son is our mediator and savior, he honoreth the Father, and him again doth God honor, that is to say, adorneth him with his gifts, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, the Holy Ghost, and everlasting life.
Contrariwise, ‘They that despise me,’ saith he, ‘shall be despised’ ( Samuel 2:30; Matthew 10:33).
There is then a general conclusion: ‘By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified.’ This do thou amplify and run through all states and conditions of life thus: Ergo no monk shall be justified by his order, no nun by her chastity, no citizen by his probity, no prince by his beneficence, etc. The law of God is greater than the whole world, for it comprehendeth all men, and the works of the law do far excel even the most glorious will-works of all the merit-mongers; and yet Paul saith that neither the law nor the works of the law do justify. Therefore we conclude with Paul, that faith only justifieth. This proposition he goeth about to confirm in this manner:
IF THEN WHILE WE SEEK TO BE JUSTIFIED IN CHRIST, WE OURSELVES ARE FOUND SINNERS, IS CHRIST THEREFORE THE MINISTER OF SIN? GOD FORBID These are not Latin phrases, but Hebrew and theological. If this be true, saith he, that we are justified by Christ, then is it impossible that we should be sinners, or should be justified by the law. On the contrary, if this be not true, but that we must be justified by the law and the works of the law, it is then impossible that we should be justified by Christ. One of these two must needs be false. Either we are not justified by Christ, or we are not justified by the law. But the truth is that we are justified by Christ; therefore we are not justified by the law. He reasoneth therefore after this manner: ‘If then while we seek to be made righteous by Christ,’ etc. That is: If we seek to be justified by faith in Christ, and so being justified are yet found sinners, having need of the law to justify us being sinners: if we have need, I say, of the observation of the law to justify us, so that they which are righteous in Christ are not righteous, but yet have need of the law to justify them: or if he that is justified by Christ must yet further be justified by the law, then Christ is nothing else but a lawgiver and a minister of sin.
Therefore he that is justified and holy in Christ, is not justified or holy, but hath yet need of the righteousness and holiness of the law.
But we are indeed justified and made righteous in Christ; for the truth of the Gospel teacheth us, that a man is not justified in the law, but in Christ.
Now, if they which are justified in Christ are yet found sinners, that is do yet still belong to the law, and are under the law (as the false apostles teach), then are they not yet justified. For the law accuseth them, and sheweth them to be yet sinners, and requireth of them the works of the law, as necessary to their justification. Therefore they that are justified in Christ, are not justified; and so it followeth, that Christ is not a justifier, but a minister of sin.
With these words he vehemently chargeth the false apostles and all meritmongers, that they pervert all together: for they make of the law grace, and of grace the law, of Moses Christ, and of Christ Moses. For they teach that besides Christ and all the righteousness of Christ, the observation of the law is necessary to justification. And thus we see that by their intolerable perverseness, they make the law Christ for by this means they attribute that to the law, which properly belongeth unto Christ. If thou do the works of the law, say they, thou shalt be justified; but if thou do them not, thou shalt not be justified, although thou do believe in Christ never so much. Now if it be so, that Christ justifieth not, but is the minister of sin (as it needs must follow by their doctrine), then is Christ the law for we have nothing else of him (seeing he teacheth that we are sinners) than that we have by the law. So Christ being the teacher of sin, sendeth us to the law and to Moses, as to our justifier.
It cannot be therefore, but that the Papists and all such as are ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, or have not the true knowledge thereof, must needs make of Christ Moses and the law, and of the law Christ. For thus they teach: It is true (say they) that faith in Christ justifieth, but withal we must needs keep the commandments of God. For it is written: ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments’ ( Matthew 19:17). Here even at the first dash, Christ is denied and faith abolished, because that is attributed to the commandments of God, or to the law, which belongeth to Christ alone. For Christ, according to his true definition, is a justifier and a redeemer from sins. If I attribute this to the law, then is the law my justifier, delivering me from my sins, because I do the works thereof: and so now the law is Christ, and Christ utterly loseth his name, his office and glory, and is nothing else but a minister of the law, reproving, terrifying, presenting and sending the sinner to another that may justify him: which is the proper office of the law.
But the proper office of Christ is, after the law hath pronounced a man to be guilty, to raise him up again, and to loose him from his sins, if he believe the Gospel. ‘For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to everyone that believeth’ ( Romans 10:4); he is ‘the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world ( John 1:29). But the Papists and the Anabaptists, because they understand not this doctrine, do turn all clean contrary, making of Christ Moses, and of Moses Christ. And this is indeed (although they will say otherwise) their principal proposition: that Christ is Moses. Moreover, they deride us, because we do so diligently teach and so earnestly require faith. Ha, ha, (say they), faith, faith wait thou the time until thou come to heaven by faith. Nay, thou must strive to do greater and weightier matters. Thou must fulfill the law of God, according to that saying: ‘Do this, and thou shalt live ( Luke 10:28). Thou must suffer many things, shed thy blood, leave thy house, wife, children, imitate the example of Christ. Faith, which ye so highly extol, doth nothing else but make men careless, idle and negligent. Thus are they become nothing else but ministers of the law, and law-workers, calling back the people from Christ to Moses, from baptism, faith, the promises of Christ, to the law and works, turning grace into the law, and the law into grace.
Who would ever believe that these things could so easily be confounded and mingled together? There is no man so unsensible, which doth not perceive this distinction of the law and grace to be most plain and manifest.
For the very nature and signification of the words maketh this distinction and difference. For who understandeth not that these words, law and grace, do differ in name and signification? Wherefore it is a monstrous thing, that this distinction being so plain, the adversaries should be so devilish and perverse, as to mingle together the law and grace, and to transform Christ into Moses. Therefore I oftentimes say, that this doctrine of faith is very plain, and that every man may easily understand this distinction of the law and grace, as touching the words; but as touching the use and practice, it is very hard.
The Pope and his school-doctors do plainly confess, that the law and grace are diverse and distinct things, and yet when they come to the use and practice thereof, they teach clean contrary. Faith in Christ, say they, whether it be gotten by the strength, operation and qualities of nature, or whether it be faith infused and poured into us of God, yet is it but a dead faith, if charity be not joined therewith. Where is now the distinction and difference of the law and grace? Indeed, they do distinguish them in name, but in effect they call grace charity. Thus do all they which so straitly require the observation of the law, and attribute justification to the law and works. Wherefore whosoever doth not perfectly understand the article of justification must needs confound and mingle the law and grace together.
Let every godly man therefore diligently learn above all things, to put a difference between the law and grace in deed and in practice: not in words only, as the Pope and the fantastical spirits do; who as touching the words, do confess that they are two distinct things; but in very deed (as I have said), they confound and mingle them together, for they will not grant that faith justifieth without works. If this be true, then Christ profiteth me nothing. For though my faith be never so perfect, yet after their opinion, if this faith be without charity, I am not justified; and although I have never so much charity, yet I love not enough. And thus Christ apprehended by faith is not a justifier, grace profiteth nothing, neither can faith be true faith without charity (or as the Anabaptists say: without the cross, passion and shedding of blood). But if charity, works and the cross are present, then the faith is true faith and justifieth.
With this doctrine the fantastical sects do darken and deface the benefit of Christ again at this day: they take away from him the glory of a justifier, and make him a minister of sin. They have learnt nothing from us but to repeat the words: the matter itself they understand not. They would have it appear that they also teach the Gospel and the faith of Christ purely, as we do, but when it cometh to the use and practice, they are teachers of the law, in all things like to the false apostles themselves. For even as they throughout all the churches did require circumcision and the observation of the law besides faith in Christ, insomuch that without circumcision and keeping of the law, they denied the justification of faith (for ‘Except ye be circumcised,’ said they, ‘after the law of Moses, ye cannot be saved’ ( Acts 15:10)): even so, at this day, these straight exactors of the law, besides the righteousness of faith, do require the keeping of the commandments of God, according to that saying: ‘Do this and thou shalt live’ ( Luke 10:28); also, ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments’ ( Matthew 19:17). Wherefore there is not one among them, be he never so wise, that understandeth the difference between the law and grace; for by their very use and practice and the testimony of facts they are convicted.
But we put a difference, and say, that we do not here dispute whether we ought to do good works: whether the law be good, holy and just, and whether it ought to be kept or no; for this is another manner of question, But our question is concerning justification, and whether the law do justify or no. This the adversaries will not hear: they will not answer to this question, nor make any distinction as we do; but only cry out, that good works ought to be done, that the law ought to be observed. We know that well enough. But because these are divers distinct matters, we will not suffer them to be mingled together. That good works ought to be done, we will hereafter declare when time shall serve. But since we are now in the matter of justification, we set aside here all good works, for which the adversaries do so earnestly strive, ascribing unto them wholly the office of justifying which is to take from Christ his glory and to ascribe the same unto works.
Wherefore this is a strong argument, which I have oftentimes used to my great comfort: ‘If then while we seek to be made righteous by Christ,’ etc.
As though Paul should say: If we being justified by Christ, are counted yet as not justified and righteous, but as sinners which are yet to be justified by the law, then may we not seek justification in Christ, but in the law. But if justification cometh by the law, then cometh it not by grace. Now if justification cometh not by grace but by the law, what hath Christ done and wrought by his passion, by his preaching, by his victory which he hath obtained over the law, sin and death, and by sending the Holy Ghost? We must conclude therefore, that either we are justified by Christ, or else that we are made sinners, culpable and guilty through him. But if the law do justify, then can it not be avoided, but it must needs follow, that we are made sinners through Christ, and so Christ is a minister of sin. The case standing thus, let us then set down this proposition: Every one that believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ is a sinner, and is guilty of eternal death, and if he fly not unto the law, doing the works thereof, he shall not be saved.
The holy Scripture, especially the New Testament, maketh often mention of faith in Christ, and highly advanceth the same: which saith that whosoever believeth in him is saved, perisheth not, is not judged, is not confounded, hath eternal life, etc. ( John 3:16, etc.). But contrariwise they say, he that believeth in him is condemned, etc., because he hath faith without works, which doth condemn. Thus do they pervert all things, making of Christ simply a destroyer, and of Moses a Savior. And is not this an horrible blasphemy, so to teach, that by doing the works of the law thou shalt be made worthy of eternal life; but by believing in Christ thou shalt be made guilty of eternal death; that the law being kept and accomplished saveth, and faith in Christ condemneth?
The selfsame words, I grant, the adversaries do not use but in very deed such is their doctrine. For faith infused, say they, which properly they call faith in Christ, doth not make us free from sin, but that faith which is furnished with charity. Hereof it followeth that faith in Christ, without the law and works, saveth us not. This is plainly to affirm, that Christ leaveth us in our sins and in the wrath of God, and maketh us guilty of eternal death. On the other side, if thou keep the law and do the works thereof, then faith justifieth thee, because it hath works, without the which faith availeth nothing. Therefore works justify, and not faith. For that which causeth anything to be so, is itself more so, and if it be works that cause faith to justify, then works do justify more than faith. O horrible impiety!
What pernicious and cursed doctrine is this?
Paul therefore groundeth his argument upon an impossibility and a sufficient division. If we being justified in Christ, are yet found sinners, and cannot be justified but by another mean than Christ, that is to wit, by the law, then cannot Christ justify us, but he only accuseth and condemneth us: and so consequently it followeth, that Christ died in vain, and these with other like phrases are false: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world’ ( John 1:29); also: ‘He that believeth in the Son, hath everlasting life’ ( John 3:36). Yea the whole Scripture is false, which beareth witness that Christ is the justifier and savior of the world. For if we be found sinners after that we be justified by Christ, it followeth of necessity that they which fulfill the law without Christ are justified. If this be true, then are we either Turks, or Jews, or Tartarians, professing the name and word of Christ in outward show, but in deed and verity utterly denying Christ and his Word. But Paul will have faith to be ‘unfeigned’ ( 1 Timothy 1:5). It is a great error and impiety therefore to affirm that faith infused, except it be adorned with works of charity, justifieth not. But if the adversaries will needs defend this doctrine, why do they not then reject faith in Christ altogether: especially seeing they make nothing else of it but a vain quality in the soul, which without charity availeth nothing? Why do they not call a spade a spade? That is: why do they not say in plain words, that works do justify and not faith? Yea, why do they not generally deny, not only Paul, but also the whole Gospel (as in very deed they do), which attributeth righteousness to faith alone and not to works?
For if faith and works together do justify then is the disputation of Paul altogether false, which plainly pronounceth, that a man is not justified by the deeds of the law, but by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
IS CHRIST THEREFORE THE MINISTER OF SIN?
This is a kind of speech used of the Hebrews, which Paul in Corinthians 3 (7 ff.) doth also use where he most divinely and plainly speaketh of these two ministries: to wit, of the letter and the spirit, of the law and grace, or of death and life. And he saith that Moses hath the ministry of the law, which he calleth the ministry of sin, of wrath, death and condemnation. For Paul is wont to give reproachful names unto the law of God, and amongst the Apostles he only useth this manner of speech: the other do not so speak. And very necessary it is, that such as are studious of the holy Scripture should understand this manner of speech used of the Apostle.
Now a minister of sin is nothing else but a lawgiver, or a schoolmaster of the law, which teacheth good works and charity, and that a man must suffer the cross and afflictions, and follow the example of Christ and of the saints. He that teacheth and requireth this, is a minister of the law, of sin, of wrath and of death: for by this doctrine he doeth nothing else but terrify and afflict men’s consciences, and shut them under sin. For it is impossible for the nature of man to accomplish the law yea, in those that are justified and have the Holy Ghost, the law of the members fighteth against the law of the mind ( Romans 7:23). What will it not then do in the wicked which have not the Holy Ghost? Wherefore he that teacheth that righteousness cometh by the law, doth not understand what he saith or what he affirmeth, and much less doth he keep the law, but rather he deceiveth himself and others, and layeth upon them such a burden as they are not able to bear, requiring and teaching impossible things, and at the last he bringeth himself and his disciples unto desperation.
The proper use and end therefore of the law is, to accuse and condemn as guilty such as live in security, that they may see themselves to be in danger of sin, wrath, and death eternal, that so they may be terrified and brought even to the brink of desperation, trembling and quaking at the falling of a leaf: and in that they are such, they are under the law. For the law requireth perfect obedience unto God, and condemneth all those that do not accomplish the same. Now, it is certain that there is no man living which is able to perform this obedience; which notwithstanding God straitly requireth of us: the law therefore justifieth not, but condemneth, according to that saying: ‘Cursed is he that abideth not in all things written in this law,’ etc. ( Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10). Therefore he that teacheth the law is the minister of sin.
Wherefore it is not without good cause, that Paul in 2 Corinthians 3 calleth the ministry of the law the ministry of sin: for the law accuseth consciences and sheweth sin, which without the law is dead. Now the knowledge of sin (I speak not here of that speculative knowledge of hypocrites, but of a true knowledge, by which we see the wrath of God against sin, and feel a true taste of death) terrifieth the heart, driveth down to desperation, killeth and destroyeth ( Romans 7:11). Wherefore these schoolmasters of the law and works, are called in the Scriptures oppressors and tyrants. For as the taskmasters in Egypt did oppress the children of Israel with corporal servitude, so do these lawgivers and taskmasters drive men into spiritual and most miserable bondage of soul, and at length bring them to desperation and utter destruction. These do neither know themselves nor feel the force of the law; neither is it possible for them to have quietness and peace of conscience in great and inward terrors, and in the agony of death, yea though they have observed the law, loved their neighbours, done many good works, and suffered great afflictions: for the law always terrifieth and accuseth, saying: Thou never didst accomplish all that is commanded in the law; but accursed is he that hath not done all things contained therein, etc. Wherefore these terrors remain still in the conscience and increase more and more; and if such schoolmasters of the law be not raised up by faith and the righteousness of Christ, they are driven down headlong to desperation. Of this thing there is a notable example in the ‘Lives of the Fathers’ concerning a certain eremite who, shortly before he died, stood sad and motionless for three days with his eyes fixed on the heavens. Being asked why he did so, he answered that he feared death. When his disciples sought to comfort him, saying that he had no cause to fear death, since he had lived a most holy life, he replied: ‘Holily have I lived indeed, and kept the commandments of God: but the judgments of God are far other than those of men.’ This man, when he perceived death at hand, although he had lived blamelessly and had kept the law of God, was yet not able to have a quiet mind, because it came into his thought that God judgeth far otherwise than men. And so he lost confidence in all his good works and merits, and unless he was raised up by the promise of Christ, he must have despaired. So the law can do nothing else but strip us bare and make us culpable, and then there is no counsel or help, but all is lost. Here the life and martyrdoms of all the saints are not able to help us.
This also was notably figured when the law was given, as we may see in the 19th and 20th of Exodus. Moses brought the people out of the tents to meet with the Lord, that they might hear him speak unto them out of the dark cloud. Then the people being astonished and trembling for fear, fled back (which a little before had promised to do all that God had commanded) and, standing aloof off, said unto Moses: ‘Who can abide to see the fire, and to hear the thunderings and noise of the trumpet? Talk thou with us, and we will hear thee: but let not God talk with us, lest we die.’ So the proper office of the law is to lead us out of our tents and tabernacles, that is to say, from the quietness and security wherein we dwell, and from trusting in ourselves, and to bring us before the presence of God, to reveal his wrath unto us, and to set before us our sins. Here the conscience feeleth that it hath not satisfied the law, neither is it able to satisfy it, nor to bear the wrath of God, which the law revealeth when it bringeth us forth after this manner before the presence of God, that is to say, when it feareth us, accuseth us, and setteth before us our sins. Here it is impossible that we should be able to stand; and therefore being thoroughly afraid, we fly, and we cry out with the children of Israel: ‘We shall die, we shall die: let not the Lord speak unto us, but speak thou unto us,’ etc.
He then which teacheth that faith in Christ justifieth not without the observation of the law, maketh Christ a minister of sin, that is to say, a schoolmaster of the law, which teacheth the selfsame doctrine that Moses did. By this means Christ is no Savior, no giver of grace, but a cruel tyrant, who requireth impossible things (as Moses did), which no man is able to perform. See how all the meritmongers do take Christ to be but a new lawgiver, and the Gospel to be nothing else but a certain book which containeth new laws concerning works, as the Turks dream of their Alcoran. But as touching laws there is enough in Moses. The Gospel then is a preaching of Christ, which forgiveth sins, giveth grace, justifieth and saveth sinners. Now whereas there are commandments found in the Gospel, they are not the Gospel, but expositions of the law, and matters depending upon the Gospel.
To conclude, if the law be the ministry of sin, then it is also the ministry of wrath and of death. For as the law revealeth sin, so doth it terrify a man, it showeth unto him the wrath of God, and striketh into him a terror of death.
For this the conscience by and by gathereth Thou hast not kept the commandments of God, therefore is God offended and angry with thee.
And it thinketh this to be an infallible consequence: I have sinned, therefore I must die. And so it followeth, that the ministry of sin is the ministry of wrath and death. For after that sin is revealed, by and by ensueth the wrath of God, death, and damnation. For thus reasoneth the conscience: Thou hast sinned, therefore God is angry with thee: if he be angry with thee, he will destroy thee and condemn thee for ever. And hereof it cometh, that many which are not able to bear the judgment and wrath of God, which the law setteth before their eyes, do kill, hang, or drown themselves.
As though he would say: Christ is not the minister of sin, but the giver of righteousness and eternal life. Wherefore Paul separateth Christ far from Moses. Let Moses then tarry on the earth; let him be the schoolmaster of the letter, and exactor of the law; let him torment and crucify sinners. But the believers, saith Paul, have another schoolmaster in their conscience: not Moses, but Christ, which hath abolished the law and sin, hath overcome the wrath of God, and destroyed death. He biddeth us that labor and are oppressed with all manner of calamities, to come unto him. Therefore when we fly unto him, Moses with his law vanisheth away, so that his sepulcher can nowhere be seen ( Deuteronomy 34:6), and sin and death can hurt us no more. For Christ our instructor is Lord over the law, sin, and death, so that they which believe in him are delivered from the same. It is therefore the proper office of Christ to deliver from sin and death; and this Paul teacheth and repeateth everywhere.
We are condemned and killed by the law, but by Christ we are justified and restored to life. The law astonisheth us, and driveth us from God; but Christ reconcileth us to God, and maketh for us an entrance, that we may boldly come unto him. For he is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. Now, if the sin of the world be taken away, then is it taken away from me also, which do believe in him. If sin be taken away, then is the wrath of God, death and damnation taken away also. And in the place of sin succeedeth righteousness; in the place of wrath, reconciliation and grace; in the place of death, life; and in the place of damnation, salvation. Let us learn to practice this distinction, not in words only, but in life and lively experience and feeling. For where Christ is, there must needs be joy of heart and peace of conscience: for Christ is our reconciliation, righteousness, peace, life and salvation. Briefly, whatsoever the poor afflicted conscience desireth, it findeth in Christ abundantly. Now Paul goeth about to amplify this argument, and to persuade as followeth.
FOR IF I BUILD AGAIN THE THINGS THAT I HAVE DESTROYED, I MAKE MYSELF A TRESPASSER.
As if he should say: I have not preached to this end, that I might build again those things which I once destroyed. For if I should so do, I should not only labor in vain, but should make myself also a transgressor, and overthrow all together, as the false apostles do that is to say, off, race and of Christ I should again make the law and Moses; and contrariwise of the law and Moses I should make grace and Christ. Now, by the ministry of the Gospel I have abolished sin, heaviness of heart, wrath and death. For thus have I taught: Thy conscience, O man, is subject to the law, sin and death; from which thou canst not be delivered either by men or angels. But now cometh the Gospel, and preacheth unto thee remission of sins by Jesus Christ, who hath abolished the law, and hath destroyed sin and death; believe in him, and so shalt thou be delivered from the curse of the law, and from the tyranny of sin and death; thou shalt be righteous and have eternal life.
Behold how I have destroyed the law, by the preaching of the Gospel, to the end that it should not reign m thy conscience any more. For when the new guest Christ Jesus cometh into the new house, there to dwell alone, Moses the old inhabiter must give place unto him, and depart some whither else. Also where Christ the new guest is come to dwell, there can the law, sin, wrath, and death have no place; but there now dwelleth mere grace, righteousness, joy, life, mere filial trust in the Father, now pacified and reconciled unto us, gracious, longsuffering, and full of mercy, for his Son Christ’s sake. Should I then, driving out Christ, and destroying his kingdom, which I have planted through the preaching of the Gospel, now build up again the law, and set up the kingdom of Moses? Indeed this should I do, if I should teach circumcision and the observation of the law to be necessary to salvation, as the false apostles do; and by this means, in the stead of righteousness and life, I should restore again sin and death. For the law doth nothing else but utter sin, procure God’s wrath, kill and destroy.
What are the Papists (I pray you), yea the best of them all, but destroyers of the kingdom of Christ, and builders up of the kingdom of the devil and of sin, of wrath and eternal death? Yea, they destroy the Church, which is God’s building, not by the law of Moses, as did the false apostles, but by men s traditions and doctrines of devils. And even so, the fantastical heads which are at this day, and shall come after us, do destroy and shall destroy those things which we have built; do build, and shall build up again those things which we have destroyed.
But we by the grace of Christ holding the article of justification, do assuredly know that we are justified by faith only in Christ. Therefore we do not mingle the law and grace, faith and works together; but we separate them far asunder. And this distinction or difference between the law and grace, let every seeker after godliness mark diligently, and let him suffer the same to take place, not in letters and syllables, but in practice and experience; so that when he heareth that good works ought to be done, and that the example of Christ is to be followed, he may be able to judge rightly and say: Well, all these things will I gladly do. What then followeth? Thou shalt then be saved and obtain everlasting life? Nay, not so. I grant indeed, that I ought to do good works, patiently to suffer troubles and afflictions, and to shed my blood also, if need be, for Christ’s cause: but yet am I not justified, neither do I obtain salvation thereby.
We must not therefore draw good works into the article of justification, as the monks have done, which say that not only good works, but also the punishments and torments which malefactors suffer for their wicked deeds, do deserve everlasting life. For thus they comfort them when they are brought to the gallows, or place of execution: Thou must suffer willingly and patiently this shameful death; which if thou do, thou shalt deserve remission of thy sins and everlasting life. What an horrible thing is this, that a wretched thief, a murderer, a robber, should be so miserably seduced in that extreme anguish and distress, that even at the very point of death, when he is now ready to be hanged, or to have his head cut off, he should be deprived of the Gospel and glad tidings of Christ, which only is able to bring comfort and salvation, and should be commanded to hope for pardon and remission of his sins, if he willingly and patiently endure that opprobrious death which he suffereth for his mischievous deeds? What is this else but to heap upon him which is already most miserably afflicted, extreme perdition and destruction, and through a false confidence in his own death, to show him the ready way to hell?
Hereby these hypocrites do plainly declare, that they neither teach nor understand one letter or syllable concerning grace, the Gospel, or Christ.
They retain only in outward show the name of the Gospel and of Christ, that they may beguile the hearts of the people. Notwithstanding they denying and rejecting Christ indeed, do attribute more to the traditions of men, than to the Gospel of Christ. Which thing to be true, so many kinds of worships, so many religious orders, so many ceremonies, and so many willworks do plainly witness: all which things were instituted as available to deserve grace, righteousness and everlasting life. In their confessions they made no mention of faith or the merit of Christ, but they taught and set forth the satisfactions and merits of men, as it may plainly appear in this form of absolution (I speak nothing here of other matters) which the monks used among themselves, yea and such as would be counted more devout and more religious than others: which I think good here to set down, that our posterity may see how great and how horrible the kingdom of the Pope as.
THE FORM OF A MONKISH ABSOLUTION.
‘God forgive thee my brother. The merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of blessed Saint Mary, always a virgin, and of all the saints: the merit of thine order, the straitness of thy religion, the humility of thy confession, the contrition of thy heart, the good works which thou hast done and shalt do for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, be unto thee available for the remission of thy sins, the increase of merit and grace, and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.’
Ye hear the merit of Christ mentioned in these words: but if ye weigh them well, ye shall perceive that Christ is there altogether unprofitable, and that the glory and name of a justifier and Savior is quite taken from him, and given to monkish works. Is not this to take the name of God in vain? Is not this to confess Christ in words, and in very deed to deny his power and blaspheme his name? I myself also was once entangled with this error: I thought Christ to be a judge (although I confessed with my mouth, that he suffered and died for man’s redemption) and ought to be pacified by the observation of my rule and order. Therefore when I prayed or said Mass, I used to add this in the end’ ‘O Lord Jesus, I come unto thee, and I pray thee that these burdens and this straitness of my rule and religion may be a full recompense for all my sins.’ But now I give thanks unto God the Father of all mercies, which hath called me out of darkness unto the light of his glorious Gospel, and hath given unto me plentiful knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whose sake I count all things (as Paul doth, Philippians 3:8 f.) to be but loss, yea I esteem them but as dung, that I may gain Christ, and that I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness out of the rule of Augustine, but that righteousness which cometh by faith in Christ; unto whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be praise and glory world without end. Amen.
We conclude therefore with Paul, that we are justified by faith only in Christ, without law and works. Now after that a man is once justified, and possesseth Christ by faith, and knoweth that he is his righteousness and life, doubtless he will not be idle, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruits. For the believing man hath the Holy Ghost, and where the Holy Ghost dwelleth, he will not suffer a man to be idle, but stirreth him up to all exercises of piety and godliness, to the love of God, to the patient suffering of afflictions, to prayer, to thanksgiving, to the exercise of charity towards all men. Wherefore we also say that faith without works is vain and nothing worth.
This the papists and fantastical spirits do thus understand: that faith without works justifieth not, or that faith, be it never so true and sincere, if it have not works, is of no avail. That is false; but faith without works, that is to say, a fantastical cogitation and mere vanity and dream of the heart, is false faith and justifieth not.
Hitherto we have handled the first argument, wherein Paul contendeth that either we cannot be justified by the law, or else that Christ must needs be the minister of sin. But this is impossible: wherefore we conclude, that justification cometh not by the law. Of this place we have largely intreated, as it is well worthy, and yet can at not be taught and beaten into men’s heads sufficiently.
FOR I THROUGH THE LAW AM DEAD TO THE LAW, THAT I MIGHT LIVE UNTO GOD
These are marvelous words, and unknown kinds of speech which man’s reason can in no wise understand. And although they be but few, yet are they uttered with great zeal and vehemency of spirit, and as it were in great displeasure. As if he should say: Why do ye boast so much of the law, whereof in this case I will be ignorant? But if ye will needs have the law I also have my law. Wherefore, as though he were moved through indignation of the Holy Ghost, he calleth grace itself the law, giving a new name to the effect and working of grace, in contempt of the law of Moses and the false apostles, which contended that the law was necessary to justification: and so he setteth the law against the law. And this is a sweet kind of speech, and/till of consolation, when in the Scriptures, and specially in Paul, law is set against the law, sin against sin, death against death, captivity against captivity, hell against hell, the altar against the altar, the lamb against the lamb, the passover against the passover.
In Romans 8:3 it is said: ‘For sin he condemned sin in Psalm 68:18, Ephesians 4:8: ‘He hath led captivity captive’; in Hosea 13:14: ‘O death I will be thy death: O hell I will be thy destruction!’ So he saith here, that through the law he is dead to the law. As if he said: the law of Moses accuseth and condemneth me; but against that accusing and condemning law, I have another law, which is grace and liberty: This law accuseth the accusing law, and condemneth the condemning law. So death killeth death: but this killing death is life itself. But it is called the death of death, by a vehement indignation of spirit against death. So righteousness taketh the name of sin, because it condemneth sin, and this condemning of sin is true righteousness.
And here Paul seemeth to be an heretic, yea of all heretics the greatest; and his heresy is strange and monstrous. For he saith that he being dead to the law, liveth to God. The false apostles taught this doctrine: Except thou live to the law, thou livest not to God; that is to say, unless thou live after the law, thou art dead before God. But Paul saith quite contrary: Except thou be dead to the law, thou canst not lave to God. The doctrine of our adversaries at this day, is like to the doctrine of the false apostles of that time. If thou wilt live to God, say they, live \0 the law, or after the law.
But contrariwise we say: If thou wilt live to God, thou must utterly die to the law. Man’s reason and wisdom understandeth not this doctrine; therefore it teacheth always the contrary, that is If thou wilt live unto God, thou must keep the law; for it is written, ‘Do this and thou shalt live.’ And this is a special principle amongst all the divines’ He that liveth after the law, liveth unto God. Paul saith plainly the contrary: that is, we cannot live unto God, unless we be dead to the law. Wherefore we must mount up to this heavenly altitude, that we may be assured that we are far above the law, yea, that we are utterly dead unto the law. Now, if we be dead unto the law, then hath the law no power over us, like as it hath no power over Christ, who hath delivered us from the same, that through him we might live unto God. All these things tend to this end, to prove that we are not justified by the law, but by faith only in Jesus Christ.
And here Paul speaketh not of the ceremonial law; for he sacrificed in the Temple, circumcised Timothy, shaved his head at Cenchrea. These things had he not done, if he had been dead to the ceremonial law, but he speaketh of the whole law. Therefore the whole law, whether it be ceremonial or moral, to a Christian is utterly abrogate, for he is dead unto it. Not that the law is utterly taken away nay, it remaineth, liveth, and reigneth still in the wicked. But a godly man is dead unto the law like as he is dead unto sin, the devil, death, and hell which notwithstanding do still remain, and the world with all the wicked shall still abide in them.
Wherefore when the sophister understandeth that the ceremonial law only is abolished, understand thou, that Paul and every Christian is dead to the whole law, and yet the law remaineth still.
As for example: Christ rising from death is free from the grave, and yet the grave remaineth still Peter is delivered from the prison, the sick of the palsy from his bed, the young man from his coffin, the maiden from her couch, and yet the prison, the bed, the coffin, the couch do remain still. Even so, the law is abolished when I am not subject unto it, the law is dead when I am dead unto it, and yet remaineth still. But because I by another law am dead unto it, therefore it is dead also unto me: as the grave of Christ, the prison of Peter, the couch of the maiden, etc. do still remain; and yet Christ by his resurrection is dead unto the grave, Peter by his deliverance is freed from the prison, and the maid through life is delivered from the couch.
Wherefore these words: ‘I am dead to the law,’ are very effectual. For he saith not ‘I am free from the law for a time, or: I am lord over the law; but simply ‘I am dead to the law,’ that is to say, I have nothing to do with the law. Paul could have uttered nothing more effectual against the justification of the law, than to say: ‘I am dead to the law,’ that is, I care nothing at all for the law; therefore I am not justified by it.
Now, to die to the law, is, not to be bound to the law, but to be free from the law and not to know it. Therefore let him that will live to God, endeavor that he may be found without the law, and let him come out of the grave with Christ. The soldiers were astonished when Christ was risen out of the grave; and they also which saw the maiden raised up from death to life, were amazed. So man’s reason and wisdom is astonished and becometh foolish, when it heareth that we are not justified except we be dead to the law for it is not able to reach into this mystery. But we know that when by faith we apprehend Christ himself in our conscience, we enter into a certain new law, which swalloweth up the old law that held us captive. As the grave in which Christ lay dead, after that he was risen again was void and empty, and Christ vanished away; so when I believe in Christ, I rise again with him, and die to my grave, that is to say, the law which held me captive: so that now the law is void, and I am escaped out of my prison and grave, that is to say, the law. Wherefore the law hath no right to accuse me, or to hold me any longer, for I am risen again.
It is necessary that men’s consciences be diligently instructed, that they may understand the difference between the righteousness of the law and of grace. The righteousness of grace, or the liberty of conscience, doth in no wise pertain to the flesh. For the flesh may not be at liberty, but must remain in the grave, the prison, the couch: it must be in subjection to the law, and exercised by the Egyptians. But the Christian conscience must be dead to the law, that is to say, free from the law, and must have nothing at all to do with it. It is good to know this; for it helpeth very much to the comforting of poor afflicted consciences. Wherefore, when you see a man terrified and cast down with the sense and feeling of his sin, say unto him:
Brother, thou dost not rightly distinguish; thou placest the law in thy conscience, which should be placed in the flesh. Awake, arise up, and remember that thou must believe in Christ the conqueror of the law and sin. With this faith thou shalt mount up above and beyond the law, into that heaven of grace where is no law nor sin. And albeit the law and sins do still remain, yet they pertain nothing to thee; for thou art dead to the law and sins.
These things are easily said: but blessed is he which knoweth how to lay sure hold on them in distress of conscience, that is, which can say when sin overweighteth him, and the law accuseth and terrifieth him: What is this to me, O law, that thou accusest me, and sayest that I have committed many sins? Indeed I grant that I have committed many sins, yea and yet still do commit sins daily without number. This toucheth me nothing: I am now deaf and cannot hear thee. Therefore thou talkest to me in vain, for I am dead unto thee. But if thou wilt needs dispute with me as touching my sins, get thee to my flesh and members my servants: teach them, exercise and crucify them, but trouble not me, not Conscience, I say, which am a lady and a queen, and have nothing to do with thee: for I am dead to thee, and now I live to Christ, with whom I am under another law, to wit the law of grace, which ruleth over sin and the law. By what means? By faith in Christ, as Paul declareth hereafter.
But this seemeth a strange and wonderful definition, that to live to the law is to die to God; and to die to the law, is to live to God. These two propositions are clean contrary to reason, and therefore no crafty sophister or law-worker can understand them. But learn thou the true understanding thereof. He that liveth to the law, that is, seeketh to be justified by the works of the law, is and remaineth a sinner: therefore he is dead and condemned. For the law cannot justify and save him, but accuseth, terrifieth, and killeth him. Therefore to live unto the law is to die unto God and contrariwise, to die to the law is to live unto God. Wherefore if thou wilt live unto God, thou must die to the law: but if thou wilt live to the law, thou shalt die to God. Now, to live unto God, is to be justified by grace or by faith for Christ’s sake, without the law and works.
This is then the proper and true definition of a Christian: that he ‘as the child of grace and remission of sins, which is under no law, but is above the law, sin, death and hell. And even as Christ is free from the grave, and Peter from the prison, so is a Christian free from the law. And such a respect there is between the justified conscience and the law, as is between Christ raised up from the grave, and the grave; and as is between Peter delivered from the prison, and the prison. And like as Christ by his death and resurrection is dead to the grave, so that it hath now no power over him, nor is able any longer to hold him, but the stone being rolled away, the seals broken, and the keepers astonished, he riseth again, and goeth away without any let; and as Peter by his deliverance is dead to the prison, and goeth whither he will; even so the conscience by grace is delivered from the law. ‘So is every one that is born of the Spirit’ ( John 3:8). But the flesh knoweth not from whence this cometh, nor whither it goeth, for it cannot judge but after the law. But on the contrary, the Spirit saith: Let the law accuse me, let sin and death terrify me never so much, yet I do not therefore despair; for I have a law against the law, sin against sin, and death against death.
Therefore when I feel the remorse and sting of conscience for sin, I behold that brazen serpent Christ hanging upon the Cross. There I find another sin against my sin which accuseth and devoureth me. Now, this other sin (namely in the flesh of Christ) which taketh away the sin of the whole world, is almighty, it condemneth and swalloweth up my sin. So my sin, that it should not accuse and condemn me, is condemned by sin, that is, by Christ crucified: ‘who is made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him’ ( 1 Corinthians 5:21). In like manner I find death in my flesh, which afflicteth and killeth me: but I have in me a contrary death, which is the death of my death; and this death crucifieth and swalloweth up my death.
These things be not done by the law or works, but by Christ crucified; upon whose shoulders lie all the evils and miseries of mankind, the law, sin, death, the devil and hell: and all these do die in him, for by his death he hath killed them. But we must receive this benefit of Christ with a sure faith. For like as neither the law nor any work thereof is offered unto us, but Christ alone: so nothing is required of us but faith alone, whereby we apprehend Christ, and believe that our sins and our death are condemned and abolished in the sin and death of Christ.
Thus have we always most certain and sure arguments which necessarily conclude that justification cometh by faith alone. For how should the law and works avail to justification, seeing that Paul is so earnest both against the law and works, and saith plainly that we must be dead to the law, if we will live to God. But if we be dead to the law, and the law be dead to us, then hath it nothing to do with us. How then should it avail anything at all to our justification? Wherefore we must needs say, that we be pronounced righteous by grace alone, or by faith alone in Christ, without the law and works.
This the blind sophisters do not understand, and therefore they dream that faith justifieth not, except it do the works of charity. By this means faith which believeth m Christ, becometh unprofitable and of none effect; for the virtue of justifying is taken from it, except it be furnished with charity. But now let us set apart the law and charity until another time, and let us rest upon the principal point of this present matter; which is this, that Jesus Christ the Son of God died upon the cross, did bear in his body my sin, the law, death, the devil and hell. These invincible enemies and tyrants do oppress, vex and trouble me, and therefore I am careful how I may be delivered out of their hands, justified and saved. Here I find neither law, work, nor charity, which is able to deliver me from their tyranny. There is none but Christ only and alone, which taketh away the law, killeth my sin, destroyeth my death in his body, and by this means spoileth hell, judgeth and crucifieth the devil, and throweth him down into hell. To be brief, all the enemies which did before torment and oppress me, Christ Jesus hath brought to nought: he hath spoiled them and made a show of them openly, triumphing by himself over them ( Colossians 2:15), in such sort, that they now rule and reign no more over me, but are constrained to serve me.
By this we may plainly see, that there is nothing here for us to do only it belongeth unto us, to hear that these things have been wrought and done in this sort, and by sure and confident faith to apprehend the same. And this is the true formed [and furnished] faith indeed. Now, when I have thus apprehended Christ by faith, and through him am dead to the law, justified from sin, delivered from death, the devil and hell, then I do good works, I love God, I give thanks to him, I exercise charity towards my neighbor.
But this charity or works following, do neither form nor adorn my faith, but my faith formeth and adorneth charity. This is our divinity; which seemeth strange and marvellous, or rather foolish, to carnal reason: to wit, that I am not only blind and deaf to the law, yea delivered and freed from the law, but also wholly dead unto the same.
This sentence of Paul: ‘through the law I am dead to the law,’ is full of consolation. Which if it may enter into a man in due season, and take sure hold in his heart with good understanding, it may so work, that it will make him able to stand against all dangers of death, and all terrors of conscience and sin, although they assail him, accuse him, and would drive him to desperation never so much. True it is, that every man is tempted: if not in his life, yet at his death. There, when the law accuseth him and sheweth unto him his sins, his conscience by and by saith: Thou hast sinned. If then thou take good hold of that which Paul here teacheth, thou wilt answer: I grant I have sinned. Then will God punish thee. Nay, he will not do so.
Why, doth not the law of God so say? I have nothing to do with that law.
Why so? Because I have another law which striketh this law dumb, that is to say, liberty. What liberty is that? The liberty of Christ, for by Christ I am utterly freed from the law. Therefore that law which is and remaineth a law to the wicked, is to me liberty, and bindeth that law which would condemn me; and by this means that law which would bind me and hold me captive, is now fast bound itself, and holden captive by grace and liberty, which is now my law; which saith to that accusing law: Thou shalt not hold this man bound and captive, or make him guilty, for he is mine; but I will hold thee captive, and bind thy hands that thou shalt not hurt him, for he liveth now unto Christ, and is dead unto thee.
This to do, is to dash out the teeth of the law, to wrest his sting and all his weapons from him, and to spoil him of all his force. And yet the same law notwithstanding continueth and remaineth still to the wicked and unbelievers: and to us also that be weak, so far forth as we lack faith, it continueth yet still in its force; here it hath its edge and teeth. But if I do believe in Christ, although sin drive me never so much to despair, yet staying upon this liberty which I have in Christ, I confess that I have sinned: but my sin which is a condemned sin, is in Christ which is a condemning sin. Now this condemning sin is stronger than that which is condemned: for it is justifying grace, righteousness, life and salvation. Thus when I feel the terror of death, I say Thou hast nothing to do with me, O death; for I have another death which killeth thee my death, and that death which killeth is stronger than that which is killed.
Thus a faithful man by faith only in Christ, may raise up himself, and conceive such sure and sound consolation, that he shall not need to fear the devil, sin, death, or any evils. And although the devil set upon him with all might and main, and go about with all the terrors of the world to oppress him, yet he conceiveth good hope even in the midst thereof, and thus he saith: Sir Devil, I fear not thy threatenings and terrors, for there is one whose name is Jesus Christ, in whom I believe; he hath abolished the law, condemned sin, vanquished death, and destroyed hell; and he is thy tormentor, O Satan, for he hath bound thee and holdeth thee captive, to the end that thou shouldest no more hurt me, or any that believeth in him.
This faith the devil cannot overcome, but is overcome of it. ‘For this (saith St. John) is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcometh the world, but he which believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?’ ( 1 John 5:4 f.).
Paul therefore, through a vehement zeal and indignation of spirit, calleth grace itself the law, which notwithstanding is an exceeding and inestimable liberty of grace which we have in Christ Jesus. Moreover he giveth this opprobrious name unto the law for our consolation, to let us understand that there is now a new name given unto it, for that it is not now alive any more, but dead and condemned. And here (which is a pleasant sight to behold) he bringeth forth the law, and setteth it before us as a thief and a robber which is already condemned and adjudged to death. For he describeth it as it were a prisoner having both hands and feet fast bound, and all his power taken away, so that it cannot exercise his tyranny, that is to say, it cannot accuse and condemn any more; and with this most pleasant sight, he maketh it contemptible to the conscience; so at now he which believeth in Christ, dare boldly and with a certain holy pride triumph over the law after this manner: I am a sinner; if thou canst do anything against me, O law, now do thy worst. So far off is it then, that the law is now terrible unto him which doth believe.
Since Christ is risen from death, why should he now fear the grave? Since Peter is delivered from the prison, why should he now fear it? When the maiden was at the point of death, then might she indeed fear the bed: but now being raised up, why should she fear it? In like manner, why should a Christian which verily possesseth Christ by faith, fear the law? True it is, that he feeleth the terrors of the law, but he is not overcome of them; but staying upon the liberty which he hath in Christ, he saith: I hear thee murmuring, O law, that thou wouldest accuse me and condemn me; but this troubleth me nothing at all; thou art to me as the empty grave was unto Christ; for I see that thou art fast bound hand and foot; and this hath my law done. What law is that? Liberty, which is called the law, not because it bindeth me, but because it bindeth my law. The law of the Ten Commandments did bind me. But against that law I have another law, even the law of grace; which notwithstanding is to me no law, neither doth it bind me, but setteth me at liberty. And this is a law against that accusing and condemning law; which law it so bindeth, that it hath no power to bind me any more. So against my death which bindeth me, I have another death, that is to say, life, which quickeneth me in Christ; and this death looseth and freeth me from the bonds of my death, and with the same bonds bindeth my death. So death which bound me is now fast bound; which killed me, is now killed itself by death — that is to say, by very life itself.
Thus Christ, with most sweet names, is called my law, my sin, my death, against the law, against sin, against death: whereas in very deed he is nothing else but mere liberty, righteousness, life and everlasting salvation.
And for this cause he is made the law of the law, the sin of sin, the death of death, that he might redeem from the curse of the law, justify me and quicken me. So then, while Christ is the law, he is also liberty, while he is sin, he is righteousness, and while he is death, he is life. For in that he suffered the law to accuse him, sin to condemn him, and death to devour him, he abolished the law, he condemned sin, he destroyed death, he justified and saved me. So is Christ the poison of the law, sin and death, and the remedy for the obtaining of liberty, righteousness and everlasting life.
This manner of speech which Paul here useth, and is proper unto him alone, is very pleasant and full of consolation. Likewise in the seventh chapter to the Romans, he setteth the law of the spirit against the law of the members. And because this is a strange and marvellous manner of speaking, therefore it entereth more easily into the mind and sticketh faster in the memory. Moreover, when he saith: ‘I through the law am dead to the law,’ it soundeth more sweetly than if he should say: I through liberty am dead to the law. For he setteth before us, as it were, a certain picture, as if the law were fighting against the law. As though he should say: O law, if thou carat accuse me, terrify me, and bind me, I will set above and against thee another law, that is to say, another tyrant and tormentor, which shall accuse thee, bind thee and oppress thee. Indeed thou art my tormentor, but I have another tormentor, even Christ, which shall torment thee to death; and when thou art thus bound, tormented and suppressed, then am I at liberty. Likewise if the devil scourge me, I have a stronger devil, which shall in turn scourge him and overcome him. So then grace is a law, not to me, for it bindeth me not, but to my law; which this law so bindeth, that it cannot hurt me any more.
Thus Paul goeth about to draw us wholly from the beholding of the law, sin, death, and all other evils, and to bring us unto Christ, that there we might behold this joyful conflict: to wit, the law fighting against the law, that it may be to me liberty; sin against sin, that it may be to me righteousness; death against death, that I may obtain life; Christ fighting against the devil, that I may be the child of God; and destroying hell, that I may enjoy the kingdom of heaven.
THAT I MIGHT LIVE UNTO GOD
That is to say, that I might be alive in the sight of God. Ye see then that there is no life unless ye be without the law, yea unless ye be utterly dead unto the law, I mean in conscience. Notwithstanding, in the mean season (as I have often said) so long as the body liveth, the flesh must be exercised with laws, and vexed with exactions and penalties of laws. But the inward man, not subject to the law, but delivered and freed from it, is a lively, just and holy person, not of himself or in his own substance, but in Christ, because he believeth in him, as followeth.
I AM CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
This he addeth, to declare that the law is a devourer of the law. Not only, saith he, I am dead to the law through the law, that I may live to God, but also I am crucified with Christ. But Christ is Lord over the law, because he is crucified and dead unto the law: therefore am I also lord over the law; for I likewise am crucified and dead unto the law, forasmuch as I am crucified and dead with Christ. By what means? By grace and faith. When through this faith I am crucified and dead unto the law, then the law loseth all its power which it had over me, even as it hath lost all its power which it had over Christ. Wherefore, even as Christ himself was crucified to the law, sin, death and the devil, so that they have no further power over him; even so I through faith being now crucified with Christ in spirit, am crucified and dead to the law, sin, death and the devil, so that they have no further power over me, but are now crucified and dead unto me.
Paul speaketh not here of crucifying by imitation or example, (for to follow the example of Christ, is also to be crucified with him), which crucifying belongeth to the flesh. Whereof Peter speaketh ( 1 Peter 2:21): ‘Christ suffered for you,’ saith he, ‘leaving unto you an example that ye should follow his steps.’ But he speaketh here of that high crucifying, whereby sin, the devil and death are crucified in Christ, and not in me. Here Christ doth all himself alone. But I believing in Christ, am by faith crucified also with Christ, so that all these things are crucified and dead also unto me.
NEVERTHELESS I LIVE I speak not so, saith he, of my death and crucifying, as though I now lived not yea I live, for I am quickened by his death and crucifying through the which I die; that is, forasmuch as by grace and faith I am delivered from the law, sin and death, I now live indeed. Wherefore that crucifying and that death whereby I am crucified and dead to the law, sin, death and all evils, is to me resurrection and life. For Christ crucifieth the devil, he killeth death, condemneth sin, and bindeth the law: and I believing this, am delivered from the law, etc. The law therefore is bound, dead and crucified unto me, and I again am bound, dead, and crucified unto it. Wherefore even by this death and crucifying, that is to say, by this grace or liberty, I now live.
Here (as before I have said) we must observe Paul’s manner of speaking.
He saith that we are dead and crucified to the law, whereas in very deed the law itself is dead and crucified unto us. But this manner of speech he useth here of purpose, that it may be the more sweet and comfortable unto us. For the law (which notwithstanding continueth, liveth and reigneth in the whole world, which also accuseth and condemneth all men) is crucified and dead unto those only which believe in Christ therefore to them alone belongeth this glory, that they are dead to the law, sin, etc.
YET NOW NOT I
That is to say, not in mine own person, nor in mine own substance. Here he plainly sheweth by what means he liveth; and he teacheth what true Christian righteousness is, namely, that righteousness whereby Christ liveth in us, and not that which is in our person. Therefore when we speak of Christian righteousness, we must utterly reject the person. For if I hold to the person, or speak thereof, then there is made of the person, whether I will or no, a worker subject to the law. But here must Christ and my conscience become one body, so that nothing remain in my sight but Christ crucified and raised from the dead. But if I behold myself only and set Christ aside, I am gone. For by and by I fall into this cogitation: Christ is in heaven, and thou art on the earth; how shalt thou now come unto him?
Forsooth I will live holily, and do that which the law requireth, so shall I enter into life. Here returning to myself, and considering what I am, and what I ought to be, and what I am bound to do, I lose the sight of Christ, who alone is my righteousness and life. Who being lost, there is no counsel nor succor now remaining, but certain desperation and destruction must needs follow.
And this is a common evil among men. For such is our misery, that when temptation or death cometh, by and by setting Christ aside, we consider our own life past, and what we have done. Here, except we be raised up again by faith, we must needs perish. Wherefore we must learn in such conflicts and terrors of conscience (forgetting ourselves and setting the law, our life past, and all our works apart, which drive us to the consideration of ourselves only) to turn our eyes wholly to the brazen serpent Jesus Christ crucified, and assuredly believe that he is our righteousness and life, nor fearing the threatenings and terrors of the law, sin, death, the wrath and judgment of God. For Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom we live, who also liveth in us, is Lord and conqueror of the law, sin, death and all evils: in whom most certain and sure consolation is set forth unto us, and victory given.
NEVERTHELESS I LIVE, YET NOT I NOW, BUT CHRIST LIVETH IN ME
Where he saith, ‘Nevertheless I live,’ he speaketh it, as it were in his own person. Therefore he by and by correcteth himself, saying: ‘Yet not I now.’
That is to say, I live not now in my own person, ‘but Christ liveth in me.’
Indeed the person liveth, but not in himself, nor for anything that is in him. But who is that ‘I’ of whom he saith, ‘Yet not I’? This ‘I’ is he which hath the law, and is bound to do the works thereof; who also is a certain person separate from Christ. This person Paul rejecteth; for ‘I’ as a person separate from Christ belongeth to death and hell. Therefore he saith: ‘Now not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ Christ is my form [my furniture and perfection] adorning and beautifying my faith, as the color or the clear light do garnish and beautify the wall. (Thus are we constrained grossly to set forth this matter. For we cannot spiritually conceive, that Christ is so nearly joined and united unto us, as the light or whiteness are unto the wall.) Christ therefore, saith he, thus joined and united unto me and abiding in me, liveth this life in me which now I live; yea Christ himself is this life which now I live. Therefore Christ and I in this behalf are both one.
Now Christ living in me abolisheth the law, condemneth sin and destroyeth death; for it cannot be, but at his presence all these must needs vanish away. For Christ is everlasting peace, consolation, righteousness and life; and to these the terror of the law, heaviness of mind, sin, hell and death, must needs give place. So Christ living and abiding in me, taketh away and swalloweth up all evils which vex and afflict me. This union or conjunction, then, is the cause that I am delivered from the terror of the law and sin, am taken out of myself, and translated into Christ and his kingdom, which is a kingdom of grace, righteousness, peace, joy, life, salvation, and eternal glory. Whilst I thus abide and dwell in him, what evil is there that can hurt me?
In the mean season the old man abideth without, and is subject to the law: but as concerning justification, Christ and I must be entirely conjoined and united together, so that he may live in me and I in him. And this is a wonderful manner of speech. Now because Christ liveth in me, therefore whatsoever of grace, righteousness, life, peace and salvation is in me, it is all his, and yet notwithstanding the same is mine also, by that inseparable union and conjunction which is through faith; by the which Christ and I are made as it were one body in spirit. Forasmuch then as Christ liveth in me, it followeth that as there must needs be present with him, grace, righteousness, life and eternal salvation; so the law, sin, and death must needs be absent: yea the law must be crucified, swallowed up and abolished of the law, sin of sin, death of death, the devil of the devil. Thus Paul goeth about to draw us wholly away from ourselves, from the law and works, and to transplant us into Christ and the faith of Christ; so that in the matter of justification we should think upon nothing else but grace, separating the same far from the law and works, which in this matter ought to have no place.
Paul hath his peculiar phrase or kind of speech, which is not after the manner of men, but divine and heavenly, nor used of the Evangelists or of the rest of the Apostles, saving only of John, who is also wont sometimes so to speak. And if Paul had not first used this phrase, and set forth the same unto us in plain words, the very saints themselves durst not have used it. For it seemeth a very strange and monstrous manner of speaking thus to say: I live, I live not; I am dead, I am not dead; I am a sinner, I am not a sinner; I have the law, I have not the law. Which. phrase is sweet and comfortable to all those that believe in Christ. For in that they behold themselves, they have both the law and sin; but in that they look unto Christ, they are dead to the law, and have no sin. If therefore in the matter of justification thou separate the person of Christ from thy person, then art thou in the law, thou abidest in it, and livest in thyself and not in Christ, and so thou are condemned of the law, and dead before God. For thou hast that faith which (as the sophisters dream) is furnished with charity. Thus I speak for example’s sake. For there was never anyone found that was saved by this faith. And therefore what things soever the popish sophisters have written touching this faith, are nothing else but vain toys and mere deceits of Satan. But let us grant that such there be as have this faith: yet are they not therefore righteous. For they have but an historical faith concerning Christ, which the devil also and all the wicked have.
Faith therefore must be purely taught: namely, that by faith thou art so entirely and nearly joined unto Christ, that he and thou are made as it were one person; so that thou mayst boldly say: I am now one with Christ, that is to say, Christ’s righteousness, victory and life are mine. And again, Christ may say: I am that sinner, that is, his sins, death etc. are mine, because he is united and joined unto me, and I unto him. For by faith we are so joined together, that we are become one flesh and one bone, as Ephesians 5:30: ‘We are the members of Christ’s body, of his flesh and of his bones.’ So that this faith doth couple Christ and me more near together, than the husband is coupled to his wife. This faith therefore is not an idle quality, but the excellency thereof is such, that it utterly confoundeth these foolish dreams of the sophisters touching their formed faith and charity, their merits, works, and worthiness. These things I would gladly set forth more fully, if by any means I could.
Hitherto we have declared this to be the first argument of Paul, that either Christ must needs be the minister of sin, or else the law doth not justify.
When he had finished this argument, he set forth himself for an example, saying that he was dead unto that old law by a certain new law. Now he answereth two objections which might have been made against him. His first answer is against the cavillations of the proud, and the offense of the weak. For when remission of sins is freely preached, then do the malicious by and by slander this preaching, as Romans 3:8: ‘Let us do evil, that good may come.’ For these fellows, as soon as they hear that we are not justified by the law, forthwith do maliciously conclude and say: Why then, let us reject the law. Again, if grace do there abound, say they, where sin doth abound, let us then abound in sin, that we may be justified, and that grace may the more abound. These are the malicious and proud spirits which spitefully and wittingly slander the Scriptures and sayings of the holy Ghost, even as they slandered Paul whilst the Apostles lived, to their own confusion and condemnation, as it is said, 2 Peter 3:16.
Moreover, the weak, which are not malicious, are offended when they hear that the law and good works are not to be done as necessary to justification. These must be helped, and must be instructed how good works do not justify how they ought to be done, how not to be done.
These ought to be done, not as the cause, but as the fruits of righteousness: and when we are made righteous, we ought to do them; but not contrariwise, to the end that when we are unrighteous, we may be made righteous. The tree maketh the apple, but not the apple the tree.
He said before’ ‘I am dead’ etc. Here the presumptuous and malicious might soon take occasion to cavil after this manner: What sayest thou Paul? Art thou dead? How then dost thou speak? How dost thou write?
The weak also might soon be offended, and say unto him: What art thou Paul? Do we not see that thou art living, and dost such things as pertain to this life? To this he answereth: ‘I live indeed, and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ There is then a double life. The first is mine, which is natural or animal; the second is the life of another, that is to say, the life of Christ in me. As touching my natural life I am dead, and now I live another life. I live not now as Paul, but Paul is dead. Who is it then that liveth? The Christian. Paul therefore, as he liveth in himself, is wholly dead through the law; but as he liveth in Christ, or rather as Christ liveth in him, he liveth by another life; for Christ speaketh in him, worketh in him, and exerciseth all the operations of life in him. This cometh not now of the life of Paul, but of the life of the Christian. Therefore thou malicious spirit, where I say that I am dead, now slander my words no more. And thou that art weak, be not offended, but distinguish and divide this matter rightly. For, as I said, there are two lives: to wit, my natural life, and the life of another. By mine own life I live not: for if I did, the law would have dominion over me, and hold me in captivity. To the end therefore that it should not hold me in captivity and bondage, I am dead to it by another law and this death purchaseth unto me the life of another, even the life of Christ; which life is not mine by nature, but is given unto me by Christ through faith.
Secondly, this objection might also have been made against Paul: What sayest thou Paul? Dost thou not live by thine own life, or in thine own flesh, but in Christ? We see thy flesh, but we see not Christ. Wouldst thou then delude us by thine enchantments, that we should not see thee present in flesh, living as thou didst before, having the five senses and doing all things in corporal life as others do? He answereth:
AND THAT WHICH I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH, I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD
As if he should say: True it is that I live in the flesh, but this life, whatsoever it is, I esteem as no life; for in very deed it is no true life, but a shadow of life, under the which another liveth, that is to say, Christ, who is my true life indeed: which life thou seest not, but only hearest, as ‘thou hearest the sound of the wind but knowest not whence it cometh or whither it goeth’ ( John 3:8). Even so thou seest me speaking, eating, laboring, sleeping, and doing other things, and yet thou seest not my life.
For this time of life which I now live, I live indeed in the flesh, but not of the flesh, or according to the flesh, but in faith, of faith, and according to faith. Paul then denieth not that he liveth m the flesh, because he doth all things that belong to a natural man. He useth also carnal things, as meat, drink, apparel, and such like, which without doubt is to live in the flesh; but he saith that this is not his life: and although he useth carnal things, yet he liveth not through them, as the world liveth through the flesh and after the flesh: for it neither knoweth nor hopeth for any life besides this.
Therefore, saith he, this life which I now live in the flesh, whatsoever it is, I live in the faith of the Son of God. For this word which I now corporally speak, is the word not of the flesh, but of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ.
This sight which goeth in or cometh out at mine eyes, proceedeth not of the flesh, that is to say, it is not governed of the flesh, but of the Holy Ghost. So my hearing cometh not of the flesh, although it be in the flesh, but it is in and of the Holy Ghost. A Christian speaketh none other but chaste, sober, and holy things, which pertain unto Christ, to the glory of God and the profit of his neighbor. These things come not of the flesh, neither are done according to the flesh, and yet are they in the flesh. For I cannot teach, write, pray, or gave thanks, but with those instruments of the flesh, which are necessary to the accomplishing of these works: and yet notwithstanding these works proceed not of the flesh, but are given by God from above. In lake manner I behold a woman, but with a chaste eye, not lusting after her. This beholding cometh not of the flesh, although it be in the flesh, because the eyes are the carnal instruments of this sight; but the chasteness of this sight cometh from heaven.
Thus a Christian useth the world and all creatures, so that there is no difference between him and the infidel. For in their apparel, in their feeding, in their hearing, seeing, speaking, gestures, countenances and outward appearance they are like, as Paul saith also of Christ: ‘In outward appearance he was found as a man’ ( Philippians 2:7). Yet notwithstanding there is great difference. For I live in the flesh, I grant, but I live not of myself; but that which I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God. This which I now speak, springeth out of another fountain than that which thou heardest of me before. Paul before his conversion spake with the same voice and tongue wherewith he spake afterwards; but his voice and his tongue were then blasphemous, and therefore he could speak nothing else but blasphemies and abominations against Christ and his Church. After he was converted he had the same flesh, the same voice and tongue which he had before, and nothing was changed: but his voice and his tongue then uttered no blasphemies, but spiritual and heavenly words, to wit, thanksgiving and the praise of God: which came of faith and the Holy Ghost. So then I live in the flesh, but not of the flesh or after the flesh, but in the faith of the Son of God.
Hereby we may plainly see whence this other and spiritual life cometh which the natural man doth in no wise perceive, for he knoweth not what manner of life this is. He heareth the sound of the wind, but whence it cometh, or whither it goeth he knoweth not. He heareth the voice of the spiritual man, he knoweth his face, his manners, and his gestures; but he seeth not whence those words, which are not now wicked and blasphemous as before, but holy and godly, or whence those motions and actions do come. For this life is in the heart by faith, where the flesh is killed, and Christ reigneth with his Holy Spirit, who now seeth, heareth, speaketh, worketh, suffereth, and doth all other things in him, although the flesh do resist. To conclude, this life is not of the flesh, although it be in the flesh; but of Christ the Son of God, whom the Christian possesseth by faith.
WHO LOVED ME, AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME
Here have ye the true manner of justification set before your eyes, and a perfect example of the assurance of faith. He that can with a firm and constant faith say these words with Paul: ‘I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,’ is happy indeed. And with these words Paul taketh away the whole righteousness of the law and works, as afterwards we will declare. We must therefore diligently weigh and consider these words: ‘The Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me.’ It was not I then that first loved the Son of God, and delivered myself for him; as the sophisters dream that they love the Son of God, and deliver themselves for him. For they teach that a man, ex puris naturalibus, that is, of his own pure natural strength, is able to do meritorious works before grace, and love God and Christ above all things. These fellows prevent the love of God and Christ; for they do that is in them, say they; that is, they become monks, they do not only fulfill the commandments, but also they observe the counsels, they do the works of supererogation, and sell their superfluous merits to laymen, and so, as they dream, they give themselves for Christ, and thereby save both themselves and others, turning the words of Paul: ‘Which loved me’ etc., clean contrary, and saying: We have loved Christ and given ourselves for him. Thus while the wicked, being puffed up with the wisdom of the flesh, imagine that they do what in them lieth, fa70a they love God, they deliver themselves for Christ: what do they else but abolish the Gospel, deride, deny, and blaspheme Christ, yea, spit upon him and tread him under foot? They confess in words that he is a justifier and a savior: yet m very deed they take from him the power both to justify and save, and give the same to their own will-works, their ceremonies and devotions. This is to live in their own righteousness and works and not in the faith of the Son of God. ‘TO DO WHAT IN HIM LIETH.’ FA70B Wherefore this is not the true way to attain justification, that thou shouldst begin to do that, which in thee lieth: as the sophisters and school doctors do teach, which affirm that if a man do what in him lieth, God will infallibly give unto him his grace. Which proposition is an article of faith with them.
And to shew that they understand no whit of the doctrine of Paul and the Gospel, they say that this clause: ‘do what in him lieth,’ ought not to be straitly urged, but it sufficeth if it be taken as a physical point, and not as a mathematical and indivisible, which cannot exist. That is to say, it is enough if we do those things which may be approved by the judgment of any good man: for then grace shall surely follow, not indeed by reason of the merit of congruence in itself, but by reason of the infallibility of God, who is so good and just, that he must needs give grace as a recompense for good works, etc. And hereof cometh this verse: — Ultra posse viri non vult Deus ulla requiri.
That is, God will no more require of man, Than of himself perform he can.
Indeed this is a good saying if it be used rightly, and in place convenient that is, in the government of commonweals or families, or in things natural. As for example: if I being in the kingdom of reason, do govern a family, build a house, or execute the office of a magistrate, doing as much as I am able, or that which in me lieth, therein I am excused. For this kingdom hath its bounds and limits: to the which also these sayings (‘to do what in us lieth,’ or ‘to do as much as we are able’) do properly pertain. But the sophisters apply these sayings to the spiritual kingdom, wherein a man can do nothing else but sin: for he is ‘sold under sin’ ( Romans 7:14). But in external things (such I mean as pertain to civil and household government) man is not a servant, but a lord of these corporal affairs. Wherefore the sophisters have done wickedly in applying these sentences to the Church, which properly pertain to the government of commonweals and families.
For the kingdom of man’s reason and the spiritual kingdom must be separate far asunder.
Moreover, they say that nature is corrupt, but the qualities of nature notwithstanding are sound and uncorrupt, which also they attribute even unto devils. Upon this ground they reason after this manner: if the natural qualities of man be sound and uncorrupt, then is his understanding pure and his will good axed uncorrupt, and so consequently all the qualities of nature are perfect m him. To know these things, it is necessary for you, that the purity of the doctrine of faith may be preserved. Where they say then that the natural qualities of man are sound and uncorrupt, I do grant this. But if thereof they do infer that a man is able of himself to fulfill the law, to love God, etc., then I deny the consequence; and here I make a distinction between the natural and the spiritual qualities, and I say that the spiritual qualities are not sound, but corrupt, yet are utterly quenched through sin both in man and devil, so that there is in them nothing else but corrupt understanding and a will continually striving against the will of God, which thinketh nothing else but that which is against God. Notwithstanding I grant that the natural qualities are uncorrupt. But what qualities are they? That a man drowned in ungodliness, and a bondslave of Satan, hath will, reason, free choice, and power notwithstanding to build a house, to execute the office of a magistrate, to guide a ship, and to do such other things as are subject unto man, according to Gen 1. For these things are not taken from him: generation, civil government, household management, are not done away, but they are confirmed by these sayings; which the sophisters have falsely applied to the spiritual qualities. They took them, no doubt, from the Fathers, but because they did not well understand than, they wrested them to things spiritual, and thus mingled and confounded things civil and ecclesiastical. Our part therefore is to restore these things to their purity, and to remove these scandals from the Church. We do not then deny but that these sentences are true in the corporal kingdom: but if ye bring them into the spiritual kingdom and the presence of God, I utterly deny them; for there, as I said, we are clean overwhelmed and drowned in sins.
Whatsoever is in our will is evil; whatsoever is in our understanding is error. Wherefore in matters pertaining to God, man hath nothing but darkness, errors, malice, and perverseness both of will and understanding.
How then shall he work well, fulfill the law, love God, etc.?
Wherefore Paul saith here that Christ first began and not we. ‘He, even he (saith Paul) loved me and gave himself for me.’ As if he said: He found in me no good will or right understanding; but this good Lord had mercy upon me. He saw me to be nothing else but wicked, going astray, contemning God, and flying from him more and more; yea rebelling against God, taken, led, and carried away captive of the devil. Thus of his mere mercy preventing my reason, my will, and my understanding, he loved me, and so loved me, that he gave himself for me, to the end that I might be freed from the law, sin, the devil, and death.
Again, these words: ‘The Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me,’ are mighty thunderings and lightnings from heaven against the righteousness of the law and the doctrine of works. So great and so horrible wickedness, error, darkness and ignorance was in my will and understanding, that it was impossible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such an inestimable price. Why do we then vaunt of the integrity and soundness of nature, of the rule of reason, of freewill, and of doing what in us lieth? Why do I offer, to pacify the wrath of God (who as Moses saith, ‘is a consuming fire,’ Deuteronomy 4:24), this my rotten stubble and straw, yea horrible sins, and claim of him to reward me with grace and everlasting life for them, since here I learn such wickedness to lie lurking in my nature, that the whole world and all creatures thereto were not able to countervail the indignation of God, but that the very Son of God himself must needs be delivered for the same?
But let us consider well this price, and let us behold this captive delivered (as Paul saith) ‘for me,’ the Son of God I mean, and we shall see him without all comparison to exceed and excel all creatures. What wilt thou do when thou hearest the Apostle say that such an inestimable price was given for thy sins? Wilt thou bring thy cowl, thy shaven crown, thy chastity, thy obedience, thy poverty? What shall all these do? Yea, what shall the law of Moses avail, and the works of the law? What shall all the works of all men, and all the sufferings of the martyrs profit thee? What is the obedience of all the holy angels in comparison of the Son of God delivered, and that most shamefully, even to the death of the Gross, so that there was no drop of his most precious blood, but it was shed, and that for thy sins? If thou didst but rightly consider this price, thou shouldst hold as accursed all these ceremonies, vows, works, and merits before grace and after, and throw them all down to hell. For it is an intolerable and horrible blasphemy to imagine that there is any work whereby thou shouldst presume to pacify God, since thou seest that there is nothing which is able to pacify him but this inestimable price, even the death and blood of the Son of God, one drop whereof is more precious than the whole world.
Who is this ‘me’? Even I wretched and damnable sinner, so dearly beloved of the Son of God, that he gave himself for me. If I then through works or merits of congruence and worthiness could have