Monday, August 15, 2016

Luther: People are now possessed with seven Devils, whereas formerly they were possessed with one Devil

Here's a Luther quote from the book, Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results: Taken Exclusively from the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works (1884), p. 55.

"People are now possessed with seven Devils, whereas formerly they were possessed with one Devil; the Devil now enters into the people in crowds, so that men are now more avaricious, unmerciful, impure, insolent........ than formerly under the Pope." [Walch. XIII. 10]

This 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). One old Roman Catholic publication uses it to describe how the authors of the Reformation "described the results of their labours" under the sub-heading, "By their fruits ye shall know them."  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."

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. XIII" refers to the thirteenth volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Die Hauspostille Teil 2, Lutherpredigten für ein Jahr, zusammengestellt von Georg Rörer). Page 10 can be found here (see top of second column, note "XIII, 8-11" on the top right). It appears to me though there may be a printers glitch in some of the versions of O'Connor's book. His documentation appears like this:
All the on-line versions of this book I checked use this same image. Even my hard copy of the book has the same sort of printing. If you look closely, it is not page 10 being referenced, but actually page 19 from Walch XIII. Page 19 can be found here. The pertinent text in question reads:

This paragraph is from Luther's House Postil sermon on Matthew 21:1-9 (First Sunday in Advent, Second Sermon, 1533).Technically, Luther did not write this text. These printed words are from the notes of Georg Rörer who heard and took notes on Luther's sermon. The current English edition of Luther's Works does not include the House Postil (nor are there plans to include it as far as I know). However, an English translation of Rörer's version is available via a multi-volume Baker Books edition (1996) edited by Eugene F. A. Klug. This version is included in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000). The quote in question can be found in Vol. 5, p. 29-30.

There is another version of this sermon that was compiled by another person taking notes on Luther's sermon, Veit Dietrich. His version can be found here. The quote in question can be found on pages 8-9. O'Connor's footnote refers to Rörer's version, so that's the one I'll primarily refer to below.


Georg Rörer's version 
10. That is our King, our dear Lord Jesus Christ, and this is his kingdom and office. Dollars, crowns, castles, and vast kingdoms don't constitute his mission. For if we depended on that and died, our life would be nothing. But it is his office and work that we know that through his suffering and death we are redeemed. On this we rest and can say: through the righteousness of my King, the Lord Jesus Christ, I am justified. For that purpose he became poor and wretched, let himself be nailed to the cross, to make me holy and to drown sin and death in me. Whoever believes what the gospel declares has what it says. For that purpose Christ instituted holy baptism, thereby to clothe you with his righteousness. It is tantamount to his saying, My righteousness shall be your righteousness; my innocence, your innocence. Your sins indeed are great, but by baptism I bestow on you my righteousness; I strip death from you and clothe you with my life. That's Christ's true regimen; his office and mission are summed up in this, that he daily strips away our sin and death and clothes us with his righteousness and life. 
11. We must certainly receive this message eagerly and gratefully, by it becoming more pious and godly. Unfortunately there's the opposite side, that by this teaching the world becomes more and more hostile, wicked, and malicious; yet not through fault of the teaching but of the people, thanks to the pernicious devil and death. Today people are possessed by seven devils, whereas before it was only one. The devil now bulldozes the people so that even under the bright light of the gospel they become greedier, slyer, more covetous, crueler, lewder, more insolent and ill-tempered than before under the papacy. Why so? Not through fault of the teaching but because the message is not met with thankful acceptance; people cast it to the wind and pay more attention to money and goods than to the blessed treasure which our Lord Christ brings to us. Hence our Lord God scolds again, saying, Have you no appreciation for this—that through the suffering and death of my only begotten Son I have removed your sin and death? Well, then, if that's the way you want it, I will multiply sin and death sevenfold for you. And whereas before one devil possessed and troubled you, now seven worse devils will afflict you. No station in life—peasant, burgher, aristocrat—is spared, from highest to lowest, as they give their lives shamelessly, carelessly to greed, gluttony, drunkenness, immorality, and all manner shameful depravity.
 12. Therefore I exhort that you listen eagerly and lovingly to Word, receive it with deep gratitude, and beseech the Lord from the bottom of your heart for a firm faith to cling to this teaching. You may be certain that this will bear fruit day by day, as you become more humble, obedient, loving, chaste, and godly, for it is in the nature and art of this teaching to create godly, decent, obedient and pious people. But if people refuse to receive it with loving ready hearts, they will become seven times more wicked than before they came to know this teaching, as experience shows. Be forewarned therefore; the hour is coming—it cannot be avoided—the ingrates will be afflicted and punished. They will then recieve what now they have earned. God will certainly find them out [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 5, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000).  p. 29-30.

Veit Dietrich's Version
This now is our King, the dear Lord Jesus Christ, and this is His kingdom and office. It deals not with golden crowns and kingdoms, or with great worldly pomp ; no, but when we must die, and cannot retain this life any longer, then it is His office and work to deliver us from sin, death and the power of hell; and through the preaching of the gospel He announces to us that we shall certainly receive this gift or benefit from Him, so that when we are in trouble on account of our sins, or in danger of death, we can comfort ourselves by faith and say: Now help is afforded me through my dear King, Jesus Christ, the Just One and Savior; to this end He came, so lowly and poor, and suffered Himself to be nailed to the cross, that He might justify and sanctify me; in Himself He hath destroyed my sin and death, gives me His own righteousness and victory over death and hell, and gives me also His Holy Spirit, that I might have in my heart a sure seal and witness of His help. See now, whoever believes this as he hears it, and as it is preached in the gospel, he also has it. For to this end holy baptism was instituted by our Savior that He might clothe you with His righteousness, and that His holiness and innocence should be yours. For we are all poor sinners, but in baptism, and afterwards in our whole life, if we turn unto Christ, He comforts us, and says: Give me your sins and take my righteousness and holiness; let your death be taken from you, and put on my life. This is, properly speaking, the Lord Jesus' government. For all His office and work is this, that He daily takes away our sin and death, and clothes us with His righteousness and life.
This announcement we should indeed hear with great joy, and every one should thereby be bettered and made more holy. But alas, the contrary is true, and the world grows worse as it grows older, becoming the very Satan himself, as we see that the people are now more dissolute, avaricious, unmerciful, impure and wicked than previously under the papacy. What causes this? Nothing else than that the people disregard this preaching, do not use it aright for their own conversion and amendment, that is, for the comfort of their conscience, and thankfulness for the grace and benefit of God in Christ; but every one is more concerned for money and goods, or other worldly matters, than for this precious treasure which Christ brings us. For the most of us, when we do not feel our misery, the fear of sin and death, would rather, like the Jews, have such a king in Christ as would give us riches and ease here on earth, than that we should comfort ourselves in Him in the midst of poverty, crosses, wretchedness, fear and death. The world takes no delight in this, and because the gospel and Christ do not give it what. it desires, it will have nothing to do with Christ and the gospel. Therefore our Lord in turn rebukes this world and says: Do you not rejoice in this, nor thank me, that through the sufferings and death of my only begotten Son, I take away your sins and death? Then I will give you sin and death enough, since you want it so; and where you were possessed of and tormented by only one devil, you shall now be tormented by seven that are worse. We see farmers, citizens and all orders, from the highest to the lowest, guilty of shameful avarice, inordinate life, impurity and other vices. Therefore let every one who would be a Christian be hereby warned as of God himself, joyfully and thankfully to hear and receive this announcement, and also pray to God to give him a strong faith, that he may hold fast this doctrine; then surely the fruit will follow, that he will daily become more humble, obedient, gentle, chaste and pious. For this doctrine is of a character to make godly, chaste, obedient, pious people. But those who will not gladly receive it, become seven times worse than they were before they heard it, as we see everywhere. And the hour will surely come when God will punish this unthankfulness. Then it will appear what the world has merited by it. Now, since the Jews would not obey the prophet, it is told to us that our King comes meek and lowly, in order that we may learn wisdom from their sad experience, and not be offended by His poverty, nor look for worldly pomp and riches, like the Jews; but learn that in Christ we have a King who is the Just One and Savior, and willing to help us from sin and eternal death. This announcement, I say, we should receive with joy, and with hearty thanks to God, else we must take the devil, with walling, weeping and gnashing of teeth [link].

Notice in Georg Rörer's version Luther doesn't blame his teaching for the current state of affairs, but rather the people and ultimately Satan. Veit Dietrich's version shows Luther also states those who accept the Gospel will have fruit follow and "will daily become more humble, obedient, gentle, chaste and pious. For this doctrine is of a character to make godly, chaste, obedient, pious people." Those who do not receive it are those who become seven times worse.  For Luther, mankind will always oppose God's truth en masse and rebel against it, for that's what Satan and sin have always done in battle against God's word. Luther consistently held that the Gospel would find great opposition, and would be attacked from all sides. The Gospel would be used by the world as a licence to sin and all sorts of evil because of Satan. The Gospel would indeed make those of the world worse. But on the flip-side, the Gospel would also transform those whom God intended to redeem, and they are those who comprise the church. 

Some years back I covered this same quote as used by Rome's defender Steve Ray and Rome's historian Heinrich Denifle. The entry can be found here: Luther: People are Worse Than They Were Under The Papacy. 

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