Martin Luther.

The precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) online

. (page 19 of 29)
Online LibraryMartin LutherThe precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) → online text (page 19 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


affectionate than m.an. Nov/, we cannot by v/orks obtain
such favor, affection and care on the part of Righteousness
for us. V/e must conceive it in the heart. Faith enables
the conscience to feel in Righteousness all the security, de-
sire and love that a child finds in its mother or a husband
in his new bride.

Fifth: "With the bread of [life and] understanding
shall she feed him."

18. Or, "She shall feed him with life and understand-
ing." To explain the process: Just as natural bread sus-
tains the body and also nourishes and increases it in growth
until it becomes hale, robust and strong to labor; so, too,
righteousness nourishes rnan, making him daily increase in
the Spirit and grow in the knowledge of things divine and
human. We know this from experience. Without experi-
ence the passage would not be intelligible. He who is nour-
ished by righteousness improves his mind v/ith everything
coming under his observation. He grows in knowledge
and increases in life and wisdom, especially when contem-
plating the Scriptures.

19. Solomon had learned much, as his Proverbs and
Canticles show. He puts the word "life" before the word
"understanding," for without life understanding would be of
no significance. It is not that knowledge which is the prod-
uct of the heathen and of natural reason, knov/ledge of tem-



ST. JOHN'S DAY. 219

poral things — not this sort would Solomon have us regard;
but the knowledge faith gives, concerning spiritual and
divine things, knowledge making the soul alive before God.
This sentence contains all necessary teaching in regard to
salvation.

Sixth : "And give him the water of wisdom to drink."

20. The import of this clause is similar to the foregoing-
sentence. It refers to the increase of the Spirit. Particu-
larly does it present saving knowledge and exclude worldly
knowledge, the knowledge of men, which is not profitable.
This figure of drinking is to be understood similarly to the
figure of eating. Man draws wisdom from everything he
observes. All things in heaven and earth afford him pas-
ture, but particularly the Scriptures. From them alone he
derives meat and drink in a real, saving knowledge.

Seventh : "He shall be stayed upon her."

21. Hitherto Solomon has been enumerating the bless-
ings and advantages righteousness gives us to enjoy in our-
selves and in times of peace. Now he enumerates its bless-
ings in times of conflict, in contentions with enemies. He
says, "He shall be stayed upon her." That is, righteousness
will throw about us protections enabling us not only to re-
ceive blessings but to guard them against all attem.pts to
wrest them away. At the same time, he recognizes here
that he who fears God and v/ould be godly must encounter
labor, conflict and many misfortunes. Crosses are bound
to come. As Paul tells us (Acts 14, 22), "Through many
tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.*

22. Thus Solomion meets the timid and faint-hearted Vv^ho
would readily be won by the great inducem.ents presented,
and would accept the benefits offered, v/ere it not for their
fear of having to risk property, honor, bodies, lives and all
they have. Solomon does not deny the condition; he does
not make any effort to relieve their minds on that point
nor to offer flimsy comfort. But he strengthens them, ad-
monishes them against vievs^ing the matter from that stand-
point and affords them the consolation that if they cleave to
righteousness it v/ill give courage and stability to endure all
ills.



220 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

Eighth: "And shall not be moved."

23. Another expression of the thought in "He shall be
stayed upon her." With ability to overcome all things,
what more is to be desired? The self-righteous have not
that ability. They do not stand securely — have no firmness.
They only yield and vacillate, for they rely upon their own
efforts. Their achievements may be easily taken away and
themselves with them. But the believing righteousness of
the Christian hangs upon the immovable lovingkindness of
God. They who rely upon that lovingkindness cannot be
moved even though they be deprived of everything else.
Ninth : "And shall rely upon her."

2^. That is, righteousness will sustain man's honor. Sol-
omon here acknowledges the pious believer must suffer
many evils, and also endure shame and scandal. It is a
peculiarity of the Christian's sufferings that he not only has
to endure the evils com.mon to all m.en, but shame and scan-
dal as the worst of evil-doers, just as Christ suffered. Such
unmerited sufferings are called sufferings of Christ, or
crosses. It is not so m.uch temporal dishonor, but spiritual
dishonor, disgrace of the conscience before God. All the
martyrs were put to death, not for comm.itting crime against
the State, but as being extreme enemies and blasphemers
of God. Lest anyone be deterred from Christianity by fear
of spiritual dishonor, Solom.cn makes this declaration for
the comfort and encouragement of all believers, an assur-
ance of preservation, and of their ability to maintain their
honor before God and the world.

Tenth : "And shall not be confounded."

25. This is the same as the last clause only more clearly
expressed. Righteousness may, it is true, permit her child
to be overtaken by shame and disgrace, but m.erely to test
her power. [But she never leaves him helpless and pros-
trate, if he only cleaves to her. Editions A, B, C] As the
Wisdom of Solomon 10, 12 says: "In a sore conflict she
gave him the victory ; that he might know that godliness is
stronger than all." The heart must be continually tempted.
As sure as existence, it must experience disgrace. So sensi-



ST. JOHN'S DAY. . 22t

ble of shame will it be, it will tremble and waver as if God
were to leave it in disgrace. But in this promise it finds
help to maintain a firm confidence. So sustained, it over-
rides shame; all this the self-righteous can by no means do.
Eleventh : "She shall exalt him above his neighbors."
26. The Christian's temptations and conflicts only give
him distinction and elevate him in the m.inds of the people.
Paul (1 Cor 11, 19) says that by heresies the approved
Christians are made manifest. Conflicts serve to distin-
guish the Christian, to raise him in the estimation of men
unto great eminence and honor. In contrast with him, the
selfrighteous go on unnoticed, without experience, untried,
dwelling in their own element and uninformed of the bless-
ings and workings of God.

Twelfth : "And in the midst of the congregation shall
she open his mouth."
27 So the Christian's experience makes him a good
preacher and teacher. Faith helps him to a right under-
standing of all things, and conflict gives him the personal
experience which brings perfect assurance. Therefore, he
m.ay speak with the utmost confidence and may instruct all
men. Well m.ay Tauler say the experienced Christian is
able to judge and to teach the world. Without trials no
one can ever become a successful preacher. He must re-
main a mere babbler, unknowing what to say or to what
end to speak. As Paul has it (1 Tim 1,7): "Desiring to
be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what
they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm." He calls
them useless babblers.

Thirteenth: "And shall fill him with the Spirit of
wisdom and understanding."
28. Solomon previously, in the third verse said, "With
the bread of understanding shall she feed him, and give
him the water of wisdom to drink." The reference there is
simply to receiving the gifts of God, while not yet exposed
to temptations and trials. But after the Christian has ex-
perienced temptations, has been tried and proven, he shall
have something more than the gifts of wisdom and under-



222 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

Standing; the Giver of these gifts, the Holy Spirit himself,
will fill him and render him wholly perfect.

Not that the Holy Spirit did not before exist in the indi-
vidual; assuredly where the gifts of the Spirit are, there he
surely is. But v/hile the individual is not exposed to temp-
tations, he has not yet come to experience the presence of
the Holy Spirit. He will not reach that position until he
is tried and proven. Then, though previously endowed with
gifts, he will be filled with the Spirit. His gifts will not, as
before temptation, serve only himself ; from the period of his
trial they will render him useful to others, enabling him
to bring to men the same grace he possesses. Formerly he
was chiefly useful in a temporal way, in distributing favors
to his neighbors, as mentioned. He was prompted by faith
and the gifts received. His was not, however, a spiritual
usefulness, but a temporal one.

After his experience in temptation, the Spirit enters and
effects something more than his being fed with the bread
of wisdom and understanding as before; he enables him to
open his mouth — to feed others with that bread, thus ren-
dering them spiritual service. Before Christ's sufferings
the apostles were merely the Lord's guests, eating of his
understanding and drinking of his wisdom, and leading
pious lives. But no one was affected but themselves. After
his resurrection, however, they became hosts; they fed
others and rendered them godly through the Spirit of wis-
dom and understanding that filled them after their temp-
tation.

Fourteenth: "With a garment of honor shall she
clothe him."

28. Righteousness will give the Christian an eminent
reputation and a great name, far and wide; as God said to
David : "I have made thy name great." Righteousness will
adorn the Christian until the world shall honor him for his
wisdom and knowledge. *'Honor" here means "glory,"
which is a great and glorious name and distinction among
men. Such honor Solomon terms a garment, for it adorns
more than do ornaments and jewels.



ST. JOHN'S DAY. 223

Fifteenth: "He shall find joy and a crown of glad-



ness."



30. Up to this time Solomon has spoken of the bless-
ings the Christian shall enjoy in this life. Now he con-
cludes with the blessings reserved to the future life — eternal
joy and gladness. Here is the treasure Righteousness re-
serves for the Christian, an everlasting treasure.

Sixteenth: "And she shall cause him to inherit an
everlasting name."

31. Not merely during life, but after death, will the
Christian's name be prepetuated in honor. After such re-
membrance the self-righteous vainly strive. For they do
not fear God and rely upon the righteousness of faith.

32. Note these precious fruits, these great blessings, so
well calculated to give comfort and to constrain us to per-
severe in faith and in the fear of God. I have gone over
this subject hastily, giving it the briefest consideration. An
extended sermon might have been preached on each point,
if one wished to develop it with the aid of Scripture pas-
sages.

33. We must not, however, infer from what has been
presented that we are to fear God — believe in him — simply
to secure the blessings named. That idea is deceptive. The
passage is not written to induce us to seek these blessings ;
it is merely an assurance that such blessings av/ait the be-
liever. They alone shall receive them who do not seek them ;
that is, who fear God without seeking their ov^n honor, and
who constantly rely upon the grace of God. To them the
blessings come unsought. The self-righteous with all their
pretense cannot obtain them.

34. This epistle lesson harmonizes beautifully with the
Gospel selection. Here Righteousness receives the indi-
vidual as a virtuous miother receives her child, or the bride
her bridegroom. Thus, too, Christ took John to his breast
as the beloved disciple. In both selections the nature of
faith is commended and illustrated.



Sunbais Hfter Cbristmas

Epistle Text: Galatians 4, 1-7.

1 But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differ-
eth nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all ;
2 but is under guardians and stewards until the day ap-
pointed of the father. 3 So we also, when we w^ere chil-
dren, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the
world : 4 but when the fulness of the time came, God sent
forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the
law, 5 that he might redeem them that were under the
law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And
because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son
into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 So that thou
art no longer a bondservant, but a son ; and if a son, then
an heir through God.

THE PEOPLE OF LAW AND OF GRACE.

1. This text is very characteristic of the apostle Paul. It
is not generally understood. Not because of any obscurity
in itself, but because the doctrine of faith, a doctrine it is
very necessary to understand if we are to comprehend Paul,
for his energetic and zealous mind is, in all his epistles, oc-
cupied with the subject of faith — because, I say, this doc-
trine is almost obsolete in the world today. A lengthy ex-
position is necessary to make it plain. To gain space to
treat the subject clearly, we will let this suffice for the in-
troduction.

MAN'S JUSTIFICATION.

2. We must know it is one thing to handle the subject of
good works and another that of justification; just as the
nature or personality of an individual is one thing and his

224



SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. 225

actions or works another. Justification has reference to the
person and not to the works. It is the former, not the
latter, which is justified and saved, or is sentenced and pun-
ished.

3. Therefore, it is settled that no one is justified by
works; he must first be justified by other means. Moses
says (Gen 4, 4-5), "Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to
his offering." First, he had respect to Abel the person, and
then to his offering. Abel being godly, just and acceptable
in person, his offering was acceptable. The sacrifice was
accepted because of the person, and not the person because
of the sacrifice. "But unto Cain and to his offering he
had not respect." In the first place, God had not respect
unto Cain the person J hence later he respected not his of-
fering. From this quotation we may conclude it is impos-
sible for any work to be good in God's sight unless the
worker first be good and acceptable. Conversely, it is im-
possible for any work to be evil before God unless the
v/orker first be evil and not acceptable.

4. Now, let it be sufficiently proven for the present that
there are two kinds of good works ; some precede and others
follow justification. The form.er merely appear to be good
and effectual ; the latter are really good.

5. Now, this is the point of contention between presump-
tuous saints and God. Right here carnal nature contends,
even rages, against the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures every-
where treat of this contention. Therein God concludes all
man's works, previous to his justification, evil and ineffec-
tual; he requires justification and goodness on the part of
the individual first. Again, he concludes that all persons in
the state of nature and of the first birth are unjust and evil.
As said in Psalms 116, 11, "All men are liars." And in
Genesis 6, 5, "Every imagination of the thoughts of man's
heart was only evil continually." Hence the natural man
can perform no good work, and all his attempts will be no
better than Cain's.

6. Here Madam Huldah with her scornful nose— human
nature — steps in and dares to contradict her God and to



226 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

charge him with falsehood. She hangs upon herself her
old frippery, her straw armor — natural light, reason, free-
will and human powers. She introduces the «heathenish
books and doctrines of men, and proceeds to harp upon
these, saying: *'Good works do precede justification. And
they are not, as God says, the works of Cain. They are
good to the extent of justifying. For Aristotle taught that
he who does much good v/ill thereby become good." To
this doctrine Madam firmly cleaves, perverting the Sript-
ures and presuming that God must first respect the works
and then the doer. This satanic doctrine universally reigns
at present in all the high schools and other institutions, and
in the cloisters. Its advocates are but Cain-like saints, dis-
regarded of God.

7. In the second place. Madam Huldah, basing her posi-
tion simply on works and attaching very little importance to
the justified individual, proceeds still further and attributes
all merit and supreme righteousness to the works following
justification. She quotes James 2, 26, "Faith apart from
works is dead." Not understanding this statement, she un-
dervalues faith. Consequently she continues to hold to good
works, presuming to require of God acceptance of the doer
for the sake of the works. So the two continually strive
against one another. God respects the individual, Cain the
works. God rewards the works for the sake of the doer;
Cain would have the doer crowned because of his works.
God will not yield his just and righteous position, and the
young nobleman Cain will never while the world stands
allow himself to be convinced of his error. We must not
reject his works, slight his reason «or look unto his free-
will as powerless ; for so he will become angry with God and
slay his brother Abel, a fact to which all history gives
abundant testimony.

8. Do you ask: "What then am I to do? How shall I
make myself good and acceptable in person to begin with?
how secure that justification? The Gospel replies: "Hear
Christ and believe in him, utterly despairing of yourself
and resting assured you will be changed from a Cain to an



' SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. 227

Abel and then present your offerings." Just as faith is pro-
claimed without merit or work on your part, it is also be-
stowed regardless of your works, without any of your mer-
its. It is given of pure grace. Note, faith justifies the in-
dividual; faith is justification. Because of faith God remits
all sins, and forgives the old Adam and the Cain in our
nature, for the sake of Christ his beloved Son, whose name
faith represents. More, he bestows his Holy Spirit. The
Holy Spirit changes the individual into a new creature, one
with different reason and different will, and inclined to the
good. Such a one, v/herever he is, performs wholly good
works, and all his works are good ; as taught in the preced-
ing epistle lesson.

9. Then nothing else is necessary to justification but to
hear and believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. But that
is not a work of the natural man ; it is a work of grace. He
who presumes to attain justification by works, only ob-
structs the way of the Gospel, of faith, grace, Christ, God
and all good. On the other hand, nothing but justification
is necessary to render works good. The justified man and
none other does good; all he does, being justified, is good,
without distinction of works. Therefore, the order of man's
salvation, the beginning and the sequel, is first to hear and
then believe God's Word as suprem^e, and then to act. Thus
shall man be saved. He who perverts this order and acts
accordingly is certainly not of God.

10. Paul prescribes this order where he says (Rom 10,
43-15) : "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom
they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him
whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear with-
out a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be
sent?" Christ teaches us to pray the Lord of the harvest
to send laborers into his harvest ; that is, faithful preachers.
When they come they preach the true V/ord of God. Hear-
ing it, we are enabled to believe, and such faith justifies
us and renders us godly; then we call upon God and do
only good. Thus are we saved. So then, the believer shall



228 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

be saved, but he who works without faith shall be damned.
Christ says (Mk 16, 16), "He that disbelieveth shall be con-
demned;" here works avail nothing.

11. Now, observe what people commonly do and say.
"Yes," they tell you, "I expect to become godly. Yes, we
must be godly." But if they are asked what we are to do to
accomplish it, they go on to saj/, "Indeed, we must pray,
fast, attend Church, abstain from sin, and so on." One will
enter a monastery, another some order. One v/ill become a
priest, another will don a hair-garment. One will punish
himself in a certain way, and another in another way. They
are like Cain and do the v/orks of Cain. Personally they
are as at first — without justification. They but assume an
external change, an alteration of v/orks, clothing, condi-
tion and habits. They are really apes, assuming the habits
of saints but remaining unholy. Unmindful of faith, they
rush along with their good v/orks toward heaven — as they
imagine — torturing themselves.

Relative to them, Christ in the Gospel (Lk 13, 24) says:
"Strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say
unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able." And
why not? Because they do not recognize the narrow door.
It is faith. Faith humbles one, reduces him to nothing,
until he must despair of all his good works and cleave only
to God's grace; for that he must forsake all else. But the
Cain-like saints imagine good works to be the narrow door.
Hence they do not humble themselves. Nor do they despair
of their good works ; no, lading themselves with the cumber-
some bundles of their collected deeds, they strive to pass
throuh the door. They will pass as the camel with his
great hump passes through the eye of the needle.

12. Mention faith to them and they scoff and laugh, say-
ing: "Are v/e Turks or heathen that we must first learn
what faith is? Is it possible that our multitude of monks,
nuns and priests do not know? V7ho can be ignorant of
what believing is v/hen even they who openly sin know
its meaning?" As if having finished with faith, they im-
agine they must henceforth devote themselves to works. As



SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. 229

before said, they regard faith of slight importance; for they
do not understand that it is our sole justifier. To accept
as true the record of Christ — this they call faith. The devils
have the same sort of faith, but it does not make them
godly. Such belief is not Christian faith; no, it is rather
deception.

13. In the preceding epistles we have heard that to be a
Christian it is not enough simply to believe the story of
Christ true — the Cain-like saints possess such faith — but
the Christian must without any hesitancy believe himself
one to whom grace and mercy are given, and that he has
really secured them through baptism or through the Holy
Supper. When he so believes, he is free to say of himself:
"I am holy, godly and just. I am a child of God, perfectly
assured of salvation. Not because of anything in me, not
because of my merits or works, am I saved; it is of the
pure mercy of God in Christ, poured out upon me." To
such extent will he appreciate God's precious mercy, he can-
not doubt that it renders him holy and constitutes him a
child of God. But he who doubts, disparages to the utmost
his baptism and the Holy Supper, and censures as false God's
Word and his grace in the sacraments.

14. The Christian should entertain no fear— he should
not doubt — that he is righteous and a child of God through
grace. Rather he needs to entertain anxiety as to how he
shall endure steadfast to the end. There is where all fear
and anxiety are due. For while he assuredly is given to
possess full salvation, it may be somewhat doubtful whether
or no he will steadfastly retain it. Here we must walk in
fear. True faith does not hang upon works nor rely upon
itself; it relies only upon God and his grace. Grace cannot
forsake the individual so long as reliance continues. But
he knows not how long it will continue. Should tempta-
tion force him to lose his confidence, grace also will fail.
Solomon (Ecc 9, 1) says: "The righteous, and the wise,
and their works, are in the hand of God; whether it be
love or hatred, man knoweth it not ; all is before them." He
does not say it is uncertain at present, but in the future,



230 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

because man knows not whether he will withstand the at-
tacks 01 temptation.

15. When the Cam-like saints hear the doctrine of faith,
they cross themselves, both with hands and feet, and ex-
claim: "God forbid! How could I call myself holy and
righteous? How could I be so egotistical and presumptu-
ous? No, no; I am a poor sinner." You see how they make
faith of no value to themselves, and so must regard as



Online LibraryMartin LutherThe precious and sacred writings of Martin Luther ... based on the Kaiser chronological edition, with references to the Erlangen and Walch editions; (Volume 7) → online text (page 19 of 29)