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happiness, he had to confess that neither cowl, nor rosaries, nor fasting, nor other penances, could in the least remove his misery or case his conscience.
We know the reason of this failure. Christ tells us in our text that sins are remitted or retained through His Word. He whose sins are not remitted by this Word, because he hears it not, has them retained by the same Word; for this is the only means whereby sins are effectually dealt with. You may therefore do what you please, your sins will be retained if you depend on your own works and despise these words of Christ. The Lord our God made forgiveness of sins contingent on no work that we might perform, but on the great work which Christ accomplished when He died for the world, and for our benefit arose from the dead. The application of this His work He makes through the Word which He entrusted to the apostles, to the ministers of the Gospel, yea, to every Christian, authorizing them to declare unto all who seek it the remission of sins.
Thus we have pointed out to us the only way in which we can surely find remission of sins. The command has been issued long ago to remit sins, and in the Word we are sure to find this remission. If we seek it not there, our sins will be retained, do what we may; for, as has been repeatedly said, there is no remission except in the Word of Christ. This Word, however, has been entrusted to the apostles and all Christians, and they are to apply it; he who seeks any other remedy for the ills of sin, shall not find it, no matter what he may do to accomplish that end. This divine declaration, that sin is removed by the Word alone, without the
assistance of any works, stands firmly fixed; it must be heeded by us, or we have no remission.
This, however, has not only reference to absolution, but, as we mentioned already in the beginning of our sermon, to all the functions of the holy ministry. Christ declares in the words of our text that remission of sins shall be proclaimed and imparted by the preaching of the Word and by the holy Sacraments. The object of preaching the Gospel is to bring men to a knowledge of their sins, that they may become pious and just. We are baptized that through the death of our Lord our sins may be forgiven, and Christ has instituted His Supper that we may truly believe that His body was sacrificed for us and that His blood was shed in our behalf and therefore have no doubts of the remission of our sins. To strengthen our faith in this forgiveness of sins, Christ so ordained it that each one must receive the Sacraments for himself; it will not answer to baptize one for many, nor to administer the Lord's Supper to one as the representative of others; each one must himself enjoy these blessings. In like manner each one must for himself hear the Word and seek absolution, if he desires to be comforted thereby. Let no one doubt, when the declaration of remission of sin in Jesus' name is pronounced, that it is true and that all his sins are removed, yea that he is released from them also in heaven and in the sight of God.
The Word and the Sacraments therefore belong together; for Christ has included the Sacraments in the Word. Without the Word we could not be comforted by the Sacraments; we would not even know what they are. It is consequently not only
a great blindness and error, but also a terrible abuse, when the papists preach reinission of sins regardless of the Word upon which all depends, and delude people by directing them to seek absolution through penances and works of their own.
But, because the remission of sins is communicated through the Word, which, as has been frequently said, was entrusted by our Lord to the Church and her ministers, yea, unto all Christians, that it should be preached, it follows that this remission of sin must be believed, and that there is no way of obtaining it, except by faith. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the very foundation of our creed. The word of Christ, which He gave to His disciples, can certainly not be seized with the hands nor by any self-imposed works, such as fasting, prayers, giving of alms and the like; faith alone can appropriate it, and the heart alone is the proper receptacle for it. It is evident and certain that we are justified only through faith, because remission of sins comes through the Word, and the Word can be received only by faith.
Of this the Pope and his party are ignorant; yea, they are so hardened that they refuse to learn it. They have put aside both faith and the Word, and have told the people to depend on their own works, on their piety and merits. Would that God might silence these fellows with their false doctrines. It behooves us, however, to remember this papistic doctrine with all its horrors, and to compare it with the true doctrine which we preach, else we are in danger of falling again into error, and of again seeking remission of sins by our own
works. Christ directs us to His Word and away from our works; He makes His Word powerful and has it preached by His disciples, whom He sends even as He was sent by the Father.
Where there is forgiveness of sins and the hearts, as St. Peter says, are purified by faith, there good works will surely follow, proceeding from a sanctified source.
Faith slumbers not, and the Holy Ghost ever prompts to obedience to God's Word and to a warfare against flesh and sin. May God grant us grace, through Christ Jesus, both to believe and to experience this truth. Amen.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
(MISERICORDIAS Domini.) John 10, 11-16 I am the good shepherd : the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own tbe sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth ; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold : them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. This Gospel, like other works of Christ, may
be considered in two aspects, as teaching first faith, and secondly love. To our faith the fact is presented that Christ is the Shepherd, the only one who lays down His life for His sheep. No human being, no saint, no angel could accomplish the great work of redeeming fallen man, whom the devil, through the sin committed in paradise, had hurled into death; Christ alone could be this Redeemer through His death. This was this Shepherd's proper work, which no one else can imitate, as little as any other of His works done for our salvation can be equaled.
No one can therefore appropriate to himself the words which Christ here uses : "I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." With these words He would teach us to trust in Him, to regard the sufferings of all the saints as naught when compared with Ilis sufferings in our behalf. Moses, the prophets and the apostles were eminent men, true and watchful