V.1-5. Wherefore lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and hatred, and all evil speakings, and desire the sincere milk of the word, as new-born babes, that ye may grow thereby, if ye have besides tasted that the Lord is gracious, to whom ye are come as to a living stone, which indeed is rejected by men, but before God is elect and precious. And be ye also as living stones built up into a spiritual house, and a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Here he begins to show what the characteristic and fruit of a christian life should be. For we have said often enough that a christian life consists in two things, -- faith toward God and love toward our neighbor. Besides, although christian faith has been given us, yet as long as we live many evil lusts remain in the flesh, since every saint must be in the flesh, but what is in the flesh cannot be entirely pure. Therefore St. Peter says, be ye armed, that ye may guard yourselves against the sins which still cleave to you, and strive continually against them. For the worst enemies that we have hide themselves in our bosoms, and in our very flesh and blood, wake, sleep, and live with us, like a wicked spirit which we have brought home with us and cannot send off. Wherefore, since through faith Jesus Christ is entirely yours, and ye have obtained salvation and all His blessings, let it be your aim henceforth to lay aside all wickedness, or all that is evil, and all guile, so that no one act toward another deceitfully or falsely; as with the world it has become a common expression to say, the world is full of falsehood, which is indeed so. But we Christians should not act with such deceit, but uprightly and with pure hearts, toward men as toward God, fairly and justly, so that none take the advantage of another in sale, purchase or promise, and the like.
Likewise also St. Paul says to the Ephesians, ch. iv., |Lay aside lying, and speak truth every one with his neighbor.| Truth is, that yea be yea, and nay, nay, -- but hypocrisy, when any one represents himself by his outward mien as being what he is not in his thoughts. For solemn is the obligation that we should show ourselves to be what we are at heart. A Christian should so act that he could permit all men to see and know what he thinks in his heart. Let him, then, in all his walk and conduct, be anxious only to praise God, and serve his neighbor, and be afraid of no one; and let every one be in heart what he is in appearance, and not act a feigned part, whereby he shall make others gape with wonder.
Furthermore, St. Peter says that we should lay aside hatred and evil speaking. Here he fitly takes up the common vices among men, in their intercourse with one another. This evil speaking is exceedingly common and injurious, -- is soon done, insomuch that none of us is aware of it. Therefore he says, be on your guard, if ye already have a christian spirit, that ye may know what are the fruits of this spirit.
V.2. And desire the sincere milk of the word, as new-born babes. Here he institutes a comparison, and would say, -- ye are like those new-born babes who seek nothing but the milk: like them, striving for the breasts and milk, so be ye also eager for the word; endeavor for it, have an appetite for it, that ye may suck in the intelligible, sincere milk.
These words are, indeed, figurative; for he did not mean literal milk, or literal sucking, as he does not speak of a literal birth. But he speaks of another milk which belongs to the mind, which is spiritual, which is procured by the soul, which the heart must draw in. It must be, moreover, sincere (or unfalsified), not as the custom is, to sell false wares; since there is truly strong obligation, and great necessity, that to the new-born and young Christian, the milk should be given pure, and not corrupted. But this milk is nothing but the Gospel, which is also the same with seed, whereby we are conceived and born, as we have heard above. Yet it is also the food which nourishes us when we arrive at maturity; it is also the harness wherewith we equip and clothe ourselves, -- yea, it is all these in common. But whatever is appended to it is human doctrine, whereby the word of God is falsified; therefore the Holy Spirit would have it so that every Christian shall see to it, what he sucks for milk, and shall himself learn to decide in regard to all doctrines.
But the breasts which yield this milk, and which the babes suck, are the preachers in the christian Church. As the bridegroom says to the bride, in Cant. iii., |Thou hast two breasts like two young roes; they are as though they were hung with a bundle of myrrh;| as the bride says, Cant. i., |My beloved is like a bundle of myrrh that lies continually between my breasts.| That is, we should ever preach Christ. The bridegroom must resort to the breasts; so that it is unjust, and the milk will be corrupt, if we do not preach Christ alone.
There is this, besides: when it is preached that Christ died for us, and rescued us from sin, death, and hell, -- this is delightful and sweet, like milk; but after this, the cross also must be preached, that we are to suffer, as we have done; and this is a strong draught, it is strong wine. Therefore, Christians should have at first given them the weakest drink, -- that is, milk. For it cannot be preached in its simplicity, except Christ be preached first of all; which is not bitter, but is mere sweet, rich grace, from which you receive yet no smart. This is the sincere milk of the word.
But here St. Peter has supported himself by Scripture, as he is throughout rich from the Scriptures. In the Old Testament it is written, both in Exodus xxiii., and Deuteronomy xiv., |Thou shalt not seethe the kid in its mother's milk.| For what reason did God permit that to be written? Of what concern to Him was it that no suckling should be killed while as yet it sucks milk? Because He would thereby give us to understand that which St. Peter here teaches; and it is as much as if he had said, preach gently to the young and weak Christians; let them be carefully fed, and thrive in the knowledge of Christ; burden them not with strong doctrine, for they are as yet too young, but after they have become strong, let them then be slaughtered and sacrificed on the cross.
So, also, we read in Deut. xxiv., |If any one have recently taken a wife, then he need not go out to war for the first year, lest he should be slain, -- but abide at home cheerfully with his wife.| All goes to this point, that we should bear for a time with them that are young Christians, and proceed tenderly with them. But when they have grown, God brings them to the holy cross, lets them even die like other Christians, so that then the kid is slain. -- Now follows further:
V.2, 3. That ye may grow thereby, if ye have besides tasted that the Lord is gracious. It is not enough that we should hear the Gospel once; we must ever be anxious for it, that we may grow. After faith has become strong, we may provide and eat each kind of food. But to those who have not heard the Gospel, this is not said; they know neither what is milk or what is wine. Therefore he adds, if ye have besides tasted that the Lord is gracious; as though he had said, whoever has not tasted it, to him it is not a thing of the heart, to him it is not sweet; but they who have tried it, who grow by the food and by the word, to them it tastes pleasant and is sweet.
But it is said to be tasted, when I believe with my heart that Christ has given Himself for me, and has become my own, and my sin and misery are His, and His life also is mine. When this reaches my heart, then it tastes; for how can I but receive joy and gladness therefrom? I am heartily glad, as though some good friend should bestow on me a hundred florins. But as to him whose heart it does not reach, he cannot rejoice himself therewith. But they taste it best who lie in the straits of death, or whom an evil conscience oppresses; for in that case hunger is a good cook, as we say, that makes the food have a good relish. For the heart and conscience can hear nothing more soothing, when they feel their misery; after this they are anxious, they smell the provision afar off and cannot be satisfied. So also speaks Mary, in the Magnificat: |The hungry also has he filled with good things.| But that hardened class who live in their own holiness, build on their own works, and feel not their sin and misery, they taste this not. Whoever sits at table and is hungry, he relishes all, readily; but to him who is previously full, nothing relishes, but he can only murmur at the most excellent food. Therefore the Apostle says, if ye have besides tasted that the Lord is gracious. But it is as though he had said, If ye have not tasted it, then I preach to you in vain. -- He further says:
V.4. To whom ye art come as to a living stone. Here he falls back again upon the Scripture, and quotes the prophet Isaiah, chap. xxviii., where he also says: |Hear now what God says to you, scorners: ye say, we have made a league with death and with hell, and have made lies our trust. Therefore thus saith the Lord, I lay in the foundation of Zion an elect, precious corner stone, a sure foundation,| etc.
This passage Paul has also quoted, and it is an important passage of Scripture, for Christ is the precious head-stone which God has laid, on which we must be built.
And observe how St. Peter quotes the expression, and shows the stone to signify Christ. Just as Isaiah had spoken of setting confidence upon Him, St. Peter likewise says, it is as much as trusting in Him; thus is Scripture truly explained. The builders lay the foundation stone where it may stand sure and firm, that it may bear up the whole building. So Christ, the living stone, bears up the whole building; and it is called the building, in order that we, bound one to another, may set our confidence and security on Him.
V.4. Which indeed is rejected of men, but before God is elect and precious. Here he brings forward a passage of the prophet David, in Ps. cxvii.: |The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone, and it is wonderful in our eyes.| Which passage Christ also refers to in Mat. xxi. So Peter, in Acts iv., where he says: |This is the stone which ye builders rejected.| Ye are builders, he says: for they taught the people, went about with great speeches, laid down many laws, but made mere work-saints and hypocrites. Then Christ comes and tells them, ye are hypocrites and broods of vipers; pronounces upon them many terrible judgments; judges them as sinners, and not as great saints, so that they could not endure it; they even reject Him -- say to Him, |You are a heretic; do you caution that a man should not do good works? Ay! you must die.| Therefore Peter says, here, this is the corner stone which indeed was rejected of men, whereon ye must be built by faith. This is now wonderful in our eyes, as the prophet says; it seems strange to us, and where the Spirit does not teach it, it is utterly incomprehensible. Therefore he says, in God's eyes the stone is elect, and an extremely precious stone; it is of great importance also that it takes away death, satisfies for sin, and rescues from hell, besides that it freely bestows heaven.
V.5. And be ye also as living stones, built up into a spiritual house. How can we build ourselves up? By the Gospel and that which is preached. The builders are the preachers; the Christians who hear the Gospel are they who are built, and the stones which are to be fitted on this corner stone; so that we are to repose our confidence on Him, and let our hearts stand and rest upon Him. I must therefore take heed to myself that I have the form which this stone has, for if I am laid upon Him by faith, then I must also bear such marks and fashioning as He had, and every one else with me. It is the fruit of faith and a mark of love, that we all be fitted one to another, and all thus become one building. To the same end, also, St. Paul speaks on this subject, although in a different manner, I. Cor. iii.: |Ye are the temple of God.| The house of stone or wood is not His house: He will have a spiritual house, -- that is, the christian congregation, wherein we are all alike, in one faith, one like the other, and all laid and fitted one to the other, and locked into one another by love, without any wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, hatred and slanders, as He has said.
And a holy priesthood. There he casts down the outward and bodily priesthood, which had existed before under the old dispensation, as also the outward Church, which he takes entirely away, as though he had said, |That outward institution with the priesthood has all ceased, wherefore another priesthood now begins, and another sacrifice is offered, even one that is entirely spiritual.| We have had much disputing on this point, maintaining that those who are now called the clergy are not priests in the sight of God; and this is confirmed out of this passage of St. Peter. Therefore apprehend it well, and if one should meet you with the objection, and attempt to show, as some have done, that He speaks of a twofold priesthood, -- of outward and spiritual priests, -- then bid him lay aside his vain speeches that he may see clearly, and take nieswort that he may clear his brains. St. Peter says, also, Ye are to build yourselves up into a spiritual or holy priesthood. Ask now those priests whether they are holy: their life clearly shows, as we see, that this wretched set is plunged into avarice, fornication, and all manner of vice. Whoever has this priesthood must certainly be holy. Whoever is not holy, he does not possess it. Therefore St. Peter speaks here only of one kind of priesthood.
[Footnote 1: Aromatic snuff.]
We ask further, whether he makes a distinction between spiritual and worldly, since the clergy are now called spiritual, and other Christians worldly?
Yet they must confess, no thanks to them, that St. Peter here speaks to all those that are Christians, even to those who lay aside all wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy and malice, etc., and are like new-born children, and drink the pure milk: so that their lie must bite itself in their mouth, since it stands forth a thing not to be gainsaid, that St. Peter speaks to all that are Christians; whence it is clear that they lie, and that St. Peter says nothing of their priesthood, which they have fancied and arrogate to themselves alone; wherefore our bishops are nothing but Nicholas-bishops, and as is their priesthood so are also their laws, sacrifices and works. It might be an excellent play to act out in the deep night, except that under the mask the divine name is reviled.
Therefore those alone are the holy and spiritual priesthood, who are true Christians and built upon this stone.
For since Christ is the bridegroom, and we all of us are the bride, so then the bride has all which the bridegroom has, even His own body; for if He gives Himself to the bride, He gives Himself for what He is, and on the other hand the bride gives herself to Him. Now Christ has been anointed the high and most exalted priest by God Himself; has also sacrificed His own body for us, which is the office of the high priest; besides, He prayed on the cross for us. Again, He has also preached the Gospel, and taught all men to know God and Himself.
These three offices has He also given to all of us: therefore, since He is a priest and we are his brethren, so all Christians have it in their power and charge, and an obligation rests upon them, to preach and to come before God, and that one should entreat for another and offer himself up to God; and provided that any one begin to preach the word of God or address it to others, he is then a priest.
To offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. As to spiritual offerings, it is not necessary that we should present them to the Pope; neither is sacrifice such as it was in the Old Testament, when men were required to sacrifice the tenth of all they had. Such outward sacrifices and priesthood have all now ceased, and all has become new and spiritual. The priest is Christ; and we all, since He has sacrificed His own body, must offer up ourselves. Here is now fulfilled all that was typified by outward sacrifices in the Old Testament, since they have all passed away, and all of them may be said compendiously to preach the Gospel. Whoever preaches this exercises and carries out all that former -- strikes the calf dead, -- that is, kills the carnal mind and the old Adam. For this stubborn nature in flesh and blood must be slain by the Gospel; thus do we permit ourselves to be offered upon the cross and to die. Herein is exercised the true priest's office, in that we sacrifice to God that wicked rogue, the corrupt old dolt (of our nature); if the world does it not, we must do it ourselves; but it must in the end be all removed, whatever we have of the old Adam, as we heard above in the first chapter. This is the only sacrifice that pleases and is acceptable to God. From this you may perceive whereto our foolish and blind leaders have brought us, and how this text has been kept under the bench. Now you may say, If that is true, that we are all priests and ought to preach, what sort of an institution is there? must there then be no distinction among the people, and are the women, also, to be priests? Answer. In the Old Testament it is permitted to no priest to wear the tonsure. Not that it is wrong in itself; a person might very well suffer himself to be shorn if he chose, but it is reason that none make a distinction between himself and common Christians, -- a thing which faith will not permit. So that they who are now called priests are all laymen like the others, and only some, for the office' sake, are selected out of the Church to preach. Thus there is only an outward distinction for the office' sake, inasmuch as one is called of the Church; but before God there is no difference, and some individuals are selected from the multitude, in order that they may bear and exercise the office which they all have; not that one is more elect than another. Therefore, no one should rise up of himself and preach in the Church, but one is to be selected and instituted out of the congregation, who may be removed when it is desirable.
Yet have these men assumed a position of their own; as though directed by God, they have arrogated to themselves such license, that almost in the heart of christendom there is a greater distinction than that which exists between us and the Turks. When you look upon Christians you must observe no distinction, and you are not to say, this is a man or a woman, a servant or a master, old or young; as Paul tells us, Gal. iii.: They are all one and a purely spiritual people. So that all alike are priests, all alike may proclaim God's word, except that a woman is not to speak in the Church; but let the men preach, because of the command that they are to be subject to their husbands -- as St. Paul teaches us, I. Cor. xiv.: Such order God permits to remain, but makes no distinction of the election. But where there are no men, but women only, as in the Nun's Cloisters, there a woman may be selected to preach.
This is now the true priesthood, which consists in those three points as we have heard, -- namely, that we sacrifice spiritually; that we pray for the Church; that we preach. Whoever will do this, he is a priest, as all are bound to be, inasmuch as they should preach the word, pray for the Church, and offer themselves up before God. Let those fools then go who call the institution of the priests spiritual, who yet bear no other office but just to wear the tonsure and to be anointed. If the being shorn and anointed makes a priest, then might I easily shear an ass and anoint him, so that he should be a priest also.
Finally, St. Peter says, that we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the corner stone whereon we are laid, it must be only through him that we are to treat with God, as we have heard sufficiently above; for God does not look upon my cross even though I torture myself to death, but he looks upon Christ through whom my works are acceptable before God, which otherwise would not be worth an alms of a straw's value. Therefore Scripture calls Christ properly a precious corner stone which imparts its virtue to all who through faith are built upon it. So, also, St. Peter teaches us in this passage how Christ is the living stone -- what Christ is; and the figure is a fine one, since it is easy to understand by it how we are to believe on Christ. -- It follows, now, further:
V.6-10. Therefore it is contained in Scripture, Behold I lay in Zion an elect precious corner stone, and whoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame. To you therefore who believe, He is precious, but to the unbelieving, the stone which the builders rejected is made a corner stone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, even to those that stumble at the word and believe not thereon, whereunto they were appointed. But ye are the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praise of him who has called you out of darkness into his wonderful light: who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, to whom God did not show mercy, but (now have obtained mercy) to whom He is now merciful.
I have before said, that St. Peter has enriched and fortified his Epistle well with Scripture, just as all preachers should do, in order that their foundation may rest entirely on the word of God. Here also he introduces four or five texts, one upon another. The first he has taken from the prophet Isaiah, word for word, that Christ is a precious corner stone or foundation, and is the very passage which we have just treated of and somewhat explained. It is truly an eminent proof text of the doctrine of faith, which is to be laid down as a foundation when we are to preach in a place where Christ has not been preached before. For it must be confessed that Christ is the stone on which faith should be built and should stand.
But that the prophet does not speak in this place of a material stone is evident from this, that it afterward follows, |whoever believes on Him shall not be made ashamed.| If I am to believe on Him, it must be a stone in a spiritual sense. For how am I to believe on stone and wood? Besides, He must be truly God, since, in the first commandment, God has forbidden that we should believe on anything else, but on Him only. Since then this stone is laid as a foundation on which we are to trust, it must be God Himself. On the other hand, He cannot be God alone, but must also therewith be like man, because He must be a part of the building, and not merely a part, but the head. If a man then erects a building, one stone must be like the other, that each have the complexion, nature, and form of the other: therefore, since we are built on Christ, he also must be like us, and of the same nature with the other stones that rest upon Him, even a real humanity as we all have. Thus does the Scripture, by simple and few words, express so great a matter, even the entire summa of our faith, and in such brief words comprises more than any man can express.
Now what this that builds us up is, I have already said -- namely, faith, whereby we are laid on Christ, and repose our trust upon this stone, and thus become like Him; and then this also must follow, that the building must be fitted one part to the other, for the other stones must all be laid and placed upon this stone. That is, of course, that love is a fruit of faith.
But why does the prophet call Him a foundation stone? For this reason: that no man can build a house except he lay one stone first as a foundation, for the other stones in the building cannot stand except on the foundation stone.
So we must all of us rest on Christ, and confess Him for a foundation stone. Therefore we are not to pride ourselves that the stone must receive something from us, but we must receive blessing from it alone; for we do not bear it up, but it bears us up, and upon Him lies sin, death, hell, and all that we have to bear. So that all this -- and whatever jars against us -- cannot injure us if we have been placed on this foundation.
For if we remain resting on him, and leave ourselves upon Him, we must then remain where He is; just as natural stones must be left on their foundation stone.
Besides, the prophet calls Him a corner stone. The Holy Spirit has a way of His own of saying much in few words. Christ is a corner stone because he has brought Gentiles and Jews together who were at dead enmity one with another, and thus the Christian Church has been gathered of both classes, whereof the Apostle Paul writes largely. The Jews gloried in the law of God, and that they were God's people, and so despised the heathen. But now Christ has come, has taken away their boasting from the Jews, and called us who were Gentiles; and thus he has made us both one, by one faith, and He has so dealt with us that we both must confess that we have nothing of ourselves, but are all sinners, and only must expect righteousness and heaven from Him, and that we Gentiles may as justly claim that Christ has come to help us, as the Jews; wherefore He is the corner stone that joins both together in one, so that it becomes one building and one house.
This, now, is the conclusion to which the prophet comes: Whoever believes on Him shall not be put to shame. When the Holy Spirit says, that they shall not be ashamed who believe on Christ, he gives us to understand what he has in view, -- to wit, that he has already published and confirmed the sentence, that the whole world must be confounded and put to shame. Yet he would draw forth some out of the multitude, so that no one may escape the shame but he who believes on Christ. So Christ explains Himself in the last of Mark: |Whoever believes and is baptised shall be saved; but he who believes not shall be damned;| in which words, moreover, He accords with the prophets. So that Peter said well in the first chapter, that the prophets sought out the time, and diligently inquired after the salvation and concerning the future grace that was previously promised. So now Christ is to be preached, that He it is who has rescued us from this shame into which we were all plunged.
Now let any one come forward who chooses, and exalt free-will, and defend human ability. Though you should commingle together all human works and doctrines, and whatever springs from man, you have enough in this single passage to overthrow it all, so that it must all fall like dry leaves from the tree.
For it is doomed that whatever does not rest upon this stone, that is already lost. He does not suffer that you should attain anything by works. With such simplicity speaks forth the Spirit and the Divine Majesty, that it despises no one, yet with such authority that it overcomes all things. Who, then, will set himself against it, or who will not be terrified by it? Therefore God would have us entirely despair as it regards ourselves, and appropriate to ourselves only the blessings which He has, and build on that foundation which no creature can overthrow; so that no one should trust in his own righteousness, but on Christ's righteousness, and on all that Christ has. But what is it to rest upon His righteousness? Nothing else but that I should despond in regard to myself, and think with myself, -- my righteousness, my truth, must go to pieces, and what is built thereon; while His righteousness, His truth, His life, and all the blessings which He has, are eternal. There lies the foundation on which I stand; whatever stands not on this foundation, will all necessarily fall. But he who lets himself fall back on this, he alone shall not be put to shame, and shall rest safe, so that no violence shall ever injure him at all. Therefore Christ must be not only a stone, but God will lay Him also as a foundation on which we should confide. God has said this, who cannot lie.
Now this stone is not subservient to itself, but suffers itself to be trodden on, and buried in the earth so that it cannot be seen, and the other stones lie upon it and can be seen. Wherefore, it is given to us that we should partake of Him, and rest upon Him, and believe that what He has shall all be ours, as what He has procured; that He has done it for us; so that I may say, -- this is my own property and treasure, over which my conscience can exult. -- But St. Peter says further:
V.7, 8. To you, therefore, who believe, He is precious; but to the unbelieving, the stone which the builders rejected has become a corner stone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. This exceedingly precious stone, says Peter, is indeed, to some, precious and honorable. But on the other hand, it is also to many not precious, but despised, and a stone of stumbling. How is this? The Scripture ascribes to it a twofold aspect, inasmuch as there are some that believe thereon, and, on the other hand, many who do not believe thereon. To them who believe, is He precious; so that my heart must be glad if I repose my confidence and trust upon Him. Therefore he says, -- to you that believe, He is precious; that is, ye are greatly dependent on Him; for although He in Himself is precious and excellent, yet this may be of no service or help to me. Therefore He must be precious to us for this reason, because He gives us so many precious blessings; as an excellently precious stone, which does not retain its virtue in itself, but breaks forth and imparts all its powers, so that I have all that it is.
But the unbelieving hold Him not as such a precious stone, but reject Him, and stumble upon Him, because He is not pleasing to them, but obnoxious and hateful; although He is yet delightful in Himself. These are not only the great, openly avowed sinners, but much more those great saints who rest on their free-will, on their own works and righteousness, who must stumble on this stone and run upon it. Now God pronounces the sentence, that they who rest thereon, without works, come to be justified through faith alone; but these do not attain thereto, for they would be justified by their own righteousness, as St. Paul says, Rom. x.
Therefore this has become the stone, says St. Peter, which the builders rejected. And here he dovetails the Scriptures into one another, but explains the passage which he quoted above from the cxvii. Psalm, |The stone which the builders rejected, has become the corner stone.| Who the builders are, I have sufficiently shown: even those who taught, preached the law, and would justify men by works; who agree with Christians, as summer and winter with each other; therefore those preachers who preach of works, reject this stone.
Besides this, he quotes another passage still, from the prophet Isaiah, chap. viii. The prophet has there described that which was to take place, as St. Peter here does, and speaks thus: |The Lord shall be your fear, who shall be to you for holiness; but for a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence shall He be, to both houses of Israel.| This is the sense of the prophet: The Lord shall be to you for holiness, -- that is, He shall be hallowed in your hearts; ye are to have no other sanctification, neither this nor that, except as ye believe. To the others, He shall be a stone whereon they shall stumble and be offended.
But what, now, is this offence and perplexity, or stumbling? This is it: when we preach Christ, and say, See why this stone is laid for a foundation, that you, wholly desponding and despairing in yourself, might hold your works and your own righteousness as a merely condemned thing, and might place your confidence upon Him alone, and believe, that Christ's righteousness may become your righteousness; when those men hear this, they revolt at it, stumble and vex themselves, and say, |How? do you mean to say that virginity, and masses, and the like good works, amount to nothing? It is the devil that bids you say that!| For they cannot understand, in this matter, that their claims are not good; they think they have done well in the sight of God; quote passages to prove it from the Scriptures, and say, God has commanded that we should perform good works. If we dispute this, they begin and cry out, |Heretic! Heretic!| |Fire! Fire!| So that they cannot endure this stone, and they stumble against it. So inconsistent are they one with another, that upon this stone they must stumble; as Christ says, Matt. xxi., |Have ye not read in Scripture, -- the stone which the builders rejected is become the corner stone? (and it follows) and whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be dashed in pieces, and on whom it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.| Therefore, do as ye will, ye cannot dishonor the stone; it is laid, and it will continue to lie. Whoever, then, will run upon it and dash himself thereon, must necessarily be broken.
That is the stumbling and the vexation whereof Scripture has much to say. Thus the Jews stumble to this day against this stone, -- and this will not cease until the last day shall come; then shall this stone fall upon all the unbelieving and grind them to powder. Wherefore, although Christ is such an elect, precious stone, He must yet be called a stone of offence and stumbling, by no fault of His. And just as the Jews did, we continue to do at the present day; for as they gloried in the name of God, that they were God's people, so it is the case now, that men, under the name of Christ and the christian church, deny Christ, and reject the precious stone. He has come that they might reject their works; but this is a thing they cannot suffer, and they reject Him. Therefore it follows:
Who stumble at the word and believe not thereon, whereunto they were appointed. If they are told that their works are not good and are of no avail before God, they cannot and will not hear it. Now God has laid down Christ as a foundation, whereon they should have been placed, and through Him have obtained complete salvation; and He has caused Him to be preached throughout the whole world, that they, through the proclamation of the Gospel, might be grounded on Him. Yet would they not receive Him, but rejected Him, and remain in their own nature and works; for if they suffered themselves to rest upon Him, then would their own honor, riches, and power fall, insomuch that they would never rise again. -- St. Peter says further:
V.9. But ye are the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people. There he gives Christians a true title, and has quoted this passage from Moses, Deut. vii., where he says to the Jews, |Ye are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord your God has chosen you as his peculiar people out of all the nations that are on the earth.| So, Ex. xix., he says: |Ye shall be my possession before all peoples, and shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy people.| There you see where Peter's words are from. As I have said before, so I say again, that it should be understood how Scripture is wont to speak of priests. Let no one be troubled as to those whom the people call priests; let every one call them as he pleases, but abide thou by the pure word of God, and what this calls priests do thou call priests also. We could well endure it that those should call themselves priests whom the bishops and the Pope consecrate, and let them call themselves as they will, only see to it that they do not call themselves priests of God, for they cannot quote a word from Scripture in proof of it.
But should they claim that in this passage he speaks of them, answer them as I have instructed you above, and ask them to whom St. Peter is here speaking, -- so shall they of necessity be made ashamed; for it is certainly clear and plain enough that he speaks to the whole congregation, to all Christians, in that he says, ye are the chosen generation and the holy people, since he has hitherto spoken of none but of those who are built upon this stone and believe. Therefore it must follow, that whoever does not believe is no priest. If they say, then, |Ah! we must explain the passage just as the holy fathers have interpreted it;| then do you say, Let the fathers and teachers, whoever they may be, explain as they will, yet St. Peter, who has received greater testimony from God than they, besides being more ancient, tells me so and so, therefore I will hold with him. The passage, moreover, needs no gloss, for he speaks in express words of those that believe. Now those are not the only believers who are anointed and wear the tonsure; therefore we will readily grant them that they call themselves by this name, for the question is not what they permit themselves to do; but the dispute is here, -- whether they are styled priests in Scripture, and whether God calls them by this name. There may be some selected out of the Church, who are its officers and ministers, and appointed to this end, that they should preach in the Church and administer the sacraments; but we are all priests before God if we are Christians. For since we are built upon this stone, which is our high priest before God, we must also possess all that He has.
Therefore I would be glad to find this word priests becoming as common as it is for us to be called Christians. For it is all the same, -- priest, baptized, Christian. As little as I would suffer that those who are anointed and shorn should call Christians un-baptized, so little would I endure that they only should be regarded as priests. Yet have they arrogated it entirely to themselves. So too they have named that the church which the Pope and his cardinals rule over, but Scripture refutes this. Therefore mark this well, that you may know how to establish the distinction as to how God names us priests, and how men call themselves such.
For we must yet again state that this word priest should become as common as the word Christian. For to be a priest belongs not to an office that is external, it is only such a service as has to do with God's presence.
So we conclude that we are all kings. Priests and kings are all spiritual names, as Christians, saints, the Church. And just as you are not called a Christian because you have much gold or wealth, but because you are built upon this stone and believe on Christ, so you are not called a priest because you wear a tonsure or long robe, but for this reason, that you come into God's presence. Likewise you are not a king because you wear a gold crown, and have many lands and people subject to you, but because you are lord over all things, death, sin, and hell. For you are as really a king as Christ is a king, if you believe on Him. Still He is not a king as the kings of this world are, wears no crown of gold, rides forth with no great splendor and large equipage. But He is a king over all kings, -- one who has authority over all things, and at whose feet all must lie. As He is a lord, so also am I a lord; for what He possesses that have I also.
But perhaps some one may object. St. Peter says here, also, that Christians are kings, while we have it before our eyes that they are not all kings, so that this passage is not to be understood as though He spoke of all in the Church. For whoever may be a Christian, he certainly is not a king in France or a priest at Rome. But when I ask whether the King of France is also a king in the sight of God, this he passes over, for God will not judge by the crown. On earth, indeed, and before the world, he is indeed a king, but when death comes then his kingdom is gone, for then he must lie at the feet of those that believe. We are speaking of an eternal kingdom and priesthood, inasmuch as every one who believes is in truth a king before God; but who does not know that we are not all shorn and anointed priests? But because those men have been anointed, they are not therefore priests in the sight of God, just as they are not kings before God because they have been crowned. Crowned kings and anointed priests are of the world, and are made by men; the Pope may make as many such priests as he chooses, but far be it that he should make one a priest before God, for these God himself will make.
Therefore, when St. Peter says here, |ye are the royal priesthood,| it is as much as though he had said, |ye are Christians.| Would you now know what sort of a title, and authority, and glory, Christians have: you learn it here, that they are kings and priests, and a chosen people. -- But what this priest's office is, follows after:
That ye should show forth the praises of Him that hath called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. This belongs to the office of a priest, that he be a messenger of God, and receive from God himself the command to preach His word. The praises, (says St. Peter,) that is, the wonderful work that God has performed in you, in that he brought you out of darkness into light, you are to proclaim, -- which is the office of the High Priest. And this is the way in which your preaching is to be discharged, that one brother proclaim to another the powerful work of God: how ye have been ransomed from sin, death, hell, and all evil, by Him, and have been called to eternal life. Thus shall you also instruct others how they may come also to the same light. For your whole duty is discharged in this, that you confess what God has done for you; and then let this be your chief aim, that you may make this known openly, and call every one to the light, whereto ye have been called. Where you see people who are ignorant, you are to direct and teach them as you have learned, namely, how a man may be saved through the virtue and power of God, and pass from darkness to light.
[Footnote 2: In the German, tugend or virtue.]
And here you observe that St. Peter plainly says, that there is only one single light, and concludes that all our reason, however sharp-sighted it is, is mere darkness; for although reason may count one, two, three, and also discern what is black or white, great or small, and judge outwardly of other matters, still it cannot understand what faith is. Herein it is stark blind, and if all men should put their shrewdness together, they could not understand a letter of this divine wisdom. Therefore St. Peter speaks here of another light, that is truly wonderful; and tells us earnestly, all alike, that we are all in darkness and blindness if God hath not called us to his true light.
Experience teaches us this, also. For when it is preached that we cannot come before God by our works, but must have a mediator, who may come into God's presence and may reconcile us to him, reason must confess that she never could have known such a thing; so that if she would understand it she must have another light and knowledge. Therefore all that is not of God's word and faith is darkness. For here reason gropes like a blind man, -- is ever changing from this to that, and knows not what it does. But if we speak in this manner to the worldly, learned, or wise, they begin to cry out and bluster against it. Therefore St. Peter is a bold Apostle indeed, in that he dares make that darkness that all the world calls light.
So we see that the first and most eminent office which we as Christians are to discharge is, that we should make known the praise of God. What then are the praiseworthy things and the noble deeds which God has put forth? They are, as we have often said, that Christ, through the power of God, has wounded death, chained hell, subdued sin and brought us to eternal life: these are praises so great that by no man are they possibly to be conceived; we can only be silent. Therefore it is of no avail that to us Christians human doctrines should be preached, but we should be taught of such a power as subdues the devil, sin and death. And here St. Peter has once more brought together many proof-texts, and it is throughout common with him thus to heap passage on passage, for all the prophets speak of this, that God's name and honor, and his arm or power should be honored and extolled, and that he would perform such a work that the whole world would sing and speak of it. Of this are the prophets in all places full. On this same St. Peter here expatiates. Besides, they have spoken much of light and darkness, that we must be enlightened with God's light, thereby showing that all human reason is darkness. -- St. Peter says, further:
V.10. Ye who once were not a people, but are now a people of God, to whom God did not show mercy, but to whom he is now merciful. This passage is found written in the prophet Hosea, chap. ii., and St. Paul has also quoted it in Rom. ix.: |I will make those to be called my people, who were not my people.| The import of all is this: Almighty God chose his people Israel as a peculiar people, and manifested his great power in their behalf, and gave them many prophets, and performed many wonderful works toward them, that He from that people might permit Christ to become man; and for the children's sake has it all taken place. Therefore they are called in Scripture the people of God. But the prophets have extended this further, and said that this election should be more comprehensive, and should even include the Gentiles. Therefore St. Peter says here, ye are now the people of God, who once were not the people of God. Hence it is evident that he wrote the epistle to the Gentiles and not to the Jews. Thereby he shows that the passage out of the prophet has been now fulfilled -- that they are now a holy people -- they have the property, priesthood, kingdom, and all which Christ has, if they believe. -- It follows further, in Peter:
V.11-12. Dearly beloved, I admonish you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and lead an honest life among the Gentiles, so that they, if they slander you as evildoers, may see your good works, and praise God when it shall come to that day.
St. Peter here uses a somewhat different mode of speech from St. Paul, who would not speak in the same manner, as we shall hear: for every Apostle has his own way of speaking, just as each prophet has also. He has hitherto been firmly laying down his foundation of the christian faith, which may serve as his text. Now he proceeds and teaches how we should conduct ourselves toward all men. This is the true method of preaching, that faith should be first set forth, -- what it does, and what its power and nature are, even that it gives fully to us everything that is necessary to holiness and salvation, -- that we can do nothing except by faith, and through this we have all which God has. God has thus proceeded with us and given to us all that is His, and has Himself become our own, so that we have, through faith, all things that are good and needful for us. What then are we to do? Are we to live in indolence? It were far better that we should die, though we had all. But while we live here we should act in our neighbor's behalf, and give ourselves to him for his own, as God hath given Himself to us. Thus faith saves us, but love leads us to give to our neighbor whenever we have enough to give. That is, faith receives from God; love gives to our neighbor. This matter is spoken of in few words, yet much may easily be preached thereon, and it may be further extended than it has here been by St. Peter.
This is now the sense of the Apostle, when he says, Dear brethren, I admonish you as strangers and as pilgrims. Since, then, you are one with Christ, form one household, and His goods are yours, your injury is His injury, and He takes as His own all that you possess; therefore you are to follow after Him, and conduct yourselves as those who are no more citizens of the world. For your possessions lie not upon the earth, but in heaven; and though you have already lost all temporal good, you still have Christ, who is more than all else. The devil is the prince of this world and rules it; his citizens are the people of this world; therefore, since you are not of the world, act as a stranger in an inn, who has not his possessions with him, but procures food, and gives his gold for it. For here it is only a sojourning, where we cannot tarry, but must travel further. Therefore we should use worldly blessings no more than is needful for health and appetite, and therewith leave and go to another land. We are citizens in heaven; on earth we are pilgrims and guests.
Abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul. I will not determine, here, whether St. Peter speaks of outward impurity, -- or as St. Paul's language is, all that is called carnal, -- whatever man does without faith, while he is in the body and a carnal life. I hold, indeed, that St. Peter had a somewhat different mode of speech, yet do not think that he uses the word soul, as St. Paul does, for spirit; but St. Peter has given in more to the common Greek word, than St. Paul. Yet much stress is not to be laid upon this: let it be understood of all kinds of lusts, or all kinds of carnal desire or impurity. But this at least he would teach us, that no saint on earth can be fully perfect and holy. Yet the high schools have even trodden the passage under their feet, nor do they understand it; they think it is said only of sinners, as though the saints had no more wicked lusts remaining. But whoever will study carefully into the Scriptures, must note a distinction, because the prophets sometimes speak of the saints in an obvious way, as though they were perfectly holy in every respect; while on the other hand they speak also of them as having evil lusts and being troubled with sins.
In regard to those two positions, those persons cannot see their way. Understand, then, that Christians are divided into two parts, -- into an inward nature which is faith, and an outward which is the flesh. If we look upon a Christian as it respects faith, then he is pure and entirely holy; for the word of God has nothing impure in it, and wherever it enters the heart that depends upon it, it will make that also pure. Because, in respect to faith all things are perfect: according to that, we are kings and priests and the people of God, as was said above. But since faith exists in the flesh, and while we yet live on earth we feel at times evil dispositions, as impatience and fear of death, &c.
These are all the fault of the old man, for faith is not yet mature, has not attained full control over the flesh.
This you may understand from the parable in the Gospel, Luke x., of the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, who beat him and left him lying half dead, whom the Samaritan afterward took up, and bound up his wounds, and took care of him, and saw to it that he should be nursed. There you perceive that this man, since he is to be attended upon, is not sick unto death, -- his life is safe; all that is wanting is, that he should be restored to health. Life is there, but he is not completely restored, for he lies yet in the hands of the physicians and must yet give himself up to be healed. So it is with us as respects the Lord Jesus Christ; we are assured of Eternal life, yet we have not complete health; something of the old Adam still remains in the flesh.
Similar also is the parable in the xiii. of Matthew, where Christ says, the kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman takes and mingles in the meal until it is leavened throughout. When the meal is made into dough, the leaven is all in it, but it has not penetrated and worked through it, but the meal lies working, until it is leavened throughout, and no more leaven need be added. Thus though you have what you should have, through faith, whereby you apprehend the word of God, yet it has not penetrated throughout, wherefore it must continue to work till you are entirely renewed. In this way you are to discriminate in regard to the Scriptures, and not mangle them as the Papists do.
Therefore I say, when you read in Scripture of the Saints, that they were perfect, understand it thus: that they as to faith were entirely pure and without sin, but the flesh still remained, that could not have been entirely holy. Therefore Christians desire and pray that the body or the flesh be mortified, that it may be entirely pure. This those who teach otherwise have neither experienced nor relished, which leads them to speak just as they imagine and conceive by reason; wherefore they must err. In regard to this, those great saints who have written and taught much, have greatly stumbled. Origen has not a word of it in his books. Jerome never understood it. Augustine, had he not been driven to contend with the Pelagians, would have understood it as little. When they speak of the saints, they extol them as highly as if they were something different from, and better than, other Christians: certainly as though they had not felt the power of the flesh and complained thereof as well as we.
Therefore St. Peter says here, as ye would be pure and have complete sanctification, continue to contend with your evil lusts. So also Christ says in the Gospel of John xiii.: |Whoever is washed, must also wash his feet;| it is not enough that his head and hands be clean, therefore he would yet have them wash their feet.
But what does St. Peter mean, in that he says, refrain from the lusts that war against the soul? This is what he would say: You are not to imagine that you can succeed by sports and sleep. Sin is indeed taken away by faith, but you have still the flesh which is impulsive and inconsiderate; therefore take good care, that ye overcome it. By strong effort must it be; you are to constrain and subdue lust, and the greater your faith is, the greater will the conflict be. Therefore you should be prepared and armed, and should contend therewith without intermission. For they will assault you in multitudes, and would take you captive.
Hence St. Paul says, also, Rom. vii.: |I have a desire toward the law of God after the inward man; but I find another law in my members, which opposes itself to the law in my spirit, and takes me captive, that I cannot do as I would,| -- as though he had said, I fight indeed against it, but it will not finally yield. Therefore I would gladly be free, but in spite of my wishing it, it may not come to pass. What then am I to do? |Wretched man that I am, (says he,) who shall deliver me from the body of this death.| In this same manner, also, all the saints cry out. But those people who are without faith, the devil leads in such a way that he permits them only to enter on sinful courses, to follow him and make no opposition. But as to the others, he thinks, I have already taken them captive by unbelief. I will permit them then to go so far only, as to do no great sin and have no great assault and be kept from swearing and knavery.
But believers have always opposition enough, -- they must ever stand in the (attitude of) struggle. Those who are without faith and have not the Spirit, do not feel this, nor do they have such an experience; they break away and follow their wicked lusts; but as soon as the Spirit and faith enter our hearts, we become so weak that we think we cannot beat down the least imaginations and sparks (of temptation), and see nothing but sin in ourselves, from the crown of the head, even to the foot. For before we believed, we walked according to our own lusts, but now the Spirit has come and would purify us, and there arises a conflict. Here the devil, the flesh, and the world, oppose themselves to faith; whereof the prophets complain, here and there, in the Scriptures.
Wherefore St. Peter here means, that the strife does not take place in sinners, but in believers, and gives us an encouragement, inasmuch as when we are on our guard against wicked lusts, we are repelling them. If thou, then, hast wicked thoughts, thou shouldest not on this account despair; only be on thy guard, that thou be not taken prisoner of them. Our teachers have proposed to relieve the matter in this way (by directing,) that men should torture themselves until they had no more evil thoughts, that they might be at last bold and free. But you are to understand, if you are a Christian, that you must experience all kinds of opposition and wicked dispositions in the flesh. For wherever there is faith, there come a hundred evil thoughts, a hundred strugglings more than before; only see to it that you act the man, and not suffer yourself to be taken captive; and continue to resist, and say, I will not, I will not. For we must here confess, that the case is much like that of an ill-matched couple, who are continually complaining of one another, and what one will do the other will not.
That may yet be called a truly christian life that is never at perfect rest, and has not so far attained as to feel no sin, provided that sin be felt, indeed, but not favored. Thus we are to fast, pray, labor, to subdue and suppress lust. So that you are not to imagine that you are to become such a saint as these fools speak of. While flesh and blood continue, so long sin remains; wherefore it is ever to be struggled against. Whoever has not learned this by his own experience, must not boast that he is a Christian.
Hitherto we have been taught, that when we made confession, or joined ourselves to some spiritual institution, we were at once pure and needed no longer to contend with sin. They have said, moreover, that baptism purifies and makes holy, so that nothing evil remains in the person. Then they have thought, |now will I have a pleasing rest,| but the devil has come and assaulted them worse than before. Therefore understand the thing well, though you confess and permit yourselves to receive absolution, you must do even as the soldier, who in battle runs upon the points (of the javelins); whenever the critical moment approaches, and the conflict rages, compelling him to strike right bravely, as if to repel outrage, then he must draw out his sword and lay about him; but while the strife threatens only, so long must there be untiring vigilance. So, although you have been baptized, be on your guard, inasmuch as you are not safe for an hour from the devil and from sin, even though you think you will have no more assaults.
Therefore a christian life is nothing else but a conflict and encampment, as the Scripture says; and therefore the Lord our God is called the Lord of Sabaoth, -- that is, a Lord over the hosts. So also, Dominus potens in praelio -- the Lord mighty in battle.
And thereby He shows how powerful He is, that He permits His people to be exposed in the conflict and rush upon the points (of the javelins). Yet so that while the trumpets are ever sounding He is ever observant, (saying) beware here, beware there; thrust here, strike there. Besides, it is a lasting conflict, in which you are to do all that you can, so that you may strike down the devil by the word of God. We must therefore ever make resistance, and call on God for help, and despond of all human powers. -- Now follows further:
V.12. And lead an honest life, that those who have slandered you, as evil-doers, may see your good works and praise God. Mark now what an excellent order St. Peter has observed. He has already taught us what we should do in order to subdue the flesh with all its lusts. Now he teaches us again why this should be. Why should I subdue my flesh? that I may be saved? No, but that I may lead an honest life before the world. For this honest life does not justify us, but we must first be justified and believe before we attempt to lead an honest (pious) life. But as to outward conduct, this I am not to direct to my own profit, but that the unbelieving may thereby be reformed and attracted, that they through us may come to Christ; which is a true mark of love, though they slander and asperse us, and hold us as the worst wretches. Therefore we should exhibit such an excellent course of action, that men shall be compelled to say, Certainly they cannot be blamed.
We read that when the emperors reigned, and persecuted the Christians, no fault could be found with the latter, except that they called on Christ and considered Him as God. So Pliny writes in his letter to Trajan, the Emperor, that he knew of no wrong that the Christians did, except that they came together every morning, early, and sang songs of praise in order that they might honor their Christ and receive the sacrament; besides this, none could bring any charge against them. Therefore St. Peter says: Ye must endure to have men asperse you as evil-doers, and for this reason you are to lead such a life that you shall do no man injury, and in this manner you shall bring about their reformation. Till that day arrive; that is, ye must endure it as long as men reproach you, till all shall be set forth and revealed, so that it shall be seen how unjust they have been toward you, and that they must glorify God on your account. So St. Peter continues:
V.13-17. Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as those that are sent by Him for the punishment of evil-doers and to the praise of those that do well. For this is the will of God, that by well-doing ye may silence the ignorance of foolish men. As free, and not as though ye had your freedom as a cover of wickedness, but as the servants of God. Be respectful toward every man. Love the brotherhood; fear God; honor the king.
In such a beautiful order does St. Peter proceed, and teaches us how we should conduct ourselves in all things. Hitherto he has spoken in a general manner of the conduct that belongs to every condition. Now he begins to teach how we should act toward civil magistracy. For since he had said enough as to the first matter, of our duty to God and ourselves, he now adds how we are to conduct toward all men.
And now he would say, in the first place, and before all else, since ye have done all that was necessary that ye might attain to a true faith and hold your body in subjection, let this now be your first business, to obey the magistracy.
This, which I have here rendered in the Dutch, every ordinance of man, is in the Greek [Greek: ktiois], and in Latin creatura. This thing has not been understood by our learned men. The Dutch language well expresses what the word means, where it is said, we are to obey what the ruler enacts (creates). So he uses the word here as though he said, what the magistracy enacts (creates) yield obedience to. For to enact (create) is to lay down a command and ordinance; it is a human creation. But they have hence inferred that creatura means an ox or an ass, as the Pope also speaks of it. If this were Peter's meaning, then we should need to become subject even to a slave. But he here means a human ordinance, law or command, -- and what they enact we are to do.
What God makes, authorizes, and requires, -- that is His ordinance, as that we should believe. So, also, that is a human and secular creation which is constituted by commands, as external government must be. To this we are to be subject. Therefore understand the expression as meaning, creatura humana, quod creat et condit homo (what man makes and constructs).
For the Lord's sake. We are not bound to obedience to the sovereign power for its own sake, he says, but for God's sake, whose children we are; and we should be drawn to this, not that we may thereby acquire a merit, -- for what I do for God's sake, I must freely do as an act of service: moreover, I would do from mere cheerfulness, what His heart desires. But why should we be obedient to the magistracy for God's sake? Because it is God's will that evil-doers should be punished, and those that do well should be protected, that there may be concord in the world. So we should demand that there be civil peace, which God requires; but the majority are unbelieving, so that He has enacted and ordained, in order that the world might not go to anarchy, that the magistracy should bear the sword and restrain the wicked, in order that if they are not disposed to be at peace, they may be compelled to it. This He executes through the magistracy, so that the world may be ruled to the good of all. Whence you see that if there were none wicked, there would be no need of magistracy; wherefore he says, to the punishment of evil-doers, and to the praise of those that do well. The just should have the honor of it when they do right, since they exalt and crown worldly magistracy, insomuch that others may take example from them, -- not that any one may thereby merit any thing before God. Such is Paul's language, also, in Rom. xiii.: |The power is not established to the fear of those that do well, but for the evil; therefore, if thou wouldst not be afraid of the power, do well.|
V.15. For this is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should silence the ignorance of foolish men. In these words St. Peter silences those vain babblers who glory in their christian name, and prevents them from coming forward and saying, Since faith is sufficient for a Christian, and works do not justify, what is then the necessity of being subject to the civil power, and paying tribute and taxes? And he tells them thus, that although we have no need of it, we ought readily to do it to please God, so that the mouth of those enemies of God who asperse us may be stopped, and they be able to bring up nothing against us, and be compelled to say that we are honest, obedient people. So we read of many saints, that they were summoned to war, under heathen rulers, and slew the enemy, yet were subject and obedient (to those that summoned them), as we Christians are bound to be to the magistracies, although it is now maintained that we could not be Christians if we lived among the Turks.
Now you may perhaps say here, But still Christ has commanded that we should not resist evil, but if any one strike us on one cheek we are to turn the other also; how, then, can we strike and execute others? Answer: the heathen formerly objected in like manner to the Christians, and said, if such and such should come to pass, your government must be suppressed. But we reply, it is true that Christians for themselves should not resist the evil, neither should they revenge themselves when they are injured, but endure injustice and violence, so that they cannot be severe even toward those who do not believe. But the magistracy of the sword is not thereby forbidden; for although honest Christians have no need of the sword and law (since they live so that none can complain of them, do no man wrong, but treat every one kindly and cheerfully, endure all that is done to them), yet the sword must be borne on account of the unchristian, that these, when they injure others, may be punished, so that the general peace shall be preserved and the just be protected. Thus God has provided another rule, that they who would not of themselves be restrained from evil, might be so compelled by the power that they should do no injury. Therefore God has established magistracy for the sake of the unbelieving, insomuch that even christian men might exercise the power of the sword, and come under obligation thereby to serve their neighbor and restrain the bad, so that the good might remain in peace among them. And still the command of Christ abides in force, that we are not to resist evil. So that a Christian, although he bears the sword, does not use it for his own sake nor to revenge himself, but only for others; and, moreover, this is a mark of christian love, that with the sword we support and defend the whole Church, and not suffer it to be injured. Christ teaches those only who, while they believe and love, obey also. But the greater multitude in the world, as it does not believe, obeys not the command. Therefore they must be ruled as unchristian, and their caprice be put under restraint; for if their power was suffered to obtain the upper hand, no one could stand before them.
Thus there are two kinds of government in the world, as there are also two kinds of people, -- namely, believers and unbelievers. Christians yield themselves to the control of God's word; they have no need of civil government for their own sake. But the unchristian portion require another government, even the civil sword, since they will not be controlled by the word of God. Yet if all were Christians and followed the Gospel, there would be no more necessity or use for the civil sword and the exercising of authority; for if there were no evil-doers there certainly could be no punishment. But since it is not to be expected that all of us should be righteous, Christ has ordained magistracy for the wicked, that they may rule as they must be ruled. But the righteous He keeps for Himself, and rules them by His mere word.
Therefore christian government is not opposed to the civil, nor is civil magistracy opposed to Christ. Civil government does not cease by Christ's ministry; but it is an outward thing, like all other offices and institutions. And as these exist distinct from Christ's office, so that an unbeliever may exercise them just as well as a Christian, so it is also with the exercise of the civil sword, since it neither makes men Christian or unchristian. But of this I have spoken often enough elsewhere. -- It follows, further:
V.16. As free, and not as though ye had your freedom as a cover for wickedness, but as the servants of God. This is said especially for us, who have heard of christian freedom, that we may not go on and abuse this freedom; that is to say, under the name and show of christian freedom do all that we lust after, so that from this freedom shall spring up a shamelessness and carnal recklessness, as we see even now takes place, and had begun even in the Apostle's times, as is easily discovered from the epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul, when men did what the great multitude do now. We have now, again, through the grace of God, come to the knowledge of the truth, and we know that that is mere deception which popes, bishops, priests and monks have hitherto taught, laid down and enforced; and our conscience is enlightened and has become free from human ordinances and from all the control which they have had over us, so that we are no longer obliged to do what they have commanded under peril of our salvation. To this freedom we must now hold fast, and never suffer ourselves to be robbed of it; but for this very reason we should be carefully on our guard not to make this freedom a cloak of our shame.
The Pope has here proceeded unrighteously in aiming to force and oppress men by his laws. For among a christian people there should and can be no compulsion, and if the attempt is made to bind the conscience by outward laws, faith and the christian life are soon suppressed; for Christ's are only to be led and ruled in the spirit, since they know that they, through faith, already have all whereby they are to be saved, and stand in need of nothing more to this end, and henceforth are under obligation to do nothing more than good to their neighbor, helping him with all they have, as Christ has helped them, and moreover that all the works which they do should be done freely and without constraint, and flow forth from willing and happy hearts; this is grateful to God, exalts and praises Him for the blessings that have been received. So St. Paul writes (I. Tim. i.), That for the righteous no law is made, for they do freely of themselves, and unsummoned, all that God requires.
Since now such enforcement of human doctrines is rejected and christian freedom is preached, the reckless spirits that are without faith coincide with it, and thereby would become good Christians, inasmuch as they keep not the law of the Pope, claiming this freedom which relieves them from obligation to it; and yet they observe not that which true christian freedom requires, -- namely, to do good to their neighbor with cheerfulness, and irrespective of its being commanded, as real Christians do. Thus they make christian freedom just a cloak, under which they work only their shame, and disgrace the noble name and title of that freedom which Christians have.
This St. Peter here forbids, for this is what he would say: although ye are free in all external matters (if ye are Christians), and should not be forced by laws to subject yourselves to the control of worldly rule, since for the righteous no law is given (as we have said), yet ye should do it of yourselves, voluntarily and without compulsion, -- not that ye must be held in obedience by necessity, but in order to please God, and for the advantage of your neighbor. This also Christ did Himself, as we read in Matt. xvii., that he paid tribute when he need not have done it, but was free, and Lord over all things. So likewise he subjected Himself to Pilate and permitted Himself to be judged, while as yet He said to him, |You could have had no power or authority over me except it had been given you from above,| in which words He gave confirmation to the authority to which He meanwhile subjected Himself, that He might please His Father.
Whence you see that that multitude has no claim to christian freedom who will do nothing, neither what the world nor what God requires, but abide in their insubordinate disposition, although they make their boast of the Gospel.
Though we be free from all laws, we must yet have respect to weak and ignorant Christians, since this is a work of love. Hence Paul says, Rom. xiii.: |Owe no man anything, but to love one another.| Therefore let him who would glory in his freedom, do first what a Christian should do: let him first do good to his neighbor, and thereafter make use of his freedom in such a way as this. When the Pope, or even any one, imposes his authority upon him, and would force him to obey it, let him say, |My good fellow, Pope, I will not do it, for this reason, because you choose to make a command of it, and invade my freedom.| For we are to live in freedom as the servants of God, (so St. Peter here says,) not as servants of man. Yet in case any one desires that of me in which I can be of service to him, I will cheerfully do it out of good will, not scrupulous whether it have been commanded or not, but for the sake of brotherly love, and because God also requires that I should do good to my neighbor. Thus I will not be forced to become subject to worldly princes and lords, but what I do I will do of my own self, -- not because they command me, but for service to my neighbor. Of this kind should all our works be, springing forth from affection and love, and all having respect to our neighbor, since we have no need on our own account to do good works. It further follows:
[Footnote 3: In the views presented by Luther, in this connection, we have a distinct enunciation of the noble principles of the Non-conformists of England -- principles which were familiar to the great Reformers and to the early Puritans. They could not admit any human authority to invade the domain of divine legislation. To a conformity in externals which did not require them to admit the right of the civil magistracy to enact laws for the church, they were willing to yield as far as was necessary to edification. But when the command issued from the ruling power, in usurpation of the prerogative of the great and only head of the church, and obedience was to be construed as acquiescence in such usurpation, their reply was kindred in tone and spirit to that which Luther here puts into the lips of a christian man in answer to Papal arrogance.]
V.17. Be respectful toward every man. This is not a command, but a faithful admonition. We are each of us assuredly under obligation, although we are free; for this freedom does not extend to evil-doing, but merely to well-doing. Now we have repeatedly said, that every Christian, through faith, attains to all that Christ has Himself, and is, moreover, His brother. Therefore, as I give all honor to the Lord Christ, so also should I do toward my neighbor. This consists, not merely in outward behavior, that I should bow to him, and things of that sort, but much more: that inwardly in my heart I should highly regard him, as I also highly regard Christ. We are the temple of God; as St. Paul says, I. Cor. iii., for the spirit of God dwelleth in us. If now we bend the knee before a place of worship, or a picture of the holy cross, should we not do it far more before a living temple of God?
[Footnote 4: One is reminded here of the noble reply of that English martyr, John Bradford, when he was required to bow down to a wooden cross. Stretching out his arms, as he stood before his tyrannical judges, he exclaimed, |Why, here is a living cross, and God made it; yet would I not worship even that.|]
So St. Paul teaches us, also, in Romans xii., that each should esteem the other better than himself, so that each should place himself below the other, and give him the preference. The gifts of God are manifold and various, so that one is in a more exalted position than another; but no one knows who is most exalted in the sight of God, for he may easily raise hereafter to the highest place one who here occupies the meanest position. Therefore should every one, however high he be exalted, humble himself and honor his neighbor.
V.17. Love the brotherhood. I have spoken above of the distinction which the Apostles make between love in general, and brotherly love. We are required even to love our enemies: this is common christian love. But brotherly love is, that we Christians should love one another as brethren, and communicate one to another, since we all alike have our blessings from God. This is the love which St. Peter here particularly requires.
Fear God; honor the King. He says not that we are to have great regard of lords and kings, but still that we are to honor them, although they are heathen, as Christ also did, and those prophets who fell at the feet of the King of Babylon. But here perhaps you will say, |hence, you perceive, that we are to be obedient to the Pope and are to fall at his feet.| Answer: Certainly, if the Pope attains to temporal power and conducts himself like another sovereign, we are to be obedient even to him, as when he speaks after this manner: |I forbid you wearing the cowl or tonsure; besides, on this day you are to fast, not that it is of any avail before God, nor is necessary to salvation, but because I, as a temporal ruler, require it.| But in case he goes further, and says, |This, in God's place, I forbid your doing -- this you are also to receive as though it came from God Himself, and are to observe it under pain of excommunication and deadly sin,| then you are to say, |Pardon, my master, I will not do it.|
To the power we are to be subject, and are to do what it bids, while it does not bind the conscience and only forbids in respect to outward things, even though it should proceed tyrannically towards us; for |if any one will take away thy coat, let him take thy cloak also.| But if it invade the spiritual domain and constrain the conscience, over which God only must preside and rule, we certainly should not obey it, but rather even slip our neck out from under it.
Temporal authority and government extend no further than to matters which are external and respect the body. But the Pope not only arrogates this to himself, but would seize upon the spiritual also; and yet he has nothing of it, for his commands have respect to nothing but clothing, food, canonries and prebends -- a matter which belongs neither to civil nor spiritual control. For how is the world benefitted by these things? Besides, it is impious to make sins and good works to consist in such matters, where they do not belong; wherefore Christ cannot suffer it. But civil government he can well tolerate, since it does not encumber itself with the matters of sins and good works, and spiritual concerns, but has to do with other things, -- as protecting and fortifying cities, building bridges, imposing taxes, gathering tribute, extending protection, guarding the land and the people, and punishing the evil-doers. Therefore, to such a prince, while he imposes no ordinance upon the conscience, a Christian may readily render obedience, and he does it unconstrainedly, since he is free of all things.
Therefore, whenever an emperor or a prince asks me what my faith is, I shall tell him, not because he commands it, but because I am under obligation to confess my faith publicly before every man. But in case he should go further, and command me that I should believe thus or so, then I shall tell him: |My good sir, do you attend to your civil government; you have no authority to intrude on God's domain, wherefore I certainly shall not obey you. You cannot yourself tolerate invasion into your sovereignty: if any one against your will passes the limits, you shoot him down with musketry. Do you imagine then that God will tolerate it, that you should thrust Him from His throne and seat yourself in His place?| St. Peter calls civil magistracy only a human ordinance. So that they (the magistracy) have no power to step into God's ordinances and to make laws against faith. But of this we have said enough. It follows now, further, in the Epistle:
V.18-20. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, when any one, for conscience toward God, endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what praise is it, if ye endure buffeting for your faults? But if ye for well-doing suffer and endure, this is well-pleasing with God.
St. Peter has thus far taught us how we should be subject to the civil power, and give it honor. Wherefore we have stated how far its authority extends, that it may not arrogate to itself in matters which pertain to faith. This is said of magistracy in general, and is a doctrine for every one (to receive). But now he proceeds, and speaks of such power as does not extend itself over a community, but only over individuals. Here he first teaches how domestic servants should conduct themselves toward their masters, and this is the substance of it:
Household servants are just as really Christians as any other class, if, like others, they have the word, faith, baptism, and all such blessings; so that, before God, they are just as great and high as others. But, as to their outward state and before the world, there is a difference, since they occupy a lower station, and must serve others. Wherefore, since they are called into this state by God, they should let it be their business to be subject to their masters, and have respect and esteem for them. Of this the prophet David gives a fine illustration, and shows how they are to serve, Ps. cxxiii.: |As the eyes of the servant to the hand of his master, and as the maiden looks to the hand of her mistress, so are our eyes directed to Thee.| -- That is, servants and maidens should perform with humility and care what the master or the mistress requires. This is the will of God, and therefore it should cheerfully be done. Of this you may be certain and assured, that it pleases God and is acceptable to Him, when you do this in faith. Wherefore, since these are the best works which you can do, you are not to run far after others. What your master or mistress commands you, that God Himself has commanded you. It is not a human command, although it is made by man. So that you are not to scruple as to the master you have, be he good or bad, kind, or irritable and froward; but think thus, let the master be as he will, I will serve him, and do it to honor God, since He requires it of me, and since my Master, Christ, became a servant for my sake.
This is the true doctrine which is ever to be urged, which now, alas! is buried in silence and is lost. But no one regards it except those who are Christians, for the Gospel preaches only to those who receive it. Wherefore, if you will be a child of God, purpose in your heart to render such service as Christ Himself bids you. As also St. Paul teaches, in Eph. vi., |Ye servants, be obedient to your masters that are upon earth, as to the Lord Christ; not with eye-service only, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ; that ye obey from the heart, for God's sake, with cheerfulness.| Consider that ye serve the Lord, and not man. So, also, he says, in Col. iii., |For ye serve the Lord Christ.| Ah! if the popes, monks and nuns were in such a state as this, how would they thank God and rejoice! For none of them can say, God has commanded me to celebrate mass, sing matins, pray the seven times, and the like, -- for Scripture does not contain a word on the subject; so that if they are asked whether they are confident and assured that their state pleases God, then they say, No! But if you ask a little maid-servant why she scours the key or milks the cow, she can say, I know that the thing I do pleases God, for I have God's word and commandment. This is a great blessing, and a precious treasure of which no one is worthy. A prince should thank God for it, if he might do the same. It is true, he can do in his state what God requires, -- namely, punish the wicked. But when, and how rarely, does it happen that he can discharge such a duty aright! But in this state it is all so ordered, that you may know that when you do what you are bidden, it pleases God.
God does not look to the work, how small it is; but to the heart that serves him in such little things. But in this it happens as in other matters: what God has commanded, no one performs; what men enact and God does not ordain, every one complies with.
But, say you, |Ah! how is this? What if I have such a strange and irritable master as no one can thankfully serve, for many such may be found?| To this St. Peter answers, |Are you a Christian and desirous to please God, you are not to inquire as to that matter how strange and froward your master is, but ever direct your eyes to this, and observe what God bids you.| So that you are to reason after this manner: |I will in this way serve my Master, Christ, who requires it of me that I be subject to this froward master.| If God should command you to wash the devil's feet, or those of the merest wretch, you are to do it; and this work would be just as much a good work as the highest of all, when God calls you to it. Therefore you are to have no regard to the person, but only to what God requires; and in this case the least work is more to be preferred in God's sight, when rightly performed, than all the popes' and monks' works in one heap. But whomsoever this does not incite, that it is God's will, and is acceptable to Him, the work will be of no avail to him. Better than it is you cannot make it, worse than it is you cannot leave it. And therefore this is to be done with all fear, (as St. Peter says,) that it may be rightly proceeded with, since it is not the command of men, but of God.
And here St. Peter speaks particularly of servants according to the circumstances of those times, when they were held as property, such as are to be found still in some places, and are exchanged like cattle, who are ill-treated and beaten of their masters; and the masters had such license that they were not punished although they put their servants to death. Wherefore it became necessary that the Apostles should carefully admonish and comfort such servants, that they might serve their hard masters, and endure it, though suffering and injustice were imposed upon them. Whoever is a Christian must also bear a cross; and the more you suffer wrongfully, the better it is for you; wherefore you should receive such a cross from God cheerfully, and thank Him for it. This is the right kind of suffering, that is well-pleasing to God. For what a thing would it be, that you should be cruelly beaten and had well deserved it, yet would glory in your cross? Therefore St. Peter says: When ye suffer and are patient for well-doing, this is well-pleasing with God, -- that is to say, acceptable and exceedingly grateful in the sight of God, and a real service of God. Observe, here are those truly precious good works described, which we are to do; and we like fools have trodden this doctrine under foot, and have invented and devised other works; so that we should lift up our hands, thank God, and rejoice that we at length have such knowledge. -- Now it follows, further:
V.21-25. For thereunto are ye called, since Christ also hath suffered for us, and left us an example, that ye should follow in His steps; who did no sin, and in His mouth was found no guile; who, when He was reviled reviled not again, when He suffered He threatened not, but committed it to Him that judgeth righteously; who Himself hath borne our sins in His own body on the tree, that we might be without sin and live to righteousness; by whose stripes ye are healed. For ye were as sheep going astray, but ye are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Thus it is, as we have said, that the servant should resolve in his heart and be induced cheerfully to do and suffer what is required of him, since his Master, Christ, has done so much for him. Hence they are to reason thus: since my Master has thus become my servant, -- a thing to which He was not obliged, -- and has given up body and life for me, why should not I serve Him in return? He was perfectly holy and without sin, yet has He so greatly humbled Himself, and has shed His blood for me, and has died that He might take away my sin. How then shall not I also endure somewhat if it pleases Him? Whoever reflects on this must be a stone if it does not move him; for when the Master goes forward and steps in the mire, the servant should cheerfully follow Him.
Therefore St. Peter says, Hereunto are ye called. Whereto? That ye should suffer wrongfully like Christ. As though he would say, If you will follow after Christ you must not dispute and complain greatly, though you are unjustly treated, but endure the same and count it for the best, since Christ has suffered all without guilt of His own. He did not even defend His integrity when He stood before the judges. So that you are to neglect this right, and only say, Deo gratias, for this am I called that I should endure injustice; for what should I complain of when my master did not complain?
And here St. Peter has quoted some words from the prophet Isaiah, -- namely, these, Chap. liii.: |Who did no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth,| also, |by whose stripes ye are healed.| Christ was so pure that not an evil word was ever on His tongue. He deserved that all should fall at His feet, and bear Him in their hands. Although He had power and the right to avenge Himself, he yet permitted Himself to be derided, insulted, reviled, and besides all, put to death, and never opened His mouth. Why then should you not endure it also, when you are nothing but sin? You ought to praise and thank God that you are counted worthy of this, -- that you should be like Christ; and not murmur nor be impatient though you be made to suffer, since the Master did not revile nor threaten in return, but even prayed for his enemies.
But perhaps you say, |How? Am I then to give that which is due to those who treat me unjustly, and say of them, they have done well?| Answer. No! but this is what you are to say: I will from my heart cheerfully suffer it, although I have not deserved it, and you do me injustice for my Master's sake, who also has endured injustice for me. You are to commit it to God, who is a righteous judge, and will richly reward it, just as Christ committed it to His Heavenly Father. He who has borne our sins in His own body (says St. Peter); that is, he has not suffered for himself, but for our welfare. We who have crucified him by our sins, are far from that condition ourselves. Wherefore, if you are a pious Christian, you are to follow after your Master, and mourn for those who make you suffer, and even pray for them, that God will not punish them; for they do far more injury to their own souls than to your body. If you lay this to heart, you shall easily forget your suffering, and suffer cheerfully. For we are to consider that we were once in such a Christless state as those, but have now, through Christ, been converted, as St. Peter concludes and says:
V.25. Ye were like sheep going astray, but ye are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your Souls. This, however, is a passage from the prophet Isaiah, who speaks after this manner: |We have all gone astray like sheep, and every one has gone in his own way.| But now have we obtained a Shepherd, says St. Peter. The Son of God has come for our sake, that He might be our Shepherd and Bishop; He gives us His Spirit, feeds us, and leads us by His word, so that we now know how we are helped. Therefore, when you confess that through Him your sins have been taken away, then you become His sheep, and He becomes your herdsman. Just as He is thy Bishop, so art thou His Soul. This is, then, the comfort which all Christians have. Thus we have two chapters in this Epistle, wherein St. Peter has in the first place taught the true faith, then the true works of love, and has spoken of two kinds of works. First, what we all generally should practice toward civil government, then how domestics should conduct themselves toward their masters. And what St. Peter says here of servants, extends, also, to some other persons, -- namely, artizans, day-laborers, and all kinds of hired servants. Now he goes on to teach us further, how husband and wife should conduct themselves toward one another in a christian manner.