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

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9, 5 reads : "I am the light of the world."

18. Psalm 19, 1 beautifully describes Christ the Sun, and
the Gospel day: "The heavens declare the glory of God."
As the natural heavens bring the sun and the day, and the
sun is in the heavens, so the apostles in their preaching



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. , 17

possess and bring to us the real Sun, Christ. The Psalm
continues: "In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and
rejoiceth as a strong man to run his course. His going forth
is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit unto the ends
of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." It
all refers to the beautiful daybreak of the Gospel. Scripture
sublimely exalts the Gospel day, for it is the source of life,
joy, pleasure and energy, and brings all good. Hence the
name "Gospel" — joyful news.

19. Who can enumerate the things revealed to us by
this day — by the Gospel? It teaches us everything — the
nature of God, of ourselves, and what has been and is to be
in regard to heaven, hell and earth, to angels and devils. It
enables us to know how to conduct ourselves in relation to
these — whence we are and v/hither we go. But, being de-
ceived by the devil, we forsake the light of day and seek to
find truth among philosophers and heathen totally ignorant
of such matters. In permitting ourselves to be blinded by
human doctrines, we return to the night. Whatsoever is
not the Gospel day surely cannot be light. Otherwise Paul,
and in fact all Scripture, would not urge that day upon us
and pronounce everything else night.

20. Our disposition to run counter to the perfectly plain
teachings of Scripture and seek inferior light, when the
Lord declares him.self the Light and Sun of the world, must
result from our having incurred the displeasure of Provi-
dence. Had we no other evidence that the high schools of
the Pope are the devil's abominable fostering-places of har-
lots and knaves, the fact is amply plain in the way they
shamelessly introduce and extol Aristotle, the inferior light,
exercising themselves in him more than in Christ; rather
they exercise themselves wholly in Aristotle and not at all
in Christ.

"Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and
let us put on the armor of light."

21. As Christ is the Sun and the Gospel is the day, so
faith is the light, or the seeing and watching on that day.



18 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

We are not profited by the shining of the sun, and the day
it produces, if our eyes fail to perceive its light. Similarly,
though the Gospel is revealed, and proclaims Christ to the
world, it enlightens none but those v/ho receive it, who have
risen from sleep through the agency of the light of faith.
They who sleep are not affected by the sun and the day;
they receive no light therefrom, and see as little as if there
were neither sun nor day. It is to our day Paul refers when
he says : "Dear brethren, knowing the season, that already
it is time for you to awake out of sleep, etc." Though the
hour is one of spiritual opportunity, it has been revealed in
secular time, and is daily being revealed. In the light of
our spiritual knowledge we are to rise from sleep and lay
aside the works of darkness. Thus it is plain Paul is not
addressing unbelievers. As before said, he is not here teach-
ing the doctrine of faith, but its works and fruits. He tells
the Romans they know the time is at hand, that the night is
past and the day has broken.

22. Do you ask, Why this passage to believers? As al-
ready stated, preaching is twofold in character : it may teach
or it may incite and exhort. No one ever gets to the point
of knowledge where it is not necessary to admonish him —
continually to urge him — to new reflections upon what he al-
ready knows; for there is danger of his untiring enemies — •
the devil, the world and the flesh — wearying him and caus-
ing him to become negligent, and ultimately lulling him to
sleep. Peter says (1 Pet 5, 8) : "Your adversary the devil,
as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may de-
vour." In consequence of this fact, he says: "Be sober,
be watchful." Similarly Paul's thought here is that since
the devil, the world and the flesh cease not to assail us,
there should be continuous exhorting and impelling to vigi-
lance and activity. Hence the Holy Spirit is called the
Paraclete, the Comforter or Helper, who incites and urges
to good.

23. Hence Paul's appropriate choice of words. Not the
works of darkness but the works of light he terms "armor."
And why "armor" rather than "works"? Doubtless to teach



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 19

that only at the cost of conflicts, pain, labor and danger will
the truly v/atchful and godly life be maintained; for these
three powerful enemies, the devil, the world and the flesh,
unceasingly oppose us day and night. Hence Job (ch 7, 1)
regards the life of man on earth as a life of trial and warfare.
Now, it is no easy thing to stand always in battle array
during the whole of life. Good trumpets and bugles are
necessary preaching and exhortation of the sort to enable us
valiantly to maintain our position in battle. Good works are
armor: evil works are not; unless, indeed, v/e submit
and give them control over us. Then they likewise become
armor. Paul says, "Neither present your members unto sin
as instruments of unrighteousness" (Rom 6, 13), meaning:
Let not the works of darkness get such control of you as
to render your members v/eapons of unrighteousness.

24. Now, as already made plain, the word 'light" here
carries the thought of "faith." The light of faith, in the
Gospel day, shines from Christ the Sun into our hearts. The
armor of light, then, is simply the works of faith. On the
other hand, "darkness" is unbelief; it reigns in the absence
of the Gospel and of Christ, through the instrumentality of
the doctrines of men — of human reason — instigated by the
devil. The "works of darkness" are, therefore, the "works
of unbelief." As Christ is Lord and Ruler in the realm of
that illuminating faith, so, as Paul says (Eph 6, 12), the
devil is ruler of this darkness; that is, over unbelievers.
For he says again (2 Cor 4, 3-4) : "And even if our gospel
is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god
of this world [that is, the devil] hath blinded the minds of
the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of
Christ . . . should not dawn upon them." The char-
acter of the two kinds of works, however, will be discussed
later.

"Let us walk, becomingly (honestly), as in the day."

25. Works of darkness are not wrought in the day. Fear
of being shamed before men makes one conduct himself hon-
orably. The proverbial expression "shameless night" is a
true one. Works we are ashamed to perform in the day are



20 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

wrought in the night. The day, being shamefaced, con-
strains us to v/alk honorably. A Christian should so live
that he need never be ashamed of the character of his works,
though they be revealed to all the world. He whose life
and conduct are such as to make him unwilling his deeds
should be manifest to everyone, certainly does not live in
a Christian manner. In this connection Christ says: "For
everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not
to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that
doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be
made manifest, that they have been wrought in God."
Jn 3, 20-21.

26. So you see the urgent necessity for inciting and ex-
horting to be vigilant and to put on the arm.or of light. Hov7
miany Christians now could endure the revelation of all their
works to the light of day? What kind of Christian life do
we hypocrites lead if we cannot endure the exposure of our
conduct before men, when it is now exposed to God, his
angels and creatures, and on the last day shall be revealed
to all? A Christian ought to live as he would be found in
the last day before all men. "Walk as children of light, for
the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness
and truth." Eph 5, 9. "Take thought for things honor-
able," not only in the sight of God, but also "in the sight of
all men." Rom 12, 17. "For our glorying is this, the testi-
mony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of
God, not in fleshly wisdom . . . we behaved ourselves
in the world." 2 Cor 1, 12.

27. But such a life certainly cannot be maintained in the
absence of faith, when faith itself — vigilant, active, valiant
faith — ^has enough to do to remain constant, sleepless and
unwearied. Essential as it is that doctrine be preached to
the illiterate, it is just as essential to exhort the learned not
to fall from their incipient right living, under the assaults
of raging flesh, subtle world and treacherous devil.

"Not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering
and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy."

28. Here Paul enumerates certain works of darkness.



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 21

In the beginning of the discourse he alludes to one as
"sleep." In First Thessalonians 5, 6, it is written: "Let us
not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober."
Not that the apostle warns against physical sleep ; he means
spiritual sleep — unbelief, productive of the works of dark-
ness. Yet physical sleep may likewise be an evil work when
indulged in from lust and revelling, through indolence and
excessive inebriety, to the obstruction of light and the weak-
ening of the armor of light. These six works of darkness
include all others, such as are enumerated in Galatians 5,
19-21, and Colossians 3, 5 and 8. We will divide them into
two general classes, the right hand class and the left hand
class. Upon the right are arrayed these four — revelling,
drunkenness, chambering and wantonness ; on the left, strife
and jealousy. For scripturally, the left side signifies ad-
versity and its attendant evils — v/rath, jealousy, and so
en. The right side stands for prosperity and its results —
rioting, drunkenness, lust, indolence, and the like.

29. Plainl}'', then, Paul means to include under the two
mentioned works of darkness — strife and jealousy — all of
similar character. For instance, the things enumerated in
Ephesians 4, 31, which says: "Let all bitterness, and wrath,
and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you,
with all malice"; and again in Galatians 5, 19-21, reading:
"Now the works of the flesh are . . . enmities, strife,
jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings,
drunkenness, revellings and such like." In short, "strife and
jealousy" here stand for innumerable evils resulting from
wrath, be it in word or deed.

30. Likewise under the four vices — revelling, drunken-
ness, indolence and lev/dness — the apostle includes all the
vices of unchastity in word or deed, things none would wish
to enumerate. The six works mentioned suffice to teach*
that he who lives in the darkness of unbelief does not keep
himself pure in his neighbor's sight, but is immoderate in
all his conduct, toward himself and toward his fellow-man.
Further comment on these words is unnecesary. Everyone
knows the meaning of "revelling and drunkenness" — excess-



22 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

ive eating and drinking, more for the gratification of ap-
petite than for nourishment of the body. Again, it is not
hard to understand the reference to idleness in bed-cham.-
bers, to lewdness and unchasity. The apostle's words
stand for the indulgence of the lusts and appetites of the
flesh: excessive sleeping and indolence; every form of un-
chastity and sensuality practiced by the satiated, indolent
and stupid, in daytime or nighttime, in retirement or else-
v/here, privately or publicly — vices that seek material dark-
ness and secret places. These vices Paul terms "chamber-
ing and wantonness." And the meaning of "strife" and of
"jealousy" is generally understood.

PUT ON CHRIST, THE ARMOR OF LIGHT.

• "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ."

31. In this admonition to put on Christ, Paul briefly pre-
scribes all the armor of light. Christ is "put on" in two
ways. First, we may clothe ourselves v/ith his virtues. This
is effected through the faith that relies on the fact of Christ
having in his death accomplished all for us. For not our
righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ, reconciled
us to God and redeemed us from sin. This manner of put-
ting on Christ is treated of in the doctrine concerning faith;
it gives Christ to us as a gift and a pledge. Relative to this
topic more will be said in the epistle for New Year's day,
Galatians 3, 27: "For as many of you as were baptized
into Christ did put on Christ."

32. Secondly, Christ being our example and pattern,
whom we are to follow and copy, clothing ourselves in the
virtuous garment of his walk, Paul fittingly says we should
"put on" Christ. As expressed in First Corinthians 15, 49:
"As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also
bear the image of the heavenly.'* And again (Eph 4, 22-24) :
"That ye put away, as concerning your former manner of
life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of de-
ceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and
put on the new man, that after God hath been created in
righteousness and holiness of truth."

33. Now, in Christ v/e behold only the true armor of



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 23

light. No gormandizing or drunkenness is here ; nothing but
fasting, moderation, and restraint of the flesh, incident to
labor, exertion, preaching, praying and doing good to m.an-
kind. No indolence, apathy or unchastity exists, but true
discipline, purity, vigilance, early rising. The fields are
couch for him who has neither house, chamber nor bed.
With him is no wrath, strife or envying ; rather utter good-
ness, love, mercy, patience. Paul presents Christ the ex-
ample in a few words where he says (Col 3, 12-15) : "Put
on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of
compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuff ering ;
forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any
man have a complaint against any, even as the Lord for-
gave you, so also do ye: and above all these things put on
love, v^^hich is the bond of perfectness, and let the peace of
Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye v/ere called
in one body; and be ye thankful." Again, in Philippians 2,
5-8, after commanding his flock to love and serve one an-
other, he presents as an example the same Christ who be-
came servant unto us. He says: "Have this mind in you,
which was also in Christ Jesus: v^^ho, existing in the form
of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a
thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form
of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being
found in fashion as a man."

34. Now, the armor of light is, briefly, the good works
opposed to gluttony, drunkenness, licentiousness; to in-
dolence, strife and envying: such as fasting, watchfulness,
prayer, labor, chastity, modesty, temperance, goodness, en-
durance of hunger and thirst, of cold and heat. Not to em-
ploy/ my own Vv^ords, let us hear Paul's enum.eration of good
works in Galatians 5, 22-23 : "The fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
meekness, self-control." But he makes a still more compre-
hensive count in Second Corinthians 6, 1-10: "V/e entreat
also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain (for he
saith. At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, and in
a day of salvation did I succor thee : behold, now is the ac-



24 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

ceptable time ; behold, now is the day of salvation) [in other
words, For now is salvation nearer to us than when we
first believed, and nov/ is the time to awake out of sleep] :
giving no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our minis-
tration be not blamed; but in everything com.mending our-
selves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in aiBictions,
in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in
tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings ; in pureness, in
knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in the Koly
Spirit, in love unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power
of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand
and on the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and
good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and
yet well known ; as dying, and behold, we live ; as chastened,
and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alwaj/s rejoicing; as poor,
yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possess-
ing all things." V/hat a rich stream of eloquence ßows
from Paul's lips! He makes plain enough in what consists
the armor of light on the left hand and on the right. To
practice these good works is truly putting on Jesus Christ.

35. It is a very beautiful feature in this passage that it
presents the very highest example, the Lord himself, when
it says, "Put ye on the Lord." Here is a strong incentive.
For the individual v^ho can see his master fasting, laboring,
watching, enduring hunger and fatigue, while he himself
feasts, idles, sleeps, and lives in luxury, must be a scoundrel.
What master could tolerate such conduct in a servant? Or
what servant would dare attempt such things? We can but
blush with shame when v/e behold our unlikcness to Christ.

36. Who can influence to action him who refuses to be
warmed and aroused by the example of Christ himself?
What is to be accomplished by the rustling of leaves and
the sound of words when the thunder-clap of Christ's ex-
ample fails to move us? Paul was particular to add the
word "Lord," saying, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ."
As if to say : "Ye servants, think not yourselves great and
exalted. Look upon your Lord, who, though under no ob-
ligation, denied himself."



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 25

"And make not provision for the fiesh, to fulfil the
lusts thereof."

37. Paul here briefly notices tv/o different provisions for
the flesh. One is supplying its natural wants — furnishing
the body with food and raiment necessary to sustain life
and vigor; guarding against enfeebling it and unfitting it
for labor by too much restraint.

38. The other provision is a sinful one, the gratification
of the lusts and inordinate appetites. This Paul here for-
bids. It is conducive to works of darkness. The flesh
must be restrained and made subservient to the spirit. It
must not dismount its master, but carry him if necessary.
Sirach (ch 33, 24) says: "Fodder, a wand, and burdens are
for the ass; and bread, correction, and work for a servant."
He does not say the animal is to be mistreated or maimed;
nor does he say the servant is to be abused or im.prisoned.
Thus to the body pertains subjection, labor and whatever is
essential to its proper welfare. Paul says of himself: "I
buffet my body, and bring it into bondage [subjection]."
i Cor 9, 27. He does not say he brings his body to illness
or death, but makes it serve in submission to the spirit.

39. Paul adds this last admonition for the sake of two
classes of people. One class is represented by them who
make natural necessity an excuse to indulge their lusts and
gratify their desires. Because of humanity's proneness to
such error, many saints, deploring the sin, have often in the
attempt to resist it, unduly restrained their bodies. So
subtle and deceptive is nature in the matter of its demands
and its lusts, no man can wholly handle it; he must live
this life in insecurity and concern.

The other class is represented by the blind saints who
im.agine the kingdom of God and his righteousness are de-
pendent upon the particular meat and drink, clothing and
couch, of their own choice. They look no farther than at
their individual work in this respect, and fancy that in fast-
ing until the brain is disordered, the stomach deranged or
the body em.aciated, they have done well. Upon this sub-
ject Paul says (1 Cor 8, 8) : "Food will not commend us to,



26 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

God; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we
eat, are we the better." Again (Col 2, 18-23): "Let no
man rob you of your prize by a voluntary'' humility and
worshipping of the angels . . . which things have in-
deed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and
severity- to. the body ; but are not of any value against the
indulgence of the flesh."

40. Gerson commended the Carthusians for not eating
meat, even though debility made meat a necessity. He
would deny it even at the cost of life. Thus was the great
man deceived by this superstitious, angelic spirituality.
What if God judges its votaries as murderers of themselves?
Indeed, no orders, statutes or vows contrary to the com-
mand of God can rightfully be made ; and if made they would
profit no more than would a vow to break one's marriage
contract. Certainly God has here in the w^ords of Paul for-
bidden such destruction of our own bodies. It is our duty
to allow the body all necessary food, whether wine, meat.
eggs or anything else ; whether the time be Friday, Sunday,
in Lent or after the feast of Easter ; regardless of all orders,
traditions and vows, and of the Pope. No prohibition con-
trary to God's command can avail, though made by the
angels even.

41. This wretched folly of vows has its rise irt darkness
and blindness; the looking upon mere works and trusting
to be saved by the number and magnitude of them. Paul
would make of works "armor of light," and employ them
to overcome the works of darkness. Thus far, then, and no
farther, should fasting, vigilance and exertion be practiced.
Before God it matters not at all whether you eat fish or
meat, drink water or wine, wear red or green, do this or that
All foods are good creations of God and to be used. Only
take heed to be temperate in appropriating them and to ab-
stain when it is necessary to the conquest of the works oi
darkness. It is imipossible to lay down a common rule of
abstinence, for all bodies are not constituted alike. One
needs more, another less. Everyone must judge for himself,
and must care for his body according to the advice of Paul :



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 27

"Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts there-
of." Had there been any other rule for us, Paul would not
have omitted it here.

42. Hence, you see, the ecclesiastical traditions that
flatly forbid the eating of meat are contrary to the Gospel.
Paul predicts their appearance in First Timothy 4, 1-3,
where he says : "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later
times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to
seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hy-
pocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own con-
science as with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and com-
manding to abstain from meats, which God created to be re-
ceived with thanksgiving." That these words have reference
to ecclesiastical orders and those of the entire Papacy, no
one can deny. They are plain. Hence the nature of papis-
tical works is manifest.

43. Also you will note here Paul does not sanction the
fanatical devotion of certain effeminate saints who set apart
to themselves particular days for fasting, as a special service
to God, one for this saint, another for that. These are all
blind paths, leading us to base our blessings on works.
Without distinction of days and meats, our lives should
be temperate and sober throughout. If good works are to
be our armor of light, and if the entire life is to be pure
and chaste, we must never lay off the arms of defense, but
always be found sober, temperate, vigilant, energetic. These
fanatical saints, however, fast one day on bread and water
and then eat and drink to excess every day for one-fourth
of the year. Again, some fast from food in the evening but
drink immoderately. And who can mention all the folly and
works of darkness originating from regarding works for the
sake of the efforts themselves and not for the purpose they
serve. Men convert the armor of good works into a mirror,
fasting without knowing the reason for abstinence. They
are like those who bear a sword merely to look at, and when
assailed do not use it. This is enough on today's epistle
lesson.



Seconb Sunba^ in Hbvent

Epistle Text: Romans 15, 4-13.

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were
written for our learning, that through patience and
through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to
be of the same mind one v/ith another according to



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 2 of 29)