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MARTIN LUTHER, TO HIS MOST KIND SIRE, THE ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE AND LORD FREDERIC DUKE OF SAXONY, ARCHMARSHAL AND ELECTOR OF THE SACRED ROMAN EMPIRE, LANDGRAVE OF THIRRINGS, AND MARSHAL OF MISNIÆ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, has left us a command which speaks alike to all Christians, that we should perform offices of humanity, or, (as the scripture terms them,)“ labours of love,” unto all that are afflicted and in distress, that we should endeavour to liberate those who are in captivity, and to serve our neighbour in all those things whereby his present troubles may in some measure be relieved. And our Lord Jesus Christ shewed forth in himself a most signal example of this his command, when, from his infinite love to the human race, he descended from the bosom of the Father to our miseries and prison, that is, to our flesh, and to this our miserable life, and took the punishment of our sins upon himself, that we might be saved.
If this signal example does not move a man, added to the authority of the divine command, --if these things, I say, do not move a man to perform these works of love; such an one will deservedly hear, in the last day, this sentence of the angry judge, Depart, thou accursed, into everlasting fire. For I was sick and thou visitedst me not. But, with the deepest ingratitude, for all those infinite benefits which I have conferred upon thee and the whole world, thou hast not assisted thy brethren, yea rather, me Christ thy God and Saviour in thy brethren, by performing the least office of kindness.'
Since therefore, most illustrious Prince, I see your Highness sinking under a severe disease, and so, Christ sick in you, I thought it my duty to visit your Highness
with some production of my pen. For, to say the truth, I hear the voice of Christ calling to me in the body and flesh of your Highness, and saying, Behold here one that is sick! For it is not we Christians alone that suffer these evils, such as diseases and others, but our Lord and Saviour Christ himself, in whom we live; as Christ plainly testifies in the Gospel. “ Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me, Matt. xxv. 40. And, although we owe this duty to all in general who are labouring under sickness of body,—that we visit and comfort them, yet, we owe it more especially to the household of faith.” For Paul clearly distinguishes between the “ household ” and strangers, Gal. vi. 10, as the former are joined to us by a particular bond.
But, I have also other reasons for the performance of this my duty. For I feel that I, as one of the subjects of your Highness, ought to be affected with this your Highness's sickness, together with all the rest of your subjects, and as it were to be in pain with you as a member with the head ; in whom, all our fortunes and all our safety and happiness are placed. For we acknowledge that your Highness is as another Naaman; and that God at this day accomplishes by you the safety of Germany, as he did in old time that of Syria by Naaman. Wherefore, the whole Roman Empire turns its eyes to your Highness, and venerates and receives you as a protecting father, and as the honour of the whole Empire, and, more especially, as the safeguard and ornament of Germany.
Nor is it our duty to comfort your Highness only as much as lies in our power, and to sympathize with you as brethren, in this your present calamity; but, much more particularly, to pray unto God for your health and safety; which I hope is done continually and earnestly by the subjects of your Highness. And I acknowledge, for my part, that these petitions are put up by me, (that I may declare my gratitude by the performance of so important a duty), as being one whom your signal favours and merits have made, above all others, a debtor.
And as, in my low estate of ability and fortune, I can serve you in nothing great, D. George Spaltinus, who is one of your Highness's private council, gave me a timely word of advice to draw up something by way of a spiritual consolation, and send it to your Highness: adding, that your Highness would gratefully receive such an attention. Being therefore unwilling to refuse altogether to listen to the advice of my friend, I drew up these fourteen heads, and set them forth as it were on a tablet, and gave them the name of TESSERADECAD; that they may serve instead of the fourteen saints, whom our superstition has made and called the defenders against all evil.
This, however, is not a silver tablet but a spiritual onę; designed, not to adorn the walls of the churches, but to raise up and confirm the godly mind; and I hope it will be very useful to your Highness in your present trouble.--It consists of two parts. The former contains seven views of evil, by the consideration of which our present troubles may be lightened. The latter sets forth seven views of good, drawn up for the same purpose.—May your Highness therefore favourably receive this my service, (such as it is), and so profit by it, that, after an attentive reading and consideration of the views set forth, you may find some small part of it to suit your case. ---I commend myself to your Highness with all submission.
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INTRODUCTION. The Apostle Paul, Rom. xv., when about to set forth the consolations of Christians, says, Brethren, whatsoever things were written aforetime, 'were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Wherein, he plainly shows, that our consolations are to be derived from the holy scriptures.
The holy scriptures administer consolation in a twofold way, by setting before us two views of things, that is, of evil and of good, tempered together with a most wholesome intermingling: as the wise Preacher saith, So In the day of evil be mindful of the good, and in the day of good be mindful of the evil." -For the Holy Spirit knows, that every thing is such and so great to a man, as it appears to be in his opinion; and that, that which he considers to be trifling and a thing of nought little' affects him, either with love when it comes, or with grief when it is taken away
Therefore, the great opinion and sense of things. And, as this calling away is more especially wrought by the Word; by which, the opinion is drawn off from that which now affects, to that which is either not present or does not now affect; it is in all things right, that we should have no consólation but by the scriptures; which, in the day of evil, call us away to contemplate the good that is either present or to come; and, in the day of good, to contemplate the evil.
But, that we may the better understand these two VIEWS, or sights, we will give to EACH its parts,