Second Rogation Day
God does not wish that even one sinner would die, but the will of God is that everyone who has life and spirit should turn and come to the knowledge of salvation. Ezekiel 33.
From these words of God we hear that God does not wish that a sinner die, but it is God's wish that people would come to the knowledge of salvation. He wants that a person should know salvation, not only to believe that it would be found, but he should himself feel and taste salvation. He should already here feel a foretaste of salvation and the power of the Christianity. And when God says through the prophet Ezekiel in the 33rd chapter, 11th verse, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked," so it is to be surmised that God does not wish that one penitent sinner would sink into hell; but it is God's will that an ungodly one would be lifted up from hell. But not one wants to become lifted up from hell before he feels that he has fallen into hell. A sorrowless person of the world does not know that he is ready to fall into hell before his conscience awakens. But an awakened person has that fear that he will fall into hell, and when he yet feels the burning of the conscience, or a foretaste of hell, then the Lord says: God does not wish that a sinner die, but that the sinner would turn from his way and come into the knowledge of salvation. But many an awakened person does not dare to believe that God can lift him up from hell. An awakened person certainly believes that there is a hell which, in the state of sorrowlessness, he has not felt. When he feels the curse of the law, just then he begins to believe that there is a hell, but he no longer believes what God has said, that the kingdom of heaven is also found, and that God does not want the death or destruction of a sinner, but He wants that a sinner should come into the knowledge of salvation. And since it is now God's will that the penitent ones must be helped up from hell, that they must taste of grace, then I would be cursed if, through the curse of the law. I would want to press those souls even deeper into hell, who have been pressed into hell through the accusation of the conscience. But through the gospel, I want to comfort the sorrowful as much as I can and am able, as I know how merciful the Saviour is toward the penitent ones. Whenever He feels the least beginning of penitence, to them He proclaims the forgiveness of sins. Truly not many, to whom He promised grace, have been in such deep penitence that they would have fallen into doubt; and I think that not one penitent sinner needs to fall into doubt, if that self-righteousness were not so terrible great, but that self-righteousness is so great, that not one can by-pass that slough which is called the bog of doubt. And certainly the first Christians did not have such great doubt as it appears some now have, but it probably comes from that, that they did not have so much of that self-righteousness. They, on the contrary, had stronger faith, and following that also a greater spiritual joy, a stronger feeling of grace, and a more burning love. It was also one sign of grace in them that they were merciful. Their hearts were not so attached to the world as our hearts are. The world appears to be dear even to those whose hearts have been whipped. If the heart would have become loosed from the world, certainly the poor would be helped. But the law by itself cannot kill the devil of greed, for the law cannot give life. When a person is not yet assured of that, that he is a child of God, or as long as a person yet fears that he will fall into hell, love of the world wants to be attached to the heart. He does not want to lose either the world or heaven. But if a penitent sinner becomes assured of that, that he is a child of God, assuredly he becomes better loosed from the world and from the chains of the devil, if his faith is living. But dead faith does not release anyone from love of the world. Whosoever has dead faith, he loves both the things of the world and his own flesh. If the love of the flesh is greater than the love of possessions, he places all his possessions into his own throat and thinks, "It is better to eat and drink than to save." If he loves his possessions more than his own flesh, then he gathers as much possessions as possible, and does not dare to feed himself. Some gather possessions both by right means and by crookedness, so that they could waste it on drinking parties and other parties, and in that way gain worldly honor. But I think that a Christian's heart would become better loosed from the world, when through living faith he begins to believe and feel that he is a child of God. What does he need his possessions for, when his soul is in heaven? Who knows, someone might want to turn the question around and ask, what does he do with possessions, who feels himself comdemned to hell? But the matter is not so, he who is in hell wants to gather even more possessions, although it does not help him, for the Saviour says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." But if a person's best treasure is in heaven, then his heart has become somewhat loosed from the world. Therefore, we believe that a person's heart does not become loosed from the world, even if his soul were in hell, but then he becomes loosed from the world when his soul is in heaven. And in accordance with this, doubting souls should be lifted up from doubt, if it were in man's power; and the sorrowless slaves of the world should be pressed into doubt if it were in man's power, but neither, are possible for a person, though before God nothing is impossible. He can certainly plunge the hardened ones into hell and can raise up the doubting ones from hell. It is also our hope and our trust that the merciful Saviour can and wants to have mercy on the penitent and to help the doubting up, if they would only go along with, or with patience await, until redemption comes. Oh, Lord, do not cease chastizing the hard of hearing until the heart breaks; whip the hard hearts until they become tender. Squeeze the hardened until blood squirts from the mouth and nose, but help also with your grace those who are in distress, and heal the wounds of the heart with one drop of your innocent blood, that they would believe upon you, Lord, and become helped through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Father, etc.
The gospel: Luke 23:26. Since today's text speaks of grace and sets before the penitent that redemption which has happened through Christ, so today through God's grace we want to lead Jesus' crossbearers to the hill of Golgotha, showing first the road which goes through the city of corruption to the hill of Golgotha, and secondly, who it was who was required to carry the cross of Jesus, and third, how Jesus takes that cross upon Himself, which the crossbearer has carried when he comes to the hill of Golgotha.
We hear from the history of the passion of Christ that the crowd of the world took Jesus out to crucify Him when first He had been tortured, scourged, and blasphemed. He first bore His cross, but since Jesus was already so very tired in behalf of body that He was not able to go so quickly as the crowd of the world wished, then the crowd of the world took Simon the Syrenean by force and required him to carry the cross of Jesus. We hear, therefore, that the crossbearer is put by force and against his will to carry Jesus' cross. A person does not want to carry this cross in the first place. It is, namely, such a great shame before the world to bear the cross of Jesus; by bearing the cross man loses his honor. If it was a silver chest, or a broadcloth coat, or a bride's crown, certainly everyone would gladly carry it. But Jesus' cross, which is full of curses, upon which everyone spits, and which the respectable men of the world would not want to touch with the tip of the finger, is nevertheless at first heavy to bear, not because it is of itself too heavy, but because it is the cross of that Man who is blasphemed and despised by the world, and condemned as the greatest rogue. That man himself is beheld to be a scroundrel and a rogue, who takes care of the carcass of an executed scroundrel or rogue. He must be really poor and despised, who begins to carry such a Man's cross. He is no better than Him who is condemned to be crucified. In the cross of Jesus there is the hatred of the world, and the mockery of the world; there are all the curses of the world put together. And it would also be lighter if the road went through the lane or the woods in the wilderness where not one person would see. But that road where the crossbearer must travel goes through the city of corruption, where all meek whores spit upon the crossbearer, all innocent thieves bark at him, all merciful whiskey merchants throw mud upon the crossbearer, all the hounds of the city gather around him, and all the devil's angels laugh at him. This blasphemy and laughing of the children of the world becomes heavier for the crossbearer than the cross itself. Many a crossbearer thinks that Jesus has placed the cross upon him. But of that he feels badly, that it is the crowd of the world which by force makes him carry this cross. If Jesus Himself had placed this cross upon him, then the crossbearer could think that he will receive thanks from Jesus; but now he receives no thanks for that, but only sorrow and bitterness of mind. Although Jesus has said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," the crossbearer does not feel it to be easy or light, but it becomes very heavy and unbefitting, especially for the reason that Jesus has not placed that cross upon his shoulders, but the crowd of the world has by force required that he carry Jesus' cross. Some crossbearers think they will receive something for that, that they carry the cross of Jesus. They think and await that the Saviour must pay the crossbearer something for his trouble, but the crossbearer will get nothing for that trouble. He will not even receive thanks for that, and from the crowd of the world he will receive nothing but shame. Listen well, you crossbearers, you probably are in that faith that you have merited a great reward by carrying the cross. But you will not receive one penny for that, although many a crossbearer thinks that he almost merits life and salvation thereby. But he will receive nothing for his trouble, not as much as "a large thank you, dear Christian, for this trouble." And who must thank the crossbearer for that? Jesus has certainly not placed this cross upon him, but the crowd of the world has his own foster children whom he has suckled and brought up; his own home sins which he has loved: pride, greed, cursing, stealing adultery, anger, lying, love of the world, honor of the world, and self-righteousness. Look, those home sins are that crowd of the world which forces you to carry Jesus' cross, although you think that Jesus has placed His cross upon you. But it is not so, you have put the cross upon Jesus, but Jesus has not put it upon you. You have crucified the Saviour, but not the Saviour, you. You found your salvation upon bearing the cross, but do not found it upon that, but only upon the merits of Jesus. Some carry the cross of the world and found their salvation upon that, and think thus: since I have become poor, come into an unfortunate marriage, lain in sickness, lost my possessions through evil people, and suffered sorrow of the world, then I think that God must repay me a thousand fold for the temporal suffering, and give the joy of heaven because of all that trouble which I have suffered in the world. But if the crossbearers of the world become deceived when they take for themselves the wrong foundation of salvation, certainly the crossbearers of Jesus' cross will also become deceived, if they begin to build their salvation upon bearing the cross, and not only upon the merits of the Saviour. A person is not able to pay for his sins with his own strength, no matter how much he suffers, but Jesus has paid all sins, when He took the cross upon Himself, and allowed Himself to be crucified.
Namely, when the crossbearer through great tribulation and ado finally reaches the hill of Golgotha, then the cross is taken from his shoulders. Jesus then says to the crossbearer: Through your sins you have deserved to carry this cross into eternity, but I see that you, wretched sinner, are not able to carry this cross a league, much less into eternity. You are weary already a quarter of the way, and many times have become angry and struggled with impatience. How many times have you already become angry with the Saviour, who you think is the cause of that, that such a restlessness came upon you. Many times you have become angry with people, whom you have beheld to be evil when they began to trouble the old adam, and although it is only a quarter of a mile to the hill of Golgotha, you have become weary many times and grumbled and threatened to cast the cross off of yourself. Do not be so impatient, but carry this cross anyway until the time that it is taken away from you and is placed upon Jesus. Upon this cross tree Jesus, Himself, is now crucified, and upon that same tree all the blasphemies and cursings of the world are crucified, so that all honor of the crossbearer has ended. He keeps that as nothing, that people blaspheme him because of the Christianity. The hatred of the world effects nothing in the crossbearer, when he has reached the hill of Golgotha. But he has not yet become entirely free from the lust of the flesh before the flesh is crucified with Christ, together with the lusts and desires.
I now want to lead crossbearers to the hill of Golgotha. I want to say to them, "Lay down your burden on Golgotha's hill, where Jesus Himself is nailed to the cross, and suck the moisture of grace from His wounds! When you have become weary of bearing the cross, then lay down your cross at Jesus' side, that He Himself can bear it, you nevertheless are not able to carry it any farther."
Today's holy text means this, that the crossbearers must lay their burdens on Golgotha's hill, since St. Paul says, "Christ Jesus has given Himself for redemption in behalf of all." If self-righteousness were not such a hindrance, then assuredly everyone would believe these words and would take consolation for themselves from Christ's perfect merit, and would not doubt at all that his sins have been forgiven. But self-righteousness causes distress to many. Namely, they do not want to believe that the blood of the Saviour is the full price. Namely when sins become manifest, then a person wants to lessen them with his own repentance. He would want to become an angel and only then receive grace, but angels need no grace; they reach heaven with their own repentance and self-righteousness; they need not beg. Therefore I must say to those who do not want to flee to the Saviour as sinners: go, therefore, to heaven with your self-righteousness; reform your own heart. When the heart feels hard, soften it with liquor. When the heart feels cold, warm it with brandy. When the heart feels burning, take a coolant from the bottle. When the heart feels evil, make it good with devil's dung. If you do not receive that medication which flows from the Saviour's wounds, then take that medication which flows from the devil's wounds. Much pus flows from the devil's wounds these days; take medication from that if you do not care to suck the moisture of grace from the Saviour's wounds. From the wounds of one or the other you have to seek medication, since your heart is sore. The confessors of dead faith, whose hearts have never been sore, take a little pus from the devil's wounds and a little blood from the Saviour's wounds, and make from the two substances a mixture, and take of that in the evening and the morning as much as the heart needs. They do not know before the heart decays that in that mixture there are two portions of poison and a third portion of honey. Do not mix honey with poison, good people, but if the heart is sore, then take some drops of grace, pure and unmixed, which have flowed from the Saviour's wounds just for such ones whose hearts are sore. And those drops of grace are the best medicine for the wounded and broken hearts. Do not believe that the devil flees from the mixture, but the pure reconciling blood, pure grace, that is poison to the devil; he cannot even stand the smell of the blood of Jesus.
But these drops come only to the chickadees and the young of swallows, who shudder when thunder roars on Mount Sinai, and take refuge in the crevices of the living vine. For those who are hardly able to open their mouths this milk is prepared, and for those sick ones whose heart has become sore, this honey is to be poured; not to the young of the raven, who eat decayed flesh and not to the wolf whelps, who tear at lambs and suck people's blood; to them should be given poison, so that they would begin to smart everywhere. And the scorpions, who have sucked poison from honey, and have eaten salt from sugar, and sucked gall from sweets, to them must be given bitter medicine, that they would become purged and vomit out all that devilishness which they have swallowed. Some have such a hardened skin that they do not feel the chastisement of the Father. The more the Parent chastises, the more they harden. These hardened children tell the Parent: "Kill now! take my life also since you have taken my possessions." The cross of the world avails nothing to the hardened ones, so the Bible says that they bite their tongues because of the pain, but they, nevertheless, will not submit or pray, "Father, forgive me. I have been hard of hearing". On the contrary, they will not let out a sigh or allow a tear of penitence to fall from their eyes when the Father chastises them, but only threaten revenge when they grow bigger, so that they are able to strike the aged parent to the ground, and to trample on his breast. Is grace promised to such ones? Do they have a part in the reconciliation of Christ? It is true that the Parent's tears have flowed even for the hardened ones, though they mock the Parent's tears? Will not the Parent's tears someday burn their consciences? I fear that the Parent's tears will become hot upon the conscience, when they can see whom they have pierced.
Some laugh when the parents weep and say to the parent, "You do not need to weep over us. We have been meek and in all matters have fulfilled the Father's will. We have fed the poor and helped the needy; our conscience does not reprove us. We think that we have so lived that no one needs to reprove us of iniquity. Certainly God sees our innocence and will repay our honesty." Do such ones need grace, who have lived meekly? It is not very likely, for Pilate and all other meek pagans wash their hands in the water of innocence, and say, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person." It has been the pagans' belief that meek people become saved and that the ungodly go to perdition, and the same paganish faith is even yet in the skull of the meek ones. There are still some confessors of dead faith who say they do not depend on meekness, but on grace, although there is not much known of their lives, for they can certainly weep and laugh, bless and curse, love and fight, be honest and steal, drink and be sober, whatever is convenient. But if someone touches their old adam, then the serpent's tears begin to flow from their eyes. Are they Christians who do such deeds? However, salvation is not promised in the Book to such ones who steal grace with their own permission. I fear that distress will finally come to thieves of grace when their faith is stolen away. Now since there are wolf whelps here, young of the raven, grace thieves and small chickadees, we must distribute to each one according to their nature. Namely, to the wolf whelps poison; to the young of the raven, decayed flesh; to the grace thieves, a whip, and to the chickadees of grace, honey, so that not one would be left with little or without. But to those crossbearers who are in great pain and spiritual distress, that great Crossbearer has promised comfort and refreshment when they finally reach the hill of Golgotha. There they shall eat manna which rains from heaven, there they shall eat of the tree of life which is in Paradise, and their tears will be wiped away. May the Lord Jesus drip one drop of grace into the mouths of those who are hungry! And into the eyes of those who have been born blind, may eye salve be poured, that they could once see the light of God. Amen.