On Saint Michael's Day.
Woe unto the world because of offenses: for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Matthew 18:7
These are the words of Jesus in today's holy gospel. He speaks in this place of all kinds of offenses, not only anger which is one offense when a person becomes angry, or with a devilishness makes other people angry, but by offenses in this place is to be understood all bad examples that take place in the world, like drinking, cursing, finery, foolishness, riotous living, and more of the same kind. For example, when children hear their parents curse, they are offended in that in this way, that they learn to curse; and this offense is one terrible sin, if the parents themselves curse within hearing of the children. If children hear other older people speak filthy tales, the children are offended in this in such a way that they imitate the older ones' offensive speech. If children see older people raving while drunk, there comes a great offense to the children of that, because they imitate the drunken sots' speech and actions. And still more horrible is this offense, if their own parents go before the children with such an evil example, because a child's mind is inclined so soon to that which is evil, but a person is slow to learn that which is good. We have seen sorrowless parents who want to teach their children to live virtuously. We have seen how even sorrowless parents are horrified when their children go into the company of fools and mockers, and learn from them to curse and practice all kinds of devilishness which causes sorrow to the parent, how they do harm to the parent and cause severe pain to the parent's heart. Sorrowless parents, who want to live a little more meekly, try in all kinds of ways to prevent this, that their children would not go into the company of fools and mockers. But what does it help? The parents cannot be so watchful that the fools would not get to entice or allure them; therefore Jesus says: "Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" Woe to that man who goes with a bad example before children, because Jesus says: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." Here is proclaimed a terrible judgement to all fools and mockers who go around the corner and sneer; this terrible judgement is proclaimed to them; for them is the millstone prepared. But certainly not even for the sorrowless parents will it be more tolerable, although they at times scold the children when they come from the other house where the fools and mockers are gathered; nevertheless they do not show a good example to the children as long as they themselves drink, curse, fight, babble worldly trash, slander Christians, and quarrel amongst themselves; to such parents the Saviour has said: "Ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."
"Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" And what do sorrowless parents do other than offend their children when they deprive their children of Christianity? They themselves drink, curse and fight, nor do they hide everything from the children's eyes, though they live so ungodly. Yet they deprive their children of Christianity. They also teach their children to mock Christians. Do you not think, unfortunate parents, that the millstone is prepared for you? Do you not believe that the devil will drown you in the depths of the sea? You yourselves do not want to go into the kingdom of heaven, neither will you permit your children to go there. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" Think now, unfortunate parents, what the children learn at the liquormerchant's house, where all the fools and drunkards gather; there they fornicate, there they curse, there they carouse, there they vomit and there they sing drunkard's songs. But not even the liquor merchant thinks that they receive to themselves enjoyable fruit of their children when they learn all kinds of evil and foolishness in the saloon; finally the liquormerchant himself also becomes a drunkard and just then shows the children a beautiful example. Their own children finally must curse such parents, as the Saviour says, "Your children must be your judges."
"Woe unto the world because of offenses! but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" Now life is so sorrowless in the world, that the meek devil himself is horrified by the rough and terrible living. But what does it help that a few meek parents counsel their children to meekness, as meekness will help neither them nor their children into the kingdom of heaven? Some sorrowless parents scold their children for cursing, fighting, drinking, and gathering with mockers, but these meek parents have never shown their children how true penitence and repentance take place. The children have not heard the sorrowless parents sigh under the burden of sin; the children have not seen the sorrowless parents weep for themselves and for their children as Jesus has advised them. How then can the children remember how the parents have been in true sorrow for their souls' salvation? This place would have been a good example to the children, if the children would have seen tears of penitence flowing from the parents' eyes; if they would have heard how heavily the parent sighs, and how fervently the parent has prayed to God in behalf of his children. But sorrowless parents have not done any of these, but only this has remained in the child's memory that the parents have scolded in anger and whipped the children, and have lived contrary to their teaching. In this place also has come only an offense, when for example one sorrowless parent curses his neighbor in anger and spanks his children for cursing; or if one sorrowless parent scolds the children for drinking, and nevertheless is himself drunk as a pig; or if he disciplines the children for stealing and he himself steals; or if one sorrowless parent reproves his children for fighting, and nevertheless he himself fights with his neighbor when old Adam rises. Such teaching is not upbuilding to children, but offensive. Therefore the Saviour says: "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea."
By the grace of God we must consider who it is, the Christians or the sorrowless, who are the worst offenders of these innocent children who believe upon Jesus. But we must first ask for wisdom from on high, that this explanation of God would be upbuilding to those souls who want to receive the right enlightenment and the right understanding. But we know that the Saviour was not able to open the understanding of the disciples to understand Scriptures until on Easter day, when they were in great sorrow and longing after the Saviour. Then the explanation of God's word was also necessary for them. But before, when even they, wretches, were in sorrowlessness and dead faith, no matter how much Jesus would speak to them of His suffering and death, it was hidden from them. It did as much good as if He would preach to that wall so it would answer. So much even now does the explanation of God's word affect the sorrowless. Yet they do not believe anyway, before their consciences awaken, that God's word is explained rightly to them, because the sorrowless throng and grace thieves are offended by right speech; but may it be upon their conscience until their conscience awakens. We know that Jesus' sorrowful disciples are not offended by right speech, and we pray in their behalf that the Lord Jesus would open their understanding to understand the Scriptures. Hear, dear Heavenly Parent, the sighs of the sorrowful, penitent, and believing ones! Our Father, which art in the heavens.
Gospel: Matthew 18:6,7.
When sorrowless and grace thieves take false consolation from today's holy gospel and turn this Scriptural passage entirely perversely, we must through the grace of God consider, who is it who offends those who believe in Him.
First consideration: Do the Christians offend the consciences of the sorrowless and grace thieves?
Second consideration: Do the sorrowless and grace thieves offend the consciences of the children of God?
So that not even one of those little ones who believe in Jesus would become offended, that is the text of our sermon, and they who become offended, may they yet become even worse. This is a true saying.
First consideration: Do the sorrowless and grace thieves become offended at the Christians' speech and Christians' movements? Answer: they do. All sorrowless and grace thieves say that they become offended at the Christians' speech and Christians' movements. And that faith the world's lords have also, that the sorrowless become offended at the Christians' speech and Christians' movements. Therefore a great gulf is now fixed between them, both here and also in eternity, although the sorrowless do not believe it, that he ends up in one place and the Christians in a different place. But when the sorrowless have said that they become offended at the Christians' movements, they must go to a different place, because sorrowless are not able to be in that place where the Christians are. They must go away and separate from God's children when they cannot lap Christians' blood. Sorrowless and grace thieves have now the belief that they are those little ones who believe upon Jesus and from that side they turn this word against the Christians: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea. See now! how the devil opened their understanding to rightly understand the Scriptures. Now are the sorrowless and grace thieves those small breast-fed children who believe upon Jesus, and Christians are enemies who offend such breast-fed children. Oh, how nicely the prince of this world now supposedly expounds Scriptural passages! Only that the devil would not make a new; whip for his tail. But we let it be so now, that sorrowless and grace thieves become offended at the Christians' speech and Christians' movements. It is also believable that they become offended at the Christians' speech, because the Jews were also offended at the speech of Jesus. Lawyers also were offended at His speech; they said to Him: You ridicule us also with that speech. And Pharisees were offended not only by the howling of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Leper, but also by children crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David." Thus it is surmised that the Jews, lawyers and Pharisees of today become offended by the Christians' speech, the sinful woman's howling, and the crying of the breast-fed children. But how does it now happen when all the Jews, lawyers and Pharisees end up in a different place just because of this offense? They do not come to that place at all where the Christians are. If now the Christians come to the kingdom of heaven, the sorrowless go to hell along with the grace thieves who believe that they are the breastfed children, and they must go away from the company of the Christians just because of the movements. And where do they go then? If the Christians are in heaven, the grace thieves do not want to be there, but they must go away. And where do they go? The pope's faith has three places where people can go after death, namely the first is the kingdom of heaven, the second is hell or the place of torment, and the third is the middle place, which is not heaven nor hell but halfway between. But Luther took away this middle place entirely, and said: Heaven or hell, there is no third place. Where do present day Jews then go when they are offended at movements. They do not want to go to heaven if the Christians are there; they do not want to go to hell if devils are there. For them finally there is no place anywhere, not in heaven nor in hell, and they nevertheless must depart from this world when death comes to take them. They must leave against their knowledge and against their will, no matter how they kick against it.
But are they, the sorrowless and grace thieves, now those little breast-fed children of whom Jesus has said: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." Are the sorrowless and grace thieves those little breast-fed children, those whom the Christians offend by their speech and movements? If the Christians would know that, that they are those little breast-fed children, the Christians would by no means offend them; but when sorrowless show both by speech and works that they are the devil's breast-fed children whose paps they suckle, thus the Christians cannot be without offending them, especially when they know that God has placed enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, Christians cannot be without offending the serpent's seed; they thrust the rod of Moses into the serpent's nest. If now the sorrowless are offended from this, they can accuse their Creator, who has placed this enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The seed of the woman does not give the seed of the serpent peace as long as they live together upon the earth, and therefore the father serpent and mother serpent now become terribly angry with the Christians who do not give their offspring peace. But has the Saviour denied that Christians cannot offend even one of these little breast-fed children, who suckle at the paps of the devil? I think that Christ has spoken of those little ones who believe upon Him, who are so small that they fit into the lap of the Heavenly Parent and nurse at His breasts. Jesus has spoken nothing of the devil's breast-fed children who suckle dragon's poison from the devil's paps, but He has spoken of such little ones who nurse from His breast and hang on His neck. And thus as it touches the dragon's heart if someone pushes his breast-fed children into hell, so it also touches the heart of the Heavenly Parent if someone offends His breast-fed children.
Second consideration: Do the Christians become offended by the lives of the sorrowless?
Certainly they become offended by their ungodly life, not so much for their own part, but for their children who see bad examples from the world and learn from the sorrowless to ridicule the Christians, learn to curse, learn to steal, learn to drink, learn to avoid the eyes of the parents, learn to become mischievous and deceitful. Behold, this is now the place of which Christ has spoken: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Christians are not offended so much of this, that pagans hate and persecute them, neither do Christians become offended of this, that they get to stand in the place where the women stand who have not been taken into the church, because Christians know that they will otherwise be taken into the church as a bride — and yet until evening they stand there. But this offends the Christians' consciences when deceivers and fools entice their children by their bad example. Just this place is a tender place in the Parent's heart. The devil cannot hurt the Parent's heart worse than in this way, that he entices and allures the youngest child of the Heavenly Parent into sin. Woe, Woe, what sorrow comes to the Heavenly Parent from this matter; how the heart of the Heavenly Parent became sore when the youngest and dearest child became unfortunate because of these deceivers and fools. Fools become happy from this, that they were able to wound the Parent's heart. If he would bark at the Parent as a whore, thief, deceiver, devil, Satan and wild spirit, it would not touch the heart of the Parent as much as this devilish guile, through which he makes the Parent's youngest child unfortunate in time and eternity. In this place the words of Jesus now belong: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, etc." He who entices the innocent ones into sin, he becomes the devil and Satan. So David said to one man who incited him to avenge his enemy! Will you make Satan of me today? And just what is one tempter, one enticer, other than Satan, who entices and allures innocent ones to sir. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! But woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. It were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." But deceivers and fools only laugh when they are able themselves to do evil, and yet incite innocent children to commit evil. No matter is so horrible. Nothing does so much hurt to the heart of the Parent as this enticement of innocent children into evil. In this place the Parent's heart is so tender that He would sooner suffer many kinds of trials and troubles Himself than allow fools and deceivers to entice the children into evil. Do you not see now, parents, at which place the Parent's heart is tender? Do you not see now, you sorrowless parents, what a terrible punishment rests upon you, when you go before your children with bad examples,and you make your children two-fold more the children of hell than yourself. Do you not see now around whose neck the millstone should be hung? Obviously you think that you are those breast-fed children who the Christians must not offend, but you yourselves are those Pharisees who became offended at the children's crying, when they cried: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Yours are the necks of the millstone, of which Satan has made flour. If you would know what terrible responsibility is upon you, you would immediately make repentance in sackcloth and ashes, but now it is hidden from your eyes. "Your children must be your judges," says Jesus. Your own children must testify against you on judgement day, that you have led your children to hell, and then you must say: "Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck." And you must cry "to the mountains, fall upon us; and to the hills, cover us." Amen.