THE BATTLEFIELD. THE COMMANDER.
We must strive, for we are under one Lord of armies and Prince of warriors.
Therefore, with one hand we must build, and in the other bear the sword.
It must not be “Sic ego Philippus.” The “ego” is too small. The word is “I am that I am.” LOVE is an image of God, and not a lifeless image, nor one painted on paper, but the living essence of the Divine Nature, which beams full of all goodness.
He is not harsh, as we are to those who have injured us. We withdraw our hand and close our purse; but He is kind to the unthankful and the evil.
He sees thee in thy poverty and wretchedness, and knows thou hast nothing to pay; therefore He freely forgives and gives thee all. “GOD’ S love gives, in such a way, that it flows from a Father’s heart, the wellspring of all good. The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious; as among ourselves we say of even a trifling gift, ‘ It comes from a hand we love,’ and look not so much at the gift as at the heart.” “IF we will only consider Him in His works, we shall learn that God is nothing else but pure, unutterable love, greater and more than any one can think. The shameful thing is, that the world does not regard this, nor thank Him for it, although every day it sees before it such countless benefits from Him; and it deserves for its ingratitude that the sun should not shine another moment longer, nor the grass grow; yet He ceases not, for one moment’s interval, to love us and to do us good. Language must fail me to speak of His spiritual gifts. Here He pours forth for us, not sun and moon, nor heaven and earth, but His own heart, His beloved Son, so that He suffered His blood to be shed, and the most shameful death to be inflicted on Him, for us wretched, wicked, thankless creatures.
How, then, can we say anything but that God is an abyss of endless, unfathomable love?” “THE whole Bible is full of this — that we should not doubt, but be absolutely certain, that God is merciful, gracious, patient, faithful, and true; who not only will keep His promises, but already has kept and done abundantly beyond what He promised, since He has given His own Son for our sins on the cross, that all who believe on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “WHOEVER believes, and embraces this, that God has given His only Son to die for us poor sinners, to him it is no longer any doubt, but the most certain truth, that God reconciles us to Himself, and is favorable and heartily gracious to us.” “SINCE the gospel shows us Christ the Son of God, who, according to the will of the Father, has offered Himself for us, and has satisfied for sin, the heart can no more doubt God’s goodness and grace — is no more affrighted, nor flies from God, but sets all its hope in His goodness and mercy.” THE apostles are always exhorting us to continue in the love of God — that is, that each one should entirely conclude in his heart that he is loved by God; and they set before our eyes a certain proof of it, in that God has not spared His Son, but given Him for the world, that through His death the world might again have life.
It is God’s honor and glory to give liberally. His nature is all pure love, so that if any one would describe or picture God, he must describe One who is pure love, the Divine Nature being nothing else than a furnace and glow of such love that it fills heaven and earth.
IT is not to be borne that Christian people should say, We cannot know whether God is favorable to us or not. On the contrary, we Should learn to say, I know that I believe in Christ, and therefore that God is my gracious Father.
WHAT is the reason that God gives? What moves Him to it? Nothing but unutterable love, because He delights to give and to bless. What does He give? Not empires merely, not a world full of silver and gold, not heaven and earth only; but His Son, who is as great as Himself — that is, eternal and incomprehensible, a Gift as infinite as the Giver, the very spring and fountain of all grace; yea, the possession and property of all the riches and treasures of God.
Omnipresence . GOD is limited to no place. He is also excluded from none. He is in all places, and in the least of His creatures, in the petal of the flower, in a blade of grass; and yet He is in no place. Nowhere, comprehensively and exclusively; everywhere, because everywhere He is creating and upholding everything.
The Creation not Left to Itself.
GOD has not so created the creatures that after creating He abandons them.
He loves them, delights in them, is with them; moves and sustains each creature according to its kind. We Christians know that with God creating and sustaining are one thing.
TO Magister Holflein, Doctor Martin Luther said, “Dear Master, where were you, sixty years ago? Where was I? Whence came I hither? Whence came you hither? We did not create ourselves, and yet, now, we want to go to our Lord God and bargain with Him, and sell Him our works ! He must, forsooth, give us His heaven for them! Is not this a shameful thing, that a creature should lift itself up thus and desire to traffic with its Creator? “We do not really believe that God is our Creator. If we believed it, we should act far otherwise. But no one believes that God is the Creator. Even when we say it, and our conscience convinces us, it is not genuine earnest with us. “We virtually go up to God and say,’ Lord God, look on me for my works’ sake ! I come to Thee. Thou hast not created me.’ Shame on us.”
The Living God.
THE chief thing that God requireth of man is that he giveth unto Him the glory of His Divinity — that is to say, that he taketh Him not for an idol, but for God, who looketh on him, listeneth to him, showeth mercy on him, and helpeth. “True Christian Divinity.”
TRUE Christian Divinity setteth not God forth unto us in His Majesty. It commandeth us not to search out the nature of God, but to know His will set forth to us in Christ.
Therefore begin thou where Christ began — namely, in the womb of the Virgin, in the manger, and at His mother’s breast. It is to this end He came down, was born, was conversant among men; suffered, was crucified and died, that by all means He might set Himself forth plainly before us, and fasten the eyes of our heart upon Himself, that He might thereby keep us from climbing up into heaven, and from the curious searching of the Divine Majesty.
Christ Revealing the Father.
CHRIST, according to His office, calleth us back unto the Father’s will, that in His words and works we should not so much look on Him, but on the Father. For Christ came into this world, and took man’s nature on Him, that He might be a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and so reconcile us to God the Father; that He alone might declare unto us how this was done through the good pleasure of the Father, that we, by fastening our eyes on Christ, might be drawn and carried straight unto the Father.
Theology Beginning at Bethlehem.
CHRISTIAN religion 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.
Run straight to the manger, and embrace this infant, the Virgin’s little babe, in thine arms; and behold Him as He was born, nursed, grew up, was conversant amongst men; teaching; dying; rising again; ascending up above all the heavens, and having power over all things.
This sight and contemplation will keep thee in the right way, that thou mayest follow whither Christ hath gone.
God Stooping to Man.
The Gospel is the Revelation of the Son of God.
With our reason we can never comprehend what God the Creator is. And for this cause He has taught, “It is in vain; human reason cannot comprehend Me. I am too great and too high. I will make Myself little, that man may understand Me; I will give him My Son, and so give Him, that for man He shall become a sacrifice, sin and a curse, and be obedient to Me the Father, even to the death of the cross.”
This is indeed to become little and comprehensible. But who believes it?
Novem ubi sunt? “Where are the nine?”
IN deep spiritual temptations nothing has helped me better, with nothing have I heartened myself and driven away the devil better than with this, that Christ, the true Eternal Son of God, is “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,” and that he sits on the right hand of God, and pleads for us.
When I can grasp this shield of faith, I have already chased away the evil one with his fiery darts. ANNO Domini 1538, on the 25th of December, on Christmas Day, Doctor Martin Luther was very joyous, and all his sayings, songs, and thoughts were about the Incarnation of Christ our Savior. And he said, with a deep sigh, “Ah, we poor human creatures, how coldly and tamely we greet this great joy which has come to bless us! This is the great act of beneficence which far excels all other works of creation. And shall we so feebly believe it, when it has been announced to us, preached, and sung by the angels? (heavenly theologians and preachers, indeed!) And they have rejoiced on our account, and their song is verily a glorious song, wherein is briefly enfolded the sum of the whole Christian religion. For the Gloria in excelsis Deo, ‘Glory to God in the highest,’ is the highest worship, and this they bring to us in this Christ. “For the world since Adam’s fall knows neither God nor His creatures; lives without regarding God’s glory; praises, honors, glorifies Him not. Oh, what choice, joyous thoughts man would have had; seeing even in the lowliest flowers that our Lord God is an Artist and Master whom none can imitate! “Wherefore the dear angels call us, fallen creatures, to faith in Christ, and to love; that we, giving glory to God alone, may have peace in this life, both with God and with one another.” THE Feast of the Annunciation may well be called the Feast of the Incarnation. Then our Redemption began. Thus the French and the English date the beginning of the year from this Feast. For this mystery no one can explain, nor fathom with his reason, that God, the Highest Majesty, has humbled Himself to take on Him our flesh.
On this day we preachers should diligently picture to the people the History of the Festival, as Luke describes it, circumstantially and in order; and we should, all together, have joy and delight in the comforting, blessed story that, as on this day, Christ our Lord and Savior, conceived by the Holy Ghost, took our human nature upon Him, of the pure chaste Virgin Mary; became our Brother; lifted up our condemned and corrupted humanity to this highest glory, that we should be children of God, and His fellowheirs, at which, indeed, we should rejoice more than over all the treasures of this earth.
It is true we cannot enough praise Mary, that high, noble creature; but when the Creator Himself comes and gives Himself for us, to redeem us from the power of the devil, for this inexpressible grace, neither we nor the angels can praise and bless Him enough to eternity.
The Childhood and Youth of our Lord.
ALL the wisdom of the world is mere child’s play, yes, folly, compared with the knowledge of Christ. For what is more wonderful than to know and acknowledge the great, unspeakable mystery that the Son of God, the express Image of the Eternal Father, has taken our nature on Him, and become in fashion as a man?
At Nazareth He must have helped His father build houses; for Joseph was a carpenter. Therefore Christ was called “the carpenter’s son ;” yes, Himself “the carpenter.”
What will the people of Nazareth think at the Last Day, when they shall see Christ sitting in Divine Majesty, and may say to Him, “Lord, didst Thou not help build my house? How then comest Thou to this high glory?”
Many fables have been imaged, by many, of what Jesus did in His childhood and youth, as can be seen in the book with the title, “De Infanti a Salvatoris,” and “De Vita Jesu.” But because in this book stands many a foolish, ridiculous thing, it has never been esteemed by Christians.
This, however, is the needful thing, that we Christians should with all diligence learn and know that the Son of God did so deeply humble Himself, was born so poor and in such a low estate, all on account of our sins; and that for our sakes He hid His Majesty so long.
When He was born, He wept and wailed like another babe. Mary had to wait on Him and tend Him, and feed Him at her breast (as the Church sings, “A little milk was once His food “), to cherish, clothe, lift, and carry Him, lay Him to rest, as any other mother her babe.
Soon afterwards Joseph, with the mother and the babe, in distress, had to flee into Egypt, from Herod.
When, after Herod’s death, they came back to Nazareth, He was subject to His parents, and no doubt often brought them bread, drink, and other things. Mary may have said to Him, “Jesus, where hast Thou been? Canst Thou not stay at home!” And when He grew up, He must have helped Joseph at the carpentering, &c. Not to stumble nor to be offended at this feeble, lowly form, this despised mode of life, which was seen in Christ, is great, high art and wisdom, yea, God’s gift, and the Holy Ghost’s own work.
Some are offended because we sometimes say in the pulpit that Christ was a carpenter (Zimmergesell). But it is a far greater offense that He was nailed to the cross, as one guilty of blasphemy and insurrection, between two malefactors.
IT is written that there was once a pious godly bishop who had often earnestly prayed that God would manifest to him what Jesus had done in his youth. Once the bishop had a dream to this effect. He seemed, in his sleep, to see a carpenter working at his trade, and beside him a little boy, who was gathering up chips. Then came in a maiden, clothed in green, who called them both to come to the meal, and set porridge (Brei) before them.
All this the bishop seemed to see in his dream, himself standing behind the door that he might not be perceived. Then the little boy began and said, “Why does that man stand there? Shall not he also eat with us?” And this so frightened the bishop that he awoke.
Let this be what it may, a true history or a fable, I none the less believe that Christ in His childhood and youth looked and acted like other children, “yet without sin,” “in fashion like a man.”
Often (so I think, I assert it not for truth), when His parents had need, by His Divine power He may have created and brought them what they needed, without money. For when His mother saw at the marriagefeast at Cana that they wanted wine, from her motherly heart she said to Him with confidence, “They have no wine,” as if often before she had seen how He could help in need.
Whosoever, therefore, will rightly comprehend this child, must think that there is no higher wisdom than to acknowledge Christ, and not to be offended or turned aside, because the world holds all this for the greatest foolishness. For to us who believe it is the “wisdom of God and the power of God” whereby we are saved, and wherein the dear angels have delight and joy.
Therefore it pleases me very well, when in the churches they sing aloud, and with a solemn slowness, Et homo factus est and Verbum caro factum est. To these words the devil cannot listen, but must flee many miles from them, for he feels well what there is in them.
If we rejoiced from our hearts over those words, as the devil trembles at them, it would be well for us.
Christ at the Judgment Seat.
IS it not a wonderful thing that the Son of God should sit there and suffer himself to be so piteously tormented, scorned, and mocked? He whom all angels adore, before whom the earth trembles? Whom all the creatures acknowledge as their Creator, in His face they spit, strike Him on the lips with a reed, say in mockery, “Ah, if He is a king He must have a crown and sceptre!”
Oh, our sufferings are nothing! When I think of them, I am ashamed to death. Yet we are to be conformed to the image of the Son of God; and if our sufferings could be as great as His, it would still be nothing in comparison. For He is the Son of God, and we are poor creatures. If we suffered eternal death, it were nothing in comparison.
The Last Supper.
THE supper which Christ held with His disciples when He gave them His farewell must have been full of friendly heart intercourse; for Christ spoke just as tenderly and cordially to them as a father to his dear little children when he is obliged to part from them. He made the best of their infirmities, and had patience with them, although all the while they were so slow to understand, and still lisped like babes.
Yet that must indeed have been choice, friendly, and delightful converse when Philip said, “Show us the Father ;” and Thomas, “We know not the way ;” and Peter, “I will go with Thee to prison and to death.”
It was simple, quiet table talk; every one opening his heart and showing his thoughts freely and fearlessly, and without restraint.
Never since the world began was there a more delightful meal than that.
The Agony in the Garden.
DR.LUTHER was once questioned at table concerning the “bloody sweat,” and the other deep spiritual sufferings which Christ endured in the garden.
Then he said “ No man can know or conceive what that anguish must have been. If any man began even to experience such suffering, he must die.
You know many do die of sickness of heart; for heart anguish is indeed death. If a man could feel such anguish and distress as Christ felt, it would be impossible for him to endure it and for his soul to remain in his body.
Soul and body would part. To Christ alone was this agony possible, and it wrung from Him ‘sweat which was as great drops of blood.’” The Ascension of Christ.
AWONDERFUL thing it must have been to see, when Christ vanished before the disciples’ eyes, and went up into heaven. The good disciples must have thought, “We have eaten and drunk with Him, and now, whilst looking at us, He is taken from us into heaven.”
I know Dr. Justus Jonas very intimately, and if he were now raised up into heaven, and were to vanish before our eyes, it would give us many strange and wonderful thoughts. NO man hath ascended into heaven save He who came down from heaven, even the Son of Man, who is in heaven.”
In these three sayings are briefly comprehended His almightiness. “To come down from heaven,” means that He appeared on earth, became man (in all things like us, save in sin), let His glory be seen in his words and wondrous works, and at last accomplished the redemption of the human race. “To ascend to heaven,” means that henceforth He appears no more on earth in bodily form. “Is in heaven,” means that in His Godhead He has never left the right hand of the Father, and moreover that He has never relinquished, and will never relinquish, the human nature which He has taken on Him.
The Holy Spirit.
ON the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit began the New Testament. Then He openly established his office and work, as Christ proclaimed Him, “the Comforter, and the Spirit of Truth?
For He gave to the apostles and disciples a true, sure consolation in their hearts, and an assured, joyful mind, so that they did not ask if the world and the devil were favorable or unfavorable, raged or laughed, but went through the streets of the city, and thought, “Here neither Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, or Herod are anything. We Christians are all. All are our subjects and servants, and we their lords and rulers.”
That these poor beggars and fishermen, the apostles, should step forth and preach as they did, enraging the whole government at Jerusalem, bringing on themselves the wrath of the priests also, and of the whole Roman empire, opening their mouths and crying, “Ye are traitors and murderers,” knowing that they would in consequence be smitten on the mouth; all this could not have been but through the Holy Spirit. THE Holy Ghost is called the Comforter, not one who makes sad; for where melancholy and depression are, there the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, is not at home.
The devil is a spirit of terror and sadness. But the Holy Ghost is the Comforter. THE Holy Ghost, who is called a Witness and a Comforter, preaches and testifies throughout Christendom, to comfort and strengthen all the sorrowful, of none save only of Christ. THE Holy Scriptures give to the Holy Spirit a very choice name, calling Him an Advocate, Paraclete, who conducts our cause and does the best for us, speaks for us, makes intercession for us, and helps us up again when we are fallen. Thus we obtain the victory through faith, and overcome the devil and the world, not by our own means and powers, but by the power and working of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
The Love of God.
THE slender capacity of man’s heart cannot comprehend, much less utter, that unsearchable depth and burning zeal of God’s love towards us.
God is gracious and merciful, as the Scriptures show. He loves even real sinners (bosen Buben). Yea, to the blind, hard world which lieth in the wicked one, He has sent as a Savior His own Son. I could not have done that, and yet I am a real sinner (bose Bube) myself. “True Definition of Christ.”
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 are we all), set not Christ down upon the rainbow as a judge, 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 of evil passed, but 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. CHRIST, then, is no Moses, no exactor, no giver of laws, but a giver of grace; a Savior, and one that is full of mercy. Briefly, He is nothing else but infinite mercy and goodness, freely given, and bountifully giving unto us.
Now, as it is the greatest knowledge and cunning that Christians can have thus to define Christ, so of all things it is the hardest.
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.
Ye young men, therefore, are in this case much more happy than we that are old. For ye are not infected with these pernicious errors wherein I have been so nustled and drowned from my youth, that at the very hearing of the name of Christ my heart hath trembled and quaked for fear.
Christ, when He cometh, is nothing else but joy and sweetness to a trembling, broken heart, as Paul here witnesseth, who setteth Him out with this most sweet and comfortable title when he saith,” Which loved me and gave Himself for me.” Christ, therefore, in very deed is a lover of those which are in trouble and anguish, in sin and death, and such a lover as gave Himself for us, who is also our High Priest.
He saith not, “Which hath received our works at our hands,” nor “Which hath received the sacrifices of Moses’ 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 and righteousness, but for our sins. Not for feigned or counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, nor for vanquished sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two, but for all.
Christ the Centre. “IN my heart,” he said, “this article reigns alone, and shall reign — namely, faith in my dear Lord Christ, who is the only Beginning, Middle, and End of all my spiritual and divine thoughts which I have by day or night.”
Yet at the same time I feel that I only attain to a little feeble lifting up before others of the height, depth, and breadth, of this immeasurable and endless wisdom, and have scarcely been able to bring to light more than a few little fragments and broken pieces from this most rich and precious mine.
Christ the Priest.
ONCE, when his servant read in the Psalms the verse, “I have sworn and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever,” Doctor Martin said,” That is the most beautiful and glorious verse in the whole Psalter; for herein God holds forth this Christ alone as our Bishop and High Priest, who Himself and no other, without ceasing, makes intercession for His own with the Father. Not Caiaphas, nor Annas, nor Peter, nor Paul, nor the Pope; He, He alone shall be the Priest. This I affirm with an oath.” “Thou art a Priest for ever.” In that saying every syllable is greater than the whole Tower of Babel.
To this Priest let us cling and cleave. For He is faithful; He has given Himself for us to God, and holds us dearer than His own life.
When we stand firm to Christ, there is no other god in heaven or on earth but One who makes just and blessed. On the other hand, if we lose Him from our heart and eyes, there is no other help, comfort, or rest.
Christ our Sacrifice.
IN His death He is a Sacrifice, satisfying for our sins; in the resurrection, a Conqueror; in the ascension, a King; in the intercession, a High Priest.
Christ made One with Man.
GOD sent His only Son into the world, and laid upon Him the sins of all men, saying, “Be Thou Peter, that denier; Paul, that persecutor, blasphemer, and cruel oppressor; David, that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly, be Thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men.”
Christ Obedient to the Law.
CHRIST is not a Teacher of the law, like Moses, but a disciple who would be obedient to the law, that through such subjection and obedience He might redeem those who were under the law.
Christ Conquering by Suffering.
CHRIST 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.
While He is the law, He is also liberty; while He is sin, He is righteousness; 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.
Christ our Life.
THIS life that I have now in the flesh, in very deed is no true life, but a shadow of life, under which another liveth; that is to say, Christ. Who is my true life, indeed; which life thou seest not, but only hearest, and I feel.
Christ Cleansing Us.
AS if He would say (in washing the disciples’ feet), I am the true Laver and Bath. Therefore, if I wash thee not, thou remainest unclean, and dead in thy sins.
Christ the Conqueror of Sin, Death, and the Curse.
NOT only my sins and thine, but the sins of the whole world, either past, present, or to come, take hold of Him, go about to condemn Him, and do indeed condemn Him.
But because in the selfsame Person which is thus the highest, the greatest, and the only sinner there is also an everlasting and invincible righteousness, therefore these two do encounter together; the highest, the greatest, and the only sin; and the highest, the greatest, and the only righteousness.
Sin is a mighty and cruel tyrant, ruling and reigning over the whole world, bringing all men into bondage. This tyrant flieth upon Christ, and will needs swallow Him up, as he doth all other. But he seeth not that He is a person of invincible and everlasting righteousness. In this combat what is done?
Righteousness is everlasting, immortal, invincible.
In like manner, Death, which is an invincible queen and empress of the whole world, killing kings, princes, and, generally, all men, doth mightily encounter with Life, thinking utterly to overcome it; and that which it undertaketh, it bringeth to pass indeed. But because Life was immortal, therefore, when it was overcome, yet did it truly overcome, and get the victory, vanquishing and killing death. Death, therefore, through Christ is vanquished and abolished throughout the whole world; so that now it is but a painted death, which, losing its sting, can no more hurt those that believe in Christ, who is become the death of death.
So, the curse fighteth against the blessing, and would condemn it and bring it to naught; but it cannot do so. For the blessing is divine, everlasting, and therefore the curse must needs give place. For if the blessing in Christ could be overcome, then should God Himself also be overcome.
The Name of Jesus.
IF God takes me this hour, or tomorrow, out of this life, I will leave it behind me, that I confess Jesus Christ to be my God and Lord. This I have learned, not from the Scriptures only, but in many great and hard experiences. I have resisted well nigh unto blood, and endured many a sore conflict on this account; but it has been very good and profitable for me.
The Gospel in the Crucifix.
I BELIEVE that many have been saved under the Papacy, although they never heard the gospel as now, thank God, it is preached and taught, to whom, as they were in the agony of death, and about to depart, the crucifix was held up, and it was said, “Fix thy hope on Him who hath redeemed thee.” RULES OF THE SERVICE.
Obedience a Glorious Apparel.
HER clothing is all glorious within. What kind of glorious apparel is this?
For we know that on earth Christians are poor and little esteemed. It is a spiritual adorning; not gold, silver, pearls, velvet, but obedience to the Lord our God. This apparel is brighter than the sun, for these are God’s jewels. He who goes about doing God’s will, goes about clothed in God’s beauty. To serve Him truly, is simply to abide in our calling, be it lowly as it may. WHEN one asked what was the best service of God, which pleased Him best? Doctor Martin said, “To hear Christ and be obedient to Him.” This is the highest and greatest service of God. Besides this, all is worth nothing.
For in heaven He has far better and more beautiful worship and service than we can render. As it was said to Saul, “To obey is better than to sacrifice,” As also soldiers say in time of war; obedience and keeping to the articles of war this is victory. EVEN in philosophy men are constrained not to look on the bare work, but on the goodwill of the worker. Wherefore we must ascend up higher in divinity with this word “doing” than in natural things and philosophy, so that now it must have a new signification, and be made altogether new. TRUE obedience to God is the obedience of faith and good works; that is, he is truly obedient to God who trusts Him and does what He commands. CHRISTIANS have to do with two kinds of business; the Word and the works of God. IN all works we should look to God’s Word. Such works as are done at God’s command, these are not from our self will; but we are God’s tools and instruments, through which He works; they are not our own works, but God’s. But all works which are not done at God’s command are godless and condemned, being mere works of our own hands.
THE true doer of the law is he who, receiving the Holy Ghost through faith in Christ, beginneth to love God and to do good to his neighbor. The tree must be first, and then the fruit. TO worship God in spirit, is the service and homage of the heart, and implies fear of God and trust in Him. ALL Christians constitute the spiritual estate; and the only difference among them is that of the functions which they discharge.
The Law and the Gospel.
THE law discovers the disease. The gospel gives the remedy. THE law is what we must do; the gospel what God will give. THE gospel is like a fresh, soft, cool breeze in the great heat of summer, a comfort in anguish of conscience; not in winter, when there is already cold enough (that is in time of peace, when people are secure); but in the great heat of summer that is, in those who truly feel terror and anguish of conscience, and God’s anger against them. THIS heat is caused by the sun. So must this terror of conscience be caused by the preaching of the law. Then must the heavenly breeze again quicken and refresh the conscience. BUT when the powers are thus again quickened by the sweet wind of the gospel, we must not lie idly basking, we must show our faith by good works. LIKE as the parched earth coveteth the rain, the law maketh parched and troubled souls to thirst after Christ. THE law is a light which enlightens us not to see God’s grace nor righteousness, through which we attain to eternal life, but sin, our infirmities, death, God’s anger, and judgment. THE gospel is a far different light. It lights up the troubled heart, makes it live again, comforts and helps. For it shows how God forgives unworthy, condemned sinners for Christ’s sake, when they believe that they are redeemed by His death; and that through His victory are given to them all blessings, grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life.
The Law a Fire.
THE law is that hammer, that fire, that mighty and strong wind, and that terrible earthquake, rending the mountains and shivering the rocks. But it behooved that the tempest, the fire, the wind, the earthquake, should pass, before the Lord should reveal Himself in the still small voice.
The Law a Prison.
THE law is a prison, both civilly and spiritually. For, first, it restraineth and shutteth up the wicked; furthermore, by revealing sin, it shutteth man up in a prison, out of which he cannot escape.
The Law a Schoolmaster.
THE law is not barely a schoolmaster, but a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. For what a schoolmaster were he which should alway torment and beat the child, and teach him nothing at all? And yet such schoolmasters there were in times past, when schools were nothing else but a prison and a very hell; the schoolmasters cruel tyrants and very butchers; the children were always beaten; they learned with continual pain and travail, and yet few of them came to any proof. The law is not such a schoolmaster. For it doth not only terrify and torment. It instructeth, and exerciseth, and with its rods driveth us to Christ. “IF Moses comes to judge me,” said Doctor Martin, “I will motion him away, in God’s name, and say,’ Here stands Christ.’ And at the Last Day, Moses will look on me and say, ‘ Thou hast understood me aright.’ And he will be gracious to me.”
The Law a Wall of Defence.
BY the Ten Commandments the Lord hath defended and fortified the life of man, his wife and children, and his goods, as it were with a wall, against the force and violence of the wicked.
The Decalogue to be taught Affirmatively.
THE Decalogue (that, is the Ten Commandments of God) is a mirror and brief summary of all virtues, and teaches how we should conduct ourselves towards God and towards man. And no more beautiful, perfect, and shorter book of virtues was ever written.
The virtue of the First Commandment is godliness; that is, to fear, love, and trust God.
Of the Second, to confess and preach the doctrine of God’s word.
Of the Third, public worship of God.
Of the Fourth, obedience to parents, preceptors, and rulers in that which is not contrary to God.
Of the Fifth, gentleness, not to be revengeful.
Of the Sixth, chastity and sobriety.
Of the Seventh, to do good, willingly give and lend, and be generous.
Of the Eighth, truth, to injure no one’s good name, to speak good of each other.
Of the Ninth, justice, to let each enjoy his own.
Of the Tenth, to be without evil desires in the heart, and to be content with our own.
The Ten Commandments are to be understood and explained as not only forbidding, but bidding. “The chief commandment is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.” THAT word, “Thou shalt have none other Gods but Me,” once seemed to me useless and superfluous under the gospel. When I read it first, I thought,” Ah, who does not know that?” But now, thank God, I see what the words mean; indeed, they are more wonderful than any man can explain or comprehend. Short Sayings about the Catechism as Dr. Martin Luther taught it at Home.
AS faith is, so is God.
God does not remain outside, although He delays.
Idolatry is essentially darkness of heart.
God gives through creatures.
Unthankfulness is theft.
No one should be judged in his absence.
Interpret all for the best.
No good work goes beyond the Ten Commandments.
To fear and trust God is fulfilling all the Commandments The First Commandment includes all the rest.
GOD gives Himself to us with all the creatures.
The Holy Spirit brings Christ home to us.
Where the Holy Spirit does not preach, there is no church.
The work of the Holy Spirit is going forward perpetually.
THE good works of Christians are to benefit and help our neighbors.
In tribulations we should be manly and of a good heart.
Our whole life should be manly, fearing and trusting God.
Faith makes us the inheritance of Christ.
The gospel is pure joy.
The person must be good before his works.
A Christian life consists in three things in faith, love, and the cross. F2 A clergyman is like the director of a hospital.
God’s gifts which we possess, we should esteem highly; ourselves humbly. THE Decalogue is a doctrine beyond all doctrines. The Apostles’ Creed is virtue beyond all virtues. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer beyond all prayers and Litanies; moreover, it is a joy above all joys. For as the Ten Commandments teach and exhort all in the freest and fullest way, so the Creed fulfils the same in the most thorough way, and the Lord’s Prayer asks and entreats all in the most Christian and certain way. Therefore this threefold cord makes a man perfect in thought, speech, and work, ordering and educating his heart, mind, tongue, and body to the highest perfection.
The Decalogue based on Redemption.
THUS saith God, “I am the Lord Gad, who led thee out of the land of Egypt. Because God can only be known through His acts and works. He points us to a glorious act whereby we may know what a God we honor and serve namely, the God who delivered Israel from the house of bondage; the God who has given us His Word, and His Son Christ, who has suffered and died for us; the God who awakened Him again from the dead.
Fulfilling the Duties of our Calling the best Service of God.
ST.PAUL in his Epistles has written more fully and wisely of virtues and good works than all the philosophers, for he exalts and gloriously commends the works of each man’s calling.
HE said, “Master Joachim Morlein has pleased me well today with his sermon, for he spoke of the office and vocation of a wife, and a maidservant namely, that a wife should think she lives in a Holy Order, and that a servant also may know that her works are good and holy works.
This the people can carry home.”
IF a peasant knew the perils and toils of a prince, he would thank God that he was a peasant, and in the happiest and safest state. But the peasants know not their happiness and welfare. They look only on the outside pomp of princes, their fine clothes, golden chains, great castles, and houses; but see not the care and peril wherein princes live, as in a fire and a deluge. PEASANTS’ work is among the happiest, for it is full of hope. Ploughing, sowing, planting, propping, pruning, mowing, threshing, wood cutting, are all labors full of hope.
SO, also, men and maidens in a house are often better off than their masters and mistresses, for they have no household cares have only to do their work, and when this is done, it is done; and they can eat, and drink, and sing. My Wolf, and Orthe (Dorothea), my man, and my cook, are better off than my Kattie or I, for married life and the ordering of a household bring with them their trials and the holy cross.
HE spoke of the legends of the holy Patriarchs, how far they exceeded the holiness of (reputed) saints, because they simply went on their way, in obedience to God, in the works of their calling, and did what came to their hand to do, according to God’s commandment, without choosing for themselves.
Two Vocations, of Faith and of Love.
NO one can understand any work aright unless he is called to it.
Vocation is of two kinds. Either it is divine, comes from above, or from those who have the right to command; and then it is a Vocation of Faith.
Or it is a Vocation of Love, and comes from our equals.
THE first was called in the Old Testament the early or morning sacrifice. By this it was shadowed forth that we should first sacrifice to God, not calves and oxen, but ourselves, acknowledging God’s gifts, both bodily and spiritual, temporal and eternal, and giving Him thanks.
The second the evening sacrifice. By this it was signified that a Christian should offer to God a broken, lowly, contrite heart, which confesses both its sin and danger, bodily and spiritual, and cries to God for help.
What Obedience meant to Luther.
At The Diet Of Worms. “HERE I stand: I can do no otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
AT AUGSBURG. “THREE whole days I was at Augsburg, without the Imperial safe conduct. Meantime they earnestly entreated me to say ‘ Revoco.’ “After three days the Bishop of Trent came and showed me the safe conduct. Then I went in all humility to the Cardinal; fell at first on my knee; the second time on the ground; the third time prostrate there so long that three times he bid me rise. Then I arose. That pleased him much. He hoped I would think better of it. “When I came to the Cardinal the second time, and would not recant, he said: “‘What meanest thou? Dost think the princes will defend thee with arms and armies?
Surely, no ! Where, then, wilt thou take refuge?’ “I said,’ Under heaven.’” During The Plague At Wittenburg. “IF the lot fell on me, I would not shrink from the plague. I have been with many when they had it. I have now remained through three pestilences without fleeing.”
MERIT is a work for the sake of which Christ gives rewards. But no such work is to be found, for Christ gives by promise. Just as if a prince were to say to me: “Come to me in my castle, and I will give you a hundred florins.” I do a work, certainly, in going to the castle, but the gift is not given me as the reward of my work in going, but because the prince promised it me. 3.
THE WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE.
FAITH is nothing else but the truth of the heart; that is to say, a true and right opinion of the heart as touching God. FAITH is the divinity of works, and is so spread throughout the works of the faithful as is the divinity throughout the humanity of Christ.
Through faith we do good works. Through good works faith is made visible and comprehensible. As the Godhead cannot be seen nor comprehended, but when Christ became incarnate He was seen and handled.
In all our doings, spiritual and bodily, faith must rule and reign, and the heart hold it sure and firm, that God is looking on us, holds us dear, will help us, and not forsake us. CHRISTIAN faith is not an idle quality or empty husk in the heart, until charity come and quicken it, but if it be true faith, it is a sure trust and confidence in the heart, and a firm consent whereby Christ is apprehended, so that Christ is the object of faith, yea, rather, even in faith Christ himself is present.
Faith, therefore, is a certain obscure knowledge, or rather darkness which seeth nothing, and yet Christ apprehended by faith sitteth in the darkness.
The school divines do dream that faith is a quality cleaving in the heart, without Christ. But Christ should be so set forth that. thou shouldst see nothing besides him, and shouldst think that nothing can be more unto thee, or more present with thy heart than He is. For he sitteth not idly in Heaven, but is present with us, working and living in us.
Faith, therefore, is a certain steadfast beholding, which looketh upon nothing else but Christ, the conqueror of sin and death, and the giver of righteousness, salvation, and eternal life.
FOR he that is a Christian hath Christ the Lord of the law present and enclosed in his heart, even as a ring hath a jewel or precious stone enclosed in it.
He that hath faith in the heart hath such a treasure, that though it seemeth to be but little, is greater than heaven and earth, because Christ “the unspeakable gift” is greater. THE believing man hath the Holy Ghost, and I 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, and of true religion, to the love of God, to the patient suffering of afflictions to prayer, to thanksgiving, and to the exercise of charity towards all men. BECAUSE thou hast laid hold on Christ by faith, through whom thou art made righteousness, begin now to work well. Love God and thy neighbor, call upon God, praise Him, and confess Him. 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.
The Reflex Action of Faith.
The Force Of Pronouns.
BUT weigh diligently every word of Paul, and especially mark well this pronoun “our ;” for the effect altogether consisteth in the well-applying of pronouns, which we find very often in the Scriptures; wherein also there is ever some vehemency and power.
Therefore, generally, 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 nigh unto God, nor promise to herself that so great a treasure shall be freely given unto her. WHEREFORE these words,” Which loveth Me, are full of faith. And he who can utter this word “me,” and apply it unto himself with a true and constant faith as Paul. did, shall be a good disputer with Paul against the law.
For He delivered neither sheep, ox, gold nor silver, but even God Himself entirely and wholly “for me,” even “for me,” I say, a miserable and wretched sinner.
HUMAN wit treats these words, “Who gave Himself for our sins,” as if the sins were not real, true sins; as if the words were said lightly, and not, as they are, in true, bitter earnest.
Faith Lifting us to God’s Horizon.
PSALM 37. “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass.” He lifts us from our horizon to God’s. In our sight the wicked flourish and increase and cover the whole earth. But in God’s sight what are they? Hay! The higher the grass is, the nearer the hay-fork. PSALM 23. “But the Lord shall laugh at him, for He seeth that his day cometh.” Not that God laughs, like a man; but that in truth it is a laughable thing to see foolish men raging (against the truth), and undertaking great things which they cannot really advance one hair’s breadth.
Just as a fool would be ridiculous, who with a long spear and a short dagger were to seek to smite the Sun out of the heavens, and with this prospect were to shout and glorify himself as if he had accomplished a grand feat.
Faith and Hope.
FAITH is a teacher and a judge, fighting against errors and heresies, judging spirits and doctrines.
But Hope is, as it were, the general and captain of the field, fighting against temptation, the cross, impatience, heaviness of spirit, desperation and blaspheming, and it waiteth for good things, even in the midst of all evils. FAITH and hope are in many ways distinguished. Faith is in the understanding of man; hope in the will; and yet these two can no more be severed than the cherubim above the mercy seat.
According to their offices; faith dictates, distinguishes, teaches, and is knowledge and science. But hope exhorts, awakens, listens, waits, and patiently endures.
Faith looks to the word and the promise, that is, the truth. But hope looks to that which the Word has promised, to the gifts.
Faith exists at the beginning of life, before all tribulations and adversities.
But hope follows afterwards and grows out of adversities.
Faith strives against error and heresy. But hope strives against tribulation and temptation.
As foresight and understanding are useless, and effect nothing without manhood and cheerfulness, so is faith nothing without hope; for hope endures and overcomes misfortune and evil. And as a joyful heart without foresight and understanding is foolhardiness, so is hope without faith.
Faith and hope are thus distinguished.’ Faith says, I believe in a resurrection of the dead at the Last Day. To this hope adds, “Then, if this is true, let us give up what we have, and suffer what we can, if hereafter we are to be such great princes.” ALL which happens in the whole world happens through hope. No husbandman would sow a grain of corn, if he did not hope it would spring up and bring forth the ear. How much more are we helped on by hope in the way to eternal life.
Faith and Charity.
CHARITY giveth place, for it “suffereth all things.” But faith giveth no place; yea, it can suffer nothing. 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 by the wind, and ready to yield to everything. SEE the sun ! It brings us two things — light and heat. The rays of light beam directly on us. No king is powerful enough to intercept those keen, direct and swift rays. But heat is radiated back to us from every side. Thus, like the light, faith should ever be direct and inflexible; but love, like the heat, should radiate on all sides, and meekly adapt itself to the wants of all, The Trial of Faith.
THE trial of faith is the greatest and heaviest of all trials. For faith it is which must conquer in all trials. Therefore, if faith gives way, then the smallest and most trifling temptations can overcome a man. But when faith is sound and true, then all other temptations.must yield, and be overcome. “ALAS’! that we believe God so little,” he said. “I can trust my wife, and all of you, my friends, more than I can trust Him. Yet none of you would do and suffer for me what He did; would suffer yourselves to be crucified for me.”
SECURE, easy spirits, like all false Christians, when they have glanced over the Bible and heard a few sermons, soon persuade themselves they have the Holy Ghost, and that they understand and know all things.
Ah! true hearts find it far otherwise; these pray every day, yea, every moment:” Lord, strengthen our faith.” REAL believers are always thinking they believe not, therefore they are fighting, wrestling, striving, and toiling without ceasing, to preserve and increase their faith. Just as good and skilful masters of any’ art are always seeing and observing that something is lacking in their work, whilst bunglers and pretenders persuade themselves that they lack nothing, but that all they make and do is quite perfect.
OUR faith is weak, and yet it is a rock; for it is the corner-stone of the heart.
Martin Luther’s own Faith in Trial.
Letter from Coburg, during the Diet of Augsburg.
To the Elector Frederic, of Saxony.
AS to my affairs, my gracious lord, I answer thus: Your Electoral Grace knows (or if your Electoral Grace does not know, I hereby make it known), I have not received the Gospel from man, but from heaven, only through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that I might well esteem and subscribe myself (as henceforth I will) His servant and evangelist. That I have at any time submitted myself to human hearing and judgment was not because I doubted this, but from humility, to win others.
Now, however, that I see how my too great humility will lead to the degrading of the Gospel, and that if I yield the devil a hand’s breadth, he will take the whole place, by constraint of my conscience I must act otherwise. I have yielded enough this year, in deference to your Electoral Grace; for the devil knows well it was no faint-heartedness that made me yield. He saw my heart well, when I came into Worms; that if I had known that as many devils would set upon me as there are tiles on the roofs, I would have leapt down among them with joy.
After all, Duke George is far from being equal to one single devil. And since the Father of unfathomable mercy has, through the Gospel, made us joyful lords over all the devils, and over death, and has given us such wealth of trust that we can say to Him, “most dear Father,” it would indeed be the most shameful slight to such a Father that we could not trust Him to make us lords over Duke George’s wrath.This, at least, I know well of myself; if needful I would ride into Leipzig, if it rained Duke Georges nine days, and each Duke George were ninefold more furious than this one.
They hold my Lord Christ to be a man twisted of straw ! This may my Lord, and I, for a while, indeed, endure.
It is another than Duke George with whom I have to do, who knows me pretty well, and I know Him not ill.
Your Electoral Grace is only lord’ over goods and bodies. But Christ is Lord also over souls, to whom He has sent me, and to that end has awakened me. These souls I dare not forsake. I hope my Lord Christ will overcome our foes, and will be well able to shield me from them, if He so will. If so he will not, His dear will be done.
Letter to Melanchthon during the Diet of Augsburg.
THE end and event of the cause troubles thee, that thou canst not order it.
But if thou couldst comprehend it, then would I be no partaker in such a cause, much less the author of it.
God has placed this cause in a certain common place, which thou hast not in thy rhetoric, nor in thy philosophy. It is called Faith, in which place are set all things invisible, and that do not appear, which things, if-any one seeks to render visible, apparent and comprehensible, as thou art doing, he shall reap cares and tears as the reward of his labor, which in truth thou art reaping, all of us meanwhile warning thee in vain.
God dwelleth in the clouds, and has set this darkness as His curtain. Let him who will, change this.
If Moses had insisted on knowing the end, and how he was to escape the hosts of Pharaoh, Israel would probably have been in Egypt to this day.
To Brentius on Melanchthon’s Fears.
AFTER us, God will be the Creator, as He was before us, and is to-day, with us. He will not die with us, nor cease to be God, ruling even men’s thoughts.
It seemed to Eli, the priest, that the kingdom of Israel was perishing, the ark being taken by the Philistines; but Eli perished first, and the kingdom afterwards began to flourish most.
Philip designs to be head-ruler of the world, that is to crucify himself. But I know that He will be, in the future, who said,” Where is Abel, thy brother?”
If God exists, not here only do we live; but wherever He lives we shall live.
If these things are true, what, I ask, are these furious threats of idols, not merely dying, but wholly lifeless? He who created me will be the Father of my son, a Husband to my wife, the Ruler of my country, the Preacher to my parish, and better than all that (when I am gone).
PHILIP thinks to accomplish his own counsel. Sic fecissem ego. No! it must not be “Sic ego Philippus.” The “ego” is too small. The word is, “I am that I am.”
Do thou exhort Philip in my name not to make himself God, but to fight against that innate ambition of divinity implanted in us by the Devil in Paradise. This cast Adam out of Paradise, and this only disquiets us, and casts us out of peace.
We are to be men, and not God. This is the sum of the whole matter.
Otherwise eternal unrest and heart-sorrow is our portion.
To Justus Jonas.
CHRIST has come; and He sitteth at the right hand, not of Caesar, but of God, This may be very incredible. I nevertheless delight in this incredible thing; and therein I will dare to die. Why, then, should I not live therein?
I would that Philip would take this my faith, if he has none beside. “On the right hand,” is indeed a little thing; but the “My,” “My right hand;” where has that an end? The pronoun does .it. The name Adonai, which follows the “I have said,” will take good care of the precious “Sit Thou,” until” Thy foes Thy footstool” shall also come. What recks it, if David falls?
Farewell in Christ, and believe us, as thou dost, that Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. If He lose this title at Augsburg, He will have lost it in heaven and on earth. Amen.
To the Chancellor Bruck, at Augsburg, from “the Wilderness” (Coburg). Two Miracles.
IHAVE lately seen two miracles. The first, as I was looking out of the window, and saw the stars in heaven, and the whole fair vault of God, yet saw nowhere any pillars whereon the Master had raised this vault.
Nevertheless the heavens fell not, and that fair vault stands firm.
Now, there are some who search for the pillars, and would fain grasp and feel them. And because they cannot do this they totter and tremble as if the heavens must surely fall, from no other cause save that they cannot grasp these pillars, nor see them. If they could grasp these pillars, then (no doubt) the heavens would stand firm !
The second miracle is this. I saw also vast, thick clouds lowering over us, with such a weight that they might be compared to a great ocean. Yet saw I no floor whereon they were based, nor any shore whereby they were bound. Nevertheless they fell not on us, but saluted us with a frowning countenance and fled away.
When they had passed by, then shone forth their floor, whereon they were based, and also :our roof, the rainbow. Yet that was .indeed a feeble, slight, insignificant floor and roof; so slight that it faded away into the clouds, and was more like a prism, such as is wont to stream through painted glass, than such a mighty floor; so that one might well have despaired on account of the feebleness of the floor, as much as on account of the great weight of the waters.
Nevertheless it was found, in facet, that this feeble prism bore up the weight of waters and shielded us.
Yet there are some who look at the mass and weight of the clouds, and consider these more than this slight, subtile, narrow prism. They would fain feel the power of the prism, and because they cannot do this, they fear that the clouds will pour down an eternal deluge.
The Sea Restrained by a Rope of Sand.
LET the adversaries rage and storm as long as they can. God has set its bound to the sea. He suffers it to rage and swell, and to rush on with its waves in vehement assaults, as if it would cover and overwhelm all things.
But nevertheless it does not pass the shore, although God binds it not with bands of iron, but of sand. THROUGH what inner conflict this faith of Luther was maintained, I have and know nothing of Jesus Christ (since I have not seen him with my bodily eyes, nor heard with my bodily ears), save only His name. Yet have I, thank God, learned so much of Him from the Scriptures that I am well contented therewith, and desire not to see or hear Him in the flesh.
Moreover, in my deepest weakness, in terrors and pressure of the burden of sin, in fear and trembling before death, in persecution from the false, cruel world, often have I experienced and felt the divine power of this name in me, abandoned as I was by all creatures. I have proved its power to snatch me from death, to make me live again, to comfort me in the greatest despair, especially during the Diet of Augsburg in the year 1530.
AS a shoemaker makes shoes, and- a tailor coats, so should a Christian pray. -Prayer is the Christian’s business. Let us pray and strive; for the word of faith and the prayer of the just are the mightiest weapons.
ACOMPLAINT was once made to DoCtor Martin Luther, “Dear Herr Doctor, things are issuing and happening nowhere as we would have them.” “Well,” he said, “that is precisely right. Have you not given up your will to our Lord God, praying every day, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”
OH, it is a great and mighty thing, the prayer of the just. But God knows best how and when to grant our prayers, for if He did always as we would, He would be our captive. I prayed once for the life of a suffering woman, with great anguish and wrestling of heart. But God knew best. He did indeed hear our prayer in such a way that in the life to come that good woman will thank me for it.
WE should commit all to God. He will make it all well. “Even to hoar hairs I will carry you; I have made, and I will bear. I will carry and deliver you.
Therefore lay it all on me, my beloved; commit it to me.”
So Saint Peter: “Casting all your care upon Him.” That is a choice, consoling saying. And “Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He will sustain thee.”
Ah, these are beautiful, comforting sayings !’ But we want to do and order all ourselves, although we are not able, yea it is impossible. We want to lift and carry all ourselves, and forget our Lord God, and so we sink, and make the evil worse.
Indeed, sayest thou, I have committed all to Him, but He will not come, He delays too long. Oh, wait on the Lord — we must wait and hold on; for at last he will surely come. ALL who call on God in true faith, earnestly, from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask; yet they will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask. THE cry and sigh of the heart raises a clamor that not only God but all the angels in heaven must hear. Thus, Moses was dismayed when he came to the Red Sea. He cried with trembling, shuddering, and dismay, and nevertheless did not open his mouth. “O Lord God,” he said, “what shall I do now? How can I find my way out? I am the cause that all this people will be here miserably murdered. There is no help nor counsel. Before us is the sea; behind us are our foes, the Egyptians; on both sides high mountains. It is all over with us.” Then God answered,” Wherefore criest thou unto me.” — Exodus 14:13,14,15.
But we read their examples as if they were a dead letter. Moses must have heaved a great sigh, that he filled therewith the ears of God. It is contrary to all which reason could have expected that they went through the Red Sea. For their way through the Red Sea is as broad as from Witten-burg to Coburg, or at least from Wittenburg to Magdeburg. In the night, moreover, they must have rested and eaten. For six hundred thousand men, not including women and children, even if they went three hundred and fifty, or even five hundred abreast, must have taken time.Thus the Cry of Moses seemed to Moses indeed little, but to God great.
WE think this groaning which we make in these terrors, and this weakness, scarcely to be a groaning, far less a cry. For our faith, which in temptation thus groaneth unto Christ, is very weak if we consider our own sense and feeling, and therefore we hear not this cry.
But to the searcher of hearts this small and feeble groaning (as it seemeth unto us), is a loud and mighty cry, in comparison whereof the great and horrible roarings of the law, of sin, of death, of the devil, and of hell, are as nothing, neither can they even be heard. It filleth heaven, so that the angels think they hear nothing but this cry.
These feeble cries were our guns and artillery wherewith we have, so many years, scattered the counsels and enterprises of our adversaries. NO one believes how mighty and strong prayer is, and how much it can do, save he who has learned by experience and tried it. But it is a great thing, when any one feels great need pressing on him, if he can grasp prayer. FOR I know, as often as I have earnestly prayed, when it has been real earnest with me I have indeed been richly heard, and have obtained more than I have prayed for. God has for a time delayed, but nevertheless the help has come.
Ah, how truly grand a thing is the honest prayer of a true Christian! How mighty it is with God; that a poor human creature can so speak with the High Majesty in Heaven, and not dread him, but know that God is kindly smiling on him, for Jesus Christ’s sake, His dear Son, our Lord and Savior!
To this end, the heart and conscience must not look back, must not doubt or fear on account of unworthiness. THE ancients have well described prayer as the lifting up of the heart to God. It was well said. But I and many others in olden times did not understand the definition aright. We spoke and boasted of “the lifting up of the heart,” the “ascensus mentis;” but our syntax failed; for we could not add the “Deum,” the word God. DEAR brethren, pray with the heart, sometimes also with the lips; for prayer sustains the world” without prayer things would be far otherwise. THE prayer of the Church works great miracles. In our own days it has raised three from the dead; myself, who have often lain sick to death, my wife Kathe, who was also sick to death, and Philip Melanchthon, who, in 1540, lay sick to death at Weimar.
Yet these are poor miracles, to be observed on account of those who are weak in faith.
Far greater miracles to me are these’ that our Lord God every day in the Church baptizes, gives the Sacrament of the Altar, absolves, and delivers from sin, from death, and eternal damnation. These are to me the great miracles.
What a strong wall and fortification to the Church, and what a weapon for Christians is prayer!
Ah, what an excellent Master composed the Lord’s Prayer! What an endless rhetoric and eloquence lies hidden in those words, wherein all things, all necessities, are comprehended.
The first three petitions embrace such great, excellent, and heavenly things, that no heart can ever fathom them.
The fourth petition gathers together all policy and economy, national and domestic government, and all which is bodily and temporal, and needful for this life.
The fifth contends against the devil of a bad conscience; against inborn and accrual sins, which burden the conscience.
Truly One who is wise made this prayer, whom no man can rival.
AH, we have cried and prayed so long, and Thou wilt not give us rain!
Surely, if Thou givest not rain, Thou wilt give something better — a still and quiet life. THE prayer of the heart, and the complaints of the poor, raise such a cry that all the angels in heaven must hear it. Our Lord God hears, with quick, delicate hearing, the faintest breath. THOSE deep sighs, in deep necessities, are the true great clamor and fervent cry before which the heavens are rent. THE causa efficiens of prayer is simply faith itself. Causa per accidens, which drives us to prayer, is necessity. The forma, is to grasp the mercy so freely given. Materia circa quam is the promise, and the command of God to pray, to which prayer holds and cleaves, and on which it is based. Finis is the hearing and deliverance. I have not yet prayed the whole Psalter through. The Lord’s Prayer is my prayer.
GOD gives not according to the measure, manner, and time that we would prescribe. He will be unfettered. But He gives good measure, pressed down and running over, as Christ says.
Thus did St. Augustine’s mother. She asked that her son might be converted. But it came not to pass. She went to all the learned men, that they might persuade him. At last she en-treated him to marry a Christian maiden, that she might bring him to the faith. But nothing succeeded.
But when at last our Lord God comes, He comes indeed, and makes such an Augustine of him, that to this day he is called a light of the Church. SOME have vehemently prayed for temptation, that they might not grow careless without the cross. I, however, will never more pray for temptation, but only, “Lead me not into temptation.” EVERY sigh of a Christian is a prayer: when he sighs he prays. THIS saying, “Ask, and ye shall receive,” means nothing less than ask, call, cry, knock, knock vehemently. And this we must do, on and on,. without ceasing.
Intercession for those in Authority.
PRINCES and lords are poor people, especially when they are good and God-fearing; therefore our Lord God has not vainly commanded us to honor and pray for them.
I did not so well understand this command until I learned it with reference to my two Electors and lords, Duke John and Duke John Frederic. Often they cannot help if they would. Therefore they sorely need the prayer of Christians.
Praying and Wailing.
LET us pray and call on God in all tribulations, and wait.
Let us keep to Christ, and cling to Him, and hang on Him, so that no power can sever us. Then soon we shall see Him with joy, at that Day.
THANKSGIVING makes our prayers bold and strong, easy, moreover, pleasant and sweet; feeds and enkindles them as with coals of fire.
Intercession . CHRIST suffers not that one should pray for himself alone, but for the whole community of all men. For He teaches us not to say” My Father,” but “Our Father.” Prayer is a spiritual, common possession; therefore we must despoil no one of it, not even our enemies. For as He is the Father of us all, He wills that we shall be brothers amongst each other, and pray for one another, as for ourselves.
Prayer of Luther, Overheard during the Diet of Worms.
ALMIGHTY, everlasting God, how terrible this world is! How it would open its jaws to devour me. And how weak is my trust in Thee! The flesh is weak, and the devil is strong! O Thou my God, help me against all the wisdom of this world. Do Thou the work. It is for Thee alone to do it, for the work is Thine, not mine. I have nothing to bring me here. I have no controversy to maintain — not I — with the great ones of the earth. I, too, would fain that my days should glide along, happy and calm. But the cause is Thine. It is righteous; it is eternal. O Lord, help me! Thou that art faithful, Thou that art unchangeable! It is not in any man I trust. That were vain indeed. All that is in man gives way; all that comes from man faileth.
O God, my God, dost Thou not hear me? Art Thou dead? No; Thou canst not die. Thou art hiding Thyself.
Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it. Oh, then, arise and work!
Be Thou on my side, for the sake of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who is my defence, my shield, and my fortress.
O Lord my God, where art Thou? Come; come! I am ready — ready to forsake life for Thy truth; patient as a lamb. For it is a righteous cause, and it is Thine own. I will not depart from Thee now, nor through eternity. And although the world should be full of demons; although my body (which, nevertheless, is the work of Thy hands) should be doomed to bite the dust, to be stretched on the rack, cut into pieces, consumed to ashes, the soul is Thine. Yes; for this I have the assurance of Thy Word. My soul is Thine. It will abide near Thee throughout the endless ages. Amen. O God, help Thou me! Amen. Amen, amen — that means Yes, yes; that shall be done.
The Word of God.
THE Word of God is a fiery shield, for this reason, that it is more enduring and purer than gold tried in the fire; which gold loses nothing in the fire, but it stands the fire, endures, and overcomes all trial. So, he who believes ill the Word of God, overcomes all, and continues eternally secure against all misfortune. This shield shrinks not from the gates of hell, but the gates of hell tremble before it. THE words of the Lord Christ are the most powerful; they have hands and feet, and overcome all attacks, all subtilties and devices of the wise. Thus we see in the Gospel how Christ, with quite simple, common words, brought to shame the wisdom of the Pharisees, so that they could find no escape from them.
It is a very acute and conclusive syllogism, when the Lord says, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s :” for He neither bids nor forbids to pay the tribute, but answers them with their own arguments; as if He had said, “If, indeed, you have suffered Caesar to make such inroads that you have, and use his coinage, then give him what you owe him.” THERE is no greater grace or possession than to believe that God speaks to us. If we believed that, we should be already blessed.
Commentaries . THROUGH so many commentaries and books the dear Bible is buried, so that people do not look at the text itself. It is far better tO see with our own eyes than with other people’s eyes. For which reason I could wish that all my own books were buried nine ells deep in the earth, on account of the bad example they may give to others to follow me in writing multitudes of books.
The Second Psalm.
THIS is a right lofty psalm against the enemies of God. It begins softly and simply, but it goes out with magnificence. It is a lofty, noble psalm. It says, Come and see what the Lord doeth. He has been now six thousand years in the Council, ruling and making all laws. Habitator coeli. He that dwelleth in the heavens takes our cause in hand. MANY foes, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman, have raged against the Bible, endeavoring to extirpate it; but they have been able to accomplish nothing. They are all gone, but the book remains for ever perfect. Who then has preserved it, and defended it with such great power?
No one surely but God Himself, who is the Master. And it is a great miracle that God has preserved the book so long, for the devil and the world hate it bitterly. THE resurrection of the Lord Christ throughthe Word does not take place without an earthquake, as Christ Himself also did not come forth from the grave without an earthquake.
But such an earthquake is pleasanter to true hearts, than that Christ should lie in the grave and rest. When there is peace and rest in Christendom it is a bad sign. WHEN the devil finds me idle and unarmed, not heeding GodWord, he works on my conscience that I have taught wrong, and stirred up by my doctrine much offense and division compared with the former state of the Church, which was still and peaceful.
I cannot deny I am often in depression and anguish on this account; but when I grasp the Word of God, I have won the battle.
WE see, and experience teaches us, how powerful and strong Divine Truth is; it presses through all the obstacles by which it is hemmed in; the more we read it, the more it moves us; it takes the heart captive, and creates other good thoughts. The Sacraments.
DOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER asked Doctor Hieronymus Weller “How it went with him?” “Sadly and mournfully,” said he; “I know not how it is.”
Whereon Dr. Martin Luther replied, “Have you, then, not been baptized?”
What a great gift of God is baptism! What a great gift also is the Word of God; we should thank God from our hearts that we have His Word. For it is God who comforts and strengthens us, and who has given us His Holy Spirit for a pledge and a foretaste. HEAVEN is given to me freely, and is my (royal) gift, and I have letters and seals for it; that is, I am baptized and go to the sacrament. Therefore I take care of the letter, that the devil may not tear it in pieces; that is, I live and abide in the fear of God, and pray the Lord’s Prayer.
God could not have given me salvation and the gospel save through the death, the suffering, and dying of His dear Son. And when I believe that He has overcome death, and has died for me, and I look at the promise of the Father, then I have the letter complete, and the seal of baptism and of the sacrament of the altar (the true essential body and blood of our Lord Christ) affixed .to it; thus I am well provided for.
We should hold it certain that baptism is God’s ordinance, which He has appointed, that we may know where we may surely find Him. He seeks us; He comes to us; we cannot come to Him of ourselves.
The Sacrament of the Altar. “THE true cause of this sacrament,” said Dr. Martin Luther, “is the word and appointment of Christ, who has instituted and established it. The material is bread and wine; the form is the true body and blood of Christ; the final cause whereto it is ordained is the use and fruit, that we may strengthen our faith, and not doubt that the body of Christ is given for us, and His blood poured out for us, and that our sins are surely forgiven us through the death of Christ.” THIS sacrament can only be received and embraced by the heart; for it is not with the hand that we receive such a gift and eternal treasure. THIS benefit and grace have we now received, that Christ is our Savior, not our severe Judge; our Redeemer and Deliverer, not our accuser and jailer who takes us captive. For we are all sinners in Adam, guilty of eternal death, and condemned; but we are all now justified, redeemed, and consecrated by the blood of Christ. Let us grasp this with faith.
The Vow of Baptism the True and Highest Vow.
ACARNAL man does not understand why Paul so often boasts that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the will of God. This boasting was as necessary to him in heavy temptation as an article of the faith. Satan had gained far more advantage over me, also, if ! had not been a doctor by vocation.
It is not a little thing to change the whole religion and doctrine of the Papacy. How hard it was to me, will be seen in that Day; now no one believes it. Gladly, at first, would I have Subjected myself to the Pope and his clergy; they, however, would not receive such humility and obedience from me, but insisted, as to-day, that I should give the lie to God, deny Christ, call His gospel heresy. Before I do that, I would, if God willed, and if it were possible, rather be burned ten times over.
In my baptism I promised my Lord Christ I would believe on Him, and cleave fast to Him. This, by His grace, working, and help, I will do. To this I keep in all my temptations (namely, to the vow which I made in baptism, which is the true and highest vow, that I would be faithful to Him), whereon He, on His part, promised He would be my God. If I had not had this consolation, I had long before fainted for great anguish in my heavy temptations. The dear Lord help further, Amen! GOD speaks to me in His word through His ministers (as Christ says, “He who heareth you heareth Me “), and says to me, “I have baptized thee and received thee for my child, for Christ’s sake, my beloved Son, who counted not His life dear unto Him to redeem thee. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and these I give to thee to be thine own.” This only comforts. If Christ is lost, all is lost in heaven and on earth.
IT is far too long a delay, if we wait to learn to know Christ until the last conflict. He came to us in baptism, and has been with us always, and has already made the bridge for us on which we pass from this life through death into the life beyond. CHRIST was offered once for all; now He requires nothing but that we should give Him thanks forever. HE who receives a sacrament does not perform a good work; he receives a benefit.
In the mass we give Christ nothing; we only receive from Him.
IT is not the external eating which makes the Christian. It is the internal and spiritual eating which is the work of faith, and without which all external things are mere empty shows and vain grimaces.
This spiritual bread is the consolation of the afflicted, the cure of the sick, the life of the dying, food to the hungry, the treasure of the poor. Preaching.
Preparation for Preaching.
DOCTOR MARTIN said to a pastor, “When you are about to preach, speak to God, and say, ‘My Lord God, I wish to preach to Thine honor, to speak of Thee, to praise Thee, to glorify thy name.’” Think not of me, nor of Philip, nor any of the learned, but remember you are then most learned in the pulpit when you speak of God. I have never been troubled because I could not preach well; but often, because I had to speak, before the face of God, of His great Majesty and Divine Being. ONCE, when Dr. Martin sat under the pear-tree in his garden, he asked Magister Anthony Lauterbach how he prospered with his preaching? When he complained of his temptations, difficulties, and weakness, Dr. Martin said, “Ah, my friend, so it has been with me. I have dreaded the pulpit quite as much as you can; yet I had to go on. “But you want to be a master all at once. Perhaps you are seeking honor, and are therefore’ tempted. You should preach for our Lord God, and not regard how men think and judge. If any one can do better, let him; do you preach Christ and the Catechism. Such wisdom will lift you above the judgments of all men, their praise or blame; for this wisdom is God’s, wiser than men. “You need not expect praise from me;if I hear you, I shall be sure to find fault; for you young (journeymen) preachers must be set down, lest you become ambitious and proud. But this thou shouldst ascertain; that thou art called to this, that Christ hath need of thee to help praise Him. On this stand firm; let who will praise or blame, that is not thy concern.” DR.MARTIN exhorted the clergy that they should not torture and detain their hearers with long sermons, “For,” said he, “the pleasure of listening passes away from them; and the preachers do them hurt and violence with long preaching.” “Some,” said Dr. Martin, “plague the people with too long sermons; for the faculty of listening is a tender thing, and soon becomes weary and satiated.” HE was asked, “Which was the greater, to controvert adversaries, or to exhort and hold up the weak?”
He answered and said: “Both are good and needful, although to comfort the faint-hearted is something greater; and yet the weak themselves are edified and improved by hearing the faith contended for. Each is God’s gift.” YOU should not attempt to judge or criticise yourself. It often happens to me that I am ashamed of my sermon when I have finished it, and think how cold it has been; yet others have afterwards commended the same sermon much to me.
The Best Teachers always Learners.
IT is a true word in theology, that those who think they know anything know really nothing. For he who truly hears and learns God’s Word, can never wonder at it enough, or learn it to the bottom. Let every one humble himself and remain a learner therein.
Dr. Luther’s Portrait of a good Preacher.
AGOOD preacher should have these virtues and qualities.
First , he should be able to teach plainly and in order.”
Secondly , he should have a good head.
Thirdly , he should have good power of speech.
Fourthly , a good voice.
Fifthly , a good memory.
Sixthly , he should know when to stop.
Seventhly , he should be sure what he means to say, and should study diligently.
Eighthly , he should be ready to stake body and life, goods and glory, on its truth.
Ninthly , he must suffer himself to be vexed and criticised by everybody.
Keeping to the Point.
WHOEVER understands a subject thoroughly and intimately, can speak well about it. “I endeavor in my sermons,” said Dr. Martin, “to take a text and keep to it; and so to show it to the people, and spread it out before them, that they may say, ‘This is what the Sermon was about.’
Soldiers should not greet every one they meet. Dr. Pommer is too much given sometimes to take with him everything he meets on his way. See what the main point is, and keep to it.”
LET all thy sermons be of the simplest. Look not to the princes, but to the simple, unwise, rude, and unlearned people; for the prince is made of the same stuff. If I in my sermons were to regard Philip Melanchthon and the other doctors, I should do no good; but I preach in the simplest way to the unlearned, and that pleases all. (I keep the Hebrew and Greek for the times when we learned men are alone together. Then we can talk such crabbed stuff they may well wonder at us in heaven.)
APREACHER should have the skill to teach the unlearned, simply, roundly, and plainly; for teaching is of more importance than exhorting. NO one should preach for me and Philip, however much we might learn from it. Preaching should not be magnificent with great, splendid, labored words, that men may see how learned we are. Ah, that is worth nothing. In the church every one should use the simple mother-tongue, such as every one can understand. The doctors are present by forty, young people and unlearned by the thousand. HE who has one word of God and cannot make a sermon out of it can never be a preacher. TO preach simply is a high art. Christ does it himself. He speaks of husbandry, of sowing seed, and uses simple peasants’ similes. “ALBRECHT DURER, the famous painter,” said Dr. Luther, “used to say he had no pleasure in pictures that were painted with many colors, but in those which were painted with a choice simplicity.” So it is with me as to sermons. IF I had to preach only to Dr. Hieronymus, or to Philip, I would not make another sermon my life-long, for they understand well enough already.
Children, men-servants, and maid-servants attend our churches; to these we must preach; these need our preaching, not the learned. It is the poor young people and the simple with whom we have to do; to these we must come down.
So did the Lord Christ; He speaks as if for His audience He had none other than my little Martin, Paul and Magdalene. When, indeed, He comes to the Pharisees, He gives them severe strokes.
We should preach to the little children; for the sake of such as these the office of preaching is instituted.
Dr. Martin said the best books of the Bible to preach from, were the Psalter, the Gospel of St. John, and St. Paul; but for the common people, and the young, the other Gospels.
WE must not teach the common people about high, difficult things, and with subtle words, for they cannot comprehend. Into the church come poor little children, maidens, old women and men, to whom such teaching is useless; and even if they say, “Ah, he said precious things; he made a fine discourse !” if one asks them further, “What did he say?” they often reply, “Ah, I do not know.” To poor people we must call white, white, and black, black, all in the simplest way.
Ah, what pains our Lord Christ took to teach simply. From vineyards, sheep, and trees He drew His similes; anything in order that the multitudes might understand, embrace, and retain it.
Earnestness . THIS is not the time for jest, but for earnest. “Ye are the salt of the earth.’
Salt bites and pains, but it cleanses and preserves from corruption.
Feeding and Guarding.
IN a true, good shepherd: feeding and guarding must be combined; for, if the guarding fails, the wolf will devour all the more readily the sheep which are well fed.
A preacher must be both a warrior and a shepherd. To feed is to teach, and that is the most difficult art; but it is needful also to be able to contend and defend.
The Best Kind of Controversy.
I COUNSEL those who preach in papal countries to teach the Gospel simply, without any snapping or biting. If they do this the Pope will fall, for he does not stand on the Gospel.
Religious Vanity, Gloria Religionis.
HE complained much of the vanity and self-sufficiency of the clergy, especially of the younger. “A new Jurist,” he said, “is in his first year a Justinian.; that is, he thinks himself superior to all the doctors, and has nothing but law in his head; the second year he is a Doctor; the third, a Licentiate; the fourth, a Bachelor; the fifth, a Student.”
EVERY one should be content with his own gifts which God has given him; for we cannot all be Pauls and John Baptists; there must also be Tituses and Timothys. We need in any building more common stones than corner stones.
Excellence of the Office of the Preacher and Teacher.
HE who thinks lightly of preachers and of women will never come to good; as is commonly said. The office of the preacher, and women, the mothers of our children, must be held in all honor, that these be kept right and pure.
The rule of the home and the State depends on them. Whosoever, therefore, despises these, and sets them at naught, despises God and man.
IWOULD wish that no one were suffered to be a preacher until he had first been a schoolmaster. Now, young men go at once from the school to the pulpit. But when any one has kept a school for ten years, he may leave it with a good conscience. The work is too heavy and too little esteemed.
Yet a schoolmaster is as necessary in a town as a pastor. We might more easily do without burgomasters, princes, and nobles, than without schools, for these must govern the world.
No potentate or lord but needs to be guided by a jurist or theologian; and these come from schools. If I were no preacher, I know no calling on earth that I should prefer to that of a schoolmaster. But we must not look at what the world rewards and esteems; we must consider what God esteems and will honor in that Day.
Trials and Burdens of the Preacher.
TO be a true pastor and preacher is a great thing; and if our Lord God Himself did not give strength, the thing could not be. It needs a great soul to serve the people with body and soul, goods and honor, and to suffer for it the greatest peril and ingratitude.
Therefore it was that Christ said to Peter, “Peter, lovest thou Me?” and repeats it three times, and then says, “Feed My sheep.” It is as if He said:” If thou wilt be a true shepherd and friend of souls, thou must be so from love to Me.” Otherwise it is impossible. For who will and can suffer ingratitude, spend his health and substance in study, and, for a reward, stand in the greatest peril? Therefore He says: “It is a necessity that thou shouldst love Me.”
IHAVE begun, and I will persevere. ! would not take the whole world to begin again, so exceeding great and heavy are the cares and sorrows of this office. Dear sirs, it is no child’s play. Nevertheless, when I look at Him who has called me, I would not wish not to have undertaken it.
IF I were to write of the burdens which a preacher must bear, as I have experienced them, I should terrify every one from the office. A true Godfearing preacher must be so minded, that nothing is dearer to him than Christ his Lord and Savior, and the future eternal life; so that when he has lost this life and all things, Christ may say to him, “Come hither to Me; thou hast been my good and faithful servant.”
IT was once asked, when two preachers at Nurnberg had died of the Plague, “if a preacher, whose office is only preaching, may, with a good conscience, refuse his services to the sick, and not visit them in times of pestilence.” Thereupon Dr. Martin Luther answered and said: “By all that is most sacred, No! The preachers must not flee too readily, lest they make the people fearful, and they should come to disregard the priests, seeing that at such a time none will come to them. It is not good, on the other hand, that all should stay. “If the lot fell on me to stay, I would not shrink, nor fear. I have now survived three pestilences, and have been with many who have suffered; but, thank God, I took no harm. I came home and stroked my little Margarethe on the cheek, without washing my hands. But I had forgotten, or I would not have done it. It would have been tempting God.” ST.JEROME has written about the Book of Job; but he wrote only thoughts, for he had not experienced the deepest temptations (i.e., spiritual, not fleshly). If I could have preached in my sickness, I could have made many a beautiful sermon on temptation; for then I learned to understand the Psalter and its consolations a little. THE good Paul had to suffer and see many things, as God says of him: “I will show him how great things he must suffer far My name’s sake.” He soon lays on his neck the Pati, — the yoke of suffering; and he experienced it indeed. Such heart-sorrow as is far worse than death. It is called martyrum interpretativum, martyrdom without blood, wherein we are indeed burned and tortured.
Rewards of the Preachers.
If we are found true to our calling we shall receive honor enough; not, however, in this life, but in the life to come. There we shall be crowned with the unfading crown of glory, as St. Paul says, which is laid up for us in heaven. But here on earth, saith the Lord Christ, we shall not have glory, for it is written: “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.” For we do not belong to this life, but are called to another, and a far better I will not be crowned on earth by men. I choose to have my recompense from God, the just Judge, in heaven. Patience as a Weapon.
Patience is the best Virtue.
IF thou wilt learn to overcome the greatest, fiercest, and most spiteful enemies, who would fain crush thee, and do thee all possible harm in body and soul, purchase before all things one weapon, and give all thou hast to learn how to exercise it. And know that it is one sweet, lovely little herb, which serves this purpose best, which is called Patientia. “Ah,” sayest thou, “how can I find this medicine?” The answer is, “Take faith to thee, which says that no one can hurt thee unless God wills it. If evil comes to thee, it comes to thee from God’s kind and gracious will. So that thy foe does himself a thousandfold greater hurt than thee.”
For from this faith flows love, which says: “I will still render good for evil, heap coals of fire on his head.” This love is the Christian’s armor and coat of mail, wherewith he casts down his foes, though they seem like great mountains, and are not to be cast down by iron and steel. This same love teaches us patiently to suffer all things.
NO one does me hurt, but it will hurt him in the end; for he has to die. I sin not in suffering, but he who makes me suffer, sins.
Patience with the Misled, and Anger against those who Mislead.
ST.PAUL showeth towards the Galatians a fatherly and motherly affection, and speaketh them very fair, and yet in such a sort that he reproveth them.
Contrariwise, he is very hot and full of indignation against those false apostles their seducers; he bursteth into plain thunderings and lightnings against them. This example must we also follow, that we may show ourselves to bear like affection toward such as are misled.
But as for the devil and his ministers, against them we ought 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. 4.
THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN.
The Church. “As it stands in the third article of our faith, one holy catholic — that is, universal — Church, the communion of saints.” THE church is an assembly of people that depends on things which do not appear, nor can be apprehended by the senses; namely, on the Word alone.
This people believes what the Word says, and gives God the glory of trusting that what He promises us therein is true. THE Church is never in a more perilous state than when she has quiet and peace. GOD has set His Church and Christian community in the midst of the world, amid infinite external action, manifold occupations, callings and standings, to the end that Christians should not be monks, nor fly into cloisters or wildernesses, but should live amongst people and be sociable, that their works of faith may be open and manifest.
To live in society and friendship with each other, as Aristotle the heathen says, is not indeed the end of man, whereunto he is created, but only a means to the end.
The most excellent end for which we are created is that one should teach another about God, what He is in His being, what His will is, how He is minded towards us.
Therefore let us in the Church, with the Church, pray for the Church. For there are three things which preserve the Church, and essentially belong to the Church: firstly, to teach faithfully; secondly, to pray diligently; thirdly, to suffer really (mit Ernst). THE labor and travail of the Church lasts a long time; but one day her day and hour will come, that she shall be redeemed, and joyful indeed will be her aspect then.
THE outward form and aspect of the Church is without form or comeliness, sad and troubled; but in truth she is triumphing and gaining the victory with Christ. “He has set us in the heavenly places together with Christ.” As a bride is Domina and lady of her husband’s possessions, so is a believer lord of all the possessions of the Bridegroom; for he is quickened with Christ, and set in heavenly places with Him.
God looks not on the evil in His Church, but only on Christ, His dear Son, whom He holds so dearly beloved, that for that love’s sake He sees no evil in His Bride, for “He has cleansed her through the washing of water, by the Word.”
Why the Church on Earth is in Tribulation.
Firstly , that we should be reminded and warned that we are exiled servants, cast out of Paradise on account of Adam’s fall in Paradise.
Secondly , that we may think of the sufferings of the Son of God, who for our sake became man, took our flesh and blood on Him, yet without sin, has walked through this valley of sorrows, has suffered and died for us, and has risen again from the dead, and has thus restored us to our Fatherland from which we were exiled.
Thirdly , that such tribulation might teach and remind us that our citizenship is not of this world, but that we here on earth are only pilgrims, and that another life, the life eternal, remains to us.
Amaranth a Type of the Church.
AMARANTH grows in August, and is more a stalk than a flower, is easily broken off, yet grows fair and flourishing after being broken. And when all the flowers are over, if this stalk is sprinkled with water and made moist it becomes fair again and green, so that in winter wreaths and garlands can be twined of it.
For this reason it is called amaranth, because it neither fades nor withers.
I know not that anything can be more like the Church than this amaranth, which we call a thousandfold fair (Tausendschon). For although the church washes her robes in the blood of the Lamb (as it is written in Genesis and in the Apocalypse), and is stained crimson, yet she is fairer than any state or community on earth. And she alone it is whom the Son of God loves as His Bride, in whom He has joy and rest.
Moreover, the Church suffers herself easily to be broken and crushed; that is, she is willing and contented to be obedient to God under the Cross, is patient therein, and springs up again fair and flourishing, and grows and spreads, yea, gains her best fruits and uses thence, for thereby she learns truly to apprehend God, freely to confess His doctrine, and brings forth far more beautiful and heavenly virtues.
Finally, the body and stock of this true Amaranth remain entire, and cannot be uprooted, however great may be the rage and assaults against particular branches, so as to rend them away. For as the amaranth, thousandfold fair, cannot fade nor decay, so nevermore can the Church fade nor decay, be destroyed or rooted up But what is more wonderful than the amaranth? If it is sprinkled with water and laid therein, it becomes green and fresh again, as if awakened from the dead.
So, we can have no doubt that the Church will be awakened by God from the grave, and will come forth living, eternally to praise, glorify, and bless the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His son our Redeemer and Lord, with the Holy Ghost.
For although other empires, kingdoms, principalities, and dominions have their changes, and soon fade and fall away like flowers, this Kingdom, on the contrary, has roots so firm and deep, that by no force nor might can it be torn up or laid waste, but abides for ever.
None Suffer Alone.
WE are not alone. Many here and there in the world suffer with us, whom we know not. THE saints are but as dewdrops on the locks of the Bridegroom. HIS Christendom is Lady and Empress in heaven and on earth; for she is called the Bride of God.
The Holy Angels.
IT would not be fit that we should know how earnestly the dear, holy angels contend for us with the devil; what a hard and severe strife and warfare it is. For if we saw it, we should be dismayed. THEY are ministering spirits,” and herein is set before all good Christians a great and heart-cheering truth, and a mirror of humility, that such pure and glorious creatures minister to us impure, poor, insignificant human beings, in the home, in the state, in religion.
Our faithful servants are they, rendering us service which we poor beggars and human creatures are ashamed to render another.
Thus should it be taught simply, and in choice order, concerning the dear angels. THE good angels are wiser and can do more than the evil angels. The reason is, they have a mirror wherein they look and learn: “the face of the Father.” THEY are far nobler than we men; firstly, in nature and essence; also because they are without sin. But they are without pride; they despise not us human creatures for our misery. Our dying, sinning, and suffering are to them a sorrow of heart. THE nature of the good angels is a humble, loving, and kindly nature. An angel’s is a fine, tender, kind heart. As if we could find a man who had a heart sweet all through, and a gentle will; without subtlety, yet of sound reason; at once wise and simple. He who has seen such a heart, has colors wherewith he may picture to himself what an angel is. THEY guard us from evil. This they do earnestly and with joy. The angels see nothing more gladly than when people delight in the Word of God.
There they delight to dwell. Therefore seek them not yonder in heaven, but here below on earth, with thy neighbor, thy father and mother, thy child and thy friend. If thou dost to these as God commands thee, the angels will not be far from thee.
HE was once asked what an angel was. He said, “An angel is a spiritual creature, created without a body, by God, to minister to Christendom, especially in the offices of the Church. True and godly preachers should preach and teach concerning them in an orderly, Christian way.” THEIR antitypes are the evil spirits, which were not created evil by God, but fell, from a hatred which they conceived against God. DOCTOR MARTIN once said of the angels: “This is what I picture to myself, and I stand on it as on sure ground, that the angels are already getting ready for the field, drawing on their armor, girding on their sword and spear; for the Last Day is already beginning to dawn, and the angels are arming themselves for the combat. IF we praise God that He has created for us the sun, the moon, wine, and bread, we should surely also praise Him that He has created the dear angels. My God, I thank Thee that Thou hast given Thy good angels, and hast set a guard of Thy heavenly princes round about us! THE nature and character of the good angels is a humble, loving, friendly nature, which does not deem itself too high to serve poor sinful creatures, both men and women. For they are full of light, of the knowledge of God, and of the wisdom of the divine goodness. Therefore, all that God commands they understand to be perfect, and very good, because it pleases God. LET us follow the virtues of the holy angels, and their works of love, and be very friendly, loving, and helpful to each other. No man is so kind, and so ready, and disposed to all kinds of services and good works as the angels are.
WE must learn that our best and most steadfast friends are invisible, namely, the dear angels, who with faithfulness and love, moreover with all helpfulness and true friendship, far surpass all the friends we have whom we can see. Thus in many ways we enjoy the fellowship of the heavenly spirits. ANGELS are creatures who shine and burn with thoughts and desires how God can be praised, peace be on earth, and all men be of a good heart and mind.
His Belief about the Guardian Angel.
FROM early childhood I would accustom a child, and say to it: “Dear child, thou hast an angel of thine own. When thou prayest, morning and evening, the same angel will be with thee, and sit beside thy little bed, clothed in a white robe; will take care of thee, lull thee to sleep, and guard over thee that the evil one, the devil, may not come near thee. So, also, when thou gladly sayest the ‘Benedicite’ and ‘Gratias,’ at thy meals, thine angel will be with thee, at table, will serve thee, and guard thee.” If we pictured this to children from their earliest years, that angels are with them, this would not only make the dear children trust to the guardianship of the dear angels, but it would make them gentle and good, for they would think, “If our parents are not here, the angels are here, and the evil one must not tempt us to do wrong.” AT the last, when we die, we have the dear angels for our escort on the way. They who can grasp the whole world in their hands, can surely also guard our souls, that they make that last journey safely. 5.
THE serpent denies the good-will of God to us, and endeavors to persuade that God does not mean us well. THE devil tempted Eve to all sin when he tempted her to resist the will of God.
The Devil the only Enemy to be hated. “BLESS THOSE THAT CURSE YOU.” How can ye do this? In no way better than by turning your eyes from the men who do you wrong, and fixing them on the wicked being who possesses them and urges them; on seeing how you can avenge yourselves, and cool your courage on him. He has not flesh and bones. He is a spirit. Therefore, as saith St. Paul, it is not against flesh and blood that ye have to fight, but against that spiritual villain above in the air, against the ruler of this dark, blind world. WHEN it was once said to him, “I would fain know what the devil is like in character,” Dr. Martin said, “If you see the true likeness of the devil, and know what his character is, give good heed to all the commandments of God, one after another, and represent to yourself a suspicious, shameful, lying, despairing, abandoned, godless, calumnious man, whose mind and thoughts are all set on opposing God in every possible way, and working woe and harm to others. Thus you may see the character of the devil.”
Firstly , in him is no fear, love, faith, and trust in God, that He is just, faithful, and true; but utter hatred, unbelief, despair, and blasphemy.
This is the devil’s head set against the first commandment of the First Table.
Secondly , a faithful Christian uses the name of God to good uses, spreads His Word, calls on Him from the heart in need, praises Him, confesses Him.
But this wicked man does exactly the contrary; treats God’s Word as a fable, blasphemes Him, curses men. There is the devil’s mouth and speech.
Thirdly , a Christian holds the office of the preacher dear, hears and learns God’s Word with earnestness and diligence, receives the Holy Sacrament according to Christ’s order. The other does the contrary, despises the preacher’s office, hears God’s Word not at all or carelessly. This is the devil’s way of hearing.
Then for the Second Table.
A true Christian honors and obeys, for God’s sake, parents, magistrates, those who have the care of souls, masters and teachers. The other obeys not parents, serves and helps them not, nay, dishonors, despises, and troubles them, forsakes them in their need, is ashamed of them when they are poor, despises them when they are old, infirm, and childish; obeys not authorities.
Again, a man of true heart envies not his neighbor, bears no ill-will against him, desires not revenge, has compassion when he is hurt, helps and protects him as much as he can. The other hates, envies, rejoices in his neighbor’s troubles. There is the devil’s grim, angry, and murderous heart.
A God-fearing man lives temperately and chastely; the other the contrary, in thought, word, and act.
A good man maintains himself by labor, trade, etc., lends, helps, and gives to the needy. The other takes every advantage. These are the devil’s sharp claws.
Again, a good man speaks evil of no man — yea, even if he knows that his neighbor is guilty, he covers his sin with love. The other backbites, detracts, misinterprets, betrays. There is the devil’s wicked will.
As our Lord God is thesis decalogi , so is the devil antithesis decalogi. THE devil can indeed frighten, overwhelm, and kill; God alone can comfort and make alive. And that is His own prerogative and work. Therefore we do not know God at all unless we know Him as a Comforter of the wretched, troubled, and distressed, a Helper in need, who makes living and joyful. The true knowledge of God is to know that God is not a devil, i.e. , an accuser, an enemy, but only, entirely, and simply God, that is, only a Savior.
WE have more cause to rejoice than to mourn; for our hope is in God, who says, “I live, and ye shall live also.” But melancholy is born with us; so the spirit of melancholy, the devil comes and stimulates it; but the Lord our God lifts us up. WHEN one is on the battle-field with the devil, and is fighting against him, it is not enough to say, “That is God’s Word.” For this is one of the devil’s master-strokes, to snatch the weapon from our hands, especially when he takes us by surprise. This he has often tried on me. He knows that my heart is always praying the Lord’s Prayer, and yet he vexes me with the temptation that I have ceased to pray.
Let no one encounter him unless he prays the Lord’s Prayer first. The devil is skilful, and we do not know the seven-hundredth part of what he knows.
He has assailed Adam, Abraham, David, and others, and tormented them in manifold ways, and he knows where to attack us, where we are weak and he may give us a wound.
The Apostle Judas who betrayed Christ was throughout his life little assailed by the devil; but when the hour was come, he went securely forth on the devil’s errand, and knew not whither. HIS highest art is to make a law out of the Gospel; to represent the Lord Christ as a Judge and Accuser, and not as a Savior, Mediator, High Priest, and Throne of Grace. THE devil has a great advantage against us, inasmuch as he has a strong bastion and bulwark against us in our own flesh and blood. THIS envious, poisonous, cunning spirit seeks to misinterpret and slander the good and godly works which a true Christian does through the grace of God, working and help of the Holy Spirit. Therefore he is called diabolus , that is, accuser and slanderer. AT night, when I wake, the devil is there, and wants to dispute with me.
The evil one would dispute with me de justitia ; and he is himself a villain, and would cast God out of heaven, and has crucified His Son. THE devil has not indeed a doctor’s degree, but he is highly educated and deeply experienced, and has moreover been practising, trying, and exercising his art and craft now well-nigh six thousand years. No one avails against him but Christ alone.
NO one can understand how to contend with him, unless he first pray with great earnestness. He is skilled in a thousand arts, and is far too strong and mighty for us, for he is the prince and god of this world. THE devil seeks high things, looks to that which is great and high; scorns what is lowly. But the eternal merciful God reverses this, and looks on what is lowly. “I look on him who is poor and of a broken heart.” But what is lifted up He lets go, for it is an abomination to Him. THE devil, that lost spirit, cannot endure sacred songs of joy. Our passions and temptations, our complainings and our cryings, our Alas! and our Woe is me! please him well, but our songs and psalms vex him and grieve him sorely. THE devil is a proud spirit. He cannot endure contempt. There is no better way to be quit of his temptations than by despising them (as Geroon says), just as when a traveller is attacked by a dog who would bite him; if the traveller goes quietly by, lets the dog howl and bark, and takes no heed of him, the dog does not bite him, and soon ceases to bark. SATAN will not desist; he will contest every article of the faith in our hearts ere we depart this life, so bitterly opposed is he to the faith, which he well knows is the power and victory wherewith we overcome the world. WE have the great devils who are doctors of theology (enemies of the First Table of the Decalogue). The Turks and Papists have little, insignificant devils to contend with, which are not theological but only juristical devils. THE devil gives heaven before sin, and after we have sinned drives us to dismay of conscience, and to despair. Christ does the contrary. He gives heaven after we have sinned, and peace to the troubled conscience. ONE single devil is stronger and more cunning than all men, for they know us within and without, and compared with him we are only to be reckoned alphabet-scholars, poor and weak sinners, as we learn from experience. FOR think only, if the devil in the beginning of the world was a bad creature, how cunning and skilful he must have become through such long practice, during which he has been assailing, and with all his power, without ever ceasing, has been tormenting Adam, Methuselah, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, the prophets, the Apostles, yea, the Lord Christ Himself, and all believers.
THE devil has vowed our death. I hope, however, when he kills me, he will bite a deaf nut (i.e. , the kernel will be gone).
ISHOULD be so joyful that joy would bring me perfect health, and I could not be sick for mere joy. But the devil prowls incessantly about, makes me sad and careful, and when he cannot do it directly, does it through means; as for instance, through vexatious men. THIS white devil, which urges men to commit spiritual sins, to sell them for righteousness, is far more dangerous than the black devil, which only tempts them to commit fleshly sins, which the world acknowledges to be sins. SATAN’ S power is greater than that of twelve Turkish Emperors; his knowledge greater than that of all men; his wickedness than that of the worst men; a powerful, able, subtle spirit. THE kingdom of this 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, grace, light, remission of sins, peace, consolation, saving health, and everlasting life. IT is strange that it should be commanded us, such weak flesh and blood as we are, to strive and fight with such a powerful spirit as the devil is, and that no other weapons should be placed in our hands, save only God’s Word. This must irritate and vex such a great and mighty foe. But in such combats the hard thing is to recognize the devil as the devil.
God has ordered it thus, that when this mighty spirit is overcome simply by the faith of a good man, he may be all the more vexed and put to shame.
That the “strong man armed” should be vanquished by one so weak, vexes him to the heart.
Warfare against all kinds of Evil — Warfare against the Devil “IHOLD,” he said, “that Satan sends epidemics and sicknesses amongst men, for he is a prince of death. Therefore St. Peter saith, ‘Christ healed all who were held captive by the devil.’” To this end the devil uses natural means, poisonous air, etc., as a murderer uses a sword. So also God uses natural means to preserve man’s health and life, as sleep and food.
A physician mends and repairs for our Lord God; he helps bodily, as we theologians spiritually, to make good what the devil has spoiled.
Once a burgomaster asked me if it was contrary to God to use medicine. (Doctor Carlstadt having publicly preached that in sickness we should use no medicine, but pray that God’s will be done.) I asked him if he ate when he was hungry. “Yes,” said he. Then I said to him, “Surely then you may use medicine, which is as much God’s creature as food and drink, and all which we use to preserve this life.”
Luther’s own Experience in such Conflicts. “LAST night,” he said, “when I awoke, the devil came and wanted to dispute with me, and cast it up at me that I was a sinner. Then I said: Say something new, devil. That I know well already. I have committed real, actual sins. But God has forgiven me for His dear Son’s sake.” THE devil often casts up against me that great offenses have sprung from my doctrine. Sometimes he makes me heavy and sad with such thoughts.
And when I answer that much good has also sprung thence, by a masterstroke, he can turn that against me. He is a swift, acute, cunning rhetorician.
How Luther met what he believed to be an Assault of the Devil.
ONCE, in the year 1521, when I had journeyed from Worms, and was imprisoned near Eisenach, in the castle of the Wartburg (in Patmos), I was far from any one, in a chamber to which no one was allowed to come save two young boys of the nobility, who twice a day brought me food and drink. Once they had brought me a bag of hazel-nuts, of which from time to time I ate, and had locked it up in a chest. At night when I went to bed, I put out the light. Then the hazel-nuts began to rattle against each other.
But I did not heed. However, when I had been a little while asleep, such a clatter was made on the stairs, as if a score of platters had been thrown down from step to step, although I knew the staircase was guarded with chains and bolts, so that no one could come up. I rose and went to the head of the staircase and saw that all was closed. Then I said, “Oh, if it is only you, it does not matter.” And I committed myself to the Lord Christ, of whom it is written, “Thou hast put all things under His feet,” and lay quietly down in the bed again.
THANK God, the devil has never been able altogether to vanquish me. He has burnt himself out on the Lord Christ.
SIN is essentially a departure from God. THE first freedom is freedom from sin.
To Melanchthon, from Cobourg, during the Diet of Augsburg.
WHAT can the devil do worse than to kill us? I conjure thee, who art in all other things a good soldier, fight also against thyself, thy greatest enemy, who turnest Satan’s arms against thyself. WE have against us one-half of ourselves. The flesh striveth against the spirit. THE recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation. HELL is primarily forgetfulness, or hatred of God, for there reign a disordered, desolate, chaotic carefulness and self-love, unable to see the goodness and mercy of God; ever seeking escape and refuge from God. ORIGINAL sin is the perversion of original righteousness. WHERE sin is not acknowledged, there is no help nor remedy; for he who thinks himself whole when he is sick seeks no physician. SIN is not forgiven that it may be no more felt, but that it may not be imputed. UNKNOWN, hidden sins are the most dangerous. Therefore the prophet says, “Cleanse me from my secret faults.” THE sin against the Holy Ghost must be such a hidden, unacknowledged sin, not a coarse, worldly sin; but a deep spiritual sin. It must be a hardening in evil, or a contending against what is known to be truth, persevered in, without repentance until the end.
IT is a godless opinion and a vain dream to say that all sins are alike. St.
Paul’s sins were very different from Nero’s.
Injustice. To The Elector Frederick, Pleading For A Poor Man He Deemed Unjustly Used.
IKNOW well that no prince is so good but that he may deal too hastily with some, through his officials.
David was the kernel of all princes ever on the earth; yet he did wrong to poor Mephibosheth, at the demand of Ziba; thinking, however, that he had done him no wrong.
A prince may be sure his rule will be marred by injustice; well for him who does the least. Therefore are mercy and beneficence the more necessary.
Give, and it shall be given unto you. Where Date is rich, there Dabitur will be the richer.
Your Electoral Highness may be sure that I will not abandon this poor man thus. I will rather, myself, go begging for him. And if that did not answer, I would rob and steal whatever lay next me, especially from the Elector of Saxony. For your Electoral Grace is bound to maintain him.
To the Count Albert of Mansfeld (Luther’s native Prince), warning him against oppressing his subjects. PEACE and grace in the Lord, and my poor Pater Noster. Your Grace will graciously listen to my poor sighs, if, on account of the speaking and crying which I hear daily concerning my poor countrymen, I cannot begin my letter to your Grace cheerfully; for it is no fault of mine, and the child’s heart in me is wounded. Your Grace must surely feel how cold you have become, and given over to Mammon, thinking only how to grow very rich; also (as the complaints go), bearing altogether too hard and sharply on your subjects, taking them from their fathers’ inheritance, and their goods, and intending to make them mere bondmen.
Which God will not suffer, or if He suffer it, He will also suffer the whole country to be impoverished to utter ruin; for all things are His gifts, which He can easily withdraw again; and He is not bound to give account, as Haggai saith, “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
These things I write unto your Grace, as I think for the last time; for the grave is nearer me now, perhaps, than people think, and I entreat that your Grace will deal more softly and graciously with your subjects, and let them abide; so shall your Grace also abide, through God’s blessing, here and yonder. Otherwise you will lose both together, and be like him of whom AEsop’s fable speaks, who killed the goose which every day laid him a golden egg, and thereby lost at once the golden egg, with the goose, and all the egg stock ; — be like the dog in AEsop, who lost the piece of flesh in the water while he was snapping at the shadow. For certainly it is true, that he who will have too much gains less; whereof Solomon in the Proverbs writes much.
In brief, I have to do with your Grace’s soul, which I cannot bear to have cast out of my care and prayer; for this is to me sure: to be cast out of the Church is to be cast out of heaven. And hereto constrains me not only the command of Christian love, but also the heavy threat wherewith God has laden us preachers (Ezekiel 3d): “If thou warn not the sinner of his sin, and he die, I will require his soul at thine hands; for therefore have I set thee to be a watchman of souls.”
Therefore, may your Grace take this needful warning in good part; for I cannot on your Grace’s account suffer myself to be damned; but seek much rather to save you with myself, if it is by any means possible. But before God, I am hereby free from guilt concerning this. Herewith I commend you to Him in all His grace and mercy. Amen.
ALIE is like a snow-ball. The longer it is rolled, the larger it is.
MAMMON has two virtues; the first, that he makes us secure when things go well, so that we live without the fear of God.
The second, that in adversity, when things go ill, he teaches us to tempt and fly from God, and to seek a false god.
IT was with good reason that God commanded through Moses that the vineyard and harvest were not to be gleaned to the last grape or grain; but something to be left for the poor. For covetousness is never to be satisfied; the more it has, the more it wants. Such insatiable ones injure themselves, and transform God’s blessings into evil. RICHES are the pettiest and least worthy gifts which God can give a man.
What are they to God’s Word? Yea, to bodily gifts, such as beauty and health; or to the gifts of the mind, such as understanding, skill, wisdom?
Yet men toil for them day and night, and take no rest. Therefore our Lord God commonly gives riches to foolish people to whom He gives nothing else. JEROBOAM’ S calves remain in the world forever until the Last Day; for whatever a man places his confidence and trust in, setting God aside, that is to him like Jeroboam’s calves, which he worships and invokes instead of the only true, living, eternal God, who alone can and will give counsel and help in all need.
All are worshipping these calves who trust to their own skill, wisdom, strength, holiness, riches, honor, power, or to any league, defense, or fortress, or in brief to anything, be it called what it may, on which the world builds and trusts. For such trust in transitory creatures is the real idolatry. LIES drowned and overwhelmed in the sea of covetousness, deeper than the mountains under the flood; these lay only fifteen ells deep in the water, but she lies fifteen miles deep under the waves of avarice. THE Jews suffered themselves to dream, and thought that the kingdom of Christ would be a worldly kingdom; as also the Apostles in John 14: “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” “We thought the whole world should see Thy glory; that Thou shouldst be Caesar, and we twelve kings, amongst whom the kingdoms should be divided; that each of us should have had six disciples for princes, counts, and nobles; these would be the seventy-two disciples — for that was the number.” Thus had the dear Apostles already beautifully parcelled out the land, according to Platonic dreams and human reason.
But Christ describes His kingdom far otherwise: “He who loveth Me, and keepeth my Word, shall be loved of my Father; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” IT is a terrible evil, that we see daily before our eyes, how eager a thirsty man is to drink and a hungry man to eat, although a drink of water and a piece of bread can only keep off thirst or hunger an hour or two; whilst on the contrary no one, or scarcely any one, is eager for this most precious Physician, although He tenderly allures all to Him, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” and gives food and drink which are imperishable, and endure to eternal life.
WE know, thank God, that Christ has overcome the world, with her prince the devil; that sin may no more have dominion over us, nor death swallow us up. At which we should, in reason, be far more joyful than the children of the world over temporal prosperity, riches, honor, power. For these, be they as much as they may be compared with the eternal riches which Christ gives, are indeed mere trifling, contemptible fragments and crumbs.
IF we have Him, the dear Lord, we are indeed rich and happy enough, and ask not for their pomp, glory, and wealth. Too often, indeed, we lose Him, and consider not that He is ours, and we are His; especially when, in time of need, He seems to hide His face for a moment. But He says, “l am with you alway to the end of the world.” This is our best treasure. WHERE the Gospel is, there is poverty.
In olden times men could richly endow whole convents; now they will give nothing. Superstition, false doctrine, and hypocrisy give money enough.
Truth goes begging.
Carefulness. “THEY SOW NOT,NEITHER DO THEY REAP,NOR GATHER INTO BARNS.”
Let the Lord build the house, and be the householder. He who filleth heaven and earth can surely fill one house.
If thou dost not look to Him who should fill the house, every corner of it must indeed be empty to thee. But if thou art looking to Him, thou perceivest not if there be an empty corner. To thee all seems full, and indeed all is full. If not, it is the defect of thy vision, as with the blind, who see not the sun.
Not that labor is forbidden, but that God gives success. For if thou wert to plough a hundred years, thou couldst not bring one stalk out of the earth.
But God, without work of thine, whilst thou art asleep, creates out of the little grain a stalk, and on the stalk many ears, as many as He wills.
The animals do not work in order to earn their food; yet each has its work.
The bird flies and sings, and hatches its eggs; that is its work. Horses carry men on the road, and to the battle; sheep give us wool, milk, and cheese; that is their work; yet that feeds them not. The earth freely brings forth grass and feeds them, through God’s blessing. Thus Christ tells us to behold the fowls of the air; they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet God feedeth them. That is, they do their appointed work, but not thereby are they fed.
So also must man work. But let him know, it is Another that feeds him, namely, God blessing his work.
This is the signification of it all. God commanded Adam to eat bread in the sweat of his brow, and wills that men shall work, and without work will give them nothing. On the other hand, by our work, in itself, He gives us nothing, but only of His free goodness and blessing; that labor may be our discipline in this life, to overcome the flesh.
You say, Who places the silver and gold in the mountains, that men may find them? Who places in the field those great hidden treasures which spring out of it in corn, wine, and all manner of fruits, whereby all creatures live? Does man’s labor create these? Man’s labor indeed finds them; but God has laid the treasures there, and He bestows them.
Thus the ruler must indeed watch over the city, close the gates, guard tower and wall, put on armor, lay up stores, as if there were no God. And the householder must work as if his work in itself were to nourish the household. But he who believes in God is not careful for the morrow, but labors joyfully and with a great heart. “For He giveth His beloved, as in sleep.” They must work and watch, yet never be careful or anxious, but commit all to Him, and live in serene tranquillity; with a quiet heart, as one who sleeps safely and quietly. \The last letter to her but one.)
To the holy, care-laden lady, Katharin Lutherin, my gracious, dear Wife.
WE thank you very heartily for the great care for us, which has prevented your sleeping; for since the time that you have taken this care on you, the fire all but consumed us in our inn, breaking out outside our chamber door, and yesterday (no doubt in consequence of these cares of yours), a stone all but fell on our head and crushed us, as in a mouse-trap; for in our room, two days since, the lime and plaster crumbled away. * * For this also we should have had to thank your saintly cares, if the dear holy angels had not hindered. I am anxious lest, if thou dost not give up thy anxieties, the earth itself may swallow us up, and all the elements turn against us.
Dost thou learn the Catechism, and the Creed? Do thou pray, and leave God to care. It is said, “Cast your care on Him, for He careth for you.”
Temptation, and Depression of Spirit.
For one heavy in Heart.
FIRST of all, let her not look at herself, nor judge herself by her own feelings, but grasp the Word, and hang upon it, and plant herself on it, in defiance of all, and direct all her feelings, and all the thoughts of her heart towards it.
Let her also lift up her voice in praise. A strong medicine lies therein.
For the evil spirit of heaviness is not to be chased away by sad words and complainings, but by the praise of God, whereby the heart is made glad. YOUR distress is, that God Almighty knows from eternity who will be saved. Which is true; for he knows all things, the drops in the sea, the stars in heaven, the roots, branches, twigs, and leaves of every tree. He has numbered the hairs of our heads. From this you conclude that do what you will, good or bad, God knows already whether you will be saved or not.
And further, you think more of damnation than of salvation, and therefore you despair, and know not how God is minded toward you.
Wherefore I, as a servant of my dear Lord Jesus Christ, write you this, that you may know how God the Almighty is minded toward you.
God, the Almighty, does know all things; so that all works and thoughts in all creatures must happen according to His will. But His earnest will, and mind, and decree, ordered from eternity, is “that all men shall be saved,” and shall become partakers of eternal joy. “God willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live.” If, therefore, He wills that sinners, wherever they live and wander under the broad, high heavens, should be saved, will you, by a foolish thought suggested by the devil, sunder yourself from all these, and from the grace of God?
God the Father Himself, with His own finger, points out to you how He is minded toward you, when with loud clear voice He cries, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear Him.” And even if you were ever so hard and deaf, and as a despairing man turned to stone, could not look up to heaven, nor hear God the Father calling to you on those heights, yet can you not fail to hear the Son, who stands in the highway by which every one must pass, and as with a mighty trumpet calls, “Venite!” “Come, come !”
But who are those who are to come? “Ye that are weary and heavyladen.” What kind of a company is that? “Heavy-laden;” as if He knew it all well, and would take our burdens and loads on His shoulder, and not only help us, but altogether rid us of them.
To Hieronymus Weller. IN AN ATTACK OF DEPRESSION. THEREFORE, before all things, thou shalt firmly hold, that those and evil thoughts are not from God, but from the devil; because God is not the God of sadness, but the God of consolation and gladness, as Christ Himself says, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” But what is to live save to be glad in the Lord? WHEREFORE use thyself at once to repel such thoughts, saying, “The Lord hath not sent thee.” Hard is the fight at the beginning; but use makes it easier. It is not thou alone who endureth such thoughts, but all the saints; yet they have fought and conquered. So also thou, yield not to evil, but go forth bravely. The highest valor in this fight is not to look at these thoughts nor to investigate them, but to disperse them like a flock of geese, and to pass by. He who has learnt this has conquered; he who has not learnt it will be conquered. For to gaze at them, and dispute with them until they cease, or freely yield, is but to irritate and to strengthen them.
Let Israel be an example to thee, who overcame the fiery serpents, not by gazing or by struggling, but by averting their gaze, and looking at the brazen serpent. This is the true and certain victory in this combat.
Therefore take heed, my Jerome, that thou suffer them not to linger in thy heart. Thus a certain wise man replied to one so tempted, who said “Such and such sad thoughts have come into my mind,” by saying, “Then let them go again.” And another, as a wise oracle said, “Thou canst not prevent the birds from flying above thy head; but thou canst prevent their building their nests in thy hair.”
To Barbara Lischnerinn. — 1530.
VIRTUOUS dear Lady : — Your dear brother, Hieronymus, Weller has told me how you are troubled with temptations about the eternal foreseeing of God. That is truly grievous to me. Christ, our Lord, will redeem you from this. Amen.
For I know this sickness well, and have lain sick to eternal death in that hospital.
First, you must grasp firmly in your own heart that such thoughts come from the devil and are his fiery darts.
Secondly, when such thoughts come, you should ask yourself “In what commandment is it written that I should think of these things; Thou, O devil, wouldst have me care for myself, but I must cast my care on God, for He careth for me.”
Among all the commands of God, this is the highest that we should picture to ourselves His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is to our hearts the daily and most excellent mirror wherein we see how dear God holds us.
Here we learn God’s Providence, by believing in Christ. If you believe, you are called; if you are called, you are also predestinated. Let none tear Christ, this mirror and throne of grace, from your heart. TO the heavy temptations concerning eternal election which so deeply distress many, nowhere is such a solution to be found as in the Wounds of Christ. “This is My beloved Son; hear Him. In Him you will find Who and what I am, and what I will; and nowhere else in heaven or on earth.”
The Father has fixed a sure and firm foundation on which we can firmly rest — Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For He, and none else, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
To Valentine Hausmann. — 1532.
IHAVE heard of your heaviness through inward terrors; but you must not distress yourself much on this account; for God is wonderful in His way toward us, so that things seem to us often bad and hurtful which are really most useful to us, although we understand not how. Who knows what worse might have come to you, if God had not thus taken you under His discipline, and kept you in His fear? Therefore you must not be impatient although your faith be not strong. For St. Paul says the weak in faith are not to be rejected. God is not a Father who casts out sick and diseased children. If He were, He would keep none. Therefore you should say to Him, “Dear Father, if it pleases Thee thus to chastise me, I will be content to have it so. Thy will be done; only give me patience.”
For the rest, I know not how you are meeting this; for you should be calling on God and praying; especially when you feel the terror is coming, fall on your knees and cry to heaven; and although the prayer seem to you in vain, and too cold, do not for that give over. Strike a firm stroke, and pray so much the more earnestly, the more it seems to you in vain.
For you must learn to fight and not to keep still and gaze, or suffer whatever this temptation inflicts, until it ceases of itself. For that way will only gain strength. You must pray mightily, and call aloud, and with ringing words cry out the Our Father.
And before all things you have to grasp in your heart the conviction that this is from the devil, whom God will have us resist.
But if, indeed, you cannot pray, let something be read to you from the Psalms or the New Testament, with a clear voice; and listen to it. For you must use yourself, at such times, not to wrestle with the anguish in your own thoughts, without God’s Word; you should hear the voice of prayer and God’s Word together.
For without God’s Word the foe is too strong for us. But prayer and the Word of God he cannot endure.
To Jonas you Stockhausen. — 1532.
IT has been shown me by good friends how the malignant enemy is assailing you sorely with weariness of life, and longing for death.
You know we must be obedient to God, and diligently guard ourselves against disobedience to His will. Now you are sure God has given you life, and has not yet willed you to be dead. Therefore you can have no doubt that such disobedient thoughts come from the devil, and that with all your might you must tear them out.
Life was sour and bitter to our Lord Christ; yet He would not die except by the Father’s will, and fled from death and held to life whilst He could, and said, “My hour is not yet come.” Elias, indeed, and Jonas, and other prophets, called and cried for death, from great anguish and impatience of life; cursed even the day of their birth. Yet they had to live and bear this weariness with all their strength, until their hour was come.
Such words and examples as the Holy Ghost’s words and warnings you must faithfully follow, and the thoughts which drive you thence you must cast out and spit upon. And although this may be sour and bitter to do, you should but think of yourself as one bound and held captive with chains, out of which you must twist and writhe yourself, with sweat of anguish. For the devil’s darts, when they pierce so deep, are not to be torn out with laughter, or without labor. They must be wrenched out by main force. You must gnash your teeth against these thoughts, and set your face as a flint to do God’s will, harder than iron or anvil.
Yet the best counsel of all is that you should scorn these temptations, and make as if you did not feel them, and think of something else, and say to the devil, “Come, then, devil! let me alone! I cannot listen to thy thoughts.
I have to travel, eat, drink, ride, or do this or that.”
Herewith I commend you to our dear Lord, the only Savior and true Conqueror, Jesus Christ.
To the Lady von Stockhausen.
THE devil is an enemy to both you and your husband, because you hold Christ, his enemy, dear.
See that you do not leave your husband a moment alone. Solitude is pure poison for him. It would do no harm to read to him histories, news, and all kinds of strange things, even if they were gloomy or false tidings and tales, about the Turks, Tartars, and the like, if he could be made to laugh and jest about it. And thereon soon follow with comforting words of the Scriptures.
Whatever you do, do not let him be alone or dull, so that he sink into thought. Never mind if he is angry at this. Pretend that you are suffering, and complain about it.
Christ, who is the cause of the devil’s enmity and your heart-trouble, will help you. Only hold fast to this, that you are the apple of His eye. Who touches you touches Him.
To Johann Schlaginhausen. — 1533.
IHEAR with pain that you are sometimes troubled in mind, although, indeed, Christ is as near to you as yourself, and will surely do you no harm, since He has shed His blood for you. Dear friend, give honor to this good, faithful Man, and believe that He holds you dearer, and has more favor to you than Doctor Luther, and all Christians.
What you trust us to be, trust Him to be far more.
For what we do, we do at His bidding. But He who bids us do it, Himself does all unbidden, from His own spontaneous goodness and kindness.
To Joachim, Prince of Anhalt. — 1534.
WE know not what we should pray for as we ought, but He, as a faithful Father, knows and sees well how we should pray, and does according to what He knows, not according to how we pray.
Thus indeed a father must deal with his child, not giving what the child asks, but what he knows the child should ask. Although the child weeps for it, that does not hurt him; nor is the child’s request less dear to the father because he does not give in the way the child desires.
So also, often, the physician must not do what the patient wishes, and yet he holds the sick man none the less dear for his sick longings and for the request he cannot grant.
I counsel you also (as a remedy against this depression) to ride, hunt, and occupy yourself as a young man should, in good company, who can be merry with you in a godly and honorable way.
To Johann Mantel, SERVANT OF THE CHURCH AT WITTENBERG.
AS to what you write about temptation and sadness on account of death, you know how in our faith we express and confess that the Son of God suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and died to this end, that He might, for all who believe in Him, take away the power from death, yea altogether and utterly abolish it. Dear friend, what great matter is it that we shall die, when we really think that He, the dear Lord has died, and has died for us? His death is the true, only death which should so possess and fill our hearts, senses and thoughts, that it should henceforth be to us no otherwise than as if now nothing was living any more, not even the dear sun, but that all died with the dear Lord; yet died in such a way that all with Him shall rise again at that blessed day.
In this His death and life, our death and life should sink and be swallowed up, as those who shall live with Him forever.
And truly from the beginning of the world He has been before us with His death; and to even the end of the world. He waits for us when we shall depart out of this brief, poor life, and He shall welcome us and receive us into His eternal kingdom.
To a Pastor.
ALAS, we live in the kingdom of the devil, ab extra , therefore we cannot hear or see any good, ab extra . But we live in the blessed Kingdom of Christ ab intra . There we see, though as in a glass darkly, the exceeding unutterable riches of the grace and glory of God.
Therefore, in the name of the Lord, let us break through, press forward, and fight our way through praise and blame, through evil report and good report, through hatred and love, until we come into the blessed kingdom of our dear Father, which Christ the Lord has prepared for us before the beginning of the world. There only shall we find joy. Amen. GOD forbid that the offense of the Cross should be taken away; which thing would come to pass if we would preach that which the prince of this world and his members would gladly hear. Then we should have a gentle devil, a gracious pope, and merciful princes. But because we set forth the benefits and the glory of Christ, they persecute us and spoil us both of our goods and lives.
IDID not learn my theology all at once; but I have had to search ever deeper and deeper into it. To this many conflicts have brought me, for no one can understand the Holy Scriptures without exercise and conflict.
Fanatics and pretenders, each the true adversary, namely the devil, who with his buffetings drove me to study the Holy Scriptures. If we have no such devil, we are only speculative theologians, who rove about in their own thoughts, speculating that thus and thus it must be.
Yet no good art or handicraft is to be learned without exercise. What kind of a physician would he be who perpetually did nothing but roam about the schools? He must bring his art into practice, and the more he has to do with nature, the more he sees and experiences how imperfect his art is.
It is a great grace of God to be able to say of one text in the Bible, “That I know for certain to be true.”
I know, old and learned Doctor that I am (or ought to be), that I have not yet mastered the Lord’s Prayer. Without exercise and experience no one can become truly learned. THIS will not be thy greatest nor thy last temptation. The wisdom of God is, as it were, playing with thee and training thee, if thou livest, for real war.
IT is a hard thing to say always, I am God’s child; and to be comforted and refreshed by the great grace and mercy of the heavenly Father. To do this from the heart is not what every one can do. Therefore, without exercise and experience, no one can learn the faith in true purity. THE Holy Spirit cheers us, and teaches us to despise death and all dangers.
He says (in us), “If God wills not that I should live, then I will die; if He wills not that I should be rich, I will be poor.” But the evil spirit saddens and terrifies, at the last, after making secure and self-satisfied. Joyfulness comes from God, depression from the devil.
CONFLICT makes us live in the fear of God, walk circumspectly, pray without ceasing, grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, and learn to understand the power of the Word.
Therefore be not faint-hearted, nor dismayed, but take such conflicts for a sure sign that thou hast a gracious God, since thou art being fashioned into the likeness of His Son; and doubt not that thou belongest to the great and glorious brotherhood of all the Saints, of whom St. Peter says, “Resist the devil, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren which are in the world.” THE essence of temptation is that we forget the present, and covet the future, like Eve in Paradise. ALL do not suffer the same temptations. Indeed they could not. Some must be knuckles and bones which can sustain and keep together the flesh. Just as in the body of man, if all were flesh it would fall into a shapeless mass.
The knuckles and nerves hold the flesh together. So, in the Christian Church, there must be some who can sustain good buffetings from the devil; such as we three, Philip Melanchthon, Doctor Pommer, and I. But all could not bear it. Therefore, in the Church we pray one for another. Prayer does all things. DOCTOR MARTIN said to Schlainhaeffen, “Fear not, neither be dismayed.
All will turn to the best for you; your trial will work for God’s glory, and for the profit and health of us all. “It is impossible that man’s heart can know God truly and keep Him in mind without the cross and temptation. Believe me, if you had not such a good stone in God the Father’s house, you would not have these conflicts.” ONLY believe firmly God will make an end of this trial. For He calls that which is not, that it may be. As I have myself experienced in sore temptations, which so exhausted and tortured my body that I could scarcely breathe, went about like a shadow, like a corpse, withered, parched up, and no man could comfort me. All to whom I spoke, said “I know not.” No confessor could understand anything of it, so that I said, “Am I, then, alone? Is it I only who must be thus sorrowful in spirit and thus assailed?”
Dr. Staupitz said to me at table, seeing me so sad and smitten down, “Why are you so sad, brother Martin?” Then I said, “Whither shall I flee?” He answered, “Ah! know you not that such temptation is good for you?
Otherwise no good could come of you.”
Ten years ago, when I was alone, God comforted me through His dear angels, with my own striving and writing.
Therefore fear not; you are not alone. BISHOP ALBERT of Mainz used to say that “the human heart is like a millstone in a mill. If you place corn on it, it spins round, grinds, and crushes, and makes it into meal. If there is no corn it still spins round, and grinds itself, so that it becomes thinner and smaller. So the human heart must have work to do; if it has not the work of its calling to fulfill, the devil comes with temptation, heaviness, and sadness, till the heart devours itself with sorrow.”
In his own Sickness. “AH, how gladly would I now die. For I am now weary and worn out, and have a peaceful and joyful conscience and heart. But I know, as soon as I recover, care, toil, and temptation will not keep outside. For through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of God.”
IN the year 1538, on the night of the 2d of August, Doctor Martin Luther had a severe pain in his arm, as if it were being torn. Then he said, “Thank God! That we can say, for it is an easier thing to yield up our money, or our skin. But when spiritual temptations come, that we could say, ‘Cursed be the day wherein I was born!’ that does give pain! In such trial was Christ, in the Garden: ‘Father take this cup from Me!’ There was the will against the will.” DOCTOR MARTIN once said to a very desponding man, “Oh, friend, what art thou doing? Canst thou do nothing but look at thy sins, thy death, and damnation? Turn thine eyes quite the opposite way, and look at Him who is called Christ. Of Him it is written that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, and was buried, descended into hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven.
Why, dost thou think, did all this happen? That thou mightest be comforted against death, and sin. Therefore cease to fear and to be dismayed. Verily thou hast no cause. If Christ were not there, and had not done all this for thee, then indeed thou mightest fear.” SEE what a life the Lord Christ led whilst He went about on earth. He was not much alone; there was ever a noise and stir of much people around Him. He was never alone, save when He was praying. So He has promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” KING DAVID, when he was alone and idle, and went not forth to the war, fell into temptation. God created man for society, and not for solitude. DR.LUTHER said that often when he was tempted, a word from a good friend had comforted him: “For when, in the year 1535, I was much troubled about something, and cast down, Doctor Pommer said to me, ‘Our Lord God doubtless thinks in heaven, “What shall I do more with this man? I have given him so many great and noble gifts, and still he will despair of my goodness.”‘ “These words were a glorious, great comfort to me, and took fast hold of my heart, as if an angel from heaven had spoken them to me, although Dr. Pommer thought not to comfort me with them.”
IN the year 1541 Doctor Luther was recalling his spiritual temptation in his sickness, when for fourteen days he neither ate, drank, nor slept. “At that time I disputed with our Lord God in wild impatience, and reproached Him with His promises. Then God taught me to understand the Holy Scriptures aright; for when all goes according to our will we do not know much of God’s Word. Now God will not have us be too impatient; therefore in His Holy Scriptures He requires us frequently to hope and wait on Him, as in the Psalm, ‘I wait on the Lord from one morning watch to another.’ For if God does not help speedily, yet He gives grace to sustain temptation. So Job says, ‘Though He slay me I will trust in Him,’ just as if he said, ‘Though it seems as if Thou hadst turned away Thy face from me, yet I will never believe Thou art my enemy.’” ANUN, who was sorely tempted, and had no other weapons wherewith to drive away the devil, said, “I am a Christian; that word contains everything in itself.” GOD has set a firm ground for us to tread on, and thereby to ascend into heaven, even Jesus Christ. He only is the way and door by which we come to the Father. But we want to begin our building with the roof; we despise the foundation, and therefore we must fall. AH, if that great man, Paul, were living now, how glad I should be to learn from him what his thorn in the flesh was. It was not a beloved Thekla, as the legends say. Oh no! It was not a sin. I know not what it was.
The Book of Job is full of such temptations. His friends and comforters were sensible, prudent, wise, just, and pious people; yet they did not touch the point. For around this turns the whole debate in the book. “I am just and innocent,” says Job. They say, on the contrary, “Ah! that is of the devil, to say that thou art good and just. Then God must be unjust!” Round this question revolves the whole controversy. I hold that the Book of Job is a history, afterward worked into a poem, concerning things which were actually experienced by some one; although not uttered in the words in which it is described.
It is a good book, and therein we have a choice picture and example of an assaulted and troubled Christian. For this book was not written with reference to Job, or any individual, but is a mirror for all suffering Christians. We see in it what kind of a process God is carrying on through the trials of the Saints. For when it is only the devil and the Chaldeans, Job can be patient, and says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” But when it is a question of God’s anger, he can no longer bear it, and falls into perplexity and disputing about the happiness of the ungodly.
But he worked his way out of this perplexity again and said, “I know that Thou art good.” Although it is hard to say it. In brief, all men have flesh and blood in them which murmurs and sets itself against God; for it is hard to believe, when we are in trial, that God is gracious to us.