From “On the Immense Mercy of God” (1524)

No one will doubt the truth of God’s mercy if he will consider the wonderful work of redemption in comparison with creation. It is more marvelous that God was made man than that God created the angels. That God wailed in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, rather than that he reigns in the heavens which he created. It was here that the angels sang glory to God in the highest, at the most amazing work of God…

In all his deeds, God is incomparable and matchless. In his mercy, he excels himself, and scripture extols God’s mercy more than any other virtue… And it is the office of mercy to pardon wrong doings. God is the comforter rather than the avenger…

God who is our king, our father, our spouse, makes no exception to any kind of sin and prescribes no number of sins. As often as we repent, he remits the penalty that his eternal law has promised. He receives us back into his family and allows us to lie in the bed of his love. He not only receives us, but forgets all our sins as well. He carries the lost sheep on his should and brings them back to the fold. He calls upon the church of the saints to share his joy with him. He runs to meet the prodigal son when he returns from the far country, brings forth the robe and ring and bids the fatted calf be butchered…

This must mean an excessive and immoderate mercy on the part of God… God’s mercy not only incites us to piety, but also helps us in our endeavors. It accompanies is when we begin and helps us to accomplish what strength alone could not…Faith is a free gift of God and those who have it owe it to the divine gift of mercy… No one entangled in the bonds of sin can be freed if the divine mercy does not come to his aid…

[There are many examples of God’s mercy in the Old Testament], but why do I both citing these examples from the Old Testament? The entire scripture of the old covenant extols the mercy of God. Yet some try to make two Gods out of one: one from the Old Testament who was just and not good; one from the New Testament who was only good and not just.  Such men are insane… Manichaeus, for example, taught that the God who spoke to us through the prophets and enacted the laws of Moses was not the true God but one of the guilty demons…

[But this is not so,] in the Old Testament there are promises and in the New Testament there is fulfilment… If you read over the life of Christ, you will see God’s perpetual mercy… The Son of God himself was given on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all. Hanging on the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him. And yet you think he will not pardon you if you recognize your sin and implore his mercy? Have trust in God and you will find mercy.

Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536) was a Dutch priest and humanist, the greatest figure of the Northern Renaissance. He prepared groundbreaking critical editions of the New Testament in Greek and Latin and wrote a series of influential moral and theological treatises, many of them advocating reform of Church and state. “On the Immense Mercy of God” was a sermon he preached at the dedication of a chapel and dedicated to his friend and patron, Christopher von Utenheim of Basel.