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 7 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 7 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the doctrines and lives of our bishops, cardinals and all
Papists. The same faithfulness is also required by Christ:
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord
hath set over his household, to give them their food in due
season?" Mt 24, 45.

25. What is the nature of the faithfulness of the Papists
— how does it measure up? Tell me, who would be re-
formed or profited were any one bishop to have prominence
and power enough to possess every bishopric, as the Pope
tries to do? Who would be benefited if a bishop were so
holy that his shadow would raise the dead? Who would
be the gainer if he had wisdom equal to all the apostles and
prophets? But none of these things are inquired after; the
question is. Is he a faithful bishop? does he administer to
the household of faith the Word of God? does he preach
the Gospel and dispense the mysteries of God? Emphati-
cally the inquiry is made upon these points. Here is where
the individual is benefited. Above all things, then, faithful-
ness is demanded of stewards.

26. Now, measure the Pope and all the ecclesiasts by
the requirements of this text. Tell me, what is the Pope
seeking? Is not the sole purpose of all his grasping and
raging to enable him to rule supremely and arbitrarily? His
whole concern is for fame, power, position and wealth, for
authority over all men. Through the Pope's blasphemous
lips the devil deceitfully endeavors to emphasize the impor-
tance of obedience to popish laws, and the danger to the



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 75

souTs salvation from disobedience. The Pope is not con-
cerned about faithfulness to the Christian household. For
tell me where in all his innumerable lav^7s and commands —
a veritable flood of them — where in the whole extent of
his government, did you ever learn of his touching with a
single v/ord upon the mysteries of God? or v/here has he
preached the Gospel? All his utterances relate to quarrels,
to prebends, or at best to the matter of pates and apparel.
Indeed, he openly condemns the Gospel and the mysteries of
God. And the bishops and ecclesiasts follow him with their
endowments, cloisters and high schools.

27. They have so perverted apostolic faithfulness that
with them a faithful bishop, abbot or ecclesiastical prelate is
one who loyally manages, guards, improves and increases
their temporal possessions — the heritage of St. Peter, the
Castle of St. Moretz, the land of the holy cross, the interests
of the Virgin and other concerns of the Church, in a word,
their own emolument — under the name of God and of the
saints ; the v/orld, even in its most sordid state, bears no com-
parison to them. Such are the princes, the bishops and prel-
ates who have the credit of having governed well the
Church; it matters not whether or no they have, during
their whole lives, read or heard the Gospel, not to mention
their disregard for their duty to preach it. The blasphemous
tongue of the Pope, in its world-wide unrestraint, calls them
good stewards of the blessings of God who are utterly use-
less, unless it be to fill the place of treasurer, assessor,
guardian, bailiff, architect, mayor, plowman, butler or kitch-
en steward for some temporal lord. Such is their apostolic
fidelity; this and nothing more.

In the meantime, souls are perishing. Divine interests are
going to ruin. The wolf reigns and devours. In spiritual
affairs the popish stewards see no danger and afford no se-
curity. They sit unconcernedly counting over their profits,
attending to the interests of St. Laurence and with ex-'
treme faithfulness providing for the property of the Church
— a faithfulness in return for which they are certain Christ
has prepared for them no inferior seat in heaven. O



76 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

wretched, lost, blinded multitude, how securely you are
going on toward hell!

28. I cannot pass without notice here — for I must relate
it as a warning against similar attempts — a trick of the devil
which, I heard it said, he exhibited in time past at Merse-
burg, in our own country. It had to do with the golden cup
of Emperor Henry. The Pope's beloved people zealously
relate a certain falsehood, for which they obtain indulgences.
They assert that the roasted Laurence, by casting the golden
cup into the balance, got so much the better of the devil
that he was forced to release the soul of the Emperor, in
consequence of which he (the devil) was enraged to the
extent of breaking an ear off the cup. Such gross, foolish,
idle falsehoods are intended to blind us Christians from
perceiving the devil's trickery. What is the devil's purpose
in this fabrication? The whole thing is a design to estab-
lish by the miraculous, the wealth, luxury and delicate faith-
fulness of the prelates of which we have spoken. Thereby
the weak-minded are to be induced'to believe they can over-
come the devil by presenting gifts to the Church. But
Peter says this conquest is only to be effected by the power
of faith. These are the signs Christ and Paul predicted
vvould accompany the misleading of the elect from the faith.

29. A fidelity even more beautiful to contemplate exists
among unspiritual lords and faithful stewards of the same
class actively engaged in directing the spiritual welfare
of souls. Certainly these are true stewards and the right
sort! So extremely holy are they, St. Peter will have to
be on his guard if he holds his place with them. They
are our spiritual fathers — priests, monks and nuns — who
exercise themselves in obedience to the Pope, the holy
Church and every form of human institutions and orders
and statutes. Among them are the paragon, the quintes-
sence, the kernel, the marrow, the foundation — and how
shall I enumerate all the honorable titles which they assume
and hold from custom? Yes, far enough from custom ! The
beautiful little cat has pretty, smooth fur.

30. Here is where we ßnd our good stewards and our un-



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 77

heard-o£ fidelity. How tenaciously, how rigorously and
earnestly, they adhere to that sort of obedience and main-
tain those traditions. Yes, indeed, they are the proper
saints. Few bishops who rigidly observe the holy, spiritual
law can rank with them. But when we investigate their
cloisters and review their doctrines and conduct, we find
that no people on earth are less acquainted v/ith the mys-
teries of God and farther from Christ. Indeed, they act as
if mad, maliciously storming Christ with their own inven-
tions. They are the Gog and Magog of the Revelation of
John, contending against the Lamb of God. For they exalt
their own works to the extermination of faith, and are
termed the faithful stewards of God, as the wolf among
the sheep is the shepherd.

31. Now, he that hath ears, let him hear what Paul
says : *'It is required in stev/ards, that a man be found faith-
ful"; but he is faithful who is occupied with the mysteries
of God. The conclusion, then, is: the Pope, the bishops,
monks and nuns, the founders and inmates of universities,
and all who with them build upon anything or are occupied
v/ith anything but Christ, the Gospel and true faith, though
they may have indeed the name of servants and stewards of
Christ, are in reality servants and stewards of the devil, their
lord, and are engaged with his mysteries or secrets. Christ,
in the saying v/e have quoted from Matthew, tells us fur-
ther, the servant of the household should be not only faith-
ful, but also wise, able to discern between the mysteries of
God and the mysteries of the devil, that he may safely guard
and keep himself and those committed to his care. For, as
Paul says in Second Corinthians 11, 13-14, false apostles
sometimes fashion themselves into true apostles of Christ,
even as the devil transforms himself into an angel of light.

32. Where wisdom to discern the mysteries of God is
lacking, the greater the faithfulness the greater the danger;
as we perceive in the two mentioned cases of false, seduc-
tive faithfulness on the part of the unspiritual saints. Paul
well knew how the mysteries of the devil would prevail;
so, while silent in regard to every other qualification neces-



78 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

sary for stev*rards, he points out faithfulness. Had our
bishops remained faithful stewards of God, popery and its
peculiar spiritual orders undoubtedly would not have been
introduced; the common spiritual order and life of faith
would have been maintained. And were they now to return
to faithfulness the strange special orders v^ould soon pass,
and the true common ones be restored.

MAN'S JUDGMENT AND GOD'S.
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should
be judged o£ you, or of man's judgment."
33. First, we must understand Paul's language here,
and explain the terms of the original, with which we need
to be as familiar as with our mother tongue. He employs
the word "judge," or sentence, in a worthy sense; that is,
as carrying the thought of esteem.. "Judgm.ent," as gener-
ally understood, conveys the idea of condemnation. But
this is true: Every public judgment operates in two ways.
One party is condemned, the other liberated ; one is punished,
the other rewarded ; one dishonored, the other honored. The
same is true in private judgment. While the Pharisee in
the Gospel praised himself, he censured the publican and
ethers; while he honored himself, he dishonored others.
And the attitude of everyone toward his neighbor is either
praise or censure. Judgment must involve these two things.
Hence, Paul here says he is judged, or sentenced, by the
Corinthians; that is, their judgment renders honor and
praise unto him. By extolling Paul above the other apostles,
decision is made between him and the others, to his advan-
tage and with prejudice against them. Some, however,
judged in favor of Peter, others of Apollos. That "judg-
ment" is here equivalent to "praise" is evident from the
conclusion of the passage : "Judge nothing before the time,
until the Lord come, then shall each man have his praise
from God." What is this but saying. Praise not, let God
praise? It is God's prerogative to judge, to praise and to
crown man; we are not to perform that office for one an-
other.

34. The expression "man's judgment" ("menschliche



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 79

Tag") implies that judgment of approval whereby man ex-
alts and makes illustrious and renowned those he esteems.
The thought is suggestive of the illumination or glory of
day, which renders visible things unrevealed in darkness. In
the Latin, illustrious people — they who are on everyone's
tongue — are called "prasclari," "nobiles," "illustres." In
German, "durchlauchtige" stands for those of high renown,
those having name and reputation superior to others. On
the other hand, the unrenowned are called "obscuri," "ig-
nobles," humiles" — insignificant, unknown, humble.

The holy Scriptures term kings and princes "doxas,"
"glorias," "claritates," indicative of glory, splendor and
popularity. Peter (2 Pet 2, 10) says of the Pope and his
adherents that they tremble not to rail at glories. That
means they will curse dignitaries — kings, princes, and all
exalted in earthly glory; this when Christ has commanded
us to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, to do
good to our persecutors. We see how the Pope defames
on Maundy-Thursday in the "Bulla Caenae Domini"; and,
indeed, whenever it pleases him.

35. Man's judgment, then, is expressed in the clamor
and ostentation men make before the world. Jeremiah says
(ch 17, 16), "Neither have I desired the woeful day; thou
knowest." In other words, "They accuse me of preaching
new doctrines solely to gain a name, and honor and praise
before men; to v/in their esteem. But thou knowest it is
not so; I have not sought such honor and praise." Christ
says (Jn 5, 41), "I receive not glory from men." That is,
"I do not desire men to laud and extol me." And (Jn 8, 50),
"I seek not mine own glory." Again (Jn 5, 35), speaking
of John the Baptist, "Ye were willing to rejoice for a season
in his light." The meaning is, "It would have pleased you
to have John's testimony contribute to your honor and
praise ; you would have liked to enjoy for a short season the
esteem of the people. This is what you sought."

36. Paul regards it a very trivial matter to command the
clamorous honor and praise of men, to gain a reputation
with them. He aptly calls such popularity "man's judg-



80 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

ment," or human glory. For it is of human origin and not
directed of God; and, with men, it shall pass. Paul would
say : "I do not desire your praise, nor the praise of all the
world." Let men seek for that. Servants of Christ and
stev/ards or God look to Christ and to a divine glory for
their judgment.

37. But the apostle surely manifests ingratitude in not
sending the Corinthians a bagful of bulls or letters; in not
blessing them nor distributing indulgences among them in
recognition of their great honoring of the apostolic see. The
Pope would have conducted himself in a manner much more
worthy of an apostle. Yes, indeed; he would have anathe-
matized them had they not illum.ined him with the glory of
their judgment. He would have said, "I am a Papist; the
Pope is the highest, the holiest, the mightiest." Kad Paul
so desired he might have become pope, might have held
supremac}^ ; he had but to utter a single word. He had only
to receive them who desired to join themselves to him ; the
others would have been obliged to yield. But in his stew-
ardship he strove for faithfulness rather than for exaltation.
Hence he had to remain a common tent-maker and to travel
on foot.

38. From this verse, clearly the Corinthians judged with
distinction of persons, preferring that baptism and Gospel
which they had themselves received. They intimated that
Paul, or Peter, or Apollos, was supreme. This Paul could
not admit. He holds the apostles equal, whatever their
individualities. He who is baptized and taught by Paul is
as much a Christian as one baptized and taught of Peter, or
Apollos, or anyone else. In opposition to this teaching, the
Pope fiercely rants, admitting no one a Christian unless in-
structed of himself. At the same time he teaches mere in-
fidelity and the foolish works of men.

39. Now, Paul condemns undue respect of persons, and
in the matter of stewardship for God is concerned only about
faithfulness. By these very teachings, he removes every
reason for divisions; his Church cannot be disunited, but
must remain harmonious, allowing equality in all things.



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 81

Hov/ can there be divisions v/hen one minister of Christ
is like another, when he is equally a steward of God? So
long as there is no difference in privilege, even if one does
exceed another in faithfulnss, it will not create sects ; it will
only publish the common Gospel with greater efficiency.

40. Paul's words have reference not to one apostle only,
but to every apostle. He does not say, "Let a man so ac-
count of me," but "Let a man so account of us;" of "us,"
mark you. Who is meant by "us"? Himself, Peter, Apol-
los — they about whom the matter arose. The conclusion
necessarily is that Peter and Paul are to be considered
equal. Then either Paul's teaching is wrong when he re-
gards all apostles equal servants of Christ and stewards of
God, or the claims and proceedings of the Pope must be
false and this text a powerful enemy of popedom.

"Yea, I judge not mine own self."

41. You may inquire how it is that Paul should look upon
his own judgment of himself as truer than the judgment of
any other; for we see how the majority of men praise or
highly approve themselves. Naturally one is pleased with
himself, but few receive the glory of "man's judgment" — are
honored in the sentence of others. We might expect Paul
to reverse the statement, saying: "With me it is a very
small thing that I should judge myself ; I desire neither this
human glory of man's judgment, nor the praise of yourselves
or of all the world." But he speaks, rather, as a Christian
and according to the state of his own conscience before
God. The Corinthians exalted Paul in the things accepta-
ble to God. They insisted he was higher, greater and better
before God than the other apostles ; but certain other Chris-
tians extolled Peter.

Now, there is with God no better evidence of the soul's
condition than what the conscience reveals. God judges
not, like men, according to appearance, but according to
the heart; as we learn from First Samuel 16, 7: "Man
looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on
the heart." So it is plain the evidence of our consciences is
of greater weight before God than the testimony of all the



82 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

world. And this evidence alone will stand; as said in Ro-
mans 2, 15: "Their conscience bearing witness therewith,
and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excus-
ing them; in the day when God shall judge the secrets of
men."

42. Paul would ask : "Why should divisions arise among
you concerning us? What if one is preferred of men before
another? It is altogether immaterial. For even our own
consciences refrain from judging as to who ranks first in
God's sight." Solomon says, "He that trusteth in his own
heart is a fool." Prov. 28, 26. There are no grounds for
divisions. No one knows who ranks first with God. Christ
himself does not claim the right to set one soul on the
right hand and the other on the left. Mt 20, 23. Since all
the apostles are alike before God, since one is a minister of
Christ as well as another, and since we may not know who
ranks ßrst in God's estimation, let no one presume to judge,
much less to exalt himself above another because of tempo-
ral power, wealth or popularity. The exaltation of the Pope
and the claim that his eminence is from God is in violation
of this principle; Paul's words dispute it, teaching that no
one is able to know nor judge until the last day.

43. But here the keen tongues of the Papists seek to
effect a breach. They assume that Paul does not deny the
supremacy of Peter, or of the Pope, but forbids judgment of
the person himself as to how good or bad he is in God's
sight. I admit that Paul does forbid such judgment, never-
theless the design of the Corinthians for which he rebukes
them was to exalt the office, the baptism and the doctrine,
wholly because of the person; otherwise they would not
have said, "I am a good follower of Paul," "I am a good
follower of Peter," and so on. Well they knew that doc-
trine, baptism and office were the same with all the apostles,
but their object was to exalt the office and its efficacy with
the standing of the individual. Paul, however, takes the
opposite stand ; he assumes equality of office upon the very
ground of equality of individuals in man's sight, since none
can know another's standing before God. Had the Corin-



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 83

thians desired to exalt the individual only, and not the office,
they would not have created sects and said, "I am of Paul,"
etc. Just as we may hold St. Peter holier in person than St.
Augustine and yet not cause division thereby. But it is
creating sects for one to say, "I am of Peter," and another,
"I am of Augustine," meaning, "The doctrine taught me is
superior to what is taught you."

44. The hypocritical Papists, being well aware that their
false claim for the supremacy of the Pope cannot stand un-
less backed by his personal holiness, proceed to bolster up
that falsehood by a greater one. They endeavor to give
him the reputation of personal goodness by saying he can-
not err, for the Koly Spirit never forsakes him, and Christ
is ever with and in him. Some of them, knowing the absurd-
ity of denying that the Pope does openly sin, are so bold
in their blasphemous utterances as to declare it is impossi-
ble for him to remain in m^ortal sins for a quarter of an
hour. Thus accurately have they measured with hour-glass
and compasses the extent of the Koly Spirit's presence in
the Pope. Why do they tell such blasphemous falsehoods?
Doubtless because they are av/are of the futility of attempt-
ing to maintain supremacy without personal goodness ; they
would be compelled to admit that exaltation without piety
must be of the devil. It cannot be said the Corinthians
exalted the person independently of the office; it was be-
cause of his office.

45. Do you ask further concerning Paul, who desired to
be regarded a minister of Christ and a steward of God, Why
did he not judge himself? I reply: As before stated, the
ministry and the office are not his but God's, who enjoined
them upon him. As no man can create the Vv^'ord of God,
so no man ha-s authority to send it forth, or constitute an
apostle. God has himself accomplished the work; he has
constituted the apostles. Hence we should own the work,
glory in it, confess it, and give to publish abroad the news of
the priceless blessing the one God has bestowed. To illus-
trate: Though I cannot constitute myself a living soul, I
ought to glory in and confess the fact that God has created



84 LUTHER'S EPISTLE SERMONS.

me a human being. But just as I am incapable of judging
how I stand and will stand in the sight o£ God, so I cannot
judge which apostle or steward is greatest before God.

46. But you object; You teach, however, that a Christian
should not doubt his acceptance v/ith God, and he that
doubts is no Christian; for faith assures that God is our
Father and that as we believe so shall it be unto us. I reply :
Indeed, I would have you hold fast the assurance of faith
in the grace of God; faith is simply a steadfast, indubitable,
sure confidence in divine grace. But this is what I say:
the Corinthians' intent was to judge the apostles by their
personal goodness and works, that according to one's holi-
ness, rank and merit might his office be exalted and his fol-
lowers secure some honor above others. But Paul over-
throws all works and merit, leaving them to God's judg-
ment, and places every apostle in the same rank as to office
and faith. They fill one and the same office and are justi-
fied by one and the same faith. The question of who ranks
first in goodness, position, merit and achievement must be
left to God; it is not an occasion for divisions in the com-
munity. Hence follows:

"For I know nothing against myself; yet am I not
hereby justified."

47. This verse also implies that the Corinthians judged
the apostles in regard to the worthiness cf person and
works; Paul admits his conscience does not reproach him,
and confesses to the truth of their judgment so far as his
person and conscience are concerned. But, he teaches that
such judgment does not suffice before God; and that all de-
cisions based on the same principle are false.

48. Much might be said on this verse. It shov/s us all
works are rejected and no one is made godly and happy by
any of them. The fact that Paul dared say "I know nothing
against myself" proves him certainly to have abounded in
good v>^orks; nevertheless he says, "I am not hereby justi-
fied." By what is he justified, then? By faith alone.
Could one be justified upon the grounds of a clear conscience
— knowing nothing against himself — his confidence would



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 85

rest in himself. He could judge and extol his own char-
acter, as do presumptuous saints. Then faith and God's
grace would be unnecessary; we would have in ourselves
all essentials and could easily dispense with God. The fact
is, however, all depends on our reliance upon the grace
of God. Thereby are we justified. The subsequent judg-
ment of our works and character, of our calling and worthi-
ness, must be left to God. We are certain we are vindicated
by none of these things, and uncertain how God will esti-
mate them.

49. It is easily evident to all, I presume, that Paul refers
to his character after conversion when he says he knows
nothing against himself; for, concerning his previous life,
he tells us (1 Tim 1, 13) he was an unbeliever, a blasphemer
and a persecutor of the first Christians.

50. The question, however, arises. How can it be that
he is not justified by his clear conscience when he declares
(2 Cor 1, 12) : "For our glorying is this, the testimony of
our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in
fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we behaved our-
selves in the world, and m.ore abundantly to you-ward"?
This quotation contains the answer. The v/ords, "in the
grace of God," give it. We are indeed to rejoice in the



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 7 of 29)