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the King; so that we may plainly say, ' I know nothing of any law whatever, nor do I want to know any.' For as to our state and experience as Christians, our own works and those of all other men cease, and also all laws. Because, where there is no work, there can be no law requiring a work, and saying, Thou must do this: Thou must not do that, &c. For we are, by baptism and the blood of Christ, free from all laws whatever, and righteous from mere grace and mercy. And this is our treasure, wherein we are Christians, and live and stand in the presence of God! For as to the manner in which we ought to live, with respect to our outward conversation, (that is our flesh and blood,) before the world, that has nothing whatever to do with this place.
Wherefore, the Christian must learn so to rule his conscience, as not to suffer it to be ensnared and led captive by any law. But whoso shall attempt to hold and bind him by any law whatever, let him boldly and firmly resist, and let him do as he sees Christ did upon the present and other occasions; where he uses such pertinacity and morose severity, that no Moses or legal exactor can do any thing with him; although, in other respects, he is of all men the most humble, the most sweet, and the most tender.
But however this is an experience above all the most high and sublime, which no one can hold fast, he excepted, who was himself the teacher of it, and who knew how to put a stop to all laws and teachers of laws. We cannot arrive at this high degree; for the devil sports with our flesh and blood, as often as he can take a man in the trap of his own conscience, and drive him to the point of entering into a dispute with him about what he has done or has not done ; then, a disputing of that fort arises, in which there is a debate held concerning our sin and righteousness; and here, the man is drawn into the mire and clay of peril, where he sticks fast and is not able to help or extricate himself, but is plunged deeper and deeper. For now he is laden with a heavy load, more than he can bear; under which he goes on cogitating and foreboding, and gnawing and drinking up his spirit, unable to attain unto any rest of mind.—This I sensibly feel in my own experience, when I cannot struggle out nor extricate myself by any labour, although I strive hard without ceasing, and turn every stone to emerge from this overwhelming flood, so as to be able to answer the demands of the law, and cause it to be quiet, and say, Now thou hast done enough, and I am constrained to be content. But all these strivings and devoted endeavours, are in vain: for these floods and gulphs are of that kind, that no one can ever emerge from them, though he should call into his aid the help of all men: as all those can bear me witness, who have been brought to know these things by experience, and who still experience them daily.
The cause of this is our nature: which will ever have to do with works and laws, and will hear what they say, and follow those who say, "Why eateth he with publicans and sinners?" If he would eat and drink with us, indeed, he would do right. And again, "Why do thy disciples pluck the ears of corn on the sabbathday?" &c. And it will thus deal with the law until it shall say, Now thou art righteous. For it can attain to no higher understanding than that the doctrine of the law is the highest doctrine, and that righteousness the best kind of life before God. And in this opinion nature remains bound a perpetual captive; nor does it know how to deliver itself from this prison, not being able to pacify and stop the mouth of the law, so as to prevent its making any demand or alleging any accusation; but it is compelled to remain captive under the law in a perpetual prison; and the more it struggles and contends with it, in the worse state it is; and at last it is by it utterly vanquished.
What, therefore, am I to do when the law attacks and presses upon my conscience, especially when I feel that I have not done what it requires? I answer: That which Christ does here: who admits of, and acknowledges, no law, even though it be drawn from the law of God. Do thou also learn to do this, that thou uiisjhtest with confidence say to the law, ' Cease, O law, to contend with me, I have nothing at all to do with thee. And I will not hear thee for this very reason:—because thou comest to dispute with, and to inquire of me how good and how righteous I am. For it matters not at all what I am, what I ought to do or ought not to do, but what Christ himself is, what he gives, and what he has done. For we are now in the bride-chamber, where the bridegroom and the bride are entirely alone: thou hast no business to enter there, nor to interfere with one word.' Yet still the law will continue to assail and say, 'Nevertheless thou must do good works, and keep the Commandments, if thou wilt be saved.' Here again answer: ' But thou art told there is no room for thee to attack me concerning them; for I have gotten my righteousness, and the sum of all my salvation, without any of my own works, in Christ Jesus my Lord; and I was saved long before thou ever earnest unto me; therefore I have no need of thy presence at all.' For, as I have said above, where works are of no avail, there neither can the law be of any weight or moment; and where there is no law there can be no sin. Therefore the spouse is to reign with Christ alone in the bridechamber, all others being shut out; in whom she has all things in one treasure, and wants no one thing more as necessary unto salvation. Wherefore, the law, together with its trumpets and drums, is to be excluded, to be spued out of the mouth, and to be utterly cast away as often as it comes to invade and attack the conscience. For it has nothing to do there, nor does it come at all in season, when it wishes to make a great bustle where it has no business to make any, nor even in the least to intrude itself. For here we are upon this article which is called ' I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, who suffered for me, died, and was buried,' &c.: in whom all laws, kingly, Mosaic, and divine, ought to believe. Therefore I am boldly to shun every thing that would dispute with me concerning sin, righteousness, or any such things.
Behold this is the liberty that Christ would shadow forth to us in this place :—that, as Christians, we should suffer no master to rule in our conscience, most steadily cleaving to this one thing:—that we are baptized, called unto Christ, and justified and sanctified through him : so that we can say, ' Here is my righteousness, here is my treasure, here are my works: in a word, here is my every thing to answer the sin and unrighteousness of which the law strives to accuse me. If thou wilt have any other righteousness, works, law, or sin, then thou mayest seek them where thou canst; thou certainly wilt not find them in me.' In this way a man may be able to defend himself, and to stand against the suggestions and temptations of the devil, either concerning sins past or sins present.
Wherefore, Moses and Christ are to be kept far asunder; and also works and faith; and conscience and outward life. So that, if the law will attack me and press down my heart, then is the time for casting away the law; and, if he will not go away, of thrusting him away by force; and saying, willingly will I do good works and promote them with all my power, as long as I live among men; but here, in my conscience, I will not hear any thing whatever concerning them ; therefore in this let be alone, and do not want to pester me at all about them. For in this respect, I will not descend to hear either of Moses or of the pharisees; but baptism, and Christ only, shall here have power to reign. And, like Mary, my desire is to sit at his feet to hear his words. But let Martha remain without if she will, and busy herself about the things of the house and kitchen. And, in a word, I will not have my peace of conscience disturbed.
But do I not in the mean time sin daily, which certainly is not righteous? And how about this? I answer: It is true. I am a sinner, and do unrighteously; but I am not therefore to despair: much less am I to run away down into hell, or to be terrified by the severity of the law. Because, I have still a righteousness and works far above, and able to stand against, Moses. I apprehend him who has apprehended me; and I cleave unto him who has embraced me in baptism, and put me into his bosom; and who, by the proclamation of the Gospel, calls me to partake of all the benefits there are in him, commanding me to believe in him.—Whensoever I can feel out him, then I command the pharisees and Moses with all their tables, the lawyers with all their books, and all men with their works, to hold their tcngues and depart. Here the law has no right to accuse or to act. For, in this Christ, I have an abundance of all things that can be required of me.—This I say is the doctrine and skill of Christians; pertaining, however, to that part only where Christ ought to reign.
But here, thick-headed men have no understanding: presuming only to take unto themselve, from this, a licence to live as they list: saying, What need is there then for me to do good works, seeing that Christ has done away with the law, &c.? But this their vain prating is not to be borne: for thou art also to look at Christ in the other point of view, and to observe what he does farther. For he here says himself, that he is a man who goeth about seeking the miserable and lost sheep: of which, he gives a full proof upon the present occasion, by receiving publicans and sinners, and preaching unto them. And here you will see, that he this same person does much more than ever the law commanded; and he teaches thee, by his own example, to do the same. He is of such arrogance that he will not be under the law, and yet, spontaneously does more than ever the law demands. Do thou also likewise; and wait not until the law shall impel and force thee, but, without the law, of thine own accord, do what thou oughtest to do; as Peter, 1 Epist. ii. admonishes, saying, "As free and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." And Paul also, Rom. vi. "Being then made free from sin, ye are become the servants of righteousness."— These are they who do all things with a free conscience, without the law, and without compulsion!
For wherever the Gospel is in the heart, in truth, it maketh the man such, that he does not wait until the law come to him, but he is so full of gladness in Christ,