Innumerable volumes and articles have been written about Luther and the Reformation. We quote here some comments from the Reformer himself, giving his own impression of the Lord’s work that had brought the true light of the Gospel back to the church.
The numbers following these quotations indicate paragraph numbers from the topical collection of Luther’s writings entitled What Luther Says, copyright 1959 by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri.
When the Word of God first arose, twelve or fifteen years ago, people diligently listened to it, and everybody was glad that “good works” were no longer to plague them. They said: God be praised that we now have water to drink. For them we were thirsty, and the doctrine tasted fine; we drank of it and found it a precious teaching. But now we are sated; we are tired of the drink and are surfeited with it, so that our Lord God must depart and let us die of thirst; for He remains only with those who feel their misery. But there are few who know this. The majority turn the Gospel into liberty for the flesh. (3817)
Oh, with how great an effort and exertion, also with proof from Holy Scripture, did I barely succeed in justifying before my own con- science that I, a lone man, dared rise against the pope, consider him the Antichrist, the bishops his apostles, the schools of higher learning his houses of ill fame! How often my heart struggled, rebuked me, and threw up to me their one and strongest argument: You alone are wise? Can it be that all the others are erring and have been erring for so long a time? What if you are erring and leading into error so many people, all of whom will be eternally damned? Such questions continued until Christ strengthened me and settled me by His own certain Word so that my hear no longer struggles but confronts these arguments of the papists as a rock-bound shore confronts the waves and laughs at their threatening and storming. (3576)
I do not like it that folk call our doctrine and people “Lutheran” and that I must suffer them to disgrace God’s Word with my name in this shameful manner. Nevertheless, they shall let this Luther, the “Lutheran” doctrine and people, remain and come to honor. . . . I am not asking anyone to believe me, but I am asking men to believe the plain words of God. (4412, 4413)
This message is not a novel invention of ours but the very ancient, approved teaching of the apostles brought to light again. Neither have we invented a new Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, Lord’s Prayer, and Creed; nor do we desire to know or to have anything new in Christendom. We only contend for, and hold to, the ancient: that which Christ and the apostles have left behind them and have given to us. But this we did do. Since we found all of this obscured by the pope with human doctrine, aye, decked out in dust and spider webs and all sorts of vermin, and flung and trodden into the mud besides, we have by God’s grace brought it out again, have cleansed it of the mess, wiped off the dust, brushed it, and brought it to the light of day. Accordingly it shines again in purity, and everybody may see what Gospel, Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, keys, prayer, and everything that Christ has given us really is and how it should be used for our salvation. (3771)