Writing on the same subject, he says: "If God had not closed, my eyes, and if I had foreseen these scandals, I would never have begun to teach the Gospel." In 1538, more than twenty years after the beginning of the Reformation, Luther dwells on the same thought: "Who would have begun to preach, if we had known beforehand that so much unhappiness, tumult, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have been the result?" [Walch. VIII. 564].
There are two Luther quotes above. The first quote ("If God had not closed, my eyes...") has been covered previously. This entry will examine the second quote from 1538. This later quote pops up every once in a while. It's typically used by Rome's defenders as proof of the failure of the Reformation (or something like Luther's regrets or concession to the failure of the Reformation, etc.(example #1, example #2, example #3, example #4, example #5, here's a version of it from of all places, vatican.com). I've seen it used as speculation that Luther "lamented often about the actual course of his 'Reformation' in Germany, thus perhaps revealing a sense of failure and guilt." O'Connor uses it to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically, the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality." In 2010 I explored this 1538 quote but was unable to locate the context. This time I was successful.
Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results is an old small anthology of Luther quotes peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor. In an early edition of this work, the author was so sure of his effort he originally titled the book, "The Only Reliable Evidence Concerning Martin Luther." The author claims to have compiled the quotes from the original sources: “Nearly two-thirds of the matter contained in this pamphlet is taken from the original editions of Luther’s own Works, as published in Wittenberg, under the very eye of the Reformer of Germany himself”(p. 3) He says “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context”(p.5).
The footnote "Walch. VIII" refers to the eighth volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Auslegung Johannes 7-20, ApG 15 und 16 und 1 Kor 7 und 15, kürzere Auslegung der Epistel an die Galater), Page 564 can be found here. The text O'Connor appears to be citing appears is from the following paragraph:
This paragraph contains some of Luther's comments on John 16:13. O'Connor says the quote is from 1538, LW says Luther lectured on John 14-16 in 1537 and the material on John 16 was published in 1539 (LW 24:preface). Technically, Luther did not write this text. These printed words are from the notes of Caspar Cruciger "who acted as the amanuensis for Luther's sermons" (LW 24, preface). Because of Cruciger's editing, getting a specific date as to the exact date of Luther's sermons for this material is not possible. Cruciger turned the sermons into a commentary. Luther was fine with this. He spoke of it as the best book he had written, adding, "of course I did not write it" (LW 24:preface).
This text has been translated into English in LW 24. The quote in question can be found on pages 357-358.
13. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.
Christ calls the Holy Spirit a Spirit of truth in contrast with the spirit of lies. He also spoke about this in the fourteenth chapter (v. 17). The Holy Spirit will teach the disciples and show them that everything Christ told them is the truth; for He is a Spirit who confirms the truth in one’s heart and makes one sure of it. In 1 John 2:27 we read: “As His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie.” Therefore the purport of what He says here is: “Even though you have already heard much about this, you will never understand or believe by your own strength that it will and must be as I have just told you and that what is to be proclaimed about Me through you is true and right. And you would never have the courage to begin such preaching and to persist in it if the Holy Spirit Himself did not come to guide and preserve you in this truth. For at present this is far beyond your power to bear. And when you see this suffering beginning with Me, you will all be offended because of it and will fall away from Me.”
Who would ever have thought or believed that the precious message of the Gospel would fare as the apostles experienced and saw, and as our own experience shows us today? Yes, who of us would have begun to preach if we had known in advance that so much misery, sectarianism, offense, blasphemy, ingratitude, and malice would ensue? But now that we are preaching, we must take the consequences and remember that this is not a human venture and that it does not depend on human power, but that the Holy Spirit Himself must do and preserve it. Otherwise we could not bear this and carry it out.
In 1 Cor. 4:9–13 St. Paul himself points out that after preaching a great deal and for a long time he, too, has had to learn and experience that the apostles must not only be a mockery and a spectacle to the whole world but must be a curse and an offscouring, and be regarded as the most pernicious pestilence and plague on earth. An additional suffering he must bear is the dispersion and, at the same time, the extermination and destruction of the little flock of Christians it has taken him a long time to plant and care for. If one were to consult reason about this and to speak of it on the basis of human wisdom, who would call such happenings truth or the work of the Christian Church and the Holy Spirit? But this is what Christ says to Paul: “Dear Paul, in this way you have to become acquainted with My power” (2 Cor. 12:9). And to Ananias—whom He sends to Paul—Christ says of Paul: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name” (Acts 9:16).
Thus all Christendom is a small group that must submit to, suffer, and bear more than all other people whatever grief the devil and the world can inflict on it. Now who, in view of what they appear to be and are subjected to, will recognize and learn that they are genuine Christians? Reason will surely not show this. The Holy Spirit must do so. He is called “the Spirit of truth” because in spite of what they appear to be and are subjected to—according to which this message seems to amount to nothing and to be a pack of lies—He strengthens and preserves hearts in the faith. Otherwise no one would have believed for any length of time, or would still believe, that this Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father forever, He who was so shamefully crucified as a malefactor by His own people, is true God? Or how could we conclude with certainty of our own accord that we, who believe in this crucified Christ and are condemned, cursed, and executed by the whole world as God’s enemies and the devil’s own, are actually God’s dear children and saints? After all, we ourselves do not feel this. In fact, our heart tells us something far different, because we are still sinners full of weakness. But this is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is His power; He confirms this in our heart. Therefore we can accept it as true in accord with His Word. He enables us to live and to die by this truth.
Or who could believe that we unfortunate people, who are executed and die like the most miserable human beings on earth, who are buried in the ground, consumed by maggots and worms or are burned alive and reduced to ashes and dust, will all emerge from this stench, from ashes and dust, in the twinkling of an eye, with whole, clean, and shining bodies more radiant than all heaven, than the sun and the moon, more beautiful and precious than all gold and jewels, purer and more fragrant than all balsam, gardens, and Paradise? Of course, no one would ever get to the bottom of this on the basis of reason; for it is altogether too farfetched and entirely too unreasonable to suppose that a being as poor and miserable as is now evident should be destined for the greatness concerning which Scripture says that we shall be eternal heirs of God in heaven and shall live and be saved solely through faith and Baptism, even though we now still have sin and death in us (LW 24:357-359).
The context clearly shows that this quote is not an example of Luther lamenting "often about the actual course of his 'Reformation' in Germany, thus perhaps revealing a sense of failure and guilt." Nor is O'Connor correct that the quote was intended to demonstrate the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically, the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality." No, the quote is about the offense of the Gospel. Luther expected the Gospel to incite the activity of the Devil, particularly among those who did not embrace it. He expected the Gospel to cause division and trouble, and to infuriate the world against the true church. What should one do when facing such trouble? Regret preaching the Gospel? Countless statements from Luther could be provided proving Luther never regretted the Gospel or proclaiming the Gospel.
The context explains the proper course of action a preacher of the Gospel takes when he finds himself in midst of trouble: "we must take the consequences and remember that this is not a human venture and that it does not depend on human power, but that the Holy Spirit Himself must do and preserve it. Otherwise we could not bear this and carry it out." Who would want to preach the Gospel if they knew beforehand of all the trouble it was bring into one's life? No one, for that is the conclusion of human reason. But as the context states, The Holy Spirit is able to see one through, as he did with the early apostles, who likewise faced dire circumstances brought on by the Gospel. The Holy Spirit makes one fit for such work.