During Carnal Prosperity the Church Decreases

Pentecost 16 Friday

Psalm 1:3

“He is like a tree planted by the rivers who produces his fruit in due season; and his leaves do not wilt, and everything he does prospers.”

Take care lest you understand this prosperity in a carnal sense. The prosperity in this verse takes place in
hiddenness and happens completely in the spirit, so much so that if you do not grasp it in faith, you might actually think it is the greatest adversity. For just as the devil hates the leaves and the Word of God to the utmost, so he also hates those who teach and hear it. He persecutes them, supported by the might of the entire world. Thus, you hear the greatest of all miracles that whatever the blessed man does prospers. For what is more miraculous than that the believers increase while they are killed; that they multiply while they are reduced; that they have the upper hand while they are subjected; that they enter while they are exiled; that they triumph while they are vanquished? For this is how the world and its prince were overcome. This is how the Lord leads his saints in marvelous ways, Psalm 4:3: That which is the greatest misfortune in itself must serve toward a blessed end. This is the prosperity of the wise and the walk of men in God. Yet currently we see that Proverbs 1:32 is being fulfilled, the ignorant are killed by what they desire, and the fortune of the fools will be their downfall. For now, since we have provided prestige and renown for the things of the church and have drawn the Spirit into the flesh, Galatians 3:3, the church’s wealth, despotic reign, impunity, carnal peace, and its more than worldly splendor are called a good position for the church. For the devil finally saw and recognized the spiritual
nature of the church’s prosperity. He, therefore, restrained himself and attacked us in a different way where he, to our dismal misfortune, triumphed: He who was overcome in war now triumphs in peace–both are God’s marvelous ordaining. This is why St. Hilary is perfectly correct in saying that it is in the nature of the church that it grows in carnal adversity while it decreases in carnal prosperity. Yet this wisdom of the cross and the new meaning of things is not only unknown, but is viewed as the worst thing, even among the leaders of the church. And this is not surprising since they abandoned Scripture and began to read the disastrous ideas of men and focused on ledgers for the accounting of money.

St. Louis ed., 4:243-244.

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