O GOOD Shepherd, Who, for the ransom of Thy mortal sheep, hast drunk the cup of the Passion: We humbly call upon Thy Name, that, stablishing us upon the pillars of wisdom, Thou wouldest strengthen us with the hallowing of Thy sevenfold Spirit; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen (Oremus, 1925, p.38).
ALMIGHTY and. Holy Spirit, the Comforter pure, living, true: Illuminate, govern, sanctify me, and confirm my heart and mind in the faith, and in all genuine consolation ; preserve and rule over me, that dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, I may be and remain forever in the temple of the Lord, and praise Him with a joyful spirit in union with all the heavenly Church; Who with the Father are one God, world without end. Amen (Oremus, 1925, p.37).
The holiness of the word and the purity of doctrine are powerful and sure, so that even if Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, the pope, Harry, or the devil himself preached it, or baptized truly (purely, without addition), they would still receive the same, pure word and the true, holy baptism, for there must always be hypocrites and false Christians in the church and a Judas among the apostles. Again, the impurity of doctrine that is not or is without God’s word is such a poisonous evil that even if St. Peter, indeed, an angel from heaven, were to preach it, he would nevertheless be accursed, Galatians I [:8]. Therefore those who teach, baptize, or distribute the sacrament falsely cannot be or remain in the church, as Psalm 1 [:5] says. For they act not only against the life the church must endure—particularly when it is hidden—but also against the doctrine that must gleam and shine in public to be a guide for life. This has been taught from the beginning, as St. John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us” [I John 2:19], and, “They are in the church but not of the church”; or, “In number but not in merit,” and the like. Accordingly, we draw this distinction: not all are Christians who pretend to be Christians. But when there is disagreement in doctrine, it becomes quite evident who the true Christians are, namely, those who have God’s word in purity and refinement. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.218-219)
Now the purpose of all this is to show that the church must teach God’s word alone, and must be sure of it. The church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, built on the rock, and called holy and irreproachable [Eph. 2:21]. Thus one rightly and truly says, “The church cannot err, for God’s word which it teaches cannot err.” But whatever else is taught or whatever is not with certainty God’s word, cannot be the doctrine of the church, but must be the doctrine, falsehood, and idolatry of the devil. The devil cannot say (since he is a liar and the father of lies), “God says this.” But, as Christ says in John 8 [:44], he must speak ex propriis, “from and of himself,” that is, he must lie; and so, without God’s word, all his children speak from and of themselves, that is, they must lie. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.217)
Now observe, my dear friend, what a wonderful thing this is: we who teach God’s word with such certainty are so weak, and in our great humility so timid, that we do not like to brag that we are God’s church, witnesses, servants, and preachers, and that God speaks through us, etc. And yet, we do not doubt it, since we are certain to have and to teach his word. Such timidity stems from the fact that we earnestly believe God’s word is such a noble and majestic thing that we regard ourselves far too unworthy of its being spoken and done through us who are still creatures of flesh and blood. But our adversaries, the devils, the papists, the sects, and all the world, are confident and intrepid, asserting with great holiness and arrogance, “Here is God, we are God’s church, his servants, prophets, and apostles.” It is just like every false prophet has always done, so that even Harry-wurst dares to boast that he himself is a Christian prince. But the true sign of the true holy church has always been humility and fear in the word of God, whereas lust and wantonness in innovating have been the true signs of the devil—something that becomes quite evident from the pope’s decretals. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.217-218)
This we say about doctrine, which must be pure and clean, namely, the dear, blessed, holy, and one word of God, without any addition. But life, which should daily direct, purify, and sanctify itself according to doctrine, is not yet entirely pure or holy, so long as this maggoty body of flesh and blood is alive. But as long as it is in the process of purification and sanctification, being continually healed by the Samaritan and no longer decaying in its own impurity, it is graciously excused, pardoned, and forgiven for the sake of the word, through which it is healed and purified; thus it must be called pure. This is why the holy Christian church is not a whore or unholy, because it continues to hold to and remain with the word (which is its holiness) without blemish and with strength. “You are already made clean (says Christ in John 15 [:3]) by the word which I have spoken to you,” not on your own account. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.218)
If the word were to be sinful or untrue, after what would or could men guide their lives? Then, no doubt, a blind man would lead a blind man, and both would fall into the pit [Matt. 15:14]. If the plumb line or the T-square were false or crooked, what kind of work would or could the master-builder produce? One crooked thing would make the other crooked, without limit or measure. Life too can be sinful and untrue in the same way—unfortunately life is indeed very untrue—but doctrine must be straight as a plumb line, sure, and without sin. Therefore nothing must be preached in church except the sure, pure, and one word of God. Where that is missing, we no longer have the church, but the synagogue of the devil [Rev. 2:9], just as a godly wife (an example the prophets always use) should not listen to any other word in her house or in her bed than that of her husband, and if she does listen to the word of someone who does not belong in her husband’s bed, she is certainly a whore. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.216-217)
It is, of course, quite true that if judged by its way of life, the holy church is not without sin, as it confesses in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses”; and John writes [I John 1:8, 10], “If we say we have no sin, we lie and make God a liar, who calls us all sinners”—also Romans 3 [:23], Psalm 14 [:3] and 51 [:7]. But doctrine should not be sinful or reproachable. It does not belong to the Lord’s Prayer and its petition, “Forgive us our trespasses,” because it is not something we do, but is God’s own word, which cannot sin or do wrong. A preacher should neither pray the Lord’s Prayer nor ask for forgiveness of sins when he has preached (if he is a true preacher), but should say and boast with Jeremiah, “Lord thou knowest that which came out of my lips is true and pleasing to thee” [Jer. 17:16]; indeed, with St. Paul and all the apostles and prophets, he should say firmly, Haec dixit dominus, “God himself has said this” [I Cor. 1:10]. And again, “In this sermon I have been an apostle and a prophet of Jesus Christ” [I Thess. 4:15]. Here it is unnecessary, even bad, to pray for forgiveness of sins, as if one had not taught truly, for it is God’s word and not my word, and God ought not and cannot forgive it, but only confine, praise, and crown it, saying, “You have taught truly, for I have spoken through you and the word is mine.” Whoever cannot boast like that about his preaching, let him give up preaching, for he truly lies and slanders God. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.216)
Now a kindhearted man (as they say) might ask, “What harm is there if one holds to the word of God and yet lets all these matters, or at least those that are bearable, remain as well?” I answer, “They may be called kindhearted, but they are wrong-hearted and misled, for you have heard that it is impossible to teach any word other than God’s word, to serve anyone other than God, to light any light other than that which has been placed by God in the darkness” [Matt. 6:24]. It is indeed an error and a will-o’-the-wisp thing, even if it were only one single thing, for the church ought not and cannot teach lies and error. If it teaches one lie, then it is wholly false, as Christ says in Luke 11 [:35–36], “Be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no dark part, it will be wholly bright.” That is to say, it must be all light, without any darkness in it. The church must teach God’s word and truth alone, and not error or falsehood. And how could it be otherwise? For God’s mouth is the mouth of the church, and vice versa. God cannot lie, nor can the church. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.215-216)
For whatever departs from the word of God (which is the only way, as Christ says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]), however well and beautifully it may glitter, is without question error, lie, and death. It is without the word of God, that is, without the way, the truth, and the life. And what need would we have of the word if we could find ways for ourselves without it? For the word alone is the lamp to our feet, and the light to our path [Ps. 119:105], which, as St. Peter says, shines in the darkest place of this world [II Pet. 1:19]. Whoever does not hold it constantly and steadfastly before his eyes—where else can he go but into darkness? The light therefore is there in the darkness so that we can guide ourselves by it.
Now let us look in turn at each of these new things which have arisen in the pope’s new church. We discover that they have all been invented without God’s word, that is, without the way, the truth, and the light, but rather out of human devotion or opinion, or the malice of the pope. Therefore, as the church of the pope is full of indulgences, human merit, brotherhoods, worship of saints, monkery, masses, satisfaction, and the things we have already mentioned, such as worship, it is full of error, falsehood, idolatry, unbelief, murder, and is the epitome of the church of all the devils. They cannot say that God’s word teaches such things. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.215)