Preaching The Literal Word

Table Talk

I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word; he that pleases may follow me; he that will not may stay. I call upon St Peter, St Paul, Moses, and all the Saints, to say whether they ever fundamentally comprehended one single word of God, without studying it over and over and over again. The Psalm says; His understanding is infinite. The saints, indeed, know God’s Word, and can discourse of it, but the practice is another matter; therein we shall ever remain scholars.

The school theologians have a fine similitude hereupon, that it is as with a sphere or globe, which, lying on a table, touches it only with one point, yet it is the whole table which supports the globe.

Though I am an old doctor of divinity, to this day I have not got beyond the children’s learning—the Ten Commandments, the Belief, and the Lord’s Prayer; and these I understand not so well as I should, though I study them daily, praying, with my son John and my daughter Magdalene.

If I thoroughly appreciated these first words of the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father, which art in Heaven, and really believed that God, who made heaven and earth, and all creatures, and has all things in his hand, was my Father, then should I certainly conclude with myself, that I also am a lord of heaven and earth, that Christ is my brother, Gabriel my servant, Raphael my coachman, and all the angels my attendants at need, given unto me by my heavenly Father, to keep me in the path, that unawares I knock not my foot against a stone.

But that our faith may be exercised and confirmed, our heavenly Father suffers us to be cast into dungeons, or plunged in water. So we may see how finely we understand these words, and how belief shakes, and how great our weakness is, so that we begin to think—Ah, who knows how far that is true which is set forth in the scriptures?

Martin Luther

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