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Starts discussion of Third Commandment (keep the Sabbath holy)

By Martin Luther

      I. We have now seen how many good works there are in the
                  Second Commandment, which however are not good in
                  themselves, unless they are done in faith and in the
                  assurance of divine favor; and how much we must do, if we
                  take heed to this Commandment alone, and how we, alas!
                  busy ourselves much with other works, which have no
                  agreement at all with it. Now follows the Third
                  Commandment: "Thou shalt hallow the day of rest." In the
                  First Commandment is prescribed our heart's attitude
                  toward God in thoughts, in the Second, that of our mouth
                  in words, in this Third is prescribed our attitude toward
                  God in works; and it is the first and right table of
                  Moses, on which these three Commandments are written, and
                  they govern man on the right side, namely, in the things
                  which concern God, and in which God has to do with man
                  and man with God, without the mediation of any creature.
                  The first works of this Commandment are plain and
                  outward, which we commonly call worship, such as going to
                  mass, praying, and hearing a sermon on holy days. So
                  understood there are very few works in this Commandment;
                  and these, if they are not done in assurance of and with
                  faith in God's favor, are nothing, as was said above.
                  Hence it would also be a good thing if there were fewer
                  saint's days, since in our times the works done on them
                  are for the greater part worse than those of the work
                  days, what with loafing, gluttony, and drunkenness,
                  gambling and other evil deeds; and then, the mass and the
                  sermon are listened to without edification, the prayer is
                  spoken without faith. It almost happens that men think it
                  is sufficient that we look on at the mass with our eyes,
                  hear the preaching with our ears, and say the prayers
                  with our mouths. It is all so formal and superficial! We
                  do not think that we might receive something out of the
                  mass into our hearts, learn and remember something out of
                  the preaching, seek, desire and expect something in our
                  prayer. Although in this matter the bishops and priests,
                  or they to whom the work of preaching is entrusted, are
                  most at fault, because they do not preach the Gospel, and
                  do not teach the people how they ought to look on at
                  mass, hear preaching and pray. Therefore, we will briefly
                  explain these three works.
                  II. In the mass it is necessary that we attend with our a
                  hearts also; and we do attend, when we exercise faith in
                  our hearts. Here we must repeat the words of Christ, when
                  He institutes the mass and says, "Take and eat, this is
                  My Body, which is given for you"; in like manner over the
                  cup, "Take and drink ye all of it: this is a new,
                  everlasting Testament in My Blood, which is shed for you
                  and for many for the remission of sins. This shall ye do,
                  as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of Me." In these words
                  Christ has made for Himself a memorial or anniversary, to
                  be daily observed in all Christendom, and has added to it
                  a glorious, rich, great testament, in which no interest,
                  money or temporal possessions are bequeathed and
                  distributed, but the forgiveness of all sins, grace and
                  mercy unto eternal life, that all who come to this
                  memorial shall have the same testament; and then He died,
                  whereby this testament has become permanent and
                  irrevocable. In proof and evidence of which, instead of
                  letter and seal, He has left with us His own Body and
                  Blood under the bread and wine.
                  Here there is need that a man practise the first works of
                  this Commandment right well, that he doubt not that what
                  Christ has said is true, and consider the testament sure,
                  so that he make not Christ a liar. For if you are present
                  at mass and do not consider nor believe that here Christ
                  through His testament has bequeathed and given you
                  forgiveness of all your sins, what else is it, than as if
                  you said: "I do not know or do not believe that it is
                  true that forgiveness of my sins is here bequeathed and
                  given me"? Oh, how many masses there are in the world at
                  present! but how few who hear them with such faith and
                  benefit! Most grievously is God provoked to anger
                  thereby. For this reason also no one shall or can reap
                  any benefit from the mass except he be in trouble of soul
                  and long for divine mercy, and desire to be rid of his
                  sins; or, if he have an evil intention, he must be
                  changed during the mass, and come to have a desire for
                  this testament. For this reason in olden times no open
                  sinner was allowed to be present at the mass.
                  When this faith is rightly present, the heart must be
                  made joyful by the testament, and grow warm and melt in
                  God's love. Then will follow praise and thanksgiving with
                  a pure heart, from which the mass is called in Greek
                  Eucharistia, that is, "thanksgiving," because we praise
                  and thank God for this comforting, rich, blessed
                  testament, just as he gives thanks, praises and is
                  joyful, to whom a good friend has presented a thousand
                  and more gulden. Although Christ often fares like those
                  who make several persons rich by their testament, and
                  these persons never think of them, nor praise or thank
                  them. So our masses at present are merely celebrated,
                  without our knowing why or wherefore, and consequently we
                  neither give thanks nor love nor praise, remain parched
                  and hard, and have enough with our little prayer. Of this
                  more another time.
                  III. The sermon ought to be nothing else than the
                  proclamation of this testament. But who can hear it if no
                  one preaches it? Now, they who ought to preach it,
                  themselves do not know it. This is why the sermons ramble
                  off into other unprofitable stories, and thus Christ is
                  forgotten, while we fare like the man in II. Kings vii:
                  we see our riches but do not enjoy them. Of which the
                  Preacher also says, "This is a great evil, when God
                  giveth a man riches, and giveth him not power to enjoy
                  them." So we look on at unnumbered masses and do not know
                  whether the mass be a testament, or what it be, just as
                  if it were any other common good work by itself. O God,
                  how exceeding blind we are! But where this is rightly
                  preached, it is necessary that it be diligently heard,
                  grasped, retained, often thought of, and that the faith
                  be thus strengthened against all the temptation of sin,
                  whether past, or present, or to come.
                  Lo! this is the only ceremony or practice which Christ
                  has instituted, in which His Christians shall assemble,
                  exercise themselves and keep it with one accord; and this
                  He did not make to be a mere work like other ceremonies,
                  but placed into it a rich, exceeding great treasure, to
                  be offered and bestowed upon all who believe on it.
                  This preaching should induce sinners to grieve over their
                  sins, and should kindle in them a longing for the
                  treasure. It must, therefore, be a grievous sin not to
                  hear the Gospel, and to despise such a treasure and so
                  rich a feast to which we are bidden; but a much greater
                  sin not to preach the Gospel, and to let so many people
                  who would gladly hear it perish, since Christ has so
                  strictly commanded that the Gospel and this testament be
                  preached, that He does not wish even the mass to be
                  celebrated, unless the Gospel be preached, as He says:
                  "As oft as ye do this, remember me"; that is, as St. Paul
                  says, "Ye shall preach of His death." For this reason it
                  is dreadful and horrible in our times to be a bishop,
                  pastor and preacher; for no one any longer knows this
                  testament, to say nothing of their preaching it, although
                  this is their highest and only duty and obligation. How
                  heavily must they give account for so many souls who must
                  perish because of this lack in preaching.
                  IV. We should pray, not as the custom is, counting many
                  pages or beads, but fixing our mind upon some pressing
                  need, desire it with all earnestness, and exercise faith
                  and confidence toward God in the matter, in such wise
                  that we do not doubt that we shall be heard. So St.
                  Bernard instructs his brethren and says: "Dear brethren,
                  you shall by no means despise your prayer, as if it were
                  in vain, for I tell you of a truth that, before you have
                  uttered the words, the prayer is already recorded in
                  heaven; and you shall confidently expect from God one of
                  two things: either that your prayer will be granted, or
                  that, if it will not be granted, the granting of it would
                  not be good for you."
                  Prayer is, therefore, a special exercise of faith, and
                  faith makes the prayer so acceptable that either it will
                  surely be granted, or something better than we ask will
                  be given in its stead. So also says St. James: "Let him
                  who asketh of God not waver in faith; for if he wavers,
                  let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of
                  the Lord." This is a clear statement, which says
                  directly: he who does not trust, receives nothing,
                  neither that which he asks, nor anything better.
                  And to call forth such faith, Christ Himself has said,
                  Mark xi: "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye
                  desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and
                  ye shall surely have them." And Luke xi: "Ask, and it
                  shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and
                  it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh
                  receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that
                  knocketh it shall be opened. Or what father is there of
                  you, who, if his son shall ask bread, will he give him a
                  stone? or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
                  or if he ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? But if
                  you know how to give good gifts to your children, and you
                  yourselves are not naturally good, how much more shall
                  your Father which is in heaven give a good spirit to all
                  them that ask Him!"
                  V. Who is so hard and stone-like, that such mighty words
                  ought not to move him to pray with all confidence!
                  joyfully and gladly? But how many prayers must be
                  reformed, if we are to pray aright according to these
                  words! Now, indeed, all churches and monastic houses are
                  full of praying and singing, but how does it happen that
                  so little improvement and benefit result from it, and
                  things daily grow worse? The reason is none other than
                  that which St. James indicates when he says: "You ask
                  much and receive not, because ye ask amiss." For where
                  this faith and confidence is not in the prayer, the
                  prayer is dead, and nothing more than a grievous labor
                  and work. If anything is given for it, it is none the
                  less only temporal benefit without any blessing and help
                  for the soul; nay, to the great injury and blinding of
                  souls, so that they go their way, babbling much with
                  their mouths, regardless of whether they receive, or
                  desire, or trust; and in this unbelief, the state of mind
                  most opposed to the exercise of faith and to the nature
                  of prayer, they remain hardened.
                  From this it follows that one who prays aright never
                  doubts that his prayer is surely acceptable and heard,
                  although the very thing for which he prays be not given
                  him. For we are to lay our need before God in prayer, but
                  not prescribe to Him a measure, manner, time or place;
                  but if He wills to give it to us better or in another way
                  than we think, we are to leave it to Him; for frequently
                  we do not know what we pray, as St. Paul says, Romans
                  viii; and God works and gives above all that we
                  understand, as he says, Ephesians iii, so that there be
                  no doubt that the prayer is acceptable and heard, and we
                  yet leave to God the time, place, measure and limit; He
                  will surely do what is right. They are the true
                  worshipers, who worship God in spirit and in truth. For
                  they who believe not that they will be heard, sin upon
                  the left hand against this Commandment, and go far astray
                  with their unbelief. But they who set a limit for Him,
                  sin upon the other side, and come too close with their
                  tempting of God. So He has forbidden both, that we should
                  err from His Commandment neither to the left nor to the
                  right, that is, neither with unbelief nor with tempting,
                  but with simple faith remain on the straight road,
                  trusting Him, and yet setting Him no bounds.
                  VI. Thus we see that this Commandment, like the Second,
                  is to be nothing else than a doing and keeping of the
                  First Commandment, that is, of faith, trust, confidence,
                  hope and love to God, so that in all the Commandments the
                  First may be the captain, and faith the chief work and
                  the life of all other works, without which, as was said,
                  they cannot be good.
                  But if you say: "What if I cannot believe that my prayer
                  is heard and accepted?" I answer: For this very reason
                  faith, prayer and all other good works are commanded,
                  that you shall know what you can and what you cannot do.
                  And when you find that you cannot so believe and do, then
                  you are humbly to confess it to God, and so begin with a
                  weak spark of faith and daily strengthen it more and more
                  by exercising it in all your living and doing. For as
                  touching infirmity of faith (that is, of the First and
                  highest Commandment), there is no one on earth who does
                  not have his good share of it. For even the holy Apostles
                  in the Gospel, and especially St. Peter, were weak in
                  faith, so that they also prayed Christ and said: "Lord,
                  increase our faith "; and He very frequently rebukes them
                  because they have so little faith.
                  Therefore you shall not despair, nor give up, even if you
                  find that you do not believe as firmly as you ought and
                  wish, in your prayer or in other works. Nay, you shall
                  thank God with all your heart that He thus reveals to you
                  your weakness, through which He daily teaches and
                  admonishes you how much you need to exercise yourself and
                  daily strengthen yourself in faith. For how many do you
                  see who habitually pray, sing, read, work and seem to be
                  great saints, and yet never get so far as to know where
                  they stand in respect of the chief work, faith; and so in
                  their blindness they lead astray themselves and others;
                  think they are very well off, and so unknowingly build on
                  the sand of their works without any faith, not on God's
                  mercy and promise through a firm, pure faith.
                  Therefore, however long we live, we shall always have our
                  hands full to remain, with all our works and sufferings,
                  pupils of the First Commandment and of faith, and not to
                  cease to learn. No one knows what a great thing it is to
                  trust God alone, except he who attempts it with his
                  VII. Again: if no other work were commanded, would not
                  prayer alone suffice to exercise the whole life of man in
                  faith? For this work the spiritual estate has been
                  specially established, as indeed in olden times some
                  Fathers prayed day and night. Nay, there is no Christian
                  who does not have time to pray without ceasing. But I
                  mean the spiritual praying, that is: no one is so heavily
                  burdened with his labor, but that if he will he can,
                  while working, speak with God in his heart, lay before
                  Him his need and that of other men, ask for help, make
                  petition, and in all this exercise and strengthen his
                  This is what the Lord means, Luke xviii, when He says,
                  "Men ought always to pray, and never cease," although in
                  Matthew vi. He forbids the use of much speaking and long
                  prayers, because of which He rebukes the hypocrites; not
                  because the lengthy prayer of the lips is evil, but
                  because it is not that true prayer which can be made at
                  all times, and without the inner prayer of faith is
                  nothing. For we must also practise the outward prayer in
                  its proper time, especially in the mass, as this
                  Commandment requires, and wherever it is helpful to the
                  inner prayer and faith, whether in the house or in the
                  field, in this work or in that; of which we have no time
                  now to speak more. For this belongs to the Lord's Prayer,
                  in which all petitions and spoken prayer are summed up in
                  brief words.
                  VIII. Where now are they who desire to know and to do
                  good works? Let them undertake prayer alone, and rightly
                  exercise themselves in faith, and they will find that it
                  is true, as the holy Fathers have said, that there is no
                  work like prayer. Mumbling with the mouth is easy, or at
                  least considered easy, but with earnestness of heart to
                  follow the words in deep devotion, that is, with desire
                  and faith, so that one earnestly desires what the words
                  say, and not to doubt that it will be heard: that is a
                  great deed in God's eyes.
                  Here the evil spirit hinders men with all his powers. Oh,
                  how often will he here prevent the desire to pray, not
                  allow us to find time and place, nay, often also raise
                  doubts, whether a man is worthy to ask anything of such a
                  Majesty as God is, and so confuse us that a man himself
                  does not know whether it is really true that he prays or
                  not; whether it is possible that his prayer is
                  acceptable, and other such strange thoughts. For the evil
                  spirit knows well how powerful one man's truly believing
                  prayer is, and how it hurts him, and how it benefits all
                  men. Therefore he does not willingly let it happen.
                  When so tempted, a man must indeed be wise, and not doubt
                  that he and his prayer are, indeed, unworthy before such
                  infinite Majesty; in no wise dare he trust his
                  worthiness, or because of his unworthiness grow faint;
                  but he must heed God's command and cast this up to Him,
                  and hold it before the devil, and say: "Because of my
                  worthiness I do nothing, because of my unworthiness I
                  cease from nothing. I pray and work only because God of
                  His pure mercy has promised to hear and to be gracious to
                  all unworthy men, and not only promised it, but He has
                  also most sternly, on pain of His everlasting displeasure
                  and wrath, commanded us to pray, to trust and to receive.
                  If it has not been too much for that high Majesty so
                  solemnly and highly to obligate His unworthy worms to
                  pray, to trust, and to receive from Him, how shall it be
                  too much for me to take such command upon myself with all
                  joy, however worthy or unworthy I may be?" Thus we must
                  drive out the devil's suggestion with God's command. Thus
                  will he cease, and in no other way whatever.
                  IX. But what are the things which we must bring before
                  Almighty God in prayer and lamentation, to exercise faith
                  thereby? Answer: First, every man's own besetting need
                  and trouble, of which David says, Psalm xxxii: "Thou art
                  my refuge in all trouble which compasseth me about; Thou
                  art my comfort, to preserve me from all evil which
                  surrounds me." Likewise, Psalm cxlii: "I cried unto the
                  Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I
                  make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before
                  Him; I showed before Him my trouble." In the mass a
                  Christian shall keep in mind the short-comings or
                  excesses he feels, and pour out all these freely before
                  God with weeping and groaning, as woefully as he can, as
                  to his faithful Father, who is ready to help him. And if
                  you do not know or recognise your need, or have no
                  trouble, then you shall know that you are in the worst
                  possible plight. For this is the greatest trouble, that
                  you find yourself so hardened, hard-hearted and
                  insensible that no trouble moves you.
                  There is no better mirror in which to see your need than
                  simply the Ten Commandments, in which you will find what
                  you lack and what you should seek. If, therefore, you
                  find in yourself a weak faith, small hope and little love
                  toward God; and that you do not praise and honor God, but
                  love your own honor and fame, think much of the favor of
                  men, do not gladly hear mass and sermon, are indolent in
                  prayer, in which things every one has faults, then you
                  shall think more of these faults than of all bodily harm
                  to goods, honor and life, and believe that they are worse
                  than death and all mortal sickness. These you shall
                  earnestly lay before God, lament and ask for help, and
                  with all confidence expect help, and believe that you are
                  heard and shall obtain help and mercy.
                  Then go forward into the Second Table of the
                  Commandments, and see how disobedient you have been and
                  still are toward father and mother and all in authority;
                  how you sin against your neighbor with anger, hatred and
                  evil words; how you are tempted to unchastity,
                  covetousness and injustice in word and deed against your
                  neighbor; and you will doubtless find that you are full
                  of all need and misery, and have reason enough to weep
                  even drops of blood, if you could.
                  X. But I know well that many are so foolish as not to
                  want to ask for such things, unless they first be
                  conscious that they are pure, and believe that God hears
                  no one who is a sinner. All this is the work of those
                  false preachers, who teach men to begin, not with faith
                  and trust in God's favor, but with their own works.
                  Look you, wretched man! if you have broken a leg, or the
                  peril of death overtakes you, you call upon God, this
                  Saint and that, and do not wait until your leg is healed,
                  or the danger is past: you are not so foolish as to think
                  that God hears no one whose leg is broken, or who is in
                  bodily danger. Nay, you believe that God shall hear most
                  of all when you are in the greatest need and fear. Why,
                  then, are you so foolish here, where there is
                  immeasurably greater need and eternal hurt, and do not
                  want to ask for faith, hope, love, humility, obedience,
                  chastity, gentleness, peace, righteousness, unless you
                  are already free of all your unbelief, doubt, pride,
                  disobedience, unchastity, anger, covetousness and
                  unrighteousness. Although the more you find yourself
                  lacking in these things, the more and more diligently you
                  ought to pray or cry.
                  So blind are we: with our bodily sickness and need we run
                  to God; with the soul's sickness we run from Him, and are
                  unwilling to come back before we are well, exactly as if
                  there could be one God who could help the body, and
                  another God who could help the soul; or as if we would
                  help ourselves in spiritual need, although it really is
                  greater than the bodily need. Such plan and counsel is of
                  the devil.
                  Not so, my good man! If you wish to be cured of sin, you
                  must not withdraw from God, but run to Him, and pray with
                  much more confidence than if a bodily need had overtaken
                  you. God is not hostile to sinners, but only to
                  unbelievers, that is, to such as do not recognize and
                  lament their sin, nor seek help against it from God, but
                  in their own presumption wish first to purify themselves,
                  are unwilling to be in need of His grace, and will not
                  suffer Him to be a God Who gives to everyone and takes
                  nothing in return.
                  XI. All this has been said of prayer for personal needs,
                  and of prayer in general. But the prayer which really
                  belongs to this Commandment and is called a work of the
                  Holy Day, is far better and greater, and is to be made
                  for all Christendom, for all the need of all men, of foe
                  and friend, especially for those who belong to the parish
                  or bishopric.
                  Thus St. Paul commanded his disciple Timothy: exhort
                  thee, that thou see to it, that prayers and intercessions
                  be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in
                  authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in
                  all godliness and honesty. For this is good and
                  acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." For this
                  reason Jeremiah, chapter xxix, commanded the people of
                  Israel to pray for the city and land of Babylon, because
                  in the peace thereof they should have peace. And Baruch
                  i: "Pray for the life of the king of Babylon and for the
                  life of his son, that we may live in peace under their
                  This common prayer is precious and the most powerful, and
                  it is for its sake that we come together. For this reason
                  also the Church is called a House of Prayer, because in
                  it we are as a congregation with one accord to consider
                  our need and the needs of all men, present them before
                  God, and call upon Him for mercy. But this must be done
                  with heart-felt emotion and sincerity, so that we feel in
                  our hearts the need of all men, and that we pray with
                  true sympathy for them, in true faith and confidence.
                  Where such prayers are not made in the mass, it were
                  better to omit the mass. For what sense is there in our
                  coming together into a House of Prayer, which coming
                  together shows that we should make common prayer and
                  petition for the entire congregation, if we scatter these
                  prayers, and so distribute them that everyone prays only
                  for himself, and no one has regard for the other, nor
                  concerns himself for another's need? How can that prayer
                  be of help, good, acceptable and a common prayer, or a
                  work of the Holy Day and of the assembled congregation,
                  which they make who make their own petty prayers, one for
                  this, the other for that, and have nothing but
                  self-seeking, selfish prayers, which God hates?
                  XII. A suggestion of this common prayer has been retained
                  from ancient practice, when at the end of the sermon the
                  Confession of Sins is said and prayer is made on the
                  pulpit for all Christendom. But this should not be the
                  end of the matter, as is now the custom and fashion; it
                  should be an exhortation to pray throughout the entire
                  mass for such need as the preacher makes us feel; and in
                  order that we may pray worthily, he first exhorts us
                  because of our sin, and thereby makes us humble. This
                  should be done as briefly as possible, that then the
                  entire congregation may confess their own sin and pray
                  for every one with earnestness and faith.
                  Oh, if God granted that any congregation at all heard
                  mass and prayed in this way, so that a common earnest
                  heart-cry of the entire people would rise up to God, what
                  immeasurable virtue and help would result from such a
                  prayer! What more terrible thing could happen to all the
                  evil spirits? What greater work could be done on earth,
                  whereby so many pious souls would be preserved, so many
                  sinners converted?
                  For, indeed, the Christian Church on earth has no greater
                  power or work than such common prayer against everything
                  that may oppose it. This the evil spirit knows well, and
                  therefore he does all that he can to prevent such prayer.
                  Gleefully he lets us go on building churches, endowing
                  many monastic houses, making music, reading, singing,
                  observing many masses, and multiplying ceremonies beyond
                  all measure. This does not grieve him, nay, he helps us
                  do it, that we may consider such things the very best,
                  and think that thereby we have done our whole duty. But
                  in that meanwhile this common, effectual and fruitful
                  prayer perishes and its omission is unnoticed because of
                  such display, in this he has what he seeks. For when
                  prayer languishes, no one will take anything from him,
                  and no one will withstand him. But if he noticed that we
                  wished to practise this prayer, even if it were under a
                  straw roof or in a pig-sty, he would indeed not endure
                  it, but would fear such a pig-sty far more than all the
                  high, big and beautiful churches, towers and bells in
                  existence, if such prayer be not in them. It is indeed
                  not a question of the places and buildings in which we
                  assemble, but only of this unconquerable prayer, that we
                  pray it and bring it before God as a truly common prayer.
                  XIII. The power of this prayer we see in the fact that in
                  olden times Abraham prayed for the five cities, Sodom,
                  Gomorrah, etc., Genesis xviii, and accomplished so much,
                  that if there had been ten righteous people in them, two
                  in each city, God would not have destroyed them. What
                  then could many men do, if they united in calling upon
                  God earnestly and with sincere confidence?
                  St. James also says: "Dear brethren, pray for one
                  another, that ye may be saved. For the prayer of a
                  righteous man availeth much, a prayer that perseveres and
                  does not cease" (that is, which does not cease asking
                  ever more and more, although what it asks is not
                  immediately granted, as some timid men do). And as an
                  example in this matter he sets before us Elijah, the
                  Prophet, "who was a man," he says, "as we are, and
                  prayed, that it might not rain; and it rained not by the
                  space of three years and six months. And he prayed again,
                  and it rained, and everything became fruitful." There are
                  many texts and examples in the Scriptures which urge us
                  to pray, only that it be done with earnestness and faith.
                  As David says, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the
                  righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry." Again,
                  "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to
                  all that call upon Him in truth." Why does he add, "call
                  upon Him in truth"? Because that is not prayer nor
                  calling upon God when the mouth alone mumbles.
                  What should God do, if you come along with your mouth,
                  book or Paternoster, and think of nothing except that you
                  may finish the words and complete the number? So that if
                  some one were to ask you what it all was about, or what
                  it was that you prayed for, you yourself would not know;
                  for you had not thought of laying this or that matter
                  before God or desiring it. Your only reason for praying
                  is that you are commanded to pray this and so much, and
                  this you intend to do in full. What wonder that thunder
                  and lightning frequently set churches on fire, because we
                  thus make of the House of Prayer a house of mockery, and
                  call that prayer in which we bring nothing before God and
                  desire nothing from Him.
                  But we should do as they do who wish to ask a favor of
                  great princes. These do not plan merely to babble a
                  certain number of words, for the prince would think they
                  mocked him, or were insane; but they put their request
                  very plainly, and present their need earnestly, and then
                  leave it to his mercy, in good confidence that he will
                  grant it. So we must deal with God of definite things,
                  namely, mention some present need, commend it to His
                  mercy and good-will, and not doubt that it is heard; for
                  He has promised to hear such prayer, which no earthly
                  lord has done.
                  XIV. We are masters in this form of prayer when we suffer
                  bodily need; when we are sick we call here upon St.
                  Christopher, there upon St. Barbara; we vow a pilgrimage
                  to St. James, to this place and to that; then we make
                  earnest prayer, have a good confidence and every good
                  kind of prayer. But when we are in our churches during
                  mass, we stand like images of saints; know nothing to
                  speak of or to lament; the beads rattle, the pages rustle
                  and the mouth babbles; and that is all there is to it.
                  But if you ask what you shall speak of and lament in your
                  prayer, you can easily learn from the Ten Commandments
                  and the Lord's Prayer. Open your eyes and look into your
                  life and the life of all Christians, especially of the
                  spiritual estate, and you will find how faith, hope,
                  love, obedience, chastity and every virtue languish, and
                  all manner of heinous vices reign; what a lack there is
                  of good preachers and prelates; how only knaves,
                  children, fools and women rule. Then you will see that
                  there were need every hour without ceasing to pray
                  everywhere with tears of blood to God, Who is so terribly
                  angry with men. And it is true that it has never been
                  more necessary to pray than at this time, and it will be
                  more so from now on to the end of the world. If such
                  terrible crimes do not move you to lament and complain,
                  do not permit yourself to be led astray by your rank,
                  station, good works or prayer: there is no Christian vein
                  or trait in you, however righteous you may be. But it has
                  all been foretold, that when God's anger is greatest and
                  Christendom suffers the greatest need, then petitioners
                  and supplicants before God shall not be found, as Isaiah
                  says with tears, chapter lxiv: "Thou art angry with us,
                  and there is none that calleth upon Thy Name, that
                  stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee." Likewise,
                  Ezekiel xxii: "I sought for a man among them, that should
                  make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the
                  land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.
                  Therefore have I poured out Mine indignation upon them; I
                  have consumed them with the fire of My wrath." With these
                  words God indicates how He wants us to withstand Him and
                  turn away His anger from one another, as it is frequently
                  written of the Prophet Moses, that he restrained God,
                  lest His anger should overwhelm the people of Israel.
                  XV. But what will they do, who not only do not regard
                  such misfortune of Christendom, and do not pray against
                  it, but laugh at it, take pleasure in it, condemn,
                  malign, sing and talk of their neighbor's sins, and yet
                  dare, unafraid and unashamed, go to church, hear mass,
                  say prayers, and regard themselves and are regarded as
                  pious Christians? These truly are in need that we pray
                  twice for them, if we pray once for those whom they
                  condemn, talk about and laugh at. That there would be
                  such is also prophesied by the thief on Christ's left
                  hand, who blasphemed Him in His suffering, weakness and
                  need; also by all those who reviled Christ on the Cross,
                  when they should most of all have helped Him.
                  O God, how blind, nay, how insane have we Christians
                  become! When will there be an end of wrath, O heavenly
                  Father? That we mock at the misfortune of Christendom, to
                  pray for which we gather together in Church and at the
                  mass, that we blaspheme and condemn men, this is the
                  fruit of our mad materialism. If the Turk destroys
                  cities, country and people, and ruins churches, we think
                  a great injury has been done Christendom. Then we
                  complain, and urge kings and princes to war. But when
                  faith perishes, love grows cold, God's Word is neglected,
                  and all manner of sin flourishes, then no one thinks of
                  fighting, nay, pope, bishops, priests and clergy, who
                  ought to be generals, captains and standard-bearers in
                  this spiritual warfare against these spiritual and many
                  times worse Turks, these are themselves the very princes
                  and leaders of such Turks and of the devil host, just as
                  Judas was the leader of the Jews when they took Christ.
                  It had to be an apostle, a bishop, a priest, one of the
                  number of the best, who began the work of slaying Christ.
                  So also must Christendom be laid waste by no others than
                  those who ought to protect it, and yet are so insane that
                  they are ready to eat up the Turks and at home themselves
                  set house and sheep-cote on fire and let them burn up
                  with the sheep and all other contents, and none the less
                  worry about the wolf in the woods. Such are our times,
                  and this is the reward we have earned by our ingratitude
                  toward the endless grace which Christ has won for us
                  freely with His precious blood, grievous labor and bitter
                  XVI. Lo! where are the idle ones, who do not know how to
                  do good works? Where are they who run to Rome, to St.
                  James, hither and thither? Take up this one singl work
                  of the mass, look on your neighbor's sin and ruin, and
                  have pity on him; let it grieve you, tell it to God, and
                  pray over it. Do the same for every other need of
                  Christendom, especially of the rulers, whom God, for the
                  intolerable punishment and torment of us all, allows to
                  fall and be misled so terribly. If you do this
                  diligently, be assured you are one of the best fighters
                  and captains, not only against the Turks, but also
                  against the devils and the powers of hell. But if you do
                  it not, what would it help you though you performed all
                  the miracles of the saints, and murdered all the Turks,
                  and yet were found guilty of having disregarded your
                  neighbor's need and of having thereby sinned against
                  love? For Christ at the last day will not ask how much
                  you have prayed, fasted, pilgrimaged, done this or that
                  for yourself, but how much good you have done to others,
                  even the very least.
                  Now without doubt among the "least" are also those who
                  are in sin and spiritual poverty, captivity and need, of
                  whom there are at present far more than of those who
                  suffer bodily need. Therefore tke heed: our own
                  self-assumed good works lead us to and into ourselves,
                  that we seek only our own benefit and salvation; but
                  God's commandments drive us to our neighbor, that we may
                  thereby benefit others to their salvation. Just as Christ
                  on the Cross prayed not for Himself alone, but rather for
                  us, when He said, "Father, forgive them, fort they know
                  not what they do," so we also must pray for one another.
                  From which every man may know that the slanderers,
                  frivolous judges and despisers of other people are a
                  perverted, evil race, who do nothing else than heap abuse
                  on those for whom they ought to pray; in which vice no
                  one is sunk so deep as those very men who do many good
                  works of their own, and seem to men to be something
                  extraordinary, and are honored because of their
                  beautiful, splendid life in manifold good works.
                  XVII. Spiritually understood, this Commandment has a yet
                  far higher work, which embraces the whole nature of man.
                  Here it must be known that in Hebrew " Sabbath " means "
                  rest," because on the seventh day God rested and ceased
                  from all His works, which He had made. Genesis ii.
                  Therefore He commanded also that the seventh day should
                  be kept holy and that we cease from our works which we do
                  the other six days. This Sabbath has now for us been
                  changed into the Sunday, and the other days are called
                  work-days; the Sunday is called rest-day or holiday or
                  holy day. And would to God that in Christendom there were
                  no holiday except the Sunday; that the festivals of Our
                  Lady and of the Saints were all transferred to Sunday;
                  then would many evil vices be done away with through the
                  labor of the work-days, and lands would not be so drained
                  and impoverished. But now we are plagued with many
                  holidays, to the destruction of souls, bodies and goods;
                  of which matter much might be said.
                  This rest or ceasing from labors is of two kinds, bodily
                  and spiritual. For this reason this Commandment is also
                  to be understood in two ways.
                  The bodily rest is that of which we have spoken above,
                  namely, that we omit our business and work, in order that
                  we may gather in the church, see mass, hear God's Word
                  and make common prayer. This rest is indeed bodily and in
                  Christendom no longer commanded by God, as the Apostle
                  says, Colossians ii, "Let no man obligate you to any
                  holiday whatever" -- for they were of old a figure, but
                  now the truth has been fulfilled, so that all days are
                  holy days, as Isaiah says, chapter lxvi, "One holy day
                  shall follow the other"; on the other hand, all days are
                  workdays. Yet it is a necessity and ordained by the
                  Church for the sake of the imperfect laity and working
                  people, that they also may be able to come to hear God's
                  Word. For, as we see, the priests and clergy celebrate
                  mass every day, pray at all hours and train themselves in
                  God's Word by study, reading and hearing. For this reason
                  also they are freed from work before others, supported by
                  tithes and have holy-day every day, and every day do the
                  works of the holy-day, and have no work-day, but for them
                  one day is as the other. And if we were all perfect, and
                  knew the Gospel, we might work every day if we wished, or
                  rest if we could. For a day of rest is at present not
                  necessary nor commanded except only for the teaching of
                  God's Word and prayer.
                  The spiritual rest, which God particularly intends in
                  this Commandment, is this: that we not only cease from
                  our labor and trade, but much more, that we let God alone
                  work in us and that we do nothing of our own with all our
                  powers. But how is this done? In this way: Man, corrupted
                  by sin, has much wicked love and inclination toward all
                  sins, as the Scriptures say, Genesis viii, "Man's heart
                  and senses incline always to the evil," that is, to
                  pride, disobedience, anger, hatred, covetousness,
                  unchastity, etc., and summa summarum, in all that he does
                  and leaves undone, he seeks his own profit, will and
                  honor rather than God's and his neighbor's. Therefore all
                  his works, all his words, all his thoughts, all his life
                  are evil and not godly.
                  Now if God is to work and to live in him, all this vice
                  and wickedness must be choked and up-rooted, so that
                  there may be rest and a cessation of all our works,
                  thoughts and life, and that henceforth (as St. Paul says,
                  Galatians ii.) it may be no longer we who live, but
                  Christ Who lives, works and speaks in us. This is not
                  accomplished with comfortable, pleasant days, but here we
                  must hurt our nature and let it be hurt. Here begins the
                  strife between the spirit and the flesh; here the spirit
                  resists anger, lust, pride, while the flesh wants to be
                  in pleasure, honor and comfort. Of this St. Paul says,
                  Galatians v, "They that are our Lord Christ's have
                  crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." Then
                  follow the good works, -- fasting, watching, labor, of
                  which some say and write so much, although they know
                  neither the source nor the purpose of these good works.
                  Therefore we will now also speak of them.
                  XVIII. This rest, namely, that our work cease and God
                  alone work in us, is accomplished in two ways. First,
                  through our own effort, secondly, through the effort or
                  urging of others.
                  Our own effort is to be so made and ordered that, in the
                  first place, when we see our flesh, senses, will and
                  thoughts tempting us, we resist them and do not heed
                  them, as the Wise Man says: "Follow not thine own
                  desires." And Moses, Deuteronomy xii: "Thou shalt not do
                  what is right in thine own eyes."
                  Here a man must make daily use of those prayers which
                  David prays: "Lord, lead me in Thy path, and let me not
                  walk in my own ways," and many like prayers, which are
                  all summed up in the prayer, "Thy kingdom come." For the
                  desires are so many, so various, and besides at times so
                  nimble, so subtile and specious, through the suggestions
                  of the evil one, that it is not possible for a man to
                  control himself in his own ways. He must let hands and
                  feet go, commend himself to God's governance, and entrust
                  nothing to his reason, as Jeremiah says, "O Lord, I know
                  that the way of man is not in his own power." We see
                  proof of this, when the children of Israel went out of
                  Egypt through the Wilderness, where there was no way, no
                  food, no drink, no help. Therefore God went before them,
                  by day in a bright: cloud, by night in a fiery pillar,
                  fed them with manna from heaven, and kept their garments
                  and shoes that they waxed not old, as we read in the
                  Books of Moses. For this reason we pray: "Thy kingdom
                  come, that Thou rule us, and not: we ourselves," for
                  there is nothing more perilous in us than our reason and
                  will. And this is the first and highest work of God in us
                  and the best training, that we cease from our works, that
                  we let our reason and will be idle, that we rest and
                  commend ourselves to God in all things, especially when
                  they seem to be spiritual and good.
                  XIX. After this comes the discipline of the flesh, to
                  kill its gross, evil lust, to give it rest and relief.
                  This we must kill and quiet with fasting, watching and
                  labor, and from this we learn how much and why we shall
                  fast, watch and labor.
                  There are, alas! many blind men, who practise their
                  castigation, whether it be fasting, watching or labor,
                  only because they think these are good works, intending
                  by them to gain much merit. Far blinder still are they
                  who measure their fasting not only by the quantity or
                  duration, as these do, but also by the nature of the
                  food, thinking that it is of far greater worth if they do
                  not eat meat, eggs or butter. Beyond these are those who
                  fast according to the saints, and according to the days;
                  one fasting on Wednesday, another on Saturday, another on
                  St. Barbara's day, another on St. Sebastian's day, and so
                  on. These all seek in their fasting nothing beyond the
                  work itself: when they have performed that, they think
                  they have done a good work. I will here say nothing of
                  the fact that some fast in such a way that they none the
                  less drink themselves full; some fast by eating fish and
                  other foods so lavishly that they would come much nearer
                  to fasting if they ate meat, eggs and butter, and by so
                  doing would obtain far better results from their fasting.
                  For such fasting is not fasting, but a mockery of fasting
                  and of God.
                  Therefore I allow everyone to choose his day, food and
                  quantity for fasting, as he will, on condition that he do
                  not stop with that, but have regard to his flesh; let him
                  put upon it fasting, watching and labor according to its
                  lust and wantonness, and no more, although pope, Church,
                  bishop, father-confessor or any one else whosoever have
                  commanded it. For no one should measure and regulate
                  fasting, watching and labor according to the character or
                  quantity of the food, or according to the days, but
                  according to the withdrawal or approach of the lust and
                  wantonness of the flesh, for the sake of which alone the
                  fasting, watching and labor is ordained, that is, to kill
                  and to subdue them. If it were not for this lust, eating
                  were as meritorious as fasting, sleeping as watching,
                  idleness as labor, and each were as good as the other
                  without all distinction.
                  XX. Now, if some one should find that more wantonness
                  arose in his flesh from eating fish than from eating eggs
                  and meat, let him eat meat and not fish. Again, if he
                  find that his head becomes confused and crazed or his
                  body and stomach injured through fasting, or that it is
                  not needful to kill the wantonness of his flesh, he shall
                  let fasting alone entirely, and eat, sleep, be idle as is
                  necessary for his health, regardless whether it be
                  against the command of the Church, or the rules of
                  monastic orders: for no commandment of the Church, no law
                  of an order can make fasting, watching and labor of more
                  value than it has in serving to repress or to kill the
                  flesh and its lusts. Where men go beyond this, and the
                  fasting, eating, sleeping, watching are practised beyond
                  the strength of the body, and more than is necessary to
                  the killing of the lust, so that through it the natural
                  strength is ruined and the head is racked; then let no
                  one imagine that he has done good works, or excuse
                  himself by citing the commandment of the Church or the
                  law of his order. He will be regarded as a man who takes
                  no care of himself, and, as far as in him lies, has
                  become his own murderer.
                  For the body is not given us that we should kill its
                  natural life or work, but only that we kill its
                  wantonness; unless its wantonness were so strong and
                  great that we could not sufficiently resist it without
                  ruin and harm to the natural life. For, as has been said,
                  in the practice of fasting, watching and labor, we are
                  not to look upon the works in themselves, not on the
                  days, not on the number, not on the food, but only on the
                  wanton and lustful Adam, that through them he may be
                  cured of his evil appetite.
                  XXI. From this we can judge how wisely or foolishly some
                  women act when they are with child, and how the sick are
                  to be treated. For the foolish women cling so firmly to
                  their fasting that they run the risk of great danger to
                  the fruit of their womb and to themselves, rather than
                  not to fast when the others fast. They make a matter of
                  conscience where there is none, and where there is matter
                  of conscience they make none. This is all the fault of
                  the preachers, because they continually prate of fasting,
                  and never point out its true use, limit, fruit, cause and
                  purpose. So also the sick should be allowed to eat and to
                  drink every day whatever they wish. In brief, where the
                  wantonness of the flesh ceases, there every reason for
                  fasting, watching, laboring, eating this or that, has
                  already ceased, and there no longer is any binding
                  commandment at all.
                  But then care must be taken, lest out of this freedom
                  there grow a lazy indifference about killing the
                  wantonness of the flesh; for the roguish Adam is
                  exceedingly tricky in looking for permission for himself,
                  and in pleading the ruin of the body or of the mind; so
                  some men jump right in and say it is neither necessary
                  nor commanded to fast or to mortify the flesh, and are
                  ready to eat this and that without fear, just as if they
                  had for a long time had much experience of fasting,
                  although they have never tried it.
                  No less are we to guard against offending those who, not
                  sufficiently informed, regard it a great sin if we do not
                  fast or eat as they do. These we must kindly instruct,
                  and not haughtily despise, nor eat this or that in
                  despite of them, but we must tell them the reason why it
                  is right to do so, and thus gradually lead them to a
                  correct understanding. But if they are stubborn and will
                  not listen, we must let them alone, and do as we know it
                  is right to do.
                  XXII. The second form of discipline which we receive at
                  the hands of others, is when men or devils cause us
                  suffering, as when our property is taken, our body sick,
                  and our honor taken away; and everything that may move us
                  to anger, impatience and unrest. For God's work rules in
                  us according to His wisdom, not according to our wisdom,
                  according to His purity and chastity, not according to
                  the wantonness of our flesh; for God's work is wisdom and
                  purity, our work is foolishness and impurity, and these
                  shall rest: so in like manner it should rule in us
                  according to His peace, not our anger, impatience and
                  lack of peace. For peace too is God's work, impatience is
                  the work of our flesh; this shall rest and be dead, that
                  we thus in every way keep a spiritual holiday, let our
                  works stand idle, and let God work in us.
                  Therefore in order to kill our works and the Adam in us,
                  God heaps many temptations upon us, which move us to
                  anger, many sufferings, which rouse us to impatience, and
                  last of all death and the world's abuse; whereby He seeks
                  nothing else than that He may drive out anger, impatience
                  and lack of peace, and attain to His work, that is, to
                  peace, in us. Thus says Isaiah xxviii, "He does the work
                  of another that He may come to His own work." What does
                  this mean? He sends us suffering and trouble that He may
                  teach us to have patience and peace; He bids us die that
                  He may make us live, until a man, thoroughly trained,
                  becomes so peaceful and quiet that he is not disturbed,
                  whether it go well or ill with him, whether he die or
                  live, be honored or dishonored. There God Himself dwells
                  alone, and there are no works of men. This is rightly
                  keeping and hallowing the day of rest; then a man does
                  not guide himself, then he desires nothing for himself,
                  then nothing troubles him; but God Himself leads him,
                  there is naught but godly pleasure, joy and peace with
                  all other works and virtues.
                  XXIII. These works He considers so great that He commands
                  us not only to keep the day of rest, but also to hallow
                  it or regard it as holy, whereby He declares that there
                  are no more precious things than suffering, dying, and
                  all manner of misfortune. For they are holy and sanctify
                  a man from his works to God's works, just as a church is
                  consecrated from natural works to the worship of God.
                  Therefore a man shall also recognise them as holy things,
                  be glad and thank God when they come upon him. For when
                  they come they make him holy, so that he fulfils this
                  Commandment and is saved, redeemed from all his sinful
                  works. Thus says David: "Precious in the sight of the
                  Lord is the death of His saints."
                  In order to strengthen us thereto He has not only
                  commanded us to keep such a rest (for nature is very
                  unwilling to die and to suffer, and it is a bitter day of
                  rest for it to cease from its works and be dead); but He
                  has also comforted us in the Scriptures with many words
                  and told us, Psalm xci, "I will be with him in all his
                  trouble, and will deliver him." Likewise Psalm xxxiv:
                  "The Lord is nigh unto all them that suffer, and will
                  help them."
                  As if this were not enough, He has given us a powerful,
                  strong example of it, His only, dear Son, Jesus Christ,
                  our Lord, who on the Sabbath lay in the tomb the entire
                  day of rest, free from all His works, and was the first
                  to fulfil this Commandment, although He needed it not for
                  Himself, but only for our comfort, that we also in all
                  suffering and death should be quiet and have peace.
                  Since, as Christ was raised up after His rest and
                  henceforth lives only in God and God in Him, so also
                  shall we by the death of our Adam, which is perfectly
                  accomplished only through natural death and burial, be
                  lifted up into God, that God may live and work in us
                  forever. Lo! these are the three parts of man: reason,
                  desire, aversion; in which all his works are done. These,
                  therefore, must be slain by these three exercises, God's
                  governance, our self-mortification, the hurt done to us
                  by others; and so they must spiritually rest before God,
                  and give Him room for His works.
                  XXIV. But such works are to be done and such sufferings
                  to be endured in faith and in sure confidence of God's
                  favor, in order that, as has been said, all works remain
                  in the First Commandment and in faith, and that faith,
                  for the sake of which all other commandments and works
                  are ordained, exercise and strengthen itself in them.
                  See, therefore, what a pretty, golden ring these three
                  Commandments and their works naturally form, and how from
                  the First Commandment and faith the Second flows on to
                  the Third, and the Third in turn drives through the
                  Second up into the First. For the first work is to
                  believe, to have a good heart and confidence toward God.
                  From this flows the second good work, to praise God's
                  Name, to confess His grace, to give all honor to Him
                  alone. Then follows the third, to worship by praying,
                  hearing God's Word, thinking of and considering God's
                  benefits, and in addition chastising one's self, and
                  keeping the body under.
                  But when the evil spirit perceives such faith, such
                  honoring of God and such worship, he rages and stirs up
                  persecution, attacks body, goods, honor and life, brings
                  upon us sickness, poverty, shame and death, which God so
                  permits and ordains. See, here begins the second work, or
                  the second rest of the Third Commandment; by this faith
                  is very greatly tried, even as gold in the fire. For it
                  is a great thing to retain a sure confidence in God,
                  although He sends us death, shame, sickness, poverty; and
                  in this cruel form of wrath to regard Him as our
                  all-gracious Father, as must be done in this work of the
                  Third Commandment. Here suffering contains faith, that it
                  must call upon God's Name and praise it in such
                  suffering, and so it comes through the Third Commandment
                  into the Second again; and through that very calling on
                  the Name of God and praise, faith grows, and becomes
                  conscious of itself, and so strengthens itself, through
                  the two works of the Third and of the Second Commandment.
                  Thus faith goes out into the works and through the works
                  comes to itself again; just as the sun goes forth unto
                  its setting and comes again unto its rising. For this
                  reason the Scriptures associate the day with peaceful
                  living in works, the night with passive living in
                  adversity, and faith lives and works, goes out and comes
                  in, in both, as Christ says, John ix.
                  XXV. This order of good works we pray in the Lord's
                  Prayer. The first is this, that we say: "Our Father, Who
                  art in heaven"; these are the words of the first work of
                  faith, which, according to the First Commandment, does
                  not doubt that it has a gracious Father in heaven. The
                  second: "Hallowed be Thy Name," in which faith asks that
                  God's Name, praise and honor be glorified, and calls upon
                  it in every need, as the Second Commandment says. The
                  third: "Thy kingdom come," in which we pray for the true
                  Sabbath and rest, peaceful cessation of our works, that
                  God's work alone be done in us, and so God rule in us as
                  in His own kingdom, as He says, Luke xvii, "Behold, God's
                  kingdom is nowhere else except within you." The fourth
                  petition is "Thy will be done"; in which we pray that we
                  may keep and have the Seven Commandments of the Second
                  Table, in which faith is exercised toward our neighbor;
                  just as in the first three it is exercised in works
                  toward God alone. And these are the petitions in which
                  stands the word "Thou, Thy, Thy, Thy," because they seek
                  only what belongs to God; all the others say "our, us,
                  our," etc; for in them we pray for our goods and
                  Let this, then, suffice as a plain, hasty explanation of
                  the First Table of Moses, pointing out to simple folk
                  what are the highest of good works.

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