Observe, however, that a preacher by whom God rebukes the gods is to “stand in the congregation.” He is to “stand”: that is, he is to be firm and confident and deal uprightly and honestly with it; and “in the congregation,” that is, openly and boldly before God and men. By this two sins are prevented. The first is unfaithfulness. There are many bishops and preachers in the ministry, but they do not “stand” and serve God faithfully. On the contrary, they lie down or otherwise play with their office. These are the lazy and worthless preachers who do not tell the princes and lords their sins. In some cases they do not notice the sins. They lie down and snore in their office and do nothing that pertains to it except that, like swine, they take up the room where good preachers should stand. These form the great majority. Others, however, play the hypocrite and flatter the wicked gods and strengthen them in their self-will. Just now they are raging and raving against the Gospel and are stirring up their princes and lords to blasphemy and murder. Still others fear for their skins and are afraid that they must lose life and goods. All these do not “stand” and are not faithful to Christ.
The other sin is called backbiting. The whole world is full in every corner of preachers and layman who bandy evil words about their gods, i.e., princes and lords, curse them, and call them names, though not boldly in the open, but in corners and in their own sects. But this accomplishes nothing except to make the evil worse. It serves only to set a secret fire by which people are moved to disobedience, rebellion, breach of the peace, and contempt for their rulers. If you are in the ministry and are not willing to rebuke your gods openly and publicly, as your office demands, at least leave off your private backbiting, calling of names, criticizing, and complaining, or go hang! But if you are not in office, then leave off all rebuking and criticizing, both public and private. Or the devil is already your abbot and does not need to become your abbot; for in Matthew 7:1 God has forbidden secret judging, or judging where there is no office. On the other hand, it is His will that those who are in office and are called to do so shall rebuke and judge their gods boldly and openly.
Luther’s works, vol. 13:
Selected Psalms II