Saturday, September 29, 2012

Do Not Let Worship Style Obscure the Preached Word

I confess that I am not favorably disposed even toward necessary ceremonies, but that I am opposed to those that are not necessary.  Not only have I been (and still am) incensed by my experience under the papacy, but the example of the Ancient Church is also disquieting to me.  It easily happens that ceremonies become laws, and after they are established as laws, they quickly become snares to men’s consciences.  Meanwhile pure doctrine is obscured and buried, especially if those who come after are indifferent and unschooled folk who are more concerned about ceremonies than they are about mortifying the lusts of the flesh.  We see this even among those who are now living; strife and divisions arise when everybody follows his own opinion.  In short, contempt for the Word on our side and blasphemy on the side of our opponents seem to me to point to the time of which John prophesied when he said to his people, “The ax is laid unto the root of the trees,”* etc.

At all events, since the end is close at hand, it does not seem to me that it is necessary (at least in this blessed time) to be too concerned about introducing ceremonies, making them uniform, and fixing them permanently by law.  The one thing that needs to be done is this: the Word must be preached often and purely, and competent and learned ministers must be secured who are concerned above all else that they be of one heart and one mind in the Lord.  If this is achieved, it will undoubtedly be easy to secure uniformity in ceremonies, or at least to tolerate differences.  Without such internal unity, on the other hand, there will be no end to differences and no way to deal with them, for those who come after us will claim the same right that we exercise, and flesh will be set against flesh, a consequence of corrupt nature.

Martin Luther, Letter to Prince George of Anhalt [July 10, 1545]

* Matthew 3:10

No comments: