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From Reformer to Revolutionary – Thomas Müntzer, Sermon to the Princes (July 13, 1524)

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Thirdly. You ought to know the view that God is so utterly well disposed toward his elect that if even in very minor matters he could warn them (Deut. 1:42–44; 32:29; Matt. 23:37), he would surely do it if they could but receive the same in the immensity of unbelief. For our text in Daniel agrees here with Saint Paul in I Corinthians (ch. 2:9 f.) which is taken from the holy Isaiah (ch. 64:4), saying that: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Therefore in short it is one’s earnest conviction that we must know—and not merely be up in the air in our belief—whether what is given us be from God or from the devil or from nature. For if our natural understanding of the same [—what comes from God and what not—] ought to be captured for the service of faith (II Cor. 10:5), it must arrive at the final degree in [its capacity for] judgment as is shown in Romans (ch. 1:18–23) and Baruch (ch. 3:12–37). Of these judgments one is incapable of proving any in good conscience without God’s revelation. For man will clearly discover that he cannot run with his head through heaven* but rather that he must first become wholly and utterly a fool (Isa. 29:13 f.; 33:18; Obad. 1:8; I Cor. 1:18). O what a rare wind that is indeed then for the clever, fleshly, sensual world! Thereupon follow at once the pains like [those of] a woman in travail (Ps. 48:6**, John 16:21). Therefore Daniel (ch. 2:17 f.), and every single pious person along with him, finds that for him in all circumstances, exactly as for other ordinary people, it is impossible to search out all the things from God. This is what the wise man [the Preacher] means when he says (Eccl. 3:11) He who wishes to search out the majesty of God will be overwhelmed by his splendor. For the more nature gropes after God [to lay hold upon him], the further the operation of the Holy Spirit withdraws itself therefrom, as Ps. 139:6 clearly shows. Indeed if man were only aware of the presumption of the natural light [of reason], without doubt he would not seek improvised help with pilfered [passages of] Scripture, as the learned do with one or two little scraps (Isa. 28:10; Jer. 8:8), but rather he would soon feel the operation of the divine Word spring out of his own heart (John 4:14). Yea, he need not put up with the stagnant water in the well (Jer. 2:13), as our learned men now do. They mix up nature and grace without any distinction.*** They impede the progress of the Word (Ps. 119:11b), which comes forth from the deeps of the soul, as Moses says (Deut. 30:14): The word is not far from thee, behold, it is in thy heart, etc. Now you may ask, How does it then come into the heart? Answer: It comes down from God above in exalted and terrifying astonishment, which I shall let stand as it is [to be discussed] another time. And this astonishment as to whether it be God’s word or not, commences when a child is six or seven years old as is signified in Num., ch. 19. Therefore Saint Paul cites Moses (Deut. 30:14) and Isaiah (ch. 65:1) in Rom. 10:8 and 20 and speaks there of the inner Word to be heard in the deeps of the soul through the revelation of God. And what person has not become aware of and receptive to this [Word] through the living testimony of God (Rom. 8:9). He [who has not the Spirit] does not know how to say anything deeply about God, even if he had eaten through a hundred Bibles! From that anybody can well judge how far the world really is from Christian faith. But no one wants to see or hear. If man would now become aware of the Word so that he become receptive thereto, God must take from him his fleshly lusts. And when the motion of God comes in his heart, so that he wishes to slay all the desires of the flesh, [it is necessary] that the [man] give way to Him, in order that he may get the benefit of His operation. For the man of animal nature does not perceive what God speaks in the soul (I Cor. 2:14), but rather he must be adverted by the Holy Spirit to the serious consideration of the plain pure meaning of the law (Ps. 19:7 f.), otherwise he is blind in his heart and fashions for himself a wooden Christ and misleads himself. Look therefore in this respect how distasteful it became for blessed Daniel to interpret the vision to the king, and how diligently he sought out God in this matter and prayed. Thus, also, for the self-disclosure of God man must separate himself from all diversion (II Cor. 6:17) and have a heart resolute for the truth and must through the exercise of such truth distinguish the undeceptive vision from the false one. For this reason the beloved Daniel speaks in ch. 10:1 [that like Daniel himself] a man may very well have understanding of [certain] visions [and] therefore they are not all to be rejected, etc.

Fourthly. You ought to know that the elect person who wishes to know which vision or dream is from God, nature, or the devil must with his mind and heart and also his natural understanding take leave of all temporal consolation of the flesh; and it must happen to him as to beloved Joseph in Egypt (Gen., ch. 39) and with Daniel here in this very chapter. For no sensual person will accept it [the Word] (Luke 7:25), since the thistles and thorns—these are the pleasures of this world, as the Lord says (Mark 4:18 f.)—stifle the whole working of the Word, which God speaks in the soul. Therefore when God has already spoken his holy Word in the soul, man cannot hear it, if he is unpracticed [Ps. 49:20], for he does not turn in upon himself or look inwardly upon himself and the deeps of his soul. Man will not crucify his life with its vices and desires, as Paul the holy apostle teaches (Gal. 5:24). Therefore the field of the Word of God remains full of thistles and thorns and full of big bushes, all of which must be gotten out of the way for this work of God, in order that a person not be found neglectful or slothful (Prov. 24:3 f.). Accordingly, if a man has regard for the fruitfulness of the field and the rich growth at the end, then will such a person become aware for the first time that he is the dwelling place of God and the Holy Spirit for the duration of his days, yea, that he has been created truly for the one purpose that he might search out the testimonies of God in his own life (Ps. 93 and 119:95). Of this he will come to know in part, now in a figurative way,**** then also in perfection in the deeps of his heart (I Cor. 13:10–12). In the second place he must notice well that such figurative comparisons in the visions or dreams with all their attendant phenomena are [to be] tested in the Holy Bible, in order that the devil may not intrude and spoil the unction of the Holy Spirit and its sweetness, as the wise man [the Preacher] says of the flies which die from it (Eccl. 10:1). In the third place, the elect person must take note of the working of the vision, that it not flow out by means of human improvisation, but rather that it flow simply according to God’s immovable will; and [he] must look out quite carefully that not one little bit be lost of what he has beheld, for it [the vision] will positively come true. But when the devil wants to accomplish something, his rotten ugly brood betrays him, and in the end his lies peer out despite all, for he is a liar (John 8:44).

[ . . . ]

* That is, cannot be saved by reason.
** Ps. 47, in the Vulgate. Here Müntzer stresses not only the epistemological significance of rebirth but also quite characteristically the anguish thereof.
*** The reference is not only to the Catholic view that grace perfects nature but also to the Lutheran view of justification, according to which, so Müntzer holds, the work of God in the form of suffering is not allowed to operate to the point where the natural man is completely eliminated.
**** In the figures and allusions of vision and dream.

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