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The purpose and plan of this ^publication, which has been 
prompted by the celebration of the fourth centenary of 
Luther's birth, is explained in the Introductory Essay. Here 
it is only necessary to state that, of the works of Luther 
contained in it, the " Address to the Nobility of the German 
Nation," which was written in German, has been translated by 
Professor Buchheim, from the text given in the Erlangen, or 
Frankfort, Edition. The translation of this work offered very 
great difficulties, as it was written in Luther's earliest German 
style, before the language had been improved, and ren- 
dered comparatively definite, by his translation of the Bible. 
Dr. Buchheim has endeavoured to make it as literal as was 
compatible with the genius of the English language, and with 
the necessity of modifying, now and then, some obscure or 
obsolete expression ; and he has offered a few annotations. 
He desires, at the same time, to express his great obliga- 
tions to Dr. Wace, who carefully compared his translation 
with the original work, and whose suggestions have been 
of great service to him. The Theses, and the two Treatises, 
" On Christian Liberty," and " On the Babylonish Captivity 
of the Church," have been translated from the original Latin 
Text, as given in the Frankfort Edition, by the Rev. R. S. 
Grignon, to whose generous assistance and accurate scholar- 
ship the editors feel greatly indebted. 

a 2 


The following work, by special arrangement with the London 
publisher, is now introduced for the first time to American readers 
by the Lutheran Board of Publication exclusively. It has been 
most favorably noticed by some of the most influential and dis- 
criminating English Reviews. The authors sustain a high reputa- 
tion for talent and learning, and have devoted their combined 
strength to the preparation of this work. 

Although the last two or three years have been prolific in the' 
production of books on the Reformation, yet comparatively few 
have appeared in England, and among them this one stands incom- 
parably at the head of the list. 

On page xxxiii. there occurs the following passage, which, whilst 
it does not directly charge our Church with holding the doctrine 
of Consubstantiation, yet so nearly approximates it, that it has 
been thought expedient to furnish readers with the means of 
refuting the accusation if they should ever have occasion so to do. 
All intelligent Lutherans know it is false, but they may not 
always have at hand the direct means of refutation, with which 
they are here furnished for their use. The sentence alluded to 
is this : 

"It may be worth while to observe, in passing, the position 
which Luther assumes towards the doctrine of Transubstantiation. 
What he is concerned to maintain is, that there is a real Presence 
in the Sacrament. All he is concerned to deny is that Transub- 
stantiation is the necessary explanation of that Presence. In 
other words, it is not necessary to believe in Transubstantiation 
in order to believe in the Real Presence. There seems a clear' 
distinction between this view and the formal doctrine of Consub- 
stantiation as afterivards elaborated by Lutheran divines; and 
Luther's caution, at least in this Treatise, in dealing with so diffi- 
cult a point, is eminently characteristic of the real moderation 
with which he formed his views, as! distinguished from the energy 
with which he asserted them." 


n American preface. 

I said that the charge that our Church believes in Consubstan- 
tiation is not here directly made, and herein the writers show 
their cautious discrimination ; but still many readers will regard it 
as equivalent to a charge, and I here furnish them with proofs 
drawn from some of our theologians, refuting it most emphatic- 
ally ; and this should settle the question. A much larger number 
of authorities might be quoted, but surely these are sufficient to 
satisfy every honest inquirer. 

It seems strange to us that some learned men, who ought to 
know better, will still persist in repeating the unfounded accusa- 
tion, as has recently been done by an eminent church historian of 
Our own country. 

The precise meaning of the word Consubstantiation will be 
more fully understood from the following extracts than from any 
unconnected definition. 


TnE Wittenberg Concord (1536), prepared and signed by 
Luther and the other great leaders in the Church, says : " We 
deny the doctrine of Transubstantiation, as we also deny that the 
body and blood of Christ are locally included in the bread" 

The Formula of Concord (Muller's ed., pp. 543, 547), says: 
"We utterly deny and condemn the doctrine of a Capernaitish 
eating of the body of Christ, which, after so many protestations 
on our part, is maliciously imputed to us." 

Baier, J. G. (1695), in his Theolog. Positiv., 1750, p. 661, 
says : " The Sacramental Union is neither substantial, nor per- 
sonal, nor local. Hence it is manifest that Impanation and 
Consubstantiation, which are charged upon Lutherans by ene- 
mies, are utterly excluded." 

Baier published a distinct treatise, which is entirely devoted to 
the defence of our Church against the charge of holding this doc- 

Hafenreffer (1609), in his Loci Theolog., says: "The 
Sacramental Union is not (1) a Transubstantiation of the bread 
into the body of Christ. * * (2) It is not a Consubstantia- 
tion or commixture of the substances : but in both the bread and 


wine, the substance of the body and blood of Christ remains un- 

Calovius, System. Loci Theolog. (1655-77) : " We do not 
assert any local conjunction, any fusion of essences, or Consub- 
stantiation, as our adversaries attribute to us." 

Hutter (1611), Libri Christ. Concord, Wittenberg, 1609, p. 
669 : " Hence is clear the odious falsity of those who charge our 
churches with teaching that the bread of the Eucharist is literally 
and substantially the body of Christ ; ' that the bread arid body 
constitute one substance,' etc." 

Joiin Gerhard (1637). Loci, x. 165. " On account of the 
calumnies of our adversaries, we would note that we do not be- 
lieve in Impanation, nor in Consubstantiation, nor in any physi- 
cal or local presence." 

Carpzov (1657). Isagoge, 345. "When the words in, 
with, under, are used, our traducers know, . . . that they do 
not signify a Con substantiation, local co-existence, or Impanation. 
The charge that we hold a local inclusion or Con substantiation is 
a calumny." (1681). De Sacra. Coena. 1664, p. 85. "When 
Calvinists attribute this view {Con substantiation) to us, they are 
guilty of calumny." 

Buddeus (1728). Miscellanea II., 86 seq. "All who un« 
derstand the doctrines of our Church know that with our whole 

soul we abhor the doctrine of Con substantiation In 

either sense, in which the word Consubstantiation can be taken, 
the doctrine cannot, in any respect, be attributed to our Church ; 
it was always far from the mind of the Church^ 

Cotta (1779). In Gerhard's Loci, x. 165. " As our theo- 
logians reject Impanation, so also they reject the doctrine of 
Consubstantiation But in neither sense can that mon- 
strous dogma of Consubstantiation be attributed to our Church." 

Mosheim denies the charge, and the more modern Reinhard 
says : " Our Church has never taught that the emblems become 
one substance with the body and blood of Jesus, an opinion com- 
monly denominated Consubstantiation, " 

We might multiply testimonies of a similar kind from nearly 


every one of our eminent theologians who have written on the 
Lord's Supper. Even Calvinistic divines, such as Bucer, Mus- 
culus, Salmasius, Stapfer, Waterland, D'Aubigne, and others, 
declare that the charge is groundless.* 

Those who desire to push their researches into this subject 
more extensively are referred to Krauth's Conservative Reforma- 
tion, to which I am indebted for most of these citations. 

March, 1885. J. G. M. 

*The Evangelical Lutheran Church employs the term "Sacramental Pres- 
ence" to designate her doctrine of the real presence ot the body and blood of 
Christ in and with the elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, because 
that presence is .peculiar to the Sacrament, and because by that term she does 
not attempt nor intend to d dine, th s mil • of Christ's bodily pres shoe. 

The conception of the Roman Church, in regard to the bodily presence of 
Christ in the Lord's Supper, is that there is a Transubstantiation, or change of 
the substances ol the bread and wine into the substances of the body and blood 
of Christ : so that what is seen in the consecrated host, is not the substances of 
bread and wine, but only their accidents or properties. 

The conception which some in the Reformed Churches (Calvinists and Zwing- 
Iians) have of the Lutheran doctrine, and which they erroneously attribute to 
the Lutheran Church, is that there is a Oonsubstantiation, or mingling of the 
substances of the body and blood of Christ, with the substances of the bread 
and wine in the Lord's Supper, like a mixing of yeast with hour and honey with 
water; or.. as others conceive Of the real is an Impanation, t. «., a 
local inclusion of the body of Christ, like placing a stone in a loaf of bread. The 
Lutheran Church rejects these terms, and does not define the mode of Christ's 
presence in the Lord's Supper, because the mode is not defined in Scripture, and 
is incomprehensible. Nevertheless, she believes, confesses and teaches that 
there is a true and real presence of the glorified body and blood of Christ, in 
and with the Sacramental elements of bread and wine, as the words of institu- 
tion by Christ in the synoptical gospels affirm, "This is my body," "This is my 
blood." and reiterated by the Apostle. 1 Cor. x. 1(5 and xi. 24. 

The reader's attention is also called to the following remarks from Dr. 
Krauth's " Conservative Reformation," p. 5-10-1, in reference to a statement in 
the present translation of Luther's work on the Babylonish Captivity, p. 192, 
in which there seems to be a preference for immersion as a mode of Baptism : 

"In this book on the Babylonish Captivity, which appeared in 1520, he ex- 
pressly adds: 'Not that I think it (immersion) necessary,' ('iVon. quod neces- 
xttritnit urbitrcr.') But this claim of necessity, and this only, is the very heart of 
the baptist doctrine. The strongest expressions in favor of immersion occur in 
Luther's earliest works, and his maturer preference, as expressed in later 
works, seems to have been no less decided for pouring as an appropriate mode. 
Thus in his Commentary on Genesis, one of Ins latest and ripest works, he says : 
'The water which is poured (quae funditur) in Baptism is not the water given 
by God as the Creator, but given by Cod the Saviour."' Chap, xxviii. 

." Again," says Dr. Krauth, "we can give ample proof that ii Luther's mean- 
ing in 1519 implies the necessity of immersion, his opinion had undergone a 
total change before 1529, when the Larger Catechism, whose words are in 
question, was published." Cons, lief., p. 537. 



HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION. By Professor Buchheim . xxxix 




1. Dedicatory Letter . . . . . . . .17 

2. Introduction ......... 18 

3. The Three Walls of the Romanists ..... 20 

(a) That the Temporal Power has no Jurisdiction over 

the Spiritualty . . . . . . 21 

(b) That no one may interpret the Scriptures but the 

Pope 25 

(c) That no one may call a Council but the Pope . . 28 

4. Of the Matters to be considered in the Councils . . 31 

5. Twenty-seven Articles respecting the Reformation of the 

Christian Estate ........ 44 


1. Letter to Pope Leo X. ....... 95 

2. That a Christian man is the most free Lord of all, and 

subject to none ..... ... 104 

3. That a Christian man is the most dutiful Servant of all, 

and subject to every one. ...... 118 


1. Introduction ......... 141 

2. On the Lord's Supper ........ 148 

3. On Baptism .......... 182 

4. On Penance .......... 205 

5. On Confirmation . . , . . . . . .214 

6. On Matrimony ......... 215 

7. On Orders 227 

8. On Extreme Unction ........ 237 





By Dr. WACE 


The present publication is offered as a contribution to the due 
celebration in this country of the fourth Centenary of Luther's 
birth. Much has been written about him, and the general 
history of his life and work is being sketched by able pens. 
But no adequate attempt has yet been made to let him speak 
for himself to Englishmen by his greatest and most character- 
istic writings. The three works which, together with the 95 
Theses, are included in this volume, are well known in Germany 
as the Drei Grosse Reformations- Schr if ten, or " The Three 
Great Eeformation Treatises " of Luther ; but they seem never 
yet to have been brought in this character before the English 
public. The Treatise on Christian Liberty has indeed been 
previously translated, though not of late years. But from an 
examination of the catalogue in the British Museum, it would 
appear that no English translation is accessible, even if any 
has yet been published, of the Address to the German Nobility 
or of the Treatise on the Babylonish Captivity of the Church. 
Yet, as is well understood in Germany, it is in these that the 
whole genius of the Keformer appears in its most complete and 
energetic form. They are bound together in the closest 
dramatic unity. They were all three produced in the latter 
half of the critical year 1520, when nearly three years' 
controversy, since the publication of the Theses, on Oct. 31 
1517, had convinced Luther of the falseness of the Court 
of Kome, and the hollowness of its claims ; and they were 


immediately followed by the bull of excommunication in 
the winter of the same year, and the summons to the Diet of 
Worms in 1521. Luther felt, as he says at the commencement 
of his Address to the German Nobility, that " the time for silence 
had passed, and the time for speech had come." He evidently 
apprehended that reconciliation between himself and the Court 
of Borne was impossible ; and he appears to have made up his 
mind to clear his conscience, whatever the cost. Accordingly in 
these three works he spoke out with a full heart, and with the 
consciousness that his life was in his hand, the convictions 
which had been forced on him by the conduct of the Papacy 
and of the Papal theologians. 

Those convictions had been slowly, and even reluctantly, 
admitted ; but they had gradually accumulated in intense 
force in Luther's mind and conscience ; and when " the 
time for speech had come " they burst forth in a kind of 
volcanic eruption. Their maturity is proved by the com- 
pleteness and thoroughness with which the questions at issue 
are treated. An insight into the deepest theological prin- 
ciples is combined with the keenest apprehension of practical 
details. In the Treatise on Christian Liberty we have the most 
vivid of all embodiments of that life of Faith to which the 
Keformer recalled the Church and which was the mainspring 
of the Keformation. In the Appeal to the German Nobility 
he first asserted those rights of the laity, and of the temporal 
power, without the admission of which no reformation would have 
been practicable, and he then denounced with burning moral 
indignation the numerous and intolerable abuses which were up- 
held by Eoman authority. In the third Treatise, on the Baby- 
lonish Captivity of the Church, he applied the same cardinal 
principles to the elaborate Sacramental system of the Church 
of Borne, sweeping away by means of them the superstitions 
with which the original institutions of Christ had been overlaid, 
and thus releasing men's consciences from a vast network of 
ceremonial bondage. The rest of the Beformation, it is not too 


much to say, was but the application of the principles vindicated 
in these three works. They were applied in different countries 
with varying wisdom and moderation ; but nothing essential 
was added to them. Luther's genius — if a higher word be not 
justifiable — brought forth at one birth, " with hands and feet," 
to use his own image, and in full energy, the vital ideas by 
which Europe was to be regenerated. He was no mere 
negative controversialist, attacking particular errors in detail. 
His characteristic was the masculine grasp with which he 
seized essential and eternal truths, and by their central light 
dispersed the darkness in which men were groping. 

It occurred therefore to my colleague and myself that a per- 
manent service might perhaps be rendered to Luther's name, 
and towards a due appreciation of the principles of the Eeforma- 
tion, if these short but pregnant Treatises were made more ac- 
cessible to the English public ; and although they might well 
be left to speak for themselves, there may perhaps be some 
readers to whom a few explanatory observations on Luther's 
position, theologically and politically, will not be unacceptable. 
My colleague, in the Essay which follows this, has dealt with 
the political course of the Eeformation during his career ; and 
in the present remarks an endeavour will simply be made to 
indicate the nature and the bearings of the central principles 
of the Eeformer's life and work, as exhibited in the accompany- 
ing translations. 

It is by no mere accident of controversy that the Ninty-five 
Theses mark the starting-point of Luther's career as a reformer. 
The subject with which they dealt was not only in close connec- 
tion with the centre of Christian truth, but it touched the 
characteristic thought of the Middle Ages. From the beginning 
to the end, those ages had been a stern school of moral and 
religious discipline, under what was universally regarded as the 
divine authority of the Church. St. Anselm, with his intense 
apprehension of the divine righteousness, and of its inexorable 
demands, is at once the noblest and truest type of the great school 
of thought of which he was the founder. The special mission of 


the Church since the days of Gregory the Great had been to 
tame the fierce energies of the new barbarian world, and to 
bring the wild passions of the Teutonic races under the control 
of the Christian law. It was the task to which the necessities 
of the hour seemed to summon the Church, and she roused 
herself to the effort with magnificent devotion. Monks and 
Schoolmen performed prodigies of self-denial and self-sacrifice, 
in order to realise in themselves, and to impose as far as 
possible on the world at large, the laws of perfection which 
the Church held before their vision. The glorious cathedrals 
which arose in the best period of the Middle Ages are but the 
visible types of those splendid structures of ideal virtues, which 
a monk like St. Bernard, or a Schoolman like St. Thomas 
Aquinas, piled up by laborious thought and painful asceticism. 
Such men felt themselves at all times surrounded by a spiritual 
world, at once more glorious in its beauty and more awful in 
its terrors, than either the pleasures or the miseries of this 
world could adequately represent. The great poet of the 
Middle Ages affords perhaps the most vivid representation of 
their character in this respect. The horrible images of the 
Inferno, the keen sufferings of purification in the Purgatorio, 
form the terrible foreground behind which the Paradiso rises. 
Those visions of terror and dread and suffering had stamped 
themselves on the imagination of the medieval world, and lay at 
the root of the power with which the Church overshadowed it. 
In their origin they embodied a profound and noble truth. It 
was a high and divine conception that the moral and spiritual 
world with which we are encompassed has greater heights and 
lower depths than are generally apprehended in the visible expe- 
rience of this life ; and Dante has been felt to be in an unique 
degree the poet of righteousness. But it is evident, at the same 
time, what a terrible temptation was placed in the hands of a 
hierarchy who were believed, in whatever degree, to wield power 
over these spiritual realities. It was too easy to apply them, 
like the instruments of physical torture with which the age was 
familiar, to extort submission from tender consciences, or to 


make a bargain with selfish hearts. But in substance the 
menaces of the Church appealed to deep convictions of the human 
conscience, and the mass of men were not prepared to defy them. 
Now it was into this world of spiritual terrors that Luther 
was born, and he was in an eminent degree the legitimate 
child of the Middle Ages. The turning-point in his history is 
that the awful visions of which we have spoken, the dread of 
the Divine judgments, brought home to him by one of the 
solemn accidents of life, checked him in a career which promised 
all worldly prosperity, and drove him into a monastery. There, 
as he tells us, he was driven almost frantic by his vivid realiza- 
tion of the demands of the Divine righteousness on the one 
hand, and of his own incapacity to satisfy them on the other. 
With the intense reality characteristic of his nature he took 
in desperate earnest all that the traditional teaching and 
example of the Middle Ages had taught him of the unbending 
necessities of Divine justice. But for the very reason that 
he accepted those necessities with such earnestness, he did but 
realize the more completely the hopelessness of his struggles 
to bring himself into conformity with them. It was not ; 
because he was out of sympathy with St. Anselm or St. Bernard 
or Dante, that he burst the bonds of the system they represented ; 
but, on the contrary, because he entered even more deeply than 
they into the very truths they asserted. Nothing was more 
certain to him than that Divine justice is inexorable ; no con- 
viction was more deeply fixed in his heart than that righteous- 
ness is the supreme law of human life. But the more he realized 
the truth, the more terrible he found it, for it seemed to shut 
him up in a cruel prison, against the bars of which he beat 
himself in vain. In one of his most characteristic passages, in 
the Introduction to his Latin Works, he describes how he was 
repelled and appalled by the statement of St. Paul respecting 
the Gospel, that ' therein is the righteousness, or justice, of God 
revealed.' For, he says, 'however irreprehensible a life I had 
lived as a monk, I felt myself before God a sinner, with a most 
restless conscience, and I could not be confident that He was 


appeased by my satisfaction. I could not, therefore, love — nay, I 
hated — a God who was just and punished sinners ; and if not with 
silent blasphemy, certainly with vehement murmuring, I was 
indignant against God. As if, I said, it were not enough that 
sinners,' miserable and eternally ruined by original sin, should be 
crushed with all kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, but 
God by the Gospel must needs add grief to grief, and by the 
Gospel itself must inflict still further on us His justice and anger. 
I raged with this savage and disturbed conscience, and I knocked 
importunately at Paul in that place, with burning thirst to know 
what St. Paul could mean.' Such an experience is not a mere 
revolt against the Middle Ages. In great measure it is but the 
full realization of their truest teaching. It is Dante intensified, 
and carried to the inevitable development of his principles. 

But if this be the case, what it meant was that the Middle 
Ages had brought men to a deadlock. They had led men up 
to a gate so strait that no human soul could pass through it. 
In the struggle, men had devised the most elaborate forms of 
self- torture, and had made the most heroic sacrifices, and in the 
very desperation of their efforts they had anticipated the more 
vivid insight and experience of Luther. The effort, in fact, 
had been too much for human nature, and the end of it had 
been that the Church had condescended to human weakness. 
The most obvious and easy way out of the difficulty was to 
modify, by virtue of some dispensing authority, the extreme 
requirements of Divine justice, and by a variety of half-uncon- 
scious, half-acknowledged devices, to lessen the severity of the 
strait gate and of the narrow way. Such a power, as has been 
said, was an enormous temptation to unscrupulous Churchmen, 
and at length it led to the hideous abuses of such preaching 
of indulgences as that of Tetzel. In this form the matter 
came before Luther in his office as parish priest and confessor ; 
and it will be apparent from the Theses that what first revolts 
him is the violation involved of the deepest principles which the 
Church of his day had taught him. He had learned from it 
the inexorable character of the Divine law, the necessity and 


blessedness of the Divine discipline of punishment and suffering ; 
he had learned, as his first Thesis declares, that the law of 
Christian life is that of lifelong penitence ; and he denounced 
Tetzel's teaching as false to the Church herself, in full 
confidence that he would be supported by his ecclesiastical 
superiors. When he found that he was not — when, to his 
surprise and consternation, he found that the Papal theologians 
of the day, under the direct patronage of the Pope and the 
bishops, were ready to support the most flagrant evasions of 
the very principles on which their power had originally been 
based — then at length, though most reluctantly, he turned 
against them, and directed against the corrupted Church of the 
close of the Middle Ages the very principles he had learned 
from its best representatives and from its noblest institutions. 
Luther, in the course of his spiritual struggles, had found 
the true deliverance from what we have ventured to call that 
deadlock to which the grand vision of Divine righteousness 
had led him. He realised that the strait gate was impassable 
by any human virtue ; but he had found the solution in the 
promise of a supernatural deliverance which was offered to 
faith. To quote again his words in the preface to his Latin 
works already referred to : 'At length by the mercy of God, 
meditating days and nights, I observed the connection of the 
words namely " therein is the righteousness of God revealed 
from faith o faith, as it is written : The just shall live by 
faith." Th> I began to understand the justice of God to be 
tnat by whic.i the just man lives by the gift of God, namely, 
by faith, and. that the meaning was that the Gospel reveals 
that justice of God by which He justifies us beggars through 
faith, as it is written : " The just shall live by faith." Here I 
felt myself a solutely born again ; the gates of heaven were 
opened, and 1 lad entered paradise itself. From thenceforward 
the face of tin whole Scriptures appeared changed to me. I ran 
through the criptures, as my memory would serve me, and 
observed the same analogy in other words — as, the work of 
God, that is, I he work which God works in us ; the strength 


of God, that with which He makes us strong ; the wisdom 
of God, that with which He makes us wise; the power of God, 
the salvation of God, the glory of God. And now, as much as I 
had formerly hated that word, the Justice of God, so much did 
I now love it and extol it as the sweetest of words to me : and 
thus that place in Paul was to me truly the gate of paradise.' 
In other words, Luther had realised that the Gospel, while re- 
asserting the inexorable nature of the moral law, and deepening 
its demands, had revealed a supernatural and divine means of 
satisfying and fulfilling it. All barriers had thus been removed 
between God and man, and men had been placed in the position 
of children living by Faith on His grace and bounty. He offers 
to bestow upon them the very righteousness He requires from them, 
if they will but accept it at His hands as a free gift. Their 
true position is no longer that of mere subjects living under a 
law which they must obey at their peril. They may, indeed, by 
their own act remain in that condition, with all its terrible 
consequences. But God invites them to regard Him as their 
Father, to live in the light of His countenance, and to receive 
from Him the daily food of their souls. The most intimate 
personal relation is thus established between Himself and them ; 
and the righteousness which they could never acquire by their 
own efforts He is ready to create in them if they will but live with 
Him in faith and trust. That faith, indeed, must needs be the 
beginning, and the most essential condition, of this Divine life. 
Faith is the first condition of all fellowship between persons ; 
and if a man is to live in personal fellowship with God, he must 
trust Him absolutely, believe His promises, and rest his whole 
existence, here and hereafter, upon His word. But tat a man do 
this, and then God's law ceases to be like a flaming sword, turning 
every way, with too fierce an edge for human hearts to bear. It 
assumes the benignant glow of a revelation of perfect righteous- 
ness which God Himself will bestow on all who ask it at His hands. 
This belief is essentially bound up with a distinction on 
which great stress is laid in the Theses. It touches a point at 
once of the highest theological import, and of the simplest 


practical experience. This is the distinction between guilt and 
punishment ; or, in other words, between personal forgiveness, 
and the remission of the consequences of sins. In our mutual 
relations, a son may be forgiven by his father, a wrongdoer by 
the person whom he has injured, and yet it may neither be 
possible nor desirable that the offender should be at once 
released from the consequences of his offence. But for all 
generous hearts, the personal forgiveness is infinitely more 
precious than the remission of the penalty, and Luther had 
learned from the Scriptures to regard our relation to God in a 
similar light. He realized that he must live, here and hereafter, 
in personal relationship to God ; and the forgiveness of God, the 
removal from him, in God's sight, of the imputation and the 
brand of guilt, his reception into God's unclouded favour — this 
was the supreme necessity of his spiritual existence. If this 
were assured to him, not only had he no fear of punishment, but 
he could welcome it, whatever its severity, as part of the 
discipline of the divine and loving hand to which he had trusted 
himself. His deepest indignation, consequently, was aroused by 
preaching which, under official sanction, urged men to buy in- 
dulgence from punishment, of whatever kind, as practically the 
greatest spiritual benefit they could obtain ; and he devoted his 
whole energy to assert the supreme blessing of that remission 
from guilt, of which the preachers of indulgences said practi- 
cally nothing. It is this remission of guilt, this personal 
forgiveness, which is the essential element in the justification 
of which he spoke. It involves of course salvation from the 
final ruin and doom which sin, and the moral corruption of our 
nature, would naturally entail ; but its chief virtue does not 
consist in deliverance from punishment, nor does it in any way 
derogate from the truth that " we must all appear before the 
judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things 
done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be 
good or bad." What it taught men was to accept all God's 
judgments and discipline in perfect peace of soul, as being 
assured of His love and favour. 


xviii LUTHER S 

No divine, in fact, has ever dwelt with more intense con- 
viction on the blessedness of the discipline of suffering and 
of the Cross. The closing Theses express his deepest feelings 
in this respect, and a passage in one of his letters, written he- 
fore the controversy . about Indulgences had arisen, affords a 
most interesting illustration of the manner in which the 
principles he came forward to assert had grown out of his 
personal experience. " Away," he says, in the 92nd and 
93rd Theses, " with all those prophets who say to the people 
of Christ, ' Peace, peace,' and there is no peace. Blessed be 
all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ' The 
Cross, the Cross,' and there is no Cross." These somewhat 
enigmatic expressions are at once explained in the letter re- 
ferred to, written to a Prior of the Augustinian order, on the 
22nd of June, 1516. 1 He says :— 

" You are seeking and craving for peace, but in the wrong 
order. For you are seeking it as the world giveth, not as Christ 
giveth. Know you not that God is ' wonderful among His 
saints,' for this reason, that He establishes His peace in the 
midst of no peace, that is, of all temptations and afflictions.' It 
is said ' Thou shalt dwell in the midst of thine enemies.' The 
man who possesses peace is not the man whom no one disturbs 
— that is the peace of the world ; he is the man whom all men 
and all things disturb, but who bears all patiently, and with 
joy. You are saying with Israel, 'Peace, peace,' and there 
is no peace. Learn to say rather with Christ : ' The Cross, 
the Cross,' and there is no Cross. For the Cross at once 
ceases to be the Cross as soon as you have joyfully exclaimed, 
in the language of the hymn, 

" ' Blessed Cross, above all other, 
One and only noble tree.' " 

One other extract of the same import it may be well to 
quote from these early letters, as it is similarly the germ of one 
of the noblest passages in Luther's subsequent explanation of 
1 Letters, editeil by De Wette, i. 27. 


the Ninety-five Theses. 1 The letter was addressed to a brother 
Augustinian on the 15th of April, 1516. Luther says: — 

" The cross of Christ has been divided throughout the whole 
world, and every one meets with his own portion of it. Do 
not you therefore reject it, but rather accept it as the most 
holy relic, to be kept, not in a gold or silver chest, but in a 
golden heart, that is, a heart imbued with gentle charity. For 
if, by contact with the flesh and blood of Christ, the wood of 
the Cross received such consecration that its relics are deemed 
supremely precious, how much more should injuries, persecu- 
tions, sufferings and the hatred of men, whether of the just or 
of the unjust, be regarded as the most sacred of all relics — 
relics which, not by the mere touch of His flesh, but by the 
charity of His most bitterly tried heart and of His divine 
will, were embraced, kissed, blessed, and abundantly con- 
secrated ; for thus was a curse transformed into a blessing, 
and injury into justice, and passion into glory, and the Cross 
into joy." 2 

The few letters, in fact, in our possession, written by 
Luther before he came forward in 1517, are sufficient to 
afford the most vivid proof both of the mature thought and 
experience in which his convictions were rooted, and of their 
being prompted, not by the spirit of reckless confidence to 
which they have sometimes been ignorantly ascribed, but by 
the deepest sympathy with the lessons of the Cross. The 
purport of his characteristic doctrine of justification by faith 
was not to give men the assurance of immunity from suffering 
and sorrow, as the consequence of sin, but to give them peace 
of conscience and joy of heart in the midst'of such punishments. 

1 It is a pleasure to be able to refer for this passage to the first volume of the 
new Critical Edition of Luther's works, just published in Germany, page 613, 
line 21. This magnificent edition, prepared under the patronage of the 
German Emperor, is the best of all contributions to the present Commemora- 
tion. It must supersede all other editions, and it ought to find a place in all 
considerable libraries in England. A translation of the passage in question 
will be found in the Bampton Lectures of the present writer, p. 186. 

2 Letters, edited by De Wette, i. p. 19. 

b 2 


What it proclaimed was that, if men would but believe it, they 
could at any moment grasp God's forgiveness, and live hence- 
forth in the assured happiness of His personal favour and love. 
Of this blessing His promise was the only possible warrant, 
and like all other promises, it could only be accepted by Faith. 
Every man is invited to believe it, since it is offered to all for 
Christ's sake ; but by the nature of the case, none can enjoy it 
who do not believe it. 

The ground, however, on which this promise was based 
affords another striking illustration of the way in which 
Luther's teaching was connected with that of the Middle Age. 
Together with that keen apprehension of the divine judgments 
and of human sin just mentioned, the awful vision of our 
Lord's sufferings and of His atonement overshadowed the 
whole thought of those times. St. Anselm, in the Cur Deiis 
Homo, had aroused deeper meditation on this subject than had 
before been bestowed upon it ; and in this, as in other matters, 
he is the type of the grand school of thought which he founded. 
As in his mind, so throughout the Middle Age, in proportion 
to the apprehension of the terrible nature of the Divine justice, 
is the prominence given to the sacrificial means for averting 
the Divine wrath. The innumerable Masses of the later 
Middle Ages were so many confessions of the deep-felt need of 
atonement ; and formal as they ultimately became, they were 
in intention so many cries for forgiveness from the terror- 
struck consciences of sinful men and women. Luther was 
a true child of the Church in his deep apprehension of the 
same need, and it was precisely because he realised it with 
exceptional truth and depth that he was forced to seek some 
deeper satisfaction than the offering of Masses could afford. 
He reasserted the truth that the need had been met and 
answered once for all by the Sacrifice on the Cross ; and by 
proclaiming the sufficiency of that one eternal offering he 
swept away all the " Sacrifices of Masses," while at the same 
time he provided the answer to the craving to which they 
testified. The doctrine of the Atonement, as asserted at the 


Reformation, is the true answer to that cry of the human 
conscience which the Church of the preceding age had vainly 
endeavoured to satisfy. The Sacrament, of which the Mass was 
a perversion, was thus restored to its true character on a 
pledge and an instrument of blessings bestowed by God, instead 
of a propitiatory offering on the part of men. The Cross of 
Christ, the favourite symbol of the mediaeval Church, was thus 
held aloft by the Reformer in still deeper reality, as the central 
symbol of the Church's message, and as the one adequate 
ground for the faith to which he called men. 

Now the view of the Christian life involved in this principle 
of Justification by Faith found its most comj)lete and beautiful 
expression in the Treatise " On Christian Liberty," translated 
in this volume ; and a brief notice of the teaching of that 
treatise will best serve to explain the connection between 
Luther's cardinal doctrine and the other principles which he 
asserted. As is explained at the close of the introductory 
letter to Leo X. (p. 101), he designed it as a kind of peace- 
offering to the Pope, and as a declaration of the sole objects he 
had at heart, and to which he desired to devote his life. " It 
is a small matter," he says, " if you look to its bulk, but unless 
I mistake, it is a summary of the Christian life in small 
compass, if you apprehend its meaning." In fact, it presents 
the most complete view of Luther's theology, alike in its 
principles and in its practice, almost entirely disembarrassed 
of the controversial elements by which, under the inevitable 
pressure of circumstances, his other works, and especially 
those of a later date, were disturbed. Perhaps the only part 
of his works to compare with it in this respect is the precious 
collection of his House-postills, or Exposition of the Gospels for 
the Sundays of the Christian Year. They were delivered 
within his domestic circle, and recorded by two of his pupils, 
and though but imperfectly reported, they are treasures of 
Evangelical exposition, exhibiting in a rare degree the 
exquisitely childlike character of the Reformer's faith, and 
marked by all the simplicity and the poetry of feeling by 

xxii LUTHER S 

which his mind was distinguished. It is by such" works as 
these, and not simply by his controversial treatises or com- 
mentaries, that Luther must be judged, if we wish either to 
understand his inner character, or to comprehend the vast 
personal influence he exerted. But in its essence, the Gospel 
which he preached, the substance of what he had learned from 
the temptations, the prayers, the meditations — tentationes, 
orationes, meditationes — of his life as a monk, is sufficiently 
embodied in the short Treatise on Christian Liberty. 

The argument of the Treatise is summed up, with the anti- 
thetical force so often characteristic of great genius, in the two 
propositions laid down at the outset. " A Christian man is 
the most free lord of all and subject to none : A Christian 
man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every 
one." The first of these propositions expresses the practical 
result of the doctrine of Justification by Faith. The Christian 
is in possession of a promise of God, which in itself, and in the 
assurance it involves, is a greater blessing to him than all 
other privileges or enjoyments whatever. Everything sinks 
into insignificance compared with this word and Gospel. " Let 
us," he says, " hold it for certain and firmly established that 
the soul can do without everything except the word of God, 
without which none of its wants are provided for. But, having 
the word, it is rich and wants for nothing, since it is the 
word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of 
salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of 
glory, and of every good thing." If it be asked, " What is this 
word ? " he answers that the Apostle Paul explains it, namely 
that " it is the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, 
suffering, risen, and glorified through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. 
To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, 
and to save it, if it believes the preaching . . . For the word of 
God cannot be received and honoured by any works, but by 
Faith alone." This is the cardinal point around which not 
merely Luther's theology, but his whole life turns. God had 
descended into the world, spoken to him by His Son, His 


Apostles, the Scriptures, and the voice of the Church, and 
promised him forgiveness in the present, and final deliverance 
from his evil in the future, if he would but trust Him. The 
mere possession of such a promise outweighed in Luther's view 
all other considerations whatever, and absolute faith was due to 
it. No higher offence could be offered to God than to reject or 
doubt His promise, and at the same time no higher honour 
could be rendered Him than to believe it. The importance and 
value of the virtue of Faith is thus determined entirely by the 
promise on which it rests. These " promises of God are words 
of holiness, truth, righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are 
full of universal goodness, and the soul which cleaves to them 
with a firm faith is so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed 
by them, that it not only partakes in, but is penetrated and 
saturated by all their virtue. For if the touch of Christ was 
health, how much more does that most tender spiritual touch, 
nay, absorption of the word, communicate to the soul all 
that belongs to the word ? In this way, therefore, the soul 
through faith alone, without works, is by the word of God 
justified, sanctified, endued with truth, peace, and liberty, and 
filled full with every good thing, and is truly made the child of 
God ... As is the word, such is the soul made by it ; just as 
iron exposed to fire glows like fire on account of its union with 
the fire." Moreover, just as it is faith which unites husband 
and wife, so faith in Christ unites the soul to Him in indisso- 
luble union. For " if a true marriage, nay, by far the most 
perfect of all marriages, is accomplished between them — for 
human marriages are but feeble types of this one great 
marriage— then it follows that all they have becomes theirs 
in common, as well good things as evil things ; so that whatso- 
ever Christ possesses, the believing soul may take to itself and 
boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, Christ 
claims as his . . . Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its 
faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe 
from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life and 
salvation of its husband Christ." 

xxiv LUTHER S 

It is esseutial to dwell upon these passages, since, the force of 
the Eeformer's great doctrine cannot possibly be apprehended 
as long as he is supposed to attribute the efficacy of which he 
speaks to any inherent quality in the human heart itself. It 
is the word and promise of God which is the creative force. 
But this summons a man into a sphere above this world, bids 
him rest upon the divine love which speaks to him, and places 
him on the eternal foundation of a direct covenant with God 
Himself in Christ. As in the Theses, so in this Treatise, 
Luther reiterates that it in no way implies exemption from 
the discipline of suffering. " Yea," he says, " the more of a 
Christian any man is, to so many the more evils, sufferings, and 
deaths is he subject ; as we see in the first place in Christ the 
first-born and in all His holy brethren." The power of which 
he speaks is a spiritual one " which rules in the midst of 
enemies, in the midst of distresses. It is nothing else than that 
strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that I can turn 
all things to the profit of my salvation ; so that even the cross 
and death are compelled to serve me and to work together for 
my salvation." " It is a lofty and eminent dignity, a true and 
Almighty dominion, a spiritual empire in which there is nothing 
so good, nothing so bad, as not to work together for my good, 
if only I believe." 

If we compare this language with those conceptions of 
spiritual terror by which Luther had been driven into a 
monastery, and under which, like so many in his age, he had 
groaned and struggled in despair, we can appreciate the 
immense deliverance which he had experienced. The Divine 
promise had lifted him " out of darkness and out of the shadow 
of death, and had broken his bonds in sunder." It is this which 
is the source of the undaunted and joyful faith which marks 
the whole of the Eeformer's public career. " Whose heart," 
he exclaims, " would not rejoice in its inmost core at hearing 
these things ? Whose heart, on receiving so great a consola- 
tion, would not become sweet with the love of Christ : a love 
to which it can never attain by any laws or works ? Who 


can injure such a heart, or make it afraid ? If the conscious- 
ness of sin, or the horror of death rush in upon it, it is pre- 
pared to hope in the Lord, and is fearless of these evils and 
undisturbed, until it shall look down upon its enemies." Such 
a conviction, uttered in such burning language, lifted the same 
cloud of darkness and fear from the hearts of the common 
people of that day, and was welcomed as good tidings of great 
joy by multitudes of burdened and terror-stricken hearts. No- 
thing is more characteristic of Luther's preaching, and of the 
Reformers who follow him, than the sense they display that 
they have before them souls " weary and heavy-laden." Their 
language presupposes the prevalence of that atmosphere of 
spiritual apprehension and gloom already described, and their 
grand aim is to lead men out of it into the joy and peace and 
liberty of the Gospel. The consequence is that a new confi- 
dence, hope and energy is infused into the moral and spiritual 
world of that day. The tone of unbounded joy and hope which 
marks the earliest Christian literature, particularly in the 
Apostolic Fathers, re-appears in such a Treatise as we are 
considering, and in the whole religious thought of the Re- 
formers ; and it would almost seem as if the long agony of the 
Middle Ages had but enhanced the joy of the final deliver- 

It is unnecessary, for our present purpose, to dwell long 
upon the second point of the Treatise, in which Luther illus- 
trates his second proposition that " a Christian man is the 
most dutiful servant of all and subject to every one." It will 
be enough to observe that Luther is just as earnest in insist- 
ing upon the application of faith in the duties of charity and 
self-discipline as upon the primary importance of faith itself. 
The spirit of faith, he says, " applies itself with cheerfulness 
and zeal " to restrain and repress the impulses of the lower 
nature. " Here works begin ; here a man must not take his 
ease ; here he must give heed to exercise his body by fastings, 
watchings, labour, and other reasonable discipline, so that it 
may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the 

xxvi LUTHER S 

inner man and to faith." Similarly, he will give himself up to 
the service of others, and it is partly with a view to rendering 
them such service that he will discipline his body and keep it 
in due energy and soundness. He starts from the belief that 
God, without merit on his part, has of his pure and free mercy 
bestowed on him, an unworthy creature, all the riches of 
justification and salvation in Christ, so that he is no longer in 
want of anything except of faith to believe that this is so. 
For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed him with 
these inestimable riches of His, must he not freely, cheer- 
fully, and from voluntary zeal, do all that he knows will be 
pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight ? "I will, there- 
fore," he says, " give myself as a sort of Christ to my neighbour, 
as Christ has given Himself to me ; and will do nothing in this 
life except what I see will be needful, advantageous and whole- 
some for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good 
things in Christ." These practical considerations will afford the 
measure by which a man determines the discipline to which he 
subjects himself, and the ceremonies which he observes. They 
will not be observed for their own sake, but as means to an 
end, and therefore will never be practised in excess, as though 
there were some merit in the performance of them. They are 
like the scaffoldings of builders, valuable only as a temporary 
assistance, in the construction of the building itself. " We 
do not condemn works and ceremonies ; nay, we set the highest 
value on them. We only condemn that opinion of works which 
regards them as constituting true righteousness." In asserting 
these principles, Luther was certainly putting the axe to the 
root of the portentous growth of ascetic and ceremonial observ- 
ances which prevailed in his day, and which were too generally 
regarded as of the very essence of religion. He enabled men, as 
it were, to look on such ceremonies from the outside, as a thing 
external to them, and to reduce or rearrange them with a 
simple view to practical usefulness. But no more earnest exhor- 
tations to due self-discipline, and to true charity, could well be 
found than are contained in the second part of the De Libertate 


It will be evident, however, what a powerful instrument of 
reformation was placed in men's hands by the principles of this 
Treatise. Every Christian man, by virtue of the promise of 
Christ, was proclaimed free, so far as the eternal necessities of 
his soul were concerned, from all external and human condi- 
tions whatever. Nothing, indeed, was further from Luther's 
intention or inclination than the overthrow of existing order, 
or the disparagement of any existing authority which could be 
reasonably justified. His letter to Pope Leo, prefixed to the 
Treatise we have been considering, shows that while denounc- 
ing unsparingly the abuses of the Court of Kome, he was 
sincere in his deference to the See of Kome itself. But the 
principle of justification enabled him to proclaim that if that 
See or any existing Church authority, misused its power, and 
refused to reform abuses, then, in the last resort, the soul of man 
could do without it. In that day at all events — and perhaps 
in our own to a greater extent than is sometimes supposed — this 
conviction supplied the fulcrum which was essential for any 
effectual reforming movement. As is observed by the Church 
historian Gieseler, in his admirable account of the early history 
of the Eeformation, the Papacy had ever found its strongest 
support in the people at large. In spite of all the discontent 
and disgust provoked by the corruption of the Church and 
the clergy, an enormous though indefinite authority was still 
popularly attributed to the Pope and the ecclesiastical hie- 
rarchy. The Pope was believed to be in some sense or other 
the supreme administrator of spiritual powers which were 
effectual in the next world as well as in the present ; and 
consequently when any controversy with the Church came 
to a crisis, men shrank from direct defiance of the Papal 
authority. They did not feel that they had any firm ground 
on which they could stand if they incurred its formal con- 
demnation; and thus it always had at its command, in the 
strongest possible sense, the ultima ratio of rulers. The con- 
victions to which Luther had been led at once annihilated 
these pretensions. " One thing and one alone," he declared, 

xxviii LUTHER'S 

" is necessary for life, justification and Christian liberty, and 
that is, the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ." As 
we have seen, he proclaimed it " for certain, and firmly estab- 
lished, that the soul can do without everything except the word 
of God." It is the mission of the Christian ministry, in its 
administration of the Word and Sacraments, to convey this 
Gospel to the soul, and to arouse a corresponding faith. But 
the promise is not annexed indissolubly to that administration, 
and the only invariable rule of salvation is that " the just 
shall live by faith." By this principle, that vague fear of 
the spiritual powers of the hierarchy was removed, and men 
were endowed with real Christian liberty. 

But the principle went still further; for it vindicated for 
the laity the possession of spiritual faculties and powers the 
same in kind as those of the clergy. All Christian men are 
admitted to the privilege of priesthood, and are "worthy to 
appear before God to pray for others, and to teach one another 
mutually the things which are of God." In case of necessity, 
as is universally recognized, Baptism can be validly administered 
by lay hands, and English Divines, of the most unimpeachable 
authority on the subject, have similarly recognized that the 
valid administration of the Holy Communion is not dependent 
on the ordination of the minister by Episcopal authority. 1 
Luther urges accordingly that all Christians possess virtually 
the capacities which, as a matter of order, are commonly 
restricted to the clergy. Whether that restriction is properly 
dependent upon regular devolution from Apostolic authority, or 
whether the ministerial commission can be sufficiently conferred 
by appointment from the Christian community or congregation 
as a whole, becomes on this principle a secondary point. 
Luther pronounced with the utmost decision in favour of the 
latter alternative ; but the essential element of his teaching is 
independent of this question. By whatever right the exercise 
of the ministry may be restricted to a particular body of men, 

1 See, for instance, Bp. Cosin's Works, Appendix, vol. L, 31, in the 
Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. 


what lie asserted was that the functions of the clergy are 
simply ministerial, and that they do but exercise, on behalf of 
all, powers which all virtually possess. This principle Luther 
proceeded to assert in the first of the Treatises translated in this 
volume, the " Address to the Christian Nobility of the German 
Nation respecting the Eeformation of the Christian Estate." 
This Treatise is perhaps the one which appealed most widely 
and directly to the German nation at large. Luther completed 
it at the very moment when the Bull of excommunication 
against him was being prepared, and it contributed, perhaps 
more than anything, to paralyze the influence of that 
Bull with the mass of the people and their lay leaders. It 
appeared in August, 1520, and by the 18th of that month 
more than four thousand copies had been already dispersed — a 
prodigious circulation, considering the state of literature at 
that day. The reader, however, will not be surprised at this 
popularity of the Treatise when he sees with what astonishing 
vigour, frankness, humour, good sense, and at the same time 
intense moral indignation, Luther denounces in it the corrup- 
tions of the Church, and the injuries inflicted by the Court of 
Borne on the German people. So tremendous an indictment, 
sustained with such intense and concentrated force, could 
hardly be paralleled in literature. The truth of the charges 
alleged in it could be amply sustained by reference to 
Erasmus's works alone, particularly to the Encomium Morise ; 
but Erasmus lacked alike the moral energy necessary to rouse 
the action of the laity, and the spiritual insight necessary to 
justify that action. Luther possessed both ; and it was the 
combination of the two which rendered him so mighty a force. 
It is this perhaps which essentially distinguishes him from 
previous reformers. They attacked particular errors and 
abuses, and deserve unbounded honour for the protests they 
raised, and Wycliff in particular merits the homage of English- 
men as one of the chief motive powers in the first reforming 
movement. But they did not assert, at least with sufficient 
clearness, the central principle without which all reform was 


impracticable — that of the equal rights of laity and clergy, and 
of the soul's independence of all human power, by virtue of the 
truth of Justification by Faith. Luther's doctrine of Christian 
liberty was the emancipation alike of individuals and of the 
laity at large. It vindicated for the whole lay estate, and for all 
ranks and conditions of lay life, a spiritual dignity, and a place in 
the spiritual life of the Church. It restored a sense of indepen- 
dent responsibility to all natural authorities ; and it reasserted 
the sacredness of all natural relations. Practically, even if not 
theoretically, the Eoman system had disparaged the ordinary 
relations of life as compared with the so-called " religious " or 
ecclesiastical. Luther, by placing all men and women on the 
same spiritual standing ground, swept away any such privileges ; 
and gave men as clear a conscience, and as great a sense of spiritual 
dignity, in the ordinary duties of marriage, of fatherhood, and 
in the common offices of life, as in any ecclesiastical order. 

The " Address to the Nobility of the German Nation " 
exhibits these principles, and their application to the practical 
problems of the day, in the most vigorous and popular form ; 
and if some expressions appear too sweeping and violent, due 
allowance must be made for the necessity which Luther must 
have felt of appealing with the utmost breadth and force to 
the popular mind. But it remains to consider a further aspect 
of these principles which is illustrated by the third Treatise 
translated in this volume — that on the "Babylonish Captivity 
of the Church." Luther, as has been seen, was appealing to 
laity and clergy alike, on the ground of their spiritual freedom, 
to abolish the abuses of the Soman Church. But it became at 
once a momentous question by what principles the exercise of 
that liberty was to be guided, and within what limits it was to 
be exerted. In a very short time fanatics sprung up, who 
claimed to exercise such liberty without any restrictions at all, 
and who refused to recognize any standard but that of their 
own supposed inspiration. But the service which Luther 
rendered in repelling such abuses of his great doctrine was 
only second to that of establishing the doctrine itself. The 


rule of faith and practice on which he insisted was indeed 
necessarily involved in his primary principle. Faith, as has 
been seen, was with him no abstract quality, but was simply a 
response to the word and promise of God. That word, accord- 
ingly, in its various forms, was in Luther's mind the sole 
creative power of the Christian life. In the form of a simple 
promise, it is the basis of justification and of our whole 
spiritual existence""; and similarly in its more general form, as 
recorded in the Holy Scriptures, it contains all truths, alike of 
belief and of practice, which are essential to salvation here and 
hereafter. The word of God, in whatever form, whether a 
simple promise, or a promise embodied in a Sacrament, or a 
series of revelations made by God's Spirit to the soul of man, as 
recorded in the Bible, is the grand reality which, in Luther's view, 
dwarfed all other realities on earth. It must needs do so, if it 
be a reality at all ; but no one has ever grasped this truth with 
such intense insight as Luther. Consequently, in his view, the 
Anabaptist, who held himself emancipated from the authority 
of God's word on the one side, was as grievously in error as the 
Komanist on the other, who superseded its authority by that of 
the Church ; and in applying his great principle and working out 
the Keformation, Luther's task consisted in upholding the due 
authority of the Scriptures against the extremes on both sides. 
Now in the Treatise on the Babylonish Captivity of , the 
Church he applies this rule, in connection with his main 
principle, to the elaborate sacramental system of the Church 
of Kome. Of the seven sacraments recognised by that church, 
he recognizes, strictly speaking, only two, Baptism and the 
Lord's Supper ; and the connection of this conclusion with the 
central truth he was asserting is a point of deep interest. 
Here, too, the one consideration which overpowers every other 
in his view is the supreme import of a promise or word of God. 
But there are two institutions under the Gospel which are 
distinguished from all others by a visible sign, instituted by 
Christ Himself, as a pledge of the Divine promise. A sign so 
instituted, and with such a purpose, constituted a peculiarly 

xxxii LUTHER'S 

precious form of those Divine promises which are the life of the 
soul : and for the same reason that the Divine word and the 
Divine promise are supreme in all other instances, so must 
these be supreme and unique among ceremonies. The distinc- 
tion, by which the two Sarcaments acknowledged by the Be- 
formed Churches are separated from the remaining five of the 
Roman Church, is thus no question of names but of things. It 
was a question whether a ceremony instituted by Christ's own 
command, and embodying His own promise in a visible pledge, 
could for a moment be put on the same level with ceremonies, 
however edifying, which had been established solely by the 
authority or custom of the Church. It was of the essence of 
Luther's teaching to assert a paramount distinction between 
these classes of ceremonies and to elevate the two Divine 
pledges of forgiveness and spiritual life to a height im- 
measurably superior to all other institutions. He hesitates, 
indeed, whether to allow an exception in favour of Absolution, 
as conveying undoubtedly a direct promise from Christ ; but he 
finally decides against it, on the ground that it is without any 
/ visible and divinely appointed sign, and is after all only an 
application of the Sacrament of Baptism. 

If, moreover, the force of his argument on this subject is to 
be apprehended, due attention must be paid to the efficacy 
which he thus attributes to the two Sacraments. The cardinal 
point on which he insists in respect to them is that they are 
direct pledges from God, through Christ, and thus contain the 
whole virtue of the most solemn Divine promises. They are, 
as it were, the sign and seal of those promises. They are 
messages from God, not mere acts of devotion on the part of 
man. In Baptism the point of importance is not that men 
dedicate themselves or their children to Him, but that He, 
through His minister, gives them a promise and a pledge of 
His forgiveness, and of His Fatherly good will. Similarly in 
the Holy Communion the most important point is not the 
offering made on the part of man, but the promise and 
assurance of communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, 


made on the part of God. It is this which constitutes the 
radical distinction between the Lutheran and the so-called 
Zwinglian view of the Sacraments. Under the latter view 
they are ceremonies which embody and arouse due feelings on 
the part of men. On the former principle, they are ceremonies 
which embody direct messages and promises from Grod. 

It may be worth while to observe in passing the position 
which Luther assumes towards the doctrine of Transubstan- 
tiation. What he is concerned to maintain is that there is a 
Keal Presence in the Sacrament. All he is concerned to deny 
is that Transubstantiation is the necessary explanation of that 
Presence. In other words, it is not necessary to believe in 
Transubstantiation in order to believe in the Eeal Presence. 
There seems a clear distinction between this view and the 
formal doctrine of Consubstantiation as afterwards elaborated 
by Lutheran divines ; and Luther's caution, at least in this 
Treatise, in dealing with so difficult a point, is eminently 
characteristic of the real moderation with which he formed his 
views, as distinguished from the energy with which he asserted 
them. Another interesting point in this Treatise is the 
urgency with which he protests against the artificial restraints 
upon the freedom of marriage which had been imposed by the 
Eoman See. It would have been too much to expect that in 
applying, single-handed, to so difficult a subject as marriage, 
the rule of rejecting every restriction not expressly declared 
in the Scriptures, Luther should have avoided mistakes. 
But they are at least insignificant in comparison with the 
value of the principle he asserted, that all questions of the 
marriage relation should be subjected to the authority of 
Holy Scripture alone. That principle provided, by its inherent 
force, a remedy for any errors in particulars which Luther or any 
individual divine might commit. The Eoman principle, on the 
contrary, admitted of the most scandalous and unlimited elasti- 
city ; and of all the charges brought by Eoman controversialists 
against Luther's conduct, none is marked by such effrontery as 
their accusations on this point. While there are few dispensa- 


xxxiv LUTHER S 

tions which their Church is not prepared, for what it considers 
due causes, to allow, Luther recalled men's consciences to the 
Divine law on the subject. He reasserted the true dignity 
and sanctity of the marriage relation, and established the 
rule of Holy Scripture as the standard for its due control. 

Such are the main truths asserted in the Treatises translated 
in this volume, and it is but recognising an historical fact to 
designate them " First Principles of the Eeformation." From 
them, and by means of them, the whole of the subsequent move- 
ment was worked out. They were applied in different countries 
in different ways ; and we are justly proud in this country of the 
wisdom and moderation exhibited by our Eeformers. But it 
ought never to be forgotten that for the assertion of the 
principles themselves, we, like the rest of Europe, are in- 
debted to the genius and the courage of Luther. All of 
those principles — Justification by Faith, Christian Liberty, 
the spiritual rights and powers of the Laity, the true character 
of the Sacraments, the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures 
as the supreme standard of belief and practice — were asserted 
by the Eeformer, as the Treatises in this volume bear 
testimony, almost simultaneously, in the latter half of the 
year 1520. At the time he asserted them, the Eoman Church 
was still in full power; and the year after he had to face 
the whole authority of the Papacy and of the Empire, and 
to decide whether, at the risk of a fate like that of Huss, 
he would stand by these truths. These were the truths — 
the cardinal principles of the whole subsequent Eeformation, 
which he was called on to abandon at Worms ; and his 
refusal to act against his conscience at once translated 
them into vivid action and reality. It was one thing for 
Englishmen, several decades after 1520, to apply these prin- 
ciples with the wisdom and moderation of which we are 
proud. It was another thing to be the Horatius of that vital 
struggle. These grand facts speak for themselves, and need only 
to be understood in order to justify the unprecedented honours 
now being paid to the Eeformer's memory. 


It may not, however, be out of place to dwell in conclusion 
upon one essential characteristic of the Keformer's position, 
which is in danger at the present day of being disregarded. The 
general effect of this teaching upon the condition of the world 
is evident. It restored to the people at large, to rulers and 
to ruled, to clergy and laity alike, complete independence of 
the existing ecclesiastical system, within the limits of the 
revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures. In a word, in 
Luther's own phrase, it established Christian Liberty. But 
the qualification is emphatic, and it would be wholly to mis- 
understand Luther if it were disregarded. Attempts are made 
at the present day to represent him as a pioneer of absolute 
liberty, and to treat it as a mere accident of his teaching and 
his system that he stopped short where he did. But on the 
contrary, the limitation is of the very essence of his teaching, 
because that teaching is based on the supremacy and suffi- 
ciency of the Divine word and the Divine promise. If there 
were no such word and promise, no such Divine revelation, 
and no living God to bring it home to men's hearts, and to 
enforce His own laws, Luther felt that his protest against 
existing authority, usurped and tyrannical as it might be, 
would have been perilous in the extreme. But when men 
shrank from the boldness of his proclamation, and urged that 
he was overthrowing the foundations of Society, his reply was 
that he was recalling them to the true foundations of Society, 
and that God, if they would have faith in Him, would protect 
His own word and will. The very essence of his teaching is 
summed up in the lines of his great Psalm : 

" Das Wort sie sollen lassen stakn, 
Und kein Dank dazu kaben, 
Er ist bei uns wokl auf dem Plan 
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben." 

Luther believed that God had laid down the laws which were 
essential to the due guidance of human nature, that he had 
prescribed sufficiently the limits within which that nature 
might range, and had indicated the trees of which it could 

c 2 


not safely eat. To erect any rules beyond these as of 
general obligation, to restrict the free play of nature 
by any other limitations, he treated as an unjust violation 
of liberty, which would provoke a dangerous reaction. But 
let men be brought face to face with God, and with His reason- 
able and merciful laws, let them be taught that He is their 
Father, that all His restrictions are for their benefit, all 
His punishments for their reformation, all His restraints on 
liberty for their ultimate good, and you have then established 
an authority which cannot be shaken, and under which human 
nature may be safely left to develop. In this faith, but in this 
alone, he let loose men's natural instincts, he taught men that 
married life, and lay life, and all lawful occupations, were 
holy and divine, provided they were carried on in faith and in 
obedience to God's will. The result was a burst of new life 
wherever the Reformation was adopted, alike in national 
energies, in literature, in all social developments, and in 
natural science. But while we prize and celebrate the liberty 
thus won, let us beware of forgetting, or allowing others to 
forget, that it is essentially a Christian Liberty, and that no 
other Liberty is really free. Luther's whole work, and his 
whole power, lay in his recognition of our personal relation to 
God, and of a direct revelation, promise, and command, given to 
us by God. Any influences, under whatever colour, which tend 
to obscure the reality of that revelation, which would substitute 
for it any mere natural laws or forces, are undoing Luther's 
work, and contradicting his most essential principles. If he 
was a great Beformer, it was because he was a great divine ; 
if he was a friend of the people, it was because he was the 
friend of God. 







There is hardly any instance on record in the annals of history 
of a single peaceful event having exercised such a lasting and 
baneful influence on the destinies of a nation, as the coronation 
of Charles the Great at Borne towards the close of the eighth 
century. By placing the Imperial crown on the head of the 
then most powerful ruler in Christendom, Pope Leo III. sym- 
bolically established a spiritual supremacy over the whole 
Christian world, but more especially over Germany proper. 
It is true it was alleged that the new Caesar was to be con- 
sidered the secular head of the Christian world by the side of 
the spiritual head, but as it was the latter who crowned the 
former, it was evident that the sovereign pontiff arrogated to 
himself superior authority over the sovereign monarch. 

Another disadvantage which resulted from that coronation 
was the peculiar nature of the newly created dignity, which 
became manifest by the designation, applied to Germany, of 
the " Holy Roman Empire of the German nation." This self- 
contradictory title was intended to convey the notion that the 
German Emperors were — through transmission from the Greeks 
— the heirs and successors of the Eoman Caesars. They were 
not to be German sovereigns of the German monarchy, but 
Roman Emperors of the German Empire. 1 

It is true the ancient German institution of royalty was not 
actually abolished, but it was so much eclipsed by the more 
pompous, though recent dignity, that in the course of time its 
1 ^P- PP- 82-85, in this volume. 


former existence was almost entirely forgotten, or at least looked 
upon with contempt ; so much so, that a German sovereign of 
the fourteenth century — Henry VII. — considered it an insult 
to be addressed as " King of Germany," instead of as " King 
of the Eomans." Even the German Electoral Princes claimed 
to exercise the function of "Eoman Senators." The foreign 
stamp thus imprinted upon Germany at the time when she 
had only just begun to emerge from a state of barbarism had, 
therefore, a most pernicious influence on the Germans, divert- 
ing as it did the free development of their national character 
from its natural course. Thus it may be truly said, that on 
Christmas Eve of the year 799, Germany was conquered a 
second time, if not by the Eomans, still by Eome. 

It was not long before the conflict between the two principal 
elements in the government of the world — the secular and 
the clerical — broke out in the two-headed Empire. This 
antagonism became manifest even under Charles the Great 
himself, in spite of the splendour of his reign, and the firm- 
ness and circumspection of his government. The encroach- 
ments of the clergy soon showed in what sense they under- 
stood the division of power. It was the practical application 
of the old fable about the lion's share. Everything was to 
be done for the clergy, but without it nothing. This ambitious 
aim revealed itself more openly and effectively under the 
descendants of Charles the Great, the internal dissensions of 
whose reigns greatly facilitated the victory of the clerical order 
in their interference in secular matters. 

Under the powerful rule of Henry I. (919-936), surnamed 
" The Fowler," or more appropriately " the founder of the 
German Empire" and also under the still more splendid reign 
of his son, Otho the Great (936-973), nay, even under the first 
Frankish Emperors (1024-1056), the authority of the Eoman 
hierarchy was considerably diminished, while on the other 
hand the influence of the German clergy at home had greatly 
increased; which circumstance was a powerful factor in the 
conflict between the iron Pope Gregory VII. and the impetuous 


and vacillating Emperor Henry IV. (1056-1106), and brought 
about in conjunction with the high-handed dealings of the self- 
dubbed " Koman Senators " of Germany, the degradation of the 
German Empire. The Papacy was now in the zenith of its 
power and glory, so that Gregory VII. could boastingly 
compare the Pope to the sun, and the Emperor to the moon ; 
and although Henry IV. ultimately succeeded in taking 
revenge for his humiliation at Canossa, he never could wipe 
out its shame, and what is more, he was unable to suppress or 
eradicate the ideas represented by his defeated enemy, which had 
taken a firm hold on the minds of men. People believed in the 
supremacy of the Pope, even when he was driven from his seat 
of government ; for his realm was of a spiritual kind and he 
had his invisible throne, as it were, in the hearts of Christian 
believers. An erring Pope was still the visible representative 
of the Church. The priests for the most part remained faith- 
ful to him under all circumstances. Such, however, was not 
the case with the Emperors and the Princes. In the first 
instance the former had no absolute power ; secondly, they were 
elected by men, who considered themselves their equals, and 
lastly from the moment they lost their throne— no matter 
what the reasons were — they ceased to have a claim on the 
obedience of the people. The priests wished for a powerful 
Pope, because he was the natural guardian of their interests, 
whilst the German Princes objected to a powerful Emperor, 
because they trembled for their own independence and local 

If the German Emperors had not been constantly chasing 
the phantom of royal dignity in Italy, in order to be — 
plausibly at least — entitled to the vain-glorious designation of 
" Eoman Kings," they might have directed their whole energy 
to the consolidation of their power at home, and have held their 
own against Popes and Prince-Electors. Unfortunately, how- 
ever, they were constantly attracted by the delusive brilliancy of 
possessions in Italy, as if by an ignis fatuus ; thus leading on 
the best forces of Germany to moral and physical ruin, and 


leaving their native country an easy prey to scheming priests 
and ambitious nobles. The result was that, towards the end 
of the eleventh century, the Emperor of Germany had neither 
any influence on the priests, who now depended entirely upon 
Kome, nor any power over the nobles, whose fiefs had become 
hereditary; nor did he possess any considerable domains, or 
actual revenue in his Imperial capacity. He had nothing 
but the high-sounding titles of successor of the Caesars and of 
ruler of the whole Christian world. 

As a matter of course under these circumstances all progress 
of national life and culture was impeded. It did not spring 
spontaneously from within, nor did it receive any impulse 
from without. The Germans did not benefit intellectually in 
any way by their contact with the Italians. The conquered 
have often times become the teachers of their conquerors ; but 
only when the latter settled in the vanquished country and 
made it their home. The German hordes, however, who crossed 
the Alps at the behests of their sovereigns, and urged on by the 
desire for adventure, warfare, and rapine, never permanently 
settled, as a body, in the flowery plains and flourishing towns 
of Italy. Numbers of those who survived the sanguinary 
battles fought in Italy, perished in the unused climate ; the 
others returned home, frequently enriched by plunder and 
generally tainted by depraved morals. Thus the Germans did 
not even derive that small advantage from their connection 
with the Italians — who at that time did not themselves possess 
any literature or culture in the highest sense of the word 
— which a permanent settlement in Italy would have conferred 
on them. 

The intellectual life of the Germans did not begin to flourish 
before the times of the Hohenstaufen (1138-1254). Un- 
fortunately both Frederick I. (Barbarossa) and Frederick II. 
were almost constantly engaged in warfare with the Popes 
and the Italians, and both monarchs, especially the latter, 
utterly neglected the internal affairs of Germany, which country 
became a prey of the sanguinary contest between Guelphs and 


Ghibellines. The result was that Conrad IV., the last king 
from the Hohenstaufen dynasty in Germany, ruled without 
even a shadow of royal authority, and on his death, in 1254, 
the dissolution of the old German Empire may be said to have 
been complete. 

During the lawless times of the Interregnum (1254-1273) the 
power of the German Princes consolidated itself more and more 
amidst the general anarchy. Order was restored, however, by 
Eudolf von Hapsburg (1273-1291), who concerned himself with 
the affairs of the country only. He had a right notion of what 
a King of Germany should be, and emancipated her — though 
temporarily only — from the fatal connection as an Empire with 
Rome. More than half a century later the Electoral Princes went 
a step further in this direction, by the formation of the Kur- 
verein (1338) or " Election Union," of Rhens, when the principle 
was adopted that the election of German Kings depended upon 
the Electoral Princes alone, and that the Pope had no voice 
whatever in the matter. This patriotic proceeding received, 
however, a counter-check in the unworthy dealings of the 
mercenary Charles IV. (1347-1378), who repaired to Eome to 
receive there the crown from the Pope. He little thought that 
by resuming the connection with Rome he conjured up the 
greatest danger for his own son and successor, Wenceslaus, who 
was deposed through the conspiracy of Boniface IX. with 
the priests, and his influence over the Electoral Princes. 

In the course of time a new power — the third Estate — arose 
in Germany ; namely, the Middle Classes as represented by the 
thriving cities of the Empire. The burghers generally sided 
with the Emperors, to whom they looked up as their natural pro- 
tectors against the exactions of priests and nobles. But being 
imbued with a true mercantile spirit, they did not give away 
their good will for nothing ; they asked for sundry privileges as 
compensating equivalents. The Emperors had, therefore, now to 
contend against three powerful elements, the clergy, the nobles, 
and the burghers. The first were, through their chief repre- 
sentatives — as we have seen — at all times the most dangerous 


antagonists to Imperial authority, and generally achieved the 
victory in their contests with it. It was only during the time in 
which the Papacy had transferred its seat of government to 
Avignon, that the Eomish hierarchy received a check, chiefly in 
consequence of the depravity of the Papal Court and its surround- 
ings. With the return of the Popes to Home by the Decree of 
the Council of Constance (1411-1418), the Papacy recovered its 
former ground ; but this recovery of the lost authority was ex- 
ternal only, for with the cruel execution of John Huss — which 
no sensible Eoman Catholic ever thought of justifying — the 
Papacy received a most fatal blow. That scandalous crime could 
not have been committed at a more unpropitious time both for the 
Roman hierarchy and the dignity of the Councils, which latter 
pretended, at times at least, to have received their mandate 
immediately from Christ, as the sovereign representatives of the 
universal Koman Catholic Church. The reforms in the Church, 
advocated by the celebrated French theologians Cardinal Peter 
d'Ailly and Chancellor John Gerson, had already met with the 
approval of numerous thinking men, and the doctrines of Wy cliffe 
had also found, through the teaching of John Huss and his 
disciples, a sympathetic echo in the hearts of a large portion of 
the Christian community. Had the Council of Constance shown 
itself, not magnanimous, but merely just, towards the Bohemian 
Keformer, the ascendancy of the Councils, in general, over 
the Popes, would probably have been for ever established ; 
whilst as it was, the next great Council — at Basle (1431- 
1449) — had to give way to the Pope, and the Koman hie- 
rarchy was once more re-established in its former strength 
and power. 

The results of the Councils of Constance and Basle were, 
however, particularly disastrous to Germany. The former 
brought about the terrible wars of the Hussites, while the 
latter was the indirect cause of placing the Imperial power in 
the hands of Frederick III. (1440-1493), who was a staunch 
adherent of the Pope and delivered over to him the few rights 
and privileges which were still left to the German Empire. The 


Imperial dignity existed now in name only ; for Frederick, who, 
as Heeren says, " had slumbered away more than half a century 
on the throne," cared so little for Germany proper, that he 
remained absent from it for the space of full twenty-seven years. 
No wonder then that whilst the Imperial authority sank to the 
lowest level, the Papal supremacy rose higher than ever, and the 
Emperor became nothing more than the satellite of the Pope. 
Under these circumstances the German Princes began to raise 
the voice of opposition against their sluggish head ; but as he 
was supported by the influential and subtle Pius II., all their 
efforts to make a stand against the encroachments of the Church 
were in vain. 

A new order of things arose, however, when Maximilian, the 
son of Frederick III., was elected " Roman King " in 1486 by the 
Electoral Princes. The young King acquiesced in the consti- 
tutional demands of the Estates for concessions in return for 
various grants. Feuds were abolished for ever, an independent 
Chamber of Justice, Kammergericht, was established, and 
Germany received a new Imperial constitution. Nevertheless 
there were almost constant conflicts between the adventurous 
Maximilian and the Imperial Estates, so that the national 
unity, earnestly aimed at by both parties, could not be effected, 
in consequence of the absence of any connecting link between 
them. The only step which Maximilian took for the partial 
emancipation of Germany was his assumption of the title of 
"elected King of Rome" without being crowned by the Pope, 
and what is more, he also adopted the ancient title of King of 
Germany. This designation was, however, not intended to 
convey at the same time the notion of a severance from Home 
in spiritual matters. This was now soon to be accomplished, 
but not by one bearing the imaginary crown of the Caesars, nor 
by the decrees of a stately assembly. It was destined for one 
lowly born to break the fatal bondage in which Germany had 
been for centuries kept in durance vile by Eome. 




One of the few blessings which Germany derived in former 
times from her otherwise deplorable decentralization, was the 
establishment, throughout the country, of educational and 
other beneficial institutions, which even found their way into 
the most obscure nooks and corners, where under other political 
conditions no Government would have thought of founding 
any establishment of the kind. This is the reason why culture 
and learning — but more especially the latter — spread more 
generally in Germany than in other countries. What great 
centralized Government would ever have chosen the insigni- 
ficant place of "Wittenberg, which resembled more a village 
than a town, as the seat of an University ? And this, too, by 
the side of the Universities of Leipzig and Erfurt which 
already enjoyed a high reputation and were well endowed? 
Yet this was done by the Prince Elector of Saxony, Frederick, 
surnamed the Wise. He had himself received a learned educa- 
tion, and it was his legitimate ambition to see his petty 
electoral principality adorned by a High School. The Elector 
himself was, as is well known, very poor. The only means at 
his disposal for such a learned foundation were the proceeds 
from the sale of Indulgences in his Electorate, which had been 
collected in 1501 for the purpose of a war against the Turks. 
Those moneys were deposited with him, and he refused to 
give them up to the Pope even at the intercession of the 
Emperor, unless they were employed for the purpose for 
which they had been collected. The war against the Turks 
was not undertaken at the time, and so Frederick employed 
the money for the endowment of the new University. It was 
also a significant fact, that Wittenberg was the first German 
University which did not receive its " Charter " from the Pope, 
but from the then Emperor of Germany — Maximilian I. The 
Prince Elector hit further upon the expedient of connecting 
several clerical benefices with some of the professorial chairs, 


and he hoped, moreover, that the members of the Augustine 
Order, settled at Wittenberg, would furnish some teachers for the 
learned institution, which was established by him in 1502. The 
connection of the new University with that Order was in many 
respects an intimate one. It was specially dedicated to St. 
Augustine ; and Staupitz, the vicar of that Order at Erfurt, 
was the first Dean of the Theological Faculty. Through his 
influence it was that several Augustine monks received a 
call to the University, and among those who responded was 
the monk Martin Luther. 

The early history of the poor miner's son may, in fact, 
serve as an illustration of the wholesome spread of education 
throughout Germany. Poor as his parents were, he had 
received a learned education, and became, in consequence of the 
religious turn of his mind, a monk. It was then in his double 
capacity of scholar and priest that he became connected with the 
University of Wittenberg (1508), and composed, and sent forth 
into the world, his famous 95 Theses, 1 against the wholesale 
disposal of Indulgences (31st Oct., 1517). Luther issued his 
challenge to the theological world from religious motives only, 
and it so happened that it fully coincided with the political 
views of the Elector ; but, to the credit of both Prince and 
monk, it should be remembered that there was no mutual 
understanding between them. They had never seen each 
other before the publication of the 95 Theses; nor did they 
correspond on the subject, although they were of one accord 
about it. Frederick always viewed it with disfavour, and 
begrudged that such large amounts of money should be sent 
to Kome under the cloak of Indulgences, and we have seen 
how he had employed the proceeds resulting from their former 
sale. Now, however, he must have objected still more to the 
attempt to drain his poor country, because the object of the 
sale was not a holy war — if ever a war can be so called — but 
the alleged erection of St. Peter's Church. If such was really 
the case, it might be truly said that Leo X. undermined the 
1 Cp. pp. 1-12 in this volume. 


Chair of St. Peter for the sake of the Church of St. Peter. 
But people were incredulous. It was whispered, that the 
Pope required the money for the benefit of his family. 
Another disagreeable element in the whole transaction was 
the then commonly known fact, that the Archbishop of 
Mentz had actually " farmed " the sale of the Indulgences 
in his own episcopal territory on condition that one half of 
the proceeds should fall to his share. He had promised to 
bear the expenses of obtaining the Pall himself, and having 
borrowed a considerable amount of money from the celebrated 
house of Fugger, he allowed their agents to travel about in 
company with the notorious Tetzel, as commercial controllers, 
and to take possession of half of the proceeds as they came in. 
Through this and other circumstances the affair assumed the 
ugly aspect of a very worldly and mercenary transaction, 
carried on in the meanest spirit. There was, besides, a tension 
between Frederick and the Prince Elector of Mentz ; it was, 
therefore, natural that the step which Luther had taken should 
meet with his tacit approval. More than this Luther did not 
expect, for he well knew the lethargic character of Frederick ; 
but under the circumstances that was quite sufficient, for the 
latter granted him shelter and protection, in spite of the 
urgent entreaties of zealots to deliver up the bold Augustinian 
monk at once to Eome. 

The defence of the 95 Theses, which Luther transmitted 
to the Pope, was of no avail ; for Leo X., urged by the 
fanatical Dominican Prierias — so notorious from the Keuchlin 
trial — cited the Wittenberg monk before an inquisitorial 
tribunal at Eome. Now for the first time it was seen how 
fortunate it was for Luther and the cause he defended, that he 
had found a prudent and humane protector in the Prince who 
exercised sovereign power in his own limited territory. To 
repair to Rome under the accusation of heresy would have been 
like plunging with open eyes into an abyss. Confiding and 
courageous as Luther was, he saw this himself very clearly, 
and it was at his request that the Saxon Court preacher, 


Spalatin, who was one of his most constant and zealous friends, 
persuaded the Emperor Maximilian as well as the Prince 
Elector — both of whom were at that time (1518) at the Diet 
of Augsburg — that the accused monk should be arraigned 
before a German tribunal. Frederick readily acquiesced, 
although, as he repeatedly declared, he did not fully share the 
views of Luther; and the Emperor also consented, partly 
because he required the moral support of the Prince Elector at 
the approaching election of a successor in the Imperial dignity, 
and partly because he hoped one day to make use of the 
enlightened monk, in his endeavour to bring about the much- 
needed reforms in the Church. In this sense it undoubtedly 
was, that he said to Frederick's councillor, Pfeffinger : " Luther 
is sure to begin a game with the priests. The Prince Elector 
should take good care of the monk, as he might one day be of 
use." It seems, therefore, that both friends and foes recog- 
nised (at an early stage) the great capacity which still lay 
hidden in the insignificant-looking monk. The Papal Nuncio, 
Cajetan, discovered at once, in his interview with him at 
Augsburg (1518), that he had to do with a superior power, 
when he heard the conclusive and thoughtful arguments of the 
Augustinian monk, and saw the divine fire of genius flashing 
from his eyes ; and his friends already considered him of 
importance sufficient to induce them to bring about his sudden 
escape at night-time. 

Urged by the wrathful Papal Legate not to disgrace the 
honour of his Electoral house by giving shelter to a heretic 
friar, Frederick, encouraged by his own University, drily replied 
that as no scholar, either in his own or in foreign lands, had as 
yet refuted the theories of Luther, he would continue to give 
him shelter until that was dene. This was no subterfuge on 
the part of Frederick. It was the key-note of his conduct, from 
the beginning of the Eeformation to the end of his own life, to 
have the teachings of Luther properly tested by a learned 
discussion. The Pope, being desirous of securing the Elector's 
co-operation at the impending Imperial election, humoured his 



learned whim, and tried to win him over by unctuous kindliness. 
Frederick was still a staunch Eoman Catholic. He possessed a 
regular treasure of reliques — partly brought home from the 
Holy Land — which were displayed for the spiritual benefit of 
the devout on certain occasions, and it was known that he was 
yearning for the acquisition of the Golden Rose. Leo X. 
bestowed, therefore, on him that mark of apostolic favour, and 
dispatched to him as his Nuncio the Elector's own agent at 
Eome, Carl von Miltitz, a native of Saxony. 

What the imperious haughtiness of the pompous Papal 
Legate was unable to achieve was, partly at least, effected by 
the shrewd bonhomie of Miltitz. He imploringly appealed to 
Luther's German good-nature, not to create any scandal in the 
Church, and after having agreed that the controversy should 
be submitted for investigation to the Archbishops of Wiirzburg 
and Treves, he obtained the promise of Luther to observe 
perfect silence on religious matters, provided his enemies would 
do the same, and to write an apologetic letter to the Pope. It 
is well known how badly the antagonists of Luther kept faith 
with him, and that he was obliged, in consequence, to break 
his conditionally promised silence, and to take part in the 
great public Disputation at Leipzig, in 1519. He now had to 
vindicate against Dr. Eck, his most bitter opponent, not only 
his own honour, but also that of his University, and this cir- 
cumstance formed the subject of his justification before the 
Prince Elector, to whose personal esteem he attached the 
highest value. When, however, that Disputation ended, as is 
the case with most learned discussions, in something like a 
drawn battle, Luther was driven to a declaration virtually 
involving his secession from Eome. 


About the time when the celebrated Disputation was going 
on at Leipzig, in which two peasants' sons — for Dr. Eck was, 
like Martin Luther, the son of a peasant — took the most 


prominent part, another momentous gathering took place at 
Frankfort-on-the-Main. The Emperor Maximilian had died on 
12th January, 1519, without being able to secure the succes- 
sion in the royal dignity to his grandson Charles, Archduke 
of Austria and King of Spain and Naples. More than five 
months elapsed before the Electoral Princes assembled for the 
election of a new Emperor, and during that interval the 
"Vicariate of the Empire," as it was styled, was put into the 
hands of Lewis V. of the Palatinate, and of Frederick the "Wise, in 
accordance with a provision of the " Golden Bull," which placed 
the Eegency of the Empire, during a vacancy, in the hands of 
the rulers of those Electorates for the time being. The cir- 
cumstance that the seat of the Imperial Government was at 
Wittenberg during the present short Interregnum bestowed 
not a little lustre both on Frederick and his University ; but 
the work of the incipient Eeformation was not particularly 
promoted by it, because it coincided with the truce which Luther 
faithfully kept until it was faithlessly broken by his antagonists. 

There were three aspirants to the Imperial throne of 
Germany. First and foremost Maximilian's grandson Charles, 
Archduke of Austria ; secondly, Francis I., King of France, and 
thirdly, Henry VIII. of England. The last-named monarch 
did not, however, seriously press his candidature. It was only 
when he saw the two other sovereigns contending for the prize 
that he deemed the moment favourable for securing it to 
himself. When he received, however, the practical hint that the 
barren honour would not be worth the trouble and the necessary 
expenditure, and when, moreover, it was taken into account, 
that since the introduction of Christianity into England this 
country did in no way belong to the " Holy Eoman Empire," 
he prudently retired from all competition. Not so the am- 
bitious Francis I., who spared neither promises nor bribes to 
secure his election, and obtained a party among the Electoral 

If it should be asked, how it was actually possible that 
foreign kings ever thought of aspiring to a throne to which 

d 2 


they had not even the shadow of a claim, the reason must be 
found in the above-mentioned circumstance, that the Imperial 
dignity of Germany was not a national institution, and that 
any Christian prince might think himself justified in aspiring to 
the crown of the " Holy Eoman Empire," accidentally bestowed 
upon the " German nation." Were they not aware that in 
the thirteenth century two ecclesiastical Electoral Princes 
raised to the German throne, Eichard of Cornwall and King 
Alfonso of Castile, respectively, in consideration of great 
bribes ? And had not the French King sufficient wealth to 
buy the votes of both the secular and ecclesiastic Electoral 
Princes ? He had, moreover, the precedent before him, that 
Philip VI. of Valois had, about a century before, endea- 
voured to transfer the dignity of the " Holy Eoman Empire " 
from the Germans to the " Franks," to whom it originally 

Both the French and Austrians lavishly distributed money 
in all directions. Frederick the Wise alone kept his hands 
pure, and he strictly prohibited even his officials and servants 
from accepting any presents. For a moment the Princes had 
turned their eyes to Frederick himself. But he had no confi- 
dence in his capability to sustain worthily and efficiently the 
functions incumbent upon the Imperial dignity. The Empire, 
as such, invested him with no material power and resources, 
and his own dynastic power was insignificant. How should he 
be able to hold his own against the ambitious and frequently 
turbulent Princes ? Why, even under the " Imperial Vicariate," 
the peace of the land was broken. He, therefore, declined the 
proffered honour, and the Princes, fearing lest the powerful 
French King should curb their independence, suddenly re- 
membered that he was a foreign sovereign, and that in order 
to keep up the national freedom of the Empire, they should 
give the preference to the Archduke Charles, who was, 
partially at least, of German descent. The latter, to whom 
also Frederick of Saxony finally gave his vote, was accordingly 
chosen Emperor, and he soon proved that it is not always the 


kinship which constitutes the sympathetic bond between a 
sovereign and his subjects. 

The time which elapsed from the election of Charles to his 
arrival in Germany, more especially to his presence at the 
Diet of Augsburg in 1521, was most propitious for the spread 
of the work of Luther. It may be said that during that 
interval the Eeformation assumed shape and form. Luther 
indefatigably continued to inculcate his religious principles on 
the minds of the people by sermons and numerous publications, 
and he found adherents so readily everywhere among all classes 
of the German nation, that Frederick, who still hoped the 
schism might be prevented by learned discussions, was of 
opinion, that if it should be attempted to suppress his teachings 
by force instead of by refutation, there would arise a great 
storm in Germany. Several distinguished members of the 
lower nobility, such as the brave Hutten and the martial 
Sickingen and many others, placed their swords at the disposal 
of Luther ; the former was already active for him with the all- 
powerful weapon of the pen. Amidst this general commotion 
the humble Augustinian monk sent forth his powerful appeal, 
entitled : " To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation 
concerning the Eeformation of the Christian Estate." * This 
production, which is rightly considered as the manifesto of the 
Eeformation, clearly shows that Luther not only saw the 
clerical abuses, but also the political disadvantages under which 
Germany laboured and groaned. He was not what we should 
call a politician, but, unlike so many of his learned country- 
men, he had a true patriotic instinct. The mere title of the 
appeal seems already to contain a protest against the designa- 
tion of Germany as the Holy Eoman Empire. That he 
addressed his appeal to the " Nobility " in general is only an 
additional proof of the remarkable tact which guided him 
throughout his career. 

Some historians have blamed Luther for not having appealed 
to the " People." But the reproach is wrong. The German 
1 Op. pp. 15-92 in this volume. 


people in general had no power whatever in those days. It 
only obtained in the course of time a voice in the manage- 
ment of public affairs through the Eeformation. It was 
Luther who proclaimed the freedom of man, or rather the 
" Christian man." The acknowledgment of political rights of 
the middle classes may, therefore, be said to date from the 
Eeformation only. In appealing to the German Nobility, 
Luther addressed himself to the legitimate representatives of 
Germany ; and he did so in the candid belief, that it was only 
necessary to open the eyes of those in power, in order to effect 
at once the abolition of any abuses. To address himself to the 
people, would have required his placing himself at the head of a 
revolution ; but Luther was no revolutionist. It should also be 
remembered that a large number of noblemen had offered him 
support and shelter. Political power lay mainly in the hands of 
the nobles, who alone, in conjunction with the Emperor, could 
decide on the destiny of Germany. It is, however, a significant 
fact, that he wrote his appeal, not in Latin, but in German. 
In this way, indeed, he actually addressed himself to the 
German people. 

In the meantime Leo X. had hurled his Bull of excommunica- 
tion against Luther. When it arrived at Wittenberg both the 
University and the Government of the Prince Elector decided 
to take no notice of it, and now it again became manifest what 
a powerful support Luther had found in Frederick. On his 
return journey from the coronation of Charles V. at Aix-la- 
Chapelle, in 1520, the Papal Legates Aleander and Caraccioli 
demanded of the Elector, at Cologne, in the name of the Pope, to 
give effect to the Bull by burning the writings of Luther and 
punishing him as a heretic, or to deliver him to the Pope. 
The threat uttered on this occasion was certainly curious. In 
case the Papal Bull should not meet with ready obedience in 
Germany, the Legates menaced the country with the with- 
drawal of the title of the " Holy Koman Empire." Germany 
would forfeit that dignity in the same way as the Greeks 
had lost it after having seceded from the Pope. A more 


fortunate fate, in truth, could not have befallen the German 
Empire than its total political severance from Eome ; but in 
those clays the empty glory of the baneful union was still highly 
valued, and so the Elector asked time to consider. 

Erasmus, whom Frederick consulted, clothed his opinion on 
the religious controversy in the humorous reply, " that Luther 
had sinned in two points : he had touched the crown of the 
Pope and the bellies of the monks." In his interview with 
Spalatin he was still more explicit, by expressing his con- 
viction, that the attacks against Luther arose simply from 
hatred against the enlightenment of science and from tyran- 
nical presumption. He further agreed with Luther in in- 
sisting on the question being examined and tried by the 
tribunal of public discussion. We know that this opinion 
fully coincided with the views of the Elector, and his answer 
to the threatening Papal Legates ran in accordance with his 
views. His additional and often-repeated assurance, that he 
had never made common cause with Luther, and that he would 
greatly disapprove of it, if the latter wrote anything adverse 
to the Pope, was of the greatest importance. This declaration 
was more decisive than if he had acknowledged himself openly 
in favour of the Keformer ; he would then have been considered 
as a biassed partisan, whilst now he only played the part of an 
impartial patron, who wished to see his protege judged by a 
fair trial. On his return to Saxony, Frederick sent to Luther 
a reassuring message, and the latter continued his work by 
teaching, writing and preaching, unmolested and without 

In other parts of Germany the Papal Bull was proclaimed 
with varying and unequal effect. Luther's works were in the 
first instance burnt at Louvain, by command of Charles V., in his 
capacity of hereditary sovereign of the Netherlands. The same 
fate befell them at Cologne and Mentz. It will, therefore, 
readily be acknowledged that it was the Pope and his over- 
zealous adherents who drove Luther to the committal of perhaps 
the boldest act ever accomplished by a single individual, more 


especially by one in Luther's dependent position. By the 
public burning of the Papal Bull before the Elstergate of 
Wittenberg (1520), the act of secession from Borne was 
consummated. What no Emperor had dared before him, the 
humble Augustine monk accomplished courageously and de- 
liberately. Well might he do so. He acted on conviction 
with that moral courage which knows no fear, and he had the 
German people at his back to support him. 1 


" Your majesty must go to Germany and show there some 
favour to a certain Martin Luther, who is at the Court of 
Saxony and causes anxiety to the Boman Court by his sermons." 
Such were the words which the shrewd Spanish ambassador, 
Don Juan Manuel, addressed to Charles V. from Borne in 1520. 
They were written at a time when it was still doubtful 
whether Leo X. would side in the impending struggle in Italy 
with the King of France or with the Emperor of Germany, and 
moreover at a time when the latter had reason to be dissatisfied 
with the course the Pope had taken. Leo X. had consented, in 
compliance with a petition from the Castilian Cortes, to introduce 
some reforms in the exercise of the Inquisition. This con- 
cession was, however, entirely opposed to the views of the 
young Emperor, who was completely guided by his Dominican 
confessor. Under these circumstances it was deemed expedient 
to make use of Luther as a kind of bugbear in order to frighten 
the Pope. To people not accustomed to the tortuous windings 
of politics it seems, of course, bewildering, that a heretic should 
be favoured in one country, in order to make it possible to 
enforce the rigours of the Inquisition in another country. 
In like manner Francis I. acted. In France he persecuted and 
burnt mercilessly the opponents of the Boman Catholic Church, 

1 In one of his letters to Dr. Eck — communicated in the Documenta 
Lutherana recently issued by the Vatican — the Papal Nuncio Aleander con- 
fesses, that the excitement in consequence of the burning of Luther's work 
was so great among the people, that he trembled for his own safety. 


whilst in Germany he befriended the adherents of the Re- 
formation. This much, however, is certain, had Luther enter- 
tained the slightest suspicion at what price it was intended 
to extend indulgence to his work, he would have been the first 
to scorn that indulgence. 

The advice of the diplomatic Spanish ambassador was, 
however, not followed. Pope and Emperor came to an amicable 
understanding. The former cancelled his concession to the 
Castilian Cortes, and promised the coveted assistance against 
Francis I., in Italy, whilst the latter pledged himself to crush the 
Eeformation and to issue an Edict for the execution of the 
Papal Bull against Luther. Now it came to light how ill- 
advised was the election of Charles Y. as Emperor of Germany. 
At the time when the celebrated Diet of 1521 assembled at 
Worms, the Emperor had his whole attention directed across 
the Alps. The affairs of Germany had only in so far any im- 
portance for him as they had any influence or bearing on the 
affairs of Italy. He took no note of the great objects which 
then agitated the hearts and minds of the Germans, and had he 
been able to recognise them, they would have excited in him no 
corresponding sympathy for them. He did not even fully under- 
stand the cultured language — as far as it existed in those days 
— of Germany, being able to speak Low German only. The 
political institutions of the country — the lingering fragments 
of the ancient German liberty — were thoroughly distasteful to 
him. He was also a bigoted Roman Catholic at heart, and — as 
we have seen — entirely opposed to all religious reforms. It 
must, therefore, be acknowledged, that among the many histor- 
ical misfortunes which have befallen Germany — and no country 
perhaps has been tried by so many — the accession of Charles V. 
to the throne of the German Empire was one of the greatest. 
What might a German sovereign, with a due appreciation of 
the political and religious aspirations of the people, not have 
achieved at that important epoch, which was the turning-point 
in the history of Germany ! 

After the Emperor had laid his Edict regarding the Papal 


Bull before the Estates, they made him earnest representa- 
tions, alleging that the people were throughout Germany so 
thoroughly impregnated by the doctrines of Luther, that any 
violent measures undertaken against him would call forth the 
greatest commotion. They submitted, therefore, to Charles 
the opinion that the Eeformer should be summoned to Worms, 
not for the sake of any argumentative or learned disputa- 
tion, but merely for a summary interrogatory. In case he 
should recant his doctrines concerning the Christian faith, 
he might further be interrogated about the minor points in his 
writings, and whatever was advisable should be adopted. If, 
however, he persisted in his refusal to recant, the necessary 
steps would be taken against him. We see by this that the 
Estates drew a distinction in Luther's doctrines between those 
points which concerned the ecclesiastical administration only, 
and those which referred to the Christian faith proper and 
were chiefly contained in his work ' On the Babylonish Cap- 
tivity of the Church.' x 

Charles V. consented to this -proposal, by which the Estates 
may be said to have betrayed the cause of the Eeformation. 
Frederick was charged with the task of summoning Luther to 
Worms, but he prudently declined. As he was to be summoned 
in the name of the Emperor and the Estates, he ought to receive 
the citation direct from them. The stubborn character of the 
Elector being well known, the Emperor was obliged to yield 
also on this point, and in order to be consistent with official 
etiquette, Luther was addressed by Charles V. in the citation, 
issued on March 6, 1521, as "honourable, beloved, and pious!" 
A safe conduct for the journey to and from Worms accompanied 
the citation. A man less endowed with moral courage than 
Luther would nevertheless have shrunk from completing the 
journey. On his way to Worms he learned that a Mandate for 
the confiscation of his writings had been issued by the Emperor, 
and the Imperial herald actually asked him, whether he still 
intended to continue his journey. The Eeformer undauntedly 
1 See pp. 139-243 in the present volume. 


proceeded on his way, although the Imperial Mandate clearly 
showed him that his writings had already been uncon- 
ditionally condemned, and that he was merely summoned to 
declare whether he would recant or not. 

Luther's appearance before the Diet of Worms may be 
considered as the first official recognition of the German people 
as a power ; for it was only by representing the danger which 
would arise from the unconditional condemnation of the Eeformer 
before being heard, that the Emperor was induced to consent to 
the step which was resented by the Papal Legate and his party. 
The wrath of Aleander greatly increased, when the Imperial 
Estates presented to Charles V. their gravamina respecting the 
abuses of the Church, the abolition of which they had a right 
to expect in accordance with the capitulation made at the time 
of the Emperor's election. That petition, which is generally 
regarded as a pendant to Luther's programme of the Keforma- 
tion, as contained in his address to the " Christian Nobility of 
the German Nation," and which had even obtained the 
approval of George, Duke of Saxony (that great opponent of 
Luther), was, formally at least, " graciously " received by the 

When Luther arrived at Worms both his adherents and 
antagonists were startled. The former trembled for his safety, 
and the latter feared the influence of his presence — his elo- 
quence and the victorious power of inner conviction. The 
Emperor's expectations of so remarkable a personage — who was 
capable of inspiring such a high degree of enthusiasm and 
aversion— must, therefore, have been very great, and we do 
not wonder at his disappointment on seeing before him an 
insignificant-looking monk. He did not believe in the power 
of the mind, and it was quite natural in the young monarch 
that he should have looked forward to a commanding, giant- 
like figure, with a thundering voice, somewhat like Dr. 
Eck, who derived no little benefit from these accessories, so 
advantageous both on the political and religious platform. 
Even after Luther had produced— on the second day of his 


appearance before the Diet — a deep impression on almost all 
his hearers, Charles V. could never be brought to believe that 
the meek Augustinian monk was the author of all the energetic 
and impetuous compositions which passed under his name. 

Luther's public refusal to recant unless convinced of his 
error through the Scriptures, was the official proclamation of 
the Keformation, and well might he exclaim, on the evening of 
the 18th of April, on coming home from perhaps the most 
memorable sitting of any Diet — " Ich bin durch ! " But the 
decision of the Emperor was also taken, and on the morning of 
the 19th of April he declared to the Diet — in a French docu- 
ment written in his own hand — " that as a descendant of the 
most Christian German Emperors, and the Catholic Kings of 
Spain, he had resolved to maintain everything which had been 
adopted by his ancestors, more especially at the Council of 
Constance. . . . That he will not hear Luther again, but let 
him go back to Wittenberg in accordance with his safe conduct, 
and then he will proceed with him as a heretic." 

The fanatic advisers of the Emperor certainly wished that he 
should not only strictly adhere to the doctrines confirmed by 
the Diet of Constance, but that he also should follow its 
example, set by the execution of Huss, with respect to Luther ; 
for the simple reason " that there is no need of keeping faith 
with heretics." Charles V. had, however, not been informed 
in vain of the disposition of the people regarding the Ke- 
former. He also took into account the views of the Imperial 

The times had evidently changed since the Council of Con- 
stance. It was no longer safe to burn a heretic after he had 
received Imperial protection ; and it may be assumed futhermore 
that the young monarch also possessed too much sense of honour 
to listen to the ruthless suggestions of his fanatical advisers. 
After some more attempts to induce Luther to retract — all of 
which, of course, proved futile — he allowed him to depart ; 
but as he had uttered the threat to treat the excommunicated 
monk as a heretic, after the expiration of his safe conduct, 


Frederick, who was not undeservedly called the Wise, con- 
sidered it expedient to bring Luther, by means of a stratagem, 
to a place of safety. 

The sudden disappearance of Luther naturally caused great 
anxiety among his adherents ; but his opponents seemed to have 
instinctively guessed the truth. They knew very well how 
little they themselves were to be trusted, and suspected that his 
friends had secretly saved him from their clutches. Cardinal 
Eleander even went nearer the mark, and expressed his opinion, 
that the " Saxon fox " had hidden the monk. Charles V. him- 
self took no cognisance of the occurrence; nay, he even cautiously 
deferred the promulgation of the Edict against Luther, and it 
was only after Frederick the Wise, accompanied by the Palatine 
Elector, had left Worms on account of illness, that the Emperor 
summoned to his private residence the three clerical Electors, 
together with the Elector of Brandenburg, and several other 
members of the Imperial Estates, and communicated to them the 
long-expected Edict. The Imperial ban was thus promulgated 
on May 25, without the formal sanction of the Diet. And in 
order to stamp it with the appearance of legality, it was post- 
dated to the 8th of May, when the Estates were still together 
in good numbers. But it was at the same time an ominous 
date ; for on that day an alliance was concluded between the 
Emperor and the Pope to the effect " to have the same friends 
and without exception the same enemies ; the same willing- 
ness and unwillingness for defence and attack." 

Another expedient was resorted to in order to gain some 
plausibility for the illegally issued Edict. It was sophistically 
averred that, as the Diet had already decided that Luther was 
to be proceeded against, in case he should not recant, there 
was no further necessity for obtaining the additional sanction 
of that body for the publication of the Edict. By this decree 
the Papal ban was confirmed, and Luther himself was now 
outlawed as a heretic, and his books were prohibited. The 
Emperor having accomplished this step, which was one of the 
most momentous in the eventful course of the Reformation, 


now hastened to the Netherlands, and strengthened by the 
league with the Pope and Henry VIII., soon began his great 
war asrainst the King of France. 

It is an amiable trait in human nature, though frequently 
bordering on weakness, to endeavour to find out the good side of 
any evil. Thus it has been considered a propitious coincidence 
that the German Empire had some " claims " on certain terri- 
tories in Italy. For it was, in a great measure, in consequence 
of this fact, that the war broke out between the Emperor of 
Germany and the King of France, which necessitated the 
absence of the former from his German domains for several 
years and gave the Eeformation time for its consolidation 
and expansion. "We will not deny the advantages which 
resulted from that political combination, but it is to a 
certain extent counterbalanced by the ill which it produced. 
Without the contingency of that war, Charles V. would have 
had no occasion for leaguing himself with the Pope, the 
Edict of Worms would, in all probability, never have been 
issued, and the pressing demand for a General Council would 
have been acceded to. Luther would not have been obliged to 
hide himself at the Wartburg, and the subsequent troubles at 
Wittenberg would certainly never have broken out ; and finally 
the firm hand of a sovereign residing in the country would 
have stemmed the torrent of the Peasants' War at the outset. 
Another drawback resulting from the absence of Charles V. 
was his utter estrangement from Germany, whose aspirations 
he neither cared for nor understood. 

During the first few months after the departure of Charles 
from Germany the work of the Eeformation went on undis- 
turbed. The Edict of Worms found, in general, no responsive 
reception there. Its effect quite vanished before the impression 
made by Luther's manly, nay heroic, conduct in presence of the 
Diet. The rumour which had got abroad that he had been 


captured by an enemy of the Elector Frederick and perchance 
killed, rather promoted than damaged his cause. It aroused 
warm sympathy for the Eeformer and increased the hatred 
against his enemies, who were alleged to have resorted to 
brutal force, because they could not disprove his arguments. 
In fact, the adoption of the Keformation was now so general, 
that Luther's antagonists hardly dared to denounce them 
openly. It is well known, that the Elector of Mentz would 
not give permission to the Minorite monks to preach against 
Luther. The Edict of Worms was thus practically set at 
defiance, and in spite of its prohibition not to publish any 
thing in favour of the Keformation, numerous writings in its 
favour issued from the German printing presses. 

Whilst the seed which Luther had sown on German soil began 
to produce a magnificent harvest, and he himself was busy at 
the Wartburg, under the disguise of Junker Georg, with various 
religious writings, but more especially with the great work of 
his life, the translation of the Bible from the original text, some 
of his adherents began to precipitate matters at Wittenberg 
under the leadership of the impassioned Carlstadt. A time of 
general dissolution suddenly came on, in which there was a 
violent rupture with the past. Mass was abrogated, monks 
left their convents, and priests married. Holy images were 
destroyed, and nearly all the usages of the Koman Catholic 
Church were abruptly abolished. Other innovations were 
introduced, and the movement tended towards the introduction 
of a Christian socialism, or rather communism. If Luther had 
not been absent, the movement would never have broken out, 
and Melanchthon, who was present, was quite perplexed and 
not energetic enough to be able to stem the surging tide of the 
Eevolution. The Prince Elector, too, looked on quite bewildered, 
and, imbued with a sense of unbounded tolerance, he fancied 
that, after all, the revolutionary " saints " might be right. 

When Luther heard of the local excesses at Wittenberg, he 
suddenly left his " Patmos," in order to find out for himself 
the real state of things. In travelling to and from Wittenberg, 


where he stayed a few days only, he had to pass the territory 
of his great opponent, the Duke of Saxony. This was at the 
beginning of December, 1521, consequently only a few months 
after the publication of the Edict of Worms, and his con- 
duct shows both his moral courage, of which he has given 
so many striking proofs, and his anxiety for the cause of the 

Soon, however, he was to give still more striking proofs of 
both. For after the " prophets of Zwickau," those deluded and 
deluding disciples of Thomas Miinzer had chosen the birthplace 
of the Eeformation for their field of action, more especially 
when he heard of the innovations introduced in his own 
community since his furtive visit there, he defied all danger, 
and disregarded the remonstrances of the Elector Frederick not 
to leave his place of refuge. His heart was so devoid of fear 
and he had so much confidence in the righteousness of his 
cause, that he actually declared to the Prince Elector that he 
might give to the latter greater protection than he could 
receive from him. He apologised nevertheless for his dis- 
obedience to Frederick, and a few days after his arrival at 
Wittenberg at the beginning of March, 1522, he began the 
series of sermons by which he soon allayed the storm and 
extended both his influence and reputation. 

Several of the religious innovations introduced during the 
absence of Luther were quite in accordance with his views, 
but he chiefly objected to the violent manner in which the 
established usages were thrown over. Thus he approved the 
abolition of the Mass, but considered that it ought not to have 
been done in a way which was vexatious to another portion of 
the Christian community. The secular authorities should have 
been consulted and everything done in a legal manner. Luther 
was, besides, tolerant in the highest degree. He did not wish 
to force others to adopt his theories ; he merely wanted to 
convince them. His mode of acting was concisely summed up 
in the following words, which contain the keynote of his 
activity as a Reformer : "I will preach about it, speak about 


it, write about it ; but I will compel and drive no one by- 
force ; for belief is to be accepted freely and spontaneously. 
Take me as an example. I have opposed the Indulgences 
and the Papists, but not with force. I have only worked, 
preached, and written the Word of the Lord ; else I have 
done nothing . . . I have done nothing ; the Word has done and 
accomplished everything. If I had wished to proceed turbu- 
lently, I could have caused great bloodshed in Germany, and 
I might have played such a game at Worms, that even the 
Emperor would not have been safe," l etc. 

These words, which Luther uttered in his celebrated sermons 
preached after his return to Wittenberg, not only fully reveal 
to us one of his principal characteristics as a Eeformer, but 
contain at the same time a full revelation of the cause of the 
peaceful course of the Eeformation during his lifetime. He 
held the reins in his firm hands, and it would only have re- 
quired an encouraging signal on his part, and the furies of civil 
war would have been at once let loose. But those words also 
confirm the charge which has been brought forward against the 
Imperial Estates, that they had betrayed the cause of the Refor- 
mation at the Diet of Worms. They had the German people at 
their back, and the Emperor, with all his Spanish and Italian 
courtiers and Papal Legates, would have been powerless. Had 
only some of them given signs of energetic opposition, the 
Emperor would, in all probability, have yielded. That the 
Princes did not fully answer Luther's expectations caused 
him considerable grief, and now he had experienced another 
disappointment in the conduct of the middle classes — the 
people proper — a jDortion of whom eagerly supported the 
violent innovations of the extreme reformers. But the 

1 That the above assertion was no mere boast is confirmed — if anything 
what so truthful a man as Luther said requires confirmation — by the above- 
mentioned Documenta Lutherana, in which we find a letter from the Nuncio 
Aleander, describing the great popularity of Luther throughout Germany, and 
in particular at Augsburg. " Know then," he writes to Dr. Eck, " there are 
so many Lutherans here, that not only the men, but also the very trees and 
stones cry : Luther ! " 



greatest disappointment with regard to the healthiest class 
of the people — the peasants — was yet in store for hiin. 

The effect which resulted from Luther's return to Witten- 
berg was doubly beneficial. It allayed the turbulent excite- 
ment at home, and prevented the breaking out of a storm 
abroad, which had well-nigh been conjured up by Duke George 
of Saxony at the " Imperial Kegency," or Beichsregiment ; which 
body conducted the government of the Empire in the absence of 
the Emperor, and had assembled at Nuremberg during the 
troubles at Wittenberg. The Duke actually prevailed upon the 
members of the Imperial Eegency to issue an Edict enjoining 
the Bishops of Naumburg, Meissen and Merseburg, energeti- 
cally to suppress all religious innovations ; but when quiet had 
been restored at Wittenberg the tide turned in Luther's favour, 
partly owing to the direct and indirect influence of the Elector 
of Saxony ; and thus the Edict of Worms was virtually set at 
naught. The Imperial Eegency did not rest satisfied, however, 
with the tacit approval of the doctrines of Luther, and when 
Adrian VI., who had succeeded Leo X. in 1522, demanded 
through his Nuncio that a check should be put to the Lutheran 
innovations, the Imperial Eegency replied by a Eesolution in 
which it declared its refusal to carry out the Edict of Worms. 
On the other hand it demanded " the summoning of a General 
Council, if possible within a year's time, in a German town and 
under the co-operation of the Emperor." It was, of course, 
understood that the secular Estates should also take part 
in that council, and perfect immunity for a free expression of 
opinion was at the same time admitted. Moreover, one hundred 
gravamina with respect to the prevailing abuses of the Church 
were handed to the Legate. 

One of the most remarkable features in the passing of the 
above Eesolution was the circumstance that it even obtained the 
consent of the adherents of the Pope, and that the views of 
the latter regarding the necessity of Church reforms, in some 
degree at least, contributed to it. Adrian VI. was in almost 
every respect the opposite of Leo X. He had the welfare 


of the Church truly at heart, and fully saw the abuses which 
had crept in through the depravity of its representatives. 
He therefore energetically and earnestly urged the necessity 
of reforming the Church, or rather the clergy. He himself 
showed the way by setting, in his own person, the example of 
a true Apostolic Pontiff, by leading the life of a humble and 
austere monk, whereas Leo X. had surrounded himself with 
regal pomp and the luxuries of an Asiatic potentate. On the 
other hand Adrian was also an orthodox Dominican, and 
detested the religious innovations more intensely than his 
predecessor did, who, as a true Medici, being an enthusiastic 
admirer of art and a zealous cultivator of polite literature, was 
quite indifferent to ecclesiastical and religious matters. Leo X. 
was opposed to Luther because, as Erasmus expressed it, " he 
had touched the Papal crown," whilst Adrian took up the 
gauntlet against the Eeformer because, in his opinion, the 
latter weakened the corner-stone of the Church and undermined 
its very foundations. For this reason he had sent his Nuncio 
Chieregati to the Imperial Eegency at Nuremberg with the 
demand to have the Edict of Worms carried into effect. This 
demand was only consistent with the Pope's line of action ; but 
the times had changed, even during the short space which had 
elapsed since Charles V. had issued his Edict against Luther 
by a shuffling proceeding, and the Imperial Eegency openly 
refused to enact it. 

That the Estates should have been able thus to act in 
defiance of both Pope and Emperor, was in itself the result of 
the influence which the Eeformation exercised on the political 
status of the German people. The civic element now assumed a 
political importance which it never enjoyed before. The 
commoner began to feel his dignity, as a man, as a member of 
the State. The teachings of Luther had set free human in- 
telligence and free thought, which had been so long held 
imprisoned and bound by political and religious tyranny, 
and the people began — to think and reason for themselves. 
From the moment this was done, they were free, and as soon as 

e 2 


they obtained political rights, they well understood how to assert 
them. The re-establishment of an Imperial Regency on a 
" constitutional basis," formed one of the principal stipulations 
at the election of Charles V., and the Deputies having been 
chosen by the Electoral Princes and the various " Circles," or 
districts into which Germany was then divided, the common- 
wealth was for the first time officially represented at a German 
constitutional assembly. We have seen how worthily the 
members of the Imperial Eegency had discharged their trust ; 
and it may be said, that from that moment dates the political 
emancipation of Germany. 


The answer of the Imperial Regency to Adrian VI. was the 
first political triumph of the Reformation, but its effect was 
considerably weakened by several events which occurred shortly 
after. First came the rising of the knights — who constituted 
the lower nobility — under the banner of the brave and restless 
Franz von Sickingen. Grave discontent reigned among the 
knights with the doings of the all-powerful " Suabian League," 
formed in 1488 by the Estates of Suabia for the maintenance of 
general peace, and also with the encroachments of the Princes ; 
and Sickingen, aided by Ulrich von Hutten, united the lesser 
nobles into one body with the avowed object of breaking the power 
of the higher nobility, and of acknowledging one head only — the 
Emperor. It has been plausibly assumed, that Sickingen pursued 
a more ambitious aim, and he has therefore been compared with 
Wallenstein. Sickingen professed, however, another object in his 
enterprise : the furtherance of the cause of the Reformation ; and 
at the head of a large and powerful army, he directed his first 
attack (Sept. 1522), against the Archbishop of Treves. The 
knights were defeated, their leader lost his life, and Hutten 
wandered away — outlawed and proscribed — to find an exile's 
grave in a small island of Switzerland. The enemies of Luther 
considered, or pretended to consider, the Reformation as the 


main cause of Sickiugen's undertaking, and this circumstance 
estranged from the Eeformer a number of his adherents and 
confirmed his antagonists in their enmity against him, although 
he had no immediate connection with the revolt of the nobles. 

The first result of the rising and of the defeat of the knights 
was, that several Princes now assumed a somewhat hostile 
attitude towards the Imperial Eegency, that had shown itself so 
tolerant respecting religious reforms ; but a still severer blow 
threatened that body from another quarter. The wealthy Ger- 
man cities sent a deputation to Charles V. in Spain, with a 
petition against some ordinances which the Imperial Chamber 
had decided upon and which were considered detrimental to 
their commercial interests. The Emperor, dissatisfied with 
that liberal Institution, readily promised a new administration. 
This promise was fulfilled at the next Diet, in 1524, at Nurem- 
berg, when it was decided to reorganise the Imperial Eegency 
by electing for it entirely new members. Those who con- 
sented to this proceeding were influenced, partly by political 
and partly by commercial reasons, but as regards religious 
matters there was still a majority in favour of the Eeforma- 
tion. On this account it came to pass that a Eesolution was 
carried at the Diet, to convoke another assembly of the Estates 
in the same year at Spires, the points to be discussed there 
being in the meantime drawn up for the Princes by scholars 
and counsellors. Till then the Eesolution of the preceding 
Diet, " that the Gospel should be allowed to be freely 
preached," was to remain in force. Thus the mission of the 
Papal Nuncio Campeggi, who had been sent to Germany by 
Clement VII. (the successor of Adrian VI. since 1523) to 
bring about the enactment of the Edict of Worms, proved 
unsuccessful. It is true the Diet passed a Eesolution, that 
the Edict of Worms should be executed, but this decision was 
rendered ineffective by the additional elastic clause : " As 
far as possible." At the same time the demand for a General 
Council was added. 

The above Mandate now shared the fate of most com- 


promises ; inasmuch as it satisfied neither party. Luther 
himself and his followers saw in it an indirect confirmation 
of the Edict of Worms, and he expressed his indignation at 
it in an outspoken publication, in which he bitterly re- 
proached the Emperor and the Princes for their treatment of 
him. He had now lost all confidence in both. But the 
Emperor's indignation at the Nuremberg Mandate was not 
less strongly marked, and he issued an Edict, in which he 
energetically denied the Estates the right of interference in 
religious matters, demanding at the same time the strict 
execution of the Edict of Worms. The constant recurrence 
of the Emperor and the adherents of the Pope to that 
Edict must not surprise us. It is the point upon which the 
whole movement turned ; for if the condemnation of Luther was 
confirmed, all his reforms and his adherents would be com- 
prised in that condemnation. 

Various circumstances now combined to strengthen the effect 
of the Emperor's new Edict. The Papal Nuncio Campeggi 
succeeded in inducing several influential forces, hostile to 
the Reformation, to form a League for the protection of the old 
faith. The Archduke Ferdinand and the Dukes of Bavaria — 
Princes who had for some time been conspiring with the 
Eoman Curia — together with a number of Prelates, assembled 
for that purpose in the summer of 1524 at Ratisbon, and agreed 
upon stringent measures against the Reformation. They 
decided to give effect to the Edict of Worms, to proscribe 
again the works of Luther, and even to forbid to their 
subjects the attending of the University of Wittenberg. 

The next step of the Ratisbon Convention was now to obtain 
the co-operation of Charles V., which was effected easily 
enough, inasmuch as the projected measures fully coincided 
with his own views ; and being about to attack Francis I. in 
France itself, from the direction of Italy, he stood in great 
need of the Tope's tacit acquiescence. He issued, therefore, a 
stringent Edict, in which the convocation of a General Council 
was strictly prohibited, and all interference in religious matters 


was energetically forbidden. Those who dared to set at nought 
the provision of the Edict, would render themselves liable to a 
charge of high treason, and on conviction would be punished 
with the highest degree of the Imperial Ban, (Acht- und 
Aberacht). In that Imperial Order Luther himself — one of the 
noblest men who ever lived — was likened to some loathsome 

The Convention of Ratisbon, which was chiefly brought 
about by foreign influence, may be said to have caused the first 
violent rupture among the German people, and to be the origin 
of all the calamities which befell Germany in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. Without that Convention the projected 
General Council would, in all probability, have been held, the 
proposed reforms would have been peacefully and legally dis- 
cussed, and there would not have occurred that violent disrup- 
tion among the Germans, of which the evil effects, not only 
from a religious, but also from a political point of view, have not 
yet entirely disappeared. The only advantage which resulted 
from the Eatisbon Convention was the agreement to introduce 
a number of internal reforms in the Church. Thus the im- 
proved state of Eoman Catholicism is entirely due to the 
doctrines of Luther and his Reformation. 


The year 1525 was perhaps the most trying in Luther's 
career. He had hitherto been disappointed in the Princes and 
the burghers, and now he experienced the mortification of seeing 
that class of people, from which he sprang himself, entering 
on a path which must needs prove injurious to themselves, and 
to the cause for which he lived and worked. Various risings 
of the Peasants had taken place before the time of the Reforma- 
tion, in consequence of the inhuman treatment to which they 
were subjected by the nobles. The exactions of the priests 
were likewise intolerable. Some local risings took place in 
1524; but in the following year that terrible contest, known as 


" The Peasants' War," broke out in the south of Germany with 
all the fury of long-pent up despair. The origin of the insur- 
rection must therefore be sought solely in the cause, which pro- 
duced the risings of slaves or serfs in ancient and modern times. 
It was the revolt of men who felt their inner worth, and who 
were determined to shake off an unbearable yoke. The enemies 
of Luther attributed, however, the outbreak of the war to the 
influence of his teachings, in the same way as they attributed 
to these any other public calamity which then befell Germany ; 
just as in modern times blinded political passions will trace 
the cause of the failure of a harvest, for instance, to the fact of 
this or that party being in power. 

The first programme of the Peasants, as contained in the 
well-known Twelve Articles, was moderate enough. Even 
Luther did not entirely reject their demands, some of which 
he wished to see referred to the decision of legal authorities. 
He admonished the Peasants, however, not to have recourse to 
brutal violence, and at the same time he exhorted the nobles to 
lend a merciful ear to the cries of the sufferers. The last clause 
of the Twelve Articles must have struck in his heart a sympa- 
thetic chord. The Peasants declared that their demands shall 
not stand, in case they should be refuted by Scripture, which 
statement seems to be an echo of Luther's own declaration at the 
Diet of Worms. But it was just that external similarity which 
turned out so fatal for the cause of the Eeformation. The 
Peasants borrowed the phraseology, as it were, of Luther ; they 
clothed their grievances in the language of the Gospel, and thus 
gave to the enemies of the Eeformation the plausible pretext 
of confounding it with their own insurrection. It was of little 
avail for Luther himself to protest against the allegation of 
the insurgents that their rising was founded on a religious basis, 
since his enemies persistently took the form for the substance. 

If all the rebellious Peasants had strictly adhered to their 
first programme, their cause might yet have taken a favourable 
turn ; but, as is generally the case with revolutionary move- 
ments, there soon arose an extreme party which aimed at the 


total subversion of the existing order of things. Here again it 
was unfortunate that some points started in the manifesto of 
that party had been previously advocated by Luther, for his 
unjust antagonists laid all their demands, which have been 
compared to the French revolutionary doctrines of 1783, to his 
charge. The climax of the insurrectionary outbreak was, how- 
ever, reached by the doings of Thomas Miinzer and his followers, 
who preached and practised evangelical communism, and who 
accelerated by their fanatic and fantastic conduct the tragic 
catastrophe in this sanguinary drama. Luther was now in a 
most critical position. He made every effort to stem the tide 
of the revolution — he energetically exhorted both Princes and 
Peasants, and travelled about as a missionary of peace ; but 
all in vain. His influence seemed, for the first time, to have lost 
its effect, and friends and foes censured him alike. The former 
reproached him with having deserted his own cause, whilst the 
latter blamed him as the originator of this fatal war. Thomas 
Miinzer and his followers even accused Luther of base servility 
towards the Princes ; and one of the grossest calumnies 
perhaps ever brought forward against a man of Luther's stamp, 
was the charge that he had written his vehement publication, 
" against the murderous robber-bands of the Peasants," after 
their total defeat. But this was untrue. He wrote it, in fact, 
whilst the Peasants were in the ascendancy, and whilst they 
disgraced their victory by barbarous acts of cruelty. When 
the nobles got the upper hand, and wreaked their vengeance 
in a most inhuman manner on the vanquished, the wrath of 
Luther was turned against the cruel victors. He pleaded 
for mercy even for the guilty, and with some of the Princes 
his intercession was successful. Large numbers of defeated 
Peasants were allowed, by Landgrave Philip of Hesse and 
the Prince Elector John of Saxony, the brother and successor 
of the Elector Frederick, to return home unmolested, whilst 
the Bishop of Wurzburg and other anti-Lutheran lords dis- 
tinguished themselves by a most refined cruelty in their 
treatment of the Peasant prisoners. 



In addition to the various disasters which befell Luther — 
and in him the whole of Germany — in the calamitous year of 
1525, he also had the misfortune to lose his friend and 
protector, the Elector of Saxony, who died in the spring of 
that year. Frederick had looked with true paternal compassion 
on the insurgent Peasants, and had life and health been spared 
him, he might have quelled the civil war by the dint of 
his authority, or at least have mitigated its evils. Besides 
him, there was no one in Germany who enjoyed the same 
universal respect, and both the Imperial Eegency and the 
Estates were, as a body, powerless. If Germany had been 
ruled over at that time by a sovereign residing in the country, 
and caring for the welfare of his people, the Peasants' War 
would never have assumed such gigantic dimensions, nor would 
its consequences have been so fatal. But whilst Germany was 
convulsed by one of the most sanguinary of intestine wars, the 
Emperor resided in Spain, and his army fought and defeated 
the King of France before Pavia ; which circumstance may 
serve as an additional proof of the evil caused by the election 
of Charles V. as head of the German Empire. 

The only interest which the Emperor manifested with 
reference to Germany consisted in his relentless efforts to 
exterminate the Lutheran doctrines. Thus he again and again 
issued from Spain energetic admonitions to the Princes and 
Bishops to make a firm resistance against the Eeformation; 
promising and threatening at the same time to come shortly 
to Germany himself, in order to crush the heretics. These acts, 
together with the consultation at Mentz at which a number 
of priests agreed on the suppression of Lutheran heresy, induced 
the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, and John the Elector of Saxony, 
in the spring of 1526, to form the so-called " League of 
Torgau " for the protection and defence of the Eeformation. 
Luther himself, being, in principle, against all armed resistance 


to any constituted authority, had consistently opposed the 
formation of that or any other League, with a view to revolt. 

Luther was of opinion that a bad Prince must be patiently 
borne with, like any other scourge or calamity sent by Heaven. 
In this sense it was, that he taught " that the badness and 
perversity of a government does not justify active resistance or 
rebellion." Indeed he considered the sufferings inflicted by a 
tyrannical ruler on his subjects as part and parcel of a man's 
destiny upon earth. It was his Christian duty to suffer. Ac- 
cording to his opinion man was not destined to be happy in 
this world, where he has been placed as a martyr. Such were 
his honest convictions and his views of life ; his denial of the 
right of resistance arose therefore from a purely religious 
feeling, and not from any servile instinct. Surely a man who 
speaks in the following strain of Princes cannot be accused of 
servility : " From the beginning of the world," says Luther, " a 
good Prince has been a rare bird and a pious Prince a still rarer 
one. They are as a rule the greatest fools and worst knaves 
upon earth. If there is a Prince who is a wise and pious man, 
or a Christian, it is a great miracle and the best sign of divine 
grace for a country. Therefore one must always expect the 
worst from them, and not hope for any good from them. They 
are the scourges and the executioners of God, and He employs 
them to punish the wicked and to maintain external peace." 

Luther was well aware of the fact that Germany required a 
thorough reform as regards its civic or secular government, 
more especially as he had found out that both the Princes 
and the Emperor had betrayed the German people. With 
that dignified self-consciousness which is quite compatible 
with true modesty, he said : " At times it seems to me as if the 
Government and the Jurists also required a Luther." If there 
had been during his time a great man in Germany, capable of 
achieving in politics what he had himself achieved in religion, he 
would undoubtedly have co-operated with him. For Luther 
was a true German patriot, if ever there was one, as is evi- 
dent from so many of his writings, and more especially from 


his appeal to the " Christian Nobility of the German Nation." 
What he abhorred was the use of brutal force, either by Princes 
or by the people, for the acquisition of political freedom, and this 
was — as we have seen — in strict accordance with his religious 
views. His notions of the individual freedom of man had 
also a religious basis. He regarded man as designed to be a 
free being, but it was only Christian belief which imparted to 
him that stamp of true freedom. This view Luther forcibly 
expressed in the well-known antithesis in his Treatise, ' Con- 
cerning Christian Liberty : ' "A Christian man is the most free 
lord of all, and subject to none ; a Christian man is the most 
dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one." l 

The liberty of man, as interpreted by Luther, may be regarded 
by some persons as only of limited extent, and as having merely 
an ideal existence, but at any rate it marks a great progress in 
the history of civilization, and may be considered as the germ 
of the emancipation of the human race. It was the first step 
in the acknowledgment of the right of man as a human being. 
The principle of political freedom which now benefits the 
adherents of all creeds in civilized society must therefore be 
traced back to the Eeformation. If the teachings of Luther 
had not first freed the Christian man, the liberty of man, in 
general — the equality of men — would scarcely have met with 
such a ready recognition in later centuries. 

If Luther had not so strenuously opposed all active resistance 
against authority, the political course of the Eeformation 
would certainly have taken a different turn ; and it was for- 
tunate enough for its consolidation, that some of the Princes, 
who otherwise followed his teachings, did not share his opinions 
on that subject. The formation of the above-mentioned 
League of Torgau was the first result of that difference of 
opinion ; and when the Diet assembled, in the summer of 
1526, at Spires, the Princes John and Philip, strengthened 
by their union, could dare to acknowledge and practise openly 
the doctrines of the Eeformation in the face of the Diet. In 
1 Sec p. 1012 in the present volume. 


vain did the Imperial Commissioners urge the Estates to carry- 
out at last the Edict of Worms. The Diet was, however, so 
much the less inclined to obey the Emperor's behests on this 
point, because he was now himself at enmity with the Pope. 
Clement VII. being afraid of the ascendency of Charles Y. after 
his victory at Pavia, released the French King from his solemn 
oath at the Peace of Madrid, and formed with him and several 
Italian Princes the League of Cognac, also blasphemously called 
the "Holy League," which was directed against Charles V. The 
Estates, therefore, eagerly seized the opportunity of declaring 
that the antagonism between Pope and Emperor made it im- 
possible for them to give effect even indirectly to the Papal Ex- 
communication against Luther. The Turk was also threatening 
from the East, and the Estates did not consider it prudent to 
cause dissensions among the German people. They resolved 
therefore to petition the Emperor, through an embassy, to come 
in person to Germany and to convoke a General Council. They 
further decided that in matters of religion, perfect freedom and 
tolerance should prevail. 

The Kesolution of the Diet of Spires in 1526 was of consider- 
able moment. The Eeformation was now formally acknow- 
ledged and legalised, and had gained full time to recover lost 
ground and to obtain a firm footing throughout Germany. It 
also was a fortunate coincidence that Charles V. was now 
occupied in Italy with his war against the Pope and Francis I., 
whilst his brother Ferdinand, now King of Hungary and 
Bohemia, was encumbered by his troubles in those countries. 


In consequence of the absence of both the Emperor and his 
locum tenens from Germany, the projected General Council was 
not convoked, and the next Diet did not assemble before the 
year 1529, at Spires. Till then the Eeformation had full scope 
to expand ; but after the armies of Charles V. had captured 
Rome, and a terrible pestilence had well-nigh destroyed the 


French troops in Italy, the Emperor was again free to terror- 
ize over Germany. He concluded peace with Clement VII. 
at Barcelona, and with Francis I. at Camhray, and the first 
result of the diplomatic union between the three belligerents 
was a combination of their efforts to crush the " heresy " in 
Germany. Soon after the beginning of the Diet at Spires, 
a palpable proof was given that a great change had taken place 
in public affairs since 1526. On March 15, 1529, the Imperial 
Commissioners laid a Mandate before the Diet to the effect 
that the Eesolution of the last Diet at Spires, which granted 
free exercise of religion, should be revoked, and that, on the 
other hand, the Edict of Worms should be enforced. The 
majority, though now consisting of adherents of the Pope, did 
not accept the proposal exactly in that form ; but still they 
issued a Decree, the general acceptance of which would have 
implied a total condemnation of the Eeformation on the part 
of its supporters. 

In this emergency several German Princes and Imperial 
towns gave proof of a most praiseworthy moral courage. John, 
Prince Elector of Saxony, Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, George, 
Margrave of Brandenburg, Duke Ernest of Brunswick- 
Luneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, and fourteen Imperial 
free towns, having in vain demurred against the decision of the 
Diet, laid before it a Protest against the pernicious decree, 
declaring at the same time, that in matters of religion and 
conscience the decision of majorities was not binding. How 
deep was the impression which that remarkable step had 
produced on the minds of the German people, may be inferred 
from the fact that it gave occasion to single out the adherents 
of Luther as a body and to apply to them the name of 

The rupture between the two religious parties was now 
complete. They no longer formed merely two different shades 
of the same party, but were distinguished from each other even 
as to the name. Roman Catholics stood opposite Protestants. 
In one respect the new appellation was a gain ; for it embraced 


all the members of that Christian community, which did not 
acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope. On the other hand 
the name has the disadvantage that it is like the word 
" Eeformation," of a negative character. It is true the Protest 
of the Princes actually was a positive assertion of the right 
of conscience, but popular interpretation applied to it the 
character of an aggressive document, and the adherents of 
Luther were consequently regarded henceforth in the light 
of a merely malcontent party. The term " Lutherans " — 
Lutheraner — does not embrace the whole body of those who 
seceded from the Eoman Catholic Church. Luther himself 
deprecated, moreover, the distinction of being called a " founder 
of a religion," and although one of the greatest theological 
authorities of our times is still inclined to consider him as 
such, it seems to me — if I may venture to express an opinion 
on anything touching a theological subject — that Luther merely 
modified and reformed an established religious faith, but did 
not found one. The designation " Old Catholic " might perhaps 
have been the most appropriate, and would not perchance have 
caused such a violent disruption among the members of the 
great Christian community. 


At the Diet of 1529 the Protestants had gained a moral 
victory, but they had suffered a material defeat ; for the govern- 
ment of the Empire was now entirely in the hands of their 
antagonists. It seemed, therefore, prudent to prepare for 
future emergencies, and some of the Protestant Princes began 
negotiations with several cities, both German and Swiss. A 
comprehensive scheme was devised which, if successfully 
carried out, would have entirely changed the political aspect 
of Germany, if not of Europe. Unfortunately this plan, the 
execution of which could alone have saved the cause of 
Protestantism, was frustrated by the well-known theological dif- 
ference between the adherents of Luther and Zwingli. Thus, 


instead of first combining against the common enemy, and 
subsequently in firm union settling the theological differences, 
or even leaving them unsettled, the logical order of the 
proceeding was reversed. The Theologians first assembled to 
discuss their religious differences, and the result was that fatal 
schism which divided the camp of the Protestants, and perma- 
nently damaged their cause. Luther and his more immediate 
followers decided that it would not be justifiable to form an 
alliance with the Zwinglians, and further, that it would be an 
offence against law and religion to offer armed resistance to the 
Emperor. The co-operation of Upper Germany, Suabia and 
Switzerland was lost in consequence, and— in face of the armed 
and threatening enemy — all preparations for defence were 
neglected on account of religious scruples. " Surely," says 
Eanke, " this was not prudent, but it was grand." 

Whilst the German Theologians discussed religious subjects 
and the " right of resistance," Charles V. strengthened his 
position in Italy, and Clement VII. placed on his head, at 
Bologna, the crown of Charles the Great. The Emperor was 
surrounded on this occasion chiefly by Italian Princes and 
Spanish Grandees, and only one or two German Princes were 
present. The coronation was, therefore, against the " ancient 
German custom," but Charles was crowned as a Roman and not 
as a German Emperor of Germany. He might have been like 
Henry the Fowler, another founder or regenerator of the 
German Empire, whereas he renovated the Imperial dignity 
only so far as his own personality was concerned. This step 
was very significant, and may serve as a clue to his subsequent 
course of action. 

It is well known that the Pope and Emperor distrusted each 
other, but they were diplomatic enough to assume the mask of 
mutual friendship. There was, moreover, one powerful bond of 
union between them, namely, the determination to eradicate 
German "heresy." This resolve was one of the principal 
motives of the Emperor's journey to Germany, in the summer 
of 1530, for the purpose of holding a Diet at Augsburg. The 


writ issued on that occasion was peaceful and gracious enough . 
His avowed object was " to settle the prevailing discord, and 
to learn and graciously to consider everybody's conviction, 
opinion, and views, for the benefit of Christian truth." 

It may reasonably be assumed that the Emperor was 
benevolently disposed, and would have preferred to see his 
point carried by gentle means. His benevolence was, how- 
ever, of that conditional kind only, which first tries peaceful 
means, but subsequently has recourse to arbitrary and violent 
measures, should the gentle measures prove futile. He was not 
imbued with that absolute benevolence and clemency which 
shows mercy even to the guilty, or the supposed guilty. The 
Roman Catholic Princes were aware of this disposition of the 
Emperor, and of his secret agreement with the Pope, though 
the Protestant Princes implicitly believed in his peaceful and 
gracious assurances. The latter now hopefully looked forward 
to an amicable settlement of the prevailing discord, and at once 
proceeded to draw up a Programme, containing the substance 
of the reformed creed. 

It did not take long however for the Protestants to see their 
error. Even before the Emperor's arrival at Augsburg he urged 
the Elector John of Saxony not to allow the preachers he had 
brought with him to preach in public. This demand was 
repeated in Augsburg, in the Emperor's presence, after his 
arrival in that city, to the Elector of Saxony, and several other 
Protestant Princes. The theological defence of the evangelical 
sermons by the Landgrave of Hesse merely served to arouse the 
wrath and indignation of Charles. When, however, the aged 
warrior, the Margrave George of Brandenburg emphatically 
exclaimed : " Sire, before renouncing the word of God, I would 
rather kneel down on this spot and let my head be cut off," the 
Emperor was deeply moved by this energetic protest, and uttered 
in his Low-German vernacular the reassuring words : " No 
heads off! no heads off, my dear Prince ! " 

The Protestant Princes also declined to join in the public 
procession on the festival of Corpus Christi, which was 



celebrated the following day, in spite of the Emperor's earnest 
invitation to attend it. Charles was startled by this stubborn 
resistance. He had cherished the hope that the halo of worldly 
glory which surrounded him, together with his brilliant entry 
into Augsburg, would dazzle and overawe the Protestant 
Princes ; but they remained firm. Neither threats nor pro- 
mises could move them. They were quite of a distinct caste 
from the Princes who had betrayed the cause of the Keforma- 
tion at Worms ; they were conscious of the risk they ran, and 
were ready to die for their religious convictions. It is true 
they were greatly encouraged by Luther, who, in order to be 
nearer to them while the Diet was held at Augsburg, had 
repaired to Coburg. He addressed to the Prince Elector of 
Saxony from his second " Patmos," as it were, letters of exhor- 
tation and comfort, full of energy and of that irresistible 
eloquence which is the result of inner conviction. Whenever 
the Princes and Melanchthon wavered, they were inspired by 
Luther's cheering and manly words, which proved particularly 
effective during the course of the Diet. 

The religious contest being the first subject which was 
brought before the Diet, the Protestant Princes presented, on 
25th June, 1530, their " Confession of Faith," which had been 
prepared by Melanchthon. There were two versions of it, 
one in German and another in Latin. The Emperor naturally 
desired to have the second version read, but the Protestant 
Princes advised him patriotically to admit on German soil 
the German version. This step may be considered as one of 
the results of the Keformation. Luther had awakened in the 
Germans the feelings of nationality and patriotism, and had 
also politically freed them from the fetters of Koman bondage. 

The profession of faith of the Protestant Princes, known 
as the " Augsburg Confession," was drawn up in such a con- 
ciliatory spirit and contained so many concessions to Koman 
Catholicism, that some kind of agreement seemed to be possible, 
if not near at hand. The Protestants had now honestly ful- 
filled their duty. In accordance with the Imperial rescript 


they had laid their profession of faith before the Diet ; and 
confidently expecting a similar profession on the part of the 
Roman Catholics, they looked forward to the promised mediation 
of the Emperor. But instead of drawing up a declaration in 
a defensive and conciliatory spirit, as had been done by the 
Protestants, the Catholic party at the Diet forming the 
majority, issued an aggressive " Refutation," which, receiving 
the Emperor's full approval, was issued in his name, with the 
appended threat, that in case the Protestants should hence- 
forth not obediently return to the Roman Catholic faith, 
" the Emperor would proceed against them as befitted a Roman 
Emperor — the protector and defender of the Church." Mani- 
fest proofs that the admonitions of Charles V. were not mere 
empty threats were soon given. He made the Protestant 
Princes individually feel his displeasure, and he seemed fully 
determined to give effect to his threats by the force of arms. 
Fortunately the warning of the Prince Elector of Mentz in 
reference to the Turks of Hannibal ad portas, had the desirable 
effect of paving the way for mediation. 

At the Conference which was held in August, 1530, for the 
purpose of effecting an agreement between the contending 
parties, a spirit of reconciliation prevailed. Both sides made 
concessions, and it was agreed to refer certain points of difference 
which were still pending to a General Council ; so that there 
was a near prospect of a mutual understanding. Some agree- 
ment would, in all probability, have been brought about, but 
for the relentless spirit of fanaticism of the Roman Curia, as 
represented by the Legate Campeggi. It was he who frustrated 
the success of all further attempts at a reconciliation by induc- 
ing the Emperor and the majority of the Diet to make such 
conditions as the Protestants could not accept. The allied 
Princes remained firm, and as the attitude of the Imperial 
Court became more and more threatening, and the Theologians 
could not agree among themselves, the energetic Landgrave 
Philip of Hesse suddenly left Augsburg at the beginning of 
August. The Emperor was so startled by this unexpected 



event, that lie ordered the gates of the city to be watched by 
his soldiers ; but, too late, the bird had already flown. The 
Prince Elector of Saxony still remained behind, but his son, the 
hereditary Prince, had some time previously returned home and 
was now in perfect safety. It was, therefore, useless to attempt 
a coup de main against the leaders of the Protestant party. 

The Emperor's disappointment was great, and the more so, as 
he was indignant against the Protestant Princes on account of 
their refusing to consent to the election of his brother Ferdi- 
nand as " King of Rome." Charles V. now proceeded to the 
last step which made the breach between the two great 
portions of the German nation irremediable. On the 22nd of 
September, 1530, he communicated to the Estates the draft 
of the Decree upon which he had resolved with reference to 
the religious contest, and which announced his determination 
" to carry out unconditionally the Edict of Worms." The Pro- 
testants were treated in that Decree as a mere sect, and their 
doctrines — of all shades — were indiscriminately condemned. 
All the usages of the old creed were to be maintained intact, 
and the rights of the Ecclesiastical Princes were to be fully 
restored, under pain of the Imperial ban. This Imperial 
Decree, which was virtually a total abolition of the work of 
the Reformation, was finally issued on the 19th of November 
with the additional clause — which savoured of mockery — that a 
time of respite should be granted to the Protestants until the 
15th April, 1531, to enable them to declare their adhesion to the 
contested points. In the meantime the Emperor was to use his 
efforts with the Pope to convene a General Council to discuss 
the abolition of certain unquestionable abuses in the Church. 

This amounted to an open declaration of war, and the Pro- 
testant Princes were prudent enough to take their measures 


The Diet of Augsburg in 1530 may be considered, in some 
respeets, as the key-stone in the religious and political course 


of the Reformation. The " Augsburg Confession " practically 
completed the work of the Reformation from a religious point 
of view, whilst the Imperial Edict marked out in distinct 
features the line of action which the Papal and Imperial party- 
was resolved to pursue towards the Protestants. It was an 
ultimatum in due form. All the subsequent events in the 
history of the Reformation — even as far down as the Peace 
of Westphalia in 1648 — must, therefore, be regarded as 
merely the natural sequence of the Diet of Augsburg, and 
do not actually belong to the making or unmaking of the 

The stern necessity of self-defence caused at last the 
Protestant Princes to form the "Convention" or "League of 
Smalkald" in December 1530. Even Luther was induced to 
approve of it, and some of his writings, more especially his 
' Warning to my beloved Germans,' showed that he no longer 
viewed self-defence in the light of rebellion. The schism 
among the Germans was now political as well as religious. A 
compact body stood armed, not against the sovereign power of 
the German Empire, but against the Roman Emperor of the 
German nation; against the monarch who identified himself 
with the Pope. Charles V. fully recognised the drift of the 
Protestant opposition, and it is not quite improbable that on 
account of it he insisted on the speedy election and coronation 
of his brother Ferdinand as " Roman King," which took place 
at Cologne at the end of 1530, and at Aix-la-Chapelle at the 
beginning of the following year. The Protestant Princes 
protested against this proceeding, as being contrary to the Im- 
perial Constitution of Germany ; but we have already seen that 
Charles cared very little either for the laws or the aspirations 
of the German people. The illegal election of Ferdinand 
necessarily widened the breach between the Emperor and the 
Protestant Princes, who plainly saw the danger impending 
from the supremacy of the house of Hapsburg. 

The Dukes of Bavaria, who also aspired to the Imperial 
dignity, looked grudgingly on the ascendency of the Haps- 


burgs, and seemed inclined — staunch Eoman Catholics though 
they were — to make common cause with the Protestants. 
Moreover the Turks were again threatening an invasion 
of the Austro-German provinces, and all these circumstances 
combined, induced the Emperor to conclude with the Pro- 
testant Princes, in the summer of 1532, the " Peace of 
Nuremberg." Considerable concessions were made to the 
Protestants, and the promise of a " General, free and Christian 
Council," was again held out ; but of far greater moment was 
the fact, that by consenting to the " Peace of Nuremberg," the 
Emperor actually recognised the members of the " Smalkaldic 
League " as a regularly constituted power, with which it was 
desirable to come to an amicable understanding. The political 
element, which, as we have seen, had been at work throughout 
the course of the Eeformation, became henceforth a more 
and more powerful factor in the struggle between the two 
hostile camps of the German nation. 

After the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, Charles was again oc- 
cupied with his military enterprises abroad, and remained absent 
from Germany for the space of nine years. His brother, King 
Ferdinand I., was likewise prevented from effectively inter- 
fering with religious affairs in consequence of the troubles in 
his hereditary dominions, and so the Eeformation had^gain free 
scope to make its way through the greater portion of Germany. 
The indulgence granted to the Protestants was, however, 
apparent only. Both Charles and his brother treacherously 
bided their time to enter on the struggle of annihilation 
against them. That time seemed to them to have arrived 
when Charles, in conjunction with Henry VIII., had forced 
the King of France to sign the Peace of Crepy in 1544. 
It is true the Emperor consented to convene a Council 
in December, 1545, and so he did at Trent, but the Princes 
of Hesse and Saxony justly declined to attend it. The 
Emperor's hostile intentions against the Protestants now 
became patent, first by his renewed League with Paul III., 
the successor of Pope Clement VII., and afterwards by the 


mustering of his forces. If the Protestants had acted with 
energy and concord they might, with the greatest ease, have 
defeated the small Imperial forces in the summer of 1545 ; 
but instead of this they gave the Emperor full time to collect 
a considerable army. 

In the meantime Martin Luther, the life and soul of the 
Eeformation, had died on the 18th of February, 1546, and 
was spared the pain of witnessing the outbreak of the un- 
fortunate Smalkaldic War, which laid Germany prostrate at 
the feet of the Emperor and his Spaniards. This calamity 
was, of course, due mostly to the fact that the old German 
Empire identified itself with the Papacy and considered itself 
bound to defend its cause. It is, however, a significant fact, 
that Charles V. was actually the last Roman Emperor of 
Germany crowned by a Pope. When he proceeded for his 
coronation, in 1530, to the Church of St. Petronio at Bologna, 
through a wooden structure which had been erected to connect 
his Palace with the church, the temporary passage gave way a 
few steps behind the Emperor. Popular superstition saw in 
this an evil omen — for Germany, it proved to be a happy one 
— and prophesied that Charles would be the last German 
Emperor thus crowned. The prophecy became true, but it 
was not in Italy that the link was broken which connected 
Germany with Eome. This was done in Germany itself, and 
as we have seen, by the humble peasants' son, Maetin Luther. 

Luther it was who actually freed Germany from the secular 
and spiritual bondage of Rome ; for although the Protestants 
had been vanquished in the Smalkaldic war, they were not 
entirely crushed. The spirit of the Reformation survived, and 
exercised its beneficial influence not only throughout Ger- 
many, but over the whole of the civilised world, and it is in this 
sense that the Reformation is universally considered as the 
beginning of a New Era in the history of the world. The 
Reformation is the source, directly or indirectly, by action or 
by reaction, of everything great and noble which has taken 
place from about the beginning of the sixteenth century. 


Through the Keformation alone men of all creeds have become 
free and enlightened. And this is the reason why not only 
the Theologian, but also the political and literary Historian 
hails the work of the Eeformation as one of the greatest 
blessings ever bestowed on mankind. 





To the most Reverend Father in Christ and most illustrious 
Lord, Albert, Archbishop and Primate of the Churches of 
Magdeburg and Mentz, Marquis of Brandenburg, etc., his lord 
and pastor in Christ, most gracious and worthy of all fear and 
reverence — 


The grace of God be with you, and whatsoever it is and 
can do. 

Spare me, most reverend Father in Christ, most illustrious 
Prince, if I, the very dregs of humanity, have dared to think of 
addressing a letter to the eminence of your sublimity. The 
Lord Jesus is my witness that, in the consciousness of my own 
pettiness and baseness, I have long put off the doing of that 
which I have now hardened my*forehead to perform, moved 
thereto most especially by the sense of that faithful duty 
which I feel that I owe to your most reverend Fatherhood in 
Christ. May your Highness then in the meanwhile deign to 
cast your eyes upon one grain of dust, and, in your pontifical 
clemency, to understand my prayer. 

Papal indulgences are being carried about, under your most 
distinguished authority, for the building of St. Peter's. In 
respect of these I do not so much accuse the extravagant 
sayings of the preachers, which I have not heard, but I grieve 
at the very false ideas which the people conceive from 
them, and which are spread abroad in common talk on every 
ude — namely, that unhappy souls believe that, if they buy 
3tters of indulgences, they are sure of their salvation; also, 
that, as soon as they have thrown their contribution into the 


chest, souls forthwith fly out of purgatory ; and furthermore, 
that so great is the grace thus conferred, that there is no sin 
so great — even, as they say, if, by an impossibility, any one 
had violated the Mother of God — but that it may be pardoned ; 
and again, that by these indulgences a man is freed from all 
punishment and guilt. 

gracious God ! it is thus that the souls committed to your 
care, most excellent Father, are being taught unto their death, 
and a most severe account, which you will have to render for 
all of them, is growing and increasing. Hence I have not 
been able to keep silence any longer on this subject, for by no 
function of a bishop's office can a man become sure of salvation, 
since he does not even become sure through the grace of God 
infused into him, but the Apostle bids us to be ever working 
out our salvation in fear and trembling. (Phil. ii. 12.) Even 
the righteous man — says Peter — shall scarcely be saved. 
(1 Pet. iv. 18.) In fine, so narrow is the way which leads 
unto life, that the Lord, speaking by the prophets Amos and 
Zachariah, calls those who are to be saved brands snatched 
from the burning, and our Lord everywhere declares the 
difficulty of salvation. 

Why then, by these false stories and promises of pardon, 
do the preachers of them make the people to feel secure and 
without fear ? since indulgences confer absolutely no good on 
souls as regards salvation or holiness, but only take away 
the outward penalty which was wont of old to be canonically 

Lastly, works of piety and charity are infinitely better than 
indulgences, and yet they do not preach these with such 
display or so much zeal; nay, they keep silence about them 
for the sake of preaching pardons. And yet it is the first and 
sole duty of all bishops, that the people should learn the 
Gospel and Christian charity : for Christ nowhere commands 
that indulgences should be preached. What a dreadful thing 
it is then, what peril to a bishop, if, while the Gospel is passed 
over in silence, he permits nothing but the noisy outcry of 
indulgences to be spread among his people, and bestows more 
care on these than on the Gospel ! Will not Christ say to 
them : " Straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel " ? 

Besides all this, most reverend Father in the Lord, in that 


instruction to the commissaries which has been put forth under 
the name of your most reverend Fatherhood it is stated — 
doubtless without the knowledge and consent of your most 
reverend Fatherhood — that one of the principal graces conveyed 
by indulgences is that inestimable gift of God, by which man 
is reconciled to God, and all the pains of purgatory are done 
away with; and further, that contrition is not necessary for 
those who thus redeem souls or buy confessional licences. 

But what can I do, excellent Primate and most illustrious 
Prince, save to entreat your reverend Fatherhood, through the 
Lord Jesus Christ, to deign to turn on us the eye of fatherly 
care, and to suppress that advertisement altogether and impose 
on the preachers of pardons another form of preaching, lest 
perchance some one should at length arise who will put forth 
writings in confutation of them and of their advertisements, 
to the deepest reproach of your most illustrious Highness. It 
is intensely abhorrent to me that this should be done, and yet 
I fear that it will happen, unless the evil be speedily remedied. 

This faithful discharge of my humble duty I entreat that 
your most illustrious Grace will deign to receive in a princely 
and bishoplike spirit — that is, with all clemency — even as I 
offer it with a most faithful heart, and one most devoted to your 
most reverend Fatherhood, since I too am part of your flock. 
May the Lord Jesus keep your most reverend Fatherhood for 
ever and ever. Amen. 

From Wittemberg, on the eve of All Saints, in the year 

If it so please your most reverend Fatherhood, you may look 
at these Disputations, that you may perceive how dubious a 
matter is that opinion about indulgences, which they dis- 
seminate as if it were most certain. 

To your most reverend Fatherhood, 

Martin Luther. 

b 2 



In the desire and with the purpose of elucidating the truth, 
a disputation will be held on the underwritten propositions at 
Wittemberg, under the presidency of the Eeverend Father 
Martin Luther, Monk of the Order of St. Augustine, Master of 
Arts and of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Eeader of the same 
in that place. He therefore asks those who cannot be present 
and discuss the subject with us orally, to do so by letter in their 
absence. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying : " Eepent 
ye," * etc., intended that the whole life of believers should be 

2. This word cannot be understood of sacramental penance, 
that is, of the confession and satisfaction which are performed 
under the ministry of priests. 

3. It does not, however, refer solely to inward penitence; 
nay such inward penitence is naught, unless it outwardly 
produces various mortifications of the flesh. 

4. The penalty 2 thus continues as long as the hatred of self 
— that is, true inward penitence — continues ; namely, till our 
entrance into the kingdom of heaven. 

5. The Pope has neither the will nor the power to remit 
any penalties, except those which he has imposed by his own 
authority, or by that of the canons. 

6. The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except by 
declaring and warranting it to have been remitted by God ; or 
at most by remitting cases reserved for himself; in which 
cases, if his power were despised, guilt would certainly remain. 

7. God never remits any man's guilt, without at the same 

1 In the Latin, from the Vulgate, " agite pcenitentiam," sometimes translated 
" Do penance." The effect of the following theses depends to some extent on 
the double meaning of "pcenitentia " — penitence and penance. 

2 I.e. "Poena" the connection between "poena " and " pcmitewHa " being 
again suggestive. 


time subjecting him, humbled in all things, to the authority 
of his representative the priest. 

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, 
and no burden ought to be imposed on the dying, according to 

9. Hence the Holy Spirit acting in the Pope does well for us, 
in that, in his decrees, he always makes exception of the 
article of death and of necessity. 

10. Those priests act wrongly and unlearnedly, who, in the 
case of the dying, reserve the canonical penances for pur- 

^1. Those tares about changing of the canonical penalty into 
the penalty of purgatory seem surely to have been sown while 
the bishops were asleep. 

12. Formerly the canonical penalties were imposed not 
after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition. 

13. The dying pay all penalties by death, and are already 
dead to the canon laws, and are by right relieved from them. 

14. The imperfect soundness or charity of a dying person 
necessarily brings with it great fear, and the less it is, the 
greater the fear it brings. 

15. This fear and horror is sufficient by itself, to say nothing 
of other things, to constitute the pains of purgatory, since it is 
very near to the horror of despair. 

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven appear to differ as despair, 
almost despair, and peace of mind differ. 

17. With souls in purgatory it seems that it must needs be 
that, as horror diminishes, so charity increases. 

18. Nor does it seem to be proved by any reasoning or any 
scriptures, that they are outside of the state of merit or of the 
increase of charity. 

19. Nor does this appear to be proved, that they are sure 
and confident of their own blessedness, at least all of them, 
though we may be very sure of it. 

20. Therefore the Pope, when he speaks of the plenary 
remission of all penalties, does not mean simply of all, but 
only of those imposed by himself. 

21. Thus those preachers of indulgences are in error who 
say that, by the indulgences of the Pope, a man is loosed and 
saved from all punishment 


22. For in fact he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty 
which they would have had to pay in this life according to the 

23. If any entire remission of all penalties can be granted 
to any one, it is certain that it is granted to none but the most 
perfect, that is, to very few. 

24. Hence the greater part of the people must needs be 
deceived by this indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of 
release from penalties. 

25. Such power as the Pope has over purgatory in general, 
such has every bishop in his own diocese, and every curate in 
his own parish, in particular. 

26. The Pope acts most rightly in granting remission to 
souls, not by the power of the keys (which is of no avail in this 
case) but by the way of suffrage. 

27. They preach man, who say that the soul flies out of 
purgatory as soon as the money thrown into the chest 

28. It is certain that, when the money rattles in the chest, 
avarice and gain may be increased, but the suffrage of the 
Church depends on the will of God alone. 

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory desire to 
be redeemed from it, according to the story told of Saints 
Severinus and Paschal. 

30. No man is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much 
less of the attainment of plenary remission. 

31. Eare as is a true penitent, so rare is one who truly buys 
indulgences — that is to say, most rare. 

32. Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they 
are made sure of their own salvation, will be eternally damned 
along with their teachers. 

33. We must especially beware of those who say that these 
pardons from the Pope are that inestimable gift of God by 
which man is reconciled to God. 

34. For the grace conveyed by these pardons has respect 
only to the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, which are of 
human appointment. 

35. They preach no Christian doctrine, who teach that 
contrition is not necessary for those who buy souls out of 
purgatory or buy confessional licences. 


36. Every Christian who feels true compunction has of right 
plenary remission of pain and guilt, even without letters of 

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share 
in all the benefits of Christ and of the Church, given him by 
God, even without letters of pardon. 

38. The remission, however, imparted by the Pope is by eo 
means to be despised, since it is, as I have said, a declaration 
of the Divine remission. 

39. It is a most difficult thing, even for the most learned 
theologians, to exalt at the same time in the eyes of the people 
the ample effect of pardons and the necessity of true contrition. 

40. True contrition seeks and loves punishment ; while the 
ampleness of pardons relaxes it, and causes men to hate it, or 
at least gives occasion for them to do so. 

41. Apostolical pardons ought to be proclaimed with caution, 
lest the people should falsely suppose that they are placed 
before other good works of charity. 

42. Christians should be taught that it is not the mind of 
the Pope that the buying of pardons is to be in any way 
compared to works of mercy. 

43. Christians should be taught that he who gives to a poor 
man, or lends to a needy man, does better than if he bought 

44. Because, by a work of charity, charity increases, and the 
man becomes better ; while, by means of pardons, he does not 
become better, but only freer from punishment. 

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees any one in 
need, and, passing him by, gives money for pardons, is not 
purchasing for himself the indulgences of the Pope, but the 
anger of God. 

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have 
superfluous wealth, they are bound to keep what is necessary 
for the use of their own households, and by no means to lavish 
it on pardons. 

47. Christians should be taught that, while they are free to 
buy pardons, they are not commanded to do so. 

48. Christians should be taught that the Pope, in granting 
pardons, has both more need and more desire that devout prayer 
should be made for him, than that money should be readily paid. 



49. Christians should be taught that the Pope's pardons are 
useful, if they do not put their trust in them, but most hurtful, 
if through them they lose the fear of God. 

50. Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were 
acquainted with the exactions of the preachers of pardons, 
he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be burnt 
to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh, 
and bones of his sheep. 

51. Christians should be taught that, as it would be the 
duty, so it would be the wish of the Pope, even to sell, if 
necessary, the Basilica of St. Peter, and to give of his own 
money to very many of those from whom the preachers of 
pardons extract money. 

52. Yain is the hope of salvation through letters of pardon, 
even if a commissary — nay, the Pope himself — were to pledge 
his own soul for them. 

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the Pope, who, in order 
that pardons may be preached, condemn the word of God to 
utter silence in other churches. 

54. Wrong is done to the word of God when, in the same 
sermon, an equal or longer time is spent on pardons than 
on it. 

55. The mind of the Pope necessarily is that, if pardons, 
which are a very small matter, are celebrated with single bells, 
single processions, and single ceremonies, the Gospel, which is 
a very great matter, should be preached with a hundred bells, 
a hundred processions, and a hundred ceremonies. 

56. The treasures of the Church, whence the Pope grants 
indulgences, are neither sufficiently named nor known among 
the people of Christ. 

57. It is clear that they are at least not temporal treasures, 
for these are not so readily lavished, but only accumulated, by 
many of the preachers. 

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and of the saints, for 
these, independently of the Pope, are always working grace 
to the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell to the outer 

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church are 
the poor of the Church, but he spoke according to the use of 
the word in his time. 


60. We are not speaking rashly when we say that the 
keys of the Church, bestowed through the merits of Christ, are 
that treasure. 

61. For it is clear that the power of the Pope is alone 
sufficient for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases. 

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of 
the glory and grace of God. 

63. This treasure, however, is deservedly most hateful, 
because it makes the first to be last. 

64. While the treasure of indulgences is deservedly most 
acceptable, because it makes the last to be first. 

65. Hence the treasures of the Gospel are nets, wherewith of 
old they fished for the men of riches. 

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets, wherewith they 
now fish for the riches of men. 

67. Those indulgences, which the preachers loudly proclaim 
to be the greatest graces, are seen to be truly such as regards 
the promotion of gain. 

68. Yet they are in reality in no degree to be compared to 
the grace of God and the piety of the cross. 

69. Bishops and curates are bound to receive the commissaries 
of apostolical pardons with all reverence. 

70. But they are still more bound to see to it with all their 
eyes, and take heed with all their ears, that these men do not 
preach their own dreams in place of the Pope's commission. 

71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolical pardons, 
let him be anathema and accursed. 

72. But he, on the other hand, who exerts himself against 
the wantonness and licence of speech of the preachers of 
pardons, let him be blessed. 

73. As the Pope justly thunders against those who use any 
kind of contrivance to the injury of the traffic in pardons, 

74. Much more is it his intention to thunder against those 
who, under the pretext of pardons, use contrivances to the 
injury of holy charity and of truth. 

75. To think that Papal pardons have such power that they 
could absolve a man even if — by an impossibility — he had 
violated the Mother of God, is madness. 

76. We affirm on the contrary that Papal pardons cannot 
take away even the least of venial sins, as regards its guilt. 


77. The saying that, even if St. Peter were now Pope, he 
could grant no greater graces, is blasphemy against St. Peter 
and the Pope. 

78. We affirm on the contrary that both he and any other 
Pope has greater graces to grant, namely, the Gospel, powers, 
gifts of healing, etc. (1 Cor. xii. 9.) 

79. To say that the cross set up among the insignia of the 
Papal arms is of equal power with the cross of Christ, is 

80- Those bishops, curates, and theologians who allow such 
discourses to have currency among the people, will have to 
render an account. 

81. This licence in the preaching of pardons makes it no easy 
thing, even for learned men, to protect the reverence due to 
the Pope against the calumnies, or, at all events, the keen 
questionings of the laity. 

82. As for instance: — Why does not the Pope empty 
purgatory for the sake of most holy charity and of the supreme 
necessity of souls — this being the most just of all reasons — if 
he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of that 
most fatal thing money, to be spent on building a basilica — 
this being a very slight reason ? 

83. Again ; why do funeral masses and anniversary masses 
for the deceased continue, and why does not the Pope return, 
or permit the withdrawal of the funds bequeathed for this 
purpose, since it is a wrong to pray for those who are already 
redeemed ? 

84. Again ; what is this new kindness of God and the Pope, 
in that, for money's sake, they permit an impious man and an 
enemy of God to redeem a pious soul which loves God, and yet 
do not redeem that same pious and beloved soul, out of free 
charity, on account of its own need ? 

85. Again ; why is it that the penitential canons, long since 
abrogated and dead in themselves in very fact and not only 
by usage, are yet still redeemed with money, through the 
granting of indulgences, as if they were full of life ? 

86. Again ; why does not the Pope, whose riches are at this 
day more ample than those of the wealthiest of the wealthy, 
build the one Basilica of St. Peter with his own money, rather 
than with that of poor believers ? 


87. Again ; what does the Pope remit or impart to those 
who, through perfect contrition, have a right to plenary re- 
mission and participation ? 

88. Again ; what greater good would the Church receive if 
the Pope, instead of once, as he does now, were to bestow these 
remissions and participations a hundred times a day on any one 
of the faithful ? 

89. Since it is the salvation of souls, rather than money, 
that the Pope seeks by his pardons, why does he suspend the 
letters and pardons granted long ago, since they are equally 

90. To repress these scruples and arguments of the laity by 
force alone, and not to solve them by giving reasons, is to 
expose the Church and the Pope to the ridicule of their 
enemies, and to make Christian men unhappy. 

91. If then pardons were preached according to the spirit 
and mind of the Pope, all these questions would be resolved 
with ease ; nay, would not exist. 

92. Away then with all those prophets who say to the people 
of Christ : " Peace, peace," and there is no peace. 

93. Blessed be all those prophets, who say to the people of 
Christ : " The cross, the cross," and there is no cross. 

94. Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ 
their head through pains, deaths, and hells. 

95. And thus trust to enter heaven through many tribulations, 
rather than in the security of peace. 


I, Martin Luther, Doctor, of the Order of Monks at Wittem- 
berg, desire to testify publicly that certain propositions against 
pontifical indulgences, as they call them, have been put forth 
by me. Now although, up to the present time, neither this 
most celebrated and renowned school of ours, nor any civil or 
ecclesiastical power has condemned me, yet there are, as I hear, 
some men of headlong and audacious spirit, who dare to pro- 
nounce me a heretic, as though the matter had been thoroughly 
looked into and studied. But on my part, as I have often done 
before, so now too I implore all men, by the faith of Christ, 
either to point out to me a better way, if such a way has been 


divinely revealed to any, or at least to submit their opinion to 
the judgment of God and of the Church. For I am neither so 
rash as to wish that my sole opinion should be preferred to 
that of all other men, nor so senseless as to be willing that the 
word of God should be made to give place to fables, devised 
by human reason. 













( 17 


To the respected and worthy 


Licentiate in the Holy Scriptures and Canon of Wittenberg, 1 

My particular and affectionate friend. 


The Grace and Peace of God be with you ! Respected, worthy 
Sir and dear friend. 

The time for silence is gone and the time to speak has come, 
as we read in Ecclesiastes (iii. 7.) I have in conformity with 
our resolve put together some few points concerning the Refor- 
mation of the Christian Estate, with the intent of placing the 
same before the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, in 
case it may please God to help His Church by means of the 
laity, inasmuch as the clergy, whom this task rather befitted, 
have become quite careless. I send all this to your worship, 
to judge and to amend where needed. I am well aware that 
I shall not escape the reproach of taking far too much upon 
me, in presuming, insignificant as I am, to address such high 
estates on such weighty and great subjects ; as if there were no 
one in the world but Dr. Luther, to have a care for Christi- 
anity, and to give advice to such wise people. 

Let who will blame me, I shall not offer any excuse. 
Perhaps I still owe God and the world another folly. This debt 
I have now resolved honestly to discharge, as well as may be, 
and to be court fool for once in my life : if I fail, I shall at any 
rate gain this advantage, that no one need buy me a fool's cap 
or shave my poll. But it remains to be seen which shall hang 

1 Nicolaus von Amsdorf (1483-1565) was a colleague of Luther at the 
University of Wittenberg, and one of his most zealous fellow-workers iii 
the cause of the Reformation. 


the bells on the other. I must fulfil the proverb : When any- 
thing is to be done in the world, a monk must be in it, were 
it only as a painted figure. I suppose it has often happened 
that a fool has spoken wisely, and wise men have often done 
foolishly, as St. Paul says : " If any man among you seemeth 
to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be 
wise." (1 Cor. iii. 18.) 

Now, inasmuch as I am not only a fool, but also a sworn 
doctor of the Holy Scriptures, I am glad that I have an oppor- 
tunity of fulfilling my oath, just in this fool's way. I beg you 
to excuse me to the moderately wise : for I know not how to 
deserve the favour and grace of the supremely wise, which I 
have so often sought with much labour, but now for the future 
shall neither have nor regard. 

God help us to seek not our glory, but His alone. Amen. 

From Wittenberg, in the monastery of St. Augustine, on the 
eve of St. John the Baptist, in the year 1520. 


To his most Serene and Mighty Imperial Majesty, and to 
the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. 

Db. maetinus luthee. 

The grace and might of God be with you, Most Serene 
Majesty ! most gracious, well beloved gentlemen ! 

It is not out of mere arrogance and perversity that I, a 
single poor man, have taken upon me to address your lord- 
ships. The distress and misery that oppress all the Christian 
estates, more especially in Germany, have led not only myself, 
but every one else, to cry aloud and to ask for help, and have 
now forced me too, to cry out and to ask, if God would give 
His Spirit to any one, to reach a hand to His wretched people. 
Councils have often put forward some remedy, but through the 
cunning of certain men it has been adroitly frustrated, and the 
evils have become worse ; whose malice and wickedness I will 


now, by the help of God, expose, so that, being known, they may 
henceforth cease to be so obstructive and injurious. God has 
given us a young and noble sovereign, 1 and by this has roused 
hope in many hearts : now it is right that we too should do . 
what we can, and make good use of time and grace. 

The first thing that we must do is to consider the matter 
with great earnestness, and, whatever we attempt, not to trust 
in our own strength and wisdom alone, even if the power of 
all the world were ours ; for God will not endure that a good 
work should be begun, trusting to our own strength and 
wisdom. He destroys it ; it is all useless : as we read in the 
xxxiii. Psalm. " There is no king saved by the multitude of an 
host : a mighty man is not delivered by much strength." And 
I fear it is for that reason, that those beloved Princes, the 
Emperors Frederick, the First and the Second, and many other 
German Emperors were, in former times, so piteously spurned 
and oppressed by the Popes, though they were feared by all 
the world. Perchance they trusted rather in their own 
strength than in God ; therefore they could not but fall : and 
how would the sanguinary tyrant Julius II. have risen so 
high in our own days, but, that, I fear, France, the Germans 
and Venice trusted to themselves ? The children of Benjamin 
slew forty-two thousand Israelites, for this reason, that these 
trusted to their own strength. (Judges xx. etc.) 

That it may not happen thus to us and to our noble 
Emperor Charles, we must remember that in this matter we 
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of 
the darkness of this world (Eph. vi. 12), who may fill the 
world with war and bloodshed, but cannot themselves be over- 
come thereby. We must renounce all confidence in our natural 
strength, and take the matter in hand with humble trust 
in God; we must seek God's help with earnest prayer, and 
have nothing before our eyes but the misery and wretchedness 
of Christendom, irrespective of what punishment the wicked 
may deserve. If we do not act thus, we may begin the game 
with great pomp ; but when we are well in it, the spirits of 
evil will make such confusion, that the whole world will be 
immersed in blood, and yet nothing be done. Therefore let us 
act in the fear of God, and prudently. The greater the might 

1 Charles V. was at that time not quite twenty years of age. 



of the foe, the greater is the misfortune, if we do not act in the 
fear of God, and with humility. As Popes and Eomanist s have 
hitherto, with the Devil's help, thrown Kings into confusion, 
so will they still do, if we attempt things with our own Strength 
and skill, without God's help. 


The Three Walls of the Eomanists. 

The Eomanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls 
round themselves, with which they have hitherto protected 
themselves, so that no one could reform them, whereby all 
Christendom has fallen terribly. 

Firstly, if pressed by the temporal power, they have affirmed 
and maintained that the temporal power has no jurisdiction 
over them, but on the contrary that the spiritual power is 
above the temporal. 

Secondly, if it were proposed to admonish them with the 
Scriptures, they objected that no one may interpret the Scrip- 
tures but the Pope. 

Thirdly, if they are threatened with a Council, they pre- 
tend that no one may call a Council but the Pope. 

Thus they have secretly stolen our three rods, so that they 
may be unpunished, and entrenched themselves behind these 
three walls, to act with all wickedness and malice, as we now 
see. And whenever they have been compelled to call a 
Council, they have made it of no avail, by binding the Princes 
beforehand with an oath to leave them as they were. Besides 
this they have given the Pope full power over the arrange- 
ment of the Council, so that it is all one, whether we have 
many Councils, or no Councils, for in any case they deceive 
us with pretences and false tricks. So grievously do they 
tremble for their skin before a true, free Council ; and thus 
they have overawed Kings and Princes, that these believe they 
would be offending God, if they were not to obey them in all 
such knavish, deceitful artifices. 

Now may God help us, and give us one of those trumpets, that 
overthrew the walls of Jericho, so that we may blow down 
these walls of straw and paper, and that we may set free our 


Christian rods, for the chastisement of sin, and expose the 
craft and deceit of the devil, so that we may amend ourselves 
by punishment and again obtain God's favour. 

The First Wall. 

Let us, in the first place, attack the first wall. 

It has been devised, that the Pope, bishops, priests and 
monks are called the Spiritual Estate ; Princes, lords, artificers 
and peasants, are the Temporal Estate ; which is a very fine, 
hypocritical device. But let no one be made afraid by it ; and 
that for this reason : That all Christians are truly of the 
Spiritual Estate, and there is no difference among them, save of 
office alone. As St. Paul says (1 Cor. xii.), we are all one 
body, though each member does its own work, to serve the 
others. This is because we have one baptism, one gospel, one 
faith, and are all Christians alike ; for baptism, gospel and 
faith, these alone make Spiritual and Christian people. 

As for the unction by a pope or a bishop, tonsure, ordi- 
nation, consecration, clothes differing from those of laymen — 
all this may make a hypocrite or an anointed puppet, but never 
a Christian, or a spiritual man. Thus we are all consecrated 
as priests by baptism, as St. Peter says : "Ye are a royal 
priesthood, a holy nation " (1 Peter ii. 9) ; and in the book of 
Revelations : " and hast made us unto our God, kings and 
priests." (Eev. v. 10.) For, if we had not a higher consecration 
in us than Pope or bishop can give, no priest could ever be 
made by the consecration of Pope or bishop ; nor could he say 
the mass, or preach, or absolve. Therefore the bishop's con- 
secration is just as if in the name of the whole congregation 
he took one person out of the community, each member of 
which has equal power, and commanded him to exercise this 
power for the rest ; in the same way as if ten brothers, co-heirs 
as king's sons, were to choose one from among them to rule 
over their inheritance ; they would, all of them, still remain 
kings and have equal power, although one is ordered to govern. 

And to put the matter even more plainly ; If a little 
company of pious Christian laymen were taken prisoners and 
carried away to a desert, and had not among them a priest 

c 2 


consecrated by a bishop, and were there to agree to elect one 
of them, married or unmarried, and were to order him to 
baptize, to celebrate the mass, to absolve and to preach ; this 
man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops and all 
the Popes had consecrated him. That is why in cases of 
necessity every man can baptize and absolve, which would not 
be possible if we were not all priests. This great grace 
and virtue of baptism and of the Christian Estate, they have 
almost destroyed and made us forget by their ecclesiastical law. 
In this way the Christians used to choose their bishops 
and priests out of the community ; these being afterwards 
confirmed by other bishops, without the pomp that we have 
now. So was it that St. Augustine, Ambrose,^ Cyprian, were 

Since then the temporal power is baptized as we are, and 
has the same faith and gospel, we must allow it to be priest 
and bishop, and account its office an office that is proper and 
useful to the Christian community. For whatever issues 
from baptism, may boast that it has been consecrated priest, 
bishop, and Pope, although it does not beseem everyone to 
exercise these offices. For, since we are all priests alike, no 
man may put himself forward, or take upon himself, without 
our consent and election, to do that which we have all alike 
power to do. For, if a thing is common to all, no man may take 
it to himself without the wish and command of the community. 
And if it should happen that a man were appointed to one 
of these offices and deposed for abuses, he would be just 
what he was before. Therefore a priest should be nothing 
in Christendom but a functionary ; as long as he holds his 
office, he has precedence of others ; if he is deprived of it, he 
is a peasant and a citizen like the rest. Therefore a priest 
is verily no longer a priest after deposition. But now they 
have invented characteres indelebiles, 1 and pretend that a priest 
after deprivation still differs from a simple layman. They 
even imagine that a priest can never be anything but a priest, 
that is, that he can never become a layman. All this is 
nothing but mere talk and ordinance of human invention. 

1 In accordance with a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church the act of 
ordination impresses upon the priest an indelible character ; so that he im- 
mutably retains the sacred dignity of priesthood. 


It follows then, that between layman and priests, princes 
and bishops, or as they call it, between spiritual and temporal 
persons, the only real difference is one of office and function, 
and not of estate : for they are all of the same Spiritual 
Estate, true priests, bishops and Popes, though their functions 
are not the same : just as among priests and monks every 
man has not the same functions. And this St. Paul says 
(Eom. xii. ; 1 Cor. xii.) and St. Peter (1 Peter ii.) ; " we being 
many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of 
another." Christ's body is not double or twofold, one temporal, 
the other spiritual. He is one head, and he has one body. 

We see then that just as those that we call spiritual, or 
priests, bishops or popes, do not differ from other Christians in 
any other or higher degree, but in that they are to be concerned 
with the word of God, and the sacraments — that being their 
work and office — in the same way the temporal authorities hold 
the sword and the rod in their hands to punish the wicked and 
to protect the good. A cobbler, a smith, a peasant, every man 
has the office and function of his calling, and yet all alike are 
consecrated priests and bishops, and every man in his office 
must be useful and beneficial to the rest, that so many kinds 
of work may all be united into one community : just as the 
members of the body all serve one another. 

Now see, what a Christian doctrine is this : that the temporal 
authority is not above the clergy, and may not punish it. This 
is, as if one were to say, the hand may not help, though the eye 
is in grievous suffering. Is it not unnatural, not to say un- 
christian, that one member may not help another, or guard it 
against harm ? Nay, the nobler the member, the more the rest 
are bound to help it. Therefore I say : forasmuch as the tem- 
poral power has been ordained by God for the punishment 
of the bad, and the protection of the good, therefore we must 
let it do its duty throughout the whole Christian body, with- 
out respect of persons : whether it strike popes, bishops, priests, 
monks, or nuns. If it were sufficient reason for fettering the 
temporal power that it is inferior among the offices of Christi- 
anity to the offices of priest or confessor, or to the spiritual 
estate — if this were so, then we ought to restrain tailors, 
cobblers, masons, carpenters, cooks, servants, peasants, and all 
secular workmen, from providing the Pope, or bishops, priests 


and monks, with shoes, clothes, houses or victuals, or from paying 
them tithes. But if these laymen are allowed to do their work 
without restraint, what do the Romanist scribes mean by their 
laws ? They mean that they withdraw themselves from the 
operation of temporal Christian power, simply in order that 
they may be free to do evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter 
said : " There shall be false teachers among you, . . . and 
through covetousness shall they with feigned words make 
merchandize of you." (2 Peter ii. 1, etc.) 

Therefore the temporal Christian power must exercise its 
office without let or hindrance, without considering whom it 
may strike, whether pope, or bishop, or priest : whoever is guilty 
let him suffer for it. Whatever the ecclesiastical law says in 
opposition to this, is merely the invention of Romanist arro- 
gance. For this is what St. Paul says to all Christians : " Let 
every soul " (I presume including the Popes) " be subject unto 
the higher powers : for he beareth not the sword in vain : for 
he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him 
that doeth evil." (Rom. xiii. 1-4.) Also St. Peter : " Submit 
yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake . . . 
for so is the will of God." (1 Peter ii. 13, 15.) He has also 
said, that men would come, who should despise government 
(2 Peter ii.) ; as has come to pass through ecclesiastical law. 

Now I imagine, the first paper wall is overthrown, inasmuch 
as the temporal power has become a member of the Christian 
body, and although its work relates to the body, yet does it 
belong to the spiritual estate. Therefore it must do its duty 
without let or hindrance upon all members of the whole body, 
to punish or urge, as guilt may deserve, or need may require, 
without respect of Pope, bishops or priests ; let them threaten 
or excommunicate as they will. That is why a guilty priest is 
deprived of his priesthood before being given over to the 
secular arm ; whereas this would not be right, if the secular 
sword had not authority over him already by divine ordinance. 

It is, indeed, past bearing that the spiritual law should esteem 
so highly the liberty, life and property of the clergy, as if laymen 
were not as good spiritual Christians, or not equally members 
of the Church. Why should your body, life, goods, and honour 
be free and not mine, seeing that we are equal as Christians, and 
have received alike baptism, faith, spirit and all things ? If a 


priest is killed, the country is laid under an interdict : 1 why 
not also if a peasant is killed ? Whence conies all this differ- 
ence among equal Christians ? Simply from human laws and 

It can have heen no good spirit, that devised these exceptions, 
and made sin to go unpunished. For, if as Christ and the 
Apostles bid us, it is our duty to oppose the evil one, and all 
his works and words, and to drive him away as well as may 
be ; how then should we look on in silence, when the Pope and 
his followers are guilty of devilish works and words ? Are we 
for the sake of men to allow the commandments and the truth 
of God to be defeated, which at our baptism we vowed to 
support with body and soul ? Truly we should have to answer 
for all souls that are thus led away into error. 

Therefore it must have been the archdevil himself who said, 
as we read in the ecclesiastical law : If the Pope were so 
perniciously wicked, as to be dragging souls in crowds to the 
devil, yet he could not be deposed. This is the accursed and 
devilish foundation on which they build at Eome, and think 
that the whole world is to be allowed to go to the devil, rather 
than they should be opposed in their knavery. If a man were 
to escape punishment simply because he is above the rest, then 
no Christian might punish another, since Christ has com- 
manded each of us to esteem himself the lowest and the 
humblest. (Matt, xviii. 4 ; Luke ix. 48.) 

"Where there is sin, there remains no avoiding the punish- 
ment, as St. Gregory says : We are all equal, but guilt makes 
one subject to another. Now see, how they deal with Christ- 
endom, depriving it of its freedom without any warrant from 
the Scriptures, out of their own wickedness, whereas God and 
the Apostles made them subject to the secular sword ; so that 
we must fear, that it is the work of Antichrist, or a sign of his 
near approach. 

The Second Wall 

The second wall is even more tottering and weak : that 
they alone pretend to be considered masters of the Scriptures ; 

1 By the Interdict, or general excommunication, whole countries, districts, 
or towns, were deprived of all the spiritual benefits of the Church, such 
as divine service, the administering of the sacraments, etc. 


26 luthek's primary works 

although they learn nothing of them all their life, they assume 
authority, and juggle before us with impudent words, saying that 
the Pope cannot err in matters of faith, whether he be evil or 
good ; albeit they cannot prove it by a single letter. That is 
why the canon law contains so many heretical and unchristian, 
nay, unnatural laws ; but of these we need not speak now. 
. For whereas they imagine the Holy G-host never leaves them, 
however unlearned and wicked they may be, they grow bold 
enough to decree whatever they like. But were this true, 
where were the need and use of the Holy Scriptures ? Let us 
burn them, and content ourselves with the unlearned gentlemen 
at Rome, in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, who however can 
dwell in pious souls only. If I had not read it, I could never 
have believed, that the Devil should have put forth such follies 
at Eome and find a following. 

But not to fight them with our own words, we will quote 
the Scriptures. St. Paul says : " If anything be revealed to 
another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace." (1 Cor. 
xiv. 30.) What would be the use of this commandment, if we 
were to believe him alone that teaches or has the highest seat ? 
Christ Himself says : " And they shall be all taught of God." 
(St. John vi. 45.) Thus it may come to pass that the Pope and 
his followers are wicked and not true Christians, and not being 
taught by God, have no true understanding, whereas a common 
man may have true understanding. Why should we then not 
follow him ? Has not the Pope often erred ? Who could help 
Christianity, in case the Pope errs, if we do not rather believe 
another, who has the Scriptures for him ? 

Therefore it is a wickedly devised fable, and they cannot 
quote a single letter to confirm it, that it is for the Pope 
alone to interpret the Scriptures or to confirm the interpreta- 
tion of them : they have assumed the authority of their own 
selves. And though they say, that this authority was given 
to St. Peter when the keys were given to him, it is plain 
enough that the keys were not given to St. Peter alone, but 
to the whole community. Besides, the keys were not ordained 
for doctrine or authority, but for sin, to bind or loose; and 
what they claim besides this is mere invention. But what 
Christ said to St. Peter : " I have prayed for thee, that thy 
faith fail not " (St. Luke xxii. 32), cannot relate to the 


Pope, inasmuch as there have been many Popes without 
faith, as they are themselves forced to acknowledge. Nor did 
Christ pray for Peter alone, hut for all the Apostles and all 
Christians, as He says, " Neither pray I for these alone, but for 
them also which shall believe on me through their word." 
(St. John xvii.) Is not this plain enough ? 

Only consider the matter. They must needs acknowledge 
that there are pious Christians among us, that have the true 
faith, spirit, understanding, word, and mind of Christ ; why then 
should we reject their word and understanding, and follow a 
Pope who has neither understanding nor Spirit? Surely this 
were to deny our whole faith and the Christian Church. 
Moreover, if the article of our faith is right : I believe in the 
Holy Christian Church, the Pope cannot alone be right ; else 
we must say : I believe in the Pope of Rome, and reduce the 
Christian Church to one man, which is a devilish and damnable 
heresy. Besides that, we are all priests, as I have said, and have 
r all one faith, one gospel, one sacrament ; how then should we 
I not have the power of discerning and judging what is right 
or wrong in matters of faith ? What becomes of St. Paul's 
words : " But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he 
himself is judged of no man " (1 Cor. ii. 15) ; and also, " we 
having the same spirit of faith." (2 Cor. iv. 13.) Why then 
should we not perceive as well as an unbelieving Pope, what 
agrees, or disagrees with our faith ? 

By these and many other texts we should gain courage 
and freedom, and should not let the spirit of -liberty (as 
St. Paulhas it) be frightened away by the inventions of the 
Popes; we should boldly judge what they do and what they 
leave undone, by our own understanding of the Scriptures, and 
force them to follow the better understanding, and not their 
own. Did not Abraham in old days have to obey his Sarah, 
who was in stricter bondage to him than we are to any one 
on earth ? Thus too Balaam's ass was wiser than the prophet. 
If God spoke by an ass against a prophet, why should He not 
speak by a pious man against the Pope ? Besides, St. Paul 
withstood St. Peter as being in error. (Gal. ii.) Therefore 
it behoves every Christian to aid the faith by understanding 
and defending it, and by condemning all errors. 


The Third Wall. 

The third wall falls of itself, as soon as the first two have 
fallen ; for if the Pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, we 
are bound to stand by the Scriptures, to punish and to con- 
strain him, according to Christ's commandment ; " Moreover 
if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him 
his fault between thee and him alone : if he shall hear thee, 
thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, 
then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two 
or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he 
shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church : but if he 
neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen 
man and a publican." (St. Matt, xviii. 15-17.) Here each 
member is commanded to take care for the other ; much more 
then should we do this, if it is a ruling member of the com- 
munity that does evil, which by its evil doing, causes great 
harm and offence to the others. If then I am to accuse him 
before the church, I must collect the church together. More- 
over they can show nothing in the Scriptures giving the Pope 
sole power to call and confirm councils ; they have nothing but 
their own laws ; but these hold good only so long as they are 
not injurious to Christianity and the laws of God. Therefore, 
if the Pope deserves punishment, these laws cease to bind us, 
since Christendom would suffer, if he were not punished by a 
council. Thus we read (Acts xv.), that the council of the 
Apostles was not called by St. Peter, but by all the Apostles and 
the elders. But if the right to call it had lain with St. Peter 
alone, it would not have been a Christian council, but a 
heretical concilidbulum. Moreover the most celebrated Nicene 
Council was neither called nor confirmed by the Bishop of 
Borne, but by the Emperor Constantine ; and after him 
many other Emperors have done the same, and yet the 
councils called by them were accounted most Christian. 
But if the Pope alone had the power, they must all have 
been heretical. Moreover if I consider the councils that the 
Pope has called, I do not find that they produced any notable 

Therefore when need requires and the Pope is a cause of 


offence to Christendom, in these cases whoever can best do so, 
as a faithful member of the whole body, must do what he can 
to procure a true free council. This no one can do so well as 
the temporal authorities, especially since they are fellow - 
Christians, fellow-priests, sharing one spirit, and one power 
in all things ; and since they should exercise the office that 
they have received from God without hindrance, whenever 
it is necessary and useful that it should be exercised. Would 
it not be most unnatural, if a fire were to break out in a 
city, and everyone were to keep still and let it burn on and 
on, whatever might be burnt, simply because they had not 
the mayor's authority, or because the fire perhaps broke 
out at the mayor's house ? Is not every citizen bound in 
this case to rouse and call in the rest ? How much more 
should this be done in the spiritual city of Christ, if a fire 
of offence breaks out, either at the Pope's government or 
wherever it may ! The like happens if an enemy attacks a 
town. The first to rouse up the rest earns glory and 
thanks. Why then should not he earn glory that announces 
the coming of our enemies from hell, and rouses and summons 
all Christians ? 

But as for their boasts of their authority, that no one must 
oppose it, this is idle talk. No one in Christendom has any 
authority to do harm, or to forbid others to prevent harm being 
done. There is no authority in the Church but for reformation. 
Therefore if the Pope wished to use his power to prevent the 
calling of a free council, so as to prevent the reformation of the 
Church, we must uot respect him or his power ; and if he should 
begin to excommunicate and fulminate, we must despise this as 
the ravings of a madman, and trusting in God, excommunicate 
and repel him, as best we may. For this his usurped power is 
nothing ; he does not possess it, and he is at once overthrown 
by a text from the Scriptures. For St. Paul says to the 
Corinthians, " That God has given us authority for edification 
and not for destruction." (2 Cor. x. 8.) Who will set this 
text at naught ? It is the power of the Devil and of Anti- 
christ that prevents what would serve for the reformation of 
Christendom. Therefore we must not follow it, but oppose 
it with our body, our goods and all that we have. And even if 
a miracle were to happen in favour of the Pope, against 

30 luthek's primary works 

the temporal power, or if some were to be stricken by a 
plague, as they sometimes boast has happened : all this is to 
be held as having been done by the Devil, for our want 
of faith in God, as was foretold by Christ : " There shall 
arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great 
signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they 
shall deceive the very elect " (Matt. xxiv. 23) ; and St. Paul 
tells the Thessalonians that the coming of Antichrist shall be 
" after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying 
wonders." (2 Thess. ii. 9.) 

Therefore let us hold fast to this : that Christian power can 
do nothing against Christ, as St. Paul says : " for we can do 
nothing against Christ, but for Christ." (2 Cor. xiii. 8.) But, 
if it does anything against Christ, it is the power of Anti- 
christ and the Devil, even if it rained and hailed wonders 
and plagues. Wonders and plagues prove nothing, especially in 
these latter evil days, of which false wonders are foretold in all 
the Scriptures. Therefore we must hold fast to the words of 
God with an assured faith ; then the Devil will soon cease his 

And now I hope we have laid the false, lying spectre with 
which the Komanists have long terrified and stupefied our con- 
sciences. And we have shown that, like all the rest of us, they 
are subject to the temporal sword ; that they have no authority 
to interpret the Scriptures by force without skill ; and that they 
have no power to prevent a council, or to pledge it in accordance 
with their pleasure, or to bind it beforehand, and deprive it of 
its freedom ; and that if they do this, they are verily of the 
fellowship of Antichrist and the Devil, and have nothing of 
Christ but the name. 



Of the Matteks to be Consideked in the Councils. 

Let us now consider the matters which should be treated in 
the councils, and with which popes, cardinals, bishops, and all 
learned men should occupy themselves day and night, if they 
loved Christ and His Church. But if they do not do so, the 
people at large and the temporal powers must do so, without 
considering the thunders of their excommunications. For an 
unjust excommunication is better than ten just absolutions, and 
an unjust absolution is worse than ten just excommunications. 
Therefore let us rouse ourselves, fellow-Germans, and fear (rod 
more than man, that we be not answerable for all the poor souls 
that are so miserably lost through the wicked, devilish govern- 
ment of the Komanists, through which also the dominion of the 
Devil grows day by day ; if indeed this hellish government can 
grow any worse, which for my part I can neither conceive nor 

1. It is a distressing and terrible thing to see that the 
head of Christendom, who boasts of being the Vicar of 
Christ and the successor of St. Peter, lives in a worldly pomp 
that no king or emperor can equal : so that in him that calls 
himself most holy and most spiritual, there is more worldliness 
than in the world itself. He wears a triple crown, whereas 
the mightiest kings only wear one crown. If this resembles the 
poverty of Christ and St. Peter, it is a new sort of resemblance. 
They prate of its being heretical to object to this ; nay, they 
will not even hear how unchristian and ungodly it is. But I 
think that if he should have to pray to (rod with tears, he 
would have to lay down his crowns ; for God will not endure 
any arrogance. His office should be nothing else than to weep 
and pray constantly for Christendom, and to be an example of 
all humility. 

However this may be, this pomp is a stumbling-block, and 
the Pope, for the very salvation of his soul, ought to put it off; 
for St. Paul says : " Abstain from all appearance of evil " 
(1 Thess. v. 21); and again: "Provide things honest in the 

32 luther's primary works 

sight of all men." (2 Cor. vjii. 21.) A simple mitre would be 
enough for the Pope : wisdom and sanctity should raise him 
above the rest ; the crown of pride he should leave to Anti- 
christ, as his predecessors did for some hundreds of years. 
They say : He is the ruler of the world. This is false ; for 
Christ, whose vice-gerent and vicar he claims to be, said to 
Pilate : " My kingdom is not of this world." (John xviii. 36.) 
But no vice-gerent can have a wider dominion than his Lord. 
Nor is he a vice-gerent of Christ in His glory, but of Christ 
crucified, as St. Paul says : " For 1 determined not to know 
anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified " 
(2 Cor. ii. 2) ; and (Phil. ii. 7) : " Let this mind be in you, 
which was also in Christ Jesus ; who made himself of no 
reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant." 
(Phil. ii. 5, 7.) Again (1 Cor. i.) : " We preach Christ cruci- 
fied." Now they make the Pope a vice-gerent of Christ 
exalted in heaven, and some have let the Devil rule them so 
thoroughly, that they have maintained that the Pope is above 
the angels in heaven, and has power over them ; which is 
precisely the true work of the true Antichrist. 

2. What is the use in Christendom of the people called 
" Cardinals " ? I will tell you. In Italy and Germany there are 
many rich convents, endowments, fiefs and benefices, and as 
the best way of getting these into the hands of Eome, they 
created cardinals, and gave them the sees, convents, and 
prelacies, and thus destroyed the service of God. That is why 
Italy is almost a desert now : the convents are destroyed, the 
sees consumed, the revenues of the prelacies and of all the 
churches drawn to Eome ; towns are decayed ; the country and 
the people ruined, while there is no more any worship of God 
or preaching ; why ? Because the cardinals must have all 
the wealth. No Turk could have thus desolated Italy and 
overthrown the worship of God. 

Now that Italy is sucked dry, they come to Germany and 
begin very quietly ; but we shall see, that Germany is soon to 
be brought into the same state as Italy. We have a few 
cardinals already. What the Eonianists mean thereby the 
drunken Germans 1 are not to see until they have lost every- 

1 The epithet " drunken " was formerly often applied by the Italians to the 


thing— bishoprics, convents, benefices, fiefs, even to their last 
farthing. Antichrist must take the riches of the earth, as it 
is written. (Dan. xi. 8, 39, 43.) They begin by taking off the 
cream of the bishoprics, convents, and fiefs ; and as they do 
not dare to destroy everything as they have done in Italy, 
they employ such holy cunning to join together ten or twenty 
prelacies, and take such a portion of each, annually, that the 
total amounts to a considerable sum. The priory of Wiirzburg 
gives one thousand guilders, those of Bamberg, Mayence, Treves 
and others also contribute. In this way they collect one 
thousand or ten thousand guilders, in order that a cardinal 
may live at Kome in a state like that of a wealthy monarch. 

After we have gained this, we will create thirty or forty 
cardinals on one day, and give one St. Michael's Mount, 1 near 
Bamberg, and likewise the see of Wiirzburg, to which belong 
some rich benefices, until the churches and the cities are 
desolated ; and then we shall say : We are the vicars of Christ, 
the shepherds of Christ's flocks ; those mad, drunken Germans 
must submit to it. I advise, however, that there be made fewer 
cardinals, or that the Pope should have to support them out 
of his own purse. It would be amply sufficient, if there were 
twelve, and if each of them had an annual income of one 
thousand guilders. What has brought us Germans to such a 
pass, tnat we have to suffer this robbery and this destruction 
of our property by the Pope? If the kingdom of France 
has resisted it, why do we Germans suffer ourselves to be 
fooled and deceived ? It would be more endurable, if they did 
nothing but rob us of our property ; but they destroy the 
church and deprive Christ's flock of their good shepherds, and 
overthrow the service and word of God. Even if there were 
no cardinals at all, the Church would not perish ; for they 
do nothing for the good of Christendom ; all they do is to 
bargain and traffic in prelacies and bishoprics ; which any 
robber could do as well. 

3. If we took away ninety-nine parts of the Pope's court 
and only left one hundredth, it would still be large enough 
to answer questions on matters of belief. Now there is such 
a swarm of vermin at Kome, all called Papal, that Babylon 

1 Luther alludes here to the Benedictine convent standing on the Monch- 
bery, or St. Michael's Mount. 


34 luther's primary works 

itself never saw the like. There are more than three thousand 
Papal secretaries alone ; but who shall count the other office- 
bearers, since there are so many offices that we can scarcely 
count them, and all waiting for German benefices, as wolves 
wait for a flock of sheep ? I think Germany now pays more 
to the Pope, than it formerly paid the Emperors ; nay, some 
think more than three hundred thousand guilders are sent 
from Germany to Kome every year, for nothing whatever ; and 
in return we are scoffed at and put to shame. Do we still 
wonder why princes, noblemen, cities, foundations, convents 
and people are poor ? We should rather wonder that we have 
anything left to eat. 

Now that we have got well into our game, let us pause 
awhile and show that the Germans are not such fools, as not 
to perceive or understand this Komish trickery. I do not here 
complain, that God's commandments and Christian justice are 
despised at Eome ; for the state of things in Christendom, 
especially at Rome, is too bad for us to complain of such high 
matters. Nor do I even complain that no account is taken 
of natural or secular justice and reason. The mischief lies 
still deeper. I complain that they do not observe their own 
fabricated canon law, though this is in itself rather mere 
tyranny, avarice and worldly pomp, than a law. This we 
shall now show. 

Long ago the Emperors and Princes of Germany allowed the 
Pope to claim the annates 1 from all German benefices ; that is, 
half of the first year's income from every benefice. The object 
at this concession was that the Pope should collect a fund with 
all this money, to fight against the Turks and infidels, and to 
protect Christendom, so that the nobility should not have 
to bear the burden of the struggle alone, and that the priests 
should also contribute. The Popes have made such use of 
this good simple piety of the Germans, that they have taken 
this money for more than one hundred years, and have now 
made of it a regular tax and duty ; and not only have they 
accumulated nothing, but they have founded out of it many 
posts and offices at Home, which are paid by it yearly, as out 
of a settled rent. 

1 The duty of paying annates to the Pope was established by John XXII. 
in 1318. 


Whenever there is any pretence of fighting the Turks, they 
send out some commission for collecting money, and often send 
out indulgences under the same pretext of fighting the Turks. 
They think we Germans will always remain such great and in- 
veterate fools, that we will go on giving money to satisfy their 
unspeakable greed, though we see plainly that neither annates 
nor absolution money, nor any other — not one farthing — goes 
against the Turks, but all goes into the bottomless sack. They 
lie and deceive, form and make covenants with us of which 
they do not mean to keep one jot. And all this is done in 
the holy name of Christ and St. Peter. 

This being so, the German nation, the bishops and princes, 
should remember that they are Christians, and should defend 
the people, who are committed to their government and pro- 
tection in temporal and spiritual affairs, from these ravenous 
wolves in sheep's clothing, that profess to be shepherds and 
rulers ; and since the annates are so shamefully abused, and the 
covenants concerning them not carried out, they should not 
suffer their lands and people to be so piteously and unrighteously 
flayed and ruined ; but by an imperial or a national law they 
should either retain the annates in the country, or abolish 
them altogether. For since they do not keep to the cove- 
nants, they have no right to the annates; therefore bishops 
and princes are bound to punish this thievery and robbery, or 
prevent it, as justice demands. And herein should we assist and 
strengthen the Pope, who is perchance too weak to prevent this 
scandal by himself; or, if he wishes to protect or support 
it, restrain and oppose him as a wolf and tyrant ; for he has no 
authority to do evil or to protect evil-doers. Even if it were 
proposed to collect any such treasure for use against the 
Turks, we should be wise in future, and remember that the 
German nation is more fitted to take charge of it than the 
Pope, seeing that the German nation by itself is able to 
provide men enough, if the money is forthcoming. This matter 
of the annates is like many other Romish pretexts. 

Moreover the year has been divided among the Pope and 
the ruling bishops and foundations, in such wise, that the Pope 
has taken every other month — six in all — to give away the 
benefices that fall in his month ; in this way almost all the 
benefices are drawn into the hands of Rome, and especially 



the best livings and dignities. And those that once fall into 
the hands of Koine never come out again, even if they never 
again fall vacant in the Pope's month. In this way the founda- 
tions come very short of their rights, and it is a downright 
robbery, by which it is intended that nothing of them should be 
left. Therefore it is now high time to abolish the Pope's 
months and to take back again all that has thereby fallen 
into the hands of Home. For all the princes and nobles should 
insist, that the stolen property shall be returned, the thieves 
punished, and that those who abuse their powers shall be 
deprived of them. If the Pope can make a law on the day after 
his election, by which he takes our benefices and livings to 
which he has no right ; the Emperor Charles should so much 
the more have a right to issue a law for all Germany on the 
day after his coronation, 1 that in future no livings and benefices 
are to fall to Eome by virtue of the Pope's month, but that 
those that have so fallen are to be freed and taken from the 
Romish robbers. This right he possesses by his office in 
virtue of his temporal sword. 

But the see of avarice and robbery at Eome is unwilling to 
wait for the benefices to fall in one after another by means of 
the Pope's month ; and in order to get them into its insatiable 
maw, as speedily as possible, they have devised the plan of taking 
livings and benefices in three other ways : 

First, if the incumbent of a free living dies at Eome or on 
his way thither, his living remains for ever the property of the 
see of Eome, or I rather should say, the see of robbers, though 
they will not let us call them robbers, although no one has ever 
seen or read of such robbery. 

Secondly, if a servant of the Pope, or of one of the cardinals, 
takes a living, or if having a living he becomes a servant of 
the Pope or of a cardinal, the living remains with Eome. But 
who can count the servants of the Pope and his cardinals, seeing 
that if he goes out riding, he is attended by three or four 
thousand mule-riders ; more than any king or emperor. For 
Christ and St. Peter went on foot; in order that their vice- 
gerents might indulge the better in all manner of pomp. 
Besides, their avarice has devised and invented this, that in 

1 At the time when the above was written — June 1520 — the Emperor 
Charles had been elected, but not yet crowned. 


foreign countries also there are many called papal servants, as at 
Rome : so that in all parts this single crafty little word " papal 
servant " brings all benefices to the Chair of Eome and they 
are kept there for ever. Are not these mischievous, devilish 
devices ? Let us only wait awhile. Mayence, Magdeburg, and 
Halberstadt will fall very nicely to Eome, and we shall have 
to pay dearly for our cardinal. 1 Hereafter, all the German 
bishops will be made cardinals, so that there shall remain 
nothing to ourselves. 

Thirdly, whenever there is any dispute about a benefice ; and 
this is, I think, well-nigh the broadest and commonest road by 
which benefices are brought to Eome. For where there is no 
dispute numberless knaves can be found at Eome, who are ready 
to scrape up disputes, and attack livings wherever they like. In 
this way many a good priest loses his living, or has to buy off 
the dispute for a time with a sum of money. These benefices, 
confiscated by right or wrong of dispute, are to be for ever the 
property of the see of Eome. It would be no wonder, if (rod 
were to rain sulphur and fire from heaven and cast Eome down 
into the pit, as he did formerly to Sodom and Gomorrah. What 
is the use of a Pope in Christendom, if the only use made of his \ 
power is to commit these supreme villainies under his protection 
and assistance ? noble princes and sirs, how long will you 
suffer your lands and your people to be the prey of these 
ravening wolves ? 

But these tricks did not suffice, and Bishoprics were too 
slow in falling into the power of Eoman avarice. Accordingly 
our good friend Avarice made the discovery that all Bishoprics 
are abroad in name only ; but that their land and soil is at 
Eome ; from this it follows, that no bishop may be confirmed 
until he has bought the " Pall " 2 for a large sum, and has 

1 Luther alludes here to the Archbishop Albert of Mayence, who was, 
besides, Archbishop of Magdeburg, and administrator of the bishopric of 
Halberstadt. In order to be able to defray the expense of the Archiepiscopal 
tax due to Rome, amounting to 30,000 guilders, he had farmed the sale of 
the Pope's indulgences — employing the notorious Tetzel as his agent, and 
sharing the profits with the Pope. In 1518 Albert was appointed Cardinal. 
See Ranke : Deutsche Geschichte, &c. ; vol. i. p. 309, &c. 

2 The Pallium was since the fourth century the symbol of archiepiscopal 
power, and had to be redeemed from the Pope by means of a large sum of 
money and a solemn oath of obedience. 

D 2 


with a terrible oath bound himself a servant of the Pope. 
That is why no bishop dare oppose the Pope. This was the 
object of the oath, and this is how the wealthiest bishoprics 
have come to debt and ruin. Mayence, I am told, pays 20,000 
guilders. These are true Koman tricks, it seems to me. It 
is true that they once decreed in the canon law, that the 
Pall should be given free, the number of the Pope's servants 
diminished, disputes made less frequent, that foundations and 
bishops should enjoy their liberty ; but all this brought them 
no money. They have, therefore, reversed all this : bishops and 
foundations have lost all their power ; they are mere cyphers, 
without office, authority or function ; all things are regulated by 
the chief knaves at Eome ; even the offices of sextons and 
bell-ringers in all churches. All disputes are transferred 
to Kome ; each one does what he will, strong in the Pope's 

What has happened in this very year? The bishop of 
Strasburg, wishing to regulate his see in a proper way and 
reform it in the matter of divine service, published some divine 
and Christian ordinances for that purpose. But our worthy 
Pope and the holy Chair at Kome overturns altogether this holy 
and spiritual order on the accusation of the priests. This is 
what they call being the shepherd of Christ's sheep — supporting 
priests against their own bishops, and protecting their disobe- 
dience by divine decrees. Antichrist, I hope, will not insult 
God in this open way. There you have the Pope, as you have 
chosen to have him, and why ? Why, because if the Church 
were to be reformed, many things would have to be destroyed, 
and possibly Rome among them. Therefore it is better to pre- 
vent priests from being at one with each other ; they should 
rather, as they have done hitherto, sow discord among kings 
and princes, flood the world with Christian blood, lest Christian 
unity should trouble the holy Roman See with reforms. 

So far we have seen what they do with the livings that fall 
vacant. Now there are not enough vacancies for this delicate 
greed ; therefore it has also taken prudent account of the 
benefices that are still held by their incumbents, so that they 
may become vacant, though they are in fact not vacant, and 
this they effect in many ways : 

First, they lie in wait for fat livings or sees which are 


held by an old or sick man, or even by one afflicted by an 
imaginary incompetence ; him the Roman See gives a coadjutor, 
that is an assistant without his asking or wishing it, Tor the 
benefit of the coadjutor, because he is a papal servant, or pays 
for the office, or has otherwise earned it by some menial service 
rendered to Eome. Thus there is an end of free election on 
the part of the chapter, or of the right of him that presents 
the living ; and all goes to Eome. 

Secondly, there is a little word : commendam, . that is, when 
the Pope gives a rich and fat convent or church into the 
charge of a cardinal or any other of his servants, just as I 
might command you to take charge of one hundred guilders 
for me. In this way the convent is neither given, nor lent, 
nor destroyed, nor is its divine service abolished ; but only 
entrusted to a man's charge : not, however, for him to protect 
and improve it, but to drive out the one he finds there ; to 
take the property and revenue, and to instal some apostate x 
runaway monk, who is paid five or six guilders a year, and sits 
in the church all day and sells symbols and pictures to the pil- 
grims ; so that neither chanting nor reading in the church goes 
on there any more. Now if we were to call this the destruction 
of convents and abolition of divine service, we should be accus- 
ing the Pope of destroying Christianity and abolishing divine 
service — for truly he is doing this effectually— but this would 
be thought harsh language at Eome, therefore it is called a 
commendam, or an order to take charge of the convent. In 
this way the Pope can make commendams of four or more 
convents a year, any one of which produces a revenue of more 
than six thousand guilders. This is the way divine service is 
advanced and convents kept up at Eome. This will be intro- 
duced into Germany as well. 

Thirdly, there are certain benefices that are said to be 
incompatible, that is, they may not be held together according 
to the canon law ; such as two cures, two sees and the like. 
Now the Holy See and avarice twists itself out of the canon 
law by making " glosses," or interpretations, called JJnio, 
or Incorporatio, that is, several incompatible benefices are 
incorporated, so that one is a member of the other, and the 

1 Monks who forsook their order without any legal dispensation were 
called " apostates." 



whole is held to be one benefice ; then they are no longer 
incompatible, and we have got rid of the holy canon law, so 
that it is no longer binding, except on those, who do not buy 
those glosses of the Pope, and his Datarius} Unio is of the 
same kind : a number of benefices are tied together like a 
bundle of faggots, and on account of this coupling together, 
they are held to be one benefice. Thus there may be found 
many a courtling at Kome who alone holds twenty-two cures, 
seven priories, and forty-four prebends; all which is done in 
virtue of this masterly gloss, so as not to be contrary to law. 
Any one can imagine what cardinals and other prelates may 
hold. In this way the Germans are to have their purses 
emptied and be deprived of all comfort. 

There is another gloss called Administrate, that is, that 
besides his see a man holds an abbey or other high benefice, and 
possesses all the property of it, without any other title but 
administrator. For at Rome it is enough that words should 
change and not deeds, just as if I said, a procuress was to be 
called a mayoress, yet may remain as good as she is now. 
Such Eomish rule was foretold by St. Peter, when he said : 
" There shall be false teachers among you . . . and through 
covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandize 
of you." (2 Pet. ii. 1,3.) 

This precious Roman avarice has also invented the practice 
of selling and lending prebends and benefices on condition 
that the seller or lender has the reversion, so that if the 
incumbent dies, the benefice falls to him that has sold it, lent 
it, or abandoned it ; in this way they have made benefices 
heritable property, so that none can come to hold it unless the 
seller sells it to him, or leaves it to him at his death. Then 
there are many that give a benefice to another in name only ; 
and on condition that he shall not receive a farthing. It is 
now too an old practice for a man to give another a benefice 
and to receive a certain annual sum, which proceeding was 
formerly called simony. And there are many other such little 
things which I cannot recount ; and so they deal worse with 

1 The Papal office for the issue and registration of certain documents 
was called Dataria, from the phrase appended to them, Datum apud 
S. Fetrum. The chief of that office, usually a cardinal, bore the title of 


the benefices than the heathens by the cross dealt with Christ's 

But all this that I have spoken of is old and common at 
Kome. Their avarice has invented other device, which I hope 
will be the last and choke it. The Pope has made a noble 
discovery, called Pectoralis Reservatio, that is, " mental reser- 
vation " — et proprius motus, that is, " and his own will and 
power." The matter is managed in this way : Suppose a man 
obtains a benefice at Eome, which is confirmed to him in due 
form ; then comes another, who brings money, or who has done 
some other service of which the less said the better, and re- 
quests the Pope to give him the same benefice, then the Pope 
will take it from the first and give it him. If you say, that is 
wrong ; the Most Holy Father must then excuse himself, that 
he may not be openly blamed for having violated justice ; and 
he says : " that in his heart and mind he reserved his authority 
over the said benefice ; " whilst he never had heard or thought 
of the same in all his life. Thus he has devised a gloss which 
allows him in his proper person to lie and cheat and fool us all ; 
and all this impudently and in open daylight, and nevertheless 
he claims to be the head of Christendom ; letting the evil spirit 
rule him with manifest lies. 

This " mere motion" and lying reservation of the Popes has 
brought about an unutterable state of things at Kome. There 
is a buying and a selling, a changing, exchanging, and bargain- 
ing, cheating and lying, robbing and stealing, debauchery, and 
villainy, and all kinds of contempt of God, that Antichrist 
himself could not rule worse. Venice, Antwerp, Cairo, are 
nothing to this fair and market at Eome, except that there 
things are done with some reason and justice, whilst here 
things are done as the Devil himself could wish. And out of 
this ocean a like virtue overflows all the world. Is it not 
natural that such people should dread a reformation and a free 
council, and should rather embroil all kings and princes, than 
that their unity should bring about a council ? Who would 
like his villainy to be exposed ? 

Finally the Pope has built a special house for this fine traffic, 
that is, the house of the Datarius at Kome. Thither all must 
come that bargain in this way for prebends and benefices ; from 
him they must buy the glosses and obtain the right to practise 


Such prime villainy. In former days it was fairly well at 
Rome, when justice had to be bought, or could only be put 
down by money ; but now she has become so fastidious, that she 
does not allow any one to commit villainies, unless he has first 
bought the right to do it with great sums. If this is not a 
house of prostitution, worse than all houses of prostitution that 
can be conceived, I do not know what houses of prostitution 
really are. 

If you bring money to this house, you can arrive at all that 
I have mentioned ; and more than this, any sort of usury is- 
made legitimate for money ; property got by theft or robbery 
is here made legal. Here vows are annulled ; here a monk 
obtains leave to quit his order ; here priests can enter married 
life for money ; here bastards can become legitimate ; and dis- 
honour and shame may arrive at high honours ; all evil repute 
and disgrace is knighted and ennobled; here a marriage is 
suffered that is in a forbidden degree, or has some other defect. 
Oh, what a trafficking and plundering is there ! one would 
think that the canon laws were only so many ropes of gold, 
from which he must free himself who would become a Chris- 
tian man. Nay, here the Devil becomes a saint, and a God 
besides. What heaven and earth might not do, may be done 
by this house. Their ordinances are called compositions — com- 
positions, forsooth ! confusions rather. 1 Oh what a poor treasury 
is the toll on the Rhine, 2 compared with this holy house ! 

Let no one think that I say too much. It is all notorious, 
so that even at Rome they are forced to own that it is more 
terrible and worse than one can say. I have said and will say 
nothing of the foul dregs of private vices. I only speak of 
well-known public matters, and yet my words do not suffice. 
Bishops, priests, and especially the doctors of the universities, 
who are paid to do it, ought to have unanimously written and 
exclaimed against it. Yea, if you will turn the leaf, you will 
discover the truth. 

I have still to give a farewell greeting. These treasures, 
that would have satisfied three mighty kings, were not enough 
for this unspeakable greed, and so they have made over and 

1 Luther uses here the expressions com/positiones and confasiones as a 
kind of pun. 

2 Tolls were levied at many places along the Rhine. 


sold their traffic to Fugger * at Augsburg, so that the lending 
and buying and selling sees and benefices, and all this traffic 
in- ecclesiastical property, has in the end come into the right 
hands, and spiritual and temporal matters have now become 
one business. Now I should like to know what the most 
cunning would devise for Komish greed to do that it has not 
done ; except that Fugger might sell or pledge his two trades 
that have now become one. I think they must have come to 
the end of their devices. For what they have stolen and yet 
steal in all countries by Bulls of Indulgences, Letters of Con- 
fession, Letters of Dispensation 2 and other eonfessionalia, all 
this I think mere bungling work, and much like playing toss 
with a devil in hell. Not that they produce little, for a 
mighty king could support himself by them ; but they are as 
nothing compared to the other streams of revenue mentioned 
above. I will not now consider what has become of that 
Indulgence money ; I shall enquire into this another time, for 
Campofiore and Belvedere 3 and some other places probably know 
something about it. 

Meanwhile since this devilish state of things is not only an 
open robbery, deceit and tyranny of the gates of hell, but also 
destroys Christianity, body and soul, we are bound to use all 
our diligence to prevent this misery and destruction of Christen- 
dom. If we wish to fight the Turks, let us begin here, where 
they are worst. If we justly hang thieves and behead robbers, 
why do we leave the greed of Eome so unpunished, who is the 
greatest thief and robber that has appeared or can appear on 
earth, and does all this in the holy name of Christ and St. Peter ? 
Who can suffer this and be silent about it ? Almost every- 
thing that he possesses has been stolen, or got by robbery, as 
we learn from all histories. Why, the Pope never bought those 
great possessions, so as to be able to raise wellnigh ten hundred 
thousand ducats from his ecclesiastical offices, without counting 
his gold mines described above, and his land. He did not 

1 The commercial House of Fugger was in those days the wealthiest in 

2 Luther uses the word Butterbriefe, i.e. letters of indulgence allowing the 
enjoyment of butter, cheese, milk, etc., during Lent. They formed part only 
of the eonfessionalia, which granted various other indulgences. 

3 Parts of the Vatican. 


inherit it from Christ and St. Peter ; no one gave it or lent it 
him, he has not acquired it by prescription. Tell me, where 
can he have got it ? You can learn from this, what their object 
is, when they sent out legates to collect money to be used 
against the Turk. 


Twenty-seven Articles respecting the Eeformation of 
the Christian Estate. 

Now though I am too lowly to submit articles that could serve 
for the reformation of these fearful evils, I will yet sing out my 
fool's song, and will show, as well as my wit will allow, what 
might and should be done by the temporal authorities or by a 
General Council. 

1. Princes, nobles and cities should promptly forbid their sub- 
jects to pay the annates and should even abolish them altogether. 
For the Pope has broken the compact, and turned the annates 
into robbery for the harm and shame of the German nation; he 
gives them to his friends ; he sells them for large sums of money 
and founds benefices on them. Therefore he has forfeited his right 
to them, and deserves punishment. In this way the temporal 
power should protect the innocent and prevent wrongdoing, as we 
are taught by St. Paul (Kom. xiii.) and by St. Peter (1 Pet. ii.) 
and even by the canon law. (16. q. 7. de Filiis.) That is why we 
say to the Pope and his followers : tu ora ! " thou shalt pray ; " 
to the Emperor and his followers : tu protege ! " thou shalt 
protect ; " to the commons : tu labora ! " thou shalt work; " not 
that each man should not pray, protect and work ; for if a man 
fulfils his duty, that is prayer, protection and work ; but every 
man must have his proper task. 

2. Since by means of those Eomish tricks commendams, 
coadjutors, reservations, expectations, Pope's months, incorpo- 
rations, unions, Palls, rules of chancellery, and other such 
knaveries, the Pope takes unlawful possession of all German 
foundations, to give and sell them to strangers at Eome, that 
profit Germany in no way ; so that the incumbents are robbed 
of their rights, and the bishops are made mere cyphers and 
anointed idols ; and thus besides natural justice and reason the 
Pope's own canon law is violated ; and things have come to such 


a pass, that prebends and benefits are sold at Koine to vulgar, 
ignorant asses and knaves, out of sheer greed, while pious 
learned men have no profit by their merit and skill, whereby 
the unfortunate German people must needs lack good, learned 
Prelates and suffer ruin — on account of these evils the Christian 
nobility should rise up against the Pope as a common enemy 
and destroyer of Christianity, for the sake of the salvation of the 
poor souls that such tyranny must ruin. They should ordain, 
order and decree that henceforth no benefice shall be drawn 
away to Eome, and that no benefice shall be claimed there 
in any fashion whatsoever ; and after having once got these 
benefices out of the hands of Eomish tyranny, they must be 
kept from them, and their lawful incumbents must be rein- 
stated in them to administer them as best they may, within 
the German nation. And if a courtling came from Eome, he 
should receive the strict command to withdraw, or to leap into 
the Ehine, or whatever river be nearest, and to administer a 
cold bath to the Interdict, seal and letters and all. Thus those 
at Eome would learn, that we Germans are not to remain 
drunken fools for ever, but that we, too, are become Christians, 
and that as such, we will no longer suffer this shameful mockery 
of Christ's holy name, that serves as a cloak for such knavery 
and destruction of souls, and that we shall respect God and 
the glory of God more than the power of men. 

3. It should be decreed by an Imperial law, that no epis- 
copal cloak, and no confirmation of any appointment shall 
for the future be obtained from Eome. The order of the most 
holy and renowned Nicene Council must again be restored, 
namely, that a bishop must be confirmed by the two nearest 
bishops, or by the archbishop. If the Pope cancels the decrees 
of these and all other councils, what is the good of councils at 
all? Who has given him the right thus to despise councils 
and to cancel them ? If this is allowed, we had better abolish 
all bishops, archbishops and primates, and make simple rectors of 
all of them, so that they would have the Pope alone over them ; 
as is indeed the case now ; he deprives bishops, archbishops and 
primates of all the authority of their office, taking everything 
to himself, and leaving them only the name and the empty 
title ; more than this : by his exemption he has withdrawn 
convents, abbots and prelates from the ordinary authority of 


the Bishops, so that there remains no order in Christendom. 
The necessary result of this must be, and has been, laxity in 
punishing, and such a liberty to do evil in all the world, that 
I very much fear one might call the Pope " the man of sin." 
Who but the Pope is to blame for this absence of all order, of 
all punishment, of all government, of all discipline in Chris- 
tendom ? By his own arbitrary power he ties the hands of all 
his prelates, and takes from them their rods, while all their 
subjects have their hands unloosed, and obtain license by gift 
or purchase. 

But, that he have no cause for complaint, as being deprived 
of his authority, it should be decreed, that in cases where the 
primates and archbishops are unable to settle the matter, or 
where there is a dispute among them, the matters shall then be 
submitted to the Pope, but not every little matter ; as was clone 
formerly, and was ordered by the most renowned Nicene Council. 
His Holiness must not be troubled with small matters, that 
can be settled without his help ; so that he may have leisure to 
devote himself to his prayers and study, and to his care of all 
Christendom, as he professes to do. As indeed the Apostles 
did, saying (Acts vi. 2, 4) : "It is not reason that we should leave 
the word of God, and serve tables . . . But we will give our- 
selves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." 
But now we see at Borne nothing but contempt of the Gospel 
and of prayer, and the service of tables, that is, the service of 
the goods of this world ; and the government of the Pope agrees 
©with the government of the Apostles as well as Lucifer with 
Christ, hell with heaven, night with day ; and yet he calls him- 
self Christ's Vicar, and the successor of the Apostles. 

4. Let it be decreed that no temporal matter shall be sub- 
mitted to Koine, but all shall be left to the jurisdiction of the 
temporal authorities. This is part of their own canon law, though 
they do not obey it. For this should be the Pope's office, that 
he, the most learned in the Scriptures, and the most holy, not 
in name only, but in fact, should rule in matters concerning the 
faith and the holy life of Christians ; he "should make primates 
and bishops attend to this, and should work and take thought 
with them to this end : as St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. vi.), 
severely upbraiding those that occupy themselves with the 
things of this world. For all countries suffer unbearable 


damage by this practice of settling such matters at Borne, since 
it involves great expense ; and besides this, the judges at Eome, 
not knowing the manners, laws and customs of other countries, 
frequently pervert the matter according to their own laws 
and their own opinions, thus causing injustice to all parties. 
Besides this, we should prohibit in all foundations the grievous 
extortion of the ecclesiastical judges ; they should only be allowed 
to consider matters concerning faith and good morals ; but\ 
matters concerning money, property, life and honour, should 
be left to the temporal judges. Therefore the temporal 
authorities should not permit excommunication or expulsion 
except in matters of faith and righteous living. It is only 
reasonable, that spiritual authorities should have power in 
spiritual matters ; spiritual matters, however, are not money 
or matters relating to the body, but faith and good works. 

Still we might allow matters respecting benefices or prebends 
to be treated before bishops, archbishops and primates. There- 
fore, when it is necessary to decide quarrels and strifes let the 
Primate of Germany hold a general consistory, with assessors 
and chancellors, who would have the control over the signa- 
turas gratiae and justitiae, 1 and to whom matters arising in 
Germany might be submitted by appeal. The officers of such 
court should be paid out of the annates, or in some other way, 
and should not have to draw their salaries as at Eome from 
chance presents and offerings ; whereby they grow accustomed 
to sell justice and injustice, as they must needs do at Eome, 
where the Pope gives them no salary, but allows them to fatten 
themselves on presents ; for at Eome no one heeds what is right 
or what is wrong, but only what is money and what is not 
money. But this matter of salaries I must leave to men of 
higher understanding and of more experience in these things 
than I have. I am content with making these suggestions and 
giving some materials for consideration to those who may be 
able and willing to help the German nation to become a free 
people of Christians, after this wretched, heathen, unchristian 
misrule of the Pope. 

1 At the time when the above was written the function of the signatura 
grattce was to superintend the conferring of grants, concessions, favours, etc. , 
whilst the signatura justitice embraced the general administration of eccle- 
siastical matters. 


5. Henceforth no reservations shall be valid, and no bene- 
fices shall be appropriated by Kome, whether the incumbent die, 
or there be a dispute, or the incumbent be a servant of the Pope, 
or of a cardinal ; and all courtiers shall be strictly prohibited 
and prevented from causing a dispute about any benefice, so as 
to cite the pious priests, to trouble them and to drive them 
into a lawsuit. And if in consequence of this there comes an 
interdict from Eome, let it be despised, just as if a thief were 
to excommunicate any man because he would not allow him to 
steal in peace. Nay, they should be punished most severely, 
for making such a blasphemous use of Excommunication and 
of the name of God, to support their robberies, and for wishing 
by their false threats to drive us to suffer and approve this 
blasphemy of (rod's name, and this abuse of Christian authority ; 
and thus to become sharers before God in their wrongdoing, 
whereas it is our duty before God to punish it, as St. Paul 
(Kom. i.) upbraids the Komans for not only doing wrong, but 
allowing wrong to be done. But above all that lying mental 
reservation (pectoralis reservatio) is unbearable, by which Chris- 
tendom is so openly mocked and insulted, in that its head noto- 
riously deals with lies, and impudently cheats and fools every 
man for the sake of accursed wealth. 

6. The cases reserved * (casus reservati) should be abolished, 
by which not only are the people cheated out of much 
money, but besides many poor consciences are confused and 
led into error by the ruthless tyrants to the intolerable harm 
of their faith in God, especially those foolish and childish 
cases that are made important by the Bull 'In Coena 
Domini,' 2 and which do not deserve the name of daily 
sins ; not to mention those great cases for which the Pope 
gives no absolution : such as preventing a pilgrim from going 
to Rome, furnishing the Turks with arms or forging the Pope's 
letters. They only fool us with these gross, mad and clumsy 
matters : Sodom and Gomorrah, and all sins that are committed 

1 " Reserved cases " refer to those great sins for which the Pope or the 
bishops only could give absolution. 

2 The celebrated Papal Bull known under the name of In Coena Domini, 
containing anathemas and excommunications against all those who dissented 
in any way from the Roman Catholic creed, used, until the year 1770, to be 
read publicly at Rome on Maundy Thursday. 


and that can be committed against God's commandments are, 
not reserved cases ; but what God never commanded and they 
themselves have invented — these must be made reserved cases ; 
solely in order that none may be prevented from bringing 
money to Eome, that they may live in their lust without fear 
of the Turk, and may keep the world in their bondage by 
their useless Bulls and Briefs. 

Now all priests ought to know, or rather it should be a 
public ordinance, that no secret sin constitutes a reserved case, 
if there be no public accusation ; and that every priest has 
power to absolve from all sin, whatever its name, if it be secret, 
and that no abbot, bishop or Pope has power to reserve any 
such case ; and lastly, that if they do this, it is null and void, 
and they should moreover be punished as interfering without 
authority in God's judgment and confusing and troubling with- 
out cause our poor witless consciences. But in respect to any 
great open sin, directly contrary to God's commandments, 
there is some reason for a reserved case ; but there should not 
be too many, nor should they be reserved arbitrarily without 
due cause. For God has not ordained tyrants, but shepherds 
in His Church, as St. Peter says. (I Pet. v. 2.) 

7. The Konian See must abolish the Papal offices, and 
diminish that crowd of crawling vermin at Borne, so that 
the Pope's servants may be supported out of the Pope's own 
pocket, and that his court may cease to surpass all royal courts 
in its pomp and extravagance ; seeing that all this pomp has 
not only been of no service to the Christian faith, but has also 
kept them from study and prayer, so that they themselves 
know hardly anything concerning matters of faith ; as they 
proved clumsily enough at the last Boman Council, 1 where 
among many childishly trifling matters, they decided " that 
the soul is immortal," and that a priest is bound to pray once 
every month on pain of losing his benefice. 2 How are men to 
rule Christendom and to decide matters of faith, who, callous and 
blinded by their greed, wealth, and worldly pomp, have only just 

1 The council alluded to above was held at Eome from 1512 to 1517. 

2 Luther's objection is not, of course, to the recognition of the immortality 
of the soul ; what he objects to is (1) that it was thought necessary for a 
council to decree that the soul is immortal, and (2) that this question was 
put on a level with trivial matters of discipline. 


decided that the soul is immortal ? It is no slight shame to 
all Christendom that they should deal thus scandalously with 
the faith at Eome. If they had less wealth and lived in less 
pomp, they might be better able to study and pray, that they 
might become able and worthy to treat matters of belief, as 
they were once, when they were content to be bishops and not 
kings of kings. 

8. The terrible oaths must be abolished which bishops are 
forced, without any right, to swear to the Pope, by which they 
are bound like servants, and which are arbitrarily and fool- 
ishly decreed in the absurd and shallow chapter, Significasti} 
Is it not enough that they oppress us in goods, body, and soul 
by all their mad laws, by which they have weakened faith and 
destroyed Christianity ; but must they now take possession of 
the very persons of Bishops, with their offices and functions, 
and also claim the investiture 2 which used formerly to be the 
right of the German Emperors, and is still the right of the 
King in France and other kingdoms? This matter caused 
many wars and disputes with the Emperors until the Popes 
impudently took the power by force; since which time they 
have retained it; just as if it were only right for the Germans, 
above all Christians on earth, to be the fools of the Pope and the 
Holy See, and to do and suffer what no one beside would suffer 
or do. Seeing then that this is mere arbitrary power, robbery, 
and a hindrance to the exercise of the bishop's ordinary power, 
and to the injury of poor souls ; therefore it is the duty of the 
Emperor and his nobles to prevent and punish this tyranny. 

9. The Pope should have no power over the Emperor, except 
to anoint and crown him at the altar, as a bishop crowns 
a king ; nor should that devilish pomp be allowed, that the 
Emperor should kiss the Pope's feet, or sit at _ his feet, or, as 
it is said, hold his stirrup, or the reins of his mule, when he 
mounts to ride ; much less should he pay homage to the Pope, 
or swear allegiance, as is impudently demanded by the Popes, 
as if they had a right to it. The chapter Solite, 3 in which 

1 The above is the title of a chapter in the Corpus juris canonici. 

2 The right of investiture was the subject of the dispute between 
Gregory VII. and Henry IV., which led to the Emperor's submission at 

3 The chapter Solite is also contained in the Corpus juris canonici. 


the papal authority is exalted above the Imperial, is not worth 
a farthing, and so of all those that depend on it or fear it ; 
for it does nothing but pervert God's holy words from their 
true meaning, according to their own imaginations, as I have 
proved in a Latin treatise. 

All these excessive, over-presumptuous and most wicked 
claims of the Pope are the invention of the Devil, with the object 
of bringing in Antichrist in due course, and to raise the Pope 
above God ; as indeed many have done and are now doing. It 
is not meet that the Pope should exalt himself above temporal 
authority, except in spiritual matters, such as preaching and 
absolution ; in other matters he should be subject to it, ac- 
cording to the teaching of St. Paul (Eom. xiii.), and St. Peter 
(1 Pet. iii.), as I have said above. He is not the Vicar of Christ 
in heaven, but only of Christ upon earth. For Christ in 
heaven, in the form of a ruler, requires no vicar, but there 
sits, sees, does, knows, and commands all things. But He 
requires him " in the form of a servant " to represent Him as 
He walked upon earth, working, preaching, suffering and dying. 
But they reverse this ; they take from Christ His power as a 
heavenly ruler, and give it to the Pope, and allow " the form 
of a servant " to be entirely forgotten. (Phil. ii. 7.) He should 
properly be called the counter-Christ, whom the Scriptures 
call Antichrist ; for his whole existence, work, and proceedings 
are directed against Christ, to ruin and destroy the existence 
and will of Christ. 

It is also absurd and puerile for the Pope to boast for such 
blind, foolish reasons, in his decretal Pastoralis, that he is the 
rightful heir to the Empire, if the throne be vacant. Who gave 
it to him ? Did Christ do so, when He said : " The kings of the 
Gentiles exercise lordship over them, but ye shall not do so " ? 
(Luke xxii. 25, 26.) Did St. Peter bequeath it to him ? It 
disgusts me that we have to read and teach such impudent, 
clumsy, foolish lies in the canon law, and moreover to take 
them for Christian doctrine, while in reality they are mere 
devilish lies. Of this kind also is the unheard-of lie touch- 
ing the " donation of Constantine." * It must have been a 

1 In order to legalise the secular power of the Pope, the fiction was in- 
vented during the latter part of the eighth century, that Constantine the 
Great had made over to the Popes the dominion over Rome and over the 
whole of Italy. 



plague sent by God that induced so many wise people to 
accept such lies, though they are so gross and clumsy, that 
one would think a drunken boor could lie more skilfully. 
How could preaching, prayer, study and the care of the poor 
consist with the government of the Empire ? These are the 
true offices of the Pope, which Christ imposed with such in- 
sistence that He forbade them to take either coat or scrip 
(Matt. x. 10), for he that has to govern a single house can 
hardly perform these duties. Yet the Pope wishes to rule an 
Empire and to remain a Pope. This is the invention of the 
knaves that would fain become lords of the world in the 
Pope's name, and set up again the old Eoman empire, as it 
was formerly, by means of the Pope and name of Christ, in its 
former condition. 

10. The Pope must withdraw his hand from the dish, and 
on no pretence assume royal authority over Naples and Sicily. 
He lias no more right to it than I, and yet claims to be the 
lord of it. It has been taken by force and robbery like almost 
all his other possessions. Therefore the Emperor should grant 
him no such fief, nor any longer allow him those he has, but 
direct him instead to his Bibles and Prayer-books, so that he 
may leave the government of countries and peoples to the 
temporal power, especially of those that no one has given him. 
Let him rather preach and pray ! The same should be done 
with Bologna, Imola, Yicenza, Eavenna, and whatever the Pope 
has taken by force and holds without right in the Ancontine 
territory, in the Eomagna and other parts of Italy, interfering 
in their affairs against all the commandments of Christ and St. 
Paul. For St. Paul says (2 Tim. ii. 4) : " that he that would 
be one of the soldiers of Heaven must not entangle himself in 
.the affairs of this life." Now the Pope should be the head 
and the leader of the soldiers of Heaven, and yet he engages 
more in worldly matters than any king or emperor. He should 
be relieved of his worldly cares and allowed to attend to his 
duties as a .soldier of Heaven. Christ also, whose vicar he 
claims to be, would have nothing to do with the things of this 
world, and even asked one that desired of him a judgment 
concerning his brother : " Who made me a judge over you ? " 
(St. Luke xii. 14.) But the Pope interferes in these matters 
unasked, and concerns himself with all matters, as though he 


were a god, until he himself has forgotten what this Christ 
is, whose vicar he professes to he. 

11. The custom of kissing the Pope's feet must cease. It 
is an un-CEFistian, or rather an anti-Christian example, that 
a poor sinful man should suffer his foot to be kissed by one 
who is a hundred times better than he. If it is done in 
honour of his power, why does he not do it to others in honour 
of their holiness ? Compare them together : Christ and the 
Pope. Christ washed His disciples' feet and dried them, and 
the disciples never washed His. The Pope, pretending to be 
higher than Christ, inverts this, and considers it a great 
favour to let us kiss his feet : whereas if any one wished to 
do so, he ought to do his utmost to prevent them, as St. Paul 
and Barnabas would not suffer themselves to be worshipped as 
Gods by the men at Lystra, saying : " We also are men of like 
passions with you." (Acts xiv. 14 seq.) But our flatterers have 
brought things to such a pitch, that they have set up an idol 
for us, until no one regards God with such fear, or honours Him 
with such reverence as they do the Pope. This they can suffer, 
but not that the Pope's glory should be diminished a single 
hair's-breadth. Now if they were Christians and preferred God's 
honour to their own, the Pope would never be willing to have 
God's honour despised and his own exalted, nor would he allow 
any to honour him, until he found that God's honour was again 
exalted above his own. 

It is of a piece with this revolting pride, that the Pope is not 
satisfied with riding on horseback or in a carriage, but though 
he be hale and strong, is carried by men like an idol in 
unheard-of pomp. I ask you, how does this Lucifer-like 
pride agree with the example of Christ, who went on foot, as 
did also all His Apostles ? Where has there been a king who 
lived in such worldly pomp as he does, who professes to be the 
head of all whose duty it is to despise and flee from all worldly 
pomp — I mean, of all Christians ? Not that this need concern 
us for his own sake, but that we have good reason to fear 
God's wrath, if we flatter such pride and do not show our 
discontent. It is enough that the Pope should be so mad and 
foolish ; but it is too much that we should sanction and 
approve it. 

For what Christian heart can be pleased at seeing the Pope, 

e 2 


when he communicates, sit still like a gracious lord and have 
the sacrament handed to him on a golden reed, by a cardinal 
bending on his knees before him ? Just as if the holy sacra- 
ment were not worthy that a Pope, a poor miserable sinner, 
should stand to do honour to his God, although all other 
Christians, who are much more holy than the Most Holy 
Father, receive it with all reverence ? Could we be surprised 
if God visited us all with a plague, for that we suffer such 
dishonour to be done to God by our prelates, and approve it, 
becoming partners of the Pope's damnable pride by our silence 
or flattery ? It is the same when he carries the sacrament in 
procession. He must be carried, but the sacrament stands 
before him like a cup of wine on a table. In short, at Eome 
Christ is nothing, the Pope is everything ; yet they urge us 
and threaten us, to make us suffer and approve and honour 
this Antichristian scandal, contrary to God and all Christian 
doctrine. Now, may God so help a free Council, that it may 
teach the Pope that he too is a man, not above God as he 
makes himself out to be. 

12. Pilgrimages to Eome must be abolished, or at least 
no one must be allowed to go from his own wish or his 
own piety, unless his priest, his town magistrate, or his lord 
has found that there is sufficient reason for his pilgrimage. 
This I say, not because pilgrimages are bad in themselves, 
but because at the present time they lead to mischief; for at 
Eome a pilgrim sees no good examples, but only offence. 
They themselves have made a proverb : " The nearer to Eome, 
the farther from Christ," and accordingly men bring home 
contempt of God and of God's commandments. It is said : 
" The first time one goes to Eome, he goes to seek a rogue ; the 
second time he finds him ; the third time he brings him home 
with him." But now they have become so skilful, that they 
can do their three journeys in one, and they have in fact 
brought home from Eome this saying : — It were better never 
to have seen or heard of Eome. 

And even if this were not so, there is something of more 
importance to be considered ; namely, that simple men are 
thus led into a false delusion and a wrong understanding of 
God's commandments. For they think that these pilgrimages 
are precious and good works ; but this is not true. It is but 


a little good work ; often a bad, "misleading work, for God has 
not commanded it. But He has commanded that each man 
should care for his wife and children and whatever concerns 
the married state ; and should, besides, serve and help his 
neighbour. Now it often happens that one goes on a pilgrim- 
age to Eome, spends fifty or one hundred guilders, more or less, 
which no one has commanded him, while his wife and children, 
or those dearest to him, are left at home in want and misery ; 
and yet he thinks, poor foolish man, to atone for this dis- 
obedience and contempt of God's commandments by his self- 
willed pilgrimage, while he is in truth misled by idle curiosity, 
or the wiles of the Devil. This the Popes have encouraged 
with their false and foolish inventions of Golden Years, 1 by 
which they have incited the people, have torn them away from 
God's commandments and turned them to their own delusive 
proceedings, and set up the very thing that they ought to have 
forbidden. But it brought them money and strengthened 
their false authority, and therefore it was allowed to continue, 
though against God's will and the salvation of souls. 

That this false, misleading belief on the part of simple 
Christians may be destroyed, and a true opinion of good works 
may again be introduced, all pilgrimages should be done away 
with. For there is no good in them ; no commandment ; but 
countless causes of sin and of contempt of God's command- 
ments. These pilgrimages are the reason for there being so 
many beggars, that commit numberless villainies, taught by 
them and accustomed to beg without need. Hence arises a 
vagabond life ; besides other miseries which I cannot dwell 
on now. If any one wishes to go on a pilgrimage or to make 
a vow for a pilgrimage, he should first inform his priest or 
the temporal authorities of the reason, and if it should turn 
out that he wished to do it for the sake of good works, let 
this vow and work be just trampled upon by the priest or 
the temporal authority as an infernal delusion, and let them 

1 The Jubilees, during which plenary indulgences were granted to those 
who visited the churches of St. Peter and St Paul at Rome, were originally 
celebrated every hundred years and subsequently every twenty-five years. 
Those who were unable to go to Rome in person could obtain the plenary 
indulgences by paying the expenses of the journey to Rome into the Papal 


tell him to spend Ins money, and the labour a pilgrimage 
would cost, on God's commandments, and on a thousand- 
fold better work, namely, on his family and his poor neigh- 
bours. But if he does it out of curiosity, to see cities and 
countries, he may be allowed to do so. If he have vowed it in 
sickness, let such vows be prohibited, and let God's command- 
ments be insisted upon in contrast to them ; so that a man may 
be content with what he vowed in baptism, namely, to keep 
God's commandments. Yet, for this once he may be suffered, 
for a quiet conscience sake, to keep his silly vow. No one 
is content to walk on the broad high road of God's command- 
ments ; every one makes for himself new roads and new vows, 
as if he had kept all God's commandments. 

13. Now we come to the great crowd that promises much 
and performs little. Be not angry, my good sirs, I mean 
well. I have to tell you this bitter and sweet truth : Let no 
more mendicant monasteries be built ! God help us ! there are 
too many as it is. "Would to God they were all abolished, or 
at least made over to two or three orders. It has never 
done good, it will never do good, to go wandering about over 
the country. Therefore my advice is that ten, or as many 
as required, may be put together and made into one, which 
one, sufficiently provided for, is not to beg. Oh ! it is of much 
more importance to consider what is necessary for the 
salvation of the common people, than what St. Francis, or 
St. Dominic, or St. Augustine, 1 or any other man, laid down ; 
especially, since things have not turned out as they expected. 
They should also be relieved from preaching and confession, 
unless specially required to do so by bishops, priests, the con- 
gregation or other authority. For their preaching and con- 
fession has led to nought but mere hatred and envy between 
priests and monks, to the great offence and hindrance of the 
people, so that it well deserves to be put a stop to, since 
its place may be very well supplied. It does not look at 
all improbable that the Holy Koman See had its own reasons 
for encouraging all this crowd of monks : the Pope perhaps 
feared that priests and bishops, growing weary of his tyranny, 

1 The above-mentioned saints were the patrons of the well-known mendi- 
cant orders, Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustine.-;. 


might become too strong for him, and begin a reformation 
unendurable to his Holiness. 

Besides this, one should also do away with the sections and 
the divisions in the same order which, caused for little reason 
and kept up for less, oppose each other with unspeakable hatred 
and malice. The result being, that the Christian faith, which 
is very well able to stand without their divisions, is lost on 
both sides, and that a true Christian life is sought and judged 
only by outward rules, works and manners, from which arise 
only hypocrisy and the destruction of souls ; as every one can 
see for himself. Moreover the Pope should be forbidden to 
institute or to confirm the institution of such new orders, 
nay, he should be commanded to abolish several and to lessen 
their number. For the faith of Christ, which alone is the 
important matter and can stand without any particular Order, 
incurs no little danger, lest men should be led away by these 
diverse works and manners, rather to live for such works and 
manners than to care for faith. And unless there are wise 
prelates in the monasteries who preach and urge faith rather 
than the rule of the order, it is inevitable that the order 
should be injurious and misleading to simple souls, who have 
regard to works alone. 

Now in our own time all the prelates are dead that had 
faith and founded orders. Just as it was in old days with 
the children of Israel ; when their fathers were dead, that had 
seen God's works and miracles, their children, out of ignorance 
of God's work and of faith, soon began to set up idolatry and 
their own human works. In the same way, alas ! these orders, 
not understanding God's works and faith, grievously labour 
and torment themselves by their own rules and laws, and yet 
never arrive at a true understanding of a spiritual and good 
life ; as was foretold by the Apostle, saying of them, " Having 
a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. . . . Ever 
learning, and never able to come to the knowledge " of what a 
true spiritual life is. (2 Tim. iii. 2-7.) Better to have no 
convents, where there is no truly spiritual prelate, of under- 
standing in Christian faith, to govern them ; for such a prelate 
cannot but rule with injury and harm, and the greater the 
apparent holiness of his life in external works, the greater 
the harm. 


It wr. 'Id be, I think, necessary, especially in these perilous 
times, that foundations and convents should again be organised 
as they were in the time of the Apostles and a long time after : 
namely, when they were all free, for every man to remain there 
as long as he wished. For what were they but Christian schools, 
in which the Scriptures and Christian life were taught, and 
where folk were trained to govern and to preach ; as we read 
that St. Agnes went to school, and as we see, even now, in some 
nunneries, as at Quedlinburg and other places? Truly all 
foundations and convents ought to be free in this way, that 
they may serve God of a free will and not as slaves. But now 
they have been bound round with vows and turned into eternal 
prisons, so that these vows are regarded even more than the 
vows of baptism. But what fruit has come of this we daily 
see, hear, read and learn more and more. 

I dare say that this my counsel will be thought very foolish, 
but I care not for this. I advise what I think best ; reject 
it, who will. I know how these vows are kept, especially 
that of chastity, which is so general in all convents, 1 and 
yet was not ordered by Christ, and it is given to compara- 
tively few to be able to keep it, as He says and St. Paul also : 
(Col. ii. 20.) I wish all to be helped, and that Christian souls 
should not be held in bondage, through customs and laws 
invented by men. 

14. We see also how the priesthood is fallen, and how many 
a poor priest is encumbered with a woman and children, and 
burdened in his conscience, and no one does anything to 
help him, though he might very well be helped. Popes and 
bishops may let that be lost that is being lost, and that 
be destroyed which is being destroyed ; I will save my con- 
science and open my mouth freely, let it vex Popes and 
bishops or whoever it may be ; therefore I say : According 
to the ordinances of Christ and His Apostles every town 
should have a minister, as St. Paul plainly says (Tit. i.), 
and this minister should not be forced to live without a 
lawful wife, but should be allowed to have one, as St. Paul 
writes (1 Tim. iii.), saying that "A bishop then must be 

1 Luther alludes here, of course,'to the/vow of celibacy, which was curiously 
styled the vow of chastity ; thus indirectly condemning marriage in general. 


blameless, the husband of one wife . . . having his children 
in subjection with all gravity." For with St. Paul a bishop 
and a presbyter are the same thing, as St. Jerome also con- 
firms. But as for the bishops that we now have, of these the 
Scriptures know nothing ; they were instituted by the Christian 
congregations, so that one might rule over many ministers. 

Therefore, we teach clearly according to the Apostle, that \ 
every town should elect a pious learned citizen from the con- 
gregation and charge him with the office of minister ; the 
congregation should support him and he should be left at liberty 
to marry or not. He should have as assistants, several priests 
and deacons, married or not, as they please, who should help 
him to govern the people and the congregation with sermons 
and the ministration of the sacraments, as is still the case in 
the Greek Church. In these latter times, where there are 
soinany persecutions and conflicts against heretics, there 
were many holy fathers, who voluntarily abstained from the 
marriage state, that they might study more, and might be 
ready at all times for death and conflict. Now the Koman 
See has interfered of its own perversity, and has made a 
general law by which priests are forbidden to marry. This 
must have been at the instigation of the Devil, as was foretold 
by St. Paul (1 Tim. iv. 1, 2, seq.), saying that " there shall come 
teachers giving heed to seducing spirits . . . forbidding to 
marry," etc. This has been the cause of so much misery that 
it cannot be told, and has given occasion to the G-reek 
Church to separate from us, and has caused infinite disunion, 
sin, shame and scandal, like everything that the Devil does or 
suggests. Now what are we to do ? 

My advice is, to restore liberty, and to leave every man free 
to marry or not to marry. But if we did this we should have 
to introduce a very different rule and order for property ; the 
whole canon law would be overthrown and but few benefices 
would fall to Bonie. I am afraid greed was a cause of this 
wretched, unchaste chastity ; for the result of it was that every 
man wished to become a priest, or to have his son brought up 
to the priesthood — not with the intention of living in chastity, 
for this could be done without the priestly state, but to obtain 
his worldly support without labour or trouble, contrary to 
God's command (Gen. iii.) : " In the sweat of thy face shalt 


thou eat thy bread ; " and they have given a colour to this 
commandment as though their work was praying and reading 
the mass. I am not here considering Popes, bishops, canons, 
clergy and monks, who were not ordained by God ; they have 
laid burdens on themselves, and they may bear them. I speak 
of the office of parish priest, which God ordained, who must 
rule a congregation with sermons and the ministration of the 
sacraments, and must live with them and manage their own 
worldly affairs. These should have the liberty given them by 
a Christian Council to marry and to avoid danger and sin. For 
as God has not bound them, no one may bind them, though he 
were an angel from heaven — let alone the Pope ; and whatever is 
contrary to this in the canon law is mere idle talk and invention. 

My advice further is, whoever henceforth is ordained priest, 
he should in no wise take the vow of chastity, but should 
protest to the bishop that he has no authority to demand this 
vow, and that it is a devilish tyranny to demand it. But if 
one is forced, or wishes to say, as some do, " so far as human 
frailty permits," let every man interpret that phrase as a plain 
negative, that is, " I do not promise chastity ; " for human 
frailty does not allow men to live an unmarried life, but only 
angelic fortitude and celestial virtue. In this way he will 
have a clear conscience without any vow. I offer no opinion, 
one way or the other, whether those who have at present no 
wife should marry, or remain unmarried. This must be settled 
by the general order of the Church and by each man's discretion. 
But I will not conceal my honest counsel, nor withhold comfort 
from that unhappy crowd who now live in trouble with wife and 
children, and remain in shame, with a heavy conscience, hearing 
their wife called a priest's harlot, and the children bastards. 
And this I say frankly, by my fool's privilege. 

There is many a poor priest free from blame in all other 
respects, except that he has succumbed to human frailty and 
come to shame with a woman, both minded in their hearts to 
live together always in conjugal fidelity, if only they could do 
so with a good conscience, though, as it is, they live in public 
shame. I say, these two are surely married before God. I 
say, moreover, that when two are so minded, and so come to 
live together, they should save their conscience; let the man 
take the woman as his lawful wife, and live with her faithfully 


as her husband, without considering whether the Pope approve 
or not, or whether it is forbidden by canon law, or temporal. 
The salvation of your soul is of more importance than their 
tyrannous, arbitrary, wicked laws, which are not necessary for 
salvation, nor ordained by God. You should do as the chil- 
dren of Israel did, who stole from the Egyptians the wages 
they had earned ; or as a servant steals his well-earned wages 
from a harsh master ; in the same way do you also steal your 
wife and child from the Pope. 

Let him who has faith enough to dare this, only follow me 
courageously : I will not mislead him. I may not have the 
Pope's authority, yet I have the authority of a Christian to 
help my neighbour and to warn him against his sins and 
dangers. And here there is good reason for doing so. 

a. It is not every priest that can do without a woman, not only 
on account of human frailty, but still more for his household. 
If, therefore, he takes a woman, and the Pope allows this, but will 
not let them marry, what is this but expecting a man and a 
woman to live together and not to fall ? Just as if one were to 
set tire to straw, and command it should neither smoke nor burn. 

\h. The Pope having no authority for such a command, any 
more than to forbid a man to eat and drink, or to digest or 
to grow fat, no one is bound to obey it/ and the Pope is 
answerable for every sin against it, for all the souls that it 
has brought to destruction, and for all the consciences that 
have been troubled and tormented by it. He has long 
deserved to be driven out of the world, so many poor souls has 
he strangled with this Devil's rope ; though I hope that God 
has shown many more mercy at their death than the Pope did 
in their life. No good has ever come and can ever come from 
the Papacy and its laws. 

c. Even though the Pope's laws forbid it, still after the 
married state has been entered, the Pope's laws are superseded, 
and are valid no longer : for God has commanded that no man 
shall put asunder husband and wife, and this commandment is 
far above the Pope's laws, and God's command must not be 
cancelled or neglected for the Papal commands. It is true that 
mad lawyers have helped the Pope to invent impediments or 
hindrances to marriage, and thus troubled, divided, and per- 
verted the married state : destroying the commandments of 


God. What need I say further ? In the whole body of the 
Pope's canon law, there are not two lines that can instruct a 
pious Christian, and so many false and dangerous ones, that it 
were better to treat it as waste paper. 

But if you object that this would give offence, and that 
one must first obtain the Pope's dispensation, I answer that 
if there is any offence in it, it is the fault of the See of Kome, 
which has made unjust and unholy laws. It is no offence 
to God and the Scriptures. Even where the Pope has power 
to grant dispensation for money by his covetous tyrannical 
laws, every Christian has power to grant dispensation in the 
same matter for the sake of Christ and the salvation of souls. 
For Christ has freed us from all human laws, especially when 
they are opposed to God and the salvation of souls, as 
St. Paul teaches. (Gal. v. 1, and 1 Cor. viii. 9, 10.) 

15. I must not forget the poor convents. The evil spirit, 
who has troubled all estates of life by human laws, and 
made them unendurable, has taken possession of some Abbots, 
Abbesses, and Prelates, and led them so to rule their brothers 
and sisters, that they do but go soon to hell, and live a 
wretched life even upon earth, as is the case with all the 
Devil's martyrs. For they have reserved in confession all, or 
at least some, deadly sins, which are secret, and from these no 
brother may on pain of excommunication and on his obedience 
absolve another. Now we do not always find angels every- 
where, but men of flesh and blood, who would rather incur all 
excommunication and menace than confess their secret sins to 
a prelate or the confessor appointed for them ; consequently 
they receive the sacrament with these sins on their con- 
science, by which they become irregular 1 and suffer much 
misery. Oh blind shepherds ! Oh foolish Prelates ! Oh 
ravenous wolves ! Now I say that in cases where a sin is 
public and notorious, it is only right that the Prelate alone 
should punish it, and such sins and no others he may reserve 
and except for himself; over private sins he has no authority, 
even though they may be the worst that can be committed or 
imagined. And if the Prelate excepts these, he becomes a 
tyrant and interferes with God's judgment. 

1 Luther uses the expression irregulares, which was applied to those monks 
who were guilty of heresy, apostasy, transgression of the vow of chastity, etc. 


Accordingly I advise these children, brothers and sisters : 
if your superiors will not allow you to confess your secret 
sins to whomsoever you will, then take them yourself, and 
confess them to your brother or sister, to whomsoever you 
will ; be absolved and comforted, and then go or do what 
your wish or duty commands ; only believe firmly that you have 
been absolved, and nothing more is necessary. And let not 
their threats of excommunication, or irregularity, or what not, 
trouble or disturb you ; these only apply to public or notorious 
sins, if they are not confessed : you are not touched by them. 
How canst thou take upon thyself, thou blind Prelate, to 
restrain private sins by thy threats ? Give up what thou 
canst not keep publicly ; let God's judgment and mercy also 
have its place with thy inferiors. He has not given them into 
thy hands so completely as to have let them go out of His 
own ; nay, thou hast received the smaller portion. Consider 
thy statutes as nothing more than thy statutes, and do not 
make them equal to God's judgment in Heaven. 

16. It were also right to abolish annual festivals, processions, 
and masses for the dead^or at least to diminish their number ; 
for we evidently see that they have become no better than 
a mockery, exciting the anger of God, and having no object 
but money getting, eating and drinking. How should it 
please God to hear the poor vigils and masses mumbled 
in this wretched way, neither read nor prayed ? Even when 
they are properly read, it is not done freely for the love of 
God, but for the love of money and as payment of a debt. 
Now it is impossible that anything should please God, or win 
anything from Him that is not done freely, out of love for 
Him. Therefore, as true Christians, we ought to abolish or 
lessen a practice that we see is abused, and that angers God 
instead of appeasing Him. I should prefer, and it would be 
more agreeable to God's will, and far better for a foundation, 
church or convent, to put all the yearly masses and vigils 
together into one mass, so that they would every year cele- 
brate, on one day, a true vigil and mass with hearty sincerity, 
devotion and faith, for all their benefactors. This would be 
better than their thousand upon thousand masses said every 
year — each for a particular benefactor — without devotion and 
faith. My dear fellow-Christians ! God cares not for much 


prayer, but for good prayer. Nay, He condemns long and 
frequent prayers (Matt. vi. 2, seq.), saying : " Verily I say 
unto you, they have their reward." But it is the greed that 
cannot trust God by which such practices are set up ; it is 
afraid it will die of starvation. 

17. One should also abolish certain punishments inflicted by 
the canon law, especially the interdict, which is doubtless the 
invention of the evil one. Is it not the mark of the Devil to 
wish to better one sin by more and worse sins ? It is surely 
a greater sin to silence God's word and service, than if we 
were to kill twenty Popes at once, not to speak of a single 
priest or of keeping back the goods of the Church. This is 
one of those gentle virtues which are learnt in the Spiritual 
law; for the Canon or Spiritual law is so called because it 
comes from a spirit— not however from the Holy Spirit, but 
from the Evil Spirit. 

Excommunication should not be used except where the 
Scriptures command it : that is, against those that have not 
the right faith, or that live in open sin, and not in matters of 
temporal goods. But now the case has been inverted ; each 
man believes and lives as he pleases, especially those that 
plunder and disgrace others with excommunications ; and all 
excommunications are now only in matters of worldly goods. 
For which we have no one to thank but the holy canonical 
injustice. But of all this I have spoken previously in a 

The other punishments and penalties — suspension, irregu- 
larity, aggravation, re-aggravation, deposition, 1 thundering, 
lightning, cursing, damning and what not, all these should be 
buried ten fathoms deep in the earth, that their very name and 
memory may no longer live upon earth. The evil spirit, 
who was let loose by the spiritual law, has brought all this 
terrible plague and misery into the heavenly kingdom of the 
holy Church, and has thereby brought about nothing but the 
harm and destruction of souls, that we may well apply to it 
the words of Christ (Matt, xxiii. 13) : " But woe unto you, 

1 Luther enumerates here the various grades of punishment inflicted on 
priests. The aggravation consisted of a threat of excommunication, after a 
thrice-repeated admonition, whilst the conserpuence of re-aggravation was 
immediate excommunication. 


scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for you shut up the kingdom 
of heaven against men : for ye neither go in yourselves, neither 
suffer ye them that are entering to go in." 

18. One should abolish all saints' days, keeping only Sun- 
day. But if it. were desired to keep the festival of Our Lady 
and the greater saints, they should all be held on Sundays, 
or only in the morning with the mass ; the rest of the day 
being a working day. My reason is this : with our present 
abuses of drinking, gambling, idling, and all manner of sin, we 
vex God more on holy days than on others. And the matter is 
just reversed; we have made holy days unholy, and work- 
ing days holy, and do no service but great dishonour to God 
and His saints with all our holy days. There are some 
foolish prelates that think they have done a good deed, if they 
establish a festival to St. Otilia, or St. Barbara, and the like, 
each in his own blind fashion, whilst he would be doing a much 
better work to turn a saint's day into a working day, in honour 
of a saint. 

Besides these spiritual evils, these saints' days inflict bodily 
injury on the common man in two ways : he loses a day's 
work and he spends more than usual, besides weakening his 
body and making himself unfit for labour, as we see every 
day, and yet no one tries to improve it. One should not 
consider whether the Pope instituted these festivals, or whether 
we require his dispensation or permission. If anything is 
contrary to God's will and harmful to men in body and soul, 
not only has every community, council or government 
authority to prevent and abolish such wrong without the 
knowledge or consent of Pope or bishop ; but it is their duty, 
as they value their soul's salvation, to prevent it, even though 
Pope and bishop (that should be the first to do so) are un- 
willing to see it stopped. And first of all we should abolish 
church wakes,* since they are nothing but taverns, fairs and 
gaming places, to the greater dishonour of God and the dam- 
nation of souls. It is no good to make a talk about their 
having had a good origin and being good works. Did not God 
set aside His own law that He had given forth out of heaven, 
when He saw that it was abused ? and does He not now reverse 
every day what He has appointed, and destroy what He has 
made, on account of the same perverse misuse, as it is written 


in the eighteenth Psalm (v. 26) : " With the froward thou wilt 
show thyself froward." 

19. The degrees of relationship in which marriage is for- 
bidden must be altered, such as so-called spiritual relations * 
in the third and fourth degrees; and where the Pope at 
Eome can dispense in such matters for money, and make shame- 
ful bargains, every priest should have the power of grant- 
ing the same dispensations freely for the salvation of souls. 
Would to God that all those things that have to be bought 
at Eome, for freedom from the golden noose of the canon 
law, might be given by any priest without payment, such as 
Indulgences, letters of Indulgences, letters of dispensation, 
mass letters, and all the other religious licences and knaveries 
at Kome by which the poor people are deceived and robbed ! 
For if the Pope has the power to sell for money his golden 
snares, or canon nets (laws, I should say), much more has a 
priest the power to cancel them and to trample on them for 
God's sake. But if he has no such power, then the Pope can 
have no authority to sell them in his shameful fair. 

Besides this, fasts must be_made optional, and every kind of 
food made free, aslsrcomnianded in~th!TGospels. (Matt. xv. 11.) 
For whilst at Borne they laugh at fasts, they let us abroad 
eat oil which they would not think fit for greasing their boots, 
and then sell us the liberty of eating butter and other things, 
whereas the Apostle says, that the Gospel has given us 
freedom in all such matters. (1 Cor. x. 25 seq.) But they have 
caught us in their canon law and have robbed us of this 
right, so that we have to buy it back from them ; they have 
so terrified the consciences of the people, that one cannot 
preach this liberty without rousing the anger of the people, 
who think the eating of butter to be a worse sin than lying, 
swearing and unchastity. We may make of it what we will ; 
it is but the work of man, and no good can ever come of it. 

20. The country chapels and churches must be destroyed, 
such as those to which the new pilgrimages have been set 
on foot, Wilsnacht, Sternberg, Treves, the Grimmenthal, 
and now Batisbon, and many others. Oh what a reckoning 
there will be for those bishops that allow these inventions of 
the Devil and make a profit out of them ! They should be the 

1 Those, namely, between Sponsors at Baptism and their Godchildren. 


first to stop it; they think that it is a godly, holy thing, 
and do not see that the Devil does this to strengthen covet- 
ousness, to teach false beliefs, to weaken parish churches, to 
increase drunkenness and debauchery, to waste money and 
labour, and simply to lead the poor people by the nose. If 
they had only studied the Scriptures as much as their accursed 
canon law, they would know well how to deal with the matter. 

The miracles performed there prove nothing, for the Evil One 
can also show wonders, as Christ has taught us. (Matt. xxiv. 24.) 
If they took up the matter earnestly, and forbade such doings, 
the miracles would soon cease ; or if they were done by God, 
they would not be prevented by their commands. And if 
there were nothing else to prove that these are not works of 
God, it would be enough that people go about turbulently 
and irrationally like herds of cattle, which could not possibly 
come from God. God has not commanded it ; there is no 
obedience, and no merit in it ; and therefore it should be 
vigorously interfered with and the people warned against it. 
For what is not commanded by God and goes beyond God's 
commandments is surely the Devil's own work. In this way 
also the parish churches suffer, in that they are less venerated. 
In fine, these pilgrimages are signs of great want of faith in 
the people; for if they truly believed, they would find all 
things in their own churches, where they are commanded to go. 

But what is the use of my speaking ? Every man thinks 
only how he may get up such a pilgrimage in his own dis- 
trict, not caring whether the people believes and lives rightly. 
The rulers are like the people — blind leaders of the blind. 
Where pilgrimages are a failure, they begin to glorify their 
saints ; not to honour the saints, who are sufficiently honoured 
without them, but to cause a concourse, and to bring in money. 
Then Pope and bishops help them ; it rains indulgences, and 
every one can afford to buy them ; but what God has com- 
manded no one cares for ; no one runs after it, no one can 
afford any money for it. Alas for our blindness, that we not 
only suffer the Devil to have his way with his phantoms, but 
support him ! I wish one would leave the good saints alone 
and not lead the poor people astray. What spirit gave the 
Pope authority to " glorify " the saints ? Who tells him whether 
they are holy, or not holy ? Are there not enough sins on 


earth, as it is, but we must tempt God, interfere in His judg- 
ment, and make money-bags of his saints? Therefore my 
advice is to let the saints glorify themselves ; or rather, God 
alone should glorify them, and every man should keep to 
his own parish, where he will profit more than in all these 
shrines, even if they were all put together into one shrine. 
Here a man finds Baptism, the Sacrament, preaching, and his 
neighbour, and these are more than all the saints in Heaven, 
for it is by God's word and sacrament that they have all been 

Our contempt for these great matters justifies God's anger 
in giving us over to the devil to lead us astray, to get up 
pilgrimages, to found churches and chapels, to glorify the 
saints and to commit other like follies, by which we are led 
astray from the true faith into new false beliefs ; just as he 
did in old time with the people of Israel, whom he led away 
from the temple to countless other places ; all the while in 
God's name, and with the appearance of holiness, against 
which all the prophets preached, suffering martyrdom for 
their words. But now no one preaches against it ; and 
probably if he did, bishops, Popes, priests and monks would 
combine to martyr him. In this way Antonius of Florence 
and many others are made saints, so that their holiness 
may serve to produce glory and wealth, whereas otherwise 
they would have served simply as good examples for the glory 
of God. 

Even if this glorification of the Saints had been good once, 
it is not good now ; just as many other things were good 
once and are now occasion of offence and injurious, such as 
holidays, ecclesiastical treasures and ornaments. For it is 
evident that what is aimed at in the glorification of saints is 
not the glory of God, nor the bettering of Christendom, but 
money and fame alone ; one church wishes to have an advan- 
tage over another, and would be sorry to see another church 
enjoying the same advantages. In this way they have in 
these latter days abused the goods of the Church so as to gain 
the goods of the world; so that everything, and even God 
Himself, must serve their avarice. Moreover these privileges 
cause nothing but dissensions and worldly pride ; one church 
being different from the rest, they despise or magnify one 


another, whereas all goods that are of God should be common 
to all, and should serve to produce unity. This, too, is why 
they please the Pope, who would be sorry to see all Christians 
equal and at one with one another. 

Here must be added that one should abolish, or treat as of 
no account, or give to all churches alike, the licences, bulls, 
and whatever the Pope sells at his flaying-ground at Eome. 
For if he sells or gives to Wittenberg, to Halle, to Venice, and 
above all to his own city of Eome, special permissions, privi- 
leges, indulgences, graces, advantages, faculties, why does he 
not give them to all churches alike ? Is it not his duty to do 
all that he can for all Christians without reward, solely for 
God's sake, nay, even to shed his blood for them ? Why then, 
I should like to know, does he give or sell these things to one 
church and not to another ? Or does this accursed gold make 
a difference in his Holiness's eyes between Christians who all 
alike have baptism, gospel, faith, Christ, God, and all things ? 
Do they wish us to be blind, when our eyes can see, to be 
fools, when we have reason, that we should worship this 
greed, knavery and delusion ? He is a shepherd forsooth — so 
long as you have money, no further; and yet they are not 
ashamed to practise all this knavery right and left with their 
bulls. They care only for that accursed gold and for nought 

Therefore my advice is this : If this folly is not done away 
with, let all pious Christians open their eyes and not be de- 
ceived by these Eomish Bulls and seals, and all their specious 
pretences ; let them stop at home in their own churches, and 
be satisfied with their Baptism, Gospel, Faith, Christ and God 
(who is everywhere the same), and let the Pope continue to 
be a blind leader of the blind. Neither Pope nor angel can 
give you as much as God gives you in your own parish ; nay, 
he only leads you away from God's gifts, which you have for 
nothing, to his own gifts, which you must buy ; giving you lead 
for gold, skin for meat, strings for a purse, wax for honey, 
words for goods, the letter for the spirit ; as you can see for 
yourselves though you will not perceive it. If you try to 
ride to heaven on the Pope's wax and parchment, your carriage 
will soon break down and you will fall into hell, not in God's 

f 2 


Let this be a fixed rule for you, Whatever has to be bought 
of the Pope is neither good, nor of God. For whatever conies 
from God is not only given freely, but all the world is 
punished and condemned for not accepting it freely. So is it 
with the Gospel and the works of God. We have deserved to 
be led into these errors, because we have despised God's holy 
word and the grace of baptism, as St. Paul says : " And for 
this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they 
should believe a lie : that they all might be damned who 
believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 
(2 Thess. ii. 11, 12.) 

21. It is one of the most urgent necessities to abolish all 
begging in Christendom. No one should go about begging 
among Christians. It would not be hard to do this, if we 
attempted it with good heart and courage : each town should 
support its own poor and should not allow strange beggars 
to come in — whatever they may call themselves : pilgrims or 
mendicant monks. Every town could feed its own poor ; and 
if it were too small, the people in the neighbouring villages 
should be called upon to contribute. As it is, they have to 
support many knaves and vagabonds under the name of beggars. 
If they did what I propose, they would at least know who 
were really poor or not. 

There should also be an overseer or guardian who should 
know all the poor, and should inform the town • or council, or 
the priest, of their requirements ; or some other similar provision 
might be made. There is no occupation, in my opinion, in 
which there is so much knavery and cheating as among 
beggars ; and it could so easily be prevented. This general, 
unrestricted begging is, besides, injurious for the common 
people. I estimate that of the five or six orders of mendicant 
monks, each one visits every place more than six or seven times 
in the year ; then there are the common beggars, messengers 
and pilgrims ; in this way I calculate every city has a black- 
mail levied on it about sixty times a year, not counting rates 
and taxes paid to the civil government and the useless 
robberies of the Koman See ; so that it is to my mind one of 
the greatest of God's miracles how we manage to live and 
support ourselves. 

Some may think that in this way the poor would not be well 


cared for, and that such great stone houses and convents would 
not be built, and not so plentifully, and I think so too. But 
there would be no harm in that. If a man will be poor, he 
should not be rich ; if he will be rich, let him put his hand to 
the plough, and get wealth himself out of the earth. It is 
enough to provide decently for the poor, that they may not die 
of cold and hunger. It is not right, that one should work that 
another may be idle, and live ill that another may live well, as 
is now the perverse abuse, for St. Paul says (2 Thess. iii. 10): 
" If any would not work, neither should he eat." God has 
not ordained that any one should live of the goods of others, 
except priests and ministers alone, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. ix. 
14), for their spiritual work's sake ; as also Christ says to the 
Apostles (Luke x. 7) : " The labourer is worthy of his hire." 

22. It is also to be feared that the many masses that have 
been founded in convents and foundations, instead of doing any 
good, arouse God's anger ; wherefore it would be well to endow 
no more masses and to abolish many of those that have been 
endowed ; for we see that they are only looked upon as sacrifices 
and good works, though in truth they are sacraments like bap- 
tism and confession, and as such profit him only that receives 
them. But now the custom obtains of saying masses for the 
living and the dead, and everything is based upon them. This 
is the reason why there are so many, and that they have come 
to be what we see. 

But perhaps all this is a new and unheard of doctrine, 
especially in the eyes of those that fear to lose their livelihood, 
if these masses were abolished. I must therefore reserve 
what I have to say on this subject until men have arrived at 
a truer understanding of the mass, its nature and use. The 
mass has, alas ! for so many years been turned into means of 
gaining a livelihood, that I should advise a man to become a 
shepherd, a labourer, rather than a priest, or monk, unless he 
knows what the mass is. 

All this, however, does not apply to the old foundations and 
chapters ; which were doubtless founded in order that, since 
according to the custom of Germany all the children of nobles 
cannot be landowners and rulers, they should be provided for in 
these foundations, and these serve God freely, study and become 
learned themselves, and help others to acquire learning. I 


am speaking only of the new foundations, endowed for prayers 
and masses, by the example of which the old foundations have 
become burdened with the like prayers and masses, making 
them of very little, if of any use. Through (rod's righteous 
punishment they have at last come down to the dregs as they 
deserve ; that is, to the noise of singers and organs, and cold, 
spiritless masses, with no end but to gain and spend the 
money due to them. Popes, bishops and doctors should 
examine and report on such things ; as it is they are the 
guiltiest, allowing anything that brings them money; the 
blind ever leading the blind. This comes of covetousness and 
the canon law. 

It must, moreover, not be allowed in future that one man 
should have more than one endowment or prebend. He should 
be content with a moderate position in life, so that others may 
have something besides himself; and thus we must put a stop 
to the excuses of those that say that they must have more 
than one office to enable them to live in their proper station. 
It is possible to estimate one's proper station in such a way, 
that a whole kingdom would not suffice to maintain it. So it 
is that covetousness and want of faith in God go hand in 
hand, and often men take for the requirements of their station 
what is mere covetousness and want of faith. 

23. As for the fraternities, together with indulgences, 
letters of indulgence, dispensations, masses and all the rest of 
such things, let it all be drowned and abolished ; there is no 
good in it at all. If the Pope has the authority to grant 
dispensation in the matter of eating butter and hearing masses, 
let him allow priests to do the same ; he has no right to take 
the power from them. I speak also of the fraternities in 
which indulgences, masses, and good works are distributed. 
My friend, in baptism you joined a fraternity of which Christ, 
the angels, the saints and all Christians are members ; be 
true to this, and satisfy it, and you will have fraternities enough. 
Let others make what show they wish ; they are as counters 
compared to coins. But if there were a fraternity that 
subscribed money to feed the poor, or to help others in any 
way, this would be good, and it would have its indulgence and 
its deserts in Heaven. But now they are good for nothing but 
gluttony and drunkenness. 


First of all we should expel from all German lands the Pope's 
legates with their faculties, which they sell to us for much 
money, though it is all knavery ; as, for instance, their taking 
money for making goods unlawfully acquired to be good, 
for freeing from oaths, vows, and bonds, thus destroying and 
teaching others to destroy truth and faith mutually pledged ; 
saying the Pope has authority to do so. It is the Evil Spirit 
that bids them talk thus, and so they sell us the Devil's 
teaching, and take money for teaching us sins and leading us 
to hell. 

• If there were nothing else to show that the Pope is Anti- 
christ, this would be enough. Dost thou hear this, Pope ! 
not the most holy, but the most sinful ? Would that God 
would hurl thy Chair headlong from heaven, and cast it down 
into the abyss of hell ! Who gave you the power to exalt 
yourself above your God ? To break and to loose what He has 
commanded ? To teach Christians, more especially Germans, 
who are of noble nature, and are famed in all histories for up- 
rightness and truth, to be false, unfaithful, perjured, treacherous 
and wicked ? God has commanded to keep faith and observe 
oaths even with enemies ; you dare to cancel this command, 
laying it down in your heretical, antichristian decretals, that 
you have power to do so ; and through your mouth and your 
pen Satan lies as he never lied before, teaching you to twist 
and pervert the Scriptures according to your own arbitrary 
will. 0, Lord Christ ! look down upon this, let Thy day of 
judgment come and destroy the Devil's lair at Eome. Behold 
him of whom St. Paul spoke (2 Thess. ii., 3, 4), that he should 
exalt himself above Thee and sit in Thy Church, showing 
himself as God — the man of sin, and the child of dam- 
nation. What else does the Pope's power do, but teach and 
strengthen sin and wickedness, leading souls to damnation in 
Thy name ? 

The children of Israel in old times kept the oath that they 
had sworn, in ignorance and error, to the Gibeonites, their 
enemies. And King Zedekiah was destroyed utterly with his 
people, because he broke the oath that he had sworn to the 
King of Babylon. And among us, a hundred years ago, 
the noble King Ladislaus V. of Poland and Hungary was slain 
by the Turk with so many of his people, because he allowed 


himself to be misled by Papal legates and cardinals, and broke 
the good and useful treaty that he had made with the 
Turk. The pious Emperor Sigismond had no good fortune 
after the Council of Constance, in which he allowed the knaves 
to violate the safe conduct that he had promised to John Kuss 
and Jerome ; from this has followed all the miserable strife 
between Bohemia and ourselves. And in our own time, God 
help us ! how much Christian blood has been shed on account 
of the oath and bond which Pope Julius made and unmade 
between the Emperor Maximilian and King Lewis of France ! 
How can I tell all the misery the Popes have caused by such 
devilish insolence, claiming the power of breaking oaths between 
great lords, causing a shameful scandal for the sake of 
money! I hope the day of judgment is at hand; things cannot 
and will not become worse than the dealings of the Eoman 
Chair. The Pope treads God's commandments under foot and 
exalts his own ; if this is not Antichrist I do not know what is. 
But of this and to more purpose another time. 

24. It is high time to take up earnestly and truthfully 
the cause dL_the Bohemians, to unite them with ourselves 
and ourselves withTThem, so that all mutual accusations, envy 
and hatred may cease. I will be the first, in my capacity of 
fool, to give my opinion, with all due deference to those of 
better understanding. 

First of all, we must honestly confess the truth, without at- 
tempting self-justification, and own one thing to the Bohemians, 
namely, that John Huss and Jerome of Prague were burnt 
at Constance in violation of the Papal, Christian, and Im- 
perial oath and safe conduct, and that thus God's commami- 
ment was broken and the Bohemians excited to great anger. 
And though, no doubt, they ought to have been perfect men, 
and have patiently endured this wrong and disobedience to 
God, yet we cannot expect them to approve it and think it 
right. Nay, even now they should run any danger of life 
and limb rather than own that it is right to break an Im- 
perial, Papal, Christian safe conduct and act faithlessly in 
opposition to it. Therefore, though the Bohemians may be 
to blame for their impatience, yet the Pope and his followers 
are most to blame for all the misery, all the error and destruc- 
tion of souls, that followed this Council of Constance. 


It is not rny intention here to judge John Huss's belief and 
to defend his errors ; although my understanding has not been 
able to find any error in him, and I would willingly believe 
that men who violated a safe conduct and God's commandment 
(doubtless possessed rather by the evil spirit than by the Spirit 
of God) were unable to judge well or to condemn with truth. 
No one can imagine that the Holy Ghost can break God's 
commandments ; no one can deny that it is breaking God's 
commandments to violate faith and a safe conduct, even 
though it were promised to the devil himself, much more 
then in the case of a heretic ; it is also notorious that a safe 
conduct was promised to John Huss and the Bohemians, and 
that the promise was broken and Huss was burnt. I have no 
wish to make a saint or a martyr of John Huss (as some 
Bohemians do), though I own that he was treated unjustly, and 
that his books and his doctrines were wrongfully condemned ; 
for God's judgments are inscrutable and terrible, and none 
but Himself may reveal or explain them. 

All I say is this : Granting he was a heretic, however bad he 
may have been, yet he was burnt unjustly and in violation of 
God's commandments, and we must not require the Bohemians 
to approve this, if we wish ever to be at one with them. Plain 
truth must unite us, not obstinacy. It is no use to say, as 
they said at the time, that a safe conduct need not be kept, if 
promised to a heretic ; that is as much as to say, one may break 
God's commandments, in order to keep God's commandments. 
They were infatuated and blinded by the Devil, that they 
could not see what they said or did. God has commanded us to 
observe a safe conduct ; and this we must do though the world 
should perish, much more then where it is only a question of 
a heretic being let free. We should overcome heretics with 
books, not with fire, as the old Fathers did. If there were any 
skill in overcoming heretics with fire the executioner would be 
the most learned doctor in the world ; and there would be no 
need to study, but he that could get another into his power 
could burn him. 

Besides this, the Emperor and the Princes should send to 
Bohemia several pious, learned bishops and doctors, but, for 
their life, no cardinal or legate or inquisitor, for such people 
are far too unlearned in all Christian matters, and do not 


seek the salvation of souls ; but like all the Papal hypocrites, 
they seek only their own glory, profit and honour ; they were 
also the leaders in that calamitous affair at Constance. But 
those learned men should inquire into the faith of the Bohemians 
to ascertain whether it would be possible to unite all their sects 
into one. Moreover the Pope should (for their souls' sake) for a 
time abandon his supremacy and, in accordance with the statutes 
of the Nicene Council, allow the Bohemians to choose for them- 
selves an Archbishop of Prague. This choice to be confirmed 
by the Bishops of Olmutz in Moravia, or of Grun in Hungary, 
or the Bishop of Gnesen in Poland, or the Bishop of Magdeburg 
in Germany. It is enough that it be confirmed by one or two 
of these bishops, as in the time of St. Cyprian. And the 
Pope has no authority to forbid it ; if he forbids it, he acts as a 
wolf and a tyrant, and no one should obey him, but answer his 
excommunication by excommunicating him. 

Yet if, for the honour of the Chair of St. Peter, any one prefers 
to do this with the Pope's knowledge, I do not object, provided 
that the Bohemians do not pay a farthing for it, and that the 
Pope do not bind them a single hair's breadth, or subject them 
to his tyranny by oath, as he does all other bishops, against 
God and justice. If he is not satisfied with the honour 
of his assent being asked, leave him alone by all means with 
his own rights, laws, and tyrannies ; be content with the election, 
and let the blood of all the souls that are in danger be upon 
his head. For no man may countenance wrong, and we have 
already shown enough respect to tyranny. If we cannot do 
otherwise, we may consider the popular election and consent 
as equal to a tyrannical confirmation ; but I hope this will 
not be necessary. Sooner or later some Komans, or pious 
bishops and learned men, must perceive and avert the Pope's 

I do not advise that they be forced to abandon the sacrament 
in both kinds, for it is neither unchristian nor heretical. 
They should be allowed to continue in their present way ; but 
the new bishop must see that there be no dissensions about 
this matter, and they must learn that neither practice is 
actually wrong; just as there need be no disputes about the 
priests not wearing the same dress as the laity. In the same 
way, if they do not wish to submit to the canon laws of the 


Roman Church, we must not force them, but we must content 
ourselves with seeing that they live in faith and according to 
the Scriptures. For Christian life and Christian faith may- 
very well exist without the Pope's unbearable laws ; nay, they 
cannot well exist until there are fewer of those laws or none. 
Our baptism has freed us and made us subject to God's word 
alone, why then should we suffer a man to make us the slaves 
of his words ? As St. Paul says : " Stand fast, therefore, in 
the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not 
entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Gal. v. 1.) 

If I knew that the only error of the Hussites * was that 
they believe that in the sacrament of the altar there is true 
bread and wine, though under it the body and the blood 
of Christ ; if, I say, this were their only error, I should not 
condemn them ; but let the Bishop of Prague see to this. For 
it is not an article of faith that in the sacrament there is bread 
and wine in substance and nature, which is a delusion of 
St. Thomas and the Pope : but it is an article of faith, that in 
the natural bread and wine there is Christ's true flesh and blood. 
We should accordingly tolerate the views of both parties until 
they are at one ; for there is not much danger whether you 
believe there is, or there is not, bread in the sacrament. For 
we have to suffer many forms of belief and order that do 
not injure the Faith ; but if they believe otherwise, it would 
be better not to unite with them, and yet to instruct them in 
the truth. 

All other errors and dissensions to be found in Bohemia 
should be tolerated until the Archbishop has been reinstated, 
and has succeeded, in time, in uniting the whole people 
in one harmonious doctrine. We shall never unite them by 
force, by driving or hurrying them. We must be patient, 
and use gentleness. Did not Christ have to walk with His 
disciples, suffering their unbelief, until they believed in His 
resurrection ? If they had but once more a regular bishop, and 
good discipline without Romish tyranny, I think matters would 

The temporal possessions of the Church should not be too 

1 Luther uses here the word "Pickarten," which is a corruption of 
Begharden, i.e. " Beghards," a nickname frequently applied in those days to 
the Hussites. 


strictly claimed ; but since we are Christians and bound to help 
one another, we have the right to give them these things for 
the sake of unity, and to let them keep them, before God and the 
world ; for Christ says : " Where two or three are gathered 
together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Would 
to God, we helped on both sides to bring about this unity, 
giving our hands one to the other in brotherly humility, not 
insisting on our authority or our rights ! Love is more, and 
more necessary than the Papacy at Kome ; the Papacy can 
exist without love, and love can exist without the Papacy. I 
hope I have done my best for this end. If the Pope or his 
followers hinder this good work, they will have to give an 
account of their actions, for having, against the love of God, 
sought their own advantage more than their neighbours'. The 
Pope should abandon his Papacy, all his possessions and 
honours,| if ne c °uld save a soul by so doing. But he would 
rather see the world go to ruin than give up a hair's breadth 
of the power he has usurped ; and yet he would be our most 
holy father ! Herewith am I at least excused. 

25. The Universities also require a good, sound Beformation. 
I must say this, let it vex whom it may. The fact is that 
whatever the Papacy has ordered or instituted is only de- 
signed for the propagation of sin and error. What are the 
Universities, as at present ordered, but as the Book of Mac- 
cabees says : " Schools of ' Greek fashion ' and ' heathenish 
manners.' " (2 Maccab. iv. 12, 13) ; full of dissolute living, 
where very little is taught of the Holy Scriptures and of the 
Christian faith, and the blind heathen teacher, Aristotle, rules 
even further than Christ. Now, my advice would be that the 
books of Aristotle, the ' Physics,' the ' Metaphysics,' ' Of the 
Soul,' ' Ethics,' which have hitherto been considered the best, 
be altogether abolished, with all others that profess to treat of 
nature, though nothing can be learned from them, either of 
natural or of spiritual things. Besides, no one has been able 
to understand his meaning, and much time has been wasted, 
and many noble souls vexed, with much useless labour, study, 
and expense. I venture to say that any potter has more 
knowledge of natural things than is to be found in these 
books. My heart is grieved to see how many of the best 
Christians this accursed, proud, knavish heathen has fooled 


and led astray with his false words. God sent him as a 
plague for our sins. 

Does not the wretched man in his best book, ' Of the Soul,' 
teach that the soul dies with the body ; though many have tried 
to save him with vain words, as if we had not the Holy 
Scriptures to teach us fully of all things, of which Aristotle 
had not the slightest perception. Yet this dead heathen has 
conquered, and has hindered and almost suppressed the books 
of the living God ; so that, when I see all this misery, I cannot 
but think that the evil spirit has introduced this study. 

Then there is the ' Ethics,' which is accounted one of the 
best, though no book is more directly contrary to God's will 
and the Christian virtues. Oh, that such books could be kept 
out of the reach of all Christians ! Let no one object that I 
say too much, or speak without knowledge. My friend, I 
know of what I speak. I know Aristotle as well as you or men 
like you. I have read him with more understanding than 
St. Thomas or Scotus; which I may say without arrogance, 
and can prove if need be. It matters not that so many great 
minds have exercised themselves in these matters for many 
hundred years. Such objections do not affect me as they 
might have done once ; since it is plain as day that many more 
errors have existed for many hundred years in the world and 
the Universities. 

I would, however, gladly consent that Aristotle's books of 
Logic, Khetoric and Poetic should be retained ; or they might 
be usefully studied in a condensed form, to practise young 
people in speaking and preaching ; but the notes and comments 
should be abolished, and just as Cicero's Ehetoric is read without 
note or comment, Aristotle's Logic should be read without such 
long commentaries. But now neither speaking nor preaching 
are taught out of them, and they are used only for disputation 
and confusion. Besides this there are languages, Latin, Greek 
and Hebrew, the Mathematics, History ; but this I leave 
to men of higher understanding ; if they seriously strive 
after reform, all these things will come of themselves. And 
truly it is an important matter ! for it concerns the teach- 
ing and training of Christian youths and of our noble people, in 
whom Christianity still abides. Therefore I think that Pope 
and Emperor could have no better task than the reformation of 


the Universities, just as there is nothing more devilishly 
mischievous than an unreformed University. 

Physicians I would leave to reform their own faculty; 
Lawyers and Theologians I take under my charge, and say 
firstly, that it would be right to abolish the canon law entirely, 
from beginning to end, more especially the decretals. We are 
taught quite sufficiently in the Bible how we ought to act ; all 
this study only prevents the study of the Scriptures, and for 
the most part it is tainted with covetousness and pride. And 
even though there were some good in it, it should nevertheless 
be destroyed, for the Pope having the canon law in scrinio 
pectoris, 1 all further study is useless and deceitful. At the 
present time the canon law is not to be found in the books, 
but in the whims of the Pope and his sycophants. You 
may have settled a matter in the best possible way according to 
the canon law, but the Pope has his scrinium pectoris, to which 
all law must bow in all the world. Now this scrinium is often- 
times directed by some knave, and the devil himself, whilst it 
boasts that it is directed by the Holy Ghost. This is the way 
they treat Christ's poor people, imposing many laws and keeping 
none ; forcing others to keep them, or to free themselves by 

Therefore since the Pope and his followers have cancelled 
the whole canon law, despising it and setting their own will 
above all the world, we should follow them and reject the books. 
Why should we study them to no purpose ? We should never 
be able to know the Pope's caprice, which has now become the 
canon law. Let it fall then in God's name, after having risen 
in the devil's name. Let there be henceforth no doctor 
decretorum, but let them all be doctor es scrinii papalis, that is, 
the Pope's sycophants. They say that there is no better 
temporal government than among the Turks, though they have 
no canon nor civil law, but only their Koran ; we must at least 
own that there is no worse government than ours with its 
canon and civil law, for no estate lives according to the 
Scriptures, or even according to natural reason. 

The civil law, too, good God ! what a wilderness it is become ! 
It is, indeed, much better, more skilful and more honest than 
the canon law, of which nothing is good but the name. Still 

1 In the shrine of his heart. 


there is far too much of it. Surely good governors, judging 
according to the Scriptures, would be law enough, as St. Paul 
says : " Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you ? No, 
not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren ? " 
(1 Cor. vi. 5.) I think also that the common law and the usage 
of the country should be preferred to the law of the Empire, 
and that the law of the Empire should only be used in 
cases of necessity. And would to God that, as each land has 
its own peculiar character and nature, they could all be 
governed by their own simple laws, just as they were governed 
before the law of the Empire was devised, and as many are 
governed even now ! Elaborate and far-fetched laws are only 
burdensome to the people, and a hindrance rather than a help 
to business. But I hope that others have thought of this, and 
considered it to more purpose than I could. 

Our worthy Theologians have saved themselves much trouble 
and labour by leaving the Bible alone and only reading the 
Sentences. 1 I should have thought that young Theologians 
might begin by studying the Sentences and that Doctors 
should study the Bible. Now they invert this : the Bible is 
the first thing they study ; this ceases with the Bachelor's 
degree; the Sentences are the last, and these they keep for 
ever with the Doctor's degree ; and this too under such sacred 
obligation that one that is not a priest may read the Bible, 
but a priest must read the Sentences ; so that, as far as I can 
see, a married man might be a Doctor in the Bible, but not in 
the Sentences. How should we prosper so long as we act so 
perversely, and degrade the Bible, the holy word of God? 
Besides this, the Pope orders with many stringent words that 
his laws be read and used in schools and courts ; while the law 
of the Gospel is but little considered. The result is that in 
schools and courts the Gospel lies dusty on the shelf, so that 
the Pope's mischievous laws may alone be in force. 

Since, then, we hold the name and title of teachers of the 
Holy Scriptures, we should verily be forced to act according to 
our title, and to teach the Holy Scriptures and nothing else. 

1 Luther refers here to the ' Sentences ' of Petrus Lomhardus, the so- 
called magister sententiarum, which formed the basis of all dogmatic inter- 
pretation from about the middle of the 12th century down to the Reforma- 


Although, indeed, it is a proud, presumptuous title, for a man 
to proclaim himself teacher of the Scriptures, still it could be 
suffered, if the works confirmed the title. But as it is, under 
the rule of the Sentences, we find among Theologians more 
human and heathenish fallacies than true holy knowledge of 
the Scriptures. What then are we to do ? I know not, except 
to pray humbly to God to give us Doctors of Theology. Doctors 
of Arts, of Medicine, of Law, of the Sentences, may be made by 
Popes, Emperors and the Universities ; but of this we may be 
certain, a Doctor of the Holy Scriptures can be made by none 
but the Holy Ghost, as Christ says : " They shall all be taught 
of God." (John vi. 45.) Now the Holy Ghost does not consider 
red caps or brown, or any other pomp ; nor whether we are 
young or old, layman or priest, monk or secular, virgin or 
married ; nay, he once spoke by an ass against the prophet that 
rode on it. Would to God we were worthy of having such 
Doctors given us, be they laymen or priests, married or virgin ! 
but now they try to force the Holy Ghost to enter into Popes, 
Bishops or Doctors, though there is no sign to show that He is 
in them. 

We must also lessen the number of theological books, and 
choose the best ; for it is not the number of books that make 

the learned man ; nor much reading, but good books often 
read, however few, make a man learned in the Scriptures and 
pious. Even the Fathers should only be read for a short time 
as an introduction to the Scriptures. As it is, we read nothing 
else, and never get from them into the Scriptures, as if one 
should be gazing at the sign-posts and never follow the road. 
These good Fathers wished to lead us into the Scriptures by 
their writings, whereas we lead ourselves out by them, though 
the Scriptures are our vineyard in which we should all work 
and exercise ourselves. 

Above all, in schools of all kinds the chief and most common 
lesson should be the Scriptures, and for young boys the Gospel ; 
and would to God each town had also a girl's school in which 
girls might be taught the Gospel for an hour daily, either in 
German or Latin ! In truth, schools, monasteries and convents, 
were founded for this purpose, and with good Christian inten- 
tions ; as we read concerning St. Agnes, and other saints ; l then 
1 See above / p. 58. 


were there holy virgins and martyrs ; and in those times it was 
well with Christendom ; but now it has been turned into nothing 
but praying and singing. Should not every Christian be 
expected by his ninth or tenth year to know all the holy 
Gospels, containing as they do his very name and life? A 
spinner or a seamstress teaches her daughter her trade, while 
she is young, but now even the most learned Prelates and 
Bishops do not know the Gospel. 

Oh, how badly we treat all these poor young people that 
are entrusted to us for discipline and instruction ! and a heavy 
reckoning shall we have to give for it that we keep them from 
the word of God ; their fate is that described by Jeremiah : 
" Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver 
is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of 
my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the 
streets of the city. They say to their mothers, Where is corn 
and wine ? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets 
of the city, when their soul is poured out into their mothers' 
bosom.'"' (Lamen. ii. 11, 12.) We do not perceive all this 
misery, how the young folk are being pitifully corrupted in the 
midst of Christendom, all for want of the Gospel, which we 
should always read and study with them. 

However, if the high schools studied the Scriptures diligently 
we should not send every one to them, as we do now, when 
nothing is considered but numbers, and every man wishes to 
have a Doctor's title ; we should only send the aptest pupils, 
well prepared in the lower schools. This should be seen to by 
princes or the magistrates of the towns, and they should take 
care none but apt pupils be sent. But where the Holy 
Scriptures are not the rule, I advise no one to send his child. 
Everything must perish where God's word is not studied 
unceasingly ; and so we see what manner of men there are 
now in the high schools, and all this is the fault of no one 
but of the Pope, the Bishops and the Prelates, to whom the 
welfare of the young has been entrusted. For the High 
Schools should train men simply to be of good understanding 
in the Scriptures, fit to become bishops and priests, and to 
stand at our head against heretics and the Devil and all the 
world. But where do we find this ? I greatly fear the 
High Schools are nothing but great gates of hell, unless 


they diligently study the Holy Scriptures and teach them to 
the young people. 

26. I know well the Eoniish mob will object and loudly 
pretend that the Pope took the Holy Eoman Empire from the 
Greek Emperor and gave it to Germany, for which honour and 
favour he is supposed to deserve submission and thanks and all 
other kinds of returns from the Germans. For this reason 
we are not to presume to make any attempt to reform them, and 
we are to consider nothing but these gifts of the Eoman Empire. 
This is also the reason why they have so arbitrarily and proudly 
persecuted and oppressed many good Emperors, so that it were 
pity to tell, and with the same cleverness have they made 
themselves lords of all the temporal power and authority, in 
violation of the holy Gospel ; and accordingly I must speak of 
this matter also. 

There is no doubt that the true Eoman Empire, of which the 
prophets (Num. xxiv. 24) and Daniel (ii. 44) spoke, was long ago 
destroyed, as Balaam clearly foretold, saying : " And ships 
shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, 
and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever." 
(Num. xxiv. 24.) 1 And this was done by the Goths, and more 
especially since the empire of the Turks was formed, about one 
thousand years ago, and so gradually Asia and Africa were 
lost, and subsequently France, Spain, and finally Yenice arose, 
so that Eome retains no part of its former power. 

Since, then, the Pope could not force the Greeks and the 
Emperor at Constantinople, who is the hereditary Eoman 
Emperor, to obey his will, he invented this device to rob him of 
his empire and title, and to give it to the Germans, who were 
at that time strong and of good repute ; in order that they 
might take the power of the Eoman Empire and hold it of the 
Pope ; and this is what actually has happened. It was taken 
from the Emperor at Constantinople, and the name and title 
were given to us Germans, and therewith we became subject 
to the Pope, and he has built up a new Eoman Empire on the 
Germans. For the other Empire, the original, came to an end 
long ago, as was said above. 

1 Luther here follows the Vulgate, translating the above verse by : " Es 
werden die Romer kommen und die Juden verstoren : und hernach werden 
sie auch untergehen." 


Thus the Roman See has got what it wished : Rome has been 
taken possession of, and the German Emperor driven out and 
bound by oaths not to dwell in Rome. He is to be Roman 
Emperor and nevertheless not to dwell in Rome ; and moreover 
always to depend on the Pope and his followers, and to do their 
will. We are to have the title, and they are to have the lands 
and the cities. For they have always made our simplicity the 
tool of their pride and tyranny, and they consider us as stupid 
Germans to be deceived and fooled by them as they choose. 

Well, for our Lord God it is a small thing to toss kingdoms 
and principalities hither and thither ; He is so free with them, 
that He will sometimes take a kingdom from a good man and 
give it to a knave ; sometimes through the treachery of false, 
wicked men ; sometimes by inheritance, as we read concerning 
Persia, Greece, and nearly all kingdoms ; and Daniel says : 
" Wisdom and might are His : and He changes the times and 
the seasons, and He removeth Kiugs and setteth up Kings." 
(Dan. ii. 20, 21.) Therefore, no one need think it a grand 
matter, if he has a kingdom given to him, especially if he be a 
Christian ; and so we Germans need not be proud of having 
had a new Roman Empire given us. For in His eyes, it is a 
poor gift, that He sometimes gives to the least deserving ; as 
Daniel says : " And all the inhabitants of the earth are rejmted 
as nothing ; and He does according to His will in the army of 
heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." (Dan. iv. 35.) 

Now although the Pope has violently and unjustly robbed the 
true Emperor of the Roman Empire, or its name, and has given 
it to us Germans, yet it is certain that God has used the Pope's 
wickedness to give the German nation this Empire and to raise 
up a new Roman Empire, that exists now, after the fall of the 
old Empire. We gave the Pope no cause for this action, nor 
did we understand his false aims and schemes; but still, 
through the craft and knavery of the Popes, we have, alas ! all 
too dearly, paid the price of this Empire with incalculable 
bloodshed, with the loss of our liberty, with the robbery of our 
wealth, especially of our churches and benefices, and with un- 
speakable treachery and insult. We have the Empire in name, 
but the Pope has our wealth, our honour, our bodies, lives and 
souls, and all that we have. This was the way to deceive the 
Germans, and with a double deceit. What the Popes wished 

g 2 


was,, to become Emperors ; and as they could not do this, they 
put themselves above the Emperors. 

Since, then, we have received this Empire through God's 
providence and the schemes of evil men, without our fault, I 
would not advise that we should give it up, but that we should 
govern it honestly, in the fear of God, so long as He is pleased 
to let us hold it. For, as I have said, it is no matter to Him 
how a kingdom is come by, but He will have it duly governed. 
If the Popes took it from others dishonestly, we, at least, did 
not come by it dishonestly. It was given to us through evil 
men, under the will of God, to whom we have more regard 
than the false intentions of the Popes, who wished to be 
Emperors and more than Emperors, and to fool and mock us 
with the name. 

The King of Babylon obtained his kingdom by force and 
robbery. Yet God would have it governed by the holy princes, 
Daniel, Ananias, Asarias and Misael. Much more then does 
He require this Empire to be governed by the Christian 
princes of Germany, though the Pope may have stolen 
or robbed, or newly fashioned it. It is all God's ordering, 
which came to pass before we knew of it. 

Therefore the Pope and his followers have no reason to 
boast, that they did a great kindness to the German nation in 
giving them this Koman Empire. Firstly, because they in- 
tended no good to us in the matter; but only abused our 
simplicity to strengthen their own power against the Koman 
Emperor at Constantinople, from whom, against God and 
justice, the Pope has taken what he had no right to. 

Secondly, the Pope sought to give the Empire, not to us, but 
to himself, and to become lord over all our power, liberty, 
wealth, body and soul, and through us over all the world, if 
God had not prevented it ; as he plainly says in his decretals, 
and has tried with many mischievous tricks in the case of 
many German Emperors. Thus we Germans have been 
prettily taught German : Whilst we expected to become lords, 
we have become the servants of the most crafty tyrants ; we 
have the name, title and arms of the Empire, but the Pope has 
the treasure, authority, law and freedom ; thus whilst the Pope 
eats the kernel, he leaves us the empty shells to play with. 

Now may God help us (who, as I have said, assigned us 


this kingdom through crafty tyrants, and charged us to govern 
it) to act according to our name, title and arms, and to secure 
our freedom ; and thus let the Komans see at last what we 
have received of God through them. If they boast that they 
have given us an Empire ; well, be it so, by all means : then, 
let the Pope give up Eome, all he has of the Empire, and free 
our country from his unbearable taxes and robberies, and give 
back to us our liberty, authority, wealth, honour, body and soul, 
rendering to the Empire those things that are the Empire's ; 
so as to act in accordance with his words and pretences. 

But if he will not do this, what game is he playing with all 
his falsehoods and pretences ? Was it not enough to lead this 
great people by the nose for so many hundred years ? Because 
the Pope crowns or makes the Emperor, it does not follow that 
he is above him; for the prophet, St. Samuel, anointed and 
crowned King Saul and David, at God's command, and was 
yet subject to them. And the prophet Nathan anointed King 
Solomon, and yet was not placed over him ; moreover St. Elisha 
let one of his servants anoint King Jehu of Israel ; yet they 
obeyed him. And it has never yet happened in the whole 
world that any one was above the king, because he consecrated 
or crowned him, except in the case of the Pope. 

Now he is himself crowned Pope by three cardinals; yet 
they are subject to him and he is above them. "Why then, 
contrary to his own example, and to the doctrine and prac- 
tice of the whole world and the Scriptures, should he exalt 
himself above the temporal authorities and the Empire, for no 
other reason than that he crowns and consecrates the Emperor ? 
It suffices that he is above him in all divine matters, that is 
in preaching, teaching and the ministration of the sacrament, 
in which matters, however, every priest or bishop is above all 
other men; just as St. Ambrose in his Chair was above the" 
Emperor Theodosius, and the prophet Nathan above David, 
and Samuel above Saul. Therefore let the German Em peror 
be a true free Emperor , and let not his authority or his sword 
T^overborne by these blind pretences of the Pope's sycophants, 
as if they were to be exceptions, and be above the temporal 
sword in all things. 

27. Let this be enough about the faults of the spiritual 
Estate, though many more might be found, if the matter were 


properly considered : we must now consider the defects of the 
temporal Estates. In the first place, we require a general 
law and consent of the German nation against profusion and 
extravagance in dress, which is the cause of so much poverty 
among the nobles and the people. Surely God has given to us, 
as to other nations, enough wool, fur, flax, and whatever else 
is required for the decent clothing of every class; and it cannot 
be necessary to spend such enormous sums for silk, velvet, 
cloth of gold and all other kinds of outlandish stuff. I think 
that even if the Pope did not rob us Germans with his unbearable 
taxes, we should be robbed more than enough by these secret 
thieves, the dealers in silk and velvet. As it is we see that 
every man wishes to be every other man's equal, and that this 
causes and increases pride and envy among us, as we deserve ; 
all which would cease, with many other misfortunes, if our 
self-will would but let us be gratefully content with what God 
has given us. 

It is similarly necessary to diminish the use of spices, which 
is one of the ships in which our gold is sent away from 
Germany. God's mercy has given us more food, and that both 
precious and good, than is to be found in other countries. I 
shall probably be accused of making foolish and impossible 
suggestions, as if I wished to destroy the great business of 
commerce. But I am only doing my part ; if the community 
does not mend matters, every man must do it himself. I do 
not see many good manners that have ever come into a land 
through commerce, and therefore God let the people of Israel 
dwell far from the sea and not carry on much trade. 

But without doubt the greatest misfortune of the Germans 
is buying on credit. But for this, many a man would have 
to leave unbought his silk, velvet, cloth of gold, spices and 
all other luxuries. The system has not been in force for more 
than one hundred years, and has already brought poverty, 
misery, and destruction on almost all princes, foundations, 
cities, nobles and heirs. If it continues for another hundred 
years Germany will be left without a farthing, and we shall 
be reduced to eating one another. The Devil invented this 
system, and the Pope has done an injury to the whole world 
by sanctioning it. 

My request and my cry, therefore, is this : Let each man 


see to the destruction of himself and his family, which is no 
longer at the door, but has entered the house ; and let Emperors, 
Princes, Lords and Corporations, see to the condemnation and 
prohibition of this kind of trade, without considering the 
opposition of the Pope and all his justice and injustice, nor 
whether livings or endowments depend upon it. Better a 
single foundation in a city based on a freehold estate or honest 
interest, than a hundred based on credit ; yea, a single endow- 
ment on credit is worse and more grievous than twenty based 
on real estate. Truly this credit is a sign and warning, that 
the world has been given over to the Devil for its sins ; and 
that we are losing our spiritual and temporal welfare alike; 
yet we heed it not. 

Doubtless we should also find some bridle for the Fuggers 
and similar companies. Is it possible that in a single man's 
lifetime such great wealth should be collected together, if all 
were done rightly and according to God's will ? I am not skilled 
in accounts. But I do not understand how it is possible for 
one hundred guilders to gain twenty in a year, or how one 
guilder can gain another, and that not out of the soil, or by 
cattle, seeing that possessions depend not on the wit of men, 
but on the blessing of God. I commend this to those that are 
skilled in worldly affairs. I as a theologian blame nothing 
but the evil appearance, of which St. Paul says : " abstain from 
all appearance of evil." (1 Thess. v. 22.) All I know is that 
it were much more godly to encourage agriculture and lessen 
commerce ; and that they do the best who, according to the 
Scriptures, till the ground to get their living, as we are all 
commanded in Adam : " Cursed is the ground for thy sake. 
. . . Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. . . . 
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." (Gen. iii. 17-19.) 
There is still much ground that is not ploughed or tilled. 

Then there is the excess in eating and drinking, for which 
we Germans have an ill reputation in foreign countries, as 
our special vice, and which has become so common, and gained 
so much the upper hand, that sermons avail nothing. The loss 
of money caused by it is not the worst ; but in its train 
come murder, adultery, theft, blasphemy and all vices. The 
temporal power should do something to prevent it ; otherwise 
it will come to pass, as Christ foretold, that the last day shall 


come as a thief in the night, and shall find them eating and 
drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, planting and 
building, buying and selling (Matt. xxiv. 38 ; Luke xvii. 26) — 
just as things go on now ; and that so strongly, that I appre- 
hend lest the day of judgment be at hand, even now when we 
least expect it. 

Lastly, is it not a terrible thing that we Christians should 
maintain public brothels, though we all vow chastity in our 
baptism ? I well know all that can be said on this matter, that 
it is not peculiar to one nation, that it would be difficult to alter 
it, and that it is better thus than that virgins, or married women, 
or honourable women should be dishonoured. But should not 
the spiritual and temporal powers combine to find some means 
of meeting these difficulties without any such heathen practice ? 
If the people of Israel existed without this scandal, why should 
not a Christian nation be able to do so? How do so many 
towns and villages manage to exist without these houses ? 
Why should not great cities be able to do so ? 

In all, however, that I have said above, my object has been 
to show how much good temporal authority might do, and 
what should be the duty of all authorities, so that every man 
might learn what a terrible thing it is to rule and to have the 
chief place. What boots it though a ruler be in his own 
person as holy as St. Peter, if he be not diligent to help his 
subjects in these matters ? His very authority will be his 
condemnation ; for it is the duty of those in authority to seek 
the good of their subjects. But if those in authority con- 
sidered how young people might be brought together in 
marriage, the prospect of marriage would help every man, and 
protect him from temptations. 

But as it is, every man is urged to become a priest or a 
monk ; and of all these I am afraid not one in a hundred has 
any other motive, but the wish of getting a livelihood, and 
the uncertainty of maintaining a family. Therefore they 
begin by a dissolute life and sow their wild oats (as they 
say), but I fear they rather gather in a store of wild oats. 1 
I hold the proverb to be true : " Most men become monks and 

1 Luther uses the expression ausbuben in the sense of sich austoben, viz., 
" to storm out one's passions," and then coins the word sich einhubm, viz., " to 
storm in one's passions." 


priests in desperation." That is why things are as we see 

But in order that many sins may be prevented that are 
becoming too common, I would honestly advise that no boy or 
girl be allowed to take the vow of chastity, or to enter a 
religious life, before the age of thirty years. For this requires 
a special grace, as St. Paul says. Therefore, unless God 
specially urge any one to a religious life, he will do well to 
leave all vows and devotions alone. I say further : If a man 
has so little faith in God as to fear that he will be unable 
to maintain himself in the married state, and if this fear is the 
only thing that makes him become a priest, then I implore 
him, for his own soul's sake, not to become a priest, but 
rather to become a peasant, or what he will. For if simple 
trust in God be necessary to ensure temporal support, tenfold 
trust in God is necessary to live a religious life. If you do 
not trust to God for your worldly food, how can you trust 
to Him for your spiritual food ? Alas, this unbelief and want 
of faith destroys all things, and leads us into all misery, as we 
see among all conditions of men. 

Much might bo said concerning all this misery. Young 
people have no one to look after them, they are left to go 
on just as they like, and those in authority are of no more use 
to them than if they did not exist ; though this should be the 
chief care of the Pope, of Bishops, Lords and Councils. They 
wish to rule over everything, everywhere, and yet they are 
of no use. Oh, what a rare sight, for these reasons, will a 
lord or ruler be in Heaven, though he might build a hundred 
churches to God and raise all the dead ! But this may suffice 
for the present. 

For of what concerns the temporal authority and the nobles, 
I have, I think, said enough in my tract on ' Good Works.' 
For their lives and governments leave room enough for 
improvement ; but there is no comparison between spiritual 
and temporal abuses, as I have there shown. I dare say I have 
sung a lofty strain, that I have proposed many things that will 
be thought impossible, and attacked many points too sharply. 
But what was I to do ? I was bound to say this : if I had the 
power, this is what I would do. I had rather incur the world's 
anger than God's ; they cannot take from me more than my 


life. I have hitherto made many offers of peace to my adver- 
saries. But, as I see, God has forced me through them to 
open my mouth wider and wider, and, because they do not 
keep quiet, to give them enough cause for speaking, harking, 
shouting and writing. Well, then, I have another song still to 
sing concerning them and Borne ; if they wish to hear it, I will 
sing it to them, and sing with all my might. Do you under- 
stand, my friend Koine, what I mean ? 

I have frequently offered to submit my writings for inquiry 
and examination, but in vain ; though I know, if I am in the 
right, I must be condemned upon earth, and justified by Christ 
alone in Heaven. For all the Scriptures teach us, that the 
affairs of Christians and Christendom must be judged by God 
alone ; they have never yet been justified by men in this world, 
but the opposition has always been too strong. My greatest 
care and fear is, lest my cause be not condemned by men ; by 
which I should know for certain that it does not please God. 
Therefore let them go freely to work, Pope, bishop, priest, 
monk, or doctor ; they are the true people to persecute the 
truth, as they have always done. May God grant us all a 
Christian understanding, and especially to the Christian nobility 
of the German nation true spiritual courage, to do what is 
best for our unhappy Church. Amen ! 

At Wittenberg, in the year 1520. 


( 95 ) 



Among those monstrous evils of this age, with which I have 
dow for three years been waging war, I am sometimes compelled 
to look to you and to call you to mind, most blessed father 
Leo. In truth, since you alone are everywhere considered as 
being the cause of my engaging in war, I cannot at any time 
fail to remember you ; and although I have been compelled by 
the causeless raging of your impious flatterers against me to 
appeal from your seat to a future council — fearless of the futile 
decrees of your predecessors Pius and Julius, who in their 
foolish tyranny prohibited such an action — yet I have never 
been so alienated in feeling from your Blessedness as not to 
have sought with all my might, in diligent prayer and crying 
to God, every best gift for you and for your See. But those 
who have hitherto endeavoured to terrify me with the majesty 
of your name and authority, I have begun quite to despise and 
triumph over. One thing I see remaining, which I cannot 
despise, and this has been the reason of my writing anew to 
your Blessedness ; namely, that I find that blame is cast on me, 
and that that rashness, in which I am judged to have spared 
not even your person, is imputed to me as a great offence. 

Now, to confess the truth openly, I am conscious that, 
whenever I have had to mention your person, I have said nothing 
of you but what was honourable and good. If I had done 
otherwise, I could by no means have approved my own conduct, 
but should have supported with all my power the judgment of 
those men concerning me ; nor would anything have pleased 
me better, than to recant such rashness and impiety. I have 
called you Daniel in Babylon ; and every reader thoroughly 
knows with what distinguished zeal I defended your conspicuous 
innocence against Silvester, who tried to stain it. Indeed the 
published opinion of so many great men, and the repute of your 


blameless life, are too widely famed and too much reverenced 
throughout the world to be assailable by any man of however 
great name, or by any arts. I am not so foolish as to attack 
one whom everybody praises ; nay, it has been and always will 
be my desire not to attack even those whom public repute 
disgraces. I am not delighted at the faults of any man, since 
I am very conscious myself of the great beam in my own eye, 
nor can I be the first to cast a stone at the adulteress. 

I have indeed inveighed sharply against impious doctrines, 
and I have not been slack to censure my adversaries on account, 
not of their bad morals, but of their impiety. And for this I 
am so far from being sorry, that I have brought my mind to 
despise the judgments of men, and to persevere in this vehement 
zeal, according to the example of Christ, who, in his zeal, calls 
his adversaries a generation of vipers, blind, hypocrites, and 
children of the devil. Paul too charges the sorcerer with being 
a child of the devil, full of all subtlety and all malice ; and 
defames certain persons as evil workers, dogs, and deceivers. 
In the opinion of those delicate-eared persons, nothing could 
be more bitter or intemperate than Paul's language. What 
can be more bitter than the words of the prophets ? The ears 
of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless 
multitude of flatterers, that, as soon as we perceive that any- 
thing of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being 
bitterly assailed ; and when we can repel the truth by no other 
pretence, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, in- 
temperance, to our adversaries. What would be the use of 
salt, if it were not pungent ? or of the edge of the sword, if it 
did not slay ? Accursed is the man, who does the work of the 
Lord deceitfully. 

Wherefore, most excellent Leo, I beseech you to accept my 
vindication, made in this letter, and to persuade yourself that I 
have never thought any evil concerning your person ; further, 
that I am one who desires that eternal blessing may fall to 
your lot, and that I have no dispute with any man concerning 
morals, but only concerning the word of truth. In all other 
things I will yield to any one, but I neither can nor will 
forsake and deny the Word. He who thinks otherwise of me 
or has taken in my words in another sense, does not think 
rightly, and has not taken in the truth. 


Your see, however, which is called the Court of Eome, and 
which neither you nor any man can deny to be more corrupt 
than any Babylon or Sodom, and quite, as I believe, of a lost, 
desperate, and hopeless impiety, this I have verily abominated, 
and Lave felt indignant that the people of Christ should be 
cheated under your name and the pretext of the Church of Eome ; 
and so I have resisted, and will resist, as long as the spirit of 
faith shall live in me. Not that I am striving after impossi- 
bilities, or hoping that by my labours alone, against the furious 
opposition of so many flatterers, any good can be done in that 
most disordered Babylon, but that I feel myself a debtor to my 
brethren, and am bound to take thought for them, that fewer of 
them may be ruined, or that their ruin may be less complete, by 
the plagues of Eome. For many years now, nothing else has 
overflowed from Eome into the world — as you are not ignorant 
— than the laying waste of goods, of bodies, and of souls, and 
the worst examples of all the worst things. These things are 
clearer than the light to all men ; and the Church of Eome, 
formerly the most holy of all churches, has become the most law- 
less den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the very 
kingdom of sin, death, and hell ; so that not even Antichrist, 
if he were to come, could devise any addition to its wickedness. 

Meanwhile you, Leo, are sitting like a lamb in the midst of 
wolves, like Daniel in the midst of lions, and, with Ezekiel, you 
dwell among scorpions. What opposition can you alone make 
to these monstrous evils ? Take to yourself three or four of 
the most learned and best of the Cardinals. What are these 
among so many ? You would all perish by poison, before you 
could undertake to decide on a remedy. It is all over with the 
Court of Eome ; the wrath of God has come upon her to the 
uttermost. She hates councils, she dreads to be reformed, she 
cannot restrain the madness of her impiety, she fills up the 
sentence passed on her mother, of whom it is said, " We would 
have healed Babylon, but she is not healed ; let us forsake her." 
It had been your duty and that of your Cardinals, to apply a 
remedy to these evils, but this gout laughs at the physician's 
hand, and the chariot does not obey the reins. Under the 
influence of these feelings I have always grieved that you, 
most excellent Leo, who were worthy of a better age, have been 
made Pontiff in this. For the Eoman Court is not worthy of 


you and those like you, but of Satan himself, who in truth is 
more the ruler in that Babylon than you are. 

would that, having laid aside that glory which your most 
abandoned enemies declare to be yours, you were living rather 
in the office of a private priest, or on your paternal inheritance ! 
In that glory none are worthy to glory, except the race of 
Iscariot, the children of perdition. For what happens in your 
court, Leo, except that, the more wicked and execrable any man 
is, the more prosperously he can use your name and authority 
for the ruin of the property and souls of men, for the multipli- 
cation of crimes, for the oppression of faith and truth, and of 
the whole Church of God ? Leo ! in reality most unfortunate, 
and sitting on a most perilous throne — I tell you the truth, 
because I wish you well ; for if Bernard felt compassion for his 
Anastasius at a time when the Koman See, though even then 
most corrupt, was as yet ruling with better hope than now, why 
should not we lament, to whom so much additional corruption 
and ruin has happened in three hundred years ? 

Is it not true that there is nothing under the vast heavens 
more corrupt, more pestilential, more hateful than the Court of 
Borne ? She incomparably surpasses the impiety of the Turks, 
so that in very truth she, who was formerly the gate of heaven, 
is now a sort of open mouth of hell, and such a mouth as, under 
the urgent wrath of Grod, cannot be blocked up ; one course 
alone being left to us wretched men, to call back and save some 
few, if we can, from that Boman gulf. 

Behold, Leo my father, ' with what purpose and on what 
principle it is that I have stormed against that seat of pesti- 
lence. I am so far from having felt any rage against your 
person, that I even hoped to gain favour with you, and to aid 
in your welfare, by striking actively and vigorously at that 
your prison, nay, your hell. For whatever the efforts of all 
intellects can contrive against the confusion of that impious 
Court will be advantageous to you and to your welfare, and to 
many others with you. Those who do harm to her are doing 
your office ; those who in every way abhor her are glorifying 
Christ ; in short, those are Christians who are not Bomans. 

But, to say yet more, even this never entered my heart, to 
inveigh against the Court of Borne, or to dispute at all about 
her. For, seeing all remedies for her health to be desperate, I 


looked on her with contempt, and, giving her a bill of divorce- 
ment, said to her, " He that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; 
and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still; " giving myself up 
to the peaceful and quiet study of sacred literature, that by 
this I might be of use to the brethren living about me. 

While I was making some advance in these studies, Satan 
opened his eyes and goaded on his servant John Eccius, that 
notorious adversary of Christ, by the unchecked lust for fame, 
to drag me unexpectedly into the arena, trying to catch me in 
one little word concerning the primacy of the Church of Rome, 
which had fallen from me in passing. That boastful Thraso, 
foaming and gnashing his teeth, proclaimed that he would dare 
all things for the glory of God, and for the honour of the holy 
apostolic seat ; and, being puffed up respecting your power, 
which he was about to misuse, he looked forward with all 
certainty to victory ; seeking to promote, not so much the 
primacy of Peter, as his own pre-eminence among the theologians 
of this age ; for he thought it would contribute in no slight 
degree to this, if he were to lead Luther in triumph. The result 
having proved unfortunate for the sophist, an incredible rage 
torments him ; for he feels that whatever discredit to Eome 
has arisen through me, has been caused by the fault of him- 
self alone. 

Suffer me, I pray you, most excellent Leo, both to plead my 
own cause, and to accuse your true enemies. I believe it is 
known to you in what way Cardinal Cajetan, your imprudent and 
unfortunate, nay, unfaithful legate, acted towards me. When, 
on account of my reverence for your name, I had placed myself 
and all that was mine in his hands, he did not so act as to 
establish peace, which he could easily have established by one 
little word, since I at that time promised to be silent and to 
make an end of my case, if he would command my adversaries 
to do the same. But that man of pride, not content with this 
agreement, began to justify my adversaries, to give them free 
licence, and to order me to recant ; a thing which was certainly 
not in his commission. Thus indeed, when the case was in the 
best position, it came through his vexatious tyranny into a 
much worse one. Therefore, whatever has followed upon this 
is the fault, not of Luther, but entirely of Cajetan, since he 
did not suffer me to be silent and remain quiet, which at that 



time I was intreating for with all my might. What more was 
it my duty to do? 

Next came Charles Miltitz, also a nuncio from your Blessed- 
ness. He, though he went up and down with much and varied 
exertion, and omitted nothing which could tend to restore the 
position of the cause, thrown into confusion by the rashness 
and pride of Cajetan, had difficulty, even with the help of that 
very illustrious prince the Elector Frederick, in at last bringing 
about more than one familiar conference with me. In these 
I again yielded to your great name, and was prepared to keep 
silence, and to accept as my judge either the Archbishop of 
Treves, or the Bishop of Naumburg ; and thus it was done and 
concluded. While this was being done with good hope of 
success, lo ! that other and greater enemy of yours, Eccius, 
rushed in with his Leipsic disputation, which he had under- 
taken against Carlstadt, and, having taken up a new question 
concerning the primacy of the Pope, turned his arms unex- 
pectedly against me, and completely overthrew the plan for 
peace. Meanwhile Charles Miltitz was waiting, disputations 
were held, judges were being chosen, but no decision was 
arrived at. And no wonder ; for by the falsehoods, pretences, 
and arts of Eccius the whole business was brought into such 
thorough disorder, confusion, and festering soreness, that, 
whichever way the sentence might lean, a greater conflagration 
was sure to arise ; for he was seeking, not after truth, but 
after his own credit. In this case too I omitted nothing 
which it was right that I should do. 

I confess that, on this occasion, no small part of the corrup- 
tions of Eome came to light ; but, if there was any offence in 
this, it was the fault of Eccius, who, in taking on him a 
burden beyond his strength, and in furiously aiming at credit 
for himself, unveiled to the whole world the disgrace of Borne. 

Here is that ene,my of yours, Leo, or rather of your Court ; 
by his example alone we may learn that an enemy is not more 
baneful than a flatterer. For what did he bring about by his 
flattery, except evils, which no king could have brought about ? 
At this day the name of the Court of Borne stinks in the nostrils 
of the world, the papal authority is growing weak, and its 
notorious ignorance is evil spoken of. We should hear none of 
these things, if Eccius had not disturbed the plans of Miltitz 


and myself for peace. He feels this clearly enough himself, in 
the indignation he shows, too late and in vain, against the 
publication of my books. He ought to have reflected on this 
at the time when he was all mad for renown, and was seeking 
in your cause nothing but his own objects, and that with the 
greatest peril to you. The foolish man hoped that, from fear of 
your name, I should yield and keep silence ; for I do not think he 
presumed on his talents and learning. Now, when he sees that 
I am very confident and speak aloud, he repents too late of his 
rashness, and sees — if indeed he does see it — that there is One in 
Heaven who resists the proud, and humbles the presumptuous. 

Since, then, we were bringing about by this disputation 
nothing but the greater confusion of the cause of Eome, Charles 
Miltitz for the third time addressed the Fathers of the Order, 
assembled in chapter, and sought their advice for the settlement 
of the case, as being now in a most troubled and perilous state. 
Since, by the favour of God, there was no hope of proceeding 
against me by force, some of the more noted of their number were 
sent tome, and begged me at least to show respect to your person, 
and to vindicate in a humble letter both your innocence and 
my own. They said that the affair was not as yet in a position 
of extreme hopelessness, if Leo X., in his inborn kindliness, 
would put his hand to it. On this I, who have always offered 
and wished for peace, in order that I might devote myself to 
calmer and more useful pursuits, and who for this very purpose 
have acted with so much spirit and vehemence, in order to put 
down by the strength and impetuosity of my words as well as 
of my feelings, men whom I saw to be very far from equal to 
myself — I, I say, not only gladly yielded, but even accepted it 
with joy and gratitude, as the greatest kindness and benefit, if 
you should think it right to satisfy my hopes. 

Thus I come, most blessed Father, and in all abasement 
beseech you to put to your hand, if it is possible, and impose a 
curb upon those flatterers, who are enemies of peace, while 
they pretend peace. But there is no reason, most blessed 
Father, why any one should assume that I am to utter a 
recantation, unless he prefers to involve the case in still 
greater confusion. Moreover, I cannot bear with laws for the 
interpretation of the Word of God, since the Word of God r 
which teaches liberty in all other things, ought not to be 

h 2 


bound. Saving these two things, there is nothing which I am 
not able, and most heartily willing, to do or to suffer. I hate 
contention ; I will challenge no one ; in return I wish not to 
be challenged ; but, being challenged, I will not be dumb in 
the cause of Christ my Master. For your Blessedness will be 
able by one short and easy word to call these controversies 
before you and suppress them, and to impose silence and peace 
on both sides ; a word which I have ever longed to hear. 

Therefore, Leo my Father, beware of listening to those 
Sirens, who make you out to be not simply a man, but partly a 
God, so that you can command and require whatever you will. 
It will not happen so, nor will you prevail. You are the 
servant of servants, and, more than any other man, in a most 
pitiable and perilous position. Let not those men deceive you, 
who pretend that you are Lord of the world ; who will not 
allow any one to be a Christian without your authority ; who 
babble of your having power over heaven, hell, and purgatory. 
These men are your enemies and are seeking your soul to 
destroy it, as Isaiah says : " My people, they that call thee 
blessed are themselves deceiving thee." They are in error, who 
raise you above councils and the universal Church. They are 
in error, who attribute to you alone the right of interpreting 
Scripture. All these men are seeking to set up their own 
impieties in the Church under your name, and alas ! Satan has 
gained much through them in the time of your predecessors. 

In brief, trust not in any who exalt you, but in those who 
humiliate you. For this is the judgment of God : " He hath 
cast down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the 
humble." See how unlike Christ was to His successors, though 
all will have it that they are His vicars. I fear that in truth 
very many of them have been in too serious a sense His vicars, 
for a vicar represents a prince who is absent. Now if a Pontiff 
rules while Christ is absent and does not dwell in his heart, 
what else is he but a vicar of Christ ? And then what is that 
Church but a multitude without Christ ? What indeed is such 
a vicar but Antichrist and an idol ? How much more rightly 
did the Apostles speak, who call themselves the servants of a 
present Christ, not the vicars of an absent one. 

Perhaps I am shamelessly bold, in seeming to teach so great 
a head, by whom all men ought to be taught, and from whom, 


as those plagues of yours boast, the thrones of judges receive 
their sentence ; but I imitate Saint Bernard in his book 
concerning " Considerations " addressed to Eugenius, a book 
which ought to be known by heart by every Pontiff. I do 
this, not from any desire to teach, but as a duty, from that 
simple and faithful solicitude, which teaches us to be 
anxious for all that is safe for our neighbours, and does not 
allow considerations of worthiness or unworthiness to be 
entertained, being intent only on the dangers or advantage of 
others. For since I know that your Blessedness is driven and 
tossed by the waves at Eome, while the depths of the sea press 
on you with infinite perils, and that you are labouring under 
such a condition of misery that you need even the least help from 
any the least brother, I do not seem to myself to be acting 
unsuitably, if I forget your majesty till I shall have fulfilled the 
office of charity. I will not flatter in so serious and perilous a 
matter ; and if in this you do not see that I am your friend and 
most thoroughly your subject, there is One to see and judge. 

In fine, that I may not approach you empty handed, Blessed 
Father, I bring with me this little treatise, published under 
your name, as a good omen of the establishment of peace, and 
of good hope. By this you may perceive in what pursuits I 
should prefer and be able to occupy myself to more profit, if 
I were allowed, or had been hitherto allowed, by your impious 
flatterers. It is a small matter, if you look to its exterior, 
but, unless I mistake, it is a summary of the Christian life i 
put together in small compass, if you apprehend its meaning. 
I, in my poverty, have no other present to make you ; nor do you 
need anything else than to be enriched by a spiritual gift. I 
commend myself to your Paternity and Blessedness, whom may 
the Lord Jesus preserve for ever. Amen. 

Wittenberg ; 6th September, 1520. 



Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing ; nay, 
not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were ; 
and this they do, because they have not made proof of it 
experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. 
For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to 
understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some 
time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation. 
While he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can 
never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it 
is a living fountain, springing up unto eternal life, as Christ 
calls it in the 4th chapter of St. John. 

Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I 
know how poorly I am furnished, yet I hope that, after having 
been vexed by various temptations, I have attained some little 
drop of faith, and that I can speak of this matter, if not with 
more elegance, certainly with more solidity than those literal 
and too subtle disputants who have hitherto discoursed upon 
it, without understanding their own words. That I may open, 
then, an easier way for the ignorant — for these alone I am 
trying to serve — I first lay down these two propositions, 
concerning spiritual liberty and servitude. 

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to 
none ; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and 
subject to every one. 

Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when 
they are found to agree together, they will be highly ser- 
viceable to my purpose. They are both the statements of 
Paul himself, who says : " Though I be free from all men, yet 
have I made myself servant unto all " (1 Cor. ix. 19), and : " Owe 
no man anything, but to love one another." (Rom. xiii. 8.) Now 
love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved 
object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet 
made of a woman ; made under - the law ; at once free and a 


servant ; at once in the form of God and in the form of a 

Let us examine the subject on a deeper and less simple 
principle. Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual 
and a bodily. As regards the spiritual nature, which they 
name the soul, he is called the spiritual, inward, new man ; as 
regards the bodily nature, which they name the flesh, he is 
called the fleshly, outward, old man. The Apostle speaks of 
this : " Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is 
renewed day by day." (2 Cor. iv. 16.) The result of this diver- 
sity is, that in the Scriptures opposing statements are made 
concerning. the same man ; the fact being that in the same man 
these two men are opposed to one another ; the flesh lusting 
against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. (Gal. v. 17.) 

We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we 
may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a 
true Christian ; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It, 
is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under 
whatever name they may be reckoned, has any weight in 
producing a state of justification and Christian liberty, nor, on 
the other hand, an unjustified state and one of slavery. This 
can be shown by an easy course of argument. 

What can it profit the soul, that the body should be in good 
condition, free, and full of life ; that it should eat, drink, and 
act according to its pleasure ; when even the most impious 
slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters ? 
Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or 
any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most 
pious of men, and the freest in the purity of their conscience, 
are harassed by these things ? Neither of these states of 
things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul. 

And so it will profit nothing that the body should be 
adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be 
occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from 
certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the 
body and in the body. Something widely different will be 
necessary for the justification and liberty of the soul, since the 
things I have spoken of can be done by any impious person, 
and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things. 
On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the 


body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in 
profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, 
should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things 
abovementioned, which may be done by hypocrites. 

And, to cast everything aside, even speculations, meditations, 
and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the 
soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is 
necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty ; and that 
is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says : 
" I am the resurrection and the life ; he that believeth in me 
shall not die eternally " (John xi. 25) ; and also (John viii. 36) 
" If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed ;. " and 
(Matt. iv. 4), " Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every 
word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." 

Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly established, 
that the soul can do without everything, except the word of 
God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for. 
But, having the word, it is rich and wants for nothing ; since 
that is the word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of justifica- 
tion, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, (if 
grace, of glory, and of every good thing. It is on this account 
that the prophet in a whole psalm (Ps. cxix.), and in many 
other places, sighs for and calls upon the word of God with so 
many groanings and words. 

Again, there is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God 
than when He sends a famine of hearing His words (Amos 
viii. 11) ; just as there is no greater favour from Him than the 
sending forth of His word, as it is said : " He sent his word 
and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." 
(Ps. cvii. 20.) Christ was sent for no other office than that of 
the word, and the order of apostles, that of bishops, and that 
of the whole body of the clergy, have been called and instituted 
for no object but the ministry of the word. 

But you will ask : — " What is this word, and by what means 
is it to be used, since there are so many words of God ? " I 
answer, the Apostle Paul (Bom. i.) explains what it is, namely, 
the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, 
risen, and glorified through the Spirit, the sanctifier. To 
\s preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, 
and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone, 


and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation. 
" If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lore] Jesus, and 
shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised hiin from the 
dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. x. 9.) And again : " Christ 
is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that 
believeth " (Eom. x. 4) ; and " The just shall live by faith." 
(Eom. i. 17.) For the word of God cannot be received and 
honoured by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear 
that, as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, 
so it is justified by faith alone and not by any works. For if 
it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need 
of the word, nor consequently of faith. 

But this faith cannot consist at all with works ; that is, if 
you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever 
they are, along with it. For this would be to halt between 
two opinions, to worship Baal, and to kiss the hand to him, 
which is a very great iniquity, as Job says. Therefore, when 
you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that 
is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable ; according to 
that saying : " All have sinned, and come short of the glory 
of God." (Eom. iii. 23.) And also : " There is none righteous, 
no, not one ; they are all gone out of the way ; they are 
together become unprofitable ; there is none that doeth good, 
no, not one." (Eom. iii. 10-12.) When you have learnt this, 
you will know that Christ is necessary for you, since He has 
suffered and risen again for you, that, believing on Him, you 
might by this faith become another man, all your sins being 
remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, 
namely, of Christ alone. 

Since then this faith can reign only in the inward man, as it 
is said : " With the heart man believeth unto righteousness " 
(Eom. x. 10) ; and since it alone justifies, it is evident that by 
no outward work or labour can the inward man be at all 
justified, made free, and saved; and that no works whatever 
have any relation to him. And so, on the other hand, it is 
solely by impiety and incredulity of heart that he becomes 
guilty, and a slave of sin, deserving condemnation ; not by any 
outward sin or work. Therefore the first care of every 
Christian ought to be, to lay aside all reliance on works, and 
strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in 


the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has 
suffered and risen again for him ; as Peter teaches, when he 
makes no other work to be a Christian one. Thus Christ, when 
the Jews asked Him what they should do that they might 
work the works of (rod, rejected the multitude of works, with 
which He saw that they were puffed up, and commanded them 
one thing only, saying : " This is the work of God, that ye 
believe on him whom He hath sent, for him hath God the 
Father sealed." (John vi. 27, 29.) 

Hence a right faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, 
carrying with it universal salvation, and preserving from all 
evil, as it is said : " He that believeth and is baptized shall be 
saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark xvi. 
16.) Isaiah, looking to this treasure, predicted: "The con- 
sumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the 
Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, 
in the midst of the land." (Is. x. 22, 23.) As if he said: — 
" Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will 
fill those who believe with such righteousness, that they will 
need nothing else for justification." Thus too Paul says : " For 
with the heart man believeth unto righteousness-." (Rom. x. 10.) 

But you ask how it can be the fact that faith alone justifies, and 
affords without works so great a treasure of good things, when 
so many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed to us in 
the Scriptures. I answer : before all things bear in mind what 
I have said, that faith alone without works justifies, sets free, 
and saves, as I shall show more clearly below. 

Meanwhile it is to be noted, that the whole Scripture of God 
is divided into two parts, precepts and promises. The precepts 
certainly teach us what is good, but whalrthey teach is not 
forthwith done. For they show us what we ought to do, but 
do not give us the power to do it. They were ordained, 
however, for the purpose of showing man to himself; that 
through them he may learn his own impotence for good, and 
may despair of his own strength. For this reason they are 
called the Old Testament, and are so. 

For example: " thou shalt not covet," is a precept by which 
we are all convicted of sin ; since no man can help coveting, 
whatever efforts to the contrary he may make. In order 
therefore that he may fulfil the precept, and not covet, he is 


constrained to despair of himself, and to seek elsewhere and 
through another the help which he cannot find in himself; as 
it is said : " Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself ; but in me is 
thine help." (Hosea xiii. 9.) Now what is done by this one 
precept, is done by all ; for all are equally impossible of fulfil- 
ment by us. 

Now when a man has through the precepts been taught his 
own impotence, and become anxious by what means he may 
satisfy the law — for the law must be satisfied, so that no jot or 
tittle of it may pass away ; otherwise he must be hopelessly 
condemned — then, being truly humbled and brought to nothing 
in his own eyes, he finds in himself no resource for justification 
and salvation. 

Then comes in that other part of Scripture, the promises of 
God, which declare the glory of God, and say : " If you wish to 
fulfil the law, and, as the law requires, not to covet, lo ! believe 
in Christ, in whom are promised to you grace, justification, 
peace, and liberty." All these things you shall have, if you 
believe, and shall be without them, if you do not believe. For 
what is impossible for you by all the works of the law, which 
are many and yet useless, you shall fulfil in an easy and 
summary way through faith ; because God the Father has made 
everything to depend on faith, so that whosoever has it, has 
all things, and he who has it not, has nothing. " For God hath 
concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon 
all." (Kom. xi. 32.) Thus the promises of God give that 
which the precepts exact, and fulfil what the law commands ; 
so that all is of God alone, both the precepts and their fulfil- 
ment. He alone commands. He alone also fulfils. Hence the 
promises of God belong to the New Testament ; nay, are the 
New Testament. 

Now since these promises of God are words of holiness, truth, 
righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of universal 
goodness ; the soul, which cleaves to them with a firm faith, is 
so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that it 
not only partakes in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all 
their virtue. For if the touch of Christ was healing, how much 
more does that most tender spiritual touch, nay, absorption of 
the word, communicate to the soul all that belongs to the 
word. In this way, therefore, the soul, through faith alone, 


without works, is from the word of God justified, sanctified, 

endued with truth, peace, and liberty, and filled full with every 

good thing, and is truly made the child of God ; as it is said : 

" To them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to 

them that believe on his name." (John i. 12.) ■ 

From all this it is easy to understand why faith has such 

great power, and why no good works, nor even all good works 

put together, can compare with it ; since no work can cleave 

to the word of God, or be in the soul. Faith alone and the 

word reign in it ; and such as is the word, such is the soul 

made by it ; just as iron exposed/ to fire glows like fire, on 

account of its union with the fire/ It is clear then that to a 

Christian man his faith suffices for everything, and that he has 

no need of works for justification. But if he has no need of 

works, neither has he need of the law ; and, if he has no need of 

the law, he is certainly free from the law, and the saying is 

true : "The law is not made for a righteous man." (1 Tim. i. 9.) 

This is that Christian liberty, our faith, the effect of which is, 

<-not that we should be careless or lead a bad life, but that no 
(j .... 

one should need the law or works for justification and salvation. 

Let us consider this as the first virtue of faith ; and let us 
look also to the second. This also is an office of faith, that it 
honours with the utmost veneration and the highest reputa- 
tion him in whom it believes, inasmuch as it holds him to be 
truthful and worthy of belief. For there is no honour like 
that reputation of truth and righteousness, with which we 
honour him, in whom we believe. What higher credit can we 
attribute to any one than truth and righteousness, and absolute 
goodness ? On the other hand, it is the greatest insult to 
brand any one with the reputation of falsehood and unright- 
eousness, or to suspect him of these, as we do when we 
disbelieve him. 

Thus the soul, in firmly believing the promises of God, holds 
Him to be true and righteous ; and it can attribute to God no 
higher glory than the credit of being so. The highest worship 
of God is to ascribe to Him truth, righteousness, and whatever 
qualities we must ascribe to one in whom we believe. In 
doing this the soul shows itself prepared to do His whole will ; 
in doing this it hallows His name, and gives itself up to be 
dealt with as it may please God. For it cleaves to His 


promises, and never doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and 
will do, dispose, and provide for all things in the best way. Is 
not such a soul, in this its faith, most obedient to God in all 
things ? What commandment does there remain which has 
not been amply fulfilled by such an obedience ? What fulfil- 
ment can be more full than universal obedience ? Now this is 
not accomplished by works, but by faith alone. 

On the other hand, what greater rebellion, impiety, or insult 
to God can there be, than not to believe His promises ? What 
else is this, than either to make God a liar, or to doubt His 
truth — that is, to attribute truth to ourselves, but to God 
falsehood and levity ? In doing this, is not a man denying 
God and setting himself up as an idol in his own heart ? 
What then can works, done in such a state of impiety, profit us, 
were they even angelic t)r- apostolic works ? Kightly hath 
God shut up all — not in wrath nor in lust — but in unbelief; in 
order that those who pretend that they are fulfilling the law 
by works of purity and benevolence (which are social and human 
virtues), may not presume that they will therefore be saved ; 
but, being included in the sin of unbelief, may either seek 
mercy, or be justly condemned. 

But when God sees that truth is ascribed to Him, and that 
in the faith of our hearts He is honoured with all the honour , 
of which He is worthy ; then in return He honours us on 
account of that faith ; attributing to us truth and righteousness. 
For faith produces truth and righteousness, in rendering to 
God what is His ; and therefore in return God gives glory to 
our righteousness. It is a true and righteous thing, that God 
is true and righteous ; and to confess this, and ascribe these 
attributes to Him, is to be ourselves true and righteous. Thus 
He says : " Them that honour me I will honour, and they that 
despise me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Sam. ii. 30.) And 
so Paul says that Abraham's faith was imputed to him for 
righteousness, because by it he gave glory to God ; and that to 
us also, for the same reason, it shall be reputed for righteous- 
ness, if we believe. (Kom. iv.) 

The third incomparable grace of faith is this, that it unites ~] 
the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband ; by which 
mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made 
one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage — 


nay, by far the most perfect of all marriages — is accomplished 
between them (for human marriages are but feeble types of 
this one great marriage), then it follows that all they have 
becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things ; 
so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul 
may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever 
belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as his. 

If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable 
is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation ; the 
soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, 
and then sin, death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, 
life, and salvation to the soul. For, if he is a husband, he 
must needs take to himself that which is his wife's, and, at the 
same time, impart to his wife that which is his. For, in 
giving her his own body and himself, how can he but give her 
all that is his ? And, in taking to himself the body of his wife, 
how can he but take to himself all that is hers ? 

In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of com- 
munion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and 
redemption. For since Christ is God and man, and is such a 
person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, — nay, 
cannot sin, die, or be condemned ; and since his righteousness, 
life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty ; when, 
I say, such a person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a 
share in the sins, death, and hell of his wife, nay, makes them 
his own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were 
his, and as if he himself had sinned ; and when he suffers, dies, 
and descends to hell, that he may overcome all things, since 
sin, death, and hell cannot swallow him up, they must needs 
be swallowed up by him in stupendous conflict. For his 
righteousness rises above the sins of all men ; his life is more 
powerful than all death ; his salvation is more unconquerable 
than all hell. 

Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, 
becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and 
endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of 
its husband Christ. Thus he presents to himself a glorious 
bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing 
of water by the word ; that is, by faith in the word of life, 
righteousness, and salvation. Thus he betrothes her unto 


himself " in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, 
and in lovingkindness, and in mercies." (Hosea ii. 19, 20.) 

Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials ? 
Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace ? 
Christ, that rich and pious husband, takes as a wife a needy and 
impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils, and supplying 
her with all His good things. It is impossible now that her 
sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ 
and swallowed up in Him, and since she has in her husband 
Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and 
which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, 
against death and hell, saying : " If I have sinned, my Christ, 
in whom I believe, has not sinned ; all mine is His, and all His 
is mine ; " as it is written, " My beloved is mine, and I am 
his. (Cant. ii. 16.) This is what Paul says :" Thanks be to God, 
which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ ; " 
victory over sin and death, as he says : " The sting of death is 
sin, and the strength of sin is the law." (1 Cor. xv. 56, 57.) 

From all this you will again understand, why so much 
importance is attributed to faith, so that it alone can fulfil the 
law, and justify without any works. For you see that the first 
commandment, which says, " Thou shalt worship one God 
only," is fulfilled by faith alone. If you were nothing but 
good works from the soles of your feet to the crown of your 
head, you would not be worshipping God, nor fulfilling the 
first commandment, since it is impossible to worship God, 
without ascribing to Him the glory of truth and of universal 
goodness, as it ought in truth to be ascribed. Now this is not 
done by works, but only by faith of heart. It is not by 
working, but by believing, that we glorify God, and confess 
Him to be true. On this ground faith is the sole righteous- 
ness of a Christian man, and the fulfilling of all the command- 
ments. For to him who fulfils the first, the task of fulfilling 
all the rest is easy. 

Works, since they are irrational things, cannot glorify God ; ^ 
although they may be done to the glory of God, if faith be 
present. But at present we are enquiring, not into the quality 
of the works done, but into him who does them, who glorifies 
God, and brings forth good works. This is faith of heart, the 
head and the substance of all our righteousness. Hence that is 


a blind and perilous doctrine which teaches that the command- 
ments are fulfilled by works. The commandments must have 
been fulfilled, previous to any good works, and good works 
follow their fulfilment, as we shall see. 

But, that we may have a wider view of that grace which our 
inner man has in Christ, we must know that in the Old 
Testament God sanctified to Himself every first-born male. 
The birthright was of great value, giving a superiority over 
the rest by the double honour of priesthood and kingship. For 
the first-born brother was priest and lord of all the rest. 

Under this figure was foreshown Christ, the true and only 
first-born of God the Father and of the Virgin Mary, and a true 
king and priest, not in a fleshly and earthly sense. For His 
kingdom is not of this world ; it is in heavenly and spiritual 
things that He reigns and acts as priest ; and these are 
righteousness, truth, wisdom, peace, salvation, &c. Not but that 
all things, even those of earth and hell, are subject to Him — 
for otherwise how could He defend and save us from them ? — but 
it is not in these, nor by these, that His kingdom stands. 

So too His priesthood does not consist in the outward display 
of vestments and gestures, as did the human priesthood of 
Aaron and our ecclesiastical priesthood at this day, but in 
spiritual things, wherein, in His invisible office, He intercedes for 
us with God in heaven, and there offers Himself, and performs 
all the duties of a priest ; as Paul describes Him to the Hebrews 
under the figure of Melchizedek. Nor does He only pray and 
intercede for us ; He also teaches us inwardly in the spirit with 
the living teachings of His Spirit. Now these are the two 
special offices of a priest, as is figured to us in the case of 
fleshly priests, by visible prayers and sermons. 

As Christ by His birthright has obtained these two dignities, 
so He imparts and communicates them to every believer in 
Him, under that law of matrimony of which we have spoken 
above, by which all that is the husband's is also the wife's. 
Hence all we who believe on Christ are kings and priests in 
Christ, as it is said : "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal 
priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ; that ye should 
shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of 
darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Pet. ii. 9.) 

These two things stand thus. First, as regards kingship, 


every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things, that, in 
spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things ; so that 
nothing whatever can do him any hurt ; yea, all things are 
subject to him, and are compelled to be subservient to his 
salvation. Thus Paul says : " All things work together for 
good to them who are the called " (Rom. viii. 28 ) ; and also ; 
" Whether life, or death, or things present, or things to come : 
all are yours ; and ye are Christ's. (1 Cor. iii. 22, 23.) 

Not that in the sense of corporeal power any one among 
Christians has been appointed to possess and rule all things, 
according to the mad and senseless idea of certain ecclesiastics. 
That is the office of kings, princes, and men upon earth. In 
the experience of life we see that we are subjected to all things, 
and suffer many things, even death. Yea, the more of a Christian 
any man is, to so many the more evils, sufferings, and deaths is 
he subject; as we see in the first place in Christ the first-born, 
and in all His holy brethen. 

This is a spiritual power, which rules in the midst of enemies, 
and is powerful in the midst of distresses. And this is nothing 
else than that strength is made perfect in my weakness, and 
that I can turn all things to the profit of my salvation ; so that 
even the cross and death are compelled to serve me and to 
work together for my salvation. This is a lofty and eminent 
dignity, a true and almighty dominion, a spiritual empire, 
in which there is nothing so good, nothing so bad, as not to 
work together for my good, if only I believe. And yet there is 
nothing of which I have need — for faith alone suffices for my 
salvation — unless that, in it, faith may exercise the power and 
empire of its liberty. This is the inestimable power and liberty 
of Christians. 

Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but also 
priests for ever, a dignity far higher than kingship, because by 
that priesthood we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for 
others, and to teach one another mutually the things which are 
of God. For these are the duties of priests, and they cannot 
possibly be permitted to any unbeliever. Christ has obtained 
for us this favour, if we believe in Him, that, just as we are His 
brethren, and co-heirs and fellow kings with Him, so we should 
be also fellow priests with Him, and venture with confidence, 
through the spirit of faith, to come into the presence of God, 



and cry " Abba, Father ! " and to pray for one another, and to 
do all things which we see done and figured in the visible and 
corporeal office of priesthood. But to an unbelieving person 
nothing renders service or works for good. He himself is in 
servitude to all things, and all things turn out for evil to him, 
because he uses all things in an impious way for his own 
advantage, and not for the glory of God. And thus he is not 
a priest, but a profane person, whose prayers are turned into 
sin ; nor does he ever appear in the presence of God, because 
God does not hear sinners. 

Who then can comprehend the loftiness of that Christian 
dignity which, by its royal power, rules over all things, even 
over death, life, and sin, and, by its priestly glory, is all 
powerful with God ; since God does what He Himself seeks 
and wishes ; as it is written : " He will fulfil the desire of 
them that fear Him : He also will hear their cry, and will save 
them" ? (Ps. cxlv. 19.) This glory certainly cannot be attained 
by any works, but by faith only. 

From these considerations any one may clearly see how a 
Christian man is free from all things ; so that he needs no 
works in order to be justified and saved, but receives these gifts 
in abundance from faith alone. Nay, were he so foolish as to 
pretend to be justified, set free, saved, and made a Christian, by 
means of any good work, he would immediately lose faith 
with all its benefits. Such folly is prettily represented in the 
fable, where a dog, running along in the water, and carrying in 
his mouth a real piece of meat, is deceived by the reflection of 
the meat in the water, and, in trying with open mouth to seize 
it, loses the meat and its image at the same time. 

Here you will ask : " If all who are in the Church are priests, 
by what character are those, whom we now call priests, to be 
distinguished from the' laity ? " I reply : By the use of these 
words, " priest," " clergy," " spiritual person," " ecclesiastic," 
an injustice has been done, since they have been transferred 
from the remaining body of Christians to those few, who are 
now, by a hurtful custom, called ecclesiastics. For Holy 
Scripture makes no distinction between them, except that those, 
who are now boastfully called popes, bishops, and lords, it 
calls ministers, servants, and stewards, who are to serve the 
rest in the ministry of the Word, for teaching the faith of Christ 


and the liberty of believers. For though it is true that we are 
all equally priests, yet we cannot, nor, if we could, ought we all 
to minister and teach publicly. Thus Paul says : " Let a man 
so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of 
the mysteries of God." (1 Cor. iv. 1.) 

This bad system has now issued in such a pompous display 
of power, and such a terrible tyranny, that no earthly govern- 
ment can be compared to it, as if the laity were something else 
than Christians. Through this perversion of things it has 
happened that the knowledge of Christian grace, of faith, of 
liberty, and altogether of Christ, has utterly perished, and has 
been succeeded by an intolerable bondage to human works and 
laws ; and, according to the Lamentations of Jeremiah, we 
have become the slaves of the vilest men on earth, who abuse 
our misery to all the disgraceful and ignominious purposes of 
their own will. 

Eeturning to the subject which we had begun, I think it is 
made clear by these considerations that it is not sufficient, nor 
a Christian course, to preach the works, life, and words of 
Christ in a historic manner, as facts which it suffices to know 
as an example how to frame our life ; as do those who are now 
held the best preachers : and much less so, to keep silence 
altogether on these things, and to teach in their stead the laws 
of men and the decrees of the Fathers. There are now not 
a few persons who preach and read about Christ with the 
object of moving the human affections to sympathise with 
Christ, to indignation against the Jews, and other childish and 
womanish absurdities of that kind. 

Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith 
in Him, so that He may not only be Christ, but a Christ for you 
and for me, and that what is said of Him, and what He is 
called, may work in us. And this faith is produced and is 
maintained by preaching why Christ came, what He has brought 
us and given to us, and to what profit and advantage He is to 
be received. This is done, when the Christian liberty which we 
have from Christ Himself is rightly taught, and we are shown 
in what manner all we Christians are kings and priests, and how 
we are lords of all things, and may be confident that whatever 
we do in the presence of God is pleasing and acceptable to Him. 

Whose heart would not rejoice in its inmost core at hearing 

i 2 


these things ? Whose heart, on receiving so great a consola- 
tion, would not become sweet with the love of Christ, a love 
to which it can never attain by any laws or works ? Who can 
injure such a heart, or make it afraid ? If the consciousness of 
sin, or the horror of death, rush in upon it, it is prepared to 
hope in the Lord, and is fearless of such evils, and undisturbed, 
until it shall look down upon its enemies. For it believes that 
the righteousness of Christ is its own, and that its sin is no 
longer its own, but that of Christ, for, on account of its faith 
in Christ, all its sin must needs be swallowed up from before 
the face of the righteousness of Christ, as I have said above. 
It learns too, with the Apostle, to scoff at death and sin, and to 
say: " 0* death, where is thy sting? grave, where is thy 
victory ? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is 
the law. But thanks be to Grod, which giveth us the victory 
through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. xv. 55-57.) For 
death is swallowed up in victory ; not only the victory of 
Christ, but ours also ; since by faith it becomes ours, and in it 
we too conquer. 

Let it suffice to say this concerning the inner man and its 
liberty, and concerning that righteousness of faith, which 
needs neither laws nor good works ; nay, they are even hurtful 
to it, if any one pretends to be justified by them. 

And now let us turn to the other part, to the outward mam 

Here we shall give an answer to all those who, taking offence at 

the word of faith and at what I have asserted, say : " If faith does 

everything, and by itself suffices for justification, why then are 

good works commanded ? Are we then to take our ease and do 

. no works, content with faith ? " Not so, impious men, I reply ; 

fi not so. That would indeed really be the case, if we were 

] thoroughly and completely inner and spiritual persons; but 

1 that will not happen until the last day, when the dead shall be 

raised. As long as we live in the flesh, we are but beginning 

and making advances in that which shall be completed in a 

future life. On this account the Apostle calls that which we 

have in this life, the first-fruits of the Spirit. (Horn, viii, 23.) 

In future wc shall have the tenths, and the fulness of the 

Spirit. To this part belongs the fact I have stated before, that 

the Christian is the servant of all and subject to all. For in 

that part in which he is free, he does no works, but in that in 


which he is a servant, he does all works. Let us see on what 
principle this is so. 

Although, as I have said, inwardly, and according to the 
spirit, a man is amply enough justified by faith, having all that 
he requires to have, except that this very faith and abundance 
ought to increase from day to day, even till the future life ; 
still he remains in this mortal life upon earth, in which it is 
necessary that he should rule his own body, and have inter- 
course with men. Here then works begin ; here he must not 
take his ease ; here he must give heed to exercise his body by 
fastings, watchings, labour, and other moderate discipline, so 
that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform 
itself to the inner man and faith, and not rebel against them 
nor hinder them, as is its nature to do if it is not kept under. 
For the inner man, being conformed to God, and created after 
the image of God through faith, rejoices and delights itself in 
Christ, in whom such blessings have been conferred on it ; and 
hence has only this task before it, to serve God with joy and 
for nought in free love. 

In doing this he offends that contrary will in his own flesh, 
which is striving to serve the world, and to seek its own 
gratification. This the spirit of faith cannot and will not 
bear ; but applies itself with cheerfulness and zeal to keep it 
down and restrain it ; as Paul says : "I delight in the law of 
God after the inward man ; but I see another law in my 
members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing 
me into captivity to the law of sin." (Koin. vii. 22, 23.) And 
again : " I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, 
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, 1 
myself should be a castaway." (1 Cor. ix. 27.) And : " They 
that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections 
and lusts." (Gal. v. 24.) 

These works, however, must not be done with any notion 
that by them a man can be justified before God — for faith, 
which alone is righteousness before God, will not bear with 
this false notion — but solely with this purpose, that the body 
may be brought into subjection, and be purified from its evil 
lusts, so that our eyes may be turned only to purging away 
those lusts. For when the soul has been cleansed by faith and 
made to love God, it would have all things to be cleansed in 


like manner ; and especially its own body, so that all thing 
might unite with it in the love and praise of God. Thus it 
comes that, from the requirements of his own body, a man 
cannot take his ease, but is compelled on its account to do 
many good works, that he may bring it into subjection. Yet 
these works are not the means of his justification before God ■ 
he does them out of disinterested love to the service of God ; 
looking to no other end than to do what is well-pleasing to Him 
whom he desires to obey most dutifully in all things. 

On this principle every man may easily instruct himself in 
what measure, and with what distinctions, he ought to chasten 
his own body. He will fast, watch, and labour, just as much 
as he sees to suffice for keeping down the wantonness and 
concupiscence of the body. But those who pretend to be 
justified by works are looking, not to the mortification of their 
lusts, but only to the works themselves ; thinking that, if they 
can accomplish as many works and as great ones as possible, 
all is well with them, and they are justified. Sometimes they 
even injure their brain, and extinguish nature, or at least make 
it useless. This is enormous folly, and ignorance of Christian 
life and faith, when a man seeks, without faith, to be justified 
and saved by works. 

To make what we have said more easily understood, let us 
set it forth under a figure. The works of a Christian man, 
who is justified and saved by his faith out of the pure and 
unbought mercy of God, ought to be regarded in the same 
light as would have been those of Adam and Eve in Paradise, 
and of all their posterity, if they had not sinned. Of them it 
is said : " The Lord God took the man, and put him into the 
garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Gen. ii. 15.) Now 
Adam had been created by God just and righteous, so that he 
could not have needed to be justified and made righteous by 
keeping the garden and working in it ; but, that he might not 
be unemployed, God gave him the business of keeping and 
cultivating Paradise. These would have indeed been works of 
perfect freedom, being done for no object but that of pleasing 
God, and not in order to obtain justification, which he already 
had to the full, and which would have been innate in us all. 

So it is with the works of a believer. Being by his faith 
replaced afresh in Paradise and created anew, he does not need 



works for his justification, but that he may not be idle, but may 
keep his own body and work upon it. His works are to be done 
freely, with the sole object of pleasing God. Only we are not 
yet fully created anew in perfect faith and love ; these require 
to be increased, not however through works, but through them- 

A bishop, when he consecrates a church, confirms children, 
or performs any other duty of his office, is not consecrated as 
bishop by these works ; nay, unless he had been previously 
consecrated as bishop, not one of those works would have any 
validity ; they would be foolish, childish, and ridiculous. Thus 
a Christian, being consecrated by his faith, does good works ; 
but he is not by these works made a more sacred person, or more 
a Christian. That is the effect of faith alone ; nay, unless he 
were previously a believer and a Christian, none of his works 
would have any value at all ; they would really be impious and 
damnable sins. 

True then are these two sayings : Good works do not make a 
good man, but a good man does good works. Bad works do 
not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works. Thus it 
is always necessary that the substance or person should be 
good before any good works can be done, and that good works 
should follow and proceed from a good person. As Christ says : 
"A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a 
corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matt. vii. 18.) Now it is 
clear that the fruit does not bear the tree, nor does the tree 
grow on the fruit ; but, on the contrary, the trees bear the fruit 
and the fruit grows on the trees. 

As then trees must exist before their fruit, and as the fruit 
does not make the tree either good or bad, but, on the 
contrary, a tree of either kind produces fruit of the same kind ; 
so must first the person of the man be good or bad, before he can 
do either a good or a bad work ; and his works do not make him 
tad or good, but he himself makes his works either bad or good. 

We may see the same thing in all handicrafts. A bad or 
good house does not make a bad or good builder, but a good or 
bad builder makes a good or bad house. And in general, no 
work makes the workman such as it is itself; but the workman 
makes the work such as he is himself. Such is the case too 
with the works of men. Such as the man himself is, whether 


in faith or in unbelief, such is his work ; good if it be clone in 
faith, bad if in unbelief. But the converse is not true — that, 
such as the work is, such the man becomes in faith or in 
unbelief. For as works do not make a believing man, so 
neither do they make a justified man ; but faith, as it makes a 
man a believer and justified, so also it makes his works good. 

Since, then, works justify no man, but a man must be justified 
before he can do any good work, it is most evident that it^|s 
faith alone which, by the mere mercy of God through Christ, 
and by meaus of His word, can worthily and sufficiently justify 
and save the person ; and that a Christian man needs no 
work, no law, for his salvation ; for by faith he is free from 
all law, and in perfect freedom does gratuitously all that 
he does, seeking nothing either of profit or of salvation — 
since by the grace of God he is already saved and rich in all 
things through his faith— but solely that which is well-pleasing 
to God. 

So too no good work can profit an unbeliever to justification 
and salvation ; and on the other hand no evil work makes him 
an evil and condemned person, but that unbelief, which makes 
the person and the tree bad, makes his works evil and con- 
demned. Wherefore, when any man is made good or bad, this 
does not arise from his works, but from his faith or unbelief, 
as the wise man says : " The beginning of sin is to fall away 
from God ; " that is, not to believe. Paul says : " He that 
cometh to God must believe " (Heb. xi. 6) ; and Christ says 
the same thing : " Either make the tree good, and his fruit 
good ; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt." 
(Matt. xii. 33.) As much as to say : He who wishes to have 
good fruit, will begin with the tree, and plant a good one; 
even so he who wishes to do good works must begin, not by 
working, but by believing, since it is this which makes the 
person good. For nothing makes the person good but faith, nor 
bad but unbelief. 

It is certainly true that, in the sight of men, a man becomes 
good or evil by his works ; but here " becoming " means that 
it is thus shown and recognised who is good or evil ; as Christ 
says : " By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt. vii. 20.) 
But all this stops at appearances and externals ; and in this 
matter very many deceive themselves, when they presume 


to write and teach that we are to be justified by good works, 
and meanwhile make no mention even of faith, walking in their 
own ways, ever deceived and deceiving, going from bad to 
worse, blind leaders of the blind, wearying themselves with 
many works, and yet never attaining to true righteousness ; of 
whom Paul says : " Having a form of godliness, but denying 
the power thereof ; ever learning, and never able to come to the 
knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. iii. 5, 7.) 

He then, who does not wish to go astray with these blind 
ones, must look further than to the works of the law or the 
doctrine of works ; nay, must turn away his sight from works, 
and look to the person, and to the manner in which it may be 
justified. Now it is justified and saved, not by works or laws, 
but by the word of God, that is, by the promise of His grace ; 
so that the glory may be to the Divine majesty, which has saved 
us who believe, not by works of righteousness which we have 
. done, but according to His mercy, by the word of His grace. 

From all this it is easy to perceive on what principle good 
works are to be cast aside or embraced, and by what rule all 
teachings put forth concerning works are to be understood. 
For if works are brought forward as grounds of justification, 
and are done under the false persuasion that we can pretend to 
be justified by them, they lay on us the yoke of necessity, and 
extinguish liberty along with faith, and by this very addition 
to their use, they become no longer good, but really worthy of 
condemnation. For such works are not free, but blaspheme 
the grace of God, to which alone it belongs to justify and save 
through faith. Works cannot accomplish this, and yet, with 
impious presumption, through our folly, they take it on them- 
selves to do so ; and thus break in with violence upon the office 
and glory of grace. 

We do not then reject good works ; nay, we embrace them 
and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own 
account that we condemn them, but on account of this impious 
addition to them, and the perverse notion of seeking justification 
by them. These things cause them to be only good in outward 
show, but in reality not good ; since by them men are deceived 
and deceive others, like ravening wolves in sheep's clothing. 

Now this Leviathan, this perverted notion about works, is 
invincible, when sincere faith is wanting. For those sanctified 


doers of works cannot but hold it, till faith, which destroys it, 
comes and reigns in the heart. Nature cannot expel it by her 
own power ; nay, cannot even see it for what it is, but considers 
it as a most holy will. And when custom steps in besides, and 
strengthens this pravity of nature, as has happened by means 
of impious teachers, then the evil is incurable, and leads astray 
multitudes to irreparable ruin. Therefore, though it is good to 
preach and write about penitence, confession, and satisfaction, 
yet if we stop there, and do not go on to teach faith, such 
teaching is without doubt deceitful and devilish. For Christ, 
speaking by His servant John, not only said : "Kepent ye ;" but 
added : " for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. iii. 2.) 
For not one word of God only, but both, should be 
preached; new and old things should be brought out of the 
treasury, as well the voice of the law, as the word of grace. 
The voice of the law should be brought forward, that men 
may be terrified and brought to a knowledge of their sins, and 
thence be converted to penitence and to a better manner of life. 
But we must not stop here ; that would be to wound only and 
\ not to bind up, to strike and not to heal, to kill and not to 
'make alive, to bring down to hell and not to bring back, to 
humble and not to exalt. Therefore the word of grace, and of 
Ithe promised remission of sin, must also be preached, in order 
vto teach and set up faith ; since, without that word, contrition, 
penitence, and all other duties, are performed and taught in 

There still remain, it is true, preachers of repentance and 
grace, but they do not explain the law and the promises of God 
to such an end, and in such a spirit, that men may learn 
whence repentance and grace are to come. For repentance 
comes from the law of God, but faith or grace from the promises 
of God, as it is said : " Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing 
by the word of God." (Bom. x. 17.) Whence it comes, that a 
man, when humbled and brought to the knowledge of himself 
by the threatenings and terrors of the law, is consoled and 
raised up by faith in the Divine promise. Thus " weeping may 
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Ps. xxx. 
5.) Thus much we say concerning works in general, and also 
concerning those which the Christian practises with regard to 
his own body. 


Lastly, we will speak also of those works which he performs 
towards his neighbour. For man does not live for himself 
alone in this mortal body, in order to work on its account, but 
also for all men on earth ; nay, he lives only for others and not 
for himself. For it is to this end that he brings his own body 
into subjection, that he may be able to serve others more 
sincerely and more freely ; as Paul says : " None of us liveth 
to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, 
we live unto the Lord ; and whether we die, we die unto 
the Lord." (Kom. xiv. 7, 8.) Thus it is impossible that he 
should take his ease in this life, and not work for the good of 
his neighbours ; since he must needs speak, act, and converse 
among men ; just as Christ was made in the likeness of men, 
and found in fashion as a man, and had His conversation among 

Yet a Christian has need of none of these things for justi- 
fication and salvation, but in all his works he ought to entertain 
this view, and look only to this object, that he may serve and 
be useful to others in all that he does ; having nothing before 
his eyes but the necessities and the advantage of his neighbour. 
Thus the Apostle commands us to work with our own hands, 
that we may have to give to those that need. He might have 
said, that we may support ourselves ; but he tells us to give to 
those that need. It is the part of a Christian to take care of 
his own body for the very purpose that, by its soundness and 
wellbeing, he may be enabled to labour, and to acquire and pre- 
serve property, for the aid of those who are in want ; that thus 
the stronger member may serve the weaker member, and we may 
be children of God, thoughtful and busy one for another, bearing 
one another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ. 

Here is the truly Christian life ; here is faith really working 
by love ; when a man applies himself with joy and love to the 
works of that freest servitude, in which he serves others volun- 
tarily and for nought ; himself abundantly satisfied in the 
fulness and riches of his own faith. 

Thus, when Paul had taught the Philippians how they had 
been made rich by that faith in Christ, in which they had 
obtained all things, he teaches them further in these words — 
" If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort 
of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 


fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, 
being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through 
strife or vainglory ; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem 
other better than themselves. Look not every man on his 
own things, but every man also on the things of others." 
(Phil. ii. 1-4.) 

In this we see clearly that the Apostle lays down this rule 
for a Christian life, that all our works should be directed to the 
advantage of others ; since every Christian has such abundance 
through his faith, that all his other works and his whole life 
remain over and above, wherewith to serve and benefit his 
neighbour of spontaneous good will. 

To this end he brings forward Christ as an example, saying : 
" Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus : who, 
being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal 
with God : but made himself of no reputation, and took upon 
him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ; 
and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and 
became obedient unto death." (Phil. ii. 5-8.) This most 
wholesome saying of the Apostle has been darkened to us by 
men who, totally misunderstanding the expressions: "form. of 
God," " form of a servant," " fashion," " likeness of men," have 
transferred them to the natures of Godhead and manhood. 
Paul's meaning is this : Christ, when He was full of the form 
of God, and abounded in all good things, so that He had no 
need of works or sufferings to be justified and saved — for all these 
things He had from the very beginning — yet was not puffed up 
with these things, and did not raise Himself above us, and 
arrogate to Himself power over us, though He might lawfully 
have done so, but on the contrary so acted in labouring, 
working, suffering, and dying, as to be like the rest of men, 
and no otherwise than a man in fashion and in conduct, as if he 
were in want of all things, and had nothing of the form of God ; 
and yet all this He did for our sakes, that He might serve us, 
and that all the works He should do under that form of a servant, 
might become ours. 

Thus a Christian, like Christ his head, being full and in 
abundance through his faith, ought to be content with this 
form of God, obtained by faith ; except that, as I have said, he 
ought to increase this faith, till it be perfected. For this 


faith is his life, justification, and salvation, preserving his 
person itself and making it pleasing to God, and bestowing on 
him all that Christ has ; as I have said above, and as Paul 
affirms : " The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the 
faith of the Son of God." (Gal. ii. 20.) Though he is thus free^ 
from all works, yet he ought to empty himself of this liberty, 
take on him the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of 
men, be found in fashion as a man, serve, help, and in every 
way act towards his neighbour as he sees that God through 
Christ has acted and is acting towards him. All this he 
should do freely, and with regard to nothing but the good 
pleasure of God, and he should reason thus : 

Lo ! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and 
free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and 
contemptible creature, all the riches of justification and salva- 
tion in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, 
except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father 
then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches 
of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and witji my 
whole heart and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will 
be pleasing to Him, and acceptable in His sight? I will 
therefore give myself, as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as 
Christ has given Himself to me ; and will do nothing in this 
life, except what I see will be needful, advantageous, and 
wholesome for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all 
good things in Christ. 

Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and 
from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our 
neighbour voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude 
or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not 
to lay men under obligations, nor does it distinguish between 
friends and enemies, or look to gratitude or ingratitude, but 
most freely and willingly spends itself and its goods, whether 
it loses them through ingratitude, or gains good will. For 
thus did its Father, distributing all things to all men abun- 
dantly and freely ; making His sun to rise upon the just and 
the unjust. Thus too the child does and endures nothing, 
except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ 
in God, the giver of such great gifts. 

You see then that, if we recognise those great and precious 


gifts, as Peter says, which have been given to us, love is 
quickly diffused in our hearts through the Spirit, and by love 
we are made free, joyful, all-powerful, active workers, victors 
over all our tribulations, servants to our neighbour, and never- 
theless lords of all things. But for those who do not recognise 
the good things given to them through Christ, Christ has 
been born in vain ; such persons walk by works, and will never 
attain the taste and feeling of these great things. Therefore, 
just as our neighbour is in want, and has need of our abun- 
dance, so we too in the sight of God were in want, and had 
need of His mercy. And as our heavenly Father has freely 
helped us in Christ, so ought we freely to help our neighbour 
by our body and works, and each should become to other a 
sort of Christ, so that we may be mutually Christs, and that 
the same Christ may be in all of us ; that is, that we may be 
truly Christians. 

Who then can comprehend the riches and glory of the 
Christian life ? It can do all things, has all things, and is in 
want of nothing ; is lord over sin, death, and hell, and at the 
same time is the obedient and useful servant of all. But 
alas ! it is at this day unknown throughout the world ; it is 
neither preached nor sought after, so that we are quite 
ignorant about our own name, why we are and are called 
Christians. We are certainly called so from Christ, who is 
not absent, but dwells among us, provided, that is, that we 
believe in Him, and are reciprocally and mutually one the Christ 
of the other, doing to our neighbour as Christ does to us. But 
now, in the doctrine of men, we are taught only to seek after 
merits, rewards, and things which are already ours, and we 
have made of Christ a task-master far more severe than Moses. 

The Blessed Virgin, beyond all others, affords us an example 
of the same faith, in that she was purified according to the law 
of Moses, and like all other women, though she was bound by 
no such law, and had no need of purification. Still she 
submitted to the law voluntarily and of free love, making 
herself like the rest of women, that she might not offend or 
throw contempt on them. She was not justified by doing 
this ; but, being already justified, she did it freely and 
gratuitously. Thus ought our works too to be done, and not in 
order to be justified by them ; for, being first justified by 


faith, we ought to do all our works freely and cheerfully for 
the sake of others. 

St. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy, not because he 
needed circumcision for his justification, Tmt that he might not 
offend or contemn those Jews, weak in the faith, who had not 
yet been able to comprehend the liberty of faith. On the 
other hand, when they contemned liberty, and urged that 
circumcision was necessary for justification, he resisted them, 
and would not allow Titus to be circumcised. For as he would 
not offend or contemn any one's weakness in faith, but yielded 
for the time to their will, so again he would not have the 
liberty of faith offended or contemned by hardened self- 
justifiers, but walked in a middle path, sparing the weak for 
the time, and always resisting the hardened, that he might 
convert all to the liberty of faith. On the same principle we 
ought to act, receiving those that are weak in the faith, but 
boldly resisting these hardened teachers of works, of whom we 
shall hereafter speak at more length. 

Christ also, when His disciples were asked for the tribute 
money, asked of Peter, whether the children of a king were not 
free from taxes. Peter agreed to this ; yet Jesus commanded 
him to go to the sea, saying : " Lest we should offend them, go 
thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first 
cometh up ; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt 
find a piece of money ; that take, and give unto them for me 
and thee." (Matt. xvii. 27.) 

This example is very much to our purpose ; for here Christ 
calls Himself and His disciples free men, and children of a king, 
in want of nothing ; and yet He voluntarily submits and pays 
the tax. Just as far then as this work was necessary or useful 
to Christ for justification or salvation, so far do all His other 
works or those of His disciples avail for justification. They are 
really free and subsequent to justification, and only clone to serve 
others and set them an example. 

Such are the works which Paul inculcated ; that Christians i \ • 
should be subject to principalities and powers, and ready to || 
every good work (Tit. iii. 1) ; not that they may be justified I 
by these things, for they are already justified by faith, but that in k 
liberty of spirit they may thus be the servants of others, and Sj 
subject to powers, obeying their will out of gratuitous love. 


Such too ought to have been the works of all colleges, 
monasteries, and priests ; every one doing the works of his own 
profession and state of life, not in order to be justified by them, 
but in order to bring his own body into subjection, as an 
example to others, who themselves also need to keep under 
their bodies ; and also in order to accommodate himself to the 
will of others, out of free love. But we must always guard 
most carefully against any vain confidence or presumption of 
being justified, gaining merit, or being saved by these works ; 
this being the part of faith alone, as I have so often said. 

Any man possessing this knowledge may easily keep clear of 
danger among those innumerable commands and precepts of the 
Pope, of bishops, of monasteries, of churches, of princes, and of 
magistrates, which some foolish pastors urge on us as being 
necessary for justification and salvation, calling them precepts 
of the Church, when they are not so at all. For the Christian 
freeman will speak thus : I will fast, I will pray, I will do this 
or that, which is commanded me by men, not as having any 
need of these things for justification or salvation, but that I 
may thus comply with the will of the Pope, of the bishop, of 
such a community or such a magistrate, or of my neighbour as 
an example to him ; for this cause I will do and suffer all 
things, just as Christ did and suffered much more for me, 
though He needed not at all to do so on His own account, and 
made Himself for my sake under the law, when He was not 
under the law. And although tyrants may do me violence or 
wrong in requiring obedience to these things, yet it will not 
hurt me to do them, so long as they are not done against God. 

From all this every man will be able to attain a sure 
judgment and faithful discrimination between all works and 
laws, and to know who are blind and foolish pastors, and who 
are true and good ones. For whatsoever work is not directed 
to the sole end, either of keeping under the body, or of doing 
service to our neighbour — provided he require nothing contrary 
to the will of God — is no good or Christian work. Hence I greatly 
fear that at this day few or no colleges, monasteries, altars, or 
ecclesiastical functions are Christian ones ; and the same may 
be said of fasts and special prayers to certain Saints. I fear 
that in all these nothing is being sought but what is already 
ours ; while we fancy that by these things our sins are purged 


away and salvation is attained, and thus utterly do away with 
Christian liberty. This comes from ignorance of Christian faith 
and liberty. 

This ignorance, and this crushing of liberty, are diligently 
promoted by the teaching of very many blind pastors, who stir 
up and urge the people to a zeal for these things, praising such 
zeal and puffing up men with their indulgences, but never . 
teaching faith. Now I would advise you, if you have any wish 
to pray, to fast, or to made foundations in churches, as they call 
it, to take care not to do so with the object of gaining any 
advantage, either temporal or eternal. You will thus wrong your 
faith which alone bestows all things on you, and the increase of 
which, either by working or by suffering, is alone to be cared 
for. What you give, give freely and without price, that others 
may prosper and have increase from you and from your good- 
ness. Thus you will be a truly good man and a Christian. 
For what do you want with your goods and your works, which 
are done over and above for the subjection of the body, since 
you have abundance for yourself through your faith, in which 
God has given you all things ? 

We give this rule : the good things which we have from 
God ought to flow from one to another, and become common 
to all, so that every one of us may, as it were, put on his 
neighbour, and so behave towards him as if he were himself 
in his place. They flowed and do flow from Christ to us ; he 
put us on, and acted for us as if he himself were what we are. 
From us they flow to those who have need of them ; so that 
my faith and righteousness ought to be laid down before God 
as a covering and intercession for the sins of my neighbour, 
which I am to take on myself, and so labour and endure 
servitude in them, as if they were my own ; for thus has Christ 
done for us. This is true love and the genuine truth of 
Christian life. But only there is it true and genuine, where 
there is true and genuine faith. Hence the Apostle attributes 
to Charity this quality, that she seeketh not her own. 

We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in \ ' 
himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or else is no 
Christian ; in_Chji&tJby-4aith,,in.-his_ndghbojir^ lave. By 
faith he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love 
he sinks back below himself to his neighbour, still always 



abiding in God and His love, as Christ says : " Verily I say 
unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels 
of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." 
(John i„ 51.) 

Thus much concerning liberty, which, as you see, is a true 
and spiritual liberty, making our hearts free from all sins, laws, 
and commandments ; as Paul says : " The law is not made for 
a righteous man" (1 Tim. i. 9) ; and one which surpasses 
every other and outward liberty, as far as heaven is above earth. 
May Christ make us to understand and preserve this liberty. 

Finally, for the sake of those to whom nothing can be stated 
so well but that they misunderstand and distort it, we must 
add a word, in case they can understand even that. There are 
very many persons, who, when they hear of this liberty of faith, 
straightway turn it into an occasion of licence. They think 
that everything is now lawful for them, and do not choose to show 
themselves free men and Christians in any other way than by 
their contempt and reprehension of ceremonies, of traditions, of 
human laws ; as if they were Christians merely because they 
refuse to fast on stated days, or eat flesh when others fast, or 
omit the customary prayers ; scoffing at the precepts of men, 
but utterly passing over all the rest that belongs to the Christian 
religion. On the other hand, they are most pertinaciously re- 
sisted by those who strive after salvation solely by their obser- 
vance of and reverence for ceremonies ; as if they would be saved 
merely because they fast on stated days, or abstain from flesh, 
or make formal prayers ; talking loudly of the precepts of the 
Church and of the Fathers, and not caring a straw about those 
things which belong to our genuine faith. Both these parties 
are plainly culpable, in that, while they neglect matters which 
are of weight and necessary for salvation, they contend noisily 
about such as are without weight and not necessary. 

How much more rightly does the Apostle Paul teach us to 
walk in the middle path, condemning either extreme, and 
saying : " Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not ; 
and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth." 
(Kom. xiv. 3.) You see here how the Apostle blames those 
who, not from religious feeling, but in mere contempt, neglect 
and rail at ceremonial observances ; and teaches them not to 


despise, since this " knowledge puffeth up." Again he teaches 
the pertinacious upholders of these things not to judge their 
opponents. For neither party observes towards the other that 
charity which edifieth. In this matter we must listen to 
Scripture, which teaches us to turn aside neither to the right 
hand nor to the left, but to follow those right precepts of the 
Lord which rejoice the heart. For just as a man is not 
righteous, merely because he serves and devotes himself to 
works and ceremonial rites, so neither will he be accounted 
righteous, merely because he neglects and despises them. 

It is not from works that we are set free by the faith of 
Christ, but from the belief in works, that is, from foolishly 
presuming to seek justification through works. Faith redeems 
our consciences, makes them upright and preserves them, since 
by it we recognise the truth that justification does not depend 
on our works, although good works neither can nor ought to be 
wanting to it ; just as we cannot exist without food and drink 
and all the functions of this mortal body. Still it is not 
on them that our justification is based, but on faith; and yet 
they ought not on that account to be despised or neglected. 
Thus in this world we are compelled by the needs of this 
bodily life ; but we are not hereby justified. " My kingdom is 
not hence, nor of this world," says Christ ; but He does not 
say : " My kingdom is not here, nor in this world." Paul too 
says : " Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the 
flesh " (2 Cor. x. 3) ; and : " The life which I now live in the 
flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." (Gal. ii. 20.) 
Thus our doings, life, and being, in works and ceremonies, are 
done from the necessities of this life, and with the motive of 
governing our bodies ; but yet we are not justified by these 
things, but by the faith of the Son of God. 

The Christian must therefore walk in the middle path, and 
set these two classes of men before his eyes. He may meet 
with hardened and obstinate ceremonialists, who, like deaf 
adders, refuse to listen to the truth of liberty, and cry up, 
enjoin, and urge on us their ceremonies, as if they could justify 
us without faith. Such were the Jews of old, who would not 
understand, that they might act well. These men we must 
resist, do just the contrary to what they do, and be bold to give 
them offence ; lest by this impious notion of theirs they should 

k 2 


deceive many along with themselves. In the sight of these 
men it is expedient to eat flesh, to break fasts, and to do in 
behalf of the liberty of faith things which they hold to be the 
greatest sins. We must say of them : "Let them alone ; they 
be blind leaders of the blind." (Matt. xv. 14.) In this way 
Paul also would not have Titus circumcised, though these men 
urged it ; and Christ defended the Apostles, who had plucked 
ears of corn on the Sabbath day ; and many like instances. 

Or else we may meet with simple-minded and ignorant 
persons, weak in the faith, as the Apostle calls them, who are 
as yet unable to apprehend that liberty of faith, even if willing 
to do so. These we must spare, lest they should be offended. 
We must bear with their infirmity, till they shall be more fully 
instructed. For since these men do not act thus from hardened 
malice, but only from weakness of faith, therefore, in order to 
avoid giving them offence, we must keep fasts and do other 
things which they consider necessary. This is required of us 
by charity, which injures no one, but serves all men. It is not 
the fault of these persons that they are weak, but that of their 
pastors, who by the snares and weapons of their own traditions 
have brought them into bondage, and wounded their souls, 
when they ought to have been set free and healed by the 
teaching of faith and liberty. Thus the Apostle says: "If 
meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the 
world standeth." (1 Cor. viii. 13.) And again : " I know, and 
am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean 
of itself ; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to 
him it is unclean. It is evil for that man who eateth with 
offence." (Eom. xiv. 14, 20.) 

Thus, though we ousfht boldlv to resist those teachers of 
tradition, and though those laws of the pontiffs, by which they 
make aggressions on the people of God, deserve sharp reproof, 
yet we must spare the timid crowd, who are held captive by the 
laws of those impious tyrants, till they are set free. Fight 
vigorously against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not 
against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing 
against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same time 
observing these laws with the weak, lest they be offended ; 
until they shall themselves recognise the tyranny as such, and 
understand their own liberty. If you wish to use your liberty, 


do it secretly, as Paul says : " Hast thou faith ? have it to thy- 
self before God." (Bom. xiv. 22.) But take care not to use 
'it in the presence of the weak. On the other hand, in the 
presence of tyrants and obstinate opposers, use your liberty in 
their despite, and with the utmost pertinacity, that they too 
may understand that they themselves are tyrants, and their 
laws useless for justification ; nay, that they had no right to 
establish such laws. 

Since, then, we cannot live in this world without ceremonies 
and works ; since the hot and inexperienced period of youth has 
need of being restrained and protected by such bonds ; and 
since everyone is bound to keep under his own body by 
attention to these things ; therefore the minister of Christ 
must be prudent and faithful in so ruling and teaching the 
people of Christ in all these matters that no root of bitterness 
may spring up among them, and so many be denied, as Paul 
warned the Hebrews ; that is, that they may not lose the faith, 
and begin to be defiled by a belief in works, as the means of 
justification. This is a thing which easily happens, and defiles 
very many, unless faith be constantly inculcated along with 
works. It is impossible to avoid this evil, when faith is passed 
over in silence, and only the ordinances of men are taught, as 
has been done hitherto by the pestilent, impious, and soul- 
destroying traditions of our pontiffs, and opinions of our theo- 
logians. An infinite number of souls have been drawn down to 
hell by these snares, so that you may recognise the work of 

In brief, as poverty is imperilled amid riches, honesty amid 
business, humility amid honours, abstinence amid feasting, 
purity amid pleasures, so is justification by faith imperilled 
among ceremonies. Solomon says : " Can a man take fire in 
his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? " (Prov. vi. 27.) And 
yet, as we must live among riches, business, honours, pleasures, 
feastings, so must we among ceremonies, that is, among perils. 
Just as infant boys have the greatest need of being cherished 
in the bosoms and by the care of girls, that they may not die ; 
and yet, when they are grown, there is peril to their salvation 
in living among girls ; so inexperienced and fervid young men 
require to be kept in and restrained by the barriers of cere- 
monies, even were they of iron, lest their weak mind should 


rush headlong into vice. And yet it would be death to them 
to persevere in believing that they can be justified by these 
things. They must rather be taught that they have been thus 
imprisoned, not with the purpose of their being justified or 
gaining merit in this way, but in order that they might avoid 
wrong doing, and be more easily instructed in that righteous- 
ness which is by faith ; a thing which the headlong character 
of youth would not bear, unless it were put under restraint. 

Hence in the Christian life ceremonies are to be no other- 
wise looked upon than builders and workmen look upon those 
preparations for building or working which are not made with 
any view of being permanent or anything in themselves, but only 
because without them there could be no building and no work. 
When the structure is completed, they are laid aside. Here 
you see that we do not contemn these preparations, but set 
the highest value on them ; a belief in them we do contemn, 
because no one thinks that they constitute a real and permanent 
structure. If any one were so manifestly out of his senses 
as to have no other object in life but that of setting up 
these preparations with all possible expense, diligence, and 
perseverance, while he never thought of the structure itself, 
but pleased himself and made his boast of these useless prepa- 
rations and props ; should we not all pity his madness, and 
think that, at the cost thus thrown away, some great building 
might have been raised ? 

Thus too we do not contemn works and ceremonies ; nay, we 
set the highest value on them ; but we contemn the belief in 
works, which no one should consider to constitute true right- 
jeousness ; as do those hypocrites who employ and throw away 
(their whole life in the pursuit of works, and yet never attain 
to that for the sake of which the works are done. As the 
Apostle says, they are " ever learning, and never able to come 
to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. iii. 7). They appear 
to wish to build, they make preparations, and yet they never 
do build ; and thus they continue in a show of godliness, but 
never attain to its power. 

Meanwhile they please themselves with this zealous pursuit, 
and even dare to judge all others, whom they do not see adorned 
with such a glittering display of works ; while, if they had been 
imbued with faith, they might have done great things for their 


own and others' salvation, at the same cost which they now 
waste in abuse of the gifts of God. But since human nature 
and natural reason, as they call it, are naturally superstitious, 
and quick to believe that justification can be attained by any 
laws or works proposed to them ; and since nature is also 
exercised and confirmed in the same view by the practice of all 
earthly lawgivers, she can never, of her own power, free herself 
from this bondage to works, and come to a recognition of the 
liberty of faith. 

We have therefore need to pray that God will lead us, and 
make us taught of God, that is, ready to learn from God ; and 
will Himself, as He has promised, write His law in our hearts ; 
otherwise there is no hope for us. For unless He himself teach 
us inwardly this wisdom hidden in a mystery, nature cannot but 
condemn it and judge it to be heretical. She takes offence at 
it and it seems folly to her ; just as we see that it happened of 
old in the case of the prophets and apostles ; and just as blind 
and impious pontiffs, with their flatterers, do now in my case 
and that of those who are like me ; upon whom, together with 
ourselves, may God at length have mercy, and lift up the 
light of His countenance upon them, that we may know His 
way upon earth and His saving health among all nations, Who 
is blessed for evermore. Amen. In the year of the Lord 



( 141 ) 




Martin Luther, of the Order of St. Augustine, salutes his 
friend Hermann Tulichius. 

Whether I will or not, I am compelled to become more 
learned day by day, since so many great masters vie with each 
other in urging me on and giving me practice. I wrote about 
indulgences two years ago, but now I extremely regret having 
published that book. At that time I was still involved in a 
great and superstitious respect for the tyranny of Koine, which 
led me to judge that indulgences were not to be totally 
rejected, seeing them, as I did, to be approved by so general a 
consent among men. And no wonder, for at that time it was I 
alone who was rolling this stone. Afterwards, however, with the 
kind aid of Sylvester and the friars, who supported indulgences 
so strenuously, I perceived that they were nothing but mere 
impostures of the flatterers of Koine, whereby to make away with 
the faith of God and the money of men. And I wish I could 
prevail upon the booksellers, and persuade all who have read 
them, to burn the whole of my writings on indulgences, and in 
place of all I have written about them to adopt this proposition : 
Indulgences are wicked devices of the flatterers of Rome. 

After this, Eccius and Emser, with their fellow-conspirators, 
began to instruct me concerning the primacy of the Pope. 
Here too, not to be ungrateful to such learned men, I must 
confess that their works helped me on greatly ; for, while I 
had denied that the Papacy had any divine right, I still 
admitted that it had a human right. But after hearing and 
' - reading the super-subtle subtleties of those coxcombs, by which 
they so ingeniously set up their idol — my mind being not 
entirely unteachable in such matters — I now know and am sure 


that the Papacy is the kingdom of Babylon, and the power of 
Nirnrod the mighty hunter. Here moreover, that all may go 
prosperously with my friends, I entreat the booksellers, and 
entreat my readers, to burn all that I have published on this 
subject, and to hold to the following proposition : 

The Papacy is the mighty hunting of the Bishop of Eome. 

This is proved from the reasonings of Eccius, of Emser, and 
of the Leipzig lecturer on the Bible. 

At the present time they are playing at schooling me con- 
cerning communion in both kinds, and some other subjects of 
the greatest importance. I must take pains not to listen in 
vain to these philosophical guides of mine. A certain Italian 
friar of Cremona has written a " Kevocation of Martin Luther to 
the Holy See " — that is to say, not that I revoke, as the words 
imply, but that he revokes me. This is the sort of Latin that 
the Italians nowadays are beginning to write. Another friar, 
a German of Leipzig, Lecturer, as you know, on the whole 
canon of the Bible, has written against me concerning the 
Sacrament in both kinds, and is about, as I hear, to do still 
greater and wonderful wonders. The Italian indeed has 
cautiously concealed his name ; perhaps alarmed by the 
examples of Cajetan and Sylvester. The man of Leipzig, 
however, as befits a vigorous and fierce German, has set forth 
in a number of verses on his title-page, his name, his life, his 
sanctity, his learning, his office, his glory, his honour, almost 
his very shoe-lasts. From him no doubt I shall learn not a 
little, since he writes a letter of dedication to the very Son 
of God ; so familiar are these saints with Christ, who reigns in 
heaven. In short, three magpies seem to be addressing me, one, 
a Latin one, well ; another, a Greek one, still better ; the third, 
a Hebrew one, best of all. What do you think I have to do 
now, my dear Hermann, but to prick up my ears ? The matter 
is handled at Leipzig by the Observants of the Holy Cross. 

Hitherto I have foolishly thought that it would be an 
excellent thing, if it were determined by a General Council, that 
both kinds in the Sacrament should be administered to the 
laity. To correct this opinion, this more than most learned 
friar says that it was neither commanded nor decreed, whether 
by Christ or by the Apostles, that both kinds should be 
administered to the laity ; and that it has therefore been left 


to the judgment of the Church, which we are bound to obey, 
what should be done or left undone on this point. Thus 
speaks he. You ask, perhaps, what craze has possession of the 
man, or against whom he is writing ; since I did not condemn 
the use of one kind, and did leave it to the judgment of the 
Church to ordain the use of both kinds. And this he himself 
endeavours to assert, with the object of combating me by this 
very argument. I reply, that this kind of argument is a 
familiar one with all who write against Luther; namely, either 
to assert the very thing which they attack, or to set up a 
figment that they may attack it. Thus did Sylvester, Eccius, 
Emser, the men of Cologne too, and those of Louvain. If this 
friar had gone back from their spirit, he would not have 
written against Luther. 

A greater piece of good fortune, however, has befallen this 
man than any of the others. Whereas he intended to prove 
that the use of one kind had neither been commanded nor 
decreed, but left to the decision of the Church, he brings 
forward Scriptures to prove that, by the command of Christ, 
the use of one kind was ordained for the laity. Thus it is 
true, according to this new interpreter of Scripture, that the 
use of one kind was not commanded, and at the same time was 
commanded, by Christ. You know how specially those logicians 
of Leipzig employ this new kind of argument. Does not 
Emser also, after having professed in his former book to 
speak fairly about me, and after having been convicted by me 
of the foulest envy and of base falsehoods, confess, when 
about to confute me in his later book, that both were true, and 
that he had written of me in both an unfair and a fair spirit ? 
A good man indeed, as you know ! 

But listen to our specious advocate of one species, in whose 
mind the decision of the Church and the command of Christ 
are the same thing ; and again the command of Christ and the 
absence of his command are the same thing. With what 
dexterity he proves that only one kind should be granted to 
the laity, by the command of Christ, that is, by the decision of 
the Church ! He marks it with capital letters in this way, 
" AN INFALLIBLE FOUNDATION." Next he handles with 
incredible wisdom the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, 
in which Christ speaks of the bread of heaven and the bread of 


life, which is Himself. These words this most learned man not 
only misapplies to the Sacrament of the Altar, but goes farther, 
and, because Christ said : " I am the living bread," and not : 
" I am the living cup," he concludes that in that passage the 
sacrament in only one kind was appointed for the laity. But 
the words that follow : " My flesh is meat indeed, and my 
blood is drink indeed ; " and again, " Unless ye eat the flesh of 
the Son of Man and drink his blood" — since it was evident to 
this friar's brains that they tell irrefutably in favour of 
reception in both kinds, and against that in one kind — he 
evades very happily and learnedly in this way : " That Christ 
meant nothing else by these words, than that he who should 
receive one kind, should receive under this both the body and 
the blood." This he lays down as his infallible foundation of a 
structure so worthy of holy and heavenly reverence. 

Learn now, along with me, from this man, that in the sixth 
chapter of St. John Christ commands reception in one kind, 
but in such a manner that this commanding means leaving the 
matter to the decision of the Church ; and further, that Christ 
in the same chapter speaks of the laity only, not of the 
presbyters. For to us this living bread from heaven, that is, 
the sacrament in one kind, does not belong, but^ perchance the 
bread of death from hell. Now what is to be done with the 
deacons and sub- deacons ? As they are neither laymen nor 
priests, they ought, on this distinguished authority, to use 
neither one nor both kinds. You understand, my dear 
Tulichius, this new and observant manner of handling Scripture. 
But you must also learn this, that Christ, in the sixth chapter 
of St. John, is speaking of the sacrament of the Eucharist ; 
though He Himself teaches us that He is speaking of faith in 
the incarnate word, by saying : " This is the work of Grod, that 
ye believe in him whom He hath sent." But this Leipzig 
professor of the Bible must be permitted to prove whatever he 
pleases out of any passage of Scripture he pleases. For he is 
an Anaxagorean, nay, an Aristotelian theologian, to whom 
names and words when transposed mean the same things and 
everything. Throughout his whole book he so fits together 
the testimonies of Scripture, that, if he wishes to prove that 
Christ is in the sacrament, he ventures to begin thus : " The 
Lesson of the book of the Eevelation of the blessed John." And 


as suitably as this would be said, so suitably does be say 
everything, and thinks, like a wise man, to adorn his ravings 
by the number of passages he brings forward. \ I 

I pass over the rest, that I may not quite kill you with the 1/ 
" v dregs of this most offensive drain. Lastly he adduces Paul 
(1 Cor. xi.), who says that he had received from the Lord 
and had delivered to the Corinthians the use both of the 
bread and of the cup. Here again, as everywhere else, our 
advocate of one species handles the Scriptures admirably, and 
teaches that in that passage Paul permitted — not " delivered " 
— the use of both kinds. Do you ask how he proves it ? Out 
of his own head, as in the case of the sixth chapter of John ; 
for it does not become this lecturer to give a reason for what 
he says, since he is one of those whose proofs and teachings all 
come from their own visions. Here then we are taught that 
the Apostle in that passage did not write to the whole church 
of Corinth, but only to the laity, and that therefore he gave no 
permission to the priests, but that they were deprived of the 
whole sacrament ; and next, that, by a new rule of grammar, 
" I have received from the Lord " means the same thing as " It 
has been permitted by the Lord ; " and "I delivered to you" the 
same thing as " I permitted to you." I beg you especially to 
note this. For it follows hence that not only the Church, but 
every worthless fellow anywhere will be at liberty, under the 
teaching of this master, to turn into permissions the whole 
body of the commandments, institutions, and ordinances of 
Christ and the Apostles. 

I see that this man is possessed by an angel of Satan, and 
that those who act in collusion with him are seeking to obtain 
a name in the world through me, as being worthy to contend 
with Luther. But this hope of theirs shall be disappointed, 
and, in my contempt for them, I shall leave them for ever 
unnamed, and shall content myself with this one answer to the 
whole of their books. If they are worthy that Christ should 
bring them back to a sound mind, I pray him to do so in his 
mercy. If they are not worthy of this, then I pray that they 
may never cease to write such books, and that the enemies of 
the truth may not be permitted to read any others. It is a 
common and true saying : " This I know for certain, that if I 
fight with filth, whether I conquer or am conquered, I 


am sure to be defiled." In the next place, as I see that they 
have plenty of leisure and of paper, I will take care that 
they shall have abundant matter for writing, and will keep in 
advance of them, so that while they, in the boastfulness of 
victory, are triumphing over some one heresy of mine, as it 
seems to them, I shall meanwhile be setting up a new one. 
For I too am desirous that these illustrious leaders in war 
should be adorned with many titles of honour. And so, while 
they are murmuring that I approve of communion in both 
kinds, and are most successfully engaged on this very important 
subject, so worthy of themselves, I shall go farther, and shall 
now endeavour to show that all who deny to the laitv com- 

/munion in both kinds are acting impiously. To do this the 
more conveniently, I shall make a first essay on the bondage of 
the Church of Eome ; with the intention of saying very much 
more in its own proper time, when those most learned papists 
shall have got the better of this book. 

This, moreover, I do in order that no pious reader who may 
meet with my book may be disgusted at the dross I have 
handled, and have reason to complain that he finds nothing 
to read which can cultivate or instruct his mind, or at least 
give occasion for instructive reflection. You know how dis- 
satisfied my friends are that I should occupy myself with the 
paltry twistings of these men. They say that the very 
reading of their books is an ample confutation of them, but 
that from me they look for better things, which Satan is 
trying to hinder by means of these men. I have determined 
to follow the advice of my friends, and to leave the business of 
wrangling and inveighing to those hornets. 

Of the Italian friar of Cremona I shall say nothing. He is a 

I simple and unlearned man, who is endeavouring to bring me 
v back by some thongs of rhetoric to the Holy See, from which I 
am not conscious of having ever withdrawn, nor has any one 
proved that I have. His principal argument in some ridiculous 
passages is, that I ought to be moved for the sake of my 
profession, and of the transfer of the imperial power to the 
Germans. He seems indeed altogether to have meant not so 
much to urge my return as to write the praises of the French 

j and of the Eoman pontiff, and he must be allowed to testify 

A > his obsequiousness to them by this little work, such as it is. 


He neither deserves to be handled severely, since he does not 
seem to be actuated by any malice, nor to be learnedly confuted, 
since through pure ignorance and inexperience he trifles with 
the whole subject. 

To begin. I must deny that there are seven Sacraments, **■" 
and must lay it down, for the time being, that there are only 
three, baptism, penance, and the bread, and that by the Court 
of Ebme all these have been brought into miserable bondage, 
and the Church despoiled of all her liberty. And yet, if I were 
to speak according to the usage of Scripture, I should hold that 
there was only one sacrament, and three sacramental signs. 1 ^1 
shall speak on this point more at length at the proper time ; 
but now I speak of the sacrament of the bread, the first of all 

I shall say then what advance I have made as the result of 
my meditations in the ministry of this sacrament. For at the 
time when I published a discourse on the Eucharist I was still 
involved in the common custom, and did not trouble myself 
either about the rightful or the wrongful power of the Pope. 
But now that I have been called forth and become practised in 
argument, nay, have been dragged by force into this arena, I 
shall speak out freely what I think. Let all the papists laugh 
or lament against me alone. 

In the first place, the sixth chapter of John must be set 
aside altogether, as not saying a single syllable about the 
sacrament ; not only because the sacrament had not yet been 
instituted, but much more because the very sequence of the 
discourse and of its statements shows clearly that Christ was 
speaking — as I have said before — of faith in the incarnate 
Word. For He says : " My words, they are spirit and they are 
life ; " showing that He was speaking of that spiritual eating, 
wherewith he who eats, lives ; while the Jews understood 
Him to speak of a carnal eating, and therefore raised a dispute. / 
But no eating gives life, except the eating of faith, for this is 
the really spiritual and living eating ; as Augustine says : 
" Why dost thou get ready thy stomach and thy teeth ? 
Believe, and thou hast eaten." A sacramental eating does not 
give life, for many eat unworthily, so that Christ cannot be 
understood to have spoken of the sacrament in this passage. 

There are certainly some who have misapplied these words 



to the sacrament, as did the writer of the decretals some time 
ago, and many others. It is one thing, however, to misapply 
the Scriptures, and another to take them in their legitimate 
sense ; otherwise, when Christ says : " Except ye eat my flesh, 
and drink my blood, ye have no life in you," He would be 
condemning all infants, all the sick, all the absent, and all 
who were hindered in whatever manner from a sacramental 
eating, however eminent their faith, if in these words He had 
meant to enjoin a sacramental eating. Thus Augustine, in his 
second book against Julianus, proves from Innocentius that 
even infants, without receiving the sacrament, eat the flesh 
and drink the blood of Christ ; that is, partake in the same 
faith as the Church. Let this then be considered as settled, 
that the sixth chapter of John has nothing to do with the 
matter. For which reason I have written elsewhere that the 
Bohemians could not rightfully depend upon this passage in 
their defence of reception in both kinds. 


There are ^twojmssages which treat in the clearest manner of 
this subject, and at which we shall look, — the statements in the 
Gospels respecting the Lord's Supper, and the words of Paul. 
(1 Cor. xi.) Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that Christ 
gave the whole sacrament to all His disciples ; and that Paul 
taught both parts of it is so certain, that no one has yet been 
shameless enough to assert the contrary. Add to this, that 
according to the relation of Matthew, Christ did not say 
concerning the bread, " Eat ye all of this," but did say con- 
cerning the cup, " Drink ye all of this." Mark also does not 
say, " they all ate," but " they all drank of it." Each writer 
~ attaches the mark of universality to the cup, not to the bread ; 
as if the Spirit foresaw the schism that should come, and 
should forbid to some that communion in the cup which Christ 
would have common to all. How furiously would they rave 
against us, if they had found the word " all " applied to the 
bread, and not to the cup. They would leave us no way of 
escape, would clamour us down, pronounce us heretics, condemn 


us as schismatics. But when the word stands on our side against 
thern, they allow themselves to he bound by no laws of logic, 
these men of freest will, whHe they change, and change again, 
and throw into utter confusion even the things which are 
of God. 

But suppose me to be standing on the other side and 
questioning my lords the papists. In the Supper of the Lord, 
the whole sacrament, or the sacrament in both kinds, was 
either given to the presbyters alone, or at the same time to the 
laity. If to the presbyters alone (for thus they will have it to 
be), then it is in no wise lawful that any kind should be given 
to the laity ; for it ought not to be rashly given to any, to 
whom Christ did not give it at the first institution. Other- 
--rwise, if we allow one of Christ's institutions to be changed, we 
make the whole body of His laws of no effect ; and any man 
may venture to say that he is bound by no law or institution 
of Christ. For in dealing with Scripture one special exception 
does away with any general statement. If on the other hand 
it was given to the laity as well, it inevitably follows, that 
reception in both kinds ought not to be denied to the laity ; 
and in denying it to them when they seek it, we act impiously, 
and contrary to the deed, example, and institution of Christ. 

I confess that I have been unable to resist this reasoning, 
and have neither read, heard of, nor discovered anything to be 
said on the other side, while the words and example of Christ 
stand unshaken, who says — not by way of permission, but of 
commandment — " Drink ye all of this." For if all are to drink 
of it, and this cannot be understood as said to the presbyters 
alone, then it is certainly an impious deed to debar the laity 
from it when they seek it, were it even an angel from heaven 
who did so. For what they say of its being left to the decision 
of the Church which kind should be administered, is said with- 
out rational ground, is alleged without authority, and is as 
easily contemned as proved ; nor can it avail against an 
adversary who opposes to us the word and deed of Christ, and 
whose blows must therefore be returned with the word of 
Christ ; and this we have not on our side. 

If, however, either kind can be denied to the laity, then by I 
the same decision of the Church a part of baptism or of 
penance might be taken from them, since in each case the 

l 2 


reason of the matter and the power are alike. Therefore as 
the whole of baptism and the whole of absolution are to be 
granted to all the laity, so is the whole sacrament of the bread, 
if they seek it. I am much astonished, however, at their 
assertion that it is wholly unlawful, under pain of mortal sin, 
for presbyters to receive only one kind in the mass ; and this 
for no other reason than that (as they all unanimously say) the ^_ 
two kinds form one full sacrament, which ought not to be ^ 
divided. Let them tell me, then, why it is lawful to divide it 
in the case of the laity, and why they alone should not be 
granted the entire sacrament. Do they not admit, on their 
own showing, that either both kinds ought to be granted to the 
laity, or that it is no lawful sacrament which is granted to them 
under one kind ? How can the one kind be a full sacrament 
in the case of the laity, and not a full one in the case of the ^ 
presbyters ? Why do they vaunt the decision of the Church and 
the power of the Pope in this matter ? The words of God and 
the testimonies of truth cannot thus be done away with. 

It follows further that, if the Church can take from the 
laity the one kind, the wine, she can also take from them the 
other kind, the bread, and thus might take from the laity the 
whole Sacrament of the Altar, and deprive the institution of 
Christ of all effect in their case. But, I ask, by what 
authority ? If, however, she cannot take away the bread, or 
both kinds, neither can she the wine. Nor can any possible 
argument on this point be brought against an opponent, since 
the Church must necessarily have the same power in regard to 
either kind as in regard to both kinds ; if she has it not as 
regards both kinds, she has it not as regards either. I should 
like to hear what the flatterers of Kome may choose to say on 
this point. 

But what strikes me most forcibly of all, and thoroughly 
convinces me, is that saying of Christ : " This is my blood, 
which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins." 
Here you see most clearly that the blood is given to all for 
whose sins it is shed. Now who will dare to say that it was 
not shed for the laity ? Do you not see who it is that He 
addresses as He gives the cup ? Does He not give it to all ? 
Does He not say that it was shed for all ? " For you," He says. 
Let us grant that these are priests. " And for many," He 


continues. These cannot be priests ; and yet He says : " Drink 
ye all of it." I also could easily trifle on this point, and turn 
the words of Christ into a mockery by my words, as that trifler 
my opponent does. But those who rest upon the Scriptures 
in arguing against us, must be refuted by the Scriptures. 
These are the reasons which have kept me from condemning 
the Bohemians, who, whether they be good or bad men, 
certainly have the words and deeds of Christ on their side, 
while we have neither, but only that idle device of men : " 'I he 
Church hath thus ordered it ; " while it was not the Church, 
but the tyrants of the churches, without the consent of the 
Church, that is, of the people of God, who have thus ordered it. 

Now where, I ask, is the necessity, where is the religious 
obligation, where is the use, of denying to the laity reception 
in both kinds, that is, the visible sign, when all men grant 
them the reality of the sacrament without the sign ? If they 
grant the reality, which is the greater, why do they not 
grant the sign, which is the less ? For in every sacrament the 
sign, in so far as it is a sign, is incomparably less than the reality 
itself. What then, I ask, should hinder the granting of the 
lesser thing, when the greater is granted ; unless indeed, as it 
seems to me, this has happened by the permission of God in 
His anger, to be the occasion of a schism in the Church ; and 
to show that, having long ago lost the reality of the sacrament, 
we are fighting on behalf of the sign, which is the lesser thing, 
against the reality, which is the greatest and only important 
thing ; just as some persons fight on behalf of ceremonies 
against charity. This monstrous perversion appears to have 
begun at the same time at which we began in our folly to 
set Christian charity at nought for the sake of worldly riches, 
that God might show by this terrible proof that we think 
signs of greater consequence than the realities themselves. 
What perversity it would be, if you were to concede that the 
faith of baptism is granted to one seeking baptism, and yet 
deny him the sign of that very faith, namely, water. 

Last of all stand the irrefutable words of Paul, which must 
close every mouth (1 Cor. xi.) : "I have received of the Lord 
that which also I delivered unto you." He does not say, as this 
friar falsely asserts out of his own head, " I permitted to you." 
Nor is it true that he granted the Corinthians reception in 


both kinds on account of the contentions among them. In the 
first place, as the text itself shows, the contention was not 
about the reception in both kinds, but about the contemptuous- 
ness of the rich and the envy of the poor, as is clear from the 
text, which says : " One is hungry and another is drunken," and, 
" Ye shame them that have not." Then too he is not speaking 
of what he delivered as if it were for the first time. He does 
not say : " I receive from the Lord and I deliver to you," but 
" I have received and I have delivered," namely, at the 
beginning of his preaching, long before this contention arose, 
thus signifying that he had delivered to them the reception in 
both kinds. This " delivering " means " enjoining," as he 
o elsewhere uses the same word. Thus the smoke clouds of 
assertion which this friar heaps together concerning per- 
mission, without Scripture, without reason, and without cause, 
go for nothing. His opponents do not ask what his dreams 
are, but what the judgment of Scripture is on these points ; 
and out of it he can produce not a tittle in support of his 
dream, while they can bring forward so many thunderbolts in 
defence of their belief. 

Rise up then in one body, all ye flatterers of the Pope, be 
active, defend yourselves from the charge of impiety, tyranny, 
and treason against the Gospel, and wrongful calumniation of 
your brethreD, ye who proclaim as heretics those who cannot 
approve of the mere dreams of your brains, in opposition to 
such plain and powerful Scriptures. If either of the two are 
to be called heretics and schismatics, it is not the Bohemians, 
not the Greeks, since they take their stand on the Gospels ; 
1 but you Romans who are heretics and impious schismatics, you 
who presume upon your own figments alone, against the 
manifest teaching of the Scriptures of God. 

But what can be more ridiculous, or more worthy of the 
head of this friar, than to say that the Apostle wrote thus and 
gave this permission to a particular church, that of Corinth, 
but not to the universal Church ? Whence does he prove this ? 
Out of his usual store — his own impious head. When the 
universal Church takes this epistle as addressed to itself, reads 
it, and follows it in every respect, why not in this part of it ? 
If we admit that any one epistle of Paul, or one passage in any 
\ one epistle, does not concern the universal Church, we do 


away with the whole authority of Paul. The Corinthians 
might say that what he taught concerning faith, in writing to 
the Eornans, did not concern them. What could be more 
blasphemous or more mad than this mad idea ? Far be it from 
us to imagine that there can be one tittle in the whole of Paul, 
which the whole of the universal Church ought not to imitate 
and keep. Not thus thought the Fathers, nor any until these 
perilous times, in which Paul foretold that there should be 
blasphemers, blind and senseless men ; among whom this friar 
is one, or even the foremost. 

But let us grant this intolerably wild assertion. If Paul 
gave permission to a particular church, then, on your own 
showing, the Greeks and the Bohemians are acting rightly, for 
they are particular churches, and therefore it is enough that 
they are not acting against the' teaching of Paul, who at least 
gives them permission. Furthermore, Paul had not power to 
permit of anything contrary to the institution of Christ. 
Therefore, on behalf of the Greeks and the Bohemians, I set up 
these sayings of Christ and of Paul against thee, Borne, and all 
thy flatterers ; nor canst thou show that power has been given 
thee to change these things by one hair's breadth ; much less to 
accuse others of heresy, because they disregard thy presump- 
tuous pretensions. It is thou who deservest to be accused of 
impiety and tyranny. 

We also read the words of Cyprian, who by himself is 
powerful enough to stand against all the Bomanists, and who 
testifies in his discourse concerning the lapsed in the fifth book, 
that it had been the custom in that church for both kinds to be 
administered to laymen and even to children ; yea, for the body 
of the Lord to be given into their hands ; as he shows by many 
instances. Among other things he thus reproves some of the 
people : " And because he does not immediately receive the body 
of the Lord with unclean hands, or drink the blood of the Lord 
with polluted mouth, he is angry with the priests as sacrile- 
gious." You see that he is here speaking of certain sacrilegious 
laymen, who wished to receive from the priests the body and the 
blood. Have you here, wretched flatterer, anything to gabble ? 
Say that this holy martyr, this teacher of the Church, so highly 
endowed with the apostolic spirit, was a heretic, and availed 
himself of a permission in his particular church ! 


He relates in the same place an incident which had oc- 
curred in his own sight and presence, when he writes in the 
plainest terms that as deacon he had given the cup to an infant 

m , girl, and when the child struggled against it, had even 
• poured the blood of the Lord into its mouth. We read the 
same thing of St. Donatus, whose broken cup how dully does 
this wretched flatterer try to get rid of. " I read," he says, 
" that the cup was broken, I do not read that the blood was 
given." What wonder that he who perceives in the Holy 
Scriptures what he wills to perceive, should also read in his- 
torical narratives what he wills to read ! But can he in this 
way at all establish the power of the Church to decide, or can 
he thus confute heretics ? But enough said on this subject ; 
for I did not begin this treatise in order to answer one who is 
unworthy of an answer, but in order to lay open the truth of 
the matter. 

I conclude, then, that to deny reception in both kinds to the 
laity is an act of impiety and tyranny, and one not in the 
power of any angel, much less of any Pope or Council what- 
ever. Nor do I care for the Council of Constance, for, if its 
authority is to prevail, why should not also that of the Council 
of Basle, which decreed on the other hand that the Bohemians 
should be allowed to receive in both kinds ? a point which was 
carried there after long discussion, as the extant annals and 
documents of that Council prove. This fact that ignorant 
flatterer brings forward on behalf of his own dreams, so wisely 
does he handle the whole matter. 

— The first bondage, then, of this sacrament is as regards its 
substance or completeness, which the tyranny of Rome has 
wrested from us. Not that they sin against Christ, who use 
one kind only, since Christ has not commanded the use of any, 
but has left it to the choice of each individual, saying : " This 
do ye, as oft as ye shall do it, in remembrance of me ; " but 
they sin who forbid that both kinds should be given to those 
who desire to use this freedom of choice, and the fault is not in 
the laity, but in the priests. The sacrament does not belong to 
the priests, but to all ; nor are the priests lords, but servants, 
whose duty it is to give both kinds to those who seek them, as 
often as they seek them. If they have snatched this right from 
the laity, and forcibly denied, it to them, they are tyrants, and 


the laity are free from blame, whether they go without one or 

both kinds ; for meanwhile they will be saved by their faith, 

and by their desire for a complete sacrament. So too the 

ministers themselves are bound to grant baptism and absolution 

to him who seeks them ; if they do not grant them, the seeker 

has the full merit of his own faith, while they will be accused 

before Christ as wicked servants. Thus of old the holy Fathers 

in the desert passed many years without communicating in 

either kind of the sacrament. 

Y I am not, therefore, advocating the seizing by force on both 

kinds, as if we were of necessity commanded and compelled to 

receive them, but I am instructing the conscience, that every 

v man may endure the tyranny of Eome, knowing that he has 

been forcibly deprived of his right in the sacrament on account 

of his sins. This only I would have, that none should justify 

the tyranny of Eome, as if she had done right in denying one 

kind to the laity, but that we should abhor it, and withhold 

our consent from it, though we may bear it, just as if we were 

in bondage with the Turk, where we should not be at liberty to 

use either kind. For this reason I have said that it would be 

a fine thing, in my opinion, if this bondage were done away 

with by the decree of a general council, and Christian liberty 

restored to us out of the hands of the tyrant of Eome ; and if 

to each man were left his own free choice about seeking and 

using it, as it is left in the case of baptism and penance. Now, 

however, by the same tyranny, he compels one kind to be 

received year by year ; so extinct is the liberty granted us by 

Christ, and such are the deserts of our impious ingratitude. 

The other bondage of the same sacrament is a milder one, , 
inasmuch as it regards the conscience, but one which it is byi 
far the most perilous of all things to touch, much more tol 
condemn. Here I shall be a Wicklifnte, and a heretic under; 
six hundred names. What then ? Since the Bishop of Eome hasi 
ceased to be a bishop and has become a tyrant, I fear absolutely; 
none of his decrees, since I know that neither he, nor even a 
general council, has power to establish new articles of the faith. 

Formerly, when I was imbibing the scholastic theology, my 
lord the Cardinal of Cambray gave me occasion for reflection, by 
arguing most acutely, in the fourth book of the Sentences, that 
it would be much more probable, and that fewer superfluous 



miracles would have to be introduced, if real bread and real 
wine, and not only their accidents, were understood to be upon 
the altar, unless the Church had determined the contrary. 
Afterwards, when I saw what the church was, which had thus 
determined, namely, the Thomistic, that is, the Aristotelian 
Church, I became bolder, and whereas I had been before in 
great straits of doubt, I now at length established my con- 
science in the former opinion, namely, that there were real 
bread and real wine, in which were the real flesh and real 
blood of Christ, in no other manner and in no less degree than 
the other party assert them to be under the accidents. And 
this I did, because I saw that the opinions of the Thomists, 
whether approved by the Pope or by a council, remained 
opinions, and did not become articles of the faith, even were an 
angel from heaven to decree otherwise. For that which is 
asserted without the support of the Scriptures, or of an 
approved revelation, it is permitted to hold as an opinion, but 
it is not necessary to believe. Now this opinion of Thomas is 
so vague, and so unsupported by the Scriptures, or by reason, 
that he seems to me to have known neither his philosophy nor 
his logic. For Aristotle speaks of accidents and subject very 
differently from St. Thomas ; and it seems to me that we 
ought to be sorry for so great a man, when we see him striving, 
not only to draw his opinions on matters of faith from Aristotle, 
but to establish them upon an authority whom he did not 
understand ; a most unfortunate structure raised on a most 
unfortunate foundation. 

I quite consent then that whoever chooses to hold either 
opinion should do so. My only object now is to remove scruples 
of conscience, so that no man may fear being guilty of heresy, if 
he believes that real bread and real wine are present on the 
altar. Let him know that he is at liberty, without peril to his 
salvation, to imagine, think, or believe in either of the two 
ways, since here there is no necessity of faith. In the first 
place, I will not listen to those, or make the slightest account 
of them, who will cry out that this doctrine is Wickliffite, 
Hussite, heretical, and opposed to the decisions of the Church. 
None will do this but those whom I have convicted of being 
themselves in many ways heretical, in the matter of indulg- 
ences, of free will and the grace of God, of good works and 


sins, etc. If Wickliff was once a heretic, they are themselves 
ten times heretics, and it is an excellent thing to be blamed 
and accused by heretics and perverse sophists, since to please 
them would be the height of impiety. Besides, they can give 
no other proof of their own opinions, nor have they any other 
way of disproving the contrary ones, than by saying : " This is 
Wicklifnte, Hussite, heretical." This feeble argument, and no 
other, is always at the tip of their tongue ; and if you ask for 
Scripture authority, they say : " This is our opinion, and the 
Church has decided it thus." To such an extent do men who are 
reprobate concerning the faith, and unworthy of belief, dare to 
propose to us their own fancies, under the authority of the 
Church, as articles of the faith. 

There is, however, very much to be said for my opinion ; 
in the first place this — that no violence ought to be done to 
the words of God, neither by man, nor by angel, but that, as far 
as possible, they ought to be kept to their simplest meanings 
and not to be taken, unless the circumstances manifestl 
compel us to do so, out of their grammatical and propel 
signification, that we may not give our adversaries an 
opportunity of evading the teaching of the whole Scripture 
For this reason the ideas of Origen were rightly rejected, when, 
in contempt of the plain grammatical meaning, he turned the 
trees, and all other objects described as existing in Paradise, 
into allegories ; since hence it might be inferred that trees 
were not created by God. So in the present case, since the 
Evangelists write clearly that Christ took bread and blessed it, 
and ^since the book of Acts and the Apostle Paul also call itJ 
bread, real bread and real wine must be understood, just as the 
cup was real. For oven these men _do_not sa^that ^he cugjs, 
transubstantiated. Since then it is not necessary to lay it 
downThatTa transubstantiation is effected by the operation of 
divine power, it must be held as a figment of human opinion ; 
for it rests on no support of Scripture or of reason. It is J 
forcing on us a novel and absurd usage of words, to take bread as 
meaning the form or accidents of bread, and wine as the form 
or accidents of wine. Why do they not take all other things as 
forms or accidents ? Even if everything else were consistent 
with this idea, it would not be lawful thus to enfeeble the word 
of God, and to deprive it so unjustly of its proper meaning. 


The Church, however, kept the right faith for more than* 
\. twelve centuries, nor did the holy EaJLh£rs_ever or anywJiexe| 
make menti on of t his transubstantiation (a portentousjKord-and \ 
dream indeed), untlPtlie counterfeit Aristotelian philosophy 
began to make its inroads on the Church within these last 
three hundred years, during which many other erroneous 
conclusions have also been arrived at, such as : — that the 
Divine essence is neither generated nor generates; that the 
soul is the substantial form of the human body ; and other 
like assertions, which are made absolutely without reason or 
cause, as the Cardinal of Cambray himself confesses. 

They will say, perhaps, that we shall be in peril of idolatry if 
we do not admit that bread and wine are not really there. This 
is truly ridiculous, for the laity have never learnt the subtle 
philosophical distinction between substance and accidents ; nor, 
if they were taught it, could they understand it ; and there is 
the same peril, if we keep the accidents, which they see, as in 
the case of the substance, which they do not see. For if it 
is not the accidents which they adore, but Christ concealed 
under them, why should they adore the substance, which they 
do not see ? 

But why should not Christ be able to include His body 
within the substance of bread, as well as within the accidents ? 
i and iron, two different substances, are so mingled in red- 
hot iron, that every part of it is both fire and iron. Why may 
not the glorious body of Christ much more be in every part of 
the substance of the bread ? 

Christ is believed to have been born of the inviolate womb 
of his mother. In this case too let them say that the flesh of 
the Virgin was for a time annihilated ; or, as they will have it 
to be more suitably expressed, transubstantiated, that Christ 
might be enwrapped in its accidents, and at length come forth 
through its accidents. The same will have to be said respecting 
the closed door and the closed entrance of the tomb, through 
both of which He entered, and went out without injury to them. 
But hence has sprung that Babylon of a philosophy concerning 
continuous quantity, distinct from substance, till things have 
come to such a point, that they themselves do not know what 
are accidents, and what is substance. For who has ever 
proved to a certainty that heat and cold, colour, light, weight, 


and form are accidents? Lastly they have been driven to 
pretend that Grod creates a new substance additional to those 
accidents on the altar, on account of the saying of Aristotle, 
that the essence of an accident is to be in something ; and 
have been led to an infinity of monstrous ideas, from all of 
which they would be free, if they simply allowed the bread on 
the altar to be real bread. I rejoice greatly, that at least 
among the common people there remains a simple faith in this 
sacrament. They neither understand nor argue whether there 
are accidents in it or substance, but believe with simple faith 
that the body and blood of Christ are truly contained in it, 
leaving to these men of leisure the task of arguing as to what 
it contains. 

But perhaps they will say that we are taught by Aristotle 
that we must take the subject and predicate of an affirmative 
proposition to signify the same thing ; or, to quote the words 
> of that monster himself in the 6th book of his Metaphysics, 
" An affirmative proposition requires the composition of the 
extremes ;" which they explain as their signifying the same 
thing. Thus in the words, " This is my body," they say that 
we cannot take the subject to signify the bread, but the body 
of Christ. 

What shall we say to this? Whereas we are making 
Aristotle and human teachings tlfce censors of such sublime and 
divine matters, why do we not rather cast away these curious 
enquiries ; and simply adhere to the words of Christ, willing to 
be ignorant of what is done in this sacrament, and content J 
to know that the real body of Christ is present in it by virtue] 
of the words of consecration ? Is it necessary to comprehend' 
altogether the manner of the Divine working ? 

But what do they say to Aristotle, who applies the term 
"subject" to all the categories of accidents, although he takes. 
the substance to be the first subject ? Thus, in his opinion, 
" this white," " this great," " this something," are subjects, 
because something is predicated of them. If this is true, 
and if it is necessary to lay down a doctrine of tran- 
substantiation in order that it may not be asserted of the 
bread that it is the body of Christ; why, I ask, is not a 
doctrine of transaccidentation also laid down, that it may not 
be affirmed of an accident that it is the body of Christ ? For 


the same danger remains, if we regard " this white thing," 
or " this round thing " as the subject. On whatever principle 
transubstantiation is taught, on the same ought transacci- 
dentation to be taught, on account of the two terms of the 
proposition, as is alleged, signifying the same thing. 

If, however, by a high effort of understanding, you make 
abstraction of the accident, and refuse to regard it as signified 
by the subject in saying : " This is my body," why can you not 
as easily rise above the substance of the bread, and refuse to 
let it be understood as signified by the subject ; so that " this 
is my body " may be true in the substance no less than in the 
accident ? Especially so since this is a divine work of almighty 
power, which can operate to the same extent and in the same 
way in the substance, as it can in the accident. 

But, not to philosophize too far, does not Christ appear to have 
met these curious enquiries in a striking manner, when He 
said concerning the wine, not, " Hoe est sanguis mens" but 
" Hie est sanguis meus." He speaks much more clearly still 
when He brings in the mention of the cup, saying : " This cup 
is the New Testament in my blood." (1 Cor. xi.) Does He 
not seem to have meant to keep us within the bounds of simple 
faith, just so far as to believe that His blood is in the cup ? 

/"if, for my part, I cannot understand how the bread can be the 
body of Christ, I will bring my understanding into captivity 
to the obedience of Christ, and firmly believe, in simple adher- 
ence to His word, not only that the body of Christ is in the 

\bread, but that the bread is the body of Christ. For so shall 
\ be kept safe by his words, where it is said : " Jesus took 
bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and said, Take, eat, this 
(that is, this bread, which He had taken and broken) is my 
body." Paul also says : " The bread which we break, is it not 
the communion of the body of Christ ? " He does not say that 
the communion is in the bread, but that the bread itself is the 
communion of the body of Christ. What if philosophy does 
not understand these things ? The Holy Spirit is greater than 
Aristotle. Does it even understand the transubstantiation 
which these men speak of, seeing that they themselves confess 
that all philosophy breaks down on this point ? The reason 
why, in the Greek and Latin, the pronoun this is referred to 
the body, is that the genders are alike ; but in the Hebrew, 


where there is no neuter gender, it is referred to the bread ; 
so that we might properly say : " This (bread) is my body." 
Both the usage of language and common sense prove that the 
subject points to the bread, and not to the body, when He 
says, Hoe est corpus meum, that is, this bread is my body. 

As then the case is with Christ Himself, so is it also with ^ 
sacrament. For it is not necessary to the bodily indwelling o\ 
the Godhead thaTthe "human n^ture'shouhT be transubstantiated,, 
that so the Godhead may be contained beneath the accidents 
of the human nature. But each nature is entire, and we can 
say with truth: This man is God ; this God is man. Though 
philosophy does not receive this, yet faith receives it, and 
greater is the authority of the word of God, than the capacity- 
of our intellect. Thus too in the sacrament, it is not neces- 
sary to the presence of the real body and real blood, that the 
bread and wine should be transubstantiated, so that Christ 
may be contained beneath the accidents ; but while both bread 
and wine continue there, it can be said with truth, " this breaj, 
is my body, this wine is my blood," and conversely. Thus 
will I understand this matter in honour of the holy words of 
God, which I will not allow to have violence done them by the 
petty reasonings of men, or to be distorted into meanings alien 
to them. I give leave, however, to others to follow the other 
opinion, which is distinctly laid down in the decretal, provided 
. only (as I have said) they do not press us to accept their 
! opinions as articles of faith. 

The third bondage of this same sacrament is that abuse of it 
■ — and by far the most impious — by which it has come about 
that at this day there is no belief in the Church more generally 
received or more firmly held than that the mass is a good 
work and a sacrifice. This abuse has brought in an infinite 
flood of other abuses, until faith in the sacrament has been j 
utterly lost, and they have made this divine sacrament a mere J ' 
subject of traffic, huckstering, and money-getting contracts./ 
Hence communions, brotherhoods, suffrages, merits, anni- 
versaries, memorials, and other things of that kind are bought 
and sold in the Church, and made the subjects of bargains and 
agreements ; and the entire maintenance of priests and monks 
depends upon these things. 

I am entering on an arduous task, and it may perhaps be 


impossible to uproot an abuse which, strengthened by the 
practice of so many ages, and approved by universal consent, 
as fixed itself so firmly among us, that the greater part of the 
ooks which have influence at the present day must needs be 
done away with, and almost the entire aspect of the churches 
be changed, and a totally different kind of ceremonies be 
brought in, or rather, brought back. But my Christ lives, and 
e must take heed to the word t>f God with greater care, than 
o all the intellects of men and angels. I will perform 
my part, will bring forth the subject into the light, and will 
impart the truth freely and ungrudgingly as I have received 
it. For the rest, let every one look to his own salvation ; I 
will strive, as in the presence of Christ my judge, that no man 
may be able to throw upon me the blame of his own unbelief 
and ignorance of the truth. 

Concerning the Sacrament of the Altar. To begin, — if we 
wish to attain safely and prosperously to the true and free 
knowledge of this sacrament, we must take the utmost care to 
put aside all that has been added by the zeal or the notions 
of men to the primitive and simple institution ; such as 
vestments, ornaments, hymns, prayers, musical instruments, 
lamps, and all the pomp of visible things ; and must turn our 
eyes and our attention only to the pure institution of Christ ; 
and set nothing else before us but those very words of Christ, 
with which He instituted and perfected that sacrament, and 
committed it to us. In that word, and absolutely in nothing 
else, lies the whole force, nature, and substance of the mass. 
All the rest are human notions, accessory to the word of 
Christ ; and the mass can perfectly well subsist and be kept up 
without them. Now the words in which Christ instituted this 
sacrament are as follows : — While they were at supper Jesus 
took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to His 
disciples, and said : " Take, eat ; this is my body which is given 
for you." And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it 
to them, saying : " Drink ye all of this ; this cup is the New 
Testament in my blood, which is shed for you and for many for 
the remission of sins ; do this in remembrance of me." 

These words the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. xi.) also delivers to 
us and explains at greater length. On these we must rest, and 
build ourselves up as on a firm rock, unless we wish to be 


earned about with every wind of doctrine, as we have hitherto 
been, through the impious teachings of men who pervert the 
truth. For in these words nothing has been omitted which 
pertains to the completeness, use, and profit of this sacrament ; 
and nothing laid down which it is superfluous or unnecessary 
for us to know. He who passes over these words in his medi- 
tations or teachings concerning the mass will teach monstrous 
impieties ; as has been done by those who have made an opus 
operatum and a sacrifice of it. 

Let this then stand as a first and infallible truth, that the 
mass or Sacrament of the Altar is the testament of Christ, ""* 
which He left behind Him at His death, distributing an inherit- p£S$ 
ance to those who believe in Him. For such are His words : | 
" This cup is the new testament in my blood." Let this truth, 
I say, stand as an immovable foundation, on which we shall 
erect all our arguments. You will see how we shall thus 
overthrow all the impious attacks of men on this sweetest 
sacrament. The truthful Christ, then, says with truth, that 
this is the new testament in His blood, shed for us. It is not 
without cause that I urge this ; the matter is no small one, but 
must be received into the depths of our minds. 

If then we enquire what a testament is, we shall also learn 
what the mass is; what are its uses, advantages, abuses. Aj j 
testajii^nlJs^certainlyj^promise made by a man about to die,/ J 
by" which he assigns his inheritance and appoints heirs. Thus/ / 
the idea of a testament implies, first, the death of the testator, ' 
and secondly, the promise of the inheritance, and the appoint- 
ment of an heir. In this way Paul (Rom. iv. ; Gal. iii., iv. ; 
Heb. ix.) speaks at some length of testaments. We also see 
this clearly in those words of Christ. Christ testifies of His 
own death, when He says : " This is my body which is given ; 
this is my blood which is shed." He assigns and points out 
the inheritance, when He says : " For the remission of sins." 
And He appoints heirs when He says : " For you and for 
many ; " that is, for those who accept and believe the promise 
of the testator ; for it is faith which makes us heirs, as we 
shall see. 

You see then that the mass — as we call it — is a promise of ~"^_ 
the remission of sins, made to us by God ; and such a promise 
as has been confirmed by the death of the Son of God. For a 



promise and a testament only differ in this, that a testament 
implies the death of the promiser. A testator is a promiser 
who is about to die ; and a promiser is, so to speak, a testator 
who is about to live. This testament of Christ was prefigured 
in all the promises of God from the beginning of the world ; 
yea ! whatsoever value the ancient promises had, lay in that 
new promise which was about to be made in Christ, and on 
which they depended. Hence the words, " agreement, cove- 
nant, testament of the Lord," are constantly employed in the 
Scriptures ; and by these it was implied that God was about to 
die. " For where a testament is, there must also of necessity 
be the death of the testator." (Heb. ix. 16.) God having 
made a testament, it was necessary that He should die. Now 
He could not die, unless He became a man ;. and thus in this 
one word " testament " the incarnation and the death of Christ 
are both comprehended. 

From all this it is now self-evident what is the use, and 
what the abuse, of the mass ; what is a worthy or an unworthy 
preparation for it. If, the mass is a promise, as we have said, 
we can approach to it by no works, no strength, no merits, but 
by faith alone. For where we have the word of God who 
promises, there we must have faith on the part of man who 
accepts ; and it is thus clear that the beginn ing- of our -~sal- 
v ation is f ai th, dependi ngjm thewor o^ of a p romising God, who, 
independently of any efforts~oT~ours7 prevents Us by" His free 
and undeserved mercy, and holds out to us the word of His 
promise. " He sent His word and healed them." (Ps. cvii. 20.) 
He did not receive our works and so save us. First of all 
comes the word of God ; th is is followed by faith, an d faith _h y 
love, which -in its turn does every good work, because it 
worketh no evil, yea, it is the fulfilling of the law. There is 
no other way in which man can meet or deal with God but by 
faith. It is not man by any works of his, but God, who by 
His own promise is the author of salvation ; so that everything 
depends, is contained, and preserved in the word of His power, 
by which He begot us, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of 4 
His creation. 

Thus, when Adam was to be raised up after the fall, God 
gave him a promise, saying to the serpent : "I will place 
enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed 


and her seed ; she shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise 
her heel." In this word of promise, Adam with his posterity 
was, as it were, borne in the bosom of God, and preserved by 
faith in Him ; waiting patiently for the woman who should 
bruise the head of the serpent, as God had promised. In this 
faith and waiting he died ; not knowing when and how the 
promise would be accomplished, but not doubting that it would 
be accomplished. For such a promise, being the truth of God, 
preserves even in hell those who believe and wait for it. This 
promise was followed by another, made to Noah ; the bow in 
the cloud being given as a sign of the covenant, believing in 
which he and his posterity found God propitious. After this, 
God promised to Abraham that in his seed all the kindreds of 
the earth should be blessed. This is that bosom of Abraham into 
which his posterity have been received. Lastly to Moses, and 
to the children of Israel, especially to David, God gave a most 
distinct promise of Christ ; and thus at length revealed what 
had been the meaning of the promise made to them of 
old time. 

Thus we come to the most perfect promise of all, that of the 
new Testament, in which life and salvation are freely promised 
in plain words, and are bestowed on those who believe the 
promise. Christ conspicuously distinguishes this testament 
from the old one, by calling it the " New Testament." The old 
testament given by Moses was a promise, not of remission of 
sins, nor of eternal blessings, but of temporal ones, namely, 
those of the land of Canaan ; and by it no one could be renewed 
in spirit, and fitted to receive a heavenly inheritance. Hence 
it was necessary that, as a figure of Christ, an unreasoning 
lamb should be slain, in the blood of which the same testament 
was confirmed ; thus, as is the blood, so is the testament ; as is 
the victim, so is the promise. Now Christ says, " The new 
testament in my blood," not in another's, but in His own blood, 
by which grace is promised through the Spirit for the remission 
of sins, that we may receive the inheritance. 

The mass then, as regards its substance, is properly nothing 
else than the aforesaid words of Christ, " Take, eat," etc. He 
seems to say : — " Behold, man, sinner and condemned as thou 
art, out of the pure and free love with which I love thee, 
according to the will of the Father of mercies, I promise to 

m 2 



thee in these words, antecedently to any merits or prayers of 
thine, remission of all thy sins, and eternal life. That thou 
mayest be most certain of this, my irrevocable promise, I will 
confirm it by my very death ; I will give my body and shed my 
blood, and will leave both to thee, as a sign and memorial of 
this very promise. As often as thou shalt receive them, re- 
member me; declare and praise my love and bounty to thee; 
and give thanks." 

From this you see that nothing else is required for a worthy 
reception of the mass t han fa ith, resting with confidence on 
this promise, believing Christ~toBe truthful in these words of 
His, and not doubting that these immeasurable blessings have 
been bestowed upon us. On this faith a spontaneous and most 
sweet affection of the heart will speedily follow, by which 
the spirit of the man is enlarged and enriched ; that is, love, 
bestowed through the Holy Spirit on believers in Christ. Thus 
the believer is carried away to Christ, that bounteous and bene- 
ficent testator, and becomes altogether another and a new man. 
Who would not weep tears of delight, nay, almost die for joy 
in Christ, if he believed with unhesitating faith that this in- 
estimable promise of Christ belongs to him? How can 
he fail to love such a benefactor, who of His own accord offers, 
promises, and gives the greatest riches and an eternal in- 
heritance to an unworthy sinner, who has deserved very 
different treatment ? 

Our one great misery is this, that while we have many masses 
in the world, few or none of us recognise, consider, or apprehend 
the rich promises set before us in them. Now in the mass the 
one thing that demands our greatest, nay, our sole attention, is 
to keep these words and promises of Christ, which indeed 
constitute the mass itself, constantly before our eyes; that we 
should meditate on and digest them, and exercise, nourish, 
increase, and strengthen our faith in them by this daily com- 
memoration. This is what Christ commands when He says, 
" Do this in remembrance of me." It is the work of an 
evangelist faithfully to present aB3|»|ommend that promise 
to the people and to call forth faith^m it on their part. As 
. it is — to say nothing of the impious faWBWl^ those who teach 
human traditions in the place of this great promise — how many 
are there who know that the mass is a promise of Christ? 


Even if they teach these words of Christ, they do not teach 
them as conveying a promise or a testament, and therefore call 
forth no faith in them. 

It is a deplorable thing in our present bondage, that nowa- 
days the utmost care is taken that no layman should hear ;' 
those words of Christ, as if they were too sacred to be com- 
mitted to the common people. We priests are so mad that we 
arrogate to ourselves alone the right of secretly uttering the 
words of consecration — as they are called ; and that in a way 
which is unprofitable even to ourselves, since we never look at 
them as promises or a testament for the increase of faith. 
Under the influence of some superstitious and impious notion 
we do reverence to these words instead of believing them. In 
this our misery Satan so works among us that, while he has 
left nothing of the mass to the Church, he yet takes care that 
every corner of the earth shall be full of masses, that is, of 
abuses and mockeries of the testament of God ; and that the 
world shall be more and more heavily loaded with the gravest 
sins of idolatry, to increase its greater damnation. For what 
more grievous sin of idolatry can there be, than to abuse the 
promises of God by our perverse notions, and either neglect or 
extinguish all faith in them. *^<r^^ 

God (as I have said) never has dealt, or does deal, with men U j 
otherwise than by the word of promise. Again, we can never ' I 
deal with God otherwise than byfaith in the word of His «J 
promise. He_takes no_heed of our works, and has no need of 
^hem, — though it is by these we deal with other men and with . 
ourselves ; — but He do es_require to be esteemed by us truthful 1 
in His prom ises, and to be patiently considered as such, and I 
thus worshipped in faith, hope, and love. And thus it is that 
He is glorified in us, when we receive and hold every blessing 
not by our own efforts, but from His mercy, promise, and 
gift. This is that true worship and service of God, which we 
are bound to render in the mass. But when the words of the 
promise are not delivered to us, what exercise of faith can 
thqafe be ? And without faith who can hope ? who can love ? 
without faith, hope, and love, what service can there be ? 
There is no doubt therefore that, at the present day, the whole [ 
body of priests and monks, with their bishops and all their 
superiors, are idolaters, and living in a most perilous state, 


through their ignorance, abuse, and mockery of the mass, or 
sacrament, or promise of God. 

It is easy for any one to understand that two things are 
necessary at the same time, the prom is e and faith. With- 
oj2nr|)roD^^ faith 

t he promise is u sel ess,. sinc£_it_is--4h*ouglr faith that it" is 
establis hed and fulfi lled. Whence we easily conclude that 
the mass, being nothing else than a promise, can be approached 
and par taken of by fait h__alorie ; without which whatever 
prayers, preparations, works, signs, or gestures are practised, 
are rather provocations to impiety than acts of piety. It 
constantly happens that when men have given their attention 
to all these things they imagine that they are approaching the 
altar lawfully ; and yet, in reality, could never be more unfit 
to approach it, because of the unbelief which they bring with 
them. What a number of sacrificing priests you may daily see 
everywhere, who if they have committed some trifling error, 
by unsuitable vestments, or unwashed hands, or by some 
hesitation in the prayers, are wretched, and think themselves 
guilty of an immense crime ! Meanwhile, as for the mass 
itself, that is, the divine promise, they neither heed nor 
believe it ; yea, are utterly unconscious of its existence. 0, 
unworthy religion of our age, the most impious and ungrateful 
of all ages ! 

There is then no worthy preparation for the mass, or 
rightful use of it, except faith, by which it is believed in as a 
divine promise. Wherefore let him who is about to approach 
the altar, or to receive the sacrament, take care not to appear 
before the Lord his God empty. Now he will be empty, if he 
has not faith in the mass, or New Testament ; and what more 
grievous impiety can he commit against the truth of God than 
by this unbelief ? As far as in him lies, he makes God a liar, 
and renders His promises idle. It will be safest then to go to 
the mass in no other spirit than that in which thou wouldst 
go to hear any other promise of God ; that is, to be prepared, 
not to do many works, and bring many gifts, but to believe 
and receive all that is promised thee in that ordinance, or is 
declared to thee through the ministry of the priest as promised. 
Unless thou comest in this spirit, beware of drawing near ; for 
thou wilt surely draw near unto judgment. 


I liave rightly said then, that the whole virtue of the mass 
consists in those words of Christ, in which He testifies that 
remission is granted to all who believe that His body is given 
and His blood shed for them. There is nothing then more 
J necessary for those who are about to hear mass than to 
meditate earnestly and with full faith on the very words of 
Christ ; for unless they do this, all else is done in vain. It is 
certainly true that God has ever been wont, in all His promises, 
to give some sign, token, or memorial of His promise ; that it 
migEf Tie" kept more faithfully and tell more strongly on men's 
minds. Thus when He promised to Noah that the earth 
should not be destroyed by another deluge, He gave His bow in 
the cloud, and said that He would thus remember His covenant. 
To Abraham, when He promised that his seed should inherit 
the earth, He gave circumcision as a seal of the righteous- 
ness which is by faith. Thus to Gideon He gave the dry and 
the dewy fleece, to confirm His promise of victory over the 
Midianites. Thus to Ahaz He gave a sign through Isaiah, to 
confirm his faith in the promise of victory over the kings of 
Syria and Samaria. We read in the Scriptures of many such 
signs of the promises of God. 

So too in the mass, that first of all promises, He gave a 
sign in memory of so great a promise, namely, His own hodj 
an d His own blood in the bread and wine, saying, " Do this in 
remembrance of me." Thus in baptism He adds to the words 
of the promise the sign of immersion in water. Whence we 
see tha t in ever y p romise of God tAVO-thioga are so t b o f ore -41S} 
the word a nd thejsigu. The word we are to understand aj 
beingThe' testanientf~and the sign as being the sacra ment ; 
thus, in the mass, the word of Christ is the testament, the 
bread and wine are the sacrament. And as th ere is greater 
power in the word than in the sign, so is there greater power 
in the testament than in the sacrament. A man can have and 
use the word or testament without the sign or sacrament. 
" Believ e," saith_Au gustine, " and thou ha st .eatenj " but in 
what do we believe except in the word of Him who promises? 
Thus I can have the mass daily, nay hourly ; since, as often as 
I will, I can set before myself the words of Christ, and nourish 
and strengthen my faith in them ; and this is in very truth 
the sp iritual eating and drinki ng. 


Here we see how much the theologians of the Sentences have 
done for ns in this matter. In the first place, not one of them 
handles that which is the sum and substance of the whole, 
namely, the testament and word of promise ; and thus they do 
awav with faith and the whole virtue of the mass. In the 
next place, the other part of it, namely, the sign or sacrament, 
is all that they deal with ; but they do not teach faith even in 
this, but their own preparations, ojpera operetta, participations 
and fruits of the mass. At length they have reached the very 
depth of error, and have involved themselves in an infinity of 
metaphysical triflings concerning transubstantiation and other 
points ; so that thay have done away with all faith, and with 
the knowledge and true use as well of the testament as of the 
sacrament ; and have caused the people of Christ — as the 
prophet says — to forget their God for many days. But do 
thou leave others to recount the various fruits of hearing mass, 
and apply thy mind to saying and believing with the prophet, 
that God has prepared a table before thee in the presence of 
thine enemies — a table at which thy faith may feed and grow 
strong. Now it is only on the word of the divine promise that 
thy faith can feed ; for man shall not live by bread alone, but 
by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt, 
iv. 4.) Wherefore, in the mass, thou must look above all 
things most closely to the word of promise as to a most 
sumptuous banquet, full of every kind of food and holy 
nourishment for thy soul ; this thou must esteem above all 
things ; in this thou must place all thy trust, and cleave firmly 
to it, even in the midst of death and all thy sins. If thou dost 
this, thou wilt possess not only those drops as it were and 
littlenesses of the fruits of the mass, which some have super - 
stitiously invented, but the main fount of life itself, namely, 
that faith in the word from which every good thing flows ; as 
Christ said, " He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall 
flow rivers of living water." (John vii. 38) ; and again, " Whoso- 
ever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never 
thirst ; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a 
well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John iv. 14.) 

There are two difficulties which are wont to beset us, and 
prevent our receiving the benefits of the mass. The one is, 
that we are sinners and unworthy, from our utter vileness, of 


such great blessings. The other is — even if we were worthy — 
the very greatness of the blessings themselves, which are such 
that weak nature cannot dare to seek or hope for them. Who 
would not be struck in the first place with amazement rather 
than with the desire for the remission of sins and eternal life, 
if he rightly estimates the greatness of the blessings which 
come through these — namely, the having God as his Father, and 
being a child of God, and heir of all good things ? To meet 
this double weakness of nature, thou must take hold of the 
word of Christ, and fix thine eyes much more strongly on it, 
than on these cogitations of thine own infirmity. For the 
works of the Lord are great, and He is mighty to give, beyond 
all that we can seek or comprehend. Indeed, unless His works 
surpassed our worthiness, our capacity, our whole comprehen- 
sion, they would not be divine. Thus too Christ encourages us, 
saying : " Fear not, little flock ; for it is your Father's good 
pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke xii. 32;) This 
incomprehensible exuberance of God's mercy, poured out on us 
through Christ, makes us, in our turn, to love Him above all 
things, to cast ourselves upon Him with the most perfect trust, 
to despise all things, and be ready to suffer all things for 
Him. Hence this sacrament has been rightly called the 
fountain of love. 

Here we may draw an example from human affairs. If some 
very rich lord were to bequeath a thousand pieces of gold to 
any beggar, or even to an unworthy and bad servant, such a 
one would certainly demand and receive them confidently, 
without regard either to his own unworthiness or to the 
greatness of the legacy. If any one were to set these before 
him as objections, what do you think he would reply ? He 
would certainly answer : " What is that to you ? It is not 
by my deserving, nor by any right of my own, that I receive 
what I do receive. I know that I am unworthy of it, and that 
I am receiving much more than I deserve ; nay, I have 
deserved the very contrary. But what I claim, I claim by 
right of a testament, and of the goodness of another ; if it was 
not an unworthy act to leave such a legacy to me who am so 
unworthy, why should my unworthiness make me hesitate to 
accept it ? Nay, the more unworthy I am, the more readily 
do I embrace this free favour from another." With such 


reasonings we must arm our own consciences against all their 
scruples and anxieties, that we may hold this promise of Christ 
with unhesitating faith. We must give the utmost heed not 
to approach in any confidence in our own confessions, prayers, 
and preparations ; we must despair of all these and come in a 
lofty confidence in the promise of Christ— since it is the word 
of promise which alone must reign here — and in pure faith, 
which is the one and sole sufficient preparation. 

We see from all this, how great the wrath of God has been 
which has permitted our impious teachers to conceal from us 
the words of this testament, and thus, as far as in them lay, to 
extinguish faith itself. It is self-evident what must necessarily 
follow this extinction of faith, namely, the most impious super- 
stitions about works. For when faith perishes and the word 
of faith is silent, then straightway works, and traditions of 
works, rise up in its place. By these we have been removed 
from our own land, as into bondage at Babylon, and all that 
was dear to us has been taken from us. Even thus it has 
befallen us with the mass, which, through the teaching of 
wicked men, has been changed into a good work, which they 
call opus operatum, and by which they imagine that they are 
all powerful with God. Hence they have gone to the extreme 
of madness ; and, having first falsely affirmed that the mass 
is of avail through the force of the opus operatum, they have 
gone on to say, that even if it be hurtful to him who offers 
it impiously, yet it is none the less useful to others. On this 
basis they have established their applications, participations, 
fraternities, anniversaries, and an infinity of lucrative and 
gainful business of that kind. 

You will scarcely be able to stand against these errors, many 
and strong as they are, and deeply as they have penetrated, 
unless you fix what has been said firmly in your memory, and 
gi^e the most stedfast heed to the true nature of the mass. 
You have heard that the mass is nothing else than the divine 
promise or testament of Christ, commended to us by the Y 
sacrament of His body and blood. If this is true, you will see 
that it cannot in any way be a work, nor can any work be per- 
formed in it, nor can it be handled in any way but by faith 
alone. Now faith is not a work, but the mistress and life of all 
works. Is there any man so senseless as to call a promise he 


has received, or a legacy that has been bestowed on him, a good 
work done on his part towards the testator ? What heir is 
there, who thinks that he is doing a service to his father when \ 
he receives the testamentary documents along with the inheri- 
tance bequeathed to him ? Whence then this impious rash- 
ness of ours, that we come to receive the testament of God as 
if we were doing a good work towards Him ? Is not such 
ignorance of that testament, and such a state of bondage of 
that great sacrament, a grief beyond all tears ? Where we 
ought to be grateful for blessings bestowed on us, we come in 
our pride to give what we ought to receive, and make a 
mockery, with unheard-of perversity, of the mercy of the Giver. 
We give to Him as a work of ours what we receive as a gift 
from Him ; and we thus make the testator no longer the 
bestower of His good gifts on us, but the receiver of ours. 
Alas for such impiety ! 

Who has ever been so senseless as to consider baptism a i^\ 
good work ? What candidate for baptism has ever believed he / 
was doing a work which he might offer to God on behalf of ' 
himself and others ? If then in one sacrament and testament 
there is no good work communicable to others, neither can 
there be any in the mass, which is itself nothing but a testa- 
ment and a sacrament. Hence it is a manifest and impious — 
error, to offer or apply the mass for sins, for satisfactions, for 
the dead, or for any necessities of our own or of others. The 
evident truth of this statement you will easily understand, if 
you keep closely to the fact, that the mass is a divine promise, 
which can profit no one, be applied to no one, be communicated 
to no one, except to the believer himself; and that solely by 
his own faith. Who can possibly receive or apply for another 
a promise of God, which requires faith on the part of each 
individual ? Can I give another man the promise of God, if he 
does not believe it ? or can I believe for another man ? or can 
I make another believe ? Yet all this I must be able to do if I 
can apply and communicate the mass to others ; for there are 
in the mass only these two things, God's promise, and man's 
faith which receives that promise. If I can do all this, I can 
also hear and believe the gospel on behalf of other men, I can 
be baptized for another man, I can be absolved from sin for 
another man, I can partake of the Sacrament of the Altar 


for another man ; nay, to go through the whole list of their 
sacraments, I can also marry for another man, be ordained 
priest for another man, be confirmed for another man, receive 
extreme unction for another man. 

Why did not Abraham believe on behalf of all the Jews? 
Why was every individual Jew required to exercise faith in the 
same promise which Abraham believed ? Let us keep to this 
impregnable truth : — where there is a divine promise, there 
every man stands for himself ; individual faith is required ; 
every man shall give account for himself, and shall bear his 
own burdens ; as Christ says : " He that believeth and is 
baptized shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be 
: damned." (Mark xvi. 16.) Thus every man can make the 
'■ mass useful only to himself, by his own faith, and can by no 
means communicate it to others ; just as a priest cannot 
administer a sacrament to any man on behalf of another, but 
administers the same sacrament to each individual separately. 
The priests in their work of consecration and administration 
act as ministers for us ; not that we offer up any good work 
through them, or communicate actively ; but by their means we 
receive the promise and its sign, and communicate passively. 
This idea continues among the laity ; for they are not said 
to do a good work, but to receive a gift. But the priests 
have gone after their own impieties and have made it a good 
work that they communicate and make an offering out of the 
sacrament and testament of God, whereas they ought to have 
received it as a good gift. 

But you will say : " What ? will you ever overthrow the 
practices and opinions which, for so many centuries, have 
rooted themselves in all the churches and monasteries ; and all 
that superstructure of anniversaries, suffrages, applications, 
and communications, which they have established upon the 
mass, and from which they have drawn the amplest revenues ? " 
I reply: It is this which has compelled me to write concerning 
the bondage of the Church. For the venerable testament of 
God has been brought into a profane servitude to gain, 
through the opinions and traditions of impious men, who have 
passed over the Word of God, and have set before us the 
imaginations of their own hearts, and thus have led the world 
astray. What have I to do with the number or the greatness 


of those who are in error ? Truth is stronger than all. If 
you can deny that Christ teaches that the mass is a testament 
and a sacrament, I am ready to justify those men. Again, if 
you can say that the man who receives the benefit of a 
testament, or who uses for this purpose the sacrament of 
promise, is doing a good work, I am ready and willing to 
condemn all that I have said. But since neither is possible, 
why hesitate to despise the crowd which hastens to do evil, 
whilst you give glory to God and confess His truth, namely, 
that all priests are perversely mistaken, who look on the mass 
as a work by which they may aid their own necessities, or 
those of others, whether dead or alive ? My statements, I 
know, are unheard of and astounding. But if you look into 
the true nature of the mass, you will see that I speak the 
truth. These errors have proceeded from that over-security, 
which has kept us from perceiving that the wrath of God was 
coming upon us. 

This I readily admit, that the prayers which we pour forth 
in the presence of God, when we meet to partake of the mass, 
are good works or benefits, which we mutually impart, apply, 
and communicate, and offer up for one another ; as the Apostle 
James teaches us to pray for one another that we may be 
saved. Paul also exhorts that supplications, prayers, inter- 
cessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men ; for kings, 
and for all that are in authority. (1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.) These 
things are not the mass, but works of the mass ; — if, indeed, we 
can call the prayers of our hearts and our lips works — because 
they spring from the existence and growth of faith in the 
sacrament. The mass or promise of God is not completed by 
our prayers, but only by our faith ; and in faith we pray and 
do other good works. But what priest sacrifices with the 
intention and idea of only offering up prayers ? They all 
imagine that they are offering Christ himself to God the 
Father as an all-sufficient victim ; and that they are doing a 
good work on behalf of all men, who, as they allege, will profit 
by it. They trust in the opus operatum, and do not attribute 
the effect to prayer. Thus, by a gradual growth of error, they 
attribute to the sacrament the benefit which springs from 
prayer ; and they offer to God what they ought to receive as 
a gift from Him. 


We must therefore make a clear distinction between the 
testament and sacrament itself, and the prayers which we offer 
at the same time. And not only so, but we must understand 
that those prayers are of no value at all, either to him who 
offers them, or to those for whom they are offered, unless the 
testament has been first received by faith, so that the prayer 
may be that of faith, which alone is heard, as the Apostle 
James teaches us. So widely does prayer differ from the mass. 
I can pray for as many persons as I will ; but no one receives 
the mass unless he believes for himself; and that only so far 
as he believes ; nor can it be given either to God or to men, 
but it is God alone who by the ministry of the priest gives it 
to men, and they receive it by faith alone, without any works 
or merits. No one would be so audaciously foolish as to say 
that, when a poor and needy man comes to receive a benefit 
from the hand of a rich man, he is doing a good work. Now 
the mass is the benefit of a divine promise, held forth to all 
men by the hand of the priest. It is certain, therefore, that the 
mass is not a work communicable to others, but the object of 
each man's individual faith, which is thus to be nourished and 

"We must also get rid of another _ggand a l 3 w hich is a much 
greater and a very specious one ; that is, that the mass is 
universally believed to be a s acrifice off ered to GoJ. With this 
opinion the words of the canon of the mass appear to agree, 
such as — "These gifts; these offerings; these holy sacrifices;" and 
again, " this oblation." There is also a very distinct prayer that 
the sacrifice may be accepted like the sacrifice of Abel. Hence 
Christ is called the victim of the altar. To this we must add 
the sayings of the holy Fathers, a great number of authorities, 
and the usage that has been constantly observed throughout 
the world. 

To all these difficulties, which beset us so pertinaciously, 
we must oppose with the utmost constancy the words and 
example of Christ. Unless we hold the mass to be the promise 
or testament of Christ, according to the plain meaning of the 
words, we lose all the gospel and our whole comfort. Let us 
allow nothing to prevail against those words, even if an angel 
from heaven taught us otherwise. Now in these words there is 
nothing about a work or sacrifice. Again, we have the example 


of Christ on our side. When Christ instituted this sacrament 
and established this testament in the Last Supper, he did not 

offer himself to God the Father, or accomplish any work on 
behalf of others, but, as he sat at the table, he declared the 
same testament to each individual present and bestowed on each 
the sign of it. Now the more any mass resembles and is akin to / 
that first mass of all which Christ celebrated at the Last Supper,/ 
the more Christian it is. But that mass of Christ was most 
simple ; without any display of vestments, gestures, hymns, 
and other ceremonies ; so that if it had been necessary that it 
should be offered as a sacrifice, His institution of it would not 
have been complete. 

Not that any one ought rashly to blame the universal 
Church, which has adorned and extended the mass with many 
other rites and ceremonies ; but we desire that no one should 
be so deceived by showy ceremonies, or so perplexed by the 
amount of external display, as to lose the simplicity of the 
mass, and in fact pay honour to some kind of transubstantiation ; 
as will happen if we pass by the simple substance of the mass, 
and fix our minds on the manifold accidents of its outward 
show. For whatever has been added to the mass beyond the 
-word and example of Christ, is one of its accidents; and none^ 
of these ought we to consider in any other light than we now 
consider monstrances— as they are called — and altar cloths, 
within which the host is contained. It is a contradiction in 
terms that the mass should be a sacrifice ; since we receive the / 
mass, but give a sacrifice. Now the same thing cannot be 
received and offered at the same time, nor can it be at once 
given and accepted by the same person. This is as certain 
as that prayer and the thing prayed for cannot be the same ; 
nor can it be the same thing to pray and to receive what we 
pray for. 

What shall we say then to the canon of the mass and the 
authority of the Fathers ? First of all I reply :— If there were 
nothing to be said, it would be safer to deny their authority 
altogether, than to grant that the mass is a work or a sacrifice, 
and thus to deny the word of Christ and to overthrow faith and 
the mass together. However, that we may keep the Fathers 
too, we will explain (1 Cor. xi.) that the believers in Christ, when 
they met to celebrate the mass, were accustomed to bring with 


them portions of food and drink, called " collects," which were 
distributed among the poor, according to the example of the 
Apostles (Acts iv.), and from which were taken the bread and 
wine consecrated for the sacrament. Since all these gifts were 
sanctified by the word and prayer after the Hebrew rite, in 
accordance with which they were lifted on high, as we read in 
Moses, the words and the practice of elevation, or of offering, 
continued in the Church long after the custom had died out of 
collecting and bringing together the gifts which were offered 
or elevated. Thus Hezekiah (Isaiah xxxvii. 4) bids Isaiah to lift 
his prayer for the remnant that is left. Again, the Psalmist 
says : " Lift up your hands to the holy place ; " and — " To thee 
will I lift up my hands ; " and again — " That men pray every- 
where, lifting up holy hands." (1 Tim. ii. 8.) Hence the 

expressions " sacrifice " or " oblation " ought to be referred, not 

to the sacrament and testament, but to the " collects " them- 
selves. Hence too the word collect has remained in use for 
the prayers said in the mass. 

For the same reason the priest elevates the bread and the 
cup as soon as he has consecrated them ; but the proof that he 
is not therein offering anything to God is that in no single 
word does he make mention of a victim or an oblation. This 
too is a remnant of the Hebrew rite, according to which it was 
customary to elevate the gifts which, after being received with 
giving of thanks, were brought back to God. Or it may be 
considered as an admonition to us, to call forth our faith in that 
testament which Christ on that occasion brought forward and 
set before us ; and also as a display of its sign. The oblation of 
the bread properly corresponds to the words : " This is my 
body ; " and Christ, as it were, addresses us bystanders by this 
very sign. Thus too the oblation of the cup properly corre- 
sponds to these words : " This cup is the New Testament in 
my blood." The priest ought to call forth our faith by the 
very rite of elevation. And as he openly elevates the sign or 
sacrament in our sight, so I wish that he also pronounced the 
word or testament with loud and clear voice in our hearing ; 
and that in the language of every nation, that our faith might 
be more efficaciously exercised. Why should it be lawful to i 
perform mass in Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, and not also in' A 
German, or in any other language ? 


Wherefore, in this abandoned and most perilous age, let the 
priests who sacrifice take heed in the first place that those 
words of the major and minor canon, with the collects, which 
speak only too plainly of a sacrifice, are to be applied, not to 
the sacrament, but either to the consecration of the bread and 
wine themselves, or to their own prayers. For the bread and 
wine are presented beforehand to receive a blessing, that they 
may be sanctified by the word and prayer. But after being 
blessed and consecrated, they are no longer offered, but are 
received as a gift from God. And in this matter let the priest 
consider that the gospel is to be preferred to all canons and 
collects composed by men ; but the gospel, as we have seen, 
does not allow the mass to be a sacrifice. 

In the next place, when the priest is performing mass publicly, 
let him understand that he is only receiving and giving to others 
the communion in the mass ; and let him beware of offering up 
at the same moment his prayers for himself and others, lest he 
should seem to be presuming to offer the mass. The priest also 
who is saying a private mass must consider himself as adminis- 
tering the communion to himself. A private mass is not at all 
different from, nor more efficient than, the simple reception of 
the communion by any layman from the hand of the priest, 
except for the prayers, and that the priest consecrates and 
administers it to himself. In the matter itself of the mass and 
the sacrament, we are all equal, priests and laymen. 

Even if he is requested by others to do so, let him beware of 
celebrating votive masses — as they are called — and of receiving 
any payment for the mass, or presuming to offer any votive 
sacrifice ; but let him carefully refer all this to the prayers 
which he offers, whether for the dead or the living. Let him 
think thus : — I will go and receive the sacrament for myself 
alone, but while I receive it I will pray for this or that person, 
and thus, for purposes of food and clothing, receive payment for 
my prayers, and not for the mass. Nor let it shake thee in 
this view, though the whole world is of the contrary opinion 
and practice. Thou hast the most certain authority of the 
gospel, and relying on this, thou mayest easily contemn the 
ideas and opinions of men. If however, in despite of what I 
say, thou wilt persist in offering the mass, and not thy prayers 
only, then know that I have faithfully warned thee, and that I 



sliall stand clear in the day of judgment, whilst thou wilt bear 
thine own sin. I have said what I was bound to say to thee, as 
a brother to a brother, for thy salvation ; it will be to thy 
profit if thou take heed to my words, to thy hurt if thou neglect 
them. And if there are some who will condemn these statements 
of mine, I reply in the words of Paul : " Evil men and seducers 
shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." 
(2 Tim. iii. 13.) 

Hence any one may easily understand that often-quoted 
passage from Gregory, in which he says that a mass celebrated 
by a bad priest is not to be considered of less value than one 
by a good priest, and that one celebrated by St. Peter would 
not have been better than one celebrated by the traitor Judas, 
Under cover of this saying some try to shelter their own 
impiety, and have drawn 'a distinction between the opus 
operatum and the opus operans ; that they might continue 
secure in their evil living, and yet pretend to be benefactors 
to others. Gregory indeed speaks the truth, but these men 
pervert his meaning. It is most true that the testament and 
sacrament are not less effectively given and received at the 
hands of wicked priests than at tho;:;o of the most holy. 
Who doubts that the gospel may be preached by wicked 
men ? Now the mass is a part of the gospel ; nay, the very 
sum and compendium of the gospel. For what is the whole 
gospel but the good news of the remission of sins ? Now 
all that can be said in the most ample and copious words 
concerning the remission of sins and the mercy of God, is all 
briefly comprehended in the word of the testament. Hence 
also sermon3 to the people ought to be nothing else but 
expositions of the mass, that is, the setting forth of the divine 
promise of this testament. This would be to teach faith, and 
truly to edify the Church. But those who now expound the 
mass make a sport and mockery of the subject by figures of 
speech derived from human ceremonies. 

As therefore a wicked man can baptize, that is, can apply the 
word of promise and the sign of water to the person baptized, 
so can he also apply and minister the promise of this sacra- 
ment to those who partake of it, and partake himself with 
them, as the traitor Judas did in the supper of the Lord. 
Still the sacrament and testament remains always the same ; it 


performs in the believer its own proper work, in the unbeliever 
it perlorins a work~foreign to itself. But in the matter of 
oblatJionsTihe case is quite different ; for since it is not the mass 
but prayers which are offered to God, it is evident that the 
oblations of a wicked priest are of no value. As Gregory 
himself says, when we employ an unworthy person as an 
advocate, the mind of the judge is prejudiced against us. We 
must not therefore confound these two things, the mass and 
prayer,~sacrament and work, testament and sacrifice. The 
one comes from God to us through the ministry of the priest, 
and requires faith on our part ; the other goes forth from our 
faith to God through the priest, and requires that He should 
hear us ; the one comes down, the other goes upwards. The 
one therefore does not necessarily require that the minister 
should be worthy and pious, but the other does require it, 
because God does not hear sinners. He knows how to do us 
good by means of wicked men, but He does not accept the 
works of any wicked man, as He showed in the case of Cain. 
It is written : " The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination 
to the Lord." (Prov. xv. 8) ; and again : " Whatsoever is not of 
faith is sin." (Eom. xiv. 23.) 

We shall now make an end of this first part of the subject, 
but I am ready to produce further arguments when any one 
comes forward to attack these. From all that has been said 
we see for whom the mass was intended, and who are worthy 
partakers of it ; namely, those alone who have sad, afflicted, 
disturbed, confused, and erring consciences. For since the 
word of the divine promise in this sacrament holds forth to us 
remission of sins, any man may safely draw near to it who is 
harassed either by remorse for sin, or by temptation to sin. 
This testament of Christ is the one medicine for past, present, 
and future sins ; provided thou cleavest to it with unhesitating 
faith, and believest that that which is signified by the words of 
the testament is freely given to thee. If thou dost not so 
believe, then nowhere, never, by no works, by no efforts, wilt 
thou be able to appease thy conscience. For faith is the 
sole peace of conscience, and unbelief the sole disturber of 

n 2 



Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who according to the riches of His mercy has at least 
preserved this one sacrament in His Church uninjured and 
uncontaminated by the devices of men, and has made it free to 
all nations and to men of every class. He has not suffered it 
to be overwhelmed with the foul and impious monstrosities of 
avarice and superstition ; doubtless having this purpose, that 
He would have little children, incapable of avarice and super- 
stition, to be initiated into this sacrament, and to be sanctified 
by perfectly simple faith in His word. To such, even at the 
present day, baptism is of the highest advantage. ( If this 
sacrament had been intended to be given to adults and those 
of full age, it seems as if it could have hardly preserved its 
efficacy and its glory, in the presence of that tyranny of avarice 
and superstition which has supplanted all divine ordinances 
among us. In this case too, no doubt, fleshly wisdom would 
have invented its preparations, its worthinesses, its reserva- 
tions, its restrictions, and other like nets for catching money ; 
so that the water of baptism would be sold no cheaper than 
parchments are now. 

Yet, though Satan has not been able to extinguish the 
virtue of baptism in the case of little children, still he has had 
power to extinguish it in all adults ; so that there is scarcely 
any one nowadays who remembers that he has been baptized, 
much less glories in it ; so many other ways having been found 
of obtaining remission of sins and going to heaven. Occasion 
has been afforded to these opinions by that perilous saying of 
St. Jerome, either misstated or misunderstood, in which he 
calls penitence the second plank of safety after shipwreck ; as if 
baptism were not penitence. Hence, when men have fallen 
into sin, they despair of the first plank, or the ship, as being no 
longer of any use, and begin to trust and depend only on the 
second plank, that is, on penitence. Thence have sprung those 


infinite loads of vows, religious dedications, works, satisfactions, 
pilgrimages, indulgences, and systems ; and from them those 
oceans of books and of human questionings, opinions, and tradi- 
tions, which the whole world nowadays cannot contain. Thus 
this tyranny possesses the Church of God in an incomparably 
worse form than it ever possessed the synagogue, or any nation 
under heaven. 

It was the duty of Bishops to remove all these abuses, and 
to make every effort to recall Christians to the simplicity of 
baptism ; that so they might understand their own position, 
and what as Christians they ought to do. But the one busi- --, 
ness of Bishops at the present day is to lead the people as 
far as possible away from baptism and to plunge them all 
under the deluge of their own tyranny ; and thus, as the 
prophet says, to make the people of Christ forget Him for 
ever. Oh wretched men who are called by the name of 
Bishops ! they not only do nothing and know nothing which 
Bishops ought, but they are even ignorant what they ought to 
know and do. They fulfil the words of Isaiah : " His watch- 
men are blind ; they are all ignorant ; they are shepherds that 
cannot understand ; they all look to their own way, every one 
for his gain, from his quarter." (Is. lvi. 10, 11.) 

The first thing then we have to notice in baptism is the j \ 
divine promise, which says : He who believes and is baptized I J 
shall be saved. This promise is to be infinitely preferred to: 
the whole display of works, vows, religious orders, and what- 
ever has been introduced by the invention of man. ( On this J 
promise depends our whole salvation, and we must take heed 
to exercise faith in it, not doubting at all that we are saved, 
since we have been baptized. Unless this faith exists and is 
applied, baptism profits us nothing ; nay, it is hurtful to us, not 
only at the time when it is received, but in the whole course of 
our after life. For unbelief of this kind charges the divine pro- 
mise with falsehood ; and to do this is the greatest of all sins. 
If we attempt this exercise of faith, we shall soon see how difficult 
a thing it is to believe this divine promise. For human weak- 
ness, conscious of its own sinfulness, finds it the most difficult 
thing in the world to believe that it is saved, or can be saved ; 
and yet, unless it believes this, it cannot be saved, because it 
does not believe the divine truth which promises salvation. 


This doctrine ought to have been studiously inculcated upon 
the people by preaching; this promise ought to have been 
perpetually reiterated ; men ought to have been constantly 
; reminded of their baptism ; faith ought to have been called 
' forth and nourished. When this divine promise has been once 
conferred upon us, its truth continues even to the hour of our 
death ; and thus our faith in it ought never to be relaxed, but 
ought to be nourished and strengthened even till we die, by a 
- perpetual recollection of the promise made to us in baptism. 
Thus, when we rise out of our sins and exercise penitence, 
we are simply reverting to the efficacy of baptism and to 
faith in it, whence we had fallen ; and we return to the pro- 
mise then made to us, but which we had abandoned through 
our sin. "For the truth of the promise once made always 
abides, and is ready to stretch out the hand and receive us 
when we return. This, unless I mistake, is the meaning of 
, that obscure saying, that baptism is the first of sacraments 
and the foundation of them all, without which we can possess 
none of the others. 

Thus it will be of no little profit to a penitent, first of 
all to recall to mind his own baptism, and to remember with 
confidence that divine promise which he had deserted ; rejoic- 
m l ,ing (that he is still in a fortress of safety, in that he has been 
baptized \ and detesting his own wicked ingratitude in having 
fallen away from the faith and truth of baptism. His heart 
will be marvellously comforted, and encouraged to hope for 
mercy, if he fixes his eyes upon that divine promise once 
made to him, which could not lie, and which still continues 
entire, unchanged, and unchangeable by any sins of his; as 
Paul says : " If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful ; He 
cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim. ii. 13.) This truth of God 
will preserve him ; and even if all other hopes perish, this, if 
he believes it, will not fail him. Through this truth ho will 
have something to oppose to the insolent adversary ; he will 
have a barrier to throw in the way of the sins which disturb 
his conscience ; he will have an answer to the dread of death 
and judgment ; finally, he will have a consolation under every 
kind of temptation, in being able to say : God is faithful to 
His promise ; and in baptism I received the sign of that 
promise. If God is for me, who can be against me ? 


If the children of Israel, when returning to God in repent- 
ance, first of all called to mind their exodus from Egypt, and 
in remembrance of this turned back to God, who had brought 
them out — a remembrance which is so often inculcated on 
them by Moses, and referred to by David — how much more 
ought we to remember our exodus from Egypt, and in remem- 
brance of it to return to Him who brought us out through the 
washing of the new birth. Now this we can do most advan- 
tageously of all in the sacrament of the bread and wine. So 
of old these three sacraments, penitence, baptism, and the 
bread, were often combined in the same act of worship ; and 
the one added strength to the other. Thus we read of a 
certain holy virgin who, whenever she was tempted, relied on 
her baptism only for defence, saying, in the briefest words : " I 
j am a Christian." The enemy forthwith felt the efficacy of 
baptism, and of the faith which depended on the truth of a 
promising God, and fled from her. 

We see then how rich a Christian, or baptized man, is ; \\ 
since, even if he would, he cannot lose his salvation by any I 
sins however great, unless he refuses to believe ; for no sins 
whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone.. All other 
sins, if faith in the divine promise made to the baptized man 
stands firm or is restored, are swallowed up in a moment 
through that same faith ; yea, through the truth of God, 
because He cannot deny Himself, if thou confess Him, and 
cleave believingly to His promise. "Whereas contrition, and 
confession of sins, and satisfaction for sins, and every effort 
that can be devised by men, will desert thee at thy need, and 
will make thee more miserable than ever, if thou forgettest 
this divine truth and puffest thyself up with such things as 
these. For whatever work is wrought apart from faith in the 
truth of God is vanity and vexation of spirit. 

We also see how perilous and false an idea it is that 
penitence is a second plank of refuge after shipwreck ; and 
how pernicious an error it is to suppose that the virtue of 
baptism has been brought to an end by sin, and that this ship 
has been dashed to pieces. That ship remains one, solid, and 
indestructible, and can never be broken up into different 
planks. In it all are conveyed who are carried to the port of 
salvation, since it is the truth of God giving promises in the 


sacraments. What certainly does happen is that many rashly 
leap out of the ship into the sea and perish ; these are they who 
abandon faith in the promise and rush headlong into sin. But 
the ship itself abides, and passes on safely in its course ; and 
any man who, by the grace of God, returns to the ship, will be 
borne on to life, not on a plank, but on the solid ship itself. 
Such a man is he who returns by faith to the fixed and 
abiding promise of God. Thus Peter charges those who sin 
with having forgotten that they were purged from their old 
sins (2 Peter i. 9) ; doubtless meaning to reprove their 
ingratitude for the baptism they had received, and the impiety 
of their unbelief. 

What profit then is there in writing so much about baptism, 
and yet not teaching faith in the promise ? All the sacraments 
were instituted for the purpose of nourishing faith, and yet so 
far are they from attaining this object, that men are even 
found impious enough to assert that a man ought not to be sure 
of the remission of sins, or of the grace of the sacraments. By 
this impious doctrine they deprive the whole world of its 
senses, and utterly extinguish, or at least bring into bondage 
that sacrament of baptism, in which the first glory of our 
conscience stands. Meanwhile they senselessly persecute 
wretched souls with their contritions, their anxious confes- 
sions, their circumstances, satisfactions, works, and an infinity 
of such trifles. Let us then read with caution, or rather despise 
the Master of Sentences (Book iv.) with all his followers ; who, 
when they write their best, write only about the matter and 
form of the sacraments, and so handle only the dead and 
perishing letter of those sacraments, while they do not even 
touch upon their spirit, life, and use ; that is, the truth of the 
divine promise, and faith on our part. 

See then that thou be not deceived by the display of works, 
and by the fallacies of human traditions, and so wrong the 
^_ truth of God and thy own faith. If thou wilt be saved, thou 
must begin by faith in the sacraments, without any works. 
Thy faith will be followed by these very works, but thou must 
not hold faith cheap, for it is itself the most excellent and 
most difficult of all works, and by it alone thou wilt be saved, 
even if thou wert compelled to be destitute of all other works. 
For it is a work of God, not of man, as Paul teaches. All 


other works He performs with us, and hy us ; this one work 
He performs in us and without us. 

From what has been said we may clearly distinguish the 
difference between man the minister and God the Author of 
baptism. Man baptizes and does not baptize ; he baptizes, 
because he performs the work of dipping the baptized person ; 
he does not baptize, because in this work he does not act upon 
his own authority, but in the place of God. Hence we ought 
to receive baptism from the hand of man just as if Christ 
Himself, nay, God Himself, were baptizing us with His own 
hands. For it is not a man's baptism, but that of Christ and 
God ; though we receive it by the hand of a man. Even so 
any other creature which we enjoy through the hand of 
another is really only God's. Beware then of making any 
such distinction in baptism, as to attribute the outward rite to 
man, and the inward blessing to God. Attribute both of them 
to God alone, and consider the person of him who confers 
baptism in no other light than as the vicarious instrument 
of God, by means of which the Lord sitting in heaven dips 
thee in the water with His own hands, and promises thee 
remission of sins upon earth, speaking to thee with the voice 
of a man through the mouth of His minister. 

The very words of the minister tell thee this, when he 
says : " I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the 
Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." He does not say : 
" I baptize thee in my name ; " but says, as it were : " "What 
I do, I do not by my own authority, but in the place and in 
the name of God; and thou must look upon it as if the Lord 
Himself did it in visible shape. The Author and the minister 
are different, but the work of both is the same ; nay, rather it 
is that of the Author alone through my ministry." In my 
judgment the expression, " In the name," relates to the person 
of the Author, so that not only is the name of the Lord 
brought forward and invoked in the doing of the work, but 
the work itself is performed, as being that of another, in the 
name and in the place of another. By the like figure Christ 
says: "Many shall come in my name." (Matt. xxiv. 5.) 
And again : " By whom we have received grace and apostle- 
ship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his 
name." (Eom. i. 5.) 


I most gladly adopt this view ; because it is a thing most 
full of consolation, and an effective aid to faith, to know that 
we have been baptized, not by a man, but by the very Trinity 
Itself through a man, who acts towards us in Its name. This 
brings to an end that idle contention which is carried on about 
the " form " of baptism — as they call the words themselves— 
the Greeks saying : " Let the servant of Christ be baptized ; " 
the Latins : " I baptize." Others also, in their pedantic trifling, 
condemn the use of the expression : " I baptize thee in the 
name of Jesus Christ " — though it is certain that the Apostles 
baptized in this form, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles — 
and will have it that no other form is valid than the follow- 
ing : " I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the 
Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." But they strive in 
vain ; they prove nothing ; they only bring forward their own 
dreams. In whatever manner baptism is administered, pro- 
vided it is administered, not in the name of a man, but in the 
name of the Lord, it truly saves us. Nay, I have no doubt 
that if a man received baptism in the name of the Lord, even 
from a wicked minister who did not give it in the name of the 
Lord, he would still be truly baptized in the name of the 
Lord. For the efficacy of baptism depends not so much on the 
faith of him who confers it, as of him who receives it. Thus we 
read an instance of a certain player who was baptized in jest. 
These and similar narrow questions and disputes have been 
raised for us by those who attribute nothing to faith, and 
everything to works and ceremonies. On the contrary, we 
owe nothing to ceremonies, and everything to faith alone, 
which makes us free in spirit from all these scruples and 

, Another thing which belongs to baptism is the sign or 
sacrament, which is that dipping into water whence it takes its 

) name. For in Greek to baptize signifies to dip, and baptism 
is a dipping. We have said already that, side by side with the 
divine promises, signs also are given us, to represent by a 
figure the meaning of the words of the promise ; or, as the 
moderns say, the sacrament has an effectual significance. 
"What that significance is we shall see. Very many have 
thought that in the word and the water there is some occult 
spiritual virtue, which works the grace of God in the soul of 


the recipient. Others deny this, and declare that there is no 
virtue in the sacraments, but that grace is given by God alone, 
who, according to His covenant, is present at the sacraments 
instituted by Himself. All however agree in this, that the 
sacraments are effectual signs of grace. They are led to this 
conclusion by this one argument, that it does not otherwise 
appear what pre-eminence the sacraments of the new law would 
have over those of the old, if they were only signs. Hence 
they have been driven to attribute such efficacy to the 
sacraments of the new law, that they have stated them to be 
profitable even to those who are in mortal sin ; and have 
declared that neither faith nor grace are requisite, but that it 
is sufficient that we do not place any impediment in the way, 
that is, any actual purpose of sinning afresh. 

We must carefully avoid and fly from these doctrines, for 
7 they are impious and unbelieving, repugnant to faith and to 
the nature of the sacraments. It is a mistake to suppose that 
the sacraments of the new law differ from the sacraments of 
the old law as regards the efficacy of their significance. Both 
are on an equality in their significance ; for the same God who 
now saves us by baptism and the bread, saved Abel by his 
sacrifice, Noah by the Ark, Abraham by circumcision, and all 
the other Patriarchs by their own proper signs. There is no 
difference then between a sacrament of the old and of the new 
law, as regards their significance ; provided we understand by 
the old law all the dealings of God with the Patriarchs and other 
Fathers in the time of the law. For those signs which were 
given to the Patriarchs and Fathers are completely distinct 
from the legal figures which Moses instituted in his law ; such 
as the rites of the priesthood, in relation to vestments, vessels, 
food, houses, and the like. These are as different as possible, 
not only from the sacraments of the new law, but also from 
those signs which God gave from time to time to the Fathers 
who lived under the law ; such as that given to Gideon in the 
fleece, to Manoah in his sacrifice ; such also as that which 
Isaiah offered to Ahaz. In all these cases alike, some promise 
was given which required faith in God. 

In this then the figures of the law differ from signs new or 
old, that the figures of the law have no word of promise 
annexed to them, requiring faith, and therefore are not signs 


of justification, inasmuch as they are not sacraments of faith, 
which alone justify, but only sacraments of works. Their 

L whole force and nature lay in works, not in faith ; for he who 
did them fulfilled them, even if his work was without faith. 
Now our signs or sacraments and those of the Fathers have 
annexed to them a word of promise, which requires faith, and 
can be fulfilled by no other work. Thus they are signs or 
sacraments of justification, because they are sacraments of 
justifying faith and not of works ; so that their whole efficacy 
lies in faith itself, not in working. He who believes them 
fulfils them, even though he do no work. Hence the saying : 
\lt is not the sacrament, but faith in the sacrament which 
Justifies. Thus circumcision did not justify Abraham and his 
seed ; and yet the Apostle calls it a seal of the righteousness of 
faith, because faith in that promise with which circumcision 
was connected did justify, and fulfilled the meaning of circum- 
cision. Faith was that circumcision of the heart in spirit, 
which was figured by the circumcision of the flesh in the letter. 
Thus it was evidently not the sacrifice of Abel which justified 
him, but the faith by which he offered himself entirely to God ; 
of which faith the outward sacrifice was a figure. 

Thus it is not baptism which justifies any man, or is of any 

j advantage; but faith in that word of promise to which 
baptism is added ; for this justifies, and fulfils the meaning of 
baptism. For faith is the submerging of the old man, and the 
: emerging of the new man. Hence it cannot be that the new 
\ sacraments differ from the ancient sacraments, for they both 
alike have divine promises and the same spirit of faith ; but 
they differ incomparably from the ancient figures, on account 

— of the word of promise, which is the sole and most effective 
means of difference. Thus at the present day the pomp of 
vestments, localities, meats, and an infinite variety of cere- 
monies, doubtless figure excellent works to be fulfilled in the 
spirit ; and yet, since no word of divine promise is connected 
with them, they can in no way be compared with the signs 
of baptism and the bread. Nor can they justify men nor 
profit them in any way, since their fulfilment lies in the 
very practice or performance of them without faith ; for 
when they are done or performed, they are fulfilled. Thus 
the Apostle speaks of those things, " which all are to perish 



with the using ; after the commandments and doctrines of 
men." (Col, ii. 22.) Now the sacraments are not fulfilled by 
being done, but by being believed. 

Thus it cannot be true that there is inherent in the Sacra- * 
ments a power effectual to produce justification, or that they are 
efficacious signs of grace. These things are said in ignorance of 
the divine promise and to the great detriment of faith ; unless 
indeed we call them efficacious in this sense, that, if along with 
them there be unhesitating faith, they do confer grace most 
certainly and most effectually. But that it is not this kind of 
efficacy which those writers attribute to them is evident from 
this, that they assert them to be profitable to all men, even 
the wicked and unbelieving, provided they put no obstacle in 
the way ; as if unbelief itself were not the most persistent of 
all obstacles, and the most hostile to grace. Thus they have 
endeavoured to make out of the sacrament a precept, and out 
of faith a work. For if a sacrament confers grace on me, 
merely because I receive it, then it is certainly by my own 
work and not by faith that I obtain grace ; nor do I apprehend 
any promise in the sacrament, but only a sign instituted and 
commanded by Gk>d. It is evident from this how utterly 
the sacraments are misunderstood by these theologians of 
the Sentences, inasmuch as they make no account either of 
faith or of the promise in the sacraments, but cleave only 
to the sign and the use of the sign, and carry us away from 
faith to works, from the word to the sign. Thus, as I 
have said, they have not only brought the sacraments into 
bondage, but, as far as in them lay, have entirely done away 
with them. 

Let us then open our eyes, and learn to look more to the 
word than the sign, more to faith than to the work or use of 
the sign ; and let us understand that wherever there is a 
divine promise, there faith is required ; and that both of these 
are so necessary that neither can be of any effect without the 
other. We can neither believe unless we have a promise, nor is 
the promise effectual unless it is believed ; while if these two 
act reciprocally, they produce a real and sure efficacy in the 
sacraments. Hence to seek efficacy in the sacrament inde- 
pendently of the promise and of faith is to strive in vain 
and to fall into condemnation. Thus Christ says : " He that 



believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth 
not shall be damned." (Mark xvi. 16.) Thus He shows that 
in the sacrament faith is so necessary that it can save us 
even without the sacrament ; and on this account when He 
says : " He that believeth not," He does not add : " and is not 

Baptism then signifies two things, death and resurrection ; 
that is, full and complete justification. When the minister 
dips the child into the water, this signifies death ; when he 
draws him out again, this signifies life. Thus Paul explains 
the matter : " Therefore we are buried with him by baptism 
into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by 
the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in 
newness of life." (Rom. vi. 4.) This death and resurrection we 
call a new creation, a regeneration, and a spiritual birth ; and 
these words are not only to be understood allegorically, as 
they are by many, of the death of sin and the life of grace, 
but of a real death and resurrection. For baptism has no 
fictitious meaning, nor does sin die or grace rise fully within 
us, until the body of sin which we bear in this life is destroyed ; 
for, as the Apostle says, as long as we are in the flesh, the 
desires of the flesh work in us and are worked upon. Hence 
when we begin to believe, we begin at the same time to die to this 
world, and to live to God in a future life ; so that faith is truly 
a death and resurrection ; that is, that spiritual baptism in 
which we are submerged and emerge. 

"When then the washing away of sins is attributed to 
baptism, it is rightly so attributed ; but the meaning of the 
phrase is too slight and weak to fully express baptism, which 
is rather a symbol of death and resurrection. For this reason 
I could wish that the baptized should be totally immersed, 
according to the meaning of the word and the signification of 
the mystery ; not that I think it necessary to do so, but that 
it would be well that so complete and perfect a thing as 
baptism should have its sign also in completeness and perfec- 
tion, even as it was doubtless instituted by Christ. For a 
sinner needs not so much to be washed as to die, that he may 
be altogether renewed into another creature, and that there 
may thus be a correspondence in him to the death and resur- 
rection of Christ along with whom he dies and rises again in 


baptism. For though we may say that Christ was washed 
from His mortality when Pie died and rose again, yet it is a 
weaker expression than if we said that He was totally changed 
and renewed ; and so there is more intensity in saying that 
death and resurrection to eternal life are signified to us by 
baptism, than that we are washed from sin. 

Here again we see that the sacrament of baptism, even in . 
respect to the sign, is not the mere business of a moment, but ] 
has a lasting character. For though the transaction itself 
passes quickly, the thing signified by it lasts even until death, 
yea, till the resurrection at the last day. For as long as we 
live we are always doing that which is signified by baptism ; 
that is, we are dying and rising again. We are dying, I say, 
not only in our affections and spiritually, by renouncing the 
sins and vanities of the world, but in very deed we are 
beginning to leave this bodily life and to apprehend the future 
life, so that there is a real (as they call it) and also a bodily 
passing out of this world to the Father. 

We must therefore keep clear of the error of those who 
have reduced the effect of baptism to such small and slender 
dimensions that, while they say that grace is infused by it, 
they assert that this grace is afterwards, so to speak, effused by 
sin ; and that we must then go to heaven by some other way, 
as if baptism had now became absolutely useless. Do not thou 
judge thus, but understand that the significance of baptism 
is such that thou mayest live and die in it ; and that neither 
by penitence nor by any other way canst thou do aught but 
• return to the effect of baptism, and do afresh what thou wert 
baptized in order to do, and what thy baptism signified. 
-_ . Baptism never loses its effect, unless in desperation thou refuse 
to return to salvation. Thou mayst wander away for a time 
from the sign, but the sign does not on that account lose its 
effect. Thus thou hast been baptized once for all sacramentally, 
but thou needest continually to be baptized by faith, and must 
continually die and continually live. Baptism hath swallowed 
up thy whole body and given it forth again ; and so the 
substance of baptism ought to swallow up thy whole life, in 
body and in soul, and to give it back in the last day, clothed 
in the robe of brightness and immortality. Thus we are 
never without the sign as well as the substance of baptism ; 


nay, we ought to be continually baptized more and more, 
until we fulfil the wliole meaning of the sign at the last 

We see then that whatever we do in this life tending to 
»*-~i jthe mortifying of the flesh and the vivifying of the spirit is 
connected with baptism ; and that the sooner we are set free 
^ I from this life, the more speedily we fulfil the meaning of our 
baptism ; and the greater the sufferings we endure, the more 
happily do we answer the purpose of baptism. The Church 
was at its happiest in those days when martyrs were daily 
put to death and counted as sheep for the slaughter ; for 
then the virtue of baptism reigned in the Church with full 
power, though now we have quite lost sight of it for the 
multitude of human works and doctrine. The whole life which 
we live ought to be a baptism, and to fulfil the sign or 
sacrament of baptism ; since we have been set free from all 
other things and given up to baptism alone, that is, to death 
and resurrection. 

To whom can we assign the blame that this glorious liberty 
of ours and this knowledge of baptism are nowadays in bondage, 
except only to the tyranny of the Koman Pontiff? He most of 
all men, as becomes a chief shepherd, ought to have been the 
preacher and the asserter of this liberty and this knowledge ; 
as Paul says : " Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers 
of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." (1 Cor. iv. 1.) 
But his sole object is to oppress us by his decrees and laws, 
and to ensnare us into bondage to his tyrannical power. Not 
to speak of the impious and damnable way in which the Pope 
fails to teach these mysteries, by what right, I ask, has he 
established laws over us? Who has given him authority to 
bring into bondage this liberty of ours, given us by baptism ? / 
One purpose, as I have said, we ought to carry out in our 
whole lives, namely, to be baptized, that is, to be mortified, 
and to live by faith in Christ. This faith alone ought to liave 
been taught, above all by the chief shepherd. But now not a 
word is said about faith, but the Church is crushed by an 
infinite number of laws concerning works and ceremonies ; the 
virtue and knowledge of baptism are taken away ; the faith of 
Christ is hindered. 

I say then, neither Pope, nor bishop, nor any man what- 


'ever has the right of making one syllable binding on a / 
Christian man, unless it is done with his own consent. What 
ever is done otherwise is done in a spirit of tyranny ; and thus 
the prayers, fastings, almsgiving, and whatever else the Pope 
ordains and requires in the whole body of his decrees, which 
are as many as they are iniquitous, he has absolutely no right 
to require and ordain ; and he sins against the liberty of the 
Church as often as he attempts anything of the kind. Hence 
it has come to pass that while the churchmen of the present 
day are strenuous defenders of church liberty, that is, of wood, 
stone, fields, and money (for in this day things ecclesiastical 
are synonymous with things spiritual), they yet, by their false 
teaching, not only bring into bondage the true liberty of the 
Church, but utterly destroy it ; yea, more than the Turk 
himself could ; contrary to the mind of the Apostle, who says : 
" Be not ye the servants of men." (1 Cor. vii. 23.) "We are 
indeed made servants of men, when we are subjected to their 
tyrannical ordinances and laws. 

This wicked and flagitious tyranny is aided by the disciples 
of the Pope, who distort and pervert to this end the saying of 
Christ : " He who heareth you heareth me." They swell out 
these words into a support for their own traditions; whereas 
this saying was addressed by Christ to the Apostles when they 
were going forth to preach the gospel, and therefore ought to 
be understood as referring to the gospel alone. These men, 
however, leave the gospel out of sight, and make this saying 
fit in with their own inventions. Christ says : " My sheep 
hear my voice, but they know not the voice of strangers." 
For this cause the gospel was bequeathed to us, that the 
pontiffs might utter the voice of Christ ; but they utter their 
own voice, and are determined to be heard. The Apostle also 
says of himself that he was not sent to baptize, but to preach 
the gospel ; and thus no man is bound to receive the traditions 
of the pontiff, or to listen to him, except when he teaches the 
gospel and Christ ; and he himself ought to teach nothing but 
the freest faith. Since, however, Christ says : " he who hears 
you hears me," why does not the Pope also hear others ? Christ 
did not say to Peter alone : " he who hears thee." Lastly, 
where there is true 4aith, there must also of necessity be the 
word of faith. Why then does not the unbelieving Pope listen 



— to his believing servant who has the word of faith ? Blindness, 
blindness reigns among the pontiffs. 

Others however, far more shamelessly, arrogate to the Pope 
the power of making laws ; arguing from the words : " Whatso- 
ever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven ; and 
whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 
(Matt. xvi. 19.) Christ is speaking there of the binding and 
loosing of sins, not of bringing the whole Church into bondage 
! and making laws to oppress it. Thus the papal tyranny acts 
in all things on its own false maxims ; while it forcibly wrests 
and perverts the words of God. | I admit indeed that Christians 
must endure this accursed tyranny, as they would any other 
violence inflicted on them by the world, according to the 
saying of Christ : " Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right 
cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matt. v. 39.) But I 
'complain of this, that wicked pontiffs boast that they have a 
rightful power to act thus, and pretend that in this Babylon 
of theirs they are providing for the interests of Christendom ; 
an idea which they have persuaded all men to adopt. If they 
did these things in conscious and avowed impiety and tyranny, 
or if it were simple violence that we endured, we might mean- 
while quietly reckon up the advantages thus afforded us for the 
mortification of this life and the fulfilment of baptism, and 
should retain the full right of glorying in conscience at the 
wrong done us. As it is, they desire so to ensnare our con- 
sciences in the matter of liberty that we should believe all that 
they do to be well done, and should think it unlawful to blame 

A or complain of their iniquitous actions. Being wolves, they 
v wish to appear shepherds ; being antichrists, they wish to be 
honoured like Christ. 

^ i I cry aloud on behalf of liberty and conscience, and I 
/ proclaim with confidence that no kind of law can with any 
[ justice be imposed on Christians, whether by men or by 
I angels, except so far as they themselves will ; for we are free 
from all. If such laws are imposed on us, we ought so to 
endure them as still to preserve the consciousness of our 
liberty. We ought to know and stedfastly to protest that a 
wrong is being done to that liberty, though we may bear and 
even glory in that wrong ; taking care neither to justify the 
tyrant nor to murmur against the tyranny. " Who is he that 



will barm you, if ye be followers of tbat wbicb is good ? " 
(1 Peter iii. 13.) All tbings work together for good to the 
elect of God. Since, bowever, tbere are but few wbo under- 
stand tbe glory of baptism and tbe bappiness of Christian 
liberty, or wbo can understand tbem for tbe tyranny of tbe 
Pope — I for my part will set free my own mind and deliver 
my conscience, by declaring aloud to^Jjbe Pope and to all 
papists, tbat, unless they shall throw a»de all their laws and 
traditions, and restore liberty to the cjjurches of Christ, and 
cause that liberty to be taught, they aBguilty of the death of 
all the souls which are perishing in thMwretched bondage, and 
that the papacy is in truth nothing Be than the kingdom of 
Babylon and of very Antichrist. FJB who is tbe man of sin 
and tbe son of perdition, but be whofpy his teaching and bis 
ordinances increases tbe sin and perdition of souls in the 
Church ; while he yet sits in tbe Church as if he were God ? 
All these conditions have now for many ages been fulfilled by 
tbe papal tyranny. It has extinguished faith, darkened the 
sacraments, crushed the gospel ; while it has enjoined and 
multiplied without end its own laws, which are not only wicked 
and sacrilegious, but also most unlearned and barbarous. 

Behold then the wretchedness of our bondage. " How doth 
the city sit solitary, tbat was full of people ! How is she 
become as a widow ! She that was great among the nations,, 
and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary ! 
Among all her lovers she bath none to comfort her ; all her 
friends have dealt treacherously with her." (Lam. i. 1, 2.) 
Tbere are at this day so many ordinances, so many rites, so 
many parties, so many professions, so many works to occupy 
the minds of Christians, tbat they forget their baptism. For 
this multitude of locusts, caterpillars, and cankerworms, no man 
is able to remember tbat be was baptized, or what it was that 
he obtained in baptism. We ought to have been like babes 
when they are baptized, wbo, being preoccupied by no zeal 
and by no works, are free for all tbings, at rest and safe in tbe 
glory of their baptism alone. We also ourselves are babes in 
Christ, unremittingly baptized. 

In opposition to what I have said, an argument will perhaps 
be drawn from tbe baptism of infants, who cannot receive the 
promise of God, or have faith in their baptism; and it will be 

o 2 


said that therefore either faith is not requisite, or infants are 
baptized in vain. To this I reply, what all men say, that ' 
infants are aided by the faith of others, namely, that of those 
who bring them to baptism. For as the word of God, when it 
is preached, is powerful enough to change the heart of a 
wicked man, which is not less devoid of sense and feeling than 
any infant, so through the prayers of the Church which brings 
the child in faith, to which prayers all things are possible, the 
infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by faith infused into 
it. Nor should I doubt that even a wicked adult, if the Church 
were to bring him forward and pray for him, might undergo 
a change in any of the sacraments ; just as we read in the 
gospel that the paralytic man was healed by the faith of others. 
In this sense too I should readily admit that the sacraments 
of the new law are effectual for the bestowal of grace, not 
only on those who do not place any obstacle in the way, but 
on the most obstinate of those who do. What difficulty cannot 
the faith of the Church and the prayer of faith remove, when 
Stephen is believed to have converted the Aj>ostle Paul by this 
power ? But in these cases the sacraments do what they do, 
not by their own virtue, but by that of faith ; without which, 
as I have said, they have no effect at all. 

A question has been raised whether a child yet unborn, but 
of which only a hand or a foot appears, can be baptized. On 
this point I would give no hasty judgment, and I confess my 
own ignorance. Nor do I know whether the reason on which 
they base their opinion is sufficient, namely, that the whole soul 
exists in every part of the body ; for it is not the soul, but the 
body, which is outwardly baptized. On the other hand, I 
cannot pronounce that, as some assert, he who has not yet 
been born, cannot be born again ; though it is a very strong 
argument. I leave this question to the decision of the Spirit, 
and meanwhile would have every man to be fully persuaded 
in his own mind. 

I will add one thing, of which I wish I could persuade every 
one ; that is, that all vows, whether those of religious orders, 
or of pilgrimages, or of works of any kind, should be entirely 
done away with, or at least avoided, and that we should remain 
in the liberty of baptism, full as it is of religious observances 
and of good works. It is impossible to express to what an 


extent this far too much extolled belief in vows detracts from 
baptism, and obscures the knowledge of Christian liberty ; not 
to mention the unspeakable and infinite danger to souls which 
is daily increased by this immoderate passion for vows, and 
thoughtless rashness in making them. Oh ye most wicked 
Bishops and most unhappy pastors, who slumber at your 
ease and disport yourselves with your own desires, while 
ye have no pity for the grievous and perilous affliction of 
Joseph ! 

It would be well either to do away by a general edict with 
all vows, especially those which are perpetual, and to recall all 
men to their baptismal vows, or at least to admonish all to 
take no vow rashly ; and not only to invite no vows, but to 
place delays and difficulties in the way of their being taken. 
We make an ample vow at baptism, a greater _one than we can 
fulfil ; ancL we shall have enough to do if we give all our 
efforts to this alone. But now we compass sea and land to 
make many proselytes ; we fill the world with priests, monks, 
and nuns ; and we imprison all these in perpetual vows. We 
shall find those who will argue on this point, and lay it down 
that works performed under the sanction of a vow are better 
than those performed independently of vows, and will be 
preferred in heaven and meet with far higher reward. Blind 
and impious Pharisees ! who measure righteousness and holi- 
ness by the greatness and number of works, or by some 
other quality in them ; while in God's sight they are 
measured by faith alone ; since in His sight there is no 
difference between works, except so far as there is a difference 
in faith. 

By this inflated talk wicked men create a great opinion 
of their own inventions, and puff up human works, in 
order to allure the senseless multitude, who are easily led 
by a specious show of works ; to the great ruin of faith, 
forgetfulness of baptism, and injury to Christian liberty. As / 
a vow is a sort of law and requires a work, it follows that, as 
vows are multiplied, so laws and works are multiplied ; and by ( 
the multiplication of these, faith is extinguished, and the liberty J 
of baptism is brought into bondage. Not content with these im- 
pious allurements, others go further, and assert that entrance into i 
a religious order is like a new baptism, which may be successively / 


renewed, as often as the purpose of a religious life is renewed. 
Thus these devotees attribute to themselves alone righteous- 
ness, salvation, and glory, and leave to the baptized absolutely 
no room for comparison with them. The Eoman pontiff, that 
fountain and author of all superstitions, confirms, approves, 
and embellishes these ideas by grandly worded bulls and 
indulgences ; while no one thinks baptism worthy even of 
mention. By these showy displays they drive the easily 
•^ j led people of Christ into whatever whirlpools of error they 
will ; so that, unthankful for their baptism, they imagine 
ithat they can do better by their works than others by their 

Wherefore God also, who is froward with the froward, resolving 
to avenge Himself on the pride and unthankfulness of these 
>: devotees, causes them either to fail in keeping their vows, or to 
; keep them with great labour and to continue immersed in 
them, never becoming acquainted with the grace of faith and 
of baptism. As their spirit is not right with God, He permits 
them to continue to the end in their hypocrisy, and to become 
at length a laughing-stock to the whole world, always follow- 
ing after righteousness, and never attaining to it; so that 
they fulfil that saying: "Their land also is full of idols." 
(Is. ii. 8.) 

I should certainly not forbid or object to any vow which a 
man may make of his own private choice. I do not wish 
altogether to condemn or depreciate vows; but my advice 

— - would be altogether against the public establishment or 
confirmation of any such mode of life. It is enough that 
every man should be at liberty to make private vows at his 
own peril ; but that a public system of living under the 
constraint of vows should be inculcated, I consider to be a 
thing pernicious to the Church and to all simple souls. In the 
first place, it is not a little repugnant to the Christian life, 
inasmuch as a vow is a kind of ceremonial law, and a matter of 
human tradition or invention ; from all which the Church 
has been set free by baptism, since the Christian is bound by 

\ j no law, except that of God. Moreover there is no example of 

— : it in the Scriptures, especially of the vow of perpetual chastity, 

obedience, and poverty. Now a vow of which we have no 

example in the Scriptures is a perilous one, which ought to be 


urged upon no man, much less be established as a common and 
public mode of life ; even if every individual must be allowed 
to venture upon it at his own peril, if he will. There are some 
works which are wrought by the Spirit in but few, and these 
ought by no means to be brought forward as an example, or as 
a manner of life. 

I greatly fear, however, that these systems of living under 
vows in the religious, are of the number of those things 
of which the Apostle foretold : " Speaking lies in hypo- 
crisy ; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain 
from meats, which God hath created to be received with 
thanksgiving." (1 Tim. iv. 2, 3.) Let no one cite against me 
the example of St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and such 
like authors or supporters of religious orders. God is terrible 
and wonderful in His dealings with the children of men. He 
could preserve Daniel, Ananias, Azarias, and Misael holy, even 
as ministers of the kingdom of Babylon, that is, in the very 
midst of wickedness ; He may also have sanctified the men of 
whom I have spoken in their perilous mode of life, and have 
guided them by the special working of His Spirit ; while 
yet He would not have this made an example for other men. It 
is certain that not one of these men was saved by his vows or 
his religious order, but by faith alone, by which all men are 
saved, but to which these showy servitudes of vows are espe- 
cially hostile. 

In this matter let every man be fully persuaded in his own 
mind. I shall carry out my undertaking, and speak on behalf 
of the liberty of the Church and of the glory of baptism ; and 
I shall state for the general benefit what I have learnt under 
the teaching of the Spirit. And first I counsel those who are 
in high places in the Church to do away with all those vows 
and the practice of living under vows, or, at the least, not to 
approve or extol them. If they will not do this, then I 
earnestly advise all who desire to make their salvation the 
safer — particularly growing youths and young men — to keep 
aloof from all vows, especially from such as are extensive and 
life-long. I give this advice in the first place because this 
mode of life, as I have already said, has no evidence or 
example in the Scriptures, but rests only on the bulls of the 
pontiffs, who are but men ; and secondly, because it tends to 


lead men into hypocrisy through its singularity and showy 

/ appearance, whence arise pride and contempt of the ordinary 

Christian life. If there were, no other cause for doing away 

with these vows, this one by itself would have weight enough, 

\ that by them faith and baptism are depreciated, and works are 

V magnified. Now these cannot be magnified without ruinous 

consequences, for among many thousands there is scarcely 

one who does not look more to his works as a member of a 

. religious order, than to faith ; and under this delusion they 

claim superiority over each other as being stricter or laxer, as 

they call it. 

Hence I advise no man, yea, I dissuade every man from 
entering into the priesthood or any religious order, unless 
he be so fortified with knowledge as to understand that, how- ) 
ever sacred and lofty may be the works of priests or of the 
religious orders, they differ not at all in the sight of God from 
the works of a husbandman labouring in his field, or of a 
woman attending to her household affairs, but that in His eyes 
all things are measured by faith alone ; as it is written : "In 
all thy work believe with the faith of thy soul, for this is the 
keeping of the commandments of God." (Eccles. xxxii. 23.) 
Nay, it very often happens that the common work of a 
servant or a handmaiden is more acceptable to God than all the 
fastings and works of a monk or a priest, when they are done 
without faith. Since, then, it is likely that at the present day 
vows only tend to increase men's pride and presumption in 
their own works, it is to be feared that there is nowhere less of 
. faith and of the Church than in priests, monks, and bishops ; 
' and that these very men are really Gentiles and hypocrites, 
who consider themselves to be the Church, or the very heart of 
the Church, spiritual persons, and rulers of the Church, when 
they are very far indeed from being so. These are really the 
people of the captivity, among whom all the free gifts bestowed 
in baptism have been brought into bondage ; while the poor 
and slender remnant of the- people of the land appear vile in 
their eyes. 

From this we perceive two conspicuous errors on the part of 

i the Roman Pontiff. The first is, that he gives dispensations in 

the matter of vows, and does this as if he alone possessed 

authority beyond all other Christians. So far does the rashness 


and audacity- Of wicked men extend. If a vow can be dis- 
pensed with, any brother can dispense for his neighbour, or 
even for himself. If he cannot grant such dispensations, 
neither has the Pope any right to do so. "Whence has he 
this authority ? From the keys ? They are common to all, 
and only have power over sins. But since the Pope himself 
confesses that vows have a divine right, why does he cheat 
and ruin wretched souls by giving dispensations in a matter 
of divine right, which admits of no dispensation ? He prates 
of the redemption of vows, and declares that he has power to 
change vows, just as under the law of old the first-born of an 
ass was exchanged for a lamb ; as if a vow, which requires to 
be fulfilled everywhere and constantly, were the same thing 
with the first-born of an ass ; or as if, because God in His own 
law ordered an ass to be exchanged for a lamb, therefore the 
Pope, who is but a man, had the same power with respect to 
a law which is not his, but God's. It was not a pope who 
made this decretal, but an ass which had been exchanged for a 
pope, so utterly mad and impious was he. 

The Pope commits a second great error again, in decreeing \ 
that the bond of marriage may be broken through, if one of the 
parties, even against the will of the other, desires to enter a 
monastery, provided the marriage has not yet been consum- 
mated. What devil inspires this portentous decree of the Pope ? 
God commands men to keep faith and observe truth towards 
one another, and that every man should bring gifts out of his 
own substance ; for He hates robbery for burnt-offering, as He 
declares by the mouth of Isaiah. Now husband and wife owe 
fidelity to each other by their compact, a fidelity which can be 
dissolved by no law. Neither can say : " I belong to myself," 
or can do without robbery whatever is done against the will of 
the other. Else why not also have a rule that a man who is 
in debt, if he enter into a religious order, shall be freed from 
his debts, and be at liberty to deny his bond ? Ye blind ! ye 
blind ! Which is greater — good faith, which is a command of 
God, or a vow, invented and chosen by men? Art thou a 
shepherd of souls, Pope ? Are ye doctors of sacred theology, 
who teach in this way ? Why do ye teach thus ? Because ye 
extol a vow as being a better work than marriage ; but it is 
not faith, which itself alone can magnify anything, that ye 


magnify, but works, which in the sight of God are nothing, or 
at least all equal as concerns their merit. 

I cannot doubt then that from such vows as it. is right to 
make, neither men nor angels can give a dispensation. But I 
have not been able to convince myself that all the vows made 
in these days fall under the head of rightful vows ; such as 
that ridiculous piece of folly, when parents devote their child 
yet unborn, or an infant, to a life of religion or to perpetual 
chastity. Nay it is certain that this is no rightful vow ; it 
appears to be a mockery of God, since the parents vow what 
it is in no wise in their power to perform. I come now to 
members of the religious orders. The more I think of their 
three vows, the less I understand them, and the more I wonder 
how the exaction of such vows has grown upon us. Still less 
do I understand at what period of life such vows can be taken, 
so as to be legitimate and valid. In this all are agreed, that 
such vows, taken before the age of puberty, are not valid. 
And yet in this matter they deceive a great number of youths, 
who know as little of their own age as of what it is they are 
vowing. The age of puberty is not looked to when the vows 
are taken, but consent is supposed to follow afterwards, and the 
professed are held in bondage and devoured by dreadful scruples 
of conscience ; as if a vow in itself void could become valid by 
the progress of time. 

To me it seems folly that any limit to a legitimate vow 
should be laid down by others, who cannot lay one down in 
their own case. Nor do I see why a vow made in a man's 
eighteenth year should be valid, but not if made in his tenth or 
twelfth year. It is not enough to say that in his eighteenth 
year a man feels the impulses of the flesh. What if he 
scarcely feels them in his twentieth or thirtieth year; or 
feels them more strongly in his thirtieth year than in his 
twentieth ? Why, again, is not a similar limitation placed on 
the vows of poverty and obedience ? What time shall we assign 
for a man to feel himself avaricious or proud, when even the 
most spiritually minded men have a difficulty in detecting 
these affections in themselves ? There will never be any sure 
and legitimate vow, until we shall have become thoroughly 
spiritual, and so have no need of vows. We see then that vows 
are most uncertain and perilous things. It would be a 


salutary course to leave this lofty manner of living under vows 
free to the spirit alone, as it was of old, and by no means 
to convert it into a perpetual mode of life. We have now, 
however, said enough on the subject of baptism and liberty. 
The time will perhaps come for treating [more fully of vows, 
and in truth they greatly need to be treated of. 


In this third part I shall speak of the sacrament of penance. 
By the tracts and disputations which I have published on this 
subject I have given offence to very many, and have amply 
expressed my own opinions. I must now briefly repeat these 
statements, in order to unveil the tyranny which attacks us on 
this point as unsparingly as in the sacrament of the bread. In 
! these two sacraments gain and lucre find a place, and therefore , 
the avarice of the shepherds has raged to an incredible extent 
against the sheep of Christ; while even baptism, as we have 
seen in speaking of vows, has been sadly obscured among adults, 
that the purposes of avarice might be served. 

The first and capital evil connected with this sacrament 
is, that they have totally done away with the sacrament 
itself, leaving not even a vestige of it. Whereas this, like 
the other two sacraments, consists of the word of the divine 
promise on one side and of our faith on the other, they have ^ 
overthrown both of these. They have adapted to the purposes 
of their own tyranny Christ's word of promise, when He says : 
" Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in 
heaven : and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be 
loosed in heaven " (Matt. xvi. 19); and : " Whatsoever ye shall 
bind on earth shall be bound in heaven : and whatsoever ye 
shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt, xviii. 18) ; 
and again : " Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted 
unto them ; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." 
(John xx. 23.) These words are meant to call forth the faith 
of penitents, that they may seek and obtain remission of their . 
sins. But these men, in all their books, writings, and dis- 
courses, have not made it their object to explain to Christians 


the promise conveyed in these words, and to show them what 
they ought to believe, and how much consolation they might 
have, but to establish in the utmost length, "breadth and depth 
their own powerful and violent tyranny. At last some have 
even begun to give orders to the angels in heaven, and to boast, 
with an incredible frenzy of impiety, that they have received 
the right to rule in heaven and on earth, and have the power 
of binding even in heaven. Thus they say not a word about 
the saving faith of the people, but talk largely of the tyranni- 
cal power of the pontiffs ; whereas Christ's words do not deal 
, at all with power, but entirely with faith. 

It was not principalities, powers, and dominions that Christ 
instituted in His Church, but a ministry, as we learn from the 
words of the Apostle : " Let a man so account of us, as of the 
ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." 
(1 Cor. iv. 1.) When Christ said : " Whosoever believeth and 
is baptized shall be saved," He meant to call forth faith on the 
part of those seeking baptism ; so that, on the strength of this 
word of promise, a man might be sure that, if he believed and 
were baptized, he would obtain salvation. No sort of power is 
here bestowed on His servants, but only the ministry of baptism 
is committed to them. In the same way, when Christ says : 
" Whatsoever ye shall bind," etc., He means to call forth the 
faith of the penitent, so that, on the strength of this word of 
promise, he may be sure that, if he believes and is absolved, 
he will be truly absolved in heaven. Evidently nothing is said 
here of power, but it is the ministry of absolution which is 
spoken of. It is strange enough that these blind and arrogant 
men have not arrogated to themselves some tyrannical power 
from the terms of the baptismal promise. If not, why have 
they presumed to do so from the promise connected with 
penitence ? In both cases there is an equal ministry, a like 
promise, and the same character in the sacrament ; and it can- 
not be denied that, if we do not owe baptism to Peter alone, it 
is a piece of impious tyranny to claim the power of the keys 
for the Pope alone. 

Thus also when Christ says : " Take, eat, this is my body 
which is given for you ; this is the cup in my blood," He means - 
to call forth faith in those who eat, that their conscience may be 
strengthened by faith in these words, and that they may feel 



sure that, when they eat, they receive remission of sins. There 
is nothing here which speaks of power, but only of a ministry. 
The promise of Baptism has remained with us, at least in the 
case of infants, but the promise of the Bread and the Cup has 
been destroyed, or brought into servitude to avarice, and faith 
has been turned into a work and a testament into a sacrifice. 
Thus also the promise of Penance has been perverted into 
a most violent tyranny, and into the establishment of a do- 

j minion that is more than temporal. 

\ / Not content with this, our Babylon has so utterly done away 
with faith as to declare with shameless front that it is not 
necessary in this sacrament ; nay, in her antichristian wicked- 
ness, she pronounces it a heresy to assert the necessity of 
faith. What more is there that that tyranny could do, and has 
not done ? Verily " by the rivers of Babylon, there we sat 
down ; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged 
our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof." (Psalm 
cxxxvii. 1, 2.) May the Lord curse the barren willows of those 
rivers ! Amen. The promise and faith having been blotted 
out and overthrown, let us see what they have substituted for 
them. They have divided penitence into three parts, con- 
trition, confession, and satisfaction ; but in doing this they 
have taken away all that was good in each of these, and have 
set up in each their own tyranny and caprice. 

^7/ / In the first place, they have so taught contrition as to make 
it prior to faith in the promise, and far better as not being a 
work of faith, but a merit ; nay, they make no mention of 
faith. They stick fast in works and in examples taken from 
the Scriptures, where we read of many who obtained pardon 
through humility and contrition of heart, but they never think 
of the faith which wrought this contrition and sorrow of 
heart ; as it is written concerning the Ninevites : " The people 
of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on 
sackcloth." (Jonah iii. 5.) These men, worse and more auda- ' 
cious than the Ninevites, have invented a certain "attrition," 
which, by the virtue of the keys (of which they are ignorant), 
may become contrition ; and this they bestow on the wicked 
and unbelieving, and thus do away entirely with contrition. 
unendurable wrath of God, that such things should be taught 
in the Church of Christ ! So it is that, having got rid of faith 



and its work, we walk heedlessly in the doctrines and opinions 
of men, or ratherJperish in them. A contrite heart is a great 
matter indeed, anil can only proceed from an earnest faith in 
the Divine promises and threats — a faith which, contemplating 
the nnshakeable truth of God, makes the conscience to tremble, 
terrifies and bruises it, and, when it is thus contrite, raises it 
up again, consoles, and preserves it. Thus, the truth of the 
threatening is the cause of contrition, and the truth of the 
promise is the cause' of consolation, when they are believed; and 
by this faith a man merits remission of sins. Therefore faith 
above all things ought to be taught and called forth; when 
faith is produced, contrition and consolation will follow of their 
own accord by an inevitable consequence. 

Hence, although there is something in the teaching of those 
iwho assert that contrition is to be brought about by the 
{ collection — as they call it — and contemplation of our own sins, 
still theirs is a perilous and perverse doctrine, because they do 
not first teach the origin and cause of contrition, namely, the 
unshakeable truth of the Divine threatenings and promises, in 
order to call forth faith ; that so men might understand that 
they ought to look with much more earnest attention to the 
truth of God, by which to be humbled and raised up again, 
than to the multitude of their own sins, which, if they be 
looked at apart from the truth of God, are more likely to 
renew and increase the desire for sin, than to produce con- 
trition. I say nothing of that insurmountable chaos of labour 
which they impose upon us, namely, that we are to frame a 
contrition for all our sins, for this is impossible. We can 
know but a small part of our sins ; indeed even our good 
works will be found to be sins ; as it is written : " Enter 
not into judgment with thy servant : for in thy sight shall 
no man living be justified." (Psalm cxliii. 2.) It is enough 
that we sorrow for those sins which vex our conscience at 
the present moment, and which are easily recognised by an 
effort of our memory. He who is thus disposed will with- 
out doubt be ready to feel sorrow and fear on account of all 
his sins, and will feel sorrow and fear when in future they 
are revealed to him. 

Beware then of trusting in thine own contrition, or attribu- 
[ting remission of sins to thy own sorrow. It is not because 


of these that God looks on thee with favour, but because of 
the faith with which thou hast believed His threateniugs and 
promises, and which has wrought that sorrow in thee. There- 
fore whatever good there is in penitence is due, not to the 
diligence with which we reckon up our sins, but to the truth 
of God and to our faith. All other things are works and 
fruits which follow of their own accord, and which do not 
make a man good, but are done by a man who has been 
made good by his faith in the truth of God. Thus it is 
written : " Because he was wroth, there went up a smoke 
in his presence." (Psalm xviii. 8.) The terror of the 
threatening comes first, which devours the wicked ; but faith, 
accepting the threatening, sends forth contrition as a cloud 
of smoke. 

Contrition, though it has been completely exposed to wicked 
and pestilent doctrines, has yet given less occasion to tyranny 
and the love of gain. But confession and satisfaction have been 
^ turned into the most noted workshops for lucre and ambition. 
I To spea k first of confession. There is no doubt that confession 
of sins is necessary, and' is commanded by God. " They were 
baptized of John in Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matt. iii. 6.) 
" If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our 
sins. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, 
and his word is not in us." (1 John i. 9, 10.) If the saints 
must not deny their sin, how much more ought those who are 
guilty of great or public offences to confess them. But the 
most effective proof of the institution of confession is given 
when Christ tells us that an offending brother must be told of 
his fault, brought before the Church, accused, and finally, if he 
neglect to hear the Church, excommunicated. He " hears " 
when he yields to reproof, and acknowledges and confesses 
his sin. 

The secret confession, however, which is now practised, 
though it cannot be proved from Scripture, is in my opinion 
highly satisfactory, and useful or even necessary. I could not 
wish it not to exist ; nay, I rejoice that it does exist in the 
Church of Christ, for it is the one great remedy for afflicted 
consciences ; when, after laying open our conscience to a 
brother, and unveiling all the evil which lay hid there, we 
receive from the mouth of that brother the word of consolation 



sent forth from God ; receiving which by faith we find peace in 
a sense of the mercy of God, who speaks to us through our 
brother. What I protest against is the conversion of this 
institution of confession into a means of tyranny and extortion 
by the bishops. They reserve certain cases to themselves as 
secret, and then order them to be revealed to confessors named 
by themselves, and thus vex the consciences of men ; filling the 
office of bishop, but utterly neglecting the real duties of a 
bishop, which are, to preach the gospel and to minister to the 
poor. Nay, these impious tyrants principally reserve to them- 
selves the cases which are of less consequence, while they leave 
the greater ones everywhere to the common herd of priests, 
— cases such as the ridiculous inventions of the bull " In Coena 
Domini." That their wicked perverseness may be yet more 
manifest, they do not reserve those things which are offences 
against the worship of God, against faith, and against the 
chief commandments, but even approve and teach them ; such 
as those journey ings hither and thither on pilgrimage, the 
perverted worship of saints, the lying legends of saints, the 
confidence in and practice of works and ceremonies; by all 
which things the faith of God is extinguished, and idolatry is 
nourished, as it is at this day. The pontiffs we have nowadays 
are such as those whom Jeroboam established at Dan and 
Beersheba as ministers of the golden calves — men who are 
ignorant of the law of God, of faith, and of all that concerns 
the feeding of the sheep of Christ, and who only thrust their 
own inventions upon the people by terror and power. 

Although I exhort men to endure the violence of these 
reservers, even as Christ bids us to endure all the tyrannical 
conduct of men, and teaches us to obey such extortioners ; 
still I neither admit nor believe that they have any right of 
reservation. By no jot or tittle can they prove this ; while I 
can prove the contrary. In the first place, if, in speaking of 
public offences, Christ says that we have gained our brother, 
if he hears us when told of his fault, and that he is not to be 
brought before the Church, unless he has refused to hear us, 
and that offences may thus be set right between brethren ; 
how much more true will it be concerning private offences, that 
the sin is taken away, when brother has voluntarily confessed 
it to brother, so that he need not bring it before the Church, 


that is, before a prelate or priest, as these men say in their 
foolish interpretation. In support of my opinion we have again 
the authority of Christ, when he says in the same passage : 
" Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven ; 
and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in 
heaven." (Matt, xviii. 18.) This saying is addressed to all 
Christians and to every Christian. Once more he says to the 
same effect : " Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall 
agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it 
shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." 
(Matt, xviii. 19.) Now a brother, laying open his secret sins to 
a brother and seeking pardon, certainly agrees on earth with 
that brother in the truth, which is Christ. In confirmation of 
what he had said before, Christ says still more clearly in the 
same passage : " Where two or three are gathered together in 
my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt, xviii. 20.) 
From all this I do not hesitate to say that whosoever, 
voluntarily confesses his sins privately, in the presence of 
any brother, or, when told of his faults, asks pardon and 
amends his life, is absolved from his secret sins, since Ch rist j 
|haj_manjfes tly best ojve(LJ'Iie_J30wgr_^ on every ^ 

believer in Hvm, with whatever violence the pontiffs may rage 
against this truth. Add also this little argument, that, if any 
reservation of hidden sins were valid, and there could be no 
salvation unless they were remitted, the greatest hindrance to 
salvation would lie in those things which I have mentioned 
above — even those good works and idolatries which we are 
taught at the present day by the pontiffs. While, if these 
most weighty matters are not a hindrance, with how much less 
reason are those lighter offences so foolishly reserved ! It is 
by the ignorance and blindness of the pastors that these 
portents are wrought in the Church. Wherefore I would warn 
these princes of Babylon and bishops of Beth-aven to abstain 
from reserving cases of any kind whatever, but to allow the 
freest permission to hear confessions of secret sins to all 
brethren and sisters ; so that the sinner may reveal his sin to 
whom he will, with the object of seeking pardon and consola- 
tion, that is, the word of Christ uttered by the mouth of his 
neighbour. They effect nothing by their rash presumption, 
but to ensnare needlessly the consciences of the weak, to 



establish their own wicked tyranny, and to feed their own 
avarice on the sins and perdition of their brethren. Thus 
they stain their hands with the blood of souls, and children 
are devoured by their parents, and Ephraim devours Judah, 
and Syria Israel, as Isaiah says. 

To these evils they have added circumstances — mothers, 
daughters, sisters, relatives, branches, fruits of sins, all devised 
at complete leisure by the most subtle of men, who have set up, 
even in the matter of sins, a sort of tree of consanguinity and 
affinity. So fertile of results are ignorance and impiety ; for 
these devices of some worthless fellow have passed into public 
law, as has happened in many other cases. So vigilantly do 
the shepherds watch over the Church of Christ, that what- 
ever dreams of superstition or of new works these senseless 
devotees indulge, they forthwith bring forward, and dress them 
up with indulgences, and fortify them with bulls. So far 
are they from prohibiting these things, and protecting the 
simplicity of faith and liberty for the people of God ; for what 
has liberty to do with the tyranny of Babylon ? 

I should advise the total neglect of all that concerns circum- 
stances. Among Christians there is but one circumstance, 
and that is, that a brother has sinned. No character is to 
be compared to Christian brotherhood ; nor has the observa- 
tion of places, times, days, and persons, or any other such 
superstitious exaggeration, any effect but to magnify things 
which are nothing, at the expense of those things which are 
everything. As if there could be anything greater or more 
weighty than the glory of Christian brotherhood, they so tie 
us down to places and days and persons, that the name of 
brother is held cheap, and instead of being freemen we are 
slaves in bondage — we to whom all days, places, persons, and 
all other outward things, are equal. 

How unworthily they have treated the matter of satisfaction. 
I have abundantly shown in the case of indulgences. They 
have abused it notably, to the destruction of Christians in 
body and in soul. - In the first place, they have so taught it 
that the people have not understood the real meaning of 
satisfaction, which is a change of life. Furthermore, they so 
urge it and represent it as necessary, that they leave no room 
for faith in Christ ; but men's consciences are most wretchedly 


tortured by scruples on this point. One runs hither, another 
thither ; one to Bonie, another into a convent, another to some 
other place ; one scourges himself with rods, another destroys 
his body with vigils and fasting ; while all, under one general 
delusion, say : Here is Christ, or there ; and imagine that the 
kingdom of God, which is really within us, will come with 
observation. These monstrous evils we owe to thee, See of 
Rome, and to thy homicidal laws and rites, by which thou hast 
brought the world to such a point of ruin, that they think 
they can make satisfaction to God for their sins by works, 
while it is only by the faith of a contrite heart that He is 
satisfied. This faith thou not only compellest to silence in 
the midst of these tumults, but strivest to destroy, only 
in order that thy avarice, that insatiable leech, may have 
some to whom to cry : Bring, bring ; and may make a traffic 
of sins. 

Some have even proceeded to such a length in framing 
engines of despair for souls, as to lay it down that all sins, the 
satisfaction enjoined for which has been neglected, must be 
gone over afresh in confession. What will not such men dare, 
men born for this end, to bring everything ten times over into 
bondage ? Moreover, I should like to know how many people 
there are who are fully persuaded that they are in a state of 
salvation, and are making satisfaction for their sins, when they 
murmur over the prayers enjoined by the priest with their lips 
alone, and meanwhile do not even think of any amendment of 
life. They believe that by one moment of contrition and 
confession their whole life is changed, and that there remains 
merit enough over and above to make satisfaction for their 
past sins. How should they know better, when they are 
taught nothing better ? There is not a thought here of morti- 
fication of the flesh ; the example of Christ goes for nothing ; 
who, when he absolved the woman taken in adultery, said to 
her : " Go, and sin no more ; " thereby laying on her the cross 
of mortification of the flesh. No slight occasion has been 
given to these perverted ideas by our absolving sinners before 
they have completed their satisfaction ; whence it comes that 
they are more anxious about completing their satisfaction, 
which is a thing that lasts, than about contrition, which they 
think has been gone through in the act of confession. On the 

p 2 

6 O 


contrary, absolution ought to follow the completion of satisfac- 
tion, as it did in the primitive Church, whence it happened 
that, the work being over, they were afterwards more exercised 
in faith and newness of life. On this subject, however, it must 
suffice to have repeated so far what I have said at greater length 
in writing on indulgences. Let it also suffice for the present 
to have said this much in the whole respecting these three sacra- 
ments, which are treated of and not treated of in so many mis- 
chievous books of Sentences and of law. It remains for me to 
say a few words about the remaining sacraments also, that I 
may not appear to have rejected them without sufficient reason. 


It is surprising that it should have entered any one's mind to 
make a Sacrament of Confirmation out of that laying on of 
hands which Christ applied to little children, and by which 
the apostles bestowed the Holy Spirit, ordained presbyters, 
and healed the sick ; as the Apostle writes to Timothy : 
"Lay hands suddenly on no man." (1 Tim. v. 22.) Why not 
also* make a confirmation out of the sacrament of bread, be- 
cause it is written : " And when he had received meat, he 
was strengthened " (Acts ix. 19) ; or again : " Bread which 
strengthened man's heart ? " (Ps. civ. 15.) Thus confirmation 
would include three sacraments, of bread, of orders, and of 
confirmation itself. But if whatever the apostles did is a 
sacrament, why has not preaching rather been made into a 
sacrament ? 

I do not say this, because I condemn the seven sacraments, 
but because I deny that they can be proved from the Scriptures. 
I wish there were in the Church such a laying on of hands as 
there was in the time of the Apostles, whether we chose to 
call it confirmation or healing. As it is, however, none of it 
remains, except so much as we have ourselves invented in order 
to regulate the duties of the bishops, that they may not be 
entirely without work in the Church. For when they had 
left the sacraments which involved labour, along with the 
word, to their inferiors, as being beneath their attention (on 


the ground, forsooth, that whatever institutions the Divine 
majesty has set up must needs be an object of contempt to men), 
it was but right that we should invent some easy duty, not too 
troublesome for the daintiness of these great heroes, and by 
no means commit it to inferiors, as if it were of little 
importance. What human wisdom has ordained ought to be 
honoured by men. Thus, such as the priests are, such should be 
the ministry and office which they hold. For what is a bishop 
who does not preach the gospel, or attend to the cure of souls, 
but an idol in the world, having the name and form of a bishop ? 
At present, however, we are enquiring into the sacraments 
of divine institution ; and I can find no reason for reckoning 
confirmation among these. To constitute a sacrament we /' 
require in the very first place a word of divine promise, on 
whicnfaith may exercise itself. But we do not read that 
Chmt-erer gave any promise respecting confirmation, although 
he himself laid hands upon many, and although he mentions 
among the signs that should follow them that believe : " They 
shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark xvi. 
18.) No one, however, has interpreted these words of a 
sacrament, or could do so.( It is enough then to consider 
confirmation as a rite or ceremony of the Church ; of like , 
nature to those other ceremonies by which water and other 
things are consecrated. For if every other creature is sanctified 
by the word and prayer, why may not man much more be 
sanctified by the same means, even though they cannot be 
called sacraments of faith, inasmuch as they contain no divine 
promise ? Neither do these work salvation ; while sacraments 
save those who believe in the divine promise. 


It is not only without any warrant of Scripture that 
matrimony is considered a sacrament, but • it has been turned 
into a mere mockery by the very same traditions which vaunt 
it as a sacrament. Let us look a little into this. I have said 
that in every sacrament there is contained a word of divine 
promise, which must be believed in by him who receives the 



sign; and that the sign alone cannot constitute a sacrament. 
Now we nowhere read that he who marries a wife will receive 
any grace from God ; neither is there in matrimony any sign 
of divine institution, nor do we anywhere read that it was 
appointed of God to be a sign of anything; although it is 
true that all visible transactions may be understood as figures 
and allegorical representations of invisible things. But figures 
and allegories are not sacraments, in the sense in which we 
are speaking of sacraments. 

Furthermore, since matrimony has existed from the begin- 
ning of the world, and still continues even among unbelievers, 
there are no reasons why it should be called a sacrament of 
the new law, and of the Church alone. The marriages of the 
patriarchs were not less marriages than ours, nor are those of 
unbelievers less real than those of believers ; and yet no one 
calls them a sacrament. Moreover there are among believers 
wicked husbands and wives, worse than any Gentiles. Why 
should we then say there is a sacrament here, and not among 
the Gentiles ? Shall we so trifle with baptism and the Church as 
to say, like those who rave about the temporal power existing 
only in the Church, that matrimony is a sacrament only in the 
Church ? Such assertions are childish and ridiculous, and by 
them we expose our ignorance and rashness to the laughter of 

It will be asked however : Does not the Apostle say that 
"they two shall be one flesh," and that "this is a great 
sacrament ; " and will you contradict the plain words of the 
Apostle ? I reply that this argument is a very dull one, and 
proceeds from a careless and thoughtless reading of the 
original. Throughout the holy Scriptures this word " sacra- 
mentum" has not the meaning in which we employ it, but an 
opposite one. ' For it everywhere signifies, not the sign of a 
sacred thing, but a sacred thing which is secret and hidden. 
Thus Paul says : " Let a man so account of us, as of the 
ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries (that is, 
sacraments) of God." (1 Cor. iv. 1.) Where we use the Latin 
term " sacrament," in Greek the word " mystery " is employed ; 
and thus in Greek the words of the Apostle are : " They two 
shall be one flesh ; this is a great mystery." This ambiguity 
has led men to consider marriage as a sacrament of the new 


law, which they would have been far from doing, if they had 
read the word " mystery," as it is in the Greek. 

Thus the Apostle calls Christ himself a " sacrament," 
saying : " And without controversy great is the sacrament 
(that is, mystery) of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh, 
justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the 
Grentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." 
(1 Tim. iii. 16.) Why have they not deduced from this an 
eighth sacrament of the new law, under such clear authority 
from Paul? Or, if they restrained themselves in this case, 
where they might so suitably have been copious in the inven- 
tion of sacraments, why are they so lavish of them in the 
other? It is because they have been misled by their ignorance 
as well of things as of words ; they have been caught by the 
mere sound of the words and by their own fancies. Having 
once, on human authority, taken a sacrament to be a sign, 
they have proceeded, without any judgment or scruple, to 
make the word mean a sign, wherever they have met with it 
in the sacred writings. Just as they have imported other 
meanings of words and human habits of speech into the sacred 
writings, and transformed these into dreams of their own, 
making anything out of anything. Hence their constant 
senseless use of the words : good works, bad works, sin, grace, 
righteousness, virtue, and almost all the most important words 
and things. They use all these at their own discretion, 
founded on the writings of men, to the ruin of the truth of God 
and of our salvation. 

Thus sacrament and mystery, in Paul's meaning, are the 
very wisdom of the Spirit, hidden in a mystery, as he says : 
" Which none of the princes of this world knew ; for had they 
known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 
(1 Cor. ii. 8.) There remains to this day this folly, this stone 
of stumbling and rock of offence, this sign which shall be 
spoken against. Paul calls preachers the stewards of these 
mysteries, because they preach Christ, the power and wisdom 
of God ; but so preach him that unless men believe, they 
cannot understand. Thus a sacrament means a mystery and a 
hidden thing, which is made known by words, but is received 
by faith of heart. Such is the passage of which we are 
speaking at present : " They two shall be one flesh ; this is a 


great mystery." These men think that this was said concern- 
ing matrimony ; but Paul brings in these words in speaking of 
Christ and the Church, and explains his meaning clearly by 
saying : " I speak concerning Christ and the Church." See 
how well Paul and these men agree ! Paul says that he is 
setting forth a great mystery concerning Christ and the 
Church ; while they set it forth as concerning male and female. 
If men may thus indulge their own caprices in interpreting 
the sacred writings, what wonder if anything can be found in 
them, were it even a hundred sacraments ? 

Christ then and the Church are a mystery, that is, a great 
and hidden thing, which may indeed and ought to be figured 
by matrimony, as in a sort of real allegory ; but it does not 
follow that matrimony ought to be called a sacrament. The 
heavens figuratively represent the apostles ; the sun Christ ; the 
waters nations ; but these things are not therefore sacraments ; 
for in all these cases the institution is wanting and the divine 
promise ; and these it is which make a sacrament complete. 
Hence Paul is either, of his own spirit, applying to Christ the 
words used in Genesis concerning matrimony, or else he teaches 
that, in their general sense, the spiritual marriage of Christ is 
also there declared, saying : " Even as the Lord cherisheth the 
Church ; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his 
bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, 
and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the 
Church." (Eph. v. 29-32.) We see that he means this whole 
text to be understood as spoken by him about Christ. He 
purposely warns the reader to understand the " Sacrament " as 
in Christ and the Church, not in matrimony. 

I admit, indeed, that even under the old law, nay, from the 
beginning of the world, there was a sacrament of penitence ; 
but the new promise of penitence and the gift of the keys are 
peculiar to the new law. As we have baptism in the place of 
circumcision, so we now have the keys in the place of sacrifices 
or other signs of penitence. I have said above that, at different 
times, the same God has given different promises and different 
signs for the remission of sins and the salvation of men, while 
yet it is the same grace that all have received. As it is 
written : " We, having the same spirit of faith, believe, and 


therefore speak." (2 Cor. iv. 13.) " Our fathers did all eat the 
same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink ; 
for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and 
that rock was Christ." (1 Cor. x. 3, 4.) " These all died in 
faith, not having received the promises ; God having provided 
some better thing for us, that they without us should not be 
made perfect." (Heb. xi. 13, 40.) For Christ himself, the same 
yesterday, and to-day, and for ever, is the head of his Church 
from the beginning even to the end of the world. There are 
then different signs, but the faith of all believers is the same ; 
since without faith it is impossible to please God, and by it 
Abel pleased Him. 

Let then matrimony be a figure of Christ and the Church, 
not however a sacrament divinely instituted, but one invented 
in the Church by men led astray by their ignorance alike of 
things and of words. So far as this invention is not injurious 
to the faith, it must be borne with in charity ; just as many 
other devices of human weakness and ignorance are borne 
with in the Church, so long as they are not injurious to 
faith and to the sacred writings. But we are now con- 
tending for the firmness and purity of faith and of Scripture ; 
lest, if we affirm anything to be contained in the sacred 
writings and in the articles of our faith, and it is after- 
wards proved not to be so contained, we should expose our 
faith to mockery, be found ignorant of our own special business, 
cause scandal to our adversaries and to the weak, and fail to 
exalt the authority of holy Scripture. For we must make the 
widest possible distinction between those things which have 
been delivered to us from God in the sacred writings, and 
those which have been invented in the Church by men, of 
however eminent authority from their holiness and their 

Thus far I have spoken of matrimony itself. But what shall 
we say of those impious human laws by which this divinely 
appointed manner of life has been entangled and tossed up and ' 
down ? Good God ! it is horrible to look upon the temerity of 
the tyrants of Eome, who thus, according to their own caprices, 
at one time annul marriages and at another time enforce them. 
Is the human race given over to their caprice for nothing but 
to be mocked and abused in every way, and that these men 


may do what they please with it for the sake of their own fatal 

A g ains? 

There is a book in general circulation and held in no slight 
esteem, which has been confusedly put together out of all the 
dregs and filth of human traditions, and entitled the Angelic 
Summary ; while it is really a more than diabolical summary. 
In this book, among an infinite number of monstrous state- 

i ments, by which confessors are supposed to be instructed, while 
jthey are in truth most ruinously confused, eighteen impediments 
I to matrimony are enumerated. If we look at these with the 
just and free eye of faith, we shall see that the writer is of the 
number of those of whom the Apostle foretold that they should 
" give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils ; speak- 
ing lies in hypocrisy ; forbidding to marry." (1 Tim. iv. 1-3.) 
What is forbidding to marry, if this is not forbidding it — to 
invent so many impediments, and to set so many snares, that 
marriages cannot be contracted, or, if they are contracted, must 
be dissolved ? Who has given this power to men ? Granted that 
such men have been holy and led by a pious zeal ; why does the 
holiness of an© ther encroach upon my liberty ? Why does the 
zeal of another bring me into bondage ? Let whosoever will 
be as holy and as zealous as he will, but let him not injure 
others, or rob me of my liberty. 

I rejoice, however, that these disgraceful laws have at length 
attained the glory they deserve, in that by their aid the men of 
Eome have nowadays become common traders. And what do 
they sell ? The shame of men and women ; a merchandise 
worthy of these traffickers, who surpass all that is most sordid 
and disgusting in their avarice and impiety. There is not one 
of those impediments, which cannot be removed at the inter- 
cession of Mammon ; so that these laws seem to have been 

" made for no other purpose than to be nets for money and 
snares for souls in the hands of those greedy and rapacious 
Nimrods; and in order that we might see in the holy place, 
in the Church of God, the abomination of the public sale of 
the shame and ignominy of both sexes. A business worthy of 
our pontiffs, and fit to be carried on by men who, with the 
utmost disgrace and baseness, are given over to a reprobate 
mind, instead of that ministry of the gospel which, in their 
avarice and ambition, they despise. 


But what am I to say or do ? If I were to enter upon 
every particular, this treatise would extend beyond all bounds ; 
for the subject is in the utmost confusion, so that no one can 
tell where he is to begin, how far he is to go, or where he is 
to stop. This I know, that no commonwealth can be pros- 
perously administered by mere laws. If the magistrate is 
a wise man, he will govern more happily under the guidance 
of nature than by any laws ; if he is not a wise man, he will 
effect nothing but mischief by laws, since he will not know 
how to use them, or to adapt them to the wants of the time. In 
public matters, therefore, it is of more importance that good and 
wise men should be at the head of affairs, than that any laws 
should be passed ; for such men will themselves be the best of 
laws, since they will judge cases of all kinds with energy and 
justice. If, together with natural wisdom, there be learning 
in divine things, then it is clearly superfluous and mischievous 
to have any written laws ; and charity above all things has 
absolutely no need of laws. I say, however, and do all that in 
me lies, admonishing and entreating all priests and friars, 
if they see any impediment with which the Pope can dispense, 
but which is not mentioned in Scripture, to consider all those 
marriages valid which have been contracted, in whatever way, 
contrary to ecclesiastical or pontifical laws. Let them arm 
themselves with the Divine law which says : What God hath 
joined together, let not man put asunder. The union of 
husband and wife is one of divine right, and holds good, how- 
ever much against the laws of men it may have taken place, 
and the laws of men ought to give place to it, without any 
scruple. For if a man is to leave his father and mother and 
cleave to his wife, how much more ought he to tread under 
foot the frivolous and unjust laws of men, that he may cleave 
1 to his wife ? If the Pope, or any bishop or official, dissolves 
i any marriage, because it has been contracted contrary to the 
papal laws, he is an antichrist, does violence to nature, and is 
guilty of treason against God ; because this sentence stands : 
Whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 

Besides this, man has no right to make such laws, and the 
liberty bestowed on Christians through Christ is above all the 
laws of men, especially when the divine law comes in, as Christ 
says : " The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the 


Sabbath ; therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." 
(Mark ii. 27-28.) Again, such laws were condemned before- 
hand by Paul, when he foretold that those should arise who 
would forbid to marry. Hence in this matter all those rigorous 
impediments derived from spiritual affinity, or legal relationship 
and consanguinity, must give way, as far as is permitted by 
the sacred writings, in which only the second grade of con- 
sanguinity is prohibited, as it is written in the book of Leviticus, 
where twelve persons are prohibited, namely : — mother, step- 
mother, full sister, half sister by either parent, grand- daughter, 
father's sister, mother's sister, daughter-in-law, brother's wife, 
wife's sister, step-daughter, uncle's wife. In these only the 
first grade of affinity and the second of consanguinity are pro- 
hibited, and not even these universally, as is clear when we 
look carefully at the subject ; for the daughter and grand- 
daughter of a brother and sister are not mentioned as prohibited, 
though they are in the second grade. Hence, if at any time 
a marriage has been contracted outside these grades, than which 
no others have ever been prohibited by God's appointment, it 
ought by no means to be dissolved on account of any laws of 
men. Matrimony, being a divine institution, is incomparably 
above all laws, and therefore it cannot rightfully be broken 
through for the sake of laws, but rather laws for its sake. 

Thus all those fanciful spiritual affinities of father, mother, 
brother, sister, or child, ought to be utterly done away with in 
the contracting of matrimony. What but the superstition of 
man has invented that spiritual relationship ? If he who 
baptizes is not permitted to marry her whom he has baptized, 
or a godfather his god-daughter, why is a Christian man 
permitted to marry a Christian woman ? Is the relationship 
established by a ceremony or by the sign of the sacrament 
stronger than that established by the substance itself of the 
sacrament ? Is not a Christian man the brother of a Christian 
sister ? Is not a baptized man the spiritual brother of a 
baptized woman ? How can we be so senseless ? If a man 
instructs his wife in the gospel and in the faith of Christ, and 
thus becomes truly her father in Christ, shall it not be lawful 
for her to continue his wife ? Would not Paul have been at 
liberty to marry a maiden from among those Corinthians, all 
of whom he declares that he had begotten in Christ ? See, 


then, how Christian liberty has been crushed by the blindness 
of human superstition ! • 

Much more idle still is the doctrine of legal relationship ; 
and yet they have raised even this above the divine right of 
matrimony. ( Nor can I agree to that impediment which they 
call disparity of religion, and which forbids a man to marry an 
unbaptized woman, neither simply, nor on condition of converting 
her to the faith. Who has prohibited this, God or man ? Who 
has given men authority to prohibit marriages of this kind ? 
Verily the spirits that speak lies in hypocrisy, as Paul says ; of 
whom it may be truly said : The wicked have spoken lies to 
me, but not according to thy law. Patricius, a heathen, 
married Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, who was a 
Christian ; why should not the same thing be lawful now ? A 
like instance of foolish, nay wicked rigour is the impediment 
of crime ; as when a man marries a woman previously polluted 
by adultery, or has plotted the death of a woman's husband, that 
he may be able to marry her. Whence, I ask, a severity on the 
part of men against men, such as even Grod has never exacted ? 
Do these men pretend not to know that David, a most holy 
man, married Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, though both these 
crimes had been committed ; that is, though she had been 
polluted by adultery and her husband had been murdered ? If 
the divine law did this, why do tyrannical men act thus against 
their fellow servants ? 

It is also reckoned as an impediment when there exists what 
they call a bond ; that is, when one person is bound to another 
by betrothal. In this case they conclude that if either party 
have subsequently had intercourse with a third, the former 
betrothal comes to an end. I cannot at all receive this doctrine. 
In my judgment, a man who has bound himself to one person 
is no longer at his own disposal, and therefore, under the pro- 
hibitions of the divine right, owes himself to the former, though 
he has not had intercourse with her, even if he have afterwards 
had intercourse with another. It was not in his power to give 
what he did not possess ; he has deceived her with whom he has 
had intercourse, and has really coniniitwd adultery. That which 
has led some to think otherwise is that they have looked more 
to the fleshly union than to the divine command, under which 
he who has promised fidelity to one person is bound to observe 


it. He who desires to give, ought to give of that which is his 
own. God forbid that any man should go beyond or defraud 
his brother in any matter ; for good faith ought to be preserved 
beyond and above all traditions of all men. Thus I believe 
that such a man cannot with a safe conscience cohabit with a 
second woman, and that this impediment ought to be entirely 
reversed. If a vow of religion deprives a man of his power over 
himself, why not also a pledge of fidelity given and received ; 
especially since the latter rests on the teaching and fruits of 
the Spirit (Gal. v.), while the former rests on human choice ? 
And if a wife may return to her husband, notwithstanding any 
vow of religion she may have made, why should not a betrothed 
man return to his betrothed, even if connexion with another have 
followed ? We have said, however, above that a man who has 
pledged his faith to a maiden is not at liberty to make a vow of 
religion, but is bound to marry her, because he is bound to 
keep his faith, and is not at liberty to abandon it for the sake 
of any human tradition, since God commands that it should be 
kept. Much more will it be his duty to observe his pledge to 
the first to whom he has given it, because it was only with a 
deceitful heart that he could give it to a second ; and therefore 
he has not really given it, but has deceived his neighbour, 
against the law of God. Hence the impediment called that of 
error takes effect here, and annuls the marriage with the second 

The impediment of holy orders is also a mere contrivance of 
; men, especially when they idly assert that even a marriage already 
contracted is annulled by this cause, always exalting their own 
traditions above the commands of God. I give no judgment 
respecting the order of the priesthood, such as it is at the 
present day ; but I see that Paul commands that a bishop 
should be the husband of one wife, and therefore the marriage 
of a deacon, of a priest, of a bishop, or of a man in any kind of 
orders, cannot be annulled ; although Paul knew nothing 
of that kind of priests and those orders which we have at the 
present day. Perish then these accursed traditions of men, 
which have come in for no other end than to multiply perils, 
sins, and evils in the Church ! Between a priest and his wife, 
then, there is a true and inseparable marriage, approved by the 
divine command. What if wicked men forbid or annul it of their 


own mere tyranny ? Be it that it is unlawful in the sight of 
men ; yet it is lawful in the sight of God, whose commandment, 
if it be contrary to the commandments of men, is to be preferred. 

Just as much a human contrivance is the so-called impedi- 
ment _of_public propriety, by which contracted marriages are 
annulled. I am indignant at the audacious impiety which is 
so ready to separate what God has joined together. You may 
recognise Antichrist in this opposition to everything which 
Christ did or taught. What reason is there, I ask, why, on the 
death of a betrothed husband before actual marriage, no relative 
by blood, even to the fourth degree, can marry her who was / 
betrothed to him ? This is no vindication of public propriety, 
but mere ignorance of it. Why among the people of Israel, 
which possessed the best laws, given by God himself, was there 
no such vindication of public propriety ? On the contrary, 
by the very command of God, the nearest relative was com- 
pelled to marry her who had been left a widow. Ought the 
people who are in Christian liberty to be burdened with more 
rigid laws than the people who were in legal bondage ? And 
to make an end of these figments rather than impediments, I 
will say that at present it is evident to me that there is no 
impediment which can rightfully annul a marriage already con- 
tracted, except physical unfitness for cohabiting with a wife, 
ignorance of a marriage previously contracted, or a vow of 
chastity. \ Concerning such a vow, however, I am so uncertain 
even to the present moment, that I do not know at what time 
it ought to be reckoned valid ; as I have said above in speaking 
of baptism. Learn then, in this one matter of matrimony, into 
what an unhappy and hopeless state of confusion, hindrance, 
entanglement, and peril all things that are done in the Church 
have been brought by the pestilent, unlearned, and impious 
traditions of men ! There is no hope of a remedy, unless we 
can do away once for all with all the laws of all men, call back 
the gospel of liberty, and judge and rule all things according 
to it alone. Amen. 

It is necessary also to deal with the question of physical 
incapacity. But be it premised that I desire what I have said 
about impediments to be understood of marriages already 
contracted, which ought not to be annulled for any such causes. 
But with regard to the contracting of matrimony I may brieflv 


repeat what I have said before, that if there be any urgency 

of youthful love, or any other necessity, on account of which 

the Pope grants a dispensation, then any brother can also grant 

a dispensation to his brother, or himself to himself, and thus 

snatch his wife, in whatever way he can, out of the hands of 

tyrannical laws. Why is my liberty to be done away with by 

another man's superstition and ignorance ? Or if the Pope gives 

dispensation for money, why may not I give a dispensation to 

my brother or to myself for the advantage of my own salvation ? 

Does the Pope establish laws? Let him establish them for 

himself, but let my liberty be untouched. 

# * * * * * 

The question of divorce is also discussed, whether it be 
lawful. I, for my part, detest divorce, and even prefer bigamy 
to it ; but whether it be lawful I dare not define. Christ 
himself, the chief of shepherds, says : " Whosoever shall put 
away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her 
to commit adultery ; and whosoever shall marry her that is 
divorced committeth adultery." (Matt. v. 32.) Christ therefore 
permits divorce only in the case of fornication. Hence the 
Pope must necessarily be wrong, as often as he permits divorce 
for other reasons, nor ought any man forthwith to consider 
himself safe, because he has obtained a dispensation by ponti- 
fical audacity rather than power. I am more surprised, 
however, that they compel a man who has been separated from 
his wife by divorce to remain single, and do not allow him to 
marry another. For if Christ permits divorce for the cause of 
fornication, and does not compel any man to remain single, and if 
Paul bids us rather to marry than to burn, this seems plainly to 
allow of a man's marrying another in the place of her whom he 
has put away. I wish that this subject were fully discussed 
and made clear, that provision might be made for the number- 
less perils of those who at the present day are compelled to 
remain single without any fault of their own ; that is, whose 
wives or husbands have fled and deserted their partner, not to 
return for ten years, or perhaps never. I am distressed and 
grieved by these cases, which are of daily occurrence, whether 
this happens by the special malice of Satan, or from our neglect 
of the word of God. 

I cannot by myself establish any rule contrary to the 


opinion of all ; but for my own part, I should exceedingly 
wish at least to see applied to this subject the words : " But 
if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or 
a sister is not under bondage in such cases " (1 Cor. vii. 15). 
Here the Apostle permits that the unbelieving one who 
departs should be let go, and leaves it free to the believer 
to take another. Why should not the same rule hold good, 
if a believer, that is, a nominal believer, but in reality just 
as much an unbeliever, deserts husband or wife, especially 
if with the intention of never returning ? I cannot discover 
any distinction between the two cases. In my belief, how- 
ever, if in the Apostle's time the unbeliever who had departed 
had returned, or had become a believer, or had promised 
to live with the believing wife, he would not have been 
received, but would himself have been authorised to marry 
another woman. Still, I give no definite opinion on these 
questions, though I greatly wish that a definite rule were laid 
down, for there is nothing which more harasses me and many 
others. I would not have any rule on this point laid down by 
the sole authority of the Pope or the bishops ; but if any two 
learned and good men agreed together in the name of Christ, 
and pronounced a decision in the spirit of Christ, I should 
prefer their judgment even to that of councils, such as are 
assembled nowadays, which are celebrated simply for their 
number and authority, independently of learning and holiness. 
I therefore suspend my utterances on this subject, until I can 
confer with some better judge. 


Of this sacrament the Church of Christ knows nothing ; it 
was invented by the church of the Pope. It not only has 
no promise of grace, anywhere declared, but not a word is 
said about it in the whole of the New Testament. Now it is 
ridiculous to set up as a sacrament of God that which can 
nowhere be proved to have been instituted by God. Not that 
: I consider that a rite practised for so many ages is to be 
! condemned ; but I would not have human inventions established 



in sacred things, nor should it be allowed to bring in anything 
as divinely ordained, which has not been divinely ordained ; 
lest we should be objects of ridicule to our adversaries. We 
must endeavour that whatever we put forward as an article of 
the faith should be certain and uncorrupt and established by 
clear proofs from Scripture ; and this we cannot show even in 
the slightest degree in the case of the present sacrament. 

The Church has no power to establish new divine promises 
I of grace, as some senselessly assert, who say that, since the 
Church is governed by the Holy Spirit, whatever she ordains 
; has no less authority than that which is ordained of God. 
The Church is born of the word of promise through faith, and 
is nourished and preserved by the same word ; that is, she herself 
is established by the promises of God, not the promise of God by 
her. The word of God is incomparably above the Church, and 
her part is not to establish, ordain, or make anything in it, but 
only to be established, ordained, and made, as a creature. What 
man begets his own parent ? Who establishes the authority by 
which he himself exists ? 

This power the Church certainly has — that she can dis- 
tinguish the word of God from the words of men. So Augus- 
tine confesses that his motive for believing the gospel was the 
authority of the Church, which declared it to be the gospel. 
Not that the Church is therefore above the gospel ; for, if so, 
she would also be above God, in whom we believe, since she 
declares Him to be God ; but, as Augustine says elsewhere, 
the soul is so taken possession of by the truth, that thereby 
it can judge of all things with the utmost certainty, and yet 
cannot judge the truth itself, but is compelled by an infallible 
certainty to say that this is the truth. For example, the mind 
pronounces with infallible certainty that three and seven are ten, 
and yet can give no reason why this is true, while it cannot deny 
that it is true. In fact the mind itself is taken possession of, 
and, having truth as its judge, is judged rather than judges. 
Even such a perception is there in the Church, by the illumina- 
tion of the Spirit, in judging and approving of doctrines ; a 
perception which she cannot demonstrate, but which she holds 
as most sure. Just as among philosophers no one judges 
of those conceptions which are common to all, but everyone 
is judged by them, so is it among us with regard to that 


spiritual perception which judgeth all things, yet is judged 
of no man, as the Apostle says. 

Let us take it then for certain that the Church cannot 
promise grace, to do which is the part of God alone, and 
therefore cannot institute a sacrament. And even, if she had 
the most complete power to do so, it would not forthwith 
follow, that orders are a sacrament. For who knows what is 
that Church which has the Spirit, when only a few bishops and 
learned men are usually concerned in setting up these laws 
and institutions ? It is possible that these men may not be of 
the Church, and may all be in error ; as councils have very 
often been in error, especially that of Constance, which has 
erred" the most impiously of all. That only is a proved article 
of the faith which has been approved by the universal Church, 
and not by that of Eome alone. I grant therefore that orders 
may be a sort of church rite, like many others which have been 
introduced by the Fathers of the Church, such as the consecra- 
tion of vessels, buildings, vestments, water, salt, candles, herbs, 
wine, and the like. In all these no one asserts that there is 
any sacrament, nor is there any promise in them. Thus the 
anointing of a man's hands, the shaving of his head, and other 
ceremonies of the kind, do not constitute a sacrament, since 
nothing is promised by these things, but they are merely 
employed to prepare men for certain offices, as in the case of 
vessels or instruments. 

But it will be asked : What do you say to Dionysius, who 
reckons up six sacraments, among which he places Orders, in 
his Hierarchy of the Church? My answer is : I know that he 
is the only one of the ancient authorities who is considered 
as holding seven sacraments, although, by the omission of 
matrimony, he has only given six. We read nothing at all in 
the rest of the Fathers about these sacraments, nor did they 
reckon them under the title of sacrament, when they spoke of 
these things, for the invention of such sacraments is a modern 
one. Then too — if I may be rash enough to say so — it is 
altogether unsatisfactory that so much importance should be 
attributed to this Dionysius, whoever he was, for there is 
almost nothing of solid learning in him. By what authority or 
reason, I ask, does he prove his inventions concerning angels in 
his Celestial Hierarchy, a book on the study of which curious 

Q 2 


and superstitious minds have spent so much labour ? Are 
they not all fancies of his own, and very much like dreams, if 
we read them and judge them freely ? In his mystic theology 
indeed, which is so much cried up by certain very ignorant 
theologians, he is even very mischievous, and follows Plato 
rather than Christ, so that I would not have any believing 
mind bestow even the slightest labour on the study of these 
books. You will be so far from learning Christ in them that, 
even if you know Him, you may lose Him. I speak from ex- 
perience. Let us rather hear Paul, and learn Jesus Christ and 
Him crucified. For this is the way, the truth, and the life ; 
this is the ladder by which we come to the Father, as it is 
written : " No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." 

So in his Hierarchy of the Church, what does he do but 
describe certain ecclesiastical rites, amusing himself with his 
own allegories, which he does not prove, just as has been done 
in our time by the writer of the book called the Bationale of 
Divine things ? This pursuit of allegories is only fit for men 
of idle minds. Could I have any difficulty in amusing myself 
with allegories about any created thing whatever? Did not 
Bonaventura apply the liberal arts allegorically to theology ? 
It would give me no trouble to write a better Hierarchy than 
that of Dionysius, as he knew nothing of popes, cardinals, and 
archbishops, and made the bishops the highest order. Who, 
indeed, is there of such slender wits that he cannot venture 
upon allegory ? I would not have a theologian bestow any atten- 
tion upon allegories, until he is perfectly acquainted with the 
legitimate and simple meaning of Scripture; otherwise, as it 
happened to Origen, his theological speculations will not be 
without danger. 

We must not then immediately make a sacrament of any- 
thing which Dionysius describes ; otherwise why not make a 
sacrament of the procession which he describes in the same 
passage, and which continues in use even to the present day? 
Nay, there will be as many sacraments as there are rites and 
ceremonies which have grown up in the Church. Besting, 
however, on this very weak foundation, they have invented 
and attributed to this sacrament of theirs certain indelible 
characters, supposed to be impressed on those who receive 
orders. Whence, I ask, such fancies ? By what authority, by 


what reasoning are they established ? Not that we object to 
their being free to invent, learn, or assert whatever they 
please ; but we also assert our own liberty, and say that they 
must not arrogate to themselves the right of making articles 
of the faith out of their own fancies, as they have hitherto 
had the presumption to do. It is enough that, for the sake of 
concord, we submit to their rights and inventions, but we will . 
not be compelled to receive them as necessary to salvation, 
when they are not necessary. Let them lay aside their 
tyrannical requirements, and we will show a ready compliance 
with their likings, that so we may live together in mutual 
peace. For it is a disgraceful, unjust, and slavish thing for a 
Christian man, who is free, to be subjected to any but heavenly 
and divine traditions. 

After this they bring in their very strongest argument, 
namely, that Christ said at the last supper : " Do this in 
remembrance of me." " Behold ! " they say, " Christ ordained 
them as priests." Hence, among other things, they have also 
asserted that it is to priests alone that both kinds should 
be administered. In fact they have extracted out of this text 
whatever they would ; like men who claim the right to 
assert at their own free choice whatsoever they please out 
of any words of Christ, wherever spoken. But is this to 
interpret the words of God ? Let us reply to them that in 
these words Christ gives no promise, but only a command that 
this should be done in remembrance of Him. Why do they not 
conclude that priests were ordained in that passage also where 
Christ, in laying upon them the ministry of the word and of 
baptism, said : " Go ye into all the world, and preach the 
gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the 
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost " ? It is the 
peculiar office of priests to preach and to baptize. Again, 
since at the present day it is the very first business of a priest, 
and, as they say, an indispensable one, to read the canonical 
Hours ; why have they not taken their idea of the sacrament 
of orders from those words in which Christ commanded His 
disciples— as he did in many other places, but especially 
in the garden of Gethsemane — to pray that they might not 
enter into temptation ? Unless indeed they evade the difficulty 
by saying that it is not commanded to pray, for it suffices to 


read the canonical Hours ; so that this cannot be proved to be a 
priestly work from any part of Scripture, and that consequently 
this praying priesthood is not of God ; as indeed it is not. 

Which of the ancient Fathers has asserted that by these 
words priests were ordained ? Whence then this new interpre- 
tation ? It is because it has been sought by this device to set 
up a source of implacable discord, by which clergy and laity 
might be placed farther asunder than heaven and earth, to the 
incredible injury of baptismal grace and confusion of evangeli- 
cal communion. Hence has originated that detestable tyranny 
of the clergy over the laity, in which, trusting to the corporal 
unction by which their hands are consecrated, to their tonsure, 
and to their vestments, they not only set themselves above the 
body of lay Christians, who have been anointed with the Holy 
Spirit, but almost look upon them as dogs, unworthy to be 
numbered in the Church along with themselves. Hence it is 
that they dare to command, exact, threaten, drive, and oppress, 
at their will. In fine, the sacrament of orders has been and is 
a most admirable engine for the establishment of all those 
monstrous evils which have hitherto been wrought, and are 
yet being wrought, in the Church. In this way Christian 
brotherhood has perished; in this way shepherds have been 
turned into wolves, servants into tyrants, and ecclesiastics into 
more than earthly beings. 

How if they were compelled to admit that we all, so many 
as have been baptized, are equally priests ? We are so in fact, 
and it is only a ministry which has been entrusted to them, and 
that with our consent. They would then know that they have 
no right to exercise command over us, except so far as we 
voluntarily allow of it. Thus it is said : " Ye are a chosen 
generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation." (1 Pet. ii. 9.) 
Thus all we who are Christians are priests ; those whom we 
call priests are ministers chosen from among us to do all 
things in our name ; and the priesthood is nothing else than a 
ministry. Thus Paul says : " Let a man so account of us as of 
the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." 
(1 Cor. iv. 1.) 

From this it follows that he who does not preach the 
word, being called to this very office by the Church, is in 
no way a priest, and that the sacrament of orders can be 


nothing else than a ceremony for choosing preachers in the 
Church. This is the description given of a priest : " The 
priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the 
law at his mouth ; for he is the messenger of the Lord of 
hosts." (Malachi ii. 7.) Be sure then that he who is not a 
messenger of the Lord of hosts, or who is called to anything 
else than a messengership — if I may so speak — is certainly 
not a priest ; as it is written : " Because thou hast rejected 
knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest 
to me." (Hosea iv. 6.) They are called pastors because it is 
their duty to give the people pasture, that is, to teach them. 
Therefore those who are ordained only for the purpose of 
reading the canonical Hours and offering up masses are popish 
priests indeed, but not Christian priests, since they not only do 
not preach but are not even called to be preachers ; nay, it is 
the very thing intended, that a priesthood of this kind shall 
stand on a different footing from the office of preacher. Thus 
they are priests of Hours and missals, that is, a kind of living 
images, having the name of priests, but very far from being 
really so ; such priests as those whom Jeroboam ordained in 
Beth-aven, taken from the lowest dregs of the people, and not 
from the family of Levi. 

See then how far the glory of the Church has departed. The / 

^ whole world is full of priests, bishops, cardinals, and clergy ; of ; 

^ whom however, (so far as concerns their official duty) not one I 
preaches — unless he be called afresh to this by another calling 
besides his sacramental orders — but thinks that he amply fulfils 
the purposes of that sacrament if he murmurs over, in a vain 
repetition, the prayers which he has to read, and celebrates masses. 
Even then, he never prays these very Hours, or, if he does pray, 
he prays for himself ; while, as the very height of perversity, he 
offers up his masses as a sacrifice, though the mass is really the 
use of the sacrament. Thus it is clear that those orders by 
which, as a sacrament, men of this kind are ordained to be clergy, 
are in truth a mere and entire figment, invented by men who 
understand nothing of church affairs, of the priesthood, of the 
ministry of the word, or of the sacraments. Such as is the sacra- 
ment, such are the priests it makes. To these errors and blind- 
nesses has been added a greater degree of bondage, in that, in 
order to separate themselves the more widely from all other 



Christians, as if these were profane, they have burdened 

themselves with a most hypocritical celibacy. 

It was not enough for their hypocrisy and for the working of 
this error to prohibit bigamy, that is, the having two wives at 
the same time, as was done under the law — for we know that 
that is the meaning of bigamy — but they have interpreted it to 
be bigamy, if a man marries two virgins in succession, or a widow 
once. Nay, the most sanctified sanctity of this most sacrosanct 
sacrament goes so far, that a man cannot even become a priest 
if he have married a virgin, as long as she is alive as his wife. 
And, in order to reach the very highest summit of sanctity, a 
man is kept out of the priesthood, if he have married one who 
was not a pure virgin, though it were in ignorance and merely 
by an unfortunate chance. But he may have polluted six 
hundred harlots, or corrupted any number of matrons or virgins, 
or even kept many Ganymedes, and it will be no impediment 
to his becoming a bishop or cardinal, or even Pope. Then the 
saying of the Apostle : " the husband of one wife," must be 
interpreted to mean : " the head of one church ; " unless that 
magnificent dispenser the Pope, bribed with money or led by 
favour — that is to say, moved by pious charity, and urged by 
anxiety for the welfare of the churches — chooses to unite to 
one man three, twenty, or a hundred wives, that is, churches. 

pontiffs, worthy of this venerable sacrament of orders ! 
princes not of the Catholic churches, but of the synagogues of 
Satan, yea, of very darkness ! We may well cry out with 
Isaiah : " Ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in 
Jerusalem" (Isaiah xxviii. 14) ; and with Amos : " Woe to 
them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of 
Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the 
house of Israel came ! " (Amos vi. 1.) what disgrace to the 
Church of God from these monstrosities of sacerdotalism ! 
iWhere are there any bishops or priests who know the gospel, 
not to say preach it ? Why then do they boast of their 
priesthood ? why do they wish to be thought holier and better 
and more powerful than other Christians, whom they call the 
laity? What unlearned person is not competent to read the 
Hours ? Monks, hermits, and private persons, although laymen, 
may use the prayers of the Hours. The duty of a priest is to 
preach, and unless he does so, he is just as much a priest as 


the picture of a man is a man. Does the ordination of such 
babbling priests, the consecration of churches and bells, or the 
confirmation of children, constitute a bishop ? Could not any 
deacon or layman do these things ? It is the ministry of the 
word that makes a priest or a bishop. 

Fly then, I counsel you ; fly, young men, if ye wish to live 
in safety ; and do not seek admission to these holy rites, unless 
ye are either willing to preach the gospel, or are able to 
believe that ye are not made any better than the laity by this 
sacrament of orders. To read the Hours is nothing. To offer 
the mass is to receive the sacrament. What then remains in 
you, which is not to be found in any layman ? Your tonsure 
and your vestments ? Wretched priesthood, which consists in 
tonsure and vestments ! Is it the oil poured on your fingers ? 
Every Christian is anointed and sanctified in body and soul 
with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and formerly was allowed to 
handle the sacrament no less than the priests now do ; although 
our superstition now imputes it as a great crime to the laity, if 
they touch even the bare cup, or the corporal ; and not even a 
holy nun is allowed to wash the altar cloths and sacred 
napkins. When I see how far the sacrosanct sanctity of these 
orders has already gone, I expect that the time will come when 
the laity will not even be allowed to touch the altar, except 
when they offer money. I almost burst with anger when I 
think of the impious tyrannies of these reckless men, who 
mock and ruin the liberty and glory of the religion of Christ 
by such frivolous and puerile triflings. 

Let every man then who has learnt that he is a Christian 
recognise what he is, and be certain that we are all equally 
priests ; that is, that we have the same power in the word, and 
in any sacrament whatever ; although it is not lawful for any 
one to use this power, except with the consent of the com- 
munity, or at the call of a superior. For that which belongs 
to all in common no individual can arrogate to himself, until 
he be called. And therefore the sacrament of orders, if it is 
anything, is nothing but a certain rite by which men are called 
to minister in the Church. Furthermore, the priesthood is 
properly nothing else than the ministry of the word — I mean 
the word of the gospel, not of the law. The diaconate is a 
ministry, not for reading the gospel or the epistle, as the 


practice is nowadays, but for distributing the wealth of the 
Church among the poor, that the priests may be relieved of the 
burden of temporal things, and may give themselves more 
freely to prayer and to the word. It was for this purpose, as 
we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that deacons were 
appointed. Thus he who does not know the gospel, or does 
not preach it, is not only no priest or bishop, but a kind of 
pest to the Church, who, under the false title of priest or 
bishop, as it were in sheep's clothing, hinders the gospel, and 
acts the part of the wolf in the Church. 

Wherefore those priests and bishops with whom the Church 
is crowded at the present day, unless they work out their 
salvation on another plan — that is, unless they acknowledge 
themselves to be neither priests nor bishops, and repent of 
bearing the name of an office the work of which they either 
do not know, or cannot fulfil, and thus deplore with prayers 
and tears the miserable fate of their hypocrisy — are verily 
the people of eternal perdition, concerning whom the saying 
will be fulfilled : " My people are gone into captivity, 
because they have no knowledge ; and their honourable men 
are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. 
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth 
without measure ; and their glory, and their multitude, and 
their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it." 
(Isaiah v. 13, 14.) word of dread for our age, in which 
Christians are swallowed up in such an abyss of evil ! 

As far then as we are taught from the Scriptures, since what 
we call the priesthood is a ministry, I do not see at all for what 
reason a man who has once been made priest cannot become a 
layman again, since he differs in no wise from a layman, 
except by his ministerial office. But it is so far from im- 
possible for a man to be set aside from the ministry, that even 
now this punishment is constantly inflicted on offending priests, 
who are either suspended for a time, or deprived for ever of 
their office. For that fiction of an indelible character has long 
ago become an object of derision. I grant that the Pope may 
impress this character, though Christ knows nothing of it, and 
for this very reason the priest thus consecrated is the lifelong 
servant and bondsman, not of Christ, but of the Pope, as it is 
at this day. But, unless I deceive myself, if at some future 


time this sacrament and figment fall to the ground, the Papacy 
itself will scarcely hold its ground, and we shall recover that 
joyful liberty in which we shall understand that we are all 
equal in every right, and shall shake off the yoke of tyranny 
and know that he who is a Christian has Christ, and he who 
has Christ has all things that are Christ's, and can do all 
things — on which I will write more fully and more vigorously 
when I find that what I have here said displeases my friends 
the papists. 


To this rite of anointing the sick our theologians have made 
two additions well worthy of themselves. One is, that they call 
it a sacrament ; the other, that they make it extreme, so that 
it cannot be administered except to those who are in extreme 
peril of life. Perhaps — as they are keen dialecticians — they 
have so made it in relation to the first unction of baptism, 
and the two following ones of confirmation and orders. They 
have this, it is true, to throw in my teeth, that, on the authority 
of the Apostle James, there are in this case a promise and a 
sign, which two things, I have hitherto said, constitute a 
sacrament. He says : " Is any sick among you ? let him call 
for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, 
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord ; and the 
prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him 
up ; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven 
him." (James v. 14, 15.) Here, they say, is the promise of 
remission of sins, and the sign of the oil. 

I, however, say that if folly has ever been uttered, it has 
been uttered on this subject. I pass over the fact that many 
assert, and with great probability, that this epistle was not 
written by the Apostle James, and is not worthy of the 
apostolic spirit ; although, whosesoever it is, it has obtained 
authority by usage. Still, even if it were written by the 
Apostle James, I should say that it was not lawful for an 
apostle to institute a sacrament by his own authority ; that is, 
to give a divine promise with a sign annexed to it. To do this 


belonged to Christ alone. Thus Paul says that he had received 
the sacrament of the Eucharist from the Lord ; and that he 
was sent, not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. Nowhere, 
however, in the gospel do we read of this sacrament of extreme 
unction. But let us pass this over, and let us look to the 
words themselves of the Apostle, or of whoever was the author 
of this Epistle, and we shall at once see how those men have 
failed to observe their true meaning, who have thus increased 
the number of sacraments. 

In the first place — if they think the saying of the Apostle 
true and worthy to be followed, by what authority do they 
change and resist it? "Why do they make an extreme and 
special unction of that which the Apostle meant to be general ? 
The Apostle did not mean it to be extreme, and to be ad- 
ministered only to those about to die. He says expressly : "Is 
any sick among you ? " He does not say : '" Is any dying ? 
Nor do I care what Dionysius's Ecclesiastical Hierarchy may 
teach about this ; the words of the Apostle are clear, on which 
he and they alike rest, though they do not follow them. Thus 
it is evident that, by no authority, but at their own discretion, 
they have made, out of the ill-understood words of the Apostle, 
a sacrament and an extreme unction ; thus wronging all the 
other sick, whom they have deprived on their own authority 
of that benefit of anointing which the Apostle appointed for 

But it is even a finer argument, that the promise of the 
Apostle expressly says : " The prayer of faith shall save the 
sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." The Apostle commands 
the use of anointing and prayer for the very purpose that the 
sick man may be healed and raised up, that is, may not die, and 
that the unction may not be extreme. This is proved by the 
prayers which are used even at this day during the ceremony 
of anointing, and in which we ask that the sick man may be 
restored. They say, on the contrary, that unction should not 
be administered except to those on the point of departing ;. 
that is, that they may not be healed and raised up. If the 
matter were not so serious, who could refrain from laughing at 
such fine, apt, and sound comments on the words of the Apostle ? 
Do we not manifestly detect here that sophistical folly which, 
in many other cases as well as in this, affirms what Scripture 


denies, and denies what it affirms ? Shall we not render thanks 
to these distinguished teachers of ours? I have said rightly 
then, that nowhere have they displayed wilder folly than in 
this instance. 

Further — if this unction is a sacrament, it must be beyond 
doubt an effectual sign (as they say) of that which it seals and 
promises. Now it promises health and restoration to the sick, 
as the words plainly show : " The prayer of faith shall save the 
sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." Who does not see, 
however, that this promise is seldom, or rather never fulfilled ? 
Scarcely one among a thousand is restored ; and even this no 
one believes to be effected by the sacrament, but by the help of 
nature or of medicine ; while to the sacrament they attribute 
a contrary effect. What shall we say then? Either the 
Apostle is deceiving us in this promise, or this unction is not 
a sacrament ; for a sacramental promise is sure, while this in 
most cases disappoints us. Nay — to recognise another example 
of the prudence and carefulness of these theologians — they will 
have it to be extreme unction in order that that promise may 
not stand ; that is, that the sacrament may not be a sacrament. 
If the unction is extreme, it does not heal, but yields to the 
sickness ; while if it heals, it cannot be extreme. Thus, 
according to the interpretation of these teachers, James must 
be understood to have contradicted himself, and to have insti- 
tuted a sacrament, on purpose not to institute a sacrament ; 
for they will have it to be extreme unction, in order that it 
may not be true that the sick are healed by it, which is 
what the Apostle ordained. If this is not madness, what, I ask, 
is madness ? 

The words of the Apostle : " Desiring to be teachers of the 
law ; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they 
affirm" (1 Tim. i. 7.), apply to these men; with so little 
judgment do they read and draw conclusions. With the same 
stupidity they have inferred the doctrine of auricular confession 
from the words of the Apostle James : " Confess your faults 
one to another." They do not even observe the command of 
the Apostle, that the elders of the Church should be called for, 
and that they should pray over the sick. Scarcely one priest 
is sent now, though the Apostle would have many to be present, 
not for the purpose of anointing, but for that of prayer ; as he 


says : " The prayer of faith shall save the sick." Moreover, I 
am not sure that he means priests to be understood in this case, 
since he says elders, that is, seniors in age. Now it does not 
follow that an elder must be a priest or a minister, and we may 
suspect that the Apostle intended that the sick should be 
visited by the men of greater age and weightier character in 
the Church, who should do this as a work of mercy, and heal 
the sick by the prayer of faith. At the same time it cannot 
be denied, that of old the churches were ruled by the older 
men, chosen for this purpose on account of their age and long 
experience of life, without the ordinations and consecrations 
now used. 

I am therefore of opinion that this is the same anointing as 
that used by the Apostles, of whom it is written : " They 
anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." (Mark 
vi. 13.) It was a rite of the primitive Church, long since 
obsolete, by which they did miracles for the sick ; just as Christ 
says of them that believe : " They shall take up serpents ; they 
shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 
xvi. 18.) It is astonishing that they have not made sacraments 
out of these words also ; since they have a like virtue and 
promise with those words of James. This pretended extreme 
unction, then, is not a sacrament, but a counsel of the Apostle 
James, taken, as I have said, from the Gospel of Mark ; and one 
which any one who will may follow. I do not think that it 
was applied to all sick persons, for the Church glories in her 
infirmities, and thinks death a gain ; but only to those who bore 
their sickness impatiently and with little faith, and whom the 
Lord therefore left, that on them the miraculous power and the 
efficacy of faith might be conspicuously shown. 

James, indeed, has carefully and intentionally provided against 
this very mistake, in that he connects the promise of healing and 
of remission of sins, not with the anointing, but with the prayer 
of faith ; for he says : " The prayer of faith shall save the sick, 
and the Lord shall raise him up ; and if he have committed 
sins, they shall be forgiven him." (James v. 15.) Now a 
sacrament does not require prayer or faith on the part of him 
who administers it, for even a wicked man may baptize 
and consecrate the elements without prayer ; but it rests solely 
on the promise and institution of God, and requires faith on 


the part of him who receives it. But where is the prayer 
- of faith in our employment of extreme unction at the present 
day ? Who prays over the sick man with such faith as not 
to doubt of his restoration? Such is the prayer of faith 
which James here describes ; that prayer of which he had 
said at the beginning of the epistle : " Let him ask in faith, 
nothing wavering ; " and of which Christ says : " What things 
soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, 
and ye shall have them." (Mark xi. 24.) 

There is no doubt at all that, if even at the present day such 
prayer were made over the sick — that is, by grave and holy 
elders, and with full faith — as many as we would might be 
healed. For what cannot faith do ? We, however, leave out of 
sight that faith which apostolic authority requires in the very 
first place ; and moreover by elders, that is, men superior to 
the rest in age and in faith, we understand the common herd of 
priests. Furthermore, out of a daily or free anointing we make 
an extreme unction ; and lastly, we not only do not ask and 
obtain that result of healing promised by the Apostle, but we 
empty the promise of its meaning by an opposite result. 
Nevertheless we boast that this sacrament, or rather figment, 
of ours, is founded on and proved by the teaching'of the Apostle, 
from which it is as widely separated as pole from pole. Oh, 
what theologians ! 

Therefore, without condemning this our sacrament of extreme 
unction, I steadily deny that it is that which is enjoined by the 
Apostle James, of which neither the form, nor the practice, 
nor the efficacy, nor the purpose, agrees with ours. We will 
reckon it, however, among those sacraments which are of our 
own appointing, such as the consecration and sprinkling of salt 
and water. We cannot deny that, as the Apostle Paul teaches 
us, every creature is sanctified by the word of God and prayer ; 
and so we do not deny that remission and peace are bestowed 
through extreme unction ; not because it is a sacrament divinely 
instituted, but because he who receives it believes that he 
obtains these benefits. For the faith of the receiver does not 
err, however much the minister may err. For if he who 
baptizes or absolves in jest — that is, does not absolve at all, as 
far as the minister's part is concerned — yet does really absolve 
or baptize, if there be faith on the part of the absolved or 


baptized person, how much more does he who administers 
extreme unction bestow peace; even though in reality he 
bestows no peace, if we look to his ministry, since there is no 
sacrament. The faith of the person anointed receives that 
blessing which he who anointed him either could not, or did 
not intend, to give. It is enough that the person anointed hears 
and believes the word ; for whatever we believe that we shall 
receive, that we do really receive, whatever the minister may 
do or not do, whether he play a part, or be in jest. For the 
saying of Christ holds good : " All things are possible to him 
that believeth ; " and again : " As thou hast believed, so be it 
done unto thee." Our sophists, however, make no mention of 
this faith in treating of the sacraments, but give their whole 
minds to frivolous discussions on the virtues of the sacraments 
themselves ; ever learning, and never able to come to the 
knowledge of the truth. 

It has been of advantage, however, that this unction has been 
made extreme, for, thanks to this, it has been of all sacraments 
the least harassed and enslaved by tyranny and thirst for gain ; 
and this one mercy has been left to the dying, that they are 
free to be anointed, even if they have not confessed or com- 
municated. Whereas if it had continued to be of daily employ- 
ment, especially if it had also healed the sick, even if it had 
not taken away sins, of how many worlds would not the pontiffs 
by this time have been masters — they who, on the strength of 
the one sacrament of penance, and by the power of the keys, and 
through the sacrament of orders, have become such mighty 
emperors and princes ? But now it is a fortunate thing that, as 
they despise the prayer of faith, so they heal no sick, and, out 
of an old rite, have formed for themselves a new sacrament. 

Let it suffice to have said thus much concerning these four 
sacraments. I know how much it will displease those who 
think that we are to enquire about the number and use of 
the sacraments, not from the holy Scriptures, but from the See 
of Kome ; as if the See of Uome had given us those sacraments, 
and had not rather received them from the schools of the 
Universities ; to which, without controversy, it owes all that it 
has. The tyranny of the popes would never have stood so high 
if it had not received so much help from the Universities ; for 
among all the principal sees, there is scarcely any other which 


has had so few learned bishops. It is by force, fraud, and 
superstition alone that it has prevailed over the rest ; and those 
who occupied that see a thousand years ago are so widely 
diverse from those who have grown into power in the interim, 
that we are compelled to say that either the one or the other 
were not pontiffs of Eome. 

There are besides some other things, which it may seem that 
' we might reckon among sacraments — all those things, namely, 
to which a divine promise has been made, such as prayer, the 
word, the cross. For Christ has promised in many places to 
hear those that pray ; especially in the eleventh chapter of the 
Gospel of St. Luke, where he invites us to prayer by many 
parables. Of the word he says : " Blessed are they that hear 
the word of God and keep it." (Luke xi. 28.) And who 
can reckon up how often he promises succour and glory to 
those who are in tribulation, suffering, and humiliation ? 
Nay, who can count up all the promises of God? For it is 
the whole object of all Scripture to lead us to faith ; on 
the one side urging us with commandments and threatenings, 
on the other side inviting us by promises and consolations. 
Indeed all Scripture consists of either commandments or 
promises. Its commandments humble the proud by their 
requirements ; its promises lift up the humble by their re- 
missions of sin. 

It has seemed best, however, to consider as sacraments, 
properly so called, those promises which have signs annexed to 
them. The rest, as they are not attached to signs, are simple 
promises. It follows that, if we speak with perfect accuracy; 
there are onl y two sacraments in the Church of God, Ba-ptiem 
andJlL&-JBread ; since it is in these alone that we see both a 
sign divinely instituted and a promise of remission of sins. 
The sacrament of penance, which I have reckoned along with 
these two, is without any visible and divinely appointed sign ; 
and is nothing else, as I have said, than a way and means of 
return to baptism. Not even the schoolmen can say that 
penitence agrees with their definition ; since they themselves 
ascribe to every sacrament a visible sign, which enables the 
senses to apprehend the form of that effect which the sacra- 
ment works invisibly. Now penitence or absolution has no 
such sign ; and therefore they will be compelled by their own 



definition either to say that penitence is not one of the 
sacraments, and thus to diminish their number, or else to bring 
forward another definition of a sacrament. 

Baptism, however, which we have assigned to the whole of life, 
will properly suffice for all the sacraments which we are to use in 
life ; while the bread is truly the sacrament of the dying and 
departing, since in it we commemorate the departure of Christ 
from this world, that we may imitate Him. Let us then so 
distribute these two sacraments that baptism may be allotted 
to the beginning and to the whole course of life, and the bread 
to its end and to death ; and let the Christian, while in this 
vile body, exercise himself in both, until, being fully baptized 
and strengthened, he shall pass out of this world, as one born 
into a new and eternal life, and destined to eat with Christ in 
the kingdom of his Father, as he promised at the Last Supper, 
saying : "I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the 
vine until the kingdom of God shall come." (Luke xxii. 18.) 
Thus it is evident that Christ instituted the sacrament of the 
bread that we might receive the life which is to come ; and 
then, when the purpose of each sacrament shall have been 
fulfilled, both baptism and the bread will cease. 
^ I shall here make an end of this essay, which I readily and 
joyfully offer to all pious persons, who long to understand 
Scripture in its sincere meaning, and to learn the genuine use of 
the sacraments. It is a gift of no slight importance to " know 
the things that are freely given to us of God," and to know in 
what manner we ought to use those gifts. For if we are 
instructed in this judgment of the Spirit, we shall not deceive 
ourselves by leaning on those things which are opposed to it. 
Whereas our theologians have not only nowhere given us the 
knowledge of these two things, but have even darkened them, as 
if of set purpose, I, if I have not given that knowledge, have 
at least succeeded in not darkening it, and have given others 
an inducement to think out something better. It has at least 
been my endeavour to explain the meaning of both sacraments, 
but we cannot all do all things. On those impious men, however, 
who in their obstinate tyranny press on us their own teachings 
as if they were God's, I thrust these things freely and con- 
fidently, caring not at all for their ignorance and violence. And 
yet even to them I will wish sounder sense, and will not 


despise their efforts, but will only distinguish them from 
those which are legitimate and really Christian. 

T hear a report that fresh bulls and papal curses are being- 
prepared against me, by which I am to be urged to recant, 
or else oe declared a heretic. If this is true, I wish this little 
book to be a part of my future recantation, that they may not 
complain that their tyranny has puffed itself up in vain. 
The remaining part I shall shortly publish, Christ being my 
helper, and that of such a sort as the See of Rome has never 
yet seen or heard, thus abundantly testifying my obedience 
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Hostis Herodes impie, 
Christum venire quid times ? 
Non arripit mortalia 
Qui regna dat ccelestia. 



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