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Full text of "Luther's primary works : together with his shorter and larger catechisms, translated into English"

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LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

TOGETHER WITH HIS SHORTER AND 
LARGER CATECHISMS 



- \J4 



LUTHER S 

PRIMARY WORKS 

TOGETHER WITH HIS SHORTER AND 
LARGER CATECHISMS 

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH 



EDITED 
SSltth ^heolftgtCAl anb ^tjistormil 

HENRY WAGE, D.D. 

Prebendary of St, Paul s, Preacher of Lincoln s Inn, Principal of Kings College, London 
Chaplain to the A rchbishop of Canterbury 

AND 

C. A. BUCHHEIM, PH.D. 

Professor of the German Language and Literature in Kings College, London 




LONDON 

HODDER AND STOUGHTON 
27, PATERNOSTER ROW 



Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury. 



PKEFACE 

rrVEE present volume is designed to afford the English 
reader the means of becoming acquainted, from 
Luther himself, with the principles from which the 
Reformation started, and with the manner in which they 
were applied by the great Reformer in the renovation of 
Faith and Practice in the common life of Christians. 
The second of these subjects, although the later in 
historical development, has been exemplified first in 
these pages, by means of a translation of Luther s shorter 
and larger Catechisms. These two works exhibit the 
Reformer s practical teaching in its simplest and most 
direct form. They are still living forces in Germany, at 
least as much as the Catechism of the Book of Common 
Prayer is in England, and the editors believe they 



vi PREFACE 

deserve the Larger Catechism especially to have a 
wider influence in this country. They exhibit in the 
most vivid form Luther s strong grasp of the cardinal 
principles of the Christian Faith, and his wonderful 
power of clear and forcible exposition. The larger 
Catechism, at all events, does not appear to have been 
hitherto accessible to English readers, and it is hoped 
that the present translation will facilitate a due ap 
prehension of it. The task of translating it has been 
one of extreme difficulty. It would not, perhaps, have 
been so difficult to convey the substantial meaning of 
Luther, as is done in the Latin translation which, in the 
Lutheran Symbolical Books, accompanies the German 
text. But Luther s ojbject was to be simple and popular, 
and a great part, accordingly, of the characteristic value 
of the work depends on its homely and idiomatic style. 
The Editors have found it impracticable adequately to 
reproduce this inimitable style, but the greatest pains 
have been taken to render the translation as close a 
representation of the German as possible. After the 
work had been translated by Miss Buchheim, the ad- 



PREFA CE . vi 

ditional assistance of Miss Dora Schmitz was obtained ; 
and the translation thus provided was then revised, very 
carefully, first by Dr. Wace and then by Dr. Buchheim. 
The necessity of this minute and repeated revision has 
delayed the volume for some years ; and the editors 
must express their thanks to the publishers for the 
patience they have been good enough to extend to them 
for this purpose. The Editors will feel their labours 
abundantly rewarded if the result is sufficiently success 
ful to afford English readers some adequate conception 
of the strength and simplicity, the combined manliness 
and childlikeness, of the Reformer s faith and teaching, 
and if a more just understanding is thus secured of 
the grand services which he rendered both to his own 
country and to Europe, and of the profound value of the 
practical principles which he reasserted. 

The three treatises which follow the Catechisms, as is 
more fully explained in the first of the essays in the 
Appendix, were all produced in the critical year 1520, 
when the Reformer appealed at the same moment to the 
Pope, to the Christian Nobility of his nation, to earnest 



viii PREFA CE 

Christian men, and to Theologians, to promote a real 
Reform in the Church. Accordingly, the(JTreatise on 
Christian Liberty^J)combines with an earnest appeal 
to the Pope an impressive statement of the cardinal 
Christian truths in which Luther s whole soul was 
absorbed, and which he longed to deliver from the 
obscurity in which they were imprisoned by the pre 
valent philosophy and theology. On the other hand, 
in the^Address to the NobilitX he exposed with 
tremendous power thejsractical abuses which prevailed 
in the Roman Church in Germany; and in the 
^Treatise on the Babylonish Captivity ,.ie attacked 
the spiritual abuses which had grown up, like a huge 
canker, around the Christianas acraments. His work in 
the latter treatise is avowedly somewhat tentative, and 
his views on some points were afterwards modified ; but 
the main principles on which his reforming movement 
proceeded are asserted with great clearness and force. 
But for a fuller explanation of the nature of these 
Treatises the essay in the Appendix, already mentioned, 
may be referred to. Here it is only necessary to state 



PREFA CE ix 

that, of these three works, the Address to the Nobility 
of the German Nation, which was written in German, 
has been translated by Professor Buchheim from the 
text given in the Erlangen and Frankfort edition, 
collated with the edition recently published separately, 
as one of the publications of the Verein fur Reforma 
tions Geschichte, by Professor Benrath. The translation 
of this work also presented very great difficulties, as 
it was written in Luther s earliest . German style, with 
extraordinary idiomatic force, and before the language 
had been improved, and rendered comparatively defi 
nite, by his translation of the Bible. Dr. Buchheim has 
endeavoured to make his version as literal as was com 
patible with the genius of the English language, and 
with the necessity of modifying, now and then, some 
obscure or obsolete expressions ; and he has offered a 
few annotations. He desires at the same time to express 
his great obligations to Dr. Wace, who carefully com 
pared his translation with the original work, and whose 
suggestions have been of great service to him. The two 
Treatises on Christian Liberty and on the Babylonish 



x PREFA CE 

Captivity of the Church were translated from the 
original Latin texts, as given in the Frankfort edition, 
by the late Rev. E. S. Grignon, to whose generous 
assistance and accurate scholarship the Editors feel 
greatly indebted. To the same hand is due the 
translation of the Ninety-five Theses, which are appended 
to these Treatises on account of their profound interest 
as exhibiting the moral and spiritual convictions by 
which Luther s revolt against the prevalent abuses was 
prompted. 

The three latter translations, with the Ninety-five 
Theses, were published thirteen years ago by Mr. Murray, 
as a contribution towards the celebration in this country 
of the fourth centenary of Luther s birth ; and the Editors 
have to thank Mr. Murray for his kind permission to 
reprint them, in connexion with the translation, now 
first published, of the Catechisms. The opportunity has 
been taken, both by Dr. Buchheim and Dr. Wace, to 
revise the translations with care. Dr. Buchheim, in 
particular, has expended great pains upon the endeavour 
to correct the translation of the Address to the German 



! 



PREFA CE xi 

Nation by the lights of the latest German scholarship, 
and he has also carefully revised his historical sketch 
in the Appendix. 

The Editors venture to hope that this attempt to let 
the voice of the great Reformer be heard more clearly 
in England may, for various reasons, be opportune at 
the present time, and that it may assist in the better 
apprehension of those cardinal principles on which, alike 
in England and in Germany, true " Christian Liberty " 
can alone be securely based. 

KING S COLLEGE, LONDON, 
October 1896. 



! 



CONTENTS xv 

PAGE 

IV. CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. 

1. LETTER TO POPE LEO X 245 

2. THAT A CHRISTIAN MAN is THE MOST FREE LORD OF 

ALL, AND SUBJECT TO NONE ..... 256 

3. THAT A CHRISTIAN MAN is THE MOST DUTIFUL SERVANT 

OF ALL, AND SUBJECT TO EVERY ONE . . . 271 

V. ON THE BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH. 

1. INTRODUCTION . 294 

2. ON THE LORD S SUPPER . . . . . . .302 

3. ON BAPTISM 339 

4. ON PENANCE 365 

5. ON CONFIRMATION . . . . . . . .375 

6. ON MATRIMONY 377 

7. ON ORDERS . . . 390 

8. ON EXTREME UNCTION 401 

VI. THE NINETY-FIVE THESES . . 411 



XVI 



CONTENTS 



APPENDIX. 



ESSAYS : 



1. ON THE PBIMAEY PEINCIPLES OF LUTHEK S LIFE 

AND TEACHING : BY DR. WAGE 425 

2. ON THE POLITICAL COUESE OF THE REFOEMATION IN 

GEEMANY (15171546) : BY DE. BUCHHEIM . . 451 



CONTENTS 



I. A SHORT CATECHISM: 

LUTHER S PREFACE ........ 1 

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ...... 6 

THE CREED ........ 9 

THE LORD S PRAYER ....... 10 

HOLT BAPTISM ...... 13 

A SHORT FORM OF CONFESSION . 15 

THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR ... 17 

MORNING AND EVENING PRAYER . 18 

BLESSING AND THANKS AT MEALS ..... 19 

THE TABLE OF HOME DUTIES . . 20 

II. THE GREATER CATECHISM: 

LUTHER S PREFACE .... 24 



xiv CONTENTS 



II. THE GREATER CATECHISM (Continued, ) : 

LUTHER S SHORT INTRODUCTION 30 

OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 34 

OF THE CREED 95 

OF THE LORD S PRAYER 107 

OF BAPTISM 129 

OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR . . . .143 

III. ADDRESS TO THE CHRISTIAN NOBILITY OF THE 

GERMAN RATION RESPECTING THE REFORMA 
TION OF THE CHRISTIAN ESTATE. 

1. DEDICATORY LETTER 159 

2. INTRODUCTION Igl 

3. THE THREE WALLS OF THE ROMANISTS . , .162 

(*) THAT THE TEMPORAL POWER HAS NO JURIS 
DICTION OVER THE SPIRITUALTY . . .163 
(Z>) THAT NO ONE MAY INTERPRET THE SCRIPTURES 

BUT THE POPE 169 

(c) THAT NO ONE MAY CALL A COUNCIL BUT THE 

POPE ]72 

4. OF THE MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED IN THE COUNCILS 175 

5. TWENTY-SEVEN ARTICLES RESPECTING THE REFORMA- 

, TION OF THE CHRISTIAN ESTATE . . . ijvj 



ENCHIRIDION 

H Sbort Catecbism for tbe 1Hse ot" 
pastors anfc jpreacbers 



PEEFACE 

Martin Luther to all faithful, pious 
pastors and preachers : Grace, mercy, 
and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

IN setting forth this Catechism or Christian doctrine 
in such a simple, concise, and easy form, I have been 
compelled and driven by the wretched arid lamentable 
state of affairs which I discovered lately when I acted 
as inspector. Merciful God, what misery I have seen, 
the common people knowing nothing at all of Christian 
doctrine, especially in the villages ! and unfortunately 
many pastors are well-nigh unskilled and incapable of 
teaching ; and though all are called Christians and par 
take of the Holy Sacrament, they know neither the Lord s 
Prayer, nor the Creed, nor the Ten Commandments, but 
live like the poor cattle and senseless swine, though, now 
that the Gospel is come, they have learnt well enough 
how they may abuse their liberty. 

ye bishops, how will ye ever answer for it to Christ 
that ye have so shamefully neglected the people, and 
have not attended for an instant to your office ? May all 
evil be averted from you ! Ye forbid the taking of the 

1 



2 PREFACE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER 

Sacrament in one kind, and insist on your human laws, 
but never inquire whether they know the Lord s Prayer, 
the Belief, the Ten Commandments, or any of the words 
of God. Oh, woe upon you for evermore ! 

Therefore I pray you for God s sake, my good masters 
and brethren who are pastors or preachers, to attend to 
your office with all your heart, to take pity on your 
people, who are commended to your charge, and to help 
us to introduce the Catechism among the people, espe 
cially among the young ; and let those who cannot do 
better take these tables and forms, and instruct the people 
in them word for word ; in this wise : 

First, the preacher must above all things beware of 
and avoid the use of various and different texts and 
forms of the Commandments, Lord s Prayer, Belief, 
Sacrament, etc. ; he must take one form and keep to it, 
and constantly teach the same, year after year. For the 
young and simple folk must be taught one definite text 
and version, else they will easily become confused, if to-day 
we teach thus and next year thus, as though we wanted to 
improve it, and so all our labour and toil is lost. 

This was clearly seen by the worthy fathers, who used 
the Lord s Prayer, the Belief, the Ten Commandments, 
all in one form. Therefore we must always teach the 
young and simple folk in such a manner that we do not 
alter one syllable, or preach to-morrow differently from 
to-day. 

Therefore choose whatever form thou wilt, and ever 
keep to it. But if thou preachest to scholars or wise 
men, thou mayest show thy skill, and vary these articles, 
and twist them as subtly as thou canst. But with the 
young keep always to one form, and teach them first of 
all these articles, namely, the Ten Commandments, the 
Belief, the Lord s Prayer, etc., according to the text, word 
for word, so that they may repeat them and learn them 
by heart. 

But as for those who will not learn, let them be told 
that they deny Christ and are no Christians, and let 
them not be admitted to the Sacrament, be sponsors to 



TO THE SHORT CATECHISM 3 

any child, or enjoy any of the liberty of Christians, but 
be handed over simply to the Pope and his officers, yea, 
to the devil himself. Besides this, let their parents or 
masters refuse them food and drink, and tell them that the 
prince will have such rude people driven from the land. 

For though we cannot and may not force any to 
believe, yet we must train and urge the multitude so that 
they may know what is right and wrong among those 
with whom they have their dwelling, food, and life. For 
whoever would dwell in a town must know and keep the 
law of which he would enjoy the privileges, whether he 
believe it, or be a rogue and good-for-nothing in his 
heart. 

Secondly, when they know the text well, teach them 
next to understand it, so that they know what it means, 
and take once more the method of these tables, this or 
some other short method, whichever thou wilt, and keep 
to it, and do not alter one syllable, just as we said of the 
text, and take time and leisure over it. For it is not 
necessary to expound all at once, but one thing after the 
other. When they understand the First Commandment 
well, then take the Second, and so on, else they will be 
overwhelmed and retain none. 

Thirdly, now when thou hast taught them this short 
Catechism, then take the larger Catechism, and give them 
a deeper and fuller explanation. Explain every com 
mandment, petition, and article, with its various works 
and uses, its dangers and abuses, as thou wilt find them 
in abundance in the many little books written about 
them. And especially dwell on that commandment that 
is most neglected among thy people. For example, the 
Seventh* Commandment, about stealing, must be vehe 
mently urged among artisans, tradesmen, and also among 
peasants and servants, for among such people there is all 
manner of unfaithfulness and thieving. Again, the Fourth 
Commandment must be specially urged upon children and 



* I.e., the Eighth, as we number them ; and so the Fourth, 
presently mentioned, is our fifth. 



PREFACE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER 



the common people, that they may be quiet, faithful, 
obedient, peaceful ; and them must always adduce many 
examples from the Bible of how God punished or blessed 
such people. 

Especially urge authorities and parents that they 
govern well and send the children to school, and ad 
monish them how it is their duty to do this, and what 
an accursed sin they commit if they neglect it. For 
thereby they overthrow and desolate both God s kingdom 
and the world s, as the worst enemies both of God and 
man. Lay also great stress on the horrible injury they 
do, if they do not help to train children for pastors, 
preachers, clerks, etc., and that God will punish them 
terribly. For it is very necessary to preach on this 
subject. Parents and magistrates now sin in this matter 
more than we can say. The devil has also most evil 
designs therein. 

Finally, because the tyranny of the Pope is past, they 
will no longer come to the Sacrament, and despise it. 
Accordingly it is necessary to urge them, but with this 
caution : we must not force any one to belief or to the 
Sacrament, nor make any law prescribing time or place ; 
but we ought to preach so that they come without our 
laws and, as it were, force us, their pastors, to give them 
the Sacrament. This we may do by saying to them, 
" Whoever does not seek or desire the Sacrament, or 
demand it, at least once or four times a year, it is to 
be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is no 
Christian, just as he is no Christian who does not 
believe in or listen to the Gospel ; for Christ did not say, 
Omit or despise this, but This do as oft as ye drink it, 
etc." He will surely have it done, and on no account 
neglected or despised. " This do" He says. 

But if there be any one who does not greatly prize the 
Sacrament, that is a sign that he has no sin, no flesh, no 
devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell ; that is, 
he believes in none, though he is head over ears therein 
and is doubly the devil s. On the other hand, he needs 
DO mercy, life, paradise, kingdom of heaven, Christ, God, 



THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT. 

HONOUE THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we do 
not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but 
reverence, serve, obey, love, and honour them. 

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT. 

THOU SHALT DO NO MURDER. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we do 
our neighbour no harm nor injury in his body, but help 
and further him in all bodily necessities. 

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT. 

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we live 
chaste and modest in word and deed, and that every one 
love and honour his spouse. 

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT. 

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we take 
not our neighbour s money nor goods, nor seek to obtain 
them by false dealing or deceit, but help him to keep and 
improve his goods and his sustenance. 

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT. 

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY 
NEIGHBOUR. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we do 
not falsely deceive, betray, calumniate, nor slander our 



THE SHORT CATECHISM 



neighbour, but excuse him, speak well of him, and turn 
everything to the best. 

THE NINTH COMMANDMENT. 

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOUR S HOUSE. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we do 
not covet our neighbour s inheritance nor his house, nor 
seek to obtain them by a semblance of right, but help 
him and further him in retaining what is his own. 

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT. 

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOUR S WIFE, NOR 
HIS SERVANT, NOR HIS MAID, NOR HIS OX, NOR HIS ASS, 
NOR ANYTHING THAT IS HIS. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We are to fear and love God, that we do 
not seek to alienate or turn from our neighbour his wife, 
his servants, or his cattle, but exhort them to remain 
and do their duty to him. 

Now what saith God of all these Commandments ? 

Answer. He saith thus : 

FOR I, THE LORD THY GOD, AM A JEALOUS GOD, AND 

VISIT THE SINS OF THE FATHERS UPON THE CHILDREN UNTO 
THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION OF THEM THAT HATE 
ME, AND SHOW MERCY UNTO THOUSANDS IN THEM THAT 
LOVE ME AND KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. God threatens to punish all who transgress 
these commandments. Wherefore we must fear^ His 
wrath and not break these commandments. But He 
promises His grace and all good tilings to all who keep 
these commandments. Wherefore we are to love and 
trust Him and gladly do according to His command 
ments. 



THE BELIEF 



1LTIIE CREED 

How the master of the house is to explain it 
as simply as possible to his household. 

THE FIRST ARTICLE: OF THE CREATION. 

I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, MAKER 
OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. I believe that God has created me and all 
other creatures, and has given me, and preserves for me, 
body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason 
and all my senses ; and that daily He bestows on me 
clothes arid shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife 
and child, fields and cattle, and all my goods, and supplies 
in abundance all needs and necessities of my body and 
life, and protects me from all perils, and guards and 
defends me from all evil. And this He does out of pure 
fatherly and Divine goodness and mercy, without any 
merit or worthiness in me ; for all which I am bound to 
thank Him and praise Him, and, moreover, to serve and 
obey Him. This is a faithful saying. 

THE SECOND ARTICLE: OF THE REDEMPTION. 

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, His ONLY SON, OUR LORD, 
WHO WAS CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY GHOST, BORN OF 
THE VIRGIN MARY ; SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE ; 

WAS CRUCIFIED, DEAD, AND BURIED, HE DESCENDED INTO 
HELL ; THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD ; 
HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, AND SITTETH AT THE RIGHT 
HAND OF THE FATHER ALMIGHTY : FROM THENCE HE 
SHALL COME TO JUDGE THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. 

What does that mean ? 

Ansiver. I believe that Jesus Christ, very God, born 
of the Father in eternity, and also very man, born of 
the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a 
lost and damned man, and has won and delivered me 
from all sins, from death, and from the power of the 



io THE SHORT CATECHISM 



devil, not with gold and silver, but with His holy and 
precious blood and with His innocent passion and death, 
so that I might be His own, and might live under Him 
in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteous 
ness, innocence, and blessing, just as He rose from the 
dead, and lives and reigns in all eternity. This is a 
faithful saying. 

THE THIRD ARTICLE: OF THE SANCTIFICATION, 

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST, A HOLY CHRISTIAN 
CHURCH, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS, THE FORGIVENESS 
OF SINS, THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, AND THE LIFE 
EVERLASTING. AMEN. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. I believe that I cannot of my own under 
standing and strength believe in or come to Jesus Christ 
my Lord, but that the Holy Ghost has called me by the 
Gospel, and illuminated me with His gifts, and sanctified 
and preserved me in the true faith, just as He calls, 
gathers together, illuminates, sanctifies, and preserves in 
Jesus Christ all Christendom throughout the earth in the 
one true faith ; in which Christendom He daily bestows 
abundantly on me and all believers forgiveness of sins ; 
and on the last day He will awaken me and all the dead, 
and will give to me and all that believe in Christ eternal 
life. This is a faithful saying. 

UL THE LORD S PRAYER 

How the master of the house should explain it 
as simply as possible to his household. 

OUR FATHER, WHICH ART IN HEAVEN. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. With these words God invites us to believe 
that He is our true Father, and that we are His true 
children, so that we may pray to Him in confidence and 
in all trust, as little children do to their fathers. 



THE LORD S PRAYER n 

THE FIRST PETITION. 
HALLOWED BE THY NAME. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. God s name, indeed, is already holy in itself, 
but we pray in this prayer that it may also be holy among 
us. 

How is this done ? 

Answer. Where the word of God is taught in all 
purity and sincerity, and we live a holy life in accordance 
with it, as the children of God. In which our dear 
Father in heaven help us ! But he who teaches and 
lives otherwise than the word of God teaches, he pro- 
fones among us the name of God, from which defend us, 
heavenly Father. 

THE SECOND PETITION. 

THY KINGDOM COME. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. God s kingdom comes, indeed, of itself, 
without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may 
also come to us. 

How is this done ? 

Answer. When our heavenly Father gives us His 
Holy Spirit, that, through His mercy, we believe His 
holy word, and live a godly life, here for a time and for I/ 
ever in heaven. 

THE THIRD PETITION. 

THY WILL BE DONE ON EAETH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. God s good and gracious will is done indeed 
without our prayer,"but we ask in this prayer that it may 
also be done among us. 

How is this done ? 

Answer. When God destroys and overthrows all evil 
counsel and ill-will, which would not let us keep holy 



THE SHORT CATECHISM 



the name of God or let His kingdom come, such as is 
the will of the devil, the world, and of our flesh ; but 
strengthens and maintains us firmly in His word and faith 
unto our lives end. That is His good and gracious will. 

THE FOURTH PETITION. 

GlVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. God gives daily bread, without our inter 
cession, to all evil men, but we ask in this prayer that He 
will let us acknowledge and receive with thanksgiving 
our daily bread. 

What signifies daily bread ? 

Anstver. All that appertains to the nourishment and 
wants of our bodies, such as food, drink, clothes, shoes, 
house and home, lands, cattle, money, goods, an honest 
wife, honest children, honest servants, honest, faithful 
magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, 
health, modesty, honour, good friends, faithful neigh 
bours, and the like. 

THE FIFTH PETITION. 

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE FORGIVE THEM 
THAT TRESPASS AGAINST US. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We ask in this prayer that our Father in 
heaven may not regard our sin, and may not because of 
it reject our prayer, for we are not worthy of anything 
we ask, neither have we deserved it ; but that He will 
grant all to us of His grace, for we sin greatly each day 
and deserve nothing but punishment. And in our turn 
we will heartily forgive and do good to all those who sin 
against us. 

THE SIXTH PETITION. 

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. God, it is true, tempts no man, but we ask 
in this prayer that He will guard and preserve us, so 



HOLY BAPTISM 13 

that tlie devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive 
us nor lead us into unbelief, doubt, and other great sins 
and crimes, and that, though we be tempted therewith, 
we may at length overcome and be victorious. 

THE SEVENTH PETITION. 

BUT DELIVEIl US FROM EVIL. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. We ask in this petition, as though to sum 
up, that our Father in heaven may deliver us from all 
evil of body, soul, goods, and honour ; and that, finally, 
when our hour has come, He will grant us a blessed end, 
and in His mercy take us from this vale of tears to 
Himself in heaven., f 

AMEN. 

What does that mean ? 

Answer. That I am to be assured that such prayers 
are acceptable to our Father in heaven and are heard 
by Him, for He Himself has commanded us so to pray, 
and has promised to hear us. Amen, Amen, that is, 
Yea, yea ; thus shall it be. 



IV. -THE SACRAMENT OF IJULY BAPTISM 
How the master of the house should explain it 

as simply as possible to his household. 

FIRSTLY. 

What is baptism ? 
Answer. Baptism is not only simple water, but it is^ 

the water comprehended in God s commandment and 

united with God s word. 

What then is this word of God ? 

Answer. What our Lord Christ says in the last 
chapter of St. Matthew : Go ye therefore and teach all 
nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of 
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 



14 THE SHORT CATECHISM 

SECONDLY. 

What does baptism give us, and of what benefit is it ? 

Answer. It effects the remission of sins, frees us 
from death and the devil, and gives blessedness ever 
lasting to those who believe what the word and the 
promise of God declare. 

What is this word and promise of God ? 

Answer. What our Lord Christ says in the last 
chapter of St. Mark : He that believeth and is baptised 
shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 

THIEDLY. 

How can water effect such great things ? 

Answer. Truly water cannot do it, but the word of 
God, which is with and on the water, and the faith which 
believes such word of God in the water. For without the 
word of God the water is simple water, and not baptism ; 
but with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a 
gracious water of life, and a washing of regeneration in 
the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says to Titus in the third 
chapter : By the washing of regeneration and renewing 
of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that, being justified 
by His grace, me should be made heirs according to the 
hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying. 

FOURTHLY. 

What signifies this baptism in water ? 

Answer. It signifies that the old Adam in us is to be 
drowned by daily repentance and penance, and is to die, 
with all sins and evil desires, and that daily is to arise 
and emerge a new man, who is to live before God in 
righteousness and purity for ever. 

Where is this written ? 

Answer. St. Paul says to the Romans (chap, vi.), 
Therefore we are buried tuith Him by baptism into death, 
that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the 
glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness 
of life. 



CONFESSION 



V.HOW THE SIMPLE FOLKS SHOULD BE 
TAUGHT TO CONFESS 

Confession consists of two parts : first, to confess our 
sins, and secondly, to receive the absolution or forgive 
ness bestowed by the confessor, as from God Himself, 
and not to doubt thereof, but firmly to believe that our 
sins are thereby forgiven in the sight of God in heaven. 

What sins should we confess ? 

To God we are to confess all sins, even those that we 
do not recognise, as we do in the Lord s Prayer ; but to 
the confessor we are only to confess such sins as we 
know and feel guilty of in our hearts. 

Which are they ? 

Examine thyself according to the Ten Commandments, 
whether thou art father, mother, son, daughter, master, 
mistress, manservant or maidservant, and see if thou 
hast been disobedient, unfaithful, and idle, whether thou 
hast done any one an injury by word or deed, whether 
thou hast been dishonest, negligent, slothful, or hast 
otherwise caused harm. 

/ pray thce, friend, tell me a short form of con 
fession. 

Answer. Say thus to thy confessor : Worthy reverend 
master, I pray you hear jny confession, and declare 
absolution to me for God s sake. 

Say thus : 1, a poor sinner, confess myself guilty of all 
sins before God ; in particular I confess to you that I 
am a manservant or a maidservant, etc., but, alas ! I 
serve my master unfaithfully, for at such and such a 
time I have not done what they bade me, but angered 
them and moved them to swear ; I have neglected my 
work and caused damage ; I have been froward in word 
and deed ; I have been angry with my fellows, sullen to 
my wife, and I have sworn at her. All this I repent of, 
and I pray for mercy, and will seek to amend. 

A master or mistress must say as follows : 

Especially 1 acknowledge to you that I have not faith 
fully trained my children and servants and my wife to the 



16 THE SHORT CATECHISM 

glory of God ; I have sworn, and given a bad example 
with unchaste words and deeds ; I have done injury to 
my neighbour, spoken ill of him, sold too dear, given 
short measure and false weight and whatever else he 
may have done contrary to the commandments of God 
and his state in life. 

But if any shall fa nd that he is not burdened with 
similar or greater sins, he shall not be anxious or seek 
or invent further sins, and thus turn confession into a 
torture, but he must recount the one or two sins that he 
may remember. Thus : I confess especially that once 1 
swore, also that I used unseemly words, neglected this 
or that duty. Let this suffice. 

But if thou know of none (though this is well-nigh 
impossible), then mention none in particular, but receive 
forgiveness upon the general confession which thou 
makest to the confessor before God. 

THEREUPON THE CONFESSOR SHALL SAY, 

God be merciful to thee, and strengthen thy faith. 
Amen. 

FURTHER : 

Dost thou, believe that m>j forgiveness is God s forgive- 

ss ? 

Answer. Yea, reverend sir. 

THEN LET HIM SAY, 

As thou believest, so be it unto thee. And, by command 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive thee thy sins, in the 
name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen. 
Go in peace. 

But if any are sorely afflicted in their conscience, or 
sorely grieved and tempted, the confessor will know how 
to comfort them with various words of Scripture, and how 
to lead them to faith. This is merely to serve as a 
general mode of confession for the simple folk. 



THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 



VI. THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 

How the master of the house should explain 
it simply to his household. 

What is the Sacrament of the Altar ? 

Answer. It is the very Body and Blood of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, under the Bread and Wine, for us Christians 
to eat and to drink, under the institution of Christ 
Himself. 

Where is this written ? 

Answer. Thus say the holy Evangelists Matthew, 
Mark, Luke, and St. Paul : 

The Lord Jesus, in the same night in which He was 
betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, lie 
brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take ; 
eat. This is My body, which is given for you ; this do in 
remembrance of Me. 

After the same manner also He took the cup when He 
had supped, and gave it to them, saying, Take this and 
drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My 
blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins ; 
this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. 

What avails it to eat and drink thus ? 

Answer. This is shown us by the words, " Given for 
you and shed for you for the remission of sins" That 
is to say, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, 
and salvation are bestowed on us by these words. For 
where forgiveness of sins is, there is also life and salvation. 

How can bodily eating and drinking accomplish these 
great things ? 

Anstver. Eating and drinking do not indeed accomplish 
this, but the words which stand there, " Given for you 
and shed for you for the remission of sins." These 
words, together with the bodily eating and drinking, 
are the most important part of this Sacrament, and 

2 



1 8 THE SHORT CATECHISM 



whoever believes these words, lie lias what they say, and 
as they speak, namely, remission of sins. 

Who, then, are they who receive this Sacrament 
worthily ? 

Answer. Fasting and bodily preparation are in truth 
a good external discipline, but he is truly worthy and 
prepared who believes the words, " Given for you and 
shed for the remission of sins" But he who does not 
believe them is unworthy and not prepared. For the 
words, "for you" demand truly believing hearts. 



APPENDIX I. 

How the master of the house should teach his 
household to commend themselves to God both 
night and morning. 

THE MORNING BLESSING. 

In the morning, when thou risest from thy bed, sign 
thyself with the Holy Cross, and say,- 

In the name of the Father^ the Son, and the Holy 
Ghost. Amen. 

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the 
Lord s Prayer. If thou wilt, thou mayest also say this 
short prayer : 

I thank Thee, my heavenly Father, through Jesus 
Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast preserved me 
through this night from all harm and danger, and I 
beseech Thee Thou wouldest protect me this day from 
sin and all evil, that all my deeds and my life may be 
pleasing in Thy sight. For 1 commend myself, my body 
and soul, and all, into Thy hands? Let Thy holy angel 
be with me, that the evil one m.ay have no power over me. 
Amen. 

And then go joyfully to thy work, and sing, if thou 
wilt, a hymn, the Ten Commandments, or whatever else 
thy devotion suggests. 



DAIL Y PRA YERS 19 



THE EVENING BLESSING. 

At night, when thou goest to bed, sign thyself with 
the Holy Cross, and say, 

In the name of the Father, the Son, ami the Holy Ghost. 
Amen. 

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the 
Lord s Prayer. If thon wilt, thou mayest add this 
short prayer : 

/ thank Thee, my heavenly Father, through Jesits 
Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously 
protected me through this day ; and I beseech Thee Thou 
ivouldest forgive me all my sins wherever I have done 
wrong, and mercifully guard me this night. For I 
commend myself, my body and soul, and all, into Thy 
hands. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the evil one 
may have no power over me. Amen. 

And then to sleep quickly and cheerfully. 

How the master of the house should teach his 
household to say the Benedicite and the Gratias. 

The children and servants are to fold their hands, 
modestly approach the table, and say, 

The eyes of all wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them 
their meat in due season. Thou openest Thine hand, and 
satisfiest the desire of every living thing. 

Note. Satisfaction signifies that all creatures get so 
much to eat that they are cheerful and happy over it, 
for care and greed prevent such satisfaction. 

Then the Lord s Prayer and the following prayer : 

Lord God, our heavenly Father, bless us and these 
Thy gifts, which we accept from Thy merciful goodness, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

THE GRATIAS. 

After the meal they shall do likewise, and speak 
modestly with folded hands. 



20 THE SHORT CATECHISM 

Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious, and His 
mercy endurethfor ever. He giveth fodder unto the cattle, 
and feedeth the young ravens that call upon Him. He 
hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse, neither 
delighteth lie in any man s legs. But the Lord s delight 
is in them that fear Him and put their trust in His 
mercy. 

Then the Lord s Prayer and the following prayer : 
We thank Thee, Lord God our Father, through Jesus 
Christ our Lord, for all Thy mercies, Thou who livest 
and rulestfor ever and ever. Amen. 

APPENDIX II. 

THE HOME TABLE. 

Some Texts for divers holy orders and estates, 
which may serve to admonish them respectively 
of their offices and duties. 

TO BISHOPS, PASTORS, AND CLERGY. 

A bishop must be blameless ; the husband of one wife ; 
vigilant ; sober ; of good behaviour ; given to hospitality ; 
apt to teach ; not given to wine ; no striker ; not greedy of 
filthy lucre, but patient ; not a brawler ; not covetous ; 
one that ruleth well his own house ; having his children 
in subjection with all gravity ; not a novice ; holding fast 
the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be 
able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince 
the gainsay ers (1 Tim. iii. and Titus i.). 

Quid debeant auditores episcopis suis. 

Dominus ordinavit his, qui evangelium annuntiant, de 
evangelic vivere (1 Cor. ix. 4). Communicet doctori in 
omnibus bonis is qui docetur verbo (Gal. vi. 6). Qui 
bene praesunt presbyteri, duplici honore digni habeantur, 
maxime qui laborant in verbo et doctrina. Dicit enim 
scriptura ; non obligabis os bovi trituranti. Et : Dignus 



TABLE OF DUTIES 21 

est operarius mercede sua (\ Tim. v. 17, 18). Obedite 
pnepositis vestris et cedite eis. Ipsi enim vigilant, 
quasi rationem pro animabus vestris reddituri, at cum 
gaudio hoc faciant, et non gementes, hoc enim non 
expedit vobis (Ebr. xiii. 17). 

OF MAGISTRATES. 

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for 
there is no power but of God ; the powers that be are 
ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the 
power resisteth the ordinance of God ; and they that 
resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he 
beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of 
God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth 
evil (Rom. xiii.). 

Quid subditi magistratibus debeant. 

Reddite qua3 sunt Oaesaris, Caasari (Matt. xxii. 21). 
Omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit cet. 
Ideoque necessitate subditi estote, non solum propter 
irain, sed etiam propter couscientiam. Ideo enim et 
tributa pnestatis. Ministri enim Dei sunt, in hoc ipsum 
servientes. Reddite ergo omnibus debita : cui tributum, 
tributum ; cui vectigal, vectigal ; cui timorem, timorem ; 
cui honorem, honorem (Rom. xiii. 1 5 sqq.). Adhortor 
primum omnium fieri obsecrationes, orationes, inter- 
pellationes, gratiarium actiones pro omnibus hominibus, 
pro re gibus, et omnibus qui in sublimitate constituti sunt, 
ut quietam et tranquillam vitam agamus cum omni 
pietate et gravitate (1 Tim. ii. 1 sqq.}. Admone illos 
principibus et potestatibus subditos esse cet (Titus iii. 1). 
Subditi estote omni humane creaturae propter Dominum, 
sive regi tamquam praacellenti, sive ducibus tamquam ab 
eo missis (1 Peter ii. 13 sqq.). 

TO HUSBANDS. 

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to 
knowledge, giving honour unto the wife as unto the 



22 THE SHORT CATECHISM 



weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace 
of life, that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter iii.). 
And be not bitter against them (Col. iii.). 

TO WIVES. 

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as 
unto the Lord, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him 
lord, whose daughters ye are as long as ye do well, and 
are not afraid with any amazement (Eph. i.; 1 Peter iii.). 

TO PARENTS. 

Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath ; but 
bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the 
Lord (Eph. vi.). 

TO CHILDREN. 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is 
right. Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the 
first commandment with promise, namely, that it may 
be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the 
earth (Eph. vi. 1, etc.). 

TO MENSERVANTS, MAIDSERVANTS, DAY- 
LABOURERS AND WORKMEN. 

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters 
according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in single 
ness of heart as unto Christ, not with eye-service as 
men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will 
of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as 
to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatsoever 
good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of 
the Lord, whether he be bond or free (Eph. vi. 5, etc.). 

TO THE MASTER AND MISTRESS OF A 
HOUSEHOLD. 

And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, for 
bearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is 
in heaven, neither is there respect of persons with Him 
(Eph. vi. 9). 



TABLE OF DUTIES 23 






TO THE YOUNG IN GENERAL. 

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. 
Yea, all of you, be subject one to another, and be clothed 
with humility, for God resisteth the proud and giveth 
grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under 
the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due 
time (1 Peter v., etc.). 

TO WIDOWS. 

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth 
in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night 
and day ; but she that liveth in pleasure is dead while 
she liveth (1 Tim. v.). 

TO ALL. 

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; in this 
saying all commandments are comprehended (Horn. xiii.). 
I exhort therefore that first of all supplications, prayers, 
intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men 
(1 Tim. ii.). 

" Let each one learn his lesson well ; 
Then in the house content will dwell." 

(Sin iebcr lent jctu Section 

So toirb e luoljl im >auje 3to(jn. 



Cuique sit imprimis magme sua lectio cune 
Ut domns officiis stet decorata suis. 



Ha? l^ir\v avdyvaxTLV ej? TrpaTrlSecra-iv adpr)(ra<s 

OlKOV %6L TTVKWWV eVTTOpeOVTd KO\0)V. 



24 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



preface. 



A CHRISTIAN, wholesome, and necessary preface, 
and faithful, serious exhortation addressed by Dr. 
Martin Luther to all Christians, but especially to all 
pastors and preachers, that they may daily practise 
themselves in the Catechism, ivhich is a short summary 
and extract of the whole of the Scriptures, and con 
tinually insist upon it, etc. 

That we so urgently press the use of the Catechism, 
and also beg and entreat others to do so, is for no 
slight reasons, since we see, alas ! that many pastors 
and preachers are very negligent in this matter, and 
despise both their office and this teaching, some because 
of their great and wonderful skill, others merely from 
laziness and love of their bellies, who act as though 
they were pastors and preachers merely for their belly s 
sake, and had nothing to do but enjoy their goods, and 
live as they were wont to live under the Pope. 

And though they can find all that they should teach 
and preach so abundantly, easily, and clearly set forth in 
many wholesome books and, as they called them formerly, 
the true Sermones per se loquentes, Dormi secure, Paratos 
et Thesauros, yet are they not pious and honest enough 
to buy such books, or even if they have them, yet they 
do not look at them nor read them. Alas ! such men 
are no better than shameful gluttons and slaves of their 
bellies, who had better be swineherds and keepers of 
dogs than curates of the soul and pastors. 

If only, now that they are rid of the useless tedious 
mutterings of the seven canonical hours, they would 



PREFACE 



undertake instead as much as reading morning, noon, 
and evening a page or two out of the Catechism, Prayer- 
book, New Testament, or else the Bible, and would repeat 
the Lord s Prayer for themselves and their parishioners, 
so as to show at least some honour and gratitude to the 
Gospel, by which they are freed from so many burdens 
and oppressions, and that they would feel a little ashamed 
that, like swine and dogs, they retain no more of the 
Gospel than such idle, hurtful, abominable carnal free 
dom ! For unfortunately, as it is, the masses esteem 
the Gospel far too lightly, and we can accomplish next 
to nothing, though we use all our industry ; how will it 
be then if we are idle and slothful, as we were under the 
papacy ? 

Added to this is the shameful vice and secret corruption 
of security and satiety, so that many think the Catechism 
is a common, simple doctrine, which they can grasp at a 
single glance, and then can throw the book into a corner, 
and be almost ashamed to read it any more. 

Indeed, we may find some boors and niggards even 
among the nobles, who pretend that henceforth neither 
pastors nor preachers are needed, since we have all that 
is required in books, and can learn it by ourselves, and 
who cheerfully let the benefices go to ruin and waste, so 
that both pastor and preacher suffer hunger and thirst 
enow, as perhaps is fitting for stupid Germans. For we 
Germans have such shameful people among us, and must 
endure them. But this I say for myself: I also am a 
doctor and a preacher, as learned and experienced as any 
who have shown such insolence and security ; and yet I 
am still like a child that is taught the Catechism, and I 
read it and repeat it word for word each morning, and 
when I have time the Ten Commandments, the Creed, 
Lord s Prayer, Psalms, etc. ; and I must still daily read 
and study, and cannot excel as I should like to, and 
must ever remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, 
and am right willing to remain so. And these dainty, 
fastidious gentlemen think with one perusal straightway 
to be doctor above all doctors, to know everything, and 



26 PREFACE 



require nothing more. Sooth to say, this is a certain 
sign that they despise both their office, and the people s 
souls, yea also God and His word, and they need not 
fear falling, for they have already fallen most grievously. 
What they need is to become as children and begin to 
learn the alphabet, which they think they have put aside 
with their leading strings. 

Therefore I entreat such slow bellies or presumptuous 
saints that, for God s sake, they will be convinced and 
believe that really, really they are not so learned and 
such great doctors as they would believe, and must never 
imagine that they have learned all of this matter, or know 
enough of all things, however it may seem to them they 
know it all too well. For even though they did know 
and understand it most excellently (which is certainly 
not possible in this life), yet there is much use and 
profit behind if we read it daily and practise it in 
thought and speech, namely because the Holy Ghost is 
always present during such reading, speaking, and 
thinking, and always gives new and increased light 
and devotion for the purpose, so that it always tastes 
sweeter and sweeter and works within us, as Christ also 
promises : Where two or three are gathered together in My 
name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt, xviii.). 

Then, too, it is a wonderfully efficacious remedy against 
the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts, if 
we make use of God s word, speak of it, meditate on it ; 
and so the First Psalm calls them blessed who meditate on 
God s law day and night. Without doubt, thou wilt find 
no incense or other odours so efficacious against the devil 
as if thou makest use of God s commands and words in 
this wise, and speakest, singest, and thinkest of them. 
That is indeed the true holy water and sign from which 
he flies, and with which he lets himself be driven away. 

For this reason alone then thou shouldst desire to read 
these articles, speak of them, meditate on them, and 
handle them, even though thou hadst no other use and 
profit from them save that thus thou drivest away the 
devil and evil thoughts. For he cannot hear nor endure 



PREFACE 27 

God s word ; and God s word is not like foolish fables, 
such as that about Dietrich of Berne, etc., but, as St. 
Paul says (Rom. i.), the power of God, yea, truly a power 
of God which cruelly afflicts the devil, and strengthens, 
comforts, and helps us beyond measure. 

And what should I more say ? If I were to tell all 
the use and profit which God s word bestows, where 
should I find paper and time enough ? We call the 
devil him with the thousand arts, but how shall we call 
God s word, which drives away him with the thousand 
arts, with all his tricks and his power, and annihilates 
him ? It must be more than a hundred thousand arts. 
And can we so lightly despise such power, use, profit, 
and strength, especially we who would be pastors and 
preachers ? If so, not only ought we to receive nothing 
to eat, but we deserve to be hunted forth with dogs, 
because we not only daily require all this, like our daily 
bread, but daily need it against the daily attacks and 
ambuscades of the devil with the thousand arts. 

And if this be not enough to admonish us to read the 
Catechism daily, God s command alone should be sufficient 
to make us, when He adjures us solemnly in Deut. vi. 
that His word should be always in our hearts, sitting, 
walking, standing, lying down, rising up, and that we 
bind it for a sign upon our hands and as frontlets be 
tween our eyes. Without doubt it is not for nothing 
that He commands and demands this so earnestly ; but, 
because He knows our danger and need, and the devil s 
constant furious attacks and temptations, He would warn 
us against them, and arm and protect us, as with good 
armour, against his fiery arrows, and with good medicine 
against his evil, pestilential corruptions and promptings. 

Oh, what mad insane fools are we, that we have always 
to dwell or lodge among such powerful foes as the devils, 
and yet should be willing to despise our weapons and 
arms, and be too lazy to look to them or think of them ! 
And what are these dainty, daring saints about, who 
neither will nor may daily learn and read the Catechism, 
because thev think themselves much more learned than 



28 PREFACE 

God Himself, with all His saints, angels, prophets. 
Apostles, and all Christians ? For while God Himself 
is not ashamed to teach it daily, as One who knows of 
no better thing to teach, and always teaches it in the 
same way, and adds nothing new or different, and all the 
saints know nothing better nor different to learn, and 
cannot make an end of their learning, are we not very 
fine fellows to imagine that if we have read and heard 
it once, we know it all, and need neither read nor learn 
further, and can master in an hour what God Himself 
can never make an end of teaching, although He teaches 
it from the beginning of the world to the end, and all 
prophets and saints have had to learn it, and still re 
mained, and ever must remain, scholars ? 

For this is certain, whoever knows the Ten Com 
mandments cannot but know the whole Scripture, and 
will be able in all matters and cases to advise, help, 
comfort, judge, decide, both spiritual and temporal 
matters, and be a judge over all doctrines, ranks, minds, 
and laws, and whatever else there may be in the world. 
And what is the whole Psalter but merely thoughts and 
exercises on the First Commandment ? Now I verily 
believe that those slow bellies and presumptuous minds 
do not understand a single Psalm, not to mention the 
whole Scriptures, and yet they pretend to know and 
despise the whole Catechism, which is a short summary 
and epitome of the whole Scriptures. 

Therefore I once more entreat all Christians, especially 
pastors and preachers, not to want to become doctors 
too soon, or let themselves fancy they know everything 
(much is lost in the end by fancies and fine feathers), 
but daily to exercise themselves well in these studies 
and always be busy in them. Besides, they must with 
all diligence and care protect themselves against the 
poisonous contagion of security and presumption, and 
always keep on with reading, teaching, learning, thinking, 
and meditating, and never cease until they have proved 
and are certain that they have taught the devil dead, and 
become more learned than God and all His saints. 



PREFACE 29 

If they are thus diligent, I will promise them, and 
they will experience, what profit they will thus acquire, 
and what fine people God will make of them, so that in 
time they will themselves confess that the longer and 
more diligently they study the Catechism, the less they 
know of it, and the more they have to learn in it, and 
that which they now, in their fulness and satiety, cannot 
endure to smell, will then, in their hunger and thirst, 
have a right sweet savour to them, which may God 
grant in His mercy. Amen. 



Short preface of 2)r, flDartin Xutber 



instruction is arranged and instituted so as to 
-L serve for the teaching of children and simple folk, 
wherefore from the earliest times it was called in Greek 
Catechism, that is, instruction for children, which every 
Christian must of necessity know, so that he who does 
not know it cannot be counted among Christians and 
cannot be admitted to any Sacrament, just as a working 
man who does not know the laws and customs of his 
trade is expelled and considered unfit. Therefore young- 
people must be made to learn well and thoroughly all 
that belongs to the Catechism or children s sermon, and 
be diligently exercised and practised therein. 

Wherefore, too, it is the duty of the father of each 
household at least once a week to question his children 
and servants concerning what they know or learn of it, 
and if they do not know it, admonish them earnestly to 
attend to it. For I well remember the time, yea it still 
occurs daily, that ignorant old and aged people are found 
who knew and know nothing of all this ; yet they go to 
Baptism and the Sacrament, and make use of all that 
Christians possess ; whereas it is but right that those 
who go to the Sacrament should know more and have 
a fuller understanding of the Christian doctrine than 
children and new scholars. Nevertheless, for the common 
people we would let those three things suffice, which 
have belonged to Christianity from all times, though but 
seldom rightly taught and practised, till all are well 
versed and fluent in them, both young and old, who are 
called Christians, and would be Christians. And these 
are as follows : 



SHORT PREFACE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER 



FIRSTLY. 
The Ten Commandments of God. 

1. Thou shalt have none other gods but Me. 

2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God 
in vain. 

3. Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. 

4. Honour thy father and thy mother. 

5. Thou shalt do no murder. 

6. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

7. Thou shalt not steal. 

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy 
neighbour. 

9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour s house. 

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour s wife, nor his 
servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything 
that is his. 



SECONDLY. 
The Chief Articles of our Belief. 

1. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of 
heaven and earth, 

2. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who 
was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin 
Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, 
and buried ; He descended into hell ; the third day He 
rose again from the dead ; He ascended into heaven, and 
sittetlT at the right hand of God the Father Almighty ; 
from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the 
dead. 

3. I believe in the Holy Ghost, a holy Christian Church, 
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the 
resurrection of the flesh, and a life everlasting. Amen. 



y. SHORT PREFACE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER 

THIRDLY. 

The Prayer, or " Our Father" which Christ 
taught. 

Our Father, which art in heaven, 

1. Hallowed be Thy name. 

2. Thy kingdom come. 

3. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

4. Give us this day our daily bread, 

5. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 

6. And lead us not into temptation, 

7. But deliver us from evil. Amen. 

These are the most important articles, which must be 
learned first. They must be repeated word for word, and 
children must be trained to recite them daily, when they 
rise in the morning, when they go to meals, and when 
4 they lie down to rest at night ; and they should be given 
neither meat nor drink unless they say them. The 
master must also see to this with his household, men and 
maids, and he should not keep them if they do not know 
these things or will not learn. For it is not to be endured 
that any one should be so rude and wild as not to learn 
them, for in these three articles is included in brief and 
simple form all that we find in the Scriptures. For the good 
fathers or Apostles (whoever they may have been) have 
thus summed up the whole of Christian teaching, life, 
wisdom, and art, what they are, what they treat of, and 
what they deal with. 

Now when these three articles have been learnt, it is 
also right that people should know how to speak of our 
Sacraments (which Christ Himself instituted) of Baptism 
and of the holy Body and Blood of Christ, as it is written 
by Matthew and Mark at the end of their Gospels how 
Christ gave His final blessing to His Apostles and sent 
them forth. 

OF BAPTISM. 

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them 
f* in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 



SHORT PREFACE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER 33 

lie that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he 
that believeth not shall be damned. 

It is enough for simple folk to know so much of the 
Scriptures regarding baptism. The other Sacrament may 
be dealt with in the same way in a few simple words, as, 
for example, the text of St. Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 23, etc. 

OF THE SACRAMENT 

The Lord Jesus, the same night in ivkich He was 
betrayed, took bread: and ivhen He had given thanks, He 
brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is My body, which is 
broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me. 

After the same manner also He took the cup when 
He had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament 
in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission 
of sins ; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance 
of Me. 

Thus we have altogether five articles of the whole 
Christian doctrine, which we should always teach, and 
demand and hear recited word for word. For do not 
rely on young people learning and remembering from 
the sermon alone. When these articles have been well 
learnt, various psalms and hymns based upon them may 
be given, for an addition and strength to them, and thus 
the young may be brought to know the Scriptures and 
daily to go farther therein. 

But it is not enough that the words alone are learnt 
and repeated, for the young people must also go to 
Church, especially at the times set apart for dealing with 
the Catechism, so that they may hear it expounded and 
learn to understand what each article signifies, so that 
they can repeat it as they have heard it, and can answer 
correctly when they are questioned, so that it may not 
be preached without profit and fruit. For this reason we 
diligently and frequently preach the Catechism, so that 
it may be impressed on young minds, not in deep and 
subtle words, but briefly and simply, that it may penetrate 
deeply and remain fixed in their memories. 

3 



34 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



We will therefore deal now with these articles in turn, 
and speak as clearly as possible about them, so far as is 
necessary. 

THE FIRST PART 
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT 

THOU SHALT HAVE NONE OTHER GODS BUT ME. 

That is, Thou shalt have Me alone for thy God. What 
is meant by these words, and how are they to be under 
stood ? What means it to have a God, or what is God ? 
Answer : God is one from whom we expect all good, 
and in whom we can take refuge in all our needs, so that 
to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe in 
Him with all our hearts ; as I have often said, that trust 
and faith of the heart alone make both God and Idol. 
If the faith and trust are right, then thy God is also the 
right God, and, again, if thy trust is false and wrong, 
then thou hast not the right God. For the two, faith 
and God, hold close together. Whatever, then, thy heart 
clings to (I say), and relies upon, that is properly thy 
God. 

Therefore, the meaning of this commandment is that 
it requires true faith and trust in our hearts, which shall 
find the one true God and cling to Him alone. And this 
is as much as to say, Look to it that I am thy sole God, 
and seek no other. That is, Whatever good is wanting 
to thee, look to Me for it, and seek it of Me, and when 
ever thou suiferest misfortune and evil, come to Me, and 
cling to Me. I, I will give thee enough, and will help 
thee out of thy necessity ; only let not thy heart cling- 
to nor rely on any other. 

Now I must deal with this very plainly, so that it be 
understood and remembered, by means of common ex 
amples of the contrary. Many a one thinks he has God 
and an abundance of all things if he has money and 
goods. He relies on them, and boasts that he cares 
for no one. Lo, he has indeed a god, who is called 



THE FIRST COMMANDMENT 35 

Mammon, that is, money and goods, on which he sets all 
his heart, and this is the commonest idol in the world. 
Whoever has money and goods deems himself secure, 
and is joyful and fearless, as though he were in the midst 
of paradise ; and, on the other hand, he who has none 
doubts and despairs, as though he knew of no God 
For we shall find few enough who are glad of heart, 
and neither mourn nor lament, if they have no mammon. 
It sticks and clings to human nature till the grave. 

So, again, whoever is confident and boastful because he 
has great skill, cleverness, power, favour, friendship, and 
honour, he also has a god, but not the one true God. 
Here thou mayest see again how confident, secure, and 
proud men feel when they have these things, and how 
timid and despairing if they have them not, or if they 
lose them. Therefore I say again that the primary 
meaning of this article is that to have a God means to 
have something in which the heart puts all its trust. 

See, then, what we have done and practised till now in 
blindness under the papacy. If a man has a toothache, 
he fasts, and honours St. Apollonia ; if he fears fire, he 
makes St. Lawrence his patron saint ; if he fears pesti 
lence, he makes a vow to St. Sebastian or St. Roch : 
and many other such abuses are there, so that each one 
chooses his own saint, worships him, and calls on him 
in his need. To these belong also those who act too 
grossly and make a bond with the devil, so that he may 
give them money enough, or help them in wantonness, 
preserve their cattle, restore their lost goods, etc., such 
as magicians and wizards. For they all put their faith 
and trust elsewhere than in the true God, expect no good 
from Him, and do not seek it of Him. 

Hence thou canst easily understand what and how 
much this commandment demands, namely, the whole 
heart of man and perfect confidence in God alone, and 
in no one else. For if thou wilt have God, thou canst 
easily understand that He cannot be seized and held with 
our hands, nor put in a bag, nor locked in a box ; but 
it is grasping Him when the heart holds Him and clings 



36 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

to Him. But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing 
else but to rely on Him altogether. Therefore lie desires 
to turn us from everything else that exists beside Him, 
and to draw ns to Him, because He is the only eternal 
good. It is as though He said, What you sought before 
of the saints or expected from mammon or elsewhere, 
expect from Me, and look on Me as Him who can help 
you and heap on yon all good things in abundance. 

So now thou knowest what is the true honour and 
worship which pleases God, and which He demands on 
pain of His eternal wrath, namely, that the heart shall 
know no other comfort nor trust save in Him, that it 
shall not let itself be torn from Him, but venture and 
stake thereon all that is on earth. On the other hand 
thou wilt easily see and judge that the world practises 
nothing but false worship and idolatry. For no people 
were ever so reckless as not to set up or cultivate some 
form of worship ; but every man sets up as his god that 
from which he hopes to obtain good, help, and comfort. 

So the heathens, whose sole aim was power and 
dominion, made Jupiter their highest god, while the 
others selected Hercules, Mercury, or Venus, according 
as they desired wealth, fortune, or pleasure, and de 
light ; and pregnant women chose Diana or Lucina, and 
so on ; each one taking for his god what his heart desired, 
so that really, even in the opinion of all the heathen, to 
have a god means to trust and to believe. But they 
erred herein, that their faith was false and wrong, for it 
was not centred in the only God beside whom verily 
there is no god in heaven or earth. Wherefore the 
heathens make an idol of their own invented dream 
and fancy of a god, and so in reality they believe in 
nothing. Thus is it with all idolatry, for it consists not 
only in setting up an image and worshipping it, but more 
especially it dwells in the heart which turns elsewhere, 
seeks help and comfort of created beings, saints, and 
devils, and does not accept God nor look for so much 
goodness from Him as to believe that He will help us, 
and that the good which we receive comes from God. 



THE FIRST COMMANDMENJ 37 

Moreover, there exists another mode of false worship, 
which is the worst form of idolatry that we have prac 
tised till now, and which still roles in the world. All 
religious orders are based upon it ; it concerns the con 
science alone which seeks help, comfort, and salvation in 
its own works : it would gain heaven by force, and calcu 
lates what charities it has founded, how often it has 
fasted, how many masses it has said. It relies on this, 
and boasts of it, as though it would accept nothing from 
Him gratuitously, but would itself earn reward and do 
service over and above what is required ; as if He must 
be our servant and debtor, and we His masters. What 
else is this but to turn God into an idol or wooden image, 
and to set up ourselves as a god ? But this is a little too 
subtle, and not fitting for young scholars. 

But we must impress on the simple that they must 
note well the meaning of this commandment, and re 
member that we must trust God alone, expect and await 
nothing but good from Him, for He gives us body, life, 
food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, and 
all temporal and eternal goods that we can need. He pre 
serves us from all misfortune, and if any ill betide us He 
^succours and helps us out of it, so that it is God (as we 
have often said) from whom alone we receive all good, 
and who rescues us from all misfortunes. Therefore it 
is, I ween, that we Germans have from all times called 
God by this name, which comes from the word " good " 
(and which is a more beautiful name than is found in any 
other language), because He is an eternal source which 
overflows with pure goodness and from whom all that is 
good and is called good flows forth. 

For though ranch good is done us by men, it is all 
really received from God, for we receive it by His 
command and order. For our parents and all magistrates 
are bidden to show us all manner of good, and every one 
is bidden to treat his neighbour thus, so that we receive 
the good, not from them, but from God through them. 
For His creatures are only the hand, the channel, the 
instruments, the means by which God bestows all things 



38 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

on us, just as He gives the mother breasts and milk for 
her child, and as He lets corn and all manner of plants 
grow on the earth for our food blessings which no 
creature can create for itself. 

Therefore let no man dare to take or give anything 
unless it be commanded by God, so that we recognise it 
as His gift and thank Him for it, as this commandment 
bids us do. For the same reason, these means of receiving 
good through the creatures are not to be refused, nor 
may we presumptuously seek other ways or means than 
those which God has commanded. For that would not 
be to receive from God, but to seek help for ourselves. 

Therefore let each man have a care that he hold this 
commandment in high esteem and place it above all else, 
and let him not treat it as a light matter. Question 
and search well thine own heart ; then wilt thou learn 
whether or no it depends on God alone. If thou hast 
such an heart as to expect nought but good from Him, 
especially in thy needs and necessities, and to be ready 
to let everything go which is not God, then thou hast the 
only true God. Again, if thy heart depends on other 
things, and looks to them for good and help rather than 
to God, and, instead of seeking Him, flies from Him 
when things go ill, then thou hast but another idol. 

Wherefore, that ye may see that God will not that 
ye trifle with His commandment, which He would have 
most earnestly regarded, He has added a terrible threat 
and then a beautiful and comforting promise, which we 
must repeat and impress on the young, that they commit 
it to memory and remember it : 

For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, and visit 
the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third 
and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and show 
mercy unto thousands in them that love Me and keep My 
commandments. 

Although these words refer to all commandments, as 
we shall hereafter find, they have been attached to this 
head and front of the commandments because what is the 
most important of all is that the head be right ; for where 



THE FIRST COMMANDMENT 39 

tile head is right the whole life must be right, and vice 
versa. So learn from these words how angry God is with 
those who rely on any but Him; again, how gracious and 
good He is to those who with all their hearts trust and 
believe in Him alone. His anger does not cease till the 
fourth generation, but His mercy and goodness are shown 
to many thousands, so that we must not go our way so 
securely and at all hazards, and, like the brutish hearts, 
think there is no such great importance in the matter. 
He is a God who will not leave unavenged our turning 
away from Him, and will not cease to be angry till the 
fourth generation, even until it is utterly rooted out. 
Therefore He will be feared, and not despised. 

This He has proved to us in all histories and narratives, 
as the Scriptures abundantly prove and as daily ex 
perience can easily show us. For from the beginning 
He exterminated all idolatry, and because of it both 
heathens and Jews, just as in the present day He is 
overthrowing all false worship, so that at last all who 
cling to it must perish. Therefore, although we still 
find proud, mighty, and wealthy people who trust to their 
mammon, careless whether God is angry or pleased, as 
though they were ready to brave His wrath, yet will 
they not be able to carry it out, but before we expect it 
they will perish, with all to which they trusted, as all 
others have perished who thought themselves still safer 
and mightier. 

And just because these obstinate minds think that, 
since He looks on and lets them go their way unhindered, 
He knows not what they do or does not heed it, He must 
therefore strike in and punish, and He cannot forget it, 
and visits their sins on their children, so that each may 
be impressed by it and see that He is in earnest. For it 
is these whom He means when He says, Those who hate 
Me, that is, those who keep up their defiance and pride. 
Whatever we preach or say to them they will not hear. 
If they are chastised, so that they may perceive their 
wickedness and amend their ways before the punishment 
begins, they become mad and foolish, so that they truly 



40 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

deserve His wrath, as we may daily observe in our princes 
and bishops. 

But, terrible though these threats are, so much the 
more powerful comfort is there in the promise that they 
who trust to God alone may be certain of His mercy, 
that is, that He will show them all manner of goodness, 
and not only to them, but to their children s children 
to a thousand and again a thousand generations. This 
should move and encourage us to turn our hearts to God 
with all trust and confidence if we desire to have all 
temporal and eternal good, for His glorious Majesty 
offers us so much, invites us so heartily, and promises so 
abundantly. 

Therefore let each one take these words to heart, and 
let him not regard them as though uttered by man . For 
they signify to thee eternal bliss, happiness, and salvation, 
or eternal anger, misfortune, and suffering. What more 
wouldst thou have or desire than that He promises thee 
so lovingly, that He and all good things shall be thine 
that He will protect thee and help thee in all thy needs ? 

But unfortunately the world will not believe this nor 
look upon it as God s word, because it sees that those 
who trust God, and not mammon, suffer trouble and 
want, and the devil opposes and attacks them, so that 
they can keep neither money, favour, goods, honour, and 
hardly escape with their life ; whereas those who serve 
mammon have power, favour, honour, goods, and comfort 
in the sight of the world. Therefore we must under 
stand these words, which contradict this false seeming, 
and must know that they neither lie nor deceive, but 
that their truth will yet be made manifest. 

Reflect for thyself, or inquire, and tell me what have 
they finally accomplished who have spent all their care 
and diligence in scraping together goods and wealth ? 
Then thou wilt find that they lost their pains and their 
labour, or that, although they brought home great 
treasures, yet they are turned again to dust or vanished, 
so that they themselves did not enjoy their goods, which 
were not inherited by the third generation. 



THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 



Thou wilt find enough examples of this in all histories, 
and thou canst obtain them from old and experienced 
people. Only regard them well and pay attention to them. 

Saul was a great king, chosen by God, and a pious 
man, but when he was firmly seated on his throne he 
turned his heart from God and clung to his crown arid 
his power, and he perished, with all he had, so that even 
of his children none remained. 

Again, David was a man poor and despised, banished 
and persecuted, so that he was nowhere sure of his life ; 
yet was he protected from Saul, and became king. For 
these words had to be proved true, because God can 
neither lie nor deceive. Be not deceived by the devil 
and the world, with their false semblance, which lasts 
perchance for a time, but in the end is nothing. 

Therefore let us learn the First Commandment well, 
so that we may see that God will not endure any pre 
sumption, nor trust in anything else, and demands nothing 
higher from us than a heartfelt confidence in all good 
from Him. He desires that we go straight on our way, 
make no further use of all the goods that God gives 
us than a shoemaker makes of his needle, awl, and 
thread, which he lays aside when his work is done, or 
as a guest in an inn requires food and a bed. We must 
use them solely for our temporal needs, each in his own 
station according to God s commandment, and let none 
become our master or idol. Let this be enough for the 
First Commandment, which we have had to explain very 
fully, because it is the most important, so that (as we 
have already said) when the heart is turned to God, 
and this commandment is kept, the others will be kept 
also. 

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY 
GOD IN VAIN. 

As the First Commandment instructs the heart and 
teaches faith, so this commandment leads us forth and 
turns mouth and tongue towards God. For the first 



42 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

thing that comes forth out of the heart and manifests 
itself, is words. As I have shown how to answer what 
is meant by having one God, so thou must now learn to 
understand simply and to say simply the meaning of this 
and of all the commandments. 

If now thou art asked, How dost thou understand this 
Second Commandment, and what does it mean to abuse 
or take in vain God s name ? answer thou thus most 
briefly : We abuse God s name if we use the name of 
God, the Lord, in any way whatever, for the purpose of 
lying or any vice. Therefore we are commanded not to 
employ or utter God s name if our heart knows or thinks 
that the matter is really different from what we say, as 
when men take an oath in a court of justice, and one 
side lies unto the other. For the worst abuse to which 
we can put God s name is to use it for lying or deceiving. 
Let that be the simple explanation of this commandment. 

Now from this each can understand for himself when 
and how God s name is abused, although it is not possible 
to repeat all the methods of abuse. But, to be brief, 
abuse of the Divine name occurs firstly in worldly quarrels 
and affairs concerning money, goods, or honour, in public 
before the magistrate, or in the market-place, or when a 
man swears false oaths in God s name and perjures his 
soul. This occurs especially in marriages, when two 
persons secretly pledge themselves to each other, and 
then renounce their vows. 

But most of all this abuse occurs in spiritual matters, 
appertaining to the conscience, when false preachers arise 
and put forth their lying doctrines as though they were 
God s word. 

All this is simply using God s name to make a fine 
show or ornament, or to pretend we are in the right, 
whether in the gross affairs of this world, or in deep and 
subtle matters regarding faith and doctrine. And among 
the liars we must also place the blasphemers, not only 
the bold ones, known to all the world, who without 
shame abuse God s name, and with whom not we, but 
the hangman, must deal, but also those who publicly 



THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 43 

rail at the truth and God s word, and deliver them to 
the devil. Of these there is no need to speak further at 
present. 

Now let us learn and comprehend in our hearts the 
great importance of this commandment, so that we watch 
ourselves diligently and shrink from all abuse of the 
holy name as the greatest sin which can be openly 
committed. For lying and deceiving is in itself a great 
sin ; but it becomes far worse if, in order to justify it 
and to confirm our falsehood, we use God s name and 
make of it a covering for our shame, so that out of one 
lie there grows a double, nay, a multiplied lie. 

Therefore God has added a grave threat to this com 
mandment, which says, For the Lord will not hold him 
guiltless that taketh His name in vain. That is, none 
shall escape with impunity. For just as He will not 
leave us unpunished if we turn our heart from Him, so 
He will not permit His name to be used to cloke lies. 
Now unfortunately there are but very few in the world 
who do not use God s name for lies and all manner of 
evil, just as there are few who trust God alone with all 
their hearts. 

For there is this fine virtue inherent in us all by 
nature : that when any man has committed a crime he 
would gladly hide and cloke his shame so that none may 
see or know it, and no man is so reckless that he will 
boast openly of the crime he has committed. They all 
want to do it secretly, before men are aware of it. If a 
man is accused, God must give His name and make the 
crime estimable, the shame honourable. That is the 
common way of the world, and, like a great deluge, it 
inundates all lauds. Therefore we obtain as a reward 
what we all seek and deserve : pestilence ; war ; famine ; 
fire ; water ; degenerate wife, children, and servants ; 
and all manner of evil. How else should there be so 
much misery ? It is a great enough mercy that the 
earth still bears and nourishes us. 

Therefore the young must, above all things, be diligently 
taught and trained to keep this and all other command- 



44 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

ments constantly before them, and if they transgress we 
must forthwith correct them with rods, and hold before 
them the cornmandment, and impress it so that they are 
trained, not only by means of punishment, but in the 
fear and reverence of God. 

Now thou seest what is meant by taking God s name 
in vain, namely (to repeat it briefly), to use it as a cover 
ing for lies or false pretexts, or for cursing, swearing, 
conjuring, and, in short, for any manner of evil. 

In addition, thou must also learn how to use the name 
aright. For when He says, Thou shalt not take the name 
of the Lord thy God in vain. He at the same time gives 
us to understand that we may make a good use of it. 
For it is revealed and given to us that it may be of 
constant use and benefit to us. Hence it is evident, if we 
are forbidden to use His holy name for lying or evil, we 
are, on the other hand, bidden to use it for truth and all 
good purposes : for instance, we are to swear by it truly, 
if it is necessary and required. So also when we teach 
aright ; so too we are to appeal to His name in our needs, 
and praise and thank it for our benefits, etc. All this is 
summed up in the verse, Call upon Me in the day of 
trouble: I will deliver tkee, and thou shalt glorify Me, 
(Psalm 1.). For, again, in all these ways His name is 
used for truth and salvation, and thus His name is 
hallowed, as we pray in the Lord s Prayer. 

Thus hast thou explained the whole commandment. 
And with this explanation the question has easily been 
answered with which many teachers have perplexed 
themselves : why the Gospel forbids us to swear, when 
Christ, St. Paul, and other saints often swore. The 
answer is briefly this : We are not to swear for evil, that 
is for lying, and when it is neither useful nor needful ; 
but we may swear for good purposes, for the welfare of 
our neighbour. For it is a right good work, if God is 
praised, truth and justice confirmed, falsehood refuted, 
if people are reconciled, obedience is shown, and quarrels 
are settled. For so God Himself intervenes, and parts 
right from wrong, evil from good. If any swear falsely, 



THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 



they have their judgment, so that they will not escape 
punishment ; and though they escape for a time, they will 
not succeed in anything, so that all that they possess 
will vanish beneath their hands and can never be well 
enjoyed. And this I have noted in many who broke 
their marriage vow. Afterwards they had no happy 
hour and no good day, and so both body, soul, and goods 
perished miserably. 

Therefore I again exhort and admonish you to see that 
the children are taught betimes by warning, fear, and 
punishment to fear lying, and especially lying in God s 
name ; for if they are allowed to escape unpunished, 
they will do no good, as it may now be seen that the 
world is worse than it has ever been. There is no 
government, obedience, loyalty, or faith, but the people 
are presumptuous and ungovernable, and neither teaching 
nor punishment will help them, and all this is God s 
anger and punishment for the bold contempt with which 
this commandment is treated. 

Again, they must be persuaded and trained to honour 
God s name and constantly have it in their mouths, 
whatever happens to them or whatever they behold. 
For we honour His name rightly if we turn to it for all 
comfort and call upon it, so that the heart (as we before 
said) first pays honour to God by faith, and afterwards 
the mouth honours Him by confession. 

This is a blessed, useful habit, and a very powerful 
weapon against the devil, who is always near us, and 
watching how he may bring us to sin and shame, misery 
and need, but who listens unwillingly and cannot long 
remain when God s name is pronounced, and where God 
is invoked -from the heart; and many a dreadful and 
terrible thing would befall us if God did not preserve us 
when we call on His name. I have myself often found 
and experienced that sudden and great misfortune has 
been averted and removed by such an appeal to God. To 
resist the devil (I repeat) we should ever have the holy 
name in our mouth, so that he may not hurt us, as he 
willingly would. 



46 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

For the same purpose it is a great help if we accustom 
ourselves to commend daily to God body and soul, wife, 
child, servants, and all that we have, that He may save 
us from unexpected adversity. That is how the custom 
arose and remains of repeating every morning and evening 
the Benedicite, Gratias, and other prayers. Hence also 
the child s habit of crossing ourselves when we read or 
hear anything terrible and horrible, and saying, God forbid 
it, or, Help us, Lord Christ, etc. So, again, if anything 
good unexpectedly happens to any man, though it be 
but small, he should say, God be praised and thanked ; 
God has given me that, etc. Just as formerly children 
were taught to fast in the name of St. Nicholas and other 
saints, and to pray to them. This is more pleasant and 
acceptable in the eyes of God than any monastic life or 
Carthusian holiness. 

Thus the young mind is easily and gently trained in the 
fear and reverence of God, so that the First and Second 
Commandments may be diligently and constantly obeyed. 
Then so much good would take root in them and bear 
fruit that people would grow up who might make a 
whole land happy. That would be the right way to bring 
up children, because they can be trained thus by kindness, 
so that it is a pleasure to them. For when anything is 
enforced with rods and blows alone no good can follow : 
at the most they will only be good as long as the rod 
is held over them. 

But by this means it will take root in the heart, so that 
they fear God more than rods and sticks. I say this 
simply for the children, so that it may be impressed on 
their minds ; for if we preach to children, we must lisp 
with them. Thus we have guarded against the abuse of 
God s name and taught the right use thereof, which is not 
only to be shown in words, but in practice and in life, for 
we know that this is truly pleasing to God, and He will 
richly reward it, just as He will terribly chastise the 
abuse of His name. 



THE THIRD COMMANDMENT 47 



THE THIRD COMMANDMENT 
REMEMBER THAT THOU KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH DAY. 

We have named the day of rest from the Hebrew word 
Sabbath, which properly denotes to rest, that is, to cease 
from work ; hence we are accustomed to speak of 
keeping an " evening rest."* Now in the Old Testa 
ment God chose and set apart the seventh day for men 
to keep, and commanded all men to keep it holy above 
all others, and, according to this external celebration, 
this commandment is given to the Jews alone : that 
they cease from all heavy labour and rest, and that both 
man and beast refresh themselves, and should not be 
weakened by constant work. But they gave it too 
restricted a meaning, and greatly abused it, so that 
they rebuked Christ and could not endure that He 
should do such things as even they themselves would 
have done on that day, as we read in the Gospels, just 
as though the commandment was fulfilled if we did no 
external labour ; which, however, was not its meaning, 
which was that they should keep holy the Sabbath, or 
day of rest, as we shall hear. The literal meaning of 
this commandment, therefore, does not concern us Chris 
tians, for it is quite an external thing, like the other 
ordinances of the Old Testament, which refer to special 
customs, people, times, and places, from all which we are 
set free by Christ. 

But to express a Christian meaning for simple folk 
respecting what God demands of us in this command 
ment, be it observed that we keep holy days not for 
the sake of intelligent arid learned Christians for 
they have no need of it but firstly, on account of the 
requirements of the body, for nature teaches us that 
it is most necessary for the common people, men and 
maids, who have followed their avocations all the 

* The German feierdbend machcn of the original cannot be literally 
rendered, as the vfoxdfeierabend has no exact equivalent in English. 



4 8 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



week, to have a day on which to rest and refresh them 
selves. 

But, further, and above all, we keep the Sabbath so 
that on this day of rest we make time and leisure (which 
otherwise we might not have) to attend Divine worship, 
that we assemble to hear and consider God s word, and 
thereafter sing and praise God and pray to Him. 

But this (I say) is not so restricted to a special time, 
as it was with the Jews, so that it must be done on an 
appointed day, for one day is no better than another, and 
it might be done at any day ; but because the mass of 
the people cannot find time for it, one day in the week at 
least must be set apart. But, since from all times the 
Sunday has been appointed, let us keep to that day, so that 
all may be done decently and in order, and no disorder 
caused by unnecessary innovations. 

Hence this is the simple meaning of this command 
ment : that as days of rest must bekeptj__sjjch_ holy 
days be ^employed in" Iearning7ll3ad^~word,_sa, that 
the" "special purpose of the day must be the offijce_of 
preaching, for the sake of the yonng and the_poor 
peo^leT BuTfTlie~TioTy day must not be so narrowly 
restricted in its use as that if by chance any necessary 
work occur it should be forbidden. 

Therefore, if thou art asked what these words mean, 
Thou shalt keep holy the sabbath day, then make answer, 
TohaJlp^JJ]^]^^ it 

fio!vr\VnS^^ 

Irfitto devote ourselves to holy words, works, and life. 
For the day requires no special hallowing : it is holy in 
itself ; but God wills that it be holy to thee. Therefore 
it is holy or unholy in respect to thee, according as thy 
work is holy or unholy. 

How, then, shall it be hallowed ? Not by sitting by 
the fireside and doing no rough work, or by putting 
on a wreath and our best clothes, but (as was said) by 
turning to God s word and exercising ourselves therein. 

And indeed we Christians ought always to keep each 
day holy and perform holy works ; that is, we are daily 



THE THIRD COMMANDMEN7 49 

to use God s word and bear it in our heart and mouth. 
But because we have not (as was said above) always 
leisure, we must set apart several hours a week for the 
young, and at least one day for the common people, that 
they can use for this purpose alone, and on which they 
may study the Ten Commandments, the Articles of 
Belief, the Lord s Prayer, and thus direct our whole 
life and being by God s word. Whenever that is done, 
a truly holy day has been observed ; and if this is not 
done, it cannot be called a Christian Sabbath. For the 
people who are no Christians can rest and be idle, like 
the whole swarm of our priests, who stand daily in the 
churches, sing and ring, but keep no Sabbath, for they 
neither preach nor practise God s word, but live and 
teach contrary to it. 

For the word of God is the holy of holies yea, the * 
only holy thing that we Christians have and know. For 
though we possessed the bones of all the saints, or holy 
and consecrated garments piled up in a heap, that would 
avail us nothing ; for these are all dead tilings that can 
make no one holy. But God s word is the treasure that 
makes all things holy, by which the saints themselves be 
came holy. Whenever we teach, preach, read, or consider 
God s word, our person, the day, our work, are all thereby 
hallowed, not because of the external work, but because 
of the word which makes saints of us all. Therefore I 
always say that all our life and work must be according 
to the word of God, if they are to be pleasing to God and 
holy in His sight. Where that is the case, this command 
ment is fulfilled in all its power. 

Again, those things or works which are not according 
to God s word are unholy before God, however splendid 
they seem, though they be adorned with sacred relics, 
like those invented religious orders, which do not know 
God s word, and seek holiness in their own works. 

Therefore observe, the strength and power of this 
commandment does not consist in resting, but in hallow 
ing, so that it is set apart for special holy exercises. For 
other work and business are not really holy exercises 

4 



50 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

unless the man be already holy. But such work must 
be done that a man himself becomes holy, and this (as 
was said) can only be done through God s word, and for 
this purpose, time, persons, and the whole external service 
of God have been appointed, so that all may be done 
regularly in public. 

Since then God s word is of such importance that 
without it no holy day is hallowed, we must know 
that God will have this commandment strictly kept, 
and will punish all who despise His word, who will 
not hear it or learn it, especially at the time therefor 
appointed. 

Therefore not only do those sin against this command 
ment who shamefully abuse and profane the Sabbath, 
such as those who from avarice or wantonness neglect 
to hear God s word, or lie in the taverns, and are full 
of wine like swine ; those also break the commandment 
who hear God s word as though it were some trifling- 
matter, and go to the sermon from force of habit alone 
and go thence again, and at the end of the year are as 
ignorant as they were before. For till now men thought 
they hallowed the day if they heard a mass or the Gospel 
on the Sunday, but no one asked after God s word, just 
as no one taught it. Now that we have God s word, 
we do not leave off the abuse : we let men preach to us 
and exhort us, but we pay neither heed nor care. 

Therefore know that thou must not only hear, but 
must also learn and remember ; and think not that thou 
canst do as thou wilt, or that it is of little consequence, 
for it is God s commandment, and He will require of 
thee how thou hast heard, learned, and honoured His 
word. 

Therefore those fastidious people must be rebuked 
also who, when they have heard a sermon or two, grow 
weary and satiated, as though they knew it all themselves 
and needed no master. For that is the very sin which 
till now was reckoned among the deadly sins, and which 
is called a/c^Sta, that is, indolence and disgust, a hurtful, 
injurious plague with which the devil bewitches and 






THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 51 

deceives many hearts, that he may surprise us and 
secretly take from us God s word. 

For be assured of this : even if thou knewest it well, 
and hadst mastered everything, thou art still daily in the 
devil s power, who rests neither day nor night so that 
he may take thee unawares, and may awaken unbelief 
and evil thoughts in thy heart against these and all other 
commandments. Therefore thou must always keep God s 
word in thy heart and mouth and let it sound in thine 
ears. But where the heart is idle, and the word is not 
heard, he enters in and has done the mischief before we 
are aware of him. Again, where the word is earnestly 
studied, heard, and obeyed, it is full of power, so that it 
is never without fruit, but always awakens in us new 
understanding, delight, and devotion, and makes pure our 
hearts and thoughts, for the words are not corrupt and 
dead, but living and creative words. And though no 
other benefit and need impelled us, every one must be 
urged by this thought : that the devil is frightened and 
banished by this means, that this commandment is thus 
fulfilled, and this is morei pleasing to God than all deceit 
and hypocrisy. 

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 

Till now we have learnt the first three commandments, 
which deal with our duty to God : first, that we trust, 
fear, and love Him with all our heart all the days of our 
life ; then, that we do not abuse His holy name, nor use 
it for lying or other evil deeds, but only for the praise 
of God, the service and salvation of our neighbour and 
ourselves ; thirdly, that on the holy day of rest we hear 
and practise God s word with diligence, that all our lives 
and acts may be in accordance therewith. Now follow 
the remaining seven, dealing with our duty to our neigh 
bour, among which the first and highest is 

HONOUR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER. 

To the state of father and mother God has given a 
special importance above all other states that are under 



52 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

Him, for He does not simply command us to love our 
parents, but also to honour them. Our brothers, sisters 
and neighbours in general, He simply commands us to 
love, so that He separates and distinguishes father and 
mother from all other people on earth, and places them 
next to Himself. For it is a much higher thing to 
honour than to love : it includes not only love, but also 
obedience, humility, and reverence, as though it were 
shown to some sovereignty hidden there ; and it not only 
requires us to address them with affection and respect, 
but it requires especially that we treat them worshipfully 
both with our hearts and bodies, and show them that 
we esteem them highly, and after God look on them as 
the highest. For whomsoever we are to honour from 
our hearts, we must verily regard them as great and 
high. 

So the young must be taught to reverence their parents 
in God s place, and even though they may be poor, 
inferior, sick, and eccentric, they are to remember that 
they are none the less father and mother, given them by 
God. Their condition or defect does not deprive them of 
their due honour. Therefore we must not regard their 
persons as they are, but God s will, who thus ordered 
and arranged things. Otherwise we are no doubt in 
God s eyes all equal, but among ourselves there must be 
some such inequality and regular distinction. Therefore 
God has commanded that thou obey me as thy father, 
and that I have authority over thee. 

Thus learn, firstly, what is meant by honour to parents 
according to the requirements of this commandment - 
namely, that they are to be looked on as honourable above 
all others, and to be esteemed as the greatest treasure on 
earth. Accordingly we must be modest in words before 
them, not treat them unkindly, nor quarrel and dispute 
with them, but yield to them and be silent, even if they 
go too far. Thirdly, honour them with works, that is, 
show them such honour, both with our person and 
goods, that we serve, help, and care for them when they 
are old, sick, weak, poor, and not only do it gladly, but 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 53 

with humility and reverence, as though it were done for 
God. For whosoever has the right feeling for them in his 
heart, he will not let them suffer want and hunger, but 
will put them above and beside himself, and share with 
them all he has. 

Again, observe what a great, good, and holy task is 
here laid upon children ; but unfortunately it is despised 
and thrown to the winds, and no one sees that God 
commands it, that it is a holy and Divine precept. For 
if we had looked on it as such, every one would have 
understood that they also were holy people who lived 
according to these words. They would not have needed 
to institute monastic life nor spiritual orders ; if every 
child had kept this commandment, it would have been 
able to have a good conscience to God, and to say, If I 
am to do a good and holy work, I know of none better 
than to show my parents all honour and obedience, 
because God Himself has commanded it. For what God 
has commanded must be better and far nobler than all 
that we can imagine for ourselves, and since there is 
no higher or better master to be found than God, there 
can verily be no better teachings than those He utters. 
Now He teaches abundantly what we are to do, if we 
desire to perform truly good works ; and in commanding 
it He shows that it pleases Him. If it is God who 
commands this, and who can set us no better task, I 
can never invent a better one. 

In this way a pious child should have been properly 
instructed and brought up, and should have been kept 
at home and made obedient and useful to his parents, 
and then we should have seen goodness and joy. But 
God s commandment has not been thus commended to 
our care, but has been neglected and ignored, so that a 
child could not understand it, but gapes and wonders at 
what we have ourselves desired, without even asking- 
God s leave. 

Therefore let us learn, for God s sake, that young 
people must put all other things away from their eyes, 
and firstly turn to this commandment, if they would 



54 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

serve God with truly good works, that they may learn 
to do what father and mother, or those who are in their 
place, desire. For whatever child knows this and does it, 
he shall have firstly great comfort in his heart, in that he 
will be able to say joyfully and confidently, in defiance of 
all who go about performing self-chosen tasks, Lo, this 
task pleases my God in heaven ; that I know well. Let 
them put together all the many great, wearisome, difficult 
tasks they have accomplished and boast of them ; and let 
us see if they can show us anything that is greater and 
nobler than obedience to father and mother, which God 
has placed after obedience to His own majesty, and re 
garding which He has commanded that wherever His 
word and will are fulfilled nothing is to be more highly 
regarded than the will and command of our parents, 
saving only that we remain in God s obedience, so that 
we do not break the former commandments. 

Therefore thou must be glad and thank God that He 
has chosen thee, and made thee worthy to accomplish 
such a beautiful and pleasant task. And see that thou 
regard it as great and precious, although it be looked on 
as the lowest and most contemptible task, not because of 
our own dignity, but because it is comprehended in that 
holy treasure, God s word and commandment. Oh, how 
ready should all Carthusian monks and nuns be to pay a 
heavy price for this treasure, so that in the exercise of 
their religion they might show one single work which 
originated in His commandment, and might say with 
joyful heart to Him, Now I know that this task pleases 
Thee well ! What will these poor miserable people do 
when they stand before God and the world, put to shame 
by a little child that has lived in this commandment, and 
when they must confess that they, with all their manner 
of living, are not worthy to hand him a cup of water ? 
They well deserve, on account of the devilish perversity 
with which they have trampled God s commandment 
under foot, that they should torture themselves in vain 
with self-imposed tasks, and moreover reap scorn and 
trouble as their reward. 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 55 

Should not our heart be ready to burst or swell with 
joy if it sets to work and does what is commanded, so as 
to be able to say, Lo, this is better than all Carthusian 
sanctity, although they fast even unto death, and pray 
on their knees without ceasing ? For here thou hast a 
distinct text and a Divine testimony that He commanded 
this, but the other tasks are not ordered. Such is the 
misfortune and terrible blindness of the world that none 
will believe this, for the devil has charmed us with 
feigned holiness and with the show of our own works. 

Therefore I would (I repeat) that ye would open your 
eyes and ears, and take this to heart, so that we may not 
again be led astray from God s pure word to hearken to 
the lies of the devil. Then parents would enjoy a far 
greater happiness, love, friendship, and unity in their 
homes, and the children would enjoy all the love of their 
parents. But if they are obstinate and do not do what 
they should unless a stick is laid on their backs, they 
anger botli God and their parents, and they deprive them 
selves of a great treasure and a joyful conscience, and lay 
up for themselves nothing but misfortune. Therefore it 
has now come to pass in the world, to the sorrow of all, 
that both young and old are wild and unrestrained, with 
out reverence or respect ; they do nothing unless driven 
by blows, and behind each other s backs they do what 
harm they may. Therefore God punishes them, so that 
they suffer all misfortune and calamity. The parents 
themselves can do nothing ; one fool begets another ; as 
they have lived, so will their children live after them. 

This (I say) is the great reason which should impel us 
to keep this commandment ; for the sake of which, if we 
had no father or mother, we should wish that God would 
give us stick or stone which we could call father or 
mother. How much more should we rejoice that He has 
given us living parents, and that we can show them honour 
and obedience, because we know that it is so pleasing to 
the great high God and the angels, and vexes the devils, 
and is the greatest work we can do after the high worship 
demanded in the former commandments ; so that to give 



56 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

alms and all other work for our neighbours is not equal 
to this. For God has placed this state above all others, 
yea, in His stead on earth. This will and good pleasure 
of God should be cause and inducement enough to make 
ns eagerly and joyfully do what we can. 

Besides, we are bound before the world to be grateful 
for the kindness and benefits we have received from our 
parents. But there again the devil rules the world, so 
that children forget their parents, as we all forget God, 
and none remember how God has fed, protected, and 
cared for us, and how many benefits He has bestowed on 
our body and soul. Especially when an evil hour comes 
upon us, we wax wroth, complain impatiently, and forget 
all the good that was shown us all our lives. In the 
same way do we treat our parents, and there is no child 
that acknowledges and considers this, save by the grace 
of the Holy Ghost, 

God knows well this degeneracy of the world, and ad 
monishes us, and urges us in His commandments, that 
every one should consider what his parents have done for 
him, so will he find that he owes body and soul to them ; 
that they have fed him and brought him up when other 
wise he would have perished many a time. Therefore it 
was rightly and well said by the wise men of old, " Deo 
parentibus et magistris non potest satis gratia? rependi," 
that is, God, parents, and teachers can never be sufficiently 
thanked and repaid. Whoever examines and considers 
this will without any urging show his parents all honour 
and respect, and will cherish them as those through 
whom God has bestowed all good upon him. 

Besides all this, there is another great reason to draw 
us the more to this duty : that God has attached a 
temporal promise to this commandment, and says, That 
thy days may be long in the land that the Lord thy God 
giveth thee. 

Now thou canst see how seriously God regards this 
commandment, for He not only says that it pleaseth Him 
well, but He adds that it is for our benefit and good, 
that we may enjoy a pleasant and delightful life, with 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 57 

abundance of good. Therefore St. Paul bears witness to 
tliis and extols it when he says in Eph. vi., Which is 
thejirst commandment icith promise, that it may be well 
with t/iee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. For 
although the other commandments have also a promise 
included, in none is the reward so clearly and emphatically 
expressed. 

There thon hast the fruit and the reward, that whoever 
keeps it shall enjoy happiness and all manner of good. 
The punishment for those who disobey is that they will 
perish sooner and not enjoy their life. For to live a long 
life means in the Bible not only to grow old, but to have 
all that appertains to a long life : health, wife and child, 
food, peace, good laws, etc., without whicli this life 
cannot be enjoyed nor be long. Wilt thou not obey thy 
father and mother, nor let them train thee ? Then obey 
the hangman ; if thou wilt not obey him, obey death. 
For this, in short, is what God will have, either that we 
obey and love and serve Him, so that He may abundantly 
repay us with all good, or if we anger Him He will send 
us death and the hangman. 

How is it that there are so many rogues who are daily 
hanged, beheaded, broken on the wheel, but from dis 
obediences ; since they would not be led on the right 
path by kindness, by God s judgment they are brought 
to such a pass that misfortune and sorrow befalls them ? 
For very rarely does it happen that such accursed people 
die a natural or timely death. 

But those who are virtuous and obedient enjoy this 
blessing : that they shall live long in peace and see 
their children (as we said before) to the third or fourth 
generation. 

For we know that when we see old and honoured 
families in a good position, with many children, it is 
because they were well trained and reverenced their 
parents before them. Again, it is written of the wicked, 
Let his posterity be cut ojf\ and in the generation following 
let their name be blotted out (Psalm cix.). Therefore take 
good heed that God regards this same obedience as a 



58 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

great thing, and therefore gives it so high a place, and 
showers rewards on those who are obedient, and severely 
punishes those who disobey. 

I say all this that it may be thoroughly impressed 
on the young. For no one will believe in the great 
importance of this commandment, and under the papacy 
it was neither taught nor respected. They are simple, 
easy words ; each one thinks he knew them well before ; 
therefore men neglect them and gape after other objects, 
but will not see and believe that they make God angry 
when they neglect them, and that they perform a great 
and acceptable task when they keep them. 

While speaking of this commandment, we must further 
mention the various kinds of obedience to all who are 
over us, command us, and rule us. For all authority has 
its root and source in parental authority. For where a 
father is unable to bring up his child alone, he takes a 
teacher to teach him ; if he is too weak, he takes his 
friend or neighbour to help him ; when he departs this 
life, he gives authority to others who are chosen for the 
purpose. So he must also have servants, men and maids, 
under him for the household, so that all who are called 
master stand in the place of parents, and must obtain from 
them authority and power to command. Wherefore in 
the Bible they are all called fathers, because their office 
bestows on them the office of a father, and they ought to 
bear a fatherly heart to their people. In the olden 
times the Romans and others called the master and 
mistress of the house patres et matres f ami lias, that is, 
house-father and house-mother. So also their princes 
and magistrates are called patres patrice, that is, fathers 
of the whole land, and it is a great shame for us would- 
be Christians that we do not call them so, or at least 
treat them so, and honour them accordingly. 

The duty a child owes to its parents is the duty of all 
who are included in the household. Therefore men and 
maids must see that they not only obey their masters 
and mistresses, but also honour them as their own 
parents, and do all that they know they are expected to 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 59 



do, not with repugnance and because they are forced, but 
with pleasure and delight, simply for the reason already 
mentioned : that it is God s commandment and pleases 
Him above all other work. For this reason they ought 
to be willing even to make payment themselves, and be 
glad that they can obtain masters and mistresses, and 
have such a joyous conscience, and know that they can 
do real golden works, which till now were not done and 
were despised, so that every one in the devil s name ran 
into convents, to pilgrimages and to indulgences, to their 
hurt and their bad conscience. 

If we could only impress this on the poor people, a 
maid would go her ways with joy, and would praise God 
and thank Him, and by orderly work, for which she 
moreover obtains food and wages, she would earn a 
treasure the like of which is owned by none of those who 
are esteemed the greatest saints. Is it not a great thing 
to know this and be able to say to thyself, If thou doest 
thy daily work, it is better than all the sanctity and strict 
discipline of the monks ? And, besides, thou hast the 
promise that all will go well and prosper with thee. 
How canst thou lead a happier and holier life as far as 
works are concerned ? For it is faith alone that makes 
things holy in God s eyes, and alone serves Him, while 
works are for men. Then hast thou all good things : 
shelter and protection under the Lord, a good conscience 
and a gracious God, who will repay thee a hundredfold, 
and thou art a free man if thou art only virtuous and 
obedient. But if not, thou wilt earn only anger and 
disgrace from God, no peace in thy heart, and moreover 
all trouble and misfortune. 

Whoever is not induced by this to become virtuous 
should be commended to the hangman and to death. 
Therefore let who can take advice know that this is no 
trifle with God, and know that God speaks to him and 
demands obedience. If thou obeyest Him, thou art His 
beloved child ; if thou disobeyest Him, shame, sorrow, 
and suffering will be thy reward. 

The same may be said of the obedience due to worldly 



60 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

authority, which (as was said) falls under the same rule, 
and stretches very widely. For here we have not the 
father of a single family, but the father of as many people 
as are under him as vassals, citizens, and subjects ; for 
God gives to us and preserves to us through them, as 
through our parents, our food and home, protection and 
safety. Therefore, since they bear these names and titles 
as their greatest glory and merit, we also must show 
them esteem, and honour them as the greatest treasures 
and most precious jewels on earth. 

Whoever is obedient, willing, and useful on earth, and 
gladly does all that concerns his honour, knows that he 
is pleasing God, and will obtain joy and happiness for 
a reward. On the other hand, if he does not do this 
willingly, but despises this obedience, and sets himself 
against it, and rebels, he must know that he will receive 
neither mercy nor blessing ; and if he thinks to obtain 
one florin by his conduct, he will lose ten elsewhere, 
or fall a prey to the hangman, or perish through war, 
pestilence, or famine, or his children will turn out badly, 
or his household. Neighbours, strangers, tyrants, will 
inflict loss, injustice, and violence on him, so that we are 
paid according to what we seek or deserve. 

If only we could comprehend that such works are 
pleasing to God and will be richly rewarded, we should 
be surrounded by abundance, and have whatever our 
heart desires. But because God s word and command 
ment are so despised, as though some blasphemer had 
uttered them, let us see if thou art strong enough to 
overthrow Him. Will it be hard for Him to repay thee ? 
Therefore it is far better for thee to live with God s 
favour in peace and happiness, than in disgrace and mis 
fortune. What dost thou think is the reason that the 
world is so full of perfidy, shame, misery, and murder, if 
it be not that every one wishes to be his own master, and 
give no one anything, and do all that he desires ? There 
fore God punishes one rogue through another, so that if 
thou deceivest or despisest thy master, another comes 
who treats thee likewise ; so that in thine own house thou 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 61 

mayest suffer ten times more from wife, child, and house- 
bold. 

We certainly feel our misfortunes, and complain and 
murmur at the perfidy, violence, and injustice of the 
world, but we will not see that we ourselves are rogues, 
who truly deserve punishment, and are not improved by 
what we suffer. We deserve neither money nor happiness, 
and therefore we justly suffer misfortune and receive no 
mercy. There must yet be good people in the world, 
because God still leaves us so much good. As far as we 
are concerned, we do not deserve to retain a farthing in 
the house, or a blade in the field. All this I have had 
to urge repeatedly, so that haply some might take it to 
heart, and we might rid ourselves of the blindness and 
misery in which we are sunk so deeply, and recognise 
God s word and will, and earnestly accept it. For from 
these we should learn how we could obtain joy, happiness, 
and salvation here on earth and in the life everlasting. 

Thus according to this commandment we have two 
fathers appointed : a father by blood and a father by 
office, or a father of the household and a father of the 
land. Besides this there are spiritual fathers, not like 
those of the papacy, who have indeed applied this title to 
themselves, but have exercised no fatherly office, for those 
only are spiritual fathers who rule and teach us through 
God s word, as St. Paul calls himself a father : For in 
Jesus Christ I have begotten you through the Gospel 
(1 Cor. iv.). Because they are fathers we must honour 
them above all men. But they receive least honour, for 
the world so honours them that it drives them from the 
land and grudges them a piece of bread, and in short, 
as St. Paul says, they are the filth of the world and the 
offscouring of all things. 

But this must be impressed on the people at large ; 
that those who would be called Christians owe it to God 
to show double honour to those who watch over them and 
their souls. They must cherish them and care for them. 
Then God will give thee enough and not let thee want. 
But every one resists and objects. They all fear their 



62 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

bellies will suffer, and we cannot provide for one sound 
preacher, though before we filled ten fat paunches. We 
deserve for this that God should deprive us of His word 
and blessing, and that He let lying preachers arise, 
who lead us to the devil, and suck our blood and 
marrow. 

But those who keep God s word before them have 
His promise that they shall be richly repaid for what 
they spend both on their corporal and spiritual fathers, 
and for the honour they show them. They will not only 
have bread, clothes, and money for a year or two, but a 
long life, food, and peace, and they will be rich and 
happy for ever. Therefore do thy duty, and leave it to 
God to feed thee and provide for fchee. He has promised 
it, and He has never lied, and He will not lie to thee 
now. 

This should encourage us, and make our hearts over 
flow with joy and love for those to whom we owe this 
honour, so that we should raise our hands and joyfully 
thank God who has given us such promises, that we 
should be ready to run to the end of the world to obtain 
their fulfilment. For although the whole world joined 
together, it could not give us one additional hour of life 
or one grain of corn from the earth. But God can and 
will give thee all things in abundance, according to thy 
heart s desire. Whoever despises and neglects this is not 
worthy to hear one word from God. So much then has 
been abundantly said to all who are subject to this 
commandment. 

It would also be well to preach to parents and to those 
who fill their office, and to teach them how they should 
treat those whom they are commanded to rule. Though 
the duty of the parents is not mentioned in the Ten 
Commandments, it is frequently commanded in many 
passages in the Scriptures. God intends it to be included 
in this commandment when He mentions father and 
mother. For He has no intention of bestowing this office 
and authority on rogues and tyrants, and He does not 
give them the honour that is, the power and right to 



THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 63 



rule, in order that they may gain worship for themselves. 
They are to remember that they are under God s obedience, 
and, above all things, must fill their office gladly and 
faithfully, and not only feed and provide for the bodies 
of their" children, servants, subjects, etc., but especially 
they must bring them up in the praise and honour of 
God. Therefore do not think that all this rests on thy 
own pleasure and caprice, but that God has strictly 
commanded and exacted it, and thou wilt have to answer 
for thy conduct. 

Here, indeed, is the great trouble of the world, that 
no one will acknowledge or respect this truth. They all 
behave as though God gave us children for our pleasure 
and delight, as if servants were made to be employed like 
our cow or our ass solely for work or as if our subjects 
were to be treated according to our own caprice. We let 
them go their ways as though it were nothing to us what 
they learn or how they live, and none will see that it is 
the commandment of the Almighty, who makes us re 
sponsible, and will punish our neglect, or that it is most 
necessary seriously to look after the young. For if we 
want skilful people, fit for worldly and spiritual rule, we 
must truly spare neither diligence, nor trouble, nor 
expense to teach and bring up our children, so that they 
may serve God and the world ; and we must not only 
consider how we can gather money and wealth for them, 
for God can feed them and make them rich without us, 
as He daily does. But He has given us children, and 
this command, in order that we may train and rule them 
according to His word, else there would be no need of 
either father or mother. Therefore let each know that, 
on pain of the loss of Divine grace, it is his first duty to 
bring up his children in the fear and knowledge of God, 
and, when they are clever, to let them learn and study, 
so that men may make use of them when their services 
are needed. 

If this were done, God would richly reward us and 
give us grace, so that we should bring up a race which 
would improve both land and people, and provide well- 



64 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

conducted citizens, chaste domestic women, who would 
bring up virtuous children and servants. Consider what 
a mortal injury thou dost by neglecting this matter, 
and preventing thy child from being trained to be useful 
and a blessing. Thou bringest on thyself wrath and sin, 
and deservest hell through thine own children, although 
thou mayest be virtuous and holy in other things. 
Because this is despised, God punishes the world so 
terribly that there is neither discipline, government, 
nor peace ; and we all lament this, but do not see that 
it is our fault, for as we bring them up, so we have 
bad and disobedient children and subjects. This is 
enough for exhortation ; to explain more in detail must 
be reserved for another time. 

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 

THOU SHALT DO NO MURDER. 

We have now dealt with both worldly and spiritual 
government, that is, with Divine and paternal authority 
and obedience. But now we go from our home to our 
neighbour, and learn how we are to live together both 
at home and among those who are nearest to us. 
Accordingly in this commandment neither God nor the 
magistrates are referred to, nor is the power to put to^ 
death, which they possess, taken from them. For God 
has delegated His right to punish malefactors to the 
magistrates in place of parents, who formerly, as we 
read in the books of Moses, were themselves obliged to 
bring their children to judgment and condemn them b 
death. Therefore what is forbidden here is forbidden \ 
to private persons, and not to magistrates. 

This commandment is easy enough to understand, 
and is often handled, for it is yearly heard in the Gospel 
(Matt, v.), where Christ Himself explains it in brief 
summary : that we are not to kill either with hand, 
heart, mouth, sign, gesture, nor with assistance and 
counsel. Therefore every one is forbidden in this com 
mandment to be angry, except (as we said before) those 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 65 

who are in God s place, that is parents and magistrates. , 
For it is the right of God, and of those who have His , 
authority, to rebuke and punish, for the very sake of/ 
those who transgress this and other commandments. 

But the cause and necessity for this commandment is 
that God knows well how wicked the world is, and how 
full this life is of misfortune. Therefore He has inter 
posed this and other commandments between good and 
evil. As we are tempted to resist the other command 
ments, in like manner are we tempted regarding this 
commandment, for we are obliged to dwell among many 
people who wrong us, so that we have cause to be their 
enemies. 

So when thy neighbour sees that thou hast a better 
house, more temporal goods and happiness from God 
than he, it vexes him, and he envies thee, and speaks no 
good of thee. 

So hast thou many enemies, through the tempting of 
the devil, who grudge thee all thy goods, temporal or 
spiritual. When we see such things, our heart is ready 
to rage and bleed, and seeks to avenge itself. Then arise 
swearing and fighting, which lead to misery and murder. 
Then God comes forward like a good father, and inter 
poses, and tries to settle the quarrel, so that no mis 
fortune may arise, and one may not destroy the other. 
And, in short, He will have every man to be protected, 
set free, and defended from the sin and violence of all 
others, and He wills that this commandment be put 
as rampart, citadel, and freedom, round our neighbour, 
so that we do him neither harm nor injury in his body. 

The meaning, then, of this commandment is that no 
one is to injure his neighbour because of any evil he has 
done, although he may richly deserve it. For where 
murder is forbidden, everything is forbidden that could 
lead to murder. For many a man, although he may 
not commit murder, yet curses, and wishes that he 
against whom the curse is directed, might come to 
an untimely end. Now because we are all alike in 
this by nature, and it is a common custom that no 

5 



66 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

one will suffer any wrong from another, God s desire 
is to remove the root and source of the evil through 
which a man s heart is embittered against his neigh 
bour, and He wishes to accustom us to have His 
commandment always before our eyes, to contemplate 
ourselves in its light, to regard it as His will, and to 
take our grievances to Him, calling on His name in 
heartfelt confidence, leaving those opposed to us to rage 
and storm in their hatred and do what they can. In 
this way a man will learn to control his anger, and 
bear a gentle, patient heart, especially towards those 
who give him cause for anger, that is, towards his 
enemies. 

Therefore the whole sum and compass of this com 
mandment, which must be most clearly explained to 
simple folk, is, Do not kill. Hence in the first place we 
are not to injure any one by word or deed ; further, we 
are not to use our tongue to advise or to counsel murder. 
Besides which we are not to use, or to permit others to 
use, any means of giving offence. And again, our hearts 
are not to harbour hostile thoughts against any one, or to 
wish-them evil, because of our wrath and hate ; thus let 
your body and soul remain innocent towards all, but 
especially towards him who wishes you ill or aggrieves 
you. For to do ill to him who wishes you well and does 
you good is not human, but devilish. 

Further, this commandment is broken not only by him 
who does an evil action, but also by him who might do 
good to his neighbour and avert danger from him, pro 
tect, defend, and save him from all bodily harm, and yet 
does not do so. If thou seest a naked man and mightst 
have clothed him, and clothest him not, thou hast let him 
die of cold ; if thou secst any one suffer hunger and 
feedest him not, thou hast let him die of hunger. Again, 
if thou seest any man unjustly condemned to death or in 
danger of death, and savest him not when thou couldst 
have done so, thou hast killed him. It will avail thee 
nothing to excuse thyself by saying thou hast not done 
any harm by word or deed, for thou hast withheld thy 



THE FITFH COMMANDMENT 67 



love from him, and thus deprived him of those benefits 
by means of which he might have continued to live. 

Therefore God justly terms all such murderers, who 
do not help and counsel those who are in need and in 
peril of their lives, and a terrible condemnation will fall 
upon them on the day of judgment, as Christ Himself 
has declared in the words, For I was an hungered, and 
ye gave Me no meat ; I was thirsty , and ye gam Me no 
drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in ; sick and 
in prison, and ye visited Me not (Matt. xxv. 35, 3(5) ; 
which is the same thing as : ye would have let Me and 
Mine die of hunger, thirst, and cold, be torn by wild 
beasts, rot in prison, and perish in want. Is not this 
equivalent to calling them murderers and men of blood ? 
For even though thou hast not actually done the deed, 
thou hast let thy neighbour perish in his misfortune by 
not assisting him as far as in thee lay. It would be the 
same thing were I to see a man struggling in deep water 
or falling into a fire, and did not put forth my hand to 
pull him out and save him, when 1 might have done so. 
Would not all the world regard me as a murderer and 
villain ? Hence the final meaning of God s law is that 
\ye shall do no harm to any one, but show them all kind 
ness and love, and (as has been already said) this 
commandment refers more especially to those who are 
ourenemies. For to do good to our friends is nothing 
but a inert 1 heathen virtue, as Christ says (Matt. v. 46). 

Thus here again we have the word of God, with which 
He seeks to urge and impel us to righteous, noble, and 
good work, such as showing gentleness and patience ; in 
fact, to love and be kind to our enemies, and His desire is 
to remind us constantly of the First Commandment, which 
teaches that He is our God, who will help and protect us, 
and aid us in checking our desire to avenge ourselves. 

If this law were urged and impressed on all minds, 
we should all have enough good work to do. But it 
would be useless to preach this to monks, and priests 
would consider us encroaching upon their domain, while 
Carthusian sanctimoniousness would feel itself aggrieved, 



68 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



for it would be something like forbidding good works 
and doing away with monasteries. For, with such 
teaching, ordinary Christian conduct would come to be 
of equal worth, nay of far more value than all their 
doings, and people would see how the world is deceived 
and misled by false, hypocritical sanctimoniousness, by 
this and the other commandments being cast to the 
winds and considered unnecessary, as though they were 
not commandments, but mere advice ; while at the same 
time they would insolently boast and proclaim their 
hypocritical ways and works as the most perfect form 
of life, in order that they may lead a calm and unruffled 
life, free from hindrance and trials of patience. Hence 
they entered monasteries so as not to be harmed by 
others, but neither could they there do good unto others. 
Now learn and know that God s commandment is the 
truly righteous and Divine work, in which God and all 
the angels rejoice, compared with which human sancti 
moniousness is offensive and vile, meriting nothing but 
anger and condemnation. 

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT 

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. 

The following commandments are, in themselves, easy 
to understand from the preceding one, for they all teach 
that we must guard against doing any manner of harm 
to our neighbour ; but they are set down in very careful 
order. In the first place they touch the person s own 
self ; then the person nearest to him, his most cherished 
possession after his own body, namely his wedded wife, 
who is one flesh and blood with him, and hence nowhere 
else can he suffer greater harm. Therefore it is plainly 
expressed here that no one shall bring disgrace upon 
him through his wife. And it refers specially to 
adultery, for among the Jewish people it was com 
manded and decreed that every one must marry. Where 
fore the young were betrothed betimes, unmarried women 



THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT 69 



were not held in esteem, and no public prostitutes and 
fornicators were tolerated as they are now. Therefore, 
among the Jews adultery was looked upon as the worst 
kind of unchastity. 

But as there is now such shameful confusion among 
us, such a confounding of all manner of iniquity and 
vice, this commandment is directed against every kind 
of unchastity, whatever names it may assume ; and not 
only is the act itself forbidden, but every motive, temp 
tation, and incentive, in order that heart, lips, and the 
whole body be kept chaste and may not give either help 
or advice in encouraging unchastity ; and not only this, 
we are also to assist, protect, and save wherever there 
is need and danger, and to help and advise so that our 
neighbour may preserve his honour. For if thou omit- 
test to do this when thou mightst have done it, or if thou 
connivest at it, though it concern thee not, thou art 
as guilty as the doer himself. To express it briefly, it is 
commanded that each one of us shall live a clean, chaste 
life, both as regards his own self and his neighbour, and 
shall help others to do the same ; and by this command 
ment God further desires that a wife shall be guarded 
and protected, that none may sin against her. 

Now this commandment speaks of marriage, and thus 
gives us an opportunity of speaking of this state ; there 
fore learn thou and mark, firstly, that God holds this \l 
state in high honour and praise, for He ordains and 
protects it by His commandment. He ordains it in 
the Fourth Commandment by the words, Honour thy 
father and thy mother, whereas here (as we said above) 
He protects and guards it. Therefore He desires that 
we should honour it, uphold it, and treat it as a Divine 
and blessed state; and He places it above all other 
states, for which reason He created man and woman 
distinctively (as we see), not for mischievous purposes, 
but that they may dwell together, be fruitful, beget 
children, feed them, and bring them up to the glory 
of God. And accordingly God has blessed this state 
above all other states, and has made everything on 



70 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



earth subservient to and attendant upon it, and it is well 
and abundantly provided for. Accordingly marriage is 
not a jest or matter of curiosity, but an excellent thing 
and of Divine ordinance. For God sets a high value 
on our bringing up people who will serve Him in this 
world, and help us to a right understanding of His will, 
to a holy life and all the virtues, and to combat evil and 
the devil. 

For this reason I have always taught that we must 
not look with contempt upon this state, or think it dis 
reputable, as is done by the shortsighted world and our 
hypocritical clergy ; it must be regarded in the light of 
God s word, so that it be beautified and sanctified. For 
this state not only equals other states, but ranks above 
and before all, be they emperors, princes, bishops, or 
what they will. For both spiritual and temporal estates 
must humble themselves, and take upon themselves this 
state, as we shall hear. Hence it is not a peculiar state, 
but the most general and the noblest state met with in. 
Christendom, nay in the whole world. 

Again, thou must know that it is not only an honour 
able but a necessary state, earnestly commanded by God, 
so that all men and women who are fit for it must 
take it upon themselves, although some (albeit a few) 
are excepted, whom God hath specially exempted, they 
not being fit for matrimony, or they are exempted by 
great and supernatural gifts, so that they can remain 
continent without entering upon this state. For where 
nature is as God made it, it is not possible to remain 
continent without matrimony ; for flesh and blood remain 
flesh and blood, and the natural inclination and tempta 
tion is unchecked and unhindered, as every man knows 
and feels. Therefore, in order that it may be easier to 
avoid incontinency, God has instituted matrimony, so 
that each may have his appointed share, which shall 
suffice him ; although the heart cannot be kept pure 
except by the grace of God. 

From this thou canst see how the papal horde _pf 
priests, monks, and nuns oppose God s laws and com- 



THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT 71 

mandment in despising and forbidding matrimony, and 
by presuming to vow that they will for ever remain 
continent, thus deceiving simple folk with lying words 
and false appearances. For none possess as little desire 
and inclination for purity as they who most avoid matri 
mony under the pretence of great holiness. ^ They commit 
fornication publicly and shamelessly, or in secret they 
do even worse things which may not be mentioned, as 
alas ! has been too much experienced. In fact, although 
they may refrain from the act itself, yet their hearts are 
full" of impure thoughts and evil desires, so that there 
is an eternal burning and secret suffering, which can be 
avoided by married life. Hence this commandment con 
temns all vows of chastity made apart from marriage, 
and permission is given to all poor captive consciences, 
that have been deceived by their monastic vows, to 
leave that impure state for matrimony, nay they are 
even commanded to do so, for even though in other 
respects monastic life were godly, yet it is not in their 
power to keep pure, and by remaining there they only 
increase their sin against God s commandment. 

All this I speak of, only in order that the young may 
be uro-ed to desire matrimony, and may know that it is 
a blessed state, pleasing to God. For thus > it might 
come to pass in time that marriage would again be held 
in honour ; and we should find less of the lewd, dissolute, 
licentious conduct now so rampant in the world, where 
every one commits open fornication and other abomina 
tions, which arise from this contempt for wedded life. 
Therefore it is the duty of parents and those in authority 
to see that the young are brought up in modesty and 
honesty, and when they are grown up to counsel them 
to consider God s law and their own honour. Then He 
will bestow on us His blessing and grace, and we shall 
rejoice and be glad. 

Now to conclude, it is evident from the above that 
this commandment not only demands that every one 
shall live chastely in his actions, words, and thoughts, 
in his condition of life, that is, generally in matrimony, 



72 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



but lie is to love and honour the wife given to him by 
God. For where conjugal purity is to be preserved, man 
and woman must, above all things, dwell together in 
love and unity, and cherish each other with all their 
heart and in all fidelity. For that is one of the chief 
things that produce the love and desire of chastity, for 
where these exist, purity will ensue of its own accord, 
without any command. Therefore St. Paul diligently 
admonishes married persons to love and honour each 
other. Here thou hast again a precious, yea a great 
and holy work, of which thou canst joyfully boast, in 
contrast to all such religious states of life as are insti 
tuted without God s sanction or command. 

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. 

Next to thine own person and thy wedded wife, thy 
worldly goods stand closest to thee, and God desires that 
they shall be secured to thee, and therefore commands 
that no one shall take away or lessen any portion of 
his neighbour s possessions. For stealing means the 
unlawful appropriation of another s goods, or, to give 
it briefly, to derive any sort of advantage from thy 
neighbour s disadvantage. Now this is a very common 
vice, but is so little heeded and regarded, and so exceeds 
all bounds, that if all those were hanged that are thieves 
and yet would not be called so, the world would soon 
be desolate, and there would not be either hangmen or 
gallows enough. For, as has been said, stealing not only 
signifies the emptying of chests and pockets, but also 
taking advantage of others at market, warehouses, wine 
and beer cellars, workshops, in short, wherever men 
transact business and take and give money for goods or 
labour. 

Let us explain it somewhat more forcibly for common 
folk, that we may judge how virtuous we are. For in 
stance, when a manservant or maidservant of the house 
do not do their duty faithfully, but injure or let others 



THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 73 

injure their master s property when this might have been 
prevented, or when they neglect his goods and treat them 
carelessly, from idleness or malice, to spite or to annoy 
their master and mistress, as may be done wilfully for 
I do speak not of what is done by accident and un 
wittingly thirty or forty florins or more may in this 
way be lost to them in a year ; whereas, had they secretly 
taken or carried off this sum, they would have swung 
on the gallows ; yet, in this case, they are confident and 
insolent, and none may call them thieves. 

I may say the same of workmen, journeymen, and day- 
labourers, who are fall of arrogance, and scarcely know 
how they can sufficiently cheat those who hire them, by 
being indolent and unfaithful in their work. All these 
are far worse than clandestine thieves, who can be checked 
by bolts and bars, or seized and treated in such a fashion 
that they can do it no more. But no one can protect 
himself against these others, for no one may venture to 
look askance at them or to accuse them of theft ; hence 
it would be ten times better to have things taken from 
one s purse. For in the other case, those who deceive 
me most are my neighbours, my supposed friends, my 
own servants, from whom I expected kindness only. 

This dishonesty is likewise rampant and in full force 
at markets and in ordinary commerce. One man openly 
cheats the other with false merchandise, weights and 
measures, and money, and by his acuteness, clever 
financings, or ready invention defrauds his neighbour, 
or circumvents him in his purchase, overcharges and 
fleeces him at will. AVho can name or remember all the 
various ways ? In fact, it is the commonest proceeding, 
and this is" the largest guild on earth. And if we were 
to examine all the different grades of society, we should 
find that they were nothing but a huge stable, full of 
great thieves. They are robbers in high position, land 
thieves and road thieves, not mere pillagers of chests 
and ordinary cunning thieves ; they sit in high places, 
are looked up to as great folk, and rob and cheat honest, 
virtuous citizens under show of good appearance. 



74 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



Yea, we might well let alone the lesser thieves, if we 
could only arrest the great, powerful arch-thieves, with 
whom princes and rulers associate, who daily ransack 
not one or two towns, but all Germany. Yea, what 
would become of the head and supreme protector of all 
thieves, the papal see at Rome, with all its belongings, 
which has appropriated by theft all our worldly posses 
sions, and keeps them to this day ? In short, it is the 
way of the world, that he who can steal and rob openly 
may go about safe and free, and not punished by any 
one, expecting moreover to be held in honour; whereas 
petty sly thieves, who may have only once done wrong, 
bear the shame and punishment, to make the others 
appear virtuous and respected. But let them know that 
they are the greatest thieves before God, who moreover 
will punish them as they deserve and merit. 

Now as this commandment embraces so many points, 
as we have just shown, it must be well explained and 
expounded to the people, that they may not go about 
so freely and at ease ; we must impress on them that 
they have always the fear of God s anger before them. 
For we must preach this not so much to Christians 
as to those scoundrels and villains who would verily 
be more properly preached at by judges, the pillory, 
and the hangman. Therefore let all men know that, 
on pain of God s displeasure, it is their duty not 
only to do no harm to their neighbour, but also not 
to take advantage of him, or to show him any perfidy 
or deceit in any purchase or commerce. They are 
faithfully to protect his possessions, and advance his 
interests, especially if they receive money, wages, or food 
therefor. 

Now whoever wilfully disregards this commandment 
may perhaps escape punishment and the hangman, but 
he will not escape God s anger and chastisement, and if 
he persists long in his defiance and arrogance, he will 
remain a vagabond and a beggar, and have to endure all 
manner of trouble and misfortune. Thou mayst, indeed, 
go thy way when thou shouldst protect the goods of thy 



THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 75 



master and mistress, and mayst fill thy belly, and take 
thy money as a thief, letting thyself be honoured as 
a grand person ; for there are many who still defy 
master and mistress and are unwilling to do anything 
for them, to protect them from harm. But look and see 
what thou gainest thereby, for when thon hast thine own 
property and comes t to have thine own home, God will 
send thee all manner of misfortune, and it will search 
thee out, and thou wilt thus be requited, for where thou 
hast stolen a farthing or done any harm thou wilt have 
to pay for it thirty-fold. 

Thus will it be also with the workmen and day- 
labourers, whose intolerable insolence one meets witli 
nowadays and has to put up with, as though they werq 
grand folk on other people s property, and every one ha^ 
to give them what they desired. Let them go on cheating 
as long as they can; God does not forget His command 
ment, and will reward them as they deserve, and will 
hano- them, not on a green, but on a dry gallows, so 
that they will never thrive all their life long or accom 
plish anything. And indeed if there were a well-ordered 
government in the land, such insolence would soon be 
prevented and put to an end, as happened in times past 
with the Romans, when such persons were forthwith 
laid hold of, that they might serve others as a 
warning. 

Thus shall it be with all who make the public market 
place a mere fleecing-house and den of thieves, where 
the poor are daily cheated, new burdens imposed, extor 
tions made, and every one makes use of the market in 
his own wilful way, proud and defiant, as though he had 
a o-ood right to sell at as high a price as he chose, and 
noie could interfere. Let us wait, and watch them 
cheating, despoiling, and coveting; we will trust in God, 
and when they have fleeced and plundered long enough, 
His blessing to them will be that their corn will spoil 
in the barn, their beer in the cellar, their cattle in the 
stall ; yea, if they have cheated any one of a florin and 
taken advantage of him, the whole of their substance 



76 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

shall be swept away and destroyed, so that they shall 
never enjoy it. 

We see this daily fulfilled before onr eyes, and that no 
stolen or dishonestly acquired substance ever prospers. 
How many there are who work and slave day and night 
without being a farthing the richer ! And even though 
they gather a good deal, they have so much vexation and 
misfortune, that they have no real enjoyment of it them 
selves, nor can they bequeath it to their children. But 
as no one minds this, and all go their way as though it 
concerned them not, God has to punish us otherwise, 
and to teach us our morals by causing tax on tax to be 
levied, or a body of troopers to be our guests, and they in 
an hour will empty our chests and purses, and will not 
cease to plunder while we have a farthing left, and by 
way of gratitude end in burning and destroying our 
house and home, and dishonouring or slaying our wife 
and children. 

In short, whatever thou stealest, this much is certain: 
that twice as much shall be stolen from thee, and who 
soever robs with violence, and profits by another s loss, 
will find that he will have to endure like treatment from 
another. For as men all rob and cheat each other, God 
manages in a masterly way that one thief shall punish 
the other, else where should we find gallows or ropes 
enough ? 

Now let those who are willing to listen know that this 
is God s commandment, and not a thing to be treated 
lightly. For though thou mayst despise, deceive, rob, 
and plunder us, we will yet bear with thee, as the Lord s/ 
Prayer directs, endure and suffer thy pride, and forgivej 
and pity thee, for we know that the virtuous shall never 
want, and that thou art hurting thyself more than any 
one else. And be careful that when the poor, of whom 
there are so many nowadays, come to spend their daily 
penny, thou dost not treat them as though they held 
their lives by thy favour. Thou shalt not harass or 
worry them, and turn away in pride and arrogance from 
those whom thou shouldst support and help. They will 



THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 77 

go their way downcast and miserable, and, because they 
cannot accuse any one, they cry unto Heaven. Beware 
of this (I say again), as though it were the devil him 
self ; for such cries and lamentations are not to be trifled 
with, but will have effect and be too strong for thee and 
the world. For they will reach Him who pities the poor 
and the sorrowful, and He will not leave them unavenged. 
If, however, thou despise them, and art defiant, look to 
it what thou hast brought upon thyself. If things go 
well with thee and thou art prosperous, then thou mayst 
call God and me liars before all the world. 

We have now sufficiently admonished, warned, and 
exhorted those who will not give heed or believe; let 
them go their way till they learn the truth for them 
selves. But let us" impress it on the young, so that they 
may be careful and not follow the old, unruly rabble, 
but keep God s commandment before them, that God s 
anger may not fall on them. It is not our part to do 
more than to declare and to punish with God s word. 
This public wickedness must be repressed by princes and 
those in authority, who can use their eyes, and have 
courage to restore and keep order in trade and com 
merce, so that the poor be not oppressed and harassed, 
and they themselves be not burdened with other men s 



sns. 



Enough has now been said of what is meant by steal 
ing ; we are not to make the meaning too narrow, but to 
take it widely, for the commandment refers to all our 
dealings with our neighbour. To give it briefly, as we 
did with the other commandments, we are forbidden, \ 
firstly, to harm or wrong our neighbour in any of the 
various way^TDi^Tlnay^brrthought of, such as spoiling, 
defrauding "him, or carrying off any of his property; nor * 
are we to allow or permit others to do so, but to forbid and 
prevent them; and besides, we are commanded to further 
him and promote his good, and to help and advise him 
in his need, and to assist both friend and foe. 

Now he who seeks and desires good works will find 
enough here that are pleasing and delightful to God, and 



7 8 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



that will be rewarded with great blessings, so that we 
shall be amply recompensed for whatever assistance or 
friendship we show our neighbours, as King Solomon 
says : lie that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the 
Lord, and that which he hath given will He pay him again 
(Prov. xix. 17). There hast thou a rich Master, who 
will satisfy thee and will not let thee want, and with a 
cheerful conscience thou mayst enjoy a hundredfold more 
than thou wouldst have scraped together by injustice and 
wrong. And he who has no wish for this blessing will 
meet with anger and misfortune enough. 

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 

THOU SHALT NOT BEAU FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY 
NEIGHBOUR. 

In addition to our body, our spouse, and our worldly 
goods, we have another treasure in our honour and good 
name, which we cannot dispense with ; for we cannot live 
among people in public disgrace, despised by every one. 
Therefore God will as little permit us to injure or under 
rate our neighbour s good name, his character and 
uprightness, as He will allow us to deprive him of his 
goods and money, in order that every man may be held 
in honour by his wife, children, servants, and neighbours. 
And, in the first place, the most obvious meaning of 
this commandment is as the words say : Thou shalt not 
bear false witness in the public courts of justice, when a 
poor innocent man is accused and so oppressed by false 
witnesses, that he suffers in body, goods, or honour. 
_ Now this might seem as though it concerned us but 
little, but among the Jews it was an excellent thing 
and of common use. For they were a well and properly 
governed people; and even now, where there is a like 
government, there is no escaping this sin. The cause 
is this : where judges, burgomasters, princes, or other 
magnates sit in judgment, people follow the way of the 
world, and are unwilling to offend any one ; hence they 



THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 79 

act hypocritically, and speak according to favour, money, 
hope, or friendship ; and a poor man and his cause suffer 
injustice, oppression, and punishment. And it is a com 
mon grievance in the world that worthy people are 
seldom found occupying the seat of judgment. For it 
is necessary, above all things, that a judge should be a 
worthy man, and not only worthy, but wise and able, nay 
even bold and courageous ; and in the same way a witness 
ought to be a brave and worthy man. For he who wishes 
to judge all things rightly and to carry out his judgment 
lias often to face the anger of friends, relations, neigh 
bours, as well as rich and powerful persons, who might 
be able to serve or injure him greatly. Hence he has 
to -be pretty well blind^ to close eyes and ears, and not to 
sector hear anything but what is brought before him, 
and he has to draw his conclusions from that alone. 

Further, this commandment was given chiefly that 
each might help his neighbour to his right, and not 
hinder or prevent his obtaining it, but further his cause 
and to protect it, and that, whether he were judge or 
witness, without caring what might happen. And this 
applies especially to the proceedings of our lawyers, that 
they may be careful to be upright and honest in their 
dealings ; to let right remain right, and not to prevent, 
obscure, or conceal it for the sake of money, goods, 
honour, or power. This is a part of and the simplest 
meaning of this commandment, above all as regards our 
courts of law. 

But it has a far wider meaning, when we refer it to 
the spiritual judgment or government, for there likewise 
every one bears false witness against his neighbour. 
For where there are pious preachers and Christians, the 
world will proclaim them heretics, apostates, nay even 
rebellious and desperate malefactors. Moreover God s 
word is shamefully corrupted and maligned, perverted 
and misapplied. But let them go their way; it is the 
way of the blind world to denounce and persecute truth 
and God s children, accounting it no sin. 

Thirdly, this commandment again concerns us by 



8o THE GREATER CATECHISM 



forbidding all sins of the tongue by whicli we can injure 
or vex our neighbour. For to bear false witness is the 
work of the tongue. Now all the harm we do our neigh 
bour with our tongue God wishes to prevent, whether 
it come from false preachers with their doctrines and 
blasphemy, or from false judges and witnesses with their 
tribunals, or from lies and slander outside the court. 
This includes more especially the detestable, shameful 
vice of calumniating or slandering, to which the devil 
drives us, and of which much might be said. For it is 
a common and mischievous plague that people would 
rather hear evil of their neighbour than good. And 
though we ourselves are so bad that we cannot endure 
to have anything bad said of us, and wish that all the 
world would speak well of us, yet we cannot bear to hear 
good spoken of others. 

Therefore we are to be careful to avoid such wicked 
ness, for we may not condemn and punish our neighbour 
publicly, even though we see him do wrong, unless we 
have authority to judge and punish. For there is a 
great difference between the two, between condemning 
wrong-doing and knowing wrong-doing. Thou mayest 
indeed know it, but thou mayest not judge it. I may 
hear and see that my neighbour does wrong, but I have 
no authority to speak of it to others. And if I set about 
judging and condemning, I fall into a sin which is greater 
than my neighbour s sin. Hence if thou dost know of 
it, do nothing but make a grave of thine ears, and cover 
it up till thou art called upon to judge and to punish 
because of thine office. 

Now such persons are called slanderers who are not 
satisfied with knowing, but who take it upon themselves 
to judge, and when they know anything against another, 
spread the report in every direction, worrying and burrow 
ing to get at other people s trouble, like swine, who 
wallow in the mire, grubbing about in it with their 
snouts. This is nothing but interfering with God s 
authority and prerogative, and He judges and punishes 
it with the utmost severity. For no judge can punish 






THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 81 

more severely or go further than by saying: this is 
a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Therefore he who 
ventures to say this of his neighbour goes as far as 
an emperor or any one in authority; for even though 
thou mayest not wield the sword, thou hast used thy 
venomous tongue to disgrace and injure thy neighbour. 

Therefore God forbids that a man speak fll of his 
neighbour, even though he be guilty and he knows it 
well ; and still less may this be done if he is not sure 
of it and knows it only from hearsay. And if thou 
shouldst say : may I not speak of it if it be true ? 
Answer : Why dost thou not go with it before the proper 
judge? You say, I cannot bear witness to it openly; 

I might be struck across the mouth for it and badly 
treated. Ah, my friend, thou smellest the roast. If 
thou canst not venture to appear before a proper tribunal 
and be responsible, then hold thy peace. But if thou 
art certain of it, be certain of it for thyself, not for 
another, for if thou repeatest it, even though it be true, 
thou appearest a liar, because thou canst not prove it; 
and moreover thou art acting a villainous part, for no 
one shall rob any one of his honour and good fame, 
unless this has first been done publicly. 

Accordingly, to bear false witness is to say anything 
the truth of which cannot be proved. Therefore what 
cannot be asserted with sufficient proof is not to be 
revealed or declared to be truth; in brief, what is secret 
is to be left a secret or punished secretly, as we shall 
hear. Therefore wherever thou shalt find an idle tono-ue 
ready to slander and calumniate another, speak out to 
him to his face, that he may redden with shame ; many 
will then hold their tongues who would otherwise 
bring a poor creature into evil repute, from which it 
would be difficult to get out again: for honour and 
good lame are easily taken from us, but not so easilv 
restored. 

So thou seest that, in fact, thou art forbidden to speak 

II ol thy neighbour in any way ; exception being made to 
those acting under civil authority, and preachers, father 

6 



82 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

or mother, for this commandment must be so understood 
that evil shall not go unpunished. Now according to 
the Fifth Commandment, no one s body is to be injured 
except by the hangman, whose office it is to do no good 
to his neighbour, but harm and injury, and yet does not 
break God s command, because, for His own sake, God has 
instituted this office, and has ordained that the hangman 
shall inflict the punishment with which He threatens 
us in the First Commandment. In the same way we are 
told here that no one is of himself to judge or to condemn 
another; and yet if those do not do it whose duty it is, 
they are as much to blame as those who do it without 
proper authority. For then it becomes a matter of 
necessity to speak of the evil, to bring forward accusa 
tions, to make enquiries and to bear witness, just as the 
physician who, if he is to perform a cure, must examine 
and handle secret parts. Hence those in authority, 
father and mother, nay even brothers and sisters and 
other good friends, owe it to each other to have evil 
punished where it is necessary. 

Now the right way of doing this would be to act 
according to the Gospel, where Christ says, Moreover, if 
thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him 
his fault between thee and him alone (Matt, xviii. 15). 
Here thou hast a rare and excellent lesson to teach 
thee to rule thy tongue, which thou must take to heart 
against all misapplication. Act up to this, and see to it 
that thou dost not lightly defame and traduce thy neigh 
bour when he is absent, but quietly admonish him, that 
he lead a better life. And act in this way also when 
any one brings a matter to thine ears regarding what 
this or that one has done; tell him to go and have 
the wrong-doing punished himself where he has seen it 
committed, otherwise to hold his tongue. 

This thou mayest also learn from the daily manage 
ment of thy household. For the master of a house acts 
thus: when he sees that a servant does not do what 
he ought, he speaks to him himself. Were he foolish 
enough to leave the man at home and to go into the 



THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 83 



streets to complain of him to the neighbours, it would 
certainly be said to him : Thou fool, what is it to us ? 
Why dost thou not tell him this thyself? That would 
be acting like a brother, for evil would be punished, 
and thy neighbour would retain his honour. As Christ 
Himself hath said, If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained 
thy brother, and thou wilt have performed a great and 
excellent work. For dost thou think it a trifling thing 
to win over thy brother ? Let all monks and religious 
orders amass all their work and see whether they have 
anything to equal the merit of having gained a brother. 

Christ teaches further : But if he will not hear thee, 
then take with thee one or two or more, that in the mouth 
of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 
Hence we are always to deal with the man himself, and 
not to speak ill of him without his knowledge. And if 
this does not avail, bring the matter openly before the 
community, before a civil or a spiritual tribunal. For 
here thou dost not stand alone, but hast witnesses with 
thee, through whom thou canst convict the wrong- doer, 
and on whose testimony the judge can support his sen 
tence and punish him ; thus all will be done properly 
and rightly, and the wrong-doer will be admonished or 
benefited. Whereas if we go about jabbering evil of 
others in every direction, stirring up filth, no one will be 
bettered ; and thus when people are called upon to appear 
and bear witness, they maintain that they said nothing. 
Therefore it would serve such chatterers right if they 
were well cudgelled for their evil-speaking, and others 
were warned by their example. If thou hadst acted 
with a view to better thy neighbour, or for the sake of 
truth, thou wouldst not slink away secretly, or shun the 
light of day. 

All the above refers to hidden wrong-doing. Where, 
however, the wrong-doing is open, so that the judge and 
all the world knows of it, then thou mayest avoid the 
evil-doer without doing wrong, thou mayest let him go 
his way as one who has brought disgrace upon himself, 
and thou mayest openly bear witness against him. For 



84 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



when things are obvious as daylight, there can be no 
question of calumniating, or of false judges or false 
witnesses: for instance, when, as now, we chastise the 
Pope for his doctrines, which are published in books, 
and denounced before all the world. For where the 
sin is public it is just that the punishment be public, 
so that every one may know of it and guard himself 
against it. 

Here we have the summary and simple explanation 
of this commandment, which is : that no one shall do 
his neighbour, whether friend or foe, any injury with 
his tongue or speak evil of him, be it true or false, 
unless it be done by order, or for his reformation ; 
rather are we to use our tongue to speak good of every 
one, to hide our neighbour s sin and wrong-doing, to 
forgive him, and do what we can to increase and promote 
his honour. And our chief motive for so doing should 
be because of what Christ saith in the Gospel, There 
fore all things ichatsoever ye would that men should 
do to you, do ye even so to them (Matt. vii. 12), which 
words comprise all the commandments concerning our 
neighbour. 

Nature, too, teaches us this regarding our own bodies, 
as St. Paul saith : Those members of the body which seem 
to be more feeble are necessary ; and those members of 
the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these 
we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts 
have more abundant comeliness (1 Cor. xii. 22, 23). Our 
face, eyes, nose, and mouth are never covered up ; we 
have no need to do so, for they are the most honourable 
members we have ; whereas the feeblest members, which 
we are ashamed of, we most diligently cover up : hands 
and eyes and our whole body have to help in con 
cealing and hiding them. So in our conduct towards 
each other we are to hide what is dishonourable and 
weak in our neighbour, and do all we can to help, 
assist, and defend him from what would tend to his 
dishonour. It is a peculiarly good and noble virtue to 
be able to interpret and explain for the best all that 



THE NINTH AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS 85 



we hear said of our neighbour (where it is not publicly 
declared to be evil), or to be able to take his part against 
those poisonous-tongued jabberers who make it their 
business to dig and rake up something wherewith to 
accuse their neighbour, twisting and perverting things, 
as is now especially done to the precious word of God 
and His ministers. 

Accordingly there are many great and good works 
included in this commandment, which please God in the 
highest degree and bring with them abundance of bless 
ings, if only the blind world and false saints would 
recognise them. For there is no part of a man that 
can accomplish more good or produce more evil in 
spiritual as well as worldly things than his tongue, 
which is the smallest and weakest member of his body. 



THE NINTH AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS 

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOUR S HOUSE. 

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOUR S WIFE, NOIl 
HIS MANSERVANT, NOR HIS MAIDSERVANT, NOR HIS OX, 
NOR HIS ASS, NOR ANYTHING THAT IS HIS. 

These two commandments were more especially ad 
dressed to the Jews, although they also concern us in 
part. And they did not interpret them as referring to 
unchastity and theft, because these vices had already 
been sufficiently forbidden ; they considered they were 
keeping all the commandments by doing or not doing 
the thing demanded. God therefore added these two, 
that it might further be regarded a sin and a thing 
forbidden to covet a neighbour s wife or goods, and in 
any way to strive to obtain them. This was especially 
necessary because under the Jewish rule menservants 
and maidservants were not, as now, free to serve for a 
wage as long as they themselves desired ; they belonged 
to their master, in body as in all they had, like his cattle 
and other possessions ; every man had it in his power 
openly to put away his wife by giving her a writing of 



86 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

divorcement, and to take another. So that among them 
arose the danger, that if a man cared for another woman, 
he would make some sort of excuse to put aside his own 
wife and to alienate the other man s from him, so that 
he might obtain her himself. Now this was not looked 
upon as any sin or disgrace among them, just as little 
as it would be now if a master were to dismiss his man 
servant or maidservant, or entice away his neighbour s 
servant. 

Therefore they rightly interpreted (I say) the com 
mandment (though it possesses a deeper and wider 
application) to mean : that no one was to covet or to 
obtain for himself any of another man s property, whether 
his wife, servant, house, fields, meadows, or cattle, and 
thus injure his neighbour, even though it were done under 
a seemingly good pretext. Above, in the Seventh Com 
mandment, we are forbidden to appropriate another man s 
possessions or to withhold them from him, for we have 
no right to do this ; and here we are likewise forbidden 
to deprive our neighbour of anything that is his, even 
though in the eyes of the world we might seem to have 
obtained it honourably, so that no one could accuse or 
blame us as though we had acquired it wrongfully. 

For human nature is so constituted that none of us 
wish the other to have as much as himself, and each 
takes as much as he can, without considering his neigh 
bour. And yet we desire to be thought virtuous ; we 
plume ourselves finely to hide our roguery, and seek and 
devise ingenious tricks and cunning frauds (such as are 
now daily devised most skilfully), pretending that they 
are lawful, and talk of them boastfully and arrogantly, 
and will not have our conduct called roguery, but clever 
ness and foresight. Lawyers and advocates help in this, 
for they turn and twist the law, quibbling over words 
to suit their purpose, regardless of justice and their 
neighbour s needs. And, in brief, he who is the sharpest 
and cleverest in such things is best helped by the law ; 
for, as they themselves say, " Vigilantibus iura snb- 
veniunt." 



THE NINTH AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS 87 

Hence this last commandment is not addressed to the 
wicked people in the world, but to the most righteous, 
to those who wish to be praised and to be called honest 
and upright because they had not broken the earlier com 
mandments ; and this applied specially to the Jews, and 
to many other great folk, princes and rulers. For the 
Seventh Commandment deals more particularly with the 
common people, who do not much concern themselves 
whether they honestly and justly come by what they 
have. 

Now this occurs most frequently in matters connected 
with the law, where the object is to defraud or swindle 
our neighbour of something, as for instance, when hig 
gling and haggling about some large inheritance or 
landed estate, etc., we seek assistance to give the matter 
some appearance of right, pluming and priding ourselveu 
when the law decides in our favour, and acquire the 
estate with its title in such a manner that no one can 
raise any dispute or further claim to it. Or, again, where 
a man covets a castle, town, province, or some other large 
estate, and contrives all sorts of financing among friends, 
or wherever he can, so that in the end the other man 
loses it, and it is declared to be his, and the judgment 
is confirmed by letter and seal, so that he is said to 
have acquired it honestly, the princely title as well. 

The same thing takes place in ordinary commerce, 
where one man cunningly appropriates things belonging 
to another, the other having to submit, or else he is 
hurried and harassed whenever an opportunity offers, so 
that being perhaps hard pressed and unable to avoid 
debt or want, or escape without loss, in the end he loses 
half he possessed or more. And yet this is not said to 
have been wrongfully taken or stolen, but to have been 
honestly bought. Hence the saying : first come, first 
served ; or again, let each look to his own chances, and 
the other take what he can. Who is clever enough to 
think out all the various ways there are of appropriating 
things with a fair appearance of right ? The world does 
not think this wrong, and does not see that thereby our 



THE GREATER CAIECHISM 



neighbour is embarrassed and has to give up what he 
cannot forego without injury to himself; and yet no 
one will own to having done any harm, although it may 
easily be perceived that the expedients and pretexts 
are false. 

Now this has always been the case also concerning 
women, for men knew of devices by which, if they took 
a liking for another man s wife, either they or another 
(for there are many ways and means) so arranged 
matters that her husband would take a dislike to her, 
or she herself would rebel against him and act in such a 
manner that he would be obliged to put her away and to 
leave her to go with the other man. This was undoubtedly 
a common thing among the Jews, for we read even in the 
Gospel (Matt. xiv. 3, 4) that King Herod coveted the 
wife of his own brother during the lifetime of the latter, 
and yet he desired to be held a good and virtuous man, 
as St. Mark (vi. 18, 19) testifies. But such examples 
will not, I trust, be found among us, because the New 
Testament forbids those who are married to separate, 
though it has happened that a man cunningly deprived 
another of a rich bride. But among us it is not an 
uncommon occurrence for a man to deprive another of 
his manservant or maidservant, or to create discord 
between them and entice them away with fair words. 

Now, however all this may be, we are to know that 
God will not have us deprive our neighbour of anything 
that is his, so that he may not suffer want while we 
satisfy our greed, even though we may retain it with 
honour in the sight of the world ; for it is a sly, under 
hand piece of wickedness, acting under cover, as it were, 
that we may not be perceived. For even if thou goest 
thy way as though thou hadst done no one an injury, 
thou hast been too near with thy neighbour ; and 
though this may not be called stealing and deceiving, 
yet it is called coveting thy neighbour s possessions, for 
thou hast desired to deprive him of them without his 
consent, and thou hast grudged him what God bestowed 
on him. And though the judge and every one else has 



THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 89 

to leave it to thee, God will not leave it to thee, for He 
has insight into thy wicked heart and the deceitfulness 
of the world ; for where an inch is given, they will take 
an ell, and open injustice and violence are the result. 

So let the commandment remain according to the 
ordinary understanding : firstly, we are commanded not 
to wish any harm to our neighbour, nor are we to 
help in causing him any injury; we are not to grudge 
him what he has, but to leave it him, and moreover to 
promote and protect what is of use and service to him, 
as we would have him do unto us ; hence the com 
mandment is directed chiefly against envy and avarice, 
and God s desire is to remove the cause and root from 
which arise all these things wherewith we injure our 
neighbour. Therefore He puts it plainly in the words : 
Thou shalt not cocetj etc. For, above all, He desires that 
our hearts shall be pure ; still, as long as we are here 
on earth, this cannot be accomplished, so that this 
commandment, like the others, is meant constantly to 
rebuke us and to show us how good we are in the sight 
of God. 

CONCLUSION TO THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 

Thus we have in the Ten Commandments a summary 
of Divine instruction, telling us what we have to do to 
make our whole life pleasing to God, and showing us 
the true source and fountain from and in which all good 
works must spring and proceed ; so that no work or any 
thing can be good and pleasing to God, however great 
and costly it be in the eyes of the world, unless it is in 
keeping with the Ten Commandments. And now let us 
see what our great saints have to boast about concerning 
their holy orders, and the great and hard tasks which 
they have invented and set themselves, while neglecting 
the commandments as though these were far too trivial 
for them, or had long since become useless. 

For my part, I fancy we should have work enough 
to do to keep them all: in showing a spirit of gentle 
ness, patience, and love towards our enemies, chastity, 



QO THE GREATER CATECHISM 



benevolence and whatever else they may include. But 
such works are of no account or importance in the eyes 
of the world, for they do not appear extraordinary or 
pompous ; and are not bound to any special times, places, 
rites, and ceremonies, but are the common work of every 
day life in our intercourse with our neighbour, and accord 
ingly make no great show. 

Other works may make one gape with open eyes and 
ears, and this is furthered by the show they make, the 
costliness and splendour of the buildings erected, and 
folk dress themselves out that all they do may dazzle 
and amaze. They burn incense, chant, jingle bells, light 
candles and tapers, so that one cannot see or hear any 
thing because of them. For a priest standing in a golden 
surplice or a layman lying all day on his knees in church, 
this they call an admirable work that none can praise 
enough. But when a poor little maid attends to a young 
child and honestly does what is asked of her, that is con 
sidered nothing. Otherwise what would monks and nuns 
go into cloisters for ? 

Yet, consider, is this not detestable arrogance in those 
desperate saints, to presume to find a higher and better 
life or estate than what is taught us in the Ten Com 
mandments ? They give out (as has been said) that this 
is a simple life for common men, but that theirs is for 
saints and perfect men, and yet the poor blind people do 
not see that no man can go so far as to keep even one of 
the Ten Commandments as it ought to be kept ; but two 
other things must come to his help, the Creed and the 
Lord s Prayer (as we shall hear), that he may beseech 
and beg for such grace ; and receive it without ceasing. 
Accordingly their boast is much the same as though I 
were to boast and say : I have certainly not a farthing 
with which to pay you, but ten florins I can easily 
manage to pay. 

This I say and urge, that we may rid ourselves of the 
great abuse which is so deeply rooted among us, and to 
which we all still cling, and that we may accustom 
ourselves in all estates on earth to turn to these precepts 



THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 91 



alone and to take thought about them. For it will be long 
before any doctrine or fashion of life is invented equal to 
the Ten Commandments, because they are so great that 
no one can fulfil them through human power alone, arid 
whoever fulfils them is a holy, angelic being, superior 
to all the sanctity on earth. Turn to them, and try 
with all thy strength and power to obey them ; thou wilt 
then have so much to do that thou wilt not want or 
need any other kind of work or sanctity. 

Let this suffice for the First Part of the common 
Christian doctrines both for teaching and admonishing ; 
but in conclusion we must repeat the heading that 
belongs to them, and which we spoke of in connection 
with the First Commandment, so that we may learn 
how much God would have us strive to learn, to obey, 
and to enforce the Ten Commandments: 

For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, and visit 
the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third 
and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and show 
mercy unto thousands, in them that love Me and keep 
M>/ commandments. 

This addition (as we said before), although especially 
connected with the First Commandment, also bears upon 
all the other commandments, so that they all refer to 
it, and ought to be directed to it. Accordingly I have 
said that it is to be kept before the young, and well 
impressed on them, so that they may learn and remember 
it, and mark what it is that should impel and urge us to 
keep the Ten Commandments ; and they must regard it 
as though it were specially placed before each command 
ment, and thus applies to them all. 

Now (as was said before) these words include both 
an angry threat and a gracious promise, to frighten and 
warn us, also to persuade and to induce us, that we 
accept His Word as Divine earnestness, and esteem it 
greatly, inasmuch as He Himself tells us how greatly 
He desires us to do so, and how severely He will judge 
those who disregard it ; namely, that He will inflict hor 
rible and terrible punishments on all those who despise 



92 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

and break His commandments ; but, again, that He will 
richly reward, benefit, and grant all good things to those 
who greatly honour them and willingly act and live up 
to them. By this He wishes to impress upon us that 
all we do should come from hearts which fear God, 
and constantly bear Him in mind, and that because of 
this fear we should do nothing contrary to His will, that 
He be not angered ; and, again, that we should trust 
Him alone, and do for His sake what He asks of us, 
because He shows Himself such a kind Father and 
promises us His mercy and blessing. 

This, then, is the meaning and right interpretation of 
the First and chief Commandment, from which all the 
others spring and proceed. So that the words : Thou 
shalt have none other gods, mean simply and demand no 
more than this : Thou shalt fear, love, and trust Me as 
thy one, true God. For where a heart feels this towards 
God, it has fulfilled this and all the other command 
ments ; moreover, he who loves and fears anything else 
in heaven or on earth cannot keep this or any one of 
the commandments. And accordingly the Bible every 
where preaches and urges this commandment, above all 
laying stress on the two points: fear and faith in God; 
and the prophet David dwells especially on this when he 
says (Psalm cxlvii. 11) : The Lord taketh pleasure in 
them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy, as 
though giving the whole commandment in the one verse, 
as much as to say : The Lord taketh pleasure in those 
who have no other gods. 

Thus the First Commandment is to shine forth, and 
to cast its light over all the others. Therefore thou 
must let these words ring through all the other com 
mandments, as the stem or stalk runs round a wreath, 
so that the end and the beginning may be joined together, 
and the whole be thus kept together ; and they must 
be constantly repeated arid not be forgotten, especially 
where, in the following commandment, we are told to 
fear God and not abuse His name by cursing, lying, 
deceiving, and other dishonest and wicked ways, but to 



THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 93 

use it worthily and well in appealing to, praying, praising, 
and giving Him thanks, in all love and confidence, as 
desired by the First Commandment. And this fear, 
love, and confidence in Him shall so influence us that we 
shall not despise His word, but learn it, hear it, keep 
it holy, and honour it. 

And throughout the following commandments dealing 
with our duty to our neighbour, eveiything is to be done 
by virtue of this First Commandment ; and accordingly 
we are to honour father and mother, masters and those 
in authority, and to obey them, not for their sake, but 
for God s. For thou mayest not respect or fear father or 
mother too much, neither must thou do or leave undone 
anything only for their sake. But see that thou doest 
what God requires of thee and will certainly have done, 
and if thou neglectest it thou wilt find an angry Judge, 
whereas if thou obeyest, He will be a gracious Father. 
And in like manner thou art not to do thy neighbour 
any harm, injury, or violence, nor art thou to vex him in 
any way, whether it regard his body, wife, goods, honour, 
or rights, as has already been stated in due order, even 
though thou hadst opportunity and cause, and no one 
could punish thee for so doing. On the other hand, thou 
art to be kind to every one, to help and further their 
interests when and where thou canst, and for God s sake 
alone, in the belief that He will richly recompense thee 
for all thou doest. Mark, therefore, how the First Com 
mandment is the source and fountain from which all the 
others spring, to which they all revert, on which they 
all depend, so that beginning and end are linked and 
bound together. 

This it is necessary and useful (I say) to keep before 
the young always. They must be exhorted, admonished, 
and reminded of all this, in order that they may not be 
brought up with mere blows and violence, like cattle, 
but in the fear and reverence of God. For when this 
is considered and taken to heart, and we remember that 
it is not human vanity, but the commandment of the 
most high God, who sternly and angrily punishes those 



94 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

who despise them, whereas He requites with inestimable 
blessings those who keep them, we shall of our own 
accord be induced and drawn to do God s will. 

Accordingly those are no useless words we meet with 
in the Old Testament (Dent. vi. 7, 8), where we are told 
that the Ten Commandments are to be written on every 
wall and corner, yea even on our garments ; not that we 
are to be satisfied by their being written there and made 
a show, as did the Jews ; but we are to keep them always 
before our eyes and constantly to bear them in mind, 
and to follow them in all our life and doings, and with 
every one they are to be a daily practice everywhere in 
all doings and dealings, as though they were written up 
in every place, wherever we looked, yea wherever we go 
or stand. We should then have sufficient cause, both at 
home in our house, and abroad in our dealings with our 
neighbours, to obey the Ten Commandments, and no one 
would need to search far for them. 

From all this we see again how greatly these Ten 
Commandments are to be praised and extolled above 
all such decrees, commands, and works that are other 
wise taught and practised. For here we can confidently 
say : let all the wise men and all the saints stand forth, 
and show us if they can produce any work like the Ten 
Commandments, the fulfilment of which God so sternly 
requires, and commands on pain of His dire wrath and 
punishment, but adds such glorious promises that He 
will overwhelm us with all manner of good and blessing 
if we obey Him. They are, therefore, to be taught 
above and before all other things, and to be valued 
and esteemed as the greatest treasure given to us by 
God. 



THE CREED 95 



SECOND PART 
THE CREED 

Above we have heard the First Part of Christian 
doctrine, and there seen all that God would have us do 
and leave undone. It is followed in proper order now 
by the Creed, which tells us all that we must expect 
and receive from God ; in brief, teaches us to know Him 
thoroughly. And this is all to enable us to act according 
to the Ten Commandments. For (as was said above) all 
human efforts are far too weak and inefficient to enable 
us to keep them. Therefore it is as necessary for us to 
learn about this part of the Catechism, as it is to learn 
the other, in order that we may know how, whence, and 
wherefrom we may derive the necessary strength. For if 
our own strength were sufficient to enable us to keep the 
Ten Commandments as they should be kept, we should 
not need anything else, either the Creed or the Lord s 
Prayer. But before we dwell on the use and need of the 
Creed, it will, first, be sufficient for very simple folk to 
get to know and understand the Creed in itself. 

In the first place the Creed has hitherto been divided 
into twelve articles, although, if we were to take all the 
particular passages in the Scriptures which refer, to the 
belief, we should find very many more, though not so 
plainly expressed or put in so few words. But, in order 
that it may be explained easily and simply for the 
instruction of children, we will briefly divide the whole 
Creed into three main portions, according to the Three 
Persons of the Godhead, to whom all that we believe 
is referred. Accordingly the first article, concerning the 
Father, speaks of the Creation, the second, concerning the 
Son, of the Redemption, the third, concerning the Holy 
Ghost, of the Sanctification. Hence the Creed might be 
most briefly summed up in the words : " I believe in God 
the Father, who created me ; I believe in God the Son, 



g6 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

who redeemed me ; I believe in God the Holy Ghost, who 
sanctifieth me " ; one God and one belief; but Three 
Persons, and accordingly three articles or confessions. 
In this way we will now go briefly through the words. 

THE FIRST ARTICLE 

I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR 
OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. 

We have here the briefest account and picture of God 
the Father, His nature, His will and work. Now, as 
the Ten Commandments taught us that we are not to 
have more than one God, we might here ask : What 
kind of a person is God ? What does He do ? How 
can we praise, depict, and describe Him so that we may 
know Him ? This we shall learn from the present and 
the following articles, so that the Creed is merely an 
answer and confession of Christians, founded on the 
First Commandment. It is the same as though we 
put the question to a young person, saying : Dear child, 
what kind of a God hast thou ? What knowest thou of 
Him ? The answer might run thus : In the first place, 
my God is the Father, who created heaven and earth. 
I believe in no other God, for there is none other who 
could have created heaven and earth. 

For the learned and those more intimately acquainted 
with them, all of the three articles might be greatly 
enlarged, and divided into as many parts as there are 
words. But for young scholars it will suffice here to 
draw their attention to the more necessary points, namely 
(as we said) that this article refers to the Creation ; hence 
that stress is laid upon the words, Creator of heaven and 
earth. But what is implied, or what dost thou under 
stand by the words : / believe in God the Father 
Almighty, Creator, etc.? Answer: I understand and 
believe that I am God s creature, that is, that He gave 
me and preserves for me continually my body, my 
soul and life, the members of my body great and small, 



THE CREED 



all my senses, my reason and understanding, and so on, 
what I eat and drink, my clothes, sustenance, wife and 
child, servants, house and home, etc. ; besides making 
all creatures serve for my use and the necessities of life : 
sun, moon, and stars in the heavens, day and night, air, 
fire, water, the earth and what it bears and brings forth, 
birds, fishes, beasts, corn and every kind of plant. And 
again, all personal and temporal goods, such as good 
government, peace, and safety. Accordingly we learn 
from this article that no one can, of himself, hold his 
life or any of the things named above or that might be 
named, nor can he retain it, small and insignificant 
though it be, for all is comprehended in the word 
Creator. 

We further acknowledge that God the Father has not 
only given us all that we have and see with our eyes, 
but He also, day by day, guards and protects us from 
all manner of evil and misfortune, turning from us all 
kinds of danger and peril, and He does this from pure 
love and goodness, which we have not deserved, like a 
kind Father who cares for us, so that no evil may betide 
us. But to speak further hereof belongs to the two 
other words of this article : Father Almighty. Now 
from this it is self-evident, and follows, that, since all 
we possess and all that is in heaven and on earth comes 
to us day by day from God, is preserved and protected 
for us by Him, we are in duty bound to love, praise, and 
thank Him without ceasing, in short, to serve Him 
wholly and entirely, as He has demanded and required 
in the Ten Commandments. 

Now there would be much to say were we to dwell on 
the fact of how few there are who believe in this article. 
For we all neglect it ; we hear and repeat the words, but 
do not see and consider what the words require of us. 
For if we believed them with all our hearts, we should 
act in accordance with them, and not go about so arro 
gantly, pluming and priding ourselves as though we 
received our life, wealth, power, and honour of ourselves, 
and hence that we ourselves had to be feared and served; 



98 r JHE GREATER CATECHISM 

for this is the way of our wicked and perverse world, 
which in wilful blindness abuses all the blessings and 
gifts of God, to satisfy its own pride, greed, pleasure, 
and comfort, and does not even look up to God to thank 
Him, or to acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator. 

This article, accordingly, should humble and terrify 
us if we believe it. For we sin daily with eyes, ears, 
hands, body and soul, goods and chattels, and with all 
that we possess, especially those who rebel against 
God s word. But Christians have this advantage: that 
they recognise it to be their duty to serve Him and to be 
obedient. 

Therefore we should practise this article day by 
day, study it, and remember it in everything that 
meets our eyes, and whenever any good thing happens 
to us ; and where we escape danger or trouble, we must 
remember that God does all this for us, and gives us 
everything, so that we may know and feel His fatherly 
affection and unfathomable love for us. This would 
warm our hearts, and inflame them with a desire to 
offer up thanks, and to use all we possess in God s 
honour and praise. This, therefore, is the meaning of 
this article, given very briefly, and is all that simple 
folk need learn regarding what we have and receive 
from God, and what we owe Him in return. It is 
therefore a very great and excellent piece of knowledge, 
but a much more priceless treasure. For here we may 
see how the Father has given Himself to us, with all 
that He has created, and how abundantly He has cared 
for us in this life, besides which He has also over 
whelmed us with unspeakable, everlasting blessings 
through His Son and the Holy Spirit, as we shall 
hear. 



THE CREED 



99 



THE SECOND ARTICLE 

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, His ONLY SON, OUR LORD, WHO 
WAS CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY GHOST, BORN OF THE VlRGIN 
MARY; SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE; WAS CRUCIFIED, 

DEAD, AND BURIED; HE DESCENDED INTO HELL; THE THIRD 
DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD; HE ASCENDED INTO 

HEAVEN, AND SITTETH AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD THE 
FATHER ALMIGHTY; FROM THENCE HE SHALL COME TO 

JUDGE THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. 

Here we learn to know the Second Person of the 
Godhead, and we see what we have received from God 
besides the temporal goods already spoken of, namely, 
how He has poured out His whole self upon us, and kept 
back nothing, having bestowed everything upon us. 
Now this article has a deep and fruitful significance ; but 
in order to treat it briefly and simply, let us take one 
phrase of it that comprises the whole, so that we may 
learn from it how we are redeemed; and let us rest 
on these words: In Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Now, when it is asked : What dost thou believe in 
this second article concerning Jesus Christ ? answer 
most briefly thus : I believe that Jesus Christ, the true 
Son of God, has become my Lord. And what do the 
words to become thy Lord mean ? They mean that He 
has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death 
and all misfortunes. For before I had no Lord and 
King, but was a prisoner in the power of the devil, 
condemned to death, and entangled in sin and blindness. 

For when we were created, and had received all manner 
of blessings from God the Father, the devil came arid 
led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all misfortunes, 
so that God s anger and wrath lay upon us, and we were 
condemned to eternal damnation, as we deserved and 
merited. There was no help or comfort till the only 
and eternal Son of God, in His unfathomable goodness, 
took pity on our misery and sorrow, and came to help us. 
And thus all those tyrants and taskmasters have been 



loo THE GREATER CATECHISM 



banished, and in their stead is come Jesus Christ, the Lord 
of life, of justice, of goodness and salvation, and He has 
dragged us, poor lost creatures, from the jaws of hell, 
won us, freed us, and restored us to the favour and grace 
of God, and taken us under His shelter and protection as 
belonging to Him, so that He might reign over us in 
His mercy, wisdom, power, life, and salvation. 

So the main point of this article is, that the little word 
Lord, taken in its simplest sense, means as much as 
Redeemer, that is, He who led us back from the devil to 
God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and 
holds us safe. And the points that follow in this article 
are simply a fuller explanation and expression of how 
this redemption was accomplished ; that is, what He en 
countered, and what He had to do and dare to win us, and 
to bring us to His kingdom ; namely He became Man, was 
conceived and born without sin by the Holy Ghost and 
the Virgin, that He might become Lord over all sin ; He 
suffered, died, and was buried, and satisfied for me and 
paid what I owedj not with gold or with silver, but with 
His own most precious blood. And all this was done 
that He might become "my Lord, for He would not have 
done this or been required to "do it for Himself. After 
that He rose again, conquered and subdued death, and 
in the end ascended into heaven, and took His place on 
the right hand of the Father ; the devil and all his power 
must, therefore, be subject to Him and lie at His feet, till 
the Day of Judgment, when He will divide and separate 
us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, etc. 

But to explain fully all these several points is not neces 
sary in a short address to children; these belong rather 
to the longer sermons preached throughout the year at 
specially appointed times, set apart for dealing more 
fully with the articles of the birth, passion, resurrection, 
and ascension of Christ, etc. Moreover the whole 
Gospel, as we preach it, depends upon the proper under 
standing of this article, for on it rests all our salvation, 
and it is so rich and full in meaning that we have 
always enough to learn from it. 



THE CREED tot 



THE THIRD ARTICLE 

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN 

CHURCH, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS, THE FORGIVENESS OF 

SINS, THE RESURRECTION OF THE FLESH, AND THE LIFE 
EVERLASTING. AMEN. 

This article I cannot explain any better than, as was 
said, of Sanctification, that the Holy Spirit and His 
office are thereby described and expressed, namely, that 
lie makes us hob/. And we must take our stand on this 
word Jfoly Spirit, because it is so briefly comprehended 
in it that we need no other. For there are many other 
kinds of spirits mentioned in the Bible, such as ^ human 
spirits, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits ; but God s Spirit 
is alone called a Holy Spirit, that is One who has 
sanctified, and still sanctities us. For as the Father 
is called a Creator, the Son a Redeemer, so the Holy 
Spirit, owing to His office, is to be called a Sanctifier 
or Hallower. But how is this hallowing accomplished ? 
Answer : In the same way as the Son acquired His title 
of Lord, by redeeming us, through His birth, death, 
resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit accomplishes our 
sanctification by the following means : thj^gk-tlis-eom* 
munity (Gemeine) of saints or Christian Church, through 
tne forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and 
the life everlasting ; that is, by leading us into His holy 
community, into the bosom of the Church, through which 
He teaches us and brings us to Christ. 

For neither thou nor I could ever know aught of 
Christ, or believe in Him, or obtain Him for our Lord, 
were it not for the lessons given us in the Gospel by the 
Holy Spirit, to take to heart. That work is done and 
accomplished, for Christ has obtained and won the bless 
ing for us by His passion, death, and resurrection, etc. 
Yet if the work had remained unrevealed, so that none 
knew of it, it would have all been in vain and lost. 
Now, in order that such a blessing should not remain 



102 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



buried, but become of use and enjoyed, God caused His 
Word to be made known and proclaimed through the 
Holy Spirit, so that this blessing and redemption might 
be brought home to us and become ours. Therefore this 
sanctifying simply means that we are brought to the 
Lord Christ to receive this blessing, which we could not 
have obtained of ourselves. 

Learn, therefore, most carefully to understand this 
article. If tliou be asked : What meanest thou by 
the words, I^Meve in the HQlySpiriil- thou mayest 
answer thus rTUelieve the Holy Spirit makes me holy, 
according to His name. How can He do this, or by 
what means can He accomplish this ? Answer : Throng^ 
the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the re 
surrection of the flesh, and the life everlasting For, 
in the first place, He has a special community in the 
world, which is the mother that conceives and bears 
every Christian by the Word of God, which He reveals 
and preaches, and by which He illuminates and lights 
up all hearts, so that they understand and accept it, cling 
to it, and abide by it. 

For where He does not have it preached and aroused 
in the heart, that we may understand it, it is lost ; as 
happened under the ."Pfrnan^ when the true belief was 
wholly shelved, and no one recognised Christ as Lord, 
or the Holy Spirit as the One who sanctifies; that is, 
none believed that Christ was our Lord, who had ob 
tained for us such mercies without any merit of our own, 
and likewise made us pleasing to our Father. What, 
then, was wanting ? That there was no Holy Spirit 
present to reveal and preach this ; men, however, and 
evil spirits were there, and they taught that salvation 
and mercy could be attained through our own works. 
And hence there was no Christian Church, for when; 
Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to form 
the Christian Church, to call and to gather it together, 
Avithout which none can come to the Lord Christ. 

Let this suffice for the general interpretation of this 
article. But as the various points in it may not be 



THE CREED 



<juite clear for simple folk, we will take them up 
separately. 

The Creed calls the holy Christian Church Communionem 
Sanctorum, a communion (Gemeinschafi) of saints, for 
both mean one and the same thing. But formerly the 
latter phrase was not added, and it has been ill and 
incorrectly translated a communion (Gemein&chaft) of 
saints. In order to explain it clearly a different expression 
must be used in German, for the word ecclesia signifies 
no more than an assembly. Now we are accustomed to 
use the little word Church otherwise, and simple folk 
take it to mean, not the assembled congregation, but the 
consecrated house or building; although the building 
should not be called a Church unless because of the con 
gregation assembled there. For we who assemble make 
or take a special place for ourselves, and give the house 
the name of the congregation. 

So the word Church really signifies nothing but a 
congregation, and is a word of Greek origin (like the 
word ecclesia), for in their language they call it Kyria, 
and in Latin it is also called Curia. Therefore in good 
German and our mother tongue it should be translated 
a Christian community (Gemeine) or congregation, or 
best of all and most clearly, a holy Christendom. So 
likewise the word Communio, which is attached to it, 
should not be translated communion (Gemeinschaft), but 
community (Gemeine). It is merely a definition or 
explanation to indicate what the Christian Church is. 
But those who did not know Latin or German turned 
it into communion (Gemeinschaft) of saints, although 
no German would use such an expression or understand 
it. But to speak plain German, we ought to say a 
community (Gemeine) of saints, that is a community 
consisting only of saints, or, better still, a holy com 
munity. I say all this that the words may be 
understood; they have taken such a firm hold among 
us that it is difficult to uproot them again, and it 
would be called heresy to alter a word. 

Accordingly the simple meaning of the clause is : I 



104 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



believe there is a small holy flock or community on earth, 
consisting of holy persons only, under one Head, Christ, 
called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith and 
understanding; possessing many gifts, but one in love, 
without sect or schism. Of it I too form a part, and am 
a member, a sharer and participator in all its blessings 
through the Holy Spirit, called thereto and incorporated 
with it because I have heard and believe in God s Word, 
which is the first step towards entering it. For before 
we did so we were the devil s, and knew nothing of God 
and of Christ. So the Holy Spirit will abide with the 
holy community, that is, with Christendom, till the last 
day, when He will deliver us ; and He makes use of it to 
teach and to explain the Word by which He makes and 
increases this holiness, so that it may increase daily, and we 
may become strong in faith and the fruits it brings forth. 

We further believe that through Christianity we 
obtain forgiveness of sins, which is accomplished by the 
Holy Sacrament and Absolution, besides all manner of 
comforting words throughout the Gospel. And accord 
ingly what has to be said of the sacraments belongs here 
likewise, and indeed the whole Gospel, and all the 
functions of Christendom, which, in fact, must be exer 
cised without intermission. For though God s grace 
is obtained through Christ, and sanctih cation by the 
Holy Spirit through God s Word in the union of the 
Christian Churches, still we are never without sin, be 
cause of our flesh, which encumbers us. 

Hence everything in Christianity is so arranged that 
we daily obtain forgiveness of sins, by word or sign, to 
comfort and support our conscience, as long as we live here 
below. And what the Holy Spirit accomplishes is, that 
though we have sinned, our sins cannot harm us 7 because 
we are members of Christendom, where there is entire 
forgiveness of sins, so that God forgives us, and we 
forgive, bear with, and help one another. 

Whereas outside Christendom, where the Gospel is not 
received, there is no forgiveness and can be no holiness. 
Therefore all those who do not seek for holiness 



THE CREED 105 



through the Gospel and forgiveness of sins, but try to 
merit i^jtliroiigk their, own works, have alienated and 
separated themselves from Christendom. 

But the sanctification, once begun, daily increases ; 
we look for our flesh to perish and be buried with all 
its corruption, from which it will arise glorified, and 
in complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. 
For now we are only in part pure and holy, so that the 
Holy Spirit is continually at work with us, by means of 
the Word of God, and daily bestowing forgiveness on us, 
till we reach that life where there is no more forgiveness, 
all persons there being pure and holy, full of piety 
and righteousness, delivered and freed from sin, death, 
and all misfortune, in a new, immortal, and transfigured 
body. Now all this is the office and work of the Holy 
Spirit : that He commences sanctification on earth, and 
daily increases it by means of two things : the Christian 
Church arid the forgiveness of sins. And when we pass 
away He will in a moment accomplish this and keep us 
thus eternally by means of these two. 

Now the words resurrection of the jlesh are not well 
chosen words either, for when we Germans hear the word 
Jlesh we are apt to think only of the meat-market. In 
good German we say resurrection of the body or corpse, 
but this is not a very important matter, as long as the 
words are rightly understood. 

Now this article must always be and remain active. 
For the Creation is a past fact, and the Redemption is 
also accomplished. But the Holy Spirit carries on His 
work without intermission till the last day, for which 
purpose He appoints a community on earth, through 
whicli He speaks and accomplishes all things ; for He 
has not yet gathered all His Christendom together, nor 
has He com] letely dispensed forgiveness. Therefore we 
believe in Him who daily draws us by the Word and 
gives us faith, which He increases and strengthens 
through that same Word and the forgiveness of sins ; so 
that when He has accomplished all this, and we abide by 
it, renouncing the world and all evil, at last we shall be 



io6 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

made holy completely and everlastingly, and this we now 
await in faith through the Word. 

There thou hast the whole Divine being, will, and 
work most clearly delineated in brief yet fruitful words, 
in which all our wisdom consists, but which far exceed 
and rise beyond all human wisdom, comprehension, and 
understanding. For although all the world has most 
diligently endeavoured to know what God is, and what 
is His object and intention, yet we have never attained 
this knowledge. But here thou hast it all most fully 
explained, for in these three articles He Himself has re 
vealed and exposed the very depth of His fatherly heart, 
and His complete and ineffable love. For He created us 
in order that He might redeem and sanctify us. And 
besides having bestowed on us all that is in heaven and 
on earth, He gave us also His Son and the Holy Spirit, 
through whom He brings us to Himself. For (as has 
been said above) we could never recognise the Father s 
grace and mercy except for our Lord Christ, who is a 
mirror of His Father s heart ; without Him we should 
see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge, and of 
Christ we should know nothing were He not revealed to 
us through the Holy Spirit. 

Hence these articles of the Creed divide and separate 
us Christians from all other people on earth. For those 
who are outside Christianity, be they heathens, Turks, 
Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, and although 
they may believe in only one true God and worship 
Him, yet they do not know how He feels towards them, N 
and cannot expect either love or any blessing from Him, Ci 
and accordingly remain in eternal wrath and perdition ; 
for they have not the Lord Christ, and are likewise j 
not enlightened and blessed by any gifts from the Holy-J 
Spirit. 

From this thou seest that the Creed teaches a very 
different lesson from the Ten Commandments. They 
teach us what we have to do, whereas the Creed teaches 
us what God does for us and has given us. The Ten 
Commandments are moreover written in all men s hearts, 



THE LORD S PRAYER 107 

but the Creed no mere human wisdom can understand, 
and it can alone be taught by the Holy Spirit. Therefore 
the Commandments do not make us Christians, for God s 
wrath and displeasure are still upon us^ because we 
cannot keep what God demands of us ; whereas the 
Creed brings us full mercy, sanctifies us and makes us 
acceptable to God. For through this teaching we learn 
to love all the commandments of God, because we per 
ceive how God has given Himself to us entirely, bestowing 
all He has upon us, to help and guide us in keeping the 
Ten Commandments : the Father gives us all things 
created, Christ all His works, and the Holy Spirit all 
His gifts. 

Let this suffice now with regard to the Creed, and 
serve as a foundation for simple folk, that they be not 
over-burdened ; so that when they understand this 
summary, they may themselves endeavour to study it 
further : and that what they learn in the Scriptures they 
may connect with this, and go on acquiring a fuller 
understanding of it. For day by day as long as we live 
we have to preach and to study these things. 



THIRD PART 

THE LORD S PRAYER 

We have now heard what we are to do and to believe, 
in which the most blessed and righteous life consists. 
Now follows the Third Part, how we are to pray. For 
because it is so with us that no human being can 
altogether of himself keep the Ten Commandments, 
though we may have begun to believe, and to withstand 
the devil, the world, and our flesh with all our might, 
still nothing is more needful than that we should always 
appeal to God, constantly invoke Him and pray to Him, 
that He may enable us to believe jhe^ Creed and to 
fulfil the Ten Commandments, and to sustain and help 
us, and to remove all that lies in our way and hinders 



io8 TttE GREATER CATECHISM 

us in this. But in order that we may know what and 
how we should pray, our Lord Christ has Himself taught 
us and given us the words, as we shall see. 

But before beginning to explain the various points of 
the Lord s Prayer, it is most necessary first of all to 
exhort and incite people to pray, as Christ (Luke xviii. 1 ; 
Matt. vii. 7) and the Apostles (1 Thess. v. 17 ; 1 Peter 
iv. 7 ; James i. 5) have done. And in the first place we 
are to know that by God s command it is our duty to 
pray. For in the Second Commandment we are told : 
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, 
and are thus bidden to praise the holy name, to call upon 
it and to invoke it in all need. And to invoke is nothing 
else but to pray ; hence we are as strictly and solemnly 
commanded to pray as we are bidden to have no other 
god, not to commit murder, not to steal, etc. Let no one 
think it is all the same whether he pray or not, as common 
people are apt to think in their delusion, saying : Why 
should I pray ? Who knows whether God hears and 
will attend to my prayer ? If I do not pray, some one 
else will. And thus they get into the habit of never 
praying ; and because we denounce false, hypocritical 
prayer, they take it upon themselves to say that we teach 
that no one need or ought to pray. 

This much is true, that what has hitherto been offered 
up as prayer and been mumbled and muttered in church 
has been certainly no true prayer ; such superficial doings 
may, when properly undertaken, serve as an exercise for 
the young, for school-children, and simple folk, and may 
be called singing or reading, but is not actual praying. 
But what the Second Commandment teaches is praying, 
namely, invoking God in all needs. This He requires of 
us, and it is not left to our own caprice, but we are bidden 
and told to pray if we want to be Christians, just as we 
are bidden and told to be obedient to father, mother, and 
all in authority. For by invocation and prayer the name 
of God is honoured and wisely used. This thou must 
mark above all things, that all such thoughts as would 
withhold or frighten us from prayer should be silenced 



THE LORD S PRAYER 109 



and thrust from us. For just as it is of no avail for a 
son to say to his father : What is the use of my being 
obedient ? I will go and do as I please, it is all the same ; 
but there is the commandment, Thou shalt and must 
obey ; so, too, it has nothing to do with my own will 
whether I pray or not, I am required and have to pray 
on pain of God s wrath and displeasure. 

This we must understand above all things, so that we 
may silence and repel those thoughts which deter and 
frighten us from prayer, making us think it is of little 
moment whether we pray or no, as if it were ordered lor 
those who are more holy and more pleasing to God than we. 
The human heart is by nature so perverse that it always 
JUeI_roin ftnfl^ftniUliinks He does not care for our prayer, 
TlecauTOwTareBinnerB and have only merited His anger. 
To silence such thoughts (I say) we must reflect on this 
commandment and turn to God, so that we do not make 
Him more angry by such disobedience. For by this 
commandment He shows sufficiently that He does not 
reject our prayer, nor drive us from Him, although we are 
sinners; but that He rather wishes to draw us to Him, so 
that we may humble ourselves before Him, lament our 
misery and need, and ask for mercy. Therefore we read 
in the Scripures that He_was angry with those who-were 
punished for their sins, because they did not come to Him 
and soften His anger and seek mercy by prayer 

Now from the above we should conclude and remem 
ber that, since we are commanded so earnestly to pray, 
we should on no account despise prayer, but should think 
much of it and value it; and we are always to regard it 
as equivalent to the other commandments. A child shall 
on no account disregard obedience to father or mother, 
but always remember : the act is an act of obedience, and 
what I do, I do from no other motive than obedience to 
God s commandment ; on this I can take my stand, and 
hold my action in high esteem, not because of my own 
worth, but because of its being a commandment. 80 .here 
ao-ain: whenever and for whatsoever we pray, we arc to 
consider it as demanded by God and done in obedience to 



no THE GREATER CATECHISM 

His command, and we are to think thus : so far as I am 
concerned it is nothing, but it has value because God 
has commanded it Accordingly every one who has 
aught to pray for is always to come to God in obedience 
to this commandment. 

Therefore we beg and exhort every one most urgently 
to take these words to heart, and in no wise to despise 
prayer ; for hitherto folk have been so taught in the devil s 
name, that none esteemed it, and all thought it sufficient 
if their prayers were said, whether God heard them or 
not. That is treating prayer lightly, and muttering on 
the chance of being heard. And such prayers are worth 
nothing. We let ourselves be misled and deterred by 
such thoughts as these : I am not holy or worthy enough ; 
if I were as pious and holy as St. Peter or St. Paul, I 
should pray. But away with such thoughts ; for the 
very commandment that applied to St. Paul applies to 
me, and was made just as much for my sake as for his, 
and he could boast of no better or holier commandment. 
Therefore thou art to say : My prayer that I pray is as 
precious, holy, and pleasing to God as that of St. Paul 
and the holiest of saints. I willingly admit that he is 
holier in himself, but not because of his prayer ; for God 
does not value the prayer because of the person, but 
because of his own Word and our obedience. For it is 
upon the commandment, on which all saints base their 
prayers, that I base mine ; and moreover I pray for that 
which they all asked or prayed for. So it is as precious, 
and more necessary, to me, than to those great saints. 

The first and most necessary point, therefore, is this : 
that all our prayers be founded and based on obedience to 
God, regardless of our person, whether we be sinful or 
virtuous, worthy or unworthy. And we are to know that 
God will not have us trifle with this command, but will 
be angry and punish us unless we appeal to Him, just 
as He punishes all other acts of disobedience, and also as 
He will not allow our prayers to be made in vain or lost ; 
for if He did not mean to hear us, He would not command 
us to pray, and insist upon it so strongly. 






THE L ORD* S PR A YER \ \ i 

Again, we are to be the more eager and ready to pray 
because God has added a promise, that shall verily and 
sissurodly be fulfilled, as when He says in Psalm 1. 15: 
Call upon Me in the day of trouble : Twill deliver tliee, and 
thou s/talt glorify Me; and when Christ says in Matt. vii. 7: 
Ask, and it shall be given you, etc.: for ever)/ one that asketh 
receheth. Such words should ever arouse and incite our 
hearts with the desire for and love of prayer, because His 
Word testifies that our prayers are truly pleasing to Him, 
and shall surely be heard and granted, in order that we 
may not disregard or neglect them, or pray in uncertainty. 
Thou mayest address Him thus, and say: I come to Thee, 
my Father, and pray to Thee, not of my own accord, or 
because of my own worthiness, but because of Thy com 
mand and promise, which cannot deceive or lie. Now, 
whosoever does not believe such promises let him know 
that he angers God as one who exceedingly dishonours 
Him and charges Him with lying. 

That we may be the more tempted and induced to 
pray, God has not only given us the command and the 
promise, He has put in our mouth the very words as to 
how we are to pray, in order that we may perceive how 
sincerely He cares for our needs, and that we may never 
doubt that such prayers are acceptable to Him and shall 
assuredly be heard ; and this is a very great advantage for 
all the other prayers that we may be inclined to invent 
for ourselves. For our conscience might constantly 
be in doubt and say : I have prayed, but who knows 
whether it will please Him, or whether I have hit upon 
the right method or measure ? Accordingly there is no 
more admirable prayer on earth than the Lord s Prayer, 
because it brings with it such excellent testimony that 
God hears it most gladly, and it is one we should not 
exchange for all the wealth in the world. And it is so 
worded for us that we may perceive and remember the 
need which should urge and oblige us to pray without 
ceasing. For whoever wishes to pray must bring forward 
something, name it and ask for it, else it cannot be 
called a prayer, 



H2 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

It is for this reason that we justly reject the prayers 
of monks and priests, who howl and mutter offensively 
day and night ; not one of them thinks of asking for the 
veriest trifle ; and if all the Churches and their priests 
were gathered together, they would have to confess that 
they had never sincerely prayed for as much as a drop of 
wine. For not one of them ever undertook to pray by 
way of obedience to God, or because they believed in His 
promise, or considered there was any necessity for it ; 
they had no further thought (to put the best construction 
on it) than of doing a good work, by which they might 
make a gift to God, as though they would take nothing 
from Him, but only offer things to Him. 

But where there is to be true prayer we must be in 
earnest and feel our need, and a need which presses us 
and urges us to call out and clamour ; then prayer will 
come of its own accord, as it should, and we shall not 
require to ask how to prepare for it or to become devout. 
But the necessity which should urge us and every one is 
to be found abundantly in the Lord s Prayer. Therefore 
it should serve to remind us of this necessity, to teach us 
to consider it and to take it to heart, that we may not 
grow weary of praying; for we all have wants enough, only 
we do not feel or perceive them. Wherefore God desires 
that we should feel and bewail our necessity, not because 
He does not know it, but in order that our hearts may 
be aroused the more strongly to desire more, and to open 
and spread out our cloaks wide to receive abundantly. 

Therefore from youth upwards we are to accustom 
ourselves to pray daily in our necessity, whenever we feel 
that anything thwarts us, and also to pray for other 
people among whom we live, such as our pastors, those 
in authority, neighbours, servants ; and (as has been said) 
we must always bear in mind God s command and promise, 
and remember that He will not have these disregarded. 
I say this because I would gladly see people do this again, 
and learn to pray properly, and not go their ways un- 
couthly and indifferently, daily becoming more and more 
unfitted for prayer; which is what the devil would like to 



THE LORD S PRAYER 113 

accomplish, and endeavours to bring about with all his 
might, for he knows well what harm and injury are done 
to him where prayer is fervently offered. 

For we are to know that our whole protection and 
defence lies in prayer alone. For we are far too weak to 
resist the devil with all his power and retinue, who so 
rise up against us that they might easily crush us under 
foot. Therefore we must bethink ourselves and take to 
the weapons with which Christians ought to be armed 
to resist the devil. For what, thinkest thou, would have 
hitherto accomplished such great things, and resisted 
or overthrown the counsels of our enemies, their plans, 
murders, and rebellions, by which the devil meant to 
overthrow us and the Gospel, were it not that the 
prayers of pious people had stood between us and our 
foes like an iron rampart ? Otherwise we should have 
seen a very different spectacle : the devil would have had 
all Germany destroyed in its own blood. But now let 
them laugh and mock as they will, we shall by our 
prayers alone be able to oppose both them and the devil, 
if we only keep diligent and do wax not weary. For 
whenever a good Christian prays, saying: My Father, 
Thy will be done, He will answer from above, Yea, dear 
child, so shall it be ; in spite of the devil and all the 



much we have said in exhortation, that we may 
loam above all things to esteem prayer greatly, and to 
make a proper distinction between mere mumbling and 
praying. For we do not in any way denounce prayer, 
but we denounce loud and useless howling and, as Christ 
Himself denounced and forbade, long-winded prayers 
(Matt, xxiii. 14). We will now take the Lord s Prayer, 
and discuss it in the briefest and clearest manner. There 
are seven articles or petitions, dealing in order with 
all the necessities that incessantly beset us, and each 
petition is of such importance that it ought to induce us 
to pray it all our life long. 



ii 4 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



THE FIR-ST PETITION 
HALLOWED BE THY NAME. 

Now. this is a little obscure, and not very good 
German ; for in ordinary language we should say : 
Heavenly Father, help, that Thy name may be holy. 
Now. what do we mean by praying that His name should 
be hallowed ? Was it not holy before ? Answer : Yea. 
it was always holy in itself, but in our use it is not 
hallowed. For God s name ha,s been given us because we 
became Christians and were baptised, so that we might 
be called God s children and enjoy the Sacrament by 
which He incorporates us with Himself: and accordingly 
that all that is God s may serve for our use. Xow. it is 
most necessary, and we ought above all things to see to 
it, that His name be held in due honour, and be kept holy 
and hallowed as our greatest and most sacred treasure, and 
that, as ^ood children, we should pray that His name, 
which is hallowed in heaven, may likewise be kept holy 
on earth by us and all the world. 

Now, how can it be hallowed among us? The most 
direct answer is this : If both our teaching and life are 
godly and Christian. For, as in this prayer we call 
God* our Father, we owe it to Him to behave and act 
like pious children everywhere, that He may not receive 
shame from us. but honour and glory. Xow we profane 
His name with words or deeds (for what we do on earth 
must be by word or deed, speech or action) ; in the first 
plac. therefore, in preaching, teaching, and speaking 
in God s name what is false and misleading, so that His 
name is taken to adorn our lie and make it pass current. 
This is the greatest disgrace and dishonour to God s name. 
Besides this, when the holy name is used as a cloak for 
swearing, cursing, sorcery, etc. Secondly, when it is used 
as screen for open evil ways and work, when they who 
are called Christians and God s people are adulterers, 
drunkards, gluttons, jealous, and given to slander. Here 
again God s name is disgraced and dishonoured for our 



THE LORD S PR A YER 115 

sakes ; for just as it is a shame and disgrace to a 
human father to have a wicked and depraved child, who 
disobeys him in words and deeds, and is thus despised 
and scorned because of him, so it serves to God s dis 
honour if we, who are called by His name, and receive 
all manner of benefits from Him, do not teach, speak, 
and live as the virtuous children of a heavenly Father, 
and He hears it said of us : They ought not to be called 
God s children, but the devil s. 

Accordingly thou seest that in this article we pray for 
what God demands of us in the Second Commandment 
namely, that we are not to take His name in vain, that 
is, to use it in swearing, cursing, deceiving, lying, etc., 
but to use it only in the praise and honour of God. 
For whoever uses God s name in any dishonourable way 
unhallows and profanes the holy name ; in the same way 
as formerly it was called desecrating a church if a murder 
or other crime were committed there, or if a sacrament 
or relic were profaned, for a thing holy in itself is 
rendered unholy by its use. Hence the clause is easy and 
simple, if only we understand the language ; to hallow 
means much the same as to praise, extol, and honour 
by word and deed. 

Now, mark how necessary such a prayer is. For since, 
as we see, the world is full of heresy and false teachers, 
who all use the holy name as a cover and pretext for 
their devil s teaching, we ought unceasingly to cry and 
clamour against all those who preach and believe false 
doctrines, and who persecute and seek to suppress all 
that concerns our Gospels and pure doctrine, such as 
bishops, tyrants, fanatics, etc. And again, we ought also 
to pray for ourselves, who have God s word, but are not 
grateful for it, and who do not live according to it as we 
should. Accordingly, if thou prayest thus from thy heart, 
thou mayest be certain that it will be pleasing to God, 
for nothing is more pleasing to Him than to hear that 
His honour and worth are set above all things, that His 
word is taught purely and greatly cherished and valued. 



116 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

THE SECOND PETITION 

THY KINGDOM COME. 

Whereas in the first petition we pray concerning God s 
honour and name, that He will not allow the world to 
adorn its lies and wickedness therewith, but enable us to 
keep it holy and reverend in our teaching and in our life, 
so that we may praise and glorify it, we pray here that 
His kingdom may come. And in the same way as we 
pray that His name may be holy to us, although it is 
holy in itself, so also His kingdom would come of itself 
without our asking for it, and yet we are to pray that it 
may come to us that is, that it may be around and with 
us, hence that we also may be apart of it, that His name 
may be hallowed thereby and His kingdom flourish. 

Now, what is God s kingdom ? Answer : Nothing 
else than what we heard above in the Creed, that God 
sent His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, into the world, that 
He might redeem us and free us from the power of the 
devil, and bring us to Himself, to reign over us as a King 
of righteousness, of life, and of salvation, and to protect 
us from death, sin, and an evil conscience. Wherefore 
God also gave His Holy Spirit, to teach us this through 
His holy word, and through His power to enlighten and 
strengthen our faith. Therefore we pray here, firstly, 
that we may be strengthened in all this knowledge, that 
His name may be so honoured through the holy word of 
God and our Christian life, and that not only we who 
have accepted it may abide by it, daily increasing in faith, 
but that among other peoples it may gain followers and 
adherents, and advance in power throughout the world, 
so that many may thus enter the kingdom of righteous 
ness and become participators in the redemption, brought 
thereto by the Holy Spirit, and remain thus together and 
for ever in the one kingdom now begi^n. 

For God s kingdom comes to us in two ways : either 
temporally through the Word and Faith, or eternally 
through the revelation. Now, we pray for both : that 



THE LORD S PRAYER 



it may come to those to whom it has not yet come, 
and be daily strengthened in us who have received it, 
and remain ours henceforth in the life everlasting. 
This is nothing more than saying : Dear Father, we 
pray Thee, firstly, to give us Thy Word, that the Gospel 
may be conscientiously preached throughout the world, 
and, secondly, that it may be accepted through faith, 
and live and work in us ; so that Thy kingdom may be 
among us, through the word and power of the Holy 
Spirit, that the devil s kingdom may be crushed, and 
that he have no further power or claim over us, till in 
the end he be quite overcome, and, sin, death and hell 
destroyed, so that we live everlastingly in perfect 
righteousness and blessedness. 

From this thou seest that here we do not ask for a 
mere piece of bread, for temporal, perishable goods, but 
for an eternal, inestimable treasure, and all that God 
alone can give ; it would be far too great for any human 
heart to dare to ask it, were it not that He Himself has 
commanded us to ask for it. And because He is God, 
He takes upon Himself the honour of giving far more, 
and more abundantly than any one can understand ; for 
He is like an everlasting and inexhaustible spring, which, 
the more it flows and runs over, the more it gives forth ; 
and He desires nothing more of us than that we should 
ask many and great things of Him, and is vexed if we 
do not .ask and demand with confidence. Much in the 
same way as though the richest and mightiest emperor 
bade a poor beggar ask for whatever he wanted, being 
ready to bestow great and royal gifts, and the poor 
fool asked for nothing but a cup of broth ; he would 
justly be esteemed a rogue and a knave thus to make a 
jest of the royal command, and therefore not worthy to 
appear before his sovereign. In the same way it is a 
disgrace and dishonour to God if we, to whom He offers 
and promises inestimable blessings, despise them or do 
not confidently accept them, scarcely venturing even to 
ask for a piece of bread. 

All this is due to that shameful unbelief which will not 



n8 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

allow us to expect as much from God as that He will 
fill onr bellies ; still less do we believe unhesitatingly 
that we may expect eternal blessings from God. Hence 
we are to strengthen ourselves against such unbelief, 
and let this be the first thing we pray for. Then 
indeed we shall have all else in abundance, as Christ 
teaches (Matt. vi. 33) : But seek ye first the kingdom of 
God and His righteousness, and all these things shall 
be added unto you. For how could He let us want and 
be without temporal things, when He promises us such 
eternal and heavenly blessings ? 



THE THIRD PETITION 

THY WILL BE DONE ON EAETH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. 

We have thus far prayed that His name may be hallowed 
by us, and that His kingdom come among us, which two 
things include all that refers to God s honour and to 
our own salvation, that we may have God and all His 
blessings for our very own. But now the great necessity 
is that we should keep steadfastly to this, and not let 
ourselves be drawn away from it. For as under a good 
government there must not only be those who build up 
the laws and rule well, but also those who protect, defend, 
and keep all secure, so here likewise, when we have 
prayed for what is of most importance for the Gospel, 
faith, and the Holy Spirit, that He may reign over us 
and release us from the devil s power we have also to 
pray that God will let His will be done. For it will be 
wonderful how, if we abide by all this, we shall have to 
endure attacks and blows from all those who strive to 
hinder and thwart our first two petitions. 

For no one can imagine how the devil tries to thwart 
and oppose these, for he cannot bear that any one should 
teach or believe aright, and it causes him infinite vexa 
tion when his lies and other abominations, done under 
the beautiful cloak of God s name, are disclosed and 
exposed in all their disgrace, and he himself is driven 



THE LORD S PRAYER 119 

/out of our hearts and a rift made in his kingdom. ThereA 
/fore, like an angry foe, he rages and roars with all his \ 
/ strength and might, attracting all those that are subject | 
to him, and bringing the world and our own flesh to his j 
assistance. For our flesh is corrupt in itself and inclined to 
evil, although we have accepted God s word and faith ; and 
the world being wicked and evil, the devil hounds, worries 
and harasses us so that he may hinder us, drive us back, 
overthrow us, and bring us into his power again. That 
is his one thought, aim, and desire, for which he strives 
day and night, and never rests an instant, employing every 
kind of trick, device, and means that he can think of. 

Therefore we, who would be Christians, must assuredly 
remember and consider that we have the devil and all 
his angels, as well as the world, for our foes, preparing 
all manner of misfortune and sorrow for us. For where 
God s name is preached, accepted or believed in, and 
bears fruit, there will likewise be no want of persecution. 
And let no one think that he will ever be at peace, for 
he will have to risk all that he has on earth: property, 
honour, house and home, wife and child, body and soul. 
And this it is that will touch our flesh and rouse the old 
Adam in us, for it means that we shall have to keep 
firm, and suffer patiently whatever may be done to us, and 
let go whatever may be taken from us. Therefore it is as 
necessary in this case, as in every other, that we should 
pray without ceasing, and say : Let Thy will be done, 
Father, not the will of the devil, or that of our foes^ or 
of any of those who would persecute and overthrow Thy 
holy Word or hinder the coming of Thy kingdom ; and 
grant thatTall we may have to endure through it may be 
borne with patience and overcome, so that our poor flesh 
may not yield or give way from weakness or laziness. 

Now mark, in these three petitions we have all that 
concerns God Himself most simply expressed ; and yet 
all for our own sakes : for what we pray for affects us 
alone, namely (as has been said) that these things may 
be done also in us, which otherwise would be done with 
out us. For just as God s name must be hallowed, and 



120 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



His kingdom must come, without our prayer, so likewise 
His will will be done and felt everywhere, although the 
devil and all his host storm and rage against it, in their 
endeavour to exterminate the Gospel. But for our own 
sakes we must pray that God s will may be done among us 
in spite of their raging, so that they accomplish nothing, 
and we may remain steadfast in spite of all violence and 
persecution, and submit ourselves to the will of God. 

Such prayers are therefore to be our protection and 
defence, to repulse and overthrow all that the devil, 
the Pope, bishops, tyrants, and heretics raise against our 
Gospel. Let them all rage together, and do their utmost, 
in deliberating and resolving how to subdue and exter 
minate, so that their will and determination may hold 
sway. One or two Christians opposed to them with 
these few petitions will act as a rampart against which 
they would run only to destroy themselves. For we have 
this consolation and assurance, that the will of the devil 
and all our foes must and shall succumb, be subdued and 
annihilated, however proud, safe and powerful they think 
themselves ; for if their will were not subdued and 
checked, God s kingdom could not come to us and remain 
on earth, nor could His name be hallowed. 



THE FOURTH PETITION 

GlVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD. 

Herewith we consider that poor bread-basket our body, 
and the necessities of our temporal life ; and they are brief 
and simple words, but are very far-reaching. For when 
thou speakest and prayest for daily bread, thou art asking 
for all that is needful to enable thee to have and to enjoy 
thy daily bread, and appealing against all that hinders 
thy obtaining it. Wherefore thou must well open and 
extend thy thoughts, and not think only of the oven and 
flour-barrel, but also of the wide fields and the whole 
country which bears and produces our daily bread and 
all the rest of our food. For if God did not let it grow, 



THE LORD S PRAYER 121 



bless it, and preserve it in the ground, we shonld never 
have any bread to take out of the oven, or have any 
to put on the table. 

This petition includes, in brief, all that belongs to our 
whole life in this world, since it is only for the sake of 
this that we need daily bread. Now, this life requires 
not only bread, clothing, and other necessaries for our 
bodies, but also that- we live in peace and quiet with 
the people around us, in our daily business and trans 
actions, in short, in all that concerns both our domestic 
and neighbourly relations, or civil affairs and government. 
For where these two things are interfered with, and are 
not as they should be, the necessities of life are hindered, 
and life in the end cannot be maintained. And it is also 
most necessary to pray for our temporal rulers and 
governors, through whom God chiefly preserves for us 
our daily bread and all the comforts of this life. For 
though we obtain an abundance of things from God, we 
can in no wise retain them or use them safely and cheer 
fully, unless He gives us a firm and peaceful government; 
for where discord and war prevail we are deprived of our 
daily bread or hindered in obtaining it. 

For which reason it would be more fitting to place a 
loaf on the coat-of-arms of every good ruler instead of a 
lion or a wreath, or that the coins might bear it as their 
stamp, to remind our rulers, as well as ourselves, their 
subjects, that their office ought to bestow on us peace 
and protection, and that without these we should not 
have our daily bread to eat. Wherefore they are worthy 
of all honour, and we ought to do for them all we can, 
as those through whom we are enabled to enjoy in peace 
and quiet all that we possess, inasmuch as but for them 
we should not own a farthing. We are also to pray for 
them that God may bestow on us greater blessings and 
good by their means. 

Let us now very briefly point out and show how this 
prayer affects everything on earth. Out of it a long 
prayer might be made, by enumerating with many words 
all the various things pertaining to it : as, for instance, 



122 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

when we ask God to give us food and drink, clothes, 
house and home, a sound body, the corn and fruits 
that grow in the fields, and that they may flourish ; 
further, when we ask His help to manage our household 
affairs properly, and pray Him to give us a virtuous wife, 
children, and servants, and to preserve them to us ; to 
allow our work, trade, or whatever we may have to do, 
to prosper and succeed ; to give us faithful neighbours 
and good friends, etc. And again, when we ask Him to 
endow emperors, kings, and all the nobility, especially 
our own princes, counsellors, and all those in authority, 
with wisdom, strength, and good fortune, to govern us 
well and overcome the Turks and all our foes ; to grant 
that their subjects, the common people, may live together 
in obedience, peace and unity ; and also that He will 
protect us from all manner of harm, both as regards our 
bodies and our means of subsistence, also against thunder 
storms, hail, fire, water, poison, pestilence, murrain, war, 
bloodshed, famine, savage beasts, wicked people, etc. It 
is good to impress all this on simple folk, that they 
may learn that all such things come from God and must 
be thought of in prayer. 

But above all, this petition is directed against our 
supreme foe, the devil. For it is his one thought and 
desire to take away or prevent our obtaining all that God 
would give us, and it is not enough for him to hinder 
and destroy spiritual order by leading our souls astray 
with his lies and getting them into his power, but he 
tries to prevent the existence of any honest and peaceful 
dominion on earth. He causes endless quarrels, mur 
ders, rebellions and wars ; also thunderstorms and hail 
to destroy the corn and cattle, to poison the air, etc. In 
short, he is vexed when any one receives a piece of 
bread from God and enjoys it in peace ; and if it were 
in his power, and our prayers (with God s help) did not 
hinder it, verily we should not have a blade in the field, 
not a farthing in the house, yea, not be able to enjoy an 
hour of our life, especially those who accept God s Word 
and would fain be called Christians, 



THE LORD S PRAYER 123 



Now, mark, God wishes herewith to show us how He 
attends to all our needs and faithfully supplies all our 
bodily sustenance ; and though He gives it abundantly 
and preserves it even for the godless and rogues, yet He 
desires that we shall ask for it, in order that we may ac 
knowledge that we receive it from His hand, and thereby 
recognise His fatherly goodness towards us. For where 
He withdraws His hand nothing can thrive or prosper 
in the end, as we daily see and feel. What a plague 
we have now in the world with false coins alone ! Yea, 
what trouble is caused by the daily exactions and taxes 
in ordinary commerce, marketings and work, by those 
who, in their insolence, oppress the poor, and take from 
them their daily bread 1 We have, it is true, to endure 
it ; but let them look to it that they do not lose the benefit 
of this common petition, and take heed that this little 
bit of the Lord s Prayer may not come into conflict with 
them. 

THE FIFTH PETITION 

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE FORGIVE THEM 
THAT TRESPASS AGAINST US. 

This petition deals with our own poor and miserable 
life, for although we have God s Word and believe it, do 
His Will and submit to it, and are nourished by God s 
blessing and gifts, still we are not free from sin, for daily 
we stumble and transgress, because we live in the world 
among people who vex us sorely, and cause us to feel 
impatient, angry, revengeful, etc. ; besides which, we 
have the devil at our back, attacking us on all sides, and 
fighting (as has been said) against all the above petitions, 
so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a 
constant struggle. Therefore "in this case also it is most 
necessary for us to pray and cry : Father, forgive us 
our sins ; not that He would not forgive us our sins 
without our prayers and before we uttered them for He 
gave us the Gospel, with its absolute forgiveness, before 
we prayed for it or even thought of it but it is necessary 



1 24 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

that we should recognise and accept His forgiveness. 
For because our flesh, in which we daily live, is so con 
stituted that it will not trust and believe God, and is 
always stirred by evil desires and wickedness, so that 
daily we sin in word and deed, in what we do and in 
what we leave undone, and our conscience becomes 
restless, fearing God s anger and wrath, and thus loses 
comfort and faith in the Gospel, so it is necessary that 
we should constantly turn to Him and seek comfort to 
reassure our conscience. 

But its purpose is also that God may break our pride 
and keep us in humility ; for this privilege He reserves 
for Himself. So that when any one boasts of his virtue 
and despises others, let him look to himself and turn to 
this prayer, and he will find that he is no better than 
others ; thus we must all lower our plumes before God 
and be glad to receive forgiveness. And let none think 
that we shall ever cease to require forgiveness as long- 
as we live on earth. In fact, if God did not incessantly 
forgive us, we should be lost. 

Hence the meaning of this prayer is, that God will not 
look upon and punish our sins as they daily deserve, 
but will be gracious to us and forgive us as He has 
promised, and thus give us a cheerful and courageous 
conscience, to come to Him with our prayers. For where 
the heart is not at peace with God, and cannot obtain 
such confidence, it will never venture to pray. But con 
fidence and a joyful heart can never be ours unless we 
know our sins are forgiven. 

However, a necessary, and yet comforting, clause is 
added : As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
God has promised that all our sins shall be forgiven and 
remitted, and we are to feel assured of this, but only in 
so far as we forgive our neighbour. For we daily tres 
pass much against God, and yet He forgives all in His 
mercy : in the same way we are also constantly to forgive 
our neighbours who may do us harm, violence, or wrong, 
and bear us malice, etc. Hence, if thou dost not forgive, 
do not imagine that God will forgive thee ; but if thou 



THE LORD S PRAYER 125 



dost forgive, thon wilt have the comfort and certainty of 
knowing that thou wilt be pardoned in heaven ; and not 
because of thy forgiveness for God would do so in any 
case of His own accord, from pure loving-kindness, simply 
for the sake of His promise, as we learn from the Gospel 
but by way of giving us confidence and encouragement, 
as a token in addition to the promise corresponding with 
this prayer : Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke vi. 37). 
Therefore Christ repeats the promise almost immediately 
after giving us the Lord s Prayer, and says : For if ye 
forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will 
also forgive you (Matt. vi. 15). 

Accordingly, that token is attached to this petition, so, 
that when we pray we may remember the promise, and 
think thus : Father, I come and ask that Thou wilt 
forgive me, not that 1 can do enough or deserve it with 
any work of my own, but because Thou hast promised it 
and affixed Thy seal to it, in order that it may be as 
certain as though it had been received in absolution 
spoken by Thee. For what Baptism and the Sacrament 
accomplish, as outward signs, this sign may also accom 
plish, to strengthen and make glad our conscience ; and 
besides other reasons it is appointed for this purpose that 
we may make use of it at all hours, and have it by us 
at all times. 



THE SIXTH PETITION 

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION. 

We have now heard enough of what trouble and effort 
is required for us to receive and keep all we pray for, and 
we know that we cannot get on without sin and stumbling. 
Besides, although we obtain forgiveness and a good con 
science and are wholly absolved, yet life is such, that 
although to-day we may stand, to-morrow we may fall. 
Therefore, although we may be virtuous and have an easy 
conscience before God, still we must pray that He will 
not let us fall back and yield to attack or temptation. 



126 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



Now, temptation is of three kinds : of the flesh, the 
world, and the devil. For we dwell in the flesh, and 
the old Adam is always astir in us, and he incites us 
daily to wrong-doing, laziness, gluttony and drunken 
ness, to avarice, deceit, and fraud towards our neighbour ; 
in fact, to all kinds of evil lusts, which are inborn in 
us and are aroused by companionship and example, by 
hearing and seeing what others do, and all this ofttimes 
injures and inflames an innocent heart. 

Then comes the world, which offends us with words 
and" deeds, and drives us to impatience and anger. In 
fact, there is around us nothing but hate and envy, 
enmity, violence and wrong-doing, perfidy, vengeance, 
swearing, abuse, slander, pride and arrogance, with 
luxurious adornment, honour, fame and power; for no 
one will be considered of inferior importance, all wish 
the topmost place and to be seen of all men. 

Thsrucomes the devil, who worries and harasses us 
on all sides, but occupies himself especially with all that 
concerns the conscience and spiritual matters : for in 
stance, his main object is to cause God s word and work 
to be neglected and despised, and thus to tear us from 
faith, hope and charity, and to lead us into unbelief, false 
confidence, and obstinacy; or else he drives us to despair, 
so that we deny God, blaspheme, and commit innumer 
able other kinds of wickedness. These are the snares 
and nets, yea, veritable fiery shafts that are shot, not by 
mere flesh and blood, but by the devil, into our hearts 
most venomously. 

And every Christian has to face these perils and 
temptations, which are great and formidable, and would 
be even though they came alone ; so we are forced to cry 
to God and to pray every hour, because we live amid this 
evil life, and are hounded, hunted, and driven on all 
sides ; and we are obliged to pray that God will not let 
us grow weary and tired and fall back into sin, shame, 
and unbelief ; otherwise it would be impossible for us to 
overcome the smallest temptation. 

Now what the words Lead us not into temptation 



THE LORD S PRAYER 127 

mean, is that we ask God to give us strength and 
power to resist the temptation, not that the temptation 
is to be removed or done away with. No one can escape 
temptation or provocation, because we live in the flesh 
and have the devil about us, so it cannot be otherwise, 
and we have to sutler temptation and endure it ; but we 
have to pray that we may not fall into it and be drowned 
in it. 

Therefore it is a different matter to feel the provoca 
tion, and to yield to it or say yea to it. We all have to 
feel it, though not all in the same measure, for some 
are more sorely tempted: for instance, the young are 
tempted specially by the flesh ; older people are tempted 
by the world; others again who are engaged in spiritual 
matters that is, strong Christians are tempted by the 
devil. But no one can be harmed by the mere feeling 
alone, since it is contrary to our wish and we would fain 
be rid of it. For if we did not feel it, it could not be 
called temptation. To yield to it, is to give it the reins, 
and neither to resist nor to pray against it. 

Therefore we Christians must be armed against it, and 
daily expect to be incessantly attacked, so that none of 
us go our way in careless security as though the devil 
were far from us ; we must everywhere expect his attacks 
and resist them. For though I may at the present 
moment be chaste, patient, gentle, and firm in my faith, 
the devil may this very hour shoot such a shaft into my 
heart that I may scarce be able to withstand it, for he is 
a foe who never ceases or wearies ; and when one attack 
ceases, others constantly begin anew. 

Accordingly there is no help or comfort but to take 
refuge in the Lord s Prayer and to appeal to God from 
our heart, saying : Dear Father. Thou hast bidden me 
pray ; let me not fall away through temptation. Then 
thon wilt see that it must cease and at length be over 
come. Whereas if thou seekest to help thyself by thine 
own thoughts and thine own counsel, thou wilt only 
make matters worse and give the devil more scope. For 
he has the head of a serpent, and where he finds a hole 



128 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



into which he can slip, he wriggles his whole body in 
after it without hindrance ; but prayer can oppose him 
and drive him back. 



THE SEVENTH AND LAST PETITION 

BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL. AMEN. 

In Greek these words run thus : " Deliver, or guard, 
us from the evil or malicious one," and they would seem 
to refer to the devil, as though everything were here 
summed up, and the whole prayer were directed against 
our arch-foe. For he it is who hinders all we pray for: 
God s name or honour ; God s kingdom and will ; our 
daily bread; a good and joyful conscience, etc. And 
therefore, in summing up the whole, we say : Dear 
Father, help us that we may be rid of all this misfortune. 
But none the less it includes all the evil we encounter in 
the devil s kingdom poverty, shame, death, in short, all 
accursed misery and sorrow, of which there is an infinity 
on earth. For the devil, because he is not only a liar 
but a murderer, unceasingly seeks to take our lives, and 
wreaks his anger on us wherever he can cause harm 
or injiuy to our bodies. Hence he breaks the neck of 
many a man, drives others out of their senses, drowns 
some in the water, and others he harasses so much that 
they take their own lives, arid does many other frightful 
things. Therefore the only thing we can do on earth is 
to pray unceasingly against this arch-fiend, for if God did 
not support us we should not be safe from him one hour. 

Accordingly thou seest that God desires we should pray 
to Him for all that concerns our bodily well-being, and 
that we should not seek or look for help except from Him. 
And this petition He has placed last, because if we are to 
be guarded and freed from evil, His name must first be 
hallowed among us, His kingdom be come to us and His 
will done. Thereupon He will protect us from sin and 
shame and also from all that harms and hurts us. 

Therefore God has briefly set forth all the necessities 



OF BAPTISM 129 



that must ever beset us, so that we may have no excuse 
for not praying. Bat the strength of prayer lies in our 
learning to say, Amen, to it that is, not doubting that it 
will assuredly be heard and fulfilled. For it is nothing 
else but a word expressing implicit faith, which does not 
pray by way of speculation, but knows that God does not 
deceive us when He has promised to hear us. Now, where 
there is no such faith there can be no true prayer. 

Accordingly they are under a mischievous delusion 
who so pray as not to be able to say, Yea, with all their 
hearts, and be certain that God hears them, but remain 
in doubt, saying, How can I be so bold and presume to 
think that God hears my prayer ? Am I not a miserable 
sinner? etc. 

This is because they do not consider God s promise, 
but their own work and worth, and thus despise God 
and charge Him with lying ; wherefore they will receive 
nothing, for, as St. James says in his Epistle, i. 6 : Let 
him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers 
is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 
For let not that man think that he shall receive anything 
of the Lord. See what importance God lays on the 
principle that we should feel certain we are not praying in 
vain, and that we do not in any way despise our prayers. 

FOURTH PART 
OF BAPTISM 

We have now dealt with the three chief articles of the 
common Christian doctrine. In addition to these we 
must now speak of the two Sacraments instituted by 
Christ, of which every Christian must have, at least, a 
short and simple account, because without them no one 
can be a Christian, although unfortunately till now no in 
struction whatever about them has been given. In the 
first place we will take baptism, by which we are first 
received into Christianity. And in order that it may 
be well understood, we will speak of it plainly, and con 
sider only what is needful for us to know. We leave the 

9 



130 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



\ 



learned to show how it can be maintained and protected 
against heretics and sectarians. 

In the first place it is necessary that we should be 
well acquainted with the words on which baptism is 
established, and on which all depends that we have to say 
of it namely, Christ s own words at the end of the last 
chapter of St. Matthew : Go ye therefore and teach all 
nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of 
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Also in the last chapter 
of St. Mark (xvi. 16) : He that believeth and is baptised 
shall be sared : but he that believeth not shall be damned. 

It must be observed firstly that these words contain God s 
command and ordinance, so that we may feel no doubt 
as to whether baptism is a Divine thing or merely devised 
and instituted by man. For just as I can assert that the 
Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord s Prayer 
are not the outcome of any man s brains, but were given 
and revealed to us by God Himself, so I can maintain 
that baptism is no mere human device, but was ordained 
God Himself ; and, moreover, we are earnestly and 
strictly commanded to be baptised, otherwise we shall 
not obtain salvation, so that we are not to think it as 
light a matter as putting on a new red coat. For it is 
of the utmost consequence that it should be held in 
due and glorious estimation ; and we have especially 
to fight and struggle for this, because of the world being 
full of sects who denounce it as merely an outward 
thing, and such outward things as of no use. But 
whether it is an outward thing or not, here is God s 
word and command, which ordains, founds, and esta 
blishes baptism. And what God ordains and commands 
cannot be useless, but must be altogether a precious 
thing, even though in appearance it were less than a 
wisp of straw. Hitherto it has been esteemed a very 
great matter when the Pope granted absolution, or 
consecrated altars and churches by means of letters and 
bulls, and this merely because of the letters and seals ; 
ffien surely we should esteem baptism a much higher 
and more precious thing, because God has commanded it, 



OF BAPTISM 131 



and it is done in His name ; for the words given are 
Go and baptise, not in your own, but in God s name. 

And to be baptised in God s name is to be baptised, not 
by man, but by God Himself. Therefore, though it is 
carried out by the hand of man, it is verily God s own 
work, from which each one of us can infer right well 
that it is of much greater value than any work done by 
any man or saint. For what kind of work can be greater 
than a work of God s ? 

But the devil sets to work here and deceives us 
with false appearances, and leads us from God s work to 
consider our own work. For it seems a much finer thing 
when a Carthusian monk accomplishes a number ol 
great and difficult tasks, and we all think much more 
of what we ourselves do or deserve. But what the 
Scriptures teach is this : if we heaped up the works of 
all the monks, however precious and dazzling they might 
appear, they would not be as good or precious as one 
wisp of straw raised by God. Why ? Because His Person 
rs^more~~excellent and better. And we are here not to 
esteem the person by the work, but the work by the 
person from whom it necessarily taketh its excellence. 
But our mad reason will not listen to this, and because 
God s work may not shine like ours, it is considered of 
no value. 

Learn from this correctly to understand and properly 
to answer the question : What is baptism ? namely, to 
answer thus : It is not mere common water, but a 
water comprised in God s word and commandment, and 
thereby sanctified, so that it becomes sacred water ; not 
that the water is in itself better than other waters, but 
that God s word and ordinance have come upon it. There 
fore it is rank wickedness, and the devil s wiles, that 
drive our new spirits to abuse baptism^ to disregard 
God s ordinance, and to look upon it only as water taken 
from a well, and hence to use such twaddle as this : How 
shall a handful of water help the soul ? Yea, my friend, 
who does not know that water is water if it be taken 
by itself? But how darest thou venture to interfere 



132 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



yn 



with God s ordinance, and take away the most costly 
part which God has attached to it, and in which He has 
set it, and will not have separated from it ? For that is 

the kernel in the water, God s Word or commandment 
v/and God s name, which is a treasure greater and more 
excellent than either heaven or earth. 

Mark, then, this distinction: that baptismal water is a 
different thing from other water, not because of the 
atural element, but because something nobler is added 
to it, for God Himself has bestowed upon it His honour, 
and given it His strength and power. Therefore it is 
not merely natural water, but a Divine, heavenly, holy 
and blessed water, and whatever else can be said in its 
praise, all for the sake of the Word, which is a heavenly, 
Divine Word, which none can glorify enough, for it is 
and can accomplish all that is of God. From thence 

[also it derives its nature and is called a sacrament, as 
St. Augustine teaches : " Accedat verbum ad elementum, 
ct fit sacramentum," which means, if the Word be added 

| to the element or natural substance it becomes a sacra- 

Iment, that is, a Divine and holy thing and token. 

For this reason we teach always that the Sacraments 
and all other outward symbols which God has ordained 
and appointed are not to be judged by their common 
outward appearance, as we distinguish between the shell 
and a kernel, but we are to remember that they include 
God s Word. For we might speak in the same way of 
the state of father and mother and those in secular 
authority, were we only to consider that they have noses, 
eyes, skin, hair, flesh and bone, just like Turks and 
heathens ; and some might say : Why should I think 
more of them than of others ? But because the com 
mandment is given, Thou shalt honour thy father and 
mother, I behold a different man, adorned and clothed in 
the splendour and majesty of God. The commandment, 
I say, is the golden chain he bears about his neck, 
yea, is like a crown on his head, and shows me how and 
why I should honour this flesh and blood. 

Hence thou should st honour and esteem baptism for 



OF BAPTISM 133 



the sake of the Word, for God Himself has honoured it by 
word and deed, and confirmed it by miracles from heaven. 
For tliinkest thou it was a light matter that the heavens 
opened when Christ allowed Himself to be baptised, and 
the Holy Spirit came down in visible form, manifesting 
the Divine glory and majesty ? (Matt. iii. 16). 

Accordingly I again exhort you on no account ever to 
consider the Word and the Water apart or to separate 
them. For when the Word is withheld, we have water 
only such as the maid uses to cook with, and such might 
as well be called a bath-baptism ; but when treated as 
God has ordered, it is a sacrament, and is called Christian 
baptism. This is the first point respecting the nature 
and value of the holy Sacrament. 

In the second place, as we have now learned what 
baptism is and how we are to regard it, we must also 
learn why and wherefore it was instituted that is, of 
what use it is, what it bestows and accomplishes. This 
cannot be done better than out of the words of Christ 
quoted above : He that believeth and is baptised shall 
be saved. Therefore, to express it in the simplest form, 
it may be understood to mean that the whole force, 
work, necessity, fruit and end of baptism is to confer 
salvation. For no one is baptised that he may become 
a prince, but, as the words say, that he may be saved. 
Now, to be saved, as we know, is to be released from sin, 
death, and the devil, and to be brought into Christ s 
kingdom, and to live with Him there for ever. 

Here again thou seest what a precious and important 
thing baptism is, because we obtain through it such an 
inestimable treasure ; and this alone shows that it cannot 
be common ordinary water. For common water could 
not accomplish this fit is the Word that does it, and (as 
has been said above) because it contains God s name. 
And where God s name is there also is life and salvation, 
so that it is indeed sacred, blessed, profitable, and gracious 
water ; for through the Word it receives the power to 
become a washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it, 
in the third chapter of his Epistle to Titus. 



134 fHE GREATER 



But when our wiseacres, with their modern ideas, make 
out that faith alone will save us, and that work and out 
ward things cannot effect anything, our answer is that 
assuredly nothing works in us but faith, as we shall see 
from what follows. But these blind leaders will not see 
that faith must have something to believe, that is, to 
whicli it can cling, on which it can stand and rest. So 
faith clings to the water, and believes that baptism 
confers salvation and life, not through the water (as 
has been sufficiently said), but because it embodies God s 
Word and Command, and because His name is attached 
to it. Now, in believing this, what else do I believe but 
on God, as on Him who has added His Word to it, and 
given us this outward sign, so that we may understand 
what a treasure we possess in it ? 

But there are some people mad enough to separate faith 
from the sign to which the faith is joined and attached, 
because it is an outward thing. Yea, it is and must be 
outward, in order that we may grasp it with our senses and 
understand it, and thus have it impressed on our hearts, 
just as the whole Gospel is an outward sermon by word of 
mouth. In brief, whatever God does and effects in us He 
accomplishes through such outward means. Now when 
ever He speaks, and wherever and through whatsoever 
He speaks, let faith look to and hold fast to it. Moreover 
we have the words : He that believeth and is baptised shall 
be saved ; and to what do they refer but to baptism, that 
is, to the water included in God s ordinance ? Therefore 
it follows that whoever rejects baptism, rejects God s 
Word, faith, and Christ, who has directed us and bound 
us to baptism. 

In the third place, having now seen the great use and 
power of baptism, let us further see what persons receive 
it, and what baptism gives them, and of what use it is. 
That, again, is most definitely and clearly expressed in the 
words : He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; 
that is, faith alone makes the person worthy usefully to 
receive the wholesome and_hply water^ For inasmuch 
as this is stated and promised in the words together with 



OF BAPTISM 135 



the water, it cannot be received unless we believe it from 
our hearts. It will avail us nothing without faith, 
although in itself it be a Divine and inestimable treasure. 
Accordingly the few words, He that believeth, etc., are 
so pregnant that they exclude and reject all the works 
we ourselves may do with the idea of obtaining and 
deserving salvation. For it is agreed that what is not 
faith can contribute nothing and receives nothing. 

But if they should say, as they are wont to : Is not 
baptism itself a work ? and you say works alone are 
of no avail towards salvation : where then is faith ? 
Answer : Verily, our own works will not be of any_ 
:ivail towards salvation, but baptism is not our work, 
Efi^G~o^~(for," as" was said above, thou must make 
a great distinction between Christian baptism and mere 
bath-baptism) ; and God s works are wholesome and 
necessary for salvation, and do not exclude but demand 
faith, for without faith we could not lay hold of them. 
For merely to have the water poured over thee will not 
give thee baptism, to be of any use to thee ; whereas it 
will be of use to thee if thou art baptised in the faith 
that it is God s command and ordinance, and in God s 
name, in order that thou mayest receive the promised 
salvation iii the water. Now, neither our hand nor our 
body can accomplish this ; our hearts must believe it. 

Accordingly thou canst see clearly that this is not 
any work of ours, but a blessing which God gives us and 
faith comprehends ; just as our Lord Christ on the cross 
is not a work, but: a blessing comprehended in the Word, 
and offered to us and received through faith. Therefore 
those do us injustice who raise an outcry against us and 
say that we preach against faith ; whereas we are always 
urging it as so essential, inasmuch as nothing can be 
received or enjoyed without it. 

These, therefore, are the three points which must be 
understood concerning this Sacrament, more especially 
that it is God s ordinance and must be held in all honour ; 
and this alone should be sufficient, even though it is 
quite an outward thing. Just as in the case of the 



I 



136 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

coniinanclmeiiG : T/toa s/talt honour thy father and thy 
mother, which is directed to flesh and blood; yet we 
do not consider the mere flesh and blood, but God s 
commandment in which they are comprehended, and for 
the sake of which the flesh and blood receive the names 
father and mother. Hence, if we had no more than the 
words : Go ye therefore and baptise, etc., we should have 
to accept and act upon it as God s ordinance. And we 
have not only the command and order, but also the 
promise ; wherefore it is even more glorious than any 
thing else that God has commanded and ordained ; in 
short, so full of comfort and mercy that heaven and earth 
cannot grasp it. And it requires capacity to believe such 
a thing ; the treasure is not wanting, but we want the 
power to comprehend and to hold by it. 

Accordingly every Christian has enough to do all his 
life long to study and to exercise himself in baptism ; 
for he has ever to take heed that he firmly believes what 
it promises and brings him namely, victory over the 
devil and death, the forgiveness of sins, God s mercy, 
all Christ, and the Holy Spirit with His gifts. In 
short, it is so inestimable a blessing that if our foolish 
nature did but consider, it might well doubt whether it 
could all be true. Dost thou not think that, if there 
were a physician who knew the art of keeping people 
from dying, or if they died, gave them everlasting life 
afterwards, all the world would flock to him and shower 
their gold upon him, so that none could come near him 
because of the rich ? But by baptism every one has 
a like blessing and medicine bestowed on him for 
nothing, one which will swallow up death and preserve 
us all in life. 

It is thus we must look on baptism and make it useful 
to us, that we may be comforted and strengthened by its 
means when our sins and our conscience trouble us, and 
may say : Still, I am baptised, and being baptised 1 
have received the promise that I shall be saved, and 
have eternal life for both body and soul. And this is why 
the two signs occur in baptism : the water is poured on 



UJ< BAPTISM 



our body, which can grasp only the water, and the Word 
is spoken, that our soul may likewise grasp it. And as 
both Word and water constitute one baptism, so both body 
and sonl shall be saved and live for ever, the soul 
through the Word in which it believes, the body because 
it is connected with the soul and receives baptism so far 
as it can receive it. Therefore we have no greater bless 
ing for body and soul ; because through it we are 
rendered most holy and blessed, which no other life or 
work on earth could obtain for us. 

We have now said as much concerning the nature, use 
and object of baptism as is required here. 

OK THK BAPTISM OF INFANTS 

There arises now a question with which the devil and 
his sects would confound the world : the question of 
the baptism of infants, whether they can have faith and 
be properly baptised ? To which we say briefly: Let 
him who is simple cast the question aside, and refer it 
to those acquainted with the subject. However, if thou 
desirest to answer, answer thus : that the baptism of 
children is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved by 
His own actions, God having made many of them holy, 
and given the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who were 
thus baptised ; and (o this day there are many who 
show signs of possessing the gift of the Holy Spirit both 
in doctrine and in life ; just as we, too, are enabled 
by God s grace to interpret the, Scriptures :i.nd to know 
r lm sf, which wec.onld not do without (he aid of I he Holy 
SniriL Whereas if God did not accept infant baptism, 
Tie would not bestow on any of them the gift of the 
Holy Spirit or any portion of it; in short, from time 
immemorial to this day no one on earth could have been 
a Christian. But as God has confirmed baptism by the 

fill of His own Ho.ly_ Spirit, us we perceive in various 
Others of the Church, such as St. Bernard, Gerson, flojin * 
1 1 ii-- mid others, who were baptised in in fancy; and the 
holy Christian Church will abide till the end of the world, 



1 3 8 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

it will have to be admitted that sucli infant baptism is 
pleasing to God. For He can never act contrary to Him 
self or promote lies and wickedness, or bestow on these 
His grace and blessing. This is almost the best and 
strongest proof for ignorant, simple folk. For no one can 
take from us or overthrow this article : / believe in the 
Holy Christian Church, the Community of Saints, etc. 

Further, we maintain that it is not of the utmost 
importance whether he who is baptised has faith or not, 
for this will not make the baptism wrong ; everything 
depends on God s Word and command. This is perhaps j 
a little boldly expressed, but it is based on what I have \ 
already said : that baptism is nothing but water and 
God s Word, in and with each other that is, if the Word I 
is with the water the baptism is right, although the faith / 
be not present. For my faith does not make the baptism,/ 
but receives baptism. Now the baptism does not becom/ 
wrong, although it may not be rightly received nor used, 
because (as has been said) it is not bound to our faith, 
but to the Word. For, even though a Jew were, to-day, 
to come to us with deceitful and evil purpose, and we 
were to baptise him in all seriousness, we should none 
the less have to admit that the baptism is right : for 
there was the water together with God s Word, although 
he ~clid not receive it as he should have ; in the same 
way as those who unworthily partake of the Sacrament 
receive the true Sacrament, although they have no faith 
in it. 

Accordingly thou seest that the objections raised by 
these sectaries are of no value. For, as we said, even 
though children have not faith which is not the case, 
as has been proved yet the baptism would be right, and 
let no one baptise them again. In the same way the 
Sacrament itself is not affected, even though a man 
partake of it with evil purpose, and it could not be 
tolerated that, because of that abuse, he should at the 
same hour receive it again, as though he had not 
truly received the Sacrament : that would be to insult 
and dishonour the Sacrament in the worst possible 



Of BAPTISM 139 

manner. How can we imagine that God s Word and 
ordinance could be wrong and of no value, because we 
put them to a wrong use ? 

Wherefore I say, if thou hast not believed, believe 
now, and speak thus : the baptism was assuredly right, 
but unfortunately I did not receive it rightly. For 
I, and all who are baptised, must address God thus : 
I come to Thee in my faith and in that of others, 
yet cannot rely on my own faith or the prayers of 
those who pray for me : what I rely upon is, that it 
is Thy Word and command. Just as I go to the 
Sacrament, not because of my own faith, but because 
of Christ s words; whether "l be strong or weak, I 
leave God to judge. I know, however, that He bids 
me go eat and drink, etc., and gives me His body and 
blood, and that this will never lie to me or deceive me. 

Now it is thus also with infant baptism. We bring 
the child in the belief and hope that it has faith, and 
pray God to give it faith ; but we do not baptise it on 
this account, but solely because God has commanded it. 
Why so ? Because we know that God does not lie : I 
and my neighbour and all the world may err and deceive, 
but God s Word cannot deceive. 

Therefore it is only foolish, presumptuous persons who 
argue and infer that, where there is no faith, the baptism 
cannot be right. I might in the same way argue that, 
if I have no faith, Christ is nothing worth ; or, if I am 
not obedient, father and mother and my superiors are 
nothing worth. Is it a wise conclusion that because a 
man does not do what he ought to do, therefore the 
thing itself is of no consequence and of no value ? 
My good friend, look at it differently, and rather reason 
thus : Baptism is a real thing and is right, but may have 
been wrongly received. For if it were not right in 
itself, we could not abuse it or sin against it. Wherefore 
it is said: " Abusus non tollit, sed confirmat sub- 
stantiam," Abuse does not remove the substance, but 
confirms it. For gold is none the less gold because a 
harlot wears it in sin and shame. 



140 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

Therefore let it be concluded that baptism is always 
right and retains its full force, even though only one 
man had been baptised and had no proper faith. For 
God s ordinance and Word cannot be made variable or 
be changed by mankind. But there are fanatics so 
blinded that they do not discern God s Word and 
command, and regard baptism as though it were but 
water in a brook or pot, and those in authority as 
though they were ordinary people ; and because "they 
see neither faith nor obedience, these things are to be 
considered of no value whatever. This is the work 
of a sly, rebellious devil, who would gladly tear the 
sceptre from those in authority, so that it might be 
trampled under foot, and otherwise perverts and destroys 
God s work and ordinances. Therefore we must be 
watchful and prepared, and not be turned or led astray 
from the Word, so as to neglect baptism or regard it as 
an empty sign, as these fanatics fancy it to be. 

Lastly, we must also know what baptism signifies, aiid^ 
why God has ordered such outward signs and actions 
to accompany the sacrament through which we are first 
received into Christianity. Now the function or action 
is that we are submerged in the water which flows over 
us, and we are then taken out again. These two actions, 
the submersion and the emersion, indicate the power 
and function of baptism, and are nothing else than the 
killing of the old Adam in us and the resurrection of the 
new man, both of which will continue in us all our life 
long ; hence a Christian life is nothing else but a daily 
baptism, once begun and to be always continued. For it 
must be done without intermission, so that every thing- 
pertaining to the old Adam may be swept away, and all 
that pertains to the new man may come forth. But what 
is the old Adam ? It is that which we inherit from 
Adam ; all that is wrathful, hateful, envious, unchaste, 
avaricious, idle, presumptuous, yea, unbelieving ; he is 
burdened with all sin in fact, there is nothing good in 
him. Now, when we come into Christ s kingdom, all 
this should daily diminish in us, and we should gradually 



OF BAPTISM 141 



become more gentle, more patient, kinder, and gradually 
overcome our avarice, hate, envy, and arrogance. 

This is the right use of baptism among Christians, 
as indicated by baptism with water. Now, where this 
is not done, and the old Adam in us is left uncurbed, so 
that he becomes stronger, this is not only not making 
use of baptism, but is resisting baptism. For those 
who are outside Christ cannot but become daily worse, 
as the proverb says with truth : evil unchecked waxeth 
worse and worse. If a man has been proud and avaricious 
a year ago, he will be much more proud and avaricious 
this year ; hence the vice of youth grows and increases. 
A young child has no special vice in itself, but when 
it grows up it becomes vicious and unchaste ; if it attains 
full manhood, the real vices begin, and the more it yields 
the more they increase. Wherefore the old Adam in us 
goes unchecked unless he is restrained and curbed by the 
power of baptism. Again, when we become Christians, 
the old nature in us daily grows weaker, till at length 
it is altogether subdued. That means being well sub 
merged in baptism and daily emerging again. So the 
outer sign is given, not only that it may work efficaciously, 
but also that it may signify something. Accordingly, 
where we have faith and its fruits, it is not a thing of 
empty signification, but the effect silso is there; where 
there is no faith it remains a mere barren symbol. 

And here thou seest that both in its power and its 
signification baptism includes the third Sacrament, which 
has been called Repentance, but which is really nothing 
else than baptism. For what does repentance mean but 
earnestly attacking the old Adam in us and beginning 
a new life ? Therefore, if thou livest in repentance, thou 
art receiving baptism, which not only signifies a new 
life, but accomplishes it, starts it and hastens it ; for by 
means of it we receive God s grace and spirit, and power 
to subdue the old Adam, so that the new man may arise 
in us and wax strong. 

Therefore baptism will always hold good ; and though 
some fall away and sin, they can always return to it in 



1 42 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



order to subdue again the old Adam. But we may not 
be re-baptised with water, for though we were submerged 
a hundred times in the water, it would be no more than 
one baptism, for the act and signification always remain 
and endure. So that repentance is nothing but a return 
and re-entry into baptism, that we may repeat what was 
once begun and let drop. 

I say this that it may not be imagined, as has been 
done for some time past, that baptism loses its force and 
is no longer of any use after we have again fallen back 
into sin. This is because it is regarded only in the light 
of a work accomplished, and has, in fact, arisen from 
St. Jerome having written that : Repentance is the 
other sacrament by which we have to swim across 
and get ashore after the ship has foundered in whicli 
we entered the Christian Church. But this would be 
depriving baptism of its value by making it of no further 
use. Wherefore this is not rightly expressed : for the 
ship does not founder, because (as has been said) it is 
God s ordinance, not anything of our making ; but what 
does happen is, that we slip and fall away. Hence, if 
any one fall away, let him see to it that he swim back 
again and hold on till he can enter again, and go on 
therein, as he did at first. 

Thus we see what a truly excellent thing baptism is, 
which pulls us out of the devil s jaws, makes us God s .own 
children, subdues and removes sin, daily strengthens the 
new man in us, and always remains with us till we pass 
from misery to everlasting glory. Therefore every one 
should regard baptism as a garment for every day use, 
which he should always have on, that he may ever be 
in the midst of faith and its fruits, in order to be able 
to subdue the old Adam and go forward in the new man. 
For if we would be Christians, we must adhere to the 
work which makes us Christians. If any one fall away, 
let him return again. For as Christ, on His mercy-seat, 
does not withdraw Himself from us, or refuse to let 
us return to Him, although we have sinned, so all His 
blessings and gifts remain with us. Now, as the forgive- 



OF THE SACRAMENT OF 2 HE ALTAR 143 

ness of sins is once for all received through baptism, it 
remains with ns day by day as long as we live that is, 
as long as we have the old Adam about ns. 

OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 

In the same way as we have spoken of holy baptism, 
we must now speak of this other Sacrament, that is, 
these three things : what it is, what its use is, and 
who may receive it. And all this is based on the words 
with which Christ instituted it, and every one who 
would be a Christian and partake of the Sacrament 
should know them. For we are not disposed to grant or 
to bestow it on those who do not know what they seek 
in it, or why they come. The words are as follows : 

The Lord Jesus, the same night in ichich lie mas betrayed, 
took bread : and when He had given thanks, lie brake it, 
and gave it to His disciples, and said : Take, eat ; this is 
My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance 
of Me. 

After the same manner also He took the cup, when He 
had supped, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying : 
Drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My 
blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins ; 
this do ye as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of Me 
(Matt. xxvi. 26, sqq. ; Mark xiv. 22, sqq. ; Luke xxii. 19, 
sqq. ; 1 Cor. xi. 23, sqq. 

We do not mean, here, to dispute and argue with the 
blasphemers and abusers of this Sacrament, but in the 
first place to learn what is the point of chief weight 
in it, as we did with baptism, namely, that it is God s 
i Word and ordinance or command ; for it was not invented 
\ or instituted by any man, but was ordained by Christ 
without the advice or suggestion of any man. There 
fore, as the Ten Commandments, the Lord s Prayer and 
the Creed retain their power and value whether we keep 
the commandments or not., whether we pray or not, and 
wlu tlTer we have faith or not, so this most holy Sac rarnenT 
remains unalterable ; it is not divested of anything, even 



144 THE GREATER CATECHISAf 



though we receive it and treat it unworthily. Dost thou 
think that God takes into consideration our actions and 
belief, so as to change His ordinances because of them ? 
Everything in the world remains as God created and 
ordained it, however we may treat and use it. This 
must always be borne in mind, for with it we can reject 
almost all the babbling of the sectarians, for they regard 
the Sacrament apart from God s Word and as a thing 
that we do. 

Now, what is the Sacrament of the Altar ? Answer : 
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in 
and under "the bread and wine, through Christ s Word, 
appointed for us Christians to eat and drink. And, as 
we said when speaking of baptism, that it is not mere 
water, so we say again here that the Sacrament is bread 
and wine ; but not mere bread and wine such as is 
ordinarily placed before us at meals, but bread and wine 
comprehended in God s Word and bound up in it. 

The Word (I say) is what makes and distinguishes the 
Sacrament, so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is, 
and is called, the body and blood of Christ ; for it is 
written: "Accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramen- 
tum : " when the Word is added to the outward thing, it 
becomes a Sacrament. This saying of St. Augustine is 
so precise and well expressed that he has scarcely said 
anything better. The Word must make the element a 
sacrament, otherwise it remains a mere element. Now, it 
is the Word and ordinance, not of a prince or an emperor, 
but of the Most High God ; wherefore all His creatures 
shall fall at His feet, saying, Yea, it shall be as He says, 
and shall be accepted in all honour, fear, and humility. 

With these words thou canst strengthen thy conscience 
and say : Even though a hundred thousand "devils with 
all their fanatics were to come and ask : How can bread 
and wine be the body and blood of Christ, etc. ? yet 
I know that all the spirits and learned men together are 
not as wise as is the little finger of the Almighty. And 
we have here Christ s own words : Take, eat ; this is My 
body : drink ye all of it ; this is the new testament in My 



OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 145 



blood. Let us hold to tins, and see who can overcome 
Him, or make it different from what He said. It is 
certainly true that if the Word be omitted, or it be 
regarded without the Word, then we should have nothing 
but mere bread and wine, whereas if the Word remains 
where it should and must be, then by^means of it we 
have the veritable body and blood of Christ. For as we 
have it from the mouth of Christ Himself, so it shall be, 
for He cannot lie or deceive. 

It is therefore easy to meet all the various kinds of 
questions with which people vex themselves now-a-days, 
such as : whether a wicked priest may touch or administer 
the Sacrament, and other similar ones. For we must 
reason thus and say : Though it be a rogue who takes or 
gives the Sacrament, it is the right Sacrament that is, 
Christ s body and blood just as though he handled it 
with utmost reverence. For it is not based on the holiness 
of mankind, but upon God s Word ; and since no saint 
on earth, yea, no angel in heaven, can make bread and 
wine into Christ s body and blood, so no one can change 
or alter it, although it be wrongly used. For neither the 
person nor the unbelief can falsify the Word by which it 
became a Sacrament and was instituted as such. For 
He did not say : If ye believe or are worthy, ye have 
My body and blood ; but Take, eat and drink ; this is 
J7y body and blood: this do (that is, what I do now insti 
tute, give you, and bid you take). This is as much as to 
say, whether thou art worthy or unworthy, thou hast 
here His body and blood by virtue of these words, which 
come to the bread and wine. Mark this and remember 
it well, for on these words is based our whole defence, 
protection and support against all errors and temptations 
which have ever arisen or may yet arise. 

Thus we have here briefly the first part, which concerns 
the nature of the Sacrament. Now let us see further, 
wherein lies the power and use of the Sacrament, why it 
was instituted, and what is its most essential part, so 
that we may know what we are to seek in and obtain 
from it. Now, this is easily and clearly seen from the 

10 



146 THE GREATER CATECHISM 



words already quoted : This is My body and blood, yiven 
for you and shed for the remission of sins. This is 
briefly as mucli as saying : we take the Sacrament to 
receive a treasure, through and in which we obtain for 
giveness of sins. Why so ? Because the words so stand, 
and confer it upon us ; for this is why He bids me eat 
and drink, so that it may be mine and be of use to me 
as a certain sign and a pledge, yea, that very blessing, 
which was instituted for my benefit against my sins, 
death, and all misfortune. 

Wherefore it is well named food for the soul, which 
nourishes and strengthens the new man in us ; for 
through baptism we are first born anew. But, as has 
been said before, we retain the old skin in our flesh and 
blood : the devil and the world so hinder and tempt us 
that we often grow weary and tired, and at times stumble. 
Wherefore it is given us for our daily need and nourish 
ment, so that our faith may be strengthened and refreshed, 
and that we may not fall back in such struggles, but ever 
increase in strength. For the new life in us is to be so 
constituted that it shall ever increase and continue. Yet 
it shall have to endure a great deal ; for the devil is such 
an angry foe, that when he sees that he is resisted, that 
we endeavour to subdue the old Adam in us, and that 
he cannot overcome us by violence, he sneaks and slinks 
about on all sides, trying all his arts, and never ceases 
till he has utterly wearied us out, so that we either drop 
our faith, prostrate ourselves before him, or grow out of 
heart and impatient. Wherefore this comfort is given 
us ; that, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, it may 
draw renewed strength and comfort from the Sacrament. 

But here our wiseacres, with all their great learning 
and wisdom, contort themselves in their loud outcries : 
How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith ? 
They might hear and know that we do not say this of the 
bread and wine, where these are nothing but bread and 
wine, but of such bread and wine as are the body and 
blood of Christ, and wherein the Word is included. This 
it is, we repeat, that is the treasure and no other, through 



OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 147 

which wo obtain forgiveness of sins : in no other wise is 
it granted and given us than in the words, for you given 
and shed ; herein thou seest both that it is Christ s body 
and blood, and that it is bestowed on thee as a treasure 
and gift. Now, Christ s body can never be a vain and 
profitless thing, effecting and accomplishing nothing. 
Still, however great the blessing is in itself, it must 
be contained in the Word, and be offered to us, else we 
could neither know of it nor seek it. 

Wherefore it comes to nothing when they say : Christ s 
body and blood are not given or shed for us in the Lord s 
Supper, and therefore we cannot obtain forgiveness of 
sins in the Sacrament. For although the work was 
accomplished on the cross and the forgiveness of sins was 
obtained there, still it cannot come to us otherwise than 
through the Word. Else how should we have known 
that this had been done or been obtained for us, had we 
not been told of it in sermons, or heard of it by word of 
mouth ? How could we know anything about it, or how 
could we conceive or comprehend anything about the for 
giveness, if we did not accept and believe the Scriptures 
and the Gospel ? Now the whole Gospel and the article 
of the Creed : / believe in one holy Christian Church, the 
forgiveness of sins, etc., is incorporated in the Sacrament 
by the Word and revealed to us. Why should we let such 
a* blessing be torn asunder from the Sacrament? They 
have to admit after all that these are the very words 
given us in the Gospel, and they cannot maintain that 
these words are of no use in the Sacrament, just as little 
as they can declare that the whole Gospel or the Word of 
God is of no use. 

Thus we have the whole Sacrament, what it is in 
itself and what it bestows on us and accomplishes. Now 
let us see what persons can receive this strength and 
benefit. This can be most briefly stated, as we did above 
and elsewhere when speaking of baptism, by the words : 
Whoever believes has what the words promise and what 
they bring. For they are not spoken or addressed to 
stone or wood, but to those who hear them, and to whom 



148 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

Christ says : Take and eat, etc. And because He offers 
and promises forgiveness of sins, it cannot be received 
otherwise than through faith. Such faith He Himself 
demands when He says : For you given and for you shed, 
as though He would have said : I give it you and bid 
you eat and drink, that you may accept it and enjoy it. 
Now, he who takes this to heart, and believes it to be 
true, has it ; whereas he who does not believe, has it 
not, for he allows it to be offered to him in vain, and 
cannot enjoy the gracious blessing. The blessing is 
opened to us and at every one s door yea, on every 
one s table ; still it is necessary that thou accept it and 
believe it faithfully, as given by the words. 

This is all that is required by a Christian, to prepare 
him for receiving the Sacrament worthily. For since 
this blessing is offered in the words, we cannot grasp 
or accept it otherwise with our hearts ; with our hand 
we could not grasp such a gift and everlasting blessing. 
Fasting, praying, etc., may perhaps serve as an outward 
preparation, and a discipline for the simple, so that our 
body be kept chaste and reverent towards the body and 
blood of Christ, but that which is given in and" with 

/ it cannot be comprehended or obtained by our body. 
But the faith of the heart does it, as it recognises the 

Ualessing, and desires it. This is sufficient for all ordinary 
instruction in this Sacrament ; whatever else remains to 
be said, is for another occasion. 

In conclusion, and because we have now the right 
understanding and knowledge of the Sacrament, it is 
necessary to add a warning and exhortation that this 
great blessing, which is daily administered amongst 
Christians, should not be offered in vain, that those who 
would be Christians should be prepared to receive the 
Holy Sacrament often. For it is evident that we are apt 
to grow lax and careless in the matter, and there are a 
great number of persons who accept the Gospel, but 
who, because the Pope s inventions are done away with, 
and they feel themselves freed from his authority and 
commands, go for a year, or even for two or three years, 



OF THE SACRAMEN7 OF THE ALTAR 149 

without receiving the Sacrament, as though they were such 
strong Christians that they had no need of it ; and many 
let themselves be deterred or frightened from it, because 
they have been taught that none should receive it unless 
they feel the necessary hunger and thirst that would 
urge them to partake of it. Others maintain that it is 
a matter of choice, not a necessity, and that it is sufficient 
if they have faith otherwise ; the end being, that the 
greater number become so rude that they despise both 
the Sacrament and God s Word. 

Now it is true, as has already been said, that we must 
neither compel nor force any one, for fear of committing 
a new soul-murder. But this, nevertheless, we must 
know : that such persons as reject or withdraw them 
selves for so long a time from the Sacrament are not to 
be, looked on as Christians ; for Christ did not institute it 
for us to make a spectacle of it, but it was His command 
to Christians that they should eat and drink it in remem 
brance of Him. And those who are true Christians and 
value and esteem the Sacrament ought, indeed, to urge 
and force themselves to receive it. But, in order that 
simpler and weaker folk, who would also gladly be 
Christians, may be more tempted to consider the reason 
and the necessity which should induce them to receive it, 
we will dwell on this point a little. For just as in other 
matters which concern faith, love, and patience, it is 
not sufficient merely to teach and instruct, but daily to 
admonish, so it is necessary, here likewise, to rouse people 
with sermons lest they grow lax or disheartened, because 
we know and feel that the devil for ever opposes this 
and all other Christian work, and hounds and harasses 
men as much as he can. 

In the first place we have the plain text in the words 
of Christ : this do in remembrance of me. These words 
command and order all those who would be Christians to 
partake of the Sacrament. Therefore whoever would be 
one of Christ s followers, to whom the words are spoken ; 
let him think of this and hold to it, not because he is 
forced by others, but because of his obedience and love 



150 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

to Christ. Thou mayest say : but it is also written, as 
oft as ye do it, which shows that He forces none, but 
leaves it to free choice. Answer : True, but it is not said 
that we are never to partake of it ; yea rather, when He 
says : As oft as ye do it, it is intimated that we should 
partake of it often, and the words are, in fact, added 
because He will have the Sacrament free, not bound to 
any special period of time like the paschal lamb of the 
Jews, which has to be eaten only once a year, and, indeed, 
on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first full 
moon, and not a day later (Numbers ix. 5). It is as 
though He meant to say, I institute an Easter feast or 
Supper for you, which you are to partake of, not only on 
this one evening once a year, but frequently, and when 
and where you choose, according to your opportunity and 
necessity, and in no way bound by any definite place or 
time ; although the Pope has altered this, and turned 
it again into a Jewish feast. 

Hence thou seest no freedom is granted thee to treat 
it with contempt. For I call it treating the Sacrament 
with contempt to allow a long time to pass without 
receiving it, when there is nothing to hinder us. If thou 
wouldst enjoy this freedom, thou canst have still more 
freedom, and cease being a Christian, and neither pray 
nor believe, for both are equally Christ s commandments. 
If thou wouldst be a Christian, thou must from time to 
time fulfil and obey this command ; for it should move 
thee to enter into " thyself and to reflect thus : What 
manner of Christian am I ? Were I one, I should long 
a little for that which my Master bade me do. 

And since we so shirk it, it is clear what manner of 
Christians we must have been under the papacy, for we 
went to the Sacrament then simply because we were 
forced, and because we feared human commands, without 
any desire or love for it, and unmindful of Christ s com 
mand. Whereas now we force and compel no one, and 
no one may venture to partake of it merely to serve 
and please us. It should suffice to incite and urge thee 
that He desires it, and that it pleases Him. We should 



OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 151 

not allow any man to force us to believe or to do any 
other sood work. All we do is to speak and to admonish 
thee as to what thou shouldst do, not for our sake, but 
for thine own. He calls on us and urges us ; if thou 
despisest His call, thou must answer for it thyselt. _ 

This is the first point we have to mention, especially 
for the cold and indifferent, that they may reflect and be 
aroused. For it is certainly true, as I have experienced 
in myself, and as every one will find out for himself, that 
if we withhold ourselves from it, we shall, day by day, 
OTOW ruder and colder, and soon cast it to the winds 
altogether. Whereas we ought to question heart and 
conscience, and act like men who would gladly do right 
before God. The more we do this, the more our hearts 
will be warmed and stirred within us, and never grow 

But shouldst thou say : What if I feel I am not pre 
pared ? Answer : This is also a delusion, due especially 
to the old custom under the Pope, when men tortured 
themselves to become quite pure, that God might fand 
no flaw in them ; and we all became so timid, that 
in our distress we exclaimed : Alas I I am not worthy. 
For then nature and reason begin to contrast our un- 
worthiness with the great and priceless blessing and it 
seems like a dark lantern compared with the clear brig lit 
sun, or like dung by the side of precious gems ; and 
because they see this, people will not partake ot it, or 
they wait till they become worthy, and thus week suc 
ceeds week, and one half-year the other. But if thou 
art for ever enquiring how good and pure thou art, and 
striving that conscience may never bite thee, thou wilt- 
never come to the Sacrament. 

Wherefore we must distinguish between people. 1< 
those who are insolent and unruly it should be said that 
they had better remain away, for they are not fit to 
receive forgiveness of sins, inasmuch as they show no 
desire for it and an unwillingness to act worthily, but 
others, who are not unruly or evil-minded persons and 
who would like to act righteously, should not withdraw 



152 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

from the Sacrament, even though they are weak and 
sinful. For, as St. Hilary says : If the sin committed 
be not one for which the transgressor is justly expellea 
from the congregation, he is not to abstain from the 
Sacrament, so that he may not be deprived of life. No 
one can ever attain such a state of excellence, that he 
will not retain many daily faults in flesh and blood. 

Accordingly, such people must learn that the chief 
point is to know that the Sacrament does not depend on 
our own worthiness ; for we do not have ourselves baptised 
as being holy and worthy, nor do we come to confession 
as though we were pure and without sin ; but for the 
very opposite reason, as being poor, miserable beings 
in fact, just because we are unworthy ; unless, indeed, 
any one came who did not desire either absolution or 
mercy, and had no thought of improving himself. But 
those who desire mercy and comfort ought to urge 
themselves to partake, and not allow any one to frighten 
them from so doing, and speak thus : I would fain be 
worthy, but I do not come in my worthiness, but in Thy 
Word, because Thou hast commanded it, and I come as 
one who desires to be Thy disciple, whatever my own 
worthiness may be. Now, this is difficult ; for it is 
always a stumbling-block and hindrance to us that we 
think more of ourselves than of Christ s Word and 
utterance. For human nature would like to rely and 
depend on itself ; where it cannot do so, it will do nothing. 
Let this suffice for the first part. 

In the second place, as has been said above, a promise 
is attached to the command which ought most strongly to 
urge and induce us. For we have the kind and friendly 
words : This is my body, given for you ; this is my blood, 
shed for you for the remission of sins. These words, as I 
have said, are not preached to either stock or stone, but 
to me and thee, otherwise Christ might as well have 
been silent and not instituted any Sacrament. Therefore 
consider well, and bring thyself within the "you" that 
He may not speak to thee in vain. 

For He there offers us all the blessings He brought 



OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 153 

us from heaven, to which He invites us most graciously 
when He says, in the eleventh chapter of St. Matthew : 
Gome unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, 
and I will give you rest. Now, it is a sin and shame 
that when He invites us so truly and heartily, and 
admonishes us for our highest and best good, we will 
not listen, but go our ways till we grow cold and hard, 
and at length feel neither desire nor love for it. We 
must not regard the Sacrament as a hurtful thing from 
which we must fly, but as an altogether wholesome and 
comforting medicine, which will help us, and give life 
to both body and soul. For where the soul is made 
whole, the body also is helped. Why, therefore, should 
we aci; as though it were poison, to partake of which 
would be our death ? 

It is indeed true that they who despise it, and lead 
unchristian lives, take it to their harm and damnation ; 
to them it is neither good nor wholesome, much in the 
same way as though a sick man, in his wilfulness, ate 
and draiik what his physician had forbidden. Those, 
however, who feel their weakness and would gladly be 
rid of it, and who desire help, must regard and use it 
as a precious antidote against the poison they have in 
themselves. For here in the Sacrament thou wilt receive 
from Christ s mouth forgiveness of sin, which includes 
and brings with it God s Grace, His Spirit, and all His 
gifts, protection, refuge, and strength against death, the 
devil, and all misfortunes. 

Accordingly thou hast, on God s part, both Christ s 
command and promise ; and for thine own sake thou 
shouldst be induced to partake of it by the need which 
weighs upon thee, and for the sake of which this com 
mand, inducement, and promise were given. For Christ 
Himself says : They that be whole need not a physician, 
but they that are sick that is, those who are troubled 
and burdened with sin, fear of death, temptation of the 
flesh and the devil. If thou art burdened, and dost 
feel thy weakness, accpt it cheerfully, and be refreshed, 
comforted, strengthened. For if thou thinkest to delay 



\ 



154 x GREATER CATECHISM 

till thon art rid of snch feelings, so that thou mayest 
come pure and worthy to the Sacrament, then thou must 
ever remain away ; for He has pronounced this judgment 
and said : If thou art pure and upright, then thou dost 
not need me, nor do I need thee. Therefore only those 
are unworthy, who do not feel their sins and will not 
admit that they are sinners. 

If, however, thou shouldst ask : "What am I to do if I 
feel not this need, and neither hunger nor thirst for the 
Sacrament ? Answer : For those who are so disposed that 
they feel no need, I know of no better counsel than that 
they look into their own bosoms and see whether they 
are not made of flesh and blood. If thou findest thou 
art, then refer to St. Paul and hear what he says in his 
Epistle to the Galatians (v. 19, 20) as to what manner of 
fruit thy flesh is : Now the works of the fash are mani 
fest, which are these : adultery, fornication, uncleanness, 
lascimousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, 
emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyinqs, 
murders, drunkenness, revellings, and suck-like. Where 
fore, if thou canst not feel it, nevertheless must thou 
believe the Scriptures, which tell thee no falsehoods, and 
know thy flesh better than thou dost. Yea, St. Paul 
says further to the Komans (vii. 18), For I know that in 
me that is, in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. If St. 
Paul could say this of his flesh, we cannot pretend to be 
any better or more holy. And when we do not feel this, 
it is so much the worse, for it is a sign that our flesh is 
leprous flesh, which feels nothing, and yet is vicious and 
consumes what is around it. But (as has been said) if 
thou art so deadened, believe the Scriptures, which pro 
nounce judgment on thee. In fact, the less thou feelest 
thy sins and weaknesses, the more cause hast thou to go 
to the Sacrament to seek help and medicine. 

Further, look around thee and see if thou art in the 
world ; or, if thou knowest it not, ask thy neighbour. 
And if thou art in the world, think not that sin and 
need will be absent. Then set to work, and act as 
though thou wouldst become ^ions, and hold to the 



OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 155 



Gospel, and watch if no one be thy foe and do thee 
harm, wrong or violence, and give thee occasion for sin 
and wrong-doing. Hast thon not experienced this thyself, 
then know of it from the Bible, which bears witness and 
testimony of it to the world. 

Besides which, thon wilt have the devil around thee, 
and thon wilt not get the better of him entirely, for 
Christ Himself did not escape him. Now, what is the 
devil ? Nothing else than what the Scriptures call him : 
a liar and murderer (John viii. 44), a liar and deceiver, 
who entices the heart away from God s Word, so that 
thou canst not feel thy need nor come to Christ ; a 
murderer, who grudges thee every minute of thy life. 
If thou couldst see the many knives, spears and arrows 
that are aimed at thee every moment, thou wouldst be 
glad to come to the Sacrament as often as thou couldst. 
And that we go our ways with such assurance and heed- 
lessness is simply because we neither think nor believe 
that we are in the flesh and the wicked world, or under 
the devil s dominion. 

Wherefore see to it, and practise this well, and examine 
thyself, or look around thee a little, and hold to the 
Scriptures. And if thou then feelest nothing, thou hast 
all the more need to lament, both to God and to thy 
brother. Let them counsel thee and pray for thee, and do 
not cease thy cry till the stone has rolled from thy heart. 
Then thou wilt be helped in thy need, and thou wilt see 
that thou hast fallen twice as low as any other poor 
sinner, and hast far more need of the Sacrament to 
protect thee from the misery which, alas ! thou canst not 
see, but which through God s mercy thou mayest feel 
more and more, and become more hungry for it ; especi 
ally because the devil so harasses thee and unceasingly 
attacks thee, in order to catch thee and ruin thee in 
body and soul, so that thou art not safe from him one 
hour. How suddenly might he plunge thee in misery 
and need, when thou wast least prepared to resist him ! 

Let this be said by way of exhortation, not only to 
those of us who are already grown up and old, but 



156 THE GREATER CATECHISM 

especially to the young, who should be brought up in the 
Christian doctrine and a right understanding of it. For 
in this manner we can more readily bring the Ten Com 
mandments, the Creed, and the Lord s Prayer to the 
young, so that they may receive them with pleasure and 
earnestness, and that they may practise them, and be 
come accustomed to them from their youth upwards. 
For it is almost useless to try and alter things with old 
people ; we must enlighten those who are to come after 
us, to fill our offices and to do our work, so that they 
in their turn may bring up their children profitably, 
to uphold God s Word and Christendom. Therefore let 
the head of a household know that he is bound by God s 
command and order to teach his children this, or to see 
that they are taught what they ought to know. For, 
having been baptised and received into the Christian 
faith, they ought likewise to enjoy the communion of 
the Sacrament, in order that they may serve -us and be 
useful ; for they must all help us to believe, to love, to 
pray, and to fight the devil. 



THE THREE PEIMAEY WORKS OF DR. 
MARTIN LUTHER 



tbe Christian mobility of tbc (Sennan 
IRation respecting tbe IReformation of 
tbe Christian Estate. 



JESUS 



1. DEDICATORY LETTER 

To the respected and ivorthy Nicolaus von 
Amsdorff, Licentiate in the Holy Scriptures 
and Canon of Wittenberg* my particular 
and affectionate friejid. 

DR. MA1ITINUS LUTHER. 

ri "THE grace and peace of God be with you, respected, 
_L worthy Sir, and dear friend ! 

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

Let who will blame me, I shall not offer any excuse. 
Perhaps I still owe God and the world another folly. 

* Nicolaus von Amsdorff (1483 1565) was a colleague of Luther 
at the university of Wittenberg, and one of his most zealous 
fellow-workers in the cause of the Reformation. 



160 LUTHER S PRIMARY 



This debt I have now resolved honestly to discharge, as 
well as may be, and to be Court fool for once in my life ; 
if I fail, I shall at any rate gain this advantage : that no 
one need buy me a fool s cap or shave my poll. But it 
remains to be seen which shall hang the bells on the 
other. I must fulfil the proverb, " When anything is to 
be done in the world, a monk must be in it, were it only 
as a painted figure." I suppose it has often happened 
that a fool has spoken wisely, and wise men have often 
done foolishly, as St. Paul says, " If any man among 
you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a 
fool, that he may be wise " (1 Cor. iii. 18). 

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

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

Wittenberg, in the monastry of St. 
Augustine, on the eve of St. John the 
Baptist in the year 1620. 





JESUS 



ADD n ESS TO THE NOBILITY 161 



2. INTRODUCTION 

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

DR. MARTINUS LUTHER. 

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

It is not out of mere arrogance and perversity that 
I, an individual poor man, have taken upon me to 
address your lordships. The distress and misery that 
oppress all the Christian estates, more especially in 
Germany, have led not only myself, but every one else, 
to cry aloud and to ask for help, and have now forced 
me too to cry out and to ask if God would give His 
Hpirit to any one to reach a hand to His wretched people. 
Councils have often put forward some remedy, but it has 
adroitly been frustrated, and the evils have become worse, 
through the cunning of certain men. Their malice and 
wickedness I will now, by the help of God, expose, so 
that, being known, they may henceforth cease to be so 
obstructive and injurious. God has given us a young 
and noble sovereign,* and by this has roused great hopes 
in many hearts ; now it is right that we too should do 
what we can, and make good use of time and grace. 

The first thing that we must do is to consider the 
matter with great earnestness, and, whatever we attempt, 
not to trust in our own strength and wisdom alone, even 
if the power of all the world were ours ; for God will not 
endure that a good work should be begun trusting to 
own strength and wisdom. He destroys it ; it is all 
unless, as we read in Psalm xxxiii., " There is no king 
,aved by the multitude of a host ; a mighty man 
is not delivered by much strength." And I fear it is for 

* Charles V. was at that time uot ^aite twenty years of age. 

11 

fa 



162 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORItS 

tliat reason that those beloved princes the Emperors 
Frederick, the First and the Second, and many other 
German emperors were, in former times, so piteously 
spurned and oppressed by the popes, though they were 
feared by all the world. Perchance they trusted rather 
in their own strength than in God ; therefore they could 
not but fall ; and how would the sanguinary tyrant 
Julius II. have risen so high in our own days but that, 
I fear, France, Germany, and Venice trusted to them 
selves? The children of Benjamin slew forty-two thousand 
Israelites, for this reason : that these trusted to their 
own strength (Judges xx., etc.). 

That such a thing may not happen to us and to our 
noble Emperor Charles, we must remember that in this 
matter we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but 
against the rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph. 
vi. 12), who may fill the world with war and bloodshed, 
but cannot themselves be overcome thereby. We must 
renounce all confidence in our natural strength, and 
take the matter in hand witli humble trust in God ; 
we must seek God s help with earnest prayer, and have 
nothing before our eyes but the misery and wretchedness 
of Christendom, irrespective of what punishment the 
wicked may deserve. If we do not act thus, we may 
begin the game with great pomp ; but when we are 
well in it, the spirits of evil will make such confusion 
that the whole world will be immersed in blood, and 
yet nothing be done. Therefore let us act in the fear 
of God and prudently. The greater the might of the foe, 
the greater is the misfortune, if we do not act in the 
fear of God and with humility. If popes and Romanists 
have hitherto, with the devil s help, thrown kings into 
confusion, they may still do so, if we attempt things 
with our own strength and skill, without God s help. 

3. THE THREE WALLS OF THE ROMANISTS 

The Romanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three 
walls round themselves, with which they have hitherto 



JDTJRESS TO THE NOBILITY ]6j 

protected themselves, so that no one could reform them, 
whereby all Christendom has fallen terribly. 

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

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

Thirdly, if they are threatened with a council, they 
pretend that no one may call a council but the Pope. 

Thus they have secretly stolen our three rods, so that 
they may be unpunished, and intrenched themselves 
behind these three walls, to act with all the wickedness 
and malice, which we now witness. And whenever they 
have been compelled to call a council, they have made 
it of no avail by binding the princes beforehand with an 
oath to leave them as they were, and to give moreover 
to the Pope full power over the procedure of the council, 
so that it is all one whether we have many councils or 
no councils, in addition to which they deceive us with 
false pretences and tricks. So grievously do they tremble 
for their skin before a true, free council ; and thus they 
have overawed kings and princes, that these believe they 
would be offending God, if they were not to obey them 
in all such knavish, deceitful artifices. 

Now may God help us, and give us one of those 
trumpets that overthrew the walls of Jericho, so that we 
may blow down these walls of straw and paper, and that 
we may set free our Christian rods for the chastisement 
of sin, and expose the craft and deceit of the devil, so 
that we may amend ourselves by punishment and again 
obtain God s favour. 

(a) THE FIRST WALL 

That the Temporal Power has no Jurisdiction over the 
Spiritualty 

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

It has been devised that the Pope, bishops, priests, 



164 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

and monks are called the spiritual estate, princes, lords, 
artificers, and peasants are the temporal estate. This is 
an artful lie and hypocritical device, but let no one be made 
afraid by it, and that for this reason : that all Christians 
are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference 
among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says 
(1 Cor. xii.), we are all one body, though each member 
does its own work, to serve the others. This is because 
we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all 
Christians alike ; for baptism, Gospel, and faith, these 
alone make spiritual and Christian people. 

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

And to put the matter even more plainly, if a little 
company of pious Christian laymen were taken prisoners 
and carried away to a desert, and had not among them 
a priest consecrated by a bishop, and were there to agree 
to elect one of them, born in wedlock or not, and were to 
order him to baptise, to celebrate the mass, to absolve, 
and to preach, this man would as truly be a priest, as 
if all the bishops and all the popes had consecrated him. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 165 

That is why in cases of necessity every man can baptise 
and absolve, which would not be possible if we were 
not all priests. This great grace and virtue of baptism 
and of the Christian estate they have quite destroyed 
and made us forget by their ecclesiastical law. In this 
way the Christians used to choose their bishops and 
priests out of the community ; these being afterwards 
confirmed by other bishops, without the pomp that now 
prevails. So was it that St. Augustine, Ambrose, 
Cyprian, were bishops. 

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

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




1 66 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

It follows, then, that between laymen and priests, 
princes and bishops, or, as they call it, between spiritual 
and temporal persons, the only real difference is one of 
office and function, and not of estate ; for they are all 
of the same spiritual estate, true priests, bishops, and 
popes, though their functions are not the same just as 
among priests and monks every man has not the same 
functions. And this, as I said above, St. Paul says 
(liorn. xii. ; 1 Cor. xii.), and St. Peter (1 Peter ii.) : 
" We, being many, are one body in Christ, and severally 
members one of another." Christ s body is not double 
or twofold, one temporal, the other spiritual. He is one 
Head, and He has one body. 

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

Now see what a Christian doctrine is this : that the 
temporal authority is not above the clergy, and may not 
punish it. This is as if one were to say the hand ma) 
not help, though the eye is in grievous suffering. Is it 
not unnatural, not to say unchristian, that one member 
may not help another, or guard it against harm P ^ Nay, 
the nobler the member, the more the rest are bound to 
help it. Therefore I say, Forasmuch as the temporal 
power has been ordained by God for the punishment of 
the bad and the protection of the good, therefore we 
must let it do its duty throughout the whole Christian 

,7 



ADDRESS 70 7 HE NOBILITY 167 



body, without respect of persons, whether it strike popes, 
bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or whoever it may be. If 
it were sufficient reason for fettering the temporal power 
that it is inferior among the offices of Christianity to the 
offices of priest or confessor, or to the spiritual estate 
if this were so, then we ought to restrain tailors, cobblers, 
masons, carpenters, cooks 1 , cellarmen, peasants, and all 
secular workmen, from providing the Pope or bishops, 
priests and monks, with shoes, clothes, houses, or victuals, 
or from paying them tithes. But if these laymen are 
allowed to elo their work without restraint, what do the 
Romanist scribes mean by their laws ? They mean that 
they withdraw themselves from the operation of temporal 
Christian power, simply in order that they may be free 
to do evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter said : "There 
shall be false teachers among you, . . . and in covetous- 
ness shall they with feigned words make merchandise 
of you "(2 Peter ii. 1, etc.). 

Therefore the temporal Christian power must exercise 
its office without let or hindrance, without considering 
whom it may strike, whether pope, or bishop, or priest 
whoever is guilty, let him suifer for it. 

Whatever the ecclesiastical law has said in opposition^ 
this is merely the invention of Romanist arrogance. For 
this is what St. Paul says to all Christians : " Let every 
soul " (1 presume including the popes) " be subject unto 
the higher powers ; for they bear not the sword in vain : 
they serve the Lord therewith, for vengeance on evil 
doers and for praise to them that do well" (Horn, 
xiii. l_4). Also St. Peter: "Submit yourselves to 
every ordinance of man for the Lord s sake, . . . for 
so is the will of God" (1 Peter ii. 13, 15). He has 
also foretold that men would come who should despise 
government (2 Peter ii.), as has come to pass through 
ecclesiastical law. 

Now, 1 imagine, the first paper wall is overthrown, 
inasmuch as the temporal power has become a member 
of the Christian body ; although its work relates to 
the body, yet does it belong to the spiritual estate. 



1 68 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

Therefore it must do its duty without let or hin 
drance upon all members of the whole body, to punish 
or urge, as guilt may deserve, or need may require, 
without respect of pope, bishops, or priests, let them 
threaten or excommunicate as they will. That is why 
a guilty priest is deprived of his priesthood before being 
given over to the secular arm; whereas this would not 
be right, if the secular sword had not authority over him 
already by Divine ordinance. 

It is, indeed, past bearing that the spiritual law should 
esteem so highly the liberty, life, and property of the 
clergy, as if laymen were not as good spiritual Christians, 
or not equally members of the Church. Why should 
your body, life, goods, and honour be free, and not mine, 
seeing that we are equal as Christians, and have received 
alike baptism, faith, spirit, arid all things ? If a priest 
is killed, the country is laid under an interdict*: why 
not also if a peasant is killed ? Whence comes this 
great difference among equal Christians ? Simply from 
human laws and inventions. 

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

Therefore it must have been the arch-devil himself who 
said, as we read in the ecclesiastical law, If the Pope 
were so perniciously wicked, as to be dragging souls in 

* By the Interdict, or general excommunication, whole countries, 
districts, or towns, or their respective rulers, were deprived of all 
the spiritual benefits of the Church, such as Divine service, the 
administering of the sacraments, etc, 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 169 

crowds to the devil, yet he could not be deposed. This 
is the accursed and devilish foundation on which they 
build at Home, and think that the whole world is to be 
allowed to go to the devil rather than they should be 
opposed in their knavery. If a man were to escape 
punishment simply because he is above the rest, then 
no Christian might punish another, since Christ has 
commanded each of us to esteem himself the lowest 
and the humblest (Matt, xviii. 4 ; Luke ix. 48). 

Where there is sin, there remains no avoiding the 
punishment, as St. Gregory says, W T e are all equal, but 
o-uilt makes one subject to another. Now let us see how 
they deal with Christendom. They arrogate to them 
selves immunities without any warrant from the Scrip 
tures, out of their own wickedness, whereas God and the 
Apostles made them subject to the secular sword ; so 
that we must fear that it is the work of antichrist, or a 
sign of his near approach. 

(#) THE SECOND WALL 
That no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope 

The second wall is even more tottering and weak : 
that they alone pretend to bQ considered masters of the 
Scriptures ; although they learn nothing of them all 
their life. They assume authority, and juggle before us 
with impudent words, saying that the Pope cannot err 
in matters of faith, whether he be evil or good, albeit 
they cannot prove it by a single letter.^ That is why 
the canon law contains so many heretical and unchristian, 
nay unnatural, laws ; but of these we need not speak 
now. For whereas they imagine the Holy Ghost never 
leaves them, however unlearned and wicked they may be, 
they grow bold enough to decree whatever they like. 
But were this true, where were the need and use of the 
Holy Scriptures ? Let us burn them, and content our 
selves with the unlearned gentlemen at Rome, in whom 
the Holy Ghost dwells, who, however, can dwell in j)io~- 

6*$Mw* IT*"" ** *"* ^ l^fl 



1 70 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



sonls only. If I had not read it, I could never have 
believed that the devil should have put forth such 
follies at Rome and find a following. 

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

Therefore it is a wickedly devised fable and they 
cannot quote a single letter to confirm it that it is for 
the Pope alone to interpret the Scriptures or to confirm 
the interpretation of them. They have assumed the 
authority of their own selves. And though they say 
that this authority was given to St. Peter when the keys 
were given to him, it is plain enough that the keys were 
not given to St. Peter alone, but to the whole community. 
Besides, the keys were not ordained for doctrine or 
authority, but for sin, to bind or loose ; and what they 
claim besides this from the keys is mere invention. But 
what Christ said to St. Peter : " I have prayed for 
thee that thy faith fail not " (St. Luke xxii. 32), cannot 
relate to the Pope, inasmuch as the greater part of the 
Popes have been without faith, as they are themselves 
forced to acknowledge ; nor did Christ pray for Peter 
alone, but for all the Apostles and all Christians, as He 
says, " Neither pray I for these alone, but for them 
also which shall believe on Me through their word" 
(St. John xvii.). Is not this plain enough ? 

Only consider the matter. They must needs acknow- 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 171 



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

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



errors, 



172 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



(e-) THE THIRD WALL 
That no one may call a council but the Pope 

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 173 



the councils called by them were accounted most Chris 
tian. But if the Pope alone had the power, they must 
all have been heretical. Moreover, if 1 consider the 
councils that the Pope has called, I do not find that 
they produced any notable results. 

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

But as for their boasts of their authority, that no one 
must oppose it, this is idle talk. No one in Christendom 
has any authority to do harm, or to forbid others to prevent 
harm being done. There is no authority in the Church 
but for reformation. Therefore if the Pope wished to 
use his power to prevent the calling of a free council, so 
as to prevent the reformation of the Church, we must not 
respect him or his power ; and if he should begin to 
excommunicate and fulminate, we must despise this as 
the doings of a madman, and, trusting in God, excom 
municate and repel him as best we may. For this his 



174 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



usurped power is nothing ; he does not possess it, and he 
is at once overthrown by a text from the Scriptures. 
For St. Paul says to the Corinthians " that God has given 
us authority for edification, and not for destruction " 
(2 Cor. x. 8). Who will set this text at nought ? It is 
the power of the devil and of antichrist that prevents 
what would serve for the reformation of Christendom. 
Therefore we must not follow it, but oppose it with our 
body, our goods, and all that we have. And even if a 
miracle were to happen in favour of the Pope against 
the temporal power, or if some were to be stricken by a 
plague, as they sometimes boast has happened, all this 
is to be held as having been done by the devil in order 
to injure our faith in God, as was foretold by Christ : 
" There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and 
shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it 
were possible, they shall deceive the very elect " (Matt. 
xxiv. 23) ; and St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the 
coming of antichrist shall be "after the working of 
Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" 
(2 Thess. ii. 9). 

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

And now I hope the false, lying spectre will be laid 
with which the Romanists have long terrified and 
stupefied our consciences. And it will be seen that, 
like all the rest of us, they are subject to the temporal 
sword ; that they have no authority to interpret the 
Scriptures by force without skill ; and that they have 
no power to prevent a council, or to pledge it in accord 
ance with their pleasure, or to bind it beforehand, and 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 175 



deprive it of its freedom ; and that if they do this, they 
are verily of the fellowship of antichrist and the devil, 
and have nothing of Christ but the name. 

4. OF THE MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED IN 
THE COUNCILS. 

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

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

However this may be, this pomp is a stumbling-block, 



76 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



and the Pope, for the very salvation of his soul, ought to 
put it off, for St. Paul says, " Abstain from all appear 
ance of evil" (1 Thess. v. 21), and again, "Provide 
things honest in the sight of all men " (2 Cor. viii. 21). 
A simple mitre would be enough for the Pope : wisdom 
and sanctity should raise him above the rest ; the crown 
of pride he should leave to antichrist, as his predecessors 
did some hundreds of years ago. They say, He is the 
ruler of the world. This is false ; for Christ, whose 
vicegerent and vicar he claims to be, said to Pilate, 
" My kingdom is not of this world " (John xviii. 36). 
But no vicegerent can have a wider dominion than his 
Lord, nor is he a vicegerent of Christ in His glory, but 
of Christ crucified, as St. Paul says, " For I determined 
not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and 
Him crucified " ($ Cor. ii. 2), and " Let this mind be 
in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who made Him 
self of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of 
a servant " (Phil. ii. 5, 7). Again, " We preach Christ 
crucified" (1 Cor. i.). Now they make the Pope a 
vicegerent of Christ exalted in heaven, and some have 
let ^ the devil rule them so thoroughly that they have 
maintained that the Pope is above the angels in heaven 
and has power over them, which is precisely the true 
work of the true antichrist. 

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 177 



Now that Italy is sucked dry, they come to Germany 
and begin very quietly ; but if we look on quietly 
Germany will soon be brought into the same state as 
Italy. We have a few cardinals already. What the 
Romanists mean thereby the drunken Germans * are 
not to see until they have lost everything bishoprics, 
convents, benefices, fiefs, even to their last farthing. Anti 
christ must take the riches of the earth, as it is written 
(Dan. xi. 8, 39, 43). They begin by taking off the cream 
of the bishoprics, convents, and fiefs : and as they do not 
dare to destroy everything as they have done in Italy, they 
employ such holy cunning to join together ten or twenty 
prelacies, and take such a portion of each annually that 
the total amounts to a considerable sum. The priory of 
Wurzburg gives one thousand guilders ; those of Bamberg, 
Mayence, Treves, and others also contribute. In this way 
they collect one thousand or ten thousand guilders, in 
order that a cardinal may live at Rome in a state like 
that of a wealthy monarch. 

After we have gained this, we will create thirty or forty 
cardinals on one day, and give one St. Michael s Mount,f 
near Bamberg, and likewise the see of Wurzburg, to 
which belong some rich benefices, until the churches and 
the cities are desolated ; and then we shall say, We are 
the vicars of Christ, the shepherds of Christ s flocks ; 
those mad, drunken Germans must submit to it. I 
advise, however, that there be made fewer cardinals, or 
that the Pope should have to support them out of his 
own purse. It would be amply sufficient if there were 
twelve, and if each of them had an annual income of 
one thousand guilders. 

f What has brought us Germans to such a pass that 
we have to suffer this robbery and this destruction of 
our property by the Pope ? If the kingdom of France 

* The epithet ; drunken" was formerly often applied by the 
Italians to the Germans. 

t Luther alludes here to the Benedictine convent standing on the 
Monchberg, or St. Michael s Mount. 

12 



178 LUTHERS PRIMARY WORKS 



has resisted it, why do we Germans suffer ourselves to 
be fooled and deceived ? It would be more endurable 
if they did nothing but rob us of our property ; but 
they destroy the Church and deprive Christ s flock of 
their good shepherds, and overthrow the service and 
word of God. Even if there were no cardinals at all, 
the Church would not perish, for they do nothing for 
the good of Christendom ; all they do is to traffic in 
and quarrel about prelacies and bishoprics, which any 
robber could do as well. 

3. If we took away ninety-nine parts of the Pope s 
Court and only left one hundredth, it would still be large 
enough to answer questions on matters of belief. Now 
there is such a swarm of vermin at Rome, all called 
papal, that Babylon itself never saw the like. There are 
more than three thousand papal secretaries alone ; but 
who shall count the other office-bearers, since there are 
so many offices that we can scarcely count them, and 
all waiting for German benefices, as wolves wait for a 
flock of sheep ? I think Germany now pays more to the 
Pope than it formerly paid the emperors ; nay, some 
think more than three hundred thousand guilders are 
sent from Germany to Kome~~every year, for nothing 
whatever ; and in return we are scoffed at and put to 
shame. Do we still wonder why princes, noblemen, 
cities, foundations, convents, and people grow poor ? 
We should rather wonder that we have anything left 
to eat. 

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 179 



avarice, and worldly pomp, than a law. This wo shall 
now show. 

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

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

This being so, the German nation, the bishops and 
princes, should remember that they are Christians, and 
should defend the people, who are committed to then- 
government and protection in temporal and spiritual 
affairs, from these ravenous wolves in, sheep s clothing, 
that profess to be shepherds and rulers ; and since the 
annates are so shamefully abused, and the covenants con- 

* The duty of paying annate* to the Pope was established by 
John XXII. in 1310. 



i So LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



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

Moreover, the year has been divided among the Pope 
and the ruling bishops and foundations in such wise that 
the Pope has taken every other month six in all to 
give away the benefices that fall in his month ; in this 
way almost all the benefices are drawn into the hands of 
Rome, and especially the best livings and dignities. And 
those that once fall into the hands of Rome never come 
out again, even if they never again fall vacant in the 
Pope s month. In this way the foundations come very 
short of their rights, and it is a downright robbery, the 
object of which is not to give up anything again. There 
fore it is now high time to abolish the^ Pope s months 
and to take back again all that has thereby fallen into 
the hands of Rome. For all the princes and nobles 
should insist that the stolen property shall be returned, the 
thieves punished, and that those who abuse their powers 
shall be deprived of them. If the Pope can make a law 
on the day after his election by which he takes our 
benefices and livings to which he has no right, the 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILIlV 181 



Emperor Charles should so much the more have a right 
to issue a law for all Germany on the day after his 
coronation* that in future no livings and benefices are 
to fall to Home by virtue of the Pope s month, but that 
those that have so fallen are to be freed and taken 
from the Romish robbers. This right he possesses 
authoritatively by virtue of his temporal sword. 

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

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

Secondly, if a " servant " of the Pope or of one of the 
cardinals takes a living, or if, having a living, he becomes 
a "servant" of the Pope or of a cardinal, the living remains 
with Rome. But who can count the " servants " of the Pope 
and his cardinals, seeing that if he goes out riding, he is 
attended by three or four thousand mule-riders, more 
than any king or emperor ? For Christ and St. Peter 
went on foot, in order that their vicegerents might 
indulge the better in all manner of pomp. Besides, their 
avarice has devised and invented this : that in foreign 
countries also there are many called " papal servants," as 
at Rome ; so that in all parts this single crafty littlf 
word " papal servant " brings all benefices to the chaii 
of Rome, and they are kept there for ever. Are not 
these mischievous, devilish devices ? Let us only wait 
a while. Mayence, Magdeburg, and Halberstadt will fall 
very nicely to Home, and we shall have to pay clearly for 

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



1 82 LUTHER* S PRIMARY WORKS 



our cardinal.* Hereafter all the German bishops will be 
made cardinals, so that there shall remain nothing to 
ourselves. 

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

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



* Luther alludes here to the Archbishop Albert of Mayence, 
who was, besides, Archbishop of Magdeburg and administrator of 
the bishopric of Halberstadt. In order to be able to defray the 
expense of the archiepiscopal tax due to Rome, amounting to 
thirty thousand guilders, he had farmed the sale of the Pope s in 
dulgences, employing the notorious Tetzel as his agent and sharing 
the profits with the Pope. In 1518 Albert was appointed cardinal. 
See Ranke, Deutsche Gescliiclite, etc., vol. i., p. 300, etc. 

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



ADDRESS TO THE tfOZlLITV 183 



bound himself a servant of the Pope. That is why no 
bishop dare oppose the Pope. This was the object ot the 
oath, and this is how the wealthiest bishoprics have come 
to debt and ruin. Mayence, I am told, pays twenty thou 
sand o-nilders. These are true Roman tricks, it seems t( 
me. It is true that they once decreed in the canon law that 
the Pall should be given free, the number ot the 1 ope * 
servants diminished, disputes made less frequent, that 
foundations and bishops should enjoy their liberty ; but 
all this brought them no money. They have therefore 
reversed all this: bishops and foundations have lost all 
their power; they are mere ciphers, without oftice, 
authority, or function ; all things are regulated by the 
chief knaves at Home, even the offices ot sextons and 
hell-riii^crs in all churches. All disputes are transferred 
to Rome ; each one does what he will, strong through 
the Pope s power. , 

What lias happened in this very year ? The Bishop ot 
Strasburg, wishing to regulate his see in a proper way 
and reform it in the matter of Divine service, published 
some Divine and Christian ordinances for that purpose. 
But our worthy Pope and the holy chair at Rome overturn 
altogether this holy and spiritual order on the requisition 
of the priests. This is what they call being the shep 
herd of Christ s sheep-supporting priests against their 
own bishops and protecting their disobedience by Divine 
decrees. Antichrist, I hope, will not insult God in tins 
open wav. There you have the Pope, as you have chosen 
to have "him; and why? Why, because if the Church 
were to be reformed, there would be danger that it 
would spread further, so that it might also reach Rome 
Therefore it is better to prevent priests from being at 
one with each other ; they should rather, as they have 
done hitherto, sow discord among kings and princes, and 
flood the world with Christian blood, lest Christian unity 
should trouble the holy Roman see with reforms. 

So far we have seen what they do with the livings 
that fall vacant. Now there are not enough vacancies tc 
this delicate greed ; therefore it has also taken prudent 



184 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

account of the benefices that are still held by their in 
cumbents, so that they may become vacant, though they 
are in fact not vacant, and this they effect in many 
ways. 

"" First, they lie in wait for fat livings or sees which are 
held by an old or sick man, or even by one afflicted by 
an imaginary incompetence ; him the Roman see gives 
a coadjutor, that is an assistant without his asking or 
wishing it, for the benefit of the coadjutor, because he is 
a papal servant, or pays for the office, or has otherwise 
earned it by some menial service rendered to Rome. 
Thus there is an end of free election on the part of the 
chapter, or of the right of him who had presented to the 
living ; and all goes to Rome. 

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



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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 185 

revenue of more than six thousand guilders. This is 
the way Divine service is advanced and convents kept 
up at Rome. This will be introduced into Germany 

as well. . 

Thirdly, there are certain benefices that are said to be 
incompatible ; that is, they may not be held together 
according to the canon law, such as two cures, two sees, 
and the like. Now the Holy See and avarice twists 
itself out of the canon law by making "glosses," or 
interpretations, called Unio, or Incorporatio ; that is, 
several incompatible benefices are incorporated, so that 
one is a member of the other, and the whole is held to 
be one benefice : then they are no longer incompatible, 
and we have got rid of the holy canon law, so that it is no 
longer binding, except on those who do not buy those 
glosses of the Pope and his Datarius.* Unio is of 
the same kind : a number of benefices are tied together 
like a bundle of faggots, and on account of this coupling 
together they are held to be one benefice. Thus there may 
be found many a " courtling " at Rome who alone holds 
twenty-two cures, seven priories, and forty-four prebends, 
all which is done in virtue of this masterly gloss, so as 
not to be contrary to law. Any one can imagine what 
cardinals and other prelates may hold. In this way the 
Germans are to have their purses emptied and their 
conceit taken out of them. 

There is another gloss called Administratio ; that is, 
that besides his see a man holds an abbey or other high 
benefice, and possesses all the property of it, without any 
other title but administrator. For at Rome it is enough 
that words should change, and not deeds, just as if I said, 
a procuress was to be called a mayoress, yet may remain 
as good as she is now. Such Romish rule was foretold 
by St. Peter, when he said, "There shall be false 

* The papal office for the issue and registration of certain 
documents was called Dataria, from the phrase appended to them, 
Datum apiul S. Petrum. The chief of that office, usually a cardinal, 
bore the title of Datarius, or Prodatarhis. 



1 86 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



teachers among you, . . . and tli rough covetousness 
shall they with feigned words make merchandise of yon " 
(2 Peter ii. 1,3). 

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE MOBILITY 187 

lie claims to be the liead of Christendom, letting the 
evil spirit rule him with manifest lies. 

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

Finally, the Pope has built a special house for this 
fine traffic that is, the house of the Datarius at Rome. 
Thither all must come that bargain in this way for 
prebends and benefices ; from him they must buy the 
ylosses and obtain the right to practise such prime 
Villainy. In former days it was fairly well at Rome, 
when justice had to be bought, or could only be put down 
by money ; but now she has become so fastidious that 
she does not allow any one to commit villainies unless 
he has first bought the right to do it with great sums. 
If this is not a house of prostitution, worse than all 
houses of prostitution that can be conceived, I do not 
know what houses of prostitution really are. 

If you bring money to this house, yon can arrive at all 
that I have mentioned ; and more than this, any sort of 
usury is made legitimate for money ; property got by 
theft or robbery is here made legal. Here vows are 
annulled ; here a monk obtains leave to quit his order ; 
here priests can enter married life for money ; here 
bastards can become legitimate ; and dishonour and 
shame may arrive at high honours ; all evil repute and 
disgrace is knighted and ennobled ; here a marriage is 



1 88 L UTffER^ S PRtMA R Y WORKS 

suffered that is in a forbidden degree, or has some other 
defect. Oh, what a trafficking and plundering is there ! 
one would think that the canon laws were only so many 
money-snares, from which he must free himself who 
would become a Christian man. Nay, here the devil 
becomes a saint, and a god besides. What heaven and 
earth might not do may be done by this house. Their 
ordinances are called compositions compositions, for 
sooth ! confusions rather.* Oh, what a poor treasury is 
the toll on the Ehine f compared with this holy house ! 

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

I have still to give a farewell greeting. These treasures, 
that would have satisfied three mighty kings, were not 
enough for this unspeakable greed, and so they have 
made over and sold their traffic to Fugger J at Augsburg, 
so that the lending and buying and selling sees and 
benefices, and all this traffic in ecclesiastical property, 
has in the end come into the right hands, and spiritual 
and temporal matters have now become one business. 
Now I should like to know what the most cunning would 
devise for Romish greed to do that it has not done, 
except that Fugger might sell or pledge his two trades, 
that have now become one. I think they must have 
come to the end of their devices. For what they have 
stolen and yet steal in all countries by bulls of indul- 

* Luther uses here the expressions compositiones and confusiones 
as a kind of pun. 

t Tolls were levied at many places along the Rhine. 

if The commercial house of Fugger was in those clays the 
wealthiest in Europe. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 189 



gences, letters of confession, letters of dispensation,* and 
other cpnfessionalta, all this I think mere bungling 

work, and much like playing toss with a devil in hell. 
Not that they produce little, for a mighty king could 
support himself by them ; but they are as nothing com 
pared to the other streams of revenue mentioned above. 
I will not now consider what has become of that indul 
gence money ; I shall inquire into this another time, for 
Campqfiore f and Belvedere | and some other places pro 
bably know something about it. 

Meanwhile, since this devilish state of things is not 
only an open robbery, deceit, and tyranny of the gates of 
hell, but also destroys Christianity body and soul, we 
are bound to use all our diligence to prevent this misery 
and destruction of Christendom. If we wish to fight the 
Turks, let us begin here, where they are worst. If we 
justly hang thieves and behead robbers, why do we leave 
the greed of Rome so unpunished, that is the greatest 
thief and robber that has appeared or can appear on 
earth, and does all this in the holy name of Christ and 
St. Peter ? Who can suffer this and be silent about it ? 
Almost everything that they possess has been stolen or 
got by robbery, as we learn from all histories. Why, 
the Pope never bought those great possessions, so as to 
be able to raise well-nigh ten hundred thousand ducats 
from his ecclesiastical offices, without counting his gold 
mines described above and his land. He did not inherit 
it from Christ and St. Peter ; no one gave it or lent it 
him; he has not acquired it by prescription. Tell me, 
where can he have got it? You can learn from this 
what their object is when they send out legates to collect 
money to be used against the Turk. 



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

t A public place at Rome. 

1 Part of the Vatican. 



1 9 o LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



5. TWENTY-SEVEN ARTICLES RESPECTING THE 
REFORMATION OF THE CHRISTIAN ESTATE 

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

1. Princes, nobles, and cities should promptly forbid 
their subjects to pay the annates to Rome and should even 
abolish them altogether. For the Pope has broken the 
compact, and turned the annates into robbery for the harm 
and shame of the German nation ; he g ives them to 
his friends ; he sells them for large sums of money and 
founds benefices on them. Therefore he has forfeited his 
right to them, and deserves punishment. In this way 
the temporal power should protect the innocent and 
prevent wrong-doing, as we are taught by St. Paul (Rom. 
xiii.) and by St. Peter (1 Peter ii.) and even by the canon 
law (16. q. 7. de Filiis). That i$ why we say to the 
Pope and his followers, Tu oral "Thou shalt pray" ; to 
the Emperor and his followers, Tu protege ! "Thou shalt 
protect"; to the commons, Tit labora ! "Thou shalt 
work." Not that each man should not pray, protect, and 
work ; for if a man fulfils his duty, that is prayer, pro 
tection, and work ; but every man must have his proper 
task. 

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 191 



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

3. It should be decreed by an imperial law that no 
episcopal cloak and no confirmation of any appointment 
shall for the future be obtained from Rome. The order 
of the most holy and renowned Nicene Council must again 
be restored, namely that a bishop must be confirmed by 
the two nearest bishops or by the archbishop. If the 
Pope cancels the decrees of these and all other councils, 
what is the good of councils at all ? Who has given him 
the right thus to despise councils and to cancel them ? 
If this is allowed, we had better abolish all bishops, arch 
bishops and primates, and make simple rectors of all of 
them, so that they^would have the Pope alone over them, 
as is indeed the case now : he deprives bishops, arch- 



LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



bishops, and primates of all the authority of their office, 
taking everything to himself, and leaving them only the 
name and the empty title; more than this, by his exemp 
tion he has withdrawn convents, abbots, and prelates from 
the ordinary authority of the bishops, so that there 
remains no order in Christendom. The necessary result 
of this must be, and has been, laxity in punishing and 
such a liberty to do evil in all the world that I very much 
fear one might call the Pope " the man of sin " (2 Thess. 
ii. 3). Who but the Pope is to blame for this absence of 
all order, of all punishment, of all government, of all 
discipline, in Christendom ? By his own arbitrary power 
he ties the hands of all his prelates, and takes from them 
their rods, while all their subjects have their hands 
unloosed, and obtain licence by gift or purchase. 

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

4. Let it be decreed that no temporal matter shall be 
submitted to Rome, but all shall be left to the jurisdiction 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 193 

of the temporal authorities. This is part of their own 
canon law, though they do not obey it. For this 
should be the Pope s office : that he, the most learned in 
the Scriptures and the most holy, not in name only, but 
in fact, should rule in matters concerning the faith and 
the holy life of Christians ; he should make primates and 
bishops attend to this, and should work and take thought 
with them to this end, as St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. vi.), 
severely upbraiding those that occupy themselves with the 
things of this world. For all countries suffer unbearable 
damage by this practice of settling such matters at 
Rome, since it involves great expense ; and besides this, 
the judges at Rome, not knowing the manners, laws, and 
customs of other countries, frequently pervert the matter 
according to their own laws and their own opinions, thus 
causing injustice to all parties. Besides this, we should 
prohibit in all foundations the grievous extortion of the 
ecclesiastical judges; they should only be allowed to 
consider matters concerning faith and good morals ; but 
matters concerning money, property, life, and honour 
should be left to the temporal judges. Therefore the 
temporal authorities should not permit excommunication 
or expulsion except in matters of faith and righteous 
living. It is only reasonable that spiritual authorities 
should have power in spiritual matters; spiritual matters, 
however, are not money or matters relating to the body, 
but faith and good works. 

Still we might allow matters respecting benefices or 
prebends to be treated before bishops, archbishops, and 
primates. Therefore when it is necessary to decide quarrels 
and strifes let the Primate of Germany hold a general 
consistory, with assessors and chancellors, who would have 
the control over the signaturas gratice SLuAjustititf* and to 
whom matters arising in Germany might be submitted by 
appeal. The officers of such court should be paid out of 

* At the time when the above was written the function of the 
signatura gratw was to superintend the conferring of grants, con 
cessions, favours, etc., whilst the siynatura justitice embraced the 
general administration of ecclesiastical matters, 

13 



i 9 4 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



the annates, or in some other way, and should not have 
to draw their salaries, as at Rome, from chance presents 
and offerings, whereby f.iey grow accustomed to sell 
justice and injustice, as they must needs do at Rome, 
where the Pope gives them no salary, but allows them to 
fatten themselves on presents; for at Rome no one heeds 
what is right or what is wrong, but only what is money 
and what is not money. They might be paid out of 
the annates, or by some other means devised by men of 
higher understanding and of more experience in these 
things than I have. I am content with making these 
suggestions and giving some materials for consideration 
to those who may be able and willing to help the 
German nation to become a free people of Christians, 
after this wretched, heathen, unchristian misrule of the 
Pope. 

5. Henceforth no reservations shall be valid, and no 
benefices shall be appropriated by Rome, whether the 
incumbent die there, or there be a dispute, or the incum 
bent be a servant of the Pope or of a cardinal; and all 
courtiers shall be strictly prohibited and prevented from 
causing a dispute about any benefice, so as to cite the 
pious priests, to trouble them, and to drive them to pay 
compensation. And if in consequence of this there 
comes an interdict from Rome, let it be despised, just 
as if a thief were to excommunicate any man because 
he would not allow him to steal in peace. Nay, they 
should be punished most severely for making such a 
blasphemous use of excommunication and of the name 
of God, to support their robberies, and for wishing by 
their false threats to drive us to suffer and approve this 
blasphemy of God s name and this abuse of Christian 
authority, and thus to become sharers before God in 
their wrong-doing, whereas it is our duty before God to 
punish it, as St. Paul (Rom. i.) upbraids the Romans 
for not only doing wrong, but allowing wrong to be 
done. But above all that lying mental reservation 
(pectoralis resermtio) is unbearable, by which Christen 
dom is so openly mocked and insulted, in that its head 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 195 



notoriously deals with lies, arid impudently cheats and 
fools every man for the sake of accursed wealth. 

0. The cases reserved* (casus reservati) should be 
abolished, by which not only are the people cheated out 
of much money, but besides many poor consciences are 
confused and led into error by the ruthless tyrants, to the 
intolerable harm of their faith in God, especially those 
foolish and childish cases that are made" important by the 
bull In Coena Domini^ and which do not deserve the 
name of daily sins, not to mention those great cases for 
which the Pope gives no absolution, such as preventing 
a pilgrim from going to Rome, furnishing the Turks with 
arms, or forging the Pope s letters. They only fool us 
with these gross, mad, and clumsy matters : Sodom and 
Gomorrah, and all sins that are committed and that can 
be committed against God s commandments, are not 
reserved cases; but what God never commanded and 
they themselves have invented these must be made 
reserved cases, solely in order that none may be pre 
vented from bringing money to Rome, that they may 
live in their lust without fear of the Turk, and may keep 
the world in their bondage by their wicked useless bulls 
and briefs. 

Now all priests ought to know, or rather it should 
be a public ordinance, that no secret sin constitutes a 
reserved case, if there be no public accusation ; and that 
every priest has power to absolve from all sin, whatever 
its name, if it be secret, and that no abbot, bishop, or 
pope has power to reserve any such case ; and, lastly, that 
if they do this, it is null and void, and they should, more 
over, be punished as interfering without authority in 
God s judgment and confusing and troubling without 
cause our poor witless consciences. But in respect to 

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

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



196 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



any great open sin, directly contrary to God s command 
ments, there is some reason for a " reserved case " ; but 
there should not be too many, nor should they be 
reserved arbitrarily without due cause. For God has 
not ordained tyrants, but shepherds, in His Church, as 
St. Peter says (1 Peter v. 2). 

7. The Roman see must abolish the papal offices, and 
diminish that crowd of crawling vermin at Rome, so that 
the Pope s servants may be supported out of the Pope s 
own pocket, and that his court may cease to surpass all 
royal courts in its pomp and extravagance ; seeing that 
all this pomp has not only been of no service to the 
Christian faith, but has also kept them from study and 
prayer, so that they themselves know hardly anything 
concerning matters of faith, as they proved clumsily 
enough at the last Roman Council,* where, among many 
childishly trifling matters, they decided " that the soul is 
immortal," and that a priest is bound to pray once every 
month on pain of losing his benefice, f How are men to 
rule Christendom and to decide matters of faith who, 
callous and blinded by their greed, wealth, and worldly 
pomp, have only just decided that the soul is immortal ? 
It is no slight shame to all Christendom that they should 
deal thus scandalously with the faith at Rome. If they 
had less wealth and lived in less pomp, they might be 
better able to study and pray, that they might become 
able and worthy to treat matters of belief, as they were 
once, when they were content to be bishops, and not kings 
of kings. 

8. The terrible oaths must be abolished which bishops 
are forced, without any right, to swear to the Pope, by 
which they are bound like servants, and which are 

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 197 



arbitrarily and foolishly decreed in the absurd and 
shallow chapter Significasti* Is it not enough that they 
oppress us in goods, body, and soul by all their mad 
laws, by which they have weakened faith and destroyed 
Christianity ; but must they now take possession of the 
very persons of bishops, with their offices and functions, 
and also claim the investiture t which used formerly to 
be the right of the German emperors, and is still the 
right of the King in France and other kingdoms ? This 
matter caused many wars and disputes with the 
emperors until the popes impudently took the power by 
force, since which time they have retained it, just as if 
it were only right for the Germans, above all Christians 
on earth, to be the fools of the Pope and the Holy See, 
and to do and suffer what no one beside would suffer or 
do. Seeing then that this is mere arbitrary power, 
robbery, and a hindrance to the exercise of the bishop s 
ordinary power, and to the injury of poor souls, therefore 
it is the duty of the Emperor and his nobles to prevent 
and punish this tyranny. 

9. The Pope should have no power over the Emperor, 
except to anoint and crown him at the altar, as a bishop 
crowns a king ; nor should that devilish pomp be allowed 
that the Emperor should kiss the Pope s feet or sit at his 
feet, or, as it is said, hold his stirrup or the reins of his 
mule, when he mounts to ride ; much less should he pay 
homage to the Pope, or swear allegiance, as is impudently 
demanded by the popes, as if they had a right to it. 
The chapter Solite^ in which the papal authority is 
exalted above the imperial, is not worth a farthing, and 
so of all those that depend on it or fear it ; for it does 
nothing but pervert God s holy words from their true 
meaning, according to their own imaginations, as I have 
proved in a Latin treatise. 

* The above is the title of a chapter in the Corpus Juris Canonici. 

f The right of investiture was the subject of the dispute between 
Gregory VII. and Henry IV., which led to the Emperor s sub 
mission at Canossa. 

| The chapter Soliteis&lso contained in the Corpus Juris Canonici. 



198 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



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

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

* In order to legalise the secular power of the Pope, the fiction 
was invented during the latter part of the eighth century, that 
Constantine the Great had made over to the popes the dominion 
over Rome and over the whole of Italy. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 199 



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

10 The Pope must withdraw his hand from the disn, 
and on no pretence assume royal authority over Naples 
and Sicily. He has no more right to them than I, and yet 
claims to be the lord their liege lord. They have been 
taken bv force and robbery, like almost all his other pos 
sessions. Therefore the Emperor should grant him no 
such fief, nor any longer allow him those he has L 
direct him instead to his Bibles and Prayer-books, so that 
he may leave the government of countries and peoples 
to the temporal power, especially of those that no one 
has o iven him. Let him rather preach and pray ! 
same should be done with Bologna, Imola, Vicenza, 
Kavenua, and whatever the Pope has taken by force and 
holds without right in the Ancontine territory, m the 
Komagna, and other parts of Italy, interfering in their 
affairs against all the commandments of Christ and bt. 
Paul For St. Paul says " that he that would be one ot 
the soldiers of heaven must not entangle himself in the 
affairs of this life " (2 Tim. ii. 4) . Now the Pope should 
be the head and the leader of the soldiers of heaven, and 
yet he engages more in worldly matters than any king or 
emperor. He should be relieved of his worldly cares and 
allowed to attend to his duties as a soldier of heaven. 
Christ also, whose vicar he claims to be, would have 



200 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

nothing to do with the things of this world, and even 
asked one that desired of Him a judgment concerning his 
brother, " Who made Me a judge over you ? 5? (St. Luke 
xii. 14). But the Pope interferes .in these matters 
unasked, and concerns himself with all matters, as 
though he were a god, until he himself has forgotten 
what this Christ is whose vicar he professes to be. 

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

It is of a piece with this revolting pride that the Pope 
is not satisfied with riding on horseback or in a carriage, 
but though he be hale and strong, is carried by men like 
an idol in unheard-of pomp. My friend, how does this 
Lucifer-like pride agree with the example of Christ, who 
went on foot, as did also all His Apostles ? Where has 
there been a king who has ridden in such worldly pomp as 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 201 



he does, who professes to be the head of all whose duty it 
is to despise and flee from all worldly pomp I mean, of 
all Christians ? Not that this need concern us for his own 
sake, but that we have good reason to fear God s wrath, 
if we flatter such pride and do not show our discontent. 
It is enough that the Pope should be so mad and foolish ; 

.TIT J 1 - _ .- -II. 




JL U IJC/ YYJUCI1 LL\J VJV7J.-LO.JL-IJ. ^1-JUL.J.v/cwuv^ kj kjAi/ w*.*.*. .-.-.*-. v ~ tij 1 Cli 

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

12. Pilgrimages to Rome must be abolished, or at 
least no one must be allowed to go from his own wish or 
his own piety, unless his priest, his town magistrate, or 
his lord has found that there is sufficient reason for his 
pilgrimage. This I say, not because pilgrimages are bad 

.,1 *^T 111 ill . J-l 4-T,^.-.^ 1,rt-*/I 



I/l Li- JL 1-L.LH.Di^ V/ -L -LJ A ^"V 7 I O 

in themselves, but because at the present time they lead 
to mischief ; for at Rome a pilgrim sees no good examples, 
but only offence. They themselves have made a proverb, 
"The nearer to Rome, the farther from Christ," and 
accordingly men bring home contempt of God and of 
God s commandments. It is said, " The first time one 



202 LUTHER S .PRIMARY WORKS 

goes to Rome, he goes to seek a rogue ; the second time 
he finds him ; the third time he brings him home with 
him." But now they have become so skilful that they 
can do their three journeys in one, and they have, in fact, 
brought home from Rome this saying : " It were better 
never to have seen or heard of Rome." 

And even if this were not so, there is something of 
more importance to be considered ; namely, that simple 
men are thus led into a false delusion and a wrong 
understanding of God s commandments. For they think 
that these pilgrimages are precious and good works ; but 
this is not true. It is but a little good work, often a 
bad, misleading work, for God has not commanded it. 
But He has commanded that each man should care for 
his wife and children and whatever concerns the married 
state, and should, besides, serve and help his neighbour. 
Now it often happens that one goes on a pilgrimage to 
Rome, spends fifty or one hundred guilders, more or less, 
which no one has commanded him, while his wife and 
children, or those dearest to him, are left at home in want 
and misery ; and yet he thinks, poor foolish man, to 
atone for this disobedience and contempt of God s com 
mandments by his self-willed pilgrimage, while he is in 
truth misled by idle curiosity or the wiles of the devil. 
This the popes have encouraged with their false and 
foolish inventions of Golden Years,* by which they have 
incited the people, have torn them away from God s 
commandments and turned them to their own delusive 
proceedings, and set up the very thing that they ought 
to have forbidden. But it brought them money and 
strengthened their false authority, and therefore it was 
allowed to continue, though against God s will and the 
salvation of souls. 



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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 203 



That this false, misleading belief on the part of simple 
Christians may be destroyed, and a true opinion of good 
works may again be introduced, all pilgrimages should 
be done away with. For there is no good in them, no 
commandment, but countless causes of sin and of con 
tempt of God s commandments. These pilgrimages are 
the reason for there being so many beggars, who commit 
numberless villainies, learn to beg without need and get 
accustomed to it. Hence arises a vagabond life, besides 
other miseries which I cannot dwell on now. If any one 
wishes to go on a pilgrimage or to make a vow for a 
pilgrimage, he should first inform his priest or the 
temporal authorities of the reason, and if it should turn 
out that he wishes to do it for the sake of good works, 
let this vow and work be just trampled upon by the 
priest or the temporal authority as an infernal delusion, 
and let them tell him to spend his money and the labour 
a pilgrimage would cost on God s commandments and on 
a thousandfold better work, namely, on his family and 
his poor neighbours. But if he does it out of curiosity, 
to see cities and countries, he may be allowed to do so. 
If he have vowed it in sickness, let such vows be pro 
hibited, and let God s commandments be insisted upon 
in contrast to them ; so that a man may be content with 
what he vowed in baptism, namely, to keep God s com 
mandments. Yet for this once he may be suffered, for 
a quiet conscience sake, to keep his silly vow. No one 
is content to walk on the broad high-road of God s com 
mandments ; every one makes for himself new roads and 
new vows, as if he had kept all God s commandments. 

13. Now we come to the great crowd that promises 
much and performs little. Be not angry, my good sirs ; 
I mean well. I have to tell you this bitter and sweet 
truth : Let no more mendicant monasteries be built ! 
God help us ! there are too many as it is. Would to 
God they were all abolished, or at least made over to two 
or three orders ! It has never done good, it will never do 
good, to go wandering about over the country. Therefore 
my advice is that ten, or as many as may be required, be 



204 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

put together and made into one, which one, sufficiently 
provided for, need not beg. Oh ! it is of much more 
importance to consider what is necessary for the salvation 
of the common people, than what St. Francis, or St. 
Dominic, or St. Augustine,* or any other man, laid 
down, especially since things have not turned out as 
they expected. They should also be relieved from 
preaching and confession, unless specially required to 
do so by bishops, priests, the congregation, or other 
authority. For their preaching and confession has led 
to nought but mere hatred and envy between priests and 
monks, to the great offence and hindrance of the people, 
so that it well deserves to be put a stop to, since its place 
may very well be dispensed with. It does not look at all 
improbable that the Holy Roman See had its own reasons 
for encouraging all this crowd of monks : the Pope per 
haps feared that priests and bishops, growing weary of 
his tyranny, might become too strong for him, and begin 
a reformation unendurable to his Holiness. 

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

* The above-mentioned saints were the patrons of the well-known 
mendicant orders : Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustines. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBIL22Y 205 

to care for faith ; and unless there are wise prelates in 
the monasteries, who preach and urge faith rather than 
the rule of the order, it is inevitable that the order should 
be injurious and misleading to simple souls, who have 
regard to works alone. 

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

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



206 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



But what fruit has come of this we daily see, hear, read, 
and learn more and more. 

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

14. We see also how the priesthood is fallen, and how 
many a poor priest is encumbered with a woman and 
children and burdened in his conscience, and no one does 
anything to help him, though he might very well be 
helped. Popes and bishops may let that be lost that is 
being lost, and that be destroyed which is being destroyed, 
I will save my conscience and open my mouth freely, let 
it vex popes and bishops or whoever it may be ; therefore 
I say, According to the ordinances of Christ and His 
Apostles, every town should have a minister or bishop, as 
St. Paul plainly says (Titus i.), and this minister should 
not be forced to live without a lawful wife, but should be 
allowed to have one, as St. Paul writes, saying that 
" a bishop then must be blameless, the husband of 
one wife, . . . having his children in subjection with all 
gravity " (1 Tim. iii.). For with St. Paul a bishop and a 
presbyter are the same thing, as St. Jerome also con 
firms. But as for the bishops that we now have, of these 
the Scriptures know nothing ; they were instituted by 
common Christian ordinance, so that one might rule over 
many ministers. 

Therefore we learn from the Apostle clearly, that 
every town should elect a pious learned citizen from 
the congregation and charge him with the office of 



* Luther alludes here of course to the vow of celibacy, which 
was curiously styled the vow of chastity ; thus indirectly con 
demning marriage in general. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 207 



minister ; the congregation should support him, and he 
should be left at liberty to marry or not. He should 
have as assistants several priests and deacons, married 
or not, as they please, who should help him to govern 
the people and the congregation with sermons and the 
ministration of the sacraments, as is still the case in the 
Greek Church. Then afterwards, when there were so 
many persecutions and contentions against heretics, there 
were many holy fathers who voluntarily abstained from 
the marriage state, that they might study more, and 
might be ready at all times for death and conflict. Now 
the Eoman see has interfered of its own perversity, and 
has made a general law by which priests are forbidden 
to marry. This must have been at the instigation of the 
devil, as was foretold by St. Paul, saying that " there 
shall come teachers giving heed to seducing spirits, . . . 
forbidding to marry," etc. (1 Tim. iv. 1, 2, seq.). This 
has been the cause of so much misery that it cannot be 
told, and has given occasion to the Greek Church to 
separate from us, and has caused infinite disunion, sin, 
shame, and scandal, like everything that the devil does 
or suggests. Now what are we to do ? 

My advice is to restore liberty, and to leave every 
man free to marry or not to marry. But if we did this 
we should have to introduce a very different rule and 
order for property ; the whole canon law would be over 
thrown, and but few benefices would fall to Rome. I 
am afraid greed was a cause of this wretched, unchaste 
chastity, for the result of it was that every man wished 
to become a priest or to have his son brought up to the 
priesthood, not with the intention of living in chastity 
for this could be done without the priestly state but to 
obtain his worldly support without labour or trouble, 
contrary to God s command, " In the sweat of thy face 
shalt thou eat thy bread" (Gen. iii.) ; and they have 
given a colour to this commandment as though their 
work was praying and reading the mass. I am not here 
considering popes, bishops, canons, clergy, and monks 
who were not ordained by God ; if they have laid burdens 



208 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

on themselves, they may bear them. I speak of the 
office of parish priest, which God ordained, who must 
rule a congregation with sermons and the ministration 
of the sacraments, and must live with them and lead 
a domestic life. These should have the liberty given 
them by a Christian council to marry and to avoid 
danger and sin. For as God has not bound them, no 
one may bind them, though he were an angel from 
heaven, let alone the Pope ; and whatever is contrary 
to this in the canon law is mere idle talk and invention. 

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 209 

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

Let him who has faith enough to dare this only follow 
me courageously : 1 will not mislead him. I may not 
have the Pope s authority, yet I have the authority of a 
Christian to help my neighbour and to warn him against 
his sins and dangers. And here there is good reason for 
doing so. 

(a) It is not every priest that can do without a woman, 
^not only on account of human frailty, but still more for 

his household. If therefore he takes a woman, and the 
Pope allows this, but will not let them marry, what is 
this but expecting a man and a woman to live together 
and not to fall ? Just as if one were to set fire to straw, 
and command it should neither smoke nor burn. 

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

(c) Even though the Pope s laws forbid it, still, after 
the married state has been entered, the Pope s laws are 

14 



210 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



superseded, and are valid no longer, for God has com 
manded that no man shall pat asunder husband and wife, 
and this commandment is far above the Pope s laws, and 
God s command must not be cancelled or neglected for 
the papal commands. It is true that mad lawyers have 
helped the Pope to invent impediments or hindrances to 
marriage, and thus troubled, divided, and perverted the 
married state, destroying the commandments of God. 
What need I say further ? In the whole body of the 
Pope s canon law, there are not two lines that can instruct 
a pious Christian, and so many false and dangerous ones 
that it were better to burn it. 

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

15. I must not forget the poor convents. The evil 
spirit, who has troubled all estates of life by human laws, 
and made them unendurable, has taken possession of 
some abbots, abbesses, and prelates,- and led them so 
to rule their brothers and sisters that they do but go 
soon to hell, and live a wretched life even upon earth, 
as is the case with all the devil s martyrs. For they 
have reserved in confession all, or at least some, deadly 
sins, which are secret, and from these no brother may 
on pain of excommunication and on his obedience absolve 
another. Now we do not always find angels everywhere, 
but men of flesh and blood, who would rather incur all 
excommunication and menace than confess their secret 
sins to a prelate or the confessor appointed for them \ 
consequently they receive the Sacrament with these sins 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 



on their conscience, by which they become irregular* 
and suffer much misery. Oh blind shepherds! Oh 
foolish prelates 1 Oh ravenous wolves ! Now I _ say 
that in cases where a sin is public and notorious it is 
onlv ri<>-ht that the prelate alone should punish it, and 
such sins, and no others, he may reserve and except lor 
himself; over private sins he has no authority, even 
thouo-h they may be the worst that can be committed or 
imagined. And if the prelate excepts these, he becomes 
a tyrant and interferes with God s judgment. 

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

16. It were also right to abolish annual festivals, pro 
cessions, and masses for the dead, or at least to diminish 
their number ; for we evidently see that they have 
become no better than a mockery, exciting the anger of 
God and having no object but money-getting, gluttony, and 

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



LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



carousals. How should it please God to hear the poor 
vigils and masses mumbled in this wretched way, neither 
read nor prayed ? Even when they are properly read, it 
is not done freely for the love of God, but for the love of 
money and as payment of a debt. Now it is impossible 
that anything should please God or win anything from 
Him that is not done freely, out of love for Him. There- 
fore, as true Christians, we ought to abolish or lessen a 
practice that we see is abused, and that angers God 
instead of appeasing Him. I should prefer, and it would 
be more agreeable to God s will, and far better for a 
foundation, charch, or convent, to put all the yearly 
masses and vigils together into one mass, so that they 
would every year celebrate, on one day, a true vigil and 
mass with hearty sincerity, devotion, and faith for all 
their benefactors. This would be better than their 
thousand upon thousand masses said every year, each 
for a particular benefactor, without devotion and faith. 
My dear fellow-Christians, God cares not for much 
prayer, but for good prayer. Nay, He condemns lono- 
and frequent prayers, saying, " Verily I say unto you, 
they have their reward " (Matt. vi. 2, seq.). But it is 
the greed that cannot trust God by which such practices 
are set up ; it is afraid it will die of starvation. 

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

Excommunication should not be used except where 
the Scriptures command it, that is, against those that 
have not the right faith, or that live in open sin, and not 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 213 

in matters of temporal goods. .But now the case has 
been inverted : each man believes and lives as he pleases, 
especially those that plunder arid disgrace others with 
excommunications ; and all excommunications are now 
only in matters of worldly goods, for which we have 
no one to thank but the holy canonical injustice. But of 
all this I have spoken previously in a sermon. 




all these should be buried ten fathoms deep in the earth, 
that their very name and memory may no longer live 
upon earth. The evil spirit, who was let loose by the 
spiritual law, lias brought all this terrible plague arid 
misery into the heavenly kingdom of the holy Church, 
and has thereby brought about nothing but the harm 
and destruction of souls, that we may well apply to it 
the words of Christ, " But woe unto you, scribes and 
Pharisees, hypocrites ! for you shut up the kingdom of 
heaven against men, for ye neither go in yourselves, 
neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" 
(Matt, xxiii. 13). 

18. One should abolish all saints days, keeping only 
Sunday. But if it were desired to keep the festivals of 
Our Lady and the greater saints, they should all be held 
on Sundays, or only in the morning with the mass ; the 
rest of the day being a working day. My reason is this : 
with our present abuses of drinking, gambling, idling, 
and all manner of sin, we vex God more on holy days 
than on others. And the matter is just reversed ; we 
have made holy days unholy, and working days holy, 
and do no service, but great dishonour, to God and His 
si hits with all our holy days. There are some foolish 
prelates that think they have done a good deed, if they 
establish a festival to St. Otilia or St. Barbara, and the 

* Luther enumerates here the various grades of punishment 
inflicted on priests. The ayyraratwn consisted of a threat of ex 
communication after a thrice-repeated admonition, whilst the 
consequence of re.ayyraratioii was immediate excommunication. 



2i 4 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



like, each in his own blind fashion, whilst he would be 
doing a much better work to turn a saint s day into a 
working day, in honour of a saint. 

Besides these spiritual evils, these saints days inflict 
bodily injury on the common man in two ways : he loses 
a day s work, and he spends more than usual, besides 
weakening his body and making himself unfit for labour, 
as we see every day, and yet no one tries to improve it. 
One should not consider whether the Pope instituted 
these festivals, or whether we require his dispensation 
or permission. If anything is contrary to God s will and 
harmful to men in body and soul, not only has every 
community, council, or government authority to prevent 
and abolish such wrong without the knowledge or consent 
of pope or bishop, but it is their duty, as they value 
their soul s salvation, to prevent it, even though pope 
and bishop (that should be the first to do so) are un 
willing to see it stopped. And first of all we should 
abolish church wakes, since they are nothing but taverns, 
fairs, and gaming places, to the greater dishonour of God 
and the damnation of souls. It is no good to make a 
talk about their having had a good origin and being good 
works. Did not God set aside His own law that He had 
given forth out of heaven when He saw that it was 
abused, and does He not now reverse every day what 
He has appointed, and destroy what He has made, on 
account of the same perverse misuse, as it is written in 
Psalm xviii. (ver. 26), " With the fro ward Thou wilt 
show Thyself froward " ? 

19. The degrees of relationship in which marriage is 
forbidden must be altered, such as so-called spiritual 
relations * in the third and fourth degrees ; and where 
the Pope at Home can dispense in such matters for 
money, and make shameful bargains, every priest should 
have the power of granting the same dispensations freely 
for the salvation of souls. Would to God that all those 



* Those, namely, between sponsors at baptism and their god 
children. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 215 

things that have to be bought at Rome, for freedom from 
the golden snares of the canon law, might be given by 
any priest without payment, snch as indulgences, letters 
of indulgences, letters of dispensation, mass letters, and 
all the other religions licences and knaveries at Rome by 
which the poor people are deceived and robbed ! For if 
the Pope has the power to sell for money his golden 
snares, or canon nets (laws, I should say), much more 
has a priest the power to cancel them and to trample 
on them for God s sake. But if he has no such power, 
then the Pope can have no authority to sell them in his 
shameful fair. 

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

20. The country chapels and churches must be destroyed, 
such as those to " which the new pilgrimages have been 
set on foot : Wilsnack, Sternberg, Treves, the Grimmen- 
thal, and now Ratisbon, and many others. Oh, what a 
reckoning there will be for those bishops that allow 
these inventions of the devil and make a profit out of 
them ! They should be the first to stop it ; they think 
that it is a godly, holy thing, and do not see that the 
devil does this to strengthen covetousness, to teach false 
beliefs, to weaken parish churches, to increase drunken 
ness and debauchery, to waste money and labour, and 



216 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

simply to lead the poor people by the nose. If they had 
only studied the Scriptures as much as their accursed 
canon law, they would know well how to deal with the 
matter. 

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 217 

saints ? Who tells him whether they are holy or not 
holy ? Are there not enough sins on earth as it is but 
we must tempt (foci, interfere in His judgment, and 
make money-bags of His saints ? Therefore my advice 
is to let the saints glorify themselves. Nay, God alone 
should be glorified, and every man should keep to his 
own parish, where he will profit more than in all 
these shrines, even if they were all put together into one 
shrine. Here a man finds baptism, the Sacrament, 
preaching, and his neighbour, and these are more than 
all the saints in heaven, for it is by God s word and 
sacrament that they have all been hallowed. 

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

Even if this glorification of the saints had been good 
once, it is not good now, just as many other things were 
good once and are now occasion of offence and injurious, 
such as holidays, ecclesiastical treasures and ornaments. 
For it is evident that what is aimed at in the glorification 
of saints is not the glory of God nor the bettering of 
Christendom, but money and fame alone ; one Church 
wishes to have an advantage over another, and would be 
sorry to see another Church enjoying the same advantages. 
In this way they have in these latter days abused the 
goods of the Church so as to gain the goods of the world; 



2i8 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



so that everything, and even God Himself, must serve 
their avarice. Moreover, these privileges cause nothing 
but dissensions and worldly pride ; one Church being 
different from the rest, they despise or magnify one 
another, whereas all goods that are of God should be 
common to all, and should serve to produce unity. This, 
too, is much liked by the Pope, who would be sorry to 
see all Christians equal and at one with one another. 

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

Therefore my advice is this : If this folly is not done 
away with, let all pious Christians open their eyes, and 
not be deceived by these Romish bulls and seals and all 
their specious pretences ; let them stop at home in their 
own churches, and be satisfied with their baptism, Gospel, 
faith, Christ, and God (who is everywhere the same), 
and let the Pope continue to be a blind leader of the 
blind. Neither pope nor angel can give you as much as 
God gives you in your own parish ; nay, he only leads 
you away from God s gifts, which you have for nothing, 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 219 

to his own gifts, which you must buy, giving you lead 
for gold, skin for meat, strings for a purse, wax for 
honey, words for goods, the letter for the spirit, as you 
can see for yourselves though you will not perceive it. 
If you try to ride to heaven on the Pope s wax and parch 
ment, your carriage will soon break down, and you will 
fall into hell, not in God s name. 

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

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

There should also be an overseer or guardian who 
should know all the poor, and should inform the town- 
council, or the priest, of their requirements ; or some 
other similar provision might be made. There is no 
occupation, in my opinion, in which there is so much 
knavery and cheating as among beggars ; which could 
easily be done away with. This general, unrestricted 



220 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



begging is, besides, injurious for the common people. I 
estimate that of the five or six orders of mendicant monks 
each one visits every place more than six or seven times 
in _the year ; then there are the common beggars, 
emissaries, and pilgrims ; in this way I calculate every 
city has a blackmail levied on it about sixty times 
a year, not counting rates and taxes paid to the civil 
government and the useless robberies of the Roman see ; 
so^ that it is to my mind one of the greatest of God s 
miracles how we manage to live and support ourselves. 

Some may think that in this way the poor would not 
be well cared for, and that such great stone houses and 
convents would not be built, and not so plentifully, and 
I think so too. Nor is it necessary. If a man will be 
poor, he should not be rich ; if he will be rich, let him 
put his hand to the plough, and get wealth himself 
out of the earth. It is enough to provide decently 
for the poor, that they may not die of cold and hunger. 
It is not right that one should work that another 
may be idle, and live ill that another may live well, 
as is now the perverse abuse, for St. Paul says, " If any 
would not work, neither should he eat " (2 Thess. iii. 10). 
God has not ordained that any one should live of the 
goods of others, except priests and ministers alone, as 
St. Paul says (1 Cor. ix. 14), for their spiritual work s 
sake, as also Christ says to the Apostles, " The labourer 
is worthy of his hire " (Luke x. 7). 

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 221 

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

All this, however, does not apply to the old foundations 
and chapters, which were doubtless founded in order 
that since, according to the custom of Germany, all the 
children of nobles cannot be landowners and rulers, they 
should be provided for in these foundations, and these 
serve God freely, study, and become learned themselves, 
and help others to acquire learning. I am speaking 
only of the new foundations, endowed for prayers and 
masses, by the example of which the old foundations 
have become burdened with the like prayers and masses, 
making them of very little, if of any, use. Through 
God s righteous punishment, they have at last come down 
to the dregs, as they deserve that is, to the noise of 
singers and organs, and cold, spiritless masses, with no 
end but to gain and spend the money due to them. 
Popes, bishops, and doctors should examine and report 
on such things ; as it is they are the guiltiest, allowing 
anything that brings them money ; the blind ever leading 
the blind. This comes of covetousness and the canon 
law. 

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



222 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

covetonsness and want of faith in God go hand in hand, 
and often men take for the requirements of their "proper 
station" what is mere covetousness and want of faith. 

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

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

If there were nothing else to show that the Pope is 
antichrist, this would be enough. Dost thou hear this, 
Pope! not the most holy, but the most sinful ? Would 
that God would hurl thy chair headlong from heaven, 
and cast it down into the abyss of hell ! Who gave you 
the power to exalt } T ourself above your God ; to break 
and to loose what He has commanded; to teach Christians, 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 223 



more especially Germans, who are of noble nature, and 
are famed in all histories for uprightness and truth, to 
be false, unfaithful, perjured, treacherous, and wicked? 
God has commanded to keep faith and observe oaths 
even with enemies ; you dare to cancel this command, 
laying it down in your heretical, anti-Christian decretals 
that you have power to do so ; and through your mouth 
and your pen Satan lies as he never lied before, teaching 
von to twist and pervert the Scriptures according to your 
own arbitrary will. Lord Christ, look down upon 
this ; let Thy day of judgment come and destroy the 
devil s lair at Rome. Behold him of whom St. Paul 
spoke (2 Thess. ii. 3, 4) that he should exalt himself 
above Thee and sit in Thy Church, showing himself as 
God the man of sin and the child of damnation. What 
else does the Pope s power do but teach and strengthen 
sin and wickedness, leading souls to damnation in Thy 
name ? 

The children of Israel in old times were obliged to 
keep the oath that they had sworn, in ignorance and 
error, to the Gibeonites, their enemies ; and King 
Zedekiah was destroyed utterly, with his people, because 
he broke the oath that he had sworn to the King of 
Babylon ; and among us, a hundred years ago, the noble 
King Ladislaus V. of Poland and Hungary was slain by 
the Turk, with so many of his people, because he allowed 
himself to be misled by papal legates and cardinals and 
broke the good and useful treaty that he had made with 
the Turk. The pious Emperor Sigismond had no good 
fortune after the Council of Constance, in which he 
allowed the knaves to violate the safe-conduct that he 
had promised to John Huss and Jerome ; from this has 
followed all the miserable strife between Bohemia and 
ourselves. And in our own time, God help us ! ^how 
much Christian blood has been shed on account of the 
oath and bond which Pope Julius made and unmade 
between the Emperor Maximilian and King Louis of 
France ! How can I tell all the misery the popes have 
caused bv such devilish insolence, claiming the power 



224 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

of breaking oaths between great lords, causing a shameful 
scandal for the sake of money? I hope the day of 
judgment is at hand ; things cannot and will not become 
worse than the dealings of the Roman chair. The Pope 
treads God s commandments under foot and exalts his 
own ; if this is not antichrist, I do not know what is. 
But of this, arid to more purpose, another time. 

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

First of all, we must honestly confess the truth, with 
out attempting self-justification, and own one thing to 
the Bohemians, namely that John Huss and Jerome of 
Prague were burnt at Constance in violation of the papal, 
Christian, and imperial oath and safe-conduct, and that 
thus God s commandment was broken and the Bohemians 
excited to great anger. And though they may have 
deserved such great wrong and disobedience to God on 
our part, they were not obliged to approve it and think it 
right. Nay, even now they should ran any danger of life 
and limb rather than own that it is right to break an 
imperial, papal, Christian safe-conduct and act faithlessly 
in opposition to it. Therefore, though the Bohemians 
may be to blame for their impatience, yet the Pope and 
his followers are most to blame for all the misery, all 
the error and destruction of souls, that followed this 
council of Constance. 

It is not my intention here to judge John Huss s belief 
and to defend his errors, although my understanding has 
not been able to find any error in him, and I would 
willingly believe that men who violated a safe-conduct 
and God s commandment (doubtless possessed rather by 
the evil spirit than by the Spirit of God) were unable 
to judge well or to condemn with truth. No one can 
imagine that the Holy Ghost can break God s com 
mandments ; no one can deny that it is breaking God s 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 225 

commandments to violate faith and a safe-conduct, even 
though it were promised to the devil himself, much more 
then in the case of a heretic ; it is also notorious that 
a safe-conduct was promised to John Huss and the 
Bohemians, and that the promise was broken and Huss 
was burnt. I have no wish to make a saint or a martyr 
of John Huss (as some Bohemians do), though I own 
that he was treated unjustly, and that his books and his 
doctrines were wrongfully condemned ; for God s judg 
ments are inscrutable and terrible, and none but Himself 
may reveal or explain them. 

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

Besides this, the Emperor and the princes should send 
to Bohemia several pious, learned bishops and doctors, 
but, for their life, no cardinal or legate or inquisitor, 
for such people are far too unlearned in all Christian 
matters, and do not seek the salvation of souls ; but, like 
all the papal hypocrites, they seek only their own glory, 
profit, and honour ; they were also the leaders in that 
calamitous affair at Constance. But those envoys should 
inquire into the faith of the Bohemians, to ascertain 

10 



226 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



whether it would be possible to unite all their sects into 
one. Moreover, the Pope should (for their souls sake) for 
a time abandon his supremacy and, in accordance with 
the statutes of the Nicene Council, allow the Bohemians 
to choose for themselves an archbishop of Prague, this 
choice to be confirmed by the Bishops of Olmiitz in 
Moravia or of Gran in Hungary, or the Bishop of Gnesen 
in Poland, or the Bishop of Magdeburg in Germany. It 
is enough that it be confirmed by one or two of these 
bishops, as in the time of St. Cyprian. And the Pope 
has no authority to forbid it ; if he forbids it, he acts as 
a wolf and a tyrant, and no one should obey him, but 
answer his excommunication by excommunicating him. 

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 227 

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

If I knew that the only error of the Hussites* was that 
they believe that in the Sacrament of the altar there is 
true bread and wine, though under it the body and the 
blood of Christ if, I say, this were their only error, I 
should not condemn them ; but let the Bishop of Prague 
see to this. For it is not an article of faith that in the 
Sacrament there is no bread and wine in substance and 
nature, which is a delusion of St. Thomas and the Pope ; 
but it is an article of faith that in the natural bread and 
wine there is Christ s true flesh and blood. We should 
accordingly tolerate the views of both parties until they 
are at one ; for there is not much danger whether you believe 
there is or there is not bread in the Sacrament. For we 
have to suffer many forms of belief and order that do not 
injure the faith ; but if they believe otherwise, it would 
be better not to unite with them, and yet to instruct them 
in the truth. 

All other errors and dissensions to be found in Bohemia 
should be tolerated until the Archbishop has been rein 
stated, and has succeeded in time in uniting the whole 
people in one harmonious doctrine. We shall never unite 
them by force, by driving or hurrying them. We must 
be patient, and use gentleness. Did not Christ have to 
walk with His disciples, suffering their unbelief, until 

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



228 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

they believed in His resurrection ? If they had but once 
more a regular bishop and good government without 
Eomish tyranny, I think matters would mend. 

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

25. The universities also require a good, sound re 
formation. I must say this, let it vex whom it may. 
The fact is that whatever the papacy has ordered or 
instituted is only designed for the propagation of sin and 
error. What are the universities, as at present ordered, 
but, as the book of Maccabees says, " schools of l Greek 
fashion and l heathenish manners " (2 Mace. iv. 12, 13), 
full of dissolute living, where very little is taught of 
the Holy Scriptures and of the Christian faith, and the 
blind heathen teacher, Aristotle, rules even further than 
Christ ? Now, my advice would be that the books of 
Aristotle, the Physics, the Metaphysics, Of the Soul, 
Ethics, which have hitherto been considered the best, 
be altogether abolished, with all others that profess to 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 229 



treat of nature, though nothing can be learned from 
them, either of natural or of spiritual things. Besides, 
no one has been able to understand his meaning, and 
much time has been wasted and many noble souls vexed 
with much useless labour, study, and expense. I venture 
to say that any potter has more knowledge of natural 
things than is to be found in these books. My heart is 
grieved to see how many of the best Christians this 
accursed, proud, knavish heathen has fooled and led 
astray with his false words. God sent him as a plague 
for our sins. 

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

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

I would, however, gladly consent that Aristotle s books 
of Logic, Rhetoric, and Poetry should be retained, or they 
might be usefully studied in a condensed form, to practise 
young people in speaking and preaching ; but the notes 



230 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



and comments should be abolished, and, just as Cicero s 
Rhetoric is read without note or comment, Aristotle s 
Logic should be read without such long commentaries. 
But now neither speaking nor preaching is taught out of 
them, and they are used only for disputation and toil- 
someness. Besides this, there are languages Latin, 
Greek, and Hebrew the mathematics, history ; which I 
recommend to men of higher understanding : and other 
matters, which will come of themselves, if they seriously 
strive after reform. And truly it is an important matter, 
for it concerns the teaching and training of Christian 
youths and of our noble people, in whom Christianity 
still abides. Therefore I think that pope and emperor 
could have no better task than the reformation of the 
universities, just as there is nothing more devilishly 
mischievous than an unreformed university. 

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

* In the shrine of his heart. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 231 



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

The civil law, too, good God ! what a wilderness it is 
become ! It is, indeed, much better, more skilful, and 
more honest than the canon law, of which nothing is 
good but the name. Still there is far too much of it. 
Surely good governors, in addition to the Holy Scrip 
tures, would be law enough, as St. Paul says, " Is it so 
that there is not a wise man among you, no, not one 
that shall be able to judge between his brethren?" 
(1 Cor. vi. 5). I think also that the common law and 
the usage of the country should be preferred to the law 
of the empire, and that the law of the empire should 
only be used in cases of necessity. And would to God 
that, as each land has its own peculiar character and 
nature, they could all be governed by their own simple 
laws, just as they were governed before the law of 
the empire was devised, and as many are governed 
even now ! Elaborate and far-fetched laws are only 
burdensome to the people, and a hindrance rather 
than a help to business. But I hope that others have 
thought of this, and considered it to more purpose 
than I could. 

Our worthy theologians have saved themselves much 
trouble and labour by leaving the Bible alone and only 



232 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

Since then we hold the name and title of teachers of 
the Holy Scriptures, we should verily be forced to act 
according to our title, and to teach the Holy Scriptures 
and nothing else. Although, indeed, it is a proud, 
presumptuous title for a man to proclaim himself teacher 
of the Scriptures, still it could be suffered, if the works 
confirmed the title. But as it is, under the rule of the 
Sentences, we find among theologians more human and 
heathenish fallacies than true holy knowledge of the 
Scriptures. What then are we to do? I -know not, 
except to pray humbly to God to give us Doctors of 
Theology. Doctors of Arts, of Medicine, of Law, of 
the Sentences, may be made by popes, emperors, and the 
universities ; but of this we may be certain : a Doctor of 
the Holy Scriptures can be made by none but the Holy 
Ghost, as Christ says, " They shall all be taught of God " 
(John vi. 45). Now the Holy Ghost does not consider 

* Luther refers here to the " Sentences " of Petrus Lombardus 
the so-called macjister sententiarum, which formed the basis of all 
dogmatic interpretation from about the middle of the twelfth 
century down to the Reformation. 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 233 

red caps or brown, or any other pomp, nor whether we 
are young or old, layman or priest, monk or secular, 
virgin or married ; nay, He once spoke by an ass against 
the prophet that rode on it. Would to God we were 
worthy of having such doctors given us, be they laymen 
or priests, married or unmarried ! But now they try to 
force the Holy Ghost to enter into popes, bishops, or 
doctors, though there is no sign to show that He is in 
them. 

We must also lessen the number of theological books, 
and choose the best, for it is not the number of books 
that makes the learned man, nor much reading, but good 
books often read, however few, make a man learned in the 
Scriptures and pious. Even the Fathers should only be 
read for a short time as an introduction to the Scriptures. 
As it is we read nothing else, and never get from them 
into the Scriptures, as if one should be gazing at the sign 
posts and never follow the road. These good Fathers 
wished to lead us into the Scriptures by their writings, 
whereas we lead ourselves out by them, though the 
Scriptures are our vineyard, in which we should all work 
and exercise ourselves. 

Above all, in schools of all kinds the chief and most 
common lesson should be the Scriptures, and for young 

>cl 




schools, monasteries, and convents were founded for this 
purpose, and with good Christian intentions, as we read 
concerning St. Agnes and other saints * ; then were there 
holy virgins and martyrs ; and in those times it was well 
with Christendom ; but now it has been turned into 
nothing but praying and singing. Should not every 
Christian be expected by his ninth or tenth year to 
know all the holy Gospels, containing as they do his 
very name and life ? A spinner or a seamstress teaches 
her daughter her trade while she is young, but now 

* See above, pp. 205, seq. 



234 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



even the most learned prelates and bishops do not know 
the Gospel. 

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 235 



26. I know well the Romish mob will object and 
loudly pretend that the Pope took the holy Roman 
empire from the Greek emperor and gave it to Germany, 
for which honour and favour he is supposed to deserve 
submission and thanks and all other kinds of returns 
from the Germans. For this reason they will perhaps 
assume to oppose all attempts to reform them, and will 
let no regard be paid to anything but those donations 
of the Roman empire. This is also the reason why they 
have so arbitrarily and proudly persecuted and oppressed 
many good emperors, so that it were pity to tell, and 
with the same cleverness have they made themselves 
lords of all the temporal power and authority, in violation 
of the holy Gospel ; and accordingly I must speak of 
this matter also. 

There is no doubt that the true Roman empire, of 
which the prophets (Num. xxiv. 24 and Daniel ii. 44) 
spoke, was long ago destroyed, as Balaam clearly fore 
told, saying, " And ships shall come from the coast of 
Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, 
and he also shall perish for ever " (Num. xxiv. 24).* 
And this was done by the Goths, and more especially 
since the empire of the Turks was formed, about one 
thousand years ago, and so gradually Asia and Africa were 
lost, and subsequently France, Spain, and finally Venice 
arose, so that Rome retains no part of its former power. 
Since then the Pope could not force the Greeks and 
the emperor at Constantinople, who is the hereditary 
Roman emperor, to obey his will, he invented this device 
to rob him of his empire and title, and to give it to the 
Germans, who were at that time strong and of good 
repute, in order that they might take the power of the 
Roman empire and hold it of the Pope ; and this is 
what actually has happened. It was taken from the 
emperor at Constantinople, and the name and title were 
given to us Germans, and therewith we became subject 

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



236 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

to the Pope, and he has built up a new Roman empire 
on the Germans. For the other empire, the original, 
came to an end long ago, as was said above. 

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

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

Now, although the Pope has violently and unjustly 
robbed the true emperor of the Roman empire, or its 
name, and has given it to us Germans, yet it is certain 
that God has used the Pope s wickedness to give the 
German nation this empire and to raise up a new Roman 
empire, that exists now, after the fall of the old empire. 
We gave the Pope no cause for this action, nor did we 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 237 

understand his false aims and schemes ; but still, through 
the craft and knavery of the popes, we have, alas ! all too 
dearly, paid the price of this empire with incalculable 
bloodshed, with the loss of our liberty, with the robbery 
of our wealth, especially of our churches and benefices, 
and with unspeakable treachery and insult. We have 
the empire in name, but the Pope has our wealth, our 
honour, our bodies, lives, and souls, and all that we 
have. This was the way to deceive the Germans, and to 
deceive them by shuffling. What the popes wished was 
to become emperors ; and as they could not do this, they 
put themselves above the emperors. 

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

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

Therefore the Pope and his followers have no reason 
to boast that they did a great kindness to the German 
nation in giving them this Roman empire ; firstly 
because they intended no good to us in the matter, but 
only abused our simplicity to strengthen their own power 
agamst the Roman emperor at Constantinople, from 



238 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

whom, against God and justice, the Pope has taken what 
he had no right to. 

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

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

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



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 239 

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

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



240 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



from Germany. God s mercy has given us more food, 
and that both precious and good, than is to be found in 
other countries. I shall probably be accused of making 
foolish and impossible suggestions, as if I wished to 
destroy the great business of commerce. Bat I am only 
doing my part ; if the community does not mend matters, 
every man should do it himself. I do not see many good 
manners that have ever come into a land through com 
merce, and therefore God let the people of Israel dwell 
far from the sea and not carry on much trade. 
^ But without doubt the greatest misfortune of the 
Germans is buying on usury. But for this, many a man 
would have to leave unbought his silk, velvet, cloth of 
gold, spices, and all other luxuries. The system has not 
been in force for more than one hundred years, and has 
already brought poverty, misery, and destruction on 
almost all princes, foundations, cities, nobles, and heirs. 
If it continues for another hundred years Germany will 
be left without a farthing, and we shall be reduced to 
eating one another. The devil invented this system, 
and the Pope has done an injury to the whole world by 
sanctioning it. 

My request and my cry therefore is this : Let each man 
consider the destruction of himself and his family, which is 
no longer at the door, but has entered the house ; and let 
emperors, princes, lords, and corporations see to the 
condemnation and prohibition of this kind of trade, 
without considering the opposition of the Pope and all his 
justice and injustice, nor whether livings or endowments 
depend upon it. Better a single fief in a city based 
on a freehold estate or honest interest, than a hundred 
based on usury ; yea, a single endowment on usury is 
worse and more grievous than twenty based on freehold 
estate. Truly this usury is a sign and warning that the 
world has been given over to the devil for its sins, and 
that we are losing our spiritual and temporal welfare 
alike ; yet we heed it not. 

Doubtless we should also find some bridle for the 
Fuggers and similar companies. Is it possible that in 



ADDRESS 7O THE NOBILITY 241 



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

Then there is the excess in eating and drinking, for 
which we Germans have an ill reputation in foreign 
countries, as our special vice, and which has become so 
common, and gained so much the upper hand, that 
sermons avail nothing. The loss of money caused by it 
is not the worst ; but in its train come murder, adultery, 
theft, blasphemy, and all vices. The temporal power 
should do something to prevent it ; otherwise it will 
come to pass, as Christ foretold, that the last day shall 
come a"s a thief in the night, and shall find them eating 
and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, planting 
and building, buying and selling (Matt. xxiv. 38 ; Luke 
xv ii. 26), just as things go on now, and that so strongly 
that I apprehend lest the day of judgment be at hand, 
even now when we least expect it. 

Lastly, is it not a terrible thing that we Christians 
should maintain public brothels, though we all vow 
chastity in our baptism ? I well know all that can be 
said on this matter : that it is not peculiar to one nation, 
that it would be difficult to demolish it, and that it is 

16 



242 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



better thus than that virgins, or married women, or 
honourable women should be dishonoured. But should 
not the spiritual and temporal powers combine to find 
some means of meeting these difficulties without any 
such heathen practice ? If the people of Israel existed 
without this scandal, why should not a Christian nation 
be able to do so ? How do so many towns and villages 
manage to exist without these houses ? Why should not 
great cities be able to do so ? 

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

Eect of marriage would help every man and protect him 
fom temptations. 

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

But in order that many sins may be prevented that are 
becoming too common, I would honestly advise that no 
boy or girl be allowed to take the vow of chastity or to 
enter a religious life before the age of thirty years. For 
this requires a special grace, as St. Paul says. Therefore, 

* Luther uses the expression ausbuben in the sense of sicli austoben 
viz., " to storm out one s passions," and then coins the word sick 
einbuben, viz., " to storm in one s passions." 



ADDRESS TO THE NOBILITY 243 



unless God specially urge any one to a religious life, lie 
will do well to leave all vows and devotions alone. I say 
further, If a man lias so little faith in God as to fear 
that he will be unable to maintain himself in the married 
state, and if this fear is the only thing that makes him 
become a priest, then I implore him, for his own soul s 
sake, not to become a priest, but rather to become a 
peasant, or what he will. For if simple trust in God be 
necessary to ensure temporal support, tenfold trust in 
God is necessary to live a religious life. If you do not 
trust to God for your worldly food, how can you trust to 
Him for your spiritual food ? Alas ! this unbelief and 
want of faith destroys all things, and leads us into all 
misery, as we see among all conditions of men. 

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

But this may suffice for the present. For of what 
i-oiKvriis the temporal authority and the nobles I have, 
I think, said enough in my tract on Good Works. 
For their lives and governments leave room enough 
for improvement ; but there is no comparison be 
tween spiritual and temporal abuses, as I have there 
shown. I daresay I have sung a lofty strain, that 
I have proposed many things that will be thought 
impossible, and attacked many points too sharply. But 
what was I to do ? I was bound to say tlws : if I had 
the power, this is what I would do. I had rather incur 
the world s anger than God s ; they cannot take from me 
more than my life. I have hitherto made many offers 
of peace to my adversaries ; but, as I see, God has 
forced me through them to open my mouth wider and 



244 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

wider, and, because they do not keep quiet, to give 
them enough cause for speaking, barking, shouting, 
and writing. Well, then, I have another song still 
to sing concerning them and Rome ; if they wish to 
hear it, I will sing it to them, and sing with all my 
might. Do you understand, my friend Rome, what I 
mean ? 

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



At Wittenberg, in the year 1520. 






II 
Concerning Christian Xibertp 



LETTER OF MARTIN LUTHER TO POPE LEO X. 

AMONG those monstrous evils of this age with which I 
have now for three years been waging war, I am some 
times compelled to look to yon and to call yon to mind, 
most blessed father Leo. In truth, since yon alone are 
everywhere considered as being the cause of my engaging 
in war, I cannot at any time fail to remember you ; and 
although I have been compelled by the causeless raging 
of your impious flatterers against me to appeal from your 
seat to a future council fearless of the futile decrees of 
your predecessors Pius and Julius, who in their foolish 

,nny prohibited such an action yet I have never been 
ilienated in feeling from your Blessedness as not 
ave sought with all my might, in diligent prayer and 
ng to God, all the best gifts for you and for your see. 
But those who have hitherto endeavoured to terrify me 
with the majesty of your name and authority, I have 
begun quite to despise and triumph over. One thing I 
see remaining which I cannot despise, and this has been 
the reason of my writing anew to your Blessedness : 
namely, that I find that blame is cast on me, and that 
it is imputed to me as a great offence, that in my rashness 
I am judged to have spared not even your person. 

Kow, to confess the truth openly, I am conscious that, 
whenever I have had to mention your person, I have said 



246 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

nothing of you but what was honourable and good. If I 
had done otherwise, I could by no means have approved 
my own conduct, but should have supported with all my 
power the judgment of those men concerning me, nor 
would anything have pleased me better, than to recant 
such rashness and impiety. I have called you Daniel in 
Babylon ; and every reader thoroughly knows with what 
distinguished zeal I defended your conspicuous innocence 
against Silvester, who tried to stain it. Indeed, the pub 
lished opinion of so many great men and the repute of 
your blameless life are too widely famed and too much 
reverenced throughout the world to be assailable by any 
man, of however great name, or by any arts. I am not 
so foolish as to attack one whom everybody praises ; 
nay, it has been and always will be my desire not to 
attack even those whom public repute disgraces. I am 
not delighted at the faults of any man, since I am very 
conscious myself of the great beam in my own eye, nor 
can I be the first to cast a stone at the adulteress. 

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



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 247 



bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to onr adversaries. 
What wonld be the use of salt if J_were_jiot pungent, 
nr~ of thftedge_of the sworcfif it did not slay ? 
Accursed is~~the man who does the work of the Lord 
deceitfully. 

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

Your see,jig^ve^gr j jvhic^^ Rome, 

ami_which nStheT you lioJLany man can deliy foj3e_more 
cOTrugt^Egjmy Babylon or Sodom, ana IjmfeTjjji I 
bgie^eTof aJost, desperate, and hopeless^ impiety "this 
fhave verily abominated, and have MTTndignant that 
the people of Christ should be cheated under your name 
and the pretext of the Church of Rome ; and so I have 
resisted, and will resist, as long as the spirit of faith 
shall live in me. Not that I am striving after impossi 
bilities, or hoping that by my labours alone, against the 
furious opposition of so many flatterers, any good can be 
done in that most disordered Babylon; but that I feel 
myself a debtor to my brethren, and am bound to take 
thought for them, that fewer of them may be ruined, or 
that their ruin may be less complete, by the plagues of 
Rome. For many years now, nothing else has overflowed 
from Rome into the world as you are not ignorant 
than the laying waste of goods, of bodies, and of souls, 
and the worst examples of all the worst things. These 
things are clearer than the light to all men ; and the 
Church of Rome, formerly the most holy of all Churches, 
has become the most lawless den of thieves, the most 
shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death, 



248 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



and hell; so that not even antichrist, if he were to come, 
could devise any addition to its wickedness. 

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

Oh, would that, having laid aside that glory which your 
most abandoned enemies declare to be yours, you were 
living rather in the office of a private priest or on your 
paternal inheritance ! In that glory none are worthy to 
glory, except the race of Iscariot, the children of perdition. 
For what happens in your court, Leo, except that, the 
more wicked and execrable any man is, the more pros 
perously he can use your name and authority for the 
ruin of the property and souls of men, for the multiplica 
tion of crimes, for the oppression of faith and truth and 
of the whole Church of God ? Oh, Leo ! in reality most 
unfortunate, and sitting on a most perilous throne, I tell 
you the truth, because I wish you well ; for if Bernard 
felt compassion for his Anastasius at a time when the 
Roman see, though even then most corrupt, was as yet 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 249 



ruling with better hope than now, why should not we 
lament, to whom so much further corruption and ruin 
has been added in three hundred years ? 

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

Behold, Leo, my father, with what purpose and on 
what principle it is that I have stormed against that seat 
of pestilence. I am so far from having felt any rage 
against your person that I even hoped to gain favour 
with you and to aid in your welfare by striking actively 
and vigorously at that your prison, nay, your hell. For 
whatever the "efforts of all minds can contrive against the 
confusion of that impious Court will be advantageous 
to you and to your welfare, and to many others with you. 
Those who dolharm to her_aie doing your officejjhose 
whojuevery way abhor her are glorifying Christ ; in 
e Ch 



short, those are Christians who _ 

But^ to say yet more, even this never entered my heart: 
to inveigh against the Court of Rome or to dispute at all 
about her. For, seeing all remedies for her health to be 
desperate, I looked on her with contempt, and, giving 
her a bill of divorcement, said to her, "He that is unjust, 
let him be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, let him be 
filthy still," giving myself up to the peaceful and quiet 
study of sacred literature, that by this I might be of use 
to the brethren living about me. 

While I was making some advance in these studies, 
Satan opened his eyes and goaded on his servant John 
Eccius, that notorious adversary of Christ, by the un 
checked lust for fame, to drag me unexpectedly into the 
arena, trying to catch me in_one_ little word concerning 
the^ primacy of the Church of iRome, which had fallen 

> v*^ 



2 5 o LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



from me in passing. That boastful Thraso, foaming and 
gnashing his teeth, proclaimed that he would dare all 
things for the glory of God and for the honour of the 
holy apostolic seat ; and, being puffed up respecting your 
power, which he was about to misuse, he looked forward 
with all certainty to victory ; seeking to promote, not so 
much the primacy of Peter, as his own pre-eminence 
among the theologians of this age ; for he thought it 
would contribute in no slight degree to this, if he were 
to lead Luther in triumph. The result having proved 
unfortunate for the sophist, an incredible rage torments 
him ; for he feels that whatever discredit to Rome has 
arisen through me has been caused by the fault of him 
self alone. 

Suffer rne, I pray you, most excellent Leo, both to 
plead my own cause, and to accuse your true enemies. 
I believe it is known to you in what way Cardinal 
Cajetan, your imprudent and unfortunate, nay unfaithful, 
legate, acted towards me. When, on account of my 
reverence for your name, I had placed myself and all 
that was mine in his hands, he did not so act as to 
establish peace, which he could easily have established 
by one little word, since 1 at that time promised to be 
silent and to make an end of my case, if he would 
command my adversaries to do the same. But that man 
of pride, not content with this agreement, began to 
justify my adversaries, to give them free licence, and to 
order me to recant, a thing which was certainly not in 
his commission. Thus indeed, when the case was in the 
best position, it came through his vexatious tyranny into 
a much worse one. Therefore whatever has followed 
upon this is the fault, not of Luther, but entirely of 
Cajetan, since he did not suffer me to be silent and 
remain quiet, which at that time I was entreating for 
with all my might. What more was it my duty to do ? 

Next came Charles Miltitz, also a nuncio from your 
Blessedness. He, though he went up and down with 
much and varied exertion, and omitted nothing which 
could tend to restore the position of the cause thrown 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 251 



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

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

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



252 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

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

Thus I come, most blessed Father, and in all abase 
ment beseech you to put to your hand, if it is possible, 
and impose a curb upon those flatterers who are enemies 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 253 



of peace, while they pretend peace. But there is no 
reason, most blessed Father, why any one should assume 
that 1 am to utter a recantation, unless he prefers to 
involve the case in still greater confusion. Moreover, I 
cannot bearjyith laws for the interpretation ofthV wojct 
the" word of God which teaches |lhp f rfy in 



all other things, ought not to be bound. Saving these two 

tilings, iliotv is nothing \vliicli I am not able, and most 
heartily willing, to do or to suffer. 1 hate contention ; 
I will challenge no one ; in return I wish not to be 
challenged ; but, being challenged, I will not be dumb in 
the cause of Christ my Master. For your Blessedness 
will be able by one short and easy word to call these 
controversies before yon and suppress them, and to 
impose silence and peace on both sides a word which I 
have ever longed to hear. 

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

In brief, trust not in any who exalt you, but in those 
who humiliate you. For this is the judgment of God : 
" He hath cast down the mighty from their seat, and 
hath exalted the humble." See how unlike Christ was 



254 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



to His successors, though all will have it that they are 
His vicars. I fear that in truth very many of them have 
been in too serious a sense His vicars, for a vicar re 
presents a prince who is absent. Now if a pontiff rules 
while Christ is absent and does not dwell in his heart, 
what else is he but a vicar of Christ ? And then what 
is that Church but a multitude without Christ ? What 
indeed is such a vicar but antichrist and an idol ? How 
much more rightly did the Apostles speak, who call 
themselves the servants of a present Christ, not the 
vicars of an absent one ! 

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

In fine, that I may not approach you empty-handed, 
blessed Father, I bring with me this little treatise, 
published under your name, as a good omen of the estab 
lishment of peace and of good hope. By this you may 
perceive in what pursuits I should prefer and be able to 
occupy myself to more profit, if I were allowed, or had 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 255 



been hitherto allowed, by your impious flatterers. It is 
a small matter, if you look to its exterior, but, unless I 
mistake, it is a summary of the Christian life put 
together in smalt compaslyif you apprehend its meaning. 
r,^in my poverty, have no other present to make you, 
nor do you need anything else than to be enriched by a 
spiritual gift. I commend myself to your Paternity and 
Blessedness, whom may the Lord Jesus preserve for ever. 
Amen. 

Wittenberg, 6th September, 1520. 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

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

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



256 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

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

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

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

What can it profit the soul that the body should be 
in good condition, free, and full of life ; that it should 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 257 



eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure ; when even 
the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are pros 
perous in these matters ? Again, what harm can ill- 
health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward 
evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men, 
and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are 
harassed "by these things ? Neither of these states of 
things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the 
soul. 

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

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

Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly estab 
lished that the soul can do without everything except 
the word of God, without which none at all of its wants 

17 



258 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

are provided for. But, having the word, it is rich and 
wants for nothing, since that is the word of life, of 
truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of 
joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, 
and of every good thing. It is on this account that the 
prophet in a whole Psalm (Psalm cxix.), and in many 
other places, sighs for and calls upon the word of God 
with so many groanings and words. 

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

But you will ask, What is this word, and by what 
means is it to be used, since there are so many words of 
God ? I answer, The Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains 
what it is, namely the Gospel of God, concerning His 
Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified through the 
Spirit, the Sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the 
soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes 
the preaching. Eoj^jaith_alone, and the efficacious use 
A of the word of God71)nn^~sirrva!i()n. " If thou shalt 
* confess witn thy mouth tlie Lord Jesus, and shalt believe 
in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, 
thou shalt be saved " (Rom. x. 9) ; and again, " Christ 
is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that 
believeth" (Rom. x. 4), and " Thejusl^hall Jive by 
-) faith" (Rom, i. 17). For the word of God cannot be 
received and honoured by any works, but by faith alone. 
Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone 
for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, 
and not by any works. For if it could be justified by 
any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor 
consequently of faith. 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 259 

But this faith cannot consist at all with works ; that 
is, It" you imagine Iffiai you can be justified by those 
works, whatever they are, along with it. For this would 
be to halt between two opinions, to worship Baal, and to 
kiss the hand to him, which is a very great iniquity, as 
Job says. Therefore, when you begin to believe, you 
learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly 
guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, 
" Alf have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" 
(Rom. iii. 23), and also : " There is none righteous, no, 
not one ; they are all gone out of the way ; they are 
together become unprofitable : there is none that doeth 
good, no, not one " (Rom. iii. 1012). When you have 
learnt this, you will know that Christ is necessary for 
you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, 
believing on Him, you might by this faith become 
another man, all your sins being remitted, and you being 
justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ 
alone. 

Since then this faith can reign only in the inward man, 
as it is said, " With the heart man belie veth unto 
righteousness " (Rom. x. 10) ; and since it alone justifies, 
it is evident that by no outward work or labour can the 
inward man be at all justified, made free, and saved ; 
and that no works whatever have any relation to him. 
And so, on the other hand, it is solely by impiety and 
incredulity of heart that he becomes guilty and a 
slave of sin, deserving condemnation, not by any out 
ward sin or work. Therefore the first care of t every 
Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on 
works, and strengthen his faith alone more and more, 
and by it grow in the knowledge, inot of works, but of 
Christ Jesus, who has suffered and j risen again for him, 
as Peter teaches (1 Petejix.) when he makes no other 
work to be a Christian one. Thus Christ, when the Jews 
asked Him what they snould do that they might work 
the works of God, rejected the multitude of works, with 
which He saw that they were puffed up, and commanded 
them one thing only, saying, " This is the work of God : 



26o LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent, for Him 
hath God the Father sealed " (John vi. 27, 29). 

Hence a right faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, 
carrying with it universal salvation and preserving from 
all evil, as it is said, " He that belie veth and is baptised 
shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be 
damned " (Mark xvi. 1C). Isaiah, looking to this 
treasure, predicted, " The consumption decreed shall 
overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts 
shall make a consumption, even determined (verbum 
abbreviatum et consummans\ in the midst of the land " 
(Isa. x. 22, 23). As if he said, "Faith, which is the 
brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those 
who believe with such righteousness that they will need 
nothing else for justification." Thus, too, Paul says, 
" For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness " 
(Horn. x. 10). 

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

Meanwhile it is to be noted that the whole Scripture 
of God is divided into two parts : precepts and promises. 
The precepts certainly teach us what is good, but what j 
they teach is not forthwith done. For they show us 1 
what we ought to do, but do not give us the power to do j 
it. They were ordained, however, for the purpose of 
showing man to himself, that through them he may 
learn his own impotence for good and may despair of his 
own strength. For this reason they are called the Oki- 
Testament, and are so. 

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



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 261 

elsewhere and through another the help which he cannot 
find in himself ; as it is said, " Israel, thou hast de 
stroyed thyself ; but in Me is thine help " (Hosea xiii. 9). 
Now what is done by this one precept is done by all ; for 
V all are equally impossible of fulfilment by us. 

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

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

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



262 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

spiritual touch, nay, absorption of the word, communicate 
to the soul all that belongs to the word ! In this way 
therefore the soul, through faith alone, without works, is 
from the word of God justified, sanctified, endued with 
truth, peace, and liberty, and filled full with every good 
thing, and is truly made the child of God, as it is said, 
" To them gave He power to become the sons of God, 
even to them that believe on His name " (John i. 12). 

From all this it is easy to understand why faith has 
such great power, and why no good works, nor even all 
good works put together, can compare with it, since no 
work can cleave to the word of God or be in the soul. 
Faith alone and the word reign in it ; and such as is tne 
word, such is the soul made by it, just as iron exposed 
to fire glows like fire, on account of its union with the 
fire. It is clear then that to a Christian man his faith 
suffices for everything, and that he has no need of works 
i for justification. But if lie has no need of works, neither 
( has* he need of the law ; and if he has ilo need of the 
law, he is certainly free from the law, and the saying is 
true, " The law is not made for a righteous man " (1 Tim. 
i. 9). This is that Christian liberty, our faith, the effect 
of which is, not that we should be careless or lead a bad 
life, but that no^ one should need the law or works for 
justification and salvation. 

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

Thus the soul, in firmly believing the promises of God, 
holds Him to be true and righteous ; and it can attribute 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 263 

to God no higher glory than the credit of being so. The 
highest worship of God is to ascribe to Him truth, right 
eousness, and whatever qualities we must ascribe to one 
in whom we believe. In doing this the soul shows itself 
prepared to do His whole will ; in doing this it hallows 
His name, and gives itself up to be dealt with as it may 
please God. For it cleaves to His promises, and never 
doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and will do, dispose, 
and provide for all things in the best way. Is not such 
a soul, in this its faith, most obedient to God in all 
things ? What commandment does there remain which 
has not been amply fulfilled by such an obedience ? What 
fulfilment can be more full than universal obedience ? 
Now this is not accomplished by works, but by faith 
alone. 

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

But when God sees that truth is ascribed to Him, and 
that in the faith of our hearts He is honoured with all 
the honour of which He is worthy, then in return He 
honours us on account of that faith, attributing to us truth 
and righteousness. For faith does truth and righteous 
ness in rendering to God what is His ; and therefore 
,in return God gives glory to our righteousness. It is 
true and righteous that God is true and righteous ; 
and to confess this and ascribe these attributes to. 



264 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

Him, this it is to be true and righteous. Thus He 
says, " Them that honour Me I will honour, and they 
that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Sam. 
ii. 30). And so Paul says that Abraham s faith was im 
puted to him for righteousness, because by it he gave 
glory to God ; and that to us also, for the same reason, 
it shall be imputed for righteousness, if we believe 
(Rom. iv.). 

The third incomparable grace of faith is this : that it 
unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by 
which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the 
soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and 
if a true marriage nay, by far the most perfect of 
all marriages is accomplished between them (for human 
marriages are but feeble types of this one great marriage), 
then it follows that all they have becomes theirs in 
common, as well good things as evil things ; so that 
whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may 
take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever 
belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His. 

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

In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of 
communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, 
salvation, and redemption. For, since Christ is God and 
man, and is such a Person as neither has sinned, nor dies, 
nor is condemned, nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned, 
and since His righteousness, life, and salvation are invin 
cible, eternal, and almighty, when, I say, such a Person, 
by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 265 

death, and hell of His wife, nay, makes them His own, and 
deals with them no otherwise than as if they were His, 
and as if He Himself had sinned ; and when He suffers, 
dies, and descends to hell, that He may overcome all 
things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow 
Him up, they must needs be swallowed up by Him in 
stupendous conflict. For His righteousness rises above 
the sins of all men ; His life is more powerful than all 
death ; His salvation is more unconquerable than, all hell. 
^ Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in 
Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe 
from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, 
life, and salvation of its Husband Christ. Thus He 
presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or 
wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the 
word ; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, 
and salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself " in 
faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in 
lovingkiudness, and in mercies " (Hosea ii. 19, 20). 

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

From all this you will again understand why so much 
importance is attributed to faith, so that it alone can 



266 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

fulfil the law and justify without_anj_, works. For you 
see that the First Commandment, which says, " Thou 
shalt worship one God only," is fulfilled by faith alone. 
If you were nothing but good works from the soles ot 
your feet to the crown of your head, you would not be 
worshipping God, nor fulfilling the First Commandment, 
since it is impossible to worship God without ascribing 
to Him the glory of truth and of universal goodness, as 
it ought in truth to be ascribed. Now this is not done 
by works, but only by faith of heart. It is not by work 
ing, but bv believing, that we glorify God, and confess 
Him to be true. On this ground faith alone is the right 
eousness of a Christian man, and the fulfilling of all the 
commandments. For to him who fulfils the first the 
task of fulfilling all the rest is easy. 

Works, since they are irrational things, cannot glorify 
God, although they may be done to the glory of God, 
if faith be present. But at present we are inquiring, not 
into the quality of the works done, but into him who 
does them, who glorifies God, and brings forth good 
works. This is faith of heart, the head and the substance 
of all our righteousness. Hence that is a blind and 
perilous doctrine which teaches that the commandments 
are fulfilled by works. The commandments must have 
been fulfilled previous to any good works, and good 
works follow their fulfilment, as we shall see. 

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

Under this figure was foreshown Christ, the true and 
only First-born of God the Father and of the Virgin 
Mary, and a true King^-aiid Prie&L not in a fleshly and 
earthly sense. For His kingdom is not of this world ; 
it is in heavenly and spiritual things that He reigns 
and acts as Priest ; and these are righteousness, truth, 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 267 

wisdom, peace, salvation, etc. Not but that all things, 
even those of earth and hell, are subject to Him for 
otherwise how could He defend and save us from them ? 
but it is not in these, nor by these, that His kingdom 
stands. 

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

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

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

Not that in the sense of corporeal power any one 



268 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

among Christians has been appointed to possess and rule 
all things, according to the mad and senseless idea of 
certain ecclesiastics. That is the office of kings, princes, 
and men upon earth. In the experience of life we see 
that we are subjected to all things, and suffer many 
things, even death. Yea, the more of a Christian any 
man is, to so many the more evils, sufferings, arid deaths 
is he subject, as we see in the first place in Christ the 
First-born, and in all His holy brethren. 

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

Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but 
also priests for ever, a dignity far higher than kingship, 
because by that priesthood we are worthy to appeal- 
before God, to pray for others, and to teach one another 
mutually the things which are of God. For these are 
the duties of priests, and they cannot possibly be per 
mitted to any unbeliever. Christ has obtained for us 
this favour, if we believe in Him : that just as we are 
His brethren and co-heirs and fellow-kings with Him, 
so we should be a] so fellow-priests with Him, and venture 
with confidence, through the spirit of faith, to come into 
the presence of God, and cry, "Abba, Father j" and to 
pray for one another, and to do all things which we see 
done and figured in the visible and corporeal office of 
priesthood. But to an unbelieving person nothing 
renders service or works for arood. He himself is in 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 269 

servitude to all things, and all things turn out for evil 

to him, because he uses all things in an impious way 
for his own advantage, and not for the glory of God. 

And thus he is not a priest, but a profane person, 
whose prayers are turned into sin, nor does he ever 

appear in the presence of God, because God does not 

hear sinners. 

Who then can comprehend the loftiness of that Chris 
tian dignity which, by its royal power, rules over all 
things, even over death, life, and sin, and, by its priestly 
glory, is all-powerful with God, since God does what He 
Himself seeks and wishes, as it is written, "He will 
fulfil the desire of them that fear Him ; He also will 
hear their cry, and will save them " ? (Psalm cxly. 1 9). 
This glory certainly cannot be attained by any works, 
but by faith only. 

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

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



270 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

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

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

Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting 
faith in Him, so that He may not only be Christ, but a 
Christ for you and for me, and that what is said of Him, 
and what He is called, may work in us. And this faith 
is produced and is maintained by preaching why Christ 
came, what He has brought us and given to us, and to 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 



271 



what profit and advantage He is to be received. This 
is done when the Christian liberty which we have from 
Christ Himself is rightly taught, and we are shown in 
what manner all we Christians are kings and priests 
and how we are lords of all things, and may be confident 
that whatever we do in the presence of God is pleasino- 
and acceptable to Him. 

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



concerning the inner ^ tl u auu 
m concerning that righteousness of faith 
..- needs neither laws nor good works ; nay, they are 
even hi -tful to it, if any one pretends to be justified by 



i t0 tbe Other -Part = to the outward 

man. Jicre we shall give an answer to all those who 
taking offence at the word of faith and at what I have 
asserted, say, "If faith does everything, and by itself 



272 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

suffices for justification, why then are good works com 
manded ? Are we then to take our ease and do no works, 
content with faith ? " Not so, impious men, I reply ; 
not so. That would indeed really be the case, if we 
were thoroughly and completely inner and spiritual 
persons ; but that will not happen until the last day, 
when the dead shall be raised. As long as we live in the 
flesh, we are but beginning and making advances in that 
which shall be completed in a future life. On this 
account the Apostle calls that which we have in this life 
the firstfruits of the Spirit (Rom. viii. 23). In future 
we shall have the tenths, and the fulness of the Spirit. 
To this part belongs the fact I have stated before : that 
the Christian is the servant of all and subject to all. 
For in that part in which he is free he does no works, 
but in that in which he is a servant he does all works. 
Let us see on what principle this is so. 

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

But in doing this he comes into collision with that 
contrary will in his own flesh, which is striving to_ serve 
the world and to seek its own gratification. This the 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 273 

spirit of faith cannot and will not bear, but applies itself 
with cheerfulness and zeal to keep it down and restrain 
it, as Paul says, " I delight in the law of God after the 
inward man ; but I see another law in my members, 
warring against the law of my mind and bringing me 
into captivity to the law of sin " (Rom. vii. 22, 23), 
and again, " I keep under my body, and bring it into 
subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached 
to others, I myself should be a castaway " (1 Cor. ix. 
27), and " They that are Christ s have crucified the 
flesh, with the affections and lusts " (Gal. v. 24). 

These works, however, must not be done with any \/ 
notion that by them a man can be justified before God-// 
Mbr faith, which alone is righteousness before God, wilf 
not bear with this false notion but solely with this 
purpose : that the body may be brought into subjection, 
and be purified from its evil lusts, so that our eyes may 
be turned only to purging away those lusts. For when 
the soul has been cleansed by faith and made to love God, 
it would have all things to be cleansed in like manner, 
and especially its own body, so that all things might 
unite with it in the love and praise of God. Thus it 
comes that, from the requirements of his own body, a man 
cannot take his ease, but is compelled on its account to 
do many good works, that he may bring it into subjection. 
Yet these works are not the means of his justification 
before God ; he does them out of disinterested love to 
the service of God ; looking to no other end than to do 
what is well-pleasing to Him whom he desires to obey 
most dutifully in all things. 

On this principle every man may easily instruct him 
self in what measure, and with what distinctions, he 
ought to chasten his own body. He will fast, watch, 
and labour, just as much as he sees to suffice for keeping 
down the wantonness and concupiscence of the body. 
But those who pretend to be justified by works are 
looking, not to the mortification of their lusts, but only 
to the works themselves ; thinking that, if they can 
accomplish as many works and as great ones as possible, 

18 



274 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

all is well with them, and they are justified. Sometimes 
they even injure their brain, and extinguish nature, or 
at least make it useless. This is enormous folly, and 
ignorance of Christian life and faith, when a man seeks, 
without faith, to be justified and saved by works. 

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

So it is with the works of a believer. Being by his 
faith replaced afresh in paradise and created anew, he 
does not need works for his justification, but that he may 
not be idle, but may exercise his own body and preserve 
it. His works are to be done freely, with the sole object 
of pleasing God. Only we are not yet fully created anew 
in perfect faith and love ; these require to be increased, 
not, however, through works, but through themselves. 

A bishop, when he consecrates a church, confirms 
children, or performs any other duty of his office, is not 
consecrated as bishop by these works ; nay, unless he had 
been previously consecrated as bishop, not one of those 
works would have any validity ; they would be foolish, 
childish, and ridiculous. Thus a Christian, being conse 
crated by his faith, does good works ; but he is not 
by these works made a more sacred person, or more a 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 275 

Christian. That is the effect of faith alone ; nay, unless 
he were previously a believer and a Christian, none of 
his works would have any value at all ; they would 
really be impious and damnable sins. 

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

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

"We may see the same thing in all handicrafts. A bad 
or good house does not make a bad or good builder, but 
a good or bad builder makes a good or bad house. And 
in general no work makes the workman such as it is 
itself ; but the workman makes the work such as he is 
himself. Such is the case, too, with the works of men. 
Such as the man himself is, whether in faith or in un 
belief, such is his work : good if it be done in faith; bad 
if in unbelief. But the converse is not true that, such 
as the work is, such the man becomes in faith or in 
unbelief. For as works do not make a believing man, 
so neither do they make a justified man ; but faith, as it 
makes a man a believer and justified, so also it makes 
his works good. 

Since then works justify no man, but a man must be 
justified before he can do any good work, it is most evident 



276 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

that it is faith alone which, by the mere mercy of God 
through Christ, and by means of His word, can worthily 
and sufficiently justify and save the person ; and that a 
Christian man needs no work, no law, for his salvation ; 
for by faith he is free from, all law, and in perfect freedom 
does gratuitously all that he does, seeking nothing either 
of profit or of salvation since by the grace of God he is 
already saved and rich in all things through his faith 
but solely that which is well-pleasing to God. 

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

It is certainly true that, in the sight of men, a man 
becomes good or evil by his works ; but here " becoming " 
means that it is thus shown and recognised who is good 
or evil, as Christ says, " By their fruits ye shall know 
them " (Matt. vii. 20). But all this stops at appearances 
and externals ; and in this matter very many deceive 
themselves, when they presume to write and teach that 
we are to be justified by good works, and meanwhile 
make no mention even of faith, walking in their own 
ways, ever deceived and deceiving, going from bad to 
worse, blind leaders of the blind, wearying themselves 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 277 



with many works, and yet never attaining to true 
righteousness, of whom Paul says, " Having a form of 
godliness, but denying the power thereof, ever learn 
ing and never able to come to the knowledge of the 
truth" (2 Tim. iii. ;"), 7). 

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

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

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



278 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

Now this leviathan, this perverted notion about works, 
is invincible when sincere faith is wanting. For those 
sanctified doers of works cannot but hold it till faith, 
which destroys it, comes and reigns in the heart. Nature 
cannot expel it by her own power ; nay, cannot even see 
it for what it is, but considers it as a most holy will. 
And when custom steps in besides, and strengthens this 
pravity of nature, as has happened by means of impious 
teachers, then the evil is incurable, and leads astray 
multitudes to irreparable ruin. Therefore, though it is 
good to preach and write about penitence, confession, 
and satisfaction, yet if we stop there, and do not go on 
to teach faith, such teaching is without doubt deceitful 
and devilish. For Christ, speaking by His servant John, 
not only said, " Repent ye, " but added, " for the king 
dom of heaven is at hand " (Matt. iii. 2). 

For not one word of God only, but both, should be 
preached ; new and old things should be brought out of 
the treasury, as well the voice of the law as the word 
of grace. The voice of the law should be brought 
forward, that men may be terrified and brought to a 
knowledge of their sins, and thence be converted to 
penitence and to a better manner of life. But we must 
not stop here -, that would be to wound only and not to 
bind up, to strike and not to heal, to kill and not to 
make alive, to bring down to hell and not to bring back, 
to humble and not to exalt. Therefore the word of grace 
and of the promised remission of sin must also be 
preached, in order to teach and set up faith, since with 
out that word contrition, penitence, and all other duties, 
are performed and taught in vain. 

There still remain, it is true, preachers of repentance 
and grace, but they do not explain the law and the 
promises of God to such an end, and in such a spirit, 
that men may learn whence repentance and grace are to 
come. For repentance comes from the law of God, but 
faith or grace from the promises of God, as it is said, 
" Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of 
God" (Rom. x. 17), whence it comes that a man, when 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. 279 



humbled and brought tojthe knowledge of himself by the 
threatening^ and terrors of the law, is consoled and raised 
up by faith in the Divine promise. Thus " weeping may 
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning " 
(Psalm xxx. 5). Thus much we say concerning works in 
general, and also concerning those which the Christian 
practises with regard to his own body. 

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

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



280 LU7HERS PRIMARY WORKS 

bearing one another s burdens, and so fulfilling the law 
of Christ. 

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

Thus, when Paul had taught the Philippians how they 
had been made rich by that faith in Christ in which 
they had obtained all things, he teaches them further in 
these words : " If there be therefore any consolation in 
Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the 
Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that 
ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one 
accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife 
or vainglory ; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem 
other better than themselves. Look not every man on 
his own things, but every man also on the things of 
others " (Phil. ii. 14). 

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

To this end lie brings forward Christ as an example, 
saying, " Let this mind be in you, which was also in 
Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it 
not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of 
no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, 
and was made in the likeness of men ; and being found 
in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became 
obedient unto death " (Phil. ii. 58). This most whole 
some saying of the Apostle has been darkened to us by 
men who, totally misunderstanding the expressions 
" form of God," form of a servant," " fashion," " likeness 
of men," have transferred them to the natures of Godhead 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 281 

and manhood. Paul s meaning is this : Christ, when He 
was full of the form of God and abounded in all good 
things, so that He had no need of works or sufferings to 
he just and saved for all these things He had from 
the very beginning yet was not puffed up with these 
tilings, and did not raise Himself above us and arrogate 
to Himself power over us, though He might lawfully 
have done so, but, on the contrary, so acted in labouring, 
working, suffering, and dying, as to be like the rest of 
men, and no otherwise than a man in fashion and in 
conduct, as if He were in want of all things and had 
nothing of the form of God ; and yet all this He did 
for our sakes, that He might serve us, and that all the 
works He should do under that form of a servant might 
become ours. 

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

Lo ! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure 
and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, 
and contemptible creature, all the riches of justification 
and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want 
of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. 
For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with 



282 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, 
cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary 
zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and 
acceptable in His sight? I will therefore give myself, 
as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as Christ has given 
Himself to me : and will do nothing in this life except 
what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome 
for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good 
things in Christ. 

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

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



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 283 

mutually Christs, and that the same Christ may be in all 
of us ; that is, that we may be truly Christians. 

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

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

St. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy, not because 
he needed circumcision for his justification, but that he 
might not offend or contemn those Jews, weak in the 
faith, who had not yet been able to comprehend the 
liberty of faith. On the other hand, when they contemned 
liberty and urged that circumcision was necessary for 
justification, he resisted them, and would not allow Titus 
to be circumcised. For, as he would not offend or 



284 LU1HERS PRIMARY WORKS 



contemn any one s weakness in faith, but yielded for the 
time to their will, so, again, he would not have the liberty 
of faith oifended or contemned by hardened self-justifiers, 
but walked in a middle path, sparing the weak for the 
time, and always resisting the hardened, that he might 
convert all to the liberty of faith. On the same principle 
we ought to act, receiving those that are weak in the 
faith, but boldly resisting these hardened teachers of 
works, of whom we shall hereafter speak at more length. 

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

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

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

Such, too, ought to have been the works of all colleges, 
monasteries, and priests ; every one doing the works of 
his own profession and state of life, not in order to be 
justified by them, but in order to bring his own body into 
subjection, as an example to others, who themselves also 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 285 

need to keep under their bodies, and also in order to 
accommodate himself to the will of others, out of free love. 
But we must always guard most carefully against_ any 
vain confidence or presumption of being justified, gaining 
merit, or being saved by these works, this being the part 
of faith alone, as I have so often said. 

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

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



286 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

our sins are purged away and salvation is attained, and 
thus utterly do away with Christian liberty. This comes 
from ignorance of Christian faith and liberty. 

This ignorance and this crushing of liberty are dili 
gently promoted by the teaching of very many blind 
pastors, who stir up and urge the people to a zeal for 
these things, praising them and puffing them up with 
their indulgences, but never teaching faith. Now I 
would advise you, if you have any wish to pray, to fast, 
or to make foundations in churches, as they call it, to 
take care not to do so with the object of gaining any 
advantage, either temporal or eternal. You will thus 
wrong your faith, which alone bestows all things on you, 
and the increase of which, either by working or by 
suffering, is alone to be cared for. What you give, give 
freely and without price, that others may prosper and 
have increase from you and from your goodness. Thus 
you will be a truly good man and a Christian. For what 
to you are your goods and your works, which are done 
over and above for the subjection of the body, since you 
have abundance for yourself through your faith, in which 
God has given you all things ? 

We give this rule : the good things which we have 
from God ought to flow from one to another, and become 
common to all, so that every one of us may, as it were, 
put on his neighbour, and so behave towards him as if 
he were himself in his place. They flowed and do flow 
from Christ to us; He put us on, and acted for us as if He 
Himself were what we are. From us they flow to those 
who have need of them ; so that my faith and righteous 
ness ought to be laid down before God as a covering and 
intercession for the sins of my neighbour, which I am to 
take on myself, and so labour and endure servitude in 
them, as if they were my own ; for thus has Christ done 
for us. This is true love and the genuine truth of 
Christian life. But only there is it true and genuine 
where there is true and genuine faith. Hence the 
Apostle attributes to charity this quality: that she seeketh 
not her own. 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 287 

We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not 
live in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or 
else is no Christian : in Christ by faith ; in his neighbour 
by love. By faith heTls carried upwards above himself 
to God, and by love he sinks back below himself to his 
neighbour, still always abiding in God and His love, as 
Christ says, " Verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall 
see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and 
descending upon the Son of man" (John i. 51). 

Thus much concerning liberty, which, as you see, is a 
true and spiritual liberty, making our hearts free from 
all sins, laws, and commandments, as Paul says, " The 
law is not made for a righteous man " (1 Tim. i. 9), and 
one which surpasses all other external liberties, as far as 
heaven is above earth. May Christ make us to under 
stand and preserve this liberty. Amen. 

Finally, for the sake of those to whom nothing can be 

stated so well but that they misunderstand and distort 

it, we must add a word, in case they can understand even 

that. There are very many persons who, when they 

hear of this liberty of faith, straightway turn it into an 

occasion of licence. They think that everything is now 

lawful for them, and do not choose to show themselves 

free men and Christians in any other way than by their 

contempt and reprehension of ceremonies, of traditions, 

of human laws ; as if they were Christians merely because 

they refuse to fast on stated days, or eat flesh when 

others fast, or omit the customary prayers ; scoffing at 

the precepts of men, but utterly passing over all the rest 

that belongs to the Christian religion. On the other 

hand, they are most pertinaciously resisted by those who 

strive after salvation solely by their observance of and 

reverence for ceremonies, as if they would be saved 

merely because they fast on stated days, or abstain from 

flesh, or make formal prayers ; talking loudly of the 

precepts of the Church and of the Fathers, and not 

caring a straw about those things which belong to our 

genuine faith. Both these parties are plainly culpable, 

in that, while they neglect matters which are of weight 



288 LUTHERS PRIMARY WORKS 



and necessary for salvation, they contend noisily about 
snch as are without weight and not necessary. 

How much more rightly does the Apostle Paul teach 
us to walk in the middle path, condemning either extreme 
and saying, " Let not him that eateth despise him that 
eateth not ; and let not him which eateth not judge him 
that eateth " (Rom. xiv. 3) ! You see here how the 
Apostle blames those who, not from religious feeling, 
but in mere contempt, neglect and rail at ceremonial 
observances, and teaches them not to despise, since this 
" knowledge puffeth up." Again, he teaches the perti 
nacious upholders of these things not to judge their 
opponents. For neither party observes towards the 
other that charity which edifieth. In this matter we 
must listen to Scripture, which teaches us to turn aside 
neither to the right hand nor to the left, but to follow 
those right precepts of the Lord which rejoice the heart. 
For just as a man is not righteous merely because he 
serves and is devoted to works and ceremonial rites, so 
neither will he be accounted righteous merely because 
he neglects and despises them. 

^ It is not from works that we are set free by the faith 
of Christ, but from the belief in works, that is from 
foolishly presuming to seek justification through works. 
Faith redeems our consciences, makes them upright, and 
preserves them, since by it we recognise the truth that 
justification does not depend on our works, although 
good works neither can nor ought to be absent, just as 
we cannot exist without food and drink and all the 
functions of this mortal body. Still it is not on them 
that our justification is based, but on faith ; and yet they 
ought not on that account to be despised or neglected. 
Thus in this world we are compelled by the needs of 
this bodily life ; but we are not hereby justified. " My 
kingdom is not hence, nor of this world," says Christ ; 
but He does not say, " My kingdom is not here, nor in 
this world." Paul, too, says, " Though we walk in the 
flesh, we do not war after the flesh " (2 Cor. x. 3), and 
" The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 



faith of the Son of God " (Gal. ii. 20). Thus our doings, 
life, and being, in works and ceremonies, are done from 
the necessities of this life, and with the motive of 
governing our bodies ; but yet we are not justified by 
these things, but by the faith of the Son of God. 

The Christian must therefore walk in the middle path, 
and set these two classes of men before his eyes. He 
may meet with hardened and obstinate ceremonialists, 
who, like deaf adders, refuse to listen to the truth of 
liberty, and cry up, enjoin, and urge on us their cere 
monies, as if they could justify us without faith. Such 
were the Jews of old, who would not understand, that 
they might act well. These men we must resist, do 
just the contrary to what they do, and be bold to give 
them offence, lest by this impious notion of theirs they 
should deceive many along with themselves. Before the 
eyes of these men it is expedient to eat flesh, to break 
fasts, and to do in behalf of the liberty of faith things 
which they hold to be the greatest sins. We must say 
of them, " Let them alone ; they be blind leaders of the 
blind" (Matt. xv. 14). In this way Paul also would 
not have Titus circumcised, though these men urged it ; 
and Christ defended the Apostles, who had plucked ears 
of corn on the Sabbath day ; and many like instances. 

Or else we may meet with simple-minded and ignorant 
persons, weak in the faith, as the Apostle calls them, 
who are as yet unable to apprehend that liberty of faith, 
even if willing to do so. These we must spare, lest they 
should be offended. We must bear with their infirmity, 
till they shall be more fully instructed. For since these 
men do not act thus from hardened malice, but only from 
weakness of faith, therefore, in order to avoid giving 
them offence, we must keep fasts and do other things 
which they consider necessary. This is required of us by 
charity, which injures no one, but serves all men. It is 
not the fault of these persons that they are weak, but 
that of their pastors, who by the snares and weapons of 
their own traditions have brought them into bondage 
and wounded their souls when they ought to have been 

19 



2 9 o LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



set free and healed by the teaching of faith and liberty. 
Thus the Apostle says, " If meat make my brother to 
offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth " 
(1 Cor. viii. 13); and again, "1 know, and am per 
suaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean 
of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be 
unclean, to him it is unclean. It is evil for that man 
who eateth with offence " (Rom. xiv. 14, 20). 

Thus, though we ought boldly to resist those teachers 
of tradition, and though the laws of the pontiffs, by 
which they make aggressions on the people of God, 
deserve sharp reproof, yet we must spare the timid 
crowd, who are held captive by the laws of those 
impious tyrants, till they are set free. Fight vigorously 
against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not 
against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing 
against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same 
time observing these laws with the weak, lest they 
be offended, until they shall themselves recognise the 
tyranny, and understand their own liberty. If you wish 
to use your liberty, do it secretly, as Paul says, " Hast 
thou faith ? have it to thyself before God " (Rom. xiv. 
22). But take care not to use it in the presence of the 
weak. On the other hand, in the presence of tyrants 
and obstinate opposers, use your liberty in their despite, 
and with the utmost pertinacity, that they too may 
understand that they are tyrants, and their laws useless 
for justification, nay that they had no right to establish 
such laws. 

Since then we cannot live in this world without 
ceremonies and works, since the hot and inexperienced 
period of youth has need of being restrained and pro 
tected by such bonds, and since every one is bound to 
keep under his own body by attention to these things, 
therefore the minister of Christ must be prudent and 
faithful in so ruling and teaching the people of Christ, in 
all these matters, that no root of bitterness may spring 
up among them, and so many be defiled, as Paul warned 
the Hebrews ; that is, that* they may not lose the faith, 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBER2Y 291 



and begin to be defiled by a belief in works as the means 
of justification. This is a thing which easily happens, 
and defiles very many, unless faith be constantly incul 
cated along with works. It is impossible to avoid this 
evil, when faith is passed over in silence, and only the 
ordinances of men are taught, as has been done hitherto 
by the pestilent, impious, and soul-destroying traditions 
of our pontiffs and opinions of our theologians. An 
infinite number of souls have been drawn down to hell 
by these snares, so that you may recognise the work of 
antichrist. 

In brief, as poverty is imperilled amid riches, honesty 
amid business, humility amid honours, abstinence amid 
feasting, purity amid pleasures, so is justification by 
faith imperilled among ceremonies. Solomon says, 
" Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not 
be burned ? " (Prov. vi. 27). And yet as we must live 
among riches, business, honours, pleasures, feastings, so 
must we among ceremonies, that is among perils. Just 
as infant boys have the greatest need of being cherished 
in the bosoms and by the care of girls, that they may not 
die, and yet, when they are grown, there is peril to 
their salvation in living among girls, so inexperienced 
and fervid young men require to be kept in and restrained 
by the barriers of ceremonies, even were they of iron, 
lest their weak minds should rush headlong into vice. 
And yet it would be death to them to persevere in 
believing that they can be justified by these things. 
They must rather be taught that they have been thus 
imprisoned, not with the purpose of their being justified 
or gaining merit in this way, but in order that they 
might avoid wrong-doing, and be more easily instructed 
in that righteousness which is by faith, a thing which 
the headlong character of youth would not bear unless it 
were put under restraint. 

Hence in the Christian life ceremonies are to be no 
otherwise looked upon than as builders and workmen look 
upon those preparations for building or working which 
are not made with any view of being permanent or 



292 LL THEWS PRIMARY WORKS 



anything in themselves, but only because without them 
there could be no building and no work. When the 
structure is completed, they are laid aside. Here you 
see that we do not contemn these preparations, but set 
the highest value on them ; a belief in them we do con 
temn, because no one thinks that they constitute a real 
and permanent structure. If any one were so manifestly 
out of his senses as to have no other object in life but 
that of setting up these preparations with all possible 
expense, diligence, and perseverance, while he never 
thought of the structure itself, but pleased himself and 
made his boast of these useless preparations and props, 
should we not all pity his madness and think that, at 
the cost thus thrown away, some great building might 
have been raised ? 

Thus, too, we do not contemn works and ceremonies- 
nay, we set the highest value on them ; but we contemn 
the belief in works, which no one should consider to 
constitute true righteousness, as do those hypocrites 
who employ and throw away their whole life in the 
pursuit of works, and yet never attain to that for the 
sake of which the works are done. As the Apostle says, 
they are " ever learning and never able to come to the 
knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. iii. 7). They appear 
to wish to build, they make preparations, and yet they 
never do build ; and thus they continue in a show of 
godliness, but never attain to its power. 

Meanwhile they please themselves with this zealous 
pursuit, and even dare to judge all others, whom they do 
not see adorned with such a glittering display of works ; 
while, if they had been imbued with faith, they might 
have done great things for their own and others salvation, 
at the same cost which they now waste in abuse of the 
gifts of God. But since human nature and natural 
reason, as they call it, are naturally superstitious, and 
quick to believe that justification can be attained by any 
laws or works proposed to them, and since nature is also 
exercised and confirmed in the same view by the practice 
of all earthly lawgivers, she can never of her own power 



CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 293 



free herself from this bondage to works, and come to a 
recognition of the liberty of faith. 

We have therefore need to pray that God will lead ns 
and make us taught of God, that is, ready to learn from 
God ; and will Himself, as He has promised, write His law 
in our hearts ; otherwise there is no hope for us. For 
unless He Himself teach us inwardly this wisdom hidden 
in a mystery, nature cannot but condemn it and judge it 
to be heretical. She takes offence at it, and it seems 
folly to her, just as we see that it happened of old in 
the case of the prophets and Apostles, and just as blind 
and impious pontiffs, with their flatterers, do now in my 
case and that of those who are like me, upon whom, 
together with ourselves, may God at length have mercy, 
and lift up the light of His countenance upon them, that 
we may know His way upon earth and His saving health 
among all nations, who is blessed for evermore. Amen. 
In the vear of the Lord MDXX. 



Ill 



n tbe Bab^lomsb Captivity of tbe 
Cburcb 



JESUS 



MARTIN LUTHER, of the Order of St. Augustine, salutes 
his friend Hermann Tulichius. 

Whether I will or not, I am compelled to become 
more learned day by day, since so many great masters vie 
with each other in urging me on and giving me practice. 
I wrote about indulgences two years ago, but now I 
extremely regret having published that book. At that 
time I was still involved in a great and superstitious 
respect for the tyranny of Rome, which led me to judge 
that indulgences were not to be totally rejected, seeing 
them as I did to be approved by so general a consent 
among men ; and no wonder, for at that time it was I 
alone who was rolling this stone. Afterwards, however, 
with the kind aid of Sylvester and the friars, who sup 
ported indulgences so strenuously, I perceived that they 
were nothing but mere impostures of the flatterers of 
Rome, whereby to makejaway with the faith of God and 
the money of men. And l" wish I could prevail upon 
the booksellers, and persuade all who have read them, to 
burn the whole of my writings on indulgences, and in 
place of all I have written about them to adopt this pro 
position : Indulgences are wicked devices of the flatterers 
of Rome. 



294 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 2g; 



preter of Scripture, that the use of one kind was not 
commanded, and at the same time was commanded, by 
Christ, You know how specially those logicians of 
Leipzig employ this new kind of argument. Does not 
Eraser also, after having professed in his former book to 
speak fairly about me, and after having been convicted 
by me of the foulest envy and of base falsehoods, confess, 
when about to confute me in his later book, that both 
were true, and that he had written of me in both an 
unfair and a fair spirit ? A good man indeed, as you 
know ! 

But listen to our specious advocate of one species, in 
whose mind the decision of the Church and the command 
of Christ are the same thing, and, again, the command 
of Christ and the absence of His command are the same 
thing. With what dexterity he proves that only one 
kind should be granted to the laity, by the command of 
Christ, that is by the decision of the Church I He marks 
it with capital letters in this way: " AN INFALLIBLE 
FOUNDATION." Next, he handles with incredible 
wisdom John vi., in which Christ speaks of the bread 
of heaven and the bread of life, which is Himself. These 
words this most learned man not only misapplies to the 
Sacrament of the Altar, but goes farther, and, because 
Christ said, " I am the living bread," and not " I am 
the living cup," he concludes that in that passage the 
Sacrament in only one kind was appointed for the laity. 
But the words that follow, "My flesh is meat indeed, 
and My blood is drink indeed," and again, " Unless^ ye 
eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood " 
since it was evident to this friar s brains that they tell 
irrefutably in favour of reception in both kinds, and 
against that in one kind he evades very happily and 
learnedly in this way : " That Christ meant nothing else 
by these words, than that he who should receive one 
kind should receive under this both the body and the 
blood." This he lays down as his infallible foundation 
of a structure so worthy of holy and heavenly reverence. 
Learn now, along with me, from this man, that in 



298 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



John vi. Christ commands reception in one kind, but in 
such a manner that this commanding means leaving 
the matter to the decision of the Church ; and further 
that Christ in the same chapter speaks of the laity only, 
not of the presbyters. For to us this living bread from 
heaven that is, the Sacrament in one kind does not 
belong, but perchance the bread of death from hell. Now 
what is to be done with the deacons and sub-deacons ? 
As they are neither laymen nor priests, they ought, on 
this distinguished authority, to use neither one nor both 
kinds. You understand, my dear Tulichius, this new and 
observant manner of handling Scripture. But you must 
also learn this : that Christ, in John vi., is speaking of 
the Sacrament of the Eucharist, though He Himself 
teaches us that He is speaking of faith in the incarnate 
Word by saying, " This is the work of God : that ye 
believe on Him whom He hath sent." But this Leipzig- 
professor of the Bible must be permitted to prove what 
ever he pleases out of any passage of Scripture he pleases. 
For he is an Anaxagorean, nay an Aristotelian theologian, 
to whom names and words when transposed mean the 
same things and everything. Throughout his whole book 
he so fits together the testimonies of Scripture that, if 
he wishes to prove that Christ is in the Sacrament, he 
ventures to begin thus : " The Lesson of the Book of the 
Revelation of the Blessed John." And as suitably as 
this would be said, so suitably does he say everything, 
and thinks, like a wise man, to adorn his ravings by the 
number of passages he brings forward. 

I pass over the rest, that I may not quite kill you with 
the dregs of this most offensive drain. Lastly, he adduces 
Paul (1 Cor. xi.), who says that he had received from 
the Lord and had delivered to the Corinthians the use 
both of the bread and of the cup. Here again, as every 
where else, our advocate of one species handles the Scrip 
tures admirably, and teaches that in that passage Paul 
permitted not " delivered " the use of both kinds. Do 
you ask how he proves it ? Out of his own head, as in 
the case of John vi. ; for it does not become this lecturer 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 299 



to give a reason for what he says, since he is one of 
those whose proofs and teachings all come from their 
own visions. Here then we are taught that the Apostle 
in that passage did riot write to the whole Church of 
Corinth, but only to the laity, and that therefore he gave 
no permission to the priests, but that they were deprived 
of the whole Sacrament ; and next, that, by a new rule 
of grammar, " I have received from the Lord " means 
the same thing as "It has been permitted by the Lord," 
and " I delivered to you " the same thing as " I permitted 
to you." I beg you especially to note this. For it 
follows hence that not only the Church, but every 
worthless fellow anywhere, will be at liberty, under the 
teaching of this master, to turn into permissions the 
whole body of the commandments, institutions, and 
ordinances of Christ and the Apostles. 

I see that this man is possessed by an angel of Satan, 
and that those who act in collusion with him are seeking 
to obtain a name in the world through me, as being 
worthy to contend with Luther. But this hope of theirs 
shall be disappointed, and, in my contempt for them, I 
shall leave them for ever unnamed, and shall content 
myself with this one answer to the whole of their books. 
If they are worthy that Christ should bring them back 
to a sound mind, I pray Him to do so in His mercy. If 
they are not worthy of this, then I pray that they may 
never cease to write such books, and that the enemies of 
the truth may not be permitted to read any others. It 
is a common and true saying, " This I know for certain : 
that if I fight with filth, whether I conquer or am con 
quered, I am sure to be defiled." In the next place, as 
I see that they have plenty of leisure and of paper, I 
will take care that they shall have abundant matter for 
writing, and will keep in advance of them, so that while 
they, in the boastful ness of victory, are triumphing over 
some one heresy of mine, as it seems to them, I shall 
meanwhile be setting up a new one. For I too am 
desirous that these illustrious leaders in war should be 
adorned with many titles of honour. And so, while they 



300 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

are murmuring that I approve of communion in both 
kinds, and are most successfully engaged on this very 
important subject, so worthy of themselves, I shall go 

I farther, and shall now endeavour to show that all who 
deny to the laity communion in both kinds are acting 
impiously. To do this the more conveniently, I shall 
make a first essay on the bondage of the Church of 
Rome, with the intention of saying very much more in 
its own proper time, when those most learned Papists 
shall have got the better of this book. 

This, moreover, I do in order that no pious reader who 
may meet with my book may be disgusted at the dross I 
have handled, and have reason to complain that he finds 
nothing to read which can cultivate or instruct his mind, 
or at least give occasion for instructive reflection. You 
know how dissatisfied my friends are that I should occupy 
myself with the paltry twistings of these men. They 
say that the very reading of their books is an ample 
confutation of them, but that from me they look for 
better things, which Satan is trying to hinder by means 
of them. I have determined to follow the advice of 
my friends, and to leave the business of wrangling and 
inveighing to those hornets. 

Of the Italian friar of Cremona I shall say nothing. 
He is a simple and unlearned man, who is endeavouring 
to bring me back by some thongs of rhetoric to the Holy 
See, from which I am not conscious of having ever with 
drawn, nor has any one proved that I have. His principal 
argument in some ridiculous passages is that I ought to 
be moved for the sake of my profession and of the 
transfer of the imperial power to the Germans. He 
seems indeed altogether to have meant, not so much to 
urge my return, as to write the praises of the French, and 
of the Roman pontiff ; and he must be allowed to testify 
his obsequiousness to them by this little work, such as 
it is. He neither deserves to be handled severely, since 
he does not seem to be actuated by any malice, nor to 
be learnedly confuted, since through pure ignorance and 
inexperience he trifles with the whole subject. 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 301 

In the first place, I must deny that there are seven 
sacraments, and must lay it down, for the time being, 
that there are only three, Baptism, Penance, and the 
Bread, and that by the Court of Rome all these have 
been brought into miserable bondage, and the Church 
despoiled of all her liberty. And yet, if I were to speak 
according to the usage of Scripture, I should hold that 
there was only one sacrament, and three sacramental 
signs. I shall speak on this point more at length at 
the proper time ; but now I speak of the Sacrament 
of the Bread, the first of all. 

I shall say then what advance I have made a,s the 
result of my meditations in the ministry of this Sacra 
ment. Fo/at the time when I published a discourse on 
the Eucharist I was still involved in the common custom, 
mid did not trouble myself either about the rightful or 
the wrongful power of the Pope. But now that 1 have 
been called forth and become practised in argument, 
nay, have been dragged by force into this arena, I shall 
speak out freely what I think. Let the Papists laugh 
or lament, even if they are all against one. 

In the first place, John vi. must be set aside altogether, 
as not saying a single syllable about the Sacrament, not 
only because the Sacrament had not yet been instituted, 
but much more because the very sequence of the discourse 
and of its statements shows clearly that Christ was 
speaking as I have said before of faith in the incarnate 
Word. For He says, " My words are spirit and life, 
showing that He was speaking of that spiritual eating 
wherewith he who eats lives ; while the Jews under 
stood Him to speak of a carnal eating, and -therefore 
raised a dispute. But no eating gives life except the 
eating of faith, for this is the really spiritual and 
living eating, as Augustine says, " Why dost thou 
prepare thy stomach and thy teeth ? Believe, and thou 
hast eaten." A sacramental eating does not give lite, 
since many eat unworthily ; so that Christ cannot be 
understood to have spoken of the Sacrament in this 
passage. 



302 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

There are certainly some who have misapplied these 
words to the Sacrament, as did the writer of the decretals 
some time ago, and many others. It is one thing, how 
ever, to misapply the Scriptures, and another to take 
them in their legitimate sense ; otherwise when Christ 
says, " Except ye eat My flesh and drink My blood, ye 
have no life in you," He would be condemning all infants, 
all the sick, all the absent, and all who were hindered, in 
whatever manner, from a sacramental eating, however 
eminent their faith, if in these words He had meant to 
enjoin a sacramental eating. Thus Augustine, in his 
second book against Julianus, proves from Innocentius 
that even infants, without receiving the Sacrament, eat 
the flesh and drink the blood of Christ ; that is, partake 
by the same faith as the Church. Let this then be con 
sidered as settled : that John vi. has nothing to do 
with the matter. For which reason I have written 
elsewhere that the Bohemians could not rightfully 
depend upon this passage in their defence of reception in 
both kinds. 

CONCERNING THE LORD S SUPPER. 

There are two passages which treat in the clearest 
manner of this subject, at which let us look : the state 
ments in the Gospels respecting the Lord s Supper and 
the words of Paul (1 Cor. xi.). Matthew, Mark, and 
Luke agree that Christ gave the whole Sacrament to 
all His disciples ; and that Paul delivered both parts 
of it is so certain that no one has yet been shameless 
enough to assert the contrary. Add to this that, accord 
ing to the relation of Matthew, Christ did not say con 
cerning the bread, u Eat ye all of this," but did say 
concerning the cup, " Drink ye all of this." Mark also 
does not say, " They all ate," but " They all drank of it." 
Each writer attaches the mark of universality to the cup, 
not to the bread, as if the Spirit foresaw the schism 
that should come, which would forbid to some that com 
munion in the cup which Christ would have common to 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 303 

all. How furiously would they rave against us, if they 
had found the word " all " applied to the bread, and not 
to the cup ! They would leave us no way of escape, 
would clamour us down, pronounce us heretics, condemn 
us as schismatics. But when the word stands on our 
side against them, they allow themselves to be bound by 
no laws of logic, these men of freest will, in changing, 
and changing again, and throwing into utter confusion 
even the things which are of God. 

But suppose me to be standing on the other side and 
questioning my lords the Papists. In the Supper of the 
Lord, the whole Sacrament, or the Sacrament in both 
kinds, was either given to the presbyters alone, or at the 
same time to the laity. If to the presbyters alone 
(for thus they will have it to be), then it is in no wise 
lawful that any kind should be given to the laity ; for 
it ought not to be rashly given to any to whom Christ 
did not give it at the first institution. Otherwise, if we 
allow one of Christ s institutions to be changed, we make 
the whole body of His laws of no effect ; and any man 
may venture to say that he is bound by no law or 
institution of Christ. For in dealing with Scripture one 
special exception does away with any general statement. 
If, on the other hand, it was given to the laity as well, it 
inevitably follows that reception in both kinds ought not 
to be denied to the laity ; and in denying it to them when 
they seek it, we act impiously, and contrary to the deed, 
example, and institution of Christ. 

I confess that I have been unable to resist this reason 
ing, and have neither read, heard of, nor discovered any 
thing to be said on the other side, while the words and 
example of Christ stand unshaken, who says not by 
way of permission, but of commandment " Drink ye all 
of this." For if all are to drink of it and this cannot 
be understood as said to the presbyters alone then it is 
certainly an impious deed to debar the laity from it when 
they seek it, were it even an angel from heaven who did so. 
For what they say of its being left to the decision of the 
Church which kind should be administered is said without 



304 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

rational ground, is alleged without authority, and is 
as easily contemned as proved, nor can it avail against 
an adversary who opposes to us the word and deed of 
Christ, and whose blows must therefore be returned with 
the word of Christ ; and this we do not possess. 

If, however, either kind can be denied to the laity, then 
by the same decision of the Church a part of baptism 
or of penance might be taken from, them, since in each 
case the reason of the matter and the power are alike. 
Therefore as the whole of baptism and the whole of abso 
lution are to be granted to all the laity, so is the whole 
Sacrament of the bread, if they seek it. I am much 
astonished, however, at their assertion that it is wholly 
unlawful, under pain of mortal sin, for presbyters to 
receive only one kind in the mass, and this for no other 
reason than that (as they all unanimously say) the two 
kinds form one full sacrament, which ought not to be 
divided. Let them tell me then why it is lawful to 
divide it in the case of the laity, and why they alone 
should not be granted the entire Sacrament. Do they 
not admit, on their own showing, that either both kinds 
ought to be granted to the laity, or that it is no lawful 
sacrament which is granted to them under one kind ? 
How can the one kind be a full sacrament in the case of 
the laity, and not a full one in the case of the presbyters ? 
Why do they vaunt the decision of the Church and the 
power, of the Pope in this matter? The words of God 
and the testimonies of truth cannot thus be done away 
with. 

It follows further that, if the Church can take from 
the laity the one kind, the wine, she can also take from 
them the other kind, the bread, and thus might take 
from the laity the whole Sacrament of the Altar, and 
deprive the institution of Christ of all effect in their case. 
But, I ask, by what authority ? If, however, she 
cannot take away the bread, or both kinds, neither can 
she the wine. Nor can any possible argument on this 
point be brought against an opponent, since the Church 
must necessarily have the same power in regard to either 



BABYLONISH CAPIIVITY OF THE CHURCH 305 

kind as in regard to both kinds ; if she has it not as 
regards both kinds, she has it not as regards either. I 
should like to hear what the flatterers of Rome may 
choose to say on this point. 

Bat what strikes me most forcibly of all, and thoroughly 
convinces me, is that saying of Christ, " This is My 
blood, which is shed for you and for many, for the re 
mission of sins." Here you see most clearly that the 
blood is given to all for whose sins it is shed. Now 
who will dare to say that it was not shed for the laity ? 
Do you not see whom He addresses as He gives the 
cup? Does He not give it to all? Does He not say 
that it was shed for all ? " For you," He says. Let us 
grant that these are priests. " And for many," He con 
tinues. These cannot be priests ; and yet He says. 
" Drink ye all of it." I also could easily trifle on this 
point, and turn the words of Christ into a mockery by 
my words, as that trifler my opponent does. But those 
who rest upon the Scriptures in arguing against us must 
be refuted by the Scriptures. These are the reasons 
which have kept me from condemning the Bohemians, 
who, whether they be good or bad men, certainly have 
the words and deeds of Christ on their side, while we 
have neither, but only that idle device of men, " The 
Church hath thus ordered it" ; while it was not the 
Church, but the tyrants of the Churches, without the 
consent of the Church that is, of the people of God 
who have thus ordered it. 

Now where, I ask, is the necessity, where is the re 
ligious obligation, where is the use, of denying to the 
laity reception in both kinds that is, the visible sign- 
when all men grant them the real grace of the Sacrament 
without the sign ? If they grant the reality, which is 
the greater, why do they not grant the sign, which is the 
less ? For in every sacrament the sign, in so far as it 
is a sign, is incomparably less than the reality itself. 
What then, I ask, should hinder the granting of the 
lesser thing, when the greater is granted unless, indeed, 
as it seems to me, this has happened by the permission 

20 



306 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

of God in His anger, to be the occasion of a schism in 
the Church ; and to show that, having long ago lost the 
reality of the Sacrament, we are fighting on behalf of 
the sign, which is the lesser thing, against the reality, 
which is the greatest and only important thing, just as 
some persons fight on behalf of ceremonies against 
charity ? This monstrous perversion appears to have 
begun at the same time at which we began in our folly 
to set Christian charity at nought for the sake of worldly 
riches, that God might show by this terrible proof that 
we think signs of greater consequence than the realities 
themselves. What perversity it would be, if you were 
to concede that the faith of baptism is granted to one 
seeking baptism, and yet deny him the sign of that very 
faith, namely water ? 

Last of all stand the irrefutable words of Paul, which 
must close every mouth, " I have received of the Lord 
that which also I delivered unto you" (1 Cor. xi.). He 
does not say, as this friar falsely asserts out of his own 
head, " I permitted to you." Nor is it true that he 
granted the Corinthians reception in both kinds on 
account of the contentions among them. In the first 
place, as the text itself shows, the contention was not 
about the reception in both kinds, but about the con- 
temptuoasness of the rich and the envy of the poor, as is 
clear from the text, which says, " One is hungry, and 
another is drunken," and (t Ye shame them that have 
not." Then, too, he is not speaking of what he delivered 
as if it were for the first time. He does not say, " I 
receive from the Lord, and I deliver to you, "but " I have 
received, and I have delivered," namely at the beginning 
of his preaching, long before this contention arose, thus 
signifying that he had delivered to them the reception 
in both kinds. This " delivering " means " enjoining," 
as he elsewhere uses the same word. Thus the smoke 
clouds of assertion which this friar heaps together con 
cerning permission, without Scripture, without reason, 
and without cause, go for nothing. His opponents do 
not ask what his dreams are, but what the judgment of 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 307 

Scripture is on these points ; and out of it he can produce 
not a tittle in support of his dream, while they can bring- 
forward so many thunderbolts in defence of their belief. 

Rise up then in one body, all ye flatterers of the Pope ; 
be active; defend yourselves from the charge of impiety, 
tyranny, and treason against the Gospel, and wrongful 
calumniation of your brethren, ye who proclaim as heretics 
those who cannot approve of the mere dreams of your 
brains, in opposition to such plain and powerful Scrip 
tures. If either of the two are to be called heretics and 
schismatics, it is not the Bohemians, not the Greeks, 
since they take their stand on the Gospels, but you 
Romans who are heretics and impious schismatics, you 
who presume upon your own figments alone, against the 
manifest teaching of the Scriptures of God. 

But what can be more ridiculous, or more worthy of 
the head of this friar, than to say that the Apostle wrote 
thus and gave this permission to a particular Church, that 
of Corinth, but not to the universal Church ? Whence 
does he prove this ? Out of his usual store : his own 
impious head. When the universal Church takes this 
epistle as addressed to itself, reads it, and follows it in 
every respect, why not in this part of it ? If we admit 
that any one epistle of Paul, or one passage in any one 
epistle, does not concern the universal Church, we do 
away with the whole authority of Paul. The Corinthians 
might say that what he taught concerning faith, in 
writing to the Romans, did not concern them. What 
could be more blasphemous or more mad than this mad 
idea ? Far be it from us to imagine that there can be 
one tittle in the whole of Paul which the whole of the 
universal Church ought not to imitate and keep. Not 
thus thought the Fathers, nor any until these perilous 
times, in which Paul foretold that there should be 
blasphemers, blind and senseless men, among whom this 
friar is one, or even the foremost. 

But let us grant this intolerably wild assertion. If Paul 
gave permission to a particular Church, then, on your 
own showing, the Greeks and the Bohemians are acting 



308 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

rightly, for they are particular Churches, and therefore it 
is enough that they are not acting against the teaching of 
Paul, who at least gives them permission. Furthermore, 
Paul had not power to permit of anything contrary to the 
institution of Christ. Therefore, on behalf of the Greeks 
and the Bohemians, I set up these sayings of Christ and 
of Paul against thee, Rome, and all thy flatterers ; nor 
canst thou show that power has been given thee to change 
these things by one hair s-breadth, much less to accuse 
others of heresy because they disregard thy presumptuous 
pretensions. It is thou who deservest to be accused of 
impiety and tyranny. 

We also read the words of Cyprian, who by himself is 
powerful enough to stand against all the Romanists, and 
who testifies in his discourse concerning the lapsed in the 
fifth book that it had been the custom in that Church for 
both kinds to be administered to laymen and even to 
children, yea for the body of the Lord to be given into 
their hands, as he shows by many instances. Among 
other things, he thus reproves some of the people : " And 
because he does not immediately receive the body of the 
Lord with unclean hands or drink the blood of the Lord 
with polluted mouth, he is angry with the priests as 
sacrilegious." You see that he is here speaking of 
certain sacrilegious laymen, who wished to receive from the 
priests the body and the blood. Have you here, wretched 
flatterer, anything to gabble ? Say that this holy martyr, 
this teacher of the Church, so highly endowed with the 
apostolic spirit, was a heretic, and availed himself of a 
permission in his particular Church ! 

He relates in the same place an incident which had 
occurred in his own sight and presence, when he writes in 
the plainest terms that as deacon he had given the cup to 
an infant girl, and when the child struggled against it, 
had even poured the blood of the Lord into its mouth. 
We read the same thing of St. Donatus, whose broken 
cup how dully does this wretched flatterer try to get rid 
of. "I read," he says, "that the cup was broken; I do 
not read that the blood was given." What wonder that 






BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 309 

he who perceives in the Holy Scriptures what he wills to 
perceive should also read in historical narratives what he 
wills to read ! But can he in this way at all establish 
the power of the Church to decide, or can he thus confute 
heretics ? But enough said on this subject ; for I did 
not begin this treatise in order to answer one who is 
unworthy of an answer, but in order to lay open the truth 
of the matter. 

I conclude, then, that to deny reception, in both kinds 
to the laity is an act of impiety and tyranny, and one not 
in the power of any angel, much less of any pope or 
council whatever. Nor do I care for the Council of Con 
stance, for, if its authority is to prevail, why should not 
also that of the Council of Basle, which decreed, on the 
other hand, that the Bohemians should be allowed to 
receive in both kinds ? a point which was carried there 
after long discussion, as the extant annals and documents 
of that council prove. This fact that ignorant flatterer 
brings forward on behalf of his own dreams, so wisely 
does he handle the whole matter. 

The first bondage, then, of this Sacrament is as regards 
its substance or completeness, which the tyranny of Home 
has wrested from us. Not that they sin against Christ 
who use one kind only, since Christ has not commanded 
the use of any, but has left it to the choice of each indi- 
vidual, saying, " This do ye, as oft as ye shall do it, in 
remembrance of Me"; but they sin who forbid that both 
kinds should be given to those who desire to use this 
freedom of choice, and the fault is not in the laity, but in 
the priests. The Sacrament does not belong to the priests, 
but to all ; nor are the priests lords, but servants, whose 
duty it is to give both kinds to those who seek them, as 
often as they seek them. If they have snatched this 
right from the laity and forcibly denied it to them, they 
are tyrants ; and the laity are free from blame, whether 
they "go without one or both kinds, for meanwhile they 
will be saved by their faith and by their desire for a com 
plete sacrament. So, too, the ministers themselves are 
bound to grant baptism and absolution to him who seeks 



310 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

them; if they do not grant them, the seeker has the full 
merit of his own faith, while they will be accused before 
Christ as wicked servants. Thus of old the holy Fathers 
in the desert passed many years without communicating 
in either kind of the Sacrament. 

I am not therefore advocating the seizing by force on 
both kinds, as if we were of necessity commanded and 
compelled to receive them; but I am instructing the con 
science, that every man should suffer the tyranny of Rome, 
knowing that he has been forcibly deprived of his right 
in the Sacrament on account of his sins. This only I 
would have: that none should justify the tyranny of Rome, 
as if she had done right in denying one kind to the laity, 
but that we should abhor it and withhold our consent 
from it, though we may bear it, just as if we were in 
bondage with the Turk, where we should not be at liberty 
to use either kind. For this reason I have said that it 
would be a fine thing, in my opinion, if this bondage 
were done away with Toy the decree of a general council, 
and Christian liberty restored to us out of the hands of 
the tyrant of Rome, and if to each man were left his own 
free choice of seeking and using, as is left in the case 
of baptism and penance. Now, however, by the same 
tyranny, he compels one kind to be received year by 
year, so extinct is the liberty granted us by Christ, and 
such are the deserts of our impious ingratitude. 

The other bondage of the same Sacrament is a milder 
one, so far as regards the conscience, but one which 
it is by far the most perilous of all things to touch, 
much more to condemn. Here I shall be a Wickliffite, 
and a heretic under six hundred names. What then ? 
Since the Bishop of Rome has ceased to be a bishop and 
has become a tyrant, I fear absolutely none of his decrees, 
since I know that neither he nor even a general council 
has power to establish new articles of the faith. 

Formerly, when I was imbibing the scholastic theology, 
my lord the Cardinal of Cambray gave me; occasion for 
reflection by arguing most acutely, in the fourth book of the 
Sentences, that it would be much more probable, and that 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 311 



fewer superfluous miracles would have to be introduced, 
if real bread and real wine, and not only their accidents, 
were understood to be upon the altar, unless the Church 
had determined the contrary. Afterwards, when I saw 
what the Church was which had thus determined 
namely, the Thomistic, that is, the Aristotelian Church 
I became bolder ; and whereas I had been before in great 
straits of doubt, I now at length established my conscience 
in the former opinion, namely, that there is real bread 
and real wine, in which is the real flesh and real blood 
of Christ, in no other manner and in no less degree than 
the other party assert them to be tinder the accidents. 
And this I did because I saw that the opinions of the 
Thomists, whether approved by the Pope or by a council, 
remained opinions, and did not become articles of the faith, 
even were an angel from heaven to decree otherwise. 
For that which is asserted without the support of the 
Scriptures, or of an approved revelation, it is permitted 
to hold as an opinion, but it is not necessary to believe. 
Now this opinion of Thomas is so vague, and so unsup 
ported by the Scriptures or by reason, that he seems to 
me to have known neither his philosophy nor his logic. 
For Aristotle speaks of accidents and subject very differ 
ently from St. Thomas ; and it seems to me that we 
ought to be sorry for so great a man when we see him 
striving, not only to draw his opinions on matters of faith 
from Aristotle, tout to establish them upon an authority 
whom he did not understand a most unfortunate struc 
ture raised on a most unfortunate foundation. 

I quite consent, then, that whoever chooses to hold 

either opinion should do so. My only object now is to 

remove scruples of conscience, so that no man may fear 

] being guilty of heresy if he believes that real bread and 

(Lreal wine are present on the altar. Let him know that 

he is at liberty, without peril to his salvation, to imagine, 

think, or believe in either of the two ways, since here 

there is no necessity of faith. Yet I now give my own 

opinion. In the first place, I will not hear or take 

account of those who will cry out that this doctrine is 



312 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



Wickliffite, Hussite, heretical, and opposed to the de 
cisions of the Church. None will do this but those 
whom I have convicted of being themselves in many 
ways heretical : in the matter of indulgences, of free 
will and the grace of God, of good works and sins, etc. 
If Wickliff was once a heretic, they are themselves ten 
times heretics ; and it is an excellent thing to be blamed 
and accused by heretics and perverse sophists, since to 
please them would be the height of impiety. Besides, 
they can give no other proof of their own opinions, nor 
have they any other way of disproving the contrary ones, 
than by saying, This is Wickliffite, Hussite, heretical." 
This feeble argument, and no other, is always at the tip 
of their tongue ; and if you ask for Scripture authority, 
they say, " This is our opinion, and the Church (that is, 
we ourselves) has decided it thus." To such an extent do 
men who are reprobate concerning the faith and unworthy 
of belief dare to propose to us their own fancies, under 
the authority of the Church, as articles of the faith. 

There is, however, very much to be said for my opinion; 
in the first place this : that no violence ought to be done 
to the words of God, neither by man nor by angel, but 
that as far as possible they ought to be kept to their 
simplest meaning, and not to be taken, unless the cir 
cumstances manifestly compel us to do so, out of their 
grammatical and proper signification, that we may not 
give our adversaries any opportunity of evading the 
teaching of the whole Scriptures. For this reason the 
ideas of Origen were rightly rejected when, in contempt 
of the plain grammatical meaning, he turned the trees 
and all other objects described as existing in paradise 
into allegories, since hence it might be inferred ,that 
trees were not created by God. So in the present case, 
since the Evangelists write clearly that Christ took bread 
and blessed it, and since the book of Acts and the Apostle 
Paul also call it bread, real bread and real wine must be 
understood, just as the cup was real. For even these 
men do not say that the cup is transubstantiated. Since 
then it is not necessary to lay it down that a transub- 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 313 

stantiation is effected by the operation of Divine power, it 
must be held as a figment of human opinion ; for it rests 
on no support of Scripture or of reason. It is forcing on 
us a novel and absurd usage of words to take bread as 
meaning the form or accidents of bread, and wine as the 
form or accidents of wine. Why do they not take all 
other things as forms or accidents ? Even if everything 
else were consistent with this idea, it would not be 
lawful thus to enfeeble the word of God and to deprive 
it so unjustly of its proper meaning. 

The Church, however, kept the right faith for more 
than twelve centuries, nor did the holy Fathers ever or 
anywhere make mention of this transubstantiation (a 
portentous word and dream indeed) until the counterfeit 
Aristotelian philosophy began to make its inroads on the 
Church within these last three hundred years, during 
which many other erroneous conclusions have also been 
arrived at, such as that the Divine essence is neither 
generated nor generates, that the soul is the substantial 
form of the" human body, and other like assertions, which 
are made absolutely without reason or cause, as the 
Cardinal of Cambray himself confesses. 

They will say perhaps that we shall be in peril of 
idolatry if we do not admit that bread and wine are not 
really there. This is truly ridiculous, for the laity have 
never learnt the subtle philosophical distinction between 
substance and accidents, nor, if they were taught it, 
could they understand it ; and there is the same peril, if 
we keep the accidents, which they see, as in the case of 
the substance, which they do not see. For if it is not 
the accidents which they adore, but Christ concealed 
under them, why should they adore the substance, which 
they do not see ? 

But why should not Christ be able to include His body 
within the substance of bread, as well as within the 
accidents ? Fire and iron, two different substances, are 
so mingled in red-hot iron that every part of it is both 
fire and iron. Why may not the glorious body of Christ 
much more be in every part of the substance of the bread ? 



314 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

Christ is believed to have been born of the inviolate 
womb of His mother. In this case, too, let them say that 
the flesh of the Virgin was for a time annihilated, or, as 
they will have it to be more suitably expressed, tran 
substantiated, that Christ might be enwrapped in its 
accidents and at length come forth through its accidents. 
The same will have to be said respecting the closed 
door and the closed entrance of the tomb, through 
which He entered, and went out without injury to them. 
But hence has sprung that Babylon of a philosophy con 
cerning continuous quantity, distinct from substance, till 
things have come to such a point that they themselves 
do not know what are accidents and what is substance. 
For who has ever proved to a certainty that heat and 
cold, colour, light, weight, and form are accidents ? 
Lastly, they have been driven to pretend that God creates 
a new substance additional to those accidents on the 
altar, on account of the saying of Aristotle that the 
essence of an accident is to be in something, and have 
been led to an infinity of monstrous ideas, from all of 
which they would be free, if they simply allowed the 
bread on the altar to be real bread. I rejoice greatly 
that at least among the common people there remains a 
simple faith in this Sacrament. They neither understand 
nor argue whether there are accidents in it or substance, 
but believe with simple faith that the body and blood of 
Christ are truly contained in it, leaving to these men of 
leisure the task of arguing as to what it contains. 

But perhaps they will say that we are taught by Aris 
totle that we must take the subject and predicate of an 
affirmative proposition to signify the same thing, or, to 
quote the words of that monster himself in the sixth book 
of his Metaphysics, " an affirmative proposition requires 
the composition of the extremes," which they explain 
as their signifying the same thing. Thus in the words, 
" This is my body," they say that we cannot take the 
subject to signify the bread, but the body of Christ. 

What shall we say to this ? Whereas we are making 
Aristotle and human teachings the censors of such 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 315 

sublime and Divine matters, why do we not rather cast 
away these curious inquiries and simply adhere to the 
words of Christ, willing to be ignorant of what is done in 
this Sacrament and content to know that the real body 
of Christ is present in it by virtue of the words of conse 
cration ? Is it necessary to comprehend altogether the 
manner of the Divine working ? 

But what do they say to Aristotle, who applies the 
term " subject " to all the categories of accidents, although 
he takes the substance to be the first subject ? Thus, in 
his opinion, " this white," " this great,"/ this something," 
are subjects, because something is predicated of them. If 
this is true, and if it is necessary to lay down a doctrine 
of transubstantiation in order that it may not be asserted 
of the bread that it is the body of Christ, why, I ask, is 
not a doctrine of transaccidentation also laid down, that 
it may not be affirmed of an accident that it is the body 
of Christ ? For the same danger remains, if we regard 
" this white thing " or " this round thing " as the subject. 
On whatever principle transubstantiation is taught, on 
the same ought transaccidentation to be taught, on 
account of the two terms of the proposition, as is alleged, 
signifying the same thing. 

If, however, by a high effort of understanding, you 
make abstraction of the accident, and refuse to regard it 
as signified by the subject in saying, " This is My body," 
why can you not as easily rise above the substance of the 
bread, and refuse to let it be understood as signified by 
the subject, so that "This is My body " may be true in 
the substance no less than in the accident, especially 
so since this is a Divine work of almighty power, which 
can operate to the same extent and in the same way in 
the substance, as it can in the accident ? 

But, not to philosophise too far, does not Christ 
appear to have met these curious inquiries in a striking 
manner when He said concerning the wine, not " Hoc 
est sanguis meus," but " Hie est sanguis rneus " ? He 
speaks much more clearly still when He brings in the 
mention of the cup, saying, " This cup is the new testa- 



314 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

Christ is believed to have been born of the inviolate 
womb of His mother. In this case, too, let them say that 
the flesh of the Virgin was for a time annihilated, or, as 
they will have it to be more suitably expressed, tran 
substantiated, that Christ might be enwrapped in its 
accidents and at length come forth through its accidents. 
The same will have to be said respecting the closed 
door and the closed entrance of the tomb, through 
which He entered, and went out without injury to them. 
But hence has sprung that Babylon of a philosophy con 
cerning continuous quantity, distinct from substance, till 
things have come to such a point that they themselves 
do not know what are accidents and what is substance. 
For who has ever proved to a certainty that heat and 
cold, colour, light, weight, and form are accidents ? 
Lastly, they have been driven to pretend that God creates 
a new substance additional to those accidents on the 
altar, on account of the saying of Aristotle that the 
essence of an accident is to be in something, and have 
been led to an infinity of monstrous ideas, from all of 
which they would be free, if they simply allowed the 
bread on the altar to be real bread. I rejoice greatly 
that at least among the common people there remains a 
simple faith in this Sacrament. They neither understand 
nor argue whether there are accidents in it or substance, 
but believe with simple faith that the body and blood of 
Christ are truly contained in it, leaving to these men of 
leisure the task of arguing as to what it contains. 

But perhaps they will say that we are taught by Aris 
totle that we must take the subject and predicate of an 
affirmative proposition to signify the same thing, or, to 
quote the words of that monster himself in the sixth book 
of his Metaphysics, " an affirmative proposition requires 
the composition of the extremes," which they explain 
as their signifying the same thing. Thus in the words, 
" This is my body," they say that we cannot take the 
subject to signify the bread, but the body of Christ. 

What shall we say to this ? Whereas we are making 
Aristotle and human teachings the censors of such 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 315 

sublime and Divine matters, why do we not rather cast 
away these curious inquiries and simply adhere to the 
words of Christ, willing to be ignorant of what is done in 
this Sacrament and content to know that the real body 
of Christ is present in it by virtue of the words of conse 
cration ? Is it necessary to comprehend altogether the 
manner of the Divine working ? 

But what do they say to Aristotle, who applies the 
term " subject" to all the categories of accidents, although 
lie takes the substance to be the first subject ? Thus, in 
his opinion, " this white," " this great," " this something," 
are subjects, because something is predicated of them. _ If 
this is true, and if it is necessary to lay down a doctrine 
of transubstantiation in order that it may not be asserted 
of the bread that it is the body of Christ, why, I ask, is 
not a doctrine of transaccidentation also laid down, that 
it may not be affirmed of an accident that it is the body 
of Christ ? For the same danger remains, if we regard 
" this white thing " or " this round thing " as the subject. 
On whatever principle transubstantiation is taught, on 
the same ought transaccidentation to be taught, on 
account of the two terms of the proposition, as is alleged, 
signifying the same thing. 

If, however, by a high effort of understanding, you 
make abstraction of the accident, and refuse to regard it 
as signified by the subject in saying, " This is My body," 
why can you not as easily rise above the substance of the 
bread, and refuse to let it be understood as signified by 
the subject, so that " This is My body " may be true in 
the substance no less than in the accident, especially 
so since this is a Divine work of almighty power, which 
can operate to the same extent and in the same way in 
the substance, as it can in the accident ? 

But, not to philosophise too far, does not Christ 
appear to have met these curious inquiries in a striking 
manner when He said concerning the wine, not " Hoc 
est sanguis meus," but " Hie est sanguis nieus " ? He 
speaks much more clearly still when He brings in the 
mention of the cup, saying, " This cup is the new testa- 



316 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

ment in My blood" (1 Cor. xi.). Does He not seem to 
have meant to keep us within the bounds of simple faith, 
just so far as to believe that His blood is in the cup? If, 
for my part, I cannot understand how the bread can be 
the body of Christ, I will bring my understanding into 
captivity to the obedience of Christ, and firmly believe, 
in simple adherence to His word ; not only that the body 
of Christ is in the bread, but that the bread is the body 
of Christ. For so shall I be kept safe by His words, 
where it is said, " Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and 
brake it, and said, Take, eat, this " (that is, this bread, 
which He had taken and broken) " is My body." Paul 
also says, " The bread which we break, is it not the com 
munion of the body of Christ ? " He does not say that 
the communion is in the bread, but that the bread itself 
is the communion of the body of Christ. What if philo 
sophy does not understand these things? The Holy 
Spirit is greater than Aristotle. Does it even understand 
the transubstantiation which these men speak of, seeing 
that they themselves confess that all philosophy breaks 
down on this point ? The reason why, in the Greek and 
Latin, the pronoun this is referred to the body, is that 
the genders are alike ; but in the Hebrew, where there 
is no neuter gender, it is referred to the bread ; so that 
we might properly say, " This " (bread) " is My body." 
Both the usage of language and common sense prove that 
the subject points to the bread, and not to the body, when 
He says, " Hoc est corpus rneum ," that is, " This bread is 
My body." 

As then the case is with Christ Himself, so is it also 
with the Sacrament. For it is not necessary to the bodily 
indwelling of the Godhead that the human nature should 
be transubstantiated, that so the Godhead may be con 
tained beneath the accidents of the human nature. But 
each nature is entire, and we can say with truth, This 
Man is God ; this God is man. Though philosophy does 
not receive this, yet faith receives it, and greater is the 
authority of the word of God than the capacity of our 
intellect. Thus, too, in the Sacrament it is not necessary 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 317 

t 

to the presence of the real body and real blood that the 
bread and wine should be transubstantiated, so that 
Christ may be contained beneath the accidents ; but while 
both bread and wine continue there, it can be said with 
truth, " This bread is My body ; this wine is My blood," 
and conversely. Thus for the present will I understand 
this matter in honour of the holy words of God, which 
I will not allow to have violence done them by the petty 
reasonings of men, or to be distorted into meanings alien 
to them. I give leave, however, to others to follow 
the other opinion, which is distinctly laid down in the 
decretal, provided only (as I have said) they do not press 
us to accept their opinions as articles of faith. 

The third bondage of this same Sacrament is that abuse 
of it and by far the most impious by which it has 
come about that at this day(there is no belief in the 
Church more generally received or more firmly held than 
that the mass is a good work and a sacrifice. This abuse 
has brought in an infinite flood of other abuses, until 
faith in the Sacrament lias been utterly lostyand they 
have made this Divine Sacrament a mere subject of traffic, 
huckstering, and money-getting contracts. Hence com 
munions, brotherhoods, suffrages, merits, anniversaries, 
memorials, and other things of that kind are bought and 
sold in the Church, and made the subjects of bargains and 
agreements ; and the entire maintenance of priests and 
monks depends upon these things. 

I am entering on an arduous task, and it may perhaps 
be impossible to uproot an abuse which, strengthened by 
the practice of so many ages and approved by universal 
consent, has fixed itself so firmly among us that the 
greater part of the books which have influence at the 
present day must needs be done away with, and almost 
the entire aspect of the churches be changed, and a totally 
different kind of ceremonies be brought in, or rather 
brought back. But my Christ lives, and we must take 
heed to the word of God with greater care than to all the 
intellects of men and angels. I will perform my part, 
will bring forth the subject into the light, and will impart 



3i8 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

the truth freely and ungrudgingly as I have received it. 
For the rest, let every one look to his own salvation ; 1 
will strive, as in the presence of Christ nay Judge, that no 
man may be able to throw upon me the blame of his own 
unbelief and ignorance of the truth. 

To begin, if we wish to attain safely and prosperously to 
the true and free knowledge of this Sacrament, we must 
take the utmost care to put aside all that has been added 
by the zeal or the notions of men to the primitive and 
simple institution, such as vestments, ornaments, hymns, 
prayers, musical instruments, lamps, and all the pomp of 
visible things, and must turn our eyes and our attention 
only to the pure institution of Christ, and set nothing else 
before us but those very words of Christ with which He 
instituted and perfected that Sacrament and committed it 
to us. In that word, and absolutely in nothing else, lies 
the whole force, nature, and substance of the mass. All 
the rest are human notions, accessory to the word of 
Christ ; and the mass can perfectly well subsist and be 
kept up without them. Now the words in which Christ 
instituted this Sacrament are as follows : " While they 
were at supper Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake 
it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat ; 
this is My body which is given for you. And He took 
the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 
Drink ye all of this ; this cup is the new testament in 
My _blood, which is shed for you and for many for the 
remission of sins ; do this in remembrance of Me." 

These words the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. xi.) also delivers 
to us and explains at greater length. On these we must 
rest, and build ourselves up as on a firm rock, unless we 
wish to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, as 
we have hitherto been, through the impious teachings of 
men who pervert the truth. For in these words nothing 
has been omitted which pertains to the completeness, use, 
and profit of this Sacrament, and nothing laid down 
which it is superfluous or unnecessary for us to know. 
He who passes over these words in his meditations or 
teachings concerning the mass will teach monstrous 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 319 

impieties, as has been done by those who have made 
an opus operatum and a sacrifice of it. 

Let this then stand as a first and infallible truth : that 
the mass or Sacrament of the altar is the testament of 
Christ, which He left behind Him at His death, to be 
distributed to those who believe in Him. For such are 
His words : " This cup is the new testament in My blood." 
Let this truth, I say, stand as an immovable foundation, 
on which we shall erect all our arguments. You will see 
how we shall thus overthrow all the impieties of men, 
imposed upon this sweetest Sacrament. The truthful 
Christ then says with truth that this is the new tes 
tament in His blood, shed for us. It is not without cause 
that I urge this ; the matter is no small one, but must be 
received into the depths of our minds. 

If then we inquire what a testament is, we shall also 
learn what the mass is, what are its uses, advantages, 
abuses. A testament is certainly a promise made by a 
man about to die, by which he assigns his inheritance and 
appoints heirs. Thus the idea of a testament implies, 
first, the death of the testator, and, secondly, the promise 
of the inheritance and the appointment of an heir. In 
this way Paul (Rom. iv. ; Gal. iii., iv. ; Heb.ix.) speaks at 
some length of testaments. We also see this clearly in 
those words of Christ. Christ testifies of His own death 
when He says, " This is My body which is given ; this is 
My blood which is shed " ; He assigns and points out the 
inheritance when He says, " For the remission of sins " ; 
and He appoints heirs when He says, " For you and for 
many," that is, for those who accept and believe the 
promise of the Testator, for it is faith which makes us 
heirs, as we shall see. 

You see then that the mass, as we call it, is a promise 
of the remission of sins made to us by God, and such a 
promise as has been confirmed by the death of the Son of 
God. For a promise and a testament only differ in this : 
that a testament implies the death of the promiser. A 
testator is a promiser who is about to die ; and a promiser 
is, so to speak, a testator who is about to live. This 



320 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

testament of Christ was prefigured in all the promises of 
God from the beginning of the world ; yea, whatsoever 
value the ancient promises had lay in that new promise 
which was about to be made in Christ, and on which they 
depended. Hence the words " agreement," " covenant," 
" testament of the Lord," are constantly employed in 
the Scriptures ; and by these it was implied that God 
would some day die. " For where a testament is, there 
must also of necessity be the death of the testator " 
(Heb. ix. 16). God having made a testament, it was 
necessary that He should die. Now He could not die 
unless He became a Man ; and thus in this one word 
"testament" the incarnation and the death of Christ are 
both comprehended. 

From all this it is now self-evident what is the use, and 
what the abuse, of the mass, what is a worthy or an un 
worthy preparation for it. If the mass is a promise, as 
we have said, we can approach to it by no works, no 
strength, no merits, but by faith alone. For where we 
have the word of God, who promises, there we must have 
faith on the part of man, who accepts ; and it is thus clear 
that the beginning of our salvation is faith, depending on 
the word of a promising God, who, independently of any 
efforts of ours, prevents us by His free and undeserved 
mercy, and holds out to us the word of His promise. 
"He sent His word and healed them" (Psalm cvii. 20). 
He did not receive our works and so save us. First of all 
comes the word of God ; this is followed by faith, and faith 
by love, which in its turn does every good work; because 
it worketh no evil, yea, it is the fulfilling of the law. 
There is no other way in which man can meet or deal with 
God but by faith. It is not man by any works of his, but 
God by His own promise, who is the Author of salvation ; 
so that everything depends, is contained and preserved in 
the word of His power, by which He begat us, that we 
might be a kind of firstfruits of His creation. 

Thus, when Adam was to be raised up after the Fall, God 
gave him a promise, saying to the serpent, " I will place 
enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 321 



and her seed ; she shall braise thy head, and thou shalt 
bruise her heel." In this word of promise, Adam, with 
his posterity, was, as it were, borne in the bosom of God 
and preserved by faith in Him, waiting patiently for the 
woman who should bruise the head of the serpent, as God 
had promised. In this faith and waiting he died, not 
knowing when and how the promise would be accom 
plished, but not doubting that it would be accomplished. 
For such a promise, being the truth of God, preserves 
even in hell those who believe and wait for it. This 
promise was followed by another, made to Noah ; the bow 
in the cloud being given as a sign of the covenant, be 
lieving in which he and his posterity found God pro 
pitious. After this God promised to Abraham that in 
his seed all the kindreds of the earth should be blessed. 
This is that bosom of Abraham into which his posterity 
have been received. Lastly, to Moses and to the children 
of Israel, especially to David, God gave a most distinct 
promise of Christ \ and thus at length revealed what 
had been the meaning of the promise made to them of 
old time. 

Thus we come to the most perfect promise of all, that 
of the new testament, in which life and salvation are 
freely promised in plain words, and are bestowed on those 
who believe the promise. Christ conspicuously dis 
tinguishes this testament from the old one by calling 
it the "new testament." The old testament given by 
Moses was a promise, not of remission of sins, nor of 
eternal blessings, but of temporal ones, namely, those of 
the land of Canaan ; and by it no one could be renewed 
in spirit and fitted to receive a heavenly inheritance. 
Hence it was necessary that, as a figure of Christ, an 
unreasoning lamb should be slain, in the blood of which 
the same testament was confirmed; thus, as is the blood, 
so is the testament : as is the victim, so is the promise. 
Now Christ says, " The new testament in My blood," not 
in another s, but in His own blood, by which grace is 
promised through the Spirit for the remission of sins, 
that we may receive the inheritance. 

21 



322 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

The mass then, as regards its substance, is properly 
nothing else than the aforesaid words of Christ, " Take, 
eat," etc. He seems to say, " Behold, man, sinner and 
condemned as thou art, out of the pure and free love 
with which I love thee, according to the will of the 
Father of mercies, I promise to thee in these words, 
antecedently to any merits or prayers of thine, remission 
of all thy sins and eternal life. That thou mayest be 
most certain of this My irrevocable promise, I will con 
firm it by My very death ; I will give My body and 
shed My blood, and will leave both to thee, as a sign and- 
memorial of this very promise. Which as often as thou 
shalt repeat, remember Me ; declare and praise My love 
and bounty to thee ; and give thanks." 

From this you see that nothing else is required for a 
worthy reception of the mass than faith, resting with 
confidence on this promise, believing Christ to be truthful 
in these words of His, and not doubting that these 
immeasurable blessings have been bestowed upon us. 
On this faith a spontaneous and most sweet affection of 
the heart will speedily follow, by which the spirit of the 
man is enlarged and enriched ; that is, love, bestowed 
through the Holy Spirit on believers in Christ. Thus the 
believer is carried away to Christ, that bounteous and 
beneficent Testator, and becomes altogether another and 
a new man. Who would not weep tears of delight, nay 
almost die for joy in Christ, if he believed with unhesi 
tating faith that this inestimable promise of Christ 
belonged to him ? How can he fail to love such a Bene 
factor, who of His own accord offers, promises, and gives 
the greatest riches and an eternal inheritance to an 
unworthy sinner, who has deserved very different treat 
ment? 

Our one great misery is this : that, while we have many 
masses in the world, few or none of us recognise, consider, 
or apprehend the rich promises set before us in them. Now 
in the mass the one thing that demands our greatest, 
nay our sole, attention is to keep these words and 
promises of Christ, which indeed constitute the mass 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 323 



itself, constantly before our eyes, that we should meditate 
on and digest them, and exercise, nourish, increase, and 
strengthen our faith in them by this daily commemoration. 
This is what Christ commands when He says, " Do this 
in remembrance of Me." It is the work of an evangelist 
faithfully to present and commend that promise to the 
people, and to call forth faith in it on their part. As it 
is to say nothing of the impious fables of those who 
teach human traditions in the place of this great promise 
how many are there who know that the mass is a promise 
of Christ? Even if they teach these words of Christ, 
they do not teach them as conveying a promise or a 
testament, and therefore call forth no faith in them. 

It is a deplorable thing in our present bondage that 
nowadays the utmost care is taken that no layman should 
hear those words of Christ, as if they were too sacred to 
be committed to the common people. We priests are so 
mad that we arrogate to ourselves alone the right of 
secretly uttering the words of consecration, as they are 
called, and that in a way which is unprofitable even to 
ourselves, since we never look at them as promises, or as a 
testament for the increase of faith. Under the influence 
of some superstitious and impious notion, we do reverence 
to these words instead of believing them. In this our 
misery Satan so works among us that, while he has left 
nothing of the mass to the Church, he yet takes care that 
every corner of the earth shall be full of masses, that is, 
that the world shall be more and more heavily burdened 
with abuses and mockeries of the testament of God, 
and the gravest sins of idolatry, to increase its greater 
damnation. For what more grievous sin of idolatry can 
there be, than to abuse the promises of God by our per 
verse notions and either neglect or extinguish all faith 
in them? 

God (as I have said) never has dealt, or does deal, with 
men otherwise than by the word of promise. Again, we 
can never deal with God otherwise than by faith in the 
word of His promise. He takes no concern with our works, 
and has no need of them , though it is by these we deal 



324 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

with other men and with ourselves ; but He does require 
to be esteemed by us truthful in His promises, and to be 
patiently trusted as such, and thus worshipped in faith, 
hope, and love. And thus it is that He is glorified in us 
when we receive and hold every blessing not by our own 
efforts, but from His mercy, promise, and gift. This is 
that true worship and service of God which we are bound 
to render in the mass. But when the words of the promise 
are not delivered to us, what exercise of faith can there 
be ? And without faith who can hope ? who can love ? 
without faith, hope, and love, what service can there be ? 
There is no doubt therefore that at the present day the 
whole body of priests and monks, with their bishops 
and all their superiors, are idolaters and living in a 
most perilous state, through their ignorance, abuse, and 
mockery of the mass, or sacrament, or promise of God. 

It is easy for any one to understand that two things 
are necessary at the same time : the promise and faith. 
Without a promise we have nothing to believe ; while 
without faith the promise is useless, since it is through 
faith that it is established and fulfilled, whence we easily 
conclude that the mass, being nothing else than a promise, 
can be approached and partaken of by faith alone, with 
out which whatever prayers, preparations, works, signs, 
or gestures are practised, are rather provocations to im 
piety than acts of piety. It constantly happens that when 
men have given their attention to all these things they 
imagine that they are approaching the altar lawfully, and 
yet in reality could never be more unfit to approach it, 
because of the unbelief which they bring with them. 
What a number of sacrificing priests you may daily see 
everywhere who, if they have committed some trifling 
error, by unsuitable vestments or unwashed hands, or by 
some hesitation in the prayers, are wretched, and think 
themselves guilty of an immense crime ! Meanwhile, as 
for the mass itself that is, the Divine promise they 
neither heed nor believe it ; yea, are utterly unconscious 
of its existence. Oh, unworthy religion of our age, the 
most impious and ungrateful of all ages ! 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 325 

There is then no worthy preparation for the mass, or 
rightful use of it, except faith, by which it is believed in 
as a Divine promise. Wherefore let him who is about to 
approach the altar or to receive the Sacrament take care 
not to appear before the Lord his God empty. Now he will 
be empty, if he has not faith in the mass, or in this new 
testament ; and what more grievous impiety can he com 
mit against the truth of God than by this unbelief? As 
far as~m him lies, he makes God a liar, and renders His 
promises idle. It will be safest then to go to the mass 
in no other spirit than that in which thou wouldst go to 
hear any other promise of God ; that is, to be prepared, 
not to do many works and bring many gifts, but to 
believe and receive all that is promised thee in that 
ordinance, or is declared to thee through the ministry of 
the priest as promised. Unless thou comest in this spirit, 
beware of drawing near ; for thou wilt surely draw near 
unto judgment. 

I have rightly said, then, that the whole virtue of the 
mass consists in those words of Christ in which He tes 
tifies that remission is granted to all who believe that 
His body is given and His blood shed for them. There is 
nothing, then, more necessary for those who are about to 
hear mass than to meditate earnestly and with full faith 
on the very words of Christ ; for unless they do this, all 
else is done in vain. It is certainly true that God has 
ever been wont, in all His promises, to give some sign, 
token, or memorial of His promise, that it might be kept 
more faithfully and tell more strongly on men s minds. 
Thus when He promised to Noah that the earth should 
not be destroyed by another deluge He gave His bow in 
the cloud, and said that He would thus remember His 
covenant. To Abraham, when He promised that his seed 
should inherit the earth, He gave circumcision as a seal 
of the righteousness which is by faith. Thus to Gideon 
He gave the dry and the dewy fleece, to confirm His 
promise of victory over the Midianites. Thus to Ahaz 
He gave a sign through Isniah,to confirm his faith in the 
promise of victory over the kings of Syria and Samaria. 



326 LUTHERS PRIMARY WORKS 

We read in the Scriptures of many such signs of the 
promises of God. 

So, too, in the mass, that chief of all promises, He gave a 
sign in memory of so great a promise, namely, His own 
body and His own blood in the bread and wine, saying, 
" Do this in remembrance of Me." Tims in baptism He 
adds to the words of the promise the sign of immersion 
in water. Whence we see that in every promise of God 
two things are set before us : the word and the sign. The 
word we are to understand as being the testament, and the 
sign as being the Sacrament ; thus in the mass the word 
of Christ is the testament : the bread and wine are the 
Sacrament. And as there is greater power in the word 
than in the sign, so is there greater power in the testa 
ment than in the Sacrament. A man can have and use 
the word or testament without the sign or Sacrament. 
" Believe," saith Augustine, " and thou hast eaten " ; but 
in what do we believe except in the word of Him who 
promises ? Thus I can have the mass daily, nay hourly, 
since, as often as I will, I can set before myself the 
words of Christ, and nourish and strengthen my faith in 
them ; and this is in very truth spiritual eating and 
drinking. 

Here we see what and how much the theologians of the 
Sentences have done for us in this matter. In the first 
place, not one of them handles that which is the sum and 
substance of the whole, namely, the testament and word of 
promise; and thus they do away with faith and the whole 
virtue of the mass. In the next place, the other part of it 
namely, the sign or Sacrament is all that they deal 
witli ; but they do not teach faith even in this, but their 
own preparations, opera operata, participations and fruits 
of the mass. At length they have reached the very depth 
of error, and have involved themselves in an infinity of 
metaphysical triflings concerning tran substantiation and 
other points; so that they have done away with all faith, 
and with the knowledge and true use, as well of the testa 
ment as of the Sacrament, and have caused the people of 
Christ, as the prophet says, to forget their God for 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 327 

many days. But do thou leave others to recount the 
various fruits of hearing mass, and apply thy mind to 
saying and believing, with the prophet, that God has 
prepared a table before thee in the presence of thine 
enemies a table at which thy faith may feed and grow 
strong. Now it is only on the word of the Divine promise 
that thy faith can feed ; for man shall not live by bread 
alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth 
of God (Matt. iv. 4). Wherefore in the mass thou 
must look above all things most closely to the word of 
promise as to a most sumptuous banquet, full of every kind 
of food and holy nourishment for thy soul ; this thou 
must esteem above all things ; in this thou must place 
all thy trust, and cleave firmly to it, even in the midst 
of death and all thy sins. If thou dost this, thou wilt 
possess not only those drops, as it were, and littlenesses of 
the fruits of the mass, which some have superstitiously 
invented, but the main fount of life itself, namely, 
faith in the word, from which every good thing flows, as 
Christ said, " He that believeth on Me, out of his belly 
shall flow rivers of living water " (John vii. 38), and 
again, " Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall 
give him shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall 
give him shall be in him a well of water springing up 
into everlasting life" (John iv. 14). 

There are two difficulties which are wont to beset us, 
and prevent our receiving the benefits of the mass. The 
one is that we are sinners and unworthy, from our utter vile- 
ness, of such great blessings ; the other is, even if we were 
worthy, the very greatness of the blessings themselves, 
which are such that weak nature cannot dare to seek or 
hope for them. Who would not be struck, in the first 
place, with amazement rather than with the desire for the 
remission of sins and eternal life, if he rightly estimates 
the greatness of the blessings which come through these 
namely, the having God as his Father and being a 
child of God and heir of all good things ? To meet this 
double weakness of nature, thou must take hold of the 
word of Christ, and fix thine eyes much more strongly on 



328 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

that, than on these cogitations of thine own infirmity. 
For the works of the Lord are great, and He is mighty 
to give, beyond all that we can seek or comprehend. 
Indeed, unless His works surpassed our worthiness, our 
capacity, our whole comprehension, they would not be 
Divine. Thus, too, Christ encourages us, saying, " Fear 
not, little flock ; for it is your Father s good pleasure to 
give you the kingdom " (Luke xii. 32). This incompre 
hensible exuberance of God s mercy, poured out on us 
through Christ, makes us in our turn to love Him above 
all things, to cast ourselves upon Him with the most 
perfect trust, to despise all things, and be ready to suffer 
all things for Him. Hence this Sacrament has been 
rightly called the fountain of love. 

Here we may draw an example from human affairs. 
If some very rich lord were to bequeath a thousand pieces 
of gold to any beggar, or even to an unworthy and bad 
servant, such a one would certainly demand and receive 
them confidently, without regard either to his own un- 
worthiness or to the greatness of the legacy. If any one 
were to set these before him as objections, what do you 
think he would reply ? He would certainly answer, 
" What is that to you ? It is not by my deserving, nor 
by any right of my own, that I receive what I do receive. 
I know that I am unworthy of it, and that I am receiving 
much more than I deserve ; nay, I have deserved the 
very contrary. But what I claim, I claim by right of 
a testament and of the goodness of another : if it were 
not unworthy of him to leave such a legacy to me, who 
am so unworthy, why should my unworthiness make 
me hesitate to accept it ? Nay, the more unworthy I 
am, the more readily do I embrace this free favour from 
another." With such reasonings we must arm our own 
consciences against all their scruples and anxieties, that 
we may hold this promise of Christ with unhesitating- 
faith. We must give the utmost heed not to approach 
in any confidence in our own confessions, prayers, and 
preparations ; we must despair of all these, and come 
in a lofty confidence in the promise of Christ since it 



HABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 329 

is the word of promise which alone must reign here, 
in pure faith, which is the one and sole sufficient 
preparation. 

We see from all this how great the wrath of God 
has been which has permitted our impious teachers to 
conceal from us the words of this testament, and thus, as 
far as in them lay, to extinguish faith itself. It is self- 
evident what miist necessarily follow this extinction of 
faith: namely, the most impious superstitions about works. 
For when faith perishes, and the word of faith is silent, 
then straightway works and traditions of works rise up in 
its place. By these we have been removed from our 
own land, as into a Babylonian bondage, and all that 
was dear to us has been taken from us. Even thus it has 
befallen us with the mass, which, through the teaching of 
wicked men, has been changed into a good work, which 
they call opus operatum, and by which they imagine that 
they are all-powerful with God. Hence they have > gone 
to the extreme of madness ; and, having first falsely 
affirmed that the mass is of avail through the force of 
the opus operatum, they have gone on to say that even if 
it be hurtful to him who offers it impiously, yet it is none 
the less useful to others. On this basis they have 
established their applications, participations, fraternities, 
anniversaries, and an infinity of lucrative and gainful 
business of that kind. 

You will scarcely be able to stand against these errors, 
many and strong as they are, and deeply as they have 
penetrated, unless you fix what has been said firmly in 
your memory and give the most steadfast heed to the true 
nature of the mass. You have heard that the mass is 
nothing else than the Divine promise or testament of 
Christ, commended to us by the Sacrament of His body 
and blood. If this is true, Von will see that it cannot in 
any way be a work, nor can any work be performed in it, 
nor can it be handled in any way but by faith alone ; and 
faith is not a work, but the mistress and life of all works. 
Is there any man so senseless as to call a promise he 
has received, or a legacy that has been bestowed on him, 



330 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

a good work done on his part towards the testator ? What 
heir is there who thinks that he is doing a service to his 
father when he receives the testamentary documents along 
with the inheritance bequeathed to him ? Whence then 
this impious rashness of ours : that we come to receive 
the testament of God as if we were doing a good work 
towards Him ? Is not such ignorance of that testament, 
and such a state of bondage of that great Sacrament, a 
grief beyond all tears ? Where we ought to be grateful 
for blessings bestowed onus, we come in our pride to give 
what we ought to receive, and make a mockery, with 
unheard-of perversity, of the mercy of the Giver. ^Los\ 
give to Him as a work of ours what we receive as a gift 
from Him ; and we thus make the Testator no longer 
the Bestower of His good gifts on us, but the Receiver 
of ours. Alas for such impiety ! 

Who has ever been so senseless as to consider baptism 
a good work? What candidate for baptism has ever 
believed he was doing a work which he might offer to 
God on behalf of himself and others ? If then in one 
sacrament and testament there is no good work com 
municable to others, neither can there be any in the mass, 
which is itself nothing but a testament and a sacrament. 
Hence it is a manifest and impious error to offer or apply 
the mass for sins, for satisfactions, for the dead, or for 
any necessities of our own or of others. The evident 
truth of this statement you will easily understand, if you 
keep closely to the fact that the mass is a Divine promise, 
which can profit no one, be applied to no one, be com 
municated to no one, except to the believer himself, and 
that solely by his own faith. Who can possibly receive 
or apply for another a promise of God which requires 
faith on the part of each individual ? Can I give another 
man the promise of God, if he does not believe it ; or 
can I believe for another man ; or can I make another 
believe ? Yet all this I must be able to do if I can apply 
and communicate the mass to others ; for there are in the 
mass only these two things : God s promise, and man s 
faith which receives that promise. If I can do all this, I 



CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 331 

can also hear and believe the Gospel on behalf of other 
men, I can be baptised for another man, I can be absolved 
from sin for another man, I can partake of the Sacra 
ment of the altar for another man ; nay, to go through 
the whole list of their sacraments, I can also marry for 
another man, be ordained priest for another man, be 
confirmed for another! man, receive extreme unction for 
another man. 

Why did not Abraham believe on behalf of all the Jews ? 
Why was every individual Jew required to exercise faith 
hi the same promise which Abraham believed ? Let us 
keep to this impregnable truth : where there is a Divine 
promise, there every man stands for himself ; individual 
iaith is required ; every man shall give account for him 
self, and shall bear his own burdens ; as Christ says, 
" He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved ; but 
lie that believeth not shall be damned " (Mark xvi. 16). 
Thus every man can make the mass useful only to himself, 
by his own faith, and can by no means communicate it to 
others, just as a priest cannot administer a sacrament to 
any man on behalf of another, but administers the same 
Sacrament to each individual separately. The priests in 
their work of consecration and administration act as 
ministers for us ; not that we offer up any good work 
through them, or communicate actively ; but by their 
means we receive the promise and its sign, and are com 
municated passively . This idea continues among the laity ; 
for they are not said to do a good work, but to receive a 
gift. But the priests have gone after their own impieties 
and have made it a good work that they communicate, 
and make an offering out of the Sacrament and testament 
of God, whereas they ought to have received it as a good 
gift. 

But you will say, " What ? will you overthrow the 
practices and opinions which for so many centuries have 
rooted themselves in all the churches and monasteries, 
and all that superstructure of anniversaries, suffrages, 
applications, and communications, which they have esta 
blished upon the mass, and from which they have drawn 



332 LU1HERS PRIMARY WORKS 

the amplest revenues ? " 1 reply, It is this wliicli 
lias compelled me to write concerning the bondage of 
the Church. For the venerable testament of God has 
been brought into a profane servitude to gain, through 
the opinions and traditions of impious men, who have 
passed over the word of God, and have set before us the 
imaginations of their own hearts, and thus have led the 
world astray. What have I to do witli the number or the 
greatness of those who are in error ? Truth is stronger 
than all. If you can deny that Christ teaches that the 
mass is a testament and a sacrament, I am ready to justify 
those men. Again, if you can say that the man who 
receives the benefit of a testament, or who uses for this 
purpose the Sacrament of promise, is doing a good work, 
I am ready and willing to condemn what I have said. 
But since neither is possible, why hesitate to despise the 
crowd which hastens to do evil, whilst you give glory to 
God and confess His truth, namely, that all priests are 
perversely mistaken who look on the mass as a work, by 
which they may aid their own necessities or those of 
others, whether dead or alive ? My statements, I know, 
are unheard of and astounding. But if yon look into the 
true nature of the mass, you will see that I speak the 
truth. These errors have proceeded from that over- 
security which has kept us from perceiving that the 
wrath of God was coming upon us. 

This I readily admit : that the prayers which we pour 
forth in the presence of God, when we meet to partake of 
the mass, are good works or benefits, which we mutually 
impart, apply, and communicate, and offer up for one 
another, as the Apostle James teaches us to pray for one 
another that we may be saved. Paul also exhorts that 
supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, 
be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in 
authority (1 Tim. ii. 1, 2). These things are not the 
mass, but works of the mass if, indeed, we can call the 
prayers of our hearts and our lips works because they 
spring from the existence and growth of faith in the 
Sacrament. The mass or promise of God is not completed 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 333 



by our prayers, but only by our faith ; and in faith we 
pray arid do other good works. But what priest sacrifices 
with the intention and idea of only offering up prayers ? 
They all imagine that they are offering Christ Himself to 
God the Father as an all-sufficient Victim ; and that they 
are doing a good work on behalf of all men, who, as they 
allege, will profit by it. They trust in the opus operatum, 
and do not attribute the effect to prayer. Thus, by a 
gradual growth of error, they attribute to the Sacrament 
the benefit which springs from prayer ; and they offer to 
God what they ought to receive as a gift from Him. 

We must therefore make a clear distinction between 
the testament and Sacrament itself and the prayers 
which we offer at the same time. And not only so, but 
we must understand that those prayers are of no value at 
all, either to him who offers them or to those for whom 
they are offered, unless the testament has been first 
received by faith, so that the prayer may be that of faith, 
which alone is heard, as the Apostle James teaches us. 
So widely does prayer differ from the mass. I can pray 
for as many persons as I will ; but no one receives the 
mass unless he believes for himself, and that only so far 
as he believes ; nor can it be given either to God or 
to men, but it is God alone who by the ministry of the 
priest gives it to men, and they receive it by faith alone, 
without any works or merits. No one would be so 
audaciously foolish as to say that, when a poor and needy 
man comes to receive a benefit from the hand of a rich 
man, he is doing a good work. Now the mass is the 
benefit of a Divine promise, held forth to all men by the 
hand of the priest. It is certain therefore that the mass 
is not a work communicable to others, but the object of 
each man s individual faith, which is thus to be nourished 
and strengthened. 

We must also get rid of another scandal, which is a 
much greater and a very specious one : that is, that the 
mass is universally believed to be a sacrifice offered to 
God. With this opinion the words of the canon of 
the mass appear to agree, such as " these gifts ; these 



334 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

offerings ; these holy sacrifices " ; and again, " this obla 
tion." There is also a very distinct prayer that the 
sacrifice may be accepted like the sacrifice of Abel. 
Hence Christ is called the Victim of the altar. To this 
we must add the sayings of the holy Fathers, a great 
number of authorities, and the usage that has been con 
stantly observed throughout the world. 

To all these difficulties, which beset us so pertinaciously, 
we must oppose with the utmost constancy the words and 
example of Christ. Unless we hold the mass to be the 
promise or testament of Christ, according to the plain 
meaning of the words, we lose all the Gospel and our 
whole comfort.^ Let us allow nothing to prevail against 
those words, even if an angel from heaven taught us 
otherwise. Now in these words there is nothing about a 
work or sacrifice. Again we have the example of Christ 
on our side. (^When Christ instituted this Sacrament and 
/established this testament in the Last Supper, He did not 
offer Himself to God the Father, or accomplish it as a good 
work on behalf of others, but, as He sat at the table, He 
declared the same testament to each individual present and 
bestowed on each the sign of it.") Now, the more any mass 
resembles and approaches thai first mass of all which 
Christ celebrated at the Last Supper, the more Christian 
it isj) But that mass of Christ was most simple, without 
any display of vestments, gestures, hymns, and other 
ceremonies ; so that if it had been necessary that it should 
be offered as a sacrifice, His institution of it would not 
have been complete. 

Not that any one ought rashly to blame the universal 
Church, which has adorned and extended the mass with 
many other rites and ceremonies ; but we desire that no 
one should be so deceived by showy ceremonies, or so per 
plexed by the amount of external display, as to lose the 
simplicity of the mass and, in fact, pay honour to a sort 
of transubstantiation, as will be the case if we pass by 
the simple substance of the mass, and fix our minds on 
the manifold accidents of its outward show. For whatever 
has been added to the mass beyond the word and example 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 335 

of Christ is one of its accidents ; and none of these ought 
we to consider in any other light than we now consider 
monstrances, as they are called, and altar cloths, within 
which the host is contained. ( It is a contradiction in 
terms that the mass should be a sacrifice, since we receive 
the mass but give a sacrifice. Now the same thing cannot 
be received and offered at the same time, nor can it be at 
once given and accepted by the same person. This is as 
certain as that prayer and the thing prayed for cannot be 
the same, nor can it be the same thing to pray and to 
receive what we pray for. 

What shall we say then to the canon of the mass and the 
authority of the Fathers ? First of all, I reply, If there 
were nothing to be said, it would be safer to deny their 
authority altogether, than to grant that the mass is a 
work or a sacrifice, and thus to deny the word of Christ 
and to overthrow faith and the mass together. However, 
that we may keep the Fathers too, we will explain 
(1 Cor. xi.) that the believers in Christ, when they met 
to celebrate the mass, were accustomed to bring with 
them portions of food and drink, called " collects, " which 
were distributed among the poor, according to the example 
of the Apostles (Acts iv.), and from which were taken the 
bread and wine consecrated for the Sacrament. Since all 
these gifts were sanctified by the word and prayer after 
the Hebrew rite, in accordance with which they were 
lifted on high, as we read in Moses, the words and the 
practice of elevation, or of offering, continued in the Church 
long after the custom had died out of collecting and bring 
ing together the gifts which were offered or elevated. 
Thus Hezekiah (Isa. xxxvii. 4) bids Isaiah to lift his 
prayer for the remnant that is left. Again, the Psalmist 
says, " Lift up your hands to the holy place," and " To 
Thee will 1 lift up my hands," and again, " That men 
pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands " (1 Tim. ii. 8). 
Hence the expressions " sacrifice " or " oblation " ought to 
be referred, not to the Sacrament and testament, but to the 
" collects " themselves. Hence, too, the word " collect " 
has remained in use for the prayers said in the mass. 



336 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

For the same reason the priest elevates the bread and 
the cup as soon as he has consecrated them ; but the 
proof that he is not therein offering anything to God is 
that in no single word does he make mention of a victim 
or an oblation. This too is a remnant of the Hebrew rite, 
according to which it was customary to elevate the gifts 
which, after being received with giving of thanks, were 
brought back to God. Or it may be considered as an 
admonition to us, to call forth our faith in that testament 
which Christ on that occasion brought forward and set 
before us, and also as a display of its sign. The oblation 
of the bread properly corresponds to the words, " This 
is My body " ; and Christ, as it were, addresses us by 
standers by this very sign. Thus, too, the oblation of the 
cup properly corresponds to these words : "This cup is 
the new testament in My blood." The priest ought to 
call forth our faith by the very rite of elevation. And as 
he openly elevates the sign or Sacrament in our sight, so I 
wish that he also pronounced the word or testament with 
loud and clear voice in our hearing, and that in the 
language of every nation, that our faith might be more 
efficaciously exercised. Why should it be lawful to per 
form mass in Greek^and Latin and Hebrew, and not also 
in German or in any other language ? 

Wherefore, in this abandoned and most perilous age, 
let the priests who sacrifice take heed, in the first place, 
that those words of the major and minor canon, with the 
collects, which speak only too plainly of a sacrifice, are 
to be applied, not to the Sacrament, but either to the 
consecration of the bread and wine themselves, or to 
their own prayers. For the bread and wine are presented 
beforehand to receive a blessing, that they may be 
sanctified by the word and prayer. But after being 
blessed and consecrated, they are no longer offered, but 
are received as a gift from God. And in this matter let 
the priest consider that the Gospel is to be preferred to all 
canons and collects composed by men ; and the Gospel, as 
we have seen, does not allow the mass to be a sacrifice. 

In the next place, when the priest is performing mass 






BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 337 

publicly, let him understand that he is only receiving 
and giving to others the communion in the mass ; and 
let him beware of offering up at the same moment his 
prayers for himself and others, lest he should seem to be 
presuming to offer the mass. The priest also who is 
saying a private mass must consider himself as adminis 
tering the communion to himself. A private mass is not 
at all different from, nor more efficient than, the simple 
reception of the communion by any layman from the 
hand of the priest, except for the prayers, and that the 
priest consecrates and administers it to himself. In 
the matter itself of the mass and the Sacrament, we are 
all equal, priests and laymen. 

Even if he is requested by others to do so, let him 
beware of celebrating votive masses, as they are calJed, 
and of receiving any payment for the mass or presuming 
to offer any votive sacrifice ; but let him carefully refer 
all this to the prayers which he offers, whether for the 
dead or the living. Let him think thus : I will go and 
receive the Sacrament for myself alone, but while I re 
ceive it I will pray for this or that person, and thus, for 
purposes of food and clothing, receive payment for my 
prayers, and not for the mass. Nor let it shake thee in 
this view, though the whole world is of the contrary 
opinion and practice. Thou hast the most certain 
authority of the Gospel ; and relying on this, thou mayest 
easily contemn the ideas and opinions of men. If, how 
ever, in despite of what I say, thou wilt persist in offering 
the mass, and not thy prayers only, then know, that I 
have faithfully warned thee, and that I shall stand clear 
in the day of judgment, whilst thou wilt bear thine own 
sin. I have said what I was bound to say to thee, as a 
brother to a brother, for thy salvation ; it will be to thy 
profit if thou takest heed to my words, to thy hurt if thou 
neglectest them. And if there are some who will condemn 
these statements of mine, I reply in the words of Paul : 
" Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, 
deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. iii. 13). 

Hence any one may easily understand that often- 

22 



LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



quoted passage from Gregory, in which he says that a 
mass celebrated by a bad priest is not to be considered of 
less value than one by a good priest, and that one cele 
brated by St. Peter would not have been better than one 
celebrated by the traitor Judas. Under cover of this 
saying some try to shelter their own impiety, and have 
drawn a distinction between the opus operatum and the 
opus operanSj that they might continue secure in their 
evil living, and yet pretend to be benefactors to others. 
Gregory indeed speaks the truth, but these men pervert 
his meaning. It is most true that the testament and 
Sacrament are not less effectively given and received at 
the hands of wicked priests than at those of the most 
holy. Who doubts that the Gospel may be preached by 
wicked men ? Now the mass is a part of the Gospel, 
nay the very sum and compendium of the Gospel. For 
what is the whole Gospel but the good news of the re 
mission of sins ? Now all that can be said in the most 
ample and copious words concerning the remission of sins 
and the mercy of God is all briefly comprehended in the 
word of the testament. Hence also sermons to the people 
ought to be nothing else but expositions of the mass, 
that is, the setting forth of the Divine promise of this 
testament. This would be to teach faith, and truly to 
edify the Church. But those who now expound the mass 
make a sport and mockery of the subject by figures of 
speech derived from human ceremonies. 

As therefore a wicked man can baptise that is, can 
apply the word of promise and the sign of water to the 
person baptised so can he also apply and minister the 
promise of this Sacrament to those who partake of it, and 
partake himself with them, as the traitor Judas did in 
the supper of the Lord. Still the Sacrament and testa 
ment remains always the same ; it performs in the be 
liever its own proper work : in the unbeliever it performs 
a work foreign to itself. But in the matter of oblations 
the case is quite different ; for since it is not the mass, 
but prayers, which are offered to God, it is evident 
that the oblations of a wicked priest are of no value. As 






BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 339 



Gregory himself says, when we employ an unworthy 
person as an advocate, the mind of the judge is prejudiced^ 
against us. We must not therefore confound these two 
things: the mass and prayer; sacrament and work; testa 
ment and sacrifice. The one comes from God to us 
through the ministry of the priest, and requires faith on 
our part ; the other goes forth from our faith to God 
through the priest, and requires that He should hear us : 
the one comes down ; the other goes upwards. The one 
therefore does not necessarily require that the minister 
should be worthy and pious, but the other does require it, 
because God does not hear sinners. He knows how to 
do us good by means of wicked men, but He does not 
accept the works of any wicked man, as He showed in the 
case of Cain. It is written, " The sacrifice of the wicked 
is an abomination to the Lord " (Prov. xv. 8), and again, 
" Whatsoever is not of faith is sin " (Rom. xiv. 23). 

We shall now make an end of this first part of the 
subject, but I am ready to produce further arguments 
when any one comes forward to attack these. From all 
that has been said we see for whom the mass was 
intended, and who are worthy partakers of it ; namely, 
those alone who have sad, afflicted, disturbed, confused, 
and erring consciences. For since the word of the Divine 
promise in this Sacrament holds) forth to us remission of 
sins, any man may safely draw near to it who is harassed 
either by remorse for sin, or by temptation to sin. This 
testament of Christ is the one medicine for past, present, 
and future sins, provided thou cleavest to it with unhesi 
tating faith, and believest that that which is signified by 
the words of the testament is freely given to thee. If 
thou dost not so believe, then nowhere, never, by no 
works, by no efforts, wilt thou be able to appease thy 
conscience. For faith is the sole peace of conscience, and 
unbelief the sole disturber of conscience. 

CONCERNING THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, who, according to the riches of His mercy, has at 



340 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

least preserved this one Sacrament in His Church unin 
jured and uncontaminated by the devices of men, and has 
made it free to all nations and to men of every class. 
He has not suffered it to be overwhelmed with the foul 
and impious monstrosities of avarice and superstition, 
doubtless having this purpose: that He would have little 
children, incapable of avarice and superstition, to be 
initiated into this Sacrament and to be sanctified by 
perfectly simple faith in His word. To such, at the 
present day, baptism is of the chiefest advantage. If 
this Sacrament had had to be given to adults and 
those of full age, it seems as if it could have hardly 
preserved its efficacy and its glory, in the presence of 
that tyranny of avarice and superstition which has sup 
planted all Divine ordinances among us. In this case too, 
no doubt, fleshly wisdom would have invented its prepara 
tions, its worthinesses, its reservations, its restrictions, 
and other like nets for catching money ; so that the water 
of baptism would be sold no cheaper than parchments 
are now. 

Yet though Satan has not been able to extinguish the 
virtue of baptism in the case of little children, still he has 
had power to extinguish it in all adults ; so that there is 
scarcely any one nowadays who remembers that he has 
been baptised, much less glories in it, so many other 
ways having been found of obtaining remission of sins 
and going to heaven. Occasion lias been afforded to these 
opinions by that perilous saying of St. Jerome, either 
misstated or misunderstood, in which he calls penitence 
the second plank of safety after shipwreck, as if baptism 
were not penitence. Hence, when men have fallen into 
sin, they despair of the first plank, or the ship, as being 
no longer of any use, and begin to trust and depend only 
on the second plank, that is, on penitence. Thence have 
sprung those infinite loads of vows, religious dedica 
tions, works, satisfactions, pilgrimages, indulgences, and 
systems, and from them those oceans of books and of human 
questionings, opinions, and traditions, which the whole 
world nowadays cannot contain. Thus this tyranny 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 341 



possesses the Church of God in an incomparably worse 
form than it ever possessed the synagogue or any nation 
under heaven. 

It was the duty of bishops to remove all these abuses 
and to make every effort to recall Christians to the 
simplicity of baptism, that so they might understand 
their own position, and what as Christians they ought to 
do. But the one business of bishops at the present day 
is to lead the people as far as possible away from baptism 
and to plunge them all under the deluge of their own 
tyranny, and thus, as the prophet says, to make the 
people of Christ forget Him for ever. Oh wretched 
men who are called by the name of bishops ! they not 
only do nothing and know nothing which bishops ought, 
but they are even ignorant what they ought to know and 
do. They fulfil the words of Isaiah, " His watchmen are 
blind ; they are all ignorant ; they are shepherds that 
cannot understand ; they all look to their own way, every 
one for his gain, from his quarter" (Isa. Ivi. 10, 11). 

The first thing, then, we have to notice in baptism is 
the Divine promise which says, " He who believes and is 
baptised shall be saved." This promise is to be infinitely 
preferred to the whole display of works, vows, religious 
orders, and whatever has been introduced by the invention 
of man. On this promise depends our whole salvation, 
and we must take heed to exercise faith in it, not doubt 
ing at all that we are saved, since we have been baptised. 
Unless this faith exists and is applied, baptism profits us 
nothing ; nay, it is hurtful to us, not only at the time 
when it is received, but in the whole course of our after 
life. For unbelief of this kind charges the Divine promise 
with falsehood ; and to do this is the greatest of all sins. 
If we attempt this exercise of faith, we shall soon see 
how difficult a tiling it is to believe this Divine promise. 
For human weakness, conscious of its own sinfulness, 
finds it the most difficult thing in the world to believe 
that it is saved, or can be saved ; and yet, unless it 
believes this, it cannot be saved, because it does not 
believe the Divine truth which promises salvation, 



342 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

This doctrine ought to have been studiously inculcated 
upon the people by preaching ; this promise ought to have 
been perpetually reiterated ; men ought to have been 
constantly reminded of their baptism ; faith ought to 
have been called forth and nourished. When this Divine 
promise has been once conferred upon us, its truth con 
tinues even to the hour of our death ; and thus our faith 
in it ought never to be relaxed, but ought to be nourished 
and strengthened, even till we die, by a perpetual recol 
lection of the promise made to us in baptism. Thus, 
when we rise out of our sins and exercise penitence, we 
are simply reverting to the efficacy of baptism and to 
faith in it, whence we had fallen ; and we return to the 
promise then made to us, but which we had abandoned 
through our sin. For the truth of the promise once made 
always abides, and is ready to stretch out the hand and 
receive us when we return. This, unless I mistake, is the 
meaning of that obscure saying that baptism is the first 
of sacraments and the foundation of them all, without 
which we can possess none of the others. 

Thus it will be of no little profit to a penitent, first of 
all, to recall to mind his own baptism and to remember 
with confidence that Divine promise which lie had deserted, 
rejoicing that he is still in a fortress of safety, in that he 
has been baptised, and detesting his own wicked in 
gratitude in having fallen away from the faith and truth 
of baptism. His heart will be marvellously comforted, 
and encouraged to hope for mercy, if he fixes his eyes 
upon that Divine promise once made to him, which could 
not lie, and which still continues entire, unchanged, and 
unchangeable by any sins of his, as Paul says, " If we 
believe not, yet He abideth faithful ; He cannot deny 
Himself" (2 Tim. ii. 13). This truth of God will 
preserve him ; and even if all other hopes perish, this, if 
he believes it, will not fail him. Through this truth he 
will have something to oppose to the insolent adversary ; 
he will have a barrier to throw in the way of the sins 
which disturb his conscience ; he will have an answer to 
the dread of death and judgment ; finally, he will have a 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 343 

consolation under every kind of temptation in being able 
to say, God is faithful to His promise ; and in baptism I 
received the sign of that promise. If God is for me, who 
can be against me ? 

If the children of Israel, when returning to God in 
repentance, first of all called to mind their exodus from 
Egypt, and in remembrance of this turned back to God, 
who had brought them out a remembrance which is so 
often inculcated on them by Moses and referred to by 
David how much more ought we to remember our 
exodus from Egypt, and in remembrance of it to return 
to Him who brought us out through the washing of the 
new birth ! Now this we can do most advantageously 
of all in the Sacrament of the bread and wine. So of 
old these three sacraments, penitence, baptism, and tho 
bread, were often combined in the same act of worship ; 
and the one added strength to the other. Thus we read 
of a certain holy virgin who, whenever she was tempted, 
relied on her baptism only for defence, saying, in the 
briefest words, "I am a Christian." The enemy forth 
with felt the efficacy of baptism and of the faith which 
depended on the truth of a promising God, and fled from 
her. 

We see then how rich a Christian, or baptised man, )/ 
is, since, even if he would, he cannot lose his salvation */ 
by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe ; 
for no sins whatever can condemn him but unbelief 
alone. All other sins, if faith in the Divine promise 
made to the baptised man stands firm or is restored, are 
swallowed up in a moment through that same faith, 
yea, through the truth of God, because He cannot deny 
Himself, if thou confessest Him, and cleavest believingly 
to His promise ; whereas contrition, and confession of 
sins, and satisfaction for sins, and every effort that can 
be devised by men, will desert thee at thy need, and will 
make thee more miserable than ever, if thou forgettest 
this Divine truth and puifest thyself up with such things 
as these. For whatever work is wrought apart from 
faith in the truth of God is vanity and vexation of spirit. 



344 LUTHERS PRIMARY WORKS 



We alsojsee how perilous and false an idea it is that 
penitence is a second plank of refuge after shipwreck, 
and how pernicious an error it is to suppose that the 
virtue of baptism has been brought to an end by sin, and 
that this ship has been dashed to pieces. That ship 
remains one, solid, and indestructible, and can never be 
broken up into different planks. In it all are conveyed 
who are carried to the port of salvation, since it is the 
trutl^ of God giving promises in the sacraments. What 
certainly does happen is that many rashly leap out of the 
ship into the sea and perish; these are they who abandon 
faith in the promise and rush headlong into sin. But 
the ship itself abides, and passes on safely in its course ; 
and any man who, by the grace of God, returns to the 
ship, will be borne on to life, not on a plank, but on the 
solid ship itself. Such a man is he who returns by faith 
to the fixed and abiding promise of God. Thus Peter 
charges those who sin with having forgotten that they 
were purged from their old sins (2 Peter 1 9) ; doubtless 
meaning to reprove their ingratitude for the baptism 
they had received and the impiety of their unbelief. 

What profit then is there in writing so much about 
baptism, and yet not teaching faith in the promise ? All 
the sacraments were instituted for the purpose of nourish 
ing faith, and yet so far are they from attaining this 
object that men are even found impious enough to 
assert that a man ought not to be sure of the remission 
of sins or of the grace of the sacraments. By this 
impious doctrine they delude the whole world, and 
utterly extinguish, or at least bring into bondage, that 
sacrament of baptism, in which the first glory of our 
conscience stands. Meanwhile they senselessly persecute 
wretched souls with their contritions, their anxious con 
fessions, their circumstances, satisfactions, works, and an 
infinity of such trifles. Let us then read with caution, or 
rather despise, the Master of Sentences (Book iv.), with 
all his followers, who, when they write their best, write 
only about the matter and form of the sacraments, and 
so handle only the dead and perishing letter of those 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 345 



sacraments, while they do not even touch upon their 
spirit, life, and use ; that is, the truth of the Divine 
promise and faith on our part. 

See then that thou be not deceived by the display of 
works and by the fallacies of human traditions, and so 
wrong the truth of God and thine own faith. If thou wilt 
be saved, thou must begin by faith in the sacraments, 
without any works. Thy faith will be followed by these 
very works; but thou must not hold faith cheap, for it is 
itself the most excellent and most difficult of all works, 
and by it alone thou wilt be saved, even if thou wert 
compelled to be destitute of all other works. For it is a 
work of God, not of man, as Paul teaches. All other 
works He performs with us and by us ; this one work 
He performs in us and without us. 

From what has been said we may clearly distinguish 
between man, the minister, and God, the Author, of 
baptism. Man baptises, and does not baptise : he 
baptises, because he performs the work of dipping the 
baptised person ; he does not baptise, because in this 
work lie does not act upon his own authority, but in the 
place of God. Hence we ought to receive baptism from 
the hand of man just as if Christ Himself, nay, God 
Himself, were baptising us with His own hands. For it 
is not a man s baptism, but that of Christ and God, 
though we receive it by the hand of a man. Even so 
any other creature which Ave enjoy through the hand of 
another is really only God s. Beware then of making 
any such distinction in baptism, as to attribute the 
outward rite to man, and the inward blessing to God. 
Attribute both of them to God alone, and consider the 
person of him who confers baptism in no other light than 
as the vicarious instrument of God, by means of which 
the Lord sitting in heaven dips thee in the water with 
His own hands, and promises thee remission of sins upon 
earth, speaking to thee with the voice of a man through 
the mouth of His minister. 

The very words of the minister tell thee this when he 
says, " I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of 



346 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." He does not 
say, " I baptise thee in my name," but says, as it 
were, " What I do, I do not by my own authority, but in 
the place and in the name of God ; and thou must look 
upon it as if the Lord Himself did it in visible shape. 
The Author and the minister are different, but the work 
of both is the same ; nay, rather it is that of the Author 
alone through my ministry." In my judgment the ex 
pression, "in the name," relates to the person of the 
Author, so that not only is the name of the Lord brought 
forward and invoked in the doing of the work, but the 
work itself is performed, as being that of another, in the 
name and in the place of another. By the like figure 
Christ says, " Many shall come in My name " (Matt, 
xxiv. 5). And again, " By whom we have received 
grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among 
all nations, for His name " (Rom. i. 5). 

I most gladly adopt this view, because it is a thing 
most full of consolation, and an effective aid to faith, to 
know that we have been baptised, not by a man, but by 
the very Trinity itself through a man, who acts towards 
us in its name. This brings to an end that idle conten 
tion which is carried on about the "form" of baptism, 
as they call the words themselves, the Greeks saying, 
" Let the servant of Christ be baptised," the Latins, 
" I baptise." Others also, in their pedantic trifling, con 
demn the use of the expression, " I baptise thee in the 
name of Jesus Christ " though it is certain that the 
Apostles baptised in this form, as we read in the Acts of 
the Apostles and will have it that no other form is valid 
than the following : " I baptise thee in the name of the 
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." 
But they strive in vain ; they prove nothing ; they only 
bring forward their own dreams. In whatever manner 
baptism is administered, provided it is administered, not 
in the name of a man, but in the name of the Lord, it truly 
saves us. Nay, I have no doubt that if a man received 
baptism in the name of the Lord even from a wicked 
minister who did not give it in the name of the Lord, lie 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 347 

would still be truly baptised in the name of the Lord. 
For the efficacy of baptism depends not so much on the 
faith of him who confers it, as of him who receives it. 
Thus we read an instance of a certain player who was 
baptised in jest. These and similar narrow questions 
and disputes have been raised for us by those who attri 
bute nothing to faith and everything to works and 
ceremonies. On the contrary, we owe nothing to cere 
monies and everything to faith alone, which makes us 
free in spirit from all these scruples and fancies. 

Another thing which belongs to baptism is the sign or 
Sacrament, which is that dipping into water whence it 
takes its name. For in Greek to baptise signifies to dip, 
and baptism is a dipping. We have said already that, 
side by side with the Divine promises, signs also are 
given us, to represent by a figure the meaning of the 
words of the promise ; or, as the moderns say, the 
Sacrament has an effectual significance. What that 
significance is we shall see. Very many have thought 
that in the word and the water there is some occult 
spiritual virtue, which works the grace of God in the soul 
of the recipient. Others deny this, and declare that there 
is no virtue in the sacraments, but that grace is given by 
God alone, who, according to His covenant, is present at 
the sacraments instituted by Himself. All, however, agree 
in this : that the sacraments are effectual signs of grace. 
They are led to this conclusion by this one argument : 
that it does not otherwise appear what pre-eminence the 
sacraments of the new law would have over those of the 
old, if they were only signs. Hence they have been 
driven to attribute such efficacy to the sacraments of the 
new law that they have stated them to be profitable 
even to those who are in mortal sin, and have declared 
that neither faith nor grace are requisite, but that it is 
sufficient that we do not place any impediment in the 
way that is, any actual purpose of sinning afresh. 

We must carefully avoid and fly from these doctrines, 
for they are impious and unbelieving, repugnant to faith 
and to the nature of the sacraments. It is a mistake to 



348 LU7HERS PRIMARY WORKS 



suppose that the sacraments of the new law differ from 
the sacraments of the old law as regards the efficacy of 
their significance. Both are on an equality in their 
significance ; for the same God who now saves us by 
baptism and the bread saved Abel by his sacrifice, Noah 
by the Ark, Abraham by circumcision, and all the other 
Patriarchs by their own proper signs. There is no differ 
ence then between a sacrament of the old and of the new 
law, as regards their significance, provided we understand 
by the old law all the dealings of God with the Patriarchs 
and other Fathers in the time of the law. For those 
signs which were given to the Patriarchs and Fathers 
are completely distinct from the legal figures which 
Moses instituted in his law, such as the rites of the 
priesthood, in relation to vestments, vessels, food, houses, 
and the like. These are as different as possible, not only 
from the sacraments of the new law, but also from those 
signs which God gave from time to time to the Fathers 
who lived under the law, such as that given to Gideon 
in the fleece, to Manoah in his sacrifice, such also as 
that which Isaiah offered to Ahaz. In all these cases 
alike, some promise was given which required faith in 
God. 

In this then the figures of the law differ from signs 
new or old : that the figures of the law have no word of 
promise annexed to them requiring faith, and therefore 
are not signs of justification, inasmuch as they are not 
sacraments of faith, which alone justify, but only sacra 
ments of works. Their whole force and nature lay in 
works, not in faitli ; for he who did them fulfilled them 
even if his work were without faith. Now our signs or 
sacraments and those of the Fathers have annexed to 
them a word of promise which requires faith, and can be 
fulfilled by no other work. Thus they arc signs or 
sacraments of justification, because they are sacraments 
of justifying faith, and not of works ; so that their whole 
efficacy lies in faith itself, not in working. He who 
believes them fulfils them, even though he do no work. 
Hence the saying, It is not the Sacrament, but faith in 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 349 



the Sacrament, which justifies. Thus circumcision did 
not justify Abraham and his seed ; and yet the Apostle 
calls it a seal of the righteousness of faith, because faith 
in that promise with which circumcision was connected 
did justify, and fulfilled the meaning of circumcision. 
Faith was that circumcision of the heart in spirit which 
was figured by the circumcision of the flesh in the letter. 
Thus it was evidently not the sacrifice of Abel which 
justified him, but the faith by which he offered himself 
entirely to God, of which faith the outward sacrifice was 
a figure. 

Thus it is not baptism which justifies any man or is 
of any advantage, but faith in that word of promise to 
which baptism is added ; for this justifies, and fulfils the 
meaning of baptism. For faith is the submerging of the 
old man and the emerging of the new man. Hence it 
cannot be that the new sacraments differ from the ancient 
sacraments, for they both alike have Divine promises and 
the same spirit of faitli ; but they differ incomparably 
from the Ancient figures, on account of the word of pro 
mise, which is the sole and most effective means of differ 
ence. Thus at the present day the pomps of vestments, 
localities, meats, and an infinite variety of ceremonies, 
doubtless figure excellent works to be fulfilled in the 
spirit ; and yet, since no word of Divine promise is 
connected with them, they can in no way be compared 
with the signs of baptism and the bread. Nor can they 
justify men nor profit them in any way, since their 
fulfilment lies in the very practice or performance of 
them without faith, for when they are done or performed 
they are fulfilled. Thus the Apostle speaks of those 
things " which all are to perish with the using, after 
the commandments and doctrines of men " (Col. ii. 22). 
Now the sacraments are not fulfilled by being done, but 
by being believed. 

Thus it cannot be true that there is inherent in the 
sacraments a power effectual to produce justification, or 
that they are efficacious signs of grace. These things 
are said in ignorance of the Divine promise and to the 



350 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

great detriment of faith, unless indeed we call them 
efficacious in this sense: that, if along with them there be 
unhesitating faith, they do confer grace most certainly 
and most effectually. But that it is not this kind of 
efficacy which those writers attribute to them is evident 
from this : that they assert them to be profitable to all 
men, even the wicked and unbelieving, provided they put 
no obstacle in the way, as if unbelief itself were not the 
most persistent of all obstacles and the most hostile to 
grace. Thus they have endeavoured to make out of the 
sacrament a precept, and out of faith a work. For if a 
sacrament confers grace on me merely because I receive 
it, then it is certainly by my own work, and not by faith, 
that I obtain grace, nor do I apprehend any promise in 
the sacrament, but only a sign instituted and commanded 
by God. It is evident from this how utterly the sacra 
ments are misunderstood by these theologians of the 
Sentences, inasmuch as they make no account either of 
faith or of the promise in the sacraments, but cleave only 
to the sign and the use of the sign, and carry us away 
from faith to works, from the word to the sign. Thus, 
as I have said, they have not only brought the sacraments 
into bondage, but, as far as in them lay, have entirely 
done away with them. 

Let us then open our eyes, and learn to look more to 
the word than the sign, more to faith than to the work 
or use of the sign ; and let us understand that wherever 
there is a Divine promise, there faith is required, and 
that both of these are so necessary that neither can be of 
any effect without the other. We can neither believe 
unless we have a promise, nor is the promise effectual 
unless it is believed ; while if these two act reciprocally, 
they produce a real and sure efficacy in the sacraments. 
Hence to seek efficacy in the Sacrament independently of 
the promise and of faith is to strive in vain and to fall 
into condemnation. Thus Christ says, u He that believeth 
and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not 
shall be damned " (Mark xvi. 16). Thus He shows that 
in the Sacrament faith is so necessary that it can save us 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 351 

even without the Sacrament ; and on this account when 
He says, " He that believeth not," He does not add, " and 
is not baptised." 

Baptism then signifies two things: death and resurrec 
tion ; that is, full and complete justification. When the 
minister dips the child into the water, this signifies death; 
when he draws him out again, this signifies life. Thus 
Paul explains the matter : " Therefore we are buried with 
Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was 
raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even 
so we also should walk in newness of life " (Rom. vi. 4). 
This death and resurrection we call a new creation, a 
regeneration, and a spiritual birth ; and these words are 
not only to be understood allegorically, as they are by 
many, of the death of sin and the life of grace, but of 
real death and resurrection. For baptism has no fictitious 
meaning, nor does sin die or grace rise fully within us 
until the body of sin which we bear in this life is de 
stroyed; for, as the Apostle says, as long as we are in the 
flesh, the desires of the flesh work in us and are worked 
upon. Hence, when we begin to believe, we begin at the 
same time to die to this world and to live to God in a 
future life ; so that faith is truly a death and resurrection, 
that is, that spiritual baptism in which we are submerged 
and emerge. 

When, then, the washing away of sins is attributed to 
baptism, it is rightly so attributed ; but the meaning of 
the phrase is too slight and weak to fully express baptism, 
which is rather a symbol of death and resurrection. For 
this reason I could wish that the baptised should be 
totally immersed, according to the meaning of the word 
and the signification of the mystery; not that I think it 
necessary to do so, but that it would be well that so 
complete and perfect a thing as baptism should have its 
sign also in completeness and perfection, even as it was 
doubtless instituted by Christ. For a sinner needs not 
so much to be washed as to die, that he may be altogether 
renewed into another creature, and that there may thus 
be a correspondence in him to the death and resurrection 



352 LU1HERS PRIMARY WORKS 



of Christ, along with whom he dies and rises again in 
baptism. For though we may say that Christ was 
washed from His mortality when He died and rose again, 
yet it is a weaker expression than if we said that He was 
totally changed and renewed ; and so there is more in 
tensity in saying that death and resurrection to eternal 
life are signified to us by baptism, than that we are 
washed from sin. 

Here again we see that the Sacrament of baptism, even 
in respect to the sign, is not the mere business of a 
moment, but has a lasting character. For though the 
transaction itself passes quickly, the thing signified by it 
lasts even until death, yea, till the resurrection at the 
last day- For as long as we live we are always doing 
that which is signified by baptism : that is, we are dying 
and rising again. We are dying, I say, not only in our 
affections and spiritually, by renouncing the sins and 
vanities of the world, but in very deed we are beginning 
to leave this bodily life and to apprehend the future life, 
so that there is a real (as they call it) and also a bodily 
passing out of this world to the Father. 

We must therefore keep clear of the error of those who 
have reduced the effect of baptism to such small and 
slender dimensions that, while they say that grace is 
infused by it, they assert that this grace is afterwards, 
so to speak, effused by sin ; and that we must then go to 
heaven by some other way, as if baptism had now become 
absolutely useless. Do not thou judge thus, but under 
stand that the significance of baptism is such that thou 
mayest live and die in it, and that neither by penitence, 
nor by any other way, canst thou do aught but return to 
the effect of baptism, and do afresh what thou wert 
baptised in order to do and what thy baptism signified. 
Baptism never loses its effect, unless in desperation thou 
refuse to return to salvation. Thou mayest wander away 
for a time from the sign, but the sign does not on that 
account lose its effect. Thus thou hast been baptised 
once for all sacramen tally, but thou needest continually 
to be baptised by faith, and must continually die and 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 353 

continually live. Baptism hath swallowed up thy whole 
body and given it forth again ; and so the substance of 
baptism ought to swallow up thy whole life, in body and 
in soul, and to give it back in the last day, clothed in the 
robe of brightness and immortality. Thus we are never 
without the sign as well as the substance of baptism ; 
nay, we ought to be continually baptised more and more, 
until we fulfil the whole meaning of the sign at the last 
day. 

We see then that whatever we do in this life tending 
to the mortifying of the flesh and the vivifying of the 
spirit is connected with baptism ; and that the sooner we 
are set free from this life, the more speedily we fulfil the 
meaning of our baptism, and the greater the sufferings 
we endure, the more happily do we answer the purpose 
of baptism. The Church was at its happiest in those 
days when martyrs were daily put to death and counted 
as sheep for the slaughter ; for then the virtue of baptism 
reigned in the Church with full power, though now we 
have quite lost sight of it for the multitude of human 
works and doctrine. The whole life which we live ought 
to be a baptism and to fulfil the sign or Sacrament of 
baptism, since we have been set free from all other 
things and given up to baptism alone, that is, to death 
and resurrection. 

To whom can we assign the blame that this glorious 
liberty of ours and this knowledge of baptism are 
nowadays in bondage, except only to the tyranny of the 
Roman pontiff? He most of all men, as becomes a 
chief shepherd, ought to have been the preacher and the 
asserter of this liberty and this knowledge, as Paul says, 
" Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ 
and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. iv. I). 
But his sole object is to oppress us by his decrees and 
laws, and to ensnare us into bondage to his tyrannical 
power. Not to speak of the impious and damnable way 
in which the Pope fails to teach these mysteries, by what 
right, I ask, has he established laws over us ? Who has 
given him authority to bring into bondage this liberty of 

23 



354 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

ours, given us by baptism ? One purpose, as I have said, 
we ought to carry out in our whole lives, namely, to be 
baptised, that is, to be mortified and to live by faith in 
Christ. This faith alone ought to have been taught, 
above all by the chief shepherd : but now not a word is 
said about faith, but the Church is crushed by an infinite 
number of laws concerning works and ceremonies ; the 
virtue and knowledge of baptism are taken away ; the 
faith of Christ is hindered. 

I say then, neither pope, nor bishop, nor any man 
whatever has the right of making one syllable binding 
on a Christian man, unless it is done with his own 
consent. Whatever is done otherwise is done in a spirit 
of tyranny ; and thus the prayers, fastings, almsgiving, 
and whatever else the Pope ordains and requires in the 
whole body of his decrees, which are as many as they are 
iniquitous, he has absolutely no right to require and 
ordain ; and he sins against the liberty of the Church as 
often as he attempts anything of the kind. Hence it has 
come to pass that while the Churchmen of the present 
day are strenuous defenders of Church liberty that is, of 
wood, stone, fields, and money (for in this day things 
ecclesiastical are synonymous with things spiritual) they 
yet by their false teaching not only bring into bondage 
the true liberty of the Church, but utterly destroy it, 
yea, more than the Turk himself could, contrary to the 
mind of the Apostle, who says, " Be not ye the servants 
of men " (1 Cor. vii. 23). We are indeed made servants 
of men when we are subjected to their tyrannical 
ordinances and laws. 

This wicked and flagitious tyranny is aided by the 
disciples of the Pope, who distort and pervert to this end 
the saying of Christ, " He who heareth you heareth Me." 
They swell out these words into a support for their own 
traditions ; whereas this saying was addressed by Christ 
to the Apostles when they were going forth to preach the 
Gospel, and therefore ought to be understood as referring 
to the Gospel alone. These men, however, leave the 
Gospel out of sight, and make this saying fit in with their 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 355 

own inventions. Christ says, " My sheep hear My voice, 
bnt they know not the voice of strangers." For this 
cause the Gospel was bequeathed to us : that the pontiffs 
might utter the voice of Christ ; but they utter their own 
voice, and are determined to be heard. The Apostle also 
says of himself that he was not sent to baptise, but to 
preach the Gospel ; and thus no man is bound to receive 
the traditions of the pontiff, or to listen to him, except 
when he teaches the Gospel and Christ : and he himself 
ought to teach nothing but the freest faith. Since, 
however, Christ says, " He who hears you hears Me," 
why does not the Pope also hear others ? Christ did not 
say to Peter alone, " he who hears thee." Lastly, where 
there is true faith, there must also of necessity be the 
word of faith. Why then does not the unbelieving Pope 
listen to his believing servant who has the word of faith ? 
Blindness, blindness, reigns among the pontiffs. 

Others, however, far more shamelessly, arrogate to 
the Pope the power of making laws ; arguing from the 
words, " Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be 
bound in heaven ; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on 
earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. xvi. 19). Christ 
is speaking there of the binding and loosing of sins, not 
of bringing the whole Church into bondage and making- 
laws to oppress it. Thus the papal tyranny acts in all 
things on its own false maxims, while it forcibly wrests 
and perverts the words of God. I admit indeed that 
Christians must endure this accursed tyranny, as they 
would any other violence inflicted on them by the world, 
according to the saying of Christ, " Whosoever shall 
smite thee on thy right cheek, tarn to him the other 
also " (Matt. v. 39). But I complain of this : that wicked 
pontiffs boast that they have a rightful power to act 
thus, and pretend that in this Babylon of theirs they are 
providing for the interests of Christendom, an idea 
which they have persuaded all men to adopt. If they 
did these things in coj^cious and avowed impiety and 
tyranny, or if it were srorple violence that we endured, 
we might meanwhile quietly reckon up the advantages 



35 6 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

thus afforded us for the mortification of this life and the 
fulfilment of baptism, and should retain the full right of 
glorying in conscience at the wrong done us. As it is, 
they desire so to ensnare our consciences in the matter 
of liberty that we should believe all that they do to be 
well done, and should think it unlawful to blame or 
complain of their iniquitous actions. Being wolves, they 
wish to appear shepherds ; being antichrists, they wish 
to be honoured like Christ. 

I cry aloud on behalf of liberty and conscience, and I 
proclaim with confidence that no kind of law can with 
any justice be imposed on Christians, whether by men 
or by angels, except so far as they themselves will, for 
we are free from all. If such laws are imposed on us, 
we ought so to endure them as still to preserve the con 
sciousness of our liberty. We ought to know and stead 
fastly to protest that a wrong is being done to that 
liberty, though we may bear and even glory in that 
wrong, taking care neither to justify the tyrant nor to 
murmur against the tyranny. " Who is he that will 
harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good ? " 
(1 Peter iii. 13). All things work together for good to 
the elect of God. Since, however, there are but few who 
understand the glory of baptism and the happiness of 
Christian liberty, or who can understand them for the 
tyranny of the Pope, I, for my part, will set free my own 
mind and deliver my conscience by declaring aloud to 
the Pope and to all Papists that unless they shall throw 
aside all their laws and traditions, and restore liberty to 
the Churches of Christ, and cause that liberty to be taught, 
they are guilty of the death of all the souls which are 
perishing in this wretched bondage, and that the papacy 
is in truth nothing else than the kingdom of Babylon 
and of very antichrist. For who is the man of sin and 
the son of perdition but he who by his teaching and his 
ordinances increases the sin and perdition of souls in the 
Church, while he yet sits in the Church as if he were 
God? All these conditions ha ve now for many ages 
been fulfilled by the papal tyranny. It has extinguished 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF 1HE CHURCH 357 

faith, darkened the sacraments, crushed the Gospel ; while 
it has enjoined and multiplied without end its own laws, 
which are not only wicked and sacrilegious, but also 
most unlearned and barbarous. 

Behold then the wretchedness of our bondage. " How 
doth the city sit solitary that was full of people ! How 
is she become as a widow ! She that was great among 
the nations and princess among the provinces, how is she 
become tributary ! Among all her lovers she hath none 
to comfort her ; all her friends have dealt treacherously 
with her " (Lam. i. 1, 2). There are at this day so many 
ordinances, so many rites, so many parties, so many pro 
fessions, so many works, to occupy the minds of Christians, 
that they forget their baptism. For this multitude of 
locusts, caterpillars, and cankerworms, no man is able to 
remember that he was baptised, or what it was that he 
obtained in baptism. We ought to have been like babes 
when they are baptised, who, being preoccupied by no 
zeal and by no works, are free for all things, at rest and 
safe in the glory of their baptism alone. We also our 
selves are babes in Christ, unremittingly baptised. 

In opposition to what I have said, an argument will 
perhaps be drawn from the baptism of infants, who 
cannot receive the promise of God, or have faith in their 
baptism ; and it will be said that therefore either faith is 
riot requisite, or infants are baptised in vain. To this I 
reply, what all men say, that infants are aided by the 
faith of others, namely that of those who bring them to 
baptism. For as the word of God, when it is preached, 
is powerful enough to change the heart of a wicked man, 
which is not less devoid of sense and feeling than any 
infant, so through the prayers of the Church which 
brings the child in faith, to which prayers all things are 
possible, the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by 
faith infused into it. Nor should I doubt that even a 
wicked adult, if the Church were to bring him forward 
and pray for him, might undergo a change in any of the 
sacraments, just as we read in the Gospel that the 
paralytic man was healed by the faith of others. In 



LUlHEgS PRIMARY WORKS 



this sense, too, I should readily admit that the sacra 
ments of the new law are effectual for the bestowal of 
grace, not only on those who do not place any obstacle 
in the way, but on the most obstinate of those who do. 
What difficulty cannot the faith of the Church and the 
prayer of faith remove, when Stephen is believed to have 
converted the Apostle Paul by this power ? But in these 
cases the sacraments do what they do, not by their own 
virtue, but by that of faith, without which, as I have 
said, they have no effect at all. 

A question has been raised whether a child yet un 
born, but of which only a hand or a foot appears, can be 
baptised. On this point I would give no hasty judgment, 
and I confess my own ignorance. Nor do I know whether 
the reason on which they base their opinion is sufficient, 
namely, that the whole soul exists in every part of the 
body ; for it is not the soul, but the body, which is out 
wardly baptised. On the other hand, I cannot pronounce 
that, as some assert, he who has not yet been born can 
not be born again, though it is a very strong argument. 
I leave this question to the decision of the Spirit, and 
meanwhile would have every man to be fully persuaded 
in his own mind. 

1 will add one thing of which I wish I could persuade 
every one : that is, that all vows, whether those of religious 
orders, or of pilgrimages, or of works of any kind, should 
be entirely done away with, or at least avoided, and that 
we should remain in the liberty of baptism, full as it is of 
religious observances and of good works. It is impossible 
to express to what an extent this far too much extolled 
belief in vows detracts from baptism, and obscures the 
knowledge of Christian liberty, not to mention the un 
speakable and infinite danger to souls which is daily 
increased by this immoderate passion for vows and 
thoughtless rashness in making them. Oh ye most 
wicked bishops and most unhappy pastors, who slumber 
at your ease and disport yourselves with your own 
desires, while ye have no pity for the grievous and 
perilous affliction of Joseph ! 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 359 

It would be well either to do away by a general edict 
with all vows, especially those which are perpetual, and 
to recall all men to their baptismal vows, or at least to 
admonish all to take no vow rashly, and not only to 
invite no vows, but to place delays and difficulties in 
the way of their being taken. We make an ample vow 
at baptism, a greater one than we can fulfil ; and we 
shall have enough to do if we give all our efforts to this 
alone. But now we compass sea and land to make many 
proselytes ; we fill the world with priests, monks, and 
nuns ; and we imprison all these in perpetual vows. We 
shall find those who will argue on this point, and lay it 
down that works performed under the sanction of a vow 
are better than those performed independently of vows, 
and will be preferred in heaven and meet with far higher 
reward. Blind and impious Pharisees, who measure 
righteousness and holiness by the greatness and number 
of works, or by some other quality in them, while in 
God s sight they are measured by faith alone, since in 
His sight there is no difference between works, except so 
far as there is a difference in faith ! 

By this inflated talk wicked men create a great opinion 
of their own inventions, and puff up human works, in 
order to allure the senseless multitude, who are easily 
led by a specious show of works, to the great ruin of 
faith, forgetfulness of baptism, and injury to Christian 
liberty. As a vow is a sort of law and requires a work, 
it follows that as vows are multiplied, so laws and 
works are multiplied ; and by the multiplication of these, 
faith is extinguished, and the liberty of baptism is brought 
into bondage. Not content with these impious allure 
ments, others go further, and assert that entrance into a 
religious order is like a new baptism, which may be 
successively renewed as often as the purpose of a 
religious life is renewed. Thus these devotees attri 
bute to themselves alone righteousness, salvation, and 
glory, and leave to the baptised absolutely no room for 
comparison with them. The Roman pontiff, that foun 
tain and author of all superstitions, confirms, approves, 



360 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

and embellishes these ideas by grandly worded bulls 
and indulgences ; while no one thinks baptism worthy 
even of mention. By these showy displays they drive 
the easily led people of Christ into whatever whirlpools 
of error they will ; so that, unthankful for their baptism, 
they imagine that they can do better by their works than 
others by their faith. 

Wherefore God also, who is froward with the froward, 
resolving to avenge Himself on the pride and unthankful- 
ness of these devotees, causes them either to fail in keeping 
their vows, or to keep them with great labour and to 
continue immersed in them, never becoming acquainted 
with the grace of faith and of baptism. As their spirit 
is not right with God, He permits them to continue to 
the end in their hypocrisy, and to become at length a 
laughing-stock to the whole world, always following 
after righteousness and never attaining to it ; so that 
they fulfil that saying, " Their land also is full of idols " 
(Isa. ii. 8). 

I should certainly not forbid or object to any vow 
which a man may make of his own private choice. I do not 
wish altogether to condemn or depreciate vows ; but my 
advice would be altogether against the public establish 
ment or confirmation of any such mode of life. It is 
enough that every man should be at liberty to make 
private vows at his own peril ; but that a public system 
of living under the constraint of vows should be incul 
cated, I consider to be a thing pernicious to the Church 
and to all simple souls. In the first place, it is not a 
little repugnant to the Christian life, inasmuch as a vow is 
a kind of ceremonial law and a matter of human tradition 
or invention, from all which the Church has been set 
free by baptism, since the Christian is bound by no law, 
except that of God. Moreover, there is no example of 
it in the Scriptures, especially of the vow of perpetual 
chastity, obedience, and poverty. Now a vow of which 
we have no example in the Scriptures is a perilous one, 
which ought to be urged upon no man, much less be 
established as a common and public mode of life, even 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 361 

if every individual must be allowed to venture upon it at 
his own peril, if he will. There are some works which 
are wrought by the Spirit in but few, and these ought by 
no means to be brought forward as an example or as a 
manner of life. 

I greatly fear, however, that these systems of living 
under vows in the religious are of the number of those 
things of which the Apostle foretold : " Speaking lies 
in hypocrisy, forbidding to marry, and commanding to 
abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received 
with thanksgiving " (1 Tim. iv. 2, 3). Let no one cite 
against me the example of St. Bernard, St. Francis, 
St. Dominic, and such-like authors or supporters of 
religious orders. God is terrible and wonderful in His 
dealings with the children of men. He could preserve 
Daniel, Ananias, Azarias, and Misael holy even as 
ministers of the kingdom of Babylon, that is, in the very 
midst of wickedness ; He may also have sanctified the 
men of whom I have spoken in their perilous mode of 
life, and have guided them by the special working of His 
Spirit ; while yet He would not have this made an ex 
ample for other men. It is certain that not one of these 
men was saved by his vows or his religious order, but by 
faith alone, by which all men are saved, but to which 
these showy servitudes of vows are especially hostile. 

In this matter let every man be fully persuaded in his 
own mind. I shall carry out my undertaking, and speak 
on behalf of the liberty of the Church and of the glory of 
baptism ; and I shall state for the general benefit what I 
have learnt under the teaching of the Spirit. And, first, I 
counsel those who are in high places in the Church to do 
away with all those vows and the practice of living under 
vows, or at the least not to approve or extol them. If 
they will not do this, then I earnestly advise all who 
desire to make their salvation the safer, particularly 
growing youths and young men, to keep aloof from all 
vows, especially from such as are extensive and lifelong. 
I give this advice, in the first place, because this mode of 
life, as I have already said, has no evidence or example 



362 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

in the Scriptures, but rests only on the bulls of the pontiffs, 
who are but men ; and secondly, because it tends to lead 
men into hypocrisy through its singularity and showy 
appearance, whence arise pride and contempt of the 
ordinary Christian life. If there were no other cause for 
doing away with these vows, this one by itself would have 
weight enough : that by them faith and baptism are 
depreciated, and works are magnified. Now these cannot 
be magnified without ruinous consequences, for among 
many thousands there is scarcely one who does not look 
more to his works as a member of a religious order, than 
to faith ; and under this delusion they claim superiority 
over each other as being stricter or laxer, as they 
call it. 

Hence I advise no man, yea, I dissuade every man from 
entering into the priesthood or any religious order, unless 
he be so fortified with knowledge as to understand that, 
however sacred and lofty may be the works of priests or 
of the religious orders, they differ not at all in the sight 
of God from the works of a husbandman labouring in his 
field, or of a woman attending to her household affairs, 
but that in His eyes all things are measured by faith 
alone, as it is written, " In all thy work believe with 
the faith of thy soul, for this is the keeping of the com 
mandments of God " (Ecclus. xxxii. 23). Nay, it very 
often happens that the common work of a servant or 
a handmaiden is more acceptable to God than all the 
fastings and works of a monk or a priest when they 
are done without faith. Since then it is likely that 
at the present day vows only tend to increase men s pride 
and presumption in their own works, it is to be feared 
that there is nowhere less of faith and of the Church than 
in priests, monks, and bishops ; and that these very men 
are really Gentiles and hypocrites, who consider them 
selves to be the Church or the very heart of the Church, 
spiritual persons, and rulers of the Church, when they 
are very far indeed from being so. These are really the 
people of the captivity, among whom all the free gifts 
bestowed in baptism have been brought into bondage ; 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 363 

while the poor and slender remnant of the people of the 
land appear vile in their eves. 

From this we perceive two conspicuous errors on the 
part of the Roman pontiff. The first is that he gives 
dispensations in the matter of vows, and does this as if 
he alone possessed authority beyond all other Christians. 
So far does the rashness and audacity of wicked men ex 
tend. If a vow can be dispensed with, any brother can 
dispense for his neighbour, or even for himself. If he 
cannot grant such dispensations, neither has the Pope 
any right to do so. Whence has he this authority ? 
From the keys ? They are common to all, and only have 
power over sins. But since the Pope himself confesses 
that vows have a Divine right, why does he cheat and ruin 
wretched souls by giving dispensations in a matter of 
Divine right, which admits of no dispensation ? He prates 
of the redemption of vows, and declares that he has power 
to change vows, just as under the law of old the firstborn 
of an ass was exchanged for a lamb ; as if a vow, which 
requires to be fulfilled everywhere and constantly, were 
the same thing with the firstborn of an ass, or as if, 
because God in His own law ordered an ass to be ex 
changed for a lamb, therefore the Pope, who is but a 
man, had the same power with respect to a law which is 
not his, but God s. It was not a pope who made this 
decretal, but an ass which had been exchanged for a pope, 
so utterly mad and impious was he. 

The Pope commits a second great error again in decree 
ing that the bond of marriage may be broken through if 
one of the parties, even against the will of the other, 
desires to enter a monastery, provided the marriage has 
not yet been consummated. What devil inspires this 
portentous decree of the Pope ? God commands men to 
keep faith and observe truth towards one another, and 
that every man should bring gifts out of his own sub 
stance ; for He hates robbery for burn t-offe ring, as He 
declares by the mouth of Isaiah. Now husband and wife 
owe fidelity to each other by their compact, a fidelity 
which can be dissolved bv no law. Neither can say, " I 



364 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



belong to myself," or can do without robbery whatever 
is done against the will of the other. Else why not also 
have a rule that a man who is in debt, if he enter into a 
religious order, shall be freed from his debts and be at 
liberty to deny his bond ? Ye blind ! ye blind ! Which 
is greater good faith, which is a command of God, or a 
vow, invented and chosen by men ? Art thou a shepherd 
of souls, Pope ? Are ye doctors of sacred theology 
who teach in this way ? Why do ye teach thus ? Because 
ye extol a vow as being a better work than marriage ; but 
it is not faith, which itself alone can magnify anything, 
that ye magnify, but works, which in the sight of God 
are nothing, or at least all equal as concerns their 
merit. 

I cannot doubt then that from such vows as it is right to 
make neither men nor angels can give a dispensation. 
But I have not been able to convince myself that all the 
vows made in these days fall under the head of rightful 
vows, such as that ridiculous piece of folly when parents 
devote their child yet unborn, or an infant, to a life of 
religion or to perpetual chastity. Nay, it is certain that 
this is no rightful vow ; it appears to be a mockery of 
God, since the parents vow what it is in no wise in their 
power to perform. I come now to members of the 
religious orders. The more I think of their three vows, 
the less I understand them, and the more I wonder how 
the exaction of such vows has grown upon us. Still less 
do I understand at what period of life such vows can be 
taken so as to be legitimate and valid. In this all are 
agreed : that such vows, taken before the age of puberty, 
are not valid. And yet in this matter they deceive a great 
number of youths, who know as little of their own age 
as of what it is they are vowing. The age of puberty 
is not looked to when the vows are taken, but consent is 
supposed to follow afterwards, and the professed are held 
in bondage and devoured by dreadful scruples of con 
science, as if a vow in itself void could become valid by the 
progress of time. 

To me it seems follv that anv limit to a legitimate vow 



BABYLONISH CAF1IVITY OF THE CHURCH 365 



should be laid down by others who cannot lay one down 
in their own case, nor do I see why a vow made in a 
man s eighteenth year should be valid, but not if made in 
his tenth or twelfth year. It is not enough to say that 
in his eighteenth year a man feels the impulses of the 
flesh. What if he scarcely feels them in his twentieth 
or thirtieth year, or feels them more strongly in his 
thirtieth year than in his twentieth ? Why, again, is 
not a similar limitation placed on the vows of poverty 
and obedience ? What time shall we assign for a man 
to feel himself avaricious or proud, when even the most 
spiritually-minded men have a difficulty in detecting these 
affections in themselves ? There will never be any sure 
and legitimate vow until we shall have become thoroughly 
spiritual, and so have no need of vows. We see then 
that vows are most uncertain and perilous things. It 
would be a salutary course to leave this lofty manner of 
living under vows free to the spirit alone, as it was of old, 
and by no means to convert it into a perpetual mode of 
life. We have now, however, said enough on the subject 
of baptism and liberty. The time will perhaps come for 
treating more fully of vows, and in truth they greatly 
need to be treated of. 

CONCERNING THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE. 

In this third part 1 shall speak of the Sacrament of 
penance. By the tracts and disputations which I have pub 
lished on this subject I have given offence to very many, 
and have amply expressed my own opinions. I must 
now briefly repeat these statements, in order to unveil the 
tyranny which attacks us on this point as unsparingly 
as in the Sacrament of the bread. In these two sacra 
ments gain and lucre find a place, and therefore the 
avarice of the shepherds has raged to an incredible 
extent against the sheep of Christ ; while even baptism, 
as we have seen in speaking of vows, has been sadly 
obscured among adults, that the purposes of avarice might 
be served. 



366 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

The first and capital evil connected with this Sacrament 
is, that they have totally done away with the Sacrament 
itself, leaving not even a vestige of it. Whereas this, 
like the other two sacraments, consists of the word of 
the Divine promise on one side and of our faith on the 
other, they have overthrown both of these. They have 
adapted to the purposes of their own tyranny Christ s 
word of promise when He says, " Whatsoever thou 
shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what 
soever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in 
heaven" (Matt. xvi. 19) ; and "Whatsoever ye shall 
bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever 
ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven " (Matt, 
xviii. 18) ; and again, " Whose soever sins ye remit, they 
are remitted unto them ; and whose soever sins ye retain, 
they are retained " (John xx. 23). These words are 
meant to call forth the faith of penitents, that they may 
seek and obtain remission of their sins. But these men, 
in all their books, writings, and discourses, have not 
made it their object to explain to Christians the promise 
conveyed in these words and to show them what they 
ought to believe and how much consolation they might 
have, but to establish in the utmost length, breadth, and 
depth their own powerful and violent tyranny. At last 
some have even begun to give orders to the angels in 
heaven, and to boast, with an incredible frenzy of impiety, 
that they have received the right to rule in heaven and 
on earth and have the power of binding even in heaven. 
Thus they say not a word about the saving faith of the 
people, but talk largely of the tyrannical power of the 
pontiffs ; whereas Christ s words do not deal at all with 
power, but entirely with faith. 

It was not principalities, powers, and dominions that 
Christ instituted in His Church, but a ministry, as we 
learn from the words of the Apostle, " Let a man so 
account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards 
of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. iv. 1). When Christ 
said, " Whosoever believeth and is baptised shall be 
saved," He meant to call forth faith on the part of those 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 367 

seeking baptism ; so that, on the strength of this word 
of promise, a man might be sure that, if he believed and 
were baptised, he would obtain salvation. No sort of 
power is here bestowed on His servants, but only the 
ministry of baptism is committed to them. In the same 
way, when Christ says, " Whatsoever ye shall bind," 
etc., He means to call forth the faith of the penitent, so 
that, on the strength of this word of promise, he may be 
sure that, if he believes and is absolved, he will be truly 
absolved in heaven. Evidently nothing is said here of 
power, but it is the _jrmnis try of absolution which is 
spoken of. It is strange enough that these blind and 
arrogant men have not arrogated to themselves some 
tyrannical power from the terms of the baptismal promise. 
If not, why have they presumed to do so from the 
promise connected with penitence ? In both cases there 
is an equal ministry, a like promise, and the same 
character in the Sacrament ; and it cannot be denied that, 
if we do not owe baptism to Peter alone, it is a piece of 
impious tyranny to claim the power of the keys for the 
Pope alone. 

Thus also when Christ says, " Take, eat, this is My 
body which is given for you ; this is the cup in My 
blood," He means to call forth faith in those who eat, 
that their conscience may be strengthened by faith in 
these words, and that they may feel sure that when they 
eat they receive remission of sins. There is nothing 
here which speaks of power, but only of a ministry. 
The promise of baptism has remained with us, at least 
in the case of infants, but the promise of the bread and 
the cup has been destroyed or brought into servitude to 
avarice, and faith has been turned into a work and a 
testament into a sacrifice. Thus also the promise of 
penance has been perverted into a most violent tyranny, 
and into the establishment of a dominion that is more 
than temporal. 

Not content with this, our Babylon has so utterly 
done away with faith as to declare with shameless front 
that -it is not necessary in this Sacrament; nay, in her 



368 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

antichristian wickedness, she pronounces it a heresy to 
assert the necessity of faith. What more is there that 
that tyranny could do, and has not done ? Verily " by 
the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down ; yea, we wept 
when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon 
the willows in the midst thereof" (Psalm cxxxvii. 1, 2). 
May the Lord curse the barren willows of those rivers ! 
Amen. The promise and faith having been blotted out 
and overthrown, let us see what they have substituted for 
them. They have divided penitence into three parts : 
contrition, confession, and satisfaction ; but in doing this 
they have taken away all that was good in each of these, 
and have set up in each their own tyranny and caprice. 

In the first place, they have so taught contrition as to 
make it prior to faith in the promise, and far better, as 
not being a work of faith, but a merit ; nay, they make no 
mention of faith. They stick fast in works and in examples 
taken from the Scriptures, where we read of many who 
obtained pardon through humility and contrition of heart, 
but they never think of the faith which wrought this con 
trition and sorrow of heart, as it is written concerning 
the Ninevites, " The people of Nineveh believed God, and 
proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth " (Jonah iii. 5). 
These men, worse and more audacious than the Ninevites, 
have invented a certain " attrition," which, by the virtue 
of the keys (of which they are ignorant), may become 
contrition ; and this they bestow on the wicked and 
unbelieving, and thus do away entirely with contrition. 
Oh unendurable wrath of God that such things should be 
taught in the Church of Christ ! So it is that, having 
got rid of faith and its work, we walk heedlessly in the 
doctrines and opinions of men, or rather perish in them. 
A contrite heart is a great matter indeed, and can only 
proceed from an earnest faith in the Divine promises and 
threats a faith which, contemplating the unshakable 
truth of God, makes the conscience to tremble, terrifies 
and bruises it, and, when it is thus contrite, raises it up 
again, .consoles and preserves it. Thus the truth of the 
threatening is the cause of contrition and the truth of 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 369 

the promise is the cause of consolation when it is 
believed ; and by this faith a man merits remission of 
sins. Therefore faith above all things ought to be taught 
and called forth ; when faith is produced, contrition and 
consolation will follow of their own accord by an inevit 
able consequence. 

Hence, although there is something in the teaching of 
those who assert that contrition is to be brought about 
by the collection, as they call it, and contemplation of 
our own sins, still theirs is a perilous and perverse 
doctrine, because they do not first teach the origin and 
cause of contrition, namely, the unshakable truth of the 
Divine threatening^ and promises, in order to call forth 
faith, that so men might understand that they ought to 
look with much more earnest attention to the truth of 
God, by which to be humbled and raised up again, than 
to the multitude of their own sins, which, if they be 
looked at apart from the truth of God, are more likely to 
renew and increase the desire for sin, than to produce 
contrition. I say nothing of that insurmountable chaos 
of labour which they impose upon us, namely, that we 
are to frame a contrition for all our sins, for this is 
impossible. We can know but a small part of our sins ; 
indeed, even our good works will be found to be sins, as 
it is written, "Enter not into judgment with Thy 
servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justi 
fied" (Psalm cxliii. 2). It is enough that we sorrow 
for those sins which vex our conscience at the present 
moment, and which are easily recognised by an effort of 
our memory. He who is thus disposed * will without 
doubt be ready to feel sorrow and fear on account of all 
his sins, and will feel sorrow and fear when in future they 
are revealed to him. 

Beware then of trusting in |thine own contrition, or 
attributing remission of sins to thy own sorrow. It is not 
because of these that God looks on thee with favour but 
because of the faith witli which thou hast believed His 
threatenings and promises, and which has wrought that 
sorrow in thee. Therefore whatever good there is in 

24 



370 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



penitence is due, not to the diligence with which we 
reckon up our sins, but to the truth of God and to our 
faith. All other things are works and fruits which 
follow of their own accord, and which do not make a 
man good, but are done by a man who has been made 
good by his faith in the truth of God. Thus it is 
written," " Because He was wroth, there went up a smoke 
in His presence " (Psalm xviii. 8). The terror of the 
threatening comes first, which devours the wicked ; but 
faith, accepting the threatening, sends forth contrition as 
a cloud of smoke. 

Contrition, though it has been completely exposed to 
wicked and pestilent doctrines, has yet given less occasion 
to tyranny and the love of gain. But confession and 
satisfaction have been turned into the most noted work 
shops for lucre and ambition. To speak first of confession. 
There is no doubt that confession of sins is necessary, and 
is commanded by God. "They were baptised of John 
in Jordan, confessing their sins " (Matt. iii. 6). " If we 
confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our 
sins. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a 
liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John i. 9, 10). If 
the saints must not deny their sin, how much more ought 
those who are guilty of great or public offences to confess 
them I But the most effective proof of the institution of 
confession is given when Christ tells us that an offending 
brother must be told of his fault, brought before the 
Church, accused, and finally, if he neglect to hear the 
Church, excommunicated. He " hears " when he yields 
to reproof, and acknowledges and confesses his sin. 

The secret confession, however, which is now practised, 
though it cannot be proved from Scripture, is in my 
opinion highly satisfactory, and useful or even necessary. 
I could not wish it not to exist ; nay, I rejoice that it 
does exist in the Church of Christ, for it is the one great 
remedy for afflicted consciences, when, after laying open 
our conscience to a brother and unveiling all the evil 
which lay hid there, we receive from the mouth of that 
brother the word of consolation sent forth from God ; 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 371 

receiving which by faith we find peace in a sense of the 
mercy of God, who speaks to us through our brother. 
What I protest against is the conversion of this institu 
tion of confession into a means of tyranny and extortion 
by the bishops. They reserve certain cases to themselves 
as secret, and then order them to be revealed to confessors 
named by themselves, and thus vex the consciences of 
men ; filling the office of bishop, but utterly neglecting 
the real duties of a bishop, which are to preach the 
Gospel and to minister to the poor. Nay, these impious 
tyrants chiefly reserve to themselves the cases which are 
of less consequence, while they leave the greater ones 
everywhere to the common herd of priests cases such 
as the ridiculous inventions of the Bull " In cccna 
Domini." That the iniquity of their perverseness may be 
yet more manifest, they not only do not reserve those things 
whicli are offences against the worship of God, against 
faith, and against the chief commandments, but even 
approve and teach them, such as those journeyings hither 
and thither on pilgrimage, the perverted worship of saints, 
the lying legends of saints, the confidence in and practice 
of works and ceremonies, by all which things the faith of 
God is extinguished, and idolatry is nourished, as it is at 
this day. The pontiffs we have nowadays are such as 
those whom Jeroboam established at Dan and Beersheba 
as ministers of the golden calves men who are ignorant 
of the law of God, of faith, and of all that concerns the 
feeding of the sheep of Christ, and who only thrust their 
own inventions upon the people by terror and power. 

Although I exhort men to endure the violence of these 
reservers, even as Christ bids us to endure all the 
tyrannical conduct of men and teaches us to obey such 
extortioners, still I neither admit nor believe that they 
have any right of reservation. By no jot or tittle can they 
prove this ; while I can prove the contrary. In the first 
place, if, in speaking of public offences, Christ says that 
we have gained our brother if he hears us when told of 
his fault, and that he is not to be brought before the 
Church unless he has refused to hear us, and that offences 



372 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



may thus be set right between brethren, how much more 
true will it be concerning private offences that the sin is 
taken away when brother has voluntarily confessed it to 
brother, so that he need not bring it before the Church, 
that is, before a prelate or priest, as these men say in 
their foolish interpretation I In support of which opinion 
we have again the authority of Christ, when He says in 
the same passage, u Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth 
shall be bound in heaven ; and whatsoever ye shall loose 
on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt, xviii. 18). 
This saying is addressed to all Christians and to every 
Christian. Once more He says to the same effect : 
" Again I say unto you that if two of you shall agree on 
earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall 
be done for them of My Father which is in heaven " 
(Matt, xviii. 19). Now a brother, laying open his secret 
sins to a brother and seeking pardon, certainly agrees with 
that brother on earth in the truth, which is Christ. In 
confirmation of what He had said before, Christ says still 
more clearly in the same passage, " Where two or three 
are gathered together in My name, there am I in the 
midst of them" (Matt, xviii. 20). 

From all this I do not hesitate to say that whosoever 
voluntarily confesses his sins privately in the presence of 
any brother, or, when told of his faults, asks pardon and 
amends his life, is absolved from his secret sins, since 
Christ has manifestly bestowed the power of absolution 
on every believer in Him, with whatever violence the 
pontiffs "may rage against this truth. Add also this little 
argument : that if any reservation of hidden sins were 
valid, and there could be no salvation unless they were 
remitted, the greatest hindrance to salvation would lie in 
those things which I have mentioned above, even those 
good works and idolatries which we are taught at the 
present day by the pontiffs. While, if these most weighty 
matters are not a hindrance, with how much less reason 
are those lighter offences so foolishly reserved ! It is by 
the ignorance and blindness of the pastors that these 
portents are wrought in the Church. Wherefore I would 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 373 



warn these princes of Babylon and bishops of Beth-aven 
to abstain from reserving cases of any kind whatever, but 
to allow the freest permission to hear confessions of 
i secret sins to all brethren and sisters ; so that the sinner 
may reveal his sin to whom he will, with the object of 
seeking pardon and consolation, that is, the word of 
Christ uttered by the mouth of his neighbour. They 
effect nothing by their rash presumption but to ensnare 
needlessly the consciences of the weak, to establish their 
own wicked tyranny, and to feed their own avarice on the 
sins and perdition of their brethren. Thus they stain 
their hands with the blood of souls, and children are 
devoured by their parents, and Ephraim devours Judah, 
and Syria Israel, as Isaiah says. 

To these evils they have added circumstances mothers, 
daughters, sisters, relatives, branches, fruits of sins, all 
devised at complete leisure by the most subtle of men, 
who have set up, even in the matter of sins, a sort of tree 
of consanguinity and affinity. So fertile of results are 
ignorance and impiety ; for these devices of some worth 
less fellow have passed into public law, as has happened 
in many other cases. So vigilantly do the shepherds 
watch over the Church of Christ that whatever dreams 
of superstition or of new works these senseless devotees 
indulge they forthwith bring forward, and dress them up 
with indulgences, and fortify them with bulls. So far 
are they from prohibiting these things and protecting 
the simplicity of faith and liberty for the people of God ; 
for what has liberty to do with the tyranny of Babylon ? 
I should advise the total neglect of all that concerns 
circumstances. Among Christians there is but one 
circumstance, and that is that a brother has sinned. No 
character is to be compared to Christian brotherhood, 
nor has the observation of places, times, days, and 
persons, or any other such superstitious exaggeration, any 
effect but to magnify things which are nothing, at the 
expense of those things which are everything. As if 
there could be anything greater or more weighty than the 
glory of Christian brotherhood, they so tie us down to 



374 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

places and days and persons that the name of brother is 
held cheap, and instead of being freemen we are slaves 
in bondage we to whom all days, places, persons, and all 
other outward things, are equal. 

How unworthily they have treated the matter of satis 
faction, I have abundantly shown in the case of indul 
gences. They have abused it notably, to the destruction 
of Christians in body and in soul. In the first place, 
they have so taught it that the people have not under 
stood the real meaning of satisfaction, which is a change 
of life. Furthermore, they so urge it and represent it as 
necessary that they leave no room for faith in Christ ; 
but men s consciences are most wretchedly tortured by 
scruples on this point. One runs hither, another thither ; 
one to Rome, another into a convent, another to some 
other place : one scourges himself with rods ; another 
destroys his body witli vigils and fasting ; while all, 
under one general delusion, say, Here is Christ, or there, 
and imagine that the kingdom of God, which is really 
within us, will come with observation. These monstrous 
evils we owe to thee, see of Rome, and to thy homicidal 
laws and rites, by which thou hast brought the world to 
such a point of ruin that they think they can make 
satisfaction to God for their sins by works, while it is only 
by the faith of a contrite heart that He is satisfied. This 
faith thou not only compellest to silence in the midst of 
these tumults, but strivest to destroy, only in order that 
thy avarice, that insatiable leech, may have some to 
whom to cry, Bring, bring, and may make a traffic of 
sins. 

Some have even proceeded to such a length in framing 
engines of despair for souls, as to lay it down that all 
sins for which the satisfaction enjoined has been neg 
lected must be gone over afresh in confession. What 
will not such men dare, men born for this end : to bring 
everything ten times over into bondage ? Moreover, I 
should like to know how many people there are who are 
fully persuaded that they are in a state of salvation, and 
are making satisfaction for their sins, when they murmur 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF 7HE CHURCH 375 



over the prayers enjoined by the priest with their lips 
alone, and meanwhile do not even think of any amend 
ment of life. They believe that by one moment of con 
trition and confession their whole life is changed, and 
that there remains merit enough over and above to make 
satisfaction for their past sins. How should they know 
better, when they are taught nothing better? There is 
not a thought here of mortification of the flesh ; the 
example of Christ goes for nothing, who, when He 
absolved the woman taken in adultery, said to her, " Go^ 
and sin no more " ; thereby laying on her the cross of 
mortification of the flesh. " No slight occasion has been 
given to these perverted ideas by our absolving sinners 
before they have completed their satisfaction, whence it 
comes that they are more anxious about completing their 
satisfaction, which is a tiling that lasts, than abont con 
trition, which they think lias been gone through in the 
act of confession. On the contrary, absolution ought to 
follow the completion of satisfaction, as it did in the 
primitive Church, whence it happened that, the work 
being over, they were afterwards more exercised in faith 
and newness of life. On this subject, however, it must 
suffice to have repeated so far what I have said at greater 
length in writing on indulgences. Let it also suffice for 
the present to have said this much in the whole respecting 
these three sacraments, which are treated of and not 
treated of in so many mischievous books of Sentences 
and of Law. It remains for me to say a few words about 
the remaining sacraments also, that I may not appear to 
have rejected them without sufficient reason. 

OF CONFIRMATION. 

It is surprising how it should have entered any one s 
mind to make a sacrament of confirmation out of that 
laying on of hands which Christ applied to little children, 
and by which the Apostles bestowed the Holy Spirit, 
ordained presbyters, and healed the sick, as the Apostle 
writes to Timothy, "Lay hands suddenly on no man" 



376 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



(1 Tim. v. 22). Why not also make a coniirination out 
of the Sacrament of bread, because it is written, " Arid 
when he had received meat, he was strengthened " (Acts 
ix. 19), or again, u Bread which streugtheneth man s 
heart"? (Psalm civ. 15). Thus confirmation would include 
three sacraments: of bread, of orders, and of confirmation 
itself. But if whatever the Apostles did is a sacrament, 
why has not preaching rather been made into a sacra 
ment ? 

I I do not say this because I condemn the seven sacra- 
I ments, but because I deny that they can be proved from 
< the Scriptures. I would there were in the Church such 
a laying on of hands as there was in the time of the 
Apostles, whether we chose to call it confirmation or 
healing. As it is, however, none of it remains, except 
so much as we have ourselves invented in order to regu 
late the duties of the bishops, that they may not be entirely 
without work in the Church. For when they had left 
the sacraments which involved labour, along with the 
word, to their inferiors, as being beneath their attention 
(on the ground, forsooth, that whatever institutions the 
Divine majesty has set up must needs be an object of 
contempt to men), it was but right that we should invent 
some easy duty, not too troublesome for the daintiness of 
these great heroes, and by no means commit it to in 
feriors, as if it were of little importance. What human 
wisdom has ordained ought to be honoured by men. 
Thus such as the priests are, such should be the ministry 
and office which they hold. For what is a bishop who 
does not preach the Gospel, or attend to the cure of souls, 
but an idol in the world, having the name and form of 
a bishop ? 

/ At present, however, we are inquiring into the sacra 
ments of Divine institution ; and 1 can find no reason for 
reckoning confirmation among these. To constitute a 
sacrament we require in the very first place a word of 
Divine promise, on which faith may exercise itself. But 
we do not read that Christ ever gave any promise re 
specting confirmation, although He Himself laid hands 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY 



upon maiiy, and although He mentions among the signs 
that should follow them that believe, " They shall lay 
hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark xvi. 
18). No one, however, has interpreted these words of a 
sacrament, or could do so. It is enough then to consider 
confirmation as a rite or ceremony of the Church, of 
like nature to those other ceremonies by which water 
and other things are consecrated. For if every other 
creature is sanctified by the word and prayer, why may 
not man much more be sanctified by the same means, 
even though they cannot be called sacraments of faith, 
inasmuch as they contain no Divine promise ? Neither 
do these work salvation ; while sacraments save those 
who believe in the Divine promise. 

OF MATRIMONY. 

It is not only without any warrant of Scripture that 
matrimony is considered a sacrament, but it has been 
turned into a mere mockery by the very same traditions 
which vaunt it as a sacrament. Let us look a little into 
this. I have said that in every sacrament there is con 
tained a word of Divine promise, which must be believed 
in by him who receives the sign ; and that the sign alone 
cannot constitute a sacrament. Now we nowhere read 
that he who marries a wife will receive any grace from 
(rod, neither is there in matrimony any sign divinely 
instituted, nor do we anywhere read that it was ap 
pointed of God to be a sign of anything, although it is 
true that all visible transactions may be understood as 
figures and allegorical representations of invisible things. 
But figures and allegories are not sacraments, in the 
sense in which we are speaking of sacraments. 

Furthermore, since matrimony has existed from the 
beginning of the world, and still continues even among 
unbelievers, there are no reasons why it should be called 
a sacrament of the new law, and of the Church alone. 
The marriages of the patriarchs were not less sacred 
than ours, nor are those of unbelievers less real than 



378 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



those of believers ; and yet no one calls them a sacra 
ment. Moreover, there are among believers wicked hus 
bands and wives worse than any Gentiles. Why should 
we then say there is a sacrament here, and not among 
the Gentiles ? Shall we so trifle with baptism and the 
Church as to say, like those who rave about the tem 
poral power existing only in the Church, that matrimony 
is a sacrament only in the Church ? Such assertions 
are childish and ridiculous, and by them we expose our 
ignorance and rashness to the laughter of unbelievers. 

It will be asked, however, Does not the Apostle say 
that " they two shall be one flesh," and that " this is a 
great sacrament"; and will you contradict the plain 
words of the Apostle ? I reply that this argument is a 
very dull one, and proceeds from a careless and thought 
less reading of the original. Throughout the Holy 
Scriptures this word sacr amentum has not the meaning 
in which we employ it, but an opposite one. For it 
everywhere signifies, not the sign of a sacred thing, but 
a sacred thing which is secret and hidden. Thus Paul 
says, " Let a man so account of us as of the ministers 
of Christ and stewards of the mysteries " (that is, sacra 
ments) " of God " (1 Cor. iv. 1). Where we use the Latin 
term " sacrament," in Greek the word " mystery " is em 
ployed ; and thus in Greek the words of the Apostle are, 
" They two shall be one flesh ; this is a great mystery." 
It is this which has led men to consider marriage as a 
sacrament of the new law, which they would have been 
far from doing if they had read the word " mystery " as 
it is in the Greek. 

Thus the Apostle calls Christ Himself a " sacrament," 
saying, "And without controversy great is the sacra 
ment " (that is, mystery) " of godliness. God was manifest 
in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached 
unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up 
into glory " (1 Tim. iii. 16). Why have they not deduced 
from this an eighth sacrament of the new law, under such 
clear authority from Paul ? Or, if they restrained them 
selves in this case, where they might so suitably have 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 379 



been copious in the invention of sacraments, why are they 
so lavish of them in the other ? It is because they have 
been misled by their ignorance as well of things as of 
words ; they have been caught by the mere sound of 
the words and by their own fancies. Having once, on 
human authority, taken a sacrament to be a sign, they 
have proceeded, without any judgment or scruple, to 
make the word mean a sign wherever they have met with 
it in the sacred writings, just as they have imported 
other meanings of words and human habits of speech into 




works," " sin," " grace," " righteousness," " virtue," and 
almost all the most important words and things. They 
use all these at their own discretion, founded on the 
writings of men, to the ruin of the truth of God and of 
our salvation. 

Thus sacrament and mystery, in Paul s meaning, are 
the very wisdom of the Spirit, hidden in a mystery, as he 
says, "Which none of the princes of this world knew ; 
for had they known it, they would not have crucified the 
Lord of glory " (1 Cor. ii. 8), and there remains to this day 
this folly, this stone of stumbling and rock of offence, this 
sign which shall be spoken against. Paul calls preachers 
the stewards of these mysteries, because they preach 
Christ, the power and wisdom of God, but so preacli Him 
that unless men believe, they cannot understand. Thus 
a sacrament means a mystery and a hidden tiling, which 
is made known by words, but is received by faith of heart. 
Such is the passage of which we are speaking at present: 
" They two shall be one flesh ; this is a great mystery." 
These men think that this was said concerning matrimony ; 
but Paul brings in these words in speaking of Christ and 
the Church, and explains his meaning clearly by saying, 
" I speak concerning Christ and the Church." See how 
well Paul and these men agree. Paul says that he is 
setting forth a great mystery concerning Christ and the 
Church, while they set it forth as concerning male and 



380 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



female. If men may thus indulge their own caprices in 
interpreting the sacred writings, what wonder if anything 
can be found in them, were it even a hundred sacraments ? 

Christ then and the Church are a mystery, that is, a 
great and hidden thing, which may indeed and ought to 
l>e figured by matrimony, as in a sort of real allegory ; 
but it does not follow that matrimony ought to be called 
a sacrament. The heavens figuratively represent the 
Apostles, the sun Christ, the waters nations, but these 
things are not therefore sacraments ; for in all these cases 
the institution is wanting, and the Divine promise : and 
these it is which make a sacrament complete. Hence 
Paul is either, of his own spirit, applying to Christ the 
words used in Genesis concerning matrimony, or else he 
teaches that, in their general sense, the spiritual marriage 
of Christ is also there declared, saying, " Even as the 
Lord cherisheth the Church ; for we are members of His 
body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall 
a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined 
unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a 
great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the 
Church " (Eph. v. 2932). We see that he means this 
whole text to be understood as spoken by him about 
Christ. He purposely warns the reader to understand 
the " Sacrament" as in Christ and the Church, not in 
matrimony. 

I admit, indeed, that even under the old law, nay, from 
the _ beginning of the world, there was a sacrament of 
penitence; but the new promise of penitence and the gift 
of the keys are peculiar to the new law. As we have 
baptism in the place of circumcision, so we now have the 
keys in the place of sacrifices or other signs of penitence. 
I have said above that, at different times, the same God 
lias given different promises and different signs for the 
remission of sins and the salvation of men, while yet it is 
the same grace that all have received. As it is written, 
" We, having the same spirit of faith, believe, and there 
fore speak " (2 Cor. iv. 13) ; " Our fathers did all eat the 
same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVI lY OF THE CHURCH 381 



drink, for they draiik of that spiritual rock that followed 
them, and that rock was Christ " (1 Cor. x. 3, 4) \ " These 
all died in faith, not having received the promises, God 
having provided some better thing for us, that they without 
us should not be made perfect" (Heb. xi. 13, 40). For 
Christ Himself, the same yesterday and to-day and for 
ever, is the Plead of His Church from the beginning even 
to the end of the world. There are then different signs, 
but the faith of all believers is the same, since without 
faith it is impossible to please God; and by it Abel pleased 
Him. 

Let then matrimony be a figure of Christ and the 
Church ; yet the sacrament was not Divinely instituted, 
but one invented in the Church by men led astray by their 
ignorance alike of things and of words. So far as this 
invention is not injurious to the faith, it must be borne 
with in charity, just as many other devices of human 
weakness and ignorance are borne with in the Church so 
long as they are not injurious to faith and to the sacred 
writings. But we are now contending for the firmness 
and purity of faith and of Scripture, lest if we affirm 
anything to be contained in the sacred writings and in the 
articles of our faith, and it is afterwards proved not to be 
so contained, we should expose our faith to mockery, be 
found ignorant of our own special business, cause scandal 
to our adversaries and to the weak, and, moreover, not 
advance the authority of Holy Scripture. For we must 
make the widest possible distinction between those things 
which have been delivered to us from God in the sacred 
writings and those which have been invented in the Church 
by men, of however eminent authority from their holiness 
and their learning. 

Thus far I have spoken of matrimony itself. But what 
shall we say of those impious human laws by which this 
Divinely appointed manner of life has been entangled and 
tossed up and down ? Good God ! it is horrible to look 
upon the temerity of the tyrants of Home, who thus, ac 
cording to their own caprices, at one time annul marriages 
and at another time enforce them. Is the human race 



382 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

given over to their caprice for nothing but to be mocked 
and abused in every way, and that these men may do 
what they please with it for the sake of their own fatal 
gains ? 

There is a book in general circulation, and held in no 
slight esteem, which has been confusedly put together out 
of all the dregs and filth of human traditions, and entitled 
The Angelic Summary ; while it is really a more than 
diabolical summary. In this book, among an infinite 
number of monstrous statements, by which confessors are 
supposed to be instructed, while they are in truth most 
ruinously confused, eighteen impediments to matrimony 
are enumerated. If we look at these with the just and 
free eye of faith, we shall see that the writer is of the 
number of those of whom the Apostle foretold that they 
should " give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of 
devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; forbidding to marry " 
(1 Tim. iv. 1 3). What is forbidding to marry, if this" is 
not forbidding it : to invent so many impediments and to 
set so many snares that marriages cannot be contracted, 
or, if they are contracted, must be dissolved ? Who has 
given this power to men ? Granted that such men have 
been holy and led by a pious zeal, why does the holiness 
of another encroach upon my liberty ? Why does the zeal 
of another bring me into bondage ? Let whosoever will 
be as holy and as zealous as he will, but let him not injure 
others or rob me of my liberty. 

I rejoice, however, that these disgraceful laws have at 
length attained the glory they deserve, in that by their 
aid the men of Rome have nowadays become common 
traders. And what do they sell ? The shame of men and 
women, a merchandise worthy of these traffickers, who 
surpass all that is most sordid and disgusting in their 
avarice and impiety. There is not one of those impedi 
ments which cannot be removed at the intercession of 
mammon, so that these laws seem to have been made for 
no other purpose than to be nets for money and snares for 
souls in the hands of those greedy and rapacious Nimrods, 
and in order that we might see in the holy place, in the 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 383 

Church of God, the abomination of the public sale of 
the shame and ignominy of both sexes. A business, alas ! 
worthy of our pontiffs and fit to be carried on by men who, 
with the utmost disgrace and baseness, are given over to a 
reprobate mind, instead of that ministry of the Gospel 
which, in their avarice and ambition, they despise. 

But what am I to say or do ? If I were to enter upon 
every particular, this treatise would extend beyond all 
bounds ; for the subject is in the utmost confusion, so 
that one cannot tell where to begin, how far to go, or 
where to stop. This I know : that no commonwealth 
can be prosperously administered by mere laws. If the 
magistrate is a wise man, he will govern more happily 
uncler the guidance of nature than by any laws ; if he 
is not a wise man, he will effect nothing but mischief 
by laws, since he will not know how to use them or 
to adapt them to the wants of the time. In public 
matters, therefore, it is of more importance that good 
and wise men should be at the head of affairs, than 
that any laws should be passed ; for such men will 
themselves be the best of laws, since they will judge 
cases of all kinds with living equity. If, together 
with natural wisdom, there be learning in Divine things, 
then it is clearly superfluous and mischievous to have 
any written laws ; and charity, above all things, has ab 
solutely no need of laws. I say, however, and do all that 
in mealies, admonishing and entreating all priests and 
friars, if they see any impediment with which the Pope 
can dispense, but which is not mentioned in Scripture, to 
consider all those marriages valid which have been con 
tracted, in whatever way, contrary to ecclesiastical or 
pontifical laws. Let them arm themselves with the 
Divine law which says, " What God hath joined together, 
let not man put asunder." The union of husband and 
wife is one of Divine right, and holds good however! 
much against the laws of men it may have taken 
place, and the laws of men ought to give place to it, 
without any scruple. For if a man is to leave his father 
and mother and cleave to his wife, how much more ought 



384 LUTHER S PRIMA&Y WORKS 

lie to tread under foot the frivolous and unjust laws of 
men, that lie may cleave to his wife ? If the Pope, or 
any bishop or official, dissolves any marriage, because it 
has been contracted contrary to the papal laws, lie is an 
antichrist, does violence to nature, and is guilty of 
treason against God, because this sentence stands : 
" Whom God hath joined together, let not man put 
asunder." 

Besides this, man had no right to make such laws, and 
the liberty bestowed on Christians through Christ is 
above all the laws of men, especially when the Divine 
law comes in, as Christ says, " The Sabbath was made 
for man, and not man for the Sabbath ; therefore the Son 
of man is Lord also of the Sabbath " (Mark ii. 27, 28). 
Again, such laws were condemned beforehand by Paul, 
when he foretold that those should arise who would 
forbid to marry. Hence in this matter all those rigorous 
impediments derived from spiritual affinity, or legal 
relationship and consanguinity, must give way as far as 
is permitted by the sacred writings, in which only the 
second grade of consanguinity is prohibited, as it is 
written in the book of Leviticus, where twelve persons 
are prohibited, namely, mother, step-mother, full sister, 
half-sister by either parent, grand-daughter, father s 
sister, mother s sister, daughter-in-law, brother s wife, 
wife s sister, step-daughter, uncle s wife. In these only 
the first grade of affinity and the second of consanguinity 
are prohibited, and not even these universally, as is clear 
when we look carefully ; for the daughter or grand 
daughter of a brother and sister are not mentioned as 
prohibited, though they are in the second grade. Hence 
if at any time a marriage has been contracted outside 
these grades, than which no others have ever been 
prohibited by God s appointment, it ought by no means 
to be dissolved on account of any laws of men. Matri 
mony, being a Divine institution, is incomparably above 
all laws, and therefore it cannot rightfully be broken 
through for the sake of laws, but rather laws for its 
sake. 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 385 

Thus all those fanciful spiritual affinities of father, 
mother, brother, sister, or child ought to be utterly done 
away with in the contracting of matrimony. What but 
the superstition of man has invented that spiritual re 
lationship ? If he who baptises is not permitted to 
marry her whom he has baptised, or a godfather his 
god-daughter, why is a Christian man permitted to marry 
a Christian woman ? Is the relationship established by 
a ceremony or by the sign of the Sacrament stronger 
than that established by the substance itself of the 
Sacrament ? Is not a Christian man the brother of a 
Christian sister ? Is not a baptised man the spiritual 
brother of a baptised woman ? How can we be so sense 
less ? If a man instructs his wife in the Gospel and in 
the faith of Christ, and thus becomes truly her father in 
Christ, shall it not be lawful for her to continue his wife ? 
Would not Paul have been at liberty to marry a maiden 
from among those Corinthians all of whom he declares 
that he had begotten in Christ ? See then how Chris 
tian liberty has been crushed by the blindness of human 
superstition. 

Much more idle still is the doctrine of legal relation 
ship ; and yet they have raised even this above the 
Divine right of matrimony. Nor can I agree to that 
impediment which they call disparity of religion, and 
which forbids a man to marry an unbaptised woman, 
neither simply nor on condition of converting her to the 
faith. Who has prohibited this, God or man ? Who 
has given men authority to prohibit marriages of this 
kind ? Verily the spirits that speak lies in hypocrisy, as 
Paul says, of whom it may be truly said, " The wicked 
have spoken lies to me, but not according to Thy law." 
Patricius, a heathen, married Monica, the mother of 
St. Augustine, who was a Christian ; why should not the 
same thing be lawful now? A like instance of foolish, 
nay wicked, rigour is the impediment of crime, as when 
a man marries a woman previously polluted by adultery, 
or has plotted the death of a woman s husband, that he 
may be able to marry her. Whence, I ask, a severity on 

25 



386 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

the part of men against men such as even God has never 
exacted ? Do these men pretend not to know that 
David, a most holy man, married Bathsheba, the wife of 
Uriah, though both these crimes had been committed ; 
that is, though she had been polluted by adultery and 
her husband had been murdered? If the Divine law 
did this, why do tyrannical men act thus against their 
fellow-servants ? 

It is also reckoned as an impediment when there 
exists what they call a bond that is, when one person 
is bound to another by betrothal. In this case they 
conclude that if either party have subsequently had 
intercourse with a third, the former betrothal comes to 
an end. I cannot at all receive this doctrine. In my 
judgment, a man who has bound himself to one person 
is no longer at his own disposal, and therefore, under 
the prohibitions of the Divine right, owes himself to the 
former, though he has not had intercourse with her, even 
if he have afterwards had intercourse with another. It 
was not in his power to give what he did not possess ; he 
has deceived her with whom he has had intercourse, and 
has really committed adultery. That which has led some 
to think otherwise is that they have looked more to the 
fleshly union than to the Divine command, under which 
he who has promised fidelity to one person is bound to 
observe it. He who desires to give ought to give of that 
which is his own. God forbid that any man should go 
beyond or defraud his brother in any matter ; for good 
faith ought to be preserved beyond and above all tra 
ditions of all men. Thus I believe that such a man cannot 
with a safe conscience cohabit with a second woman, and 
that this impediment ought to be entirely reversed. If a 
vow of religion deprives a man of his power over himself, 
why not also a pledge of fidelity given and received, es 
pecially since the latter rests on the teaching and fruits 
of the Spirit (Gal. v.), while the former rests on human 
choice ? And if a wife may return to her husband, not 
withstanding any vow of religion she may have made, why 
should not a betrothed woman return to her betrothed, 






BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 387 

even if connection with another have followed ? We have 
said, however, above that a man who has pledged his 
faith to a maiden is not at liberty to make a vow of re 
ligion, but is bound to marry her, because he is bound to 
keep his faith, and is not at liberty to abandon it for the 
sake of any human tradition, since God commands that 
it should be kept. Much more will it be his duty to 
observe his pledge to the first to whom he has given it, 
because it was only with a deceitful heart that he could 
give it to a second ; and therefore he has not really given 
it, but has deceived his neighbour, against the law of 
God. Hence the impediment called that of error takes 
effect here, and annuls the marriage with the second 
woman. 

The impediment of holy orders is also a mere contriv 
ance of men, especially when they idly assert that even 
a marriage already contracted is annulled by this cause, 
always exalting their own traditions above the commands 
of God. I give no judgment respecting the order of the 
priesthood, such as it is at the present day ; but I see 
that Paul commands that a bishop should be the husband 
of one wife, and therefore the marriage of a deacon, of 
a priest, of a bishop, or of a man in any kind of orders, 
cannot be annulled, although Paul knew nothing of that 
kind of priests and those orders which we have at the 
present day. Perish then these accursed traditions of 
men, which have come in for no other end than to mul 
tiply perils, sins, and evils in the Church ! Between a 
priest and his wife, then, there is a true and inseparable 
marriage, approved by the Divine command. What if 
wicked men forbid or annul it of their own mere tyranny ? 
Be it that it is unlawful in the sight of jnen, yet it is 
lawful in the sight of God, whose commandment, if it be 
contrary to the commandments of men, is to be preferred. 

Just as much a human contrivance is the so-called 
impediment of public propriety, by which contracted 
marriages are annulled. I am indignant at the audacious 
impiety which is so ready to separate what God has 
joined together. You may recognise antichrist in this 



388 LU1HERS PRIMARY WORKS 

opposition to everything which Christ did or taught. 
What reason is there, I ask, why, on the death of a 
betrothed husband before actual marriage, no relative by 
blood, even to the fourth degree, can marry her who was 
betrothed to him ? This is no vindication of public 
propriety, but mere ignorance of it. Why among the 
people of Israel, which possessed the best laws, given by 
God Himself, was there no such vindication of public 
propriety ? On the contrary, by the very command of 
God, the nearest relative was compelled to marry her 
who had been left ~a widow. Ought the people who are 
in Christian liberty to be burdened with more rigid laws 
than the people who were in legal bondage ? And to 
make an end of these figments rather than impediments, 
I will say that at present it is evident to me that there is 
no impediment which can rightfully annul a marriage 
already contracted except physical unfitness for co 
habiting with a wife, ignorance of a marriage previously 
contracted, or a vow of chastity. Concerning such a 
vow, however, I am so uncertain, even to the present 
moment, that I do not know at what time it ought to 
be reckoned valid, as I have said above in speaking of 
baptism. Learn then, in this one matter of matrimony, 
into what an unhappy and hopeless state of confusion, 
hindrance, entanglement, and peril all things that are 
done in the Church have been brought by the pestilent, 
unlearned, and impious traditions of men. There is no 
hope of a remedy, unless we can do away once for all 
with all the laws of all men, call back the Gospel of 
liberty, and judge and rule all things according to it 
alone. Amen. 

It is necessary also to deal with the question of physical 
incapacity. But be it premised that I desire what I have 
said about impediments to be understood of marriages 
already contracted, which ought not to be annulled for 
any siich causes. But with regard to the contracting of 
matrimony I may briefly repeat what I have said before : 
that if there be any urgency of youthful love, or any 
other necessity, on account of which the Pope grants a 






BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 389 

dispensation, then any brother can also grant a dispensa 
tion to his brother, or himself to himself, and thus snatch 
his wife, in whatever way he can, out of the hands of 
tyrannical laws. Why is my liberty to be done away 
with by another man s superstition and ignorance ? or 
if the Pope gives dispensation for money, why may not 
L give a dispensation to my brother or to myself for the 
advantage of my own salvation ? Does the Pope estab 
lish laws ? Let him establish them for himself, but let 
mv liberty be untouched. 



The question of divorce is also discussed, whether it 
be lawful. I, for my part, detest divorce, and even prefeir 
bigamy to it ; but whether it be lawful I dare not clefinp. 
Christ* Himself, the chief of shepherds, says, "Whosoever 
shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, 
causeth her to commit adultery ; and whosoever shall 
marry her that is divorced committeth adultery " (Matt. / 
v. 32). Christ therefore permits divorce only in the case/ 
of fornication. Hence the Pope must necessarily be 
wrong as often as he permits divorce for other reasons, 
nor ought any man forthwith to consider himself safe 
because lie lias obtained a dispensation by pontifical 
audacity rather than power. I am more surprised, how 
ever, tli at they compel a man who has been separated 
from his wife* by divorce to remain single, and do not 
allow him to marry another. For if Christ permits 
divorce for the cause of fornication, and does not compel 
any man to remain single, and if Paul bids us rather to 
marry than to burn, this seems plainly to allow of a 
man s marrying another in the place of her whom he has 
put away. I wish that this subject were fully discussed 
and made clear, that provision might be made for the 
numberless perils of those who at the present day are 
compelled to remain single without any fault of their 
own that is, whose wives or husbands have fled and 
deserted their partner, not to return for ten years, or 
perhaps never. I am distressed and grieved by these 



390 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

cases, which are of daily occurrence, whether this happens 
by the special malice of Satan, or from our neglect of the 
word of God. 

I cannot by myself establish any rule contrary to the 
opinion of all; but, for my own part, I should exceedingly 
wish at least to see applied to this subject the words, 
" But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart, A 
brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases" 
(1 Cor. vii. 15). Here the Apostle permits that the 
unbelieving one who departs should be let go, and leaves 
it free to the believer to take another. Why should not 
the same rule hold good, if a believer that is, a nominal 
believer, but in reality just as much an unbeliever deserts 
husband or wife, especially if with the intention of never 
returning ? I cannot discover any distinction between 
the two cases. In my belief, however, if in the Apostle s 
time the unbeliever who had departed had returned, or 
had become a believer, or had promised to live with the 
believing wife, he would not have been received, but 
would himself have been authorised to marry another 
woman. Still I give no definite opinion on these 
questions, though I greatly wish that a definite rule 
were laid down, for there is nothing which more harasses 
me and many others. I would not have any rule on 
this point laid down by the sole authority of the Pope or 
the bishops ; but if any two learned and good men agreed 
together in the name of Christ and pronounced a decision 
in the spirit of Christ, I should prefer their judgment 
even to that of councils, such as are assembled nowadays, 
which are celebrated simply for their number and 
authority, independently of learning and holiness. I 
therefore suspend my utterances on this subject until I 
can confer with some better judge. 

OF ORDERS. 

Of this Sacrament the Church of Christ knows nothing : 
it was invented by the Church of the Pope. It not only 
has no promise of grace, anywhere declared, but not a 






BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 39 

word is said about it in the whole of the New Testament. 
Now it is ridiculous to set up as a sacrament of God that 
which can nowhere be proved to have been instituted by 
God. Not that I consider that a rite practised for so 
many ages is to be condemned ; but I would not have 
human invention established in sacred things, nor should 
it be allowed to bring in anything as Divinely ordained 
which has not been Divinely ordained, lest we should be 
objects of ridicule to our" adversaries. We must en 
deavour that whatever we put forward as an article of 
the faith should be certain and uncorrupt and established 
by clear proofs from Scripture ; and this we cannot show 
even in the slightest degree in the case of the present 
Sacrament. 

The Church has no power to establish new Divine 
promises of grace, as some senselessly assert, who say 
that, since the Church is governed by the Holy Spirit, 
whatever she ordains has no less authority than that 
which is ordained of God. The Church is born of the 
word of promise through faith, and is nourished and 
preserved by the same word ; that is, she herself is 
established by the promises of God, not the promise of 
God by her/ The word of God is incomparably above 
the Church, and her part is not to establish, ordain, or 
make anything in it, but only to be established, ordained, 
and made as a creature. What man begets his own 
parent ? Who establishes the authority by which he 
himself exists ? 

This power the Church certainly has : that she can 
distinguish the word of God from the words of men. So 
Augustine confesses that his motive for believing the 
Gospel was the authority of the Church, which declared 
it to be the Gospel. Not that the Church is therefore 
above the Gospel, for, if so, she would also be above God, 
in whom we believe, since she declares Him to be God ; 
but, as Augustine says elsewhere, the soul is so taken 
possession of by the truth that thereby it can judge of 
all things with the utmost certainty, and yet cannot 
judge the truth itself, but is compelled to say with an 



392 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

infallible certainty that this is the truth. For example, 
the mind pronounces with infallible certainty that three 
and seven are ten, and yet can give no reason why this is 
true, while it cannot deny that it is true. In fact, the 
mind itself is taken possession of, and, having truth as 
its judge, is judged rather than judges. Even such a 
perception is there in the Church, by the illumination 
of the Spirit, in judging and approving of doctrines, a 
perception which she cannot demonstrate, but which she 
holds as most sure. Just as among philosophers no one 
judges of the common conceptions, but every one is 
judged by them, so is it among us with regard to 
that spiritual perception which judgeth all things, yet is 
judged of no man, as the Apostle says. 

Let us take it then for certain that the Church cannot 
promise grace, to do which is the part of God alone, and 
therefore cannot institute a sacrament. And even if she 
had the most complete power to do so, it would not forth 
with "follow that orders are a sacrament. For who 
knows what is that Church which has the Spirit, when 
only a few bishops and learned men are usually concerned 
in setting up these laws and institutions ? It is possible 
that these men may not be of the Church, and may all 
be in error, as Councils have very often been in error, 
especially that of Constance, which has erred the most 
impiously of all. That only is a proved article of the 
faith which has been approved by the universal Church, 
and not by that of Rome alone. I grant therefore that 
orders may be a sort of Church rite, like many others 
which have been introduced by the Fathers of the Church, 
such as the consecration of vessels, buildings, vestments, 
water, salt, candles, herbs, wine, and the like. In all 
these no one asserts that there is any sacrament, nor is 
there any promise in them. Thus the anointing of a 
man s hands, the shaving of his head, and other ceremonies 
of the kind, do not constitute a sacrament, since nothing 
is promised by these things, but they are merely em 
ployed to prepare men for certain offices, as in the case 
of vessels or instruments. 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 393 

But it will be asked, What do yon say to Dionysius, 
who reckons up six sacraments, among which he places 
orders, in his Hierarchy of the Church ? My answer is, 
I know that he is the only one of the ancients who is con 
sidered as an authority for seven sacraments, although, 
by the omission of matrimony, he has only given six. 
We read nothing at all in the rest of the Fathers about 
these sacraments, nor did they reckon them under the 
title of sacrament when they spoke of these things, for 
the invention of such sacraments is modern. Then, 
too if I may be rash enough to say so it is altogether 
unsatisfactory that so much importance should be attri 
buted to this Dionysius, whoever he was, for there is 
almost nothing of solid learning in him. By what 
authority or reason, I ask, does lie prove his inventions 
concerning angels in his Celestial Hierarchy, a book on 
the study of which curious and superstitious minds have 
spent so much labour ? Are they not all fancies of his 
own, and very much like dreams, if we read them and 
judge them freely? In his mystic theology indeed, 
which is so much cried up by certain very ignorant 
theologians, he is even very mischievous, and follows 
Plato rather than Christ, so that I would not have any 
believing mind bestow even the slightest labour on the 
study of these books. You will be so far from learning 
Christ in them that, even if you know Him, you may 
lose Him. I speak from experience. Let us rather hear 
Paul, and learn Jesus Christ and Him crucified. For 
this is the way, the truth, and the life ; this is the ladder 
by which we come to the Father, as it is written, "No 
man cometh unto the Father but by Me." 

So in his Hierarchy of the Church what does lie do 
but describe certain ecclesiastical rites, amusing himself 
with liis own allegories, which he does not prove, just as 
has been done in our time by the writer of the book called 
the Rationale of Divine Things ? This pursuit of alle 
gories is only fit for men of idle minds. Could I have 
any difficulty in amusing myself with allegories about 
any created thing whatever ? Did not Bonaventura 



394 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



apply the liberal arts allegorically to theology? It 
would give me no trouble to write a better Hierarchy 
than that of Dionysius, as he knew nothing of popes, 
cardinals, and archbishops, and made the bishops the 
highest order. Who, indeed, is there of such slender 
wits that he cannot venture upon allegory ? I would not 
have a theologian bestow any attention upon allegories 
until he is perfectly acquainted with the legitimate and 
simple meaning of Scripture ; otherwise, as happened 
to Origen, his theological speculations will not be without 
danger. 

We must not then immediately make a sacrament of 
anything which Dionysius describes ; otherwise why not 
make a sacrament of the procession which he describes 
in the same passage, and which continues in use even to 
the present day ? Nay, there will be as many sacraments 
as there are rites and ceremonies which have grown up 
in the Church. Resting, however, on this very weak 
foundation, they have invented and attributed to this 
sacrament of theirs certain indelible characters, supposed 
to be impressed on those who receive orders. Whence, 1 
ask, such fancies ? By what authority, by what reason 
ing, are they established ? Not that we object to their 
being free to invent, learn, or assert whatever they please ; 
but we also assert our own liberty, and say that they 
must not arrogate to themselves the right of making articles 
of the faith out of their own fancies, as they have hitherto 
had the presumption to do. It is enough that, for the 
sake of concord, we submit to their rights and inventions, 
but we will not be compelled to receive them as necessary 
to salvation, when they are not necessary. Let them lay 
aside their tyrannical requirements, and we will show a 
ready compliance with their likings, that so we may live 
together in mutual peace. For it is a disgraceful, unjust, 
and slavish thing for a Christian man, who is free, to be 
subjected to any but heavenly and Divine traditions. 

After this they bring in their very strongest argument, 
namely, that Christ said at the Last Supper, "Do this 
in remembrance of Me." " Behold ! " they say, " Christ 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 395 

ordained them as priests." Hence, among other things, 
they have also asserted that it is to priests alone that 
both kinds should be administered. In fact, they have 
extracted out of this text whatever they would, like men 
who claim the right to assert at their own free choice 
whatsoever they please out of any words of Christ, 
wherever spoken. But is this to interpret the words of 
God ? Let us reply to them that in these words Christ 
gives no promise, but only a command that this should 
be done in remembrance of Him. Why do they not 
conclude that priests were ordained in that passage also 
where Christ, in laying upon them the ministry of the 
word and of baptism, said, " Go ye into all the world, 
and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptising them in 
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
Ghost " ? It is tli e peculiar office of priests to preach 
and to baptise. Again, since at the present day it is 
the very first business of a priest, and, as they say, an 
indispensable one, to read the canonical Hours, why have 
they not taken their idea of the Sacrament of orders 
from those words in which Christ commanded His 
disciples as He did in many other places, but especially 
in the garden of Gethsemane to pray that they might 
not enter into temptation? Unless indeed they evade 
the difficulty by saying that it is not commanded to 
pray, for it suffices to read the canonical Hours ; so that 
this cannot be proved to be a priestly work from any 
part of Scripture, and that consequently this praying 
priesthood is not of God, as indeed it is not. 

Which of the ancient Fathers lias asserted that by 
these words priests were ordained ? Whence then this 
new interpretation ? It is because it has been sought by 
this device to set up a source of implacable discord, by 
which clergy and laity might be placed farther asunder 
than heaven and earth, to the incredible injury of 
baptismal grace and confusion of evangelical communion. 
Hence has originated that detestable tyranny of the 
clergy over the laity in which, trusting to the corporal 
unction bv which their hands are consecrated, to their 



396 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

tonsure, and to their vestments, they not only set them 
selves above the body of lay Christians, who have been 
anointed with the Holy Spirit, but almost look upon them 
as dogs, unworthy to be numbered in the Church along 
with themselves. Hence it is that they dare to command, 
exact, threaten, drive, and oppress, at their will. In fine, 
the Sacrament of orders has been and is a most admirable 
engine for the establishment of all those monstrous evils 
which have hitherto been wrought, and are yet being 
Avrought, in the Church. In this way Christian brother 
hood has perished ; in this way shepherds have been 
turned into wolves, servants into tyrants, and ecclesiastics 
into something more than men of the world. 

How if they were compelled to admit that we all, so 
many as have been baptised, are equally priests ? We 
are so in fact, and it is only a ministry which has been 
entrusted to them, and that with our consent. They 
would then know that they have no right to exercise 
command over us, except so far as we voluntarily allow 
of it. Thus it is said, " Ye are a chosen generation, a 
royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter ii. 9). Thus all 
we who are Christians are priests ; those whom we call 
priests are ministers chosen from among us to do all 
things in our name ; and the priesthood is nothing else 
than a ministry. Thus Paul says, " Let a man so 
account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards 
of the mysteries of God " (1 Cor. iv. 1). 

From this it follows that lie who does not preach the 
word, being called to this very office by the Church, is in 
no way a priest, and that the Sacrament of orders can be 
nothing else than a ceremony for choosing preachers in 
the Church. This is the description given of a priest : 
" The priest s lips should keep knowledge, and they 
should seek the law at his mouth ; for he is the 
messenger of the Lord of hosts " (Mai. ii. 7). Be sure 
then that he who is not a messenger of the Lord of hosts, 
or who is called to anything else than a messenger-ship 
if I may so speak is certainly not a priest, as it is 
written, " Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVI1Y OF THE CHURCH 397 



also reject thee, that tliou shalt be no priest to Me" 
(Hos. iv. 6). They are called pastors because it is 
their duty to give the people pasture, that is, to teach 
them. Therefore those who are ordained only for the 
purpose of reading the canonical Hours and offering up 
masses are popish priests indeed, but not Christian 
priests, since they not only do not preach, but are not 
even called to be preachers ; nay, it is the very thing 
intended that a priesthood of this kind shall stand on a 
different footing from the office of preacher. Thus they 
are priests of Hours and missals, that is, a kind of living- 
images, having the name of priests, but very far from 
being really so sucli priests as those whom Jeroboam 
ordained in Beth-aven, taken from the lowest dregs of 
the people, and not from the family of Levi. 

See then how far the glory of the Church has departed. 
The whole world is full of priests, bishops, cardinals, and 
clergy, of whom, however (so far as concerns their 
official duty), not one preaches unless he be called afresh 
to this by another calling besides his sacramental orders 
but thinks that he amply fulfils the purposes of that 
Sacrament if he murmurs over, in a vain repetition, the 
prayers which lie has to read, and celebrates masses. 
Even then he never prays these very Hours, or, if he does 
pray, he prays for himself; while, as the very height of 
perversity, he offers up his masses as a sacrifice, though 
the mass is really the use of the Sacrament. Thus it is 
clear that those orders by which, as a sacrament, men of 
this kind are ordained to be clergy, are in truth a mere 
and entire figment, invented by men who understand 
nothing of Church affairs, of the priesthood, of the 
ministry of the word, or of the sacraments. Such as is 
the Sacrament, such are the priests it makes. To these 
errors and blindnesses has been added a greater degree 
of bondage in that, in order to separate themselves the 
more widely from all other Christians, as if these were 
profane, they have burdened themselves witli a most 
hypocritical celibacy. 

It was not enough for their hypocrisy and for the 



398 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



working of this error to prohibit bigamy, that is, the 
having two wives at the same time, as was done under the 
law for we know that that is the meaning of bigamy 
but they have interpreted it to be bigamy, if a man 
marries two virgins in succession, or a widow once. 
Nay, the most sanctified sanctity of this most sacrosanct 
sacrament goes so far that a man cannot even become a 
priest if he have married a virgin as long as she is alive 
as his wife. And, in order to reach the very highest 
summit of sanctity, a man is kept out of the priesthood 
if he have married one who was not a pure virgin, though 
it were in ignorance and merely by an unfortunate chance. 
But he may have polluted six hundred harlots or cor 
rupted any number of matrons or virgins, or even kept 
many Gauyrnedes, and it will be no impediment to his 
becoming a bishop or cardinal, or even pope. Then the 
saying of the Apostle, " the husband of one wife," must 
be interpreted to mean u the head of one Church," unless 
that magnificent dispenser the Pope, bribed with money 
or led by favour that is to say, moved by pious charity 
and urged by anxiety for the welfare of the Churches 
chooses to unite to one man three, twenty, or a hundred 
wives, that is, Churches. 

Oh, pontiffs, worthy of this venerable Sacrament of 
orders ! Oh, princes not of the Catholic Churches, but of 
the synagogues of Satan, yea, of very darkness ! We 
may well cry out with Isaiah, " Ye scornful men, that 
rule this people which is in Jerusalem ! " (Isa. xxviii. 
14), and with Amos, " Woe to them that are at ease in 
Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are 
named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel 
came ! " (Amos vi. 1). Oh, what disgrace to the Church 
of God from these monstrosities of sacerdotalism ! 
Where are there any bishops or priests who know the 
Gospel, not to say preach it ? Why then do they boast 
of their priesthood ? why do they wish to be thought 
holier and better and more powerful than other Christians, 
whom they call the laity ? What unlearned person is not 
competent to read the Hours ? Monks, hermits, and 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 399 



private persons, although laymen, may use the prayers 
of the Hours. The duty of a priest is to preach, and 
unless he does so, he is just as much a priest as the 
picture of a man is a man. Does the ordination of such 
babbling priests, the consecration of churches and bells, 
or the confirmation of children, constitute a bishop ? 
Could not any deacon or layman do these things ? It is 
the ministry of the word that makes a priest or a bishop. 

Fly then, I counsel you; fly, young men, if ye wish to 
live in safety ; arid do not seek admission to these holy 
rites, unless ye are either willing to preach the Gospel, or 
are able to believe that ye are not made any better than 
the laity by this Sacrament of orders. To read the Hours 
is nothing. To offer the mass is to receive the Sacrament. 
What, then, remains in you which is not to be found 
in any layman ? Your tonsure and your vestments ? 
Wretched "priesthood, which consists in tonsure and vest 
ments ! Is it the oil poured on your fingers ? Every 
Christian is anointed and sanctified in body and soul with 
the oil of the Holy Spirit, and formerly was allowed to 
handle the Sacrament no less than the priests now do, 
although our superstition now imputes it as a great crime 
to the laity if they touch even the bare cup or the cor 
poral, and not even a holy nun is allowed to wash the 
altar cloths and sacred napkins. When I see how far the 
sacrosanct sanctity of these orders has already gone, I 
expect that the time will come when the laity will not 
even be allowed to touch the altar, except when they 
offer money. I almost burst with anger when I think of 
the impious tyrannies of these reckless men, who mock 
and ruin the liberty and glory of the religion of Christ by 
such frivolous and puerile triflings. 

Let every man then who has learnt- that he is a 
Christian recognise what he is, and be certain that we are 
all equally priests, that is, that we have the same power 
in the word, and in any sacrament whatever, although it 
is not lawful for any one to use this power, except with 
the consent of the community or at the call of a superior. 
For that which belongs to all in common no individual 



400 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

can arrogate to himself until he be called. And there 
fore the Sacrament of orders, if it is anything, is nothing 
but a certain rite by which men are called to minister in 
the Church. Furthermore, the priesthood is properly 
nothing else than the ministry of the word I mean the 
word of the Gospel, not of the Law. The diaconate is a 
ministry, not for reading the Gospel or the Epistle, as the 
practice is nowadays, but for distributing the wealth of 
the Church among the poor, that the priests may be 
relieved of the burden of temporal things, and may give 
themselves more freely to prayer and to the word. It 
was for this purpose, as we read in the Acts of the 
Apostles, that deacons were appointed. Thus he who 
does not know the Gospel, or does not preach it, is not 
only no priest or bishop, but a kind of pest to the Church, 
who, under the false title of priest or bishop, as it were in 
sheep s clothing, hinders the Gospel, and acts the part of 
the wolf in the Church. 

Wherefore those priests and bishops with whom the 
Church is crowded at the present day, unless they work 
out their salvation on another plan that is, iinless they 
acknowledge themselves to be neither priests nor bishops, 
and repent of bearing the name of an office the work of 
which they either do not know or cannot fulfil, and thus 
deplore with prayers and tears the miserable fate of their 
hypocrisy are verily the people of eternal perdition, 
concerning whom the saying will be fulfilled, " My people 
are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge ; 
and their honourable men are famished, and their multi 
tude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell hath enlarged 
herself, and opened her mouth without measure; and their 
glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that 
rejoiceth shall descend into it" (Isa. v. 13, 14). Oh, 
word of dread for our age, in which Christians are 
swallowed up in such an abyss of evil ! 

As far then as we are taught from the Scriptures, since 
what we call the priesthood is a ministry, I do not see at 
all for what reason a man who has once been made priest 
cannot become a layman again, since he differs in no wis 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 401 

from a layman, except by his ministerial office. But it 
is so far from impossible for a man to be set aside from 
the ministry that even now this punishment is constantly 
inflicted on offending priests, who are either suspended 
for a time, or deprived for ever of their office. For that 
fiction of an indelible character has long ago become an 
object of derision. I grant that the Pope may impress 
this character, though Christ knows nothing of it, and for 
this very reason the priest thus consecrated is the lifelong 
servant and bondsman, not of Christ, but of the Pope, as 
it is at this day. But, unless I deceive myself, if at some 
future time this Sacrament and figment fall to the ground, 
the papacy itself will scarcely hold its ground; and we 
shall recover that joyful liberty in which we shall under 
stand that we are all equal in every right, and shall shake 
off the yoke of tyranny, and know that he who is a 
Christian has Christ, and he who has Christ has all things 
that are Christ s, and can do all things ; on which I will 
write more fully and more vigorously when I find that 
what I have here said displeases my friends the Papists. 

ON THE SACRAMENT OF EXTREME UNCTION. 

To this rite of anointing the sick our theologians have 
made two additions well worthy of themselves. One is 
that they call it a sacrament, the other that they make 
it extreme, so that it cannot be administered except to 
those who are in extreme peril of life. Perhaps, as they 
are keen dialecticians, they have so made it in relation 
to the first unction of baptism and the two following 
ones of confirmation and orders. They have this, it is 
true, to throw in my teeth: that, on the authority of the 
Apostle James, there are in this case a promise and a 
sign, which two things, I have hitherto said, constitute a 
sacrament. He says, " Is any sick among you ? let him 
call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over 
him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord ; 
and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord 
shall raise him up ; and if he have committed sins, they 

26 



4 02 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



shall be forgiven him" (James v. 14, 15). Here, they 
say, is the promise of remission of sins and the sign of 
the oil. 

I, however, say that if folly has ever been uttered, it has 
been uttered on this subject. I pass over the fact that 
many assert, and with great probability, that this Epistle 
was not written by the Apostle James, and is not worthy 
of the apostolic spirit, although, whosesoever it is, it 
has obtained authority by usage. Still, even if it were 
written by the Apostle James, I should say that it was 
not lawful for an Apostle to institute a sacrament by his 
own authority ; that is, to give a Divine promise with a 
sign annexed to it. To do this belonged to Christ alone. 
Thus Paul says that he had received the Sacrament of 
the Eucharist from the Lord ; and that he was sent, not to 
baptise, but to preach the Gospel. Nowhere, however, in 
the Gospel do we read of this Sacrament of extreme unction. 
But let us pass this over, and let us look to the words 
themselves of the Apostle, or of whoever was the author 
of this Epistle, and we shall at once see how those men 
have failed to observe their true meaning who have thus 
increased the number of sacraments. 

In the first place, if they think the saying of the 
Apostle true and worthy to be followed, by what authority 
do they change and resist it ? Why do they make an 
extreme and special unction of that whicli the Apostle 
meant to be general ? The Apostle did not mean it to 
be extreme, and to be administered only to those about 
to die. He says expressly, " Is any sick among you ? " 
He does not say, " Is any dying ? " Nor do I care what 
Dionysius s Ecclesiastical Hierarchy may teach about 
this ; the words of the Apostle are clear, on which 
he and they alike rest, though they do not follow them. 
Thus it is evident that by no authority, but at their own 
discretion, they have made, out of the ill-understood words 
of the Apostle, a sacrament and an extreme unction ; 
thus wronging all the other sick, whom they have de 
prived on their own authority of that benefit of anointing 
which the Apostle appointed for them. 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 403 



But it is even a finer argument that the promise of 
the Apostle expressly says, " The prayer of faith shall 
save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." The 
Apostle commands the use of anointing and prayer for the 
very purpose that the sick man may be healed and raised 
np/that is, may not die, and that the unction may not be 
extreme. This is proved by the prayers which are used 
even at this day during the ceremony of anointing, and in 
which we ask that the sick man may be restored. They 
say, on the contrary, that unction should not be ad 
ministered except to those on the point of departing ; 
that is, that they may not be healed and raised up. If 
the matter were not so serious, who could refrain from 
laughing at such fine, apt, and sound comments on the 
words of the Apostle ? Do we not manifestly detect 
here that sophistical folly which, in many other cases as 
well as in this, affirms what Scripture denies, arid denies 
what it affirms ? Shall we not render thanks to these 
distinguished teachers of ours ? I have said rightly then 
that nowhere have they displayed wilder folly than in this 
instance. 

Further, if this unction is a sacrament, it must be 
beyond doubt an effectual sign (as they say) of that 
which it seals and promises. Now it promises health and 
restoration to the sick, as the words plainly show : " The 
prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall 
raise him up." Who does not see, however, that this 
promise is seldom, or rather never, fulfilled ? Scarcely 
one among a thousand is restored ; and even this no one 
believes to be effected by the Sacrament, but by the help of 
nature or of medicine ; while to the Sacrament they attri 
bute a contrary effect. What shall we say, then ? Either 
the Apostle is deceiving us in this promise, or this unction 
is not a sacrament ; for a sacramental promise is sure, 
while this in most cases disappoints us. Nay, to recog 
nise another example of the prudence and carefulness of 
these theologians, they will have the unction to be extreme 
in order that that promise may not stand ; that is, that 
the Sacrament mav not be a sacrament. If the unction is 



404 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

extreme, it does not heal, but yields to the sickness ; 
while if it heals, it cannot be extreme. Thus, according 
to the interpretation of these teachers, James must be 
understood to have contradicted himself, and to have 
instituted a sacrament on purpose not to institute a 
sacrament ; for they will have it to be extreme unction, 
in order that it may not be true that the sick are healed 
by it, which is what the Apostle ordained. If this is not 
madness, what, I ask, is madness ? 

The words of the Apostle, " Desiring to be teachers of 
the law; understanding neither what they say nor whereof 
they affirm" (1 Tim. i. 7), apply to these men, with 
so little judgment do they read and draw conclusions. 
With the same stupidity they have inferred the doctrine 
of auricular confession from the words of the Apostle 
James, " Confess your faults one to another." They do 
not even observe the command of the Apostle that 
the elders of the Church should be called for, and that 
they should pray over the sick. Scarcely one priest is 
sent now, though the Apostle would have many to be 
present, not for the purpose of anointing, but for that of 
prayer, as he says, " The prayer of faith shall save the 
sick." Moreover, I am not sure that he means priests 
to be understood in this case, since he says presbyters, 
that is, elders. Now it does not follow that an elder 
must be a priest or a minister, and we may suspect that 
the Apostle intended that the sick should be visited by 
the men of greater age and weightier character in the 
Church, who should do this as a work of mercy, and heal 
the sick by the prayer of faith. At the same time it 
cannot be denied that of old the Churches were ruled by 
the older men, chosen for this purpose on account of their 
age and long experience of life, without the ordinations 
and consecrations now used. 

I am therefore of opinion that this is the same anointing 
as that used by the Apostles, of whom it is written, 
" They anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed 
them " (Mark vi. 13). It was a rite of the primitive 
Church, long since obsolete, by which they did miracles 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 405 

for the sick, just as Christ says of them that believe, 
" They shall take up serpents ; they shall lay hands on 
the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark xvi. 18). It is 
astonishing that they have not made sacraments out of 
these words also, since they have a like virtue and promise 
with those words of James. This pretended extreme 
unction then is not a sacrament, but a counsel of the 
Apostle James, taken, as I have said, from the Gospel 
of Mark, and one which any one who will may follow. I do 
not think that it was applied to all sick persons for the 
Church glories in her infirmities, and thinks death a 
gain but only to those who bore their sickness im 
patiently and with little faith, and whom the Lord there 
fore left, that on them the miraculous power and the 
efficacy of faith might be conspicuously shown. 

James, indeed, has carefully and intentionally provided 
against this very mistake in that he connects the promise 
of healing and of remission of sins, not with the anointing, 
but with the prayer of faith ; for he says, " The prayer of 
faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up ; 
and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him " 
(James v. 15). Now a sacrament does not require prayer 
or faith on the part of him who administers it, for even a 
wicked man may baptise and consecrate the elements with 
out prayer; but it rests solely on the promise and institution 
of God, and requires faith on the part of him who receives 
it. But where is the prayer of faith in our employment 
of extreme unction at the present day ? Who prays over 
the sick man with such faith as not to doubt of his 
restoration ? Such is the prayer of faith which James 
here describes, that prayer of which he had said at the 
beginning of the Epistle, " Let him ask in faith, nothing 
wavering," and of which Christ says, " What things 
soever ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye receive 
them, and ye shall have them " (Mark xi. 24). 

There is no doubt at all that if even at the present day 
such prayer were made over the sick that is, by grave and 
holy elders and with full faith as many as we would 
might be healed. For what cannot faith do ? We 



406 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

however, leave out of sight that faith which apostolic 
authority requires in the very first place ; and, moreover, 
by elders, that is, men superior to the rest in age and in 
faith, we understand the common herd of priests. Fur 
thermore, out of a daily or free anointing we make an 
extreme unction ; and lastly, we not only do not ask 
and obtain that result of healing promised by the Apostle, 
but we empty the promise of its meaning by an opposite 
result. Nevertheless we boast that this Sacrament, or 
rather figment, of ours, is founded on and proved by the 
teaching of the Apostle, from which it is as widely 
separated as pole from pole. Oh, what theologians ! 

Therefore, without condemning this our sacrament of 
extreme unction, 1 steadily deny that it is that which 
is enjoined by the Apostle James, of which neither 
the form, nor the practice, nor the efficacy, nor the 
purpose agrees with ours. We will reckon it, however, 
among those sacraments which are of our own appointing, 
such as the consecration and sprinkling of salt and 
water. We cannot deny that, as the Apostle Paul 
teaches us, every creature is sanctified by the word of 
God and prayer ; and so we do not deny that remission 
and peace are bestowed through extreme unction, not 
because it is a sacrament Divinely instituted, but because 
he who receives it believes that he obtains these benefits. 
For the faith of the receiver does not err, however much 
the minister may err. For if he who baptises or 
absolves in jest that is, does not absolve at all as far 
as the minister s part is concerned yet does really 
absolve or baptise, if there be faith on the part of the 
absolved or baptised person, how much more does he 
who administers extreme unction bestow peace, even 
though in reality he bestows no peace if we look to his 
ministry, since there is no sacrament I The faith of the 
person anointed receives that blessing which he who 
anointed him either could not, or did not intend to, give. 
It is enough that the person anointed hears and believes 
the word ; for whatever we believe that we shall receive, 
that we do really receive, whatever the minister may do 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 407 

or not do, whether he play a part, or be in jest. For the 
saying of Christ holds good, " All things are possible 
to him that believeth," and again, "As thou hast 
believed, so be it done unto thee." Our sophists, how 
ever, make no mention of this faith in treating of the 
sacraments, but give their whole minds to frivolous dis 
cussions on the virtues of the sacraments themselves ; 
ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge 
of the truth. 

It has been of advantage, however, that this unction 
has been made extreme, for, thanks to this, it has been 
of all sacraments the least harassed and enslaved by 
tyranny and thirst for gain ; and this one mercy has 
been left to the dying : that they are free to be anointed, 
even if they have^ not confessed or communicated. 
Whereas if it had continued to be of daily employment, 
especially if it had also healed the sick, even if it had not 
taken away sins, of how many worlds would not the 
pontiffs by this time have been masters they who, on 
the strength of the one Sacrament of penance, and by the 
power of the keys, and through the Sacrament of orders, 
have become such mighty emperors and princes ? But 
now it is a fortunate thing that as they despise the 
prayer of faith, so they heal no sick, and out of an old 
rite* have formed for themselves a new sacrament. 

Let it suffice to have said thus much concerning these 
four sacraments. I know how much it will displease 
those who think that we are to inquire about the 
number and use of the sacraments, not from the Holy 
Scriptures, but from the see of Rome, as if the see of 
Rome had given us those sacraments and had not rather 
received them from the schools of the universities, to 
which, without controversy, it owes all that it has. The 
tyranny of the popes would never have stood so high if it 
had not received so much ; -help from the universities ; 
for among all the principal sees there is scarcely any 
other which has had so few learned bishops. It is by 
force, fraud, and superstition alone that it has prevailed 
over the rest ; and those who occupied that see a 



408 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

thousand years ago are so widely diverse from those who 
have grown into power in the interim that we are com 
pelled to say that either the one or the other were not 
pontiffs of Home. 

There are besides some other things which it may seem 
that we might reckon among sacraments all those things, 
namely, to which a Divine promise has been made, such as 
prayer, the word, the cross. For Christ has promised in 
many places to hear those that pray, especially in Luke xi., 
where He invites us to prayer by many parables. Of 
the word He says, " Blessed are they that hear the word 
of God and keep it " (Luke xi. 28). And who can reckon 
up how often He promises succour and glory to those who 
are in tribulation, sutfering, and humiliation ? Nay, who 
can count up all the promises of God ? For it is the 
whole object of all Scripture to lead us to faith, on the 
one side urging us with commandments and threatenings, 
on the other side inviting us by promises and consola 
tions. Indeed, all Scripture consists of either command 
ments or promises. Its commandments humble the 
proud by their requirements ; its promises lift up the 
humble by their remissions of sin. 

It has seemed best, however, to consider as sacraments, 
properly so called, those promises which have signs an 
nexed to them. The rest, as they are not attached to 
signs, are simple promises. It follows that, if we speak 
with perfect accuracy, there are only two sacraments in 
the Church of God, baptism and the bread, since it is 
in these alone that we see both a sign Divinely instituted 
and a promise of remission of sins. The Sacrament of 
penance, which I have reckoned along with these two, 
is without any visible and Divinely appointed sign ; and 
is nothing else, as I have said, than a way and means of 
return to baptism. Not even the schoolmen can say that 
penitence agrees with their definition, since they them 
selves ascribe to every sacrament a visible sign, which 
enables the senses to apprehend the form of that effect 
which the Sacrament works invisibly. Now penitence or 
absolution has no such sign ; and therefore they will be 



BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH 409 

compelled by their own definition either to say that 
penitence is not one of the sacraments, and thus to 
diminish their number, or else to bring forward another 
definition of a sacrament. 

Baptism, however, which we have assigned to the whole 
of life, will properly suffice for all the sacraments which 
we are to use in life ; while the bread is truly the Sacra 
ment of the dying and departing, since in it we com 
memorate the departure of Christ from this world, that 
we may imitate Him. Let us then so distribute these 
two sacraments that baptism may be allotted to the 
beginning and to the whole course of life, and the bread 
to its end and to death ; and let the Christian while in 
this vile body exercise himself in both, until, being fully 
baptised and strengthened, he shall pass out of this world 
as one born into a new and eternal life and destined to 
eat with Christ in the kingdom of His Father, as He 
promised at the Last Supper, saying, u I say unto you, 
I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom 
of God shall come " (Luke xxii. 18). Thus it is evident 
that Christ instituted the Sacrament of the bread that we 
might receive the life which is to come ; and then, when 
the purpose of each sacrament shall have been fulfilled, 
both baptism and the bread will cease. 

I shall here make an end of this essay, which I readily 
and joyfully offer to all pious persons, who long to 
understand Scripture in its sincere meaning and to learn 
the genuine use of the sacraments. It is a gift of no 
slight importance to "know the things that are freely 
given to us of God " and to know in what manner we 
ought to use those gifts. For if we are instructed in this 
judgment of the Spirit, we shall not deceive ourselves by 
leaning on those things which are opposed to it. Whereas 
our theologians have nowhere given us the knowledge 
of these two things, but have even darkened them, as if 
of set purpose, I, if I have not given that knowledge, 
have at least succeeded in not darkening it, and have 
given others an occasion to think out something better. 
It has at least been my endeavour to explain the meaning 



4 io LU lHERS PRIMARY WORKS 

of both sacraments, but we cannot all do all things. 
On those impious men, however, who in their obstinate 
tyranny press on us their own teachings as if they were 
God s, I thrust these things freely and confidently, 
caring not at all for their ignorance and violence. Yet 
even to them I will wish sounder sense, and will not 
despise their efforts, but will only distinguish them from 
those which are legitimate and really Christian. 

I hear a report that fresh bulls and papal curses are 
being prepared against me, by which I am to be urged to 
recant, or else be declared a heretic. If this is true, 
I wish this little book to be a part of my future recanta 
tion, that they may not complain that their tyranny 
has puffed itself up in vain. The remaining part I shall 
shortly publish, Christ being my Helper, and that of such 
a sort as the see of Rome has never yet seen or heard, 
thus abundantly testifying my obedience in the name of 
our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

"Hostis Herodes impie, 
Christum venire quid times ? 
Non arripit mortalia 
Q.ui regna dat coelestia." 



THE NINETY-FIVE THESES 



INTRODUCTORY LETTER 

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

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

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

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



412 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

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

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

Lastly, wjorks of piety and charity are infinitely,, better 
than indulgences, and yet they do not preach these with 
such display or so much zeal ; nay, they keep silence 
about them for the sake of preaching pardons. And 
yet it is the first and sole duty of all bishops, that the 
people shouldT learn tEe Gospel and Christian charity : 
for Christ nowhere commands that indulgences should be 
preached. What a dreadful thing it is then, what peril 
to a bishop, if, while the Gospel is passed over in silence, 
he permits nothing but the noisy outcry of indulgences 



THE NINETY-FIVE THESES 413 

to be spread among his people, and bestows more care 
on these than on the Gospel 1 Will not Christ say to 
them : " Straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel " ? 

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

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

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

From Wittemberg, on the eve of All Saints, in the year 
1517. 

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

MARTIN LUTHER. 



4H LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 



DISPUTATION OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER CON 
CERNING PENITENCE AND INDULGENCES 

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except 
by declaring and warranting it to have been remitted by 
God ; or at most by remitting cases reserved for himself ; 

7- 
* In the Latin, from the Vulgate, " agite pnitmtiam," sometimes 

translated " Do penance." The effect of the following theses 

depends to some extent on the double meaning of "pcenitentia " 

penitence and penance. 

t I.e. "Pcena," the connection between a ^)cea" and "pcenitentia 

being again suggestive. 



y 



THE NINETY-FIVE THESES 415 

in which cases, if his power were despised, guilt would 
certainly remain. 

7. God never remits any man s guilt, without at the 
same time subjecting him, humbled in all things, to the 
authority of his representative the priest. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Therefore the Pope, when he speaks of the plenary 



416 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

remission of all penalties, does not mean simply of all, 
but only of those imposed by himself. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE NINETY-FIVE THESES 417 

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

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

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

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

38. The remission, however, imparted by the Pope is 
by no means to be despised, since it is, as I have said, a 
declaration of the Divine remission. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have 

27 



418 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

superfluous wealth, they are bound to keep what is 
necessary for the use of their own households, and by no 
means to lavish it on pardons. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

56. The treasures of the Church, whence the Pope 



THE NINETY-FIVE THESES 419 

grants indulgences, are neither sufficiently named nor 
known among the people of Christ. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

65. Hence the treasures of the gospel are nets, where 
with of old they fished for the men of riches. 

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

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

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

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

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



420 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE NINETY-FIVE THESES 421 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



422 LUTHER S PRIMARY WORKS 

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

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

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

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

PROTESTATION. 

I, Martin Luther, Doctor, of the Order of Monks at 
Wittemberg, desire to testify publicly that certain pro 
positions against pontifical indulgences, as they call 
them, have been put forth by me. Now although, up to 
the present time, neither this most celebrated and re 
nowned school of ours, nor any civil or ecclesiastical 
power has condemned me, yet there are, as I hear, some 
men of headlong and audacious spirit, who dare to 
pronounce me a heretic, as though the matter had been 
thoroughly looked into and studied. But on my part, as 
I have often done before, so now too, I implore all men, 
by the faith of Christ, either to point out to me a better 
way, if such a way has been divinely revealed to any, or 
at least to submit their opinion to the judgment of God 
and of the Church. For I am neither so rash as to wish 
that my sole opinion should be preferred to that of all 
other men, nor so senseless as to be willing that the 
word of God should be made to give place to fables, 
devised by human reason. 






ESSAYS 
i 

OX THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF LUTHER S 

LIFE AND TEACHING 

BY DR. WAGE 

II 

ON THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE REFORMA 
TION IN GERMANY (15171546) 
BY DR. BUCHHEIM 



n tbe primary principles of OLntber s 
life anb teaching 

THE present publication was offered as a contribution to the due 
celebration in this country of the fourth centenary of Luther s 
birth, in 1883. Much has been written about him, and the general 
history of his life and work has been sketched by able pens. But no 
adequate attempt has yet been made to let him speak for himself 
to Englishmen by his greatest and most characteristic writings. 
The three works which, together with the Ninety-five Theses, are in 
cluded in this volume, are well known in Germany as the Drci Grosse 
Reformations- Sell rif ten ^ or " The Three Great Reformation Treatises " 
of Luther ; but they seem never yet to have been brought in this 
character before the English public. The Treatise on Christian 
Liberty has indeed been previously translated, though not of late 
years. But from an examination of the catalogue in the British 
Museum, it would appear that no English translation is accessible, 
even if any has yet been published, of the Address to the German 
Nobility or of the Treatise on the Babylonish Captivity of the 
Church. Yet, as is well understood in Germany, it is in these that 
the whole genius of the Reformer appears in its most complete and 
energetic form. They are bound together in the closest dramatic 
unity. They were all three produced in the latter half of the 
critical year 152^ when nearly three years controversy, since the 
publication of the Theses, on Oct. 31st, 1517> had convinced Luther 
of the falseness of the Court of Borne and the hollowness of its 
claims ; and they were immediately followed by the bull of excom 
munication in the winter of the same year and the summons to 
the Diet of Worms in 1521. Luther felt, as he says at the com 
mencement of his Address to the German Nobility, that " the time 
for silence had passed, and the time for speech had come." He 
evidently apprehended that reconciliation between himself and the 

425 



426 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES O# 

Court of Rome was impossible ; and he appears to have made up 
his mind to clear his conscience, whatever the cost. Accordingly, 
in these three works, with a full heart and with the consciousness 
that his life was in his hand, he spoke out the convictions which 
had been forced on him by the conduct of the papacy and of the 
papal theologians. 

Those convictions had been slowly, and even reluctantly, 
admitted ; but they had gradually accumulated in intense force 
in Luther s mind and conscience ; and when " the time for speech 
had come " they burst forth in a kind of volcanic eruption. Their 
maturity is proved by the completeness and thoroughness with 
which the questions at issue are treated. An insight into the 
deepest theological principles is combined with the keenest appre 
hension of practical details. In the Treatise ou Christian Liberty.. 
we have the most vivid of all embodiments of that life of faith 
to which the Reformer recalled the Church, and which was the 
^mainspring of the Reformation. In the Appeal to the German 
Mobility, he first asserted those rights of the laity and of the 
temporal power without the admission of which no reformation 
would have been practicable, and he then denounced with burning 
moral indignation the numerous and intolerable abuses which were 
upheld by Roman authority. In the third Treatise, on the Baby 
lonish Captivity of the Church, he applied the same cardinal 
principles to the elaborate sacramental system of the Church of 
Rome, sweeping away by means of them the superstitions with 
which the original institutions of Christ had been overlaid, and 
thus releasing men s consciences from a vast network of ceremonial 
oondage. The rest of the Reformation, it is not too much to say, 
was but the application of the principles vindicated in these three 
works. They were applied in different countries with varying 
wisdom and moderation ; but nothing essential was added to them. 
Luther s genius if a higher word be not justifiable brought 
forth at one birth, " with hands and feet," to use his own image, 
and in full energy, the vital ideas by which Europe was to be 
regenerated. He was no mere negative controversialist, attacking 
particular errors in detail. His characteristic was the masculine 
grasp with which he seized essential and eternal truths, and by their 
central light dispersed the darkness in which men were groping. 

It occurred therefore to my colleague and myself that a per 
manent service might perhaps be rendered to Luther s name, and 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 427 

towards a due appreciation of the principles of the Reformation, 
if these short but pregnant Treatises were made more accessible to 
the English public ; and although they might well be left to speak 
for themselves, there may perhaps be some readers to whom a few 
explanatory observations on Luther s position, theologically and 
politically, will not be unacceptable. My colleague, in the Essay 
which follows this, has dealt with the political course of the 
Reformation during Luther s career ; and in the present remarks 
an endeavour will simply be made to indicate the nature and the 
bearings of the central principles of the Reformer s life and work, 
as exhibited in the accompanying translations. 

It is by no mere accident of controversy that the Ninety-five 
Theses mark the starting-point of Luther s career ag_a_Reformer. 
TheT subject with which they dealt was not only in close connection 
with the centre of Christian^ truth, but it touched the characteristic 
thought of the Middle Ages. From the beginning to the end, 
those ages had been a stern school of moral and religious discipline, 
under what was universally regarded as the Divine authority of the 
Church. St. Anselm, with his intense apprehension of the Divine 
righteousness and of its inexorable demands, is at once the noblest 
and truest type of the great school of thought of which he was the 
founder. The special mission of the Church since the days of 
Gregory the Great had been to tame the fierce energies of the new 
barbarian world, and to bring the wild passions of the Teutonic 
races under the control of the Christian law. It was the task to 
which the necessities of the hour seemed to summon the Church, 
an(L she roused herself to the effort with magnificent devotion. 
Monks and schoolmen performed prodigies of self-denial and self- 
sacrifice, in order to realise in themselves, and to impose as far as 
possible on the world at large, the laws of perfection which the 
Church held before their vision. The glorious cathedrals which 
arose in the best period of the Middle Ages are but the visible 
types of those splendid structures of ideal virtues, which a monk 
like St. Bernard, or a schoolman like St. Thomas Aquinas, piled 
up by laborious thought and painful asceticism. Such men felt 
themselves at all times surrounded by a spiritual world, at once 
more glorious in its beauty and more awful in its terrors than 
either the pleasures or the miseries of this world could adequately 
represent. The great poet of the Middle Ages affords perhaps the 
most vivid representation of their character in this respect. The 



428 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 

horrible images of the Inferno, the keen sufferings of purification 
in the Purgatorio, form the terrible foreground behind which the 
Paradiso rises. Those visions of terror and dread and suffering 
had stamped themselves on the imagination of the mediaeval world, 
and lay at the root of the power with which the Church over 
shadowed it. In their origin they embodied a profound and noble 
truth. It was a high and Divine conception that the moral and 
spiritual world with which we are encompassed has greater heights 
and lower depths than are generally apprehended in the visible 
experience of this life ; and Dante has been felt to be in a unique 
degree the poet of righteousness. But it is evident, at the same 
time, what a terrible temptation was placed in the hands of a 
hierarchy who were believed, in whatever degree, to wield power 
over these spiritual realities. It was too easy to apply them, like 
the instruments of physical torture with which the age was familiar, 
to extort submission from tender consciences, or to make a bargain 
with selfish hearts. But in substance the menaces of the Church 
appealed to deep convictions of the human conscience, and the mass 
of men were not prepared to defy them. 

Now it was into this world of spiritual terrors thaju-Irtttfaer-^wftgr 
born, and he was in an eminent degree the legitimate child of the 
Middle Ages. The turning-point in his history is that the awful 
visions of which we have spoken, the dread of the Divine judg 
ments, brought home to him by one of the solemn accidents of life, 
checked him in a career which promised all worldly prosperity, and 
drove him into a monastery. There, as he tells us, he was driven 
almost f ran tio byhis vivid realisation of the demands of the~Prvinc 
righteousness ontSe one hand, and of his ownlncapacity to satisfy 
them on the other. With the intense reality characteristic of his 
nature, he took in desperate earnest all that the traditional teaching 
and example of the Middle Ages had taught him of the unbending 
necessities of Divine justice. But for the very reason that he 
accepted those necessities with such earnestness, he did but realise 
the more completely the hopelessness of his struggles to bring him 
self into conformity with them. It was not because he was out of 
sympathy with St. Anselm or St. Bernard or Dante that he burst 
the bonds of the system they represented, but, on the contrary, 



Nothing was more certain to him than that Divine 
justice is inexorable ; no conviction was more deeply fixed in his 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 429 

heart than that righteousness is the supreme law of human life. 
But the more he realised the truth, the more terrible he found it, 
for it seemed to shut him up in a cruel prison, against the bars of 
which he beat himself in vain. In one of his most characteristic 
passages, in the Introduction to his Latin Works, he describes how 
he was repelled and appalled by the statement of St. Paul respect 
ing the Gospel that " therein is the righteousness," or justice, u of G od 
revealed." For, he says, " however irreprehensible a life I had lived 
as a monk, I felt myself before God a sinner, with a most restless 
conscience, and I could not be confident that He was appeased 
by my satisfaction. I could not therefore love nay, I hated a 
God who was just and punished sinners ; and if not with silent 
blasphemy, certainly with vehement murmuring, I was indignant 
against God. As if, I said, it were not enough that sinners, 
miserable and eternally ruined by original sin, should be crushed 
with all kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, but God in 
the Gospel must needs add grief to grief, and by the Gospel itself 
must inflict still further on us His justice and anger. I raged with 
this savage and disturbed conscience, and I knocked importunately 
at Paul in that place, with burning thirst to know what St. Paul 
could mean." Such an experience is not a mere revolt against the 
Middle Ages. In great measure it is but the full realisation of 
their truest teaching. It is Dante intensified, and carried to the 
inevitable development of his principles. 

But if this be the case, what it meant was that the Middle Ages 
had brought men to a deadlock. They had led men up to a gate 
so strait that no human soul could pass through it. In the struggle, 
men had devised the most elaborate forms of self-torture, and had 
made the most heroic sacrifices, and in the very desperation of their 
efforts they had anticipated the more vivid insight and experience 
of Luther. The effort, in fact, had been too much for human 
nature, and the end of it had been that the Church had con 
descended to human weakness. The most obvious and easy way 
out of the difficulty was to modify, by virtue of some dispensing 
authority, the extreme requirements of Divine justice, and by a ; < 
variety of half -unconscious, half -acknowledged devices, to lessen 
the severity of the strait gate and of the narrow way. Such at 
power, as has been said, was an enormous temptation to unscru 
pulous Churchmen, and at length it led to the hideous abuses of 
such preaching of indulgences as that of Tetzel. In this form the 



430 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 

matter came before Luther in his office as parish priest and confessor ; 
and it will be apparent from the Theses that what first revolts him 
is the violation involved of the deepest principles which the Church 
of his djLV_2ia4jyLlJght_him. He had learned from it the inexorable 
character of the Divine law, the Tnv.eagif.y f^nd blessedness ofthe 
Divine discipline of punishment and suffering ; he had learned, as 
his first Thesis declares," thaOTie law~6f"Christian life is that of 
lifelong penitence ; and he denounced Tetzel s teaching as false to 
the Church herself, in full confidence that he would be supported 
by his ecclesiastical superiors. When he found that he was not 
when, to his surprise and consternation, he found that the papal 
theologians of the day, under the direct patronage of the Pope and 
the bishops, were ready to support the most flagrant evasions 
of the very principles on which their power had originally been 
based then at length, though most reluctantly, he turned against 
them, and directed against the corrupted Church of the close of 
the Middle Ages the very principles he had learned from its best 
representatives and from its noblest institutions. 

Luther, in the course of his spiritual struggles, had found the 
true deliverance from what we have ventured to call that deadlock 
to which the grand vision of Divine righteousness had led him. 
He realised that the strait gate was impassable by any human virtue ; 
but he had found the solution in the promise of a supernatural 
deliverance which was offered to faith. To quote again his words 
in the preface to his Latin works already referred to : " At length 
by the mercy of God, meditating days and nights, I observed the 
connection of the words, namely, Therein is the righteousness of 
God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The just shall 
live by faith. Then I began to understand the justice of God to 
be that by which the just man lives by the gift of God, namely, by 
faith, and that the meaning was that the Gospel reveals that justice 
of God by which He justifies us beggars through faith, as it is 
written, The just shall live by faith. Here I felt myself ab 
solutely born again ; the gates of heaven were opened, and I had 
entered paradise itself. From thenceforward the face of the whole 
Scriptures appeared changed to me. I ran through the Scriptures, 
as my memory would serve me, and observed the same analogy in 
other words as, thework of God, that is, the work which God 
works in us ; the^strength ol God,"1!IiaTwtE!rwmcn Me makes us 
strong ; the wisdom of God, that with which He makes us wise ; 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 431 



the power of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. And 
now as much as I had formerly hated that word the justice of 
God, so much did I now love it and extol it as the sweetest of words 
to me ; and thus that place in Paul was to me truly the gate of 
paradise." In other words, Luther had realised that the Gospel,/ 
while reasserting the inexorable nature of the moral law andj 
deepening its demands, had revealed a supernatural and Divine 
means of satisfying and fulfilling it. All barriers had thus been 
removed between God and man, and men had been placed in the 
position of children living by faith on His grace and bounty. He 
offers to bestow upon them the very righteousness He requires 
from them, if they will but accept it at His hands as a free gift. 
Their true position is no longer that of mere subjects living under 
a law which they must obey at their peril. They may, indeed, by 
their own act remain in that condition, with all its terrible con" 
sequences. But God invites them to regard Him as their Father, 
to live in the light of His countenance, and to receive from 
the daily food of their souls. The most intimate personal relation 
is thus established between Himself and them ; and the righteousv 
ness which by their own efforts they could never acquire He ig^ 
ready to create in them if they will but live with Him in faith and 
trust. That faith, indeed^ musi_neds be the beginning, and the 
most essential condition, of this Divine life. Faith is the first 
condition of all fellowship between persons ; and if a man is to live 
in personal fellowship with God, he must trust Him absolutely, 
believe His promises, and rest his whole existence here and here 
after upon His word. But let a man do this, and then God s law 
ceases to be like a flaming sword, turning every way, with too fierce 
an edge for human hearts to bear. It assumes the benignant glow 
of a revelation of perfect righteousness which God Himself will 
bestow on all who ask it at His hands. 

This belief is essentially bound up with a distinction on which 
great stress is laid in the Theses. It touches a point at once of the 
highest theological import and of the simplest practical experience. 
This is the Higfjpp.tinn >"^iwjaen guilt and punishment, or, in other 
words, between personal forgiveness and the remission of the con 
sequences of sins. In our mutual relations, a son may be forgiven 
by his father, a wrong-doer by the person whom he has injured, and 
yet it may neither be possible nor desirable that the offender should 
be at once released from the consequences of his offence. But to 



432 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 

all generous hearts the personal forgiveness is infinitely more 
precious than the remission of the penalty, and Luther had learned I 
from the Scriptures to regard our relation to God in a similar light/ \ 
He realised that he must live, here and hereafter, in- persrmaj 
relationship to God ; and the forgivejiess of God, the removal from 
him, in God s sight, of the imputation and the brand of guilt, his 
reception into God s unclouded favour this was the supreme 
necessity of his spiritual existence. If this were assured to him, 
not only had he no fear of punishment, but he could welcome it, 
whatever its severity, as part of the discipline of the Divine and 
loving hand to which he had trusted himself. His deepest indigna 
tion, consequently, was aroused^by preaching which, under official 
sanction, urged men to buy in4ulgence_from punishment, of what 
ever kind, as practically the greatest spiritual benefit they could 
obtain ; and he devoted his whole energy to assert the supreme 
blessing of that remission from guilt of which the preachers of 
indulgences said practically nothing. It is this remission of guilt, 
this personal forgiveness, which is the essential element in the 
justification of which he spoke. It involves of course salvation 
from the final ruin and doom which sin, and the moral corruption 
of our nature, would naturally entail ; but its chief virtue does not 
consist in deliverance from punishment, nor does it in any way 
derogate from the truth that " we must all appear before the 
judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things 
done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be 
good or bad." What it taught men was to accept all God s judg 
ments and discipline in perfect peace of soul, as being assured of 
His love and favour. 

No divine, in fact, has ever dwelt with more intense cpnvictioji 
on the blessedness of the discipline of suffering and of the Cross. 
The closing^Theses expruaij hisnteefoest feelings in this respect, and 
a passage in one of his letters, written before the controversy about 
indulgences had arisen, affords a most interesting illustration of 
the manner in which the principles he came forward to assert had 
grown out of his personal experience. "Away," he says in the 
Ninety-second and Ninety-third Theses, u with all those prophets 
who say to the people of Christ, Peace, peace, and there is no peace. 
Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, The 
Crosp, the Cross, and there is no cross." These somewhat enigmatic 
expressions are at once explained in the letter referred to, written. 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 433 

to a prior of the Augustinian order on the 22nd of June, 1516. * 
He says, 

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

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

One other extract of the same import it may be well to quote 
from these early letters, as it is similarly the germ of one of the 
noblest passages in Luther s subsequent explanation of the Ninety- 
five Theses.f The letter was addressed to a brother Augustinian 
on the 15th of April, 1516. Luther says, 

" The Cross of Christ has been divided throughout the whole 
world, and every one meets with his own portion of it. Do not 
you therefore reject it, but rather accept it as the most holy relic, 
to be kept, not in a gold or silver chest, but in a golden heart, that 
is, a heart imbued with gentle charity. For if, by contact with the 
flesh and blood of Christ, the wood of the Cross received such 
consecration that its relics are deemed supremely precious, how 
much more should injuries, persecutions, sufferings, and the hatred 
of men, whether of the just or of the unjust, be regarded as the 

* Letters, edited by De Wette, i. 27. 

f It is a pleasure to be able to refer for this passage to the first volume of 
the new Critical Edition of Luther s Works, now in course of publication, 
in Germany, p. (J13, line 21. This magnificent edition, prepared under the 
patronage of the German Emperor, is the best of all contributions to the 
Commemoration of 1883. It must supersede all other editions, and it ought 
to find a place in all considerable libraries in England. A translation 
of the passage in question will be found in the Bampton Lectures of the 
present writer, p. 186. 

28 



434 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OP 

most sacred of all relics relics which, not by the mere touch of 
His flesh, but by the charity of His most bitterly tried heart and 
of His Divine will, were embraced, kissed, blessed, and abundantly 
consecrated ; for thus was a curse transformed into a blessing, and 
injury into justice, and passion into glory, and the Cross into joy." * 

The few letters, in fact, in our possession, written by Luther 
before he came forward in 1517, are sufficient to afford the most 
vivid proof both of the_mature though + \\pti AYpprienp.p in which 
his convictions were rooted^and oftheir being prompted, not by 
the spirit of reckless confidence to which they have sometimes been 
ignorantly ascribed, but by the deepest sympathy with the lessons 
of the Cross. The purport of his characteristic doctrine of justi 
fication by faith was not to give men the assurance of immunity 
from suffering and sorrow, as the consequence of sin, but to give 
them peace of conscience and joy of heart in the midst of suclj 
punishments. What it proclaimed was that, if men would but 
believe it, they could at any moment grasp God s forgiveness, and 
live henceforth in the assured happiness of His personal favour and 
love. Of this blessing His promise was the only possible warrant, 
and, like all other promises, it could only be accepted by faith. 
Every man is invited to believe it, since it is offered to all for 
Christ s sake ; but, by the nature of the case, none can enjoy it who 
do not believe it. 

The ground, however, on which this promise was based affords 
another striking illustration of the way in which Luther s teaching 
was connected with that of the Middle Ages. Together with that 
keen apprehension of the Divine judgments and of human sin just 
mentioned, the awful vision of our Lord s sufferings and of His 
atonement overshadowed the whole thought of those times. St. 
Anselm, in the Cur Deus Homo, had aroused deeper meditation on 
this subject than had before been bestowed upon it ; and in this, as 
in other matters, he is the type of the grand school of thought 
which he founded. As in his mind, so throughout the Middle Ages, 
in proportion to the apprehension of the terrible nature of the 
Divine justice is the prominence given to the sacrificial means for 
averting the Divine wrath. The innumerable masses of the later 
Middle Ages were so many confessions of the deep-felt need of 
atonement ; and, formal as they ultimately became, they were in 

* Letters, edited by De Wette, i. 19, 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 435 

intention so many cries for forgiveness from the terror-struck 
consciences of sinful men and women. Luther was a true child of 
the Church in his keen apprehension of the same need, and it was 
precisely because he realised it with exceptional truth and depth 
that he was forced to seek some deeper satisfaction than the offer 
ing of masses could afford. He reasserted the truth that the need 
had been met and answered once for all by the sacrifice on the 
Cross ; and by proclaiming the sufficiency of that one eternal offer 
ing he swept away all the " sacrifices of masses," while at the same 
time he provided the answer to the craving to which they testified. 
The doctrine of the Atonement, as asserted at the Keformation, is| 
the true answer to tEat cry of the human conscience which the 
Church of the preceding age had vainly endeavoured to satisfy. 1 
The ;Sacrament, of which the Mass was a perversion, was thutf 
restored to its true character as a pteflge and an instrument of 



blessings bestowed by God, instead of a propitiatory offering on the 
part of men. The cross of Christ, the favourite symbol of the 
mediaeval Church, was thus held aloft by the Reformer iff" still 
deeper reality, as the central symbol of the Church s message, and as 
the one adequate ground for the faith to which he called men. 

Now the view of the Christian life involved in this principle 
of justification by faith found its most complete and beautiful 
expression in the treatise On Christian Liberty, translated in this 
volume ; and a brief notice of the teaching of that treatise will 
best serve to explain the connection between Luther s cardinal 
doctrine and the other principles which he asserted. As is explained 
at the close of the introductory letter to Leo X. (p. 255), he designed 
it as a kind of peace-offering to the Pope, and as a declaration of 
the sole objects he had at heart, and to which he desired to devote 
his life. " It is a small matter," he says, "if you look to its bulk, 
but unless I mistake, it is a summary of the Christian life in small 
compass, if you apprehend its meaning." In fact, it presents the 
most complete view of Luther s theology, alike in its principles 
and in its practice, almost entirely disembarrassed of the contro 
versial elements by which, under the inevitable pressure of 
circumstances, his other works, and especially those of a later 
date, were disturbed. Perhaps the only part of his works to 
compare with it in this respect is the precious collection of his 
House-postills, or Exposition of the Gospels for the Sundays of 
the Christian Year. They were delivered within his domestic 



436 ON 2 HE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OP 

circle, and recorded by two of his pupils, and though but im 
perfectly reported, they are treasures of evangelical exposition, 
exhibiting in a rare degree the exquisitely childlike character of 
the Reformer s faith, and marked by all the simplicity and the 
poetry of feeling by which his mind was distinguished. It is by 
such works as these, and not simply by his controversial treatises 
or commentaries, that Luther must be judged, if we wish either 
to understand his inner character, or to comprehend the vast 
personal influence he exerted. But ^in_its__essence the Gospel 
which he preached, the substance of what he had learned from 
the temptations, the prayers, the meditations tentationes, orationes, 
meditationes of his life as a monk, is sufficiently embodied in the 
short Treatise on Christian Liberty. 

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



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 437 

and final deliverance from evil in the future, if he would but 
trust Him. The mere possession of such a promise outweighed in \ 
Luther s view all other considerations whatever, and absolute faith 
was due to it. No higher offence could be offered to G-od than to 
reject or doubt His promise, and at the same time no higher honour 
could be rendered Him than to believe it. The importance and 
value of the virtue of faith is thus determined entirely by the 
promise on which it rests. These " promises of God are words of 
holiness, truth, righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of 
universal goodness, and the soul which cleaves to them with a firm 
faith is so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that 
it not only partakes in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all their 
virtue. For if the touch of Christ was health, how much more 
does that most tender spiritual touch, nay, absorption of the word, 
communicate to the soul all that belongs to the word ! In this 
way therefore the soul through faith alone, without works, is by 
the word of God justified, sanctified, endued with truth, peace, 
and liberty, and filled full with every good thing, and is truly made 
the child of God. ... As is the word, such is the soul made by 
it, just as iron exposed to fire glows like fire on account of its 
union with the fire." Moreover, just as it is faith which unites 
husband and wife, so faith in Christ unites the soul to Him in 
indissoluble union. For " if a true marriage, nay, by far the most 
perfect of all marriages, is accomplished between them for human 
marriages are but feeble types of this one great marriage then it 
follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good 
things as evil things ; so that whatsoever Christ possesses the 
believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and 
whatever belongs to the soul Christ claims as His. . . . Thus the Jfj . 
believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free f / 
from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with 
the eternal righteousness, life and salvation of its Husband Christ." 
It is essential to dwell upon these passages, since the force of 
the Reformer s great doctrine cannot possibly be apprehended as 
long as he is supposed to attribute the efficacy of which he speaks 
to any inherent quality in the human heart itself. It is the word 
and promise of God which is the creative force. But this summons 
a man into a sphere above this world, bids him rest upon the 
Divine love which speaks to him, and places him on the eternal 
foundation of a direct covenant with God Himself in Christ. As 



438 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 

in the Theses, so in this treatise, Luther reiterates that it in no 
way implies exemption from the discipline of suffering. " Yea," he 
says, " the more of a Christian any man is, to so many the more 
evils, sufferings, and deaths is he subject, as we see in the first 
place in Christ the first-born and in all His holy brethren." The 
power of which he speaks is a spiritual one " which rules in the 
midst of enemies, in the midst of distresses. It is nothing else 
than that strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that I can 
turn all things to the profit of my salvation ; so that even the 
cross and death are compelled to serve me and to work together 
for my salvation." " It is a lofty and eminent dignity, a true and 
almighty dominion, a spiritual empire, in which there is nothing so 
good, nothing so bad, as not to work together for my good, if only 
I believe." 

If we compare this language with those conceptions of spiritual 
terror by which Luther had been driven into a monastery, and 
under which, like so many in his age, he had groaned and struggled 
in despair, we can appreciate the immense deliverance which he had 
experienced. The Divine promise had lifted him " out of darkness 
and out of the shadow of death, and had broken his bonds in 
sunder." It is this which is the source of the undaunted and 
joyful faith which marks the whole of the Reformer s public 
career. " Whose heart," he exclaims, " would not rejoice in its 
inmost core at hearing these things? Whose heart, on receiving 
so great a consolation, would not become sweet with the love of 
Christ, a love to which it can never attain by any laws or works ? 
Who can injure such a heart, or make it afraid? If the conscious 
ness of sin or the horror of death rush in upon it, it is prepared 
to hope in the Lord, and is fearless of such evils and undisturbed, 
until it shall look down upon its enemies." Such a conviction, 
uttered in such burning language, lifted the same cloud of darkness 
and fear from the hearts of the common people of that day, and 
was welcomed as good tidings of great joy by multitudes of 
burdened and terror-stricken hearts. Nothing is more characteristic 
of Luther s preaching, and of the Reformers who follow him, than 
the sense they display that they have before them souls " weary 
and heavy-laden." Their language presupposes the prevalence of 
that atmosphere of spiritual apprehension and gloom already 
described, and their grand aim is to lead men out of it into the 
joy and peace and liberty of the Gospel. The consequence is that 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 439 



a new confidence, hope, and energy is infused into the moral and 
spiritual world of that day. The tone of unbounded joy and hope 
which marks the earliest Christian literature, particularly in tke 
Apostolic Fathers, reappears in such a treatise as we are considering, 
and in the whole religious thought of the Reformers ; and it would 
almost seem as if the long agony of the Middle Ages had but 
enhanced the joy of the final deliverance. 

It is unnecessary, for our present purpose, to dwell long upon 
the second point of the treatise, in which Luther illustrates his second 
proposition : that " a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of 
all and subject to every one." It will be enough to observe that 
Luther is just as earnest in insisting upon the application of faith 
in the duties of charity and, self -discipline, as upon the primary 
importance of faith itself. The spirit of faith, he says, " applies 
itself with cheerfulness and zeal" to restrain .and repress the 
impulses of the lower nature. u Here works begin ; here a man 
must not take his ease ; here he must give heed to exercise his 
body by fastings, watchings, labo ur, and other reasonable discipline, 
so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform 
itself to the inner man and to faith." Similarly he will give 
himself up to the service of others, and it is partly with a view to 
rendering them such service that he will discipline his body and 
keep it in due energy and soundness. He starts from the belief 
that God, without merit on his part, has of His pure and free mercy 
bestowed on him, an unworthy creature, all the riches of justifi 
cation and salvation in Christ, so that he is no longer in want of 
anything except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a 
Father then, who has overwhelmed him with these inestimable 
riches of His, must he not freely, cheerfully, and from voluntary 
zeal, do all that he knows will be pleasing to Him and acceptable 
in His sight V " I will therefore/ he says, " give myself as a sort 
of Christ to my neighbour, as Christ has given Himself to me ; 
and will do nothing in this life except what I see will be needful, 
advantageous, and wholesome for my neighbour, since by faith I 
abound in all good things in Christ." These practical considerations 
will afford the measure by which a man determines the discipline 
to which he subjects himself and the ceremonies which he observes. 
They will not be observed for their own sake, _but as means to an 
end, and therefore will never be practised in excess, as though there 
-were some merit in the performance of them. They are like the 



440 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 

scaffoldings of builders, valuable only as a temporary assistance 
in the construction of the building itself. " We do not condemn 
works and ceremonies ; nay, we set the highest value on them. We 
only condemn that opinion of works which regards them as con 
stituting true righteousness." In asserting these principles, Luther 
was certainly putting the axe to the root of the portentous growth 
of ascetic and ceremonial observances which prevailed in his day, 
and which were too generally regarded as of the very essence of 
religion. He enabled men, as it were, to look on such ceremonies 
from the outside, as a thing external to them, and to reduce or 
rearrange them with a simple view to practical usefulness. But 
no more earnest exhortations to due self-discipline, and to true 
charity could well be found than are contained in the second part 
of the De Libertate. 

It will be evident, however, what a powerful instrument of 
reformation was placed in men s hands by the principles of this 
treatise. Every Christian man, by virtue of the promise of Christ, 
was proclaimed free, so far as the eternal necessities of his soul 
were concerned, from all external and human conditions whatever. 
Nothing, indeed, was further from Luther s intention or inclination! 
than the overthrow of existing order, or the disparagement of any 
existing authority which could be reasonably justified. His letter 
to Pope Leo, prefixed to the treatise we have been considering, shows 
that, while denouncing unsparingly the abuses of the Court of Rome, 
he was sincere in his deference to the see of Rome itself. But the 
principle of Justification by Faith enabled him to proclaim that if 
that see or any existing Church authority misused its power, and 
refused to reform abuses, then, in the last resort, the soul of man 
could do without it. In that day at all events and perhaps in our 
own to a greater extent than is sometimes supposed this conviction 
supplied the fulcrum which was essential for any effectual reforming 
movement. As is observed by the Church historian Gieseler, in his 
admirable account of the early history of the Reformation, the 
papacy had ever found its strongest support in the people at large. 
In spite of all the discontent and disgust provoked by the corruption 
of the Church and the clergy, an enormous though indefinite 
authority was still popularly attributed to the Pope and the ecclesi 
astical hierarchy. The Pope was believed to be in some sense or 
other the supreme administrator of spiritual powers which were 
effectual in the next world as well as in the present ; and consequently 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 441 

when any controversy with the Church came to a crisis men shrank 
from direct defiance of the papal authority. They did not feel 
that they had any firm ground on which they could stand if they 
incurred its formal condemnation ; and thus it always had at its 
command, in the strongest possible sense, the ultima ratio of rulers. 
The convictions to which Luther had been led at once annihilated 
these pretensions. " One thing, and one alone," he declared, "is 
necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty : and that is 
the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ." As we have 
seen, he proclaimed it "for certain, and firmly established, that the 
soul can do without everything except the word of God." It is 
the mission of the Christian ministry, in its administration of the 
word and sacraments, to convey this Gospel to the soul, and to 
arouse a corresponding faith. But the promise is not annexed 
indissolubly to that administration, and the only invariable rule of 
salvation is that " the just shall live by faith." By this principle, 
that vague fear of the spiritual powers of the hierarchy was removed, 
and men were endowed with real Christian liberty. 

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



* See, for instance, Bishop Cosin s Works, Appendix, vol. i., p. 31, in the 
Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. 



442 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 



question. By whatever right the exercise of the ministry may be 
restricted to a particular body of men, what he asserted was that 
the functions of the clergy are simply ministerial, and that they do 
but exercise, on behalf of all, powers which all virtually possess. 
This principle Luther proceeded to assert in the first of the 
treatises translated in this volume : the Address to the Christian 
Nohihtji of the German Nation respecting the Reformation of the 
CJiristian Estate. This treatise is perhaps the one which appealed 
most widely and directly to the German nation at large. Luther 
completed it at the very moment when the bull of excommunication 
against him was being prepared, and it contributed, perhaps more 
than anything, to paralyse the influence of that bull with the mass 
of the people and their lay leaders. It appeared in August, 1520, 
and by the 18th of that month more than four thousand copies had 
been already dispersed a prodigious circulation, considering the 
state of literature at that day. The reader, however, will not be 
surprised at this popularity of the treatise, when he sees with what 
astonishing vigour, frankness, humour, good sense, and at the same 
time intense moral indignation, Luther denounces in it the corrup 
tions of the Church, and the injuries inflicted by the Court of 
Rome on the German people. So tremendous an indictment, 
sustained with such intense and concentrated force, could hardly 
be paralleled in literature. The truth of the charges alleged in it 
could be amply sustained by reference to Erasmus s works alone, 
particularly to the Encomium Morice ; but Erasmus lacked alike 
the moral energy necessary to rouse the action of the laity, and the 
spiritual insight necessary to justify that action. Luther possessed 
both ; and it was the combination of the two which rendered him so 
mighty a force. It is this perhaps which essentially distinguishes 
him from previous reformers. They attacked particular errors and 
abuses, and deserve unbounded honour for the protests they raised ; 
and Wycliffe, in particular, merits the homage of Englishmen as one 
of the chief motive powers in the first reforming movement. But 
they did _npt_ assert, at least with sufficient clearness, the central 
principles without which all reform was impracticable that of the 
equal rights of laity and clergy, and that of the soul s independence 
of all human power, by virtue of the truth of justification by faith. 
Luther s doctrine of Christian liberty was the emancipation alike 
of individuals and of the laity at large. It vindicated for the whole 
lay estate, and for all ranks and conditions of lay life, a spiritual 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 443 

dignity, and a place in the spiritual life of the Church. It restored 
a sense of independent responsibility to all natural authorities ; 
and it reasserted the sacredness of all natural relations. Practically, 
even if not theoretically, the Roman system had disparaged the 
ordinary relations of life as compared with the so-called " religious " 
or ecclesiastical. Luther, by pjacing all men and women on the same 
spiritual standing-ground, swept away any such privileges] and gave 
men as clear a conscience, and as great a sense of spiritual dignity, 
in the ordinary duties of marriage, of fatherhood, of government, 
and in the common offices of life, as in any ecclesiastical order. 

The Address to the Nobility of the German Nation exhibits 
these principles, and their application to the practical problems of 
the day, in the most vigorous and popular form ; and if some 
expressions appear too sweeping and violent, due allowance must 
be made for the necessity which Luther must have felt of appeal 
ing with the utmost breadth and force to the popular mind. But 
it remains to consider a further aspect of these principles which 
is illustrated by the third treatise translated in this volume : that 
on the Babylonish Captivity of the Church. Luther, as has been 
seen, was appealing to laity and clergy alike, on the ground of their 
spiritual freedom, to abolish the abuses of the Roman Church. 
But it became at once a momentous question by what principles 
the exercise of that liberty was to be guided, and within what 
limits it was to be exerted. In a very short time fanatics sprang 
up who claimed to exercise such liberty without any restrictions 
at all, and who refused to recognise any standard but that of their 
own supposed inspiration. But the service which Luther rendered 
in repelling such abuses of his great doctrine was only second to 
that of establishing the doctrine itself. The rule of faith and 
practice on which he insisted was, indeed, necessarily involved in 
his primary principle. Faith, as has been seen, was with him no 
abstract quality, but was simply a response to the word and promise 
of God. That word, accordingly, in its various forms, was in 
Luther s mind the sole creative power of the Christian life. In the 
form of a simple promise, it is the basis of justification and of our 
whole spiritual vitality ; and similarly in its more general form, 
as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, it contains all truths, alike of 
belief and of practice, which are essential to salvation here and 
hereafter. The word of G-od, in whatever form, whether a simple 
promise, or a promise embodied in a sacrament, or a series of 



444 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 

revelations made by God s Spirit to the soul of man, as recorded in 
the Bible, is the grand reality which, in Luther s view, dwarfed all 
other realities on earth. It must needs do so, if it be a reality at 
all ; but scarcely any one has grasped this truth with such intense 
insight as Luther. Consequently, in his view, the Anabaptist, who 
hold himself emancipated from the authority of God s word on the 
one side, was as grievously in error as the Romanist on the other, who 
superseded its authority by that of the Church ; and in applying 
his great principle and working out the Reformation, Luther s task 
consisted in upholding the due authority of the Scriptures against 
the extremes on both sides. 

Now in the treatise on the Babylonish Captivity of the Church 
he applies this rule, in connection with his main principle, to the 
elaborate sacramental system of the Church of Rome. Of the seven 
sacraments recognised by that Church, he recognises, strictly speak 
ing, only two : ^apijm.and the Lord s Supper ; and the connection 
of this conclusion with the central truth he was asserting is a point 
of deep interest. Here, too, the one consideration which, in his 
view, overpowers every other is the supreme import of a promise 
or word of God. But there are two institutions under the Gospel 
which are distinguished from all others by a visible sign, instituted 
by Christ Himself, as a pledge of the Divine promise. A sign so 
instituted, and with such a purpose, constitutes a peculiarly precious 
form of those Divine promises which are the life of the soul ; and, for 
the same reason that the Divine word and the Divine promise are 
supreme in all other instances, so must these be supreme and unique 
among ceremonies. The distinction, by which the two sacraments 
acknowledged by the Reformed Churches are separated from the 
remaining five of the Roman Church, was thus no question of names, 
but of things. It was a question whether a ceremony instituted by 
Christ s own command, and embodying His own promise in a visible 
pledge, could for a moment be put on the same level with cere 
monies, however edifying, which had been established solely by the 
authority or custom of the Church. It was of the essence of Luther s 
teaching to assert a paramount distinction between these classes of 
ceremonies, and to elevate the two Divine pledges of forgiveness 
and spiritual life to a height immeasurably superior to all other 
institutions. He hesitates, indeed, whether to allow an exception 
in favour of absolution, as conveying undoubtedly a direct promise 
from Christ ; but he finally decides against it, on the ground that 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 445 



it is without any visible and Divinely appointed sign, and is after 
all only an application of the Sacrament of baptism. 

If, moreover, the force of his argument on this subject is to be 
apprehended, due attention must be paid to the efficacy which ho 
thus attributes to the two sacraments. The cardinal point on which 
he insists in respect to them is that they are direct pledges from 
God, through Christ, and thus contain the whole virtue of the 
most solemn Divine promises. They are, as it were, the sign 
and seal of those promises. They are messages from God, not 
mere acts of devotion on the part of man. In baptism the point 
of importance is not that men dedicate themselves or their children 
to Him, but that He, through His minister, gives them a promise 
and a pledge of His forgiveness and of His fatherly goodwill. 
Similarly in the Holy Communion the most important point is not 
the offering made on the part of man, but the promise and assurance 
of communion with the body and blood of Christ made on the 
part of God. It is this which constitutes the radical distinction 
between the Lutheran and the so-called Zwinglian view of the 
sacraments. Under the latter view they are ceremonies which 
embody and arouse due feelings on the part of men. On the former 
principle, they are ceremonies which embody direct messages and 
promises from God. 

It may be worth while to observe in passing the position which 
Luther assumes towards the doctrine of Transubstantiation. What 
he is concerned to maintain is that there is a real presence in the 
Sacrament. All he is concerned to deny is that transubstantiation 
is the necessary explanation of that presence. In other words, it 
is not necessary to believe in transubstantiation in order to believe 
in the Real Presence. There seems a clear distinction between this 
view and the formal doctrine of consubstantiation as afterwards 
elaborated by Lutheran divines ; and Luther s caution, at least in 
this treatise, in dealing with so difficult a point, is eminently cha- 
racteristic of the real moderation with which he formed his views, 
as distinguished from the energy with which he asserted them. 
Another interesting point in this treatise is the urgency with which 
he protests against the artificial restraints upon the freedom of 
marriage which had been imposed by the Roman see. It would 
have been too much to expect that in applying, single handed, to 
so difficult a subject as marriage, the rule of rejecting every re 
striction not expressly de clared in the Scriptures, Luther should 



446 ON THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF 



have avoided mistakes. But they are at least insignificant in com 
parison with the value of the principle he asserted that all questions 
of the marriage relation should be subjected to the authority of 
Holy Scripture alone. That principle provided, by its inherent 
force, a remedy for any errors in particulars which Luther or any 
individual divine might commit. The Eoman principle, on the 
contrary, admitted of the most scandalous and unlimited elasticity ; 
and of all the charges brought by Roman controversialists against 
Luther s conduct, none is marked by such effrontery as their 
accusations on this point. While there are few dispensations 
which their Church is not prepared, for what it considers due 
causes, to allow, Luther recalled men s consciences to the Divine 
law on the subject. He reasserted the true dignity and sanctity 
of the marriage relation, and established the rule of Holy Scripture 
as the standard for its due control. 

Such are the main truths asserted in the treatises translated in 
this volume, and it is but recognising a historical fact to designate 
them " first principles of the Reformation." From them, and by 
means of them, the whole of the subsequent movement was worked 
out. They were applied in different countries in different ways ; 
and we are justly proud in this country of the wisdom and 
moderation exhibited by our Reformers. But it ought never to be 
forgotten that for the assertion of the principles themselves we, 
like the rest of Europe, are indebted to the genius and the courage 
of Luther. All of those principles justification by faith, Christian 
liberty, the spiritual rights and powers of the laity, the true 
character of the sacraments, the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures 
as the supreme standard of belief and practice were asserted by 
the Reformer, as the treatises in this volume bear testimony, almost 
simultaneously, in the latter half of the year 1520. At the time 
he asserted them, the Roman Church was still in full power ; and 
in the next year he had to face the whole authority of the papacy 
and of the empire, and to decide whether, at the risk of a fate like 
that of Huss, he would stand by these truths. These were the 
truths the cardinal principles of the whole subsequent Reforma 
tion which he was called on to abandon at Worms ; and his refusal 
to act against his conscience ..at_ once translated them into vivid 
action and reality. It was one thing for Englishmei^"several 
decades after 1520, to apply these principles with the wisdom 
and moderation of which we are proud : it was another thing to be 



LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 447 

the Horatius of that vital struggle. These graiid facts speak for 
themselves, and need only to be understood in order to justify 
the honours now paid to the Keformer s memory. 

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

u Das Wort sie sollen lasseu stahn 

Und kein Dank dazu haben, 
Er 1st bei uns wohl auf dein Plan 
Mit seinem Geist uud Gaben." 

Luther believed that (u>d had laid down the laws which were 
essential to the due guidance of human nature, that He had pre 
scribed sufficiently the limits within which that nature might range, 
and had indicated the trees of which it could not safely eat. To 
erect any rules beyond these as of general obligation, to restrict 
the free play of nature by any other limitations, he treated as an 



448 LUTHER S LIFE AND TEACHING 

unjust violation of liberty, which would provoke a dangerous 
reaction. But let men be brought face to face with God, and with 
His reasonable and merciful laws, let them be taught that He is 
their Father, that all His restrictions are for their benefit, all His 
punishments for their reformation, all His restraints on liberty for 
their ultimate good, and you have then established an authority 
which cannot be shaken, arid under which human nature may be 
safely left to develop. In this faith, but in this alone, he let loose 
men s natural instincts ; he taught men that married life, and lay 
life, and all lawful occupations, were holy and Divine, provided they 
were carried on in faith and in obedience to G-od s will. The rgsuU- 
was a fcnrst of new life wherever the Reformation was adopted, 
alike in national energies, in literature, in all social developments, 
and in natural science. But while we prize and celebrate the 
liberty thus won, let us beware of forgetting, or allowing others to 
forget, that it is essentially a ChnstiajoJib^rty, and that no other 
free. Luther s whole work, and his whole ^ 



lay in his recognition of our personal relation to God, and of a 
direct revelation, promise, and command, given to us by God. Any 
influences, under whatever colour, which tend to obscure the reality 
of that revelation, which would substitute for it any mere natural 
laws or forces, are undoing Luther s work, and contradicting his 
most essential principles. If he was a great Reformer, it was because 
he was a great divine ; if he was a friend of the people, it was 
because he was the friend of God. 



THE POLITICAL COUESE OF THE 
EEFOEMATION IN GEEMANY 

BY PROFESSOR BUCHHEIM 



political Course of tbe IReformation 
in (Bermanp (15171546) 



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

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

It is true the ancient German institution of royalty was not 
actually abolished, but it was so much eclipsed by the more 
pompous, though recent, dignity that in the course of time its 
former existence was almost entirely forgotten, or at least looked 

* Cp. pp. 235 sq., in this volume. 
451 



452 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

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

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

Under the powerful rule of Henry I. (919 936), surnamed " The 
Fowler," or more appropriately " the founder of the German 
Empire" and also under the still more splendid reign of his son, 
Otho the Great (936-973), nay, even under the first Prankish 
emperors (1024 1056), the authority of the Roman hierarchy was 
considerably diminished, while, on the other hand, the influence of 
the German clergy at home had greatly increased, which circum 
stance was a powerful factor in the conflict between the iron Pope 
Gregory VII. and the impetuous and vacillating Emperor Henry IV. 
(10561106), and brought about, in conjunction with the high 
handed dealings of the self -dubbed " Roman Senators " of Germany, 
the degradation of the German empire. The papacy was now in 
the zenith of its power and glory, so that Gregory VII. could 
boastingly compare the Pope to the sun, and the Emperor to the 
moon ; and although Henry IV. ultimately succeeded in taking 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 453 

revenge for his humiliation at Canossa, he never could wipe out its 
shame, and, what is more, he was unable to suppress or eradicate 
the ideas represented by his defeated enemy, which had taken a 
firm hold on the minds of men. People believed in the supremacy 
of the Pope even when he was driven from his seat of government; 
for his realm was of a spiritual kind, and he had his invisible throne, 
as it were, in the hearts of Christian believers. An erring pope 
was still the visible representative of the Church, and the priests 
for the most part remained faithful to him under all circumstances. 
Such, however, was not the case with the emperors and the princes. 
In the first instance the former had no absolute power ; secondly, 
they were elected by men who considered themselves their equals ; 
and lastly, from the moment they lost their throne no matter 
what the reasons were they ceased to have a claim on the obedience 
of the people. The priests wished for a powerful pope, because he 
was the natural guardian of their interests ; whilst the German 
princes objected to a powerful emperor, because they trembled for 
their own independence and local authority. 

If the German emperors had not been constantly chasing the 
phantom of royal dignity in Italy, in order to be plausibly at 
least entitled to the vainglorious designation of " Roman kings," 
they might have directed their whole energy to the consolidation 
of their power at home, and have held their own against popes and 
Prince-Electors. Unfortunately, however, they were constantly 
attracted by the delusive brilliancy of possessions in Italy, as if by 
an ignis fatuus ; thus leading on the best forces of Germany to 
moral and physical ruin, and leaving their native country an easy 
prey to scheming priests and ambitious nobles. The result was 
that, towards the end of the eleventh century, the Emperor of 
Germany had neither any influence on the priests, who now 
depended entirely upon Rome, nor any power over the nobles, 
whose fiefs had become hereditary, nor did he possess any consider 
able domains or actual revenue in his imperial capacity. He had 
nothing but the high-sounding titles of successor of the Cassars and 
of ruler of the whole Christian world. 

As a matter of course, under these circumstances all progress of 
national life and culture was impeded. It did not spring spon 
taneously from within, nor did it receive any impulse from without. 
The Germans did not much benefit intellectually in any way by their 
contact with the Italians. The conquered have oftentimes become 



454 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

the teachers of their conquerors, but only when the latter settled 
in the vanquished country and made it their home. The German 
hordes, however, who crossed the Alps at the behests of their 
sovereigns, and urged on by the desire for adventure, warfare, and 
rapine, never permanently settled, as a body, in the flowery plains 
and nourishing towns of Italy. Numbers of those who survived 
the sanguinary battles fought in Italy perished in the unaccustomed 
climate ; the others returned home, frequently enriched by plunder 
and generally tainted by depraved morals. Thus the Germans did 
not even derive that small advantage from their connection with 
the Italians who at that time did not themselves possess any 
literature or culture in the highest sense of the word which a 
permanent settlement in Italy would have conferred on them. 

The intellectual life of the Germans did not begin to flourish 
before the times of the Hohenstaufen (11381254). Unfortunately 
both Frederick I. (Barbarossa) and Frederick II. were almost 
constantly engaged in warfare with the popes and the Italians, and 
both monarchs, especially the latter, utterly neglected the internal 
affairs of Germany, which country became a prey of the sanguinary 
contest between Guelphs and Ghibellines. The result was that 
Conrad IV., the last king from the Hohenstaufen dynasty in 
Germany, ruled without even a shadow of royal authority, and on 
his death, in 1254, the dissolution of the old German empire may 
be said to have been complete. 

During the lawless times of the Interregnum (12541273) the 
power of the German princes consolidated itself more and more 
amidst the general anarchy. Order was restored, however, by 
Rudolf von Hapsburg (12731291), who concerned himself with 
the affairs of the country only. He had a right notion of what 
a king of Germany should be, and emancipated her though 
temporarily only from the fatal connection as an empire with 
Rome. More than half a century later the Electoral Princes went 
a step further in this direction, by the formation of the Kurverein 
(1338), or "Election Union," of Rhens, when the principle was 
adopted that the election of German kings depended upon the 
Electoral Princes alone, and that the Pope had no voice whatever 
in the matter. This patriotic proceeding received, however, a 
counter-check in the unworthy dealings of the mercenary Charles IV. 
(1347 1378), who repaired to Rome to receive there the crown 
from the Pope. He little thought that by resuming the connection 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 455 



with Rome he conjured up the greatest danger for his son and 
successor, Wenceslaus, who was deposed through the conspiracy of 
Boniface IX. with the priests, and for his own influence over the 
Electoral Princes. 

In the course of time a new power the third Estate arose in 
Germany ; namely, the middle classes, as represented by the 
thriving cities of the empire. The burghers generally sided with 
the emperors, to whom they looked up as their natural protectors 
against the exactions of priests and nobles ; but being imbued 
with a true mercantile spirit, they did not give away their good 
will for nothing ; they asked for sundry privileges as compensating 
equivalents. The emperors had therefore now to contend against 
three powerful elements : the clergy, the nobles, and the_burghjjr&. 
The first were, through then* chief representatives as we have 
seen at all times the most dangerous antagonists to imperial 
authority, and generally achieved the victory in their contests 
with it. It was only during the time in which the papacy had 
transferred its seat of government to Avignon that the Romish 
hierarchy received a check, chiefly in consequence of the depravit} 
of the Papal Court and its surroundings. With the return of 
the popes to Rome by the decree of the Council of Constance 
(1414 1418), the papacy recovered its former ground ; but this 
recovery of the lost authority was external only, for with the 
cruel execution of John Huss which no sensible Roman Catholic 
ever thought of justifying the papacy received a most fatal blow. 
That scandalous crime could not have been committed at a more 
un propitious time both for the Roman hierarchy and the dignity 
of the councils, which latter pretended, at times at least, to have 
received their mandate immediately from Christ, as the sovereign 
representatives of the universal Roman Catholic Church. The 
reforms in the Church, advocated by the celebrated French 
theologians Cardinal Peter d Ailly and Chancellor John Gerson, 
had already met with the approval of numerous thinking men, and 
the doctrines of Wycliffe had also found, through the teaching of 
John Huss and his disciples, a sympathetic echo in the hearts of a 
large portion of the Christian community. Had the Council of 
Constance shown itself, not magnanimous, but merely just, towards 
the Bohemian Reformer, the ascendency of the councils, in general, 
over the popes, would probably have been for ever established ; 
whilst, as it was, the next great Council at Basle (1431 1449) 



456 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

had to give way to the Pope, and the Roman hierarchy was once 
more re-established in its former strength and power. 

The results of the councils of Constance and Basle were, how 
ever, particularly disastrous to Germany. The former brought 
about the terrible wars of the Hussites, while the latter was the 
indirect cause of placing the imperial power in the hands of 
Frederick III. (1440 1493), who was a staunch adherent of the 
Pope and delivered over to him the few rights and privileges which 
were still left to the German empire. The imperial dignity existed 
now in name only ; for Frederick, who, as Heeren says, u had 
slumbered away more than half a century on the throne, 1 cared so 
little for Germany proper that he remained absent from it for the 
space of full twenty-seven years. No wonder then that, whilst the 
imperial authority sank to the lowest level, the papal supremacy 
rose higher than ever, and the Emperor became nothing more than 
the satellite of the Pope. Under these circumstances the German 
Princes began to raise the voice of opposition against their sluggish 
head ; but as he was supported by the influential and subtle Pius II., 
all their efforts to make a stand against the encroachments of the 
Church were in vain. 

A new order of things arose, however, when Maximilian, the 
son of Frederick III., was elected " Roman king " in I486 by the 
Electoral Princes. The young King acquiesced in the constitutional 
demands of the Estates for concessions in return for various grants. 
Feuds were abolished for ever, an independent Chamber of Justice, 
Kammergericht, was established, and Germany received a new im 
perial constitution. Nevertheless there were almost constant conflicts 
between the adventurous Maximilian and the Imperial Estates, so 
that the national unity, earnestly aimed at by both parties, could 
not be effected, in consequence of the absence of any connecting link 
between them. The only step which Maximilian took for the partial 
emancipation of Germany was his assumption of the title of " elected 
King of Rome " without being crowned by the Pope, and what is 
more, he also adopted the ancient title of " King of Germany." This 
designation was, however, not intended to convey at the same time the 
notion of a severance from Rome in spiritual matters. This was now 
soon to be accomplished, but not by one bearing the imaginary crown 
of the Caesars, nor by the decrees of a stately assembly. It was 
destined for one lowly born to break the fatal bondage in which 
Germany had been for centuries kept in durance vile by Rome. 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 457 



II 

One of the few blessings which Germany derived in former 
times from her otherwise deplorable decentralisation was the 
establishment throughout the country of educational and other 
beneficial institutions, which even found their way into the most 
obscure nooks and corners, where under other political conditions 
no Government would have thought of founding any establishment 
of the kind. This is the reason why culture and learning but 
more especially the latter spread more generally in Germany than 
in other countries. What great centralised Government would 
ever have chosen the insignificant place of Wittenberg, which 
resembled more a village than a town, as the seat of a university, 
and this, too, by the side of the universities of Leipzig and Erfurt, 
which already enjoyed a high reputation, and were well endowed ? 
Yet this was done by the Prince Elector of Saxony, Frederick, 
surnamed the Wise. He had himself received a scholarly education, 
and it was his legitimate ambition to see his petty electoral 
principality adorned by a high-school. The Elector himself was, as 
is well known, very poor. The^nly^ means atjiis disposal for such 
a learned foundation were the proceeds from the sale of indulgences 
in his" electorate which had been collected in 1501 for the purpose 
of a war against the Turks. Those moneys were deposited with 
him, and he refused to give them up to the Pope even at the 
intercession of the Emperor, unless they were employed for the 
purpose for which they had been collected. The war against 
the Turks was not undertaken at the time, and so Frederick/ 
employed the money for the endowment of the new university.) 
It was also a significant fact that Wittenberg was the first German 
university which did not receive its " charter " from the Pope, 
but from the then Emperor of Germany : Maximilian I. The 
Prince Elector hit further upon the expedient of connecting several 
clerical benefices with some of the professorial chairs, and he hoped, 
moreover, that the members of the Augustinian order, settled at 
Wittenberg, would furnish some teachers for the learned institu 
tion, which was established by him in 1502. The connection of 
the new university with that order was in many respects an 
intimate one. It was specially dedicated to St. Augustine ; and 



C 



458 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE , 

Staupitz, the vicar of that order at Erfurt, was the first Dean 
of the Theological Faculty. Through his influence it was that 
several Augustinian monks received a call to the University, 
and among those who responded to it was the monk MARTIN 
LUTHER. 

The early history of the poor miner s son may, in fact, serve as 
an illustration of the wholesome spread of education throughout 
Germany. Poor as his parents were, he had received a liberal 
education, and became, in consequence of the religious turn of his 
mind, a monk. It was then in his double capacity of scholar and 
priest that he became connected with the university of Wittenberg 
(1508), and composed, and sent forth into the world, his famous 
Ninety-five Theses, against the wholesale disposal of indulgences 
(Oct. 31st, 1517). Luther issued his challenge to the theological 
world from religious motives only, and it so happened that it fully 
coincided with the political views of the Elector ; but, to the credit 
of both prince and monk, it should be remembered that there was 
no mutual understanding between them. They had never seen each 
other before the publication of the Ninety-five Theses, nor did they 
correspond on the subject, although they were of one accord about it. 
Frederick always viewed it with disfavour, and begrudged that such 
large amounts of money should be sent to Rome under the cloke of 
indulgences ; and we have seen how he had employed the proceeds 
resulting from their former sale. Now, however, he must have 
objected still more to the attempt to drain his poor country, because 
the object of the sale was not a holy war if ever a war can be so 
called but the alleged erection_of St. Peter s Church. If such was 
really the case, it might be truly said that Leo X. undermined the 
chair of St. Peter for the sake of the Church of St. Peter. But 
people were incredulous. It was whispered that the Pope required 
the money for the benefit of his family. Another disagreeable 
element in the whole transaction was the then commonly known 
fact that the Archbishop of Mentz had actually "farmed" the sale 
of the indulgences in his own episcopal territory, on condition that 
one half of the proceeds should fall to his share. He had promised 
to bear the expenses of obtaining the Pall himself, and having 
borrowed a considerable amount of money from the celebrated 
house of Fugger, he allowed their agents to travel about in company 
with the ~ notorious Tetzel as commercial controllers, and to take 
possession of half of the proceeds as they came in. Through this 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 459 

and other circumstances the affair assumed the ugly aspect of a very 
worldly and mercenary transaction, carried on in the meanest spirit. 
There was, besides, a tension between Frederick and the Prince 
Elector of Mentz ; it was therefore natural that the step which 
Luther had taken should meet with his tacit approval. More than 
this Luther did not expect, for he well knew the lethargic character 
of Frederick ; but under the circumstances that was quite sufficient, 
for the latter granted him shelter and protection, in spite of the 
urgent entreaties of zealots to deliver up the bold Augustiniuii 
monk at once to Rome. 

The defence of the Ninety-five Theses, which Luther transmitted 
to the Pope, was of no avail ; for Leo X., urged by the fanatical 
Dominican Prierias, so notorious from the Reuchlin trial, cited the 
Wittenberg monk before an inquisitorial tribunal at Rome. Now for 
the first time it was seen how fortunate it was for Luther and the cause 
he defended that he had found a prudent and humane protector in 
the prince who exercised sovereign power in his own limited territory. 
To repair to Rome under the accusation of heresy would have 
been like plunging with open eyes into an abyss. Confiding and 
courageous as Luther was, he saw this himself very clearly, and it 
was at his request that the Saxon Court preacher, Spalatin, who was 
one of his most constant and zealous friends, persuaded the Emperor 
Maximilian as well as the Prince Elector both of whom were at 
that time (1518) at the Diet of Augsburg that the accused monk 
should be arraigned before a German tribunal. Frederick readily 
acquiesced, although, as he repeatedly declared, he did not fully 
share the views of Luther ; and the Emperor also consented, partly 
because he required the moral support of the Prince Elector at the i 
approaching election of a successor in the imperial dignity, and i 
partly because he hoped one day to make use of the enlightened < 
monk in his endeavour to bring about the much-needed reforms^ 
in the Church. In this sense it undoubtedly was that he said to 
Frederick s councillor, Pfeffinger, " Luther is sdre to begin a game 
with the priests. The Prince Elector should take good care of the 
monk, as he might one day be of use." It seems therefore that 
both friends and foes recognised at an early stage the great 
capacity which still lay hidden in the insignificant-looking monk. 
The Papal Nuncio, Cajetan, discovered at once, in his interview 
with him at Augsburg (1518), that he had to do with a superior 
power, when he heard the conclusive and thoughtful arguments of 



460 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

the Augustinian monk and saw the Divine fire of genius flashing 
from his eyes ; and his friends already considered him of importance 
sufficient to induce them to bring about his sudden escape at night 
time. 

Urged by the wrathful Papal Legate not to disgrace the honour 
of his electoral house by giving shelter to a heretic friar, Frederick, 
encouraged by his own university, drily replied that, as no scholar, 
either in his own or in foreign lands, had as yet refuted the theories 
of Luther, he would continue to give him shelter until that was 
done. This was no subterfuge on the part of Frederick. It was the 
key-note of his conduct, from the beginning of the Reformation to 
the end of his own life, to have the teachings of Luther properly; 
tested by a learned discussion. The Pope, being desirous of securing 
the Elector s co-operation at the impending imperial election, 
humoured his learned whim, and tried to win him over by unctuous 
kindliness. Frederick was still a staunch Roman Catholic. He 
possessed a regular treasure of reliques, partly brought home from 
the Holy Land, which were displayed for the spiritual benefit of 
the devout on certain occasions ; and it was known that he was 
yearning for the acquisition of the Golden Rose. Leo X. bestowed 
therefore on him that mark of apostolic favour, and despatched 
to him as his nuncio the Elector s own agent at Rome, Carl von 
Miltitz, a native of Saxony. 

What the imperious haughtiness of the pompous Papal Legate 
was unable to achieve was, partly at least, effected by the shrewd 
bonhomie of Miltitz. He imploringly appealed to Luther s German 
good -nature not to create any scandal in the Church; and after 
having agreed that the controversy should be submitted for investi 
gation to the Archbishop of Treves and the Bishop of Wlirzburg, 
he obtained the promise of Luther to observe perfect silence on 
religious matters provided his enemies icoidd do the same, and to 
write an apologetic letter to the Pope. It is well known how badly 
the antagonists of Luther kept faith with him, and that he was 
obliged in consequence to break his conditionally promised silence 
and to take part in the great public disputation at Leipzig in 1519. 
He now had to vindicate against Dr. Eck, his most bitter oppenent, 
not only his own honour, but also that of his university, and this 
circumstance formed the subject of his justification before the 
Prince Elector, to whose personal esteem he attached the highest 
value. When, however, that disputation ended, as is the case with 



REFORM Al ION IN GERMANY 461 



most learned discussions, in something like a drawn battle, Luther / 
was driven to a declaration virtually involving his secession from \ 
Rome. 

Ill 

About the time when the celebrated disputation was going on 
at Leipzig, in which two peasants sons for Dr. Eck was, like 
Martin Luther, the son of a peasant took the most prominent 
part, another momentous gathering took place at Frankfort-on-the- 
Main. The Emperor Maximilian had died on January 12th, 1519, 
without being able to secure the succession in the royal dignity 
to his grandson Charles, Archduke of Austria and King of Spain 
and Naples. More than five months elapsed before the Electoral 
Princes assembled for the election of a new emperor, and during 
that interval the " Vicariate of the Empire," as it was styled, was 
put into the hands of Lewis V. of the Palatinate and of Frederick 
the Wise, in accordance with a provision of the "Golden Bull, 1 
which placed the regency of the empire during a vacancy in the 
hands of the rulers of those electorates for the time being. The 
circumstance that the seat of the Imperial Government was at 
Wittenberg during the present short Interregnum bestowed not a 
little lustre both on Frederick and his university : but the work 
of the incipient Reformation was not particularly promoted by it, 
because it coincided with the truce which Luther faithfully kept 
until it was faithlessly broken by his antagonists. 

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



462 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 



If it should be asked how it was actually possible that foreign 
kings ever thought of aspiring to a throne to which they had not 
even the shadow of a claim, the reason must be found in the above- 
mentioned circumstance that the imperial dignity of Germany was 
not a national institution, and that any Christian prince might 
think himself justified in aspiring to the crown of the "Holy 
Roman Empire," accidentally bestowed upon the " German nation." 
Were they not aware that in the thirteenth century two ecclesias 
tical Electoral Princes raised to the German throne Richard of 
Cornwall and King Alfonso of Castile respectively, in considera 
tion of great bribes? And had not the French king sufficient 
wealth to buy the votes of both the secular and ecclesiastic 
Electoral Princes ? He had, moreover, the precedent before him 
that Philip VI. of Valois had, about a century before, endeavoured 
to transfer the dignity of the "Holy Roman Empire" from the 
Germans to the " Franks," to whom it originally belonged. 

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

The time which elapsed from the election of Charles to his 
arrival in Germany, more especially to his presence at the Diet of 
Augsburg in 1521, was most propitious for the spread of the work 
cf Luther. It may be said that during that interval the Ref orma- 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 463 

tion assumed shapejmd_form. Luther indefatigably continued to 
inculcate his religious principles on the minds of the people by 
sermons and numer^s_pjiblications ; and he found adherents so 
readily everywhere among all classes of the German nation that 
Frederick, who still hoped the schism might be prevented by 
learned discussions, was of opinion that if it should be attempted 
to suppress his teachings by force instead of by refutation, there 
would arise a great storm in Germany. Several distinguished 
members of the lower nobility, such as the brave Hutten and the 
martial Sickingen and many others, placed their swords at the 
disposal of Luther ; the former was already active for him with 
the all-powerful weapon of the pen. Amidst this general com 
motion the humble Augustinian monk sent forth his powerful 
appeal entitled, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation 
concerning the Reformation of the Christian Estate.* This pro 
duction, which is rightly considered as the manifesto of the 
Reformation, clearly shows that Luther not only saw the clerical 
abuses, but also the political disadvantages, under which Germany 
laboured and groaned. He was not what we should call a politician, 
but, unlike so many of his learned countrymen, he had a true 
patriotic instinct. The mere title of the appeal seems already to 
contain a protest against the designation of Germany as the Holy 
Roman Empire. That he addressed his appeal to the "Nobility" 
in general is only an additional proof of the remarkable tact which 
guidedjiim throughout his career. 

-^Some historians have blamed Luther for not having appealed to 
the "People." But the reproach is wrong. The German people in 
general had no power whatever in those days. It only obtained in 
the course of time a voice in the management of public affairs 
through the Reformation. It was Luther who proclaimed the 
freedom of man, or rather the " Christian man." The acknowledg 
ment of the political rights of the middle classes may therefore be 
said to date from the Reformation only. In appealing to the German 
nobility, Luther addressed himself to the legitimate representatives 
of Germany ; and he did so in the candid belief that it was only 
necessary to open the eyes of those in power in order to effect at 
once the abolition of any abuses. To address himself to the people 
would have required his placing himself at the head of a revolution, 

* Pp. 157244 in this volume. 



464 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

but Luther was no revolutionist. It should also be remembered 
that a large number of noblemen had offered him support and 
shelter. Political power lay mainly in the hands of the nobles, 
who alone, in conjunction with the Emperor, could decide on the 
destiny of Germany. It is, however, a significant fact that he 
wrote his appeal, not in Latin, but in German. In this way, 
indeed, he actually addressed himself to the German people. 

In the meantime Leo X. had hurled his bull of excommunication 
against Luther. When it arrived at Wittenberg both the university 
and the Government of the Prince Elector decided to take no notice 
of it, and now it again became manifest what a powerful support 
Luther had found in Frederick. On his return journey from the 
coronation of Charles V. at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1520, the Papal 
Legates Aleander and Caraccioli demanded of the Elector at 
Cologne, in the name of the Pope, to give effect to the bull by 
burning the writings of Luther and punishing him as a heretic, or 
to deliver him to the Pope. The threat uttered on this occasion 
was certainly curious. In case the papal bull should not meet 
with ready obedience in Germany, the Legates menaced the country 
with the withdrawal of the title of the " Holy Roman Empire." 
Germany would forfeit that dignity in the same way as the Greeks 
had lost it after having seceded from the Pope. A more fortunate 
fate, in truth, could not have befallen the German empire than its 
total political severance from Rome ; but in those days the empty 
glory of the baneful union was still highly valued, and so the 
Elector asked time to consider. 

Erasmus, whom Frederick consulted, clothed his opinion on the 
religious controversy in the humorous reply "that Luther had 
sinned in two points : he had touched the crown of the Pope and 
the bellies of the monks." In his interview with Spalatin he 
Avas still more explicit by expressing his conviction that the attacks 
against Luther arose simply from hatred against the enlightenment 
jf science and from tyrannical presumption. He further agreed 
with Luther in insisting on the question being examined and tried 
by the tribunal of public discussion. We know that this opinion 
fully coincided with the views of the Elector, and his answer to 
the threatening Papal Legates ran in accordance with his views. 
His additional and often-repeated assurance that he had never 
made common cause with Luther, and that he would greatly 
disapprove of it if the latter wrote anything adverse to the Pope, 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 465 

was of the greatest importance. This declaration was more decisive 
than if he had acknowledged himself openly in favour of the 
Reformer: he would then have been considered as a biassed partisan, 
whilst now he only played the part of an impartial patron, who 
wished to see his protlgi judged by a fair trial. On his return 
to Saxony, Frederick sent to Luther a reassuring message ; and I 
the latter continued his work by teaching, writing, and preaching, I 
unmolested and without remission. 

In other parts of Germany the papal bull was proclaimed with 
varying and unequal effect. Luther s works were in the first 
instance burnt at Louvain, by command of Charles V., in his 
capacity of hereditary sovereign of the Netherlands. The same 
fate befell them at Cologne and Mentz. It will therefore readily be 
acknowledged that it was the Pope and his over-zealous adherents 
who drove Luther to the committal of perhaps the boldest act ever 
accomplished by a single individual, more especially by one in 
Luther s dependent position. By the public burning of the papal Q 
bull before the Elstergate of Wittenberg (1520), the act of secession 
from Rome was consummated. What no emperor had dared before 
him, the humble Augustinian monk accomplished courageously and 
deliberately. Well might he do so ! He acted on conviction with 
that moral courage which knows no fear, and he had the German 
people at his back to support him.* 



IV 

" Your Majesty must go to Germany and show there some favour 
to a certain Martin Luther, who is at the Court of Saxony, and 
causes anxiety to the Roman Court by his sermons." Such were 
the words which the shrewd Spanish ambassador, Don Juan Manuel, 
addressed to Charles V. from Rome in 1520. They were written 
at a time when it was still doubtful whether Leo X. would side 
in the impending struggle in Italy with the King of France or 
with the Emperor of Germany, and, moreover, at a time when 
the latter had reason to be dissatisfied with the course the Pope 

* In one of his letters to Dr. Eck communicated in the Documenta 
Lutherana recently issued by the Vatican the Papal Nuncio Aleander con 
fessed that the excitement in consequence of the burning of Luther s works 
was so great among the people that he trembled for his own safety. 

30 



466 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

had taken. Leo X. had consented, in compliance with a petition 
from the Castilian Cortes, to introduce some reforms in the exercise 
of the Inquisition. This concession was, however, entirely opposed 
to the views of the young Emperor, who was completely guided 
by his Dominican confessor. Under these circumstances it was 
deemed expedient to make use of Luther as a kind of bugbear 
in order to frighten the Pope. To people not accustomed to the 
tortuous windings of politics it seems of course bewildering that a 
heretic should be favoured in one country in order to make it possible 
to enforce the rigours of the Inquisition in another country. In like 
manner Francis I. acted. In France he persecuted and burnt 
mercilessly the opponents of the Roman Catholic Church, whilst in 
Germany he befriended the adherents of the Reformation. This 
much, however, is certain : had Luther entertained the slightest 
suspicion at what price it was intended to extend indulgence to 
his work, he would have been the first to scorn that indulgence. 

The advice of the diplomatic Spanish ambassador was, however, 
not followed. Pope and Emperor came to an amicable under 
standing. The former cancelled his concession to the Castilian 
Cortes, and promised the coveted assistance against Francis I. in 
Italy, whilst the latter pledged himself* to crush the Reformation 
and to issue an edict for the execution of the papal bull against 
Luther. Now it came to light how ill-advised was the election of 
Charles V. as Emperor of Germany. At the time when the 
celebrated Diet of 1521 assembled at Worms, the Emperor had his 
whole attention directed across the Alps. The affairs of Germany 
had only in so far any importance for him as they had any influence 
or bearing on the affairs of Italy. He took no note of the great 
objects which then agitated the hearts and minds of the Germans, 
and had he been able to recognise them, they would have excited 
in him no corresponding sympathy. He did not even fully 
understand the cultured language as far as it existed in those 
days of Germany, being able to speak Low German only. The 
political institutions of the country the lingering fragments of 
the ancient German liberty were thoroughly distasteful to him. 
He was also a bigoted Roman Catholic at heart, and, as we have 
seen, entirely opposed to all religious reforms. It must therefore 
be acknowledged that among the many historical misfortunes 
which have befallen Germany and no country perhaps has 
been tried by so many the accession of Charles V, to the throne 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 467 

of the German empire was one of the greatest. What might 
a German sovereign, with a due appreciation of the political 
and religious aspirations of the people, not have achieved at that 
important epoch, which was the turning-point in the history of 
Germany ? 

After the Emperor had laid his edict regarding the papal bull 
before the Estates, they made him earnest representations, alleging 
that the people were throughout Germany so thoroughly impreg 
nated by the doctrines of Luther that any violent measures under 
taken against him would call forth the greatest commotion. They 
submitted therefore to Charles the opinion that the Reformer 
should be summoned to Worms, not for the sake of any argumenta 
tive or learned disputation, but merely for a summary interrogatory. 
In case he should recant his doctrines concerning the Christian faith 
he might further be interrogated about the minor points in his 
writings, and whatever was advisable should be adopted. If, 
however, he persisted in his refusal to recant, the necessary steps 
would be taken against him. We see by this that the Estates drew 
a distinction in Luther s doctrines between those points which 
concerned the ecclesiastical administration only and those which 
referred to the Christian faith proper and were chiefly contained in 
his work On the Babylonish Captivity of the Church. 

Charles V. consented to this proposal, by which the Estates may 
be said to have betrayed the cause of the Reformation. Frederick 
was charged with the task of summoning Luther to Worms, but he 
prudently declined. As he was to be summoned in the name of 
the Emperor and the Estates, he ought to receive the citation direct 
from them. The stubborn character of the Elector being well 
known, the Emperor was obliged to yield also on this point, and in 
order to be consistent with official etiquette, Luther was addressed 
by Charles V. in the citation, issued on March 6th, 1521, as " honour 
able, beloved, and pious ! " A safe conduct for the journey to and 
from Worms accompanied the citation. A man less endowed with 
moral courage than Luther would nevertheless have shrunk from 
completing the journey. On his way to Worms he learned that a 
mandate for the confiscation of his writings had been issued by 
the Emperor, and the imperial herald actually asked him whether 
he still intended to continue his journey. The Reformer un 
dauntedly proceeded on his way, although the imperial mandate 
clearly showed him that his writings had already been uncoil- 



468 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

ditionally condemned, and that he was merely summoned to declare 
whether he would recant or not. 

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

When Luther arrived at Worms both his adherents and 
antagonists were startled. The former trembled for his safety, 
and the latter feared the influence of his presence his eloquence 
and the victorious power of inner conviction. The Emperor s 
expectations of so remarkable a personage, who was capable 
of inspiring such a high degree of enthusiasm and aversion, must 
therefore have been very great, and we do not wonder at his 
disappointment on seeing before him an insignificant-looking 
monk. He did not believe in the power of the mind, and it was 
quite natural in the young monarch that he should have looked 
forward to a commanding, giant-like figure, with a thundering 
voice, somewhat like Dr. Eck, who derived no little benefit from 
these accessories, so advantageous both on the political and 
religious platform. Even after Luther had produced on the 
second day of his appearance before the Diet a deep impression 
on almost all his hearers, Charles V. could never be brought to 
believe that the meek Augustinian monk was the author of all 
the energetic and impetuous compositions which passed under his 
name. 

Luther s public refusal to recant unless convinced of his ei 
through the Scriptures was the official proclamation of 
Reformation ; and well might he exclaim, on the evening of the 



REFORMA1ION IN GERMANY 469 

18th of April, on coming home from perhaps the most memorable 
sitting of any Diet, " Ich bin durch ! " But the decision of the 
Emperor was also taken, and on the morning of the 19th of April 
he declared to the Diet, in a French document written in his 
own hand, " that, as a descendant of the most Christian German 
emperors and the Catholic kings of Spain, he had resolved to 
maintain everything which had been adopted by his ancestors, 
more especially at the Council of Constance. . . . That he will not 
hear Luther again, but let him go back to Wittenberg in accordance 
with his safe conduct, and then lie, will proceed with him as a 
heretic." 

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

The times had evidently changed since the Council of Constance. 
It was no longer safe to burn a heretic after he had received 
imperial protection ; and it may be assumed furthermore that the 
young monarch also possessed too much sense of honour to listen 
to the ruthless suggestions of his fanatical advisers. After some 
more attempts to induce Luther to retract all of which, of course, 
proved futile he allowed him to depart ; but, as he had uttered 
the threat to treat the excommunicated monk as a heretic after 
the expiration of his safe conduct, Frederick, who was not un 
deservedly called the Wise, considered it expedient to bring Luther 
by means of a stratagem to a place of safety. 

The sudden disappearance of Luther naturally caused great 
anxiety among his adherents ; but his opponents seemed to have 
instinctively guessed the truth. They knew very well how little 
they themselves were to be trusted, and suspected that his friends 
had secretly saved him from their clutches. Cardinal Aleander 
even went nearer the mark, and expressed his opinion that the 
" Saxon fox " had hidden the monk. Charles V. himself took no 
cognisance of the occurrence ; nay, he even cautiously deferred the 
promulgation of the edict against Luther : and it was only after 
Frederick the Wise, accompanied by the Palatine Elector, had left 



470 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

Worms on account of illness, that the Emperor summoned to his 
private residence the three clerical Electors, together with the 
Elector of Brandenburg and several other members of the Imperial 
Estates, and communicated to them the long-expected edict. The 
Imperial Ban was thus promulgated on May 25th, without the 
formal sanction of the Diet ; and, in order to stamp it with the 
appearance of legality, it was ante-dated to the 8th of May, when 
the Estates were still together in good numbers. But it was 
at the same time an ominous date ; for on that day an alliance 
was concluded between the Emperor and the Pope to the effect 
" to have the same friends and without exception the same 
enemies, the same willingness and unwillingness for defence and 
attack." 

Another expedient was resorted to in order to gain some 
plausibility for the illegally issued edict. It was sophistically 
averred that, as the Diet had already decided that Luther was to 
be proceeded against in case he should not recant, there was no 
further necessity for obtaining the additional sanction of that body 
for the publication of the edict. By this decree the papal ban 
was confirmed, and Luther himself was now outlawed as a heretic, 
and his books were prohibited. The Emperor having accomplished 
this step, which was one of the most momentous in the eventful 
course of the Reformation, now hastened to the Netherlands, and 
strengthened by the league with the Pope and Henry VIII., soon 
began his great war against the King of France. / . 



It is an amiable trait in human nature, though frequently 
bordering on weakness, to endeavour to find out the good side of 
any evil. Thus it has been considered a propitious coincidence that 
the German empire had some " claims " on certain territories in 
Italy. For it was, in a great measure, in consequence of this fact, 
that the war broke out between the Emperor of Germany and the 
King of France, which necessitated the absence of the former from 
his German domains for several years and gave the Reformation 
time for its consolidation and expansion. We will not deny the 
advantages which resulted from that political combination, but it 
was to a certain extent counterbalanced by the ill which it produced. 
Without the contingency of that war, Charles V. would have had no 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 471 

occasion for leaguing himself with the Pope ; the Edict of "Worms 
would in all probability never have been issued, and the pressing 
demand for a General Council would have been acceded to. Luther 
would not have been obliged to hide himself at the Wartburg, and 
the subsequent troubles at Wittenberg would certainly never have 
broken out ; and, finally, the firm hand of a sovereign residing in 
the country would have stemmed the torrent of the Peasants War 
at the outset. Another drawback resulting from the absence of 
Charles V. was his utter estrangement from Germany, whose 
aspirations he neither cared for nor understood. 

During the first few months after the departure of Charles from 
Germany the work of the Reformation went on undisturbed. The 
Edict of Worms found in general no responsive reception there. 
Its effect quite vanished before the impression made by Luther s 
manly, nay heroic, conduct in presence of the Diet. The rumour 
which had got abroad that he had been captured by an enemy of 
the Elector Frederick, and perchance killed, rather promoted than 
damaged his cause. It aroused warm sympathy for the Reformer 
and increased the hatred against his enemies, who were alleged to 
have resorted to brutal force because they could not disprove his 
arguments. In fact, the adoption of the Reformation was now so 
general that Luther s antagonists hardly dared to denounce him 
openly. It is well known that the Elector of Mentz would not 
give permission to the Minorite monks to preach against Luther. 
The Edict of Worms was thus practically set at defiance, and in 
spite of its prohibition not to publish anything in favour of the 
Reformation, numerous writings in its favour issued from the 
German printing presses. 

Whilst the seed which Luther had sown on German soil began to 
produce a magnificent harvest, and he himself was busy at the 
Wartburg, under the disguise of Junker Georg, with various religious 
writings, but more especially with the great work of his life, the 
translation of the Bible from the original text, some of his adherents 
began to precipitate matters at Wittenberg, under the leadership of 
the impassioned Carlstadt. A time of general dissolution suddenly 
came on, in which there was a violent rupture with the past. Mass 
was abrogated, monks left their convents, and priests married. 
Holy images were destroyed, and nearly all the usages of the 
Roman Catholic Church were abruptly abolished. Other inno 
vations were introduced, and the movement tended towards the 



472 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

introduction of a Christian socialism, or rather communism. If 
Luther had not been absent, the movement would never have broken 
out ; and Melanchthon, who was present, was quite perplexed and 
not energetic enough to be able to stem the surging tide of the 
Revolution. The Prince Elector, too, looked on quite bewildered, 
and, imbued with a sense of unbounded tolerance, he fancied that 
after all the revolutionary " saints " might be right. 

When Luther heard of the local excesses at Wittenberg, he 
suddenly left his " Patmos," in order to find out for himself the 
real state of things. In travelling to and from Wittenberg, where 
he stayed a few days only, he had to pass the territory of his great 
opponent the Duke of Saxony. This was at the beginning of 
December 1521, consequently only a few months after the publica 
tion of the Edict of Worms ; and bis conduct shows both his moral 
courage, of which he has given so many striking proofs, and his 
anxiety for the cause of the Reformation. 

Soon, however, he was to give still more striking proofs of both. 
For after the " prophets of Zwickau," those deluded and deluding 
disciples of Thomas Mlinzer, had chosen the birthplace of the Refor 
mation for their field of action, more especially when he heard of 
the innovations introduced in his own community since his furtive 
visit there, he defied all danger, and disregarded the remonstrances 
of the Elector Frederick at his leaving his place of refuge. His 
heart was so devoid of fear, and he had so much confidence in the 
righteousness of his cause, that he actually declared to the Prince 
Elector that he might give to the latter greater protection than he 
could receive from him. He apologised nevertheless for his dis 
obedience to Frederick, and a few days after his arrival at Witten 
berg, at the beginning of March 1522, he began the series of sermons 
by which he soon allayed the storm and extended both his influence 

. and reputation. 

V Several of the religious innovations introduced during the absence 
"" ^ of Luther were quite in accordance with his views, but he chiefly 
objected to the violent manner in which the established usages were 
thrown over. Thus he approved the abolition of the Mass, but 
considered that it ought not to have been done in a way which was 
vexatious to another portion of the Christian community. The 
secular authorities should have been consulted, and everything done 
in a legal manner. Luther was, besides, tolerant in the highest 
degree. He did not wish to force others to adopt his theories ; he A, 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 473 



merely wanted to convince them. His mode of acting waa concisely 
summed up in the following words, which contain the key-note of 
his activity as a Reformer : " I will preach about it, speak about it, 
write about it ; but I will compel and drive no one by force ; for 
belief is to be accepted freely and spontaneously. Take me as an 
example. I have opposed the indulgences and the Papists, but not 
with force. I have only worked, preached, and written the word 
of the Lord ; else I have done nothing. . . . I have done nothing ; 
the word has done and accomplished everything. If I had wished 
to proceed turbulently, I could have caused great bloodshed in 
Germany, and I might have played such a game at Worms that 
even the Emperor would not have been safe," * etc. 

These words, which Luther uttered in his celebrated sermons 
preached after his return to Wittenberg, not only fully reveal to us 
one of his principal characteristics as a Reformer, but contain at 
the same time a full revelation of the cause of the peaceful course 
of the Reformation during his lifetime. He held the reins in his 
firm hands, and it would only have required an encouraging signal 
on his part, and the furies of civil war would have been at once let 
loose. But those words also confirm the charge which has been i 
brought forward against the Imperial Estates that they had betrayed ^^^ 
the cause of the Reformation at the Diet of Worms. They had 
the German people at their back, and the Emperor, with all his 
Spanish and Italian courtiers and Papal Legates, would have been 
powerless. Had only some of them given signs of energetic oppo 
sition, the Emperor would in all probability have yielded. That 
the princes did not fully answer Luther s expectations caused him 
considerable grief, and now he had experienced another disappoint 
ment in the conduct of the middle classes, the people proper, a 
portion of whom eagerly supported the violent innovations of the 
extreme Reformers. But the greatest disappointment, with regard 
to the healthiest class of the people the peasants was yet in store 
for him. 



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



474 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

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

One of the most remarkable features in the passing of the above 
resolution was the circumstance that it even obtained the consent 
of the adherents of the Pope, and that the views of the latter 
regarding the necessity of Church reforms, in some degree at least, 
contributed to it. Adrian VI. was in almost every respect the 
opposite of Leo X. He had the welfare of the Church truly at 
heart, and fully saw the abuses which had crept in through the 
depravity of its representatives. He therefore energetically and 
earnestly urged the necessity of reforming the Church, or rather 
the clergy. He himself showed the way by setting, in his own 
person, the example of a true apostolic pontiff, by leading the life 
of a humble and austere monk, whereas Leo X. had surrounded 
himself with regal pomp and the luxuries of an Asiatic potentate. 
On the other hand, Adrian was also an orthodox Dominican, and 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 475 

detested the religious innovations more intensely than his pre 
decessor did, who, as a true Medici, being an enthusiastic admirer 
of art and a zealous cultivator of polite literature, was quite 
indifferent to ecclesiastical and religious matters. Leo X. was. 
opposed to Luther because, as Erasmus expressed 1Ip rr Ee had 
touched the papal crown," whilst Adrian took up the gauntlet 
against the "Reformer because, in his opmion, the latter weakened 
the corner-stone of the Church and undermined its very foundations. 
For this reason he had sent his nuncio Chieregati to the Imperial 
Regency at Nuremberg with the demand to have the Edict of Worms 
carried into effect. This demand was only consistent with the 
Pope s line of action ; but the times had changed, even during the / 
short space which had elapsed since Charles V. had issued his edict 
against Luther by a shuffling proceeding, and the Imperial Regency 
openly refused to enact it. 

That the Estates should have been able thus to act in defiance of 
both Pope and Emperor was in itself the result of the influence l 
which the Reformation exercised on the political status of the 
German people. The civic element now assumed a political im 
portance which it never enjoyed before. The commoner began to 
feel his dignity, as a man, as a member of the State. The teach 
ings of Luther had set free human intelligence and thought, which 
had been so long held imprisoned and bound by political and 
religious tyranny, and the people began to think and reason for 
themselves. From the moment this was done, they were free, and 
as soon as they obtained political rights they well understood how 
to assert them. The re-establishment of an imperial regency on 
a " constitutional basis " formed one of the principal stipulations 
at the election of Charles V. ; and the deputies having been chosen 
by the Electoral Princes and the various " circles," or districts, into 
which Germany was then divided, the commonwealth was for the 
first time officially represented at a German constitutional assembly. 
We have seen how worthily the members of the Imperial Regency 
had discharged their trust ; and it may be said that from that 
moment dates the political emancipation of Germany. 

VI 

The answer of the Imperial Regency to Adrian VI. was the first \S 
political triumph of the Reformation, but its effect was considerably 



476 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

weakened by several events which occurred shortly after. First 
came the rising of the knights, who constituted the lower nobility, 
under the banner of the brave and restless Franz von Sickingen. 
Grave discontent reigned among the knights with the doings of the 
all-powerful " Suabian League," formed in 1488 by the Estates of 
Suabia for the maintenance of general peace, and also with the 
encroachments of the princes ; and Sickingen, aided by Ulrich von 
Hutten, united the lesser nobles into one body with the avowed 
object of breaking the power of the higher nobility and of ac 
knowledging one head only the Emperor. It has been plausibly 
assumed that Sickingen pursued a more ambitious aim, and he has 
therefore been compared with Wallenstein. Sickingen professed, 
however, another object in his enterprise : the furtherance of the 
cause of the Reformation ; and, at the head of a large and powerful 
army, he directed his first attack (Sept. 1522) against the Archbishop 
of Treves. The knights were defeated, their leader lost his life, 
and Hutten wandered away, outlawed and proscribed, to find an 
exile s grave in a small island of Switzerland. The enemies of 
Luther considered, or pretended to consider, the Reformation as 
the main cause of Sickingen s undertaking ; and this circumstance 
estranged from the Reformer a number of his adherents and 
confirmed his antagonists in their enmity against him, although he 
had no immediate connection with the revolt of the nobles. 

The first result of the rising and of the defeat of the knights was 
that several princes now assumed a somewhat hostile attitude 
towards the Imperial Regency, that had shown itself so tolerant 
respecting religious reforms ; but a still severer blow threatened 
that body from another quarter. The wealthy German cities sent 
a deputation to Charles V. in Spain, with a petition against some 
ordinances which the Imperial Chamber had decided upon, and 
which were considered detrimental to their commercial interests. 
The Emperor, dissatisfied with that liberal institution, readily 
promised a new administration. This promise was fulfilled at the 
next Diet, in 1524, at Nuremberg, when it was decided to reorganise 
the Imperial Regency by electing for it entirely new members. 
Those who consented to this proceeding were influenced partly by 
political and partly by commercial reasons, but as regards religious 
matters there was still a majority in favour of the Reformation. 
On this account it came to pass that a resolution was carried at 
the Diet to convoke another assembly of the Estates in the same 



\ 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 477 

year at Spires, the points to be discussed there being in the mean 
time draWrrtrp for the princes by scholars and councillors. Till 
then the resolution of the preceding Diet " that the Gospel should 
be allowed to be freely preached " was to remain in force. Thus 
the mission of the Papal Nuncio Campeggi, who had been sent to 
Germany by Clement VII. (the successor of Adrian VI. since 1523) 
to bring about the enactment of the Edict of Worms, proved 
unsuccessful. It is true the Diet passed a resolution that the 
Edict of Worms should be executed, but this decision was rendered 
ineffective by the additional elastic clause, "as far as possible. 
At the same time the demand for a General Council was added. 

The above mandate now shared the fate of most compromises, 
inasmuch as it satisfied neither party. Luther himself and his 
followers saw in it an indirect confirmation of the Edict of Worms, 
and he expressed his indignation at it in an outspoken publication, 
in which he bitterly reproached the Emperor and the princes for 
their treatment of him. He had now lost all confidence in both. 
But the Emperor s indignation at the Nuremberg mandate was not 
less strongly marked, and he issued an edict in which he energetic 
ally denied the Estates the right of interferencejn religious nmttftrs ) 
demanding at the same time the strict execution of the Edict of 
Worms. The constant recurrence of the Emperor and the adherents 
of the Pope to that edict must not surprise us. It was the point 
upon which the whole movement turned ; for if tbe condemnation 
of Luther were confirmed, all his reforms and his adherents would 
be comprised in that condemnation. 

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

The next step of the Ratisbon Convention was to obtain the 
co-operation of Charles V., which was effected easily enough, 
inasmuch as the projected measures fully coincided with his own 



478 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

views ; and being about to attack Francis I. in France itself, from 
the direction of Italy, he stood in great need of the Pope s tacit 
acquiescence. He issued therefore a stringent edict, in which the 
convocation of a General Council was strictly prohibited, and 
all interference in religious matters was energetically forbidden. 
Those who dared to set at nought the provision of the edict would 
render themselves liable to a charge of high treason, and on con 
viction would be punished with the highest degree of the Imperial 
Ban (Acht- und Aberacht). In that imperial order Luther himself, 
one of the noblest men who ever lived, was likened to some 
loathsome monster. 

/*"" The Convention of Ratisbon, which was chiefly brought about by 

/foreign influence, may be said to have caused the first violent 

* rupture among the German people, and to be the origin of all the 

calamities which befell Germany in the sixteenth and seventeenth 

centuries. "Without that convention the projected General Council 

would in all probability have been held, the proposed reforms 

would have been peacefully and legally discussed, and there would 

not have occurred that violent disruption among the Germans of 

which the evil effects, not only from a religious, but also from a 

political point of view, have not yet entirely disappeared. The 

Conly advantage which resulted from the Ratisbon Convention was 
the agreement to introduce a number of internal reforms in the 
Church. Thus the improved state of Roman Catholicism is entirely 
due to the doctrines of Luther and his Reformation. 



VII 

The year 1525 was perhaps the most trying in Luther s career. 
He had hitherto been disappointed in the princes and the burghers, 
and now he experienced the mortification of seeing that class of 
people from which he sprang himself entering on a path which 
must needs prove injurious to themselves and to the cause for 
which he lived and worked. Various risings of the peasants had 
taken place before the time of the Reformation, in consequence 
of the inhuman treatment to which they were subjected by the 
nobles. The exactions of the priests were likewise intolerable. 
Some local risings took place in 1524 ; but in the following year 
that terrible contest known as " The Peasants War " broke out in 
the south of Germany with all the fury of long-pent-up despair, 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 479 

The origin of the insurrection must therefore be sought solely in 
the cause which produced the risings of slaves or serfs in ancient 
and modern times. It was the revolt of men who felt their inner 
worth, and who were determined to shake off an unbearable yoke. 
The enemies of Luther attributed, however, the outbreak of the 
war to the influence of his teachings, in the same way as they 
attributed to these any other public calamity which then befell 
Germany, just as in modern times blinded political passions will 
trace the cause of the failure of a harvest, for instance, to the fact 
of this or that party being in power. 

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

If all the rebellious peasants had strictly adhered to their first 
programme, their cause might yet have taken a favourable turn ; 
but, as is generally the case with revolutionary movements, there 
soon arose an extreme party which aimed at the total subversion of 
the existing order of things. Here again it was unfortunate that 
some points started in the manifesto of that party had been pre 
viously advocated by Luther, for his unjust antagonists laid all their 
demands, which have been compared to the French revolutionary 
doctrines of 1783, to his charge. The climax of the insurrectionary 
outbreak was, however, reached by the doings of Thomas Miinzer and 



480 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

his followers, who preached and practised evangelical communism, 
and who accelerated by their fanatic and fantastic conduct the 
tragic catastrophe in this sanguinary drama. Luther was now in a 
most critical position. He made every effort to stem the tide of 
the revolution ; he energetically exhorted both princes and peasants, 
and travelled about as a missionary of peace : but all in vain. His 
influence seemed, for the first time, to have lost its effect, and 
friends and foes censured him alike. The former reproached him 
with having deserted his own cause, whilst the latter blamed him as 
the originator of this fatal war. Thomas Miinzer and his followers 
even accused Luther of base servility towards the princes ; and 
one of the grossest calumnies perhaps ever brought forward against 
a man of Luther s stamp was the charge that he had written his 
vehement publication, Against the Murderous Roller-bands of the, 
Peasants, after their total defeat. But this was untrue. He 
wrote it, in fact, whilst the peasants were in the ascendency, and 
whilst they disgraced their victory by barbarous acts of cruelty. 
When the nobles got the upper hand and wreaked their vengeance 
in a most inhuman manner on the vanquished, the wrath of Luther 
was turned against the cruel victors. He pleaded for mercy even 
for the guilty, and with some of the princes his intercession was 
successful. Large numbers of defeated peasants were allowed by 
Landgrave Philip of Hesse and the Prince Elector John of Saxony, 
the brother and successor of the Elector Frederick, to return home 
unmolested ; whilst the Bishop of Wlirzburg and other anti-Lutheran 
lords distinguished themselves by a most refined cruelty in their 
treatment of the peasant prisoners. 

VIII 

In addition to the various disasters which befell Luther and in 
him the whole of Germany in the calamitous year of 1525, he also 
had the misfortune to lose his friend and protector the Elector of 
Saxony, who died in the spring of that year. Frederick had looked 
with true paternal compassion on the insurgent peasants, and had 
life and health been spared him, he might have quelled the civil 
war by dint of his authority, or at least have mitigated its evils. 
Besides him, there was no one in Germany who enjoyed the 
same amount of respect, and both the Imperial Regency and the 
Estates were as a body powerless. If Germany had been ruled 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 481 

over at that time by a sovereign residing in the country and caring 
for the welfare of his people, the Peasants War would never have 
assumed such gigantic dimensions, nor would its consequences have 
been so fatal. But whilst Germany was convulsed by one of the 
most sanguinary of intestine conflicts, the Emperor resided in Spain, 
and his army fought and defeated the King of France before Pavia, 
which circumstance may serve as an additional proof of the evil V 
caused by the election of Charles V. as heaxl of the German empire. 

The only interest which the Emperor manifested with reference ) 
to Germany consisted in his relentless efforts to exterminate the S 
Lutheran doctrines. Thus he again and again issued from Spain * 
energetic admonitions to the princes and bishops to make a firm 
resistance against the Reformation ; promising and threatening at 
the same time to come shortly to Germany himself in order to 
crush the heretics. These acts, together with the consultation at 
Mentz at which a number of priests agreed on the suppression of 
Lutheran heresy, induced the Landgrave Philip of Hesse and 
John the Elector of Saxony, in the spring of 1526, to form the 
so-called " League of Torgau " for the protection and defence of 
the Reformation. Luther himself, being in principle against all 
armed resistance to any constituted authority, had consistently 
opposed the formation of that or any other league with a view 
to revolt. 

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

31 



482 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 



a country. Therefore one must always expect the worst from them, 
and not hope for any good from them. They are the scourges and 
the executioners of God, and He employs them to punish the wicked 
and to maintain external peace." 

Luther was well aware of the fact that Germany required a 
thorough reform as regards its civic or secular government, more 
especially as he had found out that both the princes and the 
Emperor had betrayed the German people. With that dignified 
self -consciousness which is quite compatible with true modesty, he 
said, "At times it seems to me as if the Government and the 
Jurists also required a Luther." If there had been during his time 
a great man in Germany capable of achieving in politics what he 
had himself achieved in religion, he would undoubtedly have co 
operated with him. For Luther was a true German patriot, if 
ever there was one, as is evident from so many of his writings, and 
more especially from his Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the 
German Nation. What he abhorred was the use of brutal force, 
either by princes or by the people, for the acquisition of political 
freedom, and this was, as we have seen, in strict accordance with 
his religious views. His notions of the individual freedom of 
man had also a religious basis. He regarded man as designed to 
be a free being, but it was only Christian belief which imparted 
to him that stamp of true freedom. This view Luther forcibly 
expressed in the well-known antithesis in his treatise Concerning 
Christian Libert)/, " A Christian man is the most free lord of all, 
and subject to none ; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant 
of all, and subject to every one." * 

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

centuries. 

* See p. 255 in the present volume. 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 483 

If Luther had not so strenuously opposed all active resistance 
against authority, the political course of the Reformation would 
certainly have taken a different turn ; and it was fortunate enough 
for its consolidation that some of the princes, who otherwise 
followed his teachings, did not share his opinions on that subject. 
The formation of the above-mentioned League of Torgau was 
the first result of that difference of opinion ; and when the Diet 
assembled, in the summer of 1526, at Spires, the princes John and 
Philip, strengthened by their union, could dare to acknowledge and 
practise openly the doctrines of the Reformation in the face of the 
Diet. In vain did the Imperial Commissioners urge the Estates to 
carry out at last the Edict of Worms. The Diet was, however, so 
much the less inclined to obey the Emperor s behests on this point 
because he was now himself at enmity with he Pope. Clement VII. 
being afraid of the ascendency of Charles V. after his victory at 
Pa via, released the French king from his solemn oath at the Peace 
of Madrid, and formed with him and several Italian princes the 
League of Cognac, also blasphemously called the "Holy League," 
which was directed against Charles V. The Estates therefore eagerly 
seized the opportunity of declaring that the antagonism between 
Pope and Emperor made it impossible for them to give effect 
even indirectly to the papal excommunication against Luther. 
The Turk was also threatening from the East, and the Estates did 
not consider it prudent to cause dissensions among the German 
people. They resolved therefore to petition the Emperor, through 
an embassy, to come in person to Germany and to convoke a General 
Council. They further decided that in matters of religion perfect 
freedom and tolerance should prevail. 

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

IX 

In consequence of the absence of both the Emperor and his 
locum tenens from Germany, the projected General Council was not 



484 THE POLITICAL COURSE OF THE 

convoked, and the next Diet did not assemble before the year 1529, 
at Spires. Till then the Reformation had full scope to expand ; but 
after the armies of Charles V. had captured Rome, and a terrible 
pestilence had well-nigh destroyed the French troops in Italy, the 
Emperor was again free to terrorise over Germany. He concluded 
peace with Clement VII. at Barcelona, and with Francis I. at 
Cambray, and the first result of the diplomatic union between the 
three belligerents was a combination of their efforts to crush the 
" heresy " in Germany. Soon after the beginning of the Diet at 
Spires, a palpable proof was given that a great change had taken 
place in public affairs since 1526. On March 15th, 1529, the Imperial 
Commissioners laid a mandate before the Diet to the effect that the 
resolution of the last Diet at Spires, which granted free exercise 
of religion, should be revoked, and that, on the other hand, the 
Edict of Worms should be enforced. The majority, though now 
consisting of adherents of the Pope, did not accept the proposal 
exactly in that form ; but still they issued a decree the general 
acceptance of which would have implied a total condemnation of 
the Reformation on the part of its supporters. 

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

The rupture between the two religious parties was now complete. 
They no longer formed merely two different shades of the same party, 
but were distinguished from each other even as to the name. Roman 
Catholics stood opposite Protestants. In one respect the new appel 
lation was a gain ; for it embraced all the members of that Chris 
tian community which did not acknowledge the supremacy of the 
Pope. On the other hand, the name has the disadvantage that it is, 
like the word " Reformation," of a negative character. It is true the 
Protest of the princes actually was a positive assertion of the right of 



REFORMATION IN GERMANY 485 

conscience, but popular interpretation applied to it the character of an 
aggressive document, and the adherents of Luther were consequently 
regarded henceforth in the light of a merely malcontent party. The 
term " Lutherans " Lutheramr does not embrace the whole body 
of those who seceded from the Roman Catholic Church. Luther him 
self deprecated, moreover, the distinction of being called a " founder 
of a religion," and although one of the greatest theological authori 
ties of our times is still inclined to consider him as such, it seems 
to me if I may venture to express an opinion on anything touch 
ing a theological subject that Luther merely modified and reformed 
an established religious faith, but did not found one. The designa 
tion " Old Catholic " might perhaps have been the most appropriate, 
and would not perchance have caused such a violent disruption among 
the members of the great Christian community. 



At the Diet of 1529 the Protestants had gained a moral victory, 
but they had suffered a material defeat ; for the government of the 
empire was now entirely in the hands of their antagonists. It 
seemed therefore prudent to prepare for future emergencies, and 
some of the Protestant princes began negotiations with several 
cities, both German and Swiss. A comprehensive scheme was 
devised which, if successfully carried out, would have entirely 
changed the political aspect of Germany, if not of Europe. Un 
fortunately this plan, the execution of which could alone have 
saved the cause of Protestantism, was frustrated by the well-known 
theological difference between the adherents of Luther and Zwingli. 
Thus, instead of first combining against the common enemy and 
subsequently in firm union settling the theological differences, or 
even leaving them unsettled, the logical order of the proceeding was 
reversed. The theologians first assembled to discuss their religious 
differences, and the result was that fatal schism which divided the 
camp of the Protestants, and permanently damaged their cause. 
Luther and his more immediate followers decided that it would not 
be justifiable to form an alliance with the Zwinglians, and further 
that it would be an offence against law and religion to offer armed 
resistance to the Emperor. The co-operation of Upper Germany, 
Suabia, and Switzerland was lost in consequence ; and, in face of 
the armed and threatening enemy, all preparations for defence 



486