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Luther being informed of one that was fiercely tempted and plagued in his conscience, because he found not in himself a complete righteousness, that he was not so righteous as God in the law required, and that, in praying, he always felt blaspheming against Christ, said: It is a good sign; for blaspheming of God is two-fold; one activa, or operative, when one wilfully seeks occasion to blaspheme God; the other, a constrained blaspheming of God, passiva, when the devil, against our wills, possesses us with evil cogitations, which we desire to resist. With such, God will have us to be exercised, to the end we may not lie snoring in laziness, but strive and pray against them. By this means such things, in time, will vanish away and cease, especially at our last end; for then the Holy Ghost is present with his christians, stands by them, drives away the devil, and makes a sweet, quiet, and peaceable conscience. Wherefore, for his spiritual disease, let him take this my physic; that he trouble not himself about anything, but be of good comfort, trust in God, and hold on to the Word—the devil, of his own accord, will soon cease from stirring up such temptation.
Concerning this tribulation, that he finds not a full and complete righteousness in himself, let him know, that no human creature finds it in this life; it is altogether angelical,which shall fall unto us in the life to come. Here we must content ourselves with Christ's righteousness, which he fully merited for us, with his innocent and spotless life.
Christ said to the adulteress: "Neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more.'' To the murderer, he said: "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." But to the Scribes and Pharisees, who set themselves against the righteousness of the gospel, Christ said: "Woe be unto yon."
When one out of weakness denies God's Word, as many at this time do, under prince George, it is no sin against the Holy Ghost. Peter sinned in denying Christ, but not against the Holy Ghost. On the contrary, Judas persisted in sinning; he repented not aright, but remained hardened.
It is impossible for a human heart, without crosses and tribulations, to think upon God.
Not all can bear tribulations aliKe; some are better able to bear a blow of the devil; as we three, Philip Melancthon, John Calvin, and myself.
David, doubtless, had worse devils than we, for without great tribulations, he could not have had so great and glorious revelations. David made psalms: we also will make psalms, and sing as well as we can, to the honour of our Lord God, and to spite and mock the devil and his spouse.
When David sang his song: "0 my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for thee, O Absalom my son, my son," &c. Ah! how sorrowful and perplexed a man was he. The very words denote that his grief of heart was excessive.
The good and holy king had vehement tribulations and crosses, which altogether eclipsed tind darkened the promises made by God unto him. They were fearful and horrible examples. To hold fast and sure to the Word, in time 01 such trials and vexations, as David did, Oh! this is of inestimable value.
The upright and true Christian church has to strive not only with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness in high places. The spiritual combat is most heavy and dangerous; flesh and blood take away but only body, wife and children, house, land, and what is temporal; but the spiritual evil takes away the soul, everlasting life and salvation.
The Lord our God is a God of humble and perplexed hearts, who are in need, tribulation, and danger. If we were strong, we should be proud and haughty. God shows his power in our weakness; he will not quench the glimmering flax, neither will he break in pieces the bruised reed.
Faith's tribulation is the greatest and sharpest torment, for faith must overcome all other tribulations; so that if faith be foiled, all other tribulations must needs fall upon human creatures; but if faith hold up her head, and be sound and in health, all other tribulations and vexations must grow sick, weak, and decrease. This tribulation of faith was that thorn which St. Paul felt, and which pierced through flesh and spirit, through soul and body. Such tribulations was David possessed with, when he made this psalm: "Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger." No doubt he would rather have been slain with a sword, than have suffered such wrath and indig nation from God.
Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies; when the soul is oppressed, so is the body. Augustin said well: Animaplus est ubi amat, quam ubi animat. When cares, heavy cogitations, sorrows, and passions superabound, they weaken the body, which, without the soul, is dead, or like a horse without a driver. But when the heart is at rest, and quiet, then it takes care of the body, and gives it what pertains thereunto. Therefore we ought to abandon and resist anxious thoughts, by all possible means.
The life of no human creature is without discontent; every one has his tribulations, and many a one, rather than be without them, will procure disquietness to himself. No man is content with that which God gives him.
Ah! how willingly would I now die, for I am faint and overwrought, and at this time I have a joyful and peaceable heart and conscience. I know full well, so soon as I shall be again in health, I neither shall have peace nor rest, but sorrow, weariness, and tribulations. But even that great man, St. Paul, could not be exempt from tribulations.
When spiritual tribulations approach, we say: cursed be the day wherein I was born; and we begin to sweat. In such tribulations was our blessed Saviour Christ, in the garden,
when he said: "Father, let this cup pass from me." Here the will was against the will, yet he turned himself presently according to his Father's will, and was comforted by an angel. Christ, who in our flesh was plagued and tempted, is the best mediator and advocate with God, in our tribulation. He is president, when we are only respondents, if we will but suffer him to mediate. Seems it God is angry with us when we are in tribulation and temptation, yet when we repent and believe, we shall find, that under such anger God's grace and goodness towards us lie hid. Therefore, let us patiently attend God's leisure, and constantly remain in hope.
On the 8th of August, 1529, Luther, with his wife, lay nick of a fever. Overwhelmed with dysentery, sciatica, and a dozen other maladies, he said: God has touched me sorely, and I have been impatient: but God knows better than we whereto it serves. Our Lord God is like a printer, who sets the letters backwards, so that here we must so read them; when we are printed off, yonder, in the life to come, we shall read all clear and straightforward. Meantime we must have patienceTribulation is a right school and exercise of flesh and blood. The Psalms, almost in every verse, speak of nothing but tribulations, perplexities, sorrows, and troubles; they are a book of tribulations.
Christ received the thief on the cross, and Paul, after so many blasphemings and prosecutions- We, then, have no cause at all to doubt. And, indeed, we must all in that way attain to salvation. Yet, though we have no cause to fear God's wrath, for old Adam's sake we must stand in fear; for we cannot take such hold on the grace and mercy of God as we ought. He had but only the first six words in the creed: "I believe in God the Father," yet these were far above his natural wisdom, reason, and understanding.
The devil plagues and torments us in the place where we are most tender and weak. In Paradise, he fell not upon Adam, but upon Eve. It commonly rains where it was wet enough hefore.
When one is possessed with the doubt, that though he call upon the Lord he cannot be heard, and that God has turned his heart from him, and is angry, cogitations which we suffer, which are forced upon us, he must against them arm himself with God's Word, promising to hear him. As to the when and how God will hear him, this is stark naught; place, time, and person are accidental things; the substance and essence is the promise.
I have often need, in my tribulations, to talk even with a child, in order to expel such thoughts as the devil possesses me with; and this teaches me not to boast, as if of myself I were able to help myself, and to subsist without the strength of Christ. I need one, at times, to help me, who, in his whole body, has not so much divinity as I have in one finger.
In this life are many different degrees of tribulations, as there are different persons. Had another had the tribulations which I have suffered, he would long since have died; while I could not have endured the buffetings which St. Paul did, nor St. Paul the tribulations which Christ suffered. The greatest and heaviest grief is, when one dies in the twinkling of an eye. But hereof we ought not to dispute, but to refer the same to God's judgment.
When I am assailed with heavy tribulations, I rush out among my pigs, rather than remain alone by myself. The human heart is like a millstone in a mill; when you put wheat under it, it turns and grinds and bruises the wheat to flour; if you put no wheat, it still grinds on, but then 'tis itself it grinds and wears away. So the human heart, unless it be occupied with some employment, leaves space for the devil, who wriggles himself in, and brings with him a whole host of evil thoughts, temptations, and tribulations, which grind out the heart.
No papist among them will throw himself into the flames for his doctrine, whereas our people readily encounter fire