The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained Part 8

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The husband is also G.o.d's instrument, but he is stronger, while the wife is weaker bodily, as well as timid and more easily dispirited; therefore, you are so to conduct and walk in respect to her, that she may be able to bear it. You must proceed in this case just as with other instruments wherewith you labor; just as when you would have a good sickle, you must not hack upon the stone with it. On this subject no rule can be laid down. G.o.d leaves the matter to each individually, that he shall treat his wife in accordance with reason, according to the circ.u.mstances of each woman: for you are not to use the authority which you have, according to your own will, for you are her husband for this very purpose, that you may help to guide and support her,--not that you should destroy her. Hence none can lay you down a rule with exact limitations; you must understand yourself how you are to proceed in accordance with reason.

Thus we have now heard in regard to husbands, also, what good works those who please G.o.d are to perform,--namely, that they dwell with their wives, endear themselves to them, and walk soberly with them.

Things cannot always go on as you would be glad to have them.

Therefore do you see to it that you act like a husband, and have so much the more discretion, when it is lacking in the wife, while you are to connive at some matters, tolerate and pardon some things,[2]

and give to the wife, also, her honor.

[Footnote 2: "Not disclosing the weaknesses of the wife to others, nor observing them too narrowly himself, but hiding them both from others, and his own eyes, by love: not seeing them further than love itself requires."--_Leighton_.]

This _honor_ has been explained, I hardly know how. Some have interpreted it thus: that the husband should procure food, drink, and clothing for the wife, and should nourish her. Some have referred it to marriage duties. I hold this to be the meaning, as I have said, that the husband should treat the wife as consists with her being a Christian, and a vessel or instrument of G.o.d. And thus they are both to conduct: the wife is to hold the husband in honor, and on the other hand also the husband is to give to the wife her honor. If matters were thus directed, they would go on harmoniously, in peace and love. Yet where this course is wanting, there will be more disgust in the marriage state. Hence it comes to pa.s.s, when man and wife take one another from nothing but l.u.s.t, and imagine they will have happiness and the gratification of appet.i.te, that they experience mere heart-anguish. But if you have a regard to G.o.d's work and will, then may you live christianly in marriage,--not like the heathen, who know not what G.o.d requires.

_As heirs together of the grace of life._ The husband is not to dwell on this, that the wife is weak and fragile, but on this, that she also is baptized, and has the same that he has,--all blessings in Christ. For inwardly we are all alike, and there is no difference between man and woman, but as to the outward condition, it is G.o.d's pleasure that the husband rule, and the wife be subject to him.

_That your prayers be not hindered._ What does St. Peter mean by that? This is his meaning; if you do not act in accordance with reason, but will find fault, and murmur, and proceed arbitrarily, and in this give occasion for error, so that neither can overlook another's fault, and take all for the best, then will you be unable to pray, and say, "Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive." By prayer we are to strive against the devil, therefore we must be subject one to another. These are the truly precious good works which we are to do. If this is preached and understood, we shall all have our homes full of good deeds.--Thus we have heard how a Christian should conduct himself in all varieties of condition, but especially in his relations to others. It follows now, further, how we all, in common one with another, should lead, as to our outward condition, a christian life.

V. 8-12. _Finally, be ye all like-minded, have compa.s.sion one of another, be compa.s.sionate, affectionate as brethren, heartily kind, courteous. Render not evil for evil, or railing for railing, but on the contrary, blessing; and know, that ye are hereunto called, that ye should inherit the blessing. For whoso loveth life and would see prosperity, let him refrain his tongue, that it speak not evil, and his lips that they bear no guile. Turn thyself from evil and do good, seek out peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord behold the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil._

All this is said only to this end, that we should have mutual love one to another. For here that which the Scripture sometimes expresses in few words, is much enlarged upon. St. Peter would say, the _summa summarum_ as to how you are to treat one another in your outward conduct is, that ye be like-minded. This matter the Apostles Peter and Paul often bring forward, and this much is said, that we all should have one mind, one spirit, one thought; what seems to one right and good, let this also seem to another right and good. It is an important, note-worthy matter, that should be well understood; St.

Paul has spoken much particularly upon it.

We cannot all of us do the same kind of work, but every one must labor each for himself,--a husband in a different sphere from the wife, a servant in a different sphere from the master, and so throughout. And it is a foolish thing to preach that we should all do one work, as those senseless preachers have done who preach the legends of the saints,--that _these_ saints have done _that_ work, _those_, another, and then insist and say we should do the same.

It is doubtless true that Abraham did a good work, highly to be esteemed, when he offered up his son, since this was particularly commanded him of G.o.d. When the heathen did the same and would sacrifice their children likewise, this was an act of cruelty in the sight of G.o.d. So, also, King Solomon did well in building the temple, and G.o.d justly rewarded him for it. And our blind fools, now, would also do the same,[3] and preach that we must build churches and temples for G.o.d, while G.o.d has given us no command on the subject. So it now comes to pa.s.s, that men busy themselves with a single kind of employment, and have many views in it directly in opposition to the Gospel.

[Footnote 3: Luther here doubtless refers to what he regarded as the foolish project of the Pope in attempting to build the church of St.

Peter, at Rome,--the project which sent Tetzel into Germany, and made the sale of indulgences so common and obnoxious.--[_Trans._]]

But this is what should be taught, that there should be a single aim and many employments, one heart and many hands: all should not follow one business, but every one should attend to his own; otherwise there will not remain unity of aim and heart. As to what is external, it must be permitted to remain of a manifold character, so that every one abide in that which has been committed to him, and the work that he has in hand. This is a true doctrine, and it is exceedingly necessary that it should be well understood; for the devil expends his care particularly on this, and has brought things into such a state, that judgment is pa.s.sed on the employment, and every one thinks that his own should be counted better than another's; hence it has come to pa.s.s, that men are so disunited one with another, monks against priests, one Order against another, for every one has wished to do the best work: thus they must satisfy themselves, and they have given themselves up to the Order, and think this Order is better than that. There is that of the Augustines against that of the Preaching Monks, that of the Carthusians against the Barefooted Friars, and nowhere is there greater want of unanimity than among the Orders.

But if it has been taught that, in the sight of G.o.d, no employment is better than another, but that through faith all are alike,--then will all hearts remain united, and we are all alike mutually disposed, and shall also say,--the Order, or the mode of life which the bishop leads, is in G.o.d's sight no more accounted of than that which a poor man leads; the mode of life which the nun leads is no better than that which a married woman leads; and the same in respect to all varieties of condition.

But this they will not hear to, but every one maintains his own for the best, and says, Ah! how much better and more important is my state, in the Order, than the state of a common man.

Thus to have one aim is, that every one should regard his own employment like the others, and that the condition of the married woman is just as good as that of the virgin, as all are indeed alike in the sight of G.o.d, who judges according to the heart and faith, not by the person or according to the works; so that we, also, are to judge as G.o.d judges, and then are we of one mind, and unanimity remains in the world, and hearts remain unestranged, so that there is no deriding on account of the external condition; all this I hold to be excellent, and am well satisfied with every man's employment, whatever it be, if it only be not sinful in itself.

Of this St. Paul also speaks, 2 Cor. xi., "I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus,"--that is, lest the devil so beguile you, and pervert and divide that simplicity of aim which you have. So, Phil. iv., "The peace of G.o.d, which pa.s.seth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." Why does the Apostle lay so much stress on the aim of the mind? Because it all consists in this, that when I am brought to cherish a false aim, everything is already lost; as in case I am a monk, and have adopted such a view as that my works are of more worth in the sight of G.o.d than others, and say, "G.o.d be thanked that I have become a monk; my state is now far preferable to the common one of marriage:" in which case, from such a view there must spring a proud spirit, and it cannot fail that I should count myself more righteous than another, and should despise other people while I deceive myself. For a married woman, if she abides in faith, is better in the sight of G.o.d than I am with the Order I belong to. So that when this is understood, that faith brings with it all that a Christian ought to have, we all of us have one aim and view, and there is no difference among works.

Wherefore we are thus to understand this pa.s.sage of St. Peter, that he means the aim of the soul,--not that which refers to outward matters,--and an internal view or plan which aspires to those things that are esteemed with G.o.d; so that both the doctrine and the life be one, and I hold that for excellent which you hold as excellent,--and again, that is well-pleasing to you which is well-pleasing to me, as I have said. This sense of things is possessed by Christians, and to this view we should hold fast, that it may not be perverted, as St.

Paul says; for when the devil has corrupted it, he has forced the castle of true purity, and all then is lost.

V. 8. _Be ye compa.s.sionate, affectionate as brethren, heartily kind, courteous._ To be compa.s.sionate is, that one should make himself a sharer with another, and have a heart to feel his neighbor's necessity. When misfortune overtakes him you are not to think,--Ah!

it is right, it is no more than he should have, he has well deserved it. Where there is love, it identifies itself with its neighbor; and when it goes ill with him, the heart feels it as though it were its own experience. But to be brotherly (affectionate as brethren) is this much, that one should regard another as his own brother. This certainly may be easily understood, for nature itself teaches it; by which you see what those that are truly brothers are, that they are united more heartily together than any friends even. So ought we, as Christians, to act; for we are all brethren by baptism,--so that after baptism even father and mother are brother and sister, for I have the same blessing and inheritance that they have from Christ, through faith.

_Heartily kind,--Viscerosi._ This word I cannot explain except by giving an ill.u.s.tration. Observe how a mother or a father act toward their child,--as when a mother sees her child enduring anguish, her whole inward being is moved, and her heart within her body; whence is derived that mode of speech that occurs in many places in Scripture.

Of this we have an example in I. Kings iii., where two women contended before King Solomon for a child, and each claimed the child. And when the king would discover which was the real mother of the child, he must appeal to nature, whereby he detects it; and he said to the two women, You say that the child is yours, while you say also that it is yours: well, then, bring hither a sword and divide the child into two parts, and give one part to this woman, and another to that. Thus he attained knowledge as to which was the real mother; and the text tells us that she was inwardly affected with anxiety for the child, and said, No! no! rather give the child whole to this woman, and let it live. Then the king p.r.o.nounced his decision and said, That is the true mother; take the child and give it to her.

Hence you may understand what this word _heartily_ means.

This is what St. Peter would say: that we should conduct ourselves toward one another like those that are truly friends by blood, as with them the whole heart is moved, the life, the pulse, and all the powers; so here, also, the course should be heartily kind, and motherly, and the heart should be thoroughly penetrated. Such a disposition should one christian man bear towards another. But the standard is indeed set high; few will be found who bear such a hearty love to their neighbor,--as when it is seen that a necessity is imposed that they should have an affection like that which a mother has for a child,--such that it presses through the heart and through every vein. Hence you see what the monks' and nuns' state of life is; how far it is removed from such hearty love: if all they have were to be smelted together in one man, not one drop of such christian love as this would be found in it. Wherefore let us look to ourselves and be jealous over ourselves, whether we can find in ourselves such a kind of love. This is a short lesson and quick spoken, but it goes deep and spreads itself wide.

_Courteous_, is, that we lead outwardly a gentle, pleasing, lovely behaviour,--not merely that we should sympathize one with another, as a father and mother for their child, but also that we should walk in love and gentleness one with another.[4] There are some men rough and knotty, like a tree full of knots,--so uncivil, that no one will readily have anything to do with them. Hence it happens that they are usually full of suspicion, and become soon angry; with whom none of their own choice are familiar. But there are gentle people, who interpret all for the best, and are not suspicious; do not permit themselves to be soon irritated; can at least understand something as well meant; such persons as are called _Candidos_. This virtue St.

Paul names [Greek: chrestotes], as it is often praised by him.

[Footnote 4: "The least difficulties and scruples in a tender conscience should not be roughly encountered; they are as a knot in a silken thread, and require a gentle and wary hand to loose them."--_Leighton_.]

Now consider the Gospel, which portrays the Lord Christ so distinctly, that we may trace this virtue especially in Him: now the Pharisees a.s.sault Him, and now again, others, that they might take Him,--yet He does not suffer Himself to become enraged. And although the Apostles often stumble, and act a foolish part here and there, He nowhere a.s.sails them with angry words, but is ever courteous, and attracts them toward Himself, so that they remained with Him cheerfully and heartily, and walked with Him. This likewise we see among kind friends and societies on earth, wherever there are two or three good friends, who have a good understanding one with another: though one acts a foolish part, the other can readily pardon him.

There is represented in some measure that which St. Peter here intends, although it is not perfectly set forth, for this courteousness is to be considered obligatory upon every one individually. Hence you see the true nature of love, and how excellent a people Christians should be. The angels in heaven live with one another thus, and so should it also, in justice, be on earth; but rarely does it take place.

As St. Peter has already said, that the man servant and the maid servant, the husband and wife, should so conduct themselves that each should attend to that business of his own which he is to discharge, so would He have us all do generally, one with another. Therefore, if you would be certain and a.s.sured that you are doing an excellent deed, that is pleasing to G.o.d, set yourself in G.o.d's name in opposition to whatever has been preached in the devil's name, whereby the world walks and seeks to merit heaven. For how can you be better a.s.sured that you are acceptable with G.o.d, than when you observe, as he here says, the works which a man should do, the conduct which every one should lead, that he be compa.s.sionate, brotherly affectionate, heartily kind, courteous? In this he says nothing of those fool-works whereof we have been taught; says not, "build churches, found ma.s.ses, be a priest, wear a cowl, vow chast.i.ty, &c.;"

but this is his language: See to it that you be courteous. These are truly precious, golden deeds, precious stones and pearls, which are well pleasing to G.o.d.

But with this the devil cannot rest content, for he knows that thereby his interests are thrown to the ground; therefore he devises what he can to suppress such doctrine, incites monks and priests to cry out, "Do you say that our matters are nothing at all? that is for you to talk like the devil." But reply to them then, Do you not know that there must be good works, whereof St. Peter here speaks,--to wit, that we be brotherly affectionate, heartily kind, and courteous?

if these are the best, as must be confessed, you must be false in regard to your works, if you think they are better. I am really astonished that such blindness could come upon us; for Thomas, the preaching monk, has written, and says, shamelessly, that monks and priests are in a better state than ordinary Christians. This the high schools have confirmed, and men have been Doctorated for it. After them the Pope and his mult.i.tude have gone, and have exalted those to be saints, who teach such doctrine.

Therefore understand this, as I have said,--for Christ Himself and all His Apostles have so taught,--if you would do the most excellent good works, and be in the best condition of life, you will find them nowhere else but in faith and love; that is the highest state of all.

So that it must be an error, when they choose to say, their state is better than faith and love; for if it be better than faith, it is better than G.o.d's word, but if it be better than G.o.d's word, it is better than G.o.d Himself. Therefore Paul has truly said, that Anti-Christ should exalt himself before G.o.d. Be informed in this way so as to judge of these things; where love and friendship are wanting, there, certainly, all works are condemned and trodden under foot. Thus we see why St. Peter has so confidently expatiated on the external character of a truly christian life, as he taught us above, in a masterly manner, how the inward (spiritual) life should be ordered toward G.o.d. Wherefore this epistle is to be regarded as a truly golden epistle. Whereupon it follows, further:

V. 9. _Render not evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but on the other hand blessing, and know that ye are called thereunto, that ye should inherit the blessing._ But this is a still further ill.u.s.tration of love, showing how we should act toward those that injure and persecute us. If any one does you evil--this is his meaning--do him good; if any one rails at and curses you, then you are to bless and wish him well; for this is an important part of love. O Lord G.o.d! what a rarity such Christians are! But why should we return good for evil? Because, says he, ye are called thereunto that ye should inherit the blessing, so that ye should suffer yourselves to be attracted towards it.

In the Scriptures we Christians are called a people of blessing, or a blessed people. For thus said G.o.d to Abraham, Gen. xii.: "In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed." Since G.o.d has so richly shed down this blessing upon us, in that He takes away from us all the malediction and the curse which we have derived to ourselves from our first parents, as well as that which Moses suffered to go forth upon the disobedient, so that we are now filled with blessing, we ought so to conduct ourselves that it shall be said of us, That is a blessed people. So that this is what the Apostle here means: See, G.o.d has shown you His favor, and has taken away from you the curse, and the reviling wherewith you have dishonored Him; He neither imputes nor punishes, but has bestowed upon you such rich grace and blessing, while ye were only worthy of all malediction, inasmuch as ye reviled G.o.d without intermission (for where there is unbelief the heart must ever curse G.o.d): do ye also as has been done toward you; curse not, rail not, do well, speak well, even though you are treated ill, and endure it where you are unrighteously used. Hereupon he quotes a pa.s.sage out of the x.x.xiii. Ps., where the prophet David speaks thus:

V. 10. _Whoso will love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips that they do not deceive._ That is, whoever would have a pleasure and a joy in life, and would not die the death, but see good days, so that it shall go well with him, let him keep his tongue that it speak not evil, not only in respect to his friends, for that is a small virtue and a thing which even the wickedest of all may do, even snakes and vipers,--but also, he says, maintain a kind spirit, and keep your tongue silent even against your enemies, though you are even incited thereto--though you have cause to rail and speak evil.

Besides, keep your lips, he says, that they do not deceive. There are probably many who give good words, and say _good morning_ to their neighbor, but they think in their heart, The devil take you. These are people who have not inherited the blessing; they are the evil fruit of an evil tree. Therefore St. Peter has introduced a pa.s.sage which refers to works, even to their root,--that is, what springs from within out of the heart.[5] Furthermore, the pa.s.sage in the prophet says:

[Footnote 5: "A guileful heart makes guileful tongue and lips. It is the workhouse where is the forge of deceits and slanders, and other evil speakings; and the tongue is only the outer shop where they are vended, and the lips the door of it. So then such ware as is made within, such and no other can be set out. That which the heart is full of, runs over by the tongue."--_Leighton_.]

V. 11. _Let him turn away from evil and do good, let him seek peace and pursue after it, for the eyes of the Lord behold the righteous._ The world considers this as satisfaction when one man does injustice to another, that his head should be cut off. But this brings one none the nearer to peace. For no king, even, ever attained to be in peace before his enemies. The Roman empire was so powerful that it struck down all that set itself against it; still for all this it could not be preserved. Therefore this method is of no avail toward reaching peace, for though a man should prostrate and silence his foe, ten and twenty rise up again after it, till at length he is compelled to yield. But he who seeks after the true peace, and moreover would find it, let him restrain his tongue; let him turn away from evil and do good: this is a course different from that which the world pursues.

To turn from evil and to do good is, that when a man hears evil words, he be able to overlook the wickedness and injustice. Seek thus after peace, so shall you find it; when your enemy has wasted his breath and done all that he can, if you hear him, but rail and rant not back, he must subdue himself by his own violence. For thus Christ also on the cross subdued his enemies, not by the sword or by violence. Therefore is it a saying, which should be written with gold, where it says, "Striking back again makes hatred, and whoever strikes back again is unjust." Thence it must follow that not to strike back again makes peace. But how can this be? Is it then a thing not human? Certainly it does not accord with human nature; but if you in this manner suffer unjustly and do not strike back again, but let the matter go, it shall come to pa.s.s as hereafter follows:

V. 12. _The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry, but the face of the Lord is against those that do evil._ If you do not revenge yourself and do not repay evil with evil, there is the Lord in heaven above who cannot tolerate wrong, wherefore he that does not strike back must have his right. These He beholds; their prayer reaches His ear; He is our protector and will not forget us, while if we cannot escape from His eyes, we should comfort ourselves with the thought:--that is, this should induce a christian man to endure all injustice with patience, and not return evil. If I properly reflect, I see that the soul which does me wrong must burn forever in h.e.l.l-fire. Therefore a christian heart should speak on this wise: Dear Father, since this man falls so sadly under Thy wrath and so miserably throws himself into h.e.l.l-fire, I pray that Thou wouldest forgive him, and do to him even as Thou hast done toward me since Thou hast rescued me from condemnation. But how comes this? Thus: while He graciously looks down upon the righteous, He also looks angrily at the wicked, wrinkles His brow and turns it in indignation upon them; when we know then that He looks upon us graciously and upon them with disfavor, we ought to suffer ourselves to pity and mourn for them, and pray for them. Furthermore, St. Peter says:

V. 13-16. _And who is he that will harm you, if ye follow after that which is good. Blessed are ye if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, and be not afraid for their terror, neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord G.o.d in your hearts. But be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks the reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, and have a good conscience, so that they who speak of you as evil-doers may be put to shame, that they have falsely accused your good conduct in Christ._

If we follow after that which is good,--that is, do not reward evil with evil, but are heartily kind and courteous, etc., then there is none that can injure us. For though our honor, life and property should be taken away, we are still uninjured. Hence we have a blessing that is incomparable,--one that none can take from us. Those who persecute us have nothing but prosperity on earth, but thereafter, eternal condemnation, while we have an eternal, incorruptible good, although we lose a small temporal blessing.

V. 14. _Blessed are ye if ye suffer for righteousness' sake._ Not only, he says, can no one injure you if ye suffer for G.o.d's sake, but blessed are ye also, and ye should rejoice that ye are to suffer, as Christ also says in the sixth of Matthew: "Happy are ye when men deride and persecute you for my sake, and speak every kind of evil against you, falsely; rejoice, and be exceeding glad." Whoever then apprehends this, that it is the Lord speaks such things, and so tenderly speaks comfort to his heart, he stands well; but to whom this does not bring strength, it makes him sad and complaining,--he may well remain unstrengthened.

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The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained Part 8 summary

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