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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Having salvation, works will follow spontaneously, to the
honor of God and to the benefit of our neighbor. They
will not be in any wise prompted by fear of punishment or
expectation of reward. This is implied in the words : "If a
son, then an heir through Christ."

106. Now we have made it sufficiently plain that faith
alone, faith before any works are done and without them,
constitutes us children. If it makes us children, it makes
us heirs; a child is an heir. When the inheritance is al-
ready possessed, can it be first secured through works? It
is an inconsistent conclusion that the inheritance bequeathed
through grace is already possessed, and at the same time
is still to be sought and obtained first through works and
merits, as if it were not present or not given. The inher-
itance is simply eternal salvation. We have frequently as-
serted that through baptism and faith the Christian instan-
taneously possesses all, but does not yet behold it visibly.
He possesses it only in faith, for in this life he could not
bear the open manifestation of such blessings. As Paul



SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. 265

says (Rom 8, 24-25), we are already saved, but in Hope;
we do not yet see our salvation, but we wait for it. And
Peter tells us (1 Pet 1, 4-5) that our salvation is reserved in
heaven ready to be revealed in the last time.

107. For this reason, the Christian ought not to be in-
fluenced, like a servant, by a desire to secure advantage
for him.self, but by a longing to benefit others in their need.
Truly, he must live and act, not for himself, but for his
neighbor here on earth. So doing, he will most assuredly
live and work for God. Through faith he has sufficient for
him.self ; he is rich, well filled and happy for ever.

108. Paul adds "through Christ" to avoid the implica-
tion that the inheritance is bestowed upon us without any
merit or cost whatever. Although it costs us nothing, and
although it is bestov/ed without merit on our part, yet
Christ was placed under great obligations. For the sake of
that inheritance he was put under the Law for us ; he paid
tj:ie cost to secure, or to merit, the inheritance for all who
'believe in him. When we confer an unmerited favor upon
la neighbor, it costs him nothing. But what we bestow on
him freely, of our pure goodness, as Christ bestows bless-
ings upon us, costs us labor and substance.

109. The unlearned may be somewhat confused by
Paul's assertion that men are no longer servants, but chil-
dren, and when the fact is, there are few believers in Christ,
few children, while the world is filled with heretics and Cain-
like people. But we must remember he speaks in a doc-
trinal connection. Kis meaning is: Before Christ came,
and before the preaching of the Gospel v/hereby children
are made, only the Lav/ was preached — the Law which can
make only servants with its work. The Gospel being
preached at the present time, we have no need for the serv-
ant-maker, the Law. All who aforetime were, through
the Law and its works, servants like Cain, now may be-
come, through faith, righteous and saveÖ without works.
Therefore, to say there are no more servants, but children,
is practically saying that now no servile doctrine is to be
taught; now we become children, not servants. Only faith



266 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

and the Gospel are to be preached. Only they are to be
our doctrine. This doctrine imparts the Spirit and teaches
us to confide in God and to serve only our neighbor. Thus
the whole Law is fulfilled.

110. In this manner Paul calls the Galatians again from
the teachers who had led them back to the Law and its
works. Similarly, the Pope with his foolish laws has for a
long time misled the people through his bishops, priests
and monks, and has exterminated the Christian faith —
conduct foretold in the Scriptures concerning Antichrist.
Then let him who would be saved, shun the Pope and his
adherents, and all church orders, as he would Lucifer's own
servants and apostles.



flew l^eac's Ba^

Epistle Text: Galatians 3, 23-29.
23 But before faith came, we were kept in v/ard un-
der the law, shut up unto the faith which should after-
wards be revealed. 24 So that the law is become our
tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified
by faith. 25 But now that faith is come, we are no
longer under a tutor. 26 For ye are all sons of God,
through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many^ of you
as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28
There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be nei-
ther bond nor free, there can be no male and fernale;
for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye
are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs accord-
ing to promise.

THE LAW AND ITS WORKS.

1. This, too, is really a Pauline Epistle lesson concern-
ing faith as opposed to works, and taken in connection with
the preceding lesson is easily understood. What is said
there concerning the servant is true here concerning the
pupil. Paul employs the tvv^o figures to teach us the office
of the Law and what it profits. We must, therefore, again
refer to the Law and its works, to the fact that works are
of twofold origin. Some are extorted by fear of punishment
or prompted by expectation of pleasure and gain ; others are
spontaneous, cheerful and gratuitous, not performed to es-
cape punishment nor to gain reward, but inspired by pure
kindness and a desire for what is good. The first class are
the works of servants and pupils; the second class, of chil-
dren and free heirs.

2. The youth under a tutor follows not his own will;

267



268 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

but, from fear of the rod, his master's wilL While under
control of his master, his real character cannot be detected.
Were he free, his true self would be apparent, for he would
m.anifest his natural disposition and his works would be
his own. The works he performs under restraint and co-
ercion are not really his ov/n, but those of the tutor who
forces them. Were he not under control of the tutor, he
would do none of them, but rather things quite the reverse.
3. In this homely but apt illustration Paul presents at
once the province of the Law and the limitation of free will,
or human nature, with a clearness not to be surpassed. It
plainly teaches the meaning, operation and end of the Law,
and the extent of human nature's pov/er.

We note that constraint has a tv/ofold effect upon the
youth: First, fear of his tutor preserves him from many
evils into which he would otherv/ise fall; he is withheld
from indulging in a wicked, licentious life, in becoming ut-
terly dissolute. Second, his heart is filled with hatred to-
ward the tutor who curbs his will. This is the situation
with him: the greater his external restraint from evil, the
greater his inward hatred of him who restrains. His char-
acter is in the scales ; when one side goes up, the other goes
down. W^hile outVN^ard sin decreases, inward sin increases.
We know from experience that those youths most strictly
reared are, Vv^hen given liberty, more wicked than young
men less rigidly brought up. So impossible is it to improve
human nature with commandments and punishm_ents ; some-
thing else is necessary.

4. Likewise, so long as man is in his natural state and
destitute of grace, he does not what he would, but v/hat his
tutor the Law obliges him to do. It must be confessed by
all that were it not for hell and the Law's penalties, no one
would do good. Now, man's works being not wrought of
free will, they are not his own; they are the works of the
coercive and restraining Law. Well may the apostle de-
clare them not our works, but the "works of the Lav/," be-
cause what we do against our will is not our achievement,
but that of the constraining power.



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 269

5. For instance, should one forcibly make my hand the
instrument to slay another, or to bestow alms upon a desti-
tute individual, it would not be my deed, though performed
by my hand, but the deed of him who forced the action.
Consequently, I would be neither injured nor benefited in
the least by the act. Likewise, the works of the Law ren-
der no one righteous, notwithstanding man performs them.
For, so far as our will is concerned, we do them merely
from fear of the Law's penalty. The will would much pre-
fer to do otherwise and would if not constrained by the
coercive and menacing Law. Such works are not our own,
then. Notwithstanding, everyone must be saved through
his own act.

6. Further, one may not, or may think he does not, do
works through fear of punishment ; he is, however, inspired
by the promises and inducements of the Law. And that
motive is as wrong, if not more so, than the other. Such
a position implies that if heaven v/ere not promised, if they
knew there were no reward, no effort would be made. The
deeds wrought from this latter motive are, therefore, like-
wise not our own; they are the w^orks of the Law with its
inducements in the nature of favors and rewards. They
are more dangerous and less easily recognized than the
former kind, being more subtile and bearing greater resem-
blance to true, spontaneous works.

7. But tribulation will prove them. They will appear in
their true character when they are rejected as to merit,
when gratuitous service is required, service uninfluenced by
hope of reward, service rendered only for the honor of God
and for the benefit of one's neighbor. Then human nature
utterly fails — is powerless. Then is evident the fact that
it does no good work of its own, nothing but the extraneous
works of the Law; just as the irrational animal obeys in
fear of the lash, or labors for the sake of its food. How
many righteous individuals, men of honorable character,
think you, would there be today if neither heaven nor
shame, punishment and hell were before them? Not one.
Order is preserved through fear of punishment or expecta-



268 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

but, from fear of the rod, his master's wilL While under
control of his master, his real character cannot be detected.
Were he free, his true self would be apparent, for he would
manifest his natural disposition and his works would be
his own. The works he performs under restraint and co-
ercion are not really his ov/n, but those of the tutor who
forces them. Were he not under control of the tutor, he
would do none of them, but rather things quite the reverse.

3. In this homely but apt illustration Paul presents at
once the province of the Law and the limitation of free will,
or human nature, with a clearness not to be surpassed. It
plainly teaches the meaning, operation and end of the Law,
and the extent of hum^an nature's pov/er.

We note that constraint has a tv/ofold effect upon the
youth: First, fear of his tutor preserves him from many
evils into which he would otherv/ise fall; he is withheld
from indulging in a wicked, licentious life, in becoming ut-
terly dissolute. Second, his heart is filled with hatred to-
ward the tutor who curbs his will. This is the situation
with him: the greater his external restraint from evil, the
greater his inward hatred of him who restrains. His char-
acter is in the scales ; when one side goes up, the other goes
down. While outv/ard sin decreases, inward sin increases.
We know from experience that those youths most strictly
reared are, Vv^hen given liberty, more wicked than young
men less rigidly brought up. So impossible is it to improve
human nature with commiandments and punishm_ents ; some-
thing else is necessary.

4. Likewise, so long as man is in his natural state and
destitute of grace, he does not what he would, but v^hat his
tutor the Law obliges him to do. It must be confessed by
all that were it not for hell and the Law's penalties, no one
would do good. Now, man's works being not wrought of
free will, they are not his own; they are the works of the
coercive and restraining Law. Well may the apostle de-
clare them not our works, but the "works of the Law," be-
cause what we do against our will is not our achievement,
but that of the constraining power.



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 269

5. For instance, should one forcibly make my hand the
instrument to slay another, or to bestow alms upon a desti-
tute individual, it would not be my deed, though performed
by my hand, but the deed of him who forced the action.
Consequently, I would be neither injured nor benefited in
the least by the act. Likewise, the works of the Law ren-
der no one righteous, notwithstanding man performs them.
For, so far as our will is concerned, we do them merely
from fear of the Law's penalty. The will would much pre-
fer to do otherwise and would if not constrained by the
coercive and menacing Law. Such works are not our own,
then. Notwithstanding, everyone must be saved through
his own act.

6. Further, one may not, or may think he does not, do
works through fear of punishment; he is, however, inspired
by the promises and inducements of the Law. And that
motive is as wrong, if not m.ore so, than the other. Such
a position implies that if heaven v/ere not promised, if they
knew there were no reward, no effort would be made. The
deeds wrought from this latter motive are, therefore, like-
wise not our own; they are the works of the Law with its
inducements in the nature of favors and rewards. They
are more dangerous and less easily recognized than the
formier kind, being more subtile and bearing greater resem-
blance to true, spontaneous works.

7. But tribulation will prove them. They will appear in
their true character when they are rejected as to merit,
when gratuitous service is required, service uninfluenced by
hope of reward, service rendered only for the honor of God
and for the benefit of one's neighbor. Then human nature
utterly fails — is powerless. Then is evident the fact that
it does no good work of its own, nothing but the extraneous
works of the Law; just as the irrational animal obeys in
fear of the lash, or labors for the sake of its food. How
many righteous individuals, men of honorable character,
think you, would there be today if neither heaven nor
shame, punishment and hell were before them? Not one.
Order is preserved through fear of punishment or expecta-



270 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

tion of gain. The works of the Law, then, are all deceptive.
As the Scriptures declare: "All men are liars." Ps 116, 11.
*'Surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity.'*
Ps 39, 5.

The OfBce of the Lav/.

8. Thus, too, we find with all men two effects of the
Law: First, by that tutor they are secured against shame-
ful, dissolute conduct. Under the discipline of the works of
the Law, they maintain an honorable outward life. Second-
ly, in their hearts they really become enemies to the Law
with its penalties ; and the m.ore severe the chastisement, the
greater their hatred. Who is not an enemy to death and
hell? And what is that but being an enemy to the Lav/ that
imposes such punishment? And v/hat is enmity to the Law
but enmity to righteousness? But is not the enemy of right-
eousness an enemy of God himself? Then do we not arrive
at the ultimate conclusion that we are not only unjustified,
but we also hate righteousness, love sin and are enemies to
God with all our hearts, hov/ever beautiful and honorable
our outward conduct — our works — may appear?

9. Now, unquestionably God desires to be loved with the
whole heart. The commandment (Deut 6, 5) reads, "Thou
shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart." God wills

' that our good works should be really our ov/n, not those of-
our tutor the Law, or of death, hell or heaven. That is, we
are not to act from a fear of death or hell, or for the sake
of enjoying heaven, but from a willing spirit, a desire and
love for righteousness. He v/ho does a good deed through
fear of death and hell, does it not to the honor of God. It
is a work of death and hell, for they have extorted it. Be-
cause of these, he has wrought; otherwise he would not
have done the deed. Therefore, he remains a servant, a
slave, of death and hell, so long as these inspire his works.
Now, if he remains their servant, he must die and be con-
demned. To him apply the proverbs, "He that fears hell,
enters it" and "Trembling will not deliver from death."

10. But you say, "What must be your conclusion, for
who then can be saved? who does not tremble and fear



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 271

death and hell? who executes his works, or leads an honor-
able life, without fear?" I reply: Yes, but who, being filled
with such fear and with a hatred of God's Law and his
righteousness, loves God? Where is human nature here?
Where is free will? Still you refuse to believe in the ab-
solute necessity of God's grace; still you will not admit
the conduct of all men sinful, and false ; still you cannot be
persuaded that works do not make one righteous.

11. Here, indeed, is evident the necessity for the Law,
and the purpose it serves — God's design in it — its office being
twofold: First, to preserve discipline among us; to impel
us to an honorable outv/ard life, a life in which we can
dwell together without devouring one another as we would
were Law, fear and punishment lacking, and as formerly
was the case with certain heathen. This is why God did
not, in the New Testament dispensation, abolish the secu-
lar sword. He established its place, though he did not make
use of it. And it is not necessary for his followers to em-
ploy it otherwise than to restrain bold and dissolute con-
duct; and to enable men to live together in peace, to main-
tain themselves and to rear their families. Without it, all
countries would be demoralized, and overrun with m.urderers
and robbers. No v/oman or child would escape violence.
The sword and the Law preserve men and impel them to a
quiet, peaceful and honorable life. But they do not through
these restraints becom^e righteous; their hearts are not made
better. Their hands are restrained and bound, that is all.
Their works, their apparent righteousness, is not their own;
it is of the sword, which extorts it by inspiring the fear of
punishment.

12. Similarly, God's Law impels us, through fear of death
and hell, to forsake many evils. Like a tutor, it holds us
to an honorable outv/ard life. But by the Law no one be-
comes righteous before God. The heart remains an enemy
to its tutor, hates his chastisements and would prefer free-
dom.

13. Second, God's design in the Law is to enable man to
know himself; to perceive the false and unjustified state of



272 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

his heart ; to discover how far he is from God and how ut-
terly impotent his own nature is; to disdain his own good-
ness and to recognize it as nothing in comparison to what
is necessary to the fulfilment of the Law; to be humbled
in consequence of such knowledge and come to the cross,
yearning for Christ, longing for his grace, despairing of him-
self and placing all his hope in Christ. Christ will then
give him a different spirit and change his heart. No longer
will he fear death and hell, no longer look for life and heaven.
For, being voluntarily and unselfishly devoted to the ful-
filment of the Law, he will maintain a clear and confi-
dent conscience toward it during his whole life and even
in the hour of death. He will be equally uninfluenced by
fear of death, hope of heaven or any other motive. We read
in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch 2, 15) how Christ made
atonement that he "might deliver all them who through
fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
These words make it evident enough that we must have no
fear of death, and that they who live in fear of it are
servants, nor will they be saved. Now, neither our own na-
ture nor the Law can liberate us from that fear. Indeed,
they but increase it. Christ alone has freed us from it. If
V7e believe in him, he will give us that free, undaunted spirit
which fears neither death nor hell, which seeks neither life
nor heaven, but voluntarily and joyfully serves God.

14. Therefore, we see, first, how dangerous are the doc-
trines which urge the attainment of righteousness only
through commandments and laws. These things but sepa-
rate man farther from God, from Christ ; yes, from the Law
and all righteousness. The effect of the inculcation of such
doctrines is simply to render man's conscience continually
more fearful, timid, dejected and wretched, and to teach him
ever to fear death and hell, and only them; until eventually
his heart is filled with naught but despair, and he must be-
come, in any aspect, a martyr of the devil.

15. Secondly, we see three attitudes toward the Law;
that is, mankind conducts itself in three ways with refer-
ence to it. Some disregard it utterly, and boldly oppose



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 273

it by a dissolute life. To them it is practically no Law.
Others because of the Law refrain from such a course and
are preserved to an honorable life. But while outwardly
they live within the Law's prohibitions, inwardly they are
enemies of this their tutor. The motive of all their conduct
is the fear of death and hell. They keep the Law only ex-
ternally; rather, it keeps them externally. Inwardly they
neither keep it nor are kept by it. The third class observe
it both externally and with the heart. This class are the
tables of Moses, written upon outwardly and inwardly by
the finger of God himself.

16. The first class are righteous neither without nor
within; the second are only outwardly pious and not in
heart; but the third are thoroughly righteous. Upon this
point Paul says (1 Tim 1, 8), "But we know that the Law
is good, if a man use it lawfully." But in what way is it
lawfully used? I answer, *'Law is not made for a righteous
man, but for the lawless" (verse 9). And what are we to
understand by that? Simply that he who would preach
the Law aright must be governed by these three classes.
He must not by any means preach the Law to the third
class as an instrument of righteousness; this were perver-
sion. But to the first class such preaching is in order. For
them is the Law instituted. Its object is that they may
forsake their dissolute life and yield themselves to the
preserving power of their tutor. However, it is not enough
for them to be guarded and kept by the Law; they must
learn also to keep it. So, in addition to the Law, and be-
yond it, the Gospel must be preached, through which is
given the grace of Christ to keep the former. There is a
considerable difference between observing the Law and be-
ing preserved by it; between keeping and being kept. The
first class neither keep it nor are kept ; the second are kept ;
and the third keep it.

17. These three attitudes of mankind toward the Law
aue prefigured in certain acts of Moses. First, where he
broke the tables when the Jews worshiped the golden calf.
Ex 32, 19. The breaking of the tables, and the people's con-



274 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

sequent failure to receive them, suggest the first class, who
do not receive the Law at all, but break it. Second, Moses
brought other tables, which were received by the people and
the skin of his face shone, but Aaron and the Israelites could
not endure the shining of Moses' face, and he was com-
pelled to cover it with a veil when he would speak to them.
Ex 34, 30-33. Here is suggested the second class, v/ho re-
ceive the Lav7 but only for outv/ard observance. With them
it is too bright for inward obedience; they are afraid of it.

18. Hypocrites make for them.selves a veil, as Paul ex-
plains (2 Cor 3, 13-15) — the arrogance of their works, of
their external righteousness. They v/ill not look the Law
squarely in the face and see how futile is their righteous-
ness. As Paul says, to this very day the veil is upon their
hearts.

Then, too, Moses leads the people no farther than to the
Jordan, slays only two kings — Sihon and Og — and gives
only two and a half tribes of Israel their portion of the
land. Here is illustrated half-hearted righteousness; insig-
nificant, outward righteousness. Then, there in the wild-
erness of Moab, Moses dies; the Law can go no farther.

19. Novv', third: Joshua succeeds Moses and leads the
whole multitude dry-shod through the Jordan, into all parts
of the promised land. There is now no Moses, no Law;
only Joshua, Christ, who leads by faith and fulfils all Moses'
commandments. Thus is suggested the class to whom no
Law is given, as Paul says, and who become righteous, not
through works, but through grace ; that is, their good works
are not performed through constraint of the Law. Moses is



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 23 of 29)