J. Calvin: Institutio christianae religionis - Instruction in the Christian Religion - Book III




John Calvin: The true and the false predestination.   -  Discourse 100


Institutio christianae religionis III. by John Calvin

Translated and edited after the last edition (1559) by Otto Weber and first published in 1955 by
Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 6th edition of the one-volume edition 1997.



Commissioned by the Reformed Federation in Germany / JOHANNES A LASCO LIBRARY Emden and prepared for the edition on the Internet by Matthias Freudenberg on the basis of a scan text acquisition by the Institute for Reformation Research of the University of Apeldoorn.

Teaching of the Christian religion

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book I: Of the Knowledge of God the Creator

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book II: Of the Knowledge of God as the Savior in Jesus Christ

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book III: In what way we become partakers of the grace of Christ, what fruits accrue to us from it, and what effects result from it.

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book IV: Of the Outward Means or Aids by Which God Invites and Maintains Us in Communion with Christ.


Editorial notes

The original three-volume edition of Otto Weber’s translation was published in the years 1936-1938. For the present Internet edition, the notes Weber made in the margins of the text seemed dispensable. Likewise, the few annotations, most of which do not offer factual explanations, have not been included. The old spelling has been retained. Obvious typographical errors, inaccuracies in the citation of biblical passages and other literature, and unusual forms of presentation in the typesetting have been corrected.

Edition plan

Book I July 2006
Book II August 2006
Book III December 2006
Book IV March 2007




Third book

In what way we become partakers of the grace of Christ, what fruits accrue to us from it and what effects result from it




Table of contents



First Chapter

What is said of Christ comes to us through the hidden work of the Spirit


Second Chapter

Of faith, its nature and properties


Third Chapter

By faith we are born again. Here we must speak of repentance


Fourth Chapter

Everything that the clever ones in their schools talk up about repentance is very far from the purity of the gospel. Here we must also speak of confession and satisfaction.


Chapter Five

Of the Appendages to the Doctrine of Satisfying Works, namely, of Indulgences and Purgatory


Chapter Six

Of the life of a Christian man; especially with what reasons the Scriptures exhort us to it.


Seventh Chapter

The main sum of the Christian life; here we must speak of self-denial.


Chapter Eight

Of bearing the cross as a piece of self-denial


Chapter Nine

On the pursuit of the future life


Tenth Chapter

How to Use the Present Life and Its Means


Eleventh Chapter

Of justification by faith. What does the expression mean and what is the matter?


Twelfth Chapter

If justification by grace is to become a serious certainty, we must lift up our hearts to God’s judgment seat.


Thirteenth Chapter

Two main points that require attention in justification by grace


Fourteenth Chapter

Of the Beginning and Continuous Progress of Justification


Fifteenth Chapter
What one boasts of the merit of works nullifies God’s praise for bringing about righteousness, but at the same time also nullifies assurance of salvation


Sixteenth Chapter

Refutation of the invectives with which the papists try to bring our doctrine into disrepute.


Seventeenth Chapter

How can the promises of the Law be united with those of the Gospel?


Eighteenth Chapter

It is not right to conclude from the reward to the righteousness of works.


Nineteenth Chapter

On Christian Freedom


Twentieth Chapter

Of prayer, which is the noblest exercise of faith, and by which we take hold of God’s gifts every day


Twenty-first Chapter

Of eternal election, by virtue of which God has predestined some to salvation and others to destruction


Twenty-second Chapter

Affirmation of this Doctrine from the Testimonies of the Holy Scriptures


Twenty-third Chapter

Refutation of the calumnies with which this doctrine has at all times been unreasonably charged.


Twenty-fourth chapter

Election is confirmed by God’s calling; but the rejected incur the just condemnation to which they are destined


Twenty-fifth chapter

Of the last resurrection



First chapter


What is said of Christ comes to us through the hidden work of the Spirit

IIII,1,1 Now we must see how those goods which the Father entrusted to his only begotten Son come to us; for he did not give them to him for his own use, but to make rich with them the needy and the poor. First of all, it must be said that as long as Christ remains apart from us and we are separated from him, everything he suffered and did for the salvation of mankind is of no use to us and of no importance at all! Therefore, if he is to bestow upon us what he has received from the Father, he must become our property and take up residence in us. That is why he is called our "head" (Eph 4:15) and "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8:29), that is why on the other hand it is said of us that we are to be incorporated into him (Rom 11:17) and "put on" him (Gal 3:27); for I repeat that everything he possesses is of no concern to us as long as we do not grow into one with him. It is true, of course, that we attain this by faith; but we see also that not all indiscriminately take hold of the fellowship with Christ which is offered to us in the Gospel, and therefore reason itself teaches us to penetrate more deeply, and to ask the question of the hidden efficacy of the Holy Spirit; for it is through it that we come to enjoy Christ and all his goods. Of the eternal divinity and essence of the Holy Spirit I have already spoken; we must be content in this particular teaching with the statement: Christ came in water and blood in such a way that the Holy Spirit testifies of Him, so that the salvation which the Lord has won for us may not remain ineffective in us (1Jn 5:6). For as we are called three witnesses in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Spirit, so also three on earth: Water, blood and spirit (1. John 5,7f.). So the testimony of the Spirit occurs both times, and this is not in vain; for we learn that it is impressed on our hearts like a seal. Thus it happens that it seals to us the washing away of our sins and the sacrifice of Christ. In this sense, Peter also says that believers are chosen "through sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1Pet 1:2). With these words he wants to teach us that our souls, so that Christ did not shed his holy blood in vain, are cleansed with this blood through the hidden sprinkling that the Spirit does on us. Therefore, Paul also says in a passage where he speaks of cleansing and justification that both of these are granted to us "through the name of Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God" (1Cor 6:11). I summarize: the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectively unites us to Himself. Here also belongs what I taught in the previous book about Christ’s anointing (II,15,2).

III,1,2 In order that this fact, which is particularly worthy of recognition, may be all the more clearly revealed, we must first of all note that Christ was endowed with the Holy Spirit in a very special way at His coming: He was thereby to separate us from the world and gather us to the hope of the eternal inheritance. Hence the Spirit is called the "Spirit of sanctification," because he not only animates and sustains us with the general working power as it appears in mankind and also in all the rest of the creature, but because he is the root and seed of heavenly life in us. That is why the prophets praise the kingdom of Christ in particular, that the Holy Spirit should then pour out in richer abundance. Especially noteworthy is the saying of Joel. "In that day I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 3:1; not Luther text). There the prophet seems to understand among the gifts of the spirit only the office of prophecy, but under this image he nevertheless gives to understand that God would make such people, who were before without any knowledge and untouched by the heavenly teaching, his disciples by the illumination of his spirit. By the way, because God the Father has endowed us with the Holy Spirit for the sake of His Son, and yet at the same time entrusted all fullness to Him, so that He thus administers and distributes His goodness and kindness, - He is sometimes called the Spirit of the Father, sometimes the Spirit of the Son. "But ye," says Paul, "are not carnal, but spiritual, inasmuch as God’s Spirit dwelleth in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s Spirit, he is not his" (Rom 8:9). Then he awakens in us the hope of complete renewal: "He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because his Spirit dwells in you" (Rom 8:11). There is really nothing absurd in the fact that on the one hand the Father is praised for his gifts, of which he is indeed the author, and that on the other hand Christ is given the same share, because the gifts of the Spirit are deposited with him and he bestows them on his own. So he invites all who thirst to drink to him (John 7,37). And according to Paul’s teaching, the Spirit is distributed to each one "according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph 4:7). But - we must keep this in mind - he is called Christ’s Spirit not only insofar as he is connected with the Father as the eternal Word of God in this very Spirit, but also according to the person of the Mediator; for Christ would have come to us in vain without being equipped with this power. In this sense Christ is also called the second Adam, who is given to us from heaven "as the Spirit who gives life" (1Cor 15:45). Here Paul compares the special life that the Son of God breathes into His own, so that they may be one with Him, with the natural life in which even the rejected share. In the same way, he first wishes the believers "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God," but then immediately adds: "and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2Cor 13:13); for without these no one will taste God’s fatherly goodness and Christ’s beneficence. Also in another place Paul says: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom 5,5).

III,1,3 Here it will now be useful to note the designations with which Scripture distinguishes the Holy Spirit, where it speaks of the beginning and also of the whole restoration of our salvation. First of all, He is called the "Spirit of adoption," for He is the witness to us of God’s gracious benevolence, with which God the Father has embraced us in His beloved only begotten Son to become our Father; He also awakens and enlivens in us the joy of prayer, and He Himself gives us the words, so that we may cry out without fear, "Abba, Father!" (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). For the same reason, Scripture calls Him the pledge and seal of our inheritance (2Cor 1:22); for He makes us, who wander in this world as pilgrims and are like the dead, alive from heaven, so that we may be sure: our salvation is securely safe under God’s faithful watch; therefore He is also called "life for righteousness’ sake" (Ro 8:10). But he also makes us fruitful by his hidden sprinkling to bring forth shoots of righteousness: that is why he is called "water" several times, as for example in Isaiah: "Come now, all you who are thirsty, come to the water!" (Isa 55,1); likewise: "For I will pour out my spirit on the thirsty and streams on the dry" (Isa 44,3; not Luther text). The word of Christ already mentioned above corresponds to this: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me" (John 7,37). That the Holy Spirit is called water, of course, sometimes also comes from its cleansing and purifying power; so in Ezekiel, where the Lord promises "pure water" to "wash" His people of their "impurities" (Eze 36:25). But because the Holy Spirit continues to renew and sustain in vigorous life those whom He has flooded with the refreshing power of His grace, He also holds the name "oil" or "anointing" (1Jn 2:20,27). On the other hand, he constantly burns and sweeps away our sinful desires and in turn inflames our hearts to love God and to seek the fear of God: because of this effect he is rightly called a "fire" (Lk 3:16). And finally, he is described to us as a "fountain" (John 4:14) from which all heavenly riches flow to us, or as the "hand of God" (Acts 11:21), through which God gives us the "fire" (Luke 3:16). 11:21), through which God exercises his power; for when he breathes on us with his power, he works divine life in us, so that we are no longer driven by ourselves, but are governed by his guidance and impulse: thus all good in us is the fruit of his grace, but without him our own gifts are mere darkness of mind and perversity of heart! Now, indeed, we have already clearly stated that Christ lies there, as it were, useless to us until our minds are turned to his Spirit; for it is a distasteful thing for us to imagine Christ in vain speculation outside, even remote from us! He is, on the contrary, as we know, of blessing only to those whose "head" He is (Eph 4:15), to whom He is "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8:29), in short, those who have "put on" Him! (Gal 3:27). This connection with Him alone brings it about that, as far as we are concerned, He did not come in vain under the name of Savior. This is also the meaning of that holy marriage by which we become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone (Eph 5:30), yes, wholly one with Him. But he accomplishes this union with us solely through the Holy Spirit. The grace and power of this Spirit also makes us His members, so that He holds us together under His direction and we in turn possess Him!

III,1,4 But the most distinguished work of the Holy Spirit is faith; therefore, a large part of the statements that we encounter here and there describing His power and work must be referred to Him. For he alone leads us to the light of the gospel through faith, as John teaches that those who believe in Christ are given the privilege of becoming God’s children, who are not born of flesh and blood, "but of God" (John 1:12:13). Here God is contrasted with flesh and blood, clearly asserting that it is a supernatural gift when people who would otherwise have remained slaves to their unbelief accept Christ in faith. Similar is the answer Christ gave to Peter: "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven" (Mt 16:17). I touch on this only briefly here because I have already spoken of it in more detail elsewhere (II,2,18 ss.). Similar, by the way, is the word of Paul who says of the Ephesians: "You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph 1:13). According to this word, the Holy Spirit is the inward teacher by whose working the promise of salvation enters our minds - otherwise it would strike the air or the ear alone! When Paul says of the Thessalonians that God chose them "in sanctification of the Spirit and in the faith of the truth" (2Thess 2:13), he draws our attention in this textual context to the fact that faith itself is wrought by the Spirit alone. We find this more clearly expressed in John: "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us" (1Jn 3:24), and accordingly: "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, that He has given us of His Spirit" (1Jn 4:13). Therefore, Christ promised His disciples the "Spirit of truth" so that they would be able to grasp the heavenly wisdom, "which the world cannot receive" (John 14:17). And he ascribes this to the Spirit as his actual office, to impart to the disciples what he himself had taught them with his mouth. For they would be blind and the light would shine in vain if this spirit of knowledge did not open the eyes of their minds; therefore it can very well be called a key that opens the treasures of the kingdom of heaven for us (Rev. John 3,7), its enlightening effect can definitely be called the power of sight of our minds. For this reason Paul praises the "ministry of the spirit" so highly (2Cor 3,6); because all teachers would sound their call in vain, if Christ Himself would not draw to Himself as an inward teacher through His spirit the people whom the Father has given Him! (John 6:44; 12:32; 17:6). As we said that perfect righteousness is found in Christ’s person, so He also "baptizes" us "with the Holy Spirit and with fire" so that we become partakers of Him (Lk 3:16); He enlightens us to believe His Gospel, He gives us rebirth to new life so that we become new creatures (cf. 2Cor 5:17); He cleanses us from all unholy filth and consecrates us to God as holy temples! (cf. 1Cor 3:16,17; 2Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21).

Second chapter


Of faith, its nature and properties

III,2,1 But all this will be easier to see once we have established a clearer definition of faith, so that the readers will have a clear idea of its power and nature. But it is useful to recall what has already been stated: (1) God prescribes to us by the law what we are to do; therefore, if we have fallen in any piece, that awful sentence of eternal death rests upon us which it pronounces. (2) Now, on the other hand, it is not merely hard for us, but it is altogether beyond our power, and entirely beyond all our ability to fulfill the law as he requires; therefore, if we look to ourselves alone, and consider what state would correspond to our merits, nothing of good hope remains, but we are rejected by God, and are subject to eternal destruction. (3) Thirdly, this was then set forth, that there is only one means capable of delivering us from such miserable misery, namely, when Christ appears as our Redeemer, by whose hand the heavenly Father, who has had mercy on us in his immeasurable goodness and kindness, has willed to bring help to us all, provided we accept such mercy in firm faith and rely upon it in constant hope. But now it is necessary to consider how that faith is to be constituted by which all who are adopted by God as children come into possession of the kingdom of heaven; for it is certain that not any opinion or even conviction is capable of effecting such a thing! The more dangerous the delusion is, by which many people are nowadays afflicted in this respect, we must now pursue the contemplation and investigation of the true nature of faith with the greater care and the greater emphasis. For a good part of mankind it is like this: when one hears the word "faith", one understands by it nothing higher than an ordinary affirmation of the evangelical story. Yes, when one discusses faith in the (papal) schools, one refers to God as its "object" without further ado, and in doing so, in a vain play of ideas - as I have already explained elsewhere - one leads the poor souls away from the right path rather than guiding them to the goal. For God dwells "in a light that no one can approach" (1Tim 6:16), and therefore it is necessary that Christ steps into the middle! Therefore He calls Himself "the light of the world" (John 8,12) or the "way, the truth and the life"! (John 14,6). For no one comes to the Father, who is the "source of life" (Ps 36,10), but through Him! (John 14,6). For He alone knows the Father, and from there the believers to whom He has revealed Him (Lk 10:22). For this reason Paul also affirms that he knows nothing that he thought he needed to know, but Christ alone! (1Cor 2:2). And what he preached, according to his own review in the twentieth chapter of Acts, is "faith in … Christ." (Acts 20:21). In another place he reports how Christ Himself said to him: "I send you to the Gentiles … that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance with those who are sanctified through faith in Me" (Acts 26:17, 18; not quite Luther text). Paul testifies that in his (Christ’s) person God’s glory is visible to us or - which means the same - that in his face "the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God" shines (2 Cor. 4,6). It is certainly true: faith looks to the one God; but it must then be added that it should recognize the one whom God has sent, Jesus Christ! (John 17:3). For God Himself would be distant and hidden from us if Christ did not surround us with His splendor. The Father gave all that He had to the only begotten, in order to reveal Himself to us in Him, and that for the purpose that this very community of goods would express the true image of His glory (in Christ). If it was said above that the Spirit must draw us so that we are driven to seek Christ, we must realize on the other hand that the invisible Father is to be sought only in this image of His! Augustine is particularly subtle about this fact: he speaks of the goal of faith and then says that we must know where we have to go and by which way we will get there; then he immediately comes to the conclusion that the way that is completely secured against all errors is the one that is God and man. For it is God to whom we should go, and a man is the way to get there: but both we find only in Christ! (From the State of God XI,2). When Paul preaches faith in God, he does not mean to overturn the statements about faith that he so often inculcates, namely that faith has its firm foundation in Christ alone. Peter very clearly connects the two: "Through Him you believe in God" (1Peter 1:21).

III,2,2 This evil (namely the perversion of the concept of faith) we owe, like infinitely many other things, cheaply to the scholastics. They have, so to speak, drawn a curtain in front of Christ and thus covered him up. But if we do not look straight at him, we have to run back and forth along all kinds of wrong paths. Apart from the fact that with their sinister description of the essence of faith they weaken and even destroy its whole power, they have also invented the talk of "wrapped" faith (fides implicita). With this name they adorn the grossest ignorance and thus deceive the poor people in the most pernicious way. Yes, this talk - I will state more correctly and openly what it is about! - not only buries the true faith, but destroys it from the bottom up. Does it still mean to believe if one has no knowledge at all and merely submits one’s mind obediently to the church? No, faith is not based on ignorance, but on knowledge, not only the knowledge of God, but also the knowledge of the divine will. Indeed, we do not attain salvation by being willing to accept as true everything that the Church tells us to believe, or by assigning to it the task of inquiring and knowing, but only when we recognize that God is our gracious Father for the sake of the atonement made through Christ, and that Christ has been given to us for righteousness, sanctification, and life. By this knowledge, I say, and not by subjection of our minds, we gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven. For when the apostle says, "For if a man believe with his heart, he is justified; and if he confess with his mouth, he is saved" (Rom 10:10), he clearly shows that it is not enough for one to believe in the sense of "wrapped up" faith, which he does not understand at all, nor does he investigate; no, he demands a "developed" (explicita) knowledge of the divine goodness on which our righteousness rests.

III,2,3 Since, to be sure, we are surrounded by much ignorance, I certainly will not deny that many things are still "wrapped up" in us now, nay, that they will be in the future until we have laid aside the burden of our flesh and come nearer to God’s presence. In these very things we can do nothing more useful than to leave judgment in abeyance and make a vigorous effort to maintain unity with the Church. But it is purely absurd to give the name of "faith" to ignorance mixed with humility under this pretext. For faith consists in the knowledge of God and Christ (John 17,3), but not in the reverence towards the church! We also see what a maze the scholastics have created for themselves with their concept of "wrapped up" faith: thus everything without distinction, if it merely imposes itself with reference to the Church, is accepted by the inexperienced like an oracle, sometimes even the most superstitious error! This thoughtless levity, which must necessarily plunge men into certain ruin, is nevertheless defended by the scholastics, because it believes nothing expressly, but everything only on condition: "Provided the church believes it"! In this way, they pretend, man would have truth in the midst of error, light in blindness, right knowledge in ignorance! I will not dwell long on refuting these errors, and would only ask the reader to compare them with our doctrine; for the clear transparency of truth will of itself give us a sufficiently clear refutation of the error. The question, after all, with the Papists is not put thus, whether faith is still "wrapped up" in many remnants of ignorance, but they expressly assert that a man who lives along in dull ignorance, possibly even pleasing himself in it, believes lawfully, provided only he assents to the authority and judgment of the Church on the things he does not know! As if the Scriptures did not teach again and again that with faith is connected discernment!

III,2,4 But I admit that as long as we are pilgrims in the world, our faith is "wrapped up," not only because many things are still hidden from us, but also because we cannot comprehend everything in the many mists of error that surround us. For even for the most perfect, the highest wisdom consists in progressing and striving on in quiet scholarship. That is why Paul exhorts believers to wait for God’s revelation when they differ among themselves on a matter (Phil 3:15). Experience truly teaches us that while we still have our flesh on us, we understand less than we would like to; and every day, when we read the Scriptures, we encounter many incomprehensible passages that convict us of how ignorant we still are. By this rein God keeps us in modesty; he measures out to each individual the "measure of faith" (Rom 12:3), so that even the best teacher may be ready to learn. Particularly clear examples of this "wrapped up" faith can be seen in the disciples of Christ before they had received full enlightenment. There we see how difficult it is for them to get a taste of even the most elementary things, so that they are even uncertain about the simplest ones and, although they are attached to the mouth of their master, they do not make much progress! Even when they hurry to the grave at the admonition of the women, the resurrection of their Master seems to them like a dream! And yet Christ had testified to them beforehand that they did believe, so that we must not say that they had no faith at all; indeed, if they had not had the conviction that Christ would rise again, all zeal would have been extinguished in them. But it was certainly not superstition that drove the women to anoint Christ’s body with fragrant herbs as that of a deceased person whose life could no longer be hoped for. Nay, though they believed his words - they knew, after all, that he was true! - But the dullness that still ensnared their minds had covered their faith with darkness to such an extent that they were completely confused! That is why it is said of them that they believed only when the truth of Jesus’ words became certain to them through the events themselves; not as if they had only then begun to believe, but because the seed of a hidden faith, which was as if it had died in their hearts, now received strength and burst forth. So true faith was alive in them, but it was still "wrapped up". For they had reverently accepted Christ as their only teacher. Then, through his instruction, they also came to the certainty that he was the agent of their salvation. Finally, they also believed that he had come from heaven to gather his disciples there also by the grace of the Father. But for this condition (of the disciples and the women) no more familiar reason can be found than that in all believers faith is always mixed with unbelief.

III,2,5 There, too, one may speak of a "wrapped up" faith, where it is really merely a preparation for faith. The evangelists report that very many people "believed", who were merely enraptured by the miracles and had no further knowledge than that Christ was the promised Messiah; (so it is reported) although these people had no clue at all about the real teaching of the gospel. This reverence, which led them to submit voluntarily and gladly to Christ, is adorned with the name "faith," although in reality it was only the beginning of it. Thus, the king first believed Christ’s promise that his son would be healed (John 4:50), and then, when he returned home, he believed again according to the testimony of the evangelist (John 4:53). In the first case, he took what he heard from Christ’s mouth as God’s word; in the second case, he submitted to His authority and accepted His teaching. But we have to keep in mind: as docile and willing to learn as he was, the word "faith" in the first case denotes merely a "particular" faith (particularis fides), while in the second case it counts this royal among the disciples who confessed Christ. John tells us a similar example of the Samaritans: they first believed the words of the woman and then hurried eagerly to Christ, but after they had heard Him, they said, "We do not believe now because of your words; we ourselves have heard and known that this is truly Christ, the Savior of the world" (John 4:42). We see here how people who have not yet received even the first instruction, if they are only willing to obey, are already called believers, not in the proper sense, but insofar as God in His goodness dignifies this pious impulse with such honor. But this docility, in which the desire to go further is inherent, is something quite different from the gross ignorance in which such people live dully, who are content with that "wrapped up" faith in the sense of papist phantasmagoria! If Paul hurls a harsh word of condemnation against those who "learn forever, and can never come to the knowledge of the truth" (2Tim 3:7) - how much worse disgrace do people deserve who deliberately set out to know nothing!

III,2,6 The true knowledge of Christ, then, consists in our accepting Him as the Father presents Him to us, clothed in His gospel. For as he is destined to be the goal and direction point of our faith, so we can only take the right path to him if the gospel precedes us. There all the treasures of grace open up; if these were not made accessible to us, Christ would be of little use to us! Thus Paul gives faith to the doctrine of the inseparable companion: "But ye have not so learned Christ, if ye have been otherwise taught … in him, as in Christ is a righteous being" (Eph 4:20 f.). However, I do not limit faith to the gospel in the sense that I would deny that Moses and the prophets also taught us sufficient things to build up faith. But the clearer revelation of Christ comes to us in the gospel, and therefore Paul rightly calls it the "teaching of faith" (cf. 1Tim 4:6). In this sense he also explains in another place that with the coming of faith the law is done away with (Rom 10:4). Here Paul understands the gospel as a new and (until now) unfamiliar way of teaching, through which Christ, since he appeared as our teacher, has set the Father’s mercy in a brighter light and has given a more certain testimony of our salvation. For the treatment of the doctrine of faith, however, it will be an easier and more appropriate way if we go from the general to the particular. First of all, we must realize that faith is in constant connection with the Word: it can no more be separated from it than the rays can be separated from the sun from which they come. That is why God exclaims in Isaiah, "Hear me, and your soul shall live!" (Isa 55:3; not Luther text). John points us to the same source of faith with the words: "But these are written that you may believe" (John 20:31). The prophet also calls out to the people to encourage them to believe: "Today, if you hear his voice." (Ps 95:7). Again and again the word "hearing" is used in the sense of "faith". Finally, it is not in vain that God, in Isaiah, distinguishes the children of the church from the strangers by the sign that he instructs them all so that they are "taught by the Lord" (Isa 54:13); if this benefit were common to all people without distinction, there would be no reason why he addresses only a few with his speech. It also corresponds to this that the evangelists treat "believers" and "disciples" throughout as synonymous words; this happens especially often with Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1, 2, 7; 9:1, 10, 19, 25, 26, 38; 11:26, 29; 13:52; 14:20, 28; 15:10 etc.); there he refers this title in the 9th chapter (Acts 9:36) even to a woman! If, therefore, faith deviates in the least from this aiming and directing point to which it is to be directed, it cannot retain its nature, but becomes an uncertain faithfulness, or even an unclear error of our mind. For the Word is the foundation on which faith rests and which sustains it; if it turns away from it, it collapses. Take away the word, then, and no faith will remain! I do not discuss here whether the ministry of a man is indispensable in all cases for the sowing of the Word of God, so that faith germinates from it; this must be discussed in another place. I say only this: the Word itself - may it come to us as it will! - is for us like a mirror in which faith looks at God. So whether God uses the service of men for this purpose, or whether he works by his power alone, he always presents himself to those whom he wants to draw to himself through his word. That is why Paul understands faith as obedience to the gospel (Rom 1:5), and in another place he praises the obedience of faith that he got to know among the Philippians (Phil 1:3-5). The insight of faith does not only have to do with the fact that we acknowledge: There is a God; but it is also, indeed primarily, a matter of our understanding what His will is toward us. For it is not only important for us to know who he is in himself, but how he wants to behave towards us. So now we can already state the following: faith is the knowledge of God’s will towards us, created from the Word of God. But its basis is a firm conviction of God’s truth. As long as our heart is in dispute with itself about the certainty of this truth, the word will have a merely doubtful and weak authority, indeed no authority at all. For it is not enough to believe that God is true and can neither deceive nor lie; no, it must also be established beyond all doubt that everything that proceeds from him is holy and inviolable truth.

III,2,7 Now not every word of God is able to move the human heart to faith. So now we have to examine what faith actually looks at in the Word. It was God’s word when it was said to Adam, "You will die of death!" (Gen 2:17). It was God’s word when Cain had to hear: "The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the earth" (Gen 4:10). But both words are not capable of anything else than to shake faith; they are in any case completely unsuitable to justify it. I certainly do not want to deny that it is the office of faith to sign God’s truth, however often he speaks what he speaks and in which way he does it. It is only the question, what then faith finds in the word of the Lord, on which it can support and base itself. How can our conscience not tremble and be frightened when it only hears anger and vengeance? How should it not flee from a God before whom it is terrified? But faith should seek God and not flee from him! Our above description of the nature of faith is therefore not yet complete; for it is not yet to be regarded as faith if one knows the will of God in some form. But how will it be if we substitute God’s will, the manifestation of which is often sad, the witnessing of which is often terrible, for His benevolence and mercy? In this way we certainly come nearer to the true essence of faith; for we are only attracted to seek God when we have learned that with him lies our salvation, and this becomes a certainty to us when he declares that he cares and is zealous for our salvation. So the promise of grace is needed, by which he testifies to us that he is our gracious Father; for only then can we draw near to him, and on it alone can the human heart rest securely. For this reason we find in the Psalms again and again two words put together, which actually belong together: Mercy and Truth. For it would be of no use to us if we knew that God is truthful, unless he at the same time kindly attracted us to himself, and on the other hand we could not grasp his mercy if he did not offer it to us in his word! So we read: "I speak of your truth and of your salvation; I do not conceal your goodness and truth; … let thy goodness and truth keep me always" (Ps 40:11, 12; not Luther text). Or we hear in another place: "Your goodness reaches as far as the sky, and your truth as far as the clouds go!" (Ps 36:6). Or also: "The ways of the Lord are goodness and truth to those who keep his covenant" (Ps 25:10). (Ps 25;10). Likewise: "His mercy is manifold toward us, and his truth rules over us forever" (Ps 117:2; Luther text shorter). Or likewise: "I will give thanks to your name for your goodness and truth" (Ps 138:2). I pass over the corresponding statements of the prophets, who also testify that God is merciful and faithful in his promises. It would be presumptuous audacity if we wanted to claim that God is merciful to us - if he himself did not testify to it, preceding us with his invitation, so that his will would not be doubtful and dark! But we have already seen that the only pledge of God’s love is Christ; without him only signs of hatred and anger appear everywhere! Since the knowledge of the divine goodness would be of little importance if it did not lead us to rely on it with certainty, we must exclude from faith that knowledge which is mixed with doubt, which is not certain of itself but is at odds with itself. But our human mind is blind and darkened, and it cannot penetrate so far and rise so high to grasp God’s will; our heart surges up and down in constant doubt, and it is also far from being able to stand securely in such conviction. Therefore, if God’s word is to find full faith in us, our mind must be enlightened from another side, our heart must be strengthened. Now we have come to the point where we can give a correct description of the nature of faith; we must say: it is the firm and certain knowledge of the divine benevolence toward us, based on the truth of the promise of grace presented to us in Christ, revealed to our minds and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

III,2,8 Before proceeding further, however, a few preliminary remarks are necessary to untie knots that might otherwise cause offense to the reader. First of all, I must refute the nonsensical distinction between "formed" and "unformed" faith (fides formata and fides informis) that circulates in the papist schools. They imagine that even such people "believe" everything that is necessary for salvation, who do not feel any fear of God, any emotion of piety. But as if the Holy Spirit, when He enlightens our hearts with His radiance so that we believe, were not at the same time the witness of our reception into filiation! Nevertheless, against the contradiction of the whole Scripture, they proudly ascribe the name "faith" to that conviction (persuasio) which lacks any fear of God! There is no need for a lengthy discussion of this definition; it is sufficient if we simply describe the nature of faith as it has been handed down to us from the Word of God. From this it will become perfectly clear how clumsily and foolishly the papists speak of these things, nay, rather cackle. I have already touched on one part above, the rest will follow in its place below. Now I only want to say that nothing more absurd can be imagined than this invention of the scholastics. So they are of the opinion that faith is a (mere) assent, by virtue of which even every God-despiser can make his own what is presented to him from Scripture. But they should have first seen whether every man can acquire faith by his own strength and resolution, or whether it is not the Holy Spirit who testifies to our filiation through faith! It is therefore childish and foolish if they ask whether faith, when the added being (namely love) has made it a "formed" one, is still the same faith or a different, new one. From this it is surely already clear that they never thought about the special gift of the Holy Spirit in their chatter; for the very beginning of faith includes reconciliation, through which man has access to God! If they would consider the word of Paul: "If one believes from the heart, one is justified" (Rom 10:10), they would stop of their own accord to invent such a frosty concept as that (to "add" to faith, to "form" it) entity (namely love)! If we had even only this one piece of evidence, this would already be enough to put an end to the struggle: that agreement, as I have already touched upon and will soon repeat in more detail, is already itself more a matter of the heart than of the brain, more a matter of inner movement than of the intellect. That is why it is also called "obedience of faith" (Rom 1:5); no other obedience is dearer to the Lord, and rightly so: nothing is more precious to Him than His truth, and this very truth - John the Baptist is witness to this! (John 3,33) - is "sealed" by the believers by signature, so to speak. The matter is indeed quite clear, and I will therefore state in one word: it is foolish talk when they say that faith is "formed" by the fact that an inner, pious stirring occurs in addition to the "assent" (assensus); for this "assent" also exists, at least as Scripture teaches of it, even in such pious stirring! But there is a second, much clearer proof. Faith grasps Christ as he is given to us by the Father; but he is not only given to us for righteousness, for the forgiveness of sins, and for peace, but also for sanctification and as a fountain of living water: faith, therefore, can without doubt never properly recognize him without at the same time grasping the sanctification of the Spirit. If anyone wants to hear this even more clearly, I will say this: faith rests on the knowledge of Christ. But Christ can only be known together with the sanctification of his spirit. Faith, therefore, cannot be separated in any way from the pious stirrings of the heart.

III,2,9 The papists object to this with the words of Paul: "If I had all faith, so that I might move mountains, and if I had not love, I would be nothing" (1Cor 13,2). From this they would now like to infer that faith, if it were without love, would be "unformed". But they do not understand what the apostle means by "faith" in this passage. In the previous chapter (12) he spoke of the different spiritual gifts, to which he added "many languages" (1Cor 12:10), all kinds of powers and also the gift of prophecy (1Cor 12:4-10). He then exhorts the Corinthians to strive for the "best gifts" (1Cor 12:31), that is, those that bring the most fruit and blessing to the whole body of the church. And at the end he adds: "And I will show you a more delicious way" (1Cor 12:31). He wants to show them that all these gifts, as great and excellent as they are in themselves, are of no value if they do not serve love. For they are given - he wants to show this further - for the edification of the church, and they lose their grace if they do not serve this purpose. Now to prove this, he applies a division: he now repeats (1Cor 13:1-3) the same spiritual gifts that he dealt with in the previous chapter, but under different names. But by "powers" and "faith" he understands the same thing here, namely the ability to do miracles. These "powers", respectively this "faith" are a special gift of God, which also any godless person can hold and - abuse, just like speaking in tongues, prophecy or the other spiritual gifts; so it is not surprising if they are divorced from love! But the whole error of the papists now consists in the fact that they do not pay attention to the actually existing ambiguity of the word "faith" and lead their dispute as if the word always had the same meaning. - The passage from James (Jam 2,21), which they also use to protect their error, will be discussed elsewhere. For the purpose of the instruction, namely to show what the knowledge of God is like in the ungodly, we freely admit that there are several forms of faith. Nevertheless, we recognize and preach on the basis of the teaching of Scripture that one kind of faith is always found among the pious. Certainly, many people believe that there is one God, many consider the evangelical history and the other parts of Scripture to be true - just as one tends to judge the reports of past events or also the present that one has experienced oneself. There are also people who go even further: they consider God’s word to be an infallible oracle, by no means despise his commandments, and are at least moved by the threats and promises. Such people are indeed testified that they "believe", but the word "believe" is used in a non-genuine sense: they do not deny, despise and reject God’s word in obvious impiety, but rather display a certain appearance of obedience

III,2,10 But this shadow, this semblance of faith is of no consequence and therefore does not deserve the name "faith". How far it remains from the true essence of faith will soon be shown in more detail, but there is no objection to making it clear here in passing. For example, it is said of the magician Simon that he "believed" (Acts 8:13), and yet he let his unbelief come to light after a short time (Acts 8:18). That he is testified to have believed, I do not understand with some commentators that he feigned a faith with words that he did not carry in his heart. Rather, I imagine it as follows: he was overcome by the majesty of the gospel and in a certain sense also believed it, understood Christ in this way as the giver of life and salvation, and thereupon acknowledged him as Lord. In the same way, in the Gospel of Luke, it is said of people in whom the seed of the Word is choked before it can sprout fruitfully, or in whom it withers and perishes before it takes root, they "believed for a time" (Lk 8:8, 7, 13). Undoubtedly these people have felt a certain taste of the word in them and grasp it eagerly, also they feel its divine power, so that now with the deceptive appearance of faith they deceive not only the eye of other people, but also their own heart. For they persuade themselves that this reverence which they pay to the word of God is piety itself; for by impiety they can understand only this, that one evidently and admittedly reviles and despises God’s word. That approval may look as it likes, but it does not penetrate into the heart to remain firmly rooted there; it may even sometimes give the impression that it has taken root, but it is not alive. The human heart contains so many hiding places for vanity, so many nooks and crannies for lies, it is encapsulated in such deceitful hypocrisy that it often deceives itself! But he who wants to boast of such a mirage of faith, let him know that in this piece he has no precedence even before the devils! Yes, the first group of which we spoke, that is, the people who hear and understand and yet remain dull, are still far below the devils, for the latter at least tremble at such knowledge! (Jam 2:19). Others, however, are like the devils in that all sensation that touches them, of whatever kind it may be, finally ends in terror and horror.

III,2,11 I know that it seems hard to some, if it is sometimes said of the rejected that they believe. One remembers that faith, according to Paul, is a fruit of election (1Thess 1:4f.). This difficulty is easily solved. The enlightenment to faith and the true feeling of the power of the gospel is granted only to those who are ordained to salvation; but experience nevertheless proves that the rejected are sometimes seized by almost the same inner impulse as the elect, so that even in their own judgment they differ in nothing from the elect. It is therefore not at all absurd when the apostle attributes to them a taste of heavenly goods or to Christ a temporary faith. This is not because they really absorb the power of spiritual grace or the unmistakable light of faith, but because the Lord, in order to convict them even more and to make them inexcusable, penetrates into their inner being as far as one can taste his goodness without the spirit of filiation! But someone might say that under these circumstances there would be nothing left for the believers to know for sure that they have been received into filiation. To this I give the answer: As great as the similarity and relationship between God’s elect and those who have only received a temporary gift of faith may be, only in the elect lives that confidence which Paul praises so highly, that confidence which makes them cry out with a joyful mouth: "Abba, dear Father! (Gal 4:6). God alone has "born again the elect … of incorruptible seed, which abideth for ever" (1Pet 1:23), so that the seed of life that is sown in their hearts can never completely perish; and in the same way He also seals in them this grace of filiation, so that it is firm and valid! But this does not prevent in any way that this lesser effect of the Holy Spirit also runs its course in the rejected. However, the believers are reminded to examine themselves thoroughly and humbly, lest the certainty of faith be replaced by carnal certainty. Also, the rejected are always given only a confused sense of grace: they therefore grasp a shadow rather than the real body; for the forgiveness of sins is sealed by the Holy Spirit in the proper sense in the elect alone, so that they may appropriate it in special faith for their benefit. Nevertheless, it can be rightly said of the rejected that they believe God to be gracious to them; for they also feel the gift of reconciliation, admittedly confusedly and not clearly enough. This does not mean that they have the same faith as the children of God or that they have been born again like them, but they seem to have the beginning (principium) of faith in common with them under the cover of hypocrisy. Nor can I deny that God illuminates their inner being in such a way that they recognize his grace; but he distinguishes this feeling from the special testimony that he bestows on his elect, in that the powerful effect and the enjoyment (of grace) remain unknown to the rejected. For God does not show mercy to them in the sense that he really snatches them out of death and takes them into his protection, but he only lets them experience his (temporally) present mercy. But to the faithful alone he gives the living root of faith, so that they may persevere to the end. This solves the objection that if God really shows his mercy to a human being, then such an act is of permanent solidity: there is nothing to be said against God enlightening certain people with a momentary feeling of his mercy, which afterwards passes away again.

III,2,12 Although faith is the knowledge of the divine good will toward us and the certain conviction of its truth, it is no wonder that in those who believe temporarily the feeling of divine love disappears again: it is related to faith, but fundamentally different from it. God’s will - I admit - is unchangeable, and its truth always remains the same; but I deny that the rejected penetrate to that hidden revelation which Scripture alone reserves for the elect. I deny, therefore, that they comprehend the will of God in its immutability, or grasp its truth with constancy. For they are, after all, stuck with a fleeting sensation; they resemble a tree that is not planted deep enough to sprout living roots, and which therefore withers in time, although for some years it may have borne not only blossoms and leaves, but even fruit. In short, just as the image of God could disappear from the mind and soul of the first man as a result of his apostasy from God, so it is not surprising if God appears to the rejected in some rays of his grace, which he nevertheless later lets go out again. There is no reason why he should not wet some of them lightly with the knowledge of his gospel, but saturate others in depth! However, we must keep this in mind: no matter how little faith there may be in the elect, no matter how weak it may be, its engraved testimony can never be plucked out of their hearts, since for them the Holy Spirit is the sure pledge and seal of their filiation; the ungodly, on the other hand, are touched by the rays of a light that later fades away again. And yet the Holy Spirit is without deceit; for the seed which he sows in the hearts of the ungodly does not make them alive and therefore cannot always remain with them imperishably, as is the case with the elect. I go even further: since it is evident from the teaching of Scripture as well as from everyday experience that even the rejected are sometimes inwardly touched by a sense of divine grace, a certain desire to love God again must necessarily arise in their hearts. Thus, for a time, a pious impulse was at work in Saul to love God, who, according to his own recognition, treated him fatherly, so that he was, as it were, seized by the sweetness of such divine goodness. But as this conviction of God’s love does not go down to the roots in the case of the rejected, so they do not really love him again, as children do, but are rather guided by a kind of affection such as a day laborer might have! For the spirit of love is given to Christ alone, that he also might sink it into his members; not beyond the multitude of the elect does Paul’s word apply: "For the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom 5:5). This is the love that awakens in us the aforementioned joyful confidence to call upon God (Gal 4:6). On the other hand, we can see how God is wonderfully angry with his children, even though he does not stop loving them: this does not happen because he hates them in himself, no, he only wants to frighten them by feeling his anger, to humble the pride of the flesh, to stir them up from their laziness and thus spur them on to repentance. Therefore they grasp him at the same time as the one who is angry with them or their sin - and as the one who is gracious to them; for it is no hypocrisy when they ask him to turn away his wrath - and yet they flee straight to him with calm confidence! From this it follows that it need not be hypocrisy when people who have no true faith nevertheless seem to believe; no, because they are driven by sudden zeal, they deceive themselves with false opinion! Undoubtedly, inertia has taken possession of them, so that they do not examine their hearts as thoroughly as they should. Of this kind were probably those people of whom John testifies that they "believed in Christ" (John 2:23), but he further says: "But Jesus did not confide in them, for he knew them all, … for he knew what was in man" (John 2:24 f.). Many of them fell away from the "general" faith - "general" I call this faith, because the temporary faith has much similarity and kinship with the living, lasting faith! Otherwise Christ would not have said to his disciples: "If you continue in my word, then you are my true disciples and will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31. 32). In fact, he is here addressing those who have accepted his teaching, exhorting them to progress in faith so that they do not in laziness extinguish the light that has been given to them. That is why Paul (Tit 1:1) assigns faith to the elect alone; he shows that many perish in vanity because they have not taken up a living root. Accordingly, according to the account of Matthew, Christ also says: "All plants that my heavenly Father did not plant will be rooted out" (Mt 15:13). But there are others who are filled with grosser untruthfulness: they are not ashamed to deceive God and people! Against this kind of people, who under a deceptive cloak make the faith ungodly mean, James deals sharply (Jam 2,14 ss.). Even Paul would not demand "unfeigned faith" from the children of God (1Tim 1:5), if many people did not want to presume what is not their own, and if they did not deceive others and sometimes themselves with such vain appearances! He therefore compares the good conscience to a container in which faith is kept, because many had lost their good conscience and were shipwrecked in their faith (1Tim 1:19; cf. 3:9).

III,2,13 We must also consider that the word "faith" can have different meanings. In fact, it often means something like "the sound doctrine of godliness." This is the case in the recently mentioned passage (1 Tim. 4:6). In the same letter, the apostle Paul in one place wants such people to be deacons "who have the mystery of faith in a pure conscience" (1 Tim 3:9). Likewise the word 1 Tim 4:1 is used where Paul announces that (in the last times) "some will depart from the faith". On the other hand he says of Timothy that he was "brought up in the words of faith" (1Tim 4:6). Here also belongs the passage where he speaks of the "unspiritual, loose talk and the bickering of the falsely famous art" that led many to fall away from the faith (1Tim 6:20: 21); such people he calls elsewhere "unfit for the faith" (2Tim 3:8). When he also instructs Titus to exhort the members of the church "to be healthy in the faith" (Tit 1:13; 2,2), he understands by "health" of the faith nothing else than purity of doctrine, which easily falls into decay and degenerates through the carelessness of men. Because in Christ, whom faith possesses, "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden" (Col 2:3), faith is referred to the entire scope of heavenly doctrine, from which it cannot be separated! On the other hand, faith is sometimes limited to a single, special case, for example when Matthew reports that Christ saw the "faith" of the men who let the gout-ridden man down through the roof (Mt 9,2), or when Christ Himself exclaims that He did not find such faith in Israel as the centurion of Capernaum had shown (Mt 8,10). It can be assumed that he was thinking exclusively of the healing of his son (Calvin refers to John 4,47 ss.): the concern for him had completely occupied his heart. But because he lets himself be satisfied with Christ’s hint and answer alone and does not still ask for his bodily presence, that is why Christ praises his faith so powerfully. Above I have already explained how in Paul "faith" can mean as much as the gift of performing miracles (cf. sect. 9); but this can also be granted to people who are not born again by the Spirit of God and do not seriously fear God. In another place, "faith" in Paul is also synonymous with the instruction by which we are taught faith. When he writes that faith will cease one day (1Cor 13:10; the passage does not say this literally!), we must undoubtedly refer to the preaching ministry of the church, which is still useful to our weakness today. In all these expressions (mentioned so far) there is obviously a correspondence. But if then the word "faith" continues to be applied in an inauthentic sense even where false statements and deceptive claims are made, this is a transfer of names no harsher than the use of the expression "fear of God" to designate the perverse and corrupt worship of God! Thus we hear several times in sacred history that the foreign peoples who had been settled in Samaria and the surrounding areas had "feared" imaginary gods and the God of Israel! (2Ki 17:24 ss.). And yet what they did means nothing less than that they mixed heaven and earth together! But we ask here, what kind of faith is this, which distinguishes God’s children from the unbelievers, which lets us call God as Father, through which we pass from death to life, through which Christ, the eternal salvation and life, dwells in us. I hope I have now briefly and clearly explained the power and nature of this faith.

III,2,14 Now we want to go through the pieces of the above given definition of the essence of faith anew one by one (cf. Sect. 7 Conclusion, page 347). When we have thoroughly discussed them, I believe that no doubt will remain. We called faith cognition (cognitio). By this we now do not understand such a comprehension as takes place with objects which are subject to our human perceptive faculty (sensus). This cognition is higher, and therefore the human spirit must rise above itself, leave itself behind, in order to reach it. But even when he has reached it, he does not grasp what he feels. Rather, it gains a firm conviction of something that it is not able to grasp, but this conviction is of such a kind that it understands more through its certainty than it could understand if it grasped human things with its conceptual faculty. Therefore Paul calls it very beautiful: "that you may understand … which is the breadth and the length and the depth and the height, knowing also the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge" (Eph 3,18f.). With these words he wanted to show that the reality which our mind (mens) grasps in faith is infinite in every direction, and that this way of knowing is far more sublime than all understanding (intelligentia). But because the Lord has revealed to His saints the mystery of His will, "which was hidden from the world and from the ages" (Col 1:26; 2:2), it is well founded when faith is repeatedly called knowledge (agnitio) in Scripture. John even calls it a knowledge: according to his testimony, believers know that they are God’s children (1Jn 3:2). Indeed, it is really a knowledge, but it is based on the fact that they have attained certainty through the conviction of divine truth, but not actually on the instruction by reason. This is also shown by the words of Paul: "While we walk in the body, we walk far from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight" (2Cor 5:6f.). Here he makes it clear to us how that which we grasp by faith is nevertheless hidden far from us and our looking. We note, then, that the knowledge of faith consists in certainty, but not actually in apprehension.

III,2,15 We further call the knowledge of faith "firm and certain" in order to express more forcefully the permanence of conviction. For faith is not content with an uncertain, wavering opinion, nor with a dark, confused view, but requires a full and firm certainty, such as one is wont to have about established and tested things. For unbelief is so deeply seated in our hearts and so rooted in them, and our inclination to it is so great, that although all profess with their mouths that God is faithful, no one gains conviction of it without a hard struggle. Especially when it comes to a meeting, we all waver and thus reveal the damage that was hidden in our hearts. Not for nothing, however, does the Holy Spirit emphasize the authority of the Word of God with such glorious words of praise: but with it he wants to heal that disease I just described, so that God may find full faith with us in his promises. "The words of the Lord," says David, "are pure as silver in an earthen vessel, tried seven times" (Ps 12:7). Likewise, "The speeches of the Lord are purified; he is a shield to all who trust in him" (Ps 18:31). With almost the same words Solomon also affirms this: "All the words of God are purified …" (Prov 30:5). But since the 119th Ps deals almost exclusively with this subject, it would be superfluous to reproduce other passages here. As often as God praises his word in this way, he also rebukes our unbelief, because he wants to achieve nothing else than to uproot the wrong doubt from our heart. Many take hold of God’s mercy, but in such a way that they receive very little comfort from it. This is because they allow themselves to be entangled in miserable fear and doubt whether God will continue to be merciful to them in the future: they draw very narrow limits to God’s goodness, of which they think they are so completely convinced. They believe that this goodness is great and rich, that it has poured itself out on many and is open and ready for all, but they still think it is uncertain whether it will reach them, or rather, whether they will be able to reach it! Such a thought, which stops in the middle of the way, is a half-measure. That is why it does not strengthen our spirit very much with confident calmness, but rather has a disquieting effect through its wavering doubt. It is quite another thing about the "full confidence" that is always attached to faith in Scripture: namely, it places God’s goodness, which is so clearly held before us, outside of all doubt. But this cannot happen at all without (then also) truly feeling and experiencing the sweetness of God’s goodness within us. Therefore, the apostle derives confidence (fiducia; trust) from faith, and from it, in turn, bold joyfulness (audacia). For he says: "Through whom we have joy and access in all confidence through faith in him" (Eph 3:12). With these words he truly shows that true faith is only where we dare to come before God’s face with a quiet heart. This bold joyfulness comes only from a certain confidence in God’s benevolence and salvation. This is so true that the word "faith" is often used for "confidence".

III,2,16 The main thing about faith is that we do not consider the promises that the Lord makes to us to be true only outside of us, but not in us at all, but rather that we grasp them inwardly and thus make them our own. Only from this grows the confidence that Paul calls "peace" in another place (Rom 5,1) - unless someone prefers to derive this peace from confidence. This peace is a certainty that makes our conscience calm and cheerful in the face of divine judgment. Without this security, our conscience must necessarily be tormented by impetuous terror, even almost torn apart, unless it perhaps forgets God and itself and thus falls asleep for a moment. But this is really only possible for a moment; this miserable forgetfulness cannot be savored for long - on the contrary, the thought of God’s judgment will come up again very quickly and torment it violently. All in all: truly believing is only a man who is convinced with firm certainty that God is his gracious and well-meaning Father, and who expects everything from his goodness, only a man who trusts in the promises of divine benevolence toward him and therefore boldly expects blessedness, free from doubt. The apostle describes such people with the words: "If we hold on to confidence and boasting in hope until the end" (Hebr 3:14; not Luther text). Only there does he see true hope in the Lord, where one confidently boasts of being an heir of the kingdom of heaven. A believer, I say, is only one who stands confidently in the certainty of his salvation and cheerfully scoffs at the devil and death, as we learn from Paul’s glorious exclamation: "I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come … shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus …" (Rom 8,37.38). According to Paul, the eyes of our mind are only enlightened when we recognize the hope of the eternal inheritance to which we have been called (Eph 1:18). This is how he teaches everywhere, and he wants us to understand that we cannot grasp God’s goodness properly without drawing from it the fruit of great certainty.

III,2,17 But someone will perhaps say: what the faithful experience is something quite different; it often happens to them that, while reflecting on the divine grace against them, they are challenged by restlessness, yes, sometimes they are shaken by the most terrible terror; tremendous is the force of the temptations that seek to confuse their inner being - and all this does not seem to rhyme well with the certainty of faith! Therefore, if we want the doctrine as we developed it above to endure, we must untie this knot. When we teach that faith should be certain and secure, we certainly do not mean by it a certainty that is no longer touched by doubt, a certainty that is no longer oppressed by worry and fear; no, we say that the faithful are always at war with their own lack of confidence. We do not think of their consciences living in peaceful tranquility, which no shock could question. But however much they may be distressed, we deny, on the other hand, that they ever fall away or deviate from the certain confidence which they have gained from the mercy of God! Scripture lets us see the most glorious and memorable example of faith in David - especially when we consider his life in context. But even he was certainly not always of a calm mind; this is evident from so many complaints, only a few of which we need mention. He chides the violent restlessness of his soul and does nothing else than to be angry with his own unbelief: "Why do you grieve, my soul, and are so restless in me; wait for God…" (Ps 42:6, 12; 43:5). That inner turmoil in which he felt abandoned by God was certainly a clear sign of lack of trust. We read an even more open confession in the 31st Psalm: "I said in my trembling, I am cast out from before your eyes…" (Ps 31:23). In another place, too, he argues with himself in fearful and lamentable confusion, indeed, he himself wonders about God’s nature: "Has God forgotten to be merciful? Will he then cast out forever?" (Ps 77:10; second half not Luther text). Even harsher is the continuation: "But I have said, I must now perish; for the right of the Most High has changed!" (Ps 77,11; not Luther text, but rather close to the basic text). Here he is like a despairing man, and he speaks himself to destruction; he confesses not only that doubt drives him to and fro, but that, as if he were defeated in the battle, nothing is left to him; for God has - so he thinks - forsaken him, and he has turned his hand, which was otherwise so helpful to him, to destroy him! It is not without reason when he calls upon his soul, "Be now satisfied again, my soul!" (Ps 116,7); for he had experienced how he was torn to and fro in the midst of impetuous waves. And yet the miraculous happens: in the midst of all such upheavals, faith upholds the heart of the pious; it is truly like a palm tree: against all burdens it straightens itself and reaches up! So also David, when he could seem to be completely crushed, only rebuked himself and did not cease to lift himself up to God. But the one who takes refuge in faith over all disputes with his own weakness in his fears has already won a good part of the victory! This can be seen, among other things, in a saying like this: "Wait on the Lord! Be confident, he will strengthen your heart! Harvest your strength in the Lord!" (Ps 27,14; not Luther text). There he accuses himself of fearfulness, and by repeating the self-encouragement (Harre des Herrn!) he himself confesses that he is subject to many an urge at times! But in the meantime, under such afflictions, he is by no means at ease with himself, and above all, he strains to improve himself. Perhaps one may compare such a believer once in just examination more closely with the king Ahaz: there arises truly a great difference. Isaiah was sent to administer a medicine to this godless, hypocritical king; he addressed him: "Beware, and be still, and fear not …" (Isa 7:4). And what did Ahaz do? He remained exactly as he is described before: "then his heart trembled as the trees in the forest tremble with the wind!" (Isa 7:2). He did not allow himself to be moved in any way from his fear precisely because of the promise he had heard. So this is the real reward, the real punishment for unbelief: He who does not open the door in faith trembles to such an extent that he turns away from God in temptation! The faithful, on the other hand, who are bowed down by the burden of temptation and almost crushed to the ground, nevertheless always pick themselves up again, even if not without effort and difficulty! And because they know about their own weakness, they pray with the prophet: "And do not take away from my mouth the word of truth …" (Ps 119:43). There we learn that they do fall silent at times, as if their faith had been pushed to the ground; but nevertheless they do not desist and do not give flight, but always press on with their struggle, sharply attacking their sluggishness with their prayers, lest they become dull with indulgence toward themselves!

III,2,18 If we want to understand this correctly, we have to come back to the difference of flesh and spirit, which we already mentioned; because in this piece it shows itself very clearly. The pious heart, then, feels a difference within itself: on the one hand, it feels sweetened by the knowledge of divine goodness; on the other hand, it is bitterly frightened by the sense of its own misery; on the one hand, it rests securely on the promise of the gospel; on the other hand, it trembles at the testimony of its own unrighteousness; on the one hand, it rejoices greatly because it is allowed to take hold of life, and on the other hand, it is frightened by death! This disparity comes from the fact that faith is imperfect; for in the course of this life we are never so well off as to be completely cured of the disease of our lack of faith, and completely filled and possessed by faith. All this conflict arises in such a way that the lack of trust, which remains in the remnants of the flesh, rises up to fight against the faith that has taken root in our inner being. But if in a believing mind certainty is always mixed with doubt - must we not then always come to the conclusion that faith is precisely not certain and clear, but consists merely in a dark, confused knowledge of the divine will against us; Not at all! For even if we are driven by the most diverse thoughts, we are not immediately torn away from faith; and even if the lack of trust torments us everywhere with its to and fro, we are not swallowed up by its abyss. Even if we are shaken, we do not fall from our position! Such a struggle always ends in such a way that faith finally overcomes victoriously those afflictions which besiege it all around and seem to put it in danger.

III,2,19 The main thing is this. As soon as even the smallest drop of faith is sprinkled in our hearts, we begin to see God’s face as gentle and kind and gracious to us, perhaps far away, in the distance, but with such a sure look that we know we are not deceived! If we then proceed - and we must always proceed! As we go on, so to speak, we come more and more to a nearer and therefore more certain vision of his face: thus it becomes more and more familiar to us precisely as we go forward. If our mind is enlightened by the knowledge of God, we see it in the beginning still enveloped by all kinds of ignorance, which slowly escapes. However, the fact that he does not know many things and that what he sees is still obscure, does not prevent him from enjoying the clear knowledge of the divine will toward him - and that is the first and most important thing in faith! If one lies imprisoned and in his dungeon sees the rays of the sun merely shimmering through a narrow window crookedly and, as it were, bisected, he is indeed prevented from seeing the sun freely - and yet it is a real radiance which he grasps with his eyes and makes use of! In the same way, we too are enclosed by the fetters of the earthly body, and all around we lie indeed in darkness and shadow; but if even a little of God’s light irradiates us and reveals His mercy to us, we receive enough illumination to come to firm certainty.

III,2,20 Both (namely the power and the weakness of faith!) the apostle teaches very finely in various places. He declares, "Our knowledge is piecemeal, and our prophesying is piecemeal, … we now see through a mirror in a dark word …" (1Cor 13:9,12); there he shows us what a small piece of that divine wisdom is really given to us in this present life. He does not tell us in these words that our faith is imperfect as long as we groan under the weight of the flesh, but he shows us that our imperfection is the reason why we must always practice learning anew; but he does tell us that we cannot understand with our measure and in our narrowness what is immeasurable. And this is what Paul proclaims about the whole church: our ignorance is an impediment and a hindrance to all of us, so that we cannot come as close as we would like. But how God gives us a sure and quite unmistakable taste of Him even through the smallest drop of faith, Paul testifies in another passage, emphasizing: through the gospel we behold God’s glory with uncovered face, without any covering, with such power that we are "transfigured into the same image!" (2Cor 3:18). If we are surrounded by so much ignorance, there must also be a great deal of doubt and trepidation, especially because our hearts are naturally inclined to unbelief. Then the temptations come and attack us again and again with great impetuosity, infinite in number and manifold in their nature. Above all, our conscience itself is weighed down by the burden of sins lying upon it, and soon it complains and sighs to itself, soon it accuses itself, sometimes it grumbles in silence, sometimes it rages publicly! Whenever repugnance shows us the wrath of God, when our conscience finds proof and cause of this wrath in itself, unbelief always takes projectiles and storm tools from it to throw our faith to the ground; but all such attempts have the one goal that we think God is hostile to us, that he is angry against us, so that we should therefore no longer hope for any help from him and fear him as we fear our mortal enemy!

III,2,21 In order to be able to resist such attempts, faith arms and protects itself with the word of the Lord. And when such a temptation assails him, which wants to make him believe that God is an enemy, because he is angry, faith holds out against it that he is merciful, even where he chastises us, that the chastisement flows from love and not from anger, when the thought wants to strike him that God is the avenger for our injustice, he holds out against it that forgiveness is ready for all offenses, as often as a sinner takes refuge in God’s goodness. So, no matter how whimsically a pious mind may be troubled and afflicted, it ultimately rises above all difficulties and does not allow its confidence in God’s mercy to be knocked out of its hand. No, all the struggles that plague and weary him must rather finally end in confident certainty. The proof of this is the fact that the saints, just when they think they are most violently oppressed by God’s vengeance, bring their complaints to him, and when it seems to them that he does not want to hear them at all, still call upon him! What good would it do to complain to one from whom they could expect no comfort at all? They would certainly never think of calling upon him if they did not believe that some kind of help was ready with him! So the disciples, whose little faith Christ rebuked, complained: "We perish" - but they still begged him for help! (Mt 8,25). If the Lord then rebukes them for their little faith, He does not cast them out of the crowd of His own, nor does He reckon them among the unbelievers, but He urges them to reject this infirmity! We must therefore affirm anew what we have already said above: the root of faith is never torn out of a pious heart, but it remains firmly attached in the depths, however much it seems to be cut off and to bend to and fro; the light of faith is never so darkened or extinguished that it does not at least still glow under the ashes. This is an evident proof that the Word, which is an imperishable seed, brings forth a fruit of its own kind, the shoot of which never entirely withers and perishes. Certainly it is a terrible cause of despair for the saints when they feel God’s hand stretched out to their destruction according to the present appearance; but nevertheless Job’s hope, according to his confession, goes so far that he would not cease to hope in the Lord even if he would - kill him! (Job 13:15; not Luther text). It is really so: unbelief does not rule inside, in the heart of the pious, but it robs them from the outside; it can rush against them, but it does not wound them to death with its arrows; if it wounds them, at least the wound is not incurable! For faith, as Paul teaches, is a shield for us (Eph 6:16): if we hold it against the enemy’s projectiles, it absorbs their violence, so that they are completely cut off or at least broken to such an extent that they do not go to life. If, then, faith is shaken, it is as when an otherwise steadfast warrior loses his firm bearing under the force of a violent blow and has to give way a little; but if such faith itself is wounded, it is as when a shield receives a breach under the force (of a bullet), but is not yet pierced! For the pious mind always reaches up so far that it can say with David: "Even though I walk in the shadow of death, I am not afraid, for you are with me …!" (Ps 23,4; not Luther text). It is certainly horrible to walk in the darkness of death, and it cannot be otherwise than that the faithful, however firm they may be, are frightened by it. But the thought that they have God present with them, and that he will provide for their salvation, still has the upper hand; and so fear is immediately conquered by firm certainty. St. Augustine says: "The devil may come against us with all his weapons, but he will be cast out, because he does not have possession of the heart in which faith dwells!" Judging by the outcome, then, believers emerge from every battle unscathed, so that they are soon ready to enter the battlefield again with renewed vigor; indeed, what John says in his first epistle is also fulfilled: "Our faith is the victory that overcame the world!" (1Jn 5:4). For faith is not to remain victorious in only one encounter, or in only a few, or against only one attack, but to prevail against the whole world, though it may be attacked a thousand times!

III,2,22 There is another kind of fear and trembling, which admittedly does not harm the certainty of faith, but rather makes it stronger and firmer. If (e.g.) the faithful consider the examples of divine retribution on the ungodly as God’s winks to themselves, they will be careful not to bring God’s wrath upon themselves with the same vices. Or, considering their own misery among themselves, they will learn more and more to be wholly attached to the Lord, without whom they know themselves to be more fugitive and vain than any breath of wind. Thus the apostle holds up to the Corinthians the punishments with which the Lord once meted out to the people of Israel, and thus frightens them so that they do not become entangled in the same wickedness (1 Cor. 10:11). In this way, he does not shake their faith, but only drives out the sluggishness of their flesh, which tends to destroy rather than strengthen faith! When he takes the fall of the Jews as an occasion to admonish them: "Let him who thinks he is standing see that he does not fall! (1Cor 10:12; Rom 11:20), he is not giving us up to waver and falter, as if we were not sure enough of our steadfastness, but he is merely taking away the pride and presumptuous confidence in our own strength, lest the Gentiles, who were accepted in their place after the Jews were cast out, boast too arrogantly! However, in this passage he does not only address the faithful, but also includes the hypocrites in his speech, who only boasted of an outward appearance. His admonition does not apply to individual people, but he compares the Jews with the Gentiles; he first shows how the Jews in their rejection receive the just punishment for their unbelief and their ingratitude, and then he admonishes the Gentiles not to lose in pride and pomposity the grace of filiation that had just been bestowed upon them. But as in that rejection of the Jews there remained some of them who had by no means fallen out of the covenant of filiation, so also on the other side there could appear among the Gentiles people who, without true faith, puffed themselves up solely out of foolish self-confidence of the flesh, and thus abused God’s goodness to their detriment. But even if this passage is thought to be addressed solely to the elect and faithful, there is nothing inconsistent in it. For it is a different matter whether the apostle represses the presumption which, out of the remnants of the flesh, sometimes still troubles even the faithful, so that they do not let themselves go in senseless self-confidence, or whether he shakes the conscience with fear, so that it cannot rest with full assurance in God’s mercy!

III,2,23 When Paul then goes on to teach, "Create your blessedness with fear and trembling" (Phil 2,12), he is asking nothing more than that we become accustomed to humbling ourselves deeply and looking to the Lord’s power alone. For nothing can so drive us to cast the confidence and assurance of our hearts upon the Lord as distrust of ourselves and the fear that arises in us from the consciousness of our need. In this sense we must also understand the word of the prophet: "But I will go into thy house upon thy great goodness, and worship … in your fear" (Ps 5:8). There the prophet very finely connects the bold joyfulness of faith, which is based on God’s mercy, with the timid fear (religioso timore), which necessarily comes to us every time we step before the face of the divine majesty and recognize by its splendor how great our impurity is. Thus Solomon also rightly says: "Blessed is he who fears in all ways; but he who hardens his heart will fall into misfortune" (Prov 28:14). But here he means the fear that makes us more cautious, not one that strikes us down by its attack. Here it is like this: the spirit, confused in itself, gathers itself in God; in Him it is raised up, while it lies down in itself; it is without confidence in itself, but in confidence in Him it breathes again! Thus it goes together that the faithful have fear and yet at the same time attain the surest comfort, depending on whether they direct their gaze to their own vain being or direct all the senses of their heart to God’s truth. Now perhaps someone will ask: How then can fear and faith have their dwelling place in the same heart? I answer: Just as, on the other hand, lazy security and fear dwell together in it! For the wicked would like to harden themselves completely, so that the fear of God no longer torments them; but God’s judgment presses them, so that they do not achieve what they strive for. So there is nothing to prevent God from training his own in humility, so that they may keep themselves in the bridle of modesty in a brave fight. This is the intention of the apostle, as can be seen from the context: for "fear and trembling" he gives as a reason the good pleasure of God, who bestows upon His own that they may will rightly and diligently accomplish (Phil 2,12.13). In this sense one must also understand the word of the prophet: "The children of Israel … will come with trembling to the Lord and His grace …" (Hos 3,5); after all, it is not piety alone that produces reverence for God, but the deliciousness and sweetness of grace itself fills man, humbled in himself, with fear and at the same time with admiration, so that he clings to God and humbly submits to His power.

III,2,24 But with this I by no means want to give room to the pernicious worldly wisdom, as some half-papists nowadays begin to forge in their corners. Because they can no longer defend that crude doubt as it was handed down by the (papist) schools, they take refuge in a new fantasy: they say that confidence is always mixed with unbelief! If we look to Christ, we find, even after their concession, full cause for joyful hope in him; but since we are always unworthy of all those goods which are offered to us in Christ, they think we must always waver and hesitate in view of our unworthiness. Thus, all in all, they place the conscience between hope and fear; so that these two are ever and anon separated in us; but fear and hope they set against each other in such a way that with the advent of hope, fear is fought down, and with the advent of fear, hope is broken. So Satan, seeing that the open storm tools with which he used to destroy the certainty of faith are no longer effective, tries to bring down this certainty with subterranean mines. For what kind of confidence is this that immediately gives way to despair? It is said: "If you look to Christ, you are sure of salvation, but if you turn back to yourself, you are sure of damnation! So trustlessness and cheerful hope must alternately rule in your spirit!" As if we should think of Christ, as it were, as one who stood afar off! As if we should not rather think of him as the one who dwells within us! If we expect salvation from him, it is not because he appears to us in the distance, but because he has incorporated us into his body and thus made us partakers not only of all his goods and gifts, but of himself! Therefore, I would rather turn the argument of those people in another direction: "Certainly, if you look at yourself, damnation is certain. But Christ has given himself to you with all the fullness of his goods in such a way that all that is his is now yours, that you become his member and in this way one with him! His righteousness nullifies your sins, His salvation puts away your condemnation, with His worthiness He Himself intercedes for you with God, so that your unworthiness does not come before God’s face!" It is really so: it is not remotely a question of separating Christ from us or us from Him, but we must hold fast with both hands the fellowship in which He has united Himself with us. Thus the apostle teaches us, "Though the body be dead because of sin, yet the Spirit of Christ which dwelleth in you is life because of righteousness" (Rom 8:10, somewhat expanded). Had he thought as foolishly as those half-papists, he would have had to say: Christ indeed has life in himself, but you, you are sinners and therefore remain dead and subject to damnation! But he speaks quite differently. For he shows us how the condemnation which we deserve of ourselves is swallowed up by the salvation which Christ has brought us; and to affirm this he makes use of the same reason as I have already given: Christ is not apart from us, but dwells in us; he not only binds us to himself by an unbreakable bond of communion, but by a miraculous communion grows more and more together with us day by day into one body, until he becomes wholly one with us. At the same time, as I have already said, I do not deny nevertheless that our faith at times suffers, as it were, an interruption; according as it is tossed to and fro in its weakness under the fierce assaults which beset it. Thus his light is smothered in the dense darkness of the temptations. But whatever may happen, he does not cease to seek God with diligence!

III,2,25 Bernard teaches it no differently; he speaks of this question expressly in his fifth sermon on the dedication of the temple. "When I sometimes reflect on my soul through God’s beneficence, it seems to me as if I find there, as it were, two opposite things. If I look at it myself, as it is constituted in itself and from itself, I cannot say anything more correct about it than that it has basically come to nothing. For what purpose shall I now enumerate all her miseries one by one, how she is laden with sins, covered with darkness, entangled in her lusts, how she is lustful in her desires, subject to passions, filled with foolish imaginations, always inclined to evil, ready for all vices, how she is finally full of shame and confusion? And if even our righteousness, seen in the light of truth, ’is like a filthy garment’ (Isa 64:5), how will our unrighteousness have to be judged! ’If therefore the light that is in us is darkness, how great will be the darkness!’ (Mt 6:23; slightly modified). What to say. Without a doubt, man has become like vanity, he has become void, he is nothing! But how can he be nothing whom God makes great? How can he be nothing to whom God’s heart is turned? Let us breathe a sigh of relief, brothers! We are certainly nothing in our heart - but perhaps in the heart of God there may be something hidden about us! Thou Father of mercies, thou Father of the wretched, how dost thou turn thy heart toward us? For your heart is where your treasure is! But how shall we be your treasure, if we are nothing? All the Gentiles are before you as if they were not there; they are counted for nothing (cf. Isa 40:17). But just before you and not in you, before the judgment of your truth, but not in the surge of your goodness! For you call to that which is not, as if it were! (Rom 4,17; not Luther text). It is not, because you call only that which is not! But it is, because you call it! For the Gentiles, when it comes to themselves, are indeed not, but with you they are - according to the word of the apostle: "Not of the merit of works, but of the grace of the one who calls!" (Rom 9:12). (So far, at first, Bernhard.) He then explains that this connection of the various ways of looking at things is wonderful. They are connected with each other, and therefore they certainly do not cancel each other out. At the end he explains this even more clearly: "If we thoroughly consider what we are in both ways of looking at things, then according to the one, how nothing at all, according to the other, how great we are made, and so I think our glory seems to be diminished - but perhaps it is also increased; for it is now fundamental, so that we do not boast in ourselves, but in the Lord! If we consider this one thing, that with the decision to make us blessed he will also make us blessed all at once, then we can already breathe a sigh of relief! But we still want to climb to a higher level, we want to seek the city of God, we want to seek His house, His temple, we want to seek the Bride! Of course, I have not forgotten, but with fear and reverence I say it: we are something, I say - but in God’s heart! We are something - but in that He makes us worthy of it, and not in that we are worthy!"

III,2,26 Further: the fear of the Lord, which is testified again and again as being proper to all believers, which is regarded as "the beginning of wisdom," indeed as wisdom itself (Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7; 15:31; Job 28:28), is indeed always one and the same, but it nevertheless springs from a double feeling. For God claims the reverence due to Him as Father and that due to Him as Lord. Whoever wants to honor him properly will strive to prove himself to him as an obedient son and as an obedient servant. The obedience that is due to him as the father, the Lord, through the mouth of the prophet, calls "honor"; the obedience that is due to him as the Lord, he calls "fear." "A son shall honor his father, and a servant his lord. Now if I am father, where is my honor? Am I Lord, where do they fear me?" (Mal 1:6). Here he distinguishes "honor" and "fear" - but at the same time he brings the two together by combining both at the beginning under the requirement to "honor" him. The fear of the Lord, then, is to be reverence for us, put together from such honor and fear. Nor is it surprising if one and the same heart receives both emotions in itself. For he who considers in himself what a Father God is toward us, has sufficient reason to abhor a slight to this God worse than death, even if there were no hell! But the recklessness of our flesh, which so readily gives itself over to sin, is so great that, in order to keep it always in check, we must also thoroughly hold the other thought: to the Lord, under whose power we are, all unrighteousness is an abomination, and whoever by a life of vice brings about His wrath upon himself will not escape His retribution!

III,2,27 Now John admittedly says: "Fear is not in love; for perfect love casteth out fear: for fear hath torment" (1Jn 4,18). But this does not contradict what has just been said. For he speaks of the terror of unbelief, which is something quite different from the fear of believers. For the ungodly do not fear God in the sense that they are afraid to offend him even if they could do so with impunity; no, they are terrified when they hear of his wrath, because they know that God is armed with the power to retaliate. And so they are afraid of his wrath, because they think that it is always threatening them, because they expect at any moment that it might fall on their heads. The faithful, on the other hand, as I said, fear God’s offending more than his punishment, nor do they allow themselves to be confused by the fear of punishment, as if it were always hovering over their necks, but they allow themselves to be more careful not to incur this punishment. This is what the apostle means when he says to the believers: "Let no one deceive you … because for these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of unbelief" (Eph 5,6; Col 3,6). He does not threaten that the wrath of God will come upon the believers themselves; but he challenges them to consider how, for the sake of the vices he enumerates, the wrath of the Lord awaits the unbelievers, - so that they (the believers) will not want to experience it themselves either! It seldom happens, of course, that the rejected allow themselves to be roused by simple threats alone; nay, they have become so sluggish and dull-witted in their hardening that, when God, with his words, sends down his tempest from heaven, they harden their necks every time; but when his hand strikes them down, they are forced, whether they like it or not, to fear him. This fear is commonly called slavish fear, and it is contrasted with the noble-born, voluntary fear that children should have. Some astutely add a middle kind of fear, because that slavish, forced impulse sometimes leads a man to voluntarily attain to the fear of God.

III,2,28 We spoke of faith looking to the divine benevolence. We now understand this to mean that in this benevolence of God he takes possession of salvation and eternal life. If God is gracious to us, we can lack nothing, and therefore it is fully sufficient for us to be assured of salvation when he assures us of his love. "Let your face shine," says the prophet, "and we shall recover!" (Ps 80:4). The main sum of our salvation, therefore, according to Scripture, consists in the fact that all enmity is done away with and that he has accepted us in grace (Eph 2:14). Thus Scripture gives us to understand that when God is reconciled to us, no danger remains, but everything must serve us for the best. Therefore faith, when it has made God’s love its own, has the promise of the present life and the life to come, and the perfectly secure possession of all goods, to be sure, only as one can gather such from the word. For faith cannot promise itself a long extension of this earthly life, honor and power in this life with certainty; the Lord did not want to promise us such things. Rather, he is content with the certainty that we may lack much that could help us in this life, but that we will never lack God! In a special way, however, the certainty of faith rests on the expectation of the coming life, which arises without any doubt from God’s Word! No matter how much misery and hardship may be waiting on earth for a person whom God has embraced in His love, they cannot prevent God’s benevolence from bringing full happiness. So if we want to describe the main sum of happiness, we call it God’s grace, for from this fountain flows every good for us! In Scripture, too, we can observe again and again how we are reminded of the Lord’s love every time eternal salvation is spoken of, or indeed any good that is to come to us. That is why David sings that divine goodness, when a man experiences it in a pious heart, is sweeter and more desirable than life! (Ps 63,4). In short, even if everything would flow to us according to our wishes, this bliss would still be cursed and miserable if we did not know in the meantime whether God loves or hates us. But if God’s fatherly face shines upon us, even misery becomes happiness, for it is transformed into a help to salvation! Therefore, Paul can heap up all misfortune and still boast that none of it "may separate us from the love of God …" (Rom 8,39); and in his prayers he always begins with the grace of God, from which all well-being springs. Thus David also confronts all terror that may bring us into confusion with God’s grace alone: "Though I walk in the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Ps 23:4; not Luther text). We also experience how our heart is always swaying back and forth if it is not satisfied with God’s grace, seeks peace in it and always firmly remembers what the psalmist says: "Blessed are the people of whom the Lord God is, the people whom he has chosen for an inheritance!" (Ps 33,12).

III,2,29 As the foundation of faith I called above the promise of God, which was made by grace; for on it rests faith in the proper sense, He certainly considers God to be true in all that He does, whether He demands or forbids, whether He promises or threatens; He also obediently accepts His commands, keeps His prohibitions, heeds His threats; but he still takes his starting point in the proper sense from the promise; it is for him the beginning and the end. For he seeks life in God, and this does not consist in commandments and threats of punishment, but is found in the promise of mercy, which comes by grace. A conditional promise, in fact, which refers us to our works, promises us life only in case we find it in ourselves. Therefore, if we do not want faith to be a trembling and wavering thing, we must base it on the promise of salvation, as the Lord freely offers it to us of his own accord, not for the sake of our worthiness, but rather for the sake of our misery. This is why the apostle gives the gospel the testimony that it is "the word of faith" (Rom 10:8). He denies this testimony to the commandments as well as to the promises of the law; for there is nothing that can give firm ground to our faith but this free message of God, in which he reconciles the world to himself. This is why Paul so often refers to faith and the gospel; he teaches that the ministry of the gospel is to "establish the obedience of faith," and this gospel is "the power of God that saves all who believe … because in it is revealed the righteousness that is established before God, which comes from faith in faith" (Rom 1:5, 16, 17). This synopsis of faith and gospel is not surprising; for the gospel is "the ministry that preaches reconciliation" (2Cor 5:18), and therefore there is nothing else that testifies sufficiently powerfully to the kindness of God, the knowledge of which faith requires. So when I say that faith must be based on this promise of God, which comes freely by grace, I am not denying that believers should grasp and accept the word of God in all its fullness and extent; but I am declaring the promise of God’s mercy to be the real point of reference for faith. The faithful should certainly recognize God as the judge and retributor of iniquities, and yet they actually look at his kindness, for he is held up to their contemplation as the one who is "kind and gracious," "slow to anger," "of great goodness," friendly toward all men, yes, who pours out his goodness upon all his works! (Ps 86,5; 103, 8; 145, 8).

III,2,30 In this doctrine I will not be stopped by the barking of Pighius and similar dogs: they angrily proceed against my restrictive assertion (that faith especially adheres to the promise) and claim that thereby faith would be torn apart and only one piece of it would remain. I quite admit, as already expressed, that faith - as it is said - has to hold to God’s truth as its "object" in general, whether God threatens or whether He lets us hope in His grace! Therefore, according to the words of the apostle, it was also part of faith that Noah feared the destruction of the world, which he did not yet see (Hebr 11:7). Now if the fear of an impending punishment of God was also a work of faith, one (say these sophists) cannot dispense with the threats of God in describing his nature. This is true; but these vituperative people wrongly reproach me as if I wanted to deny that faith has reference to all parts of the Word of God. I only want to point out two things: first, faith never comes to solid ground until it has penetrated to that promise made by grace, and second, it can reconcile us to God only by uniting us to Christ. And this is both really worth mentioning. We are looking for a faith that distinguishes God’s children from the rejected, the believers from the unbelievers. Now, if someone believes that God’s commandments are right and His threats are serious - is he therefore to be declared a believer? Certainly not! So faith has no firm foundation if it is not founded in God’s mercy. But why do we discuss faith at all? Surely only because we want to know the way to salvation. But how else can faith provide us with salvation than by incorporating us into Christ’s body? It is not at all absurd, therefore, if we emphasize so sharply in our definition of faith the main effect of faith and if, in order to establish the difference, we impute to the general concept of faith that characteristic which separates believers from unbelievers! Finally, these ill-willed critics cannot rebuke us at all without at the same time chastising Paul with us, for he calls the gospel in its proper sense the "word of faith" (Rom 10:8).

III,2,31 But from this I conclude again what I have already stated above: faith needs the word no less than the fruit of the living root of the tree! For according to David’s testimony, only those can hope in God who know His name (Ps 9,11). This knowledge, however, does not come from anyone’s imagination, but only from the fact that God himself is the witness of his goodness. The same prophet confirms this in another place: "Lord, let your mercy be upon me, your help according to your word!" (Ps 119:41). Likewise, "I rely on your word, make me blessed …" (Ps 119:40? In any case, inaccurate). Here we must first pay attention to the relatedness of faith to the word and then to the fact that salvation results from it. In doing so, however, I do not overlook the power of God: if faith does not rely on looking to it, it can never give God the glory He deserves. Paul reports of Abraham seemingly something insignificant and ordinary when he says of him that he believed in the power of God who had promised him a blessed seed (Rom 4:21). Similarly of himself: "I know in whom I believe, and am sure that he is able to keep that which is committed unto me until that day" (2Tim 1:12; not quite Luther text). But if someone considers for himself how many doubts about God’s power always creep up on him, he will very well recognize that a person who glorifies this power of God in due measure has made no small progress in faith. We will all admit that God can do what he wills, but when the slightest challenge then makes us mad with fear and shakes us with terror, then it becomes evident that we are breaking off something from the power of God, since we are obviously letting it take a back seat to the threats of Satan against his promises. That is why Isaiah speaks so powerfully of God’s immeasurable power in order to dig the certainty of salvation deep into the hearts of the people (e.g. Isa 40:25 ss. and elsewhere often in Isa 40-45). Often he begins his discourse with the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation, and then apparently lapses into a quite different subject and into wide and superfluous digressions, recalling how marvelously God governs the building of heaven and earth and the whole order of nature; but in fact even these thoughts serve what he is dealing with; for if God’s power, by which he is able to do all things, does not meet our eyes, our ears will unwillingly accept the word, and at least will not esteem it as highly as it ought to be done. We must also bear in mind that this is speaking of an active power; piety, as we have already seen, always relates God’s power to its use and its work, it holds before itself above all the works of God, in which he has testified to himself as our Father. That is why the Scripture so often reminds the children of Israel of the salvation (that had happened to them); they could learn from it that the God who had once given them salvation would also be its eternal guardian. David reminds us by his own example that the benefits that God has bestowed on each one of us alone still work to strengthen our faith; indeed, when he seems to have abandoned us, we should let our thoughts go back further, so that his former benefits may lift us up; thus it is said in another Psalm: "I remember the former times; I speak of all your deeds …" (Ps 143:5), and likewise, "Therefore I remember the deeds of the Lord; yea, I remember thy former wonders" (Ps 77:12). But without the Word, everything we think about God’s power and God’s works is without content, and therefore it is not imprudent to say that there is no faith before God Himself shines before us with the testimony of His grace. One might ask here, however, what we should make of Sarah and Rebekah, both of whom, apparently driven by the zeal of faith, went beyond the bounds of the Word. Sarah burned with desire for the promised offspring and therefore gave her maidservant to her husband as a wife (Gen 16:5). That she sinned manifoldly is undeniable, but here I will touch only on the one transgression, that in the urge of her zeal she did not keep within the bounds of the word. And yet that desire most certainly arose from faith. Rebekah had received the certainty that her son Jacob was chosen, and therefore she helped him to the blessing with evil art; her husband, who was the witness and servant of the divine grace, she deceived, her son she caused to lie, God’s truth she falsified with many a deceit and deceitfulness. In short, she made a mockery of God’s promise and did her part to dismiss it (Gen 27). And yet, even in this action, as sacrilegious and reprehensible as it was, faith was not completely absent. For she had to overcome many obstacles in order to so eagerly desire a right that carried no hope of earthly benefit, but instead an infinite amount of burden and danger! In the same way, we will not deny the holy arch-father Isaac all faith because he held on to his affection for the first-born son Esau, although it was made known to him in the same divine saying that the dignity (of the first-born) had passed to the younger. These examples truly teach us that faith is often mixed with error, but faith always prevails if it is right. For as the particular error of Rebekah did not cancel the effect of the blessing, so it did not do away with faith, which in general held sway within her and was even the starting point and original cause of the (in itself evil) deed. But just in this it proved how much the human spirit must get on the slippery slope as soon as it lets itself go even a very little. Although unfaithfulness and weakness darken faith, they are not able to extinguish it; meanwhile, however, they remind us how carefully we must hang on God’s mouth, and thus confirm our doctrine that faith must melt away without the firm foundation in the word, just as Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah would also have been ruined inwardly in their crooked ways, if God had not held them with hidden reins in obedience to his word.

III,2,32 Again, there is good reason for us to think of all the promises as being concluded in Christ; for the apostle sums up the whole gospel in the knowledge of Christ (Rom 1:16) and says elsewhere: "All God’s promises are Yea in Him, and are Amen in Him" (2Cor 1:20). The reason for this is easy to give. When God promises something, he testifies to his kindness; he does not give us a promise that is not a testimony of his love for us. It does not matter that the ungodly, because they are continually showered with mighty and unceasing gifts of his mercy, incur all the more severe judgment. For they do not consider that these gifts come to them from the Lord’s hand; they do not even know it, or if they once recognize it, they never consider God’s goodness for themselves; but therefore they can no more receive instruction about God’s mercy from these gifts than the unreasonable animals, who also receive the same fruit of divine generosity according to their living conditions and yet do not pay attention to it. Nor does it stand in the way that they usually despise the promises made to them and thereby incur a punishment that is all the more severe. For the effect of the promises does not take place until they have found faith in us; but their power and character are in no way extinguished by our unbelief and ingratitude. Therefore, when the Lord, through His promises, invites man not only to receive the fruits of His goodness, but also to consider them properly, He at the same time makes known to him His love. So we have to come back to the sentence that every promise is a testimony of God’s love for us. Now it is beyond doubt that God loves no one but in Christ; he is the "beloved Son" on whom the Father’s love abides and rests (Mt 3:17; 17:5) and from whom it flows to us, as Paul says: "to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he has made us acceptable in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6). By his own interposition, therefore, that love must be led to us and reach us. Thus the apostle also says elsewhere: "He is our peace" (Eph 2:14), or he presents Him elsewhere as a bond through which God connects Himself with us in fatherly kindness (Rom 8:3). So we have to focus on Him every time we are offered any promise, and Paul teaches quite logically that in Him all promises of God are confirmed and fulfilled (Rom 15, 8). But this is (apparently) contradicted by some examples. Thus it is not credible that the Syrian Naaman, when he asked the prophet about the right way of worshipping God, received an instruction about the mediator - and yet his piety is praised! (2Ki 5; Luke 4:27). Cornelius, who after all was a Gentile and a Roman, could hardly have known what was not known even to all the Jews and was merely obscure even to them. Nevertheless, his alms and prayers were acceptable in the sight of God (Acts 10:31). Also, Naaman’s sacrifices were acknowledged by the prophet’s response (2Ki 5:17-19). And yet, both of them could gain such recognition before God and through the prophet only by faith! It was similar with the eunuch to whom Philip was sent: if he had not had any faith, he would not have taken the trouble of a long and arduous journey to worship! (Acts 8:27). Nevertheless, we see how he reveals his ignorance of the Mediator in response to Philip’s question! (Acts 8:31). Now here I admit that the faith of these people was, so to speak, "wrapped up", not only concerning the person of Christ, but also concerning His power and the office entrusted to Him by the Father. Meanwhile, it is certain that they possessed an initial knowledge which nevertheless gave them a certain, though slight, taste ofChrist. Nor can this seem strange; for the eunuch would certainly not have journeyed to Jerusalem from a distant country to worship an unknown god, and Cornelius, having once embraced the Jewish religion, certainly did not spend so much time in it without grasping the rudiments of the true doctrine. And as for Naaman, it would have been utterly absurd for Elisha to have instructed him in very small matters, but to have been silent about the essential main thing! Thus they all certainly had only a dim knowledge of Christ, but it would not be true to say that they had none at all; for they also practiced the sacrifices of the law, and these must necessarily be distinguished from all false sacrifices of the Gentiles by their very purpose, namely through Christ!

III,2,33 It is true that even this bare, outward exposition of the Word of God would have to be fully sufficient to build up faith, if our blindness and stubbornness did not stand in the way. But we, being inwardly so inclined to vanity, can never adhere to God’s truth, and because we have dull senses, we do not grasp the light. Therefore, nothing is accomplished by the Word without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. From this it is also clear that faith goes far beyond human understanding. Likewise, it is not enough that our mind be enlightened by God’s Spirit, if this Spirit does not also make our heart strong and firmly grounded with his power. In this respect the scholastics are completely mistaken; they think that by "faith" is to be understood merely a naked and simple "assent" coming from "knowledge"; on the other hand, they miss (with their definition) the confidence and certainty of the heart. Faith, then, is in both respects a special gift of God: on the one hand, man’s mind is purified to be able to taste the truth of God, and on the other hand, our heart is firmly grounded in that truth. For the Holy Spirit is not only the beginner of our faith, but He also increases it by degrees, until through Him He leads us into the kingdom of heaven! "This enclosed good," says Paul, "keep through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us!" (2Tim 1:14). Now Paul explains that the Spirit comes to us through the "preaching of faith". But it is easy to show how he means this. If there were only one gift of the Spirit, it would be nonsensical if Paul declares the Spirit to be an effect of faith, for it is its author and reason! But Paul praises the gifts with which God adorns his church and leads it to perfection in the growth of faith, and it is not surprising that he attributes these gifts to faith, which prepares us to receive them. It is true that it is considered the most contradictory thing imaginable when it is said that only he can believe in Christ to whom it is given (John 6:65); but this is partly because we do not consider how hidden and sublime is the heavenly wisdom and how great is the dullness of man when he is to comprehend God’s mysteries; partly it is also because we do not consider that sure and firm constancy of heart which is, after all, the most important thing in faith!

III,2,34 If now, according to Paul’s words, only "the spirit that dwells in man" is a witness to man’s will - how then can a man be certain of God’s will? And if God’s truth already wavers in such things that we see with our own eyes, how should it be certain and firm when the Lord promises things that no eye sees and no mind comprehends (1Cor 2:9). There man’s perspicacity fails and wearies, yes, it must even be considered the first step to progress in the Lord’s school to let it go. For it hinders us like a covering curtain to grasp God’s secrets, which are only revealed to the "little ones" (Mt 11:25; Lk 10:21). For revelation does not lie with flesh and blood (Mt 16:17), and "the natural man hears nothing of the Spirit of God; yea, God’s instruction is rather foolishness to him; for it must be spiritually judged" (1Cor 2:14; not Luther text). So the help of the Holy Spirit is necessary, no, it is His power alone that is powerful here! For no man "hath known the mind of the Lord," none "hath been his counselor" (Rom 11:34), but "the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of the Godhead" (1Cor 2:10). By the Spirit alone do we come to grasp Christ’s mind. "No one can come to me," says the Lord himself, "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). "Whosoever therefore heareth from the Father, and learneth, let him come unto me: not that any man hath seen the Father, save he that is (sent) from the Father!" (John 6:45f.). So we cannot come to Christ in any way without being drawn by the Spirit of God; but if we are drawn by Him, we are also lifted up in mind and heart far above what we can grasp on our own. For the soul, when he has enlightened it, receives, as it were, a new acuteness of vision with which it is able to behold the heavenly mysteries, the brightness of which previously blinded it within itself. Once a person’s mind is thus enlightened by the light of the Holy Spirit, he begins to taste the things of the kingdom of God; before, he was completely simple-minded and foolish, and therefore unable to consider them properly. Christ spoke clearly to two of His disciples about the mysteries of His kingdom, but He did not reach them until He "opened their understanding, so that they understood the Scriptures" (Lk 24:27, 45). So also the apostles, whom the Lord had instructed with his own divine mouth, had to be sent the "spirit of truth", which let the truth, which they had grasped with their ears, also penetrate into their mind! (John 16:13). Indeed, the word of God is like the sun: it shines to all to whom it is preached, but to the blind without fruit! But we are all blind by nature in this piece, and therefore the ray of the Word cannot penetrate our minds unless the Holy Spirit, as the inward teacher, gives it access by His illumination!

III,2,35 Now I have already explained more clearly in another place, namely when it was necessary to deal with the corruption of nature, how unskilled we humans are for faith (II,2,18 ss.). Therefore, I do not want to tire the reader by repeating the same thing again. It should be enough for me that Paul, when he speaks of the "spirit of faith", understands by it precisely the faith that is given to us as a gift of the Holy Spirit (2Cor 4:13), but which we do not possess by nature. Therefore he prays for the Thessalonians, "that our God … fulfill all goodness and the work of faith in power" (2Th 1:11). There he calls faith a work of God and distinguishes it with a special epithet by adding that it is "God’s good pleasure"; thus he denies that faith comes from the own impulse of man, yes, he is not even satisfied with that, but adds that it is a proof of divine power. He points out to the Corinthians that faith does not depend on the wisdom of men, but is based on the power of the Spirit (1Cor 2:4). He speaks of outward miraculous signs, but the wicked are blind to them, and therefore he also thinks of the inward seal, which he mentions elsewhere (Eph 1:13; 4:30). In order to let his goodness shine out even more clearly in this glorious gift, God does not grant it indiscriminately to all, but gives it as a special gift of grace to whom he wills. I have already cited testimonies to this; Augustine, as their faithful interpreter, exclaims: "Our Beatificator wants to teach us that faith itself is a gift and not a merit. Therefore he says: ’No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’ or ’unless it is given to him by my Father’ (John 6:44-65). It is wondrous: two hear; the one despises, the other ascends! Now he that despiseth may ascribe it to himself; but he that ascendeth up, let him not claim it for himself!" (Sermon 131). Or he says in another place: "How is it then that it is given to one and not to another? I am not ashamed to say: this is the deep mystery of the cross! From some depth of God’s counsels, which we are not able to search, comes forth all that we can. What I can do I see, but where it comes from that I can do it, I do not see; only this much I see, that it comes from God! But why does he draw one and not the other? That is too much for me, it is an unfathomable abyss, the deep mystery of the cross! I can exclaim it admiringly, but I cannot prove it disputingly" (Sermon 165). The main thing is that when Christ enlightens us by the power of his Spirit so that we believe, he at the same time incorporates us into his body so that we gain a share in all his goods.

III,2,36 But then what the mind has received must also overflow into the heart itself. For God’s word is not already grasped in faith when it is allowed to move at the very top of the brain, but only when it has taken root in the innermost heart to become an invincible bulwark that can withstand and repel all the storm tools of temptation! If it is true that the real comprehension of our mind is the enlightenment by God’s Spirit, its power appears even more clearly in this strengthening of the heart; the lack of confidence of the heart is indeed so much greater than the blindness of the mind, and it is much more difficult to give certainty to the heart than to fill the mind with knowledge. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is like a seal: he is to seal in our heart the same promises whose certainty he has previously impressed on our mind. He is like a pledge to confirm and affirm the promises. "By whom also," says the apostle, "having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the pledge of our inheritance…" (Eph 1:13, 14). There you can see how Paul teaches that the hearts of believers receive their imprint through the Holy Spirit as from a seal. And he therefore calls him - we see further - the "Spirit of promise", because he puts the gospel into effect with us. Similarly, he writes to the Corinthians: "But it is God … who has anointed us and sealed us, and given into our hearts the pledge, the Spirit" (2Cor 1:21,22). In another place, where he speaks of confidence and joy in hope, he also declares for its foundation "the pledge, the Spirit" (2Cor 5:5).

III,2,37 But now I have not forgotten what I said above, and what experience recalls to our consciousness again and again, namely, that faith is beset by the most diverse doubts, that the mind of the pious seldom comes to rest, that at least it is not always able to enjoy a state of tranquility. But in the face of all the attacks that may shake it, it always emerges from the maw of temptations and remains at its post. Faith alone is able to maintain and preserve that certainty in which we hold with the psalmist: "God is our confidence and strength, a help in the great troubles that have afflicted us. Therefore we will not fear, though the world perish and the mountains fall into the midst of the sea" (Ps 46:2, 3). This confidence is also praised as the most delicious rest in another Psalm: "I lie and sleep and awake; for the Lord upholds me" (Ps 3:6). Not as if David had always been cheerful and of good cheer; no, because he had been allowed to feel God’s grace according to the measure of faith, therefore he prided himself on fearlessly despising everything that could disturb the peace of his mind. This is why the Scriptures also call us to "be still" when they want to encourage us to faith; thus in Isaiah: "By being still and hoping you would be strong!" (Isa 30:15); or in a Psalm: "Be still unto the Lord, and wait for him!" (Ps 37:7). The apostle’s admonition to the Hebrews corresponds to this: "But patience is necessary for you …" (Hebr 10:36).

III,2,38 From this it can be judged how dangerous the scholastic teaching is that we can only be sure of God’s grace towards us in the sense of a "moral presumption" (presumption on the basis of our moral deeds!), we must therefore go according to how far everyone has the conviction that he is not unworthy of this grace. If we were to find out from our works what the Lord’s mind is toward us, we would not be able to determine it even with the slightest presumption! But faith should be nothing else than the answer to a simple promise that comes to us by grace, and that is why there is no back and forth here! What kind of certainty should that be, with which we could arm ourselves, if we said: God is gracious to us - but only in so far as we deserve it with the purity of our lives! However, I will deal with these questions in more detail elsewhere and therefore will not pursue them further here. Above all, it is absolutely clear that nothing is so much in contradiction to faith as a "presumption" or anything else that is related to doubt! The Scholastics are very badly distorting a passage from Ecclesiastes, which they always use: "No one knows whether he is worthy of hatred or of love! (Eccl. 9:1; not Luther’s text). I will pass over the fact that this text is incorrectly rendered in the usual (Latin) translation. But every child can notice what Solomon wants to say with these words, namely: if someone wants to determine from the present state of things whom God pursues with hatred and whom He embraces with His love, he labors uselessly and agonizes in vain; for "the same thing meets one as another, the righteous as the wicked …, the one who sacrifices as the one who does not sacrifice …" (Eccl 9:2). From this it follows: if God lets a person succeed in everything as he wishes, this is not always a proof of his love, and if he frightens someone, this is not always a testimony of his hatred. Solomon says this in order to punish the vanity of our human intellect; after all, we also have dull senses in this question, which should be so necessarily clear! Accordingly, he writes a little earlier that the difference between the soul of man and that of cattle is not to be recognized, because both must perish in the same way according to the appearance (Ec 3:19). If now someone wanted to conclude from this that also the doctrine of immortality is based only on an "assumption", then one would have to consider him deservedly nonsensical! But can one then declare such people reasonable who want to draw the conclusion that there is no certainty of this grace at all from the fact that we cannot grasp the grace of God from the fleshly view of present circumstances?

III,2,39 But they defend that it would be foolhardy presumption if a man wanted to presume the undoubted knowledge of God’s will. I would gladly concede this to them, if we would take the liberty of subjecting God’s incomprehensible counsel to our weak intellect. But we simply say with Paul: "We have not received the spirit of the world, but of God, that we might know the things which are given us of God" (1Cor 2:12). How will they cry out against this without at the same time doing contempt to the Holy Spirit? If it is a terrible blasphemy to declare that the revelation given to us by Him is a lie, uncertain or doubtful, what is there reprehensible in claiming that it is certain? But they cry out that even this is not free from great presumption, that we dare to boast so highly of the Spirit of Christ! It is hardly believable that people who would like to be taken for the teachers of all the world should be so obtuse as to make such a disgraceful offence at the very first rudiments of religion! I would certainly not accept it myself, if their writings did not actually testify to it! - Paul declares that only those are God’s children "whom the Spirit of God impels" (Rom 8:14). The scholastics, on the other hand, claim that the children of God are driven by their own spirit and are entirely without God’s Spirit! Paul teaches us to call God our Father, and that is because this word is put into our mouths by the Holy Spirit, who alone can bear witness to our spirit "that we are the children of God" (Rom 8:16). While the scholastics do not want to hold anyone back from calling upon God either, they do rip out the Holy Spirit, under whose guidance we can properly call upon God in the first place! Paul denies that people who are not driven by the Spirit of Christ would be Christ’s servants (Rom 8,9). But they invent a Christianity for themselves that does not need the Spirit of Christ! Paul only gives us hope for the blessed resurrection if we feel that Christ’s spirit dwells in us (Rom 8,11), - but they make up a hope without this feeling! They will perhaps reply that they do not deny that one must be endowed with the Spirit, but that it is a sign of modesty and humility if one does not claim this (for oneself)! But what might Paul have meant when he asked the Corinthians to "try" themselves whether they were in the faith, to test themselves whether they had Christ - because he who does not recognize that Christ dwells in him is rejected? (2Cor 13:5). John also says: "And by this we know that he abideth in us, in the Spirit which he hath given us" (1Jn 3:24). What else do we do but doubt Christ’s promises if we want to be taken for His servants without His Spirit, when He has promised us that He will pour Him out on us all? (Isa 44:3; Joel 3:1). What is it but an insult to the Holy Spirit if we separate faith, His very work, from Him? These are the first beginners’ exercises in faith, and therefore it is most miserable blindness to accuse Christians of presumption because they dare to boast of the presence of the Holy Spirit; for without this boasting Christianity has no existence. But the scholastics prove with their own example how much Christ was right when he said that the world cannot know his spirit, because he is only known by those with whom he "abides" (John 14,17).

III,2,40 But in order not only to seek to destroy the certainty of faith by driving this one subterranean tunnel, they also lead their attack from another side. If one admits, at best, that according to the present state of our righteousness a judgment can be made about God’s grace, one nevertheless maintains that we are not able to know anything definite about the perseverance to the end! But there would remain for us a glorious confidence in salvation, if we could come to the conclusion for the present moment, on the basis of a "moral presumption," that we are in grace before God, but if we had no idea what might happen tomorrow! But the apostle speaks quite differently: "I am sure that neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38 f.; inaccurate). Now the scholastics try to wriggle out of this by a frivolous solution, by prating that Paul had received this from a special revelation (valid for him alone); but they are nevertheless held too thoroughly to escape. For Paul is speaking in this passage of the goods which come equally to all believers from faith, and not of that which he alone experiences for himself. "But" - one retorts - "surely he often frightens us by pointing out our weakness and inconstancy! He says, after all, ’whoever lets himself think that he is standing, let him see that he does not fall’ (1Cor 10:12)." This is true; but surely this is not a terror to throw us to the ground, but to teach us to humble ourselves under God’s hand, as Peter puts it! (1Pet 5:6). Furthermore, how foolish it is to limit the certainty of faith, which by its very nature transcends the barriers of this life and reaches out to future immortality, to a single point in time! Believers thank God’s grace for the fact that they are enlightened by God’s spirit and may enjoy the contemplation of heavenly life through faith, and therefore this boasting has nothing at all to do with presumption, on the contrary: if someone shies away from confessing this, he rather proves extreme ingratitude - for he suppresses God’s goodness in malice! - rather than modesty and humility!

III,2,41 We have seen that the essence of faith cannot be described better and more clearly than from the basic essence of the promise, on which it rests as on its own foundation and without which it would be completely shattered, yes, it would rather be made nothing. That is why I have taken my definition from there. This, of course, is in no way different from the definition or rather description that the apostle gives in adaptation to his discussion. He teaches there that faith is a constant ground (subsistentia) of things hoped for and a self-evidence of things not seen (Hebr 11:1; not Luther text). For the expression "hypostasis," which he uses here (in the first place), probably means as much as "support" (fulcrum), that is, that on which a pious mind can support itself and on which it can stand firm. As if he wanted to say: faith is a sure and certain possession of what God has promised us; one could perhaps also translate "hypostasis" as "certain confidence"; I do not dislike this, but for my part I stick to the more common translation. On the other hand, the apostle wants to show even further that the promised things are too exalted until the last day, when the books will be opened (Dan 7,10) is too sublime for us to perceive with our senses or to see with our eyes or to grasp with our hands; he wants to point out to us that we can only possess it if we go beyond the capacity of our understanding, if we extend our gaze beyond all that is in this world, in short, if we rise above ourselves; therefore he adds in his definition of faith that this certainty of possession refers to things that belong to hope and that we therefore do not see. Thus Paul also writes: "The hope … which is seen is not hope, for how can one hope of that which is seen?" (Rom 8:24). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls faith (in the second place) a sign (index), a proof (probatio) or also, as Augustine often renders it, a conviction (convictio) of what is not present - in fact, in Greek it is called "elenchos". It is as if he wanted to say: faith is a becoming apparent of the things that are not apparent, a seeing of what one does not see, a transparency of what is dark, a being present of what is not present, a revealing of what is hidden! For the mysteries of God - and that is what is at stake in our salvation! - For the mysteries of God - and that is what our salvation is all about - are not to be seen in and of themselves and, as they are called, not by their "nature"; we see them only in his word, and its truth must be so certain to us that everything that is said there must already be regarded as having been done and fulfilled! But how can our heart rise to get a taste of God’s goodness in this way without at the same time being completely inflamed to love God in return? For we cannot recognize this fullness of deliciousness, which God has hidden from those who fear him, without being inwardly seized by it. But once it has seized a person, it immediately draws him completely to itself and carries him away with it. That is why this emotion - and this is not surprising! - This is why this emotion - and this is not surprising! - never grasps a perverse and twisted heart; this emotion, which leads us into heaven itself, gives us access to the most hidden treasures of God and the most sacred secrets of His kingdom, which must not be profaned by an impure heart penetrating to them. When the scholastics teach that love has priority over faith and hope (Sentences III,25), this is pure delusion; for faith alone produces love in us. Bernard of Clairvaux teaches much more correctly: "The testimony of conscience, which Paul calls the glory of the pious (2Cor 1:12), comprises, I believe, three things. First of all, you must believe that you can receive forgiveness of sins solely through God’s forbearance; secondly, that you can have no good work whatsoever which He Himself has not given you again; and finally, that you can earn eternal life by no works whatsoever, unless this too is given to you in vain!" (Sermon 1 on the Feast of the Annunciation). But he immediately adds that this is not enough, but only a certain beginning in faith; for if we believe that no one can forgive us our sins but God alone, then we must also hold fast that they are forgiven us, - until we come to the certainty through the testimony of the Holy Spirit that salvation is well prepared for us; because God gives us the sins, because he gives us the merits, because he also gives us the reward, - so we cannot stop at those first steps! (In the same sermon.) But I must treat this and other things in the appropriate place; now we must content ourselves with stating what faith itself is..

III,2,42 Now wherever this faith is alive, it necessarily has as its inseparable companion the hope of eternal salvation; indeed, it rather produces it, brings it forth. If this hope is lacking, no matter how wittily and fancifully we may speak of faith, we can be sure that we have none! For if faith, as we have heard, is a certain conviction of God’s truth, a conviction that this truth cannot lie to us and deceive us, that it cannot become invalid, then he who has grasped this certainty must at the same time expect that God will keep his promises, which, according to his firm conviction, must necessarily be true! Hope is, after all, nothing else than the expectation of things which, according to the conviction of faith, are truly promised by God. Thus faith is certain that God is true, and hope expects that in due time he will reveal his truth; faith is certain that he is our Father, hope expects that he will always prove himself to be such in us; faith is certain that eternal life is given to us, hope expects that it will one day be revealed; faith is the foundation on which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith. No one can expect anything from God unless he first believes His promises, but likewise our weak faith, lest we sink down weary, must be supported and sustained by patiently hoping and waiting. It is therefore correct when Paul presents our salvation as a matter of hope (Rom 8:24). By waiting quietly for the Lord, it keeps faith in check so that it does not rush in too much haste, strengthens it so that it does not waver with regard to God’s promises or begin to doubt their truth, refreshes it so that it does not grow weary, and makes it last until that ultimate goal so that it does not grow weary in the middle of its course or even in its beginning. In short, hope always renews and revives faith, and ensures that it rises ever more strongly to persevere to the end. In how many ways faith needs the help of hope in order to gain stability becomes even clearer when we consider the many ways in which people who have accepted God’s word are beset by temptation and brought into distress. First of all, the Lord often postpones the fulfillment of His promises and thus keeps our hearts in suspense longer than we would like; then it is the office of hope to fulfill the instruction of the prophet: "But if it tarry, wait for it" (Hab. 2:3). (Hab. 2,3). At times he not only makes us languish in our weariness, but also displays manifest anger: so it is all the more necessary that hope should come to our aid, that we may be able to follow the words of another prophet: "I hope in the Lord, who hath hid his face from the house of Jacob; but I wait for him" (Isa 8:17). (Isa 8:17). Also, sometimes, as Peter puts it, "scoffers" rise up (2Pet 3:3), asking, "Where is the promise of His future? For after the fathers have fallen asleep, all things remain as they were from the beginning of the creature!" (2 Pet. 3:4). Yes, such thoughts blow in our flesh and the world alike! In this case faith must be based on the endurance of hope and must hold on to the contemplation of eternity, it must know that "a thousand years are as one day" (Ps 90:4; 2 Petr. 3, 8).

III,2,43 Because faith and hope are so firmly connected, even related, Scripture sometimes uses the words "faith" and "hope" interchangeably. For example, when Peter teaches that we are "kept by the power of God through faith" unto the revelation of salvation (1Peter 1:5), he is ascribing to faith something that would actually be more in keeping with the nature of hope; and not unjustly, for hope, as we have noted, is nothing but the nourishment and strength of faith. Sometimes "faith" and "hope" are also connected with each other; thus it is said in the same letter: "That you may have faith and hope in God" (1Pet 1:21). But Paul derives expectation from hope in the Epistle to the Philippians: for by patiently hoping we leave our desires in abeyance until God’s opportune time has revealed itself (Phil 1:20). All this can be seen even more clearly from the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews already cited. Paul also means the same thing in a place where he speaks inauthentically: "But we wait in the Spirit through faith for the righteousness that must be hoped for" (Gal 5:5). (Gal 5:5). Namely, having accepted the gospel testimony of God’s gracious love, we wait until God reveals what is now still hidden under hope! It is now quite clear how nonsensical it is when Peter Lombardus thinks a twofold foundation of hope has been laid, namely God’s grace and the merit of our works. No, for hope there can be no other point of reference than faith; but faith, as we have already quite clearly argued, has only one point of reference, namely God’s mercy; and therefore we must look at it with both eyes, so to speak! But it is worth while to hear what a powerful reason the Lombard gives; he says, "If you dare to hope for anything without your merit, it is not to be called hope, but presumption!" Dear friend and reader, should we not deservedly abhor such beasts as call it hopeful and presumptuous for anyone to trust that God is true? After all, the Lord wants us to expect everything from His goodness; but such people declare it presumptuous to lean and rely on this goodness! This Master is well worthy of the disciples he has found in the nonsensical scholastic schools of tongues! But we, seeing how God in clear instructions commands the sinner to take hope in salvation, will gladly trust so "presumptuously" in his truth that we will rely on his mercy alone, cast all confidence on the works of us, and dare to hope cheerfully! For he has said: "Let it be done to you according to your faith" (Mt 9,29) - and he will not be deceived!

Third chapter


Through faith we are born again. Here we have to speak of repentance

III,3,1 In what has gone before, I have already partly explained how faith possesses Christ and how we enjoy His goods through Him; but all this would still remain unclear, unless an exposition of the effects we experience were added. It is not wrong to say that the main content of the gospel is repentance and the forgiveness of sins. If, then, we were to omit these two main things, any discussion of faith would be devoid of content and mutilated, indeed, it would be sheer uselessness! Christ gives us both, and we attain both in faith: the renewal of life and the reconciliation by grace; the factual connection and the orderly sequence in the instruction therefore require that I begin here by speaking of these two pieces of teaching. First, however, we must pass from faith to repentance; when we have rightly understood this doctrine, it will become clearer to us why man is justified by faith alone and by pure forgiveness, and why, after all, from this graceful imputation of righteousness the real holiness of life - if I may so express myself! - is not separate. But that repentance immediately follows faith, indeed arises from it, must be beyond doubt. Forgiveness and absolution (of sins) are so offered by the preaching of the Gospel that the sinner is freed from the tyranny of Satan, from the yoke of sin, from the miserable bondage to his vices, and passes into God’s kingdom; therefore no one can now accept the grace of the Gospel without turning back from the errors of his former life to the right path, and directing all his zeal to an earnest striving after repentance. Some think that repentance precedes faith, instead of springing from it or growing like fruit from the tree; but these people have never, ever understood the power of repentance, and base their view on insufficient evidence.

III,3,2 The advocates of the latter view now maintain that Christ and John the Baptist in their speeches first called the people to repentance, and only then did they also add: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 3,2; 4,17). The same command was given to the apostles for their preaching; Paul also followed this rule, as Luke reports (Acts 20:21). But they cling superstitiously to the external order of the syllables and do not pay attention to the sense in which they are related to each other. For when the Lord Christ and John exclaim in their sermon, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," they see precisely in grace and the promise of salvation the reason for repentance! What they say is exactly the same as if they expressed: Since the kingdom of heaven has come near, repent! Matthew also makes this clear to us: he reports how John preached in this world, and then he declares that in him the prophecy of Isaiah came true: "There is a voice of one preaching in the wilderness. Prepare the way for the Lord, make a level path for our God on the field" (Isa 40:3). In the prophet, however, this "voice" is instructed to begin with consolation and joyful tidings! Now, if I seek the origin of repentance in faith, this does not mean that I am dreaming of a time gap between the two, in which faith gave rise to repentance; I only want to show that man cannot seriously seek repentance if he does not know that he is God’s property. But the certainty of being God’s property can only be attained by the one who has first grasped His grace. But this will become clearer in the course of the discussion. What caused that deception (concerning the succession of faith and repentance) may also have been the observation that many people are overcome by the terrors of conscience and brought to obedience before they have attained a knowledge of grace, or even tasted of it. Now this is such a fear as beginners have; some even want to count it among the virtues, because they see that it at least comes close to true, right obedience. But here it is not a question of the various ways in which Christ draws us to Himself or prepares us for the pursuit of godliness; I say only this: there is no sincerity to be found in which the Holy Spirit does not rule, which Christ received to communicate to His members. Also, according to the words of the Psalm: "With thee is forgiveness to be feared" (Ps 130:4), only the one who trusts that God is gracious to him will truly fear God; only the one who has the certainty that his service is pleasing to God will willingly set out to observe the law. And in this, the forbearance with which God forgives and bears our vices is a sign of his fatherly favor. This is also shown to us by an exhortation of Hosea: "Come, let us return to the Lord; for he hath broken us in pieces, he will also heal us; he hath broken us in pieces, he will also bind us up" (Hos 6:1). There the hope of forgiveness is added as an impetus so that the people do not become stumped in their sins. The madness of such people, however, lacks any semblance of justification when, in order to make a start with repentance, they prescribe certain days for their newcomers to the faith, during which they are to practice repentance, and only want to receive them into the fellowship of the grace of the gospel when these days are over. I am speaking here of most of the Anabaptists, especially of those who delight in being considered "spiritual," and also of their comrades, the Jesuits, and other similar scum. Such is the fruit of the spirit of deception that the repentance that a Christian man has to practice throughout his life is limited to a few situations.

III,3,3 Now some learned men, long before this time, with the intention of speaking plainly and clearly of repentance according to the rule of Scripture, have uttered the proposition that it consists of two parts: Mortification and vivification. By "mortification" (mortificatio) they understand the pain of the soul and the fright that comes from the knowledge of sin and from feeling the wrath of God. In fact, as soon as someone is brought to the true knowledge of sin, he also begins to really hate and detest sin, then he heartily dislikes himself, confesses that he is wretched and lost, and desires to become another man. Then, as soon as a sense of God’s judgment seizes him - for this second follows of its own accord from the first! - then he lies shaken and shattered on the ground, trembling in humility and bowing, despondent and in despair. This is the first part of repentance, which is also commonly called contritio. By "vivification" (vivificatio) is understood the consolation that comes to us from faith: for there man, who has been thrown to the ground by the consciousness of sin, who has been shaken by the fear of God, may look afterwards at God’s goodness, mercy and grace, at the salvation that comes through Christ; there he straightens up, draws breath, takes courage again and comes, as it were, from death to life! These two expressions (mortification and quickening), provided only that their correct interpretation is adhered to, express the power of repentance in an appropriate way. On the other hand, I cannot agree with the idea that vitalization is understood as the joy that the heart receives when it has come to rest again from shock and fear. Rather, vitalization means the eager pursuit of a holy and pious life, as it arises from the new birth, so it means as much as if it were said: man dies to himself in order to live to God.

III,3,4 Other theologians started from the observation that the term "repentance" is understood differently in Scripture, and therefore they distinguished two different forms of repentance. This required certain characteristics, and so the first form was called "legal repentance": the sinner is wounded by the brand of sin, crushed by the terror of God’s wrath, and in this confusion he remains stuck and cannot wriggle out. The other form of repentance was called "evangelical": here, too, the sinner is severely wounded in himself, but he is still able to penetrate higher and seizes Christ as a remedy for his wound, as a comfort in his terror, as a harbor for his misery. As an example of "legal" repentance, Cain, Saul and Judas Iscariot are mentioned (Gen 4:13; 1Sam 15:30; Mt 27:4); the Scriptures tell us about their repentance and understand that they recognized the gravity of their sin and feared God’s wrath; but they understood God only as avenger and judge, and over this feeling they perished. Their repentance, therefore, was nothing other than, as it were, the forecourt of hell: into it they entered while still alive, and there, in the face of the wrath of God’s majesty, they began to suffer their punishment. We can observe the "evangelical" repentance in all those people who, though wounded in themselves by the sting of sin, were restored and refreshed and converted to the Lord through confidence in God’s mercy. Thus Hezekiah was terrified by the message of death he received, but he prayed with tears, fixed his eyes on God’s goodness, and thus regained confidence (2Ki 20:2; Isa 38:2). The Ninevites were also shaken by the terrible news of the city’s fall, but they prayed in sackcloth and ashes, hoping that the Lord might change his mind and turn from the fury of his wrath (Jon. 3:5). David had to confess that he had sinned terribly with his census, but he still added the plea, "Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant!" (2Sam 24:10). In response to Nathan’s harsh words of rebuke, he acknowledged his adultery as guilt and prostrated himself before the Lord; but at the same time he hoped for forgiveness! (2Sam 12:13, 16). Of this kind was also the repentance of the people, to whom Peter’s sermon "went through their hearts", but who then, trusting in God’s goodness, continued to ask: "Men, dear brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Of this kind was also the repentance of Peter himself, who, though "weeping bitterly," yet did not cease to hope (Mt 26:75; Lk 22:62).

III,3,5 All this is true; and yet the expression "repentance" itself, as far as I can understand it from Scripture, says something else. The fact that faith is included in repentance (in the sense of "evangelical" repentance) contradicts the words of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles: "And have testified, both to Jews and Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). There he mentions repentance and faith side by side as two different things. Yes, one asks, can true repentance exist without faith? - Certainly not. They cannot be separated from each other, but they must be distinguished from each other! Faith is never without hope, and yet faith and hope are different things; so also repentance and faith, though connected by a constant bond, must be thought of as connected rather than mixed. It is not hidden from me that under the term "repentance" the whole conversion to God is understood, to which not least also faith belongs; in which sense this happens, however, will easily become apparent when we have taken a closer look at the power and essence of repentance. The word "repentance" is taken by the Hebrews from "conversion" or "return", by the Greeks from "change of mind" or "change of counsel"; both linguistic derivations correspond perfectly to the thing described: Repentance is, after all, essentially resolved in that we emigrate from ourselves and "turn" to God, that we lay aside the former mind and adopt a new one! Therefore, in my judgment at least, it is not a bad description of the term "repentance" to say: Repentance is the true turning of our life to God, as it arises from true and earnest fear of God; it includes, on the one hand, the dying away of our flesh and of the old man, and, on the other hand, the making alive in the spirit. In this sense one must also understand all the speeches with which once the prophets and then later the apostles exhorted the people of their time to repentance. For they all insisted on the one thing that men, shaken by their sins, pierced by the fear of God’s judgment, should prostrate themselves before God, whom they had apostatized, humble themselves before him, and return in true conversion to his right way. The words they used, therefore, all had the same meaning without distinction, whether it is "turn to God" or "turn back to God" or "become of a different mind" or "repent" (Mt 3:2). That is why in the Holy History it is also said that repentance means turning "to God": this happens when people who have turned away from Him and let themselves go in their lusts now begin to obey His word (1Sam 7:3), to submit to His guidance and to go where He calls them! John and Paul also speak of "worthy fruits of repentance" that one brings (Lk 3:8; Rom 6:4; Acts 26:20), and understand by this that one leads a life that is a proof, a testimony of this repentance in all his deeds.

III,3,6 But before we go further, it will be of use to explain in more detail the description of repentance given above. There are three main pieces to note in it. We spoke first of repentance as the turning of our lives to God; under this we require a transformation, not only in outward works, but in the soul itself; for it can only bear such fruits with the work as correspond to its renewal when it has laid aside its old nature. This is what the prophet Ezekiel wants to express; that is why he calls out to the people whom he exhorts to repentance the instruction: "Make for yourselves a new heart!" (Eze 18:31). Therefore, when Moses, as he often does, wants to show how the Israelites, led by repentance, should turn to the Lord, he demands that this be done "with all your heart," "with all your soul" (Deut 6:5; 10:12; 30:6), and we see the prophets repeating this phrase from time to time (Isa 24:7); Moses also calls it "circumcision of the heart," and with it he penetrates even our deepest emotions (Deut 10:16; 30:6). But the true meaning of repentance emerges most clearly from the fourth chapter of the prophet Jeremiah: "If thou wilt repent, O Israel, turn to me … Plant a new thing, and sow not under the hedges. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and put away the foreskin of your heart!" (Jer 4:1:3 4). Thus, as the prophet testifies, all their zeal for the attainment of righteousness will be of no avail unless first of all unrighteousness is cast out from the depths of their hearts! In order to seize them in the depths, he points out that they are dealing with the God before whom no excuses are of any use, for he hates a double heart! Therefore Isaiah also mocks the perverse activity of the hypocrites, who outwardly, in all kinds of ceremonies, made the greatest effort with the conversion, but in the meantime did not care at all to take away the burden of unrighteousness, with which they kept the poor bound! (Isa 58,6). There he shows very nicely in what kind of achievements an unfeigned repentance actually proves to be.

III,3,7 In my description of the term "repentance" I then taught as a second essential piece that repentance grows out of the earnest fear of God. Indeed, before the sinner’s heart inclines to conversion, it must first be awakened to it by the thought of divine judgment. Once the thought has penetrated deeply into our hearts that God will one day ascend his judgment seat to demand an account for all our words and deeds, he does not let the poor man rest, nor does he breathe a sigh of relief for a moment, no, he urges him again and again to desire a completely different life in order to be able to stand safely before that judgment. That is why the Scriptures, in their calls to repentance, often mention judgment, as in Jeremiah: "…lest my wrath go out like fire and burn so that no one can quench it, because of your wickedness!" (Jer 4:4). Similarly, in Paul’s address to the Athenians, it says: "And indeed God overlooked the time of ignorance; but now He commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has set a day in which He will judge the circle of the earth with righteousness …" (Acts 17:30 f.). So we find it also in many other places. Sometimes Scripture also shows us that God is the judge by referring to punishments that have already been given: sinners should consider that they are threatened with even worse punishments if they do not convert in time. We have an example of this in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy (Deut 29:19 ss.). Since repentance begins with feeling disgust and hatred toward sin, Paul calls "godly sorrow" (2Cor 7:10) the right reason for repentance. This "godly sorrow" means that we are not merely frightened by the punishment, but that we feel hatred and loathing for sin itself, since we know that it is an abomination to God. This is not surprising either: for if we were not stung hard, our flesh’s sluggishness could not be remedied; indeed, even stings would not suffice in view of its dullness and slothfulness, if God did not give us the rod to feel and thus press in upon us more deeply! There is also the stubbornness of the neck, which must be crushed as with a hammer. The severity with which God threatens us thus forces the wickedness of our heart from him; for friendly enticement would be in vain with us who are asleep. I do not want to list the individual scriptural testimonies that we encounter again and again. But the fear of God is also the beginning of repentance in another sense. If a man had attained all the virtues in his life without, however, being directed to the service of God, he would certainly be praised by the world, but in heaven his life would still be an abomination; for the most important part of righteousness is precisely that God be accorded his right and the honor due to him: but it is precisely this right, this honor, that we rob God of if we do not have the firm resolution to submit to his governmental power.

III,3,8 Now, thirdly, we must explain what it means when I said above that repentance comprises two parts, namely the mortification of the flesh and the quickening of the spirit. The prophets express this clearly, although they conform to the understanding of the people and therefore speak of it rather plainly and crudely. So it is said in the 34th Psalm: "Leave off evil and do good" (Ps 34:15), or in Isaiah: "wash, purify yourselves, put away your evil from my sight; leave off evil; learn to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed …" (Isa 1:16f.). For when they warn the people against wickedness, they are calling for the downfall of the whole flesh, which is full of wickedness and corruption. Of course, it is very difficult and hard to strip ourselves and let go of our innate nature, because we must not believe that the flesh has really died as long as not everything we have of ourselves has been done away with. But because the whole sense of the flesh is "enmity against God" (Rom 8:7), the first step to obedience against His law is the denial of our own nature! But after that the prophet (in the mentioned passage, Isa 1:16 f.) also points to the renewal, based on the fruits that come out of it: Justice, judgment and mercy. For it would not be enough if we properly relieved ourselves of the obligation to do such works, unless our minds and hearts themselves had adopted the appropriate disposition; but this happens when the Spirit of God immerses our soul in His holiness, fills it with new thoughts and impulses, so that it may truly be considered new. We, precisely because we are by nature turned away from God, will certainly never reach out for what is right unless we have first denied ourselves. That is why we are so often commanded to put off the old man, to renounce the world and the flesh, to bid farewell to our desires, and to "renew ourselves in the spirit of our minds" (cf. Eph 4:23). Indeed, the expression "mortification" itself reminds us how difficult it is to forget our former nature: we realize from this word that it is only when the sword of the Spirit has forcibly killed us and brought us to ruin that we are sent to the fear of God and are able to learn the rudiments of godliness; God wants us to know, as it were, that it is only by the complete passing away of our ordinary nature that we can come to be numbered among His children.

III,3,9 Both dying and coming to life come to us through being partakers of Christ. For if we truly share in Christ’s death, then by His power our old man is crucified, then the sinful body dies, so that the corruption of the first nature loses its power! (Rom 6:6). When we become partakers of His resurrection, then through it we arise to new life that is according to God’s righteousness. I therefore describe repentance in one word as rebirth; and the goal of this rebirth is to be found solely in the fact that the image of God is restored in us, which was defiled and as good as obliterated by Adam’s transgression. This is what the apostle teaches when he says: "But now in us all the glory of the Lord is reflected with unveiled face, and we are being transfigured into the same image from one glory to another, as of the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2Cor 3:18). Similarly, "But renew yourselves in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man, which after God is created unto righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:23f.). Or also: "Put on the new man, who is being renewed to knowledge in the image of Him who created him" (Col 3:10). Thus, then, through Christ’s beneficence, we are renewed in this regeneration to the righteousness of God from which we had fallen out in Adam; this is the way in which it pleased the Lord to perfectly restore all those whom He has accepted for the inheritance of eternal life. But this renewal does not come to completion in a moment, nor in a day, nor in a single year; no, God, in a continual, even slow progress, purges the corruptions of the flesh from his elect, cleanses them from their defilements, and consecrates them to a temple holy to him, renews all their senses to true purity, so that they may practice repentance throughout their lives: they shall know that this war service finds its end only with death. All the greater is the wickedness of that impure babbler, the apostate Staphylus: he claims in his babble that I am mixing up the state of the present life with the heavenly glory, because, according to Paul, I claim of the image of God (2Cor 4:4) that it consists in "true holiness and righteousness" (cf. Eph 4:24). As if, when describing a thing, one does not have to look for its completed, perfect essence! This is not to deny the space for growth; I am only saying that as far as a person has come closer to the likeness of God, he must be judged as shining in the image of God. In order for believers to reach this point, God assigns them the battlefield of repentance, on which they have to walk all their lives..

III,3,10 Through regeneration the children of God are freed from the bondage of sin; but not in such a way that they have already attained full possession of this freedom, as it were, and now no longer experience any hardship on the part of their flesh; no, rather in such a way that they always have enough cause for strife, which gives them exercise, yes, not only this, but which should also make them better aware of their weakness. All ecclesiastical writers of reasonably sound judgment agree that even in the born-again man there remains a fuel for evil, from which the desires that tempt and incite him to sin continually burst forth. They also confess that the saints are so ensnared by this disease of desire that they are sometimes inevitably provoked and driven to evil lust, greed, ambition, or other vices. It is not necessary to expend much effort here in seeking out sayings of the ancients; it is sufficient for this purpose to refer to Augustine, who with fidelity and great diligence collected the statements of all the Fathers of the Church on this subject (in writing against the Pelagian Julian, II,1,3). From him the readers may get their knowledge, if they want to have a well-founded view of the opinion of the ancients. One might, of course, notice an apparent difference between Augustine’s conviction and mine. Augustine admits that the faithful, as long as they dwell in their mortal body, are so held in bondage by the desires that they cannot but desire; but he does not dare to call this infirmity a sin; But he does not dare to call this infirmity a sin; rather, he is satisfied with the designation "weakness" to indicate this infirmity, and teaches that it becomes sin only when the intention and the evil thought are joined by the work itself or by conscious inner consent, that is, when the will yields to this first impulse. I, on the other hand, consider it a sin that man is incited by any desire at all against God’s law; indeed, I maintain that the malice itself, which produces all these many desires in us, is to be considered a sin. I teach, then, that in the saints, as long as they have this mortal body about them, sin still dwells; for in their flesh that wickedness which produces lust, that wickedness which is at variance with righteousness, has its abode. However, Augustine does not always avoid the term "sin" in this sense; thus he says: "By ’sin’ Paul understands that from which all sins spring, namely, carnal concupiscence. Now with respect to the saints, this loses its right of dominion on earth, and in heaven it passes away" (Sermon 155). With these words he admits that believers, in so far as they are subject to the lusts of the flesh, are guilty of sin.

III,3,11 But that God, according to the testimony of Scripture, cleanses His Church from all sin (Eph 5,26f.), that He promises this grace of deliverance through baptism and also fulfills this promise in His elect, I would rather refer to deliverance from guilt than from the approach of sin itself. By allowing His own to be born again, God certainly causes the dominion of sin in them to be abolished - for He gives them the power of His Spirit, in which they are to win the battle and become victors! But sin merely ceases to reign in them, not to dwell in them! Certainly, we say, the old man is crucified, certainly the law of sin is done away with in the children of God (Rom 6:6); but there still remain remnants, certainly not to reign in them, but certainly to humble them by the consciousness of their weakness. We confess, indeed, that they are not imputed, as if, therefore, they were not there at all; but we maintain: by God’s mercy alone the saints, who otherwise would rightly stand before God as sinners and guilty, are absolved from this guilt. Nor is it difficult for me to prove this proposition; for there are clear testimonies of Scripture to this effect. The clearest is what Paul exclaims in Romans 7. First of all: that he speaks there as a born-again man, I have already shown in another place (II,3,27), also Augustin has proved it with reliable reasons. I will remain silent about the fact that he uses the expressions "evil" and "sin" (as a born again man and with reference to him!). But no matter how much the opponents of our doctrine want to seek an evasion behind these two words, I ask: who wants to deny that the opposition to God’s law (which Paul says he carries within himself!) is evil? Who wants to deny that the obstruction of righteousness is sin? Finally, who wants to deny that where there is spiritual misery, there is also guilt? But all this Paul says of the sickness that is spoken of here! But we also have a sure proof from the law, with the help of which we can briefly solve the question at hand. There we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul and strength (Deut 6,5; Mt 22,37). So all areas of our soul should be occupied by the love of God, and therefore this commandment is certainly not fulfilled by a person who lets only the slightest stimulus penetrate into his heart or can even allow a thought in his inner being that would lead him away from the love of God and give him away to vanity! How? Are they not powers of the soul, when we are touched by sudden impulses, seize them with our senses and make a resolution in our mind? But if these faculties of ours open the way to vain and evil thoughts, they show that to such an extent they are still without the love of God! Therefore, if someone does not want to admit that all the desires of the flesh are sins, and that this disease of desire, which is called "tinder," is precisely the fountainhead of sin, - he must necessarily deny that the transgression of the law is sin.

III,3,12 But it might seem incongruous to someone that in this way all the desires that naturally stir in man are generally condemned; he might say that they are implanted in us by God, the author of nature. To this I reply: I do not in any way condemn the desires which God implanted in the nature of man at the first creation, and which therefore can only be uprooted together with man’s humanity; I object exclusively to the immoderate and untamed impulses which are in conflict with God’s order. But out of the wickedness of our nature all our dispositions are interspersed with vices and corrupted, so that in all our doings disorder and intemperance always come to light; since now our desires cannot be separated from this licentiousness, I maintain that they are corrupt. I can also briefly summarize what is most important: I teach that all the desires of man are evil, and declare them guilty of sin, not in so far as they are natural, but in so far as they are disordered; but they are, because nothing pure and pure can come out of corrupt, defiled nature. From this doctrine Augustin is not so far removed as it would seem. It is true that he had a more than cheap shyness before the evil calumny with which the Pelagians tried to harass him, and that is why he sometimes avoids the word "sin" (To Bonifacius, I,13,27; III,3,5). But he also writes that the law of sin remains in the saints, and only guilt is abolished in them; thus he clearly shows that he is not far from my view..

III,3,13 But I will add some further statements, from which his view will become even clearer. Thus he writes in his second book against Julian: "This law of sin is forgiven through spiritual rebirth, but it remains in the mortal flesh. It is forgiven because in the sacrament by which the faithful are born again (namely, baptism!) the guilt is dissolved; but it remains at the same time because it causes the lusts against which the faithful also have to contend" (Against Julian, II,3,5). Or: "The law of sin, then, which even so great an apostle bore in his members, is forgiven in baptism, but not ended" (Ibid. II,4,8). Or also, "This law of sin, which remains in us, but whose guilt is dissolved in baptism, Ambrose called ’unrighteousness’; for it is indeed ’unrighteous’ when ’the flesh lusts against the Spirit’" (Ibid. II,5,12). Similarly, "Sin is dead as far as the guilt in which it imprisoned us is concerned; but until it is wholly cured by being completely buried, it still resists even in its death" (Ibid. II,9,32). He expresses himself even more clearly in the fifth book (against Julian): "The blindness of the heart is sin, by virtue of which one does not believe in God; it is at the same time punishment for sin, with which the hardened heart is punished in just chastisement, and it is at the same time the cause of sin, since the error of the blind heart results in deeds. Exactly accordingly, the lust of the flesh, against which the good Spirit "lusts," is also sin on the one hand, because it is inherent in disobedience to the rule of the Spirit; it is also, on the other hand, punishment for sin, because it is retribution for man’s guilt and disobedience, and it is at the same time the cause of sin, because we inwardly assent to it and so fall away, and because, indeed, we are already defiled with it from birth" (Against Julian V,3, 8). Here, then, Augustin unambiguously calls evil desire "sin"; for here he has already cast down the error of the Pelagians and led the truth to victory, therefore here he has less shrinking from the evil calumny of his opponents! It is quite similar in the 41st Sermon of John, in which Augustin freely expresses opinion without a glance at an opponent of his heart: "If you serve the law of sin in the flesh, do it according to the word of the apostle: ’Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to render it obedience in its lusts’" (Rom 6:12). He says: let it not reign, but not: let it not be. For as long as you live, sin is necessarily in your members, only let its dominion be taken away: let no more be done what it commands!" (Sermon 41 on the Gospel of John). Those who claim that evil desire is not sin, like to refer to the words of James: "Afterwards, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin" (Jam 1:15). But this can be rejected without difficulty; for if we do not understand that he is speaking here of evil works alone, or the so-called sins of the deed, then even the evil will not be considered sin for us. Indeed, he calls iniquities and evil works the outgrowths of desire, and uses the word "sin," but it does not follow that desire is not an evil thing, or that it is not condemnable in the sight of God.

III,3,14 Nowadays, in place of spiritual rebirth, certain Anabaptists have devised some mad fancy: according to their imagination, the children of God should already be restored to the state of innocence; they need therefore no longer take any trouble about how to tame the lusts of the flesh, no, they need only surrender to the guidance of the Spirit, under whose impulse there is no more straying! One should not think that a human mind could fall to such madness if they did not openly and proudly spout their doctrine. It is indeed a monstrosity; but the Anabaptists are thus suffering the just punishment for their blasphemous presumption, that they have undertaken to turn God’s truth into a lie. Shall there really be an end to all distinctions between shameful and honorable, righteous and unrighteous, good and evil, virtue and vice? The Anabaptists say, "This is a difference that comes from the curse on Adam, from which Christ has set us free!" That means, then, that there shall be no more difference between fornication and discipline, sincerity and craftiness, truth and lies, equity and rapacious covetousness! But then they say: "Let go of this useless fear; the spirit will not command you anything evil, you only have to surrender yourself safely and fearlessly to its impulse!" Who would not be horrified at such monstrosities! And yet, among those who, blinded by the insane urge of lust, have lost common sense (sensum communem exuerunt), it is quite commonplace worldly wisdom! I only ask: What is this Christ they are putting before us, what is this spirit they are spouting? For we know only the one Christ and his one Spirit, whom the prophets once praised, whom the Gospel preaches to us as the One who has appeared - but of him we hear nothing of the kind! For this Spirit is not the patron of murder and fornication, drunkenness, arrogance, strife, covetousness and deceit; rather, He works love, chastity, simplicity, modesty, peace, temperance and truth! He is not a reeling spirit, rashly rushing headlong through right and wrong, but is full of wisdom and understanding, and thus duly distinguishes right from wrong! He incites no man to nefarious, unruly wantonness, but makes a sharp distinction between what is permitted and what is not, and thus teaches us to keep moderation and moderation. But why should I bother further to refute this monstrous folly? For the Christian, the Spirit of the Lord is not a raging specter that he receives in a dream or gets from other people’s reverie, but he piously searches the Scriptures to get to know this Spirit. But there we find two things said of him. First, we hear that he is given to us for sanctification: he is to cleanse us from all uncleanness and defilement and lead us to obedience to the righteousness of God. This obedience, however, can only exist if we tame and subdue our desires; the enthusiasts, on the other hand, want to let these desires shoot the reins! Secondly, we hear that this purification through the sanctification of the spirit is still going on in such a way that we are still dominated by many vices and great weakness as long as we are enclosed by the burden of our body. Thus, we are still far from perfection and therefore have to make some progress day by day; we are entangled in all kinds of vices and therefore have to fight against them every day. It follows that we must throw away all laziness, all carnal security, and lie on guard with the most inner tension, lest in imprudence we be deceived by the deceitfulness of our flesh. We should certainly not believe that we can go further than the apostle Paul, who was tormented by an angel of Satan (2Cor 12:7), so that "power is made perfect in weakness" (2Cor 12:9; not Luther text), and he does not fool us when he shows us the conflict between flesh and spirit in his own flesh! (Rom 7,6 ss.).

III,3,15 In describing repentance, the apostle lists with good reason seven emotions that are to be considered as its causes, effects or components, namely "diligence" or concern, "responsibility, anger, fear, desire, zeal, revenge" (2Cor 7,11). It should not seem absurd that I do not dare to decide exactly whether (and to what extent) causes or effects of repentance appear here; both can be discussed. One can also say that we are dealing here with emotions that are connected with repentance. But it is also possible to ascertain the apostle’s intention by ignoring these questions, and therefore we will be content with a simple explanation. He says, then, first, that divine affliction works "diligence." For he who feels a serious displeasure in himself, because he has sinned against his God, is at the same time driven to diligence and attentiveness, in order to wriggle out of the devil’s snares altogether and to take better care of himself against his pursuits, so that he may not afterwards lose the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be overcome by carnal security. Then follows Paul’s "responsibility." In this passage, "responsibility" does not mean "defense," as if the sinner denied his wrongdoing or tried to minimize his guilt in order to escape God’s judgment; rather, it means "cleansing," which is based on apology and not on trust in one’s own cause. It is now as with children who are not apostates: if they recognize and confess their aberrations, they ask for forgiveness; so that this may be done properly, they testify in every possible way that they have by no means done away with the reverence due to their parents; in short, they do not apologize in order to appear righteous and innocent, but solely in order to obtain forgiveness! Then Paul speaks of "wrath": the sinner is inwardly fierce against himself, reckons with himself, is angry with himself when he considers his wrongdoing and his ingratitude against God. By "fear" the apostle understands that trembling that enters our heart every time we realize what we have been guilty of and how terrible God’s severe wrath is against the sinner. For then a fearful agitation necessarily comes agonizingly over us: it educates us to humility and at the same time makes us more cautious for the time to come. Thus again from fear arises "diligence," the apprehension of which we spoke above; there we notice how closely all these stirrings are connected with each other. By "desire" the apostle seems to me to mean the eager fulfillment of the duties incumbent upon us and the joyful readiness to obey, to which, after all, the knowledge of our transgressions must stimulate us most. Here also belongs the "zeal", which Paul calls immediately afterwards. It means a fiery earnestness that ignites us when the question arises in us like thorns: What have I done? Where would I have sunk to if God’s mercy had not come to my aid? In the end, the "revenge" appears. Indeed, the more severe we are against ourselves and the more sharply we punish our sin against us, the more we may hope to have a gracious and merciful God. If our soul is really frightened by the terror of God’s judgment, it cannot help but also take "revenge" on its part by inflicting punishment on itself. The pious truly know themselves what punishments are shame, inner shock, sighing, self-condemnation, and all the other emotions that come from serious consideration of sin. Let us remember, however, that moderation is necessary, lest sadness devour us altogether; for nothing is closer to a frightened conscience than to sink into despair. This is one of the arts that Satan uses when he sees a man lying on the ground for the sake of God’s fear: he makes him sink deeper and deeper into the maw of sadness, so that he will never rise again. Certainly, the fear that leads us to humility and that does not depart from the hope of forgiveness can never be too great. But we should be careful, according to the apostle’s instruction, that the sinner who is tormented and displeases himself, is not weighed down by too much fear and "grows weary and faint" (Hebr 12:3). For in this way we would flee from God, who calls us to Himself through repentance! Very fruitful in this regard is the exhortation that Bernard of Clairvaux gives us: "The sorrow for sin is necessary, provided it does not last without ceasing. Therefore, I advise you to leave aside at times the painful and painful memory of your ways and to direct your steps to the wide plain of joyful contemplation of God’s good deeds! Let us mix honey with wormwood, so that its wholesome bitterness, when mixed with sweetness and thus mellowed, may really be able to give us salvation! And when you think about yourselves in humility, think at the same time also about the Lord according to His goodness!"

III,3,16 Now we can also understand what fruits repentance produces: it is the works of piety toward God, of love toward men, which we are commanded to do, and it is, moreover, holiness and purity in our whole life. The more zealous a person is in examining his life according to the rule of God’s law, the more certain signs of repentance he shows. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit exhorts us to repentance, he points out to us the individual commandments of the Law and the duties of the second table. In other places, of course, he also does it in such a way that he first condemns the impurity at the bottom of the heart itself, but then also gives us external signs by which the sincerity of our repentance is to become clear. I will soon present a picture of this to the reader when I come to the description of the Christian life. I do not want to list here all the testimonies from the prophets, in which they partly mock the folly of trying to propitiate God with ceremonies, and show that this is nothing but buffoonery, and partly also make it clear that the outward purity of life is not the main part of repentance, because God looks at the heart. Anyone who is even somewhat versed in the Scriptures will recognize without outside instruction: where we are dealing with God, something will only be done if we begin with the innermost stirrings of the heart. There is a passage in Joel that can help us to understand other passages: "Rend your hearts and not your garments! (Joel 2:13). Both are also briefly expressed in the words of James: "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts chaste, you fickle ones". (Jas. 4:8). What is shown to us here in the first link is essentially a resulting consequence; but the source and origin then meets us in the second link: the hidden impurity is to be put away, so that an altar may be erected to God in the heart itself. But there are also certain external exercises, which are meant to serve us, each for itself, as a means to humble ourselves or to tame our flesh, and which, on the other hand, have the public purpose of testifying to repentance (2Cor 7:11). But these outward exercises flow from that "vengeance" of which Paul speaks (2Cor 7:11); for it is proper to a fearful spirit to walk in sorrow, to live with sighs and tears, to shun all splendor, all pomp, and to renounce all pleasures. Yes, he who knows how great an evil the unruliness of our flesh is, seeks all means to keep it in check. And he who rightly considers how bad it is to have violated God’s justice cannot rest until he has humbly given glory to God. Such exercises are often mentioned by the ancient church writers when they speak of the fruits of repentance. They do not, of course, base the power of repentance on these exercises; but the reader need not blame me if I say what I think: those ancients certainly seem to me to lay more stress on these things than is right. If one considers it correctly, one will agree with me, I hope, that they have gone beyond the right measure in two respects. In the first place, by emphasizing the bodily exercise so strongly and praising it so highly, they achieved that the people really accepted it with great zeal, but in so doing they obscure, as it were, that which must be of far greater importance. Secondly, in their demand for outward mortifications they proceeded, after all, more sharply than the meekness of the church permits. This must be dealt with elsewhere.

III,3,17 Now there are really people who, from the fact that they hear weeping and fasting and (sitting in) ashes mentioned in several places of Scripture, especially in Joel (2,12), immediately proceed to see in fasting and weeping the most essential part of repentance. This is a delusion that I must correct here. When we are told to turn to the Lord with all our heart, when we hear that we are not to rend our garments but our hearts, this constitutes the very essence of repentance. But weeping and fasting are not added as constant and necessary effects of repentance, but they arise under special circumstances. Joel had prophesied that the Jews were threatened with the most terrible destruction, and he now advised them to anticipate the wrath of God, not only by repentance, but also by open testimony of their sorrow. Just as a defendant with unshorn beard, with unkempt hair, in dark mourning robes, is accustomed to humble himself in order to obtain mercy from his judge, so also the Jews, who were brought before God’s court as defendants, should ask God in such miserable garments to refrain from His severity. Now, of course, sackcloth and ashes were more appropriate for that time; weeping and fasting, on the other hand, would certainly be a very appropriate custom for us as well, as often as the Lord seems to threaten us with misfortune or distress. For when he lets a danger show itself, then he lets us know with it that he prepares himself for the punishment and arms himself as it were. The prophet has now announced to his own shortly before that a strict investigation would occur over their outrages; if he now admonishes them to weeping and fasting, that is, to the sadness of the accused, he does quite right in this. Even today, if the shepherds of the church saw that disaster was threatening their own heads, they would by no means do wrong if they called upon them to hasten to fast and weep; only they would always have to insist with even greater zeal and even more earnest effort on the main thing, namely, that it is the hearts that must be torn and not the clothes. There is no doubt that penance does not always include fasting, but that this is intended for special times of need. Christ therefore gives it its place next to sadness: he absolves the apostles from the obligation to fast until they have lost his presence and are thus orphaned and must live in sadness (Mt 9:15). However, I am talking about public fasting. For the life of the pious should be so mixed with sobriety and moderation that in its whole course a certain fasting continually comes to light. But since this whole matter will come up again in the treatment of ecclesiastical discipline, I will only touch on it briefly here.

III,3,18 But I want to add this: if the term "repentance" is transferred to the outward confession (of sin), it is given an inauthentic meaning and bent from the original meaning I have explained above. For then it is not precisely a matter of conversion to God, but rather a confession of guilt and a request for the remission of punishment and guilt. If we repent in sackcloth and ashes, it means nothing else than that we testify that we are displeased with ourselves when God is angry with us because of our grave misdeeds (Mt 11:21; Lk 10:13). This is a public confession in which we condemn ourselves before the angels and before the world and thus anticipate God’s judgment. This is how Paul expresses it, punishing the slothfulness of such people who please themselves in their sins: "For if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged" (1Cor 11:31). But it is not always necessary that we publicly make people confidants and witnesses of our repentance; on the contrary, it is a piece of true repentance, which must not be lacking under any circumstances, that we confess (our sin) to God in particular. For it would be utterly absurd for God to forgive us sins in which we flatter ourselves and which we hypocritically conceal, lest He bring them to light. Nor should we merely confess our daily committed sins, but a more serious case should lead us on and bring to our remembrance things that seemed long buried. This is the example David gives us. He is inwardly affected by the shame of his last outrage, and there he drives his self-examination back to his mother’s womb, and he acknowledges that he was already then corrupt and stained by the uncleanness of the flesh (Ps 51:7). He does not do this in order to mitigate his guilt - as many do, who hide themselves in the heap of sinners, entangle others with them in the same guilt and thus seek to attain impunity. David is completely different: in his sincerity he makes his guilt even greater, because he, corrupted since his earliest childhood, has not ceased to heap evil upon evil. In another place, too, he exercises such scrutiny of his past life by imploring God’s mercy for the sins of his youth (Ps 25:7). It is also certain that only then do we prove that all indifference has been exorcised from us, when we weep for our evil works and ask God for deliverance from the burden under which we groan. It should also be noted that the repentance which God instructs us to practice at all times is something different from that which, as it were, awakens from death people who have sinned most shamefully, given themselves over to sin in unbridled wantonness, or thrown off God’s yoke in some sort of apostasy. Indeed, when Scripture exhorts to repentance, it often speaks of it, as it were, as the transition or resurrection from death to life; and when it reports that the people have repented, it understands by this that they have been converted from idolatry and other gross iniquities. For this reason Paul also announces sorrow to sinners "who have not repented of uncleanness and fornication and immorality …" (2Cor 12:21). This distinction (between the general obligation to repent and the call to repentance to individual sinners) must be carefully observed, lest, when we hear that individuals are called to repentance, we sink into casual security - as if the mortification of the flesh were no longer our concern. No, we cannot leave aside the concern for this mortification of the flesh: the evil desires that continually tickle us and the vices that always strike out prevent us from doing so. The special penance (specialis poenitentia) required only of individuals whom the devil has torn away from the fear of God and smitten into corruptible fetters, does not therefore abrogate the ordinary (ordinaria poenitentia) in which we must labor all our lives for the sake of the corruption of our nature.

III,3,19 If it is true - and surely this is quite clear! If it is true - and this is quite clear! - that the whole Gospel essentially consists of two parts, namely repentance and forgiveness of sins, then we must also see quite clearly that the Lord justifies His own by grace precisely for this purpose, that He at the same time, through the sanctification of His Spirit, conforms them to true righteousness. John, the messenger who was sent before the face of Christ to prepare His ways (Mt 11:10), preached: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand:" (Mt 3:2). When he called for repentance, he was exhorting men to recognize that they were sinners and that all their being and doing was condemned in the sight of the Lord, so that they might desire with all their hearts the mortification of their flesh and the new birth in the Spirit. But when he announced the kingdom of God at the same time, he called the people to faith with it; for by the kingdom of God, which according to his teaching had "come near," he understood the forgiveness of sins, salvation, life and in general everything that we gain in Christ; therefore we also read in the other evangelists: "John came and preached the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). But what does this mean other than that men, weighed down and weary under the burden of their sins, should turn to the Lord and gain the hope of forgiveness and salvation? This is also how Christ began his discourses: "The kingdom of God has come. Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). With this he first declares that in him the treasuries of God’s mercy are opened, then he calls for repentance, and then finally for confident trust in God’s promises. So, if he wanted to summarize briefly the whole content of the Gospel, he said, "So Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead … and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name …" (Lk 24:46, 47). This is also what the apostles proclaimed after Christ’s resurrection: Christ is "exalted by God … to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel" (Acts 5:31). The proclamation of repentance in the name of Christ occurs when men hear through the teaching of the gospel that all their thoughts, their impulses, their intentions are corrupt and sinful, and that therefore they must necessarily be born again if they are to enter God’s kingdom. The proclamation of forgiveness of sins occurs when man is taught that Christ is "made unto us" unto salvation, righteousness, salvation, and life (1Cor 1:30, but not exact quote), that we stand righteous and innocent before God’s eye in His name by grace. This twofold grace is apprehended in faith, as I have stated elsewhere; but since faith in the proper sense is attached to God’s goodness, out of which we receive forgiveness of sins, it was necessary to distinguish it carefully from repentance.

III,3,20 Now the hatred of sin, which is the beginning of repentance, opens the first entrance to the knowledge of Christ; Christ reveals Himself only to miserable, afflicted sinners who groan, who labor, who are burdened, who hunger and thirst, who lie down in pain and sorrow (Isa 61:1; Mt 11:5; Lk 4:18). But if this is the case, then we must reach out for this repentance, practice it throughout our lives, and persevere in it until the end, if we want to remain in Christ. For he came to call sinners - but to repentance! (Mt 9:13). He has come to bless the unworthy - but to "cause every man to repent of his wickedness!" (Acts 3:26; 5:31). Scripture is full of sayings of this kind. Wherever God offers forgiveness of sins, he always demands repentance at the same time. He thereby indicates that his mercy should be the cause of repentance for man. Thus he says: "Keep justice and do righteousness; for my salvation is near …" (Isa 56:1). Or: "A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from sins in Jacob …" (Isa 59:20). Or also: "Seek the Lord as long as he can be found, call upon him as long as he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the transgressor his thoughts, and turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him…" (Isa 55,6. 7). Or finally, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out!" (Acts 3:19). It should be noted, however, that the addition of this condition does not mean that our repentance is the basis on which we can earn forgiveness. No, the Lord has just decided to have mercy on people so that they will repent of their sin, and in that condition he shows them the direction they must take if they want to obtain mercy. As long as we have our dwelling place in the prison of our body, we are constantly at odds with the vices of our corrupt nature, indeed with our whole natural sense. Plato says occasionally - among others especially in many places in the "Phaidon" - that the whole life of a philosopher consists in the concern of death. Even more correctly, we can say that the life of a Christian man is a constant, assiduous exercise in putting the flesh to death until it has died completely and the Spirit of God has gained dominion in us. I am convinced, therefore, that the most advanced is the one who has learned best to dislike himself - not, of course, in order to remain stuck in this mire and make no further progress, but rather in order to hasten toward God, to groan to him, so that he, as a man who is immersed in Christ’s death and life, may direct all his efforts toward constant repentance. It cannot be otherwise with a man who is really seized with genuine hatred for sin. For no man has ever hated sin without first being seized by the love of righteousness. This view was the simplest and it seemed to me to be the most consistent with the truth of the Scriptures.

III,3,21 That, furthermore, repentance is a unique gift of God has, in my opinion, become so clear from the previous exposition that a longer discussion is not necessary again. Therefore, the church praises and admires God’s gift of grace that He "also gave repentance to the Gentiles" for salvation (Acts 11:18). And Paul commands Timothy to be patient and gentle with unbelievers, saying, "Whether God will one day give them repentance … and they would sober up from the snare of the devil …" (2Tim 2:25f.). Certainly God states that he wants the conversion of all men, and he sends his exhortations indiscriminately to all; but that they have an effect depends on the spirit of regeneration. It would be easier for us to create a human being than to adopt a better nature by our own efforts. Therefore, with regard to the whole event of rebirth, we are also rightly called "God’s work, created … for good works, for which he prepared us beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Whom God wants to snatch out of destruction, he makes alive through the Spirit of regeneration. This does not mean that repentance in the proper sense is the cause of our salvation; no, it is because, as we have already seen, it cannot be separated from the faith and mercy of God; as Isaiah also testifies: "… A Redeemer shall come to Zion, and to them that turn from their sins in Jacob …" (Isa 59,20). It is certain: Everywhere, where the fear of God goes in the swing, there the Holy Spirit has been effective for the salvation of man. Therefore, in Isaiah, the believers who complain and lament that God has abandoned them take it as a sign of their rejection that God has hardened their hearts (Isa 63:17). And also the apostle, who wants to exclude the apostates from the hope of salvation, adds as a reason: "It is impossible" to renew them "again to repentance" (Hebr 6:4, 6). When God renews those whom he does not want to perish, he gives a sign of his paternal favor and draws them to himself with the rays of his bright and friendly face; on the other hand, however, he strikes the rejected, whose ungodly nature is unforgivable, with the weather beam of hardening. The apostle announces this kind of retribution to those who willfully fall away, who depart from the faith in the gospel and in this way play their game with God, contemptuously reject His grace and consider Christ’s blood unclean and trample it underfoot, (Hebr 10:26-31) yes, as much as there is in them, "crucify the Son of God again" (Hebr 6,6). By this he does not cut off the hope of forgiveness to all wanton sins, as some people think, who are harsh in a perverse way. No, he teaches that apostasy deserves no excuse whatsoever, and that it is therefore not surprising that God should avenge with unrelenting severity such blasphemous contempt of his majesty. He says: "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the gracious word of God and the powers of the world to come, - where they fall away, to be renewed again to repentance, as those … crucify the Son of God again and hold him up to ridicule" (Hebr 6:4-6). Likewise, elsewhere he says, "For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, we have no more sacrifice for sins, but a dreadful waiting of judgment …" (Hebr 10:26 ss.). These are also the passages from whose wrong understanding the Novatians came to their nonsense in former times. On the other hand, there were pious men who were offended by the harshness of these statements and who from there came to the opinion that the Letter to the Hebrews was spurious - although it really does show the apostolic spirit in every respect. But we have to argue here only with such people who accept this letter; but there it is easy to show how the given sayings contribute nothing at all to the support of their error. First of all, the apostle must necessarily agree with his Master, who assures that every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Spirit, which will neither be forgiven in this world nor in the one to come (Mt 12:31 f.; Mar 3:28 f.; Lk 12:10). The apostle was certainly content with this single exception - unless we wanted to make him an opponent of the grace of Christ! From this it follows that no single sin is denied forgiveness, with the exception of the only one that comes from hopeless frenzy and cannot be attributed to weakness, and which clearly reveals that the person in question is possessed by the devil.

III,3,22 But in order to develop this in more detail, we must ask what that terrible iniquity is which is not to find forgiveness. Augustine occasionally understands by it the obstinate stubbornness that a man maintains until his death, and at the same time the complete lack of trust in forgiveness. But this view does not fit enough with the words of Christ. Christ says that this sin would not be forgiven "in this world". If this is not to be without meaning, then this sin must be able to be committed in this life. If, on the other hand, Augustine’s view is correct, this sin can only be done completely if man persists in it until his death. Others say that the sin against the Holy Spirit consists in envying a brother for the grace he has received, but I cannot see where this view comes from. However, I want to put a correct interpretation here; if I have substantiated this with reliable scriptural testimonies, then the others all take care of themselves. So I understand it as follows: He sins against the Holy Spirit who is so struck by the splendor of divine truth that he can no longer excuse himself with ignorance - and who then nevertheless opposes this truth in deliberate malice, and that solely in order to resist it. Christ himself wants to explain what he has said and therefore adds: "Whoever speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven …" (Mt 12,32; Mar 3,29; Lk 12,10). Matthew uses "spirit of blasphemy" for blasphemy of the spirit. But how can someone blaspheme the Son without also blaspheming the Holy Spirit? This is undoubtedly the case when someone does not yet know God’s truth and is ignorantly offended by it, when someone blasphemes Christ ignorantly, but at the same time is of such a mind that he would not want to extinguish God’s truth if it were revealed to him, and that he would not want to offend the one whom he recognized as the Lord’s Christ even with a single word; whoever is in such a position sins against the Father and against the Son. There are many such people today: they curse the teaching of the gospel in the most shameful way - and yet they would be willing to uphold it with all their heart if they realized that it was the teaching of the gospel. But whoever is convinced in his conscience that it is God’s word, which he rejects and fights against, and who nevertheless does not cease to deny it, of him it is said: he blasphemes against the Holy Spirit; for he fights against the enlightenment, which is nevertheless the work of the Holy Spirit. There were some such people among the Jews: they were not able to resist the Spirit who spoke through Stephen - and yet they resisted on purpose! (Acts 6:10). Now there is no doubt that many of them were carried away by zeal for the Law; but evidently there were also those among them who raged in wicked impiety against God Himself, that is, against the doctrine which they well knew to be of God. The Pharisees themselves, against whom the Lord speaks so sharply, were of the same kind: in order to destroy the power of the Holy Spirit, they slanderously called them by the name of Beelzebub (Mt 9,34; 12,24). So there is the "spirit of blasphemy" at work, where the presumption of man is carried away with full intention to blaspheme the name of God. This is also indicated by Paul: he says that "mercy befell him" because he did what would otherwise have made him unworthy of the Lord’s grace "ignorantly" and "in unbelief" (1Tim 1:13). Therefore, if ignorance stood next to unbelief, this caused Paul to be forgiven; but it follows that if knowledge is added to unbelief, there is no more room for forgiveness.

III,3,23 If you look closely, you will notice that the apostle (in the letter to the Hebrews) does not speak of a single case or two, but of the general apostasy in which the rejected reject salvation. These are people of whom John declares in his first letter that they went out from the elect without being of them (1Jn 2:19). That they now find God unforgiving is not surprising. For the apostle turns against those who imagined that they could find their way back to the Christian religion even if they had once fallen away from it. He calls these people back from their wrong, dangerous opinion and tells them what is also truth to the highest degree: Whoever has thrown Christ’s fellowship away from him with knowledge and will, no way back to it is open to him. Now this does not simply apply to such people who transgress the Word of God in the unrighteous wantonness of their lives, but to those who reject the whole teaching of the Word with full intention. The words "falling away" and "sinning" (Hebr 6:6; 10:26) have thus been misunderstood; the Novatians understand by "falling away" the following: someone has received the teaching from the law of the Lord that he should not steal and not commit adultery - and yet he does not refrain from theft and adultery. I claim against it: in the word "falling away" (in Hebr 6,6) a tacit contradiction is included; in it everything is taken up again, which stands in contrast to what was said before (Hebr 6,4f.) (i.e.: falling away is the no to all the gifts, which the believer has received according to Hebr 6,4f.). So we are not talking about any particular act of iniquity, but about the general turning away from God and the apostasy of the whole man, when the apostle speaks of the apostasy of such men, "who once were enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" (Hebr 6:4f.), we are to understand by this people who have extinguished the light of the Spirit in conscious ungodliness, have despised the tasting of the heavenly gift, have alienated themselves from the sanctification of the Spirit, and have trampled underfoot the Word of God and the powers of the world to come. In order to express this clear awareness of such ungodly nature even more clearly, he later adds the word "willfully" (Hebr 10:26) in the other place. He says: "If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, we have no other sacrifice for sins" (Hebr 10:26). He does not deny that Christ is a constant sacrifice to atone for the sins of the saints - in fact, throughout his epistle he discusses the state of Christ’s priesthood, and there he expresses this fact in great detail! But here he says that if one has departed from this sacrifice, there is none left. But such deviation from the sacrifice of Christ happens when one denies the truth of the gospel with full intention..

III,3,24 Now some people think that it is too harsh and totally foreign to the kindness of God that people who take refuge in invoking God’s mercy should be totally excluded from all forgiveness. But this can easily be clarified. The apostle does not claim that these people would be denied forgiveness if they were to turn to the Lord, but he denies that they could repent at all: they are already struck with eternal blindness by God’s righteous judgment because of their ingratitude. It does not stand in the way of this that the apostle later uses the example of Esau, who with tears and lamentations tried in vain to regain the lost birthright. Nor is this contradicted by the prophet’s threatening words: "Neither would I listen when they cried out…" (Zech 7:13). For such expressions do not describe the true conversion or the true invocation of God, but rather the fear of the wicked, in which they, entangled in extreme distress, are forced to look at what they had previously so surely rejected, namely precisely this, that they can only and solely receive something good in the help of the Lord. However, they do not actually call upon this help of the Lord, but they sigh over the fact that it is withdrawn from them. When the prophet speaks of "calling" (Zech 7,13) and the apostle of "tears" (Hebr 12,17), they both mean the same thing: this nameless misery that the wicked feel out of their despair and that burns and torments them. We should keep the latter in mind very carefully, because otherwise God would contradict Himself: He has said through the prophet that as soon as the wicked repent, He will be merciful to him (Eze 18:21 ss.). It is also certain, as I have already explained, that the mind of man is changed for the better only because God’s grace has preceded him. God’s promise will never be false with regard to the appeal either; but this blind agony that tears the rejected apart can only be called a conversion or an appeal to God, this agony that arises from the fact that they see that they must seek God in order to find a cure for their needs - and yet they flee access to Him!

III,3,25 If the apostle denies that God can be reconciled through feigned repentance, the question arises why Ahab obtained forgiveness and turned away the punishment threatened to him (1Ki 21:28 f.). From the further course of his life it is quite clear that he was only shaken by sudden fear. Certainly, he put on sackcloth, he sprinkled himself with ashes, he sat down on the ground (1Ki 21:27) and, as he testified, he humbled himself before God - but it was a small thing to tear one’s clothes if one’s heart remained hardened and swollen with malice! Nevertheless, we see that God can be moved to goodness. I answer this question in this way: sometimes the hypocrites do indeed experience such kindness for a time, but in such a way that God’s wrath rests on them continually; and this does not happen for their own sake, but as a public example. What benefit did Ahab himself derive from the fact that his punishment was mitigated? Only that he did not feel it as long as he lived on earth! Thus God’s curse, though hidden, had its permanent home in his house, but he himself went to eternal destruction. The same is to be noted for Esau: he had to put up with a rejection, but on his tears a temporal blessing was granted to him (Gen 27,40; Calvin mentions Gen 27,18f.). But according to God’s word of revelation, the spiritual inheritance could only rest with one of the brothers; so if Esau was passed over and Jacob was chosen, this rejection excluded God’s mercy; only this one consolation remained for him as a carnally minded man, that he should feast on the "fatness of the earth" and the "dew of heaven" (confusion with the blessing given to Jacob Gen 27:28). Here we can also understand what it means when I said above that this must serve as an example for other people: we are to learn to direct our thoughts and aspirations all the more eagerly toward doing righteous repentance; for there is no doubt that God is gladly willing to forgive those who truly and wholeheartedly turn to Him: His goodness is also bestowed upon the completely unworthy, if they only show a little that they displease themselves. But the same example also teaches us what a terrible judgment all obstinate people have to expect, who consider it a mere game to spurn God’s threats with shameless insolence and an iron heart and to regard them as nothing. In this way, God often reached out to the children of Israel to put an end to their distress, even though their cries were hypocritical and their minds were divided and unfaithful, as he also complains in a psalm that they soon turned back to their former way of life (Ps 7S,36 ss. 57). By such kindness he wanted to lead them to serious conversion - or to make them inexcusable. For even if he relaxes the punishment for a while, he does not impose a permanent law on himself; no, he only turns at times with greater severity against the hypocrites and doubles the punishments, so that it becomes clear how much hypocrisy is repugnant to him. But, as I said, he also shows certain examples of his kindly inclination to forgiveness; by this means the pious are to be encouraged to amend their lives, and at the same time the arrogance of those is to be condemned all the more sharply who in their stubbornness tempt against the sting.

Fourth chapter


Everything that the clever ones in their schools talk up about repentance is very far from the purity of the gospel. Here we must also speak of confession and satisfaction.

III,4,1 Now I come to subject the doctrine of the clever ones, the scholastics, of penance to a closer examination. I will be as brief as possible, because I do not intend to go through everything, so that this book, which I would like to set up as a summarizing textbook, does not grow out of proportion. The scholastics have wrapped up this circle of questions, although it is in itself by no means entangled, in so many volumes that one cannot easily get out of it if one enters even a little into their muck. First of all: in their attempt to describe the atonement, they show with full clarity that they have never and never understood what is to be understood by it at all. They use some sayings from the books of the ancient Doctors of the Church - which do not express the power of repentance at all. For example: To do penance means to weep for past sins and not to commit such things as one would once have to weep for (this first paraphrase is found in Gregory I and is communicated in Peter Lombardus, Sentences IV,14,1). Or one uses the sentence: To do penance means: to lament the past evil works and again not to commit such things, which are to be lamented. (This second sentence is found in [Pseudo-]Ambrose and is used in Petrus Lombardus, Sentences IV,14,1 and in Decretum Gratiani II, On Penance 3,1). Or one uses as a third sentence: penance is, as it were, a painful revenge, in which man punishes in himself what he has committed to his own pain. (Derives from [Pseudo] Augustine, Of True and False Penance, 8,22 and is recorded in Decretum Gratiani II, of Penance 3,4). Fourth, one refers to the explanation: repentance is a pain in the heart and a bitterness in the soul for the sake of the evil works that one has committed or consented to. (From [Pseudo-]Ambrose, used in Decretum Gratiani II, of Penance,1,39). Now we will admit that these declarations are quite well pronounced by the Fathers of the Church-although a quarrelsome person could easily deny this too! But these sentences did not have the purpose to define repentance, but the church fathers only wanted to admonish their own not to fall again into the evil deeds from which they were torn! If one wanted to transform all sayings of this kind into definitions, one would have to add others with the same right. Thus Chrysostom says (Homily on Penance 7:1), "Penance is a medicine which blots out sin, a gift given us from heaven, a miraculous power; it is a grace which overcomes the power of laws." Now we must further remark that the doctrine which the scholastics attach to those quotations from the Church Fathers is much more evil than those (alleged) definitions themselves. They have become so absorbed in external exercises that nothing else can be gleaned from their immense volumes than this: repentance is discipline and hard exercise, which serves partly to tame the flesh and partly to punish the vices with chastisement. About the inner renewal of the mind, which brings with it the true improvement of life, there is a strange silence! They talk a great deal about contrition and dejection; they torment the soul with many doubts and cause much trouble and fear; but when they have given the impression that they have wounded the heart deeply, they easily sprinkle it with their ceremonies, and all the bitterness is healed. Having defined penance so astutely, they divide it into contritio cordis (contrition of the heart), confession with the mouth (confessio oris) and satisfaction with works (satisfactio operis) (Sentences IV,16,1, Decretum Gratiani II, of Penance 1,40). But this division is just as intellectually in order as the definition given before. And yet they want to give the impression as if they had spent their whole lives drawing conclusions! But now someone could go and draw conclusions from their definition of the term - after all, one must do it according to the method recognized by the dialecticians! He could say that it is possible for a man to weep over his past sins and not to commit such deeds as are to be wept over, to lament over his past evil works and not to commit such deeds as are to be lamented, to punish such sins as he feels pain over because he has committed them, and all this without confessing them with his mouth. What then do the scholastics want to do in order to maintain their classification? If this person in question can really repent without confessing with the mouth, there can obviously also be repentance without this "confession with the mouth"! Now they could answer that this division refers to repentance if it is a sacrament. Or they could also say that it must be understood as a description of repentance in its completed state - which they do not include at all with their description! But this does not result in any accusation against me: they must attribute it to themselves, because they do not define penance more purely and clearly! In any case, in my rough mind I refer everything to the given definition itself in every matter that is discussed; for it is the pivot and the basis of the whole discussion. But we want to let the scholastics get away with this magisterial freedom and now proceed to consider the individual pieces in order. In doing so, I will, of course, disregard some things as ungodly gossip, which they want to bring to the man with great pride as secrets. But I do not do this out of ignorance. It would really not be difficult for me to refute all those things of which they seem to speak shrewdly and profoundly. But I would be ashamed to tire the reader fruitlessly with such nonsense. That they are indeed prating about unknown things is easily seen from the questions they raise and negotiate, and into which they miserably confuse themselves. Thus they ask whether repentance of a single sin is pleasing to God if one remains stiff-necked in the others. Or: whether the punishments God sent us could be considered as satisfaction. Or: whether one could repeat the penance for mortal sins. In the last point, in their wickedness and impiety, they make the proposition that the daily penance refers only to the "venial" sins. With gross error they also torture themselves concerning Jerome’s statement that repentance is the second plank given to us after shipwreck (for salvation); there they show that they have never awakened from their mad delusion to feel even remotely the thousandth part of their sins.

III,4,2 But I would like the reader to pay attention to this: here we are not arguing about a donkey’s shadow, but about the very most serious thing there is, namely the forgiveness of sins. When the scholastics require three pieces for repentance, namely contrition of the heart, confession with the mouth, and satisfaction with the work, they thereby establish the doctrine that these pieces are also necessary for obtaining the forgiveness of sins! But if there is something in the whole religion which we must know absolutely, it is certainly necessary to recognize this and to hold it rightly, in what way, according to what kind of law, under what condition, how easily or how hard one can obtain forgiveness of sins. If this knowledge is not clear and certain, the conscience can never find peace, have no peace with God, no trust and no security, but it must always tremble and be inconstant, it lives in heat and tribulation, it is tormented and frightened, it hates the sight of God and flees from him. But if the forgiveness of sins depends on the conditions that the scholastics attach to it, there is nothing more miserable and desperate than us human beings. If a man wants to obtain forgiveness, the first thing that is prescribed for him is contritio (contrition), and this requires the "guilty" contritio, that is, genuine and complete. In the meantime, however, the scholastics do not give any information about when someone can be sure that he has made this contritio to the required extent. I am certainly convinced that one should earnestly and diligently insist that man bitterly weep over his sins and thereby strengthen himself in displeasure with them and in hatred of them. For this is a sorrow "which no man repenteth of," a sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation (2Cor 7:10). But where such bitter sorrow is required as to correspond to the greatness of the guilt, and where the confidence of forgiveness is to be weighed according to the bitterness of that sorrow - poor consciences are miserably martyred and afflicted: they see the "guilty" contrition of their sins imposed upon them, - but they do not attain to the measure required in such a way as to arrive at the judgment in themselves that they have now accomplished what they were guilty of. But if we are told to do only as much as we can, we always fall back into the same misery; for when will a man dare to assure himself that he has now devoted all his strength to lamenting the sin? If, then, conscience has long been at war with itself, if it has tormented itself in protracted strife, in the end it finds no harbor in which it can rest; no, in order to relieve itself at least in some part, it wrests the pain from itself and squeezes out tears to make its contrition complete!

III,4,3 But if it is said to me that I am making a false accusation against the scholastics, let them come and show me a single man whom the doctrine of such contrition has not either driven to despair - or who has not now brought to the judgment of God a feigned pain instead of the true one. I have also said in one place that the forgiveness of sins never happens to a person without repentance; for only frightened people, inwardly wounded by the consciousness of their sins, can implore God’s mercy in sincerity. But I immediately added that repentance is not the cause of the forgiveness of sins. In doing so, I have put an end to the torture of the soul that consisted in the demand that one must actually repent of one’s sins. According to our teaching, the sinner should not look at his contrition, nor at his tears, but he should fix both eyes solely on the mercy of the Lord. I have only reminded that Christ calls to Himself the "weary and burdened," that He came to "preach the gospel to the poor," to "heal the brokenhearted, to preach to the captives to be loosed…," that He came to set free those who are bound and to comfort those who mourn! (Mt 11:28; Isa 61:1 f.; Lk 4:18). This was to exclude the Pharisees, who are so full in their righteousness that they do not even notice their poverty, and the proud despisers, who feel safe from the wrath of God and do not seek a remedy for their wickedness. For these people are not weary and not burdened; they are neither crushed in heart, nor bound, nor imprisoned. But there is a great difference between teaching a man to earn forgiveness of sins by right and perfect repentance - which the sinner can never and never achieve! - or whether one teaches him to hunger and thirst for God’s mercy, in order to show him his thirst, his weariness, his bondage, and at the same time to show him where he should seek refreshment, rest and freedom, in short, to teach him to give God the glory in his humility!

III,4,4 The second piece is the confession. Now there has always been great strife between the ecclesiastical jurists and the scholastic theologians. The theologians claimed that confession is commanded to us by God’s commandment; the jurists denied this and claimed that it is commanded only by ecclesiastical statutes. In this dispute, the outrageous impudence of the theologians became apparent: all the scriptural passages they used to support their cause, they also twisted and distorted by force. But they saw that even in this way they could not carry through their wishes; and then some of them, who wanted to be considered particularly astute, fell for the way out, that confession, according to its very essence, had sprung from divine right, but that it had then received its form from humanly established right. So do the greatest fools among the jurists: they refer the judicial summons to the divine right, because it says: "Adam, where are you?" They also take the judicial responsibility of the accused from divine law, namely because Adam said in the manner of such responsibility, "The wife you gave me …" (Gen 3:9, 12). Thereby they further claim that the form of judicial summons and responsibility is given out of civil law! But let us now see what evidence the scholastics use to justify their claim that confession - whether without "figure" or in its "figure" - is God’s command. First (1.) they say: the Lord sent the lepers to the priests! (Mt 8,4; Lk 5,14; 17,14). Why - did he send them there for confession? Who ever heard it said that the Levitical priests were appointed to hear confessions? (Deut 17,8f.). Well, so one takes his recourse to the secret interpretation, to the allegory. One says: according to the law of Moses, it was the priests’ duty to distinguish between leprosy and leprosy (Lev 14,2f.); but sin is spiritual leprosy - so it is up to the priests to judge it! Before answering this, I ask in passing: if this passage of Scripture makes the priests judges of spiritual leprosy, why do they draw to themselves the determination of natural, fleshly leprosy? Admittedly, it is playing with Scripture to say: Scripture entrusts the Levitical priests with the determination of leprosy - that is something we must claim for ourselves! But sin is now spiritual leprosy - so we also want to be the ones who judge sin! Now I want to give my answer: If the priesthood is transferred to someone else, then necessarily the law given to him must also be transferred to someone else (Hebr 7,12: "Where the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed!") But now all priesthood is transferred to Christ, fulfilled in him and has come to its end. To him alone, therefore, has passed all right and honor of the priesthood. If the scholastics are so fond of allegories, let them set before their eyes this single priesthood of Christ, and heap upon his judgment seat the free judgment of all things; we shall then easily bear it. - Moreover, their allegory is also useless because it drags a purely political law over to the ceremonies. Why then does Christ send the lepers to the priests? Obviously, so that the priests could not reproach him for violating the law, since the law prescribed that he who had been cured of leprosy should present himself to the priest, offer his sacrifice, and thus be atoned for. Christ now tells the healed lepers to do what the law commanded. "Go and show yourselves to the priests, and offer the gift which Moses commanded in the law, for a testimony against them" (Mt 8:4 and parallels; but there everything is in the singular; further similar Lk 17:14). This miraculous sign should really become a testimony to the priests: they had declared these men to be lepers - and they now had to pronounce them healed. Did they not thereby become, whether they wanted to or not, witnesses of Christ’s miracles? Christ lets them examine his miracle, and they cannot deny it; but because they still turn away, this work is a testimony about them. So he also says in another place: "The gospel will be preached … in all the world, for a testimony to all nations …" (Mt 24,14). Likewise, "And you will be brought before princes and kings … for a testimony against them …" (Mt 10:18), that means: so that they will be convicted all the more in the judgment of God. If our opponents prefer to agree with Chrysostom, he also teaches that Christ did this for the sake of the Jews, so that he would not be considered a despiser of the law (Sermon on the Canaanite Woman, 9). Of course, I am reluctant to draw on the approving testimony of a human being in such a clear matter. Christ himself says that he leaves the priests their legal right untouched - and yet they were sworn enemies of the Gospel, always eager to raise their cries against it if their mouths were not shut! If, then, the papist sacrificial priests wish to preserve this possession of rights, let them also openly admit that they belong on the side of those who must be silenced by force, lest they revile Christ! For this is none of the business of Christ’s true servants!

III,4,5 (2.) The second piece of evidence the scholastics take from the same source: namely, allegory. As if allegories were worth much when it comes to substantiating a church doctrine! But let them be accepted - I could even prove that I can claim such allegories with greater brilliance than they themselves! So you say: the Lord instructed his disciples to untie Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, from his sheets and to let him go (John 11:44). Now there is already a lie in this: it is nowhere to be read that the Lord gave this order to his disciples, and it is also much more likely that he says this to the Jews who are standing by. In this way the miracle should be made even clearer and removed from any suspicion that it could be fraud; Christ’s power should shine even brighter, because after all he raised the dead without any touch, purely by his word! I really understand it like this: the Lord wanted to make every suspicion impossible for the Jews and therefore wanted them to roll away the stone themselves, to perceive the smell of decay, to notice the clear signs of death, to see for themselves how Lazarus rose by the power of the word alone and that they themselves were the first to touch the living one. This is also the opinion of Chrysostom. (It is actually in a writing falsely attributed to Chrysostom: Against Jews, Pagans and Heretics). But I will admit once, this word was really addressed to the disciples. But what advantage do the scholastics have from it? The Lord would have given the apostles the power to solve after that. How much more fitting and correct would these words be, in a secret interpretation, if we said: God wanted to instruct his faithful to absolve those whom he has raised from the dead; that means: they should not recall the sins which he has forgotten, they should not condemn again as sinners those whom he has absolved, they should not condemn what he has forgiven, they should not think harshly and severely of punishment, when he is merciful and gladly spares! Nothing can move us so much to forgiveness as the example of the judge who threatens that he will be unforgiving against those who act too harshly and inhumanly! - So, now let the scholastics go and try to bring their secret interpretations to the man!!

III,4,6 (3.) But now they come closer to us in the fight: namely, now they fight with scriptural testimonies which, in their opinion, are quite clear and distinct! They draw on the fact that the people who came to John’s baptism confessed their sins (Mt 3,6), and then the word of James: "Confess your sins one to another …" (Jas 5:16). Now it is not surprising if the people who wanted to be baptized confessed their sins. It is said before that John preached the baptism of repentance, that he baptized with water for repentance. Who should he have baptized other than those who confessed to be sinners? Baptism is the sign of forgiveness of sins - and who should be admitted to such sign but sinners who also confessed themselves as such? So they confessed their sins in order to be baptized. There is also a good reason when James gives the instruction that one should confess his sin to the other. But if the opponents had only paid attention to what immediately follows these words, they would have noticed that this passage also gives them little help. For James says, "Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another." He thus connects the mutual confession of sins with mutual intercession. So if one is to confess to the priests alone, one should also pray for them alone. But what would be the result if one were to draw the conclusion from James’ words that only the priests are able to confess? If he wants us to confess to one another, he is obviously addressing only those who are also able to listen to the confessions of others! He says: "one to another", that is, mutually, one to another, each to the other, or for my sake: reciprocally! But such mutual confession can be practiced only by those who are also able to hear confession! But if this prerogative belongs to the priests alone, let us also leave the task of confession to them alone! But now let us leave aside such antics and hear what the apostle really means. It is very simple and clear: we are to entrust our weaknesses to one another in order to receive mutual counsel, mutual compassion and mutual comfort. Then, knowing one another’s weaknesses, we are to pray to the Lord for them. What is James being used against us for? We place so much emphasis on the confession of God’s mercy! But no man can "confess" God’s mercy who has not first "confessed" his sorrow! Yes, we freely say, let him be accursed who does not confess himself a sinner before God, before His angels, before the Church, yes, before all men! For the Lord "has decided all things under sin" (Gal 3,22), "so that all mouths may be stopped and all flesh may be guilty to God" (Rom 3,19; not quite Luther text), but He Himself alone may be justified and exalted!

III,4,7 But I am amazed at the boldness with which they dare to claim that the confession they speak of is divine legislation (iuris divini). I admit, however, that it has been in practice since very ancient times. But I can very easily prove that this practice was free in former times. In any case, according to the report of their own chronicles, with regard to confession, no law or statute was established before the time of Pope Innocent III, - and that was the one hundred and eighty-third pope! If the papists had had an older law, they would certainly have claimed this for themselves and would not have been satisfied with the statutes of the Lateran Council (of 1215), thus making themselves ridiculous even among children. In other matters, however, they have unabashedly concocted forged resolutions which they have attributed to the oldest councils in order to blind the eyes of simple-minded people by the venerable age alone. In this piece, however, it did not occur to them to perpetrate such fraud. So, according to their own testimony, three hundred years have not yet passed since Innocent III threw this rope around people’s necks and confession was imposed on them as a necessity. But even if I remain silent about the time, the barbarity of the words alone makes that (confession) law implausible. The good fathers order that every man "of both sexes" (utriusque sexus) should confess all his sins to his own priest once a year. Mocking people now wittily object that this commandment is binding only for hermaphrodites (because of the wording "utriusque sexus", of both sexes), but does not apply to any human being who is only man or woman! An even greater folly has now appeared among the disciples of those men: they cannot explain what the "own priest" should mean! But whatever the hired tongue-thrashers of the pope may shout together, we hold to the fact that Christ is not the author of the law which compels men to enumerate their sins, nay, that twelve hundred years have passed since the resurrection of Christ before such a law was ever established. We hold that this tyranny arose only when piety and pure doctrine had been extinguished, and the false shepherds had already taken all sorts of liberties without deliberation. But there are also clear testimonies in the ecclesiastical history books, as in the other writers of the early Church, which teach us that this was a matter of civil discipline established by the bishops, but not of a law given by Christ and the apostles. I will cite only one out of many that will be a bright proof of this. Sozomenus (the church historian) reports that this order of bishops was zealously kept in the churches of the West, especially in the church at Rome (Ecclesiastical History 7:16; Historia tripartita 9:35). Thus he makes it clear that we are not dealing here with an institution in all the churches. However, he goes on to explain that one of the priests was specially designated to administer this office (namely, hearing confessions). In this way, he clearly refutes the lie of the scholastics about the key power that should have been given to the whole priesthood without distinction to that exercise (confession); because the official task of hearing confessions did not belong to all priests in general, but was the special matter of one individual whom the bishop had chosen for it. This is the priest who is still called "confessor" in the episcopal churches: the man who has the investigation of grave outrages and of such things in which the punishment is to serve as an example. Then Sozomenus remarks that the custom of confession existed also in Constantinople, until a woman was caught committing fornication with the deacon appointed for this purpose, under the pretense of wanting to confess. In view of these outrages, Nectarius, the bishop of this church, a man highly famous for his holy conduct and education, abolished the practice of confession. Here, here now the donkeys shall prick up their ears! If the confession of the ears were a law of God, how could Nectarius have dared to abolish it? Do we want to accuse a man like Nectarius, a holy man of God, recognized by the testimony of all the Fathers of the Church, of heresy and schism? But then one must pass the same condemnatory sentence on the Church of Constantinople, for, according to the assertion of Sozomenus, the latter not only abolished the custom of confession for a time, but even allowed it to depart altogether until his own time. Yes, not only the Church of Constantinople, but all the churches of the East in general must be put on trial for apostasy, because they have violated - if the scholastics are right! - inviolable law, which is supposed to be imposed on all Christians!

III,4,8 This abolition of confession is clearly testified by Chrysostom, who was also bishop of the Church of Constantinople, in so many places that one has to wonder why the papists still dare to murmur against it. He says: "Speak out your sins to cancel them; but if you are ashamed to tell a man what you have sinned, speak it out all the days in your soul! I do not say that you should confess to your fellow servant, who may reproach you; no, tell your sins to God, who heals them! Confess your sin on your bed, so that your conscience may recognize its evil deeds there every day" (Pseudo-Chrysostom, Homily on Ps 50). Likewise, "Now it is not necessary that you confess your sin in the presence of witnesses; in your own knowledge the investigation of your transgressions shall proceed, and this judgment shall be without witnesses; God alone shall see how you confess" (Pseudo-Chrysostom, Homily on Penance and Confession). Or he says: "I do not want to lead you into the show house, before your fellow servants; I do not force you to expose your sin to men: examine your conscience before God and spread it out before him! Show your wounds to the Lord, the most glorious of all physicians, and ask him for medicine; show them to him who does not reproach you, but heals you most kindly. (Chrysostom, On God’s Incomprehensible Being 5:7). Or also: "Truly do not tell a man, lest he rebuke you; nor confess to your fellow servant, who may bear your confession in public, but show your wounds to the Lord: he cares for you, he is kind, and he is a physician!" Soon after, he lets God speak thus, "I compel thee not to enter into the midst of the show-house, and to draw in many men as witnesses; tell me all alone, without others, thy sin, that I may heal thy sore:" (Sermon on Lazarus, IV,4). Shall we now say that Chrysostom, in writing this and the like, is so presumptuous as to release the conscience of men from bonds in which it would be entangled according to God’s law? Certainly not; no, he knows that these are not at all regulations from God’s Word, and therefore he does not dare to demand such things as necessary!

III,4,9 But in order to make the whole matter clearer, I will first describe, to the best of my knowledge and conscience, what kind of confession has been handed down to us in the Word of God; then I will also refer to the poetries of the papists, not all of them - who would want to exhaust this unfathomable sea? It annoys me now to have to remind how often the old translator, where he read "praise" in the text, rendered this word with "confess, confess". Even the coarsest layman knows this. Only I have to mention it, because it is necessary to put into perspective the presumption of the papists, who interpret such passages dealing with the praise of God to their tyrannical commandment! In order to prove that confession helps the heart to become joyful, they use the words of the Ps in a violent distortion: "(I would gladly go with them to the house of God) with rejoicing and thanksgiving" (Ps 42:7; the word "thanksgiving" is rendered as "confession" in the Latin translation). But if such a transformation of meaning is to have validity, then in the end we can make everything out of everything! But they have just ceased to be ashamed, and by this the pious reader may recognize that God, in just retribution, has made them fall into a wrong sense, so that their presumption would be all the more abominable. If we want to stick to the plain teaching of the Scriptures, there is no danger that someone will beguile us with such empty pretenses. In Scripture, however, only one kind of confession is prescribed for us, namely this: Since the Lord alone forgives, forgets, and cancels sin, we should confess our sins to him in order to obtain forgiveness. He is the Physician; so we are to reveal our wounds to Him. He has been hurt and offended; so we are to ask for peace from Him. He is the Annunciator of hearts and knows all our thoughts; so we are to hasten to pour out our hearts to Him. And finally: he calls sinners; so we should not hesitate to go to him! Thus says David: "Therefore I confessed my sin unto thee, and hid not my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord. Then you forgave me the iniquity of my heart" (Ps 32:5; except for the last word Luther text). Or another confession, also by David: "God, be merciful to me … according to your great mercy!" (Ps 51:3). Or a confession of Daniel: "We have sinned, O Lord, we have done wrong, we have been ungodly, we have gone astray: we have departed from your commandments …. We have departed from your commandments" (Dan 9:5). Such words of confession occur again and again in Scripture, and it would probably fill a volume to reproduce them all. John says: "If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful … to forgive us our sins …" (1Jn 1:9). To whom shall we confess our sins? Undoubtedly to Him! And this happens when we prostrate ourselves before Him with a frightened and humbled heart, when we accuse and condemn ourselves before Him from the bottom of our hearts - and desire that He absolve us out of His goodness and mercy!

III,4,10 Whoever then has practiced this confession from the heart and before God, will also undoubtedly be ready to confess with the tongue, in order to praise God’s mercy before men as often as is necessary. And he will not just once speak the secret of his heart to a single person and just quietly say it in his ear, no, he will more often, he will publicly, when all the world hears it, honestly confess his own shame and God’s glory and honor. This is what David did: Nathan had punished him, and the sting of conscience had struck him; so he confessed his sin before God and before men, saying, "I have sinned against the Lord!" (2Sam 12:13). This means: I do not gloss over anything, nor do I seek excuses against the fact that all people now regard me as a sinner and that what I wanted to keep secret from the Lord is now even openly revealed before men! Thus, after the hidden confession to God, the voluntary confession to men follows, as often as it serves the glory of God or our own humiliation. For this reason, the Lord once instituted among the Israelites that the people confess their misdeeds publicly in the temple, with the priest’s audition (Lev 16:21). He foresaw that they would need this help, so that each individual would be better instructed to recognize himself correctly. It is also right and proper that by confessing our misery we glorify the goodness and mercy of our God among ourselves and before all the world.en.

III,4,11 This kind of confession should go on properly in the church. But it should also be practiced out of order in a special way when it happens that the people are involved in a common sin. For this second kind of confession of sin we have an example in that solemn confession which the whole people made at the suggestion and under the direction of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh 9:1 ss.). The long exile, the destruction of the city and the temple, the downfall of religion - all this was, after all, the punishment for the common apostasy of all; and therefore they could not duly acknowledge the benefit of the deliverance that had befallen them without first making themselves the accused. It is of no consequence if in an assembly a few are sometimes innocent; for they are members of a sick and infirm body, and therefore cannot claim to be healthy themselves. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise than that they too have contracted some defilement and are thus likewise complicit. Therefore, if pestilence or war or drought or any other affliction befalls us, it is our duty to take recourse to mourning and fasting and other signs of guilt, but confession of sin, on which everything else depends, must not be omitted under any circumstances. Even apart from this, no sensible person who properly considers its usefulness will dare to reject that proper confession which is suggested to us by the mouth of the Lord. After all, we place ourselves before the face of God and the angels in every holy meeting - but what else should be the beginning of our actions than the recognition of our unworthiness? But someone might say: this happens in every prayer, because when we ask for forgiveness, we are confessing our sins! I admit that. But if one considers how great is our security, our sleepiness, our indolence, then one will also admit to me that it is a salutary institution when the Christian people are exercised to humiliation by a solemnly ordered confession. The form of confession which the Lord enjoined upon the Israelites belongs, of course, to education under the law; but the matter itself also concerns us in a certain sense. We also actually perceive that in well-ordered churches with much fruit, the custom prevails for the minister to pronounce a formulated confession of sin in his and the people’s name on each Sunday, in which he accuses all of unrighteousness and asks the Lord for forgiveness. Finally, this is also the key that publicly opens the door to prayer for the individual alone and for all together.

III,4,12 Furthermore, Scripture approves two forms of individual confession (confessio privata). The first is for our own sake. This is the instruction of James, according to which we should confess our sins one to another (Jam 5,16). He means this: we should expose our weaknesses to each other in order to help each other with mutual advice and comfort. The second kind is to be done for the sake of our neighbor, to reassure him and reconcile him to us again if he has been hurt in any matter by our fault. Now with the first kind, James does not specifically name anyone on whose heart we are to lay our burden. He leaves it to our free discretion to confess our sin to the one who seems to us most capable of doing so from among the multitude of the Church. Now especially the pastors are to be regarded as suitable for this, and therefore we will have to choose them first of all. That they are more suitable than others, I say because they are chosen by God through the calling into their ministry, that we are instructed through their mouth to curb sin and to put it away from us, and that we should also receive comfort through their mouth out of trust in forgiveness (Mt 16,19; Mt 18,18; John 20:23). The office of mutual exhortation and rebuke is indeed incumbent upon all Christian people, but it is commanded in a special way to the ministers of the Word; so even though we are all to comfort one another and to be strong in confidence in divine mercy, we nevertheless regard the ministers of the Word themselves as witnesses and guarantors of the forgiveness of sins, who are to assure the conscience of this forgiveness. Thus it is also said of them that they forgive sins and redeem souls. Now when one hears that this is promised to them, one should also take note that it is done for our benefit. Therefore, each individual believer should remember that if he alone is so frightened by the sense of his sin that he cannot free himself without outside help, it is his duty not to leave aside the remedy offered to him by the Lord. He should then make use of the individual confession to his pastor and should ask the man, whose office it is to comfort the people of God publicly and especially with the teaching of the gospel, for his relief also for his personal help. But all this should be done in such moderation that consciences are not bound under a fixed yoke in a place where God has not prescribed anything definite. From this it follows that this confession must be free and must not be demanded of all, but should be recommended only to those who realize that they need it. Nor should even these people who, in view of their need, make use of it be urged by law or tricked into enumerating all their sins, but they should go only so far as they think fit to receive a perfect fruit of consolation. Faithful shepherds must not only leave this liberty to the churches, but also protect and bravely maintain it, if they wish their ministry to remain without tyranny and the people without superstition.

III,4,13 Of the other form of individual confession Christ speaks in Matthew: "If thou offer thy gift upon the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave thy gift there before the altar, and first go and be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Mt 5,23f.). For this is how love is to be restored that has been broken by our guilt: we are to acknowledge and make reparation for the fault we have committed. To this kind belongs also the confession of those who, by their sin, have given offense to the whole Church. For if Christ takes the offense of a single private person so severely that he withholds from the sacred ministry all who have sinned against the brethren in any way, until they are reconciled to them again in righteous satisfaction - how much better is it reasoned that he who has offended the Church by any bad example should reconcile her to himself again by acknowledging his guilt! Thus that Corinthian was received back into fellowship when he proved that he was obedient to correction (2Cor 2:6). This form of confession existed in the early church as well; Cyprian reminds us of this. He says, "They do penance for a due time, then they come to the public confession of their sins and receive the right of communion by the laying on of hands of the bishop and clergy" (Letter 16:2). Scripture knows absolutely nothing of other types and forms of confession. Nor is it our task to bind with new fetters the consciences which Christ forbids us to subjugate in the strongest way. However, I do not object to the sheep presenting themselves to their shepherd every time they wish to partake of Holy Communion; on the contrary, I would like this custom to be observed everywhere. On the contrary, I would like to see this practice observed everywhere, because on the one hand it can bring unique fruit to those who have a troubled conscience, and on the other hand it is an opportunity to admonish those who need it. Only everything must be done without tyranny and superstition.

III,4,14 In these three kinds of confession the key power has its place. First, it is effective when the whole church asks for forgiveness in public confession of its misdeeds. Secondly, it is exercised when a single person, who has caused a general nuisance by some publicly conspicuous offense, testifies his repentance. And thirdly, it happens when a person who needs the help of the minister (of the Word) for the sake of the restlessness of his conscience brings his weakness to the attention of the minister. On the other hand, the healing of a grievance is of a different nature: of course, it is also done in such a way that the peace of conscience is served, but the main purpose is that hatred disappears and hearts are united by the bond of peace. But that benefit (namely, that of the office of the keys) of which I spoke is by no means to be underestimated, so that we may be all the more ready to confess our sins. (First case:) When the whole church stands, as it were, before God’s judgment seat and confesses itself guilty, and when it then finds its only refuge in God’s mercy, it is no small, no easy comfort that there is present a messenger of Christ who has received the commission to reconcile it, and from whose mouth it may hear the proclamation of its absolution. Here the benefit of the office of the keys is rightly extolled, if the service of this envoy is carried out with due order and reverence. Or likewise (in the second case): a person who has been alienated from the Church in some way receives pardon and is readmitted to the fraternal communion. What a great blessing it is when he realizes that he is forgiven by those to whom Christ said: "Whose soever sins ye remit on earth, they shall be remitted unto them in heaven" (compilation of Mt 18,18 and John 20:23). Not less effect and fruit has (third case) the private absolution, where it is desired by people who need a special means to help their weaknesses. It happens not infrequently that a person who hears the general promises addressed to the whole assembly of believers, nevertheless remains somewhat in doubt and still has a troubled heart, as if he had not yet obtained forgiveness at all. Now, if such a person reveals the hidden wound of his heart to his pastor, and if he then hears that the word of the Gospel: "Be of good cheer … your sins are forgiven you" (Mt 9:2) has been promised to him personally, he will strengthen his heart so that it finds certainty, and he will be freed from the uncertain trepidation that tormented him before. But when we speak of the "keys", we must always be careful not to dream that this is a power separate from the proclamation of the Gospel. This will have to be explained again, and then in more detail, in another place, when I speak of church government. There we will also see that every right to bind or loose, which Christ has given to his church, is bound to the word. But this is true in a very special way when it comes to the ministry of the keys: its whole power rests on the fact that the grace of the gospel is publicly and especially sealed in the hearts of the faithful through the men whom the Lord has ordained for this purpose - and this can be done exclusively through preaching.

III,4,15 Now what do the Roman theologians teach? They give the instruction that all people of both sexes, as soon as they have reached the age in which they can distinguish good from evil, must confess all their sins to the priest in charge at least once a year. (This is the intention of the corresponding decree of Innocent III, at the IV Lateran Council). Forgiveness of sins should only occur when there is a firm intention to confess. If this intention, if the opportunity existed, was not realized, then no entrance into paradise should be possible (Sentences IV,17,4). The priest has - so one teaches further - the key power, with which he can loosen or bind the sinner, so that the word of Christ: "What you bind on earth …" is not out of force (Mt 18,18; Sentences IV,17,1). They are now at war with each other over this key power. Some think that there is only one "key", namely the power to bind and to loose; the (moral-theological) knowledge is indeed necessary for a good application (of this power), but it is in a way only an additional thing and does not essentially depend on this power. Others realized that this is an all too unbridled boldness, and therefore distinguished between two "keys", the discernment (of sins) and the (actual) power (to bind and loose). Again, however, others saw that by this moderation the roguishness of the priests would be kept in check, and there they added other "keys": they speak first of the power of discernment which they should need in the determination (of certain sins), then secondly of the power which they should exercise in the execution of their decision; knowledge, according to this view, is added, as it were, as a "counselor". They do not dare to interpret this "binding and loosing" in a simple way, namely that it means to forgive and to redeem sins. For they hear the Lord exclaim in the prophets: "I, I am the Lord … I, I will blot out your transgressions, Israel!" (Isa 43,11. 25). But their view is now this: It is for the priest to make known which people are bound and which are loosed, and to declare which people’s sins are forgiven and which are retained. The priest makes this declaration either in confession, when he absolves and "retains" sins, or by pronouncing judgment, when he excommunicates someone or admits him to communion in the sacraments. But now they finally realize that they still have not freed themselves from the objection that could always be raised by someone: their priests often bind and loose the unrighteous, and therefore he will not be bound or loosed in heaven! Then they answer - and this is their utmost refuge! They answer that the handing over of the keys must be understood in a limited way; Christ only promised that the justly pronounced sentence of the priest would be confirmed before his judgment seat, that is, the one pronounced according to the merits of the bound or loosed one. Furthermore, it is claimed that these keys were indeed given by Christ to all priests, and therefore they were given to them by the bishops when they were promoted to their office - but the free use of them was only allowed to those who administered an ecclesiastical office. In the case of the banned priests and those (temporarily) deprived of their office, the keys would remain in themselves, but only rusty and bound. The people who say this, however, can still be considered modest and moderate, if one looks at others who have forged new keys on a new anvil, with which, according to their doctrine, the treasure of the church can be locked. We will examine these new keys later in their place.

III,4,16 In my rebuttal I will briefly discuss the individual pieces of the opposing view. For the time being I will leave unmentioned with what right or wrong one puts the souls of the believers in fetters with his laws; we will examine that at the appropriate place. But to impose upon men the law that all sins must be enumerated, to declare forgiveness of sins possible only on condition that the resolution to confess has been firmly made, to swear that no entrance into paradise would remain open if one did not use the opportunity to confess - all this is unacceptable under any circumstances! One should enumerate all sins? But David, who in my opinion really righteously considered confessing his sins, David nevertheless exclaimed: "Who can notice how often he falls short? Forgive me my hidden faults!" (Ps 19:13). He also says in another place: "My sins are upon my head; like a heavy burden they have become too heavy for me" (Ps 38:5). He truly knew how deep the abyss of our sins is, he knew under how many guises iniquity appears among us, how many heads this serpentine beast has and what a long tail it drags behind it! He therefore did not undertake an enumeration of his sins, but cried out to the Lord from the depths of his wickedness: "I am sunk, I am buried and choked, the gates of hell have encompassed me; let me draw forth thine hand, I who am sunk in deep mire, I who pine away and die!" (cf. Ps 18:6; Ps 69:2f.,15 f.; not Luther text). Who now wants to think of enumerating his sins, when he perceives that even David is not able to grasp the number of his own!

III,4,17 With such torture one tortured under terrible cruelty the souls of people who were somehow struck by the feeling of God! First, they began to calculate, and they divided the sins into branches and twigs and leaves - according to the instruction of those Roman priests! Then they considered the "nature" of the sins, the "quantity", the "circumstances" - and yet the matter progressed all too slowly! But when they then went on, then they saw everywhere only sky and sea, no harbor was there and no resting place: the more sins they had passed through, the greater was the multitude that rose before their eyes, yes their sins towered before them like a high colossus - and there was no hope to ever get out, not even after long detours! So they hung "between the sanctuary and the rock", and in the end there was no other exit than despair! Then those desolate torturers came and put certain plasters on the wounds they had made to soothe them: they said that each one should do what he could. But immediately a new worry arose, and a new torment completely destroyed the minds of the wretched souls: "I have not taken enough time," they said to themselves, "I have not put the right effort into it, I have omitted many things through lack of care - and forgetting things through lack of care is inexcusable! Then people were given other medicines to relieve such pains. It was said: Repent for your carelessness; if it is not too indolent, it will be forgiven. But all such things cannot heal the wound, and they are not both palliatives for the evil, but rather poison painted over with honey, so that its bitterness may not be noticed with disgust at the first sip, but may not be perceived until it has already penetrated the innermost part! Thus, then, that terrible voice still torments men, crying in their ears, "Confess all thy sins!" - and this terror can be quieted only by a firm consolation! The reader should also think here how far it is at all possible to call to mind the events of a whole year or to add up all that one has sinned on the individual days. Every person can see from his own experience that our memory gets confused when we want to think about the sins of a single day in the evening - so great is the quantity and the variety that comes to mind. Now I am not talking about coarse and jaded hypocrites who think they have done their duty when they have considered three or four more serious offenses. No, I am talking about the true servants of God; they thoroughly examine themselves and see how they are completely overwhelmed by sins, but then they also say to themselves that word of John: "If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart …" (1Jn 3:20). Thus they are terrified before the face of the Judge, whose knowledge is far beyond our understanding.

III,4,18 Now it is true that a large part of the world has relied on those flatteries with which one has sweetened such a corrupting poison. But this did not happen because one believed to have satisfied God or to have really satisfied oneself. No, one wanted to drop anchor in the middle of the sea, as it were, in order to rest a little from the sea voyage. Or one wanted to do it like a tired, weary wanderer who lies down by the road to rest. I do not need to bother with proving this sentence. For everyone can bear witness to it himself. I will summarize how that law (to confess) was. First of all, it is simply impossible; and therefore it can only ruin, condemn, confuse, plunge into disturbance and despair. Secondly, it also leads sinners away from the true sense of their sins and thus makes them hypocrites, people who neither know God nor themselves. For when a man is completely occupied with enumerating his sins, he forgets in the meantime the hidden snake-pool of his vices, his hidden injustices, his inner defilement - and by the realization of this reality he should nevertheless be led primarily to the insight into his misery! But the surest rule for our confession is that we should recognize and confess such deep abyss of our wickedness, which also goes beyond our perception. According to this rule, as we see, the confession of sin of the tax collector was directed: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Lk 18:13). It is as if he wanted to say: "As much as there is in me, I am a sinner, and I cannot comprehend the greatness of my sins with my mind or with my tongue: may the abyss of your mercy swallow up this abyss of sin! Why, someone might now ask, - are sins not to be confessed one by one? Isa there then no confession of sins before God that would be pleasing to Him, except the one that is included in the few words: I am a sinner? No, I say, we should rather take pains, as much as is in us, to pour out our whole heart before the Lord. We should not merely confess ourselves as sinners with a single word, but also truly and heartily recognize ourselves as such; we should direct all our thinking to how great and how manifold is the filth of sin. We are not only to admit that we are unclean, but also to realize what kind and how great our uncleanness is and how manifold it is. We are not only to consider ourselves debtors, but also to realize how many debts press upon us and how manifold we are entangled in them. We are not only to confess ourselves wounded, but also to perceive how many and fatal blows we are wounded by! But when the sinner in such self-examination has poured himself out completely before God, he should seriously and sincerely consider that there are still many sins left, that the nooks and crannies of his wickedness lie too deep for him to be able to fathom them in all their depth. So he has to exclaim with David: "Who can realize how often he fails; forgive me the hidden failures!" (Ps 19:13). The Romans further maintain that a person does not receive forgiveness of sins unless he has made a firm resolution to confess, and that the gate of paradise remains closed to him who has neglected the opportunity to confess when it was offered to him. We do not want to concede this to them under any circumstances! For the forgiveness of sins is no different nowadays than it ever was. As many people now, according to our reports, have obtained forgiveness of their sins from Christ - of not a single one do we read that he made ear confession to a priest! In fact, they could not confess at all, since there were no confessional priests and no confession! Even centuries later this confession was unknown, and at that time one received the forgiveness of sins without this condition. But let us not argue further about this matter, as if there were something doubtful about it. The Word of God teaches us clearly, and this remains eternal. We read: "As often as a sinner sighs, … I will not remember all the transgression he has committed" (Eze 18:21 f.; not Luther text). Whoever dares to add something to this word does not "bind" sins, but the mercy of the Lord! The papists, on the other hand, claim that one cannot pronounce a judgment without first having gained knowledge of the matter in question. But there the solution is already ready: they have presumptuously arrogated this to themselves; for they have appointed themselves judges! It is also astonishing that they make principles for themselves with such certainty, which no reasonable man will admit. They proudly assert that they are charged with the office of binding and loosing - as if that should be a jurisdiction bound to the form of trial! Yet the whole teaching of the apostles testifies aloud that to them that right was unknown! Also, the clear knowledge of whether the sinner is absolved does not concern the priest, but rather the one whom we ask for the absolution (namely God!); for he who hears the confession can never know whether there is a right and complete enumeration of the sins! An absolution would then only exist in the way that it would be limited to the words of the one who is to be judged. One must also further consider that the whole "solution" (of sins) consists of faith and repentance; and these two things are beyond the knowledge of man, insofar as one is to judge another. The certainty of "binding" and "loosing" is therefore not subject to the judgment of an earthly judge; for the minister of the Word, where he performs his office rightly, can absolve only conditionally. But the word: "Whose sins ye remit …" is said for the sinner’s sake: he should not doubt that the forgiveness promised to him according to God’s commission and God’s word will be valid in heaven.

III,4,19 It is no wonder, then, if we condemn auricular confession, that pestilential pestilence which harms the Church in so many ways, and if we desire that it be done away with. Even if it were in itself a non-decisive matter (res indifferens), who would not have to advocate its immediate abolition in view of the fact that it brings no benefit and fruit, but has been the cause of so much ungodliness, iniquity and error? There are, however, a number of benefits of auricular confession, which one wants to present to the man as very fruitful; but these are partly lies, partly completely irrelevant. Only one benefit is praised with special priority: the embarrassment of the confessor is a heavy punishment, which makes the sinner more careful for the following time and leads him to anticipate God’s retribution by punishing himself. As if the awe with which we humiliate man when we call him before the highest, heavenly judgment seat, namely before God’s judgment, were not great enough! This should truly be a glorious progress, if, while we ceased to sin out of shame before a single man, we did not shrink from having God as a witness to our evil conscience! But that assertion itself is also quite false. For it can be observed everywhere that a man receives greater boldness, greater will to sin, by nothing than by the fact that, having once made his confession to the priest, he now believes he can turn his back and say: I have done nothing! In this way a man not only becomes bolder to sin all the year round, but he also feels safe from confession for the rest of the year, never raises his sighs to God, never goes into himself, but piles sin upon sin until he - as one thinks! - he spits them all out at once! But when he has spat them out, he thinks he is free of his burden, he thinks he has taken away God’s judgment, which he has transferred to the priest, and he thinks he has erased God’s memory, where he has brought his sin to the priest’s attention! But further: who then sees the day of confession dawning joyfully? Who comes to confession with a joyful heart? Does one not rather come unwillingly and like one who is properly resisting, as if one were being strangled by the neck and dragged to prison? It may be different with the priests themselves, who delight in the mutual narration of their misdeeds - as in funny little stories! I do not want to waste much paper with the report about the terrible abominations which the auricular confession gushes out of itself. Only this much I will say: if that pious man (Nectarius), who for the sake of the one talk of fornication removed confession from his church, even from the memory of his own, did not act thoughtlessly in this, then nowadays an infinite amount of fornication, adultery, incest and procuring reminds us of what needs to be done.

III,4,20 But here the confessors claim the key power for themselves and see in it bow and stern of their rule, as they say. We must see how much this is valid. We are asked: Are the "keys" supposed to have been given without cause? Isa it said without a cause, "What you shall loose on earth shall be loose in heaven" (Mt 18:18)? Are we then to make Christ’s word without content? I counter: the keys have been given for a very grave cause! I have already explained this a little further above, and I will explain this again, and in more detail, when I come to speak about the ban. But what will one do, if I strike away all such claims of the priests every starting point with a single stroke of the sword? Indeed, what will one do if I claim that the priests are not at all the placeholders or successors of the apostles? But this, too, will have to be dealt with elsewhere. Now only this: the papists build for themselves a battering ram out of that which, according to their will, should protect them most surely, and which must destroy all their armor. For Christ gave his disciples the authority to bind and loose only after he had endowed them with the Holy Spirit! I therefore maintain that no man is entitled to the power of the keys who has not first received the Holy Spirit. I deny that a man can administer the keys without the Holy Spirit going before, teaching him, and instructing him what to do. Now the Romans talk that they have the Holy Spirit, but in fact they deny it - otherwise they would have to pretend to us that the Holy Spirit is a vain, trivial thing; they really do, but they will not be believed! But now we have a war device that will completely defeat them: if they claim to have the "key" to any door, then one must always ask them if they also have the Holy Spirit, who is the controller and administrator of the keys! If they then answer that they have it - then one must ask them again whether the Holy Spirit could be mistaken! They will not dare to assert this explicitly, although they give it to be understood covertly in their teaching. One will therefore have to conclude that no priest possesses the power of the keys; for they "loose" everywhere without distinction what the Lord wanted to bind, and "bind" what the Lord commanded to be loosed!

III,4,21 Now the Romans see that one can convict them with quite unobjectionable proofs of experience, how they loosen and bind worthy and unworthy without distinction; but there they appropriate to themselves the key power without the "knowledge". And although they do not dare to deny that this "knowledge" is necessary for the right use (of the key power), they nevertheless write that the power is also conferred on such people who dispense it evil. But this power means: "What you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"! (Mt 18,18; Calvin quotes abbreviated). So either Christ’s promise must be a lie - or else those who have been made partakers of this authority carry out the binding and loosing rightly. It is an inappropriate euphemism if they claim that the word of Christ is limited according to the merits of the one who is bound or loosed. We too confess that only those worthy of being bound and loosed can be bound and loosed. But the messengers of the Gospel and the Church have the word by which to measure this worthiness. By this word the messengers of the gospel can promise forgiveness of sins to all men in Christ through faith, and they can preach condemnation against and over all who do not accept Christ. In this word the Church proclaims, "Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor murderers, nor the covetous, nor the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1Cor 6:9 f.; inaccurate). And such people the church binds with very sure bonds. According to the same word, she loosens the people whom she comforts as penitents. But what kind of authority is it not to know what to bind or loose? And you can’t bind or loose if you don’t know! Why do they claim to perform absolution on the basis of the authority given to them, if this is uncertain? What is the use of this imaginary authority, if it is of no use at all? But I have already proved that there is really no benefit, or at least that it is so uncertain that it must be considered as nothing. They themselves admit that a considerable part of the priests do not use the keys properly, on the other hand they admit that the power of the keys is powerless without lawful use; but who can provide me with the certainty that the priest who redeems me is a right steward of the keys? If he is a bad steward, what else can he say than such a tasteless formula as this: What is to be bound or loosed in you, that I do not know; for I lack the right use of the keys; but if you deserve it, then I absolve you! I do not say a layman, for they would not like to hear that, but a Turk or the devil! For it means as much as if one said: I do not have the word of God, this certain guideline for absolving - but I have been given the authority to absolve you, if your merits are according to it! So we see what the Romans have in mind when they declare in their doctrine that the keys are the authority to pass judgment and the power to execute it; the "knowledge" is added as a counselor and is useful as a counselor for the right application of the power of the keys: they just wanted to rule according to their own lusts, wantonly, without God and His Word!!

III,4,22 But now the objection could be raised that even the legitimate servants of Christ must be uncertain in their conduct of office under such circumstances, because absolution - which after all depends on faith! - will always be a doubtful matter! One could further say that the sinners could receive no or only a powerless consolation, because the servant himself is not a suitable judge of their faith and therefore not sure of their absolution. But there the solution is already ready. The Romans maintain that the priest can forgive only those sins from which he himself has obtained knowledge; they are therefore of the opinion that forgiveness depends on the judgment of the priest: if he does not make a reasonable decision as to who is worthy of forgiveness, then the whole procedure is empty and void. In short, the authority of which they speak is (in their opinion) a judicial power, bound to the investigation of the facts, on which forgiveness and absolution depend. Now in this piece there is nothing solid, indeed it is all a deep abyss. For where confession is not complete, the hope of forgiveness is mutilated. Also, the priest himself must remain constantly in the dark, because he does not know whether the sinner faithfully enumerates his evil works or not! And finally, in view of the ignorance and lack of education of the priests, the greater part of them are no more skilful in the exercise of this office than the cobbler in tilling the soil; but the rest must rightly feel themselves almost all suspect! The uncertainty and doubt about the absolution that takes place under the papacy come from the fact that this absolution is to be based on the person of the priest, and not only this, but also on his judicial investigation, so that he pronounces judgment only on such things as are brought before him, which he has investigated and of which he has convicted the sinner. If someone asks these pious teachers whether the sinner would be reconciled with God even if only some sins were forgiven, I do not know what they will answer. Only they will have to admit that everything the priest says about the forgiveness of sins, the enumeration of which he has heard, must remain without fruit as long as the state of guilt for the other sins does not disappear! If we look at him who confesses, we see that his conscience is in bondage to a pernicious fear; and this is evident from the fact that, as long as he relies, as they say, on the decision of the priest, he cannot ascertain anything certain from God’s word. From all these absurdities the doctrine we present is free and untouched. The absolution is conditional in the following sense: the sinner should trust that God is gracious to him, if only he honestly seeks his reconciliation in Christ’s sacrifice and relies on the grace offered to him. Therefore, he who in his office as a herald makes known what he is commanded to do by God’s Word cannot err! The sinner, however, can receive a sure and clear absolution, and in this the one simple condition is added that he must accept Christ’s grace; but this is done according to the general rule of the Master himself, which has been ungodly despised in the papacy: "Be it done unto thee according as thou hast believed!" (Mt 8,13; 9,29).

III,4,23 How foolishly one (under the papacy) confuses what Scripture teaches of the power of the keys, I have promised to elaborate in another place, and a more suitable place for this will be the treatment of the church regiment. Nevertheless, the reader may remember (already here) that words spoken by Christ partly of the preaching of the gospel, partly of the ban, are thereby erroneously referred to auricular confession or hidden confession. If one reproaches us that the right to absolve was given to the apostles, and that this right is now exercised by the priests by forgiving the sins that have become known to them - then one is obviously setting up a false and nonsensical principle. For absolution, which serves faith, is nothing other than the testimony of forgiveness, which is taken from the promise of grace in the Gospel. The other kind of absolution, which is connected with church discipline, has nothing to do with hidden sins, but refers to the example that one gives, and serves to remedy a public nuisance of the church. Now, however, the Roman theologians are scraping together testimonies here and there to prove that it is not enough to confess one’s sins to God alone or even to a layman - unless a priest conducted the investigation. But this is a lazy and shameful zeal! Certainly, the Fathers of the early Church advise sinners to have their burden taken from them by their pastor; but this must not be referred to the enumeration of sins, which was not in practice at that time. Then Peter Lombardus and his ilk, in their clumsiness, also seem to have fallen for spurious books on purpose, which gave them the pretext to deceive simple people. However, they rightly admit that absolution is always accompanied by repentance, and therefore there is actually no binding left when someone is seized by repentance, even if he has not yet confessed. In this way, it would then be the task of the priest, not both to forgive the sins, but rather to proclaim and declare that they are forgiven! Admittedly, they then allow a gross error to enter into the concept of "explaining" by putting a ceremony in the place of doctrinal instruction. But if they then go on to say that the man who has obtained forgiveness before God is then also absolved before the face of the Church, they incorrectly refer to the special exercise by each individual an institution which, as I have already explained, belongs to public discipline and which serves to remedy a grievance of the Church caused by grave and known indebtedness. But such mitigations they then soon after pervert and corrupt, by adding another mode of pardon, namely, that of inflicting punishment and satisfaction upon men; thus conferring upon their victims the right to halve what God has everywhere promised as complete. For if he simply demands repentance and faith, then this division (first repentance and faith, secondly punishment and satisfaction) and this restriction is thoroughly sacrilegious! For this means nothing else than that the priest, as it were, makes himself a tribune, objects to God, and will not allow God to accept the sinner out of free goodness in grace, unless the latter has prostrated himself before the tribune’s judgment seat and received his punishment there!

III,4,24 I summarize the whole thing: if the Romans want to make God the author of their fictitious confession, their vanity is thereby proved; I have also shown that they falsely put forward the few passages they cite. But if it is evident that this is a law imposed by men, I assert at the same time that it is tyrannical, and that its imposition does injustice to God; for God binds consciences to his word, and wills that they should be free from the dominion of men! If further, in order to obtain pardon, a procedure is prescribed as necessary which, according to God’s will, should be voluntary, I declare that this is an outrage utterly intolerable. For nothing is so peculiar to God as the forgiveness of sins, on which our salvation rests! Moreover, I have proved that this tyranny arose only when the world lay under the pressure of shameful barbarism. Then I have also explained that we have before us a pernicious law: where the fear of God is alive, it plunges poor souls into despair, but where a man lives in safety, it still caresses them with vain flatteries and only makes the hardening greater! And at last I have set forth that all the mitigations they put forward have no other purpose than to veil, obscure and corrupt the pure doctrine, but to hide their ungodly deeds behind false colors!

III,4,25 The third place in repentance according to Roman doctrine is occupied by satisfaction (satisfactio) (Sentences IV,16,4). The talk that they now make about this can be refuted in one word. They say: it is not enough for a man who repents to renounce his past evil works and to amend his life, no, he must also make satisfaction to God for what he has already done! (Decretum Gratiani, II,33,3,1,63). Now, according to Roman doctrine, there are many means by which we can redeem ourselves from our sins: Tears, fasting, sacrifice, and works of charity. By these works we are to propitiate the Lord, satisfy the justice of God, make amends for our sin, and merit forgiveness (Decretum Gratiani, II,33,3,1,76). For God, it is declared, has indeed forgiven us our trespasses by his great mercy; but the punishment remains by the chastening exercise of his justice; and this is the punishment from which we must redeem ourselves by our satisfactory works (Decretum Gratiani, II,33,3,1,42). Everything can be summarized as follows: we receive forgiveness for our evil deeds out of God’s kindness, but in such a way that the merit of our works intervenes; with these works the punishment for the sins is taken away, so that God’s justice may be satisfied. I oppose such lies with the forgiveness of sins out of pure grace; for nothing is so clearly proclaimed in Scripture as this! (Isa 52:3; Rom 5:8; Rom 3:24; Col 2:13 f.; Tit 3_5). First of all, what is forgiveness other than a gift of pure goodness? For if a creditor certifies with a receipt that he has received his money, one does not say that he has forgiven the debt; one speaks of this only if he voluntarily, out of charity, cancels the debt without any payment! And then: why is it added: "By grace"? But only so that every thought of satisfaction disappears! Out of what boldness does one still erect his gratifying works, which are thrown to the ground by such a mighty stroke of lightning? Why? The Lord exclaims through Isaiah, "I, I blot out your transgressions for my own sake, and remember not your sins!" (Isa 43:25). Does he not thereby openly proclaim that he takes the cause and the foundation for forgiveness solely from his goodness? And further: the whole Scripture gives Christ the testimony that "through his name all … receive forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:43). Does it not thereby exclude all other "names"? But how then can it be taught that forgiveness is received in the "name" of sufficient works? But the Romans cannot deny that they ascribe it to the sufficient works, even if these enter in, as it were, merely as helps! For when the Scripture says: "Through the name of Christ" - it understands by this that we bring nothing, that we advance nothing of ours, but that we rely solely on Christ’s mediation! Thus Paul teaches: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their sins to them…" (2Cor 5:19); and then he immediately adds the manner and cause: "For he made him who knew of no sin to be sin for us!" (2Cor 5:21)..

III,4,26 But the papists in their perversity claim that the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation happen once, namely when we are accepted by God in grace through Christ in baptism, but after baptism we have to rise again through satisfying works, and the blood of Christ is of no use to us unless it is dispensed through the keys of the church. I am not talking about a doubtful thing, because they have revealed their impurity in very clear writings, not one or the other, but all scholastics! Their master, however, first confesses on the basis of Peter’s teaching (1 Pet. 2,24) that Christ bore the punishment for our sins on the "wood"; but then he immediately changes that statement by adding the qualification: in baptism all temporal punishments for sins are remitted, but after baptism they are lessened by the means of repentance, so that therefore the cross of Christ and our repentance work together equally! (Sentences III,19,4). But John speaks quite differently: "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ … and he is the propitiation for our sins … Dear children, I write to you, for your sins are forgiven through His name…" (1Jn 2:1 f.12). He is certainly speaking to believers: when he presents Christ as the propitiation for sins, he shows that there is no other satisfaction by which God, who is angry, can be made gracious and reconciled. He does not say: Once God was made gracious to you through Christ - now you must seek other means; no, he declares Christ to be the eternal Advocate who always brings us to graces by his intercession with the Father, he knows him to be the constant propitiation in which our sins are blotted out. It remains constantly true what the other John (the Baptist) once said: "Behold, this is the Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world"(John 1:29). I say: this Lamb bears the sins himself, no other! And that means: since he himself is the Lamb of God, he alone is also the sacrifice for our sins, he alone the atonement, he alone the satisfaction! The right and the authority of forgiveness belongs to the Father in the proper sense, where he is distinguished from the Son - as we have already seen. Thus Christ stands here in second place, because he took upon himself the punishment forfeited by us, and thus redeemed our guilt before God’s judgment. It follows that we only have a part in the reconciliation "made through Christ" (allusion to Rom 3,24), if the honor lies with Him, which is robbed from Him by men who try to reconcile God with their own satisfying works!

III,4,27 Now here are two requirements to be considered: first, Christ must keep His glory perfect and undiminished; second, the conscience must be assured of the forgiveness of sins and thus have peace with God (compare chapter 13). Isaiah tells us that the Father has laid all our iniquities upon the Son, that we might be made whole by "his wounds" (Isa 53:4, 6). Peter repeats this in other words, "Christ Himself bore our sins in His body on the wood…" (1Pet 2:24). And Paul writes that sin was condemned in Christ’s flesh when He was made sin for us (Rom 8,3; Gal 3,13; 2Cor 5,21). This means: The power and the curse of sin were put to death in His flesh, when He was given as a sacrifice, on which the whole burden of our sins should be laid with its malediction and curse, with the terrible judgment of God and with the condemnation to death! Here we hear nothing at all of the fantasy that after the first cleansing (in baptism) none of us can experience the power of Christ’s suffering, except according to the measure of his satisfying repentance. No, the Scriptures call us back to the one satisfaction of Christ every time we have fallen! But now consider the pernicious chatter of the papists! They say thus: In the first forgiveness of sins (in baptism) God’s grace alone works; but if we fall into sin again afterwards, our works cooperate in obtaining the second forgiveness! If this is now so - does Christ then also retain unabridged what was attached to him above? Nay, what an appalling difference is this, whether our iniquities are all laid upon Christ to find atonement in him - or whether we receive atonement by our own works; whether Christ is the "propitiation for our sins" - or whether we must propitiate God by works! The second requirement was that the conscience must be helped to peace. If this is the case, what kind of peace of conscience is it when it hears that sins must be atoned for by works? When will it ever have the certainty that it has reached the right measure with its sufficient works? So he will always be in doubt whether he can consider God merciful, he will always live in anguish and terror! For people who rely on small works for satisfaction think too contemptuously of God’s judgment and, as I must explain in another place, consider too little how great the weight of sin is. But if it were granted to men that they could buy forgiveness for a certain number of sins with right satisfaction, what should they do when they find themselves beset by so many sins that not a hundred lives could suffice to make satisfaction for them, even if they were spent exclusively on them? It must also be borne in mind that all the passages in which the forgiveness of sins is taught are not addressed to such people as are first instructed in the faith, but to born-again children of God who have long been reared in the bosom of the Church! The message that Paul so gloriously lifts up, "We therefore beseech you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God!" (2Cor 5:20) - this message is not addressed to outsiders, but to those who were born again long ago! And yet he gives farewell to all satisfying works and directs these people to Christ’s cross! Or when Paul writes to the Colossians: "that all things … might be reconciled to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, that He might make peace through the blood of His cross …" (Col 1:20) - he does not limit this to the moment when we are received into the church, but he extends it to the whole course of our life. This is easy to see from the context where he says of believers that they "have redemption through the blood of Christ," namely, "the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:14). It is, however, superfluous to heap together more passages here, as they occur again and again.

III,4,28 But the scholastics now take recourse to the tasteless distinction that some sins are "venial" sins (peccata venialia), while others are "mortal sins" (peccata mortalia). For the mortal sins, man owes heavy satisfaction, the "venial sins", on the other hand, can be expiated by easier means, namely by an "Our Father", by sprinkling with holy water and by the absolution that takes place in the mass. Thus they play a nonsensical game with God! And although they constantly use the terms "venial sin" and "mortal sin", they have not yet managed to distinguish between them - apart from the fact that they declare ungodliness and impurity of the heart to be a "venial sin"! We, on the other hand, proclaim, because the Scriptures, the rule of righteousness and unrighteousness, so teach us, - that "death is the wages of sin," and that, "whatsoever soul sinneth, it shall die" (Rom 6:23; Eze 18:20). Furthermore, we say that the sins of believers are "venial", not because they do not deserve death, but because according to God’s mercy "there is nothing condemnable in those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1), because their sins are not imputed to them and because they are redeemed in forgiveness! I know what unjust vituperations are brought against this doctrine of ours: they claim that this is here the Stoics’ perverse assertion of the equality of sins; but I shall refute the opponents without difficulty by their own words. For I ask them whether, among the sins which they declare (all equally) to be "mortal sins," they do not consider one to be less than others. (They must answer in the affirmative.) So the conclusion does not immediately follow that the sins which are all equally "mortal sins" must also be equal (among themselves), if the Scripture declares that the wages of sin is death, obedience to the law is the way to life, but transgression is death, our opponents cannot get out of it! Now how will they find the possibility of ever coming to the end of their "satisfaction" with such a great heap of sins? Let us suppose that one can make satisfaction for one sin in one day, then, while one sets his mind on it, he entangles himself again in many new sins! For even the most righteous cannot live a day without often falling into sin (Prov 24:16). But while the Romans prepare to make satisfaction, they heap numerous, nay, rather, countless more upon one another! Thus, then, the confidence of such satisfaction is cut o ss. What are they hemming and hawing about? How dare they still think of satisfaction?

III,4,29 Now they try to wriggle out of it - but "the water remains out of them", as it is said! So they invent a difference between guilt and punishment. They admit that the guilt is forgiven by God’s mercy; but if the guilt is forgiven, the punishment still remains, and it must be paid according to the demand of God’s justice! The works of satisfaction are aimed at the remission of punishment in the true sense of the word. Good God, what a great frivolity this is! First they confess that the forgiveness of guilt is offered to us purely by grace - and then they immediately declare that it must be earned by praying and weeping and all kinds of other exercises! But even with this distinction, everything that Scripture teaches us about the forgiveness of sins stands in stark contrast. I am of the opinion that I have already proved this more than sufficiently - but I still want to add some further scriptural testimonies: into this then these agile serpents shall be entangled in such a way that they cannot even bend the outermost tip of their tail! According to Jeremiah, "the new covenant" that God has made with us in His Christ consists in the fact that He will "never remember our sins"! (Jer 31:31-34). What the Lord wants to say with this, we learn from another prophet; there he says: "And where the righteous turns from his righteousness … all his righteousness shall not be remembered", and on the other hand: "where the wicked turneth from all his sins … all his transgression shall not be remembered:" (Eze 18:24, 21 s.). When the Lord declares that he will not remember the righteous works, it means that he will not punish them anymore! The same is expressed in other passages: He "casts sins behind Him" (Isa 38:17), He "blots them out like a cloud" (Isa 44:22), He "casts them into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19), He "does not reckon them" (Ps 32:2) He "covers them" (Ps 32:1). These are expressions with which the Holy Spirit has made clear enough to us what he means - if we will only lend him our ear docilely! It is really so: when God punishes sins, he imputes them; when he retaliates for sins, he remembers them; when he calls them before his judgment, he does not cover them; when he investigates them, he has just not thrown them behind him; when he looks upon them, he has not destroyed them like a cloud; when he brings them before him, he has not cast them into the depths of the sea! So also Augustin interprets it in clear words: "If God covered the sins, he did not want to notice them, if he did not want to notice them, he did not want to punish them - he did not want to know them, but he rather wanted to forgive them. Why then did he say that the sins are covered? Because they should not be seen anymore! But what did that mean: God sees the sins? Nothing else but: he punishes them!" (Explanation of Ps 31 [32]). But we want to hear from another passage of the prophets, according to which order God forgives sins: "If your sin is like blood, it shall become snow-white; and if it is like scarlet, it shall become like wool!" (Isa 1:18). But in Jeremiah we read: "In those days the iniquity of Jacob shall be sought … but there will be none, and the sins of Judah, but none will be found; for I will forgive them to those whom I leave" (Jer 50:20). If we want to summarize in a nutshell what these words mean, we only have to consider on the other side what the following expressions mean: "You have sealed my transgression in a bundle" (Job 14:17) or: "The sin of Judah is written with styluses of iron and with pointed demonds" (Jer 17:1). The latter passages mean that God will avenge sins. But if this is the meaning - and there is no doubt about it! - then it is also not to be doubted that the Lord assures in the opposite passages that he will refrain from any avenging retribution. Here I implore the readers not to listen to my remarks, but only to admit that God’s word has some room!

III,4,30 I would like to know what Christ has purchased for us, - if punishment for our sins is still demanded of us! We say: "He Himself bore all our sins in His body on the wood" (1 Petr. 2,24; not quite Luther text). With this we only want to express: he took the punishment and the retribution on himself, which we deserved with our sins! Isaiah explained this even more clearly: "The punishment" - or also: the chastening - "is upon him, that we might have peace" (Isa 53:5). But what is this "chastening" "that we might have peace"? It is the punishment that we had earned with our sins and that we would have had to bear - if Christ himself had not taken our place! - would have had to bear before we could have been reconciled with God! There we see quite clearly: Christ took the punishment for sins upon Himself in order to ransom His own from it! Every time Paul speaks of the redemption that happened through Christ, he uses the expression "apolytrosis" (ransom) (Rom 3:24; 1Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). This expression does not simply mean "redemption" as this word is commonly understood, but also refers to the ransom and satisfaction that lead to redemption. In this sense, he also writes that Christ gave Himself for us as an "antilytron" (ransom) (1Tim 2:6). Augustine says: "What other reconciliation is there before the Lord than sacrifice? And what other sacrifice is there than that which is offered for us in the death of Christ?" (to Ps 129). But we gain a particularly strong storm ram in the regulations which the Law of Moses gives for the atonement of the debts of sin. For there the Lord did not prescribe this or that kind of atonement, but he requires that the entire atonement be made solely by sacrifice. Nevertheless, in the law, he lays out all the atonement customs thoroughly and in the most exact order: How is it, however, that he does not prescribe any works by which one could seek healing for the sins committed, but requires only the sacrifices for atonement? But only because he wants to testify here: there is only one kind of satisfaction in which his judgment finds satisfaction! For the sacrifices that the Israelites offered at that time were not considered to be the work of men, but they were judged according to their truth, namely according to the one sacrifice of Christ. What kind of payment the Lord receives from us, Hosea expressed very aptly in a few words: "You, God, take away our iniquity from us" - that is the forgiveness of sins -, "and so we will offer the farrows of our lips" - that is the satisfaction! (Hos 14:3; beginning not Luther text). I know, however, that the scholastics try to wriggle out of this with an even finer distinction: they distinguish between the eternal punishment and the "temporal punishments for sins". But they understand by these "temporal punishments of sin" any chastisement which God inflicts on body or soul, with the sole exception of eternal death, and therefore this restriction (of their overall doctrine) can give them little relief. For the passages I have referred to above want to tell us explicitly: we are accepted by God in grace under the condition that he also forgives us everything we have forfeited in punishment through the forgiveness of our guilt. And every time David or the other prophets ask God for forgiveness of sins, they also ask for remission of punishment. In fact, they are already driven to this by the feeling of divine judgment. And on the other hand, when they promise mercy on behalf of the Lord, in their sermon they almost always speak of punishment and its remission at the same time. When the Lord announces in Ezekiel that he will put an end to the Babylonian captivity for his own sake and not for the sake of the Jews (Ezek 36:22, 32), he certainly clearly shows that both (forgiveness and remission of punishment) happen by grace. In short, if we are made free from guilt through Christ, then the punishments that come from this guilt must also cease!

III,4,31 But our opponents also arm themselves on their part with scriptural testimony, and let us see what is the nature of the evidence they claim for themselves. First of all, they say that when David received a rebuke from Nathan for his adultery and murder, he received forgiveness for his sin, but he was still punished by the death of the son that came from that adultery (2Sam 12:13f.). Such punishments, which would still have to hit us after the forgiveness of the guilt, we are now supposed to replace by satisfying works according to the (Roman) church doctrine. For Daniel admonished Nebuchadnezzar to redeem himself from his sins by almsgiving (Dan 4:24). And Solomon writes: "Through righteousness and piety iniquity is atoned for" (Prov 16:6; not Luther text) and elsewhere: "Love covers all transgressions" (Prov 10:12). The latter saying is also affirmed by Peter (1 Pet 4:8). Furthermore, the Lord says in Luke of the great sinner: "Many sins are forgiven her, for she loved much" (Lk 7:47). How twisted and foolish these people are in judging God’s works all the time! But if they had paid attention to the fact - and under no circumstances were they allowed to pass it by! that there are two kinds of divine judgment, they would also have noticed that the chastisement of David is a completely different kind of punishment than that one could get the idea that it serves as retribution! Now it is of extraordinary importance for all of us to realize the purpose of God’s chastisements with which he punishes our sins, and how different they are from the exemplary punishments with which he wrathfully persecutes the wicked and rejected. Therefore, in my opinion, it will be expedient to pursue this fact in summary. For a better understanding we call the one court "retribution court", the other, however, "chastisement court". Now by the retributive judgment we understand this: God exercises his punishment on his enemies in such a way that he brings his wrath to bear against them, confuses them, scatters them and destroys them. God’s retribution is therefore to be seen in the actual sense, where the punishment is connected with his anger. In the judgment of chastisement, he does not confront us so harshly that he is angry, nor does he retaliate in order to destroy or to let man perish in his wrath. Therefore, it is not really a matter of a destructive punishment or retribution, but of chastisement and admonition. The retributive judgment God exercises as judge, the chastening judgment as the Father. For when a judge punishes the wrongdoer, he punishes the offense itself and exercises punishment for the offense itself. If, on the other hand, a father chastises his son severely, he does so not to retaliate or punish, but to teach him and make him more mindful for the time to come. Chrysostom uses a somewhat different, but still in the same direction, comparison in one place: "A son is beaten, and a servant is also beaten. But the servant is punished as a servant, because he has sinned; the son, on the other hand, who as a free man and as a son needs chastisement, is chastised. The son receives chastisement as a (means of) probation and correction, whereas the servant receives it as a scourge and punishment."

III,4,32 But now, in order to make the whole question brief and clear, let us allow a twofold distinction to occur. First, the first. Where punishment is used for retribution, God’s curse and wrath always have an effect, and yet He always turns these away from the faithful. Chastisement, on the other hand, is a blessing from God and bears the testimony of His love, as Scripture teaches (Job 5:17; Prov 3:11 f.; Hebr 12:5 f.). This distinction comes across clearly to us again and again in God’s Word. Everything that the wicked experience in this present life in terms of tribulation is described to us, as it were, as the entrance gate to hell, from which they can already see their eternal damnation from afar; they are not at all improved by this tribulation and do not receive any fruit from it, on the contrary, they are prepared by such preludes for the horrible hell that once awaits them. On the other hand, when the Lord chastises his servants, it is true that he chastises them, but he does not abandon them to death (Ps 118:18). Therefore, when he has struck them with his rod, they confess that it has been good for their true education (Ps 119:71). But as on the one hand we read everywhere that they took punishments of this kind with a cheerful heart, so on the other hand they pleaded again and again for averting the scourges of the kind described above! Thus Jeremiah asks: "Chasten me, O Lord, yet according to thy judgment, and not in thy wrath, lest thou wear me out. But pour out your wrath on the heathen who do not know you, and on the rich who do not call on your name…" (Jer 10:24 f.; not Luther text). And David says: "Oh Lord, do not punish me in your anger and do not chastise me in your wrath!" (Ps 6:2; 38:2). It does not contradict this that we sometimes hear that the Lord is angry with his saints when he punishes their sins. Thus it happens in Isaiah: "I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast been angry with me, and thy wrath hath turned, and thou hast comforted me" (Isa 12:1). Likewise in Habakkuk: "When you are angry, remember your mercy" (Hab. 3:2; not Luther text). Or also in Micah: "I will bear the Lord’s wrath, for I have sinned against him" (Micah 7:9). There the prophet draws our attention to the fact that people who are justly punished do not achieve anything by grumbling, but that it brings the believers relief from their pain when they consider God’s counsel. In the same sense, we occasionally hear that the Lord "desecrates" his "inheritance" (Isa 47:6; 42:24), although, as we know, he will not desecrate it for eternity. This expression, however, does not refer to God’s counsel or mind about His punishment, but rather to the violent feeling of pain that seizes people who have to experience His severity even in some way. But the Lord does not merely afflict his faithful with little severity, but at times he inflicts such wounds on them that they think they are not far from hellish ruin. Thus he indeed testifies to them that they have deserved his wrath, and so leads them to be displeased in their evil works, to be seized with greater anxiety to propitiate God, and to set out with earnestness and zeal to obtain forgiveness-but in this very thing meanwhile he gives them a much more brilliant testimony of his goodness than of his wrath! For the covenant which God has made with us in our true Solomon (i.e. in Christ) has endured, and he who cannot deceive has assured that its validity will never be set aside! But he says, "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my statutes, if they profane my ordinances, and keep not my commandments, I will punish their sin with the rod, and their iniquity with plagues: but my mercy will I not turn from him…" (Ps 89:31-34). To assure us of His mercy, He calls the rod with which He will punish Solomon’s descendants a "rod of men," and His blows "the blows of the children of men" (2Sam 7:14). By these additions he indicates moderation and alleviation, but at the same time gives us to understand that a man who feels that God’s hand is against him must inevitably be shaken by the most terrible terror of death. How largely he has let that relief occur in the chastisement of his (people) Israel, he shows in the prophet’s word: "In the fire have I refined thee, but not as silver; for thou thyself wouldest have been devoured …" (Isa 48:10, not Luther text). He shows here how the chastisements are supposed to serve his people for purification; but he adds that he moderates them so much that his people is not maltreated more than necessary! This is also very necessary. For the more a man fears God, the more he devotes his life to the service of piety, the more tender is his feeling in bearing the wrath of God! For those who are rejected also groan under their scourges, but they do not consider their cause; on the contrary, they turn their backs on their sins as well as on the judgment of God, and therefore harden themselves in their dullness, or else they rage and lash out and defend themselves stormily against their judge, and so this bitter storming hardens them in senseless rage. When, on the other hand, God warns the faithful with his rods, they immediately set about considering their sins, are completely imbued with fear and terror, and take refuge in humble penitence. If God did not alleviate these pains with which the poor souls torture themselves, they would probably break down a hundred times even at lesser signs of His wrath.

III,4,33 We now turn to the second distinction. When the rejected are beaten with God’s scourges, they already begin, in a sense, to suffer the punishment due to His judgment. It certainly does not pass them by without punishment that they do not listen to such testimonies of divine wrath. But still they are not beaten for the purpose that they would become better minded, but only for the purpose that they learn under their great misfortune that God is the judge and retributor. The children of God, on the other hand, are beaten with rods, not to repay God for their evil deeds, but to make them repent! So, we notice that such beating with rods refers to the future rather than to the past. I would rather express this with the words of Chrysostom than with my own: "God lays punishment upon us, not to punish us for our sins, but to make us better in view of future sins!" (Pseudo-Chrysostom, Homily on Penance and Confession). So also Augustine says: "That which thou sufferest, and which makest thee lament, is yet a medicine for thee, and not a punishment, a chastisement, and not a condemnation. Do not reject the scourge - if you do not want to be rejected from the inheritance …" (On Ps 102). Or also: "Brethren, know that all the misery of the human race, under which the world groans, is a pain that acts as a remedy, and not a judgment that inflicts punishment …!" (On Ps 138). I wanted to mention these expressions so that no one would think that the way of speaking I have used is new or less common. To this also the wrathful complaints refer, with which God turns scolding against the ingratitude of the people, because they have despised all punishments in their stubbornness. Thus in Isaiah: "What shall they continue to strike at you? … From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there is nothing wholesome in him …" (Isa 1:5f.). But the prophets are full of such sayings, and so I will content myself with having briefly indicated that God punishes his church solely for the purpose of making it submit and thus come to repentance. When He expelled Saul from his kingship, He executed retributive punishment on him (1 Sam 15:23), but when He took David’s child (2Sam 12:18), He chastised him in order to correct him. Paul’s words are also to be understood in this sense: "When we are … are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we will not be condemned together with the world" (1Cor 11:32). This means that when we children of God suffer tribulation at the hands of our heavenly Father, it is not a punishment to confound us, but only a chastening to educate us! In this question, Augustine is fully on my side; in fact, he teaches that the punishments with which men are equally chastised by God are to be considered in different ways: for the saints, who have already received forgiveness, they are, according to Augustine, struggles and exercises; for the rejected, on the other hand, who are without forgiveness, they are punishments for their unrighteousness. He recalls the punishments inflicted on David and other pious people, explaining that their purpose was that their piety might be exercised and tested by such humiliations (On the guilt and forgiveness of sins II,33.34). But when Isaiah says of Jerusalem: "Her iniquity is forgiven; for she has received double at the hand of the Lord for all her sins" (Isa 40:2) - this does not prove that forgiveness depends on enduring the punishment. He rather wants to say: Now enough punishment has been inflicted; you have been consumed in sorrow and pain for a long time - but now it is time, in view of the severity and variety of your punishments, that you receive the message of full compassion and that your heart full of joy recognizes me as the Father! For God acts here as a father, who is also sorry for the righteous severity, when he has seen himself compelled to punish his son even harshly!

III,4,34 With such thoughts the believer must arm himself in the bitterness of tribulation. "For it is time for judgment to begin against the house of God" (1Pet 4:17), in which His name has been invoked (Jer 25:29; not according to the Luther text). But what should God’s children do if they had to believe that this severity they feel is God’s retribution? For if a man, whom God’s hand has smitten, thinks of God as a punishing judge, then he must inevitably assume that God is angry, that he is against him, he must curse God’s scourge as a curse and damnation, in short, he can never let himself be convinced that this God loves him, whose attitude toward him he nevertheless experiences in such a way that he still wants to punish! But he who considers that God is angry against his vices, but is merciful and well-disposed toward him, makes progress even under God’s scourges. In the other case, what the prophet experienced after his lamentation would also have to happen to him: "Your anger, my God, has come upon me; your terror has oppressed me! (Ps 88,17; not Luther text). Or he would have to experience what Moses writes: "Your wrath has made us to perish, and Your anger has made us to perish so suddenly. For thou hast set our iniquities before thee, and our unconcealed sins in the light of thy countenance. Therefore all our days pass away by thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale!" (Ps 90:7-9). David, on the other hand, wants to teach us that God’s fatherly chastenings must help the faithful rather than press them to the ground, and therefore he sings of them: "Blessed is he whom thou, O Lord, chastenest, and teachest by thy law, that he may have patience in evil, until the pit be prepared for the wicked!" (Ps 94:12f.). It is certainly a hard challenge when God spares the unbelievers and overlooks their vices, but appears harsh to his believers. Therefore, the psalmist adds the instruction of the law as a cause of comfort, through which the faithful should learn: it is for the sake of their salvation that God calls them back to the path, while the wicked plunge headlong into their erroneous ways, the end of which is the "pit". It does not matter whether the punishment is eternal or temporal. For wars, famine, pestilence and diseases are (then) just as much God’s maledictions as the sentence of eternal death itself - for the Lord inflicts them to be instruments of His wrath and retribution against the rejected.ein.

III,4,35 Now, if I am not mistaken, everyone will understand the meaning of the punishment that the Lord once inflicted on David (2Sam 12,13f.). It was meant to be a testimony that murder and adultery displeased God greatly; in view of these outrages, God wanted to show how much His beloved and faithful servant had offended Him; and this was done for the purpose of instructing David himself not to commit such an outrage again in the future. On the other hand, it was not to be a punishment by which he made any payment to God. In the same sense we will also have to judge the other chastisement, when the Lord, because of David’s disobedience, into which he had fallen by counting the people, afflicted this same people with severe pestilence (2Sam 24:15). For God forgave the sin of David in vain; but it served as a public example for all times as well as for the humiliation of David that such an outrage did not go unpunished, and therefore he exercised severe chastisement on him with his scourge. We must also keep this point of view in mind in view of the general curse that God has placed on mankind. For even though we have received grace, we all still suffer along with it all the misery that God has inflicted on our progenitor as punishment for sin. Now we learn that through such exercises we are reminded of how vehemently God is displeased with the transgression of His law, so that we may be prostrated and humbled in the consciousness of our miserable lot and long all the more intimately for true bliss! But a very great fool would be the man who would think that the hardships of the present life were imposed on us as punishment for our sin: Chrysostom also seems to have this in mind when he writes: "If God punishes for the purpose of calling to repentance those who persist in wickedness - the punishment, when repentance is shown, is superfluous!" (To Stagirius III,14). In this way, the Lord treats each one as he knows is appropriate to his nature: one with greater severity, the other with more leniency. When He wants to teach that He does not proceed intemperately in the execution of His punishments, He directs a sharp rebuke against the hardened and stiff-necked people, saying that they have not stopped sinning in spite of all the blows (Jer 5:3). In this sense, God complains about Ephraim, saying that he is "like a cake that is already burnt on one side and that no one turns over" (Hos 7:8). That is to say: all the blows of the rod have not penetrated his heart, and so it does not happen that the vices are burned out and the people are prepared to receive forgiveness. When he speaks thus, he shows that as soon as a man repents, he is also immediately ready for reconciliation, and that the sharpness with which he chastises us for our offenses is wrung from him by our stubbornness of neck - for with voluntary correction the sinner would forestall the chastisement. But the hardness and coarseness of all of us are such that chastening is necessary in every case, and therefore it has pleased the Father in his great wisdom to afflict all of us without exception throughout our lives with a scourge that strikes us all! It is astonishing, however, that the Romans fix their eyes so much on the one example of David, but are not moved by the many examples in which the forgiveness of sins by pure grace could have been seen. Thus we read that the tax collector went down from the temple "justified" - no punishment follows! (Lk 18,14). Peter received pardon for his offense (Lk 22,61) - and we hear, as Ambrosius says, something of his tears, but we hear nothing of satisfaction! The gout-ridden man hears: Get up, "your sins are forgiven" (Mt 9,2) - but no punishment is imposed on him! All the absolutions of which Scripture tells us were, according to its account, by grace! From this abundance of examples one should have deduced the rule - and not from that one, which has who knows what special content!

III,4,36 When Daniel admonished Nebuchadnezzar: "Rid thyself of thy sins by righteousness, and rid thyself of iniquity by doing good to the poor" (Dan 4,24) - he did not mean to express that such "righteousness" and mercy was the reconciliation with God and the redemption of punishment - for it was far off that there had ever been any other redemption than Christ’s blood! No, he referred this "redeem" to men and not to God. In other words, he wanted to say: You, king, have led an unjust and violent regime, you have oppressed the poor, you have robbed the poor, you have treated your people harshly and unjustly - now exercise mercy and justice for your unjust extortion of taxes, for your violence and oppression! It has the same meaning when Solomon declares: "Love covers all transgressions" (Prov 10:12): this does not apply before God, but before men themselves. For the verse reads unabbreviated: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers up all transgressions. In this verse, Solomon, according to his custom, compares the evil that arises from hatred with the fruits of love by contrasting two opposite facts. So he wants to say: People who hate each other bite each other, insult and revile each other, tear each other apart, turn everything into disgrace - but those who love each other look over many things, are lenient in many things, forgive each other many things, not because one approves of the other’s faults, but because he bears them and heals them by admonitions, instead of making them worse by disparaging phrases! Without a doubt Peter also used this passage in the same sense (1Pet 4:8) - otherwise we would have to accuse him of distorting the Scriptures! But when Solomon teaches further: "By goodness and faithfulness iniquity is reconciled" (Prov 16,6), he does not mean that goodness and faithfulness mean a compensation before the face of the Lord, so that God, reconciled by such satisfaction, would remit the punishment that he otherwise demanded. No, Solomon points out, according to the usual custom of Scripture, that men who bid farewell to their former vices and evil deeds and turn to him through piety and truth will find in him a gracious God. So he wants to say: If we rest from our misdeeds, then the wrath of the Lord will subside, then his judgment will rest! With this, however, he does not describe the cause of forgiveness, but rather the way in which a true conversion takes place. Thus, the prophets often proclaim that it is in vain for hypocrites to impose imaginary ceremonies on God instead of repentance - for God is pleased with sincerity and works of love! The author of the Letter to the Hebrews also acts in this sense: he calls the readers: "Do good and do not forget to share", and then reminds them: "Such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Hebr 13:16). Even when Christ mocks the Pharisees because they only care about keeping the bowls clean but neglect the cleanliness of the heart, and when he then instructs them to give alms so that everything will be clean (Mt 23:25; Lk 11:39-41) - he does not encourage them to "do good works" but only shows them what kind of purity is pleasing to God. This way of speaking is mentioned elsewhere (II,II,14,21).

III,4,37 But as far as the passage from the Gospel of Luke (about the great sinner Lk 7:36-50, especially verse 47) is concerned, no one who has read the parable given by the Lord with reasonable judgment will object to it. The Pharisee thought with himself that the woman whom the Lord had let approach him with such ease was unknown to him. For he thought that he would not have given her access if he had known what a sinner she really was. From this he concluded that Christ was not a prophet if he could be deceived in this way. But now the Lord wanted to prove that this woman was no longer a sinner, since her sins were already forgiven - and for this he told a parable: "There was a creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred pennies, the other fifty. So … he gave it to both of them. Tell, which of them will love him the most?" The Pharisee answered, "I respect the one to whom he gave the most." Thereupon the Lord said: that this woman’s sins are forgiven, you shall know it from the fact that she "loved much." It is clearly seen that by these words the Lord does not declare her love to be the cause of the forgiveness of sins, but its proof. For these words are taken from the parable, and are connected with what is said there of the debtor who was forgiven five hundred pennies: but of this Christ does not say that the debt was forgiven him because he loved much, but conversely that he loved much because the debt was forgiven him! The application of the parable must be thought of as follows: You, Pharisee, think that this woman is a sinner, but she is not, and you should have known that, because her sins are forgiven. But that her sins are forgiven, that should have made you believe her love with which she gives thanks for the benefit received! It is therefore a matter of a posteriori proof, in which therefore something is proved from the signs that arise from it. But how this woman obtained forgiveness of sins, the Lord testifies quite clearly: "Your faith has helped you!" (verse 50). For we receive the forgiveness of sins by faith, by love we give thanks and bear witness to the good pleasure of the Lord!

III,4,38 Now what is to be read of satisfaction in many places in the writings of the ancient teachers of the church makes little impression on me. I do see that some of them - no, I will say outright: almost all of them whose books have come down to us! - have either fallen into error in this piece or have spoken too harshly and harshly. But I will not admit that they were so ignorant and inexperienced that they really wrote in the sense in which the recent advocates of the "satisfactions" read them. Chrysostom wrote in one place: "Where a man desires mercy, interrogation ceases; where one asks for mercy, judgment does not rage; where mercy is asked for, there is no room for punishment; where mercy is, there is no question of judgment; where mercy rules, the answer is remitted to us" (Pseudo-Chrysostom, Homily on Ps 50). One may twist and turn these words as one likes - in any case, they cannot be reconciled with the scholastic doctrines! In a book attributed to Augustine about "the ecclesiastical doctrines" it is further said: "The satisfaction belonging to repentance consists in the fact that we eradicate the causes of sin and no longer allow its lures to enter" (Pseudo-Augustine, Of the ecclesiastical doctrines 24). From this it is clear that even in those times the doctrine of "satisfactions" was consistently ridiculed, insofar as these "satisfactions" were thought to offer something in return for sins already committed. For this passage refers every "satisfaction" to the mindfulness with which we refrain from sin for the following time. I do not want to refer to the teaching of Chrysostom, according to which God requires no more of us than that we confess our iniquity with tears before him (Homilies on Gen 10:2). Such statements occur repeatedly in his writings and those of others. Of course, in one place Augustine refers to the works of mercy as a medicine with the help of which we obtain forgiveness of sin (Manual,72). But in another passage he himself makes sure that no one is offended by this little word; there he says: "The flesh of Christ is the true and only sacrifice for our sins, not only for those who are all wiped out together in baptism, but also for those who still occur afterwards out of weakness, and for whose sake the whole church cries out every day: Forgive us our debts! (Mt 6,12). They too are forgiven by this one sacrifice" (To Bonifacius III, 6,16).

III,4,39 Furthermore, the Fathers of the Church, for the most part, did not refer to satisfaction as a "consideration" that we offer to God. On the contrary, they understood it as a public testimony by which people who had been punished with banishment gave the Church an assurance of their repentance if they wished to be readmitted to the community. Such penitents were required to perform certain fasts and other exercises by which they were to prove that they truly and sincerely repented of their former life, or rather, by which they were to erase the memory of what had happened in the past. Thus, as it was said, they were not making satisfaction to God, but to the Church! This is what Augustine expressed with these very words in his "Little Manual to Laurentius" (Little Manual,65; quoted in Decretum GratianI, II,33,3,1,84). From this ancient custom have taken their starting point the confessions and the "satisfactions" that are in practice today. Truly a brood of vipers! Because of these newer practices it has come to the point that not even a shadow of that better form of things is left. I know, of course, that the ancients sometimes speak a little harshly, and, as I said above, I do not deny that they may have fallen (into error) in doing so. But things that in themselves are merely tainted with a few stains, when the Romans treat them with their unwashed hands, they become completely sullied! But if the reputation of the ancient church fathers is to be brought into the controversy here - good God, what "ancients" are being thrust upon us! A good part of the statements from which Petrus Lombardus, their vocal leader, has patched together his lobes, is taken from nonsensical ravings of certain monks, who now go around under the name of Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine or Chrysostom! Thus, in the question under discussion here, Peter Lombard takes almost everything from a book attributed to Augustine, "On Penance," which is actually patched together by some balladeer in an evil manner from good and bad writers alike, and which bears Augustine’s name, but which no man who is even a little learned will consider worthy of acknowledging as his work. The reader may forgive me, however, that I do not examine their follies too sharply; I do not want to cause him any weariness. It would not make much work for me and would be nevertheless a pleasurable thing, to expose here things with highest shame to the mockery, which the Romans have passed off as secrets up to now! But I refrain from it, because I have the intention to be useful with my instruction.

Fifth chapter


From the Appendages to the Doctrine of Satisfying Works, namely, of Indulgences and Purgatory.

III,5,1 From this doctrine of satisfaction, indulgences spring forth. What we lack in the ability to make such satisfaction can be supplemented by indulgences, according to the Roman chatter. Yes, they go so far in their madness that they define indulgences as the distribution of the merits of Christ and the martyrs, which the pope would perform with his bulls. Now the advocates of this view, however, are more in need of riveting (a remedy for insanity according to the view of the time) than they are worthy of any proof, and therefore it is not particularly worth the trouble of laboring with the refutation of such frivolous errors; for these have already been pierced by many storms and are already beginning of their own accord to become obsolete and dilapidated. Nevertheless, a brief refutation will be of use to some inexperienced people, and I will therefore not refrain from it. One can really say: that the indulgence could last so long, that it could remain unpunished in such rampant, wild exuberance for so long - this may really serve us as a proof of what a deep night of error the people have been sunk into for several centuries. They saw how they were openly and openly fooled by the pope and his bull-bearers; they saw how their salvation was being played for money; they saw how their blessedness was estimated at the price of a few hellers, but nothing was to be had for free; they saw how, under such false pretenses, they were cheated out of offerings, which were then squandered in adultery and procuring and at banquets; They knew well that the most full-bellied preachers of indulgences were at the same time the worst despisers of indulgences; they saw how this monster raged from day to day with more and more wantonness and became more and more boisterous, and how such goings-on found no end, no, how every day new lead was added, new pennies were lured out of the people’s pockets! They saw all this - but they still received the indulgence with the highest reverence, worshipped it, bought it! And those who saw more sharply than other people, thought that it was a pious fraud, which could be deceived with some benefit! Since the world has finally allowed itself to become a little wiser, the indulgence has grown cold, it has almost turned to ice, until it completely disappears.

III,5,2 But there are very many people who see all the filth, all the deceit, the theft, the robbery with which the indulgence merchants have deceived and fooled us so far, but do not notice the actual source of this impiety. It is worth the effort, therefore, if we not only explain how indulgences are constituted, but also show what they actually represent when they are cleansed of all stain. The Romans call the merits of Christ and the holy apostles and martyrs the "treasure of the Church". The perfect guardianship of this treasury, as I have already briefly mentioned, is, according to their fictitious account, vested in the Roman bishop; and he now holds the administration of such great goods that he can both distribute them himself and confer upon others the authority to distribute them. Thus the pope himself sometimes grants plenary indulgences, sometimes indulgences for a certain number of years; the cardinals distribute indulgences for a hundred days, the bishops for forty days! But all these indulgences are - I will describe them as they really are! - in fact a profanation of the Blood of Christ, a mocking deception of Satan! They are meant to lead the Christian people away from God’s grace, from the life that is in Christ, are meant to lead them away from the true way to salvation! For how could Christ’s blood be more shamefully profaned than by the assertion that it is not fully sufficient for the forgiveness of sins, for reconciliation, for satisfaction, unless its deficiency - as if it were thus withered, exhausted! - is not filled up and replaced from another side! According to Peter, the law and all the prophets bear witness to Christ that through Him we are to "receive forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:43). Indulgences, on the other hand, allow people to receive forgiveness of sins through Peter, Paul and the martyrs! "The blood of Jesus Christ makes us clean from all sin," says John (1Jn 1:7). In indulgences, on the other hand, the washing away of sins is found in the blood of the martyrs! Paul says: "He made him who knew of no sin to be sin for us - that is, to make satisfaction for our sins! - so that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2Cor 5:21). The indulgence, on the other hand, bases the satisfaction for our sins on the blood of the martyrs. Paul once testified to the Corinthians with a loud voice that Christ alone had been crucified and died for them (1Cor 1:13). Indulgences, on the other hand, proclaim that Paul and others also died for us! Elsewhere Paul says that Christ purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28). The indulgence, on the other hand, claims that there is another price for this "acquiring": namely, the blood of the martyrs! The apostle writes: "With one sacrifice he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebr 10:14). The indulgence, on the other hand, declares that sanctification receives its completion through the martyrs - otherwise it is not sufficient! John says that all the saints have "washed their robes … in the blood of the Lamb" (Acts 7:14) - but indulgences teach us that we should wash our clothes in the blood of the saints!

III,5,3 Glorious words were spoken against this robbery of God’s honor by Bishop Leo of Rome (Pope Leo I) in his letter to the Palestinians. He writes: "Certainly the death of many saints is ’worthy in the sight of the Lord’ (Ps 116,15). But the killing of not a single innocent has been the reconciliation of the world. The righteous have received crowns but given none. The bravery of the faithful has become examples of patience, but not gifts of righteousness. The death of each one of them has had meaning only for himself, and none has paid off another’s debt by his end. For in Christ the Lord alone are we all crucified, all dead, all buried, and all risen again!" (Letter 124). This actually very memorable saying was repeated again by Leo in another place (Letter 165). Surely nothing clearer could be wished for the destruction of that godless doctrine! However, Augustin also writes just as aptly in the same sense: "Certainly we brothers die for our brothers; but nevertheless the blood of not a single martyr is shed for the forgiveness of sins; for this Christ has done for us! And he bestowed this gift upon us-not that we might imitate what he did, but that we might gratefully rejoice in it!" (Homilies on the Gospel of John, 84). Or elsewhere, "As the Son of God alone was made the Son of man, that he might make us sons of God with himself - so also he alone, without having deserved evil, bore the punishment for us, that we, who had deserved nothing good, might obtain undeserved grace through him!" (To Bonifacius IV,4,6.) Certainly the whole doctrine of the Romans is patched together from horrible robbery of God’s honor and terrible blasphemies; but here we have to do with a particularly horrible blasphemy. I will summarize their doctrine, and let them see for themselves whether it is not really meant in this way: the martyrs have afterwards, by their deaths, done more towards God and acquired more merit than they needed for themselves; they have thus retained a great abundance of merit, which can now flow to others. So that such a great good should not remain without use, their blood is mixed with the blood of Christ, and from both is formed the "treasure of the church", for the forgiveness of sins and satisfaction for them. In this sense then Paul’s word is to be understood: "I make up in my flesh what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for His body, which is the church" (Col 1:24; not Luther text). (So much for the report on the Roman doctrine.) What does this mean other than that Christ’s name is left, but for the rest he is made into an ordinary saint, who can hardly be recognized in the large crowd? And yet he alone should be proclaimed, he alone should be set before men, he alone should be named, he alone should be looked at, if it is a question of how we obtain forgiveness of sins, reconciliation and sanctification! But let us hear their argumentation; they say: so that the blood of the martyrs is not shed in vain, it must be used for the common benefit of the church. Why now? Isa it not a fruit to glorify God through death? Isa it useless to sign one’s truth with one’s own blood? Should it be of no consequence to testify by despising the present life that one seeks a better one? Should it be fruitless to strengthen the faith of the Church with one’s own constancy, but to break the obstinacy of one’s enemies? But that is just it: the Romans find no fruit at all when Christ alone is the propitiator, when he alone died for our sins, when he alone is offered as a sacrifice for our redemption! They say thus: Peter and Paul would have obtained the crown of victory even if they had suffered death in bed; but it would not comport with the righteousness of God if the fact that they fought to the death remained without effect and without fruit! As if God did not know how to bestow greater glory on His servants according to the measure of His gifts! The church, however, receives (from the death of the martyrs) enough benefit in general, if it lets itself be inflamed to fighting zeal by the triumph of these men!

III,5,4 Now our opponents draw on a Pauline passage, according to which the apostle "makes up in his flesh what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1:24; see above). But how slyly they twist this passage! The apostle does not refer to the work of redemption, satisfaction and reconciliation, but to the "tribulations" (as Luther translates!) in which Christ’s members, namely all believers, must be exercised as long as they live in this flesh. He says, then, that in Christ’s sufferings there is still "lacking" that which He once suffered in Himself, but now suffers every day in His members! Christ honors us in such a way that he considers our tribulations as his own and allows them to be valid. But when Paul adds: "for the church", this does not mean: for the redemption, for the reconciliation of the church, for the satisfaction of the church - but for its edification and growth! So he also says in another place: "I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain blessedness in Christ Jesus …" (2Tim 2:10). And to the Corinthians he wrote: "We have tribulation or anguish, so be it unto you!" (2Cor 1:6). In Colossians 1 he explains himself what he means: he says that he became the servant of the church, not for the salvation of the church, but "according to the … ministry" which was "given" to him and according to which he should preach the gospel of Christ! (Col 1:25). But if the opponents demand another interpreter, let them listen to Augustine: "The suffering of Christ," he says, "takes place (on the one hand) in Christ alone, as in the head, (on the other) in Christ and the church, as in the whole body. Therefore one member (of the church), namely Paul, says: ’I make up in my flesh what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ.’ Therefore, if you, hearer, whoever you may be, belong to the members of Christ, all that you suffer from those who are not members of Christ has been lacking in the ’sufferings of Christ’" (Explanation of Ps 61; 4). But for what purpose the sufferings which the apostles took upon themselves for the Church serve, Augustine sets forth elsewhere: "Christ is for me the door to you; because you are Christ’s sheep, which he purchased with his blood, know the price that has been paid for you - I do not pay this price, but I proclaim it!" And then he immediately adds, "As he laid down his life for us, so we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren, and that to edify peace and to confirm faith" (Homilies on the Gospel of John, 47). This is what Augustine said! But there can be no question that Paul meant that something was "lacking" in the sufferings of Christ, as far as the whole fullness of righteousness, salvation and life is concerned, or that he wanted to "reimburse" something - he himself speaks so clearly and so gloriously about how the overflowing fullness of grace through Christ is poured out so abundantly that it far overcomes all power of sin! (Rom 5:15). It is by this grace of Christ alone that all the saints are saved, not by the merit of their life and death, as Peter expressly testifies (Acts 15:11). Therefore, whoever bases the worthiness of any saint on anything other than God’s mercy alone, reviles God and His Christ! But what is the use of dwelling here any longer, as if the matter were still dark! To bring such monstrosities to light is already to overcome them!

III,5,5 So we want to let such abominations go. But further: who then taught the pope to enclose in lead and parchment the grace of Jesus Christ, which according to the will of the Lord is to be distributed through the word of the gospel? So, necessarily, either the Gospel of God must lie - or else the indulgence! For in the gospel Christ is presented to us with all the fullness of heavenly goods, with all His righteousness, wisdom, and grace, and without any limitation. To this Paul is a witness; for, according to him, the "word of reconciliation" is entrusted to the ministers, and the message of these ministers is to be - as if Christ himself were exhorting through them - thus, "We beseech therefore … Be reconciled to God. For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might have the righteousness that is before God in him" (2Cor 5:18 ss.). And believers know what the "fellowship … Jesus Christ", the enjoyment of which is offered to us in the Gospel according to the testimony of the same apostle (1Cor 1:9). Indulgences, on the other hand, take from the Pope’s treasury a fixed portion of grace, bind it to lead and parchment, even to a certain place - and tear it away from God’s Word! But if one asks about the origin of this abuse, it seems to have arisen from the following: in times past, such harsh satisfactions were sometimes imposed on penitents that they could not be borne by everyone; now, people who felt that the penance imposed on them was beyond measure, asked the Church for mitigation. The indulgence granted to such people was called "indulgence". But as soon as these satisfying works were transferred (by the church) to God (cf. III,4,39) and they were declared to be redemption payments with which people could buy themselves free from God’s judgment - indulgences were also pulled in the same direction and it was said of them that they were a means of atonement which frees us from the deserved punishments! But the blasphemies of which I have spoken were conceived with such shamelessness that there can be no excuse for them.

III,5,6 Also with their purgatory the Romans shall cause us no trouble; for that is smashed with the same axe, destroyed and completely overthrown down to the ground. Now there are people who think that one should look through their fingers in this piece, should leave aside the mention of purgatory, because from it - as one then says - sharp disputes arise, but very little edification can be attained. I cannot agree with these people. Admittedly, I would also advise to pass over this gossip, if it did not entail such serious consequences. But this purgatory is built of many blasphemies and is supported every day with new ones, it also arouses many and serious offences, and therefore one can by no means be gentle here. It could have been overlooked for a while that the doctrine of purgatory was conceived without God’s word in a bold and presumptuous way, that one believed in who knows which "revelations" of Satan’s art, that one quite foolishly twisted a number of scriptural passages to support it! And this, although the Lord does not suffer human presumption to break into the hidden abysses of His judgments in such a way, although He has strictly forbidden to investigate the truth in contempt of His Word from the dead (Deut 18:11), and although He does not permit His Word to be so shamelessly defiled! But even admitting that all this could have been tolerated for a time as a matter of no great consequence, such silence is a very dangerous thing as soon as atonement for our sins is sought elsewhere than in the blood of Christ, and satisfaction is transferred to someone else! So we must strain our voices and throats and lungs and cry it out loud: purgatory is a corrupting invention of Satan, it makes the cross of Christ vain, it does unbearable dishonor to God’s mercy, it shakes our faith and overthrows it! For what, according to Roman doctrine, is purgatory but a satisfaction which the souls of the departed must make for their sins after their death? If, therefore, the delusion is destroyed that we have to suffer sufficient punishments, then purgatory is also immediately destroyed to the root! But if it has become more than clear on the basis of our preceding discussion that Christ’s blood is the only satisfaction for the sins of believers, the only atonement, the only cleansing - what else is left but that purgatory is nothing but a terrible blasphemy of Christ? Leaving aside the many outrages with which it is defended nowadays, and also the impulses that arise from it in religion, and many other things that we have seen burst forth from such a fountain of impiety-

III,5,7 But it is worth the trouble to strike out of the hands of the Romans the passages of Scripture which they are here wont to seize upon falsely and wrongly. a) First they say: The Lord declares with such earnestness that the sin against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven in this world nor in the world to come (Mt 12:32; Mar 3:28 f.; Lk 12:10). With this he also indicates that there are certain sins that will be forgiven in the world to come. But who does not notice that the Lord is talking about the guilt of sin here? But if it is so, what has this matter to do with their purgatory? For there, according to their imagination, one should suffer punishment for the sins whose guilt - as they themselves do not deny - is forgiven in the present life! But so that they do not bother us any further, they shall have an even clearer refutation. The Lord wanted to cut off from that blasphemous wickedness (namely, the sin against the Holy Spirit) all hope of forgiveness, and therefore it was not enough for him to declare that it would never be forgiven; no, in order to say it even more strongly, he applied a division in which he includes, on the one hand, the judgment that every man already feels in his conscience in this life, and on the other hand, the final judgment that will be pronounced publicly at the resurrection. So he wants to say: Beware of the malicious resistance as of the absolutely sure destruction! For whoever dares to extinguish the light of the Holy Spirit offered to him with full intention will not obtain forgiveness in this life given to sinners for conversion, nor even on the last day, when God’s angels separate the sheep from the goats and the kingdom of heaven is cleansed from all vexation! b) Furthermore, the Romans bring forward a parable from the Gospel of Matthew: "Be obedient to your adversary, … lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the servant, and thou be cast into prison…. You will not come out of there until you pay the last farthing" (Mt 5,25f.). If in this passage God is to be understood as the judge, the devil as the adversary, an angel as the servant and purgatory as the dungeon - then I will gladly admit defeat. But it is clear to everyone that Christ wants to show how many dangers and evils are caused by people who stubbornly want to enforce the strictest law instead of pursuing their cause in equity and kindness, and that he says this in order to admonish his own people as forcefully as possible to be in harmony! But if it is so, I would like to know where one then wants to find purgatory!

III,5,8 c) The Romans take another proof from the word of Paul, according to which "all the knees of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth" should bow before Christ (Phil 2,10). They assume from the outset that those "who are under the earth" cannot be understood to mean those who are condemned to eternal damnation. So there remains only the possibility that it is the souls who torment themselves in the purgatory. Now this would not be bad evidence if the apostle understood by the "bending of the knees here the true devotion, as it is done out of piety. But he actually teaches that Christ is given the dominion to which all creatures are to be subjected. But then there is nothing to prevent us from understanding by those "who are under the earth" the devils, who will certainly have to come before the judgment seat of the Lord to acknowledge him in terror and trembling as their judge. The same prophetic passage (to which he also refers to Phil 2:10; namely Isa 45:23) is explained by Paul himself in another place as well: "We will all be presented before the judgment seat of Christ; for it is written: as I live … all knees shall be bent to me …" (Rom 14:10 f.). But the objection is raised that there is a passage from the Revelation of John which cannot be interpreted in this way, namely: "And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, and all that is in them, I heard say, Unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, be praise, and honor, and glory, and power, for ever and ever" (Acts 5:13). (Acts 5:13). This I readily admit; but what creatures are now enumerated in this passage, according to them? For it is more certain than certain that here the senseless and unsouled creatures are spoken of. Nothing else is claimed here than that the individual parts of the world, from the highest height of heaven to the center of the earth, should proclaim the honor of the Creator in their own way. d) Then a passage from the history of the Maccabees is brought forward (2. Macc. 12,43). But I do not dignify this with a reply, so as not to give the impression that I counted this work among the books of the Holy Scriptures. But - one objects - Augustin has recognized it as canonical! But I ask first: with what certainty did he do that? He says: "The writing of the Maccabees does not have the same position among the Jews as the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, to which the Lord gave the testimony that they were, as it were, his witnesses, saying: ’All things must yet be fulfilled that are written of me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms’ (Lk 24,44). But that this book has been accepted by the Church, this has not been done without benefit, if one reads or hears it prudently …" (Against Gaudentius I,31,38). Jerome, however, teaches without any doubt that the reputation of this book has no power to prove church doctrines from it. And from an ancient book entitled "Interpretation of the Creed," attributed to Cyprian, it is clear that the Book of Maccabees had no authority in the early church. But what a useless quarrel I am having here! As if the author himself did not clearly show how much credit was due to him by asking for forgiveness at the end if he had pronounced something less well (2 Macc 15:39). But if one confesses that his writing needs forgiveness, then he undoubtedly says loudly that these are not words of revelation of the Holy Spirit! Also, the piety of Judas Maccabee - namely, when he sent an offering for the dead to Jerusalem - is praised only because he had a firm hope concerning the final resurrection (2 Macc 12:43). The author of the story does not mean that Judas wanted to buy the salvation of the dead with his offering, but that he wanted the men who had fallen for their country and faith to share eternal life with the rest of the faithful! Of course, this act was not free from superstition and false zeal. But more than fools are people who want to give such a sacrifice under the law a relation up to our time: for we know that by Christ’s coming has ceased what was then in practice.

III,5,9 e) But the Romans have an invincible weapon in Paul - and it is not so easily broken. Paul says: "If anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work will be revealed; the day will make it clear, for it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will prove what each man’s work is…. But if any man’s work be burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, as by fire" (1Cor 3:12, 13, 15). What kind of fire is this, the Romans ask, other than that of purgatory, which consumes the stain of sin so that we may enter God’s kingdom pure? Most of the Church Fathers, however, assumed that another fire was meant, namely tribulation or the cross, through which the Lord tests His own, so that they do not find rest in the stains of the flesh (so Chrysostom, Augustine and others). This view is much more credible than imagining a purgatory! Admittedly, I do not agree with these church fathers either; for I believe I have found a much safer and clearer interpretation of this passage. But before I present this interpretation, I would like to know whether the Romans believe that the apostles and all the saints also had to pass through this purgatory. They will deny it - I know that. It would be all too incongruous if the men whose merits, according to the papists’ reverie, overflowed to all the members of the Church, had themselves needed such purification! But the apostle asserts this! For he does not say that the work of some believers should be subjected to probation, but the work of all! (verse 13). Now this is not a piece of evidence of mine, but it comes from Augustin, who in this way opposes that interpretation of the passage. And - what is even more strange! - Paul does not say that they have to go through the fire because of some arbitrary works; no, they shall, if they have built up the church with utmost faithfulness, receive their reward when your work is proved in the fire! (Augustine, Manual to Laurentius,68.) First of all, we see that the apostle needs a parable here: he has called the doctrines that men have devised in their own minds "wood, hay, stubble." The meaning of this parable is easy to determine: just as wood, when brought to the fire, is immediately consumed and perishes, so also those teachings (invented by man himself) will not endure when they are tested. Now it is clear to everyone that such a test is carried out by the spirit of God. In order to continue the thread of the parable and to make the individual pieces fit together, Paul called this test by the Holy Spirit "fire". For just as gold and silver, the closer they are brought to the fire, prove themselves the more certainly in their genuineness and purity, so also the truth of the Lord, the more sharply it is subjected to spiritual testing, receives the clearer confirmation of its authority. On the other hand, just as hay, wood, and stubble, when brought to the fire, are seized and suddenly consumed, so also little human sins that are not founded in the word of the Lord cannot stand the test of the Holy Spirit, but they collapse and perish. In short, if these doctrines of our own devising are compared to wood, hay, and stubble, because like wood, hay, and stubble they are burned and destroyed by fire, and if, on the other hand, such destruction and eradication of these doctrines is effected solely by the Holy Spirit, - it follows that the Holy Spirit is this "fire" in which they are to be "proved." This proving by the Holy Spirit Paul calls (verse 13) the "day" of the Lord, and that according to the usual expression of Scripture. For every time the Lord makes his presence known to men in some way, Scripture says that this is the "day of the Lord." But especially his face shines for us when his truth lets its light shine. This proves completely that for Paul the "fire" is nothing else than the test by the Holy Spirit. But how are the people themselves to be saved by this fire, who have to suffer damage from their works? (Verse 15). This will not be difficult to understand if we consider what kind of people the apostle is talking about. Namely, he means the builders of the church, who well keep the right "foundation" of the church (verse 11 and 12a), but "build" on it very different things; thus they do not depart from the main and necessary pieces of the faith, but fall into reverie with lesser and not so dangerous ones, mixing the word of God with their own fancies. Such people, I say, must now suffer damage to their work, and that by the fact that their fantasies are dismissed, "but they themselves will be saved, as by fire. That means: their ignorance and reverie will not be approved before the Lord, but they will be cleansed from it by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit! All those people, then, who, for example, have defiled the golden purity of the Word of God with this excrement of purgatory - they must suffer damage to their work!

III,5,10 But - you object further - this is an old opinion of the church. Paul destroys this objection by including his own time in the sentence, in which he testifies that all people who, in the building of the church, do something that is less suitable to the foundation of the church, must necessarily suffer damage to its work. The opponents reproach me, however, that already thirteen hundred years ago the custom existed to pray for the deceased. But I ask back, on the basis of which word of God, which revelation, which example this has happened. For here there is not only a complete lack of testimonies from the Holy Scriptures, but also all the examples of the saints, of whom one reads, show nothing of the kind. One finds many and sometimes long reports about the mourning exercises and about the kind of the funeral, but of a prayer for the deceased is also not to be noticed the least. However, since the matter is of such great importance, it should have been mentioned all the more. But even those among the ancients who really performed such prayers for the deceased saw that they lacked God’s command and a rightful example in doing so! But why did they dare to do it? I maintain that something human happened to them in the process, and I insist that therefore no example of emulation should be made of their actions. According to Paul’s instruction, believers should not attack a work if they do not have a clear conscience (Rom 14,23) - and this certainty is primarily required in prayer. One could, however, say: it is to be assumed that they were driven to it by a certain cause. Yes, they were looking for a consolation to ease their pain, and it seemed inhuman to them not to give any testimony of their love for the deceased before God. Everyone knows how much the nature of man is inclined to such a disposition. There was also (at that time) a general habit that lit the fire in many hearts like a torch! We know that among all peoples and at all times offerings were made to the dead and that their souls were purified every year. But although the devil played his game with the foolish people by such deception, he took the occasion for this deception from a correct basic salt, namely from the insight that death is not passing away, but the transition from this life to another. And without any doubt this superstition will convict even the heathen before God’s judgment seat as guilty, because they neglected the care for this eternal life, in which they professed to believe! Now the Christians did not want to be worse than unholy men, and therefore they were ashamed not to render any service to the deceased - as if they were completely extinguished! Hence this ill-advised busyness: the Christians thought that if they were lazy in providing for a solemn funeral, holding funeral banquets and sacrifices for the dead, they would expose themselves to grave reproaches. But what had come out of this perverse competition (with the pagans) then received ever new growth and was increased so much that in the papacy the noblest sanctity consists in bringing help to the deceased in their torment. The Scriptures, however, give us another, far better and stronger consolation, in that they testify: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Acts 14:13). It also adds the reason immediately, "For they rest from their labor." But we must not indulge our love to such an extent that we thereby set up a perverse custom of prayer in the church! He who has even a little knowledge of things will surely easily see that all that is to be read in this matter among the ancients has been admitted to the general custom and inexperience of the multitude. I confess that they themselves were also involved in this error, as imprudent credulity generally deprives the human mind of its power of judgment. How many doubts they have, however, when they recommend the prayers for the deceased, can be seen when one reads their statements. In his "Confessions" Augustin reports that his mother Monica passionately asked that she be remembered at the altar during the celebration of the holy meal. This was a wish that one might expect from an old woman. Her son, however, did not measure it by the standard of the Scriptures, but out of natural affection for his mother, wished that the others would approve it! The book: "of the care of the dead", which he has written, contains so many uncertainties, that with its coldness it should rightly extinguish the heat of a foolish zeal, insofar as someone desires to be an advocate of the dead; it will certainly, with its tawdry conjectures, relieve the people, who were previously anxious, of their apprehension! Its only support, in fact, is this: since the habit of praying for the dead has now arisen, one must not despise this duty. I will concede, however, that it seemed pious to the ancient writers of the church to assist the dead. But it must always be held as an unmistakable rule that we have no right to put forward anything of our own in our prayers, but that our wishes must be subjected to the word of God; for it stands with his judgment to prescribe what he shall be asked! Now the whole law and the whole gospel do not give us liberty in a single syllable to pray for the dead, and therefore it is a profanation of God’s invocation if we presume to do more here than he prescribes! But lest our opponents should boast as if they were in the company of the early Church in their error, I maintain that there is a great difference after all. The ancients remembered the dead, so as not to give the impression that they had thrown away all concern for them; but at the same time they admitted that they were in doubt as to the state of the dead; in any case, they made no certain assertions about purgatory, indeed, they considered it an uncertain matter. Our present-day adversaries, on the other hand, demand that their reveries about purgatory be accepted as a doctrine of faith without argument! The ancients commanded God their dead at the common celebration of the holy meal, and they did so tacitly and only in order to fulfill their duty. Our adversaries, on the other hand, fiercely urge the care of the dead, and by their impetuous preaching cause it to be preferred to all service of love. Nor would it be difficult for us to bring forward some testimonies of Church Fathers who openly repudiate all such prayers for the dead as were then in practice. Of this kind is a saying of Augustine: he teaches that all await the resurrection of the flesh and eternal glory, but that the rest which follows after death is received by everyone worthy of it at the moment of his death. Thus he testifies that all the pious, no less than the prophets and apostles and martyrs, enjoy blessed rest immediately after their death (Homilies on the Gospel of John, 49). But if this is the case with them, I would like to know what use our intercession will be to them! I leave aside here the grosser superstitious errors with which the papists have beguiled the hearts of simple-minded people; but they are innumerable and for the most part quite monstrous, so that they cannot gloss over them with any respectable color. I also want to keep silent about the despicable haggling, which they could have done according to their desires with such infatuation of the world. There is no end to it, and the pious reader will find enough here to strengthen his conscience even without the enumeration of such things!

Chapter Six


Of the life of a Christian man; especially with what reasons the Scriptures exhort us to it.

III,6,1 In the life of the believers there should be a harmony, a concord between God’s righteousness and their own obedience. This is the very purpose of regeneration, as I have already shown. In this way, the believers are to establish the calling (expression according to 2 Petr. 1:10) by which they are accepted as children of God. Now, God’s law includes in itself the renewal by which God’s image is restored in us, but we need much encouragement and help in our sluggishness, and so it will be useful to learn from the various passages of Scripture the right way to arrange our lives, so that those who are serious about their conversion will not go astray in their zeal. But when I set out to describe the life of a Christian man, I am fully aware that I am dealing with a very diverse and difficult subject, which could fill a thick volume if it were to be treated exhaustively. We also see how widely the admonitions of the ancients diverge when they refer (even) only to the individual virtues. But there is by no means an exaggerated wealth of words. It is just so: if one has undertaken to praise some virtue in a speech, then the abundance of the material pushes by itself to such a breadth of style that one thinks that one would not have presented one’s cause properly if one had not said much! However, I do not intend to extend the instruction on life that I am about to present to such an extent that it would also include a separate treatment of the individual virtues and would also contain extensive exhortations to them. This can be gathered from the writings of others, especially from the sermons of the church fathers. It shall be enough for me if I show the way by which a pious man can be led to the right point of orientation for the organization of his life, and if I briefly describe a general rule according to which he can properly determine his obligations. The time may come later for great speeches - or I will leave to others this task, to which I am not exactly skilled! I love brevity by nature; and even if I wanted to speak more expansively, I might not succeed. Even if a more verbose way of speaking would find the highest approval, I would still hardly attempt it. The task of the present work, on the other hand, requires that we outline the simple doctrine with the greatest possible brevity. But just as the philosophers know certain limits for justice and respectability, and derive from them all the individual duties and the whole host of virtues, so also the Scriptures have their order in this respect; indeed, they have the most marvelous division, which is much more certain than anything the philosophers offer here. There is only one difference: the philosophers were ambitious people and therefore took great pains to achieve a select clarity of arrangement, in order to display in this way the dexterity of their spirit; the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, carried on his teaching ministry without artifice, and therefore he did not keep the orderly manner of presentation so sharply and steadfastly. But here and there he brings it nevertheless, and thus gives us enough to understand that we must not neglect it.

III,6,2 This instruction, which the Scriptures give us and of which we are speaking here, consists now mainly in two pieces. The first is that the love of righteousness, to which we are otherwise by nature not at all inclined, is instilled and introduced into our hearts. The second part is that we are to be given a standard that will not lead us astray in our pursuit of righteousness. Then the Scriptures have many and excellent causes to advertise righteousness aright; many of them we have already mentioned above in various places, some more we shall have to touch upon here, from what foundation should it be better able to take its starting point than from the exhortation, "Ye shall be holy: for the Lord your God is holy"? (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15f.). We all went astray like scattered sheep, we were hopelessly lost in the maze of this world - and there he gathered us to make us his flock! When we hear our bond with God mentioned, we should always remember that holiness must be the bond by which it exists. This does not mean that we enter into communion with God by the merit of our holiness. On the contrary, we must first adhere to Him, so that His holiness may permeate us and we may then follow wherever He calls us! But the above sentence is true, because it is very much to God’s glory that he has no dealings with unrighteousness and impurity! Therefore, according to the teaching of Scripture, this is the meaning of our calling, which we must always keep in mind if we want to answer God’s call: (Isa 35:8 et al.). What purpose would it serve to tear us out of the wickedness and defilement of this world, into which we were completely immersed, if we now wanted to allow ourselves to roll around in that wickedness and defilement all our lives? At the same time, Scripture reminds us that in order to be counted among the Lord’s people, we must dwell in the holy city of Jerusalem; but this city the Lord has sanctified Himself, and therefore it is not fitting that it should be profaned by the uncleanness of its inhabitants! Hence such words as, "Who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? … He who walks blamelessly and does right …" (Ps 15:1 f.; Ps 24 and other passages). For the sanctuary in which he has his dwelling must not be full of uncleanness like a cattle shed!l!

III,6,3 To cheer us up even more, the Scripture then continues to hold before our eyes: as God our Father reconciled Himself to us in His Christ, so also He has set before us in Him the image after which we are to be fashioned according to His will (Rom 6,18). Now let those people who think that only in the philosophers the doctrine of good morals meets us in a right and meaningful order, come here and show me a more glorious order in the philosophers! If the philosophers want to give us an excellent exhortation to virtue, then they present us with nothing but the proposition that we should live according to nature. Scripture, on the other hand, draws its exhortations from the true source: not only does it give us the precept to direct our lives toward God, who is its giver and to whom it is committed, but it also teaches us that we are degenerate toward the true origin and the true law of our creation, and then adds that Christ, through whom we are again accepted in grace with God, is set before us as an example whose likeness we must bring to illustration in our lives. What can one seek more effectively than this One? Yes, what else can we seek beyond this One? We are therefore adopted by the Lord as children, so that our life may represent Christ, the bond of our filiation! If we do not surrender and pledge ourselves to righteousness, then we not only fall away from our Creator in disgraceful disloyalty, but we also deny our Redeemer. The Scripture takes another reason for its exhortation from all the benefits of God, which it calls to our remembrance, and from all the individual facts that constitute our salvation. Since God, it teaches us, has shown Himself to us as our Father, we would incur the most terrible reproach of ingratitude if we did not show ourselves to Him again as children! (Mal 1:6; Eph 5:1; 1. John 3:1). Since Christ has cleansed us with His blood and has given us this washing through baptism, it is not acceptable that we stain ourselves with new filth! (Eph 5:26; Hebr 10:10; 1Cor 6:11; 1Pe 1:16; 1Pe 1:19). Since Christ has incorporated us into His body, we who are His members must be careful not to defile ourselves with stain and uncleanness! (1Cor 6:15; Jn. 15:3 ff.; Eph 5:23 ff.). Since he, our head, has ascended to heaven, it is right that we put away all earthly sense and strive for heaven with all our heart! (Col 3:1 ss.). Since the Holy Spirit has consecrated us as temples to God, we must make every effort to glorify God’s glory through us, and we must not allow ourselves to be desecrated by the filth of sin! (1Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2Cor 6:16). Since our soul and body are destined for heavenly incorruption and an unfading crown, we must make every effort to keep them pure and blameless until the day of the Lord! (1 Thess. 5:23; allusion to Phil 1:10). These are truly excellent foundations for the right organization of our life, the like of which one will never find in the philosophers; for if they want to praise virtue, they never get beyond the natural dignity of man!

III,6,4 Now here is the place where I have to address myself with all severity against such people who have to do with Christ only by title and sign and yet want to be called Christians. With what insolence do they boast of his holy name? Only those have anything to do with Christ who have received his true knowledge from the words of the gospel. According to the words of the apostle, all those who have not been taught to put off "the old man" who is "corrupted by the lusts of error" and to "put on Christ" (Eph 4:22-24) have not come to know Christ properly. Such people, then, betray that they claim the knowledge of Christ falsely and in insult to the Lord-however well-placed and voluble they may meanwhile prate of the gospel! For this is not a doctrine of tongues, but a doctrine of life; it is not grasped by reason and memory alone, like the other sciences, but man does not really absorb it until it takes possession of his whole soul and finds its seat and lodging in the deepest stirrings of the heart! Those people should therefore refrain from blaspheming God and claiming something for themselves which they are not at all - or else they should prove themselves to Christ, their Master, as disciples who are not unworthy of Him! We have given first place to the doctrine in which our worship of God is resolved, for from it proceeds our salvation; but this doctrine, if it is to bear us fruit otherwise, must be deeply sunk into our hearts and penetrate our conduct of life, nay, it must form us into itself! Even the philosophers are right when they flare up against such people and remove them from their flock with shame and disgrace, who teach that "art" which is supposed to be "the master of life," but then turn it into a pseudo-sophisticated gossip! With how many better reasons must we then detest those garrulous smart alecks who are content to wear the Gospel right at the front of their lips - the effect of which, after all, should penetrate the deepest stirrings of the heart, take root in the soul and inwardly grasp the whole man a hundred times more strongly than all the frosty exhortations of the philosophers!

III,6,5 However, I do not demand that the way of life of a Christian man breathe nothing but the perfect gospel - although this is to be desired and we must necessarily strive for it. I do not make the demand for "evangelical perfection" (Evangelica perfectio) with such severity that I would not recognize a person who has not yet attained it as a Christian. For in such a case all men would be excluded from the church; there is not a single one to be found who is not still very far from that goal; but many have still made very little progress, and yet they would not deserve to be excluded. But what should happen now? We should set our eyes on that goal and direct our efforts to it alone. We should have that goal set before us, according to which all our efforts, all our running should be directed! For it is not proper to divide between God and man in such a way that one accepts a part of what he prescribes for us in his words, but leaves aside another part at one’s own discretion. For he commands us everywhere in the first place righteousness as the noblest piece of his worship; by this he understands the sincere simplicity of heart, to which all false pretense and hypocrisy is far; the opposite of this is the divided heart. So he wants to say: the spiritual beginning of right living lies in the fact that we give ourselves to God without hypocrisy with the inner stirring of our heart in order to serve holiness and righteousness. But in this earthly dungeon of the body, no man has strength enough to hurry along his course with true joy; indeed, most suffer from such weakness that they only make modest progress, staggering and limping, even crawling on the ground. So let us all, then, according to the measure of our little strength, do our walk and continue the way we have begun! No one’s path will be so unfortunate that he will not be able to get a little bit behind him every day. But we do not want to stop striving to make constant progress on the way of the Lord, and we do not want to lose heart even when our progress is insignificant. Even if the progress does not correspond to our wishes, the effort is not lost, if only today remains victorious over yesterday. We only want to look at our goal in sincere simplicity and reach out for the goal sign, we do not want to flatter ourselves, nor do we want to give in to our evil nature, but we want to strive in unceasing effort to become better than we were, until we have finally penetrated to goodness itself: we seek it, we chase after it throughout the whole time of our life - but then we will reach it, when we have done away with the weakness of our flesh and have been taken up into perfect fellowship with God!

Chapter Seven


The main sum of the Christian life; here we are talking about self-denial.

III,7,1 1 The law of the Lord certainly offers us a magnificent and most excellently ordered guide for the organization of our life. But it pleased our heavenly Master to form His own in a still more exact manner according to the rule which He had prescribed in the Law. The main principle of this way of education is this: the believers have the office "to offer their bodies for sacrifice, living, holy and pleasing to God - which is their reasonable worship!" (according to Rom 12,1). From this sentence Paul takes cause for the exhortation: "And do not conform yourselves to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove which is the will of God!" (Rom 12:2; ending somewhat inaccurate). Now this is a great thing, that we are sanctified and consecrated to the Lord - to do nothing else in our thinking, speaking, striving and acting but what serves His glory! For to set that which is holy to God to unholy use is to do horrible wrong against him! Now if we are not our own masters, but belong to the Lord - it becomes immediately clear what error we are to avoid, and to what all our works are to be directed in our whole life. We are not our own masters - so neither our reason nor our will must rule in our plans and deeds. We are not our own masters - so we must not set ourselves the goal of seeking what will benefit us according to the flesh! We are not our own masters - so we should forget ourselves and everything we have as far as possible! On the other hand: We are God’s property - so we should live to him and die to him! We are God’s property - so his wisdom and will must be the guide in all our actions! We are God’s property - so our life in all its pieces must strive towards him alone as the only rightful goal! (Rom 14, 8). How far advanced is he who has recognized that he is not his own master - and who has therefore withdrawn dominion and regiment from his own reason in order to hand it over to God alone! For the most harmful pestilence, which can only destroy men, prevails where man obeys himself - and the only harbor of salvation accordingly lies in the fact that we think nothing of ourselves, want nothing of ourselves, but follow the Lord alone, as he goes before us! The first step, then, should be for man to depart from himself in order to put all the strength of his spirit into being at the Lord’s will. By such servanthood I understand not only that which is based on obedience to the Word - but that in which the heart of man, empty of all his own carnal mind, is completely converted to the will of the Spirit of God. This transformation, which Paul also calls "renewal (in the spirit) of the mind" (Eph 4:23), has been unknown to the philosophers, although it is the first step into life. They set reason alone as master over man, hold that it alone should be listened to, nay, confer and allow it alone to rule over morals. The Christian wisdom (Cnristiana pnilosopnia), on the other hand, gives way to reason, gives it up to submit to the Holy Spirit, to step under his yoke, so that man henceforth does not live himself, but carries Christ as the one who lives and reigns in him! (Gal 2,20).

III,7,2 From this follows the second: We should not seek what is ours, but what comes from the will of the Lord and is for the increase of His glory. This, too, is a great step forward, if we almost forget ourselves, at least if we put aside all consideration for ourselves and make an effort to faithfully direct all our zeal to God and His commands. When the Scripture instructs us to give up private consideration for ourselves, it not only eradicates from our hearts greed, the lust for power and the striving for favor with men - no, it also uproots the lust for honor, all attachment to human glory and other, more hidden pestilence of this kind! The Christian man must truly be of such a nature and prepared in such a way that he considers: I am dealing with God in my whole life. For this reason, he will direct all his actions according to God’s judgment and discretion; likewise, he will piously direct all the strivings of his heart toward Him. For he who has learned to look to God in everything he has to do, is thereby at the same time turned away from all useless thoughts. This is the self-denial which Christ enjoins with such emphasis on all his disciples from their first teaching time. Once this self-denial has taken hold of our hearts, it leaves no room, first of all, for arrogance, pomposity, boasting, and then also for avarice, greed, debauchery, soft lust, and all the other things that arise from our self-love. Where, on the other hand, it does not rule, even the vilest vices spread shamelessly - or else a semblance of virtue becomes visible, but it is corrupted by evil glory-seeking. Show me, if you can, a man who wanted to do good to others for nothing - without having denied himself according to the commandment of the Lord! For he who is not governed by this disposition has least of all praise in mind when he walks the path of virtue! Certainly there have been philosophers who maintained that one must strive for virtue for its own sake - but those who emphasized this most sharply were puffed up with such arrogance that it becomes quite clear: in their striving for virtue they had nothing else in mind at all than to gain a reason for their arrogance. God, however, has no pleasure in such hashers after public favor and such puffed up people - no, he tells us that they already "have their reward in this world" (Mt 6:2. 5. 16), that the harlots and tax collectors are closer to the kingdom of heaven than they are! (Mt 21:31). But I have not yet clearly shown how many and how great inhibitions prevent man from zeal for what is right, as long as he has not yet denied himself. It is true what was once said: a world of vices is hidden in the soul of man. No other remedy can be found than this, that you deny yourself, put aside the consideration of yourself and let your mind strive only to seek what the Lord requires of you, and to seek it only because it pleases him.

III,7,3 Paul describes in another place, admittedly briefly, a properly formed life in its individual parts. "For the saving grace of God hath appeared unto all men, chastening us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live chastely, righteously, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all unrighteousness, and purify unto himself a people for a possession, diligent to do good works" (Tit 2:11-14). In fact, here he first presents God’s grace to us for our encouragement and thus paves the way for us to truly serve God; but then he removes two obstacles that hinder us the most, namely the "ungodly nature" to which we are all too inclined by nature, and then the "worldly lusts" which extend (even) much further. By "ungodly nature" he understands not only superstition, but also everything that contradicts the serious fear of God. The "worldly lusts", however, mean as much as the impulses of the flesh. Therefore, according to the command of the apostle, we are to put away our own ways with respect to both tables of the law and deny everything that is dictated to us by reason and our own will! He then summarizes all of life’s events in three pieces: Chasteness, Righteousness, and Godliness (verse 12). "Chastity" here undoubtedly means chastity and moderation, but at the same time also the pure and prudent enjoyment of temporal goods and the patient endurance of lack. Justice" includes all duties of equity: thus everyone should receive what is due to him. Then comes "godliness," which separates us from the defilements of the world and unites us with God in true holiness. Where these three are indissolubly united, they bring about true perfection. However, nothing is so difficult as to give up the reason of the flesh, to curb our desires, even to deny them - and thus to consecrate ourselves to God and our brothers and to strive for an angelically pure life in the midst of the filth of the earth. Therefore, Paul wants to untie our hearts from all fetters and therefore calls us back to the hope of blessed immortality. He reminds us that we are not struggling in vain: for as Christ once appeared as our Redeemer, so also at his last coming he will bring to light the fruit of the salvation he has purchased for us. Thus he destroys all enticements that befog us, so that we do not duly aspire to the heavenly glory; nay, he teaches us that we must wander in the world as strangers, lest the heavenly inheritance be lost or forfeit to us.

III,7,4 From these words of the apostle we see further that our self-denial is directed partly toward men, partly also - and primarily - toward God. When the Scripture instructs us for our dealings with people: "One should precede the other with reverence" (Rom 12,10; Phil 2,3), so that we should do our utmost out of an honest heart to care for the welfare of others, it gives us a command that our heart cannot grasp if it has not first been emptied of its natural sense. For we are all sunk in self-love out of terrible blindness - and therefore everyone believes to have a just reason to exalt himself, to despise all others, on the other hand, in comparison with himself. If God has given us something of which we need not be ashamed, we immediately put our trust in it and lift up our hearts, we puff ourselves up, yes, we almost burst with pride! Our vices, of which we have so many, we hide from others with diligence and flatteringly pretend to ourselves that they are insignificant and unimportant, yes, we even pamper them as virtues! But if we find the same gifts in others that we admire in ourselves, perhaps even in a higher degree, we reproach and revile them in our malice, so that we are not compelled to acknowledge them in them. If, however, we find vices in others, we are not content to note them in stern, bitter rebuke, no, we make them even greater in our spitefulness! Hence then comes the arrogance with which we all want to rise above the others - as if we made an exception to the general law - with which we proudly and haughtily despise all mortals, or at least look down upon them as standing below us! Thus the poor have to take a back seat before the rich, the non-nobles before the nobility, the servants before the masters, the unlearned before the educated - but there is no one among them who does not somehow nurture in his heart the delusion that he is something special. Thus every individual carries some kingdom in his heart by his self-reflection. For each one presumptuously ascribes to himself something by virtue of which he finds pleasure in himself - and from there he then sits in judgment on the character and the way of life of the other! But when it comes to a quarrel, then the poison breaks out openly. Certainly, many people show some gentleness as long as they hear flattering and sweet things, but how many of them can keep this modest attitude when they are tormented and irritated? There is no other remedy than that the terribly harmful pestilence of ambition and self-help be torn out of the deepest inner being - as indeed happens through the instruction of the Holy Scriptures. For the Scriptures teach us in such a way that we remember: the gifts that God has granted us are not our possession, but God’s gift; if anyone now becomes proud of them, his ingratitude comes to light. So Paul says, "Who has preferred you? … But if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1Cor 4:7). Furthermore, we should also urge ourselves to humility by diligently contemplating our vices. In this way, nothing will remain in us that could make us puffed up - on the other hand, there will be much reason for bowing down! On the other hand, we are commanded to respect and cherish the gifts of God that we see in other people in such a way that we at the same time honor the people to whom they are bestowed. For if the Lord has honored them with such gifts, it would be wickedness if we were to deny them. According to the teaching of Scripture, we should be lenient toward the vices of others - certainly not as if we were to encourage them by flattery; but we should not, for the sake of vices, become coarse toward men whom, after all, we are to treat with benevolence and reverence. It will happen, then, that we will not only be reserved and modest, but obliging and kind, toward all men with whom we have to do. True meekness cannot be attained in any other way than by humbling oneself and being completely filled with reverence for others.

III,7,5 How difficult it is for us to fulfill our official duty and to always have our neighbor’s advantage in mind! If you do not give up all consideration for yourself and, as it were, undress yourself, you will achieve nothing here. How will you display the works that Paul describes as works of love - without denying yourself and consecrating yourself completely to the service of others? He says: "Love is longsuffering and kind, love is not jealous, love does not take pleasure, it does not envy, it does not puff itself up … It does not seek its own, it does not allow itself to be provoked …" (1Cor 13:4 f.; somewhat inaccurate). If only one thing were demanded, that we should not seek our own - then our nature would have to be violated in no small measure; for it determines us so exclusively to self-love that it would not easily accept it if we would easily let ourselves and our interests go in order to watch over the welfare of others, yes, voluntarily renounce our right in order to leave it to someone else! But this is precisely what Scripture wants to lead us by the hand, and therefore it reminds us that all the gifts of grace we have received from the Lord are entrusted to us with the purpose of using them for the common benefit of the Church! The rightful use of all these gifts of grace, then, is that we share them freely and gladly with others! No more reliable rule can be thought of, no more powerful exhortation to observe it, than that we allow ourselves to be instructed: all the gifts we have received abundantly are God’s property entrusted to us, given to us in good faith for the purpose of distributing them for the benefit of our neighbor! But the Scripture goes even further and compares those gifts with the abilities inherent in the members of the human body. No member has its ability for itself, nor does it use it for its own benefit, but each transfers it to the members connected with it, and has no benefit from it except that which comes from the welfare of the whole body. Thus the pious man must do all he can for the brethren, directing his mind to nothing but that his heart may be set on the common edification of the Church! We will find the way to kindness and charity if we consider that we are appointed as stewards of all that God has entrusted to us and with which we are able to help our neighbor, and we are obliged to give an account of the distribution of such gifts. The right distribution, however, will only be that which is guided by the rule of love. Thus, we will not only combine the eager striving for the welfare of others with the concern for our own benefit - no, we will subordinate this concern to that eager striving. But so that it may not remain hidden from us that this is the law according to which we are to administer all the gifts we have received from God, God has already put this order into the smallest gifts of his goodness. He commanded to offer him the firstfruits (Ex 22,28; 23,19). Thereby it should be testified to the people that it would be wrong, if they wanted to benefit from such goods for themselves, which were not consecrated to the Lord before! But these gifts of God are sanctified for us only when we have offered them with our own hand to their giver again; so everything is an impure misuse of the gifts that does not show that offering. But it would be a vain effort if you wanted to make God rich by giving your possessions! But since your charity is not able to reach him, you should practice it according to the words of the prophet against his saints who are on earth! (Ps 16,2f. according to the Latin translation). Therefore the alms are compared to holy sacrifices, so that they correspond today to those sacrifices that once existed under the law (Hebr 13,16).

III,7,6 But so that we do not grow weary of doing good (Gal 6,9) - and otherwise this would happen very soon! the apostle tells us: "Love is longsuffering, … it does not let itself be provoked!" (1Cor 13:4f.). The Lord gives us the command to do good to all men without exception; and among these, a considerable part is wholly unworthy of it, if these men are judged according to their own merit. Here the Scriptures come to our aid in the best possible way, teaching us that we must not pay attention to what people deserve of themselves, but that we must direct our attention to the image of God in all people, to whom we owe all honor and love. With special diligence we have to pay attention to this image of God in the members of the household of faith, insofar as it has been renewed and restored in them by Christ’s Spirit (Gal 6:10). Whatever kind of person you may encounter who needs your service, you have no reason to withdraw from him and not devote yourself to him. Say only that he is a stranger to thee: but the Lord hath stamped upon him a mark which shall be well known unto thee; in this sense, after all, hath he said unto thee, "Withdraw not thyself from thy flesh!" (Isa 58:7). Say thou only that he is a despised, unworthy man: but the Lord showeth him to thee as one whom he hath graced with the adornment of his likeness! Only say that he has done you no service, which in turn obliges you: but God has appointed him, as it were, his representative - and you shall show yourself grateful to this man for so many and so great benefits, with which God has made you his debtor! Do not say that he is not worthy that you make the slightest effort for his sake - but the image of God, which confronts you here, is well worthy that you place yourself and everything that is yours at his disposal! Even if the other not only does not deserve anything good for you, but has even irritated you with insults and abuse - even that is not a good reason why you should stop receiving him with love and showing him the services of love! (Mt 6,14; 18,35; Lk 17,3). You may well say: He deserves something completely different from me! But what has the Lord earned? If the Lord commands you to forgive him all that he has done wrong against you, surely he wants you to impute the other person’s sin to him! There is only one way to achieve what is totally contrary to human nature, let alone difficult, namely that we love those who hate us, that we repay evil with good and set blessing against reproach! (Mt 5,44). And this way lies in the fact that we remember: we should not consider the wickedness of men, but look in them for the image of God; which covers and eradicates their iniquities, and by its beauty and dignity excites us to love man and to meet him with kindness.

III,7,7 This dying (of the old man) will therefore only take place in us when we fulfill the duty of love towards our neighbor. This fulfillment is not yet found where a man merely performs all works of love - even if he omits none! It is only there, where one does it out of sincere love! For it may happen that, as far as external duties are concerned, a man does all that he is supposed to do without exception, but that he is still far from the right kind of performance. One can see people who want to be considered very generous, and yet they give nothing without reproaching the recipient with arrogant looks or even arrogant words. In our unhappy times, this has led to such misery that most people, at least, can hardly give alms without scorning (the poor). This is an infamy that should not be tolerated even among the heathen, for something else is demanded of Christians than that they show a friendly look and make their service pleasant by kind words. They should first of all accept the person of the one whom they see in need of their help and let his misfortune go to their hearts just as if they themselves experienced and went through it; in this way they should be led to come to his aid out of the feeling of mercy and humanity just as they would do it for their own good. He who goes about helping his brethren in this spirit will not sully his service with presumption or reproach, nor will he at the same time despise the brother to whom he does good as one in need of help, or as one who owes him something, Just as we do not roughly attack a sick member when the rest of the body is struggling to bring it back to life, or as we think that this sick member is now under a special obligation to the others because it has drawn more help to itself than it has rendered! For we do not believe that the community of service among the members is to be considered an undeserved gift; it is rather the fulfillment of an obligation that comes from the law of nature and the denial of which would be monstrous. From this it follows that a man who has performed a certain service should not think that he is free - it happens again and again that a rich man gives away something of his possessions and then shifts other burdens to others as if they did not concern him. No, everyone should rather consider that he is a debtor to his neighbor with all that he is and has - and that his benevolence towards his neighbor only comes to an end when his wealth ceases to do so; for as far as his wealth reaches, it must also be determined according to the rule of love!

III,7,8 But primarily our self-denial, as I have already explained, is directed toward God. I will now speak about this again, and in more detail. Much has already been said about this, and it would be superfluous to repeat it. It must be enough for us to go so far with our consideration as it serves to lead us to equanimity and patience. First, then, if we seek ways and means to make our present life pleasant and tranquil, Scripture calls us to surrender ourselves and all that is ours to the Lord’s discretion, and to hand over to him all the impulses of our heart, that he may tame them and take them under his yoke. We are, after all, full of wild lust and infinite greed to strive for riches and honor, to desire power ambitiously, to amass riches and all the other follies that seem to serve us for pomp and ostentation! On the other hand, we have a strange fear of poverty, contempt and lowliness, a strange hatred of it all - and this incites us to get rid of it by all means. From this we can see how restless a man is in his nature who shapes his life according to his own liking, how many arts he tries, with how much zeal he tires himself out! And all this in order to attain what his ambitious and greedy mind is after, and on the other hand to escape poverty and lowliness! So that the pious man does not get entangled in such ropes, he must take the following way. First of all, he must not seek or hope or think of any other means of well-being than from the blessing of the Lord alone. On this blessing, then, he should calmly and confidently rely and lean. For even though the flesh may think that it has enough in itself by striving for honor and wealth with its own efforts and striving for it with its own zeal or even being helped to it by the favor of men, all this is certainly nothing, and we can achieve nothing even with understanding and effort, unless the Lord gives us the prosperity for both! On the other hand, his blessing alone finds the way through all obstacles, and gives us that everything may turn out cheerfully and happily for us. But further: we could at best obtain all kinds of fame and riches without God’s blessing - we see how the wicked accumulate great honors and riches every day - but a man who is under God’s curse cannot taste the least bit of happiness, and therefore without God’s blessing we will only obtain things that turn out badly for us. But now we should under no circumstances strive for something that can only plunge man into more misery!

III,7,9 So we believe that it is only due to God’s blessing that our affairs progress well and that we fare as we wish; but if we are deprived of His blessing, we have to expect misery and hardship of all kinds. But if it is so, then we are not to rely on our own prudence, nor on our own diligence, nor to rely on human favor, nor to trust in the empty delusion of happiness, and with all this greedily strive for riches and honor; no, we are always to look to the Lord to be led by his guidance to the lot which he has provided for us, whatever it may be. Then it will happen, first of all, that we will not run after riches or prestige by means of iniquity, cunning and false arts, with rapacity or with injustice against our neighbor; but we will seek only such goods as will not lead us away from innocence! Who, then, among fraud and robbery and other evil practices, would want to hope that God’s blessing would lend him help? For the blessing of God follows only him who thinks purely and acts rightly, and therefore he calls away all who invoke it from insincere thinking and evil doing! Furthermore, a rein is also put on us, so that we do not burn in immoderate greed to become rich, and do not hang on to external prestige in an ambitious way. For where shall a man get the impudence to trust that God will help him to obtain things which he desires in contradiction to His word? For let it be a far cry that God should accompany with the help of his blessing that which he curses with his own mouth! And finally: if we do not succeed according to desire and expectation, we are nevertheless restrained from impatience, also from the malediction of our situation - be it what it may. For we know that this would be grumbling against God, according to whose discretion riches and poverty, contempt and honors are distributed. To sum up, he who relies on God’s blessing in the way I have described will not seek with evil arts such things as men usually covet wildly - for he will consider that such arts will not profit him after all. But he will also, if he succeeds in something, not attribute this success to himself, nor to his diligence, busyness or luck; no, he will acknowledge in gratitude that God is the giver. If other people have prosperous success in their affairs, but he himself makes little progress, nay, is even thrown back, he will nevertheless bear his poverty with greater serenity and greater gentleness of heart than any worldly man would bear a mediocre success which merely does not correspond to his wishes. For he has a consolation in which he can be more confidently satisfied than in the greatest abundance of wealth and power: he considers that the Lord will so order his affairs as is conducive to his salvation. Such was David’s mind, as we see: he followed God and abandoned himself to His guidance, testifying that he was like a "weaned child" and did not "walk in things" that were high or too wonderful for him (Ps 131:1 f.).

III,7,10 However, a pious mind should not only keep calm and patience in such a case; no, such calm and patience must also prevail in all other vicissitudes to which this present life is subject. Only he who has given himself completely to the Lord, so that he submits his life in all particulars to the guidance of his counsel, exercises the right self-denial. If a person carries this attitude in his heart, he will neither consider himself wretched nor complain about his fate in hatred of God, no matter what may happen. How necessary this attitude is, however, will become clear to us when we consider how many accidents we are subject to. Diseases of all kinds afflict us again and again; soon pestilence rages, soon war brings cruel torments upon us, soon frost or hail sweeps away the hope of the year and brings us misgrowth, which exposes us to want; or death robs us of wife or parents or children or relatives; or our house falls victim to a conflagration. These are events under the effect of which people curse their lives, maledict the day of their birth, curse the sky and the daylight, interfere with God and - since they are not at a loss for words when it comes to blasphemy - accuse him of injustice and savage cruelty. - accuse him of injustice and savage cruelty. The believer, on the other hand, should look at God’s clemency and fatherly forbearance even in such events. If, for example, his closest relatives are taken away from him and he sees his house deserted, he will not cease to praise the Lord, but he will consider: "In spite of everything, the grace of the Lord that dwells in my house will not let this house remain deserted! If the frost has frozen the seeds, if the frost has destroyed them, if the hail has knocked them to the ground, and if the believer sees hunger looming over all of them, he will not lose heart, he will not turn against God with hatred, but he will remain confident: "But we are still under the protection of the Lord and sheep that he has raised in his pasture" (Ps 79:13; not Luther’s text); he will therefore provide us with food even in the greatest harvest failure! Or if he is afflicted with sickness, even the greatest bitterness of pain will not break him, so that he would fall into impatience and thus quarrel with God; no, he will recognize justice and gentleness in the scourge of God and thus call upon himself to be patient! In short, whatever may happen to him, he knows that it has been decreed by the hand of the Lord, and he will therefore accept it meekly and with a thankful heart, so as not to stiff-neckedly resist the guidance of him into whose power he once placed himself and all that is his. Above all, a Christian man must keep away in his heart from that foolish and miserable consolation of the pagans: these wanted to arm their hearts against misfortune and therefore attributed it to "fate"; but they then declared that to be angry against "fate" was foolish, since it was blind and unpredictable and blindfolded and wounded guilty and innocent alike. Piety has exactly the opposite rule: God’s hand alone rules and governs fortune and misfortune, and it does not rush rashly along, but assigns us good as well as evil in gloriously ordered justice!

Chapter Eight


Carrying the cross as a part of self-denial

III,8,1 Yes, a pious mind must reach even higher, namely to where Christ calls His disciples: that each one take up his cross (Mt 16,24). For the one whom the Lord has adopted as a child and who is worthy of fellowship with his own, must be prepared for a hard, laborious, restless life, filled with many and various evils. Thus it is the will of the heavenly Father to train His own in this way, so that He may certainly test how they stand. With Christ, his only begotten Son, he made the beginning, and towards all his children he follows the same order. For Christ was indeed the Son of God, whom He loved more than all others (Mt 3:17; 17:5), and on whom the Father’s good pleasure rested; and yet we see how He was so not at all indulgently or softly treated; therefore it may truly be said that He was not only afflicted with constant crosses during His whole walk on earth, but that His whole life was nothing but the image of such constant crosses. The apostle shows us the reason for this: he had to learn obedience "by what he suffered"! (Hebr 5, 8). Why should we exempt ourselves from this fate, which Christ, our Head, had to take upon Himself, especially since He did it for our sake, in order to set before us an example of patience in Himself? Therefore, the apostle teaches that the goal of all God’s children is to be conformed to Christ (Rom 8:29). From this we derive a glorious consolation: if things are hard and rough for us and we think we experience misfortune and evil in them, we (in reality) share in Christ’s sufferings; for just as he passed out of a labyrinth of all evils into heavenly glory, so we too are to "pass through much tribulation into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). So Paul himself teaches us elsewhere: when we learn "the fellowship of his sufferings," we also experience at the same time the "power of his resurrection," and when we "become like him in death," we are thereby prepared for participation in the glorious resurrection! (Phil 3:10 f.). How much it can serve to alleviate all the bitterness of the cross that the more we are afflicted by misfortune, the more certain we become of our fellowship with Christ! Through fellowship with Him, the sufferings themselves are blessed to us; indeed, they also offer us much assistance for the furtherance of our salvation!

III,8,2 Moreover, our Lord needed to take up the cross only insofar as it was necessary to testify and prove His obedience to the Father. For us, on the other hand, it is necessary for many reasons to live our lives under a constant cross. First of all, we are all too inclined by nature to ascribe everything to our flesh, and therefore, if our weakness is not presented to us in a tangible way, we easily come to value our strength above the right measure and not to doubt that it will remain unbroken and undefeated in the face of all difficulties - come what may. Thus we fall into a foolish and vain confidence in our flesh; we rely on it and come to a stiff-necked arrogance against God Himself, as if we had enough of our own abilities without His grace. God can no better curb this presumption than by proving to us by experience how much weakness, even how much frailty, we suffer. Therefore he afflicts us with shame or poverty or with the loss of our loved ones or with sickness or with other hardships - and to bear this we are far too weak; what is in us we must soon succumb to! Thus humbled, we learn to invoke His power, which alone makes us stand firm under the weight of our afflictions. Even the holiest men, who have certainly recognized that they endure by God’s grace and not by their own strength, are nevertheless more sure of their bravery and steadfastness than is right - if God does not lead them to deeper self-knowledge through the test of the cross. Such false carelessness also crept into David: "I said when I was well: I will never again lie down. For, O Lord, by thy good pleasure thou hadst made my mountain strong; but when thou hidest thy face, I was afraid" (Ps 30:7f.). He confesses here how under happy circumstances his senses were dulled into indolence, so that he put God’s grace, on which he was supposed to depend, aside and instead leaned on himself, even promising himself permanent steadfastness. But if this happened to such a prophet - who among us would not have to be afraid to be careful? If, under calm circumstances, people have flattered themselves with their constancy and patience and thought them great, then, humbled by adversity, they come to realize that it was all hypocrisy. By such proofs, I mean, believers are reminded of their infirmities and thus progress to humility, so that they put away all wrong trust in the flesh and take refuge in God’s grace. When they have done this, they also experience the presence of divine power, in which help is enough and abundant.

III,8,3 This is exactly what Paul is talking about when he teaches us that "tribulation brings patience, but patience brings experience …" (Rom 5,3f.). God has promised the faithful to stand by them in tribulation - and they "experience" the truth of this promise when they, supported by His hand, "patiently" stand firm, which they would not be able to do on their own! The "patience" thus brings to the saints the "experience" that God really shows the help which he has promised to them, if it is necessary. This again serves to confirm their hope; for it would be too great an ingratitude if they did not expect the truth of God, which they have experienced as constant and powerful, also for the future. We can already see how much good comes to us here in a single context from the cross. For the cross overthrows our delusion in which we have falsely presumed our own strength, it reveals our hypocrisy which gives us so much pleasure, it strikes down our dangerous trust in our flesh; but when it has humbled us in this way, it teaches us to rely on God alone, and so it comes about that we are not oppressed and do not succumb. But victory is followed by hope; for the Lord, by fulfilling his promise, has confirmed his truth also for the future. Truly, even if these causes stood alone, it would be clear how much we need the exercise under the cross. For it is of no small importance that our blind self-love be taken away from us and that we thus become quite aware of our weakness, - that we take our own weakness to heart in order to learn to distrust ourselves, - that we distrust ourselves in order to place our trust in God, - that we let the trust of our heart rest in God, in order to build on His help and thus persevere unconquered to the end, - that we stand firm by His grace, so that we may know that He is true in His promises, - that we experience the unbreakability of His promises, in order to thereby receive a strengthening of our faith!

III,8,4 When the Lord sends tribulation to His own, He also has another purpose in mind: He wants to test their patience and train them to obedience. Not, of course, as if they could render him any other obedience than that which he himself has given them; but he is pleased to have the gifts of grace which he has bestowed on his saints thus witnessed and glorified with excellent evidence, so that they may not remain idly hidden within. Thus, when he makes manifest the power and constancy to endure with which he has endowed his servants, it is said that he tests their patience. This is the reason for statements like the one that God "tempted" Abraham (Gen 22,1) and that he now experienced that he "feared God" because he did not refuse to sacrifice his own only son (Gen 22,12). Therefore Peter also teaches that our faith is tested by tribulations just as gold is tested in the furnace with fire (1Pet 1:7). But who would not consider it beneficial that the glorious gift of patience, which the believer has received from his God, should also be put to use and in this way become sure and evident? In any other way, people would never appreciate it properly! So God is quite right when he gives his believers cause to awaken the powers he has given them - so that they do not remain hidden in the dark or even lie there uselessly and perish! But if it is so, then there is a very weighty cause for the tribulations of the saints, without which their patience would be nothing. The cross, I say, also educates the faithful to obedience, and this because they are thus taught to live not according to their own desires, but according to God’s will. Truly, if they were able to do everything as they wished, they would not even know what it means to follow God! As Seneca tells us, there was an old proverb that was used to encourage a person to endure misfortune: "Follow God! (On the blissful life 15,5). In this way, it was understood that a man would not bow under God’s yoke until he offered his hand and back to His rod! It is the most reasonable demand that we have to show obedience to the heavenly Father in all things, - but then we must not evade the fact that he accustoms us in all kinds of ways to render such obedience to him..

III,8,5 How much we need such obedience, however, can only be fully understood when we also consider how much our flesh is inclined to throw off God’s yoke as soon as it is treated a little more softly and leniently. It is just like unruly horses: if they have been left to stand idle for a few days and have been well fed, then they cannot be restrained any longer because of their wildness, and they no longer recognize their rider, whose command they had obeyed before! God’s complaint about the people of Israel applies to us continually and in general: when we have grown fat, we lash out at the one who raised us and fed us! (Deut 32:15). God’s beneficence should tempt us to contemplate His goodness and thank it with hot love. But our wickedness is so great that, on the contrary, we are always corrupted by His forbearance, and therefore it is highly necessary for us to be kept in check, so to speak, so that we do not let ourselves go in such wantonness. So that we do not become unruly through excessive abundance of goods, or fall into arrogance under high honors, or become puffed up by other goods of the soul, of the body, or of possessions, and let ourselves be seduced into arrogance, the Lord Himself counters this, as He sees fit, and tames and restrains the wildness of our flesh through the remedy of the cross! He does this in various ways, namely as much as it is salutary for each individual. For we do not all suffer equally from the same infirmities, nor do we all need equally severe curative treatment. Therefore, one can also perceive how one is afflicted with this kind of cross, the other with that kind. But if the heavenly physician treats the one more gently, and brings the other to recovery with a sharper remedy - for he is concerned for the health of all! He does not let anyone go free and untouched, for he knows that all are sick without exception!!

III,8,6 Now the Father, in His great kindness, not only deems it necessary to anticipate our weakness, but He must also often punish our past misdeeds in order to keep us in due obedience to Himself. So, when we suffer tribulation, the memory of our past life must come to our mind immediately: then we will find without doubt that we have committed something that deserves such chastisement. However, we should not derive the exhortation to patience primarily from the knowledge of sin. For Scripture gives us a far better way of looking at it: it says that in calamity we are "chastened of the Lord, lest we be condemned together with the world!" (1Cor 11:32). So it is fitting that in the very bitterness of tribulations we should recognize the goodness and kindness of our Father toward us; for even then He does not cease to promote our salvation. He does not send us tribulation to destroy or ruin us, but rather to set us free from the condemnation of the world. This consideration will lead us to what Scripture teaches elsewhere, "My child, do not reject the chastening of the Lord, nor be impatient of His punishment. For whom the Lord loveth he punisheth, yet is well pleased with him, as a father with his son" (Prov 3:11 f.). When we feel the rod of our Father - is it not our duty to show ourselves obedient, docile children, instead of being stiff-necked like lost people who have hardened themselves in their evil deeds? God allows us to be lost if He does not call us back to Himself by chastening us after our apostasy from Him - and the apostle must be right when he says: "But if you are without chastening, … you are bastards and not children!" (Hebr 12:8). So we are completely wrong if we cannot bear him where he makes clear his benevolence toward us and his concern for our salvation. According to the teaching of Scripture, there is a difference between the unbelievers and the believers: the unbelievers, as slaves, so to speak, to their ingrained and baked-in wickedness, only become worse and more stiff-necked through beatings; the believers, on the other hand, have been given the sincere disposition of children, and therefore they proceed to repentance. Now everyone may choose to which group he prefers to belong. But I have already spoken about this elsewhere, and therefore I will content myself with this brief mention and conclude now.

III,8,7 It is a wonderful consolation when we suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. For then the thought must come to us of what high honor God dignifies us with, that he thus distinguishes us with the special mark of his war service. When I speak of suffering persecution for the sake of righteousness, I am thinking not only of those who suffer persecution for the sake of defending the gospel, but also of those who suffer hardship because of some advocacy of righteousness. If we, whether by defending God’s truth against Satan’s lies or by protecting the good and innocent against the injustices of the wicked, have to incur the world’s disfavor and hatred, and if from there our life or our possessions or our honor are threatened with harm, it should not be hard or burdensome for us to place ourselves at God’s service even in such matters, nor should we feel miserable in a situation in which he has blessed us with his own mouth! (Mt 5,10). Certainly poverty, when considered in and of itself, is misery, also banishment, contempt, imprisonment, and disgrace; and death itself is finally the summit of all misery. But if our God’s grace is for us, all this can only turn out for our happiness. Therefore, let us be satisfied with Christ’s testimony rather than with the false delusion of the flesh. Then it will happen that we will rejoice according to the example of the apostles every time he finds us worthy "to suffer reproach for his name’s sake" (Acts 5:41). Why? If we innocently and with a good conscience lose our wealth through an outrage of the wicked, we are indeed put in want before men, but before God in heaven true wealth accrues to us precisely because of this! If we are driven out of our house and farm, we will be received all the more firmly into the fellowship of God’s house. If we are tormented or despised, we take root all the more firmly in Christ. If we are covered with shame and disgrace, we have a more glorious place in the kingdom of God! If we are murdered, the entrance to the blessed life is opened to us! Let us be ashamed to esteem such adversities, to which the Lord has attached such high value, less than the shadowy, transient lures of life!

III,8,8 With such and similar exhortations, then, the Scriptures offer us abundant consolation for all the ignominy and repugnance we have to take upon ourselves in the defense of righteousness. What a great ingratitude it is if we do not gladly and cheerfully accept such hardships from God’s hand, especially since this kind of cross is most peculiar to believers and Christ wants to be glorified in us through it, as Peter also teaches (1Pet 4:12 ss.). Now, to noble natures it is more bitter to bear reproach than to suffer death a hundred times over, and therefore Paul expressly admonishes us that not only persecutions await us, but also reproaches, because "we have hoped in the living God" (1Tim 4:10). In another place he also admonishes us to conduct our walk "through evil rumors and good gossip" (2Cor 6:8). Now, no joyfulness is demanded of us, which would cancel every feeling of bitterness and pain; otherwise, if the faithful were not tormented by pain and frightened by misery, there would be no patience at all for them under the cross! If poverty were not hard, sickness not painful, ignominy not tormenting, death not dreadful-what bravery and patience would it be to make nothing of it? All these hardships, with their inherent bitterness, naturally torment the heart of all of us; but it is in this that the bravery of the believer is shown, that when the sensation of such bitterness assails him, he nevertheless resists valiantly and wins the victory, however hard the struggle may be! His patience is shown by the fact that, when he is severely incited, he nevertheless lets himself be restrained by the fear of God, so as not to fall into any kind of restraint. His joyfulness shines out from the fact that, when sadness and grief wound him, he still finds rest in God’s spiritual comfort!

III,8,9 So the believers fight a battle against their natural sense of pain when they exercise patience and moderation. Paul describes this opposition to us very finely when he says: "We have tribulation in every place, but we do not fear; we are afraid, but we do not despair; we suffer persecution, but we are not forsaken; we are oppressed, but we do not perish…" (2Cor 4:8f.). There we see that patient cross-bearing does not mean dullness, that it does not mean that we lose all sense of pain. Thus the Stoic philosophers in their foolishness once called a man of high courage, who does away with all human feeling and inwardly faces happiness as well as unhappiness, sad experiences just as well as joyful ones, yes, who lets himself be excited like a stone by nothing. And what have they achieved with their lofty wisdom? They have painted a picture of patience that has never been found among men, nor will ever be found. On the contrary, while they want to have an all too perfect and exaggerated patience, they have taken away the power of patience from human life! Nowadays there are again stoics among Christians: they consider not only sighing and weeping, but also sadness and worrying as a vice. Such absurdities generally come from idle people who practice speculation more than action and can then only produce such absurd things. However, we do not want to have anything to do with that iron philosophy which our master and lord has condemned not only by word but also by his example. He sighed and shed tears over his own and other people’s afflictions, did not instruct his disciples otherwise. "You will weep and wail," he says, "but the world will rejoice" (John 16:20). He expressly blessed those who mourned, so that no one would make a vice out of sadness! (Mt 5,4). It is also no wonder that he acts this way. If all tears are to be condemned, what kind of judgment do we want to pass on the Lord Himself, from whose body tears of blood flowed? (Lk 22:44). If all fear is to be considered a sign of unbelief, what are we to make of the trembling and shaking that, according to the Gospel account, threw him heavily to the ground? (Mt 26,37). If all sadness arouses our displeasure - how do we then approve of the fact that he confesses of himself: "My soul is sorrowful even unto death"? (Mt 26,38).

III,8,10 What I have just said was intended to keep pious hearts from despair, so that they do not completely abandon all striving for patience, because they cannot abandon the natural feeling of pain. For if someone turns patience into insensibility, a brave and steadfast man into a block, then such despair must necessarily befall him! The Scriptures praise the saints for their patience when they are challenged by the harshness of adversity and yet do not break and fall to the ground, when they are tormented by bitterness and yet are filled with spiritual joy, when they are oppressed by fear and yet breathe a sigh of relief because God’s consolation makes them joyful. In the meantime, a hard conflict is alive in their hearts: their natural feeling flees and shies away from what it feels is contrary to it, while the pious disposition pushes through even these difficulties to obedience to God’s will. The Lord expressed this conflict when he said to Peter: "When you were younger, you girded yourself and went wherever you wanted. But when thou shalt be old, … another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not." (John 21:18). It is not to be supposed that Peter, when it was necessary to glorify God by death, would have reluctantly and unwillingly allowed himself to be dragged off to die; otherwise his martyrdom deserved little praise. But though he obeyed the divine direction with the greatest gladness of heart, yet he had not cast off his human ways, and therefore he was torn apart by an ambivalent will. If he considered that bloody death, which he was to suffer, in and for itself, the horror of it overwhelmed him and he would have liked to escape from it. But if, on the other hand, he considered that God’s command was calling him to that death, his fear was conquered and he was crushed to the ground, and he gladly and joyfully took death upon himself. If we want to be Christ’s disciples, we must strive to be filled in our hearts with such reverence, such obedience to God, that all resisting impulses can thereby be tamed and subdued to their dominion. Thus it will come about that even in the greatest anxieties of the heart we will steadfastly hold fast to patience - whatever cross may torment us! For misfortune itself will always have its harshness to torment us. If sickness afflicts us, we shall sigh and grow restless and desire healing; if poverty oppresses us, we shall be tormented by the sting of sorrow and sadness; likewise, we shall feel pain at disgrace, contempt, and injustice; we shall weep bitter tears at the death of our loved ones, as nature requires - but the end will always be: The Lord willed it so, therefore let us follow His will. Yes, in the midst of the pain, sighing and tears, this thought must always arise in us, which makes our heart inclined to joyfully bear the very thing for which it allows itself to be so anxious!

III,8,11 But the best way to bear the cross patiently is to contemplate God’s will. Therefore, I must clarify in short words the difference between philosophical and Christian patience. For truly among philosophers only very few have reached such insight that they recognized: in tribulation we are exercised by God’s hand, and that they came to the judgment that in this piece one must render obedience to God. But even these only cite the information that it is so necessary. But this means nothing else than that they claim: we must yield to God because it would be in vain to fight against him. For if we obey God merely because it is necessary, our obedience will come to an end once we can escape. Scripture, on the other hand, tells us to consider something quite different about God’s will, namely, first His justice and equity and then also His concern for our salvation. It is in this sense, then, that the Christian exhortations to patience are to be understood. Whether we are afflicted by poverty, or banishment, or imprisonment, or disgrace, or sickness, or the loss of our loved ones, or any other such thing, we should always bear in mind that none of these things can befall us without the will and providence of God. Further, however, we must keep in mind that he always acts only according to perfectly righteous order. Why then - do not our innumerable and daily misdeeds deserve to be punished more severely and with harsher rods than he gives us to feel in his goodness? Isa it not quite right that our flesh should be subdued and yoked, so that it should not, after its own kind, be filled with wild greed and wantonness? Isa God’s justice and truth not worth suffering for? In our tribulations, God’s undoubted justice is made known, and therefore we cannot grumble or oppose without becoming unjust. Now we no longer hear that frosty talk: One must yield to God because it is necessary. No, we hear a living and effective instruction: We should obey, because it is wrong before God to resist; we must bear it patiently, because impatience is rebelliousness against God’s justice. Now, only that which we know is for our salvation and our good is pleasing to us. For this reason, our dear Father offers us his consolation in this passage as well, by telling us that he provides for our salvation precisely through the cross that he gives us to bear. But if it is certain that our afflictions are salvific for us, why should we not take them upon ourselves with a grateful and peaceful heart? If, then, we suffer them patiently, we do not succumb to necessity, but take comfort in what is good for us. Such thoughts, I think, in spite of everything, make the heart wide in spiritual joy, as much as it has been squeezed under the cross out of the natural feeling of bitterness! From this comes thanksgiving, which cannot be without joy. Praise of the Lord and gratitude to Him can only come from a joyful, happy heart; and there is nothing that could be an entry to this praise. This shows how necessary it is that the bitterness of the cross be softened by spiritual joy.

Chapter Nine


On the desire for the life to come


III,9,1 Whatever afflictions may press us, we must always keep in mind their purpose: we are to learn to get used to despising the present life, and thus to be provoked to strive for the life to come. Now God knows very well how much we are inclined by nature to a nonsensical love of this world, and therefore he applies the best means to pull us out of it and to drive out our drowsiness, so that we do not become too tenaciously stuck in such love! It is true that we would all like to give the appearance of longing and reaching out for heavenly immortality all our lives. For we are ashamed not to surpass the unreasonable animals in any respect, and their condition would indeed be by no means inferior to ours, - if we had no hope of eternal life after death! But if one examines the considerations, the thinking and striving and the acting of men, one will find nothing but the earth! But this is where the dullness comes from, that our mind lets itself be overwhelmed and blinded by the empty shine of wealth, power and honor in such a way that it can no longer look further. Our heart, too, is so weighed down and weighed down by greed, ambition and lust that it is no longer able to rise higher. In short, our whole soul is entangled in the lure of the flesh and therefore seeks its happiness on earth. The Lord wants to counteract this evil and teaches His own about the vanity of the present life by continued proofs of misery. So that they do not expect an undisturbed, secure peace from this life, he allows them to be often troubled and challenged by war or sedition or robbery or other outrages. Lest they should be too greedy in chasing after perishable, fragile wealth, or should be tranquilized over the wealth they possess, he brings want upon them, or at least keeps them at a mediocre level, sometimes by banishment, sometimes by barrenness of the soil, sometimes by conflagration, or in some other way. In order that they may not be too comfortable in the pleasures of marriage, he causes them to be afflicted by wickedness of the spouse, or humiliates them by evil offspring, or grieves them by the loss of the beloved. But even if he is lenient with them in all these things, he sees to it that they do not puff themselves up in foolish self-glory or become overconfident out of self-confidence: he makes it clear to them through sickness and danger how impermanent and transitory are all goods that are subject to mortality. We can only make good progress under the discipline of the cross when we learn that this life, when considered in itself, is turbulent, stormy, and miserable in many ways, but not really happy in any respect, and that everything which we consider to be the goods of this life is impermanent, fleeting, vain, mixed with many evils, and corrupted by them. Only then have we progressed in the school of the cross, when we draw from such insight at the same time the conclusion that we have nothing to seek here and nothing to expect but struggle, and that we must raise our eyes to heaven if we wish to win a crown! So we have to hold on: our heart will never and never rise seriously to the desire and the aspiration for the future life, if it is not first filled with the contempt of the present!

III,9,2 We stand here before an either-or, beside which there is no third: either the earth must be unworthy of us - or else it holds us captive in immoderate love! If, therefore, the concern for eternity somehow lives in us, we must diligently insist that we wriggle out of these evil fetters. But the present life has a lot of flattering things with which it beguiles us, a lot of apparent grace and sweetness with which it wants to entice us, and therefore it is very necessary for us to be called away from it again and again in order not to be entangled by such charms. I would like to know, dear reader, what would happen if we were to enjoy a permanent abundance of goods and happiness here - when not even the constant sting of evil can quite rouse us to consider the misery of this life! Man’s life is like a smoke or a shadow - this is not only well known to learned people, but it is also a well-known proverbial truth to the simple-minded. It has also been recognized that it is a truth which is particularly useful to know, and therefore it has been praised with many excellent sayings. And yet there is almost nothing that we consider more carelessly and less! For in all that we set to work, we act as if we wanted to become immortal here on earth! When we meet a funeral procession or when we walk between graves, the image of death appears before our eyes, and in view of this - I admit - we philosophize tremendously about the vanity of this life! However, we do not always do that, and most of the time all this does not make any impression on us. But where we get into philosophizing, it is a momentary wisdom - as soon as we turn our backs, it is already gone, and it leaves not the slightest trace of memory. In short, it blows away like a theatrical applause at some delightful play! But we do not only put death out of our minds, but also mortality itself, as if no rumor of it had ever reached us, and we turn back to superficial security, as if we were immortal on earth. If someone says to us the proverb that man is a day-old animal, we admit it, but we pay so little attention to it that the thought that we have a permanent existence here nevertheless sits deep in our hearts. Who wants to deny that we all need it most urgently - I mean, not only to be reminded of it with words, but - to be convinced with as many experiences as possible of how miserable our earthly life is! For even when we are convicted of it, we hardly cease to freeze with false, foolish admiration of this life, as if it contained the highest perfection of good! If God has need to educate us, it is again our duty to listen to Him when He calls us and stirs us up in our dullness, so that we may hold the world in low esteem and set our hearts on seeking the life to come.

III,9,3 So let believers become accustomed to despising the present life, but yet in such a way that no hatred of this life arises from it, nor even ingratitude toward God. For even though this life may be filled with infinite misery, we rightly count it among the blessings of God, which must not be despised. If, therefore, we do not recognize in it any divine benefit, we are guilty of no small ingratitude to God Himself. Especially for believers it must be a testimony of divine benevolence, for it is, after all, wholly intended to serve the furtherance of their salvation. In fact, before God openly reveals to us the inheritance of eternal glory, He wants to show Himself by lesser evidences than our Father: such evidences are all the goods that He bestows on us every day. If, then, this life serves us to know God’s goodness, how can we spurn it, as if it had not even a spark of goodness in it? We must accept this feeling and attitude in order to count this life among the gifts of divine kindness, which we must never, ever reject. The Scriptures give us very many and perfectly clear testimonies to this. But even if they were not there, nature itself reminds us to give thanks to the Lord for having brought us to the light of this life, for having given us this life to use, and for having given us all the means necessary to sustain it. We have much more cause to give thanks when we consider that in this life we are being prepared, as it were, for the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. For the Lord has so arranged it that those who shall one day be crowned in heaven shall first pass through struggles on earth, lest they should triumph without having passed through the difficulties of war and won the victory. In addition, there is another reason (for giving thanks): already in this life we begin to taste the sweetness of God’s goodness among so many benefits, and thereby our hope and desire should be sharpened to expect its full revelation. It is clear, then, that our earthly existence, as we live it, is a gift of divine kindness, for the sake of which we are indebted to God and accordingly must also remember Him and be grateful to Him. But if this is clear, then we will also properly begin to contemplate the miserable condition of this life; thereby we will also be freed from the all too great greed for it, to which, as I said, we are naturally inclined..

III,9,4 Now what we subtract from the perverse love of the present life must serve to strengthen the desire for a better one. I admit that the people who thought that it was best not to be born at all, and second best to be taken away as quickly as possible - really felt quite right, for they lacked God’s light and the true fear of God, and what else could they see in life but unhappiness and ugliness? Others celebrated the birthdays of their own with mourning and lamentation, but funerals with openly displayed joy; they too did not act without cause, and yet their actions remained without fruit. For they were deprived of the right doctrine of faith, and therefore did not see how that which in and of itself is neither happy nor desirable is nevertheless for the good of the pious; therefore in their judgment they did not get beyond despair. Therefore, when believers contemplate mortal life, the main point of consideration should be this: when they realize that this life in and of itself is nothing but misery, they should devote themselves with all the greater joy and readiness to the pursuit of that eternal life to come. Once this comparison has been made, not only can earthly life be held in low esteem, but it should also be completely despised and spurned in comparison with the life to come. For if heaven is our home, what is earth but banishment? If emigration from this world is the entrance into life, what is the world but a grave? Then what does dwelling in the world mean other than that we are immersed in death? If liberation from the body leads us to true freedom, then what is this body but a dungeon? If the highest blessedness consists in enjoying God’s presence, is it not a misery to still have to do without it? But we are really "far from the Lord" until we have taken leave of this world. If we compare the earthly life with the heavenly life, we will undoubtedly easily despise it and trample it under our feet. However, we should never hate it, unless it makes us subject to sin; but even this hatred should not really be directed at life itself. Be that as it may, we should at any rate feel aversion and hatred towards this life in such a way that we long for its end, but at the same time we are ready to remain in it according to the will of the Lord; our aversion should therefore be far from all grumbling and impatience. Life is just like a guard post, on which the Lord has placed us and which we must not leave until he calls us away. So Paul also weeps for his fate, because he is kept bound by the fetters of the body longer than he could wish, and he sighs in hot desire for redemption (Rom 7:24), and yet he wants to obey God’s command and confesses that he is ready to live and die (Phil 1:23f.). He knows that he owes it to God to glorify His name through death or life (Rom 14:8), and there it is God’s business to determine which serves most to glorify Him. So if we are to live and die to the Lord (Rom 14: 8), let us also leave to His discretion the limit of death and life. But yet in such a way that we burn with longing for death and diligently seek it, but despise life in the face of the coming immortality and desire to surrender it for the sake of sin bondage, if it pleases the Lord.

III,9,5 It is, however, quite outrageous that many people who pretend to be Christians do not even know this longing for death and instead are so afraid of it that they tremble when they hear it mentioned in any way, as if it were something completely ruinous and unfortunate! It is certainly not surprising that the natural feeling in us is frightened when it hears that we are to be dissolved. But it is in no way to be borne that even in a Christian heart the light of piety should not shine, which overcomes and subdues such fears with superior consolation! For when we consider that this impermanent, frail, perishable, dilapidated, withered, rotten hut of our body is to be torn down, to be soon changed into permanent, perfect, imperishable, heavenly glory - must not our faith then ardently long for that from which our nature shrinks? If we consider that through death we are called home from exile to find our dwelling place in our homeland, and indeed in our heavenly homeland - should we not derive any comfort from this at all? But one objects: there is no thing that does not strive to preserve itself! I quite admit this, and I maintain that for this very reason we must look to the future immortality; for there we shall be granted an abiding state such as is nowhere visible on earth! Great is it when Paul teaches us that believers go cheerfully to death, not because they are "unclothed" but because they desire to be "clothed" (2Cor 5:2). Even the unreasonable living creatures, yes, even the soulless creatures down to wood and stones know, after all, of their present vanity and look out for the last day, the resurrection day, that they may be set free from vanity with the children of God! (Rom 8,19). Should not we then, who have been gifted with the light of reason, indeed, have been enlightened beyond all reason by the Spirit of God, should we not, when it comes to our being and being, lift our hearts above this earth dust? But it is not our task here, nor is it the place to do so, to fight against such a terrible distortion. I have already clearly stated in the beginning that I can by no means get involved here in a more detailed treatment of the individual main teachings. I would like to advise those fearful minds to read the little book of Cyprian "On Mortality" - if they would not be worthy to be referred to the philosophers! With them they could perceive what they show for a contempt of the death - and then they should begin to blush about it! But we want to consider the fact that no one has made real progress in Christ’s school who does not wait with joy for the day of his death and the last resurrection! Paul describes all believers with this characteristic (Titus 2:13), and the Scriptures generally have the habit of referring us to it when they want to show us the cause of perfect joy. The Lord says: "Rejoice and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!" (Lk 21:28; the first two words are added). I only ask: is it to be understood that in us only sorrow and horror are evoked, which, according to the will of the Lord, should only serve to awaken rejoicing and gladness in us? If this is how it is with us - why do we still boast of the Lord as our Master? No, let us let a better sense arise in us, and against all resistance of blind, dull carnal desire, let us unhesitatingly not only desire the coming of the Lord, but await it with sighing and longing as the most blissful of all events! For he will come to us as the Redeemer, who will draw us out of this unfathomable maw of evil and misery and usher us into the blessed inheritance of his life and glory!

III,9,6 It is really like this: the whole nation of believers, as long as it dwells on this earth, necessarily resembles the sheep that are led to the slaughter; for it must be conformed to Christ, its head (Rom 8,36). Therefore, believers would be the most desolate of all men if they did not lift up their hearts to heaven and thereby overcome all that is in this world and leave behind the present form of things (1Cor 15:19). But once they have lifted up their heads above all earthly things, they see well how the wicked live in flourishing wealth and honor, they perceive it how they enjoy undisturbed peace, how they proudly walk along in all kinds of splendor and abundance and have all pleasures in abundance - they are also oppressed by the wickedness of the wicked, have to suffer contempt from their pride, are plundered by their covetousness and plagued by other kinds of arbitrariness - but nevertheless they will easily withstand even in such evils. For before their eyes is the day when the Lord will receive his faithful into the rest of his kingdom, when he will "wipe away all tears from their eyes," when he will clothe them with the garment of glory and joy, when he will feed them with the unspeakable sweetness of his delights, when he will lift them up to fellowship in his exalted glory, and when he will finally dignify them with a share in his blessedness! (Isa 25, 8; Rev. 7,17). But those wicked ones, who stood in high bloom on earth, he will cast into utter ignominy, he will turn their pleasures into torment, their laughter, their joy into weeping and gnashing of teeth, he will disturb their peace by the bitter torment of conscience and punish their softness with unquenchable fire, but the godly ones, whose patience they have abused, he will set over their heads! According to Paul’s testimony, righteousness consists in God "giving rest" to the miserable and unjustly afflicted, but "repaying" affliction to the wicked who "afflict" the pious, "when therefore the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven …" (2Thess 1:6f.). This is truly our only consolation; if it were taken from us, we would either have to despair completely or let ourselves be appeased by the vain consolations of the world to our destruction! The prophet also confesses that he almost stumbled with his feet when he had lingered too long in the contemplation of the present welfare of the wicked; he confesses that he was able to straighten himself up only by entering the sanctuary of the Lord and fixing his eyes on the final end that awaits the pious and the wicked (Ps 73:2, 17). To come to a brief conclusion: Only then does the cross of Christ triumph over the devil and the flesh, over sin and the ungodly, in the hearts of believers, when their eyes are fixed on the power of the resurrection!

Tenth chapter


How we should use the present life and its means.

III,10,1 With such basic guidelines the scripture gives us at the same time the right instruction about the right use of earthly goods. This is a question that we must not leave aside in the organization of our lives. For if we are to live, we must also use the means necessary for life. We cannot avoid what seems to be more for pleasure than for necessity. We must therefore keep a measure in order to use those means with a clear conscience for necessity or also for enjoyment. The Lord prescribes this measure for us in His Word: He teaches us that this present life is, as it were, a wandering for His own, on which they are striving toward the Kingdom of Heaven. If, then, we are to merely wander the earth, we must, without doubt, use its goods to further our course rather than to hinder it. Thus Paul gives the by no means improper advice to use this world as if we were not using it, and to buy possessions in the same spirit as one sells them (1Cor 7:30 f.). But we are on slippery ground here, and it is very easy to fall off on either side, so let us take care to tread firmly where we can stand securely. There have been some otherwise good and holy men who saw that intemperance and debauchery always go beyond all measure in unbridled greed, if they are not kept strictly in check - and therefore they sought to remedy such a pernicious evil; but in doing so only one means occurred to them: they allowed man the use of bodily goods only insofar as this was necessary for necessity. This is certainly pious advice, but its authors were far too strict. For they were doing something very dangerous: they were putting a tighter fetter on the conscience than those with which the word of the Lord binds it. By "necessity" they further understood that man should abstain from everything he can spare; in their opinion, therefore, one can hardly enjoy anything except bread and water. Others were even stricter: one reports of a Theban named Krates, who threw all his riches into the sea, because he thought that if his property did not perish, it would be destroyed by him. Nowadays, however, there are many people who seek a pretext to excuse the indulgence of the flesh in the use of external things, and who thereby want to pave a way for its exuberance; these now assume - which I in no way admit to them! - They now take it for granted - which I do not admit to them in any way - that this freedom must not be limited by any set measure, but that it must be left to the conscience of the individual to take as much as he thinks permissible. I admit that consciences should not and cannot be bound by fixed, precise legal formulas; but since Scripture gives general rules for the right use (of earthly goods), we should certainly measure it according to these rules.

III,10,2 The main principle should be the following: the use of God’s gifts does not deviate from the right way, if it is directed to the purpose for which the Giver Himself created and destined these gifts for us. He created them for our good and not for our destruction. Therefore, no one will keep the right way better than he who diligently keeps this purpose in mind. If, then, we consider for what purpose he created food, we shall find that he intended it not merely for our necessities, but also for our enjoyment and pleasure! So he had in mind with our clothes, besides the necessity, also graceful appearance and decency as purpose. Herbs, trees and fruits should not only bring us many benefits, but they should also be pleasant to look at and have a pleasant smell. If this were not true, then the prophet could not count it among the benefits of God that "the wine makes a man’s heart glad" and that "his form becomes beautiful from the oil" (Ps 104:15). Then the Scriptures could not remind us again and again in praise of His goodness that He Himself has given such things to men! Also the natural gifts of the things themselves show us sufficiently, for what and how far one may enjoy them. If the Lord has adorned flowers with such loveliness that they impose themselves on our eyes, if he has given them such sweet fragrance that our sense of smell is seized by it, how would it be a crime if such beauty touched our eyes, such sweet fragrance our nose? How, then, did he not distinguish the colors so that one is more graceful than the other? How, has he not given gold and silver, ivory and marble stone such beauty that they become precious before other metals and stones? Has he not made many things at all precious to us beyond necessary use?

III,10,3 Therefore away with that inhuman philosophy, which wants to make us use the creatures only for necessity and thus deprives us of a permitted fruit of divine beneficence, can also only come into its own where it has taken away all the senses from a man and made him a block! But we must be no less diligent in dealing with the lust of the flesh on the other side; if it is not forced into order, it goes over the banks without measure, and, as I have said, it has its advocates who allow it anything and everything under the pretext of the freedom granted to us. The first thing to do is to rein it in by saying that everything has been created for us so that we may recognize the giver and give thanks for his goodness to us. But where is such thanksgiving when we overindulge in food and wine to such an extent that we become dull or incapable of fulfilling the duties of piety or our profession? Where is the knowledge of God, when the flesh, with its abundance, degenerates into shameful greed, when it infects the heart with its impurity, so that one can no longer see what is good and honorable? As for clothes, where is gratitude to God when we adorn them lavishly and then admire ourselves in them and hold others in low esteem, or when we allow ourselves to be seduced into unchastity by their splendor, their splendor? Where is the knowledge of God if our heart is tied to the magnificence of our clothes? Many people give all their senses to pleasure to such an extent that their hearts are crushed to the ground. Many take such pleasure in marble or gold or paintings that they themselves become, as it were, marble, turn into metal, or become like the painted pictures! Others are so dulled by the fragrance of the kitchen and the sweetness of the fragrances that they can no longer smell anything spiritual! The same can be observed in relation to other earthly goods. Therefore, already by the consideration given here, the freedom to abuse God’s gifts is kept in check to some extent, and Paul’s rule is confirmed here, that we should not care for our flesh in such a way that it could live its lusts (Rom 13,14); because if one gives in to the lusts too much, then they drive their debauchery without measure and control!

III,10,4 But we find the safest and most secure way if we despise the present life and strive for the heavenly immortality. This leads to two rules. The first one we find in the instruction of Paul: "Those who use this world should be of the same mind as if they did not use it … those who have wives as if they had none, those who buy as if they did not buy …" (1Cor 7:29-31; not Luther text and not in the order given). The second rule is: they should know how to bear the lack with peaceableness and patience and equally the abundance with moderation. When Paul instructs us to use this world as if we were not using it, he is not only eradicating all inordinate gluttony in food and drink, not only all excessive softness, all pride, all arrogance and pomposity and all obstinacy in our food, houses and clothing - no, in general every worry and addiction that leads us away from thinking about heavenly life and from the zeal for the development of our soul or hinders us in it! But it is true what Cato once said: he who takes great pains over his outward adornment takes very little pains over virtue. And an old proverb says similarly: He who is much concerned with the care of his body, usually does not care for his soul! Thus the freedom of the faithful in such external matters must not be bound to certain formulas; but it is subject to a law, and that is: they should admit as little as possible to themselves, and on the other hand, in constant tension of their hearts, be careful to avoid all expenditure of superfluous wealth and to curb dissipation completely. They should diligently take care not to create obstacles for themselves out of help!

III, 10,5 The second rule is (cf. section 4, page 469, line 1): if one lives in narrow and meager circumstances, he should patiently know how to do without, so as not to worry himself in immoderate desire for what he lacks. Whoever adheres to this rule has made no little progress in the school of the Lord. On the other hand, he who has not made at least some progress in this piece will hardly be able to prove himself a disciple of Christ. For first of all, the desire for earthly things is joined by many other vices. And then also he who bears lack without patience will as a rule display the opposite infirmity in the case of abundance. This I understand thus: if one is ashamed in lowly apparel, he will boast in exquisite garments; if one is not satisfied with simple food and lets himself be troubled by the desire for a more distinguished one, he will also abuse the pleasures immoderately when they once fall to him; if one occupies a lowly position hidden from public view and can bear it only with difficulty and a troubled heart, he will hardly restrain himself from puffed-up pride, provided he once comes to honor. Therefore, everyone who strives for piety without hypocrisy should strive to learn what the apostle shows us by his own example: "I am … skillful both to be full and to hunger, both to have left and to lack" (Phil 4:12). Moreover, Scripture has a third rule to give us the right measure for the use of earthly things. We have already spoken about it when we spoke about the commandments of love. We stated there that all these earthly things are given to us out of God’s kindness and put to use in such a way that they represent, as it were, entrusted property, which we must account for one day. So we should distribute this good and always let the word ring in our ears: "Give account of your stewardship! (Lk 16:2). At the same time, we should also consider who it really is that demands an account of us in this way: it is He who has so strongly recommended abstinence, sobriety, prudence and moderation, and consequently curses dissipation, arrogance, boasting and vanity. He does not approve of any other distribution of our goods than that in which love also prevails. He has already condemned with his own mouth all pleasures that lead the human heart away from chastity and purity or that envelop our minds with darkness.

III,10,6 Finally, it is important to note that the Lord commands each one of us to be mindful of his profession in everything he does. For he knew how much burning restlessness fills the human spirit, how much restless recklessness drives it to and fro, and how greedy its ambition is to take the most diverse things for itself at the same time! So, lest through our folly and presumption all things in heaven and on earth should be thrown into confusion, he has appointed the different species of life (vitae genera) and assigned to each its special duties. And so that no one might carelessly overstep his bounds, he has called these life-forms professions. For each one of us, therefore, our form of life is, so to speak, a guard post that the Lord has assigned to us, so that we will not be driven around all our lives. This distinction (of professions) is of very great importance; indeed, according to it the judgment of all our actions before God is directed; and indeed often substantially differently than our human or philosophical reason would judge. For example, even among philosophers it is considered the most glorious of all deeds when one liberates his fatherland from tyranny. The word of the heavenly judge, on the other hand, pronounces a clear verdict of condemnation against him who, as a private citizen, has raised his hand against a tyrant. However, I will not dwell on the enumeration of examples. The main thing is to know that the calling of the Lord is the starting point and the basis for all right action; whoever does not act according to it will never ever keep the right way in (the position to) his duties! Such a person may sometimes accomplish something that is praiseworthy in appearance; but however it may look to the eyes of man, it will be rejected before God’s throne. Moreover, (with such a person) there will be no uniformity in the individual areas of life itself. Therefore, our life will be shaped most correctly if we direct it according to this point of view. For then no one will be driven by his own presumption to undertake more than his profession entails; then he will just know that it is forbidden for us to go beyond our limits. He who is an unofficial man will lead his without public duties ("private") life without fretfulness, so that he will not leave the place where God has placed him. On the other hand, in worries, troubles, difficulties and other burdens, it will give us no small relief if each individual knows that God is his guide in all these things. If he is a person in authority, he will then be more willing to carry out his official work; if he is a father of a family, he will do his duty diligently - and everyone in his way of life will bear and swallow inconveniences, worries, troubles and fears, if he may be sure that his burden is imposed on everyone by God. From this also springs a glorious consolation: for if we only obey our calling, no work will be so unsightly and small that it will not shine before God and be considered very delicious!

Chapter eleven


Of justification by faith. What does the expression mean and what is it about?

III,11,1 I believe I have already explained in sufficient detail above how there is only one means for people who are cursed by the law to regain salvation, namely faith. Likewise, I hope to have shown sufficiently what this faith itself is, what benefits of God it bestows upon man and what fruits it works in him. The main thing was this: Christ is given to us through God’s kindness; in faith we grasp and possess him. Through fellowship with him we receive primarily a twofold grace: on the one hand we are reconciled to God through his innocence, so that he is now no longer our judge, but in him we have our gracious Father in heaven, and on the other hand we are sanctified by his Spirit and now strive for innocence and purity of life. This rebirth, which is the second grace, has already been spoken of, as far as it seemed sufficient to me. What it is about justification has been touched upon more briefly because the matter required that we first make two things clear to ourselves: on the one hand, faith, through which alone we attain righteousness by grace through God’s mercy, is by no means idle without all good works, and on the other hand, we must also know what these good works of the saints are like, around which, after all, part of this whole question revolves. Now we have to think through this question (that is, the question of justification) thoroughly, always keeping firmly in mind that it is the main pillar on which our worship of God rests - reason enough to pay the greatest attention and care here! If you do not know before all things how things are with God concerning you, and what judgment he pronounces upon you, there is no ground on which your salvation can rest, and therefore no foundation on which you can establish piety toward God! How necessary it is to acquire knowledge here will become even clearer to us when we now turn to it ourselves.

III,11,2 But we must be careful not to stumble right at the first beginning - and that would have to happen if we entered the argument without knowing what it is about at all! Therefore, let us first examine what is actually meant when it is said: "Man is justified before God" or "he is justified by faith" or "by works". When it can be said of a man, "He is justified before God," it means: he is considered righteous before God’s judgment and is pleasing to God because of his righteousness. For unrighteousness is repugnant to God, and therefore the sinner cannot find grace in His sight, provided he is a sinner and is regarded as such. Therefore, where there is sin, God’s wrath and punitive retribution also come forth. But he is justified who is not considered a sinner but a righteous man; in this capacity he can stand before God’s judgment, before which all sinners must collapse. If an innocent man is brought as a defendant before a righteous judge and the verdict there is in accordance with his innocence, it is said of him: he has been justified before the judge. In exactly the same way, he is justified before God who is taken out of the crowd of sinners and finds in God the witness and defender of his righteousness. Therefore, if a man is said to be justified by his works, this can only be the case if there is such purity and holiness in his life as to merit the testimony of being just before God’s throne, or if he can meet and satisfy God’s judgment by the blameless cleanness of his works. By faith, on the other hand, he is justified who, excluded from works-righteousness, grasps Christ’s righteousness by faith; if he is clothed with this righteousness of Christ, he appears before God’s gaze not as a sinner but immediately as righteous. By "justification," then, I understand simply the acceptance by which God receives us in grace and counts us as righteous. I now go on to say: it is based on the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

III,11,3 This can be confirmed with many clear scriptural testimonies. First of all, it cannot be denied that the explanation of the word "justification" given above captures the actual sense and is the most common. But it would lead too far to enumerate here all the pertinent scriptural passages and to compare them with one another; it may therefore suffice if I have called the reader’s attention to them; he will then easily make the corresponding observations all by himself. I will only mention a few passages in which justification, which is spoken of here, is explicitly mentioned. When Luke tells us that the people, after hearing Christ’s speech, "justified God" (Luther: "justified", Lk 7,29), or when Christ tells us that wisdom must "be justified by her children" (Lk 7:35), this does not mean in the first place that man provides God with righteousness, for this remains God’s property untouched, no matter how hard the whole world tries to dispute it; nor does it mean in the second word that man first justifies the doctrine of salvation, for this is what it is anyway. Rather, both words mean the same thing: God and his doctrine are accorded the praise they actually deserve. On the other hand, when Christ reproaches the Pharisees for justifying themselves (Lk 16,15), he does not mean that they really achieve righteousness by doing the right thing, but he means that they ambitiously arrogate to themselves the reputation of a righteousness that they do not even possess! What is meant here can be better understood by the one who knows Hebrew: there not only the people are called "evildoers" who are aware of an evil deed, but (all) those who are under the condemnation sentence. For example, when Bathsheba says, "I and my son Solomon must be sinners …" (1Ki 1:21), she is not acknowledging any wrongdoing, but complaining that she and her son would be reproached and counted among the rejected and damned. The context, however, easily makes clear that this word in Latin also means exclusively a judgment passed on a person or a thing, but does not designate any characteristic of this thing itself. But as far as our actual subject is concerned: Paul writes: "But the Scriptures have seen it before, that God justifies the Gentiles by faith" (Gal 3, 8); but this can only be understood in such a way that God imputes righteousness by faith. Similarly, Rom 3:26 says that God justifies the ungodly "who believe in Jesus"; the meaning can only be that God frees the sinner through the gift of faith from the condemnation he deserved through his ungodliness. This is shown even more clearly in the final word, where Paul exclaims: "Who will accuse the elect of God? God is here who justifies. Who wants to condemn? Christ is here, who died, yea rather, who also is raised, who … represents us!" (Rom 8,33f.). This means the same as if he said: "Who will accuse those whom God has absolved? Who wants to condemn those whom Christ defends with His protection? So justification means nothing else than to absolve a person who was under accusation from guilt, as it were, on the basis of proven innocence. Now when God justifies us on the basis of Christ’s intercession on our behalf, he does not absolve us in recognition of our own innocence, but by imputation of righteousness: we are thus counted righteous in Christ, although we are not so in ourselves. This is also what we hear in Acts 13 in Paul’s speech: "…that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you through him, and of all things from which you could not be justified in the law of Moses. But whoever believes in him is righteous" (Acts 13:38). Here we see that after the forgiveness of sins, justification is added as a kind of explanation. One also sees clearly that justification has clearly the sense of acquittal, that it is denied to the works of the law and that it is a pure gift of grace of Christ; one also sees that it is taken by faith, and one finally sees that there is presupposed as a condition the satisfaction: Paul says that we would be justified from our sins by Christ. When it is said of the tax collector: "This man went down justified to his own house…" (Lk 18,14) - then we can’t say that he gained righteousness by any merit of works! So we are told: He has obtained forgiveness of sins and thereupon has been counted righteous before God! So he has become righteous not by recognition of his works, but by the gracious acquittal of God. It is therefore very fine when Ambrose calls the confession of sins the right justification! (Interpretation of the 118th Psalm,10).

III,11,4 But now let us leave the argument about the word "justification" and consider the matter itself. But if we look at it as it is described to us, no doubt will remain. Paul says Eph 1:5 (and 6). "And he hath ordained us to filial adoption unto himself by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, unto the praise of his glorious grace, whereby he hath made us acceptable …" (Eph 1:5f.). "Made acceptable" is synonymous with "accepted." So Paul certainly refers to justification as "acceptance". He wants to say the same thing as he usually says: God justifies us by grace (Rom 3:24). In the fourth chapter of Romans he calls justification "imputation of righteousness" (Rom 4:6), and then he connects it without hesitation with the forgiveness of sins. He says, "According to which also David says that blessedness is of man alone, to whom God (imputes or) imputes righteousness without works, saying, ’Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven …’" (Rom 4:6 f.; the parenthesis is Calvin’s explanatory addition). Surely we are not talking about a part of justification, but about the whole! Paul testifies that David gave a description of justification when he praises those who are forgiven their sins by grace! From this it is clear that this righteousness of which he speaks simply means the opposite of a state of guilt! In this respect, the clearest passage is where Paul sums up the gospel message in this: "Be reconciled to God!" For according to this word, God wants to accept us in grace through Christ, not imputing our sins to us (2Cor 5:18 ff.). The reader must consider the whole context thoroughly: Paul makes the explanatory addition immediately afterwards: "For he made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us" (2Cor 5:21, not quite Luther text); with this he wants to show in what way our reconciliation has come about; the expression "reconcile" therefore undoubtedly means nothing else than "justify". Also the sentence that Paul tells us in another place, namely that we are justified through Christ’s obedience (Rom 5:19), would certainly have no validity if we were not declared righteous before God in Him and apart from ourselves!

III,11,5 Now Osiander raised who knows what monster of "essential justice" (essentialis iustitia). He certainly did not mean to dismiss righteousness by grace; but he has so shrouded it in darkness that he puts pious minds in darkness with it and makes them lose the serious sense of Christ’s grace. I must, therefore, before proceeding to other questions, refute this delusion. First of all: this speculation is nothing but useless presumption. Osiander does pile up many scriptural testimonies to prove that Christ becomes one with us and we with him - which needs no proof! But he does not pay attention to the bond of this unity, and therefore he entangles himself. But it is easy for us to untie all his knots, since we hold to the fact that our union with Christ is through the hidden power of his Spirit. This man has conceived a thought that is related to the teachings of the Manichaeans: namely, he wants God’s essence to pass into man. From this a second fantasy has sprung up in his mind: That Adam was formed in the image of God is supposed to have its reason in the fact that Christ was already determined to be the archetype of human nature before the fall. But I want to be brief and therefore stay with the question at hand here. Osiander claims that we are one with Christ. This we admit; on the other hand, we deny that Christ’s nature is mixed with ours. Further, however, we observe that that starting point (namely, the oneness of Christ with us!) is then inverted in such a way that Osiander gets out the following dazzle: Christ is our righteousness, because he is eternal God, because he is the source of righteousness, yes, because he is God’s righteousness itself. Now the reader must forgive me if I merely touch on such matters here, which, according to the requirements of right instruction, must be postponed until later. Osiander apologizes, of course, that by the expression "essential righteousness" he had only in mind to oppose the proposition that we are regarded as righteous for Christ’s sake (propter Christum). But he declares quite clearly that he is not satisfied with the righteousness that has come to us from Christ’s obedience and sacrifice of death, and therefore pretends that we are essentially righteous in God, by the infusion of his essence and character. For this is the reason why he so sharply asserts that in us dwells not only Christ, but also the Father and the Holy Spirit! I admit that this is true, but I maintain that he twists it nonsensically. For he should have better considered in what way such "indwelling" takes place! Father and Spirit are in Christ after all, and as in Him "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9), so in Him we possess God wholly! So what he claims about the Father and the Holy Spirit for himself alone only leads to the goal of drawing plain people away from Christ. Then he asserts an essential mixture: after that God pours into us and makes us, as it were, a piece of Himself. The fact that through the power of the Holy Spirit we grow together with Christ in such a way that he becomes our head and we become his members - this is nothing to him unless his essence is mixed with us! But, as I said, his real opinion comes out even better when he speaks of the Father and the Holy Spirit: we are not justified solely by the grace of the Mediator, nor is righteousness offered to us simply and perfectly in his person, but we become partakers of divine righteousness when God unites himself with us in essence.

III,11,6 Now if Osiander merely claimed that if Christ justifies us, then he becomes ours through essential union, and that he is our head not only insofar as he is man, but also lets the essence of his divine nature flow over into us - then he could gloat over his love with less harm, then perhaps there would be no need to raise such a great dispute because of such a delusion. But in fact, this principle is like an octopus that hides its many tentacles by excreting black, jumbled blood. If, then, we do not wish to bear with knowledge and will that that righteousness should be snatched from us which alone gives us the confidence to boast of our salvation, we must resist hard here. For in this whole discussion he uses the thing-word "righteousness" and the activity-word "justify" in a double sense: According to this, justify means not only that we are reconciled to God by gracious forgiveness, but at the same time that we are made righteous; accordingly, righteousness is not gracious imputation, but holiness and purity, such as God’s essence, which has its seat in us, instills in us! He then goes on to assert emphatically that Christ is our righteousness not inasmuch as he atoned for our sins as a priest and thus reconciled the Father to us, but rather inasmuch as he is eternal God and the life! In order to prove the former proposition, namely, to show that God justifies us not merely by his forgiveness but by regeneration, he asks the question whether God leaves the people whom he justifies as they are by nature, without changing anything in their vices. But there is a very easy answer to this: as Christ cannot be torn into pieces, so also these two, which we receive together and in firm union in him, namely righteousness and sanctification are inseparable from each other! Therefore, when God accepts a man in grace, he also endows him with the spirit of filiation and renews him in his image by its power. One cannot separate the brightness of the sun from its warmth - but shall we therefore claim that the earth is warmed by the light of the sun and illuminated by its warmth? Isa there anything more suitable for our matter here than this comparison? The sun gives life and fertility to the earth by its warmth, with its rays it illuminates and brightens it; here there is a mutual and inseparable connection - but already reason forbids us to transfer what is peculiar to the one to the other! But a similar absurdity of sense lies in the mixture of the twofold grace, which Osiander so emphatically performs, for because God actually renews those whom he declares righteous by grace also for the service of righteousness, Osiander mixes this gift of regeneration with that gracious acceptance, and asserts that these are both one and the same! The Scripture, on the other hand, also connects these two gifts, but nevertheless lists them separately, so that God’s manifold grace may be even more clearly presented to us. It is not superfluous when Paul says that Christ was given to us for "righteousness and sanctification …" (1Cor 1:30). How often he concludes, on the basis of the salvation that has come to us, on the basis of God’s fatherly love, on the basis of Christ’s grace, that we are now also called to holiness and purity! But when he does this, he shows quite clearly that it is two different things whether we are made partakers of justification or whether we become new creatures! But as far as the Scriptures are concerned, Osiander falsifies exactly all the passages he uses. When Paul says: "But to him who does not deal in works, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom 4,5, not quite Luther text) - Osiander interprets this as if Paul speaks of making righteous. With the same carelessness he twists the whole fourth chapter of Romans. Yes, he is not ashamed to put the passage I quoted above in this false light: "Who will accuse the elect of God? God is here who justifies!" (Rom 8,33). And yet it is as clear as daylight that here we are simply speaking of guilt and acquittal, and that the apostle’s opinion is based on the juxtaposition. Thus, Osiander is caught in the act of unreliability, both in his presentation of the evidence and in his use of the scriptural testimonies! His description of the word "righteousness" is equally incorrect: he claims that Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness after he accepted Christ - who was God’s righteousness and God Himself - and thereby gained an outstanding position by virtue of glorious virtues. We notice clearly from this how he makes one corrupt thing out of two uncorrupt things in a wrong way. For the righteousness here spoken of does not refer to the whole course of Abraham’s calling; no, the Spirit testifies to us that Abraham’s virtues were indeed glorious and excellent, and that he made them greater and greater by long perseverance - but that he obtained God’s pleasure solely because he accepted in faith the grace offered him in the promise. It follows that in justification, as Paul so aptly asserts, there is no room left for works at all.

III,11,7 Now here Osiander makes the objection that the justifying power does not come to faith in itself, but only in so far as it accepts Christ. I readily admit this. For if faith were to justify by itself, or, as they say, by virtue of its inherent power, it would only be able to do so in part, since it is always weak and imperfect; our righteousness would then be mutilated, and it would therefore only provide us with a little bit of salvation. But we do not fall into such conceits in any way, but maintain that in the true sense God alone justifies us. Then we apply this to Christ, because he was given to us for righteousness; faith, on the other hand, we compare to a vessel, so to speak; for we can only become partakers of Christ when we ourselves are completely emptied and come with the open mouth of our soul to desire Christ’s grace. From this it follows that if we maintain that one receives Christ Himself in faith rather than His righteousness, we are by no means taking away from Him the power to justify us. However, I cannot accept the sinuous comparisons of this clever man. He says, for example, that faith is Christ - as if an earthen pot were a treasure because gold is hidden in it! That our faith, although it has no dignity or value in and of itself, justifies us by bringing Christ to us is exactly the same as saying that a pot filled with money makes a man rich. I maintain, then, that it is foolish to mix faith, which is after all merely an instrument through which we attain righteousness, with Christ, who is the actual (material) cause, indeed, who is the giver and at the same time the servant of this benefit! This already unties the knot of how to understand the word "faith" in the context of justification.

III,11,8 Osiander then exceeds himself even more when dealing with the question in which way we accept Christ. For he declares that by the ministry of the outward word we accept the inward, (and this he says,) in order to lead us from the high priestly office of Christ and from the person of the Mediator to Christ’s eternal deity. But we do not divide Christ, but we confess that the very one who reconciled us to the Father in his flesh and thereby gave us righteousness is also the eternal Word of God; at the same time, however, we confess that he could not have fulfilled the office of mediator and could not have acquired righteousness for us if he were not eternal God. In contrast to this, Osiander’s little book says: since Christ is God and man, he was made righteousness for us not in view of his human nature, but in view of the divine. But if this refers in the proper sense to Christ’s deity, it does not logically come to him in a special way (exclusively), but he has it in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit; for the one has no other righteousness than the other. Moreover, it would be improper for us to say that he has been made good to us, which, after all, he has been by nature from all eternity! But even if I admit that God was made unto us righteousness - how does the interposed expression rhyme, namely: he was "made of God …?" (1Cor 1:30). No, we are certainly dealing here with a special peculiarity of the Mediator; he certainly has the divine nature in himself, but here he is called by a title of his own, by which he differs from the Father and the Holy Spirit. But it is ridiculous how Osiander triumphantly refers to the one word of Jeremiah, who promises us that the Lord will be our righteousness (Jer 51:10). The only thing that follows from this passage is that Christ, who is our righteousness, is God revealed in the flesh (echoing 1 Timothy 3:16). In another place we have taken the word from a speech of Paul that God "purchased the church through His own blood" (Acts 20:28). If someone wanted to conclude from this that the blood with which our sins were expiated was divine blood and of a divine nature - who could bear such an abominable delusion? Nevertheless, Osiander thinks to have achieved everything with such childish sophistry, and now he is tremendously proud, jubilant and stuffs many pages full with his verbiage! And yet the solution is quite simple and easy to obtain: it is said, however, that the Lord, when he has become David’s offspring, will be our righteousness; but Isaiah teaches us in what sense this is meant: "And by his knowledge he, my servant the righteous, will make many righteous" (Isa 53:11). We notice: here the Father speaks; he assigns to the Son the office of justification; he also adds the cause: the Son is just-and he also gives the manner, or, as it is said, the means, namely, the doctrine by which Christ is known. Indeed, it is more appropriate to understand the expression "daath" passively (that is: the knowledge which is had of Him, not which He Himself possesses). From this I now draw the conclusion that Christ was made righteousness to us when he took the form of a servant; secondly, that he justified us in so far as he rendered obedience to the Father, and that he therefore bestows such righteousness upon us not according to his divine nature, but on the basis of the official task which was assigned to him. For indeed God alone is the source of righteousness, and we are righteous only by partaking of him; but we have alienated ourselves from his righteousness in unhappy apostasy, and therefore we must nevertheless resort to the inferior remedy, that Christ justifies us by the power of his dying and rising.

III,11,9 But he may now raise the objection that this work transcends in its glory the nature of man, and therefore it can only be ascribed to the divine nature. There I admit the first, on the other hand I maintain that with the second he falls into foolish delusions. Certainly Christ could not have purified our souls with his blood, certainly he could not have reconciled the Father with his sacrifice and absolved us from guilt, nor could he have held the priesthood at all - if he had not been true God; for the faculty of the flesh is not able to bear such a burden. But yet it is certain that he accomplished all this according to his human nature! If one asks how we have been justified, Paul answers, Through Christ’s obedience! (Rom 5,19). But did he perform such obedience other than by assuming the likeness of a servant? From this we conclude that his righteousness meets us in the flesh. Accordingly, even in other words, Paul did not see the source of righteousness anywhere else than in the flesh of Christ - I am just very surprised why Osiander is not ashamed to cite these very words several times. "He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2Cor 5:21; ending not Luther text). Osiander praises the expression "righteousness of God" with full cheeks, and he already raises his victory song, as if he had proved that it is his fantasy, namely the "essential righteousness"! And yet the words are quite different, they tell us that we are righteous because of the atonement made by Christ! That by the "righteousness of God" we must understand the "righteousness that is valid before God" (as Luther translates it!) - this should be known even to beginners. In the same way John contrasts the "glory with God" with the "glory with men" (John 12,43). I am well aware that the righteousness of God is sometimes understood to include the righteousness of which He Himself is the giver and with which He bestows upon us. But that nothing else is meant in this passage than that we, based on the atonement of Christ’s death, stand before God’s judgment seat - that reasonable readers understand even if I remain silent. However, there is not much in the expression; if only Osiander would agree with us that we are justified in Christ, inasmuch as he was made an atoning sacrifice for us - which, however, does not fit at all with his divine nature! In this sense Christ, too, when he wants to seal the righteousness and salvation which he has bestowed upon us, sets before us in his flesh a sure pledge of it. He calls Himself the "living bread" (John 6,51), but He adds for further explanation: "My flesh is the right food, and my blood is the right drink" (John 6,55). This doctrine is illustrated in the sacraments: they direct our faith to the whole, undivided Christ, but at the same time they show us that the essential cause of our righteousness and salvation rests in his flesh. Not as if a mere man justified or made alive by himself - but because it pleased God to make manifest in the Mediator that which in and of itself was hidden and incomprehensible! That is why I like to say: Christ is, as it were, a revealed source for us, from which we can draw what would otherwise remain hidden without fruit in that hidden, deep well-spring which wells up for us in the person of the Mediator! In this way and in this sense, I do not deny that Christ justifies us as God and man, that this work also belongs to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and that the righteousness of which Christ makes us partakers is the eternal righteousness of the eternal God - Osiander only has to give room to the sure and clear reasons for proof that I have given!

III,11,10 But lest Osiander with his sophistry should deceive the inexperienced, I admit that we are deprived of this incomparable treasure before Christ becomes our own. In our case, then, that union of the head with the members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts, in short, that hidden unity (mystica unio) is paramount, so that Christ becomes our own and makes us partakers of the goods which he himself holds! So we do not look at him apart from us, from afar, so that his righteousness may be imputed to us; no, because we have put on him and are incorporated into his body, in short, because he has condescended to make us one with himself, therefore we boast that we have fellowship of righteousness with him. Thus Osiander’s charge that we hold faith to be righteousness is refuted. Certainly, we say that we come to him empty in faith, so that we give room to his grace and he alone fills us with it - but it is not as if we thereby deprive Christ of his right! Osiander, on the other hand, despises this spiritual union (with Christ) and wants to have a gross mixture of Christ with the believers. Whoever does not want to subscribe to this fanatical error of essential righteousness, he insults as a "Zwinglian", because he is not of the opinion that we enjoy Christ carnally in the Lord’s Supper! But I consider it the highest glory when I hear such an insult on the part of this hopeless man who is devoted to his juggleries. Admittedly, he does not only hit me with it, but also writers well known to the whole world, whom he should actually honor modestly. But I do not mind, because I am not doing my own thing; so I can proceed in this matter all the more fairly, since I am free from any evil intention. That Osiander, then, so unreasonably urges the essential righteousness and the essential indwelling of Christ in us, has the following meaning: first, God is to let Himself overflow in us in gross commingling - as Osiander also dreams of a carnal enjoyment in the Lord’s Supper! Secondly, God is to breathe his righteousness into us, through which we are to become essentially righteous with him - just as, according to Osiander, this righteousness is God himself on the one hand, but at the same time God’s righteousness, holiness and purity. The scriptural testimonies which Osiander cites and which deal with the heavenly life, he twists all of them and thus refers them to the present state. I will not trouble myself very much with their rejection. Thus Peter says: through Christ are given to us "the dearest and very greatest promises, namely, that we thereby become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4; beginning and end inaccurately quoted). Osiander draws on this passage - as if we were already now in the state which, according to the promise of the Gospel, we are to attain at Christ’s final coming! Then, however, as John tells us, we will see God as He is, because we will then be like Him! (1 John 3:2; not quoted exactly). I only wanted to give the readers a distant taste, showing that I now deliberately turn away from this babble, not because it would be difficult to refute, but because I do not want to bother with useless work!

III,11,11 More poison, however, is still contained in the second limb (of the above assertion), that is, in Osiander’s teaching that we are righteous together with God (cf. above). But even if this doctrine were not so pernicious, it is - as I think I have already sufficiently proved! - But even if this doctrine were not so pernicious, it is still cold and without content, yes, it melts away over its vanity, and therefore it must rightly seem tasteless to reasonable and pious readers! Under no circumstances, however, is the ungodly endeavor to be tolerated, under the pretext of a "twofold righteousness" to shake our confidence in salvation and to lift us above the clouds, so that we should not grasp the grace of reconciliation in faith and should not call upon God with a joyful heart! Osiander laughs at those who hold the doctrine that "justify" is a word taken from judicial usage (verbum forense); for according to him we must indeed be just! Nor does he reject anything more than the claim that we are justified by gracious imputation (the righteousness of Christ). Well, if God does not justify us by acquittal and pardon - then I don’t know what Paul’s word is supposed to mean: "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, and not imputing their sins unto them…. For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might have the righteousness that is before God in him!" (2Cor 5:19, 21). Here it is first confirmed to me that those are declared righteous who are reconciled to God. Then, in between, the way is also stated: God justifies us through pardon! In the same sense, justification is contrasted with accusation in another place (Rom 8,33), a contrast that clearly shows us that the way of speaking is taken from the judicial custom. Even those who are only somewhat versed in the Hebrew language know - if only they have a calm brain! - knows very well that the expression comes from it (from the judicial custom), he also knows what kind of sense and what kind of meaning it has. I remind you of the statement of Paul, according to which David describes the righteousness without works with the words: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven …" (Rom 4:7; Ps 32:1). Now let Osiander answer me whether justification is described completely or only half! Paul certainly does not cite the prophet as a witness, as if he taught that the forgiveness of sins is only a part of righteousness or that it only contributes to the justification of man! No, he summarizes the whole righteousness under the forgiveness by grace when he says: "Blessed is the man whose sins are covered, to whom God has forgiven the transgressions, to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity!" (Ps 32:1 f.; in loose rendering). According to the opinion and judgment of the prophet, the blessedness of such a man does not come from the fact that he is actually righteous, but by imputation! Osiander makes the objection that it brings dishonor to God and is contrary to his nature if he justifies people who actually remain godless. But we must remember what I have said above: grace, by virtue of which we are justified, cannot be separated from regeneration, although they are two different things! But yet it is more than sufficiently known to us from experience that in the righteous there always remain remnants of sin, and therefore justification must be quite different from regeneration to new life. For this second God begins in his elect, he also continues it gradually, sometimes slowly, during their whole course of life - but always in such a way that they are guilty before his judgment seat of the sentence of death! The justification, however, does not take place partially, but rather in such a way that the believers, clothed as it were with Christ’s purity, appear free of heart in heaven! A piece of righteousness would also not calm the consciences before it was established that we are pleasing to God because we are righteous before Him without qualification! The doctrine of justification is therefore perverted and fundamentally overturned when doubt enters the heart, when the confidence of salvation is shaken and the free, undaunted invocation (of God) suffers delay, yes, when peace and tranquility together with spiritual joy are not firmly established. Therefore, Paul also concludes from the incorrectness of the opposite that "the inheritance" is not "acquired through the law" (Gal 3:18); because then faith would be nothing (Rom 4:14); it would have to falter if it paid attention to the works, because even among the most holy no one finds something in which he could put his trust! Between justification and regeneration, which Osiander mixes up and then calls "twofold righteousness", there is a difference. Paul expresses it very aptly. If he speaks of his real (real) righteousness or of the purity given to him - that is, of what Osiander calls "essential righteousness"! - he lamentingly exclaims, "I wretched man, who will deliver me from the body of this death!" (Rom 7:24). But if he takes refuge in the righteousness that is founded in God’s mercy alone, he bravely defies life and death, ignominy and hunger, sword and all adversity: "Who will accuse the elect of God? God is here who makes righteous! … For I am sure that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus …" (Rom 8,33. 38 s.; summarizing). He clearly proclaims to us that he possesses a righteousness which alone and fully suffices for salvation before God, so that the miserable bondage of which he is aware and in view of which he previously wept his lot, yet does not interrupt the confidence of praise and does not prepare any obstacle! This dichotomy is well known, nay accustomed, to all the saints: they groan under the burden of their iniquities, and yet in victorious confidence they rise meanwhile above all fears! But if Osiander objects that this is contrary to the nature of God, the objection falls back on himself. For although he clothes the saints with his "twofold righteousness" as with a fur coat, he must of necessity admit that without the forgiveness of sins no one is pleasing to God. But if this is true, let him finally also admit that we are declared righteous - as it is said - with regard to that part which is imputed to us, without actually being so! But to what extent shall the sinner then make use of this gracious acceptance, which is to take the place of (lacking!) righteousness? To eleven-twelfths or only to one-twelfth? There he will certainly vacillate uncertainly and unsteadily: for so much righteousness as he needs to be confident, he must not (then!) take for himself after all! But it is good that in this matter there is not the judge who wants to prescribe a law to God here! However, it will remain: "that you may be right in your words and remain pure when you are judged! (Ps 51:6). What a presumption it is to condemn the supreme judge when he absolves the sinner by grace, and at the same time to want to invalidate the answer: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy! (Ex 33:19). And yet Moses’ intercession, which God silenced with this answer, did not have the meaning that God might spare no one, but the opposite: that he might dismiss all guilt equally and absolve them all, however much they were guilty! We say that God buries the sins of lost people and makes them righteous before him, because he hates sin and therefore can only love those whom he justifies! But this is a wondrous kind of justification: covered under Christ’s righteousness, believers do not shrink from the judgment of which they are guilty, and if they rightly condemn themselves, they are considered righteous apart from themselves!

III,11,12 However, the readers are to be admonished to fix their eyes with eagerness on the "mystery" that Osiander supposedly does not want to conceal from them. For he first dwells long and at length on the assertion that we do not attain grace before God by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone, for it is impossible for God to count men righteous who are not - I use his own words! Then he finally concludes that Christ is given to us for righteousness not according to his human but according to his divine nature, and although this is found only in the person of the Mediator, it is not a man’s righteousness but God’s! Here, then, he does not wind his rope from the two kinds of righteousness, but takes the office of justification straight away from the human nature of Christ. But it is worth the trouble to note the reason he gives. He explains that in the same passage (where Christ appears as our righteousness, 1Cor 1:30) it is also said that Christ was "made for us … to wisdom" - and this only belongs to the eternal Word! So Christ as man is not our righteousness either! I reply: certainly the only begotten Son of God was also God’s eternal wisdom; but in Paul (1Cor 1:30) this designation ("wisdom") is attributed to Him in another sense, namely because in Him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! (Col 2:3). He thus revealed to us what He possessed with the Father; and so Paul’s word does not refer to the nature of the Son of God, but to our experience of Him; thus it really comes to the human nature of Christ! For he shone indeed as the light in the darkness before he took on flesh; but it was yet a hidden light until the same Christ shone forth in the nature of a man as the Sun of Righteousness! That is why he calls himself the "light of the world"! (John 8:12). It is also a foolish objection when Osiander claims that the power to justify goes far beyond the ability of angels and even more so of men. Surely this does not depend on the worthiness of any creature, but on God’s arrangement! If it should please the angels to make satisfaction to God, then they would achieve nothing with it, because they are just not determined for it. This task was just proper to the man Christ, who was "put under the law" to redeem us from the "curse of the law"! (Gal 3,13; 4,4). It is also a too vicious abuse when Osiander reproaches those who deny that Christ is our righteousness according to his divine nature, that they leave only one piece of Christ, yes, what is even worse, they make two gods, because they admit that God dwells in us, but still claim that we are not righteous by God’s righteousness. (I answer this:) If we call Christ the author of life, insofar as he suffered death and thus "took away the power of him who had the authority of death" (Hebr 2:14) - we do not thereby deprive the whole Christ, who is "God manifested in the flesh," of this honor! With this distinction we merely hold why God’s righteousness comes to us, so that we may enjoy it. Here, then, Osiander has made a bad case! Nor do we deny that what is openly offered to us in Christ comes from God’s hidden grace and power; nor do we dispute that the righteousness which Christ bestows upon us is God’s righteousness proceeding from Him. And yet we hold steadfastly that our righteousness and our life consist in the death and resurrection of Christ! I pass over here the shameful abundance of scriptural passages with which Osiander has burdened the readers (and wants to force upon them the assertion), without a sensible selection, yes, without common sense, that everywhere where Scripture speaks of righteousness, it is to be understood as "essential righteousness"! For example, there are probably a hundred places where David calls upon God’s justice for help - and Osiander is not ashamed to falsify them all (in his sense)! His further objection that justice in the real and right sense means that which drives us to act rightly, but God alone "works in us the willing and the doing" (Phil 2,13), is also not valid: (Phil 2,13). We do not deny that God renews us through his Spirit to holiness and righteousness of life. But we have to see whether he does this directly and by himself - or through the hand of his Son, to whom he entrusted the whole fullness of the Holy Spirit, so that out of his abundance he might help his members in their lack. And further: indeed, righteousness comes to us from the hidden fountain of the Godhead; but from this it does not yet follow that Christ, who nevertheless sanctified himself for us in the flesh (John 17:19), is our righteousness according to his divine nature. It is no less frivolous when Osiander remarks that Christ himself was justified by divine righteousness, because he himself would not have done justice to the office imposed upon him if the will of the Father had not impelled him. Although I have stated elsewhere that all the merits which Christ himself acquired flow from God’s pure good pleasure, there is no justification from this for the web with which Osiander blinds his own eyes and those of simple people. Who should find it permissible to conclude that because God is the source and origin of our righteousness, we are essentially righteous and that the essence of God’s righteousness resides in us? Certainly, in order to redeem his church, God, according to the words of Isaiah, "puts on his righteousness like a coat of armor" (Isa 59:17) - but does he do this in order to deprive Christ of the weapons he has given him and thus make him an imperfect redeemer? But the prophet only wants to show that God did not borrow anything from outside and that he did not need any external help for our redemption. Paul expressed this briefly in other words: God gave us salvation "so that he might show his righteousness …" (Rom 3,25; not Luther text). But this in no way overturns what he teaches in another place, namely that we are righteous "through obedience"! (Rom 5,19). In short, he who entangles a twofold righteousness, so that poor souls may not find pure rest in God’s mercy alone, crowns Christ in mockery with braided thorns!

III,11,13 Many people now dream of a righteousness that is to be composed of faith and works. I must therefore also prove that righteousness by faith and righteousness by works are so opposed to each other that where one exists, the other is necessarily overthrown! The apostle says: "I count it all as dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him, that I have not my righteousness which is of the law, but that which is by faith in Christ, even the righteousness which is imputed of God unto faith" (Phil 3,8f.). One can see how Paul compares opposite things here and how he shows that he who wants to attain Christ’s righteousness must let go of his own righteousness. That is why he attributes the downfall of the Jews elsewhere to the cause that they "sought to establish their own righteousness" and therefore were "not subject to the righteousness that is before God" (Rom 10:3). But if by setting up our own righteousness we nullify the righteousness of God, it clearly follows that that righteousness must be fully put away in order for us to attain it! Paul shows the same when he declares that it is not through the law that our own glory is excluded, but through faith (Rom 3:27). From this it follows: as long as a righteousness, however small, remains from works, we still retain some cause for boasting. Now faith excludes all boasting, and therefore righteousness from works cannot exist together with righteousness from faith under any circumstances. In this sense, Paul speaks with such clarity in the fourth chapter of Romans that he leaves no room for any sophistry or evasion. He declares, "If Abraham is justified by works, he has glory indeed." But he immediately adds, "But not before God!" (Rom 4:2). The conclusion is thus: Abraham was not justified by works. He then gives us a second proof, based on the impossibility of the opposite: If a reward is paid for works, it is "out of duty" and "not out of grace" (Rom 4:4). To faith, on the other hand, righteousness is imputed by grace! So it does not happen out of the merit of works. Therefore, away with the dream of such people who invent a righteousness composed of faith and works!

III,11,14 But the clever ones, who make a game and a pleasure out of the falsification of the Scriptures and out of contentless gossip, now think they have a clever excuse: they refer Paul’s statements to such works, which not yet born-again people do only according to the letter and by the effort of their free will, apart from the grace of Christ; on the other hand they deny that these words refer to spiritual works. Thus, according to them, man is justified by faith on the one hand, and by works on the other - only these are not supposed to be his own works, but gifts of Christ and fruits of regeneration. Paul then used such words only because he wanted to convince the Jews, who relied on their own strength, that they were foolishly presuming righteousness, when Christ’s Spirit alone gives us such righteousness, and not the zeal that comes from our own impulses of nature! But the smart ones do not consider that Paul, in contrasting righteousness from the law and righteousness from the gospel, which he gives us elsewhere, excludes any works, with whatever title they may be adorned! (Gal 3:11 f.). For according to his teaching, righteousness from the law consists in the fact that he obtains salvation who fulfills what the law commands. But righteousness by faith consists in believing that Christ died and rose again. Moreover, we will see in the given place that sanctification and righteousness are different benefits of Christ. From this it follows: where the power to justify us is attributed to faith, spiritual works do not come into consideration either! When Paul - which I have already mentioned above - declares of Abraham that he has no reason to boast before God (Rom 4,2), because he was not righteous by works, this must not be limited to the outward appearance of virtues founded in the letter, nor to the effort of free will; no, (Paul wants to say): however spiritual and almost angelic the life of the arch-father may have been, the merits of works were not sufficient to provide him with righteousness before God.

III,11,15 The Roman school theologians speak a little more crudely here, mixing in their "preparations" (for the reception of salvation, which man himself is supposed to perform!). Nevertheless, those aforementioned clever ones also persuade the simple and inexperienced people of a doctrinal statement that is no less bad, by covering up, under the pretext of the Holy Spirit and grace, the mercy of God, which alone can bring the frightened souls to rest. We, on the other hand, confess with Paul that before God the doers of the law are justified; but since we are all far from keeping the law, we conclude from this that even the works which should (actually) help us most of all to righteousness are of no help to us at all, because we lack them! As for the ordinary papists or scholastics, they are deceived in two respects: First, they call faith the certainty of conscience with which we expect from God the reward for our merits; second, they understand by the grace of God not the imputation of unmerited righteousness, but the Holy Spirit who lends us his assistance in striving for holiness. They read in the apostle: "He that would come to God must first believe that he is, and that he will be a rewarder of them that seek him" (Hebr 11:6). But they do not pay attention to how such "seeking" goes on. What delusions they pay homage to concerning the word "grace" is quite evident from their writings. Thus Peter Lombardus explains the justification given to us by Christ in two ways. First, he says, Christ’s death justifies us in that through Him love is awakened in our hearts by which we are made righteous; second, through Him sin is blotted out, into whose captivity the devil had given us - so that now, therefore, he has no occasion to condemn us! (Sentences III,19,1). One can see how he sees God’s grace in justification primarily in the fact that we are led to good works by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In this he naturally wanted to follow Augustine’s opinion; but he follows it from afar and deviates considerably from the right imitation (of his model): for if Augustine said something clearly, Peter Lombardus makes it unclear, and what is not at all unclean in Augustine, he corrupts! The theology of the school has then always strayed to the worse, until it has finally involved itself in a kind of Pelagianism in an abrupt collapse. Of course, Augustine’s view itself, or at least his way of expression, is not acceptable in all parts. Certainly, he excellently deprives man of any glory based on any righteousness and attributes it entirely to the grace of God; but then he nevertheless relates grace to sanctification, in which the Holy Spirit gives us a rebirth to new life.

III,11,16 On the other hand, when Scripture speaks of righteousness by faith, it leads us in a completely different direction: according to its instruction, we are to turn away from looking at our own works and look solely to God’s mercy and Christ’s perfection. The order of justification, according to the teaching of Scripture, is this: from the beginning, out of pure merciful kindness, God condescends to accept sinful man; he sees nothing in him that could move him to mercy, but only his misery. He sees how man is completely naked and empty of good works, but then he takes from himself the cause to do him good. Then he touches the sinner himself with the feeling of his goodness, so that he leaves the trust in his own works and bases his whole salvation on God’s mercy. This is the sensation of faith by which the sinner comes into possession of his salvation, recognizing from the teaching of the gospel that he is reconciled to God, having obtained forgiveness of sins through the vicarious interposition of Christ’s righteousness, and is thereby justified, and considering that, notwithstanding his regeneration by the Spirit of God, his righteousness is perpetually based not on the good works he labors to do, but on Christ’s righteousness alone. When these facts have all been considered separately, they give a clear explanation of our view. However, they could probably be better stated in a different order than has been done. But there is little to be gained by this - if only the individual pieces are related to each other, so that we have the whole set of facts fairly set apart and reliably reasoned before us.

III,11,17 Here we must again recall the interrelation between faith and the gospel already noted. Faith, it is said, makes us righteous because it receives and grasps the righteousness offered to us in the gospel. But when it is said that this righteousness is offered to us through the gospel, this excludes any consideration of works. Paul shows us this in many places, but especially in two. First, in the Epistle to the Romans, he compares the law and the gospel and declares: the righteousness that comes from the law is according to the word: "Whoever does this will live by it!" (Rom 10:5). The "righteousness by faith" (Rom 10:6), on the other hand, proclaims salvation under the following condition: "If one believes from the heart …, and if one confesses with the mouth Jesus that he is the Lord, and that God raised him from the dead …" (Rom 10:10.9, intertwined). There you can see very clearly how the difference between law and gospel is that the law ascribes righteousness to works, whereas the gospel gives it by grace, without any cooperation of works! A weighty passage! It can help us out of many difficulties if we realize that the righteousness given to us through the Gospel is detached from the conditions of the Law. This is also the reason why Paul contrasts the law and the promise several times under obvious erection of an antithesis, for example: "If the inheritance were acquired through the law, it would not be given through promise …" (Gal 3,18), plus other statements in the same chapter in the same sense. However, the law also has its promises. So there must be something special and different in the promises of the gospel, if we do not want to admit that this juxtaposition is inappropriate. This specialness of the promises of the gospel consists in the fact that they happen by pure grace and are based only on God’s mercy, while the promises of the law are dependent on a condition, namely on the works! But now let no one interrupt me and say that here only the righteousness is rejected, which men of their own accord and by virtue of their free will dare to bring before God! No, Paul teaches us without any restriction: the law achieves nothing with its commands (Rom 8,3) - because there is no one who fulfills it, neither with the great multitude, nor even with the most perfect! Certainly, love is the most important part of the law, because the Spirit of God shapes us to it. But why is it not the cause of our righteousness? Precisely because it is weak even in the saints and therefore does not deserve any reward in itself!

III,11,18 The second passage reads: "But that by the law no man is justified in the sight of God is evident; for ’the just shall live by faith’. But the law is not of faith, but the man who does it, he shall live by it!’" (Gal 3:11 f.). How could this proof stand if it were not established that works are not taken into account in faith, but are to be completely separated from it? Paul tells us: the law is something different from faith. But why? Precisely because works are necessary for righteousness according to the law! So it follows: works are not necessary for righteousness by faith! This comparison makes it clear that the one who is justified by faith attains justification without the merit of works, even apart from all merit of works - because faith receives the righteousness that the gospel bestows upon us! The difference between the Law and the Gospel, then, is that the latter does not bind righteousness to works, but bases it on God’s mercy alone. In the same sense, Paul claims in the Epistle to the Romans that Abraham had no reason to boast because his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Rom 4:2 ss.). As a reason he states that there is room for righteousness by faith where there are no works that would have a claim to reward! Where there are works, he explains, they will receive their due reward; but what is given to faith, that happens by pure grace! For the words he uses in this passage lead to this result in their meaning. A few verses later he declares that we received the inheritance by faith, so that we obtained it by grace, and from this he draws the conclusion that this inheritance is given to us by grace, since we received it by faith! (Rom 4,16). Why is this possible? Only because faith, without any support from works, rests entirely on God’s mercy! In the same sense it is undoubtedly to be understood when he teaches in another place that "the righteousness that is before God" is indeed "witnessed by the law and the prophets", but it is nevertheless "revealed without the intervention of the law"! (Rom 3:21). For by excluding the law, he asserts that we receive no help whatsoever by works, nor do we attain righteousness by doing works, but come quite empty to take it!

III,11,19 The reader will now notice with what justification the clever nowadays revile our doctrine, because we say that man is justified "alone" by faith. They do not dare to deny that man is justified by faith, because it is so often stated in Scripture. But since the "alone" is nowhere expressly found, they do not want to suffer us to add it! Really? But what do they then want to answer Paul’s statements, who claims that righteousness only comes from faith, if it is granted to us by pure grace? (Rom 4,2 ss.). But how is this "by pure grace" supposed to rhyme with works? With what kind of vituperation do they also want to evade the words that he utters in another place when he says that in the gospel "the righteousness that is before God is revealed to us"? (Rom 1:17). When righteousness is revealed in the gospel, it is not tattered or half-finished in it, but wholly and perfectly decided. The law, therefore, has no place in it. But it is not only a wrong, but also a ridiculous evasion, if they stiffen so much against the little word "alone". If one takes everything away from works, does he not thereby attribute it entirely to faith alone? Dear reader, what is the meaning of such sentences as: "Righteousness is revealed without the law" (Rom 3,21) or "man is justified by grace" (Rom 3,24; inaccurate), and that "without works of the law" (Rom 3,28); But here the clever ones have a very clever excuse. Admittedly, they have not thought it up themselves, but have taken it from Origen and some others of the ancient church fathers. But it is nevertheless completely inappropriate. For they prate that in such scriptural words only the works of the law that take place in ceremonies are excluded, but not the "moral" ones. Thus they achieve with their continuous bickering that they do not even grasp the basic concepts of the art of thinking! The apostle uses the following passages to justify his teaching: "Whoever does this will live by it" (Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12; Lev 18:,5) and: "Cursed be everyone who does not abide in all that is written in the book of the law, that he may do it! (Gal 3:10; Deut 27:26). Do these people think that the apostle is out of his mind when he refers to these scriptural words? If they are not crazy, they will not claim that life is promised to those who observe the ceremonies, or that a curse is pronounced on those who do not observe them correctly! But if these passages must be referred to the moral law, it is beyond doubt that the capacity for justification is also denied to moral works! In the same direction go such conclusions as Paul makes: "Through the law comes knowledge of sin" - thus through the law "no flesh is justified!" (Rom 3:20). Or: "The law causes wrath" - therefore it does not work righteousness! (Rom 4:15, in the context of verse 16). (Similarly:) Because the law cannot make our conscience sure, therefore it is not fit to make us righteous. Because "faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom 4:5), therefore righteousness is not a reward for our works, but it is given to us undeservedly! Because we obtain righteousness by faith, therefore glory is "excluded" (Rom 3:27). "If a law were given that could make alive, righteousness would truly come from the law. But God has decreed all things under sin, that the promise … might be given to them that believe!" (Gal 3:21 f.; not quite Luther text). Now let those clever ones, if they dare, quietly prate that these words refer to the ceremonies and not to the customs - surely even children will put to shame such shamelessness! Let us therefore hold fast to this: if the law is denied the ability to justify us, then such statements refer to the whole law!

III,11,20 Perhaps someone might wonder why Paul includes the law in this discussion and is not simply content to speak of works as such. Now the reason can be quickly determined. For if works are so highly esteemed, they have this value rather from God’s recognition than from their own worthiness. Who would even dare to offer God the righteousness of works if God did not recognize such righteousness? Who would dare to demand, as it were, the deserved reward for his works if God had not promised it? If, then, works are deemed worthy of being counted as righteousness, and accordingly of reward, they have this - out of God’s benevolence! Yes, they have meaning only in one sense, namely when man performs them out of the intention to show his obedience to God through them. In another place the apostle wants to prove that Abraham could not be justified by works, and he brings up the fact that the law was not given until about four hundred and thirty years after the covenant was made with Abraham (Gal 3:17). Uninformed people might laugh at such a proof, because righteous works would have been possible even before the giving of the law. But Paul knew that only God’s testimony and esteem could give such importance to the works, and therefore he accepted it as admitted that the works had no justifying power before the law. Now we see why, when he wants to deny justification to works, he expressly calls them works of the law; for only in them could a controversy arise! Sometimes, of course, he excludes all works without any addition. For example, when he declares that through David’s testimony salvation is granted to such a man "to whom God imputes righteousness without works" (Rom 4:6). The clever ones can therefore not achieve with any teasing that we leave the general exclusion (of any works)! It is also in vain if they claim in careless sophistry that we are justified "only" by faith, "which is active in love" (Gal 5,6). In this case, then, our righteousness was based on love. True, we admit with Paul that no other faith justifies us than that "which is active in love" (Gal 5:6). But Paul does not take the justifying power of faith from this being active in love! Yes, faith justifies us for only one reason, namely because it gives us a share in the righteousness of Christ. In the other case, everything that Paul asserts with such sharpness would fall apart. He says, "But to him who deals in works, the reward is not imputed by grace, but by duty. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom 4:4f.). Could he have spoken more clearly than this? Righteousness of faith - he shows us - is therefore only there where there are no works that are entitled to reward, and faith is counted as righteousness only there where this righteousness is granted to us by unmerited grace!

III,11,21 We have now said above in our definition of righteousness that righteousness by faith is reconciliation with God, which consists solely in the forgiveness of sins. Now let us look more closely at how true this is. We must always go back to the principle that God’s wrath rests on all men as long as they persist in being sinners. Isaiah made this very clear: "Behold, the Lord’s hand is not waxed short, that he should not help; neither are his ears waxed hard, that he should not hear: but your iniquities separate you from your God, and your sins veil his face from you, that he should not hear you!" (Isa 59:1 f.; end not quite Luther text). There we hear it: sin is the divorce between man and God, it turns God’s gaze away from the sinner. It cannot be otherwise, because it is alien to God’s justice to have any fellowship with sin. Therefore the apostle also teaches us that man is God’s enemy until he is restored to grace through Christ. When, therefore, the Lord receives a man into his fellowship, he is said to justify him; for he cannot accept him in grace, nor can he enter into any union with him, unless he transforms him from a sinner into a righteous man. I now add: This happens through the forgiveness of sins. For if one were to judge the people whom God has reconciled to Himself according to their works, one would find that they are indeed still sinners, and yet they must be free and pure from sin! It is certain, then, that those whom God accepts can become righteous only by the fact that, through the forgiveness of sins, He wipes out all their blemishes and purifies them. Such righteousness, then, can be called in one word the forgiveness of sins!

III,11,22 These two facts (justification as reconciliation and justification as forgiveness of sins) now arise very clearly from the already mentioned words of the apostle: "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their sins to them, and establishing among us the word of reconciliation" (2Cor 5, 19). As the essential content of his message he then adds: "For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might have in him the righteousness that is before God!" (2Cor 5:21). "Righteousness" and "reconciliation" he uses here indiscriminately: so we notice that one mutually includes the other. At the same time, he also shows us the way in which we obtain this righteousness, namely, by not imputing our sins to us. Therefore you should not doubt further why God justifies us; you hear: he reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins to us! So we read it also in the Epistle to the Romans (4:6-8): in the testimony of David, Paul proves that righteousness is imputed to man without the intervention of works; for David calls blessed the man "to whom his iniquities are forgiven, and to whom his sins are covered, … to whom God imputes not sin." "Blessedness" he there undoubtedly puts for "righteousness"; but since this now consists, according to his assurance, in the forgiveness of sins, there is no reason for us to describe it otherwise. That is why Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, says in his song that the "knowledge of salvation" consists "in the forgiveness of their sins" (Lk 1:77). Paul also followed this rule when, according to Luke’s account, he concluded the sermon on the main sum of salvation he preached to the Antiochians with the words: "… that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you through him, and of all things from which you could not be justified in the Law of Moses. But whoever believes in Him is righteous" (Acts 13:38f.). There the apostle connects the forgiveness of sins with righteousness in such a way that he shows: they are completely one and the same! From this he then rightly concludes that the righteousness we receive from God’s goodness is unmerited. When we say that believers are righteous before God not by their works but by God’s gracious acceptance, such speech must not seem uncommon; for it occurs quite often in Scripture, and even the ancient Church Fathers sometimes spoke in this way. Thus we read somewhere in Augustine: "The righteousness of the saints in this world consists rather in the forgiveness of sins than in the perfection of virtues" (On the State of God, XIX,27). To this correspond the glorious words of Bernard: "Not to sin is God’s righteousness; but man’s righteousness is God’s goodness" (Homilies on the Song of Songs,23). Earlier, he had declared that Christ is righteousness for us by acquittal, and therefore only he is righteous who has obtained forgiveness of sins through mercy (22).

III,11,23 From this it also follows that it is only by the intercession of Christ’s righteousness for us that we attain to be justified before God. This means as much as if we said: man is not righteous in himself, but only because Christ’s righteousness is communicated to him by imputation. This is worthy of our very careful attention. For with this the delusion falls away, as if faith justifies man because he participates through faith in the Spirit of God, by which he is (actually) made righteous; this view stands in a par excellence irreconcilable opposition to the doctrine developed above. For man must undoubtedly be without any righteousness of his own if he is taught to seek his righteousness outside himself! But this is exactly what the apostle asserts with the greatest clarity when he writes: "For he made him who knew no sin an atoning sacrifice for sin on our behalf, that we might have in him the righteousness that is before God" (2Cor 5:21; middle part not Luther text). There you can see: our righteousness does not lie in us, but in Christ; it only comes to us on the legal ground that we have a share in Christ, just as we possess all his riches with him! This is not contradicted by the fact that Paul declares elsewhere that sin was condemned "for sin’s sake" in Christ’s flesh, "so that the righteousness required by the law might be fulfilled in us …" (Rom 8:3). For the "fulfillment" that Paul means here is none other than that which we attain by imputation! For the Lord Christ gives us a share in his righteousness with the right that he thereby miraculously - as far as God’s judgment is concerned! - his power passes over into us! Paul meant nothing else; this is more than clear from another passage found shortly before: "For just as through one man’s disobedience many sinners were made, so also through one man’s obedience many will be made righteous!" (Rom 5:19). Here, then, Paul bases our righteousness on Christ’s obedience - but what does this mean other than that he asserts: for this reason alone we are considered righteous, because Christ’s obedience benefits us as if it were our own? It seems to me, therefore, to be very correct when Ambrose finds an example of this righteousness in the blessing that Jacob obtained. Jacob had not earned the birthright from himself, and yet he hid himself in his brother’s garment, put on his skirt, which gave off such a good smell, and in this way sneaked into his father’s house to receive the blessing under a stranger for his own benefit. In the same way, Ambrose says, we hide ourselves under the precious purity of Christ, as our firstborn brother, in order to obtain the testimony of righteousness in the presence of God. Literally Ambrose says: "That Isaac ’smelled the odor of the garments’ (Gen 27:27) has perhaps the meaning that we are justified not by our works but by faith; for the weakness of the flesh is a hindrance to our works, but the clearness of faith eclipses the error of our works, and such faith merits forgiveness of sins" (Of Jacob and the Blessed Life, II:2, 9). It is really so; for if we are to appear before God’s face for our salvation, we must necessarily be fragrant with His fragrance, and under His perfection our vices must be covered and buried!

Chapter Twelve


If justification by grace is to become a serious certainty for us, we must lift up our hearts to God’s judgment seat.

III,12,1 Certainly, it is evident from clear testimonies that all this is true; but how necessary it is only becomes clear to us when we consider what must be the basis of the whole argument. First of all, then, we must be aware that we are not speaking here of righteousness according to the standard of human judgment, but of that which applies before God’s judgment seat. We must not, therefore, judge according to our own measure what purity of works is required for God’s judgment to be satisfied. It is strange, however, with what arrogance and presumption this is consistently determined. Yes, one can also perceive that no one prates more presumptuously and - as they say - with fuller cheeks about the righteousness of works than such people who suffer tremendously from palpable infirmities or are almost bursting with hidden vices! This is because they do not consider God’s righteousness, for if they had the slightest experience of it, they would not mock it so! But they certainly do not consider it worth a damn if they do not acknowledge that it is of such a kind and perfection that only that which is pure and perfect in every respect and untainted by dirt is pleasing to it! But this has never been found in a human being and will never be found. It is, however, easy and familiar to everyone to talk about the value of works for the justification of man in the classrooms of the (papal) schools. But when one comes before the face of God, then such pleasure must melt away; for there one proceeds with seriousness, there is no entertaining quarreling over words! To this, then, must we direct our minds, if we would profitably search for true righteousness: we must ask how we will answer the heavenly judge when he calls us to account! We want to put this judge before our eyes - not as our mind dreams him up by itself, but as he is described to us in the Scriptures! Before his splendor the stars pale, before his power the mountains melt, his wrath shakes the earth, his wisdom catches the prudent in their cunning, against his purity everything is impure, his justice even angels cannot bear; before him no guilty person becomes innocent, and when his vengeance flares up, it penetrates to the depths of hell! Thus it is especially expressed in the book of Job (cf. Job 9:5; 25:5; 26:6). I say: Let him sit in judgment to test the deeds of men - who can confidently stand before his throne? "Who is there among us," says the prophet, "who may dwell by a consuming fire? Who is there among us that shall dwell by an everlasting blaze? He who walks in righteousness and speaks what is right …" (Isa 33,14f.). But let him come forward, whoever he may be! But no, exactly this answer has the consequence that nobody steps forward! For on the other side the fearful word resounds: "If thou wilt, Lord, impute sins, Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps 130:3). So all must perish immediately, as it is also written elsewhere, "How can a man be righteous in the sight of God, or a man be pure in the sight of Him who made him? Behold, among his servants there is none faithful unto him, and his messengers doth he accuse of wickedness: how much more they that dwell in houses of clay, and are founded upon the earth, and are eaten of worms! It lasteth from the morning even unto the evening, and they are broken in pieces …" (Job 4:17-20; not consistently Luther text). Or also: "Behold, among his saints there is none faithful, and the heavens are not clean before him. How much less a man who is an abomination and vile, who drinks iniquity like water?" (Job 15:15 f.; not quite Luther’s text). I admit, however, that the book of Job speaks of a righteousness more exalted than the observance of the law. It is important to keep this distinction; for even if one were to satisfy the law, he would not be able to stand before the test of righteousness, which transcends all our senses! Hence it is that Job, though he is not conscious of any guilt, is nevertheless terrified and silenced! He just sees that God could not be reconciled even by the holiness of the angels, if he put their works on the highest scale! So I will leave the justice implied by this, because it is incomprehensible. But this I say: If our life is tested according to the guideline of the written law, we would still be duller than dull, if so many curse words did not torture us with terrible fear, with which God wants to wake us up from our drowsiness! First of all, there is the very general curse word: "Cursed be he who does not abide in all that is written in this book!" (Deut 27,26; not Luther text; actually quoted after Gal 3,10). In short, this whole discussion is tasteless and unclear unless each individual presents himself as the accused before the heavenly judge and prostrates and humbles himself before him in concern for his acquittal!

III,12,2 Here, here we must lift up our eyes, that we may learn to tremble instead of foolishly rejoicing! As long as we compare ourselves with people, it is easy for everyone to think that he has something that others should not disparage. But when we lift ourselves up to God, such confidence crumbles and dissipates faster than it can be expressed. And in doing so, our soul experiences the same towards God as our body does towards the visible sky. For as long as our eye is occupied with looking at the things lying first to us, it receives a proof of its sharpness. If, on the other hand, we direct our eye to the sun, it is overwhelmed and dazzled by its tremendous brilliance - and so it experiences its frailty just as much when looking at the sun as it experienced its strength when looking at things on this earth. So let us not be deceived by vain confidence: even if we believe ourselves to be equal or even superior to the rest of mankind, this is of no consequence to God, and the judgment on this question is still at his discretion! But if our arrogance cannot be dampened by exhortations, he will answer us as he once said to the Pharisees: "It is you who justify yourselves before men. But … what is high in the sight of men is an abomination in the sight of God!" (Lk 16:15). Now you may go and boast pompously of your righteousness among men - when God abhors it from heaven! But what does the servant of God, who is instructed in truth by His Spirit, say? "Do not go into judgment with your servant; for before you no living person is righteous!" (Ps 143:2). And another tells us, admittedly in a somewhat different sense: "Yes, I know very well … that a man may not be right against God. If he has a desire to quarrel with him, he cannot answer him in a thousand!" (Job 9:2f.). Here we hear clearly what God’s justice is all about; it is such that we cannot satisfy it by any human works: if it interrogates us for a thousand evils, we cannot make an excuse for a single one! This righteousness was undoubtedly well understood in the heart of Paul, this chosen instrument of God, when he said: "I am not aware of anything, but in this I am not justified" (1Cor 4:4).

III,12,3 Such examples are not only found in the Holy Scriptures, but all pious writers show that they were of this mind. Thus Augustine says: "All the pious, who groan under this burden of perishable flesh and in this frailty of life, have one hope, namely, that we have as our one mediator Jesus Christ, who is righteous and who is Himself the propitiation for our sins" (To Boniface, III,5,15; cf. 1Tim 2,5f.). What do we hear there? If he is the only hope of the faithful, where is the trust in works? For when Augustine speaks of him as our "only" hope, he leaves no other hope beside him. But St. Bernard says: "And truly, where shall the weak have constant, firm rest and safety, but in the wounds of the Savior alone? There I dwell so much safer, so much more powerful he is to redeem me! The world rages, the flesh presses, the devil pursues me. But I will not fall; for I am founded on a strong rock! I have committed grave sin. My conscience is grieved, but it will not sink into sorrow; for I remember the wounds of the Lord!" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 61:3). Later he draws from this the conclusion: "My merit, then, is the mercy of the Lord. I am not entirely without merit as long as he is not without mercy. If the mercy of the Lord is so great, I am also great in my merits! What shall I sing of my righteousness? Lord, I will remember your righteousness alone! For your righteousness is mine! He (Christ) is indeed made unto me of God for righteousness!" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 61:5). Likewise elsewhere, "This is the whole merit of man, that he sets all his hope on Him who makes the whole man blessed!" (on Ps 91:1 Ec 15:5). Similarly, in another passage, where he keeps peace for himself and leaves the glory to God: "To thee be the glory undiminished; for me it is well that I have peace. Therefore I swear off glory altogether, lest I arrogate to myself what is not mine, and lose over it what is offered to me!" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 13:4). He speaks even more openly in another place: "What should the Church worry about merits? It has much stronger and more certain reason to boast of God’s purpose! So there is no reason to ask from which merits we should hope for good. Especially not when we hear from the prophet: ’I do it not for your sake, but for mine, saith the Lord’ (Eze 36:22, 32; ending imprecise). For merit it is enough to know that merit is not enough! But as it is enough for merit not to presume on merit, so it is enough for condemnation to lack merit" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 68,1). That Bernhard takes the liberty of saying "merits" instead of "good works" is to be credited to the custom of the time. At the end (of the last quotation) he had the intention to frighten the hypocrites who become bold in wanton sinning against God’s grace; in this sense he explains his statement soon after: "Blessed is the church which lacks neither merit, of which it is not lacking, nor ’presumption’ without merit (namely, the right presumption of meritless faith). She has reason to ’presume’ - but it does not consist in her merits! It also has merits, but not in order to be presumptuous, but in order to deserve them! For does not just this, that we do not presume, actually mean an earning? So she ’misses’ herself all the more surely, if she does not miss herself (in the wrong sense)! For it has indeed a weighty cause to boast (in the sense of right ’presumption’!), namely, the great mercy of the Lord!" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 68,6).

III,12,4 It is really so. The afflicted consciences learn it, that this is the only refuge of salvation where they can safely breathe a sigh of relief when they have to deal with God’s judgment! For if the stars, which appeared so brilliant by night, lose their brilliance at the sight of the sun - what is to become of man’s most exquisite innocence when it is compared with God’s purity? For this will be a very serious test, penetrating even into the most hidden thoughts of the heart; it will, as Paul says, "bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and reveal the hidden things of the heart" (1Cor 4:5; not quite Luther’s text). It will force our conscience, which is hidden and resisting, to bring to light all that has now escaped even our memory. There the accuser will beset us, the devil, who knows well all the outrages to which he has incited us. All the outward splendor of good works, which alone is now held in high esteem, will be of no help to us. Only purity of will be demanded of us. Therefore, all hypocrisy will be put to shame and fall to the ground - not only the hypocrisy with which man likes to pretend to be great before men, although he knows what evil he has done before God, but also the hypocrisy with which everyone deceives himself before God - we are so inclined to caress and flatter ourselves! This hypocrisy will pass away from us - however hopeful it may now behave in more than drunken presumption! He who does not set his mind on this spectacle may well build up a righteousness for the moment in all comfort and self-sufficiency: before God’s judgment it will soon be driven out of him! He will be like one who has amassed great riches in a dream: when he awakes, they will vanish! But whoever in earnest, as it were before God’s face, searches for the true standard of righteousness, will surely learn that all the works of men, when considered in themselves, are nothing but filth and filthiness; what is usually thought to be righteousness is with God all unrighteousness, what is thought to be purity is all defilement, what is thought to be glory is all shame!

III,12,5 We do not want to let it annoy us now to descend from this contemplation of the divine perfection and to look at ourselves without hypocrisy and without blind acceptance of (self-)love. For it is not to be wondered at that we are so blind in this matter; for none of us is careful of the pernicious indulgence toward himself, which, according to the loud testimony of Scripture, is inherent in all of us by nature. "Every man’s way seemeth him right," says Solomon (Prov 21:2), or also: "Every man’s ways seem pure" (Prov 16:2). But how? Does man now receive acquittal because of these delusions of his? Oh no! Solomon adds in the same passage: "But the Lord weighs the hearts" (Prov 21:2). This means that while man caresses himself for the sake of the outward larva of righteousness he displays, the Lord tests on his scales the hidden impurity of the heart. Since we do not achieve anything with such self-flattery, we do not want to deceive ourselves of our own free will to our own destruction. But in order to examine ourselves properly, we must call our conscience back before God’s judgment seat. For his light is highly needed to uncover all the nooks and crannies of our wickedness, which otherwise remain all too deeply hidden! Then we will see through what it really means when we hear: far be it from man to be justified, man "who is dust and a worm" (Job 25:6), "man who is an abomination and vile, who drinks iniquity like water!" (Job 15:16). "Can a clean person come from the unclean? Not even one!" (Job 14:4). Then we will just experience the same as Job says of himself, "If I say that I am righteous, yet his mouth condemns me; if I am innocent, yet he makes me unrighteous!" (Job 9:20; not quite Luther text). For it is true not only for a certain time, but for all times, what the prophet once lamented to Israel: "We all went astray like sheep; each one looked his way …" (Isa 53:6). Because the prophet summarizes here all people to whom the grace of salvation should come. Thereby, the sharpness of this judgment must go so far, until it has forced us into a thorough consternation and has prepared us in such a way to receive the grace of Christ. For it is deception if one thinks that he is able to enjoy this grace without first having thrown away all the majesty of his heart! It is a well-known saying: "God resists the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble" (1Pet 5:5).

III,12,6 How then shall we humble ourselves? But in such a way that we give room to God’s mercy, completely poor and empty! For I do not call it humility when we think that something is left for us. Up to now we have been taught pernicious hypocrisy by combining two demands: we should think humbly about ourselves before God, but at the same time we should also still value our righteousness to some extent. For if we confess before God the opposite of what we really mean, we shamefully lie to Him! But we cannot have the right opinion of ourselves without shattering everything that seems praiseworthy about us. In the prophet we hear that salvation is prepared for the wretched people, but humiliation for the eyes of the arrogant (Ps 18:28; not Luther text). First of all, consider that we have no access to salvation without removing all arrogance from us and accepting thorough humility. But then note that this humility is not just some modesty by virtue of which we leave a hair’s breadth of our rights to the Lord. Among men, after all, he is considered humble who does not puff himself up overconfidently and does not despise other people, even if he still leans to some extent on the consciousness of his excellence. No, the humility called for here is the unfeigned lowliness of our heart, terrified at the serious sense of its misery and poverty; so it is described everywhere in God’s Word. In Zephaniah, the Lord says, "I will do away with the wanton from thee…. I will leave in you a poor, lowly people; they will hope in the Lord" (Zeph. 3:11 f.; not quite Luther text). Does he not clearly show who the humble are? They are the ones who are crushed under the knowledge of their poverty! The arrogant, on the other hand, he calls "arrogant", as people tend to become proud in the joy of their happiness. But to the humble, whom he has undertaken to make blessed, he leaves nothing but that they "hope in the Lord. This is also written in Isaiah: "But I look upon the wretched, and the brokenhearted, and the fearful of my word" (Isa 66:2). Or similarly, "Thus says the High and Lofty One who dwells forever, whose name is Holy; who dwells on high and in the sanctuary, and with those who are of a broken and humble spirit, that I may refresh the spirit of the humble and the heart of the brokenhearted!" (Isa 57:15). When one hears here so often of "bruised", one must understand by it a wounding of the heart, which does not let the man, who is cast down to the earth, get up again. Your heart must be wounded by such crushing if, according to God’s words, you want to be lifted up with the lowly! If this does not happen, God’s mighty hand will humble you to your shame and disgrace!

III,12,7 Our great Master, however, did not content himself with words, but also set before our eyes the image of right humility in a parable as in a painting. He has a tax collector stand before us who "stands afar off," not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven, and prays in deep lamentation, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner" (Lk 18:13). (Lk 18:13). If this man does not dare to look to heaven and does not dare to approach, if he beats his breast and confesses that he is a sinner, we should not think that these are signs of feigned modesty, but know that they are testimonies of inner emotion. On the other hand, he contrasts this tax collector with the Pharisee who thanks God that he "is not like other people", that he is not a robber, not an unjust man, not an adulterer, because he "fasts twice a week" and "gives tithes of all that he has" (Lk 18:11). He acknowledges in open confession that the righteousness he possesses is God’s gift; but because he misses being righteous, therefore he departs from God’s presence, unharmed and hated! The tax collector, on the other hand, is "justified" by the knowledge of his unrighteousness! (Lk 18,14). There you can see how high our humility stands with the Lord in grace: our heart is not at all open to accept God’s mercy if it is not completely empty of any delusion of our own worthiness. Where this delusion takes over the heart, it closes the entrance to God’s mercy. So that no one doubts this, Christ was sent to earth by the Father with the mission "to preach to the miserable, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, redemption to the bound … to comfort all the sorrowful, … To make them ornaments for ashes, and oil of gladness for mourning, and beautiful garments for a grieved spirit …" (Isa 61:1-3). On the basis of this commission, He merely invites "the weary and the burdened" (Mt 11:28) to share in His kindness. And in another place he says: "I have come to call sinners to repentance and not the righteous!" (Mt 9,13)..

III,12,8 So if we want to give room to the call of Christ, all presumption, all self-assurance must depart far from us. Presumption arises from the foolish conceit of one’s own righteousness, where man believes that he possesses something by the merit of which he is pleasing to God. Self-confidence can exist even without any conviction (of the value) of works. For many sinners become drunk on the sweetness of vice, do not think of God’s judgment, lie there as if frozen by sleep addiction, so that above all they do not even long for the mercy offered to them. But we must throw this sleepiness from us just as we must put all self-confidence from us, so that we may hurry to Christ in right readiness to be filled empty and hungry with his goods! We will never have enough confidence in him if we do not completely distrust ourselves; we will never lift up our hearts to him sufficiently if we are not first cast down in ourselves; we will never find enough comfort in him if we are not desolate in ourselves! When we have thrown away all trust in ourselves and rely solely on the certainty of his goodness, then we are able to grasp and hold on to God’s grace: there we forget - as Augustine says - our own merits and take hold of Christ’s gifts (Sermon 174,2); for if he sought merits from us, then we would not come to his gifts. To this Bernhard aptly agrees: he compares haughty men, who presume the least for their merits, to unfaithful servants, because they withhold in malice the praise for the grace that merely passes through them - as when a wall would boast that it brings forth the ray which it nevertheless receives through the window! (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 13,5). But in order not to detain ourselves any longer here, let us state as a short, but generally valid and certain rule: he is qualified to have a share in the fruits of divine mercy who has completely rid himself of all - I do not say: righteousness, for that is just not present; but - of all vain, puffed-up conceit that he possesses righteousness. For everyone puts an obstacle in the way of divine beneficence to the extent that he bases his confidence on himself.

Thirteenth chapter


Two main points that require attention in justification by grace

III,13,1 Now here, in general, we must pay special attention to two things: (1) the Lord’s glory must be preserved unabated and intact (sections 1-2), (2) but our conscience must have peaceful rest and joyful serenity before His judgment (sections 3-5). Yet we see how often and how earnestly the Scriptures exhort us to give our praise to God alone when it comes to righteousness. Yes, according to the testimony of the apostle, when the Lord bestowed righteousness on us in Christ, He did so with the purpose of revealing His own righteousness (Rom 3:25). Immediately afterwards, he adds how this revelation of His righteousness is to take place: "That He alone might be righteous and justify him who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3,26). One can see: God’s righteousness is only sufficiently glorified when he alone is seen as righteous and when he bestows the grace of righteousness on those who do not deserve it! That is why he wants "all mouths to be stopped up and all the world to be guilty of him" (Rom 3,19). For as long as man has something to say to excuse himself, God’s glory is somewhat lost! Thus, in Ezekiel, He teaches us how much we glorify His name by acknowledging our unrighteousness. He says, "There you will remember your ways and all your doings so that you are defiled, and you will be displeased with all your wickedness that you have done. And shall know that I am the Lord, when I do with you for my name’s sake, and not according to your wickedness …" (Eze 20:43f.). If this is part of the right knowledge of God, that we, crushed by the consciousness of our own unrighteousness, recognize that He is well pleased with us as unworthy ones - what do we presume to do to our great detriment to steal even a little bit from the Lord’s praise for His goodness, which He bestows upon us by grace? Jeremiah exclaims, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, let not a rich man boast of his wealth, let not a strong man boast of his strength, but let him who boasts boast of the Lord …" (Jer 9:24; not Luther text, conclusion according to 1Cor 1:30). Doesn’t he thereby also give us to understand that something of the glory of God is lost when man boasts in himself? In any case, Paul adapts these words to such an understanding when he teaches us that all our salvation is with Christ, so that we should "boast in the Lord" alone! (1Cor 1:30). In fact, he shows us that a man who thinks he has even the least of himself becomes indignant against God and darkens His glory!

III,13,2 It is indeed so: we never, ever come to truly boast of the Lord unless we have completely renounced our own glory. On the other hand, we should hold it as a universal principle: he who boasts in himself boasts against God. According to Paul’s conviction, only then "all the world becomes guilty to God" (Rom 3,19), when people are deprived of every reason to boast. That is why Isaiah immediately follows his message that Israel will find its justification in God with the word: "and will boast" (Isa 45:25). It is as if he wanted to say that the Lord justifies His elect for the purpose that they should now boast in Him and not in anything else! But in what way we are to boast "in the Lord" Isaiah said in the preceding verse, "That … all tongues swear and say: In the Lord I have righteousness and strength" (Isa 45,23f.). It must be noted that here not a simple confession is demanded, but its affirmation by an oath; one should therefore not think to do his duty with some feigned humility! Here, too, no one should object that it is not "boasting" at all if he makes himself aware of his own righteousness without any presumption. No, such contemplation (of one’s own righteousness) must necessarily produce (self-)confidence, and this in turn must inevitably give birth to boasting! So let us remember that in all disputes about righteousness this must be regarded as the purpose, that the praise for it may remain perfect and untouched to the Lord! After all, according to the testimony of the apostle, he has poured out his grace upon us for the display of his righteousness, "that he alone might be righteous and justify him who is of faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). Therefore, in another passage Paul teaches first that the Lord has granted us salvation to glorify the glory of his name (Eph 1:6), and then later, as a repetition of the same thought, he adds: "For it is by grace you have been saved…. It is the gift of God - not of works, lest anyone should boast!" (Eph 2:8f.). And Peter reminds us that we are called to the hope of blessedness - "that you may proclaim the virtues of Him who called you from darkness to His marvelous light!" (1Pet 2:9). There is no doubt that he wants God’s praise alone to resound in the ear of the faithful, so that it drowns out and silences all the presumption of the flesh. I summarize: man cannot ascribe to himself a shred of righteousness without robbing God of His own - for just as much of the glory of God’s righteousness is thereby torn away and shortened!

III,13,3 If we ask in what way our conscience can be satisfied before God, we will find only one way: namely, when righteousness is granted to us by God’s gift of pure grace! Let the words of Solomon always be in our minds: "Who can say, I am pure in heart and clean from my sin? (Prov 20:9). There is certainly no one who would not be overflowed by an unending torrent (of sin)! May everyone, even the most perfect, converse with his conscience and call his deeds to account, what conclusion will he come to in the end? Will he rest gently, as if all was well between him and God? Will he not, on the contrary, be torn apart by bitter anguish when he realizes that in him lies every reason for damnation, insofar as he is judged according to his works? If the conscience looks to God, it must either be at safe peace with His judgment - or be harassed by the terrors of hell! All our thinking about righteousness is of no use to us if we do not establish such a righteousness on whose firmness our soul can rest in God’s judgment! Only there, where our soul has reason to appear unafraid before God’s face and to expect his judgment unshaken - only there shall we know that we have found an infallible justice! It is not without reason, therefore, that the apostle lays such great stress on this - I would rather proceed with his words than with mine. He says: "For where they that are of the law are heirs, faith is nothing, and the promise is done away with" (Rom 4:14). He first declares that faith would be nullified and emptied if the promise of righteousness depended on the merits of our works or depended on the observance of the law. For then no man could ever rest securely on it: for no man will ever be able to state with certainty that he has satisfied the law, just as no man has ever certainly satisfied it entirely by works. So that we do not fetch a witness for this from far away, everyone can be a witness for himself, if he only wants to look at himself with the right view! What deep, dark recesses hypocrisy buries the minds of men in, is now made clear by the fact that they lull themselves into such a state of security that they are not afraid to oppose God’s judgment with their flattery - as if they wanted to force him to stop the proceedings! The believers, on the other hand, who investigate themselves properly, are frightened and tormented by a completely different concern. Thus, every human heart should be filled with trepidation and finally with despair, if each one were to reflect on the heavy burden of guilt that still weighs on him and how far he is from the fulfillment of the condition imposed on him. But it must be recognized that faith would be pressed to the ground and extinguished; for if we doubt and waver, swing up and down, if we hesitate and remain in uncertainty, if we waver and finally despair - this does not mean faith! Rather, faith means that we strengthen our hearts in firm assurance and infallible certainty, and that we have a place on which to base ourselves and gain a firm foothold!

III,13,4 Paul adds (Rom 4,14; cf. section 3) a second thing: The promise will be invalid and vain (if the inheritance comes from the law). If the fulfillment of the promise depends on our merit, when will it come that we deserve God’s beneficence? Also, this second part (of the apostle’s statement) follows from the first: for the promise is fulfilled only in those who believe it! So if the faith falls away, the promise has no more power. The "inheritance" therefore comes (allusion to Rom 4,14) from faith, so that it is given by grace - for the confirmation of the promise! It is abundantly confirmed, if it is based on God’s mercy alone; for (God’s) mercy and truth are linked by a constant bond; that is: what God promises in His mercy, He also faithfully performs! Thus David desires his salvation from God’s promise, but first he establishes the cause (of this salvation), namely God’s mercy: "Let your mercy come to me, your salvation, as you have promised me!" (Ps 119:76; not Luther text). And this is right; for God cannot be determined to his promise by anything but his mere mercy. Therefore, our whole hope must lie here, here it must be deeply established, as it were, and we should not look to our works for any help! Augustine also instructs us to do it this way - so let no one think that I am saying something new here! He says: "In eternity Christ will reign in his servants. This is what God has promised, this is what God has spoken - yes, if this should be too little: this is what God has sworn! Therefore, since the promise has its power not on the basis of our merits but on the basis of His mercy, let no one proclaim with trembling and fear that which he cannot doubt!" (on Ps 88, I,5). So also Bernhard: "’Who then can be saved?’, Christ’s disciples ask (Mt 19,25). But He answers: ’With men it is impossible, but not with God!’ (Mt 19,26, inaccurate). This is our whole confidence, our only comfort, the whole reason of our hope! So we have the certainty that it is possible (Mt 19,26, whole text) - but what about God’s will? ’Who knows whether he deserves love or hatred?’ (Eccl. 9:1; not Luther text). ’Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ (1Cor 2:16; in this form actually Rom 11:34). Here, however, faith must expressly come to our aid, here the truth must give us assistance! What is hidden in the heart of the Father must be revealed to us by the Spirit, and His Spirit must bear witness and convince us that we are children of God (Rom 8,16). But he must do this by calling us and justifying us by grace through faith! For in this, as by a means, there takes place, as it were, a transition from eternal predestination to future glory!" (Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon on the Consecration of the Church, 5 ss.). Let us summarize briefly: Scripture shows that God’s promises are not firm unless they are grasped with sure confidence of conscience; wherever there is doubt and uncertainty, there, according to its testimony, the promises become ineffective - but on the other hand it tells us that our conscience must waver and falter if it rests on our works! So either righteousness must be lost to us, or works must not be taken into consideration, but faith alone must have room here. The essence of faith is to open one’s ears and close one’s eyes, i.e. to focus solely on the promise and to turn one’s attention away from all worthiness and all merit of man! Thus the glorious promise of Zechariah is fulfilled: "I … will take away the sin of the land … And at that time one will invite another under the vine and under the fig tree" (Zech 3,9f.). There the prophet indicates that believers will enjoy true peace only when they have obtained forgiveness of their sins. Indeed, we must note that when the prophets speak of Christ’s kingdom, they need a comparison: they present God’s external blessings to us, as it were, as an image of spiritual goods. This is why Christ is also called the "Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6) and "our peace" (Eph 2:14), because He quiets all turmoil of conscience. If we ask how this is done, we must come to the sacrifice by which he reconciled God; for he who does not hold to the fact that God alone is reconciled by that sacrifice in which Christ bore his wrath - he will never cease to tremble. In short, we are to seek our peace in the terrors of Christ our Savior alone.

III,13,5 But to what purpose do I use here a testimony which is still somewhat obscure? Does Paul everywhere deny that consciences can enjoy peace and tranquil joy unless our justification by faith is established! (Rom 5:1). At the same time, he also explains where this assurance comes from: "For the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit …!" (Rom 5:5). So he wants to say: our soul cannot rest until we have the firm assurance that we are pleasing to God. That is why he exclaims elsewhere in the name of all the pious: "Who will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ…? …?" (Rom 8:34 f.; not exact). We must tremble at the slightest breath of wind until we have docked in this harbor; on the other hand, we will be safe even in the darkness of death as long as God shows Himself to be our shepherd! (Ps 23:4). The people who say that we are justified by faith because we are born again through spiritual life have never tasted the sweetness of grace, that is, they have never considered that God will be gracious to them. It follows that they do not know better how to pray than the Turks and other unholy Gentiles! For according to the testimony of Paul, this is not true faith, which does not put the wonderful name "Father" into our mouths and press it upon our lips, nay, which does not open our mouths and let us freely cry out, "Abba, dear Father!" (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15). In another place he expresses it even more clearly: "Through whom we have joy and access in all confidence through faith in him" (Eph 3,12). This certainly does not happen to us through the gift of regeneration; for this is always imperfect in this flesh and therefore carries with it manifold causes for doubt. It is therefore necessary to take recourse to that remedy (faith), so that believers may hold fast to it: there is only one thing that gives us the right to hope for the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, namely the fact that we are incorporated into Christ’s body and are therefore considered righteous by grace. For faith is entirely passive as far as justification is concerned, it brings nothing of our own to acquire God’s grace, but receives from Christ what we lack!

Chapter Fourteen


Of the Beginning and the Continuous Progress of Justification

III,14,1 To make the matter clearer, let us now examine how the righteousness of man can be constituted in the whole course of his life. However, this results in a fourfold gradual structure for us. First, men may live without any knowledge (agnitio) of God and therefore be immersed in idolatry. Secondly, they may be initiated into the sacraments, but through the impurity of their lives deny God, whom they confess with their mouths, with their deeds, and thus belong to Christ merely in name. Third, they can also be hypocrites who hide the wickedness of their heart behind empty appearances. Fourth, there are those who are born again by the Spirit of God and seek true holiness. As for the first group, if we judge them by their natural gifts, we will not find a speck of good in them from the sole of their foot to the crown of their head. Otherwise, we would have to accuse the Scriptures of deception; for they pass judgment on all the children of Adam that their heart is an "evil and proud thing" (Jer 17:9), that all the "thoughts of their heart are evil from their youth" (Gen 8:21), that their thoughts are "vain" (Ps 94:11), that they "have not the fear of God before their eyes" (cf. Ex 20:20) and that none of them is "wise" or "inquires after God" (Ps 14:2). In short, she calls them flesh (Gen 6,3), and this includes all the works that Paul enumerates: "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, fornication, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, envy, wrath, strife, dissension, rioting, hatred, murder" and what other such shameful and abominable things there are! (Gal 5,19 ss.). This, then, is the worthiness in which they put their trust, and for the sake of which they may be hopeful! Now, if some among them display such great propriety in their morals that this has a certain semblance of holiness among men, we know that God does not stop at outward splendor, and therefore we must penetrate to the very source of these works if we are to attach to them any value for the acquisition of righteousness. So, I mean, we have to investigate in depth what kind of disposition of the heart such works come from. - At this point, a very wide field offers itself for discussion; nevertheless, the question can also be treated in very few words, and therefore, as far as it is concerned, I will strive for a brief summary in my presentation.

III,14,2 First of all, I do not deny that all the excellent gifts that can be seen in unbelievers are God’s gifts. Nor am I so far from the judgment of common sense as to assert that there is no difference between the justice, moderation, and equity of Titus and Trajan and the rage, intemperance, and cruelty of Caligula, Nero, or Domitian, between the vile lusts of Tiberius and the abstinence of Vespasian on this point, and - I will not dwell on the individual virtues and vices - between the observation of justice and laws and their contempt. For between just and unjust there is such a great difference that it still appears in their lifeless image. What then is to remain in order in the world if we mix these two together? That is why the Lord has also engraved such distinction between honorable and disreputable deeds in the heart of every individual, and he also often confirms it by the way his providence works out (namely, distributes good and evil). Yet we see how he pursues people who seek virtue among men with many blessings of the present life. It is not that this outward image of virtue deserves its benefits in the least. No, it pleases him to prove in this way how warmly he loves true righteousness, that he will not let even outward and feigned righteousness remain without temporal reward. But from this follows what we have just acknowledged, namely, that all such virtues, or rather images of virtues, are God’s gifts - for no thing deserves any praise that does not come from him.

III,14,3 Nevertheless, it is true when Augustine writes: "All those who are alienated from the worship of the one God, no matter how good a reputation they may have and how much they may be admired for the sake of their virtue, deserve no reward but rather punishment, because they defile God’s pure gifts by the defilement of their hearts. They are certainly God’s instruments for the preservation of human community through righteousness, abstinence, friendship, temperance, fortitude, and wisdom. But they perform these good works of God very badly, because they are not kept from doing evil by a genuine desire for good, but only by ambition or self-love or some other wrong attitude. Their works, therefore, are to a certain extent corrupted from their origin by the impurity of their hearts, and therefore cannot be counted among the virtues any more than the vices which, for the sake of their kinship or resemblance to virtue, are wont to deceive men. In short, if we consider that all right doing has its constant purpose in the service that is to be rendered to God, then everything that goes in another direction reasonably loses the designation as "right doing". Therefore, because these people do not observe the point of direction which God’s wisdom has prescribed for us, what they do may appear good according to the duty (officium) - but for the sake of the wrong goal it is sin!" (Augustine, Against Julian, IV,3,16 ss.21). Augustin thus comes to the conclusion that all such men as Fabricius, Scipio and Cato sinned in their glorious deeds in that they lacked the light of faith and therefore did not make their deeds serviceable to the goal to which they should have directed them; they therefore - he explains - did not possess true justice, because precisely our achievements are not weighed according to the deed, but according to the goal pursued thereby! (Against Julian, IV,3,25f.).

III,14,4 And then: if it is true what John says, namely that there is no life apart from the Son of God (1. John 5,12), then all who have no part in Christ are in the whole course of their life on the way to perdition and the judgment of eternal death - they may be who they want, may also do and put into action what they want! In this sense Augustine said, "Our religion distinguishes the righteous from the unrighteous not according to the law of works, but according to that of faith; for without faith what appears to be a good work turns to sin!" (To Bonifacius, III,5). Therefore it is also very good when he elsewhere compares the zeal of such people with a run into error. In fact, the faster a person runs away from the (right) way, the further he gets away from the goal point and the more miserable he is at it. He therefore asserts, "It is better to limp along the right path than to run astray from it!" (Explanation of Ps 31:II,4). After all, it is certain that these people are evil trees, because there is no sanctification without fellowship with Christ: they can therefore produce beautiful and, according to appearance, splendid fruits, even those that are of sweet taste - but good ones never ever! From this we readily perceive that whatever a man considers, ponders, and accomplishes before he is reconciled to God by faith, is accursed, and not only of no value to righteousness, but certainly deserving of condemnation! But why do we act in this argument as if it were something doubtful? The proof is already there in the apostle’s testimony: "Without faith it is impossible to please God:" (Hebr 11:6).

III,14,5 But a much clearer and more luminous proof arises when we consider God’s grace on the one hand and the natural condition of man on the other. The Scripture says it loudly everywhere, that God does not find anything in man that could stimulate him to do good to him, but that he precedes him with his goodness out of pure grace. What shall a dead man be able to do in order to gain life? But in fact we are dead; for when he enlightens us with his knowledge, he raises us, it is said, from death and makes us new creatures! (John 5:25 a.o.). With this title of honor - especially in the apostle - God’s goodness towards us is often praised. Thus he says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, by his great kindness, so that he loved us when we were dead in sins, he made us alive together with Christ…" (Eph 2:4 f.). And in another place he treats the general calling of believers by the example of Abraham, saying, "God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth unto him that is not, as though he were!" (Rom 4:17; not quite Luther text). If we "are nothing" - what can we possibly do? Therefore, in the story of Job, the Lord strikes down all such presumption and says "who has done anything to me before, that I should repay him? After all, it is all mine …!" (Job 41:3). Paul explains this statement (Rom 11:35) and interprets it to the effect that we should not think that we bring anything to the Lord - except the pure shame of our poverty and emptiness. Therefore he also adds the proof to the above mentioned passage (Eph 2:8) that we have reached the hope of salvation by His grace alone and not by our works, and therefore says "For we are His workmanship, born again in Christ Jesus to good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them!" (Eph 2:10; not Luther text). It is as if he wanted to say: Who of us wants to claim that he has inspired God with his righteousness - when our first ability to do right only flows from being born again! For as we are by nature - so it is easier to press oil out of a stone than to press a good work out of us! It is therefore really astonishing if man, who is nevertheless under the condemnation of such disgrace, strives to reserve something for himself! So let us confess with this glorious instrument of God (Paul): We are "called of the Lord with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace …" (2Tim 1:9). Or similarly, "But the kindness and brightness of God our Savior appeared, - not because of works which we had done, but according to His mercy He made us blessed … so that by His grace we might be justified and heirs of eternal life …" (Titus 3:4, 5, 7). By this confession we take from man every righteousness, even the very least, until he is born again by mercy alone unto the hope of eternal life - for if any works righteousness contributes to our justification, it is wrong for us to say, By grace we are justified! Paul asserted justification by grace alone - and he had not forgotten his own words when he declared elsewhere that grace would no longer be grace if works were to count for anything! (Rom 11:6). And what else does the Lord mean when he says that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners? (Mat 9:13). If only the sinners are admitted - why should we then seek access through self-proclaimed righteousness?

III,14,6 Again and again the same thought creeps over me, that there is danger that I do injustice to God’s mercy by trying to defend it with such anxiety and effort - as if it were something doubtful and dark! But our wickedness is so great, after all, that it admits to God what is His only when it is pushed back with the utmost violence - and therefore I am compelled to linger a little longer here. But because in this piece the scripture is clear enough, so I will rather lead the argument with its, than with my words. Thus Isaiah describes in one place first the general ruin of the human race and then adds very aptly the order according to which it is to be restored: "Such things the Lord sees, and is evil in his sight. And he sees that there is no one, and is astonished that no one enters into the means. Therefore he lets salvation rest on his arm, and his righteousness stands by him" (Isa 59:15 f.; not quite Luther text). Where then is all our righteousness if it is true what the prophet says here, namely that no one assists the Lord to regain his salvation? Likewise, another prophet (Hosea) speaks: he shows us the Lord speaking of reconciling sinners to himself: "I will betroth myself to you forever…, in righteousness and judgment, in mercy and grace. I will say to her who has not obtained mercy: You who have obtained mercy!" (Hos 2:21, 25; ending not Luther text). Undeniably, this covenant is our first connection with God; but if it is based on God’s mercy, there is no foundation left for our righteousness! I would also like to know from those who pretend that man meets God with some kind of works righteousness, whether they think that there can be any righteousness at all except that which is pleasing to God. But if it is nonsensical to think of such a thing, how can anything come from God’s enemies that is pleasing to him, since he has an aversion to them altogether and to all their deeds? The truth testifies, I think, that we are all mortal and sworn enemies of our God (Rom 5:6; Col 1:21) until we are justified and received into his friendship. If the origin of love is justification, what righteousness is there of works that could precede it? Thus John, to avert this pernicious presumption, emphatically reminds us that we did not first love him! (1Jn 4:10). The Lord had already declared the same thing before through His prophet: "I will love them with voluntary love; for My anger has turned" (Hos 14,5; not Luther text). So if his love inclined to us uncaused, it was certainly not stimulated by our works. But the common man, in his ignorance, thinks that with all the above only this is meant: That Christ accomplished our redemption, of course, no one deserves that, but that we come into the possession of this redemption - our works help us! Oh no! Even if we are redeemed by Christ, we remain darkness and heirs of death and enemies of God until we are inserted into Christ’s fellowship by the calling of the Father! For according to Paul’s teaching, we are not freed from our impurities and washed by Christ’s blood until the Holy Spirit works this cleansing in us! (1Cor 6:11). Peter wants to say the same thing when he declares that the "sanctification of the Spirit" works "for obedience and sprinkling with the blood … of Christ" (1Pet 1:2). If we are thus sprinkled by the Holy Spirit with the blood of Christ for our cleansing, we are not to think that we are anything other than what the sinner is without Christ before this sprinkling! Let it therefore stand: The beginning of our salvation is, as it were, a revival from death to life; for it is only when it is given to us to believe in Him for Christ’s sake that we begin to pass from death to life.

III,14,7 From this point of view the group of people can be summarized, which I mentioned in second and third place in the above mentioned sequence of stages. For the impurity of conscience testifies that they are both not yet born again by God’s Spirit. On the other hand, the fact that they have not been born again makes it obvious that they lack faith. But from this it is clear that they are not yet reconciled to God and not yet justified before His face; for one attains to these goods only through faith. What shall sinners, who are alienated from God, bring forth but what is repugnant in his sight? The ungodly, and especially the hypocrites, puff themselves up in such foolish self-confidence: though they know that their whole heart is a fountain of abominations, yet they think that if they once produce some dazzling works, they are now worthy that God should not disdain them! Hence comes this pernicious error, that, convicted of their vicious, unworthy disposition, they cannot bring themselves to confess that they are destitute of all righteousness. No, they recognize that they are unrighteous, because they cannot deny it, but nevertheless they presume to have some righteousness! The Lord counters this vanity with a glorious refutation in the prophet: "Ask the priest about the law, and say, ’If anyone were to carry holy flesh in the corner of his garment, and afterward touch bread with the corner of his garment … or what kind of food it would be, would it also be holy?’ And the priests answered and said: No. And Haggai said, If any man therefore, being defiled in his soul, toucheth any of these things, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said: It would become unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So are this people, and so are these people before me, saith the Lord: and all the work of their hands, and that which they offer, is unclean" (Hagg. 2:11-14; v. 13 not Luther text). If only this saying could find full credence among us and be properly fixed in our memory! For there is no one who can be convinced of what the Lord so clearly declares here - no matter how vicious he may be in his whole life! Even the most unworthy, as soon as he has accomplished one or the other of the achievements required by the law, has no doubt at all that this would earn him the pleasure of God in place of righteousness. But the Lord declares that we do not acquire any sanctification in such a way without our hearts first being properly purified! And he is not content with that, but he assures us with sharpness that all the works that come from the sinner are also defiled by the impurity of the heart! (Hagg. 2,13). Therefore, away with the name "righteousness" from such works as God’s mouth condemns for their defilement! How fine also is the parable by which he shows this! One could have objected that what the Lord has commanded remains inviolably pure. But he opposes this with the opposite: it is not surprising if something that is sanctified in the law of the Lord is defiled by the uncleanness of the wicked; for if an unclean hand touches that which is holy, it makes it common.

III,14,8 He treats the same matter quite gloriously in Isaiah: "Bring me no more sacrifices so vainly! The incense is an abomination to me! … My soul is hostile to your new moons and your yearly festivals; I am weary of them, I am weary of suffering! And though ye stretch forth your hands, yet will I hide mine eyes from you; and though ye pray much, yet will I not hear you; for your hands are full of blood. Wash, cleanse yourselves, put away your evil from my sight …" (Isa 1:13-16; compare Isa 58:1-5). What does this mean here, that the Lord has such disgust at obedience to his law? No, he does not reject anything here that comes from the lawful observance of his law; but its beginning, as he teaches everywhere, is the sincere fear of his name! If this is taken away, everything that is offered to him is not only buffoonery, but stinking, disgusting filth! Now let the hypocrites go and strive to win God over by their works, while in the meantime their hearts remain entangled in wickedness! In this way they will anger him all the more! For "the God of loose sacrifices is an abomination to the Lord"; only "the prayer of the pious is acceptable to Him!" (Prov 15:8). It is therefore an undoubted fact, and it must be perfectly familiar to him who is somewhat practiced in the Scriptures, that among men who are not yet truly sanctified, even the most glorious works in appearance are so far removed from righteousness before the Lord that they are even counted as sins! It is therefore very true when it has been said: The person cannot obtain grace with God through works, but, conversely, works are pleasing to God only when the person has first found grace before God’s face! (Pseudo-Augustine, Of True and False Penance 15,30; Gregory I, Letters, IX,122; reproduced in Decretum Gratiani, II,3,7). One should pay reverent attention to this order, to which the Scriptures guide us by hand. Thus it is said, "And the Lord looked graciously on Abel and his works" (Gen 4:4). There you can see how the Lord gives His favor to men and only then to their works! Therefore, the purification of the heart must precede, so that the works that come from us will be graciously accepted by God. For the word of Jeremiah always remains in force: "Lord, your eyes look for sincerity!" (Jer 5:3; Luther: according to faith). Also, the Spirit of God declared through the mouth of Peter that "by faith alone" men’s hearts are cleansed (Acts 15:9). From this it follows that the first foundation is in true and living faith.

III,14,9 Let us now observe what then is the righteousness of men, which we mentioned above in the fourth place. We confess: If God reconciles us to Himself through the intercession of Christ’s righteousness on our behalf, gives us forgiveness of sins out of pure grace, and thus regards us as righteous, then with such mercy is at the same time connected the benefit that He dwells in us through His Holy Spirit. By the power of this Spirit, all covetousness of our flesh is being slain more and more day by day, but we are being sanctified, that is, we are being consecrated to the Lord to true purity of life, and this by our heart being formed to be obedient to the law. Our will, then, should have its foremost aim in serving His will and promoting His glory in every way. Alone, even when we walk in the ways of the Lord under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there still remain remnants of imperfection about us that give us every reason for humility, lest we forget ourselves and puff up our hearts! "There is none righteous," says the Scripture, "that doeth good, and sinneth not:" (1Ki 8:46; not exact). What righteousness, then, do believers still want to obtain from their works? First, I submit: even the best they can put forth is still wetted and corrupted by the uncleanness of the flesh, and it is, as it were, always mixed with some dregs. A holy servant of God, I say, should once select from his whole life that which, in his opinion, has been the most outstanding deed of his course of life; he should carefully consider all the details. He will then, without any doubt, find something at some point that makes him feel the rottenness of the flesh. For our joyfulness in doing good is never as it should be, but our course is hindered, and by this much frailty is revealed! Thus we see that the blemishes with which the works of the saints are stained are not hidden. But let us assume that these stains are very, very small - will they therefore not offend God’s eyes, before which not even the stars are pure? (Job 25:5). So we come to the conclusion that not a single work goes out from the saints that does not, considered in itself, deserve as a just reward the disgrace!

III,14,10 And further: even if it might occur that we do have some thoroughly pure and perfect works, yet, as the prophet says, a single sin is enough to destroy and obliterate every memory of the previous righteousness! (Eze 18:24). James also agrees: "If anyone keeps the whole law and sins in one, he is guilty of it altogether!" (Jam 2,10; abbreviated in Calvin). Now this mortal life is never pure and free from sins, and therefore everything that we may have gained in righteousness is corrupted, crushed and destroyed by the sins that follow again and again, so that it does not come before God’s face and cannot be counted to us for righteousness. Finally, when it comes to righteousness from works, we must look not to the work of the law, but to the commandment. Therefore, if we seek righteousness from the law, it is in vain to put forward one work or another; no, continued obedience to the law is required! Therefore, God does not merely count the forgiveness of sins, of which we spoke, to us once for righteousness - as many people foolishly think! - so that we first received forgiveness for our past life, but then we should seek our righteousness in the law. That would be nothing else than God instilling a false hope in us, laughing at us and playing his game with us. We cannot be granted perfection as long as we are clothed with this flesh. On the other hand, the law threatens death and judgment to all those who have not shown perfect righteousness in deed. So it should always have reason to accuse us and to declare us guilty - if God’s mercy would not come to our aid to absolve us immediately in constant forgiveness of our sins! So what I said in the beginning always remains: If we are judged according to our own worthiness, then whatever we may think about and put into practice, we are still worthy of death and destruction with all our efforts, with all our striving.

III,14,11 We must emphatically argue two things here: first, there has never been a work of a pious man that, when tested according to God’s strict judgment, would not have been condemnable. Secondly, even if there were such a thing - which, however, is not possible for man! -it would still be corrupted and defiled by the sin with which the doer of this work is certainly concerned, and thus lose its goodness. Here lies the most important point of our controversy (with the papists). For there is no dispute between us and the more intelligent scholastic theologians about the origin of justification; namely, (we maintain) (on both sides) that the sinner is freed from condemnation by pure grace and attains righteousness, and that through the forgiveness of sins. However, by the word "justification" the school theologians understand the renewal in which the Spirit of God transforms us to obedience to the law. The righteousness of the born-again man is then described by the school theologians as follows: Man, once reconciled to God through faith in Christ, is now counted righteous before God by his good works, and he is therefore pleasing to God by the merit of those works. But the Lord says the opposite: He declares that He counted his faith to Abraham for righteousness (Rom 4:3) - and not at the time when he was still serving idols, but when he had already lived a life distinguished by outstanding holiness for many years! Abraham, then, has long worshipped God out of a pure heart, has long demonstrated the obedience to the law that a mortal man can perform - and yet, even now, his righteousness rests on faith alone! From this we conclude, just as Paul does in his proof: so he did not have it from works! (Rom 4,4f.). Also when the prophet says: "The righteous will live by his faith" (Hab. 2,4), he is not talking about godless and unholy people whom the Lord converted to faith and thereby justified, but this word is addressed to the believers and promises them life by faith! Paul also removes all doubt when he reinforces the above sentence (Rom 4,4f.) by referring to the word of David: "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven…" (Rom 4,7; Ps 32,1). It is certain, however, that David is not speaking here of the ungodly, but of the faithful, of whom he himself was one: he is speaking, after all, out of the feeling of his own conscience. So we must have this "blessedness" (in the sense of Ps 32:1) not just once, but hold on to it throughout our lives! And finally: Paul testifies that the message of reconciliation with God by grace is not only made known for one day or another, but that it has its permanent place in the church (2Cor 5:18 ss.). Therefore, until the end of their lives, believers have no other righteousness than the one described here. For Christ remains unceasingly our mediator, reconciling the Father with us, and unceasingly also is the effect of his death, namely washing away and satisfaction, atonement, and finally perfect obedience, covering all our iniquities! Nor does Paul say in Ephesians that we have the beginning of our blessedness from grace, but (generally), "By grace are ye saved…. not of works, lest any man should boast!" (Eph 2:8f.).

III,14,12 Die The school theologians might now escape and seek all kinds of excuses; but they do not help them out! First, they declare that the good who are worthy have their ability to be sufficient for the acquisition of righteousness not from their inherent worthiness (intrinseca dignitas), but that it is due to the "accepting grace" (gratia acceptans) that they have such value! Then, while they are forced to acknowledge that righteousness by works is always imperfect here, and therefore they admit that as long as we live we are in need of the forgiveness of sins which fills up the deficiency of our works, at the same time they maintain that the iniquities we commit are made up for by "surplus works" (opera supererogationis)! What they call "accepting grace" is, I reply, nothing other than the gracious kindness with which the Father accepts us in Christ, namely, when he clothes us with Christ’s innocence and imputes it to us, so that through its beneficence he makes us count as holy, pure, and innocent before him! For Christ’s righteousness alone is perfect, it alone is able to bear the sight of God, and it must therefore stand up for us and, as it were, stand as surety before the court! If we are equipped with it, we will always obtain forgiveness of sins by faith. Her purity covers our dirt and the impurity of our imperfect nature, and therefore these are not imputed to us, but buried and covered, so that they do not come before God’s judgment. Until the hour comes when the old man is killed in us and completely obliterated, and God’s goodness receives us into blessed peace with the "new Adam": then we shall wait for the day of the Lord, when we shall receive an incorruptible body and pass into the glory of the kingdom of heaven

III,14,13 But if this is true, certainly no works that we have done can of themselves make us pleasing and acceptable to God; indeed, they themselves can find God’s approval only in so far as man, clothed with Christ’s righteousness, pleases God and obtains forgiveness for his evil deeds. For God has not promised the reward of life to certain works, but He alone says, "Whosoever man doeth these things, he shall live thereby!" (Lev 18:5; not quite Luther text). But on the other hand he speaks a solemn curse over all those who do not remain in all the commandments! (Deut 27,26). So no other righteousness is accepted in heaven than the perfect observance of the law. Thus the fantasy of a "partial justice" (partialis iustitia) is abundantly refuted. Equally unfounded is the usual claptrap of the school theologians about substitution by "surplus works." Why, do not these people now always come back to a point where they have already been excluded? Do they not again claim that he who has partially fulfilled the law is insofar righteous by his works? No man of sound judgment will admit this to them - and yet they take it as a foregone conclusion with mad impudence! So often the Lord testifies that he recognizes no righteousness of works except that which consists in the perfect observance of his law. What wickedness it is, then, if we lack this perfect observance of the law, but still do not want to give the impression that we are deprived of all glory, that is, as if we had completely cleared the field for God - and above that claim for ourselves who knows what trifling fragments of works, and endeavor to make up for what is lacking in them with some other gratifying deeds! These "satisfying works" have already been mightily torn down above, so that they should not even come to our mind in a dream. I only say this: the people who talk such inconsistent stuff do not even consider what an abominable thing sin is in the sight of God. Otherwise they would truly realize that all the righteousness of men, if gathered together in a heap, would not be enough to compensate for one sin! We see that man has been so rejected and cast out by God through a single misdeed that he has at the same time lost every means of regaining salvation! (Gen 3:17). The ability to make satisfaction is therefore no longer there, and the people who boast about it will certainly never make satisfaction to God, because nothing that comes from his enemies is pleasant and pleasing to him. But enemies are all those to whom he is determined to impute sin! So our sin must first be covered and forgiven before the Lord looks at any of our works. It follows that the forgiveness of sins is by pure grace - and this forgiveness is blasphemed by those who put forward any "satisfying works"! So, following the example of the apostle, let us "forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before", let us "run" in our course and "chase" after the "jewel" of the "heavenly calling"! (Phil 3,13f.).

III,14,14 If one now claims "surplus works" for oneself - how does that agree with the instruction of the Lord? He told us: "When you have done everything you were commanded to do, say, ’We are useless servants; we have done no more than we were obliged to do’" (Lk 17:10; not quite Luther text). When someone says this before God, it does not mean hypocrisy or lying, but rather establishing for oneself what one believes to be certain. The Lord therefore instructs us to feel sincerely and to consider with ourselves that we cannot render Him any unsolicited service, but always do only the work that is owed. And rightly so: for we are bound as servants to so many services that we cannot perform them even if we put all our thoughts and all our members at the service of the fulfillment of the law. So when he says, "If you have done all that is commanded you …" - this means: if one person had the righteousness of all men and even more than that …! But we are all without exception very far from this goal - and how should we dare to boast, as if we had even added a heap to the right measure? Let no one object here that it could happen that a person, who does not accomplish the necessary achievements in part, nevertheless goes beyond what is required in his zeal. We have to keep in mind that nothing that is related to the worship of God or to love can come to our mind that would not be understood under the law of God! But if everything is a piece of the law, we are not to claim any voluntary good deed for ourselves, when in fact we are bound by necessity.

III,14,15 In this matter one now wrongly appeals to the fact that Paul boasts that he voluntarily renounced his right with the Corinthians, which he otherwise could have used if he had wanted to, he not only did to them what he had to do according to his obligation, but also dedicated his work to them for free beyond the limit of his service (1Cor 9,1 ss.). But we should have paid attention to the reason for his behavior: he did not want to cause offense to the weak (1Cor 9:12). There were evil, deceitful workers who hypocritically adorned themselves with such kindness in order to gain favor for their harmful teachings and to arouse hatred against the gospel. So Paul had to either expose the gospel to such danger - or to counter these intrigues. Now, if it is a freewill thing for a Christian man (outside of his Christian duty) to oppose a nuisance if he can avoid it - then I admit that the apostle did something "surplus" to the Lord. But if it can rightly be required of a prudent steward of the gospel to act in this way, then, I submit, Paul did what he owed! But even if such a justification does not become apparent, nevertheless, in the end, the word of Chrysostom is always correct, according to which everything we have is subject to the same condition as the own property of the serfs, which, according to the law applicable to it, is undoubtedly due to the Lord Himself. Christ did not leave this out of the equation in the above-mentioned parable; he asks what thanks we owe to a servant who has spent the whole day doing all kinds of work and then returns to us in the evening (Lk 17:7-9). One might ask: But it could happen that he was more zealous than we dared to demand! That may be; but he did nothing that he did not have to do in his position as a servant, for he belongs to us with all that he is able. I will keep silent about the works that the school theologians want to offer to God as "surplus works". They are antics that he himself has never asked for, nor approves of, nor will accept when we have to give an account to him! Only in one sense we want to admit that these works are really "surplus", namely in the sense of the prophet’s word: "Who demands such things of your hands?"! (Isa 1:12). But then they should also consider what is said elsewhere about such works: "Why do you count out money where there is no bread, and do work where you cannot be satisfied? (Isa 55:2). To be sure, it is not very troublesome for these idle rabbis to make such speeches in school on their soft-padded chairs. But when once the highest judge mounts his judgment seat, then all such baseless opinions must blow away! Our question, however, should truly be with what confidence in our defense we can come before his judgment seat - not what we are able to fabricate in schools and corners!

III,14,16 In this piece we must above all expel from our hearts two kinds of pestilence: first, let it place no confidence in the righteousness of works, and second, let it give them no glory. (1) All such confidence the Scripture takes away from us in many places, teaching us that all our righteousness is stinking in God’s sight if it does not receive a fragrance through Christ’s innocence, that it can only draw God’s vengeance upon us if it is not sustained by God’s merciful forbearance. It leaves us nothing, then, but to ask mercy of our judge and confess with David that no one can be justified before God in demanding an account from his servants (Ps 143:2). Job says: "If I am wicked, woe is me! If I am righteous, yet may I not lift up my head!" (Job 10:15). In this he has, of course, in mind that supreme righteousness of God to which even the angels do not correspond; but at the same time he shows that all mortals, when it comes to God’s judgment, have nothing left but to fall silent. For he not only wants to say that he would rather give way than enter into a perilous dispute with God’s severity, no, he indicates at the same time that he has perceived in himself only such a righteousness as must break down before God’s face at the very first moment. (2) But if confidence (in the righteousness of works) is thus done away, all boasting must also give way. If one trusts in his works, he must tremble before God’s face - but how then should he give them the praise of righteousness? We must therefore come to what Isaiah calls us to: namely, that all the seed of Israel should boast and praise themselves in God (Isa 45:25)! For it is full truth when he says elsewhere that we are "planting" the glory of the Lord! (Isa 61:3; not Luther text). So our heart is properly purified when it does not rely in any way on trusting in works and rejoices in boasting (of these works). But where foolish people allow themselves to be puffed up by such false, lying confidence, the error has incited them to always base the cause of their salvation on works!

III,14,17 As is well known, the philosophers give us the instruction to pay attention to many different causes in everything that comes about. If we do so here, we will find that not a single one of them makes it possible to base our salvation on works. As the (1) "efficacious cause" (causa efficiens), which gives us eternal life, Scripture everywhere refers to the mercy of our heavenly Father and His love, which comes to us out of pure grace. As the (2) "substantive cause" (causa materialis) it calls Christ and his obedience, by which he acquired righteousness for us. (3) And the "formal" or instrumental cause (causa formalis seu instrumentalis) is undoubtedly nothing else than faith! John sums up these three causes in a single salt when he says: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life!" (John 3:16). (4) The purpose cause (causa finalis), according to the apostle’s testimony, is the revelation of righteousness and the praise of God’s goodness. In the place where we find the latter testified, Paul also mentions the other three causes with detailed words. For he says in the Epistle to the Romans: "They are all sinners, and lack the glory which they ought to have with God, and are … justified by His grace …" (Rom 3,23f.): there we have the main thing (caput) and the first source before us, namely that God has accepted us in gracious mercy! Then it continues: "… through the redemption that was accomplished by Christ Jesus" (verse 24). So there is the fact of content (materia), through which righteousness is granted to us. Then further: "… through faith in his blood …" (verse 25): there we see the instrumental cause (causa instrumentalis) by which Christ’s righteousness is given to us. Finally, he adds the purpose: "…that he might offer the righteousness that is before him, that he alone might be righteous and justify him who is of faith in Jesus!" (verse 26). Moreover, he also notes in passing that this righteousness consists in reconciliation, and accordingly expressly declares that Christ is set apart for us to be reconciled (verse 25). Thus he also teaches us in the first chapter of Ephesians: (1) God accepts us in grace out of pure mercy, (2) this is done through Christ’s intercession on our behalf, (3) it is apprehended in faith, and (4) all this for the purpose that the glory of God’s goodness may shine forth in full splendor! (Eph 1:3-14). So we see that our salvation consists in all its individual pieces apart from us-what reason do we have now to rely on works or to boast of them? (cf. section 16). Even the most sworn enemies of divine grace can no longer enter into any dispute with us concerning the "working cause" and the "purpose cause" if they do not wish to deny the whole of Scripture. As far as the "substantive" and the "formal" cause are concerned, they act as if our works had to share the place there with the faith and the righteousness of Christ. But Scripture also objects to this: it simply declares that Christ is our righteousness and our life, and that we hold this good of righteousness by faith alone.

III,14,18 Now the saints often strengthen and comfort themselves by the consciousness of their innocence and righteousness, and sometimes boast of them unashamedly. This happens in a double sense. Either they compare their good cause with the evil cause of the wicked and thereby gain confidence of victory, not so much through the high dignity of their own righteousness as through the just and well-deserved damnation of their enemies. Or else they compare themselves with no one else, but test themselves before God - and there the purity of their conscience brings them some comfort and some confidence. We will have to deal with the first cause of such boasting later. Now let us consider the second, and briefly consider how our above proposition agrees with it, namely, that before God’s judgment we cannot rely on any confidence in our works, and cannot boast of any delusion about them. The correspondence is to be thought of as follows: when it is a matter of establishing and building up salvation, the saints look away from all their works and fix their eyes on God’s goodness alone. They not only turn to God’s goodness above all else, as it were, as the source of their blessedness, but also rest on it as on completefulfillment. When the conscience is thus founded, established, and strengthened, the contemplation of works also serves to strengthen it, for they are testimonies that God dwells and reigns in us. This confidence in works, then, has room only where one has previously cast all the confidence of the heart on God’s mercy; it cannot, therefore, appear in contradiction to the confidence on which, after all, it really depends! If, then, we exclude confidence in works, we mean only that the Christian heart should not turn its attention to the merit of works as a help to salvation, but should rely exclusively on the promise of the grace of righteousness. We do not forbid, however, that it should support and strengthen this faith by the signs of divine benevolence turned toward it. When we think of all the gifts that God has bestowed on us, they are like rays of the divine face that illuminate us to behold this most glorious light of his goodness. But how much more can the gift of grace of good works serve us, proving that he has given us the spirit of filiation!

III,14,19 So when the saints strengthen their faith in view of the innocence of their conscience, and take in it the occasion of rejoicing joy, it is nothing else than that they realize by the fruits of their calling that they are adopted by the Lord in the place of children. So when Solomon says: "He who fears the Lord has a strong fortress" (Prov 14:26), or when the faithful, in order to be heard by the Lord, resort to the assertion that they have walked in integrity and simplicity before His face (Gen 24:40; 2 Kings 20:3) - this has no meaning whatsoever when it is a matter of laying the foundation to strengthen our conscience. All of this has value only when treated as an inference (a posteriori). For in fact, the "fear of God" (Prov 14:26!) is nowhere such that it could establish complete certainty. And the sincerity (Gen 24:40; 2Ki 20:3!), of which the believers are aware, is still mixed with many a remnant of the flesh! But since they take from the fruits of regeneration a proof that the Holy Spirit dwells in them, this serves them for no small strengthening to expect God’s help in all needs, since they experience Him as their Father in such an important matter! But even this they cannot do if they have not first grasped God’s goodness, which is sealed by no other certainty than that of the promise! If they were to begin to judge this goodness of God by good works, there would be nothing more uncertain and inconsistent; for if the works are judged in and of themselves, they prove no less the wrath of God by their imperfection than they testify at best to his benevolence by their initial purity! In short, the saints praise God’s good deeds, but they do not leave aside God’s favor, which comes to us by grace. In it, according to Paul’s testimony, lies the "length and breadth and depth and height" (Eph 3:18; order somewhat different). So, in a way, he wants to say: Wherever the pious direct their senses, how high they let them rise, how far and wide they let them roam - they should not depart from the "love of Christ" (Eph 3:19), but rather turn their closed strength to contemplate it, because it comprehends all measures in itself. That is why he also says that it "surpasses" and excels all knowledge, and that when we realize how much Christ has loved us, we are "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19). In another place he praises the fact that believers are victors in every dispute, and then immediately adds as a reason: "For the sake of Him who loved us!" (Rom 8,37).

III,14,20 So the saints see in the works nothing else than God’s gifts, by which they recognize His goodness, nothing else than signs of their calling, by which they should notice their election. From this we see that there is no trust in works alive in them that would add anything to their merit or subtract anything from the righteousness by grace that we attain in Christ: rather, it depends on it and does not exist without it! Augustine also shows this in short words, but very aptly, when he writes: "I do not say to the Lord, ’Do not despise the works of my hands. I have sought the Lord with my hands, and I have not been put to shame! (cf. Ps 77:3). But the works of my hands I do not praise; for I fear that if you looked at them, you would find more sins than merits! I say and ask and desire only this: ’The works of your hands you will not despise’!" (On Ps 137; cf. Ps 138:8). Here he gives two reasons why he did not dare to offer his works to God: (1) if he actually has any good works, he sees nothing in them that is his; (2) but then even this is overrun by the multitude of sins. Thus it comes about that the conscience feels more fear and terror than security! So he desires God to look at what he has done rightly, only to recognize the grace of his calling in it and to complete the work he has begun!

III,14,21 Furthermore, the Scriptures show that the good works of the believers are the reason why the Lord does them good deeds! Now we must understand this in such a way that our above proposition remains unshaken, namely, that the active cause (effectus) of our salvation lies in the love of God our Father, the content (materia) in the obedience of the Son, the instrument (instrumentum) in the illumination of the Holy Spirit, that is, in faith, and that the goal (finis) is the glory of this great kindness of God (cf. section 17). It does not contradict this when the Lord accepts our works, as it were, as subordinate causes. But why does he do this? He introduces the very people whom he has destined in his mercy for the inheritance of eternal life, according to his orderly rule, into the possession of this inheritance through good works! What now precedes in the order of this distribution (of his gifts), that he calls the cause of the following! For this reason he sometimes derives eternal life from works, not because the glory should be ascribed to them; no: because he also "justifies" and finally "makes glorious" those whom he has "chosen" (Rom 8,30), therefore he makes the grace given earlier, which is a step to the following, as it were its cause. But if the true cause must be emphasized, he does not direct us to take our refuge in works, but keeps us in the contemplation of his mercy alone! What then does it mean when he teaches us through the apostle, "Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life …"? (Rom 6,23). He contrasts life and death - why then not also righteousness and sin? This should have been the correct juxtaposition, which is somewhat broken off by the change here. But the apostle wanted to express in this juxtaposition, according to reality, that the merits of man deserve death, but that life lies in God’s mercy alone! In short, by such ways of speaking (eternal life on the basis of works!) the order is more designated than a cause: God heaps grace upon grace and takes the former gifts of grace as a cause to add more, so that he leaves nothing out of consideration to make his servants rich. Thus he continues to be generous to us, but he wants us to always look at the election that is given to us out of pure grace, which is the source and the origin! For although he loves the gifts he gives us every day, in so far as they spring from that source, it is ours to hold fast to that gracious acceptance which can make all our souls firm. The gifts of his spirit, however, which he then continues to bestow upon us, we are to subordinate to the first (actual) cause in such a way that they do no entry to it!

Fifteenth chapter


What one boasts of the merit of works nullifies God’s praise for bringing about righteousness, but at the same time also the certainty of salvation.

III,15,1 What is most important in this matter, we have already dealt with: if our righteousness were based on works, it would have to be completely destroyed in the sight of God; but therefore it really consists solely in God’s mercy, solely in participation in Christ, and therefore solely in faith. But let us be emphatic that this is the pivotal point of the whole matter, lest we become entangled in that general error to which not only simple-minded but also learned people have fallen! For as soon as the question of justification by faith or by works arises, they are quick to resort to such passages of Scripture as seem to ascribe to our works some merit before God. As if justification by works were already proved, if it could be shown that works after all have a value before God! I have clearly shown above that righteousness by works lies exclusively in the complete and perfect observance of the law. From this it follows that a man is justified according to his works only when he has risen to the highest degree of perfection and cannot be accused of a single transgression, not even the slightest! But a different and separate question is whether works, even if they are in no way sufficient to justify man, do not deserve grace with God.

III,15,2 First, I must speak by way of introduction of the word "merit". He who has applied this expression for the first time to human works in their relation to God’s judgment has done - he may be who he likes - a very disservice to the sincerity of faith! I do not like to have anything to do with quarreling over words, but I wish that this moderation had always been practiced among the Christian writers, so that they would not have come to include in their thinking expressions which are foreign to Scripture, and which cause a great deal of annoyance, but bear very little fruit. I would like to know: was it necessary to introduce the word "merit", when the value of good works could be described clearly and without annoyance by other expressions? But how much annoyance this word carries in itself is evident with great harm to the whole world! It is certainly an unspeakably pompous word, and therefore it can do nothing but obscure God’s grace and fill people with false hope. However, I admit that the ancient writers of the church also used this word throughout - and God willing, they would not have given later ones such cause for error by misusing this one little word! Admittedly, they themselves testify in some places that they did not want to take anything away from the truth with their use of that little word. Augustine says in one place: "Here human merits are to be silenced, which were lost through Adam - here God’s grace is to reign through Jesus Christ! (Of the Predestination of the Saints,15,31). Or also, "To their merits the saints ascribe nothing; no, they will ascribe everything to your mercy, O God!" (On Ps 139). Or in another place: "And when a man sees that all the good he possesses is not of himself but from his God, then he also realizes that all that is praised in him is not from his merits but from God’s mercy!" (On Ps 84). There one sees how he denies man all ability to act rightly, and how he also overturns the worthiness of merit. But Chrysostom says: "If God’s gracious calling is followed by any works that we have done, they are a restitution, a debt; but God’s benefits are grace, beneficence, and abundant liberality!" (Homilies on Genesis,34,6). But now let us leave the word (merit) alone and rather turn our attention to the matter itself. I have used a sentence from Bernhard above, which read as follows: "As it is enough for merit not to presume on merit, so it is enough for judgment not to have any merit at all! (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 68:6). But immediately after that he adds an explanation and softens completely the harshness of the expression: "Therefore, worry about having merits! But if you have them, know that they are given to you! Then expect as fruit the mercy of God - then you will have escaped all danger of poverty, ingratitude and presumption! Happy the church, which lacks neither merit, of which it is not lacking - nor presumption, which is without merit!" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 68,6). Shortly before, he had shown more than clearly in what pious sense he used that word ("merit"): "For what should the church worry about merits, since she has a much firmer and more certain reason to boast of the purpose of God! God cannot deny himself: he will do what he has promised! (Echoing 2Tim 2:13). So there is no reason to ask: from what kind of merits can we expect good things? Especially not when one hears: ’Not for your sake, but for mine …’ (Eze 36,22. 32; not exactly). For merit it is enough to know that merit is not enough!" (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 68,6).

III,15,3 What merit all our works establish, Scripture shows us when it declares that they cannot bear the sight of God because they are full of impurity! And what further merit the perfect observance of the law - if such could be found! - could establish for merit, Scripture also shows us: when we have "done all that we were guilty of," it instructs us to consider ourselves "unprofitable servants"! (Lk 17:10). After all, we have done nothing to the Lord that we were not obligated to do, but only fulfilled our owed duty, for which we are not due thanks! But the Lord nevertheless calls the good works that he bestows upon us our works, and he testifies not only that they are pleasing to him, but that they shall also find reward! Again, it is ours to be cheered up by such a great promise, to gather our courage so that we do not grow weary in doing good - and to show ourselves truly grateful for such glorious kindness of God! Undoubtedly, everything that deserves praise in our works is a grace of God, and there is not a single droplet in it that we should actually attribute to ourselves! If we really and seriously recognize this, then not only all confidence in our merits will vanish, but also all delusion that we possess any! The praise for good works, I mean, we do not divide between God and man, as the smart ones do, - but we let it go to the Lord whole, intact and unabridged. To man we ascribe only so much, that he stains and corrupts with his impurity just that which was good! For from man - he may be as perfect as he likes! - nothing goes out, which would not be stained with some blemish. May the Lord now demand that which is best in human works before his judgment: he will indeed recognize his righteousness in it, but man’s shame and dishonor! Good works, then, are pleasing to God, and they are not without fruit for him who does them; on the contrary, they bring him, in recompense, the most glorious benefits of God. But not because they deserve it, but because God’s goodness has given them this value of its own accord! But what wickedness it is when man is not satisfied with God’s bounty, which repays him with undeserved rewards for works that do not deserve them - and when he then, in blasphemous ambition, continues to insist that the gifts, which come solely from God’s clemency, should now appear as retribution for the merit of the works! Here I appeal to the natural common sense of each individual. Let us assume that someone has the benefit of a field through the generosity of another person. But if he now goes and lays claim also to the right of ownership - does he not then earn with such ingratitude that he loses the very right which he possessed? Or similarly, if a master had set his slave free, and he now concealed his simple status as a freedman and posed as a freeborn - would he not be worthy to become a slave again as before? For if we have received something as a gift, we enjoy it rightly only if we do not take more out of it than has been given to us, and if we do not deprive the giver of the good of the praise due to him, but rather behave in such a way that what he has given us seems, as it were, to remain with him! If we have to measure up to people in this way, let everyone see and consider how much we owe it to God!

III,15,4 Now I know that the clever ones misuse some passages to prove that also in the Scriptures the expression "merit" is found in relation to God. First, they quote the sentence from the book of Sirach: "All blessings will find their place, and each one will receive what he deserves" (Isa Sir. 16:14). Then they draw from the Epistle to the Hebrews the passage: "Do good and do not forget to share, for with such sacrifices one earns merit with God" (Hebr 13:16; the conclusion according to the Vulgate and not according to the Luther text and original text, see below). Now I would have quite the right to reject the authority of the Book of Sirach; but I will refrain from doing so now. Nevertheless, I deny that the clever ones quote what this Sirach - may this writer be who he wants - has written faithfully to the text. For the Greek text reads: "All benefit will find its place, namely, each individual will find it according to his works!" But this is the pure reading, which one has spoiled in the Latin version! This results on the one hand already alone from the text stock of these words themselves, on the other hand also from the further context of the preceding speech. As for the passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews, they find in it no reason whatsoever to lay a snare for us even with a single word. For in the Greek words of the apostle there is nothing at all but: "such sacrifices please God" or are pleasing to Him (cf. Luther text). In order to damp down and hold down the insolence of our arrogant nature, this alone should be amply sufficient, that we do not impute any worthiness to our works beyond the statement of the Scriptures! But the teaching of Scripture is this: Our good works are always and continually stained with many a filth, and thereby God is justly offended and provoked to anger against us-so little can they reconcile him to us or call forth his beneficence against us! Nevertheless, in his forbearance he does not examine them according to the strictest law, and therefore accepts them as if they were quite pure. And therefore he repays them with innumerable benefits of the present and also of the future life - although they do not deserve all this! For I cannot adopt the distinction made by other learned and pious men, according to which our good works earn us the gifts of grace that are granted to us in this life, but eternal blessedness is to be a reward of faith alone. The Lord, in fact, almost always promises us that both the reward for our toil and the crown of victory for our struggling will be granted to us in heaven! On the other hand, it is contrary to the teaching of Scripture to attribute the fact that we are showered by the Lord with gifts of grace upon gifts of grace to the merit of works, thus denying it to grace. For Christ does indeed say: "To him that hath shall be given" (Mt 25:29) and "Thou devout and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will set thee over many things!" (Mt 25,21). But at the same time he shows that the increase of the faithful is a gift of his undeserved goodness. He says: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the water; and you who have no money, come … and buy without money and for free both wine and milk!" (Isa 55:1). Everything that is now granted to the pious for the promotion of their salvation is, like the blessedness itself, pure kindness of God. Nevertheless, he testifies that in this blessedness and in those gifts he also takes into account the works, because in order to prove his great love for us he not only honors us, but also the gifts he has given us!

III,15,5 If this had been dealt with and set apart in the necessary order in past centuries, there would never have been such an abundance of confusion and disagreement. Paul tells us that in the building up of Christian doctrine the foundation must always be maintained which he himself had laid with the Corinthians and apart from which no other can be laid: but this is Jesus Christ! (1Cor 3:11). What kind of foundation do we have in Christ? Does it consist in the fact that he was the beginning of salvation for us, but that the completion must follow from us? Did he merely open up a path for us, on which we now have to walk in our own strength? In no way! Rather, this foundation, as Paul himself explained before, is given to us when we realize that he is given to us for righteousness! (1Cor 1:30). So no one is rightly founded in Christ who does not possess perfect righteousness in Him. For the apostle does not say that Christ was sent to help us attain righteousness, but to be our righteousness Himself! (1Cor 1:30). We are chosen in Him from eternity before the foundation of the world, without our own merit, but according to the purpose of the divine good pleasure (Eph 1:4f.). Through His death we are redeemed from the curse of death and delivered from perdition! (Col 1:14. 20). In Him we are adopted by our heavenly Father as children and heirs! (Rom 8:17; Gal 4:5-7). Through His blood we are reconciled to the Father! Into his keeping we are given, and are thereby snatched from the danger of being lost and brought to ruin! We are incorporated into him, and through this we already have a share in eternal life (John 10:28) and have entered God’s kingdom through hope. But I am not at the end yet. If we have gained a share in him in this way, he is our wisdom before God, however great fools we may still be in ourselves! May we be unclean - he is purity for us! May we also be weak, so that we are exposed to Satan without weapons - "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him" - and this authority also belongs to us! (Mt 28,18). With it He tramples Satan for us and breaks the gates of hell! Even though we may still have the body of death on us - he is life for us: in short, everything he possesses is ours, and in him we have everything, in us nothing! On this foundation, I mean, we must be built if we want to grow up into a temple sanctified to the Lord!

III,15,6 But for a long time the world has been instructed differently: they have invented who knows what kind of moral "good works" with which men are supposed to become pleasing to God before they are incorporated into Christ. As if the Scriptures were lying when they tell us that all who do not have the Son are in death! (1Jn 5:12). But if they are in death - how can they bring forth the cause of life from themselves? As if it is of no importance when it is said: "What … does not come from faith, that is sin!" (Rom 14,23). As if good fruit could come out of a rotten tree! (Mt 7,18; Lk 6,43). What, then, have these terribly corrupting wretches actually left Christ to exercise his power on? They say that he has acquired for us the "first grace" by his merit, that is: the possibility of obtaining merit at all, and then it would be our business not to miss the opportunity presented! O, what a depraved, ungodly impudence is this! Who should think it possible that men who have confessed Christ’s name could then thus strip him of his power, nay, almost dare to trample him under foot! Again and again the testimony is given to him that all are justified who believe in him - but these people teach that only one benefit comes from him, that now the way is paved for the individual man to justify himself! If only they had understood something of the meaning of the scriptural passages which we now let follow! "Whoever has the Son of God has life" (1Jn 5:12). Or: "He who … believes, he is … has passed from death to life!" (John 5:24). Would they have understood when Scripture teaches us that we are justified by His grace and thus have become heirs of eternal life (Tit 3:5; 2Tim 1:9; Rom 3:24; Rom 5:1 f.), that believers possess Christ and He abides in them (1. John 3,24), that they are attached to God through Him and as partakers of His life they are "seated with Him in the heavenly realm" (Eph 2:6), that they are transferred to God’s kingdom through Him (Col 1:13) and have attained blessedness! There are still countless passages like this! All these statements of Scripture show us that through faith in Christ we do not merely acquire the ability to gain righteousness and to acquire salvation, but that through it both are (actually) given to us! So, as soon as you are inserted into Christ through faith, you have already become the child of God, the heir of heaven, the fellow member of righteousness and the possessor of life! You have - to reject the lies of the smart ones even better! - you have not thereby obtained the possibility of acquiring merits, but you have obtained all the merits of Christ, because you have become partakers of them!

III,15,7 Thus the schools of the Sorbonne, those mothers of all errors, have deprived us of justification by faith, which is, after all, the chief of all piety! They admit in words that man is justified by "formed" faith; but afterwards they explain it in this way: it is from faith that good works have the power to help to righteousness! It almost seems as if they use the expression "faith" only in mockery, because they could not conceal it without great shame: it is so often repeated in Scripture! But they are not yet satisfied with this, but they also steal from God a piece of the praise for good works and transfer it to man. They see that good works, if they are considered fruits of divine grace, do very little for the elevation of man, and that they cannot even be called merits in the proper sense. Therefore they let them come forth from the power of free will - like oil from a stone! They do not deny that the main cause is grace, but they still insist that free will should not be excluded, through which all "merit" comes about. Now this is not merely a doctrine of the later clever ones; but their Pythagoras, namely Peter Lombardus teaches likewise (Sentences II,27) - and yet, if one compares him with the later ones, one will still say that he is reasonable and moderate! He often mentions Augustine, and it is a strange blindness that he does not notice with how much care this man was careful not to appropriate a bit of glory for the good works of man! I have already referred to a number of Augustine’s statements in this regard above, in the discussion about free will. Again and again we meet similar statements in his writings. For example, he forbids us to ever claim our works for ourselves, because they too are God’s gifts (On Ps 144). Or he writes that all our merit comes from grace alone and is not brought about by our own perfection, but solely and entirely through grace…. (Letter 194). That Peter Lombardus was blind to the light of Scripture is less surprising; for he was obviously not so well versed in Scripture! Nevertheless, one could not wish for a clearer defense against him and his disciples than the word of the apostle in Eph 2,10: Paul has forbidden Christians to boast and now adds as a reason why we are not allowed to boast: "For we are God’s workmanship, created … for good works, which he prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). So something good can come from us only insofar as we are born again; but our rebirth is entirely, without any exception, God’s business - so we cannot appropriate an ounce of the good works ourselves! And finally: The clever are always insisting on good works, but in the meantime they instruct the consciences in such a way that they never dare to have the confidence that they now have a gracious God who is pleased with their works. We, on the other hand, do not speak of merit, but nevertheless, with our teaching, we lift up the hearts of the faithful in glorious comfort, when we tell them that in their works they are pleasing to God and undoubtedly accepted by Him! Yes, we demand here that no one should attempt or attack a work without faith, i.e. if he does not first come to the conclusion in a certain confidence that his work will please God!

III,15,8 Therefore, let us not be moved from this single foundation under any circumstances, not even a finger’s breadth; once it is laid, sensible builders build rightly and properly upon it! For if teaching or exhortation is needed now, they point out that the Son of God appeared "to destroy the works of the devil" so that those who are "born of God" do not sin (1Jn 3:8 f.; end not Luther text). Or they recall the passage: "It is enough that we have spent the past time … according to the will of the Gentiles…" (1Pet 4:3). Or they note that God’s elect are vessels of mercy destined for glory, to be cleansed from all stains! (2Tim 2:20 f.). But it is all expressed together when it is stated that Christ wants such disciples who "deny themselves", "take up their cross" and "follow Him"! (Lk 9:23; Mt 16:24). He who has denied himself has cut the root of all evil, so that he continues not to seek what is his. He who has taken up his cross has prepared himself for all patience and meekness. ButChrist’s example includes this and in addition all other duties of piety and holiness! He showed obedience to the Father even unto death (Phil 2:8), He was completely absorbed in doing the works of God (Lk 2:49), He sought the glory of His Father with all His heart (John 4:34; 7:16 ff.; 8:49 f.), He laid down His life for His brothers (John 10:15; 15:13), He did good to His enemies and prayed for them! (Lk 23:34). If comfort is needed, they (those "builders"!) can bring glorious encouragement: "We have … We are afflicted, but we do not fear; we are afraid, but we do not despair; we suffer persecution, but we are not abandoned; we are oppressed, but we do not perish; and we always bear the death of the Lord Jesus in our bodies, so that loving … of Jesus … may be manifested in us" (2Cor 4:8 ss.; not quite Luther text at the end). Or: "If we die with him, we will live with him; if we endure, we will reign with him…" (2Tim 2:11 f.). Thus we are made like His sufferings until we reach the likeness of His resurrection! (Phil 3:10 f.; not Luther text). For the Father, whom He chose in His Son, "also ordained that they should be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren!" (Rom 8:29). Therefore it is true: "Neither death …, nor things present, nor things to come … may separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ … …" (Rom 8,38f., inaccurate and strongly abbreviated). Yes, everything must serve us for good and salvation! (Rom 8,28). Behold, we do not justify man before God from his works, but we assert that all who are of God are born again and become a "new creature" (2Cor 5:17) to pass from the kingdom of sin into the kingdom of righteousness, to have their "profession" "fixed" by this testimony (2Pe 1:10) and to be known like trees by their fruits! (Mt 7,20; 12,33; Lk 6,44).

Chapter Sixteen

h

Refutation of the invectives with which the papists try to bring our doctrine into disrepute.

III,16,1 With this one word can also be refuted what some godless people in their impudence bring up invective against us. Thus they slander us that we abolish good works and lead people away from zeal for them, when we say that man is not justified by works and does not earn salvation! And secondly, when we say that the way to righteousness lies in the forgiveness of sins, which comes from pure grace, our opponents blaspheme that we are paving an all too easy way to righteousness, and by such enticements we are inciting people to sin, to which they would be more than too much inclined anyway. These invectives, I say, can be sufficiently refuted by that single word: but I will nevertheless briefly reply to both. First, it is asserted that by justification by faith good works are dismissed. I will refrain from saying here what these zealots for good works actually are who cause us such calumny! They may blaspheme just as unpunished as they infect the whole world with the immorality of their lives. They pretend, then, that it is painful to them that works should be ousted from their position in the face of such tremendous praise of faith. But what do they want to say, if they are really only better uplifted and affirmed? For we do not dream of a faith that would be empty of all good works, nor of a justification that would exist without good works. The difference is only this: we admit that faith and good works are necessarily connected, but we base justification on faith and not on works! Why this happens can be easily explained immediately if we turn only to Christ, to whom faith is directed and from whom it receives all power. Now why are we justified by faith? Because in faith we take hold of the righteousness of Christ, by which alone we are reconciled to God! But this cannot be grasped at all without grasping sanctification at the same time! For Christ is given to us "for righteousness and for wisdom, for sanctification and for redemption!" (1Cor 1:30; order reversed at the beginning). So Christ justifies no one whom He does not at the same time sanctify! These benefits of Christ are connected by a permanent and indissoluble bond: those whom he enlightens with his wisdom he also redeems, those whom he redeems he also justifies, those whom he justifies he also sanctifies! But because the question here refers to righteousness and sanctification alone, let us stick to these two. We distinguish them from each other, however, but Christ carries them both inseparably in Himself! Do you want to attain righteousness in Christ? Then you must first possess Christ! But you cannot possess him at all without also participating in his sanctification! For you cannot tear him to pieces. So when the Lord makes us enjoy these benefits - and that only by giving Himself to us! He gives us both at the same time, the one never without the other! From this it is clear how correct the sentence is that we are not justified without the works, but nevertheless also not by the works! For we are justified only by being partakers of Christ - and in this sanctification is no less decided than righteousness!

III,16,2 Completely wrong is also the reproach, that we would turn people’s hearts away from the zeal to do good, if we deprive them of the delusion, that they could earn something with it. In passing, I must draw the reader’s attention to the fact that our opponents here, as I will explain more clearly later, nonsensically infer merit from reward. They do so because they are ignorant of an important principle: If God grants reward to our works, he is just as generous as if he grants us the ability to do right! (So reward is not merit!) But I would rather move this to the place provided for it! Now it will be enough if I merely indicate on how weak feet the objection of the opponents stands. This shall be done in two ways. First, they say that there can be no zeal for right conduct of life if people are not presented with the hope of reward. This is wrong all along the line! For if it is only a matter of people expecting wages for the service they render to God, that is, if they rent or sell their work to Him - then very little will be accomplished! For God wants to be worshipped for nothing, to be loved for nothing! I think He only considers the servant to be right who does not cease to serve Him even when all hope of receiving a reward is cut o ss. And then: if men are to be stimulated to good, no man can find a sharper spur than the reference to the purpose of our salvation and calling. The word of the Lord applies this incentive. It teaches that it would be a terribly ungodly ingratitude if we did not love Him "who first loved us" in turn! (1Jn 4:10, 19). It says that "our conscience" is "cleansed from dead works" by the "blood of Christ", "to serve the living God"! (Hebr 9:14). According to its testimony, it is an unworthy blasphemy if, once cleansed, we stain ourselves with new filth and thus make the holy blood common (Hebr 10:29). It says that we are redeemed "out of the hand of our enemies" to serve Him "without fear all our days, in holiness and righteousness before Him!" (Lk 1:74 f.; end not Luthertert). We have become "free from sin" to serve righteousness now with a free spirit! (Rom 6:18). "Our old man is…crucified" so that we may be resurrected to a new life! (Rom 6:6). Likewise, Scripture tells us: if we have now died with Christ - as befits His members! -we should also "seek those things which are above" and wander in the world as strangers, longing for heaven, where our treasure is! (Col 3:1 ff.; Mt 6:21). "For this has appeared the … Grace of God … that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live chastely, righteously and godly in this world, waiting for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and our Savior …" (Tit 2:11 ss.). "For God hath not set us to wrath, but to possess blessedness through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Thess 5:9). That is why the Scriptures also call us "temples of the Holy Spirit", which would be a sacrilege to desecrate! (1Cor 3:16 f.; 2Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21). According to their judgment we are not darkness but light in the Lord, and therefore we should also walk as "children of light"! (1Thess 5:4 ss.; Eph 5:8f.). "For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to sanctification" (1Thess 4:7); "for this is the will of God," our "sanctification," that we abstain from all unlawful lusts! (1Thess 4:3). Our calling is "holy" (2Tim 1:9), and we can therefore only live up to it through purity of life; after all, we have been made "free from sin" so that we can now serve righteousness in obedience! (Rom 6,18). Could we ever be driven to love with a more powerful reason than John’s: we are to love one another as the Lord has loved us, and the difference between the "children of God" and the "children of the devil," the children of light and the children of darkness, lies precisely in the fact that the latter remain in love? (1Jn 2:11; 3:10). Or also with Paul’s hint that we, who belong to Christ, are members of one body, who should help each other with mutual service? (1Cor 6:17; 1Cor 12:12 ss.). Can we be more strongly stirred to holiness than when we hear again in John: "And every one that hath such hope … purifieth himself, even as he also is pure" (1Jn 3:3)? Or when we likewise hear from the mouth of Paul that, trusting in the promise of our adoption into the childship, we should "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit …" (2Cor 7:1)? Isa there a better admonition to holiness than when we hear that Christ Himself sets Himself forth as our model, whose footsteps we are to follow? (John 15:10; cf. 1Pet 2:21).

III,16,3 I have only given these few hints as a sample. If I were to go through them all individually, I would have to fill a thick volume! All of the apostles’ writings are full of promises, exhortations and chastisements with which they want to instruct the man of God in all good works (2Tim 3:17) - without any mention of merit! No, on the contrary, they base their strongest exhortations on the fact that our salvation is not based on any merit on our part, but only on God’s mercy! This is what Paul says in Romans 12, and in the whole letter he speaks of the fact that we have a hope of life only in Christ’s righteousness. But when he then moves on to the exhortations, he "exhorts" his readers "through the mercy of God" of which he has made us worthy: (Rom 12,1). And in this, surely the one cause should be enough for us, that God should be glorified through us (Mt 5,16). But if someone is not inwardly moved by the glory of God, then the memory of God’s mercy will surely be enough to drive such a person to act in the right way! (Cf. Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, 26,5f.). The Romans, on the other hand, with their reference to merit, achieve at best a servile, forced obedience to the law, and therefore they lie that since we do not want to go their way, we have nothing to spur men on to good works! As if God took much pleasure in such obedience! After all, He tells us that He "loves a cheerful giver," and He forbids us to give anything, as it were, "with unwillingness or out of compulsion" (2Cor 9:7). But I do not say this because I want to reject or neglect the kind of exhortation that Scripture often uses, just so as not to disregard any means of encouraging us to act from all sides. It draws our attention to the reward that God will give to each one according to his works (Mt 16:27; Rom 2:6 f.; 1Cor 3:14 f.; 2Cor 5:10). But I deny that this kind of exhortation would be the only one or even the most important among the many others. Nor do I admit that one can take the starting point from it. Further, I maintain that this fact, as we shall see hereafter, in no way serves to raise up the merits as the Romans preach them. And finally, I think, this kind of exhortation can be of use only when the doctrine has first been brought to bear, that we are justified by Christ’s merit alone, which we take hold of by faith, but by no merit whatever from our works! For only he who has previously received this teaching can be capable of such striving for holiness. The prophet also gives us a good understanding of this when he addresses God: "For with thee, O Lord, is forgiveness to fear thee" (Ps 130:4). He shows that there is no worship of God without first recognizing his mercy, on which it is based and from which it derives its power. This is worthy of very emphatic attention. For we must know not only that the origin of all right worship of God is confidence in his mercy, but also that the fear of God - which the papists want to be something meritorious! - must not be called "merit", because it is based on the forgiveness and remission of sins!

III,16,4 But now comes by far the most unfounded reproach: when we testify to the undeserved forgiveness of sins, in which, according to our doctrine, righteousness rests, we are accused of inciting people to sin! For we say that the forgiveness of sins is too precious to be outweighed by any good on our part: we could never obtain it, therefore, if it were not in vain! Now, let us say further, it is free for us, but not so for Christ; for he paid for it dearly, namely with his most holy blood, apart from which there was no ransom valuable enough to satisfy the judgment of God! When this teaching is preached to people, they are reminded that it is not up to them if this most holy blood is not shed anew every time they sin! Moreover, we also say this: our foolishness is so great that it can only be washed away in the fountain of this infinitely pure blood. Must not the man who hears this get a deeper abhorrence of sin than when he is told that he can get rid of it by washing it away with his good works? And if such a man has any dealings with God, how shall he not shrink from rolling himself anew in the mud after he has once been cleansed, so as to tarnish and defile, as far as it stands with him, the purity of that fountain? "I have washed my feet," says the godly soul in Solomon, "how shall I defile them again?" (Song of Songs 5:3). Now it is evident which of us makes the forgiveness of sins more mean and desecrates the dignity of righteousness the worst! The papists prate that they can propitiate God with their satisfactory works, that is: with their filth. We, on the other hand, claim that the damage of sin is much too bad to be redeemed by such contentless antics, that the offense we have done to God is much too serious to be forgiven on the basis of such trifling "works of satisfaction". Therefore we say: such redemption of guilt is the sole prerogative of the blood of Christ! The papists declare that we can restore and renew righteousness, where we lack it, by sufficient works. We, on the other hand, consider it far too precious to be outweighed by any substitution of works, and therefore we teach that for the restoration of our righteousness we should have recourse to God’s mercy alone. The rest, which is related to the forgiveness of sins, must be gathered from the following chapter.

Chapter Seventeen


How can the promises of the law be united with those of the gospel?

III,17,1 Now let us also investigate the other proofs with which Satan, through his satellites, tries to overthrow or diminish justification by faith. One pretext I believe I have already beaten out of the hands of the blasphemers: they can no longer deal with us as if we were enemies of good works. For if justification is not ascribed to works, it is not because we thought that no good works should be done, or that the good works that are actually done are not good at all, but because we do not put our confidence in them, do not boast of them, and do not ascribe to them our salvation! For our confidence, our glory, the only anchor of our salvation is this one thing, that Christ, the Son of God, belongs to us, and that we, in turn, are in Him God’s children and heirs of the heavenly kingdom, called to the hope of eternal blessedness by God’s goodness and not for their own worthiness. But the adversaries, as I have said, are also harassing us with other tools of war - so let us set out to drive them back as well! First of all, they come back to the promises of the Law, which the Lord has given to those who keep His Law. They ask whether we thought that these promises were completely powerless - or whether we considered them to be effective. But since it would be absurd and ridiculous to declare them powerless, they take it for granted that they have some effect. From this they then draw the conclusion: therefore we would not be justified "by faith alone"! For the Lord says: "And if ye hear these statutes, and keep them, and do them; then the Lord thy God will also keep the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers, and will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee …" (Deut 7:12f.). Or likewise, "If ye direct your ways and your doings aright, and follow not after other gods, and if ye do right one against another, and fall not into wickedness, then will I walk in the midst of you …" (Jer 7:5-7, 23; not throughout Luther text, abbreviated and in changed order). There are still a thousand sayings of the same kind; however, I do not want to enumerate them, because they are completely the same according to the sense of the indicated ones and therefore also find their explanation by their solution. A summary offers the testimony of Moses: "Behold, I set before you today the blessing and the curse, life and death!" (Deut 11:26 and 30:15, conclusion inaccurate). Our opponents now conclude thus: either this blessing must be made useless and fruitless - or else justification takes place by night "through faith alone"!

III,17,2 We have already shown above how, if we remain attached to the law, we lose all blessings, and how we are then threatened by God’s curse alone, which is pronounced on all transgressors. For the Lord gives a promise only to those who keep His law perfectly - but such a man is not to be found! So it remains that the whole human race is accused by the law of being guilty of the curse and wrath of God. If we are to be redeemed from this, we must get out of the power of the law and, as it were, be transferred from its bondage to freedom. This, of course, is not then a carnal freedom which draws us away from the observance of the law, which incites us to exuberance in all things, and gives permission to our lust to let itself go, as if all barriers were broken and all restraints taken away! Nay, it is spiritual liberty which comforts and raises up our conscience, sorely stricken and cast down, and shows it that it is free from the curse and condemnation with which the law kept it bound and fettered, and oppressed it in such a manner! This deliverance, or, as it were, this release from subjection to the law, we obtain when, by faith, we take hold of God’s mercy in Christ. Thereby we become sure and certain of the forgiveness of sins - the sins by which the law stung and tormented us before! For this reason, the promises offered to us in the Law would also be ineffective and powerless if God’s goodness did not come to our aid through the Gospel! For these promises depend on the condition that we fulfill the law; on the basis of this condition alone they come into force - and this condition will never be fulfilled! But the Lord helps us in such a way that he does not leave one part of righteousness with our works and add the other part out of his forbearance, but rather by ordaining Christ alone as the fulfillment of righteousness. Thus, the apostle (Gal 2:16) first speaks of how he and other Jews believed in Christ in the knowledge "that man is not justified by the works of the law." Then he also adds the reason, and there it is not said that we received help to perfect righteousness through faith in Christ, but: "that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law"! (Gal 2:16). When believers pass from the law to faith in order to find in it the righteousness which they see is not in the law, they are truly renouncing righteousness according to the law! Therefore, let him who will boast of the rewards which are said to await him who keeps the law. He should only notice at the same time that due to our wickedness we do not receive any fruit from it until we have attained another righteousness by faith! So David also remembers the rewards that the Lord has prepared for his servants, but he then immediately comes to the realization of his sins, through which those rewards are nullified. Thus, in the 19th Psalm, he also first gloriously praises the benefits of the law - but immediately afterwards he exclaims: "Who can realize how often he falls short? Lord, forgive my hidden faults!" (Ps 19:12 - Ps 19:13!). This passage fully agrees with another; there it says first: "The ways of the Lord are goodness and truth to those who fear him" (Ps 25,10; end inaccurate), but then immediately afterwards: "For your name’s sake, Lord, be merciful to my iniquity, which is great!" (Ps 25:11). So we too should realize: in the law God’s goodwill is indeed offered to us, provided we can earn it by works - but in fact it never ever comes to us by the merit of our works!

III,17,3 Why, then, are these promises given to us to pass away without fruit? I have already stated above that this is not my opinion. I maintain, however, that they do not let their effect reach us as long as they refer to the merits of our works. Therefore, if they are considered in and of themselves, they are in a sense dismissed. Thus we have the glorious promise: "I gave you good commandments, and he who keeps them shall live by them!" (Lev 18:5; Eze 20:11; inaccurate). But the apostle teaches (Rom 10:5 ss.) that this promise is without meaning if we stop at it, and that it will not be of any more use to us then than if it had not been given at all. For it does not even apply to the most holy servants of God: they are all far from fulfilling the law, but are even surrounded with many transgressions! But when the promises of the Gospel take their place, which promise us the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, then they do not only cause us to be pleasing to God, but also our works to receive His favor! And now it is not only that the Lord accepts them graciously, no, he also lets them follow the rewards that are due to those who keep the law on the basis of the covenant! I admit, then, that the works of the faithful receive what the Lord has promised in His law to those who practice righteousness and holiness; but in this reward, attention must always be paid to the cause which makes these works pleasing. We now see that this cause is threefold. First, God turns his eyes away from the works of his servants, which always deserve more blame than praise, accepts them in Christ, and reconciles them to himself - and that by means of faith alone, without any help from works. Secondly, by virtue of his fatherly kindness and forbearance, he raises works to such honor, without considering their worthiness, that he gives them some value. Thirdly, he accepts these very works with forbearance and does not impute to them their imperfections, with which they are all stained and because of which they would otherwise be counted more as sins than virtues. From this it can be seen how much the clever ones have deceived themselves. They thought they had avoided all absurdities when they declared that works had the power to merit salvation not by virtue of their inherent goodness, but by virtue of the covenant, because the Lord valued them so highly in his generosity. But in the meantime they did not pay attention to how far the works they considered "meritorious" were still distant from the condition attached to the promises, unless preceded by justification, which is based on faith alone, and the forgiveness of sins, by which even the good works must still be freed from their blemishes. Thus, of the three (stated) causes of divine bounty, for the sake of which the works of believers become pleasing to God, they have considered only one; the other two, and the most important, they have suppressed!

III,17,4 But our opponents draw on a word of Peter, which Luke records in the Acts of the Apostles: "Now I learn with truth, that God regardeth not the person: but in all people, whosoever feareth him, and doeth right, the same is acceptable unto him!" (Acts 10:34f.). From these words they draw the conclusion, which is apparently not subject to any doubt: if a man can earn God’s favor through right zeal, it is not God’s good pleasure alone that he attains salvation! Yes - so they further assert! - God in his mercy comes to the aid of the sinner in such a way that he allows himself to be moved to mercy by his works! But one cannot reconcile the statements of Scripture in any way, if one does not distinguish a twofold acceptance of man before God. (1) As man is by nature, God finds in him nothing at all that could move him to mercy, except his misery! For first of all, if God accepts man, he is undoubtedly destitute of all good and poor, but filled and burdened with evil of all kinds! For the sake of what good, I ask, shall we declare him worthy of the heavenly calling? Away, then, with that empty conceit of merit, when God so manifestly extols his kindness granted by pure grace! For when Cornelius is told in that passage by the voice of the angel that his prayers and alms had come before God’s face (Acts 10:31), it is an evil distortion if our opponents think that man prepares himself for the reception of God’s grace precisely through zeal in good works. Cornelius must have already been enlightened by the spirit of wisdom, if he was distinguished by true wisdom, namely by the fear of God! The same Spirit must have already sanctified him, if he was a minister of righteousness! For the apostle testifies that righteousness is certainly a fruit of this Spirit (Gal 5:5). Cornelius possessed all that was pleasing to God, according to our account, by His grace. There can be no question, then, of his having prepared himself by those works of his own power to receive them! Truly, not one syllable of Scripture can be brought forward that does not correspond to this doctrine: There is no other cause for God to receive a man to Himself than that He sees how he is lost in every respect if he is left to himself; but because God does not want him to be lost, therefore He exercises His mercy on him and makes him free! Now we notice that this assumption does not take into account the righteousness of man, but is a pure testimony of divine love for wretched sinners who are totally unworthy of such benefits.

III,17,5 (2) But after the Lord has taken man out of the abyss of lostness and has set him apart for Himself by the grace of adoption into filial adoption, He receives him as a new creature together with the gifts of His Holy Spirit - because He has born him again and created him to new life! This is the assumption that Peter means here (Acts 10:34f.): the believers are pleasing to God according to their calling, and that also with regard to their works; for the Lord cannot but love and be pleased with the good that He has worked in them through His Spirit! But we must always keep in mind that they are pleasing to God only because, for their sake and for their good, he accepts the good works he has bestowed on them for the increase of his generosity. For from whence do they have any other good works than from the fact that the Lord has chosen them to be vessels of honor and accordingly also wants to adorn them with true purity! Whence is it that these works are counted as good, as if nothing were lacking in them? But only from the fact that the Father, in His goodness, is forgiving of the stains and blemishes that still cling to them! In short, Peter testifies in this passage (Acts 10) to nothing other than that God looks favorably and with love upon His children, in whom He perceives the features and outlines of His own face. We have already presented the doctrine that regeneration is the renewal of the divine image in us. Therefore, where the Lord sees his own face, he loves it rightly and holds it in honor - and therefore it is said, not without reason, that the life of the faithful, which is directed toward holiness and righteousness, is pleasing to him! But the pious still wear their mortal flesh, they are still sinners, and their good works are only in their infancy and still reveal the corruption of the flesh. God can therefore neither receive them nor their works favorably, if he does not accept them more in Christ than in themselves! In this sense we must understand the passages in which it is testified that God is kind and gracious to those who practice righteousness. Thus Moses said to the children of Israel, "The Lord thy God keepeth covenant and mercy upon a thousand members unto them that love him, and keep his commandments!" (Deut 7:9). This saying was then later used among the people as a customary formula. Thus it is said in the solemn prayer of Solomon: "Lord God of Israel, … who keepest covenant and mercy unto thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart!" (1Ki 8:23). The same words are repeated by Nehemiah (Neh 1:5). For God, in all the covenants of His mercy, in turn also demands purity and holiness of life from His servants, so that His goodness does not become a mockery and no one puffs himself up in vain pride for their sake, "blessing himself in his heart" - and yet walking in the wickedness of his heart! (Deut 29:18). So if he has taken people into the fellowship of his covenant, then he also wants to keep them in their duty in this way! Nevertheless, the covenant itself is made in the beginning out of pure grace - and it always remains of this kind! In this sense, David does indeed boast: "The Lord … repays me according to the cleanness of my hands" (2Sam 22:21); but he does not pass by the source of which I spoke, but remembers that he was drawn out of his mother’s womb because God loved him! So he boasts that he represents a good cause; but in doing so, he does not detract from God’s gracious mercy, which precedes all gifts of which it is the source!

III,17,6 Now here it will be convenient to mention in passing how such forms of speech differ from the promises of the law. By promises of the law I do not simply understand all those which are found scattered in the books of Moses; for among them are in reality also to be found many promises of the gospel. Rather, I understand them to be those which, in the proper sense, concern the ministry of the law. These promises - call them what you will! - make it known that a reward is ready for man under the condition: "If you do what you are commanded …". On the other hand, when it is said that the Lord keeps His covenant of mercy to those who love Him (Deut 7:9; 1Ki 8:23; Neh 1:5), it is not so much the reason why the Lord benefits them that is described, but rather what the servants of God are like who have accepted His covenant in true faithfulness! The meaning of this description is as follows: When God honors us with the grace of eternal life, he has in mind the goal of being loved, feared and revered by us; accordingly, all the promises of mercy that are found in Scripture are also directed with good reason toward this goal, that we fear and reverence the giver of good gifts! When, then, we hear that God benefits those who keep his law, we are to consider every time that there God’s children are described, and that according to the obligation of office to which they are always to be subject; it is thus said, as it were, that we have been adopted as children for the purpose of honoring him as our Father! If, then, we do not wish to renounce the right of our adoption into filiation, we must always press for that which is set as the goal of our calling. Nevertheless, on the other hand, we must hold that the fulfillment of the Lord’s mercy does not depend on the works of the faithful; no, he fulfills the promise of salvation in those who, in righteousness of life, correspond to their calling, because he first perceives the pure marks of his children in those who are led to good by his Spirit. To this must be referred the description given in Ps 15 of the citizens of the Church: "Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, who shall abide in thy holy mountain? He who has innocent hands and a pure heart …" (Ps 15:1 f.; verse 2 not Luther text, actually taken from Ps 24:4). Also the word of Isaiah belongs here: "Who will dwell by a consuming fire? … He who walks in righteousness and speaks what is right …" (Isa 33:14 f.; beginning not Luther text). For there is not described the ground on which the believers could stand before the Lord, but rather the way in which the Father in his great goodness introduces them into his fellowship and keeps and strengthens them in it. For He abhors sin and loves righteousness - and therefore He makes pure by His Spirit those whom He joins to Himself, so as to conform them to Himself and His kingdom! If, therefore, one asks for the first cause why the access to God’s kingdom is open to the saints and why they can exist and persevere in it - then one has to answer immediately: Because the Lord, in his mercy, has once adopted them as children and keeps them in this state forever. But if the question is about the way, then one must speak about the rebirth and its fruits, as they are described in that (15th) Psalm!

III,17,7 A much greater difficulty now seems to arise in view of such passages which distinguish good works with the title "righteousness" and even claim that man is justified by them! Most of the passages are of the first kind: there the keeping of the commandments is labeled "justifications" or "righteousnesses". An example of the second kind is found in Moses: "And it shall be our righteousness … if we … keep all these commandments" (Deut 8:25). But if one wanted to object that this is a promise of the law that is tied to an unfulfillable condition and therefore does not prove anything, there are others where this objection could not be raised. For example: "This will be justice to thee in the sight of the Lord …. a righteousness to thee, when thou restorest the poor man’s pledge …" (Deut 24:13; end is content statement of v. 13a). This is also the word of the prophet who says about Phinehas’ zeal to avenge Israel’s shame: "This was counted to him as righteousness …" (Ps 106:31). Under such circumstances our Pharisees of today think they have an important reason to attack us. For if we say that with the establishment of righteousness by faith righteousness by works falls away - then they conclude with the same right, if one can attain righteousness by works (which these passages seem to prove!), then it is just not true that we are justified by faith alone! I admit that the commandments of the law are called "righteousnesses" - no wonder; for they really are! However, I must call the readers’ attention to the fact that the Greek translators have rendered the Hebrew word "chuqqim," which actually means "commandments," less than adequately as "dikaiomata." But I will gladly let the argument about words go. We also do not want to deny the law of God that it comprehends perfect justice in itself. Of course, we owe to keep everything that it commands us, and therefore, even when we have rendered complete obedience to it, we are still "useless servants" (Lk 17:10). But the Lord has nevertheless made it worthy of honor to be counted as righteousness, and therefore we do not deprive Him of what He has given Him. We readily concede, then, that perfect obedience to the law is righteousness; the keeping of any single commandment is then a part of righteousness, provided one has attained perfect righteousness also as to the other parts. We deny, on the other hand, that such righteousness will ever exist! So we abolish righteousness from the law, not because it is in and of itself imperfect and weak, but because, for the sake of the frailty of our flesh, it never comes into manifestation! But - one might object! - the Scripture not only calls the commandments of the Lord "righteousnesses", but also gives this designation to the works of the saints! Thus it reports of Zacharias and his wife that they walked in the "righteousnesses" of the Lord! (Lk 1:6). Yes, but if she speaks thus, she certainly judges these works more by the nature of the law than by their own nature. Also, again, attention could be drawn here to the fact that, as I said above, no law may be laid down because of the inaccuracy of the Greek translator. But because Luke did not want to change anything in the transmitted version, so I will not argue here either. For God has commanded what is contained in the law to men for their "righteousness"; but we do not attain this righteousness if we do not keep the whole law: by every individual transgression it is corrupted! Since, therefore, the law exclusively prescribes righteousness, its individual commandments, if we look at the law itself, are indeed "righteousnesses." But if we look at the people who carry out the commandments, they in no way deserve the praise of righteousness for the sake of one single work, since they are transgressors in many other commandments; also, even this one work is always corrupted in some respect for the sake of its imperfection!

III,17,8 But I now come to the second type (cf. the beginning of the previous section) of Scripture statements, at which the greatest difficulty arises. Paul has no firmer justification for righteousness by faith than the word about Abraham, that his faith was counted to him for righteousness (Rom 4,3; Gal 3,6; Gen 15,6). But if it is said of the deed of Phinehas that it was "counted to him for righteousness" (Ps 106:31), then we can assume what Paul claims about faith also about works! Therefore, our opponents immediately think that they have won the game, and they state that we are not justified without faith, but also not through it alone, but rather that it is the works that fulfill our righteousness. Therefore I ask the pious here, if they know that the true rule of righteousness is to be taken from the Scriptures alone, to consider with me in a godly and serious way how one can harmonize the Scriptures with oneself without quibbling! Paul knew that justification by faith was the refuge for those who lacked their own righteousness. From this he boldly concludes that all who are justified by faith are excluded from righteousness by works. Now, obviously, this righteousness is common to all believers; from this Paul derives with equal confidence the proposition that by works no man is justified. Yes, he even states on the contrary that justification happens without any help of works! Now it is two different things whether one argues about the value of works in and of themselves, or whether it is a question of what position they should occupy after the establishment of righteousness by faith. (a) If a value is to be attached to our works according to their own worthiness, we declare that they are not worthy to appear before God. Man, therefore, has no works at all with which he can boast before God. Therefore, he is deprived of all support by works, and he is justified by faith alone. We then paraphrase this righteousness thus: the sinner is received into fellowship with Christ, and by his grace is reconciled to God; for he is cleansed by his blood, and thereby obtains forgiveness of his sins, is clothed with Christ’s righteousness as with his own, and thus appears unconcerned before the heavenly judgment seat! (b) Now, if the forgiveness of sins has preceded, the good works that then follow are judged otherwise than according to their merit. For all that is imperfect in them is covered by Christ’s perfection; all the blemishes and stains of filth which they bear upon them are done away by His purity, so that they are no longer called into inquiry before God’s judgment! Thus, all the guilt of transgressions that prevent a man from putting forward anything that would be pleasing to God is blotted out; even the infirmity of imperfection that tends to defile even his good works is buried - and therefore, the good works that proceed from believers are considered righteous, or - which is the same thing - "counted for righteousness"!

III,17,9 If someone now reproaches me with these things in order to dispute the righteousness from faith, I will first put to him the question whether a man is considered righteous for the sake of one or another holy work, even if he is a transgressor of the law in the other works. Now this would be more than absurd. Then I will further ask whether he is then also judged righteous for the sake of many good works - even if he is still guilty of transgression in some respect. My opponent will not dare to claim that either, because the judgment of the law is against it: it declares all to be accursed who do not fulfill all the commandments of the law from the first to the last! (Deut 27:26). Then I will ask further: namely, whether there is any work that does not deserve to be accused of any impurity or imperfection! But how should this be possible - before those eyes, before which even the stars are not pure enough and the angels not righteous enough! (Job 4:18). So he is forced to admit to me that every work is stained not only for the sake of the transgressions standing beside it, but also for its own corruption, so that it cannot therefore claim the honor of being considered righteousness! Now justification by faith undoubtedly has the consequence that now works which otherwise are stained, unclean, and mutilated, and do not deserve God’s sight, much less his love - that such works are reckoned as righteousness! Why then does one claim this righteousness for oneself, in order to destroy, if possible, that righteousness (the righteousness from faith!), without the existence of which one would boast in vain of the righteousness from works? Do we want to give birth to a serpent? For this is what the sayings of the wicked amount to! They cannot deny that justification by faith is the origin, foundation, cause, ground, and substance of the righteousness of works. But they conclude that because good works are counted as righteousness, man is not justified by faith. Let us therefore leave aside such inconsistencies and confess how it really is, namely, that if the righteousness of works - one may judge it as one likes - depends on justification by faith, this is not thereby diminished, but rather affirmed, because precisely its power is thereby more clearly revealed. Nor should we think that after justification by grace alone, works are of such value that they themselves subsequently acquire the ability to justify man, or that they share this office with faith. For if justification by faith is not steadfastly maintained, then the impurity of works must be revealed! But there is nothing absurd in the fact that a man is justified by faith in such a way that he is now not only righteous himself, but also his works are regarded as righteous beyond their worthiness.

III,17,10 For this reason we admit that not only a partial righteousness is inherent in our works - that is what our adversaries want! -but that this righteousness is recognized by God as if it were perfect and wholly accomplished! But when we think of the foundation on which it is built, every difficulty is solved. For a work begins to be pleasing (to God) only when it is accepted with forgiveness! But where does this forgiveness come from other than from the fact that God looks at us and all that we are and have in Christ? For as we ourselves, as soon as we are inserted in Christ, appear righteous before God because our iniquities are covered by His innocence, so also our works are righteous and are regarded as such because everything else that is infirm in them is buried by Christ’s purity and therefore not imputed! Thus we can say with good reason that not only we, but also our works are justified by faith alone! Now if such righteousness of works - it may look as it will! - depends on faith and on justification by pure grace, and is only effected by it, then it must be included in it and, as it were, subordinated as an effect to its cause! So there can be absolutely no question of its being erected in order to crush or obscure its own cause! Thus Paul, in order to prove conclusively that our blessedness is based on God’s mercy and not on our works, lays the greatest weight on the word of David: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered! Blessed is the man to whom God does not impute sin!" (Rom 4:7 f.; Ps 32:1 s.). Now, of course, someone might object to the innumerable statements in which blessedness seems to be given to works. For example: "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord" (Ps 112:1; not Luther text). Or: "Blessed is he who has mercy on the wretched" (Prov 14:21), "who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked" (Ps 1:1), who "endures temptation!" (Jas. 1:12). Or: "Blessed are those who keep the commandment and do right forever" (Ps 106:3), "who live without blame" (Ps 119,1). Likewise, "Blessed are the spiritually poor … the meek … the merciful …!" (Mt 5:3, 5, 7). But all these passages will not be able to overturn the truth of Paul’s statement! For all that is praised there is never found in a man in such a way that he could find recognition before God because of it; and from it follows that man is always miserable if he is not delivered from his misery by forgiveness of sins! All those kinds of "blessedness" which are extolled in Scripture are therefore without validity, and must decay, so that man receives from them no fruit whatever - until he has attained, through the forgiveness of sins, the blessedness which then makes room for those other "blessednesses." From this it follows that this blessedness (which comes from the forgiveness of sins) is not only the most perfect and important, but the only one! Otherwise, one would think that it would be invalidated by the others, which in fact exist only in it! Still less should we be misled by the fact that believers are often called "righteous". I admit, indeed, that they bear this appellation on account of the holiness of their lives; but in fact there is in them more zealous endeavor for righteousness than the actual fulfillment of it: this righteousness (of the faithful) must therefore give way equitably before justification by faith, from which it has all that it is.

III,17,11 Now our opponents say that we would have more trouble with James, who contradicts us with explicit words! He teaches that Abraham was "justified by works" (Jam 2,21), and that we are also justified by works, "not by faith alone! (Jam 2,24). What is to happen there? Do we want to put Paul and James at odds with each other? If one wants to accept James as a servant of Christ, then one must understand his saying in such a way that it does not contradict Christ, who speaks through the mouth of Paul. Now the Holy Spirit declares through the mouth of Paul that Abraham attained righteousness by faith and not by works! (Rom 4,3; Gal 3,6). So we also teach that all are justified by faith, without the works of the law. Now the same Spirit teaches us through James, Abraham’s and also our righteousness is based on works and not on faith alone! It is certain that the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself. But how then are we to see these two statements in harmony with each other? It would be quite enough for our adversaries if they could overthrow the righteousness of faith, which we want to be deeply rooted and fixed! To give consciences their rest, that does not worry them much! From this it may be seen that, while they gnaw at righteousness by faith, they do not meanwhile lay down any clear standard of righteousness to which consciences may adhere. So they may triumph as they please - only they can claim no other victory than that they have abolished all certainty about justice! They may well win this miserable victory where the light of truth is extinguished and the Lord will allow them to spread the darkness of lies, but wherever God’s truth endures, they will be of no avail. I therefore deny that the saying of James, which they so eagerly hold up to us like the shield of Achilles, gives our opponents even the slightest assistance. In order for this to become clear, we must first pay attention to the point of view that the apostle had in mind, and then we must direct our attention to the point where our opponents fall into fantasies. There were many people at that time who - and this is an evil that always tends to exist in the church! - openly revealed their unbelief, neglecting and setting aside all the works proper to believers, but nevertheless not ceasing to boast of their falsely so-called "faith." The foolish confidence of such people is here mocked by James. So he does not intend to weaken the power of true faith in any way; no, he only wants to show how foolish it is when those chatterers fall into such presumption over an empty simulacrum of such faith that they are satisfied with it and blithely let themselves go into all kinds of sinful debauchery! Once this fact is understood, it is easy to see where our opponents go wrong. They succumb to a twofold misunderstanding by misinterpreting both the word "faith" and the term "justification". When the apostle calls an empty delusion, which is far removed from the true essence of faith, "faith," this is an acceptance of the view of his opponents, which does nothing for the cause he represents. He shows this himself at the beginning of our passage: "What is the use, brethren, if a man say that he hath faith, and have not works? (Jas 2:14). So he does not say, ’If anyone has faith and yet does not have works,’ but: ’If anyone claims to have faith …’! This becomes even clearer a little later, where he mocks this "faith", saying it is even more ineffective than the knowledge of the "devils" (Jam 2,19), and even more so at the end, where he calls it "dead"! What he has in mind can also be sufficiently inferred from the description of this "faith": "You believe that there is one God?" So, in this "faith" only this is contained, that there is one God. But if it is like this, then it is no wonder that this faith does not justify! But if James denies the justifying power of this faith, we should not think that this takes something away from the Christian faith, for it is quite different! For true faith justifies us only in the way that it joins us to Christ, and then, having been made one with him, we enjoy a share in his righteousness. It justifies us, therefore, not because it grasps the knowledge of a divine being, but because it is based on the certainty of divine mercy!

III,17,12 But we have not yet grasped the point of view which the apostle has in mind, if we do not also consider the second misunderstanding (of our opponents); this arises from the fact that James (according to their opinion) bases part of justification on works. Now, if we want to reconcile James with the rest of Scripture and also with himself, it is necessary to understand the word "justify" here in a different meaning than in Paul. According to Paul’s expression, we are justified when the memory of our unrighteousness is blotted out and we are regarded as righteous. Now if James had had this in mind, it would be wrong for him to quote from Genesis: "Abraham believed God …" (Jam 2,23; Gen 15,6). The context in his exposition is nevertheless this: Abraham attained righteousness by works, because he sacrificed his son at God’s command without hesitation (Jam 2,22); and thus the scripture is fulfilled, which said that he believed God, and that was counted to him for righteousness! (Jam 2,23). Now it would be absurd if the effect preceded its own cause! So it is either wrong when Moses testifies in that passage that Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness - or Abraham actually did not earn righteousness by the obedience he proved by the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham was already justified by faith when Ishmael was not yet conceived - and he had already grown up when Isaac was born! How then should he have acquired righteousness by the obedience that followed long after? So James has either reversed the order - but it would be wrong to think such a thing! - or he does not mean to say by the word "justify" that Abraham deserved to be counted righteous! But what should one say then? It is clear that James is certainly speaking here of the proof of righteousness, but not of its imputation. So he wants to say: He who is righteous by true faith proves his righteousness by obedience and good works and not by a naked, imaginary larva of faith! In short, he does not talk about the reason for which we are justified, but he demands an active righteousness from the believers. And as Paul claims that we are justified without any support by works, so James does not want to count such people as just who lack good works! If we keep this point of view in mind, it will help us out of all uncertainty. The decisive deception of our adversaries lies precisely in the fact that they think James is describing the way of justification, while in fact he only wants to overturn the evil self-assurance of such people, who foolishly invoked faith to excuse their contempt for good works. Now, they may twist the words of James as they will, but they will only be able to squeeze two sentences out of them: (1) An empty specter of faith does not justify us, and (2) the believer is not satisfied with such conceit, but manifests his righteousness by good works!

III,17,13 One also cites a Pauline passage in the same sense: "Since in the sight of God not those who hear the law are righteous, but those who do the law …" (Rom 2,13). But this will also help our adversaries in his way. Now I do not want to pull myself out of the matter here with the solution of Ambrose, who declares that this is said precisely because faith in Christ is the fulfillment of the law. I see that this is a mere evasion - and such an evasion is really not necessary, since the way is open! The apostle here snatches away from the Jews their foolish self-confidence: for they boasted of the mere knowledge of the law, although they were meanwhile its worst despisers! In order that they should not be so pleased with their simple acquaintance with the law, he draws their attention to the fact that if one seeks justice on the basis of the law, then it is not its knowledge that is required, but its observance! Now we do not doubt that the righteousness of the law consists in works; nor do we deny that righteousness lies in the worthiness and merits of works. But this does not prove that we are justified by works, unless we can be shown a man who has really fulfilled the law! Paul meant the same, as the context of his exposition clearly proves. First he declares Jews and Gentiles equally guilty of unrighteousness. Then he comes to both individually and says: "Those who have sinned without the law will also be lost without the law" - this refers to the Gentiles! -, "and those who have sinned under the law will be condemned by the law" - this concerns the Jews! (Rom 2,12). Now the Jews were lenient towards their transgressions and were hopeful only because of the law; therefore Paul adds quite appropriately that the law is not given to make one righteous by hearing its voice, but it only has this effect when one really obeys it! So he wants to say: You are looking for righteousness in the law? Then do not plead that you have heard it, for that in itself is of little importance, but bring forward your works by which you show that the law has not been presented to you in vain. But since all fail in this, it follows that they are all deprived of the glory of the law. Therefore, from Paul’s view, we must rather deduce the opposite reasoning: The righteousness of the law is based on the perfection of works; but no one can claim that he has satisfied the law by his works: therefore there is no righteousness from the law!

III,17,14 Now such passages are also brought against us in which the faithful boldly refer to their righteousness before the judgment of God and ask for its examination, also desire to be judged according to it. For example, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and godliness!" (Ps 7:9). Or similarly, "God, hear my righteousness!" (Ps 17:1; not Luther text). Or, "You test my heart and look after it by night …, and no iniquity is found in me!" (Ps 17:3; ending not Luther text). Likewise, "The Lord will do me good according to my righteousness; he will repay me according to the cleanness of my hands. For I keep the ways of the Lord, and am not ungodly against my God. I will also be blameless, and beware of my iniquity …" (Ps 18:21, 22, 24; not consistently Luther text). Or also: "Lord, establish justice for me; for I have walked in innocence … I do not sit with vain men, nor have fellowship with false ones … I do not take my soul with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, who deal in wickedness and take gifts gladly. But I walk innocently …" (Ps 26:1, 4, 9-11; not always Luther text). I have already spoken above (ch. 14,18 ss.) of the confidence that the saints seem to draw simply from their works. The scriptural testimonies cited here will now not put many obstacles in our way if we understand them according to their context or, as it is usually said, according to their circumstances. There are two things to be noted: (1) in such passages the believers do not desire an all-embracing examination of their lives, so that they would thus be condemned or acquitted on the basis of their entire course of life, but they bring a particular matter before the court for decision. (2) Nor do they ascribe righteousness to themselves in view of divine perfection, but in comparison with rejected and nefarious men! (1) First of all, when it is a question of the justification of man, it is not merely required that he should represent a good cause in some particular matter, but that he should be able to exhibit, as it were, a constant consonance with righteousness in his whole life. On the other hand, when the saints invoke God’s judgment as proof of their innocence, they do not present themselves as if they were free from all guilt and blameless in every respect. No, they place their confidence in God’s goodness alone; but at the same time they trust that he will be the avenger of the wretched, who are challenged against justice and equity, and so they indeed entrust to him the matter in which they are innocently oppressed! (2) But when they then stand with their adversaries before God’s judgment seat, they do not plead an innocence that would suffice for God’s purity under sharp scrutiny. But they know that their integrity, righteousness, simplicity and purity are known and pleasing to God in comparison with the wickedness, impiety, cunning and mischievousness of their adversaries, and therefore they are not afraid to call on him as judge between themselves and them. Thus David said to Saul, "The Lord…. will repay each one according to his righteousness and truthfulness" (1Sam 26:23; last word in Luther: his faith!) By this he did not mean that the Lord should examine each one in himself and reward him according to his merits, but he testifies before God how great his innocence is compared to the unrighteousness of Saul. Paul also boasts and claims that his conscience gives him a good testimony, namely that he walked with simplicity and integrity in the church of God (2Cor 1:12). But before God, even he does not want to base himself on such glory; no, the revilings of ungodly men force him to defend his faithfulness and integrity, which he is sure will find favor in the sight of God, against every blasphemy of men! Yet we note what he elsewhere expresses, "I am conscious of nothing; but in this I am not justified!" (1Cor 4:4). He knew that God’s judgment penetrates far deeper than the weakness of human eyes! So the pious may defend their innocence against the hypocrisy of the wicked, calling God as witness and judge - as soon as they have to deal with God alone, they all cry out from one mouth: "If thou wilt, Lord, impute sins, Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps 130:3). Or also: "Do not go into judgment with your servant; for before you no living person is righteous!" (Ps 143:2). When they are dealing with God alone, they have no confidence in their works, but freely confess, "Your goodness is better than life!" (Ps 63,4).

III,17,15 Perhaps someone could also refer to other passages not unlike those mentioned. Thus Solomon calls a man "who walks in his piety" a "righteous man" (Prov 20:7). Or he declares, "In the way of righteousness there is life, and in its paved path there is no death" (Prov 12:28). In this sense, Ezekiel also promises the one who has done justice and righteousness that he will surely live (Eze 18:9, 21; 33:15). None of these passages we deny or obscure. But let there come forth once a single one of the sons of Adam who would be so blameless! If there is none, they must either perish from the sight of God - or seek the refuge of his mercy! Of course, we do not deny that the sincerity of the faithful, though half and imperfect, serves as a step to immortality. But where does this come from? Only from the fact that the Lord has received them into the covenant of His grace and does not weigh their works according to their merit, but lovingly accepts them in His fatherly kindness! By this we do not understand only what the school theologians teach, who think that works have their value on the basis of grace accepting them (gratia acceptans). They are of the opinion that the works, which otherwise would not be sufficient for us to acquire salvation on the basis of the covenant of the law, would nevertheless be raised to a sufficient price (for blessedness) by God’s acceptance. I maintain, on the other hand, that works are stained by other transgressions as well as by their own blemishes, and they therefore count for something only if God grants pardon for both; but this means that God bestows righteousness on man out of pure grace. It is not appropriate to refer here with emphasis to the prayers of the apostle, in which he wishes such perfection for the believers that they may be blameless and blameless until the day of the Lord (Eph 1:4; 1. Thess. 3,13 and others). With these words the Celestinians used to make a lot of noise to prove that we already attained perfection in this life. But I want to give my answer to that teaching according to Augustin, and I believe to say with it sufficient: Certainly all pious people should strive for the goal to appear one day immaculate and blameless before God’s face; but the best and most glorious way to lead this life is nothing else than a progression, and therefore we will reach that goal only when we have put aside this sinful flesh and fully adhere to the Lord! Nevertheless, I do not want to raise a stubborn argument if someone wants to confer the title of perfection on the saints, only let him then describe this perfection in the words of the same Augustine: "If we call the virtue of the pious perfect, to this perfection belongs also the sincere and humble realization of our imperfection!" (To Bonifacius, III,7,19).

Eighteenth chapter


It is not acceptable to conclude from the reward to the righteousness from the works.

III,18,1 We will now move on to the scriptural statements in which it is claimed that God will "reward each one according to his works" (Mt 16,27). This includes the following passages: "…that each one may receive according to his deeds in the flesh, whether good or evil" (2Cor 5:10). Furthermore: "Praise and glory … to him who does good, … but to every soul that does evil, … tribulation and anguish!" (Rom 2:7 ss.; summarizing). Or: "And those who have done good will come forth to the resurrection of life, but those who have done evil will come forth to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:29). Or also: "Come, you blessed of my Father … For I have been hungry, and you have fed me. I have been thirsty, and you have given me drink … (Mt 25,34f.). With these passages we must also associate those that refer to eternal life as the reward for our works. For example: "A man is repaid according to what his hands have earned" (Prov 12:14). Or: "He who … fears the commandment will be repaid" (Prov 13:13). Or also: "Rejoice then and leap; your reward is great in heaven!" (Mt 5,12; Lk 6,23; quoted from Luke). Or finally: "Each one will receive his reward according to his work" (1Cor 3:8). When it is said that God "will give to each one according to his works" (Rom 2,6), this can be clarified with a little effort. This expression indicates an orderly succession rather than a cause. For there is no doubt that the Lord accomplishes our salvation in various stages of his mercy: "whom he hath ordained he hath also called; whom he hath called he hath also justified; whom he hath justified he hath also glorified!" (Rom 8,30). He thus accepts his own to life out of mercy alone; but into the possession of this life he introduces them by the way of good works, in order to complete his work in them according to the order he has established. It is not surprising, therefore, when it is said that they are crowned according to their works; for by these works they are undoubtedly prepared to receive the wreath of immortality! Yes, it is said of them in this sense quite appropriately: they "create" their "blessedness" (Phil 2,12), namely when they strive for eternal life in diligent effort for good works. This happens in the same sense as they are instructed in another place: "Work out food, … which abides!" (John 6:27). They do this when they acquire life through faith in Christ. But nevertheless, it is then immediately added: "… which the Son of man shall give unto you! (John 6:27). From this it becomes quite clear that "working" here does not stand in contrast to "grace", but is related to the zeal (of man). So it does not follow from such statements that believers themselves are the authors of their salvation or that blessedness comes from their works. How is it then? As soon as they are received into Christ’s fellowship through the knowledge of the gospel and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, eternal life has taken its beginning in them. Now the good work that God has begun in them must also be completed until the day of the Lord Jesus (Phil 1:6). But this happens when they strive to become like their heavenly Father in righteousness and holiness and thus prove themselves to be His children who are not out of the way!

III,18,2 The expression "reward" cannot be used in any way to prove that our works are the cause of our salvation. First of all, it must be firmly established in our hearts that the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for servants, but an inheritance for children! (Eph 1:18). Only those whom the Lord has adopted as children attain this kingdom, and for no other reason than precisely because of this adoption into childship! For it is not the son of the handmaid who shall inherit, but the son of the free! (Gal 4,30). Yes, just in such passages where the Holy Spirit promises that eternal glory will be the reward for our works, He expressly calls it "inheritance" - showing that it actually comes to us from elsewhere! Thus Christ enumerates the works that he wants to repay with the "reward" of heaven when he calls his elect to take possession of it (Mt 25,35); but at the same time he adds that this possession comes to them as an inheritance! (Mt 25,34). So Paul commands the servants to faithfully do their duty, hoping for a "recompense" from the Lord (Col 3,23f.) - but he adds: "… of the inheritance" (Col 3,24)! We see how they insist, as it were, with explicit words, that we do not thank our works for eternal blessedness, but for the adoption into filiation that God has granted us! Why, then, do they at the same time speak of works? This question can be clarified by a single example from Scripture. Before the birth of Isaac, Abraham had been promised a "seed" in which all the generations on earth would be blessed, a seed that would be like the stars in the sky, the sand on the sea, etc., in its spreading. (Gen 12:3; 15:5; 17:1 ss.). Many years after that, Abraham set out to offer his son as a sacrifice, as he was instructed in a word of revelation (Gen 22:3). When he had accomplished this act of obedience, he received the promise: "I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, because thou hast done these things, and hast not spared thine only son, that I will bless thy seed, and multiply it as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gates of his enemies, and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice!" (Gen 22:16 ss.). What do we hear here? Did Abraham, by his obedience, earn the blessing that was promised to him long before he received the commandment? Here we hear truly without any circumlocution: The Lord rewards the works of the faithful with goods which he has already given them before they have even thought of works! And at that time he had no other reason to do them good than his mercy!

III,18,3 But nevertheless it is no deceit and no mockery when the Lord tells us that he repays our works with what he has given by grace before these works. For it is his will that we should practice by good works to seek the reception and, so to speak, the full enjoyment of the goods which he has promised us - that we should run our course by these works to hasten toward the blessed hope which is set before us in heaven. For this reason, however, the fruit of the promises is also rightly attributed to the works, which is to ripen for us under their guidance. Paul expresses both of these very well. He speaks of how the Colossians fulfill the duties of love with zeal "for the hope that is set before you in heaven, of which you have heard beforehand through the word of truth in the gospel" (Col 1:4f.). When he declares that from the gospel they have come to know the hope that is laid up for them in heaven, he clearly states that this hope is based solely on Christ, but not on any works. Peter’s words are in harmony with this: "Who by the power of God are kept through faith unto salvation, which is prepared to be revealed in the last time" (1Pet 1:5). When Paul (above) says of the Colossians that they labor "for this hope," he implies that believers must hasten throughout the course of their lives to seize it. But we should not think that the reward which the Lord promises us should be measured according to merit. That is why the Lord has given us a parable: He presents Himself as a householder who sends all who meet Him to work in His vineyard; some already in the first hour of the day, others in the second, still others in the third - some even only in the eleventh! But in the evening he pays all the same wages! (Mt 20:1 ss.). We find the explanation of this parable briefly and correctly summarized by that writer of the early church, whose book "On the Calling of the Gentiles" has been handed down under the name of Ambrose - what his name was is ultimately irrelevant! In any case, I will use his words and not my own: "By the rule given to us in this parable, the Lord has explained how the diversity of the manifold callings is nevertheless related to the one grace. If here the men who are not sent into the vineyard until the eleventh hour are put on an equal footing with the laborers who have worked all day, a picture is thus given of those whom God has rewarded to the glory of his glorious grace at the end of the day, at the close of their lives according to his goodness; in this he pays no price for their labor, but pours into men whom he has chosen without works the riches of his goodness. So also they who have shed their sweat with much labor, and yet receive no richer reward than those who have come last of all, shall know that they have received a gift of grace, and not a reward for their works" (Pseudo-Ambrose, Of the Calling of the Gentiles, I,5). Finally, it is also worth noting the following: in the passages where eternal life is referred to as a reward for our works, it does not simply refer to the communion we have with God that grants us blessed immortality, that is, to that communion in which he accepts us in paternal benevolence in Christ, but rather to the possession and enjoyment of blessedness, as they say. This is also how it sounds to us from the words of Christ Himself: " … and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10:30), or: "Come … inherit the kingdom …!" (Mt 25,34). In this sense Paul also calls the revelation of our childship, which happens in the resurrection, our childship (Rom 8,18f.), and he explains it afterwards that this is "the redemption of our body" (Rom 8,23). Just as alienation from God is eternal death, so man, when God receives him into His grace, so that he may enjoy His fellowship and become one with Him, is brought from death to life, and this happens solely through the benefit of our adoption into childship. If our adversaries want to stiff-neckedly insist on the reward for works, they may be countered by the word of Peter, according to which eternal life is the reward of faith! (1Pet 1:9).

III,18,4 So we should not think that by such promises the Holy Spirit praises the worthiness of our works, as if they deserve such a reward. For the Scriptures leave us nothing by which we can be exalted in the sight of God. On the contrary, it does everything to dampen our arrogance, to humble us, to cast us down, and even to knock us to the ground! No, with such promises it helps our weakness, which otherwise would soon collapse and disintegrate if it did not sustain itself with this hope and provide relief for its sorrow with this consolation! First of all, each individual should consider how hard it is to abandon and deny not only everything one has, but also oneself. And yet this is the initial instruction in which Christ teaches his disciples, that is, all the pious, right at the beginning. But then he continues to train them throughout their lives under the discipline of the cross, so that they do not set their hearts on the desire for temporal goods or trust in them. In short, he treats them in such a way that they face despair alone wherever they turn their eyes and however far the world spreads! Thus Paul says, "If we hope in this life alone … we are the most miserable of all men!" (1Cor 15:19). Now, so that believers do not grow weary in such affliction, the Lord stands by them and encourages them to lift their heads higher and let their eyes penetrate further: they shall find the blessedness, which they cannot behold in the world, with Him! This blessedness he calls the prize of battle, reward, or recompense; but in this he does not dignify the merit of works, but shows that it is a recompense for their afflictions, their sufferings, their reproach, and the like! Therefore, there is no objection to our also calling eternal life a reward, according to the example of Scripture; for in it the Lord takes His own up out of their toil into rest, out of their affliction into a happy and longed-for state, out of their sorrow into joy, out of their poverty into overflowing riches, out of their shame into glory! In short, he exchanges all the evil they have endured for all the greater good! Therefore, there is nothing inconsistent in our thinking that holiness of life is a way to it - not one that opens for us the entrance to the glory of the kingdom of heaven, but one by which God leads His elect to the revelation of this glory! For it is his good will to make those whom he has made holy also glorious! (Rom 8:30, inaccurate). Only we should not imagine that reward and merit are coordinated: that is the foolish error in which the clever have got entangled, because they do not direct their attention to this goal which we have set apart. The Lord calls us toward one goal - and then how foolish it is to look elsewhere! It is perfectly clear that He promises reward for our good works in order to help the weakness of our flesh with some comfort, but not to puff up our hearts with glory! So whoever deduces from this a merit of works and weighs works and reward on a scale against each other, is far from God’s true intention!

III,18,5 So when the Scripture says that God as "the righteous judge" will one day "give the crown of righteousness" to His own (2Tim 4,8), I first answer with Augustin: "To whom should the ’righteous judge’ give a crown, to whom the merciful Father had not already given grace beforehand? How should ’justice’ be done here if grace had not preceded it, justifying the ungodly? How should merit be rewarded here if everything else had not been given first without merit?" (Of Grace and Free Will, 6:14). But I go further than Augustine and ask: How should God impute righteousness to our works if he did not cover up in his forbearance what is unrighteousness in them? How should he consider them worthy of a reward, if he does not put aside in infinite kindness what is worthy of punishment in them? Augustine, in fact, used to call eternal life "grace," because, after all, if our works are rewarded with it, it is indeed repaid to God’s gracious gifts. But the Scripture humbles us more deeply - and at the same time raises us up more strongly! It does, however, forbid us to boast about our works, because they are God’s unmerited gifts. But at the same time it teaches us that works are still tainted with all kinds of blemishes, so that they cannot make satisfaction to God when they are examined according to the standard of His judgment. On the other hand, it declares, lest we lose all joy, that those works find His pleasure through God’s pure forgiveness. Although Augustine speaks a little differently than we do, there is not such a great contrast in the matter itself; this is evident from his words in the third book of his writing to Boniface. First of all, he compares two different people, one whose life is a miracle of holiness and perfection, and another who is also righteous and of good morals, but not yet so perfect that one would not wish some things better in him. Then he draws the conclusion: "This one (the latter) seems to be inferior to the other one according to his behavior, but he still stands in true faith: Out of it he lives, out of it he accuses himself in all his misdeeds, gives praise to God in all his good works, ascribes the shame to himself, but the glory to him, out of this faith he receives from him pardon for his sins and love for what he has done right - and for the sake of this faith he also wanders, when he will one day be freed from this life, into the fellowship with Christ! Why? For the sake of faith alone! This certainly does not make anyone blessed without works - because it is right faith, which is active through love: (Gal 5:6) - but for his sake sins are forgiven; for "the righteous shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4). But without him, even what appears to be a good work is turned into sin." (To Bonifacius III,5). Here, after all, he manifestly admits what we assert with such emphasis, namely, that the righteousness of our good works depends on God’s allowing them to be forgiven.

III,18,6 The following passages are very close in spirit to those mentioned above. First, "Make friends with unrighteous Mammon, that when you now offer, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles!" (Lk 16:9). And then: "Command the rich of this world not to be proud, nor to hope in uncertain riches, but in the living God … to do good, to abound in good works … to lay up for themselves treasures, a good foundation for the things to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1Tim 6:17 ss.; not quite Luther text). Now (so it is thought) good works are compared with riches, which we are to enjoy in the blessedness of eternal life. I answer that we will never come to the right understanding of these passages if we do not direct our attention to the point of view to which the Holy Spirit makes his words serviceable. It is true when Christ says: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!" (Mt 6,21). Just as the children of the world try to obtain what is pleasurable in the present life, so the believers, having learned that this life soon vanishes like a dream, should see to it that what they really want to enjoy they get to where they will have a perfect life! We must do as those do who intend to move to some place which they have chosen as their permanent residence: they send their fortune ahead and gladly do without it for a time; for they feel happier the more goods they have there, where they will remain for a long time! If we believe that heaven is our home, we should also send our riches there, instead of keeping them here, where they might be lost to us in case of sudden departure! But how shall we do this? In such a way that we give these goods to the poor in their need; for what we grant them, the Lord regards as given to him! (Mt 25,40). Hence the glorious promise: "He who has mercy on the poor lends to the Lord" (Prov 19:17). Or correspondingly: "He who sows in blessing will also reap in blessing!" (2Cor 9:6). What we offer to the brethren out of the obligation of love, we entrust to the Lord’s faithful hands! But He is a faithful keeper, and He will one day repay us what is ours with great profit! Are our services so highly esteemed by God that they are like riches in his hands, which he keeps for us? Yes, who should be afraid to speak so, when the Scriptures so often and so plainly testify to it! But if someone wants to jump from God’s pure goodness to the worthiness of our works, these scriptural testimonies will not help him to confirm his error. For nothing else can be gathered from them but the pure affection of God’s grace toward us: in order to encourage us to do good, he does not allow any of our obedient works to be lost, although all that we show him in this is not worthy of a single glance of his eyes!!

III,18,7 Our opponents place greater weight on a statement of Paul: he comforts the Thessalonians in their tribulations and then declares that these were sent to them so that they would be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffered (2Thess 1:5). He literally continues, "As it is right with God to repay tribulation to those who tribulate you, but rest with us to you who tribulate, when therefore the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven …" (2Thess 1:6f.). And the author of the Letter to the Hebrews declares: "For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work and the … love which you have shown for His name, ministering to the saints…" (Hebr 6:10). In view of the first passage I counter: here no worthiness of merit is implied. Paul only wants to say: God, our Father, has the will that we, who were chosen to be His children, should be conformed to Christ, His only begotten Son (Rom 8,29): as He first had to suffer in order to enter the glory that was destined for Him (Lk 24:26), so we also have to "go through much tribulation into the kingdom of God"! (Acts 14:22). So when we suffer tribulation for the sake of the name of Christ, we are, as it were, given the marks with which God uses to designate the sheep of His flock. We are therefore considered worthy of the kingdom of God because we bear the "marks" of our Lord and Master on our bodies (Gal 6:17), which are the marks of the children of God. Two other statements belong to this: "We bear … the death of the Lord Jesus in our bodies, so that the life of the Lord Jesus may also be manifested in us" (2Cor 4:10; conclusion abbreviated), and: "We are being conformed to the sufferings of Jesus, so that we may attain to likeness with the resurrection of the dead" (Phil 3:10 f.; summary). The reason Paul gives (in the above passage, 2Thess 1:6f.) is not to acknowledge any worthiness, but to affirm the hope of God’s kingdom; he wants to say: As it is fitting for God’s righteous judgment to take vengeance on your enemies for the torments they have caused you - so it is also fitting for Him to grant you relief and rest from your afflictions. The second passage (namely Hebr 6:10) states that it befits the justice of God not to let the obedience achievements of His own be forgotten, yes, it even gives to understand: God would be downright unjust if he wanted to forget them. This is to be understood in this way: God, in order to wake us up from our sluggishness, has given us the confidence that the work we have done for the glory of His name shall not be without effect. We must always keep in mind that this promise, like all others, would bear us no fruit at all if it were not preceded by the covenant of his mercy, made out of pure grace, on which all the certainty of our salvation is to rest. Trusting in this, we should then have the certain confidence that even our acts of obedience, however unworthy they may be, will not lack a reward from God’s generosity. In this expectation the apostle wants to strengthen us, and that is why he assures us that God is not unjust, but will keep the promise he once made to us. "Justice" here, then, refers more to the unbreakability of the divine promise than, say, to the equity with which he would repay us for something we deserved. In this sense there is an excellent word of Augustine, which this holy man unhesitatingly recalls again and again as a memorable utterance, and which therefore, in my opinion, is also not unworthy of constant consideration by us: "The Lord is faithful; he has made himself our debtor, not by receiving anything from us, but by promising us everything!" (On Ps 32, II,1; on Ps 109,1 and more often elsewhere).

III,18,8 One also cites other statements of Paul. For example: "If I had all faith, so that I could move mountains, and if I did not have love, I would be nothing" (1Cor 13:2). Or: "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but love is the greatest of these!" (1Cor 13:13). And then: "But above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfection". (Col 3:14). On the basis of the first two passages, our Pharisees claim that we are justified by love rather than by faith; for love, they say, is the more exalted virtue! But this sophistry can be easily refuted. I have already explained elsewhere that what is written in the first passage (1Cor 13:2) does not refer to true faith. The other passage (1Cor 13:13) we also understand in such a way that it speaks of true faith and declares that love is greater than it; however, this does not mean that love is more meritorious, but it comes from the fact that love bears more fruit, that it reaches further, that it serves more people, that it always remains in power, while the exercise of faith only lasts for a time. If we focus on the majesty (of love), God’s love deservedly takes precedence; however, Paul is not talking about it here. He only urges that we build ourselves up in mutual love in the Lord. But let us assume that love has priority over faith in every respect - how should a person with sound judgment, indeed, with a sound brain at all, conclude from this: So justify it more? The power to justify, which is inherent in faith, is not based on the worthiness of the work (which faith represented). Our justification is based solely on God’s mercy and Christ’s merit, and when faith takes hold of these, it is said: it justifies us. Now, when our adversaries are asked in what sense they ascribed justification to love, they answer: Because it is an achievement that is pleasing to God, righteousness is imputed to us through its merit, and that on the basis of acceptance by God’s goodness. Here we see how gloriously their proof proceeds. We declare faith to be justifying, not because it earned us righteousness by its own worthiness, but because it is the instrument by which we obtain Christ’s righteousness by grace! Our opponents, on the other hand, leave God’s mercy out of it, pass by Christ, in whom, after all, lies the highest fullness of righteousness, - and claim that we are justified by the good deed of love, because this has a higher position than faith! Exactly as if someone were to argue that a king is more capable of making shoes than a cobbler, because he has a far higher position! This one conclusion already proves completely that all schools at the Sorbonne have not even tasted a little with their lips what actually is justification from faith! If, however, some literalist raises the question why we assume such a largely different use of the term "faith" in Paul in two passages so close together, I have weighty reasons for this interpretation. The gifts that Paul lists (1Cor 13:1 f.) are connected to faith and hope, because they refer to the knowledge of God; therefore, Paul summarizes all of them under "faith" and "hope". So he wants to say something like. Prophesying and tongues and the gift of interpretation and wisdom - all these serve the purpose of leading us to the knowledge of God; but we know God in this life only through hope and faith; so if I call faith and hope by name, I am summarizing all these at the same time. "But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three"-that is to say, however great the variety of gifts may be, they are all traced to these three! "But love is the greatest of these!" From the third passage (Col 3,14) our opponents draw the conclusion: If love is "the bond of perfection", then it is also the bond of righteousness, which is nothing else than perfection. Let us first pass over the fact that Paul understands "perfection" to mean that all the members of a well-ordered church live together in right fellowship. So we want to admit that we are made perfect before God through love - but what do our opponents want to take from this? I will always object that we will never attain to such perfection if we have not fulfilled everything that love demands - and from this I will then draw the conclusion: since all men are very, very far away from the fulfillment of love, then any hope of perfection is also cut off from them!

III,18,9 I will not pursue the individual testimonies which nowadays the foolish theologians of the Sorbonne indiscriminately - just as one comes in their way! - tear them out of the Scriptures and hurl them against us. Some of them are so ridiculous that I cannot even recall them myself if I do not want to be deservedly considered silly. I will therefore conclude by explaining one more word of Christ, in which those people take special delight. Christ answers a lawyer who asks him what is necessary for salvation: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments! (Mt 19,17). What more do we want - they ask - if the Giver of grace Himself commands us to gain the kingdom of God by keeping the commandments? - As if Christ did not indisputably adapt himself with his answers to those with whom he ever had to deal! He is asked here by a teacher of the law in what way one can attain blessedness; yes, not even merely this, but: what man must do to attain it! Thus the person of the questioner, as well as the nature of the question itself, brought it about that the Lord gave such an answer! This man was deeply stuck in the opinion that there is a righteousness from the law, and he was therefore blind in trusting in works. Furthermore, he asked exclusively what the works of righteousness were by which one could earn salvation. So it is quite right when he is also referred back to the law, in which a perfect mirror of righteousness is found! We too preach with a loud voice: if one seeks life in works, one must keep the commandments! This teaching must also be well known to Christians. How can they take refuge in Christ if they have not first recognized that they have fallen from the path of life into the abyss of death? But how can they realize how far they have strayed from the way of life, if they do not know beforehand what kind of way it is? They will only be made aware of the fact that Christ is the only place of refuge where we can regain salvation when they realize how great the contrast is between their lives and God’s righteousness, which is written in the keeping of the Law. But if we do not want to grow weary in the middle of the way, we must not stop there. For none of us is capable of keeping the commandments! We are therefore excluded from the righteousness of the law and must turn to another help, namely to faith in Christ. In our place, the Lord calls back to the law the teacher of the law, whom he knows to be brimming with vain confidence in his works, that he may learn from it that he is a sinner and guilty of the awful judgment of eternal death! In the same way, however, with others who are already humbled by such self-knowledge, he leaves aside all mention of the law and comforts them with the promise of grace: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…. and you will find rest for your souls!" (Mt 11:28 f.).

III,18,10 Finally, when our opponents have tired of twisting the Scriptures, they fall into sophistry and sophistry. They take the fact that faith is called "work" in one passage (John 6,29) as a reason for evasion; they conclude that it is wrong if we put faith and works in opposition to each other! - As if faith, insofar as it is obedience to God’s will, would earn us righteousness through its own merit! As if it did not rather, by taking hold of God’s mercy, seal in our hearts the righteousness of Christ, which is offered to us by God’s mercy in the preaching of the gospel! If I do not dwell on the refutation of such silliness, the readers will excuse it; this talk is itself, without an attack from another side, sufficiently broken by its own baselessness! However, it may be permitted to examine here still another objection, which could be reasonable after all in the appearance, in passing, so that it does not cause difficulties to some less practiced ones. It is said: "Common sense teaches us that opposite things are subject to the same rule; if, therefore, our individual sins are counted as unrighteousness, our individual good works must, mutatis mutandis, also be accorded the praise of righteousness. Some people reply that the condemnation of men comes solely from unbelief and not from individual sins. But this answer is not enough for me. I agree with its authors that the source and root of all evil is unbelief. It is the first apostasy from God, which is followed by the individual transgressions of the law. But these people, in judging righteousness and unrighteousness, seem to judge (i.e. weigh against each other) our good and evil works by the same measure, and in this I cannot agree with them. Indeed, righteousness from works is perfect obedience to the law. Therefore, one can be righteous by his works only if he follows this obedience like a straight line throughout the whole course of his life. As soon as one deviates from it even once, one has fallen into unrighteousness. From this it becomes clear: righteousness does not consist in one or a few works, but in unbending and unceasing obedience to God’s will! For the judgment of unrighteousness, on the other hand, a completely different rule applies. Whoever commits adultery or steals is guilty of death, because he has offended God’s majesty! Those of our clever ones are offended here, because they do not turn their mind to the word of James: "If anyone keeps the whole law and sins against one, he is guilty of it altogether. For he who has forbidden killing has also forbidden stealing…" (Jam 2:10 f.; verse 11 very inaccurate). So it must not seem contradictory when we declare: Death is the just payment for every single sin; for every single sin is worthy of God’s righteous indignation and vengeance. On the other hand, it would be a foolish conclusion to conclude that man can be reconciled to God by a single good work; for he deserves His wrath with many sins!

Chapter Nineteen


Of Christian freedom

III,19,1 1 We have now to speak of Christian freedom. He who has undertaken to summarize in abbreviated form the main content of the doctrine of the Gospel must under no circumstances pass over the unfolding of this doctrine. For it is an extremely necessary thing, and without its knowledge consciences dare to tackle almost nothing without doubt, they doubt and hesitate in many things, and are always in vacillation and trepidation. Above all, we have here an appendix to the (doctrine of) justification, which serves not a little to make its force known. Yes, whoever seriously fears God will receive from it an incomparable fruit of that doctrine, which godless and mocking people wittily interpolate in their sayings, because in the spiritual drunkenness that has seized them, every boldness is permitted to them! Therefore, this is the right place to focus on the doctrine of Christian freedom. We have already touched upon it slightly above; but it was expedient to postpone its more detailed exposition until this point. For as soon as Christian liberty is mentioned in any way, either the desires heat up or a mad uproar rises - if one does not confront at the right time such frivolous spirits, who otherwise corrupt even the best! In part, under the guise of this freedom, they destroy all and every obedience to God and plunge into unbridled revelry, but in part they also become indignant and think that all moderation, all order and all distinction among things is now abolished. What should we do when we are surrounded by such afflictions? Should we abandon Christian freedom in order to take every opportunity of such dangers? No, we have already said: if we do not hold on to it, then all right knowledge of Christ or of the truth of the Gospel or even of the inner peace of the soul is lost! We must therefore take care not to conceal such an important part of the doctrine, and yet at the same time oppose those contradictory objections which usually arise from it!

III,19,2 The Christian freedom consists, at least according to my opinion, in three pieces. First, when the question arises as to where the conscience of the believer gains confidence in his justification before God, it looks beyond the law to the heights and forgets all the righteousness from the law. The law, as we have already shown elsewhere, does not allow any man to be righteous, and therefore we are either excluded from any hope of justification, or we must be detached from it, and in such a way that no consideration whatsoever is given to works. For whoever thinks that he must produce even the least of works in order to attain righteousness cannot fix a measure or a goal, but has made himself a debtor to the whole law. Therefore, when it comes to our justification, we should leave aside all mention of the law, put aside all attention to works, and grasp God’s mercy alone; we should turn our eyes away from ourselves and look at Christ alone. For it is not asked here why we are righteous, but why we are considered righteous, although we are unrighteous and unworthy! But if our conscience wants to receive any certainty in this, it must give no room to the law. But it would be quite wrong for anyone to conclude from this that the law is superfluous for believers. For although it has no place in their conscience before God’s judgment seat, it does not cease to teach them, to admonish them, and to provoke them to good. These two things are completely different from each other, and we must therefore distinguish them properly and thoroughly. The whole life of the Christian should be, as it were, a pursuit of godliness; for the Christian is called to sanctification! (Eph 1:4; 1. Thess. 4,3). Now the office of the law is to admonish him of his obligation, and thus to spur him on to zealous striving for sanctification and innocence. But when the conscience worries how it can have a gracious God, what it should answer, and what confidence it should rely on when it is challenged before God’s judgment, it must not reckon with what the law demands, but it must keep Christ alone before its eyes as its righteousness, who surpasses all the righteousness of the law.

III,19,3 Almost the entire argument of the letter to the Galatians revolves around this pivotal point. That the people who teach that Paul is only arguing about the freedom from the ceremonies are foolish interpreters, can be justified from the passages in which he gives his proof. There are the following passages to be mentioned. First: "Christ became a curse for us, to redeem us from the curse of the law" (Gal 3,13; summarily). Then correspondingly, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty to which Christ hath delivered us, and be not entangled again in the bondage of the yoke. Behold, I Paul write unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ profiteth you nothing…. He that is circumcised is guilty of doing the whole law. You have lost Christ, who would be justified by the law, and have fallen from grace!" (Gal 5:1-4). Surely there is something higher in these sentences than freedom in the ceremonies! I admit, however, that Paul is speaking here (at first) of the ceremonies: he had, after all, to contend with false apostles who were endeavoring to reintroduce into the Christian church the old shadowy images of the law, which had been dismissed by Christ’s coming. But to resolve this issue, the controversy had to go back to deeper things on which the whole dispute rested. First, with such Jewish shadowy images the clarity of the gospel was obscured; therefore Paul shows that in Christ we possess the perfect revelation of all that was shadowily pictured in those Mosaic ceremonies. Second, those deceivers deluded the people perniciously into thinking that such obedience (to the law and its ceremonies) had the power to merit the grace of God; in contrast, Paul insists with the utmost acuteness that believers should not think that they can obtain righteousness before God by any works of the law, much less by those tiny initial grounds (namely, the ceremonies). At the same time, however, they are to rest in full assurance in Christ alone, and to this end he teaches them that through the cross of Christ they are free from the condemnation of the law, which otherwise threatens all men (Gal 4:5). Finally, he assures the believer’s conscience of its freedom, so that it will not bind itself in any holy timidity to things that are not necessary (for salvation).

III,19,4 The second piece of our Christian freedom is dependent on the first: The conscience does not obey the law as under the constraint of the necessity of the law, but it is freed from the yoke of the law itself and now freely renders obedience to the will of God. As long as our conscience is under the rule of the law, it lives in incessant fear, and therefore it is never and never able to obey God in joyful willingness unless it is first endowed with such freedom! What is meant by this can be clarified more briefly and clearly by an example. The law commands us to love our God "with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength" (Deut 6:5). In order for this to happen, our soul must first be emptied of all other feelings and thoughts, our heart must be cleansed of all desires, our powers must be gathered and united to this One! But even those who have come particularly far in the way of the Lord still remain very far from this goal. For although they love God from the heart and out of pure inner impulse, the lusts of the flesh still hold a large part of the heart and soul, and these draw them back and hold them fast, so that they cannot take their way to God in haste. They strive to run in sharp tension, but the flesh weakens their forces in part, and in part it makes them subservient to themselves! What should they do now, when they feel that they are doing anything less than fulfilling the law with their performance? They want, they strive, they strive - but nothing with the necessary perfection! If they look at the law, they see that all work they touch or consider is condemned. No one can deceive himself and think that the work is not completely evil because of its imperfection, and therefore that which is good in it is nevertheless pleasing to God. For the law demands perfect love, so it condemns all imperfection - unless its sharpness is alleviated! So one may look at his work, which one would like to be considered good in part - and one will find that it is a transgression of the law precisely because it is imperfect!

III,19,5 There we see how all our works are subject to the curse of the law, if they are measured according to the measure of the law. But how should the unhappy soul then set to work joyfully, when it knows very well that it will receive only curses for it? But on the other hand, when it is freed from this strict discipline, yes, rather from the whole severity of the law, and when it then hears God calling it in fatherly gentleness - then it will answer His call cheerfully and in great joy and follow His guidance! In short, the people who are kept under the yoke of the law, the same servants to whom their masters assign certain works for each day. Such servants, in fact, cannot consider any work to be aligned, nor dare to appear before their masters unless the measure of their work is fully accomplished. Children, on the other hand, who are held more freely and nobly by their fathers, have no hesitation in offering them even works begun or half-finished, in which there is still much to be done, because they trust that their obedience and the willingness of their hearts will find the pleasure of their fathers, even if they have accomplished what they wanted less thoroughly. We must stand in such a way that we have the sure confidence that our accomplishments will be well received by our Father in His great forbearance, however small and beginner-like and imperfect they may be! So he also assures us through the prophet: "I will spare them, as a man spareth his son that serveth him!" (Mal 3:17). "To spare" here obviously means as much as "to exercise forbearance" and "to take humanly into account the existing infirmities"; it is, after all, at the same time also reminiscent of the service (of the Son)! This confidence is not a little necessary for us, because without it all our efforts are in vain. God does not recognize that he has received a service with any of our works, if this work is not truly done by us for his service! But who would be able to do this under those anxieties where he is always in doubt whether God is offended or honored by our work?

III,19,6 This is the reason why the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews attributes all the good works reported to us by the holy fathers to faith and judges them exclusively by faith (Hebr 11:2 ff.). The famous passage in the Epistle to the Romans also deals with this freedom, in which Paul draws the conclusion that sin should no longer rule over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace! (Rom 6,12.14). He first admonishes the believers not to let sin reign in their mortal bodies, nor to "give" their members to "weapons of unrighteousness", but to "give" themselves to God, "as those who are alive from the dead", and their members to "God for weapons of righteousness" (verse 12 and 13). But the believers could object that they still have their flesh in them, which is full of desires, and that sin still dwells in them (verse 15). In contrast, Paul adds the comforting word of freedom from the law. He wants to say: although believers fully feel that sin is not yet extinguished and that righteousness does not yet live in them, there is no reason for them to be frightened and lose heart, as if God would now be continually provoked to anger by the remnants of sin; for they have been freed from the law by grace, so that their works are no longer tested according to its standard! But those who conclude from this that we can now sin, since we are no longer under the law - let them know that this freedom is none of their business, since it has the purpose of encouraging us to do good! (Verse 15 ss.).

III,19,7 Now the third piece of Christian freedom: We are not bound by any holy restraint before God in any of the outward things, which are in themselves "mean things", but are allowed to use them without distinction, sometimes needing them, sometimes also leaving them aside. The knowledge of this (kind of) freedom is also very necessary for us; for where it is lacking, our consciences will never come to rest, and superstition will find no end. We seem silly to many people nowadays when we argue that we are free to eat meat, that we are free from holidays and clothes and other, as our opponents say, "meaningless antics". But the matter has more concern than is commonly believed. For once our conscience has become entangled in these bonds, it enters into a long and hopeless labyrinth, from which it is so easy to find no exit afterwards. If someone has already begun to doubt whether he is allowed to use linen for cloths, shirts, handkerchiefs and tablecloths, then he will no longer be sure whether hemp is allowed, and finally he will be overcome by doubt even in the case of tow! He will namely struggle with the thought whether he could not also dine without tablecloth or exist without snuff cloth! If one has come to the thought, finer food is not allowed, then he will not even enjoy bread and simple food in peace before God in the end; it just comes into his mind, he could preserve his body also with still lesser food. If one already has misgivings about reasonably tasty wine, he will soon not even be able to drink common dross with good peace of conscience, and in the end he will not even dare to touch water that is better and purer than others. In short, he will eventually come to think it a sin to walk over a blade of grass lying across the path - as the saying goes. The argument that starts here is not easy; but it is just a question of whether it is God’s will to need this or that - and God’s will should, after all, precede all our counsels and deeds! So it is inevitable that some will be carried away in despair into an abyss of confusion, while others will despise God, cast away His fear, and make their own way in their error, since they see no paved way before them. He who has entangled himself in such doubts may turn wherever he pleases: he sees everywhere an immediate stumbling block to his conscience!!

III,19,8 "I know", says Paul, "that nothing is mean in itself" - ’mean’ means ’unholy’ - "only to him who reckons it mean, to him it is mean" (Rom 14,14). With these words he subjects all external things to our freedom; only our heart must be assured of such freedom before God! If, on the other hand, some superstitious delusion puts misgivings in our way, then what was pure by nature becomes tainted for us! Therefore Paul continues (later): "Blessed is he who has no conscience about what he accepts. But he who doubts about it, and yet eats, is condemned; for it is not of faith. But whatever does not come from faith is sin" (Rom 14:22f.). If someone in such a confined situation nevertheless believes in everything and thus shows himself to be quite courageous before others - does he not turn away from God to the same extent? Some are at least seized in their innermost being by true fear of God, but even they allow themselves to be forced to do many things against the contradiction of their conscience - and then they are thrown to the ground in terror and fall away! All such people receive none of God’s gifts with thanksgiving, by which alone, according to Paul’s testimony, all these things are sanctified for our use! (1Tim 4,4f.). But I mean such thanksgiving that comes from a heart that recognizes God’s beneficence and goodness in His gifts. For many indeed realize that what they use is God’s gift, they also praise God in His works; but yet they are not convinced that these gifts are given to them, and how then are they to give thanks to God as the Giver? Now we see essentially what this (third kind of) freedom is for: we are to use God’s gifts without compunction, without confusion of heart, to the use for which he has given them to us. In such confidence our soul is at peace with Him, and at the same time it recognizes His bounty toward us. In this connection also belong all ceremonies, which may be freely kept or also omitted: there our conscience must not be obliged by any necessity to keep them, but it must remember that the use of the ceremonies is subject to it by God’s beneficence, according as it serves for edification.

III,19,9 But we must thoroughly observe that Christian liberty is in all its particulars a spiritual thing; its whole power rests in making troubled consciences quiet before God, whether they are restless and anxious about the forgiveness of sins, whether they anxiously wonder whether their imperfect works, stained with the faults of our flesh, are pleasing to God, or whether they agonize over how to use indifferent things. It is, therefore, a wrong understanding of Christian liberty when some make it a cloak for their lusts, to abuse God’s gifts for their pleasure, - or when it is thought to be nothing if not used before men, and when, accordingly, in its application no consideration is shown to the weak brethren! (a) The first way is the most sinned against in our time. For there is almost no one among those whose wealth permits them to spend more, who does not take pleasure in lavish splendor, as shown in the expense of food or in the adornment of the body or in the building of houses, who does not want to stand out among other people by all kinds of splendor and who does not please himself enormously in his splendor! And all this is defended under the pretext of Christian freedom! They say that these are indifferent things; certainly, I admit that - but then they must also be applied indifferently! Wherever, however, these things, which are otherwise lawful, are too ardently coveted, where they are arrogantly insisted upon or lavishly squandered, they are sure to be polluted by such vices, although they are otherwise quite lawful in themselves. An excellent distinction among indifferent things is found in the words of Paul: "To the pure all things are pure; but to the impure and unbelieving nothing is pure, but impure is their mind as well as their conscience!" (Tit 1:15). Why then are the rich condemned, as those who "have their wages there" (Lk 6:24), those who "are full", those who "laugh here" (Lk 6:25), those who "sleep on ivory couches" (Am 6:1-4), those who. "bring one field to another" (Isa 5:8) and "have harps, psalteries, timpani … and wine" at their banquets (Isa 5:12)? Surely ivory, gold and riches are good creatures of God, left to the use of men, even destined by God’s providence. Nor is it anywhere forbidden to laugh or to be satisfied or to combine new possessions with the old, inherited ones or to enjoy the sound of music or to drink wine! This is certainly true; but when man, where the abundance of his possessions helps him to do so, wallows in pleasures, overtakes himself, makes mind and heart drunk with the pleasures of the present life, and is always snatching at new ones - such conduct is very far from the right use of the gifts of God. So they should let go of inordinate greed, immoderate waste, vanity and presumption, and with a pure conscience apply God’s gifts purely! As soon as the heart is trained to such modesty, the rule of the right use of things has already been grasped. Where, on the other hand, this moderation is lacking, even simple and ordinary pleasures already go too far. For it is already right to have said: Under an ordinary skirt and in coarse rags often dwells a heart resplendent with purple, and under lavish linen and purple is often concealed simple humility! Therefore, everyone should live meagerly or moderately or brilliantly in his state - only all must remember that God feeds them to live and not to feast. So everyone should consider it the law of Christian salvation to have "learned" with Paul "wherein he is to be content," to be able to "be low and be high," to be "in all things and in all things skillful both to be full and to hunger, both to have left and to lack!" (Phil 4,11 f.).

III,19,10 (b) It is also a very widespread error to think that Christian liberty can be preserved wholesome and intact only by having also men for its witnesses, and accordingly to make use of this liberty without distinction and without discernment. By such untimely use of freedom, one often causes offence to the weak brethren. Thus, today one can see people who think that their freedom does not last if they have not taken possession of it by eating meat on Fridays. That they eat meat on Fridays, I do not blame; but the false delusion given thereby must be torn out of the heart; one should consider that through our freedom we do not gain something new before men, but before God, and that it has its essence not only in enjoyment, but also in privation! If one knows that before God nothing is at stake whether we eat meat or eggs, whether we wear a red or a black skirt, then that is more than enough! Thus the conscience is already solved, and the benefit of this freedom comes to it! Even if one abstains from eating meat all one’s life, even if one wears only one color (on one’s skirt) all the time - one is not less free because of that! Yes, just because one is free, one also practices such abstinence with a free conscience! On the other hand, it is a ruinous fall if one does not take into account the weakness of the brethren - and we should bear such weakness in such a way that we do nothing thoughtlessly that could cause offence to it. But, one objects, at times it is also necessary to assert our freedom before men! I admit that, too; only we must exercise the greatest caution in moderation, lest we throw away from ourselves the care for the weak which the Lord has laid so much upon our hearts!

III,19,11 So I want to say here also some things about the annoyances. In doing so, we have to consider what kind of distinction we have to observe here, which annoyances we have to beware of and which we can let go. From this we can then determine what place our freedom has among men. I recognize the usual distinction, according to which there is on the one hand a nuisance that one causes someone and on the other hand one that one takes away, because this distinction has the clear testimony of the Scriptures for itself and also expresses not unevenly what the Scriptures reveal. If one does something out of perverse carelessness or wantonness or outrageousness, which is not done in the right order and not in the right place, so that one thereby causes offence to the inexperienced and careless, it is said: one has given offence; for it is one’s own fault that such offence has arisen! In general, in any matter one speaks of a "given" offence, if the blame for the offence lies with the author of the act himself. One speaks of taking offense where an otherwise not wrongful or untimely act is taken as a cause for offense through ill will and a kind of repugnant malice. In this case, there is no offense at all, but such people interpret the matter in an evil way and take offense without cause. Only the weak are offended by the first kind of offense, but the second kind of offense offends grouchy spirits and people with Pharisaic pride! Therefore we want to call the first one the "vexation of the weak", the second one the "vexation of the Pharisees". According to this, we can put the exercise of our freedom under a measure in such a way that we should take into account the ignorance of our weak brothers, but not the hardness of the Pharisees under any circumstances! What we have to admit to weakness, Paul has shown more than enough in many places. He says: "Receive the weak in faith" (Rom 14,1). Likewise: "Therefore let us no longer judge one another, but rather let us judge, so that no one may be an offense or a nuisance to his brother" (Rom 14:13). (Rom 14:13). Many other statements correspond to this, which it is better to read in this chapter than to reproduce them here. The summary offers us the word: "But we who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to take pleasure in ourselves. Let every one of us therefore set himself to please his neighbor for good, for correction" (Rom 15:1 f.). In another place it says: "But see to it that this freedom of yours does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1Cor 8:9). Or: "Eat everything that is on sale in the meat market, and do not search, so that you may spare your conscience…. But I say of the conscience not of thyself, but of another…. Pray no offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the church of God." (1Cor 10:25,29,32). Or elsewhere: "You, dear brothers, are called to freedom. But see to it that through liberty ye give no place to the flesh; but through love serve one another." (Gal 5:13). It is really like this: Our freedom is not given to us (for use) against our neighbor, who is weak, and whom love has given us to serve in all things, but rather so that we may have peace in our hearts with God and therefore also live peaceably among men! But how highly we are to esteem the "vexation of the Pharisees" we learn from the words of the Lord: "Let them go! They are blind guides for the blind!" (Mt 15,14). The disciples had pointed out to Him that the Pharisees had taken offense at His word (Mt 15,12). He answers that they should not be taken into consideration and that they should not care if they took offense!

III,19,12 But the matter still remains in uncertainty, if we do not know for sure whom we are to consider weak and whom we are to consider a Pharisee. For this distinction must not be abolished, otherwise I do not know what use we are to make of our freedom in the midst of all these impulses; otherwise it could never go off without the greatest danger! However, it seems to me that Paul, in his instruction and his own example, has explained with the greatest clarity to what extent we must be moderate in our freedom and to what extent we should use it even when we are under pressure. He circumcised Timothy when he accepted him as a companion (Acts 16:3). In contrast, he did not allow himself to circumcise Titus! (Gal 2,3). These are two completely different ways of behaving - and yet there was no change in his intention or his attitude! When he circumcised Timothy, he proceeded according to his word: "Though I am free from all men, yet have I made myself servant to all men, that I might gain them many. To the Jews I have become like a Jew, that I may win the Jews. To those who are under the law I became as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law!" (1Cor 9:19f.). "I have become all things to all men, that I might save some in all places!" (1Cor 9:22). There we have the right moderation in freedom before us: it happens when one can abstain from it in an indifferent matter and if this bears any fruit! What Paul, on the other hand, had in mind when he so steadfastly refused to circumcise Titus, he himself testifies: "But neither was Titus compelled to be circumcised, who was with me, though he was a Greek. For when certain false brethren had pressed in with us, and crept in beside to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might take us captive, we departed from them not one hour to be subject unto them, that the truth of the gospel might stand with you." (Gal 2:3-5). There we have before us a case in which it was necessary to assert freedom: this is when freedom is endangered by unreasonable demands of false apostles in the consciences. In any case, however, we are to direct our endeavors toward love and strive to edify our neighbor. Thus Paul says in another place: "I have it all power, but it does not pious all. I have it all power, but it does not improve everything. Let no man seek his own, but let every man seek his own!" (1Cor 10:23f.). By far the clearest rule is: we should make use of our freedom where it serves the edification of our neighbor; but if it does not serve our neighbor, we should do without it! There are also people who seem to imitate Paul’s cautious prudence and also abstain from freedom - but they do this in no way because they want to make their freedom serve love. Rather, they are concerned about their peace of mind and therefore want any mention of freedom to be buried. And it benefits our neighbor just as much if we use our freedom for his benefit and edification from time to time, as if we keep it in moderation for his benefit in the given place! A pious man should remember that he has been given free authority in outward things, so that he may be better prepared for all the service of love!

III,19,13 All that I have just explained about the avoidance of offense, however, is to refer only to the "middle things" and to indifferent things (which are left to us). For what we have to do necessarily, we must not omit for fear of any offence! Just as our freedom must be subordinated to love, so love must be subordinated to the purity of faith. Certainly, love should be taken into consideration, but "only as far as the altar"; that is, we should not offend God for the love of our neighbor! Certainly, the impetuosity with which some people always want to cause turmoil in everything they do and to lay everything in ruins instead of gradually abolishing it is not to be praised. But neither must we listen to those who show themselves to be leaders in a thousand kinds of ungodliness, and pretend that they undertake all this only in order not to cause offence to their neighbor! As if they did not thereby build up the conscience of their neighbor to evil, especially when they are always stuck in the same filth, without any hope of ever getting out of it again! There are also "gentle" people who, when it comes to instructing their neighbor with doctrine or with their own example of life, immediately say that they should be given milk to drink - while they actually teach them the worst and most pernicious opinions! Certainly, Paul reminds us that he gave the Corinthians milk to drink (1Cor 3:2). But if the papal mass had existed among them at that time - would he have served the mass to "give them milk to drink"? Certainly not: for milk is not poison! It is a lie, then, when one claims to nourish men and yet actually murders them cruelly under the appearance of flattery! But let us admit, such consideration would be temporarily to approve - but how long one wants to still give such "milk" to his children? For if they never grow up, so that they can not tolerate even the tenderest food, then they have certainly never been raised with (real) milk! However, I do not want to enter into a sharper battle with the advocates of such opinions, and two reasons prevent me from doing so: First, their silliness is hardly worth a refutation; for they are anyway with all reasonable people rightly in disrepute; then, however, I have presented these things in special writings enough, and I do not want to do anything twice. The reader must only hold this: May Satan, together with the world, want to lead us astray from God’s commandments with however many annoyances or prevent us from following what God has prescribed for us, we are nevertheless to continue on our way with alacrity; may we continue to be threatened with however much danger, we are not at liberty to deviate even a finger’s breadth from the command of this God, and we are not permitted under any pretext to undertake anything that He does not permit!!

III,19,14 If the believing conscience is endowed with that privilege of liberty which we have described above, it has thereby obtained this through Christ’s beneficence, that in such matters as God’s will requires it to be free, it shall not be entangled in the bonds of any obligation. We state, then, that it is taken from the power of all men. For it would be unworthy of Christ to be deprived of his grace bestowed by such liberality, or of the conscience itself of the fruit which grows out of it. Nor is this freedom to be considered a trifling matter; let us see how much it cost Christ: for he did not purchase it with gold or silver, but with his own blood! (1Pet 1:18f.). Paul even declares without hesitation that if we give our soul into the bondage of men, then Christ’s death is rendered ineffective: (Gal 5,1 ss.). In several chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians he treats only this one thing: Christ is obscured from us, yes rather extinguished, if our conscience does not exist in His freedom; but it has certainly fallen out of this freedom if it can be entangled in the fetters of laws and statutes according to human discretion! (Gal 5,1.4). But because this is a matter absolutely worth recognizing, a longer and clearer unfolding is necessary. For as soon as a word is spoken of the abolition of the statutes of men, rebels as well as other blasphemers make a tremendous noise, as if now at the same time all obedience among men would be abolished and overthrown.

III,19,15 So that no one will be offended by this stone, we must first note that there are two kinds of rule among men. One is spiritual (spirituale): it instructs the conscience to piety and the worship of God. The other is civil (politicum): it educates us to the duties of humanity and civil life, which are to be upheld among men. Usually we speak here of "spiritual" and "temporal" jurisdiction. These names are not inappropriate; they have the following meaning: The first kind of government concerns the life of the soul; the second, on the other hand, has to do with what belongs to the present life; of course, it does not only deal with food and clothing, but it also prescribes laws according to which man among men should arrange his life in a holy, honorable and orderly way. The latter regiment has its seat deep in the heart, the latter, on the other hand, regulates only external morals. The one we can call the "spiritual kingdom", the other the "civil" kingdom. But these two, as we have now divided them, we must always consider separately; when we look at one, we must call our heart away from the consideration of the other and turn it away! There are, so to speak, two worlds in man, in which also different kings and different laws can reign. The consequence of this distinction is that we wrongly apply what the gospel teaches about spiritual freedom to the civil order, as if, for instance, Christians were less subject to human laws according to the outward regiment because their conscience had become free before God, - as if they were therefore deprived of all servitude according to the flesh because they are free according to the spirit! But even in the case of such statutes, which seem to belong to the spiritual realm, error can still occur, and therefore a distinction must be made among these statutes between those which must be considered lawful, i.e. in accordance with the word of God, and those which must have no place among the pious. To speak about the civil regiment will be the place elsewhere. I will also refrain from speaking of the ecclesiastical laws here, because a more detailed treatment belongs to the fourth book (of this work), namely to the description of church power. However, I want to conclude the present discussion with the following consideration. The question, which in itself, as I have said, is not exactly obscure and confused, causes great difficulty to many people, because they do not distinguish sharply enough between the " external " authority of law - as it is called - and that of conscience. Moreover, the embarrassment is increased by the fact that, according to Paul’s command, we should obey the authorities not only for fear of punishment, but also "for the sake of conscience"! (Rom 13:1, 5). From this it follows (so it is thought) that our conscience is also bound to the civil laws. If it were so, all that we have said little above and that we will still carry out of the spiritual regiment would collapse! In order to untie this knot, it is first worth the effort to determine what the conscience actually is. The description of this concept we take from the (linguistic) root of the word. People attain knowledge of things through mind and understanding; one says: they know this and that, and from this the word science is derived. But now they also have a sense of divine judgment, which is always with them like a witness, does not let them hide their sin, but drags them as guilty before God’s judgment seat. This feeling is called conscience (conscientia = co-knowledge!). It is something that stands in the middle between God and man, because it does not allow man to suppress within himself what he knows, but it presses him until he confesses his guilt. - This is what Paul means by his teaching that the conscience bears witness at the same time as man, namely when thoughts accuse or excuse each other before God’s court (Rom 2,15f.). The mere knowledge could remain closed (and therefore ineffective, hidden) in man, so to speak. So this feeling, which puts man before God’s judgment, is, as it were, a guardian attached to him, who observes and sees through all his secrets, so that nothing remains buried in darkness! Hence the old saying: Conscience is like a thousand witnesses! For the same reason, Peter equates the testimony of a good conscience before God with the tranquility of our hearts when we fearlessly stand before God in the assurance of Christ’s grace (1Pet 3:21). Also, when the author of Hebrews says that people "no longer have a conscience of sins" (Hebr 10:2), he means that they are freed and absolved so that sin no longer oppresses them.

III,19,16 So as our works relate to men, so conscience relates to God. A good conscience, then, is nothing other than the inner purity of the heart. In this sense Paul writes: "The main sum of the law is love … of good conscience and of unfeigned faith" (1Tim 1:5). In the same chapter he shows a little later how much conscience is different from mere knowledge: he speaks (1Tim 1:19) of some who "were shipwrecked in the faith" and declares that they had "pushed away" conscience. With these words he makes it clear that conscience is a living urge to serve God and a pure striving for a pious and holy life. Sometimes the conscience is also referred to people; for example, when Paul testifies in Luke that he took pains "to have an inviolate conscience in all things, both toward God and toward men" (Acts 24:16). But this is said because the fruits of the good conscience also flow and penetrate to the people. In the proper sense, however, conscience looks to God alone, as I said before. So we say also, a law "binds" the conscience, if it obliges the person straight, without the view on people and without consideration for them! For example: God has not only commanded us to keep our hearts chaste and pure from all lust, but He has also forbidden all shameful words and all outward opulence. To keep this commandment my conscience is obliged, even if not a single person would live in the world. Therefore, he who is unchaste in his conduct sins not only in that he sets a bad example to the brethren, but he also has a guilty conscience before God. But it is different with what is in itself a "middle thing". We have to abstain from it, if an offence arises from it - but with a free conscience! In this sense Paul speaks of the flesh that was consecrated to idols; he says: "But if anyone gives you cause for concern, do not touch the flesh, and that for the sake of conscience. But I say of the conscience not of thyself, but of another" (1Cor 10:28 f.; verse 26 summarily). The believer would therefore sin if he ate such meat in spite of previous warning. But even if, according to God’s command, he must practice such abstinence out of consideration for his brother, he does not therefore cease to preserve the freedom of his conscience. We see, then, how such a law binds the outward work, yet leaves the conscience free.

Twentieth chapter


Prayer, which is the most noble exercise of faith and through which we take hold of God’s gifts every day.

III,20,1 From the previous discussion we see quite clearly how poor and empty man is of all goods; he lacks virtually everything that could provide him with salvation! So when he asks for help to make up for his lack, he must go out of himself and get it from somewhere else. Then it will be clear to us afterwards that the Lord reveals Himself to us of His own free will and out of pure gentleness in His Christ, in whom He offers us full bliss for our misery, riches for our lack, and in whom He opens all heavenly treasuries to us. So let our faith look entirely to God’s beloved Son, let all our expectation hang on him, let all our hope be resolved and rest in him. Now this is a secret, hidden wisdom, which cannot be grasped by conclusions, but which is known only to those to whom God has opened their eyes, so that they "see the light in his light"! (Ps 36,10). But once we have been instructed by faith to the realization that everything we need and what we lack in ourselves lies in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ - in whom, according to the Father’s will, dwells all the fullness of His bounty, so that we may draw from it all as from a richly gushing spring! All that remains is for us to seek from him what we know to be decided in him, and to ask him for it in our prayers. If we merely have the knowledge that God is the Lord and giver of all good things, who himself invites us to ask him, - and if we then do not approach him and do not ask him, such knowledge is of no use to us, any more than if someone is shown a treasure and then buries it in the earth and leaves it buried and unattended! The apostle also wants to show us that faith cannot be without God’s invocation; he therefore establishes the order: As faith grows out of the gospel, so again through it our hearts are prepared to call upon God’s name (Rom 10:14). However, he has already elaborated on the same thing a little earlier: he speaks there of the "spirit of filial piety" that seals the testimony of the gospel in our hearts (Rom 8:26), and then says that this spirit also prepares our spirits, so that he now dares to present his prayer requests to God, awakening in us an "inexpressible groaning" (Rom 8:26) and crying out with confidence, "Abba, dear Father!" (Rom 8:15). It is precisely this latter connection that we must now discuss in more detail, because it has only been mentioned in passing and has only been touched upon lightly, as it were.

III,20,2 The benefit of prayer now gives us this, that we penetrate to the riches which are stored up for us with the heavenly Father. Prayer, then, is in a sense an intercourse of man with God: he enters the sanctuary of heaven and reminds God personally of His promises! And in doing so, where necessity demands it, he may experience that what he has believed in the Word on its merely indicative promise is not without effect! That is why we also see how nothing is put before us that we should expect from God without at the same time also receiving the instruction to desire it in prayer. So it is really true: prayer digs up the treasures which our faith has found indicated in the Gospel of the Lord and has seen there! But how necessary the practice of prayer is and in how many ways it benefits us cannot be sufficiently expressed in words. It is truly not without reason that the heavenly Father testifies to us that the only means of our salvation consists in the invocation of his name; for in doing so we also invoke at the same time the presence of his providence, in which he is always on the watch to care for us in all things, the presence of his power, by which he sustains us who are weak and almost weary, and the presence of his goodness, by which he receives into his grace us who are miserably oppressed under the burden of our sins. In short, when we call upon his name, we call upon God entirely, that he may show himself present to us! From this a glorious calm and tranquility comes to our conscience; for when we have presented to the Lord the distress that oppressed us, we find in it complete assurance that now He who, according to our firm conviction, wants the best for us and can create the best for us, knows all our distresses!

III,20,3 But someone might object: Doesn’t God know what is troubling us and what is useful to us, even without an admonisher? In this way it could seem almost superfluous to trouble Him with our requests - just as if He did not want to notice anything or was even asleep until our voice woke Him up! But whoever draws such conclusions does not take into account the purpose for which the Lord instructed His own to pray. He did not order it so much for his own sake as for ours! It is true that he wants, as is right, to be justified, in that men recognize everything they ask of him and which, according to their experience, serves their benefit, as really coming from him and testify to it in their prayers. But also the fruit of this sacrifice, with which he is worshipped, benefits us in turn! The more confidently, therefore, the holy fathers praised God’s benefits to themselves and others, the more vigorously they were also impelled to supplication! The example of Elijah may be enough for us: he had certainty about God’s counsel, had already promised rain to Ahab, and not without knowing what he was doing; and yet he begged for this rain on his knees and also sent his servant seven times to keep a lookout! (1Ki 18:41 ss.). This was not because he withheld faith from the word of God that had been given to him, but because he knew that it was his office to bring his desires before God, so that faith would not be drowsy or idle! Certainly God stands on guard and watch for us, even when we are insensible to our misery and short-sighted; even He comes to our aid at times without our having asked Him for it; but it is nevertheless much for us that He be ceaselessly invoked by us! We thus become accustomed to take refuge in him as the holy anchor in all distress - and above this our hearts shall be filled with an earnest, ardent desire to seek him at all times, to love him, and to serve him! Further, we should also learn to place all our desires before him, yes, to pour out our whole heart before him - and this should lead to the fact that no desire, no desire at all, should arise in our heart, where we would be afraid to make him a witness. Then we should also come to accept his benefits with true, heartfelt gratitude and thanksgiving; our very asking reminds us that all these gifts come to us from his hand! When we have obtained what we prayed for, and the certainty lives in us that he has granted our wishes, then we shall be driven all the more ardently to contemplate his goodness and at the same time to accept it with greater joy, which, as we now know, we have done by our prayers! And finally we realize that he does not only promise that he will always be with us, and that he does not only open the way for us to call upon him in times of need, but that he has always stretched out his hand to help his own, that he does not fool them with words, but protects them with effective help! And under such knowledge His providence is to be proved to our heart according to the measure of its weakness precisely by experience and trial. For these reasons the Father, in His great mercy, though He never actually sleeps nor slumbers, yet for the most part puts Himself to sleep and slumbers, in order that we, who are otherwise lukewarm and slothful, may in such a way exercise ourselves, to our great benefit, in seeking Him, in asking Him, in supplicating Him! It is too foolish, therefore, when those people, in order to keep men’s hearts from praying, blaspheme that it is in vain to tire God’s Providence, which is always on the watch for all things, with our disturbing cries! Surely it is not in vain when the Lord himself testifies that he is "near to all who call on his name with sincerity"! (Ps 145,18; not Luther text). Nor does it make sense for others to say that it is superfluous to ask for things that the Lord is willing to grant of his own free will. He wants us to recognize how that which he grants us out of his free goodness is granted to us in response to our requests! This is testified by a memorable Ps word, which is accompanied by many similar ones: "The eyes of the Lord are attentive to the righteous, and His ears to their cry" (Ps 34:16). Here, God’s providence is praised, as it freely seeks to provide for the salvation of the pious, but at the same time, the exercise of faith is not left aside, which expels all laxity from the heart of man. So God’s eyes are watching to help the need of us who are blind; but on the other hand, he also wants to hear our sighs, in order to prove his love for us all the better! So both are true: "The guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers" (Ps 121,4) - and yet he also slumbers, as if he had forgotten us, when he sees us casually and dumbly!

III,20,4 The first rule to make our prayer right and good should now be this: We are to be of the mind and heart that befits people who set out to have a conversation with God! As far as our mind is concerned, we will fulfill this rule when it is free from all carnal worries and thoughts that could turn it away or lead it away from the straight and pure gaze on God, and not only directs itself with all its tension to prayer, but even rises above itself as far as possible and carries itself out. I do not mean, of course, that our mind should be so liberated that it is no longer troubled and attacked by any anxiety; on the contrary, the hot fervor of prayer must be kindled in us by much affliction! We see how God’s holy servants testify to infinite anguish, not to mention anxiety; they say that they raise their voice to God from the depths of the abyss and from the very jaws of death! No, I mean this: we are to lay aside all the strange worries that intrude from without, that tug our already unsteady minds to and fro, drag us down from heaven and press us to the earth. When I said that our mind must rise above itself, I mean by this: it should not carry before God’s face any of the things that our blind, foolish reason is wont to devise, nor should it allow itself to be confined within the limits of its own vanity, but should soar to the purity that is worthy of God.

III,20,5 We are dealing here with two requirements, both of which are extremely noteworthy. (First:) He who sets himself to pray should also direct all his thoughts and aspirations to it and not - as usually happens - let himself be pulled to and fro by fluttering thoughts. For nothing is more repugnant to reverence for God than such frivolity, which only testifies to a willfulness that is too easily carried away and detached from all fear. Here we must exert ourselves all the more vigorously, the more difficult it is according to our experience. For no one is so anxious to pray that he does not notice many cross-cutting thoughts that interrupt the course of prayer or stop it with some kind of deflection or distraction. Then we must be helped by the thought how unworthy it is to abuse God’s great kindness, with which he admits us to intimate conversation, by mixing up the holy and the unholy; but this happens when reverence for him does not keep our senses wholly bound to him, but we pretend to talk with an ordinary man, and then in our praying forget him and flutter about here and there! We are to know, then, that only he who is seized by God’s majesty sets himself rightly and properly to pray, and then puts away from himself all earthly cares and impulses and draws near to it! This is the meaning of the pious custom of raising one’s hands in prayer: man should remember that he is far from God if he does not raise his senses on high! Thus it says in the 25th Psalm: "To you I have lifted up my soul" (Ps 25,1; not Luther text, but almost literally basic text). Often the scripture also uses the phrase: "to lift up prayer" (e.g. Isa 37,4): People who want to be heard by God should not get stuck in their dirt! To sum up, the more generous God is with us, by kindly inviting us to lay down in His bosom the burden of all our cares, the less excusable we are if His glorious, incomparable beneficence does not prevail over everything else and draw us to Himself, so that we earnestly direct all our thoughts and efforts to prayer! But this cannot happen unless our mind bravely fights against all obstacles and rises above them. Secondly, we have then also established that we should ask only as much as God allows us. He does command us to pour out our hearts before Him (Ps 62:9). But with this he does not let our foolish, evil impulses shoot the reins without distinction! When he promises that he will act according to the will of the pious, then his forbearance does not go so far as to submit to our discretion! In both pieces, however, there is always a grave error. Not only do very many people dare to address God with their silliness without shyness and without reverence, and unabashedly bring before His judgment seat everything that has somehow occurred to them in a dream - no, they are even possessed by such foolishness and insensitivity that they impose on God without shyness their filthiest desires, which they would be very ashamed to make known to people! This presumption has even been ridiculed and detested by some impious people; nevertheless, this vice has always reigned. Thus it has come about that honor-hungry people have taken Jupiter as their patron, miserly people have taken Mercury as their patron, knowledge-thirsty people have taken Apollo and Minerva as their patron, bellicose people have taken Mars as their patron, and boorish people have taken Venus as their patron! In the same way nowadays people - as I have already touched upon - allow their illicit desires more frolicsome freedom in prayer than if they told each other funny stories as equals among equals! But God does not tolerate such mockery with His kindness, but He keeps His right, and therefore He subjects our desires to His command and keeps them firmly in check. Therefore we should remember the word of John: "And this is the joy we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1Jn 5:14). Now our faculty is far from being capable of such perfection, and therefore we must seek a remedy that will come to our aid. As we (when praying) should direct the whole sharpness of our mind to God, so the stirring of the heart must take the same direction. Both, however, fall far behind, yes, more correctly: they become tired and dull or even driven in the opposite direction. In order to help this weakness of ours, God gives us the Holy Spirit as a teacher in our petitions: He tells us what is right, and He brings our emotions into the right measure. Because we "do not know how to pray as we ought," he comes to our aid and intercedes for us "with inexpressible groaning" (Rom 8:26). This does not mean that he really prayed or sighed, but he awakens in us confidence, desires and sighs that our natural powers would never be able to produce. It is not without reason that Paul calls the sighs which believers utter under the guidance of the Spirit "inexpressible": he who is really practiced in prayer knows very well how he is kept so entangled in secret fears that he can hardly find out what he is supposed to say properly; indeed, even if he tries to stammer, he soon gets stuck in confusion. From this it follows that right praying is a special gift. This is not said in order that we might give way to our own laxity, leave the task of praying entirely to the Spirit of God, and now fall dully and lazily into that carelessness to which we are more than prone anyway! One can indeed hear ungodly voices saying that we should wait impassively until the Spirit would precede our senses, which would be busy with other things! No, the purpose of all these remarks is rather that we deeply mourn our laziness and slothfulness and thus desire such assistance of the Spirit. When Paul commands us to "pray in the Spirit" (1Cor 14:15), he does not cease to exhort us to watchfulness; thus he indicates that the impulse of the Spirit does indeed exercise its power in driving us to pray, but yet in such a way that it in no way hinders or inhibits our effort thereby! For it is in this very passage that God wants to test with what power faith drives our hearts!

III,20,6 Now the second rule: In our prayer we should always truly feel our lack, seriously consider that we lack everything we ask for, and accordingly connect an earnest, even burning longing to obtain it with our prayer. Many people chatter their prayers in a businesslike manner according to fixed formulas, as if they were performing a fixed service for God. They confess that this is a necessary remedy for their needs, because it would bring ruin to miss the help of God for which they prayed. But it is evident that they do this merely for the sake of habit, for their hearts are cold and do not consider what they ask. They are driven to pray by a general, confused sense of their distress, but they do not thereby enter into such an anxiety as is felt in a matter of immediate urgency, so that they would really seek relief from their misery! What should we consider more ugly and more repugnant to God than the hypocrisy of one who desires forgiveness of sins, but in the meantime thinks that he is not a sinner at all, or at least does not consider that he is a sinner! With such hypocrisy one openly mocks God! But the human race, as I have already said, is filled with such baseness that one often asks for things from God just to relieve oneself of an obligation, but in the meantime is of the certain opinion that they would come from somewhere else without his benevolence, or that one already has them in one’s possession. Then there are others whose offense seems easier, but is also quite intolerable: they have learned only the one principle that one must make God favorable with prayers, and therefore they murmur their prayers without thought. The pious, on the other hand, should be most careful not to come before God’s face and desire anything that they do not ardently long for in the earnest fervor of their hearts and at the same time strive to obtain from Him. It might seem at first glance, of course, that we do not care for our own need when we pray for God’s glory alone; nevertheless, even there our petition must be made with no less ardent and insistent desire. For example, when we pray, "Let Thy name be sanctified," we must, if I may so speak, hunger and thirst fervently for such sanctification.

III,20,7 If someone here objects that we are not always driven to pray by the same need, I admit that; it is also useful that James already teaches us such a distinction: "If anyone among you suffers, let him pray; if anyone is of good cheer, let him sing psalms!" (Jas. 5:13). Thus, common sense already tells us that we who are even too casual are occasionally driven by God to pray more earnestly, depending on the need. David calls this time the "right time" (Ps 32:6); for the harder hardship, adversity, terror and all kinds of other temptations press us - as he explains in many other passages - the more freely the access to God is open to us - it is just as if he drew us to himself through such adversities! Meanwhile, it is no less true when Paul tells us to pray "always" (Eph 6:18). For even if, in the opinion of our heart, everything goes well, even if we are surrounded by only cause for joy, there is never a moment when our poverty does not remind us to pray. Even if one has an abundance of wine and wheat, he cannot enjoy even a morsel of bread without God’s constant grace, and so storehouses and barns are probably not in his way to ask for the "daily bread"! If we then consider how many dangers threaten us at any moment, fear alone will teach us that we should not waste time in praying. But this can be seen even more clearly in spiritual things. When should all our sins, of which we are aware, allow us to become secure and to refrain from humbly asking for redemption of guilt and punishment? When should the temptations grant us a truce, so that we do not have to hurry to get help? Moreover, the zeal for God’s kingdom and glory should seize us not at intervals, but continually, so that we always have the same opportunity to pray! It is not in vain, then, that we are so often commanded to pray "without ceasing." I am not yet speaking of perseverance in prayer; that must be spoken of later. But when Scripture exhorts us to pray without ceasing, it reproves our laxity: we do not feel how necessary this care and diligence is for us! This rule keeps hypocrisy and the craftiness with which one lies to God away from prayer; indeed, it drives them far away. God promises to be near to all who call upon Him in sincerity, He announces that all who seek Him with all their heart will find Him (Ps 145:18; Jer 29:13f.); but he who pleases himself in his filth has no such desire. Right prayer therefore requires repentance. Hence it is that Scripture repeatedly declares that God does not hear wrongdoers, that their prayers as well as their sacrifices are repugnant to Him; indeed, it is reasonable that those who close their hearts should find God’s ears closed, and that those who provoke His wrath by their harshness should find Him unbending. In this sense he threatens in Isaiah: "Though ye pray much, yet will I not hear you; for your hands are full of blood!" (Isa 1:15). Likewise in Jeremiah: "I called - and they refused to hear; and they will call me again; but I will not hear them!" (Jer 11:7f.11; summarily). For in his eyes it is the worst shameful deed when the wicked claim his covenant for themselves, who nevertheless defile his holy name with their whole life. That is why the Lord complains in Isaiah that the people come near to Him with their lips, but their heart is far from Him (Isa 29:13). He does not limit this to prayer alone, but declares that hypocrisy is repugnant to him in everything that may serve his worship. The words of James belong to this: "You ask, and do not receive, because you ask evil, that is, to consume it with your lusts" (Jam 4,3). It is true, however - and we shall soon see this again - that the prayers which the pious pour out before the Lord are not based on their worthiness; but nevertheless John’s admonition is not superfluous: "What we ask, we will take of him; for we keep his commandments …" (1Jn 3:22). An evil conscience just closes the gate on us! It follows that only those who serve God in sincerity pray correctly and are heard. Therefore, he who sets himself to pray should be displeased in all his evil works and appear as a beggar in form and deportment. But this cannot happen without repentance.

III,20,8 To this is added the third rule: When a man stands before God to pray, he should refrain from any thought of his own glory, should give up any delusion of his own worthiness, in short, let go of all confidence in himself and in such rejection of himself give all glory to God alone. Otherwise, if we were to attribute anything to ourselves, however small, our vain pomposity would bring us to shame before His face. In the servants of God we have many examples of this subjection, which brings all majesty to the ground. Indeed, it is precisely the holiest of them who are most prostrate when they come before the face of the Lord. Thus Daniel, whom the Lord himself had praised with such high praise, prayed, "We lie before thee with our prayer, not upon our righteousness, but upon thy great mercy. Oh, Lord, hear; oh, Lord, be merciful; oh, Lord, take heed and do what we ask … for your own sake; for your name has been called upon this city and upon your holy place!" (Dan 9:18 f.; end not Luther text). There he does not mingle with a hidden turn like one of the people among the crowd, as one is wont to do; no, he confesses himself completely guilty and humbly takes refuge in the sanctuary of forgiveness, as he expressly announces: "When I thus confessed my sin and the sin of my people…" (Dan 9:20). (Dan 9:20). David also teaches us such humility by his own example; he says: "Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for before you no living man is righteous!" (Ps 143:2). In the same way Isaiah prays: "Behold, you were angry with us when we sinned (…). In your ways the world was founded, and therefore we will be saved. But now we are all full of uncleanness, and all our righteousness is as a filthy garment. We are all withered like the leaves, and our sins carry us away like the wind. No one calls on your name, or sets out to cleave to you; for you hide your face from us, and cause us to languish in our sins. But now, Lord, you are our Father; we are clay, you are our potter, and we are all the work of your hands. Lord, be not angry … and think not eternally of sin. Behold this, that we are all thy people!" (Isa 64,4-8; not throughout Luther text). There one sees how these people do not rely on any confidence, except one: they consider that they belong to God and therefore do not doubt that he will take care of them. Jeremiah speaks no differently: "If our iniquities testify against us, do it for your name’s sake!" (Jer 14:7; not Luther text). Very true and at the same time very holy is also a word written by an unknown author - after all, he may be whoever he likes - and attributed to the prophet Baruch: "A soul that is sorrowful and desolate over the greatness of its wickedness, that is bowed down and weak, a soul that hungers and an eye that grows weary - these give glory to you, Lord. It is not because of the righteousness of our fathers that we pour out our prayers before you and desire mercy before your face, O Lord our God, but because you are merciful, therefore have mercy on us; for we have sinned against you!" (Bar. 2,18-20; not Luther text).

III,20,9 In short, the entrance and at the same time the preparation for right prayer is asking for forgiveness with humble and sincere confession of our guilt. For it is not to be expected that someone - even if he were the holiest! - be granted anything by God before he is reconciled to Him by grace; nor can it be that God would be gracious to others than those to whom He grants pardon. It is not surprising, therefore, if believers use this key to open the door to prayer. We learn this from quite a few passages in the Psalms. Thus David speaks in a place where he (incidentally) asks for something else: "Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; but remember me according to your mercy for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!" (Ps 25:7). Or likewise, "Behold my wailing and my affliction, and forgive me all my sins!" (Ps 25:18). There we also see that it is not enough that we call ourselves to account day after day for the new sins, if at the same time we do not remember the sins that might already seem to have fallen into oblivion. Thus, the same prophet confesses elsewhere a grave iniquity, but on this occasion he reaches back to the womb where he had already contracted defilement (Ps 51:7). He does not do this in order to reduce his guilt by referring to the corruption of nature, but he wants to pile up the sins of his whole life, and the harder he condemns himself, the more he wants to find hearing from God! Admittedly, the saints do not always ask for the forgiveness of sins in explicit words; but if we go through their prayers thoroughly, as they are handed down to us in Scripture, then what I mean will easily come to us: they took the courage to pray solely from God’s mercy, and therefore always began by reconciling it. For when a man consults his conscience, he does not come from afar to the venture of confidently laying down his sorrows with God; nay, he will even tremble to approach God, if he does not rely on his mercy and forgiveness. There is, of course, another special confession of guilt, in which they ask for relief from punishment, but at the same time pray that their sins may be forgiven; for it would be absurd if they wanted the effect to be remedied while the cause remained. We must be careful not to do as foolish sick people do, who worry only about the treatment of the external symptoms of the disease, but neglect the root of the disease. No, we must first make an effort that God may be gracious to us, and only then that he may prove his favor to us also by outward signs; for he himself wants to keep to this order; it would also be of little use to us if we were to feel his beneficence without our conscience having the sensation that he is reconciled to us, and without it giving us the full and complete assurance that we may love him. We are reminded of this also by an answer that Christ gave; he had decided to heal the gout-ridden man - and then he said to him, "Your sins are forgiven you!" (Mt 9,2). With this he directs hearts to what is to be desired above all things, namely: that God may accept us in grace and then also give us the fruit of reconciliation in the help he gives us. Besides this particular confession of a present debt, in which the faithful implore forgiveness in order to obtain remission of any debt or punishment - we should never leave aside, by the way, that general entrance of prayer which gives friendly reception to our petitions. For our petitions will never be heard before God if they are not based on the mercy shown to us out of pure grace. John’s words can be related to this: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (John 1:9). Therefore, even under the Law, prayers had to be sanctified with atoning bloodshed in order to be pleasing (before God) (cf. Gen 12:8; 26:25; 33:20). This was to make the people aware that they were unworthy of the privilege of such honor until, cleansed of their vices, they had gained the confidence to ask from God’s mercy alone!

III,20,10 At times, of course, believers seem to appeal to the testimony of their own righteousness in order to be heard by God. Thus David says: "Preserve my soul; for I am righteous" (Ps 86,2; not Luther text). Or Hezekiah prays, "Lord, remember that I have walked uprightly before you and have done what is pleasing to you!" (2Ki 20:3; not quite Luther text). With such phrases they do not want anything else than to testify themselves as God’s servants and children for the sake of rebirth, to whom he himself promised that he would be merciful. He teaches, as we have already heard, through the mouth of his prophet: "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears on their cry" (Ps 34:16). And he lets the apostle speak: "What we ask, we will take from him; for we keep his commandments" (1 John 3:22). In these sayings he does not tell us that prayer should have value for the sake of the merit of works, but he wants to strengthen in this way the confidence of those who are sincerely aware of an unfeigned purity and innocence - and this is how all believers should be! It is spoken out of God’s truth when in John the blind man, who has received his sight, says: "But we know that God does not hear sinners" (John 9:31). Of course, we must adopt the language of Scripture and understand by "sinners" those who sleep and rest in their sins without any desire for righteousness; no heart will ever reach the loud invocation of God that does not at the same time long for a God-fearing life. Such promises then correspond to the affirmations of the saints, who in this way recall their purity and innocence, in order to learn that in them is revealed what all servants of God should expect! Furthermore, we find that they mostly used such prayers when they compared themselves before the Lord with their enemies, from whose unrighteousness they desired to be saved by the Lord’s hand. In such a comparison, it is not surprising if they brought forward their righteousness and the simplicity of their hearts in order to persuade the Lord to help them all the more by appealing to the equity of their cause. We do not want to take this good away from the pious heart, that it may enjoy its good conscience before the Lord, in order to strengthen itself with the promises with which the Lord comforts and strengthens his true servants. Rather, we want the confidence of being answered to be based solely on God’s goodness, and that the person thereby rejects any thought of his own merit.

III,20,11 Now, finally, the fourth rule: We should certainly be thrown to the ground and humbled in true humility in this way, but nevertheless let ourselves be encouraged to pray by the sure hope of hearing. It seems to be a contradiction to combine the feeling of God’s just retribution with a certain confidence in His grace. But these two things are perfectly compatible, provided that God’s goodness raises up those who are crushed under their own sins. I have already explained above how repentance and faith are covenant companions, intertwined by an inseparable bond; and this, although repentance terrifies us, but faith fills us with joy; accordingly, when we pray, they must both meet each other! David describes this interaction in a few words: "But I will enter into thy house upon thy great goodness, and worship against thy holy temple in thy fear" (Ps 5:8). With the goodness of God he thinks at the same time of faith; but in this he does not exclude fear, because not only his majesty compels us to reverence, but at the same time our own unworthiness makes us forget all arrogance and security and keeps us under fear! But I do not mean a confidence which freed our hearts from all sense of fear and lulled us into a comfortable and undisturbed rest. For to rest so peacefully, that would be the business of such people to whom everything goes as they wish, whom therefore no worry touches, in whom no desire burns and who are tormented by no fear! For the saints, however, it is the best incentive to invoke God, when distress puts them on the rack, and they are thus martyred by the highest anxiety and almost discouraged, until faith comes to their aid at the proper time! For in the midst of such anxieties God’s goodness shines brightly to them, and now, though they groan, wearied under the burden of their present distresses, are also oppressed and tormented by the fear of still greater ones, yet they trust in God’s goodness, and so in the heaviness of their endurance relief and consolation are granted them, and they hope for the end and for their deliverance. Thus, the prayer of the pious should arise from a double impulse, and it must carry and represent two things: man sighs under his present hardships, lives also in anxiety and fear of others, but nevertheless, at the same time, he takes his refuge in God and does not doubt in the least that he is ready to stretch out his helping hand to him. It is impossible to say how much God is angered by our lack of trust, when we desire a benefit from him that we do not actually expect. Nothing, therefore, is more appropriate to the nature of prayer than that the rule be prescribed and laid down for it, not to rush forward unadvisedly, but to follow the faith that goes before. Christ calls us all to this principle when he says: "Therefore I say to you, whatever you ask … only believe that you will receive it, and it will be given you!" (Mark 11:24). He also confirms this in another place: "All that you ask in prayer, if you believe it …" (Mt 21,22). A word of James agrees with this: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to everyone with simplicity, and let no one ask (…). But let him ask in faith, and doubt not …" (Jam 1,5f.). Here he contrasts faith and doubt and expresses the power of faith. No less remarkable is the further: people who call upon God in uncertainty and doubt, and who are not sure in their hearts whether they will be heard or not, will achieve nothing with their prayer (verse 8). He also compares such people to the "wave of the sea" that is "driven and wafted by the wind" (verse 6). That is why he also refers to the right prayer as the "prayer of faith" (Jam 5,15). God also assures us again and again that He will give to each one according to his faith, and thus He gives us to understand that without faith nothing can be obtained: In short, what is granted to us upon our prayer, faith indeed obtains. This is the meaning of a famous saying of St. Paul, which foolish people pay too little attention to: "How can they call on Him in whom they do not believe? How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? … So faith comes from hearing, but hearing from the word of God!" (Rom 10:14, 17; not through, away, Luther text). In this gradual derivation, he traces the starting point of prayer back to faith, and thus he openly asserts that God can only be sincerely invoked by those to whom His kindness and bounty have become known, indeed have been made familiar, through the preaching of the gospel!

III,20,12 Now our (Roman) adversaries do not consider this necessity in any way. When we command the faithful to hold fast to the fact that God is gracious and benevolent toward them, they think we are saying the most absurd thing imaginable. But if they had any experience in true prayer, they would immediately realize that one cannot call upon God properly without such a sure feeling of divine benevolence. Only he can understand the power of faith who feels it in his heart from his own experience; but what is to be achieved in the argument with such people who openly show that they have never had anything but a vain imagination? What value this certainty which we demand has and how necessary it is, one learns above all from the invocation of God Himself, and he who does not see this shows that he has a rather dull conscience. Let us therefore pass over such blind people and cling firmly to the word of Paul, according to which God can be invoked only by those who have recognized His mercy from the Gospel and are now quite sure that it is also ready for them. What then would such a prayer look like (as the adversaries consider it alone possible)? "O Lord, though I am in doubt whether thou wilt hear me. But fear presses me, and so I take my refuge in you, that you may help me, if I am worthy of it!" This is not how all the saints whose prayers we read in Scripture were accustomed to pray! Nor does the Holy Spirit teach us to pray in this way, who commands us through the mouth of the apostle, "Therefore let us draw near with gladness to the mercy seat, that we may … find grace …" (Hebr 4:16), and who teaches us in another place: "… we have joy and access in all confidence through faith in Christ" (Eph 3:12). This certainty that we receive what we ask for, which the Lord instructs us with his own word and which all the saints teach us by their example, must be held tightly with both hands if we want to pray with fruit! Only such a prayer is pleasing to God, which springs from such - if I may say so - presumption of faith and is founded on the unshakable certainty of hope! Paul could have been content (in the above passage Eph 3:12) to speak simply of faith, but he not only adds confidence, but also equips it with joyfulness or boldness, in order to make a distinction by this characteristic between us and the unbelievers, who like us pray to God, but just at random! For this reason the whole church prays with the psalm word: "Your goodness, Lord, be upon us, as we hope in you!" (Ps 33:22). The prophet sets the same condition in another place: "In the day that I call, I will know that you, God, are with me!" (Ps 56:10, not Luther text). Or also: "Early I will send myself to you and pay attention" (Ps 5:4). From these words it follows for us: the prayer is a futile stroke into the air, if not with it the hope is connected, in which we look as it were as from a waiting place calmly after God. The order of one of Paul’s exhortations is also in harmony with this: he wants to encourage believers to pray "with all perseverance and supplication" at all times in the spirit; but first he commands them to take hold of the "shield of faith," the "helmet of salvation," and the "sword of the Spirit," "which is the word of God" (Eph 6,16.18). Now here the reader may further remember that, as already said, faith does not waver at all when it is combined with the knowledge of our misery, poverty and defilement. Believers may experience, however much, that they are weighed down by the heavy burden of their iniquities, and labor under it; they may feel how they are not only deprived of everything that could win them favor with God, but how they are still burdened with much guilt, which God rightly makes fearful to them - yet they do not cease to place themselves before him, and such feeling does not deter them from turning to him; there is just no other approach to him! Prayer is not meant to be a way for us to exalt ourselves before God, or to praise something of ours, but to confess our guilt and weep over our sorrow before Him, just as children may confidentially lay down their troubles before their parents. Yes, in the immeasurable abundance of our troubles, there must rather be spurs and goads that urge us to pray, as the prophet also shows by his example: "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you! (Ps 41:5). I admit that these thorns would inflict deadly stings if God did not come to our aid; but our dear Father, in His incomparable goodness, has given us an effective remedy for this, with which He quiets all confusion, alleviates all worries, puts an end to all fear, kindly draws us to Himself, yes, removes all misgivings and even more so all obstacles, and paves a passable way for us!

III,20,13 First of all: he commands us to pray and accuses us already by such instruction of godless stubbornness, if we are not obedient. A clearer command could not have been given than the one in the 50th Psalm: "Call upon me in trouble!" (Ps 50:15). None among the duties of piety does Scripture commend to us more frequently than prayer, and therefore I need not dwell at length here. "Ask," says our Master, "and it shall be given you; knock, and it shall be opened unto you!" (Mt 7:7). To this commandment, of course, he adds a promise, as is necessary; for all men admit that the commandment must be obeyed; but a great part would flee from God’s call if he did not give the promise that he would hear us and meet us kindly. If we have established this double (commandment - promise), it is at the same time certain that all who seek excuses in order not to come straight to God are not only unruly and disobedient, but also convicted of their unbelief, because they do not trust the promises! This is especially to be noted, because the hypocrites, under the cloak of humility and modesty, hopelessly despise God’s commandment, and at the same time refuse to believe His kind invitation, nay, thus deprive Him of the noblest piece of His worship. For he rejects (in the above-mentioned Ps 50:7-13) the sacrifices in which all holiness seemed to lie at that time, but at the same time he declares that with him this is especially and above all others considered delicious, that one calls upon him in the day of need! (Ps 50:15). So where he demands what is due to him, and where he encourages us to joyful obedience, there is no excuse, however brilliant, for our doubting. Again and again we encounter testimonies in Scripture in which we are commanded to invoke God, and they are all planted before our eyes like paniers to instill confidence in us! It would be foolhardy, however, if we wanted to come before God’s face without him having preceded us with his call. That is why he opens the way for us with his word: "I will say, ’It is my people,’ and they will say, ’Lord, my God!’" (Zech 13:9). There we see how he precedes his servants and wants them to follow him, and how therefore there is no reason to fear that this song, which he himself sings to them, might not be tender enough. above all, let that glorious praise of God come to our mind: "You, God, hear prayer; therefore all flesh comes to you!" (Ps 65:3). If we trust in this, we will overcome all obstacles without effort! For what can be more lovely and delightful than that God uses this title (Hearer of prayer) to make us all the more certain that nothing is more according to His nature than to hear the prayer of those who call on Him? From this the prophet concludes that the door is not open only to a few, but to all mortals, because he also addresses all, saying: "Call upon me in trouble, and I will save you, and you shall praise me! (Ps 50:15). According to this rule, David also invokes the promise given to him in order to obtain what he asks for: "You, God, have given such revelation in the ear of your servant. Therefore your servant has found his heart to pray this prayer to you" (2Sam 7:27; beginning not Luther text). From this we learn that he would have been fearful if the promise had not lifted him up. So he also equips himself in another place with the general teaching: "He does what the godly desire" (Ps 145:19). Yes, one can observe in the Psalms how, as it were, with a break in the context of the prayers, God’s power, his goodness, and the unbreakability of his promises are discussed. It might seem as if David was mutilating the coherence of his prayers by the incoherent insertion of such phrases; but believers know from practice and experience that the heat (of prayer) cools down if they do not put on new tinder: therefore, even in praying, the consideration of the nature of God and his word is not superfluous. So also we should not let ourselves be put off, after the example of David, to insert such pieces as refresh our languishing heart with new strength.

III,20,14 Now it is strange that such sweetness of promises is only superficial to us, or even almost not at all to our hearts, so that a good part of men wander about on all kinds of deviations, preferring to "forsake the living fountain" and "make for themselves wells full of holes" rather than accept God’s bounty, which is offered to them of its own accord! (cf. Jer 2:13). And in this, Solomon says: "The name of the Lord is a strong castle; the righteous runs and is sheltered" (Prov 18:10). Joel first gives us a prophecy of the terrible desolation that was about to come, and then leaves us with the memorable saying, "But whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 3:5). We know, however, that this saying refers to the course of the gospel in the proper sense (Acts 2:21). And yet, hardly anyone among a hundred can be moved by this to really come before God. He himself proclaims through the mouth of Isaiah: "You will call upon me, and I will hear you; yes, before you call, I will answer you!" (Isa 65,24; not Luther text). He also honors the whole church in general with this honor, as it is due to all members of Christ: "He calls upon me, and I will hear him; I am with him in trouble; I will pluck him out …" (Ps 91:15)! But, as I have already said, I do not intend to enumerate all the passages here. I will only select a few especially glorious ones, from which we can get a taste of how kindly God beckons us to Himself - and in what hard fetters our ingratitude is entangled, if in our slothfulness we still hesitate in the midst of so much powerful spurring on! Therefore, in our ears should always and constantly resound such words as this: "The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in sincerity" (Ps 145:18; not quite Luther text). Or also like those words we quoted from Isaiah and Joel, in which, after all, God declares that he is all eager to hear prayers, and that it pleases him like the fragrance of a sacrifice pleasing to him when we cast our cares upon him. Such unique fruit we gain from the promises of God, if we, without doubting and hesitating, offer our prayers, yes, on the contrary, rely on the word of him whose majesty would otherwise frighten us, and dare to call him our Father, when he himself condescends to put this delicious name into our mouths! If such enticements are prepared for us, let us finally know that they give us a sufficient cause to be heard; for our petitions are not based on any merit, but their whole worthiness, all hope of being granted, is founded on God’s promises and depends on them; it therefore needs no other supports, and it has no need to look up here and there in the round! Therefore, let us hold fast in our hearts to this: though we are not distinguished by the same holiness as is praised in the holy fathers, the prophets, and the apostles, yet we have with them the same commandment to pray, and the same faith, and therefore, if we rely on God’s word, we are their fellows in respect of this entitlement. For God assures us, as we have already seen, that He will be accessible and gracious to all, and thus He gives hope even to the most miserable that they shall obtain what they ask. So we must pay attention to the general turns that exclude no one, as it is usually said, from the first to the last, provided there is only sincerity of heart, displeasure with ourselves, humility and faith, so that our hypocrisy does not profane God’s name by untruthful worship. In this way, our dear Father will not push away those whom he not only encourages to come to him, but also entices in all kinds of ways! From this comes the way David prays in the passage quoted earlier, "Lord, you promised your servant;… therefore your servant has taken courage today and found what he should pray before you. Now, Lord God, you are God, and your words will be truth. You have spoken to your servant of such benefits, now also lift up and do them…" (2Sam 7:27-29; mostly not Luther text). Similarly, we find it elsewhere, "Grant it to your servant according to your promise!" (Ps 119:76; not Luther text, actually only content statement). The same is true of all Israelites in common: as often as they strengthen themselves by remembering the covenant, they make it sufficiently clear that one should not pray fearfully, when God has commanded one to pray. In this they have followed the example of their fathers, especially that of Jacob: he confesses that he is "too little" of "all the mercy" he has received from the hand of God (Gen 32:11); but then he nevertheless says that he is encouraged to desire even greater things because God has promised to do it! (cf. Gen 32,12 ss.). With whatever sham colors the unbelievers want to embellish it, if they do not take their refuge in God, as often as the need presses them, if they do not seek him and do not implore his help, - they actually rob him of the honor rightfully due to him, just as if they made themselves new gods or idols; for in such a way they deny that God is for them the giver of all goods! On the other hand, there is nothing that makes the pious more thoroughly free from all misgivings than if they arm themselves with the consideration that there is no reason for them to let any obstacle dissuade them from obeying the command of God, who, after all, declares that nothing is so pleasing to him as obedience! From this, again, what I said above is raised to even greater clarity: fear, reverence and sorrow can certainly unite with an undaunted courage to pray, and it is not absurd that God raises up those who are cast down. In this way, phrases that seem to contradict each other are perfectly consistent. Thus Jeremiah and Daniel say they "cast down" their prayers before God (Jer 42:9; Dan 9:18 not Lucher text). And Jeremiah says elsewhere, "Let our prayer fall down before the face of the Lord, that he may have mercy on the remnant of his people!" (Jer 42:2; not quite Luther text). On the other hand, it is often said of the faithful that they "lift up" their prayers. This is how Hezekiah expresses it when he asks the prophet to take upon himself the task of interceding for the people (2Ki 19:4). And David desires that his prayer "go up" like a burnt offering! (Ps 141,2; not Luther text). For these men are certain of God’s fatherly goodness and joyfully place themselves under the protection of His faithfulness, calling without hesitation on the help that He has freely promised them; but it is not as if they were lifted up by careless certainty, as if they had thrown off all timidity, but they ascend the steps of the promises and yet remain humbly supplicant in self-abasement!

III,20,15 Now more than one question arises against this. Scripture tells us that God also granted some prayers that came from a heart that was by no means quiet and willing. It was indeed for a just cause that Jotham wished upon the inhabitants of Shechem the punishment that later came upon them (Ri 9:20); but he had allowed himself to be inflamed by the fervor of anger and vengeance; so that when God obeyed his curses, it would seem that he approved of such disorderly impulses. Such a fiery temper had also seized Samson when he said: "Strengthen me, O God, that I may avenge myself on the uncircumcised. (Jud 16,28; not quite Luther text). Certainly there is some good zeal mixed in here; but the upper hand is a heated and therefore evil desire for revenge. Nevertheless, God grants his request! One seems to be able to conclude from this that prayer has its effect even if it is not formed according to the prescription of the Word. I reply: Such individual examples do not annul the constant rule. Individual people have also been given special impulses, the consequence of which is that their situation is different from that of ordinary people. We must remember the answer Christ gave his disciples when they thoughtlessly tried to imitate the example of Elijah: "Do you not know whose spirit you are? (Lk 9:55). By the way, we must go further: In fact, God is not always pleased with the requests to which He gives grant! Rather, it serves as an example that what the Scriptures teach is revealed by clear testimonies, namely this, that he comes to the aid of the miserable and hears the sighs of those who are unjustly challenged and implore his assistance; thus, when the complaints of the miserable rise up to him, he brings his judgment to pass - even if those complaints are not worthy of the least! How often has he punished the wicked for their raging, their robbery, their violence, their arbitrariness, and other misdeeds, subdued their wantonness and rage, overthrown their tyrannical power, and thus testified that he brings help to the unjustly oppressed - even when they have only prayed to an unknown deity and therefore merely shaken the air! A single Ps gives us the perfectly clear lesson that even such petitions do not remain ineffective, which actually do not reach heaven by faith: Ps 107! There all such requests are enumerated, which the need presses out of natural feeling with the unbelievers as with the pious; and it is shown to us on the basis of the exit, how God accepts such requests graciously! Does he want to testify by this generosity that such prayers are pleasing to him? No, he wants to make his mercy great and glorious by not denying the requests of unbelievers. At the same time, he wants to encourage his right servants to pray even more strongly, so that they can see how even unholy complaints are sometimes not without success. Nevertheless, there is no reason why the faithful should deviate from the rule imposed on them by God or become envious of the unfaithful, as if the latter had gained a great profit by getting what they wanted. In this way, as we saw, God was also moved by the feigned repentance of Ahab (1Ki 21:29). He wanted to show by this example how gladly He wants to hear His elect, if one shows a true conversion to reconcile Him! That is why he is angry with the Jews in the 106th Psalm, because they have so often experienced that he willingly lends his ear to their requests, and yet immediately afterwards they have returned to the stubbornness of their nature! (Ps 106,43). This is also quite clear from the history of the Judges: as often as the people cried (to God), though their tears were deceitful, they were nevertheless snatched out of the hand of their enemies! For as God makes his sun rise without distinction on the good and the evil (Mt 5:45), so he does not despise the weeping of those who have a just cause and whose misery is worthy of help! However, he does not save them by his answer, just as he does not save those whom he provides with food, although they are despisers of his goodness. A more difficult question, however, seems to arise from the behavior of Abraham and Samuel: Abraham prayed for the inhabitants of Sodom without any instruction from a word of God (Gen 18:23), and Samuel even interceded for Saul against God’s express prohibition! (Sam. 15:11). It was similar with Jeremiah, who tried to avert the downfall of the city with his prayer (Jer 32:16 ss.). These men were denied their request - and yet it would seem harsh to deny them faith! Modest readers, however, will, I hope, be satisfied with this solution: those men relied on the general principle according to which God commands to show mercy even to the unworthy; they were therefore not entirely without faith, although in this case they were deceived by their opinion! Very thoughtfully Augustin expresses this in a passage: "How then can the saints pray in faith and yet desire something from God contrary to his counsel? They pray according to his will, but not according to that hidden, unchangeable one, but according to that which he has inspired them to hear in other ways according to his wise purpose!" (Of the State of God, 22:2). So it is true: according to his inscrutable counsel he so arranges the outcome of events that the prayers of the saints, in which faith and error are interwoven, are not ineffective after all. But this is no more to encourage us to imitate (such conduct) than it is to excuse the saints themselves; for I do not deny that they have gone beyond what is right. So where there is no sure promise, we must ask God conditionally. Here belongs David’s prayer, "Awake to the judgment which thou hast decreed" (Ps 7,7; not Luther text); David reminds us that he was instructed by a special word of God to ask for such temporal benefits.

III,20,16 But it is also necessary to pay attention to the following: what I have explained about the four rules for prayer is not demanded with such severity that God rejects such prayers in which He does not find perfect faith or perfect repentance and at the same time hot desire like rightly ordered requests!(a) We said that prayer is indeed a familiar conversation of the pious with God, but that we must maintain reverence and modesty in it, so as not to let all kinds of desires take the reins, and on the other hand to desire only as much as God permits; also, so that God’s majesty does not fall into contempt with us, we must direct our senses upward, so as to worship it purely and respectfully. No one has ever done this with the sincerity that is due. To say nothing of the common people - how many of David’s complaints obviously go beyond the measure! Certainly he did not want to quarrel with God on purpose, nor did he want to resist His judgments. No, he was just weary with weakness and found no better consolation than to cast all his pain into God’s bosom. Yes, even our stammering is borne by God, and he forgives us our ignorance when something escapes us thoughtlessly: without this divine forbearance there would truly be no frankness to pray! Furthermore, although David had the will to submit himself entirely to God’s counsel, and although in praying he had a patience as great as his desire to obtain something, yet at times restless thoughts burst forth in him, nay, they welled up-and they were not a little removed from the first rule we laid down! Especially from the conclusion of the 39th Ps we can see what violent pain had seized the holy man, so that he could not set a measure for himself. "Depart from me," he says, "before I depart and be no more." (Ps 39,14; not Luther text). One could say: this is a desperate man who desires nothing else than that God’s hand should leave him and that he should perish in his misfortune! Not as if he deliberately plunged into such excess! Nor does he want God to depart from him, as the wicked are wont to do. No, he only complains that he can no longer bear God’s wrath. In such temptations, the saints often pray prayers that do not follow the rules of God’s Word, and in which they do not sufficiently consider what is right and what brings blessing. The prayers that are afflicted with such infirmities, however, all deserve to be rejected - but if the saints only sigh over them, if they chasten themselves and immediately go into themselves, God forgives them! (b) Thus they also often violate the second rule. For they often have to struggle with their coldness of mind, and their poverty and lamentation do not spur them on enough to pray earnestly. It also often happens that their senses are scattered and almost lost. So, forgiveness is also needed in this piece, so that our dull, tattered, interrupted, unsteady prayers are not rejected! God has ingrained it in our human sense by nature that prayers are right only when the heart lifts up. Hence, as we have already explained, the ceremony of lifting up the hands, which has been in practice at all times and among all peoples, and is still in use today. But where is there once, among the many who lift up their hands, who would not be conscious of his laxity, because his heart clings to the earth; (c) As to the request for forgiveness of sins, there is certainly none among the faithful who would leave aside this decisive piece; but all who are truly practiced in prayer, yet feel that they hardly offer the tenth part of that sacrifice of which David speaks: "The sacrifices that please God are a troubled spirit; a troubled and bruised heart thou, God, wilt not despise!" (Ps 51:19). Therefore, here they must always ask for a twofold forgiveness; on the one hand, they are conscious of many misdeeds, and yet are not so seized by their sensation as to displeasure themselves unduly; but, on the other hand, inasmuch as it is given them to proceed in repentance and the fear of God, they are thrown to the ground by the justifiable sorrow that they have angered God, and they ask the Judge to desist from his retribution. (d) Above all, the frailty of faith and the imperfection of believers spoil their prayers, unless God’s forbearance comes to their aid. Nor is it to be wondered at that God pardons such deficiency; for he often exercises his own with such severe trials, as if he wished to extinguish their faith on purpose! The hardest temptation is when the faithful must exclaim, "How long wilt thou be angry at the prayer of thy servant?" (Ps 80:5; not quite Luther text). It is then as if the very prayers angered God. It is also like that when Jeremiah says: "God has stopped up his ears before my prayer" (Klagel. 3,8; not Luther text); no doubt a violent bewilderment shakes him here. Thus we encounter innumerable examples in Scripture from which it is evident that the faith of the saints is often mixed with doubts and is driven about by them, so that they nevertheless display all kinds of unbelief in their faith and hope. Since they do not come as far as they should, they must strive all the harder to improve their infirmities and to come closer day by day to the perfect rule of prayer, but in the meantime they also feel what a terribly deep misery they have sunk into, since they are always contracting new diseases from the very remedy! For there is not a single prayer about which God would not be justly angry, if he did not graciously overlook the blemishes with which all are stained! Now I do not mention this so that believers will let everything pass, but so that they will strictly chasten themselves and strive to overcome these hindrances. As much as Satan tries to barricade all ways to prevent them from praying, they should break through and be convinced: even if they have not yet freed themselves from all hindrances, God will be pleased with their attempts and graciously accept their prayers, if they only make an effort and make an effort where they do not immediately reach the goal!

III,20,17 But because no one among men is worthy to present himself before God and to come before His face, the heavenly Father Himself, in order to deliver us from the shame and fear that should discourage all our hearts, has given us His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is now to be our intercessor (1Jn 2:1) and our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), under whose guidance we are to reach Him without worry! We can trust that if we have such an advocate, nothing we ask in his name will be denied to us, just as nothing can be denied to him by the Father. To this must be referred all that we have said above about faith; for as the promise praises Christ as our Mediator, so, if the hope of answer is not based on him, it deprives itself of the benefit which prayer means for us. For as soon as God’s majesty comes to our consciousness, we are inevitably deeply frightened, and the realization of our own unworthiness drives us far away, until Christ steps into the means and changes the throne of awful glory into the throne of grace. So also the apostle instructs us to dare to appear with all joyfulness, "that we may receive mercy, and find grace in time of need" (Hebr 4:16). And as we are given the law to call upon God, as we have received the promise that those who call upon him shall find an answer - so now we are commanded in particular to call upon him in the name of Christ, and the promise is set before us that we shall obtain what we ask in his name. "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name," he says; "ask, and ye shall receive! … In that day you will ask in my name … And whatsoever ye shall ask … that will I do, that the Father may be honored in the Son" (John 16:24, 26; 14:13). From this it becomes clear without contradiction that those who call upon God in a name other than that of Christ stubbornly transgress His command and do not respect His will, but also have no promise of obtaining anything. For, as Paul says, "all God’s promises are Yea in Him, and are Amen in Him" (2Cor 1:20); that is, they are confirmed and fulfilled in Him.

III,20,18 Attention should also be paid to the point in time when the disciples, according to Christ’s command, should take recourse to His intercession: this is to happen after He has gone to heaven: "In that day," He says, "you will ask in My name …" (John 16:26). It is certain, however, that since the beginning all who have prayed have been heard only for the sake of the Mediator. For this reason God had decreed in the law that only the (high) priest was allowed to enter the holy of holies and that he should carry on his shoulders the names of the tribes of Israel and on his chest as many precious stones (Ex 28,9.12.21); the people, on the other hand, were to stand far away in the forecourt and from there unite their prayers with those of the priest. Yes, even the sacrifice served precisely so that the prayers would be valid and effective. This shadowy ceremony under the law thus contained the doctrine that we are all excluded from God’s face, and that therefore there is need of a mediator who appears in our name before God, who carries us on his shoulders and holds us bound to his breast, so that we may be heard in his person! At the same time, that ceremony testified that our prayers, which, as we said, are otherwise never free from dirt, are purified by the sprinkling of blood. We also see how the saints, when they wanted to ask for something, based their hope on the sacrifices, because they knew that only through them all the requests became effective. Thus David says: "He remembereth all thy meat offering, and thy burnt offering shall be fat before him" (Ps 20:4). From this follows the conclusion that God has been reconciled since the beginning through Christ’s intercession, in order then to accept the petitions of the pious. Why then did Christ specify a new hour at which His disciples should begin to pray in His name? It is because this grace is more glorious today and therefore more worthy of respect among us! In this sense he had also said before: "Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask …" (John 16:24). Not as if they had not yet known anything about the office of the Mediator - for all the Jews had been initiated into the first principles of it! No, they had not yet clearly recognized that Christ, through His ascension, would be a more certain helper of His Church than before! So he wants to comfort them in their grief over his ascension by pointing to its unusual fruit, and therefore ascribes to himself the office of intercessor, teaches them also that they have hitherto lacked this most distinguished benefit, and that they may then enjoy it when they shall once call upon God more freely, leaning on Christ’s assistance! Thus also the apostle says that through Christ’s blood His new way has been sanctified for us (Hebr 10:20). So much the less is our wickedness to be excused if we do not embrace - as they say - with both arms such a delicious benefit, which is after all intended especially for us!

III,20,19 Christ is therefore the only way and the only access through which it is given to us to penetrate to God; whoever therefore turns from this way and departs from this access, he has no further way and no access to God, and for him nothing remains before God’s throne but wrath, judgment and terror. In short, because the Father has pointed us to Christ as our head and our duke, everyone who somehow deviates from Him or goes on a side road, as much as there is in him, tries to destroy or falsify this mark impressed on the Lord by God! Thus Christ is appointed as the only mediator, so that through his intercession the Father may be gracious to us and give us a hearing. Of course, in the meantime, the saints are also left to their intercession, in which they put their salvation to God’s heart. The apostle also remembers this intercession (1Tim 2:1). But these intercessions of the saints depend on that one; they can therefore never and never withdraw anything from it! For they arise from the impulse of love, in which we embrace each other freely as members of one body; but for this very reason they also refer to the unity of the head! Such mutual intercession also takes place in the name of Christ, and what else does it testify than that no man can be helped by any prayers unless Christ intercedes for him? Thus Christ with his intercession certainly does not stand in the way of our all interceding for one another in our prayers, even in the church; but it must likewise stand firm that all the intercessions of the whole church must be directed to this one: Yea, we must beware of ingratitude in this very place; for God, in forgiving us our unworthiness, has not only permitted individuals to pray for themselves, but has also admitted one to be an intercessor for another! Now, if God has appointed men as intercessors for His Church, who would rightly be rejected if each prayed (even) for himself alone-what is the arrogance of abusing this liberality of God to obscure Christ’s glory?

III,20,20 Now it is pure gossip when the (papist) smarties babble that Christ is the mediator for salvation, but the faithful for intercession. As if Christ had now fulfilled his temporal mediatorship and transferred the eternal and unceasing one to his servants! They treat Him truly kindly by merely cutting off such a "small" piece of His glory! Quite different, however, the Scriptures! And surely a pious man should be satisfied with its simplicity and leave such deceivers aside! John says: "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ …" (1Jn 2:1). Does he mean that Christ was once our intercessor? Does he not rather attribute to him the constant intercession for us? What do we say when Paul declares that Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us? (Rom 8,34). Or when he calls him the only mediator between God and man? (1 Tim 2:5). Does he not refer to those prayers (of the believers) that he mentions before? (1Tim 2:1). He speaks first of all that we should intercede "for all men" - and then he soon adds for the confirmation of this sentence: "For there is one God and one mediator …"! Augustine, too, does not interpret it differently; he says: "Christian men in their prayers lay God at each other’s hearts. But he for whom no one intercedes, but who himself intercedes for all, is the one and true mediator. The apostle Paul was certainly a particularly outstanding member among this head; but he was nevertheless a member of the body of Christ, and he knew that the highest and truest priest of the church did not figuratively enter into the interior of the tabernacle and into the holy of holies, but in clear, firm truth entered into the interior of heaven to a holiness that was not imitated, but eternal; and therefore he also commands himself to the prayers of the faithful! (Rom 15,30; Eph 6,19; Col 4,3). He also does not make Himself the mediator between the people and God, but He desires that all members of the body of Christ pray for one another; for all members are concerned for one another, and if one member suffers, all members suffer (1Cor 12:26). So let the mutual prayers of all the members who are still suffering hardships here on earth rise up for one another to the Head who has preceded them to heaven and in whom is the propitiation for our sins! (1Jn 2:2). If Paul were a mediator, then the other apostles would be as well; but if there were many mediators in this way, then what Paul himself meant when he said: ’There is one God and one mediator between God and men, namely the man Christ …’ would not be able to exist. (1 Tim. 2:5), in whom also we are one, if we ’hold the unity of the faith by the bond of peace’! (Eph 4:3; inaccurate)." (Augustine, Against the Letter of Parmenian, II,8,16). Likewise, elsewhere he says: "But if you ask for the high priest - he is above the heavens! There he asks for you, he who died for you on earth!" (To Ps 94; 6). We do not imagine, however, that he grasps the knees of the Father and pleads for us, but we understand this with the apostle in such a way: he appears before God’s face in such a way that the power of his death works for a permanent intercession for us; but nevertheless in such a way that he, having entered into the Holy of Holies of heaven, now brings before God alone the prayers of his people, who stand far away in the forecourt, until the end of time!

III,20,21 Now as for the saints who have died according to the flesh, but are alive in Christ, we may well admit of them that they pray; but even of them we do not dream that there is any other way for them to pray to God than Christ, who is the only way, or that their prayers would be pleasing to God in any other name than His! Since the Scriptures call us back from everything to Christ alone, since the heavenly Father wants to summarize everything in Him (Col 1:20; Eph 1:10), it would be a terrible stupor, not to say madness, if one wanted to create such an access for us through the saints, which would break us off from Him, without which even the saints themselves have no access! But who can deny that this has been the custom for several centuries and is still the custom today wherever the papacy reigns? In order to gain God’s goodwill, one always invokes the merits of the saints. One invokes God in their name, leaving Christ aside: what else does this mean, I ask, than to transfer to them the office of intercession, which we have attributed above to Christ alone? But further: which angel or devil spirit has ever made known to a man even one syllable of the alleged intercession of the saints? There is nothing about it in the Scriptures! How did one come up with such a thing? If the spirit of man seeks such aids, with which God’s word does not arm us - then he openly shows his lack of trust! If we take the conscience of all those who think so much of the intercession of the saints as a witness, we find that their opinion only comes from the fact that they torment themselves with their fear. Just as if Christ were too weak here or confronted us with terrible severity! With this perplexity they first of all dishonor Christ and rob Him of the title of the only Mediator, which was given to Him by the Father as a special prerogative and therefore may not be transferred to anyone else. But by this very act they obscure the glory of his birth, and empty it of the cross; in short, all that he did or suffered, they strip and deprive of due praise! For all this goes to the effect that he alone is our mediator and is counted as such! At the same time they reject the kindness of God, who has offered himself to them as Father; for God is not their Father, if they do not acknowledge that Christ is their brother; and this they flatly deny, if they do not consider that he also faces them in a brotherly attitude, which is exceedingly mild and tender! Therefore the Scripture offers us him alone, sends us to him, binds us to him! "He," says Ambrose, "is our mouth through which we speak with the Father, he is our eye with which we behold the Father, he is our right hand with which we offer ourselves to the Father! If he does not intercede for us, neither we nor even all the saints have any fellowship with God!" (Of Isaac and the Soul, 8:75). Our opponents now object that all the public prayers they read in their churches conclude with the appendix, "Through Christ our Lord." But this is a frivolous evasion; for Christ’s intercession for us is no less profaned when it is mixed with the prayers and merits of the departed than when it is left entirely aside and the dead alone are brought to mind. Also, in their litanies, hymns and prose, in which any honor is attributed to the deceased saints, Christ is not mentioned at all!!

III,20,22 The folly, however, has advanced so far that here we have before us a distinct picture of superstition, which, once it has thrown off the reins, is wont to find no end at all to its mad wantonness. For once one had begun to direct one’s thoughts to the intercession of the saints, one generally assigned to each individual saint his particular office, so that, depending on the diversity of the matter, sometimes this one, sometimes that one was called upon as intercessor: Then, too, each one got his own saint, into whose care he placed himself - just as into that of tutelary gods! And so it did not only come to what the prophet once reproached the people of Israel: "Many a city, many a god have you …" (Jer 2:28; 11:13), but there are as many gods as there are heads! But the saints direct all their desires to God’s will alone, they look to Him, they rest in Him; and therefore it is thought foolish and carnal, even contemptible of them, if one ascribes to them another prayer than the one with which they desire the coming of the kingdom of God: But if the papists impute to them that every one of them, out of private impulse, is particularly favorable to his worshippers, this has nothing whatever to do with the real disposition of the saints! Finally, some have even fallen into the terrible blasphemy of invoking the saints not merely as intercessors, but as guardians of their salvation! There you can see where wretched people come to when they leave the place assigned to them, namely the Word of God, and wander about unsteadily! I pass over still more mad monstrosities of godlessness, with which they are probably repugnant to God, the angels and the people, but of which they are neither ashamed nor shy! One prostrates oneself before a statue or a painting of Barbara or Catherine or similar saints and murmurs one’s "Our Father"! And the pastors do not think of taking care to remedy or prevent such mischief, no, they let themselves be lured by the scent of profit and approve of such things with their applause: they certainly want to shift the shame of such a vile outrage from themselves - but with what pretext do they want to defend it, that one prays to Eligius or Medardus, that they would look at their servants from heaven and help them? Or that one asks the Blessed Virgin to command her Son to do what one desires? In ancient times, at a council in Carthage (397), it was forbidden to pray to the saints directly at the altar; and it is probable that these holy men were not able to completely curb the onslaught of the evil habit, and therefore (at least) carried out that restriction, so that at least the public prayers were not spoiled by such formulas as: "Saint Peter, pray for us". But how much further (in the meantime) the devilish mischief of those has penetrated, who are not ashamed to transfer to the dead what belongs to God and Christ alone!

III,20,23 Now they would like to create the impression that this intercession of the saints is based on the authority of the Holy Scriptures; but everything they undertake for this purpose is futile effort. (a) They claim: one does often read about prayers of the angels, and not only this: it is also said that the prayers of the faithful are brought before God’s face by their hand! I admit that. But if one wants to compare the saints who have departed from this present life with the angels, then one must prove that they too are ministering spirits, to whom the service is assigned to care for our salvation (Hebr 1:14), to whom the task is assigned to guard us in all our ways (Ps 91:11), who are to surround us (Ps 34:8), to admonish and comfort us, to stand on guard for us! All this is attributed to the angels, but not to the saints! How wrong it is to confuse the departed saints with the angels is more than clear from so many different offices by which Scripture distinguishes them. The office of an advocate before the earthly judge will only dare to be exercised by those who are admitted; - but from where then do those little worms take the liberty of imposing such advocates on God, of whom one does not read that this office is assigned to them? According to his will, God has appointed the angels to take care of our salvation; therefore they also attend the holy assemblies, and the church is for them a showhouse in which they admire the multiform and "manifold wisdom of God" (Eph 3:10). This is peculiar to them, and whoever transfers it to others surely confuses and perverts the order established by God, which, after all, should be inviolable! (b) With the same "dexterity" they proceed with the reference to further scriptural testimonies. Thus God said to Jeremiah, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet have I no heart toward this people …" (Jer 15:1). How could he, they say, have spoken in such terms of the dead if he did not know that they intercede for the living? I, on the other hand, conclude the other way around, because it is obvious that neither Moses nor Samuel interceded for the people of Israel, and therefore there was no intercession of the dead at that time! Of which saint should one then believe that he endeavors for the salvation of the people, if Moses omits it, who nevertheless stood out in this piece far above all others during his lifetime? So when our adversaries bring forward such sophistry and say: The dead intercede for the living; for the Lord says: if they also interceded …, - I will lead a still brighter shining proof and say: Moses did not make intercession in the worst distress of the people; for it is said: if he also made intercession …; so it is to be assumed that no other does such intercession either; for from the kindness, goodness and fatherly care of Moses they are all far away! With their chatter they achieve only this, that they are wounded with the very weapons with which they thought they were safely armed! But it is ridiculous that they twist such a simple statement in such a way; the Lord only announces that he does not want to spare the people in their misdeeds, even if they had men like Moses or Samuel as intercessors, towards whose prayers he had shown himself so lenient! That this is the meaning is clear from a similar passage in Ezekiel, where the Lord says: "And if these three men Noah, Daniel and Job were in the city, they would not save their sons and daughters with their righteousness, but only their own souls!" (Eze 14:14; not Luther text; expounded). There is no doubt that he wants to say here: even if two of them should come to life again … For the third, namely Daniel, was still alive at that time; he was undoubtedly only in the first bloom of his youth and showed an incomparable proof of his piety. So we want to let rest those who have already completed their course according to the clear proclamation of the Scriptures! That is why Paul, too, when speaking of David, does not teach that he assisted his posterity with his prayers, but only that he served his time! (Acts 13,36).

III,20,24 (c) Our opponents now ask a counter-question: whether we want to deny the saints, who have shown nothing but piety and mercy in the whole course of their lives, any pious prayer. Of course, I do not want to examine rashly what the saints do and think; but it is by no means probable that they let themselves be driven to and fro by manifold desires concerning individual things, but they long firmly and immovably for God’s kingdom, which consists no less in the destruction of the ungodly than in the blessedness of the faithful! But if this is true, there is no doubt that their love is also included in the fellowship of the body of Christ, and it goes no further than the nature of this fellowship permits. Therefore, even if I admit that they pray for us in this way, they do not so remove themselves from their rest as to become involved in earthly concerns; much less should we even call upon them to do so! (d) That we should nevertheless do this cannot be deduced from the fact that people living on earth can commend one another to their intercession (1Tim 2:1 f.; Jas 5:15f.). If they share their needs with each other in this way and help each other to bear them, such service is conducive to the growth of love in them. And indeed they do this out of God’s precept, nor do they lack a promise; but these two pieces always come first in prayer! For the deceased, on the other hand, all such causes are lacking; for the Lord has taken them away from our fellowship, and has left us no more intercourse with them (Eccl. 9:5f.), but neither do they have any more intercourse with us, as may be presumed from the above passage. (e) Now someone might object that it cannot be that the deceased do not keep the same love towards us, since they are united with us in one faith. But who has announced that their ears reach far enough to hear our voice? How do we know that their eyes penetrate deep enough to see our needs? It is true that the papists talk in their schools about the splendor of the divine sight, which is supposed to shine on them and in which they could look down from above, as if in a mirror, at the fate of mankind. But if someone claims this, especially with the confidence with which they dare to do it, what does it mean but that by means of the drunken dreams of our brain we want to penetrate and break into God’s hidden counsels without his word and trample the Scriptures underfoot? For Scripture so often declares that the prudence of our flesh is enmity against God’s wisdom (Rom 8:6f.), it condemns the vanity of our mind in general, throws all our reason to the ground and wants us to fix our gaze on God’s will alone!

III,20,25 (f) But what other testimonies they draw from Scripture to defend their lies, they twist in the worst way. Thus they say: But Jacob desires that his name and that of his forefathers Abraham and Isaac should be called above his descendants! (Gen 48:16). Let us first see in what form such "invocation" took place among the Israelites: they do not plead with their fathers to help them, but they ask God to remember his servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! So their example can in no way give help to those who address the word to the saints themselves. But because these lumps in their feeble-mindedness neither grasp what it means to "invoke" the name of Jacob, nor even understand why one should "invoke" it, it is no wonder if they themselves stammer so childishly also with regard to the form (of this "invocation")! This way of speaking meets us in the Scriptures more than once. Isaiah says namely, the name of the men would be "invoked" over the women (Isa 4,1), namely when they have them as husbands, under whose faithfulness and protection they live. The "invocation" of the name of Abraham over the Israelites is thus based on the fact that they trace the origin of their race back to him and venerate him in solemn memory as their forefather and progenitor! But Jacob does not do this (Gen 48!) because he was concerned about the propagation of the fame of his name. No, he knew that the whole happiness of his descendants was based on the inheritance of the covenant which God had made with him; and because he saw that this would be for them the highest of all goods, therefore he desired that they be counted among his family. But this means nothing else than that he transfers to them the succession to that covenant! But when these descendants, on the other hand, interweave the remembrance of it in their prayers, they do not take recourse to the intercession of the dead, but they keep before the Lord the remembrance of his covenant, by virtue of which the Father, in his great goodness, took it upon himself to be gracious and charitable to them for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! How little else the saints have relied on the merits of the fathers is testified by the public confession of the Church by the prophet: "Art thou our Father, for Abraham knoweth not of us, and Israel knoweth us not: but thou, Lord, art our Father and our Redeemer …" (Isa 63:16). And while they are just talking like this, they immediately add: "Return, Lord, for the sake of your servants!" (Isa 63,17); thereby they do not think of any intercession, but they direct their mind to the benefit of the covenant. But now we have our Lord Jesus, by whose hand the eternal covenant of mercy is not only made, but also confirmed to us - to whose name shall we otherwise refer in our prayers? But since such good teachers, on the basis of these words, want to appoint the archfathers as intercessors, I would like to know from them why Abraham, the father of the church, does not take even the smallest place among such a vast multitude of saints! One knows very well from what kind of confusion they take their saints! But let them answer me, how it can be fair to omit and to suppress Abraham, whom God has placed before all others and whom he has raised to the highest level of honor! In fact, the reason was this: it was evident that this custom (namely, the invocation of the saints) was unknown to the early Church, and now, in order to conceal the novelty of the matter, it was thought good to be silent about the ancient Fathers! As if the diversity of names could excuse a new and adulterated custom! (g) But some now make the objection that God was asked to have mercy on his people for David’s sake (Ps 132:10). But this does not help their error, indeed, there is nothing more effective to refute it! For if we consider the position David took, he is thereby set apart from the whole multitude of the faithful, so that God may confirm the covenant which he has made in his hand! So it is a question of the covenant and not of the man, and it is represented here in a picture the some intercession of Christ. For that which David had especially to own, that, inasmuch as he was an image of Christ, certainly does not come to others!

III,20,26 (h) But some people are moved by the fact that we often read that the prayers of the saints have been heard! But why? Precisely because they prayed! "In you they hoped," says the prophet, "and they were saved; to you they cried, and they were not put to shame!" (Ps 22:5 f.; not Luther text). Let us then also pray according to their example, in order to find an answer like theirs! The papists, on the other hand, foolishly come to the opposite conclusion than it actually should be: they think that only he who has once been heard will also later find an answer! How much more right James concludes! "Elijah was a man like us, and he prayed a prayer that it should not rain, and it rained not on the earth three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heavens gave the rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit!" (Jas. 5:17f.). What now? Does he draw the conclusion that Elijah had a special privilege to which we must now take refuge? Not at all, but he teaches the constant power of a pious and pure prayer to exhort us to pray in the same way! For we misinterpret God’s willingness and goodness, which is revealed in the answer to such prayers, if we do not allow ourselves to be strengthened by such rehearsals to a more certain confidence in his promises; and in these he does not promise that his ear will incline to one or the other or only to a few, but to all who call upon his name! The less, however, is such lack of understanding to be excused; indeed, it seems as if these many admonitions of Scripture were deliberately despised! Often David was delivered by God’s power - but did this happen so that he would now draw this power to himself, so that we should be saved through his intercession? He himself testifies to something quite different: "The righteous wait for me until you hear me!" (Ps 142,8; not Luther text). Or: "And the righteous shall see, and shall fear, and shall hope in the Lord!" (Ps 52:8; not Luther text). Or again, "Behold, this wretch cried out to God, and He answered him’" (Ps 34:7; not Luther text). There are many such prayers in the Psalms, in which David asks God to grant him what he asks for, on the grounds that the righteous should not be put to shame, but should be encouraged by his example to joyful hope. We will content ourselves with naming such a passage: "For this reason all the saints will pray to you in due time" (Ps 32:6). I have drawn on this passage all the more readily because the tongue-thrashers, who put their tongues at the service of the defense of the papacy for good money, have not shied away from citing it precisely as proof of the intercession of the departed! As if David wanted anything else than to point out the fruit that comes from God’s kindness and generosity when he has found an answer! It should also be noted in general that the experience of God’s grace, as it has been granted to us or to others, provides an unusual help in affirming the unbreakability of His promises. I do not intend to cite here the numerous passages in which David sets before himself God’s benefits as occasions for confidence; for the reader of the Psalms will encounter them of his own accord. Jacob had already taught the same before by his own example: "I am too little of all the mercy and of all the faithfulness which thou hast done to thy servant; for I had no more than this staff when I passed over this Jordan, and now I have become two armies!" (Gen 32:11). He certainly also draws on the promise, but this not alone: no, he connects with it at the same time the view of its effect, in order to trust even more cheerfully in the future that God will always be the same towards him! For God is not like mortals who are repentant of their bounty or whose ability is exhausted, but He wants to be judged according to His own nature, as David wisely does: "Thou hast redeemed me, thou faithful God!" (Ps 31:6). He first pays praise to God for his act of redemption, and then he adds that he is faithful; for if he did not always remain the same, no sufficiently sure cause could be gathered from his benefits to trust him and call upon him. But as soon as we know that he gives us an example and proof of his goodness and faithfulness with every single help, we need not fear that our hope will ever be dashed or that he will deceive us!

III,20,27 Let me summarize. Scripture teaches us that the invocation of God is the most important piece of His worship and highly praises it to us; for it sets aside all sacrifice and demands of us this service of godliness! So it cannot be without open blasphemy when we address our prayer to others. That is why it is also said in a psalm: "If we … lifted up our hands to the strange God, would not God find it?" (Ps 44:21 f.). Furthermore, God wants to be invoked solely on the basis of faith, and he expressly commands us to form our prayers according to the standard of his word. Finally, faith based on the Word is the mother of right prayer. Therefore, as soon as one deviates from the Word, the prayer must necessarily be distorted! But we have already shown that the Scriptures, even if they are fully searched, reserve this honor (namely, to be called upon in prayer) to God alone. As for the office of intercession, we also saw that it is Christ’s own, and that only those prayers are pleasing to God which this Mediator sanctifies. Now, although believers bring their prayers for one another’s brethren before God, yet, as we have explained, this does not detract from Christ’s one intercession; for when they lay themselves or others before God, they rely solely on this intercession of Christ. Furthermore, we have explained that it is nonsensical to refer this to the deceased, of whom we nowhere read that they are charged with intercession for us. Scripture often exhorts us to this mutual service; but of the dead it does not say a syllable! Yes, James links it together that we are to confess our sins to one another - and that we are to pray for one another (Jas. 5:16); and thus he tacitly excludes the dead! To condemn this error, one consideration is enough: right praying finds its origin in faith, but faith comes from hearing the Word of God! (Rom 10:14.17). But in the word of God this imaginary intercession is not mentioned. For superstition, in its carelessness, has acquired intercessors that were not given to us by God. The Scriptures are indeed full of the most diverse forms of prayer, but no example is found among them of that intercession without which no prayer can be conceived in the papacy. Moreover, this superstition was evidently born of a lack of confidence: one was not satisfied with Christ as intercessor, or one deprived him of this praise entirely. The latter is easily proved by the impudence of the papists: the strongest evidence with which they defend their assertion that we need the intercession of the saints consists, in fact, in their objection that we are unworthy of intimate access to God. Now we admit that this is very true, but we conclude from it: he who regards Christ’s intercession as nothing, unless St. George or St. Hippolytus or such larvae are added, leaves nothing to Christ!

III,20,28 But although prayer in the proper sense includes only requests and petitions, there is such a great kinship between petitions and thanksgiving that they can easily be grouped under a single name. The types of prayers that Paul lists 1Tim 2:1 (first) fall under the first member of this division (namely: "request, prayer, intercession"). When we "ask" and "pray," we pour out our desires before God, desiring on the one hand what will serve to spread His glory and glorify His name, and on the other hand, benefits that will benefit our own well-being. When we "give thanks" (1Tim 2:1; continued!), we praise His benefits toward us with guilty praise and give thanks to His bounty for all the good we have obtained. Thus David combined these two pieces into one: "Call upon me in trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall praise me!" (Ps 50:15). It is not without reason that Scripture gives us the instruction that both should always be in practice with us. For our lack, as we have said elsewhere, is so great, and experience testifies loudly to it, that we are everywhere beset by so many and such great distresses, that all men have cause enough always to sigh and supplicate to God, and to call upon him humbly! But even if they were free from misfortune, even the holiest among them would have to be spurred on to desire a remedy by the guilt of their iniquities and also by the innumerable assaults of temptations. The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving can never be interrupted without bringing sin upon us, for God does not cease to heap blessings upon blessings in order to force us, slow and sluggish as we are, to be grateful. In short, so great and so abundant are the riches of his benefits, which virtually shower us, so manifold and so mighty are the wonders we behold all around us, that we never lack reason and cause for praise and thanksgiving! Let us unfold this a little more clearly: All our hope and all our riches are in God, as we have already sufficiently demonstrated above; and therefore neither we, nor all that we have, can fare well without His blessing alone: to Him, therefore, we must also constantly set our hearts and all that we have! (Jam 4,14f.). Further, whatever we consider, speak, and do, we are to consider, speak, and do under his hand, under his will, and finally in hope of his help! For all are declared accursed by God who consider and determine their plans in reliance on themselves or anyone else, and who set in motion or attempt to set in motion anything outside of his will, without calling on him! (Isa 30:1; 31:1). We have also said several times that the honor due to him is when he is acknowledged as the giver of all goods; from this it follows that we must receive all these goods from his hand in such a way that we give thanks for them unceasingly, and there is no other way of applying his benefits rightly than that we also proclaim his praise and give thanks to him unceasingly; for this is the only purpose for which they flow and come to us out of his kindness! For when Paul says (of what we receive): "It is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1Tim 4:5), he indicates at the same time that without word and prayer it is in no way holy and pure for us; in this, of course, when he says "word", he also means faith! We find this expressed excellently in David: he has experienced the Lord’s generosity, and now he sings: "He has given me a new song in my mouth!" (Ps 40:4). With this he indicates at the same time that it is an evil silence if we pass over any of his benefits without praise! For as often as he benefits us, he also offers us an occasion for praise! Isaiah also proclaims God’s unique grace and calls the faithful to a new and unusual song (Isa 42,10). In the same sense it says elsewhere in David: "Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may proclaim your glory!" (Ps 51:17). In the same way, Hezekiah and Jonah testify that their salvation should lead to the goal of glorifying God’s goodness with songs of praise in the temple (Isa 38:20; Jon. 2:10). The same rule David prescribes in general to all the pious: "How shall I repay the Lord for all His good deeds that He does to me; I will take the cup of salvation and preach the name of the Lord" (Ps 116:12f.). And the Church follows this rule in another psalm: "Help us, O Lord our God, … that we may give thanks to your holy name and praise your praise!" (Ps 106:47). Or also: "He turns to the prayer of the forsaken and does not spurn their prayer. Let this be written upon the descendants, and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord … that they may preach the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem!" (Ps 102:18f.22). Yes, as often as the faithful ask God to do something "for his name’s sake", as often as they declare themselves unworthy to receive something in their own name, they also commit themselves at the same time to thanksgiving and promise that God’s benefits shall find their right application in them, that they now become their proclaimers! This is what Hosea says in a passage where he speaks of the future redemption of the church: "Forgive us all our sins, and do us good, O Lord, and we will offer up the bullocks of our lips! (Hos 14:3). But God’s benefits do not only claim the herald service of our lips, but at the same time they naturally earn our love. Thus David says: "I love him; for the Lord has heard the voice of my supplications" (Ps 116:1; not Luther text). Elsewhere he tells of the help he has experienced, saying, "Heartily do I love thee, O Lord, my strength!" (Ps 18:2). Our praise, however, will never ever find God’s favor if it does not come from this heartfelt love! Yes, we must also hold fast to a word of Paul, according to which all our prayers are perverse and corrupt if they do not flow out into thanksgiving; for he says: "In all things let your requests be made known before God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" (Phil 4:6). There are many people who are driven by stubbornness, anger and impatience, by the bitterness of pain and fear, to grumble in their prayers; so Paul commands such moderation of inner impulses that believers, before they have obtained what they desire, nevertheless cheerfully praise God! If this connection of prayer and thanksgiving is to retain its force even in the face of sheer repugnance, God binds us with all the stronger bonds to sing his praises when he grants us our desires! But I have already explained how our prayers, which would otherwise be defiled, are purified by Christ’s intercession; accordingly, the apostle now commands us also to offer our sacrifice of praise through Christ (Hebr 13:15), and thus he calls our attention to the fact that our mouths are not pure enough to glorify God’s name unless Christ’s priesthood enters into the means: from this it follows for us that in the papacy men were terribly blinded; for there most marvel that Christ is called our Advocate! This is the reason why Paul instructs us to pray and give thanks "without ceasing" (1Thess 5:17f.). He wants us to pray to God with the greatest perseverance, at all times, in all places, in all circumstances and in all things, so that we can expect everything from Him and give Him praise for everything, just as He continually gives us cause to praise Him and pray to Him!

III,20,29 Now this "praying without ceasing" applies especially to the individual’s own personal prayers; but it also applies more or less to the public prayers of the church. These, however, cannot be done at all with sustained perseverance, nor should they be kept at all other than on the basis of a public order that comes about through the common agreement of all. I certainly admit that. That is why certain hours are set and fixed beforehand; and this is of no importance before God, but nevertheless necessary for the use of the people, so that consideration is given to when all have the best opportunity to do so, and so that in general, according to the words of Paul in the church, "everything is done honorably and orderly" (1Cor 14:40). However, this does not prevent each individual church from being spurred on at times to a more frequent practice of prayer, or from burning to a hotter zeal under the impression of a particularly pressing need; I will have to speak of perseverance (in prayer), which has much in common with this continual, diligent practice, at the end as the appropriate place for this. Now this has nothing to do with the "babbling" that Christ wanted to forbid us (Mt 6,7). For he does not forbid us to stop praying long or often or fervently. But we should not trust that we can extort something from God if we shout in His ears with babbling chatter, as if He could be persuaded in a human way! For we know that the hypocrites, who do not consider that they are dealing with God, make a show of their prayers as if they were making a triumphal procession! Undoubtedly, that Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not like other people (Lk 18:11), was very pleasing in the eyes of men, as if he wanted to come into the reputation of holiness for the sake of his prayer! This is the reason for the chattering that goes on in the papacy today for the same reason, in that some say the same little prayers over and over again and kill time with them, while others want to make a name for themselves among the people through a great wealth of words. This talkativeness plays a childish game with God, and it is therefore not surprising that it is excluded from the church, so that nothing can resound there but serious prayer that comes from the deepest heart! Another abuse is similar to this one, which Christ also condemns: the hypocrites prey on many witnesses for the sake of outward show, and would rather occupy the market to pray than have their prayers deprived of the praise of the world! Now, as I have already said, the purpose of prayer is that our hearts may be lifted up to God, in order to glorify His praise and to implore help from Him; but from this it can be seen that it has its original nature in the mind and in the heart; indeed, prayer itself is actually an emotion of the deepest heart, which is poured out and laid down before God, the heart’s proclaimer! Therefore, as I said, our heavenly Master, in order to give us the best rule for praying, instructed us to go into our closet, lock the door, and pray to our Father there in secret, so that our Father, who is in secret, may hear us! (Mt 6,6). There he warns us first of all against the example of the hypocrites who ambitiously flaunt their prayers in order to gain the favor of men; but at the same time he also shows us the better way, namely to go into the closet, lock the door and pray there. According to my understanding, with these words he teaches us to seek solitude, which helps us to descend with all our thoughts into our heart and to penetrate its depths; and he promises us that God, whose temple our bodies are supposed to be, will be close to the emotions of our heart. But he did not mean to deny that it can be useful to pray in other places as well; he only shows that prayer is something hidden, which has its essence above all in the heart and which requires its rest, far from all the turmoil of our worries! It was therefore not without reason that the Lord himself went into solitude, away from all the hustle and bustle of men, when he wanted to pray especially fervently. He did this rather to remind us by his own example that such aids are not to be neglected, which better direct our heart, which in and of itself is all too inclined to digress, to serious zeal in prayer. Meanwhile, he did not refrain from praying in the midst of the hustle and bustle of people when the occasion demanded it, and so we too should "lift up holy hands in all places" where it is necessary (1Tim 2:8). We must also hold that anyone who refuses to pray in the holy assembly of the pious also does not know what it actually means to pray by himself or in solitude or at home! On the other hand, whoever fails to pray alone and for himself, no matter how often he attends the public services, he will only do sham prayers there, because he attaches more importance to the opinion of men than to God’s hidden judgment. But so that the common prayers of the church would not be disregarded, God once adorned them with glorious praises, especially by calling the temple a "house of prayer" (Isa 56:7). For by this word he made known to us that the noblest part of his worship was the service of prayer, and that the temple was set up like a banner before the faithful, that they might with one accord exercise themselves in such service. But there was also a glorious promise: "God, you are praised … in Zion, and vows are paid to you!" (Ps 65:2). With these words the prophet draws our attention to the fact that the prayers of the Church shall never be without effect; for God always gives His people cause to sing joyfully! Now, indeed, the shadowy images of the law have ceased; but God willed by this ceremony to preserve the unity of faith among us also, and therefore there is no doubt that the same promise applies to us also; Christ, indeed, confirmed it with His own mouth (Mt 21:13), and Paul teaches that it always remains in force.

III,20,30 Now as God commands believers to pray together in His Word, so there must be public church buildings set apart for the performance of these prayers. Whoever refuses to pray there together with the people of God cannot abuse the excuse that he is going into his closet to obey the commandment of the Lord! For he promises that if two or three gathered in his name and prayed something, he would do it (Mt 18,19f.), and thus he testifies that he does not at all despise the publicly spoken prayers. But all showiness and all seeking of human glory must be left out, and there must be true, pure devotion that dwells in the secret of the heart. This, then, is certainly the proper use of the church buildings. But then, on the other hand, we must be careful not to think of them as God’s real dwelling-places, as people began to do a few centuries ago, in which he would let his ear come closer to us; nor should we impute to them some hidden holiness that would make our prayer to God more holy. For we ourselves are God’s true temples, and therefore we must pray within ourselves if we would call upon God in His holy temple! We, who have the instruction to "worship the Lord in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23) without any distinction of place - we want to leave such gross aberrations to the Jews and the Gentiles! Certainly, at one time, by God’s command, the temple was consecrated for worship and the offering of sacrifices; but that was at a time when the truth was still concealed under the representation by such shadowy images; but now it has been vividly revealed to us, and now it no longer permits us to cling to any temple made with hands! Even the Jews were not entrusted with the temple to enclose God’s presence between its walls, but rather to be trained to behold the image of the true temple! That is why Isaiah and also Stephen sharply reproach such people who somehow thought that God dwells in temples made with hands: (Isa 66,1; Acts 7,48).

III,20,31 From this it follows more than clearly that neither our voice, nor our singing, if it occurs during prayer, has any value before God or can even achieve the slightest thing, if they do not arise from the deep urge of the heart! Nay, if they proceed merely from the lips and throats, they call forth God’s wrath against us; for that would be to do reproach to God’s most holy name, and to have his majesty mocked! This is the result for us from the words of Isaiah, which go even further, but also serve to punish this abuse: "Therefore this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and with their lips they honor me; but their heart is far from me, and they fear me according to the commandments of men, which they teach: therefore will I also deal strangely with this people, most strangely and oddly, that the wisdom of their wise men may perish, and the understanding of their prudent men be blinded" (Isa 29:13 f.; Mt 15:8f.). But with this we do not condemn speaking or singing, but rather we hold them very high; only the urge of the heart must go to their side. For in this way they exercise our mind in thinking of God and keep it in suspense; it is, after all, unsteady and fickle and is therefore easily distracted and pulled to and fro if it is not held fast by the most diverse means. Moreover, God’s glory should, as it were, shine forth from all the individual parts of our body, and so it is reasonable that especially our tongue, with speaking and singing, should be destined and consecrated to this service; for it is especially created to proclaim and praise God’s praise. But our tongue finds its most important use in public prayer, as it is held in the assembly of believers; for there it is a question of our glorifying God, whom we serve in one spirit and in the same faith, also together with one voice and as from one mouth alike, and that publicly, so that we may all hear one another, each from his brother, confessing the faith, and be cheered up and stimulated by his example.

III,20,32 In passing, this: The custom of singing in the churches is acknowledged to be very ancient; indeed, it was already in practice among the apostles, as may be gathered from the words of Paul: "I will sing psalms in the spirit, and I will also sing psalms with the mind!" (1Cor 14:15). He also writes to the Colossians, "Teach and admonish yourselves with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and sing to the Lord with sweetness in your hearts!" (Col 3:16; not quite Luther text). In the first place he gives the instruction to sing with the voice and with the heart, in the second he recommends the spiritual songs with which the pious should edify one another. This, however, was not widespread, as Augustine testifies; he reports that singing began in the Church of Milan only under Ambrose; at that time Justina, the mother of Valentinian, was raging against the right faith, and the people stood on guard with greater perseverance than they were accustomed to. The other churches of the West followed Augustine’s report (Confessions, 9,7). Shortly before, in fact, he reports that this custom had its origin in the churches of the East. In the second book of his "Retractationes" he makes clear that it was taken up only in his time in Africa. He says there: "A certain Hilarius, a man of the rank of a tribune, disparaged, wherever he could, with vituperative reproaches, the custom which had arisen at that time in Carthage, of singing hymns from the Book of Psalms before the altar, either before the offering of the sacrifice, or else at the distribution of the offering to the people. To this man I have given a retort at the behest of the brethren" (Retract. II,11). And indeed, if the singing is done in such a dignified and measured manner as befits it in the presence of God and the angels, it provides, on the one hand, dignity and grace to the sacred acts and, on the other hand, serves greatly to awaken hearts to true zeal and fervor in prayer. One must be careful that the ear does not pay more attention to the melody than the heart to the spiritual meaning of the words! According to his own confession, this danger led the same Augustine to wish at times that the custom observed by Athanasius might be introduced: Athanasius, in fact, commanded the reader to let the tone of his voice change so little that he seemed to be talking rather than singing. Then, however, Augustine remembered how much good singing had done him, and over this he inclined again to the other side (Confessions 10:33). So, if one practices such moderation, then singing is undoubtedly a very holy and salvific exercise. On the other hand, any singing that is merely sweet-sounding and pleasing to the ears is not befitting the majesty of the church, and it can only be most displeasing to God.

III,20,33 From this it is also clear that public prayers must not be held in Greek among the Latins and in Latin among the French and English - as has been the custom up to the present day! But they must be in the language of the people, which can be understood by the whole assembly. For these prayers are to be for the edification of the whole church; but no fruit can come to it from an incomprehensible sound! But he who has no regard either to charity or to human feeling should be moved at least to some extent by the reputation of Paul, whose words are quite plain: "But if thou bless in the Spirit, how shall he that standeth in the layman’s stead say Amen unto thy thanksgiving, not knowing what thou sayest? You give thanks, but the other is not improved by it. (1Cor 14:16f.). Who can sufficiently marvel at the unbridled wantonness of the papists who, despite this open contradiction of the apostle, are not afraid to let the most eloquent prayers resound in a foreign language, prayers of which they themselves sometimes do not understand a single syllable and do not want others to understand either? On the other hand, Paul gives us a different instruction; he says: "But how shall it be? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the mind; I will sing psalms with the spirit, and I will also sing psalms with the mind!" (1Cor 14:15). By "spirit" here he understands the special gift of tongues; for some who had been given it abused it by separating it from "sense," that is, from understanding. But we must judge in general that the tongue without the heart in public as well as in private prayer can only be most displeasing to God in every respect. Moreover - we must say further - our mind should be inflamed with such fervor of contemplation that it thus penetrates far beyond anything that the tongue can express with its utterance. And finally: the tongue is not necessary even for individual prayer, unless the inner feeling is not strong enough of itself to cheer up properly, or unless the force of such an inner urge sets the tongue in motion all by itself! For the best prayers are sometimes said without the tongue, but in reality it often happens that, through a violent outburst of inner movement, the tongue also utters words, and the other limbs fall into violent gestures, and that without wanting to seem anything outwardly! This is the origin of the indefinite murmuring of Hannah (1Sam 1,13), and all saints constantly experience something similar in themselves, in that they involuntarily let broken off and chopped off words slip out. But the bodily gestures commonly observed in prayer, such as bending the knees and uncovering the head, are exercises by which we strive to raise ourselves to greater reverence for God.

III,20,34 Now we must learn not only the safest way, but also the very form of prayer, namely that which the heavenly Father has made known to us through His beloved Son (Mt 6,9 ss.; Lk 11,2 ss.). His immeasurable goodness and kindness can be seen in this. He not only reminds and admonishes us to seek Him in all our distress, just as children, whenever they are in distress, take refuge in the faithfulness of their parents. No, he has also seen that we do not even sufficiently understand how great our poverty is, what we may cheaply desire and what is of any use to us, and so he also comes to the aid of this ignorance of ours and has himself replaced and reimbursed what our understanding lacks out of his own! He has drawn a fixed form for us, in which he sets before our eyes, as in a painting, what we may desire from him, what serves our best and what is necessary to ask. From this kindness of his we get much fruit of consolation; for we now know that we do not ask for anything that is absurd, false or foolish, in short, nothing that is not pleasing to him, because we are praying as if from his own mouth! When Plato noticed how inexperienced men are in bringing their desires before God, indeed, that they would often be ill served if their requests were granted, he declared as the best rule for praying a saying which he had taken from an ancient poet: "Thou, King Jupiter, grant us the best, whether we ask for it or not, and let evil stay away from us, even if we desire it!" (Plato, Alcibiades). At the same time, he reveals our unfortunate condition: we cannot even open our mouths before God without danger if the Holy Spirit does not instruct us and give us a right guideline for praying (Rom 8:26). This privilege of God’s only begotten Son putting into our mouths the words that free our minds from all hesitating doubt deserves to be esteemed all the more highly among us!

III,20,35 This form or rule of prayer consists of six petitions. I cannot agree with those who divide this prayer into seven main parts (e.g. Augustine, Manual to Laurence, 115); I am prompted to do so by the consideration that the evangelist seems to have wanted to unite the two (last) members by the inserted juxtaposition ("not … but"). So he wants to say: Let us not be crushed by temptation, but rather bring help to our infirmity, save us, so that we do not succumb! In this the ancient church teachers agree with us. What is added in the seventh place in Matthew is therefore to be taken as an explanation of the sixth petition. Now the whole prayer is of the kind that everywhere God’s honor is to be in the first place; but still the three first petitions are especially directed to God’s honor; to it alone we are to look in these petitions, without any consideration of our advantage, as it is so expressed. The three remaining petitions care for us, and they are essentially intended that we should ask that which is for our benefit. So when we ask God, "May your name be hallowed," he wants to test whether we love and worship him freely for nothing or out of hope of reward; so we are not to think of our advantage in any way here, but keep his honor before our eyes and look at it with eager eyes alone! Also with the remaining requests of this kind we must not be differently minded. In this, this very thing (indeed) serves to our great advantage; for when God’s name is sanctified, as we desire, our sanctification in turn is also effected! Nevertheless, as I have said, our eyes must be closed to such benefits, indeed, they must be blind, so to speak, so that they do not look at them at all! So, if all hope of our own good were cut off, still we should not cease to desire this sanctification of God’s name and everything else that belongs to God’s glory, and to desire it in our prayers. Thus it is seen in the example of Moses and that of Paul: it was not difficult for them to turn heart and eye from themselves and to desire their own destruction with fierce, fervent zeal, in order to promote God’s glory and kingdom by such self-surrender! (Ex 32:32; Rom 9:3). On the other hand, when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we are indeed coveting something for our own good; but we should nevertheless seek God’s glory above all else, so that we do not covet daily bread either, unless it is for His glory: but now let us approach the interpretation of the prayer itself.

III,20,36 Here, right at the beginning, we are confronted with what we have already explained above: we can only bring all our prayers before God in the name of Christ, as they cannot be recommended to Him in any other name! For when we call God our Father, we certainly refer to the name of Christ. How else should anyone come to the confidence of calling God his Father? Who should be carried away to the impudent presumption of arrogating to himself the honor of being a child of God, if we were not adopted in Christ to be children of grace? For he who is the true Son, he is given to us of God as a brother, that what is proper to him by nature might be bestowed upon us by the benefit of adoption into filiation, provided we accept such kindness in firm faith. Thus John says that those who believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God are now given "power" to also "become God’s children" themselves! (John 1:12). Therefore He calls Himself our Father and wants to be addressed by us in this way, and through the wonderful sweetness of this name He snatches away from us all lack of trust; for no love can be found that is more heartfelt than that of a Father! So he could not prove his immense love for us by a more certain proof than "that we should be called children of God"! (1Jn 3:1). But His love for us is greater and more glorious than all the love of our parents, because He stands high above all men in goodness and mercy. So there may well be fathers on earth who have put aside all sense of fatherly affection and abandon their children. But He will never abandon us (Ps 27,10; Isa 63,16); because He "cannot deny Himself"! (2Tim 2:13). We have his word of promise: "If you, who are evil, are able to give good gifts to your children, how much more … your Father in heaven …!" (Mt 7,11). Or correspondingly in the prophet: "Can a woman forget her child…? Even if she forgets it, I will not forget you!" (Isa 49:15). Now a child cannot place itself in the care of an outside stranger without accusing its father of cruelty or poverty. Therefore, if we are God’s children, we cannot seek help elsewhere than from Him without accusing Him of poverty and lack of wealth or even cruelty or excessive harshness!

III,20,37 Neither should we object that the consciousness of our sins should make us fearful; for these make our Father, however kind and friendly he may be, angry with us every day! Among us men, a son can find no better intercessor to plead his cause with his father, no better mediator to win back and regain his father’s lost mercy, than when he himself confesses his guilt with humility and footsteps and begs the father for mercy! For the paternal blood of the heart cannot then deny itself, but is moved by such entreaties. If this is how it is with us people - what will he do who is "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort"? (2Cor 1:3). Will he not rather hear the tears and sighs of his children who pray to him for themselves - especially since he invites and encourages us to do so - than any intercession of others? For if, not without displaying a certain despair, in their timidity they resort to such assistance of others, it is because they have no confidence in the kindness and goodness of their Father! This overflowing wealth of paternal kindness he has painted and set before our eyes in a parable: There is a son who is estranged from his father, who wastes his possessions with splendor, who has offended him in all kinds of ways - and yet the father welcomes him with open arms, does not wait for him to ask for forgiveness with words, but comes before him himself, recognizes him when he returns from afar, rushes to meet him of his own free will, comforts him, welcomes him into his grace! (Lk 15,11 ss.). If he gives us an example of such great kindness in a human being, then he wants to teach us how much more we should expect such kindness from him, who is not only a father, but of all fathers the best and kindest imaginable! And we may be children, no matter how ungrateful, no matter how rebellious and rejected, if only we will sink into his mercy! Now, to give us all the more certain faith that he is such a Father to us, if we are Christians, he wants us not only to say, "Father," but, "Our Father." So we are to speak to him in this way: "Father, you who are so full of love for your children, who are so willing to forgive them, we, your children, call to you and ask for you, and are confident that you have no other than a fatherly attitude towards us, however unworthy we are of such a father! But our heart in its narrowness is not able to grasp this immensity of grace, and therefore not only is Christ for us the pledge and deposit of our admission into filiation, but he also gives us as witnesses of this filiation the Holy Spirit, through whom we may cry out with a free, loud voice: "Abba, dear Father!" (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). So whenever we are hindered by hesitant fear, we should remember to ask Him to remove our timidity and to give us this spirit of pride to guide us, so that we can pray boldly!

III,20,38 Now we are not instructed in such a way that each one should call God his Father alone, but rather we should call him our common Father. Thus we are reminded how strong the urge of brotherly love should be among us, who after all are equally children of such a Father, on the basis of the same mercy and the same undeserved grace! For we all have one Father in common (Mt 23:9), from whom comes all that may ever be good to us, and therefore nothing may be shared among us which we are not willing to communicate to one another with the greatest heartfelt joy, insofar as it is necessary. Now, if we want to reach out to one another and offer help, as is fair, we cannot serve our brothers better for their good than by commending them to the care and providence of our dear Father; for to whom he extends his grace and favor, he lacks nothing more! But we also owe this to our father himself. If a man truly and dearly loves a father of his house, he at the same time embraces his whole house with his love and benevolence. Therefore, we must also show our inclination and attitude towards this heavenly Father at the same time to his people, his household, in short, to his whole inheritance, which he has so honored that he calls it "the fullness" of his only begotten Son! (Eph 1,23). The Christian man must therefore direct his prayers according to the rule that they are related to the community and include all who are his brothers in Christ! By this he does not only include those whom he sees at present as his brothers around him, but all men who live on earth. He does not know what God has decided about them, but this he knows: that it is as pious as human to wish and hope for the best for them! Of course, we should above all incline with special love to "the comrades of faith", whom the apostle has laid especially on our hearts in every respect (Gal 6,10). In short, all our prayers must be such that they are directed toward the community that our Lord has established in His kingdom, His house!

III,20,39 But this does not prevent us from praying especially for ourselves and for certain other people; only our heart must not allow itself to be diverted from the view of this community, nor even to deviate from it, but it must direct everything toward it. Even if such prayers are directed to individuals, they do not cease to be directed to the community, because they are directed to that goal: All this can be easily understood by a comparison. It is God’s general commandment to meet the needs of all the poor, and yet those who come to the aid of those whom they know or see to be in need do so in obedience to this commandment, even if they pass over many who are oppressed by the same need, and that because they do not know them all, or cannot sufficiently help them all! In the same way, he who directs his gaze and his thoughts to the general community of the church and then prays prayers that refer to individuals does not violate God’s will; thus, out of a sense that belongs to the whole community, he nevertheless puts himself or others to God’s heart with special words, whose need God has made known to him more closely according to his will. However, this similarity between the prayer and the offering of the fortune to the brother is not quite general. For the giving of a kind hand can be exercised only toward those whose poverty is known to us; but by intercession we can also assist the strangest and most unknown, however great the distance may be that separates us from them. This is done by that general version of the prayer in which all the children of God are included, but among them there are also those! We can refer to this when Paul exhorts the believers of his time to "lift up holy hands in all places without wrath and doubting" (1Tim 2:8). He reminds us here that discord closes the door to prayer, and he then demands that believers unanimously let their prayers serve the common good.

III,20,40 Then it continues: "… who art in the heavens". From this one should not immediately conclude that God is enclosed in the perimeter of heaven as between fences and bound to him within narrow limits. For Solomon confesses that "the heavens and all the heavens" are not able to contain him (1Ki 8:27). And he himself pronounces through the mouth of the prophet that "heaven is his throne and the earth his footstool" (Isa 66:1; Acts 7:49; 17:24). In this way he gives us to understand that he is not limited by any particular place, but permeates everything. But our sense, in its grossness, is otherwise unable to grasp his ineffable glory, and therefore it is indicated to us under the image of heaven; for we cannot behold anything more sublime or majestic than him! Wherever our senses perceive anything, they tend to tie it to the place where they perceive it; therefore God is placed outside of every place; if we want to seek him, we must be lifted above all sensations of body and soul! Moreover, by this way of speaking God is completely taken out of all vicissitudes of corruptibility or changeability. And finally it is made clear to us that he embraces and holds together the whole world and governs it with his power. So it is as if it were said: he possesses infinite greatness and majesty, incomprehensible being, immeasurable power and eternal immortality. But when we hear this, our thinking must swing higher when God is spoken of, so that we do not dream of anything earthly or carnal about him, do not measure him according to our measure and do not judge his will according to our impulses! At the same time, however, our confidence should be directed towards him; after all, we know that he directs heaven and earth with his providence and his power! I summarize. Under the name "Father" the God who appeared to us in his image comes before us, so that he may be called upon in certain faith. Now this familiar Father name is not only to serve our confidence, but it also has the power to restrain our mind, so that it may not be drawn to uncertain imaginary gods, but may ascend from the only begotten Son to the one Father of angels and of the Church! The fact that His throne is in the heavens is to remind us, on the basis of His world government, that we do not come to Him in vain, since He comes to meet us of His own accord with present care! The apostle says: "He that would come to God must first believe that he is, and that he will be a rewarder of them that seek him" (Hebr 11:6). Here Christ attributes both to his Father: our faith should be based on him, and then we should also have the firm certainty that he will take care of our salvation, because he is willing to let his providence reach us. From such a foundation Paul instructs us to pray rightly; he commands us to make our petitions known before God (Phil 4,6); but he first makes a preface and says: "Do not worry…. The Lord is near!" (Phil 4,5f.). From this it is clear: whoever does not hold firmly to this: "The eye of the Lord looks upon the righteous" (Ps 33,18; not Luther text), can merely move his prayers doubtfully and confusedly in his heart.

III,20,41 The first request is that God’s name be sanctified. That we must pray in this way brings us great dishonor. For what is more unworthy than that God’s glory should be darkened partly by our ingratitude, partly by our wickedness, nay, that it should even be destroyed by our presumption and wild insolence, as far as it is in them? But may now all the wicked burst in their blasphemous arbitrariness - the holiness of God’s name will shine brightly! It is not without reason that the prophet exclaims: "God, as your name, so is your glory to the ends of the earth!" (Ps 48:11). For wherever God has become known, His virtues inevitably come to light, His power and goodness, wisdom and justice, mercy and truth - and they sweep us away to admire Him and drive us to glorify His praise! Therefore, since God is so shamefully deprived of His holiness on earth, if it is not given to us to defend it, we are at least commanded to stand up for it in our prayers. The main content of this petition is: we are to desire that God receive the honor due to Him, that is, that men never speak or think of Him without the highest reverence. In contrast to this is the desecration of God’s name, which has always been too common in the world, as it is still going on today. From this arises the necessity of this petition, which, however, if even a little piety were alive among us, should actually be superfluous! But the holiness of the name of God has its existence when it is separated from everything else and when all glory is revealed in it. According to this instruction, we should therefore not only pray that God may preserve this holy name from all contempt and disgrace, but also that he may compel the whole human race to show reverence for his name. Since God reveals Himself to us partly by His teaching and partly by His works, He will be sanctified by us only if we give Him in both respects what belongs to Him, and thus accept all that comes from Him, giving praise even to His severity no less than to His goodness; for He has stamped the marks of His glory on His variously diverse works, and these shall reasonably elicit the confession of His praise from all tongues! Thus it will come to pass that the Holy Scriptures will obtain with us the authority they deserve, and that we will not let any event hinder us from the praise which God deserves above the whole course of his government. On the other hand, this request also goes that all ungodliness that defiles this holy name may pass away and be done away with, that everything that obscures or diminishes this sanctification of God’s name, namely all reviling and mockery, may depart, and that God’s majesty may be glorified ever more and more by subduing all blasphemies!

III,20,42 The second request is that God’s kingdom come. Although it contains nothing new, it is not distinguished from the first without cause. For if we consider our sleepiness in this matter, which is after all the most important of all, it is already necessary that we should still be inculcated with what should, however, in itself be completely known to us! We have hitherto received the instruction to beseech God to bring into line and finally utterly destroy everything that stains His holy name with a taint. Now a second, similar and almost equal request is added, namely that his kingdom come. What this kingdom is, I have already described above; but I will briefly repeat it here: God exercises his dominion where men deny themselves, at the same time despise the world and earthly life, and thus surrender themselves to his righteousness in order to strive for heavenly life. This kingdom, then, essentially comprises two things: first, that God subdues all the desires of the flesh, which contend against him in closed hosts, by the power of his Spirit; second, that he prepares our senses for obedience to his command. Therefore, only he who begins with himself keeps the right order in this petition, namely, to purify himself from all the corruptions that confuse the orderly state of the kingdom of God and stain its purity. Since the Word of God is like a royal scepter, we are told to pray that He may subject the minds and hearts of all men to voluntary obedience to this Word. This happens where he, through the hidden motive power of his Holy Spirit, gives effect to his word so that it receives the outstanding honor that is due to it. Then we must also turn to the ungodly who resist God’s rule stiff-necked and in desperate rage. So God sets up his kingdom by humbling the whole world. But this is accomplished in various ways: God curbs the exuberance of some, and the unbridled arrogance of others he breaks. We are to wish that this may happen day by day, so that God may gather his church from all places of the world, spread it out in number and make it grow, make it rich with his goods, establish right order in it, and on the other hand throw down all enemies of pure doctrine and religion, frustrate their plans and destroy their plots! From this it is clear that it is not without reason that we are charged with zeal that God’s kingdom may progress day by day 1); for our human affairs are never so good that all filthiness of sins would be done away with and swept out, and purity would be in full bloom and power. But the completion of this kingdom extends until the final coming of Christ; then, according to Paul’s teaching, "God will be all in all" (1Cor 15:28). Thus, this petition is meant to draw us away from the defilements of the world that separate us from God, so that His kingdom gains no power in us. At the same time, it is to kindle our zeal to put our flesh to death, and finally, it is to instruct us to bear the cross patiently; for in this way God wants to extend His kingdom. But we are not to be grieved if our outer man decays, if only the inner is renewed! (2Cor 4:16). For God’s kingdom is such that when we submit to His righteousness, He also makes us partakers of His glory. This happens when he glorifies his light and truth through ever-increasing growth, through which the darkness and lies of Satan and his kingdom melt away, are extinguished and perish, - when he protects his own and guides them on the right path through the help of his Spirit and makes them strong to persevere, if, on the other hand, he destroys the godless plots of the enemies, exposes their deceit and deceitfulness, confronts their wickedness, curbs their stubbornness - until finally he will "kill the Antichrist with the spirit of his mouth" and destroy all ungodliness by the splendor of his coming! (2Thess 2,8).

III,20,43 The third request is that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This depends on God’s kingdom and cannot be separated from it; but it is not added without reason, because in our coarseness we do not easily and immediately understand what it actually means: God exercises his rule in the world! Therefore, it will not be inconsistent if we assume that this is an interpretation of the previous one: God will be king in the world when all submit to his will. Now it is not a question here of God’s hidden will, with which he directs everything and makes it subservient to his purpose. For Satan and men may rebel against this will as much as they like, but according to his inscrutable counsel he not only knows how to direct their attempts, but also to force them under his order, in order to carry out through them what he has decided! Here, however, another will of God is meant, namely that to which the voluntary obedience corresponds. That is why heaven is expressly compared with earth here; for the angels, as it is explained in the 103rd Psalm, voluntarily render obedience to God and are eager to carry out his commands (Ps 103,20). Just as nothing happens in heaven that does not come from God’s will, and just as the angels are obediently ready for all right work, so we should wish here that also on earth all unruliness and all wickedness would be destroyed and that the earth would submit to such a command of God. If we desire this, we renounce the desires of our flesh; for he who does not surrender and leave his will to God, opposes his will as much as is in him, because nothing comes out of us that is not corrupt. By this request we are now led anew to self-denial, so that God may rule us according to His will, and not only this, but at the same time so that He may destroy our mind and our heart and create in us a new mind and a new heart, so that in us there may no longer arise any stirring of desire, but only the pure conformity to His will! In short, we should no longer want anything of our own accord, but his spirit should rule our heart, so that we learn through his inner instruction to love what is pleasing to him and to hate what is displeasing to him. From this follows also this, that he makes vain and ineffective all impulses that are contrary to his will. These, then, are the first three main parts of the prayer; when we make these requests, it is necessary to have God’s glory alone in mind and to leave aside all consideration for ourselves, nor to pay attention to any advantage of our own. Certainly, this will bring us rich benefits ourselves, but we should not seek them. And although all this, even if we do not think of it, if we do not wish for it, and if we do not ask for it, must nevertheless happen in its time, we should nevertheless wish for it and desire it. It is of great importance that we do this, so that we may testify and confess that we are God’s servants and children, seeking His glory as much as we can, as we owe it to Him as Lord and Father, and devote ourselves to this task truly and from the bottom of our hearts. Whoever is not seized by such an urge and zeal for the promotion of God’s honor and therefore does not pray that God’s name may be sanctified, that his kingdom may come, that his will may be done - he is also not to be counted among the children and servants of God. And if all this happens against the will of such people, then it is to their shame and ruin.

III,20,44 Now follows the second part of the prayer, in which we pass on to that which serves our own welfare. This does not mean that we want to abandon God’s glory and ask only for what benefits ourselves! According to Paul’s testimony, even when we eat and drink, our attention should be directed to God’s glory! (1Cor 10:31). No, this distinction, as stated above, means the following: By reserving three requests for Himself alone, God draws us close to Himself in order to test our piety in this way; but then He also allows us to provide for our own well-being, but according to the rule that we should have the goal in mind in everything we ask for: everything that He bestows on us in terms of benefits must glorify His glory - for nothing is cheaper than that we should live to Him and die to Him! (Rom 14:7-9). In this (fourth) petition ("Give us this day our daily bread") we ask God in general for everything that our bodies need under the elements of this world; we ask not only to be fed and clothed, but also for everything else that will help us to eat our bread with peace. So, in short, with this request we place ourselves in his care and entrust ourselves to his providence, that he may nourish, provide for, and preserve us. For our dear Father does not consider it unworthy to take even our bodies into his faithfulness and care. It is in these very small things that he wants to exercise our faith, in that we now expect everything from him, even a morsel of bread and a drop of water! It has come about - I do not know through what injustice on our part! - come to this, that the care of our flesh seizes and torments us more than that of our soul, and there are in this way many people who dare well to trust God concerning their souls, but who are still anxious about their flesh, and still doubtfully ask, "What shall we eat, and wherewith shall we be clothed?" If such people do not have wine and grain and oil in abundance before them, they begin to tremble. So much higher do we esteem the shadow of this transitory life than that eternal immortality! But he who trusts in God, and thus has put away from himself this anxious care for the flesh, expects at the same time from him the greater things, including salvation and eternal life. So it is no small exercise in faith to hope from God what otherwise keeps us so much in fear, and it is no small advance at all if we cast off this unbelief that sits gnawing in the bones of almost all men. Now here some people philosophize about a "supernatural" bread. But this seems to me not to agree at all with Christ’s opinion. Yes, if we did not want to consider God as our breadwinner even in this frail life, our prayer would be only piecemeal! The reason given here is too unholy; it is declared that it would not be proper for the children of God, who are supposed to be spiritual, not only to set their hearts on earthly cares, but also to entangle God with them. As if his blessing and fatherly favor did not shine forth in our food as well, or as if it were nothing when it is written: "Godliness … has the promise of this life and the life to come!" (1Tim 4:8). Certainly the forgiveness of sins is far more important than the nourishment of our bodies; but Christ has nevertheless put that which means less in the first place, in order to lead us up by degrees to the other two petitions which belong to the heavenly life. In this way he has come to the aid of our sluggishness. When we are commanded here to ask for our bread, it is so that we may be content with the allotted measure which the heavenly Father has condescended to grant us, and not seek to gain by illicit arts. We have to keep in mind that our bread comes to us as a gift, because, as Moses says, neither our diligence, nor our work, nor our hands can acquire anything by themselves without God’s blessing! (Lev 26:20). Yes, even an abundance of bread would not benefit us in the least if it were not transformed into food by God! Therefore, this generosity of God is not less necessary for the rich than for the poor; for even with full chambers and barns, people would grow weary and hungry if they were not allowed to enjoy their bread by His grace. By the addition of "today" or "every day" - as it is said in the other evangelist (Luke: "forever") - also by the epithet "our "daily" bread…" a rein is put on our inordinate greed for perishable things. We are used to be fervent in this greed without any measure. And in addition to this, there are also other bad habits: when we have a richer abundance at our disposal, we immediately fall into lust, into pleasures, into ostentation and all kinds of other debaucheries! Therefore, according to this instruction, we should only ask for as much as is sufficient for our needs, as it were from one day to the next. At the same time we should have the confidence that the heavenly Father, who has fed us today, will not leave us tomorrow. So, no matter how great an abundance of goods may flow to us, no matter how full our barns and pantries may be, we should always ask for daily bread. For we must hold with certainty that all our possessions are nothing unless the Lord continually makes them fruitful by the outpouring of his blessing. Yes, even the possessions that are in our hands - we must further consider - do not belong to us unless God grants us our little piece hour by hour and allows us to use it! Human hopefulness is very reluctant to be convinced of this, and that is why the Lord, according to His testimony, gave proof for all times by feeding His people with the manna in the wilderness, to remind us that man "does not live by bread alone, but by every word that passes through the mouth of God"! (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4). Thus it is made clear to us that our life and our strength are sustained solely by God’s power, even though he gives it to us through bodily instruments. He also teaches us by a reverse proof: when it pleases him, he breaks the power - or as he himself calls it: the "staff" - of the bread, so that those who eat faint from hunger and those who drink thirst! (Lev 26:26; cf. the original text). But whoever is not satisfied with daily bread, but in unrestrained greed grabs for infinite good, or whoever is full above his abundance and secure above the amount of his riches, and then nevertheless throws himself at God’s feet with this request, does nothing but mock him. People of the first kind ask for something which they do not even want to obtain, indeed which they deeply detest, namely the "mere" daily bread; they conceal from God, as much as they are able, the urge of their greed, whereas true prayer should pour out to Him our whole mind, all that lies hidden within! The others, on the contrary, ask for something that they do not expect from him in any way, because they think that they already possess it in themselves! By calling this bread "our" bread, God’s goodness is glorified, as I said before, and it gives us what is not ours by right. Nevertheless, the view already mentioned above cannot be rejected that this expression refers to the proceeds of right and honest labor, but not to what one has obtained by fraud or robbery. For what we bring to ourselves with other people’s damage always remains someone else’s property. When we ask that bread be given to us, we make it clear that it is a gift of God granted to us by grace, wherever it may come from, even if it seems as if we had created it with skill and diligence or acquired it with our own hands. For it is only through God’s blessing that our work comes to pass.

III,20,45 Then follows: "Forgive us our debts.". In this and the following petition Christ has briefly summarized what serves us for heavenly life. The spiritual covenant that God has made for the salvation of His Church consists, after all, of only two pieces: "I will put My law in their hearts…" and "I will forgive them all their iniquities" (Jer 31:33; 33:8). Here Christ starts with the forgiveness of sins and then immediately follows with the second grace, namely that God sustains us by the power of His Spirit and by His help, so that we may stand unconquered against all temptations! But he calls our sins "debts" because we owe punishment for them and because we could in no way make satisfaction if we were not freed from them by this forgiveness. This forgiveness is out of His gracious mercy, in that He Himself in His goodness pays off our debts; He does not receive any ransom from us, but out of His mercy makes satisfaction for Himself in Christ, who once gave Himself for us as payment! (Rom 3,24). Whoever therefore trusts that God will obtain satisfaction through his own or other people’s merits, and that the forgiveness of sins will be paid for and acquired through these satisfying works, has no part in this forgiveness which takes place out of grace. If such a man calls upon God in this way, he does nothing else than sign the accusation against himself and seal condemnation for himself by his own testimony. For he who prays in this way confesses that he is a debtor unless he is absolved by the benefit of forgiveness - but he does not accept this benefit, but rather contemptuously rejects it by trying to impose his own merits and satisfactions on God! In this way he does not implore God’s mercy, but invokes His judgment! Others dream of a perfection that makes it no longer necessary to ask for forgiveness. They may well have disciples who allow themselves to be seduced by the lust of their ears into such deceit; but it is certain that all whom they gain as disciples are robbed of Christ; for he instructs all to confess their guilt, and so he accepts only sinners! He did not do this because he even wanted to feed their sins with flattery, but because he knew that believers will never be completely free from the flesh and its infirmities, but will always remain guilty of the judgment of God! However, it is to be desired, and we must also work strenuously at it, that we may fully fulfill our duty, so that we may then truly boast before God that we are pure from all blemishes! But it is God’s good pleasure to gradually express His image anew in us, so that there still remains some stain on our flesh, and therefore this remedy could not be left aside under any circumstances. Christ, by virtue of His authority given to Him by the Father, commands us to take refuge in making atonement for our guilt in the whole course of our lives! But who will then find tolerable the new teachers who try to blind the eyes of simple people with the appearance of perfect innocence, so that they trust that they can be made free and absolved from all guilt? According to the testimony of John, this is nothing other than "making God a liar" (1Jn 1:10). By such a plan these good-for-nothings take away a main part of the covenant of God, in which, as we have seen, our salvation is united, and thereby mutilate it, even cause it to totter from the bottom up. For they not only act blasphemously by tearing apart these two pieces which are so firmly connected, but also impiously and cruelly by plunging poor souls into despair; but they act unfaithfully to themselves and to their own kind, inasmuch as they procure for themselves an indolent tranquility which stands in irrevocable contrast to God’s mercy. - Of course, they object that if we pray for the coming of the kingdom of God, we are at the same time asking for the elimination of sin. But this is too childish; for in the first tablet of this prayer we are presented with the highest perfection, while here we are presented with our weakness. It is therefore perfectly consistent that on the one hand we strive for the goal, and yet on the other hand we do not neglect the remedies that our need requires. Finally, we ask to be forgiven "as we forgive our debtors". This means: we are to grant mercy and forgiveness to all those who have somehow offended us or treated us unjustly with some deed or made us contemptible with some word! Not as if it were our business to forgive the guilt of such wrongdoing or slight - for that belongs to God alone! (Isa 43,25); no, our forgiveness should consist in removing of our own free will all anger, all hatred, all vindictiveness from our hearts and in erasing the memory of offenses by voluntary forgetting. Therefore, we cannot ask for forgiveness of sins from God if we do not forgive all those who offend or have offended us for the offense done to us. But if we keep some hatred in our hearts, if we seek revenge and wait for a favorable opportunity to harm the other, yes, if we do not make an effort to get back into friendly relations with our enemies and to win them over by all kinds of services and to reconcile them with us - then we ask God in this petition that he will not grant us forgiveness of sins! For we desire that he forgive us as we forgive others! But this means: we ask him not to grant us forgiveness when we deny it to others! But what shall a man who is so minded bring upon himself by his asking but severe judgment? Finally, we have to consider the following: if our prayer is subject to the condition: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," it is not because we have earned God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. This condition, then, does not denote a cause for forgiveness. Rather, the Lord wanted to encourage us with this word in the weakness of our faith; for on the one hand he adds it, as it were, as a sign that should make us certain: as surely as we are conscious of granting forgiveness to others, so surely has he also granted us the forgiveness of our sins - if only our heart is free and pure from all hatred, all envy and all revenge! On the other hand, this addition is to be a mark by virtue of which he eliminates from the number of his children all those who are inclined to revenge, who are reluctant to be forgiven, who stubbornly cling to their enmity, and who nourish towards others the wrath which they nevertheless ask away from themselves by their prayer. So they should not dare to call him their father! This is then clearly expressed in Christ’s words in Luke.

III,20,46 The sixth petition corresponds, as said, to the promise: "I will put my law in their hearts" (cf. beginning of the previous section). But obedience to God is not without continuous military service, not without hard and difficult battles, and therefore we ask God to equip us with weapons and arm us with His protection, so that we may be able to win the victory. We are reminded that we need not only the grace of the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and incline them to obedience to God, but also His help to make us invincible against all the temptations and furious attempts of Satan! Now temptations come in many and various forms. Temptations are, first of all, the evil thoughts of our heart that challenge us to transgress the law; such thoughts are either given to us by our own covetousness, or the devil stirs them up in us. Temptations, on the other hand, are also those things that are not evil by nature, but become temptations through the wiles of the devil, namely when they come before our eyes in such a form that by bringing them near to us we are drawn away from God or deviate (Jam 1:2, 14; Mt 4:1, 3; 1Thess 3:5). These temptations threaten us from the right as well as from the left. From the right - there are riches, power and honor, which mostly blind the eyes of man by their splendor and the appearance of goodness, which they display, luring him with their flattering splendor, so that he finally allows himself to be caught by such deceptions, to be made drunk by such sweetness and forgets his God! From the left - there stand poverty, disgrace, contempt, tribulation and the like; by their bitterness and distress man is then tormented, and he loses heart, throws away confidence and hope, and finally alienates himself from God altogether! Now we ask God our Father not to allow us to retreat from these twofold temptations which our lust kindles in us, or which, set before us by Satan in his craftiness, contend with us! No, we ask that he may rather support us with his hand and raise us up, so that we may become strong in his power and stand firm against all attempts of the evil enemy, whatever thoughts he may raise in our heart, and further we ask that we may turn everything that is before us on both sides to the good, that is: not to be puffed up by happiness and not to despair in misfortune. But we are not asking here that we should not experience any temptations at all. Rather, we need to be stirred up, incited and disturbed by them, so that we do not live too lazily and slackly! It was not without reason that David wished to be tempted (Ps 26:2), and it is also not without reason that the Lord tempts His elect day after day (Gen 22:1; Deut 8:2; 13:4), chastising them with shame and poverty, with tribulation and another cross. But God tempts quite differently than Satan. Satan wants to corrupt, condemn, shame and plunge us into disaster with his temptation. God, on the other hand, by putting his own to the test, wants to gain a proof of their sincerity, he wants to strengthen their power by exercising them, he wants to kill, sweep out, burn out their flesh; for if it were not kept in check in this way, it would give itself up to his revelry and do immoderate mischief! Moreover, Satan attacks the unarmed and unprepared in order to knock them down unawares; God, on the other hand, creates the way out at the same time as the temptation, so that His own can patiently endure everything He sends them (1Cor 10:13; 2Pe 2:9). Whether we understand the devil or sin by "evil" is of little importance. For Satan is indeed himself the enemy who seeks our lives (1Pet 5:8), but he is armed with sin for our destruction! Our request, then, is that we may not be defeated or overrun by any temptations, but that we may stand firm in the strength of the Lord against all the hostile forces that assail us - that is, not succumb to temptations! We further pray that, taken into His care and faithfulness, and assured of His protection, we may retain victory over sin and death, over the gates of hell and the whole kingdom of the devil, and persevere - that is, be delivered from evil! In doing so, we must be thoroughly careful that it is not in our power to contend with the devil, such a mighty man of war, and to endure his violence and onslaught! If that were in our power, it would be in vain, indeed, it would be mockery to ask it of God. Truly, he who sets out on such a battle trusting in himself has not sufficiently understood what a pugnacious, well-armed enemy he has to deal with! But now we ask for deliverance from his power, as from the jaws of a raging, furious lion! We would soon be torn apart by its teeth and claws, devoured by its jaws, if the Lord did not snatch us out of the midst of death. But at the same time we know that if the Lord is with us and fights for us who are silent, then we too will do valiant deeds in his strength (Ps 60:14). Let others trust in their own abilities and the powers of their free will, which they think they have - for us it is enough that we can stand firm and do something by the Lord’s strength alone! But this plea embraces more than it might at first sight appear; for if the Spirit of God is our power to stand the battle with Satan, then we cannot win the victory until he has filled us completely and we have laid aside all the weakness of our flesh. So, when we desire to be delivered from Satan and sin, we are asking God to keep enriching us with the growth of His grace - until we are completely filled with it and triumph over all evil! To some people it seems hard and difficult to understand that we ask God: "Lead us not into temptation". After all, James testifies that it is repugnant to God’s nature to tempt us! (Jam 1:13). But the issue is already partially resolved because the cause of all temptations by which we are defeated is actually our own lust! (Jam 1:14). So our lust is to blame. James does not want to say anything else than that it is useless and unjust to blame God for vices that we have to blame ourselves for: we are well aware that we are guilty of them! But this does not prevent God, when it seems so good to him, from letting us fall into the bondage of Satan, into a wrong mind and into evil lusts, and thus "tempting" us in this way, according to his just but often hidden judgment; for to men the cause is often hidden, which yet is clear and certain with God! From this it follows that this is therefore not an improper way of speaking; we must nevertheless be convinced that he does not threaten so often without a cause: if the wicked were struck with blindness and hardening of their hearts, this would be a sure proof of his punishment!

III,20,47 These three petitions, in which we especially lay ourselves and all that we have at God’s heart, now show with full clarity what we already stated above: the prayers of Christians must also include others and have their goal in the common edification of the church and in the promotion of the community of believers. For here it is not the individual who desires to be given something for himself, but we all ask together for our daily bread, for the forgiveness of our sins, and that God may not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil! Then follows also to all this the reason why we may have such joy to pray and such confidence to obtain something. This piece, however, is not found in the Latin manuscripts, but it fits too well here to seem right to me to omit it; it reads: "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. This is the unbreakable and sure rest of our faith; for if our prayers should bring themselves into commendation before God by our worthiness-who would dare even to murmur before him? But now, whether we are the most miserable, whether we are the most unworthy of all, and whether we have nothing to boast of, we shall never lack the cause of prayer, never lack confidence; for even our Father cannot be deprived of his kingdom, his power and his glory! Then, at the end, is added: "Amen". This expresses the fervor of the desire to obtain what one has asked from God. It also strengthens our hope that we have already obtained all this and that it will certainly happen to us because God has promised it, God who cannot deceive! This agrees with the formula already given above: "Lord, do it for your name’s sake, not for ours or for our righteousness" (cf. Dan 9:18f.). For with this the saints do not merely express the goal of their desires, but they confess that they are unworthy to receive anything unless God takes the cause for it from Himself, and that the confidence to receive something granted comes to them solely from God’s nature!

III,20,48 Thus we find everything that we should ask of God and that we can ask at all, described in this form or also as it were: this rule of prayer, which Christ, the best teacher, has taught us; but this Christ God has set for us as teacher, and to him alone we are to listen according to his will! (Mt 17:5). He has always been God’s eternal wisdom (Isa 11:2). And when He became man, He was given to men as a messenger of God of "wonderful counsel" (Isa 9:5). Now this prayer is so perfect in all things that everything foreign, coming from outside, which cannot be brought into agreement with it, is ungodly and not worthy to be approved by God! (cf. Augustine, Letter 130). For in this summary he has marked out for us what is worthy of him, what is pleasing to him and what is necessary to us, in short, what he wants to grant us. Whoever dares to go further and to desire something from God beyond this, first wants to add something to God’s wisdom out of his own - and this cannot happen without senseless blasphemy! But he also does not keep himself under God’s will, but despises him and lets himself be driven into the distance by his covetousness. In the end, however, he never ever obtains anything, because he prays without faith. For there is no doubt that all such prayers are made without faith; for the Word of God is missing here, and if faith is not based on it, it cannot stand under any circumstances. But he who leaves aside the rule of the Master, and indulges his own desires, is not only without God’s word, but is opposed to it, so far as he is able with his undertaking! This is why Tertullian as aptly as truthfully called this prayer the "right" prayer (Of Flight in Persecution, 2), and by this he tacitly implies that all other prayers are outside the law and are unlawful..

III,20,49 Now we do not want this to be understood as if we were bound to the form of prayer in such a way that we must not change a word or syllable. For we repeatedly read many prayers in Scripture that are very different in words from the Lord’s prayer, but are nevertheless formed by the same spirit, and their use is very useful for us. The same Spirit continually puts into the mouths of believers many prayers that are not so much the same as this prayer in the similarity of words. No, the point of our teaching is only that no one should seek, expect, or desire anything other than what is summed up in this prayer. However different words he may need, he should not allow any deviation to occur in the meaning. In this way, surely, all the prayers we have before us in Scripture, as well as all those which proceed from a believing heart, are related to this one prayer, and truly no one can ever be found which could equal its perfection, much less surpass it! Nothing is omitted here that we should think of for the praise of God, but also nothing that should come to our mind for our own good. And all this is so precisely expressed that everyone must reasonably lose hope of attempting anything better! In short, we should consider that we have here the instruction of divine wisdom before us: what her will is, that she has made known to us, and she has willed only what was necessary!

III,20,50 We have already said above that we should always lift up our hearts to God, always sigh to Him and pray without ceasing. But our weakness is so great that it must be supported with much succor, our drowsiness so heavy that it needs to be stirred up with all kinds of stimulus. Therefore, each one of us should set aside for his exercise certain hours which he will not let pass without prayer, and during which he will devote himself entirely to prayer with all the stirrings of his heart. This should be done when we get up in the morning, before we start our day’s work, then when we sit down at table, further when we have been allowed to enjoy our food through God’s blessing, and finally when we go to rest. This is not meant to be a superstitious observance of hours, in which we offer God the owed measure, so to speak, and then think that we are free of all duty for the remaining hours; no, it is meant to be a discipline for our weakness, which is to be practiced in this way and spurred on again and again! Above all, we must be careful that, as often as we ourselves are oppressed by any affliction or see others oppressed, we then immediately take refuge in God - not with haste of foot, but with haste of heart! Nor should we ever let a promotion that befalls us or others pass by without testifying by praise and thanksgiving that we recognize His hand in it. And finally, in all our prayers, we should be careful not to desire to bind God to certain circumstances and to dictate to him at what time, in what place, and in what way he should do something. Indeed, we are taught by the Lord’s prayer not to make any law or impose any conditions on Him, but to leave it to His discretion to do what He wants to do in the way, time, and place that seem right to Him. So before we make any request for ourselves, we should first ask, "Thy will be done." In this way we submit our will to his, so that it is kept in check, as it were, and does not miss forcing God into an order, but recognizes him as the judge and director of all our own desires.

III,20,51 If our hearts are sent to such obedience, and we thus allow ourselves to be guided by the laws of divine providence, then we will also easily learn to persevere in prayer, to leave our desires in abeyance, and to wait patiently for the Lord, in the certainty that, even if it by no means comes to light, he is nevertheless always with us, and that he will make it clear in his own time how he has not met our prayers, which seemed neglected before the eyes of men, with deaf ears after all! This will then give us a very strong comfort, so that we will not grow weary or sink down in despair if God does not answer our first request right away. This is what usually happens to people who let themselves be led only by their fervour and then call upon God in such a way that, if he does not jump in at the first attempt and immediately bring pre