Martin Luther - On the Freedom of a Christian

Its object is not to lay men under obligations nor

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Unformatted text preview: must begin, not by working, but by believing, since it is this which makes the person good. For nothing makes the person good but faith, nor bad but unbelief. 675 676 677 678 679 680 681 682 683 It is certainly true that, in the sight of men, a man becomes good or evil by his works; but here 'becoming" means that it is thus shown and recognized who is good or evil; as Christ says: "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt.. vii. 20.) But all this stops at appearances and externals; and in this matter very many deceive themselves, when they presume [123] to write and teach that we are to be justified by good works, and meanwhile make no mention even of faith, walking in their own ways, ever deceived and deceiving, going from bad to worse, blind leaders of the blind, wearying themselves with many works, and yet never attaining to true righteousness; of whom Paul says: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. iii. 5, 7.) 684 685 686 687 688 689 He then, who does not wish to go astray with these blind ones, must look further than to the works of the law or the doctrine of works; nay, must turn away his spirit from works, and look to the person, and to the manner in which it may be justified. Now it is justified and saved, not by works or laws, but by the word of God, that is, by the promise of His grace; so that the glory may be to the Divine majesty, which has saved us who believe, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, by the word of His grace. 690 691 692 693 694 695 696 697 From all this it is easy to perceive on what principle good works are to be cast aside or embraced, and by what rule all teachings put forth concerning works are to be understood. For if works are brought forward as grounds of justification, and are done under the false persuasion that we can pretend to be justified by them, they lay on us the yoke of necessity, and extinguish liberty along with faith, and by this very addition to their use, they become no longer good, but really worthy of condemnation. For such works are not free, but blaspheme the grace of God, to which alone it belongs to justify and save through faith. Works cannot accomplish this, and yet, with impious presumption, through our folly, they take it on themselves to do so; and thus break in with violence upon the office and glory of grace. 698 699 700 701 702 We do not then reject good works; nay, we embrace them and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that we condemn them, but on account of this impious addition to them, and the perverse notion of seeking justification by them. These things cause them to be only good in outward show, but in reality not good; since by them men are deceived and deceive others, like ravening wolves in sheep's clothing. 703 704 705 706 707 708 709 Now this Leviathan, this perverted notion about works, is invincible, when sincere faith is wanting. For those sanctified [124] doers of works cannot but hold it, till faith, which destroys it, comes and reigns in the heart. Nature cannot expel it by her own power; nay, cannot even see it for what it is, but considers it as a most holy will. And when custom steps in besides, and strengthens this pravity of nature, as has happened by means of impious teachers, then the evil is incurable, and leads astray multitudes to irreparable ruin. Therefore, though it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession, and satisfaction, yet if, we stop there, and do not go on to teach faith, such teaching is without doubt 17 710 711 deceitful and devilish. For Christ, speaking by His servant John, not only said : "Repent ye;" but added: "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. iii. 2.) 712 713 714 715 716 717 718 719 For not one word of God only, but both, should be preached; new and old things should be brought out of the treasury, as well the voice of the law, as the word of grace. The voice of the law should be brought forward, that men may be terrified and brought to a knowledge of their sins, and thence be converted to penitence and to a better manner of life. But we must not stop here; that would be to w...
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This document was uploaded on 02/07/2014.

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