15 September 2010

Luther to a Discouraged Young Man

In 1530 Luther wrote a letter to 31-year-old Jerome Weller, who had lived in Luther's home for eight years before becoming a theology professor in Freiburg. Weller was extremely shy and often depressed. Though the letter is not explicit, I believe Weller was discouraged at this time because of failures in sexual purity. Luther wrote to his downcast friend:
This temptation is more necessary to you than food and drink. Let me remind you what happened to me when I was about your age. When I first entered the monastery it came to pass that I was sad and downcast, nor could I lay aside my melancholy. On this account I made confession to and took counsel with Dr. Staupitz and opened to him what horrible and terrible thoughts I had. Then said he: 'Don't you know, Martin, that this temptation is useful and necessary to you? God does not exercise you thus without reason. You will see that he intends to use you as his servant to accomplish great things.' And so it turned out. . . . although at the time when I suffered this temptation I never would have believed it possible. . . .

Whenever the devil pesters you . . . at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some sin in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. . . .

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.
Martin Luther

--quoted in Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death (Harvard University Press 2000), 122-23

A cold, sluggish heart will take this as encouragement to sin. One way this is mitigated is by remembering the kind of person to whom this letter was directed. Fundamentally, though: a heart sensitized to the gospel and to our own startling ongoing sin even as those who have been born again will find, with me, a world of gospel wisdom and sanity here.


Anonymous said...

"Whenever the devil pesters you, at once seek out the company of men..."

Of men? Or of God?

'Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him" -Psalm 34:8

"A cold, sluggish heart" Dane? Is it not rather, a cold sluggish heart, that does not run to it's Father, the Only One Who can help? Or one who knows, "in Him" is our only hope? That the way through...is not found in men, nor in consolations of sin...(shall I sin more that grace may abound? God forbid!)...but in Christ alone?

"This God—his way is perfect;

the word of the Lord proves true;

he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?

And who is a rock, except our God?—

32 the God who equipped me with strength

and made my way blameless.

33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer

and set me secure on the heights.
Psalms 18:30-33 (ESV)

Dane Ortlund said...

It's a matter of basic internet integrity to provide a full name when leaving a comment, esp when disagreeing. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

So you judge me. sad smile

Spoken gently...You want integrity? I asked my husband how to post a comment on your blog, and he said, "You don't have a URL or google account...just post as anonymous."

And, since he is not at home to help me jump through the hoops that you demand...you will have to ask your father who I am. Just blogged to his site this morning, and mentioned reading yours. In integrity.

Dane Ortlund said...

Thanks for the follow-up.

There are no hoops to jump thru. Just leave your name at the end of your comment.

Not sure what you mean by 'blogged to' my dad's site.


Anonymous said...

Hello again,

My name is Martha. And though I apparently do not understand even "basic internet integrity" (:-)) it would seem that you are side-stepping grappling with the truths of Psalm 18.

BTW-Have long loved Martin Luther, yet he is, after all, as are all, simply men, and flawed. His statement, "My conscience is captive to the Word of God... to go against conscience is neither right nor safe," a personal favorite.

Dane Ortlund said...

Thanks for the comment Martha.

Anonymous said...

You are welcome, Dane. :-)

God be with you. :-)