Fourth Sunday in Advent
(No sermon can be found for the fourth Sunday in Advent so this is printed in place.)
"In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, repent ye for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:1
So John the Baptist preached to the sorrowless people who because of peering came to see that man who had begun to preach in the wilderness. That was the beginning of his sermon, "Repent ye." And from that sermon of repentance some became awakened and began to ask, "what must we do?" But considering how great the numbers were there, certainly not many became awakened. And so it has also happened here although it has now been preached of repentance, however not many have become awakened, because as in John's time the greater part had already hardened, so it is also here. And as in John's time the hardening increased by the hard preaching as also here the hardening has increased. The reason for the hardening is in the Word of God itself, as it is written, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still," and this has come for the fall and rising of many in Israel. In John's time, those who awakened confessed their sins, and so it has also happened here. However, not many have become awakened then, hardly one in a thousand. And from that too the sorrowless have taken for themselves substance for sorrowlessness, when the sorrowless see that not many become awakened, they think that the doctrine cannot possibly be right when so few become awakened. But in that surmising, the sorrowless are greatly deceived, for so it is written in the Word of God that they are few who become saved. Since they who attempt for awhile to get into the strait gate are not able, how then can those who have no intention to make repentance become saved? There are many here who have not yet intended to make repentance, for the reason that they keep such a repentance useless which John meant, where each one himself must confess his sins, for some say, "It is not necessary to cry out to the world," Some do not understand of what a person should begin to make repentance. It can be heard very much from their questions. The soldiers especially asked what they should do, the publicans especially asked what they should do, So it can be heard from the questions of these awakened ones, that they did not understand what each according to his station must do when he must begin to make repentance. And so all newly awakened do, they ask of the disciples what should they do. They know, surely, that there are sins, but they do not understand in what way they should begin to make repentance. When do the sorrowless come to ask of their teachers: "What must I do to become saved?" Yes, they come to the liquor merchant and ask, "What does it cost?" They come to the peddler and ask, "How much does this silk kerchief cost?" They come to the whore and ask, "Hay I come near you?" Is that a lie? What does your conscience testify, is it a lie? The penitent came to John and asked, "What must we do?", but the sorrowless did not come then, nor even now come to the teachers to ask, "What must we do to become saved?" Only then when death comes, they say, "Get the priest, death is coming!" And then all the sins are in a pile, all evil deeds unreconciled, all transgressions unforgiven; death is approaching and a great fear comes, but not many have knowledge where they will finally have to live. Only some say, "To hell is the only remedy, it will not become better." Such is the life of the sorrowless and after such a life one terrible death follows. But you heard in what way the awakened came in the time of John; they came to ask of their teachers, "What must we do?" And so have the awakened done even at this time, they have asked of their teachers in what way they should make repentance. The awakened have not dared to rely upon their own wisdom. The awakened have not said as the sorrowless and grace thieves, "Surely we can see for ourselves from the book." Nor has John said as some sorrowless priests say when some awakened one comes to ask something that pertains to spiritual matters; then the sorrowless pastor says, "What foolishness is this?" And some sorrowless pastors say, "Go away from sighing here, some hypocrites," but John counseled the awakened accordingly as each one had need.
Today we must more broadly speak of repentance in accordance with our Holy Text, when we have first prayed that great Healer that He would give us the right enlightenment as to how the true repentance and penitence must take place. Our Father.
The text of the high mass for Rogation Day: Acts 3: 19
"Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out!" With the guidance of this text we must at this moment take notice of how true repentance must take place.
Since the gracious king has chosen such places from the scriptures for substance of consideration, which pertain to repentance, then we conclude from that, that the will of the king is that the subjects should make repentance of all those sins which are practiced in the country of Sweden, as drunkenness, adultery, stealing, cursing, finery, and all other evil habits, because it is not pleasant for the king to hear that all the prisons are becoming filled. The transgressors of the law no more fit into the prisons and it becomes a great expense to the king. The king would surely wish that all people would make repentance and penitence, and for that reason the king has chosen such a place from the scriptures which pertains to repentance for the text for the rogation day.
Therefore the question is this: How should true repentance take place? If we would follow John's example, how John did with the awakened people. He counseled them to make repentance and to begin to live differently than before, he told them to cease from those sins which they had committed before. He told the publicans to cease from stealing from the government and he told the soldiers to cease from robbing and be satisfied with that wage which they received from the government. And to the common people he said, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none." From these words it sounds as if John was counseling the awakened only to outward repentance. But we also have the same faith, that whoever does not want to refrain from sin and make repentance of his outward life, he has no desire at all to become saved. As John stressed very much upon the outward repentance, so we also have demanded that the outward repentance in life and works must take place first before the repentance of the heart comes, for the sorrowless person does not see the evil of the heart, but adultery and drunkenness and stealing and cursing he does see, and he can also refrain from these sins if he wants to, for the members of the sorrowless one are not given into Satanīs care, but when he himself willfully gives his members into Satanīs care, then certainly the devil rules the whole person. For that reason John the Baptist has counseled the awakened to outward repentance first, and in that is: First, true confession of sins; Second, being reconciled to one's neighbor; and Third, ceasing from all willful sins, as for example; away with drunkenness, away with cursing, away with adultery and stealing, away with finery, away with greed and vain honor, away with all willful sins before a change of heart and mind comes about.
But someone says, "If John the Baptist has preached so, Christ has not preached so." Do you think that Christ has preached in a different way than John? Has Christ said: you can drink and fight Just so you believe, you will surely be saved; you can commit adultery and steal, surely you will be saved just so you believe, Christ said to one whore, "Go and sin no more!" Christ has not taught so that unrepentant whores and unrepentant thieves will become saved, but he has pronounced a severe judgement to all sorrowless, but to the poor in spirit He has preached the gospel. And when John said, "Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," then it was his intention that no one becomes a Christian with that outward repentance, but with the outward repentance a person must prepare himself to receive the kingdom of heaven. And who does not repent, he has no desire to be saved. And now since the king has taken a certain place from the scriptures which is of repentance for a text for the rogation day, then it is truly the king's will and intention that all subjects would repent. But the sor-rowless are not desirous of that, for if the king would ask them to drink and steal, whore and steal, that they would go and do willingly. But when the government encourages them to repentance, they do not obey at all, and the greater part postpone that to the last, and when death comes, they say, "Wow it is too late. When we haven't sought it before, it can be left," Only those few souls who have truly awakened make repentance and cry out with a loud voice from the depths to the heights, as David and Mannasseh, they cry out as the children in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" And all the Pharisees become offended with that crying, but the children do not cease crying out, however, although the Pharisees become offended, for they know that they will soon reach the new Jerusalem to cry out Hosanna to the Son of David, there no one will be offended with their crying. But if these children would not cry out, then the stones would commence to cry out. Amen.