For true evangelical faith...cannot lay dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it...clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it.
Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing, 1539
Do sincerely repent, so that you stand before God; wail and weep with David; put on sackcloth and raiments of hair; scatter ashes upon your heads; humble yourselves with the king of Nineveh; confess your faults with Manasseh; die unto your ambitious flesh and pride; fear the Lord, your God, with all your powers; judge in all wisdom with fear and trembling; help the oppressed; grieve not the distressed; promote the just cause of the widows and orphans; protect the good; punish the evil in a christian manner; discharge the duties of your offices properly; seek the kingdom and country that will endure forever; and reflect that you, however highly esteemed, upon earth are only pilgrims and sojourners in a strange land.
But, as to the alms and support of the poor, I would say, that it is a good and praise-worthy work, and I cordially approve of it. Also, that many pious, gentile philosophers, as Aristotle, Plato, &c., have considered it as right and just. But we contradict that sincere and true repentance, or the true seed and foundation of sincere love, which is a fruit of true faith, consists there in; for we may give in hypocrisy, as well as in love, as may be seen by the Scribes and Pharisees, by the open heathens and daily, yet, by the papists.
Do not excuse yourselves, beloved sirs, and judges, that you are the servants of the emperor; this will not acquit you in the day of vengeance. It availed Pilate nothing that he crucified Christ in the name of the emperor. Serve the emperor in imperial matters, so far as Scripture permits, and serve God in divine matters, then you may claim his grace and call yourselves after his name.
Yes, beloved brothers, every one who is thus rightly taught of God, in this wisdom (for she is the wisdom of the saints), may glory, by the grace given them, over all graduated doctors, theologists, jurists, orators and poets, although he could neither write norspeak, and were he the most helpless upon earth. But all those who are not instructed in the wisdom from God, though they were as glorious as Solomon, as victorious as Alexander, as rich as Crosesis, as strong as Hercules, as learned as Plato, as subtle as Aristotle, as eloquent as Demosthenes and Cicero, and as well skilled in languages as Mithridates; yea, so greatly experienced that his like were not to be found from the beginning, nevertheless, he is a fool in the eyes of the Lord; this must be confessed.
Instantly you should awaken, walk in the right way, keep aloof from all abomination and idolatry, forsake false prophets, preachers and priests; and seek the true teachers, sacraments and divine service; for a true, sincere, Christian faith cannot be idle; but it changes, renews, purifies, sanctifies and justifies more and more; it makes joyous and glad, for by faith it knows that hell, devil, sin and death, are conquered through Christ, and that grace, mercy, and redemption from sin and eternal life, are acquired through him.
Yes, beloved lords, Can you thus convert yourselves with all your hearts? Can you change your hearts and humble yourselves before God? Deny yourselves, seek and follow Christ and his righteousness? Renounce the world and flesh with all its lusts, as you have heard? Then you will become, true, spiritual kings, and priests; then you will possess your souls in peace, gain the victory and conquest over all the deadly enemies of your souls; you will live and die in grave; then you may in truth, without any hypocrisy, be called Christian kings and believing princes. The testimony of Peter to all Christians, I say to all Christians, is true, "Ye are a chosen generation, a holy nation, a peculiar people," 1 Pet. 2: 9.
Behold, most beloved reader, thus true faith or true knowledge begets love, and love begets obedience to the commandments of God. Therefore Christ Jesus says, "He that believeth on him is not condemned." Again at another place, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life," Jn. 5:24. For true evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lay dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto flesh and blood; destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; cordially seeks, serves and fears God; clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable;aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it; teaches, admonished and reproves with the Word of the Lord; seeks that which is lost; binds up that which is wounded; heals that which is diseased and saves that which is sound. The persecution, suffering and anxiety which befalls it for the sake of the truth of the lord, is to it a glorious joy and consolation.
According to my first birth I am nothing but unclean slime and dust of earth, conceived and born in sin from my mother's womb, and educated all my life in all manner of ignorance, sin and blindness, until the clear light of grace and knowledge appeared unto me from high heaven and which has given me such a heart, will and desire, that I willingly seek after that which is good, and strive, with holy Paul to "follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus," Phil. 3: 12.
I have, from the beginning of my ministration, fraternally warned them in my writings in faithful, unadulterated truth, from my soul, against the corruption of their souls; admonished them to a godly, penitent, Christian life; pointed them with the Scriptures to the unblamable Spirit, word, commandments, prohibitions, ordinances and example of Christ; and, when your proposed your Pharisaical, Herodian question concerning the Magistracy, I said nothing more to your than that it would hardly become a true, Christian ruler to shed blood, for this reason: If the transgressor should truly repent before his God, and be born of him, he would then also be a chosen saint and child of God, a fellow partaker of grace, a spiritual member of the Lord's body sprinkled with his precious blood, and anointed with his Holy Ghost, a living grain of the bread of Christ, and an heir to eternal life, and for such an one to be hanged on the gallows, put on the wheel, placed upon the funeral-pile, or in any manner be harmed by another Christian, who is of one heart, spirit and soul with him, would look somewhat strange and unbecoming, according to the compassionate, merciful, kind nature, dispotion, Spirit and example of Christ, the meek Lamb, which example he has commanded all his chosen children to follow.
Profane history shows that the Lacedaemonians, who were gentiles, did not practice capital punishment; but they imprisoned them and them at labor.