Selection from “The Mystery of Baptism”
First then, Christ says, “go into all the world and preach the gospel of all creatures [aller creaturen].” hear the Lord shows man shall come to the knowledge of God and himself, namely through the “gospel of all creatures.” But we must first of all learn and know what is this “gospel of all creatures.” For, God have mercy, the whole world is utterly ignorant of it, and it is also never preached in our age. And through it be preached and spoken by the poor in spirit, despised of the world [die der welt veracht], as it should be, to those to whom it is revealed, yet to the soft and carnal men, especially the hireling preachers, who none the less boast that they preach the gospel, it is the very greatest folly and fanaticism, and those who so preach are railed at as the most scandalous false prophets and lying spirits. Ah well, they have their little day, and, as Paul has so well said, the word of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing; but to those who shall be saved (that is, us) it is the power of God.
In the “gospel of all creatures” is nothing else signified and preached then simply Christ crucified, but not Christ alone as Head, but the whole Christ with all members, this is the Christ which all creatures preach and teach. The whole Christ has to suffer in all members, and not as our Scribes preach Christ (who was nevertheless to be the best, as we hear it daily from them), that Christ as the Head has bourne and accomplished everything. But then what happens to the members and the whole body in which the suffering of Christ must be fulfilled? Of this Paul bears witness when he says, “I rejoice in my suffering, for I fulfill what is lacking in the suffering of Christ in my body.” And therefore, in a short time, which has already begun, they must with their wisdom be turned into fools, for it is God’s good pleasure through foolish, silly, and fanatical preaching, as the clever ones call it, to save those who believe it, though these rage against it never so much. So they must in a short time, for all their wisdom and pride, give way to the poor in spirit who, as Paul says, are simply fanatics to them. Now this you are to understand with diligence, my dearly beloved Brethren, and mark the word which Christ calls “the gospel of all creatures” [das evangelion aller creaturen]. For it is not here to be understood as though the gospel is to be preached to the creatures, cats and dogs, cows and calves, leaves and grass, but as Paul says, the ” gospel which is preached to you, in all creatures.” He also shows when he says that the eternal power and a Divinity will be perceived when a man truly recognizes it in the creatures or works from the creation of the world.
Thus it is nothing else, as he expounds it in another place, than a power of God which saves all who believe in it. But is a man will understand and confess God’s eternal power and divinity, or his visible being, by the works or creatures from the creation of the world, he must then mark and consider how Christ always showed the kingdom of heaven and the power of teh Father to the common man in a creature, through a parable, through handicrafts, in all manner of works with which man are occupied. He did not direct the poor man to books, as now our senseless scribes do, but he taught them and showed them the gospel by means of their work, the peasants by their field, seed, thistle, thorn and rock. In the prophets God says men are not to sow amongst thorns, but are first to clear the ground, plough it or turn it up, and then plant afterwards. The power of God, as it is shown us here, is God’s work towards us, that God’s power must be exercised towards us, as the work of the peasants towards the field. This Christ shows with the field, and Paul says, “you are God’s husbandry.” As the peasant does with his field, before he sows seed in it, so does God also with us, before he plants his Word in us, that it may grow and bear fruit. He teaches the gardener the gospel from his trees, the fisherman from his catch, the builder from his house, the goldsmith by testing of his gold, the housewives from their dough, the vinedresser by his vineyard, vine and shoots, the tailor by patching on an old garment, the merchant by the pearls, the reaper by the harvest, the woodcutter by the axe laid to the tree, the shepherd by his sheep, the potter by his pottery, the steward and the bailiff by their accounts, the pregnant woman by her childbearing, the thresher by his winnowing fan, the butcher by his slaughtering. Paul illustrates the body of Christ in and through a human body, and so Christ always preached the gospel of the kingdom of God by the creatures and in parables and without a parable he did not preach to them. And so David says “I will open my mouth and speak in parables.”
From such parables men are diligently to mark how all the creatures have to suffer the work of mn, and come through the suffering to their end, for which they were created, and also how no man can come to salvation, save through suffering and tribulation which God works in him, as also te whole Scripture and all the creatures show nothing else but the suffering Christ in all his members.
That is why the whole of the Scriptures is described simply through creatures. And therefore did God give the children of Israel to understand his will through creaturely and ceremonial works, and announced, preached, and described them through Moses. God commands that oxen, sheep, he-goats, rams, and bullocks shall be sacrificed. Through Isaiah he testifies that he does not will such, as he says, “The sacrifice of bulls, the blood of sheep, calves and goats have I not chosen,” and through David he says, “I will not take any bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds.” Therefore God’s commandment does not consist in the letter [red] but in the power [kraft] which the Spirit gives, and the spiritual force of such commandment will always hold good for men-that man is in Relation to God as such sacrifice is in relation to men. That is why David sacrifices to God a burnt offering of ras, oxen and goats, and offers a calf for himself. Such ceremonial sacrifices are therefore signs and witness that men are to offer themselves as living sacrifices. Accordingly God commands [Lev. 11, Deut. 14] that men are to give themselves to God to suffer the will of God, as such animals have to suffer our will, and he forbids the eating of unclean beasts, the [spiritual] force of which is that we are to keep company with impure men, who are compared with such animals. For it is written [Acts 10:15] there is nothing unclean and all is good. These ceremonies point out what is the will of God, and are intended for us as truly as for the children of Israel.
That is why Christ always spoke through parables, and these consist not in the speaking, but in the power and meaning. All animals are subject unto man; if a man needs one he must first prepare, cook and roast it, and the animals must suffer. So we must first be justified by him, and cleansed within and without: inwardly from desire and lust, outwardly from all improper behaviour and misuse of creatures. The peasant sows no corn amongst thistle, thorns, sticks and stones, but he first weeds them out and then sows afterwards. So does God with us: he sows his Word not in a man who is full of thistles or thorns or has desire and affection only towards creatures; that anxiety about bodily welfare which God forbids, must first be rooted out. The builder does not make a house out of whole trees but first cuts them down and then fashions them as he wills, and afterwards makes a house out of them. In this way we are to learn God’s Work and will towards us, which is as a man behaves with a house before he gives in it, which house (Paul says) we are.
Man is often called a tree in the Scriptures: if he is to be turned into a house he must be cut off from the world with all lusts. Then as on a tree one branch sticks out, now in one direction and now in another, so is it too with the desires of men, one branch stretches towards possessions, another towards wife and children, a third towards money, a fourth towards fields and lands, to pomp and temporal honour.
Therefore all the works which we accomplish with the creatures should be our Scriptures which we closely mark. For the whole world with all creatures is a book, in which is to be seen in act all those things which are read in the written book. For all elect men from the beginning of the world until Moses have studied in the book of all creatures, and have taken knowledge of it by reason, as it is written from nature by the Spirit of God in the heart, because the whole law is expressed in creaturely works. And all men are in this wise concerned with the creatures, as the law shows, even the heathen who have not the law of Scripture, and yet do the same thing which they do who have the scriptural law. The law of Scripture prescribes how a man must kill a beast before it is offered to God, and only after this was it eaten; even so do the heathen who have the law of nature, and who eat no animal alive. So we must first die to the world and live in God.
As therefore the law is inscribed in all creatures and shown forth there, we read it in our daily work. In this book we are occupied daily, and the whole world is full, yes, full of the will of God so expressed, of which our own hearts bear witness if we keep them from the coarsening of worldly disorder and lust, and so men can perceive the invisible being and eternal power of God in the works of the creatures, and see how God works with men and prepared them for the end of their perfection which can only take place through the cross of suffering according to his will. That is why all creatures are subject to man, to rule over them, and as the whole Bible is written in terms of all creatures, so Christ too spoke, or preached and declared, the “gospel in all creatures” in a parable, as he himself did when he preached it to the poor. So he did not point them to the chapters of a book, as our Scribes do, for all that a man can show through the creatures is all confirmed in the Scriptures, and Christ needs no Scriptures except for the sake of the scribes, to convince them with it. When the gospel is all creatures is thus preached according to the commandment of the Lord, and man is brought thereby to understand that reason in a natural and real way is included in his own works which he does over and in the creatures, in which he acknowledges God’s will towards him, and gives himself into joyful obedience to Christ, he sees that no man can be saved in any other way than by suffering the will of God in body and in pain, as it may please God.