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Author: Subject: 004.000 Sermon: The Doctrine of Grace [CHI, Serbin Collection] 5 Jun 1865
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[*] posted on 5-14-2015 at 11:15 AM
004.000 Sermon: The Doctrine of Grace [CHI, Serbin Collection] 5 Jun 1865

[This sermon or lecture is also 090.600 in Texas Wends: Letters and Documents]

[Translator’s Note: To the extent that those original German texts which Rev. Kilian translated into Wendish and quoted for this presentation could be found, notably those from Luther, they have been translated into English and appear here in italics. Any other quotations the original of which was German are translated from that German text which was Martin Strauch's translation of Kilian’s Wendish.]

Presented in the church on Second Pentecost Day, June 5, 1865

The Doctrine of the Grace of God

This is the book entitled Martin Boos, the Preacher of Righteousness Which is Valid Before God, which Jan Gossner published thirty-nine years ago. Martin Boos was a Catholic priest who died in that role in 1825. A great uproar arose in the diocese because of him while he was serving for ten years in the congregation at Gallneukirchen, and he was charged by the authorities. During the hearing in Linz, the question was posed about what faith is, and those who conducted the hearing did not wish to admit that anyone could be sure about his salvation. Therefore, Martin Boos appealed to the Catholic statement of belief adopted at the Council of Trent, where in canon 16 is stated “that no one can be certain of his salvation and perseverance to the end unless he finds out and becomes assured through a special revelation.” Martin Boos and his friends appealed to this article of Catholic belief about which they were being accused. Since, as is written in this book, Boos and his friends advocated conviction about salvation only if based upon a personal special revelation through this enlightenment specifically to every Christian, namely that he is a child of God—the same Spirit who pours the love of God into our hearts and plants and preserves in the hearts the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Whoever is lacking this godly revelation in the form of such a personal manifestation and discovery that God forgives our sins and has taken us in as children and heirs and yet believes in the certainty of his salvation, the faith and hope of such a person are surely worthless and even foolhardy.

Now, since the Catholic Church teaches that no one can be sure of his salvation unless he discovers that through a personal revelation, as a result there are those in the Catholic Church, especially in monasteries, who believed this and attempted to receive this personal revelation so that they would achieve certainty about their salvation. Some saw, dreamed, or recognized it in other ways, if they did not lapse into daydreaming and pride; others, however, were left in doubt if, in spite of their efforts and deeds, they did not receive the revelation.

According to this papal teaching that a man must doubt the grace of God until he receives a mysterious personal revelation that he can be sure of the grace of God—about this teaching Dr. Luther wrote in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians;

I have indicated at length that a Christian person must hold with full certainty the position that he stands in the grace of God and that in his heart he has the call of the Holy Spirit. I have done this so that we can learn to reject entirely that most wicked delusion of the whole realm of the pope, namely that he taught that a person must be unsure about the grace of God toward him. If this delusion is held to be correct, then Christ is entirely useless. For whoever doubts the grace of God toward him must necessarily doubt the promises of God and, along with that, the gracious will of God as well as the benefits of Christ — that he was born for us, suffered, died, and rose again, etc. There is no greater blasphemy against God than that we reject his promises, reject God himself and Christ, etc.

Therefore, it is not only the height of insanity but also the ultimate wickedness that the monks with such great zeal have lured young people of both genders into the monasteries for their “religious” or “holy orders,” as they are called, as though this were the surest state of salvation; and yet, thereafter, they order those whom they have lured to doubt the grace of God.

Thus the pope also recruited all humankind to obedience to the holy Roman Church, as if they would be coming into a holy estate in which they would be sure to gain salvation, but then with his rules ordered those who had achieved such obedience to doubt their salvation. In this way the kingdom of the Antichrist first praises and exaggerates the sacred nature of its laws, orders, rules, etc., and promises assured eternal life to those who observe them; but later, when these miserable people have tortured their bodies for a long time with vigils, fasts, etc., as directed by their human regulations, their reward for this is that they do not know whether or not this obedience pleases God.

So, even if the papacy were altogether right and good, which it is not, even then the fact that people must doubt the grace of God and his will would be the wrong path, one which seeks its own ends and cannot be explained at all.

Because of the fact that, according to the teaching of the pope, no one can be sure of his salvation unless he discovers that through a personal revelation, people are informed to look for this assurance in revelations. Dr. Luther writes about this in his Kirchenpostille [Church Sermons] (vol. II, p. 278):

Here also one must be careful to take the right path and not be turned toward what in previous times some heretics along with greatly mistaken priests have alleged and thought, namely, that God should do something particular for them and deal with such a person through a special light and a secret inner revelation in the heart and give them the Holy Spirit, as though one was not permitted to have any letters [of the alphabet], writing, or open proclamation.

Beyond this, Luther said:

If you were to ask the pope and all his doctors, they would not be able to tell you what absolution accomplishes. For the entire papacy is based on this teaching that grace pours itself out over people through a mysterious power and activity and whoever wishes to receive it must show remorse, confess, and do enough. Were you to ask them, however, what absolution (the announced forgiveness of sins) and the administration of both sacraments do, they would say that these are [merely] external regulations which are retained in the church. So they attach the forgiveness of sins not to the Word and to faith, as must be done, but to remorse, confession, and many acts of penance.

In his Commentary on Genesis, Luther says:

One finds the contemplative life in monasteries and parishes where the priests do not have to strive with domestic and spiritual routine. They sit around and have their livelihood while they are having great thoughts about God; they pray, fast, have their revelation and enlightenment. And finally it has gone so far that they consider no one to be a proper monk unless he has a personal enlightenment/revelation. And this prevails especially in that minority which dreams of nothing other than conversations with the pious in which Christ, the angels, the dead saints, and Mary engage.

Human nature cannot get enough from ordinary teaching and the word of the Gospel, nor does it wish to be satisfied with the two sacraments proclaimed by the Son of God and the apostles, nor even the additional ones which came later — no, it always wants something special/personal. So then the devil comes into the conversation. If you cannot answer him, “This is what the Word of God says, but you proclaim what the Word opposes; begone, Satan!,” then you soon will be tempted.

It is now a great and glorious thing that we have a God who speaks to us and associates with us. And we do, in fact, have such a gift. For, even though God does not appear to us in the particular form in which he appeared to Abraham, yet his is an ordinary and most friendly and pleasant appearance when he offers and shows himself in the Word, in the Office of the Keys, in Baptism, and in the Sacrament of the Altar. But it works out for us as one says in the proverb, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Or, similarly, “One does not value what is right in front of his eyes.” And Solomon says, Proverbs 20:14, “Worthless, worthless, says a person if he has it; but if it is gone, then he values it.”

There is no one among us who would not have great desire and love to see Moses, David, or also Augustine, Ambrose, and other noteworthy people; but if they were available to us and associated with us for one or two years, we would despise them. Yes, even if angels were to associate with us, the same thing would happen to them, certainly not because they lost some brilliance and glory, but because we are inclined by nature to disgust and contempt.

When God had sent his Son, he revealed everything through him and filled the world with heavenly wisdom, to which the signs and wonders which Jesus did testify; as St. Paul says in I Timothy 3:16, “God was manifested in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, appeared to the angels, was preached among the heathen , etc.” Therefore, appearances by angels should not be desired.

But after the birth and manifestation of Christ, the devil deceived the world horribly by often sending apparitions, ghosts, and evil angels, as the examples of earlier times attest. But that was a punishment for the lack of gratitude on the part of people who despised the Lord when he himself was present and with their futile exuberance sought and demanded a new revelation.

It is the same way at our time when the Gospel first came to light again when Thomas Muenzer, Carlstadt, and the Sacramentarians arose. They abandoned the Gospel given from heaven by the Holy Spirit and awaited particular illuminations. Some of them reached such a state of foolishness that they boasted that they heard the voice of God speaking to them from heaven. At this point it was necessary to oppose such enthusiasts with the truth of the light of the Gospel and to contend strongly with such fanatics who say that one should determine the will of God apart from the Word of God. Such lying spirits in earlier times were enthusiasts like the Manicheans and all heretics who wanted to be like the patriarchs, for whom the Word and promise of God was revealed always brighter and more clearly, until Christ himself, the true Light, came into the world.

Thus the popes, too, invented a new insanity out of the promise of Christ, which they did not understand correctly, when he said, John 16:12-13, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” From this they made up the assertion that Christ and the apostles did not teach everything necessary for one’s salvation, but that many more godly pronouncements were held back for the bishops and for them, pronouncements which they should keep presenting to the church from time to time more clearly and openly. But one should oppose all this foolishness with the word of Christ, Luke 16:29, “They have Moses and the Prophets, etc.” Likewise, Isaiah 35:4 and Psalm 24:7-8, which say that now the Lord himself has come and that we should open wide the doors that he may come in. For his not a servant, as was Moses or the ministering spirits, but he was the Lord himself.

This should be taught and also be passed on to our descendants, so that they shun and condemn the appearance of new doctrines and have clearly before their eyes this command which God the Father gave about his Son (Matthew 17:5), “Listen to him,” that is, to the evangelists and the apostles. For one should read and hear these, as also the Old Testament, which also faithfully witnesses to all of this.

But wherever something beyond this is revealed, it must have the analogy of faith and must be a revelation in accord with the understanding of Scripture, otherwise it is a demonic revelation. The devil, in fact, has often tempted me to seek a sign from God, as he did also Augustine, who asked God that no angel appear to him. But far be it from me to yield and to follow this temptation. The holy martyrs went to their death for the sake of Christ strengthened by the Word alone, without any appearance of angels. Why would we, too, not depend on the same Word and be satisfied with that? We have enough clear and wonderful appearances, as in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Office of the Keys, the ministry of the Word, all of which are equal to, yes, even far exceed all appearances of angels, and in comparison with which Abraham had only droplets and crumbs.

Therefore, I am not concerned about angels and Am in the habit of praying the Lord daily that he not send any angel to me, even in a situation in which it could happen. And even if one were to present himself, I would not listen to him, but would turn away from him, unless he were to point out something necessary in the earthly realm, just as all happy and pleasant dreams about worldly matters sometimes tend to make us happy. I do not know even at that whether I would listen to him and believe him in such an event.

In spiritual matters, however, we should not be interested in the angels because God’s promises has been amply fulfilled and displayed in Christ. He has left me his Word, with which I instruct and strengthen myself, nor do I allow myself to be concerned that he would be so fickle and changeable that he would proclaim first one doctrine and then another. Thus Numbers 23:19 states, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” We have the Word of God, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, the Ten Commandments, marriage, ordinances of the authorities, and the administration of the household. Let us be satisfied with this and occupy ourselves with it until the end of the world.

I have told you all this so that we may understand better the way of Luther, how he preached the forgiveness of sins. You know the Gospel lesson for the 19th Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 9:1-8), where Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take heart; your sins are forgiven,” and then healed him. About this Gospel lesson, Luther writes:

I have often said earlier and always say that you should beware and learn rightly what is the character and nature of the kingdom of Christ; for we know how reason always is inclined in its every movement to fall from faith and from this knowledge into works. Here, however, you see no works, no merit; neither commandment nor law is here, nothing more than the offer of help, his comfort, and his grace; the paralytic encounters pure kindness.

Therefore, if the kingdom of Christ is to be extended, then one must stay away from it with the law and not associate with works; for it makes no sense for me to say, ”Go out, run back and forth, and do penance for you sins; you must observe and do this or that in order to get rid of your sins.” But directly, out of pure grace, without works and law, your sins are forgiven. Therefore, to force people with law is foreign to the kingdom of Christ.

For if you prescribe a work for me, that is not of the Holy Spirit; what goes hand in hand with this is that he first brings me the grace of Christ and does not lead me to works. For what he says is this, “Your sins are forgiven,” “Be comforted,” and similar words; he does not first push you toward works, but takes you immediately to God through his sweet words and grace; he shows you no work at first. Later you will find plenty of works to be directed to your neighbor.

What I say is this. Even if there were a work that God proposed now at this time, nevertheless, I would not wish to insist on it being done nor would I condemn one who does not follow at once. I would want to find him a protection of some kind, perhaps that he was still weak, and in that way spread the gracious kingdom over him. Let us be aware that for them the work is directed toward God and does not involve the neighbor here below. They make a necessity of it and say, “If you do this, you are a Christian; if not, you are not.”

The kingdom of Christ works in such a way that we place all our claim to fame and worth upon this grace; the other works should be freely done, not compelled, not wishing to become Christian because of them, but condescend to our neighbor with our works. So we should listen to this Gospel so that we hang on to its expressions with the result that they become inscribed in our hearts, so that this light, this Word, and lamp truly shine within us, so that through them we might judge all other teachings. Thus he says to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you.” These and similar words are to be taken to heart and meditated upon because it is nothing other than grace alone, no work by which one’s conscience is forced to do something.

Dr. Luther writes further in his [other] sermon on this Gospel lesson:

In times of temptation and distress, no person can stop grasping for works on which to stand and rest when his conscience assaults him. Then one seeks and counts as many good deeds as he would like to do or has done, and, because he can find none, his heart begins to doubt and despair. This [tendency] adheres so tightly that even those who have faith and recognize grace and the forgiveness of sins cannot escape it with all their effort and exertion and must contend against it every day. Briefly stated, it is far beyond human knowledge and understanding, skill and power, to rise above this earthly righteousness and move to this article [of faith]. And even if one hears much about it and is conversant with it, there persists nonetheless the old delusion and the innate corruption which wish to bring their own works before God and make them the foundation of our salvation. I say, this is the case with those who are Christians and fight against such [work-righteousness]; the other skeptics and untested souls are certainly drowned in it.

Therefore, this teaching that our piety before God consists of the forgiveness of sins must be grasped in such a way that one fully maintains it. So we must go beyond ourselves and rise above our reason, which argues with and reminds us both of sin and good works, and rise so high that we see neither sins nor good works and rather ground ourselves in this article and see or hear nothing else. Therefore, let us set grace or forgiveness not only against sin, but also against good works, and shut out all human righteousness and holiness. So it is that a person is divided into these two categories: outwardly in this life he should be pious, do good works, and the like; but, if he wishes to rise above this life and deal with God, he must know that neither his sins nor his piety count. And, should he at the same time feel his sins which trouble his conscience and the law which demands good works, he neither listens to them nor gives them attention, but replies boldly, “If I have sin, Christ has forgiveness; yes, I am sitting on a throne which sin cannot reach.”

Therefore, we should view the kingdom of Christ as a large, beautiful arch or cover stretched everywhere above us to cover and protect us from the wrath of God; yes, like a great, wide sky which is illuminated by grace and forgiveness and which fills the world and all things in it so that all sins seem to be hardly a spark over against this great wide sea [of light]. And, even if sin might oppress us, it cannot harm us, but must vanish and disappear in the face of grace. He who understands this may well be called a master, but we shall all need to humble ourselves and not be embarrassed to continue learning this as long as we live.

For wherever our nature knows to find a sin, it can make of it a most difficult burden. Then the devil fans it and makes of the spark a fire that fills heaven and earth. Here the page must be turned and the conclusion reached fully: Even if the sin were to be great and burdensome, yet this article is much higher, broader, and larger, not something recommended and established based on one’s own wisdom, but by the one who grasps and holds heaven and earth in his hand, as Isaiah 40:12 says. My sin and piety must remain here below on earth as they have to do with my life and conduct. But I have another treasure, bigger than both, in heaven above where Christ sits and holds me in his arms, covers me with his wings, and overshadows me with his grace.

You say, “How can this be when I feel my sins daily and my conscience condemns me and threatens me with God’s anger?The answer: For this reason, I say, one must learn that the righteousness of a Christian is nothing which can be named or imagined other than the forgiveness of sins, that is, a kingdom or order which deals only with sins and grace so abundant that it takes away all wrath. It is called the forgiveness of sins because we truly are sinners before God, yes, filled with sin, even though we may have all human righteousness. For where he [God] speaks of sins, those must be real and great sins; so also forgiveness is no joke, but something entirely serious. Therefore, when you take a look at this article, you have both: that sin takes away all your holiness, no matter how pious you are on earth, but also that forgiveness removes all sin and wrath. So it is that neither can your sin cast you into hell nor can your piety lift you into heaven.

Therefore, confess only this article freely and with full conviction by saying, “I may be pious in the eyes of the world and do everything I should, but in the eyes of God it is nothing other than sin according to this article.” So I am a sinner, but a sinner of the kind who now has forgiveness and sits on the throne where pure grace reigns, as Psalm 116 says. Otherwise, I would be a sinner like Judas, who saw only his sin and no forgiveness. Christians, however, no matter how much they see sin in themselves, see a much greater and more extensive grace over and around them, presented and poured out in the Word.

At this point examine yourself to see how much you know about this and whether it is so insignificant and easy a matter as the inexperienced souls think, for, if you have learned to know it and to believe it, all misfortune, death, and the devil are reduced to nothing. But since you are still smitten by sin and still so frightened and dismayed in the face of death, hell, and the judgment of God, just humble yourself and give honor to the Word and say [to yourself], “You do not yet understand.” In short, if everyone examines his own heart, he will find a false Christian who allows himself to think that he knows everything before he has learned its first letter [i.e., its most elementary point]. The subject is quickly heard, read, and the words are used, but to carry it out in practice and to make it so real that it lives within us and our conscience is grounded upon it, that is not within human ability. Therefore I say and admonish those who wish to be Christians that they always deal with it, think about it, learn it, work on it, so that we at least get a taste of it.

We see that, when Luther speaks about the fact that it is so difficult to believe in the forgiveness of sins, he is not doing that to make us afraid of this belief and draw into the likes of deeds and works, but to convince those who listen to him to grasp comfort deeply as their very own and to take it into their hearts.

If now we contrast Luther with the pietists, then I wish to say that, different from Luther, we find that Francke’s biggest concern was not to convince his hearers about the forgiveness of sins, but to dissuade them from a false conviction. So he does not teach how the poor sinner is to receive forgiveness, now that Christ has earned it, but, instead, how much it costs. Not because a person can bring himself to believe this but because there are so many other things required before a person may believe. Toward this end, Hermann Francke in his book of sermons preached emphatically on the occasion of the 19th Sunday after Trinity about what had taken place in the paralytic, especially that he was not convinced that he would be helped. Then he says further,

So it is also necessary that you yourselves beware of such thoughts, which pop up so quickly, that one can presume to comfort himself immediately with the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins, because it is much more blissful if you submit to the discipline of the Holy Spirit and give him place and space in your souls.

And in another place he says,

We do ourselves great harm when we comfort ourselves already from little up and so quickly and easily [say] that we are children of God. Believe me, dear people, that is not so easily done, or, if you do not wish to believe me, then you might perhaps learn to know it on your deathbed. Serious testings are a part of true spiritual discipline, things through which a person can feel, recognize, and be convinced that he is no child of God because of his formerly sinful life and the natural state in which he finds himself.”

As true as all this may be, if rightly understood, it still is not Luther’s way, for in the entire sermon he [Luther] proclaims forgiveness as nothing but good given to the world. He tries more than anything to have his listeners grasp faith in the forgiveness of sins and describes this faith as the only basis for satisfaction and as the goal laid down for it, as he has previously explained . . . .

Furthermore, I must now observe how Dr. Luther describes the way we attain the forgiveness of sins. These statements from his sermon for the 19th Sunday after Trinity show this:

All people who are Christians and are baptized have to power [to forgive sins]; for with that power they praise Christ and have the words “sins forgiven” on their lips so that they may and are able to say them when they wish and as often as necessary: “Look, man, God offers his grace and forgives all your sins,” “Be comforted, your sins are forgiven,” “Just believe it and it is assured,” and whatever else one might use as the wording. This declaration, “Your sins are forgiven; be of good cheer and be comforted,” should never stop among Christians until the last day. A Christian always has such a thing on his lips and openly declares that sins are forgiven. As a result and in this way, a Christian has power to forgive sins.

Therefore, if I say to you, “Your sins are forgiven,” then believe it as surely as if God himself said it to you. For who could do this if Christ himself had not descended and instructed and told me that we should forgive each other’s sins. As he says in John 20:22-23: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” And in another place, Matthew 18:19-20, he says, “If two of you agree about anything you ask for, it will be done by my Father in heaven; for where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” The Word penetrates and does this.

Now, if there were no person on earth who would forgive sins and there were only law and works, what a weak and miserable thing your troubled conscience would be!

Whoever wishes to take this away from people or to dissuade them is taking away the possibility that their sins can be forgiven; with such a person nothing helps. Thus the Anabaptists and other sectarians at one and the same time have lost the forgiveness of sins, baptism, the Sacrament [of the Altar], the Christian church, and all Christian activity because they throw away and do not count as valid the word which they hear from their neighbor, as if a cow were bellowing. Now, even if God were speaking through a cow or another animal, as he once spoke through a female donkey, yet they should not despise his word, but allow it to be valid. Why should we despise it if people speak following godly principles and order. For, even if you are hearing the word of a person, yet you would be hearing God and would be experiencing the forgiveness of sins, provided only that you accept it faithfully for yourself.

One finds among the pietists an altogether different teaching about the process of how one attains the forgiveness of sins. Yes, they do also teach that the Word, the Sacrament, and faith are the means by which one comes to it. But they do not begin with the fact that the power to forgive resides within all people and that it is enclosed in Word and Sacrament and that one must now faithfully take it and understand it from the Word and Sacrament.

A. H. Francke in his sermon about the paralytic does not waste a single word about what has become of the sinner on account of the law and that he is at a loss, in brief that he must console himself with his baptism, the Gospel, and the absolution in the Holy Supper; but he refers such a sinner to prayer, to necessary efforts, and to the helpful leading and conviction of his heart. He says:

"If a man considers in his thinking that he is a child of God although he has never experienced the power of the new birth, then it is clear nevertheless if a person consoles himself with such dishonesty and corruption that one should rather call him a child of wrath and dangation. But, if torment first begins rightly in his soul and the person asks that God make him his child, there, there, consolation stands at the door, there, there, the person will be assured by the Holy Spirit that God wishes to receive him as his child, as we have seen here with the paralytic. So dare to experience the torment! You probably believe that it is possible that God would deny you the grace which here he allowed to be granted to the paralytic; but think even more about the fact that you are in the presence of the one of greatest majesty, one who loves you, deals with you, with the very one who offered his life for you and shed his blood for you. So proceed with this wonderful torment! In keeping with this reminder, each of you, through the Lord Jesus, go into you quiet closet and pray to God, who sees in secret, etc. If you children now hearing this good counsel do not understand this word which is being spoken to you, listen to the Lord Jesus, if not to me, go into your closet and pray to God in secret, and I assure you in the name of the Lord Jesus that he will really console you, as he has consoled the paralytic, that he surely will forgive you all your sins, as it also happened here for the paralytic. Oh how sweet that comfort then will taste for you if you taste and feel it in your heart. What the Lord here said to the paralytic with these words, “Believe me, my son, your sins are forgiven.” How you will rejoice with great joy if now you recognize through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that you are children of God and heirs of eternal life. How glad youwill be if you can be sure that this comfort reaches you with courage not based on flesh and blood, but is sealed in your heart through the Holy Spirit."

Here there is not a word about forgiveness, which is the basis for this grace While Luther refers to the Word, Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as the real sources of this assurance, Francke here refers to the assurance which must be gained through prayer and torment and which comes from the feeling of one filled with the Holy Spirit and a renewed heart. Yes, what Christ said to the paralytic sounds almost like a consolation which the one who prays in his heart . . . visit. There is no mention of the fact that the same word still resounds. In the last part of his sermon, he says about this:

"In this way the Lord verified with his mighty power, which he allowed to be extended to the paralytic as he healed him suddenly with a single word, that not only were this person’s sins forgiven, but also that he has the kind of power to forgive sins on earth. He did not have to say this for the sake of the paralytic, but for our sake, for otherwise we could have thought, “Yes, that worked out very well for him there, but what has it to do with me?” Therefore, the Lord develops his evidence further, “So that you know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, etc.” With that he wished to prove that what he [Jesus] showed to one person he can also do and say to others. Your sins are forgiven."

Francke stops with this and does not speak one syllable about the ministry and agreement which is still in place. That Christ can still do the same thing is for Francke nothing other than that also now he can through his Spirit give absolution in their hearts to those who pray for it and torment themselves, that is, that he can free them from their sins. Francke refers to the Word only for the sake of those who are [newly] converted or those who have gone astray. About such a Christian he writes, “He must compare these unbelievable thoughts with the Word of God, and, if such a doubt occurs to him, he should say, ‘This is surely a true and trustworthy saying, etc.’” But Francke does not dare to refer those who have gone astray to the Word, but says further that one who has gone astray must think . . . . it is enveloped in the Gospel, in the Absolution (declaration of forgiveness), and in both sacraments.

For that reason he [Luther, not Francke] writes further as follows:

"Now when our beloved Jesus Christ had spoken in this way to the paralytic and had forgiven his sins, the scribes approached with the opinion that Christ was poking fun at God if he wished to forgive sins. This is also a necessary paragraph on which much depends. Therefore, we wish also to note it carefully. For one sees in all dreamers and renegade pastors that they all have lapsed into heresy and do not understand how sins are forgiven. For, if you were to ask the pope and all of his doctors, they would not be able to tell you what absolution accomplishes. For the entire papacy is based on this teaching that grace pours itself out over people through a mysterious power and activity, and whoever wishes to receive it must show remorse, confess, and do enough. Were you to ask, however, what absolution and the administration of both sacraments do, they would say that these are external regulations which are retained in the church. So they attach the forgiveness of sins not to the Word and to faith, but to remorse, confession, and many acts of penance."

[Translator’s note: The paragraphs following are also very likely from Luther, rather than being originally composed by Kilian, although, even after a diligent search, this translator could not find their source.]

"The Anabaptists say the same thing: 'What can baptism do for the forgiveness of sins? Is it not merely a handful of water? If we are to be washed clean of all sins, The Spirit must do that; water cannot do it.' In that way they separate the Word from forgiveness, and also do not wish to leave it at that. Unassuming people could say at this point that this power was also given to people.

The Sacramentarians also say that the Sacrament [of the Altar] consists merely of bread and wine, for which reason it is impossible to find the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament; the Spirit must forgive, what is physical does not help. Briefly stated, no renegade priest, no pastor, and no monk has been able to learn that forgiveness is a power of the kind that has been given to people, as it says here in the Gospel. Therefore, understand this so that you can speak about this matter in this way, “I know very well and I recognize that only God forgives sins, but I must also know and be able to recognize that my sins are forgiven or by what means they are forgiven.” Here the Bible teaches me and all Christians that if I want the forgiveness of sins, I must not sit in the corner and say, “O God, forgive me my sins,” and then wait to see whether an angel from heaven appears and says to me, “Your sins are forgiven.” For God promises that he wishes to come down to me in order to promise me the forgiveness of sins himself. That happens first through holy Baptism, for there his instruction says that I must be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And with this instruction comes the promise, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16[:16]).” Yes, would you say that Baptism is nothing more than water? That is true, but this water is not alone here; the Word of God is also there. So, if you go to your pastor, who has special instruction for this, or even to another Christian, and request that he share comfort and absolution with you, and he says to you, “In God’s stead I forgive you all sins through Christ,” you must be sure that your sins are actually forgiven through such an external word. For Baptism and the Word will not deceive you. That is not preached in the papist church, and until this day it has not been understood by any papist preacher. Therefore, thank God for such grace and understand that God wishes to forgive sins.

But how? In no way different from what it says here: that he has given this power to people. What Christ started here he then ordered to be continued in the church to the end of the world and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins be preached in his name. Everyone should want to understand and to look for the forgiveness of sins among people and nowhere else. For we must find them only here, for Christ’s instruction says, Luke 24[:46-47], “Did not Christ need to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in his name to all nations?” And Matthew 18[:18], “I tell you the truth, . . . whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Likewise John 20[:23], “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.” For God would not stand for this that everyone build for himself a ladder or stairs to heaven; he wishes to be the only builder. So, if you wish for your sins to be forgiven, then go and allow yourself to be baptized, if you are not already baptized; or, if you are, remind yourself of the promise which God gave at that time, and do not doubt it. Then go and become one with your neighbor, and then receive absolution. And as you hear that your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus, believe it; it is true. Then also go to the sublime Sacrament and receive there the body and blood of Christ, by which you will be convinced that this costly treasure is valid for you and belongs to you, so that you use it, etc. So we must not despise Baptism, Absolution, preaching, and the Sacrament, but must look for and find the forgiveness of sins through them. It is for this reason that God called and appointed your pastor, your father, your mother, and your Christian neighbor and planted his words in their mouths, words by which you receive comfort and forgiveness. Also, even if spoken by people, in spite of that, the word is not theirs but the word of God.

You must, however, believe it firmly and not despise it. If now a pastor baptizes a child in accord with the command of Christ, you are hearing a person who, like you, may be a sinner, but he is doing it in accord with God’s command. So, if he says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, etc.,” you should accept these words in no way other than as if God himself had spoken them God himself is making a decision about you by which you are set free from sin. Therefore, pay careful attention to this distinction, and understand what the forgiveness of sins actually means, how we become aware of it, and where we are to seek and find it, namely, that you do not have to run off anywhere else but solely to the Christian church which has the Word and Sacrament. There you must find assurance, not in heaven, as the Pharisees say and think in their accusation that Christ is blaspheming God by forgiving sins, as though no one can do this but God himself. In the face of that, be careful and say, “God has integrated the forgiveness of sins into Baptism, into the Holy Supper, and into the Word, yes, he has placed it in the mouth of every Christian person. If he comforts you, passes on to you the grace of God through the work of Christ, then you must understand and believe it in no way other than as if it came from Christ himself, as also at that time with the paralytic. So it is that the renegade pastors and dreamers are spreading dangerous heresies when they separate the Word from the forgiveness of sins. One could do that if it were human words and water, but it is God’s Word and God’s water."

[Translator’s note: Although this document as here presented adequately makes its case, that fact that it does not include a concluding summary by Kilian himself might imply that the final page of the original is missing.]

Translated by Ray Martens

[An example of the twelve pages of this sermon talk is shown below. If you would like to see all of the copies of the original document contact the Executive Director of the Texas Wendish heritage Society.]

1865.6.1 5 Jun 1865.50.jpg - 269kB

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