Friday, July 25, 2008

Admonishing Angry Pastors

Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 295f.

John Gulden, the pastor of St. Peter's Church in Weida, Thuringia, caused mischief in his community by quarreling with fellow clergymen, railing against those who disagreed with him and inciting some people to acts of violence and iconoclasm.

Philip Melanchthon described him as one of those "who think that the only way to preach the gospel is to rage with great contentiousness and bitterness against those who differ from us." Complaints about Gulden's preaching and conduct reached Luther and called forth the following article.

Grace and peace in the Lord.

My dear John:

It has been reported to me that you are a little too severe in your handling of the Word, and I have been asked to admonish you. If you are responsive to the suggestion, I beg you to give first place in your preaching to those things which are of greatest weight, namely, that you urge faith and love upon your hearers. For if these have not struck roots, what is the use of our troubling ourselves about silly ceremonies? Nothing is accomplished by this except that we titllate the unstable minds of the foolish masses who are frivolous and have a mania for novelties. Not only is nothing going to be gained by this, but it will result in loss to the glory of God and his Word.

So conduct yourself with your colleagues therefore, that you may direct and do all things in unity of spirit and form. Do not abuse those of whom you do not know what sort of people they may yet be, but appeal to them gently and humbly, without insisting and boasting that what you propose is right. It will in time become abundantly clear that "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die" [1 Cor. 15:36]. Receive this admonition of mine in good part.

Martin Luther
Tuesday after Trinity Sunday, 1526


ELB said...

Worthy advice! Can the gospel ever predominate where anger is the norm?

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