11 February 2011

I Cannot Get it Into My Head

The irascible German:
[E]ven though we are now in faith . . . the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say: 'After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account.' We even want to haggle with God to make him regard our life. . . .

But it cannot be done. With men you may boast: I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense. But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace. Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in the one Mediator.

I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. Still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet this is what I should and must do.
--LW 51:284 (HT: Jean Larroux)

See Steven Ozment's outstanding comments on this passage from Luther in The Age of Reform (1250-1550): An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe (Yale University Press, 1980), 375-77


Andrew said...

No doubt I expect a follow-up on Luther's two kinds of righteousness? In all honesty, these categories, which perhaps extrapolations from the Scripture, are quite helpful in clarifying the gospel and the "3rd use" of the law.

Mike Berttucci said...

and that is why Luther once said we need to continually pound the Gospel into our heads

"Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

Gary Horn said...

So fascinating that even Luther had to continually remind himself of this glorious truth. I think of him as a giant, but he was a weak man, just like me.