Candlemas Day, Sermon A.
"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?" Malachi 3:2.
Thus the prophet Malachi writes in today's epistle; he writes of Christ's coming but his words are so terrible that all should fear that Christ is not so merciful as the sorrowless and grace thieves imagine. "Who may abide the day of His coming?" That is, who is able to stand before Him when He comes? All grace thieves imagine that Christ is so merciful that He will cast no one into hell. But in these aforementioned words of the prophet Malachi is heard of a terrible severity being with Christ, when he doubts that not many can stand before Him. For He is like a silver refiner's fire and like a fuller's soap. "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver." The sons of Levi are priests of the Old Testament, and it sounds from the threatening words of the prophet that Christ intends to try the priests especially, how they have gone before the blind people with false doctrine and an offensive example. We know also from the writings of the ewangelists that He reproached and severely rebuked the high priests, scribes and Pharisees, and threatened them with terrible judgement and punishment. But if the chief priests would have preached the true doctrine and the right order to the people, Christ would not have judged the priests so severely. But the sorrowless people would have received severe judgement. Although Christ yet condemned that sorrowless people and salted all as a whole when awakening did not come to many from His preaching, how can we await that the sorrowless people should awaken from our preachings when the Son of God Himself was not able to awaken the hardened ones, and who was so powerful to preach repentance to the sorrowless people. It sounds from this, that not even God Himself can awaken the hardened from the sleep of sin. John the Baptist had already for several years preached repentance, nor was there any better awakening than what the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate, that some confessed their sins and allowed themselves to be baptized unto repentance. And they who awakened from John's sermons of repentance became Jesus' disciples and went to school, but how many of them were there compared to that great multitude who came and listened to the sermons of Jesus? It is mentioned that there were 70 disciples and 12 apostles who always followed Him. And not even they had yet truly awakened until just after the Saviour's death, when they received true sorrow when they no longer had refuge in the world or in heaven, but to hell they had to turn their hope. Such is the true awakening which the disciples had after the Savior's death. That awakening is not befitting which had come to some from the law sermons of John the Baptist, that they confessed their sins, as the grace thieves think, as a whole or in one lump. Although we have that faith, that they confessed especially those committed sins, but in that awakening they did not weep nor lament as the disciples of Jesus did on Easter day, nor did anyone become pricked in the heart as some did on Pentecost. Such then is the true awakening. Not one before that awakening lamented that his heart was hard and sore, no one else but that sinful woman in the house of Simon the leper, who wept on His feet, and, who knows, that palsied man who was carried to Jesus, Zaccheus, who promised to repay his wrong doing four-fold, and the woman of Canaan who had such a firm faith. All others who cried out, "Jesus, Son of David" and "Jesus, dear Master" were only in natural distress, and because of natural distress they came to Jesus, but natural distress has only very seldom effected true awakening. Therefore it is not strange that Christ was so severe at barking and condemning almost the whole nation, as the prophet Malachi has written of Christ many years before: "Who may abide the day of His coming?" Who can stand before Him when He is so severe in judging? Unrepentant sinners cannot stand before Him, when He comes again to judge the quick and the dead. Only those few souls who have felt that they cannot stand before Him with self righteousness, and so have, with old Simeon, awaited the consolation of Israel and finally been able to embrace Him; they can go to death with joy. Pray, all you who await the consolation of Israel, that He would soon come into the temple, that you could see the Lord Christ before you go to taste death. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 2: 22-32.
We heard from the above-read holy gospel, that the old Simeon was awaiting the consolation of Israel, and had also received that assurance from the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord Christ. We must therefore observe how many now await the consolation of Israel?
The first consideration: Do the sorrowless await the consolation of Israel? No, for in Simeon's time it was not heard that the sorrowless would have awaited a spiritual Saviour, but they surely awaited a natural Saviour, whom they thought would soon come to deliver them from natural distress. A sorrowless person also feels natural lacking and imperfection, as sickness, poverty, slavery, lack of money, but he does not believe that this want comes from his own foolishness and lack of right Christianity, he does not believe that the devil makes him poor. The Jews had such a faith that when the Messiah comes, he will deliver them not only from under the power of the Romans, but would also win over the whole world under Him and make all rag devils rich. And the sorrowless people of this world still await that same thing, namely, a natural Saviour who would be so rich that the sorrowless would not have to pay their debts, but would receive everything free. Such a Saviour who would feed them free of charge, and would allow them to drink rum and punch and whiskey, as much as would possibly go down the throat, such a one would be the very best Saviour. When Jesus had once fed 5,000 men free of charge, then this sorrowless nation wanted to make Him a king. In Simeon's time others did not await the consolation of Israel, no others awaited a spiritual Saviour than only this Simeon and Anna the Prophetess. Others do not await a spiritual Saviour, than only the truly awakened, who cannot live without a Saviour, they have a distressful desire after a Saviour. At this time there are not many souls who await the consolation of Israel with all their heart.
The second consideration: Do the grace thieves await the consolation of Israel? No, for they have that faith, that they have already found the Saviour, but what kind of a Saviour have they found? The disciples had no distress before the Saviour's death, but they truly believed upon the visible Saviour, they believed that after a short time He would become the King of Israel. They were so attached to the world that they could not await nor hope for anything else than only a natural Saviour, through whom they would become rich and become lords of the world. With that faith they became grace thieves, that they were so attached to the world, as the grace thieves of this time, who do not want to repay their wrong doings. The honor of the world is so great with grace thieves, that they do not want to confess their sins; they do not want to be reconciled with their neighbor. For that reason grace thieves await such a Saviour who permits them into heaven with their possessions and honor. They imagine that they have already found the true Saviour, but it is a false Saviour upon whom they believe, neither do they know the Father or His Son. And surely all the sorrowless and hardened ones would go to heaven with their honor and wrong substance, so that the devil of honor nor the devil of greed would have to go out of the heart. Therefore we see that there are not many who await the consolation of Israel. No others but Simeon and Anna the Prophetess, no others than truly awakened people, who feel that without a Saviour they will go to hell. They await that blessed moment that they could see the Lord Christ before they die. Some sorrowless depend upon that penitence, which should come to them before they die. But this trust is a false hope, and the devil has given them this assurance. But Simeon had the assurance of the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord Christ, and he came into the church from the effect of the Spirit, at the same time as Mary came with the child into the church, and he could see the Lord Christ, and through this seeing he became prepared for death. Come now, Simeon and Anna, when Christ is carried into the temple; come now to see how beautiful He is; come and see before you die, so that you can die with joy, from beholding the Son of God. Amen.