TO THE CHRISTIANS IN WITTENBERG
With this letter Luther sends an exposition of the 37th Psalm. Possibly in August.
To the poor little company of Christians at Wittenberg, Dr. Martin Luther sends grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ. St. Paul, who preached in many places, and now sat as a prisoner in Rome, never ceased to pray for those who had been converted through his means, and to comfort them by his writings, to which his Epistles bear ample testimony. Following his example, I cannot refrain from anxiety on your behalf (seeing it is partly through me, poor creature, that it has been revealed to you) that wolves may follow me into the sheepfold. And although, by the grace of God, many have taken my place, which might make such anxiety unnecessary, yet I cannot overcome it. We are not worthy (I especially, alas) to suffer anything for the truth, let alone having hatred, shame, reproach, envy, and all manner of ignominy heaped upon us by the Papists. Had God not withstood them, those bloodthirsty murderers of souls would have swallowed us up quick, and torn us with their teeth. Till now they have merely called us Wycliffites, Hussites, heretics, venting their wrath upon us by calling us evil names, and attacking our Christian profession. But let them do it, dear friends. He is above — the Judge of all! We may rejoice that so far we have never dreaded the light, as they do — even as an evil conscience trembles before a law court. It must be a great trial to them that I have
three times appeared before my enemies to testify of our faith: First at Augsburg, before the Cardinal; then at Leipsic, before those who would gladly have extinguished us, and yet their rage and cunning were of no avail; and now at Worms, where bishops and doctors did their best to get me to recant.
But God enabled me to resist the efforts of princes and dignitaries, so that I withstood all their power. Had it been otherwise, I should have been ashamed of my German land, allowing the Papal tyrants thus to befool us. But we all know that the devil was at the bottom of it. Now, I do not boast of these three appearances, as if the glory were ours; but to acknowledge the grace of God in order to trust Him at all times. And, as I do not pretend to be St. Paul, who out of the abundant riches of his spirit
could comfort his spiritual children, I have taken it upon me to put into German the 37th Psalm, which is full of consolation, and send it to you, it being so suited to our circumstances, for it exhorts us to “cease from anger, and forsake wrath,” assuring us “that yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.” Certainly our enemies resemble those who are rebuked in this Psalm, and we are comforted. For we, who by God’s grace cleave to the Scriptures, are those who are feared and hated by those who blaspheme the truth. But let them! Had they been worthy of the truth they would long ago have been converted through my numerous writings. I teach them; they revile me. I pray for them; they despise my prayers. I scold them; they scorn me. What more can I do? for Christ says, “As he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him; he clothed himself with cursing like as with a garment.” What does not belong to heaven, no one can take into it, although he tore it into pieces. But that which is destined to get in shall enter, in spite of the efforts of the whole army of devils to prevent it. But we must pray for the poor little company who are being led astray by them, that they may be delivered out of the claws of the murderer of souls at Rome, and of his apostles. I commit you to God, and may your faith and confidence be graciously preserved in Christ Jesus. Amen. Amen.
(Exposition of 37th Psalm follows.)
I send you this Psalm, dear friends, for your consolation and instruction, according to St. Paul’s precept, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, staging and making
melody in your heart to the Lord;” “Giving thanks always for all things,” etc. I send this for the benefit of those who are weak in the faith; for, as to the strong ones among you, I would rather learn from them. Therefore take comfort and remain steadfast. Do not be alarmed through the raging of the godless; for, God be praised, we have beaten them so far that they can only rage, which shows they are ignorant of divine things; and the longer they act thus the blinder they become, and display their folly all the more …. I commend you to God. Pray for me. I do not concern myself about my enforced absence from you. By God’s grace I am as courageous as ever. Be of good cheer, and fear no one. The grace of God be with you. Amen.
MARTIN LUTHER .