…Neither in Prayer, Merit, Nor Works… (Luther)

Yesterday I mentioned that I just got Luther’s Letters from Logos for $28. I started reading a few today and immediately was convinced that this is an awesome set to own. I had to force myself to stop reading and get other work done! Anyway, below is a letter that Luther wrote to Johann von Staupitz around five months after Luther posted the 95 theses. Staupiz was a German theologian and Luther’s spiritual “father” during his time as an Augustinian monk. Here’s the letter dated March 31, 1518.

To: JOHANN VON STAUPITZ

My greeting! Although overwhelmed by business, I feel constrained briefly to address my father in the Lord.

To begin with, I am quite willing to admit that my name is in bad odour with very many.

For these good folks assert that I despise psalters and other forms of prayer, nay, even good works themselves. But St. Paul himself was often treated in the same way, some accusing him of saying, “Let us do evil, that good may come.”

But I have kept firm to Tauler’s theology and that other treatise which you had printed through our Aurifaber. I teach that man must trust solely in Christ Jesus—neither in prayer, merit, nor works, but hope for blessedness only through God’s mercy.

It is from this that these people extract poison and disseminate it everywhere, as you see.

Only as it was neither good nor bad report which made me act so, therefore I take no notice of all this, although it is those things which bring down the hatred of the schoolmen about my neck.

Because I prefer the mystical writings and the Bible to them, their wrath and jealousy are unbounded. I do not read the scholastics blindfolded, as they do, but ponder them. The apostle told us to prove all things, and hold to that which is good. I do not despise all theirs, neither consider it all good. But these creatures generally kindle a fire out of a spark, and make an elephant out of a flea. When it was permitted to a Thomas to stand out against the whole world, and a Scotus, Gabriel, and others to contradict him, and when, even among the scholastics, there are as many sects as there are heads, or rather every single head daily builds up a new system of divinity, why should I not have the same liberty?

But when God lifts up His hand no one can stay it, and when He rests no one can arouse Him.

Farewell, and pray for me, and for the cause of divine truth wherever it may be hidden.

MARTIN LUTHER

Luther, Martin, and Margaret A. Currie. The Letters of Martin Luther. Edited and translated by Margaret A. Currie. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1908. p. 25

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015