-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Walther on the Revival Spirit

"We shall now pass on to the particular point in our thesis which is to engage our attention to-night, viz., that Law and Gospel are grievously comingled by those who assert that assurance of the forgiveness of sins requires praying, struggling, and wrestling until finally a joyful feeling arises in the heart, indicating to the person in a mysterious way that grace is now in his heart and that he can be of good cheer because he has forgiveness of his sins. Now, properly speaking, grace is never in man's but in God's heart [see my critique on this point]. First a person must believe; after that he may feel. Feeling proceeds from faith, not faith from feeling. If a person's faith proceeds from feeling, it is not genuine faith; for faith requires a divine promise which it lays hold of. Accordingly, we can be sure that the faith of those who can say: "I regard nothing in all the world except the precious Gospel; on that I build," is of the right sort. The devil may terrify and harass such people until they have no pleasant feeling of grace, but they will sing nevertheless:--
---------------Though "No!" my heart should ever cry,
---------------Still on Thy Word I shall rely,
--------------I shall trust, though void of feeling,
--------------Till before Thee I'll be kneeling.

"The principle proof-text for this point of doctrine is 1 John 3, 19. 20: Hereby we know that we are of the truth and shall assure our hearts before Him. For [Luther: dass] if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things. A Christian may feel the accusation of his own heart, that is, his conscience, and when trying to quiet his heart, he may hear a voice telling him he is damned, that he has no forgiveness of his sins and no grace, is not a child of God and cannot hope for life eternal. To such a person the beloved apostle says: "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart." That is to say, our heart is indeed a judge, yet only a subordinate one. A higher Judge, namely, God, is above our heart. I can say to my troubled heart: "Be still, my heart! Keep silent, my conscience! I have appealed to a higher court and inquired of God, the supreme Judge, whether I am rid of my sins. From the higher court, which can always reverse the verdict of a lower court, I have obtained a verdict that my sins are forgiven, for I cling to the Word of God." A person who by the grace of God is enabled to believe this is a blessed person. Hell is closed, and heaven opened wide for him. Though all the devils in hell roar at him, "You are lost!" he can answer them: "It is not so; I am not lost, but redeemed forever. Here I have written evidence in God's Word." And in due time the feeling of grace will return. In the very moment when a Christian imagines that he is void of all feeling, cold, and dead, a miserable, lost creature, to whom the Word of God tastes like rotten wood, who does not relish absolution and has not the witness of the Holy Spirit in him, and all is over with him,-- just in such a moment a great joy may suddenly enter his heart. God will not leave him in the slough of despair."

-C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans. W.H.T. Dau (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 200-202.

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