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Martin Luther Collection: Luther, Martin - A Treatise on Good Works: 03 Starts discussion on the love of God with the

TOPIC: Luther, Martin - A Treatise on Good Works (Other Topics in this Collection)
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                  _A treatise on Good Works

together with the

Letter of Dedication_

by Dr. Martin Luther, 1520

Published in:

_Works of Martin Luther_

Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds.

(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 173-285.


I. We ought first to know that there are no good works

except those which God has commanded, even as there is no

sin except that which God has forbidden. Therefore

whoever wishes to know and to do good works needs nothing

else than to know God's commandments. Thus Christ says,

Matthew xix, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the

commandments." And when the young man asks Him, Matthew

xix, what he shall do that he may inherit eternal life,

Christ sets before him naught else but the Ten

Commandments. Accordingly, we must learn how to

distinguish among good works from the Commandments of

God, and not from the appearance, the magnitude, or the

number of the works themselves, nor from the judgment of

men or of human law or custom, as we see has been done

and still is done, because we are blind and despise the

divine Commandments.

II. The first and highest, the most precious of all good

works is faith in Christ, as He says, John vi. When the

Jews asked Him: "What shall we do that we may work the

works of God?" He answered: "This is the work of God,

that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent." When we hear

or preach this word, we hasten over it and deem it a very

little thing and easy to do, whereas we ought here to

pause a long time and to ponder it well. For in this work

all good works must be done and receive from it the

inflow of their goodness, like a loan. This we must put

bluntly, that men may understand it.

We find many who pray, fast, establish endowments, do

this or that, lead a good life before men, and yet if you

should ask them whether they are sure that what they do

pleases God, they say, "No"; they do not know, or they

doubt. And there are some very learned men, who mislead

them, and say that it is not necessary to be sure of

this; and yet, on the other hand, these same men do

nothing else but teach good works. Now all these works

are done outside of faith, therefore they are nothing and

altogether dead. For as their conscience stands toward

God and as it believes, so also are the works which grow

out of it. Now they have no faith, no good conscience

toward God, therefore the works lack their head, and all

their life and goodness is nothing. Hence it comes that

when I exalt faith and reject such works done without

faith, they accuse me of forbidding good works, when in

truth I am trying hard to teach real good works of faith.

III. If you ask further, whether they count it also a

good work when they work at their trade, walk, stand,

eat, drink, sleep, and do all kinds of works for the

nourishment of the body or for the common welfare, and

whether they believe that God takes pleasure in them

because of such works, you will find that they say, "No";

and they define good works so narrowly that they are made

to consist only of praying in church, fasting, and

almsgiving. Other works they consider to be in vain, and

think that God cares nothing for them. So through their

damnable unbelief they curtail and lessen the service of

God, Who is served by all things whatsoever that are

done, spoken or thought in faith.

So teaches Ecclesiastes ix: "Go thy way with joy, eat and

drink, and know that God accepteth thy works. Let thy

garments be always white; and let thy head lack no

ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest

all the days of the life of thy vanity." "Let thy

garments be always white," that is, let all our works be

good, whatever they may be, without any distinction. And

they are white when I am certain and believe that they

please God. Then shall the head of my soul never lack the

ointment of a joyful conscience.

So Christ says, John viii: "I do always those things that

J please Him." And St. John says, I. John iii: "Hereby I

we know that we are of the truth, if we can comfort our

hearts before Him and have a good confidence. And if our

heart condemns or frets us, God is greater than our

heart, and we have confidence, that whatsoever we ask, we

shall receive of Him, because we keep His Commandments,

and do those things that are pleasing in His sight."

Again: "Whosoever is born of God, that is, whoever

believes and trusts God, doth not commit sin, and cannot

sin." Again, Psalm xxxiv: "None of them that trust in I

Him shall do sin." And in Psalm ii: "Blessed are all E

they that put their trust in Him." If this be true, then

all that they do must be good, or the evil that they do

must be quickly forgiven. Behold, then, why I exalt faith

so greatly, draw all works into it, and reject all works

which do not flow from it.

IV. Now every one can note and tell for himself E when he

does what is good or what is not good; for if he 1 finds

his heart confident that it pleases God, the work is 5

good, even if it were so small a thing as picking up a

straw. If confidence is absent, or if he doubts, the work

is not good, although it should raise all the dead and

the man should I give himself to be burned. This is the

teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv: "Whatsoever is not done

of or in faith is sin." Faith, as the chief work, and no

other work, has given us the name of "believers on

Christ." For all other works a heathen, a Jew, a Turk, a

sinner, may also do; but to trust firmly that he pleases

God, is possible only for a Christian who is enlightened

and strengthened by grace.

That these words seem strange, and that some call me a

heretic because of them, is due to the fact that men have

followed blind reason and heathen ways, have set faith

not above, but beside other virtues, and have given it a

work of its own, apart from all works of the other

virtues; although faith alone makes all other works good,

acceptable and worthy, in that it trusts God and does not

doubt that for it all things that a man does are well

done. Indeed, they have not let faith remain a work, but

have made a habitus of it, as they say, although

Scripture gives the name of a good, divine work to no

work except to faith alone. Therefore it is no wonder

that they have become blind and leaders of the blind. And

this faith brings with it at once love, peace, joy and

hope. For God gives His Spirit at once to him who trusts

Him, as St. Paul says to the Galatians: "You received the

Spirit not because of your good works, but when you

believed the Word of God."

V. In this faith all works become equal, and one is like

the other; all distinctions between works fall away,

whether they be great, small, short, long, few or many.

For the works are acceptable not for their own sake, but

because of the faith which alone is, works and lives in

each and every work without distinction, however numerous

and various they are, just as all the members of the body

live, work and have their name from the head, and without

the head no member can live, work and have a name.

From which it further follows that a Christian who lives

in this faith has no need of a teacher of good works, but

whatever he finds to do he does, and all is well done; as

Samuel said to Saul: "The Spirit of the Lord will come

upon thee, and thou shalt be turned into another man;

then do thou as occasion serves thee; for God is with

thee." So also we read of St. Anna, Samuel's mother:

"When she believed the priest Eli who promised her God's

grace, she went home in joy and peace, and from that time

no more turned hither and thither," that is, whatever

occurred, it was all one to her. St. Paul also says:

"Where the Spirit of Christ is, there all is free." For

faith does not permit itself to be bound to any work, nor

does it allow any work to be taken from it, but, as the

First Psalm says, "He bringeth forth his fruit in his

season," that is, as a matter of course.

VI. This we may see in a common human example. A When a

man and a woman love and are pleased with each A other,

and thoroughly believe in their love, who teaches them

how they are to behave, what they are to do, leave

undone, say, not say, think? Confidence alone teaches

them all this, and more. They make no difference in

works: they do the great, the long, the much, as gladly

as the small, the short, the little, and vice versa; and

that too with joyful, peaceful, confident hearts, and

each is a free companion of the other. But where there is

a doubt, search is made for what is best; then a

distinction of works is imagined whereby a man may win

favor; and yet he goes about it with a heavy heart, and

great disrelish; he is, as it were, taken captive, more

than half in despair, and often makes a fool of himself.

So a Christian who lives in this confidence toward God, a

knows all things, can do all things, undertakes all

things B that are to be done, and does everything

cheerfully and F freely; not that he may gather many

merits and good works, N but because it is a pleasure for

him to please God thereby, and he serves God purely for

nothing, content that his service pleases God. On the

other hand, he who is not at one with God, or doubts,

hunts and worries in what way he may do enough and with

many works move God. He runs to St. James of Compostella,

to Rome, to Jerusalem, hither and yon, prays St.

Bridget's prayer and the rest, fasts on this day and on

that, makes confession here, and makes confession there,

questions this man and that, and yet finds no peace. He

does all this with great effort, despair and disrelish of

heart, so that the Scriptures rightly call such works in

Hebrew A v e n a m a 1, that is, labor and travail. And

even then they are not good works, and are all lost. Many

have been crazed thereby; their fear has brought them

into all manner of misery. Of these it is written, Wisdom

of Solomon v: "We have wearied ourselves in the wrong

way; and have gone through deserts, where there lay no

way; but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known

it, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us."

VII. In these works faith is still slight and weak; let

us ask further, whether they believe that they are

well-pleasing to God when they suffer in body, property,

honor, friends, or whatever they have, and believe that

God of His mercy appoints their sufferings and

difficulties for them, whether they be small or great.

This is real strength, to trust in God when to all our

senses and reason He appears to be angry; and to have

greater confidence in Him than we feel. Here He is

hidden, as the bride says in the Song of Songs: "Behold

he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the

windows"; that is, He stands hidden among the sufferings,

which would separate us from Him like a wall, yea, like a

wall of stone, and yet He looks upon me and does not

leave me, for He is standing and is ready graciously to

help, and through the window of dim faith He permits

Himself to be seen. And Jeremiah says in Lamentations,

"He casts off men, but He does it not willingly."

This faith they do not know at all, and give up, thinking

that God has forsaken them and is become their enemy;

they even lay the blame of their ills on men and devils,

and have no confidence at all in God. For this reason,

too, their suffering is always an offence and harmful to

them, and yet they go and do some good works, as they

think, and are not aware of their unbelief. But they who

in such suffering trust God and retain a good, firm

confidence in Him, and believe that He is pleased with

them, these see in their sufferings and afflictions

nothing but precious merits and the rarest possessions,

the value of which no one can estimate. For faith and

confidence make precious before God all that which others

think most shameful, so that it is written even o, death

in Psalm cxvi, "Precious in the i sight of the Lord is

the death of His saints." And just as the confidence and

faith are better, higher and stronger at this stage than

in the first stage, so and to the same degree do the

sufferings which are borne in this faith excel all works

of faith. Therefore between such works and sufferings

there is an immeasurable difference and the sufferings

are infinitely better.

VIII. Beyond all this is the highest stage of faith,

when; God punishes the conscience not only with temporal

sufferings, but with death, hell, and sin, and refuses

grace and mercy, as though it were His will to condemn

and to be 4 angry eternally. This few men experience, but

David cries out in Psalm vi, "O Lord, rebuke me not in

Thine anger." To believe at such times that God, in His

mercy, is pleased with us, is the highest work that can

be done by and in the creature; but of this the

work-righteous and doers of good works know nothing at

all. For how could they here look for good things and

grace from God, as long as they are not certain in their

works, and doubt even on the lowest step of faith.

In this way I have, as I said, always praised faith, and

1 rejected all works which are done without such faith,

in ] order thereby to lead men from the false,

pretentious, pharisaic, unbelieving good works, with

which all monastic houses, churches, homes, low and

higher classes are overfilled, and lead them to the true,

genuine, thoroughly good, believing works. In this no one

opposes me except the unclean beasts, which do not divide

the hoof, as the Law of Moses decrees; who will suffer no

distinction among good works, but go lumbering along: if

only they pray, fast, establish endowments, go to

confession, and do enough, everything shall be good,

although in all this they have had no faith in God's

grace and approval. Indeed, they consider the works best

of all, when they have done many, great and long works

without any such confidence, and they look for good only

after the works are done; and so they build their

confidence not on divine favor, but on the works they

have done, that is, on sand and water, from which they

must at last take a cruel fall, as Christ says, Matthew

vii. This good-will and favor, on which our confidence

rests, was proclaimed by the angels from heaven, when

they sang on Christmas night: "Gloria in excelsis Deo,

Glory to God in the highest, peace to earth, gracious

favor to man."

IX. Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which

commands: "Thou shalt have no other gods," which means:

"Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy

confidence, trust and faith on Me alone, and on no one

else." For that is not to have a god, if you call him God

only with your lips, or worship him with the knees or

bodily gestures; but if you trust Him with the heart, and

look to Him for all good, grace and favor, whether in

works or sufferings, in life or death, in joy or sorrow;

as the Lord Christ says to the heathen woman, John iv: "I

say unto thee, they that worship God must worship Him in

spirit and in truth." And this faith, faithfulness,

confidence deep in the heart, is the true fulfilling of

the First Commandment; without this there is no other

work that is able to satisfy this Commandment. And as

this Commandment is the very first, highest and best,

from which all the others proceed, in which they exist,

and by which they are directed and measured, so also its

work, that is, the faith or confidence in God's favor at

all times, is the very first, highest and best, from

which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed

and measured. Compared with this, other works are just as

if the other Commandments were without the First, and

there were no God, Therefore St. Augustine well says that

the works of the First Commandment are faith, hope and

love. As I said above, such faith and confidence bring

love and hope with them. Nay, if we see it aright, love

is the first, or comes at the same instant with faith.

For I could not trust God, if I did not think that He

wished to be favorable and to love me, which leads me, in

turn, to love Him and to trust Him heartily and to look

to Him for all good things.

X. Now you see for yourself that all those who do not at

i at all times trust God and do not in all their works or

sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and

good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in

themselves, do not keep this Commandment, and practise

real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all

the other Commandments, and in addition had all the

prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and

innocence of all the saints combined. For the chief work

is not present, without which all the others are nothing

but mere sham, show and pretence, with nothing back of

them; against which Christ warns us, Matthew vii: "Beware

of false prophets, which N come to you in sheep's

clothing." Such are all who wish with their many good

works, as they say, to make God favorable to themselves,

and to buy God's grace from Him, as if He were a huckster

or a day-laborer, unwilling to give His grace and favor

for nothing. These are the most perverse people on earth,

who will hardly or never be converted to the right way.

Such too are all who in adversity run hither and thither,

and look for counsel and help everywhere except from God,

from Whom they are most urgently commanded to seek it;

whom the Prophet Isaiah reproves thus, Isaiah ix: "The

mad people turneth not to Him that smiteth them"; that

is, God smote them and sent them sufferings and all kinds

of adversity, that they should run to Him and trust Him.

But they run away from Him to men, now to Egypt, now to

Assyria, perchance also to the devil; and of such

idolatry much is written in the same Prophet and in the

Books of the Kings. This is also the way of all holy

hypocrites when they are in trouble: they do not run to

God, but flee from Him, and only think of how they may

get rid of their trouble through their own efforts or

through human help, and yet they consider themselves and

let others consider them pious people.

XI. This is what St. Paul means in many places, where he

ascribes so much to faith, that he says: Justus ex fide

sua vivit, "the righteous man draws his life out of his

faith," and faith is that because of which he is counted

righteous before God. If righteousness consists of faith,

it is clear that faith fulfils all commandments and makes

all works righteous, since no one is justified except he

keep all the commands of God. Again, the works can

justify no one before God without faith. So utterly and

roundly does the Apostle reject works and praise faith, ;

that some have taken offence at his words and say: "Well,

then, we will do no more good works," although he

condemns such men as erring and foolish.

So men still do. When we reject the great, pretentious

works of our time, which are done entirely without faith,

they say: Men are only to believe and not to do anything

good. For nowadays they say that the works of the First

Commandment are singing, reading, organ-playing, reading

the mass, saying matins and vespers and the other hours,

the founding and decorating of churches, altars, and

monastic houses, the gathering of bells, jewels,

garments, trinkets and treasures, running to Rome and to

the saints. Further, when we are dressed up and bow,

kneel, pray the rosary and the Psalter, and all this not

before an idol, but before the holy cross of God or the

pictures of His saints: this we call honoring and

worshiping God, and, according to the First Commandment,

"having no other gods"; although these things usurers,

adulterers and all manner of sinners can do too, and do

them daily.

Of course, if these things are done with such faith that

we believe that they please God, then they are

praiseworthy, not because of their virtue, but because of

such faith, for which all works are of equal value, as

has been said. But if we doubt or do not believe that God

is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if we

presumptuously expect to please Him only through and

after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly

honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false

god. This is the reason why I have so often spoken

against the display, magnificence and multitude of such

works and have rejected them, because it is as clear as

day that they are not only done in doubt or without

faith, but there is not one in a thousand who does not

set his confidence upon the works, expecting by them to

win God's favor and anticipate His grace; and so they

make a fair of them, a thing which God cannot endure,

since He has promised His grace freely, and wills that we

begin by trusting that grace, and in it perform all

works, whatever they may be.

XII. Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two

are: keeping the First Commandment with outward works

only, and keeping it with inward trust. For this last

makes true, living children of God, the other only makes

worse idolatry t and the most mischievous hypocrites on

earth, who with their apparent righteousness lead

unnumbered people into their way, and yet allow them to

be without faith, so that they are miserably misled, and

are caught in the pitiable babbling and mummery. Of such

Christ says, Matthew xxiv: "Beware, if any man shall say

unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there"; and John iv: "I

say unto thee, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in

this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship God, for the

Father seeketh spiritual worshipers."

These and similar passages have moved me and ought to

move everyone to reject the great display of bulls,

seals, flags, indulgences, by which the poor folk are led

to build churches, to give, to endow, to pray, and yet

faith is not mentioned, and is even suppressed. For since

faith knows no distinction among works, such exaltation

and urging of one work above another cannot exist beside

faith. For faith desires to be the only service of God,

and will grant this name and honor to no other work,

except in so far as faith imparts it, as it does when the

work is done in faith and by faith. This perversion is

indicated in the Old Testament, when the Jews left the

Temple and sacrificed at other places, in the green parks

and on the mountains. This is what these men also do:

they are zealous to do all works, but this chief work of

faith they regard not at all.

XIII. Where now are they who ask, what works are good;

what they shall do; how they shall be religious? Yes, and

where are they who say that when we preach of faith, we

shall neither teach nor do works? Does not this First

Commandment give us more work to do than any man can do?

If a man were a thousand men, or all men, or all

creatures, this Commandment would yet ask enough of him,

and more than enough, since he is commanded to live and

walk at all times in faith and confidence toward God, to

place such faith in no one else, and so to have only one,

the true God, and none other.

Now, since the being and nature of man cannot for an

instant be without doing or not doing something, enduring

or running away from something (for, as we see, life

never rests), let him who will be pious and filled with

good works, begin and in all his life and works at all

times exercise himself in this faith; let him learn to do

and to leave undone all things in such continual faith;

then will he find how much work he has to do, and how

completely all things are included in faith; how he dare

never grow idle, because his very idling must be the

exercise and work of faith. In brief, nothing can be in

or about us and nothing can happen to us but that it must

be good and meritorious, if we believe (as we ought) that

all things please God. So says St. Paul: "Dear brethren,

all that ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all in the

Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord." Now it cannot be done in

this Name except it be done in this faith. Likewise,

Romans vii: "We know that all things work together for

good to the saints of God."

Therefore, when some say that good works are forbidden

when we preach faith alone, it is as if I said to a sick

man: "If you had health, you would have the use of all

your limbs; but without health, the works of all your

limbs are nothing"; and he wanted to infer that I had

forbidden the works of all his limbs; whereas, on the

contrary, I meant that he must first have health, which

will work all the works of all the members. So faith also

must be in all works the master-workman and captain, or

they are nothing at all.

XIV. You might say: "Why then do we have so many laws of

the Church and of the State, and many ceremonies of

churches, monastic houses, holy places, which urge and

tempt men to good works, if faith does all things through

the First Commandment?" I answer: Simply because we do

not all have faith or do not heed it. If every man had

faith, we would need no more laws, but every one would of

himself at all times do good works, as his confidence in

God teaches him.

But now there are four kinds of men: the first, just

mentioned, who need no law, of whom St. Paul says, I.

Timothy i, "The law is not made for a righteous man,"

that is, for the believer, but believers of themselves do

what they know and can do, only because they firmly trust

that God's favor and grace rests upon them in all things.

The second class want to abuse this freedom, put a false

confidence in it, and grow lazy; of whom St. Peter says,

I. Peter ii, "Ye shall live as free men, but not using

your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness," as if he

said: The freedom of faith does not permit sins, nor will

it cover them, but it sets us free to do all manner of

good works and to endure all things as they happen to us,

so that a man is not bound only to one work or to a few.

So also St. Paul, Galatians v: "Use not your liberty for

an occasion to the flesh." Such men must be urged by laws

and hemmed in by teaching and exhortation. The third

class are wicked men, always ready for sins; these must

be constrained by spiritual and temporal laws, like wild

horses and dogs, and where this does not help, they must

be put to death by the worldly sword, as St. Paul says,

Romans xiii: "The worldly ruler bears the sword, and

serves God with it, not as a terror to the good, but to

the evil." The fourth class, who are still lusty, and

childish in their understanding of faith and of the

spiritual life, must be coaxed like young children and

tempted with external, definite and prescribed

decorations, with reading, praying, fasting, singing,

adorning of churches, organ playing, and such other

things as are commanded and observed in monastic houses

and churches, until they also learn to know the faith.

Although there is great danger here, when the rulers, as

is now, alas! the case, busy themselves with and insist

upon such ceremonies and external works as if they were

the true works, and neglect faith, which they ought

always to teach along with these works, just as a mother

gives her child other food along with the milk, until the

child can eat the strong food by itself.

XV. Since, then, we are not all alike, we must tolerate

such people, share their observances and burdens, and not

despise them, but teach them the true way of faith. So

St. Paul teaches, Romans xiv: "Him that is weak in the

faith receive ye, to teach him." And so he did himself,

I. Corinthians ix: "To them that are under the law, I

became as under the law, although I was not under the

law." And Christ, Matthew xvii, when He was asked to pay

tribute, which He was not obligated to pay, argues with

St. Peter, whether the children of kings must give

tribute, or only other people. St. Peter answers: "Only

other people." Christ said: "Then are the children of

kings free; notwithstanding, lest we should offend them,

go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the

fish that first cometh up; and in his mouth thou shalt

find apiece of money; take that and give it for me and


Here we see that all works and things are free to a

Christian through his faith; and yet, because the others

do not yet believe, he observes and bears with them what

he is not obligated to do. But this he does freely, for

he is certain that this is pleasing to God, and he does

it willingly, accepts it as any other free work which

comes to his hand without his choice, because he desires

and seeks no more than that he may in his faith do works

to please God.

But since in this discourse we have undertaken to teach

what righteous and good works are, and are now speaking

of the highest work, it is clear that we do not speak of

the second, third and fourth classes of men, but of the

first, into whose likeness all the others are to grow,

and until they do so the first class must endure and

instruct them. Therefore we must not despise, as if they

were hopeless, these men of weak faith, who would gladly

do right and learn, and yet cannot understand because of

the ceremonies to which they cling; we must rather blame

their ignorant, blind teachers, who have never taught

them the faith, and have led them so deeply into works.

They must be gently and gradually led back again to

faith, as a sick man is treated, and must be allowed for

a time, for their conscience sake, to cling to some works

and do them as necessary to salvation, so long as they

rightly grasp the faith; lest if we try to tear them out

so suddenly, their weak consciences be quite shattered

and confused, and retain neither faith nor works. But the

hardheaded, who, hardened in their works, give no heed to

what is said of faith, and fight against it, these we

must, as Christ did and taught, let go their way, that

the blind may lead the blind.

XVI. But you say: How can I trust surely that all my

works are pleasing to God, when at times I fall, and

talk, eat, drink and sleep too much, or otherwise

transgress, as I cannot help doing? Answer: This question

shows that you still regard faith as a work among other

works, and do not set it above all works. For it is the

highest work for this very reason, because it remains and

blots out these daily sins by not doubting that God is so

kind to you as to wink at such daily transgression and

weakness. Aye, even if a deadly sin should occur (which,

however, never or rarely happens to those who live in

faith and trust toward God), yet faith rises again and

does not doubt that its sin is already gone; as it is

written I. John ii: "My little children, these things I

write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we

have an Advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ, Who

is the propitiation of all our sins." And Wisdom xv: "For

if we sin, we are Thine, knowing Thy power." And Proverbs

xxiv: "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up

again." Yes, this confidence and faith must be so high

and strong that the man knows that all his life and works

are nothing but damnable sins before God's judgment, as

it is written, Psalm cxliii: "In thy sight shall no man

living be justified"; and he must entirely despair of his

works, believing that they cannot be good except through

this faith, which looks for no judgment, but only for

pure grace, favor, kindness and mercy, like David, Psalm

xxvi: "Thy loving kindness is ever before mine eyes, and

I have trusted in Thy truth"; Psalm iv: "The light of Thy

countenance is lift up upon us (that is, the knowledge of

Thy grace through faith), and thereby hast Thou put

gladness in my heart"; for as faith trusts, so it


See, thus are works forgiven, are without guilt and are

good, not by their own nature, but by the mercy and grace

of God because of the faith which trusts on the mercy of

God. Therefore we must fear because of the works, but

comfort ourselves because of the grace of God, as it is

written, Psalm cxlvii: "The Lord taketh pleasure in them

that I fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy." So we

pray with perfect confidence: "Our Father," and yet

petition: "Forgive us our trespasses"; we are children

and yet sinners; are acceptable and yet do not do enough;

and all this is the work of faith, firmly grounded in

God's grace.

XVII. But if you ask, where the faith and the confidence

1 can be found and whence they come, this it is certainly

most necessary to know. First: Without doubt faith does

not come from your works or merit, but alone from Jesus

Christ, and is freely promised and given; as St. Paul

writes, Romans v: "God commendeth His love to us as

exceeding sweet and kindly, in that, while we were yet

sinners, Christ died for us"; as if he said: "Ought not

this give us a strong unconquerable confidence, that

before we prayed or cared for it, yes, while we still

continually walked in sins, Christ dies for our sin?" St.

Paul concludes: "If while we were yet sinners Christ died

for us, how much more then, being justified by His blood,

shall we be saved from wrath through Him; and if, when we

were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of

His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved

by His life."

Lo! thus must thou form Christ within thyself and see how

in Him God holds before thee and offers thee His mercy

without any previous merits of thine own, and from such a

view of His grace must thou draw faith and confidence of

the forgiveness of all thy sins. Faith, therefore, does

not begin with works, neither do they create it, but it

must spring up and flow from the blood, wounds and death

of Christ. If thou see in these that God is so kindly

affectioned toward thee that He gives even His Son for

thee, then thy heart also must in its turn grow sweet and

kindly affectioned toward God, and so thy confidence must

grow out of pure good-will and love -- God's love toward

thee and thine toward God. We never read that the Holy

Spirit was given to any one when he did works, but always

when men have heard the Gospel of Christ and the mercy of

God. From this same Word and from no other source must

faith still come, even in our day and always. For Christ

is the rock out of which men suck oil and honey, as Moses

says, Deuteronomy xxxii.


This text was converted to ascii format for Project Wittenberg by

Allen Mulvey and is in the public domain. You may freely

distribute, copy or print this text. Please direct any comments

or suggestions to: Rev. Robert E. Smith of the Walther Library at

Concordia Theological Seminary.


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