The chief lesson and study in divinity is, that we learn well and rightly to know Christ, who is therein very graciously pictured forth unto us. We take pains to conciliate the good will and friendship of men, that so they may show us a favorable countenance; how much the more ought we to conciliate our LordJesus, that so he may be gracious unto us. St. Peter says: ‘Grow up in the knowledge of Jesus Christ’, of that compassionateLord and Master, whom all should cleave unto. Christ himself also teaches, that we should learn to know him only out of the Scriptures, where he says: ‘Search the Scriptures; for they do testify of me.’ St. John says: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,’ etc. The apostleThomas also calls Christ, God; where he says: ‘My Lord, and my God’. In like manner, St. Paul, <450901> (Romans 9), speaks of Christ, that he is God; where he says: ‘Who is God over all, blessed for ever, Amen.’ And ( Colossians 2), ‘In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;’ that is, substantially.
Christ must needs be true God, seeing he, through himself, fulfilled and overcame the law; for most certain it is, that no one else could have vanquished the law, angel or human creature, but Christ only so that it cannot hurt those that believe in him; therefore, most certainly he is the Son of God, and naturalGod. Now if we comprehend Christ in this manner, as the Holy Scripture displays him before us, then certain it is, that we can neither err nor be put to confusion; and may then easily judge what is right to be held of all manner of divine qualities, religions, and worship, that are used and practiced in the universal world. Were this picturing of Christ removed out of our sight, or darkened in us, undeniably there must needs follow utter disorder. For human and naturalreligion, wisdom and understanding, cannot judge aright or truly of the laws of God; therein has been and still is exhausted the art of all philosophers, of all the learned and worldly-wise among the children of men. For the law rules and governs mankind; therefore the law judges mankind, and not mankind the law.
If Christ be not God, then neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost is God; for our article of faith speaks thus: ‘Christ is God, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost.’ Many there are who talk much of the Godhead of Christ, as the pope, and others; but they discourse thereof as a blind man speaks of colors. Therefore, when I hear Christ speak, and say: ‘Come to me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’, then do I believe steadfastly that the whole Godhead speaks in an undivided and unseparate substance. Wherefore, he that preaches a God to me that died not for me the death on the cross, that God will I not receive.
He that has this article, has the chief and principal article of faith, though to the world it seem unmeaning and even ridiculous. Christ says: The Comforter which I will send, shall not depart from you, but will remain with you, and will make you able to endure all manner of tribulations and evil. When Christ says: I will pray to the Father, then he speaks as a human creature, or as very man; but when he says: I will do this or that, as before he said, I will send the Comforter, then he speaks as very God. In this manner do I learn my article, That Christ is both God and man.
I, out of my own experience, am able to witness, that JesusChrist is true God; I know full well and have found what the name of Jesus has done for me. I have often been so near death, that I thought verily now must I die, because I teach his Word to the wickedworld, and acknowledge him; but always he mercifully put life into me, refreshed and comforted me.
Christ brings also peace, but not as the apostles brought it, through preaching; he gives it as a Creator, as his own proper creature. The Fathercreates and give life, grace, and peace; and even so gives the Son the same gifts. Now, to give grace, peace, everlastinglife, forgiveness of sins, to justify, to save, to deliver from death and hell, surely these are not the works of any creature, but of the sole majesty of God, things which the angels themselves can neither create nor give. Therefore, such works pertain to the high majesty, honor, and glory of God, who is the only and true Creator of all things. We must think of no other God than Christ; that God which speaks not out of Christ’s mouth, is not God. God, in the Old Testament, bound himself to the throne of grace; there was the place where he would hear, so long as the policy and government of Moses stood and flourished. In like manner, he will still hear no man or human creature, but only through Christ. As numbers of the Jewsran to and fro burning incense, and offerings here and there, and seeking God in various places, not regarding the tabernacle, so it goes now; we seekGod everywhere; but not seeking him in Christ, we find him nowhere. The feast we call Annunciatio Mariae , when the angel came to Mary, and brought her the message from God, that she should conceive his Son, may be fitly called the ‘Feast of Christ’s Humanity’; for then began our deliverance. The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that he sunk himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding. Christ lived three and thirty years, and went up thrice every year to Jerusalem, making ninety-nine times he went thither. If the pope could show that Christ had been but once at Rome, what a bragging and boasting would he make! yet Jerusalem was destroyed to the ground. St. Paulteaches, that Christ was born, to the end he might restore and bring everything to the state in which it was created at the beginning of the world; that is, to bring us to the knowledge of ourselves and our Creator, that we might learn to know who and what we have been, and who and what we now are; namely, that we were created after God’s likeness, and afterwards, according to the likeness of man; that we were the devil’s vizard through sin, utterly lost and destroyed; and that now we may be delivered from sin again and become pure, justified, and saved. On the day of the conception of our SaviorChrist, we that are preachers ought diligently to lay before the people, and thoroughly imprint in their hearts, the history of this feast, which is given by St. Luke in plain and simple language. And we should joy and delight in these blessed things, more than in all the treasure on earth, disputing not how it came to pass, that he, who fills heaven and earth, and whom neither heaven nor earth is able to comprehend, was enclosed in the pure body of his mother. Such disputations impede our joys, and give us occasion to doubt.
God, from the beginning, has held fast to this article, and powerfully defended the same against all heretics, the pope, and the Turk; and afterwards confirmed it with many miraculous signs, so that all who have opposed the same at last have been brought to confusion. All the wisdom of the world is childish foolishness in comparison with the acknowledgment of Christ. For what is more wonderful than the unspeakable mystery, that the Son of God, the image of the eternalFather, took upon him the nature of man. Doubtless, he helped his supposed father, Joseph, to build houses; for Joseph was a carpenter. What will they of Nazareth think at the day of judgment, when they shall see Christ sitting in his divinemajesty; surely they will be astonished, and say: Lord, thou helpest build my house, how comest thou now to this high honor?
When Jesus was born, doubtless, he cried and wept like other children, and his mother tended him as other mothers tend their children. As he grew up, he was submissive to his parents, and waited on them, and carried his supposed father’s dinner to him, and when he came back, Mary, no doubt, often said: ‘My dear little Jesus, where hast thou been?’ He that takes not offense at the simple, lowly, and mean course of the life of Christ, is endued with high divine art and wisdom; yea, has a special gift of God in the Holy Ghost. Let us ever bear in mind, that our blessedSavior thus humbled and abased himself, yielding even to the contumelious death of the cross, for the comfort of us poormiserable, and damned creatures. If the emperor should wash a beggar’s feet, as the French king used to do on Maunday Thursday, and the emperor Charles yearly, how would such humility be extolled and praised! But though the Son of God, Lord of all emperors, kings, and princes, in the deepest measure humbled himself, even to the death of the cross, yet no man wonders thereat, except only the small heap of the faithful who acknowledge and worship him as their only Lord and Savior. He abased himself, indeed, enough, when he was held to be the man most despised, plagued, and smitten of God, ( Isaiah 53) and for our sakes underwent and sufferedshame. We cannot vex the devil more than by teaching, preaching, singing, and talking of Jesus. Therefore I like it well, when with sounding voice we sing in the church: Et homo factus est ; et verbum caro factum est . The devil cannot endure these words, and flies away, for he well feels what is contained therein. Oh, how happy a thing were it, did we find as much joy in these words as the devil is affrighted at them. But the world contemns God’s words and works, because they are delivered to them in a plain and simple manner. Well, the good and godly are not offended therewith, for they have regard to the everlasting celestial treasure and wealth which therein lies hid, and which is so precious and glorious, that the angelsdelight in beholding it. Some there are who take offense, that now and then in the pulpits we say: Christ was a carpenter’s son, and a blasphemer and rebel, he was put on the cross, and hanged between two malefactors.
But seeing we preach continually of this article, and in our children’s creed, say: That our SaviorChristsuffered under PontiusPilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, etc. for our sins, why, then, should we not say Christ was a carpenter’s son? especially seeing that he is clearly so named in the Gospel, when the people wondered at his doctrine and wisdom, and said:
Christ will remain a priest and king, though he was never consecrated by any papist bishop or greased by any of those shavelings; but he was ordained and consecrated by God himself, and by him anointed, where: he says: ‘Thou art a priest for ever.’ Here the word Thou is bigger than the stone in the Revelations of John, which was longer than three hundred leagues. And the second psalm says: ‘I have set my King upon my holy hill of Sion.’ Therefore he will sure remain sitting, and all that believe in him.
God says: ‘Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedeck.’
Therefore let us depend on this priest, for he is faithful and true, given unto us of God, and loving us more than his own life, as he showed by his bitter passion and death. Ah! how happy and blessed were the man that could-believe this from his heart. ‘The Lord sware and will not repent, thou art a priest.’ This is the most glorious sentence in the whole Psalms, where God declares unto us, that this Christ shall be our bishop and high priest, who, without ceasing, shall make intercession for those that are his, and none other besides him. It shall be neither Caiaphas, nor Annas, Peter, Paul, nor the pope, but Christ, only Christ; therefore let us take our refuge in him. The epistle to the Hebrews makes good use of this verse.
One party must yield, and by the blessing and aid of God, this will be the papists. Sheb limini ; that is, ‘Sit thou on my fighthand.’ This Sheb limini has many and great enemies, whom we poor, small heap must endure; but ‘tis no matter; many of us must suffer and be slain by their fury and rage, yet let us not be dismayed, but, with a divine resolution and courage, wage and venture ourselves, our bodies and souls, upon this his word and promise: ‘I live, and ye shall also live; and where I am, there shall ye be also.’
Therefore, let no man think to draw near unto God or obtain grace of him without this mediator, high priest, and advocate.
It follows that we cannot through our good works, honesty of life, virtues, deserts, sanctity, or through the works of the law, appease God’s wrath, or obtain forgiveness of sins; and that all deserts of saints are quite rejected and condemned, so that through them no human creature can be justified before God. Moreover, we see how fierce God’s anger is against sins, seeing that by none other sacrifice or offering could they be appeased and stilled, but by the precious blood of the Son of God. All heretics have set themselves against Christ. Manicheus opposed Christ’s humanity, for he alleged, Christ was a spirit; ‘Even,’ says he, ‘as the sun shines through a painted glass, and the sunbeams go through on the other side, and yet the sun takes nothing away from the substance of the glass, even so Christ took nothing from the substance and nature of Mary.’
Next, after the Holy Scripture, we have no stronger argument for the confirmation of that article, than the sweet and lovingcross. For all kingdoms, all the powerful, have striven against Christ and this article, but they could not prevail. At Rome was a church called Pantheon, where were collected effigies of all the gods they were able to bring together out of the whole world. All these could well accord one with another, for the devil therewith jeered the world, laughing in his fist; but when Christ came, him they could not endure, but all the devils, idols, and heretics grew stark mad and full of rage; for he, the right and true God and man, threw them altogether on a heap. The pope also sets himself powerfully against Christ, but he must likewise be put to confusion and destroyed. The history of the resurrection of Christ, teaching that which human wit and wisdom of itself cannot believe that ‘Christ is risen from the dead’, was declared to the weaker and sillier creatures, women, and such as were perplexed and troubled.
Silly, indeed, before God, and before the world; first, before God, in that they ‘sought the living among the dead’; second, before the world, for they forgot the ‘great stone which lay at the mouth of the sepulcher’, and prepared spices to anointChrist, which was all in vain. But spiritually is hereby signified this: if the ‘great stone’, namely, the law and human traditions, whereby the consciences are bound and snared, be not rolled away from the heart, then we cannot find Christ, or believe that he is risen from the dead. For through him we are delivered from the power of sin and death, ( Romans 8), so that the handwriting of the conscience can hurt us no more. Is it not a wonder beyond all wonders, that the Son of God, whom all angels and the heavenly hostworship, and at whose presence the whole earth quakes and trembles, should have stood among those wicked wretches, and suffered himself to be so lamentably tormented, scorned, derided, and contemned? They spat in his face, struck him in the mouth with a reed, and said: O, he is a king, he must have a crown and a scepter.
The sweet blessedSavior complains not in vain in the psalm, Diminuerunt omnia ossa mea : now, if he suffered so much from the rage of men, what must he have felt when God’s wrath was poured out upon him without measure? as St. Mark says: ‘He began to be sore amazed, and very heavy, and saith unto his disciples, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death’: and St. Luke says: ‘And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’
Ah! our suffering is not worthy the name of suffering. When I consider my crosses, tribulations, and temptations, I shame myself almost to death, thinking what are they in comparison of the sufferings of my blessedSaviorChristJesus. And yet we must be conformable to the express image; of the Son of God. And what if we were conformable to the same, yet were it nothing. He is the Son of God, we are poor creatures; though we should suffereverlastingdeath, yet were they of no value. The wrath is fierce and devouring which the devil has against the Son of God, and against mankind. I beheld once a wolf tearing sheep. When the wolf comes into a sheepfold, he eats not any until he has killed all, and then he begins to eat, thinking to devour all. Even so it is also with the devil; I have now, thinks he, taken hold on Christ, and in time I will also snap his disciples. But the devil’s folly is that he sees not he has to do with the Son of God; he knows not that in the end it will be his bane. It will come to that pass, that the devil must be afraid of a child in the cradle; for when he but hears the name Jesus, uttered in true faith, then he cannot stay. The devil would rather run through the fire, than stay where Christ is; therefore, it is justly said, The Seed of the woman shall crush the serpent’s head. I believe, indeed, he has so crushed his head, that he can neither abide to hear or see ChristJesus. I often delight myself with the similitude in Job, of an angle-hook that fishermen cast into the water, putting on the hoot a little worm; then comes the fish and snatches at the worm, and gets therewith the hook in his jaws, and the fisher pulls him out of the water. Even so has our LordGod dealt with the devil; God has cast into the world his only Son, as the angle, and upon the hook has put Christ’s humanity, as the worm; then comes the devil and snaps at the (man) Christ, and devours him, and therewith he bites the ironhook, that is, the Godhead of Christ, which chokes him, and all his power thereby is thrown to the ground. This is called sapientia divina , divinewisdom. The conversation of Christ with his disciples, when he took his leave of them at his last supper, was most sweet, loving, and friendly, talking with them lovingly, as a father with his children, when he must depart from them. He took their weakness in good part, and bore with them, though now and then their discourse was very full of simplicity; as when Philip said: ‘Show us the Father’, etc. And Thomas: ‘We know not the way’, etc.
And Peter: ‘I will go with thee into death’. Each freely showing the thoughts of his heart. Never, since the world began, was a more precious, sweet, and amiable conversation. Christ had neither money, nor riches, nor earthly kingdom for he gave the same to kings and princes. But he reserved one thing peculiarly to himself,’ which no human creature or angel could do — namely, to conquersin and death, the devil and hell, and in the midst of death to deliver and save those that through his word believe in him. The sweating of blood and other high spiritual sufferings that Christendured in the garden, no human creature can know or imagine; if one of us should but begin to feel the least of those sufferings, he must die instantly.
Therefore the law, which Moses gave to be executed upon all malefactors and murderers in general, took hold on Christ, finding him with and among sinners and murderers, though in his own person innocent.
This manner of picturing Christ to us, the sophists, robbers of God, obscure and falsify; for they will not that Christ was made a curse for us, to the end he might deliver us from the curse of the law, nor that he has anything to do with sin and poorsinners; though for their sakes alone was he made man and died, but they set before us merely Christ’s examples, which they say we ought to imitate and follow; and thus they not only steal from Christ his proper name and title, but also make of him a severe and angryjudge, a fearful and horrible tyrant, full of wrath against poorsinners, and bent on condemning them. The riding of our blessedSavior into Jerusalem was a poor, mean kind of procession enough, where was seen Christ, king of heaven and earth, sitting upon a strange ass, his saddle being the clothes of his disciples. This mean equipage, for so powerful a potentate, was, as the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah showed, to the end the scripture might be fulfilled. Yet ‘twas an exceeding stately and glorious thing as extolled through the prophecies, though outwardly to the world it seemed poor and mean.
I hold that Christ himself did not mention this prophecy, but that rather the apostles and evangelism used it for a witness. Christ, meantime, preached and wept, but the people honored him with olive branches and palms, which are signs of peace and victory. Such ceremonies did the heathen receive of the Jews, and not the Jews of the heathen, as some pretend, for the nation of Jews and Jerusalem was much older that the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks had their beginning about the time of the Babylonish captivity, but Jerusalem was long before the time of the Persians and Assyrians, and therefore much before the Greeks and Romans, so that the heathen received many ceremonies from the Jews as the eldernation. The Jews crucified Christ with words, but the Gentiles have crucified him with works and deeds. His sufferings were prophetical of our wickedness, for Christsuffers still to this day in our church much more than in the synagogue of the Jews; far greater blaspheming of God, contempt, and tyranny, is now among us than heretofore among the Jews. In Italy, when mention is made of the article of faith and of the last day of judgment, then says the pope with his greased crew: O! dost thou believe that? Pluck thou up a good heart, and be merry; let such cogitations alone. These and the like blasphemies are so common in all Italy, that, without fear of punishment, they openly proclaim them everywhere. The prophets spoke and preached of the second coming of Christ as we do now; we know that the last day will come yet We know not what and how it will be after this life, but only in general, that we, who are true Christians, shall have everlastingjoy, peace, and salvation. The prophets held likewise, that soon after the coming of Christ, the last day would appear. First, they named the day of the Messiah the last day, secondly, they set the signs of the first and second coming both together, as if they would happen at one time. Thirdly, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, they demanded of St. Paul, if the last day would appear while they lived.
Fourthly, Christ himself related that these signs should come together. O! how willingly would I have been once with our SaviorChrist here on earth, when he rejoiced. My opinion is, that Christ descended into hell, to the end he might lay the devil in chains, in order to bring him to the judgment of the great day, as in the <191601> 16th Psalm, and Acts 2. Disputatious spirits allege, that the word Infernus , Hell, must be taken and understood to be the grave, as in the first book of Moses but yet here is written not only the Hebrew word Nabot — that is pit, but Scola — that is Gehenna, Hell; for the ancients made four different hells.
The Jews flattered themselves that the kingdom of Christ would have been a temporal kingdom, and the apostles themselves were of this opinion, as is noted, John 14: ‘Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not to the world?’ As much as to say: We thought the whole world should behold thy glorious state; that thou shouldst be emperor, we twelve kings, among whom the kingdoms should be divided, and to each of us, for disciples, six princes, or dukes, etc., making the number of them seventytwo.
This is that mystery which is hidden from the world, and will remain hidden; it is the truth that lies in the inward parts, and the secretwisdom; not the wisdom of the lawyers, of the physicians, philosophers, and of the crafty ones of the world; no; but thy wisdom, O Lord! which thou hast made me to understand. This is that golden art which Sadoleto had not, though he wrote much of this psalm. The preaching of the apostles went forth, and powerfully sounded throughout the whole world, after Christ’s resurrection, when he had sent the Holy Ghost. This master, the Holy Ghost, worked through the apostles, and showed the doctrine of Christ clearly, so that their preaching produced more fruit than when Christpreached, as he himself before had declared, saying: ‘He that believeth in me, shall do also the works that I do, and shall do greater than these.’
When he sent the apostles forth to preach, he said: Freely ye have received, therefore freely give, etc., wherein he forbids them not to take something for their pains and work, but that they should not take care and sorrow for food and raiment, etc., for whithersoever they went, they should find some people that would not see them want. The prophecies that the Son of God should take human nature upon him, are given so obscurely, that I think the devil knew not that Christ should be conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the VirginMary.
Hence when he tempted Christ in the wilderness, he said to him: ‘If thou art the Son of God?’ He calls him the Son of God, not that he held him so to be by descent and nature, but according to the manner of the Scriptures, which names human creatures the children of God: ‘Ye are all the children of the Most Highest’, etc. It was not desired that these prophecies of Christ’s passion, resurrection, and kingdom, should be revealed before the time of his coming, save only to his prophets and other high enlightened people; it was reserved for the coming of Christ, the right and only doctor that should open the understanding. The reason why Peter and the other apostles did not expressly call Christ the Son of God, was that they would not give occasion to the godly Jews, who as yet were weak in faith, to shun and persecute their preaching, by appearing to declare a new God, and to reject the God of their fathers. Yet they mention, with express words, the office of Christ and his works; that he is a prince of life; that he raises from the dead, justifies and forgivessins, hears prayers, enlightens and comfortshearts, etc., wherewith they clearly and sufficiently show and acknowledge that he is the true God; for no creature can perform such works but God only. The devilassaults the Christianworld with highest power and subtlety, vexing true Christians through tyrants, heretics, and false brethren, and investigating the whole world against them.
On the contrary, Christ resists the devil and his kingdom, with a few simple and contemned people, as they seem in the world, weak and foolish, and yet he gets the victory.
But Christ has pleasure therein, to show his highest wisdom and power in our greatest weaknesses and foolishness, as the world conceives, and so proceeds that all shall eat their own bane, and go to the devil, who set themselves against his servants and disciples.
For he alone, the Lord of Hosts, does wonders; he preserves his sheep in the midst of wolves, and himself so afflicts them, that we plainly see our faith consists not in the power of human wisdom, but in the power of God, for although Christ permits one of his sheep to be devoured, yet he sends ten or more others in his place. Many say that Christ having by force driven the buyers and sellers out of the temple, we also may use force against the popish bishops and enemies of God’s Word, as Munzer and other seducers. But Christ did many things which we neither may nor can do after him. He walked upon the water, he fasted forty days and forty night, he raisedLazarus from death, after he had lain four days in the grave, etc.; such the like we must leave undone.
But God wonderfully preserved his Gospel in the Church, which now from the pulpits is taught to the people, word by word. In like manner, it is a special great work of God, that the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, have remained and cleaved to the hearts of those who were ordained to receive them in the midst of Popedom.
Let them go with their wealth, and leave us to our minds and manners.
When we have our sweet and lovingSaviorChrist, we are rich and happy more than enough; we care nothing for their state, honor, and wealth. But we often lose our SaviorChrist, and little think that he is in us, and we in him; that he is ours, and we are his. Yet although he hide from us, as we think, in the time of need, for a moment, yet are we comforted in his promise, where he says, ‘I am daily with you to the world’s end;’ this is our richest treasure. Christ desires nothing more of us than that we speak of him. But thou wilt say: If I speak or preach of him, then the word freezes upon my lips. O, regard not that, but hear what Christ says: ‘Ask, and it shall be given unto you’, etc. ; and, ‘I am with him in trouble’, ‘I will deliver him, and bring him to honor’, etc. Also: ‘Call upon me in the time of trouble, so will I hear. thee, and thou shalt praise me’, etc.( Psalm 1).
How could we perform a more easy service of God, without all labor or charge? There is no work on earth easier than the true service of God; he loads us with no heavy burdens, but only asks that we believe in him and preach of him. True, thou mayest be sure thou shalt be persecuted for this, but our sweet Savior gives us a comfortable promise: ‘I will be with you in the time of trouble, and will help you out’, etc. ( Luke 12:7). I make no such promise to my servant when I set him to work, either to plough or to cart, as Christ to me, ‘that he will help me in my need. We only fail in belief: if I had faith according as the Scriptures requires of me, I alone would drive the Turk out of Constantinople, and the pope out of Rome; but it comes far short: I must rest satisfied with that which Christ spake to St. Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is strong in weakness.’ From these words, ( John 13), which Christ spake to Peter: ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me,’ it is not to be understood that Christ, at the same time, baptized his disciples; for in John 4, it is clearly expressed that he himself baptized none, but that his disciples, at his command, baptized each other. Neither did the Lord speak these words only of water washing, but of spiritual washing, through which he, and none other, washes and cleanses Peter, the other disciples, and all true believers, from their sins, and justifies and saves them; as if he would say:
I am the true bather, therefore if I wash thee not, Peter, thou remainest unclean, and dead in thy sins.
Let them comfort themselves, that although they often feel such intolerable sufferings, yet are they never the more rejected of God, but are of him better beloved, seeing he makes them like unto his only begotten Son; and let them believe, that as they suffer with him, so will he also deliver them out of their sufferings. For such as will live godly in ChristJesus must suffer persecution; yet one more than another, according to every one’s strength or weakness in faith: ‘For God is true, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear.’ It was a wonderful thing when our SaviorChrist ascended up into heaven, in full view of his disciples. Some, no doubt, thought in themselves: We did eat and drink with him, and now he is taken from us, and carried up into heaven; are all these things right? Such reasonings, doubtless, some of them had, for they were not all alike strong in faith, as St. Matthew writes:
When the eleven saw the Lord, they worshipped, but some doubted. And during those forty days, from the resurrection until the ascension, the Lord taught them by manifold arguments, and instructed them in all necessary things; he strengthened their faith, and put them in mind of what he had told them before, to the end they should in nowise doubt of his person.
Yet his words made little impression, for when the Lord appeared in the midst of them, on Easter Day, at evening, and said: ‘Peace be with you’, they were perplexed and affrighted, supposing they saw a spirit; nor would Thomas believe that the other disciples had seen the Lord, until he saw the print of the nails in his hands. And though for the space of forty days he had communed with them concerning the kingdom of God, and was even ready to ascend, yet, notwithstanding, they asked him, Lord! wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
But after this, on Whitsunday, when they had received the Holy Ghost, then they were of another mind; they then stood no more in fear of the Jews, but rose up boldly, and with great joyfulnesspreachedChrist to the people. And Peter said to the lame man: Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that give I thee; in the name of JesusChrist of Nazareth, rise up and walk. Yet notwithstanding all this, the Lord was fain to show unto him, through a vision, that the Gentiles should be partakers of the promise of life, although, before his ascension, he had heard this command from the Lord himself: ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ And ‘Teach all nations.’
The apostles themselves did not know everything, even after they had received the Holy Ghost: yea, and sometimes they were weak in faith.
When all Asia turned from St. Paul, and some of his own disciples had departed from him, and many false spirits that were in high esteem set themselves against him, then with sorrow of heart he said: ‘I was with you in weakness, fear, and in much trembling.’ And ‘We were troubled on every side; without were fightings, and within were fears.’ Hereby it is evident that he was not always strong in faith: and moreover the Lord was fain to comfort him, saying, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is strong in weakness.’
This is to me, and to all true Christians, a comfortable doctrine; for I persuade myself also that I have faith, though it is but so so, and might well be better; yet I teach the faith to others, and know, that my teaching is right. Sometimes I commune thus with myself: Thou preachest indeed God’s word; this office is committed to thee, and thou are called thereunto without thy seeking, which is not fruitless, for many thereby are reformed; but when I consider and behold my own weakness, that I eat, drink, sometimes am merry, yea, also, now and then am overtaken, being off my guard, then I begin to doubt and say: Ah! that we could but only believe.
Therefore, confident professors are troublesome and dangerous people; who, when they have but only looked on the outside of the Bible, or heard a few sermons, presently think they have the Holy Ghost, and understand and know all. But good and godly hearts are of another mind, and praydaily: ‘Lord strengthen our faith.’ When JesusChrist utters a word, he opens his mouth so wide that it embraces all heaven and earth, even though that word be but in a whisper.
Oh! his grace and goodness towards us is so immeasurably great, that without great assaults and trials it cannot be understood. If the tyrants and false brethren had not set themselves so fiercely against my, my writings and proceedings, then should I have vaunted myself too much of my poorg gifts and qualities; nor should I with such fervency of heart have directed my prayers to God for his divine assistance; I should not have ascribed all to God’s grace, but to mine own dexterity and power, and so should have flown to the devil. But to the end this might be chastised; he ordained that the devil should plague and torment me with his fierydarts, inwardly and outwardly, through tyrants, as the pope and other heretics, and all this he suffered to be done for my good. ‘It is good for me that I have been in trouble, that I may learn thy statues.’ I know nothing of JesusChrist but only his name; I have not heard nor seen him corporally, yet I have, God be praised, learned so much out of the Scriptures that I am well and thoroughly satisfied; therefore I desire neither to see nor to hear him in the body. When left and forsaken of all men, in my highest weakness, in trembling, and in fear of death, when persecuted of the wickedworld, then I felt most deeply the divinepower which this name, ChristJesus, communicated unto me. It is no wonder that Satan is an enemy to Christ, his people and kingdom, and sets himself against him and his word, with all his power and cunning. ‘Tis an old hate and grudge between them, which began in Paradise; for they are, by nature and kin, of contrary minds and dispositions. The devil smells Christ many hundred miles off; he hears at Constantinople and at Rome, what we at Wittenburg teach and preach against his kingdom; he feels also what hurt and damage he sustains thereby; therefore rages and swells he so horribly.
But what is more to be wounded at is, that we, who are of one kind and nature, and, through the bond of love, knit so fast together that each ought to love the other as himself, should have, at times, such envy, hate, wrath, discord and revenge, that one is ready to kill the other. For who is nearer allied to a man than his wife; to the son, than his father; to the daughter, than her mother; to the brother, than his sister, etc.? yet, it is most commonly found, that discord and strife are among them. It is impossible that the Gospel and the law should dwell together in one heart, for of necessity either Christ must yield and give place to the law, or the law to Christ. St. Paul says: ‘They which will be justified through the law, are fallen from grace.’ Therefore, when thou art of this mind, that Christ and the confidence of the law may dwell together in thy heart, then thou mayst know for certain that it is not Christ, but the devil that dwells in thee, who under the mask and form of Christterrifies thee. He will have, that thou make thyself righteous through the law, and through thy own good works; for the true Christ calls thee to an account for thy sins, nor commands thee to trust in thy good works, but says: ‘Come unto me all ye that be weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ etc. I have set Christ and the pope together by the ears so trouble myself no further; though I get between the door and the hinges and be squeezed, it is no matter; Christ will go through with it. Christ once appeared visible here on earth, and showed his glory, and according to the divine purpose of Godfinished the work of redemption and the deliverance of mankind. I do not desire he should come once more in the same manner, neither would I he should send an angel unto me. Nay, though an angel should come and appear before mine eyes from heaven, yet it would not add to my belief; for I have of my SaviorChristJesusbond and seal; I have his Word, Spirit, and sacrament; thereon I depend, and desire no new revelations. And the more steadfastly to confirm me in this resolution, to hold solely by God’s Word, and not to give credit to any vision or revelations, I shall relate the following circumstances; — On Good Friday last, I being in my chamber in fervent prayer, contemplating with myself, how Christ my Savior on the crosssuffered and died for our sins, there suddenly appeared upon the wall a bright vision of our SaviorChrist, with the five wounds, steadfastly looking upon me, as if it had been some celestial revelation, but I reflected that it must be an illusion and juggling of the devil, for Christ appeared to us in his Word, and in a meaner and more humble from; therefore I spake to the vision thus: Avoid thee, confoundeddevil: I know no other Christ than he who was crucified, and who in his Word is pictured and presented unto me. Whereupon the image vanished, clearly showing of whom it came. Alas! what is our wit and wisdom? before we understand anything as we ought, we lie down and die, so that the devil has a good chance with us.
When one is thirty years old, he has still Stultitias carnales : yea also, Stultitias spirituales ; and yet ‘tis much to be admired at, how in such our imbecility and weakness, we achieve and accomplish much and great matters, but ‘tis God does it. God gave to Alexander the Great wisdom and good success; yet he calls him, in the prophet Jeremiah, a youth, where he says, a young boy shall perform it; he shall come and turn the city Tyre upside down. Yet Alexander could not leave off his foolishness, for often he swilled himself drunk, and in his drunkenness stabbed his best and worthiest friends, and afterwards drank himself to death at Babylon.
Solomon was not above twenty when he was made king, but he was well instructed by Nathan, and desired wisdom, which was pleasing to God, as the text says: But now, chests full of money are desired. O! say we now, if I had but money, then I would do so and so. Christ said to the heathenwoman: I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; yet afterwards he helped both her and her daughter; therefore a man might say: Christ here contradicted himself. I reply: True, Christ was not sent to the Gentiles, but when the Gentiles came unto him, he would not reject or put them from him. In person he was sent only to the Jews, and therefore he preached in the land of the Jews. But through the apostles his doctrine went into the whole world. And St. Paul names the LordChrist, ministrum circumcisionis, by reason of the promise which God gave to the fathers. The Jews themselves boast of God’s justness in performing what he promised, but we Gentiles boast of God’s mercy; God has not forgotten us Gentiles. Indeed, God spake not with us, neither had we king or prophet with whom God spake; but St. Paul, in another place, says: It was necessary that the word should first be preached to you, but seeing you will not receive it, lo! we turn to the Gentiles. At this the Jews are much offended to this day; they flatter themselves: Messiah is only and alone for them and theirs. Indeed, it is a glorious name and title that Moses gives them: Thou art an holy nation: but David, in his psalm, afterwards promisesChrist to the Gentiles: ‘Praise the Lord all ye nations.’ We should consider the histories of Christ three manner of ways; first, as a history of acts or legends; secondly, as a gift or a present; thirdly, as an example, which we should believe and follow. Christ, our blessedSavior, forbore to preach and teach until the thirtieth year of his age, neither would he openly be heard; no, though he beheld and heard so many impieties, abominable idolatries, heresies, blasphemings of God, etc. It was a wonderful thing he could abstain, and with patienceendure them, until the time came that he was to appear in his office of preaching.