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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. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

John 5,24. The 16th Sunday after Trinity. Henric Schartau

John 5,24 The 16. Sunday after Trinity Henric Schartau (1757-1825) (157) In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Introduction. Truly, truly, I say unto you, he that hears My word, and believe Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and comes not into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 1. This is the assurance which Jesus, the Prince of Life, has given to us mortals, (John 5,24). After the Creator gave us being, the Father sent His Son into the world “that the world should be save through Him.” Lie is the chief privilege of man, and it is the happiest hope of the believer that this life will endure forever. He knows and believes that the Son of God is sent to work this very thing, that thorough Him we might live eternally happy, in eternal glory and joy. This was the chief mission of Jesus, the chief subject of His discourses, in our text and elsewhere, and it should be the chief object of your careful attention, O man, if you would have a sure foundation for your hope of entering into the joy of eternal life. God has laid no other foundation than the redemption wrought by His Son, neither has He given any other means of attaining it (158) than that set forth in the solemn words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say unto you” etc. 2. When this means is rightly used, it undoubtedly brings about and works in us true faith in God. This faith is described as a relying on God, especially in view of His infinite mercy in sending His Son in the fashion of a servant to fulfill our duties and to suffer the penalties for our sins. Jesus says concerning one who has such a faith that he has eternal life, and that the believer has received eternal life by passing from death to life. Here a foundation is laid for a blessed death, indeed, to the extent that the essential transformation which takes place in the death of a believer took place before, even in the very moment when, through faith in Jesus, he passed “from dead works to serve the Living God.” He already possesses the salvation which he expects to enjoy in a greater measure and undistrubedly after death. Jesus represents that as a consequence of this condition the believer will not enter into judgment: “Truly, truly, I say unto you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment.” The Master does not hereby annul the teaching of His Apostle Paul, that “we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ.” As the Supreme Judge of the world, Jesus merely exempts every believing soul from the judgment of condemnation, which has already been pronounced in the Word against those who continue in unbelief and in an unchanged mind, without the blessed fellowship that is in Jesus. Jesus says that the believer is so much the more safe from such condemnation, as he already possesses the salvation which shall, in the (159) day of judgment, be pronounced upon him by grace. We do not, however, wish to proceed further in the consideration of this matter, until we have approached the seat of mercy and asked for the requisite Divine help. “Our Father” etc. Proposition. The Blessed Passing from Death to Life 2. 1. The foundation is laid and the beginning is made, when one passes from spiritual death to spiritual life. 3. 2. The completion is made in the passing from bodily death to the full enjoyment of the glory and joy of eternal life. First Part. 4. We here note that the foundation of a blessed passing from death to life is laid, and the beginning thereof made, in the passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. 5. All men who by intentional wickedness are separated from God are in the Scriptures called dead, for their spiritual condition resembles the bodily condition of one that is dead. In the hour of death one’s vision becomes darkened so that one cannot see even at bright midday; similarly a person who is separated from God is overwhelmed with blindness in spiritual matters so that he cannot, even in the clearest light of God’s Word, judge the things that pertain to his peace. In Ephesians 4,18, Paul describes those whom in chapter 2,1 he calls spiritually dead, saying that their “understanding is (160) darkened, “ and that they are “alienated from the life of God,” because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart. Secure sinners are as void of feelings and emotion as the dead youth in our text on his bier, quite as unconcerned and careless about their future lot throughout the long and fearful eternity. As the youth was being borne out of the city where he had lived, nearer and nearer to his grave, so too, he who is dead in trespasses and sins is by his sins being led and brought farther and farther from God, nearer and nearer to the pit, to “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” 6. If Jesus had not met the funeral procession at Nain, the dead would have remained dead, and unless He sought and found a sinner where he goes on the paths of death, the sinner would never be awakened from his stupor,. But Jesus approaches, He is moved with compassion, and in the Word He grasps the sinners heart with His hand of grace. The threats and convictions of the law fill the sinner with anxiety concerning his condition and make him fearful of the end of his perverted life, but now he stops and rushes no longer heedlessly on into ungovernable sins. 7. The sorrow aroused by the law over the misery into which the sinner has plunged himself is increased when flooded by the light of the gospel, which illuminates the law and reminds the sinner of the blessings of God, and of the foolishness and ingratitude with which these have been used or abused. When the sinner thus in the gospel learns to understand what a merciful, gracious, and loving God he has offended and hated, then his sorrow becomes that of God’s mind, approaching the character (161) that God would have it to be. The sinner then departs from his former unrighteousness. He loathes it and, when he realizes his own weakness, he sighs for help out of the deep affliction into which he finds himself plunged. While thus calling upon the Lord, the sinner obtains a clearer insight into the gospel and learns that the help he so urgently needs is to be found in Christ. The Father draws the sinner’s mind to consider the testimony which the prophets bear of Christ, and the Holy Spirit praises Jesus as great and indispensable for a sinner’s salvation. 8. When such grace is not “turned into lasciviousness,” nor is obstinately resisted, it confers a spark of courage, so that the sinner dares to hope in the mighty and merciful Savior. God promises unconditionally, without limitation, to forgive those who have such a faith as He promises to confer. He thus puts courage into the heart of the sinner and enables him to apply the promise to himself. While this takes place in his heart, the Spirit of prayer arouses him to “name the Name of the Lord: and by faith to “press on and apprehend Christ.” The soul battles against doubt and unbelief and is finally victorious, being able to “know in whom he has believed,” namely, the very Son of God, who has made payment for sins and for whose sake they are forgiven, according to the promises of God. 9. As the dead youth became bodily alive, when Jesus said to him: “Young man, I say unto you, Arise,” so the passing from spiritual death to spiritual life takes place when a person hears and obeys the summoning voice of Jesus in the word: “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon (162) you.” Then the “Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings,” for God fulfills the promises in which the soul has trusted. God grants the believer a share in the merits of the Mediator on whom he relies, and “the blood of Christ cleanses the conscience from dead works.” God forgives our sins for the sake of the bloody atonement of Jesus and, with the comfort of the Holy Spirit, He takes away the fear of death with which our conscience had been grievously troubled. Jesus, who is Life itself, then unites with that soul; gut where Life dwells, there can be no death. The believer can say with Paul: “I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” By means of such union with Christ a person becomes united with the Holy Trinity and with other believers, even as Jesus prayed: “That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, so that they also may be in Us: so that the world may believe that You did send Me.” What no law can accomplish, namely, to make the heart alive with love to God and with pleasure in His commandments, this the Holy Spirit, granted to the believer, performs, pouring God’s love into such an heart. A person experiencing this love as well as love for all men, and especially for all who believe, can make the certain inference which John made: “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.” 10. Such a passing from spiritual death is the beginning and basis of a person’s passing from temporal death into eternal life. In general the teaching of Jesus tends (163) to establish: “That whosoever believes shall be saved,” but more especially Jesus derives from the true faith and from eternal life the doctrine that a blessed passing over takes place at the moment of bodily death. At the grave of Lazarus Jesus said: “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes on Me, though he die, yet he will live.” In the new birth the beginning is made of everything that pertains to the privileges, glory and blessedness of eternal life. The sinful depravity of a believer could not be entirely eradicated in death, unless it had been subdued and had lost its power when the new heart was created in him. The glory which Paul says is to be revealed in a child of God after death, is according to David, already possessed by the true believers, indeed has been ever since they were adopted to be sons and daughters of God. It is concerning the congregation of believers that David sings: “The King’s daughter within is all glorious; her clothing is wrought with gold.” 11. It is from this childhood by faith that Paul derives the right to inherit the glory of eternal life. He says: “If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” God’s presence, which constitutes the eternal glory of the blessed, began when the Father and the Son came and took their abode with the, when they began to “love Jesus and to keep His Word.” Although they have here walked in an imperfect knowledge of faith, they have nevertheless enjoyed “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ,” by faith derived from the Word,and this has been a beginning (164) and a preparation for the perfect knowledge in the higher life. Comparing these different degrees of knowledge, Paul calls the former the rudiments of learning appertaining to children, which precedes the mature, manly knowledge to be obtained when we shall gloriously see God in the land of the living. Second Part. A Blessed Passing from Bodily Death to Eternal Life. 12. When the passing from spiritual death to spiritual life has taken place, then, if we are still in that condition, the passing to eternal life takes place whenever bodily death overtakes us. If Christ is our life, we cannot lose anything when we die. Death separates our soul from the body, but it cannot separate us from Christ. The believer passes out from this life through death and enters immediately “into the joy of the Lord.” A person justified is, then, in no danger of suffering any loss in death. He is prepared to die, and his death will be a blessed one, whenever the Lord will call him. 13. God hyas the control overlife and death, but He does not call a person away as soon as he is prepared for a blessed death. There are other matters for which God would use us, before He permits death to arrive. God wants to use us in His service wherever He is pleased to place us. He wants to try us in the faith, increase our love, and teach us to deny our willfulness and to “bear the cross after Jesus.” 14. When God considers a person mature and approved, this person may go and receive His crown. This is the end which James has in view for the life of a person (165) converted: “When he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life.” When a pardoned sinner has, as “God’s husbandry,” like the seed in the earth, endured many changes of refreshing grace and of the drought of temptation until he is mature; “When the fruit is ripe, straightway he puts forth the sickle,” and brings home a ripe sheaf of wheat in due time. This time -- God’s time -- does not always seem to us to be the due time. The widow of Nain could assuredly not feel that her son was called away in due season, unless her mind was duly enlightened. Some ripen rapidly, they quickly run their course and finish it, attaining their goal in a short time, even before they have left the years of youth. 15. The passing away takes place either violently and by unusual accidents, or usually by sickness, the body becoming in the guidance of God unfit to longer harbor the soul. The eyes no longer see the light. The ears no longer hear the sobs of their friends and relatives. The senses cease to function, and the soul departs from its workhouse. During this transformation there often appears to be much suffering. Indeed, there is some pain in connection with the separation of the soul from the body; but inasmuch as Jesus “has tasted death for every person” and swallowed up its bitterness, He fulfills upon every believer the promise He has given: “If a person keeps My word, he will never taste death.” The comfort of the Holy Spirit robs death of its bitterness, and the peace of God which the believer perceives is a shield against the pains of death. 16. The soul passes out from the body and from all the misery to which it has been subjected while dwelling (166) there, and it becomes glorified and is escorted by angels to heaven, where joy immediately begins. The evil desires are quenched and all evil thoughts disappear. With shame and indignation Satan sees the soul escape forever from his assaults. The soul leaves the turmoil of the world by which it has been surrounded. The glory of God even previously dwelling in the soul evolves and exalts the soul to a nobility which surpasses everything that “has entered into the heart of man.” The soul now tastes the sweetness of God’s love, of which it has previously tasted merely a few drops, and it is filled with an indescribable comfort and joy. The holy angels who have ministered to it during the pilgrimage of grace, though in an invisible manner, now accompany it on its ascension to heaven, being both companions and guides. Upon entering heaven, the soul is greeted by the friends which it had acquired by its stewardship and distribution of earthly goods among fellow-believers on the earth. It finds a room in the Father’s house, the place provided in the reign of His Son. Her it joins the hosts of thousands upon thousands surrounding the throne, praising God and the Lamb for the mercy received during life in the realms of time, and for the salvation now granted and eternally enjoyed. 17. Finally, “at the end of the days,” even the body will arise glorified from the earth and stand before the judgment seat of Christ, thence, united with the soul, to enter into the reign of heaven and to enjoy a glory augmented by the reunion of the body and the soul. As Jesus raised up the widow’s son, so He will also in the last day raise up those who have believed on Him. Then shall the body ascend from the earth, not (167) with the corruptible elements of which it was composed in life, nor with the lowly character in which it was laid in the grave, but with incorruptible glory and power. Even as the whole man has been redeemed by Christ and the whole man has been the temple of God, so the whole man, body and soul, may then enter into eternal life. We may then with glorified eyes, face to face, behold Him who we have believed and loved, though we did not see Him.Our body may then in a worthy manner take part in the gladness of the soul and “the pleasures for evermore in the right hand of God.” The tongue shall then with unutterable words praise Jesus, who shall have “fashioned anew the body of our humiliation, so that it may be conformed to the body of His glory,” and “shine forth as the sun in the reign of the Father.” 18. I herewith close the sermon of a probationer, delivered at my request and with the approval of my superiors. This worthy congregation has again been given an opportunity to prove the measure of grace given to me. I have presented a blessed translation from death to life. I have first shown that the beginning and foundation of this passing from death to life are made in the passing form spiritual death to spiritual life. I have next shown that the completion takes place in the passing from temporal death to a full enjoyment of the glory and joy of eternal life. Application. 19. We are all strangers, travelers and pilgrims. We know that we must depart from this life, and there surely is no one who does not in the hour of death wish (168) for a blessed passing into eternal life. God is my witness, how heartily I wish all of you this good fortune; but you must search the Scriptures and find out whether you have experienced the translation first described, if you have gone out of the camp, away from the service of sin and Satan, if you have passed over to the camp of Jesus and borne His reproach, to be His possession, to live according to His commandments, and not after your own good pleasure nor according to the doctrines of men. If this has not taken place, then you are in the greatest danger, for if bodily death overtakes you in this condition, you will pass from spiritual to eternal death. If you perceive that this is your condition, and if you nevertheless find that you can remain unconcerned in view of your misery, alas, pray God to awaken you from your spiritual stupor,. He will certainly do this, if you use His Word diligently. 20. If you have been enlightened by the law to know your wretchedness, then you may be assured that the beginning toward a passing from spiritual death consists in this very thing, that you feel as though you were spiritually dead, and that the completion is effected when the Holy Spirit has persuaded you to believe that your sins, according to God’s promises, are forgiven. You must then willingly abandon your own efforts, your own works and deeds and put your trust in the merits and suffering of Jesus in your behalf. 21. If and when you have done this, you may in the midst of adversities comfort yourself with the thought in which the children of the world (though without foundation) are wont to take comfort, namely that death is nothing but a transition. Then, my brethren, we may look out over the fields which are yet inshrouded with darkness toward a better life, glimpses of which are revealed in the Word, and we may in this way be sustained in a longing for a blessed passing from death to life. Amen.