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Luther,

on righteousness

 


J H M D’Augine DHR BOOK 2 CHAPTER 8 page 0074 paragraph 2

Luther did not lose himself in this quarrel. A living faith in Christ filled his heart and his life.

"Within my heart," said he, "reigns alone (and it ought thus to reign alone) faith in my Lord Jesus Christ, who is the beginning, middle, and end of all the thoughts that occupy my mind by day and night."

J H M D’Augine DHR BOOK 2 CHAPTER 8 page 0074 paragraph 3

All his hearers listened with admiration as he spoke, whether from the professor's chair or from the pulpit, of that faith in Jesus Christ. His teaching diffused great light. Men were astonished that they had not earlier acknowledged truths that appeared so evident in his mouth.

"The desire of self-justification," said he, "is the cause of all the distresses of the heart, But he who receives Jesus Christ as a Saviour, enjoys peace; and not only peace, but purity of heart. All sanctification of the heart is a fruit of faith. For faith is a divine work in us, which changes us and gives us a new birth, emanating from God himself. It kills the old Adam in us; and, by the Holy Ghost which is communicated to us, it gives us a new heart and makes us new men.

"It is not by empty speculations," he again exclaimed, "but by this practical method, that we can obtain a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."

 

J H M D’Augine BOOK 2 CHAPTER 8 page 0076 paragraph 4

"I should be very glad to know," wrote he [Luther] to friar George, "what is the state of your soul. Is it not tired of its own righteousness? does it not breathe freely at last, and does it not confide in the righteousness of Christ? In our days, pride seduces many, and especially those who labor with all their might to become righteous. Not understanding the righteousness of God that is given to us freely in Christ Jesus, they wish to stand before Him on their own merits. But that cannot be. When you were living with me, you were in that error, and so was I. I am yet struggling unceasingly against it, and I have not yet entirely triumphed over it.

"Oh, my dear brother, learn to know Christ, and him crucified. Learn to sing unto him a new song, to despair of yourself, and to say to him: Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, art my righteousness, and I am thy sin. Thou hast taken what was mine, and hast given me what was thine. What thou wast not, thou didst become, in order that I might become what I was not! -- Beware, my dear George, of pretending to such purity as no longer to confess yourself a sinner: for Christ dwells only with sinners. He came down from heaven, where he was living among the righteous, in order to live also among sinners. Meditate carefully upon this love of Christ, and you will taste all its unspeakable consolation. If our labors and afflictions could give peace to the conscience, why should Christ have died? You will not find peace, save in him, by despairing of yourself and of your works, and in learning with what love he opens his arms to you, taking all your sins upon himself, and giving thee all his righteousness."

Thus the powerful doctrine that had already saved the world in the apostolic age, and which was destined to save it a second time in the days of the Reformation, was clearly and forcibly explained by Luther. Passing over the many ages of ignorance and superstition that had intervened, in this he gave his hand to Saint Paul.

 

J H M D’Augine DHR BOOK 2 CHAPTER 8 page 0077 paragraph 5

No one knew better than Luther the intimate and indissoluble bond that unites the gratuitous [free] salvation of God with the free works of man. No one showed more plainly than he, that it is only by receiving all from Christ, that man can impart much to his brethren.

He always represented these two actions - that of God and that of man - in the same picture.

And thus it is, that after explaining to the friar Spenlein what is meant by saving righteousness, he adds,

"If thou firmly believest those things, as is thy duty (for cursed [cut off from God] is he who does not believe them), receive thy brethren who are still ignorant and in error, as Jesus Christ has received thee. Bear with them patiently. Make their sins thine own; and if thou hast any good thing, impart it to them. 'Receive ye one another,' says the apostle, 'as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.' (Rom. xv. 7.)

"It is a deplorable righteousness that cannot bear with others because it finds them wicked, and which thinks only of seeking the solitude of the desert [or another group], instead of doing them good by long-suffering, prayer, and example. If thou art the lily and the rose of Christ, know that thy dwelling-place is among thorns. Only take care lest by thy impatience, by thy rash judgments, and thy secret pride, thou dost to thyself become a thorn. Christ reigns in the midst of his enemies. If he had desired to live only among the good, and to die for those only who loved him, for whom, I pray, would he have died, and among whom would he have lived?"

oooOooo

 

 


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