From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles
Even all this gave no comfort. Although the pope taught people to trust and depend upon these indulgences, he made the matter uncertain again. For in his decrees he declares that whoever would benefit from the indulgences or a Golden Year must be contrite, have made confession, and pay money. Now, we have heard above that their practice of contrition and confession are uncertain and hypocritical. Besides, no one knew what soul was in purgatory, and if some were there, no one knew which had properly repented and confessed. So, he took their precious money, and comforted them meanwhile with his power and indulgence, then directed them again to their uncertain works.
Pulling It Together: The hope of eternal life does not come through religious actions, the promises of pastors, priests, and popes, or payment plans. All of these will disappoint sooner or later. Your good deeds will always be suspect. How can you know whether they are good enough or plentiful enough? You cannot know. Nor will you trust the guarantees of a minister. No matter how kind and good you find that person to be, his reassurances will always be insubstantial when weighed in the balance with sin and death. Nor does God’s Word have us pay money for salvation. His Word calls us to do but one thing: believe. The hope of eternal life only comes through faith in Christ Jesus as preached in the Word of God. When facing death, faith in Christ alone brings certain comfort.
Prayer: Give me certain hope for eternal life, O God, and solid trust in your promises. Amen.
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