Law and Gospel
What is it, when Christ sayeth, (Matt. xi. 5.) “The poor have the Gospel preached unto them.” Is it not also preached to the rich, and to all the world? It is well, and diligently to be observed, that God has from the very beginning sent two kinds of word or preaching, Law and Gospel. These two kinds of preaching, you must well distinguish and understand; for I tell you, that except the Scripture, no book has ever yet been written, no not even by a Saint, which now exists, where these two kinds of preaching, have been distinctly treated of, whereas, nevertheless it is of the greatest consequence to be acquainted therewith. The law is the word, wherein he teaches us and demands, what we are to do and omit; for instance, the ten commandments. Where now nature is alone, without the grace of God, then it is impossible to keep the law; because mankind were totally corrupted after the fall of Adam in Paradise, and have nothing but wicked inclinations for to sin, and cannot be sincerely attached to the law. When man then finds out this cause, and discovers that it is impossible to love the law of God, then he desponds of his works and cares for them no longer. Love he should have, but he doth not find if, nor can he get it from or out of himself. There then must be a poor, wretched, mortified spirit, whose conscience, through the law urges and torments, commands and claims, that he has not a cent to pay with. For such people only the law is useful, for it was given for the purpose, that we should obtain such knowledge and mortification! This properly is its work. The other word of God is neither law nor commandment; but when this has been done by the first word of the law, and misery, distress, and poverty have been created in the heart, then comes he, and his loving, living word, and promises, engages and obliges himself to give grace and assistance, that we may get out of such misery, and all sin not only be forgiven, but totally destroyed; and therefore love and inclination to fulfill the law shall be granted. Such promise of his grace and forgiveness of sins, is properly called the Gospel. From the above it is easy to perceive, that amongst all the works of Christ, none is greater, than that the poor have the Gospel preached unto them. — Luther’s Church Prayers and Sermons. 3rd Sunday in Advent, vol. 2nd of his Works, page 3; and his House Prayers and Sermons on said Sunday, vol. 13 of his works, page 73.