“Evangelista- And, truly, it is no marvel, though all men naturally do so: for man naturally doth apprehend God to be the great Master of heaven, and himself to be his servant; and that therefore he must do his work before he can have his wages; and the more work he doth, the better wages he shall have. And hence it was, that when Aristotle came to speak of blessedness, and to pitch upon the next means to that end, he said, “It was operation and working”; with whom also agrees Pythagoras, when he says, “It is man’s felicity to be like unto God, [as how?] by becoming righteous and holy.” And let us not marvel that these men did so err, who never heard of Christ, nor of the covenant of grace, when those to whom it was made known by the apostles of Christ did the like; witness those to whom the apostle Paul wrote his epistles, and especially the Galatians: for although he had by his preaching, when he was present with them, made known unto them the covenant of grace; yet after his departure, through the seducement of false teaches, they were soon turned to the covenant of works, and sought to be justified, either in whole or in part by it; as you may see if you seriously consider that epistle.
Nay, what says Luther? It is, says he, the general opinion of men’s reason throughout the whole world, that righteousness is gotten by the works of the law; and the reason is, because the covenant was engendered in the minds of men in the very creation, 1 so that man naturally can judge no otherwise of the law than as of a covenant of works, which was given to make righteous, and to give life and salvation. This pernicious opinion of the law, that it justifieth and maketh righteous before God, says Luther again, “is so deeply rooted in man’s reason, and all mankind so wrapped in it, that they can hardly get out; yea, I myself, says he, have now preached the gospel nearly twenty years, and have been exercised in the same daily, by reading and writing, so that I may well seem to be rid of this wicked opinion; yet, notwithstanding, I now and then feel this old filth cleave to my heart, whereby it cometh to pass that I would willingly have so to do with God, that I would bring something with myself, because of which he should give me his grace.” Nay it is to be feared, that, as you said, many amongst us [who have more means of light ordinarily, than ever Luther, or any before him had, 2 yet notwithstanding] do either wholly, or in part, expect justification and acceptation by the works of the law.”
The Marrow of Modern Divinity