1,1-2 speaks of this : "Blessed is the man that walketh not
in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sin-
ners, nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers : but his delight is in the
law of Jehovah; and on his law does he meditate day and
night." In 1. Peter 418 we read: "And if the righteous is
scarcely saved, who is in the temple" (Luther's translation).
This means that Satan also tempts those who trust only in the
Word of God; they are scarcely saved. How then will those
secure and reckless people be saved who base their faith upon
the doctrines of men?
96. A holy life can not endure human doctrines, they are
a stumbling-block and a dangerous snare. We must remain
in the temple and never depart from it. This was done by the
saints of old, of whom St. Paul speaks in Rom. 11,4, where
he quotes the answer of God to Elijah : "I have left for my-
self seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to
Baal." David complains of these persecutors and ensnarers
in Psalm 140, 45 : "Keep me, O Jehovah, from the hands of
the wicked; preserve me from the violent man: who have
purposed to thrust aside my steps. The proud have hid a
snare for me, and cords ; they have spread a net by the way-
side; they have set gins for me." All this is directed against
human doctrines which take us away from the temple. For
296 LUTHER^S CHURCH POSTH..
the Word of God and the doctrines of men cannot agree at
all with each other in the same heart. Yet these senseless
enemies of souls, the Papists with their Antichrist, the pope,
declare that we must teach and observe more than is found
in the Bible. With their ecclesiastical ranks and orders they
lead the whole world to hell.
97. Finally Luke says of Anna that she worshipped with
fastings and supplications night and day. Here we see how
good works follow faith. She must first be Anna, a pro-
phetess, the daughter of Phanueh of the tribe of Asher, a
widow even unto fourscore and four years, not departing from
the temple: then her fasting and praying is right, then the
sacrifice of Abel is acceptable, then God may be served with
fastings and supplications night and day. But whoever starts
with works reverses all things and obtains nothing. Thus,
after St. Paul has taught the Romans faith, he begins in Rom.
12, 1 to teach them many good works, exhorting them to
present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God,
which would be their spiritual service. This is rendered to
God in that the body is mortified by fasting, watching and
labors, which is done by Anna.
98. All the saints of old have done this, for fasting means
all chastisement and discipline of the body. Although the soul
is just and holy by faith, the body is not yet entirely free from
sin and carnal appetites, wherefore it must be subdued and
disciplined and made subject to the soul, as St. Paul says of
himself in 1. Cor. 9, 27: ''But I bufifet my body, and bring it
into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached
to others, I myself should be rejected. We also read in 1
Peter 2, 5 that we should ofifer up spiritual sacrifices, that is
to say not sheep nor calves, as under the law of Moses, but
our own body and ourselves, by the mortification of sin in our
flesh and the discipline of the body. No one can do this who
does not first believe.
99. Therefore I have often said that the works which fol-
low faith should not be done with the intention of meriting
righteousness ; for this must exist before good works can be
done. They must be done with a view to discipline the body
SUNDAY AFTKR CHRISTMAS. 297
and to serve our neighbor. Good works are a true service
of God if they are done freely and vohmtarily, to the honor of
God. Why should he desire us to fast if thereby we did not
suppress our sin and tlesh, which according to his will should
be subdued? But many feast only to please the saints or at
special seasons, not In order to discipline the body. Such fast-
ing however is entirely worthless.
100. But Anna does not fast only on special days, on
Saturdays and Fridays, on apostles' or ember days, nor does
she know anything about a diversity of meats. But Luke
says that she worshipped night and day and thereby served
God, which means that she continually disciplined her body,
not because she desired to do a meritorious work, but in order
to serve God and to subdue sin.
101. St. Paul also speaks of this fasting in 2 Cor. 6,4-5,
when he says among other things, that we should commend
ourselves as ministers of God in fastings. But our foolish
fasting contrived by men only consists in not partaking of meat,
eggs, butter or milk for a few days, not as a service of God
and with the intention to discipline the body and subdue the
flesh; but thereby we only serve the pope, the Papists and
102. Anna worshipped night and day, therefore she must
certainly also have watched. But we must not believe that
she prayed and fasted night and day without intermission, for
she was obliged also to eat, drink, sleep and rest. Fasting
and praying were the mode of life she pursued night and day.
Doing something during the day or at night does not mean
that we do it all day and all night.
103. This Is the second part of the service of God, by
which the soul is offered up to him, as the body is by fasting.
And by prayer we do not merely understand oral prayer, but
also the hearing, proclaiming, contemplating and meditating
on the Word of God, Many psalms are prayers, although
they hardly contain a petition ; others teach some lesson or re-
buke sin, and by meditating upon them we converse with
God, with ourselves and with men. Behold, such was the
service rendered to God bv the dear fathers and saints of old,
298 Luther's church postil.
who sought nothing but the honor of God and the salvat-on
of men. Thus we read of a great longing on the part of the
ancient fathers in Scripture and their longing for Christ and
the salvation of the world. This can especially be noticed by
any one in the Psalms.
104. But at the present time people only pray at stated
times, count beads and rattle off their prayers. Nobody thinks
seriously of asking and obtaining something from God, buc
they only perform it as a duty obligatory upon them, and
then are satisfied. As a thrasher who wields his flail they
move their tongue, and only earn bread for the body. Much
less do they trouble themselves by serving God with their pray-
ers and petitioning him to relieve the general need of Christen-
dom, but even the best among them believe they have done
enough when they are pious for themselves and pray only
for themselves. Therefore, hypocrites as they are, they de-
serve nothing but hell with their prayers, for they serv:,' neither
God nor men, but only their own body and advantage. If they
wished to serve God and their neighbor as they ought, they
would not think of the number of prayers and psalms they re-
peat, but with all their hearts would seek the honor of God and
the salvation of men, which would be a true service of God.
Then for one thing they earnestly desire they would often pray
a whole day. This would indeed be praying and worshipping
like Anna. When Luke writes that she worshipped God with
supplications, he condemns the multitude of our foolish pray-
ers, whereby we only increase and multiply our sins, because
we do not serve and seek God. Now let us return again to
''And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks unto
Godf and spoke of him to all them that zvere looking for the
redemption of Jerusalem."
105. Our Latin texts read, "for the redemption of Israel,"
but the Greek has: "that were looking for the redemption
of Jerusalem." Anna spoke to those who were in Jerusa-
lem and were waiting for the redemption. For, as she did not
depart from the temple, she could only speak to those who
were in Jerusalem, either to the inhabitants or to visitors. In
SUNDAY AFTKR CHRISTMAS. 299
the spiritual interpretation we have spoken sufficiently of the
meaning of her standing near. For when we come with Christ
into the temple of the Scriptures to present him to God with
thanksgiving, there is found at that very hour also this holy
Anna, with all the saints of the whole synagogue, who unan-
imously look and point at him with their faith and their
106. We also notice here the great distinction corferred
upon this holy woman, who was favored more than many great
people when she recognized this poor child as the true Saviour.
There were undoubtedly priests present who received the offer-
ings of Joseph and Mary, but did not know the child and per-
haps considered the words of Simeon and Anna as mere old
wives' talk. She must have been specially illumined by the
Holy Spirit, and a saintly woman in the sight of God, who
enlightened her more than others.
107. Behold, five persons are here brought together: the
infant Christ, his mother Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna.
By this small number of people every station in life is rep-
resented, husband and wife, young and old, virgin and widow,
the married and the unmarried. Here Christ begins to gather
around him people of every honorable station, and will not
be alone. Whoever, then, is not found in one of these states,
is not on the way to salvation.
108. ''She gave thanks unto God." In the Hebrew tongue
different meanings are attached to the word "confess", for
which we need various expressions, as for instance : to [con-
fess (sins), to acknowledge, to give thanks. Thus to give
thanks is in Hebrew expressed by the word ''confess," and
very appropriately so. For to give thanks is nothing but to
kindness of the benefactor and that the gift is not deserved
confess that we have received benefits, to acknowledge the
He who will acknowledge and confess this will also sincere-
ly give thanks. To "confess" means also to admit something.
Thus Christ says in Matthew 10,32-33: "Every one there-
fore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess
before mv Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall de-
300 i^uther's church postHv.
ny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father
who is in heaven."
109. Now, as it has been said above in explaining the bless-
ing of Siliieon that it is a great and extraordinary virtue to
bless Christ whom all the world rejects, so it is also a remark-
able deed to give thanks to God for Christ. It is done by
those who know him, but there are only a few of them. The
others blaspheme God, condemn, persecute and oppose Christ
and his doctrine. They treat him and God his Father as they
treat his doctrine, acording to his words in Luke 10,16:
"He that rejecteth you rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me
rejecteth l)im that sent me." It is a terrible thing that the world
is full of blasphemers and persecutors, and that we must live
among them. St. Paul predicts in 2 Tim. 3, 1-2, that in the
last days there will be m.any railers. This prophecy is now
being fulfilled by the pope and the great schools, the convents
and monasteries that do nothing else but reject, persecute and
condemn the Gospel of Christ.
110. May you therefore consider it a manifestation of the
grace of God in you when you learn to know Christ and give
thanks to God for him, when you do not regard him an ac-
cursed heretic and seducer and do not blaspheme, despise and
forsake God and his teaching, as is done by the great multi-
tude. For Christ does not first of all want his person and
name exalted, which is done by all his enemies, but he requires
that his doctrine be honored, which is the greatest art. He
himself says in Luke 6, 46 : "And why call ye me. Lord, Lord,
and do not the things which I say?" and Mark 8,38: "For
whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this
adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall
be ashamed of him." You perceive here that he cares most
for his doctrine. The pope and the Papists also icall him
Lord, indeed, in his name, to his honor and in his service they
reject his doctrine, slay his Anna and persecute her through-
out the world. It is dreadful and unbearable to see how great
multitudes of people blaspheme God and his Christ, and in
their fanaticism go down to hell.
111. He is a sign which is spoken against, and more stum-
SUNDAY A^TER CHRISTMAS. 801
ble and fall against him at the present time than ever before.
Deo gratias (Thanks be to God !) is a common saying, but there
is scarcely one among a thousand who says it in truth. At
the time of Elijah, which was still a gracious time, there were
left only seven thousand among the Jewish people, who with-
out doubt numbered more than a million ; but how many may
be left in these last times which Daniel calls the times of the
indignation (Dan, 11,36!)? We might indeed ask God with
the words of Psalm 89, 4 : "Lord, where are thy former lov-
ingkindnessess, which thou swarest unto David in thy faithful-
112, Anna did not only give thanks unto God but she also
spoke of him to all them that were looking for the redemption
of Jerusalem. Luke has a special reason for adding that Anna
spoke of Christ only to those who were looking for the redemp-
tion. There were certainly not many of them, and none at all
among the highly educated priests. What could these great,
holy and cultured people learn of such an old, foolish woman !
They considered themselves the real leaders of the people.
Thus the words of Anna were undoubtedly despised by these
great gentlemen. For the W^ord of God concerning Christ
must necessarily be contemptible, foolish, heretical, sacrile-
gious and presumptuous to the ears of these great, learned
and spiritual men. Therefore it is only received by the hunger-
ing, longing souls that look for the redemption, as Luke says
here, who feel tlieir sin and desire grace, light and consolation,
who know nothing of any wisdom and righteousness of their
113. Now faith and the knowledge of Christ cannot be
silent. They break forth and testify, so that others may be
helped and receive the light, as we read in Psalm 116, 10: "I
believe, for I will speak." Faith is too kind and bountiful to
keep all such treasures to itself. But when it speaks it is perse-
cuted by all the unbelieving saints ; yet it does not care and
goes right ahead. And who knows how Anna was treated !
But perhaps they spared her on account of her age and sex,
and simply despised her as a silly fool. Otherwise her life
302 luthi:r's church postil.
would hardly have been preserved, because she proclaimed
such error and heresy, declaring of Christ such marvelous
things, in opposition to all the doctrines and systems of the
learned priests and teachers of the law, who are filled with
wisdom and righteousness to such a degree that they do not
need any redemption, but deserve only a crown and reward
for their good works and great merits. For if we speak of the
redemption of Christ we declare that they are bound in sin and
blindness. This however is too much for these great saints, to
be called blind sinners! Therefore they cannot endure hear-
ing anything of Christ and his redemption, and consequently
they condemn it as a dangerous error and a diabolical heresy.
114. We now easily understand how it was that the spir-
itual Anna gives thanks to God and speaks of Christ to all that
are looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. For the dear
saints of the Old Testament knew Christ well. Therefore by
their whole life they praise God and give thanks to him, ex-
emplifying the Bible and proclaiming only this redemption,
how Christ came solely for those who need him and hunger
after him. This is proved by all the narratives of the Old Tes-
tament. For God never assisted those who consider them-
selves strong and not forsaken. On the other hand, he never
forsook those who were needy and desired his help. This
might here be corroborated by all the stories of the Bible, but
it is sufficiently clear and manifest to all who will read them.
115. The Evangelist in writing of these things mentions
especially Jerusalem, for the reason that Jerusalem means a
vision of peace and signifies the hearts that are peacable, not
quarrelsome. St. Paul writes in Romans 2, 8 that the people
who are factious will not obey the truth. Divine truth demands
tranquil hearts that listen attentively and are desirous to learn.
But those who browl and bluster, who are pi^-headed and de-
mand signs and reasons before accepting the truth, will never
find it. They are in the turmoil of Babylon and do not know
the peace of Jerusalem. Therefore they neither look for the
redemption, nor listen to the words of Anna. But we may also
read "Israel" instead of "Jerusalem ;" it does not matter much
which one of these two words is here used.
SUNDAY A^TER CHRISTMAS. 303
III. THE RETURN OF THE PARENTS OF JESUS TO
NAZARETH, AND THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS.
''And zvhcn they had accomplished all things that zvere ac-
cording to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to
their own city Nazareth."
116. The Gospel for the day of Candlemas \vill explain
what the things are which they accomplished according to the
law of the Lord. The significance of Galilee and Nazareth will
be explained in the Gospel for the festival of the Annunciation.
But we must refer here to the words of St. Matthew (2, 13 iT.),
who writes that after the wise men had departed, who found
Christ in Bethlehem and offered unto him gifts, gold and frank-
incense and myrrh, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream
and bade him flee into Egypt with the child and his mother,
and that Joseph did so. How does this agree with the narrative
of Luke, according to whom they returned to Nazareth after
six weeks had passed, and they had accomplished all things
that were according to the law of the Lord? We must here
either assume that they went into Egypt immediately after the
expiration of the six weeks of purification, and then returned
to Nazareth from Egypt in due time, or we must believe, which
is also my opinion, that they returned home, immediately after
the six weeks had elapsed, as Luke relates here. Then the ap-
pearance of the angel who commanded them to flee into Egypt,
whereof Matthew speaks, occurred not in Bethlehem, but at
Nazareth; and indeed it took place after the departure of the
wise men, as Matthew says, but not directly afterward. But
Matthew writes thus because immediately after the departure
of the wise men he records the flight into Egypt, and omits
what Luke relates here of the presentation in the temple. Thus
it is clear that the two Evangelists do not disagree.
117. It is also pointed out here how they were obliged to
take up their cross. After the poor mother had been away
from home for seven or eight weeks on account of the sudden
"birth of her child, and after navmg now returned and settled
down to rest from their travels, they must again leave every-
thing behind and without delay start on a much longer journey.
304 luthkr's church postil.
Thus the Lord Christ begins his journeys in his earUest child-
hood, always wandering on this earth and having no definite
place or abode where he might stay. How differently from
other children is this royal child reared and treated, how did he,
especially in this case, taste the sorrows and troubles of life!
The poor mother must flee with the poor child into Egypt from
the wrath of Herod. We shall speak more of this when this
Gospel is explained.
''And the child grew, and zva.ved strong, Ã¼Ued zvith wisdom :
and the grace of God was upon him.
118. Some inquisitive people who were not satisfied with
the information given in the Scriptures have desired to know
what Christ did in his childhood, and have received their re-
ward for their curiosity. Some fool or knave has fabricated
a legendary book on the childhood of Christ, and has not been
afraid nor slow to v/rite down his lies and frauds, relating how
Christ went to school and a great deal more of absurd and
blasphemous tomfoolery. Thus he jests with his lies at the
expense of the Lord, w^hom all the angels adore and fear, and
before whom all creatures tremble, so that this rascal would
have deserved that a great millstone had been hanged about
his neck and he had been sunk in the depth of the sea, because
he did not esteem the Lord of all more than to make him an ob-
ject of his absurd buffoonery. Yet people may still be found
who print this book, read and believe it, which, in fact, was
the object of this miscreant. Therefore I say that such books
ought to be burned by the pope, the bishops and the uni-
versities, if they would follow Christ. But they produce books
that are a great deal worse, are blind leaders and remain
119. Christ never went to school, for no schools like ours
existed at that time. He did not even have an elementary edu-
cation, as we read in the Gospel of St. John, 7, 15: the Jews
were marveling, saying: "How knoweth this man letters, hav-
ing never learned ?" We also read in Mark 6, 2-3 that they
v/ere astonished at his wisdom and said : "What is the wisdom
that is given unto this man, and what mean such mighty works
SUNDAY Al^rtR CHRISTMAS. 305
wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of
Mary?" They thought it strange that a layman and the son
of a carpenter should have such great knowledge, having never
studied. Therefore they were offended in him, as the Evan-
gelist relates, and thought that he must be possessed of an evil
120. Let us therefore be satisfied with the narrative of the
Gospel, which tells us enough of his childhood. Luke writes
that "the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom"
etc. Later on he writes that he was subject to his parents.
What else should he have related? The time was not yet come
when he performed miracles. He was brought up like other
children, with the exception, that as some children excel others
in ability, Christ also was an extraordinarily clever child.
Thus no more could be written concerning him than is recorded
by Luke. If he had related how he ate, drank, and what he
did every day, how he walked, stood, slept and watched, what
kind of a narrative would it have been?
121. It is not necessary to believe, neither do I think it is
true, that his coat which was woven from the top throughout,
grew with him in size from his youth. Probably his mother
made it, and in that country it was the common garment of
the poor. We should have a pure faith that accepts nothing
which is not found in the Scriptures. Enough is contained in
the Scriptures that we may believe, especially since Christ did
not begin to perform his miracles and mighty deeds until after
his baptism, as it is written in John 2, 11 and Acts 10, 37.
122. Some hairsplitters are perplexed by the words of Luke
according to which Christ, although he was God, waxed strong,
filled with wisdom. That he grew, they admit, which is indeed
surprising, as they are very swift i'n inventing miracles where
there are none and despise those in which they should believe.
The reason for their perplexity and their anxious questions is
this, that they have invented an article of faith according to
which Christ from the first moment of conception was filled
with wisdom and the spirit to the highest possible degree, just
as if the soul were a wineskin which may be completely filled.
306 i.uthi:r's church postii..
They themselves do not understand what they say, nor whereof
they confidently afiirm, as St. Paul writes in 1 Tim. 1,7.
123. Even if I could not understand what Luke means when
he says that Christ waxed strong, filled with wisdom, I should
yet believe his word because it is the Word of God, and should
honor it as the truth, although I might never find out how it
could be true ; and I should abandon my imaginary article of
faith as human foolishness, which is far too worthless to be a
standard of divine truth. We all must acknowledge that
Christ was not always cheerful, notwithstanding the fact that
he who is filled with the Spirit is also full of joy, since joy is
the fruit of the Spirit, according to Gal. 5, 22. Neither was
Christ always gentle and calm, but sometimes he was indig-
nant and vexed, as for instance when he cast the Jews out of
the temple, John 2, 15-17, and when he was angry and grieved
at the hardening of their hearts, Mark 3, 5.
124. Therefore we must understand the words of Luke
simply as applying to the human nature of Christ, which was
an instrument and temple of the Godhead. And although he
was always filled with the Spirit and with grace, yet the Spirit