Click here to Download A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book by Martin Luther English having PDF Size 1 MB and No of Pages 57.
We ought first to know that there are no good works except those which God has commanded, even as there is no sin except that which God has forbidden. Therefore whoever wishes to know and to do good works needs nothing else than to know God’s commandments. Thus Christ says, Matthew xix, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book by Martin Luther
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And when the young man asks Him, Matthew xix, what he shall do that he may inherit eternal life, Christ sets before him naught else but the Ten Commandments. Accordingly, we must learn how to distinguish among good works from the Commandments of God, and not from the appearance, the magnitude, or the number of the works themselves.
Nor from the judgment of men or of human law or custom, as we see has been done and still is done, because we are blind and despise the divine Commandments. II. The first and highest, the most precious of all good works is faith in Christ, as He says, John vi. When the Jews asked Him: “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?”
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He answered: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent.” When we hear or preach this word, we hasten over it and deem it a very little thing and easy to do, whereas we ought here to pause a long time and to ponder it well. For in this work all good works must be done and receive from it the inflow of their goodness, like a loan.
This we must put bluntly, that men may understand it. We find many who pray, fast, establish endowments, do this or that, lead a good life before men, and yet if you should ask them whether they are sure that what they do pleases God, they say, “No”; they do not know, or they doubt.
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And there are some very learned men, who mislead them, and say that it is not necessary to be sure of this; and yet, on the other hand, these same men do nothing else but teach good works. Now all these works are done outside of faith, therefore they are nothing and altogether dead. For as their conscience stands toward God and as it believes, so also are the works which grow out of it.
Now they have no faith, no good conscience toward God, therefore the works lack their head, and all their life and goodness is nothing. Hence it comes that when I exalt faith and reject such works done without faith, they accuse me of forbidding good works, when in truth I am trying hard to teach real good works of faith. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book
If you ask further, whether they count it also a good work when they work at their trade, walk, stand, eat, drink, sleep, and do all kinds of works for the nourishment of the body or for the common welfare, and whether they believe that God takes pleasure in them because of such works, you will find that they say.
“No”; and they define good works so narrowly that they are made to consist only of praying in church, fasting, and almsgiving. Other works they consider to be in vain, and think that God cares nothing for them. So through their damnable unbelief they curtail and lessen the service of God, Who is served by all things whatsoever that are done, spoken or thought in faith.
So teaches Ecclesiastes ix: “Go thy way with joy, eat and drink, and know that God accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity.” “Let thy garments be always white,” that is, let all our works be good, whatever they may be, without any distinction. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book
And they are white when I am certain and believe that they please God. Then shall the head of my soul never lack the ointment of a joyful conscience. So Christ says, John viii: “I do always those things that please Him.” And St. John says, I. John iii: “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, if we can comfort our hearts before Him and have a good confidence.
And if our heart condemns or frets us, God is greater than our heart, and we have confidence, that whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” Again: “Whosoever is born of God, that is, whoever believes and trusts God, doth not commit sin, and cannot sin.”
Again, Psalm “None of them that trust in Him shall do sin.” And in Psalm ii: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” If this be true, then all that they do must be good, or the evil that they do must be quickly forgiven. Behold, then, why I exalt faith so greatly, draw all works into it, and reject all works which do not flow from it. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book
In this way I have, as I said, always praised faith, and rejected all works which are done without such faith, in order thereby to lead men from the false, pretentious, pharisaic, unbelieving good works, with which all monastic houses, churches, homes, low and higher classes are overfilled, and lead them to the true, genuine, thoroughly good, believing works.
In this no one opposes me except the unclean beasts, which do not divide the hoof, as the Law of Moses decrees; who will suffer no distinction among good works, but go lumbering along: if only they pray, fast, establish endowments, go to confession, and do enough, everything shall be good, although in all this they have had no faith in God’s grace and approval.
Indeed, they consider the works best of all, when they have done many, great and long works without any such confidence, and they look for good only after the works are done; and so they build their confidence not on divine favor, but on the works they have done, that is, on sand and water, from which they must at last take a cruel fall, as Christ says, Matthew. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book
This good-will and favor, on which our confidence rests, was proclaimed by the angels from heaven, when they sang on Christmas night: “Gloria in excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the highest, peace to earth, gracious favor to man.” IX. Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which commands: “Thou shalt have no other gods,” which means.
“Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust and faith on Me alone, and on no one else.” For that is not to have a god, if you call him God only with your lips, or worship him with the knees or bodily gestures; but if you trust Him with the heart, and look to Him for all good, grace and favor, whether in works or sufferings, in life or death.
In joy or sorrow; as the Lord Christ says to the heathen woman, John iv: “I say unto thee, they that worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” And this faith, faithfulness, confidence deep in the heart, is the true fulfilling of the First Commandment; without this there is no other work that is able to satisfy this Commandment. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book Download
And as this Commandment is the very first, highest and best, from which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which they are directed and measured, so also its work, that is, the faith or confidence in God’s favor at all times, is the very first, highest and best, from which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed and measured.
Compared with this, other works are just as if the other Commandments were without the First, and there were no God, Therefore St. Augustine well says that the works of the First Commandment are faith, hope and love. As I said above, such faith and confidence bring love and hope with them.
Nay, if we see it aright, love is the first, or comes at the same instant with faith. For I could not trust God, if I did not think that He wished to be favorable and to love me, which leads me, in turn, to love Him and to trust Him heartily and to look to Him for all good things. X. Now you see for yourself that all those who do not at at all times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book Download
Life and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this Commandment, and practise real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and innocence of all the saints combined.
For the chief work is not present, without which all the others are nothing but mere sham, show and pretence, with nothing back of them; against which Christ warns us, Matthew vii: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing.” Such are all who wish with their many good works, as they say, to make God favorable to themselves, and to buy God’s grace from Him.
As if He were a huckster or a day-laborer, unwilling to give His grace and favor for nothing. These are the most perverse people on earth, who will hardly or never be converted to the right way. Such too are all who in adversity run hither and thither, and look for counsel and help everywhere except from God, from Whom they are most urgently commanded to seek it; whom the Prophet Isaiah reproves thus. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book Download
Isaiah “The mad people turneth not to Him that smiteth them”; that is, God smote them and sent them sufferings and all kinds of adversity, that they should run to Him and trust Him. But they run away from Him to men, now to Egypt, now to Assyria, perchance also to the devil; and of such idolatry much is written in the same Prophet and in the Books of the Kings.
This is also the way of all holy hypocrites when they are in trouble: they do not run to God, but flee from Him, and only think of how they may get rid of their trouble through their own efforts or through human help, and yet they consider themselves and let others consider them pious people.
This is what St. Paul means in many places, where he ascribes so much to faith, that he says: Justus ex fide sua vivit, “the righteous man draws his life out of his faith,” and faith is that because of which he is counted righteous before God. If righteousness consists of faith, it is clear that faith fulfils all commandments and makes all works righteous, since no one is justified except he keep all the commands of God. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book Download
Again, the works can justify no one before God without faith. So utterly and roundly does the Apostle reject works and praise faith, that some have taken offence at his words and say: “Well, then, we will do no more good works,” although he condemns such men as erring and foolish.
The second work, next to faith, is the work of the Second Commandment, that we shall honor God’s Name and not take it in vain. This, like all the other works, cannot be done without faith; and if it is done without faith, it is all sham and show. After faith we can do no greater work than to praise, preach, sing and in every way exalt and magnify God’s glory, honor and Name.
And although I have said above, and it is true, that there is no difference in works where faith is and does the work, yet this is true only when they are compared with faith and its works. Measured by one another there is a difference, and one is higher than the other. Just as in the body the members do not differ when compared with health, and health works in the one as much as in the other. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book Free
Yet the works of the members are different, and one is higher, nobler, more useful than the other; so, here also, to praise God’s glory and Name is better than the works of the other Commandments which follow; and yet it must be done in the same faith as all the others. But I know well that this work is lightly esteemed, and has indeed become unknown.
Therefore we must examine it further, and will say no more about the necessity of doing it in the faith and confidence that it pleases God. Indeed there is no work in which confidence and faith are so much experienced and felt as in honoring God’s Name; and it greatly helps to strengthen and increase faith, although all works also help to do this, as St. Peter says.
Peter i: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence through good works to make your calling and election sure.” The First Commandment forbids us to have other gods, and thereby commands that we have a God, the true God, by a firm faith, trust, confidence, hope and love, which are the only works whereby a man can have, honor and keep a God. A Treatise on Good Works PDF Book Free
For by no other work can one find or lose God except by faith or unbelief, by trusting or doubting; of the other works none reaches quite to God. So also in the Second Commandment we are forbidden to use His Name in vain. Yet this is not to be enough, but we are thereby also commanded to honor, call upon, glorify, preach and praise His Name.
And indeed it is impossible that God’s Name should not be dishonored where it is not rightly honored. For although it be honored with the lips, bending of the knees, kissing and other postures, if this is not done in the heart by faith, in confident trust in God’s grace, it is nothing else than an evidence and badge of hypocrisy.