The Old Clinging Dirt

Good ‘ole Martin Luther, “The Sum of the Christian Life,” quoted in Helmut Lehmann, gen. ed. Luther’s Works, ed. and trans. John Doberstein (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966), 284-285:

[I]t will be exceedingly difficult to get into another habit of thinking in which we clearly separate faith and [works of] love. . . . [E]ven though we are now in faith . . . the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say: After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account…. But it cannot be done. With men you may boast…. But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace. [But] let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator. I myself have been preaching and cultivating it [the message of grace]… for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet [I know that] this is what I should and must do.

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