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ON VOCATION
 

 “For God Himself and the Spirit are in the Christian who does the work.” Martin Luther said this in his Lectures on Genesis. His commentary on Chapter 29, verses 1-3, outlines the Christian’s divine assignments in all his secular endeavors.

1. Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east.

2. As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and lo, three flocks of sheep lying beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large,

3. and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place upon the mouth of the well. (Gen. 29, 1-3)
 

So far Moses has conducted the very saintly patriarch through those more sublime and truly ecclesiastical exercises of faith and the Word of God, and this topic is most noteworthy in all the histories of the saints, namely, when they hear the Word of God, believe it, and are exercised in faith by many tribulations and annoyances. For although they are weak in faith here, yet they are plainly divine and heavenly men, utterly pure and saintly. In short, they live and act in the sight of God, not of men.

This is the true dignity and sublimity in the saintly fathers. Thus in our life, when we are exercised by the Word in the church and use the sacraments, we are also plagued by various trials, and our faith is tested like gold in a furnace. This is the true saintliness because of which we are called and are saints. For the Holy Spirit sanctifies through the Word taken hold of through faith, and He mortifies the flesh by means of sufferings and troubles, in order that the saints may be quickened and may present their bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” as Rom. 12:1 says. This is the highest stage of the life of the saints.

But lest we lose heart if we heard that the saintly fathers are set forth only in the highest stage and kind of life, God leads them back from heaven to earth and describes them as completely worthless and as men of the lowest sort, so that nothing more common or worthless could be mentioned, except that their sins are not praised. Otherwise they are described in a completely meager manner, as though they were crawling in the dust of domestic and political life. For they are engaged in and busy with works that seem to be of no importance at all and without any saintliness, while the papists, on the contrary, seek and admire only the kind of life that is utterly withdrawn from and alien to secular occupations, domestic and political cares. That withdrawal from physical and secular duties they call sanctity and righteousness. But they are completely mistaken in every respect. For we should seek faith and righteousness in such a way that we pay tithes of mint and dill. Thus Christ says in Matt. 23:23: “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others”; that is, because we dwell and live in the flesh, for this reason the flesh must be cared for, but without sin. The state and domestic affairs must be administered, since we are not yet in Paradise. Nor are we like the angels; but we live in the flesh, in a natural life which has need of food, drink, clothing, house, offspring, and agriculture. There is also need of political government and of protection against evil men. Therefore it is necessary to retain those two parts of this life. They are support and protection. The home supports and cherishes children and the household. The state defends and protects all these.

Accordingly, the saintly fathers, are described in a lowly and carnal manner in this lower stage of life, than which in the eyes of the papists there is nothing more sordid or worthless. Thus they say that nothing else is set forth than that they married wives, procreated offspring, milked cows and goats, etc., which are completely secular and heathenish works.1 But the Lord has given us a true understanding, for which we should be thankful; for we can look into these matters more deeply than the papists, who see nothing else here except those carnal works. But these works are not so carnal as their own works, which are governed by the devil and are done without the Holy Spirit. For even though they fast, abstain from marriage, and murmur in the churches, yet there is no spirit in their prayers, no feeling, no worship of God. Everything is full of greed, idolatry, empty glow, and contempt for GOD.

But we teach that first of all the person must be looked at, whether it is just and godly, which takes place through the Word he believes. Then, however, it carries out its ministry in the church: teaches, exhorts, prays, learns and hears the Word, bears the cross for the sake of the Word, and is mortified in the flesh. That person is saintly, alive, and well-pleasing to God. It proceeds to other external offices after it has heard the Word, believed, prayed, and discharged its duty in the church. Thus after David has done this, he proceeds to the administration of the kingdom, hears lawsuits, wages war, draws up his army, attacks the enemy, kills, and sheds enemy blood. Properly speaking, these are not duties of the church; they are political. Accordingly, if anyone says: “Then David is not saintly, for he is a soldier and bears the sword,” that person judges, too grossly, as the papists do. For who is that man David who sheds blood and wages war? He is a person who has been justified in the church by the Word and faith. But later he has the political administration entrusted to him. Therefore he judges, condemns, justifies, administers the state, punishes the guilty, and wages wars. Nevertheless, he remains a man of faith and a good tree. But that spilling of blood is pleasing to God, although the world, the monks, and all other hypocrites are violently offended, because they look only at the external mask of the works. They do not see the Word, faith, the spirit, and the impulse of God, who governs the person not only in sublime duties but also in those that pertain to the state and the household. For David was called by God to do this, as is stated, “that he should do My whole will,”2 which also orders him to humble the Philistines, the Damascenes, the Amalekites, the Ammonites, etc.

“But what does this mean?” the papists say. “He had to pray, sacrifice, and bring offerings in the temple.” Right indeed! He also performs the works of the church in accordance with his place and rank. In the morning he prays, meditates on the Word, believes, sings psalms, and carefully discharges the duties that pertain to the church. Afterwards he also administers political and household affairs, procreates children, takes care of the household, eats, and drinks. Thus David goes along in a godly and saintly manner through all three hierarchies: the church, the state, and the household.3

In the same manner our life, too, must be arranged, so that we are found in the rank and station, which is pleasing to God according to His Word. Above all, you should believe in the Word, confess it, and be prepared to suffer and die for the Word. Later, whether you are a magistrate or the head of a household, you should serve your calling in your place. Such a life pleases God and is honored by God with many great rewards and successes.

Accordingly, the lives of the fathers must be treated and looked at in such a way on that sublime plane, lest the lowest, carnal, and sordid examples in the domestic and political sphere be despised. For these examples are not sordid. Nor are they cheap and worthless when they are done by a person who believes, is acceptable to God, saintly, and divine, by one who knows that whatever he does is pleasing to God, yet in such a way that the order is not disturbed, but that he remains and lives in faith. Afterwards the works of one’s calling are also pleasing.

In this manner Moses describes how the patriarch Jacob came to Haran and found there the daughter of his uncle, loved the maiden, took her as his wife, procreated children, and pastured the flocks. All these things are foolish and carnal. No things more carnal can be found among the heathen themselves. For no one sees the essential difference, which is very great, between a heathen and this patriarch Jacob. For Esau and Ishmael also cultivate the fields, pasture sheep, milk cows, have a household and provide pasture for their cattle. All these works are similar to those done by the saints. Yet they are not holy works. Why? Because there is a great and incomprehensible difference between the works of both. Here with Jacob there is faith and the Word; there no Word is found, only unbelief. Accordingly, the works of Jacob are as different from the works of Ishmael and Esau as heaven from earth, no matter how much they seem to be the same works in outward appearance.

Thus Erasmus gives high praise to the virtues of the heathen, those of Socrates, of Cicero, of Atticus, etc.; and he makes a comparison. “Among Christians,” he says, “you would scarcely find men who did what Pomponius Atticus or others did. Indeed, among Christians many are found who are openly evil and infamous. These heathen were better by far than they are.”4 But one must reply: Philosophically and materially they are alike, that is, in respect to the kind of life, but not in respect to the distinguishing characteristics and the difference. For if either Cicero or Socrates had sweat blood, he would nevertheless not have pleased God for this reason. Nor is it a question of what works and what great works Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, and Scipio did. It is certain that these men did things that were greater than those any Christian ever did. For you will not easily find in any Christian king such military strength, likewise such patience and endurance of misfortunes and hardships, no, not even among the kings of the people of Israel, like David or the others. Why, then, do you not extol them and prefer them to all Christian kings, to David and the others?

I answer that if I had a choice, I would select the most sordid and most rustic work of a Christian peasant or maid in preference to all the victories and triumphs of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, etc. Why? Because God is here, and the devil is there. This is the essential difference. The material of the works is the same, but the distinguishing characteristics and the difference are infinitely diverse. For God says: “The works and domestic duties of this woman, namely, that she sweeps the house and obeys the housewife, please Me.” For “He has regarded the humility of His handmaiden” (Luke 1:48), where there are no great and glorious works except that at home she humbly discharges the duties of a maid, whether in the kitchen or among the cattle. These two, Leah and Rachel, were maids of this kind. They pastured the flocks of their father, drove them to water, and milked the cows and goats. These works were pleasing to God. But Hannibal, Alexander, Scipio, and Cicero do not please God. Why? Because, although they are alike in respect to the kind of works they do, or rather surpass in this regard, they are surpassed in respect to the distinguishing characteristics and the difference.

Not all men are able to understand this. Not even Erasmus saw it. Only believers understand the worth and importance of the works of Christians. But faith and the Word make their works important and give them the greatest worth. For God Himself and the Spirit are in the Christian who does the works. But men, who are like horses and mules (cf. Ps. 32:9), are powerfully moved by the outward appearance. Formerly, when I was a monk, I, too, was far saintlier than I am now so far as the external mask is concerned. I prayed more, kept vigils, practiced abstinence, and tormented my flesh. In short, my whole life was altogether showy in the eyes of others, although not in my own eyes; for I was intensely crushed and distressed. But now I eat and dress in the regular and usual manner. Nothing special or extraordinary stands out in my life in comparison with others. At that time, when I was a monk, I did nothing else than waste my time and ruin my health. Indeed, I wounded my conscience with those acts of righteousness, with the result that even now it can scarcely be restored. For beyond nature, in which glorying about works is implanted, I also acquired the disposition and custom of paying attention to my works and my worthiness. But I know for certain that now one reading and one Our Father avails more and is more acceptable to God than all those prayers I mumbled for 15 whole years,5 for I know that I am heard. There is no need of any vigils or of special fasts and of abstinence, for God gave me “a messenger of Satan” (2 Cor. 12:7) together with other difficulties and the crosses of this world which plague me more than all those things.

So far we have treated this subject, that the very saintly patriarch is described so simply and meagerly that he does not differ in any respect from the lowest and most worthless man among the heathen. But from this the reader6 should learn the difference between a Christian and a heathen and their works. For if he is a Christian, see whether he honors, hears, and earnestly loves the Word, or whether he is also plagued by a cross and troubles. If this is so, he will come to church, gladly hear the Word, take delight in it, believe from the heart, pray, give thanks, and have a good conscience. If you see this, then conclude with certainty that he is a saintly man who is pleasing to God. And admire him as such. And whatever he does later, whether in the government or in the management of household affairs, you must say that it is pleasing to God and that God will reward it not only in this life but also in the life to come. Thus it is stated in Revelation (14:13): “Their deeds follow them,” not only the works pertaining to the church but also those pertaining to the state and to domestic matters. But the works of the godless and the heathen are not pleasing to God. Therefore they do not follow them; but they die without glory, without being remembered, without admiration. Our works, however, have the glory and the inspection of God and His angels, and they follow us into the life to come.

But let us look at the text. “HE LIFTED HIS FEET” is a common way of speaking in the Hebrew language. For it the translation in the Vulgate has profectus est.7 But note how different the preparation for this journey is from that previous legation, when Abraham sends his servant to bring a wife for Isaac, his son and the heir of the promise. For at that time the servant is sent equipped with gold, silver, gems, camels, and a distinguished retinue. Why is the same preparation not granted to his son Jacob, since he, too, after receiving the promise and the blessing, was appointed as the heir? He enters upon his journey on foot, without a retinue, without camels, and without any expense. He barely has provisions for the journey. “He lifted his feet,” hat seine fuss auffgehaben, set out on foot; he did not tarry on the way but proceeded in haste, meta; spoudh`", as is said of Mary when she went through the hill country (Luke 1:39).

Thus he depicts Jacob, the very saintly patriarch and heir of the blessing, as altogether poor, downcast, and lowly. Yet Jacob alone is now the pope, as it were, in the world. For Eber, who was still living during the preceding year, has grown old. Isaac is blind and useless for governing. His son Jacob alone is now the bishop and ruler in the house. But he is sent away with the height of contempt, with danger and great wretchedness, so that he flees on foot, alone, and without a retinue. Although servants, camels, gold, and silver were not lacking, he has to be very poor and very miserable, and have nothing in his purse but provisions for the journey. What is the reason? It is the reason we have heard above (ch. 27). Rebecca, his mother, said: “Listen, my son, and flee.” Flight is the cause of this, likewise the fury of his brother, who was threatening him with death. Therefore Rebecca acted wisely by fitting him out secretly and equipping him with provisions for the journey in order that he might be able to steal away without the knowledge of his brother and the whole household. He had to steal away in secret. “Say nothing,” she said, “and go secretly; flee as quickly as you can.” This flight and the danger in which he found himself did not allow extensive preparation and a retinue, lest he be hindered by the slowness of the pack animals and the camels and be caught by his angry brother.

Here the Jews prattle irrelevantly and say that it is not likely that Isaac sent his son away with less honor than Abraham sent his servant away above (Gen. 24:10). Therefore they invent the story that Eliphaz (Gen. 36:4), Esau’s oldest son, pursued Jacob with a band of armed men, caught him, and robbed him of everything he had.8

Lyra approves of this. But these are pure Jewish fables. For Jacob has not been sent by his parents with a retinue as Abraham’s servant was sent. The servant was safe and in no danger. He was not fleeing. But Jacob flees secretly. None of his relatives know anything about it. He does not bid farewell to his brother, who does not know that he is fleeing. His brother hated him and was pursuing him. Therefore it is stated: “He lifted his feet; he fled, etc.” It was surely a very wise plan on the part of his mother. She was concerned more about the life and safety of her son than about pomp and a magnificent retinue, lest she hurl her son rashly into danger. Jacob is careful to obey his mother. He does not refuse or delay. No, he proceeds on his way in haste.

We have said above that this must be emphasized against all those bold and rash persons who say: “If I have the promise, I will have what is promised, even though I do nothing.”9 Such thoughts must be rejected and condemned on the basis of this example of Jacob, who listens to his mother and flees, even though he has the promise. He does not say: “I have the promise. Therefore I will be safe and sound, even if I do not follow the advice of my mother.” For promises are not given for the purpose of snoring, loafing, and sleeping, or for doing what is in conflict with the promise. No, they are given for working, being watchful, and bearing fruit. Thus I am not baptized, do not partake of the Lord’s Supper, and am not absolved for the purpose of sleeping and snoring at home in idleness. But if you have the promise, Baptism, and absolution, remember that you have been called to be watchful and to be anxiously concerned about the things that pertain to your faith and calling. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” says Paul (Rom. 6:2). We are not absolved from sins in order that we may live for them and serve them, but in order that we may fight against them and stoutly persevere in the promise, in order that I may chastise and mortify my flesh and bear it with a calm mind when God imposes a cross, in order that we may be purged and bring forth richer fruit. “By this,” says Christ, “My heavenly Father is glorified, if you become My disciples,” (cf. John 15:8); that is, if you suffer as I did, and if you become like Me. For he who is not a “Crosstian,”10 so to speak, is not a Christian; for he is not like Christ, his Teacher.

This, then, is the first thing, namely, that the very great patriarch, who at that time was the only bishop and a burning light in the whole world, has the blessing, the promise, and the Word yet lives and acts as if he had nothing at all. Why? Because here he is not a man of the church but a man of the home and very wretched. He performs his common domestic duties, concerning which God prescribed nothing in His promises, just as He prescribed nothing about how He would help and guide him or about the outcome. Thus He has not given us a promise that there will be peace this year and a rich yield of grain. Accordingly, I should not say: “I do not know what will happen. Therefore I will do nothing.” Indeed, God rather says: “Do your duty, and leave the rest to Me.” He did not say: “Everything will turn out successfully.” No, He said: “Do your duty. You do not have to know how things will turn out or what will happen. You have been justified. Go, then, and exercise your faith in the household and in the state.” For this knowledge of God’s will and this vocation thanks must be given to God that a man of the church, that is, one who has the Word and faith, knows that he pleases God even in the lower stations in the kind of life that has to do with the state and the household, whether he is a servant, a maid, a magistrate, or a subject. If he can only be a part of the political and the domestic sphere, he should give thanks to God and know that he has a God who is well-disposed and propitious toward him.

Furthermore, this serves to console us when the examples of the very saintly patriarchs are set forth not only in sublime and heroic virtues but also in the most insignificant and least important deeds, in those sordid and despised works connected with domestic life, lest we despair or think that we are cast off and spurned by God when we are occupied with these duties of life. But we should know that all things are sanctified by the Word and faith. Yet the world does not see this sanctity; but when it hears that these common duties are related even about the saintliest men, it thinks that every exertion is wasted and that good time is poorly invested when one reads these legends. For the world is not worthy of seeing the glow of God, as the well-known statement puts it: “Away with the wicked, lest he see the glory of God!”11 Only believers see and understand the works of God. Therefore these works are precious in our eyes, yes, in the eyes of God.

Nor should you reflect or wonder why the Holy Spirit takes pleasure in the description of these servile and despised works. But listen to St. Paul when he says (Rom. 15:4): “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” If we believed firmly, as I do, even though I believe weakly, that the Holy Spirit Himself and God, the Creator of all things, is the Author of this book and of such unimportant matters, as they seem to be to the flesh, then we would have the greatest consolation, as Paul says. Indeed our hearts would be able to glow in this and to be proud that God deigns to be mindful of and to remember these patriarchs, that He did not want to forget them. He wanted not only their heroic virtues but also the sordidness of their works to be praised, to be adorned with these descriptions as with gems and gold, and to be set forth to the whole world in order that they might be spread abroad, read, and become known. To the believers, therefore, all things work together for good (cf. Rom. 8:28), yes, for glory, even the things that are least important, most sordid, and most despised. For they see that God takes pleasure in these things, so that He sings psalms not only about the glorious and extraordinary virtues of the saints but also about their most insignificant little works, because they are works of God. Therefore God takes pleasure in His works, whether they are very great or very small. He takes pleasure to our very great consolation, as it is said (Ps. 147:11): “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him.” And in Ps. 56:8 David says: “Thou hast put my tears in Thy sight. Thou hast kept count of my tossings.”

What then? It is not true, is it, that God has nothing else to do than to keep count of David’s tears and tossings? Is He not occupied with the governing of the world and with hearing the choirs of the angels, who praise and bless Him without end? What can be said that is more wonderful? Yet it is true. To keep count of the tears and tossings of David is also care that is incumbent on God. Thus another psalm says: “He who avenges blood is mindful of them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (9:12). Likewise (Ps. 116:15): “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” And Moses says to Pharaoh (Ex. 10:26): “Not a hoof shall be left behind”; that is, “Not only the men, women, children, and beasts of burden will go out of Egypt; but whatever we have, even the most insignificant hoof, we shall not leave behind.” Accordingly, not only the heroic virtues and the glorious works He does through us, likewise the blood, death, and very grievous conflicts of the saints, are precious in the sight of the Lord, but even the meanest hooves themselves are precious. Yes, listen to Christ. He does better than this. He says (Matt. 10:30): “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” You shall not lose a hair. What, I ask, is more trifling in value and more despised in the human body than a hair, a whisker, a nail? Yet all these are numbered and cared for by the Father who is in heaven.

This is how these examples of the trifling and sordid works in the saints are to be dealt with, in order that they may teach and console us. For we do not deny that they are mean and of trifling value if we look only at the instrument in which they are done. But one must also consider God Himself, the Author. For whether you see the sordidness or the gems of the saints and their works, yet they are pleasing to God, who is the Author of trifling and noble works alike; for they are works of God, and God cooperates. Therefore this is great and immeasurable consolation for those who believe. And these things are described in order that we may see how tenderly God loves and embraces us, and what great and anxious concern He has for us. So closely does He look at me that He is afraid I may lose a hair. But if He numbers and cares for hairs, He has far greater concern for the body, the soul, the blood, and all sufferings.

But these things are too sublime. Therefore we do not believe. The more worthless and sordid the works are, the less we believe. The very filth and meanness of the works is a hindrance to our faith. Otherwise we would magnify without end the mercy of God in these very small and unimportant works, and our faith would be strengthened very much. For so great is God’s concern and solicitude for us that He cannot forget one hair, one little tear and one little worry, so to speak. And when the Holy Spirit goes along so weakly in describing His saints, He means that the most insignificant of all the works of the saints please God very much. A Christian is something precious. There is nothing so insignificant in him that it does not please God. To shed one’s blood, to die, to sweat, to fight and struggle against the devil is in reality something great and decidedly pleasing to God. Therefore conclude as follows: When you are a believer, then even physical, carnal, and animal duties are pleasing to God, whether you eat, drink, are awake, or sleep. These are purely bodily and animal things. So great a thing is faith.

First of all, therefore, see to it that you become a Christian and a person pleasing and acceptable through the Word, through Baptism and the sacraments. If the person believes and adheres to the Word, and does not persecute the Word but gives thanks for it, then you should do nothing else than what Solomon says (Eccles. 9:7–9): “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white; let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.” What more will you require? What could be said more pleasantly, more delightfully, and more clearly?

It is true, of course, that even in the godless diligent application to duty is pleasing to God; but unbelief and vainglory prevent them from relating their works to the glory of God. For the fault and sin is in the person who does not please God. Therefore although the good works even of the godless merit their rewards in this life, yet they are not kept count of, not collected in a bottle, according to what is stated in Ps. 56:8. But the tears of the saints, their flights, their trials, and their smallest and greatest works are kept count of to be praised and celebrated forever.

Therefore what Paul points out in Rom. 15:4 when he says that nothing has been written in Holy Scripture in vain is exceedingly sweet consolation. For it is certain that these very mean and insignificant works are set forth in order that God’s good pleasure in His saints (cf. Ps. 147:11) may be pointed out. For the remission of their sins and their acceptance always remain, and they live under the cloud and shadow of God’s wings and under His protection as long as they are in grace. This we should also apply to ourselves. For if we are Christians and truly godly, we know that we are like those very great saints, if not in the highest rank of the greatest virtues, nevertheless in these meanest and sordid deeds of this life, and that so far as the care and protection of God are concerned, we are loved no less than they are. As a sure pledge of this most tender and burning love we have God’s Son, for whose sake the Father loves us and makes us sit in the heavenly places, as Paul says (Eph. 2:6). We should know that what is stated very sweetly in Ps. 37:23–24 also applies to us. There we read: “The steps of a man are from the Lord, and He establishes him in whose way He delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord is the stay of his hand.” Let us only believe, and give assent to, this promise. For just as parents guard their little ones with all care, lest perchance they fall, lest they stumble somewhere or offend, and, if they see a spot or mucus smeared on their cheeks, dry it and wipe it off—which an enemy or a stranger does not do—and if a feather sticks to their hair, comb and adorn it, so great also is God’s care, love, and true fatherly feeling toward all who believe in Him.

These things in the main have been stated concerning what is taught in this chapter. What follows pertains simply to domestic matters. We shall scan it and examine the grammatical points. “He came to the land of the people of the east”—in Latin one would say: “He came to the land of the Orientals” or “into the Orient”—is a common expression in the Hebrew language. For in this way one who is to be killed is called a child of death, and an arrow is called a child of the quiver. A child of pride is a designation for a proud man. Be children of fortitude, that is, be brave. A child of Belial means an evil and worthless man.

Accordingly, the very saintly patriarch Jacob set out for the land of the people of the east, or the Orientals. With this general name for the whole region Holy Scripture indicates in a veiled manner that although this seemed servile and trifling, it was nevertheless an arduous and difficult work born of the Word and faith. For it was necessary to travel in an unknown region. Nor is the name of this region mentioned. For he does not call it Haran; he calls it the east. It was not yet known to or inhabited by the Arabs and the Syrians. There was nothing here except Babel. Therefore he simply says that he set out for the east, that is, for an unknown and desert chaos, as it were. Thus above Abraham departed from Chaldaea without knowing where he was going or where he should settle. He risks it in reliance on our Lord God. Therefore his traveling seemed to be a servile act. In reality however, it is a work of great and burning faith; for he does not know into what chaos of men or localities he is being brought. He has no knowledge of the people, the places, or the byways. He does not know where he will have suitable lodging from night to night. Thus it was an exceedingly dangerous and troublesome journey. In the meantime he struggled in faith with death and the devil throughout the journey. He was uncertain about where he was going or with what fortune he would arrive at his destination.

By chance, however, he espies a well in the field and makes his way to it. This, too, is a servile act, except that here consolation begins to be shown to him when he comes to a place in which he is safer and less apprehensive. In addition, he hears about his uncle Laban. I have nothing more to say. Therefore I shall add nothing. For I take no pleasure in allegories, because the letter instructs us with greater certainty and fullness than an allegory does. It is sufficient for us to know that these sordid and servile works of the saints meet with the approval of God. Consequently, when we are in our calling, we have no doubt at all that whatever we do or suffer is pleasing to God to such an extent that God wanted this to be put into this book and all these works of the saints to be praised. He did not allow these things to be consigned to oblivion. The letter of the text itself is clear per se. Allegorically, they take the three herds at the one well to mean the Trinity and the large and heavy stone to mean Moses.12 But this does not concern me. I leave it to others.

Martin Luther, Works, American Edition, vol. 5 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955ff); 266-280.