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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please all men when Jews and gentiles w^ere his deadly
enemies? He did everything for their benefit, and what rea-
sonably should have pleased them.

26. Now, in the third place, to more effectually impress
this doctrine, the apostle cites the example of Christ, saying
Christ did not please himself. And what does he mean?
Simply that notwithstanding Christ's holiness and gracious-
ness, he did not despise us. Nor did he have pride in him-
self as the Pharisee did because he possessed something we
had not. He rejoiced not in the fact that we had nothing
while he had all things and all power. On the contrary, be-
cause he was grieved over our destitute condition, he de-
vised a plan to be with us whereby we may become like



40 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS,

him— possessing what he possesses and being liberated from
our sins. There being no other way, he put forth his whole
being and all his powers to accomplish our redemption. He
assumed our sins and exterminated them. His purpose in
it all was to please us and to win our affection. Thus is
fulfilled Psalms 69, 9; "The reproaches of them that re-
proach thee are fallen upon me." Our sins reproach and dis-
honor God, as our good conduct contributes to his honor and
praise. So the prophet speaks of God's reproach and dis-
honor. All our sins are fallen upon Christ so as to be re-
moved from us. Had Christ treated us as the Pharisee
treated the publican, and as haughty saints do poor, faulty
sinners, v/ho of us would have been redeemed? Paul again
holds up the example of Christ in Philipp ians 2, 5-8 : "Have
this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: v/ho, ex-
isting in the form of God, counted not the being on an
equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied him-
self, taking the form of a servant, being made in the like-
ness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he
humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea,
the death of the cross."

27. Such should be our spirit in regard to the sins of our
neighbor. We should not judge, backbite nor condemn him.
We should keep an undesigning eye upon him, solely for the
purpose of delivering him, even at the hazard of our own
bodies, our lives, fortunes and honor. Let him who fails
here, know he has lost Christ and is a heathen saint.

28. Now follows our text. It is because of the words
cited from. Psalm 69 concerning Christ that Paul says, "For
whatsoever things Vv^ere v/ritten aforetime," etc. By way
of explaining the bearing of that passage here, and in v/hat
way it concerns us v^^hen it was spoken of Christ and is ful-
filled in him, the apostle goes on to give us a general admo-
nition from the Scriptures, saying that not only this pas-
sage but the entire Scriptures v^rere written for our learn-
ing. True, the Bible contains much about Christ. But so
it contains much about numerous saints — Adam, Abel,
Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob — v/hich was not recorded for



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 41

their sakes. The Bible was written long after their time;
they never saw it.

29. So, however much is written about Christ, it is not
for his sake; he bad no need for it. It is recorded for our
instruction. The record of Christ's words and deeds is for
our edißcation, the model for us to follow. It is with this
same understanding Paul says in First Corinthians 9, 9:
"For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muz-
zle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." Do you suppose
God's care is for the ox, or is not the verse v/ritten for our
sakes? Surely for our sakes. As if the apostle had said:
"God's care is not for the ox but for us." Not that God
does not govern and provide for all creatures, but that he
does not Vv^dte and speak for them. What should he v/rite
and speak to oxen? Only to man does he speak. So here;
although the words are about Christ, they are not directed
to him but to us, for our learning: we, too, are to conduct
ourselves as the Scriptures tell us Christ and his saints have
done.

30. Mark the book the apostle here presents for the
perusal and study of Christians — none other than the holy
Scriptures. And he tells us it contains doctrine for us.
Nov/ if our doctrine is to be found in the Bible, we certainly
should not seek it elsewhere; all Christians should make
daily use of this book.

31. Observe, however, what the devil has accomplished
through the Papists. It was not enough for them to throw
the Bible under the table, to make it so rare that few doctors
of the holy Scriptures possess a copy, much less read it ; but
lest it be brought to public notice they have branded it
with infamy. For they blasphemously say it is obscure ; we
must follov7 the interpretations of m.en and not the pure
Scriptures. What else is their proceeding but giving Paul
the lie here where he says the Bible is our manual of in-
struction? They say it is obscure and calculated to mislead.

32. How was God to reward such blasphemers and crim-
inal destroyers of the Scriptures? Had he consulted with
me about the matter, I would have entreated him — since



42 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

they cast reproach upon his clear vv^ord, declaring it obscure
and unsafe, and exclude it from the sight and knowledge of
men, throwing it under the table — to give them in its stead
Aristotle and Averrois, along with the endless statutes and
fallacies of the Pope ; to let them rave after these, studying
Aristotle all the days of their lives and learning nothing;
and yet*to permit the dolts to be crowned masters of the
liberal arts and doctors of the holy Scriptures.

Yet up to this time none of them have understood a single
line in Aristotle, or at most have learned no more than a
five-year-old child or the most depraved dolt knov/s. For
Aristotle is a hundredfold more obscure than the holy Scrip-
tures. If you would know what he teaches, I will tell you in
few words: "A potter can make a pot from clay; a black-
smith cannot unless he learns how." If there is anything in
Aristotle more exalted than this, believe not a word I have
said. Demand of me to prove it and I will.

33. I say this to show how well Christ has rewarded
the Papists for denouncing his Scriptures as obscure and
unsafe, and for perverting their design; for he permits the
Papists to read tlie writings of a dead heathen, who is not
strong in real science, no, not in anything but darkness.
What I have cited is the very best thing in Aristotle. I say
nothing of his virulent and fatal positions. The universities
deserve annihilation. Nothing more pernicious and satanic
ever has been or ever will be on earth.

34. Now, let us return to Paul. He tells us here what we
should read and where we should seek our doctrine. Were
there any other book he would have designated it. Further,
he shows the nature of the fruit resulting from perusal of
the Bible ; for he says, "That through patience and through
comfort of the scriptures we might have hope." Nov/ let all
other doctrine present itself, let all other books be intro-
duced, and see if they have any virtue or power to comfort a
single soul in its least tribulation. Truly, no comfort but
that of God's Vv7ord is possible to the soul. But where will
we find God's word except in the Scriptures? What do we
accomplish by reading other books to the exclusion of the



SEfOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 43

Book? Other books may have power to slay us, indeed, but
no book except the holy Scriptures has power to comfort us.
No other bears the title here given by Paul — book of com-
fort — one that can support the soul in all tribulations, help-
ing it not to despair but to maintain hope. For thereby the
soul apprehends God's word and, learning his gracious will,
cleaves to it, continuing steadfast in life and death. He
who knows not God's will must doubt, for he is unaware
what relation he sustains to God.

35. Eut hov/ shall I express the situation? The calamity
is beyond the power of words, even inconceivable. The
evil spirit has accomplished his design; he has suppressed
the Book and introduced in its stead so many books of hu-
man doctrine that we may well say we are deluged with
them. Yet these contain only error, falsehood, darkness,
venom, death, destruction, hell and the devil. This condi-
tion of things our abominable ingratitude has merited.

36. Observe the aptness of Paul's expression where he
links patience with the comfort of the Scriptures. The Bible
does not remove adversity, suffering and death. No, it
simply reveals the holy cross — Paul calls it the Word of the
Cross — therefore patience is necessary. In the midst of
suffering, however, the Bible consoles and strengthens, that
our patience may not fail but press on unto victory. Under
the strong comfort of God's solacing assurance that he is
present to direct, the soul bears up with courage and joy be-
neath its sufferings.

This life is simply a mortification of the old Adam, which
must die. So patience is essential. Again, since the life
to come is not evident to mortal sense, it is necessary for
the soul to have something to which it may cleave in pa-
tience, something to help it to a partial com.prehension of
that future life, and upon which it can rest. That something
is God's Word. To it the soul cleaves; therein it abides,
and therein is conveyed from this earthly life to the life to
come as in a safe ship. Thus does the hope of the soul con-
tinue steadfast.

37. Mark you, the real mission of the Scriptures is to



44 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

comfort the suffering, distressed and dying. Then he who
has had no experience of suffering or death cannot at all
understand the comfort of the Bible. Not words but experi-
ence must be the medium of tasting and finding this com-
fort. Paul mentions ''patience" before "comfort of the
Scriptures" to indicate that he who, unwilling to endure
suffering, seeks consolation elsewhere cannot taste the com-
fort of the Word. It is the province of the Word alone to
comfort. It must therefore meet v/ith patience first. It is
jealous and will not permit human relief on a level with it-
self, which would be to frustrate the purpose of patience
and suffering.

38. Now, it is no small cross and calls for no little meas-
ure of patience to bear the imperfections and sins of our
neighbors. In seme instances these things are oppressive
enough to evoke, on the part of the sufferers, desire for
death, either for themselves or someone else. To maintain
Christian patience under these trials, the afflicted must
comfort themselves v/ith those portions of Scripture that
show Christ's exam.ple. They will be helped to steadfast-
ness and submission in suffering by perceiving that for their
sakes Christ has submitted to far greater suffering, and has
taken upon himself the infinitely heavier burden of their
sins in the effort to redeem them.

39. Note, the comfort accompanying this patience is
productive of a firm hope in Christ that v/e shall be like him.
By contemplation of his record we are assured that for our
sakes he has submitted, and continues to submit, to suffer-
ing. But to him who forgets Christ's example and the
Scriptures, there remains ver^/ little comfort and patience,
even when reason and material things have done their best
to comifort him. For their efforts must be ineffectual. They
cannot reach the inmost life of the heart. All the patience
and comfort they are capable of affording is merely vision-
ary.

"Now, the God of patience and consolation grant you
to be like-minded one toward another according to
Christ Jesus."



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 45

40. This epistle lesson should have commenced hers.
This verse has reference to the imperfections of both our
faith and our conduct, but more especially to the frailties of
faith, as we shall see. It is a prayer, with which Paul fol-
lows his preaching and teaching and concludes his letter to
the Romans. Lest one might presumiC to exercise patience
and to know the com.fort of the »Scriptures all by his own
power, Paul in his prayer reminds us they are gifts of God,
to be obtained through prayer. Particularly is it beyond
our power to bear v/ith the imperfections of others and to
preserve the simple unity of faith.

41. Therefore, Paul says, ''God of patience and of con-
solation ;" that is, God is the Lord, and grants patience and
consolation. Just as he is the God of heaven and earth,
so is he the God of patience and consolation. All are his
gifts and his creatures. Paul says God "grants" patience
and comfort ; we do not possess them of ourselves. If they
are granted they are not of nature but of grace, and are
gifts. If God does not direct his V/ord to the heart to fit
the needs of the individual, the heart will never discover
this patience and consolation. Indeed, where God does not
grant them, the Scripture is neglected and hum.an doctrine
sought, as in the case of condemned popery. But where he
grants grace to search the Scriptures first, he gives like-
wise patience and consolation. There is no more marked
manifestation of God's wrath than the fact that he permits
the decline of his spoken and written Word; so not unde-
signedly the apostle uses the particular language of this
prayer. On the ether hand, God gives no greater blessing
than when he exalts his Word among us and permits it to
be read. Truly, then, we should all repeat this prayer with
the apostle.

42. "To be like-minded one tov/ards another." What
do these words imply? How can the weak be **minded" like
the strong? The phrase means each to tolerate the prej-
udices of another, and think that may be good which ap-
pears proper to another. Prejudice is the cause of all parties,
sects, discord and heresy. As the proverb says,



46 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

"Pleased v/ith his own way is everyone,
Hence the land with fools is overrun."

Paul here would arrest self-pleasing and prejudice. Noth-
ing is more intolerable and pernicious to the Christian faith
and the Church than prejudice. The victim of it cannot rid
himself of the fault. He must follow his ov^^n way, differing
from the commonly-accepted one. He must establish a
course pleasing to himself. This is the cause of the many
parties and various customs in the different institutions and
cloisters of the v^/orld, all mutually discordant. Each one is
best pleased with his own choice and condemns the way o£
others.

43. But the apostle enjoins the Romans to be of one
mind and tolerant of one another. The weak in conscience
should accept as right what they of strong faith and sound
conscience observe. The effort should be for a oneness of
faith and conscience, and a sameness of opinion ; and to avoid
the wrangling occasioned by conflicting personal ideas of
what is right. He would have them illustrate the psalm.-
ist's declarations (Ps 68, 6) : "God setteth the solitary in
families;" and (Ps 133, 1): "Behold, how good and how
pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity !" For
instance, should one of weak faith observe one whose faith
is strong eat meat or indulge in drink, or do what to him
appears sinful, let him refrain from judging, even though he
would not and could not do likewise. He should be of Paul's
opinion on the subject: "Le,t each man be fully assured in
his own mind." Rom 14, 5. Then malice, contention and
condemning may be avoided, and unanimity of purpose and
disposition maintained. On the other hand, if the v/eak in
faith is unable to do as his stronger brethren, they should
not force him to it or despise him, but be content to tolerate
him in regard to his eating, drinking and doing until he is
likewise strong. Paul says, "Him that is weak in faith re-
ceive ye, yet not for decision of scruples." Rom 14, 1. That
is, ye shall not compel him saying, *'This is right and that
wrong," but treat him considerately and instruct him until
he, too, shall become strong.



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 47

44. It is not necessary that we should all follow the same
occupation. One may be a smith and another a tailor with-
out impairing unity of faith and purpose, only let one toler-
ate the outward calling of the other. If some foolish indi-
vidual were to interfere and teach that the occupation of a
smith is an ungodly trade, he v/ould be responsible for err-
ing consciences and weakened faith. As privilege of occupa-
tion is right, so in the external things of meats, apparel and
place, we are at liberty to follow our own pleasure. Then
he who comes along and teaches it is wrong for you to use
such and such things, as the Pope and the clergy teach,
causes you to err. On the other hand, if another com.es
saying you must use certain things, he likewise causes you
to err. But he who pursues a medium course, teaching
liberty in the matter, not condemning you but permitting
you to retain your own custom until you extricate yourself,
and at the same time hard presses the v/olves that would
force you into that custom as a thing not optional but bind-
ing — this teacher gives you true instruction.

45. It is not wrong to fast in honor of the name of an
apostle, or to confess during Lent. But neither does he v/ho
omits these things commit any evil by this omission. Let
him v/ho desires to fast and make confession, do so, but let
not one censure, judge, condemn or quarrel with his fellow
over the m^atter.' One individual should be like-minded with
another — tolerant of what the other does and regarding his
action as right because in itself blameless.

46. He deserves censure who in these questions rashly
presumes to judge according to the dictates of his own doc-
trine and destroys this unity saying, "Do so and you do right ;
do not so and you do v/rong." He is an apostle of the devil,
and his teaching is the doctrine of Satan. This is the man-
ner of the Pope and the Papists. It pertains not to shep-
herds but to wolves to preach doctrine of this character.
Under such a condition of things. Christian unity must be
dissolved. Difference of opinion becomes manifest: "You
are a heretic"; ''you are disobedient to the Church"; "you
do wrong," and so on — just what the devil desires.



48 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

47. Having destroyed unity, taken captive the conscience
and deprived of liberty, the Pope proceeds to take your
money. Then he gives you a bill of exchange permitting
you to eat butter, eggs and meat, a privilege Christ gave you
in the Gospel, a privilege whereof the Pope robbed you
and which he as the pious shepherd sells to you again. But
your indulgence in the privilege again, gives offense to your
fellovv^s. In short, the government of the Pope so abounds
with grasping and re-grasping, Vv^ith offense and repetition
of offenses, with exchanges and re-exchange-s, that it is
plainly evident it simply belongs to the designing devil
who effects confusion of conscience until no one is able to
comprehend the right course.

48. But I refer to toleration only in the things wherein
we are at liberty to be lenient. Vv^e should resist the Pope
with his wicked and foolish iav^s as we would resist a v/oif ;
and yet we are to permit the weak in faith to continue in
their practices for a time, until we are able finally to ex-
tricate them from error. They must not be too hastily and
rashly rejected, with disastrous results to their consciences.

49. But in things not optional with us, things prescribed
or prohibited by Christ, there is little room for disputation,
whether it be the weak in conscience or the strong v/lio are
concerned. In such case every individual, the least as well
as the greatest, is under obligation to v^ithstand the Pope;
for instance, when he and all his followers teach that the
mass is to be regarded as in the nature of a sacrifice and a
good work. This is the most monstrous abomination that
ever arose on earth. On it is founded the Pope's govern-
ment with all its cloisters and other institutions. In this
error no one is excusable, whether weak or strong; for
Christ instituted the mass -as a sacrament and testament.
No one can sell or transfer it or give it av/ay. As in the
case of baptism, each must receive it for himself. There
are in the Pope's canons many m.ore abominations similar to
this misuse of the mass. Indeed, considering the founda-
tion, it is easy to perceive the character of the building.
Everything existing in popedom is the wantonness of the



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 49

devil, from turret to foundation. Ke who does not believe
it, will experience it.

50. The apostle enjoins us to be like-minded "according
to Christ Jesus"; that is, from a Christian point of view.
For unbelievers, too, are like-minded, but according to the
flesh, the world and the devil, and not according to Christ.
The Jews were of one mind against God and his Christ, as
Psalm 2, 2 tells us. Christian unity resists sin and every-
thing opposed to the religion of Christ without, hov^^ever,
committing or designing any sin. It works to the unifying
of Christians generally, first with reference to faith and then
to outward conduct.

51. "When one is weak in faith and defective in conduct,
the spirit of Christian unity, though deploring his condition,
does not forsake him, much less disparage, reject or con-
demn him. His Christian fellow is interested in liis welfare
and conducts himself toward the weak one as he would him-
self be treated, and as Christ has indeed treated him in simi-
lar and m.ore important matters. Thus is perpetuated that
principle wherein the individual follows the way approved
of others, conforming to their views and adhering to the
same opinions. But the obstinate pursue a course quite the
reverse, forsaking, rejecting and judging him. who differs
from them, and following their own v/ays, guided by their
own opinions ; as do the orders of popery, and other sects.

"That with one accord ye may v/ith one mouth glorify
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

52. All the good we can do to God is to praise and to
thank him. This is the only true service we can render him,
according to his words in Psalm 50, 23: "Whoso oftereth
the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me ; and to him that
ordereth his way aright will I shov/ the salvation of God."
We receive all blessings from him, in return for which we
should make the offering of praise. If anything else pur-
porting to be service to God is presented for your considera-
tion rest assured it is erroneous and delusive. For instance,
the distracted world attempts to serve God by setting apart
houses, churches, cloisters ; vestures, gold-trimmed, silk and



50 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

every other kind; silver vessels and images; bells and or-
gans, candles and lamps; the money for which expense
should have been appropriated to the poor if the object was
to make an offering to God. Further, it keeps up a mutter-
ing and wailing in the churches day and night. But true
praise and honor of God, a service that cannot be confined
to place or person, is quietly ignored the world over. The
pretenses of priests and monks about their system of exer-
cises being service to the Lord, are false and delusive.

53. Service to God is praise of him. It must be free and
voluntary, at table, in the chamber, cellar, garret, in house
or field, in all places, with all persons, at all times. Whoso-
ever teaches otherv/ise is no less guilty of falsehood than
the Pope and the devil himself.

But how shall there be with us honor and praise o£ God,
true service to him, when we neither love him nor receive
his blessings? And how shall we love him when we do not
know him and his blessings? And how shall we know him
and his blessings when no word is preached concerning them
and when the Gospel is left to lie under the table? Where
the Gospel is not in evidence, knowledge of God is an im-
possibility. Then to love and praise him is likewise impos-
sible. As a further consequence it is necessarily impossible
for divine service to exist. Even if all the choristers were
one chorister, ail the priests one priest, all the monks one
monk, all the churches one church, all the bells one bell ; in
brief if all the foolish services offered to God in the institu-
tions, churches and cloisters were a hundred thousand times
greater and more numerous than they are, what does God
care for such carnivals and juggling?

54. Therefore, God complains most of the Jews in the
second chapter of Micah, because they silenced his praise,
while at the same time, they piped, blared and moaned
like we do. True divine service of praise cannot be estab-
lished with revenues, nor be circumscribed by laws and stat-



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 4 of 29)