Candlemas Second Sermon.
"For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job 19: 25, 26.
When that holy man Job was in great pain and tribulation because of the trying of his faith, Job's friends reproached Job of an ungodly life, although outwardly he had shown himself to be pious and godly, as the servants of self righteousness usually have the faith that God does not trouble His children without reason in that way. The servants of self-righteousness have such a faith that if a Christian has to suffer something in this world, he has certainly well merited it. The friends of Job had such a faith that Job was a secret evildoer, although his outward life was pious and blameless. But Job had a clean conscience; he could not take such false reproach upon his conscience from the servants of self righteousness, but took refuge in God, knowing well that they who want to live in a godly manner in the world can suffer much from the children of the world because of righteousness. And at the same time Job's faith was strengthened, when even those best friends came upon him with false accusations. In that Job's faith became stronger, that even though God sometimes allows His children to become tempted by the devil for the trying and strengthening of their faith, nevertheless there is one God in heaven who sees and knows the troubles of a Christian when he is persecuted for righteousness sake. Upon that firm confidence Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And although after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." This great grace also happened to Job that he, in his flesh, saw God. From this we hear first that the servants of self righteousness want to reprove Christians of such sins which they themselves commit, although the servants of self righteousness are pious in their own opinion. Second, when God places some pain or tribulation upon a Christian as a trial of faith and for an example of patience, then the servants of self-righteousness think that the Christians have well merited such punishment. To some joy even comes over a Christian's misfortune, when Christians can suffer because of their faith and because of conscience. Job's friends had such a thought that Job was a secret evildoer, that otherwise God would not have allowed Job to be so terribly tempted and troubled by the devil, unless he had been a great sinner and evildoer. But we hear both from the book of Job and from other places in the Bible, that Job was set as an example of patience for all saints, and that God allowed this man to be tempted by the devil to show the devil and the world that a child of God does not give up his faith, no matter how he would be tempted by the world and the devil. But a Christian's faith is even strengthened more through such trials, partly that a Christian comes to know himself better through such trials, and partly that a Christians faith is strengthened through trial. The devil of self-righteousness says, "Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." Satan thought that Job would yet give his faith to Satan when he had to suffer something for righteousness sake. That devil who is the accuser of God's children thought that if Job gives up his faith and blesses God before the eyes, that is, blasphemes God when he is more severely tempted and troubled because of his faith, and so even now all the devil's angels think that this Christianity is only hypocrisy and put-on piety. The devil's angels have the same intention as that chief devil who tempted Job, that if these awakened ones also, who make themselves to be and say they are Christians, would be tempted and have to suffer some tribulation for the sake of Christianity, certainly they would soon cease howling and barking at people, and would become the same as other people of the world.
But the devil had the same thought about Job, that he would give up his faith and become like a devil. What did the devil win from Job? Has the devil rightly known Job's heart? Has the devil rightly surmised when he thought that Job feared God because of the recompense, and that Job was a hypocrite and sanctimonious? Did not the devil become deceived and a liar in that place? Who knows how it will go with those angels of the devil, who during these times rejoice over the fall of Christians and over the misfortunes of Christians, and say, "Skin for skin. These false prophets who call themselves Christians will become beautiful. Let them become tempted a little, then you will certainly see them begin to blaspheme God before your eyes." But do not rejoice too soon, you devil's angel; it will not be any easier for you even if all the Christians were killed. The tribulation in hell will not be any easier, even if all the Christians would fall and become like you. But the devil's joy over the misfortune of a Christian is as cursed as serpent's tears are cursed. The devil has not often been overtaken in a lie, but there, in Job's case, the devil became a liar. He thought Job would give up his faith and become like the devil, but the devil became a liar. It is certain all the angels of the devil hope the same thing which the devil himself hoped of Job, that the Christians would become the same kind as they are. They have not yet ceased hoping, although they know that in Job's time their father, the devil, became a liar. But now the Christians can have a comforting and upbuilding example of Job's faith and patience, when they see that a Christian does not therefore give up his faith, even if he is tempted by the devil and troubled in behalf of body. The faith of a true Christian is strengthened through this, that he is persecuted for righteousness sake. Then with better confidence than before he can say to the servant of self-righteousness, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." And as that saint Job had received that blessed assurance, that in his flesh he shall see God, so also old Simeon had received that assurance from the Holy Spirit that he should not taste death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And the same assurance is given even yet to all the sorrowful, penitent, and doubting souls who await the consolation of Israels that they shall see the Lord's Christ before they leave the world. But in that seeing is needed the same kind of patience in tribulation as Job, the same kind of waiting and longing after the Lord's Christ as Simeon, for no one can receive that assurance from the Holy Spirit that he shall see God in the flesh, who has not awaited the consolation of Israel in sorrow, penitence, and faith. And those few souls who await the consolation of Israel in spiritual poverty, and who have the heartfelt desire that they can see Christ before they die, will soon receive that blessed assurance from the Spirit that they will not taste of death before they have seen the Lord's Christ in the flesh. They must also come into the temple through the effect of the Spirit, in that covenant when the Lord's Christ is carried in there. You sorrowful, penitent and doubting ones, have you waited a long time in spiritual poverty for the consolation of Israel? Have you received that assurance from the Holy Spirit that you shall see Christ? And you few souls who have seen Christ and carried Him in your arms, pray as old Simeon, "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all the people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Hear thou Consolation of Israel, the sigh of all the sorrowful, penitent, doubting and believing. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 2: 22-32.
The evangelist Luke has written in today's gospel that old Simeon was ready to die when he had seen the Lord's Christ. In accordance with that, we shall through God's grace observe how a Christian leaves this world with joy when he has been able to see the Saviour of the world.
We hear that old Simeon was ready to die when he had seen the Saviour of the world. But he was one of those few who awaited the consolation of Israel. At that time many awaited the consolation of Israels but they awaited for a natural saviour who should help them in all natural distress. The lords of the world, Pharisees, scribes, and elders of the people awaited a change in the government, for they had come under the rule of a pagan government, and in their estimation it was a great shame that God's people had to be under a pagan government. Their power and honor became lessened thereby, when they had to be subjects of a pagan government. The rich of the world awaited a natural saviour who would become their king, that they too could get to eat and to be like lords at the king's table. But especially the poor of the world awaited a natural saviour to come soon to feed them free of charge. All, therefore, awaited the coming of the promised Saviour, but not for the reason that they would have had a fear of hell. They did not have such a feeling that without the Saviour they would perish eternally; but they had such an intention that they all would become lords and rich men in the kingdom of the Messiah. They had such a hope that they would become free of all taxes and burdens in the kingdom of the Messiah. They had such a trust that they would all become rich and gain worldly honor when the Messiah comes. The Jews did not think that a spiritual Saviour was more necessary than a natural one. And how did they, who no doubt were holy and pious, know to await a spiritual Saviour. They had no doubt of their salvation like the penitent have; they did not have fear of death, judgment and eternal destruction as the doubting ones usually have, for they have such a conscience that all the people are holy, and that all will reach the bosom of Abraham. But Simeon was one of those who awaited the consolation in a spiritual sense; he awaited a spiritual Saviour who would save the people from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He felt that he needed a spiritual Saviour, and also saw that the whole country had sunk into the corruption of sin. He awaited such a Saviour who could save the souls of the people. He saw that the people had a terrible and ungodly life, and if a change did not come soon in the faith and life of the people, then every single soul would be lost. Because of this matter he awaited a spiritual Saviour who would have the spiritual power to awaken that ungodly people from their sorrowlessness and to effect a change in the faith and life of the people. And from where did old Simeon receive that enlightenment that a spiritual Saviour was more necessary than a natural Saviour? And from where did he conclude this, that the Messiah was a spiritual Saviour, when all others awaited a natural Saviour? This enlightenment he had received from the Holy Spirit. As the Jews then awaited a natural Saviour, who would make them rich men and lords, so even now the sorrowless yet await a natural Saviour who would make them rich men and lords, for the sorrowless do not feel that they need a spiritual Saviour. The Saviour of a sorrowless person is in the world. There is his god. But a penitent person would soon fall into doubt if he were not told that a Saviour is found, and although he always awaits the appearing of the Saviour, however he needs the assurances of the Holy Spirit that he shall not taste of death until he has seen the Lord's Christ. He who has not had such an assurance from the Holy Spirit cannot come into the temple through the effect of the spirits into that very covenant when Christ is carried into the temple. Although all the sorrowless say that they have received such an assurance that they also shall see Christ before they die, when death comes then they must confess that they must go to hell. From where then had this assurance come that they shall see Christ before they die, since on the death bed they must confess that they have not seen Christ? So all the sorrowless have confessed on the death bed that Christ is far from them, and that they must go to eternity without seeing Christ. It must have been the wrong spirit which formerly revealed to them that they shall not taste of death before they see the Lord's Christ. The spirit of falsehood certainly preaches thus to the sorrowless, "God has not created us for destruction; surely we, too, will become saved if it is God's will that we shall become saved." One priest has written that God would not be almighty if He were not able to draw those up from hell who fall in there, and all sorrowless believe that he is quite the spiritual pastor who so preaches that all who fall into hell will be able to get up from there. If he had written that God would not be almighty, if He would not be able to draw those up from hell who have fallen there in this time of grace, then it would be more possible to believe his doctrine, although the Bible shows that God has not been able to draw up even all of those who have fallen into hell in this time of grace. Namely, Judas in this time of grace had already fallen into hell when the conscience awakened, but Judas was so heavy that God was not able to draw him up. Although that is impossible for the intellect to believe that God was not able to draw Judas up from hell, nevertheless it has so happened. But God was able to pull Peter up out of hell. Some sorrowless believe that even Judas is in the kingdom of heaven, but not all sorrowless are able to believe that.
Since now the matter is such that even the sorrowless imagine that they receive that assurance from the Holy Spirit that they shall not see death until they have seen the Lord's Christ, then it is necessary to consider the spirits, for many sorrowless base their salvation upon this, that they have received such an assurance that they will not see death until they have seen Christ. And that spirit, which has given them such an assurance, has been a lying spirit. Since they must confess on their death bed that they have not seen Christ, and that they must go to eternity without seeing Christ, then it is necessary to consider in what way old Simeon had received such an assurance from the Holy Spirit that he shall see Christ before he dies. First the evangelist says that "he awaited the consolation of Israel." Assuredly, that man was sorrowful since he awaited consolation. And he was so sorrowful that he no longer found consolation in the world. But the sorrowless have never became so sorrowful that they would have doubted of their salvation, for they have always found some consolation in the world. Some have found consolation in the liquor flask, some have found consolation in adultery, some in greed or the money chest, some in finery, some in honor of the world. Nor has such a distress ever come to the sorrowless that all consolation would have ended in the world. But old Simeon did not find consolation in the world, since he began to await consolation from above. There now is the reason why the sorrowless cannot see Christ. Such a sorrow never comes to them that all consolation in the world ends. Like the Jews they always await a natural Saviour, and that they can find in the world. But the penitent, who are in such heavy sorrow that they no longer can find any consolation on the earth, begin to await the consolation of Israel from heaven, and in that awaiting, in that heavy sighing, they can sometimes receive that assurance from the Holy Spirit that they shall not see death before they have seen the Lord's Christ. And I believe that everyone, when he has received such an assurance from the Holy Spirit, will also come into God's temple through the effect of the spirit, into that very covenant when Christ is carried in there. There he can take the Son of God into his arms, and His mother will also willingly allow it, that such ones who in sorrow and spiritual poverty await the consolation of Israel, can take her Son into their arms and look at His bright eyes, His sweet mouth, His snow white and innocent hands. But the sorrowless do not care to take the Son of God into their arms, for they keep Him as an offspring of a whore.
Is there now here some old Simeon or Anna, the Prophetess, who would take the Son of God into their arms? Is there here some virgin Mary, who with such love and a mother's heart could take care of that beautiful Son of God, who smiles in His mother's arms when she talks to Him? The mother of God would probably not dare to give her son to such ones who want to kill Him, nor to such ones either who because of unbelief tremble so exceedingly that they would drop her son to the ground. The mother of God would probably not dare to give her son to such ones who have hands cold as ice. The Son of God would shudder if he would be left in the clutches of such who have hands as cold as ice. Nor would the mother of God dare to give her son to such people who have hard hands, who cannot even hold their own children. But to such ones the mother of God would willingly give her Son who, with a sorrowful and penitent heart, await the consolation of Israel, and have already before received such an assurance from the Holy Spirit that they shall not taste of death until they had seen the Lord's Christ. Come now, old Simeon, if you have a desire to see Christ before death. Come now, Anna the Prophetess, to speak of Him to all those who await the consolation of Israel in Jerusalem. Come now, virgin Mary, into God's temple, when the days of your purification are accomplished. Come now, all children from Bethlehem, before you are slain; come now, all chickadees, swallows, and young of the dove, to look at that tiny Son of God, and say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Amen.