Saturday, May 14, 2011

Martin Luther's Preface to the Prophets

From Martin Luther's Preface to the Prophets:
God himself tells us that the children of Israel did not in their public worship intend to commit idolatry, but to worship the one true God. For Hosea says (ch. 2, v. 16)—Thus says the Lord: thou shalt call me my husband, and no longer call me my Baal; for I will take away the name Baalim from their mouths; the name of Baalim shall no longer be remembered. here we may perceive that the children of Israel were not conscious and did not intend the public service to be idolatrous, but to represent the worship of the one true God, since in Hosea God plainly declares they shall no longer call him my Baal. Now, the worship of Baal was the most extensive, the most conspicuous, and the most splendid in Israel. And yet it was pure idolatry, although they actually supposed they were celebrating the worship of the one true God. It is, therefore, no sound argument on the part of our clergymen when they allege they have no idols in their churches, but that they spiritually worship the only one true God. It is not, therefore, to say or even to delude ourselves into the thought—I do all this for the honour of God, or I am now serving in the spirit the true God, because all idolaters do and think the same. It is not a question of intention or of thought, otherwise those who martyred and persecuted the first Christians would be equally the servants of God, for they believed, as Christ himself says (John, ch. 16, v. 2), that by this they were doing God service. St. Paul also (Romans, ch. 10, v. 2) bears testimony to the Jews that they were zealous for God. Again (Acts, ch. 26, v. 7) he says that they serve God day and night in hopes to attain the promised salvation. Every one should be satisfied and convinced that the mode in which he serves God is in conformity with the Word and ordinances of God, and not the produce of his own imagination and good intentions. For he who worships God in a manner which is unsupported by the testimony of God or the Holy Scriptures ought to know that he does not worship the one true God, but an idol of his own imagination, namely, his own thoughts and favourite opinions; or, in other words, the Devil himself,—and thus renders applicable to himself the denunciations of all the Prophets.