Hey folks, after a week off for Christmas, we come now to Lecture 23, and maybe some common cause between Calvin & Luther?
Among the various functions and official acts of a servant of the Church the most important of all, my friends, is preaching. Since there is no substitute for preaching, a minister who accomplishes little or nothing by preaching will accomplish little or nothing by anything else that he may do.
Here is where the papists differ with us. They call their ministers priests and assert that the most important of all functions of a priest is to baptize, hear confession and pronounce absolution, administer Communion, and, above all, to offer to God the sacrifice of the Mass. Setting aside the sacrifice of the Mass, which is the greatest abomination that has ever been practised in the Christian Church, we are forced to say that all baptizing, pronouncing absolution and administering of Communion is useless if these matters have not been previously made the subjects of preaching to the people; for they are not the works of men, but of God Himself, who has connected with them a promise to be apprehended by faith. Accordingly, all these acts do not profit, but are rather harmful, in the absence of faith. If these operations of God are to be of any use, it is absolutely necessary that a thorough instruction concerning them be first given from the Word of God by preaching.
In our previous evening lectures we learned something about the difficulty of dividing Law and Gospel. Let us increase the conviction which we have already attained by considering another instance of the commingling of these two doctrines.
In the eighth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher represents contrition alongside of faith as a cause of the forgiveness of sins.
There is no question but that contrition is necessary if a person wishes to obtain forgiveness of his sins. At His first public exercise of the preaching function our Lord cried: “Repent and believe the Gospel.” He names repentance first. Whenever this term is placed in opposition to faith, it signifies nothing else than contrition. When Christ gathered the holy apostles about Him for the last time, at the moment when He was about to ascend to heaven and to withdraw His visible presence from the Church, He said to them: “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.” Luke 24, 46–47. Why is repentance required as well as faith? Our Lord gives the reason in these words: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. … I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matt. 9, 12–13. With these words the Lord testifies that the reason why contrition is absolutely necessary is that without it no one is fit to be made a believer. He is surfeited and spurns the invitation to the heavenly marriage feast. As far back as Solomon we find this proverb: “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb.” Prov. 27, 7. Where there is no spiritual hunger and thirst, the Lord Jesus is not received. As long as a person has not been reduced to the state of a poor, lost, and condemned sinner, he has no serious interest in the Savior of sinners.
However, while bearing this fact in mind, you must not forget that contrition is not a cause of the forgiveness of sins. Contrition is not necessary on account of the forgiveness of sin, but on account of faith, which apprehends the forgiveness of sin. Here are the reasons why we say that the doctrine that contrition is a cause of the forgiveness of sins is a mingling of Law and Gospel:
1. Contrition is an effect solely of the Law. To regard contrition as a cause of the forgiveness of sins is equivalent to turning the Law into a message of grace and the Gospel into Law perversion which overthrows the entire Christian religion.
2. Contrition is not even a good work. For the contrition which precedes faith is nothing but suffering on the part of man. It consists of anguish, pain, torment, a feeling of being crushed; all of which God has wrought in man with the hammer of the Law. It is not an anguish which a person has produced in himself, for he would gladly be rid of it, but cannot, because God has come down on him with the Law, and he sees no way of escape from the ordeal. If a person sits down to meditate with a view to producing contrition in himself, he will never gain his object that way. He cannot produce contrition. Those who think they can are miserable hypocrites. They seek to persuade themselves that they have con trition, but it is not so. Genuine repentance is produced by God only when the Law is preached in all sternness and man does not wilfully resist its influence.
One of the principal reasons why many at this point mingle Law and Gospel is that they fail to distinguish the daily repentance of Christians from the repentance which precedes faith. Daily repentance is described in Ps. 51. David calls it a sacrifice which he brings before God and with which God is pleased. He does not speak of repentance which precedes faith, but of that which follows it. The great majority of sincere Christians who have the pure doctrine have a keener experience of repentance after faith than of repentance prior to faith. For, having good preachers, they have been led to Christ in no roundabout way. While they are with Christ, their former self-righteousness may make its appearance again, spite of the fact that it has been shattered for them many a time. God must smite these poor Christians again and again to keep them humble.