Lecture 16 again; Luther vs. Zwingli, Go:
[from Luther’s commentary on Deut 4:28] “See whether our new schismatics and fanatics are not leading the people to trust in their own works. Take the Anabaptists: what are they doing, and what do they teach? They declare that Baptism is worthless; they remove from Baptism the element of grace, so that there is no grace and mercy of God, no forgiveness of sin, in it, and baptism becomes an evidence of my own godliness, prior to my baptism, or a mark that I now possess godliness. They separate grace from Baptism and leave us a mere external sign, in which there is not a grain of mercy; all grace has been cut away. Now, if the grace of Christ has been removed from Baptism, there remains nothing but a mere work. Likewise, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper the fanatics remove the promise offered us in this Sacrament; they tell us that what we eat and drink is nothing but bread and wine. Here, too, the proffered grace is cut away and renounced. For they teach us that the only good work that we do by communing is professing Christ; as to the rest, we merely eat and drink bread and wine in the Supper, and there is no grace in it for us.
“That is the result of falling away from the First Commandment: a person promptly sets up an idol in the form of some meritorious work, in which he trusts. Therefore Moses says: My dear children, have a care to abide with God and follow Him. Otherwise you cannot avoid idolatry; you will fall into that sin, no matter how much you struggle against it. For the devil at all times assaults the grace of God; no heresy can bear the teaching of divine grace. The fanatics of our day all urge the First Commandment, saying: We, too, proclaim grace and mercy through Christ; we do not reject the doctrine of the First Commandment. They charge that I, Luther, am telling lies about them. However, put them to the test: True, they confess Christ who was crucified and died for us and thus saved us; but they renounce the means by which we obtain Him; they demolish the way, the bridge, and path leading to Christ.
“…To sum up, there can be no schismatic but must run counter to the First Commandment and stumble at Christ Jesus. All heretics meet in a grand ensemble at this article. Let us, then, abide by this article: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods,’ and let us diligently bear in mind its object and scope. For if we put it out of our sight, we are opening the doors wide to all schismatic spirits. God never proposed to set up His worship in this world without external means.”
This citation is taken from the sermon which Luther preached at the Marburg Colloquy. He speaks out against the fanatics, the Zwinglians, the Anabaptists. For although Zwingli admitted the correctness of Luther’s teaching, we have seen that half a year later he revoked his admission in a solemn address to the emperor. He desired that the emperor would have his confession read at an open session of the Diet of Augsburg. But this was not done, and not until after Zwingli’s death was this confession published by his son-in-law, who thought he must by this document rear a monument to his father-in-law. It is, verily, a sorry monument.
This sermon of Luther, then, was preached in 1529. Do not make a mistake about the chronology of the sermon. Did not Zwingli in 1529 unite with Luther in a confession? Did not Luther, then, do Zwingli a grievous wrong by preaching as he did? By no means; at the time when the sermon was preached Zwingli had not yet made this confession. That explains Luther’s language.
The fanatical Anabaptists caused a schism on account of Baptism, although they asserted that Baptism is useless; they said it was a mere act of outward obedience which — imagine their impudence! — a person must render in order to fulfill all righteousness. That is the Anabaptist way of coming to an agreement with the teaching of Christ. When they receive baptism, that is to be viewed as an act of kindness on their part: they are doing God a service by it. That is still their teaching, as I know from my personal experience and through my reading.
This is their terrible doctrine: Grace must have been obtained first; then Baptism is added as a sign that the person already possesses grace. Baptism, in their view, is nothing else than a work that man performs.