‘He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’ Daniel 3:25
Suggested Further Reading: Acts 13:44–52
Luther, I dare say, like other men, had some respect for his own character, and some reverence for public opinion, and might have been willing to pay some deference to the learning and authority of the age, both of which lent their aid to the ancient system of Rome, but in a happy hour the Pope excommunicated the German troubler. All is well for Luther now. He must henceforth never conciliate or dream of peace. Now his bonds are broken. He burns the Pope’s bull and thunders out, ‘The Pope of Rome excommunicates Martin Luther, and I, Martin Luther, excommunicate the Pope of Rome. The world hates me, and there is no love lost between us, for I esteem it as much as it esteems me. War to the knife,’ says he. The man was never clear till the world thrust him out. It is a splendid thing to run the gauntlet of so much contempt, that the soul is hardened to it under a strong consciousness that the right is none the more contemptible because its friend may be despised. ‘Why,’ you say, ‘is this how I am treated for the statement of truth? I was inclined to conciliate and yield, but after this never! You have loosed my bonds.’ When man has done his worst, as Nebuchadnezzar did in this case, why then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could say, ‘What more could he do? He has thrown us into a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter; he has done his worst and now what have we to fear?’ When persecution rages, it is wonderful what liberty it gives to the child of God. Remember Luther, Knox, Calvin, Wycliffe, Bradford, Latimer, and many others! Under God these men owed their liberty of speech and liberty of conscience to the fact that the world thrust them out from all hope of its favour, and so loosed their bonds.
For meditation: Consider the increasing boldness of one man while being cast out for Christ’s sake by the Pharisees (John 9:24–38). One plus God is always a majority.
Sermon no. 662
26 November (1865)