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Starts discussion on the love of God with the whole heart ...

By Martin Luther

                  THE TREATISE
                  I. We ought first to know that there are no good works
                  except those which God has commanded, even as there is no
                  sin except that which God has forbidden. Therefore
                  whoever wishes to know and to do good works needs nothing
                  else than to know God's commandments. Thus Christ says,
                  Matthew xix, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the
                  commandments." And when the young man asks Him, Matthew
                  xix, what he shall do that he may inherit eternal life,
                  Christ sets before him naught else but the Ten
                  Commandments. Accordingly, we must learn how to
                  distinguish among good works from the Commandments of
                  God, and not from the appearance, the magnitude, or the
                  number of the works themselves, nor from the judgment of
                  men or of human law or custom, as we see has been done
                  and still is done, because we are blind and despise the
                  divine Commandments.
                  II. The first and highest, the most precious of all good
                  works is faith in Christ, as He says, John vi. When the
                  Jews asked Him: "What shall we do that we may work the
                  works of God?" He answered: "This is the work of God,
                  that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent." When we hear
                  or preach this word, we hasten over it and deem it a very
                  little thing and easy to do, whereas we ought here to
                  pause a long time and to ponder it well. For in this work
                  all good works must be done and receive from it the
                  inflow of their goodness, like a loan. This we must put
                  bluntly, that men may understand it.
                  We find many who pray, fast, establish endowments, do
                  this or that, lead a good life before men, and yet if you
                  should ask them whether they are sure that what they do
                  pleases God, they say, "No"; they do not know, or they
                  doubt. And there are some very learned men, who mislead
                  them, and say that it is not necessary to be sure of
                  this; and yet, on the other hand, these same men do
                  nothing else but teach good works. Now all these works
                  are done outside of faith, therefore they are nothing and
                  altogether dead. For as their conscience stands toward
                  God and as it believes, so also are the works which grow
                  out of it. Now they have no faith, no good conscience
                  toward God, therefore the works lack their head, and all
                  their life and goodness is nothing. Hence it comes that
                  when I exalt faith and reject such works done without
                  faith, they accuse me of forbidding good works, when in
                  truth I am trying hard to teach real good works of faith.
                  III. If you ask further, whether they count it also a
                  good work when they work at their trade, walk, stand,
                  eat, drink, sleep, and do all kinds of works for the
                  nourishment of the body or for the common welfare, and
                  whether they believe that God takes pleasure in them
                  because of such works, you will find that they say, "No";
                  and they define good works so narrowly that they are made
                  to consist only of praying in church, fasting, and
                  almsgiving. Other works they consider to be in vain, and
                  think that God cares nothing for them. So through their
                  damnable unbelief they curtail and lessen the service of
                  God, Who is served by all things whatsoever that are
                  done, spoken or thought in faith.
                  So teaches Ecclesiastes ix: "Go thy way with joy, eat and
                  drink, and know that God accepteth thy works. Let thy
                  garments be always white; and let thy head lack no
                  ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest
                  all the days of the life of thy vanity." "Let thy
                  garments be always white," that is, let all our works be
                  good, whatever they may be, without any distinction. And
                  they are white when I am certain and believe that they
                  please God. Then shall the head of my soul never lack the
                  ointment of a joyful conscience.
                  So Christ says, John viii: "I do always those things that
                  J please Him." And St. John says, I. John iii: "Hereby I
                  we know that we are of the truth, if we can comfort our
                  hearts before Him and have a good confidence. And if our
                  heart condemns or frets us, God is greater than our
                  heart, and we have confidence, that whatsoever we ask, we
                  shall receive of Him, because we keep His Commandments,
                  and do those things that are pleasing in His sight."
                  Again: "Whosoever is born of God, that is, whoever
                  believes and trusts God, doth not commit sin, and cannot
                  sin." Again, Psalm xxxiv: "None of them that trust in I
                  Him shall do sin." And in Psalm ii: "Blessed are all E
                  they that put their trust in Him." If this be true, then
                  all that they do must be good, or the evil that they do
                  must be quickly forgiven. Behold, then, why I exalt faith
                  so greatly, draw all works into it, and reject all works
                  which do not flow from it.
                  IV. Now every one can note and tell for himself E when he
                  does what is good or what is not good; for if he 1 finds
                  his heart confident that it pleases God, the work is 5
                  good, even if it were so small a thing as picking up a
                  straw. If confidence is absent, or if he doubts, the work
                  is not good, although it should raise all the dead and
                  the man should I give himself to be burned. This is the
                  teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv: "Whatsoever is not done
                  of or in faith is sin." Faith, as the chief work, and no
                  other work, has given us the name of "believers on
                  Christ." For all other works a heathen, a Jew, a Turk, a
                  sinner, may also do; but to trust firmly that he pleases
                  God, is possible only for a Christian who is enlightened
                  and strengthened by grace.
                  That these words seem strange, and that some call me a
                  heretic because of them, is due to the fact that men have
                  followed blind reason and heathen ways, have set faith
                  not above, but beside other virtues, and have given it a
                  work of its own, apart from all works of the other
                  virtues; although faith alone makes all other works good,
                  acceptable and worthy, in that it trusts God and does not
                  doubt that for it all things that a man does are well
                  done. Indeed, they have not let faith remain a work, but
                  have made a habitus of it, as they say, although
                  Scripture gives the name of a good, divine work to no
                  work except to faith alone. Therefore it is no wonder
                  that they have become blind and leaders of the blind. And
                  this faith brings with it at once love, peace, joy and
                  hope. For God gives His Spirit at once to him who trusts
                  Him, as St. Paul says to the Galatians: "You received the
                  Spirit not because of your good works, but when you
                  believed the Word of God."
                  V. In this faith all works become equal, and one is like
                  the other; all distinctions between works fall away,
                  whether they be great, small, short, long, few or many.
                  For the works are acceptable not for their own sake, but
                  because of the faith which alone is, works and lives in
                  each and every work without distinction, however numerous
                  and various they are, just as all the members of the body
                  live, work and have their name from the head, and without
                  the head no member can live, work and have a name.
                  From which it further follows that a Christian who lives
                  in this faith has no need of a teacher of good works, but
                  whatever he finds to do he does, and all is well done; as
                  Samuel said to Saul: "The Spirit of the Lord will come
                  upon thee, and thou shalt be turned into another man;
                  then do thou as occasion serves thee; for God is with
                  thee." So also we read of St. Anna, Samuel's mother:
                  "When she believed the priest Eli who promised her God's
                  grace, she went home in joy and peace, and from that time
                  no more turned hither and thither," that is, whatever
                  occurred, it was all one to her. St. Paul also says:
                  "Where the Spirit of Christ is, there all is free." For
                  faith does not permit itself to be bound to any work, nor
                  does it allow any work to be taken from it, but, as the
                  First Psalm says, "He bringeth forth his fruit in his
                  season," that is, as a matter of course.
                  VI. This we may see in a common human example. A When a
                  man and a woman love and are pleased with each A other,
                  and thoroughly believe in their love, who teaches them
                  how they are to behave, what they are to do, leave
                  undone, say, not say, think? Confidence alone teaches
                  them all this, and more. They make no difference in
                  works: they do the great, the long, the much, as gladly
                  as the small, the short, the little, and vice versa; and
                  that too with joyful, peaceful, confident hearts, and
                  each is a free companion of the other. But where there is
                  a doubt, search is made for what is best; then a
                  distinction of works is imagined whereby a man may win
                  favor; and yet he goes about it with a heavy heart, and
                  great disrelish; he is, as it were, taken captive, more
                  than half in despair, and often makes a fool of himself.
                  So a Christian who lives in this confidence toward God, a
                  knows all things, can do all things, undertakes all
                  things B that are to be done, and does everything
                  cheerfully and F freely; not that he may gather many
                  merits and good works, N but because it is a pleasure for
                  him to please God thereby, and he serves God purely for
                  nothing, content that his service pleases God. On the
                  other hand, he who is not at one with God, or doubts,
                  hunts and worries in what way he may do enough and with
                  many works move God. He runs to St. James of Compostella,
                  to Rome, to Jerusalem, hither and yon, prays St.
                  Bridget's prayer and the rest, fasts on this day and on
                  that, makes confession here, and makes confession there,
                  questions this man and that, and yet finds no peace. He
                  does all this with great effort, despair and disrelish of
                  heart, so that the Scriptures rightly call such works in
                  Hebrew A v e n a m a 1, that is, labor and travail. And
                  even then they are not good works, and are all lost. Many
                  have been crazed thereby; their fear has brought them
                  into all manner of misery. Of these it is written, Wisdom
                  of Solomon v: "We have wearied ourselves in the wrong
                  way; and have gone through deserts, where there lay no
                  way; but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known
                  it, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us."
                  VII. In these works faith is still slight and weak; let
                  us ask further, whether they believe that they are
                  well-pleasing to God when they suffer in body, property,
                  honor, friends, or whatever they have, and believe that
                  God of His mercy appoints their sufferings and
                  difficulties for them, whether they be small or great.
                  This is real strength, to trust in God when to all our
                  senses and reason He appears to be angry; and to have
                  greater confidence in Him than we feel. Here He is
                  hidden, as the bride says in the Song of Songs: "Behold
                  he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the
                  windows"; that is, He stands hidden among the sufferings,
                  which would separate us from Him like a wall, yea, like a
                  wall of stone, and yet He looks upon me and does not
                  leave me, for He is standing and is ready graciously to
                  help, and through the window of dim faith He permits
                  Himself to be seen. And Jeremiah says in Lamentations,
                  "He casts off men, but He does it not willingly."
                  This faith they do not know at all, and give up, thinking
                  that God has forsaken them and is become their enemy;
                  they even lay the blame of their ills on men and devils,
                  and have no confidence at all in God. For this reason,
                  too, their suffering is always an offence and harmful to
                  them, and yet they go and do some good works, as they
                  think, and are not aware of their unbelief. But they who
                  in such suffering trust God and retain a good, firm
                  confidence in Him, and believe that He is pleased with
                  them, these see in their sufferings and afflictions
                  nothing but precious merits and the rarest possessions,
                  the value of which no one can estimate. For faith and
                  confidence make precious before God all that which others
                  think most shameful, so that it is written even o, death
                  in Psalm cxvi, "Precious in the i sight of the Lord is
                  the death of His saints." And just as the confidence and
                  faith are better, higher and stronger at this stage than
                  in the first stage, so and to the same degree do the
                  sufferings which are borne in this faith excel all works
                  of faith. Therefore between such works and sufferings
                  there is an immeasurable difference and the sufferings
                  are infinitely better.
                  VIII. Beyond all this is the highest stage of faith,
                  when; God punishes the conscience not only with temporal
                  sufferings, but with death, hell, and sin, and refuses
                  grace and mercy, as though it were His will to condemn
                  and to be 4 angry eternally. This few men experience, but
                  David cries out in Psalm vi, "O Lord, rebuke me not in
                  Thine anger." To believe at such times that God, in His
                  mercy, is pleased with us, is the highest work that can
                  be done by and in the creature; but of this the
                  work-righteous and doers of good works know nothing at
                  all. For how could they here look for good things and
                  grace from God, as long as they are not certain in their
                  works, and doubt even on the lowest step of faith.
                  In this way I have, as I said, always praised faith, and
                  1 rejected all works which are done without such faith,
                  in ] order thereby to lead men from the false,
                  pretentious, pharisaic, unbelieving good works, with
                  which all monastic houses, churches, homes, low and
                  higher classes are overfilled, and lead them to the true,
                  genuine, thoroughly good, believing works. In this no one
                  opposes me except the unclean beasts, which do not divide
                  the hoof, as the Law of Moses decrees; who will suffer no
                  distinction among good works, but go lumbering along: if
                  only they pray, fast, establish endowments, go to
                  confession, and do enough, everything shall be good,
                  although in all this they have had no faith in God's
                  grace and approval. Indeed, they consider the works best
                  of all, when they have done many, great and long works
                  without any such confidence, and they look for good only
                  after the works are done; and so they build their
                  confidence not on divine favor, but on the works they
                  have done, that is, on sand and water, from which they
                  must at last take a cruel fall, as Christ says, Matthew
                  vii. This good-will and favor, on which our confidence
                  rests, was proclaimed by the angels from heaven, when
                  they sang on Christmas night: "Gloria in excelsis Deo,
                  Glory to God in the highest, peace to earth, gracious
                  favor to man."
                  IX. Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which
                  commands: "Thou shalt have no other gods," which means:
                  "Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy
                  confidence, trust and faith on Me alone, and on no one
                  else." For that is not to have a god, if you call him God
                  only with your lips, or worship him with the knees or
                  bodily gestures; but if you trust Him with the heart, and
                  look to Him for all good, grace and favor, whether in
                  works or sufferings, in life or death, in joy or sorrow;
                  as the Lord Christ says to the heathen woman, John iv: "I
                  say unto thee, they that worship God must worship Him in
                  spirit and in truth." And this faith, faithfulness,
                  confidence deep in the heart, is the true fulfilling of
                  the First Commandment; without this there is no other
                  work that is able to satisfy this Commandment. And as
                  this Commandment is the very first, highest and best,
                  from which all the others proceed, in which they exist,
                  and by which they are directed and measured, so also its
                  work, that is, the faith or confidence in God's favor at
                  all times, is the very first, highest and best, from
                  which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed
                  and measured. Compared with this, other works are just as
                  if the other Commandments were without the First, and
                  there were no God, Therefore St. Augustine well says that
                  the works of the First Commandment are faith, hope and
                  love. As I said above, such faith and confidence bring
                  love and hope with them. Nay, if we see it aright, love
                  is the first, or comes at the same instant with faith.
                  For I could not trust God, if I did not think that He
                  wished to be favorable and to love me, which leads me, in
                  turn, to love Him and to trust Him heartily and to look
                  to Him for all good things.
                  X. Now you see for yourself that all those who do not at
                  i at all times trust God and do not in all their works or
                  sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and
                  good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in
                  themselves, do not keep this Commandment, and practise
                  real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all
                  the other Commandments, and in addition had all the
                  prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and
                  innocence of all the saints combined. For the chief work
                  is not present, without which all the others are nothing
                  but mere sham, show and pretence, with nothing back of
                  them; against which Christ warns us, Matthew vii: "Beware
                  of false prophets, which N come to you in sheep's
                  clothing." Such are all who wish with their many good
                  works, as they say, to make God favorable to themselves,
                  and to buy God's grace from Him, as if He were a huckster
                  or a day-laborer, unwilling to give His grace and favor
                  for nothing. These are the most perverse people on earth,
                  who will hardly or never be converted to the right way.
                  Such too are all who in adversity run hither and thither,
                  and look for counsel and help everywhere except from God,
                  from Whom they are most urgently commanded to seek it;
                  whom the Prophet Isaiah reproves thus, Isaiah ix: "The
                  mad people turneth not to Him that smiteth them"; that
                  is, God smote them and sent them sufferings and all kinds
                  of adversity, that they should run to Him and trust Him.
                  But they run away from Him to men, now to Egypt, now to
                  Assyria, perchance also to the devil; and of such
                  idolatry much is written in the same Prophet and in the
                  Books of the Kings. This is also the way of all holy
                  hypocrites when they are in trouble: they do not run to
                  God, but flee from Him, and only think of how they may
                  get rid of their trouble through their own efforts or
                  through human help, and yet they consider themselves and
                  let others consider them pious people.
                  XI. This is what St. Paul means in many places, where he
                  ascribes so much to faith, that he says: Justus ex fide
                  sua vivit, "the righteous man draws his life out of his
                  faith," and faith is that because of which he is counted
                  righteous before God. If righteousness consists of faith,
                  it is clear that faith fulfils all commandments and makes
                  all works righteous, since no one is justified except he
                  keep all the commands of God. Again, the works can
                  justify no one before God without faith. So utterly and
                  roundly does the Apostle reject works and praise faith, ;
                  that some have taken offence at his words and say: "Well,
                  then, we will do no more good works," although he
                  condemns such men as erring and foolish.
                  So men still do. When we reject the great, pretentious
                  works of our time, which are done entirely without faith,
                  they say: Men are only to believe and not to do anything
                  good. For nowadays they say that the works of the First
                  Commandment are singing, reading, organ-playing, reading
                  the mass, saying matins and vespers and the other hours,
                  the founding and decorating of churches, altars, and
                  monastic houses, the gathering of bells, jewels,
                  garments, trinkets and treasures, running to Rome and to
                  the saints. Further, when we are dressed up and bow,
                  kneel, pray the rosary and the Psalter, and all this not
                  before an idol, but before the holy cross of God or the
                  pictures of His saints: this we call honoring and
                  worshiping God, and, according to the First Commandment,
                  "having no other gods"; although these things usurers,
                  adulterers and all manner of sinners can do too, and do
                  them daily.
                  Of course, if these things are done with such faith that
                  we believe that they please God, then they are
                  praiseworthy, not because of their virtue, but because of
                  such faith, for which all works are of equal value, as
                  has been said. But if we doubt or do not believe that God
                  is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if we
                  presumptuously expect to please Him only through and
                  after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly
                  honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false
                  god. This is the reason why I have so often spoken
                  against the display, magnificence and multitude of such
                  works and have rejected them, because it is as clear as
                  day that they are not only done in doubt or without
                  faith, but there is not one in a thousand who does not
                  set his confidence upon the works, expecting by them to
                  win God's favor and anticipate His grace; and so they
                  make a fair of them, a thing which God cannot endure,
                  since He has promised His grace freely, and wills that we
                  begin by trusting that grace, and in it perform all
                  works, whatever they may be.
                  XII. Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two
                  are: keeping the First Commandment with outward works
                  only, and keeping it with inward trust. For this last
                  makes true, living children of God, the other only makes
                  worse idolatry t and the most mischievous hypocrites on
                  earth, who with their apparent righteousness lead
                  unnumbered people into their way, and yet allow them to
                  be without faith, so that they are miserably misled, and
                  are caught in the pitiable babbling and mummery. Of such
                  Christ says, Matthew xxiv: "Beware, if any man shall say
                  unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there"; and John iv: "I
                  say unto thee, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in
                  this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship God, for the
                  Father seeketh spiritual worshipers."
                  These and similar passages have moved me and ought to
                  move everyone to reject the great display of bulls,
                  seals, flags, indulgences, by which the poor folk are led
                  to build churches, to give, to endow, to pray, and yet
                  faith is not mentioned, and is even suppressed. For since
                  faith knows no distinction among works, such exaltation
                  and urging of one work above another cannot exist beside
                  faith. For faith desires to be the only service of God,
                  and will grant this name and honor to no other work,
                  except in so far as faith imparts it, as it does when the
                  work is done in faith and by faith. This perversion is
                  indicated in the Old Testament, when the Jews left the
                  Temple and sacrificed at other places, in the green parks
                  and on the mountains. This is what these men also do:
                  they are zealous to do all works, but this chief work of
                  faith they regard not at all.
                  XIII. Where now are they who ask, what works are good;
                  what they shall do; how they shall be religious? Yes, and
                  where are they who say that when we preach of faith, we
                  shall neither teach nor do works? Does not this First
                  Commandment give us more work to do than any man can do?
                  If a man were a thousand men, or all men, or all
                  creatures, this Commandment would yet ask enough of him,
                  and more than enough, since he is commanded to live and
                  walk at all times in faith and confidence toward God, to
                  place such faith in no one else, and so to have only one,
                  the true God, and none other.
                  Now, since the being and nature of man cannot for an
                  instant be without doing or not doing something, enduring
                  or running away from something (for, as we see, life
                  never rests), let him who will be pious and filled with
                  good works, begin and in all his life and works at all
                  times exercise himself in this faith; let him learn to do
                  and to leave undone all things in such continual faith;
                  then will he find how much work he has to do, and how
                  completely all things are included in faith; how he dare
                  never grow idle, because his very idling must be the
                  exercise and work of faith. In brief, nothing can be in
                  or about us and nothing can happen to us but that it must
                  be good and meritorious, if we believe (as we ought) that
                  all things please God. So says St. Paul: "Dear brethren,
                  all that ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all in the
                  Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord." Now it cannot be done in
                  this Name except it be done in this faith. Likewise,
                  Romans vii: "We know that all things work together for
                  good to the saints of God."
                  Therefore, when some say that good works are forbidden
                  when we preach faith alone, it is as if I said to a sick
                  man: "If you had health, you would have the use of all
                  your limbs; but without health, the works of all your
                  limbs are nothing"; and he wanted to infer that I had
                  forbidden the works of all his limbs; whereas, on the
                  contrary, I meant that he must first have health, which
                  will work all the works of all the members. So faith also
                  must be in all works the master-workman and captain, or
                  they are nothing at all.
                  XIV. You might say: "Why then do we have so many laws of
                  the Church and of the State, and many ceremonies of
                  churches, monastic houses, holy places, which urge and
                  tempt men to good works, if faith does all things through
                  the First Commandment?" I answer: Simply because we do
                  not all have faith or do not heed it. If every man had
                  faith, we would need no more laws, but every one would of
                  himself at all times do good works, as his confidence in
                  God teaches him.
                  But now there are four kinds of men: the first, just
                  mentioned, who need no law, of whom St. Paul says, I.
                  Timothy i, "The law is not made for a righteous man,"
                  that is, for the believer, but believers of themselves do
                  what they know and can do, only because they firmly trust
                  that God's favor and grace rests upon them in all things.
                  The second class want to abuse this freedom, put a false
                  confidence in it, and grow lazy; of whom St. Peter says,
                  I. Peter ii, "Ye shall live as free men, but not using
                  your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness," as if he
                  said: The freedom of faith does not permit sins, nor will
                  it cover them, but it sets us free to do all manner of
                  good works and to endure all things as they happen to us,
                  so that a man is not bound only to one work or to a few.
                  So also St. Paul, Galatians v: "Use not your liberty for
                  an occasion to the flesh." Such men must be urged by laws
                  and hemmed in by teaching and exhortation. The third
                  class are wicked men, always ready for sins; these must
                  be constrained by spiritual and temporal laws, like wild
                  horses and dogs, and where this does not help, they must
                  be put to death by the worldly sword, as St. Paul says,
                  Romans xiii: "The worldly ruler bears the sword, and
                  serves God with it, not as a terror to the good, but to
                  the evil." The fourth class, who are still lusty, and
                  childish in their understanding of faith and of the
                  spiritual life, must be coaxed like young children and
                  tempted with external, definite and prescribed
                  decorations, with reading, praying, fasting, singing,
                  adorning of churches, organ playing, and such other
                  things as are commanded and observed in monastic houses
                  and churches, until they also learn to know the faith.
                  Although there is great danger here, when the rulers, as
                  is now, alas! the case, busy themselves with and insist
                  upon such ceremonies and external works as if they were
                  the true works, and neglect faith, which they ought
                  always to teach along with these works, just as a mother
                  gives her child other food along with the milk, until the
                  child can eat the strong food by itself.
                  XV. Since, then, we are not all alike, we must tolerate
                  such people, share their observances and burdens, and not
                  despise them, but teach them the true way of faith. So
                  St. Paul teaches, Romans xiv: "Him that is weak in the
                  faith receive ye, to teach him." And so he did himself,
                  I. Corinthians ix: "To them that are under the law, I
                  became as under the law, although I was not under the
                  law." And Christ, Matthew xvii, when He was asked to pay
                  tribute, which He was not obligated to pay, argues with
                  St. Peter, whether the children of kings must give
                  tribute, or only other people. St. Peter answers: "Only
                  other people." Christ said: "Then are the children of
                  kings free; notwithstanding, lest we should offend them,
                  go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the
                  fish that first cometh up; and in his mouth thou shalt
                  find apiece of money; take that and give it for me and
                  Here we see that all works and things are free to a
                  Christian through his faith; and yet, because the others
                  do not yet believe, he observes and bears with them what
                  he is not obligated to do. But this he does freely, for
                  he is certain that this is pleasing to God, and he does
                  it willingly, accepts it as any other free work which
                  comes to his hand without his choice, because he desires
                  and seeks no more than that he may in his faith do works
                  to please God.
                  But since in this discourse we have undertaken to teach
                  what righteous and good works are, and are now speaking
                  of the highest work, it is clear that we do not speak of
                  the second, third and fourth classes of men, but of the
                  first, into whose likeness all the others are to grow,
                  and until they do so the first class must endure and
                  instruct them. Therefore we must not despise, as if they
                  were hopeless, these men of weak faith, who would gladly
                  do right and learn, and yet cannot understand because of
                  the ceremonies to which they cling; we must rather blame
                  their ignorant, blind teachers, who have never taught
                  them the faith, and have led them so deeply into works.
                  They must be gently and gradually led back again to
                  faith, as a sick man is treated, and must be allowed for
                  a time, for their conscience sake, to cling to some works
                  and do them as necessary to salvation, so long as they
                  rightly grasp the faith; lest if we try to tear them out
                  so suddenly, their weak consciences be quite shattered
                  and confused, and retain neither faith nor works. But the
                  hardheaded, who, hardened in their works, give no heed to
                  what is said of faith, and fight against it, these we
                  must, as Christ did and taught, let go their way, that
                  the blind may lead the blind.
                  XVI. But you say: How can I trust surely that all my
                  works are pleasing to God, when at times I fall, and
                  talk, eat, drink and sleep too much, or otherwise
                  transgress, as I cannot help doing? Answer: This question
                  shows that you still regard faith as a work among other
                  works, and do not set it above all works. For it is the
                  highest work for this very reason, because it remains and
                  blots out these daily sins by not doubting that God is so
                  kind to you as to wink at such daily transgression and
                  weakness. Aye, even if a deadly sin should occur (which,
                  however, never or rarely happens to those who live in
                  faith and trust toward God), yet faith rises again and
                  does not doubt that its sin is already gone; as it is
                  written I. John ii: "My little children, these things I
                  write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we
                  have an Advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ, Who
                  is the propitiation of all our sins." And Wisdom xv: "For
                  if we sin, we are Thine, knowing Thy power." And Proverbs
                  xxiv: "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up
                  again." Yes, this confidence and faith must be so high
                  and strong that the man knows that all his life and works
                  are nothing but damnable sins before God's judgment, as
                  it is written, Psalm cxliii: "In thy sight shall no man
                  living be justified"; and he must entirely despair of his
                  works, believing that they cannot be good except through
                  this faith, which looks for no judgment, but only for
                  pure grace, favor, kindness and mercy, like David, Psalm
                  xxvi: "Thy loving kindness is ever before mine eyes, and
                  I have trusted in Thy truth"; Psalm iv: "The light of Thy
                  countenance is lift up upon us (that is, the knowledge of
                  Thy grace through faith), and thereby hast Thou put
                  gladness in my heart"; for as faith trusts, so it
                  See, thus are works forgiven, are without guilt and are
                  good, not by their own nature, but by the mercy and grace
                  of God because of the faith which trusts on the mercy of
                  God. Therefore we must fear because of the works, but
                  comfort ourselves because of the grace of God, as it is
                  written, Psalm cxlvii: "The Lord taketh pleasure in them
                  that I fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy." So we
                  pray with perfect confidence: "Our Father," and yet
                  petition: "Forgive us our trespasses"; we are children
                  and yet sinners; are acceptable and yet do not do enough;
                  and all this is the work of faith, firmly grounded in
                  God's grace.
                  XVII. But if you ask, where the faith and the confidence
                  1 can be found and whence they come, this it is certainly
                  most necessary to know. First: Without doubt faith does
                  not come from your works or merit, but alone from Jesus
                  Christ, and is freely promised and given; as St. Paul
                  writes, Romans v: "God commendeth His love to us as
                  exceeding sweet and kindly, in that, while we were yet
                  sinners, Christ died for us"; as if he said: "Ought not
                  this give us a strong unconquerable confidence, that
                  before we prayed or cared for it, yes, while we still
                  continually walked in sins, Christ dies for our sin?" St.
                  Paul concludes: "If while we were yet sinners Christ died
                  for us, how much more then, being justified by His blood,
                  shall we be saved from wrath through Him; and if, when we
                  were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of
                  His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved
                  by His life."
                  Lo! thus must thou form Christ within thyself and see how
                  in Him God holds before thee and offers thee His mercy
                  without any previous merits of thine own, and from such a
                  view of His grace must thou draw faith and confidence of
                  the forgiveness of all thy sins. Faith, therefore, does
                  not begin with works, neither do they create it, but it
                  must spring up and flow from the blood, wounds and death
                  of Christ. If thou see in these that God is so kindly
                  affectioned toward thee that He gives even His Son for
                  thee, then thy heart also must in its turn grow sweet and
                  kindly affectioned toward God, and so thy confidence must
                  grow out of pure good-will and love -- God's love toward
                  thee and thine toward God. We never read that the Holy
                  Spirit was given to any one when he did works, but always
                  when men have heard the Gospel of Christ and the mercy of
                  God. From this same Word and from no other source must
                  faith still come, even in our day and always. For Christ
                  is the rock out of which men suck oil and honey, as Moses
                  says, Deuteronomy xxxii.

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