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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Extract from Commentary on Psalm CI.
By Martin Luther (1483–1546)
 
          “I will sing of mercy and judgment, and unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing praises.”

HE immediately at the outset gives instructions to the kings and princes, that they should praise and thank God if they have good order and devoted servants, at home or at court; from these words they should learn and understand that such things are a peculiar gift of God, and not due to their own wisdom or capacity. This is the experience of the world. No matter how common or unfitted one may be, he thinks if he had the rule he would do everything excellently, nor does he take pleasure in anything that others in authority may do; exactly as the servant in the comedy of Terence says longingly, “Oh, I should have been a king!” And as Absalom spoke secretly against David his father to the people of Israel: “See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!”  1
  These are the master wiseacres, who on account of their superior wisdom can bridle the horse behind, and yet can really do nothing more than judge and bully other folks; and if they do get power into their hands, everything goes to pieces with them, just as the proverb says: “He who watches the sport knows best how to play.” For they imagine, if only they could get the ball into their hands, how they would knock over twelve pins, when there are really only nine on the square, until they learn that there is a groove that runs alongside of the alley. Such men do not praise and thank God; neither do they believe that these are God’s gifts, or that they should implore and call upon God for such things. Instead they are presumptuous, and think their understanding and wisdom so sure that nothing is wanting: they wish to have the glory and renown of ruling and making all things work beneficially for others, just as if the Good Man (as our Lord God is called) should sit idly by, and not be present when one desires to accomplish some beneficence. And indeed he does so, and looks through his fingers, and allows the children of men audaciously to begin to build the Tower of Babel; afterwards he comes right amongst them, scatters them, and destroys everything, so that no one understands what the other says any longer. And it serves them right, because they exclude God from their counsel, and would be like God; they would be wise enough in themselves, and so have the honor which belongs to God alone. I have often, while in the cloister, seen and heard wise and sensible people give counsel with such assurance and brilliance that I thought it impossible for it to fail. “Ah!” thought I, “that has hands and feet,—that is certainly alive;” and I believed it as surely as if all had really taken place, and were stationed there before my eyes. But when one sought to grasp it and bring it into play, then it retreated basely, and the beautiful living counsel was even more worthless than a dream or a shadow is; and one must say, “Well then, if that was a dream, let the devil trust himself to such fine and beautiful counsels.”  2
  How utterly is everything mere appearance and glitter, wherein God does not participate!
  [1534.]
  3
 
 
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