V.1. But there were false teachers also among the people, as also among you there shall be false teachers.
This is what St. Peter would say: All prophecy must proceed from the Holy Spirit, even to the end of the world, just as it has gone forth from the beginning of the world, so that nothing shall be preached but what is God's word. Yet it has ever so happened, that close upon the true prophets and word of God, there have been false teachers, and so also it shall continue. Therefore, since ye have God's word, ye should take heed to yourselves that ye do not have false teachers besides. This is a sufficient admonition, and it cannot fail where the true word of God is preached; that close upon it false teachers also should rise up. The reason is this, -- not every one lays hold on the word, and believes thereon, although it is preached to all. They who believe thereon, follow it, and hold it fast; but the greater part, they who do not believe, receive a false sense therefrom, whence they become false teachers. This matter we have not seriously considered, nor have we attended to this warning; but we have gone astray, and whatever has been preached that we have done. Thereon we have stumbled and fallen, and been led away by delusion, as though the Pope, with his priests and monks, could not err. Thus those that should have been on their guard against such things, have been the first that have urged them upon us. So that we are not free from blame, though we have a wrong belief, and follow after false teachers: it shall be of no help to us, that we have not known, since we were warned beforehand. Besides, God has bidden us that we should each determine what this or that one preaches, and give account thereof; if we do not, then are we lost; wherefore it concerns every one's own soul's salvation to know what God's word is, and what false doctrines are.
Such warnings against false teachers are, besides, very frequent, here and there, throughout the Scripture. St. Paul, Acts xx., gives just such an admonition in his preaching, when he blesses those of Ephesus and gives them his farewell; and he speaks in this manner: |I know that after my departure there shall come in among you grievous wolves, who shall not spare the flock; yea, there shall even of your own selves arise men who shall teach corrupt doctrine, who shall draw disciples after them.| Christ proclaims it also in Matt. xx.: |If anyone shall say to you (he says), lo! here is Christ, or lo! there, then are ye not to believe it; for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and great signs and wonders shall they do, that shall lead into error, if it were possible, even the elect.| And again, Paul, I. Tim., iv.: |The Spirit speaks expressly that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, and cleave to erring spirits and doctrines of the devil by which they speak lies in hypocrisy.| As forcefully as such admonition has gone forth, so careful should we have been; yet it has been of no avail. The admonition has been kept silent, and thus we have still wandered, and suffered ourselves to be led astray.
Now let us see who those false teachers may be, of whom Peter here speaks. I think that God has ordained by special counsel that our teachers should have been called doctors, that it might be seen whom Peter means. For he as much as uses the word here; false doctors, -- that is, false teachers, he says, -- not false prophets or false apostles. In this he fairly hits the high schools, where such a class of men is made, and whence all the preachers have come forth into the world; so that there is not even a city under the Popedom, which does not have such teachers made in the high schools. For all the world thinks that they are the fountain, the streams of which are to teach the people. This is a desperate error, since no more cruel thing has ever come upon the earth than has come forth from the high schools. Therefore Peter says, that such vain, false teachers are to be; but what shall they do? This follows further:
Who shall privily introduce damnable heresies. He calls them damnable heresies (sects), or states and orders, because whosoever is persuaded into them is already lost. These shall they secretly bring in, he says, not that they shall preach that the Gospel and the Holy Scriptures are false, for that would have worked quite against them, -- but these names, God, Christ, faith, church, baptism, sacrament, they shall still hold, and suffer to continue. But under these names they bring forward and set up something of another sort. For there is a great difference, whether I say this man preaches against this doctrine or in accordance with it. When I preach thus, that Christ is the Son of God and truly man, and whoever believes on Him shall be saved, -- that is right preaching and the true Gospel. But if one preaches that Christ is not the Son of God, nor truly man, moreover that faith does not save, it is said in plain contradiction to it. Whence St. Peter speaks not (for this is what our high schools, priests and monks do not attempt), except of those associate doctrines which they introduce through the true doctrine. As when they speak after this manner, -- it is true that Christ was God, and is man; that He died for our sins, and no one can be saved who does not believe upon Him. But that belongs only to the common estate (of Christians); but we will set up a more complete one, in which men shall vow chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as fast, endow institutions, &c. Whoever does this shall go full tide up to heaven. Where now men preach and hear such things as that there is nothing better and more saving than virginity and obedience, and that the monk and the priest are in a higher and more perfect estate than mankind in general, there is nothing said against the pure christian doctrine directly, nor are faith and baptism denied, nor that Christ is the Saviour. But yet there is such doctrine brought in with them, leading men away from the right path, that they build upon their own life and works, and hold nothing more in regard to Christ, but just these words: we believe that Christ is the Son of God, and man; that He died and rose again; that He is the Saviour of the world, &c. But they repose no faith in Him, for if they did that, they would not rest an hour upon their life.
Thus they have also preached and said among the people: |Ye are Christians already, but that is not enough; ye must also do such and such works, build churches and cloisters, found masses and vigils,| &c.
The great multitude has tumbled into this notion, and thought it was right. Hereby Christendom is divided and separated into as many sects, almost, as there are states and people.
But this is what men should have preached and taught: Ye are Christians indeed, and, just as well as those a hundred miles away, ye have all of you one Christ, one baptism, one faith, one spirit, one word, one God; so that no work that man can do helps to make a Christian. Thus, were men included in a common faith, there would be no difference before God, but one would be as another. This unity have they rent asunder, in that they say, |You are a Christian, but you must do works in order that you may be saved;| and thus they lead us away from faith to works. Therefore St. Peter says, if we will explain it right, nothing but this: there shall come high schools, doctors, priests and monks, and all classes of men, who shall bring in ruinous sects and orders, and shall lead the world astray by false doctrines. Such are those whom he means here, for they all hold to the notion that their state and Order saves them, and they cause men to build and trust thereon; for where men do not hold to this view, they carefully keep clear of entering them.
And shall deny the Lord who bought them. |Oh,| say they, |we do not deny the Lord at all!| But if any one says, |Since you are ransomed by Christ, and His blood blots out your sin, what will you blot out by your mode of life?| Then they say, |Ah! faith does not do it alone, works must also aid towards it.| Thus they confess the Lord Christ indeed with their mouth, but with their hearts they quite deny him. See how admirably St. Peter expresses it. They deny the Master, he says, who has bought them: they should be under Him as under a master whose own they were. But now, though they believe indeed that He is their master and has purchased the whole world by His blood, yet they do not believe that they are bought, and that He is their master; and they say |He has indeed bought and ransomed them, but then this is not enough, -- we must first by our works expiate the sin and make satisfaction for it.| But we say, if you yourself take away and blot out your sin, what has Christ then done? You certainly cannot make two Christs who take away sin. He should and must be the only one that puts away sin. If that be true, then I cannot understand how I am myself to cancel my own sin. If I do it, I can neither say nor believe that He takes it away. And it is the same thing with denying Christ; for although they hold Christ to be their master, they deny that He has bought them. They believe, indeed, that He sits above in heaven and is Lord; but that which is His peculiar office, to take away sin, this they take from Him, and ascribe it to their own works. Thus they leave to Him nothing more than the name and title; but His work, His power, and His office, they will have themselves. So that Christ has truly said, |Many shall come in my name, and say, I am Christ, and shall seduce many.| For they are this preeminently, not who say, |I am called Christ,| but |I am He;| for they seize to themselves the office that belongs to Christ, thrust Him from His throne, and seat themselves thereon. This we see before our eyes, insomuch that no one can deny it. Therefore St. Peter calls them damnable or ruinous heresies, for they run all of them straight to hell; so that I suppose that among a thousand, hardly one is saved. For whoever shall be saved therein must say this much: |My obedience, my chastity, &c., do not save me; my works do not take away any sin from me.| But how many there are who have these views, and remain in such a damnable state!
And shall bring upon themselves quick damnation. That is, their condemnation shall quickly overtake them; although it is plain that God forbears long, yet He will come soon enough. But it is not a thing that respects the body, that we should be able to see it with our eyes, but just as the fifty-fourth Psalm says, |They shall not live out half their day;| that is, death shall seize upon them ere they themselves suspect, so that they shall say, like Hezekiah, Is. xxxviii., |I have said in the midst of my life, I must go down into the grave;| as though they should say, |O Lord God, is death already here?| For those men who do not live by faith, who are never more and more weary of life, the longer they live the longer they would live, and the holier they seem the more terrible will death be to them, especially to those who have scrupulous consciences and cruelly urge and vex themselves by works, for it is not possible to vanquish death by human powers. Where faith is wanting, the conscience must tremble and despair. Where faith is strong, death comes too slow; while, on the other hand, he comes to the unbelieving always too soon, for there is no end to the thirst and love of life.
This is what Peter means here: these people who set up such sects, and so deny Christ, must come to die with the greatest unwillingness, trembling and desponding; for they can have no other thought but this, |Who knows whether God will be gracious to me and will forgive my sins?| and they remain forever in such doubt, |who knows it, -- who knows it?| and their conscience is never at peace. The longer they thus continue, the more terrible is death to them; for death cannot first be subdued, till sin and an evil conscience have been taken away. So will their condemnation come upon them hastily, so that they must abide in eternal death.
V.2. And many shall follow their destruction. It may be seen before our eyes, that it has come to pass just as St. Peter first declared. There has been not a father or mother who has not wished to have a priest, monk, or nun, from among their children. Thus one fool has made another; for when people have seen the misfortune and misery that are found in the marriage state, and have not known that it is a safe estate, they have wished to do the best for their children, to help them to a happy life and freedom from wretchedness. So that St. Peter has foretold here nothing else but just that the world should become full of priests, monks, and nuns. Thus youth, and the best that are in the world, have run with the multitude to the devil. St. Peter says it, alas! only too truly, that many should follow them to this destruction.
By whom the way of truth shall be blasphemed. This, too, is a thing that may be seen before our eyes. To blaspheme is to libel, damn, and curse; as when one condemns the christian estate as error and heresy. If one now should preach and say that their course is against the Gospel, because they lead men away from faith to works, then they go about and cry, |Thou art cursed, thou leadest the world astray.| And they blaspheme even yet more, in perverting what Christ has said, and saying no! to it. As when they, out of that which Christ has bidden, make nothing but a story, so that they forbid what Christ would have left free, and make that sin which He makes none, besides condemning and burning whoever preaches against it. The way of truth is a well-ordered life and walk, in which there is no fraud nor hypocrisy, such as that faith is in which all Christians walk. This they cannot bear; they blaspheme and condemn it, so as to praise and sustain their Order and sect.
V.3. And through avarice, with feigned words shall they make merchandise of you. This is specially the way of all false teachers, that they preach from avarice, that they may fill their belly, just as we see that not one of them has held a mass or vigil gratis. So, too, there is never a cloister or monastery built, whereto there must not fall a full measure of tribute. So, too, there is not a cloister in the world that serves the world for God's sake. It is all of it done merely for gold. But if any one really preaches faith, that does not bring in much gold; for then, all pilgrimages, indulgences, cloisters, and monasteries, to which more than half the wealth of the world has been devoted and given, must cease; whereof none has any use but the priests and monks only.
But how do they act to get the gold into their own hands? With feigned words, says Peter, shall they make merchandise of you. For they have selected the word by which they make money of the people, for this very purpose, as when they say, |If you give the dear Virgin, or this or that saint so many hundred florins, you do a most excellent good work, and merit so much indulgence and forgiving of sin, and ransom as many souls from purgatory.|
This and the like are just carefully feigned words, to the end that they may shave us of our gold; for in all this there is really no desert, nor grace, nor blotting out of sin. Still they explain the noble words of Scripture all of them in such a way, that they may traffic with them for gold. So, also, there has come of the holy, gracious Sacrament, nothing else but a traffic, for they do nothing with it but smear the people's mouth, and scrape their gold from them. Observe, then, whether St. Peter has not drawn and painted our clergy to the life.
Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. They shall not drive this on at length, nor carry it out, (he would say); for when they urge it most strongly, their sentence and condemnation shall fall upon them. Even now it goes forth; they shall not escape it, -- as St. Paul also says, II. Tim. iii.: |Their folly shall be revealed to all, so that they shall be put to shame;| God grant that they may be converted and come out from their dangerous state, when they hear and understand it, for though there are some who have not been seduced into this state, yet is it in itself nothing but a mere pernicious sect.
Thus St. Peter has attempted to describe the shameful, godless life that should succeed to the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, which the Apostles preached. Now he goes further, and sets before us three terrible examples -- of the angels, of the whole world, and of Sodom, how God condemned them, -- and speaks thus:
V.4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but has thrust them down to hell in chains of darkness, and given them over to be reserved for judgment. By these words St. Peter terrifies those who live so gay and secure as we see those do who cleave to that which the Pope has enacted, in that they are so confident and shameless that they would tread every one under foot. Therefore he would say this much: Is it not great presumption on their part that they go on so eagerly, and would bring every thing to pass by their own head, as though God should yield to them, and spare them, who yet spared not the angels? As though he had said, these examples should justly terrify even the saints, when they see such a severe sentence in that God has not spared those high spirits and noble beings who are far more learned and wise than we, but has thrust them into chains of darkness; -- such is the severe sentence and condemnation whereto He has ordained them, in which they are held bound and imprisoned, so that they cannot flee away out of the hands of God, since they have been cast into outer darkness, as Christ says in the Gospel.
And here St. Peter shows that the devils have not yet their final punishment, but still go about in a hardened, desperate state, and look every moment for their judgment, just as a man that is condemned to death is perfectly desperate, hardened, and more and more wicked. But their punishment has not yet overtaken them, but they are now only bound and reserved for it. This is the first example. -- Now follows the second:
V.5. And spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, and brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly. This is, moreover, a fearful example, such indeed that there is not a more bitter one in the Scripture. One might almost despair in view of it, who was even strong in faith. For when such language and such a sentence go to a man's heart, and he thinks of it, that so he too ought to die, he must tremble and despond, if he is not well prepared, since among so many in the whole world, no one but these eight only were saved. But how have they deserved it, that God by such a severe sentence should have drowned all, one with another, in one mass, husband and wife, master and servant, young and old, beast and bird? Because they led such a wicked life. Noah was a pious man and a preacher of righteousness, and had already lived five hundred years, before the flood, when God commanded him to build an ark, -- on which he wrought a hundred years thereafter; and he led throughout a uniformly godly life. Whence you may judge what a cross he had to bear, and in what care and anxiety the pious man stood, when he must needs show, by words and works, that he was a Christian. For it cannot be allowed that faith should conceal itself, and not break out before men by words and well-doing. So this man, alone, perhaps, long before God bade him build the ark, exercised the preacher's office, and spread the word of God not in one place, but, beyond doubt, through many lands. So that he must thus have suffered much and great persecution even, inasmuch as he is specially (as Peter says) sustained and kept by God, or he would soon have been overwhelmed and slain; for he must thus needs bear upon himself much envy and hate, and make even many high, wise and holy people his enemies. Had the matter not been helped, then the world would have despised the word of God, and been ever growing more wicked. When they had now driven on their wickedness to great length, God said, |My Spirit shall not always strive with men, since they are flesh; yet will I give them the term of an hundred and twenty years.| Besides, |I will destroy from the earth the men whom I have created, from man even to the reptile, (I will destroy them).| These words he preached and enforced daily, and began to build the ark as had been commanded him; and he labors on it a hundred years. But the people laughed at him, and were only so much the more obstinate and foolish. But what the sin was for which God destroyed the world, the text of Gen. vi. tells us, that the children of God, -- that is, those who came of holy parents, and were instructed and brought up in the faith and in the knowledge of God, sought after the daughters of men, since they were fair, and took for their wives whom they would. Thereafter they came from this to be powerful tyrants, who did everything that they chose after their own caprice; wherefore God punished the world and destroyed it by the flood.
V.6. And reduced the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, overthrowing and condemning them. This is the third example drawn from the destruction of those five cities, Gen. xix. Whereof also the prophet Ezekiel speaks, in chap. xvi., addressing the city of Jerusalem: |this was the sin of Sodom thy sister, -- pride, fullness of bread, luxury and idleness, and that to the poor they did not reach out the hand, and have lifted themselves up, and have wrought such shameful cruelty before me that I have even destroyed them.| For Sodom was a land, like the garden of the Lord, as Moses says, and a rich mine of costly oil and wine and all things, so that every one would think, here dwells God. For this they were secure, and led such a shameful life as Moses has written of. Such sin breaks out only where there is an assurance that they have enough to eat and drink and to spare, and idleness is joined therewith; just as we still see, the richer cities are the more shamefully do men live in them; but where there is hunger and cumber there the sins are so much the fewer. Therefore God permits, in regard to those that are His, that their education should be severe, that they may remain pure.
These are the three fearful examples whereby St. Peter threatens those that are godless. And as he insists upon it so, we must hold that this is its import. And it is spoken especially of the spiritual order -- pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and all who hang upon them. These are, as it were, angels in the Apostles' stead, appointed to this very end, that they should preach and make known God's word; for an angel is a messenger, or one sent, who discharges his message by word of mouth, for which reason preachers are called in Scripture angels, -- that is, messengers of God. Such angels should our clergy be. But as these angels of old fell off from God, and set themselves above God, and wished to be their own masters, so these do also, and have nothing but just the name of messengers, as those have the name alone of angels. So these also, as they have gone off from God, shall be held in chains of darkness and reserved to condemnation; as he has said above, that their sentence does not linger, nor their damnation slumber, although punishment has not as yet overtaken them.
Beside, they are like that former world, who, although they heard the prophets and the word of God, yet blasphemed and reviled them; and as Moses writes, took to themselves wives according to their pleasure, whomsoever they would, and became great and powerful tyrants. Observe, then, whether all that which Moses wrote of those is not now taking place. These are the great scamps that live in revelry, oppress the world by their tyranny, and no one must ask of them why they play the fool. Whomsoever they will they take for wife or daughter, in spite of any one's complaining; for if any one finds fault with it they are themselves judges, and there is no one who can win their cause of them. Therefore whatever they can devise to bring into their hands by oppression or fines, that also they execute. And if any one should seize upon it, they then say, |it is the spiritual possession of the churches; it is exempt, and no one must lay hands on it.| And as to those who preach God's word, they punish them to the taking away their life, and declare God's sentence on those that laugh at them; they will not hear the word, and they persecute the very preachers of righteousness, and, remaining great and mighty lords, would retain their title, so that they may be called spiritual, like those that are God's children, yet rule with full power in all obstinacy; but they must at last be subdued and destroyed. But the others who preach God's word shall be kept and sustained.
Thirdly: as the land where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were was a mine of fat, and all had enough of what the earth could bear, thereby the people became indolent, glutted themselves with food and drink, and to none of the poor did they reach out the hand. Such is the case also with our Spiritual Estate, who possess generally the best land, the best castles and cities, and the greatest rents and tribute, while they have enough also to eat and drink. Besides, there is not a more indolent class of people on earth, that lives without anything of care or labor, and is fed by the sweat of the poor. But what indolence brings along we may see before our eyes. The Pope forbids them to take a married wife, so that if they then keep their concubines and have children they must give gold to the bishop for every child, whereby they will smooth the thing over and cancel the sin. I will not here speak of other secret sins which one dare not lightly stir up.
Finally, you here see that St. Peter accounts of the Spiritual Estate no otherwise than as of Sodom and Gomorrah, for they are all such people as no one can be benefited by who lend none a helping hand, but seize to themselves all they can, under the pretence, which they put forth, that what is given to them is given to God, and they let no one be helped though he suffer want. Wherefore just as those were overthrown and turned to ashes, so shall these also be destroyed at the last day.
V.7. And rescued righteous Lot who was troubled greatly by the libertine course of the wicked. Was it not a great aggravation that they not only rushed publicly and shamelessly into whoredom and adultery, but into such sins as may not be mentioned, -- insomuch that they did not even spare the angels who came to Lot, and they rushed on thus in their course, both young and old, in all the corners of the city! Against this, righteous Lot had daily preached and warned them, but all in vain, except that he is vexed by them, since he must stand still yet cannot smooth over the evil, just as is the case with us now, for there is no more hope to reform or help this grievous course of life that the world leads.
V.8. For while that righteous man dwelt among them, since he must see and hear it all, they vexed his righteous soul from day to day, by their ungodly deeds. Here Peter describes the cross which this holy man must have borne, while he preached to the people and brought up his daughters in faith; and so it is accounted toward him by God. Now St. Peter decides how the godless shall be kept for punishment at the last day.
V.9, 10. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, but to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished, but especially those that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness. This is certainly deep passion and earnestness in the Apostle. If God spared not (says he) the young new world, how much more severely and fearfully will he now punish those to whom the Gospel has been revealed and preached, and before which no such great light has arisen; as Christ also declares, Matt. xi., |Woe to thee, Capernaum, who art exalted even to heaven! thou shalt be thrust down to hell; for if the deeds that have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it had been standing at this day; for I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for you.| But such threatening is in vain. The godless do not turn themselves for it.
To live in the lust of uncleanness is to live just like an unreasoning beast -- according to mere sense and every kind of lust. So everything is ordered by the Pope, ordered as it has pleased him, and all must subserve their wilfulness and tyranny; and they have warped and explained all just as it has pleased them, and thereupon said, |the holy See at Rome cannot err,| while there is not one who has preached anything of faith or love; but they have taught nothing except what they have themselves imagined.
V.10, 11. And those who despise governments, presumptuous, self-conceited, tremble not to revile dignities, whereas the angels, who are greater in power and might, bring not a railing accusation against them before the Lord. He calls kings, princes and lords, and all civil magistracy, governments; and not the Pope and bishops, for these are not to be lords at all; since Christ, in the New Testament, is represented only as a servant -- so that one Christian is to serve another, and hold him in honor. Wherefore this is St. Peter's meaning: that they should be subject and obedient to civil magistracy; as the sword is introduced by God's ordinance, stand thou in fear. Yet they do the very reverse of this. They have excepted themselves, and say they are not subject to the civil magistracy; yea, they have not only excepted themselves, but have even subjected those to themselves, and trampled on them with their feet, and permit themselves shamelessly to be called lords, even by kings and princes, just as the Pope writes of himself that he is a lord of heaven and earth, and has in his hand both the civil and spiritual sword, and that every one must fall at his feet.
Besides, St. Peter says that they do not tremble to blaspheme dignities; for it has become to the Pope a small and slight thing to put kings and princes under ban, to curse them, and depose them, and moreover excite mischief among them, and stir them up one against another. And as to those who have opposed themselves, these he has quickly overthrown and trodden on, not because they have done anything against faith or love, but only because they have not been willing to be subject to the Romish See, or kiss the Pope's foot, because, forsooth, his power was as much greater than that of secular princes as the sun is than the moon, or as the heaven is high above the earth; so they lyingly blasphemed, while yet they are bound to be subject and obedient to them, and should bless them and pray for them, as Christ our Lord subjected Himself to Pilate, and gave to the Emperor the penny tribute. They ought, therefore, to tremble at reviling against dignities; yet are they unaffrighted and presumptuous in regard to it, and they revile with all zeal and recklessness, while yet if even the strongest angels cannot endure judgment against themselves from the Lord, and besides are struck dumb from cursing and reviling the very One from whom they cannot escape, how then will these wretched people endure it?
V.12, 13. But these are like unreasoning brutes, that are born, in accordance with their nature, to be taken and destroyed; they speak evil of that which they do not know, and in their own ruin shall they perish, and receive therefrom the reward of their unrighteousness. Unreasonable brutes, Peter calls them, as though they had within them not a spark of anything that smacked of spirit, performed no spiritual duty that they should do, but lived like the fool, and became effeminate through a carnal life. But in that he says they are naturally born to be taken and destroyed, it may be understood in a two-fold manner: first, as of those that take and destroy, such as the wolf, lion, bear, the sparrow-hawk and eagle, -- so these grasp to themselves, and tear away from others all they can, goods and honor. Secondly, of those that shall be taken, crushed and destroyed at the judgment of the last day.
They count temporal enjoyment as the fullness of pleasure. See how indignant St. Peter is! I must not chide the young gentlemen so grievously. They think if they only live well, and have good times, then they have enough of all things, and are right well off; this one can easily trace in their spiritual claim, when they say that whoever touches them as to their property or their belly, is of the devil. They themselves cannot deny this, that their whole system is framed to this end, that they may have lazy and idle times, and all that can suffice them. They will lade themselves with no trouble or labor, but every one must make and devote enough for them. They must go to the choir and pray. God has commanded all men that they should eat their bread by the sweat of their brow, and He has imposed trial and anxiety upon all. Meanwhile, these young masters would slip their heads out of this noose, and busy themselves with kisses. But this is the greatest blindness, that they are so dumb, and therefore hold that such a shameful life is right and lovely.
Spots are they, and blemishes. They know not but that they adorn Christianity, as the sun and moon do heaven, and are the noblest and most precious jewels, like gold and precious stones; yet St. Peter calls them spots of shame and blemishes. The true christian life develops from faith, serves every one in love, bears the holy cross, which is the true badge, ornament, jewel and honor of the Christian Church; -- but these have, in place of the cross, lust and luxury; instead of love to their neighbor, they seek their own interest, snatch all to themselves, and let nothing go from themselves to another for his advantage. Thus they know of faith just nothing at all. For they are nothing but the spots and stains which Christianity must have as its shame and derision. That is chiding enough, certainly, for our spiritual lords.
They lead an effeminate life through your charity, feast richly on your goods. What was given at first out of christian love, to procure a common fund for widows and worthy persons, and also for the poor, so that no one among the Christians need suffer want or beg, -- property of this kind is now all devoted to monasteries and cloisters, from which our ecclesiastics fill their bellies, living upon it most luxuriously, and revelling in it; and to this end they say it belongs to them, and no one shall restrain them for it. The Holy Spirit will not permit that the servants of the church should lead an effeminate life from other people's labor; but to the laboring class, and to man, woman and child generally, was it properly devoted of old.
V.14. They have eyes full of adultery. Such must always follow when the body is crammed with food and drink, and loiters indolent, as was said above. Wherefore does St. Peter say, -- not, they are adulterers, -- but, they have eyes full of adultery? It is as much as though he should say, They think ever on nothing but fornication, and can never restrain their roguery, nor be satisfied and quiet. This is the cause of their continual gluttony and revel, so far as they can push it, and thus they are suffered to live at large and unpunished, just as they like, -- as follows:
Their sin is not to be interfered with. The Pope has forbidden any prince or secular magistrate to punish ecclesiastics, and where they maintain their own authority he puts them under bann. But this matter is committed to the bishops; yet, since they are knaves themselves, they look through their fingers. Thus they have excepted themselves from subjection to civil government and the sword, so that no one shall dare to restrain them in their caprice, and they all live according to their own lusts, like those of old before the deluge.
They allure to themselves light-minded souls. With such great show as they exhibit in their knavish life, as going through with mass, begging, singing, &c., do they allure and draw light-minded and unstable souls, who are without faith, to imagine that everything is spiritual; and all is shaped to this end, that men may think that in that estate every one shall have enough, and good times besides, and, moreover, that he shall reach heaven; and yet it is all done only to this end, that they may fill their bellies and their dirt-bag.
They have a heart penetrated with covetousness. This vice is so gross and open among the ecclesiastics, that even the common people have complained of it. Yet he says not, they are covetous, but, they have a heart penetrated with covetousness, and especially exercised therein. This may be seen in the fact that they have invented so many swindling and cunning stories that it is impossible to count them, by which they bring all the world's wealth to themselves.
All that this class practices and pursues is simple, pure covetousness, and must all be worth money enough. They show it also most plainly of all, as they are equipped and prepared on all sides to call on men for their gold; so that St. Peter was certainly not a liar.
They are children of cursing. That is, in the Hebrew, as much as to say, they are cursed children, subject to the curse of God, so that before God they have no favor or salvation, and only become more wicked from day to day, and continually, also, greater blasphemers of God; so that they surely lade themselves full enough with the wrath and terrible judgment of God. That is surely spoken severely and fearfully enough; while it is high time that whoever can flee and run, should flee and run forth from this cursed state. Should we bear such a title, that is certainly pitiful; but if the High Majesty also arraigns, curses, and condemns, -- who will endure it?
V.15. They have forsaken the right way, and gone in error. They should have taught the right way, -- how we must cleave to Christ, and come to God by faith, and through love to our neighbor; and thereafter bear the holy cross, and endure whatever meets us therefor. But they preach no more than this, |go hither and thither, -- be monk and priest, -- found churches, masses, &c., &c.;| and they lead away the people from faith to their own works, which yet are such as are of no use to their neighbor.
V.15, 16. And have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the reward of unrighteousness, but had a rebuke for his transgression, the dumb beast of burden speaking with man's voice and reproving the folly of the prophet. Here he brings in an illustration from the fourth book of Moses, xxii.-xxiv. When the children of Israel had journeyed out of Egypt and had come into the land of the Moabites, king Balak sent to a prophet in Syria, by the name of Balaam, and besought him that he would come and curse the Jewish people, that they might become weak and that he might slay them. Then God appeared to Balaam, and forbade him to curse the people; therefore the prophet declines to comply with Balak. Thereupon the king sent to him once more, and promised to give him large wealth. Then God permits him to go to him, yet he shall say nothing but what He shall direct him to say.
Upon this, he rose up and mounted upon an ass. The angel of God came and walked in the way, and stood before him with a drawn sword. The ass saw it, and turned aside out of the way, at which the prophet struck her, that she should go in the way. Then the angel went to a narrow place where the ass could not turn aside, and when she presses herself against the wall and bruises the prophet's foot, she is forced to fall under him upon her knee, while he is angered so as in his rage to strike the ass with his staff. Then God opens the mouth of the beast to speak with the voice of a man, and she said, |What have I done to you that you should strike me so?| And he said, |Ah! if I had now a sword in my hand, I would slay you.| Then the ass answered and said, |Am I yet the ass upon which thou hast ridden continually even to this day, and have I done it for no more than this?| Then were the eyes of the prophet opened, so that he saw the angel with the drawn sword, at which he was affrighted and would have turned back; but the angel of the Lord bade him go on, but thereupon forbade him to speak anything else than what He should say to him.
When now the prophet was come to the king, he takes him up to a height from which he could see the whole people of Israel. Then the prophet bade him erect seven altars, and on each offer a sacrifice; and then went aside and asked the Lord what he should say. And God gave him his word in his mouth. And he rose up to bless and glorify the people of Israel with fair words; and this he did three times, one after another. Then was the king filled with wrath, and said, |Did I not call thee that thou shouldst curse mine enemies? and yet thou hast blest them now these three times. I had thought that I should have honored thee, but the Lord hath turned thee away from honor.| Balaam answered and said, |Yet I told thee at first, that though thou shouldst give me thine house full of silver and gold, still I could speak nothing else but what God should say to me.|
Yet did the prophet afterward give the king counsel how he should manage with the people, although he might not curse them and overcome them by power, -- so that they sinned against God. Then the king sets up an idol, by name Baal-Peor, and causes that the Moabite women, daughters of lords and princes, should ensnare the people to themselves to sacrifice to their gods; and when they had brought them to themselves, they made supplication to the idol with meats and drinks, and committed sin with the women. Then was God angry, and commanded the chief of the people to be hung upon the gallows, and permitted four and twenty thousand men to be overcome in one day. Such was this prophet Balaam's advice, for the sake of gold.
Of this St. Peter here speaks, and would say that our ecclesiastics are specially Balaam's children and scholars; for just as he gave evil counsel to set up an idol so that the children of Israel should be brought to sin and provoke God that they should be slain, so have our bishops also set up an idol, in God's name, -- to wit, their human doctrine of their own works; and they let faith go, and they lure to themselves christian souls whom they injure, and thereby provoke God to anger, so that he has punished the world with blindness and stupidity. For all this we may thank our spiritual masters.
Thus Peter compares especially these false teachers to the prophet Balaam, since they even, like Balaam, purely for the sake of gold, set up such idolatry and ruin souls.
Besides, he mentions his right name, for Bileaam or Balaam is he called in Hebrew, a swallower or swiller, like one who gapes his throat open, and swallows and devours all. This shameful name must he bear, because he has brought so many people into sin, insomuch that they are destroyed and overcome.
Such Balaamites are our bishops and ecclesiastics, who are the throat of the devil, by which he draws so many souls to himself, and swallows them down. But the surname of this prophet is, the son of Bosor, -- that is to say, flesh, -- or, as Moses says, son of Beor, that is, of a fool. A fool is his father. So are these, also, blind, dull and foolish people, who must yet needs rule; such a people as the flesh bears, for the spirit makes men of another stamp. So God has given these in the Scripture their own name, and therein they are so painted to the life, that we may know in what account they are to be held.
Now the dumb beast of burden, the ass, signifies the people that lets itself be bridled and ridden, and goes as it is led, like the ass, who was forced and beaten cruelly when he went out of the way into the ditch, and must neither give place before the angel in the way so long as it could help, nor turn aside, and so must fall down. For in the same way have these seducers also urged on the people, until these last have become sensible that it is a thing not to be endured, and that they deal unfairly with them, and have wished to turn them aside from the way. But the harshness has been so gross whereby they have troubled the people, that at length God has opened our lips and given words into our mouths, so that even the children speak of it; whereby their folly is made plain, so that they must be ashamed. In this way we ought to meet them when they go about, and give out that it belongs not to the laity to read the Scripture, and therefore say, we must hear what the Councils determine. For then you may answer, Has not God spoken even by an ass? Be content with our knowing that ye, in times past, preached the word of God; but now ye have become fools, and are possessed by avarice, what wonder is it that now the common people have been roused and impelled by God to speak the truth, though it has been so burdened and oppressed like a dumb beast of burden. This is their likeness, taken from the prophet Balaam. Now St. Peter says further of these false teachers:
V.17. They are wells without water, and clouds driven about by the whirlwind. In like manner Solomon presents us a comparison, in Prov. xxv., and says, |As when a great cloud and strong wind go forth, and yet no rain follows, so is a man who makes high boastings of himself, and does not make good his words.| So Peter says here, also, they are wells without water, and clouds driven about by the whirlwind; that is, they make great show, and have nothing beside. They are like the dry, false and exhausted wells, although they have the fame and title of being true wells. For Scripture calls those who teach, wells, as the ones from whom should flow that wholesome doctrine by which souls are to be quickened. To this office are they anointed and set apart. But what do they do? Nothing, as a general thing; for they have nothing else but just the bare name, just as they are called shepherds, and yet are wolves.
Besides, they are the clouds which the wind drives about -- not like the thick, black and lowering clouds which are wont to give us rain, but like those fleecy ones which move about and fly in the air, and are very light, which the wind drives wherever it will, after which no rain can follow. So our teachers also sweep about and move high in Christendom, like the clouds in heaven, but let themselves be driven about wherever the devil chooses, to whom they are ready to yield in all kinds of lusts. But yet they preach not a word of God, like true teachers and preachers, who are called clouds in Scripture (as Is. v.), -- as also by all that gives forth water, preachers are typified in Scripture.
For whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. They live now at their ease, and things go with them just as they themselves would have them. But there shall come an eternal darkness upon them, although they do not believe nor apprehend it.
V.18. For they speak in swelling words, which have nothing back of them. If you ask how they may be called wells without water, and clouds without rain, while they yet preach throughout the whole world, St. Peter answers: they rain and preach, alas! altogether too much; but they are only vain, swollen and puffed-up words, by which they blow the poor people's ears full, so that men think it is something fine; and yet it is nothing but show. Just as the monks, with high, bold words, set forth their obedience, poverty and chastity, so that men think they are a holy people, while yet it is nothing but mere trickery, and certainly no faith nor love can be found among it. Like this, also, is their pretence that the estate of bishops is a more perfect estate, while these yet do nothing else but ride about pompously on their fine horses, and now and then consecrate churches and altars, and baptise bells. Such puffed-up and swollen words are the whole spiritual law of the Pope, throughout.
And they allure, through guile, to the lust of the flesh, those who had well-nigh escaped, and now they walk in error. This is what these wells and teachers do, so that they who were almost escaped must fall into the snare of wickedness, and for the first time be truly captured. A child that has been baptised, rescued from all sins, snatched from the devil and set out from Adam into Christ, when he comes to reason is soon entangled and led away into error. Men should be taught of faith, and love, and the holy cross, while our clergy go their own way, throw up their work whereby these persons fall back again into error, even though they had escaped it. But how does this come to pass? Thus: in that by guile they allure the people to the lust of the flesh. Their strongest persuasion is in their saying that priests, monks and nuns should not be married, and should bind themselves to maintain chastity, by which they do no more than allure to unchastity, forasmuch as the wretched people must perish in their wicked lusts, and there is nothing to help them.
But here you clearly see that Peter speaks of none other than teachers who bear rule in Christendom, where men are baptised and believers, -- for among the Turks and heathen, no one has so escaped; it is only among Christians, where they have the chance to lead souls astray, and bring them into the snare of the devil.
V.19. And they promise them freedom, while they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom any one is overcome, his servant has he become. They set up Orders by which a man is to be saved, -- as Thomas, the monk preacher, has shamelessly written, that when a man shall enter into one of these Orders, be it as vile as it may, it is as though he had but just come forth from his baptism; and then they promise him freedom and forgiving of sins by works of his own. Such blasphemy must we hear, while they set their human fancies and ludicrous conceits, destitute of faith, on a level with faith and baptism which God has established, and which are peculiarly his work. Who is to endure this and still keep silent? Such stories have the monks gotten up, and they cram them into the young; and such teachers as these men have set up for saints. But the other saints, truly such, they have burnt to ashes.
V.20. For if they have escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but shall be again entangled and overcome in the same, their last end is worse for them than the first. There Peter shows why they are the servant of corruption. To confess Christ is to know what he is, even our Saviour, who forgives us our sins from pure grace. By this confession we escape the vice and come out from the pollution of the world. But though they should already have been delivered from sin in baptism, they shall afterwards be plunged therein, for that they have again gone from faith to their own works. For where there is no faith, the Spirit is absent; but where the Spirit is absent, there is nothing but flesh, so that there can be nothing at all that is pure. So has it come to pass hitherto in regard to Christianity. Rome first heard the pure Gospel, but afterward went back and fell away to human doctrines, until even upon herself all abominations have come up; so that her last end has become worse than her first, in that she is now far more hopeless in her heathenism than she ever was before she heard the word of God.
V.21. For it had been far better for them that they had never known the way of righteousness, than that they should know it, and turn themselves away from the holy command that has been given them. For it has happened to them according to the proverb, The dog turns to his own vomit again, and the sow after her washing wallows in the mire. This proverb St. Peter has taken out of the book of Prov. xxvi., where Solomon says, |A man who repeats his folly is like the dog who turns again to his vomit.| By baptism they have thrown off unbelief, and have been washed from their polluted life, and have entered upon a pure life of faith and love, while they fall off from it again to unbelief and their own works, and defile themselves again in the dirt. So that we are not to make this proverb bear on works; for little is accomplished by one's saying and directing at confession, |Thou shalt henceforth be chaste, meek, and patient,| &c. But if you will be pious, pray God that he will give you a real faith, and see to it that you forsake your unbelief. When you shall then have attained faith, good works shall afterwards take care of themselves, so that you will live purely and chastely, even though you should secure yourself by no other means; and though, again, you might awhile conceal the mischief in your heart, yet at last it comes out.
This is the second chapter of this Epistle, wherein Peter speaks specially of our teachers, how shamefully we have been treated by them. We have indeed had warning enough, but we have not minded it, so that the fault is ours that we have not laid hold on the Gospel, and that we have by our lives deserved such anger of God. We hear it generally, all of us, with gladness, when some one assaults and upbraids the Pope along with his priests and monks; but yet, no one will draw advantage to himself from it. It is not such a trifling matter of sport that one must laugh at it, but of such seriousness that the heart should fear and tremble on account of it. Therefore should we lay hold upon it with seriousness, and pray that God would turn away from us his anger and such plagues. For this calamity has not come upon us unforeseen, but it is sent upon us by God as a punishment, -- as Paul says, II. Thes. ii.: |Since they have not received the love of the truth, that they might be saved, therefore shall God send upon them strong delusion so that they shall believe a lie,| &c., &c. For had the punishment gone but so far that the false teachers only were lost, it would have been yet a little thing against the fact that they have had the rule, and carried all the world with them to hell. Therefore, in regard to the evil, we are to take no counsel except to apprehend the matter in Godly fear and humility, confess our guilt, and pray God to turn away the punishment from us. By prayer must one contend against the false teachers, although the devil do not let him win. -- Now follows, next: