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Full text of "Luther"

NIHIL OBSTAT 

C. SCHUT, D.D., 

Censor Deputatus. 

IMPRIMATUR 

EDM. CAN. SURMONT, 

Vic. Gen. 
Westmonasterii, die 23 Novembris, 1914- 



LUTHER 



BY 

HARTMANN GRISAR, SJ. 

PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF INNSBRUCK 



AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN BY 

E. M. LAMOND 

EDITED BY 

LUIGI CAPPADELTA 



VOLUME IV 



LONDON 
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO, LTD. 

BROADWAY HOUSE, 68-74 CARTER LANE, E.G. 
1915 



A FEW PRESS OPINIONS OF VOLUMES I-III. 

" His most elaborate and systematic biography ... is not merely a book to be 
reckoned with ; it is one with which we cannot dispense, if only for its minute 
examination of Luther s theological writings." The Athenaeum (Vol. I). 

"The second volume of Dr. Grisar s Life of Luther is fully as interesting as the 
first. There is the same minuteness of criticism and the same width of survey." 

The Athenaium (Vol. II). 

" Its interest increases. As we see the great Reformer in the thick of his work, 
and the heyday of his life, the absorbing attraction of his personality takes hold ot 
us more and more strongly. His stupendous force, his amazing vitality, his super 
human interest in life, impress themselves upon us with redoubled effect. We find 
him the most multiform, the most paradoxical of men. . . . The present volume, 
which is admirably translated, deals rather with the moral, social, and personal side 
of Luther s career than with his theology." The Athenceum (Vol. III). 

"There is no room for any sort of question as to the welcome ready among 
English-speaking Roman Catholics for this admirably made translation of the first 
volume of the German monograph by Professor Grisar on the protagonist of the 
Reformation in Europe. . . . The book is so studiously scientific, so careful to base its 
teaching upon documents, and so determined to eschew controversies that are only 
theological, that it cannot but deeply interest Protestant readers. " The Scotsman. 

" Father Grisar has gained a high reputation in this country through the translation 
of his monumental work on the History of Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages, 
and this first instalment of his Life of Luther bears fresh witness to his unwearied 
industry, wide learning, and scrupulous anxiety to be impartial in his judgments as 
well as absolutely accurate in matters of fact." Glasgow Herald. 

" This Life of Luther is bound to become standard ... a model of every literary, 
critical, and scholarly virtue." The Month. 

"Like its two predecessors, Volume III excels in the minute analysis not merely of 
Luther s actions, but also of his writings; indeed, this feature is the outstanding 
merit of the author s patient labours." The Irish Times. 

" This third volume of Father Grisar s monumental Life is full of interest for the 
theologian. And not less for the psychologist ; for here more than ever the author 
allows himself to probe into the mind and motives and understanding of Luther, so 
as to get at the significance of his development." The Tablet. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER XXI. PRINCELY MARRIAGES . . pages 3-79 

1. LUTHER AND HENRY VIII OF ENGLAND. BIGAMY INSTEAD 

OF DIVORCE. 

The case of Henry VIII ; Robert Barnes is despatched to 
Wittenberg ; Luther proposes bigamy as a safer expedient 
than divorce (1531) ; Melanchthon s advice : Tutissimum 
est regi to take a second spouse. The conduct of Pope 
Clement VII. The Protestant Princes of Germany endeavour 
to secure the goodwill of the King of England ; final collapse 
of the negotiations ; Luther s later allusions to Henry VIII 

pages 3-13 

2. THE BIGAMY OF PHILIP OF HESSE. 

The question put by Philip to Luther in 1526 ; Philip well 
informed as to Luther s views. Bucer deputed by the Land 
grave to secure the sanction of Wittenberg for his projected 
bigamy ; Bucer s mission crowned with success ; Philip 
weds Margaret von der Sale ; Luther s kindly offices re 
warded by a cask of wine ; the bigamy becomes known at 
the Court of Dresden ; the Landgrave is incensed by Bucer s 
proposal that he should deny having committed bigamy. 
Luther endeavours to retire behind the plea that his per 
mission was a " dispensation," a piece of advice given " in 
confession," and, accordingly, not to be alleged in public. 
Some interesting letters of Luther to his sovereign and to 
Hesse ; his private utterances on the subject recorded in the 
Table-Talk. " Si queam mutare ! " The Eisenach Confer 
ence ; Luther counsels the Landgrave to tell a good, lusty 
lie ; the Landgrave s annoyance. Melanchthon s worries ; an 
expurgated letter of his on Landgrave Philip. Duke Henry 
of Brunswick enters the field against Luther and the Land 
grave ; Luther s stinging reply : " Wider Hans Worst." 
Johann Lening s " Dialogue " ; how it was regarded by 
Luther, Menius and the Swiss theologians. The Hessian 
bigamy is hushed up. The Bigamy judged by Protestant 
opinion ; Luther s consent to some extent extorted under 
pressure ........ pages 12-79 

CHAPTER XXII. LUTHER AND LYING pages 80-178 

1. A BATTERY OF ASSERTIONS. 

Luther s conduct in the matter of the Bigamy an excuse 
for the present chapter. His dishonest assurances in his 
letters to Leo X, to Bishop Scultetus his Ordinary, and to 
the Emperor Charles V (1518-1520) ; his real feelings at 
that time as shown in a letter to Spalatin ; Luther s later 



vi CONTENTS 

parody of Tetzel s teaching ; his insinuation that it was 
the Emperor s intention to violate the safe-conduct granted ; 
ho calls into question the authenticity of the Papal Bull 
against him, whilst all the time knowing it to be genuine ; 
he advises ordinandi to promise celibacy with a mental 
reservation ; his distortion of St. Bernard s " perdite vixi " ; 
his allusion to the case of Conradin, "slain by Pope Clement 
IV," and to the spurious letter of St. Ulrich on the babies 
heads found in a convent pond at Rome. His allegation that 
his " Artickel " had been subscribed to at Schmalkalden ; 
his unfairness to Erasmus and Duke George ; his statement, 
that, for a monk to leave his cell without his scapular, was 
accounted a mortal sin, and that, in Catholicism, people 
expected to be saved simply by works ; his advocacy of the 
" Gospel-proviso " ; his advice to the Bishop of Samland to 
make a show of hesitation in forsaking Catholicism . pages 80-99 

2. OPINIONS OF CONTEMPORARIES IN EITHER CAMP. 

Bucer, Miinzer, J. Agricola, Erasmus, Duke George, etc., 
on Luther s disregard for truth .... pages 99-102 

3. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM. SELF-SUGGESTION AND 

SCRIPTURAL GROUNDS OF EXCUSE. 

The palpable untruth of certain statements which Luther 
never tires of repeating. How to explain his putting forward 
as true what was so manifestly false : The large place 
occupied by the jocular element ; his tendency to extrava 
gance of language ; he comes, by dint of repetition, to 
persuade himself of the truth of his charges. The new 
theology of mendacity : Luther s earlier views consistent 
with the Church s ; study of the Old Testament leads him 
to the theory that only such untruths as injure our neigh 
bour are real lies ; influence of his teaching on the theo 
logians of his circle : Melanchthon, Bucer, Bugenhagen, 
Capito, etc. ....... pages 102-116 

4. SOME LEADING SLANDERS ON THE MEDIEVAL CHURCH 

HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED. 

Luther s distortions of the actual state of things before his 
coming ; admissions of modern scholars. The olden 
Catholics supposed "holiness-by-works"; on the relations 
between creature and Creator ; the Lamb of God ; the 
Eucharistic sacrifice ; " personal religion " ; Luther s plea 
that he revived respect for the secular calling ; the olden 
teaching concerning perfection . . . pages 116-131 

5. WAS LUTHER THE LIBERATOR OF WOMANKIND FROM 

" MEDIAEVAL DEGRADATION " ? 

Luther s claim to be the saviour of woman and matri 
mony ; what he says of the Pope s treatment of marriage ; 
marriage " a state of sin " ; witnesses to the contrary : 
Devotional and Liturgical books ; Luther s own attachment 
in his younger days to St. Anne. Various statements of 
Luther s to the advantage or otherwise of woman and the 
married life ; his alteration of outlook during the contro 
versy on the vow of Chastity ; the natural impulse, and the 
honour of marriage ; expressions ill-befitting one whc 



CONTENTS vii 

aspired to deliver womankind ; practical consequences of the 
new view of woman : Matrimonial impsdiments and divorce ; 
Duke George on the saying " If the wife refuse then let the 
maid come." Respect for the female sex in Luther s con 
versations. The new matrimonial conditions and the 
slandered opponents ; the actual state of things in Late 
Mediaeval times as vouched for in the records. Two con 
cluding pictures towards the history of woman : A preacher s 
matrimonial trials ; the letters of Hasenberg and von der 
Heyden and the " New-Zeittung " and " Newe Fabel " 
which they called forth ..... pages 131-178 

CHAPTER XXIII. FRESH CONTROVERSIES WITH 
ERASMUS (1534, 1536) AND DUKE GEORGE (t 1539) 

pages 179-193 

1. LUTHER AND ERASMUS AGAIN. 

Their relations since 1525; the " Hyperaspistes " ; Luther s 
attack in 1534 and Erasmus s " Purgatio " ; Luther on the 
end of Erasmus ...... pages 179-186 

2. LUTHER ON GEORGE OF SAXONY AND GEORGE ON LUTHER. 

Luther exhorts the Duke to turn Protestant ; the Duke s 
answer ; how George had to suffer at Luther s hands ; his 
true character utterly at variance with Luther s picture ; the 
Duke repays Luther in his own coin . . . pages 187-193 

CHAPTER XXIV. MORAL CONDITIONS ACCOMPANY 
ING THE REFORMATION. PRINCELY PATRONS 

pages 194-227 

1. REPORTS FROM VARIOUS LUTHERAN DISTRICTS. 

The Duchy of Saxony ; the Electorate of Brandenburg ; 
the Duchy of Prussia ; Wurtemberg ; Duke Ulrich and 
Luther ; Blaurer and Schnepf ; the sad state of things 
revealed ; the Landgraviate of Hesse ; results of Landgrave 
Philip s bad example . .... pages 194-202 

2. AT THE CENTRE OF THE NEW FAITH. 

The Electorate of Saxony ; the morals of Elector Johann 
Frederick ; the character of his predecessors ; Luther s 
relations with them ; the records of the Visitations ; Luther 
compares himself to Lot dwelling in Sodom . pages 202210 

3. LUTHER S ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN THE DECLINE IN MORALS. 

His candid admissions ; his varied explanations of the 
state of things : The malice of Satan ; the apparent increase 
of evil due to the bright light of the Evangel ; his seeming 
lack of success the best proof of the truth of his mission ; 
Luther on Wittenberg and its doings . . pages 210-218 

4. A MALADY OF THE AGE : DOUBTS AND MELANCHOLY. 

The habitual depression in which zealous promoters of the 
Evangel lived ; Melanchthon, Spalatin, Jonas, Camerarius, 
etc., ; the increase in the number of suicides ; expectation 
of the end of all ; the sad case of Johann Schlaginhaufen 

pages 218-227 



viii CONTENTS 

CHAPTER XXV. IN THE NARROWER CIRCLE OF THE 
PROFESSION AND FAMILY. LUTHER S BETTER 
FEATURES pages 228-283 

1. THE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, THE PREACHER, THE PASTOR. 

Relations with the Wittenberg students ; esteem in which 
Luther was held by them ; he warns them against consorting 
with evil women. The Preacher and Catechist ; the force 
and practical bearing of Luther s sermons ; his instructions 
to others how best to preach ; his discourses at home ; the 
notes of his sermons ; what he says of Our Lady when 
preaching on the Magnificat ; his staunch fidelity to the great 
doctrines of Christianity and his attachment to Holy Scrip 
ture ; the fine qualities of his German as evinced in his 
translations and elsewhere. The spiritual guide ; his 
concern for discipline ; his circular letters ; his strictures on 
certain legends ; his efforts to re-introduce a new form of 
confession and to further the cause of Church-music pages 228-257 

2. EMOTIONAL CHARACTER AND INTELLECTUAL GIFTS. 

The place of feeling in Luther s life ; an interview with 
Cochlseus ; his powerful fancy and still more powerful will ; 
his huge capacity for work .... pages 257-261 

3. INTERCOURSE WITH FRIENDS. THE INTERIOR OF THE FORMER 

AUGUSTINIAN MONASTERY. 

The better side of the Table-Talk ; his friends and pupils 
on his kindly ways ; his disinterestedness, love of simplicity, 
his generosity, his courage when plague threatened ; his 
occasional belittling of his own powers ; his prayer and his 
trust in God ; his lack of any real organising talent. Luther s 
family life ; his allusions to his wife ; his care for his children 

pages 261-283 

CHAPTER XXVI. LUTHER S MODE OF CONTROVERSY 

A COUNTERPART OF HIS SOUL . . pages 284-350 

1. LUTHER S ANGER. His ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE JEWS, THE 

LAWYERS AND THE PRINCES. 

Sir Thomas More on Luther s language. Three writings 
launched against the Jews ; the place of the pig and donkey 
in Luther s stable of metaphor. Luther s animus against the 
Lawyers due to their attachment to the matrimonial legisla 
tion as then established. His attack on the Princes in his 
" Von welltlicher Uberkeytt " ; his ire against Albert, 
Elector of Mayence ; his list of the archbishop s relics ; how 
the Duke of Brunswick fared .... pages 284-295 

2. LUTHER S EXCUSE : " WE MUST CURSE THE POPE AND HIS 

KINGDOM." 

The Pope is the " Beast " and the " Dragon " ; Luther s 
language in the Table-Talk, and in the Disputation in 1539 : 
on the Papal Bearwolf (Werewolf) ; the Papal Antichrist ; 
Luther s wrath against all who dared to stand up for the Pope ; 
how the Pope deserves to be addressed . . pages 295-305 



CONTENTS ix 

3. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LUTHER S ABUSIVE LANGUAGE. 

His ungovernable temper ; reality of certain misuses 
against which he thundered ; his vexation with those who, 
like Carlstadt and Zwingli, seemed to be robbing him of the 
credit which was his due ; his tendency to be carried away 
by the power of his own tongue ; his need for the stimulus 
and outlet provided by vituperation ; his ill-humour at the 
smallness of the moral results obtained ; abuse serves to 
repress his own troubles of conscience. Connection of 
Luther s abusiveness with his mystic persuasion of his special 
call ; all his anger really directed against the devil ; it is no 
insult " to call a turnip a turnip." The unpleasant seasoning 
of Luther s abuse ; some samples ; was language of so 
coarse a character at all usual at that time ? Indignation of 
the Swiss ....... pages 306-326 

4. LUTHER ON HIS OWN GREATNESS AND SUPERIORITY TO 

CRITICISM. THE ART OF " RHETORIC." 
His occasional professions of humility ; a number of 
typical sayings of Luther referring to his peculiar standing 
and his achievements : The predictions fulfilled in him ; the 
poverty of the exegesis of the Fathers ; his reforms more far- 
reaching than those of any Councils ; his being alone no 
better argument against him than against the Old-Testa 
ment Prophets, who also stood up against the whole world. 
Harnack s dilemma : Was Luther a megalomaniac, or were 
his achievements commensurate with his claims ? His habit 
of giving free rein to his " rhetoric " ; its tendency to 
extravagance, unseemliness, and, occasionally, to rank 
blasphemy ; " papist and donkey is one and the same, 
sic volo, sic iubeo " ; his rhetoric a true mirror of his inward 
state ; his changeableness ; his high opinion of himself to 
some extent fostered by the adulation of his friends pages 327-350 

CHAPTER XXVII. VOICES FROM THE CAMP OF THE 

DEFENDERS OF THE CHURCH . . pages 351-386 

1. LUTHER S "DEMONIACAL" STORMING. A MAN "POSSESSED." 

Hostile contemporaries ascribe Luther s ravings to the 
devil, others actually hold him to be beset by the devil ; 
references to his eyes ; the idle tale of his having been 
begotten of the devil ..... pages 351-359 

2. VOICES OF CONVERTS. 

Their opinion of Luther and Luther s opinion of them ; 
Egranus, Zasius, Wicel and Amerbach . . pages 360-365 

3. LAMENTATIONS OVER THE WOUNDS OF THE CHURCH AND 

OVER HER PERSECUTIONS. 

The Preface of Cochlseus to his " Commentaria de actis, 
etc., M. L."; the sermons of Wild, the Mayence Franciscan, and 
the complaints laid before the Diet, at Ratisbon (1541) and 
Worms (1545) pages 365-369 

4. THE LITERARY OPPOSITION. 

Was Luther really dragged into controversy by the tactics 
of his opponents ? A retrospect : The character of the 
writings of Tetzel and Priei ias ; Emser ; Eck and his 
" Obelisks " ; his " Enchiridion " ; Cochlseus s " Septiceps 
Lutherus " ; other champions of the Church . pages 370-386 



x CONTENTS 

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE NEW DOGMAS IN AN HIS 
TORICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL LIGHT pages 387-527 

1. THE BIBLE TEXT AND THE SPIRIT AS THE " TRUE TESTS OF 

DOCTRINE." 

Liberty for the examination of Scripture and Luther s 
autonomy ; Luther gradually reaches the standpoint that 
the Bible is the only judge in matters of faith ; those only 
must be listened to who teach " purum verbum Dei." 
Experience given by the Spirit ; divergent utterances 
regarding the perspicuity of Holy Writ ; the Bible a " heresy- 
book." Luther not in favour of verbal inspiration ; mistakes 
of the yacred writers ; which books are canonical, and why ? 
The discord which followed on Luther s principle of relying 
on private judgment and the " influxus spirilus " ; he 
reverts to the " outward Word " in his controversy with 
Zwingli and corroborates it by tradition. What authority, 
apart from the Church s, can lay doubts to rest ? The 
object of faith : Many articles, or only one ? Protestants 
on Luther s self-contradictions ; the end of Luther s 
" formal principle " . . . . . pages 387-420 

2. LUTHER AS A BIBLE EXPOSITOR. 

Some characteristic of Luther s exegesis ; his respect for 
the literal sense ; all his reading of the Bible coloured by his 
theory of Justification ; his exegesis in the light of his early 
development ....... pages 420-431 

3. THE SOLA FIDES. JUSTIFICATION AND ASSURANCE OF SALVA 

TION. 

Connection between the " material principle " (justifica 
tion) and the " formal principle " (Scripture a? the only 
rule) of Luther s theology, and between the " material 
principle " and the theory of the worthlessness of works and 
of God s being the sole real agent ; the theory at variance 
with the teaching of St. Augustine. The need of strugg ing 
to feel entirely certain of our personal justification ; Luther s 
own failure to come up to his standard ; present-day Protes 
tants on Luther s main Article " on which the Church stands 
or falls " ....... pages 431-449 

4. GOOD WORKS IN THEORY AND PRACTICE. 

The Church s teaching ; origin of Luther s new ideas to be 
sought in his early dislike for the " Little Saints " and their 
doings ; the perils of his theory ; on the fear of God as a 
motive for action. Augustine summoned as a witness on 
Luther s behalf ; the witness discarded by Melanchthon and 
the Pomeranians ; Augustine s real view ; the new doctrine 
judged by 16th-century Protestants ; Luther s utterances 
in favour of good works ; what charity meant in the Middle 
Ages ; Luther on the hospitals of Florence . . pages 449-481 

5. OTHER INNOVATIONS IN RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE. 

Luther no systematic theologian. The regula fidei ; 
Harnack on Luther s inconsequence ; Paulsen on Pope 
Luther." Luther s teaching on the sacraments; on infant- 
baptism and the faith it requires ; liberal Protestants 



CONTENTS xi 

appeal to his principles against the " magical " theory of 
Baptism ; penance an extension of baptism. Luther s 
teaching on the Supper ; Communion merely a means of 
fortifying faith ; Impanation versus Transubstaiitiation ; 
theory of the omnipresence of Christ s body ; Luther s stead 
fastness in his belief in the Real Presence. Attitude towards 
the invocation of the Saints, particularly of the Blessed 
Virgin. His views on Purgatory . . . pages 482-506 

6. LUTHER S ATTACK ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS. 

The place of this sacrifice in the Church previous to 
Luther s time ; Luther s first attacks ; the Mass suppressed 
at Wittenberg ; his " Von dem Grewel der Stillmesse " ; 
Eck s reply ; Luther undertakes to prove that the priests 
attachment to the Mass is based merely on pecuniary 
grounds ; connection between his attack on the Mass and his 
theory as a whole. His work on the " Winkle-Mass " ; his 
dispute with the devil ; his defence of his work on the 
" Winkle-Mass " ; Cochlseus replies ; Luther s references to 
the Mass in his familiar talks, and in his Schmalkalden 
" Artickel " ; a profession of faith in the Real Presence 

pages 506-527 



VOL. IV. 
THE REFORMER (II) 



IV. B 



LUTHEE 



CHAPTER XXI 



1. Luther and Henry VIII of England. Bigamy instead 
of Divorce 

IN King Henry the Eighth s celebrated matrimonial contro 
versy the Roman See by its final decision was energetically 
to vindicate the cause of justice, in spite of the fear that this 
might lead to the loss of England to Catholicism. The 
considered judgment was clear and definite : Rather than 
countenance the King s divorce from Queen Catherine, or 
admit bigamy as lawful, the Roman Church was prepared 
to see the falling away of the King and larger portion of 
the realm. 1 

In the summer, 1531, Luther was drawn into the con 
troversy raging round the King s marriage, by an agent of 
King Henry s. Robert Barnes, an English Doctor of 
Divinity who had apostatised from the Church and was 
residing at Wittenberg, requested of Luther, probably at the 
King s instigation, an opinion regarding the lawfulness of 
his sovereign s divorce. 

To Luther it was clear enough that there was no possibility 
of questioning the validity of Catherine s marriage. It 
rightly appeared to him impossible that the Papal dispensa 
tion, by virtue of which Catherine of Aragon had married 
the King after having been the spouse of his deceased 
brother, should be represented as sufficient ground for a 

1 On Clement the Seventh s earlier hesitation to come to a decision, 
see Ehses in " Vereinsschr. der GorresgeselL," 1909, 3, p. 7 ff., and the 
works there referred to ; also Paulus, " Luther und die Polygamie " 
(on Enders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 9, p. 92, n.) in the " Lit. Beilage 
der Koln. Volksztng.," 1903, No. 48, and " Hist.-pol. Blattor," 135, 
1905, p. 89 ff. ; Pastor, " Hist, of the Popes " (Engl. trans.), 10, 
pp. 238-287. See below, p. 6 f. 

3 



4 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

divorce. This view he expressed with praiseworthy frank 
ness in the written answer he gave Barnes. 1 

At the same time, however, Luther pointed out to the 
King a loophole by which he might be able to succeed in 
obtaining the object of his desire ; by this concession, un 
fortunately, he branded his action as a pandering to the 
passions of an adulterous King. At the conclusion of his 
memorandum to Barnes he has the following : " Should 
the Queen be unable to prevent the divorce, she must accept 
the great evil and most insulting injustice as a cross, but 
not in any way acquiesce in it or consent to it. Better were 
it for her to allow the King to wed another Queen, after the 
example of the Patriarchs, who, in the ages previous to the 
law, had many wives ; but she must not consent to being 
excluded from her conjugal rights or to forfeiting the title 
of Queen of England." 2 

It has been already pointed out that Luther, in conse 
quence of his one-sided study of the Old Testament, had 
accustomed himself more and more to regard bigamy as 
something lawful. 3 That, however, he had so far ever given 
his formal consent to it in any particular instance there is 
no proof. In the case of Henry VIII, Luther felt less restraint 
than usual. His plain hint at bigamy as a way out of the 
difficulty was intended as a counsel (" suasimus "). Hence 
we can understand why he was anxious that his opinion 
should not be made too public. 4 When, in the same year 
(1531), he forwarded to the Landgrave of Hesse what pur 
ported to be a copy of the memorandum, the incriminating 
passage was carefully omitted. 5 

Melanchthon, too, had intervened in the affair, and had 
gone considerably further than Luther in recommending 

1 To Robert Barnes, Sep. 3, 1531. " Brief wechsel," 9, pp. 87-8. At 
the commencement we read : " Prohibitio uxoris demortui fratris est 
positivi iuris, non divini." A later revision of the opinion also under 
Sep. 3, ibid., pp. 92-8. 

2 " Brief wechsel," ibid., p. 88. In the revision the passage still reads 
much the same : " Rather than sanction such a divorce I would permit 
the King to marry a second Queen . . . and, after the example of the 
olden Fathers and Kings, to have at the same time two consorts or 
Queens " (p. 93). 

3 See vol. iii., p. 259. 4 " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 87 seq. 

5 Luther s " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 91, n. 15. Cp. W. W. Rockwell, 
" Die Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen," Marburg, 1904, 
p. 214, n. 1, and below, p. 17, n. 2. 



HENRY VIII OF ENGLAND 5 

recourse to bigamy and in answering possible objections to 
polygamy. 

In a memorandum of Aug. 23, Melanchthon declared that 
the King was entirely justified in seeking to obtain the male 
heirs with whom Catherine had failed to present him ; this 
was demanded by the interests of the State. He endeavours 
to show that polygamy is not forbidden by Divine law ; in 
order to avoid scandal it was, however, desirable that the 
King " should request the Pope to sanction his bigamy, 
permission being granted readily enough at Rome." Should 
the Pope refuse to give the dispensation, then the King was 
simply and of his own authority to have recourse to bigamy, 
because in that case the Pope was not doing his duty, for 
he was " bound in charity to grant this dispensation." 1 
" Although I should be loath to allow polygamy generally, 
yet, in the present case, on account of the great advantage 
to the kingdom and perhaps to the King s conscience, I 
would say : The King may, with a good conscience ( tutis- 
simum est regi ), take a second wife while retaining the 
first, because it is certain that polygamy is not forbidden 
by the Divine law, nor is it so very unusual." Melanchthon s 
ruthless manner of proceeding undoubtedly had a great 
influence on the other Wittenbergers, even though it cannot 
be maintained, as has been done, that he, and not Luther, 
was the originator of the whole theory ; there are too many 
clear and definite earlier statements of Luther s in favour 
of polygamy to disprove this. Still, it is true that the lax 
opinion broached by Melanchthon in favour of the King of 
England played a great part later in the matter of the 
bigamy of the Landgrave of Hesse. 2 

In the same year, however, there appeared a work on 
matrimony by the Lutheran theologian Johann Brenz in 
which, speaking generally and without reference to this 

1 Memorandum of Aug. 23, 1531, " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 520 seq.; see 
particularly p. 526 : Bigamy was allowable in the King s case, " propter 
magnam utilitatem regni, fortassis etiam propter conscientiam regis. . . . 
Papa hanc dispensationem propter caritatem debet concedere." Cp. G. 
Ellinger, " Phil. Melanchthon," 1902, p. 325 f., and Rockwell, ibid., p. 
208 ff. 

2 Cp. Th. Kolde, " Zeitschr. f. KG.," 13, 1892, p. 577, where he 
refers to the after-effect of Melanchthon s memorandum, instanced in 
Lenz, " Briefwechsel Philipps von Hessen," 1, p. 352, and to the 
material on which Bucer relied to win over the Wittenbergers to the 
Landgrave s side (" Corp. ref.," 3, p. 851 seq.). 



6 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

particular case, he expressed himself very strongly against 
the lawfulness of polygamy. " The secular authorities," so 
Brenz insists, " must not allow any of their subjects to 
have two or more wives," they must, on the contrary, put 
into motion the " penalties of the Imperial Laws " against 
polygamy ; no pastor may " bless or ratify " such marriages, 
but is bound to excommunicate the offenders. 1 Strange to 
say, the work appeared with a Preface by Luther in which, 
however, he neither praises nor blames this opinion. 2 

The Strasburg theologians, Bucer and Capito, as well as 
the Constance preacher, Ambrosius Blaurer, also stood up 
for the lawfulness of bigamy. When, however, this reached 
the ears of the Swiss theologians, (Ecolampadius, in a letter 
of Aug. 20, exclaimed : " They w r ere inclined to consent to 
the King s bigamy ! But far be it from us to hearken more 
to Mohammed in this matter than to Christ ! " 3 

In spite of the alluring hint thrown out at Wittenberg, the 
adulterous King, as everyone knows, did not resort to 
bigamy. It was Henry the Eighth s wish to be rid of his 
wife, and, having had her removed, he regarded himself as 
divorced. After the King had repudiated Catherine, Luther 
told his friends : " The Universities [i.e. those which sided 
with the English King] have declared that there must be a 
divorce. We, however, and the University of Louvain, 
decided differently. . . . We [viz. Luther and Melanchthon] 
advised the Englishman that it w r ould be better for him to 
take a concubine than to distract his country and nation ; 
yet in the end he put her away." 4 

W 7 hen Clement VII declared the first marriage to be valid 
and indissoluble, and also refused to countenance any 
bigamy, Henry VIII retorted by breaking with the Church 
of Rome, carrying his country with him. For a while 
Clement had hesitated on the question of bigamy, since, in 
view of Cardinal Cajetan s opinion to the contrary, he found 
it difficult to convince himself that a dispensation could not 

1 "Wie in Ehesachen und den Fallen, so sich derhalben zutragen, 
nach gottlichem billigem Rechten christenlich zu handeln sei," 1531. 
Fol. D. 2b and D. 3a. Cp. Rockwell, p. 281, n. 1. 

2 The Preface reprinted in " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 305. 

3 Enders, " Luther s Briefwechsel," 9, p. 92. 

4 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 199 : " Suasimus Anglo, tolerabiliorem 
ei esse concubinatum quam " to distract his \vhole country and nation, 
" sed tandem earn repudiavit." 



HENRY VIII OF ENGLAND 7 

be given, and because he was personally inclined to be 
indulgent and friendly ; finally, however, he gave Bennet, 
the English envoy, clearly to understand that the dispensa 
tion was not in his power to grant. 1 That he himself was 
not sufficiently versed in Canon Law, the Pope repeatedly 
admitted. " It will never be possible to allege the attitude 
of Clement VII as any excuse for the Hessian affair " (Ehses). 
It is equally impossible to trace the suggestion of bigamy 
back to the opinions prevailing in mediaeval Catholicism. 2 
No mediaeval pope or confessor can be instanced who 
sanctioned bigamy, while there are numbers of theologians 
who deny the Pope s power to grant such dispensations ; 
many even describe this negative opinion as the " sententia 
communist 3 

Of Cardinal Cajetan, the only theologian of note on the 
opposite side (see above, vol. iii., p. 261), W. Kohler remarks, 
alluding particularly to the recent researches of N. Paulus : 
" It never entered Cardinal Cajetan s head to deny that the 
ecclesiastical law categorically forbids polygamy." 4 Further : 
" Like Paulus, we may unhesitatingly admit that, in this 
case, it would have been better for Luther had he had 
behind him the guiding authority of the Church." 5 

Henry VIII, as was only natural, sought to make the 
best use of the friendship of the Wittenberg professors and 
Princes of the Schmalkalden League, against Rome and 
the Emperor. He despatched an embassy, though his 
overtures were not as successful as he might have wished. 

We may describe briefly the facts of the case. 

1 Cp. Paulus in the " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 135, 1905, p. 90. 

2 [Though, of course, the hesitation evinced previously by St. 
Augustine (" De bono conjugate," " P.L.," xl., col. 385) must not be 
lost sight of. Note to English Edition. ] 

3 Cp. Paulus, ibid., 147, 1911, p. 505, where he adds : "And yet 
mediaeval casuistry is alleged to have been the determining influence 
in Luther s sanction of bigamy ! Had Luther allowed himself to be 
guided by the mediaeval theory and practice, he would never have given 
his consent to the Hessian bigamy." 

4 " Hist. Zeitschr.," 94, 1905, p. 409. Of Clement VII, Kohler writes 
(ibid.) : " Pope Clement VII, who had to make a stand against Henry 
VIII of England in the question of bigamy, never suggested a dispensa 
tion for a second wife, though, to all appearance, he was not convinced 
that such a dispensation was impossible." 

5 " Theol. JB. fur 1905," Bd. 25, p. 657, with reference to " Hist.- 
pol. Bl.," 135, p. 85. 



8 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The Schmalkalden Leaguers, from the very inception of the 
League, had been seeking the support both of England and of 
France. In 1535 they made a determined effort to bring about 
closer relations with Henry VIII, and, at the Schmalkalden 
meeting, the latter made it known that he was not unwilling to 
" join the Christian League of the Electors and Princes." Here 
upon he was offered the " title and standing of patron and pro 
tector of the League." The political negotiations nevertheless 
miscarried, owing to the King s excessive demands for the event 
of an attack on his Kingdom. 1 The project of an alliance with 
the King of Denmark, the Duke of Prussia, and with Saxony and 
Hesse, for the purpose of a war against the Emperor, also came 
to nothing. 

In these negotiations the Leaguers wanted first of all to reach 
an agreement with Henry in the matter of religion, whereas the 
latter insisted that political considerations should have the 
first place. 

In the summer, 1535, Robert Barnes, the English plenipo 
tentiary, was raising great and exaggerated hopes in Luther s 
breast of Henry s making common cause with the Wittenberg 
reformers. 

Into his plans Luther entered with great zest, and consented 
to Melanchthon s being sent to England as his representative, 
for the purpose of further negotiations. As we now know from 
a letter of recommendation of Sep. 12, 1535, first printed in 1894, 
he recommended Barnes to the Chancellor Briick for an inter 
view with the Elector, and requested permission for Melanchthon 
to undertake the journey to England. Joyfully he points out 
that " now the King offers to accept the Evangel, to join the 
League of our Princes and to allow our Apologia entry into his 
Kingdom." Such an opportunity must not be allowed to slip, 
for " the Papists will be in high dudgeon." Quite possibly God 
may have something in view. 2 

In England hopes were entertained that these favourable offers 
would induce a more friendly attitude towards the question of 
Henry s divorce. Concerning this Luther merely says in the 
letter cited : "In the matter of the royal marriage, the sus- 
pensio has already been decided," without going into any 
further particulars ; he, however, reserves the case to be dealt 
with by the theologians exclusively. 

In August, 1535, Melanchthon had dedicated one of his 
writings to the King of England, and had, on this occasion, 
lavished high praise on him. It was probably about this time 
that the King sent the presents to Wittenberg, to which 
Catherine Bora casually alludes in the Table-Talk. " Philip 
received several gifts from the Englishman, in all five hundred 
pieces of gold ; for our own part we got at least fifty." 3 

1 Cp. Janssen, " Hist, of the German People," Eng. Trans., 6, pp. 1 ff. 

2 Letter published by Th. Kolde in the " Zeitschr. fur KG.," 14, 
1894, p. 605. 

3 Mathesius, "Tischreden," p. 106, in 1540. Cp. "Corp. ref.," 2, p. 995. 



HENRY VIII OF ENGLAND 9 

Melanchthon took no offence at the cruel execution of Sir 
Thomas More or at the other acts of violence already perpetrated 
by Henry VIII ; on the contrary, he gave his approval to the deeds 
of the royal tyrant, and described it as a commandment of God 
"to use strong measures against fanatical and godless men." 1 
The sanguinary action of the English tyrant led Luther to 
express the wish, that a similar fate might befall the heads of the 
Catholic Church at Rome. In the very year of Bishop Fisher s 
execution he wrote to Melanchthon : " It is easy to lose our 
tempers when we see what traitors, thieves, robbers, nay devils 
incarnate the Cardinals, the Popes and their Legates are. Alas 
that there are not more Kings of England to put them to death ! " 2 
He also refers to the alleged horrors practised by the Pope s tools 
in plundering the Church, and asks : " How can the Princes and 
Lords put up with it ? " 

In Dec., 1535, a convention of the Schmalkalden Leaguers, at 
Melanchthon s instance, begged the envoys despatched by Henry, 
who were on their way to Wittenberg, to induce their master to 
promote the Confession of Augsburg unless, indeed, as they 
added with unusual consideration, " they and the King should be 
unanimous in thinking that something in the Confession might 
be improved upon or made more in accordance with the Word 
of God." 3 

Just as in the advances made by the King to Wittenberg " the 
main point had been to obtain a favourable pronouncement from 
the German theologians in the matter of his divorce," so too in 
consenting to discuss the Confession of Augsburg he was actu 
ated by the thought that this would lead to a discussion on the 
Papal power and the question of the divorce, i.e. to those points 
which the King had so much at heart. 4 

On the arrival immediately after of the envoys at Witten 
berg they had the satisfaction of learning from Luther and his 
circle, that the theologians had already changed their minds in 
the King s favour concerning the lawfulness of marriage with a 
brother s widow. Owing to the influence of Osiander, whom 
Henry VIII had w r on over to his side, they now had come to 
regard such marriages as contrary to the natural moral law. 
Hence Henry s new marriage might be considered valid. They 
were not, however, as yet ready to draw this last inference from 

1 " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 928. Melanchthon s language, and Luther s 
too, changed when, later, Henry VIII caused those holding Lutheran 
opinions to be executed. See below, p. 12 f. 

2 Beginning of Dec., 1535. " Briefwechsel," 10, p. 275 : " Utinam 
haberent plures reges Anglice, qui illos occiderent ! " 

3 "Corp. ref.," 2, p. 1032, n. 1383. Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, 
p. 369. 

4 Thus G. Mentz, the editor of the " Wittenberger Artickel," drawn 
up for the envoys from England (" Quellenschriften zur Gesch. des 
Prot.," Hft. 2, 1905), pp. 3 and 4. He points out, p. 7, that King Henry, 
in a reply to Wittenberg (March 12, 1536, " Corp. ref.," 3, p. 48), 
requested " support in the question of the divorce " and desired certain 
things to be modified in the " Confessio " and the " Apologia." 



10 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the invalidity of the previous marriage between the King and 
Catherine. l 

Luther, however, became more and more convinced that 
marriage with a brother s widow was invalid ; in 1542, for 
instance, on the assumption of the invalidity of such a union, he 
unhesitatingly annulled the marriage of a certain George Schud, 
as a devilish abomination " (" abominatio diaboli "). 2 

The spokesman of the English mission, Bishop Edward Fox, 
demanded from Luther the admission that the King had separ 
ated from his first wife " on very just grounds." Luther, how 
ever, would only agree that he had done so "on very many 
grounds." He said later, in conversation, that his insistence on 
this verbal nicety had cost him three hundred Gulden, which he 
would have received from England in the event of his com 
pliance. 3 He cannot indeed be accused of having been, from 
ecclesiastico-political motives, too hasty in gratifying the King s 
demands in the matter of the divorce. Yet, on the other hand, 
it is not unlikely that the desire to pave the way for a practical 
understanding was one of the motives for his mode of action. 
His previous outspoken declarations against any dissolution of 
the Royal marriage compelled him to assume an attitude not too 
strongly at variance with his earlier opinion. 

After the new marriage had taken place negotiations with 
England continued, principally with the object of securing such 
acceptance of the new doctrine as might lead to a politico- 
religious alliance between that country and the Schmalkalden 
Leaguers. Luther, however, stubbornly refused to concede 
anything to the King in the matter of his chief doctrines, for 
instance, regarding Justification or the rejection of the Mass. 

The articles agreed upon at the lengthy conferences held 
during the early months of 1536 and made public only in 1905 
(see above, p. 9, n. 4) failed to satisfy the King, although 
they displayed a very conciliatory spirit. Melanchthon outdid 
himself in his endeavour to render the Wittenberg teaching 

1 For full particulars concerning the change, see Rockwell, loc. cit., 
216 rT. The latter says, p. 217 : " Luther s opinion obviously changed 
[before March 12, 1536]. . . . Yet lie expressed himself even in 1536 
against the divorce [Henry the Eighth s] ; the prohibition [of marriage 
with a sister in-law] from which the Mosaic Law admitted exceptions, 
might be dispensed, whereas the prohibition of divorce could not be 
dispensed," and, p. 220 : "In the change of 1536 the influence of 
Osiander is unmistakable. . . . Cranmer, when at Ratisbon in 1532, 
had visited Osiander several times at Nuremberg, and finally won him 
over to the side of the King of England." At the end Rockwell sums 
up as follows (p. 222) : " The expedient of bigamy . . . was approved 
by Luther, Melanchthon, Grynseus, Bucer and Capito, but repudiated 
by (Ecolampadius and Zwingli. Hence we cannot be surprised that 
Luther, Melanchthon and Bucer should regard favourably the Hessian 
proposal of bigamy, whereas Zwingli s successors at Zurich, viz. 
Bullinger and Gualther, opposed it more or less openly." 

2 On Feb. 16, 1542, "Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 436. Cp. ibid., 
p. 584, Letter of Jan. 18, 1545. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 152, in 1540. 



HENRY VIII OF ENGLAND 11 

acceptable. "It is true that the main points of faith were not 
sacrificed," remarks the discoverer and editor of the articles in 
question, " but the desire to please noticeable in their form, even 
in such questions as those concerning the importance of good 
works, monasteries, etc., is nevertheless surprising." 1 Luther 
himself, in a letter of April 29, 1536, to the Electoral Vice- 
Chancellor Burkhard, spoke of the concessions made in these 
articles as the final limit ; to go further would be to concede to 
the King of England what had been refused to the Pope and the 
Emperor ; "at Augsburg [in 1530] we might have come to terms 
more easily with the Pope and the Emperor, nay, perhaps we 
might do so even now." To enter into an ecclesiastico-political 
alliance with the English would, he considers, be " dangerous," 
for the Schmalkalden Leaguers " were not all of one mind " ; 
hence the (theological) articles ought first to be accepted ; the 
League was, however, a secular matter and therefore he would 
beg the " beloved Lords and my Gracious Master to consider " 
whether they could accept it without a previous agreement being 
reached on the point of theology. 2 

Though Luther and the Princes set great store on the 
projected alliance, on account of the increase of strength it 
would have brought the German Evangelicals, yet their 
hopes were to be shattered, for the articles above referred 
to did not find acceptance in England. Luther was later 
on to declare that everything had come to nought because 
King Henry wished to be head of the Protestants in 
Germany, which the Elector of Saxony would not permit : 
" Let the devil take the great Lords ! This rogue ( is nebulo ) 
wanted to be proclaimed head of our religion, but to this 
the Elector would in no wise agree ; we did not even know 
what sort of belief he had." 3 Probably the King demanded 
a paramount influence in the Schmalkalden League, and the 
German Princes were loath to be deprived of the direction 
of affairs. 

After all hopes of an agreement had vanished Henry VIII 
made no secret of his antipathy for the Lutheran teaching. 

The quondam Defender of the Faith even allowed himself 
to be carried away to acts of bloodshed. In 1540 he caused 
Luther s friend, Robert Barnes, the agent already referred 
to, to be burnt at the stake as a heretic. Barnes had adopted 
the Lutheran doctrine of Justification. It was not on this 
account alone, however, that he was obnoxious to the King, 

1 Mentz, loc. cit., p. 11. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 52, p. 133 (" Brief wechsel," 10, p. 327). 
3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 174, in 1540. 



12 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

but also because the latter had grown weary of Anne of 
Cleves, whom Barnes and Thomas Cromwell, the King s 
favourite, had given him as a fourth consort, after Anne 
Boleyn and Jane Seymour. Cromwell, though not favour 
ably disposed to Lutheranism, was executed a few days 
before. On April 9, 1536, Luther had written to Cromwell 
a very polite letter, couched in general terms, 1 in answer 
to a courteous missive from that statesman handed to him 
by Barnes. From Luther s letter we see that Cromwell 
" had been described to him in too favourable a light," 2 as 
though predisposed to the Lutheran doctrine or to regard 
Luther as a divinely sent teacher. Luther deceived himself 
if he fancied that Cromwell was ready to " work for the 
cause " ; the latter remained as unfriendly to Lutheranism 
proper as the King himself. 

In the year of Barnes s execution Melanchthon wrote the 
letter to Veit Dietrich in which he expresses the pious wish, 
that God would send a brave murderer to bring the King to 
the end he deserved. 3 

Luther, on his side, declared : " The devil himself rides 
astride this King " ; "I am glad that we have no part in 
his blasphemy." He boasted, so Luther says, of being head 
of the Church of England, a title which no bishop, much 
less a King, had any right to, more particularly one who 
with his crew had " vexed and tortured Christ and His 
Church." 4 In 1540 Luther spoke sarcastically of the 
King s official title : " Under Christ the supreme head on 
earth of the English Church," 5 remarking, that, in that 
case, "even the angels are excluded." 6 Of Melanchthon s 
dedication of some of his books to the King, Luther says, 
that this had been of little service. " In future I am not 
going to dedicate any of my books to anyone. It brought 
Philip no good in the case of the bishop [Albert of Mayence], 
of the Englishman, or of the Hessian [the Landgrave 
Philip]." 7 Still more fierce became his hatred and dis 
appointment when he found the King consorting with his 
sworn enemies, Duke George, and Albert, Elector of Mayence. 8 

1 " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 324. 2 Ibid., p. 326. 

3 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 400, with reference to " Corp. ref," 3, p. 1076. 

4 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 537, where the words have been 
transferred to July 10, 1539. 

5 Cp. " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 1029. Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 178. 
7 Ibid., p. 145. 8 Ibid., p. 198. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 13 

When he heard the news of Barnes having been cast into 
prison, he said : " This King wants to make himself God. 
He lays down articles of faith and forbids marriage under 
pain of death, a thing which even the Pope scrupled to do. 
I am something of a prophet and, as what I prophesy comes 
true, I shall refrain from saying more." 1 

Luther never expressed any regret regarding his readiness 
to humour the King s lusts or regarding his suggestion of 
bigamy. 

The Landgrave Philip of Hesse, however, referred directly 
to the proposal of bigamy made to the King of England, 
when he requested Luther s consent to his own project of 
taking a second wife. The Landgrave had got to hear of 
the proposal in spite of the unlucky passage having been 
struck out of the deed. 

The history of the Hessian bigamy is an incident which 
throws a curious light on Luther s exceptional indulgence 
towards princely patrons of the Evangel in Germany. 

2. The Bigamy of Philip of Hesse 

As early as 1526 Philip of Hesse, whose conduct was far 
from being conspicuous for morality, had submitted to 
Luther the question whether Christians were allowed to 
have more than one wife. The Wittenberg Professor gave 
a reply tallying with his principles as already described ; 2 
instead of pointing out clearly that such a thing was divinely 
forbidden to all Christians, was not to be dispensed from 
by any earthly authority, and that such extra marriages 
would be entirely invalid, Luther refused to admit un 
conditionally the invalidity of such unions. Such marriages, 
he stated, gave scandal to Christians, "for without due 
cause and necessity even the old Patriarchs did not take 
more than one wife " ; it was incumbent that we should be 
able " to appeal to the Word of God," but no such Word 
existed in favour of polygamy, " by which the same could 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 145. On account of his cruelty he 
says of Henry VIII, in Aug., 1540 : "I look upon him not as a man but 
as a devil incarnate. He has added to his other crimes the execution 
of the Chancellor Cromwell, whom, a few days previously, he had 
made Lord Chief Justice of the Kingdom " (ibid., p. 174). 

2 For Luther s previous statements in favour of polygamy, see vol. 
iii., p. 259 ff. ; and above, p. 4. 



14 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

be proved to be well pleasing to God in the case of Chris 
tians " ; " hence I am unable to recommend it, but would 
rather dissuade from it, especially for Christians, unless some 
great necessity existed, for instance were the wife to contract 
leprosy or become otherwise unfit." 1 It is not clear whether 
Philip was interested in the matter for personal reasons, or 
simply because some of his subjects were believers in 
polygamy. 

Luther s communication, far from diverting the Prince 
from his project, could but serve to make him regard it as 
feasible ; provided that the " great necessity " obtained 
and that he had " the Word of God on his side," then the 
step could " not be prevented." By dint of a judicious 
interpretation of Scripture and with expert theological aid, 
the obstacles might easily be removed. 

The Hessian Prince also became acquainted with Luther s 
statements on bigamy in his Commentary on Genesis 
published in the following year. To them the Landgrave 
Philip appealed expressly in 1540 ; the preacher Anton 
Corvinus having suggested that he should deny having com 
mitted bigamy, he replied indignantly : " Since you are so 
afraid of it, why do you not suppress what Luther wrote 
more than ten years ago on Genesis ; did he and others not 
write publicly concerning bigamy : Advise it I do not, 
forbid it I cannot ? If you are allowed to write thus of it 
publicly, you must expect that people will act up to your 
teaching." 2 

The question became a pressing one for Luther, and began 
to cast a shadow over his wayward and utterly untraditional 
interpretation of the Bible, when, in 1539, the Landgrave 
resolved to take as an additional wife, besides Christina 
the daughter of George of Saxony, who had now grown 
distasteful to him, the more youthful Margeret von der 
Sale. From Luther Margeret s mother desired a favourable 
pronouncement, in order to be able with a good conscience 
to give her consent to her daughter s wedding. 

1 To Philip of Hesse, Nov. 28, 1526, " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 411 f. 

2 " Eriefwechsel des A. Corvinus," ed. Tschackert, 1900, p. 81. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 15 

Philip Seeks the Permission of Wittenberg. 

Early in Nov., 1539, Gereon Sailer, an Augsburg physician 
famous for his skill in handling venereal cases, who had 
treated the Landgrave at Cassel, was sent by Philip to 
Bucer at Strasburg to instruct the latter to bring the matter 
before the theologians of Wittenberg. Sailer was a friend 
of the innovations, and Bucer was highly esteemed by the 
Landgrave as a theologian and clever diplomatist. 

Bucer was at first sorely troubled in conscience and 
hesitated to undertake the commission ; Sailer reported 
to the Landgrave that, on hearing of the plan, he had been 
" quite horrified" and had objected "the scandal such an 
innovation in a matter of so great importance and difficulty 
might cause among the weak followers of the Evangel." 1 
After thinking the matter over for three days Bucer, how 
ever, agreed to visit the Landgrave on Nov. 16 and receive 
his directions. A copy of the secret and elaborate instruc 
tions given him by Philip concerning the appeal he was to 
make to Luther still exists in the handwriting of Simon 
Bing, the Hessian Secretary, in the Marburg Archives 
together with several old copies, 2 as also the original rough 
draft in Philip s own hand. 3 The envoy first betook him 
self to the meeting of the Schmalkalden Leaguers, held at 
Arnstadt on Nov. 20, to confer upon a new mission to be 
sent to England ; on Dec. 4 he was at Weimar with the 
Elector of Saxony and on the 9th he had reached Witten 
berg. 

The assenting answer given by Luther and Melanchthon 
bears the date of the following day. 4 It is therefore quite 
true that the matter was settled " in haste," as indeed the 
text of the reply states. Bucer doubtless did his utmost to 

1 " Brief wechsel Landgraf Philipps des Grossmiitigen von Hessen 
mit Bucer, hg. und erlautert von Max Lenz " (" Publikationen aus den 
Kgl. preuss. Staatsarchiven," Bd. 5, 28 und 47 = 1, 2, 3), 1, 1880, p. 345. 
Cp. N. Paulus, " Die hessische Doppelehe im Urteile der protest. 
Zeitgenossen," " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 147, 1911 (p. 503 ff., 561 ff.) p. 504. 

2 We quote the instructions throughout from the most reliable 
edition, viz. that in " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12 (1910, p. 301 ff.), which 
G. Kawerau continued and published after the death of Enders. 

3 " Philipps Brief wechsel," ed. Lenz, 1, p. 352. 

4 Best given in " Luthers Briefwechsel," 12, p. 319 ff. Cp. " Luthers 
Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 258 ff. ; " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 237, which 
gives only the Latin version; "Corp. ref.," 3, p. 851 sea, ; " Hist.-pol. 
BL," 18, 1846, p. 236 ff. 



16 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

prevent the theologians from having recourse to subterfuge 
or delay. 

The above-mentioned instructions contain a sad account 
of the " dire necessity " which seemed to justify the second 
marriage : The Landgrave would otherwise be unable to 
lead a moral life ; he was urged on by deep distress of 
conscience ; not merely did he endure temptations of the 
flesh beyond all measure, but, so runs his actual confession, 
he was quite unable to refrain from " fornication, un- 
chastity and adultery." 1 The confession dealt with matters 
which were notorious. It also contains the admission, that 
he had not remained true to his wife for long, in fact not for 
more than " three weeks " ; on account of his sense of sin 
he had " not been to the Sacrament." As a matter of fact 
he had abstained from Communion from 1526 to 1539, viz. 
for thirteen years, and until his last attack of the venereal 
disease. 

But were the scruples of conscience thus detailed to the 
Wittenbcrgers at all real ? Recently they have been 
characterised as the " outcome of a bodily wreck." 

" I am unable to practise self-restraint," Philip of Hesse 
had declared on another occasion, " I am forced to commit 
fornication or worse, with women." His sister Elisabeth 
had already advised him to take a concubine in place of so 
many prostitutes. In all probability Philip would have 
abducted Margaret von der Sale had he not hoped to obtain 
her in marriage through the intervention of her relations 
and with Luther s consent. A Protestant historian has 
recently pointed this out when dealing with Philip s alleged 
" distress of conscience." 2 

Bucer was well able to paint in dismal hues the weakness 
of his princely client ; he pointed out, " how the Landgrave, 
owing to his wife s deficiencies, was unable to remain 
chaste ; how he had previously lived so and so, which was 
neither good nor Evangelical, especially in one of the 
mainstays of the party." 3 In that very year Philip of 
Hesse had, as a matter of fact, been ailing from a certain 

1 " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 301. 

2 W. Kohler, " Die Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen " 
(" Histor. Zeitschr.," 94, 1905, p. 385 ff.), p. 399, 400. 

3 Luther s letter, June, 1540, to the Elector of Saxony (below, p. 37) 
ed. Seidemann from a Kiel MS. in his edition of " Lauterbachs Tage- 
buch," p. 196 ff. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 17 

malady brought upon him by his excesses ; he himself spoke 
of it as a " severe attack of the French sickness [syphilis], 
which is the penalty of an immoral life." 1 

True to his instructions, Bucer went on to say that the Land 
grave had firmly " resolved " to make use against his un- 
chastity which he neither could nor would refrain from with 
his present wife of " such means as God permitted and did not 
forbid," viz. to wed a second wife. The two Wittenbergers had 
perforce to listen while Bucer, as the mouthpiece of the Land 
grave, put forth as the grounds of his client s firm resolve the 
very proofs from Scripture which they themselves had adduced 
in favour of polygamy ; they were informed that, according to 
the tenor of a memorandum, " both Luther and Philip had 
counselled the King of England not to divorce his first wife, but 
rather to take another." 2 It was accordingly the Landgrave s 
desire that they should " give testimony " that his deed was not 
unjust, and that they should " make known in the press and 
from the pulpit what was the right course to pursue in such 
circumstances " ; should they have scruples about doing this 
for fear of scandal or evil consequences, they were at least to 
give a declaration in writing : " That were I to do it secretly, 
yet I should not offend God, but that they regard it as a real 
marriage, and would meanwhile devise ways and means whereby 
the matter might be brought openly before the world"; other 
wise, the instructions proceeded, the " wench " whom the Prince 
was about to take to himself might complain of being looked upon 
as an improper person ; as " nothing can ever be kept secret," 
" great scandal " would indeed arise were not the true state of 
the case known. Besides, he fully intended to retain his present 
wife and to consider her as a rightful spouse, and her children 
alone were to be the " lawful princes of the land " ; nor would 
he ask for any more wives beyond this second one. The Land 
grave even piously reminds Luther and Melanchthon " not to 
heed overmuch the opinion of the world, and human respect, but 
to look to God and what He has commanded or forbidden, bound 
or loosened " ; he, for his part, was determined not to " remain 
any longer in the bonds of the devil." 

Philip was careful also to remind them that, if, after putting 
into execution his project, he was able to " live and die with a 
good conscience," he would be " all the more free to fight for the 

1 Thus Philip to his friend, Duke Ulrich of Wurtemberg, Oct., 
1540, when seeking to obtain his agreement to the bigamy. Ulrich, 
however, advised him to give up the project, which would be a great 
blow to the Evangel. F. L. Heyd, " Ulrich, Herzog von Wurttem- 
berg," 3, p. 226 ff. 

2 Cp. above, p. 3 ff.; also Enders " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 
308, where it is pointed out that in the copy of the letter to Henry VIII 
sent to Hesse (ibid., 9, p. 81 ff.) the passage in question concerning 
bigamy was omitted ; the Landgrave Philip, however, learnt the con 
tents of the passage, doubtless from Bucer, 

IV. C 



18 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Evangelical cause as befitted a Christian " ; " whatever they 
[Luther and Melanchthon] shall tell me is right and Christian 
whether it refers to monastic property or to other matters 
that they will find me ready to carry out at their behest." On 
the other hand, as an urgent motive for giving their consent to 
his plan, he broadly hinted, that, " should he not get any help 
from them " he would, " by means of an intermediary, seek 
permission of the Emperor, even though it should cost me a lot 
of money " ; the Emperor would in all likelihood do nothing 
without a " dispensation from the Pope " ; but in such a matter 
of conscience neither the Pope nor the Emperor were of any great 
account, since he was convinced that his " design was approved 
by God " ; still, their consent (the Pope and Emperor s) would 
help to overcome " human respect " ; hence, should he be unable 
to obtain " consolation from this party [the Evangelical]," then 
the sanction of the other party was " not to be despised." Con 
cerning the request he felt impelled to address to the Emperor, he 
says, in words which seem to convey a threat, that although he 
would not for any reason on earth prove untrue to the Evangel, 
or aid in the onslaught on the Evangelical cause, yet, the 
Imperial party might " use and bind " him to do things " which 
would not be to the advantage of the cause." Hence, it was in 
their interest to assist him in order that he might "not be forced 
to seek help in quarters where he had no wish to look for it." 

After again stating that he " took his stand on the Word 
of God " he concludes with a request for the desired 
" Christian, written " testimony, " in order that thereby 
I may amend my life, go to the Sacrament with a good 
conscience and further all the affairs of our religion with 
greater freedom and contentment. Given at Milsungen on 
the Sunday post Catharine anno etc. 39." 

The Wittenberg theologians now found themselves in a 
quandary. Luther says : " We were greatly taken aback 
at such a declaration on account of the frightful scandal 
which would follow." 1 Apart from other considerations, 
the Landgrave had already been married sixteen years and 
had a number of sons and daughters by his wife ; the 
execution of the project would also necessarily lead to 
difficulties at the Courts of the Duke of Saxony and of the 
Elector, and also, possibly, at that of the Duke of Wurtem- 
berg. They were unaware that Margaret von Sale had 
already been chosen as a second wife, that Philip had 
secured the consent of his wife Christina, and that the way 

1 Letter of Luther to the Elector of Saxony. See above, p. 16, n. 
3, and below, p. 37 f. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 19 

for a settlement with the bride s mother had already been 
paved. 1 

The view taken by Rockwell, viz. that the form of the 
memorandum to be signed by Luther and Melanchthon 
had already been drawn up in Hesse by order of Philip, is, 
however, erroneous ; nor was the document they signed a 
copy of such a draft. 2 

It is much more likely that the lengthy favourable reply 
of the Wittenbergcrs was composed by Melanchthon. It 
was signed with the formula : Wittenberg, Wednesday after 
St. Nicholas, 1539. Your Serene Highness s willing and 
obedient servants [and the signatures] Martinus Luther, 
Philippus Melanchthon, Martinus Bucerus." 3 The docu 
ment is now among the Marburg archives. 

Characteristically enough the idea that the Landgrave is, and 
must remain, the protector of the new religious system appears 
at the commencement as well as at the close of the document. 
The signatories begin by congratulating the Prince, that God 
" has again helped him out of sickness," and pray that heaven 
may preserve him, for the " poor Church of Christ is small 
and forsaken, and indeed stands in need of pious lords and 
governors " ; at the end God is again implored to guide and 
direct him ; above all, the Landgrave must have nothing to do 
with the Imperialists. 

The rest of the document, apart from pious admonitions, 
consists of the declaration, that they give their " testimony that, 
in a case of necessity," they were " unable to condemn " bigamy, 
and that, accordingly, his " conscience may be at rest " should 
the Landgrave " utilise " the Divine dispensation. In so many 
words they sanction the request submitted to them, because 
" what was permitted concerning matrimony in the Mosaic Law 
was not prohibited in the Gospel." Concerning the circum 
stances of the request they, however, declined " to give any 
thing in print," because otherwise the matter would be " under 
stood and accepted as a general law and from it [i.e. a general 
sanction of polygamy] much grave scandal and complaint would 
arise." The Landgrave s wish that they should speak of the case 
from the pulpit, is also passed over in silence. Nor did they 
reply to his invitation to them to consider by what ways and 
means the matter might be brought publicly before the world. 

1 Cp. W. W. Rockwell, " Die Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp von 
Hessen," Marburg, 1904, p. 30 ff. 

2 This error has been confuted by Th. Brieger on good grounds in 
the " Untersuchungen iiber Luther und die Nebenehe des Landgrafen 
Philipp," in " Zeitschr. f. KG.," 29, p. 174 ff. ; ibid:, p. 403 ff. " Hist. 
Jahrb.," 26, 19C5, p. 405 (N. Paulus). 

3 Dec. 10, 1539, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 326. 



20 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

On the contrary, they appear to be intent on burying in discreet 
silence a marriage so distasteful to them. It even looks as 
though they were simple enough to think that such concealment 
would be possible, even in the long run. What they fear is, 
above all, the consequences of its becoming common property. 
In no way, so they declare, was any universal law, any " public 
precedent" possible, whereby a plurality of wives might be 
made lawful ; according to its original institution marriage had 
signified " the union of two persons only, not of more " ; but, in 
view of the examples of the Old Covenant, they " were unable 
to condemn it," if, in a quite exceptional case, " recourse were 
had to a dispensation . . . and a man, with the advice of his 
pastor, took another wife, not with the object of introducing a 
law, but to satisfy his need." 

As for instances of such permission having been given in the 
Church, they were able to quote only two : First, the purely 
legendary case of Count Ernest of Gleichen then still regarded 
as historical who, during his captivity among the Turks in 
1228, had married his master s daughter, and, then, after his 
escape, and after having learnt that his wife was still living, 
applied for and obtained a Papal dispensation for bigamy ; 
secondly, the alleged practice in cases of prolonged and incurable 
illness, such as leprosy, to permit, occasionally, the man to take 
another wife. The latter, however, can only refer to Luther s 
own practice, or to that followed by the teachers of the new 
faith. 1 In 1526 Luther had informed the Landgrave that this 
was allowable in case of " dire necessity," " for instance, where 
the wife was leprous, or had been otherwise rendered unfit." 2 
Acting upon this theory he was soon to give a decision in a 
particular case ; 3 in May or June, 1540, he even stated that he 
had several times, when one of the parties had contracted 
leprosy, privately sanctioned the bigamy of the healthy party, 
whether man or woman. 4 

They are at great pains to impress on the Landgrave that he 
must " take every possible care that this matter be not made 
public in the world," otherwise the dispensation would be taken 
as a precedent by others, and also would be made to serve as a 
weapon against them and the Evangel." " Hence, seeing how 
great scandal would be caused, we humbly beg your Serene 
Highness to take this matter into serious consideration." 

They also admonish him " to avoid fornication and adultery " ; 
they had learnt with " great sorrow " that the Landgrave " was 
burdened with such evil lusts, of which the consequences to be 

[ ! Unless the reference bo to certain reputed consulta of Gregory II 
or of Alexander III. Cp. " P.L.," Ixxxix., 525, and Deer. IV, 15, iii. 
Note to English Ed.~\ 

2 See above, p. 14. 

3 Cp. Luther s " Consideration," dated Aug. 23, 1527, concerning 
the husband of a leprous wife, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 406 (" Brief 
wechsel," 6, p. 80), where he says : " I can in no wise prevent him or 
forbid his taking another wedded wife." He here takes for granted the 
consent of the leprous party. 4 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 141. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 21 

feared were the Divine punishment, illness and other perils ; 
such conduct, outside of matrimony, was " no small sin " as 
they proceed to prove from Scripture ; they rejoiced, however, 
that the Prince felt " pain and remorse " for what he had done. 
Although monogamy was in accordance with the original institu 
tion of marriage, yet it was their duty to tell him that," seeing 
that your Serene Highness has informed us that you are not able 
to refrain from an immoral life, we would rather that your High 
ness should be in a better state before God, and live with a good 
conscience for your Highness s own salvation and the good of your 
land and people. And, as your Serene Highness has determined 
to take another wife, we consider that this should be kept secret, 
no less than the dispensation, viz. that your Serene Highness and 
the lady in question, and a few other trustworthy persons, should 
be apprised of your Highness s conscience and state of mind in 
the way of confession." 

" From this," they continue, " no great gossip or scandal will 
result, for it is not unusual for Princes to keep concubinas, and, 
though not everyone is aware of the circumstances, yet reason 
able people will bear this in mind and be better pleased with 
such a manner of life than with adultery or dissolute and immoral 
living." 

Yet, once again, they point out that, were the bigamy to 
become a matter of public knowledge, the opinion would gain 
ground that polygamy was perfectly lawful to all, and that 
everyone might follow the precedent ; the result would also be 
that the enemies of the Evangel would cry out that the Evangeli 
cals were not one whit better than the Anabaptists, who were 
likewise polygamists and, in fact, just the same as the Turks. 
Further, the great Lords would be the first to give the example 
to private persons to do likewise. As it was, the Hessian aristoc 
racy was bad enough, and many of its members were strongly 
opposed to the Evangel on earthly grounds ; these would 
become still more hostile were the bigamy to become publicly 
known. Lastly, the Prince must bear in mind the injury to his 
" good name " which the tidings of his act would cause amongst 
foreign potentates. 

A paragraph appended to the memorandum is, accord 
ing to recent investigation, from Luther s own pen and, at 
any rate, is quite in his style. 1 It refers to Philip s threat 
to seek the Emperor s intervention, a step which would not 
have been at all to the taste of the Wittenbergers, for it was 
obvious that this would cripple Philip s action as Protector 
of the Evangelicals. This menace had plainly excited and 
troubled Luther. He declares in the concluding sentences, 
that the Emperor before whom the Prince threatened to 
lay the case, was a man who looked upon adultery as a 

1 Cp. the remarks in " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 327 f., and 
Brieger, loc. cit., p. 192. 



22 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

small sin ; there was great reason to fear that he shared 
the faith of the Pope, Cardinals, Italians, Spaniards and 
Saracens ; he would pay no heed to the Prince s request 
but only use him as a cat s-paw. They had found him out 
to be a false and faithless man, who had forgotten the true 
German spirit. The Emperor, as the Landgrave might see 
for himself, did not trouble himself about any Christian 
concerns, left the Turks unopposed and was only interested 
in fomenting plots in Germany for the increase of the 
Burgundian power. Hence it was to be hoped that pious 
German Princes would have nothing to do with his faithless 
practices. 

Such are the contents of Luther and Melanchthon s 
written reply. Bucer, glad of the success achieved, at once 
proceeded with the memorandum to the Electoral Court. 

This theological document, the like of which had never 
been seen, is unparalleled in the whole of Church history. 
Seldom indeed has exegetical waywardness been made to 
serve a more momentous purpose. The Elector, Johann 
Frederick of Saxony, was, at a later date, quite horrified, 
as he said, at " a business the like of which had not been 
heard of for many ages." 1 Sidonie, the youthful Duchess 
of Saxony, complained subsequently, that, " since the 
Birth of Christ, no one had done such a thing." 2 Bucer s 
fears had not been groundless " of the scandal of such an 
innovation in a matter of so great importance and difficulty 
among the weak followers of the Evangel." 3 

Besides this, the sanction of bigamy given in the docu 
ment in question is treated almost as though it denoted the 
commencement of a more respectable mode of life incapable 
of giving any " particular scandal " ; for amongst the 
common people the newly wedded wife would be looked 
upon as a concubine, and such it was quite usual for Princes 
to keep. Great stress is laid on the fact that the secret 
bigamy would prevent adultery and other immorality. 
Apart, however, from these circumstances, the sanctioning, 
largely on the strength of political considerations, of an 

1 Seckendorf, " Commentarius de Lutheranismo," 3, 1694, p. 278. 

2 E. Brandenburg, " Politische Korrespondenz des Herzogs Moritz 
von Sachsen," 2, 1903, p. 101. 

3 Sailer to Philip of Hesse, Nov. 6, 1539, " Briefwechsel Philipps," 
1, p. 345 ; above, p. 15. Other similar statements by contemporaries 
are to be found in the article of N. Paulus (above, p. 15, n. 1). 



28 

exception to the universal New-Testament prohibition, is 
painful. Anyone, however desirous of finding extenuating 
circumstances for Luther s decision, can scarcely fail to 
be shocked at this fact. The only excuse that might be 
advanced would be, that Philip, by his determination to 
take this step and his threat of becoming reconciled to the 
Emperor, exercised pressure tantamount to violence, and 
that the weight of years, his scorn for the Church s matri 
monial legislation and his excessive regard for his own 
interpretation of the Old Testament helped Luther to 
signify his assent to a plan so portentous. 

The Bigamy is Consummated and made Public. 

The object of Bucer s hasty departure for the Court of 
the Elector Johann Frederick of Saxony was to dispose him 
favourably towards the impending marriage. In accord 
ance with his instructions from Hesse, he was to submit 
to this Prince the same arguments which had served him 
with the two Wittenbergers, for the superscription of the 
instructions ran : " What Dr. Martin Bucer is to demand 
of D. Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, and, should 
he see fit, after that also of the Elector." 1 In addition to 
this he had in the meantime received special instructions 
for this delicate mission to Weimar. 2 

The Landgrave looked upon an understanding with the 
Elector as necessary, not merely on account of his relation 
ship with him and out of consideration for Christina his 
first wife, who belonged to the House of Saxony, but also 
on account of the ccclesiastico-political alliance in which 
they stood, which made the Elector s support seem to him 
quite as essential as the sanction of the Wittenberg theo 
logians. 

Bucer treated with Johann Frederick at Weimar on 15 
or 16 Dec. and reached some sort of understanding, as we 
learn from the Elector s written reply to the Landgrave 
bearing the latter date. Bucer represents him as saying : 
If it is impossible to remove the scandal caused by the 
Landgrave s life in any other way, he would ask, as a 

1 " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 301. 

2 " Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 356 ff., and Burkhardt, " Luthers 
Brief wechsel," p. 388. 



24 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

brother, that the plan should not be executed in any other 
way than " that contained in our Dr. Luther s, Philip s 
and my own writing " ; upon this he was unable to 
improve ; he was also ready to " lend him fraternal assist 
ance in every way " should any complications arise from 
this step. 1 In return, in accordance with the special instruc 
tions given to Buccr, he received from the Landgrave 
various political concessions of great importance : viz. 
support in the matter of the Duke of Cleves, help in his 
difficulties about Magdeburg, the eventual renunciation 
of Philip s title to the inheritance of his father-in-law, 
Duke George, and, finally, the promise to push his claims 
to the Imperial crown after the death of Charles V, or in the 
event of the partitioning of the Empire. 

The Elector, like his theologians, was not aware that the 
" lady " (she is never actually named) had already been 
chosen. Margaret von der Sale, who was then only seventeen 
years of age, was the daughter of a lady-in-waiting to 
Philip s sister, Elisabeth, Duchess of Rochlitz. Her mother, 
Anna von der Sale, an ambitious lady of the lower nobility, 
had informed the Landgrave that she must stipulate for 
certain privileges. As soon as Philip had received the 
replies from Wittenberg and Weimar, on Dec. 23, 1539, the 
demands of the mother were at once settled by persons 
vested with the necessary authority. Even before this, on 
the very day. of the negotiations with Luther, Dec. 11, the 
Landgrave and his wife Christina had each drawn up a 
formal deed concerning w r hat was about to take place : 
Christina agreed to Philip s " taking another wedded wife " 
and promised that she would never on that account be 
unfriendly to the Landgrave, his second wife, or her children ; 
Philip pledged himself not to countenance any claim to the 
Landgraviate on the part of any issue by the second wife 
during the lifetime of Christina s two sons, but to provide 
for such issue by means of territories situated outside his 
own dominions. 2 Such was the assurance with which he 
proceeded towards the cherished goal. 

Several Hessian theologians of the new faith, for instance, 
the preacher Dionysius Melander, a personal friend of the 
Landgrave s, and Johann Lening were on his side. 3 To the 

" Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 308. Cp. Rockwell, ibid., p. 30. 
2 Rockwell, ibid., p. 31. 3 Ibid., p. 37. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 25 

memorandum composed by Luther and Melanchthon the 
signatures of both the above-mentioned were subsequently 
added, as well as those of Anton Corvinus, then pastor at 
Witzenhausen, of Adam Fuldensis (Kraft), then Superin 
tendent at Marburg, of Justus Winther since 1532 Court 
Schoolmaster at Cassel and, from 1542, Superintendent at 
Rotenburg on the Fulda and of Balthasar Rhaide (Raid), 
pastor at Hersfeld, who, as Imperial Notary, certified the 
marriage. The signature of the last was, however, subse 
quently erased. 1 

About the middle of Jan., 1540, Philip informed the more 
prominent Councillors and theologians that he would soon 
carry out his project. When everything was ready the 
marriage was celebrated on March 4 in the Castle of Roten 
burg on the Fulda by the Court Chaplain, Dionysius 
Melander, in the presence of Bucer and Melanchthon ; were 
also present the Commandant of the Wartburg, Eberhard 
von der Thann, representing the Elector of Saxony, Pastor 
Balthasar Rhaide, the Hessian Chancellor Johann Feige of 
Lichtenau, the Marshal Hermann von Hundelshausen, 
Rudolf Schenk zu Schweinsberg (Landvogt of Eschwege on 
the Werra), Hermann von der Malsburg, a nobleman, and 
the mother of the bride, Anna von der Sale. 2 The draft of 
the short discourse still exists with which the Landgrave 
intended to open the ceremony. Melander delivered the 
formal wedding address. On the following day Melanchthon 
handed the Landgrave an " admonition," i.e. a sort of 
petition, in which he warmly recommended to his care the 
welfare of education. It is possible that when summoned, 
to Rotenburg from a meeting of the Schmalkalden League 
at which he had been assisting, he was unaware of the 
object of the invitation. Subsequent explanations, furnished 
at the last moment, by Melander and Lening, seem to have 
drawn a protest from Melanchthon which roused the anger 
of the two preachers. This shows that " everything did 
not pass off smoothly at Rotenburg." 3 Both were, not long 
after, stigmatised by Melanchthon as " ineruditi homines " 
and made chiefly responsible for the lax principles of the 
Landgrave. 4 Luther tried later to represent Lening, the 

1 "Luthers Briefwechsel," 12, pp. 326 and 328. 

2 Rockwell, ibid., p. 43. 3 Ibid., p. 41 f. 

4 Melanchthon to Camerarius, Sep. 1, 1540, first fully published by 
Rockwell, ibid., p. 194. 



26 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" monster," as the man by whom the idea of the bigamy, 
a source of extreme embarrassment to the Wittenbergers, 
had first been hatched. 1 

Although the Landgrave was careful to preserve secrecy 
concerning the new marriage already known to so many 
persons, permitting only the initiate to visit the " lady," 
and even forbidding her to attend Divine Worship, still the 
news of what had taken place soon leaked out. " Palpable 
signs appeared in the building operations commenced at 
Weissenstein, and also in the despatch of a cask of wine to 
Luther." 2 At Weissenstein, in the former monastery near 
Cassel, now Wilhelmshohe, an imposing residence was 
fitted up for Margaret von der Sale. In a letter of May 24, 
1540, to Philip, Luther expresses his thanks for the gift of 
wine : " I have received your Serene Highness s present of 
the cask of Rhine wine and thank your Serene Highness 
most humbly. May our dear Lord God keep and preserve 
you body and soul. Amen." 3 Katey also received a gift 
from the Prince, for which Luther returned thanks on 
Aug. 22, though without mentioning its nature. 4 On the 
cask of wine and its destination the Schultheiss of Lohra 
spoke " openly before all the peasants," so Anton Corvinus 
informed the Landgrave on May 25, saying that : " Your 
Serene Highness has taken another wife, of which he was 
perfectly sure, and your Serene Highness is now sending a 
cask of wine to Luther because he gave your Serene High 
ness permission to do such a thing." 5 

On June 9 Jonas wrote from Wittenberg, where he was staying 
with Luther who himself was as silent as the tornb to George 
of Anhalt : Both in the Meissen district and at Wittenberg there 
is "much gossip" ( ingens jama ) of bigamy with a certain von 
Sale, though, probably, it was only " question of a concubine." 6 

1 To Justus Menius, Jan. 10, 1542, " Brief e," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 426. 
To Chancellor Briick, soon after Jan. 10, 1542, ibid., 4, p. 296. Melanch- 
thon wrote to Veit Dietrich on Dec. 11, 1541, concerning Lening : 
" Monstroso corpore et animo est." 

2 Thus Rockwell, ibid., p. 48 f. 

3 " Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 362 f. Rockwell s statement, p. 45, 
that Luther had been offered 200 Gulden by the Landgrave as a present, 
but had refused the gift, is, in both instances, founded on a misunder 
standing. Cp. N. Paulus, " Hist. Jahrb.," 1905, p. 405. 

4 Luther to the Landgrave, Aug. 22, 1540, " Philipps Briefwechsel," 
1, p. 389. 

6 "Briefwechsel des Corvinus," (see p. 14, n. 2), p. 79. Paulus, 
ibid., p. 563. 

6 " Briefwechsel des Jonas," ed. G. Kawerau, 1, p. 394. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 27 

Five days later, however, he relates, that " at Wiirzburg and 
similar [Catholic] localities the Papists and Canons were ex 
pressing huge delight " over the bigamy. 1 

The behaviour of the Landgrave s sister had helped to spread 
the news. On March 13 the Landgrave, through Marshal von 
Hundelshausen, had informed the latter of the fact, as he had 
formally promised Margaret s mother to do. The " lady began 
to weep, made a great outcry and abused Luther and Bucer as 
a pair of incarnate scamps." 2 She was unable to reconcile her 
self to the bigamy or to refrain from complaining to others. " My 
angry sister has been unable to hold her tongue." wrote the 
Landgrave Philip on June 8. 3 The Ducal Court of Saxony at 
Dresden was anxious for reliable information. Duke Henry was 
a patron of Lutheranism, but one of the motives for his curiosity 
in this matter is to be found in the fact that the Landgrave was 
claiming a portion of the inheritance of the late Duke George, who 
had died on April 17, 1539. In accordance with Henry s orders 
Anna von der Sale, as a subject of the Saxon duchy, was removed 
by force on June 3 from her residence at Schonfeld and carried 
to Dresden. There the mother confessed everything and 
declared, not without pride, that her daughter Margaret " was 
as much the rightful wife of the Landgrave as Christina." 4 About 
Whitsun the Landgrave personally admitted the fact to Maurice 
of Saxony. 

The Court of Dresden at once informed the Elector of Saxony 
of its discovery and of the very unfavourable manner in w^hich 
the news had been received, and the latter, in turn, communi 
cated it, through Chancellor Briick, to Luther and Melanchthon. 

The Elector Johann Frederick, in view of the change of circum 
stances, became more and more vexed with the marriage. To 
a certain extent he stood under the influence of Elisabeth Duchess 
of Rochlitz. In his case, too, the question of property played a 
part, viz. whether, in view of the understanding existing between 
Hesse and Saxony as to the succession, the children of the second 
wife were to become the heirs in the event of the death of the 
children of the first wife, this being what the Landgrave de 
manded. Above all, however, the cautious Elector was anxious 
about the attitude of the Empire and Emperor. He feared lest 
steps should be taken against the general scandal which had been 
given and to obviate the danger of the spread of polygamous 
ideas. Hence he was not far from withdrawing from Luther the 
favour he had hitherto shown him, the more so now that the 
Court of Dresden was intent on raising trouble against all who 
had furthered the Landgrave s plan. 

Meanwhile the news rapidly spread, partly owing to persons 
belonging to the Court. It reached King Ferdinand, and, by him, 

1 " Brief wechsel des Jonas," ed. G. Kawerau, p. 397. 

2 Account of the Marshal in " Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 335. 

3 To Anthony von Schonberg, in Rockwell, ibid., p. 51, according to 
information taken from the archives. 

4 Rockwell, loc. cit., p. 53. 



28 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

and still more by Morone, the Nuncio, it was carried to the 
Emperor. 

Morone wrote on June 15, from the religious conference then 
proceeding at Hagenau, to Cardinal Farnese at Rome : " During 
the lifetime of his first wife, a daughter of Duke George of Saxony 
of good memory, the Landgrave of Hesse, has, as we hear, taken 
a second wife, a lady of distinction, von der Sale by name, a 
native of Saxony. It is said, his theologians teach that it is not 
forbidden to Christians to have several wives, except in the case 
of a Bishop, because there is no such prohibition in Holy Scrip 
ture. I can hardly credit it, but since God has given them over 
to a reprobate mind [Rom. i. 28] and as the King has assured 
me that he has heard it from several quarters, I give you the 
report for what it is worth." 1 

Philip of Hesse, who was already in disgrace with the 
Emperor on account of his expedition into Wurtembcrg 
and his support of Duke Ulrich, knew the penalties which 
he might expect unless he found some means of escape. 
The " Carolina " (1532) decreed " capital punishment " 
against bigamists, no less than against adulterers. 2 The 
Landgrave himself was even fully prepared to forfeit one- 
third of his possessions should it be impossible to arrive 
otherwise at a settlement. 3 He now openly declared as 
he had already hinted he would that, in case of necessity, 
he would make humble submission to the Emperor ; if the 
worst came to the worst, then he would also make public 
the memorandum he had received from Wittenberg in order 
to exculpate himself a threat which filled the Elector with 
alarm on account of his University and of Luther. 

Bucer, the first to be summoned to the aid of the Hessian 
Court, advised the Landgrave to escape from his unfortu 
nate predicament by downright lying. He wrote : If 
concealment and equivocation should prove of no avail, he 
was to state in writing that false rumours concerning his 
person had come into circulation, and that no Christian was 
allowed to have two wives at the same time ; he was also 
to replace the marriage-contract by another contract in 

1 Rockwell, loc. cit., p. 60. 

"Carolina," ed. Kohler, 1900, p. 63. Cp. the Imperial Law 
" Neminem " in " Corp. iur. civ., Cod. lusiin.," ed. Krtiger, 1877, p. 198. 
Bucer pointed out to the Landgrave, that " according to the common 
law of the Empire such things were punished by death." " Philipps 
Brief wechsel," 1, p. 177 ; cp. pp. 178, 180. 

3 He declared on Jan. 3, 1541 : " This much and not more the law 
may take from us." 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 29 

which Margaret might be described as a concubine such 
as God had allowed to His beloved friends and not as a 
wife within the meaning of the calamitous Imperial Law ; 
an effort was also to be made to induce the Court of Dresden 
to keep silence, or to deny any knowledge of the business, 
and, in the meantime, the " lady " might be kept even 
more carefully secluded than before. 1 

The Landgrave s reply was violent in the extreme. He 
indignantly rejected Bucer s suggestion ; the dissimulation 
alleged to have been practised by others, notably by the 
Patriarchs, Judges, Kings and Prophets, etc., in no wise 
proved the lawfulness of lying ; Bucer had " been instigated 
to make such proposals by some worldly-wise persons and 
jurists whom we know well." 2 Philip wrote to the same 
effect to the Lutheran theologians, Schnepf, Osiander and 
Brenz, who urged him to deny that Margaret was his lawful 
wife : " That, when once the matter has become quite 
public, we should assert that it was invalid, this we cannot 
bring ourselves to do. We cannot tell a lie, for to lie does 
not become any man. And, moreover, God has forbidden 
lying. So long as it is possible we shall certainly reply 
dubitative or per amphibologiam, but to say that it is in 
valid, such advice you may give to another, but not to us." 3 

The " amphibologia " had been advised by the Hessian 
theologians, who had pointed out that Margaret could best 
be described to the Imperial Court of Justice as a " concu- 
bina," since, in the language of the Old Testament, as also 
in that of the ancient Church, this word had sometimes 
been employed to describe a lawful wife. 4 They also wrote 
to Luther and Melanchthon, fearing that they might desert 
the Landgrave, telling them that they were expected to 
stand by their memorandum. Although they were in 
favour of secrecy, yet they wished that, in case of necessity, 
the Wittenbergers should publicly admit their share. Good 
care would be taken to guard against the general introduc 
tion of polygamy. 5 

1 On July 8, 1540, ibid., p. 178 ff. Before this, on June 15, he had 
exhorted the Landgrave to hush up the matter as far as possible so 
that the whole Church may not be " denied " by it. Ibid., p. 174, 
Paulus, loc. cit., p. 507. 2 " Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 185 f. 

3 Ibid., p. 183. 4 Ibid., p. 341. 

5 " Analecta Lutherana," ed. Kolde, p. 353 seq. Cp. Rockwell, 
loc. cit., p. 71, n. 1. 



30 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Dispensation ; Advice in Confession ; a Confessor s Secret ? 

Was the document signed by Luther, Melanchthon and 
Bucer a dispensation for bigamy ? 

It has been so described. But, even according to the 
very wording of the memorandum, the signatories had no 
intention of issuing a dispensation. On the contrary, 
according to the text, they, as learned theologians, declared 
that the Divine Law, as they understood it, gave a general 
sanction, according to which, in cases such as that of Philip 
of Hesse, polygamy was allowed. It is true that they and 
Philip himself repeatedly use the word " dispensation," 
but by this they meant to describe the alleged general 
sanction in accordance with which the law admitted of 
exceptions in certain cases, hence their preference for the 
term " to use " the dispensation, instead of the more usual 
" to beg " or " to grant." Philip is firmly resolved " to 
use " the dispensation brought to his knowledge by Luther s 
writings, and the theologians, taking their cue from him, 
likewise speak of his " using " it in his own case. 1 

It was the same with the " dispensation " which the 
Wittenbergers proposed to Henry VIII of England. (See 
above, p. 4 f.) They had no wish to invest him with an 
authority which, according to their ideas, he did not possess, 
but they simply drew his attention to the freedom common 
to all, and declared by them to be bestowed by God, viz. 
in his case, of taking a second wife, telling him that he was 
free to have recourse to this dispensation. In other words, 
they gave him the power to dispense himself, regardless of 
ecclesiastical laws and authorities. 

Another question : How far was the substance of the 
advice given in the Hessian case to be regarded as a secret ? 
Can it really be spoken of as a " counsel given in confession," 
or as a " secret of the confessional " ? 

This question later became of importance in the negotia 
tions which turned upon the memorandum. In order to 
answer it without prejudice it is essential in the first place 
to point out, that the subsequent interpretations and 
evasions must not here be taken into account. The actual 

1 E. Friedberg remarks in the " Deutsche Zeitschr. f. KR.," 36, 
1904, p. 441, that the Wittenbergers " did not even possess any power 
of dispensing." 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 31 

wording of the document and its attendant historical 
circumstances have alone to be taken into consideration, 
abstraction being made of the fine distinctions and meanings 
afterwards read into it. 

First, there is 110 doubt that both the Landgrave s 
request for the Wittenberg testimony and its granting were 
intended to be confidential and not public. Philip naturally 
assumed that the most punctilious secrecy would be pre 
served so long as no decision had been arrived at, seeing 
that he had made confidential disclosures concerning his 
immorality in pleading for a second marriage. The 
Wittenbergers, as they explicitly state, gave their reply 
not merely unwillingly, with repugnance and with great 
apprehension of the scandal which might ensue, but also 
most urgently recommended Philip to keep the bigamy to 
himself. Both the request and the theological testimony 
accordingly came under the natural obligation of silence, 
i.e. under the so-called confidential seal of secrecy. This, 
however, was of course broken when the suppliant on his 
part allowed the matter to become public ; in such a case 
no one could grudge the theologians the natural right of 
bringing forward everything that was required for their 
justification, even to the reasons which had determined 
them to give their consent, though of course they were 
in honour bound to show the utmost consideration ; for 
this the petitioner himself was alone to blame. 

As a matter of fact, however, strange though it may 
seem, Philip s intention all along had been ultimately to 
make the marriage public. It cannot be proved that he 
ever made any written promise to observe the recommenda 
tion of absolute secrecy made by the theologians. Those 
who drew up the memorandum disregarded his wish for 
publicity, and, on the contrary, u advised " that the matter 
should be kept a dead secret. Yet ought they not to have 
foreseen that a Prince so notoriously unscrupulous would 
be likely to disregard their " advice " ? The theologians 
were certainly no men of the world if they really believed 
that the Landgrave s bigamy and their memorandum by 
which it was justified would or could remain concealed. 
They themselves had allowed a number of other parties to 
be initiated into the secret, nor was it difficult to foresee that 
Philip, and Margaret s ambitious mother, would not allow 



32 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the stigma of concubinage to rest permanently on the newly 
wedded bride. The mother had expressly stipulated that 
Margaret should be treated as a lawful wife and given this 
title, and not as a concubine, though of this the Witten- 
bergers were not aware. 

Further, the theological grounds for the Wittenberg 
" advice " must not be lost sight of in considering the 
question of the obligation of silence or secrecy. The theo 
logians based their decision on a doctrine which they had 
already openly proclaimed. Nor did Luther ever withdraw 
from the standpoint that polygamy was lawful ; he even 
proclaimed it during the height of the controversy raised 
by the Hessian bigamy, though he was careful to restrict it 
to very rare and exceptional cases and to make its use 
dependent on the consent of the authorities. Thus the 
grounds for the step he had taken in Philip s favour were 
universally and publicly known just as much as his other 
theological doctrines. If, however, his teaching on this 
matter was true, then, strictly speaking, people had as much 
right to it as to every other piece of truth ; in fact, it was the 
more urgent that this Evangelical discovery should not 
be put under a bushel, seeing that it would have been a 
veritable godsend to many who groaned in the bonds of 
matrimony. Hence everything, both on Philip s side and 
on that of the theologians, pointed to publicity. But 
may, perhaps, the Wittenberg " advice " have been 
esteemed a sort of "counsel given in Confession," and did 
its contents accordingly fall under the " secret of Con 
fession " ? 

The word " Confession," in its sacramental meaning, was 
never used in connection with the affair dealt with at 
Wittenberg, either in Philip s instructions to Bucer or in the 
theologians memorandum, nor does it occur in any of the 
few documents relating to the bigamy until about six 
months later. " Confession " is first alleged in the letter 
of excuse given below which Luther addressed to the 
Elector of Saxony. It is true that the expression " in the 
way of Confession " occurs once in the memorandum, but 
there it is used in an entirely different sense and in no way 
stamps the business as a matter of Confession. There it is 
stated (above, p. 21), that those who were to be apprised 
of the bigamy were to learn it "in the way of Confession." 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 33 

Here the word Confession is employed by metonymy and 
merely emphasises the need of discretion. Here there was 
naturally no idea of the sacramental seal, or of the making of 
a real Confession. In the Middle Ages the term Confession 
was not seldom used to denote the imparting of an ordinary 
confidential secret, just as the word to confess originally 
meant to admit, to acknowledge, or to communicate some 
thing secret. This, however, was not the meaning attached 
to it by those who sought to shelter themselves behind the 
term in the controversies which ensued after the bigamy 
had become generally known. To vindicate the keeping 
secret of his so-called " advice in Confession," Luther falls 
back upon his Catholic recollections of the entire secrecy 
required of the Confessor, in other words, on the sacra 
mental " seal." 

Undoubtedly the Seal of Confession is inexorable ; ac 
cording to the Catholic view it possesses a sacramental 
sanction and surrounds, like a protecting rampart, the 
sanctuary of the Sacrament of Penance, which otherwise 
would be shunned by all. But this absolute and sacramental 
obligation of silence attends only the administration of the 
Sacrament of Penance. 

The idea that Luther and his comrades when signing the 
" advice " were dispensing the Sacrament of Penance 
cannot but raise a smile. In connection with this matter 
non-Catholic theologians and historians would never have 
spoken as they have done of Luther as a Confessor, had 
they been better acquainted with the usages of the older 
Church. In the case of such writers all that is known of the 
system of Confession is often a few distorted quotations from 
casuists. Even under its altered form, as then in use among 
the Protestants, Confession could only mean an admission 
of one s sins, made to obtain absolution. In Lutheranism, 
confession, so far as it was retained at all, meant the awaken 
ing and animating of faith by means of some sort of self- 
accusation completed by the assurance given by the preacher 
of the Divine promise and forgiveness, a process which bears 
no analogy to the " testimony " given by the theologians 
to Philip of Hesse. In the Catholic Church, moreover, in 
whose practice Luther seems anxious to take refuge, Con 
fession involves an accusation of all grievous sins, contrition, 
a firm resolve to amend, satisfaction and absolution. What 

IV. D 



34 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

was there of all this in the Landgrave s so-called Con 
fession ? x Where was the authority to absolve, even had 
this been what the Landgrave sought ? How then could 
there come into play the Seal of Confession, i.e. any sacra 
mental obligation apart from the purely natural obligation 
of keeping silence concerning a communication made in 
confidence ? Again, Confession, even according to Lutheran 
ideas, is not made at a distance, or to several persons 
simultaneously, or with the object of securing a signed 
document. 

Apart from all this one may even question whether the 
Landgrave s disclosures were really honestly meant. Not 
everyone would have taken them from the outset as in 
tended seriously, or have regarded them as above suspicion. 
Melanchthon, for instance, soon began to have doubts. (See 
below.) The readiness, nay, eagerness, shown by Philip 
later to repeat his Confession to others, to reinforce it by 
even more appalling admissions of wickedness, and to give 
it the fullest publicity, is really not favourable to the " Con 
fession " idea ; on the contrary, it reminds us of the morbid 
pleasure which persons habituated to vice and who have 
lost all respect whether for themselves or for the virtue of 
others, take in speaking openly of their moral lapses. 
The most important point to bear in mind is, however, the 
fact, that with Philip of Hesse it was a question of a marriage 
which he intended should be kept secret only for a time, 
and further that the Wittenbergers were aware of Philip s 
readiness to lay his case before the Emperor, nay, even the 
Pope should necessity arise. 2 Owing to this they could not 
be blind to the possibility of the marriage, and, incidentally, 
of the Landgrave s admission of moral necessity, and further 
of their own " advice " being all disclosed. Thus the 
" Seal of Confession " was threatened from the very 
first. Philip himself never recognised a binding obliga 
tion of secrecy on the part of the Wittenbergers ; on the 
contrary, his invitation to them was : Speak out freely, 
now that the step has been taken with your sanction ! 
What was Luther s answer ? He appealed to the Secret 
of the Confessional and refused to defend the act before 

1 Cp. N. Paulus, " Das Beichtgeheimnis und die Doppelehe Philipps 
usw.," " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 135, 1905, p. 317 ff. 

2 Cp. Rockwell, loc. cit., pp. 154, 156. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 35 

the world and the Empire, but merely " before God " ; all 
he was willing to do was to vindicate it " before God, by 
examples such as that of Abraham, etc., and to conceal it as 
much as possible." And yet, to forestall what will be 
related below, full publicity would surely have been the 
best thing for himself, as then the world would at least have 
learnt that he was not desirous of introducing polygamy 
generally, and that the whole business had only been made 
common property through Philip s disregard of the recom 
mendation of secrecy. Instead of this, however, he pre 
ferred to profess his readiness (it was probably no more 
than a threat) to admit publicly that he had been in the 
wrong all along and had acted foolishly ; here again, had 
he been true to his word, the " Secret of the Confessional " 
would assuredly have fared badly. 

Even in his letter of excuse to the Elector Johann 
Frederick concerning his sanction of the bigamy, Luther 
explained so much of the incident, that the " Seal of Con 
fession " was practically violated ; quite unmindful of the 
inviolability of the Seal he here declared, that he w r ould 
have preferred to say nothing of the " counsel given in 
Confession had not necessity" forced him to do so. But 
what kind of Seal of Confession w r as this, we may ask, which 
could thus be set aside in case of necessity ? 

Melanchthon acted differently. He, without any neces 
sity, at once recounted everything that had happened to a 
friend in a letter eloquent with grief. He, the author of 
the " Counsel of Confession," felt under no obligation to 
regard the Seal. He considers himself liberated, by Philip s 
behaviour, from the obligation even of confidential secrecy. 1 
Bucer expressed himself on Aug. 8, 1540, in a similar 
fashion concerning the counsel given to the Landgrave 
" in Confession " : Luther w r ould certainly publish and 
defend it, should the " marriage have to be admitted " 
through no fault of the Landgrave s. 2 No one, in fact, 
displayed the slightest scruple regarding the secrecy of the 
Confession except Luther and those who re-echo his 
sentiments. 

1 Yet in a later missive to Philip of Hesse (Sep. 17, 1540) he too 
speaks of the " counsel given in Confession in case of necessity." Here, 
however, he bases his injunction of silence on other considerations. 

2 " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 208. 



36 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

According to the above we are justified in saying that the 
term " Counsel given in Confession " is in no wise de 
scriptive of the Wittenberg document. The word " testi 
mony," or " certificate," used both in Philip s instructions 
and in an important passage of the document signed by 
Luther, Mclanchthon and Buccr, is historically more correct ; 
the terms " opinion " or " memorandum " are equally 
applicable. 

The Wittenbergers gave their testimony or opinion such 
is the upshot of the matter but no Dispensation or Counsel 
in Confession in the sense just determined. They gave a 
testimony, which was asked for that it might be made 
public, but which was given in confidence, which was more 
over based on their openly expressed teaching, though it 
actually dealt only with Philip s own case, a testimony 
which no longer involved them in any obligation of secrecy 
once the marriage had been made public by Philip, and once 
the latter had declared his intention of making the testi 
mony public should circumstances demand it. 

Luther s Embarrassment on the Bigamy becoming Public. 

At the commencement of June, 1540, Luther was in great 
distress on account of the Hessian bigamy. His embarrass 
ment and excitement increased as the tidings flew far and 
wide, particularly when the Court of Dresden and his own 
Elector began to take fright at the scandal, and the danger 
of complications arising with the Emperor. On the other 
hand, Luther was not unaware of the Landgrave s doubts as 
to whether he would stand by his written declaration. Jonas 
wrote from Wittenberg on June 10 to George of Anhalt : 
" Philip is much upset and Dr. Martin full of thought." 1 

On that very day Bruck, the Electoral Chancellor, dis 
cussed the matter with both of them at Wittenberg. He 
acquainted them with his sovereign s fears. They had gone 
too far, and the publication of the affair had had the most 
disastrous results ; a young Princess and Landgravine had 
appeared on the scene, which was not at all what the Elector 
had expected ; the Court of Dresden was loud in its com 
plaints and spared not even the Elector ; the Dresden 

1 " Briefwechsel des Jonas," 1, p. 394. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 37 

people were bringing forward against Luther what he had 
taught in favour of polygamy thirteen years before ; the 
door had now been opened wide to polygamists. 

Not long after Luther wrote, that, were it necessary, he 
would know how to " extricate himself." 1 Even before 
dropping this curious remark he had shown himself very 
anxious to make his position secure. It was w T ith this object 
in view, that, after his interview with Briick, probably on 
the same day, he proceeded to explain the case to his 
sovereign in the lengthy letter 2 in which he appeals to 
Confession and its secrecy. 

" Before the world and against the laws of the Empire 
it cannot be defended," but " we were desirous of glossing 
it over before God as much as possible with examples, such 
as that of Abraham, etc. All this was done and treated of 
as in Confession, so that we cannot be charged as though 
we had done it willingly and gladly, or with joy and pleasure. 
... I took into consideration the unavoidable necessity 
and weakness, and the danger to his conscience which 
Master Bucer had set forth." 

Luther goes on to complain, that the Landgrave, by allowing 
this " matter of Confession " and " advice given in Confession " 
to become to a certain extent public, had caused all this " annoy 
ance and contumely." He relates in detail what Bucer, when 
seeking to obtain the Wittenberg sanction, had recounted con 
cerning his master s immorality, so contrary to the Evangel, 
" though he should be one of the mainstays of the party." They 
had at first looked askance at the idea, but, on being told that 
" he was unable to relinquish it, and, should we not permit it, 
would do it in spite of us, and obtain permission from the 
Emperor or the Pope unless we were beforehand, we humbly 
begged His Serene Highness, if he was really set on it, and, as he 
declared, could not in conscience and before God do otherwise, 
that he would at least keep it secret." This had been promised 
them [by Bucer] ; their intention had been to " save his con 
science as best we might." 

Luther, far from showing himself remorseful for his indulgence, 
endeavoars in his usual way to suppress any scruples of con 
science : " Even to-day, were such a case to come before me 
again, I should not know how to give any other advice than 
what I then gave, nor would it trouble me should it afterwards 
become known." " I am not ashamed of the testimony even 

1 " Briefwechsel," 13, p. 79. 

2 Ed. by Seidemann, " Lauterbachs Tagebuch," p. 196 ff., with the 
notice, " Written in April or June, 1540." Rockwell gives the date 
more correctly, as, probably, June 10 (pp. 138, 364). 



38 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

should it come before the world, though, to be spared trouble, I 
should prefer it to be kept secret so long as possible." Still, no 
angel would have induced him to give such advice " had he 
known that the Landgrave had long satisfied and could still 
satisfy his cravings on others, for instance, as I now learn, on 
lady von Essweg." This lady was perhaps a relative of Rudolf 
Schenk, Landvogt of Eschwege on the Werra. 1 We may recall, 
that the proposal of taking a " concubine " in place of the too 
numerous " light women " had been made to Philip by his 
sister. 2 

Luther goes on to excuse his conduct still further to the 
Elector : " Still less would I have advised a public marriage " ; 
that the second wife was to become a Princess or Landgravine 
a plan at which the whole Empire would take offence had been 
kept from him altogether ; " what I expected was, that, since 
he was obliged owing to the weakness of the flesh to follow the 
ordinary course of sin and shame, he would perhaps keep an 
honest girl in some house, and wed her secretly though even 
this would look ill in the sight of the world and thus overcome 
his great trouble of conscience ; he could then ride backwards 
and forwards, as the great lords do frequently enough ; similar 
advice I gave also to certain parish priests under Duke George 
and the bishops, viz. that they should marry their cook secretly." 

Though what he here says may be worthy of credence, yet to 
apply the term Confession to what passed between Philip and 
Wittenberg is surely to introduce an alien element into the 
affair. Yet he does use the word three times in the course of the 
letter and seemingly lays great stress on it. The Confession, he 
says, covered all that had passed, and, because it " was seemly " 
to " keep matters treated of in Confession private " he and 
Melanchthon " preferred not to relate the matter and the counsel 

1 Cp. " Brief wechsel," 13, p. 82, n. 4, the remark of G. Kawerau. 
" The regret felt by Luther was caused by the knowledge that the 
Landgrave had already a concubine of his own and had not been 
satisfying his lusts merely on common prostitutes ; had he known 
this at the time he gave his advice he would certainly have counselled 
the Landgrave to contract a sort of spiritual marriage with this concu 
bine." Kostlin had seen a difficulty in Luther s later statement, that 
he would not have given his counsel (the advice tendered did not 
specify the lady) had he known that the Landgrave had " long satisfied, 
and could still satisfy, his craving on others," etc. That there is really 
a difficulty involved, at least in Luther s use of the plural " others," 
seems clear unless, indeed, Kawerau would make Luther counsel the 
Landgrave to contract " spiritual marriage " with all these several 
ladies. ; Elsewhere Luther describes as a " harlot " a certain Catharine 
whom Kawerau (ibid.) surmises to have been this same Essweg. By 
her Philip had a daughter named Ursula whom, in 1556, he gave in 
marriage to Glaus Ferber. 

2 " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 160. The Landgrave to Bucer. 
He was to tell his sister " that she must surely recollect having told 
him that he should keep a concubine instead of having recourse to 
numerous prostitutes ; if she was willing to allow what was contrary 
to God s law, why not allow this, which is a dispensation of God ? " 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 39 

given in Confession " to the Elector ; but, since the Landgrave 
" had revealed the substance of the Confession and the advice," 
it was easier for him to speak. Hence he would now reveal the 
" advice given in Confession ; though I should much have pre 
ferred to keep it secret, unless -necessity had forced it from me, 
now I am unable to do so." The fact is, however, that the real 
Seal of Confession (and of this Luther was quite aware) does not 
allow the confessor who has received the Confession to make any 
communication or disclosure concerning it ; even should the 
penitent make statements concerning other matters which 
occurred in the Confession, under no circumstances whatsoever, 
however serious these may be, not even in the case of danger to 
life and limb, may " necessity " " force out " anything. Although 
in this case Luther had not heard a Confession at all, yet he 
refers to the Secret of the Confessional with which he was ac 
quainted from his Catholic days, and his own former exercise of 
it : "I have received in Confession many confidences, both in 
Popery and since, and given advice, but were there any question 
of making them public I should be obliged to say no. . . . Such 
matters are no business of the secular courts nor ought they to be 
made public." 

This uncalled-for introduction of Confession was intended 
to save him from being obliged to admit his consent 
publicly ; it was meant to reassure so weak a theologian as 
the Elector, who dreaded the scandal arising from Luther s 
advice to commit bigamy, and the discussion of the case 
before the Imperial Court of Justice ; possibly he also 
hoped it would serve against that other princely theologian, 
viz. the Landgrave, and cause him to withdraw his demand 
for a public acknowledgment of the sanction given. His 
tactics here remind us of Luther s later denial, when he 
professed himself ready simply to deny the bigamy and 
his share in it because everything had been merely a 
matter of Confession. 

Even in this first letter dealing with the question, he is 
clearly on the look-out for a loophole by which he may 
escape from the calamitous business. 

The publication of the " testimony " was to be prevented 
at all costs. But, as a matter of fact, not only did the 
" Seal of Confession " present no obstacle, but even the 
common secrecy referred to above (p. 31) w r as no longer 
binding. This had been cancelled by the indiscretion of the 
Landgrave. Moreover, apart from this, the natural obliga 
tion of secrecy did not extend to certain extreme cases 
which might have been foreseen by both parties and in the 



40 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

event of which both would recover their freedom. It should 
be noted, that Luther hardly made any appeal to this 
natural obligation of secrecy, probably because it could not 
be turned to account so easily. The Seal of Confession 
promised to serve him better in circles so little acquainted 
with theology. 

In the second letter dealing with the bigamy, dated 
June 27, 1540, and addressed to Philip s intimate, Ebcrhard 
von der Thann, Luther speaks with an eye on Hesse. 1 
Thann, through Chancellor Briick, had informed him of 
what w T as being said of him there, and had asked what 
Luther would advise the Hessian Prince, and whether, in 
order to obviate other cases of polygamy in Hesse, it would 
be advisable for the authorities to issue an edict against the 
universal lawfulness of having several wives. Luther 
replied, that he agreed with the Landgrave s intention as 
announced by Thann concerning his second marriage, viz. 
to wait until the Emperor " should approach His Serene 
Highness on the subject " ; and then to write to the 
Emperor : " That he had taken a concubine but that he 
would be perfectly ready to put her away again if other 
Princes and Lords would set a good example." If the 
Emperor were compelled " to regard the lady as a 
concubine," " no one else would dare to speak or think 
differently " ; in this wise the real state of things would be 
" covered over and kept secret." On the other hand, it 
would not be at all advisable to issue any edict, or to speak 
of the matter," for then " there would be no end or limit to 
gossip and suspicions." 

" And I for my part am determined [here he comes to his 
testimony and the meaning he now put on it] to keep silence 
concerning my part of the confession which I heard from His 
Serene Highness through Bucer, even should I suffer for it, for it 
is better that people should say that Dr. Martin acted foolishly 
in his concession to the Landgrave for even great men have 
acted foolishly and do so, even now, as the saying goes : A wise 
man makes no small mistakes rather than reveal the reasons 
why we secretly consented ; for that would greatly disgrace and 
damage the reputation of the Landgrave, and would also make 
matters worse." To the Elector his sovereign Luther had said 
that, even to-day, he " would not be able to give any different 

1 " Luthers Briefe," ed. De Wettc, 6, p. 267 f., and, better, in 
Rockwell, p. 165, after the original. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 41 

advice " and that he saw no reason to blush for it. Hence it is 
hard to believe that he seriously contemplated admitting that he 
had been guilty of an act of " folly " and had " acted foolishly." 
It will be shown more clearly below what his object was in 
threatening such a repudiation of his advice to the Landgrave. 

In his letter to Thann, Luther decides in favour of the ex 
pedient suggested by the Hessian theologians, viz. of the amphi 
bological use of the word concubine ; here it should, however, be 
noted, that this term, if used officially to counteract the common 
report concerning the new marriage, plainly implied a denial of the 
reality of the bigamy. 

But how if the Landgrave were directly confronted in a Court 
of Justice with the question : Have you, or have you not, 
married two wives ? 

Here belongs the third letter of Luther s which we have 
on the subject and which was despatched to Hesse before 
the middle of July. It is addressed to " a Hessian 
Councillor " who has been identified, with some probability, 
as the Hessian Chancellor Johann Feige. 1 

To the addressee, who was acquainted with the whole 
matter and had applied to Luther for his opinion on behalf 
of the Landgrave, the writer defines his own position still 
more clearly ; if people say openly that the Landgrave has 
contracted a second marriage, all one need answer is, that 
this is not true, although it is true that he has contracted a 
secret union ; hence he himself was wont to say, " the 
Landgrave s other marriage is all nonsense." 

The justification of this he finds in the theory of the secrecy of 
confession upon which he insists strongly in this letter. Not 
only is his own share in the matter nil because ostensibly done 
in confession, but the marriage itself is merely a sort of " con 
fession marriage," a thing concealed and therefore non-existent 
so far as the world is concerned. " A secret affirmative cannot 
become a public affirmative ... a secret yes remains a 
public no and vice versa. . . . On this I take my stand ; 
I say that the Landgrave s second marriage is nil and cannot be 
convincing to anyone. For, as they say, palam, it is not true, 
and although it may be true clam, yet that they may not tell." 

He is very bitter about the Landgrave s purpose of making the 
marriage and the Wittenberg " advice " public, should need 
arise. The fate of the latter was, in fact, his chief anxiety. " In 
this the Landgrave touches us too nearly, but himself even more, 
that he is determined to do palam what we arranged with him 
clam, and to make of a nullum an omne ; this we are 

1 " Briefe," 6, p. 263 scq. For the address see Rockwell, ibid., p. 166, 
where the date is fixed between July 7 and 15, 1540. 



42 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

unable either to defend or to answer for, and we should certainly 
come to high words." The last sentence was, however, felt by 
Luther to be too strong and he accordingly struck it out of the 
letter. 

He also says that the Landgrave s appeal to his sermon on 
Genesis would be of no avail, because he (Luther) had taught, 
both previous to and after it, that the law of Moses was not to 
be introduced, though some of it " might be used secretly in 
cases of necessity, or even publicly by order of the authorities." 
But advice extorted from him in Confession by the distress of a 
suffering conscience could " not be held to constitute a true 
precedent in law." He here touches upon a thought to which he 
was to return in entirely different circumstances : Neither the 
preachers, nor the Gospel, lay down outward laws, not even 
concerning religion ; the secular authorities are the only legis 
lators ; ecclesiastical guidance comprises only advice, direction and 
the expounding of Scripture, and has to do only with the interior 
life, being without any jurisdiction, even spiritual ; as public 
men, the pastors were appointed to preach, pray and give advice ; 
to the individual they rendered service amidst the " secret needs 
of conscience." 1 

He thereby absolves himself from the consequence apparently 
involved in the step he had taken, viz. the introduction of 
polygamy as a " general right " ; it does not follow that : 
" What you do from necessity, I have a right to do " ; " neces 
sity knows no law or precedent," hence a man who is driven by 
hunger to steal bread, or who kills in self-defence is not punished, 
yet w r hat thus holds in cases of necessity cannot be taken as a 
law or rule. On the other hand, Luther will not listen to the 
proposal then being made in Hesse, viz. that, in order to counter 
act the bad example, a special edict should be issued declaring 
polygamy unlawful as a general rule, but allowable in an ex 
ceptional case, on the strength " of secret advice given in Con 
fession " ; on the contrary, it would be far better simply to 
denounce polygamy as unlawful. 

Hence if the Landgrave, so Luther concludes, " will not 
forsake the sweetheart " on whom " he has so set his heart 
that she has become a need to him," and if, moreover, he 
will " keep her out of the way," then " we theologians and 
confessors shall vindicate it before God, as a case of neces 
sity to be excused by the examples of Genesis. But defend 
it before the world and hire nunc regente? that we cannot 
and shall not do. Short of this the Landgrave may count 
upon our best service." 

The Landgrave was, however, not satisfied with either 
of these letters, both of which came into his hands. He 

1 Cp. vol. iii., p. 30 ff. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 43 

wanted from Luther a clear and public admission of his 
share in the business, which, to the Prince s peril, had now 
become as good as public, and threatened to constitute a 
precedent. By this invitation the Prince naturally released 
Luther from all obligation of secrecy. Even the making 
public of the immorality, which had served as a pretext for 
the new marriage, he did not mind in the least, for his laxity 
in morals was already a matter of common knowledge ; he 
discussed his lapses with the theologians as openly as 
though all of them had been his confessors and spiritual 
directors ; he \vas also quite ready to repeat his admissions, 
" as in Confession," before secular witnesses. Such was the 
depth of depravity into which his passions had brought him. 

Yielding to pressure brought to bear on him by Saxony, 
Luther had meanwhile conceived the idea of publishing a 
work against polygamy. The new expedient had indeed 
been foreshadowed in his last letter. On June 17, 1540, Jonas 
wrote to George of Anhalt that Luther might be expected 
to write a work " Contra polygamiam." 1 Martin Beyer of 
Schaffhausen, on his return from Wittenberg, also brought 
the news, so Bullinger was informed, that " Luther was 
being compelled by the Hessian business to write a work 
against the plurality of wives." 2 

The project was, however, never realised, probably on 
account of the insuperable difficulties it involved. 

But though this work never saw the light, history has 
preserved for us a number of Luther s familiar conversations, 
dating from this period and taken down directly from his 
lips, utterances which have every claim to consideration 
and faithfully mirror his thoughts. 

Luther s Private Utterances Regarding the Bigamy. 

The Table-Talk, dating from the height of the hubbub 
caused by the bigamy, affords us a vivid psychological 
picture of Luther. 

Of this Table-Talk we have the detailed and authentic 
notes from the pen of Johann Mathesius, who was present. 
These notes, in their best form, became known only in 1903, 

1 " Briefwechsel des Jonas," 1, p. 397 f. 

2 Thus Gualther from Frankfort> Sep. 15, 1540, to Bullinger, in 
Fueslin, " Epistolce," p. 205. Rockwell, ibid., p. 176. 



44 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

thanks to Krokcr s edition, but, for the better understand 
ing of Luther s personality, his intimate descriptions of 
what was passing in his mind are of inestimable value. 
Conjointly with the principal passage, which probably 
dates from June 18, 1540, other sayings dropped regarding 
the same matter may be considered. 1 

The scene in the main was as follows : The usual guests, 
among them the disciples with their note-books, were assembled 
after the evening meal in Luther s house, grouped around the 
master, who seemed sunk in thought ; Melanchthon, however, 
was missing, for he lay seriously ill at Weimar, overwhelmed by 
anxiety now that his consent to the bigamy was leaking out. 
Whilst yet at table two letters were handed to Luther, the first 
from Briick, the Electoral Chancellor, the second from the 
Elector himself. Both referred to Melanchthon. The Elector 
requested Luther to betake himself as soon as possible to Weimar 
to his friend, who seemed in danger of death, and informed him 
at the same time of the measures threatened by the Landgrave 
in the matter of the second marriage. 

Luther, after glancing at Briick s missive concerning Melanch 
thon, said to the guests : " Philip is pining away for vexation, 
and has fallen into a fever ( tertiana ). But why does the good 
fellow crucify himself so about this business ? All his anxiety 
will do no good. I do wish I were with him ! I know how 
sensitive he is. The scandal pains him beyond measure. I, on 
the other hand, have a thick skin, I am a peasant, a hard Saxon 
when such x are concerned. 2 I expect I shall be summoned to 
Philip." 

Someone thereupon interjected the remark : " Doctor, perhaps 
the Colloquium [which was to be held at Hagenau] will not now 
take place " ; Luther replied : " They will certainly have to 
wait for us. . . ." 

A second messenger now came in with the Elector s letter, 
conveying the expected summons to proceed to Weimar. On 
the reader the news it contained concerning the Landgrave fell 
like the blows of a sledge-hammer. After attentively perusing 
the letter " with an earnest mien," he said : " Philip the Land 
grave is cracked ; he is now asking the Emperor to let him keep 
both wives." 

The allusion to the Landgrave s mental state is explained by 
a former statement of Luther s made in connection with some 
words uttered by the Landgrave s father : " The old Landgrave 

1 The chief passage will be found in Kroker (Mathesius, " Tisch- 
reden," p. 156 f.) more correctly than in Loesche (Mathesius, " Aufzeich- 
nungen," p. 117 ff.). It is headed " DC Macedonico negotio," because 
in Luther s circle Philip of Hesse was known as the " Macedonian." 
Where no other reference is given our quotations are taken from this 
passage. 

2 On the sign, see present work, vol. iii., p. 231. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 45 

[William II] used to say to his son Philip : If you take after 
your mother, then you won t come to much ; if you take after 
me, you will have nothing about you that I can praise ; if you 
take after both of us, then you will be a real demon. Luther 
had added : "I fear he is also mad, for it runs in the family." 1 
" And Philip [Melanchthon] said : This [the bigamy] is the 
beginning of his insanity. " 2 

When Luther re-entered, so the narrator continues, " he was 
as cheerful as could be, and he said to us : It is grand having 
something to do, for then we get ideas ; otherwise we do nothing 
but feed and swill. How our Papists will scream ! But let them 
howl to their own destruction. Our cause is a good one and no 
fault is to be found with our way of life, or rather [he corrects 
himself] with the life of those who take it seriously. If the 
Hessian Landgrave has sinned, then that is sin and a scandal. 
That we have frequently discounselled by good and holy advice ; 
they have seen our innocence and yet refuse to see it. Hence 
they [the Papists] are now forced to look the Hessian " in anum " 3 
(i.e. are witnesses of his shame). But they will be brought to 
destruction by [our] scandals because they refuse to listen to the 
pure doctrine ; for God will not on this account forsake us or 
His Word, or spare them, even though we have our share of sin, 
for He has resolved to overthrow the Papacy. That has been 
decreed by God, as we read in Daniel, where it is foretold of him 
[Antichrist] who is even now at the door : " And none shall, help 
him " (Dan. xi. 45). In former times no power was able to root 
out the Pope ; in our own day no one will be able to help him, 
because Antichrist is revealed. 

Thus amidst the trouble looming he finds his chief consolation 
in his fanatical self-persuasion that the Papacy must fall and 
that he is the chosen instrument to bring this about, i.e. in his 
supposed mission to thwart Antichrist, a Divine mission which 
could not be contravened. Hence his pseudo-mysticism was 
once again made to serve his purpose. 

" If scandals occur amongst us," he continues, " let us not 
forget that they existed in Christ s own circle. The Pharisees 
were doubtless in glee over our Lord Christ on account of the 
wickedness of Judas. In the same way the Landgrave has 
become a Judas to us. Ah, the new prophet has such followers 
[as Judas, cried the foes of Christ !] What good can come of 
Christ ? But because they refused to open their eyes to the 
miracles, they were forced to see Christum Crucifixum and 
. . . later to see and suffer under Titus. But our sins may 
obtain pardon and be easily remedied ; it is only necessary that 

1 Thilip s father and his uncle William I (the elder brother) died 
insane. (See below, p. 61.) 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 143. 

3 On the Marcolfus legend (again to be mentioned on the next page), 
cp. vol. iii., p. 268, n. 4 ; F. H. von der Hagen, " Narrenbuch," Halle, 
1811, p. 256 ff., and Rockwell, pp. 160 and 163, where other instances 
are given of Luther s use of the same figure. 



46 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the Emperor should forbid [the bigamy], or that our Princes 
should intercede [for the Hessian], which they are at liberty to 
do, or that he should repudiate the step he took." 

" David also fell, and surely there were greater scandals under 
Moses in the wilderness. Moses caused his own masters to be 
slain. . . . But God had determined to drive out the heathen, 
hence the scandals amongst the Jews availed not to prevent it. 
Thus, too, our sins are pardonable, but not those of the Papists ; 
for they are contemners of God, crucify Christ and, though they 
know better, defend their blasphemies." 

" What advantage do they expect of it," he goes on to ask in an 
ironical vein ; " they put men to death, but we work for life and 
take many wives." This he said, according to the notes, " with 
a joyful countenance and amidst loud laughter." 1 "God has 
resolved to vex the people, and, when my turn conies, I will give 
them hard words and tell them to look Marcolfus in anum 
since they refuse to look him in the face." He then went on : 
" I don t see why I should trouble myself about the matter. I 
shall commend it to our God. Should the Macedonian [the 
Landgrave] desert us, Christ will stand by vis, the blessed 

Schevlimini [TV^ IV : Sit at my right hand (Ps. cix. 1)]. He 
has surely brought us out of even tighter places. The restitution 
of Wiirtemberg puts this scandal into the shade, and the Sacra- 
mentarians and the revolt [of the Peasants] ; and yet God 
delivered us out of all that." What he means to say is : Even 
greater scandal was given by Philip of Hesse when he imposed 
on Wiirtemberg the Protestant Duke Ulrich, heedless of the 
rights of King Ferdinand and of the opposition of the Emperor 
and the Church ; 2 in the same way the ever-recurring dissensions 
on the Sacrament were an even greater scandal, and so was the 
late Peasant War which threatened worse things to the Evan 
gelical cause than the Hessian affair. 

" Should the Landgrave fall away from us." This fear 
lest Philip should desert their party Luther had expressed 
in some rather earlier utterances in 1540, when he had 
described more particularly the Landgrave s character and 
attitude. " A strange man ! " he says of him. " He was 
born under a star. He is bent upon having his own way, 
and so fancies he will obtain the approval of Emperor and 
Pope. It may be that he will fall away from us on account 
of this affair. . . . He is a real Hessian ; he cannot be still 
nor does he know how to yield. When once this business 
is over he will be hatching something else. But perhaps 

1 " Ipsi tamen occidunt homines [heretics], nos laboramus pro vita 
et ducimus plures uxores. Hcec Icetissimo vultu dixit, non sine magno 
risu." 

2 Cp. ibid., p. 139. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 47 

death will carry him, or her (Margaret), off before." A 
Hessian Councillor who was present quite bore out what 
Luther had said : Nothing was of any avail with the Land 
grave, " what he once undertakes he cannot be induced 
to give up." In proof of this those present instanced the 
violence and utter injustice of the raid made on Wiirtem- 
berg. " Because he is such a strange character," Luther 
remarked, " I must let it pass. The Emperor, moreover, 
will certainly not let him have his way." 1 " No sensible 
man would have undertaken that campaign, but he, carried 
away by fury, managed it quite well. Only wait a little ! 
It [the new scandal] will pass ! " Luther was also ready 
to acknowledge that the Landgrave, in spite of the promises 
arid offers of the Emperor and Duke of Saxony, had 
remained so far " very faithful " to the Evangel. 2 

In the conversation on June 18, Luther adopts a forcedly light 
view of the matter : " It is only a three-months affair, then the 
whole thing will fizzle out. Would to God Philip would look at 
it in this light instead of grieving so over it ! The Papists are 
now Demeas and I Mitio " ; with these words commences a 
string of word-for-word quotations from Terence s play " Adelphi," 
all concerning the harsh and violent Demeas, whom Luther takes 
as a figure of the Catholic Church, and the mild and peaceable 
Mitio, in whom Luther sees himself. In the Notes the sentences 
are given almost unaltered : " The prostitute and the matron 
living in one house." " A son is born." " Margaret has no 
dowry." " I, Mitio, say : May the gods direct all for the best ! 
" Man s life is like a throw of the dice." 3 

" I overlook much worse things than this," he continues. " If 
anyone says to me : Are you pleased with what has taken place ? 
I reply : No ; oh, would that I could alter it. Since I cannot, I 
am resolved to bear it with equanimity. I commit it all to our 
dear God. Let Him preserve His Church as it now stands in 
order that it may remain in the unity of faith and doctrine and 
the pure confession of the Word ; all I hope for is that it may 
never grow worse ! " 

" On rising from the table he said cheerfully : I will not give 
the devil and the Papists the satisfaction of thinking that I am 
troubled about the matter. God will see to it. To Him we 
commend the whole." 

In thus shifting the responsibility from his own shoulders and 
putting it on God -Whose chosen instrument, even at the most 

1 Ibid., p. 133. He speaks in the same way of the Emperor on p. 160. 
t lbid., p. 139. May 21 to June 11, 1540. 

3 For the quotations from Terence, see Rockwell, p. 164. Cp. 
Kroker, ibid., p. 158. 



48 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

critical juncture, he would still persuade himself he was he finds 
the most convenient escape from anxiety and difficulty. It has 
all been laid upon us by God : " We must put up with the devil 
and his filth as long as we live." Therefore, forward against the 
Papists, who seek to conceal their " sodomitic vices " behind this 
bigamy ! " We may not and shall not yield. Let them do their 
dirty work and let us lay odds on." 1 With these words he is 
again quite himself. He is again the inspired prophet, oblivious 
of all save his mission to champion God s cause ; all his difficulties 
have vanished and even his worst moral faults have disappeared. 
But in this frame of mind Luther was not always able to persevere. 
" All I hope for is that it may never grow worse." The de 
pressing thought implied in these words lingered in the depths of 
his soul in spite of all his forced merriment and bravado. " Alas, 
my God, what have we not to put up with from fanatics and 
scandals ! One follows on the heels of the other ; when this [the 
bigamy] has been adjusted, then it is certain that something else 
will spring up, and many new sects will also arise. . . . But God 
will preserve His Christendom." 2 

Meanwhile the remarkably speedy recovery of his friend 
Melanchthon consoled him. Soon after the arrival of the 
letters mentioned above Luther set out for Weimar. His 
attentions to the sick man, and particularly his words of 
encouragement, succeeded, so to say, in recalling him to 
life. Luther speaks of it in his letters at that time as a 
" manifest miracle of God," which puts our unbelief to 
shame. 3 The fanciful embellishment which he gave to the 
incident when narrating it, making it into a sort of miracle, 
has left its traces in his friend Ratzcberger s account. 4 

Confident as Luther s language here seems, when it is a 
question of infusing new courage into himself, still he admits 
plainly enough one point, concerning which he has not a 
word to say in his correspondence with strangers or in his 
public utterances : A sin, over and above all his previous 
crimes, now weighed upon the Hessian and his party owing 
to what had taken place. He repeatedly uses the words 
" sin," " scandal," " offence " when speaking of the bigamy ; 
he feels the need of seeking consolation in the " unpardon 
able " sins of the Catholics for the moral failings of his own 
party, which, after all, would be remitted by God. Nor 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 153. 

2 Ibid., p. 138. 

3 To Johann Lang, July 2, 1540, " Briefe," 4, p. 298 : " miraculo 
Dei manifesto vivit." 

4 Ratzeberger, p. 102 f. Cp. present work, vol. iii., p. 162. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 49 

does the Landgrave s sin consist in his carelessness about 
keeping the matter secret. Luther compares his sin to 
David s, whose adultery had been forgiven by God, and 
reckons Philip s new sin amongst the sins of his co-religion 
ists, who, for all their failings, were destined, with God s 
help, to overthrow the Papal Antichrist. " Would that I 
could alter it ! " Such an admission he would not at any 
price make before the princely Courts concerned, or before 
the world. Still less would he have admitted publicly, that 
they were obliged " to put up with the devil s filth." It 
is therefore quite correct when Kostlin, in his Biography 
of Luther, points out, speaking of the Table-Talk : " That 
there had been sin and scandal, his words by no means 
deny." 1 Concerning the whole affair Kostlin moreover 
remarks : " Philip s bigamy is the greatest blot on the 
history of the Reformation, and remains a blot in Luther s 
life in spite of everything that can be alleged in explanation 
or excuse." 2 

F. W. Hassencamp, another Protestant, says in his 
" Hessische Kirchengeschichte " : " His statements at that 
time concerning his share in the Landgrave s bigamy prove 
that, mentally, he was on the verge of despair. Low 
pleasantry and vulgarity are mixed up with threats and 
words of prayer." " Nowhere does the great Reformer 
appear so small as here." 3 In the " Historisch-politische 
Blatter," in 1846, K. E. Jarcke wrote of the Table-Talk 
concerning the bigamy : " Rarely has any man, however 
coarse-minded, however blinded by hate and hardened by 
years of combat against his own conscience, expressed him 
self more hideously or with greater vulgarity." 4 

" After so repeatedly describing himself as the prophet 
of the Germans," says A. Hausrath, " he ought not to have 
had the weakness to seek a compromise between morality 
and policy, but, like the preacher robed in camels hair, he 
should have boldly told the Hessian Princelet : It is not 
lawful for you to have her." Hausrath, in 1904, is voicing 
the opinion of many earlier Protestant historians when he 
regrets " that, owing to weariness and pressure from with- 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 526. 2 Ibid., p. 478. 

3 Thus Hassencamp, vol. i., p. 507, though he was using the earlier 
editions of the Table-Talk, which are somewhat more circumspect. 

4 Vol. xviii., p. 461. 



50 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

out," Luther " sanctioned an exception to God s un 
conditional command." " The band of Protestant leaders, 
once so valiant and upright," so he says, " had for once 
been caught sleeping. Evening was approaching and the 
day was drawing in, and the Lord their God had left them." 1 

Luther at the Conference of Eisenach. 
The Landgrave s Indignation. 

An official conference of theologians and Councillors from 
Hesse and the Electorate of Saxony met at Eisenach at the 
instance of Philip on July 15, 1540, in order to deliberate 
on the best means of escaping the legal difficulty and of 
satisfying Philip s demand, that the theologians should 
give him their open support. Luther, too, put in an appear 
ance and lost no time in entering into the debate with his 
wonted bluster. 

According to one account, on their first arrival, he bitterly 
reproached (" acerbissimis vcrbis ") 2 the Hessian theo 
logians. The report of the Landgrave s sister says, that 
his long talk with Philip s Chancellor so affected the latter 
that the " tears streamed down his cheeks," particularly 
when Luther rounded on the Hessian Court officials for 
their too great inclination towards polygamy. 3 Though 
these reports of the effect of his strictures and exhortations 
may be exaggerated, no less than the remark of Jonas, who 
says, that the " Hessians went home from Eisenach with 
long faces," 4 still it is quite likely that Luther made a 
great impression on many by his behaviour, particularly 
by the energy with which he now stood up for the cause of 
monogamy and appealed to the New Testament on its 
behalf. 

Without denying the possibility of an exception in certain 
rare cases, he now insisted very strongly on the general 
prohibition. 

The instructions given to the Hessians showed him 
plainly that the Landgrave was determined not to conceal 
his bigamy any longer, or to have it branded as mere con 
cubinage ; the theologians, so the document declares, would 
surely never have advised him to have recourse to sinful 

1 " Luthers Leben," 2, 1904, p. 403 f. 

2 Gualther, in Rockwell, ibid., p. 186, n. 1. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 51 

concubinage. That he was not married to his second wife 
was a lie, which he would not consent to tell were he to be 
asked point-blank ; his bigamy was really a dispensation 
" permitted by God, admitted by the learned, and consented 
to by his wife." If " hard pressed " he must disclose it. 
To introduce polygamy generally was of course quite a 
different matter, and was not to be thought of. 1 Needless 
to say, Luther was ready enough to back up this last stipu 
lation, for his own sake as much as for the Landgrave s. 

During the first session of the conference, held in the 
Rathaus at Eisenach, Luther formally and publicly com 
mitted himself to the expedient at which he had faintly 
hinted even previously. He unreservedly proposed the 
telling of a lie. Should a situation arise where it was 
necessary to reply " yes " or "no," then they must resign 
themselves to a downright " No." " What harm would it 
do," he said on July 15, according to quite trustworthy 
notes, 2 " if a man told a good, lusty lie in a worthy cause 
and for the sake of the Christian Churches ? " Similarly 
he said on July 17 : " To lie in case of necessity, or for 
convenience, or in excuse, such lying would not be against 
God ; He was ready to take such lies on Himself." 3 

The Protestant historian of the Hessian Bigamy says in 
excuse of this : " Luther was faced by the problem whether 
a lie told in case of necessity could be regarded as a sin at 
all " ; he did not have recourse to the " expedient of a 
mental reservation fas he had done when recommending an 

u o 

ambiguous reply] " ; he merely absolved " the mendacium 
officiosum [the useful lie] of sinfulness. This done, Luther 
could with a good conscience advise the telling of such a 
lie." 4 

Nevertheless Luther felt called upon again to return to 

1 " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 369 f. 

2 Ibid., p. 373. Concerning the notes which the editor calls the 
" Protokoll," see N. Paulus in " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 135, 1905, p. 323 f. 

3 Ibid., p. 375. 

4 Rockwell, ibid., p. 179. The Protestant theologian Th. Brieger 
says (" Luther und die Nebenehe," etc., " Preuss. Jahrb.," 135, 1909, 
p. 46) : " As is known, in the summer of 1540, when the matter had 
already been notorious for months, Luther gave the Landgrave the 
advice, that he should give a flat denial of the step he had taken. . . . 
A lie of necessity was not against God ; He was ready to take that 
upon Himself. Just as in our own day men of the highest moral 
character hold similar views concerning certain forms of the lie of 
necessity." 



52 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the alleged Confession made. He is even anxious to make 
out that his memorandum had been an Absolution coming 
under the Seal of Confession, and that the Absolution might 
not be " revealed " : "If the Confession was to be regarded 
as secret, then the Absolution also must be secret." 1 " He 
considered the reply given in Confession as an Absolution," 
says Rockwell. 2 Moreover he gave it to be understood, that, 
should the Landgrave say he had committed bigamy as a 
right to which he was entitled, and not as a favour, then he, 
Luther, was quit of all responsibility ; it was not the con 
fessor s business to give public testimony concerning what 
had taken place in Confession. 3 

Practically, however, according to the notes of the 
conference, his advice still was that the Landgrave should 
conceal the bigamy behind the ambiguous declaration that : 
" Margaret is a concubine." Under the influence of the 
hostility to the bigamy shown by the Saxon Courts he 
urged so strongly the Bible arguments against polygamy, 
that the Hessians began to fear his withdrawal from his 
older standpoint. 

The Old-Testament examples, he declared emphatically, could 
neither " exclude nor bind," i.e. could not settle the matter 
either way ; Paul s words could not be overthrown ; in the New 
Testament nothing could be found (in favour of bigamy), " on 
the contrary the New Testament confirmed the original institu 
tion [monogamy] " ; therefore " since both the Divine and the 
secular law were at one, nothing could be done against it ; he 
would not take it upon his conscience." It is true, that, on the 
other side, must be put the statement, that he saw no reason why 

1 " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 373. 

2 P. 182. Rockwell (p. 181, n. 4) also reminds us that Luther had 
written to the Elector : " In matters of Confession it is seemly that both 
the circumstances and the advice given in Confession " should be kept 
secret. Luther, in " Lauterbachs Tagebuch," p. 196, see p. 37, n. 2. 
The Elector wrote to the Landgrave in a letter dated June 27, 1540 
(quoted by Rockwell, ibid., from the archives), that the marriage could 
not be openly discussed, because, otherwise, " the Seal of Confession 
would be broken in regard to those who had given the dispensation." 
In this he re-echoes Luther. Rockwell, p. 182 (cp. p. 185, n. 3), 
thinks, that Luther was following the " more rigorous " theologians of 
earlier days, who had taught that it was " a mortal sin for the penitent 
to reveal what the priest had told him." This is not the place to rectify 
such misunderstandings. 

3 Cp. Rockwell, ibid., p. 175, with a reference to Luther s statement 
of July 17 : If the Landgrave would not be content with a dispensa 
tion, " and claimed it as a right, then they were quit of their advice " 
(" Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 375). It is difficult to follow Luther 
through all his attempts to evade the issue. 



53 

the Prince should not take the matter upon his own conscience, 
declare himself convinced, and thus " set their [the theo 
logians ] consciences free." That he still virtually stood by what 
had happened, is also seen from his plain statement : " Many 
things are right before God in the tribunal of conscience, which, 
to the world, must appear wrong." " In support of this he 
brought forward the example," so the report of the Conference 
proceeds, " of the seduction of a virgin and of an illegitimate 
birth." He also lays stress on the principle that they, the 
theologians, had merely " to dispense according to God s com 
mand in the tribunal of conscience," but were unable to bear 
witness to it publicly ; hence their advice to the Landgrave had 
in reality never been given at all, for it was no business of the 
"forum externum " ; the Landgrave had acted in accordance with 
his own ideas, just as he had undertaken many things " against 
their advice," for instance, " the raid on Wirtenbergk." He was 
doing the same in " this instance too, and acting on his own 
advice." 

Again, for his own safety, he makes a request : " Beg 
him [the Prince] most diligently to draw in [to keep it 
secret]," otherwise, so he threatens, he will declare that " Luther 
acted like a fool, and will take the shame on himself "; he would 
" say : I made a mistake and I retract it ; he would retract it 
even at the expense of his own honour ; as for his honour he 
would pray God to restore it." 1 

In a written memorandum which he presented during the 
Conference he makes a similar threat, which, however, as already 
shown in the case of Thann (above, p. 40 f.), it is wrong to take as 
meaning that he really declared he had acted wrongly in the 
advice given to the Landgrave. 

He begs the Landgrave, " again to conceal the matter and 
keep it secret ; for to defend it publicly as right was impossible " ; 
should the Landgrave, however, be determined, by revealing it, 
to " cause annoyance and disgrace to our Confession, Churches 
and Estates," then it was his duty beforehand to consult all 
these as to whether they were willing to take the responsibility, 
since without them the matter could not take place and Luther 
and Melanchthon alone " could do nothing without their 
authority. And rather than assist in publicly defending it, I 
would repudiate my advice and Master Philip s [Melanchthon s], 
were it made public, for it was not a public advice, and is annulled 
by publication. Or, if this is no use, and they insist on calling 
it a counsel and not a Confession, 2 which it really was, then I 
should rather admit that I made a mistake and acted foolishly 
and now crave for pardon ; for the scandal is great and intoler 
able. And my gracious Lord the Landgrave ought not to forget 
that his Serene Highness was lucky enough in being able to take 
the girl secretly with a good conscience, by virtue of our advice 

1 _" Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 373 f. " Anal. Luth.," ed. Kolde, 
p. 356 seq. 

2 " Bichte," not "Bitte," is clearly the true reading here. 



54 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

in Confession ; seeing that H.S.H. has no need or cause for 
making the matter public, and can easily keep it secret, which 
would obviate all this great trouble and misfortune. Beyond 
this I shall not go." 1 

These attempts at explanation and subterfuge to which the 
sadly embarrassed authors of the " testimony " had recourse 
were keenly criticised by Feige, the Hessian Chancellor, in the 
sober, legal replies given by him at the Conference. 2 He pointed 
out, that : The Landgrave, his master, could not now " regard 
or admit his marriage to be a mere liaison " ; he would indeed 
keep it secret so far as in him lay, but deny it he could not with 
out prejudice to his own honour ; " since it has become so 
widely known " ; those to whom he had appealed, " as the chiefs 
of our Christian Churches, for a testimony," viz. Luther and his 
theologians, must not now leave him in the lurch, "but bar 
witness, should necessity arise, that he had not acted un- 
christianly in this matter, or against God." Philip, moreover, 
from the very first, had no intention of restricting the matter 
to the private tribunal of conscience ; the request brought by 
Bucer plainly showed, that he " was publicly petitioning the 
tribunal of the Church." The fact is that the instructions given 
to Bucer clearly conveyed the Prince s intention of making 
public the bigamy and the advice by which it was justified. 

Hence, proceeded Feige : Out with it plainly, out with the 
theological grounds which " moved the theologians to grant such 
a dispensation ! " If these grounds were not against God, then 
the Landgrave could take his stand on them before the secular 
law, the Emperor, the Fiscal and the Courts of Justice. Should 
the theologians, however, really wish to " repudiate " their 
advice, nothing would be gained ; the scandal would be just as 
great as if they had " admitted " it ; and further, it would cause 
a split in their own confession, for the Prince would be obliged 
to " disclose the advice." Luther wanted to get out of the hole 
by saying he had acted foolishly ! Did he not see how " detri 
mental this would be to his reputation and teaching " ? He 
should " consider what he had written in his Exposition of 
Genesis twelve years previously, and that this had never been 
called into question by any of his disciples or followers." He 
should remember all that had been done against the Papacy 
through his work, for which the Bible gave far less sanction than 
for the dispensation, and which " nevertheless had been accepted 
and maintained, in opposition to the worldly powers, by an 
appeal to a Christian Council." 

Hence the Landgrave must urgently request, concludes Feige, 
that the theologians would, at least " until the Council," take his 
part and " admit that what he had done had been agreeable to 
God." 

The Saxon representatives present at the Conference 

1 " Briefe," 6, p. 272 f., dated July 20, 1540. 

2 Kolde, loc. cit., p. 357-360. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 55 

were, however, ready to follow the course indicated by 
Luther in case of necessity, viz. to tell a downright lie ; 
rather than that the Prince should be forced to vindicate 
openly his position it was better to deny it flatly. They 
declared, without, however, convincing the Conference, 
" that a flat denial was less culpable before God and in 
conscience as could be proved by many examples from 
Scripture than to cause a great scandal and lamentable 
falling away of many good people by a plain and open 
admission and vindication." 1 

Philip of Hesse was not particularly edified by the result 
of the Eisenach Conference. Of all the reports which gradu 
ally reached him, those which most aroused his resent 
ment were, first, that Luther should expect him to tell a lie 
and deny the second marriage, and, secondly, his threat to 
withdraw the testimony, as issued in error. 

Luther had, so far, avoided all direct correspondence 
with the Landgrave concerning the disastrous affair. Now, 
however, he was forced to make some statement in reply to 
a not very friendly letter addressed to him by the Prince. 2 

In this Philip, alluding to the invitation to tell a lie, says : 
" I will not lie, for lying has an evil sound and no Apostle 
or even Christian has ever taught it, nay, Christ has for 
bidden it and said we should keep to yea and nay. That I 
should declare the lady to be a whore, that I refuse to do, 
for your advice does not permit of it. I should surely have 
had no need of your advice to take a whore, neither does it 
do you credit." Yet he declares himself ready to give an 
" obscure reply," i.e. an ambiguous one ; without need he 
would not disclose the marriage. 

Nor does Luther s threat of retracting the advice and of 
saying that he had " acted foolishly " affright him. The 
threat he unceremoniously calls a bit of foolery. "As to 
what you told my Councillors, viz. that, rather than reveal 
my reasons, you would say you had acted foolishly, please 
don t commit such folly on my account, for then I will 
confess the reasons, and, in case of necessity, prove them 
now or later, unless the witnesses die in the meantime." 
" Nothing more dreadful has ever come to my ears than that 

1 Kolde, loc. cit., p. 362 seq. 

2 Dated July 18, 1540, " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 380 ff. 



56 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

it should have occurred to a brave man to retract what 
he had granted by a written dispensation to a troubled 
conscience. If you can answer for it to God, why do you 
fear and shrink from the world ? If the matter is right in 
conscientia before the Almighty, the Eternal and Immortal 
God, what does the accursed, sodomitic, usurious and 
besotted world matter ? " Here he is using the very words 
in which Luther was wont to speak of the world and of the 
contempt with which it should be met. He proceeds with a 
touch of sarcasm : " Would to God that you and your like 
would inveigh against and punish those in whom you see 
such things daily, i.e. adultery, usury and drunkenness 
and who y c t are supposed to be members of the Church not 
merely in writings and sermons but with serious considera 
tions and the ban which the Apostles employed, in order 
that the whole world may not be scandalised. You see these 
things, yet what do you and the others do ? " In thus 
finding fault with the Wittenberg habits, he would appear 
to include the Elector of Saxony, who had a reputation for 
intemperance. He knew that Luther s present attitude 
was in part determined by consideration for his sovereign. 
In his irritation he also has a sly hit at the Wittenberg 
theologians : At Eisenach his love for the " lady " (Margaret) 
had been looked upon askance ; " I confess that I love her, 
but in all honour. . . . But that I should have taken her 
because she pleased me, that is only natural, for I see that 
you holy people also take those that please you. Therefore 
you may well bear with me, a poor sinner." 

Luther replied on July 24, l that he had not deserved that 
the Landgrave should write to him in so angry a tone. The 
latter was wrong in supposing, that he wanted to get his 
neck out of the noose and was not doing all that he could 
to " serve the Prince humbly and faithfully." It was not 
no his own account that he wished to keep his advice 
secret ; " for though all the devils wished the advice to be 
made public, I would give them by God s Grace such an 
answer that they would not find any fault in it." 

It was, so Luther says in this letter, a secret counsel as " all 
the devils " knew, the keeping secret of which he had requested, 
" with all diligence," and which, even at the worst, he would be 

i " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 6, p. 273 ff. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 57 

the last to bring to light. That he, or the Prince himself, was 
bound to silence by the Seal of Confession, he does not say, 
though this would have been the place to emphasise it. He 
merely states that he knew what, in the case of a troubled 
conscience, " might be remitted out of mercy before God," and 
what was not right apart from this necessity. " I should be 
sorry to see your Serene Highness starting a literary feud with 
me." It was true he could not allow the Prince, who was " of 
the same faith " as himself, " to incur danger and disgrace " ; 
but, should he disclose the counsel, the theologians would not be 
in a position to " get him out of the bother," because, in the eyes 
of the world, " even a hundred Luthers, Philips and others " 
could not change the law ; the secret marriage could never be 
publicly held as valid, though valid in the tribunal of conscience. 
He wished to press the matter before the worldly authorities ; 
but here the Prince s marriage would never be acknowledged ; 
he would only be exposing himself to penalties, and withdrawing 
himself from the " protection and assistance of the Divine 
Judgment " under which he stood so long as he regarded it as a 
marriage merely in conscience. 

In this letter Luther opposes the " making public of the 
advice," which he dreaded, by the most powerful motive at his 
command : The result of the disclosure would be, that " at last 
your Serene Highness would be obliged to put away your sweet 
heart as a mere whore." He would do better to allow her to be 
now regarded as a " whore, although to us three, i.e. in God s 
sight, she is really a wedded concubine " ; in all this the Prince 
would still have a good conscience, " for the whole affair was due 
to his distress of conscience, as we believe, and, hence, to your 
Serene Highness s conscience, she is no mere prostitute." 

There were, however, three more bitter pills for the Landgrave 
to swallow. He had pleaded his distress of conscience. Luther 
hints, that, " one of our best friends " had said : " The Land 
grave would not be able to persuade anyone " that the bigamy 
was due to distress of conscience ; which was as much as to say, 
that " Dr. Martin believed what it was impossible to believe, had 
deceived himself and been willingly led astray." He, Luther, how 
ever, still thought that the Prince had been serious in what he had 
said " secretly in Confession " ; nevertheless the mere suspicion 
might suffice to " render the advice worthless," and then Philip 
would stand alone. . . . The Landgrave, moreover, had unkindly 
hinted in his letter, that, " we theologians take those who please 
us." " Why do not you [Princes] do differently ? " he replies. " I, 
at least, trust that this will be your Serene Highness s experience 
with your beloved sweetheart." " Pretty women are to be 
wedded either for the sake of the children which spring from 
this merry union, or to prevent fornication. Apart from this 
I do not see of what use beauty is." " Marry in haste and repent 
at leisure " was the result of following our passions, according 
to the proverb. Lastly, Luther does not hide from the Land 
grave that his carelessness in keeping the secret had brought not 



58 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

only the Prince but " the whole confession " into disrepute, 
though " the good people " belonging to the faith were really in 
no way involved in what Philip had done. " If each were to do 
what pleased him and throw the responsibility on the pious " this 
would be neither just nor reasonable. 

Such are the reasons by which he seeks to dissuade the warrior- 
Prince from his idea of publishing the fatal Wittenberg " advice," 
to impel him to allow the marriage to " remain an ambiguum, " 
and " not openly to boast that he had lawfully wedded his sweet 
heart." 

He also gives Philip to understand that he will get a taste of the 
real Luther should he not obey him, or should he expose him by 
publishing the " advice," or otherwise in writing. He says : " If 
it comes to writing I shall know how to extricate myself and 
leave your Serene Highness sticking in the mud, but this I shall 
not do unless I can t help it." The Prince s allusion to the 
Emperor s anger which must be avoided, did not affright Luther 
in the least. In his concluding words his conviction of his 
mission and the thought of the anti-Evangelical attitude of the 
Emperor carry him away. " Were this menace to become 
earnest, I should tweak the Emperor s forelock, confront him with 
his practices and read him a good lecture on the texts : Every 
man is a liar and Put not your trust in Princes. Was he not 
indeed a liar and a false man, he who rages against God s 
own truth, " i.e. opposes Luther s Evangel ? 

Faced by such unbounded defiance Philip and his luckless 
bigamy, in spite of the assurance he saw fit to assume, 
seemed indeed in a bad way. One can feel how Luther 
despised the man. In spite of his painful embarrassment, 
he is aware of his advantage. He indeed stood in need of 
the Landgrave s assistance in the matter of the new Church 
system, but the latter was entirely dependent on Luther s 
help in his disastrous affair. 

Hence Philip, in his reply, is more amiable, though he 
really demolishes Luther s objections. This reply he sent the 
day after receiving Luther s letter. 1 

Certain words which had been let fall at Eisenach had 
" enraged and maddened " him (Philip). He had, however, 
good " scriptural warrant for his action," and Luther should 
not forget that, " what we did, we did with a good con 
science." There was thus no need for the Prince to bow 
before the Wittenbergers. " We are well aware that you 
and Philip [Melanchthon] cannot defend us against the 
secular powers, nor have we ever asked this of you." " That 
Margaret should not be looked upon as a prostitute, this we 

1 On July 27, " Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 385 ff. 



59 

demand and insist upon, and the presence of pious men 
[Melanchthon, etc.] at the wedding, your advice, and the 
marriage contract, will prove what she is." "In fine, we 
will allow it to remain a secret marriage and dispensation, 
and will give a reply which shall conceal the matter, and be 
neither yea nor nay, as long as we can and may." He 
insists, however, that, " if we cannot prevent it," then we 
shall bring the Wittenberg advice " into the light of day." 

As to telling a downright lie, that was impossible, because 
the marriage contract was in the hands of his second wife s 
friends, who would at once take him to task. 

" It was not our intention to enter upon a wordy conflict, 
or to set your pen to work." Luther had said, that he would 
know how to get out of a tight corner, but what business 
was that of Philip s : " We care not whether you get out or 
in." As to Luther s malicious allusion to his love for the 
beautiful Margaret, he says : " Since she took a fancy to us, 
we were fonder of her than of another, but, had she not 
liked us, then we should have taken another." Hence he 
would have committed bigamy in any case. He waxes 
sarcastic about Luther s remark, that the world would 
never acknowledge her as his wife, hinting that Luther s 
own wife, and the consorts of the other preachers who had 
formerly been monks or priests, were likewise not regarded 
by the imperial lawyers as lawful wedded wives. He looked 
upon Margaret as his " wife according to God s Word and 
your advice ; such is God s will ; the world may regard our 
wife, yours and the other preachers as it pleases." 

Philip, however, was diplomatic enough to temper all this 
with friendly assurances. " We esteem you," he says, " as 
a very eminent theologian, nor shall we doubt you, so long 
as God continues to give you His Spirit, which Spirit we 
still recognise in you. . . . We find no fault with you 
personally and consider you a man who looks to God. As to 
our other thoughts, they are just thoughts, and come and 
go duty free." 

These " duty-free " thoughts, as we readily gather from 
the letter, concerned the Courts of Saxony, whose influence 
on Luther was a thorn in the Landgrave s flesh. There was 
the " haughty old Vashti " at Dresden (Duchess Catherine), 
without whom the " matter would not have gone so far " ; 
then, again, there was Luther s " Lord, the Elector." The 



60 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" cunning of the children of the world," which the Land 
grave feared would infect Luther, had its head-quarters at 
these Courts. But if it came to the point, such things would 
be " disclosed and manifested " by him, the Landgrave, to 
the Elector and " many other princes and nobles," that 
" you would have to excuse us, because what we did was 
not done merely from love, but for conscience s sake and in 
order to escape eternal damnation ; and your Lord, the 
Elector, will have to admit it too and be our witness." And 
in still stronger language, he " cites " the Elector, or, rather, 
both the Elector and himself, to appear before Luther : "If 
this be not sufficient, then demand of us, and of your master, 
that we tell you in confession such things as will satisfy you 
concerning us. They would, however, sound ill, so help 
me God, and we hope to God that He will by all means pre 
serve us from such in future. You wish to learn it, then 
learn it, and do not look for anything good but for the worst, 
and if we do not speak the truth, may God strike us " ; "to 
prove it " we are quite ready. Other things (see below, 
xxiv., 2) make it probable, that the Elector is here accused 
as being Philip s partner in some very serious sin. It looks 
as though Philip s intention was to frighten him and prevent 
his proceeding further against him. Since Luther in all 
probability brought the letter to the cognisance of the 
Elector, the step was, politically, well thought out. 

Melanchthon s Complaints. 

Melanchthon, as was usual with him, adopted a different 
tone from Luther s in the matter. He was very sad, and 
wrote lengthy letters of advice. 

As early as June 15, to ease his mind, he sent one to the 
Elector Johann Frederick, containing numerous arguments 
against polygamy, but leaving open the possibility of secret 
bigamy. 1 Friends informed the Landgrave that anxiety 
about the bigamy was the cause of Melanchthon s serious 
illness. Philip, on the other hand, wrote, that it was the 
Saxon Courts which were worrying him. 2 Owing to his 
weakness he was unable to take part in the negotiations at 
Eisenach. On his return to Wittenberg he declared aloud 

1 Rockwell, loc. cit., p. 190. Cp. p. 61. 

2 Ibid., p. 192, from Philip s letter to Luther, on July 18. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 61 

that he and Luther had been outwitted by the malice of 
Philip of Hesse. The latter s want of secrecy seemed to 
show the treasonable character of the intrigue. To Camer- 
arius he wrote on Aug. 24 : " We are disgraced by a horrid 
business concerning which I must say nothing. I will give 
you the details in due time." 1 On Sep. 1, he admits in a 
letter to Veit Dietrich : " We have been deceived, under a 
semblance of piety, by another Jason, Avho protested con 
scientious motives in seeking our assistance, and who even 
swore that this expedient was essential for him." 2 He thus 
gives his friend a peep into the Wittenberg advice, of which 
he was the draughtsman, and in which he, unlike Luther, 
could see nothing that came under the Seal of Confession. 
The name of the deceitful polygamist Jason he borrows 
from Terence, 011 whom he was then lecturing. Since 
Luther, about the same time, also quotes from Terence when 
speaking at table about Philip s bigamy, we may infer that 
he and Melanchthon had exchanged ideas on the work in 
question (the " Adelphi "). Melanchthon was also fond of 
dubbing the Hessian " Alcibiades " on account of his dissem 
bling and cunning. 3 

Most remarkable, however, is the assertion he makes in 
his annoyance, viz. that the Landgrave was on the point of 
losing his reason : " This is the beginning of his insanity." 4 
Luther, too, had said he feared he was going crazy, as it ran 
in the family. 5 Philip s father, Landgrave William II, had 
succumbed to melancholia as the result of syphilis. The 
latter s brother, William I, had also been insane. Philip s 
son, William IV, sought to explain the family trouble by 
a spell cast over one of his ancestors by the " courtisans " 
at Venice. 6 In 1538, previous to the bigamy scandal, Henry 
of Brunswick had written, that the Landgrave, owing to the 
French disease, was able to sleep but little, and would soon 
go mad. 7 

Melanchthon became very sensitive to any mention of the 
Hessian bigamy. At table, on one occasion in Aug., 1540, 

1 Rockwell, loc. cit., p. 193. " Ibid., p. 194. 

3 " Alcibiadea natura non Achillea.^ "Corp. ref.," 3, p. 1079. Cp. 
4, p. 116. Rockwell, ibid., p. 194. 

4 " Hcec sunt principia furoris." Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 143. 
Above, p. 45. 

5 Ibid., on the same day (June 1-1, 1540), Luther s statement. 
Above, p. 44. 

6 Rockwell, ibid., p. 159, n. 2 ; p. 4, n. 1. 7 Ibid., p. 102. 



62 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Luther spoke of love ; no one was quite devoid of love because 
all at least desired enjoyment ; one loved his wife, another 
his children, others, like Carlstadt, loved honour. When 
Bugenhagen, with an allusion to the Landgrave, quoted the 
passage from Virgil s " Bucolica " : " Omtiia vincit amor et 
nos cedarnus amori," Melanchthon jumped up and cried : 
" Pastor, leave out that passage." 1 

Brooding over the permission given, the scholar sought 
earnestly for grounds of excuse for the bigamy. " I looked 
well into it beforehand," he writes in 1543, " I also told the 
Doctor [Luther] to weigh well whether he could be mixed up 
in the affair. There are, however, circumstances of which 
the women [their Ducal opponents at Meissen] are not 
aware, and understand not. The man [the Landgrave] has 
many strange ideas on the Deity. He also confided to me 
things which I have told no one but Dr. Martin ; on account 
of all this we have had no small trouble." 2 We must not 
press the contradiction this presents to Melanchthon s other 
statement concerning the Prince s hypocrisy. 

Melanchthon s earlier letter dated Sep. 1, 1540, Camer- 
arius ventured to publish in the collection of his friend s 
letters only with omissions and additions which altered the 
meaning. 

Until 1904 this letter, like Melanchthon s other letter on 
Luther s marriage (vol. ii., p. 176), was only known in the 
amended form. W. Rockwell has now published the following 
suppressed passages from the original in the Chigiana at Rome, 
according to the manuscript prepared by Nicholas Mxiller for the 
new edition of Melanchthon s correspondence. Here Melanchthon 
speaks out plainly without being conscious of any " Secret of 
Confession," and sees little objection to the complete publication 
by the Wittenbergers of their advice. " I blame no one in this 
matter except the man who deceived us with a simulated piety 
( simulations pietatis fe/ellit ). Nor did he adhere to our trusty 
counsel [to keep the matter secret]. He swore that the remedy 
was necessary. Therefore, that the universal biblical precept 
[concerning the unity of marriage] : They shall be two in one 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 175, 7-24 Aug., 1540. 

2 To the Elector Johann Frederick, March, 1543, see Rockwell 
p. 199 f., from archives. Rockwell quotes the following from a passage 
in which several words have been struck out : "I have always pre 
ferred that he [...?] should deal with the matter, than that he 
should altogether [ . . .?]." Was the meaning : He preferred that 
Luther should be involved in such an affair rather than that he [the 
Landgrave] should desert their party altogether ? Other utterances 
of Melanchthon s and Luther s, given above, would favour this sense. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 63 

flesh might be preserved, we counselled him, secretly, and 
without giving scandal to others, to make use of the remedy in 
case of necessity. I will not be judge of his conscience, for he 
still sticks to his assertion ; but the scandal he might well have 
avoided had he chosen. Either [what follows is in Greek] love 
got the upper hand, or here is the beginning and foretaste of 
that insanity which runs in the family. Luther blamed him 
severely and he thereupon promised to keep silence. But . . . 
[Melanchthon has crossed out the next sentence : As time goes 
on he changes his views] whatever he may do in the matter, we 
are free to publish our decision ( edere sententiam nostram ) ; for 
in it too we vindicated the law. He himself told me, that 
formerly he had thought otherwise, but certain people had con 
vinced him that the thing was quite indifferent. He has un 
learned men about him who have written him long dissertations, 
and who are not a little angry with me because I blamed them 
to their teeth. But in the beginning we were ignorant of their 
prejudices." He goes on to speak of Philip as " depraved by an 
Alcibiadean nature ( Alcibiadea natura perditus )," an expression 
which also fell under the red pencil of the first editor, Camerarius. x 

Literary Feud with Duke Henry of Brunswick. 

Prominent amongst those who censured the bigamy was 
the Landgrave s violent opponent Duke Henry of Brunswick - 
Wolfenbiittel. The Duke, a leader of the Catholic 
Alliance formed to resist the Schmalkalden Leaguers in 
North Germany, published in the early forties several 
controversial works against Philip of Hesse. This brisk and 
active opponent, whose own character was, however, by no 
means unblemished, seems to have had a hand in the attacks 
of other penmen upon the Landgrave. Little by little he 
secured fairly accurate accounts of the proceedings in Hesse 
and at Wittenberg, and, as early as July 22, 1540, made a 
general and public reference to what had taken place. 2 

In a tract published on Nov. 3, he said quite openly that 
the Landgrave had " two wives at the same time, and had 
thus rendered himself liable to the penalties against double 
marriage." The Elector of Saxony had, however, permitted 
" his biblical experts at the University of Wittenberg to 
assist in dealing with these nice affairs," nay, had himself 
concurred in the bigamy. 3 

1 Rockwell, ibid., p. 194. Text of Camerarius in " Corp. ref.," 3, 
p. 1077 seq. 2 Ibid., p. 103. 

3 " Ergriindete . . . Duplica . . . wider des Churfiirsten von 
Sachsen Abdruck," etc. The work is directed primarily against the 
Elector Johann Frederick, the " drunken Nabal of Saxony," as 
the author terms him. 



64 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

In consequence of these and other charges contained in 
the Duke s screed, Luther wrote the violent libel entitled 
" Wider Hans Worst," of which the still existing manu 
script shows in what haste and frame of mind the work was 
dashed off. All his exasperation at the events connected 
with the bigamy now become public boils up in his attack 
on the " Bloodhound, and incendiary Harry " of Brunswick, 
and the " clerical devil s whores in the Popish robbers 
cave." 1 Of Henry s charge he speaks in a way which is 
almost more than a mere concealing of the bigamy. 2 He 
adds : " The very name of Harry stinks like devil s ordure 
freshly dropped in Germany. Did he perchance desire that 
not he alone should stink so horribly in the nostrils of 
others, but that he should make other honourable princes 
to stink also ? " He was a renegade and a coward, who did 
everything like an assassin. " He ought to be set up like a 
eunuch, dressed in cap and bells, with a feather-brush in his 
hand to guard the women and that part on account of which 
they are called women, as the rude Germans say." " Assas 
sin-adultery, assassin-arson indeed became this wild cat, 
etc. 

Even before this work was finished, in February, 1541, a 
pseudonymous attack upon the Landgrave appeared which 
" horrified Cruciger," 3 who was with Luther at Wittenberg. 
The Landgrave is here upbraided with the bigamy, the 
reproaches culminating in the following : "I cannot but 
believe that the devil resides in your Serene Highness, and 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 58. 

2 Ibid., p. 77 : " Concerning the Landgrave, whom he abuses as 
bigamous, an Anabaptist and even as having submitted to re-baptism, 
though in such ambiguous terms as to suit a cardinal or a weather-cock, 
so that were his proofs asked for he could twist his tongue round and 
say, that he was not sure it was so, but merely suspected it ... of 
this I will not now say much. The Landgrave is man enough and has 
learned men about him. I know of one Landgravine in Hesse [one only 
bore the title], who is and is to be styled wife and mother in Hesse, and, 
in any case, no other will be able to bear young Princes and suckle 
them ; I refer to the Duchess, daughter of Duke George of Saxony. 
And if her Prince has strayed, that was owing to your bad example, 
which has brought things to such a pass, that the very peasants do not 
look upon it as sin, and have made it difficult for us to maintain 
matrimony in honour and esteem, nay, to re-establish it. From the 
very beginning none has abused matrimony more grievously than 
Harry of Wolff enbiittel, the holy, sober man." That is all Luther says 
of the Hessian bigamy. 

3 Rockwell, ibid., p. 107, on the writing of " Justinus Warsager " 
against the Landgrave, with a reference to " Corp. ref.," 4, p. 112. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 65 

that the Miinster habit has infected your S.H., so that your 
S.H. thinks that you may take as many wives as you please, 
even as the King of Miinster did." 

An anonymous reply to this screed penned by the pastor 
of Mclsungen, Johann Lening, is the first attempt at a 
public justification of Philip s bigamy. The author only 
disclaims the charge that the Landgrave had intended to 
" introduce a new ius. 5?1 

Henry of Brunswick replied to " Hans Worst " and to 
this vindication of the bigamy in his " Quadruplicce " of 
May 31, 1541. He said there of Luther s " Hans Worst " : 
" That we should have roused Luther, the arch-knave, arch- 
heretic, desperate scoundrel and godless arch-miscreant, to 
put forth his impious, false, unchristian, lousy and rascally 
work is due to the scamp [on the throne] of Saxony." " We 
have told the truth so plainly to his Munsterite brother, the 
Landgrave, concerning his bigamy, that he has been unable 
to deny it, but admits it, only that he considers that he did 
not act dishonourably, but rightly and in a Christian fashion, 
which, however, is a lie and utterly untrue." In some of his 
allegations then and later, such as that the Landgrave was 
thinking of taking a third wife " in addition to his numerous 
concubines," and that he had submitted to re-baptism, the 
princely knight-errant was going too far. A reply and 
defence of the Landgrave, published in 1544, asserts with 
unconscious humour that the Landgrave knew how to take 
seriously " to heart what God had commanded concerning 
marriage . . . and also the demands of conjugal fidelity 
and love." 

Johann Lening, pastor of Melsungen, formerly a Car 
thusian in the monastery of Eppenberg, had been the most 
zealous promoter of the bigamy. He was also very active 
in rendering literary service in its defence. The string of 
Bible proofs alleged by Philip in his letter to Luther of 
July 18 (above, p. 55 f.) can undoubtedly be traced to his 
inspiration. In October, 1541, he was at Augsburg with 
Gereon Sailer, 2 the physician so skilled in the treatment of 
syphilis ; a little later Veit Dietrich informed Melanchthoii 
of his venereal trouble. 3 He was much disliked by the 
Saxons and the Wittenbergers on account of his defence of 

1 Cp. Rockwell, ibid., p. 108. 

2 " Philipps Briefwechsel," 3, 1891, p. 186, n. 1. 

3 On Dec. 11, 1541. Rockwell, ibid., p. 117, n. 1. 

IV. F 



66 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

his master. Chancellor Briick speaks of him as a " violent, 
bitter man " ; Luther calls him the " Melsingen nebulo " 
and the " monstrum Carthusianum " ; x Frederick Myconius 
speaks of the " lenones Leningi " and fears he will catch the 
" Dionysiorum vesania." 

Such was the author of the " Dialogue of Huldericus 
Neobulus," which has become famous in the history of the 
Hessian Bigamy ; it appeared in 1541, towards the end of 
summer, being printed at Marburg at Philip s expense. 

The book was to answer in the affirmative the question 
contained in the sub-title : " Whether it be in accordance 
with or contrary to the Divine, natural, Imperial and 
ecclesiastical law, to have simultaneously more than one 
wife." The author, however, clothed his affirmation in 
so pedantic and involved a form as to make it unintelligible 
to the uninitiate so that Philip could say that, " it would be 
a temptation to nobody to follow his example," and that it 
tended rather to dissuade from bigamy than to induce 
people to commit it. 2 

This work was very distasteful to the Courts of Saxony, 
and Luther soon made up his mind to write against it. 

He wrote on Jan. 10, 1542, to Justus Menius, who had 
sent him a reply of his own, intended for the press : " Your 
book will go to the printers, but mine is already waiting 
publication ; your turn will come next. . . . How this man 
disgusts me with the insipid, foolish and worthless argu 
ments he excretes." To this Pandora all the Hessian gods 
must have contributed. " Bucer smells bad enough already 
on account of the Ratisbon dealings. . . .May Christ keep 
us well disposed towards Him and steadfast in His Holy 
Word. Amen." 3 From what Luther says he was not 
incensed at the Dialogue of Neobulus so much on account 
of its favouring polygamy itself, but because, not content 
with allowing bigamy conditionally, and before the tribunal 

1 To Justus Menius, Jan. 10, 1542, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 426. 
Cp. above, p. 25 f., for Luther s opinion that Lening had been the 
first to suggest the plan of the bigamy to the Landgrave. For other 
points in the text, see Rockwell, ibid., p. 117 f. Koldewey remarks of 
Lening, that " his wretched servility and his own lax morals had made 
him the advocate of the Landgrave s carnal lusts." (" Theol. Studien 
und Kritiken," 57, 1884, p. 560.) 

2 The Landgrave to Sailer, Aug. 27, 1541, in " Philipps Brief- 
wechsel," 3, p. 148, and to Melanchthon. 

3 See above, note 1. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 67 

of conscience, it sought also to erect it into a public law. 
When, however, both Elector and Landgrave 1 begged him 
to refrain from publishing his reply, he agreed and stopped 
the printers, though only after a part of it had already left 
the press. 2 

His opinion concerning the permissibility of bigamy in 
certain cases he never changed in spite of the opposition it 
met with. But, in Luther s life, hardly an instance can be 
cited of his having shrunk back when attacked. Rarely if 
ever did his defiance which some admire prove more 
momentous than on this occasion. An upright man is not 
unwilling to allow that he may have been mistaken in a 
given instance, and, when better informed, to retract. 
Luther, too, might well have appealed to the shortness of 
the time allowed him for the consideration of the counsel he 
had given at Wittenberg. Without a doubt his hand had 
been forced. Further, it might have been alleged in excuse 
for his act, that misapprehension of the Bible story of the 
patriarchs had dragged him to consequences which he had 
not foreseen. It would have been necessary for him to 
revise completely his Old-Testament exegesis on this point, 
and to free it from the influence of his disregard of ecclesi 
astical tradition and the existing limitations on matrimony. 
In place of this, consideration for the exalted rank of his 
petitioners induced him to yield to the plausible reasons 
brought forward by a smooth-tongued agent and to remain 
silent. 

The tract of Menius, on the same political grounds, was 
likewise either not published at all or withdrawn later. The 
truth was, that it was desirable that the Hessian affair 
should come under discussion as little as possible, so that no 
grounds should be given " to increase the gossip," as Luther 
put it in 1542 ; "I would rather it were left to settle as it 
began, than that the filth should be stirred up under the 
noses of the whole world." 3 

1 In the letter to Melanchthon, quoted p. 66, note 2, Philip says, that 
if Luther s work had not yet appeared Melanchthon was to explain to 
him that the Dialogue of Neobulus tended rather to dissuade from, 
than to permit bigamy, " so that he might forbear from such [reply], 
or so moderate it that it may not injure us or what he himself 
previously sanctioned and wrote [i.e. in the Wittenberg testimony]." 

2 Printed in " Werke," Erl. ed., 65, p. 206 ff. 

3 Luther to the Electoral Chancellor, Briick, " shortly after Jan. 10," 
" Briefe," 6, p. 296, where he also approvingly notes that Menius had 



68 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The work of Neobulus caused much heart-burning among 
the Swiss reformers ; of this we hear from Bullinger, who 
also, in his Commentary on Matthew, in 1542, expressed 
himself strongly against the tract. 1 His successor, Rudolf 
Gualther, Zwingli s son-in-law, wrote that it was shocking 
that a Christian Prince should have been guilty of such a 
thing and that theologians should have been found to 
father, advocate and defend it. 2 

In time, however, less was heard of the matter and the 
rumours died down. A peace was even patched up between 
the Landgrave and the Emperor, chiefly because the 
Elector of Saxony was against the Schmalkalden League 
being involved in the Hessian affair. Without admitting 
the reality of the bigamy, and without even mentioning it, 
Philip concluded with Charles V a treaty which secured for 
him safety. Therein he made to the Emperor political 
concessions of such importance 3 as to arouse great dis 
content and grave suspicions in the ranks of the Evangelicals. 
At a time when the German Protestants were on the point 
of appealing to France for assistance against Charles V, he 
promised to do his best to hinder the French and to support 
the Imperial interests. In the matter of the Emperor s feud 
with Julich, he pledged himself to neutrality, thus ensuring 
the Emperor s success. After receiving the Imperial pardon 
on Jan. 24, 1541, his complete reconciliation was guaranteed 
by the secret compact of Ratisbon on June 13 of the same 
year. He had every reason to be content, and as the 
editor of Philip s correspondence with Bucer writes, 4 what 
better could even the Emperor desire ? The great danger 
which threatened was a league of the German Protestants 
with France. And now the Prince, Avho alone was able to 
bring this about, withdrew from the opposition party, laid 
his cards on the table, left the road open to Guelders, offered 

not written " contra necessitatem et casualem dispensationem individual 
personce, of which we, as confessors, treated " ; he only " inveighed 
contra legem et exemplum publicum polygamice, which we also do." 
Still, he finds that Menius " excuses the old patriarchs too feebly." 

1 Cp. his outburst against " those who teach polygamy " in his " In 
evangelium s. Mt. Commentaria," Tiguri, 1543, p. 179. 

2 To Oswald Myconius, Sep. 13, 1540, in Rockwell, ibid., p. 325 : 
" pudet imprimis inter theologos talium authorcs, tutores et patronos 
posse reperiri." 

3 Cp. Janssen, " Hist, of the German People " (Engl. Trans.), 6, 
p. 149 f. ; and Rockwell, ibid., pp. 130, 132. 

4 Max Lenz, in " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 497. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 69 

his powerful support both within and outside of the Empire, 
and, in return, asked for nothing but the Emperor s favour. 
The Landgrave s princely allies in the faith were pained to see 
him forsake " the opposition [to the Emperor]. For their 
success the political situation was far more promising than 
in the preceding winter. An alliance with France offered [the 
Protestants] a much greater prospect of success than one 
with England, for Frangois I was far more opposed to the 
Emperor than was Henry VIII. ... Of the German 
Princes, William of Jiilich had already pledged himself 
absolutely to the French King." 1 

Philip was even secretly set on obtaining the Pope s 
sanction to the bigamy. Through Georg von Carlowitz and 
Julius Pflug he sought to enter into negotiations with Rome ; 
they were not to grudge an outlay of from 3000 to 4000 
gulden as an " offering." 2 As early as the end of 1541 
Chancellor Feige received definite instructions in the matter. 

The Hessian Court had, however, in the meantime been 
informed, that Cardinal Contarini had given it to be under 
stood that " no advice or assistance need be looked for from 
the Pope." 3 

Landgravine Christina died in 1549, and, after her death, 
the unfortunate marriage was gradually buried in oblivion. 
But did Landgrave Philip, after the conclusion of the 
second marriage, cease from immoral intercourse with 
women as he had so solemnly promised Luther he would ? 

In the Protestant periodical, "Die christliche Welt," 4 atten 
tion was drawn to a Repertory of the archives of Philip of Hesse, 
published in 1904, 6 in which a document is mentioned which 
would seem to show that Philip was unfaithful even subsequent to 
his marriage with Margaret. The all too brief description of the 
document is as follows : " Suit of Johann Meckbach against 
Landgrave Philip on behalf of Lady Margaret ; the Landgrave s 
infidelity ; Margaret s demand that her marriage be made 
public." " This sounds suspicious," remarks W. Kohler, " we 
have always taken it for granted that the bigamy was moral only 
in so far as the Landgrave Philip refrained from conjugal infidelity 

1 Max Lenz, in " Philipps Brief wechsel," 1, p. 499. 
" Briefwechsel," ibid., p. 368 f. 

3 Feige to the Landgrave, July 19, 1541, published by Rockwell, 
ibid., p. 331 ; cp. p. 100 f. 

4 No. 35, August 30, 1906. 

8 " Das politische Archiv des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen ; 
Repertorium des landgrafl. polit. Archivs," Bd. 1. (Publikationen aus 
den Kgl. preuss. Staatsarchiven, Bd. 78). Year 1556, No. 27. 



70 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

after its conclusion, and now we are confronted with this charge. 
Is it founded ? " Concerning this new document N. Paulus 
remarks : "In order to be able properly to appreciate its im 
portance, we should have to know more of the suit. At any rate 
Margaret would not have caused representations to be made to 
her husband concerning his infidelity without very weighty 
reasons." 1 

In the Landgrave s family great dissatisfaction continued to 
be felt with Luther. When, in 1575, Philip s son and successor, 
Landgrave William IV, was entertaining Palsgravine Elisabeth, 
a zealous friend of Lutheranism, he spoke to her about Luther, 
as she relates in a letter. 2 "He called Dr. Luther a rascal, 
because he had persuaded his father to take two wives, and 
generally made out Dr. Luther to be very wicked. Whereat I 
said that it could not be true that Luther had done such a thing." 
So completely had the fact become shrouded in obscurity. 
William, however, fetched her the original of the Wittenberg 
testimony. Although she was unwilling to look at it lest her 
reverence for Luther should suffer, yet she was forced to hear it. 
In her own words : " He locked me in the room and there I had 
to remain ; he gave it me to read, and my husband [the Palsgrave 
Johann Casimir] who was also with me, and likewise a Zwinglian 
Doctor both abused Dr. Luther loudly and said we simply looked 
upon him as an idol and that he was our god. The Landgrave 
brought out the document and made the Doctor read it aloud 
so that I might hear it ; but I refused to listen to it and thought 
of something else ; seeing I refused to listen the Landgrave gave 
me a frightful scolding, but afterwards he was sorry and craved 
pardon." 

There is no doubt that William s dislike for Luther, here 
displayed, played a part in his refusal to accept the formula of 
Concord in 1580. 3 

So meagre were the proofs made public of Luther s share 
in the step which Philip of Hesse had taken, that, even in 
Hesse, the Giessen professor Michael Siricius was able to 
declare in a writing of 1679, entitled " Uxor una" that 
Luther s supposed memorandum was an invention. 4 

Of the Wittenberg " advice " only one, fairly long, but 
quite apocryphal version, was put in circulation during 

1 Koln. Volksztng., 1906, No. 758. 

2 K. v. Weber, " Anna Churfiirstin zu Sachsen," Leipzig, 1865, 
p. 401 f. Rockwell, ibid., p. 132 f. 

3 Rockwell, ibid., p. 133. William IV wrote a curious letter to 
Coelestin on this " great book of discord and on the dilaceratio eccle- 
siarum " ; see G. Th. Strobel, " Beitrage zur Literatur, besonders 
des 16. Jahrh.," 2, 1786, p. 162. 

4 " Theologos Witenbergenses et in specie Megalandrum nostrum 
Lutherum consilio suo id factum suasisse vel approbasse, manifests 
falsum est." Rockwell, ibid., p. 134. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 71 

Melanchthon s lifetime ; it appeared in the work of Erasmus 
Sarcerius, " On the holy married state," of which the 
Preface is dated in 1553. It is so worded as to leave the 
reader under the impression that its authors had refused 
outright to give their consent. Out of caution, moreover, 
neither the authors nor the addressee are named. 1 In this 
version, supposed to be Luther s actual text, it was em 
bodied, in 1661, in the Altenburg edition of his works, then 
in the Leipzig reprint of the same (1729 ff.) and again in 
Walch s edition (Halle, 1740 ff.). 2 Yet Lorenz Beger, in 
his work " Daphnceus Arcuarius " (1679), had supplied the 
real text, together with Bucer s instructions and the marriage 
contract, from " a prominent Imperial Chancery." The 
importance of these documents was first perceived in France. 
Bossuet used them in his " Histoire des variations des 
eglises protestantes " (1688). 3 He was also aware that 
Landgrave Ernest, of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, who 
returned to the Catholic Church in 1652, had supplied copies 
of the three documents (to Elector Carl Ludwig of the 
Palatine). In more recent times Max Lenz s publication of 
the Hessian archives has verified these documents and 
supplied a wealth of other material which we have duly 
utilised in the above. 

Opinions Old and New Regarding the Bigamy. 

As more light began to be thrown on the history of the 
bigamy, Protestant historians, even apart from those already 
mentioned, were not slow in expressing their strong con 
demnation, as indeed was only to be expected. 

Julius Boehmer, in outspoken language, points to " the 
unfortunate fact " that " Luther, in his old age, became weak, 
nay, flabby in his moral judgments and allowed himself to be 
guided by political and diplomatic considerations, and not by 
truth alone and an uncorruptible conscience."* 

Walter Kohler, in the " Historische Zeitschrift," has thrown a 
strong light on the person and the motives of the Landgrave. 5 
Whilst admitting that Philip may have suffered from remorse 

1 Rockwell, ibid., p. 131. 

2 Altenburg ed., 8, p. 977 ; Leipzig ed., 22, p. 496 ; Walch s ed., 10, 
p. 886. (Cp. Walch, 10 2 , p. 748.) See De Wette in his edition of 
Luther s Letters, 5, p. 236, and Enders-Kawerau, in " Briefwechsel," 
)2, p. 319. 3 Page 221. 

4 " Luthers Werke fur das deutsche Volk," 1907, Introd., p. xvi. 

5 Bd. 94, 1905, p. 385 ff. 



72 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

of conscience and depression, he shows how these were " in great 
part due to his physical deterioration, his unrestrained excesses 
having brought on him syphilis in its worst form ; sores broke 
out on his hands and he suffered from trouble with the throat." 
His resolution to commit bigamy also sprang from the same 
source, " not from a sudden realisation of the wickedness of his 
life, but simply from the sense of his physical bankruptcy." 
Besides, as Kohler points out, the Landgrave s intention was 
not at first to marry Margaret, but rather to maintain her as 
a kept woman and so render excesses unnecessary. Philip, how 
ever, was unable to get her as a concubine, owing to the opposition 
of her mother, who demanded for her daughter the rank of 
princess and wife. Hence the idea of a bigamy. 

The following indignant reference of Onno Klopp s must be 
included amongst the Protestant statements, since it was written 
some time before the eminent historian joined the Catholic 
Church : " The revolting story has left a blot on the memory of 
Luther and Melanchthon which oceans of sophisms will not avail 
to wash away. This, more than any other deed, brought to light 
both the waywardness of the new Church and its entire depend 
ence on the favour of Princes." 1 

As for the concealment, and the secrecy in which the sanction 
of the bigamy was shrouded, G. Ellinger considers, that the 
decision of Luther and his friends " became absolutely immoral 
only through the concealment enjoined by the reformers." In 
consequence of the matter being made a secret of conscience, 
" the second wife would seem to the world a concubine " ; hence 
not only the first wife, but also the second would suffer degrada 
tion. The second wife s relatives had given their consent " only 
on the hypothesis of a real marriage " ; this too was what 
Philip intended ; yet Luther wished him to tell the Emperor that 
she was a mere concubine ; the Landgrave, however, refused to 
break the word he had given, and " repudiated Luther s 
suggestion that he should tell a lie." 2 

Another Protestant, the historian Paul Tschackert, has 
recently characterised the Hessian affair as " a dirty story." " It 
is, and must remain," he says, " a shameful blot on the German 
Reformation and the life of our reformers. We do not wish to 
gloss it over, still less to excuse it." 3 

Yet, notably in modern theological literature, some 
Protestants have seemed anxious to palliate the affair. An 
attempt is made to place the Wittenberg advice and Luther s 
subsequent conduct in a more favourable light by empha 
sising more than heretofore the secrecy of the advice given, 

1 " Studien iiber Katholizismus, Protestantismus und Gewissens- 
freiheit in Deutschland," Schaffhausen, 1857 (anonvmous), p. 104. 
" Phil. Melanchthon," pp. 378, 382. 

3 " Die Entstehung der lutherischen und reformierten Kirchen- 
lehre," Gottingen, 1910, p. 271. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 73 

which Luther did not consider himself justified in revealing 
under any circumstances, and the publication of which the 
Landgrave was unjustly demanding. It is also urged, that 
the ecclesiastical influence of the Middle Ages played its 
part in Luther s sanction of the bigamy. One author even 
writes : " the determining factor may have been," that " at 
the critical moment the reformer made way for the priest 
and confessor " ; else\vhere the same author says : " Thus 
the Reformation begins with a mediaeval scene." Another 
Protestant theologian thinks that " the tendency, taken 
over from the Catholic Church," to treat the marriage pro 
hibitions as aspects of the natural law was really respon 
sible ; in Luther s evangelical morality " there was a good 
lump of Romish morality, worthless quartz mingled with 
good metal " ; " Catholic scruples " had dimmed Luther s 
judgment in the matter of polygamy ; to us the idea of 
bigamy appears " simply monstrous," " but this is a result 
of age-long habits "; in the 16th century people thought 
" very differently." 

In the face of the detailed quotations from actual sources 
already given in the present chapter, all such opinions not 
merely Luther s own appeal to a " secret of confession," 
invented by himself are seen to be utterly unhistorical. 
Particularly so is the reference to the Catholic Middle Ages. 
It was just the Middle Ages, and the ecclesiastical tradition 
of earlier times, which excited among Luther s contem 
poraries, even those of his own party, such opposition to the 
bigamy wherever news of the same penetrated in any shape 
or form. 1 

In the following we shall quote a few opinions of 
16th-century Protestants not yet mentioned. With 
the historian their unanimous verdict must weigh more 
heavily in the scale than modern theories, which, other 
considerations apart, labour under the disadvantage of 
having been brought forward long after the event and the 
expressions of opinion which accompanied it, to bolster up 
views commonly held to-day. 2 

1 That the death penalty for bigamy also dated from the Middle 
Ages need hardly be pointed out. 

2 For the proofs which follow we may refer to the selection made 
by N. Paulus (" Hist.-pol. Bl.," 147, 1911, p. 503 ff., 561 ff.) in the 
article " Die hessische Doppelehe im Urteile der protest. Zeitge- 
nossen." 



74 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The bigamy was so strongly opposed to public opinion and 
thus presumably to the tradition handed down from the Middle 
Ages, that Nicholas von Amsdorf, Luther s friend, declared the 
step taken by Philip constituted " a mockery and insult to the 
Holy Gospel and a scandal to the whole of Christendom." 1 He 
thought as did Justus Jonas, who exclaimed : " Oh, what a great 
scandal ! " and, " Who is not aghast at so great and calamitous 
a scandal ? " Erasmus Alber, preacher at Marburg, speaks of 
the "awful scandal" (" immane scandalum") which must 
result. 3 In a letter to the Landgrave in which the Hessian 
preacher, Anton Corvinus, fears a " great falling away " on 
account of the affair, he also says, that the world will not " in any 
way " hear of such a marriage being lawful ; his only advice was : 
Your Serene Highness must take the matter to heart and, on 
occasion, have recourse to lying." 4 To tell a deliberate untruth, 
as already explained (pp. 29, 53), appeared to other preachers 
likewise the only possible expedient with which to meet the 
universal reprobation of contemporaries who judged of the 
matter from their " mediaeval " standpoint. 

Justus Menius, the Thuringian preacher, in his work against 
polygamy mentioned above, appealed to the universal, Divine 
"prohibition which forbids and restrains us," a prohibition 
which applied equally to the " great ones " and allowed of no 
dispensation. He also pointed out the demoralising effect of a 
removal of the prohibition in individual cases and the cunning 
of the devil who wished thereby " to brand the beloved Evangel 
with infamy." 5 

Philip had defiled the Church with filth (" fcedissime "), so 
wrote Johann Brenz, the leader of the innovations in Wiirtem- 
berg. After such an example he scarcely dared to raise his eyes 
in the presence of honourable women, seeing what an insult this 
was to them. 6 

Not to show how reprehensible was the deed, but merely to 
demonstrate anew how little ground there was for throwing the 
responsibility on the earlier ages of the Church, we may recall 
that the Elector, Johann Frederick of Saxony, on first learning 
of the project through Bucer, expressed his " horror," and two 
days later informed the Landgrave through Briick, that such a 
thing had been unheard of for ages and the law of the land and 
the tradition of the whole of Christendom were likewise against 

1 Amsdorfs " Bedenken," probably from the latter end of June, 
1540, published by Rockwell, ibid., p. 324. 

" Briefwechsel des Jonas," 1, pp. 394, 396. Above, p. 27, n. 1. 
Further details in Paulus, ibid., p. 562. 

3 Jonas, ibid., p. 397. 

4 P. Tschackert, " Briefwechsel des Anton Corvinus," 1900, p. 79. 
Paulus, ibid., p. 563. 

5 G. T. Schmidt, " Justus Menius iiber die Bigamie." (" Zeitschr. f. 
d. hist. Theol.," 38, 1868, p. 445 ff. More from it in Paulus, p. 565. Cp. 
Rockwell, ibid., p. 126.) 

6 Th. Pressel, " Anecdota Brentiana," 1868, p. 210 : " Commacu- 
lavit ecclesiam temeritate sua foedissime." 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 75 

it. It is true that he allowed himself to be pacified and sent his 
representative to the wedding, but afterwards he again declared 
with disapproval, that the whole world, and all Christians without 
distinction, would declare the Emperor right should he interfere ; 
he also instructed his minister at the Court of Dresden to deny 
that the Elector or the Wittenberg theologians had had any hand 
in the matter. 1 Other Princes and politicians belonging to the 
new faith left on record strong expressions of theirj[disapproval ; 
for instance : Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, Duke Ulrich 
of Wiirtemberg, King Christian III of Denmark, the Strasburg 
statesman Jacob Sturm and the Augsburg ambassador David 
Dettigkof er. 2 To the latter the news was frightful tidings 
from which would result great scandal, a hindrance to and a 
falling away from the Holy Evangel." 3 

All there now remains to do is to illustrate, by statements 
made by Protestants in earlier and more recent times, two 
important points connected with the Hessian episode ; viz. 
the unhappy part which politics played in Luther s attitude, 
and what he said on lying. Here, again, during the last ten 
years there has been a movement in Luther s favour amongst 
many Protestant theologians. 

Concerning the part of politics W. Rockwell, the historian 
of the bigamy, openly admits, that : " By his threat of 
seeking protection from the Emperor for his bigamy, Philip 
overcame the unwillingness of the Wittenbergers to grant 
the requested dispensation." 4 "It is clear," he also says, 
" that political pressure was brought to bear on the Witten- 
bergeis by the Landgrave, and that to this pressure they 
yielded." 5 

That consideration for the effect his decision was likely to 
have on the attitude of the Landgrave weighed heavily in 
the balance with Luther in the matter of his " testimony," 
it is scarcely possible to deny, after what we have seen. 
" The Hessian may fall away from us " (above, p. 46), 
such was one of the fears which undoubtedly had something 
to do with his compliance. To inspire such fear was plainly 
the object of Philip s threat, that, should the Wittenbergers 
not prove amenable, he would make advances to the 
Emperor and the Pope, and the repeated allusions made by 
Luther and his friends to their dread of such a step, and of 
his falling away, show how his threat continued to ring in 
their ears. 6 

1 Paulus, ibid., p. 569 f. 2 Ibid., p. 570 ff. 

3 Fr. Roth, " Augsburgs Reformationsgesch.," 3, 1907, p. 56. 

4 Ibid., p. 95. 5 Ibid., p. 154. 6 See above, p. 18, 21 f., 46, 62 n. 2. 



76 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Bucer declared he had himself agreed to the bigamy from fear 
lest Philip should otherwise be lost to the Evangelical cause, J and 
his feelings were doubtless shared at Wittenberg. Melanchthon 
speaks not merely of a possible attempt on Philip s part to obtain 
the Emperor s sanction to his marriage, but of an actual threat 
to leave the party in the lurch. 2 Johann Brenz, as soon as news 
reached him in Wiirtemberg of the Landgrave s hint of an 
appeal to the Emperor, saw in it a threat to turn his back on 
the protesting party. 3 All three probably believed that at 
heart the Landgrave would remain true to the new faith, but 
what Luther had chiefly in view was Philip s position as head 
of the Schmalkalden League. 

The result was all the more tragic. The compliance wrung 
from the Wittenbergers failed to protect the party from the 
evil they were so desirous of warding off. Philip s recon 
ciliation with the Emperor, as already pointed out, was 
very detrimental to the Schmalkalden League, however 
insincere his motives may have been. 

On this point G. Kawerau says : 4 "In the Landgrave s resolu 
tion to address himself to the Emperor and the Pope, of which 
they were informed, they [Luther and Melanchthon] saw a 
public scandal, a publica offensio, which they sought to 
obviate by demanding absolute secrecy." 5 " But the disastrous 
political consequences did, in the event, make their appearance. 
. . . The zealously promoted alliance with Francois I, to which 
even the Saxon Elector was not averse, came to nothing and 
Denmark and Sweden s overtures had to be repelled. The prime- 
mover in the Schmalkalden League was himself obliged to cripple 
the League. The dreaded champion of the Evangel became the 
tool of the Imperial policy (v. Bezold). From that time forward 
his position lacked precision and his strong initiative was gone." 

G. Ellinger, in his study on Melanchthon, writes : "It can 
scarcely be gainsaid that Luther and Melanchthon allowed them 
selves in a moment of weakness to be influenced by the weight 
of these considerations." The petition, he explains, had been 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 475. Cp. Kolde, " Luther," 2, p. 489, and 
" RE. fiir prot. Theol.," 15 3 , p. 310. 

2 " Defectionem etiam minitabatur, si nos consulere ei nollemus." 
To Camerarius, Aug. 24, 1540, " Corp. ref.," 3, p. 1079. Cp. p. 863. 
Above, p. 62. 

3 " Hoc fere tantumdcm cst ac si minatus esset, se ab Evangelio 
defecturum." Pressel, p. 211. 

4 Moller, " Lehrb. der KG.," 3 3 , p. 146 f. 

6 The scandal lay rather elsewhere. According to Kawerau Luther s 
" principal motive was his desire to save the Landgrave s soul by means 
of an expedient, which, though it did not correspond with the perfect 
idea of marriage, was not directly forbidden by God, and in certain 
circumstances had even been permitted. The questionable nature of 
this advice is, however, evident," etc. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 77 

warmly urged upon the Wittenbergers from a political point of 
view by Bucer, the intermediary. " If Bucer showed himself 
favourable to the Landgrave s views this was due to his wish to 
preserve thereby the Evangelical cause from the loss of its most 
doughty champion ; for Philip had told him in confidence, 
that, in the event of the Wittenbergers and the Saxon Electorate 
refusing their consent, he intended to address himself directly 
to the Emperor and the Pope in order to obtain sanction for 
his bigamy." The Landgrave already, in the summer of 1534, 
had entertained the idea of approaching the Emperor, and in 
the spring of 1535 had made proposals to this end. " It can 
hardly be doubted that in Bucer s case political reasons turned 
the scale." Ellinger refers both to the admission made by 
Melanchthon and to the significant warning against the Emperor 
with which the letter of Dispensation closes. 1 

The strongest reprobation of the evil influence exerted over 
Luther by politics comes, however, from Adolf Hausrath. 2 He 
makes it clear, that, at Wittenberg, they were aware that 
Protestantism " would assume quite another aspect were the 
mighty Protestant leader to go over to the Pope or the Emperor ; 
never has " the demoralising character of all politics " been more 
shamefully revealed ; " eternal principles were sacrificed to the 
needs of the moment " ; " Philip had to be retained at any cost." 
Hence came the " great moral defeat " and Luther s " fall." 

This indignant language on the part of the Heidelberg 
historian of the Church has recently been described by a 
learned theologian on the Protestant side as both " offen 
sive " and uncalled for. Considering Luther s bold char 
acter it is surely very improbable, that an attempt to 
intimidate him would have had any effect except " to 
arouse his spirit of defiance " ; not under the influence of 
mere " opportunism " did he act, but, rather, after having, 
as a confessor, heard " the cry of deep distress " he sought 
to come to " the aid of a suffering conscience." In answer 
to this we must refer the reader to what has gone before, 
where this view, which seems a favourite with some moderns, 
has already sufficiently been dealt with. It need only be 
added, that the learned author says of the bigamy, that " a 
fatal blunder " was made by Luther . . . but only because 
the mediaeval confessor intervened. " The reformer was not 
able in every season and situation to assert the new religious 
principle which we owe to him ; hence we have merely one 
of many instances of failure, though one that may well be 
termed grotesque and is scarcely to be matched." " Nothing 

1 " Phil. Melanchthon," pp. 378, 382. 

2 " Luthers Leben," 2, p. 393 ff. 



78 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

did more to hinder the triumphal progress of the Reforma 
tion than the Landgrave s Turkish marriage. As to the 
argument drawn from Luther s boldness and defiance, a 
Protestant has pointed out, that we are not compelled to 
regard any compliance from motives of policy as " abso 
lutely precluded " ; to say that " political expediency 
played no part whatever in Luther s case " is " going a little 
too far." " Did then Luther never allow any room to 
political considerations ? Even, for instance, in the question 
of armed resistance to the Emperor ? u 

Referring to Luther s notorious utterance on lying, 
G. Ellinger, the Protestant biographer of Melanchthon, says : 
Luther s readiness to deny what had taken place is " one 
of the most unpleasing episodes in his life and bears sad 
testimony to the frailty of human nature." His statements 
at the Eisenach Conference " show how even a great man 
was driven from the path of rectitude by the blending of 
politics with religion. He advised a good, downright lie 
that the world might be saved from a scandal. ... It is 
sad to see a great man thus led astray, though at the same 
time we must remember, that, from the very start, the 
whole transaction had been falsified by the proposal to 
conceal it." 2 

Th. Kolde says in a similar strain, in a work which is 
otherwise decidedly favourable to Luther, " Greater offence 
than that given by the advice itself is given by the 
attitude Avhich the reformers took up towards it at a later 
date." 3 

" The most immoral part of the whole business," so Frederick 
von Bezold says in his " Geschichte der deutschen Reformation," 
" lay in the advice given by the theologians that the world should 
be imposed upon. ... A man [Luther] who once had been 
determined to sacrifice himself and the whole world rather than 
the truth, is now satisfied with a petty justification for his falling 
away from his own principles." 4 And, to conclude with the 
most recent biographer of Luther, Adolf Hausrath thus criticises 
the invitation to tell a " downright lie " : " It is indeed sad to 

1 O. Clemen, " Zeitschr. f. KG.," 30, 1909, p. 389 f. Cp. the views 
of the Protestant historians, K. Wenck, H. Virck and W. Kohler, 
adduced by Paulus (loc. cit., p. 515), who all admit the working of 
political pressure. 

2 " Phil. Melanchthon," pp. 382, 383. 3 Bd., 2, p. 488 f. 
* Page 736. 



THE HESSIAN BIGAMY 79 

see the position into which the ecclesiastical leaders had brought 
themselves, and how, with devilish logic, one false step induced 
them to take another which was yet worse." 1 

This notwithstanding, the following opinion of a defender of 
Luther (1909) has not failed to find supporters in the Protestant 
world : " The number of those who in the reformation-period 
had already outgrown the lax mediaeval view regarding the require 
ments of the love of truth was probably not very great. One 
man, however, towers in this respect above all his contemporaries, 
viz. Luther. He it was who first taught us what truthfulness 
really is. The Catholic Church, which repudiated his teaching, 
knows it not even to this day." " A truthfulness which dis 
regards all else," nay, a " positive horror for all duplicity " is, 
according to this writer, the distinguishing mark of Luther s life. 

1 " Luthers Leben/ 2, p. 403. 



CHAPTER XXII 

LUTHER AND LYING 

1. A Battery of Assertions. 1 

LUTHER S frank admission of his readiness to make use of 
a " good big lie " in the complications consequent on 
Philip s bigamy, and his invitation to the Landgrave to 
escape from the dilemma in this way, may serve as a plea 
for the present chapter. " What harm is there," he asks, 
" if, in a good cause and for the sake of the Christian 
Churches, a man tells a good, downright lie ? " " A lie of 
necessity, of convenience, or of excuse, all such lies are not 
against God and for such He will Himself answer " ; " that 
the Landgrave was unable to lie strongly, didn t matter in 
the least." 2 

It is worth while ascertaining how Luther who has so 
often been represented as the embodiment of German 
integrity and uprightness -behaved in general as regards 
the obligation of speaking with truth and honesty. Quite 
recently a Protestant author, writing with the sole object 
of exonerating his hero in this particular, bestowed on him 
the title of " Luther the Truthful." " Only in one single 
instance," so he has it, " did Luther advise the use of a lie 
of necessity at which exception might be taken." In order 
not to run to the opposite extreme and make mountains out 
of mole-hills we shall do well to bear in mind how great was 
the temptation, during so titanic a struggle as his, for 
Luther to ignore at times the rigorous demands of truth 
and justice, particularly when he saw his opponents occa 
sionally making light of them. We must likewise take into 
consideration the vividness of Luther s imagination, the 

1 The larger portion of the present chapter appeared as an article 
in the " Zeitschr. fur kath. Theol.," 29, 1905, p. 417 ff. 

2 See above, p. 51. 

80 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 81 

strength of the ideas which dominated him, his tendency to 
exaggeration and other mitigating circumstances. 

There was a time when Luther s foes were ready to 
describe as lies every false statement or erroneous quota 
tion made by Luther, as though involuntary errors and 
mistakes due to forgetfulness were not liable to creep into 
his works, written as they were in great haste. 

On the other hand, some of Luther s admirers are ready 
enough to make admissions such as the following : "In 
point of fact we find Luther holding opinions concerning 
truthfulness which are not shared by every Christian, not 
even by every evangelical Christian." " Luther unhesi 
tatingly taught that there might be occasions when it was 
a Christian s duty to depart from the truth." 1 

To this we must, however, add that Luther, repeatedly and 
with the utmost decision, urged the claims of truthfulness, 
branded lying as "the devil s own image," 2 and extolled 
as one of the excellencies of the Germans in Avhich they 
differed from Italians and Greeks their reputation for ever 
being " loyal, truthful and reliable people " ; he also adds 
and the words do him credit " To my mind there is no 
more shameful vice on earth than lying." 3 

This, however, does not dispense us from the duty of 
carefully examining the particular instances which seem to 
militate against the opinion here expressed. 

We find Luther s relations with truth very strained even 
at the beginning of his career, and that, too, in the most 
important and momentous explanations he gave of his 
attitude towards the Church and the Pope. Frequently 
enough, by simply placing his statements side by side, 
striking falsehoods and evasions become apparent. 4 

For instance, according to his own statements made in 
private, he is determined to assail the Pope as Antichrist, 
yet at the same time, in his official writings, he declares 
any thought of hostility towards the Pope to be alien to 
him. It is only necessary to note the dates: On March 13, 
1519, he tells his friend Spalatin that he is wading through th j 
Papal Decretals and, in confidence, must admit his uncertainty 
as to whether the Pope is Antichrist or merely his Apostle, so 
miserably had Christ, i.e. the truth, been crucified by him in the 

1 W. Walther, " Theol. Literaturblatt," 1904, No. 35. Cp. Walther, 
" Fur Luther," p. 425 ff. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 9 2 , p. 306. 3 Ibid., 39, p. 356. 
4 Fuller proofs will be found scattered throughout our earlier volumes. 

IV. G 



82 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Decretals. 1 Indeed, even in the earlier half of Dec., 1518, he had 
been wondering whether the Pope was not Antichrist ; on 
Dec. 11, writing to his friend Link, he said he had a suspicion, 
that the " real Antichrist " of whom Paul speaks ruled at the Court 
of Rome, and believed that he could prove that he was " even 
worse than the Turk." 2 In a similar strain he wrote as early as 
Jan. 13, 1519, that he intended to fight the " Roman serpent " 
should the Elector and the University of Wittenberg allow him so 
to do ; 3 on Feb. 3, 4 and again on Feb. 20, 1519, 5 he admits that it 
had already " long " been his intention to declare war on Rome 
and its falsifications of the truth. In spite of all this, at the 
beginning of Jan., 1519, he informed the Papal agent Miltitz that 
he was quite ready to send a humble and submissive letter to 
the Pope, and, as a matter of fact, on Jan. 5 (or 6), 1519, he 
wrote that strange epistle to Leo X in which he speaks of himself 
as " the dregs of humanity " in the presence of the Pope s 
" sublime majesty " ; he approaches him like a " lambkin," 
whose bleating he begs the Vicar of Christ graciously to give ear 
to. Nor was all this merely said in derision, but with a fixed 
purpose to deceive. He declares with the utmost solemnity 
" before God and every creature " that it had never entered his 
mind to assail in any way the authority of the Roman Church 
and the Pope ; on the contrary, he entirely admits that the power 
of the Church extends over all, and that nothing in heaven or on 
earth is to be preferred to her, except Jesus Christ alone, the 
Lord of all things." The original letter still exists, but the letter 
itself was never despatched, probably because Miltitz raised 
some objection. 6 Only through mere chance did the Papal 
Curia fail to receive this letter, which, compared with Luther s 
real thought as elsewhere expressed, can only be described as 
outrageous. 7 

In his dealings with his Bishop, Hieronymus Scultetus the 
chief pastor of Brandenburg, he had already displayed a like 
duplicity. 

1 " Briefwcchsel," 1, p. 450. 2 Ibid., p. 316. 

3 To Christoph Scheurl, ibid., p. 348. 

4 To Johann Lang, ibid., p. 410. 

5 To Willibald Pirkheimer, ibid., p. 436. 

6 " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 444. Concerning the date and the keeping 
back of the letter, see Brieger, " Zeitschr. fur KG.," 15, 1895, p. 204 f. 

7 Strange to say, this document has not been taken into considera 
tion by G. Sodeur, in " Luther und die Luge, eine Schutzschrift " 
(Leipzig, 1904). In tho same way other sources throwing light on 
Luther s attitude towards lying have been passed over. That his 
object, viz. Luther s vindication, is apparent throughout, is perhaps 
only natural. How far this object is attained the reader may see from 
a comparison of our material and results with those of the " Schutz 
schrift." The same holds of W. Walther s efforts on Luther s behalf 
in his art. " Luther und die Luge," and in his " Fur Luther." See 
above, p. 81, n. 1. See also N. Paulus, " Zu Luthers Doppelziingig- 
keit " ("Beil. zur Augsburger Postztng.," 1904, No. 33); "Hist. 
Jahrb.," 26, 1905, p. 168 f.; " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 1905, 135, 323 ff. ; 
" Wissenschaftl. Beil. zur Germania," 1904, Nos. 33, 35. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 83 

In May, 1518, he wrote assuring him in the most respectful 
terms, that he submitted unconditionally to the judgment of the 
Church whatever he was advancing concerning Indulgences and 
kindred subjects ; that the Bishop was to burn all his scribbles 
(Theses and Resolutions) should they displease him, and that he 
would " not mind in the least." 1 And yet a confidential letter 
sent three months earlier to his friend Spalatin mentions, though 
for the benefit of him " alone and our friends," that the whole 
system of Indulgences now seemed to Luther a " deluding of 
souls, good only to promote spiritual laziness." 2 

To the Emperor too he also gives assurances couched in sub 
missive and peaceful language, which are in marked contrast 
with other statements which emanated from him about the 
same time. 

It is only necessary to recall his letter of Aug. 30, 1520, to 
Charles V. 3 Here Luther seeks to convince the Emperor that he 
is the quietest and most docile of theologians ; who was " forced 
to write only owing to the snares laid for him by others " ; who 
wished for nothing more than to be ignored and left in peace ; and 
who was ready at any moment to welcome the instruction which 
so far had been refused him. Very different was his language a 
few weeks earlier when writing to Spalatin, his tool at the 
Electoral Court of Saxony : " The die is cast ; the despicable 
fury or favour of the Romans is nothing to me ; I desire no 
reconciliation or communion with them. ... I shall burn the 
whole of the Papal Laws and all humility and friendliness shall 
cease." 4 He even hopes, with the help of Spalatin and the 
Elector, to send to Rome the ominous tidings of the offer made 
by the Knight Silvester von Schauenburg to protect him by 
armed force ; they might then see at Rome " that their thunders 
are of no avail " ; should they, however, obtain from the Elector 
his dismissal from his chair at Wittenberg, then, " with the 
support of the men-at-arms, he would make things still warmer 
for the Romans." 5 And yet, on the other hand, Luther was just 
then most anxious that Spalatin, by means of the Elector, should 
represent his cause everywhere, and particularly at Rome, as not 
yet defined, as a point of controversy urgently calling for examina 
tion or, at the very least, for a biblical refutation before the 
Emperor and the Church ; the Sovereign also was to tell the 
Romans that " violence and censures would only make the case 
of Germany worse even than that of Bohemia," and would lead 
to " irrepressible tumults." In such wise, by dint of dishonest 
diplomacy, did he seek to frighten, as he says, the " timid 
Romanists " and thus prevent their taking any steps against 
him. 6 

If we go back a little further we find a real and irreconcilable 
discrepancy between the actual events of the Indulgence contro- 

1 On May 22, 1518, " Briefwechsel," 1, p. 149. 

2 On Feb. 15, 1518, ibid., p. 155. 

" Briefwechsel," 2, p. 469. * July 10, 1520, ibid., p. 432. 

B Ibid., Schauenbuvg s letter, ibid., p. 415. 8 Ibid., p. 433. 



84 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

versy of 1517 and 1518 and the accounts which he himself gave 
of them later. 

" I was forced to accept the degree of Doctor and to swear to 
preach and teach my cherished Scriptures truly and faithfully. 
But then the Papacy barred my way and sought to prevent me 
from teaching." 1 "While I was looking for a blessing from 
Rome, there came instead a storm of thunder and lightning ; I 
was made the lamb that fouled the water for the wolf ; Detzel 
escaped scot-free, but I was to be devoured." 2 

His falsehoods about Tetzel are scarcely believable. The latter 
was, so he says, such a criminal that he had even been condemned 
to death. 3 

The Indulgence-preachers had declared (what they never 
thought of doing) " that it was not necessary to have remorse 
and sorrow in order to obtain the indulgence." 4 In his old age 
Luther stated that Tetzel had even given Indulgences for future 
sins. It is true, however, that when he spoke " he had already 
become a myth to himself " (A. Hausrath). " Not only are the 
dates wrong but even the events themselves. ... It is the same 
with the statement that Tetzel had sold Indulgences for sins not 
yet committed. ... In Luther s charges against Tetzel in the 
controversy on the Theses we hear nothing of this ; only in the 
work Wider Hans Worst (1541), written in his old age, does 
he make such an assertion." 5 In this tract Luther does indeed 
make Tetzel teach that " there was no need of remorse, sorrow or 
repentance for sin, provided one bought an indulgence, or an 
indulgence-letter." He adds : " And he [Tetzel] also sold for 
future sins." (See vol. i., p. 342.) 

This untruth, clearly confuted as it was by facts, passed from 
Luther s lips to those of his disciples. Mathesius in his first 
sermon on Luther seems to be drawing on the passage in " Wider 
Hans Worst " when he says, Tetzel had preached that he was 
able to forgive the biggest past " as well as future sins." 6 Luther s 
friend, Frederick Myconius, helped to spread the same falsehood 
throughout Germany by embodying it in his " Historic Reforma- 
tionis " (1542), whilst in Switzerland, Henry Bullinger, who also 
promoted it, expressly refers to " Wider Hans Worst " as his 
authority. 8 

In this way Luther s misrepresentations infected his whole 
circle, nor can we be surprised if in this, as in so many similar 
instances, the falsehood has held the field even to our own day. 9 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 3, p. 386 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 87. 

2 Ibid., Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 72. 3 Ibid., p. 70, 68 f. 

4 Ibid., Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 284; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 367. On in 
dulgences for the departed, see our vol. i., p. 344. 

5 Hausrath, " Luthers Leben," 2, 1904, p. 432. 

6 Historien (1566), p. 11. 7 Ed. Cyprian., p. 20. 

8 " Reformationsgesch. von H. Bullinger," ed. Hottinger u. 
Vogeli, 1, 1838, p. 19. 

\& * One such tale put in circulation by the Lutherans in the 16th 
century has been dealt with by N. Paulus in " Gibt es Ablasse fur 
zukunftigo Siinden ? " ("Lit. Beil. derKoln. Volksztng.," 1905, No. 43.) 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 85 

We may mention incidentally, that Luther declares concern 
ing the fame which his printed " Propositions against Tetzel s 
Articles " brought him : "It did not please me, for, as I said, I 
myself did not know what the Indulgence was," 1 although his 
first sermons are a refutation, both of his own professed ignorance 
and of that which he also attributes " to all theologians generally." 
Finally, Luther was very fond of intentionally representing the 
Indulgence controversy as the one source of his opposition to the 
Church, and in this he was so successful that many still believe 
it in our own times. The fact that, long before 1517, his views on 
Grace and Justification had alienated him from the teaching of 
the Church, he keeps altogether in the background. 

At length the Church intervened with the Ban and Luther 
was summoned before the Emperor at the Diet of Worms. 
Three years later, at the cost of truth, he had already con 
trived to cast a halo of glory around his public appearance 
there. For instance, we know how, contrary to the true 
state of the case, he wrote : "I went to Worms although 
I knew that the safe conduct given me by the Emperor 
would be broken " ; for the German Princes, otherwise so 
staunch and true, had, he says, learned nothing better 
from the Roman idol than to disregard their plighted word ; 
when he entered Worms he had " taken a jump into the 
gaping jaws of the monster Behemoth." 2 Yet he knew well 
enough that the promise of a safe conduct was to be kept 
most conscientiously. Only on the return journey did he 
express the fear lest, by preaching in defiance of the pro 
hibition, he might make people say that he had thereby 
forfeited his safe conduct. 3 

Yet again it was no tribute to truth and probity, when, 
after the arrival in Germany of the Bull of Excommunication, 
though perfectly aware that it was genuine, he nevertheless 
feigned in print to regard it as a forgery concocted by his 
enemies, to the detriment of the Evangel. In confidence 

Here, in view of some modern misapprehensions of the so-called 
Confession and Indulgence letters, he says : " They referred to future 
sins, only inasmuch as they authorised those who obtained them to 
select a confessor at their own discretion for their subsequent sins, and 
promised an Indulgence later, provided the sins committed had been 
humbly confessed. In this sense even our modern Indulgences 
promised for the future may be said to refer to future sins." 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 71. 

2 To Count Sebastian Schlick, July 15, 1522, " Opp. lat. var.," 6, 
p. 385 (" Briefwechsel," 3, p. 433). 

3 To Count Albert of Mansfeld, from Eisenach, May 9, 1521, 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 74 (" Briefwechsel," 3, p. 144). 



86 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

he declared that he " believed the Bull to be real and 
authentic," 1 and yet at that very time, in his " Von den 
ne wen Eckischenn Bullen und Lugen," he brought forward 
four reasons for its being a forgery, and strove to make out 
that the document was, not the work of the Pope, but a 
" tissue of lies " woven by Eck. 2 

His tactics had been the same in the case of an edict 
directed against him by the Bishop of Meissen, the first of 
the German episcopate to take action. He knew very well 
that the enactment was genuine. Yet he wrote in reply 
the " Antwort auff die Tzedel sso unter des Officials tzu 
Stolpen Sigel ist aussgangen," as though the writer were 
some unknown opponent, who ..." had lost his wits on 
the Gecksberg." 3 

A similar artifice was made to serve his purpose in the 
matter of the Papal Brief of Aug. 23, 1518, in which Cardinal 
Cajetan received full powers to proceed against him. He 
insisted that this was a malicious fabrication of his foes in 
Germany ; and yet he was well aware of the facts of the 
case ; he cannot have doubted its authenticity, seeing that 
the Brief had been officially transmitted to him from the 
Saxon Court through Spalatin. 4 

While, however, accusing others of deception, even 
occasionally by name, as in Eck s case, he saw no wrong in 
antedating his letter to Leo X ; for this neither he nor his 
adviser Miltitz was to be called to account ; it sufficed that 
by dating it earlier the letter appeared to have been written 
in ignorance of the Excommunication, and thereby served 
Luther s interests better. 5 

In fact, right through the period previous to his open 
breach with Rome, we see him ever labouring to postpone the 
decision, though a great gulf already separated him from the 
Church of yore. Across the phantom bridge which still 
spanned the chasm, he saw with satisfaction thousands 
passing into his own camp. When on the very point of 

1 To Spalatin, (11) October^ 1520, " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 491: 
" credo veram et propriam esse bullam." 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 592 ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 29 ff. 

3 Ibid., p. 138=27, p. 80, in February, 1520. 

4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, pp. 214, 759. 

6 The letter was written after Oct. 13, 1520, but is dated Sep. 6, the 
Excommunication having been published on Sep. 21. Cp. Miltitz to 
the Elector of Saxony, Oct. 14, 1520, in Enders, " Brief wechsel 
Luthers," 2, p. 495, n. 3. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 87 

raising the standard of revolt he seemed at pains to prove it 
anything but an emblem of uprightness, probity and truth. 

Passing now to the struggle of his later life, similar 
phenomena can scarcely escape the eyes of the unprejudiced 
observer. 

He was proposing untruth and deception when, in 1520, 
he advised candidates to qualify for major Orders by a 
fictitious vow of celibacy. Whoever was to be ordained 
subdeacon was to urge the Bishop not to demand continency, 
but should the Bishop insist upon the law and call for 
such a promise, then the candidates were quietly to 
give it with the proviso : " quantum fragilitas humana 
permittit " ; then, says Luther, " each one is free to take 
these words in a negative sense, i.e. I do not vow chastity 
because human frailty does not allow of a man living 
chastely." 1 

To what lengths he was prepared to go, even where 
members of Reformed sects were concerned, may be seen 
in one of his many unjust outbursts against Zwingli and 
(Ecolampadius. Although they were suffering injustice 
and violence, yet he denounced them mercilessly. They 
were to be proclaimed " damned," even though this led to 
" violence being offered them " ; this was the best way to 
make people shrink from their false doctrines. 2 His own 
doctrines, on the other hand, he says, are such that not even 
Catholics dared to condemn them. On his return to Witten 
berg from the Coburg he preached, that the Papists had 
been forced to admit that his doctrine did not offend against 
a single article of the Faith. 3 Of Carlstadt, his theological 
child of trouble, he asserted, that he wished to play the part 
of teacher of Holy Scripture though he had never in all his 
life even seen the Bible, 4 and yet all, Luther inclusive, knew 
that Carlstadt was not so ignorant of the Bible and that 
he could even boast of a considerable acquaintance with 
Hebrew. Concerning Luther s persecution of Carlstadt, a 
Protestant researcher has pointed to the " ever-recurring 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 441 f. ; Erl. eel., 21, p. 323 f. 

2 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 279 : " It was much better and safer 
to declare them damned than saved." 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 32, 1906, p. 133, sermons here printed for 
the first time. 

4 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 240. 



88 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

flood of misrepresentations, suspicions, vituperation and 
abuse which the Reformer poured upon his opponent." 1 

Such being his licence of speech, what treatment could 
Catholics expect at his hands ? One instance is to be found 
in the use he makes against the Catholics of a well-known 
passage of St. Bernard s. 

St. Bernard, says Luther, had declared the religious life to be 
worthless and had said : " Perdite vixi " ("I have shamefully 
wasted my life "). The great Saint of the religious life, the 
noblest patron and representative of the virtues of the cloister, 
Luther depicts as condemning with these words the religious life 
in general as an abominable error ; he would have him brand 
his own life and his attention to his vows, as an existence foreign 
to God which he had too late recognised as such ! By this state 
ment, says Luther, he " hung up his cowl on the nail," and 
proceeds to explain his meaning : " Henceforward he cared not 
a bit for the cowl and its foolery and refused to hear any more 
about it." 2 Thus, so Luther assures us, St. Bernard, at the 
solemn moment of quitting this world, " made nothing " (" nihili 
fecit ") of his vows. 3 

When quoting the words " Perdite vixi " Luther frequently 
seeks to convey an admission on the Saint s part of his having 
come at last to see that the religious life was a mistake, and 
merely led people to forget Christ s merits ; that he had at last 
attained the perception during sickness and had laid hold on 
Christ s merits as his only hope. 4 Even on internal grounds it is 
too much to assume Luther to have been in good faith, or merely 
guilty of a lapse of memory. That we have here to do with a 
distorted version of a perfectly harmless remark is proved to the 
historian by another passage, dating from the year 1518, where 
Luther himself refers quite simply and truly to the actual words 
employed by St. Bernard and sees in them merely an expression 
of humility and the admission of a pure heart, which detested 
the smallest of its faults. 5 

Denifle has followed up the " Perdite vixi " with great acumen, 
shown the frequent use Luther made of it and traced the words 
to their actual context in St. Bernard s writings. The text does 
not contain the faintest condemnation of the religious life, so 
that Luther s incessant misuse of it becomes only the more 
incomprehensible. 8 

1 Barge, " Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt," 2, p. 223. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 47, p. 37 f. 

3 Ibid., Weim. ed., 8, p. 658 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 6, p. 360. 

4 Ibid., p. 601 = p. 278. 

6 Ibid., 1, p. 323=1, p. 338 ; 1, p. 534=2, p. 142. 

6 Denifle, " Luther," I 2 , p. 44. Denifle has shown that the passage 
in question occurs in the form of a prayer in St. Bernard s " Sermo XX 
in Cantica " " P.L.," 183, col. 867 : " De mea misera vita suscipe 
(Deus), obsecro, residuum annorum meorum ; pro his ve.ro (annis) quos 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 89 

St. Bernard is here speaking solely of his own faults and 
imperfections, not at all of the religious life or of the vows. Nor 
were the words uttered on his death-bed, when face to face with 
eternity, but occur in a sermon preached in the full vigour of 
manhood and when the Saint was eagerly pursuing his monastic 
ideal. 

Again, what things were not circulated by Luther, in the 
stress of his warfare, concerning the history of the Popes 
and the Church ? Here, again, some of his statements were 
not simply errors made in good faith, but, as has been 
pointed out by Protestant historians, malicious inventions 
going far beyond the matter contained in the sources which 
\ve know to have been at his command. The Popes 
" poisoned several Emperors, beheaded or otherwise be 
trayed others and put them to death, as became the 
diabolical spectre of the Papacy." 1 The bloodthirsty Popes 
were desirous of " slaying the German Emperors, as 
Clement IV did with Conradin, the last Duke of Suabia and 
hereditary King of Naples, whom he caused to be publicly 
put to death by the sword." 2 Of this E. Schafer rightly 
says, that the historian Sabellicus, whom Luther was 
utilising, simply (and truly) records that : " Conradin was 
taken while attempting to escape and was put to death by 
order of Charles [of Anjou] " ; Clement IV Sabellicus does 
not mention at all, although it is true that the Pope \vas a 
strong opponent of the Staufen house. 3 

The so-called letter of St. Ulrich of Augsburg against 
clerical celibacy, with the account of 3000 (6000) babies 
heads found in a pond belonging to St. Gregory s nunnery 
in Rome, is admittedly one of the most impudent forgeries 
found in history and emanated from some foe of Gregory VII 
and opponent of the ancient law of celibacy. Luther 
brought it out as a weapon in his struggle against celibacy, 
and, according to Kostlin-Kawerau, most probably the 
Preface to the printed text published at Wittenberg in 1520 

vivendo perdidi, quia perdite vixi, cor contritum et humiliatum Deus non 
despicias. Dies mei sicut umbra declinaverunt et prceterierunt sine 
fruciu. Impossibile est, ut revocem ; placeat, ut recogitem tibi eos in 
amaritudine animce mece." Denifle points out that the sermon in 
question was preached about 1136 or 1137, about sixteen years before 
Bernard s death, thus certainly not in his last illness. 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 249. 2 Ibid., p. 145 ; cp. p. 204. 

3 " Luther als Kirchenhistoriker," Giitersloh, 1897, p. 391, referring 
to Sabellicus, " Rhapsod. hist. Ennead.," 9, 8. 



90 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

came from his pen. 1 The manuscript had been sent to 
Luther from Holland. Emser took him to task and proved 
the forgery, though on not very substantial grounds. Luther 
demurred to one of his arguments but declared that he did 
not build merely on a doubtful letter. In spite of this, 
however, the seditious and alluring fable was not only not 
withdrawn from circulation but actually reprinted. When 
Luther said later that celibacy had first been introduced in 
the time of St. Ulrich, he is again speaking on the authority 
of the supposititious letter. This letter was also worked for 
all it was worth by those who later took up the defence of 
Luther s teaching. 2 

To take one single example of Luther s waywardness in 
speaking of Popes who were almost contemporaries : He 
tells us with the utmost assurance that Alexander VI had 
been an " unbelieving Marane." However much we may 
execrate the memory of the Borgia Pope, still so extra 
ordinary an assertion has never been made by any sensible 
historian. Alexander VI, the pretended Jewish convert and 
" infidel " on the Papal throne ! Who could read his heart 
so well as to detect an infidelity, which, needless to say, he 
never acknowledged ? Who can credit the tale of his being a 
Marane ? 

When, in July 14, 1537, Pope Paul III issued a Bull grant 
ing an indulgence for the war against the Turks, Luther at 
once published it with misleading notes in which he sought 
to show that the Popes, instead of linking up the Christian 
powers against their foes, had ever done their best to promote 
dissensions amongst the great monarchs of Christendom. 3 

In 1538 he sent to the press his Schmalkalden " Artickel " 
against the Pope and the prospective Council, adding 
observations of a questionable character regarding their 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 766, p. 350, n. 1. For the literature 
dealing with the Ulrich fable, see N. Paulus, " Die Dominikaner im 
Kampfe gegen Luther," p. 253; and particularly J. Haussleiter, 
" Beitrage zur bayerischen KG.," 6, p. 121 f. 

2 Cp. Mathesius, " Historien," p. 40, and Flacius Illyricus in his two 
separate editions of the letter. Flacius also incorporated the Ulrich 
letter in his " Catalogue testium veritatis " and repeatedly referred to 
it in his controversial writings. See J. Niemoller s article on the 
mendacity of a certain class of historical literature in the 16th century, 
"Flacius und Flacianismus " (" Zeitschr. f. kath. Theol.," 12, 1888, 
pp. 75-115, particularly p. 107 i .). 

3 Cp. Knaake, " Zeitschr. fur luth. Theol.," 1876, p. 362. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 91 

history and meaning. He certainly was exalting unduly 
the Articles when he declared in the Introduction, that 
" they have been unanimously accepted and approved by 
our people." It is a matter of common knowledge, that, 
owing to Melanchthon s machinations, they had never even 
been discussed. (See vol. iii., p. 434.) They were neverthe 
less published as though they had been the official scheme 
drafted for presentation to the Council. Luther also put 
into the printed Artickel words which are not to be found 
in the original. 1 The following excuse of his statement as 
to their having been accepted at Schmalkaldeii has been 
made : " It is evident, that, owing to his grave illness at 
Schmalkalden, he never learnt the exact fate of his Articles." 
Yet who can believe, that, after his recovery, he did not 
make enquiries into what had become of the Articles on 
which he laid so much weight, or that he " never learnt " 
their fate, though the matter was one well known to both 
the Princes and the theologians ? Only after his death were 
these Articles embodied in the official Confessions. 2 

Seeing that he was ready to misrepresent even the official 
proceedings of his own party, we cannot be surprised if, in 
his controversies, he was careless about the truth where the 
person of an opponent was concerned. Here it is not always 
possible to find even a shadow of excuse behind which he 
can take refuge. Of Erasmus s end he had received accounts 
from two quarters, both friendly to his cause, but they did 
not strike him as sufficiently damning. Accordingly he at 
once set in currency reports concerning the scholar s death 
utterly at variance with what he had learnt from the letters 
in question. 3 He accused the Catholics, particularly the 
Catholic Princes, of attempting to murder him, and fre 
quently speaks of the hired braves sent out against him. 
Nor were his friends and pupils slow to take his words 
literally and to hurl such charges, more particularly against 
Duke George of Saxony. 4 Yet not a single attempt on his 
life can be proved, and even Protestants have admitted 
concerning the Duke that " nothing credible is known of 

1 Cp. Kolde on Luther s " private print," in Miiller, " Bekenntnis- 
schriften " 10 , p. xxvi., n. 1. 

2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 397 f. 

3 For proofs from Luther s correspondence, vol. xi., see the article of 
N. Paulus in the " Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1908, p. 220. On 
Erasmus, see below, p. 93. 

4 " Ratzebergers Chronik," ed. Neudecker, p. 69 f. 



92 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

any attempt on George s part to assassinate Luther." 1 
Cochlaeus merely relates that murderers had offered their 
services to Duke George ; 2 beyond that nothing. 

Far more serious than such misrepresenting of individuals 
was the injustice he did to the whole ecclesiastical life of the 
Middle Ages, which he would fain have made out to have 
entirely fallen away from the true standard of Christian 
faith and practice. Seen through his new glasses, mediaeval 
life was distorted beyond all recognition. Walter Kohler 
gives a warning which is to the point : " Protestant 
historians must beware of looking at the Middle Ages from 
Luther s standpoint." 3 In particular was mediaeval 
Scholasticism selected by Luther and his friends as a butt 
for attack and misrepresentation. Bucer admits in a letter 
to Bullinger how far they had gone in this respect : " We 
have treated all the Schoolmen in such a way as to shock 
many good and worthy men, who see that we have not read 
their works but are merely anxious to slander them out of 
prudence." 4 

However desirous we may be of crediting the later 
Luther with good faith in his distorted views of Catholic 
practices and doctrines, still he frequently goes so far in this 
respect as to make it extremely difficult to believe that his 
misrepresentations were based on mere error or actual 
conviction. One would have thought that he would at 
least have noticed the blatant contrast between his insinua 
tions and the text of the Breviary and Missal books with 
which he was thoroughly conversant and even of the rule 
of his Order. As a monk and priest he was perfectly 
familiar with them ; only at the cost of a violent wrench 
could he have passed from this so different theological 
world to think as he ultimately did of the doctrines of 
Catholicism. Dollinger was quite right when he wrote : 
" As a controversialist Luther combined undeniably 
dialectic and rhetorical talent with a degree of unscrupulous- 
ness such as is rarely met with in this domain. One of his 
most ordinary methods was to distort a doctrine or institu 
tion into a mere caricature of itself, and then, forgetful of 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. G62, p. 307, n. 1. 

2 Joh. Karl Seidemann, " Beitrage zur RG.," 1845 ff., p. 137. 

3 " Katholizismus und Reformation," p. 45. 

* Letter to Bullinger, 1535, " Corp. ref.," 10, p. 138. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 93 

the fact that what he was fighting was a simple creation 
of his fancy, to launch out into righteous abuse of it. ... 
So soon as he touches a theological question, he confuses it, 
often of set purpose, and as for the reasons of his opponents, 
they are mutilated and distorted out of all recognition." 1 
The untruthfulness of his polemics is peculiarly apparent 
in his attack on free-will. It is impossible, even with the 
best of intentions, to put it all, or practically all, to the 
account " of the method of disputation " then in use. That 
method, the syllogistic one, called for a clear and accurate 
statement of the opponent s standpoint. The controversy 
round " De servo arbitrio " (fully dealt with in vol. ii., pp. 
223-294) has recently been studied by two scholars, one a 
Protestant, the other a Catholic, and both authors on the 
whole agree at least on one point, viz. that Luther ascribed 
to his opponent a denial of the necessity of Grace, such as 
the latter never defended, and such as is quite unknown to 
Catholics. 2 Indeed, at a later juncture in that same con 
troversy Luther even declared of the author of the " Hyper- 
aspistes " that he denied the Trinity ! 3 

Instead of instancing anew all the many minor mis 
representations of the dogmas and practices of the older 
Church for which Luther was responsible, and which are 
found scattered throughout this work, we may confine our 
selves to recalling his bold assertion, that all earlier ex 
positors had taken the passage concerning " God s justice," 
in Rom. i. 17, as referring to punitive justice. 4 This was what 

1 " Luther, eine Skizze," p. 56 f.; " KL.," 8 2 , col. 342 f. 

2 K. Zickendraht, " Der Streit zwischen Erasmus und Luther iiber 
die Willensfreiheit," Leipzig, 1909, admits at least concerning some of 
Luther s assertions in the " De servo arbitrio," that " he was led away 
by the wish to draw wrong inferences from his opponent s premises " ; 
for instance, in asserting that Erasmus " outdid the Pelagians " ; by 
reading much into Erasmus which was not there he brought charges 
against him which are " manifestly false " (p. 81). Luther sought " to 
transplant the seed sown by Erasmus from its native soil to his own 
field " (p. 79) ; the ideas of Erasmus " were interpreted agreeably to 
Luther s own ways and logic" (cp. p. v.); it would not be right 
" simply to take for granted that Luther s supposed allies (such as 
Laurentius Valla, De libero arbitrio ; cp. Werke, Erl. ed., 58, 
p. 237 ff.) in the struggle with Erasmus, really were what he made them 
out to be " (p. 2). H. Humbertclaude, " Erasme et Luther, leur 
polemique sur le libre arbitre," Paris, 1910, lays still greater stress on 
the injustice done to Erasmus by Luther. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 531 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 523. 
Cp. Enders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 9, p. 253, n. 3, and our vol. ii., 
p. 398 f. 4 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 7, p. 74. Cp. our vol. i., p. 400 f. 



he taught from his professor s chair and what we find 
vouched for in the notes of a zealous pupil of whose fidelity 
there can be no question. And yet it has been proved, that, 
with the possible exception of Abelard, not one can be 
found who thus explained the passage of which Luther 
speaks (" hunc locum "), whilst Luther himself was ac 
quainted with some at- least of the more than sixty com 
mentators who interpret it otherwise. Significant enough 
is the fact that he only reached this false interpretation 
gradually. 

Luther also says that he and all the others had been told 
it was a mortal sin to leave their cell without their scapular, 
though he never attempts to prove that this was the general 
opinion, or was even held by anybody. The rule of his 
Order rejected such exaggeration. All theologians were 
agreed that such trifles did not constitute a grievous sin. 
Luther was perfectly aware that Gerson, who was much 
read in the monasteries, was one of these theologians ; he 
praised him, because, though looked at askance at Rome, 
he set consciences free from over-great scrupulosity and 
refused to brand the non-wearing of the scapular as a crime. 1 
Gerson was indeed not favourably regarded in Rome, but 
this was for other reasons, not, as Luther makes out, on 
account of such common-sense teaching as the above. 

Then again we have the untruth he is never tired of 
reiterating, viz. that in the older Church people thought 
they could be saved only by means of works, and that, 
through want of faith in Christ, the " Church had become 
a whore." 2 Yet ecclesiastical literature in Luther s day no 
less than in ours, and likewise an abundance of documents 
bearing on the point teach quite tha contrary and make faith 
in Christ the basis of all the good works enjoined. 3 All were 
aware, as Luther himself once had been, that outward 
works taken by themselves were worthless. And yet Luther, 
in one of the charges which he repeated again and again, 
though at the outset he cannot have believed it, says : " The 
question is, how we are to become pious. The Grey Friar 
says : Wear a grey hood, a rope and the tonsure. The 
Black Friar says : Put on a black frock. The Papist : Do 

1 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 41. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 391 (" Tischreden "). 

3 Cp. e.g. the summarised teaching of an eminent theologian, Denis 
the Carthusian, in Krogh-Tonning, " Der letzte Scholastiker," 1904. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 95 

this or that good work, hear Mass, pray, fast, give alms, 
etc., and each one whatever he fancies will help him to be 
saved. But the Christian says : Only by faith in Christ can 
you become pious, and righteous and secure salvation ; 
only through Grace alone, without any work or merits of 
your own. Now look and see which is true righteousness." 1 
Let us listen for a moment to the indignant voice of a 
learned Catholic contemporary, viz. the Saxon Dominican, 
Bartholomew Kleindienst, himself for a while not unfavour 
able to the new errors, who, in 1560, replied to Luther s 
misrepresentations : " Some of the leaders of sects are such 
impudent liars as, contrary to their own conscience, to 
persuade the poor people to believe, that we Catholics of 
the present day, or as they term us Papists, do not believe 
what the old Papists believed ; we no longer think any 
thing of Christ, but worship the Saints, not merely as the 
friends of God but as gods themselves ; nay, we look upon 
the Pope as our God ; we Avish to gain heaven by means 
of our works, without God s Grace ; we do not believe in 
Holy Writ ; have no proper Bible and should be unable 
to read it if we had ; trust more in holy w r ater than in 
the blood of Christ. . . . Numberless such-like horrible, 
blasphemous arid hitherto unheard-of lies they invent and 
use against us. The initiate are well aware that this is the 
chief trick of the sects, w r hereby they render the Papacy an 
abomination to simple and otherwise well-disposed folk." 2 

But had not Luther, carried away by his zeal against the 
Papists, taken his stand on the assumption, that, against 
the deception and depravity of the Papal Antichrist, every 
weapon was good provided only that it helped to save souls ? 
Such at any rate was his plea in justification of his work 
"An den christlichen Adel." 3 Again, during the menacing 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 391. 

2 From Kleindienst, " Ein recht catholisch Ermanung an seine 
lieben Teutschen," Dillingen, 1560, Paulus, " Die deutschen Domini- 
kaner," etc., 1903, p. 276. 

3 To Johann Lang, Aug. 18, 1520, " Briefwechsel," 2, p. 461 : 
" Nos hie persuasi sumus, papatum esse veri et germani illius Antichristi 
sedem, in cuius deceptionem et nequitiam ob salutem animarum nobis 
omnia licere arbitramur." This must not be translated " to their 
deceiving and destruction," but, " against their trickery and malice." 
The passage strictly refers to his passionate work " An den Christ- 
lichen Adel," but seems also to be intended generally. 



96 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Diet of Augsburg, when recommending the use of the 
questionable " Gospel-proviso," he let fall the following in a 
letter : Even " tricks and failings " (" doli et lapsus "), should 
they occur amongst his followers in their resistance to the 
Papists, " can easily be atoned for once we have escaped 
the danger." 1 He even adds : " For God s Mercy watches 
over us." 

In the midst of the double-dealing then in progress 
Luther again appealed to Christ in his letter to Wenceslaus 
Link on Sep. 20, 1530, where he says : Christ " would be 
well pleased with such deceit and would scornfully cheat 
the [Papist] deceivers, as he hoped," i.e. raise false hopes 
that the Lutherans would yield ; later they would find out 
their mistake, and that they had been fooled. Here is my 
view of the matter, he continues, " I am secure, that with 
out my consent, their consent [the concessions of Melanch- 
thon and his friends at the Diet] is invalid. Even were I 
too to agree with these blasphemers, murderers and faithless 
monsters, yet the Church and [above all] the teaching of 
the Gospel would not consent." This was his " Gospel- 
proviso," thanks to which all the concessions, doctrinal or 
moral, however solemnly granted by him or by his followers, 
might be declared invalid " once we have escaped the 
danger." (See vol. iii., p. 337 ff.) 

The underhandedness which he advocated in order that 
the people might not be made aware of the abrogation of 
the Mass, has been considered above (vol. ii., p. 321). 
Another strange trick on his part likewise for the better 
furtherance of his cause was his attempt to persuade the 
Bishop of Samland, George von Polenz, who had fallen away 
from the Church and joined him, " to proceed with caution "; 

1 To Melanchthon, Aug. 28, 1530, " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 235. Cp. 
vol. ii., p. 386. Luther says: " dolos et lapsus nostroa facile emenda- 
bimus " ; thus assuming his part of the responsibility. The explana 
tion that he is speaking merely of the mistakes which Melanchthon 
might make, and simply wished " to console and sympathise with him," 
is too far-fetched to be true. In his edition of the " Brief wechsel " 
Enders has struck out the word " mendacia " after " dolos," though 
wrongly, as we shall see in vol. vi., xxxvi., 4. According to Enders the 
handwriting is too faint for it to be accepted as genuine. As there is 
no original of the letter the question remains how it came into the old 
copies which were in Lutheran hands. In any case, such an interpella 
tion would be more difficult to understand than its removal. Cp. also 
Luther s own justification of such mendacia in 1524 and 1528, given 
below on p. 109 ff. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 97 

" therefore that it would be useful foi 1 him [the Bishop] 
to appear to suspend his judgment (" ut velut suspendens sen- 
tentiam appareret ) ; to wait until the people had consented, 
and then throw in his weight as though he had been con 
quered by their arguments." 1 Couched in Luther s ordinary 
language this would mean that the Bishop was to pretend 
to be wavering between Christ and Antichrist, between 
hell and the Evangel, though any such wavering, to say 
nothing of any actual yielding, would have been a capital 
crime against religion. At the best the Bishop could only 
hypocritically feign to be wavering in spite of the other public 
steps he had taken in Luther s favour and of which the 
latter was well aware. 

Later, in 1545, considering the " deception and depravity " 
of the Papacy Luther thought himself justified in insinu 
ating in a writing against the Catholic Duke Henry of 
Brunswick, 2 then a prisoner, that the Pope had furnished 
him supplies for his unfortunate Avarlike enterprise against 
the allies of the evangelical confession. 

Of this there was not the shadow of a proof. The contrary is 
clear from Protestant documents and protocols. 3 The Court of 
the Saxon Electorate, where an insult to the Emperor was 
apprehended, was aghast at Luther s resolve to publish the 
charge concerning the " equipment from Italy," and Chancellor 
Briick hastened to request him to alter the proofs for fear of evil 
consequences. 4 Luther, however, was in no mood to yield ; the 
writing comprising this malicious insinuation and other false 
hoods was even addressed in the form of a letter to the Saxon 
Elector and the allied Princes. At the same time the author, both 
in the text and in his correspondence, gave the impression that 
the writing had been composed without the Elector s knowledge 
and only at the request of " many others, some of them great 
men," though in reality, as Protestants admit, the " work had 
been written to order," viz. at the instigation of the Electoral 
Court. 5 

" We all know," Luther says, seemingly with the utmost 
gravity, in this work against the Duke, " that Pope and Papists 
desire our death, body and soul. We, on the other hand, desire 

1 To the apostate Franciscan Johann Briesmann, July 4, 1524, 
" Briefwechsel," 4, p. 360. These instructions to the preacher who was 
to work for the apostasy of the Teutonic Order in Prussia are character 
istic of Luther s diplomacy. Cp. the directions to Martin Weier (above, 
vol. ii., p. 323). 2 " Briefe," 6, p. 386 ff. 

3 Cp. v. Druffel in the " SB. der bayer. Akad., phil.-hist. Kl.," 2, 
1888, and " Forschungen zur deutschen Gesch.," 25, p. 71. 

4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 693, p. 612, n. 1. 5 Ibid., p. 612. 

IV. H 



98 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

to save them with us, soul and body." l There is no need to waste 
words on the intentions here ascribed to the Papists. As to 
Luther s own good intentions so far as the material welfare of 
the Papists goes, what he says does not tally with the wish he so 
loudly expressed at that very time for the bloody destruction of 
the Pope. Further, as regards the Papists souls, what he said 
of his great opponent, Archbishop Albert of Mayence, deserves 
to be mentioned : " He died impenitent in his sins and must be 
damned eternally, else the Christian faith is all wrong." 2 Did 
Luther perhaps write this with a heavy heart ? Yet he also 
condemns in advance the soul of the unhappy Duke of Bruns 
wick, " seeing there is no hope of his amendment," and " even 
though he should feign to repent and become more pious," yet 
he would not be trusted since " he might pretend to repent and 
amend merely in order to climb back to honour, lands and people, 
which assuredly would be nothing but a false and foxy repent 
ance." 3 Hence he insists upon the Princes refusing to release 
the Duke. But even his own friends will not consider his religious 
motives for this very profound or genuine, for instance, when he 
says : Were he to be released, " many pious hearts would be 
saddened and their prayers for your Serene Highnesses become 
tepid and cold." 4 His political reasons were no less founded on 
untruth. The only object of the League of the Catholic Princes 
was to seize upon the property of the evangelical Princes ; " they 
were thinking, not of the Christian faith, but of the lands of the 
Elector and the Landgrave " ; they have made " one league 
after the other " and now " call it a defensive one, as though 
forsooth they were in danger," whereas " we for our part have 
without intermission prayed, implored, called and cried for 
peace." 5 

While Luther was himself playing fast and loose with 
truth, he was not slow to accuse his opponents of lying even 
when they presented matters as they really were. When 
Eck published the Bull of Excommunication, which Luther 
himself knew to be authentic, he was roundly rated for 
saying that his "tissue of lies " was "the Pope s work." 6 
In fact, in all and everything that Catholics undertake 
against his cause, they are seeking " to deceive us and the 
common people, though well aware of the contrary. . . . 
You see how they seek the truth. . . . They are rascals 
incarnate." 7 In fighting against the lies of his opponents 
Luther, once, curiously enough in his writing " Widder 
die hymelischen Propheten " actually takes the Pope under 

1 " Briefe," 6, p. 401. 2 Ibid., p. 386. 
3 Ibid. 4 Ibid., p. 387. 5 Ibid., p. 391. 

c " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 592 ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 29. 
7 Ibid., 26, p. 532 f. = 63, p. 276. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 99 

his protection against the calumnies of his Wittenberg 
opponent Carlstadt ; seeking to brand him as a liar, he 
declares that he " was notoriously telling lies of the Pope." 

We already know how much Carlstadt had to complain 
of Luther s lying and fickleness. 

This leads to a short review of the remarks made by 
Luther s then opponents and friends concerning his want of 
truthfulness. 

2. Opinions of Contemporaries in either Camp 

Luther s work against Duke Henry of Brunswick entitled 
" Wider Hans Worst " was so crammed with malice and 
falsehoods that even some of Luther s followers were 
disposed to complain of its unseemliness. Simon Wilde, 
who was then studying medicine at Wittenberg, wrote on 
April 8, 1541, when forwarding to his uncle the Town Clerk, 
Stephen Roth of Zwickau, a copy of the booklet which had 
just appeared : " I am sending you a little work of Dr. 
Martin against the Duke of Brunswick which bristles with 
calumnies, but which also [so he says] contains much that is 
good, and may be productive of something amongst the 
virtuous." 1 

Statements adverse to Luther s truthfulness emanating 
from the Protestant side are not rare ; particularly are they 
met with in the case of theologians who had had to suffer 
from his violence ; nor can their complaints be entirely 
disallowed simply because they came from men who were 
in conflict with him, though the circumstance would call for 
caution in making use of them were the complaints not 
otherwise corroborated. 

QEcolampadius in his letter to Zwingli of April 20, 1525, 
calls Luther a " master in calumny, and prince of sophists." 2 

The Strasburg preachers Bucer and Capito, though 
reputed for their comparative moderation, wrote of one of 
Luther s works on the Sacrament, that " never had anything 
more sophistical and calumnious seen the light." 3 

1 G. Buchwald, " Simon Wilde " (" Mitt, der deutschen Gesell- 
schaft zur Erforschung vaterland. Sprache und Altertums in Leipzig," 
9, 1894, p. 61 ff.), p. 95 : " libellum calumniis refertissimum." 

2 " Zwinglii Opp.," 8, p. 165: " calumniandi magister ct sophis- 
tarum princeps." 

3 Letter to J. Vadian, April 14, 1528, " Die Vadianische Brief- 
sammlung," 4, p. 101. "Mitt, zur vaterl. Gesch. von St. Gallen," 28, 
1902. 



100 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Thomas Miinzer repeatedly calls his enemy Luther "Dr. 
Liar " and " Dr. Lyinglips," 1 on account of the unkind- 
ness of his polemics ; more picturesquely he has it on one 
occasion, that " he lied from the bottom of his gullet." 2 

Bucer complains in terms of strong disapprobation, that, 
when engaged with his foes, Luther was wont to misrepresent 
and distort their doctrines in order the more readily to gain the 
upper hand, at least in the estimation of the multitude. He 
finds that " in many places " he has " rendered the doctrines 
and arguments of the opposite side with manifest untruth," for 
which the critic is sorry, since this " gave rise to grave doubts 
and temptations " amongst those who detected this practice, 
and diminished their respect for the Evangelical teaching. 3 

The Lutheran, Hieronymus Pappus, sending Luther s work 
" Wider Hans Worst " to Joachim Vadian, declared : "In 
calumny he does not seem to me to have his equal." 4 

Johann Agricola, once Luther s friend, and then, on account 
of his Antinomianism, his adversary, brings against Luther 
various charges in his Notes (see above, vol. iii., p. 278) ; the 
worst refer to his " lying." God will punish Luther, he writes, 
referring to his work " Against the Antinomians " ; "he has 
heaped too many lies on me before all the world." Luther had 
said that Agricola denied the necessity of prayer or good works ; 
this the latter, appealing to his witnesses, brands as an " abomin 
able lie." He characterises the whole tract as " full of lies," 5 and, 
in point of fact, there is no doubt it did contain the worst ex 
aggerations. 

Among the writers of the opposite camp the first place is due 
to Erasmus. Of one of the many distortions of his meaning com 
mitted by Luther he says : " It is true I never look for modera 
tion in Luther, but for so malicious a calumny I was certainly 
not prepared." 6 Elsewhere he flings in his face the threat : " I 
shall show everybody what a master you are in the art of mis 
representation, defamation, calumny and exaggeration. But 
the world knows this already. ... In your sly way you contrive 
to twist even what is absolutely true, whenever it is to your 

1 " Neudrucke deutscher Literaturwerke," Hft. 118, 1893, pp. 19, 

29, etc. 

2 Cp. Miinzer in Enders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 4, p. 374, n. 6. 
Ibid., p. 373, n. 1, " the mendacious Luther." 

3 " Vergleichung D. Luthers und seines Gegenteiles vom Abendmahl 
Christi," 1528, p. 23. 

4 " Vadianische Brief sammlung," 6, p. 16 (" Mitt. z. v. G. v. S.G."), 

30, 1, 1906) : Pappus calls the book : " librum famosissimum, plaustra 
et carros convitiorum. Misereor huius tarn felicissimi ingenii, quod 
tantis se immiscet sordibus ; et profecto, ut est Lutherus vertendo et docendo 
inimitabilis, ita mihi iam quoque videtur calumniando non parem 
habere." Letter of April 13, 1541. Pappus was Burgomaster of 
Lindau. 

5 E. Thiele, " Theol. Stud, und Krit.," 1907, p. 265 f. 

6 " Ep.," 1, 18 ; " Opp.," 3, col. 1056. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 101 

interest to do so. You know how to turn black into white and 
to make light out of darkness." 1 Disgusted with Luther s methods, 
he finally became quite resigned even to worse things. He writes : 
" I have received Luther s letter ; it is simply the work of a 
madman. He is not in the least ashamed of his infamous lies 
and promises to do even worse. What can those people be think 
ing of who confide their souls and their earthly destiny to a man 
who allows himself to be thus carried away by passion ? " 2 

The polemic, Franz Arnoldi, tells Luther, that one of his works 
contains " as many lies as words." 3 

Johann Dietenberger likewise says, referring to a newly 
published book of Luther s which he had been studying : " He 
is the most mendacious man under the sky." 4 

Paul Bachmann, shortly after the appearance of Luther s 
booklet " Von der Winckelmesse," in his comments on it emits 
the indignant remark : " Luther s lies are taller even than Mount 
Olympus." 5 

" This is no mere erring man," Bachmann also writes of Luther, 
" but the wicked devil himself to whom no lie, deception or 
falsehood is too much." 6 

Johann Eck sums up his opinion of Luther s truthfulness in 
these words : " He is a man who simply bristles with lies ( homo 
totus mendaciis scatens )". 7 The Ingolstadt theologian, like 
Bartholomew Kleindienst (above, p. 95), was particularly struck 
by Luther s parody of Catholic doctrine. Willibald Pirkheimer s 
words in 1528 we already know. 8 

We pass over similar unkindly epithets hurled at him by 
indignant Catholic clerics, secular, or regular. The latter, 
particularly, speaking with full knowledge and therefore all the 
more indignantly, describe as it deserves what he says of vows, 
as a glaring lie, of the falsehood of which Luther, the quondam 
monk, must have been fully aware. 

Of the Catholic Princes who were capable of forming an 
opinion, Duke George of Saxony with his downright language 
must be mentioned first. In connection with the Pack negotia 
tions he says that Luther is the " most cold-blooded liar he had 
ever come across." " We must say and write of him, that the 
apostate monk lies like a desperate, dishonourable and for 
sworn miscreant." " We have yet to learn from Holy Scripture 
that Christ ever bestowed the mission of an Apostle on such an 

1 " Hypcraspistes," 1, 9, col. 1043. 

2 Letter to George Agricola, in Buchwald, " Zeitschr. fur kirchl. 
Wissenschaft und kirchl. Leben," 5, Leipzig, 1884, p. 56. 

3 " Antwort auf das Buchlein," 1531. " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 89. 

4 " De votis monasticis," 1, 2, Colon., 1524, Bl. S 5 : "Omnium 
mendacissimus, qui sub ccelo vivunt, hominum." 

5 " Lobgesang auff des Luthers Winckelmesse," Leipzig, 1534, Bl. 
E 2 . The author was Abbot of Altzelle. 

6 " Ein Maulstreich dem lutherischen liigenhaften, weit aufges- 
perrten Rachen," Dresden, 1534. See above, vol. ii., p. 147. 

8 See vol. ii., p. 40 : " Quum ita frontem perfricucrit, ut a nullo 
abslineut mendacio, " etc. 



102 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

open and deliberate liar or sent him to proclaim the Gospel." 1 
Elsewhere he reminds Luther of our Lord s words : " By their 
fruits you shall know them " : To judge of the spirit from the 
fruits, Luther s spirit must be a "spirit of lying"; indeed, 
Luther proved himself " possessed of the spirit of lies." 2 

3. The Psychological Problem 
Self-suggestion and Scriptural Grounds of Excuse 
Not merely isolated statements, but whole series of 
regularly recurring assertions in Luther s works, constitute 
a real problem, and, instead of challenging refutation make 
one ask how their author could possibly have come to utter 
and make such things his own. 

A Curious Mania. 

He never tires of telling the public, or friends and supporters 
within his own circle, that " not one Bishop amongst the Papists 
reads or studies Holy Scripture " ; " never had he [Luther] 
whilst a Catholic heard anything of the Ten Commandments " ; 
in Rome they say : " Let us be cheerful, the Judgment Day will 
never come " ; they also call anyone who believes in revelation 
a " poor simpleton " ; from the highest to the lowest they 
believe that " there is no God, no hell and no life after this life " ; 
when taking the religious vows the Papists also vowed they 
" had no need of the Blood and Passion of Christ " ; I, too, " was 
compelled to vow this " ; all religious took their vows " with a 
blasphemous conscience." 

He says : In the Papacy " they did not preach Christ," but 
only the Mass and good works ; and further : " No Father [of 
the Church] ever preached Christ " ; and again : " They knew 
nothing of the belief that Christ died for us " ; or : "No one [in 
Popery] ever prayed " ; and : Christ was looked upon only as a 
" Judge " and w r e " merely fled from the wrath of God," knowing 
nothing of His mercy. " The Papists," he declares, " condemned 
marriage as forbidden by God," and " I myself, while still a 
monk, was of the same opinion, viz. that the married state was a 
reprobate state." 

In the Papacy, so Luther says in so many words, " people 
sought to be saved through Aristotle." 3 "In the Papacy the 
parents did not provide for their children. They believed that 
only monks and priests could be saved." 4 " In the Papacy you 
will hardly meet with an honest man who lives up to his calling " 
(i.e. who performs his duties as a married man). 5 

1 Letter of George, in Hortleder, " Von den Ursachen des deutschen 
Krieges Karls V," pp. 604, 606. Denifie, I 2 , p. 126, n. 3. 

2 Vol. ii., p. 395 f. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 286. 4 Ibid., p. 86. 

5 Ibid., p. 210. The last three passages are from sermons preached 
by Luther at Wittenberg in 1528 when doing duty for Bugenhagen. 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 103 

But enough of such extravagant assertions, which to 
Catholics stand self-condemned, but were intended by 
their author to be taken literally. He flung such wild say 
ings broadcast among the masses, until it became a second 
nature with him. For we must bear in mind that grotesque 
and virulent misstatements such as the above occur not 
merely now and again, but simply teem in his books, 
sermons and conversations. It would be an endless task to 
enumerate his deliberate falsehoods. He declares, for 
instance, that the Papists, in all their collects and prayers, 
extolled merely the merits of the Saints ; yet this aspersion 
which he saw fit to cast upon the Church in the interests of 
his polemics, he well knew to be false, having been familiar 
from his monastic days with another and better aspect of 
the prayers he here reviles. He knew that the merits of the 
Saints were referred to only in some of the collects ; he knew, 
moreover, why they were mentioned there, and that they 
were never alleged alone but always in subordination to the 
merits and the mediation of our Saviour (" Per Dominum 
nostrum lesum Christum, etc.). 

A favourite allegation of Luther s, viz. that the Church of 
the past had regarded Christ exclusively as a stern Judge, 
was crushingly confuted in Denifle s work. The importance 
of this brilliant and scholarly refutation lies in the fact, that 
it is principally founded on texts and usages of the older 
Church with which Luther was perfectly familiar, which, 
for instance, he himself had recited in the liturgy and more 
especially in the Office of his Order year after year, and 
which thus bear striking testimony against his good faith in 
the matter of his monstrous charge. 1 

It is a matter of common knowledge that, also in other 
branches of the history of theology and ecclesiastical life, 
Denifle has refuted with rare learning, though with too 
sharp a pen, Luther s paradoxical " lies " concerning 
mediaeval Catholicism. It is to be hoped that this may be 
followed by other well-grounded and impartial comments 
from the pen of other writers, for, in spite of their monstrous 

1 " Luther," I 2 , p. 400 ff. We may discount the objection of 
Protestant controversialists who plead that Luther at least described 
correctly the popular notions of Catholics. The popular works then in 
use, handbooks and sermons for the instruction of the people, prayer- 
books, booklets for use in trials and at the hour of death, etc., give 
a picture of the then popular piety, and the best refutation of Luther s 
statements. 



104 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

character, some of Luther s accusations still live, partly no 
doubt owing to the respect in which he is held. Some of 
them will be examined more closely below. The principal 
aim of these pages is, however, to seek the psychological 
explanation of the strange peculiarity which manifests itself 
in Luther s intellectual life, viz. the abnormal tendency to 
level far-fetched charges, sometimes bordering on the insane. 

An Attempt at a Psychological Explanation. 

A key to some of these dishonest exaggerations is to be 
found in the need which Luther experienced of arming him 
self against the Papacy and the older Church by ever more 
extravagant assertions. Realising how unjust and un 
tenable much of his position was, and oppressed by those 
doubts to which he often confessed, a man of his temper was 
sorely tempted to have recourse to the expedient of insisting 
yet more obstinately on his pet ideas. The defiance which 
was characteristic of him led him to pile up one assertion on 
the other which his rhetorical talent enabled him to clothe 
in his wonted language. Throughout he was acting on 
impulse rather than from reflection. 

To this must be added incredible as it may appear in 
connection with the gravest questions of life his tendency 
to make fun. Jest, irony, sarcasm were so natural to him 
as to obtrude themselves almost unconsciously whenever he 
had to do with opponents w r hom he wished to crush and on 
whom he wished to impose by a show of merriment which 
should display the strength of his position and his comfort 
able sense of security, and at the same time duly impress his 
own followers. Those who looked beneath the surface, how 
ever, must often have rejoiced to see Luther so often blunt 
ing the point of his hyperboles by the drolleries by which 
he accompanies them, which made it evident that he was 
not speaking seriously. To-day, too, it would be wrong to 
take all he says as spoken in dead earnest ; at the same time 
it is often impossible to determine where exactly the 
serious ends and the trivial, vulgar jest begins ; probably 
even Luther himself did not always know. A few further 
examples may be given. 

" In Popery we were compelled to listen to the devil and to 
worship things that some monk had spewed or excreted, until at 
last we lost the Gospel, Baptism, the Sacrament and everything 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 105 

else. After that we made tracks for Rome or for St. James of 
Compostella and did everything the Popish vermin told us to do, 
until we came to adore even their lice and fleas, nay, their very 
breeches. But now God has returned to us." 1 

" Everywhere there prevailed the horrid, pestilential teaching 
of the Pope and the sophists, viz. that a man must be uncertain 
of God s grace towards himself ( incertum debere esse de gratia 
Dei erga se )." 2 By this doctrine and by their holiness-by-works 
Pope and monks " had driven all the world headlong into hell " 
for " well-nigh four hundred years." 3 Of course, " for a man to 
be pious, or to become so by God s Grace, was heresy " to them ; 
" their works were of greater value, did and wrought more than 
God s Grace," 4 and with all this "they do no single work which 
might profit their neighbour in body, goods, honour or soul." 5 

A. Kalthoff 6 remarks of similar distortions of which Luther 

1 "Werke," Erl. ed.. 5 2 , p. 378. 

2 Cp. " Comment, in Gal.," 2, p. 175. " Opp. lat, exeg.," 16, p. 197 
seq. Kostlin, " Luthers Theol.," 2 2 , p. 218. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 7 2 , p. 255. 4 Ibid. 

5 Ibid., p. 256. " The Pope s teaching and all the books and 
writings of his theologians and decretalists did nothing but revile 
Christ and His Baptism, so that no one was able to rejoice or comfort 
himself therewith " ; this he knew, having been himself fifteen years 
a monk. Ibid., 19 2 , p. 151, in a sermon of 1535, " On Holy Baptism." 

Even in the learned disputations of his Wittenberg pupils similar 
assertions are found : The Papists have ever taught that the powers 
of man after the Fall still remained unimpaired (" adhuc integras "), and 
that therefore he could fulfil the whole law ; doctrines no better than 
those of the Turks and Jews had been set up (" non secus apud Turcas et 
ludceos," etc.). " Disputationes," ed. Drews, p. 340. 

And so Luther goes on down to the last sermon he preached at 
Eisleben just before his death : The Pope destroyed Baptism and only 
left works, tonsures, etc., in the Church (ibid., 20 2 , 2, p. 534) ; the 
" purest monks " had usually been the " worst lewdsters " (p. 542) ; 
the monks had done nothing for souls, but " merely hidden themselves 
in their cells " (p. 543) ; " the monks think if they keep their Rule 
they are veritable saints " (p. 532). 

In his accusations against the religious life we find him making 
statements which, from his own former experience, he must have known 
to be false. For instance, when he says, that, in their hypocritical 
holiness, they had regarded it as a mortal sin to leave their cell with 
out the scapular ("Werke," Erl. ed., 44, p. 347; 38, p. 203; 60, 
p. 270). Denifle proves convincingly (I 2 , p. 54), that all monks were 
well aware that such customs, prescribed by the Constitutions, were 
not binding under sin, but merely exposed transgressors to punish 
ment by their superiors. Luther also frequently declared, that in the 
Mass every mistake in the ceremonies was looked upon as a mortal sin, 
even the omission of an " enim " or an " ceterni " in the Canon (ibid., 28, 
p. 65), and that the incorrect use of the frequently repeated sign of 
the cross had caused such apprehension, that they were " plagued 
beyond measure with the Mass " (ibid., 59, p. 98). And yet his own 
words (" Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 164) show he was aware that such 
involuntary mistakes were no sin : " cum casus quispiam nullum 
peccatum /uerit." 

6 " Das Zeitalter der Reformation," Jena, 1907, p. 221. 



106 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

was guilty : " Hardly anyone in the whole of history was so 
little able to bear contradiction as Luther ; it was out of the 
question to discuss with him any opinion from another point of 
view ; he preferred to contradict himself or to assert what was 
absolutely monstrous, rather than allow his opponent even a 
semblance of being in the right." The misrepresentation of 
Catholic doctrine which became a tradition among Lutheran 
polemics was in great part due to Luther. With equal skill and 
moderation Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick, in his " Fifty 
Reasons " for returning to the Catholic Church, 1 protests against 
this perversion of Catholic doctrine by Lutheran writers. He 
had observed that arguments were adduced by the Lutherans 
to prove truths which the Church does not deny at all, whilst 
the real points at issue were barely touched upon. " For instance, 
they bring forward a heap of texts to prove that God alone is to 
be adored, though Catholics never question it, and they teach 
that it is a sin of idolatry to pay divine worship to any creature." 
" They extol the merits of Christ and the greatness of His 
satisfaction for our sins. But what for ? Catholics teach the 
same, viz. that the merits of Christ are infinite and that His 
satisfaction suffices to blot out all the sins of the world, and thus 
they, too, hold the Bible doctrine of the appropriation of Christ s 
merits by means of their own good works (1 Peter i. 10)." 

Two things especially were made the butt of Luther s extrava 
gant and untrue charges and insinuations, viz. the Mass and the 
religious life. In his much read Table-Talk the chapter on the 
Mass is full of misrepresentations such as can be explained only by 
the animus of the speaker. 2 Of religious he can relate the most 
incredible tales. Thus : " On the approach of death most of 
them cried in utter despair : Wretched man that I am ; I have 
not kept my Riile and whither shall I flee from the anger of the 
Judge ? Alas, that I was not a sow-herd, or the meanest creature 
on earth ! " 3 On account of the moral corruption of the Religious 
Orders, he declares it would be right, " were it only feasible, to 
destroy both Papacy and monasteries at one blow ! " 4 He is 
fond of jesting at the expense of the nuns ; thus he makes a 
vulgar allusion to their supposed practice of taking an image of 
the Crucified to bed with them, as though it were their bride 
groom. He roundly charges them all with arrogance : " The 
nuns are particularly reprehensible on account of their pride ; 
for they boast : Christ is our bridegroom and we are His brides 
and other women are nothing." 5 

1 " Cinquante raisons," Munich, 1736, 29, p. 37. Above, vol, iii., 
p. 273, n. 2. 2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 395 ff. 

3 Cp. ibid., 31, p. 279. 4 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 1, p. 227. 

5 " Werke," Erl. ed., 5 2 , p. 430 f. : " Yet how few can ever have had 
such a thought, much less expressed it ? " Denifle- Weiss, 17 2 , p. 774. 
Speaking of this passage, Denifle rightly remarks : "I have frequently 
pointed ovit that it was Luther s tactics to represent wicked Catholics 
as typical of all the rest." Here again Denifle might have quoted 
Luther against Luther, as indeed he often does. In one passage 



RESPECT FOR TRUTH 107 

It is putting the matter rather too mildly when a Protestant 
historian, referring to the countless assertions of this nature, 
remarks, " that, in view of his habits and temper, some of 
Luther s highly flavoured statements call for the use of the blue 
pencil if they are to be accorded historical value." 1 

Lastly, we must point to another psychological, or, more 
accurately, pathological, element which may avail to 
explain falsehoods so glaring concerning the Church of 
former times. Experience teaches, that sometimes a man 
soaked in prejudice will calumniate or otherwise assail a 
foe, at first from an evil motive and with deliberate in 
justice, and then, become gradually persuaded, thanks to 
the habit thus formed, of the truth of his calumnies and of 
the justice of his proceedings. Instances of such a thing are 
not seldom met with in history, especially among those 
engaged in mighty conflicts in the arena of the world. 
Injustice and falsehood, not indeed entirely, but with 
regard to the matter in hand, are travestied, become matters 
of indifference, or are even transformed in their eyes into 
justice and truth. 

In Luther s case the phenomenon in question assumes a 
pathological guise. We cannot but perceive in him a kind 
of self-suggestion by which he imposed upon himself. 
Constituted as he was, such suggestion was possible, nay 
probable, and was furthermore abetted by his nervous 
excitement, the result of his never-ceasing struggle. 2 

It is in part to his power of suggestion that must also 
be attributed his success in making his disciples and followers 
accept even his most extravagant views and become in 
their turn missioners of the same. 

(" Werke," Erl. ed., 17 2 , p. 412) Luther points out quite correctly, that 
to make all or even a class responsible for the faults of a few is to be 
guilty of injustice. 

1 " Theol. Stud, und Krit.," 1908, p. 580. 

2 " There are passionate natures gifted with a strong imagination, 
who gradually, and sometimes even rapidly, come to take in good 
faith that for true, which their own spirit of contradiction, or the 
desire to vindicate themselves and to gain the day, suggests. Such a 
one was Luther. ... It was possible for him to persuade himself of 
things which he had once regarded in quite a different light." Thus 
Alb. M. Weiss, " Luther," I 2 , p. 424. Ad. Hausrath rightly character 
ises much of what Luther says that he had learnt of Rome on his trip 
thither, as the " product of a self -deception which is readily under 
stood " ("Luthers Leben," 1, p. 79). "During a quarrel," aptly 
remarks Fenelon, " the imagination becomes heated and a man 
deceives himself." 



108 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The New Theology of Lying. 

Another explanation, this time a theologieal one, of 
Luther s disregard for the laws of truth is to be found in the 
theory he set up of the permissibility of lies. 

Previously, even in 1517, he, like all theologians, had 
regarded every kind of lie as forbidden. Theologians of 
earlier times, when dealing with this subject, usually agreed 
with Augustine and Peter Lombard, the " Magister Sententi- 
arum," and likewise with Gratian, that all lies, even lies of 
excuse, are forbidden. After the commencement of his public 
controversy, however, strange as it may appear, Luther 
gradually came to assert in so many words that lies of excuse, 
of convenience, or of necessity were not reprehensible, but 
often good and to be counselled. How far this view con 
cerning the lawfulness of lying might be carried, remained, 
however, a question to be decided by each one individually. 

Formerly he had rightly declared : A lie is " contrary to man s 
nature and the greatest enemy of human society " ; hence no 
greater insult could be offered than to call a man a liar. To this 
he always adhered. But besides, following St. Augustine, he 
had distinguished between lies of jest and of necessity and lies of 
detraction. Not merely the latter, so he declared, were unlawful, 
but, as Augustine taught, even lies of necessity or excuse by 
which he understands lies told for our own or others advantage, 
but without injury to anyone. " Yet a lie of necessity," he said at 
that time, " is not a mortal sin," especially when told in sudden 
excitement " and without actual deliberation." This is his 
language in January, 1517, l in his Sermons on the Ten Com 
mandments, when explaining the eighth. Again, in his con 
troversy with the Zwinglians on the Sacrament (1528), he 
incidentally shows his attitude by the remark, that, " when 
anyone has been publicly convicted of falsehood in one par 
ticular we are thereby sufficiently warned by God not to believe 
him at all." 2 In 1538, he says of the Pope and the Papists, that, 
on account of their lies the words of Chrysippus applied to them : 
" If you are a liar you lie even in speaking the truth." 3 

Meanwhile, however, his peculiar reading of the Old 
Testament, and possibly no less the urgent demands of his 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 510 f. ; " Opp. lat. exeg.," 12, 
p. 200 seq. 

2 In his " Vom Abendmal Christ! Bekentnis " (" Werke," Weim. ed., 
26, p. 241 ff. ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 152 ff.), he frequently asserts this principle. 

" Si mentiris, etiam quod verum dicis menliris." " Werke," Erl. 
ed., 25 2 , p. 214 in " Eines aus den hohen Artikeln des Bepstlichen 
Glaubens genant Dcmatio Constantini." 



PERMISSIBLE LIES 109 

controversy, had exerted an unfortunate influence on his 
opinion concerning lies of convenience or necessity. 

It seems to him that in certain Old-Testament instances of 
such lies those who employed them were not to blame. Abraham s 
lie in denying that Sarah was his wife, the lie of the Egyptian 
rnidwives about the Jewish children, Michel s lie told to save 
David, appear to Luther justifiable, useful and wholesome. On 
Oct. 2, 1524, in his Sermons on Exodus, as it would seem for the 
first time, he defended his new theory. Lies were only real lies 
" when told for the purpose of injuring our neighbour " ; but, 
" if I tell a lie, not in order to injure anyone but for his profit 
and advantage and in order to promote his best interests, this is 
a lie of service " ; such was the lie told by the Egyptian mid- 
wives and by Abraham ; such lies fall " under the grace of 
Heaven, i.e. came under the forgiveness of sins " ; such false 
hoods " are not really lies." 1 

In his lectures on Genesis (1536-45) the same system has been 
further elaborated : " As a matter of fact there is only one kind 
of lie, that which injures our neighbour in his soul, goods or 
reputation." " The lie of service is wrongly termed a lie, for it 
rather denotes virtue, viz. prudence used for the purpose of 
defeating the devil s malice and in order to serve our neighbour s 
life and honour. Hence it may be called Christian and brotherly 
charity, or to use Paul s words : Zeal for godliness." 2 Thus 
Abraham " told no lie" in Egypt (Gen. xii. 11 ff.); what he told 
was " a lie of service, a praiseworthy act of prudence." 3 

According to his Latin Table-Talk not only Abraham s lie, 
but also Michol s was a " good, useful lie and a work of charity." 4 
A lie for the advantage of another is, so he says, an act " by means 
of which we assist our neighbour." 

" The monks," says Luther, " insist that the truth should be 
told under all circumstances." 5 Such certainly was the teaching 
of St. Thomas of Aquin, whose opinion on the subject then held 
universal sway, and who rightly insists that a lie is never under 
any circumstances lawful. 6 St. Augustine likewise shared this 
monkish opinion, as Luther himself had formerly pointed out. 
Long before Aquinas s time this Doctor of the Church, whom 
Luther was later on deliberately to oppose, 7 had brought his 
view the only reliable one, viz. that all untruth is wrong into 
general recognition, thanks to his arguments and to the weight 
of his authority. Pope Alexander III, in a letter to the Arch- 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 16, p. 15 ; Erl. ed., 35, p. 18. The passage 
in vindication of the Egyptian midwives was not merely added later. 

2 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 5, p. 18. 3 Ibid., 3, p. 139 seq. 

4 "Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 420. Cp. Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," 
p. 85 : " Mentiri et fallere differunt, nam mendacium est falsitas cum 
studio nocendi, fallacia vero est simplex." 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 12, Sermon of Jan. 5, 1528. 

6 " Sumrna theol.," 2-2, Q. Ill, a. 3. 

7 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 6, p. 288. 



110 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

bishop of Palermo, declared that even a lie told to save another s 
life was unlawful ; this statement was incorporated in the official 
Decretals a proof of the respect with which the mediaeval Church 
clung to the truth. 1 

Some few writers of antiquity had, it is true, defended the 
lawfulness of lies of necessity or convenience. For instance, 
Origen, possibly under the influence of pagan philosophy, 
also Hilary and Cassian. Eventually their opinion disappeared 
almost completely. 

It was reserved for Luther to revive the wrong view 
concerning the lawfulness of such lies, and to a certain extent 
to impose it on his followers. Theologically this spelt 
retrogression and a lowering of the standard of morality 
hitherto upheld. " Luther here forsook his beloved 
Augustine," says Staudliri, a Protestant, " and declared 
certain lies to be right and allowable. This opinion, though 
not universally accepted in the Evangelical Church, became 
nevertheless a dominant one." 2 

1 " Corp. iur. can.," ed. Friedberg, 2, p. 812. Yet a champion of 
Luther s " truthfulness " has attempted to prove of Alexander III, 
that " the objectivity of good was foreign to him," and that he taught 
that the end justifies the means. As K. Hampe has pointed out in the 
" Hist. Zeitschr.," 93, 1904, p. 415, the letter from the Pope to Thomas 
Becket (" P.L.," 200, col. 290), here referred to, has been " quite 
misunderstood." The same is the case with a letter of Gregory VII to 
Alphoiisus of Castile, which has also been alleged to show that a Pope 
" had not unconditionally rejected lying, nay, had even made use of 
it." Gregory on the contrary declares that even " a lie told for a pious 
object and for the sake of peace " was a sin (" illud peccatum esse non 
dubitaveris, in sacerdotibus quasi sacrilegium coniicias." " P.L.," 148, 
col. 604). Cp. Hampe, ibid., p. 385 ff.; N. Paulus, " Lit. Beilage der 
Koln. Volksztng.," 1904, No. 51. 

2 " N. Lehrb. der Moral," Gottingen, 1825, p. 354. Sodeur 
(" Luther und die Luge ") says that in his teaching on lies Luther 
led the way to "a more profound understanding of the problem " 
(p. 2), he taught us "to act according to simple and fundamental 
principles " ; " under certain conditions " it became " a duty to tell 
untruths, not merely on casuistic grounds as formerly [!], but on 
principle ; Luther harked back to the all embracing duty of charity 
which constitutes the moral life of the Christian " (p. 30) ; he desired 
" falsehood to be used only to the advantage of our neighbour," 
" referring our conduct in every instance to the underlying principle of 
charity " (p. 32 f.). Chr. Rogge, another Protestant, says of all this 
(" Tiirmer," Jan., 1906, p. 491) : " I wish Sodeur had adopted a more 
decided and less apologetic attitude." 

W. Walther, in the article quoted above (p. 81, n. 1), admits that 
Luther taught " in the clearest possible manner that cases might 
occur where a departure from truth became the Christian s duty. . . . 
It is probable that many Evangelicals will strongly repudiate this 
thesis, but, in our opinion, almost everybody follows it in practice " ; 
if charity led to untruth then the latter was no evil act, and it could 



PERMISSIBLE LIES 111 

It must be specially noted that Luther does not justify 
lies of convenience, merely when told in the interests of our 
neighbour, but also when made use of for our own advantage 
when such is well pleasing in God s sight. This he states 
explicitly when speaking of Isaac, who denied his marriage 
with Rebecca so as to save his life : " This is no sin, but a 
serviceable lie by which he escaped being put to death by 
those with whom he was staying ; for this would have 
happened had he said Rebecca was his wife." 1 And not 
only the lawful motive of personal advantage justifies, 
according to him, such untruths as do not injure others, but 
much more the love of God or of our neighbour, i.e. regard 
for God s honour ; the latter motive it was, according to 
him, which influenced Abraham, when he gave out that 
Sarah was his sister. Abraham had to co-operate in ac 
complishing the great promise made by God to him and his 
progeny ; hence he had to preserve his life, " in order that 
he might honour and glorify God thereby, and not give the 
lie to God s promises." Many Catholic interpreters of the 
Bible have sought to find expedients whereby, without 
justifying his lie, they might yet exonerate the great 
Patriarch of any fault. Luther, on the contrary, following 

not be said that Luther accepted the principle that the end justifies 
the means. It was not necessary for Walther, having made Luther s 
views on lying his own, to assure us, " that they were not shared by 
every Christian, not even by every Evangelical." As regards the end 
justifying the means, Walther should prove that the principle does not 
really underlie much of what Luther says (cp. also above, p. 94 f.). Cp. 
what A. Baur says, with praiseworthy frankness, in a work entitled 
" Johann Calvin " (" Religionsgeschichtl. Volksb.," Reihe 4, Hft. 9), 
p. 29, concerning the reformer of Geneva whom he extols : " Con 
sciously, or unconsciously, the principle that the end justifies the 
means became necessarily more and more deeply rooted in Calvin s 
mind, viz. the principle that the holy purpose willed by God justifies 
the use of means the employment of which would otherwise appear 
altogether repugnant and reprehensible to a refined moral sense at 
least when no other way presents itself for the attainment of the end. 
To renounce the end on account of the means appeared to Calvin a 
betrayal of God s honour and cause." And yet it is clear that only a 
theory which " transcends good and evil " can approve the principle 
that the end justifies the means. 

We may add that, according to Walther ("Die Sittlichkeit nach 
Luther," 1909, p. 11 f.), Luther, in view of the exalted end towards 
which the means he used were directed, " gradually resolved " to set 
the law of charity above that of truth ; he did not, however, do this 
in his practical writings, fearing its abuse ; yet Luther still contends 
that Abraham was permitted to tell an untruth in order " to prevent 
the frustration of God s Will," i.e. from love of God (ibid., p. 13). 

1 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 6, p. 289. 



112 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

his own arbitrary interpretation of the Bible, approves, nay, 
even glories in the fault. " If," he says, " the text be taken 
thus [according to his interpretation] no one can be scandal 
ised at it ; for what is done for God s honour, for the glory 
and furtherance of His Word, that is right and well done and 
deserving of all praise." 1 

On such principles as these, what was there that Luther 
could not justify in his polemics with the older Church ? 

In his eyes everything he undertook was done for " God s 
glory." " For the sake of the Christian Church," he was 
ready, to tell "a downright lie" (above, p. 51) in the 
Hessian affair. " Against the deception and depravity of 
the Papal Antichrist," he regarded everything " as per 
missible " for the salvation of souls (above, p. 95) ; more 
over, was not the war he was waging part of his divine 
mission ? The public welfare and the exalted interests of 
his work might therefore at any time call for a violation of the 
truth. Was he to be deterred, perhaps, by the injury his 
opponents might thereby suffer ? By no means. They 
suffered no real injury; on the contrary, it all redounded to 
their spiritual good, for by ending the reign of prejudice 
and error their souls would be saved from imminent peril 
and the way paved for the accomplishment of the ancient 
promises " to the glory and furtherance of the Word." 

We do not mean to say that Luther actually formed his 
conscience thus in any particular instance. Of this we 
cannot judge and it would be too much to expect from him 
any statement on the subject. But the danger of his doing 
so was sufficiently proximate. 

The above may possibly throw a new light on his famous 
words : " We consider everything allowable against the 
deception and depravity of the Papal Antichrist." 2 

Luther s Influence on His Circle. 

Our remarks on Luther and lying would be incomplete 
were we not to refer to the influence his example and theory 
exercised on his surroundings and on those who assisted 
him in establishing the new Church system. 

Melanchthon not only incurred, and justly too, the reproach 
of frequently playing the dishonest diplomatist, particularly 

1 "Opp. lat. exeg.," 3, pp. 139-144. 

2 To Johann Lang, Aug. 18, 1520, above, p. 95, n. 3. 



DISHONESTY OF LUTHER S FRIENDS 113 

at the Diet of Augsburg, l but even advocated in his doctrinal 
works the Lutheran view that lying is in many cases lawful. 

" The lie of convenience," ho says, " is praiseworthy, it is a 
good useful lie and proceeds from charity because one desires 
thereby to help one s neighbour." Hence, we may infer, where 
the object was to bring the Evangel home to a man, a lie was 
all the less reprehensible. Melanchthon appeals to Abraham s 
statement that Sarah was his sister (Gen. xii. and xx.), and to 
the artifice of Eliseus (4 Kings vi. 19), but overlooks the fact that 
these instances prove nothing in his favour since there no " neigh 
bour was helped," but, on the contrary, untruth was dictated 
purely by self-love. 2 

During the negotiations carried on between England, Hesse 
and Saxony in view of an ecclesiastical understanding, Melanch 
thon, at the instance of the Elector of Saxony, drew up for him 
and the Landgrave, a document to be sent to Henry VIII of 
England, giving him information concerning the Anabaptist move 
ment. His treatment of the matter has already been referred to 
(vol. iii., p. 374), but it now calls for more detailed consideration. 

In this writing Melanchthon, to serve the interests of the new 
Evangel, had the courage to deny that the movement had made 
its appearance in those parts of Germany " where the pure 
Gospel is proclaimed," but was only to be met with " where the 
people are not preserved from such errors by sound doctrine," 
viz. "in Frisia and Westphalia." 3 The fact is that the Ana 
baptists were so numerous in the Saxon Electorate that we 
constantly hear of prosecutions being instituted against them. 
P. Wappler, for instance, quotes an official minute from the 
Weimar archives, actually dated in 1530, which states, that the 
Elector " caused many Anabaptists to be punished and put to 
death by drowning and the sword, and to suffer long terms of 
imprisonment." 4 Shortly before Melanchthon wrote the above, 
two Anabaptists had been executed in the Saxon Electorate. 
Beyond all doubt these facts were known to Melanchthon. The 
Landgrave of Hesse refused to allow the letter to be despatched. 
Feige, his Chancellor, pointed out the untruth of the statement, 
" that these errors only prevailed in places where the pure 
doctrine was lacking " ; on the contrary, the Anabaptist error 
was unfortunately to be found throughout Germany, and even 
more under the Evangel than amongst the Papists. 5 An amended 
version of the letter, dated Sep. 23, 1538, was eventually sent to 
the King. Wappler, who relates all this fully, says : " Melanch 
thon was obviously influenced by his wish to warn the King of 
the plague of the Anabaptist heresy and to predispose him 

1 See vol. ii., p. 384 ff. 2 " Corp. ref. ? " 20, p. 573. 

3 The document in " Corp. ref.," 3, p. 578. 

4 " Die Stellung Kursachsens und des Landgrafen Philipp von 
Hessen zur Tauferbewegung," Miinster, 1910, p. 75. 

5 Cp. Lenz, " Briefwechsel Philipps," 1, p. 320. 

IV. I 



114 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

for the pure doctrine of the Evangel. " What lie said was 
glaringly at variance with the actual facts." 1 

Like Luther, Martin Bucer, too, urged the Landgrave to 
tell a deliberate lie and openly deny his bigamy. Though at 
first unwilling, he had undertaken to advocate the Land 
grave s bigamy with Luther and had defended it personally 
(above, p. 28). In spite of this, however, when complica 
tions arose on its becoming public, he declared in a letter of 
1541 to the preachers of Memmingen, which so far has 
received little attention, that the Landgrave s wrong step, 
some rumours of which had reached his ears, should it prove 
to be true, could not be laid to his charge or to that of the 
Wittenbergers. " I declare before God ( coram Deo affirmo ) 
that no one has given the Prince such advice, neither I, nor 
Luther, nor Philip, nor, so far as I know, any Hessian 
preacher, nor has anyone taught that Christians may keep 
concubines as well as their wives, or declared himself ready 
to defend such a step." 2 And, again calling God to witness 
(" hcec ego ut coram Deo scripta "), he declares that he had 
never written or signed anything in defence of the bigamy. 3 
In the following year he appeared before the magistrates of 
Strasburg and, in the presence of two colleagues, " took God 
to witness concerning the suspicion of having advised the 
Landgrave the other marriage," " that the latter had 
consulted neither him nor any preacher concerning the 
matter " ; he and Capito had " throughout been opposed 
to it " (the bigamy), " although his help had been sought for 
in such matters by honourable and highly placed persons." 4 
The reference here is to Henry VIII of England, to whom, 
however, he had never expressed his disapproval of bigamy ; 
in fact he, like Capito and the two Wittenbergers (above, 
p. 4), had declared his preference for Henry s taking an 
extra wife rather than divorcing his first. 

Bucer (who had so strongly inveighed against Luther s 
lies, above, p. 99), where it was a question of a Catholic 
opponent like the Augustinian Johann Hoffmeister, had 

1 Loc. ciL, p. 74 f. 

2 " Corp. ref.," 10, p. 156 seq. N. Paulus in " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 147, 
1911, p. 509. 

3 " Quod defendam ipsum f acinus, cquidem nullum [scriptum] 
scripsi aut subscripsi." Paulus, ibid., p. 511. 

4 F. W. Hassenkamp, " Hessische KG.," 1, p. 510. Paulus, ibid., 
p. 512, 



DISHONESTY OF LUTHER S FRIENDS 115 

himself recourse to notorious calumnies concerning this man, 
whom even Protestant historians now allow to have been of 
blameless life and the " greatest enemy of immorality." 1 
He accused him of " dancing with nuns," of " wallowing in 
vice," and of being " an utterly abandoned, infamous and 
dissolute knave," all of them groundless charges at very 
most based upon mere hearsay. 2 This same Bucer, who 
accused the Catholic Princes of being double-tongued and 
pursuing dubious policies, was himself notorious amongst 
his own party for his wiliness, deceit and cunning. 

Johann Bugenhagen, the Pastor of Wittenberg, when 
called upon to acknowledge his share in a certain question 
able memorandum of a semi-political character also laid 
himself open to the charge of being wanting in truthfulness 
(vol. iii., p. 74 f.). 

P. Kalkoff has recently made clear some of Wolfgang 
Capito s double-dealings and his dishonest behaviour, 
though he hesitates to condemn him for them. Capito had 
worked in Luther s interests at the Court of Archbishop 
Albert of Mayence, and there, with the Archbishop s help, 
" rendered incalculable services to the Evangelical cause." 
In extenuation of his behaviour Kalkoff says : "In no way 
was it more immoral than the intrigues " of the Elector 
Frederick. On the strength of the material he has collected 
J. Greving rightly describes Capito as a " thoroughbred 
hypocrite and schemer." 3 The dealings of this " eminent 
diplomatist," as Greving also terms him, remind us only 
too often of Luther s own dealings with highly placed 
ecclesiastics and seculars during the first period of his 
apostasy. If, in those early days, Luther s theory had 
already won many friends and imitators, in the thick of the 
fight it made even more converts amongst the new preachers, 
men ready to make full use of the alluring principle, that, 
against the depravity of the Papacy everything is licit. 

From vituperation to the violation of truth there was but 
a step amidst the passion which prevailed. How Luther s 
abuse ostensibly all for the love of his neighbour infected 
his pupils is plain from a letter in the newly published 

1 H. Rocholl, in N. Paulus s art. on the Catholic lawyer and writer, 
Conrad Braun (t!563), in " Hist. Jahrb." (14, 1893, p. 517 ff.), p. 525. 

2 Paulus, "Johann Hoffmeister," 1891, p. 206, and in "Hist, 
Jahrb.," loc. cit. 

" Theol. Rev.," 1908, p. 215, 



116 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

correspondence of the Brothers Blaurer. This letter, written 
from Wittenberg on Oct. 8, 1522, by Thomas Blaurer, to 
Ulrich Zasius, contains the following : " Not even from the 
most filthy and shameful vituperation [of the hateful Papacy] 
shall we shrink, until we see it everywhere despised and 
abhorred." What had to be done was to vindicate the 
doctrine that, " Christ is our merit and our satisfaction." 1 
Luther, he says, poured forth abuse (" convicia "), but only 
to God s glory, and for the " salvation and encouragement of 
the little ones." 2 

4. Some Leading Slanders on the Mediaeval Church 

Historically Considered 

" In Luther s view the Middle Ages, whose history was 
fashioned by the Popes, was a period of darkest night. . . . 
This view of the Middle Ages, particularly of the chief 
factor in mediaeval life, viz. the Church in which it found its 
highest expression, is one-sided and distorted." Such is the 
opinion of a modem Protestant historian. He is sorry that 
false ideas of the mediaeval Church and theology " have been 
sheltered so long under the aegis of the reformer s name." 3 
" It will not do," a lay Protestant historian, as early as 
1874, had told the theologians of his faith, speaking of 
Kostlin s work " Luthers Theologie," " to ignore the 
contemporary Catholic literature when considering Luther 
and the writings of the reformers. ... It is indispensable 
that the condition of theology from about 1490 to 1510 
should be carefully examined. We must at all costs rid 
ourselves of the caricatures we meet with in the writings of 
the reformers, and of the misunderstandings to which they 
gave rise, and learn from their own writings what the 
theologians of that time actually thought and taught." 
" Paradoxical as it may sound, it is just the theological side 
of the history of the Reformation which, at the present 
day, is least known." 4 

1 Bd. 1, 1908, p. 66 : " Nullis conviciis parcemus quantumvis 
turpibus et ignominiosis," etc. 

2 Luther s friend Jonas also distinguished himself in controversy 
by the character of the charges he brings forward against his opponents 
as true " historia." (See above, vol. iii., p. 416, n. 3.) 

3 W. Kohler, " Luthers Werden " (" Prot. Monatshefte," 1907, 
Hft. 8-9, p. 292 ff., p. 345 ff., p. 294). 

1^ * W. Maurenbrecher, " Studien und Skizzen zur Gesch, der 
Reform.," pp. 221, 220. 



SLANDERS ON CATHOLICISM 117 

During the last fifty years German scholars have devoted 
themselves with zeal and enthusiasm to the external and 
social aspect of the Middle Ages. That great undertaking, 
the " Monumenta Germanice historical its periodical the 
" Archiv," and a number of others dealing largely with 
mediaeval history brought Protestants to a juster and more 
objective appreciation of the past. Yet the theological, and 
even in some respects the ecclesiastical, side has been too 
much neglected, chiefly because so many Protestant 
theologians were scrupulous about submitting the subject 
to a new and unprejudiced study. Hence the astonishment 
of so many when Johannes Janssen, with his " History of 
the German People," and, to pass over others, Heinrich 
Denifle with his work on Luther entered the field and 
demonstrated how incorrect had been the views prevalent 
since Luther s time concerning the doctrine and the ecclesi 
astical life of his age. Astonishment in many soon made 
way for indignation ; in Denifle s case, particularly, annoy 
ance was caused by a certain attitude adopted by this 
author which led some to reject in their entirety the theo- 
logico-historical consequences at which he arrived, whilst 
even Janssen was charged with being biassed. Other 
Protestants, however, have learned something from the 
Catholic works which have since made their appearance in 
greater numbers, have acknowledged that the ideas hitherto 
in vogue were behind the times and have invited scholars to 
undertake a more exact study of the materials. 

" The later Middle Ages," says W. Friedensburg, speaking of 
the prevailing Protestant view, " seemed only to serve as a foil 
for the history of the Reformation, of which the glowing colours 
stood out all the more clearly against the dark background." 
" As late as a few years ago the history of the close of the Middle 
Ages was almost a terra incognita. Only through Janssen, 
Friedensburg continues, " were we led to study more carefully 
the later Middle Ages " and to discover, amongst other things, 
that the "majority of the people [sic] had not really been so 
ignorant of the truth of Christianity," that "the Church had not 
yet lost her power over people s minds," that " towards the end of 
the Middle Ages the people had already been growing familiar with 
the Bible," and that " sermons in the vulgar tongue had not been 
neglected to the extent that has been frequently assumed." This 
author, like H. Bohmer, characterises it as erroneous " to suppose 
that Luther was the first to revive regard for Paul and to restore 
Paulinism " or "to insist upon the reform of godliness on the 
model of the theology of Christ." Coming to Denifle, he says, 



118 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

that the latter " on account of his learning was without a doubt 
qualified as scarcely any other scholar of our time for the task 
he undertook. When he published his Luther he could look 
back on many years of solid and fruitful labour in the field of 
mediaeval Scholasticism and Mysticism." From Denifle s work 
it is clear that Luther was " but little conversant with mediaeval 
Scholasticism, particularly that of Thomas Aquinas," 1 

" Denifle is right," wrote Gustav Kawerau in an important 
Protestant theological periodical, " and touches a weak spot in 
Luther research when he reproaches us with not being sufficiently 
acquainted with mediaeval theology." An " examination of the 
Catholic surroundings in which Luther moved " is, so Kawerau 
insists, essential, and Protestants must therefore apply them 
selves to " the examination of that theology which influenced 
Luther." 2 

What is, however, imperative is that this theology be, if 
possible, examined without Luther s help, i.e. without, as usual, 
paying such exaggerated regard to his own statements as to what 
influenced him. 

Luther, moreover, does not alw r ays speak against the Middle 
Ages ; on occasion he can employ its language himself, par 
ticularly when he thinks he can quote, in his own interests, 
utterances from that time. What W. Kb hler says of a number 
of such instances holds good here : " Luther fancied he recognised 
himself in the Middle Ages, that is why his historical judgment 
is so often false." In point of fact, as the same writer remarks, 
" Luther s idea of history came from his own interior experience ; 
this occupies the first place throughout." 3 If for " interior 
experience " we substitute " subjective bias " the statement will 
be even more correct. 

In returning here to some of Luther s legends mentioned 
above (p. 92 f.) concerning the Catholic past and the religious 
views then prevailing, our object is merely to show by a few 
striking examples how wrong Luther was in charging the 
Middle Ages with errors in theology and morals. 

One of his most frequently repeated accusations was, that 
the Church before his day had merely taught a hollow 
" holiness by works " ; all exhortations to piety uttered by 

1 " Fortschritte in Kenntnis und Verstandnis der RG." (" Schriften 
des Vereins fur RG.," No. 100,1910, pp. 1-59, pp. 4, 5, 7,8, 10, 12, 16 f.). 
The author s standpoint is expressed on p. 13 : " It is self-evident 
that this does not in any way detract from Luther s importance. . . . 
Luther merely stands out all the more as the last link of the previous 
evolution," etc. On p. 17 he declares that the author of " Luther und 
Luthertum " lacked entirely the " sense of truth." See the passage 
from Bohmer in " Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung," 2 , 1901, 
p. 144. 

2 " Theol. Stud, und Krit.," 1908, p. 581. 

3 " Luther und die KG.," 1, 1900, p. 363. 



SLANDERS ON CATHOLICISM 119 

preachers and writers insisted solely on outward good works ; 
of the need of cultivating an inward religious spirit, interior 
virtues or true righteousness of heart no one had any 
conception. 

Against this we may set a few Catholic statements made 
during the years shortly before Luther s appearance. 

Gabriel Biel, the "standard theologian" of his time, whose 
works Luther himself had studied during his theological course, 
in one of his sermons distinctly advocates the Church s doctrine 
against any external holiness-by-works. Commenting on the 
Gospel account of the hypocrisy and externalism of the Pharisees 
and their semblance of holiness, he pauses at the passage : 
" Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the 
Scribes and Pharisees ye shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven " 
(Mt. v. 20). " Hence, if we desire to be saved," he says, " our 
righteousness must not merely be shown in outward works but 
must reside in the heart ; for without the inward spirit, outward 
works are neither virtuous nor praiseworthy, though the spirit 
may be so without outward works." After proving this he again 
insists : " Thus true service of God does not consist in externals ; 
on the contrary it is on the inward, pious acts of the will that 
everything depends, and this presupposes a right judgment and 
the recognition of the spirit. Hence in the practice of good 
works we must expend greater care on the interior direction of 
the will." The learned preacher goes on fervently to exhort his 
hearers to amend their lives, to be humble, to trust in Christ and 
to lead lives of real, inward piety. 1 

Another preacher and theologian with whom Luther was well 
acquainted was Andreas Proles (f 1503), the founder of the 
German Augustinian Congregation to which Luther had once 
belonged. In the sermons published by Petms Sylvius, Proles 
insists upon the good intention and interior disposition by which 
works are sanctified. They are " smothered," so he tells his 
hearers, " if done not out of love for God but with evil intent, 
for instance, for the sake of praise, or in order to deceive, or 
again, if done in sin or for any bad purpose." " Hence ... in 
the practice of all his works a man must diligently strive after 
Divine justice, after a true faith with love of God and of his 
neighbour, after innocence and humility of heart, with a good 
purpose and intention, since every good work, however insignifi 
cant, even a drink of cold water given to the meanest creature 
for God s sake, is deserving of reward in eternity. . . . Without 
charity neither faith nor good works are profitable unto salva 
tion." 2 

At about that same time the so-called " holiness-by-works 

1 " Sermo 60 in Dom. 6 post. Trin." (" Sermones de tempore," 
Tubingse, 1500). 

2 " Sibend und Acht ader letzte Sermon," Lipsie, 1533. On this 
work cp. Paulus, " Die deutschen Dominikaner, " p. 66, n. 2. 



120 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

was also condemned by the learned Franciscan theologian, 
Stephen Brulefer. " Merit," so he emphasises, " depends not 
on the number of external works but on the zeal and charity 
with which the work is done ; everything depends on the interior 
act of the will." Amongst his authorities he quotes the far- 
famed theologian of his Order, Duns Scotus, who had enunciated 
the principle with the concision of the scholastic : " Deus non 
pensat quantum sed ex quanta." 1 

" God wants, not your work, but your heart." So Marquard of 
Lindau writes in his " Buch der X Gepot," printed in 1483. 
Before this, under the heading : " That we must love God above 
all things," he declares, that, whoever does not turn to God with 
his whole heart cannot merely by his works gain Him, even 
though he should surrender " all his possessions to God and 
allow himself to be burnt." 2 

Thus we find in the writings of that period, language by 
no means wanting in vigour used in denunciation of the 
so-called " holincss-by- works " ; hence Luther was certainly 
not first in the field to raise a protest. 

From their preachers, too, the people frequently heard 
this same teaching. 

Johann Herolt, a Dominican preacher, very celebrated 
at the commencement of the 15th century, points out 
clearly and definitely in his sermons on the Sunday Epistles, 
that every work must be inspired by and permeated with 
charity if man s actions are not to deteriorate into a mere 
" holiness-by-works " ; a poor man who, with a pure 
conscience, performs the meanest good work, is, according 
to him, of " far greater worth in God s sight than the 
richest Prince who erects churches and monasteries while in 
a state of mortal sin " ; the outward work was of small 
account. 3 Herolt thus becomes a spokesman of " inward 
ness " in the matter of the fulfilment of the duties of the 
Christian life ; 4 many others spoke as he did. 

Sound instruction concerning " holiness-by-works " and 
the necessary " inwardness " was to be found in the most 
popular works of devotion at the close of the Middle Ages. 

1 " Reportata in qnatiwr S. Bonaventurce sententiarum libros, Scoli 
subtilis secundi," Basilese, 1501. L. 2 d. 5 q. 6. 

2 Bl. 2. On the work, see Hasak, " Der christl. Glaube des 
deutschen Volkes beim Schluss des MA.," 1868, p. 67 ff. 

" Sermones super epistolas dominicales," s. 1. e. a. Bl. 51. N. 
Paulus quotes more of Herolt s sayings in " Johann Herolt und seine 
Lehre, Beitrag zur Gesch. des religiosen Volksunterrichts am Ausgang 
des MA." (" Zeitschr. f. kath. Theol.," 26, 1902, p. 417 ff., particularly 
P- 429). Paulus, ibid., pp. 429, 430. 



SLANDERS ON CATHOLICISM 121 

The " Evangelibuch," for instance, a sermon-book with 
glosses on the Sunday Gospels, has the following for those 
who are too much devoted to outward works : "It matters 
not how good a man may be or how many good works he 
performs unless, at the same time, he loves God." The 
author even goes too far in his requirements concerning the 
interior disposition, and, agreeably with a view then held by 
many, will not admit as a motive for love a wholesome fear 
of the loss of God ; he says a man must love God, simply 
because " he is the most excellent, highest and most worthy 
Good ; . . . for a man filled with Divine love does not 
desire the good which God possesses, but merely God Him 
self " ; thus, in his repudiation of all so-called " holiness- 
by-works," he actually goes to the opposite extreme. 1 

Man becomes pleasing to God not by reason of the 
number or greatness of his works, but through the interior 
justice wrought in him by grace ; such is the opinion of the 
Dominican, Johann Mensing. He protests against being 
accused of disparaging God s grace because at the same 
time he emphasises the value of works ; he declares that he 
exalts the importance of God s sanctifying Grace even more 
than his opponents (the Lutherans) did, because, so he says, 
" we admit (what they deny, thereby disparaging the grace 
of God), viz. that we are not simply saved by God, but that 
He so raises and glorifies our nature by the bestowal of grace, 
that we are able ourselves to merit our salvation and attain 
to it of our own free will, which, without His Grace, would 
be impossible. Hence our belief is not that we are led and 
driven like cattle who know not whither they go. We say : 
God gives us His grace, faith and charity, at first without 
any merit on our part ; then follow good works and merits, 
all flowing from the same Grace, and finally eternal happiness 
for such works as bring down Grace." 2 

This was the usual language in use in olden time, par 
ticularly in the years just previous to Luther, and it was in 
accordance with this that most of the faithful obediently 
shaped their lives. If abuses occurred and it is quite true 
that we often do meet with a certain degree of formalism in 
the customs of the people- they cannot be regarded as the 

1 " Evangelibuch," Augsburg, 1560, Bl. 15. Cp. the Basle " Plen- 
arium," 1514, Bl. 25. 

2 " Errettunge des christl. Bescheydts," usw., 1528, 32, Bl. 4, h. 2. 



122 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

rule and were reproved by zealous and clear-sighted church 
men. 

A favourite work at that time was the " Imitation of 
Christ " by Thomas a Kempis. Thousands, more par 
ticularly amongst the clergy and religious, were edified by 
the fervent and touching expositions of the author to 
permeate all works with the spirit of interior piety. 1 We 
know how strongly he condemns formalism as exemplified 
in frequent pilgrimages devoid of virtue and the spirit of 
penance, and how he does not spare even the religious ; 
" the habit and the tonsure make but little alteration, but 
the moral change and the entire mortification of the passions 
make a true religious." 2 

The practice of works of charity, which at that time 
flourished exceedingly among both clergy and laity, offered 
a field for the realisation of these principles of the true 
spirit in which good works are to be performed. We have 
countless proofs of how the faithful in Germany despoiled 
themselves of their temporal goods from the most sincere 
religious motives out of love for their neighbour, or to 
promote the public Divine worship " for the love of God 
our Lord," as a common phrase, used in the case of 
numerous foundations, expresses it. 

G. Uhlhorn, the Protestant author of the " Geschichte der 
christlichen Liebestatigkeit," also pays a tribute to the 
spirit which preserved charity from degenerating into mere 
" holiness-by-works." " We should be doing injustice to that 
period," he says of the Middle Ages generally, " were we to 
think that it considered as efficacious, i.e. as satisfactory, 
mere external works apart from the motive which inspired 
them, for instance, alms without love." In support he 
quotes Thomas of Aquin and Pope Innocent III, remarking, 
however, that even such alms as were bestowed without this 
spirit of love were regarded, by the standard authorities, as 
predisposing a man for the reception of Grace, and as 
deserving of temporal reward from God, hence not as 
altogether " worthless and unproductive." 3 

Another fable concerning the Middle Ages, sedulously 
fostered by Luther in his writings, was, that, in those days 

1 " De imitations Christi," I, 15 ; and 3, 4. 2 Ibid., 1, 17, 19. 
3 Bd. 2, Stuttgart, 1884, p. 143. 



SLANDERS ON CATHOLICISM 123 

man had never come into direct relations with God, that the 
hierarchy had constituted a partition between him and 
Christ, and that, thanks only to the new Evangel, had the 
Lord been restored to each man, as his personal Saviour and 
the object of all his hopes ; Luther was wont to say that the 
new preaching had at length brought each one into touch 
with Christ the Lamb, Who taketh away our sin ; 
Melanchthon, in his funeral oration on Luther, also said of 
him, that he had pointed out to every sinner the Lamb in 
Whom he would find salvation. 

To keep to the symbol of the Lamb : The whole Church 
of the past had never ceased to tell each individual 
that he must seek in the Lamb of God purgation from his 
guilt and confirmation of his personal love of God. The 
Lamb was to her the very symbol of that confidence in 
Christ s Redemption which she sought to arouse in each 
one s breast. On the front of Old St. Peter s, for instance, 
the Lamb was shown in brilliant mosaic, with the gentle 
Mother of the Redeemer on its right and the Key-bearer on 
its left, and this figure, in yet older times, had been pre 
ceded by the ancient " Agnus Dei." 1 

Every Litany recited by the faithful in Luther s day, no 
less than in earlier ages and in our own, concluded with the 
trustful invocation of the " Lamb of God " ; the waxen 
" Agnus Dei," blessed by the Pope, and so highly prized by 
the people, was but its symbol. 2 The Lamb of God was, 
and still is, solemnly invoked by priest and people in 
the Canon of the Mass for the obtaining of mercy and 
peace. 

The centre of daily worship in the Catholic Church, in 
Luther s day as in the remoter past, was ever the Eucharistic 
Sacrifice. The Lamb of God, which, according to Catholic 
belief, is there offered to the Father under the mystic 
elements, and mysteriously renews the sacrifice of the 
Cross, was as a well, daily opened, in which souls athirst for 
God might find wherewith to unite themselves in love and 
confidence with their Redeemer. 

1 See the figures in Grisar, " Analecta Romana," 1, tab. 10-12. 

2 On the origin of the waxen " Agnus Dei " and its connection with 
the oldest baptismal rite, see my art. in the " Civilta Cattolica," June 
2, 1907. From the beginning it was a memorial of the baptismal 
covenant and served as a constant stimulus to personal union with 
Christ. 



124 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

It was Luther who, with cruel hand, tore this pledge of hope 
and consolation from the heart of Christendom. Inspiring 
indeed are the allusions to the wealth of consolation contained 
in the Eucharist, which we find in one of the books in most general 
use in the days before Luther. " Good Jesus, Eternal Shepherd, 
thanks be to Thee Who permittest me, poor and needy as I am, 
to partake of the mystery of Thy Divine Sacrifice, and feedest 
me with Thy precious Body and Blood ; Thou commandest me 
to approach to Thee with confidence. Come, sayest Thou, to Me, 
all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. 
Confiding, O Lord, in Thy goodness and in Thy great mercy, I 
come sick to my Saviour, hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of 
life, needy to the King of Heaven, a servant to my Lord, a 
creature to my Creator, and one in desolation to my loving 
Comforter." 1 

The doctrine that the Mass is a renewal of the Sacrifice of 
Christ " attained its fullest development in the Middle Ages " ; 
thus Adolf Franz at the conclusion of his work " Die Messe im 
deutschen Mittelalter." At the close of the Middle Ages it was 
the rule to " direct the eyes of the faithful, during the sacrifice 
on the altar, to the sufferings and death of the Redeemer in all 
its touching and thrilling reality. At the altar a mystery is 
enacted ; Christ suffers and dies ; the priest represents Him, and 
every act typifies Christ s Passion ; just as He expired on the 
cross in actual fact, so, mystically, He dies upon the altar." 2 
Though some writers of the period dwell perhaps a little too 
much on the allegorical sense then so popular in explaining the 
various acts of the Mass, yet, in their conviction that its character 
was sacrificial and that it truly re-enacted the death of Christ, 
they were in perfect agreement with the past. In the explana 
tions of the Mass everyone was reminded of his union with Christ ; 
and our Lord s sufferings " were brought before the mind of 
both priest and people " ; by this means the " outward cere 
monial of the Mass was made a fruitful source of inward edifica 
tion." " The abundant mediaeval literature on the Mass is a 
proof both of the needs of the clergy, and of the care displayed 
by the learned and those in authority, to instruct them. In this 
matter the 15th century excels the earlier Middle Ages." 3 The 
very abuses and the formalism which Franz finds witnessed to in 
certain mediaeval sermons on the Mass, chiefly in the matter of 
undue stress laid on the " fruits of the Mass," reveal merely an 
over-estimation on the part of the individual of his union with 
Christ, or a too great assurance of obtaining help in bodily and 
spiritual necessities ; of want of fervour or of hope there is not 
the least trace. 

It is well worthy of note that Luther, if we may believe what 
he said in a sermon in 1532, even in his monastic days, did not 
prize or love the close bond of union established with Christ by 
the daily sacrifice of the Mass : " Ah, bah, Masses ! Let what 

1 " De imit. Christi," 4, 1, 2. 

2 Freiburg, i/B., 1902, p. 730 f. 3 Ibid., p. 737 f. 



SLANDERS ON CATHOLICISM 125 

cannot stand fast fall. You never cared about saying Mass 
formerly ; of that I am sure. I know it from my own case ; for 
I too was a holy monk, and blasphemed my dear Lord miserably 
for the space of quite fifteen years with my saying of Masses, 
though I never liked doing so, in spite of being so holy and 
devout." 1 

In spite of this Luther succeeded in bequeathing to 
posterity the opinion that it was he who delivered people 
from that " alienation from God " imposed on the world in 
the Middle Ages ; " who broke down the prohibition of the 
mediaeval Church against anyone concerning himself on 
his own account with matters of religion " ; and who gave 
back " personal religion " to the Christian. 

Were Protestants to bestow more attention on the 
religious literature of the Later Middle Ages, such statements 
would be simply impossible. One of those best acquainted 
with this literature writes : " During the last few months 
the present writer has gone carefully, pen in hand, through 
more than one hundred printed and manuscript religious 
works, written in German and belonging to the end of the 
Middle Ages : catechetical handbooks, general works of 
piety, confession manuals, postils, prayer-books, booklets on 
preparation for death and German sermonaries. In this 
way he has learnt from the most reliable sources not only 
how in those days people were guided to devout intercourse 
with God, but also with what fervent piety the faithful were 
accustomed to converse with their Saviour." Let Protes 
tants, he adds, at least attempt to vindicate their pet 
assertions " scientifically, i.e. from trustworthy sources." 2 

The relations between the individual and God were by no 
means suppressed because the priesthood stood as an inter 
mediary between the faithful and God, or because ecclesi 
astical superiors watched over and directed public worship 
and the lines along which the life of faith was to move. If 
the union of the individual with God was endangered by 
such interference on the part of the clergy, then it was 
endangered just as much by Luther, who insists so strongly 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 20 2 , 2, p. 407. 

2 N. Paulus, "Koln. Volksztng.," 1903, No. 961. Cp. Paulus 
" Der Katholik," 1898, 2, p. 25 : " Had Luther s intention been 
merely to impress this fundamentally Catholic message on Christen 
dom [the trustful relations between the individual and God] there would 
never have been a schism." 



126 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

on the preachers being listened to, and on the ministers 
taking the lead in things pertaining to God. 

He teaches, for instance : " It is an unsufferable blasphemy to 
reject the public ministry or to say that people can become 
holy without sermons and Church. This involves a destruction 
of the Church and rebellion against ecclesiastical order ; such 
upheavals must bo warded off and punished like all other 
revolts." 1 

The fact is, the ecclesiastical order of things to which Luther 
attached himself more and more strongly amounted to this, as 
he declares in various passages of his Table-Talk. Through the 
ministers and preachers, as through His servants, God speaks to 
man ; through them God baptises, instructs and absolves ; 
what the ministers of the Gospel say and do, that God Himself 
does through and in us as His instruments. Whoever does not 
believe this, Luther looks on as damned. In a sermon of 1528, 
speaking of the spiritual authority which intervenes between 
God and man, he exclaims : " God requires for His Kingdom 
pious Bishops and pastors, through them he governs His subjects 
[the Emperor, on the other hand, so he had said, had not even 
to be a Christian since the secular power was all outward and 
merely served to restrain evil-doers]. 2 If you will not hearken to 
these Bishops and pastors, then you will have to listen to Master 
Hans [the hangman] and get no thanks either." 3 
(* He uses similar language in his sermons on Matthew : " God, by 
means of Prophets and Apostles, ministers and preachers, 
baptises, gives the sacraments, preaches and consoles ; without 
preachers and holy persons, He does nothing, just as He does not 
govern land and people without the secular power." 4 

Hence Luther shows himself very anxious to establish a kind 
of hierarchy. If then he charges the priesthood of the past with 
putting itself between God and man, it is hard to see how he is to 
avoid a similar charge being brought forward against himself. 
Moreover, at the bottom of his efforts, memories of his Catholic 
days were at work, and the feeling that an organised ministry 
was called for if the religious sentiment was not to die out com 
pletely among the people. His practical judgment of the 
conditions even appears here in a favourable light, for instance, 
in those passages where he insists on the authority of rightly 
appointed persons to act as intermediaries between God and 
man, and as vicars and representatives of Christ. The word 
Christ spoke on earth and the word of the preacher, are, 
he says, one and the same " re et effectu," because Christ said : 
" He that heareth you heareth me " (Luke x. 16) ; " God deals 
with us through these instruments, through them He works 
everything and offers us all His treasures." 5 Indeed, "it is our 

1 " Corp. ref.," 4, pp. 737-740. 

2 Cp. our vol. ii., p. 297. 3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 418. 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 45, p. 184. 

* M&thesius, " Tischreden " (Kroker), p. 186, 



greatest privilege that we have such a ministry and that God is so 
near to us ; for he that hears Christ hears God Himself ; and he 
that hears St. Peter or a preacher, hears Christ and God Himself 
speaking to us." 1 

" We must always esteem the spoken Word very highly, 
for those who despise it become heretics at once. The Pope 
despises this ministry" 2 [ ! ]. God, however, "has ordained 
that no one should have faith, except thanks to the preacher s 
office," and, " without the Word, He does no work whatever in 
the Church." 3 

Thus we find Luther, on the one hand insisting upon an 
authority, and, on the other, demanding freedom for the 
interpretation of Scripture. How he sought to harmonise 
the two is reserved for later examination. At any rate, it 
is to misapprehend both the Catholic Church and Luther s 
own theological attitude, to say that " independent study 
of religious questions " had been forbidden in the Middle 
Ages and was " reintroduced " only by Luther, that he 
removed the " blinkers " which the Church had placed over 
people s eyes and that henceforward " the representatives 
of the Church had no more call to assume the place of the 
Living God in man s regard." 

Luther also laid claim to having revived respect for the 
secular authorities, who, during the Middle Ages, had been 
despised owing to the one-sided regard shown to the monks 
and clergy. He declares that he had again brought people 
to esteem the earthly calling, family life and all worldly 
employments as being a true serving of God. Boldly he 
asserts, that, before my time, " the authorities did not 
know they were serving God " ; " before my time nobody 
knew . . . what the secular power, what matrimony, 
parents, children, master, servant, wife or maid really 
signified." On the strength of his assertions it has been 
stated, that he revived the " ideal of life " by discovering 
the " true meaning of vocation," which then became the 
" common property of the civilised world " ; on this account 
he was " the creator of those theories which form the founda 
tion upon which the modern State and modern civilisation 
rest." 

The fact is, however, the Church of past ages fully 

1 Mathesius, <; Tischreden " (Kroker), p. 230. 
* Ibid., p. 193, o Ibid., p. 323, 



128 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

recognised the value of the secular state and spheres of 
activity, saw in them a Divine institution, and respected 
and cherished them accordingly. 

A very high esteem for all secular callings is plainly expressed 
in the sermons of Johann Herolt, the famous and influential 
Nuremberg Dominican, whose much-read " Sermones de tempore 
et de Sanctis " (Latin outlines of sermons for the use of German 
preachers) had, prior to 1500, appeared in at least forty different 
editions. 

"It has been asked," he says in one sermon, " whether the 
labour of parents for their children is meritorious. I reply : 
Yes, if only they have the intention of bringing up their children 
for the glory of God and in order that they may become good 
servants of Christ. If the parents are in a state of grace, then all 
their trouble with their children, in suckling them, bathing them, 
carrying them about, dressing them, feeding them, watching by 
them, teaching and reproving them, redounds to their eternal 
reward. All this becomes meritorious. And in the same way 
when the father labours hard in order to earn bread for his wife 
and children, all this is meritorious for the life beyond." 1 A 
high regard for work is likewise expressed in his sermon " To 
workmen," which begins with the words : " Man is born to 
labour as the bird is to fly." 2 Another sermon praises the calling 
of the merchant, which he calls a " good and necessary pro 
fession." 3 

Another witness to the Church s esteem for worldly callings 
and employments is Marcus von Weida, a Saxon Dominican. 
In the discourses he delivered on the " Our Father " at Leipzig, 
in 1501, he says : " All those pray who do some good work and 
live virtuously." For everything that a man does to the praise 
and glory of God is really prayer. A man must always do what 
his state of life and his calling demands. " Hence it follows that 
many a poor peasant, husbandman, artisan or other man who 
does his work, or whatever he undertakes, in such a way as to 
redound to God s glory, is more pleasing to God, by reason of 
the work he daily performs, and gains more merit before God 
than any Carthusian or Friar, be he Black, Grey or White, who 
stands daily in choir singing and praying." 4 

It is evident that Catholic statements, such as that just quoted 
from Herolt, concerning the care of children being well-pleasing 
to God, have been overlooked by those who extol Luther as 
having been the first to discover and teach, that even to rock 
children s cradles and wash their swaddling clothes is a noble, 
Christian work. What is, however, most curious is the assur 
ance with which Luther himself claimed the merit of this dis 
covery, in connection with his teaching on marriage. 

The Carthusian, Erhard Gross, speaks very finely of the 

1 " Sermo 25 de tempore." 2 " Sermo 55 de tempore." 

3 " Sermones super epistolas dominicales." Sermo 15. 

4 " Eine nutzliche Lere," usw., Leipzig, 1502, c. 1. 



SLANDERS ON CATHOLICISM 129 

different secular callings and states of life, and assigns to them 
an eminently honourable place : " What are the little precious 
stones in Christ s crown but the various classes of the Christian 
people, who adorn the head of Christ ? For He is our Head and 
all the Christian people are His Body for ever and ever. Hence, 
amongst the ornaments of the house of God some must be 
virgins, others widows, some married and others chaste, such as 
monks, priests and nuns. Nor are these all, for we have also 
Princes, Kings and Prelates who rule the commonwealth, those 
who provide for the needs of the body, as, for instance, husband 
men and fishermen, tailors and merchants, bakers and shoe 
makers, and, generally, all tradesmen." If the general welfare is 
not to suffer, he says, each one must faithfully follow his calling. 
" Therefore whoever wishes to please God, let him stick to the 
order [state] in which God has placed him and live virtuously ; he 
will then receive his reward from God here, and, after this life, in 
the world to come." 1 

Although Luther must have been well aware of the views 
really held on this subject, some excuse for his wild charges 
may perhaps be found in his small practical experience, prior 
to his apostasy, of Christian life in the world. His poverty 
had forced him, even in childhood, into irregular ways ; he 
had been deprived of the blessings of a truly Christian 
family-life. His solitary studies had left him a stranger to 
the active life of good Catholics engaged in secular callings ; 
the fact of his being a monk banished him alike from the 
society of the bad and impious and from that of the good 
and virtuous. Thus in many respects he was out of touch 
with the stimulating influence of the world ; the versatility 
which results from experience was still lacking, when, in his 
early years at Wittenberg, he began to think out his new 
theories on God and sin, Grace and the Fall. 

" Whoever wishes to please God let him stick to the order 
[state] in which God has placed him." These words of 
Gross, the Carthusian, quoted above, remind us of a com 
parison instituted by Herolt the Dominican between 
religious Orders and the " Order " of matrimony. Com 
mending the secular calling of matrimony, he says here, 
that it was instituted by God Himself, whereas the religious 
Orders had been founded by men : " We must know that 

1 In a " Novelle," published by Ph. Strauch in the " Zeitschr. fur 
deutsches Luthertum," 29, 1885, p. 389. For further particulars of 
the respect for worldly callings before Luther s day, see N. Paulus, 
" Luther und der Beruf " (" Der Katholik," 1902, 1, p .327 ff.), and in 
the " Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1903, No. 20, p. 148 ; likewise 
Denifle, " Luther," I 2 , p. 138 ff. 

IV. K 



130 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

God first honoured matrimony by Himself instituting it. 
In this wise the Order of matrimony excels all other Orders 
( ordo matrimonialis prcecellit olios ordines ) ; for just as 
St. Benedict founded the Black Monks, St. Francis the 
Order of Friars Minor and St. Dominic the Order of Friars 
Preacher, so God founded matrimony." 1 

True Christian perfection, according to the ancient teach 
ing of the Church, is not bound up with any particular state, 
but may be attained by all, no matter their profession, even 
by the married. 

Luther, and many after him, even down to the present 
day, have represented, that, according to the Catholic view, 
perfection was incapable of attainment save in the religious 
life, this alone being termed the " state of perfection." In 
his work " On Monkish Vows " he declares : " The monks 
have divided Christian life into a state of perfection and one 
of imperfection. To the great majority they have assigned 
the state of imperfection, to themselves, that of perfection." 2 

As a matter of fact the " state of perfection " only means, 
that, religious, by taking upon themselves, publicly and 
before the Church, the three vows of poverty, chastity and 
obedience, bind themselves to strive after perfection along 
this path as one leading most surely to the goal ; it doesn t 
imply that they are already in possession of perfection, still 
less that they alone possess it. By undertaking to follow all 
their life a Rule approved by the Church, under the guidance 
of Superiors appointed by the Church, they form a " state " 
or corporation of which perfection is the aim, and, in this 
sense alone, are said to belong to the " state of perfection." 
In addition, it was always believed that equal, in fact the 
highest, perfection might be attained to in any state of life. 
Though the difficulties to be encountered in the worldly 
state were regarded as greater, yet the conquest they 
involved was looked upon as the fruit of an even greater love 
of God, the victory as more splendid, and the degree of 
perfection attained as so much the more exalted. 

It is the love of God which, according to the constant 
teaching of the Church, constitutes the essence of perfection. 

The most perfect Christian is he who fulfils the law of 
charity most perfectly, and this notwithstanding what- 

1 " Sermo 25 de tempore." 

2 " Cp. Hist. Jahrb.," 27, 1906, p. 496 ff. (N. Paulus on O. Scheel). 



ON MATRIMONY 131 

ever Luther may say according to what has ever been the 
teaching of the Church, the ordinary Christian may quite 
well do in his everyday calling, and in the married as much 
as in the religious state. Even should the religious follow 
the severest of Rules, yet if he does not make use of the 
more abundant means of perfection at his command but 
lives in tepidity, then the ordinary Christian approaches 
more closely than he to the ideal standard of life if only he 
fulfils his duties in the home with greater love of God. 

The Bavarian Franciscan, Caspar Schatzgeyer, Luther s 
contemporary, is right when he says in his work " Scru- 
tinium divince scriptures " : " We do not set up a twofold 
standard of perfection, one for people in the world and 
another for the religious. For all Christians there is but one 
order, one mode of worshipping God, one evangelical per 
fection. . . . But we do say this, that in cloistral life the 
attainment of perfection is easier, though a Christian living 
in the world may excel all religious in perfection." 1 For 
such is the ground he gives in a German work " it may well 
happen that in the ordinary Christian state a man runs so 
hotly and eagerly towards God as to outstrip all religious in 
all the essentials of Christian perfection, just as a sculptor 
may with a blunt chisel produce a masterpiece far superior 
to that carved by an unskilful apprentice even with the best 
and sharpest of tools." 2 

This may suffice to elucidate the question of the Catholic 
ideal of life in respect of Luther s statements, a question 
much debated in recent controversies but not always set in 
as clear a light as it deserved. 

The preceding remarks on Luther s misrepresentations of 
the Church s teaching concerning worldly callings lead us 
to consider his utterances on the Church s depreciation of 
the female sex and of matrimony. 

5. Was Luther the Liberator of Womankind from 

" Mediaeval Degradation " ? 

Luther maintained that he had raised the dignity of 
woman from the depths to which it had fallen in previous 
ages and had revived due respect for married life. What 
the Church had defined on this subject in the past he 

1 Basle, 1522, B. 1 . 

2 " Von dem waren christl. Leben," Bl. C. 3 . 



132 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

regarded as all rubbish. Indeed, "not one of the Fathers," 
he says, " ever wrote anything notable or particularly good 
concerning the married state." 1 But, as in the case of the 
secular authority and the preaching office, so God, before 
the coming of the Judgment Day, by His special Grace and 
through His Word, i.e. through the new Evangel, had 
restored married life to its rightful dignity, "as He had 
at first instituted and ordained it." Marriage, so Luther 
asserts, had been regarded as " a usage and practice rather 
than as a thing ordained by God. In the same way the 
secular authorities did not know that they were serving 
God, but were all tied up in ceremonies. The preaching 
office, too, was nothing but a sham consisting of cowls, 
tonsures, oilings," etc. 2 

In short, by his teaching on marriage he had ennobled 
woman, whereas the Catholics had represented matrimony 
as an " unchristian " state, only permitted out of necessity, 
even though they called it a Sacrament. 3 

Conspectus of Luther s Distortion of the Catholic View of 

Marriage. 

Luther based his charges chiefly on the canonical enforce 
ment of clerical celibacy and on the favour shown by the 
Church to the vow of chastity and the monastic life. How 
this proved his contention it is not easy to see. Further, he 
will have it, that the Church taught that true service of 
God was to be found only in the monastic state, and that 
vows were a sure warrant of salvation though, as a matter 
of fact, neither Church nor theologians had ever said any 
thing of the sort. 4 

In his remarks on this subject in 1527 he openly accused the 
Papists of saying that " whoever is desirous of having to do with 
God and spiritual matters must, whether man or woman, remain 
unmarried," and " thus," so he says, " they have scared the 
young from matrimony, so that now they are sunk in fornica 
tion." 5 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 178. 2 Ibid. 

3 What follows has, it is true, no close relation to " Luther and 
Lying " ; the author has, however, thought it right to deal with the 
matter here because of the connection between Luther s misrepresenta 
tions of the Middle Ages and his calumny against Catholic times, both 
of which were founded, not on the facts of the case, but on personal 
grounds. Cp. below, p. 147. 

4 Denifle, " Luther und Luthertum," I 2 , p. 71 ff., pp. 155, 238, 242. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 24, p. 55. 



ON MATRIMONY 133 

At first Luther only ventured on the charge, that matrimony 
had been " de facto " forbidden, though it had not actually been 
declared sinful, by the Pope ; l by forbidding the monks to marry 
he had fulfilled the prophecy in 1 Timothy iv. 1 ff., concerning the 
latter times, when many would fall away from the faith and 
forbid people to marry. " The Pope forbids marriage under 
the semblance of spirituality." 2 " Squire Pope has forbidden 
marriage, because one had to come who would prohibit marriage. 
The Pope has made man to be no longer man, and woman to be 
no longer woman." 3 

As years passed Luther went further ; forgetful of his admission 
that the Pope had not made matrimony sinful, he exclaimed : 
To him and to his followers marriage is a sin. The Church had 
hitherto treated marriage as something "non-Christian"; 4 the 
married state she had "handed over to the devil"; 5 her theo 
logians look down on it as a " low, immoral sort of life," 6 and her 
religious can only renounce it on the ground that it is a kind of 
legalised " incontinence." 7 

In reality, however, religious, when taking their vow, merely 
acted on the Christian principle which St. Augustine expresses as 
follows : Although " all chastity, conjugal as well as virgina,!, 
has its merit in God s sight," yet, " the latter is higher, the 
former less exalted." 8 They merely renounced a less perfect 
state for one more perfect ; they could, moreover, appeal not 
only to 1 Cor. vii. 33, where the Apostle speaks in praise of the 
greater freedom for serving God which the celibate state affords, 
but even to Luther himself who, in 1523, had interpreted this 
very passage in the same sense, and that with no little warmth. 9 

His later and still more extravagant statements concerning 
the Catholic view of marriage can hardly be taken seriously ; his 
perversion of the truth is altogether too great. 

He says, that married people had not been aware that God 
" had ordained " that state, until at last God, by His special 
Grace, and before the Judgment Day, had restored the dignity 
of matrimony no less than that of the secular authority and the 
preaching office, " through His Word [i.e. through Luther s 
preaching]." The blame for this state of things went back very 

1 Cp. Denifle, ibid., p. 239 f. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 152 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 194. " Wyder 
den falsch genantten geystlichen Standt." 

3 Ibid., Weim. ed., 14, p. 157. 4 Ibid., 24, p. 123 f. 5 Ibid., 27, p. 26. 
6 " Werke." Erl. ed., 18 2 , p. 92. 7 Ibid., 31, p. 297. 

8 Sermo 343, n. 7; Denifle, I 2 , p. 243, refers also to " De bono 
coniugali," n. 9, 27, 28. 

9 " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 138 f. : " A married man cannot give 
himself up entirely to reading and prayer, but is, as St. Paul says, 
divided and must devote a great part of his life to pleasing his 
spouse." The Apostle says that though the " troubles and cares of 
the married state are good, yet it is far better to be free to pray and 
attend to the Word of God." Luther is more silent concerning our 
Lord s own recommendation of virginity (" Non omnes capiunt verbum 
istud, sed quibus datum est," etc., Mat. xix. 11 f.). Of his attitude 
towards voluntary virginity we have already spoken in vol. iii., 246 ff. 



134 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

far, for the Fathers, like Jerome, " had seen in matrimony mere 
sensuality," and for this reason had disparaged it. 1 

The Prophet Daniel had foreseen the degradation of marriage 
under the Papacy : It is of the Papal Antichrist " that Daniel 
says [xi. 37], that he will wallow in the unnatural vice which is 
the recompense due to contemners of God (Rom. i. [27]), in what 
we call Italian weddings and silent sin. For matrimony and 
a right love and use of women he shall not know. Such are 
the horrible abominations prevailing under Pope and Turk." 2 
" The same prophet," he writes elsewhere, " says that Anti 
christ shall stand on two pillars, viz. : idolatry and celibacy. 
The idol he calls Mausim, thus using the very letters which form 
the word Mass." The Pope had deluded people, on the one 
hand by the Mass, and, on the other, " by celibacy, or the un 
married state, fooling the whole world with a semblance of 
sanctity. These are the two pillars on which the Papacy rests, 
like the house of the Philistines in Samson s time. If God chose 
to make Luther play the part of Samson, lay hold on the pillars 
and shake them, so that the house fall on the whole multitude, 
who could take it ill ? He is God and wonderful are His ways." 3 

Luther appeals expressly to the Pope s " books " in which 
marriage is spoken of as a "sinful state." 4 The Papists, when 
they termed marriage a sacrament, were only speaking " out of a 
false heart," and trying to conceal the fact that they really looked 
on it as " fornication." 5 " They have turned all the words and 
acts of married people into mortal sins, and I myself, when I was 
a monk, shared the same opinion, viz. that the married state was 
a damnable state." 6 

This alone was wanting to fill up the measure of his falsehoods. 
One wonders whether Luther, when putting forward statements 
so incredible, never foresaw that his own earlier writings might 
be examined and his later statements challenged in their light ? 
Certainly the contradiction between the two is patent. We have 
only to glance at his explanation of the fourth and sixth Com 
mandments in his work on the Ten Commandments, published 
in 1518, to learn from Luther himself what Catholics really 
thought of marriage, and to be convinced that it was anything 
but despised ; there, as in other of his early writings, Luther 
indeed esteems virginity above marriage, but to term the latter 
sinful and damnable never occurred to him. 

The olden Church had painted an ideal picture of the 
virgin. By this, though not alone by this, she voiced her 
respect for woman, from that Christian standpoint which 
differs so much from that of the world. From the earliest 

1 " Werke.," Erl. ed., 61, p. 178 (Table-Talk). 

2 Ibid., 64, p. 155. From his glosses on tho Bible. 

3 Ibid., 31, p. 390. From the " Winckelmesse," 1534. 

4 Ibid., 44, p. 376. 6 Ibid., p. 25 2 , p. 432 ; cp. p. 428. 

6 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 6, p. 283 : " Ipse ego, cum essem adhuc 
monachus, idem sapiebam, coniugium esse damnatum genus vitce." 



ON MATRIMONY 135 

times she, like the Gospel and the Apostle of the Gentiles, 
set up voluntary virginity as a praiseworthy state of life. 
Hereby she awakened in the female sex a noble emulation 
for virtue, in particular for seclusion, purity and morality 
woman s finest ornaments and amongst men a high re 
spect for woman, upon whom, even in the wedded state, the 
ideal of chastity cast a radiance which subdued the impulse 
of passion. Virgin and mother alike were recommended by 
the Church to see their model and their guide in the Virgin 
Mother of our Saviour. Where true devotion to Mary 
flourished the female sex possessed a guarantee of its 
dignity, from both the religious and the human point of 
view, a pledge of enduring respect and honour. 

How the Church of olden days continued to prize matri 
mony and to view it in the light of a true Sacrament is 
evident from the whole literature of the Middle Ages. Such 
being its teaching it is incomprehensible how a well-known 
Protestant encyclopaedia, as late as 1898, could still venture 
to say : "As against the contempt for marriage displayed 
in both religious and secular circles, and to counteract the 
immorality to which this had given rise, Luther vindicated 
the honour of matrimony and placed it in an entirely 
new light." 

In those days Postils enjoyed a wider circulation than any 
other popular works. The Postils, however, do not teach " con 
tempt of marriage," but quite the contrary. " The Mirror of 
Human Conduct," published at Augsburg in 1476, indeed gives 
the first place to virginity, but declares : " Marriage is good and 
holy," and must not be either despised or rejected ; those who 
" are mated in matrimony " must not imagine that the maids 
(virgins) alone are God s elect ; " Christ praises marriage, for 
it is a holy state of life in which many a man becomes holy, for 
marriage was instituted by our Lord in Paradise " ; from Christ s 
presence at the marriage at Cana we may infer that " the married 
life is a holy life." 

Other works containing the same teaching are the " Evangeli- 
buch," e.g. in the Augsburg edition of 1487, the " Postils on the 
Four Gospels throughout the year," by Geiler of Kaysersberg 
(f 1510), issued by Heinrich Wessmer at Strasburg in 1522, and 
the important Basle " Plenarium " of 1514, in which the author, 
a monk, writes : " The conjugal state is to be held in high 
respect on account of the honour done to it by God " ; he also 
appends some excellent instructions on the duties of married 
people, concluding with a reference to the story of Tobias " which 
you will find in the Bible " (which, accordingly, he assumed was 
open to his readers). 



136 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The " Marriage-booklets " of the close of the Middle Ages 
form a literary group apart. One of the best is " Ein niitzlich 
Lehre und Predigt, wie sich zwei Menschen in dem Sacrament 
der Ehe halten sollen," which was in existence in MS. as early as 
1456. " God Himself instituted marriage," it tells us, " when 
He said, Be fruitful and multiply ! The Orders, however, 
were founded by Bernard, Augustine, Benedict and Dominic ; 
thus the command of God is greater than that of the teacher," 
i.e. the Sacrament excels all Rules made by men, even by Saints. 
It also gives a touching account of how marriage is founded on 
love and sustained by it. 1 

Another matrimonial handbook, composed by Albert von Eyb, 
a Franconian cleric, and printed at Augsburg in 1472, lavishes 
praise on " holy, divine matrimony " without, however, neglect 
ing to award still higher encomium to the state of virginity. 
Erhard Gross, the Nuremberg Carthusian, about the middle of 
the 15th century, wrote a " Novel " containing good advice for 
married people. 2 The hero, who was at first desirous of remain 
ing unmarried, declares : " You must not think that I condemn 
matrimony, for it is holy and was established by God." 3 

Among the unprinted matrimonial handbooks dating from the 
period before Luther s time, and containing a like favourable 
teaching on marriage, are the " Booklet on the Rule of Holy 
Matrimony," 4 " On the Sacrament of Matrimony," 5 and the 
excellent " Mirror of the Matrimonial Order," by the Dominican 
Marcus von Weida. 6 Fr. A. Ebert, the Protestant bibliographer, 
remarks of the latter s writings : " They effectually traverse 
the charges with which self-complacent ignorance loves to 
overwhelm the ages previous to the Saxon Reformation," and 
what he says applies particularly to the teaching on marriage. 7 

To come now to the preachers. We must first mention Johann 
Herolt, concerning whose influence a recent Protestant writer 
aptly remarks, that his " wisdom had been listened to by thou 
sands." 8 The passage already given, in which he describes 
marriage as an Order instituted by Christ (p. 129 f.), is but one 
instance of his many apt and beautiful sayings. In the very next 
sermon Herolt treats of the preparation which so great a Sacra 
ment demands. In the same way that people prepare themselves 
for their Easter Communion, so they, bride and bridegroom, must 
prepare themselves for matrimony by contrition and confession ; 
for " marriage is as much a Sacrament as the Eucharist." 

1 And yet a Protestant has said quite recently : " The Church per 
sistently taught that love had nothing to do with marriage." As 
though the restraining of sexual love within just limits was equivalent 
to the exclusion of conjugal love. 

2 Ed. Ph. Strauch, " Zeitschr. fur deutsches Altertum." 29, 1885, 
pp. 373-427. 3 P. 385. 

4 Munich State Library, cod. germ., 757. 5 Ibid., cod. 756. 

6 Heinemann, " Die Handschriften der Herzogl. Bibliothek zu 
Wolfenbiittel," 2, 4, p. 332 f. 

7 " t)berlieferungen zur Gesch.," etc., 1, 2, p. 204 f. 

8 "N. kirchl. Zeitschr.," 3, 1892, p. 487. 



ON MATRIMONY 137 

A similar view prevailed throughout Christendom. 

One of the most popular of Italian preachers was Gabriel 
Barletta, who died shortly after 1480. Amongst his writings 
there is a Lenten sermon entitled : " De amore conjugali vel de 
laudibus mulierum." In this he speaks of the " cordial love " 
which unites the married couple. He points out that marriage 
was instituted in Paradise and confirmed anew by Christ. 
Explaining the meaning of the ring, he finds that it signifies four 
things, all of which tend to render Christian marriage praise 
worthy. He declares that a good wife may prove an inestimable 
treasure. If he dwells rather too much on woman s physical and 
mental inferiority, this does not prevent him from extolling the 
strength of the woman who is upheld by Christian virtue, and who 
often succeeds in procuring the amendment of a godless husband. 1 

Barletta, in his sermons, frequently follows the example of his 
brother friar, the English Dominican preacher, Robert Holkot 
(f 1349), whose works were much in request at the close of the 
Middle Ages. 2 Holkot had such respect for Christian matrimony, 
that he applies to it the words of the Bible : " O how beautiful 
is the chaste generation with glory ; for the memory thereof is 
immortal." Since the " actus matrimonialis " was willed by 
God, it must be assumed, he says, that it can be accomplished 
virtuously and with merit. 3 If the intention of the married 
couple is the begetting of children for the glory of God, they 
perform an act of the virtue of religion ; they also exercise the 
virtue of justice if they have. the intention of mutually fulfilling 
the conjugal duties to which they have pledged themselves. 
According to him, mutual love is the principal duty of the married 
couple. 4 Franz Falk has dwelt in detail on the testimony borne 
by the Late Middle Ages to the dignity of marriage. 8 

1 " Sermones Fratris Barlete," Brixie, 1497 and 1498, several times 
republished in the 16th century. See sermon for the Friday of the 
fourth week of Lent. 

2 " Opus super Sapientiam Salomonis," ed. Hagenau, 1494 (and 
elsewhere), " Lectio " 43 and 44, on Marriage. Cp. ibid., 181, the 
" Lectio " on the Valiant Woman, and in his work, " In Proverbia 
Salomonis explanationes," Paris, 1510, "Lectio" 91, with the 
explanation of Prov. xii. 4 : "A diligent woman is a crown to her 
husband." 

3 Luther, on the other hand, declares : " The work of begetting 
children was not distinguished from other sins, such as fornication and 
adultery. But now we have learnt and are assured by the Grace of 
God that marriage is honourable." " Opp. lat. exeg.," 7, p. 116. 

4 On Barletta and Holkot, cp. N. Paulus in " Lit. Beil. der Koln. 
Volksztng.," 1904, Nos. 19 and 20 ; and his art., " Die Ehe in den 
deutschen Postillen des ausgehenden MA.," and " Gedruckte und 
Ungedruckte deutsche Ehebiichlein des ausgehenden MA.," ibid., 1903, 
Nos. 18 and 20. See also F(alk) in " Der Katholik," 1906, 2, p. 317 ff. : 
" Ehe und Ehestand im MA.," and in the work about to be quoted. 
Denifle, " Luther," 1, has much to say of the Catholic and the Lutheran 
views of marriage. 

5 " Die Ehe am Ausgange des MA., Eine Kirchen- und kulturhist. 
Studie," 1908 (" Erlaut. und Erganz. zu Janssens Gesch. des d. Volkes," 
6, Hft. 4). 



138 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Commencing with the prayers of the marriage-service and the 
blessing of the ring, the prayers for those with child and in child 
bed, and for the churching of women, he goes on to deal with the 
civil rights pertaining to the married state and with the Church s 
opinion as witnessed to in the matrimonial handbooks and books 
of instruction and edification. With the respect for the Sacra 
ment and the dignity of the married woman there found expressed, 
Falk compares the sentiments likewise found in the prose 
" novels " and so-called " Volksbucher," and, still more practi 
cally expressed, in the numerous endowments and donations for 
the provision of bridal outfits. " It is quite incomprehensible," 
such is the author s conclusion, " how non-Catholic writers even 
to the present time can have ventured to reproach the Church 
with want of regard for the married state." 1 Of the information 
concerning bridal outfits, he says, for instance : " The above 
collection of facts, a real nubes testium, will sufficiently demon 
strate what a task the Church of the Middle Ages here fulfilled 
towards her servants and children. . . . Many other such founda 
tions may, moreover, have escaped our notice owing to absence 
of the deeds which have either not been printed or have perished. 
From the 16th century onwards records of such foundations 
become scarce." 2 

In the " Internationale Wochenschrift " Heinrich Finke 
pointed out that he had examined hundreds of Late-mediseval 
sermons on the position of women, with the result, that "it is 
impossible to discover in them any contempt for woman." 3 The 
fact is, that " there exist countless statements of the sanctity of 
marriage and its sacramental character . . . statements drawn 
from theologians of the highest standing, Fathers, Saints and 
Doctors of the Church. Indeed, towards the close of the Middle 
Ages, they grow still more numerous. The most popular of the 
monks, whether Franciscans or Dominicans, have left us matri 
monial handbooks which imply the existence of that simple, 
happy family life they depict and encourage." 4 Finke recalls the 
15th-century theologian, Raymond of Sabunde, who points out 
how union with God in love may be reproduced in marriage. 
Countless theologians are at one with him here, and follow 
Scripture in representing the union of Christ with the Church 
as an exalted figure of the marriage-bond between man and 
wife (Eph. v. 25, 32). Of the respect which the ancient Church 
exhibited towards women Finke declares : " Never has the 
praise of women been sung more loudly than in the sermons of 
the Fathers and in the theological tractates of the Schoolmen." 
Here " one picture follows another, each more dazzling than the 
last." 5 Certainly we must admit, as he does, that it is for the 
most part the ideal of virginity which inspires them, and that it 

1 " Die Ehe am Ausgange des MA., Eine Kirchen- und kulturhist. 
Studie," 1908 (" Erlaut. und Erganz. zu Janssens Gesch. des d. Volkes," 
6, Hft. 4), p. 67. 2 Ibid., p. 66. 

3 " Die Stellung der Frau im MA.," Oct. 1 and 8, 1910, p. 1253. 

Ibid., p. 1299. 5 Ibid., p. 1248. 



ON MATRIMONY 139 

is the good, chaste, virtuous wife and widow whom they extol, 
rather than woman qua woman, as a noble part of God s 
creation. Their vocation as spiritual teachers naturally explains 
this ; and if, for the same cause, they seem to be very severe in 
their strictures on feminine faults, or to strike harsh notes in 
their warnings on the spiritual dangers of too free intercourse 
with the female sex, this must not be looked upon as " hatred of 
women," as has been done erroneously on the strength of some 
such passages in the case of St. Antoninus of Florence and 
Cardinal Dominici. 1 

" Just as Church and Councils energetically took the side of 
marriage " when it was decried in certain circles, 2 so the accusa 
tion of recent times that, in the Middle Ages, woman was univer 
sally looked upon with contempt, cannot stand ; according to 
Finke this was not the case, even in " ascetical circles," and 
" still less elsewhere." 3 The author adduces facts which " utterly 
disprove any such general disdain for woman." 4 

The splendid Scriptural eulogy with which the Church so 
frequently honours women in her liturgy, might, one would 
think, be in itself sufficient. To the married woman who fulfils 
her duties in the home out of true love for God, and with zeal and 
assiduity, the Church, in the Mass appointed for the Feasts of 

1 Cp. F. Schaub, " Hist. Jahrb.," 26, 1905, p. 117 ff., on H. Crohns, 
who, in order to accuse St. Antoninus and others of " hatred of women," 
appeals to the " Witches Hammer " : " It is unjust to make these 
authors responsible for the consequences drawn from their utterances 
by such petty fry as the producers of the Witches Hammer. " Cp. 
Paulus, " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 134, 1904, particularly p. 812 ff. 

2 Finke, ibid., p. 1249. 3 Ibid., p. 1256. 

4 Ibid., p. 1258. Finke s statements may be completed by the 
assurance that full justice was done to marriage by both theologians 
and liturgical books, and that not merely " traces " but the clearest 
proofs exist, that " mutual help " was placed in the foreground as the 
aim of marriage. Details on this point are contained in Denifle s 
" Luther und Luthertum," I 2 , p. 254 ff. The following remark by a 
writer, so deeply versed in mediaeval Scholasticism, is worthy of note : 
" There is not a single Schoolman of any standing, who, on this point 
[esteem for marriage in the higher sense], is at variance with Hugo of 
St. Victor, the Lombard, or ecclesiastical tradition generally. Though 
there may be differences in minor points, yet all are agreed concerning 
the lawfulness, goodness, dignity and holiness of marriage " (p. 261). 
" It is absolutely ludicrous, nay, borders on imbecility," he says (ibid.) 
with characteristic indignation, " that Luther should think it neces 
sary to tell the Papists that Adam and Eve were united according to 
the ordinance and institution of God " (" Opp. lat. exeg.," 4, p. 70). 
He laments that Luther s assertions concerning the contempt of 
Catholics for marriage should have left their trace in the Symbolic 
Books of Protestantism ("Confess. August.," art. 16, "Symb. Biicher 10 ," 
ed. Miiller-Kolde, p. 42), and exclaims : " Surely it is time for such 
rubbish to be too much even for Protestants." Jos. Lohr (" Method- 
isch-kritische Beitr. zur Gesch. der Sittlichkeit des Klerus, bes. der 
Erzdiozese K6ln am Ausgang des MA.," 1911, " Reformations- 
geschichtl. Studien und Texte," Hft. 17, pp. 77-84) has dealt with 
the same matter, but in a more peaceful tone. 



140 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Holy Women, applies the words of Proverbs i 1 " The price of the 
valiant woman is as of things brought from afar and from the 
uttermost coasts. The heart of her husband trusteth in her . . . 
she will render him good and not evil all the days of her life. 
She hath sought wool and flax and hath wrought by the counsel 
of her hands. . . . Her husband is honourable in the gates when 
he sitteth among the senators of the land. . . . Strength and 
beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day. She 
hath opened her mouth to wisdom. . . . Her children rose up 
and called her blessed, her husband, and he praised her. . . . The 
woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." Else 
where the liturgy quotes the Psalmist : 2 " Grace is poured 
abroad from thy lips," " With thy comeliness and thy beauty 
set out, proceed prosperously and reign. . . . Therefore God, 
thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy 
fellows." 

It cannot be objected that the ordinary woman, in the exercise 
of her household duties and of a humbler type of virtue, had no 
part in this praise. On the contrary, in honouring these Saints 
the Church was at the same time honouring all women who had 
not, by their misconduct, rendered themselves unworthy of 
the name. To all, whatever their rank or station, the high 
standard of the Saints was displayed, and all were invited to 
follow their example and promised their intercession. At the 
foot of the altar all were united, for their mother, the Church, 
showed to all the same consideration and helpful love. The 
honours bestowed upon the heroines of the married state had its 
influence on their living sisters, just as the Church s " undying 
respect for virginity was calculated to exercise a wholesome 
effect on those bound by the marriage tie, or about to be so 
bound." 3 

In Luther s own case we have an instance in the devotion 
he showed in his youth to St. Anne, who was greatly venerated 
by both men and women in late mediaeval times. The vow he 
had made to enter the cloister he placed in the hands of this 
Saint. The liturgical praise to which we have just listened, and 
which is bestowed on her in common with other holy spouses, 
he repeated frequently enough as a monk, when saying Mass, 
and the words of the Holy Ghost in praise of the true love of the 
faithful helpmate he ever treasured in his memory. 4 

1 Prov. xxxi. 10 f. : " Mulierem fortcm quis inveniet ? " etc. The 
Lesson of the Mass De communi nee virginum nee martyrum. 
- The Gradual of the same Mass, taken from Psalm xliv. 

3 Falk, op. cit., p. 71. 

4 Cp. " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 207 (Table-Talk). In his translation 
of the Bible Luther quotes the German verse : Nought so dear on 
earth as the love of woman to the man who shares it " (" Werke," Erl. 
ed., 64, p. 113), in connection with Proverbs xxxi. 10 ff. ("Mulierem 
fortem," etc.). In the Table-Talk he quotes the same when speaking 
of those who are unfaithful to their marriage vow in not praying : 
" People do not pray. Therefore my hostess at Eisenach [Ursula, 
Cunz Cotta s wife, see vol. i., p. 5 f., and vol. hi., p. 288 f.] was right in 



ON MATRIMONY 141 

How well Luther succeeded in establishing the fable of the 
scorn in which the married state was held in the Middle Ages is 
evident from several recent utterances of learned Protestants. 

One Church historian goes so far, in his vindication of the 
Reformer s statements concerning the mediaeval " contempt 
felt for womankind," as actually to lay the blame for Luther s 
sanction of polygamy on the low, " mediaeval view of the nature 
of matrimony." Another theologian, a conservative, fancies 
that he can, even to-day, detect among " Romanists " the 
results of the mediaeval undervaluing of marriage. According 
to Catholics " marriage is not indeed forbidden to everyone 
for otherwise where would the Church find new children ? but 
nevertheless is looked at askance as a necessary evil." Perfection 
in Catholic theory consists in absolute ignorance of all that 
concerns marriage. One scholar declares the Church before 
Luther s day had taught, that " marriage had nothing to do 
with love " ; "of the ethical task [of marriage] and of love not a 
trace is to be found " in the teaching of the Middle Ages. An 
eminent worker in the field of the history of dogma also declares, 
in a recent edition of his work, that, before Luther s day, marriage 
had been " a sort of concession to the weak " ; thanks only to 
Luther, was it " freed from all ecclesiastical tutelage to become 
the union of the sexes, as instituted by God [his italics], and the 
school of highest morality." Such assertions, only too commonly 
met with, are merely the outcome of the false ideas disseminated 
by Luther himself concerning the Church of olden days. The 
author of the fable that woman and marriage were disdained in 
the Middle Ages scored a success, of which, could he have fore 
seen it, he would doubtless have been proud. 

Two publications by Professors of the University of Witten 
berg have been taken as clear proof of how low an opinion the 
Catholic Middle Ages had of woman and marriage. Of these 
publications one, however, a skit on the devil in Andr. Mein- 
hardi s Latin Dialogues of 1508 which, of the two, would, in 
this respect, be the most incriminating has absolutely nothing 
to do with the mediaeval Church s views on marriage, but simply 
reproduces those of the Italian Humanists, though revealing that 
their influence extended even as far as Germany. It tells how 
even the devil himself was unable to put up with matrimony ; 
since the difficulties of this state are so great, one of the speakers 
makes up his mind " never to marry, so as to be the better able 
to devote himself to study." Despite this the author of the 
Dialogue entered the married state. The other publication is a 
discourse, in 1508, by Christopher Scheurl, containing a frivolous 
witticism at the expense of women, likewise due to Italian 
influence. This, however, did not prevent Scheurl, too, from 

saying to me when I went to school there : There is no dearer thing 
on earth than the love of woman to the man on whom it is bestowed " 
(" Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 212). Luther s introduction of the phrase 
in connection with the passage on the " Mulier fortis " was an injustice, 
and an attempt to prove again the alleged contempt of Catholicism for 
the love of woman. 



142 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

marrying. 1 The truth is that the Italian Humanists " favourite 
subjects are the relations between the sexes, treated with the 
crudest realism, and, in connection with this, attacks on marriage 
and the family." 2 At the same time it cannot be denied that 
individual writers, men influenced by anti-clerical Humanism, or 
ascetical theologians knowing nothing of the world, did some 
times speak of marriage in a manner scarcely fair to woman and 
did occasionally unduly exalt the state of celibacy. 

Against such assertions some of Luther s finest sayings on 
woman s dignity deserve to be pitted. 

Luther s Discordant Utterances on the Value of Marriage in 
his Sermons and Writings. 

Any objective examination of Luther s attitude towards 
woman and marriage must reveal the fact, that he frequently 
seeks to invest Christian marriage, as he conceived it, with a 
religious character and a spiritual dignity. This he does in 
language witty and sympathetic, representing it as a close 
bond of love, though devoid of any sacramental character. 
Nor does he hesitate to use the noble imagery of the Church 
when describing his substitute for the Christian marriage 
of the past. 

" It is no small honour for the married state," he says in a 
sermon of 1536, " that God should represent it under the 
type and figure of the unspeakable grace and love which He 
manifests and bestows on us in Christ, and as the surest 
and most gracious sign of the intimate union between Himself 
and Christendom and all its members, a union than which 
nothing more intimate can be imagined." 3 

In another sermon he praises the edification provided in the 
married state, when " man and wife are united in love and serve 
each other faithfully " ; Luther invites them to thank God 
" that the married state is profitable alike to body, property, 
honour and salvation." " What, however, is best of all in 
married life," so he insists, " for the sake of which everything 
must be suffered and endured, is that God may give offspring 
and command us to train it in His service. This is earth s 
noblest and most priceless work, because God loves nothing so 
well as to save souls." 4 

1 N. Paulus, " Zur angeblichen Geringschatzung der Frau und der 
Ehe im MA.," in the "Wissensch. Beil. zur Germania," 1904, Nos. 10 
and 12. 

2 Pastor, " Hist, of the Popes " (Eng. Trans.), 5, p. 119. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 19 Z , p. 246 f. * Ibid., 16 2 , p. 536 ff. 



ON MATRIMONY 143 

Such exhortations of Luther s, apart from peculiarities of 
expression, differ from those of earlier writers only in that those 
authors, relying on the traditional, sacramental conception of the 
matrimonial union, had an even greater right to eulogise marriage 
and the blessing of children. 

Catholic preachers might quite profitably have made use of 
the greater part of a wedding discourse delivered by Luther in 
1531, J though they might have failed to emulate the force and 
emphasis with which it was uttered. His theme there is " that 
marriage is to be held in honour " ; he quotes Hebr. xiii. 4, 
" Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled " ; he 
continues : " It is true that our flesh is full of evil lusts which 
entice us to sin, but to these we must not consent ; if, however, 
you hold fast to the Word of God and see to it, that this state 
is blessed and adorned, this will preserve and comfort you, and 
make of it a holy state for you." 2 It was necessary, he continues, 
not merely to fight against any sensual lusts outside of the 
marriage bond, but also to cultivate virtue. Conjugal fidelity 
must be preserved all the more carefully since " Satan is your 
enemy and your flesh wanton." " Fornication and adultery are 
the real stains which defile the marriage bed." " Married 
persons are embraced in the Word of God." This they must take 
as their guide, otherwise (here Luther s language ceases to be a 
pattern) " the bed is soiled, and, practically, they might as well 
have passed their motions in it." 3 

Such an emphasising of the religious side of matrimony almost 
gives the impression, that Luther was following an interior 
impulse which urged him to counteract the effects of certain 
other statements of his on marriage. Doubtless he felt the con 
trast between his worldly view of matrimony and the higher 
standard of antiquity, though he would certainly have refused 
to admit that he was behindhand in the struggle against sensu 
ality. In view of the sad moral consequences which were bearing 
witness against him, he was disposed to welcome an opportunity 
to give expression to such sentiments as those just described, 
which tended to justify him both to his listeners and to himself. 
Nor were such sentiments mere hypocrisy ; on the contrary, they 
have their psychological place as a true component part of his 
picture. On one occasion Luther bewails the want of attention 
paid to his excellent doctrines : " The teachers are there, but 
the doers are nowhere to be found ; as with the other points of 
our doctrine, there are but few who obey or heed us." 4 

Not infrequently, however, instead of praising the dignity 
of woman and the purity of married life, Luther speaks in 
a far from respectful, nay, offensive manner of woman, 
though without perhaps meaning all that his words would 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 34, 1, p. 51 ff. 

2 Ibid., p. 58. 3 Ibid., pp. 66, 68. 

4 Ibid., 30, 3, p. 278 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 6. " Warnunge an seine 
lieben Deudschen," 1531. 



144 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

seem to convey. He thereby exposes woman, in her 
relations with man, to the danger of contempt, and thus 
forfeits the right of posing as the defender of feminine 
dignity and of the married state against alleged detractors 
among the Catholics. His false aspersions on former days 
thus stand out in a still more unpleasant light. 

In a sermon of 1524, where it is true he has some fine 
words on the indulgent treatment to be meted out to the 
wife, he says : St. Peter calls woman the " weaker vessel " 
(1 Peter iii. 7) ; he " had given faint praise to woman," for 
" woman s body is not strong and her spirit, as a general rule, 
is even weaker ; whether she is wild or mild depends on 
God s choice of man s helpmate. Woman is half a child ; 
whoever takes a wife must look upon himself as the guardian 
of a child. . . . She is also a crazy beast. Recognise her weak 
ness. If she does not always follow the straight path, bear 
with her frailty. A woman will ever remain a woman. 
. . . But the married state is nevertheless the best, because 
God is there with His Word and Work and Cross." 1 

With those who complain of the sufferings of the mother 
in pregnancy and childbirth he is very angry, and, in one 
sermon, goes so far as to say : " Even though they grow 
weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, that is 
of no consequence ; let them go on bearing children till they 
die, that is what they are there for." 2 

His description of marriage "as an outward, material 
thing, like any other worldly business, 3 was certainly not 
calculated to raise its repute ; and in the same passage he 
proceeds : " Just as I may eat and drink, sleep and walk, 
ride, talk and do business with a heathen or a Jew, a Turk 
or a heretic, so also I may contract marriage with him." 4 

Matrimonial cases had formerly belonged to the ecclesi 
astical courts, but Luther now drives the parties concerned 
to the secular judge, telling them that he will give them " a 
good hog," i.e. a sound trouncing, for having sought to 
" involve and entangle him in such matters " which " really 
concerned the secular authority." 5 "Marriage questions," 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 420. 

2 Ibid., Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 538. 

3 Ibid., Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 283 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 519. Cp. present 
work, vol. iii., p. 263 and p. 241 ff. 

* Ibid., Erl. ed., 61, p. 205 (Table-Talk). 

5 Cp. the passages in the Table-Talk on marriage and on women, 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 61, pp. 182-213, and 57, pp. 270-273. 



ON MATRIMONY 145 

he says, " do not touch the conscience, but come within the 
province of the secular judge." 1 Previously, parties whose 
rights had been infringed were able to seek redress from 
the ecclesiastical tribunals, the sentences of which were 
enforced by Canon Law under spiritual penalties, to the 
advantage of the injured party. Luther, on the other hand, 
after having secularised marriage, finds himself unable to 
cope with the flood of people clamouring for justice : "I am 
tired of them [the matrimonial squabbles] and I have thrown 
them overboard ; let them do as they like in the name of 
all the devils." 2 He is also determined to rid the preachers 
of this business ; the injured parties are, he says, to seek 
for justice and protection " in the latrines of the lawyers " ; 
his own conduct, he hopes, will serve as a model to the 
preachers, who will now repel all who solicit their help. 3 

The increase in the number of matrimonial misunder 
standings and quarrels, the haste with which marriage was 
entered upon and then dissolved, particularly in the Saxon 
Electorate and at Wittenberg, was not merely the result 
of the new Evangelical freedom, as Luther and his friends 
sadly admitted, but was due above all to the altered 
views on marriage. In the new preaching on marriage the 
gratification of the sensual impulse was, as will be shown 
below, placed too much in the foreground, owing partly to 
the fanatical reaction against clerical celibacy and religious 
vows. " To marry is a remedy for fornication " ; these 
words of Luther s were again and again repeated by him 
self and others in one form or another, as though they 
characterised the main object of marriage. Nature was 
persistently painted as excessively weak in the matter of 
chastity, and as quite captive under the yoke of passion. 
People were indeed admonished to curb their passions with 
the help of Grace, but such means of acquiring God s Grace 
as mortification and self-conquest were only too frequently 
scoffed at as mere holiness-by-works, while as for the means 
of grace sought by Catholics in the Sacraments, they had 
simply been " abolished." 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 205. 

2 " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 25. Cp. Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," 
p. 121 ; " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 421 ; 2, p. 368. Cp. Kostlin- 
Kawerau, 2, p. 440. 

3 " Briefwechsel," 10, p. 266 : " reicio . . . ubi possum." There 
are, however, some instances of sympathy and help being forthcoming. 

IV. L 



146 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

By his patronage of polygamy, forced on him by his 
wrong interpretation of the Bible, Luther put the crowning 
touch on his contempt for Christian marriage. 1 This was to 
relinquish the position of privilege in which Christianity 
had established marriage, when, following the Creator s 
intention, it insisted on monogamy. 

Birth of the New Views on Marriage during the Controversy 
on the VO~M of Chastity. 

How did Luther reach his opinion and succeed in endow 
ing it with credibility and life ? A glance at its birth and 
growth will give us an instructive insight into Luther s 
manner of proceeding. 

He had already long been engaged in his struggle with 
" Popish abuses " and had already set up all the essential 
points of his new theology, before becoming in the least con 
scious of the supposed contempt in which marriage was held by 
the Roman Church. In his exposition of the Ten Command 
ments, in 1518, he still speaks of it in the respectful language 
of his earlier years ; in his sermon on the Married State, in 
1519, he still terms it a Sacrament, without hinting in any 
way that it had hitherto been considered disreputable. 
Whether he uses the term Sacrament in its traditional 
meaning we do not, of course, know. At any rate, he says : 
" Matrimony is a Sacrament, an outward, holy sign of the 
greatest, most sacred, worthy and exalted thing that ever 
has been, or ever will be, viz. of the union of the Divine and 
human nature in Christ." 2 Enumerating the spiritual 
advantages of marriage, which counteract the " sinful lusts 
therewith intermingled," he expressly appeals to the 
" Doctors " of the Church, and the three benefits they 
perceived in matrimony ; " first, marriage is a Sacrament," 
" secondly, it is a bond of fidelity," " thirdly, it brings 
offspring, which is the end and principal office of marriage " ; 
a further benefit must be added, viz. the " training of the 
offspring in the service of God." 3 

In his book " On the Babylonish Captivity " (1520) he 
has already arrived at the explicit denial to marriage of the 
name and character of a sacrament. 

1 See above, pp. 3 ff., 13 &., and vol. iii., 259 ff. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 2, p. 168 ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 63. Second 
edition of the Sermon. 3 Ibid., p. 168 f. = 63 f. 



ON MATRIMONY 147 

But it was only in the war he waged against his own vow 
of chastity that the idea arose in his mind, and even then 
only gradually, that the true value and excellence of 
marriage had never hitherto been recognised. The more he 
sought for theological grounds on which to prove the 
worthlessness of religious celibacy and the nullity of the 
vow of chastity, the more deeply he persuaded himself that 
proofs existed in abundance of the utter perversity of the 
prevailing opinions on matrimony. He began to impute to 
the Church extravagant views on virginity, of which neither 
he nor anyone else had ever thought. He now accused her 
of teaching the following : That virginity was the only 
state in which God could be served perfectly ; that 
marriage was forbidden to the clergy because it was dis 
reputable and a thing soiled with sin ; finally, that family 
life with its petty tasks must be regarded as something 
degrading, while woman herself, to whom the chief 
share in these tasks belongs and who, moreover, so 
often tempts man to sins of incontinence, is a contemptible 
creature. 

All these untruths concerning the ancient Church were 
purely the outcome of Luther s personal polemics. 

His system of attack exhibits no trace of any dispassion 
ate examination of the testimonies of antiquity. But his 
false and revolting charges seemed some sort of justification 
for his attack on religious vows and clerical celibacy. 
From such theoretical charges there was but a step to 
charges of a more practical character and to his boundless 
exaggerations concerning the hideous vices supposed to have 
been engendered by the perversion of the divinely appointed 
order, and to have devastated the Church as a chastisement 
for her contempt for marriage. 

In the second edition of the sermon of 1519 on the Married 
State he places virginity on at least an equal footing with 
matrimony. Towards the end of the sermon he (like the 
earlier writers) calls matrimony " a noble, exalted and 
blessed state " if rightly observed, but otherwise " a 
wretched, fearful and dangerous " one ; he proceeds : 
Whoever bears this in mind " will know Avhat to think of the 
sting of the flesh, and, possibly, will be as ready to accept 
the virginal state as the conjugal." 1 Even during his 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 2, p. 170; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 66. 



148 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Wartburg days, when under the influence of the burning 
spirit of revolt, and already straining at the vows which 
bound him, he still declared in the theses he sent Melanch- 
thon, that " Marriage is good, but virginity better " 
(" Bonum coniugium, melior virginitas"), 1 a thesis, which, 
like St. Paul, he bases mainly on the immunity from 
worldly cares. This idea impressed Melanchthon so deeply, 
that he re-echoes it in his praise of virginity in the " Apology 
for the Confession of Augsburg " : " We do not make 
virginity and marriage equal. For, as one gift is better than 
another, prophecy better than eloquence, strategy better 
than agriculture, eloquence better than architecture, so 
virginity is a gift excelling marriage." 2 

But this great gift, to Luther s mind, was a moral im 
possibility, the rarest of God s Graces, nay, a " miracle " of 
the Almighty. Hence he teaches that such a privilege must 
not be laid claim to, that the monastic vow of chastity was 
therefore utterly immoral, and clerical celibacy too, to say 
nothing of private vows of virginity ; in all such there 
lurked a presumptuous demand for the rarest and most 
marvellous of Divine Graces ; even to pray for this was not 
allowed. 

At the conclusion of his theses for Melanchthon, Luther 
enforces what he had said by the vilest calumnies against 
all who, in the name of the Church, had pledged themselves 
to remain unmarried. Were it known what manner of persons 
those who profess such great chastity really are, their 
" greatly extolled chastity " would not be considered fit 
" for a prostitute to wipe her boots on." 

Then follow his further unhappy outbursts at the Wart- 
burg on religious vows (vol. ii., p. 83 ff.) consummating his 
perversion of the Church s teaching and practice regarding 
celibacy and marriage. In marriage he sees from that time 
forward nothing by the gratification of the natural im 
pulse ; to it every man must have recourse unless he 
enjoys the extraordinary grace of God ; the ancient Church, 
with her hatred of marriage, her professed religious and 
celibate clergy, assumes in his imagination the most 
execrable shape. He fancies that, thanks to his new notions, 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 330 f. ; " Opp. lat. var.," 4, p. 353 seq. 
" ludicium de votis monasticis." Cp. vol. iii., p. 248. 

2 " Apol. Conf. Augustanae," c. 23, n. 38 ; Bekenntnisschriften, 10 , 
p. 242 : " Ita virginitas donum est prcestantius coniugio" 



ON MATRIMONY 149 

he has risen far above the Christianity of the past, albeit 
the Church had ever striven to guard the sanctity of 
marriage as the very apple of her eye, by enacting many 
laws and establishing marriage-courts of her own under 
special judges. He becomes ever more reckless in casting 
marriage matters on the shoulders of the State. In the 
Preface to his " Trawbiichlin," in 1529, he says, for instance, 
" Since wedlock and marriage are a worldly business, we 
clergy and ministers of the Church have nothing to order 
or decree about it, but must leave each town and country 
to follow its own usage and custom." 1 

From that time forward, particularly when the Diet of 
Augsburg had embittered the controversy, Luther pours 
out all the vials of his terrible eloquence on the bondage in 
which marriage had been held formerly, and on the con 
tempt displayed by Rome for it. He peremptorily demands 
its complete secularisation. 

And yet he ostentatiously extols marriage as " holy and 
Divine," and even says that wedlock is most pleasing to 
God, a mystery and Sacrament in the highest sense of the 
word. Of one of these passages Emil Friedberg, the Protes 
tant canonist, remarks in his " Recht der Eheschliessung " : 
" Luther s views as here expressed completely contradict 
other passages, and this same discrepancy is apparent 
throughout the later literature, and, even now, prevents 
[Protestants] from appreciating truly the nature of 
marriage." 2 

Every impartial observer could have seen that the 
preference given to virginity by the Catholic Church, her 
defence of the manner of life of those whom God had called 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 74 ; Erl. ed., 23, p. 208. 

2 Leipzig, 1865, p. 159. Friedberg adduces passages from H.L. v. 
Strampff, " Uber die Ehe ; aus Luthers Schriften zusammengetragen," 
Berlin, 1857. Falk, " Die Ehe am Ausgang des MA.," p. 73. Th. Kolde 
says, in his " M. Luther," 2, p. 488, that the reformers, and Luther in 
particular, " lacked a true insight into the real, moral nature of mar 
riage." " At that time at any rate [1522 f.] it was always the sensual 
side of marriage to which nature impels, which influenced him. That 
marriage is essentially the closest communion between two individuals, 
and thus, by its very nature, excludes more than two, never became 
clear to him or to the other reformers." Kolde, however, seeks to 
trace this want of perception to the " mediaeval views concerning 
marriage." Cp. Denifle, I 1 , p. 285. Otto Scheel, the translator of 
Luther s work on Monastic Vows (" Werke Luthers, Auswahl, usw., 
Erganzungsbd.," 1, p. 199 ff.), speaks of Luther s view of marriage as 
" below that of the Gospel " (p. 198). 



150 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

to the cloister, and her guardianship of the celibacy of the 
priesthood, handed down from the earliest ages, did not in 
the least imply any undervaluing of marriage on her part 
unless indeed, as Joseph Mausbach remarks, he was pre 
pared to admit that, " because one thing is better, its opposite 
must needs be bad." 

" Who thinks," continues the same writer, that " prefer 
ence for gold involves contempt for silver, or preference for 
the rose a depreciation of all other flowers ? But these very 
comparisons are to be met with even amongst the ancient 
Fathers. . . . Why should the Church s praise of virginity 
be always misconstrued as a reproach against matrimony ? 
All this is mere thoughtlessness, when it is not blind 
prejudice, for the Church did everything to prevent any 
misunderstanding of her praise of virginity, and certainly 
taught and defended the sanctity of marriage with all her 
power." 1 

Luther s judgment was not due so much to mere thought 
lessness as to his burning hatred of the Papacy ; this we see 
from the vulgar abuse which, whenever he comes to speak 
of marriage and celibacy, he showers on the Pope, the 
supreme champion of the Evangelical Counsels and of the 
priestly ideal of life ; on the other hand, it was also to some 
extent due to his deeply rooted and instinctive aversion 
for everything whereby zealous Christians do violence to 
nature out of love for God, from the motive of penance and 
from a desire to obtain merit. 



The Natural Impulse and the Honour of Marriage. 

Ecclesiastical writers before Luther s day speak frequently 
and plainly enough of the impulse of nature, but, as a rule, 
only in order to recommend its control, to point out the 
means of combating excesses, and to insist on the Sacra 
ment which sanctifies conjugal intercourse and brings down 
the blessings we require if the earthly and eternal purpose 
of marriage is to be fulfilled. 

Luther, however, if we may trust one of his most zealous 
defenders, rendered a great service with regard to sexual inter 
course in that " he shook off the pseudo-ascetic spirit of the 
past." He demonstrated, so we are told, particularly in what he 

1 "Die kath. Moral," 1902, p. 118. 



ON MATRIMONY 151 

wrote to Spalatin about the " actus matrimonialis" 1 words 
which some have regarded as offensive -" that even that act, 
though represented by his opponents as obscene, to the faithful 
Christian who receives it with thanksgiving (1 Tim. iv. 4), 
contained nothing to raise a blush or to forbid its mention." 
According to the " Roman view " it is perfectly true that " the 
actus matrimonialis is sinless only when performed with the 
object of begetting children, or in order to fulfil the conjugal 
due." 2 This, he exclaims, " was forsooth to be the sole motive 
of conjugal intercourse ! And, coupled with this motive, the act 
even becomes meritorious ! Is there any need of confuting so 
repulsive a notion ? . . . Luther s view is very different. The 
natural sexual passion was, according to him, the will and the 
work of God." " The effect of the Roman exaltation of celibacy 
was to make people believe, that the motive [of conjugal inter 
course] implanted by God, viz. sexual attraction, must not be 
yielded to." This attraction Luther declared to be the one motive 
on account of which we should " thankfully avail ourselves " of 
matrimony. " This Luther conveys most clearly in his letter 
to Spalatin, his intimate friend, shortly after both had wedded. 
. . . We know no higher conception of conjugal intercourse." 

This description does not do justice to the mediaeval Catholic 
teaching on matrimony, its duties and privileges. This teaching 
never demanded the suppression of sensual attraction or love. 
It fully recognised that this had been implanted in human nature 
by God s wise and beneficent hand as a stimulus to preserve and 
multiply the human race, according to His command : " Be 
fruitful and multiply." But the Church urged all to see that this 
impulse was kept pure and worthy by attention to its higher 
purpose, viz. to the object appointed from above. Instead of 
becoming its slave the Christian was to ennoble it by allowing 
the motives of faith to play their part in conjugal intercourse. 
The Church s teaching would indeed have been " repulsive " had 
it demanded the general repression of the sexual instinct and not 
merely the taming of that unruliness which is the result of 
original sin, and is really unworthy of man. Had she imposed 
the obligation to wage an impossible struggle against it as a 
thing essentially sinful, then her teaching might indeed have 
been described as " repulsive." 

Still it is sufficiently tragic, that, in spite of the gratification of 
the sensual impulse of nature playing the principal part in his new 
and supposedly more exalted view of conjugal intercourse, Luther 
should, on account of the concupiscence involved, characterise 
the " actus matrimonialis " as a mortal sin. In " De votis mon- 

1 On Dec. G, 1525, " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 279. See vol. iii., p. 269. 
The passage was omitted by Aurifaber and De Wette probably because 
not judged quite proper. 

2 Aug., " De bono coniug.," c. 6, n. 6 ; c. 7, n. 6. According to 
Denifle, I 1 , p. 277, n. 2, the Schoolmen knew the passages through the 
Lombard " Sent.," 4, dist. 31, c. 5. He also quotes S. Thorn., " Summa 
theol.," Supplem., q. 41, a. 4 ; q. 49, a. 5 ; q. 64, a. 4 : " ut sibi 
invicem debitum reddant." 



152 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

astici-s," his work written at the Wartburg, he says : " Accord 
ing to Ps. 1. 7, it is a sin differing in nothing from adultery and 
fornication so far as the sensual passion and hateful lust are 
concerned ; God, however, does not impute it to the married, 
though simply because of His compassion, since it is impossible 
for us to avoid it, although our duty would really be to do 
without it." 1 We are already familiar with his curious and 
impossible theory of imputation, according to which God is able 
to close His eyes to a sin, which nevertheless is really there. 

That there is actual sin in the act Luther also insists elsewhere, 
at the same time pleading, however, that the sin is not imputed 
by God, who, as it were, deliberately winks at it : "In spite of 
all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to 
nature as to admit that there is no sin in it ; what I say is that 
we have here flesh and blood, depraved in Adam, conceived and 
born in sin (Ps. 1. 7), and that no conjugal due is ever rendered 
without sin." 2 The blessing which God bestowed on marriage, 
he says elsewhere, fallen human nature was " not able to ac 
complish without sin " ; " without sin no married persons could 
do their duty." 3 

Hence the following inference would seem justified : Matri 
mony is really a state of sin. Such was the opinion, not of the 
Church before Luther s day, but of her assailant, whose opponents 
soon pointed out to him how unfounded was his supposition. 4 
The ancient Church, by the voice of her theologians, declared the 
" actus matrimonialis," when performed in the right way and to 
a right end, to be no sin ; they admitted the inevitable satisfac 
tion of concupiscence, but allowed it so long as its gratification 
was not all that was sought. According to Luther whom the 
author above referred to has quite rightly understood it is 
different : Sin is undoubtedly committed, but we may, nay, are 
bound, to commit it. 

With the above, all Luther s statements on the inevitable 
strength of the impulse of nature agree. Though the union 
of husband and wife is a rule of the natural law applying 
to the majority rather than to the individual, Luther 
practically makes it binding upon all. In this connection 
he seems to be unable to view the moral relation of the 
sexes in any other light than as existing for the gratification 
of mutual lust, since without marriage they must inevitably 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 654 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 6, p. 355. On 
the text, see Denifle, I 2 , p. 263, n. 3. 

2 Ibid., 20, 2, p. 304 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 541. " On Married 
Life," 1522. 

3 Ibid., 12, p. 114. Cp. " Opp. lat. exeg.," 4, p. 10. 

4 N. Paulus, " Hist. Jahrb.," 27, 1906, p. 495, art. " Zu Luthers 
Schrift iiber die Monchsgeliibde " : " Luther s false view of the sinful- 
ness of the actus matrimonialis was strongly repudiated by 
Catholics, particularly by Clichtoveus and Cochlaeus." 



ON MATRIMONY 153 

fall into every sort of carnal sin. " It is a necessary and 
natural thing, that every man should have a wife," he says 
in the lengthy passage already quoted, where he concludes, 
" it is more necessary than eating and drinking, sleeping and 
waking, or passing the natural motions of the body." 1 
Elsewhere, in a characteristic comparison, he says : " Were 
a man compelled to close his bowels and bladder surely an 
utter impossibility what would become of him ? " 2 Accord 
ing to him, " man must be fruitful, and multiply, and 
breed," " like all other animals, since God has created him 
thereto, so that, of necessity, a man must seek a wife, and a 
woman a husband, unless God works a miracle." 3 

Many were they who, during the controversies which 
accompanied the schism, listened to such teaching and 
believed it and were ready to forgo the miracle in order to 
follow the impulse of nature ; were ready to indulge their 
weakness did their state of life prohibit marriage, or to 
dissolve the marriage already contracted when it did not 
turn out to their taste, or when they fancied they could 
advance one of the numerous reasons proclaimed by Luther 
for its annulment. The evil effects of such morality in the 
16th century (see below, p. 164 ff. and xxiv. 1 and 2), 
witnessed to on all sides by Lutherans as well as Catholics, 
prove conclusively that the originator of the new matri 
monial theories was the last man qualified to reproach the 
ancient Church with a want of appreciation for marriage or 
for woman. 

Nor must we look merely at the results. The man s very 
character, his mode of thought and his speech, suffice to 
banish him from the society of the olden, earnest moralists. 
Albeit unwillingly, we must add here some further state 
ments to those already adduced. 4 

" If a man feels his manhood," Luther says, " let him take a 
wife and not tempt God. Puella propterea habet pudenda, to 
provide him a remedy that he may escape pollution and 
adultery." 5 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 276; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 511. 
" Sermon on the Married Life," 1522. 

2 Ibid., 12, p. 66 ; Erl. ed., 53, p. 188. 

3 Ibid., p. 113. 4 Cp. vol. iii., p. 264 ff. 

6 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 101. Then follows a highly 
questionable statement concerning a rule of the Wittenberg Augus- 
tinian monastery, in which Luther fails to distinguish between " pollu- 



154 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" The sting of the flesh may easily be helped, so long as girls 
and women are to be found." 1 

Our readers will not have forgotten the reason he gives why 
women have so little intellect ; 2 or the reproof addressed to him 
by Staupitz. 3 

Luther urges early marriage in the words of an old proverb : 
" To rise early and to marry young will cause regret to no one." 
" It will fare with you," he says to the same addressee, " as with 
the nuns to whom they gave carved Jesuses. They cast about 
for others, who at least were living and pleased them better, 
and sought how best to escape from their convent." 4 "What 
greater service can one do a girl than to get her a baby ? This rids 
her of many fancies." 6 Here, and elsewhere too, he is anxious 
that people should marry, even though there should not be 
enough to live upon ; God would not allow the couple to starve 
if they did their duty. 6 "A young fellow should be simply 
given a wife, otherwise he has no peace. Then the troubles of 
matrimony will soon tame him." 7 

On another occasion (1540) Luther expresses himself with 
greater caution about too early matches : " It is not good for 
young people to marry too soon. They are ruined in their prime, 
exhaust their strength and neglect their studies." " But the 
young men are consumed with passion," one of those present 
objected, " and the theologians work upon their conscience and 
tell them that To marry young will cause regret to no one. 
Luther s reply was : " The young men are unwilling to resist 
any temptations. . . . They should console themselves with the 
hope of future marriage. We used to be forbidden to marry in 
almost all the Faculties, hence the youths indulged in all kinds of 
excesses, knowing that, later on, they would no longer be able to 
do so. Thus they sunk into every kind of disorder. But now 
everybody is allowed to marry, even the theologian and the 
bishop. Hence, in their own interests, they ought to learn to 
wait." 8 

At other times he was inclined to promote hasty marriages 
from motives of policy, and, without a thought of the dignity of 
the conjugal union and the respect due to woman, to use it as a 
means to increase the number of his followers. 

tiones voluntaries " and " involuntarice," but which draws from him 
the exclamation : " All the monasteries and foundations ought to be 
destroyed, if only on account of these shocking pollutiones / " 

1 Mathesius, " Aufzeichn.," p. 73, where some improper remarks 
may be found on the temptation of St. Paul (according to the notes, on 
account of St. Thecla) and that of St. Benedict, who, we are told, 
rolled himself in the thorns to overcome it. 

2 See vol. iii., p. 267, n. 10. 

3 Ibid., p. 122 : " Scribis, mea iactari ab Us qui lupanaria colunt." 
" Briefe," ed. by De Wette, 6, p. 419, undated. 

5 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 373. To a bridegroom in 1536. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 364 f. ; Erl. ed., 41, p. 135. Branden 
burg, " Luther iiber die Obrigkeit," p. 7. 

7 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 437. 8 Ibid., p. 219. 



ON MATRIMONY 155 

This happened in the case of many of his converts from the 
ranks of the clergy and religious. 1 

In the case of the Bishop of Samland, George von Polenz, and 
his adviser, Johann Briesmann, the ex-Franciscan, who both 
were desirous of marrying, Luther judged that delay would be 
disastrous. He urged them to make haste and be publicly 
wedded, both having already contracted a so-called marriage 
in conscience ; in their case there was " danger in delay," and, 
as the saying goes, " If you wait a night, you wait a year " ; even 
Paul had said we must not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 
vi. 1), and the bride in the Canticle complained that the bride 
groom " was gone," because she had been tardy in opening the 
door (v. 6). A German proverb said, " Wenn das Ferkel beut 
soil man den Sack herhalten." Esau s lost birthright, and the 
solemn words of Christ concerning separation from Him (John 
xii. 35 f.) were also made to serve his purpose. " Take it when, 
where and how you can, or you won t get another chance." A 
man could not be sure of his own mind on account of the snares 
of the devil ; a marriage not yet publicly ratified remained 
somewhat uncertain. 2 

Before these exhortations reached them both the parties in 
question had, however, already taken the public step. 

It was in those very days that Luther celebrated his own 
wedding and sent his pressing invitation to marry to the Cardinal 
and Elector of Mayence, telling him that, short of a miracle, or 
without some peculiar grace, it was a " terrible thing " for a man 
"to be found without a wife at the hour of death." 3 It was 
then, too, that he sent to Albert of Prussia, the Grand Master 
of the Teutonic Order, \vho was contemplating marriage, his 
congratulations on the secularisation of the lands of the Order 
and the founding of the Duchy, which he had even previously 
strongly urged him to do. In this letter he tells the Grand Master 
that it was " God Almighty," " Who had graciously and merci 
fully helped him to such a position [that of a secular Prince]." 4 
The Grand Master s marriage and consequent breach of his vow 
of chastity followed in 1526. He invited Luther to the wedding 
and wrote to him, that God had given him " the grace to enter 
the Order [of marriage] instituted by Himself " after he had 

1 See vol. ii., pp. 115-28. 

2 To Spalatin, June 10, 1525, " Briefwechsel," 5, p. 189 f. Enders 
(p. 191) would refer the above passages to Luther s own marriage, but 
G. Bossert (" Theol. Literaturztng.," 1907, p. 691) makes out a better 
case for their reference to Polenz and Briesmann. Two persons at least 
are obviously referred to : " Quod illi vero prcetexunt, certos sese fore de 
animo suo, stultum est ; nullius cor eat in manu sua, diabolus poten- 
tissimus est," etc. Luther evidently felt, that, until the persons in 
question had been bound to the new Evangel by their public marriages, 
their support could not be entirelv reckoned on. 

3 On June 2, 1525, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 308 (" Briefwechsel," 
5, p. 186). See vol. ii., p. 142. 

4 On May 26, 1525, " Werke," ibid., p. 304 (" Briefwechsel," 5, 
p. 179). 



156 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" laid aside the cross [the sign of the Order] and entered the 
secular estate." 

It cannot be denied, that in all these marriages which Luther 
promoted, or at least favoured, what he had his eye on was the 
advantage of the new Church system, Of any raising of the 
moral position of women, of any deepening of the significance of 
marriage, there is here no trace ; these marriages served quite 
another purpose. The circumstances attending them were, 
moreover, frequently far from dignified. " The Bishop of 
Samland," so Philip von Creutz, a Knight of the Teutonic Order, 
relates, " gave up his bishopric to the Duke [Albert] in the 
presence of the whole assembly. . . . He caused his mitre to be 
broken up and, out of its precious stones and jewels, he had 
ornaments made for his wife." 1 

Practical Consequences of the New View of Woman : 
Matrimonial Impediments, Divorce. 

The readiness shown by Luther to annul valid marriages, 
and the wayward manner in which he disposed of the 
impediments fixed by the Church, were not calculated to 
enhance respect either for marriage or for Woman. 

As regards the impediments to marriage we shall here 
merely refer to the practical and not uncommon case where 
a person wished to marry a niece. Whereas Canon Law, at 
one with Roman Law, regarded this relationship as consti 
tuting an impediment, which might, however, be dispensed 
from by the Pope, Luther at first saw fit to declare it no 
impediment at all ; he even issued memoranda to this 
effect, one of which was printed in 1526 and circulated 
widely. 2 " If the Pope was able to dispense," he said later 
on concerning this, " why can t I too? " 3 In favour of the 
lawfulness of such marriages he appealed to the example of 
Abraham, and in reply to objections declared : " If they 
blame the work and example of the holy Patriarch Abraham, 
then let them be scandalised." 4 At a later date, nevertheless, 

1 Janssen, " Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans., 5, p. 114). 

2 Advice to this effect is found in letters of Dec. 22, 1525, and Jan. 
5, 1526, both addressed to Marquard Schuldorp of Magdeburg, who 
married his niece, " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 283 (and p. 303). The second 
letter, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 364, was printed at Magdeburg in 
1526. In the first letter he says, that though the Pope would in all 
likelihood refuse to grant a dispensation in this case, yet it sufficed that 
God was not averse to the marriage. " They shall not be allowed to 
curtail our freedom ! " 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 337, in 1544. 

4 In the second letter to Schuldorp. Cp. N. Paulus, " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 
135, 1905, p. 85. 



ON MATRIMONY 157 

he changed his mind and held such marriages to be unlawful. 
His previous statements he explained by saying that once 
he had indeed given a different decision, not in order to lead 
others into excesses but in order " to assist consciences at 
the hour of death against the Pope " ; he had merely given 
advice in Confession to troubled consciences, and had not 
laid down any law ; to make laws was not within his 
province, either in the State or in the Church. His former 
memoranda were not to be alleged now ; a certain man of 
the name of Borner, who, on the strength of them, had 
married his niece, had acted very ill and done injustice to 
his (Luther s) decision. The Pope alone, so Luther says, 
was to blame for his previous advice because many, owing 
to his laws, were reduced to despair and had come to Luther 
for help. "It is true that in Confession and in order to 
pacify consciences I have advised differently, but I made a 
mistake in allowing such counsels to be made public. Now, 
however, it is done. This is a matter for Confession only." 1 

When speaking in this way, in 1544, he probably had in 
mind his so-called advice in Confession to Philip of Hesse. 
He was still acting on the principle, that advice given in 
Confession might afterwards be publicly repudiated as quite 
wrong ; he failed somehow to see that the case of marriage 
of uncle and niece was of its very nature something public. 

The multitude of divorces caused him great anxiety. 
Even the preachers of the new faith were setting a bad 
example by putting away their spouses and contracting 
fresh marriages. Melander, for instance, who blessed Philip s 
second marriage, after deserting " two wives in succession 
without even seeking legal aid, married a third." 2 At 
Gotha, as Luther himself relates, a woman deserted her 

1 Mathesius, ibid. For further explanation of this statement, cp. 
Luther s letter of Dec. 10, 1543, to D. Hesse, " Briefe," 5, p. 606 ff. He 
there says of his decision on the lawfulness of this marriage : " Est 
nuda tabula, in qua nihil docetur aut iubetur, sed modeste ostenditur, quid 
in veteri lege de his traditum sit. . . . In consolationem confessorem seu 
conscientiarum mea quoque scheda fuit emissa contra papam." He 
insists that he had always spoken in support of the secular laws on 
marriage and against the rein tr eduction of the Mosaic ordinances. 
" Ministrorum verbi non est leges condere, pertinet hoc ad magistratum 
civilem . . . ideo et coniugium debet legibus ordinari. Tamen si quis 
casus cogeret dispensare, non vererer occulte in conscientiis aliter consulere, 
vel si esset publicus casus, consulere, ut a magistratu peteret dispensa- 
tionem." 

2 Rockwell, " Die Doppelehe Philipps," p. 86. 



158 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

husband and her three children, and sent him a message to 
tell him he might take another wife. When, however, he 
had done so the woman again asserted her claims. " Our 
lawyers," Luther complains, " at once took her part, but the 
Elector decided she should quit the country. My own 
decision would have been to have her done to death by 
drowning." 1 

In a still existing letter of 1525, Luther permitted Michael 
Kramer, preacher at Domitsch, near Torgau, to contract a 
third marriage, two previous ones having turned out un 
fortunate. Kramer, as a Catholic priest, had first married a 
servant maid and, for this, had been sent to jail by Duke 
George his sovereign. When the maid proved unfaithful 
and married another, Luther, to whom Kramer had attached 
himself, declared her to be really " deceased " and told the 
preacher he might use his " Christian freedom." Kramer 
thereupon married a girl from Domitsch, where he had been 
in the meantime appointed Lutheran pastor. This new wife 
likewise ran away from him three weeks later. He now 
addressed himself to the local board of magistrates, who, 
conjointly with him, wrote to Luther, pointing out how the 
poor man " could not do without a wife." Luther thereupon 
sent a memorandum, addressed to the " magistrates and the 
preacher of Domitsch," in which he allowed a divorce from 
the second wife and gave permission for a third marriage, 
which, apparently, was more of a success. During the 
Visitations in 1528 this preacher, who had since been trans 
ferred to Lucka, got into trouble on account of his three 
marriages, but saved his skin by appealing to Luther s 
letter. 2 

The reader already knows that, according to Luther, 
a woman who has no children by her husband, may, with 
the latter s consent, quietly dissolve the marriage and 
cohabit with another, for instance, with her brother-in-law ; 
this, however, was to be secret, because the children were to 
be regarded as her first husband s. Should he refuse his 
consent, says Luther, " rather than suffer her to burn or 
have recourse to adultery, I would advise her to marry 
another and flee to some place where she is unknown. What 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 374, Jan., 1537. 

2 Luther s memorandum, Aug. 18, 1525, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, 
p. 326 (" Brief wechsel," 5, p. 228). Cp. Enders Notes to this letter. 



ON MATRIMONY 159 

other advice can be given to one who is in constant danger 
from carnal lusts ? 5?1 Duke George of Saxony, referring to 
a similar passage in Luther s work " On Conjugal Life " 
(1522), 2 said in a letter to Luther which was immediately 
printed : " When was it ever heard of that wives should be 
taken from their husbands and given to other men, as we 
now find it stated in your Evangel ? Has adultery ever been 
more common than since you wrote : If a woman has no 
children by her husband, then let her go to another and bear 
children whom her husband must provide for as though he 
were the father ? This is the fruit of the precious Evangel 
which you dragged forth out of the gutter. You were quite 
right when you said you found it in the gutter ; what we 
want to know is, why you didn t leave it there." 3 

What Luther had said concerning the refusal to render the 
conjugal due : "If the wife refuse, then let the maid come," 
attracted more attention than he probably anticipated, both 
among his own adherents and among his foes. It is true, as 
already pointed out, that the context does not justify illicit 
relations outside marriage (see vol. iii., p. 252 f.), but the words 
as they stand, to say nothing of the unlikelihood of any real 
marriage with the maid, and, finally, the significance which 
may have clung to a coarse saying of the populace possibly 
alluded to by Luther, all favoured those who chose to make 
the tempting phrase a pretext for such extra-matrimonial 
relations. 

When the sermon on marriage in which the passage occurs was 
published, Duke George s representative at the Diet of Nurem 
berg in 1522 sent his master at Dresden a copy of the booklet, 
" which the devilish monk," so he writes, " has unblushingly 
published, though it has cost him the loss of many followers 
about here ; it would not go well with us poor husbands, should 
our naughty wives read it. I shall certainly not give my wife 
one." 4 Duke George replied with a grim jest which doubtless 
went the rounds at Nuremberg among those whom the booklet 
had offended : " As to what you write," George says, " viz. that 
you won t let your wife read the little book on marriage, me- 
thinks you are acting unwisely ; in our opinion it contains 
something which might serve even a jealous husband like you 
very well ; for it says, that if your wife refuses to do your will 
you have only to turn to the maid. Hence keep a look out for 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 558 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 5, p. 98 seq, 
" De captivitate babylonica." 

2 Ibid., 10. 2, p. 278 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 513 f. 

3 Dec. 28, 1525, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 5, p. 289. 

4 Dec. 19, 1522, " Akten und Brief e des Herzogs Georg von 
Sachsen," ed. F. Gess, 1, 1905, p. 402. 



160 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

pretty maids. These and similar utterances you may very well 
hold over your wife." 1 

In 1542 Wicel, in his Postils, speaking of the preachers, says : 
" The words of St. Paul, Art thou loosed from a wife, seek not 
a wife, 1 Cor. vii. 27, have a very unevangelical sound on 
the lips of these Evangelists. How then must it be ? Quick, 
take a wife or a husband ; whether you be young or old, make 
haste ; should one die, don t delay to take another. Celebrate 
the wedding, if it turns out ill, then let the maid come ! Divorce 
this one and take in marriage that one, whether the first be living 
or dead ! For chambering and wantonness shall not be neglected," 
" Since the coming of Christ," says the same writer elsewhere, 
" there have never been so many divorces as under Luther s 
rule." 2 

Of the unlooked-for effects produced among Luther s preachers 
by the above saying, Sebastian Flasch, an ex-Lutheran preacher 
and native of Mansfeld, complained in 1576 : " Although the 
preachers are married, yet they are so ill-content with their 
better halves, that, appealing to Luther s advice, they frequently, 
in order to gratify their insatiable concupiscence, seduce their 
maids, and, what is even more shameful, do not blush to mis 
conduct themselves with other men s wives or to exchange wives 
among themselves." He appeals to his long experience of 
Lutheranism and relates that such a " commutatio uxorum " had 
been proposed to him by a preacher of high standing. 3 Much 
earlier than this, in 1532, Johann Mensing, the Dominican, wrote 
sadly, that the state of matrimony was dreadfully disgraced by 
the new preachers ; " for they give a man two wives, a woman 
two husbands, allow the man to use the maid should the wife 
not prove compliant, and the wife to take another husband should 
her own prove impotent." " When they feel disposed or moved 
to what is sin and shameful, they say the Holy Spirit urges them. 
Is not that a fine tale that all the world is telling about Melchior 
Myritsch of Magdeburg, of Jacob Probst of Bremen and of others 
in the Saxon land. What certain mothers have discovered con 
cerning their daughters and maids, who listened to such preaching, 
it is useless to relate." 4 The name of the ex-Augustinian, 
Melchior Myritsch, or Meirisch, recalls the coarseness of the 
advice given by Luther, on Feb. 10, 1525, to the latter s new 
spouse. (See vol. ii., p. 144.) 

1 Jan. 1, 1523, ibid., p. 415. Cp. N. Paulus, " Hist.-pol. BI.," 137, 
1906, p. 56 f. 

2 " Postille," Mainz, 1542, 4b. Dollinger, " Die Reformation," 1, 
p. 52. 

3 " Professio catholica," Coloniae, 1580 (reprint), p. 219 seq. 
Janssen-Pastor, " Gesch. des deutschen Volkes," 8 14 , p. 456. Several 
replies were called forth by this over-zealous and extremely anti- 
Lutheran polemic. 

4 " Vormeldung der Unwahrheit Luterscher Clage," Frankfurt/ 
Oder, 1532. N. Paulus, " Die deutschen Dominikaner," etc., p. 33. 



ON MATRIMONY 161 

Respect for the Female Sex in Luther s Conversations. 

Had Luther, as the legend he set on foot would make us 
believe, really raised the dignity of woman and the married 
state to a higher level, we might naturally expect, that, 
when he has to speak of matters sexual or otherwise re 
pugnant to modesty, he would at least be reticent and 
dignified in his language. We should expect to find him 
surrounded at Wittenberg by a certain nobility of thought, 
a higher, purer atmosphere, a nobler general tone, in some 
degree of harmony with his extraordinary claims. Instead 
we are confronted with something very different. Luther s 
whole mode of speech, his conversations and ethical trend, 
are characterised by traits which even the most indulgent 
of later writers found it difficult to excuse, and which, 
particularly his want of delicacy towards women, must 
necessarily prove offensive to all. 1 

Luther was possibly not aware that the word " nun " 
comes from the Low Latin " nonna," i.e. woman, and was 
originally the name given to those who dwelt in the numerous 
convents of Upper Egypt ; he knew, however, well enough 
that the word " monk " was but a variant of " monachus." 
He jestingly gives to both the former and the latter an 
odious derivation. " The word nun," he says, " comes from 
the German, and cloistered women are thus called, because 
that is the term for unsexed sows ; in the same way the word 
monk is derived from the horses [viz. the gelded horses]. 
But the operation was not altogether successful, for they are 
obliged to wear breeches just like other people." 2 It may 
be that Catherine, the ex-nun, was present when this was 
said ; at any rate she is frequently mentioned in the Table- 
Talk as assisting. 3 

He could not let slip the opportunity of having a dig at the 
ladies who were sometimes present at his post-prandial entertain 
ments. In 1542 conversation turned on Solomon s many wives 
and concubines. Luther pointed out, 4 that the figures given in 
the Bible must be taken as referring to all the women dwelling in 
the palace, even to such as had no personal intercourse with 
Solomon. " One might as well say," he continues, Dr. Martin 

1 Cp. above, p. 152 f. 

2 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 340. Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," 
p. 252. 

3 Cp., for instance, present work, vol. iii., p. 268, and vol. ii., p. 378. 

4 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 281. 

IV. M 



162 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

has three wives ; one is Katey, another Magdalene, the third the 
pastoress ; also a concubine, viz. the virgin Els. 1 This made 
him laugh [writes the narrator, Caspar Heydenreich] ; and 
besides these he has many girls. In the same way Solomon had 
three hundred queens ; if he took only one every night, the year 
would be over, and he would not have had a day s rest. That 
cannot be, for he had also to govern." 2 

He advised that those who were troubled with doubts con 
cerning their salvation should speak of improper subjects 
(" loquaris de venereis"), that was an infallible remedy. 3 In 
one such case he invited a pupil to jest freely with his own wife, 
Catherine. " Talk about other things," Luther urges him, 
" which entirely distract your thoughts." 4 

As we know, Luther himself made liberal use of such talk to 
cheer up himself and others. Thus, in the presence of his guests, 
in 1537, he joked about Ferdinand, the German King, his extreme 
thinness and his very stout wife who was suspected of misconduct : 
" Though he is of such an insignificant bodily frame," he says, 
" others will be found to assist him in the nuptial bed. But it is 
a nuisance to have the world filled with alien heirs." 5 This leads 
him to speak of adulteresses in other districts. 6 

A coarser tale is the one he related about the same time. A 
minister came to him complaining of giddiness and asking for a 
remedy. His answer was : " Lass das Loch daheime," which, 
so the narrators explain, meant, " that he should not go to such 
excess in chambering." 7 A similar piece of advice is given by 
Luther in the doggerel verses which occur in his Table-Talk : 
" Keep your neck warm and cosy, Do not overload your belly. 
Don t be too sweet on Gertie ; Then your locks will whiten 
slowly." 8 On one occasion he showed his friends a turquoise 
(" turchesia "), which had been given him, and said, following the 
superstition of the day, that when immersed in water it would 
make movements " sicut isti qui eveniunt juveni cum a virgine in 
chorea circumfertur," but, that, in doing so, it broke. 9 On account 
of the many children he had caused to be begotten from priests 
and religious, he, as we already know, compared himself to 
Abraham, the father of a great race : He, like Abraham, was 

1 This was Elisabeth Kaufmann, a niece of Luther s, yet unmarried, 
who lived with her widowed sister Magdalene at the Black Monastery. 
The " pastoress " was the wife of the apostate priest Bugenhagen, 
Pastor of Wittenberg, who, during Bugenhagen s absence in Brunswick, 
seems to have enjoyed the hospitality of the same great house. 
The " many girls " are Luther s servants and those of the other 
inhabitants. 

2 Aurifaber suppressed the end of this conversation. Cp. " Werke," 
Erl. ed., 61, p. 201. 

3 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 221. 

4 Cp. vol. iii., p. 175 f. Cp. p. 179. 

5 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 390. 

6 Cp. vol. v., xxxi., 5. 

7 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 396. 8 Ibid., p. 415. 
9 Ibid., p. 405 f. 



ON MATRIMONY 163 

the grandfather of all the descendants of the monks, priests and 
nuns and the father of a mighty people. 1 

We may not pass over here Luther s frequent use of filthy 
expressions, which, though they agree well with his natural 
coarseness, harmonise but ill with the high ideals we should ex 
pect in one whose vocation it was to rescue marriage and feminine 
dignity from the slough of the Papacy. He is fond of using such 
words in his abuse of the Popish teaching on marriage : At one 
time, he writes, the Papists make out marriage to be a Sacra 
ment, " at another to be impure, i.e. a sort of merdiferous 
Sacrament." 2 The Pope, who waywardly teaches this and other 
doctrines, " has overthrown the Word of God " ; " if the Pope s 
reputation had not been destroyed by the Word of God, the 
devil himself would have ejected him" ( a posteriori ). 3 Else 
where he voices his conviction as to the most fitting epithet to 
apply to the Pope s " human ordinances." One thing in man, 
he explains, viz. "the anus, cannot be bound; it is determined 
to be master and to have the upper hand. Hence this is the only 
thing in man s body or soul upon which the Pope has not laid 
his commands." 4 

" The greatest blessing of marriage," he tells his friends, " lies 
in the children ; this D.G. [Duke George] was not fated to see in 
his sons, quos spectatissima principissa cacatos in lucem ederat. " 5 

The Pope and his people, he says in a sermon, had " condemned 
and rejected matrimony as a dirty, stinking state." " Had the 
creation of human beings been in the Pope s power he would 
never have created woman, or allowed any such to exist in the 
world." 6 " The Pope, the devil and his Church," he says in 1539, 
" are hostile to the married state. . . . Matrimony [in their 
opinion] is mere fornication." 7 

The Pope, he says, had forbidden the married state ; he 
and his followers, " the monks and Papists," " burn with 
evil lust and love of fornication, though they refuse to take 
upon themselves the trouble and labour of matrimony." 8 
" With the help of the Papacy Satan has horribly soiled 
matrimony, God s own ordinance " ; the fact was, the clergy 
had been too much afraid of woman ; " and so it goes on : If 

1 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 426. See vol. iii., p. 273. Akin to this 
is his self-congratulation (above, p. 46), that he works for the increase 
of mankind, whereas the Papists put men to death. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 430. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 405. 

4 " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 388. 

5 Ibid., 61, p. 193. The last words are omitted in the two old 
editions of the Table-Talk by Selnecker and Stangwald. 

6 Ibid., 20 2 , p. 365. At the marriage of the apostate Dean of 
Merseburg. 

7 Ibid., 2o 2 , p. 373 ; cp. p. 369 and above, vol. iii., p. 251, n. 3. 

8 Ibid., 61, p. 204 (Table-Talk). 



164 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

a man fears fornication he falls into secret sin, as seems to 
have been the case with St. Jerome." 1 

He saw sexual excesses increasing to an alarming extent 
among the youth of his own party. At table a friend of the 
" young fellows " sought to excuse their " wild, immoral 
life and fornication " on the ground of their youth ; Luther 
sighed, at the state of things revealed, and said : " Alas, 
that is how they learn contempt for the female sex." Con 
tempt will simply lead to abuse ; the true remedy for im 
morality was prayerfully to hold conjugal love in honour. 2 

Luther, however, preferred to dwell upon the deep- 
seated vice of an anti-matrimonial Papacy rather than on 
the results of his teaching upon the young. 

" Every false religion," he once exclaimed in 1542 in his 
Table-Talk, 3 " has been denied by sensuality ! Just look 
at the | ! " [He must here have used, says Kroker, " a term 
for phallus, or something similar," which Caspar Heyden- 
reich the reporter has suppressed.] 4 " What else were the 
pilgrimages," Luther goes on, " but opportunities for 
coming together ? What does the Pope do but wallow 
unceasingly in his lusts ? . . . The heathen held marriage 
in far higher honour than do the Pope and the Turk. The 
Pope hates marriage, and the Turk despises it. But it is 
the devil s nature to hate God s Word. What God loves, e.g. 
the Church, marriage, civic order, that he hates. He desires 
fornication and impurity ; for if he has these, he knows well 
that people will no longer trouble themselves about God." 

The New Matrimonial Conditions and the Slandered 
Opponents. 

It is a fact witnessed to by contemporaries, particularly 
by Catholics, that Luther s unrestraint when writing on 
sexual subjects, his open allusions to organs and functions, 
not usually referred to, and, especially, the stress he laid on 
the irresistibility of the natural impulse, were not without 
notable effect on the minds of the people, already excited as 
they were. 

1 " Werke," ibid., p. 205 (Table-Talk). 

2 Ibid., p. 211. 3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 262. 

4 For similar instances of the use of such signs see vol. iii., p. 231. 
The Nuremberg MS. of the Mathesius collection substitutes here, 
according to Kroker, a meaningless phrase. The MS. in the Ducal 
Library at Gotha, entitled " Farrago " (1551), omits it altogether. 



ON MATRIMONY 165 

In 1522, after having explained his new views on divorce, 
he puts himself the question, whether this " would not make 
it easy for wicked men and women to desert each other, and 
betake themselves to foreign parts " ? His reply is : " How 
can I help it ? It is the fault of the authorities. Why do 
they not strangle adulterers ? ?1 

Certain preachers of Lutheranism made matters worse by 
the fanaticism with which they preached the freedom of the 
Evangel. So compromising was their support, that other 
of Luther s followers found fault with it, for instance, the 
preacher Urbanus Rhegius 2 It was, however, impossible 
for these more cautious preachers to prevent Luther s 
principles being carried to their consequences, in spite of all 
the care they took to emphasise his reserves and his stricter 
admonitions. 

The Protestant Rector, J. Rivius, complained in 1547 : "If 
you are an adulterer or lewdster, preachers say . . . only 
believe and you will be saved. There is no need for you to fear 
the law, for Christ has fulfilled it and made satisfaction for all 
men." " Such words seduce people into a godless life." 3 

E. Sarcerius, the Superintendent of the county of Mansfeld, 
also bewailed, in a writing of 1555, the growing desecration of 
the married state : Men took more than one wife ; this they did 
by " fleeing to foreign parts and seeking other wives. Some 
women do the same. Thus there is no end to the desertions on 
the part of both husbands and wives." " In many places horrible 
adultery and fornication prevail, and these vices have become so 
common, that people no longer regard them as sinful." " Thus 
there is everywhere confusion and scandal both in match-making 
and in celebrating the marriages, so that holy matrimony is 
completely dishonoured and trodden under foot." " Of adultery, 
lewdness and incest there is no end." 4 - These complaints were 
called forth by the state of things in the very county where Luther 
was born and died. 

The convert George Wicel, who resided for a considerable time 
at Mansfeld, had an opportunity of observing the effects of 
Luther s matrimonial teaching and of his preaching generally on 
a population almost entirely Protestant. He writes, in 1536 : 
" It is enough to break a Christian s heart to see so many false 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 289 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 525. On the 
" strangling," cp. vol. iii., p. 253, n. 3. 

2 " Wie man fiirsichtiglich reden soil," ed. A. Uckeley, Leipzig, 1908, 
according to the 1536 German ed. (" Quellenschriften zur Gesch. des 
Protest.," Hft. 6). 

3 " De stultitia mortalium," Basil., 1557, 1, 1, p. 50 seq. Denifle, I 2 , 
p. 287. 

4 " Von werlicher Visitation," Eisleben, 1555, Bl. K. 3. Denifle, 
I 2 , p. 280. 



166 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

prophets and heretics flourishing in Germany, whose comforting 
and frivolous teaching fills the land not merely with adulterers 
but with regular heathen." 1 In an earlier work he had said : 
" Oh, you people, what a fine manner of life according to the 
Gospel have you introduced by your preaching on Grace ! Yes, 
they cry, you would make of Christ a Moses and a taskmaster ; 
they, however, make of Him a procurer and an Epicurean by 
their sensual life and knavish example." 2 

Luther, it is true, had an excuse ready. He pleaded that the 
freedom of the Gospel was not yet rightly understood. " The 
masses," he wrote to Margrave George of Brandenburg, on Sep. 14, 
1531, " have now fallen under the freedom of the flesh, and there 
we must leave them for a while until they have satisfied their 
lust. Things will be different when the Visitation is in working 
order [the first Visitation in the Margrave s lands had taken place 
as early as 1528]. It is quick work pulling down an old house, 
but building a new one takes longer. . . . Jerusalem, too, was 
built very slowly and with difficulty. . . . Under the Pope we 
could not endure the constraint, and the lack of the Word ; now 
we cannot endure the freedom and the superabundant treasure of 
the Gospel." 3 

Amidst all these disorders Luther found great consolation in 
contemplating the anti-Christian character of the Popish Church 
and Daniel s supposed prophecy of Antichrist s enmity for 
woman. 4 His preachers only too eagerly followed in his footsteps. 

George Wicel speaks of the preachers, who, while themselves 
leading loose lives, used Daniel s prophecy against the Catholic 
view of marriage. 5 "They mock at those who wish to remain 
single or who content themselves with one wife, and quote the 
words of Daniel : He shall not follow the lust of w r omen nor 
regard any gods, so that anyone belonging to this sect who 
is not addicted to the pursuit of women, is hardly safe from 
being taken for Antichrist. The words of St. Paul in Cor. vii., 
of Our Lord in Mat. xix., concerning the third sex of the eunuchs, 
and of St. John in Apoc. xiv., on those who have not defiled 
themselves with women, and, again, of St. Paul when speaking 
of the vidua digama in 1 Tim. v., don t count a farthing in 
this Jovinian school. 6 ... It is an Epicurean school and an 
Epicurean life and nothing else." With biting satire, in part 

1 " Annotationen zu den Propheten," 2, Eisleben, 1536, fol. 88. 
Dollinger, " Die Reformation," 1, p. 48. 

2 " Ein unviberwindlicher griindlicher Bericht was die Recht- 
fertigung in Paulo sei," Leipzig, 1533. Dollinger, ibid., p. 40. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 54, p. 253 (" Briefwechsel," 9, p. 103). 

4 Dan. xi., 37. Cp. " Werke," Erl. ed., 64, p. 155. 

5 " Annotationen zum A.T.," 2, fol. 198 . Dollinger, ibid., p. 106. 

6 The passages referred to are, according to the text of the Vulgate : 
1 Cor. vii. 32 : " Qui sine uxore est, sollicitus est quce Domini sunt," 
etc. Ibid., 38 : " Qui non iungit (virginem suam) melius facit." Ibid., 
40: " Beatior erit, si sic permanserit," etc. Mat. xix. 12: " Sunt eunuchi, 
gui se ipsos castraverunt propter regnum Dei. Qui potest capere capiat." 
Apoc. xiv. 3 f., of those who sing " the new song before the throne " of 



ON MATRIMONY 167 

the result of the controversy thrust upon him, in part the out 
come of his temper, he had declared shortly before, that 
Lutheranism was all " love of women," was " full of senseless 
lust for women " ; he uses " gynecophiles " as an adjective to 
qualify it, and speaks of its "gynecomania " ; by this means men 
were to become better Christians, and be more secure of salvation 
than all the Saints of God ever were in the ancient apostolic 
Church. "See there what Satan is seeking by means of this 
exalted respect for the love of women, and by his glib, feminist 
preachers in Saxony. Hence his and his followers concern for 
women, to whom they cling so closely that they can hardly get 
into their pulpits without them, and, rather than live a celibate 
life, the Evangelist would prefer to be the husband, not of one 
wife, but of three or four." 1 

An intimate friend of Luther s, Johann Brenz, wrote, in 1532, 
in a book to which Luther supplied the Preface : " The youngsters 
are barely out of the cradle before they want wives, and girls, 
not yet marriageable, already dream of husbands." 2 After the 
immoral atmosphere has brought about their fall, writes Fr. 
Staphylus, " they grow so impudent as to assert that a chaste 
and continent life is impossible and the gratification of the 
sexual appetite as essential as eating and drinking." 3 The same 
author, who returned to the Catholic Church, also wrote, in 1562 : 
" So long as matrimony was looked upon as a Sacrament, 
modesty and an honourable married life was loved and prized, 
but since the people have read in Luther s books that matrimony 
is a human invention ... his advice has been put in practice 
in such a way, that marriage is observed more chastely and 
honourably in Turkey than amongst our German Evangelicals." 4 

The list of testimonies such as these might be considerably 
lengthened. 5 

the Lamb : " Hi sunt, qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati, virgines 
enim sunt. Hi sequuntur agnum quocunque ierit. Hi empti sunt ex 
hominibus primitice Deo et Agno." 1 Tim. v. 12, of those widows 
dedicated to God who marry : " Habentes damnationem, qui primam 
fidem irritam fecerunt." Against Jovinian St. Jerome wrote, in 392 : 
"Adv. lovinianum " (" P.L.," 23, col. 211 seq.), where, in the first 
part, he defends virginity, which the former had attacked, and demon 
strates its superiority and its merit. 

1 " Annotationen zum A.T.," 2, 1536, fol. 198 , on Daniel xi., 37.. 
Dollinger, ibid., p. 105 f. 

2 " Homilise XXII," Vitebergse, 1532. Denifle, " Luther und 
Luthertum," I 2 , p. 278. 

3 " De corruptis moribus utriusque partis," Bl. F. III. In the 
title page the author s name is given as Czecanovius ; this is identical 
with Staphylus, as N. Paulus has shown in the " Katholik," 1895, 1, 
p. 574 f. 

4 F. Staphylus, " Nachdruck zu Verfechtung des Buches vom 
rechten Verstandt des gottlichen Worts," Ingolstadt, 1562, fol. 202 . 

5 Cp. the quotations in Denifle (I 2 , Preface, p. 15 ff.), commencing 
with one from Billicanus : " By the eternal God, what fornication and 
adultery are we not forced to witness " ; also those on pp. 282 ff., 805 f. 



168 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

It would, however, be unfair, in view of the large number 
of such statements, to shut our eyes to the remarkable 
increase, at that time, in the immorality already prevalent 
even in Catholic circles, though this was due in great measure 
to the malignant influence of the unhappy new idea of freedom, 
and to that contempt for ecclesiastical regulations as mere 
human inventions, which had penetrated even into regions 
still faithful to the Church. 1 Owing to the general confusion, 
ecclesiastical discipline was at a standstill, evil-doers went 
unpunished, nor could moral obligations be so regularly and 
zealously enforced. It is true that favourable testimonies 
arc not lacking on both sides, but they chiefly refer to 
remote Catholic and Protestant localities. As is usual, such 
reports are less noticeable than the unfavourable ones, the 
good being ever less likely to attract attention than the evil. 
Staphylus complains bitterly of both parties, as the very 
title of his book proves. 2 Finally, all the unfavourable 
accounts of the state of married life under Lutheranism are 
not quite so bad as those given above, in which moreover, 
maybe, the sad personal experience of the writers made them 
see things with a jaundiced eye. 

That, in the matter of clerical morals, there w r as a great 
difference between the end of the 15th and the middle of the 
16th centuries can be proved by such ecclesiastical archives 
as still survive ; the condemnations pronounced in the 16th 
century are considerably more numerous than in earlier times. 

On the grounds of such data Joseph Lohr has quite recently 
made a very successful attempt to estimate accurately the moral 
status of the clergy in the Lower Rhine provinces, particularly 
Westphalia. 3 He has based his examination more particularly 
on the records of the Archdeaconry of Xanten concerning the 
fines levied on the clergy for all sorts of offences. The accounts 
"cover a period of about one hundred years." 4 In the 16th 
century we find a quite disproportionate increase in the number 
of offenders. There are, however, traces, over a long term of 
years, of a distinct weakening of ecclesiastical discipline which 
made impossible any effective repression of the growing evil. 

A glance at the conditions prevailing in the 15th century in 
the regions on which Lohr s researches bear is very instructive. 

1 Cp. Janssen-Pastor, " Gesch. des deutschen Volkes," 8 14 , pp. 
378 f., 384 ff., 392. * See above, p. 167, 11. 3. 

3 J. Lohr, " Methodisch-kritische Beitrage zur Gesch. der Sittlich- 
keit des Klerus, besonders der Erzdiozese Koln, am Ausgange des 
MA." (" Reformationsgesch. Studien und Texte," Hft. 17. 1910). 

4 Page 44. 



ON MATRIMONY 169 

It enables us to see how extravagant and untrue were at least 
with regard to these localities the frequent, and in themselves 
quite incredible, statements made by Luther regarding the utter 
degradation of both clergy and religious owing to the law of celi 
bacy. " Of a total of from 450 to 600 clergy in the Archdeaconry 
of the Lower Rhine (probably the number was considerably 
higher) we find, up to the end of the 15th century, on an average, 
only five persons a year being prosecuted by the Archdeacon 
for [various] offences." 1 "Assuming a like density of clergy in 
Westphalia, the number prosecuted by the ecclesiastical com 
missioner in 1495 and in 1499 would amount roughly to 2 per cent., 
but, in 1515, already to 6 per cent." 2 

The results furnished by such painstaking research are 
more reliable than the vague accounts and complaints of 
contemporaries. 3 Should the examination be continued in 
other dioceses it will undoubtedly do as much to clear up the 
question as the Visitation reports did for the condition of 
affairs in the 16th century under Lutheranism, though 
probably the final result will be different. The Lutheran 
Visitation reports mostly corroborate the unfavourable 
testimony of olden writers, whereas the fewness of the 
culprits shown in the Catholic lists of fines would seem to 
bear out, at least with regard to certain localities, those 
contemporaries who report favourably of the clergy at the 
close of the Middle Ages. One such favourable contemporary 
testimony comes from the Humanist, Jacob Wimpfeling, 
and concerns the clergy of the Rhine Lands. The statement 
of this writer, usually a very severe critic of the clergy, runs 
quite counter to Luther s general and greatly exaggerated 
charges. 4 " God knows, I am acquainted with many, yea, 

1 Page 59. 

2 Page 65. That all offenders without exception were punished 
is of course not likely. 

3 Ibid., pp. 1-24. For the 16th and 17th centuries we refer the reader 
to J. Schmidlin, " Die kirchl. Zustande in Deutschland vor dem 
Dreissigjahrigen Kriege nach den bischoflichen Diozesanberichten an 
den Heiligen Stuhl," Freiburg, 1908-1911 (" Erlauterungen usw. zu 
Janssens Gesch.," 7, Hft. 1-10). In the " Hist. Jahrb.," 31, 1910, p. 163, 
we read of the reports contained in the first part of the work : " They 
commence by revealing the sad depths to which Catholic life had sunk, 
but go on to show an ever-increasing vigour on the part of the bishops, 
in many cases crowned with complete success." 

4 " De vita et miraculis lohannis Gerson" s.l.e.a. (1506), B 4b ; 
Janssen-Pastor, I 18 , p. 681. Wimpfeling is, however, answering 
the Augustiiiian, Johann Paltz, who had attacked the secular clergy ; 
elsewhere he witness.es to the grave blots, on the life of the secular 
clergy. 



170 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

countless pastors amongst the secular clergy in the six 
dioceses of the Rhine, who are richly equipped with all the 
knowledge requisite for the cure of souls and whose lives 
are blameless. I know excellent prelates, canons and vicars 
both at the Cathedrals and the Collegiate Churches, not a 
few in number but many, men of unblemished reputation, 
full of piety and generous and humble-minded towards the 
poor." 

Luther himself made statements which deprive his 
accusations of their point. Even what he says of the 
respect paid to the clerical state militates against him. Of 
the first Mass said by the newly ordained priest he relates, 
that " it was thought much of " ; that the people on such 
occasions brought offerings and gifts ; that the " bride 
groom s " " Hours " were celebrated by torchlight, and 
that he, together with his mother, if still living, was led 
through the streets with music and dancing, " the people 
looking on and weeping for joy." 1 It is true that he 
is loud in his blame of the avarice displayed at such first 
Masses, but the respect shown by the people, and here 
described by him, would never have been exhibited towards 
the clergy had they rendered themselves so utterly con 
temptible by their immorality as he makes out. 

In a sermon of 1521, speaking of the " majority of the 
clergy," he admits that most of them " \vork, pray and fast 
a great deal " ; that they " sing, speak and preach of the 
law and lead men to many works " ; that they fancy they 
will gain heaven by means of " pretty works," though all 
in vain, so he thinks, owing to their lack of knowledge of 
the Evangel. 2 During the earlier period of his change of 
opinions he was quite convinced, that a pernicious self- 
righteousness (that of the " iustitiarii ") was rampant 
amongst both clergy and religious ; not only in the houses 
of his own Congregation, but throughout the Church, a 
painstaking observance of the law and a scrupulous fulfil 
ment of their duty by the clergy and monks constituted a 
danger to the true spirit of the Gospel, as he understood it. 
It was his polemics which then caused him to be obsessed 
with the idea, that the whole world had been seized upon by 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 400 (" Tischreden "). Cp. Lauterbach, 
" Tagebuch," p. 186 : " Cum summo fletu spectator urn." 

2 Ibid., Weim. ed., 7, p. 239 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 234. 



ON MATRIMONY 171 

the self-righteous. It was his polemics again, which, later, 
made him regard the whole world as full of immoral clerics. 
The extravagance of Luther s utterances in his fight 
against clerical celibacy might perhaps be regarded as due 
to the secluded life he had led at Wittenberg during the 
years he was a monk, which prevented him from knowing 
the true state of things. Experience gained by more exten 
sive travel and intercourse with others might indeed have 
corrected his views. But, as a matter of fact, he was not 
altogether untravelled ; besides visiting Rome and Southern 
Germany he had been to Heidelberg, Worms and Cologne. 
His stay at the latter city is particularly noteworthy, for 
there he was in the heart of the very region of which 
Wimpfeling had given so favourable an account. Can he, 
during the long journey on foot and in his conversations with 
his brother monks there, not have convinced himself, that 
the clergy residing in that city were by no means sunk in 
immorality and viciousness ? His visit to Cologne coincided 
in all probability with the general Chapter which Staupitz 
had summoned there at the commencement of May, 1512. 
Luther only recalls incidentally having seen there the bodies 
of the Three Kings ; having swallowed all the legends told 
him concerning them ; and having drunk such wine as he had 
never drunk before. 1 

1 We may here remark concerning Luther s stay at Cologne (passed 
over in vol. i., p. 38 f., for the sake of brevity), that at the Chapter then 
held by Staupitz to whose party Luther had now gone over the former 
probably refrained, in his official capacity, from putting in force his 
plans for an amalgamation of the Observantin.es and the Conventuals 
of the Saxon Province. There is no doubt that Luther came to 
Cologne from Wittenberg, whither he had betaken himself on his 
return from Rome. After the Chapter at Cologne he made prepara 
tions for his promotion. Possibly the project of securing the Doctorate 
was matured at Cologne. He speaks of the relics of the Three Kings in 
a sermon of January 5th, of which two accounts have been preserved 
("Werke," Weim. ed., 34, 1, p. 22: "I have seen them." "I too 
have seen them "). In the so-called " Bibelprotokollen," of 1539, he 
says (*bid., p. 585) : " At Cologne I drank a wine quod penetrabat in 
mensa manum" (which probably means, was so fiery that soon after 
drinking it he felt a tingling down to his finger-tips). " Never in all my 
life have I drunk so rich a wine." Cp., for the Cologne Chapter, Kolde, 
" Die deutsche Augustinerkongregation," p. 242 f., and for the same 
and Luther s Cologne visit, Walter Kohler, " Christl. Welt," 1908, 
No. 30 ; N. Paulus, " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 142, 1908, p. 749 ; and G. 
Kawerau, " Theol. Stud, und Krit.," 81, 1908, p. 348. Buchwald 
refers to a statement of Luther s on a monument at Cologne (" Werke," 
Erl. ed., 62, p. 371=" Tischreden," ed. Forstemann, 4, p. 625) in 
" Werke," Weim. ed., 34, 2, p. 609. 



172 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Two Concluding Pictures towards the History of Woman. 

We may, in conclusion, give two pictures which cast a 
new and lurid light on what has gone before. 

Luther s standpoint, and, no less, the confusion which 
had arisen in married life and the humiliations to which 
many women were exposed, come out clearly in the story of 
his relations with the preacher Jodocus Kern and his spouse. 
Kern, an apostate monk, had wedded at Nuremberg Ursula 
Tagler, an ex-nun from the convent of Engelthal. On Dec. 
24, 1524, Luther joyously commended him as " a monk, 
metamorphosed into a married man," to the care of Spalatin. 1 
AVhen Kern went to Saxony in search of a post the girl 
refused to accompany him until he had found employment. 
During his absence she began to regret the step she had 
taken, and the letters she received from her former Prioress 
determined her to return no more to her husband. The 
persuasion of her Lutheran relatives indeed induced her to 
go to Allstedt after Kern had been appointed successor to 
Thomas Miinzer in that town, but there her horror only grew 
for the sacrilegious union she had contracted. Coercion was 
quite fruitless. The minister, at the advice of her own 
relatives, treated her very roughly, forced her to eat meat 
on Good Friday and refused to listen when she urged him to 
return to the Catholic Church. Having made an attempt 
to escape to Mansfeld, her case was brought before the 
secular Courts ; she was examined by the commissioner of 
Allstedt on January 11, 1526, when she declared, that it 
was against her conscience to look upon Kern as her husband, 
that her soul was dearer to her than her body and that she 
would rather die than continue to endure any longer the 
bonds of sin. This the commissioner reported to the Elector 
Johann, and the latter, on Jan. 17, forwarded her statement 
to Luther, together with Kern s account, for the purpose of 
hearing from one so " learned in Scripture " " how the 
matter ought to be treated and disposed of in accordance 
with God s Holy Writ." 2 

Luther took a week to reply : The Allstedt woman was 
suffering such " temptations from the devil and men, that it 
would verily be a wonder if she could resist them." The 
only means of keeping her true to the Evangel and to her 

* " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 86. Ibid., p. 308. 



ON MATRIMONY 173 

duty would be to send her to her people at Nuremberg. 
Should, even there, " the devil refuse to yield to God s good 
exhortation " then she would have to " be allowed to go," and 
" be reckoned as dead," and then the pastor might marry 
another. Out of the scandal that the wanton spirit had 
given through her God might yet work some good. " The 
Evangel neither will nor can be exempt from scandals." 1 

The unhappy nun was, as a matter of fact, forcibly brought 
to Nuremberg and placed amongst Lutheran surroundings 
instead of being conveyed to her convent at Engelthal, as 
the laws of the Empire demanded. From thence she never 
returned to Allstedt. Kern, during the proceedings, had 
declared that he did not want her against her conscience, 
and was ready to submit to the Word of God and to 
comply exactly with whatever this imposed. In accordance 
therewith he soon found a fresh bride. During the Visita 
tions, in 1533, he was charged with bigamy and was repri 
manded for being a " drinker and gambler," although his 
industry and talents were at the same time recognised. 
Nothing is known of his later doings. 2 

Two open letters addressed to Luther by Catholics in 
1528 form a companion picture to the above. They portray 
the view taken by many faithful Catholics of Luther s own 
marriage. 

In that year two Professors at the Leipzig University, 
Johann Hasenberg and Joachim von der Heyden, published 
printed circulars addressed to Luther and Catherine von 
Bora, admonishing them now that ten years had elapsed 
since Luther first attacked the Church on their breaking 
of their vows, their desecration of the Sacrament of Matri 
mony and their falling away from the Catholic faith. 3 It is 
probable that Duke George of Saxony had something to do 
with this joint attack. 4 It is also likely that hopes of 

1 Jan. 25, 1526, ibid., p. 312. 

2 Cp. Enders on the letter last quoted. 

3 " Brief wechsel Luthers," 6, p. 322 f. Hasenberg s Latin letter, 
Aug. 10, 1528, p. 334 ff. ; v. der Heyden s German one of same date. 

4 Cp. Duke George s fierce letter to Luther of Dec. 28, 1525 (" Brief - 
wechsel," 5, p. 285 ff.), which was also printed forthwith. He will 
speak freely and openly to him, he says : " Seek the hypocrites 
amongst those who call you a prophet, a Daniel, the Apostle of the 
Germans and an Evangelist." " At Wittenberg you have set up an 
asylum where all the monks and nuns who, by their robbing and 



174 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

sterner measures on the part of the Imperial authorities also 
helped to induce the writers to put pen to paper. 1 In any 
case it was their plan, vigorously and before all the world, 
to attack the author of the schism in his most vulnerable 
spot, where it would not be easy for him to defend himself 
publicly. Master Hasenberg, a Bohemian, was one of 
George s favourites, who had made him three years previously 
Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He addressed his open 
letter to " Martinus Luderus," the " destroyer of the 
public peace and piety." Von der Heyden, known in Latin 
as Myricianus or Phrisomynensis (a Frisian by birth), was 
likewise a Master, and Papal and academic Notary at 
Leipzig. Of the two he was the younger. His letter was 
addressed to " Khete von Bhore, Luther s pretended wife," 
and served as preface to a printed translation he had made 
of the work : " De lapsu virginis consecratce," then attributed 
to St. Ambrose. 2 Both epistles, according to one of the 
answers, must have been despatched by special messenger 
and delivered at Luther s house. They drew forth printed 
replies, some of which can be traced to Luther himself, while 
Euricius Cordus ridiculed the writers in a screed full of 
biting epigram. 

The Leipzig letters, the first of Avhich was also published 
in German, made a great sensation in German circles and 
constituted an urgent exhortation to thousands of apostates 
estranged from the Church by Luther s new doctrine on 
Christian freedom and on the nullity of vows. 

Relentlessly Hasenberg put to Luther the questions : " Who 
has blasphemously slandered the pious promise of celibacy which 
priests, religious and nuns made to God, and which, throughout 
the ages, had been held sacred ? Luderus. Who has shrouded 

stealing, deprive us of our churches and convents find refuge." " When 
have more acts of sacrilege been committed by people dedicated to 
God than since your Evangel has been preached ? " Did not Christ 
say : " By their fruits you shall know them " ? All the great preachers 
of the faith have been " pious, respectable and truthful men, not 
proud, avaricious or unchaste." " Your marriage is the work, not of 
God, but of the enemy. . . . Since both of you once took an oath not 
to commit unchastity lest God should forsake you, is it not high time 
that you considered your position ? " The greater part of the letter was 
incorporated by Cochlaeus in his Acta (p. 119). 

1 On p. 336 von der Heyden says : Luther is " beginning to draw 
in his horns and is in great fear lest his nun should be unyoked." 

2 Nicetas, Bishop of Romatiana, may be the author of this anony 
mous work, printed in " P.L.," 16, col. 367-384. 



ON MATRIMONY 175 

in darkness free-will, good works, the ancient and unshaken faith, 
and that jewel of virginity which shines more brightly than the 
sun in the Church ? Luderus. . . . Do you not yet see, you 
God-forsaken man, what all Christians think of your impudent 
behaviour, your temerity and voluptuousness ? " 

Referring to the sacrilegious union with Bora, he proceeds : 
" The enormity of your sin is patent. You have covered yourself 
with guilt in both your private and public life, particularly by 
your intercourse with the woman who is not your wife." In his 
indignation he does not shrink from comparing the ex-nun to a 
lustful Venus. He thunders against Luther : " You, a monk, 
fornicate by day and by night with a nun ! And, by your writings 
and sermons, you drag down into the abyss with you ignorant 
monks and unlearned priests, questionable folk, many of whom 
were already deserving of the gallows. Oh, you murderer of the 
people!" "Yes, indeed, this is the way to get to heaven or 
rather to Lucifer s kingdom ! Why not say like Epicurus : There 
is no God and no higher power troubles about us poor mortals ? 
Call upon your new gods, Bacchus, Venus, Mars, Priapus, Futina, 
Potina, Subigus and Hymenseus." His wish for Luther s spouse 
is, that she may take to heart the touching words of St. Ambrose 
to the fallen nun, so as not to fall from the abyss of a vicious life 
into the abyss of everlasting perdition prepared " for the devil and 
his Lutheran angels." And again, turning to Luther : " Have 
pity," he says, " on the nun, have compassion on the concubine 
and the children, your own flesh and blood. Send the nun back 
to the cloistral peace and penance which she forsook ; free the 
unhappy creature from the embraces of sin and restore her to 
her mother the Church and to her most worthy and loving 
bridegroom Christ, so that she may again sing in unison with the 
faithful the Ambrosian hymn : Ie.su, corona virginum. 1 . . . 
This much at least, viz. the dismissal of the nun, you cannot 
refuse us, however blindly you yourself may hurry along the sad 
path you have chosen. All the faithful, linked together through 
out the world by the golden chain of charity, implore you with 
tears of blood ; so likewise does your kind Mother, the Church, 
and the holy choirs of Angels, who rejoice over the sinner who 
returns penitent." 

The writer, who seasons his counsel with so much bitterness, 
had plainly little hope of the conversion of the man he was 
addressing ; his attack was centred on Catharine Bora. This 
was even more so the case with von der Heyden, a man of lively 
character who delighted in controversy ; even from his first 
words it is clear that he had no intention of working on her kindlier 
feelings : " Woe to you, poor deluded woman." He upbraids her 
with her fall from light into darkness, from the vocation of the 
cloister into an " abominable and shameful life " ; by her 
example she has brought " many poor, innocent children into a 
like misery " ; formerly they had, as nuns, " lived in discipline 

1 For the full text of this anonymous hymn (incorporated in the 
Office for Virgins in the Breviary), see " P.L.," 16, col. 1221. 



176 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

and purity," now they are " not merely in spiritual but 
in actual bodily want, nay, the poorest of the poor and have 
become the most despicable of creatures." Many of them now 
earned a living in " houses of ill-fame," they were frequently 
forced to pawn or sell their poor clothing, and sometimes them 
selves ; they had hoped for the true freedom of the spirit that 
had been promised them, and, instead, they had been cast into 
a " horrible bondage of soul and body." Luther " in his pesti 
lential writings had mistaken the freedom of the flesh for the 
true liberty of the spirit, in opposition to St. Paul, who had based 
this freedom solely on the Spirit of the Lord, as in 2 Cor. iii. 17 : 
Where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty Luther s preach 
ing on liberty was one big lie, and another was his opinion that 
the " vow of virginity, where it was observed, was wicked and 
sinful, which statement was contrary to God and the whole of 
Scripture," and more particularly opposed to St. Paul, who 
strongly condemned those who broke their plighted faith to 
Christ ; St. Paul had quite plainly recommended clerical celibacy 
when he wrote, that he who is without a wife is solicitous for the 
things that are the Lord s, but that the husband is solicitous for 
the things of the world, how best he may please his wife (1 Cor. 
vii. 32 f.). 

Your " Squire Luther," he says to Bora, " behaves himself 
very impudently and proudly " ; "he fancies he can fly, that he 
is treading on roses and is lux mundi " ; he forgets that God 
has commanded us to keep what we have vowed ; people gladly 
obeyed the Emperor, yet God was " an Emperor above all 
Emperors," and had still more right to fealty and obedience. 
Was she ignorant of Christ s saying : " No man having put his 
hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of 
God " (Luke ix. 62) ? He reminds her of the severe penalties 
imposed by the laws of the Empire on those religious who were 
openly unfaithful to their vow, and, particularly, of the eternal 
punishment which should move her to leave the " horrid, black 
monk " (the Augustinians w r ore a black habit), to bewail like 
" St. Magdalene the evil she had done " and, by returning 
to the convent, to make " reparation for her infidelity to God." 
St. Ambrose s booklet on the fallen nun might lead her, and her 
companions in misfortune, to a " humble recognition " (of their 
sin), " and enable her to flee from the swift wrath of God and 
return to the fold of Christ, attain to salvation together with us 
all and praise the Lord for all eternity." 

We catch a glimpse of the gulf which divided people s 
minds at that time in the very title of the reply by Euricius 
Cordus : " The Marburg literary society s peal of laughter 
over the screed against Luther of two Leipzig poets." 1 

1 " Literarii sodalitii apud Marpuryam aliquot cachinni super 
quodam duorum Lypsiensium poetarum in Lutherum scripto libello 
effusi " (Marburgse), 1528. 



ON MATRIMONY 177 

Two satirical and anonymous replies immediately appeared 
in print at Wittenberg, the one entitled : " New-Zeittung 
von Leyptzig," of which Luther " was not entirely innocent," 
and the other quite certainly his work, viz. " Ein newe Fabel 
Esopi newlich verdeudscht gefunden." 1 In the first reply 
spurious epistles are made to relate how the two Leipzig 
letters had been brought by a messenger to Luther s house, 
and had then been carried by the servants unread to the 
" back-chamber where it stinketh." " The paper having 
duly been submitted to the most ignominious of uses it was 
again packed into a bundle and despatched back to the 
original senders by the same messenger." 2 

In his " Newe Fabel " (of the Lion and the Ass) Luther 
implicitly includes von der Heyden, all the defenders of 
the Pope, and the Pope himself under the figure of the Ass 
(with the cross on its back) ; " there is nothing about the 
Ass that is not worthy of royal and papal honours." 3 The 
author of the letter he calls an ass s head and sniveller ; the 
very stones of Leipzig would spit upon him ; he was the 
" horse-droppings in which the apples were packed " ; his 
art had brought on him " such an attack of diarrhoea that 
all of us have been bespattered with his filth " ; " If you wish 
to devour us, you might begin downstairs at the commode," 
etc. 4 

We find nothing in either writing in the nature of a reply 
of which indeed he considered the Leipzig authors unworthy 
except the two following statements : firstly, Luther had 
sufficiently instructed his faithful wife, and the world in 
general, "that the religious life was wrong"; 5 secondly, 
Ambrose, Jerome, or whoever wrote the booklet, " had 
stormed and raved like a demon " in that work, which was 
" more heretical than Catholic, against the nun who had 
yielded to her sexual instincts ; he had not spoken like a 
Doctor, . . . but as one who wished to drive the poor 
prostitute into the abyss of hell ; a murderer of souls pitted 
against a poor, feeble, female vessel." 6 Hence Luther s 
views are fairly apparent in the replies. 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 26, p. 539 ff. (with the editor s opinion on 
the authorship) ; Erl. ed., 64, pp. 324-337. 

2 Ibid., p. 540=339. The writing aptly concludes: "... tuo, 
vates, carmine tergo nates." 

3 Ibid., p. 548= 330. 4 Ibid., 547= 327 f . 

5 Ibid., p. 544=344. Ibid., p. 553 f. = 335 f. 

IV. N 



178 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The Church, yea, even the Church of the earliest times, 
was made to bear the curse of having degraded woman and 
of having, by the religious life, declared war on marriage. 

A contemporary, Petrus Silvius, who read Luther s 
writings with indignation and disgust, wrote, in 1530 : 
" Luther, with his usual lies and blasphemy, calumniates the 
Christian Church and now says, that she entirely rejected 
and condemned matrimony." 1 

In what has gone before these falsehoods concerning the 
earlier degradation and his own exaltation of woman have 
been refuted at some length ; the detailed manner in which 
this was done may find its vindication in the words of yet 
another opponent of Luther s, H. Sedulius, who says : "It 
must be repeated again and again, that it is an impudent lie 
to say we condemn marriage." 2 

1 " Sermones dominicales des gnadenreichen Predigers Andree 
Prolis " (with notes), Leipzig, 1530, fol. K. 4 . 

" Apologeticus adv. Alcoranum Franciscanorum pro Libra Con- 
formitatum," Antverpise, 1607, p. 101. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

FRESH CONTROVERSIES WITH ERASMUS (1534, 1536) AND 
DUKE GEORGE (f 1539) 

1. Luther and Erasmus Again 

IN reply to Luther s " De servo arbitrio " against Erasmus 
the latter had published, in 1526, a sharp retort entitled 
" Hyperaspistes," which, in the following year, he enlarged 
by adding to it a second part. 1 In this work the author s 
able pen brings into the light of day the weakness of Luther s 
objections, his distortion of the Church s teaching, his 
frequent misrepresentations of Erasmus and his own self- 
contradictions. 

Luther did not then reply to the work of the chief of the 
Humanists. In the ensuing years, however, he became pain 
fully aware that the hostility of Erasmus had lost him many 
adherents belonging to the Erasmian school. A great 
cleavage had become apparent in the scholar s circle of 
friends till then so closely united, the greater number taking 
their master s side against the smaller group which remained 
true to Luther. It was in vain that several of Erasmus s 
admirers intervened and besought Luther to spare the 
feelings of the elder man. The Wittenberg professor made 
many cutting allusions to his opponent and assumed more 
and more an attitude which foreboded another open out 
burst of furious controversy. 

With the art peculiar to him, he came to persuade himself, 

that the champion of free-will was hostile to the idea of 

any Divine supremacy over the human will, scoffed at all 

religion, denied the Godhead and was worse than any 

persecutor of the Church ; he was confirmed in this belief 

by the sarcastic sayings about his Evangel, to which Erasmus 

gave vent in his correspondence and conversations, and 

which occasionally came to Luther s knowledge. It is true 

1 " Opp.," ed. Lugd., 9, col. 1249 seq. 

179 



180 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

that if we look at the matter through Luther s spectacles we 
can understand how certain darker sides of Erasmus and 
his Humanist school repelled him. Luther fixed on these, 
and, as was his wont, harshly exaggerated and misrepre 
sented them. The too-great attention bestowed on the 
outward form, seemingly to the detriment of the Christian 
contents, displeased him greatly ; still more so did the 
undeniable frivolity with which sacred things, still dear to 
him, Avere treated. At the same time it was strange to him, 
and rightly so, how little heed the Humanists who remained 
faithful to the Church paid to the principle of authority and 
of ecclesiastical obedience, preferring to follow the lax 
example set by Erasmus himself, more particularly during 
the first period of his career ; they appeared to submit to 
the yoke of the Church merely formally and from force of 
habit, and showed none of that heart-felt conviction and 
respect for her visible supremacy which alone could win the 
respect of those without. 1 

Schlaginhaufen has noted down the following remark made by 
Luther in 1532 when a picture of Erasmus was shown him. 
" The cunning of his mode of writing is perfectly expressed in 
his face. He does nothing but mock at God and religion. When he 
speaks of our Holy Christ, of the Holy Word of God and the Holy 
Sacraments, these are mere fine, big words, a sham and no reality. 
. . . Formerly he annoyed and confuted the Papacy, now he 
draws his head out of the noose." 2 In the same year, and 
according to the same reporter, he declared : " Erasmus is a 
knave incarnate. . . . Were I in good health, I should inveigh 
against him. To him the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are some 
thing ludicrous. . . . Erasmus is as sure there is no God as I 
am that I can see. Lucian himself was not so bold and impudent 
as Erasmus." 3 

At Easter of the following year Veit Dietrich, who lived in 
Luther s house, announced in a letter to Nuremberg, that the 
storm was about to break : Luther was arming himself against 
Erasmus, reading his books carefully and gathering together 
his blasphemies. The same writer in a collection of Luther s 
conversations not yet published quotes the following outbursts : 
" Erasmus makes use of ambiguities, intentionally and with 
malice, this I shall prove against him. . . . Were I to cut open 
Erasmus s heart, I should find nothing but mockeries of the 
Trinity, the Sacraments, etc. To him the whole thing is a 
joke." 4 

1 See vol. ii., p. 242 ff. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichmmgen," p. 29. 3 Ibid., p. 96 f. 
4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 311. 



ERASMUS 181 

And yet, at that very time, Erasmus, who, as years passed, 
had come to regret his earlier faults of the pen, 1 was engaged 
in composing serious and useful works, in which, though not 
unfaithful to his older style, he sought to defend the dogmas of 
religion and the authority of the Church. In March his " Expla- 
natio symboli, decalogi et dominicce precationis " was issued at 
Basle by Froben ; another important work of the same year, 
appearing in the guise of an exposition of Psalm Ixxxiv., contained 
counsels how best to restore the unity of the Church and to root 
out abuses. Therein he does not deny the duty of submitting 
to the Church, but recommends both sides to be ready to give 
and take. 

When Luther s little son Hans had, in his Latin lessons, to 
study some works composed by Erasmus for the young, his 
father wrote out for him the following warning : " Erasmus is a 
foe to all religion and an arch-enemy of Christ ; he is the very 
type of an Epicurus and Lucian. This I, Martin Luther, declare 
in my own handwriting to you, my very dear son Johann, and, 
through you, to all my children and the holy Church of Christ." 2 

Luther s pent-up wrath at length vented itself in print. 
He had received a letter sent him from Magdeburg, on Jan. 
28, 1534, by Nicholas Amsdorf, the old friend who knew so 
well how to fan the flames of enthusiasm for the new teach 
ing, and who now pointed out Erasmus as the source whence 
George Wicel had drawn all his material for his latest 
attack on Lutheranism. 3 It was high time, he wrote, that 
Luther should paint Erasmus " in his true colours and show 
that he was full of ignorance and malice." This he would 
best do in a tract " On the Church," for this was the 
Erasmians weak point : They stick to the Church, because 
" bishops and cardinals make them presents of golden 
vessels," and then " they cry out : Luther s teaching is 
heresy, having been condemned by Emperor and Pope." 
" I, on the other hand, see all about me the intervention and 
the wonders of God ; I see that faith is a gift of God Who 
works when and where He wills, just as he raised His Son 
Christ from the dead. Oh, that you could see the country 
folk here and admire in them the glory of Christ ! " 

The letter pleased Luther so well that he determined to 
print it, appending to it a lengthy answer to Amsdorf, both 
being published together. 4 

In this answer, before launching out into invective against 

1 See vol. ii., p. 249 ff. 

2 " Luthers Brief wechsel," 9, p. 368 f. 3 Ibid., p. 382. 
Ibid., 10, p. 8 ff., about March 11, 1534. 



182 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Erasmus he joins in his friend s enthusiastic praise of the 
Evangel which has dawned : " Our cause was heard at 
Augsburg before the Emperor and the whole world, and has 
been found blameless ; they could not but recognise the 
purity of our teaching. . . . We have confessed Christ 
before the evil generation of our day, and He too will confess 
us before God the Father and His angels." " Wicel, I shall 
vanquish by silence and contempt, as my custom is. How 
many books I have disposed of and utterly annihilated 
merely by my silence, Eck, Faber, Emser, Cochlscus and 
many others could tell. Had I to fight with filth, I should, 
even if victorious, get dirty in the process. Hence I leave 
them to revel in their blasphemy, their lying and their 
calumny." 

He might, he proceeds, leave Erasmus too to dissolve 
into smoke like those others. For a long time past he had 
looked on him as one crazy (" delirus ") ; since he had 
given birth to the " viperaspides " (i.e. " brood of vipers," 
a play on the title of the " Hyperaspistes ") he had 
given up all hopes of his theology, but would follow 
Amsdorf s advice and expose his malice and ignorance 
to the \vorld. 

In contradiction to the facts he goes on to declare, that, 
in his " Explanatio symboli," of 1533, Erasmus had " slyly 
planned " to undermine all respect for the Christian 
doctrines, and for this purpose ingratiated himself with his 
readers and sought to befool them, as the serpent did in 
Paradise. The Creed was nothing to him but a " fable,"- 
in support of which Luther adduces what purports to be a 
verbal quotation nothing but the " mouthpiece and organ 
of Satan " ; his method was but " a mockery of Christ " ; 
according to him, the Redeemer had come into the world 
simply to give an example of holiness ; His taking flesh of 
a virgin Erasmus described in obscene and blasphemous 
language ; naturally the Apostles fared no better at his 
hands, and he even said of John the Evangelist, " meros 
crepat mundos " (because he mentions the " world " too 
often) : there were endless examples of this sort to be met 
with in the writings of Erasmus. He was another Demo- 
crites or Epicurus ; even what was doubtful in his state 
ments had to be taken in the worst sense, and he himself 
(Luther) would be unable to believe this serpent even 



ERASMUS 183 

should he come to him with the most outspoken confession 
of Christianity. 

All this he wrote seemingly with the utmost conviction, as 
though it were absolutely certain. At about that same time 
he sent a warning to his friend Amsdorf not to allege any 
thing against Erasmus, which was not certain, should he be 
tempted to write against him. 1 Yet Luther s fresh charges 
were undoubtedly unjust to his opponent, although his 
letter really does forcibly portray much that was blame 
worthy in Erasmus, particularly in his earlier work, for 
instance, his ambiguous style of writing, so often intention 
ally vague and calculated to engender scepticism. 2 

Not even in Luther s immediate circle did this letter meet 
with general approval. Melanchthon wrote, on March 11, 

1534, to Camerarius : " Our Arcesilaus [Luther] is starting 
again his campaign against Erasmus ; this I regret ; the 
senile excitement of the pair disquiets me." 3 On May 12, 

1535, he even expressed himself as follows to Erasmus, 
referring to the fresh outbreak of hostilities : " The writings 
published here against you displease me, not merely on 
account of my private relations with you, but also because 
they do no public good." 4 

Boniface Amerbach, a friend of Erasmus s, sent Luther s 
letter to his brother, calling it a " parum sana epistola," and 
adding, " Hcrvagius [the Basle printer] told me recently 
that Luther, for more than a year, had been suffering from 
softening of the brain ( cephalcea ), I think the letter proves 
this, and also that he has not yet recovered, for in it there is 
no trace of a sound mind." 5 

Recent Protestant historians speak of the letter as "on 
the whole hasty and dictated by jealousy," 6 and as based 
" in part on inaccurate knowledge and a misapprehension of 
Erasmus s writings." 7 

1 On March 31, 1534, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 36. 

2 At the conclusion Luther says of the young people : " Hoc 
levitate et vanitate paulatim desuescit a religione, donee abhorreat et 
penitus profanescat. 1 1 And : " Dominus noster lesus, quern mihi Pctrus 
non tacet Deum, sed in cuius virtute scio et certus sum me scepius a morte 
liberatum, in cuius fide hcec omnia incepi et hactemis effeci, quce ipsi 
hostes mirantur, ipse custodial et liberet nos in finem. Ipse est Dominus 
Deus noster verus." 

3 " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 709 : yepovriKa wadtj. 4 Ibid., 3, p. 69. 

5 On April 15, 1534, Burckhardt-Biedermann, " Bonif. Amerbach," 
1894, p. 297. Eiiders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 10, p. 24. 

6 Enders, ibid., p. 23. 7 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 312. 



184 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Shortly after this Luther expressed himself with rather 
more moderation in a Preface which he composed for 
Anton Corvinus s reply to Erasmus s proposals for restoring 
the Church to unity. In this writing he sought to make his 
own the more moderate tone which dominated Corvinus s 
works. He represented as the chief obstacle to reunion the 
opinion prevalent amongst his opponents of the considera 
tion due to the Church. Their one cry was " the Church, 
the Church, the Church " ; this has confirmed Erasmus in 
his unfounded opposition to the true Evangel, in spite of 
his having himself thrown doubt on all the doctrines of the 
Church. 1 He could not as yet well undertake a work on the 
subject of the Church, such as Amsdorf wished, as he was 
fully occupied with his translation of the Bible. In the 
Preface referred to above he announced, however, his 
intention of doing so later. The result was his " Von den 
Conciliis und Kirchen," of 1539, which will be treated of 
below. 2 

Erasmus was unwilling to go down to the grave bearing 
the calumnies against his faith which Luther had heaped 
upon him. He owed it to his reputation to free himself from 
these unjust charges. This he did in a writing which must 
be accounted one of the most forcible and sharpest which 
ever left his pen. The displeasure and annoyance which he 
naturally felt did not, however, interfere with his argument 
or prevent him from indulging in sparkling outbursts of wit. 
Amerbach had judged Luther s attack " insane " ; Erasmus, 
for his part, addressed his biting reply to " one not sober." 
The title of the writing, published at Basle in 1534, runs : 
" Purgatio adversus epistolam non sobriam M. Lutheri." 3 

It was an easy matter for Erasmus to convict the author 
of manifest misrepresentation and falsehood. 

He repeatedly accuses the writer of downright lying. What 
he charges me with concerning my treatment of the Apostle 
John, " is a palpable falsehood. Never, even in my dreams, did 
the words which he quotes as mine enter my mind." Such a lie 
he can have " welded together " only by joining two expressions 
used in other contexts. 4 

As for his alleged blasphemy concerning Christ s birth from 

1 " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 526 seq. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 278 ff. 3 " Opp.," 3, col. 1494 seq. 

* Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p, 663, admits that Luther s charge wag 
" groundless," 



ERASMUS 185 

the Virgin Mary, Erasmus protests : "I can swear I never said 
anything of the kind either in a letter, as Luther makes out, 
though he fails to say which, or in any of my writings." Moreover 
he was a little surprised to find Luther, whose own language was 
not remarkable for modesty, suddenly transformed into a 
champion of cleanliness of speech : " Everything, bridegroom, 
bride and even best man, seems of a sudden to have become 
obscene to this Christian Luther," etc, 

Erasmus also points out that the passage concerning the Creed 
being a mere fable had been invented by Luther himself by means 
of deliberate " distortion " and shameful misinterpretation : 
" No text," he exclaims, " is safe from his calumny and mis 
representation." As for what Luther had said, viz. that " who 
ever tells untruths lies even when he speaks the truth," and that 
he would refuse to believe Erasmus even were he to make an 
orthodox profession of faith, Erasmus s retort is : " Whoever 
spoke this bit of wisdom was assuredly out of his senses and 
stood in need of hellebore " (the remedy for madness). As to 
the charge of deliberately leading others into infidelity he does 
not shrink from telling Luther, that " he will find it easier to 
persuade all that he has gone mad out of hatred, is suffering 
from some other form of mental malady, or is led by some evil 
genius." 1 

Luther took good care to say nothing in public about the 
rebuff he had received from Erasmus ; nor did he ever make 
any attempt to refute the charge of having " lied." 

In the circle of his intimate friends, however, he inveighed 
all the more against the leader of the Humanists as a sceptic 
and seducer to infidelity. 

After Erasmus s death he declared that, till his end (1536), he 
lived " without God." He refused to give any credence to the 
report that he had displayed faith and piety at the hour of death. 
Erasmus s last words were : " Jesus Christ, Son of God, have 
mercy on me. I will extol the mercies of the Lord and His 
judgments." 2 Luther, on the other hand, in his Latin Table- 
Talk says : " He died just as he lived, viz. like an Epicurean, 
without a clergyman and without comfort. . . . Securissime 
vixit, sicut etiam morixit, " he adds jestingly. " Those pious 
words attributed to him are, sure enough, an invention." 3 

1 Most of the above passages from Erasmus s reply are quoted by 
Enders, p. 25 ff. The outspoken passage last quoted is given in Latin 
in vol. hi., p. 136. n. 2. 

2 Quoted by Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 663, p. 313, n. 1. 

3 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 275 : " Vixit et decessit ut Epicureua 
sine oliquo ministro et consolatione. . . . Multa quidem prceclara scripsit, 
habuit ingenium prcestantissimum, otium tranquillum. . . . In agone non 
expetivit ministrum verbi neque sacramenta, et fortasse ilia verba sues 
confessionis in agone Fili Dei miserere mei illi afflnguntur." Cp, 
Luther s words in 1544 in Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 343 ; He died. 



186 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Erasmus, he says, revealing for once the real ground of all 
his hatred " might have been of great service to the cause of 
the Evangel ; often was he exhorted to this end. . . . But he 
considered it better that the Gospel should perish and not be 
preached than that all Germany should be convulsed and all 
the Princes be troubled with risings." " He refuses to teach 
Christ," he said of him during his lifetime ; "he does not take it 
seriously, that is the way with all Italians and with them he has 
had much intercourse. One page of Terence is better than his 
whole Dialogus or his Colloquium ; he mocks not only at 
religion but even at politics and at public life. He has no other 
belief than the Roman ; he believes what Clement VII believes ; 
this he does at his command, and yet at the same time sneers at 
it. ... I fear he will die the death of the wicked." 1 After the 
scholar s decease, Luther naturally desired to find his prophecy 
fulfilled. 

An obvious weapon, one constantly employed against 
Luther by his foes, was to twit him with his lies ; a reply 
addressed to him in 1531 by a friend of George of Saxony, 
Franz Arnoldi of Collen, near Meissen, was no exception to the 
rule. In this little work entitled " Antwort auf das Biich- 
lein," etc., it is not merely stated that Luther, in his " Auff 
das vermeint Keiserlich Edict," had put forward " as 
many lies as there were words," 2 but it is also pointed out 
that the Augsburg Edict, " which is truly Christian and 
requires no glosses," had been explained by him most 
abominably and shamefully, and given a meaning such as 
His Imperial Majesty and those who promulgated or 
executed it had never even dreamt of." 3 " He promises us 
white and gives us black. This has come down to him from 
his ancestor, the raging devil, who is the father of lies. . . . 
With such lies does Martin Luther seek to deck out his 
former vices." 4 

sine crux et sine lux " ; here again Luther says he had been the 
cause of many losing body and soul and had been the originator of the 
Sacramentarians. See our vol. ii., p. 252, n. 1, for further details of 
Erasmus s end. We read in Mathesius, p. 90 (May, 1540) : " The 
Doctor said : He arrogated to himself the Divinity of which he 
deprived Christ. In his Colloquia he compared Christ with Priapus 
[Kroker remarks : Erasmus did not compare Christ with Priapus ], 
he mocked at Him in his Catechism [ Symbolum ], and particu 
larly in his execrable book the Farragines. " 

1 See the whole passage in " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 272 seq, 
" Luthors Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 89. See above, p. 101. 

3 " Werke," ibid., p. 92. 4 Ibid. 



DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY 187 

2. Luther on George of Saxony and George on Luther 

The hostile relations between Luther and Duke George of 
Saxony found expression at the end of 1525 in a corre 
spondence, which throws some light on the origin and 
extent of the tension and on the character of both men. The 
letters exchanged were at once printed and spread rapidly 
through the German lands, one serving to enlist recruits to 
Luther s standard, the other constituting a furious attack 
on the innovations. 1 

Luther s letter of Dec. 21, 1525, to the Duke, " his 
gracious master," was " an exhortation to join the Word 
of God," as the printed title runs. Sent at a time when the 
peasants, after their defeat, had deserted Luther, and when 
the latter was attaching himself all the more closely to those 
Royal Courts which were well disposed towards him, the 
purpose of the letter was to admonish the chief opponent 
of the cause, " not so barbarously to attack Christ, the 
corner-stone," but to accept the Evangel " brought to light 
by me." He bases his " exhortation " on nothing less than 
the absolute certainty of his mission and teaching. 
" Because I know it, and am sure of it, therefore I must, 
under pain of the loss of my own soul, care, beg and implore 
for your Serene Highness s soul." He had already diligently 
prayed to God to " turn his heart," and he was loath now 
" to pray against him for the needs of the cause " ; his 
prayers and those of his followers were invincibly powerful, 
yea, " stronger than the devil himself," as the failure of all 
George s and his friends previous persecutions proved, 
" though men do not see or mark God s great wonders 
in me." 

It is hard to believe that the author, in spite of all he says, 
really expected his letter to effect the conversion of so 
energetic and resolute an opponent ; nevertheless, his 
assurances of his peaceable disposition were calculated to 
promote the Lutheran cause in the public eye, whatever the 
answer might be. He will, he says in this letter, once again 
" beseech the Prince in a humble and friendly manner, 
perhaps for the last time " ; George and Luther might soon 
be called away by God ; "I have now no more to lose in 

1 Luther to Duke George, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 338 ff. (" Brief- 
wechsel," 5, p. 281, with amended date and colophon). George to 
Luther, " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 285 ff. 



188 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

this world but my carcase, which each day draws closer to 
the grave." Formerly he had, it is true, spoken "harshly 
and crossly " to him, as God also does " to those whom He 
afterwards blesses and consoles " ; he had, however, also 
published " many kindlier sermons and booklets in which 
everyone might discern that I mean ill to no one but desire 
to serve every man to the best of my ability." 

The letter partook of the nature of a manifesto, intended 
to place the Catholic-minded Prince publicly in the wrong, 
if it did not, as was hardly to be expected, draw him over 
to the side of the innovators. 

The Duke replied, on Dec. 28, in a manner worthy of his 
status in the Empire and of the firm attitude he had main 
tained so far. " As a layman " he refused to enter upon a 
" Scriptural disputation " with Luther ; it was not untrue 
that Luther had attacked him " harshly and contrary to the 
ordinance of God and the command of the Gospel " ; Luther 
might, if he chose, compare his former severity with that of 
God, but he certainly would not find, " in the Gospels or 
anywhere in Scripture," abusive epithets such as he em 
ployed ; for him, as a sovereign, to have had to put up with 
such treatment from a man under the ban of the Empire, 
had cost him much ; he had been compelled to put pressure 
on himself to accept " persecution for justice sake." Luther s 
" utterly shameful abuse of our most gracious Lord, the 
Roman Emperor," made it impossible for him to be Luther s 
" gracious master." 

Formerly, so George admits, when Luther s writings " first 
appeared, some of them had pleased him. Nor were we displeased 
to hear of the Disputation at Leipzig, for we hoped from it some 
amendment of the abuses amongst Christians." Luther, how 
ever, in his very hearing at Leipzig, had advanced Hussite errors, 
though he had afterwards promised him privately to " write 
against them " in order to allay any suspicion ; in spite of this he 
had written in favour of Hus and against the Council of Constance 
and against " all our forefathers." 

He, for his part, held fast to the principle, " that all who acted 
in defiance of obedience and separated themselves from the 
Christian Churches were heretics and should be regarded as such, 
for so they had been declared by the Holy Councils, all of which 
you deny, though it does not beseem you nor any Christian." 
Hence he would " trouble little " about Luther s Evangel, but 
would continue to do his best to exclude it from his lands. 

" One cause for so doing is given us in the evil fruit which 
springs from it ; for neither you nor any man can say that aught 



DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY 189 

but blasphemy of God, of the Blessed and Holy Sacrament, of 
the most Holy Mother of God and all the Saints has resulted 
from your teaching ; for in your preaching all the heresies 
condemned of old are revived, and all honourable worship of God 
destroyed to an extent never witnessed since the days of Sergius 
[the monk supposed to have taught Mohammed]. When have 
more acts of sacrilege been committed by persons dedicated to 
God than since you introduced the Evangel ? Whence has more 
revolt against authority come than from your Evangel ? When 
has there been such plundering of poor religious houses ? When 
more robbery and thieving ? When were there so many escaped 
monks and nuns at Wittenberg as now ? " l etc. 

" Had Christ wanted such an Evangel, He would not have 
said so often : Peace be with you ! St. Peter and St. Paul would 
not have said that the authorities must be obeyed. Thus the 
fruits of your teaching and Evangel fill us with horror and 
disgust. We are, however, ready to stake body, soul, goods and 
honour in defence of the true Gospel, in which may God s Grace 
assist us ! " 

After urgent admonitions offered to Luther " as New- Year 
wishes," more particularly to sever his connection with the nun, 
he promises him his assistance should he obey him : " We shall 
spare no pains to obtain the clemency of our most gracious Lord 
the Emperor, so far as is possible to us here, and you need have 
no fear of any ill on account of what you have done against us, 
but may expect all that is good. That you may see your way 
to this is our hope. Amen." 

Few Princes were to suffer worse treatment at Luther s 
hands than Duke George. The Duke frequently retaliated 
by charging Luther with being a liar. 

He wrote, for instance, in 1531, that Luther simply bore 
witness to the fact that the " spirit of lying " dwelt in him, 
" who speaks nothing but his own fabrications and false 
hood." "You forsworn Luther," he says to him, "you 
who treacherously and falsely calumniate His Imperial 
Majesty." 2 

Luther s anger against the most influential Prince in the 
Catholic League was not diminished by the fact, that the 
Duke severely censured the real evils on the Catholic side, 
was himself inclined to introduce reforms on his own, and 
even, at times, to go too far. Such action on George s part 
annoyed Luther all the more, because in all this the Duke 
would not hear of any relinquishing of ancient dogma. 
Hence we find Luther, quite contrary to the real state of the 

1 More in the same strain above, p. 173, n. 4. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 134. 



190 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

case, abusing George as follows : The Duke was secretly in 
favour of the new teaching and his resistance was merely 
assumed ; he was opposed to the reception of the Sacra 
ment under both kinds, only because he wished to tread 
under foot the whole teaching of Christ, to forbid Holy 
Scripture altogether and particularly to condemn St. Paul ; l 
if he, Luther, were not allowed to abuse the Duke, then 
neither might he call the devil a murderer and a liar. 2 " He 
is my sworn, personal enemy," he says, and proceeds in the 
same vein : " Had I written in favour of the Pope, he would 
noAV be against the Pope, but because I write against the 
Pope, he fights for him and defends him." 3 

Luther, as his manner was, announced as early as 1522 
that " the Judgment of God would inevitably overtake 
him." 4 When the Duke, in 1539, had died the death of a 
Christian, Luther said : " It is a judgment on those who 
despise the one true God." " It is an example when a 
father and two fine grown-up sons sink into the grave in so 
short a time, but I, Dr. Luther, prophesied that Duke 
George and his race would perish." 5 There was, according 
to Luther, only one ray of hope for the eternal happiness of 
the Duke, viz. that, when his son Hans lay dying in 1537, 
not so long before his own death, it was reported he had 
consoled him in the Lutheran fashion. According to Luther 
he had encouraged him with the article on Justification by 
Faith in Christ and reminded him, " that he must look only 
to Christ, the Saviour of the world, and forget his own works 
and merits." 6 Needless to say the pious thoughts suggested 
to the dying man were simply those usually placed before 
the mind of faithful Catholics at the hour of death. 

Luther s imagination and his polemics combine to trace a 
picture of Duke George which is as characteristic of him 
self as it is at variance with the figure of the Duke, as 
recorded in history. He accused the Duke of misgovernment 
and tyranny and incited his subjects against him ; and, 
in his worst fit of indignation, launched against the Duke 

1 "Werkp," Erl. ed., 58, p. 411, Table-Talk. 

2 Ibid., 31, p. 250 ff. 3 Ibid., 61, p. 343, Table-Talk. 

4 To the Elector Frederick of Saxony, March 5, 1522, " Werke," 
Erl. ed., 53, p. 107 (" Briefwechsel," 3, p. 296). 

5 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 343 f., Table-Talk. 

6 Ibid., 58, p. 412 (Table-Talk), where Luther bases his tale on a 
remark of the Protestant Elector Johaim Frederick of Saxony. 



DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY 191 

the booklet " Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen " (1531). 1 
Yet the Saxons generally did not regard the Duke s govern 
ment as tyrannical or look upon him as an " assassin," not 
even the Lutherans who formed the majority. On the 
contrary, they were later on to acknowledge, that, under 
the Duke s reign, they had enjoyed " prosperity and peace " 
with the Emperor, amongst themselves and with their 
neighbours. His firmness and honour were no secret to all 
who knew him. The King of France admired his dis 
interestedness, when, in 1532, he rejected the proffered 
yearly pension of at least 5000 Gulden which was to detach 
him from the Empire. At the Diet of Worms this Catholic 
Duke had been the most outspoken in condemning the 
proposal made, that Luther should be refused a safe conduct 
for his return journey ; he pointed out how much at variance 
this was with German ways and what a lasting shame it 
would bring on the German Princes. As for the rest he 
favoured the use of strong measures to safeguard Germany 
from religious and political revolution. He also befriended, 
more than any other German Prince or Bishop, those 
scholars who attacked Luther in print. 

After the appearance of the libel " Widder den Meuchler 
zu Dresen," he wrote a reply entitled " About the insulting 
booklet which Martin Luther has published against the 
Dresden murderer," though it was issued in 1531, not under 
his own name, but under that of Franz Arnoldi. 2 

The work is more a vindication of the Empire s Catholic 
standpoint and of the honour of the Catholics against 
Luther s foul suspicions and calumnies, than a personal 
defence of his own cause. It is couched in the language we 
might expect from a fighter and a sovereign pelted with 
filth before the eyes of his own subjects. It hails expressions 
of the roughest against Luther, the convicted " rebel against 
the Emperor and all authority," the inventor of " slimy 
fabrications and palpable lies " not worth an answer, 
amongst which was the " downright false " assertion, that 
" the Papists are up in arms " against the Protestant 
Estates. 3 In order to understand its tone we must bear in 
mind Luther s own method of belabouring all his foes with 
the coarsest language at his command. 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 413 ff. ; ErJ. cd., 25 2 , p. 108 ff. 
See our vol. ii., p. 295 f. 

2 " Luthers Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 129 ff. 3 P. 135. 



192 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

At the beginning of his writing the Duke says of Luther s 
abuse : "If both Lutherans and Papists could be reformed by 
vituperation and abuse, cursing and swearing, then His Imperial 
Roman Majesty, Christian kings, princes and lords would have 
had no need of a scholar ; plenty other people, for instance, 
worn-out whores, tipsy boors and loose knaves, might have done 
it just as well without any assistance or help of yours." 1 

The following, taken from the Duke s writing, carries us back 
into the very thick of the excitement of those years : 

" Who is the man who, contrary to God, law, justice and all 
Scripture and knowledge, has sacrilegiously robbed, stolen and 
taken from Christ all the possessions bestowed upon Him 
hundreds of years ago by emperors, kings, princes, lords, counts, 
knights, nobles, burghers and peasants, all of whom, out of 
fervent love and appreciation for His sacred Passion, His rosy 
blood and guiltless death, gave their gifts for the establishment 
of monasteries, parish-churches, altars, cells, hospitals, mortuaries, 
guilds, roods, etc., etc. ? Why, Squire Martin, Dr. Luther ! 
Who has plundered and despoiled the poor village clergy who 
were true pastors of the Church, ministers of the Sacraments, 
preachers and guides of souls of their blood and sweat, their 
hardly earned yearly stipend, nay, their sacred gifts such as tithes, 
rents, offerings and Church dues, and that without any permission 
of the Ordinaries and contrary to God, to honour and to justice ? 
Why, Dr. Pig-trough Luther ! Who has robbed, plundered 
and deprived God during the last twelve years of so many 
thousand souls and sent them down with bloody heads to 
Lucifer in the abyss of hell ? Who, but the arch-murderer of 
souls, Dr. Donkey-ear Mertein Luther ! Who has robbed Christ 
of His wedded spouses many of whom (though perhaps not all) 
had served Him diligently day and night for so many years in a 
lovely, spiritual life and has brought them down to a miserable, 
pitiable and wicked mode of life ? Shame upon you, you blas 
phemous, sacrilegious man, you public bordeller for all escaped 
monks and nuns, apostate priests and renegades generally ! 
Who has filched, robbed and stolen from his Imperial Roman 
Majesty, our beloved, innocent, Christian Prince Charles V., and 
from kings, princes and lords, the honour, respect, service, 
obedience and the plighted oath of their subjects (not of all, 
thank God) by false, seditious and damnable writings and 
doctrines ? Why, sure, Dr. Luther ! Who has made so many 
thieves and scoundrels as are now to be found in every corner, 
amongst them so many runaway monks, so that in many places, 
as I hear, one is not safe from them either in the streets or at 
home ? Why, Dr. Luther ! That nothing might be left undone, 
he has also destroyed the religious houses of nuns. Summa 
summarum, there would be so rmich to tell, that, for the sake of 
brevity, it must stick in the pen. . . . But I will show you from 
Scripture who was the first, the second and the third sacrilegious 
robber. The first was Lucifer, who, out of pride, tried to rob 

1 P. 130. 



DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY 193 

the Almighty of His glory, power, praise and service (Is. xiv. 12). 
He received his reward. The second was Aman, who stole from 
God the highest honour, viz. worship, for, in his malice, he caused 
himself to be worshipped as God. He wa& hanged on a gallows 
50 ells high. Judas Scariothis stole from Christ and His Apostles 
the tenth penny of their daily living ; he hanged himself. Luther, 
the fourth sacrilegious robber, has surpassed all men in iniquity ; 
what his end and reward will be God alone knows." 1 

It has been said, that, among the defenders of Catholicism, 
no voice was raised which could compare in any way in 
emphasis and power with that of Luther. Dollinger in 
later life considered that, in comparison with Luther, his 
opponents could only " stammer " ; what they advanced 
sounded " feeble, weak and colourless." 2 Yet, what we 
have just quoted from Duke George cannot in fairness be 
charged with weakness. Their indignation and fiery zeal 
inspired other Catholics too to express with eloquence and 
rudeness their conviction of the evil consequences of Luther s 
action. 

1 P. 144. 2 " Wiedervereinigung der christl. Kirchen," p. 53. 



IV. O 



CHAPTER XXIV 

MORAL CONDITIONS ACCOMPANYING THE REFORMATION 
PRINCELY PATRONS 

1. Reports from various Lutheran Districts 

AFTER Duke George of Saxony had been carried off by death 
on April 17, 1539, a sudden revulsion in favour of Lutheran- 
ism took place in his land. Duke Henry, his brother, who 
succeeded him, introduced the new teaching to which he 
had long been favourable. Luther came at once to Leipzig 
with Melanchthon, Jonas and Cruciger to render at least 
temporary assistance, by preaching and private counsel. 
In July of that same year an Evangelical Visitation was 
already arranged by Duke Henry on the lines of that in 
the Saxon Electorate ; this was carried out by Luther s 
preachers. 

Many abuses dating from Catholic times were prevalent 
amongst both people and parochial clergy. Concubinage in 
particular had increased greatly in the clerical ranks under 
the influence of the new ideas. Luther himself boasted of 
having advised " several parish-priests under Duke George 
to marry their cook secretly." 1 But much greater dis 
orders than had previously existed crept in everywhere at 
the commencement of the change. 

Luther himself was soon at a loss to discover any religious 
spirit or zeal for ecclesiastical affairs, either in the ruler or in his 
councillors. The Duke seemed to him " old, feeble and in 
capable." He complained, on March 3, 1540, to his friend 
Anton Lauterbach, then minister at Pirna : " I see well enough, 
that, at the Dresden Court there is an extraordinary unwilling 
ness to advance the cause of God or man ; there pride and greed 
of gain reign supreme. The old Prince can t do anything, the 
younger Princes dare not, and would not even had they the 
courage. May God keep the guidance of His Church in His own 
Hands until He finds suitable tools." 2 On the moral conditions 

1 Above, p. 38, and vol. iii., p. 262- 

2 Letters ed. De Wette, 5, p. 271. 

194 



SAXONY AND BRANDENBURG 195 

at the Ducal Court he passes a startling and hasty judgment 
when he says, writing to his Elector in 1540, that there the 
" scandals were ten times worse " than those caused by the 
Hessian bigamy. He was annoyed to find that, even after 
the introduction of the new teaching, the courtiers and nobles 
thought only of replenishing their purses. He speaks of them as 
the " aristocratic harpies of the land," and exclaims : " These 
courtiers will end by eating themselves up by their own avarice." 1 
They refused to support the ministers of the Word and disputed 
amongst themselves as to whose duty it was to do so ; they did 
not hide their old contempt for Wittenberg, i.e. for its theologians 
and theology, and yet they expected Wittenberg to carry out the 
Visitations free of cost. " Even should you get nothing for the 
Visitation," he nevertheless instructs one of the preachers, " still 
you must hold it as well as you can, comfort souls to the best of 
your power and, in any case, expel the poisonous Papists." 2 

The unexpected and apparently so favourable change in 
the Duchy really did little to dispel his gloom, though he 
occasionally intones a hymn of gratitude and admiration 
for the working of Providence displayed in the change of 
rulers. 

About this time (1539), in Brandenburg, the Elector 
Joachim II. also ushered in the innovations. The rights and 
possessions of the ancient Church fell a prey to the spoilers. 
Luther praised the ruler for going forward so bravely " to 
the welfare and salvation of many souls." He was, how 
ever, apprehensive lest the " roaring of the lion in high 
places " might influence the Elector ; with the Divine 
assistance, however, he would not fear even this. 3 He 
showed himself strangely lenient in regard to the Elector s 
prudent retention of much more of the Catholic ceremonial 
than had been preserved in any other German land. Even 
the Elevation of the Sacrament at Mass (or rather at the 
sham Mass still in use) was tolerated by Luther ; he writes : 
" We had good reasons for doing away with the elevation 
[of the Sacrament] here at Wittenberg, but perhaps at 
Berlin you have not." 4 

1 To Johannes Cellarius, minister at Dresden, Nov. 26, 1540, 
Letters ed. De Wette, 5, p. 229. 

2 Ibid., cp. the letter to Wenceslaus Link of Oct. 26, 1539, " Brief- 
wechsel," 12, p. 270 : " Proceres veteri odio despiciunt Wittembergam. " 

3 Letter of Dec. 4, 1539, " Brief wechsel," ibid., p. 313. 

4 To Provost George Buchholzer at Berlin, Dec. 4, 1539, ibid., p. 316. 
At the Wittenberg Schlosskirche the elevation had gone before 1539, 
and soon after was discontinued throughout the Saxon Electorate. 
It was retained, however, in the parish church of Wittenberg until 



196 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

In the Duchy of Prussia, formerly ecclesiastical property 
of the Teutonic Knights, the way had been paved for the 
apostasy of these Knights, all bound by the vow of chastity, 
by Luther s alluring tract " An die Herrn Deutschs Ordens, 
das sic falsche Keuscheyt meyden und zur rechten ehlichen 
Keuschcyt greyffen." 1 Albert, the Grand Master, who had 
visited Luther twice, as already narrated, seized upon the 
lands of the Order belonging to the Church and caused 
himself to be solemnly invested and proclaimed hereditary 
Duke of Prussia on April 10, 1525 ; thereupon Luther sent 
him his congratulations that God should have so graciously 
called him to this new Estate. The Grand Master, himself 
a married man, with the assistance of the two apostate 
Bishops of Samland and Pomerania, then established 
Lutheranism. As chief Bishop he assumed the position of 
head of the territorial Church, agreeably with the Protestant 
practice in the other German lands. The episcopal juris 
diction was transferred to the civil Consistorial Courts. 

Violent appropriation of alien property, as well as illegal 
assumption of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, also characterised 
the advent of the new "faith in Wiirtemberg. Duke Ulrich, 
who had been raised to the throne in 1534 by a breach of 
the peace of the Empire and contrary to all law and justice, 
thanks to the successful raid of Philip of Hesse (above, p. 47 ; 
vol. iii., p. 67 f.), continued to labour under the stigma 
attaching to the manner in which he had obtained the 
Duchy, in spite of the peace he had patched up with the 
Emperor. The religious transformation of the country was 
however, soon accomplished, thanks to his pressure. 

The chief part in this, so far as Upper Wiirtemberg was 
concerned, devolved on the preacher, Ambrosius Blaurer 
(Blarer), who favoured the Zwinglian leanings of Bucer. 

Blaurer was openly accused of deception and hypocrisy in the 
matter of his profession of faith. Though he had formerly sided 
with Zwingli in the denial of the Sacrament, he vindicated his 
Lutheran orthodoxy to his patron, the Duke, by means of a 

Bugenhagen did away with it on June 25, 1542. Luther reserved to 
himself the liberty of reintroducing it should heresy or other reasons 
call for it. He had retained the elevation at Wittenberg for a while 
as a protest against Carlstadt s attacks on the Sacrament, at least 
such was the reason he gave in May, 1542, to Landgrave Philip, who 
wanted its abrogation. Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 578. 

1 Dec., 1523, " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 232 ff . ; Erl. ed., 29, 
p/16 ff. (" Brief wechsel," 4, p. 266). 



WURTEMBERG 197 

formulary 1 tallying with Luther s doctrine on the Supper. 
Subsequently, however, he issued an " Apology," in which he 
declared he had not in the least altered his views. " Who does 
not see the deception ? " wrote Luther s friend, Veit Dietrich ; 
" formerly he made a profession of faith in our own words, and 
now he attacks everybody who says he has retracted his previous 
opinion." 2 Luther had been a prey to the greatest anxiety on 
learning that Blaurer had become the Duke s favourite. " If 
this be true," he wrote, " what hope is left for the whole of Upper 
Germany ? " 3 Much as he had rejoiced at Blaurer s apparent 
retractation in the matter of the Sacrament, he was very mis 
trustful of his bewildering " Apology." " I only hope it be meant 
seriously," he declared ; " it scandalises many that Blaurer 
should be so anxious to make out that he never thought differ 
ently. People find this hard to believe." " For the sake of unity 
I shall, however, put a favourable interpretation on everything. 
I am ready to forgive anyone who in his heart thinks aright, even 
though he may have been in error or hostile to me." 4 Thus he 
practically pledged himself to silence regarding the work. 

Of " Blarer s " doings in Wiirtemberg, now won over to the 
new Evangel, the Bavarian agent, Hans Werner, a violent 
opponent of Duke Ulrich s, wrote : " He preaches every day ; 
yet none save the low classes and common people, etc., attend 
his sermons, for these readily accept the Evangel of mine being 
thine and thine mine. Item, Blarer has full powers, writes 
hither and thither in the land, turns out here a provost, there a 
canon, vicar, rector or priest and banishes them from the country 
by order of Duke Ulrich ; he appoints foreigners, Zwinglians or 
Lutheran scamps, of whom no one knows anything ; all must 
have wife and child, and if there be still a priest found in the land, 
he is forced to take a wife." 5 

In the Wiirtemberg lowlands, north of Stuttgart, a 
zealous Lutheran, Erhard Schnepf, laboured for the 
destruction of the old Church system ; Duke Ulrich also 
summoned Johann Brenz, the Schwabisch-Hall preacher, to 
his land for two years. 

At Christmas, 1535, Ulrich gave orders to all the prelates 
in his realm to dismiss the Catholic clergy in their districts 
and appoint men of the new faith, as the former " did 
nothing but blaspheme and abuse the Divine truth." 6 Even 

1 Cp. Enders, ibid., 10, p. 98, n. 7. 

2 Letter to Coler, April 30, 1535. Enders, ibid., p. 151, n. 5. 

3 To Justus Jonas, Dec. 17, 1534, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 98. 

4 To Erhard Schnepf at Stuttgart, May 15, 1535, ibid., p. 150. 

5 Letter to the Chancellor Leonard v. Eck, Jan. 21, 1535, in Wille, 
" Anal, zur Gesch. Oberdeutschlands, 1534-1540 " (" Zeitschr. fur die 
Gesch. des Oberrheins," 37, p. 263 ff.), p. 293 f. 

6 G. Bossert in " Wiirttemberg. KG.," ed. Calwer Verlagsverein, 
Calw, 1893, p. 335. 



198 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the assisting at Mass in neighbouring districts was pro 
hibited by the regulation issued in the summer of 1536, 
which at the same time prescribed the attendance of 
Catholics at least once every Sunday and Holiday at the 
preaching of the new ministers of the Word ; under this 
intolerable system of compulsion Catholics were reduced to 
performing all their religious exercises in their own homes. 1 
The violent suppression of the monasteries and the sequestra 
tion of monastic property went hand in hand with the above. 
In the convents of women, which still existed, the nuns 
were forced against their will to listen to the sermons of the 
preachers. Church property was everywhere confiscated 
so far as the ancient Austrian law did not prevent it. The 
public needs and the scarcity of money were alleged as pretexts 
for this robbery. The Mass vestments and church vessels 
were allotted to the so-called poor-boxes. At Stuttgart, 
for instance, the costly church vestments were sold for the 
benefit of the poor. In the troubles many noble works 
of art perished, for " all precious metal was melted down 
and minted, nor were cases of embezzlement altogether 
unknown." " The Prince, with the approach of old age, 
manifested pitiable miserliness and cupidity." 2 Un 
fortunately he was left a free hand in the use of the great 
wealth that poured into his coffers. But, not even in the 
interests of the new worship, would he expend what was 
necessary, so that the vicarages fell into a deplorable state. 
In other matters, too, the new Church of the country 
suffered in consequence of the way in which Church property 
was handled. " The inevitable consequence was the rise of 
many quarrels, complaints were heard on all sides and even 
the Schmalkalden League was moved to remonstrate with 
Ulrich. 3 

Terrible details concerning the alienation of church and 
monastic property are reported from Wiirtemberg by con 
temporaries. The preacher Erhard Schnepf, the Duke s chief 
tool, was also his right hand in the seizure of property. Loud 
complaints concerning Schnepf s doings, and demands that he 
should be made to render an account, were raised even by such 
Protestants as Bucer and Myconius, and by the speakers at the 
religious conference at Worms. He found means, however, to 
evade this duty. One of those voices of the past bewails the 
treatment meted out to the unfortunate religious : " Even were 

1 Cp. ibid., p. 336. 2 Ibid., p. 347. 3 Ibid., p. 348. 



WURTEMBERG 199 

the Wiirtemberg monks and nuns all devils incarnate and no 
men, still Duke Ulrich ought not to proceed against them in so 
un-Christian, inhuman and tyrannical a fashion." 1 

The relentless work of religious subversion bore every 
where a political stamp. The leaders were simply tools of 
the Court. Frequently they were at variance amongst 
themselves in matters of theology, and their people, too, 
were dragged into the controversy. To the magistrates it 
was left to decide such differences unless indeed some 
dictatorial official forestalled them, as was the case when 
the Vogt of Herrenberg took it into his own hands to settle 
a matter of faith. In the struggles between Lutherans and 
Zwinglians, the highest court of appeal above the town- 
Councillors and the officials was the Ducal Chancery. 

Ulrich himself did not explicitly side either with the 
Confession of Augsburg or with the " Confessio Tetra- 
politana" viz. with the more Zwinglian form of faith agreed 
upon at the Diet of Augsburg by the four South-German 
townships of Strasburg, Constance, Memmingen and Lindau. 

The preachers who assembled in 1537 at the so-called Idols- 
meeting of Urach, to discuss the question of the veneration of 
images which- had given rise to serious dissensions amongst them, 
appealed to Ulrich. Blaurer inveighed against the \ise of images 
as idolatrous. Brenz declared that their removal in Wiirtem 
berg would be tantamount to a condemnation of the Lutheran 
Church in Saxony and elsewhere where they were permitted. 
The Court, to which the majority of the theologians appealed, 
ordered the removal of all images on Jan. 20, 1540. Distressing 
scenes were witnessed in many places when the images and 
pictures in the churches, which were not only prized by the 
people, but were also, many of them, of great artistic value, 2 were 
broken and torn to pieces in spite of the warning issued by the 
authorities against their violent destruction. The " Tetra- 
polilana " had already forcibly denounced the use of images. 

At Ulm, which so far had refused to accept the " Tetrapolitana," 
the magistrates in 1544 decided to adhere to the Confession of 
Augsburg and the " Apologia." Blaurer, some years before 
(1541), had justifiably complained of the arbitrary action of the 
civic authorities and said that every town acted according to its 
own ideas. But the preachers were frequently so exorbitant in 
the material demands they made on behalf of themselves and 
their families that the Town Council of Ulm declared, they 
behaved as though " each one had the right to receive a full 
saucepan every day." 3 

1 Hans Werner to Chancellor Eck, Jan. 14, 1536, Wille, ibid., p. 298. 

2 Bossert, ibid., remarks, p. 333 : " Many mediaeval works of art 
were preserved." 3 Ibid., p. 356. 



200 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

In place of any amendment of the many moral disorders 
already prevailing, still greater moral corruption became the 
rule among the people of Wiirtemberg, as is attested by Myconius 
the Zwinglian in 1539, and thirty years later by the Chancellor 
of the University of Tubingen, Jacob Andrese. 

The former declared that the " people are full of impudence 
and godlessness ; of blasphemy, drunkenness, sins of the flesh 
and wild licentiousness there is no end" 1 Andrese directly con 
nects with the new faith this growing demoralisation : "A 
dissolute, Epicurean, bestial life, feeding, swilling, avarice, pride 
and blasphemy." " We have learnt," so the people said, accord 
ing to him, " that only through faith in Jesus Christ are we 
saved, Who by His death has atoned for all our sins ; . . . that 
all the world may see they are not Papists and rely not at all on 
good works, they perform none. Instead of fasting they gorge 
and swill day and night, instead of giving alms, they flay the 
poor." " Everyone admits this cannot go on longer, for things 
have come to a crisis. Amongst the people there is little fear 
of God and little or no veracity or faith ; all forms of injustice 
have increased and we have reached the limit." 2 

A General Rescript had to be issued on May 22, 1542, for the 
whole of Wiirtemberg, to check "the drunkenness, blasphemy, 
swearing, gluttony, coarseness and quarrelsomeness rampant in 
the parishes." 3 

Few bright spots are to be seen in the accounts of the 
early days of the Reformation in Wiirtemberg, if we except 
the lives of one or two blameless ministers. It is no fault of 
the historian s that there is nothing better to chronicle. 
Even the Protestant historians of Wiirtemberg, albeit pre 
disposed to paint the change of religion in bright colours, 
have to admit this. They seek to explain the facts on the 
score that the period was one of restless and seething tran 
sition, and to throw the blame on earlier times and on the 
questionable elements among the Catholic clergy from 
whose ranks most of the preachers were recruited. 4 But 
though grave responsibility may rest on earlier times, not 
only here but in the other districts which fell away from the 
Church, and though those of the clergy who forgot their 
duty and the honour of their calling may have contributed 
even more than usual to damage the fair reputation of 

1 In Heyd, " Ulrich Herzog von Wiirtenberg," 3, p. 89. 

2 The passages are given in greater detail in " Erinnerung nach dem 
Lauf der Planeten gestellt," Tubingen, 1568, and " Dreizehn Predigten 
vom Tiirken," Tubingen, 1569, in Dollinger, " Die Reformation," 2, 
pp. 376-378. 3 Bossert, ibid., p. 357. 

4 Thus, e.g. Bossert, loc. cit., and in other studies on Wiirtemberg 
Church-History in the 16th century, called forth by Janssen s work. 



WURTEMBERG AND HESSE 201 

Protestantism, yet the increase of immorality which has 
been proved to have endured for a long course of years, 
brings the historian face to face with a question not lightly 
to be dismissed : Why did the preaching of the new Evangel, 
with its supposedly higher standard of religion and morality, 
especially at the springtide of its existence and in its full 
vigour, not bring about an improvement, but rather the 
reverse ? 

This question applies, however, equally to other countries 
which were then torn from the Church, and to the persons 
principally instrumental in the work. 

In Hesse the religious upheaval, as even Protestant 
contemporaries conceded, also promoted a great decline of 
morals. 

The bad example given by Landgrave Philip tended to 
increase the evil. 1 A harmful influence was exercised not 
only by the Landgrave s Court but also by certain preachers, 
such as Johann Lening, 2 who enjoyed Philip s favour. 
Elisabeth, Duchess of Rochlitz, the Landgrave s sister, and 
a zealous patron of the Evangel, like the Prince himself, 
cherished rather lax views on morality. At first she was 
indignant at the bigamy, though not on purely moral 
grounds. The sovereign met her anger with a threat of 
telling the world what she herself had done during her 
widowhood. The result was that the Duchess said no more. 3 
The Landgrave s Court-preacher, Dionysius Melander, who 
performed the marriage ceremony with the second wife, had, 
five years before, laid down his office as preacher and leader 
of the innovations at Frankfort on the Maine, " having fallen 
out with his fellows and personally compromised himself 
by carrying on with his housekeeper." He was a " violent, 
despotic and, at times, coarse and obscene, popular orator 
whose personal record was not unblemished." 4 

A Hessian church ordinance of 1539 complains of the moral 
retrogression : Satan has estranged men from the communion 
of Christ " not only by means of factions and sects, but also by 
carnal wantonness and dissolute living." 5 The old Hessian 

1 Cp. above, passim. 2 See above, p. 65. 

" Brief wechsel Philipps von Hessen," 1, p. 334 f. 
4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 31 5 f. On his marriage, see above, p. 157. 
6 A. L. Richter, "Die evangel. Kirchenordnungen des 16. Jahr- 
hunderts," 1, p. 290. 



202 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

historian Wigand Lauze writes, in his " Life and deeds of Philip 
the Magnanimous, Landgrave of Hesse," that, the people have 
become very savage and uncouth, " as though God had given us 
His precious Word, and thereby delivered us from the innumer 
able abominations of Popery and its palpable idolatry, simply 
that each one might be free to do or leave undone whatever he 
pleased " ; " many evil deeds were beginning to be looked upon 
by many as no longer sinful or vicious." He accuses " the 
magistrates, ministers and governors " of corrupting the people 
by themselves transgressing the " good, Christian regulations " 
which had been set up, and charges both preachers and hearers 
with serving Mammon, and with " barefaced extortion," " not 
to mention other sins and vices." 1 

The Hessian theologians and preachers transferred the re 
sponsibility for the abolition of " law and order," for the increase of 
the "freedom of the flesh within the Evangel " and for the falling 
away into a " state like that of Sodom and Gomorrha " to the 
shoulders of the " magistrates and officials." 2 The latter, on the 
other hand, boldly asserted that the preachers themselves were 
the cause of the evil, since they led a " wicked, scandalous life, 
drinking, gambling, practising usury and so forth, and were, 
some of them, guilty of still worse things, brawling, fighting and 
wrangling with the people in the taverns and behaving improperly 
with the women." 3 Bucer himself, Philip s adviser in ecclesi 
astical matters, wrote sadly to the Landgrave, in 1539, from 
Marburg : " The people are becoming demoralised and immorality 
is gaining the upper hand." " Where such contempt prevails for 
God and the authorities there the devil is omnipotent." 4 

2. At the Centre of the New Faith 

If we glance at the Saxon Electorate we shall find the 
deep despondency frequently displayed by Luther con 
cerning the deplorable moral decadence prevailing there 
only too well justified. 

The downward trend appeared to have set in in earnest 
and all hope of remedying affairs seemed lost. 5 

The Court and those in authority not only did little to check 
the evil but, by their example, even tended to promote many 
disorders. The Elector, Johann Frederick "the Magnanimous 
(1532-1547), was addicted to drink. The banquets which he 

1 " Leben," etc. (" Zeitschr. des Vereins fur hess. Gesch.," Snppl. 2, 
Bd. 1 und 2), 1, p. 379 ff. 

2 Neudecker, " Urkunden aus der Reformationszeit," p. 684 ff. 
Janssen, " Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans.), 6, pp. 88-91. 

3 Hassencamp, " Hess. KG. im Zeitalter der Reformation," 2, 
p. 613 f. Janssen, ibid. 

4 " Briefwechsel Philipps," 1, p. 121 f. Janssen, ibid. 

5 Cp. above, passim, and vol. iii., p. 324 ; vol. ii., pp. 123 ff., 218 ff. 
344, 349 f. 



THE SAXON ELECTORATE 203 

gave to his friends in which wine was indulged in to an 
extent unusual even in those days when men were ac 
customed to heavy drinking became a byword. Luther 
himself came to speak strongly on his excessive drinking. 
" His only faults," he laments in the Table-Talk, " are his 
drinking and routing too much with his companions." 1 
" He has all the virtues but just fancy him swilling like 
that ! " 2 Yet Luther has an excuse ready : " He is a stout 
man and can stand a deep draught ; what he must needs 
drink would make another man dead drunk." 3 " Un 
fortunately not only our Court here but the whole of - 
Germany is plagued with this vice of drunkenness. It is a 
bad old custom in the German lands which has gone on 
growing and will continue to grow. Henry, Duke of [Bruns 
wick] Wolfenbuttel calls our Elector a drunkard and very 
Nabal with whom Abigail could not speak until he had slept 
off his carouse." 4 We have the Elector s own comment on 
this in a letter to Chancellor Briick : "If the Brunswick 
fellow writes that we are a drunken Nabal and Benadad, we 
cannot entirely deny that we sometimes follow the German 
custom " ; at any rate the Bruns wicker was not the man to 
find fault, for he was an even harder drinker. 5 

Johann Frederick was accused by Philip of Hesse of the 
grossest immorality. This happened when the former refused 
to defend Philip s bigamy and when his Superintendent, Justus 
Menius, who was given to lauding the Elector s virtues, showed 
an inclination to protest publicly against the Landgrave s bigamy. 
This led Philip to write this warning to his theologian Bucer : 
" If those saintly folk, Justus Menius and his crew, amuse them 
selves by writing against us, they shall have their answer. And 
we shall not leave hidden under a bushel how this most august 
and quite sinless Elector, once, under our roof at Cassel, and 
again, at the time of the first Diet of Spires, committed the crime 
of sodomy." 6 

A. Hausrath remarks concerning this in his " Luthers Leben " : 
That Philip was lying " can hardly be taken for granted " ; 7 G. 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden " (Kroker), p. 173. 2 Ibid., p. 100. 

3 Ibid., p. 373. * Hausrath, 2, p. 391. 

6 Letter of Feb. 9, 1541. See G. Mentz, " Johann Friedrich der 
Grossmiitige," 3, Jena, 1908, p. 344, according to certain " archives." 
Steinhausen (" Kulturgesch. der Deutschen," p. 508), calls the Elector 
Johann Frederick quite pimply a " drunkard." He points out that 
Anna of Saxony died of drink and that the Saxons, even in the 15th 
century, were noted for their drinking habits. 

6 Letter of Jan. 3, 1541, " Briefwechsel Philipps," ed. Lenz, 1, p. 302. 

7 Ci Luthers. Leben," 2, Berlin, 1904, p. 391. 



204 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Mentz, likewise, in his recent work, " Job. Friedrich der Gross- 
rnutige," 1 says : " It is difficult simply to ignore the Landgrave s 
statement, but we do not know whether the allusion may not be 
to some sin committed in youth." Here belongs also the passage 
in Philip of Hesse s letter to Luther of July 27, 1540 (above, 
p. 60), where he calls the Elector to bear witness that he (the 
Landgrave) had done " the worst." The Biblical expression 
" peccatum pessimum " stood for sodomy. Further charges of a 
similar nature were even more explicitly laid at the door of Johann 
Frederick. A Catholic, relating the proceedings in Brunswick 
at the close of the conquest of that country by the Protestant 
troops in 1542, speaks of " vices and outrages against nature 
then indulged in by the Elector at the Castle as is commonly 
reported and concerning which there is much talk among the 
Court people." 2 Duke Henry of Brunswick in a tract of 1544 
referred not only to the Elector s sanction of the Landgrave s 
bigamy, in return for which he was spared by the latter, but also 
to the " many other pranks which might be circumstantially 
proved against them and which deserved more severe punish 
ment " than that of the sword. 3 The " more severe punishment " 
means burning at the stake, which was the penalty decreed by 
the laws of the Empire for sodomy, whereas polygamy and 
adultery were simply punished by decapitation. Both sovereigns 
in their reply flatly denied the charge, but, evidently, they clearly 
understood its nature ; they had never been guilty, they said, 
of " shameful, dishonourable pranks deserving of death by fire." 4 

Whatever the truth may be concerning this particular 
charge which involves them both, 5 both Landgrave and 
Elector certainly left behind them so bad a record that 
Adolf Hausrath could say : The pair (but the Landgrave 
even more than the Elector) did their best " to make 
mockery of the claim of the Evangelicals that their Evangel 
would revive the morality of the German nation." He 
instances in particular the bigamy, " which put any belief 
in the reality of their piety to a severe test and prepared 
the way for a great moral defeat of Luther s cause." 6 

In the matter of the bigamy attempts were made to 
exculpate the Elector Johann Frederick by alleging, that 

1 3 Teil, Jena, 1909, p. 343 f. 

2 Janssen, " Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans.), 6, p. 213. 

3 Hortleder, " Von den Ursachen des Teutschen Kriegs Karls V. 
wider die Schmalkaldische," 1, Gotha, 1645, p. 1837. 

4 Ibid., p. 1869 f. 

5 N. Paulus, who examined the matter more closely in the " Hist. 
Jahrb.," 30, 1909, p. 154, comes to the conclusion that Mentz in his 
Life of Johann Frederick has not laid sufficient weight on the testimony 
of the witnesses. 

6 " Luthers Leben," 2, p. 391 f. 



THE SAXON ELECTORATE 205 

he regarded the Landgrave s step not as a real new marriage 
but as mere concubinage. The fact is, however, he was 
sufficiently well informed by Bucer in Dec. 1539, i.e. from 
the very beginning, learnt further details two months 
later from the Landgrave s own lips, and declared himself 
" satisfied with everything." When, later, the Elector 
began to take an unfavourable view of the business, Philip 
wrote to Bucer (July 24, 1540), pointing out that he had 
nevertheless sent his representative to the wedding. It is, 
however, true that the Elector had all along been against 
any making public of so compromising an affair and had 
backed up his theologians when they urged the Landgrave 
to deny it. 1 

There is no more ground for crediting^ Johann Frederick 
with " strictness of morals " than for saying that the Elector 
Frederick the Wise (1486-1525), under whose reign 
Lutheranism took root in the land, was upright and truth 
ful in his dealings with the Pope and the Empire. 

The diplomatic artifices by which the latter protected 
Luther whilst pretending not to do so, the dissembling and 
double-dealing of his policy throws a slur on the memory of 
one who was a powerful patron of Lutheranism. Even in 
Kostlin-Kawerau 2 we find his behaviour characterised as 
" one long subterfuge, seeing, that, whilst giving Luther a 
free hand, he persisted in making out that Luther s cause 
was not his " ; his declaration, that " it did not become him 
as a layman to decide in such a controversy," is rightly 
branded as misleading. 

The Protestant Pietists were loudest in their complaints. 
In his " Kirchenhistorie," Gottfried Arnold, who was one of 
them, blamed, in 1699, this Elector for the " cunning and 
the political intrigues " of which he was suspected ; he is 
angry that this so undevout promoter of Lutheranism 
should have written to Duke George, his cousin, " that he 
never undertook nor ever would undertake to defend 
Luther s sermons or his controversial writings," and that he 
should have sent to his minister at Rome the following 
instructions, simply to pacify the Pope : "It did not 
become him as a secular Prince to judge of these matters, 
and he left Luther to answer for everything at his own 



1 Cp. above, passim. 

2 Vol. i., p. 601. 



206 

risk." 1 The same historian also points out with dissatisfac 
tion that the Elector Frederick, " though always unmarried, 
had, by a certain female, two sons called Frederick and 
Sebastian. How he explained this to his spiritual directors 
is nowhere recorded." 2 The " female " in question was 
Anna Weller, by whom he had, besides these two sons, also 
a daughter. 3 

Against his brother and successor, Johann, surnamed the 
Constant (1525-1532), Luther s friends brought forward no 
such complaints, but merely reproached him with letting 
things take their course. Arnold instances a statement of 
Melanchthon s according to which this good Lutheran 
Prince " had been very, negligent in examining this thing 
and that," so that grave disorders now called for a remedy. 
Luther, too, whilst praising the Elector s good qualities, 
declares, that " he was far too indulgent." 4 " I inter 
fere with no one," was his favourite saying, " but merely 
trust more in God s Word than in man." The protests 
of the Emperor and the representations of the Catholics, 
politics and threats of war left him quite unmoved, whence 
his title of " the Constant " ; "he was just the right man 
for Luther," says Hausrath, 5 " for the latter did not like to 
see the gentlemen of the Saxon Chancery, Briick, Beyer, 
Planitz and the rest, interfering and urging considerations 
of European politics. Our dear old father, the Elector, 
Luther said of him in 1530, has broad shoulders, and must 
now bear everything. 

The favour of these Princes caused Luther frequently to 
overstep the bounds of courtesy in his behaviour towards 
them. Julius Boehmer, who is sorry for this, in the Intro 
duction to his selection of Luther s works remarks, that he 
was guilty of " want of respect, nay, of rudeness, towards 
the Elector Frederick and his successor Johann." 6 Of 
Luther s relations with Johann Frederick, Hausrath says : 
" It is by no means certain that the Duke s [Henry of 
Brunswick s] opinion [viz. that Luther used to speak of his 
own Elector as Hans Wurst (i.e. Jack Pudding)] was with 
out foundation ; in any case, it was not far from the mark. 
With his eternal plans and his narrow-minded obstinacy, 

1 Frankfurt, 1699, 2, p. 44. 2 Ibid. 

3 " Allg. deutsche Biographie," 7, p. 781 (Flathe). 

4 Hausrath, loc. cit., 2, p. 67. 5 Ibid., p. 68. 

6 " Martin Luthers Werke fur das deutsche Volk," 1907, p. xiii. 



THE SAXON ELECTORATE 207 

Luther s corpulent master was a thorn in the side of the 
aged Reformer. . . . He works like a donkey, Luther once 
said of him, and, unfortunately, this was perfectly true." 1 

In his will, dated 1537, Luther addressed the following 
words of consolation to the princely patrons and promoters 
of his work, the Landgrave and the Elector Johann 
Frederick : It was true they were not quite stainless, but 
the Papists were even worse ; they had indeed trespassed 
on the rights and possessions of others, but this was of no 
great consequence ; they must continue to work for the 
Evangel, though in what way he would not presume to 
dictate to them. 2 Melanchthon, who was so often distressed 
at the way the Princes behaved on the pretext of defending 
the Evangel, complains that " the sophistry and wickedness 
of our Princes are bringing the Empire to ruin," in which 
" bitter cry," writes a Protestant historian, " he sums up 
the result of his own unhappy experiences." 3 

From the accounts of the Visitations in the Electorate we 
learn more details of the condition of morality, law and 
order in this the focus of the new Evangel. The proximity 
and influence of Luther and of his best and most faithful 
preachers did not constitute any bulwark against the grow 
ing corruption of morals, which clear-sighted men indeed 
attributed mainly to the new doctrines on good works, on 
faith alone and on Evangelical freedom. 

In the protocols of the first Visitation (1527-1529) we read : 
The greater number of those entrusted with a cure of souls, are 
" in an evil case" ; reckless marriages are frequent amongst the 

1 Hausrath, ibid., 2, p. 390. 

2 " Brief wechsel," 11, p. 209, from the original at Weimar, written 
by Bugenhagen : " Utcunque sint in quibusdam peccatores et non in 
omnibus puri, calumniantibus hoc etiam vel forte accusantibus adversariis, 
tamen confidant de Domini bonitate" etc. And before this, concerning 
the " adversariorum clamores Rapiunt bona ecclesiastical " etc., they 
were to comfort themselves, " quia non sic rapiunt, quemadmodum 
quidam alii ; video enim eos per hcec bona curare quce sunt religionis. 
Si quid prceterea ipsis ex talibus bonis accedit, quis potius ea susciperet ? 
Principum sunt talia, non nebulonum papistarum." The general 
spoliation of church property disturbed his mind, as we can see, but he 
overcomes his scruples, and persuades himself that their action, like 
his own, was really directed against Antichrist : " lube meis verbis, ut 
faciant in Deo confidenter pro causa evangelii quicquid Spiritus sanctus 
suggesserit ; non prcescribo eis modum. Misericors Deus confortet eos, ut 
maneant in ista sana doctrina et gratias agant, quod sunt liberati ab 
Antichristo." 

3 Ellinger, " Melanchthon," p. 588. 



208 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

preachers ; complaints were lodged with the Electoral Visitors 
concerning the preacher at Lucka who " had three wives living." 1 
At a later Visitation a preacher was discovered to have had six 
children by two sisters. Many of the preachers had wives whom 
they had stolen from husbands still living. The account of the 
people whether in town or country was not much more reassur 
ing ; many localities had earned themselves a bad repute for 
blasphemy and general adultery. In many places the people 
were declared to be so wicked that only " the hangman and the 
jailer would bo of any avail." Besides this, the parsonages were 
in a wretched state. " The foundations had fallen in, or, in many 
instances, had been seized by the nobles, the lands and meadows 
belonging to the parsonages had been sold by the parish-councils, 
and the money from the sale of chalices and monstrances spent 
on drink. The educational system was so completely ruined that 
in the Wittenberg district, for instance, in which there were 145 
town and country livings with hundreds of chapels of ease, only 
21 schools remained. 

As early as 1527 Melanchthon had viewed with profound 
dismay the " serious ruin and decay that menaces everything 
good," which, he says, was clearly perceived at Wittenberg. 
" You see," he writes, " how greatly men hate one another, how 
great is the contempt for all uprightness, how great the ignorance 
of those who stand at the head of the churches, and above all how 
forgetful the rulers are of God." And again, in 1528 : " No one 
hates the Evangel more bitterly than those who like to be con 
sidered ours." " We see," he laments in the same year, " how 
greatly the people hate us." 2 

His friend Justus Jonas, who was acquainted with the con 
ditions in the Saxon Electorate from long personal experience, 
wrote in 1530 : " Those who call themselves Evangelical are 
becoming utterly depraved, and not only is there no longer any 
fear of God among them but there is no respect for outward 
appearances either ; they are weary of and disgusted with 
sermons, they despise their pastors and preachers and treat them 
like the dirt and dust of the streets." " And, besides all this, the 
common people are becoming utterly shameless, insolent and 
ruffianly, as if the Evangel had only been sent to give lewd 
fellows liberty and scope for the practice of all their vices." 3 

The next Visitation, held seven years later, only confirmed 
the growth of the evil. In the Wittenberg district in particular 
complaints were raised concerning " the increase in godless 

1 This ex-priest, Michael Kramer, first took a wife at Cunitz, and 
when she began to lead a bad life, married a second at Dommitzsch 
" on the strength of an advice secured." On account of matrimonial 
squabbles he married a third time, after obtaining advice from Luther 
through the magistrates. C. A. Burkhardt, " Briefwechsel Luthers," 
p. 87 ; cp. his "Gesch. d. sachs. Kirchen- und Schulvisitationen," p. 48. 
" Corp. ref.," 1, pp. 888, 913, 982. Dollinger, " Reformation," 1, 
pp. 302 f., 369. Above, vol. iii., p. 324. 

3 Quoted in Janssen, "Hist, of the German People" (Ens. Trans.). 
5, p. 100 f. 



209 

living, the prevailing contempt and blasphemy of the Word of 
God, the complete neglect of the Supper and the general flippant 
and irreverent behaviour during Divine service." 1 

Of a later period, when the fruits of the change of religion had 
still further ripened, Melanchthon s friend Camerarius says : 
" Mankind have now attained the goal of their desires bound 
less liberty to think and act exactly as they please. Reason, 
moderation, law, morality and duty have lost all value, there is 
no reverence for contemporaries and no respect for posterity." 2 

The Elector Augustus of Saxony goes more into particulars 
when he writes : "A disgraceful custom has become established 
in our villages. The peasants at the high festivals, such as 
Christmas and Whitsuntide, begin their drinking-bouts on the 
eve of the festival and prolong them throughout the night, and 
the next day they either sleep through the morning or else come 
drunk to church and snore and grunt like pigs during the whole 
service." He reproves the custom of making use of the churches 
as wine-cellars, the contempt displayed for the preachers, the 
scoffing at sacred rites and the " frequent blasphemy and 
cursing." " Murder and abominable lasciviousness " were the 
consequences of such contempt for religion. But any improve 
ment was not to be looked for seeing that there were hardly any 
schools remaining, and the cure of souls was left principally in 
the charge of ministers such as the Elector proceeds to describe. 
The nobles and the other feudal lords, he says, " appoint every 
where to the ministry ignorant, destitute artisans, or else rig out 
their scribes, outriders or grooms as priests and set them in the 
livings so as to have them all the more under their thumb." 3 

The state of things in Saxony provided the Landgrave with a 
serviceable weapon against Luther when the latter showed an 
inclination to repudiate the bigamy, or to say he had merely 
" acted the fool " in sanctioning it. The passage has been 
quoted above (p. 56), where the Landgrave exhorted him to 
pay less attention to the world s opinion, but rather to set him 
self and all the preachers in the Saxon Electorate to the task of 
checking the " vices of adultery, usury and drunkenness which 
were no longer regarded as sins, and that, not merely by writings 
and sermons, but by earnest admonition and by means of the 
ban." 

It is true that the conditions which accompanied the introduc 
tion of his new system were a trial to Luther, which he sought to 
remedy. The Landgrave could not reproach him with actual 
indifference. Not merely by " writings and sermons," but also by 
" earnest admonition " and even by re-introducing the " ban of 

1 From Burkhardt, ibid. Janssen, ibid. 

2 Janssen, ibid., 6, p. 521, given as Melanchthon s words. 

3 A. L. Richter, " Die evangel. Kirchenordnungen des 16. Jahrh.," 
2, pp. 181, 192 f. Janssen, ibid., p. 523. W. Schmidt (" Kirchen- und 
Schulvisitationen im sachs. Kurkreis von 1555," 1907, Hft. 12, 
" Schriften des Vereins fiir RG.," No. 90) fancies he can discern a 
certain improvement in ecclesiastical life and in the school system 
about the year 1555. 

IV. P 



210 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the Church " he strove to check the rising tide of moral evil. But 
the evil was the stronger of the two, and the causes, for which he 
himself was responsible, lay too deep. We have an example of 
the way in which he frequently sought to curb the mischief, in his 
quarrel with Hans Metzsch, the depraved Commandant of 
Wittenberg, whom he excluded from the Supper. 1 

He sums up his grievances against the state of things in the 
Electorate and at Wittenberg in a letter to Johann Mantel, in 
which he calls Wittenberg a new Sodom. He writes to this 
preacher (Nov. 10, 1539) : " Together with Lot (2 Peter ii. 8), 
you and other pious Christians, I, too, am tormented, plagued 
and martyred in this awful Sodom by shameful ingratitude and 
horrible contempt of the Divine Word of our beloved Saviour, 
when I see how Satan seizes upon and takes possession of the 
hearts of those who think themselves the first and most important 
in the kingdom of Christ and of God ; beyond this I am tempted 
and plagued with interior anxiety and distress." He then goes 
on to console his friend, who was also troubled with melancholy 
and the fear of death, by a sympathetic reference to the death 
of Christ. He then admits again of himself that he was " dis 
tressed and greatly plagued " and " compassed by more than 
one kind of death in this miserable, lamentable age, where there 
is nothing but ingratitude, and where every kind of wickedness 
gains the upper hand. . . . Wait for the Lord with patience, for 
He is now at hand and will not delay to come. Amen." 2 

3. Luther s Attempts to Explain the Decline in Morals 

Luther quite candidly admitted the distressing state of things 
described above without in the least glossing it over, which 
indeed he could not well have done ; in fact, his own statements 
give us an even clearer insight into the seamy side of life in his 
day. He speaks of the growing disorders with pain and vexation ; 
the more so since he could not but see that they were being 
fomented by his doctrine of justification by faith alone. 

" This preaching," he says, " ought by rights to be accepted 
and listened to with great joy, and everyone ought to improve 
himself thereby and become more pious. But, unfortunately, 
the reverse is now the case and the longer it endures the worse 
the world becomes ; this is [the work of] the devil himself, for 
now we see the people becoming more infamous, more avaricious, 
more unmerciful, more unchaste and in every way worse than 
they were under Popery." 3 

The Evangelicals now are not me-rely worse, but " seven times 
worse than before," so he complains as early as 1529. " For after 
having heard the Evangel we still continue to steal, lie, cheat, 
feed and swill and to practise every vice. Now that one devil 

1 For the way Metzsch was dealt with, see Lauterbach, " Tage- 
buch," pp. 163, 167. " Briefe," 6, p. 213 f. Below, vol. v., xxx., 3. 

2 " Briefe," 5, p. 223 f. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., I 2 , p. 14, " Hauspostille." 



THE PREVALENT LAXITY 211 

[that of Popery] has been driven out seven others worse than it 
have entered into us, as may be seen from the way the Princes, 
lords, nobles, burghers and peasants behave, who have lost all 
sense of fear, and regard not God and His menaces." 1 

From his writings a long, dreary list of sins might be 
compiled, of which each of the classes here mentioned had 
been guilty. In the last ten years of his life such lamenta 
tions give the tone to most of what he wrote. 

" The nobles scrape money together, rob and plunder " ; 
" like so many devils they grind the poor churches, the pastors 
and the preachers." " The burghers and peasants do nothing 
but hoard, are usurers and cheats and behave defiantly and 
wantonly without any fear of punishment, so that it cries to 
heaven for vengeance and the earth can endure it no longer." 
" On all hands and wherever we turn we see nothing in all classes 
but a deluge of dreadful ingratitude for the beloved Evangel." 2 

" Nowadays the Gospel is preached, and whoever chooses can 
hear it ... but burghers, peasants and nobles all scorn their 
ministers and preachers." 3 

" I have often said that a plague must fall upon Germany ; 
the Princes and gentry deserve that our Lord God should play 
them a trick ; there will be such bloodshed that no one will 
know his own home." 4 "Now that all this [the Evangel] is 
preached rightly and plainly, people cannot despise it enough. 
In old days monasteries and churches were built with no regard 
for cost, now people won t even repair a hole in the roof that the 
minister may lie dry ; of their contempt I say nothing, it is 
enough to move one to tears to witness such scorn. Hence I say : 
Take care, you are young ; it may be you will live to see and 
experience the coming misfortune that will break over Germany. 
For a storm will burst over Germany, and that without fail. . . . 
I do not mind so much the peasants avarice and the fornication 
and immorality now on the increase everywhere, as the con 
tempt for the Evangel. . . . That peasants, burghers and nobles 
thus contemn the Word of God will be their undoing." 5 

To the question whence the moral decline amongst the 
adherents of the new teaching came, Luther was wont to give 
various answers. Their difference and his occasional self- 
contradictions show how his consciousness of the disorders 
and the complaints they drew from every side drive him 
into a corner. 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 28, p. 763; Erl. ed., 36, p. 411, conclusion of 
the " Auslegung iiber etlicho Kapitel des fiinften Buches Mosis," 1529. 

2 Ibid., Erl. ed., 9 2 , p. 330 f., " Kirchenpostille." 

3 Ibid., 4 2 , p. 4, " Hauspostille." 

4 Ibid. 5 Ibid., p. 6. 



212 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The most correct explanation was, of course, that the 
mischief was due to the nature of his teaching on faith and 
good works ; to this, involuntarily, he comes back often 
enough. 

" That we are now so lazy and cold in the performance of good 
works," he says, in a recently published sermon of 1528, " is due 
to our no longer regarding them as a means of justification. For 
when we still hoped to be justified by our works our zeal for doing 
good was a marvel. One sought to excel the other in uprightness 
and piety. Were the old teaching to be revived to-day and our 
works made contributory to righteousness, we should be readier 
and more willing to do what is good. Of this there is, however, 
no prospect and thus, when it is a question of serving our neigh 
bour and praising God by means of good works, we are sluggish 
and not disposed to do anything." 1 "The surer we are of the 
righteousness which Christ has won for us, the colder and idler 
we are in teaching the Word, in prayer, in good works and in 
enduring misfortune." 2 

" We teach," he continues, " that we attain to God s grace 
without any work on our part. Hence it comes that we are so 
listless in doing good. When, once upon a time, we believed that 
God rewarded our works, I ran to the monastery, and you gave 
ten gulden towards building a church. Men then were glad to 
do something through their works and to be their own Justus et 
Salvator (Zach. ix., 9)." Now, when asked to give, everybody 
protests he is poor and a beggar, and says there is no obligation 
of giving or of performing good works. " We have become worse 
than formerly and are losing our old righteousness. Moreover, 
avarice is increasing everywhere." 3 

Though here Luther finds the reason of the neglect of good 
works so clearly in his own teaching, yet on other occasions, for 
instance, in a sermon of 1532, he grows angry when his doctrine 
is made responsible for the mischief. 

Only " clamourers," so he says, could press such a charge. 
Yet, at the same time, he fully admits the decline : "I own, and 
others doubtless do the same, that there is not now such earnest 
ness in the Gospel as formerly under the monks and priests when 
so many foundations were made, when there was so much build 
ing and no one was so poor as not to be able to give. But now 
there is not a town willing to support a preacher, there is nothing 
but plundering and thieving among the people and no one can 
prevent it. Whence comes this shameful plague ? The 
clamourers answer, from the teaching that we must not build 
upon or trust in works. But it is the devil himself who sets down 
such an effect to pure and wholesome doctrine, whereas it is 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 443. 

" Comment, in ep. ad Galatas," 2, p. 351. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 443, according to another set of notes 
of the sermon quoted in n. 1. 



THE PREVALENT LAXITY 213 

in reality due to his own and the people s malice who ill-use such 
doctrines, and to our old Adam. . . . We are, all unawares, 
becoming lazy, careless and remiss." 1 

" The devil s malice ! " This is another explanation to 
which Luther and others not unfrequently had recourse. 
The devil could do such extraordinary and apparently con 
tradictory things ! He could even teach men to " pray 
fervently." In the Table-Talk, for instance, when asked 
by his wife why it was, that, whereas in Popery " we prayed 
so diligently and frequently, we are now so cold and pray 
so seldom," Luther put it down to the devil. " The devil 
made us fervent," he says ; "he ever urges on his servants, 
but the Holy Ghost teaches and exhorts us how to pray 
aright ; yet we are so tepid and slothful in prayer that 
nothing comes of it." 2 Thus it might well be the devil who 
was answerable for the misuse of the Evangel. 

On another occasion, in order to counteract the bad 
impression made on his contemporaries by the fruits of his 
preaching, he says : " Our morals only look so bad on 
account of the sanctity of the Evangel ; in Catholic times 
they stood very low and many vices prevailed, but all this 
was unperceived amidst the general darkness which shrouded 
doctrine and the moral standards which then held ; now, 
on the other hand, our eyes have been opened by a purer 
faith and even small abuses are seen in their true colours." 
His words on this subject will be given below. 

It even seemed to Luther that the decay of almsgiving 
and the parsimony displayed towards the churches and the 
preachers proved the truth of the Evangel (" signum est, 
verutn esse evangelium nostrum "), for, so he teaches in a 
sermon preached at Wittenberg in 1527, " the devil is the 
Prince of this world and all its riches, as we learn from the 
story of Christ s Temptation. He is now defending his 
kingdom from the Evangel which has risen up against him. 
He does not now allow us so many possessions and gifts as 
he formerly did to those who served him (i.e. the Papists), 
for their Masses, Vigils, etc. ; nay, he robs us of everything 
and spends it on himself. Formerly we supported many 
hundred monks and now we cannot raise the needful for 
one Evangelical preacher, a sign that our Evangel is the 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 18 2 , p. 353. 

2 Ibid., 59, p. 6. Cp. Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 95. 



214 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

true one and that the Pope s empire was the devil s own, 
where he bestowed gifts on his followers with open hands 
and incited them to luxury, avarice, fornication and gluttony. 
And their teaching was in conformity therewith, for they 
urged those works which pleased them." 1 

The observer may well marvel at such strange trains of 
thought. Luther s doctrine has become to him like a pole- 
star around which the whole firmament must revolve. 
Experience and logic alike must perforce be moulded at his 
pleasure to suit the idea which dominates him. 

It was impossible to suppress the inexorable question 
put by his opponents, and the faint-hearted doubts of many 
.of his own followers : Since our Saviour taught : " By 
their fruits shall you know them," how can you be a Divinely 
sent teacher if these are the moral effects of your new 
Evangel ? And yet Luther, to the very close of his career, 
in tones ever more confident, insists on his higher, nay, 
Divine, calling, and on his election to " reveal " hidden 
doctrines of faith, strange to say, those very doctrines to 
which he, like others too, attributed the decline. 

Concerning his Divine mission he had not hesitated to 
say in so many words : Unless God calls a man to do a 
work no one who does not wish to be a fool may venture to 
undertake it ; " for a certain Divine call and not a mere 
whim " is essential to every good work. 2 Hence he fre 
quently sees in success the best test of a good work. In 
his own case, however, he could point only to one great 
result, and that a negative one, viz. the harm done to 
Popery ; the Papacy had been no match for him and had 
failed to check the apostasy. The Papists undertaking, 
such is his proof, is not a success ; it goes sideways " after 
the fashion of the crab." " Even for those who had a sure 
Divine vocation it was difficult to undertake and carry 
through anything good, though God was with them and 
assisted them ; what then could those silly fools, who 
wished to undertake it without being called, expect to do ? " 
" But I, Dr. Martin, was called and compelled to become a 
Doctor. . . . Thus I was obliged to accept the office of a 
Doctor. Hence, owing to my work, " this which you see 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 24, p. 455. 

2 Ibid., 30, 3, p. 386 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 86, " Auff das vermeint 
Edict," 1531. 



THE PREVALENT LAXITY 215 

has befallen the Papacy, and worse things are yet in store 
for it." To those who still refused to acknowledge Luther s 
call to teach he addresses a sort of command : St. Paul, 1 Cor. 
xiv., 30, commanded all, even superiors, to be silent and 
obey " when some other than the chief teacher receives 
a revelation." " The work that Luther undertakes," 
" the great work of the Reformation," he assures all, was 
given not to the other side, but to him alone. 1 It is no 
wonder that his gainsayers and the doubters on his own 
side refused to be convinced by such arguments and 
appeals to the work of destruction, accomplished, but 
continued to harp on the words : " By their fruits you 
shall know them," which text they took literally, viz. as 
referring to actual fruits of moral improvement. 

The " great work of the Reformation," i.e. of real reform, 
to which Luther appeals unless he was prepared to regard 
it as consisting solely in the damage done to the Roman 
Church surely demanded that, at least at Wittenberg and 
in Luther s immediate sphere, some definite fruits in the 
shape of real moral amelioration should be apparent. Yet 
it was precisely of Wittenberg and his own surroundings 
that Luther complained so loudly. The increase of every 
kind of disorder caused him to write to George of Anhalt : 
" We live in Sodom and Babylon, or rather must die there ; 
the good men, our Lots and Daniels, whom we so urgently 
need now that things are daily becoming worse, are snatched 
from us by death." 2 So bad were matters that Luther was 
at last driven to flee from Wittenberg. The sight of the 
immorality, the vexation and the complaints to which he was 
exposed became too much for him ; perhaps Wittenberg 
would catch the " Beggars dance, or Beelzebub s dance," 
he wrote ; " at any rate get us gone from this Sodom." 3 

According to his letters, the Wittenberg authorities did not 
interfere even in the case of the gravest disorders, but allowed 
themselves to be " playthings of the devils " ; they looked on 
whilst the students " were ruined by bad women," and " though 
half the town is guilty of adultery, usury, theft and cheating, 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., p. 385 ff. = 86 f. 

2 March 9, 1545, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 722, letter called 
forth by the death of -George Held Forchheim, to whom the Prince was 
much attached. 

3 To Catherine Bora, end of July, 1545, " Briefe," 5, p. 753. 



216 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

no one tries to put the law in force. They all simply smile, wink 
at it and do the same themselves. The world is a troublesome 
thing." 1 "The hoiden-folk have grown bold," he writes to the 
Elector, " they pursue the young fellows into their very rooms 
and chambers, freely offering them their love ; and I hear that 
many parents are recalling their children home because, they say, 
when they send their children to us to study we hang women 
about their necks." 2 He is aghast at the thought that the 
" town and the school " should have heard God s Word so often 
and so long and yet, " instead of growing better, become worse as 
time goes on." He fears that at his end he may hear, "that 
things were never worse than now," and sees Wittenberg threat 
ened with the curse of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capharnaum." 3 

In point of fact he did preach a sermon to the Wittenbergers 
in which, like a prophet, he predicts the judgments of heaven. 4 

In another sermon he angrily acquaints them with his deter 
mination : " What am I to do with you Wittenbergers ? I am 
not going to preach to you any longer of Christ s Kingdom, seeing 
that you will not accept it. You are thieves, robbers and men of 
no mercy. I shall have to preach you the Sachsenspiegel. 
They refuse, he says, to give anything to clergy, church or schools. 
" Are you still ignorant, you unthankful beasts ( ingratce bestiw ) 
of what they do for you ? " He concludes : They must make up 
their minds to provide the needful, " otherwise I shall abandon 
the pulpit." 5 

" Later you will find my prophecy fulfilled," he cried on cne 
occasion after having foretold " woes " ; " then you will long 
for one of those exhortations of Martin Luther." 6 

His Table-Talk bears, if possible, even stronger witness than 
his letters and sermons to the conditions at Wittenberg, for there 
he freely lets himself go. Some of the things he says of the town 
and neighbourhood, found in the authentic notes of docile pupils, 
such as Mathesius-, Lauterbach and Schlaginhaufen, are worth 
consideration. 

We hear from Lauterbach not only that Hans Metzsch, the 
town Commandant whom Luther had " excommunicated," con 
tinued to persecute the good at Wittenberg " with satanic 
malice " and to " boast of his wickedness," 7 but that in the same 
year Luther had to complain of other men of influence and stand 
ing in the town who injured the Evangel by their example. " So 
great is the godlessness of those of rank that one was not ashamed 
to boast of having begotten forty-three children in a single year ; 
another asked whether he might not take 40 per cent interest per 
annum." In the same year Luther was obliged to exclude from 
the Sacrament another notorious, highly-placed usurer. 8 

1 To Justus Jonas, June 18, 1543, " Briefe," 5, p. 570. 

2 On Jan. 22, 1544, " Briefe," 5, p. 615. 

3 " Vermahnung," Feb. or Nov., 1542, " Briefe," 6, p. 302. 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 34, 2, p. 80 ff. ; Erl. ed., 18 2 , p. 23 ff. 
6 Ibid., 27, p. 408 f., in the newly published sermons of 1528. 

6 Ibid., p. 418 f. 7 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 107. 

6 Ibid,, p. 153. 



THE PREVALENT LAXITY 217 

" The soil of Wittenberg is bad," he declared, speaking from 
sad experience ; " even were good, honest people sown here the 
crop would be one of coarse Saxons." 1 

" The Gospel at Wittenberg," he once said poetically, if we 
may trust Mathesius, " is like rain that falls on water, i.e. it has 
no effect. The good catch the law and the wicked the Gospel." 2 

" I have often wondered," he said in 1532, according to 
Schlaginhaufen, " why Our Lord God sent His Word to this un 
faithful world of Wittenberg : I believe that He sent it to 
Jerusalem, Wittenberg and such-like places that He might, at 
the Last Day, be able to reprove their ingratitude." And again, 
" My opinion is that God will punish severely the ingratitude 
shown to His Word ; for there is not a man of position or a 
peasant who does not stamp on the ministers ; but the service of 
the Word must remain ; even the Turk has his ministers, other 
wise he could not maintain his rule." 3 

Luther s Evangel had made " law and command " to retreat 
into the background as compared with the liberty of the children 
of God ; the penalties he devised, e.g. his exclusion of persons 
from the reception of the Sacrament, proved ineffectual. He 
would willingly have made use of excommunication if only 
" there had been people who would let themselves be excom 
municated." " The Pope s ban which kept the people in check," 
he says, " has been abolished, and it would be a difficult task to 
re-establish law and command." 4 

" No, I should not like to endure this life for another forty 
years," so he told his friends on June 11, 1539, " even were God 
to turn it into a Paradise for me. I would rather hire an execu 
tioner to chop off my head ; the world is so bad that all are turn 
ing into devils, so that they could wish one nothing better than a 
happy death-bed, and then away ! " 5 " The dear, holy Evangel of 
Christ, that great and precious treasure, we account as insignifi 
cant, as if it were a verse from Terence or Virgil." 6 

He found such disdain of his teaching even in his own house 
hold a.nd family. This it was which caused him, in 1532, to 
preach a course of sermons to his family circle on Sundays. No 
head of a family, least of all here, could connive at any " contempt 
of the Word." To the question of Dr. Jonas as to the wherefore 
of these private addresses, he replied : "I see and know that the 
Word of God is as much neglected in my house as in the Church." 7 

There was no more hope for the world ; nothing remains " un 
spoiled and incorrupt " although, " now, God s Word is revealed," 
yet "it is despised, spurned, corrupted, mocked at and perse 
cuted," even by the adherents of his teaching. 8 

Luther made Mathesius the recipient of some of his confidences, 

1 Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," 179. 

2 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 402. 

3 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 139. 4 Ibid., p. 138. 
6 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 185. 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 323 (Table-Talk). 

7 " Colloq.," ed. Rebenstock, 2, p. 19. 

8 " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 95 f. (Table-Talk). 



218 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

as the latter relates in his sermons ; on account of the scandals 
among the preachers of the neighbourhood he was forced and 
urged by his own people to appeal to the Elector to erect a jail 
" into which such wild and turbulent folk might be clapped." 
" Satan causes great scandals amongst the patrons and hearers 
of the new doctrine," says Mathesius. The common people have 
become rough and self-confident and have begun to regard the min 
isters as worthless. " Verily," he exclaims, " the soul of this pious 
old gentleman was sadly tormented day by day by the unrighteous 
deeds he was obliged to witness, like pious Lot in Sodom." 1 

With a deep sigh, as we read in Lauterbach s Notes, Luther 
pointed to the calamities which were about to overtake the 
world ; it was so perverse and incorrigible thfet discipline or 
admonition would be of no avail. Already there was the greatest 
consternation throughout the world on account of the revelation 
of the Word. " It is cracking and I hope it will soon burst," and 
the Last Day arrive for which we are waiting. For all vices 
have now become habitual and people will not bear reproof. His 
only comfort was the progress made by studies at Wittenberg, 
and in some other places now thrown open to the Evangel. 2 

But how were the future preachers now growing up there to 
improve matters ? This he must well have asked himself when 
declaring, " with sobs," as Lauterbach relates, that " preachers 
were treated in most godless and ungrateful fashion." The 
churches will soon be left without preachers and ministers ; we 
shall shortly experience this misfortune in the churches ; there 
will be a dearth not only of learned men but even of men of the 
commonest sort. Oh, that our young men would study more 
diligently and devote themselves to theology." 3 

In view of the above it cannot surprise us that Luther 
gradually became a victim to habitual discouragement and 
melancholy, particularly towards the end of his life. Proofs 
of the depression from which he suffered during the latter 
years of his life will be brought forward in a later volume. 

Such fits of depression were, however, in those days more 
than usually common everywhere, 

4. A Malady of the Age : Doubts and Melancholy 

One of the phenomena which accompanied the religious 
revulsion and which it is impossible to pass over, was, as 
contemporary writers relate, the sadness, discontent and 
depression, in a word " melancholy," so widespread under 
the new Evangel even amongst its zealous promoters. 

1 " Historian," p. 136 . Cp. Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 120 and 
ibid., Introduction, p. 72 ; Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," p. 13. See above, 
p. 210. 

2 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 70, Khummer. 3 Ibid., p. 80. 



219 

Melanchthon, one of Luther s most intimate friends, 
furnished on many occasions of his life a sad spectacle of 
interior dejection. Of a weaker and more timid mental 
build than Luther, he appeared at times ready to succumb 
under the weight of faint-heartedness and scruples, doubts 
and self-reproaches. (Cp. vol. iii., p. 363 ff.) We may 
recall how his anxieties, caused by the scandal subsequent on 
his sanctioning of Philip s bigamy, almost cost him his life. 
So many are the records he left behind of discouragement 
and despondency that his death must appear in the light of 
a welcome deliverance. Luther sought again .and again to 
revive in him the waning consciousness of the Divine 
character of their work. It is just in these letters of Luther 
to Melanchthon that we find him most emphatic in his 
assertion that their common mission is from God. It was 
to Melanchthon, that, next to himself, Luther applied the 
words already quoted, spoken to comfort a dejected pupil : 
" There must be some in the Church as ready to slap Satan 
as we three ; but not all are able or willing to endure this." 1 

Spalatin, who has so frequently been referred to as 
Luther s go-between at the Electoral Court, and who after 
wards became pastor of Altenburg, towards the end of 
his life fell into incurable despondency. 2 Justus Jonas, like 
wise, was for a considerable time a prey to melancholy. 3 
Hieronymus Weller, one of Luther s best friends, confessed 
to having suffered at times such violent doubts and fears as 
would have driven a heathen to commit suicide. 4 The 
preachers George Mohr 5 and Nicholas Hausmann (a very 
intimate friend of Luther s 6 ) had to endure dreadful pangs 
of soul ; the same was the case with Johann Beltzius, Pastor 

1 Above, vol. iii., p. 410. 

2 G. Wagner, " Georg Spalatin," Altenburg, 1830, p. 105 f. Cp. 
Luther s letter to Spalatin, quoted in vol. iii., p. 197, n. 1, where he 
tells him : " Tristitia occidet te " ; by his (Luther s) mouth Christ had 
raised up Melanchthon from a similar state induced by the " spiritus 
tristitice " ; such continuous sorrow over sin was an even greater sin ; 
he was still inexperienced " in the battle against sin or conscience and 
the law " ; now, however, he must look upon Luther as St. Peter, who 
speaks to him as he did to the lame man : "In the name of Christ, 
arise and walk " ; Christ did not wish him to be " crucified with 
sorrow " ; this came from the devil. We do not learn that these 
words had any effect. 

3 Cp. above, vol. iii., p. 416. * Dollinger, " Die Reformation," 2, p. 193. 

5 " Fortgesetzte Sammlung," Leipzig, 1740, p. 519. 

6 M. Hempel, " Libellus H. Welleri," Lipsise, 1581, p. 60. 



220 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

at Allerstedt in Thuringia, 1 and with Simon Musaeus, who 
died at Mansfeld in 1576 as Superintendent and who com 
posed two works against the devil of melancholy. 2 Nicholas 
Selnecker, who died Superintendent at Leipzig, was respon 
sible for the rearranged edition of Luther s Table-Talk ; 
according to the title his hope was to produce a work 
" which it might console all Christians to read, especially 
in these wretched last days." Elsewhere he confirms the 
need of such consolation when he says : " We experience 
in our own selves " that sadness is of frequent occurrence. 3 

Wolfgang Capito, the Strasburg preacher, wrote in 1536 
to Luther that his experience of the w r ant of agreement in 
doctrine had caused him such distress of mind that he was 
on the verge of the " malady of melancholia " ; he trusted 
he would succeed in reaching a better frame of mind ; the 
burden of gloom, so he comforts himself, was, after all, not 
without its purpose in God s plan in the case of many under 
the Evangel. With Capito, too, melancholy was a " frequent 
guest." 4 Bucer wrote in 1532 to A. Blaurer that Capito 
had often bemoaned " his rejection by God." 5 

Joachim Camerarius, the celebrated Humanist and writer, 
confessed in a letter to Luther, that he was oppressed and 
reduced to despair by the sight of the decline in morals 
" in people of every age and sex, in every condition and 
grade of life " ; everything, in both public and private life, 

1 H. Weller, Preface to Beltzius, " On Man s Conversion," Leipzig, 
1575. 

~ He wrote " Against the grievous plague of Melancholy," Erfurt, 
1557, and " A useful instruction against the demon of melancholy," 
1569 (s.l.). In the latter work he says in the Preface that he con 
sidered himself all the more called to comfort " sad and sorrowful 
hearts " because he himself " not seldom lay sick in that same 
hospital." 

3 " We experience in our own selves, that our hearts become 
increasingly stupid, weak and timid, and often know not whence it 
comes or what it is." " Der ganze Psalter," Bd. 2, Niirnberg, 1565, 
p. 94. On his edition of the Table-Talk, cp. " Luthers Werke," Erl. 
ed., 57, p. xvi. 

4 Cp. Kolde, " Analecta," p. 231, where Capito s letter to Luther of 
June 13, 1536, is given. The letter is also in Luther s " Brief wechsel," 
10, p. 353. Capito there laments, " me deiectiorem apud me factum, 
adeo ut in morbum melancholicum props inciderim. Hilaritatem, si 
potero, revocabo." The internal dissensions, which pained and dis 
tressed him to the last degree, were the immediate cause of his sadness, 
so he declares. 

6 C. Gerbert, " Gesch. der Strassburger Sektehbewegung zur Zeit 
der Reformation," Strasburg, 1889, p. 183 f. 



CHRONIC MELANCHOLY 221 

was so corrupt that he felt all piety and virtue was done for. 
Of the Schools in particular he woefully exclaimed that it 
would perhaps be better to have none than to have " such 
haunts of godlessness and vice." At the same time, however, 
he makes admissions concerning faults of his own which 
may have served to increase his dejection : He himself, in 
his young days, had, like others, disgraced himself by a 
very vicious life (" turpissime in adolescentia deformatum "). x 

The Nuremberg preacher, George Besler, fell into a state 
of melancholia, declared " in his ravings that things were 
not going right in the Church," began to see hidden enemies 
everywhere and finally committed suicide with a " hog- 
spear " in 1536. 2 William Bidembach, preacher at Stuttgart, 
and his brother Balthasar, Abbot of Bebenhausen, both 
became a prey to melancholia towards the end of their life. 3 

It would, of course, be foolish to think that many good 
souls, in the simplicity of their heart, found no consolation 
in the new teaching and in working for its furtherance. Of 
the preachers, for instance, Beltzius, who has just been 
mentioned, declares, that, amidst his sadness Luther s 
consolations had " saved him from the abyss of hell." 4 
Amongst those who adhered in good faith to the innovations 
there were some who highly lauded the solace of the Evangel. 
But, notwithstanding all that may be alleged to the 
contrary, we cannot get over such testimonies as the 
following. 

Felix, son of the above-mentioned William Bidembach, 
and Court preacher in Wiirtemberg, declared in a " Hand 
book for young church ministers " : "It happens more and 
more frequently that many pious people fall into distressing 
sadness and real melancholia, to such an extent that they 
constantly experience in their hearts fear, apprehension, 
dread and despair " ; in the course of his ministry he had 
met with both persons of position and common folk who 
were oppressed with such melancholia. 5 Nicholas Selnecker 
(above, p. 220) assures us that not only were theologians 

1 Kolde, " Analecta," p. 462 seq. 

2 Contemporary account in J. C. Siebenkees, " Materialien zur 
Niirnberg. Gesch.," 2, Nuremberg, 1792, p. 754. 

3 Fischlin, " Memoria theoloyorum Wirlembergensium," 1, Ulmae, 
1720, pp. 144, 171. 

4 Cp. Beltzius, " Vom Jammer und Elend menschlichen Lebens und 
Wesens," Leipzig, 1574, Bl. 3 . 

6 " Handbuch," etc., Frankfurt a. M., 1613, p. 725 f. (1 ed., 1603). 



222 

perplexed with many " melancholy and anxious souls and 
consciences whom nothing could console," but physicians, 
too, " never remembered such prevalence of evil melan 
cholia, depression and sadness, even in the young, and of 
other maladies arising therefrom, as during these few years, 
and such misfortune continues still to grow and increase." 1 

The Leipzig Pastor, Erasmus Sarcerius, speaks in a 
similar strain of the " general faint-heartedness prevalent in 
every class," who are acquainted with nothing but " fear 
and apprehension " ; 2 Victorinus Strigel, Professor at the 
University of Leipzig, of the " many persons who in our 
day have died simply and solely of grief " ; 3 Michael 
Sachse, preacher at Wechmar, of people generally as being 
" timid and anxious, trembling and despairing from fear." 4 

When the preacher Leonard Beyer related to Luther how 
in his great " temptations " the devil had tried to induce 
him to stab himself, Luther consoled him by telling him 
that the same had happened in his own case. 5 

We are told that in latter life Luther s pupil Mathesius 
was a prey to a " hellish fear " which lasted almost three 
months ; "he could not even look at a knife because the 
sight tempted him to suicide." 6 Later, his condition 
improved. The same Mathesius relates how Pastor Musa 
found consolation in his gloomy doubts on faith in Luther s 
account of his own similar storms of doubt. 7 

In the 16th century we hear many lamentations in 
Protestant circles concerning the unheard-of increase in the 
number of suicides. 

" There is such an outcry amongst the people," wrote the 
Lausitz Superintendent, Zacharias Rivander, " that it deafens 
one s ears and makes one s hair stand on end. The people are so 
heavy-hearted and yet know not why. Amidst such lowness of 
spirit many are unable to find consolation, and, so, cut their 
throats and slay themselves." 8 In 1554 the Nuremberg 
Councillor, Hieronymus Baumgiirtner, lamented at a meeting 
attended by the clergy of the town : " We hear, alas, how daily 

1 " Der ganze Psalter," Bd. 2, Nuremberg, 1565, p. 94. 

2 Sarcerius, " Etliche Predigten," etc., Leipzig, 1551, Bl. C 2 . 

3 Strigel, " Ypomnemata 1," Lipsise, 1505, p. 219. 

4 Sachse, " Acht Trostpredigten," Leipzig, 1602, Bl. A 5 . 

5 Mathesius, " Aufzeichn.," p. 213 f. On the Disputation held at 
Leipzig by Beyer, the ex-Augustinian, see vol. i., p. 316. 

6 G. Loesche, " Joh. Mathesius," 1, Gotha, 1895, p. 223. 

7 Mathesius, " Historien," p. 147 . 

8 " Fest-Chronika," 2 Tl., Leipzig, 1602, Bl. 2 (1 ed., 1591). 



CHRONIC MELANCHOLY 223 

and more than ever before, people, whether in good health or not, 
fall into mortal fear and despair, lose their minds and kill them 
selves." 1 In 1569, within three weeks, fourteen suicides occurred 
at Nuremberg. 2 " You will readily recall," Lucas Osiander said 
in a sermon about the end of the century, " how in the years gone 
by many otherwise good people became so timorous, faint 
hearted and full of despair that they could not be consoled ; and 
how of these not a few put an end to their own lives ; this is a 
sign of the Last Day." 3 

Luther himself confirms the increase in the number of suicides 
which took place owing to troubles of conscience. 

In a sermon of 1532 he bemoans, that " so many people are so 
disquieted and distressed that they give way to despair " ; this 
was chiefly induced by the " spirits," for there " have been, and 
still are, many who are driven by the devil and plagued with 
temptations and despair till they hang themselves, or destroy 
themselves in some other way out of very fear." 4 He is quite 
convinced that the devil " drives " all suicides and makes them 
helpless tools of his plans against human life. It was to this idea 
that the Lutheran preacher Hamelmann clung when he wrote, in 
1568, that many trusted " that those who had been overtaken 
and destroyed by the devil would not be lost irretrievably." 5 

Andreas Celichius, Superintendent in the Mark of Branden 
burg, was of opinion that such suicides, such " very sudden and 
heartrending murders," " gave a bad name to the Evangel in the 
world " ; one sees and hears " that some in our very midst are 
quite unable to find comfort in the Evangelical sanctuary. . . . 
This makes men distrustful of the preaching of Jesus Christ and 
even causes it to be hated." 6 

Michael Helding, Bishop-auxiliary of Mayence, found a special 
reason for the increase in the number of suicides amongst those 
who had broken with the Church, in their rejection of the 
Catholic means of grace. In a sermon which he delivered towards 
the end of 1547 at the Diet of Augsburg he pointed out that, 
ever since the use of the Sacraments had been scorned, people 
were more exposed to the strength of the evil one and to dis 
couragement. " When has the devil ever driven so many to 
desperation, so that they lose all hope and kill themselves ? 
Whose fault is it ? Ah, we deprive ourselves of God s grace and 
refuse to accept the Divine strength which is offered us in the 
Holy Sacraments." 7 

1 G. Th. Strobel, " Neue Beytrage zur Literatur," 1, Nuremberg, 
1790, p. 97. 

2 Hondorf- Sturm, " Calendarium Sanctorum," Leipzig, 1599, p. 338. 

3 L. Osiander, " Bauren-Postilla," 4 Tl., Tubingen, 1599, p. 188. 

4 " Werke," Erl. ed., 18 2 , p. 365. 

6 Hocker-Hamelmann, " Der Teufel selbs," 3 Tl., Ursel, 1568, p. 130. 

6 Celichius in a work on suicide : " Niitzlicher und nothwendiger 
Bericht von den Leuten, so sich selbst aus Angst, Verzweiffelung oder 
andern Ursachen entleiben und hinrichten," Magdeburg, 1578, Bl. 
A2,S 5, R 5 . 

7 Helding, " Von der hailigisten Messe," Ingolstadt, 1548, p. 7, 



224 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Among the Lutheran preachers the expected end of the 
world was made to play a part and to explain the increase of 
faint-heartedness and despair. 

Mathesius says in his Postils : " Many pine away and lose 
hope ; there is no more joy or courage left among the people ; 
therefore let us look for the end of the world, and prepare, and be 
ready at any moment for our departure home ! " " For the end 
is approaching ; heaven and earth and all government now begin 
to crack and break." 1 

Luther s example proved catching, and the end of the 
world became a favourite topic both in the pulpit and in 
books, one on which the preachers own gloom could aptly 
find vent. The end of all was thought to be imminent. 
Such forebodings are voiced, for instance, in the following : 
" No consolation is of any help to consciences " ; 2 " many 
pine away in dejection and die of grief " ; 3 " in these latter 
days the wicked one by his tyranny drives men into fear 
and fright " ; 4 " many despair for very dejection and sad 
ness " ; 5 " many pious hearts wax cowardly, seeing their 
sins and the wickedness of the world " ; 6 " the people hang 
their heads as though they were walking corpses and live 
in a constant dread " ; 7 " all joy is dead and all consola 
tion from God s Word has become as weak as water " ; 8 
the number of those " possessed of the devil body and soul " 
is growing beyond all measure. 9 

1 " Postilla oder Auslegung dor Sonntagsevangelien," Nuremberg, 
1565, p. 14. 

2 Selnecker, " Trostliche schone Spriich fur die engstigen Gewissen," 
Leipzig, 1561, Preface. 

3 Georg Major (a Wittenberg Professor), " Homilice in Evangelia 
dominicaUa," 1, Wittenbergse, 1562, p. 38. Johann Pomarius, 
preacher at Magdeburg : " People are growing so distressed and 
afflicted that they droop and languish," etc., the Last Day is, however, 
" at the door." " Postilla," Bd. 1, Magdeburg, 1587, p. 6 f. 

4 Nikol. Kramer, " Wiirtzgartlein der Seelen," Frankfurt a. M., 
1573, Bl. V., 3 . Still more emphatically the preacher Sigismund 
Suevus (" Trewe Warming fur der leidigen Verzweiffelung," Gorlitz, 
1572, p. A 3 ) : The devil raves and rages in these latter days like a 
mad dog and tries above all to make people despair. 

6 Christoph Ireiiseus, preacher at Eisleben, " Prognosticon," 1578, 
(s.l.), Bl. D d 3. 

6 Joh. Beltzius, " Vom Jammer," etc., Bl. B 3 . 

7 Ruprecht Erythropilus, preacher at Hanover, " Weckglock," etc., 
Frankfurt a. M., 1595, p. 181 f. 

8 Valerius Herberger, preacher at Fraustadt, " Herzpostilla," Bl. 1, 
Leipzig, 1614, p. 16 ff. 

9 Andreas Celichius, " Notwendige Erinnerung," etc., Wittenberg, 
1595, Bl. A 3 ff. He enumerates with terror thirty possessed persons 



CHRONIC MELANCHOLY 225 

Though the special advantage claimed for the new 
Evangel lay in the sure comfort it afforded troubled con 
sciences, many found themselves unable to arouse within 
them the necessary faith in the forgiveness of their sins. 
Luther s own experience, viz. that "faith won t come," 1 
was also that of many of the preachers in the case of their 
own uneasy and tortured parishioners ; their complaints of 
the fruitlessness of their labours sound almost like an echo 
of some of Luther s own utterances. 

" There are many pious souls in our churches," says Simon 
Pauli, of Rostock, " who are much troubled because they cannot 
really believe what they say they do, viz. that God will be 
gracious to them and will justify and save them." 2 

The widespread melancholy existing among the parishioners 
quite as much and sometimes more so than among the pastors, 
explains the quantity of consolatory booklets which appeared on 
the market during the second half of the 16th century, many of 
which were expressly designed to check the progress of this 
morbid melancholy. 3 Selnecker s work, mentioned above, is a 
specimen of this sort of literature. The Hamburg preacher, 
J. Magdeburgius, wrote : " Never has there been such need of 
encouragement as at this time." 4 The Superintendent, Andreas 
Celichius, laments that people "are quite unable to find comfort 
in the sanctuary of the Evangel, but, like the heathen who 
knew not God, are becoming melancholy and desperate," and 
this too at a time when " God, by means of the evangelical 
preaching, is daily dispensing abundantly all manner of right 
excellent and efficacious consolation, by the shovelful and not 
merely by the spoonful." 5 It was, however, a vastly more difficult 

in Mecklenburg alone, among whom, however, he probably includes 
many who were simply mad. " Here, in the immediate vicinity," he 
says, " three preachers have lost their minds, and would even appear 
to be bodily possessed." J. Moehsen (" Gesch, der Wissenschaften in 
der Mark Brandenburg," Berlin, 1781, p. 500) rightly remarked : 
" The plentiful writings and sermons on the devil s power, . . . on 
the portents of the Last Judgment, such as comets, meteors, bloody 
rain, etc., cost many their reason during the latter half of the 16th 
century." 

1 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 452 : " Articulus fidei won t go home, 
ideo tot accidunt tristitice. " 

2 " Extract oder Ausszug axis der Postill," Magdeburg, 1584, p. 16 f. 

3 See N. Paulus, " Die Melancholie im 16 Jahrh." (" Wiss. Beilage 
zur Germania," 1897, No. 18), p. 137 ff. ; on p. 140 he refers to G. 
Draudius, " Bibl. libr. germ.," for the titles of many such works of 
consolation. For the above description we have made use of this 
rich article by Paulus and of his other one : " Der Selbstmord im 16 
Jahrh.," ibid., 1896, No. 1. 

4 " Eyne schone Artzney, dadurch der leidenden Christen Sorge 
und Betriibnus gelindert werden," Liibeck, 1555, p. 145. 

5 Op. cit., Bl. A 3 , R 5. 

IV. Q 



226 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

matter to find comfort in the bare " Sola Fides " than it had been 
for the ancestors of these Evangelicals to find it in the Church s 
way. Thanks to their co-operation, it was given to them to 
experience the vivifying and saving strength of the Sacraments 
and of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to find example and encourage 
ment in the veneration of the Saints and in the ritual, to be led 
to display their faith by the performance of good works in the 
hope of an eternal reward, and to enjoy in all the guidance and 
help of pastors duly called and ordained. In spite of all the 
abuses which existed, their Catholic forebears had never been 
deprived of these helps. 

Many Protestants were driven by such considerations to return 
to the Church. Of this Nicholas Amsdorf complained. Many, 
he says, " have fallen away from Christ to Antichrist in conse 
quence of such despair and doubts," and the uncertainty in 
matters of faith is nourished by the want of any unity in teach 
ing, so that the people " do not know whom or what to believe " j 1 
this was also one of the reasons alleged by Simon Pauli why 
" many in the Netherlands and in Austria are now relapsing into 
Popery." 2 

" We find numerous instances in our day," Laurence Albcrtus 
said in 1574, " of how, in many places where Catholics and 
sectarians live together, no one was able to help a poor, deluded 
sectarian in spiritual or temporal distress, save the Catholic 
Christians, and especially their priests ; such persons who have 
been helped admit that they first found real comfort among the 
Catholics, and now refuse to be disobedient to the Church any 
longer." Albertus wrote a " Defence " of such converts. 3 

Johann Schlaginhaufen, Luther s pupil, with the statements 
he makes concerning his own sad interior experiences, brings us 
back to his master. 4 Schlaginhaufen himself, even more than the 
rest, fell a prey to sadness, fear and thoughts of despair on 
account of his sins. Luther, to whom he freely confided this, 
told him it was " false that God hated sinners, otherwise He 
would not have sent His Son " ; God hated only the self-righteous 
" who didn t want to be sinners." If Satan had not tried and 
persecuted me so much, " I should not now be so hostile to him." 
Schlaginhaufen, however, was unable to convince himself so 
readily that all his trouble came from the devil and not from his 
conscience. He said to Luther : " Doctor, I can t believe that it 
is only the devil who causes sadness, for the Law [the conscious 
ness of having infringed it] makes the conscience sad ; but the Law 
is good, for it comes from God, consequently neither is the 
sadness from Satan." Luther was only able to give an evasive 
answer and fell back on the proximity of the Last Day as a 

1 " Fiinff fiirnemliche Zeichen . . . vor dem jiingstcn Tag," Jena, 
1554, Bl. B 4 . 

2 Op. cit., Magdeburg, 1584, p. 733. 

3 " Verthadigung deren, so sich diser Zeit ... in den Frid der 
romischen Kirchen begeben," Dillingen, 1574, p. 72 f. 

* Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichn.," pp. 9, 76, 88. 



CHRONIC MELANCHOLY 227 

source of consolation : "In short, why we are so plagued, vexed 
and troubled is due to the Last Day. . . . The devil feels his 
kingdom is coming to an end, hence the fuss he makes. There 
fore, my dear Turbicida [i.e. Schlaginhaufen], be comforted, hold 
fast to the Word of God, let us pray." Such words, however, did 
not suffice to calm the troubled man, who only became ever more 
dejected ; his inference appeared to him only too well founded : 
" The Law with its obligations and its terrifying menaces is just 
as much God s as the Gospel." 

" How doleful you look," Luther said to him some weeks later. 
" I replied," so Schlaginhaufen relates : " Ah, dear Doctor, I 
was brooding ; my thoughts worry me and yet I can do nothing. 
I am unable to distinguish between the Law and the Gospel. The 
Doctor replied : Yes, dear Master Hans, if you could do that 
then you would be indeed a Doctor yourself, saying which he 
stood up and doffed his cap. . . . Paul and I have never been 
able to get so far . . . the best thing to do is to hold fast to the 
man Who is called Christ. In answer to a new objection 
Luther referred the young man to the secret counsels of God, for, 
according to him, there was a hidden God Who had not revealed 
Himself and of Whom men " were unable to know what He 
secretly planned," 1 and a revealed God Who indeed speaks of a 
Divine Will that all should be saved ; how, however, this was to 
afford any consolation it is not easy to see. 1 On other occasions 
Luther simply ordered Schlaginhaufen to rely on his authority ; 
God Himself was speaking through him words of command 
and consolation. " You are to believe without doubting what 
God Himself has spoken to you, for I have God s authority and 
commission to speak to and to comfort you." 2 

1 Luther to Count Albert of Mansfeld, Dec. 8, 1542, " Briefe," 5, 
p. 514. Cp. vol. ii., pp. 290 and 268 f. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichn.," p. 21. 



CHAPTER XXV 

IN THE NARROWER CIRCLE OF THE PROFESSION AND FAMILY 
LUTHER S BETTER FEATURES 

1. The University Professor, the Preacher, the Pastor 

Relations with the Wittenberg Students. 

AMONG the pleasing traits in Luther s picture a prominent 
one is the care he evinced for the students at Wittenberg. 

The disagreeable impression caused by the decline of the 
University town is to some extent mitigated by the efforts 
Luther made to check the corruption amongst the scholars of 
the University. He saw that they were supervised, so far 
as academic freedom permitted, and never hesitated to 
blame their excesses from the pulpit. At the same time, in 
spite of the growing multiplicity of his labours and cares, he 
showed himself a helpful father to them even in temporal 
matters, for instance, Avhen he inveighed in a sermon against 
their exploitation at the hands of burghers and peasants : 
They were being sucked dry and could scarcely be treated 
worse ; this he had heard from all he knew. 1 

The respect he enjoyed and the example of his own simple 
life lent emphasis to his moral exhortations. His eloquent 
lectures were eagerly listened to ; his delivery was vivid 
and impressive. People knew that he did not lecture for 
the sake of money and, even at the height of his fame, 
they gladly pointed to the unassuming life he led at 
home. He did not expect any marks of respect from the 
students, greatly as they, and not only those of the theo 
logical Faculty, esteemed him. Melanchthon had intro 
duced the custom of making the students stand when Luther 
entered the class-room ; Luther, however, was not at all 
pleased with this innovation and said petulently : " Doxa, 
doxa est magna noxa ; who runs after glory never gets it." 2 

J l " Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 418 f., in the sermons of 1528, recently 
published. 

2 Mathesius, " Historien," p. 154 ; Kroker, " Mathesius Tisch- 
reden," Einleitung, p. 70. 

228 



Oldecop, the Catholic chronicler and Luther s former 
pupil, who, as a youth and before the apostasy, had listened 
to him at Wittenberg, remembered in his old age how 
Luther, without setting himself in opposition to their 
youthful jollifications had known how to restrain them ; 
just as he " reproved sin fearlessly from the pulpit," 1 so he 
earnestly sought to banish temptation from the pleasures 
of the students. 

We may here recall, that, as early as 1520, Luther had 
urged that all bordels should be done away with, those 
" public, heathenish haunts of sin," as he termed them, at 
the same time using their existence as a weapon against the 
Catholic past. 2 The fact that many such houses were 
closed down at that time was, however, to some extent due 
to fear of the prevalent " French disease." 

When, in his old age, in 1543, the arrival of certain light 
women threatened new danger to the morals of the Witten 
berg students, already exposed to the ordinary temptations 
of the town, Luther decided to interfere and make a public 
onslaught at the University. This attack supplies us with 
a striking example of his forcefulness, whilst also showing 
us what curious ideas and expressions he was wont to inter 
mingle with his well-meant admonitions. 

" The devil," so he begins, " has, by means of the gainsayers 
of our faith and our chief foes [presumably the Catholics], sent 
here certain prostitutes to seduce and ruin our young men. 
Hence I, as an old and tried preacher, would paternally implore 
you, my dear children, to believe that the Wicked One has sent 
these prostitutes hither, who are itchy, shabby, stinking and 
infected with the French disease as, alas, experience daily proves. 
Let one good comrade warn the other, for one such infected 
strumpet can ruin 10, 20, 30, or even 100 sons of good parents 
and is therefore to be reckoned a murderess and much worse 
than a poisoner. Let one help the other in this poisonous 
mess, with faithful advice and warning, as each one would himself 
wish to be done by ! " 

He then threatens them with the penalties of the Ruler, which 
dissolute students had to fear, " in order that they may take 
themselves off, and the sooner the better " ; " here [at Witten 
berg] there is a Christian Church and University to which people 
resort to learn the Word of God, virtue and discipline. Whoever 
wants to drab had better go elsewhere." 

Were he able, he would have such women " bled and broken 

1 Oldecop, " Chronik," ed. Euling, p. 40. 

2 Kftstlin-Kawerau, 2, pp. 687, 572, n. 



230 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

on the wheel." Young people ought, however, to resist con 
cupiscence and fight against " their heat " ; it was not to no 
purpose that the Holy Ghost had said : "Go not after thy 
lusts " (Eccl. xviii. 30). He concludes : " Pray God He may 
send you a pious child [in marriage], there will in any case be 
trouble enough." 1 

Some polemics have characterised such exhortations of 
Luther s as mere " hypocrisy." Whoever knows his Luther, knows, 
however, how unfounded is this charge. Nor was there any 
hypocrisy about the other very urgent exhortation which Luther 
caused to be read from the pulpit at Wittenberg in 1542, when 
himself unable to preach, and which is addressed to both burghers 
and students. He there implores " the town and the University 
for God s sake not to allow it to be said of them, that, after 
having heard God s Word so abundantly and for so long, they 
had grown worse instead of better." " Ah, brother Studium," he 
says, " spare me and let it not come to this that I be obliged like 
Polycarp to exclaim, O my God, why hast Thou let me live to 
see this? He points to his "grizzly head" which at least 
should inspire respect. 2 

The Preacher and Catechist. 

As a preacher Luther was hard-working, nay, indefatig 
able ; in this department his readiness of speech, his 
familiarity with Holy Scripture and above all his popular 
ways stood him in good stead. At first he preached in the 
church attached to the monastery ; later on his sermons 
were frequently preached in the parish church, and, so long 
as his health stood the strain, he sometimes even delivered 
several sermons a day. 3 Even when not feeling well he took 
advantage of every opportunity to mount the pulpit. In 
1528 he took over the parochial sermons during Bugen- 
hagen s absence from Wittenberg, 4 in spite of being already 
overworked and ill in body. 

All were loud in their praise of the power and vigour of 
his style. Mathesius in his " Historien " records a remark 
to this effect of Melanchthon s. 5 Luther frequently laid 
down, after his own fashion, the rules which should guide 
those who preach to the little ones and the poor in spirit : 
" Cursed and anathema be all preachers who treat of high, 

1 May 13, 1543, " Briefe," 5 (De Wette and Seidemann), p. 560. 

2 1542, possibly Feb. or Nov. " Briefe," 6, p. 302. Cp. the Rector s 
exhortation to the students on Feb. 18, 1542, " Corp. ref.," 4, p. 
780 seq. 

" Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 178. 
4 Published from notes taken at the time. 
6 " Historien," p. 216. 



THE POPULAR PREACHER 231 

difficult and subtle matters in the churches, put them to the 
people and preach on them, seeking their own glory or to 
please one or two ambitious members of the congregation. 
When I preach here I make myself as small as possible, nor 
do I look at the Doctors and Masters, of whom perhaps 
forty may be present, but at the throng of young people, 
children and common folk, from a hundred to a thousand 
strong ; it is to them that I preach, of them that I 
think, for it is they who stand in need." 1 And elsewhere : 
" Like a mother who quiets her babe, dandles it and plays 
with it, but who must give it milk from her breast, and on 
no account wine or Malmsey, so preachers must do the same ; 
they ought so to preach in all simplicity that even the 
simple-minded may hear, grasp and retain their words. 
But when they come to me, to Master Philip, to Dr. Pommer, 
etc., then they may show off their learning and get a good 
drubbing and be put to shame." But when they parade 
their learning in the pulpit this is merely done " to impose 
on and earn the praise of the poor, simple lay-folk. Ah, 
they say, that is a great scholar and a fine speaker, though, 
probably, they neither understood nor learnt anything." 2 

" Nor should a preacher consider individual members of 
his congregation and speak to them words of comfort or 
reproof ; what he must seek to benefit is the whole congrega 
tion. St. Paul teaches this important doctrine [2 Cor. ii. 17] : 
We speak with sincerity in Christ as from God and before 
God. God, Christ and the angels are our hearers, and if we 
please them that is enough. Let us not trouble ourselves 
about the world and about private persons ! We will not 
speak in order to please any man nor allow our mouth to be 
made the Arschloch of another. But when we have 
certain persons up before us, then we may reprove them 
privately and without any rancour." 3 

As a preacher he was able often enough to tell the various 
classes quite frankly what he found to censure in them. 
At the Court, for instance, he could, when occasion arose, 
reprove the nobles for their drunkenness, and that in 
language not of the choicest. 4 He was not the man to wear 

1 He says this to Pastor Bernard of Dolen, " Werke," Erl. ed., 59, 
p. 272 f. Cp. Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 140. 
" Werke," ibid., p. 273. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 389 

4 See above, vol. iii., p. 309. 



232 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

kid gloves, or, as an old German proverb he himself quoted 
said, to let a spider spin its web over his mouth. A saying 
attributed to him characterises him very well, save perhaps 
in its latter end : Come up bravely, speak out boldly, leave 
off speedily. 1 " I have warned you often enough," so we 
read in the notes of a Wittenberg sermon of Sep. 24, 1531, 2 
" to flee fornication, and yet I see that it is again on the 
increase. It is getting so bad that I shall be obliged to say : 
Bistu do zurissen, sso lop dich der Teuffl." 3 The preacher 
then turns to the older hearers, begging them to use their 
influence with the younger generation, to prevail on them 
to abstain from this vice. 

As to his subject-matter, he was fond of urging Biblical 
texts and quotations, wherein he displayed great skill and 
dexterity. In general, however, his attacks on Popery are 
always much the same ; he dwells with tiresome monotony 
on the holiness-by-works and the moral depravity of the 
Papists. Though his theory of Justification may have 
proved to him a never-failing source of delight, yet his 
hearers were inclined to grow weary of it. He himself says 
once : " When we preach the articulum justificationis the 
people sleep or cough " ; and before this : " No one in the 
people s opinion is eloquent if he speaks on justification ; 
then they simply close their ears." Had it been a question 
of retailing stories, examples and allegories he could have 
been as proficient as any man. 4 

Mathesius has incorporated in his work some of Luther s 
directions on preaching Avhich might prove a good guide to 
any pulpit orator desirous of being of practical service to 
his hearers. 5 Some of these directions and hints have 
recently appeared in their vigorous original in the Table-Talk 
edited by Kroker. 

It was his wish that religious addresses in the shape of 
simple, hearty instructions on the Epistles and Gospels 
should be given weekly by every father to his family. 6 He 
himself, in his private capacity, set the example as early 

1 Cp. Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 184: " Prcedicator ascendat 
suggestum, aperiat os et desinat," etc. See, ibid., No. 316a, also pp. 139 
and 196. 2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 34, 2, p. 214. 

" Luthers Sprichwortersammlung," ed. E. Thiele, Weimar, 1900, 
No. 483. 4 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 113 seq. 

5 " Historien," pp. 144, 148, 151, etc. 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., 21, p. 31. 



THE CATECHIST 233 

as 1532 by holding forth in his own home on Sundays, when 
unable to preach in the church, before his assembled house 
hold and other guests. This he did, so he said, from a 
sense of duty towards his family, because it was as necessary 
to check neglect of the Divine Word in the home as in the 
Church at large. 1 

He also himself catechised the children at home, in order, 
as he declared, to fulfil the duties of a Christian father ; 
on rising in the morning he was also in the habit of reciting 
the " Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Our Father and 
some Psalm as well " with the children. 

He even expressed the opinion that catechetical instruc 
tion in church was of little use to children, but that in the 
home it was more successful and was therefore not to be 
omitted, however much trouble it might give. When, 
however, he adds, that the Papists had neglected such home 
teaching and had sacrificed the flock of Christ, 2 he is quite 
wrong. The fact is, that, before his day, it was left far too 
much to the family to give religious instruction to the 
children, there being as yet no properly organised Catechism 
in schools and churches. It was only the opposition aroused 
among Catholics by the religious changes that led to religious 
teaching becoming more widespread in the Catholic schools, 
and to a catechetical system being organised ; a fuller 
religious education then served to check the falling away. 3 
How highly, in spite of such apparent depreciation, he valued 
the ministerial teaching of the Catechism we learn from 
some words recorded by Mathesius : " If I had to establish 
order, I should see that no preacher was nominated who 
had not previously taught the bonce artes and the Cate 
chism in the schools for from one to three years. Schools 
are also temples of God, hence the olden prophets were at once 
pastors and schoolmasters." 4 " There is no better way," he 
writes, " of keeping people devout and faithful to the 
Church than by the Catechism." 5 

At Wittenberg an arrangement existed, at any rate as 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 265. 

2 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 82. 

3 The lack of religious instruction in the schools is confirmed by 
Falk, " Die pfarramtlichen Aufzeichnungen des Florentius Diel zu 
Mainz (1491-1518)," 1904, p. 17. 

4 " Historien," 12 Predigt. 

5 To Margrave George of Brandenburg, Sep. 14, 1531, " Werke," 
Erl. ed., 54, p. 253 (" Briefwechsel," 9, p. 103). 



234 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

early as 1528, 1 by which, every quarter, certain days were 
set apart for special sermons on the articles of the Cate 
chism. 2 The Larger and the Smaller Catechism published 
by Luther (see vol. v., xxxiv., 2) were intended to form the 
basis of the verbal teaching everywhere. The three courses 
of sermons preached by Luther at Wittenberg in May, Sep. 
and Nov., 1528, and since edited by George Buchwald, were 
arranged to suit the contents of the Greater Catechism and 
to some extent served Luther as a preparation for this 
publication. Luther, in the first instance, brought out the 
Smaller Catechism, as we see from certain letters given by 
Buchwald, not in book form, but, agreeably with an earlier 
ecclesiastical practice, on separate sheets in the shape of 
tablets to hang upon the walls ; hence what he said on 
Dec. 18, 1537, of his being the author of the Catechism, the 
" tabula? " and the Confession of Augsburg. 3 

He displayed great talent and dexterity in choosing the 
language best suited to his subject. We hear him denounc 
ing with fire and power the vice of usury which was on the 
increase. 4 He knows how to portray the past and future 
judgments of God in such colours as to arouse the luke 
warm. When treating of the different professions and ways 
of ordinary life he is in his own element and exhibits a rare 
gift of observation. On the virtues of the home, the educa 
tion of children, obedience towards superiors, patience in 
bearing crosses and any similar ethical topics which pre 
sented themselves to him, his language is as a rule 
sympathetic, touching and impressive ; in three wedding 
sermons which we have of him he speaks in fine and moving 
words on love and fidelity in the married state. 5 

In addition to his printed sermons, which were polished 
and amended for the press and from which we have already 
given many quotations on all sorts of subjects, the hasty, 
abbreviated notes of his sermons, made by zealous pupils, 
give us an insight into a series of addresses full of originality, 

1 See vol. v., xxxiv., 2. 

2 Cp. O. Clemen, " Zeitschrift fur KG.," 1909, p. 382. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 352. Agricola had excused himself 
by saying he had not attacked Luther but Cruciger and Rorer. Luther 
replied : " Catechismus, tabulae, confcssio Augustana, etc., mca, non 
Crucigeri nee Rcereri sunt." 

4 See vol. vi., xxxv., 6, on his attitude to the taking of interest. 

5 " Werke," Erl. ed., 18 2 , pp. 89 ff., 105 ff. ; 19 2 , p. 243 ff. Cp. above, 
p. 142. 



ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN 235 

outspokenness and striking thoughts. Indeed these notes, 
which are becoming better known at the present day, 
frequently render the sermons in all their primitive simplicity 
far better than do the more carefully arranged printed 
editions. 

Luther, in 1524, according to one of these sets of notes, spoke 
on Good Works in the following style : " The Word is given in 
order that you may awaken ! It is meant to spur you on to do 
what is good, not that you should lull yourself in security. When 
fire and wood [come together there ensues a fire ; so you. in like 
manner, must be inflamed]. If, however, the effect of the sermon 
is, that you do not act towards your brother as Christ does 
towards you, that is a bad sign, not, indeed, that you must 
become a castaway, but that you may go so far as one day to 
deny the Word." " The devil knows that sin does not harm you, 
but his aim is to tear Christ out of your heart, to make you self- 
confident and to rob you of the Word. Hence beware of being 
idle under the influence of Grace. Christ is seen with you when 
you take refuge in Him, whether you be in sin or at the hour of 
death," etc. " This is preached to you daily, but we produce no 
effect. Christ has bones and flesh, strength and weakness. Let 
each one see to it that above all he possess the faith . . . the 
Gospel is preached everywhere, but few indeed understand it. 
Christ bore with His followers. In the same way must we behave 
towards the weak. And the day will come when at last they 
will understand, like the disciples. But that will never be unless 
persecution comes." 1 

Excerpts from Luther s Sermons on Our Lady. 
In a sermon of 1524 on the Feast of the Visitation, taken down 
in Latin by the same reporter and recently published, Luther 
not only voices the olden view concerning the virtues and 
privileges of the Blessed Virgin but also, incidentally, supplies us 
with a sample of his candour in speaking of the faults of his 
hearers : " You are surprised that now I preach here so seldom, 
I, on the other hand, ana surprised that you do not amend. There 
may possibly be a few to whom the preaching is of some avail ; 
but the more I preach, the more ungodliness increases. It is not 
my fault, for I know that I have told you all what God gave me 
[to speak]. I am not responsible and my conscience is at peace. 
I have forced you to nothing. We have introduced two collec 
tions. If they are not to your taste, do away with them again. 
We shall not force you to give even a single penny." 2 He then 
deals with the Gospel of the Feast which records Mary s visit to 
Elizabeth, and the canticle of praise with which she greeted her 
cousin. He draws apt lessons from it and praises the virtues and 
the dignity of the Blessed Virgin in a way that does him honour : 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 437. 

2 Ibid., p. 641 ff., " Collections " is our amendment for " Lections." 



236 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" First of all you see how Mary s faith finds expression in a work 
of charity. Her faith was not idle but was proved real by her 
acting as a mere maid, seeking out Elizabeth and serving her. 
Her faith was immense, as we also learn from other Gospel- 
readings. That is why Elizabeth said to her : Blessed art thou 
that hast believed. . . . This is a true work of faith when 
impelled thereby we abase ourselves and serve others. We, too, 
hear all this, but the works are not forthcoming. . . . Yet where 
there is real faith, works are never absent." 

" When Mary was magnified by Elizabeth with words of praise, 
it was as though she did not hear them, for she paid no heed 
to them. Every other woman would have succumbed to the 
temptation of vainglory, but she gives praise to Him to Whom 
alone praise is due. From this example all Christians, but par 
ticularly all preachers, ought to learn. You know that God 
preserves some preachers in a state of grace, but others He 
permits to fall. . . . God must preserve them like Mary so that 
they do not grow proud. When God bestows His gifts upon us 
it is hard not to become presumptuous and self-confident. If, for 
instance, I am well acquainted with Scripture, people will praise 
me on this account, and when I am praised, I, as a carnal man, 
am exposed to the fire ; when on the contrary I am despised, etc. 
[i.e. this is helpful for my salvation]. . . . Mary acted as though 
she did not hear it, and never even thanked Elizabeth for her 
praise." 

Mary said, so he continues, " My soul doth magnify the Lord, 
not myself ; I am a mere creature of God ; He might have set 
another in my place ; I magnify Him Who has made me a 
Mother." In this way Mary teaches us the right use of the gifts 
bestowed by God, for she rejoiced only in God. On the other 
hand, any woman who is even passably pretty becomes vain of 
herself, and any man who has riches, boasts of his possessions. 
Mary is merely proud that God, as she says, has regarded her 
humility. This is the praise which we too must pay her. We 
ought to extol her because she was chosen by the Divine Majesty 
to be the Mother of His Son. That, she says, will be proclaimed 
to the end of the world (" all generations shall call me blessed "), 
not on her own account, but because God has done this. Concern 
ing her own good works and her virginity she was silent and simply 
said : " He has done great things in me." In the same way we 
ought to be nothing in our own eyes and before the world, but 
to rejoice simply because God has looked down on us, confessing 
that all we have comes from Him. In this spirit Mary counted 
up great gifts ; though she could have said : All that you have 
just told me is true. " Ah, hers was a fine spirit ; and her 
example will assuredly endure." " The whole world will never 
attain to it, for the soul that is not exalted by God s gifts and 
depressed by poverty is indeed hard to find." By her words, so 
the speaker continues, Mary condemned the world, raised her 
self above it and cast it aside ; her language was not human, but 
came to her from God. 



ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN 237 

Though such praise of Mary from which at a later date 
Luther desisted may be placed to his credit, yet it must be 
pointed out, that even the above discourse is disfigured by bitter 
and unwarrantable attacks on Catholic doctrine and practice. 
He even speaks as though the veneration of Mary did not rest on 
the principles we have just heard him expound, viz. on the 
dignity bestowed by God on Mary as the Mother of God, and on 
the virtues with which she was endowed from on high, such as 
faith and humility. The Catholic Church, so Luther complains 
quite unjustly and falsely, had made of Mary a goddess (" fecimus 
earn Deam ") and had given her honour and praise without 
referring it to God. 1 

1 Luther must have known that in Catholic worship the Divine Son 
is more honoured by the veneration of Mary than she herself. That 
adoration was paid to God alone and not to Mary he could see from 
the text of the prayers of the ancient Church. Luther, for instance, 
was acquainted with the Invitatories of the Office for the Feasts of 
Mary s Nativity and Assumption, the first of which commences with 
the words : " Let us celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary," and then 
at once adds : " Let us adore her Son Christ our Lord " ; while the 
second sets Our Lord in the first place and says : " Come, let us adore 
the King of Kings Whose Virgin Mother was to-day assumed into 
Heaven." Thus in the Liturgy which he himself had celebrated, the 
leading thought, that Christ was honoured in Mary, ran through the 
celebration of all her Feasts, from that of her entrance into this life to 
that of her exit. The Hymns to the Mother of God in Luther s day 
concluded as they do now : " Jesu, to Thee be glory, Who wast born 
of a virgin," etc. Any adoration of the Blessed Virgin as of a " goddess " 
was so alien to the people that it would have been rejected with 
indignation. 

In the same way that the Invitatories just quoted expressly reserve 
adoration for the Divine Son, so the veneration of the Mother of God 
in the Church s Offices is justified on exactly the same grounds as those 
which, according to Luther, result from the mystery of the Visitation 
and from the Magnificat. The Church has always extolled Mary simply 
in the spirit of the Magnificat. Luther himself had published a printed 
exposition of the Magnificat in 1521. There he still speaks of the 
Blessed Virgin in the usual way (" Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 545 f . ; 
Erl. ed., 45, p. 214 f.). At the commencement of the work he invokes 
her assistance with the words : " May the same tender Mother of God 
obtain for me the spirit to interpret her song usefully and practically 
. . . that we may sing and chant this Magnificat eternally in the life 
to come. So help us God. Amen " (p. 546 = 214). In the same way, 
at the close, he expresses his hope that a right understanding of the 
Magnificat " may not only illumine and teach, but burn and live in 
body and soul ; may Christ grant us this by the intercession and 
assistance of His dear Mother Mary. Amen " (p. 601 = 287). Thus he 
was then still in favour of the invocation and intercession of the Holy 
Mother of God, whereas later he set aside the invocation of any Saint, 
and declared it to be one of " the abuses of Antichrist." (See Kostlin, 
" Luthers Theologie," I 2 , p. 370 ff.) Luther wrote his exposition of 
the Magnificat in the spirit which must inspire every theologian who 
studies the canticle, and which had been even stronger in him during 
his Catholic period. At the same time he obviously wished to work 
upon the wavering and cautious Court of the Elector, and for this 



238 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The supreme distinction which the Church acknowledges in 
Mary viz. her immaculate conception and exemption from 
original sin from the first moment of her soul s existence 
Luther himself accepted at first and adhered to for a consider 
able time, following in this the tradition of his Order. 1 

All honour was to be given to Christ as God ; this right and 
praiseworthy view, which Luther was indefatigable in expressing, 
misled him in the matter of the veneration and invocation of 
Mary and the Saints. Of this he would not hear, though such 
had ever been the practice of the Church, and though it is hard 
to see how God s glory can suffer any derogation through the 
honour paid to His servants. In this Luther went astray ; the 
dogma of the adorable Divinity of Jesus Christ was, however, 
always to remain to him something sacred and sublime. 

Statements to Luther s advantage from various Instructions. 
His Language. 

In his sermons Luther was so firm in upholding the 
Divinity of Christ, in opposition to the scepticism he 
thought he detected in other circles, that one cannot but be 
favourably impressed. He was filled with the liveliest sense 
of man s duty of submitting his reason to this mystery ; he 
even goes too far, in recommending abdication of the 
intellect and in his disparagement of human reason ; what 

reason dedicated this work, which, though peaceful in tone, contained 
hidden errors, to Prince Johann Frederick in a submissive letter. It 
should be noted that Luther wrote this dedication soon after receiving 
his summons to Worms. It is dated March 10, 1521 (ibid., p. 545 = 212. 
Cp. " Briefwechsel," 3, p. 109). 

1 He admitted this belief handed down in the Catholic Schools, 
though not proclaimed a dogma till much later, in the sermon he 
preached in 1527 " on the day of the Conception of Mary the Mother 
of God " : " It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary s 
soul was effected without original sin ; so that in the very infusion of 
her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God s 
gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God ; thus from the first moment 
she began to live she was free from all sin " (" Werke," Erl. ed., 15 2 , 
p. 58). The sermon was taken down in notes and published with 
Luther s approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate 
Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in 
the later editions which appeared during Luther s lifetime they dis 
appear. (Cp. N. Paulus, " Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1904, 
No. 41.) In a work of 1521 he says : Mary not only kept God s com 
mandments perfectly but also " received so much grace that she was 
quite filled with it, as we believe " (" Rationis Latomiance confu- 
tatio" " Werke," Weim. ed., 8. p. 56 ; Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 416). 
As Luther s intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot 
naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the 
type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish 
any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements 
as the above are no longer met with in his lat.er works. 



HIS ORTHODOX SIDE 239 

he is anxious to do is to make all his religious feeling 
culminate in a trusting faith in the words : " God so loved 
the world that He gave His only begotten Son for us." 

In his sermons and instructions he demands a similar 
yielding of reason to faith with regard to the mystery of 
Christ s Presence in the Sacrament, though in this case ho 
had not shrunk from twisting the doctrine to suit his own 
ideas. It would hardly be possible to maintain more 
victoriously against all gainsayers the need of standing by 
the literal sense, or at least of excluding any figurative 
interpretation of, the \vords of institution " This is My 
Body," than Luther did in many of his pronouncements 
against the Sacrameritarians. 1 

With advancing years, and in view of the dissensions and 
confusion prevailing in the Reformed camp, he came to 
insist more and more on those positive elements, which, for 
all his aversion for the ancient Church, he had never ceased 
to defend. Of this we have a monument in one of his last 
works, viz. the " Kurtz Bekentnis," to which we shall return 
later. Embittered by the scepticism apparent in Zwinglian- 
ism and elsewhere, which, as he thought, threatened to sap 
all religion, he there obeys his heart s instincts and gives 
the fullest expression to his faith in general and not merely 
to his belief in Christ s presence in the Sacrament. 2 

Concerning the Sacrament of the Altar he gave the 
following noteworthy answer to a question put to him 
jointly, in 1544, by the three princely brothers of Anhalt, 
viz. whether they should do away with the Elevation of the 
Sacrament in the liturgy. " By no means," he replied, 
" for such abrogation would tend to diminish respect for 
the Sacrament and cause it to be undervalued. When 
Dr. Pommer abolished the Elevation [at Wittenberg, in 
1542] during my absence, I did not approve of it, and now 
I am even thinking of re-introducing it. For the Elevation 
is one thing, the carrying about of the Sacrament in pro 
cession quite another [at Wittenberg Luther would not 
allow such processions of the Sacrament]. If Christ is truly 
present in the Bread ( in pane ), why should He not be 
treated with the utmost respect and even be adored ? " 
Joachim, Prince of Anhalt, added, when relating this ; 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 23, pp. 64-302 ; Eil. ed., 30, pp. 16-150, 

2 Ibid., Erl. ed., 32, pp. 397-425. 



240 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" We saw how Luther bowed low at the Elevation with 
great devotion and reverently worshipped Christ." 1 

Certain controversialists have undoubtedly been in the wrong 
in making out Luther to have been sceptical about, or even 
opposed at heart to, many of the ancient dogmas which he never 
attacked, for instance, the Trinity, or the Divinity of Christ. A 
few vague and incautious statements occasionally let slip by him 
are more than counterbalanced by a wealth of others which tell 
in favour of his faith, and he himself would have been the last to 
admit the unfortunate inferences drawn more or less rightly from 
certain propositions emitted by him. It is a lucky thing, that, in 
actual life, error almost always claims the right of not being 
bound down too tightly in the chains of logic. When Luther, for 
instance, made every man judge of the meaning of the Bible, he 
was setting up a principle which must have dissolved all cohesion 
between Christians, and thus, of necessity, he was compelled to 
limit, somewhat illogically, the application of the principle. 

In a passage frequently cited against him, where he shows 
himself vexed with the ancient term employed by the Church 
to express the Son s being of the same substance with the Father 
(" homoousios "), it was not his intention to rail against the 
doctrine therein expressed, but merely to take exception to the 
word. He explicitly distinguishes between the word and the 
thing (" vocabulum et res "). He says that, so long as one holds 
fast to the doctrine (" modo rem teneam ") scripturally defined by 
the Nicene Council, it was no heresy to dislike the word or to 
refuse to employ it. 2 Hence the passage affords no ground for 
saying, that " Luther was rash enough to tamper with the 
doctrine of the Person of Christ." On the other hand, the new 
doctrine of the omnipresence of the Body of Christ evolved by 
him during the controversy on the Sacrament, can scarcely be 
considered creditable. 3 His views on the " communicatio idio- 
matum " 4 in Christ, and particularly on the Redemption, 5 also 
contain contradictions not to be explained away. 

Contrariwise we must dismiss the charge based on his repug 
nance for the word " Threefoldhood," by which Germans 
designate the Trinity, as if this involved antagonism on his part 
to the mystery itself. He was referring merely to the term 
when he said : " It is not particularly good German and does not 
sound well, but since it cannot be improved upon, we must speak 
as best we can." 6 An undeniable confession of faith in the 
Trinity is contained in this very passage, and in countless others 
too. When abbreviating the Litany he indeed omitted the 
invocation " Sancta Trinitas unus Deus," but this was not from 
any hostility to the doctrine but from a wish not to have " too 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 341. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 117 f. ; " Opp. Jat. var.," 5, p. 505 scq, 

3 Kostlin, " Luthers Theologie," 2 2 , p. 145 f. * Ibid., p. 192 ff, 

5 Ibid,, pp. 148-200. 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., I 2 , p. 1 f. ; 12 2 , p. 408. 



HIS ORTHODOX SIDE 241 

many words." He left in their old places the separate invoca 
tions of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and deemed this quite 
sufficient. 

By his retention of the belief in the three Divine Persons 
and in the Divinity of the Redeemer, Luther was instru 
mental in preserving among his future followers a treasure 
inherited from past ages, in which not a few have found 
their consolation. We must not be unmindful of how he 
strove to defend it from the assaults of unbelief, in his time 
still personified in Judaism. He did not sin by debasing 
the Second Person of the Trinity, but rather by foisting on 
God Incarnate attributes which are not really His ; for 
instance, by arguing that, owing to the intimacy of the two 
Natures, Divine and Human, in Christ, His Human Nature 
must be as omnipresent as His Divine ; or, again, by 
teaching that mere belief in one s redemption and sanctifica- 
tion suffices to destroy sin ; or, again, when his too lively 
eschatological fancy led him to see Christ, the Almighty 
conqueror of the devil and his world, already on the point 
of coming to the Judgment. And just as Christ s Godhead 
was the very fulcrum of all his teaching, so he defended 
likewise the other Articles of the Apostles Creed with such 
courage, force and eloquence, as, since his death, few of his 
followers have found themselves capable of. About the 
Person of the Redeemer he wove all the usual Christological 
doctrines, His Virgin Birth, His truly miraculous Resurrec 
tion, His descent into Hell, His Ascension and Second 
Advent ; finally, also, the resurrection of the dead, the 
future Judgment, and the everlasting Heaven and ever 
lasting Hell. From the well-spring of the ancient creed, 
under God s Grace, Lutherans without number have drawn 
and still continue to draw motives for doing what is good, 
consolation amidst affliction and strength to lead pious lives. 

" What holiness, devotion and heroic virtue do we not 
find among non-Catholics. God s Grace is not confined 
within the four walls of the Catholic Church, but breathes 
even in the hearts of outsiders, working in them, when 
opportunity affords, the miracle of justification and adoption, 
and thus ensuring the eternal salvation of countless multi 
tudes who are either entirely ignorant of the true Church, 
as are the upright heathen, or mistake her true form and 
nature as do countless Protestants, brought up amidst the 
iv. R 



242 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

crassest prejudice. To all such as these the Church does not 
close the gates of Heaven " (J. Pohle). 

It would be superfluous to enumerate amongst Luther s 
favourable traits the respect he always paid to Holy 
Scripture as the Word of God, demanding for its infallible 
revelations a willing faith and the sacrifice of one s own 
whims. 

Greatly as he erred, in wilfully applying his new, subjective 
principle of interpretation and in excluding certain of the Sacred 
Books, still the Bible itself he always declared to be an object of 
the highest reverence. Thanks to a retentive memory he made 
his own the words of Scripture, and even adopted its style. His 
" enthusiasm for the inexhaustible riches and Divine character 
of Holy Scripture," of which the earlier Dollinger speaks, 1 has, 
and with some reason, been held up by Luther s followers as the 
model, nay, the palladium of Lutheranism as a whole ; on the 
other hand, however, Dollinger s accompanying censure on Luther s 
" arbitrary misuse " of the Bible-text must also commend itself 
not only to Catholics but to every serious student of the Bible. 
High praise for Luther s acquaintance with Scripture combined 
with severe blame for his deviation from tradition are forth 
coming from a contemporary of the early years of Luther s public 
career. In a short, imprinted and anonymous work entitled 
" Urteil iiber Luther," now in the Munich State Library, we 
read : "In the fine art of the written Word of God, i.e. the Bible, 
I hold Martin Luther to be the most learned of men, whether of 
those now living on earth or of those who have departed long 
since ; he is, moreover, well versed in the two languages, both 
Latin and German. I do not, however, regard him as a Christian 
for to be learned and eloquent is not to be a Christian but as a 
heretic and schismatic " ; he was, it adds, " the scourge of an 
angry God." 2 

In the field of scriptural activity his German translation 
of the whole Bible has procured for him enduring fame. 
Since the birth of Humanism not a few scholars had drawn 
attention to the languages in which the Bible was originally 
written ; Luther, however, was the first who ventured to 
make a serious attempt to produce a complete translation 
of all the Sacred Books on the basis of the original text. 

Thanks to his German version, from the linguistic point 
of view so excellent, Protestants down to our own day have 
been familiar with the Bible. His rendering of the Bible 

1 Dollinger, " Luther, eine Skizze," p. 58 ; " KL.," 8 2 , col. 343, 

2 " Cod. germ. Monacensis," 4842, Bl. 1, 2 . 



MERITS AS TRANSLATOR 243 

stories and doctrines, at once so able and so natural, was 
a gain not only to the language of religion but even to 
profane literature, just as his writings generally have with 
out question largely contributed to the furtherance of the 
German tongue. 

The scholarly Caspar Ulenberg, writing on this subject from 
the Catholic side in the 16th century, expresses himself most 
favourably. " What Luther," he says, " after consulting the 
recognised opinion of Hebrew and Greek experts, took to be the 
true meaning of the text under discussion, that he clothed in pure 
and elegant German, on the cultivation of which he had all his 
life bestowed great care. He had made such progress in the art 
of writing, teaching and expounding, that, if we take into con 
sideration the beauty and the brilliance of his language, so free 
from artifice, as well as the originality of his expression, we must 
allow that he excelled all in the use of the German tongue so 
that none can compare with him. Thus it was that he gained 
so uncanny an influence over the hearts of his Germans, that, by 
caressing and flattering and using the allurements of the Divine 
Word, he could make them believe whatever he pleased. In this 
translation of the Bible he was, above all, at pains, by means of a 
certain elegance and charm of speech, to entice all to become his 
readers, and thus to win men s hearts." 1 

Luther cannot indeed be called the creator of New-High- 
German, either by reason of his translation of the Bible or of his 
other German writings. Yet, using as he did the already existing 
treasure of the language with such ability, his influence on the 
German language was necessarily very great, especially as, 
owing to the great spread of his writings in those early days of 
printing, his works were practically the first in the literary field, 
and, indeed, in many places excluded all others. " Luther s 
importance as regards the language," declares one of the most 
recent students of this matter, " is less apparent in the details 
of grammar, in which he is sometimes rather backward, than in 
the general effect of his exertions on behalf of New-High-German." 
It is of small importance, the same writer remarks, "if in the 
mere wealth of common idioms one or other of the towns even 
within the confines of his native Saxon land Grimma, Leipzig, 
Dresden were in advance of the language employed by Luther." 2 

Luther s translation of the Bible will be treated of more 
in detail elsewhere (vol. v., xxxiv., 3). Here, however, 
mention may be made of the fine quality of the German 
used in his sermons, his theological and polemical writings, 
as well as in his popular works of devotion. 

" Gesch. Luthers," German edition, Mayence, 1836, p. 463 f. 
2 E. Gutjahr, " Zur Entstehung der neuhochdeutschen Schrift- 
sprache " ; " Studien zur deutschen Rechts- und Sprachgesch.," 2, 
Leipzig, 1906. 



244 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The figures and comparisons in which his sparkling fancy 
delights, particularly in the devotional booklets intended 
for the common people, his popular, sympathetic and often 
thoughtful adaptation of his language to the subject and to 
the personality of the reader, the truly German stamp of 
his phraseology, lending to the most difficult as well as to the 
most ordinary subjects just the clothing they require all 
this no one can observe and enjoy without paying tribute 
to his gift of description and language. 

" His vocabulary was strong and incisive," Johannes Janssen 
truly remarks, " his style full of life and movement, his similes, in 
their naked plainness, were instinct with vigour and went straight 
to the mark. He drew from the rich mines of the vernacular 
tongue, and in popular eloquence and oratory few equalled him. 
Where he still spoke in the spirit of the Catholic past his language 
was often truly sublime. In his works of instruction and edifica 
tion he more than once reveals a depth of religious grasp which 
reminds one of the days of German mysticism. 1 

His first pupils could not sufficiently extol his gift of language. 
Justus Jonas in his panegyric on Luther declares, though his 
words are far-fetched : " Even the Chanceries have learnt from 
him, at least in part, to speak and write correct German ; for he 
revived the use of the German language so that now we are again 
able to speak and write it accurately, as many a person of degree 
must testify and witness." 2 And of the influence of his spoken 
words on people s minds Hieronymus Weller declares, that it had 
been said of him, his words " made each one fancy he could see 
into the very hearts of those troubled or tempted, and that he 
could heal wounded and broken spirits." 3 

The Spiritual Guide. 

Not merely as professor, preacher and writer, but also as 
spiritual leader, did Luther exhibit many qualities which 
add to the attraction of his picture. Whatever may be the 
habits of polemical writers, the historian who wishes to 
acquit himself properly of his task must not in so momentous 

1 " Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans.), 3, p. 238. 

2 " Leichenrede " of Feb. 19, 1546, commencement ; " Luthers 
Werke," ed. Walch, 21, p. 362* ff. 

3 " Wellers Deutsche Schriften," Tl. 3, p. 215. Before this Weller 
remarks : " For he was equal to the greatest prophets and Apostles 
in spirit, strength, wisdom, ability and experience." He attributes 
to him " a prophetical spirit, notable strength, generosity and a 
power of faith such as we read existed in the prophet Elias. ..." Great 
persecutions and temptations had been his masters and teachers ; 
they it was who had taught him the art of speaking. 



THE SPIRITUAL GUIDE 245 

a matter evade the duty of depicting the favourable as well 
as the unfavourable sides of Luther s character. 

Though Luther did not regard himself as the pastor of 
Wittenberg, yet as much depended on him there as if he 
had actually been the regular minister ; moreover, as was 
only to be expected, throughout the Saxon Electorate as 
well as in other districts won over to him, he exercised a 
certain sway. As can be proved from his letters and other 
documents, he freely offered his best services, if only for the 
good repute of the Evangel, to abolish scandals, to punish 
preachers who led bad lives, to promote attendance at 
public worship and the reception of communion, to help on 
the cause of the schools and the education of the young, and 
in every other way to amend the Christian life. 

In order to revive discipline at Wittenberg, he tried the 
effect of excommunication, though with no very con 
spicuous success. He took the brave step of placing the 
Town Commandant, Hans Metzsch, under a sort of ban 
for his notorious disregard of the Church. 1 What he then 
told the congregation was calculated to inspire a wholesome 
dread, and to recall them to their duties towards God and 
their neighbour. The incident was likely to prove all the 
more effectual seeing that Luther had on his side both Town 
Council and congregation, Metzsch having previously fallen 
out with them, a fact which undoubtedly emboldened 
Luther. 2 

When Antinomianism, with its perilous teaching against 
the binding character of the Divine Law, strove to strike 
root in the Saxon Electorate, he set himself with unusual 
vigour to combat the evil, and in his writings, sermons and 
letters set forth principles worthy of being taken to heart 
concerning the importance of the Commandments and the 
perils of self-will. Similar edifying traits are apparent in 
his struggle with other " Rotters." In the elimination of 
the sectarian element from the heart of the new faith and in 
instancing its dangers, he shows himself very emphatic, and, 
at times, the force of his reasoning is inimitable. Neither 
was he slow to find practical measures to ensure its extirpa 
tion, especially when it threatened the good name and 
stability of his work. 3 

1 Above, p. 210. 2 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, pp. 27, 37. 

3 On the inner connection between his own teaching and Antinomi 
anism and on his controversy with Agricola, see vol. v., xxix., 2 and 3. 



246 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

He exercised many of the other labours of his ministry by 
means of his writings ; with the help of his pen and the 
press, he, in his quality of spiritual guide, attacked all the 
many-sided questions of life, seeking to impart instruction 
to his followers wherever they might chance to be. No one 
so far had made such use of the newly invented art of 
printing for the purpose of exerting religious influence and 
for spiritual government. 

He despatched a vast number of circular-letters to the 
congregations, some with detailed and fervent exhortations ; 

O O 7 

his Postils on the scriptural Lessons for the Sundays and 
Feast Days he scattered far and wide amongst the masses ; 
he was also interested in good books on profane subjects, 
and exhorted all to assist in the suppression of obscene 
romances and tales; 1 he also set to work to purify ^Esop s 
Fables which, under Humanist influence, had become a 
source of corruption from filthy accretions so that they 
might be of use in the education of the young. 2 The collec 
tion of German Proverbs which he commenced was also 
intended to serve for the instruction of youth. 3 

He justly regretted that amongst the Legends of the 
Saints current amongst the people there were many 
historical untruths and impossibilities. Many of his remarks 
on these stories do credit to his critical sense, particularly 
as in his time very few had as yet concerned themselves with 
the revision of these legends. It was far from advantageous 
to ecclesiastical literature, that, in spite of the well-grounded 
objections raised by Luther and by some Catholic scholars, 
deference to old-standing tradition allowed such fictions to 
be retained and even further enhanced. " It is the devil s 
own plague," Luther groans, " that we have no reliable 
legends of the Saints. ... To correct them is an onerous 
task." " The legend of St. Catherine," he says on the same 
occasion to his friends, " is quite at variance with Roman 
history. Whoever concocted such a tale must now assuredly 
be sitting in the depths of hell." 4 He goes, however, too far 
when he says that the inaccuracies were intentional, " in 
famous " lies devised by Popery, and adds : " We never 
dared to protest against them." As though such literary and 

1 Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 504. 2 See vol. v., xxxiv., 2. 

3 E. Thiele, " Luthers Sprichwortersamml.," Weimar, 1900. 

4 Mathesius, " ^ chreden," p. 346. 



THE SPIRITUAL GUIDE 247 

often poetic outgrowths of a more childlike age were not to 
be regarded as merely harmless, and as though criticism had 
been prohibited by the Church. It is true, nevertheless, that 
criticism had not been sufficiently exercised, and if Luther s 
undertaking and the controversies of the 16th century 
helped to arouse it, or, rather, to quicken the efforts already 
made in this direction, first in the field of Bible-study and 
Church-history and then, more gradually, in that of popular 
legendary and devotional literature, no wise man can see 
therein any cause for grief. 

" An die Radherrn aller Stedte deutsches Lands, das sie 
christliche Schulen auffrichten und halten sollen " is the 
title of one of Luther s writings of 1524, in which he urges 
the erection of schools with such vigour that the circular in 
question must be assigned a high place among his hortatory 
works : " Y\ ith this writing Luther will recapture the 
affection of many of his opponents," wrote a Zwickau 
schoolmaster after reading it. 1 " Ob Kriegsleutte auch 
ynn seligem Stande seyn kiinden " (1520) is the heading of 
another broadsheet of his, dealing with the secular sword, 
the divinely established " office of war " and the rights of 
the authorities. For this Luther made use of Augustine s 
work " Contra Fauslum manichceum" 2 It is said that part 
of the proofs, without any author s name, was put into the 
hands of Duke George of Saxony ; thereupon he remarked 
to Lucas Cranach : " See, I have here a booklet which is 
better than anything Luther could do." 3 At a later date 
Luther urged the people in eloquent words to take up arms 
against the Turk, though he had at first been opposed to 
resistance ; nevertheless, he ever maintained his unfavour 
able attitude towards the Empire, already described in 
vol. iii., even on this question of such vital importance to 
Germany. He was relentless in his criticism of German 
unpreparedness for war, of the fatal habit of disregarding 
danger and of other possible sources of disaster ; he also 
advanced religious motives for joining in the war, and 
exhorted all the faithful bravely to assist by their prayers. 

Whilst these and other writings deal with practical 

1 " Briefe an Stephan Roth," ed. Buchwald (" Archiv des deutschen 
Buchhandels," 16, 1893), p. 37 ; Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 548. 

2 L. Cardauns, " Die Lehre vom Widerstande des Volkes," Bonn, 
1903, p. 125. 

3 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 10. 



248 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

questions affecting public life in which his position and 
religious ideas entitled him to interfere, a large number of 
works and pamphlets are devoted to domestic and private 
needs. In his " Trost fur die Weibern welchen es ungerat 
gegangen ist mit Kinder Geberen " (1542) he even has a kind 
word for such wives as had had a miscarriage, and consoles 
those who were troubled about the fate of their unbaptised 
infants. From the theological point of view this subject 
had, however, been treated better and more correctly by 
others before his day. He was also at his post with words 
of direction and sympathy when pestilence threatened, as 
his writing " Ob man fur dem Sterben fliehen muge " (1527) 
bears witness. He frequently composed Prefaces to books 
written by others, in order to encourage the authors and to 
help on what he considered useful works ; thus, for instance, 
he wrote a commendatory Introduction to Justus Menius s 
" CEconomia Christiana " (1529). 

The New Form of Confession, 

Luther s pastoral experience convinced him that Con 
fession was conducive to the maintenance and furtherance 
of religious life. He accordingly determined to re-introduce 
it in a new shape, i.e. without invalidating the doctrines he 
had preached concerning faith and freedom. Hence, at times 
we find him speaking almost like an apologist of the Church 
concerning this practice of earlier ages and its wholesome 
effects. He insists, however, that no confession of all 
mortal sins must be required, nor ought Confession to be 
made a duty, but merely counselled. 

In his work " Von der Beicht, ob der Bapst Macht habe 
zu gepieten " (1521) he begins one section with the words : 
; Two reasons ought to make us ready and willing to 
confess," which he then proceeds to expound quite in the 
manner of the olden Catholic works of instruction. 1 Else 
where he expresses his joy that Confession had been bestowed 
on the Church of Christ, especially for the relief of troubled 
consciences ; Confession and Absolution must not be 
allowed to fall into disuse ; to despise so costly a treasure 
would be criminal. 

Of Luther himself it is related again and again, that, after 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 176 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 307. 



THE NEW CONFESSION 249 

having confessed, he received " Absolution," either from 
Pastor Bugenhagen of Wittenberg or from someone else. 

The words Absolution and Confession must not, however, 
as already hinted, be allowed to mislead those accustomed 
to their Catholic sense. Sometimes in Catholic works we 
read quotations from Luther which convey the wrong im 
pression, that he had either retained the older doctrine 
practically entire, or at least wished to do so. So little is 
this the case, that, on the contrary, when he mentions 
Confession it is usually only to rail at the " slavery " of 
conscience and the spiritual tyranny of the past. 1 Absolu 
tion, according to him, could be received " from the lips of 
the pastor, or of some other brother." 2 Even the ordinary 
preaching of the Gospel to the faithful he considers as 
" fundamentally and at bottom an absolutio wherein 
forgiveness of sins is proclaimed." 3 In Confession there 
was no " Sacrament " in the sense that Baptism and the 
Supper were Sacraments, but merely " an exercise of the 
virtue of Baptism," an act in which the simple Word 
became a means of grace. The Word was to arouse and 
awaken in the heart of the Christian the assurance of 
forgiveness. The faith of the penitent is the sole condition 
for the appropriation of the Divine promises. 4 Of the way 
in which Luther in the Smaller Catechism nevertheless 
emphasises the significance of the Absolution given by the 
confessor, 5 Julius Kostlin says: "These statements of 
Luther s are in several ways lacking in clearness." 6 

I must, in my trouble, Luther says elsewhere of Confession, 
seek for comfort from my brother or neighbour, and " whatever 
consolation he gives me is ratified by God in heaven [ erunt 
sohita in ccelo (Mat. xviii. 18)]" ; "He consoles me in God s 
stead and God Himself speaks to me through him." " When I 
receive absolution or seek for comfort from my brother," then 
" what I hear is the voice of the Holy Ghost Himself." " It is a 
wonderful thing, that a minister of the Church or any brother 

1 Cp. vol. i., pp. 290 ff., 379 ff., 384 f. ; vol. ii., p. 59 ff. 

2 Kostlin, " Luthers Theologie," 2 2 , p. 251 ; " Opp. lat. exeg.," 
9, p. 23 ; " Werke," Weim. ed., 26, p. 220 ; Erl. ed., 23, p. 40 f. ; 46, 
p. 123. 

3 " An den Rat zu Nurnberg, Gutachten Luthers und Melanch- 
thons" (April 18, 1533); "Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 8 (" Brief wechsel" 
9, p. 292). 

4 Kostlin, ibid., p. 252 f. 5 " Werke," Erl. ed., 21, p. 17 f. 
6 Kostlin, ibid., p. 249. 



250 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

should be minister regni Dei et vitce ceternce, remissionis pecca- 
torum. . . ." l 

But all such private exercise of the power of the keys not 
withstanding, the public exercise by the ordinary ministers of 
the Church was also to be held in honour ; it was to take place 
" when the whole body of the Church was assembled." 2 In spite 
of the opposition of some he was always in favour of the general 
absolution being given during the service. 3 In this he followed 
the older practice which still exists, according to which, out of 
devotion and not with any idea of imparting a sacrament, the 
" Misereatur " and " Indulgentiam " were said over the 
assembled faithful after they had said the " Confiteor." He also 
drew up a special form for this general confession and absolu 
tion. 4 

But even such public Confession was not, however, to be made 
obligatory ; the very nature of Luther s system forbade his 
setting up rules and obligations. In the present matter Luther 
could not sufficiently emphasise the Christian s freedom, although 
this freedom, as man is constituted, could not but render im 
possible any really practical results. Hence Confession, private 
as well as public, was not to be prescribed, so much so that 
" those who prefer to confess to God alone and thereafter receive 
the Sacrament" are "quite at liberty to do so." 5 For Con 
fession was after all merely a general or particular confession 
of trouble of conscience or sinfulness, made in order to obtain 
an assurance that the sins were all forgiven. 

It was, however, of the utmost importance that the penitents 
should declare whether they knew all that was necessary about 
Christ and His saving Word, and that otherwise they should be 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 44, p. 107 ff. ; 46, p. 292 ; " Opp. lat. exeg.," 
11, p. 136. See also Kostlin, ibid., p. 250. Absolution may also be sent 
by one far away, as Luther wrote to Spalatin : " Audi et crede Us 
quce Christus per me tibi loquitur. Neque enim erro, quod scio, aut 
satanica loquor. Christus loquitur per me et iubet, utfratri tuo in communi 
fide in eum credas. Ipse absolvit te ab hoc peccato et omnibus." Aug. 
24, 1544, " Briefe," ed De Wette, 5, p. 680. 2 Ibid., 44, p. 109. 

3 At Nuremberg Osiander had opposed the general absolution, and 
then, in spite of a memorandum from Wittenberg to the contrary 
(above, p. 349, n. 3), persisted in his opposition so that the magistrates 
made another application to Wittenberg on Sep. 27 (" Brief wechsel," 
9, p. 337) and again got a similar reply (" Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 27 ; 
" Brief wechsel," 9, p. 343). In the new " memorandum " it was also 
stated that the public and the private absolution were real absolutions ; 
but Osiander was not to be compelled to give the general absolution. 

4 " Brief wechsel," 12, p. 398. Form of Absolution dated Feb. 15, 
1540, for the Nurembergers. The editor remarks : " The question 
able point in this form, viz. that the Absolution was attached to an 
eventuality ( should God to-day or to-morrow call one of you from 
this vale of tears ), and might thus be regarded as valid only in this 
event, can merely be hinted at here." 

6 These words were added by Luther in 1538 to his " Unterricht der 
Visitatorn" (1528); "Werke," Weim. ed., 26, p. 220; Erl. ed., 23, 
p. 40 f. ; Kostlin, ibid., p. 251. 



251 

instructed. " If Christians are able to give an account of their 
faith," Luther says in 1540 of the practice prevailing at Witten 
berg, " and display an earnest desire to receive the Sacrament, 
then we do not compel them to make a private Confession or to 
enumerate their sins." For instance, nobody thinks of compelling 
Master Philip (Melanchthon). " Our main reason for retaining 
Confession is for the private rehearsal of the Catechism." 1 

In 1532, amidst the disturbance caused by Dionysius Melander, 
the Zwinglian faction gained the upper hand at Frankfort on the 
Maine, and the preachers, supported by the so-called fanatics, con 
demned and mocked at the Confession, which, according to the 
Smaller Catechism, was to be made to a confessor, to be duly 
addressed as " Your Reverence." Luther, in his " Brieff an die 
zu Franckfort am Meyn " (Dec. 1532), accordingly set forth his 
ideas on Confession, in what manner it was to be retained and 
rendered useful. 2 " We do not force anyone to go to Confession," 
he there writes, " as all our writings prove, just as we do not 
enquire who rejects our Catechism and our teaching." He had 
no wish to drive proud spirits " into Christ s Kingdom by force." 
As against the self-accusation of all mortal sins required in 
Popery he had introduced a " great and sublime freedom " for 
the quieting of " agonised consciences " ; the penitent need only 
confess " some few sins which oppress him most," even this is 
not required of " those who know what sin really is," " like our 
Pastor [Bugenhagen] and our Vicar, Master Philip." " But 
because of the dear young people who are daily growing up and 
of the common folk who understand but little, we retain the 
usage in order that they may be trained in Christian discipline 
and understanding. For the object of such Confession is not 
merely that we may hear the sins, but that we may learn whether 
they are acquainted with the Our Father, the Creed, the Ten 
Commandments and all that is comprised in the Catechism. . . . 
Where can this be better done, and when is it more necessary 
than when they are about to approach the Sacrament ? " 

" Thus, previously [to the Supper], the common people are to 
be examined and made to say whether they know the articles of 
the Catechism and understand what it is to sin against them, and 
if they will for the future learn more and amend, and otherwise 
are not to be admitted to the Sacrament." " But if a pastor who 
is unable at all times and places to preach God s Word to the 
people, takes advantage of such time and place as offers when 
they come to Confession, isn t there just the devil of a row ! As 
if, forsooth, he were acting contrary to God s command, and as if 
those fanatics were saints, who would prevent him from teaching 
God s Word at such a time and place, when in reality we are 
bound to teach it in all places and at all times when or where 
soever we can." 4 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 185. 

2 "Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 558 ff. ; Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 372 
(" Brief wechsel," 9, p. 251). 

3 P. 565 ff. = 381 ff. 4 P. 567 f. = 383, 385. 



252 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

This instruction, which is the " main reason " for retaining 
Confession, is to be followed, according to the same letter, by 
" the Absolutio " pronounced by the preacher in God s stead, 
i.e. by the word of the confessor which may " comfort the heart 
and confirm it in the faith." Of this same word Luther says : 
" Who is there who has climbed so high as to be able to dispense 
with or to despise God s Word ? "* 

It is in the light of such explanations that we must 
appreciate the fine things in praise of Confession, so fre 
quently quoted, which Luther says in his letter to Frankfurt. 

Luther goes on to make an admission which certainly 
does him honour : " And for this [the consolation and 
strength it affords] I myself stand most in need of Con 
fession, and neither will nor can do without it ; for it 
has given me, and still gives me daily, great comfort when 
I am sad and in trouble. But the fanatics, because they 
trust in themselves and are unacquainted with sadness, are 
ready to despise this medicine and solace." 

He had already said : "If thousands and thousands of 
worlds were, mine, I should still prefer to lose everything 
rather than that one little bit of this Confessio n should be 
lost to the churches. Nay, I would prefer the Popish 
tyranny, with its feasts, fasts, vestments, holy places, 
tonsures, cowls and whatever I might bear without damage 
to the faith, rather than that Christians should be deprived 
of Confession. For it is the Christian s first, most necessary 
and useful school, where he learns to understand and to 
practise God s Word and his faith, which cannot be so 
thoroughly done in public lectures and sermons." 2 

" Christians are not to be deprived of Confession." On 
this, and for the same reasons, Luther had already insisted 
in the booklet on Confession he had published in 1529. The 
booklet first appeared as an appendix to an edition of his 
Greater Catechism published in that year, and is little more 
than an amended version of Rorer s notes of his Palm 
Sunday sermon in 1529. 3 

In this booklet on Confession, also entitled " A Short 
Exhortation to Confession," 4 he says of the "secret Con 
fession made to a brother alone " : " Where there is some 
thing special that oppresses or troubles us, worries us and 

1 P. 569 = 386. 2 P. 569 = 385. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 29, p. 133 f. 

4 Ibid., Erl. ed., 23, p. 87 ff. 



THE NEW CONFESSION 253 

will give us no rest, or if we find ourselves halting in our 
faith," we should " complain of this to a brother and seek 
counsel, consolation and strength." " Where a heart feels 
its sinfulness and is desirous of comfort, it has here a sure 
refuge where it may find and hear God s Word." " Who 
ever is a Christian, or wishes to become one, is hereby given 
the good advice to go and fetch the precious treasure." 
" Thus we teach now what an excellent, costly and consoling 
thing Confession is, and admonish all not to despise so fine 
a possession." As the " parched and hunted hart " panteth 
after the fountains, so ought our soul to pant after " God s 
Word or Absolution." The zeal expected of the penitent is 
well described, but here, as is so often the case with Luther, 
we again find the mistake resulting from his false idealism, 
viz. that, after doing away with all obligation properly so 
called, personal fervour and the faith he preached would 
continue to supply the needful. 

Before Luther s day Confession had been extolled on 
higher grounds than merely on account of the comfort and 
instruction it afforded. It had been recognised as a true 
Sacrament instituted by Christ for the forgiveness of sins, 
and committed by Him with the words " Whose sins you 
shall forgive," etc. (John xx. 22 f.), to the exercise of duly 
appointed ministers. Yet the earlier religious literature 
had not been behindhand in pointing out how great a boon 
it was for the human heart to be able to pour its troubles 
into the ears of a wise and kindly guide, who could impart 
a true absolution and pour the balm of consolation and the 
light of instruction into the soul kneeling humbly before 
him as God s own representative. 

As regards the instruction, on which Luther lays such stress as 
the " main reason " for retaining the practice, the Catholic 
Confession handbooks of that period, particularly some recently 
re-edited, show how careful the Church was about this matter. 

Franz Falk has recently made public three such handbooks, of 
which very few copies were hitherto known. 1 One of these is the 
work of a priest of Frankfurt a. M., Magister Johann Wolff (Lupi), 
and was first published in 1478 ; the second is a block-book 
containing a preparation for Confession, probably printed at 
Nuremberg in 1475 ; the third an Augsburg manual of Con- 

1 " Drei Beichtbiichlein nach den Zehngeboten aus der Fruhzeit 
der Buchdrackerkunst," Monster, 1907 (" Reformationsgesch. Studien 
und Texte," Hft. 2). 



254 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

fession printed in 1504. The last two were intended more for 
popular use and give the sins in the order of the Decalogue. 
The first, by Wolff, pastor of St. Peter s at Frankfurt, consists of 
two parts, one for children, the other for " older people, learned 
or unlearned," containing examinations of conscience, very 
detailed and explicit in some parts, into the sins against the Ten 
Commandments, the seven capital sins, and, finally, the sins 
committed with " the five outward senses." The examina 
tion of conscience for children, for the sake of instruction also 
includes the Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed and Decalogue, also 
the list of capital sins, Sacraments and Eight Beatitudes. The 
copious Latin tags from Peter Lombard, Scotus, Gerson, etc., 
point to the manual having been meant primarily as a guide for 
the clergy, on whom an appendix also impresses the advantages 
of a frequent explanation of the Ten Commandments from the 
pulpit. Schoolmasters too, so the manual says, should also be 
urged to instruct on the Commandments those committed to 
their care. Luther s manual on Confession contains so many 
echoes of Wolff s work (or of other Catholic penitential hand 
books) that one of Wolff s Protestant editors remarks : " Such 
agreement is certainly more than a mere chance coincidence," 
and, further : "It is difficult in view of the great resemblance of 
thought, and in places even of language, not to assume that the 
younger man is indebted to his predecessor." 1 However this 
may be, Wolff s work, though- holding no very high place as 
regards either arrangement or style, clearly expresses the general 
trend of the Catholic teaching on morality at that time, and 
refutes anew the unfounded charge that religious instruction for 
the people was entirely absent. 

"We see how mature and keen in many particulars was the 
moral sense in that much-abused period. . . . The author is 
not satisfied with merely an outward, pharisaical righteousness, 
but the spirit is what he everywhere insists on. . . . He also 
defines righteousness ... as absolute uprightness of spirit, thank 
ful, devoted love of God and pure charity towards our neigh 
bour, free from all ulterior motive." These words, of the " Leip- 
ziger Zeitung " (" Wissenschaftliche Beilage," No. 10, 1896), 
regarding the Leipzig " Beichtspiegel " of 1495, Falk applies 
equally to Wolff s handbook for Confession. 2 

This latter instruction dwells particularly on the need of 
" contrition, sorrow and grief for sin " on the part of the penitent. 

1 F. W. Battenberg, " Beichtbiichlein dcs Mag. Wolff," Giessen, 
1907, pp. 189, 205. 

2 Falk, ibid., p. 13. Falk also quotes (p. 14) a noteworthy observa 
tion of Luthmer s (" Zeitschr. fur christl. Kunst," 9, p. 5) : "The close 
of the 15th century was the time when the Decalogue, as the starting- 
point for Confession, was most frequently commentated, described and 
depicted pictorially. For those unable to read, tables with the Com 
mandments luridly pictured hung in the churches, schools and re 
ligious institutions, and the books on this subject were abundantly 
illustrated with woodcuts." 



THE NEW CONFESSION 255 

N. Paulus, in several articles, has furnished superabundant proof, 
that in those years, which some would have us believe were 
addicted to the crassest externalism, the need of contrition in 
Confession was earnestly dwelt upon in German religious writings. 1 

Luther, however, even in the early days of his change, 
under the influence of a certain distaste and prejudice in 
favour of his own pet ideas, had conceived an aversion for 
Confession. Here again his opposition was based on purely 
personal, psychological grounds. The terrors he had en 
dured in Confession owing to his curious mental constitu 
tion, his enmity to all so-called holiness-by-works leading 
him to undervalue the Church s ancient institution of 
Confession and the steadily growing influence of his 
prejudices and polemics, alone explain how he descended 
so often to the most odious and untrue misrepresentations 
of Confession as practised by the Papists. 

What in the depths of his heart he really desired, and 
what he openly called for, viz. a Confession which should 
heal the wounds of the soul and, by an enlightened faith, 
promote moral betterment that, alas, he himself had 
destroyed with a violent hand. 

In his letter to Frankfurt quoted above he abuses the 
Catholic system of Confession because it requires the 
admission of all mortal sins, and calls it " a great and ever 
lasting martyrdom," " trumped up as a good work whereby 
God may be placated." He calumniates the Catholic past 
by declaring it did nothing but " count up sins " and that 
" the insufferable burden, and the impossibility of obeying 
the Papal law caused such fear and distress to timorous souls 
that they were driven to despair." And, in order that the 
most odious charge may not be wanting, he concludes : 
" This brought in money and goods, so that it became an 
idol throughout the whole world, but it was no doctrine, 
examination or exercise leading to the confession and 
acknowledgment of Christ." 2 The fables which he bolstered 

" Die Reue in den deutschen Beichtschriften des ausgehenden 
MA.," in "Zeitschr. fur kath. Theol.," 28, 1904, pp. 1-36. " In den 
deutschen Erbauungsschriften des ausgehenden MA.," ibid., pp. 440-485. 
" In den deutschen Sterbebtichlein des ausgehenden MA.," ibid., 
pp. 682-698. Cp. also, Luzian Pfleger, " Die Reue in der deutschen 
Dichtung des MA." (" Wiss. Beil. zur Germania," 1910, Nos. 45-47). 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, pp. 566, 568 f. ; Erl. ed., 26 2 , pp. 382, 
385. 



256 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

up on certain abuses, of which even the Papal penitentiary 
was guilty, were only too readily believed by the masses. 1 

Church Music. 

In order to enliven the church services Luther greatly 
favoured congregational singing. Of his important and 
successful labours in this direction we shall merely say here, 
that he himself composed canticles instinct with melody 
and force, which were either set to music by others or sung 
to olden Catholic tunes, and became hugely popular among 
Protestants, chiefly because their wording expresses so well 
the feelings of the assembled congregation. One of Luther s 
Hymnbooks, with twenty-four hymns composed by himself, 
appeared in 1524. 2 

Music, particularly religious music, he loved and cherished, 
yielding himself entirely to the enjoyment of its inspiring 
and ennobling influence. As a schoolboy he had earned 
his bread by singing ; at the University he delighted his 
comrades by his playing on the lute ; later he never willingly 
relinquished music, and took care that the hours of recrea 
tion should be gladdened by the singing of various motets. 3 
Music, he said, dispelled sad thoughts and was a marvellous 
cure for melancholy. In his Table-Talk he describes the 
moral influence of music in language truly striking. 4 " My 
heart overflows and expands to music ; it has so often 
refreshed and delivered me amidst the worst troubles," thus 
to the musician Senfl at Munich \vhen asking him to com 
pose a motet. 5 He supplied an Introduction in the shape of 
a poem entitled " Dame Music " to Johann Walther s " The 
Praise and Prize of the lovely art of Music " (1538). It 
commences : 6 There can be no ill-will here Where all sing 
with voices clear Hate or envy, wrath or rage, When 
sweet strains our minds engage. Being himself conversant 
with musical composition, he took pleasure in Walther s 

1 Cp. on the abuses of the Penitentiary and for an elucidation of 
certain misunderstandings, E. G oiler, " Die papstl. Ponitentiaric von 
ihrem Ursprung bis . . . Pius V.," 2 vols., Rome, 1907-1911. 

2 More on Luther and Hymnology in vol. v., xxxiv., 4. 

3 See Mathesius, " Tischreden," pp. Ill, 150, 389: " eyregias 
cantilenas post ccenam cecinerunt." He himself on one occasion sung 
" octavo tono," ibid., p. 332 ; cp. p. 391. 

4 Cp., e.g., " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 307 ; " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 
3, p. 148 seq. 

5 See vol. ii., p. 171 f. 6 The whole in Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 503. 



A MAN OF FEELING 257 

description of counterpoint and in his ingenious comparison 
of the sequence of melodies to a troop of boys at play. 

Grauert admirably groups together " Luther s poetic 
talent, the gift of language, which enabled him so to master 
German, his work for German hymnology, his enthusiastic 
love of music, of which he well knew the importance as a 
moral factor, and his familiarity with the higher forms of 
polyphonic composition." He also remarks quite rightly 
that these favourable traits had been admitted unreservedly 
by Johannes Janssen. 1 

2. Emotional Character and Intellectual Gifts 
The traits mentioned above could hardly be duly appreci 
ated unless we also took into account certain natural 
qualities in Luther from which his depth of feeling sprang. 

A Catholic has recently called him an " emotional man," 
and, so far as thereby his great gifts of intellect and will are 
not called into question, the description may be allowed to 
stand. 2 Especially is this apparent in his peculiar humour, 
which cannot fail to charm by its freshness and spontaneity 
all who know his writings and his Table-Talk, even though 
his witticisms quite clearly often served to screen his bitter 
vexation, or to help him to react against depression, and were 
frequently disfigured by obscenity and malice. 3 It is a more 
grateful task to observe the deep feeling expressed in his 
popular treatment of religious topics. Johannes Janssen 
declares that he finds in him " more than once a depth of 
religious grasp which reminds one of the days of German 
mysticism," 4 while George Evers, in a work otherwise 
hostile to Luther, admits : " We must acknowledge that a 
truly Christian credulity peeps out everywhere, and, par 
ticularly in the Table-Talk, is so simple and childlike as to 
appeal to every heart." Evers even adds : " His religious 
life as pictured there gives the impression of a man of 
prayer." 5 

1 Grauert, " Heinrich Denifle," 2 1906, p. 7. 

2 " He possessed all the gifts which go to make an emotional man, 
as is apparent everywhere ; depth, however, and true inwardness were 
not his." A. M. Weiss, " Lutherpsychologie," 2 p. 223. What he says 
of Luther s " depth " must be read in the light of what is said in the 
text above. 

3 See vol. v., xxxi., 5. 4 Above, p. 244. 

5 Evers, " Martin Luther," 6, p. 701. Further details on Luther s 
prayers below, p. 274 ff. 

IV. S 



258 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The circumstantial and reliable account given by Johann 
Cochlacus of an interview which he had with Luther at 
Worms in 1521 gives us a certain glimpse into the latter s 
feelings at that critical juncture. After holding a lengthy 
disputation together, the pair withdrew into another room 
where Cochlacus implored his opponent to admit his errors 
and to make an end of the scandal he was giving to souls. 
Both were so much moved that the tears came to their eyes. 
" I call God to witness," writes Cochlaeus, " that I spoke to 
him faithfully and with absolute conviction." He pointed 
out to him as a friend how willing the Pope and all his 
opponents were to forgive him ; he was perfectly ready to 
admit and condemn the abuses in connection with the 
indulgences against which Luther had protested ; his 
religious apostasy and the revolt of the peasants whom he 
was leading astray were, however, a different matter. The 
matter was frankly discussed between the two, partly in 
German, partly in Latin. Luther finally mastered the 
storm obviously raging within and brought the conversation 
to an end by stating that it did not rest with him to undo 
what had been done, and that greater and more learned men 
than he were behind it. On bidding him farewell, Cochkeus 
assured him with honest regret that he would continue the 
literary feud ; Luther, for his part, promised to answer him 
vigorously. 1 

Luther s mental endowments were great and unique. 

Nature had bestowed on him such mental gifts as must 
astonish all, the more they study his personality. His 
extraordinary success was due in great part to these rare 
qualities, which were certainly calculated to make of him a 
man truly illustrious had he not abused them. His lively 
reason, quick grasp and ready tongue, his mind, so well 
stocked with ideas, and, particularly, the inexhaustible 
fertility of his imagination, allowing him to express himself 
with such ease and originality, enchanted all who came into 
contact with him. 

Pollich of Mellerstadt, one of the most highly respected Pro 
fessors of the Wittenberg University, said of Luther, when as yet 

1 The account by Cochlseus, taken from a special print of 1540 
"of which sufficient account has hardly been made," in Enders, 
" Luthers Briefwechsel," 3, p. 174 ff. New edition of the " Colloqium 
Cochlcei," by J. Greving, in " Flugschriften aus den ersten Jahren 
der Reformation," 4, Hft. 3, Leipzig, 1910. 



HIS TALENTS 259 

the latter was scarcely known : " Keep an eye on that young 
monk, Master Martin Luther, he has a reason so fine and keen 
as I have not come across in all my life ; he will certainly become 
a man of eminence." 1 Jonas, his friend, assures us that others 
too, amongst them Lang and Staupitz, admitted they had never 
known a man of such extraordinary talent. 2 Urban Rhegius, 
who visited him in 1534, in the report he gives shows himself 
quite overpowered by Luther s mind and talent : " He is a 
theologian such as we rarely meet. I have always thought much 
of Luther, but now I think of him more highly than ever. For 
now I have seen and heard what cannot be explained in writing 
to anyone not present. ... I will tell you how I feel. It is true 
we all of us write occasionally and expound the Scriptures, but, 
compared with Luther, we are children and mere schoolboys." 3 
His friends generally stood in a certain awe of his greatness, 
though, in their case, we can account otherwise for their admira 
tion. Later writers too, even amongst the Catholics, felt in the 
imposing language of his writings the working of a powerful mind, 
much as they regretted his abuse of his gifts. " His mind was 
both sharp and active," such was the opinion of Sforza Pallavicini, 
the Jesuit author of a famous history of the Council of Trent ; 
" he was made for learned studies and pursued them without 
fatigue to either mind or body. His learning seemed his greatest 
possession, and this he was wont to display in his discourse. In 
him felicity of expression was united with a stormy energy. 
Thereby he won the applause of those who trust more to appear 
ance than to reality. His talents filled him with a self-reliance 
which the respect shown him by the masses only intensified." 4 
" Luther s mind was a fertile one," he writes elsewhere, " but its 
fruits were more often sour than ripe, more often abortions of a 
giant than viable offspring." 5 His alert and too-prolific fancy 
even endangered his other gifts by putting in the shade his real 
intellectual endowments. " His imagination," Albert Weiss 
truly says, " was, next to his will, the most strongly developed of 
his inner faculties, and as powerful as it was clear. Herein 
chiefly lies the secret of his power of language." 6 

To his temperamental and intellectual qualities, which 
undoubtedly stamped his works with the impress of a 
" giant," we must add his obstinate strength of will and his 
extraordinary tenacity of purpose. 

1 So Jonas declares in his funeral address on Luther. " Luthers 
Werke," ed. Walch, 21, p. 362* ff. 

2 Ibid. 3 In Uhlhorn, " Urbanus Rhegius," 1861, p. 159 f. 

* " Storia del Concilio di Trento," 1, 4, Roma, 1664, 1, p. 58. Hefe 
we read : " Non essendo povero di letteratura, ne pareva ricchissimo, 
perche portava tutto il suo capitale nella punta della lingua." 

5 6, 10 (i., p. 691); Denifle ("Luther und Luthertum," I 2 , p. 24) 
calls Luther " not merely talented, but in many points very much so." 
Ibid., p. xxv., he enumerates Luther s " good natural qualities," which 
ho is ready to prize. 6 " Lutherpsychologie," 2 p. 225. 



260 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Were it possible to separate his will from his aims and 
means, and to appreciate it apart, then one could scarcely 
rate it high enough. Thousands, even of the bravest, would 
have quailed before the difficulties he had to face both 
without and within his camp. The secret of his success 
lay simply in his ability to rise superior to every difficulty, 
thanks to his defiance and power of will. Humanly it is 
hard to understand how all attacks and defeats only served 
to embolden him. Protestants have spoken of the " de 
moniacal greatness " manifest in Luther, have called him a 
man of " huge proportions and power " in whose " breast 
two worlds wrestled," and, on account of his " heroic 
character," have even claimed that history should overlook 
" the vices proper to heroes." 1 

Among Catholic writers the earlier Dollinger, for all his 
aversion for Luther s purpose and the weapons he employed, 
nevertheless says of him : "If such a one is justly to be 
styled a great man, who, thanks to his mighty gifts and 
powers, accomplishes great things and brings millions of 
minds under his sway then the son of the peasant of Mohra 
must be reckoned among the great, yea, among the greatest 
of men." 2 Upon the disputed definition of " greatness " 
we cannot enter here. (See vol. vi., xl., 1.) Yet, in view 
of the intellectual gifts lavished on Luther, Dollinger s 
words are undoubtedly not far away from the mark, par 
ticularly when we consider his gigantic .capacity for work 
and the amazing extent of his literary labours, distracted 
though he was by other cares. 

We have already had occasion to give the long list of the 
works he penned in 1529 and 1530, 3 and we may add some 
further examples. In 1521, in which year he lost over five 
weeks in travelling, not to speak of the correspondence and 
other business which claimed his attention in that exciting 
period of his life, he still found time to write more than 
twenty works of varying length which in the Weimar 
edition cover 985 large octavo pages ; he also translated a 
book by Melanchthon into German, commenced his transla 
tion of the Bible and his church Postils. In 1523 he pro 
duced no less than twenty-four books and pamphlets, and, 

1 Seeberg, " Luther und Luthertum in der neuesten kath. Beleuch- 
tung " (a reply to Denifle), 1904. 

2 " Luther, eine Skizze," p. 51 ; " KL." 2 8, col. 339. 

3 Vol. iii., p. 298 f. ; and vol. ii., p. 160. 



ZEAL FOR WORK 261 

besides this, his lectures on Deuteronomy (247 pages in the 
Weimar edition) and a German translation of the whole 
Pentateuch. He also preached about 150 sermons, planned 
other works and wrote the usual flood of letters, of which 
only a few, viz. 112, have been preserved, amongst them 
being some practically treatises in themselves and which 
duly appeared in print. Even in 1545, when already quite 
broken down in health and when two months were spent in 
travelling, he managed with a last effort, inspired by his 
deadly hate, to compose even so considerable a book as his 
" Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft," as well 
as other smaller writings and the usual number of private 
letters, circulars, and memoranda." 1 At the very end he 
told his friend, the preacher Jacob Probst, that he meant to 
work without intermission though old and weary, with a 
failing eyesight and a body racked with pain. 

These labours, of which the simple enumeration of his 
books gives us an inkling, even the most fertile mind could 
have performed only by utilising every moment of his time 
and by renouncing all the allurements to distraction and 
repose. The early hours of the morning found Luther 
regularly in his study, and, in the evening, after his conversa 
tion with his friends, he was wont to betake himself early 
to bed so as to be able to enjoy that good sleep, without 
which, he declared, he could not meet the demands made 
upon him. 

That, however, behind all his fiery zeal for work, certain 
moral influences not of the highest also had a share is 
obvious from what has been said previously. 

3. Intercourse with Friends. The Interior of the former 

Augustinian Monastery 

Hitherto we have been considering the favourable traits 
in Luther s character as a public man ; turning to his 
quieter life at Wittenberg, we shall find no lack of similar 
evidences. 2 We must begin by asking impartially whether 

1 Cp. H. Bohmer, "Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung," 2 
p. 115. 

2 There is no sufficient ground for charging the earlier Catholic 
accounts of Luther with having said nothing of his better side. It is 
true that in self-defence, and following the usual method of controversy, 
they did insist rather too much on what was objectionable the Jesuits 
of the IGth and 17th centuries being no exception to the rule without 



262 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the notorious Table-Talk does not reveal a better side of his 
character. 

The question must be answered in the affirmative by every 
unprejudiced reader of those notes. Luther s gifts of mind 
and temperament, his versatility, liveliness of imagination, 
easy use of Scripture and insight even into worldly matters ; 
further his rare talent of simple narration, and not seldom 
the very subjects he chooses give a real worth to Luther s 
Table-Talk, notwithstanding all that may be urged against 
it. It is accordingly the historian s duty faithfully to portray 
its better side. 

The more favourable side of the Table-Talk. 

Any comprehensive judgment on the Table-Talk as a 
whole is out of the question ; with its changing forms and 
colours and its treatment of the subjects it is altogether too 

sufficiently discriminating between what was true and what was false 
(B. Duhr, s. j., " Gesch. der Jesuiten in den Landern deutscher Zunge," 
1907, p. 681). Luther himself was, however, partly to blame for this, 
owing to the quantity of unfavourable material he provided. But, 
after the first heat of battle was over, even in the days of Caspar 
Ulenberg, the Cologne parish priest, who, in 1589, wrote a biography 
of Luther, there have always been numbers of Catholic writers ready 
to admit the good there was in Luther. At the present day appreciative 
passages abound both in general encyclopaedias and in handbooks 
written for students. To mention some examples, H. Briick (" Lehrb. 
der KG.") speaks of Luther s "sparkling imagination, his popular 
eloquence, which was its consequence, and of his indefatigable 
capacity for work"; also of his "disinterestedness." J. Alzog says 
(" Universalgesch. der christl. Kirche ") : " He did not lack the deeper 
religious feeling which seeks its satisfaction." J. A. Mohler ("KG.") 
writes : " He may be compared for his power to the great conquerors 
of the world ; like them, too, he knew no other law than his own will." 
J. v. Dollinger (as yet still a Catholic) says of him ("KL." 2 ), that he 
was a " sympathetic friend, free from avarice and greed of money," 
and ever " ready to assist others " ; "he possessed undeniably great 
rhetorical talent in dialectic and a wonderful gift of carrying men 
away." In Herder s " Konvcrsationslexikon," 5 3 (1905), we read of 
Luther : "In the circle of his friends ... he knew how to speak 
thoughtfully of matters of theology. . . . His family life had its finer 
side ... he was a staunch advocate of conjugal fidelity in his sermons 
and elsewhere. . . . What he taught concerning the dignity of worldly 
callings was in many instances quite right and true. ... In the works 
he intended for edification he gave his followers stimulating food for 
thought, drawn from the treasure-house of the truths of Christianity 
and of nature. . . . He promoted a more diligent study of Holy 
Scripture and the cause of positive theology to much effect. His art 
of using his native tongue was of great service in furthering the 
language. His translation of the whole Bible stands as a linguistic 
monument to him. . . . The powerful hymns he composed are also 
treasured by the whole Protestant world." 



BETTER SIDE OF TABLE-TALK 263 

kaleidoscopic. Again, in conjunction with what is good and 
attractive, frivolous, nay, even offensive and objectionable 
subjects are dealt with, for which the reader is in no wise 
prepared. 1 

It is necessary to emphasise the fact which may be new 
to some that to regard the Table-Talk as a hotch-potch of 
foul sayings is to do it an injustice. Catholics, as a matter of 
course, are used to finding in anti-Lutheran polemics 
plentiful quotations from it not at all to Luther s credit ; 
of its better contents, a knowledge of which is of even 
greater importance in forming an opinion of his character, 
no hint is contained in this sort of literature. Some are even 
ignorant that Protestant writers have more than compen 
sated for this undue stress on the unfavourable side of the 
Table-Talk by the attractive selection they give from its 
finer parts. 

In point of fact the subject of Luther s conversations is, 
not infrequently, the attributes of God ; for instance, His 
mercy and love ; the duties of the faithful towards God and 
their moral obligations in whatever state of life they be 
placed ; hints to the clergy on the best way to preach or to 
instruct the young; not to speak of other observations 
regarding neighbourly charity, the vices of the age and the 
virtues or faults of great personages of that day, or of the 
past. Luther was fond of discoursing on subjects which, in 
his opinion, would prove profitable to those present, though 
often his object was merely to enliven and amuse the 
company. 

The tone and the choice of his more serious discourses fre 
quently show us that he was not unmindful of the fact, that 
his words would be heard by others beyond the narrow circle 
of his private guests ; he was aware that what he said was 
noted down, and not unfrequently requested the reporters to 
commit this or that to writing, knowing very well that such 
notes would circulate. 2 At times, however, he seemed to 
become forgetful of this, and allowed observations to escape 
him w r hich caused many of his oldest admirers to regret the 
publication of the Table-Talk. A large number of state 
ments made by him on the spur of the moment must, 
moreover, not be taken too seriously, for they are either 

1 For the collections of the Table-Talk see vol. iii., p. 218 ff. 

2 See vol. iii., p. 223. 



264 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

in contradiction with other utterances or are practically 
explained away elsewhere. 

Thus, for instance, in a conversation in the winter of 1542-1543, 
occur the following words which really do him honour : " God 
has preserved the Church by means of the schools ; they it is 
that keep the Church standing. Schools are not very imposing 
as to their exterior, yet they are of the greatest use. It was to 
the schools that the little boys owed their knowledge of the 
Paternoster and the Creed, and the Church has been wonderfully 
preserved by means of the small schools." 1 Yet, at an earlier 
date, he had said just the contrary, viz. that before his day the 
young had been allowed to drift to wreck and ruin, owing to entire 
lack of instruction. 

On certain religious subjects he could speak with deep feeling. 2 
Compare, for instance, what he says of Christ s intercourse with 
His disciples. 

" In what a friendly way," Luther remarks, " did He behave 
towards His disciples ! How charming were all His dealings with 
them ! I quite believe what is related of Peter, viz. that, after 
Christ s Ascension, he was always weeping and wiping his eyes 
with a handkerchief till they grew quite red ; when asked the 
cause of his grief, he replied, he could not help shedding tears 
when he remembered the friendly intercourse they had had with 
Christ the Lord. Christ indeed treats us just as He did His 
disciples, if only we would but believe it ; but our eyes are not 
open to the fact. It was a real wonder how they [the Apostles] 
were so altered in mind at Pentecost. Ah, the disciples must 
have been fine fellows to have been witnesses of such things and 
to have had such fellowship with Christ the Lord ! " 3 

Immediately after this, however, we hear him inveighing 
against the Pope with statements incredibly false, 4 whilst, just 
before, in another conversation, he had introduced his favourite 
error concerning Justification by Faith. 5 

It may suffice to keep to the dozen pages or so 6 from which the 
above kindlier samples were extracted, to become acquainted 
with the wealth of good interspersed amongst so much that is 
worthless, and at the same time to appreciate how lively his 
mind and his powers of observation still remained even when 
increasing years and persistent bad health were becoming a 
burden to him. 

As to the way in which his then sayings were handed down, we 
may state, that, in the winter of 1542-1543, Caspar Heydenreich, 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 311. 

2 Cp. the emotion which accompanied another fine utterance 
spoken " ex pleno et accenso corde " (Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 23). 
There Luther was speaking of the profundity of the Word of God and 
of reliance on His Promises. See also below, p. 265. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 309. 

* Ibid., p. 311, with the heading " Papce iyrannis." 
6 Ibid., p. 310. Ibid., pp. 310-322. 



BETTER SIDE OF TABLE-TALK 265 

who had already officiated as pastor of Joachimstal, was present 
at Luther s table and wrote down these and other remarks as 
they dropped from the speaker s lips ; they were afterwards 
incorporated in Mathesius collection. In the original they are 
partly in Latin, partly in German, and betray not the slightest 
attempt at polish. The reason that we thus find Latin passages 
in reports of German conversations is that the reporter, in order 
to take down more rapidly what he heard, at times made use of 
shorthand, then only employed for Latin. Others who reported 
the Table-Talk had recourse to the same device. The conse 
quence is, that, in the recent German editions of the Table- 
Talk, we find in one and the same conversation some sentences 
in the Old German Luther actually used, and others in present- 
day German, the latter being merely translations from the Latin. 

After discoursing at length on the fact that schools ought to be 
carefully cherished for the sake of the coming generation of 
Church teachers, he says : " The work of the schools is not 
brilliant in the eyes of the world, but it is of the greatest utility." 
(No. 609 ; then follows the praise of the old schools already 
recorded.) "Wealth is the most insignificant thing in the 
world, the meanest gift in God s power to bestow on man. What 
is it compared with the Word of God ? Indeed, what is it com 
pared with bodily endowments, or with beauty, or with the gifts 
of the soul ? and yet people fret so much for it. Material, formal, 
efficient and final causes here fare badly. For this reason the 
Almighty usually gives riches to rude donkeys upon whom He 
bestows nothing else " (611). 

Luther relates incidentally that his father Hans, who died at 
Mansfeld in 1530, when asked on his death-bed whether he 
believed in the Apostles Creed, replied : " He would indeed be a 
scoundrel who refused to believe that." " That," aptly remarked 
Luther, " is a voice from the old world " ; whereupon Melanch- 
thon chimed in : " Happy those who die in the knowledge of 
Christ as did your [daughter] Magdalene [f Sep. 20, 1542] ; the 
older we grow the more foolish we become. . . . When we grow 
up we begin to dispute and want to be wise, and yet we are the 
biggest fools " (615). 

According to Luther, God s most grievous wrath then rested 
on the Jews. They are blinded, pray fanatically and yet are not 
heard. " Oh, dear God, rather than remain silent do Thou 
punish us with pestilence, the French disease and whatever 
other dreadful maladies the soldiers curse. God says : I have 
stretched out My hands ; come, give ear, draw nigh to Me ! 
[The Jews reply] : We won t. [God says] : You have Isaias ; 
hear him. [They scream] : Yah, we will kill him ! [God says] : 
Here is My Son ! [They reply] : Out on Him ! Hence Our Lord 
God now treats them as we see. That is how abandoned children 
fare, who refuse to obey their parents and are therefore deserted 
by them. No one has ever written concerning this wrath of God, 
nor is anyone able to do so ; no eloquence can plumb the depths 
of this wrath. O Heavenly Father [this he said with clasped 



266 

hands] allow us to enjoy the sunshine and permit us not to fall 
away from the Word ! Just fancy, for fifteen hundred years the 
Jews have groaned under His Wrath ! And what will be the end 
of it all ? Alas, there will be a dreadful scene in hell ! " (608). 

Against the Jews he was very bitter. It was related at table, 
that, in spite of the two books Luther had recently published, the 
Hebrews stood in favour with the Counts of Mansfeld, and, from 
their synagogue, had even dared to hurl at an Eisleben preacher 
the opprobrious epithet of Goim. Luther replied that if he were 
pastor and Court Chaplain there like Coolius, or even a simple 
preacher, he would at once resign his post. When it was re 
marked that the Jews knew how to curry favour with the great, 
his comment was : " The devil can do much." On being asked 
whether it would be right to box the ears of a Jew who uttered a 
blasphemy, he replied, " Certainly ; I for one would smack him 
on the jaw. Were I able, I would knock him down and stab him 
in my anger. If it is lawful, according to both the human and the 
Divine law, to kill a robber, then it is surely even more permissible 
to slay a blasphemer." To the observation of one of his guests 
that the Jews boasted, that, of the two, the Christians were the 
worse usurers, Luther said : " That is quite true. At Leipzigk 
there are greater usurers than the Jews. But a distinction must 
be drawn." Among the Jews usury is made the rule, whereas 
amongst the Christians it is repressed. " We preach against it 
and are heartily opposed to it ; with them this is not the case " 
(628). 

In a similar strain, in the dozen pages under consideration, he 
touches on many other instructive subjects, whether connected 
with questions of the day, or with religion, or the Bible. He 
portrays with a clear hand the dominant idea of the Book of Job, 
in comparison with which all the dramatic force of the Greek 
plays was as nothing (616) ; he expounds the narratives of 
Christ s Prayer in the Garden of Olives, where He suffered 
indescribable pains for our sins (626) ; in answer to a query he 
speaks of the anointing of Our Lord s feet by Magdalene, and 
observes, referring to the censure drawn from Judas by his 
avarice : " That is the way of the world and the devil ; what 
should be blamed is praised, and what should be praised is 
blamed " (627). "What he says of the vast number of the slain, 
alluded to so frequently in the Old Testament, was probably also 
called forth by some questioner (612). Amidst this recur new 
invectives against the Jews and their magic ; never ought we to 
eat or drink with them (619) ; also against the Turks and their 
bigotry and unbelief ; the latter resembled the fanatics in that, 
like them, they refused to doubt their revelations ; this he proved 
by certain instances (620). He speaks of the strong faith of 
simple Christians with feeling and not without envy (614). He 
extols the power of prayer for others, and proves it not merely 
from Biblical texts and examples, but also from his own experi 
ence ; " we, too, prayed Philip back to life. Verily prayer can 
do much. . . God does not reward it with a certain, fixed 



BETTER SIDE OF TABLE-TALK 267 

measure, but with a measure pressed and running over, as He 
says. ... A powerful thing is prayer, if only I could believe it, 
for God has bound and pledged Himself by it " (617). 

Dealing with astrology, he demonstrates its folly by a lengthy 
and very striking argument ; when it was objected that the 
reformation he was carrying out had also been predicted by the 
stars at the time of his birth, he replied : " Oh no, that is another 
matter ! That is purely the work of God. You will never 
persuade me otherwise ! " (625). 

As to practical questions, he speaks of the doings of the 
Electoral marriage courts in certain cases (621) ; of severity in the 
up-bringing of children (624); of the choice of godparents for 
Baptism (620) ; of the authority of guardians in the marriage of 
their wards (613) ; and of what was required of those who dispensed 
the Supper (618). 

On one occasion, when the conversion of the Jews at the end of 
the world was being discussed, the " Doctoress " (Catherine) 
intervened in the conversation with a Biblical quotation, but her 
contribution (John x. 16) was rejected in a friendly way by 
Luther as mistaken. 

In these pages of the Table-Talk unseemly speeches or 
expressions such as call for censure elsewhere do not occur, 
though the Pope and the Papacy are rej^H.tedly made the 
butt of misrepresentation and abuse (610, 616, 619) ; as 
was only to be expected, we find here again Luther s 
favourite assertion that the Roman doctrine of works is a 
gross error very harmful to souls (623) ; in support of 
his opinion Luther gives a long string of Bible texts. 

Apart from the abuse just referred to and some other 
details these few leaves, taken at haphazard from the Table- 
Talk, are certainly not discreditable to Luther. Beside 
these might moreover be placed, as we have already ad 
mitted elsewhere, many other pages the contents of which 
are equally unexceptionable. 

It is naturally not the task or duty of Catholic contro 
versialists to fill their works with statements from the Table- 
Talk such as the above ; they would nevertheless do well 
always to bear in mind that many such favourable utter 
ances occur in Luther s works with which moreover the 
Protestants are as a rule perfectly familiar. The latter, 
indeed, who often are acquainted only with these better 
excerpts from Luther s books, sermons, letters or Table- 
Talk, are not unnaturally disposed to view with suspicion 
those writers who bestow undue prominence on unfavourable 
portions of his works, torn from their context. 



268 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Unless Catholic polemics contrive to look at things from 
their opponents point of view, their success must always be 
limited ; short of this they run the risk of being accused of 
being ignorant of what tells in Luther s favour, or of not 
giving it due weight. All controversy should in reality be 
conducted in a friendly spirit, and, in the discussion of 
Luther, such a spirit joined with a broad-minded apprecia 
tion of what is good in the opposite party cannot fail to be 
productive of happy results. How far Protestants have 
acted in this spirit is, alas, plain to all who have had dealings 
with them. There can be no question but that certain 
excesses perpetrated on the opposite side go far to explain, 
if not to excuse, the methods adopted by some of the 
champions of Catholicism. 

Kindlier Traits Evinced by Luther. 

The great veneration felt for Luther by most of his pupils, 
particularly by those who were intimate with him, enables 
us to see the impression his talents made on others. It is, of 
course, probabl: lhat their mental submission to him was 
in part due to the feeling, that it was an exceptional honour 
to be accounted friends of a man famous throughout the 
world and so distinguished by his extraordinary success ; yet 
it is equally certain that it was his own peculiar charm which 
caused not merely young students, such as those who noted 
down the Table-Talk, but even mature and experienced 
men, to look up to him with respect and affection and 
voluntarily to subject themselves to his mind and his will. , 
The fact is, in Luther a powerful and domineering talent 
existed side by side with great familiarity in consorting with 
others and a natural gift of making himself loved. The 
unshakable confidence in God on which he and his followers 
seemed to lean in every reverse they met, perhaps impressed 
people more than anything else. 

" His earnestness," wrote a devoted young follower of his, " is 
so tempered with gladness and friendliness that one longs to live 
with him ; it seems as though God wished to demonstrate how 
blissful and joyous his Evangel is, not merely by his teaching, but 
even by his conduct." Thus the Swiss student, Johann Kessler, 
who became acquainted with Luther after his return from the 
Wartburg. 1 Another voice from the same period enthusiastically 

1 In his " Sabbata," ed. Gotzinger in the St. Gallen " Mitteilungen 
zur vaterland. Gesch.," 1869 ; new edition, St. Gallen, 1902, p. 76 ff. 



HIS FRIENDLINESS 269 

extols his friendly ways and his winning speech in his dealings 
with his pupils, also the power of his words " which cast such a 
spell over the hearts of his hearers that anyone, who is not made 
of stone, having once heard him, yearns to hear him again." 
Thus his disciple Albert Burrer. 1 

Mathesius, one of his busier pupils, declares : " The man was 
full of grace and the Holy Ghost. Hence all who sought counsel 
from him as a prophet of God, found what they desired." 2 Often, 
he remarks, difficult questions from Scripture were submitted to 
him (in conversation at table) which he answered both plainly 
and concisely. And if anyone contradicted him he took no 
offence but skilfully put his gainsayer in the wrong. The Doctor 
knew so well how to bring in his stories and sayings and apply 
them at the proper juncture that it was a real pleasure and 
comfort to listen to him. 3 " Amongst his other great virtues he 
was very easily contented, and also extremely kind." 4 

Spangenberg, Aurifaber, Cordatus and other pupils were, so 
to speak, quite under his spell. Hieronymus Weller, whom 
Luther frequently sought to encourage in his fits of depression, 
remarked indeed on one occasion that the difference in age, and 
his reverence for Luther, prevented him from speaking and 
chatting as confidentially as he would have liked with the great 
man. 6 On the other hand, the Humanist, Peter Mosellanus, who 
was at one time much attached to him and never altogether 
abandoned his cause, says : "In daily life and in his intercourse 
with others he is polite and friendly ; there is nothing stoical 
or proud about him ; he is affable to everyone. In company he 
converses cheerfully and pleasantly, is lively and gay, always 
looks merry, cheerful and amiable however hard pressed by his 
opponents, so that one may well believe he does not act in such 
weighty matters without God s assistance." 6 

Melanchthon, particularly in his early days, as our readers 
already know, expressed great reverence and devotion for Luther. 
" You know," he wrote to Spalatin during his friend s stay at the 
Wartburg, " how carefully we must guard this earthen vessel 
which contains so great a treasure. . . . The earth holds nothing 
more divine than him." 7 After Luther s death, in spite of the 
previous misunderstandings, he said of him in a panegyric 
addressed to the students : " Alas, the chariot of Israel and the 
horseman thereof, who ruled the Church in these latter years of 
her existence, has departed." 8 

Luther was often to prove that the strong impression 
made by his personality was alone able to gain the day in 

1 Burrer s letter, in Baum, " Capito," 1860, p. 83. 

2 " Historien," p. 147. 3 Cp. ibid., pp. 142, 143. 

4 Ibid., p. 153 . 5 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 510. 

6 In F. S. Keil, " Luthers Lebensumstande," 1, 1764, p. 2. Cp. 
Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 243 f. 

7 Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 442. Cp. above, vol. Hi., p. 322. 

8 " Vita Lutheri," in " Vitce quattuor reformatorum," p. 14. 



270 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

cases of difficulty, to break down opposition and to ensure 
the successful carrying out of hardy plans. Seldom indeed 
did those about him offer any objection, for he possessed 
that gift, so frequently observed in men of strong character, 
of exercising, in every matter great or small, a kind of 
suggestive influence over those who approached him. He 
possessed an inner, unseen power which seemed to triumph 
over all, . . . even over the claims of truthfulness and 
logic ; x besides this, he was gifted with an imposing presence 
and an uncanny glance. He was by no means curt in his 
answers, but spoke freely to everyone in a manner calculated 
to awaken the confidence and unlock the hearts of his 
hearers. Of his talkativeness he himself once said : "I 
don t believe the Emperor [Charles V.] says so much in a year 
as I do in a day." 2 

His " disinterestedness which led him to care but little 
about money and worldly goods " 3 increased the respect 
felt for him and his work. So little did he care about heap 
ing up riches, that, when scolding the Wittenbergers on 
account of their avarice, he could say that " though poor, 
he found more pleasure in what was given him for his needs 
than the rich and opulent amongst them did in their own 
possessions." 4 So entirely was he absorbed in his public 
controversy that .he paid too little attention to his own 
requirements, particularly in his bachelor days ; he even 
relates how, before he took a wife, he had for a whole year 
not made his bed, or had it made for him, so that his sweat 
caused it to rot. " I was so weary, overworked all the day, 
that I threw myself on the bed and knew nothing about it." 5 
He was never used to excessive comfort or to indulgence 
in the finer pleasures of the table. In every respect, in 
conversation and intercourse with others and in domestic 
life, he was a lover of simplicity. In this he was ever anxious 
to set a good example to his fellow-workers. 

Although he frequently accepted with gratitude presents 

1 See our remarks above, p. 112 ff., on the way he came to believe in 
the truth of the falsehoods he so often repeated and even to convince 
his pupils of it too. 

2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 283. 

3 Jos. Hundhausen, " Kircho oder Protestantismus," a Catholic 
work, Mayence, 1883, p. 225. 

4 In a sermon of 1528, " Werke," Weim. ed., 27, p. 408 f. 
6 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 510. 



HIS GENEROSITY 271 

from the great, yet on occasion he was not above cautioning 
givers of the danger such gifts involved, when the " eyes of 
the whole world are upon us." 1 In 1542, when there was a 
prospect of his receiving from his friend Amsdorf, the new 
" bishop " of Naumburg, presents out of the estates of the 
bishopric, he twice wrote to him to refrain from sending him 
anything, even a single hare, because " our courtly centaurs 
[the selfish and rapacious nobles] must be given no pretext 
for venting their glowing hate against us on the trumped-up 
charge that we were desirous of securing gain through you." 
" They have gulped down everything without compunction, 
but still would blame us were we to accept a paltry gift of 
game. Let them feed in God s or another s [the devil s] 
name, so long as we are not accused of greed." 2 Dollinger 
speaks of Luther as "a sympathetic friend, devoid of 
avarice and greed of money, and a willing helper of others." 3 

He was always ready to assist the poor with open-handed 
and kindly liberality, and his friends especially, when in 
trouble or distress, could reckon on his charity. 

When his own means were insufficient he sought by 
word of mouth or by letter to enlist the sympathy of others, 
of friends in the town, or even of the Elector himself, in the 
cause of the indigent. On more than one occasion his good 
nature was unfairly taken advantage of. This, however, 
did not prevent his pleading for the poor who flocked to 
Wittenberg from all quarters and were wont to address 
themselves to him. Thus, for instance, in 1539 we have a 
note in which he appealed to certain " dear gentlemen " to 
save a " pious and scholarly youth " from the " pangs of 
hunger " by furnishing him with 30 Gulden ; he himself was 
no longer able to afford the gifts he had daily to bestow, 
though he would be willing, in case of necessity, to con 
tribute half the sum. 4 

Many of the feeble and oppressed experienced his help in 
the law. He reminds the lawyers how hard it is for the 
poor to comply with the legal formalities necessary for 
their protection. On one occasion, when it was a question of 
the defence of a poor woman, he says : " You know Dr. 
Martin is not only a theologian and the champion of the 

1 See vol. ii., p. 133. 

2 To Amsdorf, Feb. 6 and 12, 1542, " Brief e," 5, pp. 432, 434, 
" Luther, eine Skizze," p. 51 ; " KL.," 8 2 , col. 339. 

4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 495. 



272 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

faith, but also an advocate of the poor, who troop to him 
from every place and corner and demand his aid and his 
intercession with the authorities, so that he would have 
enough to do even if no other burden rested on his shoulders. 
But Dr. Martin loves to serve the poor." 1 

In 1527, when the plague reached Wittenberg, he stayed 
on in the town with Bugenhagen in order at least to comfort 
the people by his presence. The University was trans 
ferred for the time being to Jena (and then to Schlieben) and 
the Elector accordingly urged him to migrate to Jena with 
his wife and family. Luther however insisted on remain 
ing, above all on account of the urgent need of setting an 
example to his preachers, who were too much preoccupied 
with the safety of their own families. It was then that he 
wrote the tract " Ob man fur dem Sterben fliehen muge " 
(Whether one may flee from death), answering the question 
in the negative so far as the ministers were concerned. In 
such dire trouble the flock were more than ever in need of 
spiritual help ; the preachers were to exhort the people to 
learn diligently from the Word of God how to live and how 
to die, also, by Confession, reception of the Supper, recon 
ciliation with their neighbours, etc., to " prepare them 
selves in advance should the Lord knock speedily." 2 He 
displayed the same courage during the epidemic of the 
so-called " English sweat," a fever which, in 1529, broke 
out at Wittenberg, and in other German towns, and carried 
off many victims. Again in 1538 and in 1539 he braved 
new outbreaks of the plague at Wittenberg. His wish was, 
that, in such cases, one or two preachers should be specially 
appointed to look after those stricken with the malady. 
" Should the lot fall on me," he says in 1542, " I should not 
be afraid. I have now been through three pestilences and 
mixed with some who suffered from it ... and am none 
the worse." 3 " God usually protects the ministers of His 

1 To Anton Unruhe, Judge at Torgau, June 13, 1538, "Werke," 
Erl. ed., 55, p. 205 (" Briefwechsel," 11, p. 371). 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 23, p. 323 ff.; Erl. ed., 317 ff. N. Paulus 
(" Hist.-pol. Bl.," 133, 1904, p. 201) also points out the " Courage 
which Luther showed in the time of the plague," also his " liberality, 
his cheerful, sociable ways, how easily he was contented and how 
tirelessly he laboured." George Evers (" Martin Luther," 6, p. 6) 
recognises, amongst many other good qualities, the courage he showed 
during the plague. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 285. 



HUMBLE ADMISSIONS 273 

Word," he writes in 1538, " if one does not run in and out 
of the inns and lie in the beds ; confessions there is no need 
to hear, for we bring the Word of Life." 1 The fact that he 
could boast of having braved the plague and remained at 
his post naturally tended to increase his influence with his 
congregation. 2 

He had passed through a severe mental struggle previous 
to the epidemic of 1529. Only by dint of despairing efforts 
was he able to overcome his terrors of conscience concerning 
his doctrine and his own personal salvation. This inner 
combat so hardened him that he was fearless where others 
were terrified and fled. Of his own qualms of conscience he 
wrote to a friend in April, 1529 : If it be an apostolic gift 
to fight with devils and to lie frequently at the point of 
death, then he was indeed in this a very Peter or Paul, 
however much he might lack the other apostolic characters. 3 
Here we have the idea of his Divine calling, always most 
to the front in times of danger, which both strengthens 
him and enables him to inspire others with a little of his 
own confidence. " I and Bugcnhagen alone remain here," he 
wrote during the days of the plague, " but we are not alone, 
for Christ is with us and will triumph in us and shelter us 
from Satan, as we hope and trust." 4 

We already are acquainted with some of his admissions 
of his own weakness and acknowledgments of the greater 
gifts and achievements of others confessions which have 
been extolled as a proof of his real humility. 

" I have no such foolish humility," so he says, " as to wish to 
deny the gifts God has bestowed on me. In myself I have indeed 
enough and more than enough to humble me and teach me that I 
am nothing. In God, however, we may well pride ourselves, and 
rejoice and glory in His gifts and extol them, as I myself do on 
account of my German Psalter ; for I studied the Psalter, 
thanks be to God, with great fruit ; but all to the honour and 
glory of God to Whom be praise for ever and ever." This he wrote 
to Eobanus Hessus, the poet, in a high-flown letter thanking 
him for translating the German Psalter into excellent Latin. 5 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 188. 
" Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 31. 

3 To Justus Jonas, April 19, 1529, " Briefwechsel," 7, p. 87. 

4 To Nicholas Hausmann, Aug. 20, 1527, " Briefwechsel," 6, 
p. 77. 

* Aug. 1, 1537, " Briefwechsel," 11, p. 254, 

IV. T 



274 

Of his own virtues or sinfulness he preferred to speak humor 
ously, as his manner was. Thus, he says, for instance, in 1526, 
in his suppressed " Widder den Radschlag der Meintzischen 
Pfafferey," that " he had not defiled any man s wife or child," 
" had not robbed anyone of his goods . . . nor murdered or 
assaulted anyone or given help or counsel thereto " ; his sin 
consisted in " not pulling a long face but in insisting on being 
merry " ; also in eating meat on forbidden days. People might 
defame his life, but he was not going to heed " the dirty hog- 
snouts." 1 

His statements belittling his own powers and achieve 
ments, coming from a man whose apparently overmastering 
self-confidence had, from the beginning, prepossessed so 
many of his followers in his favour, afford a subject for 
psychological study. He seems the more ready to give full 
play to his confidence the more he feels his weakness face 
to face with the menace of danger, and the more he experi 
ences in the depths of his soul the raging of doubts which he 
attributes to the devil. 

In the humble admissions he makes he never conceals how 
much he stands in need of assistance. He does not hide 
from himself the fact that he dreads outward troubles, and 
is deficient in strong and exalted virtue. But side by side 
with his faults, he is fond of gazing on and extolling God s 
gifts in his person. His peculiar form of humility, his 
prayer and his trust in God find expression in certain 
utterances and experiences, on which no judgment can be 
passed until we have before us a larger selection of them, 
particularly of such as seem to be less premeditated. 

Prayer and Confidence in God. 

Luther s strangely undaunted confidence and the personal 
nature of his reliance on God s help form part of his mental 
physiognomy. 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 65, p. 26. It may be remarked incidentally 
that possibly Luther was not aware, that, not long before, the people 
of Wittenberg, though no longer Catholic, had been shocked at his 
eating meat on fast days. In 1523 the people, who still kept the old 
custom of the Church, as a traveller remarks, were disposed to regard 
the overflow of the Elbe as Heaven s judgment on Luther s and his 
preachers laxity in the matter. See the account of Bishop Dantiscus, of 
Ermeland, who visited Wittenberg in that year, in Hipler, " Kopernikus 
und Luther," Braunsberg, 1868, p. 72 : "I heard from the country 
people on my way much abuse and many execrations of Luther and 
his co-religionists," etc. 



THE POWER OF PRAYER 275 

He sees around him much distress and corruption and exclaims : 
" Alas, we are living outwardly under the empire of the devil, 
hence we can neither see nor hear anything good from without." 
And yet, he proceeds in his usual forced tone, " inwardly we are 
living in the kingdom of Christ, where we behold God s glory and 
His grace ! For of Christ it is said : Rule Thou in the midst of 
Thine enemies. " Hatred is our reward in this world." "Our 
reward is excessive considering the insignificance of the service 
we render Christ. But what is the world, its anger, or its prince ? 
A smoke that vanishes, a bubble that bursts, such is everything 
that is opposed to the Lord Whom we serve and Who works in 
us." With these words, so expressive of his determination, he 
directs his trusted pupil, Conrad Cordatus, to enter courageously 
upon the office of preacher at Stendal in the March. 1 

Again and again he seeks to reanimate his faith and confidence 
by calling to mind not merely God s faithfulness to His promises, 
but also his own personal " sufferings " and " temptations," the 
only escape from which, as he believed, lay in the most obstinate 
and presumptuous belief in his cause, and in the conviction that 
God was constantly intervening in his favour. 

" Not only from Holy Scripture," he said in a conversation in 
1540, " but also from my violent inner combats and temptations 
have I learnt that Christ is God incarnate, and that there is a 
Trinity. I now know it even better from experience than by 
faith that these articles are true. For in our greatest temptations 
nothing can help us but the assurance that Christ became man 
and is now our intercessor at the right hand of the Father. There 
is nothing that excites our confidence to such a degree. . . . God, 
too, has championed this article from the beginning of the world 
against countless heretics, and even to-day defends it against 
Turk and Pope ; He incessantly confirms it by miracles and 
permits us to call His Son, the Son of God and true God, and 
grants all that we ask in Christ s name. f For what else has saved 
us even till the present day in so many perils but prayer to 
Christ ? Whoever says it is Master Philip s and my doing, lies. 
It is God Who does it for Christ s sake. . . . Therefore we hold 
fast to these articles in spite of the objections of reason. They 
have remained and will continue." 2 

Luther often had recourse to prayer, especially when he 
found himself in difficulty, or in an awkward situation from 
which he could see no escape ; in his letters he also as a rule 
asks for prayers for himself and for the common cause of 
the new Evangel. It is impossible to take such requests as 
a mere formality ; his way of making them is usually so 
full of feeling that they must have been meant in earnest. 

In 1534 he wrote a special instruction for the simple and 

1 Letter of Dec. 3, 1544, " Briefe," p. 702. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 94. 



276 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

unlearned on the way to pray. 1 Many parts of this booklet 
recall the teaching of the great masters of prayer, though 
unfortunately it is imbued with his peculiar tenets. 

He urges people to pray fervently against " the idolatry of the 
Turk, of the Pope, of all false teachers and devil s snares " ; he 
also mocks at the prayers of the " parsons and monks," 2 unable 
to refrain from his bitter polemics even in an otherwise edifying 
work. Yet the body of the booklet teaches quite accurately, in a 
fashion recalling the directions given by St. Ignatius, how the 
Our Father and other daily prayers may be devoutly recited, with 
pauses after the various petitions or words, so as to form a sort of 
meditation. He himself, so he assures his readers, was in the 
habit of " sucking " in this way at the Paternoster, and was also 
fond of occupying himself with a similar prayerful analysis of the 
Psalter. 

His regular daily prayer he says elsewhere was the Our Father, 
the Creed and the other usual formulas. 3 " I have daily to do 
violence to myself in order to pray," he remarked to his friends, 
" and I am satisfied to repeat when I go to bed the Ten Com 
mandments, the Our Father and then a verse or two ; thinking 
over them I fall asleep." 4 " The Our Father is my prayer, I pray 
this and sometimes intermingle with it something from the 
Psalms, so as to put to shame the vain scoffers and false teachers." 

It must not be overlooked, however, that on extraordinary 
occasions, when his hatred of the Papacy was more than usually 
strong or when troubles pressed, his prayer was apt to assume 
strange forms. His abomination for the Pope found vent, as he 
repeatedly tells us, in his maledictory Paternoster. 5 When in 
great fear and anxiety concerning Melanchthon, who lay sick at 
Weimar, he, to use his own quaint phraseology, " threw down his 
tools before our God," to compel Him, as it were, to render 
assistance. Another such attempt to do violence to God is the 
purport of a prayer uttered in dejection during his stay in the 
fortress of Coburg, which Veit Dietrich, who overheard it, gives 
us in what he states were Luther s own words : "I know that 
Thou art Our God and Father ; hence I am certain Thou wilt 
put to shame all those who persecute Thy children. Shouldst 
Thou not do so, there will be as much danger for Thee as for us. 
This is Thy cause, and we only took it up because we knew Thou 
wouldst defend it," etc. 6 This intimate friend of Luther s also 

1 " Einfoltige Weise zu beten," "Werke," Erl. ed., 23, p. 215 ff. 

2 Pp. 217, 221 f. The booklet was dedicated to Master Peter 
Balbier. This master, after having stabbed in anger a foot-soldier, was 
sentenced to death. Luther s intercession procured the commutation 
of the sentence into one of banishment. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 59, p. (>, " Tischreden." The whole section in 
question, " Tischreden vom Gebete," really belongs here. 

4 Ibid., p. 28. 5 Cp. ibid., p. 24, and above, vol. iii., p. 437. 

6 Dietrich to Melanchthon, June 30, 1530, " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 159. 
Cp. vol. iii., p. 162, his prayer for F. Myconius who was sick, which 
concludes : " My will be done. Amen." 



277 

tells us, that, in those anxious days, Luther s conversations 
concerning God and his hopes for the future bore an even deeper 
stamp than usual of sincerity and depth of feeling. Dietrich was 
one of Luther s most passionately devoted pupils. 

" Ah, prayer can do much," such are Luther s words in one of 
the numerous passages of the Table-Talk, where he recommends 
its use. " By prayer many are saved, even now, just as we 
ourselves prayed Philip back to life." 1 

" It is impossible," he says, " that God should not answer the 
prayer of faith ; that He does not always do so is another matter. 
God does not give according to a prescribed measure, but heaped 
up and shaken down, as He says. . . . Hence James says (v. 16) : 
Pray one for another, etc. The continual prayer of a just man 
availeth much. That is one of the best verses in his Epistle. 
Prayer is a powerful thing." 2 

Anyone who has followed Luther s development and 
understands his character will know where to find the key 
to these remarkable, and at first sight puzzling, declarations 
of trust in God and zeal in prayer. 

When once the herald of the new religion had contrived 
to persuade himself of his Divine call, such blindly confident 
prayer and trust in God no longer involve anything wonder 
ful. His utterances, undoubtedly, have a good side, for 
instance, his frank admission of his weakness, of his want of 
virtue and of the parlous condition of his cause, should God 
forsake it All his difficulties he casts into the lap of the 
Almighty and of Christ, in the true Divine sonship of whom 
he declares he believes firmly. It must, however, strike 
anyone who examines his prayers that he never once 
expresses the idea which should accompany all true prayer, 
viz. resignation into the hands of God and entire willingness 
to follow Him, to go forward, or turn back whithersoever 
God wills ; never do we find him imploring light so as to 
know whether the course he is pursuing and the work he 
has undertaken is indeed right and pleasing to God. On the 
contrary, in his prayers, in his thoughts and amidst all his 
inner conflicts, he resolutely sets aside as out of the question 
any idea of changing the religious attitude he has once 
assumed. 3 All his striving is directed towards this one end, 
viz. that God will vouchsafe to further his cause and grant 
him victory. He, as it were, foists his cause on Heaven. 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 315. 2 Ibid. 

3 For more on this subject see vol. v., xxxii., 5. We see this even in 
his prayers at the Wartburg. 



278 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Hence there is lacking a property imperatively demanded by 
prayer, viz. that holy indifference and readiness to serve 
God in the way pleasing to Him to which the Psalmist 
alludes when he says : " Teach me to do Thy Will, O Lord." 

The dominating idea which both animates his confidence 
and gives it its peculiar stamp, also furnishes him with a 
sword against the Papacy, with which he lays about him 
all the more vigorously the more fervently he prays. In 
praying he blows into a flame his hatred of all who stand up 
for the ancient Church ; in his prayers he seems to find all 
the monstrous accusations he intends to hurl against her. 
Yet he himself elsewhere reminds his hearers, that, as a 
preparation for prayer, they must put away all bad feeling, 
since our Lord warns the man who is at variance with his 
brother first to be reconciled to him before coming with 
his offering. Luther also impresses on the monks and clergy 
that they must not pray for what is displeasing to God . . . 
for instance, for strength to fulfil their obligation of celibacy 
or their vows. Might they not justly have retorted that he, 
too, should not insist so blindly that God should establish 
his work? And might not the fanatics and Anabaptists 
have urged a tu quoque against him when he accused 
them of spiritual pride and blind presumption because of 
their fervent prayers ? 

We shall not go out of our way to repeat again what we 
have already said of his pseudo-mysticism. But in order 
to understand rightly Luther s prayers and trustfulness, 
so frequently reminiscent of the best men of the Catholic 
past, it is necessary to bear in mind his peculiar mystic 
leanings. 

Other Personal Traits. His Family Life. 

Luther was able to combine in a remarkable manner his 
pseudo-mysticism with practical and sober common sense. 

Where it is not a question of his Divine mission, of the 
rights of the new Evangel or of politics- of which by nature 
he was unfitted to judge we usually find him eminently 
practical in his views. His intercourse with others was 
characterised by simplicity and directness, and the tone of 
his conversation was both vigorous and original. It was 
most fortunate for him that his practical insight into things 
so soon enabled him to detect the exaggeration and peril of 



PRACTICAL GIFTS 279 

the movement set on foot by the fanatics. Had he been as 
incautious as they, the State authorities would soon have 
crushed his plans. This he clearly perceived from the very 
outset of the movement. Something similar, though on a 
smaller scale, happened later in the case of the Antinomians. 
Luther was opposed to such extravagance, and, when friendly 
admonition proved of no avail, was perfectly ready to resort 
to force. Whether, from his own standpoint, he was in a 
position to set matters straight in the case of either of the 
two movements is another question ; the truth is that his 
standpoint had suspiciously much in common with both. 
At any rate his encounter with the fanatics taught him to 
lay much less stress than formerly on the " Spirit," and to 
insist more on the outward Word and the preaching of the 
" Evangel." 

It must also be noted, that, though accustomed to go 
forward bravely and beat down all difficulties by main 
strength, yet in many instances he was quite open to 
accommodate himself to circumstances, and to yield in the 
interests of his cause, displaying likewise considerable 
ingenuity in the choice of the means to be employed. We 
have already had occasion more than once to see that he was 
by no means deficient in the wisdom of the serpent. He 
knew how to give favourably disposed Princes astute advice, 
particularly as to how they might best encourage and 
promote the new Church system. To settle their quarrels 
and to restore concord among them he had recourse some 
times to fiery and even gross language, sometimes to more 
diplomatic measures. When the Elector and the Duke of 
Saxony became estranged by the Wurzen quarrel Luther 
frankly advised the former to give way, and jestingly added 
that sometimes there might be good reason to " light a 
couple of tapers at the devil s altar." 

He did not, however, possess any talent as an organiser 
and was, generally speaking, a very imperfect judge of the 
social conditions of his time. (See vol. vi., xxxv.) 

Heinrich Bohmer remarks justly : " Luther was no 
organiser. Not that he was devoid of interest in or compre 
hension for the practical needs of life. He was neither 
a secluded scholar nor a stiff-necked pedant. . . . His 
practical vein, though strong enough to enable him readily 
to detect the weak spot in the proposals and creations of 



280 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

others, was, however, not equal to any independent, creative 
and efficient action. However bold, energetic and original 
as a thinker and writer, as an organiser he was clumsy, 
diffident and poor in ideas. In this domain he is entirely 
lacking in initiative, decision and, above all, in any theory 
he could call his own." " His regulations for public 
worsliip are no new creation but, more often than not, 
merely the old, Catholic ones, reduced and arranged to 
meet the needs of the evangelical congregation. . . . Where 
he is original he not seldom ceases to be practical. For 
instance, his extraordinary proposal that the Latin service 
should be retained for the benefit and edification of those 
familiar with the language, and his regret that it was no 
longer possible to arrange a service in Greek or Hebrew, can 
scarcely be characterised as anything but a professor s 
whim." 1 

His domestic life, owing to the simplicity, frugality and 
industry which reigned there, presents the picture of an 
unpretentious family home. 2 

With Catherine Bora and the children she bore him, he 

1 " Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung," 1 p. 130 f. In the 
second edition the closing chapter containing these passages is omitted. 
The comparison with Calvin made by Bohmer in this same chapter 
on Luther s talent for organisation, is also worthy of notice. " At 
that time Luther hardly had his equal as pastor, preacher and writer, 
but, unlike Calvin, he was no born organiser or church-founder. Hence, 
as soon as he was confronted with the great problem how to organise 
the evangelical movement now becoming more and more powerful, he 
ceased to be the one leader and commander of the Reformation. It is 
true he always remained the supreme authority to his own followers ; 
he reigned indeed, but did not govern ; he no longer inspired, instructed 
or guided his fellow-workers individually. In this respect, also, Calvin 
was his exact opposite. His position at the outset was incomparably 
more humble than that of Luther. Yet his reputation grew constantly, 
till Church and State in Geneva unhesitatingly obeyed him, whilst his 
sphere of action went on extending till his very death, till finally it 
embraced the greater part of Western Europe " (p. 131 f.). " Down 
to the year 1689, nay, down to the 19th century, the nations of the 
West were still engaged in the solution of the political problems with 
which Luther s reform had confronted them. For these Luther him 
self had but slight comprehension. If anything, he rendered their 
solution more difficult. He, however, took more interest in the legal 
reforms which had become necessary in consequence of his under 
taking " (p. 136). 

2 " Luther s domestic life displays, as a whole, a not unpleasant 
picture, and its description would form the kindliest portion of a life 
which really does not offer much that is pleasing." Thus Georg Evers, 
" Martin Luther," 6, p. 1. 



HIS LOVE FOR HIS WIFE 281 

led apart from the disturbances arising from his outward 
controversies and inward combats a regular life conducive 
to his labours. His relations with his life s partner, who was 
absorbed in the management of the little household, were, 
so it would appear, never seriously disturbed ; he was as 
devoted to her as she was to him, striving as she did to serve 
him and to lighten his cares. As to her failings, viz. a 
certain haughtiness and masterfulness, he winked at them. 

In his will dated Jan. 6, 1542, he gives, as follows, his reason 
for leaving everything to his " beloved and faithful wife 
Catherine " : " I do this first because she, as a pious, faithful and 
honourable wife, has always held me dear and in honour and, by 
God s blessing, bore me and brought up five children, who are 
still alive and whom may God long preserve." 1 

Incidentally he praises her complacency and says that she 
had served him not only like a wife but like a maid. It is true, 
however, he says elsewhere : " Had I to marry another, I should 
hew myself an obedient wife out of stone, for I despair of any 
woman s obedience." 2 

His last letters to Bora attest great mutual confidence, even 
though he does just hint in his usual joking way at their common 
faults : "I think, that, had you been here, you would also have 
advised us to do this, so that then for once we should have 
followed your advice." " To my well-beloved housewife 
Catherine Lutheress, Doctoress, Zulsdorferess, pork-butcheress 
and whatever else she may be. Grace to you and peace in Christ 
and my poor old love. ... I commend to God s keeping you and 
all the household ; greet all the guests. [Signed] M. L., your old 
sweetheart." Writing to his wife who was so anxious about him, 
he says : " You want to undertake the care of your God just as 
though He were not almighty and able to create ten Dr. Martins. 
. . . Let Master Philip read this letter, for I have not had time 
to write to him ; console yourself with this, that I would be with 
you were I able, as you know, and as he perhaps also knows from 
experience with his own wife, and understands it all perfectly." 
" We are very grateful to you for your great anxiety that pre 
vents you from sleeping. . . . Do you pray and leave the rest to 
God. It is written : Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall 
sustain thee (Psalm lv.)." 3 

His humour helped to tide him over any minor annoyances 
for which Catherine and the inmates of his house were respon 
sible. He preferred to oppose the shield of jest to Catherine s 
obstinacy, to her feminine desire to interfere in business that was 
not hers, as well as to her jealous rule in matters pertaining to the 
management of the household. When in his letters he addresses 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 56, p. 2 f. 2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 487. 
3 Letters of Jan. 25 to Feb. 14, 1546, "Werke," Erl. ed., 56, 
pp. 149, 151-154. 



282 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

her as " Lord Katey," and so forth, his object was to reprove her 
gently for that imperiousness under which he himself had some 
times to smart. We learn from outside sources that her inter 
ference was particularly troublesome to others at the time of 
Luther s conflict with the lawyers on the validity of clandestine 
marriages, when his wife s friendly interest in certain couples 
concerned displayed itself in loud and over-zealous advocacy of 
Luther s view of the question. It was then that Cruciger, the 
Wittenberg theologian, described her as the " firebrand in 
Luther s house." 1 

He was not merely unable to accustom himself to the humdrum 
occupations connected with household management, but the 
annoyance it entailed was so repugnant to him that in 1538 he 
dissuaded a preacher who wished to marry a second time, telling 
him that " the management of a family is in our day the most 
troublesome thing on earth, so that, knowing the wickedness of 
the world, were I a young man I would rather die than again 
become a married man, even though, after my Katey, a queen 
were offered me in marriage." 2 Evidently he must have found 
something to regret. 

Both took their share in the troublesome and unpre 
tentious work of educating and instructing the children. 
Luther rightly extols such labours as great and meritorious 
in God s sight, just as he frequently describes the seemingly 
lowly callings, which, in the eyes of the world, are of no 
account, e.g. marriage, as ennobled by God when performed 
by pious Christians in accordance with His Will and to the 
benefit of body and soul. (Above, p. 142 f.) 

By means of a fairly well-ordered division of the day he 
found time, in the intervals of the demands made by his 
domestic duties, to devote long hours to the multifarious and 
exhausting labours of which we know something. Self- 
denial in the interests of the cause he had espoused, re 
nunciation of ease and enjoyment so as better to serve an 
end for which he was impassioned, disregard even of the 
pressing claims of health all this is not easily to be matched 
in any other writer of eminence and talent occupying so 
historic a position in public life. Luther, plagued as he was 
by extraneous difficulties, with his professorship, his pulpit 
and his care for souls, seemed to revolve the wheel of time. 
Without unheard-of energy and a fiery, overmastering 

" Corp. ref.," 5, p. 314 : " Fax domestica." The cause of Caspar 
Beier, the clandestinely married student, with regard to which she 
fanned the flames of Luther s anger, was, according to Cruciger, " none 
of the best," Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, pp. 687, 571, n. 1, and p. 569 f. 

2 To Bernard v. Dolen, Aug. 31, 1538, " Briefwechsel," 11, p. 398. 



MISSPENT EXERTIONS 283 

enthusiasm for the cause his achievements would indeed be 
incomprehensible . 

The Catholic, however, when contemplating these traits 
so far as they redound to Luther s credit must deeply 
regret, that such energy was not employed in a well-ordered 
amelioration of the ecclesiastical system on the basis of the 
true Christian doctrine and in harmony with the authority 
divinely appointed. If he considers these favourable sides 
of Luther s character with befitting broad-mindedness, his 
grief can only deepen at the action, characterised by such 
perversity and contradiction, by which Luther sought 
utterly to destroy the existing Church and her faith as 
revealed and handed down. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

LUTHER S MODE or CONTROVERSY A COUNTERPART OF 
ins SOUL 

1. Luther s Anger. His Attitude towards the Jews, the 
Lawyers and the Princes 

WHAT above all strikes one in Luther s mode of controversy 
is his utter unrestraint in his scolding and abuse. Particu 
larly remarkable, especially in his later years, is the language 
which he has in readiness for two groups of foes, viz. for 
Jews and Lawyers ; then, again, we have the invective 
which, throughout his career, he was fond of hurling at such 
Princes and scholars as did not submit to his teaching. 

As, in what follows, and in studying the psychology of his 
anti-Papal abuse, we shall have again occasion to encounter 
unpleasant passages, we may well make our own the words 
of Sir Thomas More in his " Responsio ad convitia Lutheri," 
where he trounces Luther for his handling of Henry VIII. : 
" The gentle reader must forgive me if much that occurs 
offends his feelings. Nothing has been more painful to me 
than to be compelled to pour such things into decent ears. 
The only other alternative would, however, have been to 
leave the unclean book untouched." 1 

The Jews. 

In his earlier days Luther had been more friendly towards 
the Jews, and had even cherished the childish hope that 
many of them would embrace the new Evangel and help 
him in his warfare against the Papal Antichrist. When this 
failed to come about Luther became more and more angered 
with their blasphemy against Christ, their art of seducing 
the faithful and their cunning literary attacks on Christian 
doctrine. He was also greatly vexed because his Elector, in 
spite of having, in 1536, ordered all Jews to leave the country, 
1 " Opp.," Lovanii, 1560, f. 116 . 
284 



ON THE JEWS 285 

nevertheless, in 1538, granted them a conditional permit to 
travel through it ; he was still more exasperated with 
Ferdinand the German King who had curtailed the dis 
abilities of the Jews. Luther s opinion was that the only 
thing to do was to break their pride ; he now relinquished 
all hope of convincing any large number of them of the 
truth of Christianity ; even the biblical statements, accord 
ing to which the Jews were to be converted before the end 
of the world, appeared to him to have been shorn of their 
value. 1 

Hence Luther was, above all, desirous of proving to the 
faithful that the objections brought forward by the Jews 
against Christian doctrine and their interpretation of the 
Old Testament so as to exclude the Christian Messias were 
all wrong. This he did in three writings which followed each 
other at short intervals : " Von den Jiiden und jren Liigen," 
" Vom Schem Hamphoras," both dating from 1542, and 
" Von den letzten Worten Davids " (1543). Owing to his 
indignation these writings are no mere works of instruction, 
but in parts are crammed with libel and scurrilous abuse. 2 

In the first of these tracts, for instance, he voices as follows 
his opinion of the religious learning of the Hebrews : " This 
passage [the Ten Commandments] is far above the comprehension 
of the blind and hardened Jews, and to discourse to them on it 
would be as useless as preaching the Gospel to a pig. They 
cannot grasp the nature of God s law, much less do they know 
how to keep it." " Their boast of following the external Mosaic 
ordinances whilst disobeying the Ten Commandments, fits the 
Jews just as well as ornaments do an evil woman " ; " yet clothes, 
adornments, garlands, jewels would serve far better to deck 
the sow that wallows in the mire than a strumpet." 3 

One point which well illustrates his anti-Semitism is the 
Talmud-Bible he invents as best suited to them : " That Bible 
only should you explore which lies concealed beneath the sow s 
tail ; the letters that drop from it you are free to eat and drink ; 
that is the best Bible for prophets who trample under foot and 
rend in so swinish a manner the Word of the Divine Majesty 
which ought to be listened to with all respect, with trembling 
and with joy." " Do they fancy that we are clods and wooden 
blocks like themselves, the rude, ignorant donkeys ? . . . Hence, 
gentle Christian, beware of the Jews, for this book will show you 
that God s anger has delivered them over to the devil." 4 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 316. 

2 Cp. Reinhold Lewin, " Luthers Stellung zu den Jiiden " (" N. 
Stud, zur Gesch. der Theol. und Kirche," 10), 1911. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 135. 4 Ibid., p. 177 f. 



286 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The figure of the sow s tail pleased him so well that he again 
used it later in the same year in his " Vom Schem Hamphoras." 
There he alludes to the piece of sculpture which had originally 
supplied him with the idea : " Here, at Wittenberg, outside our 
parish church there is a sow chiselled in the stone ; under her 
are piglets and little Jews all sucking ; behind the sow stands a 
Rabbi, who lifts, with his right hand the sow s hind leg and with 
his left her tail, and is intently engaged poring over the Talmud 
under the sow s tail, as though he wished to read and bring to 
light something especially clever. That is a real image of Schem 
Hamphoras. . . . For of the sham wise man we Germans say : 
Where did he read that ? To speak coarsely, in the rear parts 
of a sow." 1 

The " devil " also is drawn into the fray the better to enable 
Luther to vent his ire against the Jews. At the end of the 
passage just quoted he says : " For the devil has entered into 
the Jews and holds them captive so that perforce they do his will, 
as St. Paul says, mocking, defaming, abusing and cursing God 
and everything that is His. . . . The devil plays with them to 
their eternal damnation." 2 And elsewhere: "Verily a hope 
less, wicked, venomous and devilish thing is the existence of 
these Jews, who for fourteen hundred years have been, and still 
are, our pest, torment and misfortune. In fine, they are just 
devils and nothing more, with no feeling of humanity for us 
heathen. This they learn from their Rabbis in those devils 
aeries which are their schools." 3 " They are a brood of vipers 
and the children of the devil, and are as kindly disposed to us as 
is the devil their father." 4 " The Turk and the other heathen do 
not suffer from them what we Christians do from these malignant 
snakes and imps. . . . Whoever would like to cherish such 
adders and puny devils who are the worst enemies of Christ and 
of us all to befriend them and do them honour simply in order 
to be cheated, plundered, robbed, disgraced and forced to howl 
and curse and suffer every kind of evil, to him I would commend 
these Jews. And if this be not enough let him tell the Jew to use 
his mouth as a privy, or else crawl into the Jew s hind parts and 
there worship the holy thing, so as afterwards to be able to boast 
of having been merciful, and of having helped the devil and his 
progeny to blaspheme our dear Lord." 5 The last clause would 
appear to have been aimed at the Counts of Mansfeld, who had 
allowed a large number of Jews to settle in Eisleben, Luther s 
birthplace. 

The temporal happiness which the Jews looked for under the 
reign of their Messias, Luther graphically compares to the felicity 
of a sow : " For the sow lies as it were on a feather-bed whether 
in the street or on the manure-heap ; she rests secure, grunts 
contentedly, sleeps soundly, fears neither lord nor king, neither 
death nor hell, neither devil nor Divine anger. . . . She has no 
thought of death until it is upon her. ... Of what use would 

1 "Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 298. 2 Ibid. 

3 Ibid., p. 242. * Ibid., p. 244 f. * Ibid., p. 244 f. 



THE METAPHOR OF THE PIG 287 

the Jews Messias be to me if he could not help poor me against 
this great and horrible dread and misfortune [the fear of death], 
nor make my life a tenth part as happy as that of the sow ? I 
would much rather say : Dear God Almighty, keep Your Messias 
for Yourself, or give him to those who want him ; as for me, 
change me into a sow. For it is better to be a live pig than a man 
who is everlastingly dying." 1 

Such passages as the above are frequently to be met with 
in Luther s writings against the Jews. In them his object 
plainly was to confute the misinterpretation of the Bible and 
the scoffing objections to which Jewish scholars were given. 
Yet so utterly ungovernable was the author s passion that 
it spoiled the execution of his noble task. He scarcely knew 
how to conduct a controversy without introducing sows, 
devils and such like. 

Was it really to Luther s credit that the sty should loom 
so large in his struggle with his foes ? 

Duke George he scolds as the " Dresden pig," and Dr. Eck as 
" Pig-Eck " ; the latter Luther promises to answer in such a 
way "that the sow s belly shall not be too much inflated." 2 
The Bishops of the Council of Constance who burnt Hus are 
" boars " ; the " bristles of their backs rise on end and they 
whet their snouts." 3 Erasmus "carries within him a sow from 
the herd of Epicurus." 4 The learned Catholics of the Universities 
are hogs and donkeys decked out in finery, whom God has sent 
to punish us ; these " devils masks, the monks and learned 
spectres, from the Schools we have endowed with such huge 
wealth, many of the doctors, preachers, masters, priests and 
friars are big, coarse, corpulent donkeys, decked out with hoods 
red and brown, like the market sow in her glass beads and tinsel 
chains." 5 

The same simile is, of course, employed even more frequently 
of the peasants. " To-day the peasants are the merest hogs, 
whilst the people of position, who once prided themselves on 
being bucks, are beginning to copy them." 6 The Papists have 
" stamped the married state under foot " ; their clergy are 
" like pigs in the fattening-pen," " they wallow in filth like the 
pig in his sty." 7 The Papists are fed up by their literary men, 
as befits such pigs as they. " Eat, piggies, eat ! This is good for 
you." 8 We Germans are " hopeless pigs." 9 

1 "Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 261. Cp. vol., iii., p. 289 f. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 271 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 206. 

3 Ibid., Erl. ed., 65, p. 79. 4 See vol. ii., p. 280. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 50 f. ; Erl. ed., 22, p. 196. 

6 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 137. 

7 " Werke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 306 ; Erl. ed., 40, p. 250 f. 

8 To Caspar Miiller, March 18, 1535 ; " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 137. 

9 " Werke," Weim. ed., 23, p. 149 ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 68. See above, 
vol. iii., 93 f. 



288 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Henry of Brunswick is "as expert in Holy Writ as a sow is on 
the harp." Let him and his Papists confess that they are 
"verily the devil s whore-church." 1 "You should not write a 
book," Luther tells him, " until you have heard an old sow 

s ; then you should open your jaws and say : Thank you, 

lovely nightingale, now I have the text I want. Stick to it ; it 
will look fine printed in a book against the Scripturists and the 
Elector ; but have it done at Wolfenbiittel. Oh, how they will 
have to hold their noses ! " 

Another favourite image, which usually accompanies the sow, 
is provided by the donkey. Of Clement VII. and one of his Bulls 
Luther says : " The donkey pitched his bray too high and 
thought the Germans would not notice it." 3 Of Emser and the 
Catholic Professors he writes : " Were I ignorant of logic and 
philosophy you rude asses would be after setting yourselves up 
as logicians and philosophers, though you know as much about 
the business as a donkey does about music." 4 Of Alveld the 
Franciscan he says : " The donkey does not understand music, 
he must rather be given thistles." 5 The fanatics too, naturally, 
could not expect to escape. All that Luther says of heavenly 
things is wasted upon them. " They understand it as little as 
the donkey does the Psalter." 6 

The devil, however, plays the chief part. Luther s con 
sidered judgment on the Zwinglians, for instance, is, that 
they are " soul-cannibals and soul-assassins," are " en- 
deviled, devilish, yea, ultra-devilish and possessed of 
blasphemous hearts and lying lips." 7 

The Lawyers. 

Luther s aversion for the " Jurists " grew yearly more 
intense. His chief complaint against them was that they 
kept to the Canon Law and put hindrances in his way. 
Their standpoint, however, as regards Canon Law was not 
without justification. " Any downright abrogation of Canon 
Law as a whole was out of the question. The law as then 
practised, not only in the ecclesiastical but even in the 
secular courts, was too much bound up with Canon Law ; 
when it was discarded, for instance, in the matrimonial 
cases, dire legal complications threatened throughout the 
whole of the German Empire." 8 To this Luther s eyes were 
not sufficiently open. 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 56 f. 

2 Ibid., p. 86. 3 Ibid., 25 1 , p. 192. 

4 Ibid., Weim. ed., 7, p. 676 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 292. 

5 Ibid., 6, p. 302 = 27, p. 110. 6 Ibid., 26, p. 351 = 30, p. 224. 
7 Ibid., Erl. ed., 32, p. 404. 8 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 469. 



THE LAWYERS 289 

His crusade against the validity of clandestine engage 
ments which he entered upon in opposition to his friend 
and co-religionist, Hieronymus Schurf, his colleague in the 
faculty of jurisprudence at the University of Wittenberg, 
was merely one episode in his resistance to those who 
represented legalism as then established. 

In another and wider sphere his relations with those 
lawyers, who were the advisers at the Court of his Elector 
and the other Princes, became more strained. This was 
as a result of their having a hand in the ordering of 
Church business. Here again his action was scarcely logical, 
for he himself, forced by circumstances, had handed over to 
the State the outward guidance of the Church ; that the 
statesmen would intervene and settle matters according to 
their own ideas was but natural ; and if their way of looking 
at things failed to agree with Luther s, this was only what 
might have been foreseen all along. 

In a conference with Melanchthon, Amsdorf and others in 
Dec., 1538, he complained bitterly of the lawyers and of the 
" misery of the theologians who were attacked on all sides, 
especially by the mighty." To Melchior Kling, a lawyer who 
was present, he said : " You jurists have a finger in this and are 
playing us tricks ; I advise you to cease and come to the assist 
ance of the nobles. If the theologians fall, that will be the end of 
the jurists too." " Do not worry us," he repeated, " or you will 
be paid out." " Had he ten sons, he would take mighty good 
care that not one was brought up to be a lawyer." " You 
jurists stand as much in need of a Luther as the theologians 
did." " The lawyer is a foe of Christ ; he extols the righteous 
ness of works. If there should be one amongst them who knows 
better, he is a wonder, is forced to beg his bread and is shunned 
by all the other men of law." 1 

On questions affecting conscience he considered that he alone, 
as theologian and leader of the others, had a right to decide ; yet 
countless cases which came before the courts touched upon 
matters of conscience. He exclaims, for instance, in 1531 : Must 
not the lawyers come to me to learn what is really lawful ? "I 
am the supreme judge of what is lawful in the domain of 
conscience." " If there be a single lawyer in Germany, nay, in 
the whole world, who understands what is lawful de jure and 
lawful de facto then I am . . .surprised." The recorder adds : 
" When the Doctor swears thus he means it very seriously." 
Luther proceeds : "In fine, if the jurists don t crave forgiveness 

1 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 289 seq. The date, Dec. 4, 1538, 
must be taken for what it is worth. 

IV. U 



290 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

and crawl humbly to the Evangel, I shall give them such a doing 
that they will not know how to escape." 1 

Thus we can understand how, in that same year (1531), when 
representatives of the secular law interfered in the ecclesiastical 
affairs at Zwickau against his wishes, he declared : "I will 
never have any more dealings with those Zwickau people, and I 
shall carry my resentment with me to the grave." " If the 
lawyers touch the Canons they will fly in splinters. ... I will 
fling the Catechism into their midst and so upset them that they 
won t know where they are." 2 If they are going to feed on the 
" filth of the Pope-Ass," and " to put on their horns," then he, 
too, will put on his and " toss them till the air resounds with 
their howls." This from the pulpit on Feb. 23, 1539. 3 

The Princes. 

With what scant respect Luther could treat the Princes is 
shown in his work " Von welltlicher Uberkeytt, wie weyt 
man yhr Gehorsam schuldig sey " (1523). 4 

Here he is not attacking individual Princes as was the 
case, for instance, in his writings against King Henry of 
England, Duke George of Saxony and Duke Henry of 
Brunswick, hence there was here no occasion for the abuse 
with which these polemical tracts are so brimful. Here 
Luther is dealing theologically with the relations which 
should obtain between Princes and subjects and, according 
to the title and the dedicatory note to Johann of Saxony, 
professes to discuss calmly and judicially the respective 
duties of both. Yet, carried away by vexation, because the 
Princes and the nobles had not complied with his request 
in his " An den christlichen Adel " that they should rise in 
a body against Rome, and reform the Church as he desired, 
he bitterly assails them as a class. 

Even in the opening lines all the Princes who, like the Emperor, 
held fast to the olden faith and sought to preserve their subjects 
in it, were put on a par with " hair-brained fellows " and loose 
" rogues." " Now that they want to fleece the poor man and 
wreak their wantonness on God s Word, they call it obedience to 
the commands of the Emperor. . . . Because the ravings of 
such fools leads to the destruction of the Christian faith, the 
denial of God s Word and blasphemy of the Divine Majesty, I 
neither can nor will any longer look on calmly at the doings of 
my ungracious Lords and fretful squires." 5 

1 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 14. 2 Ibid., p. 8 f. 

3 On Invocavit Sunday, Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 471. 

See vol. ii., pp. 297, 305 ff. 

8 " Werke," Weim. ed., 11, p. 246 f. ; ErI. ed., 22, p. 62 f. 



THE PRINCES 291 

Of the Princes in general he says, that they ought " to rule the 
country and the people outwardly ; this, however, they neglect. 
They do nothing but rend and fleece the people, heaping impost 
upon impost and tax upon tax ; letting out, here, a bear, and 
there, a wolf ; nor is there any law, fidelity or truth to be found 
in them, for they behave in such a fashion that to call them 
robbers and scoundrels would be to do them too great an honour. 
... So well are they earning the hatred of all that they are 
doomed to perish with the monks and parsons whose rascality 
they share." 1 

It is here that Luther tells the people that, " from the beginning 
a wise Prince has been a rare find, and a pious Prince something 
rarer still. Usually they are the biggest fools or the most arrant 
knaves on earth ; hence one must always expect the worst from 
them and little good, particularly in Divine things which pertain 
to the salvation of souls. For they are God s lictors and hang 
men." 2 " The usual thing is for Isaias iii. 4 to be verified : I 
will give children to be their princes, and the effeminate shall 
rule over them. " 3 

We have to look on while " secular Princes rule in spiritual 
matters and spiritual Princes in secular things." In what else 
does the devil s work on earth consist but in making fun of the 
world and turning it into a pantomime." 

In conclusion he hints to the Princes plainly that the " mob and 
the common folk are beginning to see through it all." 4 

A Protestant writer, in extenuation of such dangerous 
language against the rulers, recently remarked : "It never 
entered Luther s head that such words might bring the 
Princes into contempt and thus, indirectly, promote re 
bellion. ... If we are to draw a just conclusion from his 
blindness to the obvious psychological consequences of his 
words, it can only be, that Luther was no politician." 5 

It may, indeed, be that he did not then sufficiently weigh 
the consequences. Nevertheless, in his scurrilous writings 
against individual Princes he was perfectly ready to brave 
every possible outcome of his vituperation. " What Luther 
wrote against the German Princes," justly remarks Dollinger, 
" against Albert, Elector of Mayence, against the Duke of 
Brunswick and Duke George of Saxony, puts into the shade 
all the libels and screeds of the more recent European 
literature." 6 

One of the chief targets for his shafts was the Archbishop 
of Mayence. 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 11, p. 265 = 86. 2 Ibid., p. 267 f. = 89. 
3 Ibid., p. 268 = 90. 4 Ibid., p. 270 = 92 f. 

6 E. Brandenburg (" Schriften des Vereins fur RG.," No. 70, Halle, 
1901), p. 21. " Die Reformation," 3, p. 265. 



292 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Albert, Elector of Mayence, " is a plague to all Germany; the 
ghastly, yellow, earthen hue of his countenance a mixture of mud 
and blood exactly fits his character ; ... he is deserving of death 
under the First Table " (viz. because of his transgression of the 
first commandments of the Decalogue by his utter godlessness). 1 
It was, however, not so much on account of his moral short 
comings, notorious though they were, but more particularly 
because he did not take his side, that Luther regarded him as a 
" most perfidious rogue " (" nebulo perfidissimus "). "If thieves 
are hanged, then surely the Bishop of Mayence deserves to be 
hanged as one of the first, on a gallows seven times as high as the 
Giebenstein. . . . For he fears neither God nor man." When 
Simon Lemnius, the Humanist, praised Archbishop Albert in a 
few epigrams, Luther s anger turned against the poet, whom he 
soundly rated for making " a saint out of a devil." He issued 
a sort of mandate against Lemnius of which the conclusion was : 
" I beg our people, and particularly the poets or his [the Arch 
bishop s] sycophants, in future not publicly to praise the shameful 
merd-priest " ; he threatens sharp measures should anyone at 
Wittenberg dare to praise " the self-condemned lost priest." 3 

The satirical list of relics which, in 1542, he published with a 
preface and epilogue against the same Elector amounted practi 
cally to a libel, and was described by lawyers as a lying slander 
punishable at law. As a " libellus famosus " against a reigning 
Prince of the Empire it might have entailed serious consequences 
for its author. 

In it Luther says : The Elector, as we learn, is offering " big 
pardons for many sins," even for sins to be committed for the 
next ten years, to all who " help in decking out in new clothes 
the poor, naked bones " ; the relics in question, during their 
translation from Halle to Mayence, had, so Luther tells us, been 
augmented by other "particles," enriched by the Pope with 
Indulgences, amongst them, "(1) a fine piece of the left horn of 
Moses ; (2) three flames from the bush of Moses on Mount Sinai ; 
(3) two feathers and one egg of the Holy Ghost," etc., in all, twelve 
articles, specially chosen to excite derision. 

Justus Jonas appears to have been shocked at Luther s 
ribaldry and to have given Luther an account of what the lawyers 
were saying. At any rate, we have Luther s reply in his own 
handwriting, though the top part of the letter has been torn away. 
In the bottom fragment we read : " [Were it really a libel] which, 
however, it cannot be, yet I have the authority, right and power 
[to write such libels] against the Cardinal, Pope, devil and all their 
crew ; and not to have the term libellus famosus hurled at me. 
Or have the asinists I beg your pardon, jurists studied their 
jurisprudence in such a way as to be ignorant of what subjectum 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 139 f. 2 Ibid. 

3 " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 504 f. ; 6, p. 319 ff. ; " Briefwechsel 
des Justus Jonas," ed. G. Kawerau, 2, p. 84. The " printed Mandate " 
was affixed to the church door. Cp. E. Michael (" Zeitschr. f. kath. 
Theol.," 19, 1895), p. 455 ff. 



THE PRINCES 293 

and finis mean in secular law ? [the end in his eyes was a good 
one]. If I have to teach them, I shall exact smaller fees and 
teach them unwashed. How has the beautiful Moritzburgk 
[belonging to the see of Mayence] been turned into a donkey- 
stable ! If they are ready to pipe, I am quite willing to dance, 
and, if I live, I hope to tread yet another measure with the bride 
of Mayence." 1 Thus the revolting untruths to which his tactics 
led him to have recourse, the better to excite the minds of the 
people, seemed to him a fit subject for jest ; in spite of the 
wounds which the religious warfare was inflicting on the German 
Church he still saw nothing unseemly in the figure of the dance 
and the bridal festivity. 

An incident of his controversy with the Duke of Brunswick 
may serve to complete the picture. In 1540, during the hot 
summer, numerous fires broke out in North and Central 
Germany, causing widespread alarm ; certain alleged 
incendiaries who were apprehended were reported to have 
confessed under torture that this was the doing of Duke 
Henry of Brunswick and the Pope. Before even investiga 
tions had commenced Luther had already jumped to the 
conclusion that the real author was his enemy, the Catholic 
Duke, backed up by Jhe Pope and the monks ; for had not 
the Duke (according to Luther) explained to the burghers of 
Goslar that he recognised no duties with regard to heretics ? 2 
The Franciscans had been expelled and were now in disguise 
everywhere " plotting vengeance " ; they it was who had 
done it all with the assistance of the Duke of Brunswick and 
the Elector of Mayence, who, of course, remained behind the 
scenes. 3 " If this be proved, then there is nothing left for us 
but to take up arms against the monks and priests ; and I 
too shall go, for miscreants must be slain like mad dogs." 4 
Hieronymus Schurf, as the cautious lawyer he was, ex 
pressed himself in Luther s presence against the misuse of 
torture in the case of those accused and against their being 
condemned too hastily. Luther interrupted him : " This is 
no time for mercy but for rage ! " According to St. Augustine 
many must suffer in order that many may be at peace ; so 
is it also in the law courts, " now and again some must suffer 
injustice, so long as it is not done knowingly and intention 
ally by the judge. In troublous times excessive severity 

1 " Briefe," ed. De Wette & Seidemann, 6, p. 320 ff. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 179, Aug., 1540. 3 Ibid., p. 180. 
4 Ibid., p. 171. Still more strongly against the Franciscans on 

p. 180. 



294 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

must be overlooked." 1 He became little by little so con 
vinced of the guilt of Henry the " incendiary " and his 
Papists, that, in October, 1540, he refers half -jestingly to 
the reputation he was acquiring as " prophet and apostle " 
by so correctly discerning in the Papists a mere band of 
criminals. 2 He also informed other Courts of the supposed 
truth of his surmise, viz. that " Harry of Brunswick has 
now been convicted as an arch-incendiary-assassin and the 
greatest scoundrel on whom the sun has ever shone. May 
God give the bloodhound and werewolf his reward. Amen." 
Thus to Duke Albert of Prussia on April 20, 1541. 3 

Considerably before this, in a letter to the same princely 
patron, he expressly implicates in these absurd charges the 
Pope, the chief object of his hate : After telling Albert of 
the report, that the Duke of Brunswick " had sent out 
many hundred incendiaries against the Evangelical 
Estates " of whom more than 300 had been " brought 
to justice," many of them making confessions implicating 
the Duke, the Bishop of Mayence and others, Luther goes 
on to say that the business must necessarily have been 
set on foot " by great people, for there is plenty of 
money." 

" The Pope is said to have given 80,000 ducats towards 
it. This is the sort of thing we are compelled to hear and 
endure ; but God will repay them abundantly ... in hell, 
in the fire beneath our feet." 4 

"The Doctor said," we read in the Table-Talk, taken 
down by Mathesius in September (2-17), 1540 : " The 
greatest wonder of our day is that the majesty of the Pope 
who was a terror to all monarchs and against whom they 
dared not move a muscle, seeing that a glance from him or a 
movement of his finger sufficed to keep them all in a state of 
fear and obedience that this god should have collapsed so 
utterly that even his defenders loathe him. Those who still 
take his part, without exception do this simply for money s 
sake and their own advantage, otherwise they would treat 
him even worse than we do. His malice has now been 
thoroughly exposed, since it is certain that he sent eighteen 

1 Mathesius, "Tischreden," p. 222. 

2 Ibid., p. 226 f. 3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 301. 

* Ibid., p. 292 f. Letter of Oct. 10, 1540. De Wette, 5, p. 308, also 
has 80,000 ducats. In the passage that follows Luther speaks of 
18,000 crowns. 



THE POPE-JUDAS 295 

thousand crowns for the hiring of incendiaries." 1 The 
perfect seriousness with which he relates this in the circle 
of his friends furnishes an enigma. 

His consciousness of all that he had accomplished against 
the Pope, combined with his hatred of Catholicism, seems 
often to cloud his mind. 

2. Luther s Excuse : " We MUST Curse the Pope and 
His Kingdom " 2 

In Luther s polemics against the Pope and the Papists it 
is psychologically of importance to bear in mind the depth 
of the passion which underlies his furious and incessant 
abuse. 

The further we sec into Luther s soul, thanks especially 
to his familiar utterances recorded in the Table-Talk, the 
more plainly does this overwhelming enmity stand revealed. 
In what he said privately to his friends we find his un 
varnished thought and real feelings. Far from being in any 
sense artificial, the intense annoyance which rings through 
out his abuse seems to rise spontaneously from the very 
bottom of his soul. That he should have pictured to himself 
the Papacy as a dragon may be termed a piece of folly, 
nevertheless it was thus that it ever hovered before his mind, 
by day and by night, whether in the cheery circle of his 
friends or in his solitary study, in the midst of ecclesiastical 
or ccclesiastico-political business, when engaged in quiet 
correspondence with admirers and even when he sought in 
prayer help and comfort in his troubles. 

In Lauterbach s Diary we find Luther describing the Pope as 
the "Beast," 3 the "Dragon of Hell" towards whom "one 
cannot be too hostile," 4 as the "Dragon and Crocodile," whose 
whole being " was, and still is, rascality through and through." 5 
"Even were the Pope St. Peter, he would still be godless." 6 
" Whoever wishes to glorify the Blood of Christ must needs rage 
against the Pope who blasphemes it." 7 " The Pope has sold 
Christ s Blood and the state of matrimony, hence the money-bag 
[of this Judas] is chock-full of the proceeds of robbery. . . . He 
has banned and branded me, and stuck me in the devil s behind. 
Hence I am going to hang him on his own keys." 8 This he said 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 213. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 28, p. 762 ; Erl. ed., 36, p. 410. See below, 
p. 304. 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 171. 4 P. 64. 5 P. 25. 
6 P. 149. 7 P. 64. 8 P. 30. 



296 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

when a caricature was shown him representing the Pope strung 
up next to Judas, with the latter s money-bag. 

" I am the Pope s devil," so he declared to his companions, 
" hence it is that he hates and persecutes me." 1 

And yet the chief crime of this execrated Papacy was its non- 
acceptance of Luther s innovations. The legal measures taken 
against him agreeably with the olden law, whether of the State or 
of the Church, were no proof of " hatred," however much they 
might lame his own pretensions. 

In other notes of his conversations we read : " Formerly we 
looked at the Pope s face, now we look only at his posterior, in 
which there is no majesty." 2 "The city of Rome now lies 
mangled and the devil has discharged over it his filth, i.e. the 
Pope." 3 It is a true saying, that, " if there be a hell, Rome is 
built upon it." 4 

" Almost all the Romans are now sunk in Epicurism ; they 
trouble themselves not at all about God or a good conscience. 
Alack for our times ! I used to believe that the Epicurean 
doctrine was dead and buried, yet here it is still flourishing." 5 

At the very commencement of the Diary of Cordatus, Luther 
is recorded as saying : " The Pope has lost his cunning. It is 
stupid of him still to seek to lead people astray under the pre 
tence of religion, now that mankind has seen through the devil s 
trickery. To maintain his kingdom by force is equally foolish 
because it is impracticable." 8 He proceeds in a similar strain : 
" The Papists, like the Jews, insist that everyone who wishes to 
be saved must observe their ceremonies, hence they will perish 
like the Jews." 7 He maliciously quotes an old rhyme in con 
nection with the Pope, who is both the " head of the world " 
and " the beast of the earth," and, in support of this, adduces 
abundant quotations from the Apocalypse. 8 When Daniel 
declared that Antichrist would trouble neither about God nor 
about woman (xi. 37), this meant that " the Pope would recog 
nise neither God nor lawful wives, that, in a word, he would 
despise religion and all domestic and social life, which all turned 
on womankind. Thus may we understand what was foretold, 
viz. that Antichrist would despise all laws, ordinances, statutes, 
rights and every good usage, contemn kings, princes, empires 
and everything that exists in heaven or on earth merely the 
better to extol his fond inventions." 9 It is difficult to assume 
that all this was mere rhetoric, for, then, why was it persisted in ? 
Intentionally hyperbolical utterances are as a rule brief. In these 
conversations, however, the tone never changes, but merely 
becomes at times even more emphatic. 

On the same page in Cordatus we read : " Children are lucky 
in that they come into the world naked and penniless ; for the 

1 P. 163. 2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 439, " Tischreden." 

3 Ibid. 

4 Ibid., p. 441, and Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeiclmungen," p. 100. 

5 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 190. Cp. Schlaginhaufen, p. 5. 

6 P. 2. "> P. 3. 8 P. 7. 9 P. 9. 



THE LORD OF THE WORLD 297 

Pope levies toll on everything there is on the earth, save only 
upon baptism, because he can t help it." 1 And immediately 
after : " The Pope has ceased to be a teacher and has become, 
as his Decretals testify, a belly-server and speculator. In the 
Decretals he treats not at all of theological matters but merely 
pursues three self-seeking ends : First, he does everything to 
strengthen his domination ; secondly, he does his best to set the 
kings and princes at loggerheads with each other whenever he 
wants to score off one of the great, in doing which he does not 
scruple to show openly his malice ; thirdly, he plays the devil 
most cunningly, when, with a friendly air, he allays the dissen 
sions he had previously stirred up among the sovereigns ; this, 
however, he only does when his own ends have been achieved. 
He also perverts the truth of God s Word [thus invading the 
theological field]. This, however, he does not do as Pope, but as 
Antichrist and God s real enemy." 2 

The whole mountain of abuse expressed here and in what 
follows rests on this last assumption, viz. that the Pope perverts 
" the truth of God s Word " ; thanks to this the Wittenberg 
Professor fancied he could overthrow a Church which had fifteen 
centuries behind it. His hate is just as deeply rooted in his soul 
as his delusion concerning his special call. 

According to the German Colloquies the Pope, like Mohammed, 
" began under the Emperor Phocas " : " The prophecy [of the 
Apocalypse] includes both, the Pope and the Turk." 3 Still, the 
Pope is the " best ruler " for the world, because he does know 
how to govern ; " he is lord of our fields, meadows, money, 
houses and everything else, yea, of our very bodies " ; for this 
" he repays the world in everlasting curses and maledictions ; 
this is what the world wants and it duly returns thanks and 
kisses his feet." 4 "He is rather the lawyers than the theo 
logians god." 5 

He is determined to turn me " straightway into a slave of sin " 
and to force me to " blaspheme," but instead of " denying God " 
I shall withstand the Pope ; " otherwise we would willingly have 
borne and endured the Papal rule." 6 " No words are bad enough 
to describe the Pope. We may call him miserly, godless and 
idolatrous, but all this falls far short of the mark. It is im 
possible to grasp and put into words his great infamies;" 7 in 
short, as Christ says, " he is the abomination of desolation stand 
ing in the Holy Place." 8 

The Pope is indeed the " father of abominations and the 
poisoner of souls." " After the devil the Pope is a real devil." 9 
" After the devil there is no worse man than the Pope with his 
lies and his man-made ordinances " ; 10 in fact, he is a masked 
devil incarnate. 11 No one can become Pope unless he be a 
finished and consummate knave and miscreant." 12 The Pope is a 

1 P. 9. 2 P. 10. 3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 391, " Tischreden." 

4 Ibid., 60, p. 227 f., in chapter xxvii. of the Table-Talk. 

5 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 68. 6 Ibid., 57, p. 80. 

7 Ibid., 60, p. 206. 8 Ibid., p. 183. s Ibid., p. 214. 

10 Ibid., 62, p. 222. " Ibid., 60, p. 180. 12 Ibid., p. 195. 



298 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" lion " in strength and a " dragon " in craft. 1 He is " an out- 
and-out Jew who extols in Christ only what is material and 
temporal " ; 2 needless to say, he is " far worse than the Turk," 3 
" a mere idolater and slave of Satan," 4 " a painted king but in 
reality a filthy pretence," 5 his kingdom is a " Carnival show," 6 
and lie himself " Rat-King of the monks and nuns." 7 Popery is 
full of murder ; 8 it serves Moloch, 9 and is the kingdom of all who 
blaspheme God. 

" For the Pope is, not the shepherd, but the devil of the 
Churches ; this comforts me as often as I think of it." 10 

" Anno 1539, on May 9," we read in these Colloquies, " Dr. 
Martin for three hours held a severe and earnest Disputation in 
the School at Wittenberg, against that horrid monster, the Pope, 
that real werewolf who excels in fury all the tyrants, who alone 
wishes to be above all law and to act as he pleases, and even to 
be worshipped, to the loss and damnation of many poor souls. 
. . . But he is a donkey-king [he said] ... I hope he has now 
done his worst [now that I have broken his power] ; but neither 
are the Papists ever to be trusted, even though they agree to 
peace and bind themselves to it under seal and sign-manual. . . . 
Therefore let us watch and pray ! " 11 

The Disputation, of which all that is known was published by 
Paul Drews in 1895, 12 dealt principally with the question, which 
had become a vital one, of armed resistance to the forces of the 
Empire then intent on vindicating the rights of the Pope. The 
Theses solve the question in the affirmative. " The Pope is no 
authority ordained by God ... on the contrary he is a 
robber, a Bearwolf who gulps down everything. And just as 
everybody rightly seeks to destroy this monster, so also it is 
everyone s duty to suppress the Pope by force, indeed, penance 
must be done by those who neglect it. If anyone is killed in 
defending a wild beast it is his own fault. In the same way it is 
not wrong to offer resistance to those who defend the Pope, even 
should they be Princes or Emperors." 13 

A German version of the chief Theses (51-70) was at once 
printed. 14 

1 P. 305. 2 Ibid., p. 200. 3 Ibid., 61, p. 149. 

4 Ibid., 57, p. 206. 5 Ibid., 60, p. 255. 6 Ibid. 

7 Ibid., p. 185. 8 Ibid., p. 291. 9 Ibid., 57, p. 367 f. 

10 Ibid., 60, p. 379, chapter xxvii. " Ibid., p. 184. 

12 " Disputationen Dr. Martin Luthers, 1535-1545," ed. P. Drews, 
pp. 532-584. Cp. the Theses already published in Luther s " Opp. lat. 
var.," 4, p. 442 seq. 

13 They are thus summed up by Drews (p. 533). 

14 Thesis 56 : " Papa est illud monslntm, de quo Daniel dicit, quod 
adversatur omni Deo, etiam Deo deorum."- Thesis 58: " Nostri Germani 
vacant Beerwolf, quod Greed, si forte notum illis fuisset, dixissent 
dpKToXvKov " (i.e. " Bearwolf "). Thesis 59 : " Hoc animal lupus est 
quidem, sed a dcemone arreptus, lacerat omnia et elabilur omnibus 
venabulis et armis." Thesis 60 : " Ad quod opprimendum necessarius 
est concursus omnium pagorum" etc. Thesis 61 : " Nee est hie expec- 
tanda iudicis sententia aut consilii aitctoritas," etc. Thesis 66 : " Ita 



THE DEVIL-INCARNATE 299 

Among the explanations given by Luther previous to the 
Disputation (" circulariter disputabimus ") the following are 
worthy of note : " We will not worship the Pope any longer as 
has been done heretofore. . . . Rather, we must fight against 
this Satan." 1 "The Pope is such a monstrous beast that no 
ruler or tyrant can equal him. . . . He requires us to worship 
his public blasphemy in defiance of the law ; it is as though he 
said : I will and command that you adore the devil. It is not 
enough for him to strangle me, but he will have it that even the 
soul is damned at his word of command. . . . The Pope is the 
devil. Were I able to slay the devil, why should I not risk my 
life in doing so ? Look not on the Pope as a man ; his very 
worshippers declare that he is no mere man, but partly man and 
partly God. For God here read devil. Just as Christ is 
God-made-flesh, so the Popejis the devil incarnate." 2 "Who 
would not lend a hand against this arch-pestilential monster ? 
There is none other such in the whole world as he, who exalts him 
self far above God. Other wolves there are indeed, yet none so 
impudent and imperious as this wolf and monster." 3 

In this celebrated Disputation some of the objections are 
couched in scholastic language. Such is the following : Accord 
ing to the Bible, Antichrist is to be destroyed by the breath of 
God s mouth and not by the sword ; therefore armed resistance 
to the Pope and the Papists is not allowed. Luther replies : 
" That we concede, for what we say is that he will escape and 
remain with us till the end of the world. He is nevertheless to 
be resisted, and the Emperor too, and the Princes who defend 
him, not on the Emperor s account, but for the sake of this 
monstrous beast." 4 Another objection runs: "Christ forbade 
Peter to make use of his sword against those sent out by the 
Pharisees ; therefore neither must we take up arms against the 
Pope." The reply was : " Negabitur consequens," and Luther 
goes on to explain : " The Pope is no authority as Caiphas and 
Pilate were. He is the devil s servant, possessed of the devil, a 
wolf who tyrannically carries off souls without any right or 
mandate." According to the report Luther suddenly relapsed 
into German : "If Peter went to Rome and slew him, he would 
be acting rightly, quia papa non habet ordinationem, " etc. 6 
Justus Jonas and Cruciger also took a part, bringing forward 
objections in order to exercise others in refuting them. This 
theological tournament, with its crazy ideas couched in learned 
terminology, might well cause the dispassionate historian to 
smile were it not for the sombre background and the vision of 
the religious wars for which ardent young students were being 
fitted and equipped. 

si papa helium movcrit, resistendum est ei sicut monstro furioso et obsesso 
sen vere dp/croXtf/cy." Thesis 68 : " Nee curandum, si habeat militantes 
sibi principes, reges vel ipsos ccesares, titulo ecclesicc incantatos." 

1 Drews, p. 544. 

2 Ibid., p. 549. Given in Luther s German Works, Jena ed., 7, 
p. 285, and Halle ed. (Walch), 19, p. 2438 f. 3 Ibid., p. 552. 

4 Ibid., p. 559, Jena ed., 285 , Walch, p. 2440. 6 Ibid., p. 566. 



300 

What we have quoted from Luther s familiar talks and 
from his disputations affords overwhelming proof, were such 
wanting, that the frenzied outbursts against the Pope we 
find even in his public writings, were, not merely assumed, 
but really sprang from the depths of his soul. It is true 
that at times they were regarded as rhetorical effusions 
or even as little more than jokes, but as a matter of fact 
they bear the clearest stamp of his glowing hate. They 
indicate a persistent and eminently suspicious frame of 
mind, which deserves to be considered seriously as a psycho 
logical, if not pathological, condition ; what we must ask 
ourselves is, how far the mere hint of Popery sufficed to call 
forth in him a delirium of abuse. 

In his tract of 1531 against Duke George he boasted, 
that people would in future say, that " his mouth was 
full of angry words, vituperation and curses on the Papists " ; 
that " he intended to go down to his grave cursing and 
abusing the miscreants " j 1 that as long as breath remained 
in him he would " pursue them to their grave with his 
thunders and lightnings " ; 2 again, he says he will take 
refuge in his maledictory prayer against the Papists in order 
to " kindle righteous hatred in his heart," and even expounds 
and recommends this prayer in mockery to his opponent 3 
in all this we detect an abnormal feature which characterises 
his life and temper. This abnormity is apparent not only 
in the intense seriousness with which he utters the most 
outrageous things, more befitting a madman than a reason 
able being, but also at times in the very satires to which he 
has recourse. That the Papacy would have still more to 
suffer from him after he was dead, is a prophecy on which 
he is ever harping : " When I die," he remarks, " I shall 
turn into a spirit that will so plague the bishops, parsons 
and godless monks, that one dead Luther will give them 
more trouble than a thousand living Luthers." 4 

No theological simile is too strange for him in this morbid 
state of mind and feeling. As in the case of those obsessed 
by a fixed idea the delusion is ever obtruding itself under 
every possible shape, so, in a similar way, every thought, all 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 470; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 127. 2 Ibid. 

3 Ibid. See above, p. 208. Cp. Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. Ill : 
" Quandofrigeo in corde . . . oppono contra me impictatem papce," etc.; 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 107 f. ; " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 294. 

4 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 74. 



THE PAPAL-ANTICHRIST 301 

his studies, his practice, learning, theology and exegesis, 
even when its bearing seems most remote, leads up to this 
central and all-dominating conviction : "I believe that the 
Pope is a devil incarnate in disguise, for he is Endchrist. 
For as Christ is true God and true man, so also is Antichrist 
a devil incarnate." 1 And yet, in the past, so he adds with a 
deep sigh, " we worshipped all his lies and idolatry." 

He is very painstaking in his anatomy of the Pope- Antichrist. 

" The head of Antichrist," he said, " is both the Pope and the 
Turk ; a living creature must have both body and soul ; the Pope is 
Antichrist s soul or spirit, but the Turk is his flesh or body ; for 
the latter lays waste, destroys and persecutes the Church of God 
materially, just as the Pope does so spiritually." Considering, 
however, that he had unduly exonerated the Pope, he corrects 
himself and adds : And materially also ; " materially, viz. by 
laying waste with fire and sword, hanging, murdering, etc." The 
Church, however, so he prophesies, will nevertheless " hold the 
field and resist the Pope s hypocrisy and idolatry." He then 
goes on to make a fanciful application of Daniel s prophecy 
concerning the kingdoms of the world to the Pope s downfall. 
" The text compels us " to take the prophecy (Apoc. xiii. 7) as 
also referring to the " Papal abomination." " The Pope shall 
be broken without hands and perish and die of himself." 2 

That the Pope was spiritually destroying the Church he had 
already asserted as early as 1520 in his " Von dem Bapstum tzu 
Rome " : " Of all that is of Divine appointment not one jot is 
now observed at Rome ; indeed, if anyone thought of doing what 
is manifestly such, it would be derided as folly. They let the 
Gospel and the Christian faith perish everywhere and turn never 
a hair ; moreover, every bad example of mischief, spiritual and 
secular, flows from Rome over the whole world as from an ocean 
of wickedness. All this the Romans laugh at, and whoever 
laments it is looked upon as a bon Christian [ cristiano ], i.e. 
a fool." 3 

The strength of Luther s delusion that the Pope was 
Antichrist and shared the diabolical nature furnishes the 
chief explanation of the hopelessly bitter way in which he 
deals with all those who ventured to defend the Papacy. On 
all such he heaps abuse and assails them with that worst 
of the weapons at his command, viz. with calumny, calling 
into question their good faith and denying to them the 
character of Christians. 

Johann Eck, so he assured his friends in 1538, " when at Rome, 
profited splendidly by the example of Epicurus ; his short stay 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 180. 2 Ibid., p. 177 f. 

3 Ibid., Weim. ed., 6, p. 287 f. ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 90. 



302 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

there was quite sufficient for him. No doubt he possesses great 
talent and a good memory, but he is impudence itself, and, at 
the bottom of his heart, cares as little about the Pope as he does 
about the Gospel. Twenty years ago I should never have thought 
it possible to find such Epicureans within the Church." 1 Eck is 
"a bold-lipped and bloodthirsty sophist." 2 In 1532, somewhat 
more indulgently, Luther had said of him : " Eccius is no 
preacher. . . . He can indeed talk ad lib. of drinking, gambling, 
light women and boon companions " ; what, however, he says in 
his sermons he either does not take seriously or at any rate his 
heart is not in it. 3 In 1542, nevertheless, Luther was heard to 
say : "I believe he has made himself over to the devil and 
entered into a bargain with him how long he will be allowed to 
live." 4 As was but natural, the man who had "never really 
taken the defence of the Pope seriously " died impenitent. 
According to Luther he passed away without making any con 
fession, without even saying, " God be gracious to me." 5 

Could we trust Luther, Johannes Fabri, another Catholic 
opponent, "blasphemed himself to death." Surely, thus "to sin 
deliberately and of set purpose, exceeds all bounds." 6 

Joachim I., Elector of Brandenburg (f 1535), who remained 
faithful to the Church, was abused by Luther as a " liar, mad 
bloodhound, devilish Papist, murderer, traitor, desperate 
miscreant, assassin of souls, arch-knave, dirty pig and devil s 
child, nay, the devil himself." 

We may recall the epithets he bestowed on Henry VIII. for 
having presumed to criticise him : " Crowned donkey, abandoned, 
senseless man, excrement of hogs and asses, impudent royal 
windbag, mad Harry, arrant fool." 7 

Cardinal Cajetan, the famous theologian, was, according to 
Luther, " an ambiguous, secretive, incomprehensible, mad 
theologian, and as well qualified to understand and judge his 
cause as an ass would be to play upon the harp." 8 Hoogstraaten, 
the Cologne Dominican, " does not know the difference between 
what is in agreement with and what contrary to Scripture ; he 
is a mad, bloodthirsty murderer, a blind and hardened donkey, 
who ought to be put to scratch for dung-beetles in the manure- 
heaps of the Papists." 

Of his attacks on Duke George of Saxony, the " Dresden 
Assassin," we need only mention the parting shaft he flung into 
his opponent s grave : " Let Pharao perish with all his tribe ; 
even though he [the Duke] felt the prick of conscience yet he 
was never truly contrite. . . . Now he has been rooted out. . . . 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 190. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 286 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 16. 

3 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 118. 

4 Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 269. 

5 Ibid., p. 307. 6 Ibid., p. 249 ; cp. p. 115. 

7 See vol. ii., p. 153. 

8 Letter to Carlstadt, Oct. 14, 1518, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 4 
(" Brief wechsel," 1, p. 249). 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 303 

God sometimes consents to look on for a while, but afterwards 
He punishes the race even down to the children." 1 

No one who in any way stood up for the Papal Decrees was 
safe from Luther s ungovernable abuse, not even those states 
men who followed them from necessity rather than out of any 
respect for the Church. Luther is determined, so he says, " not 
to endure the excrement and filth of the Pope-Ass. . . . For 
goodness sake don t come stirring up the donkey s dung and 
papal filth in the churches, particularly in this town [Wittenberg]. 
. . . The Pope defiles the whole world with his donkey s dung, 
but why not let him eat it himself ? . . . Let sleeping dogs lie, 
this I beg of you [and do not worry me with the Pope], otherwise 
I shall have to give you what for. ... I must desist, otherwise I 
shall get too angry." 2 

With the real defenders of the Papal Decrees, or the olden 
faith, he was, however, never afraid of becoming " too angry " ; 
the only redeeming feature being, that, at times the overwhelming 
consciousness of his fancied superiority brings his caustic wit 
to his assistance and his anger dissolves into scorn. Minus this 
pungent ingredient, his polemics would be incomprehensible, nor 
would his success have been half so great. 

An example of his descriptions of such Catholics who wrote and 
spoke against him is to be found in his preface to a writing of 
Klingeiibeyl s. He there jokingly congratulates himself on 
having been the means of inducing his opponents to study the 
Bible in order to refute him : " Luther has driven these block 
heads to Holy Scripture, just as though a man were to bring a lot 
of new animals to a menagerie. Here Dr. Cockles [Cochlseus] 
barks like a dog ; there Brand of Berne [Johann Mensing] yelps 
like a fox ; the Leipzig preacher of blasphemy [Johann Koss] 
howls like a wolf ; Dr. Cunz Wimpina grunts like a snorting sow, 
and there is so much noise and clamour amongst the beasts that 
really I am quite sorry to have started the chase. . . . They are 
supposed to be conversant with Scripture, and yet are quite 
ignorant of how to handle it." 3 

In a more serious and tragic tone he points out, how 
many of his foes and opponents had been carried off 
suddenly by a Divine judgment. He even drafted a long 
list of such instances, supplied with hateful glosses of his 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 206. Cp. what he says of Duke 
George, above, p. 190. 

2 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 295. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 274. On Brand of Berne cp. N. Paulus, 
" Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampfe mit Luther," 1903, pp. 16-45 ; 
on p. 29 f. there is a remark of Luther s on the " poor smoking brand 
which escaped the fire of Berne," rightly taken by Paulus to apply to 
Mensing (Seckendorf, Walch, De Wette and Enders were of a different 
opinion). J. Koss, the Leipzig preacher, is again described by Luther 
in a letter to N. Hausmann (Jan. 2, 1533, " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 260) 
as a " preacher of blasphemy." 



304 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

own, which he alleged as a proof of the " visible action 
of God " in support of his cause. 1 Johann Koss, the 
" preacher of blasphemy," mentioned above, was given a 
place in this libellous catalogue after he had been seized 
with a stroke of apoplexy in the pulpit (Dec. 29, 1532). At 
the instance of Duke George he had been appointed 
assistant preacher under Hieronymus Dungersheim, that, 
by means of his elocutionary talent, he might defend the 
town of Leipzig against the inroads of the new teaching. 
What particularly incensed Luther was the use this 
preacher made of his Postils to refute him by his own 
words. The stroke came on him while he was vindicating 
the Catholic doctrine of good works. This circumstance, 
taken in conjunction with the "place, time and individual," 
was for Luther an irrefutable proof of the intervention of 
" God s anger." " Christ," he says, " struck down His 
enemy, the Leipzig shouter, in the very midst of his blas 
phemy." 2 The zealous preacher died about a month later. 

" None are more pitiable," Luther says elsewhere of this 
incident, " than the presumptuous, such as are all the 
Papists." 3 It was impossible for him to inveigh with 
sufficient severity against the presumption which threatened 
him on all sides, despite the excessive kindliness and modera 
tion with which he occasionally credits himself ; for were not 
those who confronted him " the devil and his hirelings " ? 
He was forced to combat the frightful presumption of these 
men who acted as though they were " steeped in holiness " ; 
for in reality they are " dirty pig-snouts " ; as Papists they 
are " at the very least, murderers, thieves and persecutors " ; 
hence let all rise up against the " servers of idols." 4 

" We must curse the Pope and his kingdom and revile and 

k, 1 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 158. Under the heading " Mortes 
persecutorum," the list commences with the words : " Fauci prcesentia 
Dei miracula observant." It contains the names of Richard von 
Greifenklau, Archbishop of Treves, Ernest Count of Mansfeld, Count 
Wartenberg, Dr. Matthias Henning, son of Henning the lawyer, 
Caesar Pflug, Chancellor of Treves, and, besides, a Catholic preacher 
at Leipzig, a minister who had fallen away from Lutheranism at 
Kunewalde, a monk who was alleged to have spoken against the 
Apostle Paul, and a Silesian Doctor of Divinity. Then followed various 
additions. Cp. N. Paulus, " Luther iiber das schlimme Ende seiner 
Gegner " (" Katholik," 1899, 2, pp. 490-505). 

2 Letter to Nicholas Hausmann, Jan. 2, 1533, " Brief wechsel," 9, 
p. 260. 3 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 289. 

4 All of the above expressions are taken from the first pages of 
" Widder den Radschlag der Meintzischen Pfafferey " (1526). 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 305 

abuse it, and not close our jaws but preach against it with 
out ceasing. There are some now who say we are capable 
of nothing else but of damning, scolding and slandering the 
Pope and his followers." " Yes, and so it must be." 1 

Elsewhere he hints which vilely vulgar terms of oppro 
brium were to be applied to the Pope, and, after instancing 
them, adds : " It is thus that we should learn to make use 
of these words." The Catholic Princes were also aimed at 
in this instruction which occurs in one of his sermons. This 
discourse, pronounced on Jan. 12, 1531, at a time when the 
intervention of the hostile secular powers was feared, was 
printed ten years later under the title " Ein trostlich 
Unterricht wie man sich gegen den Tyrannen, so Christum 
und scin Wort verfolgen halten soil." 2 

" Our mad and raving Princes," he says, " are now 
raging and blustering and planning to root out this teaching. 
Whoever is desirous of devoting himself to Christ must daily 
be ready to suffer any peril to life and limb." Amongst the 
grounds for encouragement he adduces is the fact that even 
his very foes admitted, " that we preach and teach God s 
Word ; the only thing amiss being, that it was not done at 
their bidding, but that we at Wittenberg started it all 
unknown to them." He calls the angry Princes " great 
merd-pots," who are " kings and rulers of the pig-sty of 
the earth where the belly, the universal cesspool, reigns 
supreme." " But we will be of good cheer and put our 
fingers to our noses at them " ; because we hold fast to 
Christ therefore we suffer persecution from the world. " Who 
is the Pope, that he should be angry ? . . . A sickly, smelly 
scarecrow." " The Pope says : I will excommunicate you, 
thrust you down to the abyss of hell. [I tell him] Stick your 
tongue in my - . I am holy, am baptised, have God s 
Word and His Promises to proclaim, but you are a sickly, 
syphilitic sack of maggots. It is thus that we should learn 
to make use of these words." 3 

1 Ibid., 28, p. 868 = 36, p. 410. For the tone of Luther s 
polemics against his theological opponents among both the Catholics 
and the Protestants, cp. vol. ii., p. 153 f., where the opinions of 
contemporaries, and friends of Luther s immediate circle are given. 
For further criticisms of Catholic contemporaries see below, p. 251 ff., 
also vol. v., xxxiii., on the extreme tension of Luther s polemics 
against Popery towards the end of his life. 

2 " Werke, " Weim. ed., 34, 1, p. 83 ff. 

3 Cp. below, p. 320, n. 15, and p. 323, n. 2. 

IV. X 



306 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

3. The Psychology of Luther s Abusive Language 
Various Psychological Factors. 

Psychologically to appreciate the phenomenon in question 
we must first of all take into account Luther s temperament. 

To every unprejudiced observer it must be clear, that, 
without the unusual excitability natural to him, many of his 
utterances would be quite inexplicable ; even when we have 
given due weight to Luther s ungovernable temper and all 
too powerful imagination they still present many difficult 
questions to the observer. Luther himself, as early as 1520, 
excuses to Spalatin his offensive language on the ground of 
his natural " hot-bloodedness " ; as everybody knew what 
his temper was, his opponents ought not to annoy him as 
they did ; yet these " monsters " only provoked him the 
more, and made him " overstep the bounds of modesty 
and decency." 1 It is perfectly true that some of his foes did 
provoke him by their mode of attack, yet on the other 
hand his own violence usually put theirs in the shade. 
(See below, xxvii., 4.) 

In addition to his natural impetuosity which furnishes 
the chief basis of the phenomenon under consideration, 
several other factors must also be envisaged, depending 
on the objects or persons arousing his indignation. 

It is clear that he was within his rights when he scourged 
the anti-Christian blasphemy and seductive wiles of the 
Jews, however much he may have been in the wrong in 
allowing himself to be carried away by fanaticism so far as 
to demand their actual persecution. The same holds good 
of many of the instances of his ungenerous and violent 
behaviour towards " heretics " in his own fold. As against 
the many and oftentimes very palpable defects of their 
position, he knew how to stand up for truth and logic, 
though his way of doing so was not always happy, nor his 
strictures untouched by his own theological errors. 

Nor can it be denied that he was in the right when he 
assailed the real, and, alas, all too many abuses of the olden 
Church. The lively sense that, at least in this respect, he 
was in the right may quite possibly have fed the inward 
fire of his animosity to Catholics, all the more owing to his 

1 Letter written soon after Feb. 18, 1520, " Briefwechsel," 2, 
p. 329 f. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 307 

being in the wrong in those new doctrines which were his 
principal concern. To the assurance, and the offensive 
manner in which he insisted on a reform, his visit to Rome, 
a distorted recollection of which ever remained with him, 
no doubt contributed. His mind was. ever reverting to the 
dismal picture by no means an altogether imaginary one 
of the immorality prevailing in even the highest ecclesi 
astical circles of Rome. 

Rome s unworthy treatment of the system of indulgences, 
which had afforded the occasion of his action in 1517, 
continued to supply new fuel for his indignation ; to it he 
was fond of tracing back his whole undertaking. What 
increased his anger was the thought that it was this same 
Rome, whose ignoble practices both in the matter of 
indulgences and in other fields was notorious, who had called 
him to judgment. It is painful to the Catholic to have to 
confess that many of Luther s complaints were by no means 
unfounded. He will, however, call to mind the better 
churchmen of those days, who, though indignant at the sad 
corruption then prevalent, never dreamt of apostasy, know 
ing as they did, that even far worse scandals could never 
justify a revolt against the institution appointed by Christ 
for the salvation of souls. 

Even when voicing his real grievances Luther was seldom 
either prudent or moderate. He never seems to have quite 
taken to heart the scriptural injunction : " Let every man 
be slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man 
worketh not the justice of God." He expounds in his 
Postils the Epistle where the admonition in question occurs, 1 
but it is curious to note how cursorily he dismisses the 
words, with which, maybe, he felt somewhat out of sympathy, 
though here, as elsewhere, he refers to the evil consequences 
of any proneness to anger. On the other hand, he insists, 
that " our censures and rebukes " must be in accordance 
with the " right and true Word," i.e. with theology as he 
understood it. 2 He prefers to devote far the greater portion 
of the exposition to proving his favourite thesis, that, thanks 
to the Evangel now proclaimed, " we have a good and 
cheerful conscience, stronger than all fear, sin and tempta 
tion, and containing the sure hope of life everlasting " ; 3 "it 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 8 2 , p. 277 ff., on the Epistle James i. 16-21, on 
the 4th Sunday after Easter. * Ibid., p. 286. 3 P. 282. 



308 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

is a Word that has power to save your souls ; what more can 
you desire ? " x He seems averse to inculcating that meek 
ness which the text requires. 

One factor which frequently fanned the flames was 
jealousy, when, for instance, he had to deal with theological 
opponents who appeared to be making too small account 
of him. The new Evangel, he said, was endangered by none 
more than by the " fanatics and sacramentarians " ; to 
defend his personal position against them had cost him the 
hardest struggle of his .whole life ; no wonder that against 
them he opened wide the sluice-gates of his eloquence. He 
was keenly sensitive to any slight. " Things are going all 
wrong in the world," he sighed in 1532. " We are already 
looked upon with contempt, but let us gather up the frag 
ments when they are cheapest, that is what I advise." 2 
Of Carlstadt twelve years previous he had written : "If 
he has no respect for me, which of us then will he respect ? 
And what is the good of admonishing him ? I believe he 
reckons me one of the most learned men in Wittenberg, and 
yet he actually tells me to my very face that I am nobody. 
. . . He writes right and left just as he chooses and looks 
on poor Wittenberg as quite beneath his notice." 3 Luther s 
vexation explains his language. A pity one of the Princes 
did not let him taste cold steel ; if Carlstadt believed in a 
God in heaven, then might Christ never more be gracious 
to him (Luther) ; he was no man, but an incarnation of the 
evil spirit, etc. 

Not merely his former friend Carlstadt but others too 
he accused of inordinate ambition because they wished to 
discredit his discoveries and his position. " It is the gloria 
that does the mischief," he said in 1540 in his Table-Talk, 
" Zwingli was greedy of honour, as we see from what he 
wrote, viz. that he had learnt nothing from me. I should 
indeed be sorry had he learnt from me, for he went astray. 
(Ecolampadius thought himself too learned to listen to me 
or to learn from me ; of course, he too, surpassed me. 
Carlstadt also declares : I care nothing for you, and 
Munzer actually declaimed against two Popes, the new one 

1 P. 288. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 115 f. 

VWVerke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 89 ; Erl. ed., 29, p. 166, " Widder die 
hymelischen Propheten." 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 309 

[myself] and the old. 1 All who shun us and attack us 
secretly have departed from the faith, like Jeckel and 
Grickel [Jakob Schenk and Johann Agricola] ; they reached 
their understanding by their own efforts and learnt 
nothing from us ! Just like Zwingli." Yet twenty-five 
years before (i.e. previous to his great discovery in 1515) 
no one "knew anything," and, twenty-one years before, 
he, all alone, under the Divine guidance had put the 
ball in motion. "Ah, Kevo&o^ia [vainglory], that s the 
mischief." 2 

Jealousy played its part also, when, in 1525, he rounded 
so violently upon Zwingli and the Zwinglians at Strasburg. 
Zwingli s crime in his eyes lay not merely in his having, 
like GEcolampadius, adopted a divergent doctrine on the 
Eucharist, but in his claim to have been before Luther in 
preaching the Gospel of Christ openly according to its true 
meaning. 3 Both circumstances contributed to Luther s 
ire, which, after finding vent in many angry words, culminated 
at last in the rudest abuse of Zwingli and his " devilish " 
crew. Already in 1525, he wrote in the instruction for the 
people of Strasburg which he gave to Gregory Casel, who 
had come to Wittenberg to negotiate : 4 " One of the parties 
must be the tool of Satan, i.e. either they or we." 5 " Christ 
can have no part with Belial." And, before this : " They 
[Zwingli and CEcolampadius] disturb our Church and 
weaken our repute. Hence we cannot remain silent. If 
they would be vexed to see their own reputation suffer, let 
them also think of ours." " They ought to have held their 
tongues long ago [on the question of the Sacrament] ; now 
silence comes too late." He concludes with the assurance, 
that their error was refuted by " the Spirit," and that it was 
impossible they could have any certainty concerning their 
doctrine, whereas he could justly boast, that he had the 
experience of the faith and the testimony of the Spirit 
(" experimentum fidei et spiritus testlmonium "). " They 
will never win the day. It pains me that Zwingli and his 
followers take offence at my saying that What I write 
must be true. 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 167. 

2 Ibid., p. 169. 3 See vol. iii., p. 379 f. 

4 Letter of Nov. 5, 1525, to Gregory Casel, " Brief wechsel," 5, 
p. 263 ff. 

5 " Summa, utros oportet esse Sathance ministros, vel ipsos, vel nos." 



310 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Apart from the doctrine on the Sacrament, the other 
thing which helped to annoy him stands revealed more 
plainly in the letter addressed on the same day to the 
Strasburg preachers : " We dare to boast that Christ was 
first made known by us, and now Zwingli actually comes 
and accuses us of denying Christ." 1 Bossuet was quite 
right in arguing that such petty jealousy on Luther s part 
is scarcely to his credit. 2 He quotes a criticism on Luther s 
behaviour by George Calixt, the famous Lutheran professor 
of theology at Helmstadt : " The sweetness of vainglory is 
so seductive and human weakness so great, that even those 
who despise all things and risk their goods, yea life itself, 
may succumb to inordinate ambition." Luther, too, had 
high aims ; " we cannot be surprised that, even a man so 
large-minded as Luther, should have written such things to 
the people of Strasburg." 3 

Offended vanity played a part as great and even more 
obvious in Luther s furious polemics against the literary 
defenders of the Church. One cannot help noticing how, 
especially when they had succeeded in making out a clear 
case against him, his answer was a torrent of most unsparing 
abuse. 

The eloquence which he had at his command also con 
stituted a temptation. He was well aware of the force with 
which his impassioned language carried others away. Very 
little was thus needed to induce him to take up this formidable 
weapon w r hich at least ensured his success among the masses. 
He himself revelled in the unquenchable wealth of his 
vituperative vocabulary, and with it he caught the fancy 
of thousands who loved nothing more than a quarrel. If it 
be true that all popular orators are exposed to the tempta 
tion to exaggerate, to say things which are striking rather 
than correct, and, generally, to court the applause of the 
crowd, this danger was even greater in Luther s case owing 
to the whole character of the controversy he had stirred up. 
In the midst of a stormy sea one does not speak softly. 

1 *&> tj.e Strasburg preachers, Nov. 5, 1525: * Christum a nobis 
primu imlgatum audemus gloriari, at huius negationi.%, iam traducit nos 
Zwinglius." Ibid., p. 262. 

2 " Hist, des variations des eglises protestantes," Paris, 1702, 1, 
p. 69. 

3 " ludicium de controversiis theol. inter Luther, et Ref.," 1650, c. 53. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 311 

Luther s abuse was, however, powerful enough to be heard 
above even the most furious tempest. 

For his work Luther required an extraordinary stimulus. 
He would have succumbed under the countless and burden 
some labours which devolved on him had he not constantly 
aroused himself anew by the exercise of a sort of violence. 
Vituperation thus became to him a real need. When he 
had succeeded thereby in working himself up into a passion 
his mind grew clearer and his imagination more vigorous, 
so that he found it all the easier to borrow from the lips of 
the mob that rude language of which he makes such fell use. 
He kindles his animation by dwelling on the " vermin 
and running sores of Popery." 

In the same way from time to time he found the need of 
unburdening himself of his ill-humour. The small success 
of his labours for the reform of morals and his other annoy 
ing experiences gave him many an unhappy hour. His bad 
humour found an outlet in abuse and vituperation, par 
ticularly against the enemies of the Evangel. He himself 
was unable to conceal the real grounds of the vexation 
which he vented on the Papacy, for, often enough, after 
storming against the Papists, he complains bitterly of his 
own folloAvers contempt for the " Word " and of their evil 
lives. 

After the utterance already recorded : " We must curse the 
Pope and his kingdom," he goes on to levy charges of the worst 
character against those of his own party, and pours forth on 
them, too, all the vials of his wrath and disappointment. It was 
in this connection that he said, that the Evangelicals were seven 
times worse than before ; for the one devil that had been expelled, 
seven worse had entered in, so horribly did they lie, cheat, gorge 
and swill and indulge in every vice ; princes, lords, nobles, 
burghers and peasants alike had lost all fear of God. 1 

Another example, taken this time from the year 1536. Full of 
anger against the Pope he said to a friend who held a high post : 
" My dear fellow, do hurl a Paternoster as a curse against the 
Papacy that it may be smitten with the Dance of St. Vitus." He 
adds : " Don t mind my way of speaking, for indeed you know 
it well ; I am coarse and rough ... so sore beset, oppressed 
and overwhelmed with business of all kinds, that, to save my 
poor carcase I must sometimes indulge in a little pleasure, for, 
after all, man is only human" 2 an utterance psychologically 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 28, p. 763 ; Erl. ed., 36, p. 411. 

2 To Caspar Miiller, Chancellor at Mansfeld, Jan. 19, 1536, " Werke," 
Erl. ed., 55, p. 119 (" Brief ewechsel," 10, p. 290). 



312 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

valuable. The real reason for the depression against which he 
was struggling is, however, clearer in other letters dating from 
that time. In them we get a glimpse of his grievous vexation 
and annoyance with the false teachers within the Evangelical 
fold : " New prophets are arising one after the other. I almost 
long to be delivered [by death] so as not to have to go on seeing 
so much mischief, and to be free at last from this kingdom of the 
devil. I implore you to pray to God that He would grant me 
this." 1 

Lastly, his outbursts against the Papacy served to cover 
his own anxiety of conscience. 

In the same way as others who leave their Church, fling them 
selves into the turmoil and distractions of the world in order to 
escape their scruples, Luther too, allayed the reproach of his con 
science by precipitating himself into the midst of the storm he 
had evoked ; with this advantage, that the sharp weapons of 
abuse and scorn he employed could be turned against the enemy 
both without and within. Accustomed as he was to treat the 
voice of conscience as the voice of Satan, he willingly clung to 
the doubtful consolation that the stronger his abuse of his 
opponents the greater his own encouragement. The evil which 
he detected in Popery seemed to him to load the scale in his own 
favour. He even admits this with the most engaging frankness. 

" I am quite ready to allow that the Pope s abomination is, 
after Christ, my greatest consolation. Hence those are hopeless 
simpletons who say we should not abuse the Pope. Don t be 
slow in abuse, particularly when the devil attacks you on Justifica 
tion." He intends " to infuse courage into himself by con 
sidering the abomination and horror " of the Pope ; and to 
" hold it up under the devil s nose." 2 Dollinger remarks justly : 
" Here [in these anxieties of conscience] is to be found at least a 
partial psychological explanation of that wealth of bitter abuse 
which marks off Luther s writings from all other literary products, 
ancient or mediaeval. . . . Not seldom he sought to deaden the 
interior terrors of a reproving conscience with the noisy clamour 
of his vituperation." 3 

1 To the preacher, Balthasar Rhaide, Jan. 17, 1536, " Brief - 
wechsel," 10, p. 288. Cp. p. 293 : " Vides, quantas illi nobis faciant 
turbas, qui a nobis exierunt," and before this : " Spero, quod non 
discedes a forma doctrinal quam hie hausisti." 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 129 ; " Tischreden," Dollinger. " Die 
Reformation," 3, p. 251, erroneously quotes the passage as being in 
Walch : it does, however, occur in Forstemann, " Tischreden," 3, 
p. 136 f. The commencement is remarkable : "At times I consider 
the Pope and say : What after all is the Pope that I should honour 
him, even though you [the devil] magnify him ? See what an abomina 
tion he has wrought and works even to-day ! Before myself I set 
Christ and the forgiveness of sins, but under Satan s nose I put the 
abominations of the Pope. The abomination and the horror is so great 
that I am encouraged and am quite ready to allow that," etc. 

3 " Die Reformation," 3, p. 251. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 313 

We have just heard Luther promise to hold up the Pope s 
abomination to the devil s nose. This saying brings us to 
the principal explanation of the phenomenon under con 
sideration. 



Connection of Luther s Abuslveness with his Mystic Persuasion 
of his Special Call. 

Luther had brought himself to such a pitch as to see in the 
existing Church the devil s kingdom, to overthrow which, 
with its Antichrist, was his own sublime mission. This 
theological, anti-diabolical motive for his anger and bound 
less invective, throws all others into the shade. 

" Even were I not carried away by my hot temper and my 
style of writing," he says, " I should still be obliged to take the 
field, as I do, against the enemies of truth " ("children of the 
devil " he calls them elsewhere). " I am hot-headed enough, nor 
is my pen blunt." But these foes " revel in the most horrible 
crimes not merely against me, but even against God s Word." 
Did not Christ Himself have recourse to abuse, he asks, against 
the " wicked and adulterous generation of the Jews, against the 
brood of vipers, the hypocrites and children of the devil " ? 
" Whoever is strong in the consciousness of the truth, can display 
no patience towards its furious and ferocious enemies." 1 

The more vividly he persuaded himself of his mission, the 
blacker were the colours in which he painted the devil of Popery 
who refused to believe in it, and the more strangely did there surge 
up from the sombre depths of his soul and permeate his whole 
being a hatred the like of which no mortal man had ever known 
before. In such outbursts Luther thinks he is " raving and 
raging [ debacchari ] against Satan " ; for instance, in a letter to 
Melanchthon, dated from the fortress of Coburg, " from the 
stronghold full of devils where Christ yet reigns in the midst of 
His foes." Even when unable from bodily weakness to write 
against the devil, yet he could at least rage against him in 
thought and prayer; "the Pope s enormities ( portenta ) 
against God and against the common weal " supplied him with 
material in abundance. 2 

God had appointed him, so we read elsewhere, " to teach and 
to instruct," as "an Apostle and Evangelist in the German 
lands " (were it his intention to boast) ; for he knows that he 
teaches " by the Grace of God, whose name Satan shall not 
destroy nor deprive me of to all eternity " ; therefore I must 
unsparingly " expose my back parts to the devil ... so as to 
enrage him still more." To the wrath of all the devils, bishops, 

1 To Spalatin, soon after Feb. 18, 1520, " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 329 f. 

2 July 31, 1530, ibid., 8, p. 157. 



314 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

and princes he will pay as little heed as to the rustle of a bat s 
wing, nor will he spare the " traitors and murderers." 1 

As early as 1520 he revealed to an intimate friend the morbidly 
exaggerated ideas which moved him : As an excuse for his 
dreadful vituperation he alleges his pseudo-mystic conception of 
the life and death struggle he was to engage in with the devil, and 
his sense of the " impetus Spiritus " ; this he pleads in extenuation 
to his friend, who would appear to have reminded him of the 
dangers of pride. " All condemn my sarcasm," he admits, but, 
now that the Spirit has moved him, he may set himself on a line 
with the " prophets " of the Old Law who " were so harsh in 
their invective," nay, with Paul the Apostle, whose severe 
censures were ever present in his mind. In fact, God Himself, 
according to Luther, is to some extent present in these utter 
ances by means of His power and action, and, "sure enough, 
intends in this way to unmask the inventions of man. 2 

As compared with the interior force with which the idea 
of his mission inspired him, all his violence, particularly in 
his polemics with the Catholic theologians and statesmen, 
appeared to him far too weak. Thus his " Wider Hans 
Worst " against the Catholic Duke of Brunswick, though 
reeking of blood and hate, seemed to him to fall short of the 
mark and to be all too moderate, so at least he told Melanch- 
thon, to all appearance quite seriously. 3 His inability ever 
to exhaust his indignation goes back to the idea expressed 
by him in the same letter with such startling candour and 
conviction as to remind one of the ravings of a man possessed 
by a fixed delusion : " It is certain that it is God Who is 
fighting." " Our cause is directed by the hand of God, not 
by our own wisdom. The Word makes its way and prayer 
glows . . . hence we might well sleep in peace were we 
not mere flesh." His hint at the near approach of the Last 
Judgment, the many signs of which could not escape notice, 
more than confirms the pseudo-mystic character both of his 
confidence and of his hate. 4 

On other occasions traces of his pet superstitions are 
apparent, and, when we take them together, prove beyond a 
doubt the unhealthy state of the mind from which they 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 261 ; Erl. ed., 65, p. 25 ; " Widder 
den Radschlag," etc., 1526. 

2 Aug. 19, 1520, to Wenceslaus Link, " Briefwechsel," 2, p. 463. 

3 April 12, 1541, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 342 : " Miror, quid 
mihi accident, ut tarn moderatus fuerim." 

* Ibid., p. 341 : " Cerium est ipsum [Christum ] pedetentim descendere 
de throno ad iudicium illud exspectatissimum ; multa aunt nimis signa, 
quce id mihi persuadent." 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 315 

sprang. For instance, Luther professes to know particulars 
of the approaching end of the world concerning which the 
Bible says nothing ; he also has that curious list of oppo 
nents miraculously slain by the Divine hand, and even 
fancies he can increase it by praying for the death of those 
who, not sharing his opinions, stood in his way : " This year 
we must pray Duke Maurice to death ; we must slay him 
by our prayers, for he is likely to prove a wicked man." On 
the same occasion he also attributes to himself a sort of 
prophetic gift : "I am a prophet." 1 The foretelling of 
future events and the fulfilment in his own person of olden 
prophecies and visions, and again the many miracles and 
expulsions of the devil which accompany the spread of his 
teaching, confirm his Evangel and impress the stamp of 
Divine approbation on his hatred of Antichrist. 2 Divine 
portents, which, however, no one but Luther would have 
recognised as such, were also exploited : the birth of the 
monstrous Monk-Calf ; the Pope-Ass fished from the Tiber ; 
signs in the heavens and on the earth. The Book of Daniel 
and St. John s Apocalypse supplied him when necessary 
with the wished-for interpretation, though his far-fetched 
speculations would better become a mystic dreamer than a 
sober theologian and spiritual guide of thousands. All this 
was crowned by the diabolical manifestations which he 
himself experienced, though what he took for apparitions of 
the devil was merely the outcome of an overwrought mind. 3 
This enables us to seize that second nature of his, made up 
of superhuman storming and vituperation, and to under 
stand, how, in his hands, wild abuse of the Papacy became 
quite a system. 

" I shall put on my horns," he wrote to a friend in 1522, " and 
vex Satan until he lies stretched out on the ground. Don t be 
afraid, but neither expect me to spare my gainsay ers ; should 
they be hard hit by the new movement, that is not our fault, but 
a judgment from above on their tyranny." 4 Shortly after he 
wrote in a similar strain to reassure some unknown correspon 
dent concerning his unusual methods of controversy : " Hence, 
my dear friend, do not wonder that many take offence at my 

1 Dollinger, " Die Reformation," 3, p. 266, from the notes of one of 
his table-companions : Cod. Manh., 355. Coll. Camerar. v. (Ms. Bibl. 
Monac.), fol. 148 a. 

2 Cp. vol. iii., 148 f. See also " Luthers Brief wechsel," ed. C. A. H. 
Burkhardt, 1866, p. 357. 3 Cp. our vol. vi., xxxvi., 3. 

* To Spalatin, July 26, 1522, " Briefwechsel," 3, p. 435. 



316 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

writings. For it must be that only a few hold fast to the Gospel 
[the friend had pointed out to him that many of his followers 
were being scared away by his abuse]. . . . His Highness my 
master has admonished me in writing, and many other friends 
have done the same. But my reply is ever that I neither can 
nor will refrain from it." 1 

Abuse becomes almost inseparable from his teaching, or at 
least seems entailed by it. " Whoever accepts my teaching with 
a right heart," he says, " will not be scandalised by my abuse." 
Indeed, he adds, ermilating Hus, he was ready " to risk his life 
should persecution or the needs of the time demand it." Nor 
have we any reason to doubt that his misguided enthusiasm 
would have rendered him capable of such a sacrifice. 2 

In 1531 the Elector Johann sent him a reprimand through 
Chancellor Briick on account of the two violent tracts, " Warnunge 
an seine lieben Deudschen " and " Auff das vermeint keiserlich 
Edict." George of Saxony had, it appears, complained to the 
Elector, that these writings " served in no small measure to incite 
to rebellion, and also contained much abuse both of high and 
low." 3 Hereupon Luther, with the utmost impudence, vindi 
cated his cause to his sovereign : " That certain persons may have 
informed your Electoral Highness that the two writings were 
sharp and hasty, this is indeed true ; I never meant them to be 
blunt and kind, and only regret that they were not more severe 
and violent " ; for all he had said of such " lying, blasphemous, 
asinine " opponents especially considering the danger in which 
the Electoral house stood fell short of the mark ; the Prince 
should bear in mind that he [Luther] had been " far too mild and 
soft in dealing with such evil knots and boughs." 4 

But " the knots and boughs " of his literary opponents did 
not consist entirely in coarse insults, but largely in the well- 
grounded vindication against his unwarranted attacks of the 
religion of their fathers, in which they saw the true basis of the 
common weal. His opponents had necessarily to take the de 
fensive ; Luther, with his furious w r ords and actions, was in 
almost every case the aggressor, and forestalled their writings. 

It is plain that, at the very time when he thus explained his 
position to the Elector Johann, i.e. about the time of the Diet of 
Augsburg, in 1530, he was under the influence of that inner 
power of which he had said : "I am carried away I know not 
by what spirit " ; "I am not master of myself." He exclaims : 
" In God s name and at His command I will tread upon the lion 
and adder and trample under foot the lion and dragon [it is thus 

1 Aug. 28, 1522, "Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 349 (" Brief wechsel," 3, 
p. 447). Cp. the letter to Spalatin of Nov. 11, 1521, " Briefwechsel," 
3, p. 246 f. 

2 Cp. letters of Nov. 11, 1517, and Feb., 1520, "Briefwechsel," 1, 
p. 126, and 2, p. 345. 

3 April 13, 1531, in Seidemann, " Beitr. zur RG.," 1. p. 207; 
Enders, " Luthers Briefwechsel," 8, p. 389, n. 1. 

4 April 16, 1531, "Werke," Erl. ed., 54, p. 225 ("Briefwechsel," 8, 
p. 388). 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 317 

that he applies the Messianic prophecy in Ps. xc. 13] ; this shall 
commence during my lifetime and be accomplished after my 
death. St. John Hus prophesied of me," etc. 1 More than ever 
he lays stress on the fact that he has a " Divine mission," and 
was " called by God to a work," not commenced " of his own 
initiative " ; for which cause also " God was with him and 
assisted him." 2 He means to realise his earlier threat (1521) : 
" If I live I shall never make peace with the Papacy ; if you kill 
me you shall have twice as little peace. Do your worst, you 
swine and Thomists. Luther will be to you a bear in the road 
and a lion in the path [as Osee says]. He will meet you every 
where and not leave you in peace until your brazen front and 
stiff neck be broken, either by gentleness or by force. I have 
lost enough patience already ; if you will not amend you may 
continue to rage against me and I to despise you, you abandoned 
monsters." 3 

He is now determined to carry out his threat of 1527 even at 
the cost of his life : " My teaching shall cry aloud and smite right 
and left ; may God deny me the gifts of patience and meekness. 
My cry is : No, No, No, so long as I can move a muscle, let it 
vex King, Emperor, Princes, the devil, or whom it may. . . . 
Bishops, priests, monks, great Johnnies, scholars and the whole 
world are all thirsting for the gore of Luther, whose executioners 
they would gladly be, and the devil likewise and his crew. . . . 
My teaching is the main thing by which I defy not only princes 
and kings but even all the devils. I am and remain a mere 
sheep. . . . Not following my own conceit, I may have attacked 
a tyrant or great scholar and given him a cut and made him angry, 
but let him be ready for thirty more. . . . Let no one, least of 
all the tyrants and persecutors of the Evangel, expect any 
patience or humility from me. . . . What must not my wrath be 
with the Papists who are my avowed enemies ? . . . Come on, 
all together, since you all belong to one batch, devils, Papists, 
fanatics, fall upon Luther ! Papists from the front, fanatics from 
the rear, devils from every side ! Chase him, hunt him down 
gaily, you have found the right quarry. Once Luther is down 
you are saved and have won the day. But I see plainly that 
words are of no avail ; no abuse, no teaching, no exhortation, 
no menaces, no promises, no beseeching serve our purpose. . . . 
Well, then, in God s name, let us try defiance. Whoever relents, 
let him go ; whoever is afraid, let him flee ; I have at my back 
a strong Defender. ... I have well served the world and 
brought Holy Scripture and the Word of God to light in a way 
unheard of for a thousand years. I have done my part ; your 
blood be upon your own head and not on my hands ! " 4 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 387; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 87, at the 
end of " Auff das vermeint Edict." 

2 Cp. ibid., p. 386=: 86 f. 

3 Ibid., Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 188; " Opp. lat. var.," 6, p. 397, in 
"Contra Henricum regem Anc/lice," 1522. 

4 "Werke," Weim. ed., 23, p. 27 ff. ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 3 ff. in . Auff 
des Konigs zu Engelland Lesterschrift," 1527. 



318 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Nevertheless, at times he appears to have had some slight 
qualms. Yet after having described the Papists as " Pope- 
Asses, slaves of the Mass, blasphemers, miscreants and 
murderers of souls," 1 he continues : " Should anyone here 
say that I confine myself to flinging coarse epithets about 
me and can do nothing but slander and abuse, I would reply, 
firstly, that such abuse is nothing compared with the un 
speakable wickedness. For what is it if I abuse the devil as 
a murderer, miscreant, traitor, blasphemer and liar ? To 
him all this is but a gentle breeze ! But what else are the 
Pope-Asses but devils incarnate, who know not penance, 
whose hearts are hardened and who knowingly defend their 
palpable blasphemy. . . . Hence my abuse is not abuse at 
all, but just the same as were I to call a turnip a turnip, an 
apple an apple, or a pear a pear." 2 

A psychological explanation of Luther s mania for 
invective is also to be looked for in the admixture of vile 
ingredients which went to make up his abuse. So frequently 
had he recourse to such when in a state of excitement that 
they must be familiar to every observer of Luther s develop 
ment and general behaviour ; it is, however, our duty here 
to incorporate this element, so characteristic of his polemics, 
in our sketch of the angry Luther. 

The Unpleasant Seasoning of Luther s Abuse. 

The filthy expressions, to which Luther was so prone 
when angry, are psychologically interesting, throwing light 
as they do on the depth of his passion and on the all too 
earthly atmosphere which pervades his abuse. Had 
Luther s one object, as writer and teacher, been to vindicate 
spiritual treasures he would surely have scorned to make 
use of such adjuncts as these in his teaching or his polemics. 
Even when desirous of speaking forcibly, as beseemed a 
man of his stamp, he would have done so without intro 
ducing these disreputable and often repulsive elements of 
speech. He was, however, carried away by an imagination 
only too familiar with such vulgar imagery, and a tongue 
and pen much too ready to speak or write of things of that 
sort. Unless he places pressure on himself a man s writings 

1 "Werko," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 311; Erl. ed., 25 9 , p. 38, "War- 
nunge an seine lieben Deudschen," 1531. 

2 Ibid. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 319 

give a true picture of his inner standards, and pressure was 
something which Luther s genius could never endure. 

Luther had, moreover, a special motive for drawing his 
creations from this polluted well. He wished to arouse the 
lower classes and to ingratiate himself with those who, the 
less capable they were of thinking for themselves or of 
forming a true judgment, were all the readier to welcome 
coarseness, banter and the tone of the gutter. Amidst their 
derisive laughter he flings his filth in the face of his oppo 
nents, of the Catholics throughout the world, the Pope, the 
hierarchy and the German past. 

If at Rome they had to prove that the Keys had been given to 
St. Peter " the Pope s nether garments would fare badly." 1 Of 
the Papal dispensation for the clergy to marry, which many 
confidently expected, Luther says, that it would be just the 
thing for the devil ; "let him open his bowels over his dispensa 
tion and sling it about his neck." 2 The Princes and nobles 
(those who were on the other side) " soiled their breeches so 
shamefully in the Peasant War that even now they can be smelt 
afar off." 3 He declares of the head of the Church of Rome : 
" Among real Christians no one is more utterly despicable than 
the Pope ... he stinks like a hoopoe s nest." 4 Of those 
generally who opposed the Divine Word he says : " No smell 
is worse than yours." 5 " Good-bye, beloved Rome ; let what 
stinks go on stinking." 6 

"It is stupid of the Papists to wear breeches. How if they 
were to get drunk and let slip a motion ? " 7 This concern we 
find expressed in Luther s " Etliche Spriiche wider das Concilium 
Obstantiense " (1535). And it is quite in keeping with other 
utterances in the same writing. He there speaks of the " dragons 
heads that peep and spew out of the hind-quarters of the Pope- 
Ass," 8 and on the same page ventures to address our Saviour as 
follows : " Beloved Lord Jesus Christ, it is high time that Thou 
shouldst lay bare, back and front, the shame of the furious, 
bloodthirsty, purple-clad harridan and reveal it to the whole 
world in preparation for the dawn of Thy bright Coming." 

Naturally he is no less unrestrained in his attacks on all who 
defended Popery. Of Eck s ideas on chastity he remarks : 
" Your he-goat to your nostrils smells like balsam." 9 Of Cardinal 
Albert of Mayence and his party he wrote, during the Schonitz 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 175. 

2 Ibid., Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 486 ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 154. 

3 Ibid., Erl. ed., 41, p. 17. 

4 Ibid., Weim. ed., 16, p. 469 ; Erl. ed., 36, p. 81. 
6 Ibid., Erl. ed., 38, p. 176. 

6 Ibid., Weim. ed., 7, p. 7 ; Erl. ed., 53, p. 46. 

7 Ibid., Erl. ed., 31, p. 404. 8 Ibid., p. 393. 
9 Ibid., Weim. ed., 7, p. 674 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 290. 



320 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

controversy : These " knaves and liars " " bring out foul rags 
fit only for devils and men to use in the closet." 1 The epithet, 
merd-priest, merd-bishop, is several times applied by him to 
members of the Catholic hierarchy. 2 "The poor merd-priest 
wanted to ease himself, but, alas, there was nothing in his 
bowels." 3 

The Jurists who still clung to Canon Law he declares 
" invade the churches with their Pope like so many swine ; 
yet there is another place whither they might more seemingly 
betake themselves if they wish to wipe the fundament of their 
Pope." 4 The Italians think that "whatever a Cardinal gives 
vent to, however vile it be, is a new article of faith promulgated 
for the benefit of the Germans." 5 To the Papists who threaten 
him with a Council he says : "If they are angry let them ease 
themselves into their breeches and sling it round their neck ; 
that will be real balsam and pax for such thin-skinned saints." 6 
The fanatics who opposed his teaching on the Sacrament were 
also twitted on the score that " they would surely ease them 
selves on it and make use of it in the privy." 7 The Princes and 
scoundrel nobles faithfully followed the devil s lead, who cannot 
bear to listen to God s Word " but shows it his backside." 8 How 
are we best to answer an opponent, even the Pope ? As though 
he were a " despicable drunkard." " Give them the fig " (i.e. 
make a certain obscene gesture with the fist). 9 Such is his own 
remedy in all hostility and every misfortune : "I give them the 
fig." 10 His usual counsel is, however, to turn one s " posterior " 
on them. 

The Pope is the " filth which the devil has dropped in the 
Church " ; he is the " devil s bishop and the devil himself." 11 
Commenting on the Papal formula " districte mandantes," he 
adds: " Ja, in Ars." 12 They want " me to run to Rome and 
fetch forgiveness of sins. Yes, forsooth, an evacuation ! " 13 

Of the Pope s Bull of excommunication he says " they ought 
to order his horrid ban to be taken to the back quarters where 
children of Adam go to stool ; it might then be used as a pocket- 
handkerchief." 14 We must seize hold of the " vices " of the Pope 
and his clergy and show them up as real lechers ; thus should all 
those who hold the office of preacher "set their droppings under 
the very noses of the Pope and the bishops." 15 " The spirit of 
the Pope, the father of lies," wishes to display his wisdom by so 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 29. 2 Cp. ibid., 64, p. 324. 

3 " Briefe," 6, p. 373. 4 Ibid., 5, p. 622. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed, 30, 2, p. 485 ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 154. 

6 Ibid., Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 148. 

7 Ibid., Weim. ed., 23, p. 149 ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 68. 

8 Ibid., 33, p. 673 = 48, p. 407. 

9 Ibid., Erl. ed., 42, p. 67. 

10 Ibid., Weim. ed., 19, p. 400 ; Erl. ed., 41, p. 30. 

11 Ibid., Erl. ed., 44, p. 296. 12 Ibid., 45, p. 153. 

13 Ibid., 44, p. 257. 

14 Ibid., Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 495 ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 167. 

15 Ibid., Erl. ed., 44, p. 321. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 321 

altering the Word of God, that it "reeks of his stale filth." 1 
These people, who, like the Pope, are so learned in the Scripture, 
are "clever sophists," experts in equine anal functions. 2 They 
have " taken it upon themselves to come to the assistance of the 
whole world with their chastity and good works, but, in reality, 
they merely " stuff our mouths with horse-dung." 3 

Of the alleged Papal usurpations he exclaims : " Were such 
muck as this stirred up in a free Council, what a stench there would 
be ! " 4 The same favourite figure of speech helps him against 
the Sacramentarians : " What useful purpose can be served by 
my raking up all the devil s filth ? " 5 This phrase was at least 
more in place when Luther, referring to Philip of Hesse s bigamy, 
said, that he " was not going to stir up the filth under the public 
nose." 6 After their defeat he refused to comply with the 
demand of the peasants, that he should support them in the; : r 
lawlessness: They want us to lend them a hand in "stirring up 
thoroughly the filth that is so eager to stink, till their mouths and 
noses are choked with it." 7 But it is to the Pope and his followers 
that, by preference, he applies such imagery. " They have 
forsaken the stool of St. Peter and St. Paul and now parade 
their filth [concerning original sin] ; to such a pass have they come 
that they no longer believe anything, whether concerning the 
Gospel, or Christ, or even their own teaching." 8 " This is the 
filth they now purvey, viz. that we are saved by our works ; 
this is the devil s own poisonous tail." 9 Of those who awaited 
the decision of a Council he writes : " Let the devil wait if he 
chooses. . . . The members of the body must not wait till the 
filth says and decrees whether the body is healthy or not. We 
are determined to learn this from the members themselves and 
not from the urine, excrement and filth. In the same way we shall 
not wait for the Pope and bishops in Council to say : This is 
right. For they are no part of the body, or clean and healthy 
members, but merely the filth of squiredom, merd spattered on 
the sleeve and veritable ordure, for they persecute the true 
Evangel, well knowing it to be the Word of God. Therefore we 
can see they are but filth, stench and limbs of Satan." 10 

At the time of the Diet of Augsburg, in 1530, he informed the 
delegates of his party : " You are treating, not with men, but 
with the very gates of hell. . . . But they have fallen foul of 
the wisdom of God and [the final sentence of this Latin epistle is 
in German] soil themselves with their own filthy wisdom. Amen, 
Amen." 11 The words " bescheissen " and " beschmeissen " (cp. 
popular French : " emmerder ") flow naturally from Luther s 

1 Ibid., Weim. ed., 30, pp. 3, 335 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 52. 

2 Ibid., Erl. ed., 20 2 , 2, p. 562. 3 Ibid., 20 2 , 1, p. 19. 

4 Ibid., 25 2 , p. 253. 

5 Ibid., Weim. ed., 26, p. 429 ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 282. 

6 " Briefe," 6, p. 296. 

7 " Wcrke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 43 ; Erl. ed., 29, p. 378. 

8 Ibid., Erl. ed., 44, p. 318. Ibid., p. 316. 

10 Ibid., Weim. ed., 33, p. 458 ; Erl. ed., 48, p. 222. 

11 On June 30, 1530, to Johann Agricola, " Briefweclisel," 8, p. 57.] 

IV. Y 



322 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

pen. Neobulus, the Hessian defender of the bigamy, he describes 
as " a prince of darkness," who " has defiled himself with his 
wisdom " ; l the papal " Jackanapes " who " declare that the 
Lutherans have risen in revolt," have likewise " defiled them 
selves with their sophistry." 2 

He asserts he can say " with a clear conscience that the Pope 
is a merd-ass and the foe of God." 3 " The Pope- Ass has emitted 
a great and horrible ordure here. ... A wonder it did not 
tear his anus or burst his belly." " There lies the Pope in 
his own dung." 4 "The Popes are so fond of lies arid scur 
rilities that their paunch waxes fat on them " ; they are 
waiting to see " whether the Pope s motions will not ulti 
mately scare the kings. ". . . The Papal hypocrites I had 
almost said the devil s excrements boast of being masters over 
the whole world." 6 

Amidst these unavoidable quotations from Luther s 
unpleasant vocabulary of abuse the historian is confronted 
again and again with the question : What relation does 
this coarser side of Luther s style bear to the manners of 
his times ? We have already pointed out how great the 
distance is between him and all other writers, particularly 
such as treat of religious subjects in a popular or polemical 
vein ; obviously it is with the latter category of writings 
that his should be compared, rather than with the isolated 
aberrations of certain writers of romance or the lascivious 
works produced by the Humanists. 6 Various quotations 
from contemporaries of Luther s, even from friends of the 
innovations, have shown that his language both astonished 
and shocked them. 7 It was felt that none other could 
pretend to measure himself beside this giant of invective. 

Duke George of Saxony on one occasion told Luther in 
no kindly way that he knew peasants who spoke just the 
same, " particularly when the worse for drink " ; indeed 
they went one better and " knew how to use their fists " ; 
among them Luther would be taken for a swine-herd. 8 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 65, p. 207. 

2 Ibid., Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 468 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 125. 

3 Ibid., Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 216. 4 Ibid,, p. 216 f. 5 Ibid., p. 205. 
6 Calvin also suffered, though in a less degree, from this mania for 

invective ; of him and of the excuse some have sought in the tone and 
habits of the age a recent French historian says : Even though such 
abuse was not entirely unparalleled, " yet it cannot but surprise and 
grieve us in the case of a religious reformer." H. Lemonnier, "Histoire 
de France," ed. E. Lavisse, 5, 2, 1904, p. 230, dealing with French 
Calvinism. 7 See our vol. ii., p. 153 ff. 

8 In the reply " Auf das Schmahbuchlein," usw., " Werke," Erl. ed., 
25 2 , p. 143, published under Arnold s name. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 323 

" Their inexhaustible passion for abuse," wrote a Catholic 
contemporary in 1526, " makes me not a little suspicious 
of the teaching of this sect. No one is accounted a good 
pupil of Luther s who is not an adept in abusive language ; 
Luther s own abuse knows no bounds. . . . Who can put 
up with such vituperation the like of which has not been 
heard for ages ? . . . Read all this man s writings and 
you will hardly find a page that is not sullied with vile 
abuse." 1 

It is true that the lowest classes, particularly in Saxony, 
as it would appear, were addicted to the use of smutty 
language in which they couched their resentment or their 
wit ; this, however, was among themselves. In the writings 
of the Wittenberg professor of theology, on the other hand, 
this native failing emerges unabashed into the light of day, 
and the foul sayings which Luther in his anxiety to 
achieve popularity gathered from the lips of the rabble 
swept like a flood over the whole of the German literary 
field. Foul language became habitual, and, during the 
polemics subsequent on Luther s death, whether against the 
Catholics or among the members of the Protestant fold, was 
a favourite weapon of attack with those who admired 
Luther s drastic ways. 

As early as 1522 Thomas Blaurer, a youthful student at 
Wittenberg, wrote : " No abuse, however low and shame 
ful," must be spared until Popery is loathed by all. 2 Thus 
the object in view was to besmirch the Papacy by pelting 
it with mire. When, in 1558, Tilman Hesshusen, an old 
Wittenberg student, became Professor of Theology and 
General Superintendent at Heidelberg and thundered with 
much invective against his opponents and in favour of the 
Confession of Augsburg, even his friends asked the question, 
" whether the thousand devils he was wont to purvey from 
the pulpit helped to promote the pure cause of the Lutheran 
Evangel ? " At Bremen, preaching against Hardenberg, 
a follower of Melanchthon s, he declared, that he had 
turned the Cathedral into a den of murderers. 3 In 1593 

1 Thus F. Polygranus, O.S.F., in his " Asscrtiones quorundam 
ecclesice dogmatum," printed at Cologne in 1571, Bl. 10 : " insatiabilis 
maledicendi libido ... a seculis inauditce conviciorum voces." 

2 To Ulrich Zasius, Oct. 8, 1522, " Briefwechsel der Briider Blaurer," 
1, 1908, p. 66. 

3 Cp. " KL.," 5 2 , col. 1958 f. 



324 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Nigrinus incited the people to abuse the Papists with the 
words : " Up against them boldly and fan the flames so 
that things may be made right warm for them ! " George 
Steinhausen remarks in this connection in his History of 
German Civilisation : " Luther became quite a pattern of 
violent abuse and set the tone for the anti-popish ranters, 
who, most of them, belonged to the lowest class. On their 
side the Catholics, for instance, Hans Salat of Lucern 
or the convert Johann Engerd, were also not behindhand 
in this respect. . . . The preachers, however, were always 
intent on egging them on to yet worse attacks." 1 

The manner in which Luther in his polemics treated his 
opponents, wrote Dollinger in his "Sketch of Luther," "is 
really quite unparalleled. He never displays any of that 
kindly charity, which, while hating the error, seeks to win 
over those who err ; on the contrary, with him all is abuse 
and anger, defiance and contemptuous scorn voiced in a 
tempest of invective, often of a most personal and vulgar 
kind. ... It is quite wrong to say that Luther in this 
respect merely followed in the wake of his contemporaries ; 
this is clear enough to everyone familiar with the literature 
of that age and the one which preceded it ; the virulence of 
Luther s writings astonished everybody ; those who did 
not owe him allegiance were not slow to express their 
amazement, to blame him and to emphasise the harmful 
effects of these outbursts of abuse, whilst his disciples and 
admirers were wont to appeal to Luther s heroic spirit 
which lifted him above the common herd and, as it were, 
dispensed him from the observance of the moral law and 
allowed him to say things that would have been immoral and 
criminal in others." 2 

Especially his obscene abuse of the Pope did those of 
Luther s contemporaries who remained faithful to the 
Church brand as wicked, immoral and altogether un 
christian. " What ears can listen to these words without 
being offended ? " wrote Emser, " or who is the pious 
Christian who is not cut to the quick by this cruel insult 
and blasphemy offered to the vicar of Christ ? Is this sort 
of thing Christian or Evangelical ? " 3 

1 " Gesch. der dentschen Kultur," p. 514. 

" Luther, cine Skizze," p. 57 f.; " KL.," 8 2 , p. 343. 
3 " Wider das unchristeiiliche Buch M. Luthers," ed. Endtrs in 
" Neudrucke deutscher Literaturwerke," vol. i., 1889, p. 132. 



HIS MANIA FOR ABUSE 325 

Protestant Opinions Old and New. 

Erasmus s complaints concerning Luther s abusiveness 
were re-echoed, though with bated breath, by those of 
the new faith whose passion had not entirely carried them 
away. The great scholar, speaking of Luther s slanders on 
him and his faith, had even said that they were such as to 
compel a reasonable reader to come to the conclusion that 
he was either completely blinded by hate, or suffering from 
some mental malady, or else possessed by the devil. 1 
Many of Luther s own party agreed with Erasmus, at any 
rate when he wrote : " This unbridled abuse showered upon 
all, poisons the reader s mind, particularly in the case of 
the uneducated, and can promote only anger and dis 
sension." 2 

The Protestant theologians of Switzerland were much shocked 
by Luther s ways. To the complaints already quoted from their 
letters and writings may be added the following utterances of 
Zwingli s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, who likewise judged 
Luther s offensive tone to be quite without parallel : Most of 
Luther s books " are cast in such a mould as to give grievous 
scandal to many simple folk, so that they become suspicious of 
the Evangelical cause as a whole. . . . His writings are for the 
most part nothing but invective and abuse. . . . He sends to 
the devil all who do not at once side with him. Thus all his 
censure is imbued with hostility and contains little that is friendly 
or fatherly." Seeing that the world already teems with abuse and 
curses, Bullinger thinks that it would better befit Luther "to be 
the salt " and to strive to mend matters, instead of which he 
only makes bad worse and incites his preachers to " abuse and 
blaspheme." " For there are far too many preachers who have 
sought and found in Luther s books a load of bad words. . . . 
From them we hear of nothing but of fanatics, rotters, Sacra- 
mentarians, foes of the Sacrament, blasphemers, scoundrels, 
hypocrites, rebels, devils, heretics and endless things of the like, 
. . . And this, too, is praised by many [who say] : Why, even 
Luther, the Prophet and Apostle of the Germans, does the 
same ! " 3 

Of Luther s " Schem Hamphoras " Bullinger wrote : " Were 
it written, not by a famous pastor of souls, but by a swine 
herd," it would stilt be hard to excuse. 4 In a writing to Bucer, 
Bullinger also protested against endangering the Evangel by such 
unexampled abuse and invective. If no one could stop Luther 

1 " Opp.," 10, col. 1557. 

2 Ibid., col. 1155 : " isia tarn effrenis in omncs ma.ledice.nlia," etc. 

3 " Wahrhaffte Bekanntnuss tier Dieneren an der Kilchen zu 
Ziirych," Ziirych, 1545, Bl. 130 f. 

* Ibid., Bl. 10. 



326 

then the Papists were right when they said of him, and the 
preachers who followed in his footsteps, that they were no 
" Evangelists, but rather scolding, foul-mouthed buffoons." 1 

In answer to such complaints Martin Bucer wrote to Bullinger 
admitting the existence of grievous shortcomings, but setting 
against it Luther s greatness as evinced in the admiration he 
called forth. The party interests of the Evangel and his hatred 
of the Papal Antichrist made him to regard as merely human 
in Luther, frailties which to others were a clear proof of his lack 
of a Divine mission. As Bucer puts it : "I am willing to admit 
what you say of Luther s venomous discourses and writings. 
Oh, that I could only change his ways. . . . But the fellow 
allows himself to be carried away by the storm that rages within 
him so that no one can stop him. It is God, however, Who 
makes use of him to proclaim His Evangel and to overthrow 
Antichrist. . . . He has made Luther to be so greatly respected 
in so many Churches that no one thinks of opposing him, still 
less of removing him from his position. Most people are proud 
of him, even those whom he does not acknowledge as his 
followers ; many admire and copy his faults rather than his 
virtues ; but huge indeed is the multitude of faithful who revere 
him as the Apostle of Christ. ... I too give him the first place 
in the sacred ministry. It is true there is much about him that is 
human, but who is there who displays nothing but what is 
Divine ? " In spite of all he was a great tool of God (" admir- 
andum organum Dei pro salute populi Dei ") ; such was the 
opinion of all pious and learned men who really knew him. 2 

Yet Bucer had some strong things to say to Landgrave Philip 
of Hesse, regarding Luther s addiction to abuse. To try and 
persuade him to deal courteously with his foes, particularly with 
the Ziirichers after their " mistaken booklet," so Bucer writes 
to the Prince, " would be like trying to put out a fire with oil. If 
Master Philip and I who have kept rigidly and loyally to the 
Concord succeed in turning away the man s wrath from our 
selves, then we shall esteem ourselves lucky." The " foolhardi- 
ness " of the Ziirichers has " so enraged him, that even Emperors, 
though they should be good Evangelicals, would find it hard to 
pacify him." " No one has ever got the better of Dr. Luther in 
invective." 3 

Fresh light is thrown on the psychological side of Luther s 
controversial methods when we bring together those utter 
ances in which his sense of his own greatness finds expres 
sion. We must observe a little more closely Luther s inner 
thoughts and feelings from the standpoint of his own ideal. 

1 To Bucer, 1543, Lenz, " Briefwechsel Philipps," 2, p. 224. Another 
remark of Bullinger s is given above, vol. iii., p. 417. 

2 To Bullinger, 1543, Lenz, ibid., p. 226. Cp. what Bucer said, in 
our vol. ii., p. 155. 

3 On May 19, 1545, Lenz, ibid., p. 343. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 327 



4. Luther on his own Greatness and Superiority to Criticism 
The art of "Rhetoric" 

Characteristic utterances of Luther s regarding his own 
gifts and excellencies, the wisdom and courage displayed in 
his undertaking and the important place he would occupy 
in history as the discoverer and proclaimer of the Evan 
gelical truth, are to be met with in such plenty, both in his 
works and in the authentic notes of his conversations, that 
we have merely to select some of the most striking and 
bring them together. They form a link connecting his whole 
public career ; he never ceased to regard all his labours from 
the point of view of his Divine mission, and what he says 
merely varies in tone and colour with the progress which 
took place in his work as time went on. 

It is true that he knew perfectly well that it was im 
possible to figure a Divine mission without the pediment 
and shield of humility. How indeed could those words of 
profound humility, so frequent with St. Paul, have rung in 
Luther s ears without finding some echo ? Hence we find 
Luther, too, from time to time making such his own ; and 
this he did, not out of mere hypocrisy, but from a real wish to 
identify his feelings with those of the Apostle ; in almost 
every instance, however, his egotism destroys any good 
impulse and drives him in the opposite direction. 

Luther s confessions of his faults and general unworthiness are 
often quite impressive. We may notice that such were not 
unfrequently made to persons of influence, to Princes and 
exalted patrons on whom his success depended, and whom he 
hoped thereby to dispose favourably ; others, however, are the 
natural, communicative outpourings of that " colossal frank 
ness " as it has been termed which posterity has to thank 
for its knowledge of so many of Luther s foibles. In his conversa 
tions we sometimes find him speaking slightingly of himself, for 
instance, when he says : " Philip is of a better brand than I. 
He fights and teaches ; I am more of a rhetorician or gossip." 1 

A passage frequently quoted by Luther s admirers in proof of 
his humility is that which occurs in his preface to the " Psalter " 
published by Eobanus Hessus. The Psalms, he says, had been 
his school from his youth upwards. " While unwilling to put 
my gifts before those of others, I may yet boast with a holy 
presumption, that I would not, as they say, for all the thrones 
and kingdoms of the world, forgo the benefits, that, by the 
blessing of the Holy Spirit, I have derived from lingering and 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 59, p. 279, Table-Talk. 



328 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

meditating on the Psalms." He was not going to hide the gifts 
he had received from God, and in Him he would be proud, albeit 
in himself he found reasons enough to make him humble ; he 
took less pleasure in his own German Psalter than in that of 
Eobanus, " but all to the honour and glory of God, to Whom be 
praise for ever and ever." 1 

In order to know Luther as he really was we should 
observe him amongst his pupils at Wittenberg, for instance, 
as he left the Schlosskirehc after one of his powerful sermons 
to the people, and familiarly addressed those who pressed 
about him on the steps of the church. There were the 
burghers and students w r hose faults he had just been scourg 
ing ; the theologians of his circle crowding with pride around 
their master ; the lawyers, privy councillors and Court 
officials in the background, probably grumbling under their 
breath at Luther s peculiarities and harsh words. His 
friends wish him many years of health and strength that 
he may continue his great work in the pulpit and press ; 
he, on the other hand, thinks only of death ; he insists on 
speaking of his Last Will and Testament, of the chances of 
his cause, of his enemies and of the threatened Council which 
he so dreaded. 2 

1 On Aug. 1, 1537, " Brief wechsel," 11, p. 255, printed in the 2nd 
edition of the Psalter of Hessus of 1538. The following remark of 
Luther s on those who wanted to call themselves after him has also 
been quoted : " Fool that you are, just listen : First of all I beg people 
to leave my name out and to call themselves, not Lutherans, but 
Christians. What has Luther to do with it ? The doctrine is not mine, 
nor was I ever crucified for anyone. St. Paul, 1 Cor. iii. [4, 5], would 
not hear of Christians being called Pauline or Petrine, but simply 
Christians. How then should I, poor smelly sack of maggots that I am, 
suffer the children of Christ to be called by my unholy name ? Hence, 
dear friend, let us do away with party names and be called after Christ, 
Whose teaching we follow. It is only right that the Papists should 
have a party name, because they are not content with Christ s teach 
ing and name, but insist on being Popish ; let them then be the Pope s, 
since he is their master. As for me, I neither am nor wish to be any 
one s master. I share with the congregation the teaching of Christ Who 
alone is our Master. Mt. xxiii. [8]." " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 685 ; 
Erl. ed., 22, p. 55 f., " Vormanung sich zu vorhuten fur Auffruhr," 1522. 
He blames those who, by their stupid zeal, " cause calumny and a 
falling away from the holy Evangel," and " affright " the people and 
prevent their accepting it. Just then it was to his interest to represent 
his teaching as peaceable and his action as moderate. Cp. pp. 677, 
682f. = 46, 51, 53. 

2 We have chosen this somewhat unusual setting for the following 
collection of Luther s sayings in order to prevent monotony. The texts, 
indeed, belong to various times, but there are periods in Luther s 
history, for instance, about the time of the Diet of Augsburg, and in 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 329 

" Let me be," Luther cries, turning to the lawyers, " even 
in my Last Will, the man I really am, one well known both 
in heaven and on earth, and not unknown in hell, standing 
in sufficient esteem and authority to be trusted and believed 
in more than any notary ; for God, the Father of Mercies, 
has entrusted to me, poor, unworthy, wretched sinner that 
I am, the Gospel of His Dear Son and has made and hitherto 
kept me faithful and true to it, so that many in the world 
have accepted it through me, and consider me a teacher of 
the truth in spite of the Pope s ban and the wrath of 
Emperors, Kings, Princes, priests and all the devils. . . . 
Dr. Martin Luther, God s own notary and the witness of 
His Gospel." 1 

I am " Our Lord Jesus Christ s unworthy evangelist." 2 

I am " the Prophet of the Germans, for such is the 
haughty title I must henceforth assume." 3 

" I am Ecclesiastes by the Grace of God " ; " Evangelist 
by the Grace of God." 4 

" I must not deny the gifts of Jesus Christ, viz. that, 
however small be my acquaintance with Holy Scripture, I 
understand it a great deal better than the Pope and all his 
people." 5 

" I believe that we arc the last trump that sounds before 
Christ s coming." 6 

Many arise against me, but with " a breath of my mouth " 
I blow them over. All their prints are mere " autumn 
leaves." 7 

" One only of my opponents, viz. Latomus, is worth his 
salt, he is the scribe who writes best against me. Latomus 
alone has really written against Luther, make a note of that ! 
All the others, like Erasmus, were but frogs. Not one of 
them really meant it seriously. Yes indeed all, Erasmus 
included, were just croaking frogs." 8 

1540 and 1541, when, within a short chronological space, he contrived 
to make a vast number of statements regarding his greatness ; for this 
reason the above arrangement is not altogether untrue to the reality. 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 56, p. 2, and " Briefe," eel. De Wette, 5. p. 422. 
Words taken from his Will of Jan. G, 1542, by which he intended to 
show the lawyers (who questioned his power to make a valid Will on 
account of his marriage) that he was not bound by the formalities on 
which they insisted. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 366 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 75. 

3 Ibid., p. 290 = 22. 4 Ibid., 10, 2, p. 105 = 28, p. 143. 

6 Ibid., Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 124. 6 " Briefe," 5, p. 754. 

7 Ibid., ], p. 101. 8 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 70. 



330 

I have been tried in the school of temptations ; " these 
are the exalted temptations which no Pope has ever under 
stood," I mean, " being tempted to blasphemy and to 
question God s Judgments when we know nothing either of 
sin or of the remedy." 1 

Because I have destroyed the devil s kingdom " many 
say I was the man foretold by the Prophet of Lichtenbcrg ; 
for in their opinion I must be he. This was a prophecy of 
the devil, who well saw that the kingdom he had founded 
on lies must fall. Hence he beheld a monk, though he could 
not tell to which Order he belonged." 2 

" Be assured of this, that no one will give you a Doctor of 
Holy Scripture save only the Holy Ghost who is in heaven. 
. . . He indeed testified aforctimes against the prophet by 
the mouth of the she-ass on which the prophet rode. Would 
to God we were worthy to have such doctors sent us ! " 3 

" I have become a great Doctor, this I am justified in 
saying ; I would not have thought this possible in the days 
of my temptations " when Staupitz comforted me with the 
assurance, " that God would make use of me as His assistant 
in mighty things." 4 

" St. John Hus " was not alone in prophesying of me 
that ..." they will perforce have to listen to the singing 
of a swan," but likewise the prophet at Rome foretold " the 
coming hermit who would lay waste the Papacy." 5 

When I was a young monk and lay sick at Erfurt they 
said to me : " Be consoled, good bachelor . . . our God 
will still make a great man of you. This has been fulfilled." 6 

" On one occasion when I was consoling a man on the loss 
of his son he, too, said to me : You will see, Martin, you 
will become a great man ! I often call this to mind, for 
such words have something of the omen or oracle about 
them." 7 

" Small and insignificant as they [Luther s and the 
preachers reforms] are, they have done more good in the 

1 Ibid., p. 73. 

2 Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," p. 143. Cp. "Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, 
p. 442. See above, vol. iii., p. 165 f. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 460 ; Erl. ed., 21, p. 349. " An den 
christl. Adel," 1520. 

4 " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 159. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 387 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 87. See 
above, vol. iii., p. 165. 6 Mathesius, "Historien," p. 4. 

7 " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 160. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 331 

Churches than all the Popes and lawyers with all their 
decrees." 1 

" No one has expounded St. Paul better " than you, 
Philip (Melanchthon). " The commentaries of St. Jerome 
and Origen are the merest trash in comparison with your 
annotations " (on Romans and Corinthians). " Be humble 
if you like, but at least let me be proud of you." " Be 
content that you come so near to St. Paul himself." 2 

" In Popery such darkness prevailed that they taught 
neither the Ten Commandments, nor the Creed, nor the 
Our Father ; such knowledge was considered quite super 
fluous." 3 

The blindness was excessive, and unless those days had 
been shortened we should all have grown into beasts ! I 
fear, however, that after us it will be still worse, owing to 
the dreadful contempt for the Word." 4 

" Before my day nothing was known," not even " what 
parents or children were, or what wife or maid." 5 

" Such was then the state of things : No one taught, or 
had heard or knew what secular authority was, whence it 
came, or what its office and task was, or how it must serve 
God." " But I wrote so usefully and splendidly concern 
ing the secular authorities as no teacher has ever done since 
Apostolic times, save perhaps St. Augustine ; of this I may 
boast with a good conscience, relying on the testimony of 
the whole world." 6 

Similarly, " we could prove before the whole world that 
we have preached much more grandly and powerfully of 
good works than those very people who abuse us." 7 

" Not one of the Fathers ever wrote anything remark 
able or particularly good concerning matrimony. ... In 
marriage they saw only evil luxury. . . . They fell into the 
ocean of sensuality and evil lusts." " But [by my preach 
ing] God with His Word and by His peculiar Grace has 
restored, before the Last Day, matrimony, secular authority 
and the preaching office to their rightful position, as He 

1 " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 716. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2. p. 309 f.; " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 491 ; 
" Briefe," 2, p. 238 (" Brief ewechsel," 3, p. 438). 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 151. * Ibid., p. 193. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 317 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 46 f. 

6 Ibid., 30, 2, p. 109 f. = 31, p. 34 f. " Vom Kriege widder die 
Turcken," 1529. 

7 Ibid., 36, p. 447 = 18 2 , p. 334. Sermon of 1532. 



332 

instituted and ordained them, in order that we might 
behold His own institutions in what hitherto had been 
but shams." 1 

The Papists " know nothing about Holy Scripture, or 
what God is ... or what Baptism or the Sacrament." 2 
But thanks to me " we now have the Gospel almost as pure 
and undefilcd as the Apostles had it." 3 

" Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great 
gifts on any bishop as He has on me ; for it is our duty to 
extol God s gifts." 4 

It is easy to understand what an impression such assurances 
and such appeals to the heavenly origin of his gifts must have 
made on enthusiastic pupils. Before allowing the speaker to 
continue we may perhaps set on record what one of his defenders 
alleges in Luther s favour. 5 " An energetic character to whom 
all pretence is hateful may surely speak quite freely and openly 
of his own merits and capabilities." " Why should such a thing 
seem strange ? Because now, among well-bred people, conven 
tions demand that, even should we be conscious of good deeds 
and qualities in ourselves, we should nevertheless speak as though 
unaware of them." Luther, however, was " certain that he 
had found the centre of all truth, and that he possessed it as 
his very own ; he knew that by his faith he had become some 
thing, viz. that which every man ought to become according to 
the will of God. This explains that self-reliance whereby he felt 
himself raised above those who either continued to withstand the 
truth, or else had not yet discovered it." By such utterances he 
" only wished to explain why he feared nothing for his cause." 
" Arrogance and self-conceit are sinful, but he who by God s 
grace really is something must feel proud and self-reliant." 
" The only question is whether it is a proof of pride that he was 
not altogether oblivious of this, and that he himself occasionally 
spoke of it." " Christ and Paul knew what they were and 
openly proclaimed it. Just as Christ found Himself accused of 
arrogance, so Paul, too, felt that his boasting would be mis 
understood." Besides, " Luther, because the title prophet 
[which he had applied to himself] was open to misconstruction, 
writes elsewhere : I do not say that I am a prophet. " 6 

1 Ibid., Erl. eel., 01, p. 178, Table-Talk. 

2 Cp. vol. iii., p. 131 f., and above, p. 102. 

3 " Werke," Weim. cd., 15, p. 39 ; Erl. ed., 22, p. 184. 

4 Ibid., Erl. ed., 61, p. 422. 

5 \V. Walther, " Fur Luther, wider Rom," pp. 526-543. 

6 Other Protestant writers are of a different opinion. Fricdrich 
Paulson says in his " Gesch. des Uiiterrichts," I 2 , 1890, p. 178 : " It is 
certain that humility towards men, respect for human wisdom and 
human laws, did not enter into Luther s make. He is altogether 
deficient in that humility towards the actual Church which is so 
characteristic of St. Augustine, Luther s great predecessor in theology. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 333 

The comparison between Christ s sayings and Luther s had 
best be quietly dropped. As to the parallel with the Apostle of 
the Gentiles his so-called boasting (2 Cor. xi. 16 ; xii. 1 ff.) 
and his frequent and humble admissions of frailty St. Paul 
certainly has no need to fear comparison with Luther. He could 
have set before the world other proofs of his Divine mission, and 
yet he preferred to make the most humble confessions : 

" But for myself I will glory in nothing but in my infirmities," 
says Paul ..." gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities 
that the power of Christ may dwell in me ; for which cause I 
please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, necessities, in 
persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak then 
am I powerful . . . although I be nothing, yet the signs of my 
apostleship have been wrought in you in all patience, in signs and 
wonders and mighty deeds." " For I am the least of the Apostles, 
who am not worthy to be called an Apostle because I persecuted 
the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am 
and His grace hath not been void, but I have laboured more 
abundantly than they all : yet not I but the grace of God with 
me." " But we became little ones in the midst of you, as if a 
nurse should cherish her children : so desirous of you, we would 
gladly impart unto you not only the Gospel of God but also our 
own souls because you were become most dear to us. . . . 
You are our glory and joy" (2 Cor. xii. 5 ff . ; 1 Cor. xv. 9; 
1 Thess. ii. 7 ff.). 

" God has appointed me for the whole of the German 
land," Luther continues, " and I boldly vouch and declare 
that when you obey me in this [the founding of Evangelical 
schools] you are without a doubt obeying not me but Christ, 
and that, whoever obeys me not, despises, not me, but Christ 
[Luke xx. 16]. For I know well and am certain of what 
and whereto I speak and teach." 1 

" And now, dear Germans, I have told you enough ; you 
have heard your prophet ; God grant we may obey His 
words." 2 

As Germany docs not obey " misery " must needs over 
take it ; " when I pray for my beloved Germany I feel 
that my prayer recoils on me and will not ascend upwards 
as it docs when I pray for other things. . . . God grant that 
I be wrong and a false prophet in this matter." 3 

The more Luther, during the course of his life, passes from the position 
of a mere heretic to that of head of a new Church, the more does that 
formula [My cause is God s own] become tinged with bitterness, with 
obstinacy and with pride." 

1 " Werke," Woim. ed., 15, p. 27 f. ; Erl. ed., 22, p. 171. " An die 
Raclherrn," etc., 1524. 

2 Ibid., 30, 2, p. 588= 17 2 , p. 421. " Das man Kinder zur Schulen 
halten solle," 1530. 3 Ibid., p. 585 f. = 420. 



334 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

" Our Lord God had to summon Moses six times ; me, too, 
He has led in the same way. . . . Others who lived before 
me attacked the wicked and scandalous life of the Pope ; 
but I assailed his very doctrine and stormed in upon the 
monkery and the Mass, on which two pillars the whole 
Papacy rests. I could never have foreseen that these two 
pillars would fall, for it was almost like declaring war on 
God and all creation." 1 

" I picked the first fruits of the knowledge and faith of 
Christ, viz. that we are justified by faith in Christ and not 
by works." 2 

" I am he to whom God first revealed it." 3 

" Show me a single passage on justification by faith in 
the Decrees, Decretals, Clementines, " Liber Sextus " or 
" Extravagantes," in any of the Summas, books of Sentences, 
monkish sermons, synodal definitions, collegial or monastic 
Rules, in any Postils, in any work of Jerome and Gregory, 
in any decisions of the Councils, in any disputations of the 
theologians, in any lectures of any University, in any Mass 
or Vigil of any Church, in any " Cccremoniale Episcoporum," 
in the institutes of any monastery, in any manual of any 
confraternity or guild, in any pilgrims book anywhere, in 
the pious exercises of any Saint, in any Indulgence, Bull, 
anywhere in the Papal Chancery or the Roman Curia or in 
the Curia of any bishop. And yet it was there that the 
doctrine of faith should have been expressed in all its 
fulness." 4 

" My Evangel," that was what was wanting. " I have, 
praise be to God, achieved more reformation by my Evangel 
than they probably would have done even by five Councils. 
. . . Here comes our Evangel . . . and works wonders, 
which they themselves accept and make use of, but which 
they could not have secured by any Councils." 5 

" I believe I have summoned such a Council and effected 
such a reformation as will make the ears of the Papists 
tingle and their heart burst with malice. ... In brief : It 
is Luther s own Reformation." 6 

1 Ibid., 62, p. 443 f., Table-Talk. 

2 " Opp. lat. var.," 1, p. 20. Preface to the edition of the Latin 
works (1545). 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 3, p. 8 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 212. 

4 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 445 f., Table-Talk (in Latin). 

5 Ibid., 31, p. 389 f. " Ein Brieff von seinem Buch der Winckel- 
messen," 1534. 6 Ibid., 63, pp. 271, 274, Table-Talk. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 335 

" I, who am nothing, may say with truth that during the 
[twenty] years that I have served my dear Lord Christ in 
the preaching office, I have had more than twenty factions 
opposing me " ; but now they are, some of them, extirpated, 
others, " like worms with their heads trodden off." 1 

" I have now become a wonderful monk, who, by God s 
grace, has deposed the Roman devil, viz. the Pope ; yet 
not I, but God through me, His poor, weak instrument ; 
no emperor or potentate could have done that." 2 

In point of fact " the devil is not angry with me without 
good reason, for I have rent his kingdom asunder. What 
not one of the kings and princes was able to do, that God 
has effected, through me, a poor beggar and lonely monk." 3 

How poor are the ancient Fathers in comparison ! 
" Chrysostom was a mere gossip. Jerome, the good Father, 
and lauder of nuns, understood precious little of Chris 
tianity. Ambrose has indeed some good sayings. If Peter 
Lombard had only happened upon the Bible he would have 
excelled all the Fathers." 4 

" See what darkness prevailed among the Fathers of the 
Church concerning faith ! Once the article concerning 
justification was obscured it became impossible to stem the 
course of error. St. Jerome writes on Matthew, on Galatians 
and on Titus, but how paltry it all is ! Ambrose wrote six 
books on Genesis, but what poor stuff they are ! Augustine 
never writes powerfully on faith except when assailing the 
Pelagians. . . . They left not a single commentary on 
Romans and Galatians that is worth anything. Oh, how 
great, on the other hand, is our age in purity of doctrine, 
and yet, alas, we despise it ! The holy Fathers taught 
better than they wrote ; we, God be praised, write better 
than we live." Had Gregory the Great at least refrained 
from spoiling what remained ! "He broke in with his 
pestilent traditions, bound men down to observances 
concerning flesh-meat, cowls and Masses, and imposed on 
them his filthy, merdiferous law. And in the event this 
dreadful state of things grew from day to day worse." 5 

" On the other hand, it is plain that I may venture to 

1 Preface to his Commentary on Galatians, Irmischer, 1, p. 9. 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 243. 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 143. 

4 Mathesius, "Historien," p. 153. 

5 Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," p. 123. 



336 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

boast in God, without arrogance or untruth, that, when it 
comes to the writing of books I am not far behind many of 
the Fathers." 1 

" In short the fault lay in this, that [before I came], even 
in the Universities the Bible was not read ; when it was 
read at all it had to be interpreted in accordance with 
Aristotle. What blindness that was ! " 

But then my translation of Holy Scripture appeared. 
Whereas the Schoolmen never were acquainted with 
Scripture, indeed "never were at home even in the Cate 
chism," 3 all admit my Bible scholarship. On one occasion 
" Carlstadt said to the Doctors at Wittenberg : My dear 
sirs, Dr. Martin is far too learned for us ; he read the Bible 
ten years ago and now if we read it for ten years, he will 
then have read it for twenty ; in any case, therefore, we are 
lost." " Don t start disputing with him." 4 

" Nevertheless I never should have attained to the great 
abundance of Divine gifts, which I am forced to confess 
and admit, unless Satan had tried me with temptations ; 
without these temptations pride would have cast me into 
the abyss of hell." 5 

" The Papists are blind to the clear light of truth because 
it was revealed by a man. As though Elias, who wrought 
such great things against the servants of Baal, was not like 
wise a man and a beggar. As though John the Baptist, who 
so brilliantly put to flight the Pharisees, was not a man too. 
One s being a man does not matter provided one be a man of 
God. For heroes are not merely men." 6 

Certain statements of contemporaries, both Catholics and 
Protestants, sound like interjections in the midst of Luther s 
discourse. They point out how unheard-of was his demand that 
faith should ba placed in him alone to the exclusion of all Christian 
authorities past and present. " What unexampled pride is this," 
exclaims the learned Ulrich Zasius, who in earlier days had 
favoured Luther s more moderate plans of reform, " when a man 
demands that his interpretation of the Bible should be given 
precedence over that of the Fathers of the Church herself, and of 
the whole of Christendom!" 7 "He has stuck himself in the 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 403, Preface, 1539. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichmmgen," p. 121. 3 Ibid., p. 41. 
* Ibid., from Veit Dietrich s " Aufzeichnungen." 5 Ibid., p. 9. 

6 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 123. 

7 To Ambros. Blaurcr, Dec. 21, 1521, " Briefweehsel der Briider 
Blaurer," 1, p. 42 if. K. Stintzing, " Ulr. Zasius," 1857, p. 231, 
Cp. p. 371. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 337 

Pope s place," cries Thomas Miinzer, and does the grand as 
though, forsooth, he had not come into the world in the ordinary 
way, but " had sprung from the brain." " Make yourself cosy 
in the Papal chair," is Valentine Ickelsamer s comment, since 
you are determined to " listen only to your own song." 1 

Luther concludes his address to his followers by replying 
first of all to the frequent objection we have just heard 
Zasius bring forward : 

" I, Dr. Martin Luther by name, have taken it upon me 
to prove for further instruction each and every article in 
a well-grounded work. . . . But first I must answer certain 
imputations made by some against me." " They twit me 
with coming forward all alone and seeking to teach every 
body. To this I reply that I have never put myself forward 
and would have been glad to creep into a corner ; they it is 
who dragged me out by force and cunning." 2 

" But who knows whether God has not raised me up and 
called me to this, and whether they have not cause to fear 
that they are contemning God in me ? Do we not read in 
the Old Testament that God, as a rule, raised up only one 
prophet at a time ? Moses was alone when he led the people 
out of Egypt ; Helias was alone in the time of King Achab ; 
later on Helisaeus was also alone ; Isaias was alone in 
Jerusalem, Oseas in Israel, Hieremias in Judea, Ezechiel 
in Babylon, and so on." 3 

" The dear Saints have always had to preach against and 
reprove the great ones, the kings, princes, priests and 
scholars." 4 

" I do not say that I am a prophet, but I do say that the 
Papists have the more reason to fear I am one, the more 
they despise me and esteem themselves. God is wonderful 
in His works and judgments. ... If I am not a prophet 
yet I am certain within myself that the Word of God is 
with me and not with them ; for I have Scripture on my 
side, but they, only their own doctrine." 5 

" There were plenty donkeys in the world in Balaam s 
time, yet God did not speak through all of them, but only 
through Balaam s ass." 6 "They also say that I bring 
forward new things, and that it is not to be supposed that 

1 Miinzer and Ickelsamer in our vol. ii., p. 377. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 310 f. ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 57. " Grund 
und Ursach aller Artickel," 1521. 3 Ibid., p. 311 = 58. 

4 Ibid. s jbid., p. 313 = 59. Ibid. 

IV. Z 



338 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

all others were in the wrong for so long. To this reproof 
the ancient prophets also had to listen. . . . Christ s 
teaching was different from what the Jews had heard for 
a thousand years. On the strength of this objection the 
heathen, too, might well have despised the Apostles, seeing 
that their ancestors had believed otherwise for more than 
three thousand years." 1 

"I say that all Christian truth had perished amongst 
those who ought to have been its upholders, viz. the bishops 
and learned men. Yet I do not doubt that the truth has 
survived in some hearts, even though only in those of babes 
in the cradle." 2 

" I do not reject them [all the Doctors of the Church] . . . 
but I refuse to believe them except in so far as they prove 
their contentions from that Scripture which has never 
erred. . . . Necessity forces us to test every Doctor s 
writings by the Bible and to judge and decide upon them. 
The standing as well as the number of my foes is to me a 
proof that I am in the right." 3 

" Were I opposed only by a few insignificant men I 
should know that what I wrote and taught was not from 
God. . . . Truth has ever caused disturbance, and false 
teachers have ever cried Peace, peace. 

" They say they don t want to be reformed by such a 
beggar. . . ." " Daniel has arisen in his place and is 
determined to perform what the angel Gabriel has pointed 
out to him ; for the same prophet told us how he would 
rise up at the end of the world. That he is now doing." 
" God has made Luther a Samson over them ; He is God 
and His ways are wonderful. . . . Let good people say the 
best they can of me and let the Papists talk and lie to their 
hearts content." 5 

Neither councils nor reformations will help them. " They 
wish to reform and govern the Church according to their 
own lights and by human wisdom ; but that is something 
that lies far above the counsel of men. When our Lord 
God wished to reform His Church He did so divinitus, not 
by human methods ; thus it was at the time of Josue, of the 
Judges, Samuel, the Apostles and also in my own time." 6 

i Ibid. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid., p. 315 = 61. 

4 Ibid., p. 317 = 61 f. 5 " Werke," Erl. ed., 31, p. 389 f. 

6 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 186. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 339 

Even should our work be frustrated, yet the "power of 
the Almighty could make a new Luther out of nothing." 
In this wise " God raised up Noe when He was obliged to 
destroy the world by the deluge. And, in Abraham s time, 
when the whole world was plunged in darkness and under 
the empire of Satan, Abraham and his seed came as a great 
light ; and He drowned King Pharao and slew seven great 
nations in Canaan. And again when Caiphas crucified the 
Son of God . N. . He rose again from the dead and Caiphas 
was brought to nought." 1 

" Christ was not so greatly considered, nor had He ever such 
a number of hearers as the Apostles had and we now have ; 
Christ Himself said to His disciples : You will do greater 
works than I, and, truly enough, at the time of the Apostles, 
and now amongst us, the Gospel and the Divine Word is 
preached much more powerfully and is more widely spread 
than at the time of Christ." 2 

It is true that "my conviction is, that, for a thousand 
years, the world has never loathed anyone so much as me. 
I return its hatred." 3 

It " is probable that my name stinks in the nostrils of 
many who wish to belong to us, but you [Bugenhagen] will 
put things right without my troubling." Formerly the 
decisions of the Councils ranked above God s Word, " but 
now, thank God, this would not be believed among us even 
by ducks or geese, mice or lice." " God has 110 liking for 
the expectants [those who looked for a Council], for He 
will have His Word honoured above all angels, let alone men 
or Councils, and will have no waiting or expectancy. Our 
best plan will be to send them to the devil in the abyss of 
hell, to do their waiting there." 4 

" So the Council is going to be held at Trent. Tridentum, 
however, signifies in German, divided, torn asunder, 
dissolved, for God will scatter it and its Legates. I believe 
they do not know what they are doing or what they mean 
to do. God has cursed them with blindness." 5 " Nay, 
under Satan s rule they have all gone mad ; they condemn 
us and then want our approval." 6 " The Council is worthy 
of its monsters. May misfortune fall upon them ; the wrath 
1 " Briefo," 6, p. 402. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 94. 

3 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnutigen," p. 113. 

4 " Brief e," 5, p. 418 f. 5 Ibid., p. 743. 6 Ibid., p. 74f. 



340 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

of God is verily at their heels." 1 They look upon us as 
donkeys, and yet do not realise their own dense stupidity 
and malice." 2 

" Should we fall, then Christ will fall with us, the ruler of 
the world. Granted, however, that He is to fall, I would 
rather fall with Christ than stand with the Emperor." " Put 
your trust in your Emperor and we will put our trust in 
ours [in Christ], and wait and see who holds the field. Let 
them do their best, they have not yet got their way." They 
shall perish. " I fear they wish to hear those words of 
Julius Cscsar : They themselves have willed it ! " 3 

Should I be carried to the grave, for instance, as a victim 
of the religious war, people will say at the sight of the Popish 
rout that will ensue : " Dr. Martin was escorted to his grave 
by a great procession. For he was a great Doctor, above all 
bishops, monks and parsons, therefore it was fitting that 
they should all follow him into the grave, and furnish a 
subject for talk and song. And to end up, we shall all 
make a little pilgrimage together ; they, the Papists, to 
the bottomless pit to their god of lying and murder, whom 
they have served with lies and murders ; I to my Lord, 
Jesus Christ, Whom I have served in truth and peace ; . . . 
they to hell in the name of all the devils, I to heaven in 
God s name." 4 

No mortal ever spoke of himself as Luther did. He 
reveals himself as a man immeasurably different from that 
insipid portrait which depicts him as one who made no 
claim on people s submission to his higher light and higher 
authority, but who humbly advanced what he fancied he 
had discovered, an ordinary human being, even though a 
great one, who was only at pains to convince others by the 
usual means in all wisdom and charity. Everyday psy 
chology does not avail to explain the language Luther used, 
and we are faced by the graver question of the actual 
condition of such a mind, raised so far above the normal 
level. " We have," says Adolf Harnack, " to choose 
between two alternatives : Either he suffered from the 

1 Ibid., p. 750. 2 Ibid., p. 777. 

3 To Melanchthon, June 30, 1530, " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 51 f., 
during the Diet of Augsburg. 

* " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 279 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 8. 



SOME TYPICAL UTTERANCES 341 

mania of greatness, or his self-reliance really corresponded 
with his task and achievements." 1 

Luther, at the very commencement of the tract which he 
published soon after leaving the Wartburg, and in which he 
describes himself as " Ecclesiastes by the grace of God," 
says : " Should you, dear Sirs, look upon me as a fool for 
my assumption of so haughty a title," I should not be in the 
least surprised ; he adds, however : "I am convinced of 
this, that Christ Himself, Who is the Master of my teaching, 
calls me thus and regards me as such " ; his " Word, office 
and work " had come to him " from God," and his " judgment 
was God s own " no less than his doctrine. 2 The bishops 
of the Catholic world may well have raised their eyebrows 
at the tone of this work, couched in the form of a Bull and 
addressed to all the " Popish bishops " ; the following year 
it was even reprinted in Latin at Wittenberg in order to 
make it known throughout the world. Bossuet s words on 
the opening lines of the tract well render the feeling of 
apprehension they must have created : " Hence Luther s 
is the same call as St. Paul s, no less direct and no less 
extraordinary ! . . . And on the strength of this Divine 
mission Luther proceeds to reform the Church ! " 3 We 
should, however, note that Luther, in his extraordinary 
demands, goes far beyond any mere claim to a Divine call. 
A heavenly vocation might perfectly well have been present 
without any such haughty treading under foot of the past, 
without any such conceit as to his own and his fellow- 
workers achievements, and without all this boasting of 
prophecies, of victories over fanatics and devils, and of 
world-wide fame, rather, a true vocation would dread any 
thing of the kind. Hence, in the whole series of statements 
we have quoted, commencing with the title of Ecclesiastes 
by the Grace of God, which he adopted soon after his Wart- 

1 " Theol. Literaturztng.," 1911, No. 10, col. 304. Harnack adds : 
" Towards God he remained humble ; this humility was, however, 
couched in a language which must have affrighted the monkish 
devotees." 

2 " Wyder den falsch genantten Standt des Bapst und der Bisch- 
offen," with the sub-title : " Martin Luther, by God s grace Ecclesiastes 
at Wittenberg, to the Popish Bishops my service and to them know 
ledge in Christ," " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 105 ff. ; Erl. ed., 28, 
p. 142 ff. The book was partly written at the Wartburg (see Introd. in 
the Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 93 f.), and was published in 1522, probably in 
Aug. 

3 Bossuet, " Hist, des variations," Paris ed., 1702, 1, p. 26. 



342 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

burg " baptism," we find not only the consciousness of a 
mission conferred on him at the Wartburg, but also an 
altogether unique idea of his own greatness which no one 
who wishes to study Luther s character must lose sight of. 
We shall have, later on, to ask ourselves whether those were 
in the right who looked upon this manifestation as a sign 
of disease. 

Luther s language would be even more puzzling were it 
not certain that much that he said was not really meant 
seriously. With him rhetoric plays a greater role than is 
commonly admitted, and even some of his utterances 
regarding his own greatness are clearly flowers of rhetoric 
written half in jest. 

Luther himself ingenuously called his art of abusing all 
opponents with the utmost vigour, " rhetorica mea." This 
he did in those difficult days when it was a question of 
finding some means of escape in connection with the 
threatening Diet of Augsburg : " By my rhetoric I will 
show the Papists that they, who pretend to be the champions 
of the faith and the Gospel, have there [at Augsburg] made 
demands of us which are contrary to the Gospel ; verily I 
shall fall upon them tooth and nail. . . . Come, Luther 
most certainly will, and with great pomp set free the eagle 
[the Evangel] now held caught in the snare ( aquilam 
liberaturus magnifice )." 1 So much did he trust his rhetorical 
talent that on another occasion he told the lawyers : " If 
I have painted you white, then I can equally well paint you 
black again and make you look like regular devils." 2 Amidst 
the embarrassments subsequent on Landgrave Philip s 
bigamy Luther s one ray of hope was in his consciousness, 
that he could easily manage to " extricate " himself with 
the help of his pen ; at the same time, when confiding this 
to the Landgrave, he also told him quite openly, that, 
should he, the Landgrave, " start a literary feud " with him, 
Luther would soon " leave him sticking in the mud." 3 

We have already heard him say plainly : "I have more in me 
of the rhetorician or the gossip " ; 4 he adds that his only writings 
which were strictly doctrinal were his commentaries on Galatians 

1 To Spalatin, Aug. 28, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 232. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26, p. 275. 

3 Above, p. 58. 4 Above, p. 327. 



HIS RHETORIC 343 

and on Deuteronomy and his sermons on four chapters of the 
Gospel of St. John ; all the rest the printers might well pass over, 
for they merely traced the history of his conflict ; the truth being 
that his doctrine " had not been so clear at first as it is now." 
And yet he had formerly written much on doctrine ; as he once 
said in a conversation recorded in Schlaginhaufen s notes of 
1532 : " I don t care for my Psalter, it is long and garrulous. 
Formerly I was so eloquent that I wanted to talk the whole 
world to death. Now I can do this no longer, for the thoughts 
won t come. Once upon a time I could talk more about a little 
flower than I now could about a whole meadow. I am not fond 
of any superfluity of words. Jonas replied : The Psalter [you 
wrote] is, however, of the Holy Ghost and pleases me well." 1 

That he avoided " any superfluity of words " later in life is net 
apparent. What he says of himself in the Table-Talk, viz. that 
he resembled an Italian in liveliness and wealth of language, 
holds good of him equally at a later date ; on the other hand, his 
remark, that Erasmus purveyed " words withoiit content " and 
he content without words, 2 is not true of the facts. 

An example of his rhetorical ability to enlarge upon a thought 
is found in the continuation of the sentence already mentioned 
(p. 331) : " Before my day nothing was known." 

" Formerly no one knew what the Gospel was, what Christ, or 
baptism, or confession, or the Sacrament was, what faith, what spirit, 
what flesh, what good works, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, 
prayer, suffering, consolation, secular authority,. matrimony, parents or 
children were, what master, servant, wife, maid, devils, angels, world, 
life, death, sin, law, forgiveness, God, bishop, pastor, or Church was, 
or what was a Christian, or what the cross ; in fine, we knew nothing 
whatever of all a Christian ought to know. Everything was hidden 
and overborne by the Pope-Ass. For they are donkeys, great, rude, 
unlettered donkeys in Christian things. . . . But now, thank God, 
things are better and male and female, young and old, know the 
Catechism. . . . The things mentioned above have again emerged into 
the light." The Papists, however, " will not suffer any one of these 
things. . . . You must help us [so they say] to prevent anyone from 
learning the Ten Commandments, the Our Father and Creed ; or 
about baptism, the Sacrament, faith, authority, matrimony or the 
Gospel. . . . You must lend us a hand so that, in place of marriage, 
Christendom may again be filled with fornication, adultery and other 
unnatural and shameful vices." 3 

A. particular quality of Luther s " rhetoric " was its 
exaggeration. By his exaggeration his controversy becomes 
a strangely glaring picture of his mind ; nor was it merely 
in controversy that his boundless exaggeration shows itself. 

1 P. 28. Cp. Lauterbach, " Tagebuch " (Khummer), p. 141 ; 
Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 118. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 346 f. Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 90 
and 427. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 317 ff. ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 4fi f., in 
the " Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen," 1530. 



344 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Sometimes, apparently, without his being aware of it, but 
likewise even in the course of his literary labours and his 
preaching, things had a tendency to assume gigantic pro 
portions and fantastic shapes in his eyes. Among his 
friends the aberrations into which his fondness for vigorous 
and far-fetched language led him were well known. It was 
certain of his own followers who dubbed him " Doctor 
Hyperbolicus " and declared that " he made a camel of a 
flea, and said a thousand when he meant less than five." 
This is related by the Lutheran zealot, Cyriacus Spangen- 
berg, who dutifully seeks to refute the " many, who, though 
disciples of his," were in the habit of making such com 
plaints. 1 

His " rhetoric," in spite of a literary style in many 
respects excellent, occasionally becomes grotesque and 
insipid owing to the utter want of taste he shows in his 
choice of expressions. This was particularly the case in his 
old age, when he no longer had at his command the figures 
of speech in which to clothe decently those all too vigorous 
words to which, as the years went by, he became more and 
more addicted. In the last year of his life, for instance, 
writing to his Elector and the Hessian Landgrave concerning 
the " Defensive league " of those who stood up for " the 
old religion," he says : God Himself has intervened to 
oppose this league, not being unaware of its aims ; " God 
and all His angels must indeed have had a terrible cold in 
the- head not to have been able to smell, even until this 
21st day of October, the savoury dish that goes by the 
name of Defensive league ; but then He took some sneeze- 
wort and cleared His brain and gave them to understand 
pretty plainly that His catarrh was gone and that He now 
knew very well what Defensive league was." 2 Luther does 
not seem to feel how much out of place such buffoonery 
was in a theologian, let alone in the founder of a new 
religion. Even in some of his earlier writings and in those 
which he prized the most, e.g. in the Commentary on 
Galatians, a similar want of taste is noticeable. It is also 
unnecessary to repeat that even his " best " writings, among 
them the work on Galatians, are frequently rendered highly 

1 Spangenberg, " Theander Lutherus, Von des werthen Gottes 
Marines Doctor Martin Luther 21 Predigten " (preached after 1502), 
Ursel, s. a. Bl. 12 . 

2 Letter written after Oct. 24, 1545, " Briefe," 6, p. 392. 



HIS RHETORIC 345 

unpalatable by an excess of useless repetitions. Every 
body can see that the monotony of Luther s works is 
chiefly due to the haste and carelessness with which they 
were written and then rushed through the press. 

In considering Luther s " rhetoric," however, our atten 
tion perforce wanders from the form to the matter, for 
Luther based his claim to originality on his art of bringing 
forward striking and effective thoughts and thus charming 
and captivating the reader. In his thoughts the same 
glaring, grotesque and contradictory element is apparent as 
in his literary style and outward conduct. Much is mere 
impressionism, useful indeed for his present purposes, but 
contradicted or modified by statements elsewhere. What 
ever comes to his pen must needs be put on paper and 
worked for all it is worth. Thus in many instances his 
thoughts stray into the region of paradox. Thereby he 
seemed indeed to be rendering easier the task of opponents 
who wished to refute him, but as a matter of fact he only 
increased the difficulty of dealing with him owing to his 
elusiveness. 

Even down to the present day the incautious reader or 
historian is all too frequently exposed to the temptation of 
taking Luther at his word in passages where in point of 
fact his thoughts arc the plaything of his " rhetoric." 
Anybody seeking to portray Luther s train of thought is 
liable to be confronted with passages, whether from the 
same writing or from another composed under different 
influences, where statements to an entirely different effect 
occur. Hence, when attempting to describe his views, it is 
essential to lay stress only on statements that are clear, 
devoid of any hyperbolical vesture and frequently reiterated. 

He was not, of course, serious and meant to introduce no new 
rule for the interpretation of Scripture when he pronounced the 
words so often brought up against him (" sic volo, sic iubeo ") 
in connection with his interpolation of the term " alone " in 
Rom. iii. 28 j 1 yet this sentence occupies such a position in a 
famous passage of his works that it will repay us to give it with 
its context as a typical instance : 

" If your Papist insists on making much needless ado about 
the word alone, tell him smartly : Dr. Martin Luther will 
have it so and says : Papist and donkey is one and the same. 

1 " For we account a man to be justified by faith alone without the 
works of the law." Cp. vol. v., xxxiv. 3. 



346 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Sic volo, sic iubeo ; sit pro ratione voluntas. For we will not 
be the Papists pupils or disciples, but their masters and judges, 
and, for once in a way, we shall strut, and rap these asses heads ; 
and as Paul boasted to his crazy saints, so I too will boast to 
these my donkeys. They are Doctors ? So am I. They are 
learned ? So am I. They are preachers ? So am I. They are 
theologians ? So am I. They are disputants ? So am I. They 
are philosophers ? So am I. They are dialecticians ? So am 1. 
They are lecturers ? So am I. They write books ? So do I. 
And I will boast still further : I can expound the Psalms and 
the Prophets ; this they can t do. I can interpret ; they, they 
can t." 

He proceeds in the same vein and finally concludes : " And 
if there is one amongst them who rightly understands a single 
preface or chapter of Aristotle, then I will allow myself to be 
tossed. Here I am not too generous with my words." And yet 
there is still more to follow that does not belong to the subject ! 
Having had his say he begins again : " Give no further answer 
to these donkeys when they idly bray about the word sola, 
but merely tell them : Luther will have it so and says he is a 
Doctor above all the Doctors of the Papacy. There it shall 
remain ; in future I will despise them utterly and have them 
despised, so long as they continue to be such people, I mean, 
donkeys. For there are unblushing scoundrels amongst them 
who have never even learnt their own, viz. the sophists , art, 
for instance, Dr. Schmidt, Dr. Dirty Spoon [Cochlseus] and their 
ilk. And yet they dare to stand in my way." 

He nevertheless seeks to give a more satisfactory answer, and 
admits, " that the word alone is not found in either Latin or 
Greek text, ... at the letters of which our donkeys stare like 
cows at a new gate. They don t see that the meaning of the text 
requires it." 1 The last assertion may be taken for what it is 
worth. The principal thing, however, is that he introduced the 
interpolation with a meaning of his own, though he could not 
have held that his doctrine of a dead faith (for this was what his 
" faith alone " amounted to) really tallied with the Apostle s 
teaching. On this point he is quite silent in his strange answers. 
He is far more concerned in parrying the blows with his rhetorical 
artifice. His appeal to the will of Dr. Martin Luther may be 
termed the feint of a skilful swordsman ; his whole treatment of 
the matter is designed to surprise, to puzzle and amuse, and, as 
a matter of fact, could impress only the populace. It is not 
without reason that Adolf Harnack speaks of the " strange logic 
of his arguments, the faults of his exegesis and the injustice and 
barbarity of his polemics." 2 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 635 f. ; Erl. ed., 65, p. 107 (cp. 
" Brief wechsel," 8, p. 249), in the " Sendbrieff von Dolmetzschen," 
which is in fact no " letter " but a polemical treatise in the form of a 
letter, published by Wenceslaus Link in September, 1530, at Luther s 
instance. 

2 " Dogmengesch.," 3 4 , p. 817. 



HIS RHETORIC 347 

The strange controversial methods of his rhetoric give, 
however, a true picture of his soul. 

All this inconstancy and self-contradiction, this restless 
upheaval of assertions, now rendered doubtful by their 
palpable exaggeration, now uncertain owing to the ad 
mixture of humour they contain, now questionable because 
already rejected elsewhere by their author, all this mirrors 
the unrest of his soul, the zigzag course of his thought, in 
short a mind unenlightened by the truth, which thrives 
only amidst the excitement of conflict and contradiction. 
Moderation in resolve and deed is as little to his taste as any 
consistent submission of his word to the yoke of reflection 
and truthfulness. He abandons his actions as well as his 
most powerful organ, his voice, to the impulse and the aims 
of the moment. He finds no difficulty, for instance, even 
in his early days, in soundly rating his fellow-monks even 
in the most insulting and haughty manner, and in assuring 
them in the same breath of his " peaceable heart " and his 
" perfect calm," or in shifting the responsibility for his 
earlier outbursts of anger on God, Who so willed it and 
Whose action cannot be withstood. All this we find in his 
letter in 1514 to the Erfurt Augustinians, where his 
singular disposition already reveals itself. 1 No less easy 
was it to him at the commencement of his struggle to 
protest most extravagant humility towards both Pope and 
Emperor, to liken himself to a " flea," and yet to promise 
resistance to the uttermost. He was guilty of exaggeration 
in his championship of the downtrodden peasants before 
the war, and, when it was over, was again extravagant in 
his demand for their punishment. With an all too lavish 
hand he abandons Holy Scripture to each one s private 
interpretation, even to the " miller s maid," and yet, as 
soon as anyone, without the support of " miracles," 
attempted to bring forward some new doctrine differing 
from his own, he withdrew it with the utmost imperious- 
ness as a treasure reserved. 

As in style, so in deed, he was a chameleon. This he was 
in his inmost feelings, and not less in his theology. 2 

In one matter only did he remain always the same, on 

1 Letter of Jan. 16, 1514, " Briefwechscl," 1, p. 17 f. 

2 On his theology cp. the numerous instances given in Denifle, 
e.g., I 2 , pp. 467, 469, 657. P. 466 : " He is always playing with 
grotesque ideas." Cp. also, ibid., p. 454 f. 



348 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

one point only is his language always consistent and clear, 
viz. in his hatred and defiance of the Church of Rome. 
Some have praised his straightforwardness, and it must be 
admitted, that, in this particular, he certainly always 
shows his true character with entire unrestraint. This hate 
permeates all his thoughts, his prayer, all his exalted 
reflections, his good wishes for others, his sighs at the 
approach of death. Even in his serious illness in 1527 
he was, at least according to the account of his friend Jonas, 
principally concerned that God should not magnify his 
enemies, the Papists, but exalt His name " against the 
enemies of His most holy Word " ; he recalls to mind that 
John the Evangelist, too, " had written a good, strong 
book against the Pope " (the Apocalypse) ; as John did not 
die a martyr, he also would be content without martyrdom. 
Above all, he was not in the least contrite for what he had 
printed against the doctrines of the Pope, " even though 
some thought he had been too outspoken and bitter." 1 
In his second dangerous illness, i-n 1537, Luther de 
clared even more emphatically, that he had "done right " 
in " storming the Papacy," and that if he could live longer 
he would undertake still " worse things against that beast." 2 

Luther s overestimation of himself was partly due to the 
seductive effect of the exaggerated praise and admiration 
of his friends, amongst whom Jonas must also be reckoned. 
They, like Jonas, could see in him nothing but the " inspira 
tion of the Holy Ghost." 3 Luther s responsibility must 
appear less to those who lay due stress on the surroundings 
amidst which he lived. He was good-natured enough to 
give credence to such eulogies. Just as, moved by sympathy, 
he was prone to lavish alms on the undeserving, so he was 
too apt to be influenced by the exaggerations of his admirers 
and the applause of the masses, though, occasionally, he did 
not fail to protest. 

This veneration went so far that many, in spite of his remon 
strances, placed him not only on a level with but even above the 
Apostles. 4 His devoted pupils usually called him Elias. He 
himself was not averse to the thought that he had something 

1 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 162. 

" Briefe," 6, p. 185 f., in the so-called " first Will." 

3 Jonas, in his panegyric on Luther. 

4 Cp. e.g. Mathesius, " Tischreden," pp. 83 and 126. 



HIS RHETORIC 349 

in common with the fiery prophet. As early as 1522 Wolfgang 
Rychard, his zealous assistant at Ulm, greets him in his letters 
as the risen Elias, and actually dates a new era from his coming. 
In this the physician Magenbuch imitated him, and the title 
was as well received by Melanchthon and the other Wittenbergers 
as it was by outsiders. 1 In the Preface which Luther wrote in 
1530 to a work by the theologian Johann Brenz, he contrasts 
the comparative calmness of the preacher to his own ways, and 
remarks that his own uncouth style vomited forth a chaos and 
torrent of words, and was stormy and fierce, because he was ever 
battling with countless hordes of monsters ; he had received as 
his share of the fourfold spirit of Elias (4 Kings xix.), the " whirl 
wind and the fire " which " overthrew mountains and uprooted 
rocks " ; the Heavenly Father had bestowed this upon him to 
use against the thick heads, and had made him a " strong wedge 
wherewith to split asunder hard blocks." 2 

When, in 1532, his great victory over the Sacramentarians 
was discussed in the circle of his friends, the words of the Magde 
burg Chancellor, Laurentius Zoch, recurred to him : " After 
reading my books against the Sacramentarians he said of me : 
Now I see that this man is enlightened by the Holy Ghost ; 
such a thing as this no Papist could ever have achieved, " and so, 
Luther adds in corroboration," he was won over to the Evangel ; 
what I say is, that all the Papists together, with all their strength, 
would not have been able to refute the Sacramentarians, either 
by authority [the Fathers] or from Scripture. Yet I get no 
thanks ! " 3 

Not his admirers only, but even his literary opponents 
contributed, at least indirectly, to inflate his rhetoric and 
his assurance ; his sense of his own superiority grew in the 
measure that he saw his foes lagging far behind him both in 
language and in vigour. 

Amongst the Catholic theologians of Germany there were 
too few able to compete with him in point of literary 
dexterity. Luther stood on a pinnacle and carried away 
the multitude by the war-cry he hurled over the heads of 
the Catholic polemists and apologists who bore witness to 
the ancient truths, some well and creditably, others more 
humbly and awkwardly. The apparent disadvantage under 
which the Catholic writers laboured, was, that they were 
not so relentless in treading under foot considerations of 
charity and decency ; unlike him, they could not address 
fiery appeals to the passions in order to enlist them as their 

1 For proofs see Enders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 4, p. 89, n. 3. 
Cp. vol. ii., p. 162 f., vol. iii., p. 322, and above, p. 269. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 650 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 512. 
3 Schlaginhaufen, " Anfzeichnungen," p. 31. 



350 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

allies, though traces far too many of the violence of the 
conflict are found even in their polemics. Amongst them 
were men of high culture and refinement, who stood far 
above the turmoils of the day and knew how to estimate 
them at their true worth. They felt themselves supported 
by the Catholics throughout the world, whose most sacred 
possessions were being so unjustly attacked. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

VOICES FROM THE CAMP OF THE DEFENDERS OF THE CHURCH 

1. Luther s "demoniacal" storming. A man "possessed" 

WE have plenty descriptions of Luther from the pen of 
literary opponents, and they have a perfect right to be 
taken into account, for they are so many voices courageously 
raised in defence of the heirloom of the faith. What has 
led to this being so often passed over is the fear lest their 
censure should be taken as prejudice, and, needless to say, 
what they tell us must be carefully weighed. Much depends 
on the circumstances in which they wrote, 011 the character 
of the writers, on the content of their statements and on 
how far they differ from or agree with other witnesses and 
the known facts. Several striking passages from their writings, 
in so far as they are confirmed either by Luther himself or by 
his followers, have already been utilised in the present work 
and have served to complete our picture of Luther s 
mind. 

Catholic polemists all agree on one point, viz. that the 
bitter and unkindly \vays of their adversary were a clear 
proof that he had no Divine call. Like Erasmus, they too 
contend that no man who excited such great commotion 
and was so insatiable in abuse and vituperation could be 
honestly furthering God s cause. Like Erasmus, they too 
question whether such unheard-of presumption could " be 
combined with an apostolic spirit or did not rather denote 
madness." They compare his inconstancy, his passion and 
his fickleness to a " restless, stormy sea." His slanderous 
tongue, which so unsparingly lashed the olden Church and 
its doctrines, reminds them of the " roaring lion," who, 
according to St. Peter, " goeth about seeking whom he may 
devour," or of the " fiery darts " of the wicked one against 
whom St. Paul utters a warning. With pain and horror 
they call to mind the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse, 



352 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

that rises out of the deep, bearing names of blasphemy and 
with a " mouth that speaks great things and profanities." 

Their strictures cannot be examined in detail here, but we 
may instance a trait which is common to many of these 
writers and which, though kept in the background as not 
altogether relevant to the discussion, yet deserves con 
sideration as a proof of the effect that Luther s unbounded 
hate, his abuse and his arrogance had on the feelings and 
judgment of contemporaries. Their keen sense of religion 
made them ascribe his behaviour to the devil, and to 
assume, or at least to suspect, that he was in some way 
possessed. It is curious to note how many unhesitatingly 
have recourse to this explanation. 

" We must regard it as a sure sign of demoniacal possession," 
wrote Johann Hoffmeister, Prior of the Colmar Augustinians, 
" that Luther should thus persistently enjoin on preachers as a 
duty to go on cursing and denouncing from the pulpit, though he 
himself sees and bewails the fact, that contempt for religion, 
godlessness and every vice is steadily gaining ground in Germany. 
What can we expect unfortunate youths to learn from such abuse 
and reviling in the churches ? " l 

" Luther is the devil s own bellows," wrote Paul Bachmann, 
Abbot of Altzelle, in 1534, " with which the devil blows up a 
whirlwind of error, scandal and heresy." 2 He goes even further 
and appeals to what he had heard from Luther s brother monks 
concerning the scene in choir, when, falling into a fit, Luther had 
frantically protested that he was not the man possessed (vol. i., 
p. 17). 3 

Bachmann adds : " Luther is the cruel monster that John the 

1 " Dicta memorabilia," Colonise, 1543, p. 13 . Cp. N. Paulus, 
" Hoffmeister," p. 53, n. 4. 

2 " Lobgesang auff des Luthers Winckelmesse," Leipzig, 1534, Bl. 
D 2 . The author says, that Luther himself admits in his " Von der 
Winckelmesse " that he had received his ideas on the Mass " through 
the disputation and revelation of the devil " (Bl. A 2). 

3 " Czu Errettung den schwachen Ordenspersonen . . . eyn 
trostlich Rede," Dresden, 1534, Bl. C 3 : " His brother monks who 
were with him in the Convent at Erfurt, say, that once, when the 
Gospel Jesus was casting out a devil and it was dumb was being 
read, Luther fell down and lay for some time screaming, I am not 
dumb, I am not dumb. " Bachmann also mentions the same incident 
in " Ein Maulstreich dem Lutherischen . . . Rachen, das Closter- 
leben zu lestern " (Dresden, 1534), Bl. B 2. Cp. O. Clemen, " Paul 
Bachmann " (" N. Archiv f. sachs. Gesch.," 26, 1905, p. 30). In " Ein 
Maulstreich " he also says : " What sort of an attack would that be, 
Luther, were I to write or relate what some say, viz. that the devil 
Incubus was your father ! I will, however, refrain from doing so and 
not bring this charge against you." (Bl. B 1 ). He thinks he has stronger 
evidence for Luther s possession than for this legend. 



A MAN "POSSESSED" 353 

Apostle saw rising out of the deep, with open jaws to utter 
abuse and blasphemy." " This is no mere mistaken man, but 
the wicked devil himself to whom no lying, deceit or falsehood is 
too much." 1 

Even from men who had long sided with Luther we hear 
similar things ; for instance, Willibald Pirkheimer of Nuremberg 
says bluntly : " Luther, with his impudent and defiant tongue, 
betrays plainly enough what is in his heart ; he seems to have 
gone quite mad, or to be agitated by some wicked demon." 2 

Erasmus declared that people, rather than credit his calumnies, 
would say that he was steeped in vengefulness, mentally deranged, 
or possessed by some sinister spirit. 3 

1 Cp. above, p. 101. 

2 Letter of 1529 to Prior Kilian Leib of Rebdorf, in D6llinger, 
" Reformation," 1, p. 533, and J. Schlecht, " Leibs Brief wechsel," p. 12, 
from Leib, " Verantwortung des Klosterstandes," Bl. 170 : " vel a 
malo dcemonio agitari." 

3 In his " Purgatio adv. epistolam non sobriam Lutheri," 1534, 
" Opp.," 10, col. 1557 : " a sinistro quopiam agitari genio " (for the 
whole passage see vol. iii., p. 136, n. 2). It is worth while to select from 
this reply of Erasmus, and from his " Hyperaspistes " against Luther, 
some passages in which he expresses doubts as to Luther s mental 
equilibrium, or as to his sobriety. In his " Purgatio " (c. 1548) Erasmus 
says of certain propositions of Luther s : " Num hcec tarn delira videntur 
esse mentis sobrice ? " And before this : " Sed longe perniciosior est 
philautice et odii temulentia quam vini" (c. 1546). " Demiror, si 
Martinus febri caruit, quum hcec deliramenta inauspicatis illineret 
chartis " (c. 1545). " Ipsa febris non posset loqui febrilius " (c. 1546). 
" Arbitror, Orestem olim dixisse saniora, etiam extra lucida intervalla " 
(c. 1547). " Hie nihil crepat nisi Satanas, Diabolos, Larvas, Lamias, 
Megceras, aliasque voces plus quam tragicas. Fortassis ex abundantia 
cordis os loquitur ; certe hcec esse solent ventures insanice prcesagia " 
(c. 1542). " Quce cum scribit, videtur sibi mire 5eiv6s ; verum hcec Selvucris 
sobriis videtur esse mera insania " (c. 1543). Martin may wish to make 
him out an unbeliever, but his readers were more likely to look upon 
him himself as mad (" citius lymphatum," etc., c. 1557, first passage 
given above). In the first book of his " Hyperaspistes " (ib.) he writes : 
" Hcec enim tarn stulta aut alius addidit tuo libra, aut non eras sobrius, 
quum scriberes " (c. 1281). " Totus enim hie sensus sapit culinam, in 
qua non sobrius videtur hcec scripsisse " (c. 1367). " Si qui hcec scribit, 
sobrius est, ego nunquam vidi temulentem " (c. 1371). " Quis non videt 
hcec sine mente scribi, nee agere Lutherum, quum hcec scribit, sed agi 
spiritu quodam maledicentice " (c. 1394). " An hie Lutherus videtur 
fuisse sobrius?" (c. 1411; in connection with Luther s assertion 
that God had wrought the evil in Pharaoh). " Non est sobrius, ut 
paucis dicam, non vino fortassis aut cerevisia, sed philautia et dulcedine 
quadam maledicendi, qua nunquam satiatur, quantumvis sese ingurgi- 
taverit " (c. 1477). " Quam multa hie delirat Lutherus, sine mente 
fundens verba " (c. 1472). Luther s contemporary, Caspar Schatzgeyer, 
a Fransiscan of kindly ways, speaks like Erasmus and describes 
Luther s " De votis monasticis " as the work either of a drunken man 
or of one possessed ("Replica," s. 1. et. a., Augsb., 1522, f. E 1), the 
Paris theologian, Jodocus Clichtovaeus (" Antilutherus," Paris., 1524, 
f. 124 ), speaks of it in the same way. All these statements, with those 
already given, are worth the consideration of pathologists ; though 
emanating from opponents, their number gives them importance. 

IV. 2 A 



354 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

Even Luther s brother monk at Erfurt, Johann Nathin, who 
had been struck with wonder at the young monk s sudden 
conversion, remarked later, when the two had gone different ways, 
that " a spirit of apostasy had entered him," which was corrupt 
ing all the clergy. 1 

Johann Cochlaeus thinks that Luther s unholy doctrine re 
sembles a dragon with seven heads ; such a monster hailed, not 
from God, but from the devil. 2 He allows himself to be carried 
so far away by his conviction that Luther was possessed, as to 
scorn all caution and to take literally a certain rhetorical state 
ment of Luther s, where he tells us that he had eaten more than 
a bushel of salt with the devil, and that he had held a disputation 
with him on the Mass. 3 Cochlsous here lays great stress on 
the views and reports of Luther s former associates in the 
monastery. 4 

Under the impression made on him by the vehemence of 
Luther s language and his whole conduct, Hieronymus Eraser 
declared subsequently to Luther s so-called " great Reformation 
Writings " : " This monk who has gone astray differs from the 
devil only in that he carries out what the wicked one inspires 
him with." 5 Emser, too, appeals to Luther s former associates in 
the monastery : Luther " was possessed by the evil spirit from 
his youth upwards," he says, " as is well known in his monastery 
at Erfurt, where he made his profession." 6 

Kilian Leib, a contemporary defender of the Church in the 
Eichstatt district, tells in his Annals of the impression made upon 
those present by Luther s behaviour at the Diet of Worms : He 
displayed such pride in his manner and conduct that we seemed 
to have before us the image of the enemy of mankind. The 
latter must have dwelt within him and instructed him, if indeed 
he does not still do so. 7 He quotes with approval Eraser s first 
statement, and, from Cochlseus, the passage where Luther speaks 
of his eating salt with the devil. 8 

1 Dungersheim, " Erzeigung," p. 15. His authority is a statement 
twice made by Nathin, first (see above, p. 352, n. 3), that Luther as a 
young monk fell into a fit in choir during the reading of the Gospel 
on the man possessed, " and had raved like one possessed," and then 
a later more detailed explanation of the same incident. 

2 " Septiceps Lutherus ubique sibi suis scriptis contrarius," Dresdae, 
1529 (dedication). 

3 " Commentaria de actis et scriptis M. Lutheri " (ed. Mogunt., 
1549), p. 1. 

4 Ibid. 

5 " Auff des Stieres tzu Wiettenberg wiettende Replica," end. In 
Enders, " Luther und Emser," 2, p. 25 f. 

6 " Auss was Grund und Ursach Luthers Dolmetschung . . . 
verbotten worden sey," 1523. In " Zu Luthers Vorred zum Romer- 
brief," Bl. 65 . 

7 " Historiasui temporis," ed. Aretin (" Beitr. zur Gesch. und Lit.," 
7, Munich, 1806, p. 535 ff.), p. 666 : " Quam elata cervice tumidisque 
moribus expresserit prodideritque superbiam, ut sathance veteris vel 
etiam prcesentanei hospitis illius et prceceptoris qucedam in eo imago 
spcctaretur. " 8 Ibid., p. 663. 



A MAN "POSSESSED" 355 

Hieronymus Dungersheim, the opponent to whom we owe 
Nathin s remark, given above, upbraids Luther, the " child of 
Belial," for his " devilish writings " " whereby he, and Satan 
through him, blasphemes Christ." 1 

Aleander the Nuncio reported on April 17, 1521, from 
the Diet of Worms, that some regarded Luther as mad, others 
as " possessed " ; he also mentions on the testimony of others 
how Luther, on his arrival, " had gazed about him with the eyes 
of a demon." 2 

The Reichstagsabschied of Worms speaks of Luther as " led 
by the evil spirit," nay, " as the wicked enemy himself clad in 
human form." 3 

In the tract against a pamphlet of Luther s published by 
Duke George of Saxony, in 1531 under Franz Arnoldi s name, 
we read at the very commencement, that Luther was losing 
many of his adherents because he showed his hand " so clearly and 
plainly in his writings, that, as they said, Luther must certainly 
be possessed of the devil, indeed of the whole legion that Christ 
drove out of the man possessed and into the herd of swine who 
forthwith went raving mad and ran headlong into the sea " : 
" By the fruits [of his words] we may recognise the spirit." 4 

Johann Dietenberger, as early as 1524, in his " Against the 
unchristian book of Martin Luther on the abuse of the Mass," 
says : " There is no doubt whatever that the horrid, damnable 
Lutheran doctrine has been brought into the world by the devil, 
otherwise it would not be so utterly beastly and contentious, 
quarrelsome and fickle, and so fitted for everything evil." " These 
are all manifest lies, nothing but abuse, slander and blasphemy, 
devilish lies and works by which Luther the arch-liar has driven 
the world to the devil." He calls Luther " the devil s hired 
messenger " and says of his manner of writing : " Here every 
thing reeks of devils ; nothing that the devilish man writes can 
stand without the devil who endevils all his products." 5 

The Ratisbon Benedictine, Christopher Hoffmann (f 1534), 
in his sermons to the Chapter preached before 1525 represents 
Luther as an apostate and as " dcemone plenus." 6 

The anonymous " Indicium de Luther o " included in a German 
codex at Munich and dating from the early years of the contro 
versy, also deserves to be mentioned. The author indeed 
praises Luther s learning all too generously, but then goes on to 

1 " Dadelung," p. 14. 

2 Brieger, " Aleander und Luther," pp. 147, 143. Kalkoff, " Die 
Depeschen Aleanders vom Wormser Reichstage " 2 , 1897, p. 171. 

3 " Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V," 1, p. 718 ff. 

4 " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 129 f. 

5 Quoted by W. Walther, " Fur Luther," p. 213. Ibid., 214, from 
Dietenberger s work against Luther s doctrine of auricular Confession : 
To speak and teach as Luther did was to have " a compact and alliance 
with the poison of the devil and with eternal death." Ibid., similar 
statements from Emser and others. 

6 O. Kronseder, " Christophorus Hoffmann," 1898, p. 57, with 
reference to Cod. Monac. lat. 14626, p. 326. 



356 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

say, that he looked on him as "no Christian," and to speak of 
the " devil s brood " by whom Martin Luther is possessed. 1 

Berthold of Chiemsee in his " Tewtsche Theologey " considers 
that in his day false teaching has been spread abroad " by a 
horrid devil," who makes use of wicked men ; the " devil, with his 
wicked company, has stirred up heresy." 2 

Petrus Sylvius, in 1534, after a lengthy discourse on Luther s 
"seductive and damnable" manner of "slandering and blas 
pheming," says, that he was " in very truth a possessed and 
devilish man." 3 

In order the better to explain how these and many other of 
Luther s contemporaries came to see a diabolical influence in his 
work, we may quote a few words from Johann Adam Mohler s 
lectures on Church History (published posthumously) : " We 
find Luther in 1520 and 1521 displaying a feverish literary 
activity that arouses in the reader a horrible misgiving. An 
uneasy sense of discomfort oppresses us, and a secret shudder 
runs through our frame when we think of the boundless selfish 
ness and presumption which holds sway in this man ; we seem 
to be standing within the inner circle where that sinister power 
rules, which, from the beginning of the world, has ever been 
seeking to taint the history of our race." 4 

Luther himself, as early as 1518, alludes to opponents of his 
who descried in him the influence of the devil. In a letter 
to Trutfetter, his old master, he says : " They speak of me from 
the pulpit as a heretic, a madman, a tempter and one possessed 
by I know not how many devils " ; but " let people say, hearken 
to and believe what, where and as much as they will, I shall do 
what God inspires me to do." 5 

Paolo Vergerio, the Nuncio, whose detailed account of his 
interview with Luther has already been related (vol. hi., p. 426 ff.), 
speaks, like Aleander, of his " strange look," which, the longer he 
observed it, the more it reminded him of persons he had formerly 
seen whom some regarded as possessed ; his eyes were restless 
and uncanny, and bore the stamp of rage and anger. " Whether 
he be possessed or not," he says, " in his behaviour he is the 
personification of presumption, wickedness and indiscretion." 6 

1 Cod. Monac. germ., 4842, Bl. 2. Cp. above, p. 242. 

2 Ed. Reithmeier, p. 2, 165. 

3 N. Paulus, " Die deutschen Dominikaner," p. 63. What the 
Catholics thought will be better understood when we remember that 
even H. Bullinger, in his " History of the Reformation " (ed. Hottinger 
and Vcegeli, 2, Frauenfeld, 1838, p. 239), says of Luther s " Kurtz 
Bekentnis " of 1544 : " Although he had previously written much that 
was illogical, insulting and even blasphemous, yet he outdoes himself 
in the shameful, wanton and offensive words he uses in this booklet. 
He bursts for very devils . . . and acts like a man possessed." 

4 " KG.," ed. Gams, 3, 1868, p. 105 f. 

5 Letter of May 9, 1518, " Briefwechsel," 1, p. 188. 

6 Ed. Friedensburg ( " Nuntiaturberichte aus Deutschland," 1533- 
1559, vol. i.), p. 541, report on Nov. 13, 1535. 



A MAN -POSSESSED" 357 

The statements regarding Luther s eyes made by various 
persons who knew him would appear to have furnished many 
with a ground for thinking him under some diabolical spell. 
" Luther s dark and sparkling eyes, deep-set and keen . . . 
must indeed have made an even greater impression than the 
best of Cranach s portraits." 1 

While his friends, Melanchthon for instance, saw in them the 
expression of a high-minded and noble nature and a " leonine 
glance," 2 many Catholics, like Vergerio, saw the reflection of a 
spirit hostile to God. At Worms, as already related, Aleander 
had said, though only on the strength of hearsay, that Luther 
had " the eyes of a demon," and a Spanish account from Worms 
also remarks : "his eyes forebode no good." 3 Cardinal Cajetan, 
in his examination of Luther at Augsburg, stated, that he would 
confer no more with him ; "he has deep-set eyes and strange 
fancies in his head." 4 The University Professor, Martin Pollich, 
of Melrichstatt (Mellerstadt), seems to have let fall a similar 
remark during Luther s early years at Wittenberg ; he too 
mentioned his "deep-set eyes" and "strange fancies." It may 
be, however, that Luther, who tells us this, erroneously puts 
into Pollich s mouth the remark actually made by Cajetan. 5 It 
was Pollich also who often declared, that this monk would one 
day overthrow the system of teaching which had hitherto pre 
vailed in all the Universities. 6 Johannes Dantiscus, a Pole, who 
visited Luther during a journey through Germany and who 
subsequently became Bishop of Culm and Ermeland, expresses 
himself very frankly. He says : His eyes were keen and sparkled 
strangely, as is sometimes the case with those possessed. 7 
Luther s own pupil, Johann Kessler, also found something 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 518. 

2 " Melanchthoniana," ed. O. Waltz (" Zeitschr. f. KG.," 4, 1880, 
p. 324 ff.; see also above, vol. i., p. 279, n. 2. According to Erasmus 
Alber, a personal acquaintance, friend and admirer of Luther s, the 
latter had a " fine, open and brave countenance and hawk s eyes." 
Cp. Alber, " Wider die verfluchte Lehre der Carlstadter," Bl. f. 3 ff. ; 
see Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 518. 

3 " Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V," 2, p. 632 : " en los ojos 
no ben senalado." 

4 According to Myconius, " Historia Reformationis," p. 30 sq. 
(written after 1541). Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 97 : " Cardinalis 
Augustce dixit de me : istefrater habel profundos oculos, ideo et mirabiles 
phanlasias in capite liabet." 

5 Pollich s remark ("Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 154, from Reben- 
stock) has been characterised quite wrongly by O. Waltz (" Zeitschr. 
f. KG.," 2, 1878, p. 627) as spurious and a late interpellation. As a 
matter of fact it had merely been excluded from the Table-Talk by 
Aurifaber ; see Seidemann in "Zeitschr. f. KG.," 3, 1879, p. 305. 
Cp. vol. i., p. 86, n. 5. 

6 Above, vol. i., p. 86. 

7 Letter of Aug. 8, 1523, in Hipler, " Nikolaus Kopernikus und 
Luther," 1868, p. 73. Hofler, "Adrian VI," p. 320, n. 2, quotes a 
remark of Dantiscus on Luther : " affirmans einn esse dcemoniacum," 
Janssen-Pastor, " Gesch. des deutschen Volkes," 2 18 , p. 194, n. 3. 



358 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

uncomfortable about his glance : He had " jet-black brows and 
eyes that sparkled and twinkled like stars, so that it was no 
easy thing to fix them." 1 

In the above statement concerning Luther s look and the 
likelihood of his being possessed, Vergerio also has a passing 
allusion to a certain crude tale then current which quite befitted 
the taste of the age and which he gives for what it may be worth 
in his official report, viz. that Luther was begotten of the devil. 2 
This tale also found its way into several Catholic works written 
in that credulous and deeply agitated period. 

It was not the first time such things had been invented con 
cerning a person who was an object of ill-will in that age when 
prejudice told so strongly. 

Luther himself was in the habit of speaking of the actual 
occurrence of diabolical births and of the " diabolus incubus "; 3 he 
not only did not rise above the vulgar beliefs handed down by 
a credulous past, but even imparted to them, at least so far as 
the power of the devil went, a still worse shape. He never tired 
of filling the imagination of the reader with diabolical images 
(vol. v., xxxi., 4) ; and he spoke of persons possessed as though 
the world were replete with them. 

If we could trust Cochlaeus, Luther s brother monks would 
seem to have partly been responsible for the report not merely of 
a diabolical possession (" dbsessio, circumsessio "), but also of a 
certain wilful league with the devil entered into by the young 
Augustinian. They could not forget the " singularity " of the 
young monk, particularly that once, during his fit in choir whilst 
the Gospel of the man possessed was being read, he had cried out, 

1 " Sabbata," St. Gallen, 1902, p. Go. 

2 He refers simply to what he knew from some of Luther s intimate 
friends " concerning his birth and past life up to the time of his becom 
ing a monk." 

3 In his Exposition of the Ten Commandments, published in 1518 
and frequently reprinted during his lifetime. " Werke," "VVeim. ed., 1, 
p. 407 ; " Opp. lat. exeg.," 12, p. 18 : " Among the devils there are 
incubi and succubi, of which I shall speak more fully immediately," 
which he then proceeds to do. The children are, according to him, 
abortions. According to a statement in the Table-Talk, however, they 
were " devils with bodies like the mother s," or stolen children, or 
changelings, like one he wished to have drowned because the devil 
constituted the soul in its body (" Werke," Erl. ed., 60, pp. 37-42). 
In his exposition of Genesis (cap. vi.) Luther admits the existence and 
activity of the said " incubi," He declares he had heard from many 
persons credible instances and had himself met with such ( ! ), and 
even appeals to St. Augustine (" Hoc negare impudentice videtur," 
" De civ. Dei," 15, c. 23) ; he remarks, however, that it was altogether 
false to believe that " anything could be born of a union of devil and 
man " ; on the contrary, those taken for the devil s offspring, some of 
whom he had seen, had either been distorted by the devil though not 
actually begotten by him, or were real devils who had either assumed 
flesh in appearance or borrowed it elsewhere with the devil s help. 
" Opp. lat. exeg.," 2, p. 127. Cp. N. Paulus, " Hexenwahn und 
Hexenprozess vornehmlich im 16. Jahrh.," Freiburg, 1910, p. 35 f. 



A MAN POSSESSED" 359 

"I am not he." Cochlaeus, who had some intercourse with the 
Augustinians at Nuremberg, hints in his Commentaries at the 
" secret intercourse with the demon " of which Luther was 
suspected, and immediately afterwards refers, though under a 
misapprehension, to Luther s own remark about eating salt 
with the devil, and holding a disputation with him. 1 The 
passage frequently attributed to Cochlaeus, viz. that it was 
notorious " the devil Incubus was Luther s father," and son of 
the devil his " real name, therefore remain the devil s son as long 
as you live," 2 was, however, never penned by him. But he was 
aware of the reports on this subject already in circulation and 
never saw fit to treat them with the contempt they deserved. 

All the passages quoted above regarding Luther s being 
possessed of the devil are in every instance quite independent of 
this stupid tale : they are based throughout on the character of 
Luther s writings and on his public behaviour. 

The first to relate anything concerning Luther s diabolical 
parentage was, according to N. Paulus, Petrus Sylvius in his 
polemics of 1531-1534. 3 He recounts with perfect seriousness 
the information which he says he had from an " honest, god 
fearing woman," who had heard it from some former female 
friends of Luther s mother to whom the latter had herself dis 
closed the fact : "At night time, when the doors were locked, a 
beautiful youth dressed in red had frequently visited her before 
the Carnival," etc. Some such idle tale may have reached the 
ears of the Legate Vergerio during his travels through Germany 
in that same decade. Possibly he may have expressed himself in 
private with greater credulity concerning this story than in his 
official report, for Contarini goes so far as to write that Vergerio 
" had found that Martin was begotten of the devil." 4 

The silly story ought to have made all Luther s later critics 
more cautious, even with regard to the statements regard 
ing Luther s obsession by the Evil One. The few Catholic 
writers, who have ventured even in our own day to assert 
that Luther was possessed, should have been deterred from 
entering a region so obscure and where the danger of missing 
one s way is so great. Even in the case of persons still 
living it is rash and often morally impossible to diagnose a 
case of possession ; much more is this the case when the 
person in question has so long been dead. 

1 " Commcntaria," p. 2 : " sive ex occulto aliquo cum dcemone 
commercio." 

2 The writing in question, " Ein Maulstreich," etc., is not by 
Cochlaeus but by Paul Bachmann. See above, p. 352, n. 3. 

3 Paulus (p. 356, n. 3), p. 63 f., from Sylvius, " Z\vei neugedruckte 
Biichlein," 1533, p. 3 , and " Die letzten zwei Biichlein," 1534. Cp. also 
his work of 1531, " Ein besonder nutzKches. . . . Biichlein/ 

4 Friedensburg (above, p. 356, n. 6), p. 554. 



360 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

2. Voices of Converts 

Of the Catholic writers, those in particular were sure of 
a hearing amongst the educated, who for a long while and 
until it revealed itself in its true colours, had been inclined 
to Lutheranism. Such was, for instance, the case with 
several of the pupils and admirers of Erasmus. Among these 
were Ulrich Zasius and Silvius Egranus, Avho, though ready 
to criticise Luther severely, were not wanting in words of 
praise. The latter was a good type of the half-Hedged convert. 

Silvius Egranus (see vol. iii., p. 402), for instance, wrote : 
" I do not deny that Luther has spirit and inventive genius, 
but I find him utterly wanting in judgment, learning and 
prudence. . . . Luther s foolhardy abuse, his defiance and 
violence, breed nothing but unutterable confusion. Nowhere 
do I see Christian godliness flourishing in the hearts of men, 
nay, owing to Luther, it is not safe even to speak of the 
Gospel of Christ or of Paul." 1 " I declare that Luther s 
doctrine is a web of sophisms, is neither ecclesiastical nor 
Apostolic, but closely related to that sophistical buffoonery 
and strong language to which he is ever having recourse." 2 
Ulrich Zasius, a Humanist, and at the same time learned 
in the la\v, after changing his views, publicly took the field 
against Luther even in official academical discourses ; 
he maintained nevertheless that he had been led by Luther 
to a deeper knowledge of the spirit of Christ ; his skill and 
talent he never even questioned ; he declared : " There is 
something in Luther s spirit that meets with my approval." 3 
What alienated him from Luther was not only his attack 
on the authority of the Pope with the grounds of which 
Zasius was well acquainted from his study of Canon Law 
but his denial of the merit of good \vorks. This contention 
seemed to him diametrically opposed to Holy Scripture. 
You reject [meritorious] good works," he says to Luther s 
followers, " and yet I know One Who says : Their works 
shall follow them." 4 He finds it necessary to reprove Luther 

1 Letter to Bartholomew Golsibius, in Weller, " Altes aus alien 
Theilen der Gesch.," 1, p. 178. Dollinger, " Reformation," 1, p. 133. 

2 Letter to Nicholas (Ecander ; Weller, ibid., 2. p. 780 f. ; Dollinger, 
ibid., 135. 

3 " Epistolse," ed. Riegger, Ulmse, 1774, p. 72. Dollinger, ibid., 
p. 178. 

4 R. Stintzing, " Ulrich Zasius," Basle, 1857, p. 230, from the letter 
of Zasius to Thomas Blaurer, Dec. 21, 1521. " Brief wechsel der 
Briider Blaurer," 1, 1908, p. 42 fi. 



WICEL ON LUTHER 361 

sharply for his unmeasured, nay, shameless boasting of his 
gifts, for exciting enmity, strife, dissension and factions, 
and for inciting to ill-will and murder. " What shall I 
say," he exclaims, " of the boldness and impudence with 
which Luther interprets the Testaments, both Old and New, 
from the first chapter of Genesis to the very end, as a tissue 
of menaces and imprecations against Popes, bishops and 
priests, as though through all the ages God had had nothing 
to do but to thunder at the priesthood." 1 Elsewhere he 
bewails with noble indignation the fate of his beloved 
fatherland : " Luther, the foe of peace, and the most worth 
less of men, has let loose the furies over Germany so that we 
must regard it as a real mercy if speedy destruction does 
not ensue. I should have much to write upon the subject 
if only my grief allowed me." 2 

Zasius and Egranus, ho\vever, like others in a similar 
walk of life and who were disposed to seek a compromise, 
never attacked the new teachers, their reputation and their 
supposed wisdom as decidedly as did those w r hose deeper 
knowledge of theology taught them how dangerous the 
errors were. 

One well equipped for the literary struggle with Luther 
was the convert George Wicel, a priest who had married 
and settled down as a Lutheran pastor and then, after a 
thorough study of holy Scripture and the Fathers, had 
resigned his post and published an " Apologia " at Leipzig 
in 1533 to justify his return to the Church of his Fathers. 

In a multitude of polemical treatises, often couched in caustic 
language, he exposed the untenability and the innate contra 
dictions of the Wittenberg doctrines. Of this hated " apostate " 
Luther speaks in a characteristic letter of 1535. 3 He writes to 
the Mansfeld Chancellor, Caspar Miiller, about a new work of 
Wicel s : This Master let, as he hears for he himself "read none 
of their books " has again been throwing sweetmeats to his swine, 
the Catholics. " Such guests are well served by such a cook." 

Owing to his stay at Wittenberg and Eisleben, Wicel was 
well fitted to paint a reliable picture of the morals there prevail 
ing. He utilised his experiences in his " Retectio Lutheranismi " 
(1538), and summed up his case against Luther as follows : 
" The life of the great mass of Evangelicals is so little Evangelical 

1 Stintzing, ibid. 

2 Ibid., p. 97. Dollinger, ibid., p. 179. 

3 On March 18, 1535, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 137. 



362 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

that I have thousands and thousands of times felt most heartily 
ashamed of it. ... Only too quickly have most of them sucked 
in the poisonous doctrine, that works are of no avail and that sin 
is not imputed to the believer." 1 Concerning one phenomenon, 
which Luther himself bewails as a very pest, viz. the fear of death, 
which had become the rule since the prevalence of the new teach 
ing, Wicel had some severe things to say ; this was strangely at 
variance with the confidence which Luther s Evangel was 
supposed to impart. " Is it not a deep disgrace," he says, " that 
those who, formerly, when they were the followers of Anti 
christ, to use their own Lutheran phrase, did not fear the plague 
at all, or at any rate not much, now, as Christians, display such 
abject terror when it comes ? Hardly anyone visits the sick and 
no one dares to assist those stricken with the plague. No one 
will even look at them from a distance, and all are seized with a 
strange panic. Where is that all-prevailing faith that is now so 
often extolled, where is their love for their neighbour ? Tell me, 
I adjure you in the name of Christ, whether there has ever been 
less trust or less charity amongst Christians ? " 

In the conversations held in that same year in the intimate 
circle at Wittenberg, and preserved for us by Lauterbach 
the Deacon, Luther frequently alluded to Wicel ; at that 
time the latter was in the midst of his successful literary 
labours against the Lutherans, and his proposals for reunion, 
though by no means wholly satisfactory, had even led Duke 
George of Saxony to summon him to his Court. Luther, with a 
hatred quite comprehensible under the circumstances, calls him, 
according to Lauterbach, " the most treacherous of men, insati 
able in his jealousy, a scoundrel who does not even deserve an 
answer "; Wicel himself, he tells us, was well aware he was defend 
ing, against his better feelings, a cause altogether wrong ; the 
ungrateful slanderer richly deserved death ; only thanks to 
Luther s kindness, had he found a decent means of livelihood. 
" Let us despise him ! We must be silent, pray and bless," so he 
concludes, " and not bring new faggots to feed the flames." 3 
Luther knew perfectly well that any " new faggots " he might 
have brought would have burst into flame under Wicel s ardent 
pen, to his own disadvantage. He does not shrink from in 
dignantly describing Wicel elsewhere as a " sycophant and 
venomous traitor,"* and as "a man full of malice and pre 
sumption." 5 He comes along and " boasts of the Fathers. I do 
not even read his works, for I know his Fathers well ; but we 
have one only Father, Who is in Heaven and Who is over all 
Fathers." 6 Particularly sensitive was he to Wicel s strictures on 

1 " Retectio," Hb se.q. Dollinger, " Reformation," 1, p. 57 f. 

2 Ibid., G 2b : " cepit omnium animos minis pavor," etc. Dollinger, 
ibid., p. 61. 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 159. Cp. " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, 
p. 323. 

4 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 159. 

5 Ibid., p. 161 f. 6 Ibid., p. 147. 



WICEL ON LUTHER 363 

his doctrine of good works, that heel of Achilles of the new 
Evangel. Wicel, " with scorn and mockery," says, " that we 
have taught that, whoever has once been converted can sin no 
more, and whatever he does is right and good. But the same 
thing happened to St. Paul and he too had to listen to slanderers, 
who, because he taught that people might be saved without the 
works of the law and merely by faith in Christ, said : Then let 
us do what is evil and sin lustily that good may come of it, etc. 
Let us pray against such blasphemy." 1 

Of the consequences of the new teaching levelled at the meri 
torious nature of good works, Wicel had said at the end of his 
" Apologia " : " The Lutheran sect has opened wide the flood 
gates to immorality and disorder, so that everybody laments and 
sighs over it. If there be anything godfearing, good, moral or 
right to be found in this sect, then it was there before, and did 
not originate with it. For, show me seven men in seven thousand, 
who, having been formerly godless and wicked, have now, 
because they are Lutherans, become good and full of the fear of 
God. I could, however, point out some, such as had previously 
led a devout, peaceable, inward and harmless life, who are now 
quite changed by this Evangel. May but the Lord grant them 
to see and acknowledge what misery they have excited within the 
German nation. Amen." 2 

Among Wicel s " blasphemies," as Luther calls them, were 
some that traversed the latter s assertions that the holy 
works of penitents and ascetics were utterly worthless, and that 
the business of a house-agent or tax-collector, provided one went 
about it in faith, ranked higher than all the pious works of any 
monk or hermit. 3 " The w r retched man," exclaims Luther, 
angry because of his inability to answer the objection, " most 
idly attacks us ; he has no respect for the labours of their calling 
which God has commanded each man to perform in his state of 
life ; all this he disregards and merely gapes at superstitious, 
grand and showy works " ; 4 " and yet Paul extols the ordinary 
works of the faithful and lays great stress on them." 5 This was 
one of his habitual falsehoods, viz. to make out that Wicel and 
his other opponents looked down on lowly and commonplace 
works and the unobtrusive performance of the duties of one s 
calling, more particularly in the life of the world. In reality, 
however, they recognised in the most large-minded way the high 
value of the duties of any worldly calling when done in a religious 
spirit, and repudiated with perfect justice the charge brought 
against Catholicism of undervaluing the ordinary virtues of the 
good citizen. 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 323. 

2 See A. Rass, "Die Convertiten seit der Reformation," 1, 1866, 
where the "Apologia" is reprinted, p. 184. Cp. Wicel s remarks 
above, p. 165 f. 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 117; "Werke," Erl. ed., 58, 
p. 420 f. 

4 "Werke/ ibid. 5 Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," p. 118. 



364 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

The zealous Wicel was not perturbed by Luther s attacks. He 
continued to damage the Lutheran cause by his writings, though 
the position he took up in ecclesiastical matters was not always 
well advised. 

Another convert, Veit Amerbach (Amorbach), one of the 
most capable Humanists of the day, after abandoning the 
Catholic communion lectured first at Eisleben and then in 
the philosophical faculty at Wittenberg, till, owing to his 
patristic studies and after personal conferences with Luther 
and Melanchthon, he returned to the bosom of the Church 
in 1543, and at once found a post as lecturer at the 
University of Ingolstadt. As he declared in a written, state 
ment handed to Melanchthon, it was particularly the 
doctrines of Justification and of the Primacy of the Bishop 
of Rome that compelled him to side with antiquity and to 
oppose the innovations. 

Too high-minded to abuse his former associates (he even 
refrained from writing against them), Luther nevertheless, 
on hearing of his conversion, declared that he would surely 
turn out later a blasphemer. 

" You know," Luther wrote to Lauterbach, " Vitus Amerbach, 
who left us to go to Ingolstadt, was a man who was never really one 
of us (1 John ii. 19) ; he will imitate Eck in his blasphemy of 
our Word, and perhaps do even worse things." 1 Amerbach 
having pointed out that the greatest authorities both of East and 
West had acknowledged the Pope s leadership in the Church, 
Luther replies in Table-Talk in 1544 : " Whence do they get 
the rotten argument, that the Church must have Rome for its 
outward head ? All history is against anything of the kind. The 
whole of the West was never under the Pope, nor the whole of the 
East. It is mere pride on Amerbach s part ! O God, this is indeed 
a fall beyond all other falls ! I am sorry about him, for he will 
occasion great scandal. Poor people, they think not of their last 
hour." 2 " Ah, it is said of them : They went out from us, from 
the Apostles. But whence came the devil ? From the angels 
surely. Whence the prostitutes if not from virgins ? Whence 
the knaves if not from the ranks of the pious ? Evil must needs 
come from good." 3 

Amerbach s opinion of the innovations and of the work of the 
devil was a different one. 

In the Preface to his collection of the Capitularies of Charles the 
Great and Lothair, the solitary passage in which he alludes to 
the upheaval he had witnessed, though he refrains from any 
reference to his former colleagues he expresses his cherished hope 

1 On Feb. 3, 1544, " Briefe," 5, p. 629. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 342. 3 Ibid. 



CATHOLIC COMPLAINTS 365 

that the Church will ultimately be restored to unity under .the 
successor of Peter ; the most pressing thing was to set some 
bounds to the extraordinary and utterly unrestrained abuse and 
vituperation, which was not a little promoted by the avarice 
and filthy venality of the printers, but which the authorities did 
nothing to prevent. " At times, when I reflect on this disorder," 
he says, " it seems to me that men are not filled merely with gall 
and wormwood, but are verily led and set in motion by devils 
incarnate. But otherwise it cannot be, so long as, within the 
Church, the faithful are split up into opposing factions. And 
would that the populace alone were to blame ! I am very much 
deceived if in any of the books of history even one other example 
is to be met with of such madness, such furious, poisonous railing 
and drunken invective." 1 

3. Lamentations over the Wounds of the Church and 
over Her Persecutions 

With the defenders of the Church the depravity of 
Luther s teaching, and the immense injury which his work 
of apostasy was doing to souls, weighed far more heavily 
than any of the charges we have heard advanced against his 
person. 

In the beginning, it is true, they were chiefly concerned 
in refuting his new and daring propositions. But, as the 
years passed and the ruin increased, startling accounts of 
the sad state of religion more and more often find a place in 
their polemics, the writers urging against Lutheranism the 
decay of faith and morals which had followed in its train. 
In their words we can feel even to-day the fervour and the 
profound anxiety with which they sought to admonish their 
contemporaries against the destroyer of the Sanctuary and 
his seductive ways. 

When Johann Cochlseus composed the Preface to his " Com- 
mentaria de actis et scriptis Martini Lutheri," he could not 
refrain, at the sight of the state of Germany, from giving lively 
expression to his grief. 

To him " the greatest misfortune, which no tears can suffi 
ciently deplore," is " the fall of so many immortal souls, destined 
by the grace of baptism for life everlasting." " This unhappy 
strife regarding belief," he writes at the commencement, " has 
torn them from the bosom and the unity of the Church and will 
bring them to eternal destruction ! " In addition to this there is 
" a frightful subversion of all things such as no previous heresy 
had ever brought about." The bond of charity and concord 

1 " Prsecipuse constitutiones Caroli M.," etc., Ingolst., 1545, praef. 
f. A 3a, A 8a ; Dollinger, ibid., I, p. 160. 



366 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

which unites Christian people has been loosened, discipline 
undermined, reverence for God destroyed, wholesome fear ex 
tinguished, obedience cast aside, and in their lieu prevails sin- 
fulness and a freedom that is alien to God." 1 In the body of the 
work he describes with pain and indignation how the uncalled 
preachers behaved. " They come," so he says in one passage, 
" and prate of that false freedom which is to set us free from all 
laws of Church, Pope, bishops and Councils. With a cloud of 
Scriptural texts they undertake to prove, that fasting, prayers, 
vigils and other penitential works are no good whatever, that 
Christ has sufficiently atoned for our sins, that faith alone suffices, 
that our good works, far from being deserving, are really sinful, 
and so forth. In glibness of tongue and in energy they are not 
to be outdone." 2 

Johann Wild, Cathedral preacher at Mayence, also describes 
in moving words the grievous wounds that were being inflicted 
on the Church. He was a Franciscan Observantine and was 
distinguished in his Order for his learning and success. After 
having been from 1528 preacher at the friary church at 
Mayence, he was appointed in 1539 to the pulpit of the 
Cathedral, which he retained till his death in 1554. To him it 
was in part due that what was then the ecclesiastical metropolis 
of the Rhine Province was preserved in the Catholic faith. He 
was a type of those men who attempted to meet the spiritual 
needs of the day, not by loud-voiced polemics, but in a concili 
atory and peaceable fashion, and who insisted that the first 
requirement was to instruct the people thoroughly in the faith, 
and to raise the moral tone of the faithful. Luther s name he 
does not mention once in the many volumes of his sermons, but 
the complaints are none the less heartfelt that he pours forth 
concerning the devastation wrought in the Lord s vineyard, 
warning his hearers and exhorting them to pity, labour and 
prayer in the interests of Catholicism, now in such dire straits. 

" Woe to all those," he cries, " who by their preaching have 
made the world so frivolous and fearless of God ! Our forefathers 
were better advised in this matter. They too preached grace, 
but they did not forget penance." 3 " But now we see, how, by 
dint of sermons lacking all sense of modesty and urging faith 
alone, all fear of God is driven out of the hearts of men." 4 " One 
thing, viz. faith, has been extolled to the skies, the other, viz. 
good works, has been trodden in the mire. The result is that we 
are now for the most part merely Christians in name, but, so far 
as works are concerned, more depraved and wicked than even 
Jews or Turks. Yet they expect it to be said of them : These are 
Evangelical preachers, comforting folk, who know how to quiet 
people s consciences." 5 " All sorts of wickedness, injustice and 
frivolity increase from day to day." " Since ever there were 

1 " Comment.," p. 1. 2 Ibid., p. 56. 

3 N. Paulus, " Johann Wild " (3. " Vereinsschr. der Gorres-Ges.," 
1893), p. 15. 

< Ibid. 5 Ibid., p. 34. 



CATHOLIC COMPLAINTS 367 

Christians in the world a godly life has never been so little 
esteemed as now." 1 This, according to him, is the chief cause 
of all the " very grievous sufferings of the Church," in com 
parison with which the spoliation of the clergy was nothing, of the 
loss of souls, and ruin of religious life. " The cause of the Church s 
pain is that her children have been and are so lamentably led 
astray, that they refuse any longer to acknowledge their own 
mother, but avoid and flee from her, despise her old age, mock 
at her wrinkles, laugh at her feebleness, pay no heed to her 
admonitions, transgress her laws, forsake her doctrine, reject 
her commands, despise her sacraments, cling to her enemies, 
wallow in every sort of sin and defile themselves with all kinds 
of errors. Who can tell all the misery which is now to be met 
with among Christians by reason of their sins and errors ? " 
How should this not cause pain to the Church, our loving 
Mother ? 2 When the discord was on the point of breaking out 
into an armed conflict, this patriot, deeply moved at the sight 
of the dissensions that ravaged the Fatherland, exclaimed : 
Germany has become a byword to her neighbours. " Every 
body wants a bit of us." We have to submit to bitter scorn. 
They say : " Ha, these are the haughty Germans who help to 
destroy all other countries and have a finger in every war ; now 
they are going to set to on each other. . . . Is it not a lamentable 
thing that foreigners and aliens should speak thus derisively of 
us ? ... We must lay it before God and beg Him to forgive 
those whose fault it is that we cannot reach any agreement. I 
have always feared this outcome, yet I ever furthered and 
counselled peace and unity." 3 

In a writing presented at the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541 by 
Duke William of Bavaria, the acts of violence committed by the 
protesting Estates for years past were thus summarised : " The 
Protestants clamour for peace and justice, but in their actions 
they violate both." The Catholic Estates " are continually 
molested on account of their religion, and great loss and injury 
are inflicted on them. Contrary to the commandment of God, 
in defiance of law and Christian usages, the Protestants forbid 
them to preach the Gospel and the Word of God openly ; their 
churches and monasteries are seized by force, their subjects 
enticed away from them by all manner of devices and taken 
under the shelter of the Protestants ; their religious foundations 
and property are torn from them mercilessly and used for alien 
purposes, the graves and monuments of the pious dead, both 
high and low, are desecrated and destroyed ; the pictures and 
images of our Saviour Jesus Christ, of the chaste Virgin Mary 
and the dear Saints are pitifully damaged and smashed to 
pieces." " The Catholics have no dearer wish than for peace and 
order and justice ; they too were clamouring for these, and not 
like the Protestants, trying at the same time to upset them. 
All they asked was to be left in the enjoyment of their holy 
Christian faith and the ordinances of the Christian Church, and. 

i Ibid., p. 35. 2 Ibid., p. 40. 3 Ibid., p. 13 f, 



368 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

not to have their goods violently taken from them." 1 These 
complaints were, however, ineffective, as the Protestant party 
had already the upper hand in the College of Electors. 

At the Diet of Worms in 1545 the complaints were renewed 
on the Catholic side : " The Protestants have made themselves 
masters of churches and monasteries and have driven into misery 
all who wished to abide by the old faith. They have invaded 
bishoprics and have been reckless of justice and peace ; have 
constrained the poor inhabitants to embrace their religion, as, 
for instance, in the land of Brunswick, where they had no other 
right than the might of the sword. They trample under foot 
and oppress everything, and then complain of being themselves 
oppressed." " They are insatiable in their demands and are for 
ever producing fresh cards to play, at every Diet putting forward 
fresh claims which they insist on having conceded to them 
before they will take part in the transactions or vote supplies." 2 
The Catholics further declared in the sittings of a committee at 
Worms, in answer to the charges of their opponents concerning 
the real abuses which prevailed among the bishops and elsewhere : 
" Scandals and abuses innumerable certainly existed and were 
openly flaunted, and were growing worse and worse nowadays, 
because, owing to the perilous times and the teaching of novel 
sects and preachers, all good works were being abandoned, and 
unbelief and contempt for religion was becoming the custom 
among high and low. Many thousand livings stood vacant and 
the people were without helm or rudder." " Where were the 
schools and the Divine worship ? Where the foundations and 
endowments for the poor which had been so numerous twenty or 
thirty years ago ? " " What the Protestants call proclaiming the 
Word of God is for the most part, as they themselves complain, 
mere slander and abuse of the Pope and the clergy and a general 
reviling of mankind." The pulpit has " degenerated into a chair 
of scurrility at which foreign nations are shuddering." Not 
many years before Luther had openly exhorted the preachers to 
" denounce the Duke of Brunswick in their sermons as a servant 
of the devil, likewise the Archbishop of Mayence and all followers 
of the Pope." 3 

" If we wish to discover the causes of the war which is un 
doubtedly at hand," so the Cologne doctor, Carl van der Plassen, 
who was well acquainted with the conditions in Germany, wrote 
from the Diet of Worms, " we must bear in mind all that has 
happened in Germany since the subjugation of the peasants by 
the Princes and municipal authorities, all the countless violations 
of human and Divine law, of the public peace, of property, civic 
rights, conscience and honour. Let us but reckon up the number 

1 "Corp. ref.," 4, pp. 450455; Jaiissen, "Hist, of the German 
People" (Engl. Trans.), 6, p. 152 f. 

2 Janssen, ibid., p. 264 f. 

3 Ibid., p. 264 f. Passages taken from Luther s writing, "An die 
Pfarherrn wider den Wucher zu predigen," " Werke," Erl. ed., 23, 
p. 282 ff. 



CATHOLIC COMPLAINTS 369 

of churches and monasteries which have been destroyed and 
pillaged during these twenty years, and all the accompanying 
crime and iniquity. And to what purpose have these stolen goods 
been applied ? What has become of all the Church property, all 
the treasures ? . . . A new religion has been forced upon the 
people by might and by stratagem, and they have been forbidden 
under threat of punishment to carry on the old service of God, 
with its rites and Christian usages. Is this the vaunted freedom 
of the Gospel, to persecute and coerce others, to imprison them 
or drive them into exile ? Everything that was formerly 
reverenced has now fallen into contempt, with the result that 
right and property are no longer respected ; the endless dis 
turbances in matters of religion have upset the whole national 
equilibrium ; discipline, loyalty and respectability have vanished. 
. . . What misery results from want of clergy and schools even 
in the lands which have remained Catholic ! Princes and towns, 
making their boast of the Gospel, have not been satisfied with 
introducing the new Church system into their own territories, but 
have invaded the Catholic bishoprics and secular dominions and 
turned everything topsy-turvy in order to set up their own 
institutions. The Schmalkalden confederates extend their opera 
tions from year to year and grow more and more audacious. 
At this moment they are actually preaching a war of extermina 
tion against the Pope and his adherents. There will be no 
checking them if the sword of the Emperor is not used to restrain 
them, as it ought to have been long ago." 1 

Another Catholic contemporary complains in similar fashion : 
" Religion is perverted, all obedience to the Emperor destroyed, 
justice set aside and insolence of all sorts everywhere encouraged." 
The Emperor " has tried many and various means of putting a 
stop to this insubordination, but all measures have been fruit 
less and he must now wield in earnest the sword that God put 
into his hands to bring back his and our fatherland to peace, 
order and unity." 2 In the Emperor s own circle the conviction 
Had ripened that so much injustice had been done to Catholics and 
so much detriment to the Church, that armed intervention was 
the only course that remained. " Things had come to such a 
pass in Germany," said the Imperial Chancellor Gran veil to 
Farnese, the Papal Legate, about the time of the Diet of Worms, 
" that neither the Emperor s nor the Pope s name any longer 
carried any weight ; indeed, it was to be feared that the Protes 
tants looked upon the opening of the Council as a signal for war, 
and that they would at once begin to equip themselves not 
merely for the sake of being ready for any emergency, but rather 
in order to suppress the Catholics and to make an attack on Italy, 
the object of their bitter hatred." 3 

1 On May 29, 1545. Janssen, ibid., p. 286 f. 

2 Hortleder, " Von Rechtmassigkeit usw. Karls V.," 1G45, p. 480 ff. 
Janssen, ibid., p. 288. 

3 M. J. Schmidt, " Neuere Gesch, der Deutschen/ 1, 1785, p. 23 f. 
Janssen, ibid. 

IV. 2 B 



370 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

4. The Literary Opposition 

Most of those who opposed Luther in the literary field 
have already made their appearance in the various episodes 
narrated in the foregoing pages. In the present section; 
which is in the nature of a retrospect and amplification of 
certain points, we must first touch on the charge frequently 
put forward by Luther, viz. that it was the furious polemics 
of his foes which drew from him his violent rejoinders, and, 
particularly in the earlier part of his career, drove him to 
take the field against Rome. 

We have already repeatedly admitted the too great 
acrimony of some of the writings against Luther, the 
exasperation they frequently ill conceal and their needlessly 
strong and insulting language ; of this we saw instances in 
the case of Tetzel, Eck, Prierias, Emser and many others. 1 

It can, however, readily be proved by a comparison with 
Luther s own writings, that the champions of the Church 
fell far short of their opponent, generally speaking, in the 
matter of violence and contemptuous satire. Luther not 
only maintained in this respect his supremacy as a speaker, 
but the small account he made of truth 2 lent an immense 
advantage to his overwhelming invective. It is also easy 
to discern a difference in the writings directed against his 
revolutionary movement, according as they were written 
earlier or later. At first, when it was merely a question of 
exposing his theological errors, his opponents were com 
paratively calm ; the first counter theses and the dis 
cussions to which they led are replete with the ponderous 
learning of the Schoolmen, though, even there, we find 
occasional traces of the indignation felt that the sanctuary 
of the faith should have been attacked in so wanton a 
fashion. But after the actual subversion of the Church 
had begun and the social peril of the radical innovations 
had revealed itself, the voices of Luther s opponents grow 
much harsher. Many, in their anguish at the growing evil, 
do not spare the person of the man responsible for it all, 
whose own methods of controversy, unfortunately, became 
a pattern even to his foes. At no time, not even in a war 
fare such as that then going on, can all the things be justified 
which were said by Augustine Alveld, Franz Arnoldi, Johann 

1 See above, passim. 

z See, for instance, above, pp. 96 ff., 102 ff. 



THE CATHOLIC OPPOSITION 371 

Cochlaeus, Paul Bachmann, Duke George, King Henry VIII 
and even, occasionally, by Sir Thomas More. 

What helped to poison the language was, on the one hand, 
the coarse tone then generally prevalent amongst the 
German people, which contrived to find its way into the 
literary treatment of theological questions to an extent 
never heard of before, and, on the other, the love of the 
Humanists for mockery and satire, to which end they 
ransacked the storehouse of antiquity, classical or other 
wise. Among earnest Catholics the most powerful factor 
was overpowering indignation at the sight of such ruthless 
trampling under foot of the religion of their forefathers and 
of a faith so closely bound up with the greatness of the 
fatherland and with every phase of life. Their indignation 
led them to utter things that were less praiseworthy than 
the feeling which inspired them. 

Besides this, there was a great temptation to use, as the 
best way of testifying to their abhorrence for the opponent 
of religious truth, that drastic language handed down by 
past ages, indeed largely borrowed from the Bible, par 
ticularly from the Prophets of the Old Testament. Of this, 
not theological writers only, but even official ecclesiastical 
documents, had made such liberal use, that scholars had 
it at their finger-tips. Even in our own day such 
mediaeval thunders are still sometimes heard rumbling, 
particularly among the Latin races. When dealing with 
the Bull of Excommunication against Luther, we already had 
occasion to remark that much in it was due to the after 
effects of the older habits of speech usual in earlier condemna 
tions. 1 It may be mentioned of Hadrian VI that in a stern 
missive addressed in 1522 to Frederick the Elector of Saxony, 
he denounced Luther as a " serpent " infecting heaven and 
earth with the venom of its tongue, as a " boar " laying 
waste the vineyard of the Lord, as a " thief " who broke 
in pieces the cross of Christ, as a man with " diabolical, 
impious and pestilential lips." He also, in the words of 
Scripture, tells the Prince that Luther, whom he was 
protecting, is a devil who has assumed the appearance of 
an angel of light. 2 

1 Vol. ii., p. 48. 

" Transfiguratur coram te satanas ille in angelum lucis" The text 
in Raynaldus, " Annales eccles.," ann. 1522, n. 72. 



372 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

As regards the beginnings of the controversy, both series 
of Theses advanced by Johann Tetzel in 1517 against 
Luther s attack on the system of indulgences, are exclusively 
of a technical nature and never even mention by name the 
originator of the controversy. 1 

Luther, on the other hand, after the publication of the 
ninety-five Theses, in his German sermon on Indulgences 
and Grace, 2 addressed himself directly to the populace. He 
poured out his scorn on the school-opinions of the theo 
logians and the "bawling" of the envious; they seek, he 
says, your " pennies," not your souls, and preach for the 
sake of their " money-box." He appealed very cleverly to 
their more sordid instincts, hinting that the money might be 
better spent on the poor in their own neighbourhood than 
on the building of St. Peter s ; at the end, sure of his success 
with the multitude, he abused those who called him a 
heretic, as " darkened intellects who had never even sniffed 
a Bible . . . and had never grasped their own teaching." 

What was the nature of Tetzel s reply ? His " Vorle- 
gung " of the Sermon, 3 being intended for the people, was 
naturally written in German, but in the wearisome style of 
the Latin theology of the Schools. In point of matter and 
logical accuracy it was indeed far superior to Luther s 
superficialities, but the clumsy German in which it was 
couched and the number of quotations it borrowed from 
the Fathers could only make it distasteful to the reader. It 
is hardly possible to recognise in its language the popular 
orator who was such a favourite with the people. The 
seriousness of his tone contrasts strangely with Luther s 
airy style. It is easy to believe his honest assurance, that 
he was ready to submit his views to the judgment of the 
learned and to the ecclesiastical authorities, and to risk even 
life itself for the holy Faith of the Catholic past. Only 
towards the end of the short work, when refuting Luther s 
twentieth proposition, does Tetzel, not very skilfully, 
retaliate upon his opponent though even here he does not 
name him for the coarse and abusive language he had used 

1 At the end of the second series of Theses (" Luthers Werke," Erl. 
ed., " Opp. lat var.," 1, p. 312) occur the words, " bestia, quas, montem 
tetigerit," the sole quotation from that sort of biblical language 
mentioned above. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 239 ff. ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 4 if. 

3 Loscher, " Reformationsacta," 1, p. 484 ff. 



TETZEL AND PRIERIAS 373 

in this thesis. Tetzel says, it would be seen from a con 
sideration of their reasons which of the two it was who had 
" never sniffed a Bible," never grasped his own teaching 
and applied to the study of theology " a brain like a sieve " ; 
which of the two was the schismatic, heretic, etc. 

In his reply to the " Vorlegung," which he published in 
his own name under the title " Eyn Freiheyt dess Sermons 
Bebstlichcn Ablass," 1 Luther spared no venom : Sun and 
moon might well wonder at the light of wisdom displayed 
by such a poetaster ; evidently he had a superabundance 
of paper and leisure ; but his artificial flowers and withered 
leaves must be scattered to the winds ; he had dared to 
treat " the scriptural text, which is our comfort (Rom. xv. 
4), as a sow would treat a sack of oats." His opponent s 
offer to risk a trial by fire or water for the Faith, he treats 
with the utmost scorn and derision : " My honest advice 
to him would be, modestly to restrict himself to the juice of 
the grape and to the steam that arises from the roast 
goose to which he is so partial." Some Protestants have 
urged that Luther s rudeness of tone, here displayed for the 
first time, may be explained by his opponent s example. 
How little this defence of Luther accords with the true 
state of the case is plain from the above. 

As regards Silvester Prierias the matter stands some 
what differently. The " Dialogus," composed by the 
Master of the Palace in hot haste in reply to Luther s 
" arrogant Theses on the power of the Pope " (the ninety-five 
Indulgence Theses he had nailed to the door of the Castle 
Church at Wittenberg), a work written with all the weighty 
scholarship of the Schoolmen and criticising each thesis in 
detail, contained in its thirty-three octavo pages a number 
of exaggerations and words calculated to offend. 

The lively Southerner was not content with proving that much 
in Luther s Theses was provocative, contrary to dogma, criminal, 
seductive, sarcastic, etc., but, even in the Dedication to Leo X, 
he starts off by saying that : Luther had dared to rise up against 
the truth and the Holy See, but that he, the writer, would see 
whether " his iron nose and brazen neck were really unbreakable." 2 
Luther preferred to " snap secretly " rather than to put forward 
plain doctrines. 3 " If it is in the nature of dogs to snap, then 
I feel sure you must have had a dog for your father, for you are 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 380 ff. ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 10 ff. 

2 " Opp. lat. var.," 1, p. 345. 3 Ibid., p. 368. 



374 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

ever ready to bite." 1 Luther having in one passage put forward 
a statement that was true, Prierias tells him : " You mix a little 
truth^with much that is false, and thus you are a spiritual leper, 
for you have a spotted skin that shines partly with true, partly 
with false colours." 2 Referring to the building of St. Peter s at 
Rome, he says to Luther rather maliciously : " You blame in 
the case of the first church of Christendom what was extolled 
when other churches were being built. Had you received a fat 
bishopric from the Pope with a plenary indulgence for the 
erection of your church, then, perhaps, you would have found 
friendly words in plenty and have belauded the Indulgences on 
which now you pour contempt." 3 

These are lapses in style which a high official of the Pope 
should have known better than to commit. 

Yet it is clear from Luther s reply that they did not exasperate 
him nearly so much as did Prierias s energetic repudiation of his 
teaching and his calm exposure of the untenable nature of his 
assertions. What alarmed him was the fact that a highly placed 
Papal dignitary should have shown the contrast between his 
innovations and the theology and practice of the Church ; he 
now perceived clearly the practical consequences of his under 
taking and the direct entanglement it would involve with Rome. 
Hence the frame of mind in which he composed his " Responsio 
ad Dialogum," etc. (1518), 4 was not due so much to his 
opponent s personalities as to the whole aspect of affairs, to the 
shakiness of his own position and to his fierce determination to 
win respect for and to further at the expense of Rome the new 
doctrine which he now had ready-made in his mind. Whoever 
recalls the spirit which breathes in his Commentary on Romans 
and the violent language found in his sermons and letters even 
before 1518, will readily estimate at its true worth the state 
ment, that what drove him onwards was the insolence of Prierias. 
Unfortunately, Prierias s " Dialogue " shares the fate of the 
Latin works which appeared in Germany in defence of Catholi 
cism in the early days of the struggle with Luther : Save by a few 
theologians, they are never read, and, indeed, even were they 
read, it is doubtful whether they would be rightly, understood 
except by those familiar with Scholasticism ; hence discretion in 
passing judgment is doubly necessary. 

In the Reply of 1518 now under consideration, Luther, 
in view of the person and position of his opponent, and of 
the possible consequences, is more restrained in his abuse 
than in other writings soon to follow. Yet, anxious as he 
was to furnish a real answer to the criticisms of an author 
so weighty, we find irony, rudeness and attempts to render 
ridiculous the " senile " objections of the " Thomaster," 

1 Ibid., p. 370. 2 Ibid., p. 351. 

3 Ibid., p. 365. 4 Ibid., 2, p. 1 seq. } 



SILVESTER PRIERIAS 875 

the " sophist " and all his " taratantara," intermingled with 
unwarrantable attacks on " Thomistic " theology, that 
storehouse whence his opponent purloined " his phrases and 
his shouting." The reply opens with the words : " Your 
Dialogue, Reverend Father, has reached me ; it is a rather 
high-flown writing, quite Italian and Thomistic." It also 
ends in the same vein. " If for the future you don t bring 
into the arena a Thomas armed with better weapons, then 
don t expect to find again such consideration as I have just 
shown you. I have bridled myself so as not to return evil 
for evil. Good-bye." 

When, in 1519, the Dominican whom he had thus 
insulted published, first a " Replica " in the form of a short 
letter addressed to Luther, and then the " Epitome " (an 
abstract of his investigations into the theological questions 
then under discussion), it was impossible for Luther to 
complain of any too harsh treatment ; the tone of the 
" Replica," although dealing with Luther s attacks on the 
person of the Roman scholar, falls immeasurably short of 
his assailant s in point of bitterness. It is conciliatory, indeed 
proffers an olive-branch, should the Wittenberg professor 
retract the new doctrines which Rome was determined to 
condemn. 1 As for the " Epitome," it is merely a theo 
logical revie\v of the doctrines involved, which it clearly 
states and establishes whilst vigorously refuting all 
opinions to the contrary. It is accompanied by a grave 
warning to Luther not to impugn the authority of the 
Roman Church. 2 

This was, however, sufficient to let loose the anger of the 
German Reformer, who meanwhile had advanced con 
siderably, and whose wrath now manifested itself in his 
rejoinders. Such was his presumption that he actually 
reprinted in Germany both works of Prierias as soon as they 
had been published ; the " Replica " he introduced with the 
derisive remark, that, as the author had threatened to give 
birth to more, they must pray that he might suffer no 
abortions. 3 His reprint of the " Epitome " in 1520 was 
accompanied by contemptuous and satirical annotations, 
and by a preface and postscript where he breaks out into 
the language already described, about Antichrist seated in 

1 Ibid., p. 68 scq. 2 Ibid., p. 81 seq. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 2, p. 50 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 2, p. 68. 



376 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

the Temple of God in the Roman Babylon, about the 
happiness of the separated Greeks and Bohemians and about 
the washing of hands in the blood of the Popish Sodom. 1 
It was the seething ferment in Luther s own mind, not 
anything that Prierias had said, that was really responsible 
for such outbursts. The flood-gates had now been thrown 
open, and even from the Catholic side came many a wave 
of indignation to lend acrimony to the contest. 

Referring to Luther s words on bloodshed, we hear, for 
instance, Thomas Murner speaking of " the furious blood 
hound, Martin Luther of execrable memory, the blasphemous, 
runaway monk and murderous bloodhound, who wants to 
wash his hands in the blood of the priests ! " 

How far Hieronymus Emser allowed himself to go in his 
hostility to Luther is plain from his first tract, " A venatione 
Luteriana JEgocerotis assertio," of Nov., 1519, in which he 
replies to an attack of Luther s on an epistle he (Emser) 
had sent to Provost Johann Zack. Luther, in the title, 
had addressed him as the " he-goat " (" ad Mgocerotem ") on 
account of the goat s head figuring in his coat of arms. 
Emser retorts : " It is plainly beyond your ability to send 
out into the world any writing of yours that is not replete 
with houndish fury and bristles, as it were, with canine 
fangs. Your father is Belial, the ancestor of all insolent 
monks." He paints a frightful picture of Luther s career 
and character the better to prove that such a man had no 
right to sit in judgment on him. 

Luther s " An den Bock zu Leyptzck," dating from the 
beginning of 1520, was replied to by Emser in his " An den 
Stier zu Wittenberg," whereupon Luther retorted with 
" Auff des Bocks zu Leypczick Antwort," to which Emser 
replied in his pamphlet : " Auff des Stieres tzu Wiettenberg 
wiettende Replica," and his larger work " Against the 
Unchristian book of M. Luther to the German Nobility " ; 
this Luther countered by his " Auff das ubirchristlich . . . 
Buch Bocks Emssers." 

During the years 1521-1222 Emser wrote no less than eight 
tracts against the Wittenberg Professor. The Humanist 
and clever man of letters has left therein many a witty 

1 Ibid., 6, pp. 328-348 = 2, pp. 79-108. See the actual words in our 
vol. ii., p. 12 f. Cp. vol. i., p. 338 f., for the first interchange of amenities 
between the two champions. 

2 In W. Walther, " Fur Luther," p. 215. 



JOHANN ECK 377 

page ; a refreshing sincerity is one of his characteristics. 1 
On the whole, however, what F. A. Scharpff says applies 
to these and the later polemics of this zealous champion 
of the Church : They " are composed in a tone of violent 
personality, nor does either combatant seek any longer to 
restrain the Old Adam, as both at the outset had pledged 
themselves to do." 2 

Another of Luther s earliest literary opponents was Johann 
Eck, the author of the " Obelisks," on the Indulgence 
Theses. Like the works of Tetzel and Prierias, this tract is 
chiefly concerned in a calm discussion of the matter in 
dispute, though it does not refrain from occasionally 
describing this or that opinion of Luther s as a " rash, 
corrupt, impudent assertion," as an insipid, unblushing 
error, a ridiculous mistake, etc. The severest remark, 
however, and that which incensed Luther beyond all the 
rest was, that certain passages in the Indulgence Theses, 
owing to a confusion of ideas, made admissions " contain 
ing Bohemian poison," i.e. savouring of the errors of Hus. 3 
Subsequent to this Eck, however, wrote to Carlstadt a 
letter which was intended for Luther, where he says in a 
conciliatory tone : " To offend Martin was never my 
intention." 4 Nor did he at first print his " Obelisks," but 
merely sent the tract to his bishop and his friends. Luther, 
on the other hand, had the work printed in August, 1518, 
together with his own " Asterisks," and, after circulating 
them privately among his acquaintances, finally published 
them together. In the " Asterisci " he speaks of the 
behaviour of Eck, his quondam " friend," as most insidious 
and iniquitous (" insidiossissimum iniquissimum"), and 
mocks at his " grand, not to say high-flown," preface. He 
says : "Hardly was I able to refrain from laughter " ; Eck 
must have written his " Obelisks " during the Carnival ; 
wearing the mask of genius he had produced a chaos. His 

1 G. Kawerau (" Hieronymus Emser," 1898, p. 2) remarks that it 
must be admitted of Emser, " that he was an honest curmudgeon, 
averse to all subterfuge and pretence, amazingly frank in his admissions 
concerning himself, and, in controversy, very rude. Only rarely do we 
see him departing from this frankness." 

2 " KL.," 4 2 , col. 483. 

3 " Lutheri Opp. lat. var.," 1, p. 410. 

4 Ibid., p. 408, in the editor s Introduction to the " Asterisks " and 
" Obelisks." 



378 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

writing adduced nothing concerning the Bible, the Fathers 
and the Canons, but was all arch-scholastic ; had he, 
Luther, wished to peripateticise he could, with one puff, 
have blown away all these musty cobwebs, etc. 1 

Johann Eck, who was professor of theology at the 
University of Ingolstadt and at the same time parish-priest 
and preacher, enjoyed a great reputation among the 
Catholics on account of his works against Luther, particu 
larly those on the Primacy, on Purgatory, the Mass and 
other Catholic doctrines and practices, no less than on 
account of his printed sermons and his general activity on 
behalf of the Church. 

The indefatigable defender of the Church composed 
amongst other writings the " Enchiridion locorum com- 
munium adv. Lutherum et alias liostes ecclesice " (1525). The 
work was of great service and formed an excellent guide 
to many. 

In this well-arranged and eminently practical book the 
questions then under debate are dealt with for the instruction of 
Catholics and the confutation of heretics ; excerpts from Scrip 
ture and from the Fathers are in each instance quoted in support 
of the Catholic teaching, and then the objections of opponents 
are set forth and answered. Not only were the Church, the Papal 
Primacy, Holy Scripture, Faith and Works, the Sacraments, the 
Veneration of the Saints, Indulgences, Purgatory and other 
similar points of doctrine examined in this way, but even certain 
matters of discipline and the ecclesiastico-political questions of 
the day, such as payments to Rome, the ornaments of the 
churches and the ceremonies of Divine Worship, the use of Latin 
in the Mass, the disadvantage of holding disputations with 
heretics, and even the question of the Turkish war. Hence the 
work amounted to a small arsenal of weapons for use in the 
controversial field. The tone is, however, not always moderate 
and dispassionate. The author was clear-sighted enough to 
avoid the pitfall into which other writers lapsed who cherished 
undue hopes of a settlement by give and take. In much that he 
says he still speaks from the mediaeval standpoint, for instance, 
concerning the death penalty due to heretics ; this he defends 
on the strength of the identical passages from the Old Testament 
to which Luther and his followers appealed for the putting to 
death of blasphemers and apostates from the true faith. 

Eck had the satisfaction of seeing his " Enchiridion," within 
four years, reprinted four times in Bavaria, twice at Tubingen, 
and at Cologne, Paris and Lyons. Before 1576 it had been re- 
impressed forty-five times. In the midst of his other literary 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 281 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 1, p. 411. 



JOHANN ECK 379 

works and his fatiguing labours as preacher and professor at the 
University of Ingolstadt, the scholar never forgot his useful 
" Enchiridion," but amended it and added to it as occasion 
demanded. In 1529, in a new edition which he dedicated to 
Conrad von Thuengen, bishop of Wiirzburg, he looks back in 
the dedicatory preface on the ten years that had passed since his 
disputation at Leipzig, and voices his grief at the immense 
advance the apostasy had made with the course of time. 

" People have outgrown themselves," Eck exclaims, " they 
exalt themselves against God just as Lucifer once did, but like 
him too they fall into the abyss and come to despise the teach 
ing of God." " Whoever does not hold fast to the tradition of 
the Church and to the unanimous consent of the Fathers and the 
Councils must fall into the cesspool of the worst errors." These 
words are characteristic of Eck s unwavering adherence to 
authority. 

He goes on to apply this to Luther : " Luther and those who 
follow him prefer to rise up in their foolish daring rather than 
bow to the rule of faith ; they open their offensive mouth against 
the holy Fathers and the whole Church ; they exalt their own 
judgment with momentous and arrogant blindness above that 
of the most august representatives of the teaching office." True 
enough Luther had begun softly by merely publishing some 
theses against the system of indulgences with which many might 
still agree ; but then he had {gone on step by step and had 
increased his partisans by proclaiming a Christian freedom 
which in reality savoured more of Mohammed. It is our sins, 
Eck admits, that are the cause of the unhappy success of his 
work. " From the poisoned root new and corrupt shoots are 
constantly springing up, and of their new sects we see no end. 
In our unhappy days we have experienced the fury of the icono 
clasts ; Capharnaites have arisen to whom Christ s presence in the 
Sacrament is a hard saying ; Anabaptists, who refuse baptism 
to children but bestow it on adults, and, amongst these teachers, 
every day fresh divisions arise so that the heretics are even more 
prolific than rabbits. Yes, God is angry with us and allows this 
because we do not turn to Him with powerful and fervent 
prayer." 

He then goes on to encourage the Bishop of Wiirzburg to offer 
vigorous resistance and points modestly to his own self-sacrificing 
labours. 

" However much heresy may gain the upper hand, the watch 
men of Sion must not keep silence ; their voice must ring out 
like a clarion against the Philistines who scoff at the hosts of the 
Lord. We must oppose them with all the powers of our mind 
and defend the Tower of David, guarded, as Scripture says, with 
a thousand shields. This, zealous men, equipped with holy 
learning, have already done. I myself, as the least of all, have 
also entered the arena and expose d myself to the teeth of the 
wild beasts. At Leipzig I stood up and disputed for twenty days 
with Luther, the Prince of Dragons, and with Carlstadt ; at 
Baden [in Switzerland, in 1526] too, I had to sustain a combat 



380 LUTHER THE REFORMER 

for several days with (Ecolampadius the Capharnaite, and his 
comrades. I have also wrestled with them from a distance in 
several little works which I published in Germany and Italy." 

Again, in 1541, in the evening of his days (f 1543), in an 
eighth edition of the " E