History brief – M. F. Cusack on Martin Luther


Matthew 18

NKJV

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”


Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin has remained a controversial man, loved and forgiven, hated and reviled. His book, The Bondage of the Will, has been very helpful to me as a former Roman Catholic. My prayer is that we all come down on the side of love and forgiveness, remembering our own failures and sins.


 

From: The Black Pope, A History of the Jesuits, Chapter II – Martin Luther and Some of the Causes of the German Reformation, by M. F. Cusack (Formerly the Nun of Kenmare)

There is no doubt that Luther felt very keenly the false accusations which were brought against him, not only by his enemies, but even by those who ought to have been his warmest supporters. The unity of Rome has always been its strength. The disunion of Christians has been the greatest hindrance to the spread of the Gospel. As the end of time draws nearer may we not hope that Christians will draw nearer to each other, and to their coming Lord.

There are few things more touching than the appeal which Luther makes to posterity for the justice which was denied to him even by some of his Christian contemporaries. He says: “I am yet alive, and I write books, and I preach sermons, and read public lectures every day, and yet virulent minded men, adversaries and false brethren, allege my own doctrines against me, and represent me as saying what I do not say, and as believing what I do not believe. If they do this while I am alive, and while I look on and hear it, what will they do when I am dead. But how is it possible for me to stop all the mouths of the evil speakers, especially of those who set themselves to pervert my words.” No doubt Luther must have often felt that it was indeed hard for him to suffer from both sides: from the Roman Catholics against whose errors he was fighting so earnestly, and from those professing Christians, who, through jealousy or ignorance, were ever ready to attack him. Surely the path of an earnest reformer is ever one of pain. It should be said, however, that the best and noblest men of his day were his defenders, but this did not lessen the guilt of those who added to his already heavy burdens. Erasmus has left it on record that the better any man was the more he appreciated the writings of Luther. In the same letter, which is addressed to archbishop Albert, he says: “that he (Luther) was accounted a good man even by his enemies, and that the best men were least offended by his writings.” Even the Roman Catholic historian Lingard admits that Luther’s morals were unexceptional. He says: “he (Staupitz) selected a young friar of his own order, Martin Luther, a man of an ardent mind, and unimpeached morals, and of strong prejudices against the Church of Rome.” Luther’s last words have been placed on record, and with these words we shall conclude this part of our subject. “O my Father, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all consolation, I thank Thee for having revealed to me Thy well beloved Son, in whom I believe, whom I have preached and acknowledged, loved and celebrated, and whom the Pope and the impious persecute. I commend to Thee my soul. O Jesus Christ my Lord, I am quitting this earthly body. I am leaving this life, but I know that I shall abide eternally with Thee.” And so Luther was gathered to his fathers, and rests in the unchanging peace of God. Rome could no more threaten him with its thunders, nor could the mistrust and unkindness of false friends vex his tender heart. And his work follows him. It is still the same because it is Divine. And those who worked with him and those who worked against him know now that his teaching was the teaching of the Spirit, and that with him was the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy ghost.


 

Quote of the day – Irenaeus, truly edifying, both the quote and where it was found


Ephesians 4:1-6

NKJV

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.


“If, therefore, even with respect to creation, there are some things only God knows, while others come within the range of our knowledge, why should we complain if, in regard to those things which we investigate in the Scriptures (which are thoroughly spiritual), we are able by the grace of God to explain only some of them, while we must leave the rest in the hands of God— and that not only in the present world but also in that which is to come— so that God will forever teach and human beings will forever learn the things God teaches? . . . If, then, . . . we leave some questions in the hands of God, we will keep our faith from injury and will continue without danger. Moreover, we will find all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, to be entirely consistent. Then the parables will harmonize with the passages which are perfectly plain, and the statements which are clear in meaning will help explain the parables, and in all the various utterances of Scripture we will hear one harmonious melody, praising in hymns the God who created all things. So, for instance, if anyone asks, “What was God doing before He made the world?” we reply that the answer to such a question lies hidden with God Himself. (2: 28,3) If anyone asks, “How was the Son produced by the Father?” we reply that no one understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or whatever term may be used to describe His generation: it is utterly indescribable. (2: 28,6) We have learned from the Scriptures that God holds the supremacy over all things. But Scripture has not revealed to us the way He produced it. . . . In the same way, we must leave unanswered the question why, since all things were made by God, some of His creatures sinned and revolted from a state of submission to God. . . . Since we know only in part [1 Cor 13: 12], we must leave all sorts of questions in the hands of Him who gives us grace by measure. (2: 28,7) God alone, who is Lord of all, is without beginning and without end, being truly and forever the same, and always remaining the same unchangeable being. But all things that proceed from Him, everything that has been made and is made, has its own beginning. Consequently, they are inferior to Him who formed them, since they are not unbegotten. (2: 34,2) Life does not arise from us, or from our own nature; it is granted by the grace of God. Therefore the one who takes care of the life received and gives thanks to Him who imparted it will also receive everlasting life. But the one who rejects it and shows himself ungrateful toward his maker, since he has been created and has not recognized Him who bestowed life, deprives himself of ongoing existence. (2: 34,3)”

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyons, France)

Cited by Phil Brown, The Lutheran Baptist blog, September 18, 2017 post

The Sin of Division and How it Has Affected Us


 

Why is the Reformation’s work unfinished? A brief answer

 



“The Reformanda Initiative exists to identify, unite, equip, and resource evangelical leaders to understand Roman Catholic theology and practice, to educate the evangelical Church and to communicate the Gospel.”

Leonardo De Chirico is the Director of Reformanda Initiative and Pastor of Breccia di Roma Church.

Reformanda Initiative


Romans 12:1,2

nkjv

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.


 

Historical insights – The origin of the Reformation


Hermann Schweder, painter - Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley

Hermann Schweder, painter – Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley

Christianity on the eve of the Reformation was undoubtedly popular and lively, but that does not mean it was healthy or biblical. In fact, if all the people had been hungering for the kind of change the Reformation would bring, it would suggest that the Reformation was little more than a natural social movement, a moral clean-up. This the Reformers always denied. It was not a popular moral reform; it was a challenge to the very heart of Christianity. They claimed that God’s word was breaking in to change the world; it was unexpected, and went right against the grain; it was not a human work but a divine bombshell.”

Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering The Heart Of The Reformation, B&H Publishing, 2010, p. 25.


Psalm 98

A Song of Praise to the Lord for His Salvation and Judgment

A Psalm.

98 Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.


 

Historic documents – Commemorating the 500th Anniversary – Luther’s “28 theses”


HEIDELBERG

. . . man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness. . . – Augsburg Confession, Art.  18: Of Free Will


The Reformation must be important – if it isn’t, then a lot of paper and ink, and human lives, have been wasted. For Rome, it must be doubly important because they expend so much energy on ecumenical efforts, encouraging us “separated brethren” to return to the ancient fold.

Here is a document written and disputed not quite a year from the day – October 31, 1517 – on which Luther posted his famous invitation to debate the 95 Theses. People are getting ready for – and already engaged in – a huge celebration of the 500th anniversary of this watershed event, and Pope Francis has commandeered a decided role in it. Perhaps he has climbed into the driver’s seat! Not only that, but Luther appears to have been rehabilitated by Rome; no longer a heretic, he is called a son of the Church. To me this is unjust, because though Luther left reluctantly at first, he left permanently, even ensuring that there were witnesses to record his dying words so that Rome wouldn’t be able to say he had recanted and returned to her on his deathbed. I know that the Lord will deal with all of this someday – Praise Him forevermore!

The Heidelberg Disputation was another step Luther took in his departure from Rome.


Acts 17

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Psalm 96:13

13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.


Editor’s Introduction

Following Luther’s proposal for a disputation on the subject of indulgences, the Augustinian Order, to which Luther belonged, was generally supportive of his views. The head of the order in Germany, Johannes Staupitz, called for a formal disputation to be attended by the leadership of the order, in which Luther would be provided a chance to expand upon his concern. The disputation took place at the meeting of the Augustinian Order, in Heidelberg, in April 1518. Luther’s opponents had been hopeful that Luther would be silenced, but Staupitz wanted to give Luther a fair hearing, since he was generally sympathetic with Luther’s views. At the meeting, Luther put forward a “theology of the cross” as opposed to a “theology of glory.” The disputation is, in many ways, more significant than the 95 theses, for they advanced Luther’s growing realization that the theology of late Medieval Roman Catholicism was fundamentally and essentially at odds with Biblical theology. As a result of the disputation, John Eck proposed a debate between himself and representatives of Luther’s views, which was held in Leipzig from June to July, 1519.

The Heidelberg Disputation

“Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.

THEOLOGICAL THESES

Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, »Do not rely on your own insight« (Prov. 3:5), we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.

  1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
  2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
  3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
  4. Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
  5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.
  6. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
  7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
  8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.
  9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
  10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
  11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
  12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.
  13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.
  14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.
  15. Nor could free will remain in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in its passive capacity.
  16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.
  17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.
  18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
  19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened« (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25),
  20. he deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
  21. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
  22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
  23. The »law brings the wrath« of God (Rom. 4:15), kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ.
  24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.
  25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
  26. The law says, »do this«, and it is never done. Grace says, »believe in this«, and everything is already done.
  27. Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work (operans) and our work an accomplished work (operatum), and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.
  28. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”

 

PROOFS OF THE THESES are to be found here:

http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php

(Debated in the Chapter at Heidelberg, May 1518, A.D.)