Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"These My Brothers"

Here follows a stark warning, call to repentance, and exhortation to Christians from Pastor Martin Luther in his sermon on the Sheep and the Goats according to our Lord Jesus Christ's explanation of Judgment Day in Matthew 25:31-46.

"If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."

Luther on Matthew 25:31-46
10. For Christ himself shows that he is speaking of the works of believing Christians, when he says: "I was hungry and ye gave me to eat," etc.; "what ye have done unto the least of these my brethren ye have done unto me." For there is no doubt that he who performs such works of mercy to Christians, must himself be a Christian and a believer; but he who does not believe in Christ, will certainly never be so kind toward a Christian, much less toward Christ, so that for his sake he would show mercy to the poor, and needy; therefore he will refer to these works at the judgment, and accordingly pronounce the verdict to both parties, to those who have done, and those who have not done these works, as a public testimony of the fruits of their faith or of their unbelief.

11. It seems as though he meant hereby to show that many Christians, after receiving the preaching of the Gospel, of the forgiveness of sins and grace through Christ, become even worse than the heathen. For he also says in, Mat. 19, 30, "Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Thus it will also be at the end of the world; those who should be honest Christians, because they heard the Gospel, are much worse and more unmerciful than they were before, as we see too many examples of this even now.

Aforetime when we were to do good works under the seduction and false worship of [works’ righteousness to earn salvation and the kingdom of heaven as taught by] the Papacy [and every false teacher], everyone was ready and willing; a prince, for example, or a city, could give more alms and a greater endowment than now all the kings and emperors are able to give. But now all the world seems to be learning nothing else than how to estimate values, to rake and scrape, to rob and steal by lying, deceiving, usury, overcharging, overrating, and the like; and every man treats his neighbor, not as though he were his friend, much less as his brother in Christ, but as his mortal enemy, and as though he intended to snatch all things to himself and begrudge everything to others.
12. This goes on daily, is constantly increasing, is a very common practice and custom. among all classes of people, among princes, the nobility, burghers, peasants, in all courts, cities, villages, yes in almost every home. Tell me, what city is now so strong and pious as to be able to raise an amount sufficient to support a schoolmaster or a preacher? Yes, if we did not already have the liberal alms and endowments of our forefathers, the Gospel would long ago have disappeared in the cities on account of the burghers, and in the country because of the nobility and peasants, and poor preachers would have nothing to eat nor to drink. For we do not love to give, but would rather take even by force what others have given and endowed. Therefore it is no credit to us that a single pulpit or school is still maintained. Yea, how many there are among the great, the powerful, and the rich, especially in the Papacy, who would like to see nothing better than all preachers, schools, and arts exterminated.

13. Such are the thanks to the blessed Gospel, by which men have been freed from the bondage and plagues of the [works’ righteousness of the] Pope [and other false teachers within Christendom], that they must become so shamefully wicked in these last times. They are now no more unmerciful, no more in a human, but in a satanic way; they are not satisfied with being allowed to enjoy the Gospel, and grow fat by robbing and stealing the revenues of the church, but they must also be scheming with all their power how they may completely starve out the Gospel. One can easily count upon his fingers, what they who enjoy the Gospel are doing and giving, here and elsewhere; and, were it only for us now living, there would long since have been no preacher or student from whom our children and descendants might know what we had taught and believed.

14. In short, what do you think Christ will say on that day, seated on his judgment throne, to such unmerciful Christianity? "Dear Sir, listen, you have also pretended to be a Christian and boasted of the Gospel; did you not also hear this sermon that I myself preached, in which I told you what my verdict and decision would be: 'Depart from me, ye cursed?' I was hungry and thirsty, naked and sick, poor and in prison, and ye gave me no meat, no drink, clothed me not, took me not in, and visited me not. Why have ye neglected this, and have been more shameless and unmerciful toward your own brethren than the Turk or heathen?"

Will you excuse yourself by pleading: "Lord, when saw we thee hungry or thirsty?" etc. Then he will answer you again through your own conscience: Dear Sir, were there no people who preached to you; or perhaps poor students who should have at the time been studying and learning God's Word, or were there no poor, persecuted Christians whom you ought to have fed, clothed and visited?

15. We ought really to be ashamed of ourselves, having had the example of parents, ancestors, lords and kings, princes and others, who gave so liberally and charitably, even in profusion, to churches, ministers, schools, endowments, hospitals and the like; and by such liberal giving neither they nor their descendants were made poorer. What would they have done, had they had the light of the Gospel that is given unto us? How did the Apostles and their followers in the beginning bring all they had for their poor widows, or for those who had nothing, or who were banished and persecuted, in order that no one among them might suffer for the necessities of life! In this way poor Christians should at all times support one another. Otherwise, as I have said, the Gospel, the pulpit, churches and schools would already be completely exterminated, no matter how much the rest of the world did.

Were it not for the grace of God, by which he gives us here and there a pious prince, or godly government, which preserves the fragments still left, that all may not be destroyed by the graspers and vultures, thieves and robbers; were it not for this grace, I say, the poor pastors and preachers would not only be starved, but also murdered. Nor are there now any other poor people than those who serve, or are being trained to serve the church; and these can obtain no support elsewhere, and must leave their poor wives and children die of hunger because of an indifferent world; on the other hand the world is full of useless, unfaithful, wicked fellows among day-laborers, lazy mechanics, servants, maids, and idle, greedy beggars, who everywhere by lying, deceiving, robbing and stealing, take away the hard-earned bread and butter from those who are really poor, and yet go unpunished in the midst of their wantonness and insolence.
16. This I say, that we may see how Christ will upbraid the false liars and hypocrites among Christians, on the day of judgment, and having convicted them before all creatures will condemn them, because they have done none of the works which even the heathen do to their fellows; who did much more in their false and erroneous religion, and would have done it even more willingly had they known better.

17. Since now this terrible condemnation is justly pronounced over those who neglected these works, what will happen to those who have not only neglected the same, have given nothing to the poor Christians, nor served them; but robbed them of what they had, drove them to hunger, thirst and nakedness, furthermore persecuted, scattered, imprisoned, and murdered them? These are so unutterably wicked, so utterly condemned to the bottomless pit with the devil and his angels, that Christ will not think or speak of them. But he will assuredly not forget these robbers, tyrants, and bloodhounds any more than he will forget or pass over unrewarded those who have suffered hunger thirst, nakedness, persecution and the like, especially for his and his Word's sake. He will not forget those to whom mercy has been shown, even though he speaks only to those who have shown mercy and have lent their aid; for he highly and nobly commends them, when he says. "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me."

18. On account of this judgment fear and trembling might well seize our great spiritual prelates, as they call themselves, the popes, cardinals, bishops, canons, priests, and then whole diabolical rabble of the anti-christian crowd at Rome, and everywhere, in their monasteries and brothels, if they were not altogether hardened and deliberately given to Satan, body and soul. They think and act as though they were especially appointed to snatch to themselves every thing that belongs to the poor church, and in their own wantonness to consume, spend, waste, squander, in dissipation, gambling and debauchery, in the most shameful and scandalous manner, whatever has been given for the maintenance of students, schools and the poor people. They mock God and man, 2 Pet. 2, 13; yea, they publicly murder innocent, pious people.

19. Yea, woe, another and eternal woe, to them and to all who side with them. For it had been, better for them, had they never been born, as Christ says of Judas. Therefore they ought rather to wish that their mothers had drowned them in their first bath, or that they had never come forth from the womb, than that one of them should have become pope or cardinal or a popish priest. For they are nothing else than merely desperate and select ones, not highway robbers, but public country-thieves, who take, not the goods of the mighty and the powerful that really have something, but of the poor and wretched, of the parish churches, schools, and hospitals, whose morsels are snatched from their teeth, and whose drink is torn from their mouths, so that they are unable to maintain life.

20. Therefore let every man beware of the Pope, the bishops, and the priesthood, as he would beware of those who have already been condemned alive to the abyss of perdition. Truly Paul did not prophesy in vain, 2 Tim. 3, 1, that in the last days perilous times shall come. Yet all the world moves along indifferently and gives no heed to this terrible judgment that has already been decided against such unmerciful robbers, thieves, and murderers of poor Christians, but especially against those who pretend to be Christians, who after having received grace slide back again, and like a dog eat their own vomit, or as the swine wallow in their own filth, 2 Pet. 2,20-22, and thus, having been first, become last before anyone is aware of it….
34. Right unwillingly do I prophesy; for I have often experienced how it came true; but the same conditions, alas, prevail now everywhere; and I fear and must almost resign myself that Germany may have the same experience as Sodom and Jerusalem, and will be a thing of the past; it will either be destroyed by the Turks or it will crumble by its own hand, unless the last day overtake it soon. For the present conditions are altogether unbearable and so exceedingly bad that they cannot become worse; and if there be still a God, he cannot thus let matters go on unpunished.

35. And now the world will not take heed, nor recognize that it must die and stand before God in judgment, but it rages against recognized truth. Let us give heed and take it to heart, that the wrath of God may not also sweep us away. For what else would God need to do to that end, than let loose both the Turks and Satan against us. The Turk would be compelled to cease doing what he has done and is still doing, were we not so hardened in blindness and impenitence, and so completely ripe for judgment. The reason is that we rage so blasphemously against God's Word and his proffered help, and then in addition make our boast against the Turk.

36. And I hold that, if we Lutherans, as they call us, were only dead, the whole world would immediately cry, "Victory," as though they had already devoured every single Turk. But it shall happen to them also that a hundred shall be slain by one Turk. And when the cry of murder is once heard, how unmercifully the Turks will cut in pieces all people, men, women, and children. Then shall we also begin to cry and lament. It shall come to pass that we shall do as did the Jews, put Christ out of the way. When he has been crucified, we shall be able to take care of the Turk, as Squire Caiaphas and the Jews took care of the Romans; thus the younkers at Jerusalem thought, if they could only put the prophet Jeremiah out of the way, they would surely be safe from the king of Babylon. What happened? After they had cast Jeremiah into the dungeon, the king came and led them all into captivity.

Thus I can also see that God has spun a web over Germany as it is determined to be guilty in the same manner of willful blindness, defiance, wickedness, contempt, and ungratefulness in opposing the precious Gospel. It is determined to be guilty of foolishness before God, for which it will have to pay dearly. May God preserve us, and grant us and our little flock that we may escape this terrible wrath, and be found among those who honor and serve our dear Christ, and await the judgment at his right hand joyously and blissfully. Amen.

1 comment:

I. M. Abaldy II said...

The entire sermon can be found @ http://www.orlutheran.com/html/mlsermmt2531-42.html