The Way to Certainty of Salvation–Loehe. Part 2
Therefore if a soul is awakened, by all means it ought to be advised: “Seek Christ and his Light! Nothing else does any good!” But they should be directed into God’s Word and told: “This is what bears witness to him!” He must not be told to seek the revelation of God upon his knees, but rather to receive the revelation and epiphany of God that is present in the Scriptures upon their knees, full of gratitude and joy. He ought to be shown from God’s Word, with simple, powerful passages who Jesus is, what his office and calling is, his great faithfulness. Then he can be addressed in a perspective and in the confidence of a saved child of God among the angels: “Now you know him. He is all present, that is, where his Word and his name are remembered. He loves those who sought him not, why not those who seek him? Which of his promises can you possibly nullify even if your heart is contrary and despairing? None of them, none! His is mercy and faithfulness, even if you are ungracious and unfaithful to him. He knows that, He knows you. Trust his Word, only there will you not err.” Everything else may let you down, with everything else anything can happen. But his promise to you will never fail. In the world you will have trouble—so what? With him, in his promises, you have peace!” If someone has hemmed in a soul so narrowly (Voos’en’s autobiography contains good examples of this) that they must finally despair of themselves, that they finally must give up, to then become blessed upon the Word, then, from then on, he’ll not trust his preparations, or prayers and watchfulness, never trust our running and striving, but they will retain the same means that had introduced those souls to Jesus, that is, unconditional faith in God’s Word and promise. Whether one comes into persecution, temptations, heartache, whatever it might be, if he always retains a strict distinction between God and people, God’s Word and feelings, God’s faithfulness and human faith,–and in this way presses on to unconditional faith, despite feelings, that clings solely to the Word of God—he is back upon that narrow road of Thomas, not to see and yet to believe. The Defender of Israel be thanked and praised, who doe\s not slumber nor sleep, who knows all beleaguered souls and their woes and therefore has manifested to them such glorious heart-gripping Words of his irrevocable covenant of peace, so that those who are surrounded by hounds and wild beasts can have an unassailable light for their feet; his promises, rising over them like the sun above them that can never set but that comes with salvation under his wings. In this way those souls are given a point outside this world so when everything below becomes unhinged, it turns their sorrow to pure thoughts of peace. That’s how peaceful, steadfast hearts are made, that patiently persevere in the battles of life! Whoever practices such a blind (yet enlightened!) reliance upon the Word, becomes experienced in the fight of faith. He doesn’t merely throw his arms around the Word, but, in the Word, around the Lord himself, who is called the rock, and by and by, he takes on the nature of the Rock himself, as he gives way to nothing that would bring him to fall from his roots and foundation. Persecuted souls are shown universally, and in every particular case, that all weaknesses disappear, all sins are forgiven, whenever one turns to the Word of the cross with unconditional trust, yes, that all your complaints along with all your sins therefore end up always giving way to God’s promises by a pure faith and reliance on them, despite all feelings. This is the goal sought for any sort of malady in spiritual life, to prayerfully apply a few short, bright, clear passages of the Scripture, in all simplicity, for the comfort of troubled souls. Practical advice from human wisdom or dressing God’s wisdom in human garb don’t help in this. God’s Words imparts God’s mind, presented and taught to the heart. If one use it (for without using it, no one will be led into real glory!) it accomplishes much more than all worldly advice. Even if afflicted hearts often barely heed it, they must be lifted up by their pastors to see what angels apprehend, turning their weak eyes away from stubble to God’s Word. God will hardly be understood by speaking only in baby talk, much less by using intricate human conclusions and illustrations of the certainty of eternal life. “I simply believe it all” says the comforted heart of one dying in the Lord, as he justly shuns all human comfort. No one should have scruples as if it were wrong to base mankind’s salvation on a few proof passages. It’s certainly impossible to exhaust all the divine comfort in all God’s Word when telling it to people. But highly educated people can do that no better than untaught laymen. One also ought not fear that the spirit of their affliction must teach us to apply some different passage than we’ve learned, since every passage is absolutely true and has a heaven full of salvation. One may confidently stick with a few passages and use them repeatedly. By using them faithfully and repeatedly he will be assured those passages are God’s word of eternal assurance, but all men are liars. Nothing in Scripture is expendable, and nothing from man, even when it is well applied, is as effective, by which people might look to other men, who are passing away and do not remain, but one must learn to always turn to his God alone, to appropriate his comfort from out of God’s Word alone. If one is assailed by doubt, then do not bring him to overcome his doubt by proofs from reason. For then that person under attack will perceive that doubt comes from reason, but that it stems from not having enough knowledge or understanding. He will believe that it is a matter of right reason even when he doubts. But if you hold God’s Word before a doubter and you faithfully stand upon it, that it is greater than all doubts, such confidence for faith by a pastor (Seelsorgers) strikes down doubt and awakens trust when it has fallen asleep. Obviously the despising of God’s Word by opposing reason, which sets itself against God, will drive them from the plan of salvation. –So if one is in deep contrition, then the Absolution is declared to him with divine authority and he is preached that the Absolution is greater and mightier than all the sins of the world. If one is in the throes of death, then a prayer of thanks is said in which yet a third Word of eternal life is spoken from the Scriptures, and the great assurance of God’s promise is praised to the one dying, compared to which even death, with all its threats, becomes a shameful lie. If one is attacked by Satan’s deceit and might, we know what sort of sword we have to place into one’s hand. If one wants to reassure and justify himself, he is shown God’s judgment over all people in his word and how God’s judgment shatters every human whim. If one wants to sin, he is shown in God’s passages God’s love and warning, wrath and curse—what else can be done?
That’s how Christ wages war against his foes—the serpent and the serpent’s seed, and overcomes them all—until: “It is finished!” In that way Luther, in the Name of God, struck the eminence of the papacy and all his lies. Thus can each one win victory for himself. When one always, in word and deed, in every case confesses God’s Word, that is the best, sharpest, most peaceful conscientious Protestantism. For without being grounded in the divine Word, faith floats in the breezes and in the fog, as a human dream or delusion.
This path makes for peace. It seems easy, but there is nothing harder than this—walking and teaching to walk upon it. Look at most preacher and their sermons, what are they? Nice words, well ordered sentences, practical tirades, presentations, a torture and a cloud of words. But they know nothing of the way of faith, of grounding souls upon God’s Word. Among our preachers and caretakers of souls (Seelsorgern) there are a hundred mystics and preachers of works to one who desires to speak nothing but what God says with all that he says in a self-denying love for God’s Word; to just one who does not want to increase his own honor but lets God’s Word triumph over and above him and his gifts, instead of his gifts and wanting to be turned into their savior. If more preachers had found their peace in God’s Word, there would be far fewer babblers in the pulpit and, among them, more men with stable minds, who knew with assurance whom they believe, who in trouble and death could peacefully assert: “my friend is mine and I am yours.”
Consider this, dear souls—and if it’s false, say something better, for it is worth the effort to talk about the path to peace!
Peace be with you! Amen.