Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Sum of the Christian Life

Here's a piece of Luther's Work which I had not read before but was glad to have come across it. It is his Sermon on the Sum of the Christian Life (1532) found in the American Edition of his works, vol. 51, beginning at page 256. It's a nice one to read in conjunction with his treatise The Freedom of a Christian. when considering sanctification in the life of Christ's people.

Now, as for him who will neither heed this nor be moved to hold God’s Word in honor and esteem and gladly hear and learn it whenever he can, I do not know how to advise him, for I neither can nor will drag anybody in by the hair.

Anybody who despises it, let him go on despising it and remain the pot-bellied sow that he is until the day when God will slaughter him and prepare a roast for the devil in the eternal fires of hell. For such a person cannot be a good man, nor is it a human sin, but rather the devil’s obstinacy, when a man can so despise that for which God himself has appointed a place, person, time, and day, and besides admonishes and pleads with him so solemnly through his command and promise, and lays all this at our doorstep free of charge.

This is something for which you ought to run to the ends of the world, something you cannot pay for with any gold or silver. And yet it is such an easy service that it costs you no labor or work, no money or goods, only to lend your ears to hear, or your mouth to speak and read, and surely there is no easier work than this. For even though this may bring with it the peril that you will have to bear the cross and suffer for it, yet the work in itself is easier than even the easiest of labors.

If you can sit day and night in a tavern or somewhere else with good companions, gossiping, talking, singing, and bawling, and not grow tired or feel that it is work, then you can also sit in church for an hour and listen in the services of God and his will. What would you do if he commanded you to carry stones or to go on a pilgrimage or imposed some other heavy work upon you, as was imposed upon us formerly, when we willingly performed everything we were told to do and into the bargain were fleeced of money, goods, and body with silly lies and frauds?

But now we have the damnable devil, who makes the people so blind and so surfeited and sated that we do not realize what a treasure we have in the dear Word and go on living so rudely that we become like wild beasts. Let us take it to heart then and remember, whenever we preach, read, or hear God’s Word, whether it be in the churches or at home through father, mother, master, or mistress, and gladly believe that wherever we can obtain it we are in the right, high, holy service of God, which pleases him beyond all measure.

Thus you will be warmed and stirred to love hearing it all the more and God will also grant that it bear fruit, more than anybody can tell. For the Word never goes out without bringing forth much fruit whenever it is earnestly heard, without your being the better for it. Even though you do not see it now, in time it will appear. But it would take too long to tell all the fruits now, nor, indeed, can they all be numbered.

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