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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Matthew 8,1-13. Third Sunday after Epiphany. Schartau

Matthew 8,1-13
3. Sunday after Epiphany
Henric Schartau (1757-1825)
In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
1. (181) I am all full of festering sores, Come lay Your hand upon me; I am adrift far from the shores, Let Your grace never fail me. I am so weak, have pity, Lord, An erring sheep Your care afford. Your grace alone I’m pleading. 
2. Pray thus, O penitent sinner who is aware of Your soul’s infirmity and longs for spiritual health. Pray to Jesus, the Right Physician of souls, in the Name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 
3. “Do you want to be made whole?” This strange question was put by the Lord to a man who lay bodily sick. Today I wish to direct the same question to all who are spiritually sick: “Do you want to be made whole?” 
4. There was in Jerusalem a pool, called Bethesda, into which at certain seasons an angel descended and troubled the water. The first invalid to descend into the water after it had been trouble was healed. There was among others a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, lying in one of the porches erected for the sick. He had waited long but in vain for the healing bath. He had no one to help him into the water and (182) was always preceded by someone who was a little stronger or who had a helper. Jesus saw him and learned that he had lain there for a long time, and He said to the man: “Do you want to be made whole?” 
5. It may appear superfluous for Jesus to ask this question, since it was evident that the invalid wished to be made whole, but Jesus wished to show, first, that while the sick man could not help himself, his consent was nevertheless necessary; secondly, that when he wished to be made well, Jesus had the requisite power and willingness to heal him. 
6. Man’s spiritual condition resembles that of one bodily sick. Pains, unconsciousness, fever, infirmity, yes, even death follows upon spiritual, as well as upon bodily, diseases. The Holy Scriptures therefore represent the rising up from our sinful depravity as being like a healing from some malady. Our Gospel text speaks of two, who were bodily sick and whom Jesus healed. It is not, then, improper, if we take occasion to speak of spiritual healing from a disease with which our souls are all affected, a disease which eventually leads to eternal destruction, if it is not healed in time. 
7. Jesus has procured so certain a remedy that it never fails, if rightly used. He has also opened a way to this remedy, so that every person can be healed. Jesus has made so perfect a payment for all our sins and purchased grace unto the rising up of the soul from sinful depravity that any one who rightly seeks for atonement and appropriates the grace in Christ never can remain lying in the wretchedness of his sins. The way lies open in repentance and faith, and the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, are available. It is by (183) these that the Holy Spirit, without our assistance, enables us to gain the health and life which Jesus has purchased for our sick, dead souls. 
8. On behalf of Jesus I must now ask you the same question that He put to the sick man at Bethesda: “Do you want to be made whole?” Though your consent is necessary for the healing of your soul, you have nothing to contribute. If you wish to be healed spiritually, you shall know that Jesus is willing to heal you. He is also able; He lacks no power, for He is God. He has healed many thousands quite as wretched and corrupted as you. Fall down before HIm as did the leper and ask for the healing of your soul, saying: “Our Father” etc. 
Text: Matthew 8,1-13
A Glorious Comfort for Penitent Sinners
1. Penitent sinners to whom it is a comfort that Jesus will make them whole. 
2. The glorious comfort for such penitent sinners, that Jesus will make them whole. 
9. O Jesus Christ! You are the healing and life of our souls. Concerning You it is written that, on one occasion when You were teaching many people, the power of the Lord was with You to heal. Let Your Word no be active to the making of this congregation whole by means of the health which You has purchased for us with Your blood.  Amen. 
First Part.
To Whom It Is a Comfort That Jesus Will Make Them Whole.
10. Evidently there can be no comfort to be made well except to those who grieve because they are sick. No one rejoices in the hope of regaining his health, unless he knows that he has lost it and is painfully aware of this loss. 
11. No man is by nature whole. Every one is corrupted by the infection of sin. Spiritually he resembles the leper in our Gospel. Leprosy was a disease which spread sores all over the body, causing pain and an obnoxious odor. Human depravity is by Isaiah described in terms apparently borrowed from this disease: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises and festering sores.” The whole head is sick. The entire reason of man is blinded; the functions of organs of the intellect are in the greatest disorder and confusion, so that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, and he cannot know them.” The whole heart is faint. The human will is faint with infirmity, slothfulness and indifference as far as God and the reign of grace are concerned. Indeed, “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God.” Our natural mind neither is, nor can be, “subject to the law of God.” Human nature is full of sin, corruption and wretchedness. From the sole of the foot to the crown of the head there are festering sores or manifest sins, also secret sins, “wounds and bruises:” containing cankerous poison. 
12. No man knows his spiritual infirmity by his own reason. In his natural condition man is like one sick, not only b reason of his suffering, but also because he is so seriously affected tht he loses consciousness of his pains. Immediately after a person has broken his Baptismal covenant, he has disturbing reminders of his backsliding, and an anxious feeling of regret overtakes him when he recalls the blessings he once enjoyed. He soon casts away his anxiety, however, stifles his apprehensions with new sin, and eventually becomes quite callous and secure. even if there are occasional attacks of the former anxiety, they are soon forgotten, and the sinner may in the meantime boast of having a good conscience, not doubting his salvation. 
13. It is the Word of God that informs a person of his spiritual disease. This is the significance of the word by Jeremiah: “Is not My Word like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” It breaks a man’s stony heart and causes a smarting sensation of sorrow, as though the heart were crushed. The spiritual condition then resembles the physical condition of the centurion’s servant of whom we read? “My servant lies in the house sick and grievously tormented.” When the law “pierces to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow,” then the sins revealed thoroughly frighten the soul with fear of eternal condemnation, which the awakened soul at last realizes that he has merited. The law demands love to God with all one’s heart, but now it becomes apparent in the light of God’s Word that one harbors evil desires. In short, when God begins to heal the soul, its depravity becomes quite apparent. 
14. A person then also becomes aware of his inability to (186) help himself. His soul resembles the servant in our Gospel, who was “sick of the palsy,” and quite unable to help himself out of his tribulations. The awakened sinner is indeed willing to attempt to help himself, but his dismal failures and a greater enlightenment finally convince him that, in the words of the apostle Paul: “We are not sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” A sinner so awakened fears the wrath of God and finds himself unable to appease the Lord. He feels the loathsome violence of the passions and many a time with heartfelt sorrow and humiliation he experiences his inability to quench and, still less, to uproot them. 
Second Part. 
It Is a Comfort for Such Souls That Jesus Is Willing to Make Them Whole. 
15. Indeed, a person so awakened already has the comfort that Jesus can make a wretched man whole. It is this comfort which secretly sustains a penitent soul and keeps it from despair. For where would otherwise be our hope? But, now hallelujah! Jesus can do it; let Him be eternally praised for it. He can do it, for He has been able to fulfill the law, endure the penalty of our sins, bring the devil to nought, take away sins, appease the wrath of God, and make Himself alive again. Nothing is beyond His power. He says: “All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus can heal a wretched soul. Behold, here there are prospects, there is hope of obtaining health by His stripes, and life by His death.
16. This comfort is given even in the state of awakening. (187) The leper expressed his conviction that Jesus was able to cure him, saying: “You can make me whole.” The centurion had such lofty conceptions of the Savior’s power that he believed Jesus could heal the palsied servant even at a distance by a mere word. He explained his faith with a parable referring to himself. Though he was under authority, he nevertheless had power to accomplish several things by means of his servant and his soldiers, and so he was all the more sure that Jesus who is above all, having no superiors, could do everything. So also an awakened sinner is entirely convinced that Jesus can heal a diseased soul. This conviction of Jesus’ power to help is a result of the first enlightenment by the gospel. When a person has read the Word of God, heard and read it in its entire connection, then he has acquainted himself with the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as with the law.  The latter has indeed, according to God’s order of grace, first enlightened the sinner to know himself and his wretchedness, but thereupon the Holy Spirit makes the gospel vital to the heart and enables the sinner to know Jesus Christ and the great value of His redemption. The penitent sinner then understands and believes that since he is but a mere man while Jesus is God, therefore the payment effected by Jesus is greater than the sinner’s guilt, His reparation greater than the sinner’s fall, the grace purchased greater than the wrath merited, the salvation obtained far surpassing the wretchedness in which the sinner feels himself plunged. He therefore confidently believes that Jesus can forgive all his sins, raise him up out of perdition, and grant him grace unto salvation. Still there is an obscure uncertainty whether Jesus is also (188) willing. The leper said: “If you will.” Jesus was therefore anxious to assure him as well as the centurion of His willingness and readiness to help; He said: “I will; be made clean;””I will come and heal him.” 
17. It is very certain that Jesus is willing to save sinners, just as we heard in His words that He was willing to heal them of their bodily infirmities. In like manner, and even more so, He is willing to heal their spiritual diseases. If He has come into the world to save sinners, He is also willing to have them share the salvation He has obtained for them. He is the same immutable Son of God that He has ever been, and He still has the same love for men that He had when He gave Himself for them in death. He has asserted this several times in His Word: “The Lord is … long-suffering toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” “Who (God) would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.” “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them.” 
18. This is great comfort for an awakened soul. When Jesus can and will, it must be so. The penitent sinner becomes assured of this, assured that his sins will be forgiven and that his conscience will be healed. This is the summary of all God’s promises, that God is willing, that His good will is turned toward men. It was this comfort that was announced by angels at the Savior’s birth: “Men in whom He is well pleased.” 
19. This is glorious comfort for a man who is sad by reason of his sins. It sustains him in his temptations and gives him strength to reject the suggestion of the evil one, who whispers in his ear that it were better for him (189) to give up everything since it appears that he is making no progress in godliness. When the question of despair arises in a crushed heart as to whether God ever cares for so wretched and abominable a creature, then here is the glorious comfort that Jesus will help from the depths of sin. The saddened soul is thus enabled to unbosom his troubles to the Lord and to ask for help from the power of sin and Satan. When Jesus had assured the centurion of His willingness to help, the latter became encouraged to disclose his heart to the Savior. The comfort received has a powerful attraction and leads those who seek for salvation to a sincere confidential talk with Jesus concerning His power and will to help, of which His gracious promises give assurance. The comfort also discloses the spiritual poverty and faith of such an heart.When Jesus had comforted the centurion with the assurance of His willingness to help, the centurion said: »I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.« Here was spiritual poverty. He added: »But only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.« Here was a faith the likeness of which Jesus declared He had not found in Israel. 
20. A similar comfort is granted to a soul that is sighing for redemption from the misery of sin. He becomes assured that Jesus will help him. As Jesus stretched forth His hand and gave the leprous man both assurance and help, simultaneously, so He stretches forth His gracious hand in the Word, giving comfort to penitent heart. One thus comforted no longer doubts that he will find healing for his soul, but says with Micah: »He will again have compassion upon us; He will tread our iniquities (190) under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.« 
21. He will also obtain help. Jesus said: »I will,« and immediately continued: “Be made clean.” And straightaway his leprosy was cleansed. After Jesus had first declared Himself willing to come and heal the centurion’s servant, and the man had believed that Jesus could and would do it, it happened even so. Jesus said: “Go your way; as you have believed, so be it done unto you,” and the servant was healed in that very hour., Similarly, in the very moment that a soul frightened by God’s law believes that Jesus can and will blot out his guilt and make him righteous before God, it happens even as he believes. Jesus “blots out his transgressions as a thick cloud,” clothes the soul in His meritorious righteousness, and grants it “an inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith in Jesus,” who has purchased this with His obedience, with His blood and death. 
22. In conclusion, you have now heard that Jesus is willing to heal you. It cannot be done, however, if you say in your heart: “I will not.” Then Jesus must complain as in the case of the Jews: “You will not come to Me, so that you may have life.” But you say that you wish to be healed. You are anxious to get rid of secret apprehensions which occasionally trouble you, and of the anxiety which attacks you now and then. You are quite willing to have an healed, quiet, contented and peaceful conscience; but you are not willing to admit that your secret uneasiness of mind comes from secret sins, so that you anxiety is derived from a state of guilt not remitted. (191) This is equivalent to an unwillingness to be healed. The wounds of conscience must smart before they can be healed. If your sins have never caused you anguish, you can have no healed soul, and you should consider that your sins are quire as great, yes, even greater being thus concealed, and that eternal death must follow upon the temporal death, if your blindness and sense of security follow you till you meet death. 
23. If there is some one, as I hope there may be, in this great congregation who sincerely wishes to find his soul’s healing through Jesus Christ, I say to him: “Do not cast away your boldness”; for Jesus is of the same will as you, and your healing will certainly come in due season. Search in His Word, the Holy Scriptures, for a greater insight into His promises, which assure you that Jesus is willing to save, Pray that He may, by virtue of the power in His Word, give you the assurance, the same comfort, that He gave to the men in our test: “I will, I will”; then it shall be done unto you even as you believe and as Jesus wills. He shall Himself finish His gracious will upon you, deliver you from the sins which oppress you and grant you His peace.  
24. Again, if there is someone who has obtained such healing, then I have a word of waring in our Gospel of today. Jesus did not allow the leper who had been healed to tell anyone until he had shown himself to the priest in accordance with the law of Moses: “for a testimony unto them.” When the priests had permitted him  to offer the gift of one healed then they had also acknowledged that the leper had been healed, and they had, consequently, testified against themselves that (192) Jesus was from God, since He had been able to do this. From this I wish to take occasion to warn the soul that has been healed: Speak not about it to men until you have first offered a sacrifice of thanks and praise to the Lord. Your offering of praise may thereupon, on some opportune occasion, be given in the presence of your unbelieving relatives and acquaintances as a testimony to the hardness and impenitence of heart in neglecting the grace offered them, by means of which they might have come to the same blessed condition for which you are praising the Lord. 
25. In the second place, I wish to call to the attention of a soul thus healed the warning which Jesus gave to the man who had lain at Bethesda. Jesus found him in the temple after he had been healed, and said to him: “Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall you.” Behold, you have found salvation for your soul. A rare occurrence in our days! Sin no more. Beware of your former sins, lest you fall into them again and into a far worse condition than before. You have the same inherited disease as the rest of our race. I mean the  original and congenital sinful depravity. Beware, lest its lusts deceive you to consent to any sin and to transgress God’s commandments. You are living in a world which “lies entirely in the evil one,” and where most men are afflicted with the prevailing leprosy of sin. You must therefore  see to it that you are not again “entangled in the defilements of the world.” “Keep yourself unspotted from the world.” Resist the devil manfully, with prayer in faith, so that he may not wound your conscience and corrupt your soul. Seek Jesus Christ in the Word, for He is your soul’s salvation. (193) Be anxious to have your life in faith strengthened and nourished by frequent communion at the Lord’s Table. 
26. Now if my Lord Jesus should wish that this probation sermon of mine shall be the only word of God which I am to preach among you, let His will be done. It would be great joy for me in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ -- and, indeed, it is even now a gratifying thought -- if, by virtue of the healing power of the Word of God, some of my auditors should stand healed in His sight.
27. Amen, in His Name, amen. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Posted this day on the north doors of the Schlosskirche

OCTOBER 31, 1517 
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.  
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said poenitentiam agite ["Repent"], willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance. [Matthew 4:17] 
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.  
 3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.  
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. 
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons. 
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God's remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.  
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.  
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.  
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity. 
10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.  
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept. [Matthew 13:25]
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.  
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them. 
14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.  
15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near the horror of despair.  

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and the assurance of salvation.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.  
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of  increasing love.  
19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.  
 20. Therefore by "full remission of all penalties" the pope means not actually "of all," but only of those imposed by himself.  
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;  
22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.  
23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.  
24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.  
25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.  
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.  
27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory]. 
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.  
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.  
 30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.  
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.  
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon. 
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;  
34. For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man. 
35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.  
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.  
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded for they are, as I have said [Thesis 6], the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.  
40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].  
41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.  
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.  
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons. 
44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.  
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.  
46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.  
 47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.  
 48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.  
49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them, but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God. 
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.  
51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.  
52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.  
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.  
54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word. 
55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies. 
56. The "treasures of the Church," out of which the pope grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.  
57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church's poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.  
60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ's merit, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.  
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.  
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last. [Matt. 20:16]
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.  
65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.  
66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.  
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the "greatest graces" are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain. 
68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.  
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.  
70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.  
71 . He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!  
72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed! 
73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.  
74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.  
75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God -- this is madness. 
76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned. 
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.  
78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in 1 Corinthians 12[:28].  
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.  
80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.  
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.  
82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial."  
83. Again: "Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"  
84. Again: "What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul's own need, free it for pure love's sake?"  
85. Again: "Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?"  
 86. Again: "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"  
87. Again: "What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?" 
88. Again: "What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?"  
89. "Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?" 
90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.  
91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.  
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! [Jeremiah 6:14]
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross! 
94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell,
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace. [Acts 14:22]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Matthew 7,14. St. Michael's Day. Henric Schartau

Matthew 7,14
St. Michael’s Day
Henric Schartau (1757-1825)
(170) Introduction. 
For narrow is the gate, and straight the way, that leads unto life, and few are they who find it. 
1. Hear this, O man, you who are hoping and longing for eternal life. Your Savior, who has opened the way, says that you cannot enter without opposition and, hence, that there are few who attain the goal. “For narrow is the gate, and straight the way,” etc. Matthew 7,14. 
2. Conversion is like a gate to the straight way of godliness. Conversion is the change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit by means of the Word of God, leading to a hearty confidence in the redemption of the Son of God, to the forgiveness of sins and strength to lead the new life determined upon. It is only by means of such a change that a Christian life can begin. The gate of repentance is the entrance to the way of life. 
3. This gate is narrow. Man must enter there alone. You cannot bring your sins with you, O man, you must put them away. Human friendship cannot be retained, for you must bear the reproach of Jesus. You cannot expect worldly enjoyments, for you must take up the cross of your Savior. “Narrow is the gate, and straight the way, that leads unto life.” 
4. The straight way of godliness follows upon the narrow gate of repentance. If you have been converted and (171) have come to the faith and have thus received the forgiveness of sins, then you must more and more lay off the remaining sinful desires for the manifestations of which you have been forgiven. Upon conversion follows sonship, and with this childlike obedience must be associated. 
5. But straight is the way that leads unto life, and few are they who find it. The evil desires cannot be conquered without battle, and few are they who enter upon this warfare, few are they who “run with patience the race that is set before them.” No one can do the will of God without interference, and few are they who pass beyond the first stumbling blocks. Few are rightly converted, and few are they who endure unto the end. “For narrow is the gate, and straight the way, that leads unto life, and few are they who find it.” 
6. The gate of repentance is narrow, but not closed. Let us, therefore, pray that some of you may enter. The way of godliness is straight, but not inaccessible. Let each and every one pray that he may be one of the few who find it. For the sake of Jesus, who has opened this way, let us pray for this very thing in His prayer, wherein the way is marked out. “Our Father” etc. 
The Entrance into the Reign of God
7. 1. The entrance to the way of godliness by means of the narrow gate of repentance. 
8. 2. The entrance into the reign of heaven by means of the straight way of godliness. 
(172) First Part. 
9. The early disciples took it for granted that they should enter the reign of heaven. They merely asked Jesus who would be greatest therein. Jesus, however, declared that they would not enter at all, unless they were first converted and had thus become like little children. 
10. Conversion, then, takes its beginning in such a way that a person who has previously in his state of security taken for granted that he would enter into the reign of heaven, becomes convinced that a true conversion must first take place. 
11. Conversion is an entirely foreign matter to a spiritually unconcerned person, for, though such a person may have heard of it in sermons or read about it in devotional books, he has not taken the matter seriously, nor considered that he himself needs to be converted. Either he does not think that he must experience such a change, or he imagines that it has already taken place, so he is of the opinion that the only thing which he must yet do to enter the reign of heaven is to pass away from this world by death. 
12. Conversion takes its beginning in a person when he becomes convinced by the Word of God that conversion is necessary for salvation, and that he himself is not converted. when a person has been moved by the sweetness of the first workings of grace to use the Word of God diligently, he learns how conversion takes place and what a man’s condition is after he has been converted. In the light of the spiritual knowledge thus acquired under the guidance of the Spirit of God, he realizes that (173) he is as yet not converted, for his condition is not such as the Word of God attributes to those who are rightly converted. “Through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” God’s commands and th e law then reveal to his conscience that he is still harboring sins which it is not possible for a truly converted man to cherish. 
13. Conversion makes progress when a person, by the threats of God’s law, with fear perceives and with pain feels that he is under the wrath and condemnation of God, and when he is thereby impelled to seek salvation for his soul. Even as a person cannot by his own natural reason comprehend that he has offended God and merited eternal condemnation, so neither can he by his own strength fear the wrath of God and grieves over his lost condition. This grief, which is called a grief after God’s mind, is the work of God. The Sprit of God, who has wrought it by the Word, also urges a person more and more into the Word, so that he uses it, not only by reason of its delightful taste, but because it is entirely indispensable as a means unto the salvation of his soul. To use this means of conversion with watchfulness and prayer is, indeed, the only requirement which our Savior has laid in the gospel for those who are to be converted and thereby enter into the reign of heaven. While a person uses the Word to be converted, his conversion is perfected when he rightly believes on Jesus. 
14. The law is a tutor impelling a sinner to seek for salvation. It is a tutor unto Christ. When salvation is offered in Christ the Savior, the soul is therefore found prepared to receive, and is concerned about receiving, the salvation offered in the gospel. God’s gracious (174) promises, offering grace and forgiveness, also enable the awakened soul to appropriate the promises of grace and the assurances of justification and salvation which God has given in the Word for Jesus’ sake. These enable the frightened heart ot trust in the merits of Christ the Savior and to be hopeful of obtaining sonship and pardon. This childlike confidence of a man in God is the first part of what the Savior calls to “become like children.” The Apostle Peter also says: “Set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as children of obedience.” 
15. This faith is the entrance to the straight way of godliness and is at the same time an entrance to the reign of heaven. Faith embraces Christ and is an entering into the reign. So the Scriptures teach everywhere. They promise eternal life through faith in Jesus. the true faith is an entering into the reign, because it is an entering upon the way of godliness and sanctified life. Peter expresses this immediately after the words just quoted. Having admonished unto faith, he also admonishes unto a Christian life: “Not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance, but like as He who called you is holy, be yourselves also holy in all manner of living because it is written: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” True faith is the entering upon the way of godliness, for it gives both incentive and power unto a Christian life. When a person has “known and believed the love which God has for us, he abides in love.” Faith manifests itself in love, even as the Apostle John continues: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not (175) grievous. For whatsoever is begotten of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” It is from  Jesus that faith obtains strength to lead a holy life, as the Lord said to Paul: “The Gentiles receive an inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith in Me.” We shall speak more especially about the entering into the reign by way of the straight  way of godliness when we now come to the second part of our discourse. 
Second Part. 
16. If a converted person is to make progress along the way of godliness, he must be humble, “poor in spirit,” or, as the Savior elsewhere expresses it, he must humble himself like a child. As the ambition for honor is one of the chief results of our corruption by sin, it is very important for a Christian to work against an undue love of self. The Spirit of the Lord ha laid a foundation for this in the new birth by then making us poor in spirit. God promotes Christian humility by letting us in temptations and suffering feel our wretchedness and infirmity, and it behooves us to further this purpose of God with watchfulness and prayer, as Peter admonishes: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt you in due season.” 
17. Christian love is the first and chief fruit of faith; it is also an essential and necessary step on the straight way of godliness. Christian love should, says our Savior in the gospel, be shown even to children, who are otherwise generally considered as of less consequence. The Savior describes this love as primarily exercised (176) in His Name, for His sake, because a person is redeemed by Jesus, even though he does not, like the little children, believe on Him, and has not become a child of God -- as the little children have become -- under the care of the holy angels. A converted person should show love to the little children and to other believers, not alone by giving some insignificant alms, but also where this is necessary and possible, by complete care for the helpless neighbor. Jesus speaks in the gospel of receiving the little ones who believe on Him, that is to assume the manifold duties and the hidden care given by a real father. The Apostle Paul also admonishes the Christians to show such love: “As we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them who are of the household of faith.” 
18. If a converted person is to be able to continue on the straight way of godliness, he must with earnest determination separate himself from everything that is detrimental to his progress. This is what the Savior means when He admonishes those who would enter into eternal life to sever from their body such members as tend to hinder their spiritual advancement,members who “cause you to stumble.” Even if it were something as innocent in itself as the pleasures of vision, if you observe that it leads you into temptation, you must make haste to relinquish it. If some privilege is as useful to a person as his hand, he must forsake it, if he finds that it becomes a snare for the soul. Yes, if some of his earthly goods were as indispensable as his foot, he must rather suffer the greatest temporal want than to have everything in abundance and lack the one thing needful, to possess all privileges in time and lose everything in (177) eternity, first to enjoy all the pleasures of life and then to be consumed by the anguish of eternal death, to have two eyes, two hands, two feet, and be cast into eternal fire. The Savior has declared this to be needful for every one who would follow Him on the way to eternal life, saying: “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” 
19. It is by this way of godliness that we enter into the heavenly reign.  Although no one will be saved by life and works, neither will any one be saved without these, that is, without having entered upon the way of a godly life, without doing good works. The Savior Himself assert this, saying: “Not every one who says unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the reign of heaven; but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” It is by faith in Jesus that a converted person may enter into the heavenly reign, if he remains in this faith to the end; but it is by its exercise in godliness that faith endures. Spiritual poverty makes the riches of divine grace all the more indispensable for the faithful soul. Faith finds exercise in Christian love, and the hindrances to growth in faith are removed by Christian self-denials. 
20. Learn of this, you who lead a manifestly sinful life, that a godless life is no way to the reign of heaven; it is the broad way that leads to destruction. When you do what others consider sinful and you yourselves know to be sin, then you belong to those whom the Word of God calls ungodly, even though you do not wish to bear that name. Know, then, I tell you again, that you are (178) not walking on the straight way of godliness, but on the broad way that leads to destruction. It does you no good to hope for salvation, for your hope shall perish. It is vain to dream of heaven, for if you continue in this condition, you shall certainly come whither you had not imagined. 
21. Some of you may lead an honorable life, though you are not converted; but you must know that mere honesty is not Christianity. There is no other entrance to the way of godliness than by the narrow gate of repentance. To avoid things punishable among men -- this is not the fear of the Lord; it is merely the fear of men. Be convinced by the Word of God that all human righteousness is manifest ungodliness before God, in order that you, thus convinced, may be driven to Jesus and by Him find an open way to eternal life, for He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” 
22. Some of you are moved by the Word of God. You have come to the narrow gate, but you have not thereby passed through it, for emotions are not conversion. They are, however, wrought by the Spirit of God. Their aim is that you may be brought to use the Word of God. As this means of salvation has already brought you near the reign of God, enabling you to taste its power, so this same Word of God will also bring you to a true conversion. It is not to stop with a mere taste of the sweetness of God’s grace, but you will come to possess it. Not only will the hope of salvation delight your heart, but the assurance of childhood will gladden your soul. 
23. You, who are awakened to anxiety for your soul’s salvation, you are standing in the very gate of conversion. Press earnestly on, so that you may pass through the gate. (179) On the other side you will find the mercy seat of Jesus, where pardon is awaiting you, if you but receive it, and deliverance from your sins, if you but seek it by prayer in Jesus’ Name. Continue to use the Word, and this will bring you to the Savior and place you on the way that leads to eternal life. Then you are protected against eternal death, which you fear. If you should be called from this world after such a change has taken place in you, there can be no danger of your coming to destruction for no man comes to destruction, unless he walks the way that leads thither. You are not on that way if you are earnestly concerned about your salvation; you are on the way to eternal salvation. If you continue along this way, you will assuredly enter into the heavenly reign, whither this way leads. 
24. This continuing must be your chief concernment, if you are assured that you have entered upon the straight way of life, for it appears to you that you have only advanced a few steps on that way. Even this, that you feel as though you were far behind, means progress, if you but press on to advance rightly. Jesus is the way. Hence, the clearer your knowledge of Him becomes in the light of the Word, the farther you have advanced. The more you endeavor to assist and serve your fellow men for Jesus’ sake, the more has your love increased. The more faithfulness you show in forsaking everything that leads from the way of salvation, the more has your spiritual strength grown. In order that you may remain on this way, whither the Lord has brought you, it is very important that you use the Word of God diligently, and that you conscientiously follow its directions. Then will the Lord, in the light of the Word, (180) show you the right way and with its power bring you onward. Holy Communion will give you refreshing nourishment on your spiritual journey, and Jesus Himself will follow you on the way: and so you are to enter into eternal life by means of the straight way of godliness, even as you have entered upon His way by means of the narrow gate of repentance.  Amen.