1. This text, too, is an admonition to Christian living, a
discourse concerning the fruits of a good tree, a figure applied to the
Christian; in other words, concerning the fruits of the one who, through
faith, has obtained redemption from sin and death and has a place in the
kingdom of grace and of eternal life. Such a one is exhorted to live henceforth
in a manner indicative of the fact that he has apprehended the treasure
of salvation and is become a new man.
EXHORTATION TO SOBERNESS.
2. Certain good works are also introduced, and in the first part of
our text Peter makes an especially emphatic continuation of the admonition
in the foregoing part of the chapter, warning Christians to abstain from
gross vices--carnal lusts--which in the world lead to obscenity, and from
the wild, disorderly, swinish lives of the heathen world, lives of gormandizing,
guzzling and drunkenness. Peter admonishes Christians to endeavor to be
"sober unto prayer." The epistle was written chiefly to the Greeks, the
masses of which people were very social, and inclined to carouse and gormandize.
And we Germans are accused of the same excess; not without some reason
3. With intent to turn Christians from these vices unto temperance and
sobriety, Peter reminds them, as all the apostles are wont to do, of the
obligations particularly incident to the Christian calling, to the only
true, divine service, the things for the sake of which they have become
Christians and which distinguish them from the remainder of the world.
His meaning is: It is not for Christians to lead lives heathenish, profligate
and riotous; to indulge in gormandizing, guzzling, carousing and demoralizing
of themselves. They have something nobler to do. First, in that they are
to become different beings, and be occupied with the Word of God wherefrom
they derive their new birth and whereby they preserve it. Second, being
born anew, they have enemies to fight; so long as they live on earth, they
must combat the devil, also their own flesh, which is corrupted by the
devil until it is full of evil lusts. Having, then, to assume the obligations
of this calling and contest, they must not give way to drowsy indolence;
much less may they become foolish, drunken sots, indifferent to all issues
and heedless of their obligations. Rather, they have need to be watchful
and sober, ever ready with the Word of God and with prayer.
4. These are the two kinds of armor, two weapons of defense, whereby
the devil is vanquished and of which he is afraid: First, diligence in
hearing, learning and practicing the Word of God, that instruction, comfort
and strength may be received; second, sincere petitioning upon the authority
of that Word, a crying and calling to God for help when temptations and
conflicts arise. One or the other of these weapons of defense must continually
be in active exercise, effecting perpetual intercourse between God and
man--either God speaking to us while we quietly listen, or God hearing
our utterances to him and our petitions concerning our needs.
Whichever the weapon we wield, it is unendurable to the devil; he cannot
abide it. Christians need both equipments, that their hearts may ever turn
to God, cleave to his Word, and continually, with ceaseless longing, pray
a perpetual Lord's Prayer. Truly, the Christian should learn from the temptations
and straits wherewith the devil, the world and the flesh constantly oppress
him, to be ever on his guard, watching for the enemy's point of attack;
for the enemy sleeps not nor rests a single moment.
5. Here is applicable Peter's injunction for the Christian to keep within
the bounds of physical temperance and sobriety; not to overload the body
and injure it by excessive eating and drinking: so as to be watchful, intelligent,
and in a mood, to pray. He who is not careful to discharge the obligations
of his office or station with temperance and sobriety, but is daily in
a sottish condition, is incapable of praying or performing any other Christian
duty; he is unfit for any service.
6. Right here a special admonitory sermon might well be preached to
us dissolute Germans, in warning for our excesses and drunkenness. But
where would be forthcoming a sermon forcible enough to restrain the shameful
sottishness and the drink devil among us? The evil of overindulgence has,
alas, swept in upon us like a torrent, overwhelming as a flood all classes.
It daily spreads further and further throughout the nation, embracing every
station from the lowest to the highest. All preaching, all admonition,
seem far too weak--not vain and impotent, but despised and scorned--to
meet the emergency. But the apostles, and even Christ himself, declared
that in the end of the world such a state of affairs should obtain. For
that very reason did Christ (Lk 21, 34) admonish Christians to take heed
to themselves lest at any time their hearts be overcharged with surfeiting
and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon them
7. Now, God having in his infinite goodness so richly shed upon us Germans
in these latter times the Gospel light, we ought, in honor and gratitude
to him, to try to reform ourselves in the matter of intemperance. We should
fear lest through this evil besides committing other sins we draw upon
us the wrath and punishment of God. For naught else can result from the
pernicious life of intemperance but false security, and contempt of God.
Individuals continually dead in drunkenness, buried in excesses, living
like swine, cannot fear God, cannot be occupied with divine things.
8. Had we no other incentive to abandon our intemperate living, the
scandalous reputation we have among the nations ought to move us to reform.
Other countries, particularly those bordering on Germany, regard us with
extreme contempt, calling us drunken Germans. For they have virtue enough
to abstain from excessive drinking. The Turks are real monks and saints
in this respect; so far are they from the evil of intemperance that in
obedience to the teaching of their Mohammed they prohibit the drinking
of wine or any other intoxicant, and punish the offense as the greatest
evil in their midst. For this very reason are they better soldiers than
our drunken masses. They are always awake and vigilant, alert concerning
their own interests, planning attacks upon us and continually extending
their dominion, while we lie sleeping in our excesses as if we could withstand
the Turks by drunkenness and carousing.
9. But what is the use of multiplying words on the subject when the
evil prevails to such extent as to be common custom in the land? No longer
confined to the rude, illiterate rabble, to country villages and public
taverns, it has penetrated all cities and entered nearly every house, being
particularly prevalent among the nobility--in the courts of princes. I
recall that when I was young drunkenness was regarded an inexpressibly
shameful thing among the peerage, and that the dear lords and princes restrained
it with serious prohibitions and punishments. But now it is more alarmingly
prevalent among them than among farmers. It is generally the case that
when the great and good begin to go down, they sink to a lower level than
others. Yes, intemperance has attained such prevalence that even princes
and lords have learned the habit from their young noblemen and are no longer
ashamed of it. Rather, they call it honorable, making it a civil virtue
befitting princes and noblemen. Whosoever will not consent to be a drunken
sot with them, must be discountenanced; while the knights who stand for
beer and wine obtain high honors, and great favors and privileges, on account
of their drinking. They desire fame in this respect, as if they had secured
their nobility, their shield and helmet, by the very fact that they exceed
in the shamelessness of their tippling.
10. Yes, and have we not further reason for checking the evil when even
the young practice it without fear or shame? They learn it from the aged,
and unrestrained they disgracefully and wantonly injure themselves in the
very bloom of life, destroying themselves as corn is cut down by hail and
tempest. The majority of the finest, most promising young people, particularly
the nobility, they of court circles, ruin their health, body and life,
before arriving at maturity. How can it be otherwise when they who should
restrain and punish commit the same sins themselves?
11. Hence Germany has always been a wretched country, chastised and
plagued by the drink devil, and completely immersed in this vice, until
the bodies and lives of her people, as well as their property and honor,
are shamefully consumed and only a sordid existence remains. He who would
paint the conditions must portray something swinish. Indeed, but a small
proportion of the inhabitants of Germany are undebased by this evil. These
are children, girls and women. Some sense of propriety in the matter remains
to them, though occasionally we find even under the veil some intemperance;
however, it is with restraint. Enough modesty remains to inspire the universal
sentiment that so disgraceful a thing is it for a woman to be drunk, such
a one deserves to be trampled upon in the streets.
12. In the light of their example, let us men learn to see our own shame
and to blush for it. While noting how disgraceful is drunkenness for women,
let us remember it is much more so for ourselves. We ought to be saner
and more virtuous; for, according to Peter, the woman is the weaker vessel.
Because of the weakness of women, we ought to have more patience with them.
Man being endowed with a broader mind, stronger faculties and firmer nature,
he should be the saner being, the farther removed from the brute. It stands
to reason that it is a much greater disgrace for him to indulge in the
vice of drunkenness. In proportion to the nobility of his creation and
the exalted nature wherewith God has endowed him, should be the disgrace
of such unreasoning, brutish conduct on his part.
13. What can be said for us? So complete is the perversion of all manly
virtue and honor in our conduct in this respect that it cannot be surpassed
by any other possible degradation of manhood. There remains to us but an
atom of good reputation, and that is to be found among the women. The occasional
instance of drunkenness among them but emphasizes our own disgrace. All
countries look upon us with scorn and contempt, regarding us as shameful
and sordid creatures, day and night bent upon making ourselves surfeited
and stupid, possessing neither reason nor intelligence.
The evil would be more tolerable, more excusable, if drinking and carousing
had any limit, if intoxication were but an occasional thing--the case of
a person inadvertently taking one drink too much, or of taking a stimulant
when tired from excessive labor and worry. We excuse it in women who may
chance to drink a little more at wedding parties than they are accustomed
to at home. But this excessive guzzling kept up unceasingly day and night,
emitting only to be filled again, is wholly inconsistent with the character
of a prince, a nobleman, a citizen, yes, of a human being, not to mention
the life of a Christian; it is really more in keeping with the nature and
work of swine.
14. Now, when God and all mankind permit you to eat and to drink, to
enjoy good things, not merely what is necessary for actual subsistence,
but in a measure calculated to afford gratification and pleasure, and you
are yet not satisfied with that privilege--when such is the case, your
sordid and gluttonous tendencies are worthy one born solely to consume
beer and wine. But such are the excesses now to be seen in the courts of
princes--the banqueting and the drinking--that one would think they meant
to devour the resources of the country in a single hour. Lords, princes,
noblemen--the entire country, in fact--are ruined, reduced to beggary,
for the particular reason that God's gifts are so inhumanly wasted and
15. As I said before, the evil of drunkenness has, alas, gained such
ascendancy as to be past restraint unless the Word of God may exert some
controlling influence among the few, the individuals who are still human
and who would be Christians. The masses will remain as they are, particularly
as the civil government makes no effort to restrain the evil. It is my
opinion that if God does not sometime check the vice by a special judgment--and
until he does it will never be punished and restrained--even women and
children will become inebriate, and when the last day arrives no Christian
will be found but all souls will descend drunken into the abyss of hell.
16. Let all who desire to be Christians know that it is incumbent upon
them to manifest the virtue of temperance; that drunken sots have no place
among Christians, and cannot be saved until they amend their ways, until
they reform from their evil habits. Concerning them Paul says plainly (Gal
5, 19-21): "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication,
uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies,
wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings,
and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that
they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Here you see that he who lies day and night in drunkenness has no more
inheritance in the kingdom of God than the whoremonger, adulterer, and
such like. Know then, just as idolatry, adultery and so on, are sins excluding
you from heaven, so too, drunkenness is a sin which bars you from the blessings
of baptism, and from remission of sins, faith in Christ and your personal
salvation. Hence, if you would be a Christian and saved, you must be careful
to lead a sober and temperate life. But if you disregard this admonition
and yet hope to be saved--well, then continue to be an infidel and a brute
so long as God permits.
17. Were you a Christian, even if you could permit yourself to be unmoved
by the physical injury wherein, by drunkenness, you plunge yourself, not
only wasting your money and property, but injuring your health and shortening
your life; and if you could permit yourself to be unmoved by the stigma
justly recognized by men and angels as attaching to you, a filthy sot--even
then you ought to be moved by God's command, by the peril of incurring
eternal damnation--of losing God's grace and eternal salvation--to refrain
from such unchristian conduct. 0 God, how shameless and ungrateful we are,
we so highly blessed of God in having his Word and in being liberated from
the tyranny of the Pope, who desired our sweat and blood and tortured our
consciences with his laws--how ungrateful we are in the face of these things
not to amend our lives in some measure in honor to the Gospel, and in praise
and gratitude to God!
18. Where peradventure there are still pious parents or godfearing Christian
rulers, they ought, for the sake of lessening the evil of intemperance,
to restrain their children and domestics with serious chastisements. Pastors
and preachers are under obligation to admonish the people frequently and
faithfully, holding up to them God's displeasure and wrath and the injuries
to soul, body and property resultant from this evil, to the intent that
at least some might be moved and profited. And they who wantonly and openly
persist in the vice, being not disposed to amend their conduct but at the
same time boast of the Gospel, should not be allowed to participate in
the sacrament of the Lord's Supper nor to act as sponsors at baptism. Preachers
and pastors should hold such as openly antichristian, and should make a
distinction against them the same as with manifest adulterers, extortioners
and idolaters. Such is Paul's command (I Cor 5, 11): "I wrote unto you
not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator,
or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner;
with such a one no, not to eat."
NECESSITY FOR PRAYER.
19. But we will not now remark further upon this subject. To return
to Peter: He admonishes us to be sober so that we may give ourselves to
prayer, as becometh those who are Christians and have turned from the vile,
heathenish conduct of the world. just preceding our text, in verse 3, he
says: "For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the
Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings,
carousings, and abominable idolatries." He admonishes us as being now called
and ordained to contend against the devil by faith and prayer. Later on
(ch. 5, 8) he brings in the same warning in clearer phrase, exhorting Christians
to be sober and watchful. Do you ask, What is the great necessity therefore?
he says: "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion [in the midst of
a flock of sheep], walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
Peter's meaning is this: Since you are a people called to contend with
this powerful spirit which is more intent on seizing your souls than is
the wolf on seizing the sheep, it is essential you should take thought
how to withstand him. Resistance is effected only through faith and prayer.
But soberness and vigilance are necessary to enable one to pray. With gormandizers
and drunkards, reason is dethroned and they are rendered incapable of respecting
anything, or of performing any good work. Therefore, the ability to pray
and call upon God has been taken from them and the devil overcomes and
devours them at his will.
20. The diligence in prayer which characterized Christians of the primitive
Church, even while undergoing great persecution, is apparent to us. They
were more than willing to assemble daily for prayer together, not only
morning and evening, but also at certain other appointed hours; and frequently
they watched and prayed entire nights. Some of them, according to St. Augustine,
carried their vigils to such extent as at times to abstain from food for
four days. True, this was going to somewhat of an extreme, particularly
when later the practice came to be an example and a commandment. Yet their
habit of perfect sobriety morning, evening and at all times is commendable.
With the cessation of this practice in the congregations, there succeeded
the wretched order of monks, who pretend to do the praying for others.
They, it is true, observed the same appointed hours, the same seasons of
prayer, in their matins, vespers, and so on, but they did not really pray;
they merely kept up an incessant sound, muttering and howling.
We still retain from the ancient custom the observance of morning and
evening prayers in schools for children. But the same practice should obtain
in every Christian family. Every father is under obligation to train up
his children to pray at least at the beginning and the close of day, commending
to God every exigency of this earthly life, that God's wrath may be averted,
and deserved punishment withheld.
21. Under such conditions, we would be properly instructed and not have
to be subjected to intolerable oppression and to prohibitions relative
to eating, drinking and dressing, being guided by nature's demands and
our own honor and pleasure. Yet we would not be inordinate and brutish
in these things nor shamefully dethrone reason. Drunkenness is a sin and
a shame to any man, and would be even were there neither God nor commandment;
much less can it be tolerated among Christians. There is more virtue in
this respect among the very heathen and Turks. They put us to shame, while
it is our place to set an example shaming them. Our characters ought to
be so noble as to give no chance for offense at our conduct, that the name
of God be not defamed but glorified, as Peter admonishes in the conclusion
of this epistle lesson.
TEMPERANCE IN ALL THINGS.
22. What we have said in regard to sobriety, we must also say relative
to that other virtue--temperance,* [ed. *The German text uses the two words
"maszig" and "nichtern," which may be rendered "temperate" and "sober."]
to which Peter gives first place. They are mutually related, but temperance
respects not only eating and drinking, but is opposed to all immoderation
in outward life--in clothing, ornament, and so on; to whatever is superfluous,
or excessive; to any extravagant attempt to be greater and better than
others. To such extent has immoderation gained the upper hand in the world,
there is nowhere any limit to expense in the way of household demands,
dress, wedding parties and banquets, in the way of architecture, and so
on, whereby citizens, rulers and the country itself are impoverished, because
no individual longer keeps within proper bounds. Almost invariably the
farmer aspires to equal the nobleman, while the nobleman would excel the
prince. As with sobriety, so with the virtue of temperance--there is scarce
to be found an example of it in our midst, so completely has self-control,
sincerity and discipline given way.
23. At the same time the apostle does not forbid appropriate and respectable
recognition of the things of physical well-being, in keeping with each
individual's station in life, even including things ministering pleasure
and joy. For Peter would not have filthy, rusty, greasy monks nor sourfaced
saints, with the hypocrisy and show of their simulated austere and peculiar
lives, wherein they honor not their bodies, as Paul says (Col 2, 23), but
are ever ready to judge and condemn other people--the maiden, for instance,
who chances to join in a dance or wears a red dress. If you are a Christian
in other respects, God will easily allow you to dress and to adorn yourself,
and to live with comfort, even to enjoy honor and considerable pleasure,
so long as you keep within proper bounds; you should, however, not go beyond
the limits of temperance and moderation. In other words, do not overreach
propriety and self- restraint, regardless of real pleasure, in the endeavor
to show off in excessive and unprofitable squandering. Such conduct results
in confusion and trouble--chastisement sent of God; in taxes, extortion,
robbing and stealing, until finally lords and subjects are ruined together.
"Above all things being fervent in your love [have fervent charity]
among yourselves; for love [charity] covereth a multitude of sins."
24. In the foregoing part of the text, Peter admonishes Christians concerning
their obligations to themselves; here he tells what is to be their conduct
toward others. He embraces all the good works named in the second table
of the commandments as obligations we owe to our neighbor, in the little
but forcible and comprehensive phrase--"fervent in your love." This virtue,
too, is incumbent on the Christian who must contend against the devil and
pray. For prayer is hindered where love and harmony are displaced by wrath
and ill-will. The Lord's Prayer teaches: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive
How can they pray one for another who feel no interest in a neighbor's
wants, who rather are enemies, entertaining no good will toward one another?
Where hearts are inflamed with hatred toward men, prayer has ceased; it
is extinguished. Hence, antichristians and all popedom, however holy their
appearance, cannot pray while enemies to the Word of God and persecutors
of Christians. He who repeats the Lord's Prayer while indulging wrath,
envy and hatred, censures his own lips; he condemns his own prayer when
he seeks forgiveness from God but does not think of forgiving his neighbor.
25. With Christians there must be, not merely natural human affection
such as exists even among heathen, but ardent, fervent love; not the mere
appearance of love, the smoke-false, hypocritical love, as Paul calls it
(Rom 12, 9) --but real fervor and fire, which consent not to be easily
extinguished, but which endure like the love between husband and wife,
or the love of parents for children. True conjugal and parental love is
not easily quenched, even though the object of its affection be weak, diseased
or dangerously ill. Rather the greater the need and the danger of one individual,
the more is the heart of the other moved and the brighter does love burn.
26. Such sincere love, as the apostle elsewhere styles it, must exist
among Christians who are all children of one Father in heaven and brothers
and sisters. Indeed, they are under obligation to love even their enemies--who
are human beings of the same flesh and blood-- and to wish no one evil
but rather to serve all wherever possible. This love is the beautiful red
robe for the adornment of Christians, supplementing the pure white garment
of faith received in baptism. It is to be worn in obedience to the example
of Christ, who for us, even while we were enemies, wore the same red garment
of love when he was sprinkled with his own blood. It was then he burned
with the intense fire of ineffable and most exalted love.
27. The apostles were moved to admonitions of this character because
they clearly perceived the great weakness and imperfection bound to exist
among Christians even in their outward lives. They knew that no one could,
in his everyday life among men, live so discreetly as not at some time
or other, by word, gesture or act, to give offense to someone, moving him
to anger. Such perfection of life is found in no family, not even with
husband and wife. The case is the same as in the human body: one member
frequently comes in conflict with another; a man may inadvertently bite
his tongue or scratch his face. He who would be a saint so stern and selfish
as to endure no evil words or acts, and to excuse no imperfections, is
unfit to dwell among men. He knows nothing of Christian love, and can neither
believe nor put into practice the article of the Creed concerning the forgiveness
28. So the Christian's fire of love must be characterized, not by a
dull, cold red, but by a warm scarlet--according to the Scriptures (Ex
26, 1), "Coccurn bis tinctam" (rose-red). This love retains its fire and
is really true, having which the Christian is not easily disheartened and
overcome by wrath, impatience and revenge, but to a certain extent is able
to endure and tolerate attacks upon himself calculated to distress. it
manifests itself more strongly in suffering and enduring than in action.
29. Therefore, Peter extols such love, declaring it to be a virtue potent
not only to bear but to cover "a multitude of sins." This statement he
introduces from the Proverbs of Solomon (ch 10, 12). The Papists, however,
pervert its meaning, explaining it in a way at variance with the doctrine
of faith; they make of love to one's neighbor a work or virtue having merit
with God. It is their desire to draw the conclusion that for the sake of
our love our sins are covered; that is, forgiven and exterminated. But
we shall not notice the dolts. It is clear enough from the text that reference
is to hatred and love received from men; our own sins are not intended
here, but the transgressions of others. To cover our sins in the sight
of God, yet other love is requisite--the love of the Son of God, who alone
is the bearer of sins in God's sight, and who, as John the Baptist says,
takes away, bearing them upon his own shoulders, the sins of the whole
world, including our own. And the example of his love teaches that we,
too, should in love cheerfully bear and freely forgive the sins of others
30. Solomon contrasts the two opposing principles of envious hatred
and love, and shows the effect of each. "Hatred," he says, "stirreth up
strifes; but love covereth all transgressions." Where hatred and enmity
dwell in the heart, they must inevitably stir up strife and bring misfortune.
Animosity cannot restrain itself. It either bursts out in pernicious language
clandestinely uttered against the object of enmity, or it openly demeans
itself in a manner indicating its ill will. Hence follow reveling, cursing,
quarreling and fighting, and, when wholly unrestrained, cruelty and murder.
These things are due to the fact that the eyes of Younker Hate are so
blinded by scorn and venom that he can see only evil in every man with
whom he comes in contact; and when he actually finds it he will not let
it alone, but stirs it, roots and frets in it, as the hog roots with defiled
snout in offensive filth. "You must have viewed your neighbor from behind,"
we say when one can speak and think only the worst of a neighbor though
he may have many good traits. Hate really desires only that everyone be
an enemy to his neighbor and speak the worst about him, and if he hears
aught in his neighbor's favor, he puts upon it the very worst construction,
with the result that the other party is embittered and in turn comes to
hate, curse and revile. Thus the fire burns until only discord and mischief
31. But on the other hand, as Solomon tells us, Love is a virtue pure
and precious. It neither utters nor thinks any evil of its neighbor. Rather,
it covers sin; not one sin, nor two, but "a multitude of sins"--great masses
of them, forests and seas of sin, as it were. That is, love has no desire
to reflect itself in a neighbor's sins and maliciously rejoice in them.
It conducts itself as having neither seen nor heard them. Or, if they cannot
be overlooked, it readily forgives, and so far as possible mends matters.
Where nothing else can be done, it endures the sins of a neighbor without
stirring up strife and making a bad matter worse.
32. The apostle, upon authority of observation and experience, acknowledges
that where people dwell together there must be mutual transgressions; it
cannot be otherwise. No one will always do what is pleasing to others,
and each is liable to commit open wrong. Peter would teach that since men
must live together in their respective stations in life--for the Scriptures
make no recognition of singular and intolerant saints who would promptly
run out of the world when some little thing takes place at variance with
their opinions--he who would live peaceably must so control himself as
to be able to bear with others, to overlook their imperfections, and to
cover their transgressions and thus avert further resulting evil.
Where no toleration is exercised, where no wrong is forgiven and forgotten,
hate and envy must find place. The sole office of these is to stir up strife
and contention. No peace and rest is to be had where they exist; wrangling
and fighting, oppression and bitterness, must obtain. The unbounded ill-will.
the innumerable strifes and wars, having place on earth, all result from
the abominable evil of the lack of love among us and from the prevalence
of pernicious hate, which leads to anger and revenge when opposition offers.
Thus we become enemies to one another instead of to evil, when it is our
duty to love our fellow-men.
33. Now, if you would live as a Christian and enjoy peace in the world,
you must make every effort to restrain your anger and not to give way to
revenge as do others. Rather you must suppress these passions, subduing
your hatred by love, and be able to overlook and bear, even though you
have to suffer great pain and injustice. So doing you will develop a noble
character fitted to accomplish much good through patience and humility,
to allay and abolish enmity, and strife, and thereby to reform and convert
others. If you are unwilling to be patient under injustice, then go on
hating and envying, impatiently blustering about and seeking revenge. But
from such a proceeding only strife and disquietude can be your portion,
though your complaints be long and your lamentations loud. You may run
hither and thither, and still you will not find the truth otherwise than
as I have stated. This text would have to be done away with first, and
the Scriptures falsified.
34. Paul, having in mind Solomon's saying about love, in extolling the
same virtue amplifies the latter's statement with various expressions,
in the thirteenth of First Corinthians. Among other things he says there
(verses 5-8): "Love seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account
of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;
beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all
things. Love never faileth," etc. This, mark you, is "being fervent in
love," as Peter calls it. Here is the heat, the fire, effective to consume
all evil and to replace it with only good. This fire will not permit itself
to be quenched; it surmounts all checking. Whatever of evil is heaped upon
it, it remains in itself good, and works only good.
35. The essential property, the "differentia essentialis," of genuine
love, as its nature requires fervency, is the fact that it cannot be embittered.
He who has it, will not cease to love, to do good and to endure evil. In
a word love cannot hate; it cannot be at enmity with anyone. No evil can
be wrought too great for love to endure. No one can commit against it more
sins than it can cover. It cannot be enraged to the point of refusing to
forgive. Its attitude is not unlike that of the mother toward her child.
The child may be imperfect and impure, even filthy, but the mother notes
it not, even if she sees it. Her love blinds her. The eyes wherewith she
looks upon her child as the beautiful and God- given fruit of her own body
are so pure that she overlooks all imperfections, regarding them as nothing.
Indeed, she excuses, even glorifies, them. Although the child squints,
it must not be called squint-eyed, but love-eyed, and even a wart must
be thought to become it.
36. Behold, this is covering sins with love--a virtue peculiar to Christians.
The world does not possess that virtue. Such love is impossible to it,
whatever its pretensions and ostentations in that respect. However precious
the world's love may be, it is subject to delusion, vanity and hypocrisy;
for the world is false in appearance and pretension. No worldling likes
to be regarded hateful and envious toward his neighbor, but succeeds in
conducting himself, so far as word and gesture are concerned, in an affable
manner to all. This attitude he maintains so long as we show him favors
and obey his pleasure. But when our love for him becomes a little disaffected
and we happen to offer a word he regards insulting, he promptly withdraws
his affections and begins to complain and to rage as if he had been done
a great wrong. He makes out he is under no obligation to endure the injustice;
and he boastingly plumes himself on having shown great faithfulness and
love to the offender, such fidelity as would have led him readily to share
with that one the very heart in his body, and now he is so ill repaid that
henceforth he will leave such people to be served by the devil.
Such is the world's love. The world loves not "in deed," but "in word,"
as John expresses it. 1 Jn 3, 18. It has no sincerity of heart. Its love
is a mere ignis-fatuus, shining but having no fire; a love which endures
not, but is blown out by a breath--extinguished with a word. The reason
of it all is, the world seeks only its own. It would be served, would receive
from others, and not make any return, particularly if response must entail
any suffering and forbearance on its part.
37. "But," you may say, "shall evil go unpunished? What would be the
result were all evil to be tolerated and covered up? Would not that be
giving the wicked opportunity to carry out their evil designs? Would it
not encourage them in their wickedness until life would not be safe to
anyone?" I reply: We have often stated what individuals properly merit
our anger, and the extent and manner of punishment to be awarded them.
It is truly the office of civil government and also of the father of every
family to visit anger upon evil, and to punish and restrain it. Again,
every pastor and preacher is commissioned--yes, every godly Christian--to
admonish and censure when he sees a neighbor committing sin, just as one
brother in a family admonishes another. But to be angry with evil and to
inflict official punishment--punishment by virtue of office--is a different
thing from being filled with hatred and revenge, or holding ill-will and
38. It is not inconsistent with the character of love to be angry and
to reprove when a neighbor is observed to sin. But true love feels no inclination
to behold the sin and disgrace of a neighbor; rather, much rather, it desires
his improvement. Just as parents correct with a rod a disobedient and obstinate
child but do not cast it out and become enemies to it because of that disobedience,
their object being only to reform the child, while the rod is cast away
after chastisement; so, too, according to Christ's words (Mt 18, 15-17),
you may censure your brother when he sins, and manifest your displeasure
and indignation, that he may perceive and confess his wrong-doing, and
if he does not then amend his conduct, you may inform the congregation.
At the same time, his obstinacy does not justify you in becoming his enemy,
or in entertaining ill-will toward him. As said before, love to be true
must not be dull and cold, too indifferent to perceive a neighbor's sins;
it must endeavor to relieve him thereof. It must have the red fire of fervor.
He who truly loves will be distressed that a beloved neighbor wickedly
trespasses against God and himself. Again, true love does not pale with
hatred and revenge. It continues to glow red when the possessor's heart
is moved with sympathy, is filled with compassion, for its neighbor. True,
when fervor and admonition fail to effect any reform, the sincere-hearted
Christian must separate himself from his obstinate neighbor and regard
him as a heathen; nevertheless, he must not become his neighbor's enemy
nor wish him evil.
39. Anger and censure prompted by sincere love are very different from
the wrath, hatred and revengefulness of the world, which seeks only its
own interests and is unwilling to tolerate any opposition to its pleasure.
True love is moved to anger only when a neighbor's good demands. Though
not insensible to evil and not approving evil, it is yet able to tolerate,
to forgive and cover, all wrongs against itself, and it leaves untried
no expedient that may make a neighbor better. Sincere love makes a clear
distinction between the evil and the person; it is unfriendly to the former,
but kind to the latter.
"Using hospitality one to another without murmuring: according as each
hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards
of the manifold grace of God."
40. Having admonished all Christians to love one another generally,
Peter mentions various instances where love should be externally manifested
among Christians, and speaks particularly of those who have been favored
above others with special gifts and special offices in the Church whereby
they are able to serve their fellows. Thus he teaches that the Christian's
whole external conduct should be regulated by that love which seeks not
its own advantage, which aims not at profiting itself, but lives to serve
41. First, Peter says, "Using hospitality one to another." The
reference is to works of love relative to the various physical needs of
a neighbor. Christians are to serve one another by ministering temporal
blessings. Especially are the poor and the wretched to be remembered, they
who are strangers or pilgrims among us, or come to us houseless and homeless.
These should receive the willing ministrations of Christians, and none
be allowed to suffer want.
42. In the apostles' time, the primitive days of the Church, Christians
were everywhere persecuted, driven from their possessions and forced to
wander hither and thither in poverty and exile. It was necessary then to
admonish Christians in general, and particularly those who had something
of their own, not to permit these destitute ones to suffer want, but to
provide for them. So, too, is it today incumbent upon Christians to provide
for the really poor--not lazy beggars, or vagabonds--the outdoor pensioners,
so called; and to maintain those who, because of old age or other infirmity,
are unable to support themselves. The churches should establish common
treasuries for the purpose of providing alms for cases of this kind. It
was so ordained of the apostles in Acts 6, 3. Paul, also, in many places
admonishes to such works of love; for instance (Rom 12, 13): "Communicating
to the necessities of the saints."
43. Moreover, as Peter says, hospitality is to be extended "without
murmuring"--not with reluctance and aversion, as the way of the world is.
The world is particularly reluctant when called upon to give to Christ
the Lord, in other words to his poor servants the pastors and preachers,
or to their children, into whose mouths they must count every bit of bread.
It regards oppressive and burdensome the contributing of even a dime for
that purpose. At the same time, it lavishly bestows its gifts upon the
devil; as, for instance, under popedom it gave liberally and willingly
to indolent, useless monks and shameless, wicked knaves, Impostors and
seducers. Such is the inconsistence of the world; and it is a just punishment
from God that it is made unworthy to contribute where it well might toward
the preservation of God's Word and his poor Church; and that it must give
to other and ungrateful purposes. Christian love must be sincere enough
to do good "without murmuring." Paul says (Rom 12, 8) to "let him that
showeth mercy do so with cheerfulness," or willingly, without restraint.
Again (2 Cor 9, 7), "God loveth a cheerful giver," etc.
STEWARDS OF GOD'S GIFTS.
44. Peter speaks also of love's work in relation to the gifts of the
Holy Spirit, which are bestowed for the good of the entire Church and particularly
for its spiritual offices or government. He would have the Spirit's gifts
used in the service of others, and admonishes Christians to consider all
they have as given of God. The heathen have no such thought, but live as
if life and all they possess were of their own attaining. But let Christians
know they are under obligation to serve God with their gifts; and God is
served when they employ them for the advantage and service of the people--reforming
them, bringing them to a knowledge of God, and thus building up, strengthening
and perpetuating the Church. Of such love the world knows nothing at all.
45. So then, Peter says, we are to use the gifts called spiritual--gifts
of the Holy Spirit--in the Christian Church "as good stewards of the manifold
grace of God." He would have us know they are conferred upon us of grace.
They are not given us to exalt ourselves therewith, but to make us stewards
of the house of God--of his Church. They are manifold and variously distributed;
for no one may possess all. Some may have certain gifts and offices, and
other individuals certain others. But the mutual way in which these gifts
are united and related makes one individual serve another.
46. Peter would remind especially each individual to take heed to the
duties of his particular office. In the pursuance of his own occupation,
each is to attend faithfully to whatever is committed to his charge; to
do whatever he is commanded to do. As the Scriptures teach in many places,
there is no work nobler than being obedient to the particular calling and
work assigned of God, and satisfied therein; faithfully serving one's neighbor
and not gazing after what is committed to, or enjoined upon, another, nor
presuming to transcend the limits of one's own commission. Many fickle,
unstable spirits, however, especially the presumptuous, proud and self-sufficient,
imagine themselves to have such measure of the Spirit and of skill that
their own calling is not sufficient for them; they must control all things,
must superintend and criticise the work of others. They are malignant souls,
doing nothing but to stir up mischief, and having not the grace to perform
any good work, even though they have noble gifts. For they do not make
use of the gifts of their office to serve their neighbors; they only minister
therewith to their own glory and advantage.
47. The apostle goes on to show how God distributes his gifts in various
ways; he speaks of "manifold gifts." Paul likewise (1 Cor 12, 4-5) teaches
that each one is given a special gift, and a particular office wherein
he is to exercise his gift, continuing in his own sphere until called to
another. Again, Paul says (Rom 12, 6-7): "Whether prophecy, let us prophesy.
. . . or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry." It is not enough
to have numerous special gifts; grace is also requisite--"manifold grace
of God," Peter says. We must so use our gifts that God may be pleased to
add his blessing, if we would successfully and profitably serve the Church
and accomplish good. God's grace will not be given to those who do not,
in faith and in obedience to his command, fulfill the obligations of their
calling. Now Peter proceeds to illustrate, giving a rule of how we are
to use our individual gifts. He says:
"If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; if any man
ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth."
48. It is highly essential that the Church observe this doctrine. Had
it been regarded heretofore, the world would not have been filled with
anti-christian errors and deceptions. For it fixes the bounds, it sets
the mark, for all aspiring church members, however exalted their office
and gifts; the limits of these they must not transcend.
49. The apostle classifies Church government in two divisions: teaching,
or "ministering" the Word; and holding office and fulfilling its duties
in accordance with the teachings of the Word. In both cases, he tells us,
we are to take heed that we are not actuated by our own ideas and pleasures;
our teaching and ruling must ever be God's Word and work or office.
50. The workings of the Christian Church are not the same as the processes
of civil government. They are unlike the operations that have to do with
outward things, with temporal possessions. In the latter case men are guided
by their own understanding. At the dictates of their Own reason do they
rule, instituting laws and regulations, and prohibiting, receiving and
distributing according to those regulations. In the Christian Church we
have a spiritual government of the conscience, an effecting of obedience
in God's sight. Whatever is spoken or taught, promised or done, we may
be assured, will avail and stand before God; indeed, we may know it has
origin with him, whereby we are justified in declaring: "God himself uttered
the command or performed the work; for in us, his tabernacles where he
lives and rules, essentially he, as rightful Master in the house, commands
and performs all, though employing the instrumentality of men's lips and
ASSURANCE OF PURE DOCTRINE ESSENTIAL.
51. In the first place, therefore, it is necessary that both preachers
and hearers take heed to doctrine and have clear, unmistakable evidence
that what they embrace is really the true Word of God revealed from heaven;
the doctrine given to the holy and primitive fathers, prophets and apostles;
the doctrine Christ himself confirmed and commanded to be taught. We are
not permitted to employ the teaching dictated by any man's pleasure or
fancy. We may not adapt the Word to mere human knowledge and reason. We
are not to trifle with the Scriptures, to juggle with the Word of God,
as if it would admit of being explained to suit the people; of being twisted,
distended and patched to effect peace and agreement among men. Otherwise,
there would be no sure, permanent foundation whereon the conscience might
52. Nor is it any more admissible for one who chances to have an office
of greater influence than others, who is peculiarly holy, or who is of
exalted spirit and intellect--even though he were an apostle--to presume
upon his gifts and the office and take authority to teach according to
his own inclinations, requiring his hearers to accept unquestioningly his
word and rely upon it because what he teaches must be right. But thus the
Pope in time past persuaded the world that because he occupied the seat
of the apostles, the highest office, and assembled the councils, the latter
could not err, and that therefore all men are obliged to believe and obey
what they resolve and confirm.
53. This theory is opposed by Peter's teaching, and all the Scriptures
forbid men, at the peril of losing eternal salvation, to rely on or respect
anyone or anyone's gifts, in the things pertaining to faith. The Scriptures
teach rather that we are to prove and judge all doctrine by the clear and
sure Word of God given us from heaven and supported by the reliable, concurrent
testimony of the apostles and the Church from the beginning. Paul, by way
of denouncing the false teachers who boasted of being disciples of eminent
apostles and relied upon the latter and their reputation, pronounced this
sentence (Gal 1, 8): "Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach
unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him
54. Similarly, in the offices or government of the Church, there must
first be convincing evidence that command and office are instituted of
God. No one may be permitted to institute, promise or do anything of his
own power or pleasure and compel men to regard it as divine authority or
as essential to salvation, simply because of his appointment to office.
Nevertheless, the Pope, by virtue of his ecclesiastical office, undertook
to domineer over all men, to issue commands and institute laws and religious
services binding upon everyone.
He who holds and would exercise office in the Church must first give
clear Scripture proof of having derived his office from the authority of
God. He must be able to say:
"I did not institute such and such a proceeding; it is of God." Then
they who comply may be assured they are obeying, not the individual, but
55. For instance, if in obedience to Christ's command I, as a carer
of souls, or servant of the Church, administer the holy sacrament or pronounce
absolution; if I admonish, comfort, reprove; I can say: "That which I do,
I do not; Christ performs it." For I act not of my own design, but in obedience
to the command of Christ--to his injunction. The Pope and his adherents
cannot make the above assertion. For they pervert the order and commandment
of Christ the Lord when, in the sacrament, they withhold the cup from the
laity, and when they change the use of the sacrament or mass, making it
a sacrifice for the living and the dead. And thus they do also by innumerable
other abominations in their false worship, things established without God's
command, indeed contrary thereto; for instance, the invocation of dead
saints, and similar idolatries, introduced by the Pope under cover of his
office, as if he had the power from Christ to institute and command such
ASSURANCE OF DIVINE EFFICIENCY ESSENTIAL.
56. In the second place, it is not enough that office and commandment
be God-appointed. We his ministers should be conscious--and the people
should so be taught--that efficacy of office is not of human effort, but
is God's power and work. In other words, that which the office was designed
to accomplish is not effective by virtue of our speech or action, but by
virtue of God's commandment and appointment. He it is who orders; and himself
will effectively operate through that office which is obedient to God's
command. For instance, in baptism, the Lord's Supper and absolution, we
are not to be concerned about the person administering the sacraments or
pronouncing absolution--who he is, how righteous, how holy, how worthy.
Worthiness or unworthiness of either administering or receiving hand effects
nothing; all the virtue lies in God's command and ordinance.
57. This is the explanation of Peter's phrase, "the strength or ability
which God supplieth." Effect is produced, not through man's power, not
in obedience to man's will; but through the "strength" of God and because
of his ordering. No man has a right presumptuously to boast his own power
and ability effective, as the Pope does in his pretensions about keys and
ecclesiastical power. Know that it is necessary to the efficacy of your
office and the salutary character of your work or authority in the Church
that God himself give and exert the influence. And that influence is exerted
when, as before said, God's Word and testimony are present that the ministry
in question is commanded, or authorized, of God.
58. Therefore it is earnestly enjoined that in the Church no attempt
should be made by any individual to institute any order or perform any
work, much or little, great or small, merely at the prompting of his own
inclinations or in obedience to the advice of any man. Let him who would
teach and work be sure that his words and acts are really of God--commanded
by him. Until he is certain in this respect, let him abandon his office--suspend
his ministry; let him engage in something else for a time. Nor should we
hear or believe anything presented to us that does not bear indisputable
evidence of being the divine Word, or command. For God will not permit
mockery of himself in the things of his own prerogative and on which depends
the salvation of souls; for souls will be led to eternal ruin where this
rule and command are disregarded.
"That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
59. Here is named the motive for all effort in the Christian community.
No one may seek for nor ascribe to himself power and honor because of his
office and gifts. Power and glory belong only to God. He himself calls
his Church, and rules, sanctifies and preserves it through his Word and
his Spirit. To this end he bestows upon us his gifts. And all is done purely
of grace, wholly for the sake of his beloved Son, Christ the Lord. Therefore,
in return for the favor and ineffable goodness bestowed upon us regardless
of our merits, we ought to thank and praise God, directing all our efforts
to the recognition and glory of his name.