John Edwards (1637-1716) on the necessity of doctrinal preaching

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Knowledge is as necessary as practice in religion, yea even in the Christian religion. Which I will evince from these three propositions:

1. Knowledge is a necessary ingredient or part of Christianity, and consequently unless divine principles and truths be taught us, which are the true matter of our knowledge, our Christianity is imperfect. There wants a main and essential part of it, such a part as is absolutely requisite to make the other parts useful. For this is certain, that the practical parts of Christianity will be wholly insignificant, if they be separated from this. The reason is plain, because fearing and loving of God and keeping his commandments, are duties that can’t be practised aright without a due knowledge. Therefore a preacher must make his people knowing in religion. This is not his trade, as some reproachfully term it, but it is that which the nature of his high calling and office requires of him. For truth is a talent committed to us, and we are the trustees of this precious depositum. All our hearers have a right to share in this sacred treasure, and we must with faithfulness impart it to them. We must beware of imaginary draughts of Christianity, of false schemes of the Gospel, of which there are sundry extant at this day. These we must carefully avoid, and be very frequent in insisting on the fundamental articles of our faith, because our religion consists in true principles as well as right practice.

2. We ought to be very solicitous and careful in this matter, because, if our knowledge and our principles be corrupted, our practice will be so too. It cannot be otherwise, because the former have so great and so immediate an influence on the latter. Knowledge and belief are the foundations of Christianity, and a Christian life is the superstructure that is erected on them: whence it follows that he who supplants the Christian truth, undermines the life of religion, and effectually subverts its morals. By overturning the faith he destroys the practical part of Christianity, And truly on some accounts the corruption of the Christian doctrines, and error in judgment are worse than in manners, for the depraving of the understanding, the leading faculty of the soul, is in some respects more dangerous than a debauching of the will, I mean as to some particular instances. Yea, ‘tis certain that even an indifferency about the principal truths of religion is of pernicious consequence, as every day’s experience informs us, for from this cold and indifferent temper many slip into atheism and all manner of irreligion and immorality. Wherefore there is a necessity of our being right in our opinions as to religious matters.

3. Knowledge of divine truths is a necessary condition of our happiness, and on that account (as well as the others before-mentioned) the preacher is obliged to instruct and inform men’s minds about the doctrinal part of religion. We must know then that our religion and our happiness answer to one another. As we cannot be said to be religious without understanding and knowledge, so neither can we be happy without them, for they are necessary ingredients of both. Which will easily be granted by those who have a true notion of happiness, which consists in the perfecting our understandings, as well as our wills and actions. Which confutes that prevailing opinion before-mentioned, that men of all persuasions and sects may be saved, which cannot be true if a right knowledge be necessary to happiness. And this is the profess’d doctrine of our Church [i.e. the Church of England] in her eighteenth article. Besides, it is required of us in order to our future blessedness, that we make open profession of our faith, with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, saith the Apostle in Rom. 10:10, and certainly this implies that we are bound to know the articles of our faith, and the doctrines and truths of our most holy religion. And this implies without doubt that we are to explain these to the people, and to study to remove from them all ignorance of the necessary points of religion, and to help them to a true and right understanding of all the fundamental and essential doctrines of Christianity. Our place and function exact this of us [as preachers], and we should be unfaithful to men’s souls if we should neglect this.

In brief, we must instruct the people in the sacred truths of the Gospel, and the whole body of its principles, or else we cannot lay claim to that character of being good ministers of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine, that is well acquainted with and imparting unto others the knowledge of the principles of Christianity.

– John Edwards (1637-1716), The Preacher, 1:50-53.

For more on this theme, see this series of three years ago from the later Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on why all Christians must endeavour to become proficient in theology.

John Edwards (1637-1716): It is vain and senseless to confine the doctrine of predestination to schools and universities

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In 1622, King James I issued instructions to the English clergy under the title Directions Concerning Preachers through Archbishop George Abbot, in order to restrict preaching on controversial issues. One of these directions reads as follows:

“That no preacher of what title soever under the degree of a bishop, or dean at the least, do from henceforth presume to preach in any popular auditory the deep points of predestination, election, reprobation or of the universality, efficacy, resistibility or irresistibility of God’s grace; but leave those themes to be handled by learned men, and that moderately and modestly by way of use and application, rather than by way of positive doctrine, as being fitter for the schools and universities, than for simple auditories.”

The Church of England divine John Edwards (1637-1716), whose works are crammed with a Reformed Orthodox understanding of predestination, criticized the king’s instruction in vol. 2 of his work titled The Preacher (p. 131-136, spelling modernized in places):

1. I do not see how it can be presumption to preach of these points [of doctrine] in the pulpit, seeing the Holy Scripture so often mentions them. Surely it can be no fault to deliver those doctrines, even in a popular auditory, when the Holy Bible, which is put into the hands of the people, delivers these sacred truths to us. May we not hear the same things from the preacher’s lips which we have from the mouths and pens of the inspired prophets and apostles? I believe I shall never be convinced that a minister of the Gospel, who is to take the matter [i.e. content] of his sermons from the Scriptures, is to be blamed for handling those very doctrines which he finds there; and especially seeing they are represented there as necessary to be believed, and of the foundation of the Christian religion.

2. It is observable that these doctrines of predestination, election, reprobation, etc., were held to be Orthodox in those times (viz. at the close of King James the First’s reign) by our Church [i.e. the Church of England]. For we see here that no fault is found in them, yea, it is supposed that the things themselves are true, and according to Scripture, otherwise no persons would be allow’d to preach and handle them: but some are here allow’d and authorized to do it. Now seeing they are own’d to be Orthodox, it is very strange and unaccountable that they may not be preached by all the ministers and dispensers of the Gospel. Have any men power to cull and pick out of the Bible such and such particular doctrines for the pastors of the Church to discourse of, and to order that others shall be debarred the pulpit? If any warrant can be shewed for this, I shall be silent, but till then I must profess myself bound to believe that the whole will of God, that is, all doctrines in the Scriptures relating to salvation, are to be preach’d to the people by the faithful ambassadors of Christ. In the Form of ordering Priests in our Church, we find that the Bishop delivers to every one of them the Bible, saying, Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, but he doth not confine them to certain texts, and certain doctrines, and give them authority to preach only on them. No: the Bible in general is their storehouse, and they may furnish themselves with all sorts of divine truths, and communicate them to their hearers.

3. How vain and senseless is that, that a popular auditory must hear nothing of these doctrines of predestination, etc., but the schools and universities may ring of them? As if there were nothing but matter of dispute and controversy in these evangelical matters. This is a great mistake, for there is solid, undoubted and incontestable truth in them, abstract from all debates and disputes. And the vulgar and illiterate are as capable of this as the most learned, and therefore they ought not to be excluded from hearing these doctrines, yea, they are hugely concerned in them, because by means of these they have an occasion of improving their spiritual knowledge, of strengthening their faith, of heightening their love and affection towards the Holy Jesus, of admiring the sovereignty, and extolling the peculiar grace and bounty of God. Is there any reason then to confine these doctrines to the schools and universities?

4. That is very silly and weak that none but a bishop or dean must preach of predestination and election, and the like doctrines, that none but cathedral men must venture upon these points: as if the Gospel, which delivers these doctrines, had commission’d those persons, and none else, to treat of them. This is a palpable imposing on the Christian world, this is a plain lessening and debasing the commission of Christ’s ambassadors, this is an unwarrantable confining the ministers of the Gospel, and the Gospel itself. Besides that it is a foolish intimation that a title or a dignity makes a man an able minister of Christ Jesus. But I think no more need to be said to expose this folly.

There are those that look upon these doctrines as wholly indifferent, and therefore advise that nothing should be said of them in the pulpit. But these men that talk thus, have either read the Scripture, or they have not: if they have, they can’t but see that these doctrines are not of an indifferent nature; if they have not, it is to be presumed that they have little regard to those sacred writings, and look upon them as indifferent, as well as these points: and perhaps they reckon all as such, and think one persuasion as true as another. This sceptical sort of gentlemen, I hope, our clergy will have nothing to do with, and consequently will not listen to what they say of the foresaid doctrines.

Some others would have us believe that the doctrine of the decrees, and of divine concourse, and of the power of grace, etc., are philosophical speculations, and therefore are not fit for the people. And sometimes they call them philosophical disputes and philosophical hypotheses. At other times they are said to be scholastical notions, and therefore are not to be regarded: as one among us lately was against the applying the epithet idolatrous to the Church of Rome, because it was (he said) a Scholastick term.

There are others of our order that refuse to discourse to the people on any of these points, because they carry some difficulty with them, and they pretend that they are loth to perplex their hearers’ minds. But this is a mere pretence, for on the same account some of the articles of our religion, which they themselves own necessary to be taught, are to be laid aside, as the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God, etc. Therefore it is evident that the eternal decrees and the other truths so often mentioned ought to be preached, tho’ they be difficult. This must not deter us from delivering what is truth, and what is adjusted to the Word of God. And yet here this ought to be inserted, that about the way and manner of handling these points there is caution and prudence to be observed. The mere disputative part should not be undertaken ordinarily in our sermons. The abstruse speculations that may arise from these doctrines are not to be the subject of our discourses to the people: but the substantial part of them must be. For this being plainly and expressly contained in the Scriptures, we are obliged to discourse of it, as well as of other truths contained in that Holy Volume. And let me tell you, if this were commonly treated of, with judgment and care, and with shewing what are the useful inferences that naturally flow from it, it would be easily apprehended, and readily embraced, and our auditors would call for frequent instructions and applications relating to these divine subjects.

Well then, be persuaded of the necessity of acquainting your flock with these truths. We have Philistines that stop up these walls, but do you open them, and let your people have free admission to them. Nay, account it no other than sacrilege to rob the Church of these holy doctrines, which are her right and due. They being part of the Word of God (as I said before), take heed that as you do not add to it, so you do not diminish ought from it, Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18.

Charles Bridges (1794-1869): Preaching from the heart

Charles Bridges

“The Minister, that does not manifestly put his heart into his sermon, will never put his sermon into the hearts of his people. Pompous elocution, attempts at theatrical display, or affected emotions, are indeed most repugnant to the simple dignity of our office. A painted fire may glare, but will not warm. Violent agitations, without correspondent tenderness of feeling, will disgust instead of arresting the mind. Preaching is not (as some appear to think it) the work of the lungs, or the mimicry of gesture, or the impulse of uncontrollable feeling; but the spiritual energy of a heart constrained by the love of Christ, and devoted to the care of those immortal souls, for whom Christ died.”

– Charles Bridges (1794-1869), The Christian Ministry, p. 320

John Owen (1616-1683): Preaching from the heart

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“I think, truly, that no man preaches that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart. He who doth not feed on, digest, and thrive by, what he prepares for his people, he may give them poison, as far as he knows; for, unless he find the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the heart of others. It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our heads to preach, is but to fill our minds and memories with some notions of truth, of our own or other men, and speak them out to give satisfaction to ourselves and others: this is very easy. But to bring our hearts to preach, is to be transformed into the power of these truths; or to find the power of them, both before, in fashioning our minds and hearts, and in delivering of them, that we may have benefit; and to be acted with zeal for God and compassion to the souls of men. A man may preach every day in the week and not have his heart engaged once. This hath lost us powerful preaching in the world, and set up, instead of it, quaint orations; for such men never seek after experience in their own hearts: and so it is come to pass, that some men’s preaching and some men’s not preaching, have lost us the power of what we call the ministry; that though there be twenty or thirty thousand in orders, yet the nations perishes for want of knowledge, and is overwhelmed in all manner of sins, and not delivered from them unto this day.”

– John Owen (1616-1683), “The Duty of a Pastor,” Works, 9:455

John Preston (1587-1628): No man will repent and believe, unless the Holy Spirit enable him

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John Preston’s (1587-1628) work The Breastplate of Faith and Love consists of 18 sermons on Romans 1:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, and Galatians 5:6. The following is an excerpt from his second sermon on 1 Thessalonians 1:3, p. 48-55:

“[F]or [a man] to take CHRIST so as to deny himselfe for him, to take him so, as to mortify his lusts, so as to take up his crosse, so as to obey CHRIST, to follow him in all things, this is a thing that no man is able to do, unless GOD enable him to it, with his almighty power. For the heart of every man, by nature, is so shut up against CHRIST, that it will give no entrance to him, he may stand and knocke long enough; unless GOD himselfe shake off the bolts, and open the gates, and breake open these everlasting doores, that the King of Glory may come in, we will not admit him, but keepe him out.

Every man naturally hath a hard heart, that cannot repent, that cannot turne from sin, he will be content perhaps to take Christ for a Saviour, but to take him so as to obey him, and feare him, so as to love him: this no man will do, or can do, unless the Holy Ghost enable him.

But, you will aske, How doth the Holy Ghost do it?

The Holy Ghost doth it by these three acts. First, by putting an efficacy into the Law, and making that powerful, to work on the heart, to make a man poore in spirit, that so he may be fit to receive the Gospel. For the Law, though it be fit to humble a man, yet it is no worker of sanctification. If a man were able to do any thing, he were able to see the righteousness the Law requires, and how far he is from it, and to discerne the curse upon the not doing of it, and yet this he is not able to do, without the spirit of bondage: the spirit of bondage must make the Law effectual, as well as the spirit of Adoption doth the Gospel. That is, except the LORD himselfe press the Law on our hearts, so as to cause it to make sin appeare to us, we, that are the Ministers of GOD, may discover your sins, we may shew you the rectitude required in the Law, we may shew you the danger, yet all will be to no purpose, unless God awaken you: if he will set sin upon the conscience to worry a man, to plucke him downe, when GOD shall charge sin on him, that he shall feele the weight and burden of it, when he shall sharpen sin, and cause it to use its sting, this makes a man fit to receive CHRIST: otherwise, if the sons of Thunder should speake to men, if we should come in the spirit and power of Eliah, nay, if GOD himself should thunder from heaven, all would not move the heart of a man, all would not awaken him to see his sins, till God himselfe shake the heart.

To convert the Gaoler [Jailer], in Acts 16. the foundation of the Prison was shaken; which was a resemblance of the shaking of his heart: we may as well shake the Earth, as strike the heart of a sinner without the work of GOD. For, though the Law be a sword, yet unless GOD take that sword into his hand, and strike therewithall himselfe, it shall not be able to wound a sinner. Therefore the first work of the Holy Ghost is to awaken a sinner, to set sin upon him, that he may be fit to receive CHRIST.

Secondly, when this is done, that the heart is thus prepared by the Spirit, then the Holy Ghost shewes us what we have by CHRIST, he shewes the unsearchable riches of CHRIST, what is the hope of our calling, and the glorious inheritance prepared for the Saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power in them that believe. I say, we neede the Spirit to shew these things.

But, you will say, a man may see these things without the helpe of the Spirit.

It is true, in some manner you may, but not in such a manner as shall affect you. For there is a manner of seeing proper only to the Saints, and that is the proper work of the Spirit in them, when we shall so see them, as to be affected with them. Otherwise, you may reade the Scriptures a thousand times over, you may understand them, yet you shall not be affected with them, till the Holy Ghost shew them unto you. This is the secret of GOD, that he revealeth to those whom he meaneth to save; that is, when he presents these spiritual things prepared for us in Christ, in such a manner, as that we shall love them, and embrace them; when we shall not only see the truth of them, but the goodness of them; when GOD shall not only shew us the advantages we have by Christ, but the excellency of Christ, so that we shall be in love with his person, as well as to be ready to receive the priviledges with him.

Now this is done by the Spirit: 1. Cor. 2. 12. We have received the Spirit of GOD, by which we know the things that are given us of GOD, and they are revealed to us by the Spirit. They are two or three times repeated in that Chapter; as if he should have said, If you saw them no more than other men do, than natural men do, you would be no more affected with them, than they are: but when you have the Spirit of GOD to shew you the things that are given you of GOD, that is the thing that works upon you, and affects you. And so in Joh. 14. 21. saith CHRIST, I will come to him, and shew my selfe to him: When CHRIST sheweth himselfe to a man, it is another thing than when the Ministers shall shew him, or the Scriptures nakedly read do shew him: for when Christ shall shew himselfe by his Spirit, that shewing draweth a mans heart to long after him, otherwise we may preach long enough, and shew you that these spiritual things, these priviledges are prepared for you in Christ, but it is the Holy Ghost that must write them in your hearts; we can but write them in your heads: Therefore the Lord taketh that as peculiar to himselfe: I will write my Law in your hearts. That is, I will make you affected with the things that I shew you, and this is the teaching of GOD. There is a teaching by men, and a teaching by GOD, that is, when God shall enable a man to see things in good earnest; otherwise it will be but as a man that sees a thing, when his minde is upon another matter: so, we shall see, and not see: but when the Holy Ghost shall shew you these things, you shall see indeed, till then, you may heare oft enough of these things, but your hearts will be minding other matters; some about their profits, and some their pleasures, &c. but when the Holy Ghost shall shew you these things; that is, when he presents them to us, that draweth the heart from minding other things, to seeke after CHRIST, to long after him, and not to content your selves, till you be united to him.

But, besides this, there is a third act of the Holy Ghost, by which he works it, and maketh this faith effectual, and that is the testimony that the Spirit gives to our spirits, telling us that these things are ours: when the heart is prepared by the Law, and when these things are so shewed unto us, that we prize them, and long after them, yet there must be a third thing, that is, to take them to our selves, to believe that they be ours; and there needeth a work of the Spirit for this too: for, though the promises be never so cleare, yet, having nothing but the promises, you will finde that you will never be able to apply them to your selves: but when the Holy Ghost shall say, Christ is thine, and these things belong to thee, and GOD is thy Father; when the Spirit shall beare witness with our spirits, by an immediate work of his owne, then we shall believe. This is necessarily required, and without this we shall not believe. It is true, the holiest man doth it two wayes.

One is by clearing of the promises, shining into our hearts, by such a light as makes us able to discerne them, and to believe them, and to assent to them.

But besides that, he doth it by an immediate voice, by which he speaketh immediately to our spirits, that we can say, as they said, Joh. 16. Now thou speakest plainly, and speakest no parable, we understand thee fully: so, till the Holy Ghost speake to us, we are in a Cloud, GOD is hid from us, we cannot see him clearly, but when we have this Spirit of Adoption, to give us this witness, then we believe plainly indeed. Therefore in Isay 57. 19. saith the Lord, I create the fruit of the lips, Peace, &c. That is, the Ministers may speake peace to you, but unless I go and joine with the Minister, except I adde a power of mine owne; that is, such an almighty power as I used in the Creation, it shall never bring peace to you. I create the fruit of the lips; that is, the words of the Minister to be peace, otherwise they would be ineffectual. Therefore, I say, there must be a work of the Spirit to persuade a man in such a case. And you shall finde by experience, let a Minister come to them that are in despaire, they will not apprehend the promises, though we use never so cleare reasons, though we argue with them never so long, and never so strongly, we shall finde that all will do nothing, it will be but labour spent in vaine, till GOD himselfe open the Clouds, till he will smile on a man, and send his Spirit into the heart, to give a secret witness to him, till there be a work of his owne joining with the promises, we finde by experience that our labour is lost.

It is true, we ought to do this, and every man is bound to looke to the Word: for, faith cometh by hearing; and to hearken to the Ministery; for it is Gods ordinance to breed faith in the heart, but yet till there be a work of the Spirit, a man shall never be so persuaded, as to have any sure and sound comfort by it.”

Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558): Sermon at the funeral of Martin Luther

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Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558) was a friend and colleague of Martin Luther, who referred to him as Doctor Pomeranus. He served as a Protestant pastor in Wittenberg and was instrumental in introducing the Protestant Reformation to northern Germany and Scandinavia. Bugenhagen preached the sermon at Martin Luther’s funeral, posted below in full:

A Christian sermon over the body and at the funeral of the venerable Dr. Martin Luther, preached by Mr. Johann Bugenhagen Pomeranus, doctor and pastor 
of the churches in Wittenberg.

Paul, the holy apostle, says in I Thessalonians 4:

“We do not want to hold back, dear brothers, concerning those who are asleep so that you may not be sorrowful as the others who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus has died and risen, even so, God will bring those with Him who have fallen asleep through Jesus.”

Dear friends, I am now supposed to preach a sermon at the funeral of our dearly beloved father, blessed Dr. Martin, and gladly do so. But what shall I say and how shall I speak, since I probably will not be able to utter a word because of my tears? And who shall comfort you if I, your pastor and preacher, cannot speak? Where can I turn from you? I will, no doubt, cause more crying and mourning with my sermon. For how should we not all mourn heartily, since God has sent us this sorrow and has taken from us the noble and dear man, the venerable Dr. Martin Luther? Through him God has rendered inexpressible gifts and grace to all of us and to all the churches of Christ in Germany, as well as to many in foreign countries. Through him God has also triumphed gloriously over the kingdom of Satan and against so much shameful idolatry and human ordinance, indeed, as Paul says, against the devil’s teachings throughout the world, and has revealed to us in the Gospel the sublime, great heavenly secret, his dear Son Jesus Christ (as Paul also says in Ephesians and Colossians). Through him, our dear father, Christ has defended his Gospel against the grievous pope and various rabble and tyrants, indeed, against all the portals of hell. He gave to this dear man the spirit of power and strength so that he is afraid of no one, however great and mighty he may be. He held so boldly to the Gospel and to pure doctrine that the world often believed that he was too sharp and too excessive with his rebuking and scolding, just as the Jews and Pharisees, the bitter and poisonous vipers, accused Christ, for it hurt them severely and caused them pain that they were chastised by means of the pure truth. However, they did not accept the salutary teaching.

God has taken away from us this great teacher, prophet, and divinely sent reformer of the church. Oh, how can we cease mourning and crying? How can we, after all, obey the dear Paul here when he says: “You should not grieve because of those who are asleep?” But he adds immediately: “Like the others who have no hope.” We who believe know that those who have fallen asleep in Christ will be awakened again to a better life where we will meet them again and be together with them eternally.

However, the world was not worthy to have this dear man of God any longer, to continue to slander and persecute him. Albeit, that same, ungrateful world received much good through this great man, especially that it has been freed from a variety of oppression and tyranny of the loathsome papacy. Therefore, many of the adversaries (who still have some wisdom and understanding) would have preferred that the dear man had continued to live for a long time.

This I have said initially, that we truly have great cause to mourn heartily since we have lost such a great and dear man. And truly (since this may help a bit) Christian kings, princes, and cities and all who have recognized the Gospel of truth mourn with us. Therefore, we do not mourn alone, but many thousands in Christendom mourn with us from time to time. It was not fitting that the current, grievous pope, the Cardinal of Mainz, or Duke Henry (all of whom he enraged mightily with the truth) should ever delight in the death of this man. And I hope that the adversaries will not delight in his death for long. For the person has indeed died in Christ, but the mighty, blessed, godly doctrine of this precious man still lives most powerfully.

For he was without doubt the angel concerning whom it is written in Revelation 14, who flew through the midst of heaven and had an eternal Gospel, etc., as the text says:

“And I saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven. He had an eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who sit and dwell on earth, to all heathen and races and languages and nations. And he said with a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him honor, for the time of his judgment has come. Worship the one who has made heaven and earth, the seas and the springs of water.’ And another angel followed and said: ‘She has fallen, she has fallen, Babylon, the great city, for she has made drunk all the heathen with the wine of her harlotry’.”

This angel who says, “Fear God and give him the honor,” was Dr. Martin Luther. And what is written here, “Fear God and give him the honor,” are the two parts of Dr. Martin Luther s doctrine, the Law and the Gospel, through which all of Scripture is unlocked and Christ, our righteousness and eternal life, is recognized. To these two he has also added this passage (“the time of his judgment has come”) and has taught regarding proper prayer and invocation of God the heavenly Father in Spirit and in truth. As the angel also says in Revelation 14: “Worship the one who has made heaven and earth, etc.”

For after the teaching of this angel, another angel will follow, who will proclaim comfort to the sorrowful and persecuted church and the lightning and thunder of eternal judgment and condemnation against the adversaries, as, after all, the other angel said: “She has fallen; she has fallen, Babylon, the great city.” Therefore, the adversaries will not rejoice long over our sorrow, as Christ also says in John 16: “Your sorrow shall turn to joy.” For according to Revelation, the aforementioned fourteenth chapter, we see that this has happened before and still happens. If Revelation has some validity, then the other will, without doubt, follow.

But, oh, how do I ramble on so with my sermon in this time of our crying and sorrow? This is enough said about our rightful mourning, for we mourn justly that such a dear man, a proper bishop and shepherd of souls, has departed from us. But in this sorrow we should also rightly recognize God s grace and mercy to us and thank God that he has awakened for us through his Spirit this dear Dr. Martin Luther against the antichristian doctrines of the abominable, satanic pope and against the devil’s doctrines only one hundred years after the death of the holy John Hus (who was killed for the sake of the truth in the year 1415), just as John Hus himself prophesied before his death about a future swan. Hus means “goose” in the Bohemian language. “You are now roasting a goose,” (says John Hus), “but God will awaken a swan whom you will not burn or roast.” And as they shouted much against him, which he could not answer, he supposedly said: “After one hundred years I will answer you.” He has done that uprightly through our dear father, Dr. Luther, and has begun it precisely in the one-hundred-and-first year. Yes, we should thank God that he preserved this dear man for us and his churches in the violent disputes, in so many difficult conflicts, and that through him Christ has triumphed so often now for almost thirty years. To the Lord Christ be praise and honor in eternity. Amen.

But we should also rejoice with our dear father Luther that he left and departed from us to the Lord Christ in the highest apostolic and prophetic office in which he faithfully accomplished what he was commanded. For with Christ are the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and many to whom he preached the Gospel, all the holy angels, Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, that is, in the eternal joy of all believers. We will experience what this interim period until the Day of Judgment is like, as Paul says in Philippians 1:

“I desire to depart and to be with Christ”; and as Stephen also says in Acts: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”; and Jesus to the thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

For there is no doubt, just as the spirit of Christ was in the hands of the Father until the resurrection on Easter, since he said: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, etc.,” so will our spirits be in the hands of Christ until our resurrection. For that is the meaning of the words of Lazarus: “But now he is comforted while you are tormented.”

What kind of peace or comfort the believers have and what kind of anxiety or torment the unbelievers have in the meantime, until the day of judgment, we cannot say so precisely on the basis of Scripture. Scripture says that they are asleep, as Paul says in Thessalonians, “concerning those who are asleep.” However, just as in natural sleep the healthy rest in a sweet sleep and are thereby refreshed and become stronger and healthier, while the sick or the sorrowing and especially those who are in the terror or fear of death sleep with difficulty, with horrible dreams, and restlessly so that sleep is not rest for them but a more frightful, more desolate unrest than being awake, in the same way there is a difference between the sleep of the believers and the godless. But about this we cannot speak further or infer other than what the words of Scripture say.

Our dear father Dr. Martin Luther has now attained what he often desired. And if he were to return to us again now, he would reprimand our mourning and faint-heartedness with the word of Christ from John 16: “If you loved me you would rejoice because I go to the Father, and you would not begrudge me this eternal rest and joy.” Christ has conquered death for us. Why, then, are we afraid? The death of the body is for us a beginning of life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord, who has become for us a noble, precious sacrifice.

I still remember that when our honorable, dear father, Dr. Martin Luther, saw several depart sweetly in the confession of Christ, he said: “May God grant me that I may also depart so sweetly in the bosom of Christ and that the body may not be tormented with lengthy pains of death. But may God s will be done.”

Master Ambrosius Bernardus von Goterboch, my dear brother and a truly pious man who loved Christ, was here with us in Wittenberg at the university. For several days before his end he lay very weak and sick unto death, and yet God took from him the feeling of his sickness as if he were already in another life. He spoke with us how he wanted to come to us and be joyous with us. He did not know at all that he was so ill and had to die. He certainly did not see death. Therefore, he could not be afraid of death. Indeed, he was no longer in this life except when one spoke of Christ. Then he confessed freely from his heart the great grace and bliss that has been given to us by the heavenly Father in Christ, for he loved Christ and was in the habit of praying gladly and of calling on God the Father in Spirit and truth. If one then wanted to tell him soon thereafter (as one who had come to his senses) about his beloved wife, children, house, money, debt, etc., he was soon out of his senses again and as if in another world, (although he recognized us all and called us by name), spoke joyously, with laughter and charming jest, concerning other matters in such a manner that one, who was unaware of his delirium, might think that he was wholly well and had to lie in bed because of boredom, etc. But our dear Lord Jesus Christ took him out of this life to himself in this state of delirium and yet in the good confession of the Christian faith. Thus he was already dead to this world for several days before he died, for he knew nothing on this earth of which he needed to be concerned. Indeed, he was relieved of everything so that he also did not experience his sickness and was not concerned about his death. Indeed, he also did not see death. How, then, could he be afraid of sin and death?

Thus we saw in him plainly the word of Christ from John 8 which every believer experiences: “If someone keeps my word, that person will never see death.” For even if they do not all die so easily as this Ambrosius, but with great pain, as the Son of God himself died on the cross, yet when the dear hour comes, they see life and not death and all of them say: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” In this way our Lord Jesus Christ took our dearly beloved father, Dr. Martin, to himself with such a blessed parting from this vale of tears. To God be praise and thanks eternally.

During the illness of Master Ambrosius, when I saw that he also did not sleep, I asked two medical doctors that they prepare a strong drink to help him sleep. They responded that this would be dangerous and that they might be given blame if something went wrong. I said: “I will be responsible even if he were to die. Give it to him in God’s name as a desperate act. Who knows, it might help.” The doctors gave him such a drink, but not as strong as I desired, for they were somewhat concerned. Then he fell into a mighty sleep so that he slept almost two hours. However, when he awoke he felt his pain and complained about it and spoke intelligibly to his wife about all sorts of urgent matters. But soon thereafter, after about an hour-and-a-half, he was again in his happy condition, as before. He was no longer aware of this world until he gave up his spirit to Christ a few days later.

I have now gladly recounted this blessed and joyous story about Master Ambrosius, our dear brother, for two reasons. First of all, that I might stop you dear ones a bit from your howling and crying, which have now rightly overtaken us. God has made us sad. May his grace comfort us again. Secondly, so that this story may be of help to us in the matter concerning which we are now speaking.

For this Master Ambrosius was Dr. Martin’s brother-in-law. Therefore, Dr. Martin visited him so much in his illness, and when he spoke with him about Christ, then Ambrosius also spoke about Christ according to the dear Gospel, as we have said. But when he wanted to speak to him about his wife, children, and goods, etc., Ambrosius knew nothing about such things but soon fantasized happily with unrelated words, as we have said before. He especially said to the Doctor with laughter and thanksgiving: “Sir Doctor, thank you for visiting me. I will visit you again some evening. At that time we will have a good supper together, and I will then speak with you about many joyous matters.” Indeed, they may both be accomplishing this in the life eternal to which they have both traveled. In this life they were unable to meet in this way.

After Dr. Martin left him, the Doctor said to me: “He is gone and does not recognize death. When we want to counsel him how he should put his things in order, he no longer knows anything about this world and this life. Rather, he is happy, laughs, and proposes other things in his joyous delirium. He even mocks us with such words, as if he wanted to say: I no longer know what to set in order or attend to on earth. May God also give me soon such a peaceful and blessed hour of death. What more should I accomplish on earth?”

After Master Ambrosius was buried in the harsh winter of January, 1542, Dr. Martin went to the grave with me not long thereafter. Then he pointed to the grave with his hand and said: “He did not know that he was sick. He also did not know that he was dying and yet was not without a confession of Christ. Here he lies and still does not know that he is dead. Dear Lord Jesus, Christ, take me also in similar fashion out of this vale of tears to you, etc.”

I often had to hear such things from my dear father, and when he noticed my annoyance, at times probably also from my words, he said to me: “Implore our dear Lord God that He may soon take me to Himself from here. I can do nothing more on earth. I am no longer of use to you. Help me with your prayer. Do not ask that I live longer.” Now, everyone can, no doubt, imagine how I responded to such words of my dear father, our dearly beloved Doctor. All of this indicates how eagerly he desired, in his last days, to be rid of this miserable life and to be with Christ. Thereby he also sang his consummatum est and commended his spirit into the heavenly Father’s hands.

There were also advance indications that our dear father, Dr. Martin, would wander into a better life, for throughout this whole year he often said to us that he desired to go to another place. He also traveled more in this year before his death than he had done in many years, namely to his homeland in Mansfeld, to the Bishop of Zeitz, to Merseburg, to Halle. These were an indication and prophecy that he would undertake this blessed journey into a better life. Therefore, it also happened that he departed and left this life while he was with the noble and honorable Counts of Mansfeld in the city of Eisleben, where he was born and baptized. This was as he had desired, except that he would have preferred to be with us at that time, with his wife and children. But God ordained it otherwise.

Dear friends, so that you might also have a short report about our dearly beloved father, Dr. Martin’s, blessed parting, I will give it. When he noticed that his hour had come, he prayed thusly:

“O my heavenly Father, one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God of all comfort, I thank you that you have revealed to me your dear Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I believe, whom I have preached and confessed, whom I have loved and praised, whom the loathsome pope and all the godless revile, persecute, and blaspheme. I implore you, my Lord Jesus Christ, let my little soul be commended to you. O heavenly Father, although I must leave this body and be snatched away from this life, I am, nevertheless, certain that I will remain with you eternally and that no one can tear me out of your hands.”

And then he said three times:
“Into your hands I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, you faithful God.”

Also John 3:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that all who believe in him will not be lost but have eternal life.”
Then he folded his hands and gave up his spirit to Christ in grand silence. Therefore we should also justly rejoice with him, as much as we are able to do so in our grief.

Here I must remember the holy Bishop, St. Martin, concerning whom history says that all heretics turned pale and faded at the mention of his name. Furthermore, there was a great crying and mourning on the part of all believing and true Christians at the death of St. Martin. Furthermore, a dispute and quarrel arose among several cities and territories about who should retain the body of St. Martin and where he should be buried. All of this happened in similar fashion with this holy apostle and prophet of Christ, our preacher and evangelist in the German territories, Dr. Martin. But about this I do not want to speak at length. God himself now holds him precious and beloved and sustains him in his bosom who in this life dearly loved us and the churches of Christ. May God requite it to our dearly beloved father in the life to come, where we all also hope to join him.

May God grant that the Spirit of God may also be spoken of doubly with regard to the descendants and in the churches planted by the dear father than was spoken of by the lofty, dear man, as the prophet Elisha petitioned from Elijah, who was taken from Elisha in a storm.

But if we fear or imagine that God has taken away the precious man because of our sin and ingratitude, then we should improve our life, petition God our heavenly Father through Christ that we remain in the blessed, pure teaching concerning faith and be protected through Christ from the rabble and tyrants and against all the portals of hell. Protect your poor Christendom, Lord Christ, that it may praise you eternally. Help us God our Savior and rescue us for the honor of your name and have mercy on our sins for the sake of your holy name. Preserve in your church faithful and good preachers. Give them power and strength through the Holy Spirit, as Psalm 68 says: “The Lord gives the Word with large numbers of evangelists.”

The impudent, atrocious, great blasphemies of the adversaries and the obdurate priests and monks and, in addition, our ingratitude may now well be the cause of great misfortune and God’s punishment in the world. But we should petition God the Father in the name of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that for his name’s sake he may accomplish, fulfill, and bring about the epitaph and prophecy that our dear father, Dr. Martin, himself made to him:

Pestis eram vivus, moriens tua mors ero Papa.

That is in German: “Pope, pope, when I lived I was your pestilence. When I die I will be your bitter death.” God be praised eternally through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray, etc.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691): There must be a prudent mixture of severity and mildness both in our preaching and discipline

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“7. There must be a prudent mixture of severity and mildness both in our preaching and discipline; each must be predominant, according to the quality or character of the person, or matter, that we have in hand. If there be no severity, our reproofs will be despised. If all severity, we shall be taken as usurpers of dominion, rather than persuaders of the minds of men to the truth.

8. We must be serious, earnest, and zealous in every part of our work. Our work requireth greater skill, and especially greater life and zeal than any of us bring to it. It is no small matter to stand up in the face of a congregation, and to deliver a message of salvation or damnation, as from the living God, in the name of the Redeemer. It is no easy matter to speak so plainly, that the most ignorant may understand us; and so seriously that the deadest hearts may feel us; and so convincingly, that the contradicting cavillers may be silenced. The weight of our matter condemneth coldness and sleepy dullness. We should see that we be well awakened ourselves, and our spirits in such a plight as may make us fit to awaken others. If our words be not sharpened, and pierce not as nails, they will hardly be felt by stony hearts. To speak slightly and coldly of heavenly things is nearly as bad as to say nothing of them at all.

9. The whole of our ministry must be carried on in tender love to our people. We must let them see that nothing pleaseth us but what profiteth them; and that what doeth them good doth us good; and that nothing troubleth us more than their hurt. We must feel toward our people, as a father toward his children: yea, the tenderest love of a mother must not surpass ours. We must even travail in birth, till Christ be formed in them. They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither wealth, nor liberty, nor honor, nor life, in comparison of their salvation; but could even be content, with Moses, to have our names blotted out of the book of life, i. e. to be removed from the number of the living: rather than they should not be found in the Lamb’s book of life. Thus should we, as John saith, be ready to ‘lay down our lives for the brethren,’ and, with Paul, not count our lives dear to us, so we may but ‘finish our course with joy, and the ministry which we have received of the Lord Jesus.’ When the people see that you unfeignedly love them, they will hear any thing and bear any thing from you; as Augustine saith, ‘Love God, and do what you please.’ We ourselves will take all things well from one that we know doth entirely love us. We will put up with a blow that is given us in love, sooner than with a foul word that is spoken to us in malice or in anger. Most men judge of the counsel, as they judge of the affection of him that gives it: at least, so far as to give it a fair hearing. Oh, therefore, see that you feel a tender love to your people in your breasts, and let them perceive it in your speeches, and see it in your conduct. Let them see that you spend, and are spent, for their sakes; and that all you do is for them, and not for any private ends of your own. To this end the works of charity are necessary, as far as your estate will reach; for bare words will hardly convince men that you have any great love to them. But, if you are not able to give, show that you are willing to give if you had it, and do that sort of good you can. But see that your love be not carnal, flowing from pride, as one that is a suitor for himself rather than for Christ, and, therefore, doth love because he is loved, or that he may be loved. Take heed, therefore, that you do not connive at the sins of your people, under pretense of love, for that were to cross the nature and end of love. Friendship must be cemented by piety. A wicked man cannot be a true friend; and, if you befriend their wickedness, you show that you are wicked yourselves. Pretend not to love them, if you favor their sins, and seek not their salvation. By favoring their sins, you will show your enmity to God; and then how can you love your brother? If you be their best friends, help them against their worst enemies. And think not all sharpness inconsistent with love: parents correct their children, and God himself ‘chastens every son whom he receiveth.’ Augustine saith, ‘Better it is to love even with the accompaniment of severity, than to mislead by (excess of) lenity’.”

– Richard Baxter (1615-1691), The Reformed Pastor, p. 117-118