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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because confession is necessary to their salvation, since
man may be saved otherwise than through his kingdom,
but because God wills and commands obedience to the
King.

Consequently, with the Papists Christ is really no Sav-
iour. In the depths of their hearts he is a tyrant and a
taskmaster, and unnecessary to human nature in its effort
to obtain grace; rather, he is to human nature an added
burden, for it m.ust then obey not only God as heretofore,
but Christ with his commandments.

49. Of olden time, many prophesied that in Antichrist's
day all heretics would unite in the extermination of the
whole world. And today, under the rule of the Pope and
the Turk, heresy has full sway. In the rejection and con-
demnation of Christ and the entire Scriptures, a rejection
leaving nothing but the name, is easily proven that all here-
sies, errors and darkness existing from the beginning of the
v^orld, now reign. I often have fears for the condemnation
of all men of the present age except those who die in their
cradles. Yet no one sees and deplores the^ awful wrath of
God overhanging us.

50. Mark you, Paul's essential reason for always empha-
sizing faith in Christ is the fact that he clearly foresaw this
virulent doctrine, the doctrine presuming to treat v/ith God
independently of Christ, as if God and human nature were
harmonious, as if righteousness might love sin and grant
its desires.

Let us, therefore, beloved friends, be wise and learn
Christ aright, namely: Of first importance, we must hear
the Gospel and believe in Christ ; believe in him not merely



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 287

as a Lord to whom honor is due, but as that one who offered
himself in place of our sinful nature, who took upon himself
all the wrath of God merited by ourselves with our vs^orks,
and overcame ; believe that the fruit of that conquest he did
not reserve unto himself, but assigned it to us, for our
own; and that all who believe in him as such a conqueror
shall thereby surely be redeemed from God's wrath and re-
ceived into his favor.

So we see how great the need and benefit of Christ is to
us, and recognize the fallacy of the position that one may
by his ov/n natural powers earn God's grace ; yes, recognize
it as a device of Satan himself. For if human nature can
obtain grace, Christ is unnecessary as an intercessor, a medi-
ator. But, he being essential, human nature can obtain only
disgrace; the two are inconsistent — man his own mediator,
and Christ the mediator for man.

"For as many of you as v/ere baptized into Christ
did put on Christ."

51. Note the beautiful order in Paul's reasoning. "But
after that faith is come we are no longer under a tutor."
Why not? "For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in
Christ Jesus." But hov/ are v/e become the children of
God? "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did
put on Christ." Christ is the child of God; therefore, he
who clothes himself in Christ, God's son, must be the child
of God. He is clothed with divine adoption, which unques-
tionably m.ust constitute him a child. Now, if a child, he
is no longer under the Law, v^^liere are none but servants.
For the child him^self, while under the Law, like a pupil
under a tutor, is but as a servant. Such is the word of
Paul, as stated in the following and the preceding epistle
lessons.

52. But v\7hat is meant by "putting on Christ?" The
faithless will readily reply, "It means to follow Christ, imi-
tating his example." But in the same way I might put on
Peter, or Paul, or any saint, and thus nothing special would
be said of Christ. We v/ill let faith speak hers; it is faith
which Paul so beautifully suggests in the v/ords "put on."



288 LUTHER'S Ex^ISTLE SERMONS.

Naturally, until baptism the individual has never followed
Christ. In baptism he begins to follow. Therefore, Christ
must be "put on" before he can be followed. And essen-
tially there is a marked difference between putting on Christ
and following his example.

Reference is to a spiritual putting on — in the conscience.
This is effected by the soul receiving as its own Christ and
all his righteousness, and confidently relying on these as if
it had itself earned them; just as one ordinarily receives
his apparel. This spiritual reception is the putting on ; such
is the nature and character of true faith.

53. Unquestionably Christ is given to us m a way that
makes his righteousness, all he is and all he has, stand as
our surety; he becomes our own. The believer in this
doctrine will enjoy the blessing, as Paul teaches (Rom 8,
32) : "Ke that spared not his own Son, but delivered him
up for us all, how shall be not also with him freely give us
all things?" Again (1 Cor 1, 30), "Christ Jesus, who was
made unto uß wisdom from God, and righteousness and
sanctification, and redemption."

Note, he who thus believes in Christ puts on Christ.
Faith, then, is something great enough to justify and save
man. It affords him all the blessings in Christ, giving the
conscience comfort and security. Thus man rejoices in
Christ and is inclined to work all good and avoid all evil;
he no longer fears death or hell, or any evil, richly clothed
as he is in Christ. This is satisfying the Law and being
no more under it. In connection v/ith Christ as the gar-
ment, the Koly Spirit is in the soul, and the individual is a
wholly different person. The soul is clothed in the adop-
tion of God. It must, therefore, be a child.

54. Now, no saint can in God's sight be thus put on. It
is necessary for every soul to put on Christ for himself.
Man has nothing to give to another to put on. After receiv-
ing Christ, after putting on the garment of his righteous-
ness, there follows imitation of Christ's example. Man
treats his neighbor as Christ has treated him. He gives and
helps his neighbor with all the good he has and can com-



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 289

mand; he permits himself to be put on — clothes his neigh-
bor with what he possesses. But the garment of Christ's
righteousness wherein he is himself clothed, he cannot give
to his neighbor. No man can confer his faith upon another ;
he cannot give another man faith like his own. True, man
may pray for his neighbor to be clothed with Christ as he is.
But everyone must believe for himself. Christ alone m.ust
clothe us all with himself.

55. He who has not this faith, to believe that Christ with
all his blessings is his — he does not yet rightly believe.
He is not a Christian and is not in heart cheerful and happy.
Only faith renders Christians Vi^illing, joyous, secure, saved
and children of God. Where faith is, the Holy Spirit must
dwell. What a beautiful, rainbow-hued and priceless gar-
ment is this Christ's righteousaess, which combines in
its magnificent and profuse decorations, its jev/els and orna-
ments, all virtue, grace, wisdom, truth, righteousness and
every blessing in Christ ! Well may Paul exclaim (2 Cor 9,
15), "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." And
v/ell may Peter say (2 Pet 1, 4) that through Christ great
and precious gifts are given to us. Christ is the coat of
many colors which Jacob made for Joseph, thus favoring
him above his other children (Gen 37, 3) ; for Christ alone
is full of grace and truth. Again, Christ is the precious gar-
ment of Aaron the high priest wherein he served God;
concerning that figure m.uch might be said. Paul's words
here suggest these historical things.

56. Further, while we put on Christ — receive him — he
also puts on or receives us and all we have as if his own.
Now, he finds in us nothing good ; he finds naught but sins.
These he assumes. He removes them from us as disfigure-
ments from his glorious garment. More, he intercedes for
us before God, bearing our sins and saving us from eternal
punishment. Paul says in Romans 8, 34 that Christ m.aketh
intercession for us before God. Psalm 41, 4 testifies: "I
said, O Jehovah, have mercy upon me: heal my soul; for
I have sinned against thee." And Psalm 69, 5: "O God,
thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid



290 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

from thee." All this testimony has reference to us per-
sonally. Paul so construes it in Rom.ans 15, 3, where, quot-
ing from Psalm 69, he speaks of how Christ bore our sins
and neither rejected us nor regarded his holiness too good
for us. He says, "But, as it is written, The reproaches of
them that reproached thee fell upon me."

57. Now, we are pleased with the message that Christ is
a garment for us, and that he intercedes for us as his gar-
ment ; but with great reluctance do we suffer him to purify
us. However, if we would be his garment, we certainly
must suffer him to purify us. He cannot and will not ap-
pear in impurity. In the days of the martyrs, when he had
but lately clothed himself with us, he began w^ith zeal to
purify the garment with death and various forms of suffer-
ing. Then he sat, as Malachi 3, 3 says, and purified the
sons of Levi, as a fuller purifies garments. When Christ
effects much suffering, indications are favorable for good.
Wherever his garment is in evidence, he unceasingly puri-
fies with various forms of suffering. Where suffering is not
present, there his garment is not.

''There can be neither Jev/ nor Greek, there can be
neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female ;
for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus."

58. Of course Paul does not m^ean that physically there
is no Jew and Greek, no man and woman. He means, as
related to the subject he is handling. But of what is he
speaking? Not of the natural body, but of faith, justifica-
tion and Christ — how, through faith, we become children
of God in Christ, a change erFected in the soul, in man's
conscience ; not in his fiesh and blood, not through his mem-
bers, but through the Word'cf the Gospel.

In this sense there is no difference in persons, whether
they be Jews or Greeks, bond or free, male or fem.ale. Ac-
cording to the customs of men, physically the Jev/ is bound
by a different law and a different manner of life from the
Greek; the bond from the free; the male from the fem.ale.
The Jew is circumcised, the Greek is not; the male covers
not his hair, but the female wears a veil. Then, too, every



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 291

>
man serves God in his own way; hence the saying, Many

countries, many customs. These customs, however, as well
as all things external and not of faith, are powerless to ren-
der one righteous and pious before God. Neither do they
hinder justification. Faith may exist equally well with all
classes of persons, differing not with any custom and dis-
tinctions.

59. The trouble is, one falls into certain habits, adopts
certain customs, and adheres to them in the endeavor to
become righteous and just; in the attempt to aid the soul in
putting off its sins and securing salvation. In such case
all is perverted. Christ is denied, God is lost, faith and
the Gospel are abandoned, works and the Law rule again,
and the conscience is misled into thinking that to fail of
observing customs means manifestly to be lost, while ob-
servance might effect salvation. This is the most pernicious
error existing among men. Against it the apostle vehem-
ently warns. It is impossible for Christian faith to live in
connection with such a misguided conscience. The indi-
vidual will never — he cannot — be justified and saved by
anything in heaven or earth except Christ. All temporal
manners, laws, labors, customs, and all persons but Christ,
are fitted to serve the earthly life and to profit mankind.

Works Cannot Save.

60. What defect of the Jews, then, prevents their being
saved? According to Paul (Rom 9, 32), they seek salvation
by works and not by faith. They would have none but Jews
admitted to heaven. But God designs that none but Chris-
tians, whether Jev/s or Greeks, male or female, shall enter
there. The Jews think observance of the Law will save
them, and failure to observe it will condemn them. God,
however, intends that he who believes in Christ shall be
saved, and he who believes not shall be damned. Mark 16,
16. Moreover, without faith no one can keep the Law,
as stated above, and as Paul testifies again in the sixth
chapter and thirteenth verse: "Not even they who receive
circumcision do themselves keep the Law." Why not?
Because they do not observe the Law willingly, but merely



292 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

through fear of its threats and hope of its rewards. Since
the Jews think it necessary for them to be Jews, to under-
take observance of the Law strictly according to the man-
ner of their sect, thus cleaving to Judaism with its laws,
while the conscience is fettered, they must eternally perish.
For, according to Paul, the conclusion is, there is no Jew
nor Greek; but only Christ and Christians.

61. Now, were they first to believe in Christ and then,
if they feel so disposed, to remain Jews in custom, follow-
ing or omitting the practice of circumcision and observing
such laws as they see fit, not presuming thereby to become
righteous and to be saved, but to be saved only through the
grace of Christ, as were their fathers and the patriarchs,
according to Peter's statement (Acts 15, 11) — were the
Jews so to proceed, observance of the Law would be no
detriment to them. But they will not do thus. So firmly
do they cleave to the works, the terrors and the allurements
of the Law, they even condemn and persecute all who teach
otherwise, who preach faith. Their predecessors, upon this
same point of Law-observance, persecuted and killed the
prophets under the plea of exterminating, for the sake of
God and his Law, deceivers of the people and blasphemers
of the Law and of the service of God as commanded by
Moses.

62. But note, the Jews of our day are yet more rude and
arbitrary. The ancient Jews had at least the plausible ex-
cuse that they were bound by the Law of God. But our
Jews — the Pope and his followers — drive us to observe
things of their own invention, to laws merely human and
even forbidden of God. They make a great cry about the
noble virtue of obedience, teaching that without it salvation
is impossible to any, but with it everyone may be saved;
obedience, however, not of God's Law, but of their own
laws and inventions.

If we but notice their conduct, we see plainly that their
expectation of attaining righteousness and salvation is
based, not upon Christian faith, but upon their works, upon
the observance of their own laws, as Carthusians, Francis-



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 293

cans, Augustinians, Benedictines, preachers, prebendaries,
vicars and so on. They even acknowledge that they regard
their orders and positions as the proper medium for attain-
ing righteousness and salvation. Plainly enough, then, their
consciences cleave to v/orks and not to the grace of Christ.
Reading the words of Paul, "There is neither Jew nor
Greek," they yet say, "There is, nevertheless, Carthusians,
Franciscans, Benedictines, Augustinians, preachers of this
and that order.

63. At the mention of faith in Christ, the Papists ex-
claim: "We know, indeed, that faith in Christ is essential,
but that only through him can we become righteous and be
saved, we do not believe." And they demand: "What
would be the use of good works at all then? Our orders
and positions would be vain. You would abolish good
works and the service of God. Away with such a cursed
heretic! Fire here! Fire! Heretic! Heretic! Shall it be that
St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St.
Bernard, St. Anthony, have all so erred? What are you
thinking about? Where did you get that diabolical faith?"
Now, is not that the manner of our saintly Jews? What,
then, shall we do with them? V/e must take the attitude
of Paul when he said to the Galatians, and repeated the
statement (Gal 1, 8-9) : "Though v/e, or an angel from
heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that
which we preached unto you, let him be anathema."

64. So we also say : "Our preaching and the foundation
of our faith, is that by faith alone, independently of the
Law and of works, justification and salvation stand. And
were the whole world Carthusians and taught otherwise, let
it be accursed. Were the entire world barefooted friars,
preachers, Augustines, Benedicts, and taught otherwise, let
it be accursed. Or, again, if there were one whole world
of holy Augustines, another of holy Francises, a third of
holy Dominies, a fourth of holy Benedicts, a fifth of holy
Anthonys, a sixth of St. Pauls, a seventh of angelic Gabriels
— what then? If they teach otherwise, let them be accursed.
The Word of God must stand, and emphatically Christ alone
must remain. What more do you want?



294 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

65. Christ said of such sects as the Papists (Mt 24, 24)
that many false Christs and prophets should arise who
would say, "Lo, here is the Christ," or ''here," and these
were not to be believed. They would perform signs, he
said, calculated to deceive even the elect, if that were pos-
sible. Two things for a long time prevented my under-
standing this passage as having reference to» these sects
and orders. The ßrst thing was the fact that they are so
numerous; they nil the world. Had their numbers been
less, I would not have hesitated to believe that the words
were spoken of them. But I imagined God would not per-
mit so many to err. I did not perceive the plain import of
the text, that many shall err; for even the elect, the minor-
ity, will err with the majority. The other reason why I
understood not was, there are holy persons among the
sects; such as Benedict, Bernard, Augustine, Francis, Dom-
inic and m.any of their followers. I thought no error could
exist in their case. I failed to perceive Christ's m.eaning,
that the elect should stumble, should be tempted by error,
though they should not continue therein.

66. Gideon v/as a man strong in faith, and by faith
wrought great things. Yet he v/as misled when he made
an ephod (Judges 8, 27) — when he instituted a special form
of divine service and a peculiar form of apparel. Many evils
later resulted from that act. According to the Scriptures,
his whole race was exterminated. Why, then, should it be
surprising that St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Dominic, should
err? "Who can vvith certainty say they did not?

67. It is possible that in their case, as is generally true
in the legends of saints, the people overlooked the Vv^-orthiest
practices and true order of the beloved saints and seized
upon the things wherein the saints as men stumbled. Their
infirmities are exalted for their strength, and their strength
is suppressed. Everyone is disposed to follow what is weak-
est and most insignificant; the Vv^orst rather than the best.

68. Yet, if the Papists would make use of these orders
and positions as things optional, not as a means of attaining
righteousness and salvation, but merely as a medium of



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 295

bodily exercise, of service to their neighbors and of honor
to God; and if they would leave their righteousness and
salvation to be secured by faith alone — if they would so do,
their orders and positions would not be an intolerable in-
jury to them. However, these things would not even then
be without offense to the illiterate mass, who are led to
think them the true way, to the disparagement, if not the
destruction, of their faith. For faith is sensitive and pre-
cious. It is easily injured, especially by hypocritical works
and practices so showy as these of the Papists.

69. No doubt the holy fathers, in their relation to their
disciples, made free and proper use of the orders ; yes, with
intent to increase the faith of their disciples. Otherwise the
fathers would not have been really holy. But the blind
Papists only mimic them. In following, they lose sight of
the kernel and retain the shell; they do the works of the
fathers, but forget their faith. They boastfully desire the
appearance of observing the position and the orders of these
holy men, and of following their example, when in reality
they observe but the shadow of the fathers' religion. They
are true apes, mimicing everything they see and yet remain-
ing apes. They do not practice anything like Christian lib-
erty. This is evident from their protest : "Shall we not be-
come righteous and be saved through our positions, our
orders, our works? If salvation depends on faith alone,
something all men have, what sought we in the cloisters?
Why did we become monks? Why are we priests? What
avail the masses we hold and the prayers we offer? W^e
might as well have continued laymen."

You see, their own words prove them unbelievers and
not Christians, and show their unwillingness to unite with
all Christians; a unity to which Paul here refers, saying
that all the baptized have put on Christ and are one in him.
The Papists seek ways peculiar to themselves and superior
to the ways of Christians. Christ is not good enough for
them to put on; he is not sufficient to justify and to save
them.

70. They pervert Paul's statement and say, "All the bap-



296 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

tized are not one in Christ. Not only are there Jews and
Greeks, but also Carthusians, barefooted friars, preachers,
priests and similar orders. And these orders are true means
of salvation." Thus they seek to find first in their own
works the salvation and righteousness which should have
been already theirs through baptism — in faith — as other
Christians enjoy. Forgetting their Christian duties and
Christian name, they assume instead human works and hu-
man names. No longer are they called Christians, but
Carthusians, Benedictines, barefooted friars, and so on.

71. Paul's reference here to the bond and the free is de-
rived from the ancient custom — formerly common in Ger-
many, but no longer so — making of servants bondmen whom
their masters had the right to sell, and the right to deal
with as they would with their beasts. They who are not
such bondmen spiritually, are here called by the apostle
"free.'* Well might the occupants of the cloisters be called
servants and bondmen, for they give themselves into the
possession of men. Would God they might take some
thought for themxselves and let their spiritual existence be
a willing incarceration; not to obtain righteousness and
salvation by their bondage, but to use it as a medium for
exercising these things already received through faith.

72. As little as the fact that you are a man or a woman
contributes to or impedes your salvation, just so little is
your salvation affected by your being a Carthusian or a
priest, your performing certain external works and various
duties, or your assuming different orders or ranks. Again,
to be a woman renders you neither righteous nor wicked,
even if you do all the works appropriate to a woman. Faith
in Christ, independently of your womanhood and its duties
and works, renders you righteous.

Being a nun does not make you spiritual nor pious. It
does not save you, even though you observe most minutely
all the regulations and laws, and perform all the works,
pertaining to the order of nuns; indeed, not though you
alone were to fulfil the combined works, the united duties,
of all nuns. Faith in Christ secures to you the blessings



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 297

of righteousness and salvation — faith which knows neither
nuns nor monks, laymen nor priests, shoemakers nor tailors,
fasts nor prayers, any more- than it knov/s Jews and Greeks,
male and female, bond and free. Faith is in all and above
all, without distinction of orders and ranks, of persons and
works, of gestures, customs and meats, of days, places and
occupations. In short, upon none of these things depend
righteousness and salvation.

Unity in Christ.

73. But Christians may indeed cleave to righteousness
and eternal life — may believe in Christ and unite in him —
no matter how different their external pursuits. Paul says,
"Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus." And Psalm 133, 1
reads, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren
to dwell together in unity." Again: "God setteth the solitary
in families.' Ps 68, 6. Faith is the same experience in all,
and renders all alike righteous. Such is not the case with
sects and orders. There each individual adopts his own
way; consequently he follows a by-path.

Where cloisters have no prelate to teach the true faith
they would better be destroyed. They are only gates to per-
dition. It were better to leave them and learn faith else-
where than to remain in them an hour. Continence is possi-
ble without them. Oh, the numberless snares and scandals !



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 25 of 29)