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 26 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 26 of 29)
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How many noble souls who could be easily helped must be
unmercifully strangled and stifled. "Wo, wo, wo to you
pontiffs, bishops and all who are intrusted v/ith the oversight
of these multitudes. Here the words of Christ apply (Mt 24,
19) : "Woe unto them that are with child and to them that
give suck in those days."

74. Paul says, "Ye all are one" — just the same as one
man. He would not give the idea of multitude; his mean-
ing is : "Ye are not many, but one. Notwithstanding your
number and differences externally, notwithstanding your
differences of position and occupation, things upon which
righteousness and salvation do not depend ; inwardly, in the
matter of salvation and righteousness, ye are one. True, in
the eyes of men the layman differs somewhat from the



298 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

priest, the monk from the nun, the man from the woman;
but before God there is neither layman nor priest, monk
nor nun, man nor woman. One is like another in faith."
A proverb of Scripture, one generally employed by the
apostles, reads, *'There is no respect of persons."

75. The teaching of this passage fulfils the figures in
Exodus 16, 18, relative to the gathering of the manna by
the children of Israel. One gathered more, another less, yet
afterward when they measured it by the omer, which con-
tained the amount one was permitted to eat daily, they re-
ceived an equal share, each his omer. According to the text,
"He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that
gathered little had no lack." So should it be with us. In
the matter of faith we receive alike one Christ in one omer
of faith, even though one individual may hear more of the
Gospel than another; so should we share in love. The ad-
vantages and blessings of all Christians ought to be common.
Thus does the apostle (2 Cor 8, 15) explain this same figure,
that he who gathered much should help him who had little
or nothing, and the one having little was to be supplied by
the possessor of much. In such case burdens would be
equal, as they were in the beginning, with the apostles.

76. As Christ treats us in the matter of faith — manifest-
ing his love, pouring out his blessing upon us, making us
all like him.self and himself like us — so must we follow
him in sharing our possessions with our neighbor — if we
would be Christians. Is our faith right, we certainly will
so act, with willing hearts. So then, all blessings are one,
and all Christians one person; and the Law is wholly ful-
filled. But if we are unwilling to conduct ourselves in this
Christlike way, we have not faith and we have not Christ.
It is easily evident that faith is now everywhere prostrate
and there are no Christians. Every corner is filled with
masses and divine services — sheer idolatry.

77. But you will say: "By your doctrine you will sup-
press all the cloisters and other institutions, and give occa-
sion for all occupants to leave them speedily, and to forsake
their positions." I reply: These are not my words, nor



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 299

my doctrine. You can see that. Go to Paul, Christ, God,
about the matter. Ask them why they denounce these insti-
tutions, these practices. Among the children of Israel was
likewise a singular people, called people of Eaal and of Mo-
loch. All the country and the towns were filled with their
self-devised and peculiar worship. Jerem.iah (ch. 2, 23) and
Rosea (ch. 10, 1) testify that their altars and gods equaled
the num.ber of the towns. All men desired to serve God
in that way. Therefore God permitted the country to be
destroyed.

The holy King Josiah, in his dissatisfaction with these
idolators, cut off and destroyed all their forms of worship.
2 Kings 23, 5. He did not fear the Pope's ban ; he was not
afraid of having it said that he had destroyed the worship
of God, as Rabshakeh charged the holy King Hezekiah
with doing on a similar occasion. 2 Kings 18, 22. This
doctrine, however, destroys no cloisters or institutions, but
teaches their right and Christian use.

78. Mark how Paul guards either alternative, purposing
to keep us squarely in the middle track. He says, "There
can be neither Jew nor Greek," etc. Should a Jew, with
reference to this subject, say, "If being a Jew avails nothing
before God, I will let that go and take the opposite course;
I will becom.e a Greek" — should he think thus, he finds Paul
meeting him on the other side. "No," Paul says, "to be a
Greek avails nothing either." Should the Greek conclude,
"I will no longer be a Greek, I will become a Jew," Paul
says, "No, it avails nothing to be a Jew." Does the woman
say, "Would I were a man since it avails not to be a wo-
man," and does the bound say, "Would I were free since
bondage avails not," Paul meets them with," To be male or
female, bond or free, serves not." What, then, does avail?
Just to turn not to either side, but to pass over, pass above,
Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female, into faith
and Christ. The way of the Jew, the Greek, are earthly
ways ; the way of faith is the heavenly way.

Paul says also (I Cor 7, 18) : "Was any man called being
circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath



300 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

any been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circum-
cised." What is this but teaching that on one hand a Jew
should not say, "Circumcision profiting nothing, uncircum-
cision must avail, and I will now obtain righteousness there-
by," and on the other hand the Gentile must not declare,
"Uncircumcision profiting nothing, if I would be saved I
must be circumcised." "No," Paul says, "neither proceeding
is right"; and then he concludes (verse 19) : "Circumcision
is nothing, and uncircum.cision is nothing; but the keeping
of the commandments of God." In other words, First be-
lieve in Christ. Believing, the commandments of God will
be honored. First be righteous and saved ; then, be circum-
cised or uncircumcised, Jew or Greek, male or female, bond
or free, do what you will, the efhcacy is the same.

79. In like manner, a nun, priest or monk should not
say : "My state avails nothing, I will leave it and become a
layman." No, Paul says, to be a layman also avails noth-
ing. On the other hand, if the layman says: "O, that I
were a priest, monk or nun, for my state as a layman is a
secular, unsaved one," Paul says, no, the state of a monk,
nun or priest likewise avails nothing. It is as secular and
unsaved as that of a layman. What, then, does avail? To
ascend above yourself, above layman, above monk and nun,
above the spiritual and the secular states. To believe in
Christ and do to your neighbor as you believe Christ did
to you, is the only true way to godliness and salvation.
There is none other.

80. By way of a crude illustration : Suppose a lad learn-
ing the trade of shoemaking were to engage with a master
foolish and knavish enough to teach him that such trade is
the medium for obtaining righteousness and salvation; and
suppose the boy were to believe him and to prosecute his
trade under the impression that he will surely be saved
threby, and only so can he be saved, and were to forsake
faith, love and all other means of salvation — hov/ would
you look at the case? Would you not pity the boy? Would
not the master incur your displeasure? Now, how would
you help the boy? Would you say: "My dear son, the



c



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 301

trade of shoemaking does not render you righteous. It
avails nothing in heaven. You must become a tailor"?
That would be but to lead him from one hell to another.
You would be just about as godly as that master. Just so
do they do who advise a priest to become a monk, or a
monk to enter some more difficult order. They thus cast
souls and consciences from one frying-pan into another.
The way to help the boy is to say to him: "My dear son,
neither shoemaking nor tailoring counts in this matter.
You must believe in Christ and then treat your neighbor
as you believe Christ has treated you. Then you may be a
shoemaker, a tailor, as you please."

Now you have liberated his soul. Now his conscience
will have joy and peace. He will thank God and you. He
will not need to abandon his trade; no, he may follow it
with more pleasure and freedom than before. Christ does
not release our hands from labor, our persons from office,
our bodies from position or rank. He redeems the soul from
a false experience and the conscience from a false faith. He
is a redeemer of consciences ; a bishop of souls, as Peter says
(1 Pet 2, 25). Yet he permits our hands to continue their
labors; he allows us to retain our offices and positions.

81. So, too, do thou, O priest, monk or nun. Believe not
those who teach you that your position, your rank, is a
means whereby to become righteous and be saved. They
are but blind leaders of the blind; messengers of the devil
and murderers of souls. Learn first that the true way is
to believe in Christ and to serve your neighbor. Then re-
main stedfast where you are.

82. You will say, "But I took clerical orders because I
wanted to be righteous and to be saved thereby. Otherwise
I would not have taken the step. I believe not one in a
thousand entered this station with any other intention. If
people knew your teaching to be true, certainly no one
would enter the clerical ranks, and in thirty years* time
every cloister and similar institution would pass of itself,
needing not to be destroyed." I answer : Think you, then,
that Christ spoke irresponsibly or foolishly when he said



3G2 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

the false Christs v/ould deceive many, even the elect if it
were possible (Mt 24, 24)? Peter also prophesies (2 Pet
2, 2) that many shall follow these damnable sects. Is it
astonishing that Christ spoke the truth? Will you believe
the inventions of your own mind rather than the words of
Christ?

83. Mark you, then, where the clerical state is not made
use of to further faith and love in the way mentioned, I
would, not only that my doctrines should be the means of
destroying the cloisters and other institutions, but I would
they already lay in ashes. If you can, through the doctrine
of faith, liberate your conscience and your soul and at the
same time make use of your clerical state, not as a supposed
means of obtaining righteousness and eternal life, but as a
medium for exercising your faith over your body, and for
serving your neighbor — if you can do thus, then remain in
your order ; you need not to flee from it. But if you cannot
do this, if your conscience remains captive, it were better
you tore your caps and pates, forsook your masses and
prayers forever and became a swineherd — if you could not
do better. For nothing in heaven or on earth should keep
us from liberating our souls, from freeing our consciences.

84. Should one reproach you as an apostate, a turn-coat,
a vagabond monk, endure it, thinking of Christ's words
(Mt 7, 3) about one with a beam in his eye rebuking an-
other with a mote in his. You are an apostate from men,
they from God ; you forsook men for God, they forsook God
for themselves and for men.

85. Be careful, however, not to deceive yourself and
forsake your position from wrong motives. Your old Adam
nature is very ready to adorn itself, and will take a yard
if you allow it a finger-breadth. You may deceive men,
but you cannot God. If you leave your station merely for
the purpose of a free life, and to be liberated from your
order, and not solely because you seek to liberate your con-
science, you have not followed my teaching. I have not thus
advised you. This I desire you to understand. According
to our doctrine you can remain in your orders and maintain



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 303

a liberated conscience. Recall the illustration of the boy
shoemaker I gave you. Bu., if you are so weak that you
cannot maintain a free conscience, it is better to be far from
your order.

86. In short, one of tv/o things is offered: you must
either cast aside your theory or you must get out of the
order altogether. Faith Vvill not tolerate the idea of your
obtaining righteousness and salvation by the religious life
of your order or position. But since faith tolerates the
order, it is better to forsake the idea than the order. Other- -
wise, later the remorse of conscience, because of the for-
saken order (if the idea is not dead) might equal a desire of
having remained in the order. Aim must be directed solely
at the head of the serpent — the false idea. With that dis-
posed of, with men divested of the idea of righteousness and
eternal life attainable through works and orders, all danger
and dread v/ould be dissipated.

87. The serpent protects her head with extreme care.
Christ teaches us to be likewise careful of our heads where
he says (Mt 10, 16), "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless
as doves." The serpent will expose all the rest of her an-
atomy, v/ill risk all, to preserve lier head, v^herein is her life.
We should likewise be careful of our head — faith — and risk
all for it, whatever the consequences, for in that is cur life.
The evil spirit seeks to destroy faith by its showy orders
and stations. Further, v^hen we bruise the head of the ser-
pent, vvhen we destroy our own ideas, which are our false
faith resting upon works, all else is harmless to us. Christ
called the Pharisees a generation of vipers (Mt 12, 13) be-
cause of their tenacious adherence to their works and their
opinions. Were we to secure our heads as do serpents, and
were we as wise in our ways as are the children of the
world in theirs, the simplicity of the dove would naturally
follow; we would embrace no external works, positions or
orders.

88. The greatest fault, however, is not that of Pilate, but
of Caiaphas who delivered Christ into Pilate's hands. Caia-
phas represents the Pope, the bishops, and the doctors of



304 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

the high schools, whose duty as shepherds is to prevent
destruction, yet who, like wolves, themselves devour the
sheep. While they should preserve the faith, they extermin-
ate it. Not only do they permit the rise of orders and sta-
tions, but they institute these things. They establish and
exalt them. They repose the head of the serpent upon silken
pillows and feed her to fullness. They have introduced into
the v/orld two principles and inculcated them into men's
hearts to the extent of making it impossible for the Chris-
tian faith to live. One is, "The clerical state represents
perfection." By this claim they have effected such dis-
parity betv>^een themselves and ordinary Christians that al-
most exclusively they have been regarded the Christians,
and the common people unworthy, even reprobate, domestics
Thus they have commanded everybody's gaze and attention.
All men have come flocking into the order, desiring to be
perfect and scorning as unprofitable the common walks of
life ; until they have come to think that no one can become
righteous and be saved unless he embraces a clerical order.

89. Thus faith has been neglected for works and orders,
as if on these depend not only our righteousness and sal-
vation, but the perfection of our character. The fact is,
however, all depends on faith. By faith alone do we attain
righteousness and perfection. What a banner the infernal
Satan hoisted at this point! With the introduction and es-
tablishment of the doctrine of works he unquestionably
scaled the citadel of Christianity. Blindly the frantic mul-
titude ever goes on about perfection, knowing nothing what-
ever of piety even, not to mention perfection, and thinking
to become perfect by works and orders.

90. Further, they have left an ample loophole for them-
selves by saying : "Actual perfection and a state of perfec-
tion are different things. Man may be in a state of perfec-
tion and yet not be perfect. That is, he may be a clergyman
and still not be holy. They of the clerical order generally,
are in a state of perfection, yet none of them have become
perfect." The clergy also quote St. Thomas of Aquin, who
teaches that perfection is not necessary ; that it is sufBcient



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 305

to be in a state of perfection and looking toward that end.

Therefore the multitude today accepts the principle that
one may occupy a perfect state and not be perfect ; and that
perfection is not necessary — only the striving for it. Blind,
frantic, foolish and mad, emphatically so, are the people.
Do we not all know that a monk may wear a cap and pate
and at the same time be a rogue at heart? In a state of
perfection, he is yet not perfect. A "state of perfection'*
now means monk, cap and pate. But let these erring teach-
ers lead the blind. Christ says they are blind leaders of
the blind. If St. Thomas Aquinas was holy — which I doubt
— he surely attained his holiness in an extraordinary way,
judging from his pernicious and poisonous doctrines.

91. The other principle of the Papists is: "The Gospel
consists of two things, "consilia et prascepta," counsels and
commiandments. In the entire Gospel Christ has presented
but one counsel — chastity; and this may be observed as
well in the laical state by any individual having sufficient
grace. But the clerical order has instituted twelve counsels
in the Gospel, proceeding according to their own pleasure
with reference to the Gospel. They have made a division
of the world into two classes, their own lives to be directed
by the counsels and the lives of the laity by the command-
ments. They have assumed to live superior to the com-
mandments of God. Consequently, the life of the ordinary
Christian, the life of faith, has become repulsive. All men
gaze after the clerical ranks, despise the commandments
and run after the counsels.

92. In the end they find the counsels to be human laws
relating to clothing and pates, to meats, to singing and read-
ing, and so on. Thereupon neglect of the comm.andments of
God follows neglect of faith; both are exterminated and
forgotten. Today to be perfect and to live according to
the counsels is to put on black or white or gray or marked
caps ; to bawl in the churches ; to shave the head ; to eat no
eggs, meat or butter, but at the same time to fare sumptu-
ously and to live an idle, extravagant life.

93. Such a result, mark you, Satan has desired to ac-



306 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

complish through the two principles mentioned. The first
exterminates faith and the Vi^hole New Testament, Christ in-
cluded. The second destroys the commandments and the
entire Old Testament, with Moses. The people who teach
these principles are they concerning whom all Scripture
testifies that in the end of the world they shall reign under
Antichrist. Two principles more pernicious and virulent
were never advanced on earth — principles that so speedily
and forcibly expel from the knowledge of the world the en-
tire Scriptures of God, until none knov\r what commandment
or Gospel is. The Gospel does not present commandments ;
it shows the impossibility of fulfilling them, and teaches
faith in Christ, through which they are fulfilled.

I would that all the cloisters were supplied with ministers
who preach the true doctrine of faith, or else that the clois-
ters were laid in ashes. For there is no medium condition,
as there is with the laity; the layman does not regard the
works of his station as productive of righteousness and sal-
vation. The clergy, however, cannot sustain themselves
without that false doctrine. There is no alternative; right
or wrong they must put their trust in their works.

Now, let this suffice here in the matter of the sects. Alas,
that their corruption warrants so much comment. I hardly
know if it v/ill be of use that we understand again the plain
words of Paul:

"And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed,
heirs according to the promise."

94. How is it that all who put on Christ, who are his,
are in consequence the seed and the heirs of Abraham when
perhaps they are not of Jewish descent? It is clear enough
from the explanation of the preceding verses that all who,
through baptism and faith, put on Christ are his and he is
theirs. Now, being all one in Christ and one v/ith him —
spiritually, not bodily — they must be all that Christ is and
possess all he possesses. Christ being Abraham's seed, they
must through him also be Abraham's spiritual seed. In the
same manner in which they possess Christ are they Abra-
ham's seed. They possess Christ not bodity, in flesh and



NEW YEAR'S DAY. 307

blood; but spiritually, in faith. Hence they are not bodily,
but spiritually, his seed.

95. Note here, the apostle ascribes to Abraham three
kinds of seed. First, there are those only physically his
children, having in him a flesh-and-blood origin, merely by
the law of nature. With them God has no more dealing
than with the heathen, as illustrated in the case of Ishmael.
Although of Abraham's flesh and blood, even his first-born
son, Ishmael nevertheless was not in the Scriptures reck-
oned among Abraham's children. Again, Esau was Isaac's
natural son, and Abraham's flesh and blood. Later many
of Israel, all of them Abraham's flesh-and-blood children,
were destroyed in the v/ilderness. And subsequently many
others have been condemned. The Jews are for the most
part still under condemnation.

Believers the True Seed of Abraham.

96. Second, there are those both physically and spirit-
ually Abraham's children, having not only the flesh and
blood but the spirit and faith of Abraham — Isaac, Jacob,
the patriarchs, the prophets and all the blessed of the people
of Israel. These are the true seed, with whom God deals.
This seed he delivered from Egypt, led into the land of
Canaan and favored with blessings innumerable, as the
Scriptures testify. For the sake of this class he tolerated
among them the seed merely physical, permitting the lat-
ter to enjoy similar temporal blessings. They to whom
Abraham was a spiritual father through the faith of Christ,
were his spiritual children, irrespective of their natural re-
lationship.

Of this class of seed, Christ is the head. In him Abraham
himself, as well as all his seed, his brethren and joint-heirs,
is blessed. Now, this text refers to the seed spoken of in
Genesis 12, 3 and Genesis 22, 18, "In thy seed shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed." The prophecy is fulfilled
in Christ. This class are wholly v/ith Christ and in Christ,
and Christ is with them and in them — one seed. Christ is
blessed of God. Joint seed with Christ are blessed through
him. The heathen are blessed through the apostles, and



308 -LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

the Jews through Christ, which Jews are joint-seed with
Christ.

97. Third, there are those who have not a flesh-and-
blood origin in Abraham, but possess his spiritual charac-
ter — his faith in Christ his seed. This class is represented
by ourselves and all gentiles who are Christians in the true
faith. While unbelief is powerful enough to separate even
natural flesh-and-blood children from Abraham's relation-
ship, until the Scriptures do not recognize them as Abra-
ham's seed and the children of God; on the other hand,
faith is more powerful, even unto constituting them true
seed of Abraham who are not of his flesh and blood but
who merely have the faith of Abraham, partaking of his
spiritual character. Concerning this matter St. Paul speaks
in Romans 4, 13, Romans 9, 8 and Galatians 3. This class
of seed is indicated in the promise God makes to Abraham,
"In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

98. If the nations are to receive this blessing they must
become like the seed of Abraham. Abraham and his seed
have naught but the blessing. If the inheritance, the chief
good, the blessing, is possessed alike by Abraham's seed
and by all the nations of earths, all must alike be reckoned
heirs, seed and children of Abraham, whether deriving physi-
cal existence from him or not. Therefore, the conclusion
is that Abraham's seed are only the believers. In the Script-
ures believers are reckoned as his seed. To this inference
are we forced by God's promise that Abraham's seed shall
be blessed and shall be a blessing to others. According to
the words of the promise, the blessing must be to all who
are seed and heirs of Abraham.

Now, no one is blessed unless he believes. The unbe-
liever remains under the curse. Well may Paul, then, call
the spiritual seed of Abraham the seed of the promise (Rom
4, 13 and 9, 8). That is, they are not the seed of the flesh,
but of faith. They are so 'designated in the promise. He
says (Rom 9, 8) : 'Tt is not the children of the flesh that



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 26 of 29)