The Proper Distinction
Law and Gospel
by C.F.W. Walther
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It is an undeniable fact, my friends, that at the present time there is a greater number of believing theologians than when I was young, fifty years ago. In those days hardly any others than vulgar rationalists occupied not only the ecclesiastical offices created by the government, but also almost all the pulpits. The small number of believing theologians were tolerated, provided they behaved by keeping quiet, made no serious attempt to confess their faith, and, above all, did not zealously oppose the forces of unbelief.
What a change has taken place since then within the so-called Protestant Church! Vulgar rationalists, who turn the Bible into a code of ethics and declare the specifically Christian doctrines to be Oriental myths and fantasies, valuable only as far as moral lessons may be drawn from them, — these men have done acting their part and have gone into bankruptcy. Persons laying claim to intelligence nowadays refuse to be classified as vulgar rationalists. True, the so-called Society of Protestants has made an attempt to reintroduce and rehabilitate vulgar rationalism, but without success. Even the spokesmen of the society declare that vulgar rationalism is antiquated. In order to be regarded as a person of brains, it is nowadays absolutely necessary for one to acknowledge that the Christian religion is a religion supernaturally revealed and the Bible in a sense the Word of God, namely, in as far as it contains God’s Word.
By what process did these up-to-date “believers” attain to their “faith”? Was it by a living knowledge of their misery under sin? or by a keen perception of their damnable condition and their need of redemption? Alas! there is pitifully little evidence that such has been the case. A careful observer can hardly get any other impression but that they arrived at their faith by rationalistic speculation. That is the reason why nearly all of them reject the verbal inspiration of the Bible and subject all books of the Bible to criticism such as only enemies of the Bible would engage in. Of course, they are not conscious of being enemies of the Bible. They have turned the Christian religion into a religious philosophy.
Modern theology, as to its essential qualities, is something entirely and absolutely different from the theology of former times. It does not pretend to be a system of faith, but wants to be a system of science. Modern theologians propose that, starting out from the principles of human knowledge, they are able to prove as absolute truth what the common people merely believe.
Accordingly, there is not in modern theologians that fear which animated David when he said: “My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee.” Ps. 119, 120. Such reverence in the presence of Holy Writ is found hardly anywhere. The Bible is nearly everywhere treated like the fables of Aesop. I am telling you the truth when I say this. When you begin later to compare the old with the modern theologians, you will see that I have not exaggerated. Science has been placed on the throne, and theology is made to sit at its feet and await the orders of philosophy. Accordingly, as soon as some one has become prominent in a domain of science that had not been cultivated by any one previously, he is promptly created a doctor of theology, as if science or learning were identical with theology.
Oh, my dear friends, unless you keep the light of the pure Gospel shining in this land of the setting sun, which has been visited last by God, it is not possible that the Day of Judgment be delayed. Our time is down to the dregs of the cup. The end is at hand. While the world stands, may God help us, at least in this part of it, which was reached last by the Gospel voice, to remain true to it! Do not forget, my dear friends, that there is but one way to arrive at true faith. God did not construct two or several ways, one for learned, the other for simple folk. God is not a respecter of persons; if the learned scholar wants to become a believer and be saved, he must come down from his height and sit with poor sinners, just like the cowherd and other simple folk. There is no other way to faith than that which leads through a person’s knowledge of his sin and damnable condition, through the inward crushing of his heart in contrition and sorrow. A person that has not come to faith by this way is not a believing Christian, much less a theologian.
However, I hope that I shall not be misunderstood when I call the aforementioned matters the only preparation for faith. If this statement is not understood correctly, it may result in an abominable confounding of Law and Gospel. This reflection leads us to the consideration of thesis XI.
In the seventh place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when there is a disposition to offer the comfort of the Gospel only to those who have been made contrite by the Law, not from fear of the wrath and punishment of God, but from love of God.
This thesis describes chiefly the method of the Roman Church; however, the same method is adopted by all fanatics and all Pietists within the so-called Protestant Church. If among these people a person is found who is alarmed over his sins and is in a state of contrition and sorrow because of them, he is asked to state the source of his contrition; particularly, whether he feels sorry for his sins merely because he knows that he is going to perdition and sees nothing above him but the wrath of God and nothing beneath him but the abyss of damnation. If he admits that such is his condition, the papists and fanatics tell him that contrition to be genuine and worthy of the name must proceed from love of God, and the Gospel cannot be proclaimed to him until he has such contrition. This is an appalling error, which can easily be shown to be such. Since the Fall the Law, you know, has but a single function, viz., to lead men to the knowledge of their sins. It has no power to renew them. That power is vested solely in the Gospel. Only faith worketh by love; we do not become spiritually active by love, by sorrow over our sins. On the contrary, while still ignorant of the fact that God has become our reconciled God and Father through Christ, we hate Him. An unconverted person who claims that he loves God is stating an untruth and is guilty of a miserable piece of hypocrisy, though he may not be conscious of it. He sets up a specious claim, because only faith in the Gospel regenerates a person. Accordingly, a person cannot love God while he is still without faith. To demand of a poor sinner that he must, from love of God, be alarmed on account of his sins and feel sorry for them is an abominable perversion of Law and Gospel.
Here is the Biblical doctrine: The sinner is to come to Jesus just as he is, even when he has to acknowledge that there is nothing but hatred of God in his heart, and he knows of no refuge to which he may flee for salvation. A genuine preacher of the Gospel will show such a person how easy his salvation is: Knowing himself a lost and condemned sinner and unable to find the help that he is seeking, he must come to Jesus with his evil heart and his hatred of God and God’s Law; and Jesus will receive him as he is. It is His glory that men say of Him: Jesus receives sinners. He is not to become a different being, he is not to become purified, he is not to amend his conduct, before coming to Jesus. He who alone is able to make him a better man is Jesus; and Jesus will do it for him if he will only believe.
The proof for this doctrine from God’s Word is contained in that most general statement Rom. 3, 20: By the Law is the knowledge of sin. Here the apostle states the function of the Law: it produces, not love, but the knowledge of sin. A person can, indeed, possess that knowledge without love of God.
Rom. 5, 20 we read: The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. The Greek text reads: (ἵνα πλεονάσῃ τὸ παράπτωμα) that is, “that sin might be increased.” Many sins are slumbering in a person who is still ignorant of the Law. Let the Law be preached to such a person forcefully, let it strike his conscience with lightning force, and the person will not become better, but worse. He begins to rear up against God and say: “What! I am to be damned? True, I know that I am an enemy of God. But that is not my fault; I cannot help it.” That is the effect of the preaching of the Law. It drives men to desperation. Blessed the person who has been brought to this point: he has taken a great step forward on the way to his salvation. Such a person will receive the Gospel with joy, while another who has never passed through an experience of this kind yawns when he hears the Gospel preached and says: “That is an easy way to get to heaven!” Only a poor sinner, on the brink of despair, realizes what a message of joy the Gospel is and joyfully receives it.
Rom. 4, 15 the apostle writes: The Law worketh wrath. [Luther: wrath only.] It incites men, not to love of God, but only to hatred of Him.
Rom. 7, 7. 8 St. Paul says: What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? God forbid! Nay, I had not known sin but by the Law; for I had not known lust except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the Law sin was dead. We always reach out for what has been definitely forbidden. Man is always tempted to act contrary to an injunction or a prohibition. Even filthy Ovid had made this experience when he wrote: Nitimur in vetitum semper cupimusque negata. To be sure, even a heathen could have an experience of this kind. Ovid was a genius, but a profligate person. Among other things, he turned his thought also upon himself.
Gal. 3, 21 the apostle writes: Is the Law, then, against the promises of God? God forbid! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily, righteousness should have been by the Law. Why this question and the hypothetical clause? The apostle, no doubt, means to make the intended negation stronger. Often when a question is raised concerning something which everybody knows is not so, the intention is to bring about a very strong negation. That is the case in this text: the apostle means to say: The Law certainly cannot save a person.
2 Cor. 3, 6 we read: The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. This precious text is horribly perverted by the Evangelical (Unierte) Church. These people argue: It is wrong to insist on the letter of Scripture. The spirit, general ideas drawn from Scripture, is what must be held fast. Luther’s action at Marburg, when he wrote the words: Τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμα μου and pointed to these words again and again is regarded as not a Christian action by these people. Indeed, Luther’s action was not unionistic, but it was genuinely Christian. The meaning of the apostle in this text, as further study will show you, is: The Law killeth, but the Gospel giveth life.
These Bible-texts are illustrated by beautiful examples recorded in Scripture, which relate exactly the conduct of certain persons before their conversion and after they had become believers. There are not many of these instances recorded, but all of them show that contrition does not flow from love of God.
On the first Christian festival of Pentecost a multitude of people had gathered and heard the Apostle Peter preach. The gist of his remarks was that they were the murderers of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and must tremble when thinking of the judgment. They had listened to Peter’s whole address, but when he reached the point where he raised this charge against them, they became alarmed by the Holy Spirit. The record says: “They were pricked in their heart.” They felt as if Peter had run a dagger into their heart. They reasoned: If we have done that, we are all doomed men. What will God say to us when we appear before His judgment-seat? He will charge us with the saying of the Messiah. We are not told that they said: “Oh, we feel so sorry for having grieved our faithful God.” It was not love of God, but fright and terror that made them cry: “What shall we do?” Nor does the Apostle Peter say to them: “My dear people, we shall now have to investigate the quality of your contrition whether it flows from love of God or from fear of the punishment due you for your sins, from fear of hell.” Not a word of this. When they put their frightened and terrified question: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” the apostle says: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Since these people were already in terror over their sins, the term repentance in this text refers not to what is called the first part of repentance, contrition, but to the second part, faith. We are told that they received Baptism immediately. Their μετάνοια, or change of mind, consisted in this, that they no longer desired to be murderers of Jesus, but wished to believe in Him. Accordingly, the apostles received them, and they were numbered with the congregation of those who were saved.
The example of the jailer at Philippi to which I have referred a number of times also illustrates the point now under discussion. I have to refer to it again and again because it is one of the most illuminating passages of Scripture. The jailer was a scoundrel, who relished the task of beating the servants of the Lord, casting them into the inner prison, or deepest dungeon, and putting their feet in the stocks, which he had not been commanded to do at all. When he imagined that all his prisoners had escaped during the earthquake, he was seized with despair and wanted to commit suicide. Paul cried to him: “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here”; and now the jailer fell writhing and trembling at the apostles’ feet and asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Nothing but his fright and terror moved him to do that. Now Paul does not say to him: “First you must become contrite from love of God,” but: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved and thy house.”
Saul was put through the same experience. He had persecuted the Church of God, breathing threatenings and slaughter against all Christians. He was on the way to a place where he wanted to shed the blood of Christians, when the Lord Himself met him in a vision. He was hurled to the ground and was “astonished,” stunned, while Jesus said to him: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” When the Gospel with its sweet heavenly power had entered into his heart, this wretched man was plucked out of his distress and misery. And now the Lord prescribed for this sinner, who had been terrified and crushed and then comforted, no other lesson than this, that instead of persecuting Him, he was to confess Him after he had received Baptism as a seal of the forgiveness of his sins.
When you preach, do not be stingy with the Gospel; bring its consolations to all, even to the greatest sinners. When they are terrified by the wrath of God and hell, they are fully prepared to receive the Gospel. True, this goes against our reason; we think it strange that such knaves are to be comforted immediately; we imagine they ought to be made to suffer much greater agony in their conscience. Fanatics adopt that method in dealing with alarmed sinners; but a genuine Bible theologian resolves to preach the Gospel and faith in Jesus Christ to a person whom God has prepared for such preaching by His Law.
There is a passage in Scripture that is frequently misunderstood, namely 2 Cor. 7, 10, which reads: For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. “Godly sorrow” is supposed to mean sorrow of contrition from love of God. This is a mistake. The apostle refers to sorrow which man has not produced himself, but which God has caused in him by His Word. The Greek text reads: κατὰ θεὸν λύπη, sorrow in accordance with God or produced by God. It is another grievous perversion of the Christian doctrine to tell an alarmed sinner that he must first experience contrition, and when he asks how he must go about that, to tell him that he must sit down and meditate and try to draw, or elicit, repentance from his heart. That is what the papists teach. But their teaching is sheer hypocrisy. There is not in all the world a person who can produce contrition in himself. He may labor to bring it forth until he becomes dissolved in tears, but it is all a hypocritical sham. Godly sorrow is required because faith is required. God, by terrifying us, wants to produce this sorrow. We must not imagine that contrition is a good work which we do, but it is something that God works in us. God comes with the hammer of the Law and smites our soul. A person who wants to make himself sorrowful desires ever to increase his sorrow over sin. But a person merged in the right kind of sorrow yearns to be rid of it. He is tormented day and night. He may frequent saloons and make a futile attempt to drive away his sorrow by drink. Among his companions he may be a braggart, but when he is at home, his conscience tells him: You are damned; if you die to-night you will go to perdition. That is godly sorrow, produced not by man, but by God Himself. God has no regard for any miserable product of man.
Let me present two testimonies from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. We read (Mueller, p. 168; Trigl. Conc., p. 254): “Moreover, our adversaries teach and write many things that are still more inept and confusing. They teach that grace may be merited by contrition. When they are asked to explain why Saul and Judas, in whom there was quite an awful contrition, did not merit grace, they ought to answer that Judas and Saul lacked the Gospel and faith, that Judas did not comfort himself with the Gospel and did not believe. For faith constitutes the difference between the contrition of Peter and Judas. But our adversaries give no thought to the Gospel and faith, but to the Law. They say that Judas did not love God, but was afraid of the punishment. Is not this an uncertain and inept way of teaching repentance? In that real great distress described in the Psalms and Prophets, when will an alarmed conscience know whether it fears God as its God from love or whether it flees from, and hates, His wrath and eternal damnation? These people may not have experienced much of these anxieties because they juggle words and make distinctions according to their dreams. But in the heart, when the test is applied, the matter turns out quite differently, and the conscience cannot be set at rest with paltry syllables and words, as these nice, leisurely, and idle Sophists are dreaming.”
In the papists’ view the reason why Judas perished was, because his contrition did not flow from love of God; if it had, he would have acquired merit. Papists are always looking for some merit, either of the de congruo or of the de condigno kind.*[“The adversaries … infer that works merit grace, sometimes de congruo and at other times de condigno, namely, when love is added.” (Apology; Trigl. Conc., p. 223, § 265.)]
It is impossible to ascertain the motive of a person’s contrition. No matter what it is: when we behold some one in terror of hell, we are to comfort him. The love of God will surely be manifested by him later.
Papists talk about contrition as a blind man talks about color; they have never experienced a salutary terror on account of their sins. When a poor sinner comes to one of their learned theologians, he is asked: “What is the quality of this contrition that causes you distress?” The poor man may be unable to explain this point promptly, and he says that he knows nothing about it, but that he feels terribly distressed. Then the learned doctor may direct him to apply to a surgeon for a cupping; he will feel better when he is rid of his sluggish blood. Good Heavens, what great theologians! How can they speak properly of matters of which they have no experience and which are to them mere subjects of speculation?
Again, the Apology says (Mueller, p. 171 f.; Trigl. Conc., p. 259 f.) : “When we speak de contritione, that is, regarding genuine contrition, we cut out those innumerable questions which they cast up, viz., whether a person’s contrition flows from love of God or from fear of punishment. For these are nothing but mere words and a useless babbling of persons who have never experienced the state of mind of a terrified conscience. But we say that contrition is the true terror of conscience, when it begins to feel its sin and the anger of God against sin and is sorry for having sinned. And this contrition takes place in this manner when our sins are censured by the Word of God. … Amidst these terrors the conscience feels the serious anger of God against sin, which is a matter entirely unknown to such idle and carnal men as the Sophists and their like. It is then that the conscience first becomes aware what a great disobedience to God sin is; it ‘is then that the terrible anger of God presses down on the conscience, and human nature cannot possibly bear up under it unless it is raised up by the Word of God. Thus says St. Paul: ‘By the Law I am dead to the Law.’ For the Law does nothing but accuse the conscience; it commands people what to do and terrifies them. In this connection the adversaries do not say a word concerning faith, hence they do not teach one word regarding the Gospel, or Christ, but their teaching is entirely from the Law. They tell people that with their pain, contrition, sorrow, and anguish they are meriting grace, provided their contrition is from love of God and provided they love God. Good Heavens, what kind of preaching is that to consciences that are in need of comfort! How can we love God when merged in such great distress and unutterable agony, when we feel the great and terrible earnestness and anger of God, which is stronger than any person could express by words? Why, it is nothing else than sheer despair that these preachers and doctors are teaching when they preach to poor consciences in distress, not the Gospel nor any comfort, but only the Law.”
The Lutheran Confessions offer to poor sinners this sweet comfort, that, when God has given them the grace to be alarmed on account of their sins, they are in a fit condition to approach the throne of grace, where they receive forgiveness — the true remedy for their ills. They must indeed have contrition; however, not to the end of acquiring some merit by it, but in order that they may gladly accept what Jesus offers them.
Even when there is love of God in a person’s heart, it will be spoiled by the devil. Under the influence of false teaching a dying person may be led into despair; he may have contrition, but he feels that it does not flow from love of God, but from his fear of the anger of God and of hell, into which he fears he is about to be hurled. But when instructed in the true doctrine he knows that he believes in the Lord Jesus and clings to Him, and hence the love of God will also enter his heart. You see, this teaching is no jest.
When our Lutheran theologians wrote our Confessions, they sat down to their work as true Christians and did not intend to construct a system of doctrine. They knew in what way a poor sinner is given rest and the consolation of salvation. In the Apology, Melanchthon has spoken like a simple Christian. What has made this Confession all the more precious is that he speaks all that he says from the fulness of Scripture and his own experience.
In 1545 an edition of the Latin writings of Luther was published. In the preface to the first part, Luther relates what was the condition of his heart before he had received the light of the Gospel. He makes a personal confession, saying that, while he was in bondage to the Law, he had read the words of the Apostle Paul that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel and had become terrified by that statement. Having been terrified previously by the Law and reading now that in the Gospel, too, the righteousness of God is revealed, he was in an awful dilemma. The Law had condemned him, and now God sent him the Gospel to do the same thing to him! In the Gospel, too, God demanded righteousnes of the sinner!
We cannot sufficiently thank and praise God for giving Luther, shortly before his departure, leisure to relate some of the inner experiences of his life which were to prepare and fit him for the work of the Reformation.
He writes (St. L. Ed. XIV, 446 ff.) : “I verily had a hearty desire, indeed, I was yearning, to understand the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. So far nothing had hindered me except only the single phrase justitia Dei [the righteousness of God] in v. 17 of the first chapter, where Paul says: ‘The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel.’ I was very wroth at this term ‘righteousness of God’ because my training had been according to the usage and practise of all teachers at that time, and I had been told that I must understand this term after the manner of philosophers as signifying that righteousness by which God is righteous in His essence, does right, and works righteousness, and punishes all sinners and unrighteous persons, — what is called justitia formalis seu activa (essential, or active, righteousness). Now, my condition was this: Although I was leading the life of a holy and blameless monk, I discovered than in the sight of God I was a great sinner. Moreover, my conscience was troubled and distressed, nor did I venture to reconcile God with my own satisfactions and merits. For this reason I did not at all love this righteous and angry God, who punishes sinners, but I hated Him and was full of secret anger against Him, and that, in all seriousness. (I am afraid that this was, or may have to be accounted as, blasphemy.) Frequently I would say: Is God not satisfied with having loaded all manner of misery and affliction, besides the terrors and threatenings of the Law, on us poor, miserable sinners, who are already condemned to everlasting death on account of hereditary sin? Must He increase this misery and heartache still more by the Gospel and by its preaching and its message proclaim His righteousness and serious anger and add to our terror? In my confused conscience I was full of indignation. Nevertheless I continued my meditation on blessed Paul, endeavoring, with a great thirst for knowledge and a hearty desire, to ascertain his meaning in this passage. I spent days and nights in these musings, until by the grace of God I perceived the connection of these words in the passage, thus: The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, as is written: ‘The just shall live by his faith.’ From this connection I learned to understand that righteousness of God by which the righteous lives by the gracious gift of God, through faith alone, and I perceived this to be the apostle’s meaning: By the Gospel that righteousness is revealed which is valid in the sight of God and by which God, from grace and pure mercy, makes us righteous by faith. In Latin this righteousness is called justitia passiva, and to this righteousness the fact refers which says: ‘The just shall live by his faith.’ At this point I immediately felt that I had been entirely born anew and had found a door wide open, leading straight into paradise.”
Luther’s life as a monk had been irreproachable. He had tormented himself nigh unto death trying to keep his monastic vows, and spite of all his endeavors he had become broken-hearted; for the Holy Spirit, by the Law, had revealed to him the corruption of his heart. He did not regard this condition of his heart as a trifling matter; it filled him with anxiety and uncertainty. He desired to make full satisfaction for his sins and to keep not only the Ten Commandments, but also the commandments of the Church, which were not enjoined at all by God. Thus he lived on in papistic blindness. Occasionally he would doubt the validity of all his doings and ask himself, What does God care whether I am lying on a sack of straw or on a couch of velvet and satin?
Luther confesses that at that time God had become hateful to him. Now, ask any modern theologian whether he had loved God prior to his conversion, and he will say: “Why, yes; who would not love God? We have always been taught to do that.” But that shows their blindness. If we would watch ourselves, we would become aware that our condition, before faith was kindled in our hearts, has been identical with that of Luther. No one who has been smitten by the Law will be surprised at Luther’s confession.
While in terror and distress under the Law, Luther read in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans that also in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. At that time he had no inkling of the sweet consolation contained in that statement. Nowadays every child knows that the text does not refer to that righteousness which God requires of us in the Law, but to the righteousness of Christ which God wants to give us and which Luther has well expressed by translating ἡ δικαιοσύνη τοῦ θεοῦ “the righteousness which is valid, or passes muster, in the sight of God.” By this translation even the simplest person can understand that the text does not refer to the righteous life which we have lived and according to which we shall be judged, but to the gracious righteousness which Christ acquired for us on the cross.
While Luther’s natural heart was raving against God, he was but a short step from the brink of despair. He picked up his Bible again and again and kept staring at Rom. 1, 17. He began to think that possibly the text had a different meaning, after all. During his persistent musing, reading, and meditating God helped him to see the light, and what happened to him when he had found the meaning of the text he has told us. The same man who had previously hated God and murmured against him now was filled with joy unspeakable. He began to love God with all his heart after hearing the most blessed tidings of joy: Christ, the Son of God, has acquired righteousness for the whole world. Only believe in this righteousness.
God grant to all of you, as He did to Luther, to see the gates of paradise wide open to receive you! Then your congregations will get a taste of your own happiness, and you will be kept from falling into dead orthodoxism.
In his Vindiciae Sacrae Scripturae, § 79, p. 125, Huelsemann, commenting on 2 Cor. 7, 10, writes: “Paul does not say: You have roused sorrow in yourselves from love of God, but you have been given by me a godly sorrow, that is, a sorrow which is in accordance with the will or commandment of God. … Accordingly, Paul interprets godly sorrow to signify a sorrow which had been roused in the Corinthians by the power and the command of God. On the other hand, the sorrow of the world signifies a sorrow which arises from worldly causes, such as the fear of temporal punishment, the loss of personal honor, an evil conscience, and other causes which produce sorrow over some crime even in heathens and unregenerate persons.”
This passage, then, refers to a sorrow in the presence of God on the part of the person who has become alarmed because of his sins. When I am terrified by the thought of my sins, hell, death, and damnation and perceive that God is angry with me and that, being under His wrath, I am damned on account of my sins, — that is godly sorrow, even though I may be in the same condition in which Luther was before he got the right knowledge of the Gospel. Such sorrow comes from God. On the other hand, when a fornicator, a rake, a drunkard, begins to sorrow because he has wasted the beautiful time of his youth, has ruined his body, and has become prematurely senile — that is a sorrow of this world. When a vain person is thrown into sorrow over his sins because he has lost somewhat of his prestige; when a thief sorrows over his thieving because it has also landed him in jail; — that is worldly sorrow. However, when a person grieves over his sins because he sees hell before him, where he will be punished for having insulted the most holy God, that is godly sorrow, provided that it has not been produced by imagination through a person’s own effort. Genuine godly sorrow can be of produced by God alone. May God grant us all such sorrow!
Copyright Notice: This work is an electronic reproduction of Walther's Law and Gospel, published by Concordia Publishing House in 1929. The 1929 edition was not copyrighted and is therefore in the public domain. In 1989, Concordia Publishing House released a copyrighted edition of Law and Gospel. The 1989 copyrighted work was not consulted in the production of this online edition.