The Preacher Within
“Follow Your Heart?”
Martin Luther, in a sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, sought to encourage his congregation to faithful use of the Lord’s Supper, not simply by outlining the Supper’s benefits but also our need.
For you have a preacher within you, who eats and drinks with you, sleeps and wakes; the “old Adam.” You take him to bed with you, you get up with him, and lie down with him; he preaches to you without ceasing, and can keep at it masterfully, to pull you down, so that with the passage of time you get colder, and so lax and lazy that ultimately you completely forget the Lord Christ and his gospel and concern yourself no more about it. This, I say, is what the preacher does, who hangs on your neck and lies under your left breast, blasting your ears full as he preaches: How is it that you are not more concerned about being great and rich before the world? that today, tomorrow, and the day after you don’t have the time and cannot bear the delay, in order to receive the Sacrament. And this is what happens: today you are cold and put off; tomorrow you will be colder. That is what your preacher is up to, the old scoundrel. He draws you away from it to the extent that, though you hear sermons every day, nevertheless, you think of other things and are preoccupied with other matters. For, tell me, where will you find a man who is tired of greed and disgusted with it? Indeed, from day to day, the longer the more ravenous, the hastier the more ardent, in pursuit after the shameful, accursed greed and profit. It is the same with other vices. A fornicator can neither think nor speak enough of fornication, and the longer he thinks and speaks of it, the more passionately he goes after it. This is what the “old Adam” does, preaching to you so long until you are virtually drowned in sins.
But our dear Lord Christ desires that just as your greed speaks to you and preaches to you endlessly of money and goods, of power and honor, in the same manner you would let yourself be drawn and led into that life, and think on your Redeemer, who died on the cross for you; and so set your heart on fire, that you desire to be with him, being weary of this world, and saying, Alas, Lord, I see that I cannot cease sinning, I cannot have enough of evil; so I beg you, help me to be an enemy of the world, gaining instead a desire and love for you. This remembrance and ardor is a daily necessity against the preacher of destruction, or “old Adam,” who lies into our ears day and night.
For this reason our dear Lord Jesus Christ instituted his Supper, to remind us by it that after this life there follows another. Therefore, he takes the bread and cup and says, “Eat, this is my body, which is given for you; drink, this is my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do in remembrance of me.” As if to say, I am preparing here a meal for you, in which you will partake of my heavenly treasures, which are the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And I prepare such a meal, so that when you are secure in me, by my body and blood, given and poured out for yo9u for the forgiveness of sins, you, in turn, in so doing will think on me and never forget. Therefore, if from day to day, at the instigation of your “old Adam,” you are thinking of money and goods, power and honor, enjoyments and lusts of this life, then give me one day in a week or in four weeks, to think on me. You really need this for yourselves …
Martin Luther, sermon delivered on Easter Wednesday, 1534
Eugene F. A. Klug (Editor) Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils, volume 2 47-48