They have a seared conscience. That is, their conscience is unnatural. For as said above, where there is neither sin nor matter of conscience, they make things out to be sin and a matter of conscience. This is an unnatural as the scar of a burn is on the body. (35/138)

Obedience is supposed to be the noblest virtue. This is the precious spiritual humility of the papists. Yet who has commanded this humility? They themselves have invented it and chosen it, in order to seduce themselves. (35/142)

To be sure, there is in the prophets more of threatening and rebuke than of comfort and promise. And it is good to observe the reason for this. The godless always outnumber the righteous. Therefore one must always inculcate the law much more than the promises. Even without the promises, the godless feel secure; they are most agile in applying the divine comforts and promises to themselves, and the threats and rebukes to others. (35/268)

I myself experience daily how extremely difficult it is to lay aside a conscience of long standing, one that has been fenced in by man-made ordinances. O with how much greater effort and labor, even on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, have I been barely able to justify my own conscience; so that I, one man alone, have dared to come forward against the pope, brand him as the Antichrist, the bishops as his apostles, and the universities as his brothels! How often did my heart quail, punish me, and reproach me with its single strongest argument: Are you the only wise man? Can it be that all the others are in error and have erred for so long a time? What if you are mistaken and lead so many people into error who might all be eternally damned? Finally, Christ with his clear, unmistakable Word strengthened and confirmed me, so that my heart no longer quails, but resists the arguments of the papists, as a stony short resists the waves, and laughs at their threats and storms! (36/134)

Even I had to apply myself diligently for three full years before I freed my conscience from the pope's laws. I did it by exercising myself in the gospel daily, through preaching, lecturing, observing, discussing, writing, and hearing. How can the common man be brought out of it so suddenly? (36/250)

The wine is the teaching of the gospel, and the old wineskins are these weak and antiquated consciences—which is why they cannot get along together. The conscience deteriorates and then denies the teaching which it had embraced. (36/250)

This is why St. Paul proclaimed that the rule of the Antichrist will bring critical times (II Thess. 2:9). People will not be able to walk with safety on either side, in the gospel or outside the gospel—not through any fault of the gospel, for the wine is good, but through the fault of the pope. He has caused the consciences of men, the wineskins, to grow old and deteriorate so that they cannot grasp or hold the gospel Yet they cannot be preserved without the gospel. So what are we to do? I answer: do nothing except what Christ teaches when he says in Mat. 9:17: "Put the wine into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved." We must first become coopers and make new vessels before the wine harvest begins and the wine is stored away. The old vessels must be discarded. That is to say, we must preach repeatedly and vigorously against the pope's law and of only one element, and hammer home Christ's institution of both elements as set forth in the gospel. But in the meantime we should turn the people away from the sacrament as a whole, whether in one or both kinds, and not drive them to it either at Easter or at Pentecost. In this way we would drop the ordinance of the pope long enough for the people to understand sufficiently how to come to the sacrament of their own accord, without urging or prodding, driven by their own consciences to implore and insist that the sacrament be given to them. (36/251-51)

Faith is supposed to fight against the tyrants, hold fast to the gospel despite their ordinances, and throw such old useless vessels on the junk heap. But love should receive and embrace these weak and simple consciences, and work to make new vessels out of them. (36/253)

The following condensed from, "A Sermon on the Three Kinds of Good Life for the Instruction of Consciences," Volume 44, pp. 235-242 of Luther's Works.

The Holy Spirit shows that there are three kinds of preaching or teaching which make for three kinds of conscience and three kinds of sin, as well as three kinds of the good life with three kinds of good works. All these differences are helpful, and a Christian needs to know them lest he confuse one with the other and do nothing properly. He must not mistake the sanctuary for the churchyard, nor the churchyard for the nave. To understand these things better we propose to call the holy of holies the sanctuary, the holy place the nave, and the court the churchyard. We start with the churchyard. It is the preaching or teaching which is concerned with outward works which are bound up with time and place. These matters are the ceremonies, the outward performances and techniques in matters of dress or food which cause severe damage to the conscience if a preacher does not alert his people about them. As a result of this kind of teaching, people become hardened and blind, and in this state you can tell them nothing. Let us give a few examples. Priests, monks, nuns, bishops, and all the clergy wear clothes different from the general run of people. They also do other kinds of jobs, wear sacred vestments in church, pray, sing, and so on. Those are all outward works linked to dress and occasion. Now he who holds these things holds that such teaching has been established by law and that they are called good works, the good life, the spiritual office. When he has done them he believes that he has most certainly earned a good conscience (for what it is worth) and that he has done the right thing. The opposite is true, too—if he overlooks one of them or neglects to do it, for example, if he does not wear his garb properly or does not observe the horse, he gets a bad conscience, like a man who has not kept the commandments.

In fact today there are many clergy would have pangs of conscience ten times worse if they were to celebrate the mass without a maniple or a chasuble or an altar stone or a silver chalice and things like that, than if they had spoken five times in a scurrilous and scandalous fashion or told lies or spoken behind somebody's back, or otherwise injured their neighbor, so inseparably bound up with these external things is their conscience and so far removed from the things that matter. Just think it over. Such a view of conscience and such error arise from the fact that people have got everything confused and do not differentiate one thing from another in the right way. Then sound instruction and the capacity to differentiate are gone, and before we know where we are, we have reached the stage where the worst is upheld as the best, and the best as the worst. Then the fear of God goes out, human presumption takes over, and the hardening and blinding of men to their sins goes on apace.

How is it that a man can take such a careful sip of outward works that he even strains out a gnat, and can take such a gulp of the right works that he even swallows a camel? It is because he makes things which matter little if at all into strict matters of conscience, but has a very free and easy conscience in things of great importance on which everything depends. People who do this are churchyard saints. They are only five cubits high. This means that their holiness is circumscribed by their five senses and their bodily existence. And yet, this very holiness shines brighter in the eyes of the world than does real holiness. Anybody can see for himself that such a churchyardish external system betters nobody.

Let us now leave the churchyard or atrium and proceed into the holy place, the nave. This means teaching, works, and concepts of conscience which are really good. These are humility, meekness, gentleness, peace, fidelity, love, propriety, purity, and the like. These are not bound up with food and clothing, or with place, time, or person. For in these matters a layman may do more of value than a priest, a priest more than a pope, a woman more than a man, a boy more than an adult, a poor man more than a rich man, a naked man more than a man richly clad; more of value may be done in the field than in the home, more in the secret chamber than in the church. This is what God looks for. He who takes this course is traveling on the right road to heaven, apart from what he does or leaves undone in the atrium, for God does not ask him about what happened there, so long as he journeys rightly in this holy place. On the other hand, it is in the nave that we ought to make it a matter of conscience if anybody blasphemes, swears, or speaks uncleanly, or if anybody hears, sees, does, or thinks anything improper. That constitutes the true conscience. It is here that a man strains camels and swallows gnats. It is here that a man gathers up the corn and casts away the chaff. It is here that a man must fight against pride, avarice, immodesty, anger, hatred, and the like. Here must we keep ourselves fully occupied as long as we live, so as to forget the churchyard altogether and not want it. Here we see what is the proper road to piety and holiness, for we see for ourselves that those who practice this become truly righteous.

Some doe these works in a living and selfless way. Others, however, set about them in the wrong way. They drag their dead works in with them on their backs and bury them. These are the ones who maintain a pious posture not of their own desire, but because they fear disgrace, punishment, or hell. For many a man is chaste. But I there were no shame or punishment attached to unchastity, then they would go in for it just like those who pay no regard to shame or punishment. In a similar way, many a man controls his anger or temper not gladly or because he loves gentleness, but because he could not very well vent his anger and does not like to confess it. Many a man even gives to the church and endows services, not from generosity but for the sake of glory or to satisfy his vanity. And this false ground is so deep that no saint has ever fathomed its bottom, but shows uncertainty about it and says, "Lord God, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit or will in my inmost being" (Ps. 51:10). God does not just want such works by themselves. He wants them to be performed gladly and willingly. And when there is no joy in doing them and the right will and motive are absent, then they are dead in God's eyes. Such work is riddled with errors; it is service under compulsion, necessity, and duress and is not pleasing to God. As St. Paul says, "God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7)

Such gladness, love, joy, and willingness are not found in the heart of any man on earth. For these reasons a man has to go down on his knees for grace and deny himself. To this end, then, God has built the sanctuary for us. Here he has set Christ before us and promised that he who believes in him and calls on his name shall at once receive the Holy Spirit. A man who denies himself and calls upon Christ in genuine trust is certain to receive the Holy Spirit. Where Christ's name is, there the Holy Spirit follows. When the Spirit comes, however, look, he makes a pure, free, cheerful, glad, and loving heart, a heart which is simply gratuitously righteous, seeking no reward, fearing no punishment. Such a heart is holy for the sake of holiness and righteousness alone and does everything with joy. Look! Here is really sound doctrine! This shows what a conscience is and what good works are. It is to go into the sanctuary. That is the last thing on earth that any man can do. This is the road to heaven. No man remains wicked; on the contrary, all become righteous. This road is quite the opposite of the atrium, for it has no regard for the external things of the churchyard. Indeed, one sees only what enemies of this road they are and how dangerous they are.

Christ referred to this when he said, "He that believes shall be saved." Faith alone saves. Why? Faith brings with it the Spirit, and he performs every good work with joy and love. In the way the Spirit fulfils God's commandments, and brings a man his salvation, all of which is signified by the sanctuary and the nave being built in one and the same structure. But the atrium, the churchyard that lies apart, is to show that good works without faith cannot happen, and that faith without works cannot endure. A preacher should not try to separate the two, although he should push faith to the fore. Further, faith and good works may well exist without the continuance of those external things, such as sacred foods, sacred garments, sacred times, sacred places.

Tragically has it come to pass that there has never been a people on the face of the earth that has had a bigger atrium, more holy foods, more holy garments, more holy days, more holy places, than Christians now have.

The Christian conscience curses this statement, "By doing good we become good," as bilge water of hell and says, "By believing in a Christ who is good, I, even I, am made good: his goodness is mine also, for it is a gift from him and is not my work. (44/300)

The works of the law are done in two different frames of mind. Sometimes they are done simply by our own efforts and are our own works, Sometimes they are done by Christ who is in us; they are then Christ's work in us and Christ's gift. (44/303)

The conscience belongs to Christ and Christ to the conscience, and no one intrudes into the secret bedchamber of this spouse and his bride. Whether you abstain from wine with the Turks or drink wine with the Christians makes no difference at all, as long as you drink it with a good conscience. Paul accommodated himself to both gentiles and Jews with a perfectly free conscience in this way: with the one he used to fast and allow circumcision; with the other he used to eat without restriction and circumcise no one. (44/304)

"Thy mercy is better than all the ways of life." (Ps. 63:3)

Whoever fights with a good and well-instructed conscience can also fight well. This is especially true since a good conscience fills a man's heart with courage and boldness. And if the heart is bold and courageous, the fist is more powerful, a man and even his horse are more energetic, everything turns out better, and every happening and deed contributes to the victory which God then gives. On the other hand, a timid and insecure conscience makes the heart fearful. It cannot possibly be otherwise: a bad conscience can only make men cowardly and fearful. This is what Moses says to his Jews, "If you are disobedient, God will make your heart fearful: You shall go out one way against your enemies and flee seven ways before the, and you will have no good fortune" (Deut> 28: 20, 25) Then both man are horse are lazy and clumsy; they lack vigor for the attack, and in the end they are defeated. There are indeed some rough and cynical people in service—they are called daredevils and roughnecks—for whom everything happens accidentally, whether they win or lose. The outcome of the battle is the same for them as for those who have good or bad consciences. They are simply part of the army. They are only the shells and not the true core of the arms. (46/93-94)

For the prayer of a righteous man can do much if it be persistent, as St. James says in his Epistle (James 5:16). They are also to be warned to be careful not to anger God by not praying and not to fall under his judgment in Ezekiel 13:5, where God says, "You have not gone up into the breaches or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord"; and in chapter 22:30-31, "I sought for a man among them who should build up a wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their way have I requited upon their heads, says the Lord God." It is easy to see from this that God would have men set themselves in the way of his wrath and stave it off, and that he is greatly angered if this is not doe. This is what I meant when I spoke about taking the rod out of God's hand. (46/175)

"All things are yours, and you are Christ's, says Paul. Shall I belong to the cowl, or shall not the cowl rather belong to me? My conscience has been greed, and that is the most complete liberation. Therefore I am still a monk and yet not a monk. I am a new creature, not of the pope but of Christ. The pope also has his creatures, but he creates puppets and straw men, that is, masks and idols of himself. (48/334)

I know you demand gentleness and kindness. But what do a Christian and a flatterer have in common? Christianity is something direct and simple. It looks at things as they are, and it speaks accordingly. Even the pagans wish evil to those who flatter their friends about their vices. How, then, could the truth of Christ flatter evil and ungodliness? Nevertheless we shall expound to you also our way of promoting the cause of the gospel and expose it confidently to your judgment and the world's. We are not afraid that the crowds will be offended by this "biting," as you write. For whom did Christ not offend? Whom did he not reprove? The spirit of truth reproves and does not flatter. He reproves not just some people, however, but the whole world. Therefore we thing that everything ought to be straightforwardly censured, reproved, confounded, and that nothing should be spared, bypasses, or excused, so that the unshackled, pure, and clear truth remains victoriously among us.

To continue, it is a totally different thing to accept, endure, and assist with greatest gentleness those whom you have rebuked. This belongs to the realm of love and service, and not to the ministry of the Word. Even Christ, when he has reproved all people with the greatest severity, wishes then to be like a hen to them and gather them under his wings. Love bears all things, endures all things, hopes all things. Faith, however, or the Word, endures nothing but rather reproves and consumes, or as Jeremiah says, plucks out, destroys, and overthrows, and , "Cursed be he who does the work of the Lord in a cheating way."

There is a difference, dear Fabricius, between praising evil or minimizing its importance, and healing it with kindness and gentleness. Before all else one has to say what is right and what is wrong. When your listener has accepted this, then he has to be endured, and, as Paul says, he who is weak in faith is to be accepted. Your way, however, brings about a situation in which truth is never recognized, and yet it is nevertheless assumed that evil is corrected by such flattery and false kindness. Thus the word of Jeremiah is fulfilled, "They have healed the wounds of my people lightly saying, 'Peace, peace, where there is no peace,; and again, "They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness."

I also hope that we never behaved in such a way that one could accuse us of having lacked charity in accepting and enduring the weak. We do not lack gentleness, kindness, peace, and joy with someone who agrees with our word yet cannot be perfect at once. We are content that he has meanwhile recognized truth and has not resisted or condemned it. Whatever follows is done on the basis of love, in which he is admonished to act according to what he has recognized to be true. There is, however, no grace, no kindness for those who condemn or despise doctrine itself and the ministry of the Word, or persecute it cunningly—or rather, it is the highest kind of love to resist their fury and ungodliness with all strength and in every possible way. (48/374-376)

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here in this world we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God's glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner. (48/281-82)

I saw that Erasmus was far from the knowledge of grace, since in all his writings he is not concerned for the cross but for peace. His writings accomplish nothing because they refrain from chiding, biting, and giving offense. (48/306)

The greatest gift is to have a conscience pacified by the Word. For this did God permit his Son to die, that we might have a good conscience. (54/64)

The devil turns the Word upside down. If one sticks to the law, one is lost. A good conscience won't set one free, but the distinction between law and gospel will. So you should say, "The Word is twofold, on the one hand terrifying and on the other hand comforting," Here Satan objects, "But God says you are damned because you don't keep the law," I respond, "God also says that I shall live." His mercy is greater than sin, and life is stronger than death. Hence if I have left this or that undone, our Lord will tread it under foot with his grace. But who can get so far in the present temptation? It was a bitter experience even for Christ himself (and it would be for us), except that he has promised that he won't let us be tempted beyond our strength (I Cor. 10:13). However, he often lets things go so far that one can't keep up. Just hold out! Let the devil rage! He will surely meet with a rebuff. (54/106, 133)

I didn't learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for ones does not learn anything without practice. This is what the spiritualists and sects lack. They don't have the right adversary, the devil. He would teach them well. None of the arts can be learned without practice. What kind of physician would that be who stayed in school all the time? When he finally puts his medicine to use and deals more and more with nature, he will come to see that he hasn't as yet mastered the art. Why shouldn't this be so in the case of the Holy Scriptures, too, where God has provided a different adversary? It is therefore the greatest gift of God to have a text and to be able to say, "This is right. I know it." People think that they can know everything by simply listening to a sermon. Zwingli also made this mistake of thinking that he knew everything, that theology was an easy art. But I know that I have yet to comprehend the Lord's Prayer. No one can be learned without practice. The peasant put it well: Armor is fine for a man who knows how to use it. To be sure, the Holy Scriptures are sufficient in themselves, but God grant that I find the right text. For when Satan disputes with me whether God is gracious to me, I dare not quote the passage, "He who loves God will inherit the kingdom of God," because Satan will at once object, "But you have not loved God!" Nor can I oppose this on the ground that I am a diligent reader of Scriptures and a preacher. The shoe doesn't fit. I should rather say, that Jesus Christ died for me and should cite the article of the Creed concerning forgiveness of sin. That will do it! (54/50-51)

Augustine depicted the power and function of the law in a beautiful simile: Through the law the sins in us are made transparent and the wrath of God is increased. This is not the fault of the law but of our nature. It is like chalk stone, which is quiescent unless water is poured on it, when it becomes hot, not through the fault of the water but by virtue of its own nature. However, if oil is poured on the chalk, the chalk stays still and does not boil. This parable is excellent. (54/315)

The mind of man cannot comprehend the articles of faith and it is enough that we begin only to assent. If one could believe them the way they're written, our hearts would leap for joy. That's certain. It's the devil who puts such ideas into people's heads and says, "Ah, you must believe better. You must believe more. Your faith is not very strong and is insufficient." In this way he drives them to despair. We are so constructed by nature that we desire to have a conscious faith. We'd like to grasp it with our hands and shove it into our bosom, but this doesn't happen in this life. We can't comprehend it, but we ought to apprehend it. We should hold to the Word and let ourselves drag along in this way. (54/453)

Consciences are in need of private absolution which is a special comfort. For one has to instruct consciences that the comfort of the gospel is directed to each individual particularly; therefore, as you people who understand these matters know, the gospel has to be applied through Word and sacrament to each individual particularly, so that each individual in his conscience is tossed about by the question whether this great grace, which Christ offers to all men, belongs to him too. Under these circumstances it can easily be understood that one is not to abolish private absolution in favor of public absolution; also, this application makes more clear the meaning of the gospel and the power of the keys. For very few people know how to use public absolution or apply it to themselves, unless in addition this application reminds them that they also ought to apply the general absolution to themselves as if it belonged to each individually. For this is the true office and task of the gospel: definitely to forgive sins by grace. (50/ 77)

St. Paul says: He who is weak is to be tolerated, but he who is stiff-necked is to be let go, for according to Paul he is condemned by his own judgment; that is, he openly acts contrary to his conscience. On the other hand, he is called weak who wants to learn and does not attack that which he understands, but accepts, affirms, and promotes it. (50/197)

God crowns the will inwardly where He does not find an outward opportunity, and Christ interprets the Fifth Commandment in this manner: "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment." "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer" (I John 3:15). When the will is perfected either for good or evil, the work is perfected. (6/376)

A truly repentant heart is so affected that it dreads nothing else but the wrath and indignation of God, taking no account of disgrace among men, provided it knows that God is propitious, even as David expresses this feeling and sense of sin in Ps. 51. But the repentance of the wicked is such that they grieve more about the prohibition of their evil desires and sins than about the mortification of their corrupt desires and sins. These are acts of repentance according to the Law, which we usually call the repentance of the gallows. (6/43)

This is the continuous teaching of the entire Holy Scripture and also God's will, namely, that we are mortified according to the flesh and made alive according to the spirit. Therefore the fiercer our sufferings are, the greater and more wonderful are the things that are worked in the saints. (6/355)

Never does the consciousness of sin rule and flourish so much as it does in misfortunes and troubles. When things are favorable and flourishing, sin rests and sleeps. We live smugly from day to day. "Apart from the Law sin lies dead" (Rom. 7:8). Thus Paul says of himself: "I was once alive apart from the Law" (Rom. 7:9). But misfortune opens the eyes and arouses the conscience, so that it rests no more but bites and torments. (7/47)

One must observe carefully that when an evil and guilty conscience is judged and reproved, it not only feels the torments and bitings of the devil concerning real sins which it knows that it has committed but from one sin invents countless others. In like manner, it gathers suspicions without number, by which the terror is increased, even though these are mere figments of the imagination. (7/276)

Conscience is an evil beast which makes a man take a stand against himself. There is a common saying: "It is necessary to kill one's conscience and to say that it is nothing." But how long will this evil be lulled to sleep? Until the Law comes. When it accuses and terrifies, I am killed; and I persecute, attack, and torture myself with vain thoughts that amount to nothing. Thus over and above the fact that we sin gravely against God, we also afflict ourselves; we take a stand against ourselves and fight until a brother comes up to console and buoy us up with the Word and say: "Why are you insane? Why are you imagining things in your dreams? You are mistaken. God is not angry with you; He has taken away your sin, etc." For a heart that tortures itself needs such a remedy and the comfort of a brother. (7/331)

An evil conscience puts a bad construction on the best things. (7/332)

Nothing so salutary, so good and pleasant, is offered to an evil conscience in the hour of trial that it does not turn to fear, pain, and terror. It can do nothing else than testify and fight against us. And when it finally lies prostrate, the whole world does not suffice to raise it up. For it is the death of the soul, and to raise up and arouse consciences is nothing else that raising the dead. Therefore the church quickens more through the spoken Word which I has than Christ Himself did during His ministry. (7/332)

Conscience is something greater than heaven and earth. It is killed by sin and quickened through the Word of Christ. Therefor we should make efforts to be freed from this exceedingly evil beast from hell. For without it hell would have no fire or any tortures. But this beast flames and strengthens death and hell; it arms all creation against us. For all things are angry and are sad, fierce, and gloomy; they are against us. And this is not the fault of the creature, which is good and neither threatens no harms us. No, we, who are afraid and flee, are to blame for this. On the other hand, a joyful and untroubled conscience breaks through, triumphs, and despises death and the devil, as is excellently described in Ps. 112:7-8: "He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady, he will not be afraid." No matter whether the devil and the world laugh or are angry, it does not care. If the devil does not want to laugh, then let him be angry. But a heart conscious of guilt is terrified even at a good report; for conscience, as is commonly said, is a thousand witnesses, yes, a thousand armies, against us. But how these terrors are overcome is taught elsewhere, in the doctrine of the Gospel. (7/332-33)

Afraid of a sausage. (7/335)

An evil conscience can in no way be satisfied or converted to God unless it has died. Otherwise it always flee from God, from whom it should neither flee nor shrink, since God is such a good God that He would be the sole Refuge of all those who despair and are destitute of the help and comfort of all creatures. But a heart conscious of its guilt would rather be changed into a thousand forms and sooner rush through rocks, fires, bronze mountains, and finally to the devil himself than approach God. (7/335)

Augustine: "Thou has commanded, O Lord, and so it has come about that every disordered heart is its own punishment." (7/329)

This confidence in man' righteousness and freedom from danger is so great that it thinks God is a fool and a weakling who is not able to hold saintly men responsible for sin. But they will have to learn the prayer of David (Ps. 19:12): "Who can discern his errors? Clear Thou me from hidden faults." Likewise: "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant" (Ps. 143:2). And in Job 9:2-3 we read: "Truly I know that it is so. But how can a man be just before God? If one wished to contend with Him, one could not answer Him once in a thousand times." (7/360)

Great saints must make great mistakes in order that God may testify that He wants all men to be humiliated and contained in the catalog of sinners, and that when they have acknowledged and confessed this, they may find grace and mercy. (7/44)

The sinner should not abandon his confidence in mercy. A righteous man should not be proud. That is, he stays on the royal road between despair and pride. (7/44)

Ignorance of sin necessarily brings with it ignorance of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit and all things. For no one should think that he will become a theologian or a reader of hearer of Holy Scriptures if he minimizes that original evil or does not correctly understand it. Indeed, no man can sufficiently ponder or comprehend its power. But original sin wants to be covered and praised. It wants to be pure and leave God impure. (7/278)

Out of his great mercy God has again given us the pure gospel, the sole and precious treasure of our salvation. This gift evokes faith and a good conscience in the inner man, as is promised in Isa. 55:1, that his Word will not go forth in vain, and Rom. 10:17, that "faith comes through preaching." The devil hates this gospel and will not tolerate it. Since he has not succeeded hitherto in opposing it with the power of the sword, he now, as indeed always, seeks victory by deceit and false prophets. I ask you, Christian reader, to observe carefully. If God wills I will help you discern the devil in these prophets so that you can yourself deal with him. It is for your good, not mine, that I write, Follow me thus:

Now when God sends forth his gospel he deals with us in a twofold manner, first outwardly, then inwardly. Outwardly he deals with us through the oral word of the gospel and through material signs, that is, baptism and the sacrament of the altar. Inwardly he deals with us through the Holy Spirit, faith, and other gifts. But whatever their measure or order the outward factors should and must precede. The inward experience follows and is effected by the outward. God has determined to give the inward to no one except through the outward. For he wants to give no one the Spirit or faith outside the outward Word and sign instituted by him, as he says in Luke 16:29, "Let them hear Moses and the prophets." Accordingly Paul can call baptism a "washing of regeneration" wherein God "richly pours out the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). And the oral gospel "is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" Romans 1:16.

Observe carefully, my brother, this order, for everything depends on it. Insolence makes many set up a contrary order and, as we have said, seek to subordinate God's outward order to an inner spiritual one. Casting this order to the wind with ridicule and scorn, he wants to get to the Spirit first. Will a handful of water, he says, make me clean from sin? The Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit, must do this inwardly. Can bread and wine profit me? Will breathing over the bread bring Christ in the sacrament: No, no, one must eat the flesh of Christ spiritually.

So, my brother, cling firmly to the order of God. According to it the putting to death of the old man, wherein we follow the example of Christ, as Peter says (I Peter 2:21), does not come first, as heretics urge, but comes last. No man can mortify the flesh, bear the cross, and follow the example of Christ before he is a Christian and has Christ through faith in his heart as an eternal treasure. You don't put the old nature to death, as false prophets preach, through works, but through the hearing of the gospel. Before all other works and acts you hear the Word of God, through which the Spirit convinces the world of its sin (John 16:8). When we acknowledge our sin, we hear of the grace of Christ. In this Word the Spirit comes and gives faith where and to whom he wills. Then you proceed to the mortification and the cross and the works of love. Whoever wants to propose to you another order, you can be sure, is of the devil. (40/146)

Christ has won the forgiveness of our sins on the cross, but the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. So if now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, on knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, Luther has rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me. Is that not clear enough? (40/214)

Many make Christ only an example and lawgiver. (40/207)

We possess two keys through Christ's command. The key which binds is the power or office to punish the sinner who refuses to repent by means of a public condemnation to eternal death and separation from the rest of Christendom. And when such a judgment is pronounced, it is as a judgment of Christ himself. And if the sinner perseveres in his sin, he is certainly eternally damned. The loosing key is the power or office to absolve the sinner who makes confession and is converted from sins, promising again eternal life. And it has the same significance as if Christ himself passed judgment. And if he believes and continues in this faith he is certainly saved forever. For the key which binds carries forward the work of the law. It is profitable to the sinner inasmuch as it reveals to him his sins, admonishes him to fear God, causes him to tremble, and moves him to repentance, and not to destruction. The loosing key carries forward the work of the gospel. It invites to grace and mercy. It comforts and promises life and salvation through the forgiveness of sins. In short, the two keys advance and foster the gospel by simply proclaiming these two things: repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47).

Both of these keys are extremely necessary in Christendom, so that we never can thank God enough for them. For no human being can console a truly frightened conscience. It takes a good deal of effort on the part of the key which looses to accomplish this task. A feeble and fearful conscience is like a severe illness so that faith in the judgment of the key must be stressed forcefully by preachers, pastors, and other Christians. Of such faith nothing has ever been heard under the papal regime. (40/373)

Whatever a conscience deals with without faith is polluted. The conscience must not conclude: "I do not know whether I am pleasing to God." Here everything is impure, because in the sight of God he is not righteous. He senses this, and thus is already impure, because he does not believe that he is pleasing to God. Therefore, where the Word is not present in the conscience, it is impossible to trust. (29/47)

"But to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their every minds and consciences are corrupted." (Titus 1:15) Both things are impure. They do not recognize this, because they have been blinded by their impurity. The eye of their heart is full of impurity, just as the eye of the body does not see properly when it has been filled with blood and injured by impure water. Thus, their mind, he says, is impure, and therefore their conscience is also. The mind is the judgment about things, as I Cor. 14:19 says, "with my mind rather than in a tongue." It refers to the mind or the spirit, the cognitive power of a man, which accepts instruction. Their thinking, mind, and opinion are corrupt; therefore an impure conscience follows, because as the mind judges, so the conscience dictates. The mind says: "If you eat meat on Friday, you sin." The conscience follows: "Therefore meat should not be eaten." The conscience always draws the conclusion, but the mind sets forth the minor premise. All sin is to be avoided; this is the major premise. But to eat mean on Friday is a sin; this is dictated by the mind. The conscience concludes that therefore eating meat is a sin. The major premise is always true, because it does not contradict the common sense of all men. Thus the fanatics say: "We ought to teach faith in Christ, love, and the avoidance of human traditions." This major premise is held in common by the entire human race. But they stumble on the minor premise. Thus the false apostles of Paul's day proclaimed: "Evil is to be avoided, and it is an evil that you are not circumcised." It is not an evil to obey God; but if you abstain from meat, you are doing good. If the minor premise is upheld, the conclusion follows. Everything good ought to be done; it is good to case off the monastic life. Here is the conflict: The pope says no, and we say yes. Those who have a sound mind have a true conscience. The idea they have about holy things is impure; therefore their conscience is also impure. First of all, therefore, the conflict should not be about the conscience, but first we urge what pertains to the mind. When the conscience and the mind are impure, then nothing can be pure. Therefore when they dispute concerning grace, this is not pure. Those who deny Christ in one thing deny Him in everything.

"They profess to know God but they deny to know Him by their deeds." (Titus 1:16) These are very impressive words. Someone who errs in mind and conscience cannot do a good work. This should be noted by all those who cling stubbornly to human tradition. Those who do not have a pure mind and a sound faith cannot possible do good works. Nevertheless, he says that they have a greater appearance of the purity of religion than we do. They give testimony, they make a show of knowing God, they give with their mouths. Paul concedes to them an eloquence and a great boasting about Christian doctrine; they speak about the knowledge of God and say that they know Him. This is mere appearance and boasting. Look at our fanatics; they stuff their books with such words as the glory of God, the love of the brethren, the righteousness of faith. All these things are spoken in impurity, because they speak them with the intention of making their sacrament polluted. To speak these utterly pure doctrines concerning faith, etc., with an impure mind is to speak nothing, because they do so in order to pollute the Eucharist, Baptism, and the external Word, and to confirm their own dreams. (29/47-48)

The purity of the conscience means that a man is not bitten by the recollections of his sins and is not disquieted by the fear of future punishment, as Ps. 112:7 states: "The righteous shall not be afraid of evil tidings." For, as the prophet says, an evil conscience is caught and troubled between a sin committed in the past and future punishment as between difficulties, just as the apostle says in Rom. 2:9: "There will be tribulation and distress." (29/208)

Nothing except sin pollutes the conscience. (29/209)

Do not undertake to have a heathen instruct consciences. Only Christ our Teacher is competent for this. (29/40)

(On Hebrews 10:18) The word "ears" is emphatic and forceful to an extraordinary degree; for in the new law all those countless burdens of the ceremonies, that is, dangers of sins, have been taken away. God no longer requires the feet or the hands or any other member; He requires only the ears. To such an extent has everything been reduced to an easy way of life. For is you ask a Christian what the work is by which he becomes worthy of the name "Christian," he will be able to give absolutely no other answer than that it is the hearing of the Word of God, that is, faith. Therefore the ears alone are the organs of a Christian man, for he is justified and declared to be a Christian, not because of the works of any member but because of faith. (29/224)

If every devil were to fall upon a righteous man, they would accomplish nothing against him. His conscience is safe before God if he knows that God still intends good for him, that God will not desert him. Joel is speaking in the fashion of a terrified conscience which finally, after being afflicted, is barely encouraged and begins to breathe again for hope and for the goodness of God. (18/99)

"And I will cut off sorceries from your house." With these words Joel is quietly censuring and stinging the false prophets, and he says, as it were: "I will bring it to pass that you no longer employ the advice of men, which, to be sure, is vain, as the psalm says (Ps. 94:11). I will take away from you that which has nothing definite, nothing firm. They are merely guessing. They cannot establish anything for certain." Moreover, we must fulfill one responsibility: we must be very certain in our conscience about the Word which we teach or are taught, a thing human doctrines cannot achieve. You see, the conscience is still uncertain about the will of God, and teachers of human traditions cannot strengthen and uplift consciences that have been confused and terrified. In Ps. 14:3 we read: "They do not know the way of peace"; also in Ps. 14:5: "They were in great terror where there was no terror." The Gospel makes a conscience certain and causes it to have peace. In this way all this is said by way of comparison, as if he were saying: "Now you depend on your fortresses, your walls, and the strength of your arms, likewise on idolatry and thoughts of the flesh. But I will take all these away from you, and I will raise up all very firm and definite things for you." (18/255))

"Awake, you drunkards, and weep." That is: "Wake up, you people who are accustomed to luxurious and splendid living, you who are accustomed to having an abundance of all things so that you are drunk from that abundance, wake up now! Weep, mourn, repent! Look at God's work and be terrified. Consider what is going to happen to you!" (18/82)

"On the day of the Lord's sacrifice I will punish." The prophet continues with his threat just as he began. We shall follow the plan and sense of the prophet more easily when we look with one eye at the zealous ardor of the prophet and with the other at the inflexible obstinacy of the princes, priests, false prophets, and wicked people. Against these the prophet burns with threats of evil and of the wrath of the Lord to come. In face, this is the nature of the Word, that it battles against the powerful, the wise, and the holy. That is an eternal battle, as all Scripture indicates. We see the same thing here. The prophet had stubborn hearers, who were infected with false beliefs and who kept laughing at the prophet. There were false teachers who kept calling the people away from the true Word of God, who kept teaching the opposite, who kept persuading the princes in another direction. They were saying that it would not come to pass that God would destroy His people, His city, and His temple. After all, God had promised that He would be near them there and that the king, who had been divinely established, would not perish, as the prophet here threatens when he says, "I will punish the king's son." (18/326)

"Woe to her that is rebellious and a redeemed city." It is as if he were saying: "You have been led back out of captivity. The Lord has restored you to your original position of dignity. Yet you do not cease irritating God with your wickedness and faithlessness." You see, he is starting with those worst vices which are the roots and wellsprings of all external shameful acts. These are the things God hates the most. They are the faults with which we make God angry: namely, when we ascribe righteousness to our own powers and works; when we argue with God' when we want to be righteous; and when we do not allow Him to condemn those abominable works of ours but protect them by snapping against the Word of God. (18/349)

However, Jonah remained in the faith despite the fact that a much greater storm was raging in his heart and conscience than raged on the sea outside. Because we are only spectators of tragedies of this sort, they do not appear so great and so terrible to us as they really are. But if we were experiencing them ourselves in our consciences, we would understand what it is to feel God's wrath against oneself and what that faith is which even in the middle of wrath holds on to God as merciful and kind. (19/10)

It is the way of all the ungodly that they fear and heed the punishment but pay no heed to the sin. (19/64)

"He remembers mercy when tribulation is present." This agrees with the saying: "The rope breaks when it holds you most tightly." We, too, must sustain Christians for the Last Day with the Word of God. Even though it seems that Christ is tarrying very long and will not come, He will come, as He Himself says, when this is least expected, when people engage in building, in planting, in buying, selling, eating, drinking, in marrying and in being given in marriage. If not all, at least a few can thus be preserved in faith. For as we perceive so clearly every day, this calls for faith and for preaching. (19/155)

So determined is God to comfort and strengthen a terrified, trembling conscience and to have man finally return to Him. You see, this kind of terror of consciences is monstrous and horrible beyond measure. The conscience is so delicate, weak and helpless a thing that, once it has been terrified, the great concern and greater comfort o of the holy Word can barely renew it to keep it from becoming more and more desperate every day. The people who in our time write much about developing man's character do not know this. If these people had learned just once how great the anguish and terror of the afflicted conscience is, how great its fear, they would soon stop urging character so much. Almighty God knows His handiwork; He knows our weakness. Therefore He also sees what manifold and sweet promises and comfort we need. O God, it is a much greater thing that this kind of conscience be lifted up than as they think. (20/22)

We must do a good work with a conscience completely good, so that we believe it is not our work, not a work of our strength or planning, but a work of God. (20/35)

The Gospel will again be taken away, even if human affairs are going to continue to exist still longer. (20/58)

God Almighty always wants to lead consciences with some external sign and to reassure them that they should have no doubts about His will, should not wander about uncertain as to what God approves of, and should not, like the blind, aim at some uncertain target. (20/83)

"As I purposed to do evil to you." He constantly has regard for their afflicted consciences, which had been so wretchedly oppressed earlier. There still always remained some sense of the past calamity. He keeps calling their consciences back from those evil and frightful awarenesses of past ill-fortune, and He strengthens them again with very broad, rich, comforting promises. But a strong faith to apprehend those promises was required for this. After all, as far as reason was concerned, everything seemed lost. (20/85)

With the Gospel He will produce strong young men and women, not helpless infants such as are born from the weak begetting of the flesh. No, these will immediately be healthy young men and beautiful maidens, as such young ladies generally are when they are about to be married, and such as young men in the flower of youth are wont to be. As a result, there is a miracle connected with their birth. In sum, He indicates that the people of the Gospel will be robust, energetic, and cheerful, both in spirit and in faith. After all, in Christ there is no old age but an everlasting bloom of youth. (20/104)

"Thus said the Lord who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him." He says, as it were: Certainly, evil, misery, and tyranny at the hands of your adversaries will come, as well as deceit of the false teachers. However, all of these will not hold you back. The Lord stands by you. This is the Lord who founds heaven and earth. This is the Lord who forms the spirit of man so that man can think nothing without the Lord allowing it. The word "spirit" means the mind, the movement or emotions of minds. This, he says, is instead of clay for the Lord; just as "clay is in the hand of the potter," so also plans, the reasons for plans, briefly, all the thoughts of man, come under the will of the Lord. He Himself is the Potter who changes, applies, and directs our plans according to His will where He wishes, as does any potter. You see, this is the same word which in an earlier chapter we translated "potter." Therefore the prophet is not speaking about the creation of men's spirits. Rather he is explaining how God Almighty directs hearts and thoughts already created and guides them as and where He wishes, so that we are incapable of thinking anything if God does not will it, much less accomplish anything we have thought of. This is the very great comfort of all the righteous when they are under the cross, when they are held prisoner, when they suffer persecution, when they are under sentence of death. Therefore, they should not fear the violence and tyranny of the foes of the Gospel, as those foes plot evil against them and threaten them with death. Then, when the false teachers attack and assail the doctrine of faith, when, I say, they suffer all this, they should not despair. They should know that the tyrants are going to advise nothing other than what the Lord wills, for He forms their spirits. Thus we are absolutely certain that we are not in the power of our enemies, that they do not move a hair of our head without the Lord's permission, however much they rage against us, however many deaths they plot for us. (20/131)

Glory, as St. Augustine says, is the mother of all heresy. The false teachers want to appear to be the best. For this evil there is no quicker remedy than to come to a knowledge of God. This knowledge comes from the training of the cross, when people are sorely pressed by adversity to be forced to despair over their own strength and abilities and to give honor to God alone. Otherwise, as Paul says, they cannot keep from boasting in the flesh of the hearers (2 Cor. 10:16) Paul speaks of this everywhere so that he may take the glory away from the false teachers and not yield to them even a fingernail's breadth. We are well acquainted with many such texts in the Pauline epistles. For instance: "Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they Israelites. So am I. Are they the servants of Christ? So am I." (2 Cor. 11:22,23)

A Christian leads a double life—the life of the Spirit, and the mortification of the flesh. You see, when we have been justified and taken into the kingdom of God's grace, we must still mourn over our flesh; we must not merely mourn and lament our suffering Christ but also imitate Him; we must die along with Him and crucify our own flesh. Here, them, He is speaking about that mortification of the flesh and not about the grief of the Final Judgment, when every eye will see Christ judging the guilty and punishing the ungodly for crucifying Him. After all, the hands of the Jews which crucified Christ are the hands of all the wicked. But while Christians are alive on this earth, they mourn as they mortify their own flesh. "Families will mourn everywhere in the church throughout the world." There is great emphasis on the word "separately," as if to say: "I do not prescribe some general rule for mortifying the flesh. Instead, individuals, as suits their convenience and bound by no definite laws, will restrain their own flesh. (20/140)

"I am no prophet; I am a tiller of the soil." He is saying: "I no longer wish to pursue those heresies. Instead, I submit myself to the unity of your faith. I have no haughty bearing. I no longer preach myself as insolently or greatly as I did before. You see, I am a tiller of the soil. I am a simple man. I am inferior to the person I was when I kept trying to sell myself under the name of prophet…These are words of confession and humility, with which he subjects himself to the judgment of others who have a more correct sense of godliness…The Word and Spirit have confused, embarrassed, and humiliated him. He bears wounds—the marks of confusion. When asked, he answers that these wounds are good, loving, and pleasant—actually, paternal wounds. It is as if he were saying: Those who bore me in Christ gave me these friendly wounds. They are friendly because the church strikes with its voice. It does not rage with violence or arms but acts to call back hearts from error and to gain many souls for Christ. (20/147-48)

As the conscience is, so is God. (9/130)

In the morning you shall say: "Would it were evening!" and at evening you shall say: "Would it were morning!" I have not found a place which sets forth the misery of a bad conscience so clearly, with such fitting and appropriate words and expressions. For so he feels who knows God as an offended one, that is, he who is troubled by consciousness of sin. He fears even everything safe. Isaiah draws it all together in one word, saying (57:20): "The wicked are like the tossing sea." The storms of thoughts of fear, worry, and despair drive the ungodly man so that he can indeed be likened to a tossing sea. (9/268)

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart." This is the second assertion of the First Commandment. For the first, which has already been stated, touches faith. No one can have one God unless he clings to Him alone and trusts in Him alone; otherwise he will be snatched off into a variety of works and will devise various gods. The second touches love, which follows from the first. For when we repose all faith in Him in whom we cling and understand that all things flow from Him alone and that we are in His care, then sweet love toward Him has to follow. Therefore he uses a negative phrase in the Commandment: "You shall not have gods"; as though he were saying: "You need to humble, and despair of, yourself, lest you make gods, and that you may have one God. For nature cannot but commit idolatry." When, therefore, he says: "The Lord your God is one Lord," he takes away all confidence in yourself. When he says: "You shall love the Lord," he arouses joyous and free service to God. For when I love God truly, I want everything God wants; nor is anything sweeter than to hear and do what God wants, as also human loves does with its beloved. Thus through oneness with God in faith we receive everything freely from God; through love, we do everything freely toward God. (9/68)

If some minister of a church were to deny me absolution and keep me from Holy Communion, even though it were done for some trivial reason, I nevertheless believe that I would run away in despair with Judas and hang myself. (4/48)

The foremost and best worship is to wait for God. And this is the real benefit and the most appropriate exercise of faith. For faith first carries us away into things that are invisible when it points out that things that are not apparent to the eye must be accepted. This we can somehow bear and put up with. The heart, however, is not only led into what is invisible; but it is also kept in suspense and is put off for a long time, just as Abraham waited for 25 years before a son was born to him, and Isaac is without offspring for 20 years. But the third and by far the most serious thing is experienced when delay and postponement are followed by a disposition to the opposite effect. It is then that he who is able to endure and wait, to hope for the things that are being delayed, and to be pleased with what is contrary, will eventually learn from experience that God is truthful and keeps His promises. (4/321)

The marvelous counsels of God in governing His saints must be learned, and the hearts of the godly must become accustomed to them. When you have a promise of God, it will happen that the more you are loved by God, the more you will have it hidden, delayed, and turned into its opposite. For if God did not love you so exceedingly, He would not play with you in this manner; that is, He would not delay His promise and help and turn it into its opposite. (4/326)

The master of a household is not the ruler of a servant's conscience. (23/295)

It would be too much for them to say: "It is true; we have condemned Him contrary to law." Now their conscience confronts them and says: "We have done wrong to capture and condemn Him without a trial." They had not expected the law to confront them, and they regret with deep shame that they have violated the law. Yet they are proud, and although they are conscious of injustice they have done, they will not confess their sin. They do not say to Nicodemus: "You were right, and we were mistaken." No, when a proud saint sins, he does not fact his sin or say: "I have done wrong." This he will not do. We can bring him to the point where he feels his sin, where his conscience troubles him, and he is heartily ashamed; but he cannot be moved to open his lips and express the sentiments of his heart. The Pharisees remain unrepentant. Although they cannot conceal their sin, they do not confess it. (23/304)

If we blunder, and fail to appropriate this chief doctrine—how to be rid of sin—He will also disperse us so thoroughly that we will not know whether there will be any other true Christians anywhere. At one place a schismatic spirit will arise, at another a sect; and every nook and cranny will crawl with fanatics, heretics, and fluttering spirits. Then our adversaries will exclaim: "Oh, such are the fruits of the Gospel! May the devil lay about among them! Why do they not believe?" If you do not want to be pious and free from sin, you will not remain in the house; but you will be evicted. And if you then wander hither and yon and have as many pastors as you have beliefs, you are only getting your just due. That is what happens when God begins to disperse the people; then gross confusion ensues, and many factions and sects arise. (23/408)

False Christians hear and learn much, yet they never come to a knowledge of the truth. They do not understand the truth. They do learn to speak the words, as a parrot or parakeet repeats words spoken by people. But their heart does not feel them; they remain unchanged and do not taste and perceive how faithful and true God is. I suppose that one tenth of the people really perceives God, while the other nine tenths begin to believe but do not perceive; for it is difficult and trying to remain faithful. Such people have no solid foundation. The divine Word alone is the cornerstone, the I-beam, the girder, the stanchion, and the pillar undergirding our constancy. Therefore it is imperative that we hold to the plain Word of God, that we cling to the words of Christ. Then we will experience God's help in the midst of danger and upheaval. (23/400)

We must progress to the point where we say: "God has promised." (23/400)

As God addresses them, their sins loom so big and they become so alarmed and frightened that their own sins now occupy them and cause them to forget about others and to begin to think that in comparison other sinners are pure saints. Thus they stand there thunderstruck. They feel as though the lightning had shone and flashed into their hearts, filling them with pure light and revealing their innermost thoughts. As their hearts are opened like a book, they forget about this woman entirely and begin to imagine that heir sins are inscribed on their foreheads and that everything they have ever done can be seen on their noses. Not one of them has the courage to look at the other. They imagine that the very stones are staring at them. Time seems endless, until they find the escape and can slink out through the door. They cannot lift up their eyes and look man, house, sun, or a dog cheerfully and squarely in the face. They are dispirited, cowed, and bereft of their senses. They can stand it no longer. They can look no one in the face but must turn tail and stealthily sneak out of the temple, slinking out as a dog with a burned snout slinks from the kitchen. (23/314)

Whenever we are stung and vexed in our conscience because of sins, let us simply turn our attention from sin and wrap ourselves in the bosom of the God who is called Grace and Mercy, not doubting at all that He wants to show grace and mercy to miserable and afflicted sinners, just as He wants to show wrath and judgment to hardened sinners. (12/323)

Our theology should remain fixed and firm also in this teaching. We teach that in the matter of justification, when the issue is how to strengthen consciences and take away sin, neither the ceremonial nor the moral laws avail. (12/400)

A godly man feels sin more than grace, wrath more than favor, judgment more than redemption. An ungodly man feels almost no wrath, but is smug as though there were no wrath anywhere, as though there were no God anywhere who vindicates His righteousness. This happens mostly in those who strive for some appearance of religion. Thus the Franciscans wickedly boast that their religion is most like the life of Christ, and therefore in their smugness they do not pray. On the other hand, the more a godly man feels his weakness, the more earnest he is in prayer. Because the feeling of sin does not cease, sighing and prayer do not cease, asking that this wisdom may be made perfect. This prayer is a fervent desire against the battle of the flesh which we feel, that as the feeling of sin abounds, so the feeling of grace and the consolation of the Spirit may abound even more (Rom. 5:20). Therefore in Zechariah (12:10) the spirit of grace is joined to the spirit of prayer. (12/358)

"And cry to her." Cry aloud, shout boldly, let yourselves be heard. It is necessary to speak with a very loud voice so that consciences afflicted with the worst despair may be banished and downcast spirits lifted up. For a troubled conscience is like a condemned man who has nothing to look forward to but the sword. (12/4)

"Beware of false prophets" (Matt. 7:15). It is their endeavor to put away offenses, ungodly teachings, so that the people may not be offended. It is our task to see to it that a godly people, well taught, can simply proceed on the way without a stumbling block. The chief teaching is already present. There remains the one endeavor, namely, that the teaching be retained. To guard possessions is no less a virtue than to acquire them. Take care that some sectarian does not come who will impose on you. Thus I, Martin Luther, was in four dangers, and yet, beyond my own planning, I was set free by God. When Satan sees us standing firm in the Word, he begins to set another plan before us and tries to lead us into it, so that the whole world will perish by our counsel. He has a thousand tricks. (17/350)

"If a man lives many years and rejoices in them all, he will remember that the days of darkness were many; for all that comes is vanity." This is nothing but supplication; as though he were saying: "I would love to see an age in which this book would be observed. That would be a fine man!" As the sun is sweet and the light joyful, so joyful it is to see a man whose heart has been aroused, who for many years has experienced these things with a happy heart and has despised the world in the midst of dangers. Such a man would also see much darkness, that is, the evil of the world. But this would bring him delight, that he would be able to despise these things, as a man who knows and foresaw long beforehand that this is the way the world is. (15/175)

It is the nature of all hypocrites and false prophets to create a conscience where there is none, and to cause conscience to disappear where it does exist. There is no fear of God before them. That is, they do not have a god who is God, "In vain do they worship Me (Matt. 15:9)." In the Hebrew, this is fear. Consequently, the fear of God is located much more in the conscience than on the outside. From the conscience comes every doctrine, according to the way in which the conscience is influenced. It lives according to what it teaches. Thus it has a god who is not God. Thus it errs both in doctrine and in worship. The erring conscience is seared. That is, it is seared by cauterization. Just as men or sheep are branded, so those consciences are branded by a false idea of doctrine. With fear they create a conscience where there is no conscience. Paul, then, is speaking about conscience according to the words he has proclaimed. These are the "doctrines of demons." Every doctrine creates a conscience; so this should be a false conscience and false idea about God. A monk imagines God sitting in heaven to look at his works and righteousness. In this situation he must live according to this rule and perform these works. If he does not, he commits a mortal sin. There he causes an erring conscience. That is, a conscience is brought in by force. This is not natural. The metaphor pleases me very much. It pleases me that he should call it a "seared" conscience, as if it had been branded by a hot iron. He does not say that the conscience has been cut off but that it has been branded to testify of the efficacy and power of that doctrine, as if he were saying: "Fire is burning the flesh." Thus these men should have a righteousness of faith with greater enthusiasm, concern, diligence, and ardor, as if it were branded on them. He wants to say, the, that the martyrs of the devil suffer more than those of God. That conscience endures because of great exertion. At the same time he indicates that the erring conscience is born of great exertion; much trouble and toil is involved, so that people must burn themselves over it, as it were. They are drawn away from faith to works, which pull them in different directions day and night. This agrees with the sense of Scripture: "They fear where there is no fear." (28/311)

The false conscience comes from sin where there is no sin, and with great toil. (28/312)

If the heart is pure, the conscience is sincere. This is a rebuke against the doctrine of wicked men who even boast of their faith. But their faith is partly pretended, partly genuine, because their heart is not pure. It if were genuine, it would make them have a pure heart and a good conscience. Indeed, they do boast of such a heart and conscience, but it does not follow that way. Faith, then, purifies hearts. Next, it is the nature of faith that it establishes a good conscience toward God and all men; for it teaches me that I must trust in Christ alone as Savior, because His suffering has redeemed me. Where this condition exists, purity of heart follows shortly after. That speaks the rule: "My own energy does not save me." In this way all those idols in which I have trusted fall down. This pure heart is not pure in the sense that it is so in its own thoughts. That I have called an impure heart, as if an artist were composing his own work, or as if a mother were performing her function. But the pure heart is to cut off all these things and look to itself alone. Some people have, with Satan's help, a softness-tears, for instance. But those spiritual consequences are very suspect. A man can do his work and his wife can cook, and both can have very pure hearts because they can say: "My Lord God, this work pleases You. I am performing my task according to Your command." They believe that God is in the midst of their ordinary business. He has a pure heart who has the Word of God and trusts alone. The false prophets, the, are the most impure when they boast about their purity most. Of course, they feel smug; they act boldly, as did Peter and Paul. They dare with great stubbornness to do their own building. That, to b sure, is a stubborn conscience but not a good conscience. They always take their own works first. This disturbs the conscience. Sincere faith believes in Christ alone. This is God's building, when people are instructed toward a sincere faith, a good conscience, and a pure heart. Once they have these, then follows the end and result of that knowledge-love. (28/226-27)

My conscience must, as it feels sin and as it fears and trembles, become lord and victor over sin; not through feeling and thinking but through faith in the Word. And thereby it is comforted and sustained against and over sin until sin is banished entirely and is no longer felt. Thus death, too, lies prostrate under us, so that it cannot devour or hold us. (28/73)

Whatever the miserable and afflicted conscience seeks, that it finds in Christ. (26/151)

Whenever I feel remorse in my conscience on account of sin, therefore, I look at the bronze serpent, Christ on the cross (John 3:14-15). Against my sin, which accuses and devours me, I find there another sin. But this other sin, namely, that which is in the flesh of Christ, takes away the sin of the world. It is omnipotent, and it damns and devours my sin. Lest my sin accuse and damn me, it is itself damned by sin, that is, by Christ the crucified, "who for our sake was made to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).

Such is human misery that in temptation or death we immediately put Christ aside and pay attention to our own life and our own deeds. Unless we are raised up here by faith, we must perish. In such conflicts of conscience, therefore, we must form the habit of leaving ourselves behind as well as the Law and all our works, which force us to pay attention to ourselves. We must turn our eyes completely to that bronze serpent, Christ nailed to the cross (John 3:14).

Let everyone accustom himself, therefore, to believe for a certainty that he is in a state of grace and that his person with its works is pleasing to God. But if he senses that he is in doubt, let him exercise his faith, struggle against the doubt, and strive for certainty, so that he can say: "I know I have been accepted and that I have the Holy Spirit, not on account of my worthiness or virtue but on account of Christ, who subjected Himself to the Law on our account and took away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

We have no reason to fear God's wrath, although we must continue to fear on account of the old Adam, who is still unable to understand this as it ought to be understood. (54/17)

When you are assailed by gloom, despair, or a troubled conscience you should eat, drink, and talk with others. If you can find help for yourself by thinking of a girl, do so. (54/17)

Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face. This also happened to me as a boy in my homeland when we sang in order to gather sausages. A townsman jokingly cried out, "What are you boys up to? May this or that evil overtake you!" At the same time he ran toward us with two sausages. With my companion I took to my feet and ran away from the man who was offering his gift. This is precisely what happens to us in our relation to God. He gave us Christ with all his gifts, and yet we flee from him and regard him as our judge. (54/20)

David wrote in a psalm, "Serve the Lord with fear, and exult with trembling" (Ps. 2:11). Let somebody bring this into harmony for me: exult and fear! My son Hans can do it in relation to me, but I can't do it in relation to God. When I'm writing or doing something else, my Hans sings a little tune for me. If he becomes too noisy and I rebuke him a little for it, he continues to sing but does it more privately and with a certain awe and uneasiness. This is what God wishes: that we always be cheerful, but with reverence. (54/21)

Sin doesn't harm us as much as our own Righteousness. (54/34)

Sin carries us down to despair or up to presumption. In either case the sin is not repented of, for sin is either exaggerated or not acknowledged at all. (54/37)

There are only two notable assertions in all of Augustine. The first is that when sin is forgiven it does not cease to exist but ceases to damn and control us. The second is that the law is kept when that is forgiven which does not happen. (54/49)

When one recognizes that he's doing wrong, but not only doesn't he refrain from sin but he doesn't ask to be forgiven, he has sinned against the Holy Spirit, and here one passes from the second to the first table of the law. When you feel that something is wrong and you have a bad conscience about it, this is not the sin against the Holy Spirit, but when you sin and have a good conscience about it, this is the sin against the Holy Spirit. (54/60)

We see that all history presses toward the forgiveness of sins. Everything circles around the center, and that is Christ. (54/61

The greatest gift is to have a conscience pacified by the Word. For this did God permit his Son to die, that we might have a good conscience. (54/64)

A good conscience will not set one free, but the distinction between law and gospel will. (54/106)

Anybody who wishes to be a theologian must have a fair mastery of the Scriptures, so that he may have an explanation for whatever can be alleged against any passage. That is to say, he must distinguish between law and gospel. If I were able to do this perfectly I would never again be sad. Whoever apprehends this has won. Whatever is Scripture is either law or gospel. One of the two must triumph: the law leads to despair, the gospel leads to salvation. I learn more about this every day, and others could too. The gospel is life. The pope drove me to this; he opened my eyes to it. It is as Augustine said to himself: the heretics provoke us to search the Scriptures. Otherwise nobody would think about them. (54/111)

It's the Holy Spirit alone who attains to certainty of faith in Christ without any doubting. The adherents of the sects always utter some words from which their doubting spirit becomes manifest: "I hope I'm godly," "I hope I'm righteous." The Christian, on the other hand, says, "I do what I can. What I don't get done the suffering of Christ will pay for me. I'm saved in Christ. Nobody shall take this confidence from me. Jesus is my Savior." (54/182)

Christians could easily suffer death if they didn't know that God's wrath is connected with it. This circumstance makes death a bitter thing for us. He heathen, on the contrary, die confidently; they don't see God's wrath but think death is the end of man. They say, "It doesn't amount to anything but a bad moment." But Cicero put it excellently, "Afterward we'll be nothing or we'll be altogether blessed." It's as if he would say, "Nothing bad can happen to us as a consequence of death." (54/190)

The bread and the wine are in the conscience.

It is much easier to sin and do harm than for the conscience to be healed. Sin tastes sweet, but it disagrees with you. (8/51)

A carefree mind and a joyful heart are like a daily feast full of delights. On the other hand, only a mind conscious of its sins knows grief and sorrow, as can be seen in the case of Judas and Saul. For sin acknowledged is the open mouth of hell. (8/43)

Let us learn, even from fear of punishments and that incurable evil which is a wounded heart to beware of falling into sin; for it is exceedingly difficult to wrestle with the consciousness of sin. It is easy to fall, but to retrace one's step and breath once again the air of kindness and mercy of God—this is toil, this is labor. (8/53)

For we judge according to the essence, not according to the things that are foul. But when sermons, judgments, and magistrates are corrupt and guilty of blame in the church and in the state, this is by far the worst condition, and devilish confusion is easily detected, even though everything shines with a great show of sanctity, just as heretics are accustomed to make a grand and ostentatious display of the glory of their good works. (8/59)

The promise sanctifies all things and makes them precious in the sight of God. Nor can anything so insignificant be done in a calling ordained by God that it is not pleasing to God. And if it is done in faith and in the Word, it excels all the miracles of all the popes and monks. (8/75)

The Gospel preaches in the following manner: "You must die, and by dying you must live; you must live, and by living you must die." It is certainly a very serious matter to teach and believe contradictions. (8/79)

God does not buoy up or strengthen men unless they are engulfed in sorrow, at the point of death, or in despair. For the Word of life and salvation pertains to those who are in distress and despair. (8/80)

But the fact that Jacob speaks of the years or days of his wandering—these are words of the spirit and of faith that thinks about another life. For he does not want to deem this most wretched life, which if full to overflowing of endless crosses and troubles, worthy of being called a life; but he calls it only a wandering, a most miserable way of living to which one must nevertheless render service because of God's command and will. In this life God assigns to everyone his station, so that he can be preserved and governed as long as it is pleasing to Him. But his life is horribly wretched, difficult, and troubled because of the various tribulations and vexations of all the devils and the whole world. Nor is there any doubt that Jacob was also plagued by many other afflictions that are not all recorded here. Therefore this life is not a life. No, it is a mortification and vexation of life. But this hope preserves and supports us, because we know that it is our wandering. (8/114)

When the blessing originates from God, it must be understood relatively, not absolutely, and it signifies that those who are blessed are under a curse. This emphasis or stress must be carefully considered. For all men are cursed in Adam; they are subject to sin, the Law, death, and the power of the devil. Thus Paul says: "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, and do them" (Gal. 3:10). The Law accuses and condemns all men, because it charges them with and convicts then of sin and brings their iniquities to light. (8/164)

Then the world becomes furiously enraged and cries out: "Should no good works be done? Is the Law not good?" It certainly is, and we exhort you by all means to do it, but in such a way that you say: "Although we have done everything, yet we are unworthy servants" (Luke 17:10).

Equivocation is always the mother of error. (8/195)

The church has its punishment also, which is excommunication. (8/206)

When sin is "couching at the door" (Gen. 4?7), as is stated to Cain, it is neglected and is forthwith increased by other, more atrocious sins. One falls into one sin after another. But when it is aroused and brought to life, then the blood of the Son of God must be applied to remove it. (8/325)

Many think that faith is a kind of opinion conceived on the basis of human persuasion, for they do not know the Law and sin. Consequently, they do not understand the Gospel and grace either, and they think that there are small and unimportant matters which you could easily heal with works and natural strength. But if they had learned and experienced in trials how difficult it is to encourage and arouse oneself by faith in the Savior against sin and death, they would teach far differently. But since they are ignorant of this, they snore; and they imagine that sin is nothing else than the concupiscence of the flesh. But concerning doubt, unbelief, and hatred for or flight from God they know nothing. Therefore they are not worthy of being called theologians. For they do not know the main points of Christian doctrine. (8/325)