484. Who does not see the emptiness (I do not wish to say the foolishness) of the extracts quoted above (n. 464) from the ecclesiastical work entitled Formula Concordiae, when he has read them, together with some passages quoted here and elsewhere from the Word? Would he not think to himself: If it were as there taught, that man has no freedom of choice in spiritual things, what but an idle word would religion be, which is doing good? And what is the church apart from religion but like a bark about a stick which is fit for nothing but to be burned? And he would think, moreover, If there is no church because no religion, what are heaven and hell but the fables of ministers and rulers of the church to ensnare the people, and elevate themselves to higher honors? And this is the source of that detestable saying on the lips of many: Who can do good, or acquire faith of himself? Consequently they disregard these things, and live like pagans.
But my friend, shun evil and do good and believe in the Lord from all your heart and in all your soul, and the Lord will love you, and will give you a love of doing and faith to believe. Then from love you will do good, and from faith, which is trust, you will believe; and if you persevere in so doing, a reciprocal conjunction will be effected, which will be perpetual, and this is salvation itself and eternal life. If man from the powers given him should fail to do good, and from his mind should fail to believe in the Lord, what would he be but a wilderness and a desert, or altogether like dry ground, which does not receive the rain, but throws it off or like a sandy plain where there are sheep without pasture? And he would be like a dried-up fountain, or like stagnant water therein, its course being obstructed; or like an abode where there is neither harvest nor water, where, unless he quickly fled from the place and sought a habitable abode elsewhere, he would perish with hunger and thirst.