Luther on Justification . . .
It is impossible for a papist to understand this article: “I believe the forgiveness of sins.” For the papists are drowned in their opinions, as I also was when among them, of the cleaving to or inherent righteousness. The Scripture names the faithful, saints and people of God. It is a sin and shame that we should forget this glorious and comfortable name and title. But the papists are such direct sinners, that they will not be reckoned sinners; and again, they will neither be holy nor held so to be. And in this sort it goes on with them untoward and crosswise, so that they neither believe the Gospel which comforts, nor the law which punishes.
But here one may say: the sins which we daily commit, offend and anger God; how then can we be holy? Answer: A mother’s love to her child is much stronger than the distaste of the scurf upon the child’s head. Even so, God’s love towards us is far stronger than our uncleanness. Therefore, though we be sinners, yet we lose not thereby our childhood, neither do we fall from grace by reason of our sins.
Another may say; we sin without ceasing, and where sin is, there the Holy Spirit is not; therefore we are not holy, because the Holy Spirit is not in us, which makes holy. Answer: The text says plainly; “The Holy Ghost shall glorify me.” Now where Christ is, there is the Holy Spirit. Now Christ is in the faithful, although they have and feel, and confess sins, and with sorrow of heart complain thereof, therefore sins do not separate Christ from those that believe.
The God of the Turks helps no longer or further, as they think, than as they are godly people; in like manner also the God of the papists. So when Turk and papist begin to feel their sins and unworthiness, as in time of trial and temptation, or in death, then they tremble and despair.
But a true Christian says: “I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour,” who gave himself for my sins, and is at God’s right hand, and intercedes for me; fall I into sin, as, alas! oftentimes I do, I am sorry for it; I rise again, and am an enemy unto sin. So that we plainly see, the true Christian faith is far different from the faith and religion of the pope and Turk. But human strength and nature are not able to accomplish this true Christian faith without the Holy Spirit. It can do no more than take refuge in its own deserts.
But he that can say: “I am a child of God through Christ, who is my righteousness,” and despairs not, though he be deficient in good works, which always fail us, he believes rightly. But grace is so great that it amazes a human creature, and is very difficult to be believed. Insomuch that faith gives the honor to God, that he can and will perform what he promised, namely, to make sinners righteous, Rom. iv., though `tis an exceeding hard matter to believe that God is merciful unto us for the sake of Christ. O! man’s heart is too strait and narrow to entertain or take hold of this.
Luther saw no difference between the Pope’s view and the Turk (read Muslim). Is that still true today? We know Islam’s view has not changed. Has the Pope’s? Has the Catholic Church? This comes up in light of B16’s forthcoming revised take on Martin Luther. Thoughts?