28 January 2015

A beautiful bit from Chemnitz...

...(thanks to Dr. Stuckwisch who sent me hunting):


The mourning Christians indeed know the divine promises concerning those who have died in the Lord; nevertheless, when they are troubled as they consider the weaknesses of their loved ones, and because they do not see before their eyes their rest and happiness, they flee to God and commend them to the mercy of God in their prayers, in order that they may by these very prayers confirm themselves with respect to the blessedness of their dead. For such prayers, as the most ancient were, rest on these promises: Whoever believes in me “will never see death”; “He…has passed from death to life”’ “Though he die, yet shall he live”; “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” etc.

....

For it would be animalistic apathy not to be touched by the death of one's own, to erase the memory of departed friends immediately from the mind, not to wish them well and to pray for their welfare—all of which, however, are to be kept in bounds according to the Word.

Examen III:268

7 comments:

Unknown said...


Chemnitz wrote, “For it would be animalistic apathy not to be touched by the death of one's own, to erase the memory of departed friends immediately from the mind, not to wish them well and to pray for their welfare—all of which, however, are to be kept in bounds according to the Word.”
It seems to me that when it comes to the matter of death, either our own or somebody else’s, we find it very difficult to keep our emotions “in bounds according to the Word.” In part, I believe that we are unable to characterize these emotions as being essentially self-centered, because they are so profound and unavoidable. We cannot, in this case, admit that what is unavoidable and profound can also be sinful.
Yes, we are “touched by the death of one’s own”, and nobody expects us to “erase the memory of departed friends immediately from the mind”. There is nothing wrong with that, because it does not detail the nature of our feelings. But, in reality, do we “wish them well and to pray for their welfare?” If we believe what we have learned from childhood on, we would know that either our departed friends are in a place that is unimaginably better than the one from which they have departed, or there is no hope for them.
But I note that even St. Paul waffles on this point. In Philippians 1 he writes that (v21), “For me living is Christ and dying is gain” and (v23), “my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”. But when it comes to his friend Epaphroditus, apparently it was not better for him “to be with Christ”, because in Philippians 2:27 he writes, “He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another”.
But we have an authoritative word from our Lord on the subject. We say that He was a man just as we are, but without sin. Actually, that is like saying that an elephant is just like a flea, only bigger. Because on the most profound subjects on which we do not want to admit our sinfulness, His word is entirely different from what we would expect. On the evening before His final suffering and cruel death, this is what He said to His Disciples, John 14:28, “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I”. Joy at such a time? Only the sinless one, could say that, even as it is written about Him, Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The fact that we do not rejoice when a child of God transits to the Heavenly Kingdom means that we do not love enough. But our loving Lord and Savior forgives even that, and even when we deny it.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

2 Timothy 1:18?

Unknown said...

Will, I say without any false humility that I am one of the most naïve people in the world. Therefore I have difficulty with hints; you have to stick my nose right in it for me to understand.
Was Onesiphorus still alive when St. Paul implored God’s mercy on him? There are 18 people for whom I pray every day by name, and all of them are still alive. 9 are unbelievers. But even as David stopped mourning for his infant son when he died (isn’t that an amazing concept?), so I will stop praying for them when they die, trusting that the Lord has heard and answered my prayers.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

George, it appears he was not. Note the past tense describing his service to the apostle and how the Apostle at the end sends greetings to his household. Franzmann notes in his NT commentary that he has apparently died after his helpful service to Paul and to the Ephesians. It is a touching comment, as the Apostle thinks of this servant of Christ and he asks mercy upon him from the Lord on the Lord's great day.

Jeff said...

Luther says something similar (though in passing and not as eloquently as Chemnitz).
"As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: "Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it." And when this has been done once or twice, let it suffice. For vigils and requiem masses and yearly celebrations of requiems are useless, and are merely the devil's annual fair."
(Volume 37:369 in his summary of his beliefs.)

William Weedon said...

AND Chemnitz cites that very statement on the next page, I do believe! He was a good student. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you, Will. As I understand it, prayer for the dead is an adiaphoron among Lutherans, circumscribed by certain Biblical constraints. I personally choose not to do it, and I do not believe that my soul will suffer any damage from that, nor do I believe that anyone who has died will be deprived of mercy, because I have not prayed for them.
But my posting dealt with the nature of mourning. Chemnitz raises a straw man when he writes, “…not to be touched by the death of one's own, to erase the memory of departed friends immediately from the mind, not to wish them well and …”. Nobody expects anyone to do these things. He writes that what happens to us is that we “do not see before our eyes their rest and happiness, we flee to God and commend them to the mercy of God in our prayers, in order that we may by these very prayers confirm ourselves with respect to the blessedness of our dead” (I have taken the liberty to substitute the first person plural for the third person plural used by Chemnitz). Somehow this does not sound as if it is the genuine essence of mourning. We “are touched” means we miss the person. This has nothing to do with the person who has died; it has to do with us. That is why it is so significant that our Lord said, “If you loved me, you would rejoice …” Our mourning is feeling sorry for ourselves, not loving the person who has died. That is why I can never admit that our Lord wept because Lazarus had died. The Gospel turns everything upside down. Our Lord wept because He was going to bring someone back from the dead, and He tells His Disciples to rejoice because He is going to die.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart