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A treatise on Good Works

by Dr. Martin Luther

January, 1996 [Etext #418]

*****The Project Gutenberg Etext of A treatise on Good Works*****
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A treatise on Good Works
together with the
Letter of Dedication
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1520


1. The Occasion of the Work. -- Luther did not impose himself as
reformer upon the Church. In the course of a conscientious
performance of the duties of his office, to which he had been
regularly and divinely called, and without any urging on his
part, he attained to this position by inward necessity. In 1515
he received his appointment as the standing substitute for the
sickly city pastor, Simon Heinse, from the city council of
Wittenberg. Before this time he was obliged to preach only
occasionally in the convent, apart from his activity as teacher
in the University and convent. Through this appointment he was
in duty bound, by divine and human right, to lead and direct the
congregation at Wittenberg on the true way to life, and it would
have been a denial of the knowledge of salvation which God had
led him to acquire, by way of ardent inner struggles, if he had
led the congregation on any other way than the one God had
revealed to him in His Word. He could not deny before the
congregation which had been intrusted to his care, what up to
this time he had taught with ever increasing clearness in his
lectures at the University -- for in the lectures on the Psalms,
which he began to deliver in 1513, he declares his conviction
that faith alone justifies, as can be seen from the complete
manuscript, published since 1885, and with still greater
clearness from his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
(1515-1516), which is accessible since 1908; nor what he had
urged as spiritual adviser of his convent brethren when in deep
distress -- compare the charming letter to Georg Spenlein, dated
April 8, 1516. 

Luther's first literary works to appear in print were also
occasioned by the work of his calling and of his office in the
Wittenberg congregation. He had no other object in view than to
edify his congregation and to lead it to Christ when, in 1517,
he published his first independent work, the Explanation of the
Seven Penitential Psalms. On Oct 31 of the same year he published
his 95 Theses against Indulgences. These were indeed intended as
controversial theses for theologians, but at the same time it is
well known that Luther was moved by his duty toward his
congregation to declare his position in this matter and to put
in issue the whole question as to the right and wrong of
indulgences by means of his theses. His sermon Of Indulgences and
Grace, occasioned by Tetzel's attack and delivered in the latter
part of March, 1518, as well as his sermon Of Penitence,
delivered about the same time, were also intended for his
congregation. Before his congregation (Sept., 1516-Feb., 1517)
he delivered the Sermons on the Ten Commandments, which were
published in 1518 and the Sermons on the Lord's Prayer, which
were also published in 1518 by Agricola. Though Luther in the
same year published a series of controversial writings, which
were occasioned by attacks from outside sources, viz., the
Resolutiones disputationis de Virtute indulgentiarum, the
Asterisci adversus obeliscos Joh. Eccii, and the Ad dialogum
Silv. Prieriatis responsio, still he never was diverted by this
necessary rebuttal from his paramount duty, the edification of
the congregation. The autumn of the year 1518, when he was
confronted with Cajetan, as well as the whole year of 1519, when
he held his disputations with Eck, etc., were replete with
disquietude and pressing labors; still Luther served his
congregation with a whole series of writings during this time,
and only regretted that he was not entirely at its disposal. Of
such writings we mention: Explanation of the Lord's Prayer for
the simple Laity (an elaboration of the sermons of 1517); Brief
Explanation of the Ten Commandments; Instruction concerning
certain Articles, which might be ascribed and imputed to him by
his adversaries; Brief Instruction how to Confess; Of Meditation
on the Sacred Passion of Christ; Of Twofold Righteousness; Of the
Matrimonial Estate; Brief Form to understand and to pray the
Lord's Prayer; Explanation of the Lord's Prayer "vor sich und
hinter sich"; Of Prayer and Processions in Rogation Week; Of
Usury; Of the Sacrament of Penitence; Of Preparation for Death;
Of the Sacrament of Baptism; Of the Sacrament of the Sacred Body;
Of Excommunication. With but few exceptions these writings all
appeared in print in the year 1519, and again it was the
congregation which Luther sought primarily to serve. If the
bounds of his congregation spread ever wider beyond Wittenberg,
so that his writings found a surprisingly ready sale, even afar,
that was not Luther's fault. Even the Tessaradecas consolatoria,
written in 1519 and printed in 1520, a book of consolation, which
was originally intended for the sick Elector of Saxony, was
written by him only upon solicitation from outside sources. 

To this circle of writings the treatise Of Good Works also
belongs Though the incentive for its composition came from George
Spalatin, court-preacher to the Elector, who reminded Luther of
a promise he had given, still Luther was willing to undertake it
only when he recalled that in a previous sermon to his
congregation he occasionally had made a similar promise to
deliver a sermon on good works; and when Luther actually
commenced the composition he had nothing else in view but the
preparation of a sermon for his congregation on this important

But while the work was in progress the material so accumulated
that it far outgrew the bounds of a sermon for his congregation.
On March 25. he wrote to Spalatin that it would become a whole
booklet instead of a sermon; on May 5. he again emphasizes the
growth of the material; on May 13. he speaks of its completion
at an early date, and on June 8. he could send Melanchthon a
printed copy. It was entitled: Von den guten werckenn: D. M. L.
Vuittenberg. On the last page it bore the printer's mark: Getruck
zu Wittenberg bey dem iungen Melchior Lotther. Im Tausent
funfhundert vnnd zweyntzigsten Jar. It filled not less than 58
leaves, quarto. In spite of its volume, however, the intention
of the book for the congregation remained, now however, not only
for the narrow circle of the Wittenberg congregation, but for the
Christian layman in general. In the dedicatory preface Luther
lays the greatest stress upon this, for he writes: "Though I know
of a great many, and must hear it daily, who think lightly of my
poverty and say that I write only small Sexternlein (tracts of
small volume) and German sermons for the untaught laity, I will
not permit that to move me. Would to God that during my life I
had served but one layman for his betterment with all my powers;
it would be sufficient for me, I would thank God and suffer all
my books to perish thereafter.... Most willingly I will leave the
honor of greater things to others, and not at all will I be
ashamed of preaching and writing German to the untaught laity." 

Since Luther had dedicated the afore-mentioned Tessaradecas
consolatoria to the reigning Prince, he now, probably on
Spalatin's recommendation, dedicated the Treatise on Good Works
to his brother John, who afterward, in 1525, succeeded Frederick
in the Electorate. There was probably good reason for dedicating
the book to a member of the reigning house. Princes have reason
to take a special interest in the fact that preaching on good
works should occur within their realm, for the safety and sane
development of their kingdom depend largely upon the cultivation
of morality on the part of their subjects. Time and again the
papal church had commended herself to princes and statesmen by
her emphatic teaching of good works. Luther, on the other hand,
had been accused -- like the Apostle Paul before him (Rom. 3 31)
-- that the zealous performance of good works had abated, that
the bonds of discipline had slackened and that, as a necessary
consequence, lawlessness and shameless immorality were being
promoted by his doctrine of justification by faith alone. Before
1517 the rumor had already spread that Luther intended to do away
with good works. Duke George of Saxony had received no good
impression from a sermon Luther had delivered at Dresden, because
he feared the consequences which Luther's doctrine of
justification by faith alone might have upon the morals of the
masses. Under these circumstances it would not have been
surprising if a member of the Electoral house should harbor like
scruples, especially since the full comprehension of Luther's
preaching on good works depended on an evangelical understanding
of faith, as deep as was Luther's own. The Middle Ages had
differentiated between fides informis, a formless faith, and
fides formata or informata, a formed or ornate faith. The former
was held to be a knowledge without any life or effect, the latter
to be identical with love for, as they said, love which proves
itself and is effective in good works must be added to the
formless faith, as its complement and its content, well pleasing
to God. In Luther's time every one who was seriously interested
in religious questions was reared under the influence of these

Now, since Luther had opposed the doctrine of justification by
love and its good works, he was in danger of being misunderstood
by strangers, as though he held the bare knowledge and assent to
be sufficient for justification, and such preaching would indeed
have led to frivolity and disorderly conduct. But even apart from
the question whether or not the brother of the Elector was
disturbed by such scruples, Luther must have welcomed the
opportunity, when the summons came to him, to dedicate his book
Of Good Works to a member of the Electoral house. At any rate the
book could serve to acquaint him with the thoughts of his
much-abused pastor and professor at Wittenberg, for never before
had Luther expressed himself on the important question of good
works in such a fundamental, thorough and profound way. 

2. The Contents of the Work. -- A perusal of the contents shows
that the book, in the course of its production, attained a
greater length than was originally intended. To this fact it must
be attributed that a new numeration of sections begins with the
argument on the Third Commandment, and is repeated at every
Commandment thereafter, while before this the sections were
consecutively numbered. But in spite of this, the plan of the
whole is clear and lucid. Evidently the whole treatise is divided
into two parts: the first comprising sections 1-17, while the
second comprises all the following sections. The first, being
fundamental, is the more important part. Luther well knew of the
charges made against him that "faith is so highly elevated" and
"works are rejected" by him; but he knew, too, that "neither
silver, gold and precious stone, nor any other precious thing had
experienced so much augmentation and diminution" as had good
works "which should all have but one simple goodness, or they are
nothing but color, glitter and deception." But especially was he
aware of the fact that the Church was urging nothing but the
so-called self-elected works, such as "running to the convent,
singing, reading, playing the organ, saying the mass, praying
matins, vespers, and other hours, founding and ornamenting
churches, altars, convents, gathering chimes, jewels, vestments,
gems and treasures, going to Rome and to the saints, curtsying
and bowing the knees, praying the rosary and the psalter," etc.,
and that she designated these alone as truly good works, while
she represented the faithful performance of the duties of one's
calling as a morality of a lower order. For these reasons it is
Luther's highest object in this treatise to make it perfectly
clear what is the essence of good works. Whenever the essence
of good works has been understood, then the accusations against
him will quickly collapse. 

In the fundamental part he therefore argues: Truly good works are
not self-elected works of monastic or any other holiness, but
such only as God has commanded, and as are comprehended within
the bounds of one's particular calling, and all works, let their
name be what it may, become good only when they flow from faith,
the first, greatest, and noblest of good works." (John 6:29.) In
this connection the essence of faith, that only source of all
truly good works, must of course be rightly understood. It is the
sure confidence in God, that all my doing is wellpleasing to Him;
it is trust in His mercy, even though He appears angry and puts
sufferings and adversities upon us; it is the assurance of the
divine good will even though "God should reprove the conscience
with sin, death and hell, and deny it all grace and mercy, as
though He would condemn and show His wrath eternally." Where such
faith lives in the heart, there the works are good "even though
they were as insignificant as the picking up of a straw"; but
where it is wanting, there are only such works as "heathen, Jew
and Turk" may have and do. Where such faith possesses the man,
he needs no teacher in good works, as little as does the husband
or the wife, who only look for love and favor from one another,
nor need any instruction therein "how they are to stand toward
each other, what they are to do, to leave undone, to say, to
leave unsaid, to think." 

This faith, Luther continues, is "the true fulfilment of the
First Commandment, apart from which there is no work that could
do justice to this Commandment." With this sentence he combines,
on the one hand, the whole argument on faith, as the best and
noblest of good works, with his opening proposition (there are
no good works besides those commanded of God), and, on the other
hand, he prepares the way for the following argument, wherein he
proposes to exhibit the good works according to the Ten
Commandments. For the First Commandment does not forbid this and
that, nor does it require this and that; it forbids but one
thing, unbelief; it requires but one thing, faith, "that
confidence in God's good will at all times." Without this faith
the best works are as nothing, and if man should think that by
them he could be well-pleasing to God, he would be lowering God
to the level of a "broker or a laborer who will not dispense his
grace and kindness gratis." 

This understanding of faith and good works, so Luther now
addresses his opponents, should in fairness be kept in view by
those who accuse him of declaiming against good works, and they
should learn from it, that though he has preached against "good
works," it was against such as are falsely so called and as
contribute toward the confusion of consciences, because they are
self-elected, do not flow from faith, and are done with the
pretension of doing works well-pleasing to God. 

This brings us to the end of the fundamental part of the
treatise. It was not Luther's intention, however, to speak only
on the essence of good works and their fundamental relation to
faith; he would show, too, how the "best work," faith, must prove
itself in every way a living faith, according to the other
commandments. Luther does not proceed to this part, however,
until in the fundamental part he has said with emphasis, that the
believer, the spiritual man, needs no such instruction (1.
Timothy 1:9), but that he of his own accord and at all times does
good works "as his faith, his confidence, teaches him." Only
"because we do not all have such faith, or are unmindful of it,"
does such instruction become necessary. 

Nor does he proceed until he has applied his oft repeated words
concerning the relation of faith to good works to the relation
of the First to the other Commandments. From the fact, that
according to the First Commandment, we acquire a pure heart and
confidence toward God, he derives the good work of the Second
Commandment, namely, "to praise God, to acknowledge His grace,
to render all honor to Him alone." From the same source he
derives the good work of the Third Commandment, namely, "to
observe divine services with prayer and the hearing of preaching,
to incline the imagination of our hearts toward God's benefits,
and, to that end, to mortify and overcome the flesh." From the
same source he derives the works of the Second Table. 

The argument on the Third and Fourth Commandments claims nearly
one-half of the entire treatise. Among the good works which,
according to the Third Commandment, should be an exercise and
proof of faith, Luther especially mentions the proper hearing of
mass and of preaching, common prayer, bodily discipline and the
mortification of the flesh, and he joins the former and the
latter by an important fundamental discussion of the New
Testament conception of Sabbath rest. 

Luther discusses the Fourth Commandment as fully as the Third.
The exercise of faith, according to this Commandment, consists
in the faithful performance of the duties of children toward
their parents, of parents toward their children, and of
subordinates toward their superiors in the ecclesiastical as well
as in the common civil sphere. The various duties issue from the
various callings, for faithful performance of the duties of one's
calling, with the help of God and for God's sake, is the true
"good work." 

As he now proceeds to speak of the spiritual powers, the
government of the Church, he frankly reveals their faults and
demands a reform of the present rulers. Honor and obedience in
all things should be rendered unto the Church, the spiritual
mother, as it is due to natural parents, unless it be contrary
to the first Three Commandments. But as matters stand now the
spiritual magistrates neglect their peculiar work, namely, the
fostering of godliness and discipline, like a mother who runs
away from her children and follows a lover, and instead they
undertake strange and evil works, like parents whose commands are
contrary to God. In this case members of the Church must do as
godly children do whose parents have become mad and insane.
Kings, princes, the nobility, municipalities and communities must
begin of their own accord and put a check to these conditions,
so that the bishops and the clergy, who are now too timid, may
be induced to follow. But even the civil magistrates must also
suffer reforms to be enacted in their particular spheres;
especially are they called on to do away with the rude "gluttony
and drunkenness," luxury in clothing, the usurious sale of rents
and the common brothels. This, by divine and human right, is a
part of their enjoined works according to the Fourth Commandment. 

Luther, at last, briefly treats of the Second Table of the
Commandments, but in speaking of the works of these Commandments
he never forgets to point out their relation to faith, thus
holding fast this fundamental thought of the book to the end.
Faith which does not doubt that God is gracious, he says, will
find it an easy matter to be graciously and favorably minded
toward one's neighbor and to overcome all angry and wrathful
desires. In this faith in God the Spirit will teach us to avoid
unchaste thoughts and thus to keep the Sixth Commandment. When
the heart trusts in the divine favor, it cannot seek after the
temporal goods of others, nor cleave to money, but according to
the Seventh Commandment, will use it with cheerful liberality for
the benefit of the neighbor. Where such confidence is present
there is also a courageous, strong and intrepid heart, which will
at all times defend the truth, as the Eighth Commandment demands,
whether neck or coat be at stake, whether it be against pope or
kings. Where such faith is present there is also strife against
the evil lust, as forbidden in the Ninth and Tenth Commandments,
and that even unto death. 

3. The Importance of the Work. -- Inquiring now into the
importance of the book, we note that Luther's impression
evidently was perfectly correct, when he wrote to Spalatin, long
before its completion -- as early as March 2 5. -- that he
believed it to be better than anything he had heretofore written.
The book, indeed, surpasses all his previous German writings in
volume, as well as all his Latin and German ones in clearness,
richness and the fundamental importance of its content. In
comparison with the prevalent urging of self-elected works of
monkish holiness, which had arisen from a complete
misunderstanding of the so-called evangelical counsels (comp.
esp. Matthew 19:16-22) and which were at that time accepted as
self-evident and zealously urged by the whole church, Luther's
argument must have appeared to all thoughtful and earnest souls
as a revelation, when he so clearly amplified the proposition
that only those works are to be regarded as good works which God
has commanded, and that therefore, not the abandoning of one's
earthly calling, but the faithful keeping of the Ten Commandments
in the course of one's calling, is the work which God requires
of us. Over against the wide-spread opinion, as though the will
of God as declared in the Ten Commandments referred only to the
outward work always especially mentioned, Luther's argument must
have called to mind the explanation of the Law, which the Lord
had given in the Sermon on the Mount, when he taught men to
recognize only the extreme point and manifestation of a whole
trend of thought in the work prohibited by the text, and when he
directed Christians not to rest in the keeping of the literal
requirement of each Commandment, but from this point of vantage
to inquire into the whole depth and breadth of God's will --
positively and negatively -- and to do His will in its full
extent as the heart has perceived it. Though this thought may
have been occasionally expressed in the expositions of the Ten
Commandments which appeared at the dawn of the Reformation, still
it had never before been so clearly recognized as the only
correct principle, much less had it been so energetically carried
out from beginning to end, as is done in this treatise. Over
against the deep-rooted view that the works of love must bestow
upon faith its form, its content and its worth before God, it
must have appeared as the dawn of a new era (Galatians 3:22-25)
when Luther in this treatise declared, and with victorious
certainty carried out the thought, that it is true faith which
invests the works, even the best and greatest of works, with
their content and worth before God. 

This proposition, which Luther here amplifies more clearly than
ever before, demanded nothing less than a breach with the whole
of prevalent religious views, and at that time must have been
perceived as the discovery of a new world, though it was no more
than a return to the clear teaching of the New Testament
Scriptures concerning the way of salvation. This, too, accounts
for the fact that in this writing the accusation is more
impressively repelled than before, that the doctrine of
justification by faith alone resulted in moral laxity, and that,
on the other hand, the fundamental and radical importance of
righteousness by faith for the whole moral life is revealed in
such a heart-refreshing manner. Luther's appeal in this treatise
to kings, princes, the nobility, municipalities and communities,
to declare against the misuse of spiritual powers and to abolish
various abuses in civil life, marks this treatise as a forerunner
of the great Reformation writings, which appeared in the same
year (1520), while, on the other hand, his espousal of the rights
of the "poor man" -- to be met with here for the first time --
shows that the Monk of Witttenberg, coming from the narrow limits
of the convent, had an intimate and sympathetic knowledge of the
social needs of his time. Thus he proved by his own example that
to take s stand in the center of the Gospel does not narrow the
vision nor harden the heart, but rather produces courage in the
truth and sympathy for all manner of misery. 

Luther's contemporaries at once recognized the great importance
of the Treatise, for within the period of seven months it passed
through eight editions; these were followed by six more editions
between the years of 1521 and 1525; in 1521 it was translated
into Latin, and in this form passed through three editions up to
the year 1525; and all this in spite of the fact that in those
years the so-called three great Reformation writings of 1520 were
casting all else into the shadow. Melanchthon, in a
contemporaneous letter to John Hess, called it Luther's best
book. John Mathesius, the well-known pastor at Joachimsthal and
Luther's biographer, acknowledged that he had learned the
"rudiments of Christianity" from it. 

Even to-day this book has its peculiar mission to the Church. The
seeking after self-elected works, the indolence regarding the
works commanded of God, the foolish opinion, that the path of
works leads to God's grace and good-will, are even to-day widely
prevalent within the kingdom of God. To all this Luther's
treatise answers: Be diligent in the works of your earthly
calling as commanded of God, but only after having first
strengthened, by the consideration of God's mercy, the faith
within you, which is the only source of all truly good works and
well-pleasing to God. 

M. REU. 





To the Illustrious, High-born Prince and Lord, John Duke of
Saxony, Landgrave of Thuringia, Margrave of Meissen, my gracious
Lord and Patron. 

Illustrious, High-born Prince, gracious Lord! My humble duty and
my feeble prayer for your Grace always remembered! 

For a long time, gracious Prince and Lord, I have wished to show
my humble respect and duty toward your princely Grace, by the
exhibition of some such spirtual wares as are at my disposal; but
I have always considered my powers too feeble to undertake
anything worthy of being offered to your princely Grace. 

Since, however, my most gracious Lord Frederick, Duke of Saxony,
Elector and Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire, your Grace's brother,
has not despised, but graciously accepted my slight book,
dedicated to his electoral Grace, and now published -- though
such was not my intention, I have taken courage from his gracious
example and ventured to think that the princely spirit, like the
princely blood, may be the same in both of you, especially in
gracious kindness and good will. I have hoped that yout princely
Grace likewise would not despise this my humble offering which
I have felt more need of publishing than an other of my sermons
or tracts. For the greatest of all questions has been raised, the
question of Good Works; in which is practised immeasurably more
trickery and deception than in anything else, and in which the
simpleminded man is so easily misled that our Lord Christ has
commanded us to watch carefully for the sheep's clothings under
which the wolves hide themselves. 

Neither silver, gold, precious stones, nor any rare thing has
such manifold alloys and flaws as have good works, which ought
to have a single simple goodness, and without it are mere color,
show and deceit. 

And although I know and daily hear many people, who think
slightingly of my poverty, and say that I write only little
pamphletst and German sermons for the unlearned laity, this shall
not disturb me. Would to God I had in all my life, with all the
ability I have, helped one layman to be better! I would be
satisfied, thank God, and be quite willing then to let all my
little books perish. 

Whether the making of many great books is an art and a benefit
to the Church, I leave others to judge. But I believe that if I
were minded to make great books according to their art, I could,
with God's help, do it more readily perhaps than they could
prepare a little discourse after my fashion. If accomplishment
were as easy as persecution, Christ would long since have been
cast out of heaven again, and God's throne itself overturned.
Although we cannot all be writers, we all want to be critics. 

I will most gladly leave to any one else the honor of greater
things, and not be at all ashamed to preach and to write in
German for the unlearned laymen. Although I too have little skill
in it, I believe that if we had hitherto done, and should
henceforth do more of it, Christendom would have reaped no small
advantage, and have been more bene fited by this than by the
great, deep books and quaestiones, which are used only in the
schools, among the learned. 

Then, too, I have never forced or begged any one to hear me, or
to read my sermons. I have freely ministered in the Church of
that which God has given me and which I owe the Church. Whoever
likes it not, may hear and read what others have to say. And if
they are not willing to be my debtors, it matters little. For me
it is enough, and even more than too much, that some laymen
condescend to read what I say. Even though there were nothing
else to urge me, it should be more than sufficient that I have
learned that your princely Grace is pleased with such German
books and is eager to receive instruction in Good Works and the
Faith, with which instruction it was my duty, humbly and with all
diligence to serve you. 

Therefore, in dutiful humility I pray that your princely Grace
may accept this offering of mine with a gracious mind, until, if
God grant me time, I prepare a German exposition of the Faith in
its entirety. For at this time I have wished to show how in all
good works we should practice and make use of faith, and let
faith be the chief work. If God permit, I will treat at another
time of the Faith itself -- how we are daily to pray or recite

I humbly commend myself herewith to your princely Grace, Your
Princely Grace's Humble Chaplain,

From Wittenberg, March 29th, A. D. 1520. 

I. We ought first to know that there are no good works except
those which God has commanded, even as there is no sin except
that which God has forbidden. Therefore whoever wishes to know
and to do good works needs nothing else than to know God's
commandments. Thus Christ says, Matthew xix, "If thou wilt enter
into life, keep the commandments." And when the young man asks
Him, Matthew xix, what he shall do that he may inherit eternal
life, Christ sets before him naught else but the Ten
Commandments. Accordingly, we must learn how to distinguish among
good works from the Commandments of God, and not from the
appearance, the magnitude, or the number of the works themselves,
nor from the judgment of men or of human law or custom, as we see
has been done and still is done, because we are blind and despise
the divine Commandments. 

II. The first and highest, the most precious of all good works
is faith in Christ, as He says, John vi. When the Jews asked Him:
"What shall we do that we may work the works of God?" He
answered: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom
He hath sent." When we hear or preach this word, we hasten over
it and deem it a very little thing and easy to do, whereas we
ought here to pause a long time and to ponder it well. For in
this work all good works must be done and receive from it the
inflow of their goodness, like a loan. This we must put bluntly,
that men may understand it. 

We find many who pray, fast, establish endowments, do this or
that, lead a good life before men, and yet if you should ask them
whether they are sure that what they do pleases God, they say,
"No"; they do not know, or they doubt. And there are some very
learned men, who mislead them, and say that it is not necessary
to be sure of this; and yet, on the other hand, these same men
do nothing else but teach good works. Now all these works are
done outside of faith, therefore they are nothing and altogether
dead. For as their conscience stands toward God and as it
believes, so also are the works which grow out of it. Now they
have no faith, no good conscience toward God, therefore the works
lack their head, and all their life and goodness is nothing.
Hence it comes that when I exalt faith and reject such works done
without faith, they accuse me of forbidding good works, when in
truth I am trying hard to teach real good works of faith. 

III. If you ask further, whether they count it also a good work
when they work at their trade, walk, stand, eat, drink, sleep,
and do all kinds of works for the nourishment of the body or for
the common welfare, and whether they believe that God takes
pleasure in them because of such works, you will find that they
say, "No"; and they define good works so narrowly that they are
made to consist only of praying in church, fasting, and
almsgiving. Other works they consider to be in vain, and think
that God cares nothing for them. So through their damnable
unbelief they curtail and lessen the service of God, Who is
served by all things whatsoever that are done, spoken or thought
in faith. 

So teaches Ecclesiastes ix: "Go thy way with joy, eat and drink,
and know that God accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always
white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the
wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity."
"Let thy garments be always white," that is, let all our works
be good, whatever they may be, without any distinction. And they
are white when I am certain and believe that they please God.
Then shall the head of my soul never lack the ointment of a
joyful conscience. 

So Christ says, John viii: "I do always those things that please
Him." And St. John says, I. John iii: "Hereby we know that we are
of the truth, if we can comfort our hearts before Him and have
a good confidence. And if our heart condemns or frets us, God is
greater than our heart, and we have confidence, that whatsoever
we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His
Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His
sight." Again: "Whosoever is born of God, that is, whoever
believes and trusts God, doth not commit sin, and cannot sin."
Again, Psalm xxxiv: "None of them that trust in Him shall do
sin." And in Psalm ii: "Blessed are all they that put their trust
in Him." If this be true, then all that they do must be good, or
the evil that they do must be quickly forgiven. Behold, then, why
I exalt faith so greatly, draw all works into it, and reject all
works which do not flow from it. 

IV. Now every one can note and tell for himself when he does what
is good or what is not good; for if he finds his heart confident
that it pleases God, the work is good, even if it were so small
a thing as picking up a straw. If confidence is absent, or if he
doubts, the work is not good, although it should raise all the
dead and the man should give himself to be burned. This is the
teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv: "Whatsoever is not done of or
in faith is sin." Faith, as the chief work, and no other work,
has given us the name of "believers on Christ." For all other
works a heathen, a Jew, a Turk, a sinner, may also do; but to
trust firmly that he pleases God, is possible only for a
Christian who is enlightened and strengthened by grace. 

That these words seem strange, and that some call me a heretic
because of them, is due to the fact that men have followed blind
reason and heathen ways, have set faith not above, but beside
other virtues, and have given it a work of its own, apart from
all works of the other virtues; although faith alone makes all
other works good, acceptable and worthy, in that it trusts God
and does not doubt that for it all things that a man does are
well done. Indeed, they have not let faith remain a work, but
have made a habitus of it, as they say, although Scripture gives
the name of a good, divine work to no work except to faith alone.
Therefore it is no wonder that they have become blind and leaders
of the blind. And this faith brings with it at once love, peace,
joy and hope. For God gives His Spirit at once to him who trusts
Him, as St. Paul says to the Galatians: "You received the Spirit
not because of your good works, but when you believed the Word
of God."

V. In this faith all works become equal, and one is like the
other; all distinctions between works fall away, whether they be
great, small, short, long, few or many. For the works are
acceptable not for their own sake, but because of the faith which
alone is, works and lives in each and every work without
distinction, however numerous and various they are, just as all
the members of the body live, work and have their name from the
head, and without the head no member can live, work and have a

From which it further follows that a Christian who lives in this
faith has no need of a teacher of good works, but whatever he
finds to do he does, and all is well done; as Samuel said to
Saul: "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt
be turned into another man; then do thou as occasion serves thee;
for God is with thee." So also we read of St. Anna, Samuel's
mother: "When she believed the priest Eli who promised her God's
grace, she went home in joy and peace, and from that time no more
turned hither and thither," that is, whatever occurred, it was
all one to her. St. Paul also says: "Where the Spirit of Christ
is, there all is free." For faith does not permit itself to be
bound to any work, nor does it allow any work to be taken from
it, but, as the First Psalm says, "He bringeth forth his fruit
in his season," that is, as a matter of course. 

VI. This we may see in a common human example. When a man and a
woman love and are pleased with each other, and thoroughly
believe in their love, who teaches them how they are to behave,
what they are to do, leave undone, say, not say, think?
Confidence alone teaches them all this, and more. They make no
difference in works: they do the great, the long, the much, as
gladly as the small, the short, the little, and vice versa; and
that too with joyful, peaceful, confident hearts, and each is a
free companion of the other. But where there is a doubt, search
is made for what is best; then a distinction of works is imagined
whereby a man may win favor; and yet he goes about it with a
heavy heart, and great disrelish; he is, as it were, taken
captive, more than half in despair, and often makes a fool of

So a Christian who lives in this confidence toward God, a knows
all things, can do all things, undertakes all things that are to
be done, and does everything cheerfully and freely; not that he
may gather many merits and good works, but because it is a
pleasure for him to please God thereby, and he serves God purely
for nothing, content that his service pleases God. On the other
hand, he who is not at one with God, or doubts, hunts and worries
in what way he may do enough and with many works move God. He
runs to St. James of Compostella, to Rome, to Jerusalem, hither
and yon, prays St. Bridget's prayer and the rest, fasts on this
day and on that, makes confession here, and makes confession
there, questions this man and that, and yet finds no peace. He
does all this with great effort, despair and disrelish of heart,
so that the Scriptures rightly call such works in Hebrew Avenama,
that is, labor and travail. And even then they are not good
works, and are all lost. Many have been crazed thereby; their
fear has brought them into all manner of misery. Of these it is
written, Wisdom of Solomon v: "We have wearied ourselves in the
wrong way; and have gone through deserts, where there lay no way;
but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known it, and the sun
of righteousness rose not upon us." 

VII. In these works faith is still slight and weak; let us ask
further, whether they believe that they are well-pleasing to God
when they suffer in body, property, honor, friends, or whatever
they have, and believe that God of His mercy appoints their
sufferings and difficulties for them, whether they be small or
great. This is real strength, to trust in God when to all our
senses and reason He appears to be angry; and to have greater
confidence in Him than we feel. Here He is hidden, as the bride
says in the Song of Songs: "Behold he standeth behind our wall,
he looketh forth at the windows"; that is, He stands hidden among
the sufferings, which would separate us from Him like a wall,
yea, like a wall of stone, and yet He looks upon me and does not
leave me, for He is standing and is ready graciously to help, and
through the window of dim faith He permits Himself to be seen.
And Jeremiah says in Lamentations, "He casts off men, but He does
it not willingly." 

This faith they do not know at all, and give up, thinking that
God has forsaken them and is become their enemy; they even lay
the blame of their ills on men and devils, and have no confidence
at all in God. For this reason, too, their suffering is always
an offence and harmful to them, and yet they go and do some good
works, as they think, and are not aware of their unbelief. But
they who in such suffering trust God and retain a good, firm
confidence in Him, and believe that He is pleased with them,
these see in their sufferings and afflictions nothing but
precious merits and the rarest possessions, the value of which
no one can estimate. For faith and confidence make precious
before God all that which others think most shameful, so that it
is written even of death in Psalm cxvi, "Precious in the sight
of the Lord is the death of His saints." And just as the
confidence and faith are better, higher and stronger at this
stage than in the first stage, so and to the same degree do the
sufferings which are borne in this faith excel all works of
faith. Therefore between such works and sufferings there is an
immeasurable difference and the sufferings are infinitely better. 

VIII. Beyond all this is the highest stage of faith, when; God
punishes the conscience not only with temporal sufferings, but
with death, hell, and sin, and refuses grace and mercy, as though
it were His will to condemn and to be angry eternally. This few
men experience, but David cries out in Psalm vi, "O Lord, rebuke
me not in Thine anger." To believe at such times that God, in His
mercy, is pleased with us, is the highest work that can be done
by and in the creature; but of this the work-righteous and doers
of good works know nothing at all. For how could they here look
for good things and grace from God, as long as they are not
certain in their works, and doubt even on the lowest step of

In this way I have, as I said, always praised faith, and rejected
all works which are done without such faith, in order thereby to
lead men from the false, pretentious, pharisaic, unbelieving good
works, with which all monastic houses, churches, homes, low and
higher classes are overfilled, and lead them to the true,
genuine, thoroughly good, believing works. In this no one opposes
me except the unclean beasts, which do not divide the hoof, as
the Law of Moses decrees; who will suffer no distinction among
good works, but go lumbering along: if only they pray, fast,
establish endowments, go to confession, and do enough, everything
shall be good, although in all this they have had no faith in
God's grace and approval. Indeed, they consider the works best
of all, when they have done many, great and long works without
any such confidence, and they look for good only after the works
are done; and so they build their confidence not on divine favor,
but on the works they have done, that is, on sand and water, from
which they must at last take a cruel fall, as Christ says,
Matthew vii. This good-will and favor, on which our confidence
rests, was proclaimed by the angels from heaven, when they sang
on Christmas night: "Gloria in excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the
highest, peace to earth, gracious favor to man."

IX. Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which
commands: "Thou shalt have no other gods," which means: "Since
I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust and
faith on Me alone, and on no one else." For that is not to have
a god, if you call him God only with your lips, or worship him
with the knees or bodily gestures; but if you trust Him with the
heart, and look to Him for all good, grace and favor, whether in
works or sufferings, in life or death, in joy or sorrow; as the
Lord Christ says to the heathen woman, John iv: "I say unto thee,
they that worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
And this faith, faithfulness, confidence deep in the heart, is
the true fulfilling of the First Commandment; without this there
is no other work that is able to satisfy this Commandment. And
as this Commandment is the very first, highest and best, from
which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which
they are directed and measured, so also its work, that is, the
faith or confidence in God's favor at all times, is the very
first, highest and best, from which all others must proceed,
exist, remain, be directed and measured. Compared with this,
other works are just as if the other Commandments were without
the First, and there were no God, Therefore St. Augustine well
says that the works of the First Commandment are faith, hope and
love. As I said above, such faith and confidence bring love and
hope with them. Nay, if we see it aright, love is the first, or
comes at the same instant with faith. For I could not trust God,
if I did not think that He wished to be favorable and to love me,
which leads me, in turn, to love Him and to trust Him heartily
and to look to Him for all good things. 

X. Now you see for yourself that all those who do not at at all
times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings, life
and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His
favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this
Commandment, and practise real idolatry, even if they were to do
the works of all the other Commandments, and in addition had all
the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and
innocence of all the saints combined. For the chief work is not
present, without which all the others are nothing but mere sham,
show and pretence, with nothing back of them; against which
Christ warns us, Matthew vii: "Beware of false prophets, which
come to you in sheep's clothing." Such are all who wish with
their many good works, as they say, to make God favorable to
themselves, and to buy God's grace from Him, as if He were a
huckster or a day-laborer, unwilling to give His grace and favor
for nothing. These are the most perverse people on earth, who
will hardly or never be converted to the right way. Such too are
all who in adversity run hither and thither, and look for counsel
and help everywhere except from God, from Whom they are most
urgently commanded to seek it; whom the Prophet Isaiah reproves
thus, Isaiah ix: "The mad people turneth not to Him that smiteth
them"; that is, God smote them and sent them sufferings and all
kinds of adversity, that they should run to Him and trust Him.
But they run away from Him to men, now to Egypt, now to Assyria,
perchance also to the devil; and of such idolatry much is written
in the same Prophet and in the Books of the Kings. This is also
the way of all holy hypocrites when they are in trouble: they do
not run to God, but flee from Him, and only think of how they may
get rid of their trouble through their own efforts or through
human help, and yet they consider themselves and let others
consider them pious people. 

XI. This is what St. Paul means in many places, where he ascribes
so much to faith, that he says: Justus ex fide sua vivit, "the
righteous man draws his life out of his faith," and faith is that
because of which he is counted righteous before God. If
righteousness consists of faith, it is clear that faith fulfils
all commandments and makes all works righteous, since no one is
justified except he keep all the commands of God. Again, the
works can justify no one before God without faith. So utterly and
roundly does the Apostle reject works and praise faith, that some
have taken offence at his words and say: "Well, then, we will do
no more good works," although he condemns such men as erring and

So men still do. When we reject the great, pretentious works of
our time, which are done entirely without faith, they say: Men
are only to believe and not to do anything good. For nowadays
they say that the works of the First Commandment are singing,
reading, organ-playing, reading the mass, saying matins and
vespers and the other hours, the founding and decorating of
churches, altars, and monastic houses, the gathering of bells,
jewels, garments, trinkets and treasures, running to Rome and to
the saints. Further, when we are dressed up and bow, kneel, pray
the rosary and the Psalter, and all this not before an idol, but
before the holy cross of God or the pictures of His saints: this
we call honoring and worshiping God, and, according to the First
Commandment, "having no other gods"; although these things
usurers, adulterers and all manner of sinners can do too, and do
them daily. 

Of course, if these things are done with such faith that we
believe that they please God, then they are praiseworthy, not
because of their virtue, but because of such faith, for which all
works are of equal value, as has been said. But if we doubt or
do not believe that God is gracious to us and is pleased with us,
or if we presumptuously expect to please Him only through and
after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly
honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false god. This
is the reason why I have so often spoken against the display,
magnificence and multitude of such works and have rejected them,
because it is as clear as day that they are not only done in
doubt or without faith, but there is not one in a thousand who
does not set his confidence upon the works, expecting by them to
win God's favor and anticipate His grace; and so they make a fair
of them, a thing which God cannot endure, since He has promised
His grace freely, and wills that we begin by trusting that grace,
and in it perform all works, whatever they may be. 

XII. Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are:
keeping the First Commandment with outward works only, and
keeping it with inward trust. For this last makes true, living
children of God, the other only makes worse idolatry and the most
mischievous hypocrites on earth, who with their apparent
righteousness lead unnumbered people into their way, and yet
allow them to be without faith, so that they are miserably
misled, and are caught in the pitiable babbling and mummery. Of
such Christ says, Matthew xxiv: "Beware, if any man shall say
unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there"; and John iv: "I say unto
thee, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor
yet at Jerusalem worship God, for the Father seeketh spiritual

These and similar passages have moved me and ought to move
everyone to reject the great display of bulls, seals, flags,
indulgences, by which the poor folk are led to build churches,
to give, to endow, to pray, and yet faith is not mentioned, and
is even suppressed. For since faith knows no distinction among
works, such exaltation and urging of one work above another
cannot exist beside faith. For faith desires to be the only
service of God, and will grant this name and honor to no other
work, except in so far as faith imparts it, as it does when the
work is done in faith and by faith. This perversion is indicated
in the Old Testament, when the Jews left the Temple and
sacrificed at other places, in the green parks and on the
mountains. This is what these men also do: they are zealous to
do all works, but this chief work of faith they regard not at

XIII. Where now are they who ask, what works are good; what they
shall do; how they shall be religious? Yes, and where are they
who say that when we preach of faith, we shall neither teach nor
do works? Does not this First Commandment give us more work to
do than any man can do? If a man were a thousand men, or all men,
or all creatures, this Commandment would yet ask enough of him,
and more than enough, since he is commanded to live and walk at
all times in faith and confidence toward God, to place such faith
in no one else, and so to have only one, the true God, and none

Now, since the being and nature of man cannot for an instant be
without doing or not doing something, enduring or running away
from something (for, as we see, life never rests), let him who
will be pious and filled with good works, begin and in all his
life and works at all times exercise himself in this faith; let
him learn to do and to leave undone all things in such continual
faith; then will he find how much work he has to do, and how
completely all things are included in faith; how he dare never
grow idle, because his very idling must be the exercise and work
of faith. In brief, nothing can be in or about us and nothing can
happen to us but that it must be good and meritorious, if we
believe (as we ought) that all things please God. So says St.
Paul: "Dear brethren, all that ye do, whether ye eat or drink,
do all in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord." Now it cannot be
done in this Name except it be done in this faith. Likewise,
Romans vii: "We know that all things work together for good to
the saints of God."

Therefore, when some say that good works are forbidden when we
preach faith alone, it is as if I said to a sick man: "If you had
health, you would have the use of all your limbs; but without
health, the works of all your limbs are nothing"; and he wanted
to infer that I had forbidden the works of all his limbs;
whereas, on the contrary, I meant that he must first have health,
which will work all the works of all the members. So faith also
must be in all works the master-workman and captain, or they are
nothing at all. 

XIV. You might say: "Why then do we have so many laws of the
Church and of the State, and many ceremonies of churches,
monastic houses, holy places, which urge and tempt men to good
works, if faith does all things through the First Commandment?"
I answer: Simply because we do not all have faith or do not heed
it. If every man had faith, we would need no more laws, but every
one would of himself at all times do good works, as his
confidence in God teaches him. 

But now there are four kinds of men: the first, just mentioned,
who need no law, of whom St. Paul says, I. Timothy i, "The law
is not made for a righteous man," that is, for the believer, but
believers of themselves do what they know and can do, only
because they firmly trust that God's favor and grace rests upon
them in all things. The second class want to abuse this freedom,
put a false confidence in it, and grow lazy; of whom St. Peter
says, I. Peter ii, "Ye shall live as free men, but not using your
liberty for a cloak of maliciousness," as if he said: The freedom
of faith does not permit sins, nor will it cover them, but it
sets us free to do all manner of good works and to endure all
things as they happen to us, so that a man is not bound only to
one work or to a few. So also St. Paul, Galatians v: "Use not
your liberty for an occasion to the flesh." Such men must be
urged by laws and hemmed in by teaching and exhortation. The
third class are wicked men, always ready for sins; these must be
constrained by spiritual and temporal laws, like wild horses and
dogs, and where this does not help, they must be put to death by
the worldly sword, as St. Paul says, Romans xiii: "The worldly
ruler bears the sword, and serves God with it, not as a terror
to the good, but to the evil." The fourth class, who are still
lusty, and childish in their understanding of faith and of the
spiritual life, must be coaxed like young children and tempted
with external, definite and prescribed decorations, with reading,
praying, fasting, singing, adorning of churches, organ playing,
and such other things as are commanded and observed in monastic
houses and churches, until they also learn to know the faith.
Although there is great danger here, when the rulers, as is now,
alas! the case, busy themselves with and insist upon such
ceremonies and external works as if they were the true works, and
neglect faith, which they ought always to teach along with these
works, just as a mother gives her child other food along with the
milk, until the child can eat the strong food by itself.

XV. Since, then, we are not all alike, we must tolerate such
people, share their observances and burdens, and not despise
them, but teach them the true way of faith. So St. Paul teaches,
Romans xiv: "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, to teach
him." And so he did himself, I. Corinthians ix: "To them that are
under the law, I became as under the law, although I was not
under the law." And Christ, Matthew xvii, when He was asked to
pay tribute, which He was not obligated to pay, argues with St.
Peter, whether the children of kings must give tribute, or only
other people. St. Peter answers: "Only other people." Christ
said: "Then are the children of kings free; notwithstanding, lest
we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and
take up the fish that first cometh up; and in his mouth thou
shalt find a piece of money; take that and give it for me and

Here we see that all works and things are free to a Christian
through his faith; and yet, because the others do not yet
believe, he observes and bears with them what he is not obligated
to do. But this he does freely, for he is certain that this is
pleasing to God, and he does it willingly, accepts it as any
other free work which comes to his hand without his choice,
because he desires and seeks no more than that he may in his
faith do works to please God. 

But since in this discourse we have undertaken to teach what
righteous and good works are, and are now speaking of the highest
work, it is clear that we do not speak of the second, third and
fourth classes of men, but of the first, into whose likeness all
the others are to grow, and until they do so the first class must
endure and instruct them. Therefore we must not despise, as if
they were hopeless, these men of weak faith, who would gladly do
right and learn, and yet cannot understand because of the
ceremonies to which they cling; we must rather blame their
ignorant, blind teachers, who have never taught them the faith,
and have led them so deeply into works. They must be gently and
gradually led back again to faith, as a sick man is treated, and
must be allowed for a time, for their conscience sake, to cling
to some works and do them as necessary to salvation, so long as
they rightly grasp the faith; lest if we try to tear them out so
suddenly, their weak consciences be quite shattered and confused,
and retain neither faith nor works. But the hardheaded, who,
hardened in their works, give no heed to what is said of faith,
and fight against it, these we must, as Christ did and taught,
let go their way, that the blind may lead the blind. 

XVI. But you say: How can I trust surely that all my works are
pleasing to God, when at times I fall, and talk, eat, drink and
sleep too much, or otherwise transgress, as I cannot help doing?
Answer: This question shows that you still regard faith as a work
among other works, and do not set it above all works. For it is
the highest work for this very reason, because it remains and
blots out these daily sins by not doubting that God is so kind
to you as to wink at such daily transgression and weakness. Aye,
even if a deadly sin should occur (which, however, never or
rarely happens to those who live in faith and trust toward God),
yet faith rises again and does not doubt that its sin is already
gone; as it is written I. John ii: "My little children, these
things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we
have an Advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ, Who is the
propitiation of all our sins." And Wisdom xv: "For if we sin, we
are Thine, knowing Thy power." And Proverbs xxiv: "For a just man
falleth seven times, and riseth up again." Yes, this confidence
and faith must be so high and strong that the man knows that all
his life and works are nothing but damnable sins before God's
judgment, as it is written, Psalm cxliii: "In thy sight shall no
man living be justified"; and he must entirely despair of his
works, believing that they cannot be good except through this
faith, which looks for no judgment, but only for pure grace,
favor, kindness and mercy, like David, Psalm xxvi: "Thy loving
kindness is ever before mine eyes, and I have trusted in Thy
truth"; Psalm iv: "The light of Thy countenance is lift up upon
us (that is, the knowledge of Thy grace through faith), and
thereby hast Thou put gladness in my heart"; for as faith trusts,
so it receives. 

See, thus are works forgiven, are without guilt and are good, not
by their own nature, but by the mercy and grace of God because
of the faith which trusts on the mercy of God. Therefore we must
fear because of the works, but comfort ourselves because of the
grace of God, as it is written, Psalm cxlvii: "The Lord taketh
pleasure in them that I fear Him, in those that hope in His
mercy." So we pray with perfect confidence: "Our Father," and yet
petition: "Forgive us our trespasses"; we are children and yet
sinners; are acceptable and yet do not do enough; and all this
is the work of faith, firmly grounded in God's grace. 

XVII. But if you ask, where the faith and the confidence can be
found and whence they come, this it is certainly most necessary
to know. First: Without doubt faith does not come from your works
or merit, but alone from Jesus Christ, and is freely promised and
given; as St. Paul writes, Romans v: "God commendeth His love to
us as exceeding sweet and kindly, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us"; as if he said: "Ought not this give
us a strong unconquerable confidence, that before we prayed or
cared for it, yes, while we still continually walked in sins,
Christ dies for our sin?" St. Paul concludes: "If while we were
yet sinners Christ died for us, how much more then, being
justified by His blood, shall we be saved from wrath through Him;
and if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved
by His life." 

Lo! thus must thou form Christ within thyself and see how in Him
God holds before thee and offers thee His mercy without any
previous merits of thine own, and from such a view of His grace
must thou draw faith and confidence of the forgiveness of all thy
sins. Faith, therefore, does not begin with works, neither do
they create it, but it must spring up and flow from the blood,
wounds and death of Christ. If thou see in these that God is so
kindly affectioned toward thee that He gives even His Son for
thee, then thy heart also must in its turn grow sweet and kindly
affectioned toward God, and so thy confidence must grow out of
pure good-will and love -- God's love toward thee and thine
toward God. We never read that the Holy Spirit was given to any
one when he did works, but always when men have heard the Gospel
of Christ and the mercy of God. From this same Word and from no
other source must faith still come, even in our day and always.
For Christ is the rock out of which men suck oil and honey, as
Moses says, Deuteronomy xxxii. 

XVIII. So far we have treated of the first work and of the First
Commandment, but very briefly, plainly and hastily, for very much
might be said of it. We will now trace the works farther through
the following Commandments. 

The second work, next to faith, is the work of the Second
Commandment, that we shall honor God's Name and not take it in
vain. This, like all the other works, cannot be done without
faith; and if it is done without faith, it is all sham and show.
After faith we can do no greater work than to praise, preach,
sing and in every way exalt and magnify God's glory, honor and

And although I have said above, and it is true, that there is no
difference in works where faith is and does the work, yet this
is true only when they are compared with faith and its works.
Measured by one another there is a difference, and one is higher
than the other. Just as in the body the members do not differ
when compared with health, and health works in the one as much
as in the other; yet the works of the members are different, and
one is higher, nobler, more useful than the other; so, here also,
to praise God's glory and Name is better than the works of the
other Commandments which follow; and yet it must be done in the
same faith as all the others. 

But I know well that this work is lightly esteemed, and has
indeed become unknown. Therefore we must examine it further, and
will say no more about the necessity of doing it in the faith and
confidence that it pleases God. Indeed there is no work in which
confidence and faith are so much experienced and felt as in
honoring God's Name; and it greatly helps to strengthen and
increase faith, although all works also help to do this, as St.
Peter says, II. Peter i: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give
diligence through good works to make your calling and election

XIX. The First Commandment forbids us to have other gods, and
thereby commands that we have a God, the true God, by a firm
faith, trust, confidence, hope and love, which are the only works
whereby a man can have, honor and keep a God; for by no other
work can one find or lose God except by faith or unbelief, by
trusting or doubting; of the other works none reaches quite to
God. So also in the Second Commandment we are forbidden to use
His Name in vain. Yet this is not to be enough, but we are
thereby also commanded to honor, call upon, glorify, preach and
praise His Name. And indeed it is impossible that God's Name
should not be dishonored where it is not rightly honored. For
although it be honored with the lips, bending of the knees,
kissing and other postures, if this is not done in the heart by
faith, in confident trust in God's grace, it is nothing else than
an evidence and badge of hypocrisy. 

See now, how many kinds of good works a man can do under this
Commandment at all times and never be without the good works of
this Commandment, if he will; so that he truly need not make a
long pilgrimage or seek holy places. For, tell me, what moment
can pass in which we do not without ceasing receive God's
blessings, or, on the other hand, suffer adversity? But what else
are God's blessings and adversities than a constant urging and
stirring up to praise, honor, and bless God, and to call upon His
Name? Now if you had nothing else at all to do, would you not
have enough to do with this Commandment alone, that you without
ceasing bless, sing, praise and honor God's Name? And for what
other purpose have tongue, voice, language and mouth been
created? As Psalm li. says: "Lord, open Thou my lips, and my
mouth shall show forth Thy praise." Again: "My tongue shall sing
aloud of Thy mercy." 

What work is there in heaven except that of this Second
Commandment? As it is written in Psalm Ixxxiv: "Blessed are they
that dwell in Thy house: they will be for ever praising Thee."
So also David says in Psalm xxxiv: "God's praise shall be
continually in my mouth." And St. Paul, I. Corinthians x:
"Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all
to the glory of God." Also Colossians iii: "Whatsoever ye do in
word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks
to God and the Father." If we were to observe this work, we would
have a heaven here on earth and always have enough to do, as have
the saints in heaven. 

XX. On this is based the wonderful and righteous judgment of God,
that at times a poor man, in whom no one can see many great
works, in the privacy of his home joyfully praises God when he
fares well, or with entire confidence calls upon Him when he
fares ill, and thereby does a greater and more acceptable work
than another, who fasts much, prays much, endows churches, makes
pilgrimages, and burdens himself with great deeds in this place
and in that. Such a fool opens wide his mouth, looks for great
works to do, and is so blinded that he does not at all notice
this greatest work, and praising God is in his eyes a very small
matter compared with the great idea he has formed of the works
of his own devising, in which he perhaps praises himself more
than God, or takes more pleasure in them than he does in God; and
thus with his good works he storms against the Second Commandment
and its works. Of all this we have an illustration in the case
of the Pharisee and the Publican in the Gospel. For the sinner
calls upon God in his sins, and praises Him, and so has hit upon
the two highest Commandments, faith and God's honor. The
hypocrite misses both and struts about with other good works by
which he praises himself and not God, and puts his trust in
himself more than in God. Therefore he is justly rejected and the
other chosen. 

The reason of all this is that the higher and better the works
are, the less show they make; and that every one thinks they are
easy, because it is evident that no one pretends to praise God's
Name and honor so much as the very men who never do it and with
their show of doing it, while the heart is without faith, cause
the precious work to be despised. So that the Apostle St. Paul
dare say boldly, Romans ii, that they blaspheme God's Name who
make their boast of God's Law. For to name the Name of God and
to write His honor on paper and on the walls is an easy matter;
but genuinely to praise and bless Him in His good deeds and
confidently to call upon Him in all adversities, these are truly
the most rare, highest works, next to faith, so that if we were
to see how few of them there are in Christendom, we might despair
for very sorrow. And yet there is a constant increase of high,
pretty, shining works of men's devising, or of works which look
like these true works, but at bottom are all without faith and
without faithfulness; in short, there is nothing good back of
them. Thus also Isaiah xlviii. rebukes the people of Israel:
"Hear ye this, ye which are called by the name of Israel, which
swear by the Name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of
Israel neither in truth, nor in righteousness"; that is, they did
it not in the true faith and confidence, which is the real truth
and righteousness, but trusted in themselves, their works and
powers, and yet called upon God's Name and praised Him, two
things which do not fit together. 

XXI. The first work of this Commandment then is, to praise God
in all His benefits, which are innumerable, so that such praise
and thanksgiving ought also of right never to cease or end. For
who can praise Him perfectly for the gift of natural life, not
to mention all other temporal and eternal blessings? And so
through this one part of the Commandment man is overwhelmed with
good and precious works; if he do these in true faith, he has
indeed not lived in vain. And in this matter none sin so much as
the most resplendent saints, who are pleased with themselves and
like to praise themselves or to hear themselves praised, honored
and glorified before men. 

Therefore the second work of this Commandment is, to be on one's
guard, to flee from and to avoid all temporal honor and praise,
and never to seek a name for oneself, or fame and a great
reputation, that every one sing of him and tell of him; which is
an exceedingly dangerous sin, and yet the most common of all,
and, alas! little regarded. Every one wants to be of importance
and not to be the least, however small he may be; so deeply is
nature sunk in the evil of its own conceit and in its
self-confidence contrary to these two first Commandments. 

Now the world regards this terrible vice as the highest virtue,
and this makes it exceedingly dangerous for those who do not
understand and have not had experience of God's Commandments and
the histories of the Holy Scriptures, to read or hear the heathen
books and histories. For all heathen books are poisoned through
and through with this striving after praise and honor; in them
men are taught by blind reason that they were not nor could be
men of power and worth, who are not moved by praise and honor;
but those are counted the best, who disregard body and life,
friend and property and everything in the effort to win praise
and honor. All the holy Fathers have complained of this vice and
with one mind conclude that it is the very last vice to be
overcome. St. Augustine says: "All other vices are practised in
evil works; only honor and self-satisfaction are practised in and
by means of good works." 

Therefore if a man had nothing else to do except this second work
of this Commandment, he would yet have to work all his life-time
in order to fight this vice and drive it out, so common, so
subtile, so quick and insidious is it. Now we all pass by this
good work and exercise ourselves in many other lesser good works,
nay, through other good works we overthrow this and forget it
entirely. So the holy Name of God, which alone should be honored,
is taken in vain and dishonored through our own cursed name,
self-approval and honor-seeking. And this sin is more grievous
before God than murder and adultery; but its wickedness is not
so clearly seen as that of murder, because of its subtilty, for
it is not accomplished in the coarse flesh, but in the spirit. 

XXII. Some think it is good for young people that they be enticed
by reputation and honor, and again by shame of and dishonor, and
so be induced to do good. For there are many who do the good and
leave the evil undone out of fear of shame and love of honor, and
so do what they would otherwise by no means do or leave undone.
These I leave to their opinion. But at present we are seeking how
true good works are to be done, and they who are inclined to do
them surely do not need to be driven by the fear of shame and the
love of honor; they have, and are to have a higher and far nobler
incentive, namely, God's commandment, God's fear, God's approval,
and their faith and love toward God. They who have not, or regard
not this motive, and let shame and honor drive them, these also
have their reward, as the Lord says, Matthew vi; and as the
motive, so is also the work and the reward: none of them is good,
except only in the eyes of the world. 

Now I hold that a young person could be more easily trained and
incited by God's fear and commandments than by any other means.
Yet where these do not help, we must endure that they do the good
and leave the evil for the sake of shame and of honor, just as
we must also endure wicked men or the imperfect, of whom we spoke
above; nor can we do more than tell them that their works are not
satisfactory and right before God, and so leave them until they
learn to do right for the sake of God's commandments also. Just
as young children are induced to pray, fast, learn, etc., by
gifts and promises of the parents, even though it would not be
good to treat them so all their lives, so that they never learn
to do good in the fear of God: far worse, if they become
accustomed to do good for the sake of praise and honor. 

XXIII. But this is true, that we must none the less have a good
name and honor, and every one ought so to live that nothing evil
can be said of him, and that he give offence to no one, as St.
Paul says, Romans xii: "We are to be zealous to do good, not only
before God, but also before all men." And II. Corinthians iv: "We
walk so honestly that no man knows anything against us." But
there must be great diligence and care, lest such honor and good
name puff up the heart, and the heart find pleasure in them. Here
the saying of Solomon holds: "As the fire in the furnace proveth
the gold, so man is proved by the mouth of him that praises him."
Few and most spiritual men must they be, who, when honored and
praised, remain indifferent and unchanged, so that they do not
care for it, nor feel pride and pleasure in it, but remain
entirely free, ascribe all their honor and fame to God, offering
it to Him alone, and using it only to the glory of God, to the
edification of their neighbors, and in no way to their own
benefit or advantage; so that a man trust not in his own honor,
nor exalt himself above the most incapable, despised man on
earth, but acknowledge himself a servant of God, Who has given
him the honor in order that with it he may serve God and his
neighbor, just as if He had commanded him to distribute some
gulden to the poor for His sake. So He says, Matthew v: "Your
light shall shine before men, so that they may see your good
works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven." He does not say,
"they shall praise you," but "your works shall only serve them
to edification, that through them they may praise God in you and
in themselves." This is the correct use of God's Name and honor,
when God is thereby praised through the edification of others.
And if men want to praise us and not God in us, we are not to
endure it, but with all our powers forbid it and flee from it as
from the most grievous sin and robbery of divine honor. 

XXIV. Hence it comes that God frequently permits a man to fall
into or remain in grievous sin, in order that he may be put to
shame in his own eyes and in the eyes of all men, who otherwise
could not have kept himself from this great vice of vain honor
and fame, if he had remained constant in his great gifts and
virtues; so God must ward off this sin by means of other grievous
sins, that His Name alone may be honored; and thus one sin
becomes the other's medicine, because of our perverse wickedness,
which not only does the evil, but also misuses all that is good. 

Now see how much a man has to do, if he would do good works,
which always are at hand in great number, and with which he is
surrounded on all sides; but, alas! because of his blindness, he
passes them by and seeks and runs after others of his own
devising and pleasure, against which no man can sufficiently
speak and no man can sufficiently guard. With this all the
prophets had to contend, and for this reason they were all slain,
only because they rejected such self-devised works and preached
only God's commandments, as one of them says, Jeremiah vii: "Thus
saith the God of Israel unto you: Take your burnt offerings unto
all your sacrifices and eat your burnt-offerings and your flesh
yourselves; for concerning these things I have commanded you
nothing, but this thing commanded I you: Obey My voice (that is,
not what seems right and good to you, but what I bid you), and
walk in the way that I have commanded you." And Deuteronomy xii:
"Thou shalt not do whatsoever is right in thine own eyes, but
what thy God has commanded thee." 

These and numberless like passages of Scripture are spoken to
tear man not only from sins, but also from the works which seem
to men to be good and right, and to turn men, with a single mind,
to the simple meaning of God's commandment only, that they shall
diligently observe this only and always, as it is written, Exodus
xiii: "These commandments shall be for a sign unto thee upon
thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes." And Psalm i:
"A godly man meditates in God's Law day and night." For we have
more than enough and too much to do, if we are to satisfy only
God's commandments. He has given us such commandments that if we
understand them aright, we dare not for a moment be idle, and
might easily forget all other works. But the evil spirit, who
never rests, when he cannot lead us to the left into evil works,
fights on our right through self-devised works that seem good,
but against which God has commanded, Deuteronomy xxviii, and
Joshua xxiii, "Ye shall not go aside from My commandments to the
right hand or to the left." 

XXV. The third work of this Commandment is to call upon God's
Name in every need. For this God regards as keeping His Name holy
and greatly honoring it, if we name and call upon it in adversity
and need. And this is really why He sends us so much trouble,
suffering, adversity and even death, and lets us live in many
wicked, sinful affections, that He may thereby urge man and give
him much reason to run to Him, to cry aloud to Him, to call upon
His holy Name, and thus to fulfil this work of the Second
Commandment, as He says in Psalm 1: "Call upon Me in the day of
trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me; for I
desire the sacrifice of praise." And this is the way whereby thou
canst come unto salvation; for through such works man perceives
and learns what God's Name is, how powerful it is to help all who
call upon it; and whereby confidence and faith grow mightily, and
these are the fulfilling of the first and highest Commandment.
This is the experience of David, Psalm liv: "Thou hast delivered
me out of all trouble, therefore will I praise Thy Name and
confess that it is lovely and sweet." And Psalm xci says,
"Because he hath set his hope upon Me, therefore will I deliver
him: I will help him, because he hath known My Name." 

Lo! what man is there on earth, who would not all his life long
have enough to do with this work? For who lives an hour without
trials? I will not mention the trials of adversity, which are
innumerable. For this is the most dangerous trial of all, when
there is no trial and every thing is and goes well; for then a
man is tempted to forget God, to become too bold and to misuse
the times of prosperity. Yea, here he has ten times more need to
call upon God's Name than when in adversity. Since it is written,
Psalm xci, "A thousand shall fall on the left hand and ten
thousand on the right hand." 

So too we see in broad day, in all men's daily experience, that
more heinous sins and vice occur when there is peace, when all
things are cheap and there are good times, than when war,
pestilence, sicknesses and all manner of misfortune burden us;
so that Moses also fears for his people, lest they forsake God's
commandment for no other reason than because they are too full,
too well provided for and have too much peace, as he says,
Deuteronomy xxxii "My people is waxed rich, full and fat;
therefore has it forsaken its God." Wherefore also God let many
of its enemies remain and would not drive them out, in order that
they should not have peace and must exercise themselves in the
keeping of God's commandments, as it is written, Judges iii. So
He deals with us also, when He sends us all kinds of misfortune:
so exceedingly careful is He of us, that He may teach us and
drive us to honor and call upon His Name, to gain confidence and
faith toward Him, and so to fulfil the first two Commandments. 

XXVI. Here foolish men run into danger, and especially the
work-righteous saints, and those who want to be more than others;
they teach men to make the sign of the cross; one arms himself
with letters, another runs to the fortunetellers; one seeks this,
another that, if only they may thereby escape misfortune and be
secure. It is beyond telling what a devilish allurement attaches
to this trifling with sorcery, conjuring and superstition, all
of which is done only that men may not need God's Name and put
no trust in it. Here great dishonor is done the Name of God and
the first two Commandments, in that men look to the devil, men
or creatures for that which should be sought and found in God
alone, through naught but a pure faith and confidence, and a
cheerful meditation of and calling upon His holy Name. 

Now examine this closely for yourself and see whether this is not
a gross, mad perversion: the devil, men and creatures they must
believe, and trust to them for the best; without such faith and
confidence nothing holds or helps. How shall the good and
faithful God reward us for not believing and trusting Him as much
or more than man and the devil, although He not only promises
help and sure assistance, but also commands us confidently to
look for it, and gives and urges all manner of reasons why we
should place such faith and confidence in Him? Is it not
lamentable and pitiable that the devil or man, who commands
nothing and does not urge, but only promises, is set above God,
Who promises, urges and commands; and that more is thought of
them than of God Himself? We ought truly to be ashamed of
ourselves and learn from the example of those who trust the devil
or men. For if the devil, who is a wicked, lying spirit, keeps
faith with all those who ally themselves with him, how much more
will not the most gracious, all-truthful God keep faith, if a man
trusts Him? Nay, is it not rather He alone Who will keep faith?
A rich man trusts and relies upon his money and possessions, and
they help him; and we are not willing to trust and rely upon the
living God, that He is willing and able to help us? We say: Gold
makes bold; and it is true, as Baruch iii. says, "Gold is a thing
wherein men trust." But far greater is the courage which the
highest eternal Good gives, wherein trust, not men, but only
God's children. 

XXVII. Even if none of these adversities constrain us to call
upon God's Name and to trust Him, yet were sin alone more than
sufficient to train and to urge us on in this work. For sin has
hemmed us in with three strong, mighty armies. The first is our
own flesh, the second the world, the third the evil spirit, by
which three we are without ceasing oppressed and troubled;
whereby God gives us occasion to do good works without ceasing,
namely, to fight with these enemies and sins. The flesh seeks
pleasure and peace, the world seeks riches, favor, power and
honor, the evil spirit seeks pride, glory, that a man be well
thought of, and other men be despised. 

And these three are all so powerful that each one of them is
alone sufficient to fight a man, and yet there is no way we can
overcome them, except only by calling upon the holy Name of God
in a firm faith, as Solomon says, Proverbs xviii: "The Name of
the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and
is set aloft." And David, Psalm cxvi: "I will drink the cup of
salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." Again, Psalm
xviii: "I will call upon the Lord with praise: so shall I be
saved from all mine enemies." These works and the power of God's
Name have become unknown to us, because we are not accustomed to
it, and have never seriously fought with sins, and have not
needed His Name, because we are trained only in our self devised
works, which we were able to do with our own powers. 

XXVIII. Further works of this Commandment are: that we shall not
swear, curse, lie, deceive and conjure with the holy Name of God,
and otherwise misuse it; which are very simple matters and well
known to every one, being the sins which have been almost
exclusively preached and proclaimed under this Commandment. These
also include, that we shall prevent others from making sinful use
of God's Name by lying, swearing, deceiving, cursing, conjuring,
and otherwise. Herein again much occasion is given for doing good
and warding off evil. 

But the greatest and most difficult work of this Commandment is
to protect the holy Name of God against all who misuse it in a
spiritual manner, and to proclaim it to all men. For it is not
enough that I, for myself and in myself, praise and call upon
God's Name in prosperity and adversity. I must step forth and for
the sake of God's honor and Name bring upon myself the enmity of
all men, as Christ said to His disciples: "Ye shall be hated of
all men for My Name's sake." Here we must provoke to anger
father, mother, and the best of friends. Here we must strive
against spiritual and temporal powers, and be accused of
disobedience. Here we must stir up against us the rich, learned,
holy, and all that is of repute in the world. And although this
is especially the duty of those who are commanded to preach God's
Word, yet every Christian is also obligated to do so when time
and place demand. For we must for the holy Name of God risk and
give up all that we have and can do, and show by our deeds that
we love God and His Name, His honor and His praise above all
things, and trust Him above all things, and expect good from Him;
thereby confessing that we regard Him as the highest good, for
the sake of which we let go and give up all other goods. 

XXIX. Here we must first of all resist all wrong, where truth or
righteousness suffers violence or need, and dare make no
distinction of persons, as some do, who fight most actively and
busily against the wrong which is done to the rich, the powerful,
and their own friends; but when it is done to the poor, or the
despised or their own enemy, they are quiet and patient. These
see the Name and the honor of God not as it is, but through a
painted glass, and measure truth or righteousness according to
the persons, and do not consider their deceiving eye, which looks
more on the person than on the thing. These are hypocrites within
and have only the appearance of defending the truth. For they
well know that there is no danger when one helps the rich, the
powerful, the learned and one's own friends, and can in turn
enjoy their protection and be honored by them.

Thus it is very easy to fight against the wrong which is done to
popes, kings, princes, bishops and other big-wigs. Here each
wants to be the most pious, where there is no great need. O how
sly is here the deceitful Adam with his demand; how finely does
he cover his greed of profit with the name of truth and
righteousness and God's honor! But when something happens to a
poor and insignificant man, there the deceitful eye does not find
much profit, but cannot help seeing the disfavor of the powerful;
therefore he lets the poor man remain unhelped. And who could
tell the extent of this vice in Christendom? God says in the
lxxxii. Psalm, "How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the
persons of the wicked? Judge the matter of the poor and
fatherless, demand justice for the poor and needy; deliver the
poor and rid the forsaken out of the hand of the wicked." But it
is not done, and therefore the text continues: "They know not,
neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness"; that is,
the truth they do not see, but they stop at the reputation of the
great, however unrighteous they are; and do not consider the
poor, however righteous they are. 

XXX. See, here would be many good works. For the greater portion
of the powerful, rich and friends do injustice and oppress the
poor, the lowly, and their own opponents; and the greater the
men, the worse the deeds; and where we cannot by force prevent
it and help the truth, we should at least confess it, and do what
we can with words, not take the part of the unrighteous, not
approve them, but speak the truth boldly. 

What would it help a man if he did all manner of good, made
pilgrimages to Rome and to all holy places, acquired all
indulgences, built all churches and endowed houses, if he were
found guilty of sin against the Name and honor of God, not
speaking of them and neglecting them, and regarding his
possessions, honor, favor and friends more than the truth (which
is God's Name and honor)? Or who is he, before whose door and
into whose house such good works do not daily come, so that he
would have no need to travel far or to ask after good works? And
if we consider the life of men, how in every place men act so
very rashly and lightly in this respect, we must cry out with the
prophet, Omnis homo mendax, "All men are liars, lie and deceive";
for the real good works they neglect, and adorn and paint
themselves with the most insignificant, and want to be pious, to
mount to heaven in peaceful security.

But if you should say: "Why does not God do it alone and Himself,
since He can and knows how to help each one?" Yes, He can do it;
but He does not want to do it alone; He wants us to work with
Him, and does us the honor to want to work His work with us and
through us. And if we are not willing to accept such honor, He
will, after all, perform the work alone, and help the poor; and
those who were unwilling to help Him and have despised the great
honor of doing His work, He will condemn with the unrighteous,
because they have made common cause with the unrighteous. Just
as He alone is blessed, but He wants to do us the honor and not
be alone in His blessedness, but have us to be blessed with Him.
And if He were to do it alone, His Commandments would be given
us in vain, because no one would have occasion to exercise
himself in the great works of these Commandments, and no one
would test himself to see whether he regards God and His Name as
the highest good, and for His sake risks everything. 

XXXI. It also belongs to this work to resist all false,
seductive, erroneous, heretical doctrines, every misuse of
spiritual power. Now this is much higher, for these use the holy
Name of God itself to fight against the Name of God. For this
reason it seems a great thing and a dangerous to resist them,
because they assert that he who resists them resists God and all
His saints, in whose place they sit and whose power they use,
saying that Christ said of them, "He that heareth you, heareth
Me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me." On which words they
lean heavily, become insolent and bold to say, to do, and to
leave undone what they please; put to the ban, accurse, rob,
murder, and practise all their wickedness, in whatever way they
please and can invent, without any hindrance. 

Now Christ did not mean that we should listen to them in
everything they might say and do, but only then when they present
to us His Word, the Gospel, not their word, His work, and not
their work. How else could we know whether their lies and sins
were to be avoided? There must be some rule, to what extent we
are to hear and to follow them, and this rule cannot be given by
them, but must be established by God over them, that it may serve
us as a guide, as we shall hear in the Fourth Commandment. 

It must be, indeed, that even in the spiritual estate the greater
part preach false doctrine and misuse spiritual power, so that
thus occasion may be given us to do the works of this
Commandment, and that we be tried, to see what we are willing to
do and to leave undone against such blasphemers for the sake of
God's honor. 

Oh, if we were God-fearing in this matter, how often would the
knaves of officiales have to decree their papal and episcopal ban
in vain! How weak the Roman thunderbolts would become! How often
would many a one have to hold his tongue, to whom the world must
now give ear! How few preachers would be found in Christendom!
But it has gotten the upper hand: whatever they assert and in
whatever way, that must be right. Here no one fights for God's
Name and honor, and I hold that no greater or more frequent sin
is done in external works than under this head. It is a matter
so high that few understand it, and, besides, adorned with God's
Name and power, dangerous to touch. But the prophets of old were
masters in this; also the apostles, especially St. Paul, who did
not allow it to trouble them whether the highest or the lowest
priest had said it, or had done it in God's Name or in his own.
They looked on the works and words, and held them up to God's
Commandment, no matter whether big John or little Nick said it,
or whether they had done it in God's Name or in man's. And for
this they had to die, and of such dying there would be much more
to say in our time, for things are much worse now. But Christ and
St. Peter and Paul must cover all this with their holy names, so
that no more infamous cover for infamy has been found on earth
than the most holy and most blessed Name of Jesus Christ! 

One might shudder to be alive, simply because of the misuse and
blasphemy of the holy Name of God; through which, if it shall
last much longer, we will, as I fear, openly worship the devil
as a god; so completely do the spiritual authorities and the
learned lack all understanding in these things. It is high time
that we pray God earnestly that He hallow His Name. But it will
cost blood, and they who enjoy the inheritance of the holy
martyrs and are won with their blood, must again make martyrs.
Of this more another time.

I. We have now seen how many good works there are in the Second
Commandment, which however are not good in themselves, unless
they are done in faith and in the assurance of divine favor; and
how much we must do, if we take heed to this Commandment alone,
and how we, alas! busy ourselves much with other works, which
have no agreement at all with it. Now follows the Third
Commandment: "Thou shalt hallow the day of rest." In the First
Commandment is prescribed our heart's attitude toward God in
thoughts, in the Second, that of our mouth in words, in this
Third is prescribed our attitude toward God in works; and it is
the first and right table of Moses, on which these three
Commandments are written, and they govern man on the right side,
namely, in the things which concern God, and in which God has to
do with man and man with God, without the mediation of any

The first works of this Commandment are plain and outward, which
we commonly call worship, such as going to mass, praying, and
hearing a sermon on holy days. So understood there are very few
works in this Commandment; and these, if they are not done in
assurance of and with faith in God's favor, are nothing, as was
said above. Hence it would also be a good thing if there were
fewer saint's days, since in our times the works done on them are
for the greater part worse than those of the work days, what with
loafing, gluttony, and drunkenness, gambling and other evil
deeds; and then, the mass and the sermon are listened to without
edification, the prayer is spoken without faith. It almost
happens that men think it is sufficient that we look on at the
mass with our eyes, hear the preaching with our ears, and say the
prayers with our mouths. It is all so formal and superficial! We
do not think that we might receive something out of the mass into
our hearts, learn and remember something out of the preaching,
seek, desire and expect something in our prayer. Although in this
matter the bishops and priests, or they to whom the work of
preaching is entrusted, are most at fault, because they do not
preach the Gospel, and do not teach the people how they ought to
look on at mass, hear preaching and pray. Therefore, we will
briefly explain these three works. 

II. In the mass it is necessary that we attend with our a hearts
also; and we do attend, when we exercise faith in our hearts.
Here we must repeat the words of Christ, when He institutes the
mass and says, "Take and eat, this is My Body, which is given for
you"; in like manner over the cup, "Take and drink ye all of it:
this is a new, everlasting Testament in My Blood, which is shed
for you and for many for the remission of sins. This shall ye do,
as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of Me." In these words Christ
has made for Himself a memorial or anniversary, to be daily
observed in all Christendom, and has added to it a glorious,
rich, great testament, in which no interest, money or temporal
possessions are bequeathed and distributed, but the forgiveness
of all sins, grace and mercy unto eternal life, that all who come
to this memorial shall have the same testament; and then He died,
whereby this testament has become permanent and irrevocable. In
proof and evidence of which, instead of letter and seal, He has
left with us His own Body and Blood under the bread and wine.

Here there is need that a man practise the first works of this
Commandment right well, that he doubt not that what Christ has
said is true, and consider the testament sure, so that he make
not Christ a liar. For if you are present at mass and do not
consider nor believe that here Christ through His testament has
bequeathed and given you forgiveness of all your sins, what else
is it, than as if you said: "I do not know or do not believe that
it is true that forgiveness of my sins is here bequeathed and
given me"? Oh, how many masses there are in the world at present!
but how few who hear them with such faith and benefit! Most
grievously is God provoked to anger thereby. For this reason also
no one shall or can reap any benefit from the mass except he be
in trouble of soul and long for divine mercy, and desire to be
rid of his sins; or, if he have an evil intention, he must be
changed during the mass, and come to have a desire for this
testament. For this reason in olden times no open sinner was
allowed to be present at the mass. 

When this faith is rightly present, the heart must be made joyful
by the testament, and grow warm and melt in God's love. Then will
follow praise and thanksgiving with a pure heart, from which the
mass is called in Greek Eucharistia, that is, "thanksgiving,"
because we praise and thank God for this comforting, rich,
blessed testament, just as he gives thanks, praises and is
joyful, to whom a good friend has presented a thousand and more
gulden. Although Christ often fares like those who make several
persons rich by their testament, and these persons never think
of them, nor praise or thank them. So our masses at present are
merely celebrated, without our knowing why or wherefore, and
consequently we neither give thanks nor love nor praise, remain
parched and hard, and have enough with our little prayer. Of this
more another time. 

III. The sermon ought to be nothing else than the proclamation
of this testament. But who can hear it if no one preaches it?
Now, they who ought to preach it, themselves do not know it. This
is why the sermons ramble off into other unprofitable stories,
and thus Christ is forgotten, while we fare like the man in II.
Kings vii: we see our riches but do not enjoy them. Of which the
Preacher also says, "This is a great evil, when God giveth a man
riches, and giveth him not power to enjoy them." So we look on
at unnumbered masses and do not know whether the mass be a
testament, or what it be, just as if it were any other common
good work by itself. O God, how exceeding blind we are! But where
this is rightly preached, it is necessary that it be diligently
heard, grasped, retained, often thought of, and that the faith
be thus strengthened against all the temptation of sin, whether
past, or present, or to come. 

Lo! this is the only ceremony or practice which Christ has
instituted, in which His Christians shall assemble, exercise
themselves and keep it with one accord; and this He did not make
to be a mere work like other ceremonies, but placed into it a
rich, exceeding great treasure, to be offered and bestowed upon
all who believe on it. 

This preaching should induce sinners to grieve over their sins,
and should kindle in them a longing for the treasure. It must,
therefore, be a grievous sin not to hear the Gospel, and to
despise such a treasure and so rich a feast to which we are
bidden; but a much greater sin not to preach the Gospel, and to
let so many people who would gladly hear it perish, since Christ
has so strictly commanded that the Gospel and this testament be
preached, that He does not wish even the mass to be celebrated,
unless the Gospel be preached, as He says: "As oft as ye do this,
remember me"; that is, as St. Paul says, "Ye shall preach of His
death." For this reason it is dreadful and horrible in our times
to be a bishop, pastor and preacher; for no one any longer knows
this testament, to say nothing of their preaching it, although
this is their highest and only duty and obligation. How heavily
must they give account for so many souls who must perish because
of this lack in preaching. 

IV. We should pray, not as the custom is, counting many pages or
beads, but fixing our mind upon some pressing need, desire it
with all earnestness, and exercise faith and confidence toward
God in the matter, in such wise that we do not doubt that we
shall be heard. So St. Bernard instructs his brethren and says:
"Dear brethren, you shall by no means despise your prayer, as if
it were in vain, for I tell you of a truth that, before you have
uttered the words, the prayer is already recorded in heaven; and
you shall confidently expect from God one of two things: either
that your prayer will be granted, or that, if it will not be
granted, the granting of it would not be good for you." 

Prayer is, therefore, a special exercise of faith, and faith
makes the prayer so acceptable that either it will surely be
granted, or something better than we ask will be given in its
stead. So also says St. James: "Let him who asketh of God not
waver in faith; for if he wavers, let not that man think that he
shall receive any thing of the Lord." This is a clear statement,
which says directly: he who does not trust, receives nothing,
neither that which he asks, nor anything better. 

And to call forth such faith, Christ Himself has said, Mark xi:
"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye
pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall surely have
them." And Luke xi: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and
ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every
one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to
him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what father is there of
you, who, if his son shall ask bread, will he give him a stone?
or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? or if he ask an
egg, will he give him a scorpion? But if you know how to give
good gifts to your children, and you yourselves are not naturally
good, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give a
good spirit to all them that ask Him!"

V. Who is so hard and stone-like, that such mighty words ought
not to move him to pray with all confidence! joyfully and gladly?
But how many prayers must be reformed, if we are to pray aright
according to these words! Now, indeed, all churches and monastic
houses are full of praying and singing, but how does it happen
that so little improvement and benefit result from it, and things
daily grow worse? The reason is none other than that which St.
James indicates when he says: "You ask much and receive not,
because ye ask amiss." For where this faith and confidence is not
in the prayer, the prayer is dead, and nothing more than a
grievous labor and work. If anything is given for it, it is none
the less only temporal benefit without any blessing and help for
the soul; nay, to the great injury and blinding of souls, so that
they go their way, babbling much with their mouths, regardless
of whether they receive, or desire, or trust; and in this
unbelief, the state of mind most opposed to the exercise of faith
and to the nature of prayer, they remain hardened.

From this it follows that one who prays aright never doubts that
his prayer is surely acceptable and heard, although the very
thing for which he prays be not given him. For we are to lay our
need before God in prayer, but not prescribe to Him a measure,
manner, time or place; but if He wills to give it to us better
or in another way than we think, we are to leave it to Him; for
frequently we do not know what we pray, as St. Paul says, Romans
viii; and God works and gives above all that we understand, as
he says, Ephesians iii, so that there be no doubt that the prayer
is acceptable and heard, and we yet leave to God the time, place,
measure and limit; He will surely do what is right. They are the
true worshipers, who worship God in spirit and in truth. For they
who believe not that they will be heard, sin upon the left hand
against this Commandment, and go far astray with their unbelief.
But they who set a limit for Him, sin upon the other side, and
come too close with their tempting of God. So He has forbidden
both, that we should err from His Commandment neither to the left
nor to the right, that is, neither with unbelief nor with
tempting, but with simple faith remain on the straight road,
trusting Him, and yet setting Him no bounds. 

VI. Thus we see that this Commandment, like the Second, is to be
nothing else than a doing and keeping of the First Commandment,
that is, of faith, trust, confidence, hope and love to God, so
that in all the Commandments the First may be the captain, and
faith the chief work and the life of all other works, without
which, as was said, they cannot be good. 

But if you say: "What if I cannot believe that my prayer is heard
and accepted?" I answer: For this very reason faith, prayer and
all other good works are commanded, that you shall know what you
can and what you cannot do. And when you find that you cannot so
believe and do, then you are humbly to confess it to God, and so
begin with a weak spark of faith and daily strengthen it more and
more by exercising it in all your living and doing. For as
touching infirmity of faith (that is, of the First and highest
Commandment), there is no one on earth who does not have his good
share of it. For even the holy Apostles in the Gospel, and
especially St. Peter, were weak in faith, so that they also
prayed Christ and said: "Lord, increase our faith "; and He very
frequently rebukes them because they have so little faith. 

Therefore you shall not despair, nor give up, even if you find
that you do not believe as firmly as you ought and wish, in your
prayer or in other works. Nay, you shall thank God with all your
heart that He thus reveals to you your weakness, through which
He daily teaches and admonishes you how much you need to exercise
yourself and daily strengthen yourself in faith. For how many do
you see who habitually pray, sing, read, work and seem to be
great saints, and yet never get so far as to know where they
stand in respect of the chief work, faith; and so in their
blindness they lead astray themselves and others; think they are
very well off, and so unknowingly build on the sand of their
works without any faith, not on God's mercy and promise through
a firm, pure faith. 

Therefore, however long we live, we shall always have our hands
full to remain, with all our works and sufferings, pupils of the
First Commandment and of faith, and not to cease to learn. No one
knows what a great thing it is to trust God alone, except he who
attempts it with his works. 

VII. Again: if no other work were commanded, would not prayer
alone suffice to exercise the whole life of man in faith? For
this work the spiritual estate has been specially established,
as indeed in olden times some Fathers prayed day and night. Nay,
there is no Christian who does not have time to pray without
ceasing. But I mean the spiritual praying, that is: no one is so
heavily burdened with his labor, but that if he will he can,
while working, speak with God in his heart, lay before Him his
need and that of other men, ask for help, make petition, and in
all this exercise and strengthen his faith. 

This is what the Lord means, Luke xviii, when He says, "Men ought
always to pray, and never cease," although in Matthew vi. He
forbids the use of much speaking and long prayers, because of
which He rebukes the hypocrites; not because the lengthy prayer
of the lips is evil, but because it is not that true prayer which
can be made at all times, and without the inner prayer of faith
is nothing. For we must also practise the outward prayer in its
proper time, especially in the mass, as this Commandment
requires, and wherever it is helpful to the inner prayer and
faith, whether in the house or in the field, in this work or in
that; of which we have no time now to speak more. For this
belongs to the Lord's Prayer, in which all petitions and spoken
prayer are summed up in brief words.

VIII. Where now are they who desire to know and to do good works?
Let them undertake prayer alone, and rightly exercise themselves
in faith, and they will find that it is true, as the holy Fathers
have said, that there is no work like prayer. Mumbling with the
mouth is easy, or at least considered easy, but with earnestness
of heart to follow the words in deep devotion, that is, with
desire and faith, so that one earnestly desires what the words
say, and not to doubt that it will be heard: that is a great deed
in God's eyes. 

Here the evil spirit hinders men with all his powers. Oh, how
often will he here prevent the desire to pray, not allow us to
find time and place, nay, often also raise doubts, whether a man
is worthy to ask anything of such a Majesty as God is, and so
confuse us that a man himself does not know whether it is really
true that he prays or not; whether it is possible that his prayer
is acceptable, and other such strange thoughts. For the evil
spirit knows well how powerful one man's truly believing prayer
is, and how it hurts him, and how it benefits all men. Therefore
he does not willingly let it happen. 

When so tempted, a man must indeed be wise, and not doubt that
he and his prayer are, indeed, unworthy before such infinite
Majesty; in no wise dare he trust his worthiness, or because of
his unworthiness grow faint; but he must heed God's command and
cast this up to Him, and hold it before the devil, and say:
"Because of my worthiness I do nothing, because of my
unworthiness I cease from nothing. I pray and work only because
God of His pure mercy has promised to hear and to be gracious to
all unworthy men, and not only promised it, but He has also most
sternly, on pain of His everlasting displeasure and wrath,
commanded us to pray, to trust and to receive. If it has not been
too much for that high Majesty so solemnly and highly to obligate
His unworthy worms to pray, to trust, and to receive from Him,
how shall it be too much for me to take such command upon myself
with all joy, however worthy or unworthy I may be?" Thus we must
drive out the devil's suggestion with God's command. Thus will
he cease, and in no other way whatever. 

IX. But what are the things which we must bring before Almighty
God in prayer and lamentation, to exercise faith thereby? Answer:
First, every man's own besetting need and trouble, of which David
says, Psalm xxxii: "Thou art my refuge in all trouble which
compasseth me about; Thou art my comfort, to preserve me from all
evil which surrounds me." Likewise, Psalm cxlii: "I cried unto
the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make
my supplication. I poured out my complaint before Him; I showed
before Him my trouble." In the mass a Christian shall keep in
mind the short-comings or excesses he feels, and pour out all
these freely before God with weeping and groaning, as woefully
as he can, as to his faithful Father, who is ready to help him.
And if you do not know or recognise your need, or have no
trouble, then you shall know that you are in the worst possible
plight. For this is the greatest trouble, that you find yourself
so hardened, hard-hearted and insensible that no trouble moves

There is no better mirror in which to see your need than simply
the Ten Commandments, in which you will find what you lack and
what you should seek. If, therefore, you find in yourself a weak
faith, small hope and little love toward God; and that you do not
praise and honor God, but love your own honor and fame, think
much of the favor of men, do not gladly hear mass and sermon, are
indolent in prayer, in which things every one has faults, then
you shall think more of these faults than of all bodily harm to
goods, honor and life, and believe that they are worse than death
and all mortal sickness. These you shall earnestly lay before
God, lament and ask for help, and with all confidence expect
help, and believe that you are heard and shall obtain help and

Then go forward into the Second Table of the Commandments, and
see how disobedient you have been and still are toward father and
mother and all in authority; how you sin against your neighbor
with anger, hatred and evil words; how you are tempted to
unchastity, covetousness and injustice in word and deed against
your neighbor; and you will doubtless find that you are full of
all need and misery, and have reason enough to weep even drops
of blood, if you could.

X. But I know well that many are so foolish as not to want to ask
for such things, unless they first be conscious that they are
pure, and believe that God hears no one who is a sinner. All this
is the work of those false preachers, who teach men to begin, not
with faith and trust in God's favor, but with their own works. 

Look you, wretched man! if you have broken a leg, or the peril
of death overtakes you, you call upon God, this Saint and that,
and do not wait until your leg is healed, or the danger is past:
you are not so foolish as to think that God hears no one whose
leg is broken, or who is in bodily danger. Nay, you believe that
God shall hear most of all when you are in the greatest need and
fear. Why, then, are you so foolish here, where there is
immeasurably greater need and eternal hurt, and do not want to
ask for faith, hope, love, humility, obedience, chastity,
gentleness, peace, righteousness, unless you are already free of
all your unbelief, doubt, pride, disobedience, unchastity, anger,
covetousness and unrighteousness. Although the more you find
yourself lacking in these things, the more and more diligently
you ought to pray or cry. 

So blind are we: with our bodily sickness and need we run to God;
with the soul's sickness we run from Him, and are unwilling to
come back before we are well, exactly as if there could be one
God who could help the body, and another God who could help the
soul; or as if we would help ourselves in spiritual need,
although it really is greater than the bodily need. Such plan and
counsel is of the devil. 

Not so, my good man! If you wish to be cured of sin, you must not
withdraw from God, but run to Him, and pray with much more
confidence than if a bodily need had overtaken you. God is not
hostile to sinners, but only to unbelievers, that is, to such as
do not recognize and lament their sin, nor seek help against it
from God, but in their own presumption wish first to purify
themselves, are unwilling to be in need of His grace, and will
not suffer Him to be a God Who gives to everyone and takes
nothing in return. 

XI. All this has been said of prayer for personal needs, and of
prayer in general. But the prayer which really belongs to this
Commandment and is called a work of the Holy Day, is far better
and greater, and is to be made for all Christendom, for all the
need of all men, of foe and friend, especially for those who
belong to the parish or bishopric. 

Thus St. Paul commanded his disciple Timothy: exhort thee, that
thou see to it, that prayers and intercessions be made for all
men, for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may
lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For
this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." For
this reason Jeremiah, chapter xxix, commanded the people of
Israel to pray for the city and land of Babylon, because in the
peace thereof they should have peace. And Baruch i: "Pray for the
life of the king of Babylon and for the life of his son, that we
may live in peace under their rule." 

This common prayer is precious and the most powerful, and it is
for its sake that we come together. For this reason also the
Church is called a House of Prayer, because in it we are as a
congregation with one accord to consider our need and the needs
of all men, present them before God, and call upon Him for mercy.
But this must be done with heart-felt emotion and sincerity, so
that we feel in our hearts the need of all men, and that we pray
with true sympathy for them, in true faith and confidence. Where
such prayers are not made in the mass, it were better to omit the
mass. For what sense is there in our coming together into a House
of Prayer, which coming together shows that we should make common
prayer and petition for the entire congregation, if we scatter
these prayers, and so distribute them that everyone prays only
for himself, and no one has regard for the other, nor concerns
himself for another's need? How can that prayer be of help, good,
acceptable and a common prayer, or a work of the Holy Day and of
the assembled congregation, which they make who make their own
petty prayers, one for this, the other for that, and have nothing
but self-seeking, selfish prayers, which God hates? 

XII. A suggestion of this common prayer has been retained from
ancient practice, when at the end of the sermon the Confession
of Sins is said and prayer is made on the pulpit for all
Christendom. But this should not be the end of the matter, as is
now the custom and fashion; it should be an exhortation to pray
throughout the entire mass for such need as the preacher makes
us feel; and in order that we may pray worthily, he first exhorts
us because of our sin, and thereby makes us humble. This should
be done as briefly as possible, that then the entire congregation
may confess their own sin and pray for every one with earnestness
and faith. 

Oh, if God granted that any congregation at all heard mass and
prayed in this way, so that a common earnest heart-cry of the
entire people would rise up to God, what immeasurable virtue and
help would result from such a prayer! What more terrible thing
could happen to all the evil spirits? What greater work could be
done on earth, whereby so many pious souls would be preserved,
so many sinners converted? 

For, indeed, the Christian Church on earth has no greater power
or work than such common prayer against everything that may
oppose it. This the evil spirit knows well, and therefore he does
all that he can to prevent such prayer. Gleefully he lets us go
on building churches, endowing many monastic houses, making
music, reading, singing, observing many masses, and multiplying
ceremonies beyond all measure. This does not grieve him, nay, he
helps us do it, that we may consider such things the very best,
and think that thereby we have done our whole duty. But in that
meanwhile this common, effectual and fruitful prayer perishes and
its omission is unnoticed because of such display, in this he has
what he seeks. For when prayer languishes, no one will take
anything from him, and no one will withstand him. But if he
noticed that we wished to practise this prayer, even if it were
under a straw roof or in a pig-sty, he would indeed not endure
it, but would fear such a pig-sty far more than all the high, big
and beautiful churches, towers and bells in existence, if such
prayer be not in them. It is indeed not a question of the places
and buildings in which we assemble, but only of this
unconquerable prayer, that we pray it and bring it before God as
a truly common prayer. 

XIII. The power of this prayer we see in the fact that in olden
times Abraham prayed for the five cities, Sodom, Gomorrah, etc.,
Genesis xviii, and accomplished so much, that if there had been
ten righteous people in them, two in each city, God would not
have destroyed them. What then could many men do, if they united
in calling upon God earnestly and with sincere confidence? 

St. James also says: "Dear brethren, pray for one another, that
ye may be saved. For the prayer of a righteous man availeth much,
a prayer that perseveres and does not cease" (that is, which does
not cease asking ever more and more, although what it asks is not
immediately granted, as some timid men do). And as an example in
this matter he sets before us Elijah, the Prophet, "who was a
man," he says, "as we are, and prayed, that it might not rain;
and it rained not by the space of three years and six months. And
he prayed again, and it rained, and everything became fruitful."
There are many texts and examples in the Scriptures which urge
us to pray, only that it be done with earnestness and faith. As
David says, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His
ears are open unto their cry." Again, "The Lord is nigh unto all
them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth." Why
does he add, "call upon Him in truth"? Because that is not prayer
nor calling upon God when the mouth alone mumbles. 

What should God do, if you come along with your mouth, book or
Paternoster, and think of nothing except that you may finish the
words and complete the number? So that if some one were to ask
you what it all was about, or what it was that you prayed for,
you yourself would not know; for you had not thought of laying
this or that matter before God or desiring it. Your only reason
for praying is that you are commanded to pray this and so much,
and this you intend to do in full. What wonder that thunder and
lightning frequently set churches on fire, because we thus make
of the House of Prayer a house of mockery, and call that prayer
in which we bring nothing before God and desire nothing from Him. 

But we should do as they do who wish to ask a favor of great
princes. These do not plan merely to babble a certain number of
words, for the prince would think they mocked him, or were
insane; but they put their request very plainly, and present
their need earnestly, and then leave it to his mercy, in good
confidence that he will grant it. So we must deal with God of
definite things, namely, mention some present need, commend it
to His mercy and good-will, and not doubt that it is heard; for
He has promised to hear such prayer, which no earthly lord has

XIV. We are masters in this form of prayer when we suffer bodily
need; when we are sick we call here upon St. Christopher, there
upon St. Barbara; we vow a pilgrimage to St. James, to this place
and to that; then we make earnest prayer, have a good confidence
and every good kind of prayer. But when we are in our churches
during mass, we stand like images of saints; know nothing to
speak of or to lament; the beads rattle, the pages rustle and the
mouth babbles; and that is all there is to it. 

But if you ask what you shall speak of and lament in your prayer,
you can easily learn from the Ten Commandments and the Lord's
Prayer. Open your eyes and look into your life and the life of
all Christians, especially of the spiritual estate, and you will
find how faith, hope, love, obedience, chastity and every virtue
languish, and all manner of heinous vices reign; what a lack
there is of good preachers and prelates; how only knaves,
children, fools and women rule. Then you will see that there were
need every hour without ceasing to pray everywhere with tears of
blood to God, Who is so terribly angry with men. And it is true
that it has never been more necessary to pray than at this time,
and it will be more so from now on to the end of the world. If
such terrible crimes do not move you to lament and complain, do
not permit yourself to be led astray by your rank, station, good
works or prayer: there is no Christian vein or trait in you,
however righteous you may be. But it has all been foretold, that
when God's anger is greatest and Christendom suffers the greatest
need, then petitioners and supplicants before God shall not be
found, as Isaiah says with tears, chapter lxiv: "Thou art angry
with us, and there is none that calleth upon Thy Name, that
stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee." Likewise, Ezekiel
xxii: "I sought for a man among them, that should make up the
hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should
not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore have I poured out
Mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire
of My wrath." With these words God indicates how He wants us to
withstand Him and turn away His anger from one another, as it is
frequently written of the Prophet Moses, that he restrained God,
lest His anger should overwhelm the people of Israel. 

XV. But what will they do, who not only do not regard such
misfortune of Christendom, and do not pray against it, but laugh
at it, take pleasure in it, condemn, malign, sing and talk of
their neighbor's sins, and yet dare, unafraid and unashamed, go
to church, hear mass, say prayers, and regard themselves and are
regarded as pious Christians? These truly are in need that we
pray twice for them, if we pray once for those whom they condemn,
talk about and laugh at. That there would be such is also
prophesied by the thief on Christ's left hand, who blasphemed Him
in His suffering, weakness and need; also by all those who
reviled Christ on the Cross, when they should most of all have
helped Him. 

O God, how blind, nay, how insane have we Christians become! When
will there be an end of wrath, O heavenly Father? That we mock
at the misfortune of Christendom, to pray for which we gather
together in Church and at the mass, that we blaspheme and condemn
men, this is the fruit of our mad materialism. If the Turk
destroys cities, country and people, and ruins churches, we think
a great injury has been done Christendom. Then we complain, and
urge kings and princes to war. But when faith perishes, love
grows cold, God's Word is neglected, and all manner of sin
flourishes, then no one thinks of fighting, nay, pope, bishops,
priests and clergy, who ought to be generals, captains and
standard-bearers in this spiritual warfare against these
spiritual and many times worse Turks, these are themselves the
very princes and leaders of such Turks and of the devil host,
just as Judas was the leader of the Jews when they took Christ.
It had to be an apostle, a bishop, a priest, one of the number
of the best, who began the work of slaying Christ. So also must
Christendom be laid waste by no others than those who ought to
protect it, and yet are so insane that they are ready to eat up
the Turks and at home themselves set house and sheep-cote on fire
and let them burn up with the sheep and all other contents, and
none the less worry about the wolf in the woods. Such are our
times, and this is the reward we have earned by our ingratitude
toward the endless grace which Christ has won for us freely with
His precious blood, grievous labor and bitter death. 

XVI. Lo! where are the idle ones, who do not know how to do good
works? Where are they who run to Rome, to St. James, hither and
thither? Take up this one single work of the mass, look on your
neighbor's sin and ruin, and have pity on him; let it grieve you,
tell it to God, and pray over it. Do the same for every other
need of Christendom, especially of the rulers, whom God, for the
intolerable punishment and torment of us all, allows to fall and
be misled so terribly. If you do this diligently, be assured you
are one of the best fighters and captains, not only against the
Turks, but also against the devils and the powers of hell. But
if you do it not, what would it help you though you performed all
the miracles of the saints, and murdered all the Turks, and yet
were found guilty of having disregarded your neighbor's need and
of having thereby sinned against love? For Christ at the last day
will not ask how much you have prayed, fasted, pilgrimaged, done
this or that for yourself, but how much good you have done to
others, even the very least. 

Now without doubt among the "least" are also those who are in sin
and spiritual poverty, captivity and need, of whom there are at
present far more than of those who suffer bodily need. Therefore
take heed: our own self-assumed good works lead us to and into
ourselves, that we seek only our own benefit and salvation; but
God's commandments drive us to our neighbor, that we may thereby
benefit others to their salvation. Just as Christ on the Cross
prayed not for Himself alone, but rather for us, when He said,
"Father, forgive them, fort they know not what they do," so we
also must pray for one another. From which every man may know
that the slanderers, frivolous judges and despisers of other
people are a perverted, evil race, who do nothing else than heap
abuse on those for whom they ought to pray; in which vice no one
is sunk so deep as those very men who do many good works of their
own, and seem to men to be something extraordinary, and are
honored because of their beautiful, splendid life in manifold
good works. 

XVII. Spiritually understood, this Commandment has a yet far
higher work, which embraces the whole nature of man. Here it must
be known that in Hebrew " Sabbath " means " rest," because on the
seventh day God rested and ceased from all His works, which He
had made. Genesis ii. Therefore He commanded also that the
seventh day should be kept holy and that we cease from our works
which we do the other six days. This Sabbath has now for us been
changed into the Sunday, and the other days are called work-days;
the Sunday is called rest-day or holiday or holy day. And would
to God that in Christendom there were no holiday except the
Sunday; that the festivals of Our Lady and of the Saints were all
transferred to Sunday; then would many evil vices be done away
with through the labor of the work-days, and lands would not be
so drained and impoverished. But now we are plagued with many
holidays, to the destruction of souls, bodies and goods; of which
matter much might be said. 

This rest or ceasing from labors is of two kinds, bodily and
spiritual. For this reason this Commandment is also to be
understood in two ways. 

The bodily rest is that of which we have spoken above, namely,
that we omit our business and work, in order that we may gather
in the church, see mass, hear God's Word and make common prayer.
This rest is indeed bodily and in Christendom no longer commanded
by God, as the Apostle says, Colossians ii, "Let no man obligate
you to any holiday whatever" -- for they were of old a figure,
but now the truth has been fulfilled, so that all days are holy
days, as Isaiah says, chapter lxvi, "One holy day shall follow
the other"; on the other hand, all days are workdays. Yet it is
a necessity and ordained by the Church for the sake of the
imperfect laity and working people, that they also may be able
to come to hear God's Word. For, as we see, the priests and
clergy celebrate mass every day, pray at all hours and train
themselves in God's Word by study, reading and hearing. For this
reason also they are freed from work before others, supported by
tithes and have holy-day every day, and every day do the works
of the holy-day, and have no work-day, but for them one day is
as the other. And if we were all perfect, and knew the Gospel,
we might work every day if we wished, or rest if we could. For
a day of rest is at present not necessary nor commanded except
only for the teaching of God's Word and prayer. 

The spiritual rest, which God particularly intends in this
Commandment, is this: that we not only cease from our labor and
trade, but much more, that we let God alone work in us and that
we do nothing of our own with all our powers. But how is this
done? In this way: Man, corrupted by sin, has much wicked love
and inclination toward all sins, as the Scriptures say, Genesis
viii, "Man's heart and senses incline always to the evil," that
is, to pride, disobedience, anger, hatred, covetousness,
unchastity, etc., and summa summarum, in all that he does and
leaves undone, he seeks his own profit, will and honor rather
than God's and his neighbor's. Therefore all his works, all his
words, all his thoughts, all his life are evil and not godly. 

Now if God is to work and to live in him, all this vice and
wickedness must be choked and up-rooted, so that there may be
rest and a cessation of all our works, thoughts and life, and
that henceforth (as St. Paul says, Galatians ii.) it may be no
longer we who live, but Christ Who lives, works and speaks in us.
This is not accomplished with comfortable, pleasant days, but
here we must hurt our nature and let it be hurt. Here begins the
strife between the spirit and the flesh; here the spirit resists
anger, lust, pride, while the flesh wants to be in pleasure,
honor and comfort. Of this St. Paul says, Galatians v, "They that
are our Lord Christ's have crucified the flesh with its
affections and lusts." Then follow the good works, -- fasting,
watching, labor, of which some say and write so much, although
they know neither the source nor the purpose of these good works.
Therefore we will now also speak of them. 

XVIII. This rest, namely, that our work cease and God alone work
in us, is accomplished in two ways. First, through our own
effort, secondly, through the effort or urging of others. 

Our own effort is to be so made and ordered that, in the first
place, when we see our flesh, senses, will and thoughts tempting
us, we resist them and do not heed them, as the Wise Man says:
"Follow not thine own desires." And Moses, Deuteronomy xii: "Thou
shalt not do what is right in thine own eyes."

Here a man must make daily use of those prayers which David
prays: "Lord, lead me in Thy path, and let me not walk in my own
ways," and many like prayers, which are all summed up in the
prayer, "Thy kingdom come." For the desires are so many, so
various, and besides at times so nimble, so subtile and specious,
through the suggestions of the evil one, that it is not possible
for a man to control himself in his own ways. He must let hands
and feet go, commend himself to God's governance, and entrust
nothing to his reason, as Jeremiah says, "O Lord, I know that the
way of man is not in his own power." We see proof of this, when
the children of Israel went out of Egypt through the Wilderness,
where there was no way, no food, no drink, no help. Therefore God
went before them, by day in a bright: cloud, by night in a fiery
pillar, fed them with manna from heaven, and kept their garments
and shoes that they waxed not old, as we read in the Books of
Moses. For this reason we pray: "Thy kingdom come, that Thou rule
us, and not: we ourselves," for there is nothing more perilous
in us than our reason and will. And this is the first and highest
work of God in us and the best training, that we cease from our
works, that we let our reason and will be idle, that we rest and
commend ourselves to God in all things, especially when they seem
to be spiritual and good. 

XIX. After this comes the discipline of the flesh, to kill its
gross, evil lust, to give it rest and relief. This we must kill
and quiet with fasting, watching and labor, and from this we
learn how much and why we shall fast, watch and labor. 

There are, alas! many blind men, who practise their castigation,
whether it be fasting, watching or labor, only because they think
these are good works, intending by them to gain much merit. Far
blinder still are they who measure their fasting not only by the
quantity or duration, as these do, but also by the nature of the
food, thinking that it is of far greater worth if they do not eat
meat, eggs or butter. Beyond these are those who fast according
to the saints, and according to the days; one fasting on
Wednesday, another on Saturday, another on St. Barbara's day,
another on St. Sebastian's day, and so on. These all seek in
their fasting nothing beyond the work itself: when they have
performed that, they think they have done a good work. I will
here say nothing of the fact that some fast in such a way that
they none the less drink themselves full; some fast by eating
fish and other foods so lavishly that they would come much nearer
to fasting if they ate meat, eggs and butter, and by so doing
would obtain far better results from their fasting. For such
fasting is not fasting, but a mockery of fasting and of God. 

Therefore I allow everyone to choose his day, food and quantity
for fasting, as he will, on condition that he do not stop with
that, but have regard to his flesh; let him put upon it fasting,
watching and labor according to its lust and wantonness, and no
more, although pope, Church, bishop, father-confessor or any one
else whosoever have commanded it. For no one should measure and
regulate fasting, watching and labor according to the character
or quantity of the food, or according to the days, but according
to the withdrawal or approach of the lust and wantonness of the
flesh, for the sake of which alone the fasting, watching and
labor is ordained, that is, to kill and to subdue them. If it
were not for this lust, eating were as meritorious as fasting,
sleeping as watching, idleness as labor, and each were as good
as the other without all distinction. 

XX. Now, if some one should find that more wantonness arose in
his flesh from eating fish than from eating eggs and meat, let
him eat meat and not fish. Again, if he find that his head
becomes confused and crazed or his body and stomach injured
through fasting, or that it is not needful to kill the wantonness
of his flesh, he shall let fasting alone entirely, and eat,
sleep, be idle as is necessary for his health, regardless whether
it be against the command of the Church, or the rules of monastic
orders: for no commandment of the Church, no law of an order can
make fasting, watching and labor of more value than it has in
serving to repress or to kill the flesh and its lusts. Where men
go beyond this, and the fasting, eating, sleeping, watching are
practised beyond the strength of the body, and more than is
necessary to the killing of the lust, so that through it the
natural strength is ruined and the head is racked; then let no
one imagine that he has done good works, or excuse himself by
citing the commandment of the Church or the law of his order. He
will be regarded as a man who takes no care of himself, and, as
far as in him lies, has become his own murderer. 

For the body is not given us that we should kill its natural life
or work, but only that we kill its wantonness; unless its
wantonness were so strong and great that we could not
sufficiently resist it without ruin and harm to the natural life.
For, as has been said, in the practice of fasting, watching and
labor, we are not to look upon the works in themselves, not on
the days, not on the number, not on the food, but only on the
wanton and lustful Adam, that through them he may be cured of his
evil appetite. 

XXI. From this we can judge how wisely or foolishly some women
act when they are with child, and how the sick are to be treated.
For the foolish women cling so firmly to their fasting that they
run the risk of great danger to the fruit of their womb and to
themselves, rather than not to fast when the others fast. They
make a matter of conscience where there is none, and where there
is matter of conscience they make none. This is all the fault of
the preachers, because they continually prate of fasting, and
never point out its true use, limit, fruit, cause and purpose.
So also the sick should be allowed to eat and to drink every day
whatever they wish. In brief, where the wantonness of the flesh
ceases, there every reason for fasting, watching, laboring,
eating this or that, has already ceased, and there no longer is
any binding commandment at all. 

But then care must be taken, lest out of this freedom there grow
a lazy indifference about killing the wantonness of the flesh;
for the roguish Adam is exceedingly tricky in looking for
permission for himself, and in pleading the ruin of the body or
of the mind; so some men jump right in and say it is neither
necessary nor commanded to fast or to mortify the flesh, and are
ready to eat this and that without fear, just as if they had for
a long time had much experience of fasting, although they have
never tried it. 

No less are we to guard against offending those who, not
sufficiently informed, regard it a great sin if we do not fast
or eat as they do. These we must kindly instruct, and not
haughtily despise, nor eat this or that in despite of them, but
we must tell them the reason why it is right to do so, and thus
gradually lead them to a correct understanding. But if they are
stubborn and will not listen, we must let them alone, and do as
we know it is right to do. 

XXII. The second form of discipline which we receive at the hands
of others, is when men or devils cause us suffering, as when our
property is taken, our body sick, and our honor taken away; and
everything that may move us to anger, impatience and unrest. For
God's work rules in us according to His wisdom, not according to
our wisdom, according to His purity and chastity, not according
to the wantonness of our flesh; for God's work is wisdom and
purity, our work is foolishness and impurity, and these shall
rest: so in like manner it should rule in us according to His
peace, not our anger, impatience and lack of peace. For peace too
is God's work, impatience is the work of our flesh; this shall
rest and be dead, that we thus in every way keep a spiritual
holiday, let our works stand idle, and let God work in us. 

Therefore in order to kill our works and the Adam in us, God
heaps many temptations upon us, which move us to anger, many
sufferings, which rouse us to impatience, and last of all death
and the world's abuse; whereby He seeks nothing else than that
He may drive out anger, impatience and lack of peace, and attain
to His work, that is, to peace, in us. Thus says Isaiah xxviii,
"He does the work of another that He may come to His own work."
What does this mean? He sends us suffering and trouble that He
may teach us to have patience and peace; He bids us die that He
may make us live, until a man, thoroughly trained, becomes so
peaceful and quiet that he is not disturbed, whether it go well
or ill with him, whether he die or live, be honored or
dishonored. There God Himself dwells alone, and there are no
works of men. This is rightly keeping and hallowing the day of
rest; then a man does not guide himself, then he desires nothing
for himself, then nothing troubles him; but God Himself leads
him, there is naught but godly pleasure, joy and peace with all
other works and virtues. 

XXIII. These works He considers so great that He commands us not
only to keep the day of rest, but also to hallow it or regard it
as holy, whereby He declares that there are no more precious
things than suffering, dying, and all manner of misfortune. For
they are holy and sanctify a man from his works to God's works,
just as a church is consecrated from natural works to the worship
of God. Therefore a man shall also recognise them as holy things,
be glad and thank God when they come upon him. For when they come
they make him holy, so that he fulfils this Commandment and is
saved, redeemed from all his sinful works. Thus says David:
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

In order to strengthen us thereto He has not only commanded us
to keep such a rest (for nature is very unwilling to die and to
suffer, and it is a bitter day of rest for it to cease from its
works and be dead); but He has also comforted us in the
Scriptures with many words and told us, Psalm xci, "I will be
with him in all his trouble, and will deliver him." Likewise
Psalm xxxiv: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that suffer, and
will help them." 

As if this were not enough, He has given us a powerful, strong
example of it, His only, dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who
on the Sabbath lay in the tomb the entire day of rest, free from
all His works, and was the first to fulfil this Commandment,
although He needed it not for Himself, but only for our comfort,
that we also in all suffering and death should be quiet and have
peace. Since, as Christ was raised up after His rest and
henceforth lives only in God and God in Him, so also shall we by
the death of our Adam, which is perfectly accomplished only
through natural death and burial, be lifted up into God, that God
may live and work in us forever. Lo! these are the three parts
of man: reason, desire, aversion; in which all his works are
done. These, therefore, must be slain by these three exercises,
God's governance, our self-mortification, the hurt done to us by
others; and so they must spiritually rest before God, and give
Him room for His works. 

XXIV. But such works are to be done and such sufferings to be
endured in faith and in sure confidence of God's favor, in order
that, as has been said, all works remain in the First Commandment
and in faith, and that faith, for the sake of which all other
commandments and works are ordained, exercise and strengthen
itself in them. See, therefore, what a pretty, golden ring these
three Commandments and their works naturally form, and how from
the First Commandment and faith the Second flows on to the Third,
and the Third in turn drives through the Second up into the
First. For the first work is to believe, to have a good heart and
confidence toward God. From this flows the second good work, to
praise God's Name, to confess His grace, to give all honor to Him
alone. Then follows the third, to worship by praying, hearing
God's Word, thinking of and considering God's benefits, and in
addition chastising one's self, and keeping the body under. 

But when the evil spirit perceives such faith, such honoring of
God and such worship, he rages and stirs up persecution, attacks
body, goods, honor and life, brings upon us sickness, poverty,
shame and death, which God so permits and ordains. See, here
begins the second work, or the second rest of the Third
Commandment; by this faith is very greatly tried, even as gold
in the fire. For it is a great thing to retain a sure confidence
in God, although He sends us death, shame, sickness, poverty; and
in this cruel form of wrath to regard Him as our all-gracious
Father, as must be done in this work of the Third Commandment.
Here suffering contains faith, that it must call upon God's Name
and praise it in such suffering, and so it comes through the
Third Commandment into the Second again; and through that very
calling on the Name of God and praise, faith grows, and becomes
conscious of itself, and so strengthens itself, through the two
works of the Third and of the Second Commandment. Thus faith goes
out into the works and through the works comes to itself again;
just as the sun goes forth unto its setting and comes again unto
its rising. For this reason the Scriptures associate the day with
peaceful living in works, the night with passive living in
adversity, and faith lives and works, goes out and comes in, in
both, as Christ says, John ix.

XXV. This order of good works we pray in the Lord's Prayer. The
first is this, that we say: "Our Father, Who art in heaven";
these are the words of the first work of faith, which, according
to the First Commandment, does not doubt that it has a gracious
Father in heaven. The second: "Hallowed be Thy Name," in which
faith asks that God's Name, praise and honor be glorified, and
calls upon it in every need, as the Second Commandment says. The
third: "Thy kingdom come," in which we pray for the true Sabbath
and rest, peaceful cessation of our works, that God's work alone
be done in us, and so God rule in us as in His own kingdom, as
He says, Luke xvii, "Behold, God's kingdom is nowhere else except
within you." The fourth petition is "Thy will be done"; in which
we pray that we may keep and have the Seven Commandments of the
Second Table, in which faith is exercised toward our neighbor;
just as in the first three it is exercised in works toward God
alone. And these are the petitions in which stands the word
"Thou, Thy, Thy, Thy," because they seek only what belongs to
God; all the others say "our, us, our," etc; for in them we pray
for our goods and blessedness. 

Let this, then, suffice as a plain, hasty explanation of the
First Table of Moses, pointing out to simple folk what are the
highest of good works. 

The Second Table follows. 

"Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother." 

From this Commandment we learn that after the excellent works of
the first three Commandments there are no better works than to
obey and serve all those who are set over us as superiors. For
this reason also disobedience is a greater sin than murder,
unchastity, theft and dishonesty, and all that these may include.
For we can in no better way learn how to distinguish between
greater and lesser sins than by noting the order of the
Commandments of God, although there are distinctions also within
the works of each Commandment. For who does not know that to
curse is a greater sin than to be angry, to strike than to curse,
to strike father and mother more than to strike any one else?
Thus these seven Commandments teach us how we are to exercise
ourselves in good works toward men, and first of all toward our

The first work is that we honor our own father and mother. And
this honor consists not only in respectful demeanor, but in this:
that we obey them, look up to, esteem and heed their words and
example, accept what they say, keep silent and endure their
treatment of us, so long as it is not contrary to the first three
Commandments; in addition, when they need it, that we provide
them with food, clothing and shelter. For not for nothing has He
said: "Thou shalt honor them"; He does not say: "Thou shalt love
them," although this also must be done. But honor is higher than
mere love and includes a certain fear, which unites with love,
and causes a man to fear offending them more than he fears the
punishment. Just as there is fear in the honor we pay a
sanctuary, and yet we do not flee from it as from a punishment,
but draw near to it all the more. Such a fear mingled with love
is the true honor; the other fear without any love is that which
we have toward things which we despise or flee from, as we fear
the hangman or punishment. There is no honor in that, for it is
a fear without all love, nay, fear that has with it hatred and
enmity. Of this we have a proverb of St. Jerome: What we fear,
that we also hate. With such a fear God does not wish to be
feared or honored, nor to have us honor our parents; but with the
first, which is mingled with love and confidence. 

II. This work appears easy, but few regard it aright. For where
the parents are truly pious and love their children not according
to the flesh, but (as they ought) instruct and direct them by
words and works to serve God according to the first three
Commandments, there the child's own will is constantly broken,
and it must do, leave undone, and suffer what its nature would
most gladly do otherwise; and thereby it finds occasion to
despise its parents, to murmur against them, or to do worse
things. There love and fear depart, unless they have God's grace.
In like manner, when they punish and chastise, as they ought (at
times even unjustly, which, however, does not harm the soul's
salvation), our evil nature resents the correction. Beside all
this, there are some so wicked that they are ashamed of their
parents because of poverty, lowly birth, deformity or dishonor,
and allow these things to influence them more than the high
Commandment of God, Who is above all things, and has with
benevolent intent given them such parents, to exercise and try
them in His Commandment. But the matter becomes still worse when
the child has children of its own; then love descends to them,
and detracts very much from the love and honor toward the

But what is said and commanded of parents must also be understood
of those who, when the parents are dead or absent, take their
place, such as relatives, god-parents, sponsors, temporal lords
and spiritual fathers. For every one must be ruled and be subject
to other men. Wherefore we here see again how many good works are
taught in this Commandment, since in it all our life is made
subject to other men. Hence it comes that obedience is so highly
praised and all virtue and good works are included in it. 

III. There is another dishonoring of parents, much more dangerous
and subtile than this first, which adorns itself and passes for
a real honor; that is, when a child has its own way, and the
parents through natural love allow it. Here there is indeed
mutual honor, here there is mutual love, and on all sides it is
a precious thing, parents and child take mutual pleasure in one

This plague is so common that instances of the first form of
dishonoring are very seldom seen. This is due to the fact that
the parents are blinded, and neither know nor honor God according
to the first three Commandments; hence also they cannot see what
the children lack, and how they ought to teach and train them.
For this reason they train them for worldly honors, pleasure and
possessions, that they may by all means please men and reach high
positions: this the children like, and they obey very gladly
without gainsaying. 

Thus God's Commandment secretly comes to naught while all seems
good, and that is fulfilled which is written in the Prophets
Isaiah and Jeremiah, that the children are destroyed by their own
parents, and they do like the king Manasseh, who sacrificed his
own son to the idol Moloch and burned him, II. Kings xxi. What
else is it but to sacrifice one's own child to the idol and to
burn it, when parents train their children more in the way of the
world than in the way of God? let them go their way, and be
burned up in worldly pleasure, love, enjoyment, possessions and
honor, but let God's love and honor and the desire of eternal
blessings be quenched in them? 

O how perilous it is to be a father or a mother, where flesh and
blood are supreme! For, truly, the knowledge and fulfilment of
the first three and the last six Commandments depends altogether
upon this Commandment; since parents are commanded to teach them
to their children, as Psalm lxxviii. says, "How strictly has He
commanded our fathers, that they should make known God's
Commandments to their children, that the generation to come might
know them and declare them to their children's children." This
also is the reason why God bids us honor our parents, that is,
to love them with fear; for that other love is without fear,
therefore it is more dishonor than honor. 

Now see whether every one does not have good works enough to do,
whether he be father or child. But we blind men leave this
untouched, and seek all sorts of other works which are not

IV. Now where parents are foolish and train their children after
the fashion of the world, the children are in no way to obey
them; for God, according to the first three Commandments, is to
be more highly regarded than the parents. But training after the
fashion of the world I call it, when they teach them to seek no
more than pleasure, honor and possessions of this world or its

To wear decent clothes and to seek an honest living is a
necessity, and not sin. Yet the heart of a child must be taught
to be sorry that this miserable earthly life cannot well be
lived, or even begun, without the striving after more adornment
and more possessions than are necessary for the protection of the
body against cold and for nourishment. Thus the child must be
taught to grieve that, without its own will, it must do the
world's will and play the fool with the rest of men, and endure
such evil for the sake of something better and to avoid something
worse. So Queen Esther wore her royal crown, and yet said to God,
Esther xiv, "Thou knowest, that the sign of my high estate, which
is upon my head, has never yet delighted me, and I abhor it as
a menstruous rag, and never wear it when I am by myself, but when
I must do it and go before the people." The heart that is so
minded wears adornment without peril; for it wears and does not
wear, dances and does not dance, lives well and does not live
well. And these are the secret souls, hidden brides of Christ,
but they are rare; for it is hard not to delight in great
adornment and parade. Thus St. Cecilia wore golden clothes at the
command of her parents, but within against her body she wore a
garment of hair. 

Here some men say: "How then could I bring my children into
society, and marry them honorably? I must make some display."
Tell me, are not these the words of a heart which despairs of
God, and trusts more on its own providing than on God's care?
Whereas St. Peter teaches and says, I. Peter v, "Cast all your
care upon Him, and be certain that He cares for you." It is a
sign that they have never yet thanked God for their children,
have never yet rightly prayed for them, have never yet commended
them to Him; otherwise they would know and have experienced that
they ought to ask God also for the marriage dower of their
children, and await it from Him. Therefore also He permits them
to go their way, with cares and worries, and yet succeed poorly. 

V. Thus it is true, as men say, that parents, although they had
nothing else to do, could attain salvation by training their own
children; if they rightly train them to God's service, they will
indeed have both hands full of good works to do. For what else
are here the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick, strangers,
than the souls of your own children? with whom God makes of your
house a hospital, and sets you over them as chief nurse, to wait
on them, to give them good words and works as meat and drink,
that they may learn to trust, believe and fear God, and to place
their hope on Him, to honor His Name, not to swear nor curse, to
mortify themselves by praying, fasting, watching, working, to
attend worship and to hear God's Word, and to keep the Sabbath,
that they may learn to despise temporal things, to bear
misfortune calmly, and not to fear death nor to love this life. 

See, what great lessons are these, how many good works you have
before you in your home, with your child, that needs all these
things like a hungry, thirsty, naked, poor, imprisoned, sick
soul. O what a blessed marriage and home were that where such
parents were to be found! Truly it would be a real Church, a
chosen cloister, yea, a paradise. Of such says Psalm cxxviii:
"Blessed are they that fear God, and walk in His Commandments;
thou shalt eat of the labor of thine hands; therefore thou shalt
be happy, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as
a fruitful vine in thine house, and thy children shall be as the
young scions of laden olive trees about thy table. Behold, thus
shall the man be blessed, that feareth the Lord," etc. Where are
such parents? Where are they that ask after good works? Here none
wishes to come. Why? God has commanded it; the devil, flesh and
blood pull away from it; it makes no show, therefore it counts
for nothing. Here this husband runs to St. James, that wife vows
a pilgrimage to Our Lady; no one vows that he will properly
govern and teach himself and his child to the honor of God; he
leaves behind those whom God has commanded him to keep in body
and soul, and would serve God in some other place, which has not
been commanded him. Such perversity no bishop forbids, no
preacher corrects; nay, for covetousness' sake they confirm it
and daily only invent more pilgrimages, elevations of saints,
indulgence-fairs. God have pity on such blindness. 

VI. On the other hand, parents cannot earn eternal punishment in
any way more easily than by neglecting their own children in
their own home, and not teaching them the things which have been
spoken of above. Of what help is it, that they kill themselves
with fasting, praying, making pilgrimages, and do all manner of
good works? God will, after all, not ask them about these things
at their death and in the day of judgment, but will require of
them the children whom He entrusted to them. This is shown by
that word of Christ, Luke xxiii, "Ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep
not for me, but for yourselves and for your children. The days
are coming, in which they shall say: Blessed are the wombs that
never bare, and the paps which never gave suck." Why shall they
lament, except because all their condemnation comes from their
own children? If they had not had children, perhaps they might
have been saved. Truly, these words ought to open the eyes of
parents, that they may have regard to the souls of their
children, so that the poor children be not deceived by their
false, fleshly love, as if they had rightly honored their parents
when they are not angry with them, or are obedient in worldly
matters, by which their self-will is strengthened; although the
Commandment places the parents in honor for the very purpose that
the self-will of the children may be broken, and that the
children may become humble and meek. 

Just as it has been said of the other Commandments, that they are
to be fulfilled in the chief work, so here too let no one suppose
that the training and teaching of his children is sufficient of
itself, except it be done in confidence of divine favor, so that
a man doubt not that he is wellpleasing to God in his works, and
that he let such works be nothing else than an exhortation and
exercise of his faith, that he trust God and look to Him for
blessings and a gracious will; without which faith no work lives,
or is good and acceptable; for many heathen have trained their
children beautifully, but it is all lost, because of their

VII. The second work of this Commandment is to honor and obey the
spiritual mother, the holy Christian Church, the spiritual power,
so that we conform to what she commands, forbids, appoints,
orders, binds and looses, and honor, fear and love the spiritual
authority as we honor, love and fear our natural parents, and
yield to it in all things which are not contrary to the first
three Commandments. 

Now with regard to this work, things are almost worse than with
regard to the first. The spiritual authority should punish sin
with the ban and with laws, and constrain its spiritual children
to be good, in order that they might have reason to do this work
and to exercise themselves in obeying and honoring it. Such zeal
one does not see now; they act toward their subjects like the
mothers who forsake their children and run after their lovers,
as Hosea ii. says; they do not preach, they do not teach, they
do not hinder, they do not punish, and there is no spiritual
government at all left in Christendom. 

What can I say of this work? A few fast-days and feast-days are
left, and these had better be done away with. But no one gives
this a thought, and there is nothing left except the ban for
debt, and this should not be. But spiritual authority should look
to it, that adultery, unchastity, usury, gluttony, worldly show,
excessive adornment, and such like open sin and shame might be
most severely punished and corrected; and they should properly
manage the endowments, monastic houses, parishes and schools, and
earnestly maintain worship in them, provide for the young people,
boys and girls, in schools and cloisters, with learned, pious men
as teachers, that they might all be well trained, and so the
older people give a good example and Christendom be filled and
adorned with fine young people. So St. Paul teaches his disciple
Titus, that he should rightly instruct and govern all classes,
young and old, men and women. But now he goes to school who
wishes; he is taught who governs and teaches himself; nay, it
has, alas! come to such a pass that the places where good should
be taught have become schools of knavery, and no one at all takes
thought for the wild youth. 

VIII. If the above order prevailed, one could say how honor and
obedience should be given to the spiritual authority. But now the
case is like that of the natural parents who let their children
do as they please; at present the spiritual authority threatens,
dispenses, takes money, and pardons more than it has power to
pardon. I will here refrain from saying more; we see more of it
than is good; greed holds the reins, and just what should be
forbidden is taught; and it is clearly seen that the spiritual
estate is in all things more worldly than the worldly estate
itself. Meanwhile Christendom must be ruined, and this
Commandment perish. 

If there were a bishop who would zealously provide for all these
classes, supervise, make visitations and be faithful as he ought,
truly, one city would be too much for him. For in the time of the
Apostles, when Christendom was at its best estate, each city had
a bishop, although the smallest part of the inhabitants were
Christians. How may things go when one bishop wants to have so
much, another so much, this one the whole world, that one the
fourth of it. 

It is time that we pray God for mercy. Of spiritual power we have
much; but of spiritual government nothing or little. Meanwhile
may he help who can, that endowments, monastic houses, parishes
and schools be well established and managed; and it would also
be one of the works of the spiritual authority that it lessen the
number of endowments, monastic houses and schools, where they
cannot be cared for. It is much better that there be no monastic
house or endowment than that there be evil government in them,
whereby God is the more provoked to anger.

IX. Since, then, the authorities so entirely neglect their work,
and are perverted, it must assuredly follow that they misuse
their power, and undertake other and evil works, just as parents
do when they give some command contrary to God. Here we must be
wise; for the Apostle has said, that those times shall be
perilous in which such authorities shall rule. For it seems as
if we resisted their power if we do not do and leave undone all
that they prescribe. Therefore we must take hold of the first
three Commandments and the First Table, and be certain that no
man, neither bishop, nor pope, nor angel, may command or
determine anything that is contrary to or hinders these three
Commandments, or does not help them; and if they attempt such
things, it is not valid and amounts to nothing; and we also sin
if we follow and obey, or even tolerate such acts. 

From this it is easy to understand that the commands of fasting
do not include the sick, the pregnant women, or those who for
other reasons cannot fast without injury. And, to rise higher,
in our time nothing comes from Rome but a fair of spiritual
wares, which are openly and shamelessly bought and sold,
indulgences, parishes, monastic houses, bishoprics, provostships,
benefices, and every thing that has ever been founded to God's
service far and wide; whereby not only is all money and wealth
of the world drawn and driven to Rome (for this would be the
smallest harm), but the parishes, bishoprics and prelacies are
torn to pieces, deserted, laid waste, and so the people are
neglected, God's Word and God's Name and honor come to naught,
and faith is destroyed, so that at last such institutions and
offices fall into the hands not only of unlearned and unfit men,
but the greater part into the hands of the Romans, the greatest
villains in the world. Thus what has been founded for God's
service, for the instruction, government and improvement of the
people, must now serve the stable-boys, mule-drivers, yea, not
to use plainer language, Roman whores and knaves; yet we have no
more thanks than that they mock us for it as fools. 

X. If then such unbearable abuses are all carried on in the Name
of God and St. Peter, just as if God's Name and the spiritual
power were instituted to blaspheme God's honor, to destroy
Christendom, body and soul: we are indeed in duty bound to resist
in a proper way as much as we can. And here we must do like pious
children whose parents have become insane, and first see by what
right that which has been founded for God's service in our lands,
or has been ordained to provide for our children, must be allowed
to do its work in Rome, and to lapse here, where it ought to
serve. How can we be so foolish? 

Since then bishops and spiritual prelates stand idle in this
matter, offer no opposition or are afraid, and thus allow
Christendom to perish, it is our duty first of all humbly to call
upon God for help to prevent this thing, then to put our hand to
work to the same end, send the courtesans and those who bear
letters from Rome about their business, in a reasonable, gentle
way inform them that, if they wish to care for their parishes
properly, they shall live in them and improve the people by
preaching or by good example; or if not, and they do live in Rome
or elsewhere, lay waste and debauch the churches, then let the
pope feed them, whom they serve. It is not fitting that we
support the pope's servants, his people, yes, his knaves and
whores, to the destruction and injury of our souls. 

Lo! these are the true Turks, whom the kings, princes and the
nobility ought to attack first: not seeking thereby their own
benefit, but only the improvement of Christendom, and the
prevention of the blasphemy and disgracing of the divine Name;
and so to deal with the clergy as with a father who has lost his
sense and wits; who, if one did not restrain him and resist him
(although with all humility and honor), might destroy child, heir
and everybody. Thus we are to honor Roman authority as our
highest father; and yet, since they have gone mad and lost their
senses, not allow them to do what they attempt, lest Christendom
be destroyed thereby. 

XI. Some think, this should be referred to a General Council. To
this I say: No! For we have had many councils in which this has
been proposed, namely, at Constance, Basel and the last Roman
Council; but nothing has been accomplished, and things have grown
ever worse, Moreover, such councils are entirely useless, since
Roman wisdom has contrived the device that the kings and princes
must beforehand take an oath to let the Romans remain what they
are and keep what they have, and so has put up a bar to ward off
all reformation, to retain protection and liberty for all their
knavery, although this oath is demanded, forced and taken
contrary to God and the law, and by it the doors are locked
against the Holy Spirit, Who should rule the councils. But this
would be the best, and also the only remedy remaining, if kings,
princes, nobility, cities and communities themselves began and
opened a way for reformation, so that the bishops and clergy, who
now are afraid, would have reason to follow. For here nothing
else shall and must be considered except God's first three
Commandments, against which neither Rome, nor heaven nor earth
can command or forbid anything. And the ban or threatening with
which they think they can prevent this, amounts to nothing; just
as it amounts to nothing if an insane father severely threatens
the son who restrains him or locks him up.

XII. The third work of this Commandment is to obey the temporal
authority, as Paul teaches, Romans xiii, and Titus iii, and St.
Peter, I. Peter ii: "Submit yourselves to the king as supreme,
and to the princes as his ambassadors, and to all the ordinances
of the worldly power." But it is the work of the temporal power
to protect its subjects, and to punish thievery, robbery, and
adultery, as St. Paul says, Romans xiii: "It beareth not the
sword in vain; it serves God with it, to the terror of evil
doers, and to the protection of the good." 

Here men sin in two ways. First, if they lie to the government,
deceive it, and are disloyal, neither obey nor do as it has
ordered and commanded, whether with their bodies or their
possessions. For even if the government does injustice, as the
King of Babylon did to the people of Israel, yet God would have
it obeyed, without treachery and deception. Secondly, when men
speak evil of the government and curse it, and when a man cannot
revenge himself and abuses the government with grumbling and evil
words, publicly or secretly. 

In all this we are to regard that which St. Peter bids us regard,
namely, that its power, whether it do right or wrong, cannot harm
the soul, but only the body and property; unless indeed it should
try openly to compel us to do wrong against God or men; as in
former days when the magistrates were not yet Christians, and as
the Turk is now said to do. For to suffer wrong destroys no one's
soul, nay, it improves the soul, although it inflicts loss upon
the body and property; but to do wrong, that destroys the soul,
although it should gain all the world's wealth. 

XIII. This also is the reason why there is not such great danger
in the temporal power as in the spiritual, when it does wrong.
For the temporal power can do no harm, I since it has nothing to
do with preaching and faith and the first three Commandments. But
the spiritual power does harm not only when it does wrong, but
also when it neglects its duty and busies itself with other
things, even if they were better than the very best works of the
temporal power. Therefore, we must resist it when it does not do
right, and not resist the temporal power although it does wrong.
For the poor people believe and do as they see the spiritual
power believing and doing; if they are not set an example and are
not taught, then they also believe nothing and do nothing; since
this power is instituted for no other reason than to lead the
people in faith to God. All this is not found in the temporal
power; for it may do and leave undone what it will, my faith to
God still goes its way and works its works, because I need not
believe what it believes. 

Therefore, also, the temporal power is a very small thing in
God's sight, and far too slightly regarded by Him, that for its
sake, whether it do right or wrong, we should resist, become
disobedient and quarrel. On the other hand, the spiritual power
is an exceeding great blessing, and far too precious in His eyes,
that the very least of Christians should endure and keep silent,
if it departs a hair's breadth from its own duty, not to say when
it does the very opposite of its duty, as we now see it do every

XIV. In this power also there is much abuse. First, when it
follows the flatterers, which is a common and especially harmful
plague of this power, against which no one can sufficiently guard
and protect himself. Here it is led by the nose, and oppresses
the common people, becomes a government of the like of which a
heathen says: "The spider-webs catch the small flies, but the
mill-stones roll through." So the laws, ordinances and government
of one and the same authority hold the small men, and the great
are free; and where the prince is not himself so wise that he
needs nobody's advice, or has such a standing that they fear him,
there will and must be (unless God should do a special wonder)
a childish government. 

For this reason God has considered evil, unfit rulers the
greatest of plagues, as He threatens, Isaiah iii, "I will take
away from them every man of valor, and will give children to be
their princes and babes to rule over them." Four plagues God has
named in Scripture, Ezekiel xiv. The first and slightest, which
also David chose, is pestilence, the second is famine, the third
is war, the fourth is all manner of evil beasts, such as lions,
wolves, serpents, dragons; these are the wicked rulers. For where
these are, the land is destroyed, not only in body and property,
as in the others, but also in honor, discipline, virtue and the
soul's salvation. For pestilence and famine make people good and
rich; but war and wicked rulers bring to naught everything that
has to do with temporal and eternal possessions. 

XV. A prince must also be very wise and not at all times
undertake to enforce his own will, although he may have the
authority and the very best cause. For it is a far nobler virtue
to endure wrong to one's authority than to risk property and
person, if it is advantageous to the subjects; since worldly
rights attach only to temporal goods. 

Hence, it is a very foolish saying: I have a right to it,
therefore I will take it by storm and keep it, although all sorts
of misfortune may come to others thereby. So we read of the
Emperor Octavianus, that he did not wish to make war, however
just his cause might be, unless there were sure indications of
greater benefit than harm, or at least that the harm would not
be intolerable, and said: " War is like fishing with a golden
net; the loss risked is always greater than the catch can be."
For he who guides a wagon must walk far otherwise than if he were
walking alone; when alone he may walk, jump, and do as he will;
but when he drives, he must so guide and adapt himself that the
wagon and horses can follow him, and regard that more than his
own will. So also a prince leads a multitude with him and must
not walk and act as he wills, but as the multitude can,
considering their need and advantage more than his will and
pleasure. For when a prince rules after his own mad will and
follows his own opinion, he is like a mad driver, who rushes
straight ahead with horse and wagon, through bushes, thorns,
ditches, water, up hill and down dale, regardless of roads and
bridges; he will not drive long, all will go to smash. 

Therefore it would be most profitable for rulers, that they read,
or have read to them, from youth on, the histories, both in
sacred and in profane books, in which they would find more
examples and skill in ruling than in all the books of law; as we
read that the kings of Persia did, Esther vi. For examples and
histories benefit and teach more than the laws and statutes:
there actual experience teaches, here untried and uncertain

XVI. Three special, distinct works all rulers might do in our
times, particularly in our lands. First, to make an end of the
horrible gluttony and drunkenness, not only because of the
excess, but also because of its expense. For through seasonings
and spices and the like, without which men could well live, no
little loss of temporal wealth has come and daily is coming upon
our lands. To prevent these two great evils would truly give the
temporal power enough to do, for the inroads they have made are
wide and deep. And how could those in power serve God better and
thereby also improve their own land? 

Secondly, to forbid the excessive cost of clothing, whereby so
much wealth is wasted, and yet only the world and the flesh are
served; it is fearful to think that such abuse is to be found
among the people who have been pledged, baptised and consecrated
to Christ, the Crucified, and who should bear the Cross after Him
and prepare for the life to come by dying daily. If some men
erred through ignorance, it might be borne; but that it is
practised so freely, without punishment, without shame, without
hindrance, nay, that praise and fame are sought thereby, this is
indeed an unchristian thing. Thirdly, to drive out the usurious
buying of rent-charges, which in the whole world ruins, consumes
and troubles all lands, peoples and cities through its cunning
form, by which it appears not to be usury, while in truth it is
worse than usury, because men are not on their guard against it
as against open usury. See, these are the three Jews, as men say,
who suck the whole world dry. Here princes ought not to sleep,
nor be lazy, if they would give a good account of their office
to God. 

XVII. Here too ought to be mentioned the knavery which is
practised by officiales and other episcopal and spiritual
officers, who ban, load, hunt and drive the poor people with
great burdens, as long as a penny remains. This ought to be
prevented by the temporal sword, since there is no other help or

O, would God in heaven, that some time a government might be
established that would do away with the public bawdy-houses, as
was done among the people of Israel! It is indeed an unchristian
sight, that public houses of sin are maintained among Christians,
a thing formerly altogether unheard of. It should be a rule that
boys and girls should be married early and such vice be
prevented. Such a rule and custom ought to be sought for by both
the spiritual and the temporal power. If it was possible among
the Jews, why should it not also be possible among Christians?
Nay, if it is possible in villages, towns and some cities, as we
all see, why should it not be possible everywhere? 

But the trouble is, there is no real government in the world. No
one wants to work, therefore the mechanics must give their
workmen holiday: then they are free and no one can tame them. But
if there were a rule that they must do as they are bid, and no
one would give them work in other places, this evil would to a
large extent be mended. God help us! I fear that here the wish
is far greater than the hope; but this does not excuse us.

Now see, here only a few works of magistrates are indicated, but
they are so good and so many, that they have superabundant good
works to do every hour and could constantly serve God. But these
works, like the others, should also be done in faith, yea, be an
exercise of faith, so that no one expect to please God by the
works, but by confident trust in His favor do such works only to
the honor and praise of his gracious God, thereby to serve and
benefit his neighbor. 

XVIII. The fourth work of this Commandment is obedience of
servants and workmen toward their lords and ladies, masters and
mistresses. Of this St. Paul says, Titus ii: "Thou shalt exhort
servants that they highly honor their masters, be obedient, do
what pleases them, not cheating them nor opposing them"; for this
reason also: because they thereby bring the doctrine of Christ
and our faith into good repute, that the heathen cannot complain
of us and be offended. St. Peter also says: "Servants, be subject
to your masters, for the fear of God, not only to the good and
gentle, but also to the froward and harsh. For this is acceptable
with God, if a man suffers harshness, being innocent." 

Now there is the greatest complaint in the world about servants
and working men, that they are disobedient, unfaithful,
unmannerly, and over-reaching; this is a plague sent of God. And
truly, this is the one work of servants whereby they may be
saved; truly they need not make pilgrimages or do this thing or
the other; they have enough to do if their heart is only set on
this, that they gladly do and leave undone what they know pleases
their masters and mistresses, and all this in a simple faith; not
that they would by their works gain much merit, but that they do
it all in the confidence of divine favor (in which all merits are
to be found), purely for nothing, out of the love and good-will
toward God which grows out of such confidence. And all such works
they should think of as an exercise and exhortation ever to
strengthen their faith and confidence more and more. For, as has
now been frequently said, this faith makes all works good, yea,
it must do them and be the master-workman. 

XIX. On the other hand, the masters and mistresses should not
rule their servants, maids and workingmen roughly, not look to
all things too closely, occasionally overlook something, and for
peace' sake make allowances. For it is not possible that
everything be done perfectly at all times among any class of men,
as long as we live on earth in imperfection. Of this St. Paul
says, Colossians iv, "Masters, do unto your servants that which
is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."
Therefore as the masters do not wish God to deal too sharply with
them, but that many things be overlooked through grace, they also
should be so much the more gentle toward their servants, and
overlook some things, and yet have a care that the servants do
right and learn to fear God. 

But see now, what good works a householder and a mistress can do,
how finely God offers us all good works so near at hand, so
manifold, so continuously, that we have no need of asking after
good works, and might well forget the other showy, far-off,
invented works of men, such as making pilgrimages, building
churches, seeking indulgence, and the like. 

Here I ought naturally also to say how a wife ought to be
obedient, subject to her husband as to her superior, give way to
him, keep silent and give up to him, where it is a matter not
contrary to God's commands. On the other hand, the husband should
love his wife, overlook a little, and not deal strictly with her,
of which matter St. Peter and St. Paul have said much. But this
has its place in the further explanation of the Ten Commandments,
and is easily inferred from these passages. 

XX. But all that has been said of these works is included in
these two, obedience and considerateness. Obedience is the duty
of subjects, considerateness that of masters, that they take care
to rule their subjects well, deal kindly with them, and do
everything whereby they may benefit and help them. That is their
way to heaven, and these are the best works they can do on earth;
with these they are more acceptable to God than if without these
they did nothing but miracles. So says St. Paul, Romans xii: "He
that ruleth, let him do it with diligence"; as who should say:
"Let him not allow himself to be led astray by what other people
or classes of people do; let him not look to this work or to
that, whether it be splendid or obscure; but let him look to his
own position, and think only how he may benefit those who are
subject to him; by this let him stand, nor let himself be torn
from it, although heaven stood open before him, nor be driven
from it, although hell were chasing him. This is the right road
that leads him to heaven." 

Oh, if a man were so to regard himself and his position, and
attended to its duties alone, how rich in good works would he be
in a short time, so quietly and secretly that no one would notice
it except God alone! But now we let all this go, and one runs to
the Carthusians, another to this place, a third to that, just as
if good works and God's Commandments had been thrown into corners
and hidden; although it is written in Proverbs i, that divine
wisdom crieth out her commandments publicly in the streets, in
the midst of the people and in the gates of the cities; which
means that they are present in profusion in all places, in all
stations of life and at all times, and we do not see them, but
in our blindness look for them elsewhere. This Christ declared,
Matthew xxiv: "If they shall say unto you: Lo, here is Christ,
or there, believe it not. If they shall say: Behold, He is in the
desert, go not forth; behold, He is in the secret chambers,
believe it not; they are false prophets and false Christs." 

XXI. Again, obedience is the duty of subjects, that they direct
all their diligence and effort to do and to leave undone what
their over-lords desire of them, that they do not allow
themselves to be torn or driven from this, whatever another do.
Let no man think that he lives well or does good works, whether
it be prayer or fasting, or by whatever name it may be called,
if he does not earnestly and diligently exercise himself in this. 

But if it should happen, as it often does, that the temporal
power and authorities, as they are called, should urge a subject
to do contrary to the Commandments of God, or hinder him from
doing them, there obedience ends, and that duty is annulled. Here
a man must say as St. Peter says to the rulers of the Jews: "We
ought to obey God rather than men." He did not say: "We must not
obey men"; for that would be wrong; but he said: "God rather than
men." Thus, if a prince desired to go to war, and his cause was
manifestly unrighteous, we should not follow nor help him at all;
since God has commanded that we shall not kill our neighbor, nor
do him injustice. Likewise, if he bade us bear false witness,
steal, lie or deceive and the like. Here we ought rather give up
goods, honor, body, and life, that God's Commandments may stand. 

The four preceding Commandments have their works in the
understanding, that is, they take a man captive, rule him and
make him subject, so that he rule not himself, approve not
himself, think not highly of himself; but in humility know
himself and allow himself to be led, that pride be prevented. The
following Commandments deal with the passions and lust of men,
that these also be killed.

I. The passions of anger and revenge, of which the Fifth
Commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill." This Commandment has one
work, which however includes many and dispels many vices, and is
called meekness. Now this is of two kinds. The one has a
beautiful splendor, and there is nothing back of it. This we
practice toward our friends and those who do us good and give us
pleasure with goods, honor and favor, or who do not offend us
with words nor with deeds. Such meekness irrational animals have,
lions and snakes, Jews, Turks, knaves, murderers, bad women.
These are all content and gentle when men do what they want, or
let them alone; and yet there are not a few who, deceived by such
worthless meekness, cover over their anger and excuse it, saying:
"I would indeed not be angry, if I were left alone." Certainly,
my good man, so the evil spirit also would be meek if he had his
own way. Dissatisfaction and resentment overwhelm you in order
that they may show you how full of anger and wickedness you are,
that you may be admonished to strive after meekness and to drive
out anger. 

The second form of meekness is good through and through, that
which is shown toward opponents and enemies, does them no harm,
does not revenge itself, does not curse nor revile, does not
speak evil of them, does not meditate evil against them, although
they had taken away goods, honor, life, friends and everything.
Nay, where it is possible, it returns good for evil, speaks well
of them, thinks well of them, prays for them. Of this Christ
says, Matthew v: "Do good to them that despitefully use you. Pray
for them that persecute you and revile you." And Paul, Romans
xii: "Bless them which curse you, and by no means curse them, but
do good to them." 

II. Behold how this precious, excellent work has been lost among
Christians, so that nothing now everywhere prevails except
strife, war, quarreling, anger, hatred, envy, back-biting,
cursing, slandering, injuring, vengeance, and all manner of angry
works and words; and yet, with all this, we have our many
holidays, hear masses, say our prayers, establish churches, and
more such spiritual finery, which God has not commanded. We shine
resplendently and excessively, as if we were the most holy
Christians there ever were. And so because of these mirrors and
masks we allow God's Commandment to go to complete ruin, and no
one considers or examines himself, how near or how far he be from
meekness and the fulfilment of this Commandment; although God has
said, that not he who does such works, but he who keeps His
Commandments, shall enter into eternal life. 

Now, since no one lives on earth upon whom God does not bestow
an enemy and opponent as a proof of his own anger and wickedness,
that is, one who afflicts him in goods, honor, body or friends,
and thereby tries whether anger is still present, whether he can
be well-disposed toward his enemy, speak well of him, do good to
him, and not intend any evil against him; let him come forward
who asks what he shall do that he may do good works, please God
and be saved. Let him set his enemy before him, keep him
constantly before the eyes of his heart, as an exercise whereby
he may curb his spirit and train his heart to think kindly of his
enemy, wish him well, care for him and pray for him; and then,
when opportunity offers, speak well of him and do good to him.
Let him who will, try this and if he find not enough to do all
his life long, he may convict me of lying, and say that my
contention was wrong. But if this is what God desires, and if He
will be paid in no other coin, of what avail is it, that we busy
ourselves with other great works which are not commanded, and
neglect this? Therefore God says, Matthew v, "I say unto you,
that whosoever is angry with his neighbor, is in danger of the
judgment; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool (that
is, all manner of invective, cursing, reviling, slandering), he
shall be in danger of everlasting fire." What remains then for
the outward act, striking, wounding, killing, injuring, etc., if
the thoughts and words of anger are so severely condemned? 

III. But where there is true meekness, there the heart is pained
at every evil which happens to one's enemy. And these are the
true children and heirs of God and brethren of Christ, Whose
heart was so pained for us all when He died on the holy Cross.
Even so we see a pious judge passing sentence upon the criminal
with sorrow, and regretting the death which the law imposes. Here
the act seems to be one of anger and harshness. So thoroughly
good is meekness that even in such works of anger it remains,
nay, it torments the heart most sorely when it must be angry and

But here we must watch, that we be not meek contrary to God's
honor and Commandment. For it is written of Moses that he was the
very meekest man on earth, and yet, when the Jews had worshiped
the golden calf and provoked God to anger, he put many of them
to death, and thereby made atonement before God. Likewise it is
not fitting that the magistrates should be idle and allow sin to
have sway, and that we say nothing. My own possessions, my honor,
my injury, I must not regard, nor grow angry because of them; but
God's honor and Commandment we must protect, and injury or
injustice to our neighbor we must prevent, the magistrates with
the sword, the rest of us with reproof and rebuke, yet always
with pity for those who have merited the punishment. 

This high, noble, sweet work can easily be learned, if we perform
it in faith, and as an exercise of faith. For if faith does not
doubt the favor of God nor question that God is gracious, it will
become quite easy for a man to be gracious and favorable to his
neighbor, however much he may have sinned; for we have sinned
much more against God. Behold, a short Commandment this, but it
presents a long, mighty exercise of good works and of faith.

Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

In this Commandment too a good work is commanded, which includes
much and drives away much vice; it is called purity, or chastity,
of which much is written and preached, and it is well known to
every one, only that it is not as carefully observed and
practised as other works which are not commanded. So ready are
we to do what is not commanded and to leave undone what is
commanded. We see that the world is full of shameful works of
unchastity, indecent words, tales and ditties, temptation to
which is daily increased through gluttony and drunkenness,
idleness and frippery. Yet we go our way as if we were
Christians; when we have been to church, have said our little
prayer, have observed the fasts and feasts, then we think our
whole duty is done. 

Now, if no other work were commanded but chastity alone, we would
all have enough to do with this one; so perilous and raging a
vice is unchastity. It rages in all our members: in the thoughts
of our hearts, in the seeing of our eyes, in the hearing of our
ears, in the words of our mouth, in the works of our hands and
feet and all our body. To control all these requires labor and
effort; and thus the Commandments of God teach us how great truly
good works are, nay, that it is impossible for us of our own
strength to conceive a good work, to say nothing of attempting
or doing it. St. Augustine says, that among all the conflicts of
the Christian the conflict of chastity is the hardest, for the
one reason alone, that it continues daily without ceasing, and
chastity seldom prevails. This all the saints have wept over and
lamented, as St. Paul does, Romans vii: "I find in me, that is
in my flesh, no good thing." 

II. If this work of chastity is to be permanent, it will drive
to many other good works, to fasting and temperance over against
gluttony and drunkenness, to watching and early rising over
against laziness and excessive sleep, to work and labor over
against idleness. For gluttony, drunkenness, lying late abed,
loafing and being without work are weapons of unchastity, with
which chastity is quickly overcome. On the other hand, the holy
Apostle Paul calls fasting, watching and labor godly weapons,
with which unchastity is mastered; but, as has been said above,
these exercises must do no more than overcome unchastity, and not
pervert nature. 

Above all this, the strongest defence is prayer and the Word of
God; namely, that when evil lust stirs, a man flee to prayer,
call upon God's mercy and help, read and meditate on the Gospel,
and in it consider Christ's sufferings. Thus says Psalm cxxxvii:
"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth the little ones of
Babylon against the rock," that is, if the heart runs to the Lord
Christ with its evil thoughts while they are yet young and just
beginning; for Christ is a Rock, on which they are ground to
powder and come to naught. 

See, here each one will find enough to do with himself, and more
than enough, and will be given many good works to do within
himself. But now no one uses prayer, fasting, watching, labor for
this purpose, but men stop in these works as if they were in
themselves the whole purpose, although they should be arranged
so as to fulfil the work of this Commandment and purify us daily
more and more. 

Some have also indicated more things which should be avoided,
such as soft beds and clothes, that we should avoid excessive
adornment, and neither associate nor talk with members of the
opposite sex, nor even look upon them, and whatsoever else may
be conducive to chastity. In all these things no one can fix a
definite rule and measure. Each one must watch himself and see
what things are needful to him for chastity, in what quantity and
how long they help him to be chaste, that he may thus choose and
observe them for himself; if he cannot do this, let him for a
time give himself up to be controlled by another, who may hold
him to such observance until he can learn to rule himself. This
was the purpose for which the monastic houses were established
of old, to teach young people discipline and purity. 

III. In this work a good strong faith is a great help, more
noticeably so than in almost any other; so that for this reason
also Isaiah xi. says that "faith is a girdle of the reins," that
is, a guard of chastity. For he who so lives that he looks to God
for all grace, takes pleasure in spiritual purity; therefore he
can so much more easily resist fleshly impurity: and in such
faith the Spirit tells him of a certainty how he shall avoid evil
thoughts and everything that is repugnant to chastity. For as the
faith in divine favor lives without ceasing and works in all
works, so it also does not cease its admonitions in all things
that are pleasing to God or displease Him; as St. John says in
his Epistle: "Ye need not that any man teach you: for the divine
anointing, that is, the Spirit of God, teacheth you of all

Yet we must not despair if we are not soon rid of the temptation,
nor by any means imagine that we are free from it as long as we
live, and we must regard it only as an incentive and admonition
to prayer, fasting, watching, laboring, and to other exercises
for the quenching of the flesh, especially to the practice and
exercise of faith in God. For that chastity is not precious which
is at ease, but that which is at war with unchastity, and fights,
and without ceasing drives out all the poison with which the
flesh and the evil spirit attack it. Thus St. Peter says, "I
beseech you, abstain from fleshly desires and lusts, which war
always against the soul." And St. Paul, Romans vi, "Ye shall not
obey the body in its lusts." In these and like passages it is
shown that no one is without evil lust; but that everyone shall
and must daily fight against it. But although this brings
uneasiness and pain, it is none the less a work that gives
pleasure, in which we shall have our comfort and satisfaction.
For they who think they make an end of temptation by yielding to
it, only set themselves on fire the more; and although for a time
it is quiet, it comes again with more strength another time, and
finds the nature weaker than before. 

Thou shalt not steal. 

This Commandment also has a work, which embraces very many good
works, and is opposed to many vices, and is called in German
Mildigkeit, "benevolence;" which is a work ready to help and
serve every one with one's goods. And it fights not only against
theft and robbery, but against all stinting in temporal goods
which men may practise toward one another: such as greed, usury,
overcharging and plating wares that sell as solid, counterfeit
wares, short measures and weights, and who could tell all the
ready, novel, clever tricks, which multiply daily in every trade,
by which every one seeks his own gain through the other's loss,
and forgets the rule which says: "What ye wish that others do to
you, that do ye also to them." If every one kept this rule before
his eyes in his trade, business, and dealings with his neighbor,
he would readily find how he ought to buy and sell, take and
give, lend and give for nothing, promise and keep his promise,
and the like. And when we consider the world in its doings, how
greed controls all business, we would not only find enough to do,
if we would make an honorable living before God, but also be
overcome with dread and fear for this perilous, miserable life,
which is so exceedingly overburdened, entangled and taken captive
with cares of this temporal life and dishonest seeking of gain. 

II. Therefore the Wise Man says not in vain: "Happy is the rich
man, who is found without blemish, who does not run after gold,
and has not set his confidence in the treasures of money. Who is
he? We will praise him, that he has done wondrous things in his
life." As if he would say: "None such is found, or very few
indeed." Yea, they are very few who notice and recognise such
lust for gold in themselves. For greed has here a very beautiful,
fine cover for its shame, which is called provision for the body
and natural need, under cover of which it accumulates wealth
beyond all limits and is never satisfied; so that he who would
in this matter keep himself clean, must truly, as he says, do
miracles or wondrous things in his life. 

Now see, if a man wish not only to do good works, but even
miracles, which God may praise and be pleased with, what need has
he to look elsewhere? Let him take heed to himself, and see to
it that he run not after gold, nor set his trust on money, but
let the gold run after him, and money wait on his favor, and let
him love none of these things nor set his heart on them; then he
is the true, generous, wonderworking, happy man, as Job xxxi
says: "I have never yet: relied upon gold, and never yet made
gold my hope and confidence." And Psalm lxii: "If riches
increase, set not your heart upon them." So Christ also teaches,
Matthew vi, that we shall take no thought, what we shall eat and
drink and wherewithal we shall be clothed, since God cares for
this, and knows that we have need of all these things. 

But some say: "Yes, rely upon that, take no thought, and see
whether a roasted chicken will fly into your mouth!" I do not say
that a man shall not labor and seek a living; but he shall not
worry, not be greedy, not despair, thinking that he will not have
enough; for in Adam we are all condemned to labor, when God says
to him, Genesis iii, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat
bread." And Job v, "As the birds to flying, so is man born unto
labor." Now the birds fly without worry and greed, and so we also
should labor without worry and greed; but if you do worry and are
greedy, wishing that the roasted chicken fly into your mouth:
worry and be greedy, and see whether you will thereby fulfil
God's Commandment and be saved!

III. This work faith teaches of itself. For if the heart looks
for divine favor and relies upon it, how is it possible that a
man should be greedy and worry? He must be sure beyond a doubt
that God cares for him; therefore he does not cling to money; he
uses it also with cheerful liberality for the benefit of his
neighbor, and knows well that he will have enough, however much
he may give away. For his God, Whom he trusts, will not lie to
him nor forsake him, as it is written, Psalm xxxvii: "I have been
young, and now am old; never have I seen a believing man, who
trusts God, that is a righteous man, forsaken, or his child
begging bread." Therefore the Apostle calls no other sin idolatry
except covetousness, because this sin shows most plainly that it
does not trust God for anything, expects more good from its money
than from God; and, as has been said, it is by such confidence
that God is truly honored or dishonored. 

And, indeed, in this Commandment it can be clearly seen how all
good works must be done in faith; for here every one most surely
feels that the cause of covetousness is distrust and the cause
of liberality is faith. For because a man trusts God, he is
generous and does not doubt that he will always have enough; on
the other hand, a man is covetous and worries because he does not
trust God. Now, as in this Commandment faith is the
master-workman and the doer of the good work of liberality, so
it is also in all the other Commandments, and without such faith
liberality is of no worth, but rather a careless squandering of

IV. By this we are also to know that this liberality shall extend
even to enemies and opponents. For what manner of good deed is
that, if we are liberal only to our friends? As Christ teaches,
Luke vi, even a wicked man does that to another who is his
friend. Besides, the brute beasts also do good and are generous
to their kind. Therefore a Christian must rise higher, let his
liberality serve also the undeserving, evil-doers, enemies, and
the ungrateful, even as his heavenly Father makes His sun to rise
on good and evil, and the rain to fall on the grateful and

But here it will be found how hard it is to do good works
according to God's Commandment, how nature squirms, twists and
writhes in its opposition to it, although it does the good works
of its own choice easily and gladly. Therefore take your enemies,
the ungrateful, and do good to them; then you will find how near
you are to this Commandment or how far from it, and how all your
life you will always have to do with the practice of this work.
For if your enemy needs you and you do not help him when you can,
it is just the same as if you had stolen what belonged to him,
for you owed it to him to help him. So says St. Ambrose, "Feed
the hungry; if you do not feed him, you have, as far as you are
concerned, slain him." And in this Commandment are included the
works of mercy, which Christ will require at men's hands at the
last day. 

But the magistrates and cities ought to see to it that the
vagabonds, pilgrims and mendicants from foreign lands be
debarred, or at least allowed only under restrictions and rules,
so that knaves be not permitted to run at large under the guise
of mendicants, and their knavery, of which there now is much, be
prohibited. I have spoken at greater length of this Commandment
in the Treatise on Usury.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 

This Commandment seems small, and yet is so great, that he who
would rightly keep it must risk and imperil life and limb, goods
and honor, friends and all that he has; and yet it includes no
more than the work of that small member, the tongue, and is
called in German Wahrheit sagen, "telling the truth" and, where
there is need, gainsaying lies; so that it forbids many evil
works of the tongue. First: those which are committed by
speaking, and those which are committed by keeping silent. By
speaking, when a man has an unjust law-suit, and wants to prove
and maintain his case by a false argument, catch his neighbor
with subtilty, produce everything that strengthens and furthers
his own cause, and withhold and discount everything that furthers
his neighbor's good cause; in doing which he does not do to his
neighbor as he would have his neighbor do to him. This some men
do for the sake of gain, some to avoid loss or shame, thereby
seeking their own advantage more than God's Commandment, and
excuse themselves by saying: Vigilanti jura subveniunt, "the law
helps him who watches"; just as if it were not as much their duty
to watch for their neighbor's cause as for their own. Thus they
intentionally allow their neighbor's cause to be lost, although
they know that it is just. This evil is at present so common that
I fear no court is held and no suit tried but that one side sins
against this Commandment. And even when they cannot accomplish
it, they yet have the unrighteous spirit and will, so that they
would wish the neighbor's just cause to be lost and their unjust
cause to prosper. This sin is most frequent when the opponent is
a prominent man or an enemy. For a man wants to revenge himself
on his enemy: but the ill will of a man of prominence he does not
wish to bring upon himself; and then begins the flattering and
fawning, or, on the other hand, the withholding of the truth.
Here no one is willing to run the risk of disfavor and
displeasure, loss and danger for the truth's sake; and so God's
Commandment must perish. And this is almost universally the way
of the world. He who would keep this Commandment, would have both
hands full doing only those good works which concern the tongue.
And then, how many are there who allow themselves to be silenced
and swerved aside from the truth by presents and gifts! so that
in all places it is truly a high, great, rare work, not to be a
false witness against one's neighbor.

II. There is a second bearing of witness to the truth, which is
still greater, with which we must fight against the evil spirits;
and this concerns not temporal matters, but the Gospel and the
truth of faith, which the evil spirit has at no time been able
to endure, and always so manages that the great among men, whom
it is hard to resist, must oppose and persecute it. Of which it
is written in Psalm lxxxii, "Rid the poor out of the hand of the
wicked, and help the forsaken to maintain his just cause." 

Such persecution, it is true, has now become infrequent; but that
is the fault of the spiritual prelates, who do not stir up the
Gospel, but let it perish, and so have abandoned the very thing
because of which such witnessing and persecution should arise;
and in its place they teach us their own law and what pleases
them. For this reason the devil also does not stir, since by
vanquishing the Gospel he has also vanquished faith in Christ,
and everything goes as he wishes. But if the Gospel should be
stirred up and be heard again, without doubt the whole world
would be aroused and moved, and the greater portion of the kings,
princes, bishops, doctors and clergy, and all that is great,
would oppose it and rage against it, as has always happened when
the Word of God has come to light; for the world cannot endure
what comes from God. This is proved in Christ, Who was and is the
very greatest and most precious and best of all that God has; yet
the world not only did not receive Him, but persecuted Him more
cruelly than all others who had ever come forth from God. 

Therefore, as at that time, so at all times there are few who
stand by the divine truth, and imperil and risk life and limb,
goods and honor, and all that they have, as Christ has foretold:
"Ye shall be hated of all men for My Name's sake." And: "Many of
them shall be offended in Me." Yea, if this truth were attacked
by peasants, herdsmen, stable-boys and men of no standing, who
would not be willing and able to confess it and to bear witness
to it? But when the pope, and the bishops, together with princes
and kings attack it, all men flee, keep silent, dissemble, in
order that they may not lose goods, honor, favor and life. 

III. Why do they do this? Because they have no faith in God, and
expect nothing good from Him. For where such faith and confidence
are, there is also a bold, defiant, fearless heart, that ventures
and stands by the truth, though it cost life or cloak, though it
be against pope or kings; as we see that the martyrs did. For
such a heart is satisfied and rests easy because it has a
gracious, loving God. Therefore it despises all the favor, grace,
goods and honor of men, lets them come and go as they please; as
is written in Psalm xv: "He contemneth them that contemn God, and
honoreth them that fear the Lord"; that is, the tyrants, the
mighty, who persecute the truth and despise God, he does not
fear, he does not regard them, he despiseth them; on the other
hand, those who are persecuted for the truth's sake, and fear God
more than men, to these he clings, these he defends, these he
honors, let it vex whom it may; as it is written of Moses,
Hebrews xi, that he stood by his brethren, regardless of the
mighty king of Egypt. 

Lo, in this Commandment again you see briefly that faith must be
the master-workman in this work also, so that without it no one
has courage to do this work: so entirely are all works comprised
in faith, as has now been often said. Therefore, apart from faith
all works are dead, however good the form and name they bear. For
as no one does the work of this Commandment except he be firm and
fearless in the confidence of divine favor; so also he does no
work of any other Commandment without the same faith: thus every
one may easily by this Commandment test and weigh himself whether
he be a Christian and truly believe in Christ, and thus whether
he is doing good works or no. Now we see how the Almighty God has
not only set our Lord Jesus Christ before us that we should
believe in Him with such confidence, but also holds before us in
Him an example of this same confidence and of such good works,
to the end that we should believe in Him, follow Him and abide
in Him forever; as He says, John xiv: "I am the Way, the Truth
and the Life," -- the Way, in which we follow Him; the Truth,
that we believe in Him; the Life, that we live in Him forever. 

From all this it is now manifest that all other works, which are
not commanded, are perilous and easily known: such as building
churches, beautifying them, making pilgrimages, and all that is
written at so great length in the Canon Law and has misled and
burdened the world and ruined it, made uneasy consciences,
silenced and weakened faith, and has not said how a man, although
he neglect all else, has enough to do with all his powers to keep
the Commandments of God, and can never do all the good works
which he is commanded to do; why then does he seek others, which
are neither necessary nor commanded, and neglect those that are
necessary and commanded? 

The last two Commandments, which forbid evil desires of the body
for pleasure and for temporal goods, are clear in themselves;
these evil desires do no harm to our neighbor, and yet they
continue unto the grave, and the strife in us against them
endures unto death; therefore these two Commandments are drawn
together by St. Paul into one, Romans vii, and are set as a goal
unto which we do not attain, and only in our thoughts reach after
until death. For no one has ever been so holy that he felt in
himself no evil inclination, especially when occasion and
temptation were offered. For original sin is born in us by
nature, and may be checked, but not entirely uprooted, except
through the death of the body; which for this reason is
profitable and a thing to be desired. To this may God help us.

*****The Project Gutenberg Etext of A treatise on Good Works*****