From the Word
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Genesis 8:20–22, RSV
This is a powerful passage relating to original sin. Whoever weakens its force, goes groping like the blind man in the sunlight, failing to see his own acts and experiences. Look in how many ways sin manifests itself in our earlier years. What an amount of switching it requires until we are taught order and attention to duty! What then shall we say of the inward vices when unbelief, presumption, neglect of the Word, and wicked views grow up? Original sin is not a slight disorder or infirmity, but complete lawlessness, the like of which is not found in other creatures, except in evil spirits. Not even the saints are excepted. For we learn by experience that even holy men can scarcely stand firm; that even they are often entangled by gross sins, being overwhelmed by such natural corruptions.
The Hebrew ne-urim denotes the age when man begins to use his reason; this naturally occurs in the sixth year. Similarly the term ne-arim is used to denote boys and youths who need the guidance of parents and teachers up to the age of manhood. It will be profitable for each of us to glance backward to that period of life and consider how willingly we obeyed the commands of our parents and teachers, how diligent we were in studying, how persevering we were, how often our parents punished our sauciness. Who can say for himself that he was not much more pleased to go out for a walk, to play games and to gossip than to go to church in obedience to his parents.
Although these impulses can be corrected or bridled to a certain extent by discipline, they cannot be entirely rooted out of the heart, as their traces show when we are grown up. God, indeed, causes some persons to experience emotions which are naturally good; but they are induced by supernatural power. Thus Cyrus was impelled to restore the worship of God and to preserve the Church. But such is not the tendency of human nature. Where God is present with his Holy Spirit, there only the imagination of the human heart gives place to the thoughts of God. God dwells there through the Word and the Spirit. But Moses speaks here only of those who are without the Holy Spirit; they are wicked even at their best.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 276–77.