I would give all my fingers, save three to write with, could I find divinity so easy and light as they take it to be. The reason why men deem it so is, that they become soon wearied, and think they know enough of it. So we found it in the world, and so we must leave it; but in fine videbitur, cujus toni. He that has but one word of God before him, and out of that word cannot make a sermon, can never be a preacher. I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word; he that pleases may follow me; he that will not may stay.
I call upon St Peter, St Paul, Moses, and all the Saints, to say whether they ever fundamentally comprehended one single word of God, without studying it over and over and over again. The Psalm says; His understanding is infinite. The school theologians have a fine similitude hereupon, that it is as with a sphere or globe, which, lying on a table, touches it only with one point, yet it is the whole table which supports the globe. But that our faith may be exercised and confirmed, our heavenly Father suffers us to be cast into dungeons, or plunged in water. So we may see how finely we understand these words, and how belief shakes, and how great our weakness is, so that we begin to think—Ah, who knows how far that is true which is set forth in the scriptures?
God grant we and our descendants be not witnesses of such a calamity. It is with us as with travelers, who, so long as they are on the highway, are tranquil and heedless, but if they go astray into the woods or cross paths, uneasily seek which way to take, this or that.
The great men and the doctors understand not the word of God, but it is revealed to the humble and to children, as it testified by the Saviour in the Gospel according to St Matthew, xi. Even in the time of the apostles, there were heresies, errors, and evil doctrines spread abroad by false brethren. Next came Arius, and the Word of God was hidden behind dark clouds, but the holy fathers, Ambrose, Hilary, Augustine, Athanasius, and others, dispersed the obscurity. Greece and many other countries have heard the Word of God, but have since abandoned it, and it is to be feared even now it may quit Germany, and go into other lands.
I hope the last day will not be long delayed. The darkness grows thicker around us, and godly servants of the Most High become rarer and more rare. Impiety and licentiousness are rampant throughout the world, and live like pigs, like wild beasts, devoid of all reason. But a voice will soon be heard thundering forth: Behold, the bridegroom cometh. God will not be able to bear this wicked world much longer, but will come, with the dreadful day, and chastise the scorners of his word.
Kings, princes, lords, any one will needs understand the gospel far better than I, Martin Luther, ay, or even than St Paul; for they deem themselves wise and full of policy. Justus Jonas told Dr. Martin Luther of a noble and powerful Misnian, who above all things occupied himself in amassing gold and silver, and was so buried in darkness, that he gave no heed to the five books of Moses, and had even said to Dr.
This reminds me of the answer of certain parishioners to their minister, Ambrose R. We have an example before us, in Judges ii. We shall be occasioned much suffering and loss by the Sacramentarians, the Anabaptists, the Antinomians, and other sectaries. With that we may at all times feel joyous and secure; we need never be in want of consolation, for we see before us, in all its brightness, the pure and right way. He who loses sight of the Word of God, falls into despair; the voice of heaven no longer sustains him; he follows only the disorderly tendency of his heart, and of world vanity, which lead him on to his destruction.
Christ, in Matthew, v. In the writings of St Paul and St John is a surpassing certainty, knowledge, and plerophoria. They write as if all they narrate had been already done before their eyes. Christ rightly says of St Paul, he shall be a chosen instrument and vessel unto me; therefore he was made a doctor, and therefore he spake so certainly of the cause.
Whoso reads Paul may, with a safe conscience, build upon his words; for my part, I never read more serious writings.
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The author of the book of Ecclesiasticus preaches the law well, but he is no prophet. They are both collections made by other people. The book of Judith is not a history. It accords not with geography. I believe it is a poem, like the legends of the saints, composed by some good man, to the end he might show how Judith, a personification of the Jews, as God-fearing people, by whom God is known and confessed, overcame and vanquished Holofernes—that is, all the kingdoms of the world. It is a tragedy, setting forth what the end of tyrants is.
I take the book of Tobit to be a comedy concerning women, an example for house-government. I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities. The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets; though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains.
They utterly condemn Daniel and Isaiah, those two holy and glorious prophets, of whom the former, in the clearest manner, preaches Christ, while the other describes and portrays the kingdom of Christ, and the monarchies and empires of the world preceeding it. Jeremiah comes but after them. The discourses of the prophets were none of them regularly committed to writing at the time; their disciples and hearers collected them subsequently, one, one piece, another, another, and thus was the complete collection formed. Daniel and Isaiah are most excellent prophets. Philip Melancthon is Jeremiah; that prophet stood always in fear; even so it is with Melancthon.
In the book of the Judges, the valiant champions and deliverers are described, who were sent by God, believing and trusting wholly in him, according to the first commandment: they committed themselves, their actions, and enterprises to God, and gave him thanks: they relied only upon the God of heaven and said: Lord God, thou hast done these things, and not we; to thee only be the glory.
The book of the Kings is excellent—a hundred times better than the Chronicles, which constantly pass over the most important facts, without any details whatever. The book of Job is admirable; it is not written only touching himself, but also for the comfort and consolation of all sorrowful, troubled and perplexed hearts who resist the devil. When he conceived that God began to be angry with him, he became impatient, and was much offended; it vexed and grieved him that the ungodly prospered so well. Therefore it should be a comfort to poor Christians that are persecuted and forced to suffer, that in the life to come, God will give unto them exceeding great and glorious benefits, and everlasting wealth and honor.
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We need not wonder that Moses so briefly described the history of the ancient patriarchs, when we see that the Evangelists, in the shortest measure, describe the sermons in the New Testament, running briefly through them, and giving but a touch of the preachings of John the Baptist, which, doubtless, were the most beautiful. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
See how he describes God the Creator, and also his creatures, in plain, clear language, as with a sunbeam. If one of our philosophers or high learned men had described them, what wonderful swelling and high-trotting words would he have paraded, de ente et es senti, so that no man could have understood what he meant. The Psalms of David are of various kinds—didactic, prophetic, eucharistic, catechetic. Among the prophetic, we should particularly distinguish the th, Dixit Dominus; and among the didactic, the Miserere Mei, De profundis, and Domine, exaudi orationem. The th is very fine.
It describes the kingdom and priesthood of Jesus Christ, and declares him to be the King of all things, and the intercessor for all men; to whom all things have been remitted by his Father, and who has compassion on us all. Luther was asked whether the history of the rich man and Lazarus was a parable or a natural fact? He replied: The earlier part of the story is evidently historical; the persons, the circumstances, the existence of the five brothers, all this is given in detail.
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The reference to Abraham is allegorical, and highly worthy of observation. We learn from it that there are abodes unknown to us, where the souls of men are; secrets into which we must not inquire. Before the Gospel came among us, men used to undergo endless labor and cost, and make dangerous journeys to St James of Compostella, and where not, in order to seek the favor of God. But now that God, in his Word, brings his favor unto us gratis, confirming it with his sacraments, saying, Unless ye believe, ye shall surely perish, we will have none of it.
In all sciences, the ablest professors are they who have thoroughly mastered the texts. When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned. I then read the commentators, but I soon threw them aside, for I found therein many things my conscience could not approve, as being contrary to the sacred text. The words of the Hebrew tongue have a peculiar energy. It is impossible to convey so much so briefly in any other language. To render them intelligibly, we must not attempt to give word for word, but only aim at the sense and idea.
The wise ones, who affect greater knowledge than myself on the subject, take me to task for a word here and there. Did they attempt the labor I have accomplished, I would find a thousand blunders in them for my one.
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But he who holds a mean between both, apprehends the right use of the sacraments. Clearly, it will also judge the ungodly, St John, c.
You say, it is the man that preaches, reproves, absolves, comforts, etc. The search after the Word has been, from the beginning of the world, the source of great danger; few people can hit it, unless God, through his Holy Spirit, teach it them in their hearts. Forsheim said that the first of the five books of Moses was not written by Moses himself. Luther replied: What matters it, even though Moses did not write it? Such futile objections as these should not be listened to. Thus the canonists, the popish dissemblers, and other heretics, are right chimeras; in the face resembling a fair virgin, the body being like a lion, and the tail like a snake.
Even so it is with their doctrine; it glitters, and has a fair aspect, and what they teach is agreeable to mortal wisdom and appreciation, and acquires repute. Afterwards, lion-like, it breaks through by force, for all false teachers commonly make use of the secular arm; but in the end, it shows itself a slippery doctrine, having, like a snake, a smooth skin, sliding through the hand. What fools are ye that presume to teach us, the best and largest part, there being of you but a handful?
A man must be able to affirm, I know for certain, that what I teach is the only Word of the high Majesty of God in heaven, his final conclusion and everlasting, unchangeable truth, and whatsoever concurs and agrees not with this doctrine, is altogether false, and spun by the devil. And withal, I have this comfort, that God says: I will give thee people and hearers that shall receive it; cast thy care upon me; I will defend thee, only remain thou stout and steadfast by my Word. We must not regard what or how the world esteems us, so we have the Word pure, and are certain of our doctrine.
Hence Christ, in John viii. When a man has this certainty, he has overcome the serpent; but if he be doubtful of the doctrine, it is for him very dangerous to dispute with the devil. I never thought the world had been so wicked, when the Gospel began, as now I see it is; I rather hoped that every one would have leaped for joy to have found himself freed from the filth of the pope, from his lamentable molestations of poor troubled consciences, and that through Christ they would by faith obtain the celestial treasure they sought after before with such vast cost and labor, though in vain.
And especially I thought the bishops and universities would with joy of heart have received the true doctrines, but I have been lamentably deceived. Moses and Jeremiah, too, complained they had been deceived.