“You Poor Maggot Sack” — Luther on Forgiveness
I love it when Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes, Managing Editor for our new extension of Luther’s Works, slips me the latest Luther translation he is working on. He did this the other day. Here is a little snippet from the draft of the translation. Our dear good Doctor Luther has a real knack for laying it down clearly, plainly and bluntly like few others before or since.
“Repenting” means that a person knows and confesses in his heart that, as the Scripture says, he was conceived and born in sin [Ps. 51:7] and is therefore by nature a child of wrath [Eph. 2:3], condemned to everlasting death and damnation, and that it is precisely at this point that all works are of no avail. They only make things go from bad to worse since people think they can accomplish by them what belongs to Christ alone, the sole Mediator between God and men, who sacrificed Himself for us all that we might have forgiveness of sins through Him. If you believe the former, then you have the latter. If not, you will never ever be free [of sin], even if you yourself to the point of death. For it is called the forgiveness of sins, not the payment for sins; a gift, not merit. But what God bestows on you out of pure grace for the sake of Christ, that is something that you, you poor maggot sack, can’t pay Him for, buy, or earn. That is what Luke means when he says that John preached a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Zwo Predigten DML auf der Kindertaufe des jungen Herrn Bernhard (Predigt am Donnerstag nach Ostern) (1540); WA 49:111-124; cf. 814-815, 849
[TWO SERMONS ON THE OCCASION OF THE BAPTISM OF BERNHARD OF ANHALT, DESSAU, 1 AND 2 APRIL]
[A Sermon on the Thursday after Easter, 1 April, 1540] Unpublished translation by John Bruss.