Here's another obscure Luther quote used by a defender of Rome:
Now that . . . we are free . . . we show our thankfulness in a way calculated to bring down God's wrath . . . We have got the Evangel . . . but . . . we do not trouble ourselves to act up to it. (Janssen, ibid., XVI, 16-17)From various web-pages, I've come across defenders of Rome using this quote three different ways. First, it was used as an example of "The Agony of Luther" over "the State of Early Protestantism." Second, that during the Reformation "Catholics were no more ignorant or impious or wicked than, for example, Lutherans, according to the descriptions of Luther himself." Third, it was used as proof Luther was disgusted by the state of Protestant morality and decline of Protestant morals.
The quote is said to come from Johannes Janssen's History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages Volume 16. On pages 16-17 Janssen states:
How full the world is of people who are ungrateful for the evangel, we see plainly before our eyes, not only in those who intentionally persecute the known truth of the Gospel, but also among us who accept it and make our boast of it; the great masses are also so abominably unthankful that it would be no wonder if God were to come down upon us with thunder and lightning, yea,verily, with all the Turks and devils from hell. So quickly have we forgotten how we were plagued under the papacy and, as it were, overwhelmed with a sin-flood, with so many strange doctrines which put our consciences to torture. But now that through God's grace we are free from all that, we show our thankfulness in a way calculated to bring down God's wrath upon us still more heavily. For let each one consider what unpardonable wickedness it is, when we have received from God such great, sure, immeasurable bounty as forgiveness of all our sins, and being made partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven, that we will not even make Him such slight return as to think about it, and on this account to forgive our neighbor a trifling word from our hearts, not to speak of the duty laid upon us to help and serve our neighbor. We have got the Evangel, God be praised! that nobody can deny; but what do we do for it ? We are content to talk about it, nothing more comes of it; we do not trouble ourselves to act up to it. But we do trouble ourselves a great deal if we should chance to lose one or two guldens; we are very anxious and fearful lest our money should be stolen from us, but we can do without the Gospel for a whole year. God will not leave unavenged this shameful contempt of His Word, and He will not be long in avenging Himself (Dollinger, Reformation i, 297-298).I used black lettering to highlight how Rome's defender edited down this paragraph from Janssen. Why would a person take two words, skip a few, take a few more, skip a few sentences, and then construct a quote? It's a questionable method to say the least. This method does point to one blaring conclusion: the quote was never read in its original context in Luther's writings. Had it been, one would realize Janssen didn't cite one quote from Luther, he cited two that were put together to appear to be one. Notice Janssen didn't cite a primary source, but cited another Roman Catholic author, Ignaz von Dollinger's Die Reformation vol 1, 297-298. Upon checking this source, it became apparent Dollinger used multiple sources to construct this lengthy quote. Janssen wasn't careful to point this out, leading me to suspect Janssen didn't check the sources either. Janssen's quote should actually be broken up into two quotes like this:
How full the world is of people who are ungrateful for the evangel, we see plainly before our eyes, not only in those who intentionally persecute the known truth of the Gospel, but also among us who accept it and make our boast of it; the great masses are also so abominably unthankful that it would be no wonder if God were to come down upon us with thunder and lightning, yea,verily, with all the Turks and devils from hell. So quickly have we forgotten how we were plagued under the papacy and, as it were, overwhelmed with a sin-flood, with so many strange doctrines which put our consciences to torture. But now that through God's grace we are free from all that, we show our thankfulness in a way calculated to bring down God's wrath upon us still more heavily. For let each one consider what unpardonable wickedness it is, when we have received from God such great, sure, immeasurable bounty as forgiveness of all our sins, and being made partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven, that we will not even make Him such slight return as to think about it, and on this account to forgive our neighbor a trifling word from our hearts, not to speak of the duty laid upon us to help and serve our neighbor.Quote #2
We have got the Evangel, God be praised! that nobody can deny; but what do we do for it ? We are content to talk about it, nothing more comes of it; we do not trouble ourselves to act up to it. But we do trouble ourselves a great deal if we should chance to lose one or two guldens; we are very anxious and fearful lest our money should be stolen from us, but we can do without the Gospel for a whole year. God will not leave unavenged this shameful contempt of His Word, and He will not be long in avenging Himself.While both quotes are from the Kirchen-Postille (Luther's Church Postil), Janssen's one quote is actually from two different sermons, sometimes from two different volumes. For instance, in the Walch edition, the quotes can be found in Volumes XII (p. 1234) and XI (p.2171). In Weimarer, WA: 22:54-355 and WA 10 I 2:373-374.
Both of these sermons have been translated into English. The first is entitled the Twenty-Second Sunday After Trinity (Philippians 1:3-11). It is found in Dr. Martin Luther's Church Postil: Sermons on The Epistles (quote #1 is found on page 171). It can also be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol.4.2 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000) pp. 330-342 (quote #1 is found on pages 333-334). The second is the Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity (Matthew 6:24-34). It can be found in The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. XIV (pp. 102-117). It can also be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 3.1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 102-117).
Context: Quote One
Luther begins by describing the Christian heart of Paul and of those who similarly have a heart "filled with the real fruits of the Spirit and faith" (Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 3,1, p.331). He notes "Such hearts are rare in the world." He then points out that Paul is an excellent example of one who had gratitude toward God for His grace and goodness. In fact, Christians have a duty of gratitude. It is a Christian's duty to manifest thankfulness toward God, and also towards men. Unfortunately, ingratitude is common to sinful human nature, and even heathens recognize the sin of ingratitude among each other. Luther states:
Thus we have the teaching of nature and of reason regarding the sin of men's ingratitude toward one another. How much greater the evil, how much more shameful and accursed, when manifested toward God who, in his infinite and ineffable goodness, conferred upon us while yet enemies to him and deserving of the fires of hell—conferred upon us, I say, not ten dollars, not a hundred thousand dollars even, but redemption from divine wrath and eternal death, and abundantly comforted us, granting us safety, a good conscience, peace and salvation! These are inexpressible blessings, incomprehensible in this life. And they will continue to occupy our minds in yonder eternal life. How much more awful the sin of ingratitude for these blessings, as exemplified in the servant mentioned in the Gospel passage for today, to whom was forgiven the debt of ten thousand talents and who yet would not forgive the debt of his fellow-servant who owed him a hundred pence! (p.333)Then follows the first obscure Luther quote:
Is it not incredible that there are to be found on earth individuals wicked enough to manifest for the highest and eternal blessings such unspeakable ingratitude? But alas, we have the evidence of our own eyes. We know them in their very dwelling-places. We see how the world abounds with them. Not only are the ingrates to be found among deliberate rejecters of the acknowledged truth of the Gospel, concerning God's grace, an assured conscience and the promise of eternal life, terrible as such malice of the devil is, but they are present also in our midst, accepting the Gospel and boasting of it. Such shameful ingratitude prevails among the masses it would not be strange were God to send upon them the thunders and lightnings of his wrath, yes, all the Turks and the devils of hell. There is a generally prevalent ingratitude like that of the wicked servant who readily forgot the straits he experienced when, being called to account for what he could not pay, the wrathful sentence was pronounced against him that he and all he possessed must be sold, and he be indefinitely imprisoned. Nor have we less readily forgotten how we were tortured under the Papacy; how we were overwhelmed, drowned as in a flood, with numberless strange doctrines, when our anxious consciences longed for salvation. Now that we are, through the grace of God, liberated from these distresses, our gratitude is of a character to increasingly heap to ourselves the wrath of God. So have others before us done, and consequently have endured terrible chastisement. Only calculate the enormity of our wickedness when, God having infinitely blessed us in forgiving all our sins and making us lords over heaven and earth, we so little respect him as to be unmindful of his blessings; to be unwilling for the sake of them sincerely to forgive our neighbor a single slighting word, not to mention rendering him service. We conduct ourselves as if God might be expected to connive at our ingratitude and permit us to continue in it, at the same time conferring upon us as godly and obedient children, success and happiness. More than this, we think we have the privilege and power to live and do as we please. Indeed, the more learning and power we have and the more exalted our rank, the greater knaves we are; perpetrating every wicked deed, stirring up strife, discord, war and murder for the sake of executing our own arbitrary designs, where the question is the surrender of a penny in recognition of the hundreds of thousands of dollars daily received from God notwithstanding our ingratitude. (p 333-334).In context, the quote in question is a simple exhortation of a pastor for his flock to live with gratitude for God. For Rome's defenders, the quote without a context becomes Luther's agony over "the state of early Protestantism," or that Protestants were as "impious or wicked" as Roman Catholics, or an example of Luther's disgust over "the state of Protestant morality and decline of Protestant morals." Why can't it simply be a sermon of exhortation for people to be grateful to God? Remember, Luther began the sermon by stating that those who live each day with a godly gratitude are rare in the world. In the same sermon Luther goes on to exhorts his hearers:
The world remains the devil's own. We must remember we shall not by any means find with the world that Christian heart pictured by the apostle; on the contrary we shall find what might be represented by a picture of the very opposite type —the most shameless ingratitude. But let the still existing God-fearing Christians be careful to imitate in their gratitude the spirit of the apostle's beautiful picture. Let them give evidence of their willingness to hear the Word of God, of pleasure and delight in it and grief where it is rejected. Let them show by their lives a consciousness of the great blessing conferred by those from whom they received the Gospel. As recipients of such goodness, let their hearts and lips ever be ready with the happy declaration: "God be praised !" For thereunto are we called. As before said, praise should be the constant service and daily sacrifice of Christians; and according to Paul's teaching here, the Christian's works, his fruits of righteousness, should shine before men. Such manifestation of gratitude assuredly must result when we comprehend what God has given us. (p.338)
Context: Quote Two
Luther begins by explaining one needs to do more than hear the Gospel, one needs to do what it teaches: "they who do as the gospel teaches, are true Christians. However, very few of these are found; we see many hearers, but all are not doers of the Gospel" (p.104). To be a doer though isn't the result of compulsion, but is the result of a heart that loves God. Luther then explains that while many say they love God, do they really? Isn't it the case that many who say they love God actually love the things of this world more? Then follows the second obscure Luther quote:
But who are they that love God, and cleave not to gold and worldly possessions? Take a good look at the whole world, also the Christians, and see if they despise gold and riches. It requires an effort to hear the Gospel and to live according to it. God be praised, we have the Gospel; that no one can deny, but what do we do with it? We are concerned only about learning and knowing it, and nothing more; we think it is enough to know it, and do not care whether we ever live according to it. However, on the other hand, one is very anxious when he leaves lying in window or in the room a dollar or two, yea, even a dime, then he worries and fears lest the money be stolen ; but same person can do without the Gospel through a whole year. And such characters still wish to be considered Evangelical. Here we see what and who we are. If we were Christians, we would despise riches and be concerned about Gospel that we some day might live in it and prove it by our deeds. We see few such Christians; therefore we must hear the judgment that we are despisers of God and hate God: the sake of riches and worldly possessions. Alas! That fine praise! We should be ashamed of ourselves in our inmost souls; there is no hope for us! What a fine condition we are in now! That means, I think, our names are blotted out. What spoiled children we are! (p.105-106).Again, one finds the heartfelt exhortations of a pastor, expounding a text of Scripture. Luther continues:
Now the world cannot conceal its unbelief in its course outward sins, for I see it loves a dollar more than Christ; more than all the Apostles, even if they themselves were present and preached to it. I can hear the Gospel daily, but it does not profit me every day; it may indeed happen if I have heard it a whole year, the Holy Spirit may have been given to me only one hour. Now when I enjoyed this hour I obtained not only five hundred dollars, but also I riches of the whole world; for what have I not, when I have the Gospel? I received God, who made the silver and I gold, and all that is upon the earth; for I acquired the Spirit by which I know that I will be kept by him forever; that much more than if I had the church full of money. Examine now and see, if our heart is not a rogue, full of wickedness and unbelief. If I were a true Christian, I would say: I hour the Gospel is received, there comes to me a hundred thousand dollars, and much more. For if I possess this treasure, I have all that is in heaven and upon earth. But one must serve this treasure only, for no man can serve God and mammon. Either you must love God and hate money; or you must hate God and love money; this and nothing more. (pp. 106-107)In context, one can see how non-outrageous this sermon was. Luther spoke on a theme that has echoed through church history: the love of God versus the love of the world.
I've stated often that if one wants to read Luther, they should read his sermons. These two sermons are worthy reads. The Roman Catholic polemicists though will use anything to discredit the Reformation, even those points (found in these sermons) that they would most likely agree with: one should have profound gratitude towards God, and one should love God, not the world. In the hands of Rome's defenders, these points become: Luther agonizing over Protestantism, that Protestants were awful sinners, and that Luther was disgusted by his followers. As the context shows, these were simply typical Luther sermons, and I would add, typical sermons of any God-fearing preacher. Luther had a pastor's heart, and continually exhorted his flock to live the Christian life. The ironic thing of course, is that many Roman Catholics accuse Luther of teaching the wanton lawlessness of sola fide. Yet, when he exhorts his hearers to adhere to Christian morals, even this is used against him.
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2010. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.