#41 Suffering Becomes Sweet and Easy

Look what happens then: the suffering would be sweet and easy and no longer an eternal suffering, but only a modicum which lasts only a short time and soon passes away, as St. Paul [II Cor. 4:17], and St. Peter [I Pet. 1:6], and also Christ himself says in the Gospels [John 16:16–22]. For they look to that great, immeasurable gift, which is that Christ with his suffering and merit has become altogether ours. Thus the suffering of Christ has become so mighty and strong that it fills heaven and earth and breaks the power and might of the devil and hell, of death and sin. And then if you compare this treasure with your affliction and suffering, you will consider it but small loss to lose a little property, honor, health, wife, child, and even your own life. But if you refuse to regard this treasure and to suffer for it, so be it; go on and let it lie. He who does not believe will also receive none of these unspeakable goods and gifts. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.200)

Offenbarung or Apoc. [Revelation] 18 v. 4 . 5
“Depart from their ecclesiastical Babel, that you do not become infatuated with their sins.  The richness of their sin reaches to heaven, and God remembers your sacrilege.” (A short paraphrase by Wenceslaus Hollar.)
“4. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.  5. For her sins have reached unto heaven and God hath remembered her iniquities.”   .

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#40 Two Choices: Either Suffer or Deny Christ

So we see that the very ones who boast and teach so much about cross and suffering know the least either about the Cross or of Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. Dear friends, it isn’t that kind of thing at all; nor is anybody forced or compelled to it. If you don’t want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at hand, but you must know that if you refuse to suffer you will also not become Christ’s courtier. So you may do either one of these two, either suffer or deny Christ.

If you are willing to suffer, very well, then the treasure and consolation which is promised and given to you is so great that you ought to suffer willingly and joyfully because Christ and his suffering is being bestowed upon you and made your own. And if you can believe this, then in time of great fear and trouble you will be able to say: Even though I suffer long, very well then, what is that compared with that great treasure which my God has given to me, that I shall live eternally with him? (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.199-200)

Art. XXI  Das man die abgestorben Heÿtige Zwar Ehrë  aber nicht anrüffen sol.
“That one should not call upon the dead saints indeed nor appeal to them.”
 Matt. 4, v. 10 ; Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan : for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Ps. 50, v. 15 ; And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#39 True Suffering is Not a Stinking Self-Chosen Suffering.

When one knows this it is the more easy and bearable, and one can comfort oneself by saying: Very well, if I want to be a Christian, I must also wear the colors of the court; the dear Christ issues no others in his court; suffering there must be.

This the fanatics, who select their own cross, cannot do; they resist it and fight against it. What a fine and admirable suffering that is! And yet they can reproach us, as if we did not teach aright concerning suffering and they alone can do it. But our teaching is this, that none should dictate or choose his own cross and suffering, but rather, when it comes, patiently bear and suffer it.

But they are wrong, not only with respect to their choosing their own cross, but also in that they flaunt their suffering and make a great merit of it and thus blaspheme God, because it is not a true suffering but a stinking, self-chosen suffering. But we say that we earn nothing by our suffering and therefore do not frame it in such beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough that we know that it pleases God that we suffer in order that we may be conformed to Christ, as I have said. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.199)

Ephes. 2, v. 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#38 Suffering Hurts Badly

It should be, however, and must be the kind of suffering that is worthy of the name and honestly grips and hurts, such as some great danger of property, honor, body, and life. Such suffering as we really feel, which weighs us down; otherwise, if it did not hurt us badly, it would not be suffering.

Beyond this, it should be the kind of suffering which we have not chosen ourselves, as the fanatics choose their own suffering. It should be the kind of suffering which, if it were possible, we would gladly be rid of, suffering visited upon us by the devil or the world. Then what is needed is to hold fast and submit oneself to it, as I have said, namely, that one know that we must suffer, in order that we may thus be conformed to Christ, and that it cannot be otherwise, that everyone must have his cross and suffering. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.198-199)

Art. XX  Das man gütte weck solle übe, aber nicht [1]umb verdinst sondren der Ehrë Gottes wille.
That one should call forth goodness, but not for the sake of the glory of God’s will.
 Gal. 5 v. 6 ;  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
1st Joh. 4, v. 10 ;  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#37 First Christ’s Suffering Saves Us, Then It Becomes our Example.

Therefore we must note in the first place that Christ by his suffering not only saved us from the devil, death, and sin, but also that his suffering is an example, which we are to follow in our suffering. Though our suffering and cross should never be so exalted that we think we can be saved by it or earn the least merit through it, nevertheless we should suffer after Christ, that we may be conformed to him. For God has appointed that we should not only believe in the crucified Christ, but also be crucified with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the Gospels: “He who does not take his cross and follow me,” he says, “is not worthy of me” [Matt. 10:38]. And again: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” [Matt. 10:25].

Therefore each one must bear a part of the holy cross; nor can it be otherwise. St. Paul too says, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col. 1:24]. It is as if he were saying: His whole Christendom is not fully completed; we too must follow after, in order that none of the suffering of Christ may be lacking or lost, but all brought together into one. Therefore every Christian must be aware that suffering will not fail to come. (“Sermon on Cross and Suffering,” April 16, 1530, Luther’s Works, v.51, p.198)

#36 Disregard the Eyes and Hold to the Word

Notice how our adversaries, those torturers from the devil, are torn and divided in their teachings in so many ways that they fail to realize their hopes, since they must be concerned with so much peril and misfortune that they can never act for a moment with certainty or confidence.  And these penalties and punishments are only temporal! How can I comprehend their guilt, namely, that without God and through the devil’s craftiness they, beset by an evil conscience, are eternally lost? Even though they are uncertain as to the outcome of their endeavor, they keep on rejoicing in a hope that is completely and absolutely lost, while we, on the other hand, have God’s unfailing promises for our comfort.

In short, since God is the same and the cause is the same, in which he has upheld the faith of all the saints so that he might be vindicated, God will not now, just for our own sake, be found a liar; nor are we to make a liar of him. God grant, whether we do or do not believe, that he will yet defend his word and surely help [us]. This demands great effort and care so that, in the first place, we turn our eyes from the might [of this world] and second, hold fast to the word. Eye disregarded the word and relied on what was visible, but a Christian, in contrast, disregards what he can see and holds to the word. The godless do not do so but rely upon the emperor to uphold them in this world, but because they neglect the word, they will be mined and lost to eternity. In the year 1530.   (Luther’s Works, v.43 p.184-185)

Art. XIX  Das nicht Gott sonder der Teüffel eine ursach der sünde und alles bösen seye.
“That not God but the devil is the cause of sin and all evil.”
Gen. 3, v. 1 ; And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation saying,
Zep. 2, v. 14 ; And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the Cormorant and the Bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the  windows; desolation shall be in the threshold: for he shall uncover the cedar work.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#35 The Source of Persecution and the Prayer Regarding It

The Source of ItBecause the devil, a mighty, evil, deceitful spirit, hates the children of God.  For them the holy cross serves for learning the faith, for [learning] the power of the word, and for subduing whatever sin and pride remain. Indeed, a Christian can no more do without the cross than without food or drink.

The EntreatyThe touch of Christ sanctifies all the sufferings and sorrows of those who believe in him. Whoever does not suffer shows that he does not believe that Christ has given him the gift of sharing in his own passion. But if anyone does not wish to bear the cross which God places upon him, he will not be compelled to do so by anyone—he is always free to deny Christ.  But in so doing he must know that he cannot have fellowship with Christ or share in any of his gifts.  For example, a merchant, a hunter, a soldier risk so much pain for the sake of an uncertain gain and victory, while here, where it is certain that glory and blessedness will be the result, it is a disagreeable thing to suffer even for a bit, as Isaiah 54 [:7], Christ in John 16 [:20–22], Peter in I Peter 1 [:6], and Paul in II Corinthians 4 [:17] usually put it, “for a little while,” and momentarily. (Luther’s Works, v.43 p.184-185)

Art. XVIII  Das der mensch Zwar i eusserlichë dinge ein freÿen willen habe aber in Geistliche sache
“That men indeed have a free will in worldly things except in spiritual matters.”
Gen.  6, v. 5 ; And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
1st Cor.  2, v. 14 ; But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#34 That a Christian Should Bear his Cross With Patience – Pt 2

“Taking up the cross is by nature something that causes pain.  (“Such a cross and pain is necessary; it must be known as such and really bear down painfully, as does some great peril to one’s goods and honor.…” LW 51, 198.).  It must not be self-imposed (as the Anabaptists and all the workrighteous teach); it is something that is imposed upon a person. (“It should be the kind of suffering which we have not chosen for ourselves, as the fanatics do in choosing some suffering for themselves to bear.…” LW 51, 198.)

The Need for ItWe must be conformed to the image of the Son of God, Romans 8 [:29].  “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” II Timothy 3 [:12].  “In the world you have tribulation” [John 16:33]. Likewise, “You will be sorrowful; you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice,” John 16 [:20].  “If we share in [Christ’s] sufferings we shall also be glorified with him,” Romans 8 [:17].  “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons,” Hebrews 12 [:8]. Otherwise, what is the purpose of so many comforting passages of Scripture?  (Luther’s Works, v.43 p.183-184)

Art. XVII  Das Christus ā Jüngstë tag Kome werde ein Richter der lebedige und das toten.
“The Christ will come soon on Judgement day to judge the living and dead.” 
Es. (Isaiah) 66, v. 15 ; “For behold, the Lord will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire.
Acts.  17, v. 31 ; “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#33 That a Christian Should Bear his Cross With Patience (title of Luther’s Sermon)

Some Excellent and Christian Thoughts of the Ancient and Saintly Fathers and Theologians of the Church, that a Christian Should Bear with Patience the Cross Which God Places upon Him, Applied and Elaborated by Luther

The ancient and saintly fathers and theologians have contrasted the living wood with dead and have allegorized that contrast this way: From the living wood(Gen 2:17, “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil”) came sin and death; from the dead wood(the tree of the cross), righteousness and life. They conclude: do not eat from that living tree, or you will die, but eat of this dead tree; otherwise, you will remain in death.

You do indeed desire to eat and enjoy [the fruit] of some tree. I will direct you to a tree so full that you can never eat it bare. But just as it was difficult to stay away from that living tree, so it is difficult to enjoy eating from the dead tree. The first {tree in the garden} was the image of life, delight, and goodness, while the other {tree-Christ’s cross} is the image of death, suffering, and sorrow because one tree is living, the other dead. There is in man’s heart the deeply rooted desire to seek life where there is certain death and to flee from death where one has the sure source of life.  (Luther’s Works, v.43 p.183)

Art. XVI  Das Weltliche Obrikeit von Gott geordnet sey, denen rum zu gehorsame schuldig ist.
“The secular authorities are ordered by God, to whom obedience is owed.”
Romans 13, v. 1  “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
1st Peter 2, v. 13  “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme.”

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#32 Don’t Look at Personal Righteousness

But when some keep coming with the law and arguing: Now my dear, who knows whether God will consider you to be good? This is the dismal devil himself, who is always pointing us to personal righteousness, how good I am and how bad I am; for his whole skill consists in using this image of our goodness to snatch from our eyes the image of the Man who died and rose again. …  But by all means take care not to let anybody persuade you of this on your deathbed; for then the devil is not far away; he can throw in your face a little sin which reduces all such fine virtues to nothing, so that finally you come to such a pass that you say: Devil, rage as much as you please, I do not boast of my good works and virtues before our Lord God at all, nor shall I despair on account of my sins, but I comfort myself with the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again, as the text here says.

Lo, when I believe this with my whole heart, then I have the greatest treasure, namely, the death of Christ and the power which it has wrought, and I am more concerned with that than with what I have done. Therefore, devil, begone with both my righteousness and my sin.

If I have committed some sin, go eat the dung; it’s yours. I’m not worrying about it, for Jesus Christ died. St. Paul bids me comfort myself with this, that I may learn to defend myself from the devil and say: Even though I have sinned, it doesn’t matter; I will not argue with you about what evil or good I have done. … This is not the time for arguing, but for comforting myself with the words that Jesus Christ died and rose for me. Thus I am sure that God will bring me, along with other Christians, with Christ to his right hand and carry me through death and hell.  (Luther’s Works, v.51 p.241-242)

Art. XV  Das kirche ordnungë die keine beschwerung d’ gewissen haben als mittel ding zubehalten.
“Church ordinances are not to weigh down the conscience by retaining or keeping middle things.”
1st Cor. 14, v. 40 ; Let all things be done decently and in order.
1st Cor. 7, v. 35 ; And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]