Wednesday, September 27, 2006

#1993-To the Nuernberg Ecclesiastics

Grace and peace in Christ. Worthy men and very dear brothers in Christ! What I always wish and pray to the LOrd for is that He will grant me a very clear and for the hearers an effective speech from my mouth and thus also I pray, above all, that this my letter will through the power of the Holy Spirit be effectual and lovely in your ears and hearts. I cannot say how great a pain has come to my consciousness in perceiving that a division has arisen among you in a place which previously has been governed as a place of the angels of peace and salvation and to say nothing, as you well realize,of the disturbance and harm that arises through your home church and in other churches and what boasting, what triumph for the opponents on both sides for the Papists and Sacramentarians and Anabaptist is snatched and held high! namely the hound of hell has obtained this mouthful, this joy of his evil through you. And as surely as Christ loves
me and as much as I can know and judge of the matter from your letter (I am truly speaking freely out of necessity and in respect of danger) this division is not the result of the present matter namely that of the private and public absolution. One can not, nevertheless it is noted (make no pretense, don't try to conceal it) that previously there were several old offenses among you and the sparks were nourished in the tinder and hidden and now a little wind blew and a slight,insignificant offense struggled to rise to a fire-storm. At the right season, as Isaiah says (50:4),a learned and healing tongue might have been beneficial and as Sirach says a little spit could have extinguished the same while now being inflamed by the tongues of many it is very difficult to dampen. Now if before this present matter you were of one heart and soul in the LOrd it would have been impossible for this slight offense to bring about so much that it has sadly yielded! How often a finger infringes upon the eye, the teeth upon the tongue, and one hand vehemently against the other! And yet this insult is suffered by another caring member from the other. And you know very well that words and deeds, however praiseworthy and good that might be, are taken as the worst by an enbittered and suspicious disposition. Such also it is with the matters of God that our opinions and consciences deal with: so what we would think to be beneficial to life serves death, and what is thought to be death-bringing serves life. How much more does a sick disposition take the words of a brother in a perverted way (ad iniquam partem) chiefly if there is something blameworthy and faulty about the same. And where does the Emperor and Empress of these offenses and movements abide, namely, love of which the Holy Ghost exults (I Peter 4:8)?:"Love covers a multitude of sins." And again (James 2:13); "Mercy exalts over against judgment.", and again (Luke 6:37): "Forgive so you will be forgiven." Should we who preach love, mercy and forgiveness also leave love behind us? bearing no burden with one another? not doing everything that mercy might be exalted over justice? Or is it a delight that we should hear the proverb: Turpe es doctori, cum culpa redargit
ipsum (shameful it is for a teacher when responsibility falls back on him)? Yes, it is horrifying if we the teachers of grace awaken the wrath against ourselves when we yield to our passions and through this offense and the dangerous hate-worthy division
hit on the brother for whom Christ has died. This is one of the chief articles of the
original sin that we require more justice for the brother than mercy and that we require for us more mercy than justice from the brother. "It says; Love should be for justice and go beyond justice." If this order is to be maintained then justice must be first uprooted from the ground than justice be permitted to be on the same footing
as mercy or strive with it or quarrel with it just as Christ shoved aside our judgment from the ground and the handwriting which witnessed against us before he would permit it to be on the same level and carried forward as His love toward us would be. And it is rightly said: The highest justice is the highest injustice. Justice or judgment is thorougly and absolutely condemned by God as also by men when it goes beyond its boundaries and lords it over love or mercy or is on the same level since justice must serve love not lord it over love. Otherwise it becomes one of the four evils which make a land unruly (as Solomon says[Proverbs 30:21-23]), nmaely a slave who would be king or a maid the heir of her mistress. For this reason, for the sake of Christ and for the sake of everything we have in fellowship with Him and for the sake of our fellowship with Him you give every effort carefully and faithfully that through patience,humility and forgiveness among one another that this evil is healed among you.Consider us and do not pile pain upon pain because you cannot deny that your wounds are our wounds and we, when you are hindered by Satan, are also hindered and afflicted. You are our crown and glory in that very prominent place. Consider how great a power of the enemy we have withstood and to be sure, every art of the devil and of men. Let us not bite one another and devour through this sorrowful rebellion of spirit we who should be in unity of spirit extending our hands to one another since we are risking our life battling against so many, so increasing, so tireless enemies day and night. And they rejoice when one of us falls or is offended; how greatly they triumph when so great a church is brought down through mutually afflicted and moderate (civilibus) wounds! That makes Satan glad that when previously with all his gates against us we remained undefeated that now without his hands and while he slept we through our own hands and internal battle were done in. The Father of all life and consolation defend us from that,Amen.
For that reason if the Spirit does not impart something better to you it would be my advice that you sharply distinguish betwen this matter and your peace. And although there is no danger for the church if you temporarily suppress this matter (God grant that it be extinguished) letting it lie until you come to a more secure and better time ,and temperments are fortified by peace and united in love and the same debated by all at your pleasure: thus at this time the tempers are so aroused that it would be poison to dispute about this or to touch this wound or abcess. Now then if the public absolution should be maintained and triumph as a result of this dispute then follow the example of the Athenians and let it be a by-gone and forgotten (amnestiam)since there is no danger here for the church. And you be clearly responsible that this matter does not take precedence over your peace and your love for all men. Posit this that Christ is bodily present among you and learn from His demeanor which both (sides)should follow in this matter. He will without doubt speak to your hearts with His eyes: What are you doing,dearest children, whom I have redeemed with my blood and are born again through my Word so that you should love one another?You know that is the mark of my disciples. Lay the matter aside and cast it upon me and I will see to it. There is no danger if this matter rests or dies. It does not harm the church when the public absolution prevails but there is a danger when there is disunity and you bite one another. Here you will not only tear my seamless cloak but pierce and cut up My Body. Grieve not the Spirit by Whom you are sealed for the day of salvation [Eph.4:30].Do not rob the holy engels in heaven of their joy. Do not upset and anger your brother and the entire church. Do not make yourselves ridiculous before My and your enemies. Do not increase the joy of Satan and his triumph. You already have enough evil to suffer for My Name otherwise. Am I not more to you than all incitements (affectus), than all matters, all offenses? Should such words of a brother or should an unjust burden be deeper and hang firmer than my wounds, my blood and the complete Savior Jesus Christ Himself? Surely such and far more beautiful and rich will He speak with His very beautiful eyes which are redder than wine [Genesis 49:12], if only you let Him stand in your midst , with eyes directed on His demeanor and you are silence about the matter and quiet your arousal.When this silence enters in what will He say than:"Peace be with you, fear not"? So then He will show you His wounds and cover your cuts and boils and you all will have salvation and joy.
I could write more to you but I might rather do more being with you with oral words about which I have confidence that I might accomplish something with Christ's help.But you are men whom God has gifted to know His wisdom so I do not despair that through this letter you will recognize the opportunity to be wiser than I can write or say. At the same time since you are not yet risen from the dead so it should not seem surprising to you that you should experience your humanity and you were nevertheless human before and do not cease to be human beings but do not become perverted to something devilish. It is human to be angry but thereto is added:[Eph.4:26]:"Sin not." To be insulted is human but not to permit reconciliation is devilish; however, not to be insulted or not to insult is angelic or what is the same, Christian. Though we have not yet attained that it is right that we likewise as beginners and as people who have the basis for beginning to become Christians that should we not be able to avoid insults or not bear them with patience we should just as well forgive one another gladly and also humbly pray for forgiveness and enfold our life in this petition:"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."The LOrd Jesus Himself , our peace and our mercy, make you joyful, that is, that He grant to you through peace you overcome and your strife and division be consumed through the fire-oven of love,Amen. Your brother and servant,D. Martin Luther.
nOTE: ML's pen flows with Scripture and aphorisms. The date of July 20,1533 is determined by the following letter to Wenceslaus Link of Nuernberg. Looks like this is an indication of the coming problems with Osiander,the subject of letter to Link.

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