The following are extracts from The Smalcald Articles, contained in the Lutheran Book of Concord. All of this was written by Martin Luther in 1537. Read it; and preach the Gospel to every creature! (Mark 16:15).
1] Here we must confess, as Paul says in Rom. 5:12, that sin originated [and entered the world] from one man Adam, by whose disobedience all men were made sinners, [and] subject to death and the devil. This is called original or capital sin.
2] The fruits of this sin are afterwards the evil deeds which are forbidden in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, such as [distrust] unbelief, false faith, idolatry, to be without the fear of God, presumption [recklessness], despair, blindness [or complete loss of sight], and, in short not to know or regard God; furthermore to lie, to swear by [to abuse] God’s name [to swear falsely], not to pray, not to call upon God, not to regard [to despise or neglect] God’s Word, to be disobedient to parents, to murder, to be unchaste, to steal, to deceive, etc.
3] This hereditary sin is so deep [and horrible] a CORRUPTION OF NATURE that no reason can understand it, but it must be [learned and] believed from the revelation of Scriptures, Ps. 51:5; Rom. 6:12ff ; Ex. 33:3; Gen. 3:7ff…
1] Here we hold that the Law was given by God, first, to restrain sin by threats and THE DREAD OF PUNISHMENT [HELL], and by the promise and offer of grace and benefit. But all this miscarried on account of the wickedness which sin has wrought in man. 2] For thereby a part [some] were rendered worse, those, namely, who are hostile to [hate] the Law, because it forbids what they like to do, and enjoins what they do not like to do. Therefore, wherever they can escape [if they were not restrained by] punishment, they [would] do more against the Law than before. These, then, are the rude and wicked [unbridled and secure] men, who do evil wherever they [notice that they] have the opportunity.
3] The rest become blind and arrogant [are smitten with arrogance and blindness], and [insolently] conceive the opinion that they observe and can observe the Law by their own powers, as has been said above concerning the scholastic theologians; thence come the hypocrites and [self-righteous or] false saints.
4] But the chief office or force of the Law is that it reveal original sin with all its fruits, and show man how very low his nature has fallen, and has become [fundamentally and] utterly corrupted; as the Law must tell man that he has no God nor regards [cares for] God, and worships other gods, a matter which before and without the Law he would not have believed. In this way he becomes terrified, is humbled, desponds, despairs, and anxiously desires aid, but sees no escape; he begins to be an enemy of [enraged at] God, and to murmur, etc. 5] This is what Paul says, Rom. 4:15: The Law worketh wrath. And Rom. 5:20: Sin is increased by the Law. [The Law entered that the offense might abound.]
1] This office [of the Law] the New Testament retains and urges, as St. Paul, Rom. 1:18 does, saying: The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Again, Rom 3:19: All the world is guilty before God. No man is righteous before Him. And Christ says, John 16:8: The Holy Ghost will reprove the world of sin.
2] This, then, is the thunderbolt of God by which He strikes in a heap [hurls to the ground] both manifest sinners and false saints [hypocrites], and suffers no one to be in the right [declares no one righteous], but drives them all together to terror and despair. This is the hammer, as Jeremiah 23:29 says: Is not My Word like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? This is not activa contritio or manufactured repentance, but passiva contritio [torture of CONSCIENCE], true sorrow of heart, suffering and sensation of death.
3] This, then, is what it means to begin true repentance; and here man must hear such a sentence as this: You are all of no account, whether you be manifest sinners or saints [in your own opinion]; you all must become different and do otherwise than you now are and are doing [no matter what sort of people you are], whether you are as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you may. Here no one is [righteous, holy], godly, etc.
4] But to this office the New Testament immediately adds the consolatory promise of grace through the Gospel, which must be believed, as Christ declares, Mark 1:15: Repent and believe the Gospel, i.e., BECOME DIFFERENT and do otherwise, and BELIEVE My promise. And John, preceding Him, is called a preacher of repentance, however, for the remission of sins, i.e., John was to accuse all, and convict them of being sinners, that they might know what they were before God, and might acknowledge that they were lost men, and might thus be prepared for the Lord, to receive grace, and to expect and accept from Him the remission of sins. Thus also Christ Himself says, Luke 24:47: 6] REPENTANCE and [FORGIVENESS] OF SINS must be preached in My name among all nations.
7] But whenever the Law alone, without the Gospel being added exercises this its office there is [nothing else than] death and Hell, and man must despair, like Saul and Judas; as St. Paul, Rom. 7:10, says: Through sin the Law killeth. 8] On the other hand, the Gospel brings consolation and remission not only in one way, but through the Word and Sacraments, and the like, as we shall hear afterward in order that [thus] there is with the Lord plenteous redemption, as Ps. 130:7 says against the dreadful captivity of sin…
We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich [and liberal] in His grace [and goodness]. First, through the spoken Word by which THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel. Secondly, through Baptism. Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc.
1] What I have hitherto and constantly taught concerning this I know not how to change in the least, namely, that BY FAITH, as St. Peter says, we acquire A NEW AND CLEAN HEART, and God will and does account us entirely righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our Mediator. And although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it.
2] And such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sins is followed by GOOD WORKS. And what there is still sinful or imperfect also in them shall not be accounted as sin or defect, even [and that, too] for Christ’s sake; but the entire man, both as to his person and his works, is to be called and to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us [unfolded] and spread over us in Christ. 3] Therefore we cannot boast of many merits and works, if they are viewed apart from grace and mercy, but as it is written, 1 Cor. 1:31: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, namely, that he has a gracious God. For thus all is well. 4] We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true.