RPM, Volume 12, Number 21, May 23 to May 29 2010

The Bondage of the Will

By Martin Luther


Section XX.

Sect. XX. — BUT, the doctrine concerning the liberty of confession and satisfaction, you either deny, or know not that there is the Word of God. — And here arises another inquiry. But we know, and are persuaded, that there is a Word of God, in which the Christian liberty is asserted, that we might not suffer ourselves to be ensnared into bondage by human traditions and laws. This I have abundantly shewn elsewhere. But if you wish to enter the lists, I am prepared to discuss the point with you, and to fight it out. Though upon these subjects I have books extant not a few.

But, — "the laws of the Popes (you say,) may at the same time be borne with and observed, in charity; if perchance thus, eternal salvation by the word of God, and the peace of the world, may together consist, without tumult." —

I have said before, that cannot be. The princeof this world will not allow the Pope and his high priests, and their laws to be observed in liberty, but his design is, to entangle and bind consciences. This the true God will not bear. Therefore, the Word of God, and the traditions of men, are opposed to each other with implacable discord; no less so, than God Himself and Satan; who each destroy the works and overthrow the doctrines of the other, as regal kings each destroying the kingdom of the other. "He that is not with Me (saith Christ) is against Me." (Luke xi. 23.)

And as to — "a fear that many who are depravedly inclined, will abuse this liberty" —

This must be considered among those tumults, as a part of that temporal leprosy which is to be borne, and of that evil which is to be endured. But these are not to be considered of so much consequence, as that, for the sake of restraining their abuse, the word of God should be taken out of the way. For if all cannot be saved, yet some are saved; for whose sake the word of God is sent; and these, on that account, love it the more fervently, and assent to it the more solemnly. For, what evils did not impious men commit before, when there was no word? Nay, what good did they do? Was not the world always drowned in war, fraud, violence, discord, and every kind of iniquity? For if Micah (vii. 4) compares the best among them to a thorn hedge, what do you suppose he would call the rest?

But now the Gospel is come, men begin to impute unto it, that the world is evil. Whereas, the truth is, that by the good Gospel, it is more manifest how evil it was, while, without the Gospel, it did all its works in darkness. Thus also the illiterate attribute it to learning, that, by its flourishing, their ignorance becomes known. This is the return we make for the word of life and salvation! — And what fear must we suppose there was among the Jews, when the Gospel freed all from the law of Moses? What occasion did not this great liberty seem to give to evil men? But yet, the Gospel was not, on that account, taken away; but the impious were left, and it was preached to the pious, that they might not use their liberty to an occasion of the flesh. (Gal. v. 13.)

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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