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From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles
But the chief purpose or power of the law is to reveal original sin with all its consequences, and show us how very low our nature has fallen, that it has become utterly corrupted. The law, therefore, must inform people that they neither have nor care for God, or worship other gods, a matter which before and without the law they could not have believed. So, they become terrified, humbled, despondent, despairing, and anxiously desire aid, but see no solution. They begin to be an enemy of God, to complain, etc. This is what Paul says: “The Law brings wrath” (Rom 4:15) and, “Law came in, to increase the trespass” (Rom 5:20).
Pulling It Together: The law is always there to terrify consciences. The terror is so complete and overpowering that we have nowhere to turn, not even to ourselves. Keeping the law is no answer. For who can do so? The harder we try, the more it accuses. If we depend upon works of the law, we are undone. Who could ever be certain of keeping the law or of being, as people say, “good enough”?
There are four responses to this human dilemma. One, try harder. But, as we have said, this only brings more accusation and more despair, as there is no advantage in our nature. Two, give up. Three, become calloused and even scarred, having contempt for all things divine or even merely religious. Four, turn for help to a nature and power beyond ourselves.
Prayer: Draw me close to you, Lord. Amen.
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