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Johann Heermann for Trinity 16

by Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes ~ September 17th, 2010

Translated by Mr. Matt Carver, posted here by permission. This is from Johann Heermann, Labores Sacri.

Beginning, ending, and essential excerpts from Labores Sacri


On the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.
The threefold well of anguish from which the bitter water of cross and misery flowed out as tears through the widow of Nain.

May Jesus Christ, the Comforter of all afflicted hearts, who is able to end and dispel all adversity, be most blessed with His heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit today and for all ages. Amen.

Elect children of God, the ancient doctor of the Church, Basil, says, “The whole life of the just consists of sorrow, anguish, and distress. Whoever refuses to believe this, let him regard the weeping and altogether afflicted widow of Nain, upon whom a great many crosses were piled, which so pressed and weighed on her that she overflowed with hot tears. It is of this lead-heavy cross of home and heart that I would speak to you today. Therefore join me in praying that God would enlighten my mind with His Holy Spirit and most graciously further this endeavor to His glory and to our blessedness. Whoever desires this, let him begin by singing, “Ach wie elend ist unser Zeit allhier auf dieser…” [Oh, how miserable our time is here upon this…]. And then pray with me in heartfelt devotion, “Our Father…”

[Motto:] “The bier at Jesus’ feet is placed and sadly lying;
He gives the dead boy living to his mother crying.
Lo, youth no armor is against the shafts of death.
Repent in truth and do whatever pleases God by faith.”

“And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.”


When the children of Israel forsook the Kingdom of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, saw their enemies drowned in its depths, and having finished their songs of praise, departed thence, wandered three days in the wilderness of Shur, and found no water—at last they came to Mara, where, discovering water, to be sure, yet it was so acrid and bitter that they could not drink it until it had been transformed and made sweet and given a pleasant and invigorating taste through particular means revealed by God. What is the course of our life but a pilgrimage? Have not all God’s saints since the beginning acknowledged themselves to be nothing more than guests and strangers on the earth, and therefore yearned with great longing for the city that hath a continuing foundation, whose architect and creator is God Himself? What but a detestable wilderness is this world through which we must journey if we would reach the land of the living promised and dearly won for us by Christ? How often pious Christians find themselves in Mara, which is to say, Bitterness, where the bitter, acrid water of the cross so fills their heart, it forces its way out of their eyes! And as that wise heathen laments: “This life is in truth no life, but sheer misery.” Yet this is our consolation: God finds all sorts of ways to sweeten the gall-ridden water of anguish and make it delectable, so that at last they confess with King David, saying, “Lord, it is good for me that Thou hast humbled me.” Whoever would like an example of this need not seek and search for long; let him only look at today’s Gospel, and direct his gaze to the woman of Nain, who will make this all clear and evident to him. She goes straight to Mara, finds nothing there but sheer bitterness and the water of the cross, and in her misery cannot but weep and shed one tear after the other; yet she received help in due season. Christ Jesus, the noble, green, succulent Tree of Life sweetened her bitter tears so much that it became to her nothing but the honey of gladness and the sugar of consolation.

Come then, I will explain this for you a bit further and in more detail, and though the cruel world averts its gaze from the miserable and forsaken, let us as Christians with Christ nevertheless keep our eyes on this grieving woman, look upon her in her troubles, contemplate her wet, blood-red eyes, and speak

Of the threefold, overflowing well of the cross, from which the bitter water of anguish in her sorrowful heart flowed, and rose, and pushed its way out of her eyes so forcefully that her tears ran liberally down her cheeks.

Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my Salvation. Amen. [Ps. 38:22]

What, then, are the three overflowing wells of the cross from which the bitter water of anguish flowed into her sorrowful heart, and this so forcefully that it flowed back out through her eyes?

I. The inconstancy of fortune. The Evangelist says, “And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out…” Here you see how inconstant fortune is. …


…O my most beloved Lord Jesus, if You should let me come to misfortune, help me not to despair, but in bold hope and patience to overcome every cross. If You should grant and give me a properous place of joy, oh, then govern my heart so that I do not grow proud and secure, but in true humility make proper use of Your gifts, nor make light of Your grace and my neighbor’s favor.

II. The Second Well of the Cross, from which the bitter water of anguish flowed into this miserable woman of Nain’s grieving heart and from thence flowed out her eyes—it is the sorrow of widowhood. The Evangelist says, “And she was a widow…” Alas, what great sorrow! Half of her heart was gone. Should she not weep? Once she had a husband who as her best friend in the world, defended her from violence and injustice, comforted her in sadness, and rejoiced with her in times of prosperity. …


…Oh, faithful Father in heaven, help all grieving widows and miserable orphans, show them Your fatherly love; comfort, defend, strengthen, provide for, uplift, and deliver them, to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

And so much for the Second.

The Third full well of the cross, from which the bitter water of anguish flowed into the heart of this woman of Nain and forced its way out through her eyes—this is the death of her only child. The Evangelist says, “There was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother…”

Behold, O Christian soul, this widow only had one son—the light of her eyes, the heir of her possessions, the bastion and continuer of her husband’s lineage and name, the consolation of her heart, the staff of her old age presently approaching. Whenever she looked at him, she thought to her self, “Oh my dear child, next to God you my only treasure and protection. What would this life be without you? …

… And here the Lord Jesus gives an exquisite model by which He refreshes your grieving heart:

The first consolation is the sure preservation of our soul which it receives <504> when it is severed from the body; …

The second consolation which is also shown here is the resurrection of the body, which the Lord Jesus exhibits both with His almighty hand and with His piercing words of power. He touches the bier and wakes dead with His touch. Why? That we might believe that life flows to us through His flesh. …


…The third consolation with which you can sweeten the bitter water of your cross is your joyful deliverance: “He delivered him to his mother,” says the Evangelist. O joy surpassing all joy! She once thought it more likely that the heavens would collapse than that she should ever see her son again with her own eyes, and hold him in her arms. But Christ restored to her what by death had been stolen from her, and made her joy greater than her sorrow had been. …

… The fourth and final elixir of consolation is the blessed entrance to the everlasting, delightful city of joy. This widow received her son with gladness, went back into the city with him and the whole assembled crowd of people, and really began to live in Nain, or “Fair-Field.” Likewise, O Christian heart, you too will enter in with your own, not into a valley of tears, but into the heavenly Nain, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore at God’s right hand [Ps. 16:11]. O Israel, how great is the house of God! and how large is the place of His possession! Great, and hath none end; high, and unmeasurable,” says the prophet Baruch [3:24–25]. …

…The people who live there will be beautiful in body and soul, for none but the just shall dwell there, and shine like the firmament of heaven. How beautiful will the face of God be, how pleasant His utterances. ANd such a heavenly Nain, such a wondrously beautiful city, we shall possess with our own and all the elect forever. Oh, would we were there!

And so much for the Third.

Let us conclude this sermon on the threefold bitter well of the cross of the widow of Nain, which the Lord Jesus sweetened with the utterly effective elixir of the consolation of His gracious salvation and grace, direct our eyes and hearts up to heaven and sigh:

THis comfort, Jesus Lord, let be
Within our hearts a certainty,
That we our cross may patient bear,
And enter in Thy heaven fair.

Amen, Lord Jesus, Amen.

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