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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER I. V.à

The Epistles Of St Peter And St Jude Preached And Explained by Martin Luther

CHAPTER I. V.à

V.1. Simon Peter, a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have attained like faith with us, in the righteousness which our God gives, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Such is the subscription and the superscription of this Epistle, that we may know who writes it, and to whom he writes it, even to those who have heard the word of God and abide in the faith. But what sort of a faith is this? In the righteousness (says he) which God gives. Thus he grants justification to faith alone, -- as St. Paul, also, in Rom. i. In the Gospel is that righteousness revealed which avails with God, which comes from faith; as it stands written: |The just shall live by faith.| Thus St. Peter would admonish them that they should be armed, and not let the doctrine of faith be torn away, which they have now apprehended and thoroughly known.

And to this end he adjoins, in the righteousness which God gives, that he may separate from it all human righteousness. For by faith alone are we righteous before God; wherefore faith is called a righteousness of God, for with the world it is of no account; yea, it is even condemned.

V.2. Grace and peace be multiplied among you, through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the greeting usually prefixed to the Epistles; and it amounts to this: I wish you, in place of my service for you, to increase in grace and peace, and grow ever richer and richer in the grace which comes from the knowledge of God and the Lord Christ, -- that is, which none can have but he who has the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.

The Apostles, and the prophets also, in the Scripture, are ever setting forth the knowledge of God. As Isaiah, xi: |They shall not injure or destroy in my whole mountain, for the land is filled with the knowledge of God, as the land is covered with the water.| That is, so overflowingly shall the knowledge of God break forth, as when a mass of water gushes up and rushes forth and swallows up a whole land.

Thence shall such peace then follow, that no one shall wrong another, or make him suffer.

But this is not to know God, that you should believe as the Turks, Jews, and devils believe, that God has created all things, or even that Christ was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again; but this is the true knowledge, whereby you hold and know that God is thy God and Christ is thy Christ, which the devil and the false christians could not believe. So that this knowledge is nothing else but a true christian faith; for if you thus know God and Christ, you will then confide in them with your whole heart, and trust them in good and ill, in life and death. Such trust evil consciences cannot possess. For they know no more of God, except that He is a God of St. Peter and all the saints in heaven. But as their own God they know Him not, but hold Him as their task-master and angry judge. To have God, is to have all grace, all mercy, and all that man can well receive; to have Christ, is to have the Saviour and Mediator, who has brought us to say that God is ours, and has obtained all grace for us with Him. This also must be implied, that Christ is yours and you are His, then have you a true knowledge. A woman that lives unmarried can well say that a man is a husband, but this can she not say, that he is her husband. So may we all well say, this is a God, but this we cannot say all of us, that He is our God, for we cannot all trust upon Him nor comfort ourselves as His. To this knowledge belongs also that which the Scripture calls faciem et vultum domini, the face of the Lord, whereof the prophets speak much; who ever sees not the face of the Lord knows Him not, but sees only His back, -- that is, an angry and ungracious God.

And here you perceive, that St. Peter does not set himself particularly to write of faith, since he had already done that sufficiently in the First Epistle, but would admonish believers that they should prove their faith by good works; for he would not have a faith without good works, nor works without faith, but faith first and good works on and from faith. Therefore, he says, now, also:

V.3. According as His divine power (whatever serves for life and godliness) is abundantly given us. This is the first point, where Peter essays to describe what sort of blessings we have received through faith from God, even that to us (since we have known God by faith) there is given every kind of divine power. But what sort of power is it? It is such power as serves us toward life and godliness; that is, when we believe, then we attain this much, that God gives us the fullness of His power, which is so with and in us, that what we speak and work, it is not we that do it, but God Himself does it. He is strong, powerful, and almighty in us, though we even suffer and die, and are weak in the eyes of the world. So that there is no power nor ability in us if we have not this power of God.

But this power of God which is in us, St. Peter would not have so explained, as that we might make heaven and earth, and should work such miracles as God does; for how would we be advantaged by it? But we have the power of God within us so far as it is useful and necessary to us. Therefore, the Apostle adjoins, and says, whatever serves for life and godliness; that is, we have such power of God that by it we are eminently favored with grace to do good and to live forever.

Through the knowledge of Him who hath called us. Such power of God, and such rich grace, come from no other source but from this knowledge of God; for if you count Him for a God, He will deal also with you in all things as a God. So Paul also says, I. Cor. i., |Ye are in all points enriched in every kind of word and knowledge, even as the preaching of Christ is made powerful in you, so that ye have henceforth no want.| This is now the greatest thing of all, the noblest and most needful that God can give us, -- so that we are not to receive all that is in heaven and on earth; for what would it help you, though you were able to go through fire and water, and do all kinds of wonderful works, and had not this? Many people who perform such miracles shall be condemned. But this is wonderful above all things else, that God gives us such power, that thereby all our sins are forgiven and blotted out, death, the devil and hell, subdued and vanquished; so that we have an unharassed conscience and a happy heart, and fear for nothing.

Through His glory and virtue. How does that call come, whereby we are called of God? Thus: God has permitted the holy Gospel to go forth into the world and be made known, though no man had ever before striven for it, or sought or prayed for it, of Him. But ere man had ever thought of it, He has offered, bestowed, and beyond all measure richly shed forth such grace, so that He alone has the glory and the praise; and we ascribe to Him alone the virtue and the power, for it is not our work, but His only. Wherefore, since the calling is not of us, we should not exalt ourselves as though we had done it, but render to Him praise and thanksgiving, because He has given us the Gospel, and thereby granted us power and might against the devil, death, and all evil.

V.4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding precious and great promises. St. Peter adjoins this, that he may explain the nature and method of faith. If we know Him as God, then do we have through faith that eternal life and divine power wherewith we subdue death and the devil. Though we see and grasp it not, yet is it promised to us. We really have it all, though it does not yet appear, but at the last day we shall see it present before us. Here it begins in faith; though we have it not in its fullness, we have yet the assurance that we live here in the power of God, and shall afterward be saved forever.

Whoever has this faith has the promise; whoever does not believe possesses it not, and must be lost forever. How great and precious a thing this is, Peter explains further, and says:

So that ye by the same might become partakers of the divine nature, while ye flee from the corrupting lusts of the world. This we have, he says, through the power of faith, that we should be partakers and have association or communion with the divine nature. This is such a passage that the like of it does not stand in the New or Old Testament, although it is a small matter with the unbelieving that we should have communion with the divine nature itself. But what is the divine nature? It is eternal truth, righteousness, wisdom; eternal life, peace, joy, happiness, and whatever good one can name. Whoever then becomes partaker of the divine nature, attains all this, -- that he is to live forever, and have eternal peace, delight and joy, and is to be perfectly pure, just, and triumphant over the devil, sin and death. Therefore St. Peter would say this much: As little as any one can take away from God, that He should not be eternal life and eternal truth, just as little shall any one take it away from you. Whatever one does to you he must do to Him, for whoever would crush a Christian must crush God.

All this, that word, the divine nature, implies, and he also used it to this end, that he might include it all; and it is truly a great thing where it is believed. But, as I said above, this is merely instruction, in which he does not lay down a ground of faith, but sets forth what great, rich blessings we receive through faith; wherefore he says, that ye shall have all if ye so live as to prove your faith, whereby ye flee worldly lusts. So he speaks, now, further:

V.5. Give then all your diligence, and add to your faith, virtue. Here St. Peter takes up the admonition, that they should prove their faith by good works. Since such great blessing is bestowed upon you through faith (he would say), that ye really have all that God is, do this besides: be diligent, and not sluggish; add to your faith, virtue; that is, let your faith break out before the world, so as to be zealous, busy, powerful, and active, and to do many works; let it not remain idle and unfruitful. Ye have a good inheritance and a good field, but see to it that ye do not let thistles and weeds grow upon it.

And to virtue, discrimination. Discrimination or knowledge is, in the first place, that one should manifest an outward conduct, and the virtue of faith, in accordance with reason. For we should so far bridle and check the body, that we may be sober, vigorous, and fitted for good works; not that we should torture and mortify ourselves as some famous saints have done. For though God is likewise opposed to the sins that remain in the flesh, yet does He not require that for this reason you should destroy the body. Its viciousness and caprice you should guard against, but yet you are not to ruin or injure it, but give it its food and refreshment that it may remain sound and in living vigor.

In the second place, discrimination means that one should lead a life carefully exact, and act with discretion in regard to outward things, as food and things of that sort, -- that one should not act in these things unreasonably, and that he should give his neighbor no provocation.

V.6. And to discrimination, temperance. Temperance is not only in eating and drinking, but it is regularity in the whole life and conduct, words, works, manners; that we should not live too expensively, and should avoid excess in ornament and clothing; that none come out too proudly, and make too lofty a show. But in regard to this St. Peter will not fix any rule, measure, or limit, as the Orders have prescribed for themselves, who have wished to do all by rule, and have framed statutes which must be exactly observed. It is a thing not to be tolerated in Christendom, that men should require by laws that there be a common rule on temperance; for people are unlike one to another; one is of a strong, another is of a weaker nature; and no one in all things is at all times situated as another. Therefore every one should see to himself how he is situated, and what he can bear.

And to temperance, patience. Thus would St. Peter say: though ye lead a temperate and discreet life, ye are not to think that ye shall live without conflict and persecution. For if ye believe, and lead a fair christian life, the world will not let it alone; it must persecute and hate you, in which you must show patience, which is a fruit of faith.

And to patience, godliness. That is, that we in all our outward life, whatever we do or suffer, should so conduct ourselves that we may serve God therein, not seeking our own honor and gain, but that God alone may be glorified thereby; and that we should so demean ourselves that men may take knowledge that we do all for God's sake.

V.7. And to godliness, brotherly love. In this St. Peter obliges us all to extend a helping hand one to another, like brethren, so that one should protect another, and none hate nor despise nor injure another. This is also an evident proof of faith, whereby we show that we have the godliness of which he has spoken.

And to brotherly love (charity), common love. Common love extends to both friend and enemy, even to those who do not show themselves friendly and brotherly towards us. Thus St. Peter has here comprehended in few words whatever pertains to the christian life, and whatever are the works and fruits of faith, discretion, temperance, patience, a God-fearing life, brotherly love, and kindness to every one.

V.8. For if such dwell richly in you, it will not permit you to be idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, if ye do such works, then are ye on the right path, then do ye have a real faith, and the knowledge of Christ becomes active and fruitful in you. Therefore see to it that ye be not such as beat the air. Restrain your body, and act toward your neighbor even in such a manner as ye know that Christ has done toward you.

V.9. But to whomsoever such is wanting, he is blind, gropes with the hand, and has forgotten the purifying of his former sins. Whoever has not such a preparation of the fruits of faith, gropes like a blind man here and there, rests in such a life that he knows not what his state is, has not real faith, and has of the knowledge of Christ nothing more than that he can say he has heard it. Therefore he goes along and gropes like a blind man on the way, in an unconscious life, and has forgotten that he was baptized and his sins were forgiven him, and is unthankful, and is an idle, negligent man, who suffers nothing to go to his heart, and neither feels nor tastes such great grace and blessing.

This is the admonition which St. Peter gives to us who believe, to urge and enforce those works by which we shall evidence that the true faith is in us. And, besides, this ever remains true, that faith alone justifies; where this then is present, there works must follow. -- What follows further, now, is meant to strengthen us.

V.10. Wherefore, dear brethren, give so much the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. The election and eternal foreknowledge of God is indeed in itself sure enough, so that man does not need to make that sure. The calling is also effectual and sure. For whoever hears the Gospel, and believes thereon, and is baptized, he is called and saved. Since we then are also thereunto called, we should apply so much diligence (says Peter), that our calling and election may be assured with us also, and not only with God. This is now such a mode of scriptural expression as St. Paul uses, Eph. ii., |Ye were strangers to the covenant of promise, so that ye had no hope and were without God in the world.| For although there is no man, neither bad nor good, over whom God does not reign, since all creatures are His, yet Paul says he has no God who does not know, love, and trust Him, although he had his being in God Himself. So here, also; although the calling and election are effectual enough in themselves, yet with you it is not yet effectual and assured, since you are not yet certain that it includes you. Therefore St. Peter would have us make such calling and election sure, by good works.

Thus you see what this Apostle attributes to the fruits of faith. Although they are due to our neighbor, that he may be benefited by them, still the fruit is not to be wanting, that faith may thereby become stronger, and do more and more of good works. Besides, this is quite another kind of power from that of the body, for that grows weary and wastes away if it is used and urged somewhat too far: but as to this spiritual power, the more it is used and urged, the stronger it becomes; and it suffers injury if it is not exercised. For this reason did God introduce Christianity at the first in such a manner as He did, driven and tried by the wrestling of faith, in shame, death, and bloodshed, that it might become truly strong and mighty, and that the more it was oppressed the more it might rise above it. This is St. Peter's meaning in this place, that we should not let faith rust and lie still, since it is so ordained that it is ever made more and more strong by trial and exercise, until it is assured of its calling and election, and cannot fail.

And here is also a bound set as to how we should proceed with reference to election. There are many light-minded persons who have not felt much of the power of faith, who fall in this matter, stumbling upon it; and they trouble themselves at first with it, and by reason would satisfy themselves whether they are elected, so that they may be assured whereon they stand. But desist from this, at once; it is a thing that cannot be apprehended (grasped). But if you will be assured, you must reach it by the way which St. Peter here strikes out for you. If you choose another for yourself, you have failed already, and your own experience must teach you so. If faith is properly exercised and tried, then are you at last assured of the fact that you cannot fail, as now further follows:

For if ye do these things ye shall never fall. That is, ye are to stand fast, not stumble nor sin, but go onward thoroughly upright and active, and all shall go well with you. But if you would set it right by your reasonings, the devil will soon throw you into despair and hatred of God.

V.11. And so shall an entrance be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is the way by which we enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, no one should propose, by such dreams and reasonings concerning faith as he has invented in his heart, to enter therein. There must be a living, active, tried faith. God help us! How have our deceivers written, taught and spoken against this text, yet whoever has even the least measure and only a spark of faith, shall be saved when he comes to die.

If you would pry into this matter, and in this way attain such faith quickly and suddenly, you will then have waited too long. Yet you are to understand well, that they who are strong have enough to do, although we are not to despair even of such as are weak, for it may indeed well happen that they shall endure, though it will be sorely and hardly, and will cost much striving; but whoever carefully sees to it in his life, that faith is invigorated and made strong by good works, he shall have an abundant entrance, and with calm spirit and confidence go into that life to come, so that he shall die comfortably, and despise this life, and even triumphantly go on, and with gladness hasten to that. But those, who would come in otherwise, shall not enter thus with joy; the door shall not stand open to them so wide; they shall, moreover, not have such an abundant entrance, but it shall be, narrow and a hard one, so that they tremble, and would rather their life-day should be in weakness, than that they should die.

V.12. Wherefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of such things, although ye know them, and are established in this present truth. That is the same that we also have often said, although God has now let such a great light go forth through the revelation of the Gospel, so that we know what true christian life and doctrine is, and see how all Scripture insists upon it, yet this (light) we are not to neglect but use daily, not for doctrine, but for the sake of remembrance. For there is a twofold office in the christian church, as St. Paul says, Rom. xii.: |If any one teaches, let him wait on teaching; if any one admonishes, let him wait on admonition.| To teach, is when any one lays down the ground of faith, and sets it forth to those who have no knowledge of it. But to admonish, or as Peter here says, to remind, is to preach to those who know and have heard the matter already, so that they are seized hold of and awakened, in order that they should not be heedless, but go onward and prosper. We are all beladen with the old sluggard load, with our flesh and blood, that chooses for ever the byroad, and keeps us ever subject to its load, so that the soul easily falls asleep. Therefore we are ever to urge and shake it, as a master urges his servants, lest they become sluggish, although they know very well what they should do; for while we must pursue this course for our temporal support, far more must we do it in this case in spiritual matters.

V.13. For I count it proper, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to awaken and remind you. Here St. Peter calls his body a tabernacle wherein the soul dwells; and it is a phrase like that where in the first Epistle he speaks of the body as a vessel or an instrument. So St. Paul also speaks, II. Cor. v.: |We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were broken down, that we have a house built by God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven, and for the same we long earnestly, for our dwelling which is from heaven. For as long as we are in this tabernacle we earnestly long,| &c. Also, |but yet we are consoled and know that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, but we have far greater desire to be out of the body and to be at home with the Lord.| There the Apostle Paul speaks also of the body as a house, and makes two homes, and two sojournings. So Peter speaks here of the body as a tabernacle wherein the soul rests, and he makes it mean enough; he will not call it a house, but a hut or pent-house, such as shepherds have. Great is the treasure, but small is the house in which it lies and dwells.

V.14, 15. For I know that I must soon lay off my tabernacle, even as the Lord Christ hath showed me. But I will take care that ye by all means, after my departure, may keep such things in your remembrance. Here Peter testifies of himself that he has become assured of eternal life, and to him God had shown beforehand when he should die; but this took place for our and our faith's sake, for there must have been some such persons as knew assuredly that they were elected, who should lay down and settle faith, that we might know that they preached not the doctrine of men, but the word of God. But ere they have come to such an assurance, God has thoroughly proved them first, and purified them. Thus Peter now says, I will not only remind you with the living voice, but set such things also in writing, and charge you, through others, that ye ever hold them in remembrance, through my life and after my death, and not let them go. There see how great anxiety the Apostle had for souls; yet, alas! it has helped nothing.

V.16-18. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we have made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have been witnesses of His majesty, when He received from God the Father honor and praise, by a voice which came to Him from the excellent glory, this is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; and this voice, which came from heaven, we heard, when we were with Him on the holy mount. There St. Peter touches upon the history written in the Gospel, Matt. xvii., how Jesus took to Himself three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and led them aside up a high mountain, and was glorified before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was white as the light, and there appeared to Him Moses and Elias, who spoke with Him, while a light cloud overshadowed them, and a voice out of the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. When the disciples heard that, they fell on their faces, and were very much afraid. But Jesus went to them, roused them up, and said, stand up, be not afraid; then they lifted up their eyes, and saw no one but Jesus only, and when they went down from the mountain He charged them that they should tell no one of this sight till He arose from the dead.

So St. Peter would now say, that which I preach to you of Christ and of His coming, this Gospel that we preach, we have not devised or yet imagined, nor taken it from cunning fabulists who know how to speak brilliantly of all things (such as at that very time the Greeks were), for it is mere fable, and fancy, and idle babbling that they cunningly give forth, and wherein they would be wise, -- such we have not listened to, nor have we followed them; that is, we preach not what is from the hands of men, but are sure that it is of God, and have become so through our eyes and ears; -- that is to say, When we were with Christ upon the mountain, and saw and heard His glory; for His glory was this, that His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was as white as snow; besides, we heard a voice from the highest Majesty, |This is my beloved Son; hear ye Him.|

So confident should every preacher be, and not be in doubt thereon, that he has God's word, that he could even die for it, since it is worth our life. Now there is no man so holy that he must needs die for the doctrine which he has taught of himself; wherefore it is inferred here that the Apostles have had assurance from God that their Gospel was God's word. And here it is also shown that the Gospel is nothing else than the preaching of Christ. Therefore we should hear no other preaching, for the Father will have no other. |That is my dear Son,| He says; |hear Him.| He is your Teacher -- as though He had said, |When ye hear Him, then ye have heard me.| Wherefore Peter now says, we have preached Christ and made Him known to you, that He is Lord, and rules over all things, and all power is His; and that whosoever believes on Him has likewise such power. Such things we have not ourselves devised, but have seen and heard them through God's revelation, by which He has charged us that we should hear Christ.

But why does Paul separate from one another the power and the coming of Christ? The power consists, as we have heard above, in that He is mighty over all things; that all must lie at His feet; and this shall continue as long as the world stands. While we are flesh and blood, and live upon the earth, so long shall Christ's kingdom flourish, even to the last day. Then shall come another period, when He shall give up the kingdom to God the Father, whereof St. Paul speaks, I. Cor. xv.: |Christ the first fruits; afterwards those that belong to Christ, who are His at His coming. Afterward is the end, when He shall answer for the kingdom to God and the Father.| Also: |But when all shall be subject to Him, then shall the Son also be subject to Him who subdued all for Him.|

How? Is then the kingdom not God the Father's now? Is not all subject to Him? Answer: -- St. Paul explains himself in the same place, and says: |So that God may be all in all;| that is, whatsoever any one shall need or should have, that God will be; as St. Peter has told us above, that we should be partakers of the Divine nature. Wherefore we shall also have all that God has, and all that is needful for us we shall have in Him, -- wisdom, righteousness, strength and life, -- a truth which we now believe, hearing it merely, and having it in the word of God. But then shall the word cease, when our souls shall be enlarged and see and feel it all as a present thing. This is what St. Paul means, and St. Peter also: that the power of Christ's kingdom now proceeds; now He gives the word, and thereby, through His humanity, reigns over the devil, sin, death, and all things. But at the last day this shall be made clear. Therefore, although God ever rules, still it is not yet manifest to us. He clearly beholds us, but we behold Him not. Therefore must Christ surrender up to Him the kingdom, so that we also shall see it, while we then shall be Christ's brethren and God's children. Thus Christ received from God honor and glory (St. Peter here says) when the Father made all things subject to Him, and made Him Lord, and glorified Him by this voice, in which He says, |This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.|

By this St. Peter would confirm his doctrine and preaching, that it might be known whence it came. But this experience was no more than that he had heard this, and was able to preach of it. But the Holy Spirit must also come and strengthen him, that he may believe in it, and preach and confess it cheerfully. The former thing belongs only to the office of the preacher, not to the soul; but this belongs to the Spirit.

V.19. We have also a sure word of Prophecy, and ye do well in that ye give heed to it, as to a light that shines in a dark place, till the day break and the morning star rise in your hearts. There St. Peter grasps right hold upon the matter, and would say this much: all that I preach is to subserve this end, that your conscience may be assured, and your heart may stand firm on this, and not let itself be torn therefrom, and that thus both I and you may be certain that we have God's word. For it is an important matter as respects the Gospel that we should receive and hold it clean and pure, without addition and false doctrine. Therefore Peter begins henceforth to write against human doctrines.

But why does he say we have a sure word of prophecy? Answer: I hold, indeed, that we shall have no more prophets, such as the Jews had in former times in the Old Testament. But a prophet eminently should he be who preaches of Jesus Christ. Therefore, although many prophets in the Old Testament have foretold concerning things to come, yet they came and were sent by God, for this reason especially, that they should foretell Christ. Those, then, who believe on Christ are all prophets, for they have the true head-article that the prophets should have, although they have not the gift of making known things to come; for as we, through the faith of our Master, are Christ's brethren, are kings and priests, so are we prophets also, all of us through Christ. For we can all say what belongs to salvation and God's honor and a christian life, besides of future things, so much as this is necessarily known to us, viz., that the Last Day shall come, and that we shall rise from the dead; besides, we understand the whole substance of Scripture. Whereof Paul also says, I. Cor. xiv.: |Ye can all prophecy, one after another.|

This now, is, what Peter says: we have such a word of prophecy as is sure in itself; see to it only that it be sure to you; and ye do well in paying heed to it: -- as though he should say: It will be a thing of necessity to you to hold firmly by it; for it is in regard to the Gospel as though one were imprisoned in the house, in the midst of the night, when it was stock dark. Then it were a matter of necessity that one should kindle a light, till the day came when he could see. Eminently such is the Gospel in the midst of the night and darkness, for all human reason is mere error and blindness, while the world is even nothing else but a kingdom of darkness. In this darkness has God now kindled a light, even the Gospel, whereby we may see and walk, while we are on the earth, till the morning dawn comes and the day breaks.

Thus this text is also strongly against all human doctrine; for since the word of God is the light in a dark and gloomy place, it follows that all besides is darkness. For if there were another light besides the word, St. Peter would not have spoken as he has. Therefore look not to this, how gifted those men are with reason who teach any other doctrine, however grandly they put it forth; if you cannot trace God's word in it, then be in no doubt as to its being mere darkness. And let it not disturb you at all that they say they have the Holy Spirit. How can they have God's Spirit if they do not have His word? Wherefore they do nothing else but call darkness light and make the light darkness, as Isaiah says, chap. v.

This is God's word -- even the Gospel -- that we are ransomed by Christ from death, sin and hell: whoever hears that, he has this light and has kindled this lamp in his heart, even that by which we may see the one that enlightens us, and teaches us whatever we should know. But where this is not, there we rush on, and by matters and works of our own device would find out the way to heaven. Whereof, by your light, you can judge and see that it is darkness. Wherefore since they have not the light, neither would receive it, they must remain in darkness and blindness. For the light teaches us all that which we ought to know and what is necessary to salvation -- a thing which the world by wisdom and reason knows not. And this light we must still have and depend upon, even to the last day. Then shall we have no more need of the word, just as we put out the lamp when the day breaks.

V.20, 21. And this ye should know first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; for prophecy came not aforetime by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Here Peter falls upon the matter of false doctrine: since ye know this, he says, that we have the word of God, abide thereon, and suffer yourselves not to be drawn from it by others that teach falsely, though they come and give forth that they have the Holy Spirit. For this ye should know first of all (the second matter he would speak of afterward), that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; by this be directed, and do not think that ye shall explain the Scripture by your own reason and wisdom.

In this the private interpretation of Scripture by all the fathers is thrown down and rejected, and it is forbidden to build on such interpretation. Though Jerome, or Augustine, or any one of the fathers have explained it of himself, yet would not we have it from him. Peter has forbidden you to explain it of yourself at all. The Holy Spirit will explain it Himself, or it shall remain unexplained. If now any one of the holy fathers can prove that he has his explanation from the Scriptures, which give assurance that it should be so explained, then it is right; where this is not the case, I for one shall not believe him. Thus Peter lays hold on the boldest and best teachers; wherefore we should rest assured that none is to be believed who sets the Scripture forth where he of himself opens and explains it. For there can be no true sense obtained by private interpretation. Here have all the teachers and fathers who have explained the Scripture stumbled, so far as they are extant to us. As when they refer the passage of Christ, Matt. xvi.: Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my church, to the Pope. That is a human, self-invented explanation; therefore, no one is to believe them, for they cannot prove out of the Scripture that Peter is ever spoken of as Pope. But this we can prove, that the rock is Christ and faith, as Paul says. This explanation is the right one; for of this we are sure, it has not been invented by men, but drawn from God's word. Now what is found written and foretold in the prophets, says Peter, that men have not searched out nor invented; but holy and pious men have spoken it from the Holy Spirit.

Thus this is the first chapter, wherein St. Peter has first of all taught us what those really good works are whereby we must give proof of our faith. In the second place, that no man in Christendom should preach anything but God's word alone. The reason why it should be so is no other, as we have said, except that men should preach that word which shall remain forever, whereby souls may be won, and eternal life. Now there follows a just admonition, which Christ and Paul and all the Apostles have also given, that each should look out for himself and guard against false teachers.

It is especially necessary for us to observe it carefully, so that we shall not suffer that right and authority which all Christians have, to be torn from us, to judge and decide on all doctrines; and shall not let it come to this, that we first wait till the Councils determine what we are to believe, and then follow that. This we are now to look at.

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