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Title: Luther Examined and Reexamined - A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Revaluation
Author: Dau, W. H. T. (William Herman Theodore), 1864-1944
Language: English
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University, Millersville, PA, USA

Luther Examined and Reexamined
A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea
for Revaluation

By W.H.T. Dau,
Professor, Concordia Theological Seminary

St. Louis, Mo.
Concordia Publishing House

One may deplore the pathetic courage which periodically heartens
Catholic writers for the task of writing against Luther, but one can
understand the necessity for such efforts, and, accordingly, feel a real
pity for those who make them. Attacks on Luther are demanded for
Catholics by the law of self-preservation. A recent Catholic writer
correctly says: "There is no doubt that the religious problem to-day is
still the Luther problem." "Almost every statement of those religious
doctrines which are opposed to Catholic moral teaching find their
authorization in the theology of Martin Luther."

Rome has never acknowledged her errors nor admitted her moral defeat.
The lessons of past history are wasted upon her. Rome is determined to
assert to the end that she was not, and cannot be, vanquished. In the
age of the Reformation, she admits, she suffered some losses, but she
claims that she is fast retrieving these, while Protestantism is
decadent and decaying. No opposition to her can hope to succeed.

This is done to bolster up Catholic courage. The intelligent Catholic
layman of the present day makes his own observations, and draws his own
conclusions as to the status and the future prospect of Protestantism.
Therefore, he must be invited to "acquaint himself with the lifestory of
the man, whose followers can never explain away the anarchy of that
immoral dogma: 'Be a sinner, and sin boldly; but believe more boldly
still!' He must be shown the many hideous scenes of coarseness,
vulgarity, obscenity, and degrading immorality in Martin Luther's life."
When the Catholic rises from the contemplation of these scenes, it is
hoped that his mind has become ironclad against Protestant argument.
These attacks upon Luther are a plea _pro domo_, the effort of a strong
man armed to keep his palace and his goods in peace.

Occurring, as they do, in this year of the Four-hundredth Anniversary of
the Reformation, these attacks, moreover, represent a Catholic
counter-demonstration to the Protestant celebration of the
Quadricentenary of Luther's Theses. They are the customary cries of
dissent and vigorous expressions of disgust which at a public meeting
come from parties in the audience that are not pleased with the speaker
on the stage. If the counter-demonstration includes in its program the
obliging application of eggs in an advanced state of maturity to the
speaker, and chooses to emphasize its presence to the very nostrils of
the audience, that, too, is part of the prevailing custom. It is
aesthetically incorrect, to be sure, but it is in line historically with
former demonstrations. No Protestant celebration would seem normal
without them. They help Protestants in their preparations for the
jubilee to appreciate the remarks of David in Psalm 2, 11: "Rejoice with
trembling." And if Shakespeare was correct in the statement: "Sweet are
the uses of adversity," they need not be altogether deplored.

An attempt is made in these pages to review the principal charges and
arguments of Catholic critics of Luther. The references to Luther's
works are to the St. Louis Edition; those to the Book of Concord, to the
People's Edition.

Authors must be modest, and as a rule they are. In the domain of
historical research there is rarely anything that is final. This
observation was forced upon the present writer with unusual power as the
rich contents of his subjects opened up to him during his study. He has
sought to be comprehensive, at least, as regards essential facts, in
every chapter; he does not claim that his presentation is final. He
hopes that it may stimulate further research.

This book is frankly polemical. It had to be, or there would have been
no need of writing it. It seeks to meet both the assertions and the
spirit of Luther's Catholic critics. A review ought to be a mirror, and
mirrors must reflect. But there is no malice in the author's effort.

W. H. T. Dau.

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.
May 10, 1917.


   l. Luther Worship
   2. Luther Hatred
   3. Luther Blemishes
   4. Luther's Task
   5. The Popes in Luther's Time
   6. Luther's Birth and Parentage
   7. Luther's Great Mistake
   8. Luther's Failure as a Monk
   9. Professor Luther, D. D.
   10. Luther's "Discovery" of the Bible
   11. Rome and the Bible
   12. Luther's Visit at Rome
   13. Pastor Luther
   14. The Case of Luther's Friend Myconius
   15. Luther's Faith without Works
   16. The Fatalist Luther
   17. Luther a Teacher of Lawlessness
   18. Luther Repudiates the Ten Commandments
   19. Luther's Invisible Church
   20. Luther on the God-given Supremacy of the Pope
   21. Luther the Translator of the Bible
   22. Luther a Preacher of Violence against the Hierarchy
   23. Luther, Anarchist and Despot All in One
   24. Luther the Destroyer of Liberty of Conscience
   25. "The Adam and Eve of the New Gospel of Concubinage"
   26. Luther an Advocate of Polygamy
   27. Luther Announces His Death
   28. Luther's View of His Slanderers

1. Luther Worship.

Catholic writers profess themselves shocked by the unblushing veneration
which Luther receives from Protestants. Such epithets as "hero of the
Reformation," "angel with the everlasting Gospel flying through the
midst of heaven," "restorer of the Christian faith," grate on Catholic
nerves. Luther's sayings are cited with approval by all sorts of men.
Men feel that their cause is greatly strengthened by having Luther on
their side. Luther's name is a name to conjure with. Hardly a great man
has lived in the last four hundred years but has gone on record as an
admirer of Luther. Rome, accordingly, cries out that Luther is become
the uncanonized saint of Protestantism, yea, the deified expounder of
the evangelical faith.

Coming from a Church that venerates and adores and prays to--you must
not say "worships"--as many saints as there are days in the calendar,
this stricture is refreshing. Saints not only of questionable sanctity,
but of doubtful existence have been worshiped--beg pardon! venerated--
by Catholics. What does the common law say about the prosecution coming
into court with clean hands? If there is such a thing among Protestants
as "religious veneration" of Luther, what shall we call the veneration
of Mary among Catholics? Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, proclaimed the
"immaculate conception," that is, the sinlessness of Mary from the very
first moment of her existence, thus removing her from the sphere of
sin-begotten humanity. In 1913, the press of the country was preparing
its readers for another move towards the deification of Mary: her
"assumption" was to be declared. That is, it was to be declared a
Catholic dogma that the corpse of Mary did not see corruption, and was
at the moment of her death removed to heaven. The _Pasadena Star_ of
August 15th in that year wrote: "It is now known that since his recent
illness Pope Pius, realizing that his active pontificate is practically
at an end, has expressed to some of the highest dignitaries of the
Catholic Church at Rome the desire to round out his career by this last
great act." The _Western Watchman_ of July 3d in that year had in its
inimitable style referred to the coming dogma, thus: "What Catholic in
the world to-day would say that the immaculately conceived body of
the Blessed Virgin was allowed to rot in the grave? The Catholic mind
would rebel against the thought; and death would be preferred to the
blasphemous outrage." The grounds for wanting the "assumption" of Mary
fixed in a dogma were these: "Catholics believe in the bodily assumption
of the Blessed Virgin, because their faith instinctively teaches them
that such a thing is possible and proper, and that settles it in favor
of the belief. The body of our Lord should not taste corruption, neither
should the body that gave Him His body. The flesh that was bruised for
our sins was the flesh of Mary. The blood that was shed for our
salvation was drawn from Mary's veins. It would be improper that the
Virgin Mother should be allowed to see corruption if her Son was
exempted from the indignity." If any should be so rash as to question
the propriety of the new dogma, the writer held out this pleasant
prospect to them: "Dogmas are stones at the heads of heretics. . . . The
eyes of all Catholics see aright; if they are afflicted with strabismus,
the Church resorts to an operation. All Catholics hear aright; if they
do not, the Church applies a remedy to their organ of hearing. These
surgical operations go under the name of dogmas." The world remembers
with what success an operation of this kind was performed on a number of
Roman prelates, who questioned the infallibility of the Pope. The dogma
was simply declared in 1870, and that put a quietus to all Catholic
scruples. Some day the "assumption" of Mary will be proclaimed as a
Catholic dogma. We should not feel surprised if ultimately a dogma were
published to the effect that the Holy Trinity is a Holy Quartet, with
Mary as the fourth person of the Godhead.

The Roman Church is accustomed to speak of her Supreme Pontiff, the Holy
Father, the Vicegerent of Christ, His Infallible Holiness, in terms that
lift a human being to heights of adoration unknown among Protestants.
For centuries the tendency in the Roman Church to make of the Pope "a
god on earth" has been felt and expressed in Christendom.

This Church wants to preach to Protestants about the sin of man-worship!
Verily, here we have the parable of the mote and the beam in a twentieth
century edition. Catholic teachers would be the last ones, we imagine,
whom scrupulous Christians would choose for instructing them regarding
the sin of idolatry and the means to avoid it.

No Protestant regards Luther as Catholics regard Mary, not even Patrick.
Luther has taught them too well for that. Unwittingly the Catholics
themselves have immortalized Luther by naming the Evangelical Church
after Luther. Luther declined the honor. "I beg," he said, "not to have
my name mentioned, and to call people not Lutheran, but Christian. What
is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for any
one. . . . The papists deserve to have a party-name, for they are not
content with the doctrine and name of Christ; they want to be popish
also. Well, let them be called popish, for the Pope is their master. I
am not, and I do not want to be, anybody's master." (10, 371.)

It is likely that the frequent laudatory mention of Luther's name,
especially in connection with the present anniversary of the
Reformation, is taken as a challenge by Catholics. If it is that, it is
so by the choice of Catholics. It is impossible to speak of a great man
without referring to the conflicts that made him great. "He makes no
friend," says Tennyson, "who never made a foe." "The man who has no
enemies," says Donn Piatt, "has no following." Opposition is one of the
accepted marks of greatness. The opposition which great men aroused
during their lifetime lives after them, and crops out again on a given
occasion. This is deplorable, but it is the ordinary course. Moreover,
it is possible that in a season of great joy like that which the
Quadricentenary of the Reformation has ushered in orators and writers
may fail to put a due check on their enthusiasm and may overstate a
fact. Such things happen even among Catholics, we believe, But they will
be negligible quantities in the present celebration. The proper
corrective for them will be provided by Protestants themselves. The vast
majority of those who have embraced the spiritual leadership of Luther
in matters pertaining to Christian doctrine and morals will prove again
that they are in no danger of inaugurating man-worship. The spirit of
Luther is too much alive in them for that. They will, with the Marquis
of Brandenburg, declare: "If I be asked whether with heart and lip I
confess that faith which God has restored to us by Luther as His
instrument, I have no scruple, nor have I a disposition to shrink from
the name Lutheran. Thus understood, I am, and shall to my dying hour
remain, a Lutheran." They will ever be able to distinguish between the
man Luther, prone to error and sin like any other mortal, and the Luther
who fought the battle of the Lord and had a mission of everlasting
import to the Church and the world. They have shown on numerous
occasions that they can be friends of Luther, and yet criticize him or
dissent from him. If they had not, there would be no Protestants whom
Catholics can quote as "opponents" of Luther. On the other hand, if any
one undertakes to enlighten the public with a view of Luther,
Protestants will insist that his estimate comport with the facts in the
case, and that the name of a great man who deserves well of posterity be
not traduced. Why, even the Catholic von Schlegel thinks Luther has not
been half esteemed as he ought to be.

2. Luther Hatred.

Catholic writers have found so much to censure in the character and
writings of Luther that one is amazed, after reading them, how Luther
ever could become regarded as a great and good man. Criminal blindness
must have held the eyes, not only of Luther's associates, but of his
entire age, yea, of men for centuries after, if they failed to see
Luther's constitutional baseness. Quite recently a Catholic writer has
told the world in one chapter of his book that "the apostate monk of
Wittenberg" was possessed of "a violent, despotic, and uncontrolled
nature," that he was "depraved in manners and in speech." He speaks of
Luther's "ungovernable transports, riotous proceedings, angry conflicts,
and intemperate controversies," of Luther's "contempt of all the
accepted forms of human right and all authority, human and divine," of
"his unscrupulous mendacity," "his perverse principles," "his wild
pronouncements." He calls Luther "a lawless one," "one of the most
intolerant of men," "a revolutionist, not a reformer." He says that
Luther "attempted reformation and ended in deformation." He charges
Luther with having written and preached "not for, but against good
works," with having assumed rights to himself in the matter of liberty
of conscience which "he unhesitatingly and imperiously denied to all who
differed from him," with having "rent asunder the unity of the Church,"
with having "disgraced the Church by a notoriously wicked and scandalous
life," with having "declared it to be the right of every man to
interpret the Bible to his own individual conception," with "one day
proclaiming the binding force of the Ten Commandments and the next
declaring they were not obligatory on Christian observance," with having
"reviled and hated and cursed the Church of his fathers."

These opprobrious remarks are only a part of the vileness of which the
writer has delivered himself in his first chapter. His whole book
bristles with assertions of Luther's inveterate badness. This coarse and
crooked Luther, we are told, is the real Luther, the genuine article.
The Luther of history is only a Protestant fiction. Protestants like
Prof. Seeberg of Berlin, and others, who have criticized Luther, are
introduced as witnesses for the Catholic allegation that Luther was a
thoroughly bad man. We should like to ascertain the feelings of these
Protestants when they are informed what use has been made of their
remarks about Luther. Some of them may yet let the world know what they
think of the attempt to make them the squires of such knights errant as
Denifle and Grisar.

It is about ten years ago since the Jesuit Grisar began to publish his
_Life of Luther,_ twice that time, since Denifle painted his caricature
of Luther. Several generations ago Janssen, in his _History of the
German Nation,_ gave the Catholic interpretation of Luther and the
Reformation. Going back still further, we come to the Jesuit Maimbourg,
to Witzel, and in Luther's own time to Cochlaeus and Oldecop, all of
whom strove to convince the world that Luther was a moral degenerate and
a reprobate. The book of Mgr. O'Hare, which has made its appearance on
the eve of the Four-hundredth Anniversary of Luther's Theses, is merely
another eruption from the same mud volcano that became active in
Luther's lifetime. It is the old dirt that has come forth. Rome must
periodically relieve itself in this manner, or burst. Rome hated the
living Luther, and cannot forget him since he is dead. It hates him
still. Its hatred is become full-grown, robust, vigorous with the
advancing years. When Rome speaks its mind about Luther, it cannot but
speak in terms of malignant scorn. If Luther could read Mgr. O'Hare's
book, he would say: "Wes das Herz voll ist, des gehet der Mund ueber."
(Matt. 12, 34: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.")

Luther has done one thing which Rome will never pardon: he dared to
attack the supreme authority of the Pope. He made men see the
ignominious bondage in which cunning priests had ensnared them, and by
restoring them to the liberty with which Christ had made them free
Luther caused the papacy an irreparable loss. The papal system of
teaching and government was so thoroughly exposed by Luther, and has
since been so completely disavowed by a great part of professing
Christians that Rome cannot practise its old frauds any longer. Men have
become extremely wary of Rome. That is what hurts. The Catholic writer
to whom we referred sums up the situation thus: Since Luther "all
Protestant mankind descending by ordinary generation have come into the
world with a mentality biased, perverted, and prejudiced." That is
Rome's way of looking at the matter. The truth is: the world is
forewarned, hence forearmed against the pleas of Rome. It pays only an
indifferent attention to vilifications of Luther that come from that
quarter, because it expects no encomiums and only scant justice for
Luther from Rome. But it is the business of the teachers of Protestant
principles in religion, particularly of the church historians of
Protestantism, to take notice of the campaign of slander that is
launched against Luther by Catholic writers at convenient intervals. It
is not a task to delight the soul, rather to try the patience, of
Christians. For in the study of the causes for these calumnies against a
great man of history, and of the possible means for their removal, one
is forced invariably to the conclusion that there is but one cause, and
that is hatred. What can poor mortal man do to break down such a cause?
It does not yield to logic and historical facts, because it is in its
very nature unreasoning and unreasonable.

Still, for the hour that God sends to all the Sauls that roam the earth
breathing threatening and slaughter, the counter arguments should be
ready. No slander against Luther has ever gone unanswered. As the
charges against Luther have become stereotyped, so the rejoinder cannot
hope to bring forward any new facts. But it seems necessary that each
generation in the Church Militant be put through the old drills, and
learn its fruitful lessons of spiritual adversity. Thus even these
polemical exchanges between Catholics and Protestants become blessings
in disguise. But they do not affect Luther. The sublime figure of the
courageous confessor of Christ that has stood towering in the annals of
the Christian Church for four hundred years stands unshaken, silent, and
grand, despite the froth that is dashed against its base and the
lightning from angry clouds that strikes its top. "Surely, the wrath of
man shall praise thee." (Ps. 76, 10.)

3. Luther Blemishes.

When Luther is charged with immoral conduct, and the specific facts
together with the documentary evidence are not submitted along with the
charge, little can be done in the way of rebuttal. One can only guess at
the grounds on which the charge is based. For instance, when Luther is
said to have disgraced the Church by a notoriously wicked and scandalous
life, the reason is most likely because he married although he was a
monk sworn to remain single. Moreover, he married a noble lady who was a
nun, also sworn to celibacy. According to the inscrutable ethics of Rome
this is concubinage, although the Scripture plainly declares that a
minister of the Church should be the husband of one wife, 1 Tim. 3, 2,
and no vows can annul the ordinance and commandment of God: "It is not
good that man should be alone." Gen. 2, 18. Comp. 1 Cor. 7, 2, and
Augsburg Confession, Art. 27.

When Luther is said to have reviled, hated, and cursed the Church of his
fathers, the probable reason is, because he wrote the _Babylonian
Captivity of the Church_ and _The Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil_.
In these writings Luther depicts the true antichristian inwardness of
the papacy. By so doing, however, Luther restored the Church of his
fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers in Christ down to the first
ancestor of our race. Luther's faith is none other than the faith of the
true Church in all the ages. Luther's own father and mother died in that

When Luther is said to have taught Nietzsche's insanity about the
"Superhuman" (Uebermensch) before Nietzsche, to have put the Ten
Commandments out of commission for Christians, and to have preached
against good works, the reasons most likely are these: Luther taught
salvation in accordance with Rom. 3, 25: "We conclude that a man is
justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law." Luther taught that a
person is not saved by his own works, and if he performs good works with
that end in view, he shames his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the
end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10,
4), and he falls under the curse of God for placing his own merits
alongside of the merit of the Redeemer's sacrifice. In no other
connection has Luther spoken against good works. He has rather taught
men how to become fruitful in well-doing by the sanctifying grace of God
and according to the inspiring example of the matchless Jesus.
Concerning the Law, Luther preached 1 Tim. 1, 9: "The Law is not made
for a righteous man," that is, Christians do the works of the Law, not
for the Law's sake, but for the sake of Christ, whom they love and whose
mind is in them. They must not be driven like slaves to obey God, but
their very faith prompts them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in
this present world (Tit. 2, 12). But Luther always held that the rule
for good works is laid down in the holy Law of God, and only in that;
also that the Law must be applied to Christians, in as far as they still
live in, the flesh, and are not become altogether spiritual. Luther's
public activity as a preacher began with a series of sermons on the Ten
Commandments, and this effort to expound the divine norm of
righteousness was repeated several times during Luther's life. Luther's
expositions of the Decalog are among the finest that the world
possesses. Moreover, Luther wrote the Small Catechism. Hand any Catholic
who talks about Luther having abolished the Ten Commandments this little
book. That is a sufficient refutation. What Luther teaches in this book
he has given his life to reduce to practise in himself and others. He
says in a sermon on Easter Monday, 1530: "When rising in the morning, I
pray with my children the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's
Prayer, and some Psalm. I do this because I want to make myself cling to
these truths. I shall not suffer my faith to become mildewed with the
imagination that I am above these things (_dass ich's koenne_)." His
sermon on the First Sunday in Advent in the same year he begins thus:
"Dear friends, I am now an old Doctor, still I find every day that I
must recite with the children the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the
Lord's Prayer, and I have always derived a great benefit and blessing
from this practise." (12, 1611. 1641.)

Luther is charged with mendacity, that is, he is said to have lied. The
reasons that will be given for this charge, when called for, will
probably be these: Luther at various times in his life gave three
different years as the year of his birth, three different years as the
year when he made his journey to Rome, and advised somebody in 1512 to
become a monk when he had already commenced to denounce the monastic
life: It is true that Luther did all these things, but it is also true
that Luther believed himself right in each of his statements. He was
simply mistaken. Other people have misstated the year of their birth
without being branded liars on that account. Sometimes even a professor
forgets things, and Luther was a professor. What Luther has said about
the rigor of his monastic life is perfectly true, but it was no reason
why in 1512 he should counsel men to become monks. He had not yet come
to the full knowledge of the wrong principles underlying that mode of
life. To adduce such inaccuracies as evidence of prevarication is itself
an insincere act and puts the claimant by right in the Ananias Club.

Luther is said to have been a glutton and a drunkard. "Let us examine
the facts. What is the evidence? Luther's obesity and his gout. Is that
evidence? Not in any court. It would be evidence if both conditions were
caused, and caused only, by gluttony and tippling. But this notoriously
is not the case. Obesity may be due to disease. A man may even eat
little and wax stout if what he eats turns into adipose rather than into
muscular tissue. As for gout, it is the result of uric acid diathesis.
Now uric acid diathesis may be, and very often is, caused by high
living, but often, too, it is due to quite different causes. Just as in
the case of Bright's disease. I do not deny that Luther drank freely
both beer and wine. So did everybody else. People drank beer as we do
coffee. . . . Moreover, in the sixteenth century alcoholic beverages
were prescribed for the maladies from which Luther suffered much--kidneys
and nervous trouble. We now know that in such cases alcohol proves a
very poison; but this Luther could not know. But intemperate . . . in
his use of strong drink Luther was not. Neither was he a glutton. Before
he married, he ate very irregularly, and often completely forgot his
meals. When he could not get meat and wine, he contented himself with
bread and water. . . . Melanchthon tells us that Luther loved the coarse
food as he did the coarse speech of the peasantry, and even of that food
ate little, so little that Melanchthon marveled how Luther could
maintain strength upon such a diet.--It is further a noteworthy fact
that, when we read the sermons of the day, we find nobody who so
frequently and so earnestly attacks the prevailing vice of drunkenness
as does Luther. Now, whatever Luther may or may not have been, hypocrite
he was not. Had he himself been intemperate, he would not have preached
against it in such a manner. Furthermore, Luther was under constant
espionage. His every move was noted. People knew how many patches there
were on his undergarments. Think you, think you for a moment, that the
Wittenbergians would have listened meekly to Luther's repeated assaults
upon the wide-spread sin of intemperance, had they known him for a
confirmed tippler? It is too absurd.--But the best evidence for the
defense comes from a mute witness--Luther's industry. He wrote more than
four hundred books, brochures, sermons, and so forth, filling more than
one hundred volumes of the Erlangen edition. There are extant more than
three thousand of his letters, which represent only a small proportion
of all that he wrote. Thus we know, for example, that one evening in
1544 Luther wrote ten letters, of which only two have been preserved. He
was, furthermore, in frequent conference with leaders in both Church and
State. He preached on Sundays and lectured on week-days. Now, a man may,
it is true, perform a considerable amount of manual labor even after
overeating and overdrinking, but every physician will admit the
correctness of my assertion, it is a physiological impossibility that a
man could habitually overindulge in food or liquor, or both, and still
get over the enormous amount of intellectual work that Luther performed
day to day" (Boehmer, _The Man Luther,_ p. 16 f.)

Most shameless have been the charges of lewdness and immorality against
Luther. His relation to Frau Cotta has been represented as impure. Think
of it, a boy of sixteen to eighteen thus related to an honorable
housewife! Illegitimate children have been foisted upon him. A humorous
remark about his intention to marry and being unable to choose between
several eligible parties has been twisted into an immoral meaning. The
fact that he gave shelter overnight to a number of escaped nuns, when he
was already a married man, has been meaningly referred to. Boehmer has
exhaustively gone into these charges, examining without flinching every
asserted fact cited in evidence of Luther's moral corruptness, and has
shown the purity of Luther as being above reproach. Not one of the
sexual vagaries imputed to Luther rests on a basis of fact. (Boehmer,
_Luther in Light of Recent Research,_ pp. 215-223.)

When the modern reader meets with a general charge of badness, or even
with the assertion of some specific form of badness, in Luther, he
should inquire at once to what particular incident in Luther's life
reference is made. These charges have all been examined and the evidence
sifted, and that by impartial investigators. Protestants have taken the
lead in this work and have not glossed anything over. Boehmer's able
treatise has been translated into English. Walther's _Fuer Luther wider
Rom_ will, no doubt, be given the public in an English edition soon.
Works like these have long blasted the claim of Catholics that
Protestants are afraid to have the truth told about Luther. They only
demand that the _truth_ be told.

4. Luther's Task.

One blemish in the character of Luther that is often cited with
condemnation even by Protestants deserves to be examined separately. It
is Luther's violence in controversy, his coarse language, his angry
moods. All will agree that violence and coarse speech must not be
countenanced in Christians, least of all in teachers of Christianity. In
the writings of Luther there occur terms, phrases, passages that sound
repulsive. The strongest admirer of Luther will have moments when he
wishes certain things could have been said differently. Luther's
language cannot be repeated in our times. Some who have tried to do that
in all sincerity have found to their dismay that they were wholly
misunderstood. What Jove may do any ox may not do, says an old Latin

Shall we, then, admit Luther's fault and proceed to apologize for him
and find plausible reasons for extenuating his indiscretions in speech
and his temperamental faults? We shall do neither. We shall let this
"foul-mouthed," coarse Luther stand before the bar of public opinion
just as he is. His way cannot be our way, but ultimately none of us will
be his final judges. The character of the duties which Luther was sent
to perform must be his justification.

It is true, indeed, that the manners of the age of Luther were generally
rough. Even in polite society language was freely used that would make
us gasp. Coarse terms evidently were not felt to be such. In their
polemical writings the learned men of the age seem to exhaust a
zoological park in their frantic search for striking epithets to hurl at
their opponent. It was an age of strong feeling and sturdy diction. It
is also true that Luther was a man of the people. With a sort of homely
pride he used to declare: "I am a peasant's son; all my forbears were
peasants." But all this does not sufficiently explain Luther's

Most people that criticize Luther for his strong speech have read little
else of Luther. They are not aware that in the, great mass of his
writings there is but a small proportion of matter that would nowadays
be declared objectionable. Luther speaks through many pages, yea,
through whole books, with perfect calmness. It is interesting to observe
how he develops a thought, illustrates a point by an episode from
history or from every-day life, urges a lesson with a lively
exhortation. He is pleasant, gentle, serious, compassionate, artlessly
eloquent, and, withal, perfectly pure in all he says. When Luther
becomes "coarse," there is a reason. One must have read much in Luther,
one should have read all of Luther, and his "billingsgate" will assume a
different meaning. If there is madness in his reckless speech, there is
method in it. One must try and understand Luther's objective and

Luther had a very coarse subject to deal with, and Luther believed that
a spade is best called a spade. Luther never struck at wickedness with
the straw of a fine circumlocution. He believed that he had the right,
yea, the duty, to call coarse things by coarse names; for the Bible does
the same. Luther has called the gentlemen at the Pope's court in his day
some very descriptive names. He did not merely insinuate that the
cardinals of his day were no angels, but said outright what they were.
He did not feebly question the holiness of His Holiness, but he called
some of the Popes monsters of iniquity and reprobates. We shall show
anon that in that age there lived men who spoke of the same matters as
Luther, who told tales and used expressions that would render their
writings unmailable to-day.

The great men of any age are products of that age. Man is as much the
creature of circumstances as circumstances are the creatures of men--
Disraeli to the contrary notwithstanding. While men may create
situations, they may also be made to fit into a situation. Men have
become great for this very reason that they understand the spirit of
their age and were able to respond to its call. Back of both men and
circumstances, however, stands sovereign Providence, shaping our ends,
rough-hew them how we will.

No character-study is just that fails to take into consideration the
force of circumstances under which the subject of the study has acted at
a given moment in his life. In the case of Luther there is a more than
ordinary necessity for adopting this equitable method; for Luther has
declared hundreds of times that his stirring utterances and incisive
deeds were not the result of long premeditation, or the sudden outbursts
of uncontrolled passion,--though neither he nor we would have any
interest in denying that he could be angry and did become angry,--but
the answer to crying needs of the times. This answer was on many a
signal occasion wrung from Luther after much wrestling with God in
prayer. He was moved to action by the heroism of that faith which had
been kindled in him. He acted in harmony with the particular issue with
which he was called upon to deal. Deep compassion at the sight of his
suffering fellow-men put strong language on his lips. Between  the
pleading of friends and the storming of enemies he had no choice but to
act as he did. Luther often seems unconscious of the greatness of his
acts: he speaks of them as "his poor way of doing things," and invites
others to improve what he has attempted. We fear that many in our day
fail to see the greatness of the achievement while they stricture the
manner of achieving it.

Few men have so utterly lived for a cause, in a cause, and with a cause
as Luther. It is the heart of an entire people that cries out through
Luther; it is the soul of outraged Christianity that moans in anguish,
and speaks with the majesty of righteous anger through Luther. An age of
unparalleled ferment that had begun long before Luther has reached its
culminating point, and lifts up its strident voice of long-restrained
expostulation through Luther. Remove the conditions under which Luther
had to live and labor, and the Luther whom men bless or curse becomes an

In Luther's life-work there is discernible the influence not only of
good men, such as the scholarly Melanchthon, the faithful Jonas, the
firm and kind Saxon electors, the eager Amsdorf, the alert Link, but
also of evil men like the blunt Tetzel, the wily Prierias, and the horde
of ignorant monks which the monasteries and chancelleries of Rome let
loose upon one man. The course which Luther had to pursue was shaped for
him by others. We do not mean to suggest that Luther in his polemical
writings employed the cheap method of replying to the coarse language
adopted by his opponents in similar language; but it is fair to him that
this fact be recorded. Some people remember very well that Luther
addressed the Pope "Most hellish father!" and are horrified, but they
forget that the Pope had been extremely lurid in the appellatives which
he applied to Luther. "Child of Belial," "son of perdition," were some
of the endearing terms with which Luther was to be assured of the loving
interest the Holy Father took in him. That Luther called Henry VIII "a
damnable and rotten worm" seems to be well remembered, but that the
British king had called Luther "a wolf of hell" is forgotten. It goes
without saying that the contact with such opponents did for Luther what
it does for every person who is not made of granite and cast iron: it
roused his temper. It should not have been permitted to do that, we say.
Assuredly. Luther thinks so too, but with a reservation, as we shall

The "imperious spirit" and "violent measures" charged against Luther a
careful reader of history will rather find on the side of Luther's
opponents. They plainly relied on the power of Rome to crush Luther by
brute force. What respect could a plain, honest man like Luther conceive
for men like Cajetanus, Eck, and Hoogstraten, who were first sent by the
Vatican to negotiate his surrender? For publishing simple Bible-truth
the cardinal at Augsburg roared and bellowed at him, "Recant! Recant!"
Even at this early stage of the affair matters assumed such an ominous
aspect that Luther's friends urged him to quietly leave the city. They
did not trust the amicable gentleman from the polished circle of the
Pope's immediate counselors. At Leipzig, Eck had been driven into the
corner by Luther's unanswerable arguments from Scripture; then he turned
to abuse and called Luther a Bohemian and a Hussite, and finally left
the hall with the air of a victor to celebrate his achievement in the
taverns and brothels of the city, where he found his customary delights
learned from his masters at Rome. Can any language of contempt in which
Luther afterwards spoke of this doughty champion of Rome be too strong?
Among the attendants at the Leipzig Debate was Hoogstraten. This
gentleman followed the elevating profession of torturing and burning
heretics in Germany,--the territory especially assigned to him. It
looked as if he had come to Leipzig to follow up Eck's verbal thunder
with the inquisitorial lightning, and make of Luther actually another
Hus. When he found that he would not have an opportunity for plying his
hideous trade this time, he ventured into territory where he was a
stranger: he attempted a theological argument with Luther. He asserted
that by denying the primacy of the Pope, Luther had contradicted the
Scriptures and defied the Council of Nice, and must be suppressed.
Luther called him an unsophisticated ass and a bloodthirsty enemy of the
truth. Certainly, that does not sound nice, but such things happen, as a
rule, when fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

What was the papal bull of excommunication against Luther, with its list
of most opprobrious terms, but an unwarranted provocation of Luther, who
had a right to expect different treatment from the foremost teacher of
Christianity to whom he had entrusted his just grievance as a dutiful
son of the Church? Thus we might go on for pages citing instances of
reckless attack upon Luther, often by most unworthy persons, that drew
from Luther a reply such as his assailants deserved.

It is a gratuitous criticism to say that Christians must not revile when
they are reviled. Those who think that Luther did not know this rule of
the Christian religion, or did not apply it to himself, do not know the
full story of his life. He certainly did wrestle with the flesh and
blood in himself. He sighed for peace, but the moment he seemed to
become conciliatory and pacific, his enemies set up a shout that he was
vanquished. It seemed that they could not be made to comprehend the
issues confronting them unless they were blown in upon them on the wings
of a hurricane. As early as 1520 Luther replies to an anxious letter of
Spalatin, who thought that Luther had used too strong language against
the Bishop of Meissen, as follows: "Good God! how excited you are, my
Spalatin! You seem even more stirred up than I and the others. Do you
not see that my patience in not replying to Emser's and Eck's five or
six wagonloads of curses is the sole reason why the framers of this
document have dared to attack me with such silly and ridiculous
nonsense? For you know how little I cared that my sermon at Leipzig was
condemned and suppressed by a public edict; how I despised suspicion,
infamy, injury, hatred. Must these audacious persons even be permitted
to add to these follies scandalous pamphlets crammed full of falsehoods
and blasphemies against Gospel-truth? Do you forbid even to bark at
these wolves? The Lord is my witness how I restrained myself lest I
should not treat with reverence this accursed and most impotent document
issued in the bishop's name. Otherwise I should have said things those
heads ought to hear, and I will yet, when they acknowledge their
authorship by beginning to defend themselves. I beg, if you think
rightly of the Gospel, do not imagine its cause can be accomplished
without tumult, scandal, and sedition. Out of the sword you cannot make
a feather, nor out of war, peace. The Word of God is a sword, war, ruin,
destruction, poison, and, as Amos says, it meets the children of Ephraim
like a bear in the way and a lioness in the woods.--I cannot deny that I
have been more vehement than is seemly. But since they knew this, they
ought not to have stirred up the dog. How difficult it is to temper
one's passions and one's pen you can judge even from your own case. This
is the reason I have always disliked to engage in public controversy;
but the more I dislike it, the more I am involved against my will, and
that only by the most atrocious slanders brought against me and the Word
of God. If I were not carried away thereby either in temper or pen, even
a heart of stone would be moved by the indignity of the thing to take up
arms; and how much more I, who am both passionate and possessed of a pen
not altogether blunt! By these monstrosities I am driven beyond modesty
and decorum. At the same time, I wonder where this new religion came
from, that whatever you say against an adversary is slander. What do you
think of Christ? Was He a slanderer when He called the Jews an
adulterous and perverse generation, the offspring of vipers, hypocrites,
sons of the devil? And what about Paul when he used the words dogs, vain
babblers, seducers, ignorant, and in Acts 13 so inveighed against a
false prophet that he seems almost insane: `Oh, thou full of deceit and
of all craft, thou son of the devil, enemy of the truth'? Why did he not
gently flatter him, that he might convert him, rather than thunder in
such a way? It is not possible, if acquainted with the truth, to be
patient with inflexible and ungovernable enemies of the truth. But
enough of this nonsense. I see that everybody wishes I were gentle,
especially my enemies, who show themselves least so of all. If I am too
little gentle, I am at least simple and open, and therein, as I believe,
surpass them, for they dispute only in a deceitful fashion." (19, 482 f.
Translation by McGiffert.)

Nobody should make Luther any better than he makes himself. Still, the
question is pertinent whether violent polemics can ever be engaged in by
Christians with a good conscience. Luther has asserted that, while he
hurled his terrible denunciations against the adversaries of the truth,
his heart was disposed to friendship and peace with them. (16, 1718 f.)
Is a state of mind like this altogether inconceivable, viz., that a
person can curse another for a certain act and at the same time love
him? We think not. In his day this boisterous, turbulent Luther was
understood, trusted, and loved by the people. After the publication of
the Theses against Tetzel "the hearts of men in all parts of the land
turned toward him, and his heart turned toward them. For the religious
principles underlying the theses they cared little, for the arguments
sustaining them still less. They saw only that here was a man, muzzled
by none of the prudential considerations closing the mouths of many in
high places, who dared to speak his mind plainly and emphatically, and
was able to speak it intelligently and with effect upon a great and
growing evil deplored by multitudes. It is such a man the people love
and such a man they trust." (McGiffert, _Luther,_ p. 98 f.)

McGiffert has the right perception of the Luther of 1517-1519 when he
describes him as "the awakening reformer," thus: "He had the true
reformer's conscience--the sense of responsibility for others as well as
for himself, and the true reformer's vision of the better things that
ought to be. He was never a mere faultfinder, but he was endowed with
the gifts of imagination and sympathy, leading him to feel himself a
part of every situation he was placed in, and with the irrepressible
impulse to action driving him to take upon himself the burden of it. In
any crowd of bystanders he would have been first to go to the rescue
where need was, and quickest to see the need not obvious to all. The
aloofness of the mere observer was not his; he was too completely one
with all he saw to stand apart and let it go its way alone. Fearful and
distrustful of himself he long was, but his timidity was only the
natural shrinking before new and untried duties of a soul that saw more
clearly and felt more keenly than most. The imperative demands
inevitably made upon him by every situation led him instinctively to
dread putting himself where he could not help responding to the call of
unfamiliar tasks; but once there, the summons was irresistible, and he
threw himself into the new responsibilities with a forgetfulness of self
possible only to him who has denied its claims, and with a fearlessness
possible only to him who has conquered fear. He might interpret his
confidence as trust in God, won by the path of a complete contempt of
his own powers; but however understood, it gave him an independence and
a disregard of consequences which made his conscience and his vision
effective for reform."

McGiffert suggests a comparison of Luther with, let us say, Erasmus. Had
he been a humanist, he would have laughed the whole thing [Tetzel's
selling of indulgences] to scorn as an exploded superstition beneath the
contempt of an intelligent man; had he been a scholastic theologian, he
would have sat in his study and drawn fine distinctions to justify the
traffic without bothering himself about its influence upon the lives of
the vulgar populace. But he was neither humanist nor schoolman. He had a
conscience which made indifference impossible, and a simplicity and
directness of vision which compelled him to brush aside all equivocation
and go straight to the heart of things. With it all he was at once a
devout and believing son of the Church, and a practical preacher
profoundly concerned for the spiritual and moral welfare of the common
people." (p. 66f. 87.) Had Luther considered his personal interests as
Erasmus did, he would not have become the Luther that we know. Erasmus
in his day was regarded as the wisest of men; Luther in his own view,
like Paul, frequently had to make a fool of himself in order to achieve
his purpose. For instance, when he wrote against the dullards at the
University of Louvain, against the sacrilegious coterie at Rome that was
running the Church and the world pretty much as they pleased, or against
the brutal "Hans Wurst" (Duke Henry of Brunswick). Erasmus and his
school of gentle reformers always counseled a slackening of the pace and
the use of the soft pedal. Where is Erasmus to-day in the world's
valuation? Even Rome, in whose bosom he nestled, and who fondled him for
a season, has cast him aside as worthless. Luther lives yet, to the
delight not only of Coleridge, but of millions of the world's best men,
who, with the British divine, regard him this very hour as "a purifying
and preserving spirit to Christianity at large."

Luther was conscious of the difference in the method of warfare between
himself and his colaborer Melanchthon. He says: "I am rough, boisterous,
stormy, and altogether warlike. I am born to fight against innumerable
monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles
and thorns, and clear wild forests; but Master Philip comes along softly
and gently, sowing and watering with joy, according to the gifts which
God has abundantly bestowed upon him," (14, 176.)

Dr. Tholuck, writing on "Luther's rashness," says: "What would have
become of the Church if the Lord's servants and prophets had at all
times done nothing else than spread salves upon sores and walk softly?"
He introduces Luther in his own defense: "On one occasion, when asked by
the Marquis Joachim I why he wrote against the princes, he returned the
beautiful answer: 'When God intends to fertilize the ground, He must
needs send first of all a good thunderstorm, and afterwards slow and
gentle rain, and thus make it thoroughly productive.' Elsewhere he says:
'A willow-branch may be cut with a knife and bent with a finger, but for
a great and gnarled oak we must use an ax and a wedge'; and again: 'If
my teeth had been less sharp, the Pope would have been more voracious.'
'Of what use is salt,' he exclaims in another passage, 'if it do not
bite the tongue? or the blade of a sword unless it be sharp enough to
cut? Does not the prophet say, "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the
Lord deceitfully, and keepeth back his sword from blood"?'"

One reflection suggests itself in this connection that goes far to
exonerate Luther: the language which the Bible employs against heretics
and ungodly men. It calls them dogs, Ps. 22, 20; 59, 6; Is. 56, 10;
Matt. 7, 6; Phil. 3, 2; Rev. 22, 15; swine, Matt. 7, 6; boars and wild
beasts, Ps. 80, 13; dromedaries and asses, Jer. 2, 23f.; bullocks, Jer.
31, 18; bellowing bulls, Jer. 50, 11; viper's brood, Matt. 3, 7; foxes,
Cant. 2, 5; Luke 13, 32; serpents, Matt. 23, 33; sons of Belial, 1 Sam.
2, 12; children of the devil, Acts 13, 10; Satan's synagog, Rev. 2, 9.
As regards its language, the Bible, too, agrees with the conditions of
the times in which it was written. When God, to express His righteous
anger, addresses the ungodly in such terms of utter contempt, He teaches
us how to regard them and, on occasion, to speak of them. This "coarse"
Luther is not more vehement and repulsive in his speech than the holy
Word of God.

We remarked before that we would not apologize for Luther's rashness and
coarse speech. Luther's acts are self-vindicating; they will approve
themselves to the discriminating judgment of every reader of history. We
can appreciate this sentiment of McGiffert : "As well apologize for the
fury of the wind as for the vehemence of Martin Luther." The Psalmist
calls upon the forces of nature: "Praise the Lord, fire, and hail; snow
and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling His word." (Ps. 148, 7. 8.) God has a
mission that our philosophy does not fathom for the mad hurry and
destruction of the whirlwind. How silly it would be to criticize a
cyclone because it is not a zephyr! We can imagine a scene like this:
The battle of Gettysburg is in progress and a gentle lady is permitted
to see it from a distance by a grim, warlike guide, and the following
conversation ensues:

"Why, they are shooting at each other! Did you see that naughty man stab
the pretty soldier right through his uniform?"

"Yes, madam, that is what he is there for."

"But is it not horrid?"

"Yes, madam, it is perfectly horrid. It is hell."

"But what are they doing this beastly work for?"

"Madam, they are fighting for a principle that is to keep this country a
united republic."

"Can anything be more horrid?--I mean, not the principle, but this awful

"Yes, madam, there is something more horrid than that."

"What is it?"

"If there would be no one to fight for that principle."

War is never a pleasant affair. When men are forced to fight for what is
dearer to them than life, they will strike hard and deep. It is silly to
expect a soldier to walk up to his enemy with a fly brush and shoo him
away, or to stop and consider what posterity would probably regard as
the least objectionable way for dispatching an enemy. Luther was called
to be a warrior; he had to use warriors' methods. Any general in a
bloody campaign can be criticized for violence with as much reason as is
shown by some critics of Luther.

5. The Popes in Luther's Time.

To judge intelligently the activity of Luther it is necessary to
understand the state of the Church in his day and the character of the
chief bishops of the Church. When reading modern censures of Luther's
attacks upon the papacy, one wonders why nothing is said about the thing
that Luther attacked. Catholic critics of Luther surely must know what
papal filth lies accumulated in the _Commentarii di Marino Sanuto,_ in
Alegretto Alegretti's _Diari Sanesi,_ in the _Relazione di Polo
Capello,_ in the _Diario de Sebastiano di Branca de Tilini,_ in the
_Successo di la Morte di Papa Alessandro,_ in Tommaso Inghirami's _Fea,
Notizie Intorno Rafaele Sanzio da Urbino,_ and others. Ranke worked with
these authorities when he wrote his _History of the Popes_. What about
the authorities which Gieseler cites in his _Ecclesiastical History_--
Muratori, Fabronius, Machiavelli, Sabellicus, Raynaldus, Eccardus,
Burchardus, etc.? A compassionate age has relegated the exact account of
the moral state of the papacy in Luther's days to learned works, and
even in these they are given mostly in Latin footnotes. In the language
of Augustus Birrell, they are "too coarse."

Luther's life (1483-1546) falls into the administration of nine Popes:
Sixtus IV, 1471-1484; Innocent VIII, 1484-1492; Alexander VI, 1492-1503;
Pius III, 26 days in 1503; Julius II, 1503-1513; Leo X, 1513-1521;
Hadrian VI, 1522-1523; Clement VII, 1523-1534; Paul III, 1534-1549.

Speaking of this series of Popes, the historian Gieseler says: "The
succession of Popes which now follows proves the degeneracy of the
cardinals (from among whom the Pope is chosen) as to all discipline and
sense of shame: they were distinguished for nothing but undisguised
meanness and wickedness; they were reprobates."

Of Sixtus IV he says: "His chief motive was the small ambition to raise
his family from their low estate to the highest rank." Infamous
transactions which resulted in the murder of Julian de Medici while at
high mass in church and the hanging of the archbishop of Pisa from a
window of the town hall by the exasperated people, wars, conspiracies,
alliances, annulments of alliances, in short, all the acts that fill up
the turbulent life of a crafty and grasping politician, are recorded for
his administration. He did not scruple to employ the authority of his
exalted office for the furtherance of his political schemes. Thus he
excommunicated Venice and formed a warlike alliance against the city.
But the Venetians regarded his religious thunderbolts as little as his
physical prowess. "Vexation at this hastened the death of the Pope, who
was hated as much as he was despised."

Ranke, on the authority of Alegretti, relates of Pope Sixtus IV: "The
Colonna family, opponents of the Pope's nephew Riario, was persecuted by
him with the most savage ferocity. He seized on their domain of Marino,
and causing the prothonotary Colonna to be attacked in his own house,
took him prisoner, and put him to death. The mother of Colonna came to
St. Celso, in Banchi, where the corpse lay, and lifting the severed head
by its hair, she exclaimed: 'Behold the head of my son. Such is the
truth of the Pope. He promised that my son should be set at liberty if
Marino were delivered into his hands. He is possessed of Marino, and,
behold, we have my son--but dead. Thus does the Pope keep his word.'"

His successor, Innocent VIII, "in defiance of the conditions of his
election, sought with a still more profligate vileness to exalt and
enrich his seven illegitimate children." He had been elected on the
condition that he would make only one blood relative a cardinal, and
that certain other benefices of the Church should not be given to any
one related to him. The people called him Nocens (the Guilty One, or the
Harmful One) instead of Innocent, and immortalized the prolific
paternity of this saintly celibate in the following epigram:

     Octo Nocens genuit pueros totidemque puellas,
     Hunc merito poterit dicere Roma patrem,

that is,

     Nocens begat eight boys and an equal number of maidens;
     Rightly, then, Rome will be able to call this gentleman father.

"He carried on two wars with Ferdinand, king of Naples, until the year
1492, and brought forward Renatus, duke of Lorraine, as pretender to his
crown. True, he proceeded, as his predecessors had done, to encourage
princes and people to undertake expeditions against the Turks; but when
Dschem, the brother and rival of the Turkish Sultan Bajazet, was
delivered over to him at the head of an army against the Turks, he chose
rather to detain him in prison on consideration of an annual tribute
from the Turkish Sultan." The story how the Pope got possession of the
Turkish prince and refused 200,000 ducats ransom for him because he had
received an offer of 600,000 from another party, reads like a story of
professional brigandage.

Alexander VI, "the most depraved of all the Popes, likewise recognized
no loftier aim than to heap honors and possessions upon his five
illegitimate children, and among them especially his favorite, Caesar
Borgia." The nuptials celebrated for the Pope's daughter Lucretia--who,
by the way, was a _divorcee_--were "by no means peculiarly decorous."
The Latin chronicler who has related them reports in this connection
that the moral state of the clergy at Rome was indescribably low. The
example of the Popes had set the pace for the rest. From the highest to
the lowest each priest had his concubine as a substitute for married
life (_"concubinas in figura matrimonii"_), and that, quite openly. The
good chronicler remarks: "If God does not provide a restraint, this
corruption will pass on to the monks and the religious orders; however,
the monasteries of the city are nearly all become brothels already, and
no one raises his voice against it." Wading through the mephitic
rottenness of these ancient chronicles, one is seized with nausea.

Holy things, religious privileges, had become merchandise with which the
Popes trafficked. The chronicler Burchardus relates: "In those days the
following couplet was sung in nearly the whole Christian world:

     "Vendit Alexander claves, Altaria, Christum,
     Emerat ista prius, vendere juste potest."

The meaning of this satire is: Alexander sells the power of the keys of
heaven, the right to officiate at the altar, yea, Christ Himself; he had
first bought these things himself, therefore he has a right to sell them
again. Unblushing perfidy was practised by this Pope in his dealings
with kings who were his religious subjects. In a quarrel with Charles
VIII of France he threatened the king with excommunication, and sought
aid from the Turkish Sultan. "However, when Charles appeared in Rome,
the Pope went over to his side immediately, and delivered up to him
Prince Dschem; but he took care to have him poisoned immediately, that
he might not lose the price set upon his head by the Sultan." Thus he
conciliated the French monarch and filled his purse by one and the same
act. "By traffic in benefices, sale of indulgences, exercise of the
right of spoils, and taxes for the Turkish war, as well as by the murder
of rich or troublesome persons, Alexander was seeking to scrape together
as much money as possible to support the wanton luxury and shameful
licentiousness of his court, and provide treasures for his children." In
their correspondence men who had dealings with him would refer to him in
such terms as these: "That monstrous head--that infamous beast!" ("_Hoc
monstruoso capite--hac infami belua!"_)

"At length the poison which the Pope had meant for a rich cardinal, in
order to make himself master of his wealth, brought upon himself
well-deserved death." The Pope's butler had been bribed and exchanged
the poison-cup intended for the Pope's victim for the Pope's cup, and
the Pope took his own medicine.

On the basis of Alegretti's notes, Ranke has drawn a fine pen-picture of
the reign of terror which Caesar Borgia, the favorite son of Alexander
VI, inaugurated at Rome. "With no relative or favorite would Caesar
Borgia endure the participation of his power. His own brother stood in
his way: Caesar caused him to be murdered and thrown into the Tiber. His
brother-in-law was assailed and stabbed, by his orders, on the steps of
his palace. The wounded man was nursed by his wife and sister, the
latter preparing his food with her own hands, to secure him from poison;
the Pope set a guard upon the house to protect his son-in-law from his
son. Caesar laughed these precautions to scorn. 'What cannot be done at
noonday,' said he, 'may be brought about in the evening.' When the
prince was on the point of recovery, he burst into his chamber, drove
out the wife and sister, called in the common executioner, and caused
his unfortunate brother-in-law to be strangled. Toward his father, whose
life and station he valued only as a means to his own aggrandizement, he
displayed not the slightest respect or feeling. He slew Peroto,
Alexander's favorite, while the unhappy man clung to his patron for
protection, and was wrapped within the pontifical mantle. The blood of
the favorite flowed over the face of the Pope.--For a certain time the
city of the apostles and the whole state of the Church were in the hands
of Caesar Borgia. . . . How did Rome tremble at his name! Caesar
required gold, and possessed enemies. Every night were the corpses of
murdered men found in the streets, yet none dared move; for who but
might fear that his turn would be next? Those whom violence could not
reach were taken off by poison. There was but one place on earth where
such deeds were possible--that, namely, where unlimited temporal power
was united to the highest spiritual authority, where the laws, civil and
ecclesiastical, were held in one and the same hand."

Pope Julius, who came into power after the twenty-six days' reign of
Pius III, was a warlike man. "He engaged in the boldest operations,
risking all to obtain all. He took the field in person, and having
stormed Mirandola, he pressed into the city across the frozen ditches
and through the breach; the most disastrous reverses could not shake his
purpose, but rather seemed to waken new resources in him." "He wrested
Perugia and Bologna from their lords. As the powerful state of Venice
refused to surrender her conquests, he resolved at length, albeit
unwillingly, to avail himself of foreign aid; he joined the League of
Cambrai, concluded between France and the Emperor, and assisted with
spiritual and temporal weapons to subdue the republic. Venice, now hard
pressed, yielded to the Pope, in order to divide this overwhelming
alliance. Julius, already alarmed at the progress of the French in
Italy, readily granted his forgiveness, and now commenced hostilities
against the French and their ally, Alphonso, Duke of Ferrara. He
declared that the king of France had forfeited his claim on Naples, and
invested Ferdinand the Catholic with the solo dominion of his realm. He
issued a sentence of condemnation against the Duke of Ferrara. Lewis XII
strove in vain to alarm him by the National Council of Tours,--Germany,
by severe gravamina (complaints of national grievances against the Papal
See), and by the threat of the Pragmatic Sanction (an imperial order to
confirm the decrees of such reform councils as that of Basel). Not even
a General Council, summoned at Pisa by the two monarchs for the first of
September, 1511, with the dread phantom of a reform of the Church, could
bend the violent Pope." The Council of Pisa the Pope neutralized by
convening a Lateran Council, which at the Pope's bidding hurled its
thundering manifestos in the name of the Almighty against the Pope's
enemies. He died while this conflict was raging. Luther was in Rome
while the Pope was engaged as just related.

What elements of appalling greed and levity had entered the holiest
transactions of the Church can be seen from the following summing up of
the situation daring Luther's time: "A large amount of worldly power was
at this time conferred in most instances, together with the bishoprics;
they were held more or less as sinecures according to the degree of
influence or court favor possessed by the recipient or his family. The
Roman Curia thought only of how it might best derive advantage from the
vacancies and presentations; Alexander extorted double annates or
first-fruits, and levied double, nay, triple tithes; there remained few
things that had not become matter of purchase. The taxes of the papal
chancery rose higher from day to day, and the comptroller, whose duty it
was to prevent all abuses in that department, most commonly referred the
revision of the imposts to those very men who had fixed their amounts.
For every indulgence obtained from the datary's office, a stipulated sum
was paid; nearly all the disputes occurring at this period between the
states of Europe and the Roman Court arose out of these exactions, which
the Curia sought by every possible means to increase, while the people
of all countries as zealously strove to restrain them.

"Principles such as these necessarily acted on all ranks affected by the
system based on them, from the highest to the lowest. Many ecclesiastics
were found ready to renounce their bishoprics; but they retained the
greater part of the revenues, and not unfrequently the presentation of
the benefices dependent on them also. Even the laws forbidding the son
of a clergyman (!) to procure induction to the living of his father, and
enacting that no ecclesiastic should dispose of his office by will (!),
were continually evaded; for as all could obtain permission to appoint
whomsoever he might choose as his coadjutor, provided he were liberal of
his money, so the benefices of the Church became in a manner hereditary.

"It followed of necessity that the performance of ecclesiastical duties
was grievously neglected. . . . In all places incompetent persons were
intrusted with the performance of clerical duties; they were appointed
without scrutiny or selection. The incumbents of benefices were
principally interested in finding substitutes at the lowest possible
cost; thus the mendicant friars were frequently chosen as particularly
suitable in this respect. These men occupied the bishoprics under the
title (previously unheard of in that sense) of suffragans; the cures
they held in the capacity of vicars." (!)

In order not to extend this review too long, we shall refer only to one
other Pope, Leo X. It was in the main a prosperous reign that was
inaugurated by Leo X. A treaty was concluded with France, which had
invaded Italy. By a diplomatic maneuver the Pragmatic Sanction was
annulled, and the Lateran Council was ordered to pronounce its
death-warrant. France was humbled. "All resistance was vain against the
alliance of the highest spiritual with the highest temporal power. Now,
at last, the papacy seemed once more to have quelled the hostile spirit
which had grown up at Constance and Basel (two church councils which
tried to reform the papacy, but failed), and found its stronghold in
France, and at this very time it was near its most grievous fall." Two
years later Luther, not fathoming as yet the depths of iniquity which he
was beginning to lay bare, published his Ninety-Five Theses.

Leo X is the Pope that excommunicated Luther. Ranke describes the
closing hours of his life. The Pope had been extremely successful in his
political schemes. "Parma and Placentia were recovered, the French were
compelled to withdraw, and the Pope might safely calculate on exercising
great influence over the new sovereign of Milan. It was a crisis of
infinite moment: a new state of things had arisen in politics--a great
movement had commenced in the Church. The aspect of affairs permitted
Leo to flatter himself that he should retain the power of directing the
first, and he had succeeded in repressing the second." (This refers to
Luther's protest; the Pope was, of course, mistaken in the view that he
had put a stop to Luther's movement by excommunicating him.) "He was
still young enough to indulge the anticipation of fully profiting by the
results of this auspicious moment. Strange and delusive destiny of man!
The Pope was at his villa of Malliana when he received intelligence that
his party had triumphantly entered Milan; he abandoned himself to the
exultation arising naturally from the successful completion of an
important enterprise, and looked cheerfully on at the festivities his
people were preparing on the occasion. He paced backward and forward
till deep in the night, between the window and the blazing hearth--it
was the month of November. Somewhat exhausted, but still in high
spirits, he arrived at Rome, and the rejoicings there celebrated for his
triumph were not yet concluded, when he was attacked by a mortal
disease. 'Pray for me,' said he to his servants, 'that I may yet make
you all happy.' We see that he loved life, but his hour was come, he had
not time to receive the sacrament nor extreme unction. So suddenly, so
prematurely, and surrounded by hopes so bright! he died-'as the poppy
fadeth.'" In the record of Sanuto, who is witness for these events,
there is a "Lettera di Hieronymo Bon a suo barba, a di 5 Dec." which
contains the following: "It is not certainly known whether the Pope died
of poison or not. He was opened. Master Fernando judged that he was
poisoned, others thought not. Of this last opinion is Master Severino,
who saw him opened, and says he was not poisoned." (Ranke, I, 34 ff.;
Gieseler, III, 290 ff., at random.)

Out of such conditions grew Luther's work. But on these conditions
Catholic critics of Luther maintain a discreet--shall we not say, a
guilty?--silence. Few Catholic laymen to whom the horrors of Luther's
life are painted with repulsive effect know the horrors which Luther
faced. They are only told that Luther attacked "Holy Mother." They are
not told that "Holy Mother" had become the harlot of the ages.

6. Luther's Birth and Parentage.

Catholic writers make thorough work in explaining the reasons for
Luther's "defection" from Rome. They apply to Luther's stubborn
resistance the law of heredity: Luther's wildness was congenital. Some
have declared him the illegitimate child of a Bohemian heretic, others,
the oaf of a witch, still others, a changeling of Beelzebub, etc.

Many of these writers, giving themselves the airs of painstaking
investigators who have made careful research, repeat the tale of
Barbour, viz., that Luther was born in the day-and-night room of an inn
at Eisleben. If this is so, Luther's mother must have been a traveler on
the day of her first confinement. If this were so, the fact could, of
course, be easily explained without dishonor to Luther's mother: she
merely miscalculated the date of the birth of her first-born,--not an
unusual occurrence. Carlyle believed this story, but gave it an almost
too honorable turn, by likening the inn at Eisenach to the inn at

But this story of Luther's birth in a bar-room is not history; it
belongs in the realm of mythology. Nobody knows  to-day the house where
Luther was born. Preserved Smith, his latest American biographer, says
there is a house shown at Eisleben as Luther's birthplace, but it is
"not well authenticated." (p. 2.) There is a bar and a restaurant in
this particular building _now,_ for the accommodation of foreign
visitors. It is possible that in this mythical birthplace of Luther you
can get a stein of foaming "monk's brew" or a "benedictine" from the
monastery at Fecamp, or a "chartreuse" from Tarragona, distilled
according to the secret formula of the holy fathers of La Grande
Chartreuse. If you sip a sufficient quantity of these persuasive
liquors, you will find it possible to believe most anything. And the
blessing of the holy fathers who have prepared the beverages for your
repast will be given you gratis in addition to their liquors.

The journey of Luther's mother to Eisleben which compelled her to put up
at an inn is, likewise, imaginary. Melanchthon, Luther's associate
during the greater part of the Reformer's life, investigated the matter
and states that Luther was born at his parents' home in Eisenach during
their temporary sojourn in that city, prior to their removal to Mansfeld.

These stories about the place and manner of Luther's birth originated in
the seventeenth century. They were unknown in Luther's time. Generations
after a great man has died gossip becomes busy and begins to relate
remarkable incidents of his life. Lincoln did not say or do one half of
the interesting things related about him. He has been drawn into that
magical circle where myths are formed, because his great name will
arouse interest in the wildest tale. That is what has happened to
Luther. These "myths" are an unconscious tribute to his greatness. One
might let them pass as such and smile at them.

But the Catholic version of Luther's birth is needed by their writers as
a corollary to another "fact" which they have discovered about Luther's
father Hans. Hans Luther, so their story runs, was a fugitive from
justice at the time of his Martin's birth. In a fit of anger he had
assaulted or slain a man in his native village of Moehra, and abandoning
his small landholdings, he fled with his wife, who was in an advanced
stage of pregnancy. Color is lent to this story by the discovery that
the Luthers at Moehra were generally violent folk. Research in the
official court-dockets at Salzungen, the seat of the judicial district
to which Moehra belonged, shows that brawls were frequent in that
village, and some Luthers were involved in them. Now follows the
Catholic deduction, plausible, reasonable, appealing, just like the
"assumption" of Mary: "Out of the gnarly wood of this relationship,
consisting mostly of powerful, pugnacious farmers, assertive of their
rights, Luther's father grew."

This story was started in Luther's lifetime. George Wicel, who had
fallen away from the evangelical faith, accused Luther of having a
homicide for a father. In 1565, he published the story under a false
name at Paris, but gave no details. In Moehra nothing was known of the
matter until the first quarter of the twentieth century. This
circumstance alone is damaging to the whole story. Luther was during his
lifetime exposed to scrutiny of his most private affairs as no other
man. If Wicel's tale could have been authenticated, we may rest assured
that would have been done at the time.

In the eighteenth century a mining official in Thuringia by the name of
Michaelis told the story of Hans Luther's homicide with the necessary
detail to make it appear real. Observe, this was 220 years after the
alleged event. It had been this way: Hans Luther had quarreled with a
person who was plowing his field, and had accidentally slain the man
with the bridle, or halter, of his horse. Several Protestant writers now
began to express belief in the story. Travelers came to Moehra for the
express purpose of investigating the matter, _e.g.,_ Mr. Mayhew of the
_London Punch_. Behold, the story had assumed definite shape through
being kept alive a hundred years: the accommodating citizens of Moehra
were now able to point out to the inquiring Englishman the very meadow
where the homicide had taken place. It takes an Englishman on the
average two years and four months to see the point of a joke. By this
time, we doubt not, it will be possible to exhibit to any confiding
dunce the very horse-bridle with which Hans Luther committed
manslaughter, also the actual hole which he knocked into the head of his
victim, beautifully surrounded by a border of blue and green, which are
the colors which the bruise assumed six hours after the infliction. The
border may not be genuine, but we dare any Catholic investigator to
disprove the genuineness of the hole.

Writers belonging to a church that is rich in legends of the saints and
in relics ought to know how a tale like Wicel's can assume
respectability and credibility in the course of time. It is not any more
difficult to account for these tales about Hans Luther's homicide than
for the existence in our late day of the rope with which Judas hanged
himself, or the tears which Peter wept in the night of the betrayal, or
the splinters from the cross of the Lord, or the feathers from the wings
of the angel Gabriel, and sundry other marvels which are exhibited in
Catholic churches for the veneration of the faithful.

No historian that has a reputation as a scholar to lose to-day credits
the story of Hans Luther's homicide. It is improbable on its face. The
small landholdings of Hans at Moehra are not real, but irreal estate.
Nobody has found the title for them. There is, however, a very good
reason why Hans should want to leave Moehra. He was, according to all
that is known of his father's family, the oldest son. According to the
old Thuringian law the home place and appurtenances of a peasant
freeholder passed to the youngest son. McGiffert regards the custom as
"admirably careful of those most needing care." (p. 4.) Luther's father,
on coming of age, was by this law compelled to go and seek his fortune
elsewhere, because opportunity for rising to independence there was none
for him at Moehra.

If Hans was a fugitive from justice, he was certainly unwise in not
fleeing far enough. For at Eisenach, whither he went, he was still under
the same Saxon jurisdiction as at Moehra. He seems to have had no fear
of abiding under the sovereignty which he is claimed to have offended.
This observation has led one of the most exact and painstaking of modern
biographers of Luther, Koestlin, to say that the homicide story, if it
rests on any basis of fact, must either refer to a different Luther, or
if to Hans, the incident cannot have been a homicide. It should be
remembered that there is no authentic record which in any way
incriminates Hans Luther.

Lastly, this homicide Hans Luther, eight years after coming to Mansfeld,
is elected by his fellow-townsmen one of the "Vierherren," or aldermen,
of the town. Only most trusted and well-reputed persons were given such
an office. A homicide would not have been allowed to settle at Mansfeld,
much less to govern the town. Any rogue in the town that he had to
discipline in his time of office would have thrown his bloody record up
to him.

A Catholic writer says: "The wild passion of anger was an unextinguished
and unmodified heritage transmitted congenitally to the whole Luther
family, and this to such an extent that the Lutherzorn (Luther rage) has
attained the currency of a German colloquialism." Mr. Mayhew thinks that
"Martin was a veritable chip of the hard old block," the "high-mettled
foal cast by a fiery blood-horse." Catholic writers cite Mr. Mayhew as a
distinguished Protestant. If you have not heard of him before, look him
up in _Who is Who?_ most anywhere.

All this, however, is a desperate attempt to find proof against an
assumed criminal by circumstantial evidence. No direct evidence has ever
been available to implicate Luther's father in a village brawl. As to
the Lutherzorn, Luther has in scores of places explained the real reason
of it: Luther did not inherit, but Rome roused it. This Lutherzorn may
arise in any person that is not remotely related to the Luthers after
reading Catholic biographies of Martin Luther.

7. Luther's Great Mistake.

Catholic writers contend that Luther made a mistake when he became monk.
Protestants share this view, but put the emphasis in the sentence:
Luther became a monk, at a different place. In the Protestant view the
mistake is this, that Luther became a _monk,_ in the Catholic view, it
is this, that _Luther_ became a monk. Protestants regard monasticism
largely as a perversion of the laws of nature and of Christian morals.
In an institution of this kind Luther could not find the relief he
sought. His mistake was that he sought it there. Catholics view monkery
as the highest ideal of the Christian life, and blame Luther for
entering this mode of life when he was altogether unfit for it. They
regard Luther as guilty of sacrilege far seeking admission into the
order of Augustinian friars. When he was permitted to turn monk, that
which is holy was given unto a dog, and pearls were cast before a swine.

Catholics argue that Luther's cheerless boyhood, the poverty of his
parents, the hard work and close economy that was the order in the home
at Mansfeld, the harsh and cruel treatment which Luther received from
parents that were given to "fits of uncontrollable rage" induced in
Luther a morose, sullen spirit. He became brooding and stubborn when yet
a child. He was a most unruly boy at school. His character was not
improved when he was sent abroad for his education and had to sing for
his bread or beg in the streets. His rebellious spirit found nourishment
in these humiliations. Owing to his melancholy temperament and gloomy
fits, he made no friends. He felt himself misunderstood everywhere. Even
the little season of sunshine that came into his young life at the Cotta
home in Eisenach did not cure him of the morbid feeling that nobody
appreciated him. He began to loathe the studies which he was pursuing in
accordance with the wish of his father. To certain occurrences, like the
slaying of a fellow-student, an accident with which he met on a vacation
trip, and a sudden thunderstorm, he gave an ominous interpretation which
deepened his despondency. At last he determined, "inconsiderately and
precipitately," to enter a cloister. His friends "instinctively felt he
was not qualified or fitted for the sublime vocation to which he
aspired, and they accordingly used all their powers to dissuade him from
the course he had chosen. All their efforts were fruitless, and from the
gayety and frolic of the banquet" which he had given his fellow-students
as a farewell party "he went to the monastery." He was so reckless that
he took this step even without the consent of his parents. "He knew
little about the ways of God, and was not well informed of the gravity
and responsibilities of the step he was taking." "He was not called by
God to conventual life; . . . he was driven by despair, rather than the
love of higher perfection, into a religious career." Catholics feel so
sure that they have a case against Luther that in all seriousness they
ask Protestants the question: Did he act honestly when he knelt before
the prior asking to be received into the order?

Luther has later in life given various reasons for entering the
monastery. His case was not simple, but complex. One reason, however,
which he has assigned is the severe bringing up which he had at his
home. Hausrath is satisfied with this one reason, and many Catholic
writers adopt his view. But this remark of Luther is evidently
misapplied if it is made to mean that Luther sought ease, comfort,
leniency in the cloister as a relief from the hard life which he had
been leading. Luther had grasped the fundamental idea in monkery quite
well: flight from the secular life as a means to become exceptionally
holy. He sought quiet for meditation and devotion, but no physical ease
and earthly comforts. He knew of the rigors of cloister-life. He
willingly bowed to "the gentle yoke of Christ"--thus ran the monkish
ritual--which the life of an eremite among eremites was to impose on
him. His hard life in the days of his boyhood and youth had been an
unconscious preparation for this life. He had been strictly trained to
fear God and keep His commandments. The holy life of the saints had been
held up to him as far back as he could remember as the marvel of
Christian perfection. Home and Church had cooperated in deepening the
impressions of the sanctity of the monkish life in him. When he saw the
emaciated Duke of Anhalt in monk's garb with his beggar's wallet on his
back tottering through the streets of Magdeburg, and everybody held his
breath at this magnificent spectacle of advanced Christianity, and then
broke forth in profuse eulogies of the princely pilgrim to the glories
of monkish sainthood, that left an indelible impression on the
fifteen-year-old boy. When he observed the Carthusians at Eisenach,
weary and wan with many a vigil, somber and taciturn, toiling up the
rugged steps to a heaven beyond the common heaven; when he talked with
the young priests at the towns where he studied, and all praised the
life of a monk to this young seeker after perfect righteousness; when in
cloister-ridden Erfurt he observed that the monks were outwardly, at
least, treated with peculiar reverence, can any one wonder that in a
mind longing for peace with God the resolve silently ripened into the
act: I will be a monk?

We, too, would call this an act of despair. We would say with Luther:
Despair makes monks. But the despair which we mean, and which Luther
meant, is genuine spiritual despair. What Catholics call Luther's
despair is really desperation, a reckless, dare-devil plunging of a
criminal into a splendid Catholic sanctuary. That Luther's act decidedly
was not. By Rome's own teaching Luther belonged in the cloister. That
mode of life was originally designed to meet the needs of just such
minds as his. His entering the monastery was the logical sequence of his
previous Catholic tutelage. Rome has this monk on its conscience, and a
good many more besides.

As piety went in those days, Luther had been raised a pious young man.
He was morally clean. He was a consistent, yea, a scrupulous member of
his Church, regular in his daily devotions, reverencing every ordinance
of the Church. Also during his student years he kept himself unspotted
from the moral contaminations of the academic life. He abhorred the
students who were devoted to King Gambrinus and Knight Tannhaeuser. He
loathed the taverns and brothels of Erfurt. The Cotta home was no
_Bierstube_ in his day. The banquet-hall where he met his friends the
evening before he entered the cloister was no banquet-hall in the modern
sense of the term. That he played the lute at this farewell party, and
that there were some "honorable maidens" present, is nowadays related
with a wink of the eye by Catholics. But there was nothing wrong in all
the proceedings of that evening. It was indeed an honorable gathering.
Luther was never a prudish man or fanatic. He loved the decent joys and
pleasures of life. Luther gathered his friends about him to take a
decent leave of them. He did not run away from them secretly, as many
monks have done. He opened up his mind to them at this last meeting. The
conversation that ensued was a test of the strength of the convictions
he had formed. His was an introspective nature. He had wrestled daily
with the sin that ever besets us. He knew that with all his conventional
religiousness he could not pass muster before God. Over his wash-basin
he was overheard moaning: "The more we wash, the more unclean we
become." He felt like Paul when he groaned: "O wretched man that I am,
who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7, 24.) He was
sorrowing for his poor soul. He was hungering and thirsting for
righteousness. "When will I ever attain to that state of mind that I am
sure God is pleased with me?" he mused distractedly. What he could not
find while engaged in his secular pursuits, that, he was told, the
cloister could give him. To obtain that he entered the monastery. If
ever Rome had an honest applicant for monkery, Luther is that man.

Nor did he act precipitately. As shown, the thought of this act had been
quietly forming in him for years. When he made his rash vow to St. Anna,
he still allowed two weeks to pass before he put his resolution into
action. Try and picture to yourself his state of mind during those
fourteen days! Moving about in his customary surroundings, he was daily
probing the correctness of his contemplated change of life. He fought a
soul-battle in those days, and the remembrance of his father made that
battle none the easier. From the Catholic standpoint Luther deserves an
aureole for that struggle. After entering the cloister, he was still at
liberty for a year and a half to retrace his fatal step. But his first
impressions were favorable; monkery really seemed to bring him heart's
ease and peace, and there was no one to disabuse his mind of the
delusion. After nearly two years in the monastery, while sitting with
his father at the cloister board on the event of his ordination to the
priesthood, he declares to his father that he enjoys the quiet,
contemplative life that he has chosen. Surely, he made a mistake by
becoming monk, but Catholics cannot fault him for that mistake. If the
life of monks and nuns is really what they claim that it is: the highest
and most perfect form of Christianity, they should consistently give any
person credit for making the effort to lead that life. In fact, they
ought all to turn monks and nuns to honor their own principles.

8. Luther's Failure as a Monk.

Monasticism is a pagan shoot grafted on a Christian tree. At its base
lies the heathenish notion that sin can be extirpated by severe
onslaughts upon the body and the physical life. It has existed in
Buddhism before some Christians adopted it. In the early days of
Christianity it was proclaimed as superior wisdom by the Platonic
philosophers. Like many a lie it has been decked out with Bible-texts to
give it respectability, and to soothe disquieted consciences. The
Scripture-sayings regarding fasting, sexual continence, chastity,
crucifying the flesh, etc., are made to stand sponsor for this bastard
offspring of the brain of Christian mystics.

With excellent discrimination Mosheim has traced the origin of
monasticism to the early Christian fathers. The earliest impulses to
monasticism are contained in such writings as the Epistle to Zenas,
found among the writings of Justinus, the tracts of Clement of
Alexandria on Calumny, Patience, Continence, and other virtues, the
tracts of Tertullian on practical duties, such as Chastity, Flight from
Persecution, Fasting, Theatrical Exhibitions, the Dress of Females,
Prayer, etc. These writings "would be perused with greater profit, were
it not for the gloomy and morose spirit which they everywhere breathe. .
. . In what estimation they ought to be held, the learned are not
agreed. Some hold them to be the very best guides to true piety and a
holy life; others, on the contrary, think their precepts were the worst
possible, and that the cause of practical religion could not be
committed to worse hands. . . . To us it appears that their writings
contain many things excellent, well considered, and well calculated to
kindle pious emotions; but also many things unduly rigorous, and derived
from the Stoic and Academic philosophy; many things vague and
indeterminate; and many things positively false, and inconsistent with
the precepts of Christ. If one deserves the title of a bad master in
morals who has no just ideas of the proper boundaries and limitations of
Christian duties, nor clear and distinct conceptions of the different
virtues and vices, nor a perception of those general principles to which
recurrence should be had in all discussions respecting Christian virtue,
and therefore very often talks at random, and blunders in expounding the
divine laws; though he may say many excellent things, and excite in us
considerable emotion; then I can readily admit that in strict truth this
title belongs to many of the Fathers. . . . They admitted, with good
intentions no doubt, yet most inconsiderately, a great error in regard
to morals, and pernicious to Christianity; an error which, through all
succeeding ages to our times, has produced an infinity of mistakes and
evils of various kinds. Jesus, our Savior, prescribed one and the same
rule of life or duty to all His disciples. But the Christian doctors,
either by too great a desire of imitating the nations among whom they
lived, or from a natural propensity to austerity and gloom, (a disease
that many labor under in Syria, Egypt, and other provinces of the East,)
were induced to maintain that Christ had prescribed a twofold rule of
holiness and virtue; the one ordinary, the other extraordinary; the one
lower, the other higher; the one for men of business, the other for
persons of leisure, and such as desired higher glory in the future
world. They therefore early divided all that had been taught them either
in books or by tradition, respecting a Christian life and morals, into
Precepts and Counsels. They gave the name Precepts to those laws which
were universally obligatory, or were enacted for all men of all
descriptions; but the Counsels pertained solely to those who aspire
after superior holiness and a closer union with God. There soon arose,
therefore, a class of persons who professed to strive after that
extraordinary and more eminent holiness, and who, of course, resolved to
obey the Counsels of Christ, that they might have intimate communion
with God in this life, and might, on leaving the body, rise without
impediment or difficulty to the celestial world. They supposed many
things were forbidden to them which were allowed to other Christians,
such as wine, flesh, matrimony, and worldly business. They thought they
must emaciate their bodies with watching, fasting, toil, and hunger.
They considered it a blessed thing to retire to desert places, and by
severe meditation to abstract their minds from all external objects, and
whatever delights the senses. Both men and women imposed these severe
restraints on themselves, with good intentions, I suppose, but setting a
bad example, and greatly to the injury of the cause of Christianity.
They were, of course, denominated Ascetics, Zealous Ones, Elect, and
also Philosophers; and they were distinguished from other Christians,
not only by a different appellation, but by peculiarities of dress and
demeanor. Those who embraced this austere mode of life lived indeed only
for themselves, but they did not withdraw themselves altogether from the
society and converse of men. But in process of time, persons of this
description at first retired into deserts, and afterwards formed
themselves into associations, after the manner of the Essenes and

"The causes of this institution are at hand. First, the Christians did
not like to appear inferior to the Greeks, the Romans, and the other
people among whom there were many philosophers and sages, who were
distinguished from the vulgar by their dress and their whole mode of
life, and who were held in high honor. Now among these philosophers (as
is well known) none better pleased the Christians than the Platonists
and Pythagoreans, who are known to have recommended two modes of living,
the one for philosophers who wished to excel others in virtue, and the
other for people engaged in the common affairs of life. The Platonists
prescribed the following rule for philosophers: The mind of a wise man
must be withdrawn, as far as possible, from the contagious influence of
the body. And as the oppressive load of the body and social intercourse
are most adverse to this design, therefore all sensual gratifications
are to be avoided; the body is to be sustained, or rather mortified,
with coarse and slender fare; solitude is to be sought for; and the mind
is to be self-collected and absorbed in contemplation, so as to be
detached as much as possible from the body. Whoever lives in this manner
shall in the present life have converse with God, and, when freed from
the load of the body, shall ascend without delay to the celestial
mansions, and shall not need, like the souls of other men, to undergo a
purgation. The grounds of this system lay in the peculiar sentiments
entertained by this sect of philosophers and by their friends,
respecting the soul, demons, matter, and the universe. And as these
sentiments were embraced by the Christian philosophers, the necessary
consequences of them were, of course, to be adopted also.

"What is here stated will excite less surprise if it be remembered that
Egypt was the land where this mode of life had its origin. For that
country, from some law of nature, has always produced a greater number
of gloomy and hypochondriac or melancholy persons than any other; and it
still does so. Here it was long before the Savior's birth, not only the
Essenes and Therapeutae--those Jewish sects, composed of persons with a
morbid melancholy, or rather partially deranged--had their chief
residence; but many others also, that they might better please the gods,
withdrew themselves as by the instinct of nature from commerce with men
and with all pleasures of life. From Egypt this mode of life passed into
Syria and the neighboring countries, which in like manner always
abounded with unsociable and austere individuals: and from the East it
was at last introduced among the nations of Europe. Hence the numerous
maladies which still deform the Christian world; hence the celibacy of
the clergy; hence the numerous herds of monks; hence the two species of
life, the theoretical and mystical." (_Eccles. Hist.,_ I, 128 f.)

One may well feel pity for the original monks. Their zeal was heroic,
but it was spent upon an issue that is in its very root and core a
haughty presumption and a lie. Exhaust all the Scripture-texts which
speak of indwelling sin, of the lust that rages in our members, of the
duty to keep the body under by fasting and vigilance, and there will not
be found enough Bible to cover the nakedness of the monastic principle.
Its fundamental thought of a select type of piety to be attained by
spectacular efforts at self-mortification flies in the face of the
doctrine that we are rid of sin and sanctified by divine grace alone.
Monkish holiness is a slander of the Redeemer's all-sufficient sacrifice
for sin and of the work of the Holy Spirit. It started in paganism, and
wants to drag Christianity back into paganism.

But monasticism in Luther's day was no longer of the sort which one may
view with a pathetic interest. The old monastic ideals had been largely
abandoned. Instead of crucifying the flesh, the monks were nursing and
fondling carnal-mindedness. The cloisters had become cesspools of
corruption. Because the reputation of monks was utterly bad, and monks
were publicly scorned and derided, Luther's friends tried to dissuade
him from entering the cloister. That was the reason, too, why Luther's
father was so deeply shocked when he heard of what his Martin had done,
and Luther had to assure his father that he had not gone into the herd
of monks to seek what people believed men sought in that profligate
company. For that reason, too, he had chosen the Augustinian order,
because a strong reform movement had been started in that order, and its
reputation was better than that of the other orders. Luther meant to be
a monk of the original type.

Since the days of Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, and Thomas
Aquinas the Roman Church teaches that there is in the Church a treasury
of supererogatory works, that is, of good works which Christ and the
saints have performed in excess of what is ordinarily demanded of every
man in the way of upright living. We shall meet with this idea again in
another connection. It flows from the monastic principles. Monks must
have not only enough sanctity for their own needs, but to spare. Of this
superfluous sanctity they may make an assignment in favor of others. Do
not smile incredulously; monks actually make such assignments. Luther
may not have thought of this when he entered the cloister, but he
rejoiced in this scheme of substitutive sanctity later. He thought he
had found in monkery a gold-mine of holiness that would be sufficient
not only for himself, but also for his parents. While at Rome some years
later, he was in a way sorry that his father and mother were not already
in purgatory. He had such a fine chance there to accumulate
supererogatory good works which he might have transferred to them to
shorten their agonies, or release them entirely.

In order to make a successful monk, one must be either a Pharisee or an
epicurean. The Pharisee takes an inventory of the works named in the Law
of God, and sets out to perform these in an external, mechanical manner.
He adds a few works of his own invention for good measure. Every work
performed counts; it constitutes merit. On the basis of his two pecks
and a half of merit the Pharisee now begins to drive a bargain with God:
for so much merit he claims so much distinction and glory. He figures it
all out to God, so that God shall not make a mistake at the time of the
settlement: I have not been this, nor that, nor the other thing; I have
done this, and that, and some more. Consequently . . . ! The epicurean
is a jolly fatalist. Whatever is to happen will happen. Why worry? Go
along at an even pace; eat, drink, be merry, but for Heaven's sake do
not take a serious or tragical view of anything! Take things as they
are; if you can improve them, well and good; if not, let it pass; forget
it; eat a good meal and go to sleep.

Luther was never an epicurean. The seriousness of life had confronted
him at a very early date. The sense of duty was highly developed in him
from early youth. In all that he did he felt himself as a being that is
responsible to his Maker and Judge. Easy-going indifference and ready
self-pity were not in his character. For this Luther is now faulted by
Catholics. It is said he extended the rigors of monasticism beyond the
bounds of reasonableness. He was too severe with himself. He outraged
human nature. Quite correct; but is not monasticism by itself an
outrage upon human nature? Luther had endured the monastery for the very
purpose of enduring hardness. He did not flinch when the battle into
which he had gone commenced in earnest. Luther is said to have been
tardy and neglectful in the observance of the rules of the order.
Sometimes he would omit the canonical hours, that is, the stated
prayers, or some form of prescribed devotion, and then he would endeavor
to make up for the loss by redoubled effort, which overtaxed his
physical strength. Quite true. It is not such a rare occurrence that a
monk forgets the one or the other of the minutiae of the daily monkish
routine. The regulations of his orders extended to such things as the
posture which he must assume while standing, while sitting, while
kneeling; the movement of his arms, of his hands; how to approach, how
to move in front of the altar, how to leave it, etc. When his mind was
engrossed with the study of the Bible or some commentary of a Church
Father, it was easy for Luther to forget parts of the program which he
was to carry out. Whenever this happened, was it not his duty to
endeavor to repair the damage? Were not penances imposed on him in the
confessional for every default? Luther is said to have been led into
still deeper gloom by his study of the doctrine of predestination. True,
but even this study did not lead Luther off into fatalism. It terrified
him, because he studied that profound doctrine without a true perception
of divine grace and the meaning of the Redeemer's work. However, this
study did not at any time permanently affect his vigorous striving after

When Catholics explain Luther's failure as a monk by such assertions,
they involve themselves in self-contradiction. By their own principles
monkery is not a natural life; yet, when a monk fails in his monkery,
they fault him for not being natural. First, they tell the applicant
that he must not be what he is, and afterwards they blame him for
wanting to be what they told him to be, and what he finds he cannot be.
If this is not adding insult to injury, what is? Francis of Assisi
became a great saint by that very inhuman treatment of himself for which
Luther is censured. But then Francis of Assisi did not quit his order
and did not attack the Pope.

The other reason why Luther failed is, because he could not make a
Pharisee of himself, which is only another name for hypocrite. The Law
of God had such a terrible meaning to him because he applied it as the
Lawgiver wants it applied, to his whole inner life, to the heart, the
soul, the mind, and all his powers of intellect and will. It is
comparatively easy to make the members of the body go through certain
external performances, but to make the mind obey is a different
proposition. The discovery which disheartened Luther was, that while he
was outwardly leading the life of a blameless monk, his inward life was
not improved. Sin was ever present with him, as it is with every human
being. He felt the terrible smitings of the accusing conscience because
he was keenly alive to the real demands of God's Law. The holy Law of
God wrought its will upon him to the fullest extent: it roused him to
anger with the God who had given this Law to man; it led him into
blasphemous thoughts, so that he recoiled with horror from himself. Does
the true Law of God, when properly applied, ever have any other effect
upon natural man? Paul says: "It worketh wrath" (Rom. 4, 15), namely,
wrath in man against God. It drives man to despair. That is its
legitimate function: No person has touched the essence of the Law who
has not passed through these awful experiences. Nor did any man ever
flee from the Law and run to Christ for shelter but for these
unendurable terrors which the Law begets. That was Luther's whole
trouble, and that is why he failed as a monk: he had started out to
become a saint, and he did not even succeed in making a Pharisee of
himself. If Rome has produced a monk that succeeded better than Luther,
he ought to be exhibited and examined. He will be found either an angel
or a brazen fraud. He will not be a true man.

9. Professor Luther, D. D.

Catholic writers greedily grab every opportunity to belittle Luther's
scholarship. Incentives to study at home, they say, he received none.
His common school education was wretched. During his high school studies
he was favored with good teachers, but hampered by his home-bred
roughness and uncouthness and his poverty. He applied himself diligently
to his studies, but gave no sign of being a genius. At the University of
Erfurt, too, he was studious, but he seems to have made no great
impression on the University. "He paid little attention to grammatical
details, and never attained to Ciceronian purity and elegance in speech
and writing." When he made his A. B:, he ranked thirteenth in a class of
fifty-seven. He did a little better in his effort for the title of A.
M., when he came out second among seventeen candidates. But Melanchthon
is declared entirely wrong when he relates that Luther was the wonder of
the University. His theological studies preparatory to his entering the
priesthood were very hasty and superficial. Still less prepared was he
for the work of a professor. His duties in the cloister left him little
time for learned studies. Yet he went to "bibulous Wittenberg," to a
little five-year-old university, and lectured "as best he could." By the
way, our Catholic friends seem to forget that "bibulous" Wittenberg was
a good old Catholic town at the time. All things considered, Luther's
advancement was all too rapid; it was not justified by his preparatory
studies, which had been "anything but deep, solid, systematic." "The
theological culture he received was not on a par with that required now
by the average seminarian, let alone a Doctor of Divinity." He accepted
the title of D. D. very reluctantly, being conscious that he did not
deserve it. A feeling of the insufficiency of his education tormented
him all through life. "It cannot be denied that he was industrious,
self-reliant, ambitious, but withal, he was not a methodically trained
man. At bottom, he was neither a philosopher nor a theologian, and at no
time of his life, despite his efforts to acquire knowledge, did he show
himself more than superficially equipped to grapple with serious and
difficult philosophical and religious problems. His study never rose to
brilliancy." Thus runs the Catholic account of Professor and Doctor

We have not quoted the worst Catholic estimates of Luther's scholarship.
He has also been called a dunce, an ignoramus, a barbarian. Again it
seems to escape the Catholics that this ill-trained, insufficient,
half-baked Doctor of Divinity is a product of their own educational art.
Whatever advancement he received in those days was actually forced upon
him by Catholics. All his academic and ecclesiastical honors came from
Catholic sources, came to him, moreover, as a good Catholic. Also that
highest and noblest distinction which made him a duly called and
accredited expounder of the Holy Scriptures. If there is fault to be
found with anything in this matter, it lies with the Catholic method and
process of making a young man within the space of ten years a Bachelor
of Arts, a Master of Arts, a priest, a professor, and a Doctor of Sacred
Theology; it does not lie with the innocent subject to whom this presto!
change! process was applied.

But does this estimate of Luther square with the facts in the case? For
a dunce or a mediocre scholar Luther has been a fair success. His little
ability and scanty preparation makes his achievements all the more
remarkable. The most brilliant minds of the race, for whom the home, the
Church and the State, religion, science and art, had done their best,
have accomplished immeasurably less than this poor and mostly
self-taught country boy. God give His Church many more such dunces!

The net results of Luther's learning are open to inspection by the world
in his numerous works. Able scholars of most recent times have looked
into Luther's writings with a view of determining how much learned
knowledge he had actually acquired, even before he began his reformatory
work, They have found that Luther was "very well versed in the favorite
Latin authors of the day: Vergil, Terence, Ovid, Aesop, Cicero, Livy,
Seneca, Horace, Catullus, Juvenal, Silius, Statius, Lucan, Suetonius,
Sallust, Quintilian, Varro, Pomponius Mela, the two Plinies, and the
_Germania_ of Tacitus." He possessed a creditable amount of knowledge of
General History and Church History. He had made a profound study of the
leading philosophers and scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages:
Thomas of Aquinas, Peter Lombard, Bernard of Clairvaux, Duns Scotus,
Occam, Gregory of Rimini, Pierre d'Ailly, Gerson, and Biel. Two of these
he knew almost by heart. He had studied the ancient Church Fathers:
Irenaeus, Cyprian, Eusebius, Athanasius, Hilary, Ambrose, Gregory of
Nanzianzen, Jerome, and such later theologians as Cassiodorus, Gregory
the Great, and Anselm of Canterbury; Tauler, Lefevre, Erasmus, and Pico
della Mirandola. "He was quite at home in the exegetical Middle Ages, in
the Canon Law, in Aristotle and Porphyry." "He was one of the first
German professors to learn Greek and Hebrew." Moreover, Luther
possessed, besides knowledge, those indispensable requisites in a good
professor: "the faculty of plain, clear, correct, and independent
thought, resourcefulness, acumen" (Boehmer, p. 179 f.). He had the
courage to tell the Church that it was a shame, that a heathen
philosopher, Aristotle, should formulate the doctrines which Christians
are to believe and their pastors are to teach. He threw this heathen,
who had for ages dominated Christian teaching, out of his lecture-room,
and took his students straight to the pure fountain of religious truth,
the Word of God. He publicly burned the Canon Law by which the Roman
Church had forged chains for the consciences of men, and which she
upholds to this day. His lecture-room became crowded with eager and
enthusiastic students, and the stripling university planted on the edge
of civilization in the sands along the Elbe became for a while the
religious and theological hub of the world. The students who gathered
about Luther knew that they had a real professor in him. The world of
his day came to this fledgling doctor with the weightiest questions, and
received answers that satisfied. That part of the intelligent world of
to-day which has read and studied Luther endorses the verdict of
Luther's contemporaries as regards his ample learning and proficiency as
a teacher.

More learned men, indeed, than Luther there have been. Some of these
have also made attempts to introduce needed reforms in the corrupt Roman
Church. Rome met their learned and labored arguments with the consummate
skill of a past master in sophistry. Those learned efforts came to
naught. Rome will never be reformed by human learning and scholarship.
Scholars are rarely men of action. It is because Professor Luther taught
_and acted_ that Rome hates him. He would have been permitted to lecture
in peace whatever he wished--others in the universities were doing that
at the time--if he had only been careful not to do anything, at least
not publicly, against the authority of the Church. That was the
unpardonable blunder of Luther that he wanted to live as he believed,
and that he taught others to do the same. For this reason he is a
dullard, an ignoramus, a poor scholar, a poor writer, in a word, an
inferior person from a literary and scholarly point of view.

In Numbers (chap. 22) there is a story told of the prophet Balaam, who
went out on a wicked mission for which a great reward had been promised
him. He rode along cheerfully, feasting his avaricious heart on the
great hoard he would bring back, when suddenly the ass that bore him
balked. The prophet began to beat the animal, but it did not budge an
inch. All at once this dunce of an ass which had never been put through
a spelling-book began to talk and remonstrated with the prophet: "Am I
not thine ass? What have I done unto thee that thou hast smitten me?" To
his amazement the prophet was able to understand the ass quite well.
This dumb brute made its meaning plain to a learned man. It was an
intolerable outrage that an ass should lecture a doctor, and balk him in
his designs. Luther is that ass. Rome rode him, and he patiently bore
his wicked master until the angel of the Lord stopped him and he would
go no further. The only difference is that Balaam had his eyes opened,
left off beating his ass, and felt sorry for what he had done. Rome's
eyes have not been opened for four hundred years. It is still beating
the poor ass. It does not see the Lord who has blocked her path and
said, You shall go no further!

In 2 Kings, chap. 5, there is another story told of the Syrian captain
Naaman, who came to be healed of his leprosy by the prophet Elijah. With
his splendid suite the great statesman drove up in grand style to the
prophet's cottage. He expected that the holy man would come out to meet
him, and very deferentially engage to do the great lord's bidding. The
prophet did not even come out of his hut, but sent Naaman word to go and
wash seven times in Jordan and he would be cleansed. Now Naaman flew
into a rage, because the prophet had, in the first place, not even
deigned to speak to him, and, secondly, had ordered a ridiculously
commonplace cure for him. He stormed that he would do no such thing as
wash in that old Jordan River. He had better waters at home. Let the
prophet keep his old Jordan for such as he was. And he rode off in great
dudgeon. Rome is the leprous gentleman, and Luther is the man of God who
told her how to become clean. The only difference is this: Naaman
listened to wise counsel, and finally did what he had been told to do,
and was cleansed. Rome disdains to this day to listen to the ill-bred
son of a peasant, the theological upstart Luther, and remains as filthy
as she has been.

10. Luther's "Discovery" of the Bible.

Since Luther's study of the Bible has been referred to several times in
these pages, it is time that the righteousness of a certain indignation
be examined which Catholic writers display. They pretend to be
scandalized by the tale that in Luther's time the Bible was such a rare
book that it was practically unknown. With the air of outraged innocence
some of them rise to protest against the stupid myth that Luther
"discovered" the Bible. They claim that their Church had been so eager
to spread the Bible, and had published editions of the Bible in such
rapid succession, that in Luther's age Christian Europe was full of
Bibles. Moreover, that age, they tell us, was an age of intense
Bible-study. Not only the theologians, but also the laymen, not only the
wealthy and highly educated, but also the common people, had unhindered
access to the Bible. The historical data for Rome's alleged zeal in
behalf of the Bible these Catholic writers gather largely from
Protestant authors. For greater effect they propose to buttress, with
the fruits of the laborious research of Protestants, their charge that
Luther's ignorance of the Bible was self-inflicted and really

What are the facts in the case? The whole account which we possess of
Luther's "discovery" of the Bible is contained in Luther's Table Talk.
(22, 897.) This is a book which Luther did not personally compose nor
edit. It is a collection of sayings which his guests noted down while at
meat with Luther, or afterwards from memory. From a casual remark during
a meal Mathesius obtained the information which he published in his
biography of Luther, _viz.,_ that, when twenty-two years old, Luther one
day had found the Bible in a library at Erfurt.

Now, we do not wish to question the general credibility of the Table
Talk, nor the authenticity of this particular remark of Luther about his
stumbling upon the Bible by accident. But it is certainly germane to our
subject to strip the incident of the dramatic features with which
Catholic writers claim that most Protestants still surround the event.
Did Luther say, and did Mathesius report, that up to the year 1505 he
had not known of the Bible? Not at all. He merely stated that up to that
time he had not seen _a complete copy of the Bible_. Luther himself has
told scores of times that when a schoolboy at Mansfeld, and later at
Magdeburg and Eisenach where he studied, he had heard portions of the
Gospels and Epistles read during the regular service at church. Some
passages he had learned by heart. Luther's guests would have laughed at
him if he had claimed such a "discovery" of the Bible as Catholic
writers--and some of their Protestant authorities--think that Mathesius
has claimed for him and modern Protestants still credit him with.

What Luther did relate we are prepared to show was not, and could not
be, an unusual occurrence in those days. "Even in the University of
Paris, which was considered the mother and queen of all the rest, not a
man could be found, when Luther arose, competent to dispute with him out
of the Scriptures. This was not strange. Many of the doctors of theology
in those times had never read the Bible. Carolostadt expressly tells us
this was the case with himself. Whenever one freely read the Bible, he
was cried out against, as one making innovations, as a heretic, and
exposing Christianity to great danger by making the New Testament known.
Many of the monks regarded the Bible as a book which abounded in
numerous error." (Mosheim, III, 15.) The spiritual atmosphere in which
Luther and all Christians of his time were brought up was unfavorable to
real Bible-study.

But before we exhibit the true attitude of Rome toward the Bible, it
will be necessary to examine the Catholic claim regarding the extensive
dissemination and the intensive study of the Bible among the people in
and before Luther's times. Before the age of printing one cannot speak,
of course, of "editions" of the Bible. The earliest date for the
publication of a printed edition of the Bible is probably 1460--
twenty-three years before Luther's birth. That was an event fully as
momentous as the opening of the transatlantic cable in our time. Before
printing had been invented, the Bible was multiplied by being copied.
That was a slow process. Even when a number of copyists wrote at the
same time to dictation, it was a tedious process, requiring much time,
and not very many would join in such a cooperative effort of Bible
production. Besides, few men in those early ages were qualified for this
work. A certain degree of literary proficiency was required for the
task. The centuries during which the papacy rose to the zenith of its
power are notorious for the illiteracy of the masses. It was considered
a remarkable achievement even for a nobleman to be able to scribble his
name. Among those who possessed the ability few had the inclination and
persistency necessary for the effort to transcribe the Bible. The
cloisters of those days were the chief seats of learning and centers of
lower education, but even these asylums of piety sheltered many an
ignorant monk and others who were afflicted with the proverbial monks'
malady--laziness. It is to the credit of the pious members of the Roman
Church in that unhappy age that they manifested such a laudable interest
in the Bible. The achievement of copying the entire Bible with one's own
hand in that age is so great that it palliates some of the glaring evils
of the inhuman system of monasticism. But if every monk in every
cloister, every priest in every Catholic parish, every professor in
every Catholic university, could have produced twenty copies of the
Bible during his lifetime, how little would have been accomplished to
make the Bible available for the millions of men then living!

Reading is the correlate of writing. The person who cannot write, as a
rule, cannot read. For this reason the Bible must have remained a sealed
book to many who had ample opportunity to become acquainted with it. The
wide diffusion of Bible knowledge which Catholic writers would lead us
to believe always existed in the Roman Church is subject to question. It
is true that in the first centuries of the Christian era there was a
great hunger and thirst for the Word of God. But that was before the
Roman Church came into existence. For it is a reckless assumption that
the papacy is an original institution in the Church of Christ, and that
Roman Catholicism and Christianity are identical. It is also true that
in the early days of the Reformation the people manifested a great
desire for the Word of God. It was as new to them as it had been to
Luther. They would crowd around a person who was able to read, and would
listen for hours. At St. Paul's in London public reading of the Bible
became a regular custom. But between the early days of Christianity and
the beginning of the Reformation lies a period which. is known as the
Dark Ages. No amount of oratory will turn that age into a Bright Age.
"From the seventh to the eleventh century books were so scarce that
often not one could be found in an entire city, and even rich
monasteries possessed only a single text-book." (_Universal Encycl.,_
2, 96.) These conditions were not greatly improved until printing was
invented. Luther had to do with people who were emerging from the sad
conditions of that age, the effects of which were still visible
centuries after. He writes: "The deplorable destitution which I recently
observed, during a visitation of the churches, has impelled and
constrained me to prepare this Catechism, or Christian Doctrine, in such
a small and simple form. Alas, what manifold misery I beheld! The common
people, especially in the villages, know nothing at all of Christian
doctrine; and many pastors are quite unfit and incompetent to teach. Yet
all are called Christians, have been baptized, and enjoy the use of the
Sacraments, although they know neither the Lord's Prayer, nor the Creed,
nor the Ten Commandments, and live like the poor brutes and irrational
swine." (Preface to the Small Catechism.) Remember, these people lived
in that age when Luther was born and grew up, which Catholic writers
picture to us as a Bible-knowing and Bible-loving age.

The invention of printing wrought a mighty change in this respect. This
glorious art became hallowed from the beginning by being harnessed for
service to the Bible. But even this invention did not at once remove the
prevailing ignorance. We must not transfer modern conditions to the
fifteenth century. In 1906, one of the many Protestant Bible Societies
reported that it had disposed in one year of nearly 80,000,000 Bibles
and parts of the Bible in many languages. The Bible is perhaps the
cheapest book of modern times. It was not so in the days of Gutenberg,
Froschauer, Luft, and the Claxtons. Even after printing had been
invented, Bibles sold at prices that would be considered prohibitive in
our day. When the Duke of Anhalt ordered three copies of the Bible
printed on parchment, he was told that for each copy he must furnish 340
calf-skins, and the expense would be sixty gulden. (Luther's Works, 21b,
2378.) But even the low-priced editions of the Bible, printed on common
paper (which was not introduced into Europe until the thirteenth
century), cost a sum of money which a poor man would consider a fortune,
and which even the well-to-do would hesitate to spend in days when money
was scarce and its purchasing power was considerably different from what
it is to-day. At a period not so very remote from the present a Bible
was considered a valuable chattel of which a person would dispose by a
special codicil in his will. For generations Bibles would thus be handed
down from father to son, not only because of the sacred memories that
attached to them as heirlooms, but also because of their actual value in

Everything considered, then, we hold the argument that the Bible was a
widely diffused book in the days before Luther to be historically
untrue, because it implies physical impossibilities. With the
magnificent printing and publishing facilities of our times, how many
persons are still without the Bible? How many parishioners in all the
Catholic churches of this country to-day own a Bible? The modern Bible
societies are putting forth an energy in spreading the Bible that is
unparalleled in history. Still their annual reports leave the impression
that all they accomplish is as a drop in the bucket over and against the
enormous Bible-need still unsupplied. Catholic writers paint the
Bible-knowledge of the age before Luther in such exceedingly bright
colors that one is led to believe that age surpassed ours. They
overshoot their aim. Nobody finds fault with the Roman Church for not
having invented the printing-press. All would rather be inclined to
excuse her little achievement in spreading the Bible during the Middle
Ages on the ground of the poor facilities at her command. Every
intelligent and fair person will accord the Roman Church every moiety of
credit for the amount of Bible-knowledge which she did convey to the
people. We heartily join Luther in his belief that even in the darkest
days of the papacy men were still saved in the Roman Church, because
they clung in their dying hour to simple texts of the Scriptures which
they had learned from their priests. (22, 577.) But no one must try and
make us believe that the Roman Church before Luther performed marvels in
spreading the Bible. She never exhausted even the poor facilities at her

Far from wondering, then, that Luther had not seen the complete Bible
until his twenty-second year, we regard this as quite natural in view of
his lowly extraction, and we consider the censure which superficial
Protestant writers have applied to Luther because of his early ignorance
of the Bible as uncommonly meretricious. When we bear in mind the known
character of the Popes in Luther's days, we doubt whether even they had
read the entire Bible. Luther's "discovery" of the Bible, however is not
regarded by Protestants as a discovery such as Columbus made when he
found the American continent. Luther knew of the existence of the Bible
and could cite sayings of the Bible at the time when he found the bulky
volume in the library that made such a profound impression upon him.

And yet his find was a true discovery. Luther discovered that his Church
had not told him many important and beautiful things that are in the
Bible. He became so absorbed with the novel contents of this wonderful
book that the desire was wrung from his: heart: Oh, that I could possess
this book! But this enthusiastic wish at once became clouded by another
discovery which he made while poring over the precious revelation of the
very heart of Jesus: his Church had told him things differently from
what he found them stated in the Bible. He was shocked when he
discovered that in his heart a new faith was springing up which had come
to him out of the Bible,--a faith which contradicted the avowed faith of
the Roman Church. Poor Luther! He had for the first time come under the
influence of that Word which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and
spirit, and of the joints and marrow (Hebr. 4, 12), and he did not know
it. Some of the noblest minds in the ages before him have had to pass
through the same experience. With the implicit trust which at that time
lie reposed in the Roman Church, Luther suppressed his "heretical"
thoughts. He said: "Perhaps I am in error. Dare I believe myself so
smart as to know better than the Church?" (Hausrath, 1, 18.) Yes, Luther
had really discovered the Bible, namely, the Bible which the Roman
Church never has been, and never will be, willing to let the people see
while she remains what she is to-day. This "discovery"-tale which so
offends Catholic writers could be verified in our day. Let Catholic
writers put into the hands of every Catholic of America the true,
genuine, unadulterated Word of God, without any glosses and comment, and
let them watch what is going to happen. There will be astonishing
"discoveries" made by the readers, and those discoveries will be no

11. Rome and the Bible.

Catholic writers claim for the Roman Church the distinction which at one
time belonged to the Hebrews, that of being the keepers of the oracles
of God. They claim that to the jealous vigilance of the Roman Church
over the sacred writings of Christianity the world to-day owes the
Bible. The pagan emperors of Rome would have destroyed the Bible in the
persecutions which they set on foot against the early Christians, if the
faithful martyrs had not refused to surrender their sacred writings.
Again, the Roman Church is represented as the faithful custodian of the
Bible during the political and social upheaval that wrecked the Roman
Empire when the barbarian peoples of the North overran Rome and Greece.
Only through the care of the Roman Church the Bible is said to have been
saved from destruction in the general confusion.

The reasoning of Catholics on this matter is specious. In the first
place, the early Christian martyrs were not Roman Catholics. The claim
of the Roman Church that the papacy starts with Peter is a myth. In the
second place, much patient labor has been expended in the last centuries
to collate existing manuscripts of the Bible for the purpose of removing
errors that had crept into the text and making the original text of the
Bible as accurate as it is possible to make it. In these labors mostly
Protestants were engaged. Fell, Mill, Kuster, Bengel, Wetzstein,
Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, have
through three centuries of untiring research cooperated in placing
before the world the authentic text of the Bible.

To-day we have not a single one of the autograph manuscripts of the
Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. If the Roman Church existed
in the days when Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude, and James
wrote, and if she exercised such scrupulous care over the Bible, why has
she not preserved a single one of these invaluable documents? We suggest
this thought only in view of the unfounded Catholic boast; we do not
charge the Catholic Church with a crime for having permitted the
autographs of our Bible to become lost, we only hold that the Catholic
Church is not entitled to the eulogies which her writers bestow upon

Even the condition of the copies that were made from the autograph
writings of the apostles does not speak well for the care which the
Roman Church took of the Bible, assuming, of course, that she existed in
those early centuries. "It is evident that the original purity (of the
New Testament text) was early lost. . . . Irenaeus (in the second
century) alludes to the differences between the copies. . . . Origen,
early in the third century, expressly declares that matters were growing
worse. . . . From the fourth century onward we have the manuscript text
of each century, the writings of the Fathers, and the various Oriental
and Occidental versions, all testifying to varieties of readings."
(_New Schaff-Herzog Encycl.,_ II, 102.) Our sole purpose in calling
attention to this fact, which every scholar to-day knows, is, to bring
the fervor of Catholic admiration for the Bible-protecting and
Bible-preserving Church of Rome somewhat within the bounds of reason. We
do not charge the Roman Church with having corrupted the text, but if
the claim of Catholics as to the age of their Church is correct, every
corruption in the copies that were made from the original documents
occurred while she was exercising her remarkable custodianship over the
Bible. That officials of the Church, especially as we approach the
Middle Ages, had something to do with corrupting the sacred text is the
belief of the authority just quoted. "The early Church," he says, "did
not know anything of that anxious clinging to the letter which
characterizes the scientific rigor and the piety of modern times, and
therefore was not bent upon preserving the exact words. Moreover, the
first copies were made rather for private than for public use." Not a
few were found in sarcophagi; they had been buried with their owners.
"Copyists were careless, often wrote from dictation, and were liable to
misunderstand. Attempted improvements of the text in grammar and style;
efforts to harmonize the quotations in the New Testament with the Greek
of the Septuagint, but especially to harmonize the Gospels; the writing
out of abbreviations; incorporation of marginal notes in the text; the
embellishing of the Gospel narratives with stories drawn from
non-apostolic, though trustworthy, sources,--it is to these that we must
attribute the very numerous 'readings' or textual variations. It is true
that the copyists were sometimes learned men; but their zeal in making
corrections may have obscured the true text as much as the ignorance of
the unlearned. The copies, indeed, came under the eye of an official
reviser, but he may have sometimes exceeded his functions, and done more
harm than good by his changes."

All this happened while the Roman Church, according to Catholic writers,
was keeper of the Bible. The honor which these writers assert for their
Church is spurious. If there is any class of men for whom the glory must
be vindicated of having given to the world the pure Word of God in a
reliable text, it is the band of textual, or lower, critics who have
gathered and collated all existing manuscripts of the Bible. What an
immense amount of painstaking labor this necessitated the reader can
guess from the fact that for the New Testament alone about 3,000
manuscripts had to be examined word for word and letter for letter. The
men who undertook this gigantic task, arid who are always on the watch
for new finds, do not belong in the Roman fold, and did not receive the
incentive for their work from the Roman Church. This work started soon
after the Reformation, and the intense interest aroused in God's Word by
that movement is the true cause of it. The Protestant Church, not the
Church of Rome, has given back to the world the pure Word of God in more
than one sense.

The official Bible of the Roman Church to-day is the Latin Vulgate. This
Bible, which is a revision by Jerome and others of many variant Latin
texts in use towards the end of the fourth century, has been elevated to
the dignity of the inspired text. The original purpose was good: it was
to remove the confusion of many conflicting texts and to establish
uniformity in quoting the Bible. The errors of the Vulgate are many, but
while it was understood that the Vulgate was merely a translation, the
errors could be corrected from the original sources. Little, however,
was done in this respect before the Reformation, and since then the
Roman Church has become rigid and petrified in its adherence to this
Latin Bible. In its fourth session (April 8, 1546) the Council of Trent
decreed that "of all Latin editions the old and vulgate edition be held
as authoritative in public lectures, disputations, sermons, and
expositions; and that no one is to dare or presume under any pretext to
reject it." "The meaning of this decree," says Hodge, "is a matter of
dispute among Romanists themselves. Some of the more modern and liberal
of their theologians say that the council simply intended to determine
which among several Latin versions was to be used in the service of the
Church. They contend that it was not meant to forbid appeal to the
original Scriptures, or to place the Vulgate on a par with them in
authority. The earlier and stricter Romanists take the ground that the
Synod did intend to forbid an appeal to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures,
and to make the Vulgate the ultimate authority. The language of the
council seems to favor this interpretation." We might add, the practise
of Romanists, too. At the debate in Leipzig Eck contended that the Latin
Vulgate was inspired by the Holy Ghost. (Koestlin, I, 455.)

Whatever knowledge of Scripture the people in the Middle Ages possessed
was confined to those who could read Latin. Catholic writers claim this
was at that time the universal language of Europe, but they wisely add:
"among the educated." One of them says: "Those who could read Latin
could read the Bible, and those who could not read Latin could not read
anything." Exactly. And now, to prove the wide diffusion of
Bible-knowledge in their Church before Luther, these Catholic writers
should give us some exact data as to the extent of the Latin scholarship
in that age. Fact is, the Latin tongue acted as a lock upon the
Scriptures to the common people. Hence arose the desire to have the
Bible translated into the vernacular of various European countries.

This desire Rome sought to suppress with brutal rigor. The bloody
persecutions of the Waldensians in France, which almost resulted in the
extirpation of these peaceful mountain people, of the followers of
Wyclif in England, whose remains Rome had exhumed after his death and
burned, of the Hussites in Bohemia, were all aimed at translations of
the Bible into the languages which the common people understood.

In July, 1199, Pope Innocent III issued a breve, occasioned by the
report that parts of the Bible were found in French translation in the
diocese of Metz. The breve praises in a general way the zeal for
Bible-study, but applies to all who are not officially appointed to
engage in such study the prohibition in Ex. 19, 12. 13, not to touch the
holy mountain of the Law.

During the reign of his successor, Honorius III, in 1220, laymen in
Germany were forbidden to read the Bible.

Under Gregory IX the same prohibition was issued, in 1229, to laymen in
Great Britain.

In the same year the crusades against the Albigenses were concluded, and
the Council of Toulouse issued a severe order, making it a grave offense
for a layman to possess a Bible.

In 1234, the Synod of Tarragona demanded the immediate surrender of all
translations of the Bible for the purpose of having them burned.

In 1246, the Synod of Baziers issued a prohibition forbidding laymen to
possess any theological books whatsoever, and even enjoining the clergy
from owning any theological books written in the vernacular.

Eleven years after Luther's death, in 1557, Pope Paul IV published the
Roman Index of Forbidden Books, and, with certain exceptions, prohibited
laymen from reading the Bible.

Not until the reign of King Edward VI was the "Act inhibiting the
reading of the Old and New Testament in English tongue, and the
printing, selling, giving, or delivering of any such other books or
writings as are therein mentioned and condemned" (namely, in 34 Hen.
VIII. Cap. 1) abrogated.

The Council of Trent ordered all Catholic publishers to see to it that
their editions have the approval of the respective bishop.

Not until February 28, 1759, did Pope Clement XIII give permission to
translate the Bible _into all the languages of the Catholic states_.

Not until November 17, 1893, did Pope Leo XIII issue an encyclical
enjoining upon Catholics the study of the Bible, always, however, _in
editions approved by the Roman Church_. (Kurtz, _Kirchengesch_. II, 2,
94. 217; _Univers. Encycl_., under title "Bible"; Peter Heylyn,
_Ecclesia Restaurata_ I, 99; Denzinger, _Enchiridion,_ 1429. 1439. 1567.

Catholic writers seek to make a great impression in favor of their
Church by enumerating, on the authority of Protestant scholars, the
number of German translations of the Bible that are known to have been
in existence before Luther. But they omit to inform the public that not
a single one of those translations obtained the approbation of a bishop.
One cannot view but with a pathetic interest these sacred relies of an
age that was hungering for the Word of God. The origin of these early
German Bibles has been traced by scholars to Wycliffite and Hussite
influences, which Rome never stamped out, though her inquisitors tried
their best to do so. The earliest of these Bibles do not state the place
nor the year of publication. Can the reader guess why? They were not
published at the seat of the German Archbishop, Mainz, but most of them
at the free imperial city of Augsburg. Can the reader suggest a reason?
Many of them are printed in abnormally small sizes, facilitating quick
concealment. Can the reader imagine a cause for this phenomenon? In
these old German Bibles particular texts are emphasized, for example,
Rom. 8, 18; 1 Cor. 4, 9; 2 Cor. 4, 8 ; 11, 23; 1 Pet. 2, 19; 4, 16; 5,
9; Acts 5, 18. 41; 8, 1; 12, 4; 14, 19. If the reader will take the
trouble to look up these texts, he will find that they warn Christians
to be prepared to be persecuted for their faith. Has the reader ever
heard of such an officer of the Roman Church as the inquisitor, one of
whose duties it was to hunt for Bibles among the people? In places these
old German Bibles contain significant marginal glosses, for example, at
1 Tim. 2, 5 one of them has this gloss: "_Ain_ mitler Christus, ach
merk!" that is: _One_ mediator, Christ--note this well!

In 1486, Archbishop Berchtold of Mainz, Primate of Germany, issued an
edict, full of impassioned malice against German translations of the
Bible, and against laymen who sought edification from them. He says that
"no prudent person will deny that there is need of many supplements and
explanations from other writings" than the Bible, to the end, namely,
that a person may construe from the German Bibles the true Catholic
faith. Fact is, that faith is not in the Bible. This happened three
years after the birth of Luther. (Kurtz, II, 2, 304.)

Instead of finding fault, then, with Luther's ignorance of the Bible
prior to 1505, we feel surprised that the young man knew as much of the
Bible as he did. He must in this respect have surpassed many in his age.

The Roman Church does not permit her laymen to read a Bible that she has
not published with annotations. "Believing herself to be the divinely
appointed custodian and interpreter of Holy Writ," says a writer in the
_Catholic Encyclopedia_ (II, 545), "she cannot, without turning traitor
to herself, approve the distribution of Scripture 'without note or
comment.'" For this reason the Roman Church has cursed the Bible
societies which early in the eighteenth century began to be formed in
Protestant Churches, and aimed at supplying the poor with cheap Bibles.
In 1816, Pope Pius VII anathematized all Bible societies, declaring them
"a pest of Christianity," and renewed the prohibition which his
predecessors had issued against translations of the Bible. (Kurtz, II,
2, 94.) Leo XII, on May 5, 1824, in the encyclical _Ubi Primum,_ said:
"Ye are aware, venerable brethren, that a certain Bible society is
impudently spreading throughout the world, which, despising the
traditions of the holy Fathers and the decree of the Council of Trent,
is endeavoring to translate, or rather to pervert, the Scriptures into
the vernacular of all nations. . . . It is to be feared that by false
interpretation the Gospel of Christ will become the gospel of men, or,
still worse, the gospel of the devil." Pius IX, on November 9, 1846, in
the encyclical _Qui Pluribus,_ said: "These crafty Bible societies,
which renew the ancient guile of heretics, cease not to thrust their
Bible upon all men, even the unlearned--their Bibles, which have been
translated against the laws of the Church and after certain false
explanations of the text. Thus the divine traditions, the teaching of
the fathers, and the authority of the Catholic Church are rejected, and
every one in his own way interprets the words of the Lord, and distorts
their meaning, thereby falling into miserable error." (_Cath. Encycl_.
II, 545.) The writer whom we have just quoted says: "The fundamental
fallacy of private interpretation of the Scriptures is presupposed by
the Bible societies." These papal pronunciamentos arc directed chiefly
against the Canstein Bibelgesellschaft and her later sisters, such as
the Berliner Bibelgesellschaft, and against the British and American
Bible Societies.

The face of the Roman Church is sternly set against the plain text of
the Scriptures. To defeat the meaning of the original text, she not only
mutilates the text and adds glosses which twist the meaning of the text
into an altogether different meaning, but she declares that the Bible is
not the only source from which men must obtain revealed truth. Alongside
of the Bible she places an unwritten word of God, her so-called
traditions. These, she claims, are divine revelations which were handed
down orally from generation to generation. The early fathers and the
councils of the Church referred to them in defining the true doctrine
and prescribing the correct practise of the Church. Nobody has collected
these traditions, and nobody will. But to what extent the Roman Church
operates with them, is well known.

Speaking of learned Bible-study in the Middle Ages, Mosheim says:
"Nearly all the theologians were _Positivi_ and _Sententiarii_ [that is,
they taught what the Church ordered to be taught], who deemed it a great
achievement, both in speculative and practical theology, either to
overwhelm the subject with a torrent of quotations from the fathers, or
to anatomize it according to the laws of dialectics [that is, the laws
of reasoning, logic]. And whenever they had occasion to speak of the
meaning of any text, they appealed invariably to what was called the
_Glossa Ordinaria_ [that is, the official explanation], and the phrase
_Glossa dicit_ (the Gloss says), was as common and decisive on their
lips as anciently the phrase _Ipse dixit_ (he, viz., the teacher, has
said) in the Pythagorean school." (III, 15.)

In his controversies with the theologians of Rome, Luther found that
they were constantly wriggling out of the plain text of the Bible and
running for shelter to the traditions, to the fathers, to the decrees of
councils of the Church.

At the Council of Trent some one rose to inquire whether all the
traditions recognized as genuine by the Church could not be named; he
was told that he was out of order. (Pallavivini, VI, 11, 9; 18, 7.) Hase
has invited the Roman Church to say whether all the traditions are now
known. He has not been answered. (_Protest. Polem_., p. 83.) If
Romanists answer: Yes, the reasonable request will be made of them to
publish those traditions once for all time, in order that men may know
all that God is supposed to have really said to men that is not in the
Bible. If they answer: No, the conclusion is inevitable that the
Christian faith is an uncertain thing. Any tradition may bob up that
upsets a part of the Creed.

Add to this the dogma of papal infallibility, promulgated July 18, 1870,
which asserts for the Pope "the entire plenitude  of supreme power" to
determine the faith and morals of Christians, and we have reached a
point where it becomes plain to any thoughtful person that the Bible is,
from the Catholic view-point, not at all such a necessary book as men
have believed. Nor can the faith of a Romanist be a fixed and stable
quantity. Any papal deliverance may bring about a change, and the
conscientious Catholic must study the news from the Vatican with the
same vital interest as the merchant studies the market reports in his
morning paper, and a very pertinent question that he may ask his wife
over his coffee at the breakfast table would be, "Wife, what do we
believe to-day?"

12. Luther's Visit at Rome.

Catholic writers ask the world not to believe Luther's tales about the
city of Rome. Luther, they say, came to Rome as a callow rustic comes to
a metropolis. To the wily Italians he was German Innocence Abroad; they
hoaxed him by telling him absurd tales about the Popes, the priests, the
wonders of the city, etc., and the credulous monk believed all they told
him. He left Rome with his faith in the Church unimpaired. Later in
life, after his "defection" from Rome, he told as true facts and as
reminiscences of his visit at the Holy City many of the false stories
which had been palmed off on him. This is said to have given rise to the
prevailing Protestant view that during his visit at Rome Luther's eyes
were opened to the corruption of the Roman Church and his resolution
formed to overthrow that Church. Luther himself is said to be
responsible for this false view. He fostered it by his tales of what he
had seen and heard at Rome with disgust and horror. His horrid
impressions are declared pure fiction, and simply serve to show how
little the man can be trusted in anything he states.

To leave a way open for a decent retreat, Catholics also point to a
difference in temperament between the phlegmatic Luther coming from a
northern clime, which through its atmospheric rigors begets somber
reflections and gloomy thoughts, and the airy, fairy Italians, who revel
in sunshine, flowers, and fruits, drink fiery wines, and naturally grow
up into a freedom of manners and lack of restraint that is
characteristic of people living in southern climes. All of which means--
if it means anything serious--that the Ten Commandments are subject to
revision according to the geographic latitude in which a person happens
to be. When your austere gentleman, raised among the fens and bogs of
the Frisian coast, sees something in a grove in Sicily which he
denounces as wicked, you must tell him that there is nothing wrong in
what he has seen. He has only omitted to adjust his temperament to the
locality. If you follow out this line of thought to the end, you will
come to a point where you strike hands with Rudyard Kipling, who has
sung enthusiastically about a certain locality beyond Aden where the Ten
Commandments do not exist. And to think that this plea is made by people
who have charged Luther with having put the Ten Commandments out of
commission for himself and others! Italians, lovers of freedom and
unrestraint, were the first to fill the world with tales about the moral
besottedness of Luther! This goes to show that in any application of the
Ten Commandments it matters very much who does the applying.

We have in a previous chapter briefly reviewed the Popes that were
contemporaries of Luther. Their character was stamped on the life of the
Holy City: The Popes and their following gave Rome its moral, or
immoral, face. The chroniclers of those days have described the existing
conditions. Luther need not have said one word about what wicked things
he had seen and heard at Rome, either ten years, or twenty years, or
thirty years after he had been there, and the world would still know the
record of the residence of the Popes. Luther really saw very little of
what he might have seen, and it is probable that he has told less. But
what he did see and hear are facts. He did not grasp their full meaning
nor see their true bearing at the time. The real import of his Roman
experiences dawned on him at a later period. He spoke as a man of things
that he had seen as a child. But that does not alter the facts.

Luther was shocked at the levity of Italian monks who were babbling
faulty Latin prayers which they did not understand and remarked laughing
to him: "Never mind; the Holy Ghost understands us, and the devil flees

Luther's confidence in the boasted unity of the Roman Church was
somewhat shaken when he discovered that he could not read mass in any
church in the territory at Milan, because there the Ambrosian form of
service was prescribed while he had been trained to the Gregorian.

Luther shook his head at the freedom of certain public manners of the
Italians which reminded him of dogs and of what he had read about

Luther heard of a Lenten collation, probably at the abbey of San
Benedetto de Larione, where the word "fast" had to be spelled with an
_e_ as the second letter.

The loquaciousness, spicy talk, blasphemy, dishonesty, treachery,
quarrelsomeness, and deadly animosities of the Italians, Luther regards
as strange, considering that they live so near to the Holy City.

He wondered why the Italians do not permit their women to go out of
their houses except deeply veiled.

He finds that the Italians show no respect for their beautiful churches
and the divine service conducted in them. Even on great festivals the
magnificent cathedrals are almost empty, the worshipers are chatting
with one another while the service is in progress. Even quarrels are
settled at these holy places, sometimes with the knife. When there is a
burial, they hurry the corpse to the grave, not even the relatives being
in attendance.

He is grieved at the irreligious manner in which the priests at Rome
read mass. They hurry through the performance with incredible rapidity.
They crowd each other away from the altar in their haste to get their
performance finished. "Hurry, hurry! Begone! Come away!" he hears them
calling to one-another. Sometimes two priests are reading mass at one
altar at the same time. They had finished the whole mass before Luther
had reached the Gospel in the service of the mass. And then they would
receive money from the bystanders who had come in and had watched them.
In a half hour a priest could get a handful of silver. Luther refused
such gifts.

Luther heard few preachers at Rome, and those that he heard he did not
like. They were very lively in the delivery of their sermons, they would
run to and fro in their pulpit, bend far over toward the audience, utter
violent cries, change their voice suddenly, and gesticulate like madmen.

Luther saw Pope Julius from a distance several times. He thought it
queer that a healthy and strong man like the Pope should have himself
carried to church in a litter instead of walking thither, and that such
show should be made of his going there and a procession should be formed
to accompany him. He saw the Pope sit at the altar and hold out his foot
to be kissed by people. He saw the Pope take communion. He did not
kneel like other communicants, but sat on his magnificent throne; a
cardinal priest handed him the chalice, and he sipped the wine through a
silver tube.

However, these and other things did not at the time shake Luther's
belief in the Catholic Church. He came to Rome and left Rome a devout
Catholic. Staupitz, the vicar of his order, had really gratified him in
permitting him to go to Rome as the traveling companion of another monk.
Luther had expressed the wish to make a general confession at Rome. With
this thought on his mind he started out, and he treated the whole
journey as a pilgrimage. After the manner of pious monks the two
companions walked one behind the other, reciting prayers and litanies.
Whether his general confession and his first mass at Rome, probably at
Santa Maria del Popolo, gave him that sense of spiritual satisfaction
which he craved, he has not told us. When he had come in sight of the
city, he had fallen on his face like the crusaders in sight of
Jerusalem, and had fervently blessed that moment. Now he ran through the
seven stations of Rome, read masses wherever he could, gathered an
abundance of indulgences by going through prescribed forms of worship at
many shrines, listened to miracle-tales, knelt before the veil of St.
Veronica near the Golden Gate at San Giovanni and before the bronze
statue of St. Peter in the chapel of St. Martin, where a crucifix had of
its own accord raised itself up and become transfixed in the dome, saw
the rope with which Judas hanged himself fastened to the altar of the
Apostles Simon and Judas at St. Peter's, the stone in the chapel of St.
Petronella on which the penitential tears of Peter had fallen, cutting a
groove in it two fingers wide, had the guide show him the Pope's crown,
the tiara, which, he thought, cost more money than all the princes of
Germany possessed, was perplexed at finding the heads and bodies of
Peter and Paul assigned to different places, at the Lateran Church and
at San Paolo Fuori, mounted the Scala Santa--Pilate's staircase--on his
knees, passed with awe the relief picture in one of the streets which
the popular legend declared to be that of the female Pope Johanna and
her child, saw the ancient pagan deities of Rome depicted in Santa Maria
della Rotonda, the old Pantheon, stared at the head of John the Baptist
in San Silvestro in Capite, tried, but failed to read the famous
Saturday mass at San Giovanni, the oldest and greatest sanctuary of
Christianity, rested from a fatiguing tour through the Lateran in Santa
Croce in Gerusalemme, where Pope Sylvester II, the Faustus of the
Italians, was carried away by the devils, went through the catacombs
with its 6 martyred Popes and 176,000 other martyrs, etc., etc.

Looking back to this visit later, Luther remarked, "I believed
everything" Just what official Rome expected every devout pilgrim to do,
just what it expects them to do to-day. And these Romanists want to
point the finger of ridicule at the simpleton, the easy dupe, the holy
fool Luther! Does Rome perhaps think the same of all the pious pilgrims
that annually crowd Rome? Luther heard himself called "un buon
Christiano" at Rome and discovered that that meant as much as "an
egregious ass." But he considered that a part of Italian wickedness. The
Church, he was sure, approved of all that he did, in fact, had taught
him to do all that. It required ten years or more to disabuse his mind
of the frauds that had been practised on him, and then he declared that
he would not take 100,000 gulden not to have seen with his own eyes how
scandalously the Popes were hoodwinking Christians. If it were not for
his visit at Rome, he says, he might fear that he was slandering the
Popes in what he wrote about them.

While Luther's visit at Rome, then, brought about no spiritual change in
him, it helped to give him a good conscience afterwards when his
conflict with Rome had begun.

13. Pastor Luther.

Luther's famous protest against the sale of indulgences, published
October 31, 1517, in the form of ninety-five theses, is represented by
Catholic writers as an outburst of Luther's violent temper and an
assault upon the Catholic Church that he had long premeditated. By this
time, it is said, Luther had become known to his colleagues as a
quarrelsome man, loving disputations and jealous of victory in a debate.
His methods of teaching at the university were novel, in defiance of the
settled customs of the Church. His dangerous innovations caused the
suspicion to spring up that he was plotting rebellion against the
authority of the Church. The arrival of the indulgence-hawker Tetzel in
the neighborhood of Wittenberg gave him the long-looked-for occasion to
strike a blow at the sacred teachings of the Church which he had
solemnly promised to support and defend against all heretics, and from
whose teachings he had already apostatized in his heart.

The fact is that Luther was so little conscious of an intention to stir
up strife for his Church that he was probably the most surprised man in
Germany when he observed the excitement which his Theses were causing.
The method he had chosen for voicing his opinion had no revolutionary
element in it. It was an invitation to the learned doctors to debate
with him the doctrinal grounds for the sale of indulgences. Catholic
writers point to the fact that Luther declared at a later time that he
did not know what an indulgence was when he attacked Tetzel. They seek
to prove from this remark of Luther that it was not conscientious
scruples, but the desire to cause trouble in the Church that prompted
Luther to his action. They do not see that this remark speaks volumes
for Luther. By his Theses he meant to get at the truth of the teaching
concerning indulgences. His Theses were written in Latin, not in the
people's language. Others translated them into German and scattered them
broadcast throughout Germany. The Theses are no labored effort to set
up, by skilful, logical argument and in carefully chosen terms, a new
dogma in oppositon [tr. note: sic] to the teaching of the Church, but
they are exceptions hurriedly thrown on paper, like the notes jotted
down by a speaker to guide him in a discussion of his subject. Last, not
least, the Theses, while contradicting the prevailing practise of
selling indulgences, breathe loyalty to the Catholic Church. From our
modern standpoint Luther appears in the Theses as half Protestant, or
evangelical, half Roman Catholic. In his own view he was altogether
Catholic. His Theses were merely a call: Let there be light! Let our
consciences be duly instructed!

We still have a letter which Luther wrote to Pope Leo X about six months
after he had published the Theses. This letter shows in what an orderly
and quiet way Luther proceeded in his attack upon the traffic in
indulgences, and how much he believed himself in accord with the Pope
and the Church. We shall quote a few statements from this letter: "In
these latter days a jubilee of papal indulgences began to be preached,
and the preachers, thinking everything allowed them under the protection
of your name, dared to teach impiety and heresy openly, to the grave
scandal and mockery of ecclesiastical powers, totally disregarding the
provisions of the Canon Law about the misconduct of officials. . . .
They met with great success, the people were sucked dry on false
pretenses, . . . but the oppressors lived on the fat and sweetness of
the land. They avoided scandals only by the terror of your name, the
threat of the stake, and the brand of heresy, . . . if, indeed, this can
be called avoiding scandals and not rather exciting schisms and revolt
by crass tyranny. . . .

"I privately warned some of the dignitaries of the Church. By some the
admonition was well received, by others ridiculed, by others treated in
various ways, for the terror of your name and the dread of censure are
strong. At length, when I could do nothing else, I determined to stop
their mad career if only for a moment; I resolved to call their
assertions in question. So I published some propositions for debate,
inviting only the more learned to discuss them with me, as ought to be
plain to my opponents from the preface to my Theses. [This was, by the
way, a common practise in those days among the learned professors at
universities.] Yet this is the flame with which they seek to set the
world on fire! . . ." (15, 401; transl. by Preserved Smith.)

Luther's publication of the Theses was the act of a conscientious
Christian pastor. Being a priest, Luther had to hear confession. Through
the confessional he learned how the common people viewed the
indulgences: they actually believed that by buying indulgences they were
freed from all the guilt and punishment of their sins. Absolution became
a plain business transaction: you pay your money and you take your
goods. Luther wrote this to his archbishop the same day on which he
published his Theses. "Papal indulgences," he says in the letter to
Albert, Archbishop of Mayence and Primate of Germany, "for the building
of St. Peter's are hawked about under your illustrious sanction. I do
not now accuse the sermons of the preachers who advertise them, for I
have not seen the same, but I regret that the people have conceived
about them the most erroneous ideas. Forsooth, these unhappy souls
believe that, if they buy letters of pardon, they are sure of their
salvation; likewise, that souls fly out of purgatory as soon as money is
cast into the chest; in short, that the, grace conferred is so great
that there is no sin whatever which cannot be absolved thereby, even if,
as they say, taking an impossible example, a man should violate the
mother of God. They also believe that indulgences free them from all
penalty and guilt." (15, 391; transl. by Preserved Smith, p. 42.)

Luther had preached against the popular belief in indulgences,
pilgrimages to shrines of the saints and their relics, for two years
before he published his Theses. He was confident that the Church could
not countenance this belief. Forgiveness of sins is to the penitent in
heart who are sorry for their sins, and their sins are forgiven for
Christ's sake, who atoned for them, and in whom we have the forgiveness
of sin by the redemption through His blood. This is the Scriptural
doctrine of penitence,--that sorrowful, contrite, and believing attitude
of the heart which is the characteristic of true Christians throughout
their lives. Through penitence we become absolved in the sight of God
from all guilt and punishment of our sins, and the minister, by
announcing this fact, is to convey to the penitent the assurance that
his sins have been forgiven. Whatever penances or pious exercises the
Church may impose an sinners who have confessed their sins can only be
imposed as a wholesome disciplinary measure and as aids to the needed
reformation of life. These penances, since they originate in the choice
of the Church, may also be remitted by the Church, and for these
penances the Church may accept a commutation in money, which payment,
however, cannot supersede the paramount duty of the penitent to amend
his sinful conduct. Such were Luther's views in brief outline at the
time he published his Theses. If we are to take modern Catholic critics
of Luther seriously, that has also been the teaching of their Church on
the subject of indulgences. They claim that the good intentions of the
Popes were grossly misinterpreted and the system of indulgences was put
to uses for which it was never intended. If that is the case, why do
they attack Luther for his attempt to have the abuses corrected?
According to their own presentation of the true teaching of the Church
on the subject of indulgences, Luther was the most dutiful son of the
Church in his day in what he did on All Souls' Eve, 1517.

But the Roman teaching on indulgences is not such an innocent affair as
Catholics would have us believe. The practise of substituting for
penances some good work or contribution to a pious purpose had arisen in
the Church at a very early time. "This," says Preserved Smith, who has
well condensed the history of indulgences, "was the seed of indulgence
which would never have grown to its later enormous proportions had it
not been for the crusades. Mohammed promised his followers paradise if
they fell in battle against unbelievers, but Christian warriors were at
first without this comforting assurance. Their faith was not long left
in doubt, however, for as early as 855 Leo IV promised heaven to the
Franks who died fighting against the Moslems. A quarter of a century
later John VIII proclaimed absolution for all sins and remission of all
penalties to soldiers in the holy war, and from this time on the
'crusade indulgence' became a regular means of recruiting, used, for
example, by Leo IX in 1052 and by Urban II in 1095. By this time the
practise had grown up of regarding an indulgence as a remission not only
of penance, but of the pains of purgatory. The means which had proved
successful in getting soldiers for the crusade were first used in 1145
or 1146 to get money for the same end, pardon being assured to those who
gave enough to fit out one soldier on the same terms as if they had gone

"When the crusades ceased, in the thirteenth century, indulgences did
not fall into desuetude. At the jubilee of Pope Boniface VIII, in 1300,
a plenary indulgence was granted to all who made a pilgrimage to Rome.
The Pope reaped such an enormous harvest from the gifts of these
pilgrims that he saw fit to employ similar means at frequent intervals,
and soon extended the same privileges as were granted to pilgrims to all
who contributed for some pious purpose at their own homes. Agents were
sent out to sell these pardons, and were given power to confess and
absolve, so that in 1393 Boniface IX was able to announce complete
remission of both guilt and penalty to the purchasers of his letters.

"Having assumed the right to free living men from future punishment, it
was but a step for the Popes to proclaim that they had the power to
deliver the souls of the dead from purgatory. The existence of this
power was an open question until decided by Calixtus III in 1457, but
full use of the faculty was not made until twenty years later, after
which it became of all branches of the indulgence trade the most

The reader will note that the indulgence trade in its latest form had
not become a general thing until about six years before Luther's birth.
It was a comparatively new thing that Luther attacked. In our remarks on
monasticism in a previous chapter we alluded to the Roman teaching
concerning the Treasure of the Merits of the Saints, or the Treasure of
the Church. This teaching greatly fructified the theory of indulgences.
It has never been shown, and never will be, how this Treasure
originates. In the work of our Redeemer there was nothing superabundant
that the Scriptures name. He fulfilled the entire Law for man, and His
merits are of inestimable value. But they were all needed for the work
of satisfying divine justice. Moreover, all these merits of Christ are
freely given to each and every believer and cancel all his guilt,
according to the statement of Paul: "Christ is the end of the Law for
righteousness to every one that believeth." As regards the merits of the
saints, which they accumulated by doing good works in excess of what
they were required to do, this is a purely imaginary asset of the papal
bank of Rome. Every man, with all that he is and has and is able to do,
owes himself wholly to God. At the best he can only do his duty. There
is no chance for doing good works in excess of duty. If he were really
to do all, he would only do what it was his duty to do, Luke 17, 10, and
would be told to regard himself, even in that most favorable case, as an
unprofitable servant.

But supposing there were superabundant merits, supererogatory works of
Christ and the saints, who has determined their quantity? Who takes the
inventory of this stock of the papal bank of Rome? Is he the same party
who determines the length of a person's stay in purgatory and can tell
how much he has been in arrears in the matter of goodness and
virtuousness, and how much cash will purchase his release? How is this
intelligence conveyed to purgatory that Mr. So-and-so is free to proceed
to heaven? A multitude of such questions arising in all thinking minds
that want to arrive at rock bottom facts in so serious a matter always
baffle the theologians of Rome. They owe the world an answer on these
questions for four hundred years. Is the world doing Rome an injustice
when it regards the sale of indulgences a pure confidence game in holy
disguise, the offer of a fictitious value for good cash, the boldest and
baldest gold-bricking that mankind has heen [tr. note: sic] subjected

The sale of indulgences which was started in Luther's days was a
particularly offensive enterprise. "It was not so much the theory of the
Church that excited Luther's indignation as it was the practises of some
of her agents. They encouraged the common man to believe that the
purchase of a papal pardon would assure him impunity without any real
repentance on his part. Moreover, whatever the theoretical worth of
indulgences, the motive of their sale was notoriously the greed of
unscrupulous ecclesiastics. The 'holy trade' as it was called had become
so thoroughly commercialized by 1500 that a banking house, the Fuggers
of Augsburg, were the direct agents of the Curia in Germany. In return
for their services in forwarding the Pope's bulls, and in hiring
sellers of pardons, this wealthy house made a secret agreement in 1507
by which it received one-third of the total profits of the trade, and in
1514 formally took over the whole management of the business in return
for the modest commission of one-half the net receipts. Naturally not a
word was said by the preachers to the people as to the destination of so
large a portion of their money, but enough was known to make many men
regard indulgences as an open scandal.

"The history of the particular trade attacked by Luther is one of
special infamy. Albert of Brandenburg, a prince of the enterprising
house of Hohenzollern, was bred to the Church and rapidly rose by
political influence to the highest ecclesiastical position in Germany.
In 1513, he was elected, at the age of twenty-three, Archbishop of
Magdeburg and administrator of the bishopric of Halberstadt,--an
uncanonical accumulation of sees confirmed by the Pope in return for a
large payment. Hardly had Albert paid this before he was elected
Archbishop and Elector of Mayence and Primate of Germany (March 9,
1514). As he was not yet of canonical age to possess even one bishopric,
not to mention three of the greatest in the empire, the Pope refused to
confirm his nomination except for an enormous sum. The Curia at first
demanded twelve thousand ducats for the twelve apostles. Albert offered
seven for the seven deadly sins. The average between apostles and sins
was struck at ten thousand ducats, or fifty thousand dollars, a sum
equal in purchasing power to near a million to-day. Albert borrowed
this, too, from the Fuggers, and was accordingly confirmed on August 15,

"In order to allow the new prelate to recoup himself, Leo obligingly
declared an indulgence for the benefit of St. Peter's Church, to run
eight years from March 31, 1515. By this transaction, one of the most
disgraceful in the history of the papacy, as well as in that of the
house of Brandenburg, the Curia made a vast sum. Albert did not come off
so well. First, a number of princes, including the rulers of both
Saxonies, forbade the trade in their dominions, and the profits of what
remained were deeply cut by the unexpected attack of a young monk."
(Preserved Smith, p. 86 ff.)

Luther had ample reason to dread the demoralizing effect of the
indulgence-venders' activity upon the common people. In the sermons of
Tetzel the church where he happened to do business was raised to equal
dignity with St. Peter's at Rome. Instead of confessing to an ordinary
priest, he told the masses they had now the rare privilege of confessing
to an Apostolical Vicar, specially detailed for this work. With
consummate skill he worked on the tender feelings of parents, of
mothers, who were mourning the loss of children, or of children who had
lost their parents. He impersonated the departed in their agonies in
purgatory, he made the people hear the pitiful moaning of the victims in
the purgatorial fires, and transmitted their heartrending appeals for
speedy help to the living. He clinched the argument by playing on the
people's covetousness: for the fourth part of a gulden they could
transfer a suffering soul safely to the home of the eternal paradise.
Had they ever had a greater bargain offered to them? Never would they
have this indispensable means of salvation brought within easier reach.
Now was the time, now or never! "0 ye murderers, ye usurers, ye robbers,
ye slaves of vice," he cried out, "now is the time for you to hear the
voice of God, who does not desire the death of the sinner, but would
have the sinner repent and live. Turn, then, O Jerusalem, to the Lord,
thy God!" He declared that the red cross of the indulgence-venders, with
the papal arms, raised in a church, possessed the same virtue as the
cross of Christ. If Peter were present in person, he would not possess
greater authority, nor could he dispense grace more effectually than he.
Yea, he would not trade his glory as an indulgence-seller with Peter's
glory; for he had saved more souls by selling the indulgences than Peter
by preaching. Every time a coin clinked in his money chest a liberated
soul was soaring to heaven.

Catholic writers declare that the people were told that they must repent
in order to obtain forgiveness. So they were, in the manner aforestated.
Repenting meant buying a letter of pardon from the Pope. That is the
reason why Luther worded the first two of his Ninety-five Theses as he
did: "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying: _Poenitentiam agite!_
meant that the whole life of the faithful should be repentance. And
these words cannot refer to penance--that is, confession and
satisfaction." The Latin phrase "poenitentiam agere" has a double
meaning: it may mean "repent" and "do penance." Our Lord used the phrase
in the first, the indulgence-sellers in the second sense. Since the
people had been raised in the belief that the Church had the authority
from God to impose church fines on them for their trespasses, by which
they were to remove the temporal punishment of their sins, this was
called "doing penance,"--they were actually led to believe that the
were obeying a command of Christ in buying a letter of indulgence. And
not only did the people believe that they were purchasing release from
temporal punishment, but from the guilt of sin and all its effects. The
common man from the fields and the streets did not make the fine
distinction of the hair-splitting theologians: his bargain meant to him
that hell was closed and heaven open for him.

Another favorite defense of modern Catholic writers is, that the money
paid for an indulgence was not meant to purchase anything, but was to be
viewed as a thank-offering which the grateful hearts of the pardoned
prompted them to make to the Church who had brought them the pardon
free, gratis, and for nothing. This is Cardinal Gibbons's argument. He
points triumphantly to the fact that the letters of indulgence were
never handed the applicants at the same desk at which the
"thank-offerings" were received. He does not say which desk the
applicant approached first. But, supposing he obtained the letter first
and then, with a heart bounding with joy and gratitude, hurried to the
other desk, we have an interesting psychological problem confronting us.
The two acts, the delivery of the letter of indulgence and the
surrendering of the thank-offering, we are told, are independent the one
of the other. Both are free acts, the one the free forgiveness of the
Church, the other the free giving of the pardoned. The Church's grant of
pardon has nothing to do with the payment of indulgence-money, and the
indulgence-money is not related to the letter of indulgence. Now, then,
the purchaser of an indulgence performs this remarkable feat: when he
stands at the desk where the letter is handed to him, he does not think
of any cost that he incurs. He views the letter as a pure gift. Then,
obeying a sudden impulse of gratitude, he turns to the other desk and
hands the official some money. He manages to think that he is not paying
for anything, that would be utterly improper. How could a person pay for
a donation, especially such a donation of spiritual and heavenly
treasures? One disturbing element, however, remains: the amount of the
thank-offering was fixed beforehand for particular sins, probably to
regulate the recipient's gratitude and make it adequate. The writer has
resolved to test the psychology of this process on himself the next time
the Boston Symphony Company comes to town. He will try and think of the
great singers as true benefactors of mankind, who go about the country
bestowing favors on the public, and when he comes to the ticket-window
he will merely make a thank-offering for the pleasure he is receiving.
The scheme ought to work as well in this instance as in the other.

14. The Case of Luther's Friend Myconius.

There is a remarkable instance recorded in the annals of the Reformation
which strikingly illustrates the operations of the indulgence-venders.
This record deserves not to be forgotten. Gustav Freitag, the famous
writer of German history, has embodied it in his sketch "Doktor Luther."

Frederic Mecum, in Latin Myconius, had become a monk in the Franciscan
order. He had had an experience with Tetzel which caused him to turn to
Luther with joy and wonder when the latter had published his Theses. Few
of the writings of Myconius, who afterwards became the evangelical
pastor of the city of Gotha, have been preserved. In the ducal library
at Gotha Freitag found [tr. note: sic] an account in Latin of the
incident to which we have referred. It is as follows: "John Tetzel, of
Pirna in Meissen, a Dominican friar, was a powerful peddler of
indulgences or the remission of sins by the Roman Pope. He tarried with
this purpose of his for two years in the city of Annaberg, new at that
time, and deceived the people so much that they all believed there was
no other way of obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life
except to make amends with our works; concerning this making of amends,
however, he said that it was impossible. But a single way was still
left, that is, if we purchased the same for money from the Roman Pope,
bought for ourselves, therefore, the Pope's indulgence, which he called
the forgiveness of sins and a certain entrance into eternal life. Here I
might tell wonders upon wonders and incredible things, what kind of
sermons I heard Tetzel preach these two years in Annaberg, for I heard
him preach quite diligently, and he preached every day; I could repeat
his sermons to others, too, with all the gestures and intonations; not
that I made him an object of ridicule, but I was entirely in earnest.
For I considered everything as oracles and divine words, which one had
to believe, and what came from the Pope I regarded as if coming from
Christ Himself.

"Finally, at Pentecost, in the year of our Lord 1510, he threatened he
would lay down the red cross and lock the door of heaven and put out the
sun, and it would never again come about that the forgiveness of sins
and eternal life could be obtained for so little money. Yes, he said, it
was not to be expected that such charitableness of the Pope should come
hither again as long as the world would stand. He also exhorted that
every one should attend well to the salvation of his own soul and to
that of his deceased and living friends. For now was at hand, according
to him, the day of his salvation and the accepted time. And he said:
'Let no one under any condition neglect his own salvation; for if you do
not have the Pope's letters, you cannot be absolved and delivered by any
human being from many sins and "reserved cases"' (that is, cases with
which an ordinary priest was not qualified to deal). On the doors and
walls of the church printed letters were publicly posted in which it was
ordered that one should henceforth not sell the letters of indulgence
and the full power at the close as dear as in the beginning, in order to
give the German people a sign of gratitude for their devotion; and at
the end of the letter at the foot was written in addition, _'Pauperibus
dentur gratis,'_ to the needy the letters of indulgence are to be given
for nothing, without money, for the sake of God.

"Then I began to deal with the deputies of this indulgence-peddler; but,
in truth, I was impelled and urged to do so by the Holy Ghost, although
I myself did not understand at the time what I was doing.

"My dear father had taught me in my childhood the Ten Commandments, the
Lord's Prayer, and the Christian Creed, and compelled me always to pray.
For, he said, we had everything from God alone, gratis, for nothing, and
He would also govern and lead us if we prayed with diligence. Of the
indulgences and Roman remission of sins he said that they were only
snares with which one tricked the simple out of their money and took it
from their purses, that the forgiveness of sins and eternal life could
certainly not be purchased and acquired with money. But the priests or
preachers became angry and enraged when one said such things. Because I
heard then nothing else in the sermons every day but the greatest praise
of the remission of sins, I was filled with doubt as to whom I was to
believe more, my father or the priests as teachers of the Church. I was
in doubt, but still I believed the priests more than the instruction of
my father. But one thing I did not grant, that the forgiveness of sins
could not be acquired unless it was purchased with money, above all by
the poor. On this account I was wonderfully well pleased with the little
clause at the end of the Pope's letter, _'Pauperibus gratis dentur
propter Deum.'_

"And as they, in three days, intended to lay down the cross with special
magnificence and cut off the steps and ladders to heaven, I was impelled
by my spirit to go to the commissioners and ask for the letters of the
forgiveness of sins 'out of mercy for the poor.' I declared also that I
was a sinner and poor and in need of the forgiveness of sins, which was
granted through divine grace. On the second day, around evening, I
entered Hans Pflock's house where Tetzel was assembled with the
father-confessors and crowds of priests, and I addressed them in Latin
and requested that they might allow me, poor man, to ask, according to
the command in the Pope's letter, for the absolution of all my sins for
nothing and for the sake of God, _'etiam nullo casu reservato,'_ without
reserving a single case, and in regard to the same they should give me
the Pope's _'literas testimoniales,'_ or written testimony. Then the
priests were astonished at my Latin speech, for that was a rare thing at
this time, especially in the case of young boys; and they soon went out
of the room into the small chamber which I was alongside, to the
commissioner Tetzel. They made my desire known to him, and also asked in
my behalf that he might give me the letters of indulgence for nothing.
Finally, after long counsel, they returned and brought this answer:
_'Dear son, we have put your petition before the commissioner with all
diligence, and he confesses that he would gladly grant your request, but
that he could not; and although he might wish to do so, the concession
would nevertheless be naught and ineffective. For he declared unto us
that it was clearly written in the Pope's letter that those would
certainly share in the exceeding generous indulgences and treasures of
the Church and the merits of Christ _qui porrigerent manum adjutricem,_
who offered a helping hand; that is, those who would give money.' And
all that they told me in German, for there was not one among them who
could have spoken three Latin words correctly with any one.

"In return, however, I entreated anew, and proved from the Pope's letter
which had been posted that the Holy Father, the Pope, had commanded that
such letters should be given to the poor for nothing, for the sake of
the Lord; and especially because there had also been written there _'ad
mandatum domini Papae proprium,'_ that is, at the Pope's own command.

"Then they went in again and asked the proud, haughty friar, that he
might kindly grant my request and let me go from him with the letter of
indulgence, since I was a clever and fluently-speaking young man and
worthy of having something exceptional granted me. But they came out
again and brought again the answer, _'de manu auxiliatrice,' concerning
the helping hand, which alone was fit for the holy indulgence. I,
however, remained firm and said that they were doing me, a poor man, an
injustice; the one whom both God and the Pope were unwilling to shut out
of divine grace was rejected by them for some few pennies which I did
not have. Then a contention arose that I should at least give something
small, in order that the helping-hand might not be lacking, that I
should only give a groschen; I said, 'I do not have it, I am poor.' At
last it came to the point where I was to give six pfennigs; then I
answered again that I did not have a single pfennig. They tried to
console me and spoke with one another. Finally I heard that they were
worried about two things, in the first place, that I should in no case
be allowed to go without a letter of indulgence, for this might be a
plan devised by others, and that some bad affair might hereafter result
from it, since it was clear in the Pope's letter that it should be given
to the poor for nothing. Again, however, something would nevertheless
have to be taken from me in order that the others might not hear that
the letters of indulgence were being given out for nothing; for the
whole pack of pupils and beggars would then come running, and each one
would want the same for nothing. They should not have found it necessary
to be worried about that, for the poor beggars were looking more for
their blessed bread to drive away their hunger.

"After they had held their deliberation, they came again to me and one
gave me six pfennigs that I should give them to the commissioner.
Through this contribution I, too, should become, according to them, a
builder of the Church of St. Peter, at Rome, likewise a slayer of the
Turk, and should furthermore share in the grace of Christ and the
indulgences. But then I said frankly, impelled by the Spirit, if I
wished to buy indulgences and the remission of sins for money, I could
in all likelihood sell a book and buy them for my own money. I wanted
them, however, for nothing, as gifts, for the sake of God, or they would
have to give an account before God for having neglected and trifled away
my soul's salvation on account of six pfennigs, since, as they knew,
both God and the Pope wished that my soul should share in the
forgiveness of all my sins for nothing, through grace. This I said, and
yet, in truth, I did not know how matters stood with the letters of

"At last, after a long conversation, the priests asked me by whom I had
been sent to them, and who had instructed me to carry on such dealings
with them. Then I told them the pure, simple truth, as it was, that I
had not been exhorted or urged by any one at all or brought to it by any
advisers, but that I had made such a request alone, without counsel of
any man, only with the confidence and trust in the gracious forgiveness
of sins which is given for nothing; and that I had never spoken or had
dealings with such great people during all my life. For I was by nature
timid, and if I had not been forced by my great thirst for God's grace,
I should not have undertaken anything so great and mixed with such
people and requested anything like that of them. Then the letters of
indulgence were again promised me, but yet in such a way that I should
buy them for six pfennigs which were to be given to me, as far as I was
concerned, for nothing. I, however, continued to insist that the letters
of indulgence should be given to me for nothing by him who had the power
to give them; if not, I should commend and refer the matter to God. And
so I was dismissed by them.

"The holy thieves, notwithstanding, became sad in consequence of these
dealings; I, however, was partly downcast that I had received no letter
of indulgence, partly I rejoiced, too, that there was, in spite of all,
still One in heaven who was willing to forgive the penitent sinner his
sins without money and loan, according to the words that I had often
sung in church: 'As true as I live, says the Lord, I desire not the
death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live.' Oh, dear Lord
and God, Thou knowest that I am not lying in this matter, or inventing
anything about myself.

"While doing this, I was so moved that I, on returning to my inn, almost
gushed forth and melted to tears. Thus I came to my inn, went to my
room, and took the cross which always lay upon the little table in my
study-room, placed it upon the bench, and fell down upon the floor
before it. I cannot describe it here, but at that time I was able to
feel the spirit of prayer and divine grace which Thou, my Lord and God,
pouredst out over me. The essential import of the same, however, was
this: I asked that Thou, dear God, mightst be willing to be my Father,
that Thou mightst be willing to forgive me for my sins, that I submitted
myself wholly to Thee, that Thou mightst make of me now whatsoever
pleased Thee, and because the priests did not wish to be gracious to me
without money, that Thou mightst be willing to be my gracious God and

"Then I felt that my whole heart was changed. I was disgusted with
everything in this world, and it seemed to me that I had quite enough of
this life. One thing only did I desire, that is, to live for God, that I
might be pleasing to Him. But who was there at that time who would have
taught me how I had to go about it? For the word, life, and light of
mankind was buried throughout the whole world in the deepest darkness of
human ordinances and of the quite foolish good works. Of Christ there
was complete silence, nothing was known about Him, or, if mention was
made of Him, He was represented unto us as a dreadful, fearful Judge,
whom scarcely His mother and all the saints in heaven could reconcile
and make merciful with bloody tears; and yet it was done in such a way
that He, Christ, thrust the human being who did penance into the pains
of purgatory seven years for each capital sin. It was claimed that the
pain of purgatory differed from the pain of hell in nothing except that
it was not to last forever. The Holy Ghost, however, now brought me the
hope that God would be merciful unto me.

"And now I began to take counsel a few days with myself as to how I
might take up some other vocation in life. For I saw the sin of the
world and of the whole human race; I saw my manifold sin, which was very
great. I had also heard something of the secret holiness and the pure,
innocent life of the monks, how they served God day and night, were
separated from all the wicked life of the world, and lived very sober,
pious, and virtuous lives, read masses, sang psalms, fasted, and prayed
at all times. I had also seen this sham life, but I did not know and
understand that it was the greatest idolatry and hypocrisy.

"Thereupon I made my decision known to the preceptor, Master Andreas
Staffelstein, who was the chief regent of the school; he advised me
straightway to enter the Franciscan cloister, the rebuilding of which
had been begun at that time. And in order that I might not become
differently minded in consequence of long delay, he straightway went
with me himself to the monks, praised my intellect and ability, declared
in terms of praise that he bad considered me the only one among his
pupils of whom he was entirely confident that I should become a very
devout man.

"I wished, however, first to announce my intention to my parents, too,
and hear their ideas about the matter, since I was a lone son and heir
of my parents. The monks, however, taught me from St. Jerome that I
should drop father and mother, and not take them into consideration, and
run to the cross of Christ. They quoted, too, the words of Christ, 'No
one who lays hands to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of
God.' All of this was bound to impel and enjoin me to become a monk. I
will not speak here of many ropes and fetters with which they bound and
tied my conscience. For they said that I could never become blessed if I
did not soon accept and use the grace offered by God. Thereupon I, who
would rather have been willing to die than be without the grace of God
and eternal life, straightway promised and engaged to come into the
cloister again in three days and begin the year of probation, as they
called it, in the cloister; that is, I wanted to become a pious, devout,
and God-fearing monk.

"In the year of Christ 1510, the 14th of July, at two o'clock in the
afternoon, I entered the cloister, accompanied by my preceptor, some few
of my school-comrades, and some very devout matrons, to whom I had in
part made known the reason why I was entering the spiritual order. And
so I blessed my companions to the cloister, all of whom, amid tears,
wished me God's grace and blessing. And thus I entered the cloister.
Dear God, Thou knowest that this is all true. I did not seek idleness or
provision for my stomach, nor the appearance of great holiness, but I
wished to be pleasing unto Thee--Thee I wished to serve.

"Thus I at that time groped about in very great darkness" (p. 38 ff.)*
     *This account is published by the courtesy of the Lutheran
Publication Society of Philadelphia; it is taken from their publication
_Doctor Luther,_ by Gustav Freitag.

Few Christians can read this old record without pity stirring in them.
The man of whom Myconius tells all this, Tetzel, has been recently
represented to the American public as a theologian far superior to
Luther, calm, considerate, kind, and of his actions the public has been
advised that they were so utterly correct that the Roman Catholic Church
of to-day does not hesitate one moment to do what Tetzel did. So mote it
be! We admire the writer's honesty, and blush for his brazen boldness.

15. Luther's Faith without Works.

Out of Luther's opposition to the sale of indulgences there grew in the
course of time one of the fundamental principles of Protestantism:
complete, universal, and free salvation of sinners by grace through
faith in Jesus Christ. In the controversies which started immediately
after the publication of the Ninety-five Theses, Luther was led step by
step to a greater clearness in his view of sin and grace, faith and
works, human reason and the divine revelation. Not yet realizing the
full import of his act, Luther had in the Theses made that article of
the Christian faith with which the Church either stands or falls the
issue of his lifelong conflict with Rome--the article of the
justification of a sinner before God. It is, therefore, convenient to
review the misrepresentations which Luther has suffered from Catholic
writers because of his teaching on the subject of justification at this
early stage in our review, though in doing so a great many things will
have to be anticipated.

Catholic writers charge Luther with having perverted the meaning of
justifying faith. Luther held that justifying faith is essentially the
assurance that since Christ lived on earth as a man, labored, suffered,
died, and rose again in the place of sinners, the world _en masse_ and
every individual sinner are without guilt in the estimation of God. "God
was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their
trespasses unto them." (2 Cor. 5, 19.) To this reconciliation the sinner
has contributed nothing. It has been accomplished without him. He cannot
add anything to it. God only asks the sinner to believe in his salvation
as finished by Jesus Christ. To believe this fact does not mean to
perform a work of merit in consideration of which God is willing to
bestow salvation on the believer, but it means to accept the work of
Christ as performed in our place, to rejoice therein, and to repose a
sure confidence in this salvation in defiance of the accusations of our
own conscience, the incriminations which the broken Law of God hurls at
us, and the terrors of the final judgment. The believer regards himself
as righteous before God not because of any good work that he has done,
but because of the work which Christ has performed in his place. The
believer holds that, when God, by raising Christ from the dead, accepted
His work as a sufficient atonement for men's guilt and an adequate
fulfilment of the divine Law, He accepted each and every sinner. The
believer is certain that through the work of his Great Brother, Christ,
he has been restored to a child relationship with God and enjoys child's
privileges with his Father in heaven. The idea that he himself has done
anything to bring about this blessed state of affairs is utterly foreign
to this faith in Christ.

Catholic writers assert that the doctrine which we have just outlined is
not Scriptural, but represents the grossest perversion of Scripture.
They say this doctrine originated in "the erratic brain of Luther."
Luther "was not an exact thinker, and being unable to analyze an idea
into its constituents, as is necessary for one who will apprehend it
correctly, he failed to grasp questions which by the general mass of the
people were thoroughly and correctly understood. . . . He allowed
himself to cultivate an unnecessary antipathy to so-called 'holiness by
works,' and this attitude, combined with his tendency to look at the
worst side of things, and his knowledge of some real abuses then
prevalent in the practise of works, doubtless contributed to develop his
dislike for good works in general, and led him by degrees to strike at
the very roots of the Catholic system of sacraments and grace, of
penance and satisfaction, in fact, all the instruments or means
instituted by God both for conferring and increasing His saving
relationship with man." Luther's teaching on justification is said to be
the inevitable reverse of his former self-exaltation. Abandoning the
indispensable virtue of humility, he had become a prey to spiritual
pride, and had entered the monastery to achieve perfect righteousness by
his own works. He had disregarded the wise counsels of his brethren, who
had warned him not to depend too much on his own powers, but seek the
aid of God. Then failing to make himself perfect, he had run to the
other extreme and declared that there was nothing good in man at all,
and that man could not of himself perform any worthy action. Finally he
had hit upon the idea that justification means, "not an infusion of
justice into the heart of the person justified, but a mere external
imputation of it." Faith, in Luther's view, thus becomes an assurance
that this imputation has taken place, and man accordingly need not give
himself any more trouble about his salvation.

This teaching, Catholic writers contend, subverts the prominent teaching
of the Scriptures that man must obey God and keep His commandments, that
he must be perfect, even as his Father in heaven is perfect, that he
must follow in the footsteps of Jesus who said: "I am not come to
destroy the Law, but to fulfil it." Furthermore, this teaching is said
to dehumanize man and make out of him a stock and a stone, utterly unfit
for any spiritual effort. God, they say, constituted man a rational
being and imposed certain precepts on him which he was free to keep or
violate as he might choose unto eternal happiness or eternal misery. The
sin which all inherit from Adam has weakened the powers of man to do
good, but it has not entirely abolished them. There is still something
good in man by nature, and if he wants to please God and obtain His aid
in his good endeavors, he must at least do as much as is still in his
power to do, and believe that God for Jesus' sake will assist him to
become perfect, if not in this life, then, at any rate, in the life to
come. He cannot avoid sin altogether, but he can avoid sin to a certain
extent; he can at least lead an outwardly decent life. That is worth
something, that is "meritorious." He may not feel a very deep contrition
over his wrong-doings, but he can feel at least an attrition, that is, a
little sorrow, or he can wish that he might feel sorry. That is worth
something; that is "meritorious." He cannot love God with all his heart
and all his soul, and all his strength, but he can love Him some. That
is worth something; that is "meritorious." Accordingly, when the rich
young man asked the Lord what he must do to gain heaven, the  Lord did
not say, "Believe in Me, Accept Me for your personal Savior, Have faith
in Me," but He said: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the
commandments." Paul, likewise teaches that faith and love must cooperate
in man, for "faith worketh by love." Therefore, "faith in love and love
in faith justify," but not faith alone. Faith without works is dead and
cannot justify. A live faith is a faith that has works to show as its
credentials that it is real faith. Hence, faith alone does not justify,
but faith and works. Love is the fulfilment of the Law; faith works by
love, hence, by the fulfilment of the Law. Therefore, faith alone does
not justify, but faith plus the fulfilment of the Law. In endless
variations Catholic writers thus seek to upset with Scripture Luther's
teaching that man is justified by faith in Christ alone, and that all
the righteousness which a sinner can present before God without fear
that it will be rejected is a borrowed righteousness, not his own

We might express a just surprise that Catholics should be offended at
the doctrine that the righteousness of Christ is imputed, that is,
reckoned or counted, to the sinner as his own. For, does not their
system of indulgences rest on a theory of imputation? Do they not, by
selling from the Treasure of the Church the superabundant merits of
Christ and the saints to the sinner who has not a sufficient amount of
them, make those merits the sinner's own by just such a process of
imputation? They surely cannot infuse those merits into the sinner. But
Catholics probably object to the Protestant imputation-teaching because
that is too cheap and easy, and because Protestant success has spoiled a
lucrative Catholic imputation-business.--This in passing. Let the Bible
decided [tr. note: sic] whether Luther was right in teaching
justification by faith alone, by faith without works.

What does the Bible say about the condition of natural man after the
fall? It says: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," that is,
corrupt (John 3, 6); "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his
youth" (Gen. 8, 21); "They are all gone aside, they are altogether
become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Ps. 14, 3);
"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one" (Job 14, 4);
"There is here no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the
glory of God (Rom. 3, 22. 23).

What does the Bible say about the powers of natural man after the fall
in reference to spiritual matters? It says: "The natural man receiveth
not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him;
neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1
Cor. 2, 14); "Ye were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2, 1); "The
carnal mind," that is, the mind of flesh, the natural mind of man, "is
enmity against God" (Rom. 8, 7); "Without Me"--Jesus is the Speaker--"ye
can do nothing" John 15, 5).

What does the Bible say about the value of man's works of righteousness
performed by his natural powers? It says: "We are all as an unclean
thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Is. 64, 6); "A
corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit" (Matt. 7, 17).

What does the Bible say about man's ability to fulfil the Law of God? It
says: "Cursed is he that confirmeth not all the words of this Law to do
them" (Deut. 27, 26) ; "Whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet
offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jas. 2, 10) ; "What the Law
could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His
own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in
the flesh" (Rom. 8, 38); "The Law worketh wrath," that is, by convincing
man that he has not fulfilled it and never will fulfil it, it rouses
man's anger against God who has laid this unattainable Law upon him
(Rom. 4, 15).

What does the Bible say about the relation of Christ to the Law and to
sin? It says: "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the
Law, that He might redeem them that were under the Law" (Gal. 4, 4);
"Christ is the end of the Law 'for righteousness to every one that
believeth" (Rom. 10, 4); "God hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no
sin, that we might be made the righteous of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5, 21);
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law; being made a curse
for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree"
(Gal. 3, 13).

What does the Bible say about faith without works as a means of
justification? It says: "We conclude that a man is justified by faith,
without the deeds of the Law" (Rom. 3, 28); "To him that worketh not,
but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted
for righteousness" (Rom. 4, 5); "I rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no
confidence in the flesh, though I might also have confidence in the
flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in
the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel,
of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the Law,
a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the
righteousness which is in the Law, blameless. [The speaker is the
apostle Paul.] But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for
Christ. Yea, doubtless; and I count all things but loss for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have
suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may
win Christ and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which
is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the
righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3, 3-9) ; "If by grace,
then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it
be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work"
(Rom. 11, 6). (The Catholic Bible omits the last half of this text.)

What does the Bible say about faith being assurance of pardon and
everlasting life? It says: "If God be for us, who can be against us? He
that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall
He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything
to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that
condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again,
who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for
us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that
loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate
us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Rom. 8,
31-39); "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able
to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Tim.
1, 12).

Here we rest our case. If Luther was wrong in teaching the justification
of the sinner by faith, without the deeds of the Law, then Paul was
wrong, Jesus Christ was wrong, the apostles and prophets were wrong, the
whole Bible is wrong. Catholics must square themselves to these texts
before they dare to open their mouths against Luther. If Luther was a
heretic, the Lord Jesus made him one, and He is making a heretic of
every reader of the texts aforecited. Rome will have to answer to Him.

But what about the answer of the Lord to the rich young man? What about
the commandment to be perfect? Does not the doctrine of justification by
faith alone, without the deeds of the Law, abolish the holy and good Law
of God? Not at all. When Paul expounds to the Galatians the doctrine of
justification by faith as compared with justification by works, he
arrays the Law against the Gospel, and raises this question: "Is the
Law, then, against the promises of God?" His answer reveals the whole
difficulty that attends every effort to obtain righteousness by
fulfilling the Law, he says: "God forbid: for if there had been a law
given which could have given life, verily, righteousness should have
been by the Law." (Gal. 3, 21.) Christ expressed the same truth when He
said to the lawyer: "Do this, and thou shalt live." (Luke 10, 28.) The
reason why the Law makes no person righteous is not because it is not a
sufficient rule or norm of good works by which men could earn eternal
life, but because it does not furnish man any ability to achieve that
righteousness which it demands. No law does that. The law only creates
duties, and insists on their fulfilment under threat of punishment. It
is not the function of the law to make doers of the law. Originally the
Law was issued to men who were able to fulfil it, because they were
created after the image of God, in perfect holiness and righteousness.
That they lost this concreate [tr. note: sic] ability through the fall is
no reason why God should change or abrogate His Law. He purposes to help
them in another way, by sending them His Son for a Redeemer, who fulfils
the Law in their stead. But this wonderful plan of God for the rescue of
lost man is not appreciated by any one who still believes, as the
Catholics do, that he has some good powers in him left which he can
develop with the help of God to such an extent that he can make himself
righteous. To such a person Jesus says to-day as He said to the rich
young man: "Keep the commandments!" That means, since you believe in
your ability, proceed to employ it. Your reward is sure, provided only
you do what the Law demands. But just as surely the curse of God rests
on you if you do not do it. When you have become convinced that it is
impossible to fulfil the Law, you may ask a different question, a
question which the knowledge of your spiritual disability has wrested
from you as it did from the jailer at Philippi: "What must I do to be
saved?" and you will not receive the answer: "Keep the commandments!"
but: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," (Acts
16, 29. 30.) Not a word will be said any more about anything that you
must do. You will be told: All that you ought to have done has been
accomplished by One who died with the exclamation: "It is finished!"
(John 19, 30), and who now sends His messengers abroad inviting men to
His free salvation: "Come, for all things are now ready!" (Luke 14, 17.)
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath
no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without
money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is
not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken
diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good" (Is. 55, 1. 2.) When
you have wearied yourself to death by your efforts to achieve
righteousness, as Paul did when he was still the Pharisee Saul of
Tarsus, as Luther did while he was still in the bondage of popery, when
you have become hot in your confused and despairing mind against God and
the Law, which you cannot fulfil, you will appreciate the voice that
calls to you as it has called to millions before you: "Come unto Me, all
ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11,
28.) And if you are wise, then, with the wisdom which the Spirit gives
the children of God, you will not delay a minute, but come rejoicing
that you need not get salvation by works, and will sing:

     Just as I am, without one plea
     But that Thy blood was shed for me,
     And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
     O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Rome has cursed Luther for teaching justification by faith, without the
deeds of the Law. The principles which he had timidly uttered in the
Theses led to bolder declarations later, when the full light of the
blessed Gospel had come to him. It brought him the curse of the Pope in
the bull _Exsurge, Domine!_ of June 15, 1520. The following estimate by
a recent Catholic writer is a fair sample of the sentiments cherished by
official Rome for Luther: "From out the vast number whom the enemy of
man raised up to invent heresies, which, St. Cyprian says, 'destroy
faith and divide unity,' not one, or all together, ever equaled or
surpassed Martin Luther in the wide range of his errors, the ferocity
with which he promulgated them, and the harm he did in leading souls
away from the Church, the fountain of everlasting truth. The heresies of
Sabellius, Arius, Pelagius, and other rebellious men were insignificant
as compared with those Luther formulated and proclaimed four hundred
years ago, and which, unfortunately, have ever since done service
against the Church of the living God. In Luther most, if not all, former
heresies meet, and reach their climax. To enumerate fully all the
wicked, false, and perverse teachings of the arch-heretic would require
a volume many times larger than the Bible, and every one of the lies and
falsehoods that have been used against the Catholic Church may be traced
back to him as to their original formulator." The cause for this
undisguised hatred of Luther is chiefly Luther's teaching of
justification by faith, without works. In its Sixth Session the Council
of Trent condemned the following doctrines:

_On Free Will:_ Canon IV: "If any one says that the free will of man,
when moved and stirred by God, cannot, by giving assent, cooperate with
God, who is stirring and calling man, so that he disposes and prepares
himself for obtaining the grace of justification, or that he cannot
dissent if he wills, but, like some inanimate thing, does absolutely
nothing and is purely passive,--let him be accursed."

_On Justification:_ Canon IX: "If any one says that the ungodly are
justified by faith alone, in the sense that nothing else is required on
their part that might cooperate to the end of obtaining the grace of
justification, and that it is in no wise necessary that they be prepared
and disposed (for this grace) by a movement of the will,--let him be

Canon XI: "If any one says that man is justified either by the
imputation of the righteousness of Christ alone or by the remission of
his sins alone, without grace and love being diffused through his heart
by the Holy Spirit and inhering therein, or that the grace whereby we
are justified is merely the good will of God,--let him be accursed."

Canon XII: "If any one says that justifying faith is nothing else than
trust in the divine mercy which forgives sins for Christ's sake, or that
it is this trust alone by which we are justified,--let him be accursed."

Canon XXIV: "If any one says that righteousness, after having been
received, is not conserved nor augmented before God by good works, but
that these works are merely the fruits or signs of the justification
which one has obtained, and that they are not a reason why justification
is increased,--let him be accursed."

It is a well-known characteristic of the decrees of the Council of Trent
that truth and error appear skilfully interwoven in them. They are like
a double motion that is offered in a deliberative body: they contain
things which one must affirm, and other things which one must negative.
They cannot be voted on--many of them--except after a division of the
question. They contain "riders" like those in a bill that comes before a
legislative body: in order to pass the bill at all, the "rider" must be
passed along with the bill. But enough crops out in these decrees to
show that the Catholic Church is not willing to let the merits of Christ
be regarded as the only thing that justifies the sinner. He must
cooperate with the Holy Spirit to the end of being justified. He must
prepare and dispose himself for receiving justifying grace, and this
grace is infused into him, and manifests itself in holy movements of the
heart and by good works, in acts of love. The Roman Catholic Christian
is taught to believe that he is justified partly by what Christ has
done, partly by what he himself is doing. He cannot subscribe to Paul's
statement: "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should
boast." (Eph. 2, 8. 9.) Nor is his justification ever complete, because
his love is never perfect. It must be increased even after his death.
The Roman purgatory contains sinners whom God had justified as far as He
could, the sinners remaining in arrears with their, part of the
contract. Accordingly, the sinner can never have the assurance that he
will enter heaven. It would be presumptuous for him to think so. He must
live on and work on at his poor dying rate, and hope for the best.

This teaching of the Church of Rome subverts Christianity. It strikes at
the root of the faith that saves. It is a relapse into paganism and an
affront offered to the Savior. It borrows the language of Scripture to
express the most hideous error. By this teaching Rome does not drive men
into purgatory,--which does not exist,--but into hell. It is only by a
miracle of divine grace that sinners are saved where such teaching
prevails: they must forget what is told them about the necessity of
their own works and cling only to the Redeemer, and must thus
practically repudiate the teaching of their Church. Some do this, and
escape the pernicious consequences of the error of their Church. All of
them will rise up in the Judgment to accuse their teachers of a heresy
the worst imaginable.

Rome has, indeed, assailed "the article with which the Church either
stands or falls." All its other errors, crass, grotesque, and repulsive
though they are, are mere child's play in comparison with this damning
and destructive error of justification by works. Luther rightly
estimated the virulence of this abysmal heresy when he said that those
who attacked his teaching of justification by grace through faith alone
were aiming at his throat. Rome's teaching on justification is an
attempt to strike at the vitals of Christian faith and life. It sinks
the dagger into the heart of Christianity.

16. The Fatalist Luther.

Catholic writers have discovered a fatalistic tendency in Luther's
teaching of justification by faith without works. They declare that
Luther's theory of the utter depravity of man by reason of inherited sin
and his incapacity to perform any work that can be accounted good in the
sight of God kills every ambition to virtuous living in man. They argue
that when you tell a person that he is not capable to do good, he is apt
to believe you and make no effort to perform a good deed. The situation
becomes still worse when the divine predestination is introduced at this
point, as has been done, they say, by Luther. If God has determined all
things beforehand by a sovereign decree, if there really is no such
thing as human choice, and all things occur according to a foreordained
plan, man no longer has any responsibility. He is reduced to an
automaton. Free will is denied him; he cannot elect by voluntary choice
to engage in any God-pleasing action; for he is told that his natural
reason is blinded by sin and his understanding darkened, rendering it
impossible for him to discern good and evil, and leading him constantly
into errors of judgment on what is right or wrong, while he is made to
believe that his will is enslaved by evil lusts and passions, ever prone
to wickedness and averse to godliness. As a consequence, it is claimed,
man must necessarily become morally indifferent: he will not fight
against sin nor follow after righteousness, because he has become
convinced that it is useless for him to make any effort either in the
one direction or in the other. The doctrine of man's natural depravity
and the divine foreordination of all things, it is held, must drive man
either to despair, insanity, and suicide, or land him hopelessly in
fatalism: he will simply continue his physical life in a mechanical way,
like a brute or a plant; he merely vegetates.

These fatal tendencies which are charged against Luther are refuted by
no one more effectually than by Luther himself. As regards the doctrine
of original sin and man's natural depravity, Luther preached that with
apostolic force and precision. That doctrine is a Bible-doctrine. No
person has read his Bible aright, no expounder of Scripture has begun to
explain the divine plan of salvation for sinners, if he has failed to
find this teaching in the Bible. This doctrine is, indeed, extremely
humiliating to the pride of man; it opens up appalling views of the
misery of the human race under sin. We can understand why men would want
to get away from this doctrine. But no one confers any benefit on men by
minimizing the importance of the Bible-teaching, or by weakening the
statements of Scripture regarding this matter. Any teaching which admits
the least good quality in man by which he can prepare or dispose himself
so as to induce God to view him with favor is a contradiction of the
passages of Scripture which were cited in a previous chapter, and works
a delusion upon men that will prove just as fatal as when a physician
withholds from his patient the full knowledge of his critical condition.
Yea, it is worse; for a physician who is not frank and sincere to his
patient may deprive the latter of his physical life, but the
teacher of God's Word who instils in men false notions of their moral
and spiritual power robs them of life eternal.

Luther avoided this error. He led men to a true estimate of themselves
as they are by nature. But over and against the fell power of sin he
magnified the greater power of divine grace. "Where sin abounded, grace
hath much more abounded" (Rom. 5, 20),--along this line Luther found the
solution for the awful difficulty which confronts every man when he
studies the Bible-doctrine of original sin, and when he discovers,
moreover, that this Bible-doctrine is borne out fully by his own
experience. Just for this reason, because man can do nothing to restore
himself to the divine favor, God by His grace proposes to do all, and
has sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to do all, and, last
not least, publishes the fact that all has been done in the Gospel of
the forgiveness of sin by grace through faith in Christ. Luther has
taught men to confess: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or
strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him," but he taught them
also to follow up this true confession with the other: "The Holy Ghost
has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified
and kept me in the true faith."

The Gospel is called in the Scriptures "the Word of Life," not only
because it speaks of the life everlasting which God has prepared for His
children, but also because it gives life. It approaches man, dead in
trespasses and sins, and quickens him into new life. It removes from the
mind of man its natural blindness and from the will of man its innate
impotency. It regenerates all the dead powers of the soul, and makes man
walk in newness of life. The difficulty which original sin has created
is not greater than the means and instruments which God has provided for
coping with it. "God hath concluded all in unbelief, that He might have
mercy on all." (Rom. 11, 32.)

This is the only true salvation, every other is fictitious. It teaches
man both to face the fearful odds against him because of his corruption,
and to relish all the more the points in his favor by reason of God's
redeeming and regenerating grace. It starts its work with crushing man's
pride and self-confidence utterly, and hurling him into the abyss of
despair, but it lifts him out of despair with a mighty power that breaks
the power of evil in him. This change is brought about in such a gentle,
tender way that the sinner has no sensation of being coerced into the
new life by some farce which he cannot resist. It wins him over to God
and his Christ in spite of his resistance, and makes out of his
unwilling heart a willing one, which gladly coincides with the leadings
of grace.

The Roman scheme of salvation might be called the ostrich method: it
teaches men the foolish strategy of the bird of the desert, which hides
its head in the sand when it sees an enemy approaching, and then
imagines the enemy does not exist. Original sin may be disputed out of
the Bible by a false interpretation, but it is not thereby ruled out of
existence. When face to face with his God--if no sooner, then in the
hour of death--every man feels that he is utterly corrupt and worthless,
and he will curse any teacher that caused him to believe otherwise. Free
will is not created by assertions. Let the apostles of free will only
try, and they will find out that their freedom is nil. Catholics
denounce Luther for having declared the free will of man to be nothing
than a word without substance: we hear the sound when the word is
pronounced, and grasp its grammatical meaning, but we do not realize it
in ourselves. Every person, however, who has truly come to know himself
will side with Luther, or rather with the Bible. Furthermore, to the
same extent to which the Roman view exalts man's natural powers for
good, it lowers and limits the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and
begets a false confidence and security that is rudely shaken when the
first slip and fall occurs in the person's Christian life. He has never
really laid hold of the grace of God, because he has not been taught to
trust only to the grace of God to lead and preserve him in the way of
life. He will begin to distrust the Gospel as a very inefficient
instrument, and this will lead him to become indifferent to it, and
finally fall away from it entirely. A real danger of apostasy and
despair exists wherever the Roman dogma of man's natural free will is

It is, however, doing Luther a flagrant injustice when he is made to
deny that man has no longer any natural reason and will in the secular
affairs of this life. Luther used to divide the entire life of man into
two hemispheres, the upper embracing man's relation to God, holy things,
the interests of the soul here and hereafter, and the lower, embracing
the purely human, temporal, and secular interests of man. It is only in
the higher hemisphere that Luther denies the existence of free will.
Throughout his writings Luther asserts the existence, the actual
operation, and the necessity of human free will, though sadly weakened
by sin, in the affairs of this present life. It will be sufficient to
cite as evidence the Augsburg Confession which was drawn up with
Luther's aid and submitted to Emperor Charles V in 1530 as the joint
belief of Luther and his followers. "Of the Freedom of the Will," say
the Protestant confessors, "they teach that man's will has some liberty
for the attainment of civil righteousness and for the choice of things
subject to reason. Nevertheless, it has not power, without the Holy
Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual
righteousness, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2, 14); but this righteousness is wrought in the
heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are
said in as many words by Augustine in his _Hypognosticon_ (Book III):
'We grant that all men have a certain freedom of will in judging
according to natural reason; not such freedom, however, whereby it is
capable, without God, either to begin, much less to complete aught in
things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good
or evil. "Good" I call those works which spring from the good in Nature,
that is, to have a will to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have
a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry, to keep cattle,
to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life,
none of which things are without dependence on the providence of God;
yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their beginning. "Evil" I
call such things as, to have a will to worship an idol, to commit
murder,' etc." (Art. 18.)

Luther has always held that there is a natural intelligence and wisdom,
a natural will-power and energy which men employ in their daily
occupations, their trades and professions, their trade and commerce,
their literature and art, their culture and refinement, yea, that there
is also a natural knowledge of God even among the Gentiles, who yet
"know not God," and a seeming performance of the things which God has
commanded. But these natural abilities do not reach into the higher
hemisphere; they cannot pass muster at the bar of divine justice. They
do not spring from right motives, nor do they aim at right ends; they
are determined by man's self-interest. They come short of that glory
which God ought to receive from worshipers in spirit and in truth (Rom.
3, 23; John 4, 23); they are evil in as far as they are the corrupt
fruits of corrupt trees. In condemning the moral quality of these
natural works of civil righteousness, Luther has said no more than
Christ and His apostles have said.

Luther taught the Bible-doctrine that there is in God a hidden will
which He has reserved to His majesty (Dent. 29); that His judgments are
unsearchable and His ways past finding out (Rom. 11, 33); that not even
a sparrow falls to the ground without His will, and that the very hairs
of our head are numbered (Matt. 10, 29. 30); that no evil can occur
anywhere without His permission (Amos 3, 6; Is. 45, 7). To deny these
truths is to reject the Bible and to destroy the sovereign omniscience
and omnipotence of God. Those who attack Luther for believing that also
the evil in this world is related to God will have to change their bill
of indictment: their charge is really directed against Scripture. Luther
has, however, warned men not to attempt a study of this secret will of
God, for the plain reason that it is secret, and it would be blasphemous
presumption to try and find it out. All our dealings with God must be on
the basis of His revealed will. If we only will study that, we will be
fully occupied our whole life.

As regards the Scriptural doctrine of predestination, that those who
ultimately attain to the life everlasting have been chosen to that end,
Luther has warned men not to study this doctrine outside of Christ and
the Gospel. God has told His children for their comfort amid the
vicissitudes of this life that He has secured their eternal happiness
against all dangers, but He has not asked them, nor does He permit them,
to find out _a priori_ whether this or that person is elect. Jesus
Christ is the Book of Life in which the elect are to find their names
recorded, and in the general way of salvation through repentance, faith,
and sanctification of life they are to be led to the heritage of the
saints in light. In his summary of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh
chapters of Romans, Luther states that by His eternal election God has
taken our salvation entirely out of our hands and placed it in His own
hands. "And this is most highly necessary. For we are so feeble and
fickle that, if salvation depended upon us, not a person would be saved;
the devil would overcome them all. But since God is reliable and His
election cannot fail or be thwarted by any one, we still have hope over
and against sin. But at this point a limit must be fixed for the
presumptuous spirits who soar too high. They lead their reason first to
this subject, they start at the pinnacle, they want to explore first the
abyss of the divine election, and wrestle vainly with the question
whether they are elect. These people bring about their own overthrow:
they are either driven to despair or become reckless.--Follow the order
of this Epistle: First, occupy yourself with Christ and the Gospel, in
order that you may learn to know your sin and His grace; next, begin to
wrestle with your sin, as chapters 1-8 teach you to do. Then, after you
have reached the doctrine concerning crosses and tribulations in the
eighth chapter, you will rightly learn the doctrine of election in
chapters 9-11, because you will realize what a comfort this doctrine
contains. For the doctrine of election can be studied without injury and
secret anger against God only by those who have passed through
suffering, crosses, and anguish of death. Accordingly, the old Adam in
you must be dead before you can bear this subject and drink this strong
wine. See that you do not drink wine while you are still a babe. There
is a proper time, age, and manner for propounding the various doctrines
of God to men." What is there fatalistic about this?

17. Luther a Teacher of Lawlessness.

Luther's teaching on the forgiveness of sin is sternly rebuked by
Catholic writers because of its immoral tendencies. They say, when the
forgiveness of sins is made as easy as Luther makes it, the people will
cease being afraid if sinning.

The danger of the Gospel of the gracious forgiveness of sins being
misapplied has always existed in the Church. Every student of church
history knows this. Catholic writers know this. Paul wrestled with this
practical perversion of the loving intentions of our heavenly Father in
his day. After declaring to the Romans: "Where sin abounded, grace did
much more abound," he raises the question: "What shall we say then?
Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" He returns this
horrified answer: "God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live
any longer therein?" (Rom. 5, 20-6, 2.) Actually there were people in
the apostle's days who drew from his evangelical teaching this
pernicious inference, that by sinning they gave the forgiving grace of
God a larger opportunity to exert itself, hence, that they were
glorifying grace by committing more sin. This meant putting a premium on
sinning. For God's sake, how can you conceive a thought like that? the
apostle exclaims. He repudiates the idea as blasphemous, which it is. To
sin in the assurance that sin will be forgiven is not honoring, but
dishonoring God and His grace; it is not exalting, but traducing faith;
it is not Christian, but devilish. Summarizing the contents of Romans,
chapter 5, Luther says: "In the fifth chapter Paul comes to speak of the
fruits and works of faith, such as peace, joy, love of God and all men,
and in addition to these, security, boldness, cheerfulness, courage and
hope amid tribulations and suffering. All these effects follow where
there is genuine faith, because of the superabundant blessing which God
has conferred upon us in Christ by causing Him to die for us before we
could pray that He might do this, yea, while we were yet His enemies.
Accordingly, we conclude that faith justifies without works of any kind,
and yet it does not follow that we must not do any good works. Genuine
good works cannot fail to flow from faith,--works of which the
self-righteous know nothing, and in the place of which they invent their
own works, in which there is neither peace, joy, security, love, hope,
boldness, nor any other of the characteristics of a genuine Christian
work and faith." In his Preface to Romans, Luther meets a somewhat
different objection to faith: Christians, after they have begun to
believe, still discover sin in themselves, and on account of this
imagine that faith alone cannot save them. There must be something done
in addition to believing to insure their salvation. In replying to this
scruple, Luther has given a classical description of the quality and
power of faith. This description serves to blast the Catholic charge
that Luther's easy way of justifying the sinner leads to increased
sinning. Luther says: "Faith is not the human notion and dream which
some regard as faith. When they observe that no improvement of life nor
any good works flow from faith even where people hear and talk much
about faith, they fall into this error that they declare: faith is not
sufficient, you must do works if you wish to become godly and be saved.
The reason is, these people, when they hear the Gospel, hurriedly
formulate by their own powers a thought in their heart which asserts: I
believe. This thought they regard as genuine faith. However, as their
faith is but a human figment and idea that never reaches the bottom of
the heart, it is inert and effects no improvement. Genuine faith,
however, is a divine work in us by which we are changed and born anew of
God. (John 1, 13.) It slays the old Adam, and makes us entirely new men
in our heart, mind, ideas,  and all our powers. It brings us the Holy
Spirit. Oh, this faith is a lively, active, busy, mighty thing! It is
impossible for faith not to be active without ceasing. Faith does not
ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question has been
asked, it has accomplished good works; yea, it is always engaged in
doing good works. Whoever does not do such good works is void of faith;
he gropes and mopes about, looking for faith and good works, but knows
neither what faith nor what good works are, though he may prate and
babble ever so much about faith and good works."

There has never been a time when the Gospel and the grace of God have
not been wrested to wicked purposes by insincere men, hypocrites, and
bold spirits. For this reason God has instructed Christians: "Give not
that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before
swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend
you." (Matt. 7, 6.) The danger of misapplied grace is a present-day
danger in every evangelical community. Earnest Christian ministers and
laymen strive with this misapplication wherever they discover it. Can
they do any more?

Rome will say: Why do you not do as we do in our Church? We do not
preach the Gospel in such a reckless fashion, we make men work for their
salvation. Rome would abolish or considerably limit the preaching of
free and abundant grace to the sinner. We recoil from this suggestion
because it makes the entire work of Christ of none effect, and wipes out
the grandest portions of our Bible. If every abuse of something that is
good must be stopped by abolishing the proper use, then let us give up
eating because some make gluttons of themselves; drinking, because some
are drunkards; wearing clothes, because there is much vanity in dresses;
marriage, because some marriages are shamefully conducted, etc., etc.

The Roman Church does not operate on evangelical principles. Does it
succeed better in cultivating true holiness among its members by its
system of penances and its teaching of the meritoriousness of men's acts
of piety? Catholics say to us sneeringly: It is easy to have faith; it
is very convenient, when you wish to indulge, or have indulged, some
passion, to remember that there is grace for forgiveness. But is any
great difficulty connected with going through a penance that the priest
has imposed, buying a wax candle, reciting sixteen Paternosters and ten
Ave Marias, and then sitting down and saying to yourself: "Good boy!
you've done it, you have squared your account again with the Almighty"?
What sanctifying virtue lies in abstaining from beefsteak on Friday?
Rome nowhere has improved men by her mechanical piety. What she has
accomplished was made possible by the fear of purgatorial torments, by
slavish dread of her mysterious powers, by ambition and bigotry. We
would not exchange our abused treasures for her system of workmongery.

But the Catholic charge of tendencies to lawlessness that are said to be
contained in. Luther's teaching of faith without works are more serious.
Luther is cited by them as declaring that one may commit innumerable
sins, and they will not harm one as long as one keeps on believing in
the grace of forgiveness. It is true, Luther has spoken words to this
effect, and that, on quite a number of occasions. Worse
than that, what Luther has said is actually true. As a matter of fact,
no sin can deprive the believer of salvation. There is only one sin that
ultimately damns, final impenitence and unbelief, by which is understood
the rejection of the atonement which Christ offered for the sins of the
world. That atonement is actually the full satisfaction rendered to our
Judge for all the sins which we have done, are doing, and will be doing
till the end of our lives. For the person that dies a perfect saint,
sinless and impeccable, is still to be born. The comfort that I derive
from my Redeemer to-day will be my comfort to-morrow, that will be my
only prop and stay in my dying hour. I shall need Him every hour. This
is a perfectly Christian thought. St. John writes: "My little children,
these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin,"--
mark this well: "If any man sin," though he ought not to sin,--what does
the apostle say to him? He does not say: Then you are damned! or: It
will require so many fasts, masses, and candles to restore you! but this
is what he says: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and
not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John
2, 1. 2.) John, then, must be included in the Catholic indictment of
Luther. Luther would not have been a preacher of the genuine and full
Gospel if he had not declared the impossibility of any sin or any number
of sins depriving a believer of salvation.

But if the Catholics mean to say that Luther's evangelical declaration
means that no believer can fall from grace by sinning, that he may sin
and remain in a state of grace,--that is simply slander. Luther holds,
indeed, that a person does not cease to be a Christian by every slip and
fault, but he insists that no dereliction of duty, no deviation from the
rule of godly living can be treated with indifference. It must be
repented of, God's forgiveness must be sought, and only in this way will
the Holy Spirit again be bestowed on the sinner. God may bear awhile
with a Christian who has fallen into sin, but the backslider has no
pleasant time with his God while he stays a backslider. This being a
question of every-day, practical Christianity, Luther frequently touches
this subject in his sermons, both in the Church Postil, the House
Postil, and in his occasional sermons. Luther's Catholic critics could
disabuse their mind about the tendencies to lawlessness in Luther's
teaching if they would look up references such as these: 9, 730. 1456
f.; 11, 1790; 12, 448. 433; 13, 394; 6, 294. 1604. In one of these
references (9, 1456) Luther comments on 1 John 3, 6: "Whosoever abideth
in Him sinneth not; whosoever sinneth  hath not seen Him, neither known
Him," as follows: "'Seeing' and 'knowing' in the phraseology of John is
as much as believing. `That every one which seeth the Son, and believeth
on Him, may have everlasting life' (John 6, 40). 'This is life eternal,
that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou
hast sent.' Accordingly, he that sins does not believe in Him; for faith
and sin cannot coexist. We may fall, but we may not cling to sin. The
kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of righteousness, not of sin." In the
Smalcald Articles Luther says: "But if certain sectarists would arise,
some of whom are perhaps already present, and in the time of the
insurrection of the peasants came to my view, holding that all those who
have once received the Spirit or the forgiveness of sins, or have become
believers, even though they would afterwards sin, would still remain in
the faith, and sin would not injure them, and cry thus: 'Do whatever you
please; if you believe, it is all nothing; faith blots out all sins,'
etc. They say, besides, that if any one sins after he has received faith
and the Spirit, he never truly had the Spirit and faith. I have seen and
heard of many men so insane, and I fear that such a devil is still
remaining in some. If, therefore, I say, such persons would hereafter
also arise, it is necessary to know and teach that if saints who still
have and feel original sin, and also daily repent and strive with it,
fall in some way into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and
blasphemy, they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost. For the Holy Ghost
does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be
completed, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it
wishes. But if it do what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are not
there present. For St. John says (1. Ep. 3, 9): 'Whosoever is born of
God doth not commit sin, . . . and he cannot sin.' And yet that is also
the truth which the same St. John says (1. Ep. 1, 8): 'If we say that we
have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.'" (Part
III, Art. 3, §§ 42-45; p. 329.) The Lutheran Church has received this
statement of Luther into her confessional writings. This is the Luther
of whom a modern Catholic critic says: "This thought of the
all-forgiving nature of faith so dominated his mind that it excluded the
notion of contrition, penance, good works, or effort on the part of the
believer, and thus his teaching destroyed root and branch the whole idea
of human culpability and responsibility for the breaking of the

It is amazing boldness in Catholics to prefer this charge against
Luther, when they themselves teach a worse doctrine than they impute to
Luther. The Council of Trent in its Sixth Session, Canon 15, also in its
Sixteenth Session, Canon 15, Coster in his Enchiridion, in the chapter
on Faith, p. 178, Bellarminus on Justification, chapter 15, declare it
to be Catholic teaching that the believer cannot lose his faith by any,
even the worst, sin he may commit. They speak of believing fornicators,
believing adulterers, believing thieves, believing misers, believing
drunkards, believing slanderers, etc. The very teaching which Catholics
falsely ascribe to Luther is an accepted dogma of their own Church.
Their charge against Luther is, at best, the trick of crying, "Hold
thief!" to divert attention from themselves.

But did not Luther in the plainest terms advise his friends Weller and
Melanchthon to practise immoralities as a means for overcoming their
despondency? Is he not reported in his Table Talk to have said that
looking at a pretty woman or taking a hearty drink would dispel gloomy
thoughts? that one should sin to spite the devil? Yes; and now that
these matters are paraded in public, it is best that the public be given
a complete account of what Luther wrote to Weller and Melanchthon. There
are three letters extant written to Weller during Luther's exile at
Castle Coburg while the Diet of Augsburg was in progress. On June 19,
1530, Luther writes: "Grace and peace in Christ! I have received two
letters from you, my dear Jerome [this was Weller's first name], both of
which truly delighted me; the second, however, was more than delightful
because in that you write concerning my son Johnny, stating that you are
his teacher, and that he is an active and diligent pupil. If I could, I
would like to show you some favor in return; Christ will recompense you
for what I am too little able to do. Magister Veit has, moreover,
informed me that you are at times afflicted with the spirit of
despondency. This affliction is most harmful to young people, as
Scripture says: 'A broken spirit drieth the bones' (Prov. 17, 22). The
Holy Spirit everywhere forbids such melancholy, as, for instance, in
Eccles. 11., 9: 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart
cheer thee in the days of thy youth,' and in the verse immediately
following: 'Remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy
flesh.' Ecclesiasticus, likewise, says, chap. 30, 22-25: 'The gladness
of the heart is the life of man, and the joyfulness of a man prolongeth
his days. Love thine own soul, and comfort thy heart, remove sorrow far
from the; for sorrow hath killed many, and there is no profit therein.
Envy and wrath shorten the life, and carefulness bringeth age before the
time. A cheerful and good heart will have a care of his meat and diet.'
Moreover, Paul says 2 Cor. 7, 10: 'The sorrow of the world worketh
death.' Above all, therefore, you must firmly cling to this thought,
that these evil and melancholy thoughts are not of God, but of the
devil; for God is not a God of melancholy, but a God of comfort and
gladness, as Christ Himself says: 'God is not the God of the dead, but
of the living' (Matt. 22, 32). What else does living mean than to be
glad in the Lord? Accordingly, become used to different thoughts, in
order to drive away these evil thoughts, and say: The Lord has not sent
you. This chiding which you experience is not of Him who has called you.
In the beginning the struggle is grievous, but by practise it becomes
more easy. You are not the only one who has to endure such thoughts, all
the saints were afflicted by them, but they fought against them and
conquered. Therefore, do not yield to these evils, but meet them
bravely. The greatest task in this struggle is not to regard these
thoughts, not to explore them, not to pursue the matters suggested, but
despise them like the hissing of a goose and pass them by. The person
that has learned to do this will conquer; whoever has not learned it
will be conquered. For to muse upon these thoughts and debate with them
means to stimulate them and make them stronger. Take the people of
Israel as an example: they overcame the serpents, not by looking at them
and wrestling with them, but by turning their eyes away from them and
looking in a different direction, namely, at the brazen serpent, and
they conquered. In this struggle that is the right and sure way of
winning the victory. A person afflicted with such thoughts said to a
certain wise man: What evil thoughts come into my mind! He received the
answer: Well, let them pass out again. That remark taught the person a
fine lesson. Another answered the same question thus: You cannot keep
the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from
building their nests in your hair. Accordingly, you will do the correct
thing when you are merry and engage in some pleasant pastime with some
one, and not scruple afterwards over having done so. For God is not
pleased with sadness, for which there is no reason. The sorrow over our
sins is brief and at the same time is made pleasant to us by the promise
of grace and the forgiveness of sins. But the other sorrow is of the
devil and without promise; it is sheer worry over useless and impossible
things which concern God. I shall have more to say to you when I return.
Meanwhile give my greetings to your brother; I began writing to him, but
the messenger who is to take this letter along is in a hurry. I shall
write to him later, also to Schneidewein and others. I commend your
pupil to you. May the Spirit of Christ comfort and gladden your heart!
Amen.' (21a, 1487 ff.)

The second letter to Weller was presumably written some time in July. It
reads as follows: "Grace and peace in Christ. My dearest Jerome, you
must firmly believe that your affliction is of the devil, and that you
are plagued in this manner because you believe in Christ. For you see
that the most wrathful enemies of the Gospel, as, for instance, Eck,
Zwingli, and others, are suffered to be at ease and happy. All of us who
are Christians must have the devil for our adversary and enemy, as Peter
says: 'Your adversary, the devil, goeth about,' etc., 1 Pet. 5, 8.
Dearest Jerome, you must rejoice over these onslaughts of the devil,
because they are a sure sign that you have a gracious and merciful God.
You will say: This affliction is more grievous than I can bear; you fear
that you will be overcome and vanquished, so that you are driven to
blasphemy and despair. I know these tricks of Satan: if he cannot
overcome the person whom he afflicts at the first onset, he seeks to
exhaust and weaken him by incessantly attacking him, in order that the
person may succumb and acknowledge himself beaten. Accordingly, whenever
this affliction befalls you, beware lest you enter into an argument with
the devil, or muse upon these death-dealing thoughts. For this means
nothing else than to yield to the devil and succumb to him. You must
rather take pains to treat these thoughts which the devil instils in you
with the severest contempt. In afflictions and conflicts of this kind
contempt is the best and easiest way for overcoming the devil. Make up
your mind to laugh at your adversary, and find some one whom you can
engage in a conversation. You must by all means avoid being alone, for
then the devil will make his strongest effort to catch you; he lies in
wait for you when you are alone. In a case like this the devil is
overcome by scorning and despising him, not by opposing him and arguing
with him. My dear Jerome, you must engage in merry talk and games with
my wife and the rest, so as to defeat these devilish thoughts, and you
must be intent on being cheerful. This affliction is more necessary to
you than food and drink. I shall relate to you what happened to me when
I was about your age. When I entered the cloister, it happened that at
first I always walked about sad and melancholy, and could not shake off
my sadness. Accordingly, I sought counsel and confessed to Dr. Staupitz,
--I am glad to mention this man's name. I opened my heart to him,
telling him with what horrid and terrible thoughts I was being visited.
He said in reply: Martin, you do not know how useful and necessary this
affliction is to you; for God does not exercise you thus without a
purpose. You will see that He will employ you as His servant to
accomplish great things by you. This came true. For I became a great
doctor--I may justly say this of myself--; but at the time when I was
suffering these afflictions I would never have believed that this could
come to pass. No doubt, that is what is going to happen to you: you will
become a great man. In the mean time be careful to keep a brave and
stout heart, and impress on your mind this thought that such remarks
which fall from the lips chiefly of learned and great men contain a
prediction and prophecy. I remember well how a certain party whom I was
comforting for the loss of his son said to me: Martin, you will see, you
will become a great man. I often remembered this remark, for, as I said,
such remarks contain a prediction and a prophecy. Therefore, be cheerful
and brave, and cast these exceedingly terrifying thoughts entirely from
you. Whenever the devil worries you with these thoughts, seek the
company of men at once, or drink somewhat more liberally, jest and play
some jolly prank, or do anything exhilarating. Occasionally a person
must drink somewhat more liberally, engage in plays, and jests, or even
commit some little sin from hatred and contempt of the devil, so as to
leave him no room for raising scruples in our conscience about the most
trifling matters. For when we are overanxious and careful for fear that
we may be doing wrong in any matter, we shall be conquered. Accordingly,
if the devil should say to you: By all means, do not drink! you must
tell him: Just because you forbid it, I shall drink, and that,
liberally. In this manner you must always do the contrary of what Satan
forbids. When I drink my wine unmixed, prattle with the greatest
unconcern, eat more frequently, do you think that I have any other
reason for doing these things than to scorn and spite the devil who has
attempted to spite and scorn me? Would God I could commit some real
brave sin to ridicule the devil, that he might see that I acknowledge no
sin and am not conscious of having committed any. We must put the whole
law entirely out of our eyes and hearts,--we, I say, whom the devil thus
assails and torments. Whenever the devil charges us with our sins and
pronounces us guilty of death and hell, we ought to say to him: I admit
that I deserve death and hell; what, then, will happen to me? Why, you
will be eternally damned! By no means; for I know One who has suffered
and made satisfaction for me. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Where He abides, there will I also abide." (21a, 1532 ff.)

The third letter to Weller is dated August 15th. It reads as follows:
"Grace and peace in Christ. I have forgotten, my dear Jerome, what I
wrote you in my former letter concerning the spirit of melancholy, and I
may now be writing you the same things and harping on the same string.
Nevertheless, I shall repeat what I said, because we all share each
other's afflictions, and as I am suffering in your behalf, so you, no
doubt, are suffering in mine. It is one and the same adversary that
hates and persecutes every individual brother of Christ. Moreover, we
are one body, and in this body one member suffers for every other
member, and that, for the sole reason that we worship Christ. Thus it
happens that one is forced to bear the other's burden. See, then, that
you learn to despise your adversary. For you have not sufficiently
learned to understand this spirit, who is an enemy to spiritual
gladness. You may rest assured that you are not the only one who bears
this cross and are not suffering alone. We are all bearing it with you
and are suffering with you. God, who commanded: 'Thou shalt not kill,'
certainly declares by this commandment that He is opposed to these
melancholy and death-bringing thoughts, and that He, on the contrary,
would have us cherish lively and exceedingly cheerful thoughts. So the
Psalmist declares, saying: 'In His favor is life,' Ps. 30, 5 [Luther
understands this to mean: He favors life] and in Ezekiel God says: 'I
have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn
from his way and live' (chap. 33, 11). On the other hand, etc. Now,
then, since it is certain that such melancholy is displeasing to God, we
have this reliable comfort that if this demon cannot be entirely removed
from us, divine strength will be supplied to us, so that we may not feel
the affliction so much. I know that it is not in our power to remove
these thoughts at our option, but I also know that they shall not gain
the upper hand; for we are told: 'He shall not suffer the righteous to
be moved,' if we only learn to cast our burden upon Him. The Lord Jesus,
the mighty Warrior and unconquerable Victor, will be your aid. Amen."
(21a, 1543 f.)

These three letters constitute the whole evidence for the Catholic
charge against Luther that he offered advice to Weller that is immoral
and demoralizing. The indictment culminates in these three distinct
points: Luther advises Weller 1. to drink freely and be frivolous; 2. to
commit sin to spite the devil; 3. to have no regard for the Ten
Commandments. Since we shall take up the last point in a separate
chapter, we limit our remarks to the first two points.

When Luther advises Weller to drink somewhat more liberally, that does
not mean that Luther advises Weller to get drunk. This, however, is
exactly what Luther is made to say by his Catholic critics. They make no
effort to understand the situation as it confronted Luther, but pounce
upon a remark that can easily be understood to convey an offensive
meaning. Neither does what Luther says about his own drinking mean that
he ever got drunk. We have spoken of this matter in a previous chapter,
and do not wish to repeat. Luther's remarks about jesting, merry plays,
and jolly pranks in which he would have Weller engage are likewise
vitiated by the Catholic insinuation that he advises indecent
frivolities, yea, immoralities. Why, all the merriment which he urges
upon Weller is to take place in Luther's home and family circle, in the
presence of Luther's wife and children, in the presence of Weller's
little pupil Hans, who at that time was about four years old. The
friends of the family members of the Faculty at the University,
ministers, students who either stayed at Luther's home, like Weller, or
frequently visited there, are also included in this circle whose company
Weller is urged to seek. Imagine a young man coming into this circle
drunk, or half drunk, and disporting himself hilariously before the
company! We believe that not even all Catholics can be made to believe
the insinuations of their writers against Luther when all the facts in
the case are presented to them.

Let us, moreover, remind ourselves once more that, to measure the social
proprieties of the sixteenth century by modern standards, is unfair. A
degree of culture in regard to manners and speech can be reached by very
refined people that grows away from naturalness. The old Latin saying:
_Naturalia non sunt turpia_ (We need not feel ashamed of our natural
acts), will never lose its force. There are expressions in Luther's
writings--and in the Bible--that nowadays are considered unchaste, but
are in themselves chaste and pure. Even the extremest naturalness that
speaks with brutal frankness about certain matters is a better criterion
of moral purity than the supersensitive prudishness that squirms and
blushes, or pretends to blush, at the remotest reference to such
matters. It all depends on the thoughts which the heart connects with
the words which the mouth utters. This applies also to the manner in
which former centuries have spoken about drinking. We sometimes begin to
move uneasily, as if something Pecksniffian had come into our presence,
when we behold the twentieth century sitting in judgment on the manners
and morals of the sixteenth century.

In Luther's remarks about sinning to spite the devil we have always
heard an echo from his life at the cloister. One's judgment about the
monastic life is somewhat mitigated when one hears how Dr. Staupitz and
the brethren in the convent at Erfurt would occasionally speak to Luther
about the latter's sins. Staupitz called them "Puppensuenden." It is not
easy to render this term by a short and apt English term; "peccadillo"
would come near the meaning. A child playing with a doll will treat it
as if it were a human being, will dress it, talk to it, and pretend to
receive answers from it, etc. That is the way, good Catholics were
telling Luther, he was treating his sins. His sins were no real sins, or
he had magnified their sinfulness out of all proportion. This same
advice Luther hands on to another who was becoming a hypochondriac as he
had been. When the mind is in a morbid state it imagines faults, errors,
sins, where there are none. The melancholy person in his self-scrutiny
becomes an intolerant tyrant to himself. He will flay his poor soul for
trifles as if they were the blackest crimes: In such moments the devil
is very busy about the victim of gloom and despair. Luther has diagnosed
the case of Weller with the skill of a nervous specialist. He counsels
Weller not to judge himself according to the devil's prompting, and, in
order to break Satan's thrall over him, to wrench himself free from his
false notions of what is sinful. In offering this advice, Luther uses
such expressions as: "Sin, commit sin," but the whole context shows that
he advises Weller to do that which is in itself not sinful, but looks
like sin to Weller in his present condition. When Luther declares he
would like to commit a real brave sin himself as a taunt to the devil,
he adds: "Would that I could!" That means, that, as a matter of fact, he
could not do it and did not do it, because it was wrong. What bold
immoral act did Weller commit in consequence of Luther's advice? What
immoralities are there in Luther's own life? Luther's letters did not
convey the meaning to his morbid young friend that Catholic writers
think and claim they did.

Luther's advice to Melanchthon which is so revolting to Catholics that
they have made it the slogan in their campaign against Luther refers to
a state of affairs that is identical with what we noted in our review of
the correspondence with Weller. It is contained in a letter which Luther
wrote August 1, 1521, while he was an exile in the Wartburg. He says to
his despondent friend and colleague at the University of Wittenberg: "If
you are a preacher of grace, do not preach a fictitious, but the true
grace. If grace is of the true sort, you will also have to bear true,
not fictitious, sins. God does not save those who only acknowledge
themselves sinners in a feigned manner. Be a sinner, then, and sin
bravely, but believe more bravely still and rejoice in Christ, who is
the Victor over sin, death, and the world. We must sin as long as we are
in this world; the present life is not an abode of righteousness;
however, we look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth
righteousness, says Peter (2. Ep. 3, 13). We are satisfied, by the
richness of God's glory, to have come to the knowledge of the Lamb that
taketh away the sins of the world. No sin shall wrest us from Him, were
we even in one day to commit fornication and manslaughter a thousand
times. Do you think the price paltry and the payment small that has been
made for us by this great Lamb?" (15, 2589.)

"Be a sinner, and sin bravely, but believe more bravely still"--this is
the _chef d'oeuvre_ of the muck-rakers in Luther's life. The reader has
the entire passage which contains the outrageous statement of Luther
before him, and will be able to judge the connection in which the words
occur. What caused Luther to write those words? Did Melanchthon
contemplate some crime which he was too timid to perpetrate? According
to the horrified expressions of Catholics that must have been the
situation. Luther, in their view, says to Melanchthon: Philip, you are a
simpleton. Why scruple about a sin? You are still confined in the
trammels of very narrow-minded moral views. You must get rid of them.
Have the courage to be wicked, Make a hero of yourself by executing some
bold piece of iniquity. Be an "Uebermensch." Sin with brazen unconcern;
be a fornicator, a murderer, a liar, a thief, defy every moral statute,
--only do not forget to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. His grace is
intended, not for hesitating, craven sinners, but for audacious,
spirited, high-minded criminals.

This, we are asked to believe, is the sentiment of the same Luther who
in his correspondence with Weller declares that he could not if he would
commit a brave sin to spite the devil. Can the reader induce himself to
believe that Luther advised Melanchthon to do what he himself knew was a
moral impossibility to himself because of his relation to God? And again
we put the question which we put in connection with the Weller letters:
What brave sin did Melanchthon actually commit upon being thus advised
by Luther?

One glance at the context, a calm reflection upon the tenor of this
entire passage in the letter to Melanchthon, suffices to convince every
unbiased reader that Luther is concerned about Melanchthon as he was
about Weller: he fears his young colleague is becoming a prey to morbid
self-incrimination. It is again a case of "Puppensuenden" being expanded
till they seem ethical monstrosities. But, as the opening words of the
paragraph show, Luther had another purpose in writing to Melanchthon as
he did. Melanchthon was a public preacher and expounder of the doctrine
of evangelical grace. He must not preach that doctrine mincingly,
haltingly. Is that possible? Indeed, it is. Just as there are preachers
afraid to preach the divine Law and to tell men that they are under the
curse of God and merit damnation, so there are preachers afraid,
actually afraid, to preach the full Gospel, without any limiting clauses
and provisos. Just as there are teachers of Christianity who promptly
put on the soft pedal when they reach the critical point in their public
deliverances where they must reprove sin, and who hate intensive
preaching of the Ten Commandments, so there are evangelical teachers who
dole out Gospel grace in dribbles and homeopathic doses, as if it were
the most virulent poison, of which the sinner must not be given too
much. Luther tells Melanchthon: If you are afraid to draw every stop in
the organ when you play the tune of Love Divine, All Love Excelling, you
had better quit the organ. There are some sinners in this world that
will not understand your faint evangelical whispers; they need to have
the truth that Christ forgives their sins, all their sins,--their worst
sins, blown into them with all the trumpets that made the walls of
Jericho fall. If Melanchthon did not require a strong faith in the
forgiving grace of God for himself, he needed it as a teacher of that
grace to others; he must, therefore, familiarize himself with the
immensity and power of that grace.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the Catholic writers who express
their extreme disgust at the immoral principles of Luther belong to a
Church whose theologians have made very questionable distinctions
between venial sins and others. Papal dispensations and decisions of
Catholic casuists, especially in the order of the Jesuits, have startled
the world by their moral perverseness. Yea, the very principles of
probabilism and mental reservation which the Jesuits have espoused are
antiethical. In accordance with the principle last named, "when
important interests are at stake, a negative or modifying clause may
remain unuttered which would completely reverse the statement actually
made. This principle justified unlimited lying when one's interest or
convenience seemed to require it. Where the same word or phrase has
more than one sense, it may be employed in an unusual sense with the
expectation that it will be understood in the usual. [This is called
"amphibology" by them.] Such evasions may be used under oath in a civil
court. Equally destructive of good morals was the teaching of many
Jesuit casuists that moral obligation may be evaded by directing the
intention when committing an immoral act to an end worthy in itself; as
in murder, to the vindication of one's honor; in theft, to the supplying
of one's needs or those of the poor; in fornication or adultery, to the
maintenance of one's health or comfort. Nothing did more to bring upon
the society the fear and distrust of the nations and of individuals than
the justification and recommendation by several of their writers of the
assassination of tyrants, the term 'tyrant' being made to include all
persons in authority who oppose the work of the papal church or order.
The question has been much discussed, Jesuits always taking the negative
side, whether the Jesuits have taught that 'the end justifies the
means.' It may not be possible to find this maxim in these precise words
in Jesuit writings; but that they have always taught that for the
'greater glory of God,' identified by them with the extension of Roman
Catholic (Jesuit) influence, the principles of ordinary morality may be
set aside, seems certain. The doctrine of philosophical sin, in
accordance with which actual attention to the sinfulness of an act when
it is being committed is requisite to its sinfulness for the person
committing it, was widely advocated by members of the society. The
repudiation of some of the most scandalous maxims of Jesuit writers by
later writers, or the placing of books containing scandalous maxims on
the Index, does not relieve the society or the Roman Catholic Church
from responsibility, as such books must have received authoritative
approval before publication, and the censuring of them does not
necessarily involve an adverse attitude toward the teaching itself, but
way be a more measure of expediency." (A. H. Newman, in _New
Schaff-Herzog Encycl.,_ 6, 146.)

18. Luther, Repudiates the Ten Commandments?

In Luther's correspondence with Weller there occurs a remark to the
effect that Weller must put the Decalog out of his mind. Similar
statements occur in great number throughout Luther's writings. In some
of these statements Luther speaks in terms of deep scorn and contempt of
the Law, and considers it the greatest affront that can be offered
Christians to place them under the Law of Moses. He declares that Moses
must be regarded by Christians as if he were a heretic, excommunicated
by the Church, and assigns him to the gallows. Some of the strongest
invectives of this kind are found in his exposition of the Epistle to
the Galatians. These stern utterances of Luther against the Law serve
the Catholics as the basis for their charge that Luther is the most
destructive spirit that has arisen within the Church. He is said to have
destroyed the only perfect norm of right and wrong by his violent
onslaughts on Moses. Once the commandments of God are abrogated, the
feeling of duty and responsibility, they argue, is plucked from the
hearts of men, and license and vice rush in upon the world with the
force of a springtide.

The reader will remember what has been said in a previous chapter about
Luther's labors to expound and apply the divine Law, also about the
intimate and loving relation which he maintained to the Ten Commandments
to the end of his life. Luther has spoken of Moses as a teacher of true
holiness in terms of unbounded admiration and praise. Ho declares the
writings of Moses the principal part of our Bible, because all the
prophets and apostles have drawn their teaching from Moses and
have expanded the teaching of Moses. Christ Himself has appealed to
Moses as an authority in matters of religion. The greatest distinction
of Moses in Luther's view is that he has prophesied concerning Christ,
and by revealing the people's sin through the teaching of the Law has
made them see and feel the necessity of a redemption through the
Mediator. However, also the laws of Moses are exceedingly fine, Luther
thinks. The Ten Commandments are essentially the natural moral law
implanted in the hearts of man. But also his forensic laws, his civil
statutes, his ecclesiastical ordinances, his regulations regarding the
hygiene, and the public order that must be maintained in a great
commonwealth, are wise and salutary. The Catholics are forced to admit
that alongside of the open contempt which Luther occasionally voices for
Moses and the Mosaic righteousness inculcated by the Law there runs a
cordial esteem of the great prophet. Luther regards the Law of Moses as
divine; it is to him just as much the Word of God as any other portion
of the Scriptures. To save their faces in a debate they must concede
this point, but they charge Luther with being a most disorderly
reasoner, driven about in his public utterances by momentary impulses:
He will set up a rule to-day which he knocks down to-morrow. He will
cite the same Principle for or against a matter. He is so erratic that
he can be adduced as authority by both sides to a controversy. The
Catholic may succeed with certain people in getting rid of Luther on the
claim that his is a confused mind, and that in weighty affairs he adopts
the policy of the opportunist. Most men will demand a better explanation
of the seeming self-contradiction in Luther's attitude toward the divine

There is only one connection in which Luther speaks disparagingly of the
Law, and we shall show that what he says is no real disparagement, but
the correct Scriptural valuation of the Law. Luther holds that the Ten
Commandments do not save any person nor contribute the least part to his
salvation. They must be entirely left out of account when such questions
are to be answered as these: How do I obtain a gracious God? How is my
sin to be forgiven? How do I obtain a good conscience? How can I come to
I live righteously? How can I hope to die calmly, in the confidence that
I am going to heaven? On such occasions Luther says: Turn your eyes away
from Moses and his Law; he cannot help you; you apply at the wrong
office when you come to him for rest for your soul here and hereafter.
He gives you no comfort, and he cannot, because it is not his function
to do so. It is Another's business to do that. Him you grossly dishonor
and traduce when you refuse to come to Him for what He alone can give,
and when you go to some one who does not give you what you need, though
you pretend that you get it from this other. A proper relation to God is
established for us only by Jesus Christ. He is the exclusive Mediator
appointed by God for His dealing with man and for man in his dealings
with God. There is salvation in none other; nor can our hope of heaven
be placed on any other foundation than that which God laid when He
appointed Christ our Redeemer (Acts 4, 12; 1 Cor. 3, 11).

This is Bible-doctrine. "The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth
came by Jesus Christ," says John (chap. 1, 17). Here the two fundamental
teachings of the Scriptures are strictly set apart the one from the
other. They have much in common: they have the same holy Author, God;
their contents are holy; they serve holy ends.  But they are differently
related to sinful man: the Law tells man what he must do, the Gospel,
what Christ has done for him; the Law issues demands, the Gospel,
gratuitous offers; the Law holds out rewards for merits or severe
penalties, the Gospel, free and unconditioned gifts; the Law terrifies,
the Gospel cheers the sinner; the Law turns the sinner against God by
proving to him his incapacity to practise it, the Gospel draws the
sinner to God and makes him a willing servant of God.

Paul demands of the Christian minister that he "rightly divide the Word
of Truth" (2 Tim. 2, 15). To preach the Bible-doctrine of salvation
aright and with salutary effect, the Law and the Gospel must be kept
apart as far as East is from the West. The Law is truth, but, it is not
the truth that saves, because it knows of no grace for the breakers of
the Law. The Gospel teaches holiness and righteousness, however, not
such as the sinner achieves by his own effort, but such as has been
achieved for the sinner by his Substitute, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is
not for men who imagine that they can do the commandments of God; Jesus
Christ says: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to
repentance" (Matt. 9, 13). On the other hand, the Law is not for sinners
who know themselves saved. "The Law is not made for a righteous man" (1
Tim. 1, 9). Christians employ the Law for the regulation of their lives,
as a pattern and index of holy works which are pleasing to God and as a
deterrent from evil works, but they do not seek their salvation, neither
wholly nor in part, in the Law, nor do they look to the Law for strength
to do the will of God. Moreover Christians, while they are still in the
flesh, apply the Law to the old Adam in themselves; they bruise the
flesh with its deceitful lusts with the scourge of Moses, and thus they
are in a sense under the Law, and can never be without the Law while
they live. But in another sense they are not under the Law: all their
life is determined by divine grace; their faith, their hope, their
charity, is entirely from the Gospel, and the new man in them
acknowledges no master except Jesus Christ, who is all in all to them
(Eph. 1, 23).

When Luther directed men for their salvation away from the Law, he did
what Christ Himself had done when He called to the multitudes: "Come
unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you
rest" (Matt. 11, 28). The people to whom these words were addressed had
the Law of Moses and wearied themselves with its fulfilment, such as it
was under the direction of teachers and guides who had misinterpreted
and were misapplying that Law continually. Even in that false view of
the Law which they had been taught, and which did not at all exhaust its
meaning, there was no ease of conscience, no assurance of divine favor,
no rest for their souls. Christ with His gracious summons told them, in
effect: You must forget the Law and the ordinances of your elders and
your miserable works of legal service. You must turn your back upon
Moses. In Me, only in Me, is your help.

Moses himself never conceived his mission to be what the Catholics
declare it to be by their doctrine of salvation by faith plus works.
Moses directed his people to the greater Prophet who was to come in the
future, and told them: "Unto Him shall ye hearken" (Deut. 18, 15). Jesus
was pointed out to the world as that Prophet of whom Moses had spoken,
when the Father at the baptism and the transfiguration of Christ
repeated from heaven the warning cry of Israel's greatest teacher under
the old dispensation (Matt. 3, 17; 17, 5).

But was it necessary, in speaking of the inability of the Law to save
men, to use such strong and contemptuous terms as Luther has used? Yes.
The Catholics do not seen to know in what strong terms the Bible has
rejected the Law as a means of salvation. Paul denounces the Galatians
again and again as "foolish," "bewitched," and bastards of a bondwoman,
because they think they will be saved by their works done according to
the Law (chap. 3, 1. 3; 4, 21 ff.). He calls them godless infidels,
slaves, silly children still in their nonage, because they imagine that
they become acceptable to God by their own righteousness (chap. 4, 9; 3,
23 ff.). Yea, he reprobates their legal service when he says: "As many
as are of the works of the Law are under the curse" (chap. 3, 10). How
contemptuous does it not sound to hear him call the legal ordinances
which the Galatians were observing "beggarly elements" (chap. 4, 9), and
the law a "schoolmaster" (chap. 3, 24), that is, a tutor fit only for
little abecedarians who cannot be treated as full-grown persons that are
able to make a right use of their privileges as children and heirs of
God. Why do not the Catholics turn up their nose at Paul, as they do at
Luther, when Paul calls all his legal righteousness "dung" (Phil. 2, 8),
or when he speaks slightingly of the observance on which the Colossians
prided themselves as "rudiments of the world" (Col. 2, 20)? Why does he
call the Law "the handwriting of ordinances that has been blotted out"
(Col. 2, 14) but to declare to the Colossians that they are to fear the
Law as little as a debtor fears a canceled note that had been drawn
against him? What was it that Paul rebuked Peter for when he told him
that he was building again the things which they both had destroyed
(Gal. 2, 18)? Mark you, he says, "destroyed." Why, it was this very
thing for which Luther is faulted by Rome, the Law as an instrument for
obtaining righteousness before God. Could a person renounce the Law in
more determined, one might almost say, ruthless fashion, than by saying:
"I am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God"? Paul is the person
who thus speaks of the Law (Gal. 2, 19). The Catholics have again taken
hold of the wrong man when they assail Luther for repudiating the Law of
God; they must start higher up; they will find the real culprit whom
they are trying to prosecute among the holy apostles. Yea, even the
apostles will decline the honor of being the original criminals, they
will pass the charges preferred against them higher up still; for what
contemptuous terms were used by them in speaking of the Law were
inspired terms which they received from God the Holy Ghost. That
contempt for the Law which Luther voices under very particular
circumstances Luther has learned from his Bible and under the guidance
of the Holy Ghost.

That contempt is a mark of every evangelical preacher to-day. If
ministers of the Gospel to-day do not denounce the Law when falsely
applied, they betray a sacred trust and become traitors to Christ and
the Church. For every one who teaches men to seek their salvation in any
manner and to any degree in their own works serves not Christ, but
Antichrist. This is such a fearful calamity that no terms should be
regarded as too scathing in which to rebuke legalistic tendencies. These
tendencies are the bane and blight of Christianity; if they are not
rooted out, Christianity will perish from off the face of the earth.
Workmongers are missionaries of the father of lies and the murderer from
the beginning: so far as in them lies, they slay the souls of men by
their false teaching of the Law.

However, Luther reveals another attitude toward the Law. At three
distinct times in his public career he had to do with people who had
assumed a hostile attitude to the Law of God. If the contention of
Luther's Catholic critics were true, Luther ought to have hailed these
occasions with delight and made common cause with the repudiators of the
Law. While he was at the Wartburg, a disturbance broke out at
Wittenberg. Under the leadership of Carlstadt, a professor at the
University, men broke into the churches and smashed images. Church
ordinances of age-long standing were to be abrogated, the cloisters were
to be thrown open, and a new order of things was to be inaugurated by
violence. Against the will of the Elector of Saxony, who had afforded
Luther an asylum in his castle, Luther, at the risk of his life, came
out of his seclusion, boldly went to Wittenberg, and preached a series
of sermons by which he quelled the riotous uprising. Even before his
return to Wittenberg he had published a treatise in which he warned
Christians to avoid tumult and violent proceedings. The eight sermons
which he preached to the excited people of Wittenberg are an invaluable
evidence that Luther meant to proceed in the way of order. The mass and
the confessional would have been abolished at that time, had it not been
for Luther's interference. He made some lifelong enemies by insisting
that the reformatory movement must be conservative. He held that before
men's consciences had been liberated by the teaching of Christ, they
were not qualified for exercising true Christian liberty, and their
violent proceedings were nothing but carnal license. Everybody knows how
deeply Luther himself was interested in the abolition of the idolatrous
Mass and the spiritual peonage which Rome had created for men by means
of the confessional. Only a person who puts principles above policies
could have acted as Luther did in those turbulent days. He wanted for
his followers, not wanton rebels and frenzied enthusiasts, but men who
respect the Word of Cod, discreet and gentle men whose weapons of
warfare were not carnal. A man who is so cautious as not to approve the
putting down of acknowledged evils because he is convinced that the
attempt is premature and exceeds the limits of propriety, will not lend
his hand to abolishing the divine norm of right, the holy commandments
of God.

The second occasion on which Luther in a most impressive manner showed
his profound regard for the maintenance of human and divine laws was
during the bloody uprising of the peasants. While thoroughly in sympathy
with the rebellious peasants in their righteous grievances against their
secular and spiritual oppressors, the barons and the bishops, and
pleading the peasants' cause in its just demands before their lords, he
unflinchingly rebuked their extreme demands and their still extremer
actions. If by his preaching of the Gospel Luther had been the
instigator of the peasants' uprising, what a brazen hypocrite he must
have been in denouncing acts which he must have acknowledged to be
fruits of his teaching! Among the noblemen of Germany Luther counted not
a few frank admirers and staunch supporters of his reformatory work.
Their influence was of the highest value to him in those critical days
when his own life was not safe. Yet he rebuked the sins of the high and
mighty, their avarice and insolence, which had brought on this terrible
disturbance. In his writings dealing with this sad conflict Luther
impresses one like one of the ancient prophets who stand like a rock
amid the raging billows of popular passions and with even-handed justice
deliver the oracles of God to high and low, calling upon all to bow
before the supreme will of the righteous Lawgiver. Would the great lords
of the land have meekly taken Luther's rebuke if they had been able to
charge Luther with being an accessory to the peasants' crimes?

The third occasion on which Luther's innocence of the charges of
Romanists that he was an instigator of lawlessness was most effectually
vindicated was the Antinomian controversy. This episode, more than any
other, embittered the life of the aging Reformer. The Antinomians drew
from the evangelical teachings those disastrous consequences which the
Catholics impute to Luther: they claimed that the Law is not in any way
applicable to Christians. They insisted that the Ten Commandments must
not be preached to Christians at all. Christians, they claimed,
determine in the exercise of their sovereign liberty what they may or
may not do. Being under grace, they are superior to the Law and a law
unto themselves. At first Luther had been inclined to treat this error
mildly, because it seemed incredible to him that enlightened children of
God could so fatally misread the teaching of God's Word. He thought the
Antinomians were either misunderstood by people who had no conception of
the Gospel and of evangelical liberty, or they were grossly slandered by
persons ill-disposed to them because of their successful preaching of
the Gospel. When their error had been established beyond a doubt, he did
not hesitate a moment to attack it. In sermons and public disputations,
before the common people of Wittenberg and the learned doctors and the
students of the University, he defended the holy Law of God as the norm
of right conduct and the mirror showing up the sinfulness of man also
for Christians, and he insisted that those who had fallen into this
error must publicly recant. It was due to Luther's unrelenting
opposition that Agricola, one of the leaders of the Antinomians and at
one time a dear friend of Luther, withdrew his false teaching and
offered apologies in a published discourse. To his guests Luther in
those days remarked at the table: "Satan, like a furious harlot, rages
in the Antinomians, as Melanchthon writes from Frankfort. The devil will
do much harm through them and cause infinite and vexatious evils. If
they carry their lawless principles into the State as well as the
Church, the magistrate will say: I am a Christian, therefore the law
does not pertain to me. Even a Christian hangman would repudiate the
law. If they teach only free grace, infinite license will follow, and
all discipline will be at an end." (Preserved Smith, p. 283.) Luther
held that forbidding the preaching of the Law meant to prohibit
preaching God's truth (20, 1635), and to abrogate the Law he regarded as
tantamount to abrogating the Gospel (22, 1029).

Far from repudiating the Ten Commandments, then, Luther, by insisting on
a distinction between Law and Gospel, and assigning to each a separate
sphere of operation in the lives of Christians, has done more than any
other teacher in the Church since the days of Paul to impress men with a
sincere respect of the Law, and to honor it by obedience to its

19. Luther's Invisible Church.

In his Theses against the sale of indulgences, especially in the first
two, Luther had uttered a thought which led to a new conception of the
Church. He had declared that Christian life does not consist in the
performance of certain works of piety, such as going to confession,
performing the penances imposed by priests, hearing Mass, etc.,--all of
which are external, visible acts,--but in a continuous penitential
relation of the heart to God. The Christian, conscious of his innate
corruption and his daily sinning, faces God at all times in the attitude
of a humble suitor for mercy. The posture of the publican is the typical
attitude of the Christian. He recognizes no merit in himself, he pleads
no worthiness which would give him a just claim upon God's favor. His
single hope and sole reliance is in the merit and atoning work of his
Savior Jesus Christ. The Christian's penitence embraces as a constituent
element faith in the forgiveness of sin for Christ's sake. In the
strength of his faith the Christian begins to wrestle with the sin which
is still indwelling in him and which besets him from without. The agony
of the Redeemer which he places before his eyes at all times proves a
deterrent from sin, and the holy example of Jesus, who ran with
rejoicing the way of the commandments of God, becomes an inspiring
example to him: actuated by gratitude for the love of the Son of God who
gave Himself for him and reclaimed him from certain perdition, he begins
to reproduce the life of Jesus in his own conversation. His whole life
is determined by his relation to Jesus: his thoughts, affections, words,
and deeds are a reflex of the life of his Lord. For him to live is
Christ (Phil. 1, 21). All his acts become expressions of his faith. He
says with Paul: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the
life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of
God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2, 20).

During the discussions which followed the publication of the Theses,
especially during the Leipzig Debate with Eck in 1519, this thought of
Luther was expanded, and applied to the idea of the Church.
Christianity, in Luther's teaching, came to be set forth as something
vastly different from the external and mechanical religiousness which
had been accepted as Christianity by Rome. Christianity meant a new
life, swayed by new motives, governed by new principles. It was seen to
be entirely inward, an affair of the heart and soul and mind, and,
ulteriorly, an affair of the body and the natural life. The religion of
Rome, with its constant emphasis on works of men's piety and the merit
resulting therefrom, had become thoroughgoing externalism. So many
prayers recited, so many altars visited, so many offerings made, meant
so many merits achieved. The scheme worked out with mathematical
precision. Devout Catholics might well keep a ledger of their devotional
acts, as Gustav Freitag in his _Ancestors_ represents Marcus Koenig as
having done.

In the Catholic view the Church is a visible society, an ecclesiastical
organization with a supreme officer at the head, and a host of
subordinate officers who receive their orders from him, and lastly, a
lay membership that acknowledges the rule of this organization. The
Church in this view is a religious commonwealth, only in form and
operation differing from secular commonwealths. Cardinal Gibbons calls
it "the Christian Republic." In Luther's view the Church is, first of
all, an invisible society, known to God, the Searcher of hearts, alone.
The Church of Christ is the sum-total of believers scattered through the
whole world and existing in all ages. To this Church we refer when we
profess in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe one holy, Christian Church,
the communion of saints." This is the Church, the real Church, the
Church which God acknowledges as the spiritual body of Christ, who is
the Head of the Church, and with which He maintains the most intimate
and tender relations.

This invisible Church exists within the visible societies of organized
Christianity, in the local Christian congregations. Christian faith is
never independent of the means which God has appointed for producing
faith, the Gospel and the Sacraments. "Faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10, 17). This faith-creating word of
evangelical grace is an audible and visible matter. Its presence in any
locality is cognizable by the senses. It becomes attached, moreover, by
Christ's ordaining, to certain visible elements, as the water in Baptism
and the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Hence these two Christian
ordinances--the only two for which a divine word of command and promise,
hence, a divine institution can be shown--also become related to faith,
to its origin and preservation. For of Baptism our Lord says: "Except a
man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of
God" (John 3, 5). To be "born again," or to become a child of God,
according to John 1, 12, is the same as "to believe." Accordingly, Paul
says: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as
many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal.
3, 26. 27). Of the Sacrament our Lord says: "This is the blood of the
covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26,
28); and His apostle declares that communicants, "as often as they eat
of this bread and drink of this cup, do show the Lord's death till He
come" (1 Cor. 11, 26).

The Gospel and the Sacraments, now, become the marks of the Church, the
unfailing criteria of its existence in any place. For, according to the
declaration of God, they are never entirely without result, though many
to whom they are brought resist the gracious operation of the Spirit
through these means. By Isaiah God has said: "As the rain cometh down,
and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the
earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the
sower and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be that goeth forth out
of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish
that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent
it" (Is. 55, 10. 11).

Among the people who in a given locality rally around the Word and the
Sacraments and profess allegiance to them, there is the Church, because
there is the power of God unto salvation, the faith-producing and
faith-sustaining Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who embrace what the
Gospel offers with a lively faith, and in the power of their faith
proceed to lead holy lives in accordance with the teaching of God's
Word, are the members of the true Church of God, the kingdom of Christ.
Those who adhere only externally to these institutions are merely
nominal members. They may at heart be hypocrites and secret blasphemers.

Catholic writers charge Luther with having set up this teaching, partly
to spite the Pope whom he hated, partly to gratify his vainglorious
aspirations to become famous. He had at one time held the Catholic dogma
that the Church is the visible society of men who profess allegiance to
the Bishop of Rome and accept his overlordship in matters of their
religion. But through neglect of his religious duties and the failure to
bridle his imperious temper he had by degrees begun to revolt from the
teaching of the Catholic Church, until he publicly renounced the Church
that had existed in all the ages before him, and set up his own Church.
By forsaking the communion of the Roman church organization he severed
his soul from Christ and became an apostate. For, according to Catholic
belief, Christ founded the Church to be a visible organization with a
visible head, the Pope, and plainly and palpably "governing" men.

Everybody who has read the records of Luther's work knows that no
thought was more foreign to his mind than that of founding a new church.
He believed himself in hearty accord with the Catholic Church and the
Pope when he published his Theses. He did not wantonly leave the Church,
but was driven from it by most ruthless measures. It was while he was
defending the principles which he had first uttered against Tetzel that
his eyes were opened to the appalling defection which had occurred in
the Catholic Church from every true conception of what the Church really
is. His appeals to the Word of God were answered by appeals to the
Church, the councils of the Church, the Pope. In his unsophisticated
mind Luther held that Church, councils, and Pope are all subject to
Christ, the Head of the Church. They cannot teach and decree anything
but what Christ has taught and ordained. It is only by abiding in the
words of Christ that men become and remain the true disciples of Christ,
hence, His Church (John 8, 31). Now, he was told that Christ had erected
the visible organization of the Catholic Church with the Pope at its
head into the Church, and had handed over all authority to this society,
with the understanding that there can be no appeal from this body to
Christ Himself. Salvation is only by submitting to the rule of this
society, adopting its ways, following its precepts. From this teaching
Luther recoiled with horror, and rightly so.

At one time God had erected a theocracy on earth, a Church which was a
visible society, and for which He had made special laws and ordinances.
The Church of the Old Covenant is the only visible Church which God
created. But even in this Church He declared that external compliance
with its ways did not constitute any one a true member of His Church. He
told the Jews by Isaiah: "To this man will I look, even to him that is
poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word. He that killeth
an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut
off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation as if he offered swine's
blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol" (chap. 66, 2.
8). Here God abominates the mere external performance of acts of worship
as an outrage and a crime that is perpetrated against His holy name.
Repeating a saying of this same prophet, our Lord said to the members of
the Jewish Church in His day: "Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy
of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and
honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain
do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men"
(Matt. 15, 7-9). The Pharisees in the days of Christ are the true
ancestors of Catholics in their belief that the Church is a great,
powerful, visible organization in this world, subject to the supreme
will of a visible ruler, and capable of being employed in great worldly
enterprises like a political machine. The Pharisees were always looking
for the establishment of a mighty church organization which would
dominate the world. They expected the Messiah to inaugurate a Church of
this kind. With this ambitious thought in their heart they approached
Christ on a certain occasion and asked Him "when the kingdom of God
should come. He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not
with observation; neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, Lo, there! for,
behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17, 20. 21). To the same
effect Paul declares "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is
that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which
is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit,
and not in the letter" (Rom. 2, 28. 29). And to a young pastor whom he
had trained for work in the Church, he describes the Church as follows:
"The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth
them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ
depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2, 19).

By making the Gospel the mark of the Church and faith the Gospel the
badge of membership in the Church Luther has rendered an incalculable
service to Christianity. This view of the Church shows the immense
importance of a live, intelligent, and active personal faith. It puts a
ban on religious indifference and mechanical worship. It destroys
formalism, ceremonialism, Pharisaism in the affairs of religion. Justly
Luther has ridiculed the implicit, or blind, faith of Catholics, when he
writes: "The papists say that they believe what the Church believes,
just as it is being related of the Poles that they say: I believe what
my king believes. Indeed! Could there be a better faith than this, a
faith less free from worry and anxiety? They tell a story about a doctor
meeting a collier on a bridge in Prague and condescendingly asking the
poor layman, 'My dear man, what do you believe?' The collier replied,
'Whatever the Church believes.' The doctor: 'Well, what does the Church
believe?' The collier: 'What I believe.' Some time later the doctor was
about to die. In his last moments he was so fiercely assailed by the
devil that he could not maintain his ground nor find rest until he said,
'I believe what the collier believes.' A similar story is being told of
the great [Catholic theologian] Thomas Aquinas, viz., that in his last
moments he was driven into a corner by the devil, and finally declared,
'I believe what is written in this Book.' He had the Bible in his arms
while he spoke these words. God grant that not much of such faith be
found among us! For if these people did not believe in a different
manner, both the doctor and the collier have been landed in the abyss of
hell by their faith." (17, 2013.)

Luther's teaching regarding the Church leads to a proper valuation of
the means of grace. Only through the evangelical Word and the
evangelical ordinances is the Church planted, watered, and sustained. It
is, therefore, necessary that the world be supplied in abundance with
the Word through the missionary operations of Christians, and that the
Christians themselves have the Word dwell among them richly (Col. 3,
16).  "He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much
fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing," says the Head of the Church to
His disciples (John 15, 5); and in His last prayer He pleads with the
Father in their behalf: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is
truth" (John 17, 17). For the same reason it is necessary that the Word
and Sacraments be preserved in their Scriptural purity, that any
deviation from the clear teaching of the Bible be resisted, and
orthodoxy be maintained. Errors in doctrine are like tares in a
wheat-field: they are useless in themselves, and they hinder the growth
of good plants. Error saves no one, but some are still saved in spite of
error by clinging to the truth which is offered them along with the
error. Luther believed that this happened even in the error-ridden
Catholic Church.

Luther's teaching regarding the Church enables us, furthermore, to form
a right estimate of the ministry in the Church. Christ wants all
believers to be proclaimers of His truth and grace. The apostle whom
Catholics regard as the first Pope says to all Christians: "Ye are a
chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar
people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you
out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2, 9). To the local
congregation of believers, which is to deal with an offending brother,
even to the extent of putting him out of the church, Christ says: "If he
neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a
publican. Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall
be loosed in heaven." There is nothing that God denies even to the
smallest company of believers while they are engaged in the discharge of
their rights and duties as members of the Church; for Christ adds:
"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. For where two or three are gathered together
in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18, 17-20). All
rights and duties of the Church are common to all members. All have the
right to preach, to administer the Sacraments, etc. Over and above this,
however, Christ has instituted also a personal ministry, men who can be
"sent" even as He was sent by the Father (John 20, 21; comp. Rom. 10,
15: "How shall they preach, except they be sent?"); men who are to
devote themselves exclusively to the reading of the Word (1 Tim. 4, 13),
to teaching and guiding their fellow-believers in the way of divine
truth (see the Epistles to Timothy and Titus). But the ministry in the
Church does not represent a higher grade of Christianity,--the laymen
representing the lower,--but the ministry is a service ordained for the
"perfecting of the saints and the edifying of the body of Christ," viz.,
His Church (Eph. 4, 11. 12; 1, 23). _Minister_ is derived from _minus,_
"less," not from _magis_--from which we have _Magister_--meaning "more."
The ministry of the Church of the New Testament is not a hierarchy,
endowed with special privileges and powers by the Lord, but a body of
humble workmen who serve their fellow-men and fellow-Christians in the
spirit of Christ, who said: "The Son of Man came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20,
28). Ministers merely exercise in public the common rights of all
believers and are the believers' representatives in all their official
acts. So Paul viewed the absolution which he pronounced upon the
penitent member of the Corinthian congregation (2 Cor. 2, 10). When the
Corinthians had begun to exalt their preachers unduly, he told them that
they were "carnal." "Who is Paul," he exclaims, "and who is Apollos, but
ministers by whom ye believed? . . . Let no man glory in men. For all
things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or
life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours" (1
Cor. 3, 4. 5. 20. 21). And Peter, the original Pope in the Catholics'
belief, says: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an
elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of
the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among
you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not
for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's
heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5, 1-3).

Lastly, Luther's teaching regarding the Church affords a wealth of
comfort and sound direction in view of the divided condition of the
visible Church. Through the ignorance and malice of men and through the
wily activity of Satan, who creates divisions and offenses contrary to
the doctrine of Christ, and is busy sowing tares among the wheat, there
have arisen many church organizations, known by party names, differing
from one another in their creedal statements, and warring upon each
other. This is a sad spectacle to contemplate, and grieves Christian
hearts sorely. But these divisions in the external and visible
organizations do not touch the body of Christ, the communion of saints,
the one holy Christian Church. In all ages and places the true believers
in Christ are a unit. Among those who by faith have "put on the new man,
which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him,
there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ is all, and in all"
(Col. 3, 10. 11). This is the true Catholic, that is, universal, Church.
The visible society which has usurped this name never was, nor is
to-day, the universal Church. Before Protestantism arose, there was the
Eastern Church, which has maintained a separate organization. This holy
Christian Church is indestructible, because the Word of Christ, which is
its bond, shall never pass away, and Christ rules even in the midst of
His enemies. Visible church organizations are valuable only in as far as
they shelter, and are nurseries of, the invisible Church. Luther never
conceived the idea of founding a visible organization more powerful than
the Catholic; he did not mean to pit one ecclesiastical body of men
against another. His single aim was to restore the purity of teaching
and the right administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the
Scriptures. That his followers were named after him, we have shown not
to be Luther's fault: Luther did not form a Church, but reformed the
Church; he did not establish a new creed, but reestablished the old. The
visible society of Lutherans to-day does not regard itself as the
alone-saving Church, or as immune from error, or as infallible, but it
does claim to be the Church of the pure Word and Sacraments. It knows
that it is one in faith with all the children of God throughout the
world and in all ages.

20. Luther on the God-Given Supremacy of the Pope.

In the opinion of Catholics Luther's greatest offense is what he has
done to their Pope. This is Luther's unpardonable sin. Luther has done
two things to the Pope: he has denied that the Pope exists by divine
right, and he has in the most scurrilous manner spoken and written about
the Pope and made his vaunted dignity the butt of universal ridicule.
The indictment is true, but when the facts are stated, it will be seen
to recoil on the heads of those who have drawn it.

Luther denies that Matt. 16, 18. 19 establishes the papacy in the Church
of Christ. He denies that this text creates a one-man power in the
Church, that it vests one individual with a sovereign jurisdiction over
the spiritual affairs of all other men, making him the sole arbiter of
their faith and the exclusive dispenser of divine grace, and, last, not
least, that it says one word about the Pope. Luther makes, indeed, a
clean and sweeping denial of every claim which Catholics advance for the
God-given supremacy of their Popes. Inasmuch as the papacy stands or
falls with Matt. 16, 18.19, he has put the Catholics in the worst
predicament imaginable.

Catholics believe that Peter was singled out for particular honors in
the Church by being declared the rock on which Christ builds His Church,
and by being given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Peter's supremacy
as Primate of the World, they hold, passed over to Peter's successor and
is perpetuated in an unbroken line of succession in the Roman Popes.
Three questions, then, confronted Luther in the study of this text in
Matthew. First, does the "rock" in Matt. 16, 18 signify Peter? The Lord
had addressed to all His disciples the question, "Whom say ye that I
am?" Instead of all of them answering and creating a confusion, Peter,
the most impulsive of the apostles, speaks up and says, "Thou art the
Christ, the Son of the living God." With these words Peter expressed the
common faith of all the disciples. Not one of them dissented from his
statement; he had voiced the joint conviction of them all. Peter was the
spokesman, but the confession was that of the apostles. Any other
apostle might have spoken first and said the same, had he been quicker
than Peter. If there is any merit in Peter's confession of Christ, all
other disciples, yea, all who confess Christ as Peter did, share that
merit. In replying to Peter the Lord takes all merit away from Peter by
saying to him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood
hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." He
addresses Peter by the name he had borne before he became an apostle:
Simon, son of Jonas, and tells him that if he were still what he used to
be before he came to Christ, he could not have made the confession which
he had just uttered. In his old unconverted state he would not have
formed any higher opinion concerning Christ than the people throughout
the country, some of whom thought that Christ was John the Baptist risen
from the dead; others, that he was Jeremias; still others, that he was
one of the ancient prophets come back to life. The deity of Jesus and
His mission as Christ, that is, as the Messiah, our Lord says, are
grasped by men only when the Father reveals these truths to them. A
spiritual nature, a new mind such as the Spirit gives in regeneration,
is required for such a confession. The glory of Peter's confession,
therefore, is the glory of every believer. To every Sunday-school child
which recites Luther's explanation of the Second Article: "I believe
that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and
also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed
me," the Lord would say the same thing as He did to Peter: My child,
yours is an excellent confession; there is nothing fickle or undecided
in it like in the vague and changing opinions which worldly men form
about Me. Thank God that He has given you the grace to know Me as I
ought to be known.

But did not the Lord proceed to declare Peter the rock on which He would
build His Church? That is what Catholics believe, in spite of the fact
that this would be the only place in the whole Bible where a human being
would be represented as the foundation of the Church, while there are
scores of passages which name quite another person as the rock that
supports the Church. Catholics read this text thus: "Thou art Peter, and
_on thee_ will I build My Church." That is precisely what Christ did not
say, and what He was most careful not to express. The words "Peter" and
"rock" are plainly two different terms and denote two different objects.
That is the most natural view to take of the matter. In the original
Greek we find two words similar in sound, but distinct in meaning for
the two objects to which Christ refers: Peter's name is _Petros,_ which
is a personal noun; the word for "rock" is _petra,_ which is a common
noun. In the Greek, then, Christ's answer reads thus: "Thou art
_Petros,_ and on this _petra_ will I build my Church." Catholics claim
that Christ, in answering Peter, introduced a play upon words, such as a
witty person will indulge in: _Petros,_ the apostle's name, signifies a
rock-man, a firm person, and from this meaning it is an easy step to
_petra,_ which is plain rock or stone. If this interpretation is
admitted, the expression "upon thee" may be substituted for the
expression "on this rock." Yet not altogether. By adopting the peculiar
phraseology "upon this rock" in the place of "upon thee," Christ avoids
referring to the individual Peter, to the person known as Peter, and
refers rather to a characteristic in him, namely, his firmness and
boldness in confessing Christ. This every careful interpreter of this
text will admit. Christ could easily have said: Upon thee will I build
My Church, if it had been His intention to say just that. And we imagine
on such a momentous occasion Christ would have used the plainest terms,
containing no figure of speech, no ambiguities whatever; for was he not
now introducing to the Church the distinguished person who was to
preside over its affairs? Catholics claim that when Christ spoke these
words, "upon this rock," He had extended His hand and was pointing to
Peter. That would help us considerably in the interpretation of the
text. The trouble is only that we are not told anything about such a
gesture of Christ, and if a gesture must be invented, it is possible to
invent an altogether different one, as we shall see. But if Christ, by
saying, "upon this rock," instead of saying, "upon thee," referred not
to Peter as a person, but to a quality in Peter, namely, to his firm
faith, then it follows that the Church is not built on the person of
Peter, but on a quality of Peter. This is the best that Catholics can
obtain from the interpretation which they have attempted. But if the
Church is built on firm faith, there is no reason why that faith should
be just Peter's. Would not every firm believer in the deity and
Redeemership of Christ become the rock on which the Church is built just
as much as Peter? Luther declared quite correctly: "We are all Peters if
we believe like Peter." Really, the Catholics ought to be willing to
help strengthen the foundation of the Church by admitting that the rock
would become a stouter support if, instead of the firm faith of one man,
the equally firm faith of hundreds, thousands, and millions of other men
were added to prop up the Church. In all seriousness, it will be
absolutely necessary to give Peter some assistants; for we know that the
job of holding up the Church was too big for him on at least two
occasions. What became of the Church in the night when Peter denied the
Lord? In that night, the Catholics would have to believe, the Church was
built on a liar and blasphemer. What became of the Church in the days
when Peter came to Antioch and Paul withstood him to the face because he
was dissembling his Christian convictions not to offend a Judaizing
party in the Church? (Gal. 2.) Was the Church in those days built on a
canting hypocrite?

But the greatest difficulty in admitting the Catholic interpretation is
met when one remembers those Bible-texts which name an altogether
different rock as the foundation and corner-stone of the Church. Paul
says that in their desert wanderings the Israelites were accompanied by
Christ. He was their unseen Guide and Benefactor. He supported their
faith. "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that
Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10, 4). At the conclusion of the Sermon on the
Mount the Lord relates a parable about a wise and a foolish builder. The
foolish builder set up his house on sand; the wise builder built on
rock. By the rock, however, the Lord would have us understand "these
sayings of Mine" (Matt. 7, 24). Paul speaks of the Church to the
Ephesians thus: "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone" (chap. 2,
20). Most fatal, however, to the Catholic interpretation is the
testimony of Peter. Exhorting the Christians to eager study of the Word
of the Lord, he goes on to say: "To whom coming, as unto a living stone,
disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as
lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to
offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a
chief corner-stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall
not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious, but
unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed,
the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a
rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the Word, being
disobedient" (1 Pet. 2, 4-8). Here Peter in the plainest and strongest
terms declares Christ to be the rock on which the Church is built. The
scribes and Pharisees rejected Him, as had been foretold, but the common
people who heard Him gladly embraced His message of salvation, and
rested their faith on what He had taught them and done for them. Peter
evidently did not understand the text in Matthew as the Catholics
understand it. Peter in his Epistle is really a heretic in what he says
about the rock, and if the Catholics could spare him from under the
Church, they ought to burn him.

Instead of connecting the two parts of the statement: "Thou art Peter,"
and, "Upon this rock I will build My Church," as closely as Catholics
do, the two parts ought to be kept separate. What the Lord says to Peter
may be paraphrased thus: Peter, there was a time when you were merely
Simon, Jonas's son. At that time you had thoughts and formed opinions
about holy matters such as your flesh and blood, your natural reason,
suggested to you. All that is changed now that you are a Peter, a firm
believer in the revelation which the Father makes to men about Me. What
you have confessed is the exact truth; cling to that against all odds;
for upon this person whom you have confessed, as upon a rock, I will
build My Church.--And now we may imagine that the Lord, while uttering
the words, "upon this rock," pointed to Himself. The text does not say
that the Lord made such a gesture; we simply imagine this, but our
imagination is not only just as good as that of the Catholics, but
better, for the gesture which we assume agrees with the teachings of all
the Scriptures that speak of Christ's person and work.

However, the Catholics remind us that Christ gave to Peter the keys of
the kingdom of heaven and made him the doorkeeper of paradise. Yes, so
the text reads, and with Luther we should now inquire: Was it a brass,
or silver, or golden, or wooden key? Is the lock on the gate of heaven a
common padlock, or like the cunning contrivances which are nowadays
employed in safety vaults? Catholics are very much offended when one
speaks thus of the keys of Peter. They say sarcasm is out of place in
such holy matters. That is quite true; but, again with Luther, we would
urge that the keys of which we are speaking sarcastically are not the
keys in Matt. 16, 10, but the keys in the Catholic imagination. And
these latter one can hardly treat with reverence. The Catholics must
admit that no real key, or anything resembling a key, was given to Peter
by Christ. The language in this text is figurative: the words which
follow state the Lord's meaning in plain terms. The power of the keys is
the preaching of the forgiveness of sins to penitent sinners, and the
withholding of grace from those who do not repent. If that is admitted
to be the meaning, we need turn only one leaf in our Bible, and read
what is stated in Matt. 18, 18. There the Lord confers the same
authority on all the disciples which He is said in Matt. 16, 19 to have
conferred on Peter exclusively. On this latter occasion Peter, if the
Catholics have the right view of the keys, ought to have interposed an
objection and said to the Lord, What you give to the others is my
property. Evidently Peter did not connect the same meaning with the
words of Christ about the keys as the Catholics. Christ spoke of this
matter once more, and in terms still plainer, at the meeting on Easter
Eve, and again addressed all the disciples. Again Peter made no
complaint. (John 20.)

It should be noted , moreover, that in this entire text in Matthew the
Lord speaks in the future tense: "I will build," "I will give." The
words do not really confer a grant, but are at best a promise. It is
necessary now that the Catholics find a complement to this text in
Matthew, a text which relates that Christ actually carried out later
what He promised to Peter in Matt. 16, 18. 19. The Lord seems to have
forgotten the fulfilment of His promise, and the matter seems to have
slipped Peter's mind, too; for we are not told that he reminded the Lord
of His promise, though he asked him on another occasion what would be
the reward of his discipleship. (Matt. 19, 27 ff.)

Luther has, furthermore, appealed to the Catholics to prove from the
Scriptures that Peter ever exercised such an authority as they claim for
him. If Peter had been created the prince of the apostles or the visible
head of the Church, we should expect to find evidence in our Bible that
Peter acted as a privileged person and was so regarded by the other
apostles. But we may read through the entire book of Acts and all the
apostolic epistles: they tell us very minutely how the Church was
planted in many lands, how it grew and spread, but there is not even a
faint hint that Peter was regarded as the primate, or Pope, in his day.
When a certain question of doctrine was to be decided in which the
congregations of Paul were interested, Paul did not lay the matter
before Peter to obtain his judgment on it, but referred it to a council
of the Church. At this council many spoke, and it was not Peter's, but
James's speech which finally decided the matter. (Acts 15.) When Philip
had organized congregations in Samaria, the church at Jerusalem sent
Peter and John to visit them. Peter did not assume control of these
churches by his own right, nor had Philip in the first place directed
the Samaritans to Peter as their head. (Acts 8, 14 ff.) We have thirteen
letters of Paul, three of John, besides the Revelation, one of James,
and one of Jude. The state of the Church, its affairs and development,
are the subject-matter of all these writings, but not one of them
reveals the popedom of Peter. Yea, Peter himself has written two
epistles and appears utterly ignorant of the fact that the Lord had
created him His vicegerent and the visible head of the Church.

The Catholic argument for the God-given supremacy of their Pope,
however, becomes perfectly reckless when we bear in mind that their
banner text speaks only of Peter, but says nothing at all about Peter's
successors. If Peter possessed the supremacy that Catholics claim for
him, how and by what right did he dispose of it at his death? How did
this power become attached to Rome? On all these questions the Bible is
silent. Catholics construct a skilful argument from fragmentary and
doubtful historical records, which are not God's Word, to show that
Peter chore Rome as his episcopal see, and therewith transferred his
primacy for all time to this place. To fabricate a dogma that is to be
binding on the consciences of all Christians in such a way is daring
impudence. The devout Catholic must close his eyes to all history if he
is to believe that Christ really appointed a Pope. When he reads the
history of the Popes, and comes to the period of the papal schism, when
the Church had not only one, but two visible heads, one residing at
Rome, the other at Avignon, yea, when he reads of three contestants for
papal honors, and beholds the Church as a tricephalous monster, he must
stop thinking.

Luther regarded the papacy as the most monstrous fraud that has been
practised on Christianity. In its gradual and persistent development and
the success with which it has maintained itself through all reverses, it
impresses one as something uncanny. It requires more than human wiliness
to originate, foster, perfect, and support such a thoroughly unbiblical
and antichristian institution. Luther spoke of the papal deception as
one of the signs foreboding the end of the world. He has not spoken in
delicate terms of the Popes. His most virulent utterances are directed
against the "Vicar of Christ" at Rome. He traces the papacy to
diabolical origin. When he lays bare the shocking perversions of
revealed truths of which Rome has been guilty, and talks about the foul
practises of the Popes and their courtesans, Luther's language becomes
appalling. In a series of twenty-six cartoons Luther's friend Cranach
depicted the rule of Christ and Antichrist. The series was published
under the title "Passional Christi und Antichristi." (14, 184 ff.) By
placing alongside of one another scenes from the life of the Lord and
scenes from the lives of the Popes, the artist displayed very
effectually the contrast between the true religion which the Redeemer
had taught men by His Word and example, and the false religiousness
which was represented by the papacy. On the one side was humility, on
the other, pride; poverty was shown in contrast with wealth; meekness
was placed over and against arrogance, etc. At a glance the people saw
the chasm that yawned between the preaching and practise of Jesus and
that of His pretended representative and vicar, and they verified the
pictures showing the Pope in various attitudes from their own
experience. These cartoons became very popular, and have maintained
their popularity till the most recent times. During the "Kulturkampf"
which the German government under Bismarck waged against the aggressive
policy of the Vatican, the German painter Hofmann issued a new edition
of the "Passionale," and Emperor William I sent a copy to the Pope with
a warning letter.

Catholics complain about the rudeness and nastiness of these cartoons
and others that followed. Luther is supposed to have furnished the
rhymes and descriptive matter which accompanied them. Lather is also
cited as uttering most repulsive and scurrilous sentiments about the

What are we to say about this antipapal violence of Luther? Certainly,
it is not a pleasant subject. We are in this instance facing essentially
the same situation as that which confronted us when we studied Luther's
"coarseness" (chap. 5), and all that was said in that connection applies
with equal force to the subject now before us. One may deplore the
necessity of these passionate outbursts ever so much, but when all the
evidence in the case has been gathered and the jury begins to sift the
evidence and weigh the arguments on either side, there is at the worst a
drawn jury. All who have truly sounded "the mystery of iniquity" which
has been set up in the Church by the papacy will affirm Luther's
sentiments about the Pope as true.

It is necessary, however, to point out certain facts that may be
regarded as additional argument to what was said in chap. 5. In the
first place, the cartoon is a recognized weapon in polemics. The
struggle of the Protestants against the Pope was not altogether a
religious and spiritual one; political matters were discussed together
with affairs of religion at every German diet in those days. The age was
rude and largely illiterate. Many who could never have made any sense
out of a page of printed matter, very easily understood a picture. It
conveyed truthful information, though in a form that hurt, as cartoons
usually do, and it roused a healthy sentiment against a very malignant
evil in the Church and in the body politic. If the Popes would keep out
of politics, they and their followers would enjoy more quiet nerves.

In the second place, it should be borne in mind that the claim of papal
supremacy is no small and innocent matter. The Popes wrested to
themselves the supreme spiritual and temporal power in the world. They
pretended to be the custodians of heaven, the directors of purgatory,
and the lords of the earth. Across the history of the world in the era
of Luther is written in all directions the one word ROME. It is Rome at
the altar swinging the censer, Rome in the panoply of battle storming
trenches and steeping her hands in gore, Rome in the councils of kings,
Rome in the halls of guilds, Rome in the booth of the trader at a
town-fair, Rome in the judge's seat, Rome in the professor's chair, Rome
receiving ambassadors from, and dispatching nuncios to, foreign courts,
Rome dictating treaties to nations and arranging the cook's _menu,_ Rome
labeling the huckster's cart and the vintner's crop, Rome levying a tax
upon the nuptial bed, Rome exacting toll at the gate of heaven. Out of
the wreck of the imperial Rome of the Caesars has risen papal Rome. Once
more, though through different agents, the City of the Seven Hills is
ruling an _orbis terrarum Romanus,_ a Roman world-empire. The rule
extends through nearly a thousand years. How deftly do cunning priests
manipulate every means at their command to increase their power!
Learning, wealth, beauty, art, piety,--everything is used as an asset in
the ambitious game for absolute supremacy which the mitered vicegerent
of Christ is playing against the world. Rome's ancient pontifex maximus
--the pagan high priest of the Rome before Christ--had been a tool of
the consuls and the Caesars; the new pontiff makes the Caesars his
tools. Princes kiss his feet and hold the stirrup for him as he mounts
his bedizened palfrey. An emperor stands barefoot in the snow of the
Pope's courtyard suing pardon for having dared to govern without the
Pope's sanction.--The forests of Germany are reverberating with the
blows of axes which Rome's missionaries wield against Donar's Oaks. The
sanctuaries of pagan Germany are razed. Out of the wood of idols
crucifixes are erected along the highways. Chapels and abbeys and
cathedrals rise where the aurochs was hunted. Sturdy barbarians bend the
knee at the shrines of saints. Hosts set out to see the land where the
Lord had walked and suffered, and brave all dangers and hardships to
wrest its possession from infidel hands. But at the place where all
these activities center, and whence they are being fed, a shocking
abomination is seen: Venus is worshiped, and Bacchus, and Mercurius, and
Mars, while white-robed choirs chant praises to the mother of God, and
clouds of incense are wafted skyward. Here is a mystery--a mystery of
iniquity: the son of perdition in the temple of God! Proud, haughty
Rome, wealthy, wicked and wanton, is filling up her measure of wrath
against the day of retribution.--We are now so far removed from these
scenes that they seem unreal; in Luther's days they were decidedly real.
Rome's aggressiveness has been perceptibly checked during the last four
centuries; in Luther's days papal pretensions were a more formidable

Human arrogance may be said to have reached its limit in the papacy. The
Pope is practically a God on earth. "Sitting in the temple of God as
God, he is showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2, 4). He has been
addressed by his followers in terms of the Deity. "When the Pope thinks,
it is God thinking," wrote the papal organ of Rome, the _Civilta
Cattolica,_ in 1869. He has asserted the right to make laws for
Christians, and to dispense with the laws of the Almighty. Although this
seemed a superfluous proceeding, he declared himself infallible on July
18, 1870. Under a glowering sky, as if Heaven frowned angrily at the
Pope's attempt, Plus IX had entered St. Peter's. As a "second Moses" he
mounted the papal throne to read the Constitution "Aeternus Pater," the
document in which he made the following claims: Canon III: "If any one
says that the Roman Pontiff has only authority to inspect and direct,
but not plenary and supreme authority of jurisdiction over the entire
Church, not only in matters which relate to faith and morals, but also
in matters that belong to the discipline and government of the Church
scattered through the whole earth; or that he has only the more eminent
part of such authority, but not the full plenitude of this supreme
authority; or that this authority of his is not his ordinary authority
which he holds from no intermediary, and that it does not extend over
all churches and every single one of them, over all pastors and every
single one of them, over all the faithful and every single one of them,
--let him be accursed!" Canon IV: "With the approval of the Sacred
Council we teach and declare it to be a dogma revealed from heaven that
the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks _ex cathedra,_ that is, when, in
accordance with his supreme apostolic authority, be discharges his
office as Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, and defines a doctrine
relating to the faith or morals which is to be embraced by the entire
Church, he is, by divine assistance promised to him in the blessed
Peter, vested with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer
desired His Church to be endowed in defining the doctrine of faith and
morals; and that for this reason such definitions of the Roman Pontiff
are in their very nature, not, however, by reason of the consent of the
Church, unchangeable. If--which God may avert!--any one should presume
to contradict this definition of ours,--let him be accursed!" Amid
flashes of lightning and peals of thunder this document was read to a
council whose membership had shrunk during seven months of deliberation
from 767 to 547 attendants,--277 qualified members had never put in an
appearance,--and of these all but two had been cowed into abject
submission. When one recalls scenes like these, and remembers that
Catholic teaching on justification attacks the very heart of
Christianity, anything that Luther has said about the Popes appears
mild. Such heaven-storming and God-defying arrogance deserves to be
dragged through the mire--with apologies to the mire.

21. Luther the Translator of the Bible.

A violent attack upon Luther by Catholic writers is caused by the
admiration which Protestants manifest for Luther because he translated
the Bible into German. Catholics, of course, cannot deny that Luther did
translate the Bible, and that his translation is still a cherished
treasure of Protestants; but in order to belittle this achievement of
Luther, which inflicted incalculable damage on Rome, they talk about
Luther's unfitness for the work of Bible-translation and about the
unwarranted liberties Luther took with the Bible.

These writers claim that Luther was, in the first place, morally unfit
to undertake the translation of the Bible. To show to what desperate
means Luther's Catholic critics will resort in order to make out a case
against him, we note that one of the most recent disparagers of Luther
informs the public that Luther's original name had been Luder. This name
conveys the idea of "carrion," "beast," "low scoundrel." When Luther
began to translate the Bible, we are told, he changed his name into
"Squire George." Once before this, at the time of his entering the
university, Catholics note that he changed his name from Luder to
Lueder. But these changes of his name, they say, did not improve his
character. We are told that, while Luther was engaged upon the work of
rendering the Bible into German, he was consumed with fleshly lust and
given to laziness. Luther's own statements in letters to friends are
cited to corroborate this assertion. The conclusion which we are to draw
from these "facts" is this: Such a corrupt person could not possibly be
a proper instrument for the Holy Spirit to employ in so pious an
undertaking as the translation of the Word of God.

Catholics should be reminded that they misquote the book of
matriculation in which the students at Erfurt signed their names on
entering the university. Luther's signature is not "Lueder" but
"Ludher." Other forms of the name "Luder" and "Lueder" occur elsewhere.
But in any form the name has a more honorable derivation and meaning
than Catholic writers are inclined to give it. It is derived from
"Luither," which means as much as "People's Man," (= der Leute Herr).
Another well-known form of the same name is Lothar, which some, tracing
the derivation still further, derive from the old German Chlotachar,
which means as much as "loudly hailed among the army" (= _hluit,_ loud,
and _chari,_ army). Respectable scholars to-day so explain the name

At the Wartburg, where Luther was an exile for ten months, his name was
changed by the warden of the castle, Count von Berlepsch. This was done
the better to conceal his identity from the henchmen of Rome, who by the
imperial edict of outlawry had been given liberty to hunt Luther and
slay him where they found him.

The sexual condition of Luther during the years before his marriage was
the normal condition of any healthy young man at his age. Luther speaks
of this matter as a person nowadays would speak about it to his
physician or to a close friend. The matter to which he refers is in
itself perfectly pure: it is an appeal of nature. Do Luther's Catholic
critics mean to infer that Luther was the only monk, then or now, that
felt this call which human nature issues by the ordination of the
Creator? Rome can inflict celibacy even on priests that look like
stall-fed oxen, but she cannot unsex men. Mohammedans are less inhuman
to their eunuchs. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Luther
complains of this matter as something that disturbs him. It vexed his
pure mind, and he fought against it as not many monks of his day have
done, by fasting, prayer, and hard work. Yes, hard work! The remarks of
Luther about his physical condition are simply twisted from their true
import when Luther is represented as a victim of fleshly lust and a
habitual debauchee. Luther's Catholic critics fail to mention that
during his brief stay at the Wartburg Luther not only translated the
greater part of the New Testament, but also wrote about a dozen
treatises, some of them of considerable size, and that of his
correspondence during this period about fifty letters are still
preserved. Surely, a fairly respectable record for a lazy man!

Catholic writers also declare Luther spiritually unfit for translating
the Bible. They say that all the time that Luther spent at the Wartburg
he was haunted by the devil. He would hear strange noises and see weird
shadows flit before him. He felt that he had come under the sway of the
powers of darkness. This, we are assured, was because he had risen in
rebellion against the divine power of the papacy. The Holy Father whom
he had attacked was being avenged upon Luther by an accusing conscience.
Luther was given a foretaste of the terrors that await the reprobate. He
had become an incipient demoniac. The inference which we are to draw
from this delightful description is this: Could such an abandoned wretch
as Luther was during the exile at the Wartburg be favored with the holy
calm and composure and the heavenly light which any person must possess
who sets out upon the arduous task of telling men in their own tongue
what God has said to them in a foreign tongue?

There is hardly a period in Luther's life that is entirely free from
spiritual affliction. In this respect Luther shares the common lot of
godly men in responsible positions in Church or State during critical
times. Moreover, Luther with all Christians believed in a personal and
incessantly active devil. Luther's devil was not the denatured
metaphysical and scientific devil of modern times, which meets us in the
form of the principle of negation, or logical contradiction, or a
demoralizing tendency and influence, but an energetic devil, possessed
of an intelligence and will of his own, and going about as a roaring
lion, seeking whom he may devour. Luther accepted the teaching of the
Bible that this devil is related to men's sinning, that men can be made
to do, and are doing, his will, and are led about by the devil like
slaves. Luther knew that for His own reasons God permits the devil to
afflict His children, as happened to Job and Paul. Add to this the
reaction that must have set in after Luther had quitted the stirring
scenes and the severe ordeals through which he had passed before the
imperial court at Worms. In the silence and solitude of his secluded
asylum in the Thuringian Forest the recent events in which he had been a
principal actor passed in review before his mind, and he began to spell
out many a grave and ominous meaning from them. If it is true that the
devil loves to find a lonely man, here was his chance.

And if the devil ever had material interests at stake in attacking a
particular person, he made no mistake in assailing this isolated monk,
Martin Luther, in his moments of brooding and depression. Lastly,
Luther's physical condition at the Wartburg must be taken into
consideration. Trained to frugal habits in the cloister and habituated
to fasts and mortification of the flesh, Luther found the new mode of
living which he was compelled to adopt uncongenial. He was the guest of
a prince and was treated like a nobleman. The rich and abundant food
that was served him was a disastrous diet for him, even though he did
not yield overmuch to his appetite. He complains in his letters to
friends during the Wartburg period about his physical distress, chiefly
constipation, to which he was constitutionally prone.

But after all these elements have been noted, it must be stated that the
reports about diabolical visitations to which Luther was subject at the
Wartburg are overdrawn for a purpose by Catholics. Luther's references
to this matter in his letters written at the time suggest only spiritual
conflicts, but no physical contact with the devil. Reminiscences of his
first exile which he relates at a much later period to the guests at his
table are also exaggerated. These soul-battles, far from unfitting him
for the work of translating the Bible, were rather a fine
training-school through which God put His humble servant, and helped him
to understand the sacred text over which he sat poring in deep

Lastly, Catholic critics have pronounced Luther intellectually
disqualified for translating the Bible. His Greek scholarship, they say,
was poor. He had barely begun to study that language. It stands to
reason that his translation must be very faulty. They also emphasize the
rapidity with which Luther worked. The translation of the entire New
Testament was completed between December 8, 1521, and September 22 the
following year. (It will be remembered that Luther had returned to
Wittenberg in the first days of March, 1522, and all through the spring
and summer of that year was busily engaged, with the aid of friends, on
his German New Testament.) Finally, Catholics, in their efforts to
belittle Luther's works, have claimed that he plagiarized a German
translation already in existence, the so-called Codex Teplensis.

It seems a mere waste of time to answer these criticisms. They remind
one of a scene in the life of Columbus: the learned Catholic divines of
Salamanca had to their own satisfaction routed the bold navigator with
their arguments that he could not possibly start out by his proposed
route. No doubt, some of them contended that he never made his famous
voyage even after his return. What profit can there be in arguing the
impossibility of a thing when the reality confronts you? Luther's
translation is before the world; everybody who knows Greek can compare
it with the original text. The Teplensian translation, too, can be
looked into. In fact, all this has been done by competent scholars, and
Luther's translation has been pronounced a masterpiece. Not only does it
reproduce the original text faithfully, but it speaks a good and correct
German. Luther's translation of the Bible is now regarded as one of the
classics of German literature. It is true that the philological
attainments of the world have increased since Luther, and that
improvements in his translations have been suggested, but they do not
affect any essential teaching of the Christian religion. Bible
commentators to-day are still citing Luther's rendering as an authority.
The movement recently started in Germany to replace Luther's translation
by a modern one deserves little consideration because it originated in
quarters that are professedly hostile to Christianity. The things in
Luther's German Bible which vex Catholics most are in the original Greek
text. Luther did not manufacture them, he merely reproduced them. It is
the fact that Luther made it possible for Germans to see what is really
in the Bible that hurts. To please the Catholics, Luther should not have
translated the Bible at all.

The truth of this remark is readily seen when one examines specific
exceptions which Catholics have taken to Luther's translation. They find
fault with Luther's translation of the angel's address to Mary: "Du
Holdselige," that is, Thou gracious one, or well-favored one. The
Catholics demand that this term should be rendered "full of grace,"
because in their belief Mary is really the chief dispenser of grace.
They complain that in Matt. 3, 2 Luther has rendered the Baptist's call:
"Tut Busse," that is, Repent, instead of, Do penance. They fault Luther
for translating in Acts 19, 18: "Und verkuendigten, was sie ausgerichtet
hatten," that is, They reported what they had accomplished. Catholics
regard this text as a stronghold for their doctrine of confession,
especially for that part of it which makes satisfaction by works of
penance a part of confession; they insist that the text must be
rendered: They declared their deeds, that is, the works which they had
performed by order of their confessors. Catholics charge Luther with
having inserted a word in Rom. 4, 15, which he translates: "Das Gesetz
richtet nur Zorn an," that is, The law worketh only wrath, or nothing
but wrath. They object to the word "only," because in their view man can
by his own natural powers make himself love the Law. They set up a great
hue and cry about another insertion in Rom. 3, 28, which Luther
translates: "So halten wir es nun, dass der Mensch gerecht werde ohne
des Gesetzes Werk', allein durch den Glauben," that is, We conclude,
therefore, that a man is justified without the deeds of the Law, by
faith alone; they object to the word "alone," because in their teaching
justification is by faith plus works. It is known that there are
translations before Luther which contain the same insertion. On this
insertion Luther deserves to be heard himself. "I knew full well," he
says, "that in the Latin and Greek texts of Rom. 3, 28 the word solum
(alone) does not occur, and there was no need of the papists teaching me
that. True, these four letters sola, at which the dunces stare as a cow
at a new barn-door, are not in the text. But they do not see that they
express the meaning of the text, and they must be inserted if we wish to
clearly and forcibly translate the text. When I undertook to translate
the Bible into German, my aim was to speak German, not Latin or Greek.
Now, it is a peculiarity of our German language, whenever a statement is
made regarding two things, one of which is affirmed while the other is
negatived, to add the word solum, 'alone,' to the word 'not' or 'none.'
As, for instance: The peasant brings only grain, and no money. Again:
Indeed, I have no money now, but only grain. As yet I have only eaten,
and not drunk. Have you only written, and not read what you have
written? Innumerable instances of this kind are in daily usage. While
the Latin or the Greek language does not do this, the German has this
peculiarity, that in all statements of this kind it adds the word 'only'
(or 'alone'), in order to express the negation completely and clearly.
For, though I may say: The peasant brings grain and no money, still the
expression 'no money' is not as perfect and plain as when I say: The
peasant brings grain only, and no money. Thus the word 'alone' or 'only'
helps the word 'no' to become a complete, clear German statement. When
you wish to speak German, you must not consult the letters in the Latin
language, as these dunces are doing, but you must inquire of a mother
how she talks to her children, of the children how they talk to each
other on the street, of the common people on the market-place. Watch
them how they frame their speech, and make your translation accordingly,
and they will understand it and know that some one is speaking German to
them. For instance, Christ says: _Ex abundantia cordis os loquitur._ If
I were to follow the dunces, I would have to spell out those words and
translate: 'Aus dem Ueberfluss des Herzens redet der Mund!' Tell me,
would that be German? What German would understand that? What sort of
thing is 'abundance of heart (Ueberfluss des Herzens)' ? No German
person could explain that, unless he were to say that, possibly, the
person had enlargement of the heart, or too much heart. And that would
not be the correct meaning. 'Ueberfluss des Herzens' is not German, as
little as it is German to say 'Ueberfluss des Hauses (abundance of
house), Ueberfluss des Kachelofens (abundance of tile-oven), Ueberfluss
der Bank (abundance of bench).' This is the way the mother speaks to her
children and the common people to one another: 'Wes das Herz voll ist,
des gehet der Mund ueber.' That is the way to speak good German. That is
what I have endeavored to do, but I did not succeed nor achieve my aim
in all instances. Latin terms are an exceedingly great hindrance to one
who wishes to talk good German." (19, 974.)

In insisting on the principle that a translation must reproduce the
exact thought of a language, that idiomatic utterances of the one
language must be replaced by similar utterances in the other, and that
the genius of both the language from which and the one into which the
translation is made must be observed by the translator, Luther has every
rhetoric and grammar on his side. Those who find fault with him on this
score deserve no better titles than those which he applied to them, all
the more because he knew the true reason of their faultfinding. The
Catholic charges of Bible perversion against Luther flow, not from a
knowledge of good grammar, but from bad theology. Luther was, of course,
fundamentally in error according to the opinion of Catholics by not
making his translation from the approved and authorized Latin Vulgate,
the official Catholic Bible, but from the Greek original.

To return favor for favor, we shall note a few places where Catholics
might bring their own Bible into better harmony with the original text.
In Gen. 3, 15 their translation reads: "She shall crush thy head, and
thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." This rendering has been adopted in
order to enable them to refer this primeval prophecy of the future
Redeemer to Mary. Gen. 4, 13 they have rendered: "My iniquity is greater
than that I may deserve pardon." This is to favor their teaching of
justification on the basis of merit. The rendering "Speak not much" for
"Use not vain repetitions" in Matt. 6, 7 weakens the force of the Lord's
warning. In Rom. 14, 5 the Catholic Bible tells its readers: "Let every
man abound in his own sense," whatever the sense of that direction may
be. What the apostle really means is: "Let every man be fully persuaded
in his own mind." In Gal. 3, 24 the Catholic Bible calls the Law "our
pedagog in Christ"; the correct rendering is: "our schoolmaster to bring
us unto Christ." In the Catholic Bible the following remarkable event
takes place in Luke 16, 22: "The rich man also died: and he was buried
in hell." The pall-bearers, funeral director, and mourners at these
obsequies deserve a double portion of our sympathy. In Acts 2, 42 we are
told that the disciples at Jerusalem were persevering "in the
communication of the breaking of the bread." The last verse in
Galatians, chap. 4, is made to read: "So then, brethren, we are not the
children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the freedom wherewith
Christ has made us free." The next chapter begins: "Stand fast," etc.

Luther has expressed opinions of certain books of the Bible which
question their divine authorship. These opinions are being assiduously
canvassed by Catholic writers to prove that Luther accepted only such
portions of the Bible as suited his purpose, and rejected all the rest
as spurious. He is said to have arrogated to himself the authority to
declare any book of the Scriptures inspired or not inspired, and is,
therefore, justly regarded as the father of the higher criticism of
modern times, which has taken the Bible to pieces and destroyed its
power. But Catholic writers fail to state that the uncertainty which
Luther occasionally manifests regarding the divine origin and
authenticity of certain books of the Bible is due to the confusion which
the Catholic Church has created by decreeing that the apocryphal books
shall be considered on a par with the canonical writings of the Bible.
Setting aside the verdict of the ancient Church, and even of their
famous church-father Jerome, the Catholic Church has by an arbitrary
decree ruled the following books into the Bible: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras,
Tobit, Judith, The Rest of Esther, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus
(Sirach), Baruch, with the Epistle of Jeremiah, The Song of the Three
Holy Children, The History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of
Manasses, 1 and 2 Maccabees. These writings are called apocrypha because
their divine origin is in doubt. Scrupulously careful to keep the
divinely inspired writings separate from all other writings, no matter
how godly their contents might seem to be, the Church of the Old
Covenant excluded these writings from the canon, that is, from the list
of fully accredited inspired writings. Besides, in the Catholic Bible in
Luther's days there were apocryphal portions inserted in canonical
writings like Esther.

In the course of his studies Luther learned that certain writings in the
Catholic Bible represented as Biblical were no part of the Bible. Acting
upon the direction which the Lord gave to the Jews: "Search the
Scriptures . . . they are they which testify of Me" (John 5, 39), he
considered this a good test of the genuineness of any portion of the
Bible, viz., that it conveyed to him knowledge of Christ and the way of
salvation. The Bible, he held, can speak only for, never against Christ.
By this principle he determined for himself the respective value of
various writings in the Bible. Ecclesiastes and Jonah did not appeal to
him as very full of Christ. In the New Testament he seems strongly
attracted by the Gospel of John. But there are statements in his
writings in which he expresses a preference for Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
One must understand Luther's view-point and aim on a given occasion to
grasp these valuations. In regard to Job he expressed the opinion that
the book is dramatic rather than historical: it does not relate actual
occurrences, but rather points a moral in the form of a narrative. In
the New Testament the overgreat emphasis which he thought James placed
on works as against faith caused him to depreciate this Epistle and to
question its apostolic authorship. Luther also knew that in the earliest
centuries of the Christian era the question had been raised whether
Second Peter, Jude, James, Revelation, really belonged in the canon.

Unbiased readers will see in all these remarks of Luther nothing but the
earnest struggle of a sincere soul to get at the real Word of God. A
person may express a preference for certain portions of the Bible
without declaring all the rest of the Bible worthless. Doubts concerning
the divine character of certain, portions of the Scripture arise and are
occasionally expressed by the best of Christians. But Luther's critical
attitude toward certain books of the Bible is either misunderstood or
misrepresented when it is made to appear that Luther permanently
rejected, or tore out of his Bible, such books as Esther, Jonah,
Ecclesiastes, Second Peter, James, Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation. Some
Catholics go so far as to charge Luther with having rejected the
Pentateuch, the first five books in the Bible, because he speaks
slightingly of Moses' law as a means of justification. Not only did
Luther translate and take into his German Bible all the writings just
named, but he also cites them in his doctrinal writings as proof-texts.
In the Index of Scripture citations which Dr. Hoppe, the editor of the
only complete edition of Luther's works printed in America, has added to
the last volume we find 11 such references to Job, 12 to Ecclesiastes, 6
to Jonah, 48 to Second Peter, 18 to James, 6 to Jude, 61 to Hebrews, 17
to Revelation. We have counted only such references as show that Luther
employed these writings as divine in his doctrinal arguments. By actual
enumeration it would be found that he has referred to them much more
frequently. On Jonah, Second Peter, and Jude he wrote special
commentaries, and for all the books of the Bible he furnished
illuminating summaries, in some cases, as in Revelation, the summaries
are furnished chapter for chapter. This goes to prove that Luther had
ultimately reached very clear and settled opinions regarding the
authenticity and divine character of those books of the Bible which he
is charged with having blasphemously criticized. Luther's criticism of
these portions of the Bible is the most respectable criticism that has
come to our knowledge. It shows his scrupulous care not to admit
anything as being God's Word of the divine origin of which he was not
fully convinced. It is Rome, not Luther, that has vitiated the Bible and
created confusion in Christian minds, by admitting into the sacred
volume portions which do not belong there.

Luther's questioning attitude towards the books of the Bible, which we
have named is the attitude of the early Christians. There was doubt
expressed in the first centuries as to the genuineness of these books,
and it required convincing information in those days when facilities for
communication were poor to secure the adoption of the books which we now
have in the Bible. Why do not the Catholics embrace the early Christians
in their charge of Bible mutilation? Nor were those early Christians who
questioned the divine authorship of certain books about the origin of
which they had no definite knowledge any less Christian than those who
had convincing information about them. For the former possessed in the
writings which they had accepted as authentic the same truths which the
latter had embraced.

Luther voices his profound reverence for the Scriptures in innumerable
places throughout his writings. "The Holy Scriptures," he says, "did not
grow on earth." (7, 2094.) Again: "When studying the Scriptures, you
must reflect that it is God Himself who is speaking to you." (3, 21.)
Again: "The Scriptures are older and possess greater authority than all
Councils and Fathers. Moreover, all the angels side with God and the
Scriptures. . . . If age, duration, greatness, multitude [of followers],
holiness, are inducements to believe something, why do we believe men
who live but a short time rather than God, who is the Oldest, the
Greatest, the Holiest, the Mightiest of all? Why do we not believe all
the angels, since a single one of them has greater authority than the
Pope? Why do we not believe the Bible, when one passage of Scripture
outweighs all the books in the world?" (19, 1734.) Again: "The Bible
alone is the true lord and master over all writings on earth. If this
is not so, of what use is the Bible? Then let us cast it aside, and be
satisfied with the books and teachings of men." (15, 1481.) Again: "All
Scripture is full of Christ, the Son of God and Mary. Its sole object is
to teach us to know Him as a distinct person, and that through Him we
may in eternity behold the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God. The
Scriptures are ajar to him who has the Son, and in the same proportion
as his faith in Christ increases the Scriptures become clear to him" (3,
1959.) How little Luther would have in common with the destructive
higher critics of the Bible in our day, we can gather from the following
statement: "If cutting and tearing the Bible to pieces were a great art,
what a famous Bible would I produce! Especially if I were to lay my hand
on the important passages, those on which the articles of our faith rest.
. . . My position, then, is this: In view of the fact that our faith is
supported by Holy Writ, we must not depart from its words as they read,
nor from the order in which they are placed. . . . Otherwise, what is to
become of the Bible?" (20, 213.)

22. Luther a Preacher of Violence against the Hierarchy.

In his fight against papal supremacy Luther discovered that the Roman
priesthood was the Pope's chief support. The principle of community of
interests had knitted both the higher and the lower clergy, the
cardinals, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, parish priests, monks,
etc., together into one firmly compacted society. All its members
understood that they were working in a common cause, and kept in
constant and close rapport with one another: What concerned one
concerned all the rest. Each aided and abetted the other, and all strove
jointly to exalt their master, the Pope. Like a huge net the rule of
priests was spread over mankind, and all men, with their spiritual and
secular interests, were caught in this net. The system was called a
hierarchy, that is, a holy government. The priesthood and the holy
orders were the Pope's collateral. All its members derived what
authority they possessed from the Pope; their fortunes were bound up in
the Pope's. This priest-rule Luther overthrew by causing men to see the
liberty with which Christ has made them free. Catholic critics claim
that by so doing Luther rebelled against an ordinance of God. We have
shown in chapter 18 that Luther acknowledges in the Church of Christ a
ministry that exists by divine appointment. Hence the Catholic charge
that Luther revolted from God when he disputed the divine right of the
hierarchy is silly.

However, Luther is said to have "recklessly encouraged the destruction
of the episcopate, and openly commanded sacrilege and murder" to mobs.
The appeal of Luther that the _rule_ of bishops be exterminated is
interpreted to mean that the bishops be exterminated. This is one of the
most wanton charges that could be preferred against Luther. By the
Theses against Tetzel the attention of many prominent men in Germany was
attracted to Luther. Princes and noblemen of the Empire had for some
time been studying from a secular point of view the evils which Luther
had begun to attack on spiritual grounds. These men understood the
character of the Roman hierarchy much better than Luther. They saw at
once that Luther's action would lead to serious complication that might
ultimately have to be settled with the sword. When Luther was still
dreaming about convincing the Pope with arguments from Scripture, German
noblemen were preparing to defend him against physical violence. They
knew that the hierarchy would not without a fierce struggle submit to
any curtailment of their power. They offered Luther armed support.
Luther recoiled with horror from this suggestion. In a letter from the
Wartburg which he wrote to his friend Spalatin who was still tarrying at
Worms, Luther refers to one of these warlike knights as follows: "What
Hutten has in mind you can see [from the writings of the knight which he
enclosed]. I would not like to see men fight for the Gospel with force
and bloodshed. I have answered that parson (_dem Menschen_) accordingly.
By the Word the world has been overcome, the Church has been preserved;
by the Word it will also be restored. As to Antichrist, he began his
rule without physical force, and will also be destroyed without physical
force, by the Word." (15, 2506.) The letter from which these words are
quoted is dated January 16, 1522. Nine months before this date, on May
14, when he had been on the Wartburg about ten days, Luther writes to
the same party: "It is for good reasons that I have not answered your
letter ere this: I hesitated from fear that the report recently gone out
of my being held captive might prompt somebody to intercept my letters.
A great many things are related about me at this place; however, the
opinion is beginning to prevail that I was captured by friends sent for
this purpose from Franconia. To-morrow the safe-conduct granted me by
the emperor expires. I am sorry that, as you write me, there is an
intention to apply the very severe [imperial] edict also for the purpose
of exploring men's consciences; not on my account, but because they [the
papists] are ill-advised in this and will bring misfortune on their own
heads, and because they continue to load themselves with very great
odium. Oh, what hatred will this shameless violence kindle! However,
they may have their way; perhaps the time of their visitation is near.
--So far I have not heard from our people either at Wittenberg or
elsewhere. About the time of our arrival at Eisenach the young men [the
students] at Erfurt had, during the night, damaged a few priests'
dwellings, from indignation because the dean of St. Severus Institute, a
great papist, had caught Magister Draco, a gentleman who is favorably
inclined to us, by his cassock and had publicly dragged him from the
choir, pretending that he had been excommunicated for having gone to
meet me at my arrival at Erfurt. Meanwhile people are fearing greater
disturbances; the magistrates are conniving, for the local priests are
in ill repute, and it is being reported that the artisans are allying
themselves with the student-body. The prophetic saying seems about to
come true which runs: Erfurt is another Prague. [There was rioting in
Prague in the days of Hus, whom Rome burned at the stake.]--I was told
yesterday that a certain priest at Gotha has met with rough treatment
because his people had bought certain estates (I do not know which), in
order to increase the revenue of the church, and, under pretext of their
ecclesiastical immunity, had refused to pay the incumbrances and taxes
on the same. We see that the people, as also Erasmus writes, are unable
and unwilling any longer to bear the yoke of the Pope and the papists.
And still we do not cease coercing and burdening them, although--now
that everything has been brought to light--we have lost our reputation
and their good will, and our former halo of sanctity can no longer avail
or exert the influence which it exerted formerly. Heretofore we have
increased hatred by violence and by violence have suppressed it;
however, whether we can continue suppressing it experience will show."
(15, 2510.) To Melanchthon he wrote about this time: "I hear that at
Erfurt they are resorting to violence against the dwellings of priests.
I am surprised that the city council permits this and connives at it,
and that our dear friend Lang keeps silent. For although it is good that
those impious men who will not desist are kept in check, still this
procedure will bring the Gospel into disrepute, and will cause men
justly to spurn it. I would write to Lang, but as yet I dare not. For
such a display of friendliness to our cause as these people show is very
offensive to me, because it clearly shows that we are not yet worthy
servants in God's sight, and that Satan is mocking and laughing at our
efforts [of reform]. Oh, how I do fear that all this is like the fig
tree in the parable, of which the Lord, Matt. 21, predicts that it will
merely sprout before the Day of Judgment, but will bear no fruit. What
we teach is, indeed, the truth; however, it amounts to nothing if we do
not practise what we preach." (15, 1906.)

Disquieting rumors of excesses that were being perpetrated by radical
followers of the evangelical teaching had reached Luther also from
Wittenberg. To obtain a clear insight into the actual state of affairs,
he made a secret visit to his home town in the beginning of December,
1521. Returning to his exile, he wrote his _Faithful Admonition to All
Christians to Avoid Tumult and Rebellion._ In this treatise Luther
reasons as follows: The papacy, with all its great institutions,
cloisters, universities, laws and doctrines, is nothing but lies. On
lies it was raised, by lies it is supported, with lies and frauds and
cheats it deceives, misleads, and oppresses men. Accordingly, all that
is necessary to overthrow its dominion is to recognize its lying
character, and to publish it and the papacy will collapse as if blown
aside by the breath of the Almighty, as Scripture says it shall happen
to Antichrist. To start a riot against the papists would never improve
them, and would only cause them to vilify the cause of their opponents.
In times of tumult, people lose their reason and do more harm to
innocent people than to the guilty. Public wrongs should be redressed by
the magistrates, who are vested with authority for that purpose. No
matter how just a cause may be, it never justifies rioting. Luther
declares that he will rather side with those who suffer in, than with
those who start, a riot. Rioting is forbidden in God's Law (Dent. 16,
20; 32, 35). This particular rioting against the papists has been
instigated by the devil, in order to divert people's minds from the real
spiritual issues of the times, and to bring the cause of the Gospel into
disrepute. Luther feels these tumultuous proceedings as a disgrace.
"People who read and understand my teaching correctly," he says, "do not
start riots. They were not taught such things by me. If any engage in
such proceedings and drag my name into it, what can I do to stop them?
How many things are the papists doing in the name of Christ which Christ
never commanded!" Luther begs all who glory in the name of Christians to
conduct themselves as Paul demands 2 Cor. 6, 3: "Giving no offense in
anything, that the ministry be not blamed." (10, 360 ff.) Whoever can,
ought to treat himself to the reading of this fine treatise of the
exiled monk of Wittenberg.

The iconoclastic uprising which broke out in Wittenberg in the closing
days of the month of February, 1522, finally decided Luther, at the risk
of his life, to quit his exile and to fight the devil, who was trying to
subvert his good doctrine by such wicked practises. The world knows that
it was Luther who quelled the riot in his town. Luther's face was ever
sternly set against those who wanted to wage the Lord's wars with the
devil's weapons. No murder or sacrilege that was committed in those days
can be laid at the door of Luther's teaching.

The Catholics are trying to divert attention from their own unwarranted
and violent proceedings by charging Luther with preaching a war of
extermination against their hierarchy. How did they treat the just
claims and reasonable demands of the German nation for measures that
were admitted to be crying needs of the times? No German diet met but a
long list of grievances was submitted by the suffering people. It was of
no avail. The haughty clergy rode over the people's rights and prayers
rough-shod. The tyrannous devices which their cunning had invented were
executed with brazen impudence. How had they treated simple laymen in
whose possession a Bible was found? What was their inquisitorial court
but the anteroom to holy butchers' shambles, the legal vestibule to
murder that had been sanctioned by the Popes? How had they treated
Luther? If the papal nuncio at the Diet of Worms had had his way with
the emperor and the princes, Luther would not have left that city alive.
They openly declared to the emperor that he was not obliged to keep his
plighted word for a safe-conduct to a heretic. These people come now at
this late day prating about violence that they have suffered from this
sacrilegious and bloodthirsty Luther. They themselves were the
perpetrators of the most appalling violence against God and men: their
whole system rests, as Johann Gerhard in his famous _Confessio
Catholica_ rightly asserts, on _Fraus et Vis,_ that is, Fraud and

23. Luther, Anarchist and Despot All in One.

Extremes met, with most disastrous effect-so Catholic writers tell us-in
Luther's views of the political rights of men. At one time he was so
outspoken in his condemnation of the oppression which the common people
were suffering from the clergy, the nobility, and their aristocratic
governors that he incited them to discontent with their humble lot in
life, to unrest, and to open rebellion against their magistrates. At
another time he became the spokesman for the most pronounced absolutism
and despotism. He turned suddenly against the very people whose cause
he had so signally championed, and who hailed him as their prophet and
leader. When the poor, downtrodden people needed him most, Luther
cowardly deserted them, and by frenzied utterances excited the nobility
to slay the common people without mercy in the most ruthless fashion,
and even promised the lords whom he had denounced as tyrants heaven for
enacting the barbaric cruelties to which he was urging them. This is the
Catholic portrayal of Luther during the Peasants' War.

The relation of the peasant uprising to Luther's preaching is grossly
misrepresented when the impression is created that Luther had before
this sad upheaval worked hand in glove with the malcontent rustics for
the overthrow of the government. Disturbances of this kind had been
periodical occurrences in Europe for many hundreds of years. The heavy
taxes and tithes, and the forced labor which the lords exacted from
their tenants, who were little better than serfs, the galling
restrictions in regard to hunting, fishing, gathering wood in the
forests which they had imposed on them, the foreign Roman law under
which they tried cases in court, and, in general, their haughty and
contemptuous bearing toward the common people had for many generations
created strained relations between the upper and the lower classes. The
estrangement which developed into open defiance existed among the
peasants before Luther had begun to preach. Nor can Luther's teaching be
said to have fanned the slumbering embers of discontent into a huge
flame. The liberty of a Christian man which he had proclaimed was not
such liberty as the peasants demanded and wrested to themselves when the
revolt had reached its height. Luther had consistently taught that
obedience to the government is a Christian duty. He had, as we have
shown in the preceding chapter, warned with telling force against riot,
tumult, and sedition. He had deprecated any allying of the cause of the
Gospel and of spiritual freedom with the carnal strivings of disaffected
men for mere temporal and secular advantages. He had reminded Christians
that it was their duty to suffer wrong rather than do wrong.

On the other hand, Luther had pleaded the cause of the poor before the
lords, and had earnestly warned the nobility not to continue their
tyranny, but conciliate their subjects by yielding to their just
demands. He had fearlessly pointed out to the lords what was galling in
their conduct to the common, people-their pride and luxurious living,
their disregard of the commonest rights of man, their despotic dealings
with their humble subjects, their rude behavior and exasperating conduct
toward the men, women, and children whom they made toil and slave for

Maintaining, thus, an honest equipoise between the two contrary forces,
and dealing out even-handed justice to both, Luther was conscious of
serving the true interests of either side and laboring for the common
welfare of all. With his implicit faith in the power of God's Word he
was hoping for a gradual improvement of the situation. The conflict
would be adjusted in a quiet and orderly manner by the truth obtaining
greater and greater sway over the minds of men. Luther had had no
inkling of an impending clash between the peasants and the nobility when
the revolt broke out with the fury of a cyclone. Luther was shocked. He
promptly hurried to the scene of the disturbances by request of the
Count of Mansfeld. It speaks volumes for the integrity of Luther that
both sides were willing to permit him to arbitrate their differences.
The invitation came originally from the peasants and was addressed to
Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and the Elector Frederick jointly, but
it was not acted on until Count Albert invited Luther to come to
Eisleben. The _Exhortation to Peace on the Twelve Articles of the
Peasants_ which Luther issued, after having investigated the situation,
rebukes the lords with considerably more sternness than the commoners,
but makes fair suggestions for the composition of the differences.
Before Luther takes up the "Twelve Articles of the Peasants" for
detailed discussion, he informs them that he considers their whole
procedure wrong, even if all their demands were just, because they have
resorted to force to secure their right. A beautiful sentiment for an
anarchist to utter, is it not? In Article I the peasants demanded
freedom to elect their own pastors, who were to preach the Gospel
without any human additions. That this request should be embodied in the
peasants' plea for their political rights, and that it should be made
the foremost demand, is highly suggestive as to the principal cause of
their unrest. To this article Luther gave his unreserved endorsement.
Article II sought to regulate the income of priests-again a very
suggestive request: preachers were to receive for their sustenance no
more than the tithes, the remainder of the church-income was to be set
aside so as to render it unnecessary to tax the poor in war-times. On
this point Luther held that the tithes belong to the government, and to
turn them over to any one else would be simple robbery. Article III
demanded the abolition of serfdom, however, as a test whether the
Christianity of the lords was genuine. The peasants implied that their
political liberty had been secured by Christ, and that the lords were
withholding it from them. This argument Luther rejected as a carnal
perversion of the Gospel. Articles IV-X submitted these demands: The
poor man is to be accorded the right to fish and hunt; all wooded lands
usurped by bishops or noblemen without making payment therefor are to
revert to the community, and in case payment had been made, a settlement
is to be effected by mutual agreement; burdensome exactions, services,
taxes, and fines are to be rescinded; court trials are to be free from
partiality and jealousy; meadows and lands which of right belong to the
community are to be returned by their present owners. On these points
Luther suggests that the opinions of good lawyers be obtained. Article
XI deals with the right of heriot, or the death-tax imposed upon the
widow or heir of a tenant. This was approved. In the last article the
peasants express their readiness to withdraw any or all of these
requests that are shown to be contrary to Scripture, and ask permission
to substitute others for them.

Luther was in a fair way of bringing about an amicable settlement of the
differences. Philip of Hesse had at the same time come to a full
agreement with the peasants in his domains, and peace seemed near, when
the real genius of the whole peasant movement, Muenzer, interfered.
Luther had suspected for some time that this unscrupulous agitator was
spreading the teaching of unbridled license under pretense of preaching
liberty, and that the mystical piety which he was reported as
practising, his leaning towards the reform movement, and his references
to Luther and the "new Gospel," were nothing but the angel's garment
which a very wicked devil had borrowed for purposes of deception. When
Muenzer at the head of hordes of men who through his inflammatory
speeches had been turned into unreasoning brutes was spreading ruin and
desolation along his path, wiping out in a few days the products of the
patient labors of generations, subverting the fundamental principles of
honesty, justice, and morality on which the organized public life of the
community and the private life of the individual must rest, and rapidly
changing even the well-meaning and reasonable among the peasants into
frenzied madmen, Luther recognized that conciliatory measures and
arbitration would not avail with these mobs. His duty as a teacher of
God's Word and as a loyal subject of his government demanded prompt and
stern action from him. However, back of the terrible mien with which
Luther now faced the wild peasants there is a heart of love; in the
appalling language which he now uses against men whose cause he had
befriended there is discernible a note of pity for the poor deluded
wretches who thought they were rearing a paradise when they were
building bedlam. Above all, the great heart of Luther is torn with
anguish over the shame that is now being heaped on the blessed Gospel of
his dear Lord. Luther did not desert the peasants, but they deserted
him; they were the traitors, not he.

There is a diabolical streak in the character of Thomas Muenzer. He
parades as the People's Man, and the German people in the sixteenth
century never had a worse enemy. His fluent speech and great oratory
seemed honey to the peasants, but they were the veriest poison. He
spoke the language of a saint, and lived the life of a profligate and a
reprobate. It is hard to believe that his error was merely the honest
fanaticism of a blind bigot; there is a malign element in it that
betrays conscious wickedness. This raving demon should be studied more
by Catholics when they investigate the Peasants' Revolt. They have their
eyes on Luther; his every word and action are placed under the
microscope. But the real culprit is treated as the hero in a tragedy. He
was a blind enthusiast; he mistook his aims; he selected wrong means and
methods for achieving his aim. He did wickedly, and we may have to curse
him some for decency's sake, but be deserves pity, too, for he was the
misguided pupil of that arch-heretic Luther. That is Catholic equity in
estimating Luther's share in the peasant uprising. We only note in
conclusion that Thomas Muenzer died in the arms of the alone-saving
Church, a penitent prodigal that had returned to the bosom of "Holy
Mother." Luther did not die thus, and that makes a great deal of

Catholics father upon Luther not only the Peasants' Revolt, but every
revolutionary movement which since then has occurred in Europe. The
political unrest which has at various times agitated the masses in
France, England, and Germany, the changes in the government which were
brought about in such times, are all attributed to the revolutionary
tendencies in Luther's writings. So is the disrespect shown by citizens
of the modern State to persons in authority, the bold and scathing
criticism indulged in by subjects against their government. There is
hardly a political disturbance anywhere but what ingenious Catholics
will manage to connect with Luther. Read Luther, and you will inevitably
become an anarchist.

But Luther is also credited with the very opposite of anarchism. When
the Peasants' Revolt had been put down by the lords, they began to
strengthen their despotic power over the people, and a worse tyranny
resulted than had existed before. It is pointed out that absolutism, the
claim of kings that they are ruling by divine right and are not
responsible to the people, has taken firm root in all Protestant
countries, and that even the Protestant churches in these countries are
mere fixtures of the State. This, too, we are asked to believe, is a
result of Luther's teaching. Luther is not only the spiritual
ring-leader of mobs, but also the sycophant of despots. It is
particularly offensive to Catholics to see Luther hailed as the champion
of political liberty. Let us try and make up our minds about Luther's
views of the secular government from Luther's own words. Dr. Waring, in
his _Political Theories of Luther,_ has made a very serviceable
collection of statements of Luther on this matter.

"In his tract on Secular Authority (10, 374 ff.) Luther maintains that
the State exists by God's will and institution; for the Apostle Paul
writes: '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 resiseth [tr. note: sic] the ordinance of
God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation' (Rom.
13, 1. 2). The Apostle Peter exhorts: 'Submit yourselves to every
ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king, as
supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the
punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well' (1
Pet. 2, 13. 14). The right of the sword has existed since the beginning
of the world. When Cain killed his brother Abel, he was so fearful of
being put to death himself that God laid a special prohibition thereupon
that no one should kill him, which fear he would not have had, had he
not seen and heard from Adam that murderers should be put to death.
Further, after the Flood, God repeated and confirmed it in explicit
language, when He declared: 'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall
his blood be shed' (Gen. 9, 6). This law was ratified later by the law
of Moses: 'But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay
him with guile, thou shalt take him from Mine altar, that he may die'
(Ex. 21, 14); and yet again: 'Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for
wound, stripe for stripe' (Ex. 21, 23-25). Christ confirmed it also when
He said to Peter in the garden: 'All they that take the sword shall
perish with the sword' (Matt. 26, 52). The words of Christ: 'But I say
unto you, That ye resist not evil' (Matt. 5, 38. 39), 'Love your
enemies, . . . do good to them that hate you' (Matt. 5, 44), and similar
passages, having great weight, might seem to indicate that Christians
under the Gospel should not have a worldly sword; but the human race is
to be divided into two classes, one belonging to the kingdom of God and
the other to the kingdom of the world. To the first class belong all
true believers in Christ and under Christ, for Christ is King and Lord
in the kingdom of God (Ps. 2, 6, and throughout the Scriptures). These
people need no worldly sword or law, for they have the Holy Ghost in
their hearts who suffer wrong gladly and themselves do wrong to no one.
There is no need of quarrel or contention, of court or punishment. St.
Paul says: 'The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless
and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners' (1 Tim. 1, 9), for the
righteous man of himself does everything that the law demands, and more;
but the unrighteous do nothing right, and they therefore need the law to
teach, constrain, and compel them to do right. A good tree requires no
instruction or law that it may bring forth good fruit, but its nature
causes it to bear fruit after its kind. Thus are all Christians so
fashioned through the Spirit and faith that they do right naturally,
more than man could teach them with all laws. All those who are not
Christians in this particular sense belong to the kingdom of the world.
Inasmuch as there are few who are true Christians in faith and life, God
established, in addition to the kingdom of God, another rule-that of
temporal power and civil government, and gave it the sword to compel the
wicked to be orderly. It is for this worldly estate that law is given.
Christ rules without law, alone through the Spirit, but worldly
government protects the peace with the sword. Likewise, true Christians,
although not in need of it for themselves, nevertheless render cheerful
obedience to this government, through love for the others who need it. A
Christian himself may wield the sword when called upon to maintain peace
among men and to punish wrong. This authority, which is God's handmaid,
as St. Paul says, is as necessary and good as other worldly callings.
God therefore instituted two regimens, or governments-the spiritual,
which, through the Holy Ghost under Christ, makes Christians and pious
people, and the worldly or temporal, which warns the non-Christians and
the wicked that they must maintain external peace. We must clearly
distinguish between these two powers and let them remain-the one that
makes pious, the other that makes for external peace and protects
against wickedness. Neither one is sufficient in the world without the
other; for without the spiritual estate of Christ no one can be good
before God through the worldly estate. Where civil government alone
rules, there would be hypocrisy, though its laws were like God's
commandments themselves; for without the Holy Spirit in the heart none
can be pious, whatever good works he may perform. Where the spiritual
estate rules over land and people, there will be unbridled wickedness
and opportunity for all kinds of villainy, for the common world cannot
accept or understand it.-But it may be said, If, then, Christians do not
need the temporal power or law, why does St. Paul say to all Christians:
'Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers' (Rom. 13, 1)? In
reply to this, it is to be said again that Christians among themselves
and by and for themselves require no law or sword, for to them they are
not necessary or useful. But because a true Christian on earth lives for
and serves not himself, but his neighbor, so he also, from the nature of
his spirit, does that which he himself does not need, but which is
useful and necessary to his neighbor. The sword is a great and necessary
utility to the whole world for the maintenance of peace, the punishment
of wrong, and the restraint of the wicked. So the Christian pays tribute
and tax, honors civil authority, serves, assists, and does everything he
can do to maintain that authority with honor and fear." (p. 73 ff.)

In his _Appeal to the German Nobility_ (10, 266 ff.) Luther says:
"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 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, to the spiritual estate,-if this
were so, then we ought to restrain tailors, cobblers, masons,
carpenters, cooks, 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 do their work without restraint, what do the Romanist scribes
mean by their laws? They mean that they withdraw themselves from the
operation of temporal Christian power, simply in order that they may be
free to do evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter said: 'There shall be
false teachers among you, . . . and through covetousness shall they with
feigned words make merchandise of you' (2 Pet. 2, 1. 3). Therefore the
temporal Christian power must exercise its office without let or
hindrance, without considering whom it may strike, whether Pope or
bishop, or priest. Whoever is guilty, let him suffer for it.-Whatever
the ecclesiastical law has said in opposition to this is merely the
invention of Romanist arrogance. For this is what St. Paul says to all
Christians: 'Let every soul' (I presume, including the Popes) 'be
subject unto the higher powers. . . . Do that which is good, and thou
shalt have praise of the same, . . . 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. 13, 1-4). Also St. Peter: 'Submit yourselves
to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; . . . for so is the will
of God' (1 Pet. 2, 13. 15). He has also foretold that men would come who
would despise government (2 Pet. 2), as has come to pass through
ecclesiastical law.-Although the work of the temporal power relates to
the body, it yet belongs to the spiritual estate. Therefore it must do
its duty without let or hindrance upon all members of the whole body, to
punish or urge, as guilt may deserve, or need may require, without
respect of Pope, bishops, or priests, let them threaten or excommunicate
as they will. That is why a guilty priest is deprived of his priesthood
before being given over to the secular arm; whereas this would not be
right if the secular powers 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 honor be free, and
not mine, seeing that we are equal as Christians, and have received
alike baptism, faith, spirit, and all things? If a priest is killed, the
country is laid under an interdict; why not also if a peasant is killed?
Whence comes this great difference among equal Christians? Simply from
human laws and inventions." (p. 96 ff.) This citation deserves to be
specially pondered in view of the Catholic charge that Luther was a
defender of absolutism, the divine right of kings. If Rome's attitude to
kingcraft be studied, it will be found that Rome has been the supporter
of the most tyrannous rulers. It is well, too, to remember Rome's claim
of a "divine right" of priests. Special laws of exemption and immunity,
laws creating special privileges for priests, are not unknown in the
annals of the world's history. Whoever can, ought to read the entire
_Appeal to the German Nobility;_ it will tell him many things that
explain the Peasants' Revolt.

In his _Severe Booklet against the Peasants_ (16, 71 ff.) Luther
explains the reasons for the harsh language which he uses against the
marauders. "He says that the maxims dealing with mercy belong to the
kingdom of God and among Christians, not to the kingdom of the world,
which is the instrument of godly wrath upon the wicked. The instrument
in the hand of the State is not a garland of roses or a flower of love,
but a naked sword. As I declared at the time, he says, so declare I yet:
Let every one who can, as he may be able, cut, stab, choke, and strike
the stiff-necked, obdurate, blind, infatuated peasants; that mercy may
be shown towards those who are destroyed, driven away, and misled by the
peasants; that peace and security may be had. It is better to
mercilessly cut off one member rather than lose the entire body through
fire or plague. Furthermore, the insurgents are notoriously faithless,
perjured, disobedient, riotous thieves, robbers, murderers, and
blasphemers, so that there is not one of them but has well deserved
death ten times over without mercy. If my advice had been followed in
the very beginning, and a few lives had been taken, before the
insurrection assumed such large proportions, thousands of lives would
have been saved. The experience should make all parties involved wise."
-"If it be said," he continues, "that I myself teach lawlessness, when I
urge all who can to cut down the rioters, my booklet was not written
against common evil-doers, but against seditious rioters. There is a
marked distinction between such a one and a murderer or robber and other
ordinary criminals; for a murderer or similar criminal lets the head and
civil authority itself stand, and attacks merely its members or its
property. He, indeed, fears the government. Now, while the head remains,
no individual should attack the murderer, because the head [civil
authority] call punish him, but should wait for the judgment and
sentence of that authority to which God has given the sword and office.
But the rioter attacks the head itself, so that his offense bears no
comparison with that of the murderer." (p. 147.)

Under the restriction under which this book was written as regards
space, we cannot enter as we would like to upon an exhaustive
discussion of Luther's political views. Luther was in this respect the
most enlightened European citizen of his age. He has voiced sound
principles on the rights of the State and its limitations and the
objects for which the State exists and does not exist, on the separation
of Church and State, on the removal of bad rulers from authority, and
especially on liberty. The power of the State he values because it
secures to each individual citizen the highest degree of liberty
possible in this life. Those who represent Luther as a defender of
anarchy or tyranny either do not know what they are talking about, or
they do it for a purpose, and deserve the contempt of all intelligent

24. Luther the Destroyer of Liberty of Conscience.

Catholics claim that Luther's work, though ostensibly undertaken in
behalf of religious liberty, necessarily had to result in the very
opposite of freedom. They point to the fact that in most countries which
accepted the Protestant faith the Church became subservient to the
State. These state churches of Europe, however, which in the view of
Catholics are the product of Luther's reform movement, are to be
regarded as only one symptom of the intolerance which characterizes the
entire activity of Luther. He had indeed adopted the principle of
"private interpretation" of the Scriptures, however, only for himself.
He was unwilling to accord to others the right which he claimed for
himself. All who dissented from his teaching were promptly attacked by
him, and that, in violent and scurrilous language. The Protestant party
in the course of time became a warring camp of Ishmaelites, Luther
fighting everybody and everybody fighting Luther. Religious intolerance
and persecution became the prevailing policy of Protestants in their
dealings with other Protestants. The burning of Servetus at Geneva by
Calvin was the logical outcome of Luther's teaching. The maxim, _Cuius
regio, eius religio,_ that is, The prince, or government, in whose
territory I reside determines my religion, became a Protestant tenet.
America got its first taste of religious liberty, not from the original
Protestant settlers, but from the Catholic colonists whom Lord
Baltimore brought to Maryland, etc., etc.

The view here propounded is in plain contravention of what the world has
hitherto believed, and to a very large extent still believes, regarding
Luther's attitude toward the right of the individual to choose his own
religion and to determine for himself matters of faith. The position
which Luther occupies in his final answer before the Emperor at Worms is
generally believed to state Luther's position on the question of
religious liberty in a nutshell. "Unless convinced by the Word of God or
by cogent reason" that he was wrong, he declared at the Diet of Worms,
he could not and would not retract what he had written. The individual
conscience, he maintained, cannot be bound. Each man must determine the
meaning of the Word for himself. And the inevitable result of this
principle is individual liberty. This principle Luther maintained to the
end of his life. His appeal to the magistrates to suppress the Peasants'
Revolt was not a call to suppress the false teachings of the peasants,
but their disorderly conduct. Against their spiritual aberrations Luther
proposed to wage war with his written and oral testimony. "The peace and
order of the State must be maintained against disorder, personal
violence, destruction of property, public immorality, and treason,
though they come in the guise of religion. The State must grant liberty
of conscience, freedom of speech, and the privilege of the press. These
are inalienable rights belonging alike to every individual, subject only
to the limitation that they are not permitted to encroach upon the
rights of others. The natural, the almost inevitable, consequence of the
declaration and recognition of these principles was eventually the
establishment of modern constitutional law. It was not in consequence of
his teaching, but merely in spite of it, that for the next two centuries
(in certain instances) monarchical government became more autocratic, as
feudalism was being transformed into civil government. . . . All through
Luther's writings, and in his own acts as well, is to be read the right
of the individual to think and believe in matters political, religious,
and otherwise as he sees proper. His is the right to read the Bible, and
any other book he may desire. He has the right to confer and counsel,
with others, to express and declare his views _pro_ and _con,_ in speech
and print, so long as he abides by, and remains within, the laws of the
land. Luther firmly believed in the liberty of the individual as to
conscience, speech, and press. The search for truth must be
untrammeled." (Waring, _Political Theories of Luther,_ p. 235 f.)

This testimony of one who has made a careful investigation of Luther's
writings on the subject of liberty of conscience is, of course, not
first-hand evidence; it merely shows what impressions people take away
from their study of Luther. Let us hear Luther himself. In the _Appeal
to the German Nobility_ he says: "No one can deny that it is breaking
God's commandments to violate faith and a safe-conduct, even though it
be promised to the devil himself, much more then in the case of a
heretic. . . . Even though John Hus were a heretic, however bad he may
have been, yet he was burned 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 of study, but he that could get another into his power
could burn him." (10, 332.)

In his treatise _On the Limits of Secular Authority,_ Luther says:
"Unbearable loss follows where the secular authority is given too much
room, and it is likewise not without loss where it is too restricted.
Here it punishes too little; there it punishes too much. Although it is
more desirable that it offend on the side of punishing too little than
that it punish too severely; because it is always better to permit a
knave to live than to put a good man to death, inasmuch as the world
still has and must have knaves, but has few good men.

"In the first place, it is to be noted that the two classes of the human
race, one of whom is in the kingdom of God under Christ, and the other
in the kingdom of the world under civil authority, have two kinds of
laws; for every kingdom must have its laws and its rights, and no
kingdom or _regime_ can stand without law, as daily experience shows.
Temporal government has laws that do not reach farther than over person
and property, and what is external on the earth; for God will not permit
any one to rule over the soul of man but Himself. Therefore, where
temporal power presumes to give laws to the soul, it touches God's rule,
and misleads and destroys the souls. We wish to make that so clear that
men may comprehend it, in order that our knights, the princes and
bishops, may see what fools they are when seeking to force people by
their laws and commandments to believe thus or so. When a man lays a
human law or commandment upon the soul, that it must believe this or
that, as the man prescribes, it is assuredly not God's Word. . . .
Therefore it is a thoroughly foolish thing to command a man to believe
the Church, the Fathers, the councils, although there is nothing on it
from God's Word.

"Now tell me, how much sense does the head have that lays down a command
on a matter where it has no authority? Who would not hold as of unsound
mind the person who would command the moon to shine when it wishes? How
fitting would it be if the Leipzig authorities would lay down laws for
us at Wittenberg, or we at Wittenberg for the people of Leipzig?
Moreover, let men thereby understand that every authority should and may
concern itself only where it can see, know, judge, sentence, transform,
and change; for what kind of judge is he to me who would blindly judge
matters he neither hears nor sees? Now tell me, how can a man see, know,
judge, sentence, and change the heart? For that is reserved to God
alone. A court should and must be certain when it sentences, and have
everything in clear light. But the soul's thoughts and impulses can be
known to no one but God. Therefore it is futile and impossible to
command or compel a man by force to believe thus or so. For that purpose
another grip is necessary. Force does not accomplish it. For my
ungracious lords, Pope and bishops, should be bishops and preach God's
Word; but they leave that and have become temporal princes and rule with
laws that concern only person and property. They have reversed the order
of things. Instead of ruling souls (internally) through God's Word, they
rule (externally) castles, cities, lands, and people, and kill souls
with indescribable murder. The temporal lords should, in like manner,
rule (externally) land and people; but they leave that. They can do
nothing more than flay and shave the people, set one tax and one rent on
another; there let loose a bear and here a wolf; respect no right, or
faith, or truth, and conduct affairs so that robbers and knaves
increase in number; and their temporal _regime_ lies as far beneath as
the _regime_ of the spiritual tyrants. Faith is a matter concerning
which each one is responsible for himself; for as little as one man can
go to heaven or hell for me, so little can he believe or not believe for
me; and as little as he can open or close heaven or hell for me, so
little can he drive me to belief or unbelief. We have the saying from
St. Augustine: 'No one can or should be compelled to believe.' The blind
and miserable people do not see what a vain and impossible thing they
undertake; for, however imperiously they command, and however hard they
drive, they cannot force people any farther than they follow with their
mouth and the hand. They cannot compel the heart, though they should
break it. For true is the maxim: _Gedanken sind zollfrei_. (No toll is
levied on thought.) When weak consciences are driven by force to lie,
deceive, and say otherwise than they believe in the heart, they burden
themselves also with a heavy sin; for all the lies and false witness
given by such weak consciences rest upon him who forces them.

"Christ Himself clearly recognized and concisely stated this truth when
He said: 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's,
and unto God the things that are God's' (Matt. 22, 21). Now, when
imperial authority stretches itself over into God's kingdom and
authority and does not keep within its own separate jurisdiction, this
discrimination between the two realms has not been made. For the soul is
not under authority of the emperor. He can neither teach nor guide it,
neither kill it nor give it life, neither bind nor loose, neither judge
nor sentence, neither hold nor let alone; which necessarily would exist
had he authority so to do, for they are under his jurisdiction and

"David long ago expressed it briefly: 'The heaven, even the heavens, are
the Lord's; but the earth hath He given to the children of men' (Ps.
115, 16). That is to say, over what is on the earth and belongs to the
temporal earthly kingdom, man has power from God; but what belongs to
heaven and to the eternal kingdom is under the Lord of heaven alone. But
finally, this is the meaning of Peter: 'We ought to obey God rather than
men' (Acts 5, 29). He here clearly marks a limit to temporal authority;
for were men obliged to observe everything that civil authority wished,
the command, 'We ought to obey God rather than men,' would have been
given in vain.

"If, now, your princes or temporal lord command you to believe this or
that, or to dispense with certain books, say: 'I am under obligations to
obey you with body and estate; command me within the compass of your
authority on earth, and I will obey you. Put if you command me as to
belief, and order me to put away books, I will not obey, for then you
become a tyrant and overreach yourself, and command where you have
neither right nor power.' If your goods are taken and your disobedience
is punished, you are blessed, and you may thank God that you are worthy
to suffer for God's Word. When a prince is in the wrong, his subjects
are not under obligations to follow him, for no one is obliged to do
anything against the right; but we must obey God, who desires to have
the right rather than men.

"But thou sayest once more: 'Yea, worldly power cannot compel to belief.
It is only external protection against the people being misled by false
doctrine. How else can heretics be kept it bay?' Answer: That is the
business of bishops, to whom the office is entrusted, and not to
princes. For heresy can never be kept off by force; another grip is
wanted for that. This is another quarrel and conflict than that of the
sword. God's Word must contend here. If that avail nothing, temporal
power will never settle the matter, though it fill the world with blood.
Heresy pertains to the spiritual world. You cannot cut it with iron, nor
burn it with fire, nor drown it in water. You cannot drive the devil out
of the heart by destroying, with sword or fire, the vessel in which he
lives. This is like fighting a blade of straw." (10, 395 ff.)

Referring to the Anabaptists, Luther wrote in 1528: "It is not right,
and I think it a great pity, that such wretched people should be so
miserably slain, burned, cruelly put to death; every one should be
allowed to believe what he will. If he believe wrongly, he will have
punishment enough in the eternal fire of hell. Why should he be tortured
in this life, too; provided always that it be a case of mistaken belief
only, and that they are not also unruly and oppose themselves to the
temporal power?" (17, 2188.)

To his friend Cresser he wrote: "If the courts wish to govern the
churches in their own interests, God will withdraw His benediction from
them, and things will become worse than before. Satan still is Satan.
Under the Popes he made the Church meddle in politics; in our time he
wishes to make politics meddle with the Church." (21b, 2911.
Translations by Waring.)

But why did not these excellent principles attain better results in
Luther's own time? On this question we have no better answer than that
given by Bryce: "The remark must not be omitted in passing how much less
than might have been expected the religious movement did at first
actually effect in the way of promoting either political progress or
freedom of conscience. The habits of centuries were not to be unlearned
in a few years, and it was natural that ideas struggling into existence
and activity should work erringly and imperfectly for a time." (_Holy
Roman Empire_, p. 381.) This would be Luther's own answer. His work was
among people who were just emerging from the ignorance and spiritual
bondage in which they had been reared in the Catholic Church. They had
to be gradually and with much patience taught, not only in regard to
their rights and privileges, but also in regard to their proper and most
efficient application. But it is not in agreement with the facts when
the charge is directed against Luther that he employed the authority of
the State for furthering the ends of the Church because he urged the
Saxon Elector to arrange for a visitation of the demoralized churches
in the country, and to order such improvements to be made as would be
found necessary (Erlangen Ed. 55, 223); also when he sought the
Elector's aid for the reform party at Naumburg at the election of a new
bishop (17, 113). In both instances he speaks of the Elector as a
"Notbischof," that is, an emergency bishop. But his remarks must be
carefully studied to get his exact meaning. For he declares that the
Elector as a magistrate is under no obligation to attend to these
matters. They are not state business. But he is asked as a Christian to
place himself at the head of a laudable and necessary movement, and to
place his influence and ability at the disposition of the Master, just
as a Christian laborer, craftsman, merchant, musician, painter, poet,
author, consecrate their abilities to the Lord. This means that the
"emergency bishop" has not the right to issue commands in the Church,
but he has the privilege and duty to serve. The people needed a leader,
and who was better qualified for that than their trusted prince?
Besides, the churches had to be protected in their secular and civil
interests in those days. The young Protestant faith would have been
mercilessly extirpated by Rome, which was gathering the secular powers
around her to fight her battles with material weapons against
Protestants. The Protestant princes would have betrayed a trust which
citizens rightly repose in their government, if they had not taken steps
to afford the Protestant churches in their domains every legal
protection. The protection of citizens in the exercise of their
religious liberty is within the sphere of the civil magistrates. The
citizens can appeal to the government for such protection, and when the
government in the interest of religious liberty represses elements that
are hostile, it is not intolerant, but just. If a religion, like that of
the bomb-throwing anarchists and the vice-breeding Mormons, is forbidden
to practise its faith in the land, that is not intolerance, but common

One of the most pathetic spectacles which the student of medieval
history has to contemplate is the treatment of the Jews at the hands of
the Christians. "Few were the monarchs of Christendom," says Prof.
Worman, "who rose above the barbarism of the Middle Ages. By
considerable pecuniary sacrifices only could the sons of Israel enjoy
tolerance. In Italy their lot had always been most severe. Now and then
a Roman pontiff would afford them his protection, but, as a rule, they
have received only intolerance in that country. Down even to the time of
the deposition of Pius IX from the temporal power (1810) it has been the
barbarous custom, on the last Saturday before the Carnival, to compel
the Jews to proceed _en masse_ to the capitol, and ask permission of the
pontiff to reside in the city another year. At the foot of the hill the
petition was refused them, but, after much entreaty, they were granted
the favor when they had reached the summit, and as their residence the
Ghetto was assigned them." In France a prelate condemned the Jews
because the "country people looked upon them as the only people of
God," whereupon "all joined in a carnival of persecution, and the
history of the Jews became nothing else than a successive series of
massacres." In Spain the Jews were treated more kindly by the Moors than
by the Catholics. At first their services were valued in the crafts and
trades, "but the extravagance and consequent poverty of the nobles, as
well as the increasing power of the priesthood, ultimately brought about
a disastrous change. The estates of the nobles and, it is also believed,
those attached to the cathedrals and churches, were in many cases
mortgaged to the Jews; hence it was not difficult for 'conscience' to
get up a persecution when goaded to its 'duty' by the pressure of want
and shame. Gradually the Jews were deprived of the privilege of living
where they pleased; their rights were diminished and their taxes

To their lowest stage of misery, however, the Jews were reduced during
one of the most holy enterprises which the papacy launched during the
Middle Ages--the Crusades. "The crusading movement was inaugurated by a
wholesale massacre and persecution first of the Jew, and afterwards of
the Mussulman. . . . Shut out from all opportunity for the development
of their better qualities, the Jews were gradually reduced to a decline
both in character and condition. From a learned, influential, and
powerful class of the community, we find them, after the inauguration of
the Crusades, sinking into miserable outcasts; the common prey of clergy
and nobles and burghers, and existing in a state worse than slavery
itself. The Christians deprived the Jews even of the right of holding
real estate; and confined them to the narrower channels of traffic.
Their ambition being thus fixed upon one subject, they soon mastered all
the degrading arts of accumulating gain; and prohibited from investing
their gain in the purchase of land, they found n more profitable
employment of it in lending it at usurious interest to the thoughtless
and extravagant." In course of time the borrowers recouped their losses
by inaugurating raids upon the Jews. Jew-baiting, persecutions,
expatriations of Jewish settlers, were of frequent occurrence. Towards
the end of the thirteenth century 16,000 Jews were expelled from England
and their property confiscated. In Germany "they had to pay all manner
of iniquitous taxes--body tax, capitation tax, trade taxes, coronation
tax, and to present a multitude of gifts, to mollify the avarice or
supply the necessities of emperor, princes, and barons. It did not
suffice, however, to save them from the loss of their property. The
populace and the lower clergy also must be, satisfied; they, too, had
passions to gratify. A wholesale slaughter of the 'enemies of
Christianity' was inaugurated. Treves, Metz, Cologne, Mentz, Worms,
Spires, Strassburg, and other cities were deluged with the blood of the
'unbelievers.' The word _Hep_ (said to be the initials of _Hierosolyma
est perdita_, Jerusalem is taken) throughout all the cities of the
empire became the signal for massacres, and if an insensate monk sounded
it along the streets, it threw the rabble into paroxysms of murderous
rage. The choice of death or conversion was given to the Jews; but few
were found willing to purchase their life by that form of perjury.
Rather than subject their offspring to conversion and such Christian
training, fathers presented their breast to the sword after putting
their children to death, and wives and virgins sought refuge from the
brutality of the soldiers by throwing themselves into the river with
stones fastened to their bodies." (_McClintock and Strong Cyclop_., 4,
908 f.)

All this happened under the most Christian rule of the Popes. The
characteristic temper of the Jew in the Middle Ages, his fierce hatred
of Christianity, his sullen mood, his blasphemous treatment of matters
and objects sacred to Christians, are the result of the treatment he
received even from the members and high officials of the Church. Now
here comes Rome in our day asserting the kindness and generosity shown
the Jews by their Popes, because these afforded them shelter in the
Ghetto of the Holy City! How differently, they say, was this from the
treatment accorded the Jews by Luther. Why, these Catholic writers do
not tell the hundredth part of the truth about the attitude of their
Church to the Jews in the Middle Ages.

Let this be remembered when Luther's remarks about the Jews are taken up
for study. He is very outspoken against them; his utterances, however,
relate for the most part to the false teaching and religious practises,
to their perversion of the text and the meaning of the Scriptures, and
to the blasphemies which they utter against God, Jesus Christ, and His
Church, and to the lies which they assiduously spread about the
Christian religion. In all that Luther says against the Jews under this
head he is simply discharging the functions of a teacher of
Christianity; for Scripture says that it was given also "for reproof"
(2 Tim. 3, 16). No one can be a true theologian without being polemical
on occasion. In another class of his references to the Jews Luther
refers to their character: their arrogance and pride, their
stiffneckedness and contumacy, their greed and avarice, which makes
their presence in any land a public calamity. Though their church and
state has long been overthrown, and they are a people without a country,
homeless wanderers on the face of the earth, they still boast of being
"the people of God," and are indulging the wildest dreams about the
reestablishment of their ancient kingdom. They are looking for a Messiah
who will be a secular prince, and will make them all barons living in
beautiful castles and receiving the tribute of the Goyim. One may reason
and plead with them and show them that their belief contradicts their
own Scriptures, that their Talmud is filled with palpable falsehoods,
and that their hope is a chimera; but they turn a deaf ear to argument
and entreaty, and turn upon you with fierce resentment at your efforts
to show them the truth. Although they know that their habits of grasping
and hoarding wealth, driving hard and unfair bargains, their hunting for
small profits by contemptible methods like hungry dogs searching the
offal in the alley, rouses the enmity of communities against them and
causes them to become a blight to all true progress, to honest trade and
business in any land where they have become firmly established, so that
laws must be made against them, still they blindly and passionately
continue their covetous strivings. When Luther observes the corrupting
influence of the Jews on the public life and morals, he declares that
they ought to be expelled from the country, and their synagogs ought to
be destroyed, that is, they have deserved this treatment. But it is a
remarkable fact that even in these terrible denunciations of the Jews
Luther moves on Bible ground, as any one can see that will examine his
exposition of an imprecatory psalm, like Psalm 109 and 59. If these
words of God mean anything and admit of any application to an apostate
and hardened race, the Jews are that race, and a teacher of the Bible
has the duty to point out this fact. But Luther has not been a
Jewbaiter; he has not incited a riot against then, nor headed a raid
upon them, as Prof. Worman tells us that Catholic priests in the Middle
Ages occasionally would do. What Luther thought of persecuting the Jews
for their religion can be seen from his exposition of Psalm 14. He did
not believe in a general conversion of the Jews, but he held that
individual Jews would ever and anon be won for Christ and would be
grafted on the olive-tree of the true Church. "Therefore," he says, "we
ought to condemn the rage of some Christians--if they really deserve to
be called Christians--who think that they are doing God a service by
persecuting the Jews in the most hateful manner, imagining all manner of
evil about them, proudly and haughtily mocking them in their pitiful
misery. According to the statement in this Psalm (Ps. 14, 7) and the
example of the Apostle Paul in Rom. 9, 1, we ought rather to feel a
profound and cordial pity for them and always pray for them. . . . By
their tyrannical bearing these wicked people, who are nominally
Christians, cause not a little injury, not only to the cause of
Christianity, but also to Christian people, and they are responsible
for, and sharers in, the impiety of the Jews, because by their cruel
bearing toward them they drive them away from the Christian faith
instead of attracting them with all possible gentleness, patience,
pleading, and anxious concern for them. There are even some theologians
so unreasonable as to sanction such cruelty to the Jews and to encourage
people to it; in their proud conceit they assert that the Jews are the
Christians' slaves and tributary to the emperor, while in truth they are
themselves Christians with as much right as any one nowadays is Roman
Emperor. Good God, who would want to join our religion, even though he
were of a meek and submissive mind, when he sees how spitefully and
cruelly he is treated; and that the treatment he can expect is not only
unchristian, but worse than bestial? If hating Jews and heretics and
Turks makes people Christians, we insane people would indeed be the best
Christians. But if loving Christ makes Christians, we are beyond a doubt
worse than Jews, heretics, and Turks, because no one loves Christ less
than we. The rage of these people reminds me of children and fools, who,
when they see a picture of a Jew on a wall, go and cut out his eyes,
pretending that they want to help the Lord Christ. Most of the preachers
during Lent treat of nothing else than the cruelty of the Jews towards
the Lord Christ, which they are continually magnifying. Thus they
embitter believers against them, while the Gospel aims only at showing
and exalting the love of God and Christ." (4, 927.)

The Catholic claim that the Maryland Colony in the days of the Calverts
became the first home of true religious liberty on American soil has
been so often blasted by historians that one is loath to enter upon this
moth-eaten claim for fear of merely repeating what others have more
exhaustively stated. Catholics seem to forget what Bishop Perry has
called attention to: "The Maryland charter of toleration was the gift of
an English monarch, the nominal head of Church of England, and the
credit of any merit in this donative is due the giver, and not the
recipient, of the kingly grant." Prof. Fisher has called attention to
another fact: "Only two references to religion are to be found in the
Maryland charter. The first gives to the proprietary patronage and
advowson of churches. The second empowers him to erect churches,
chapels, and oratories, which he may cause to be consecrated according
to the ecclesiastical laws of England. The phraseology is copied from
the Avalon patent (drawn up in England in 1623 for a portion of the
colony of Newfoundland) that was given to Sir George Calvert (first
Lord Baltimore) when he was a member of the Church of England. Yet the
terms were such that recognition of that Church as the established form
of religion does not prevent the proprietary and the colony from the
exercise of full toleration toward other Christian bodies." (_Colonial
Era_, p. 64.) The Maryland Colony was admittedly organized as a
business venture, and its original members were largely Protestants. It
was to secure the financial interests of the proprietary that tolerance
was shown the colonists. Prof. Fisher says: "Any attempt to proscribe
Protestants would have proved speedily fatal to the existence of the
colony. In a document which emanated partly from Baltimore himself, it
is declared to be evident that the distinctive privileges 'usually
granted to ecclesiastics of the Roman Catholic Church by Catholic
princes in their own countries could not be possibly granted hero (in
Maryland) without great offense to the King and State of England.'" (p.
63.) We have not the space in this review of Catholic charges and claims
to go into the religious history of the Maryland Colony as we should
like to do; otherwise we should explain the machinations of the Jesuits
in this colony, and prove that what tolerance Maryland in its early days
enjoyed it owed to the preponderating influence of non-Catholic forces.

It requires an unusual amount of courage for a Catholic writer at this
late day to parade his Church as the mother and protectress of religious
liberty and tolerance. Any person who has but a smattering knowledge of
the history of the world during the last four centuries will smile at
this claim. The old Rome of the days of the Inquisition and the _auto da
fes_ may seem tolerant in our days, but she is so from sheer necessity,
not from any voluntary and joyous choice of her own. Her intolerant
principles remain the same, only she has not the power to carry them
into effect.

One of the Catholic bishops who was opposed to the dogma of papal
infallibility, Reinkens, published a book bearing the remarkable title
_Revolution and Church_. In this book a thought is suggested which
connects the Roman Curia with political disturbances that occur in the
world. The author regards the declaration of papal infallibility as
another step forward in the imperialistic program of the Curia looking
towards world-dominion. He argues that it is in the interest of the
Vatican policies to foment trouble and breed revolutions in the
commonwealths of the world. "The thoughts of the Roman Curia," he says,
"are not the thoughts of God. Inasmuch, however, as it is these latter
that are realized with increasing force in the history of the world, and
that animate the formation of every true civil and ecclesiastical
institution, the Curia is gradually forced into a conflict with the
whole world. . . . The Curia (to carry its aims into effect) tries one
last means: its last attempt is to bring about a revolution. As 'the
Church' succeeded in digging her charter out of the ruins of the
commonwealths of the ancient world, so the spirits of Vaticanism hope
again to rebuild the palace of their dominion out of ruins." (p. 4.)
Again: "Bishop Hefele entertains the fear that the recent elevation of
the Pope to power (the infallibility dogma) will soon become the primary
dogma in the instruction of children. We regret to say that this fear
has proven well founded: all the governments, even the German, aid in
this instruction of the schoolchildren, because they retain religious
instruction on a confessional basis [we in America say on "sectarian"
lines], hence also that prescribed by the Vatican, as obligatory, and
the infallibilist clergy is salaried by the State for providing this
instruction  The divine authority of the Pope extending over all men
tends to disturb the minds of the children in the schools: they are
taught at an early age to obey the Viceregent of God in preference to
obeying the Emperor and the State. In the higher schools this is done by
the clergy that is commissioned to teach in such schools." (p. 7.)
Again: "The Roman order of the Jesuits is not only spread like a net
over all countries, but it sinks its roots into every age, sex, estate,
and loosens and forces apart the ligaments of civil institutions." (p.

Luther's views on human free will are brought forward once more to show
that his teaching necessarily is hostile to liberty. Luther's famous
reply to Erasmus _On the Bondage of the Will_ is made to do yeoman's
service in this respect. What Luther has declared regarding the
sovereignty of God's rulership over men, regarding the relation of God
also to the evil existing in this world, regarding the absence of chance
in the affairs of men, regarding man's utter helplessness over and
against the supreme will of God, is cited to prove that Luther's
teaching leads, not to liberty, but either to recklessness or despair.
Luther's views on "the captive, or enslaved, will" are declared to be
the most degrading and demoralizing teaching that men have been offered
during the last centuries. Luther's famous illustration, _viz_., that
man is like a horse which either God or the devil rides, has prompted
the following remarks of one of Luther's most recent critics: "This
parable summarizes the whole of Luther's teaching on the vital and
all-important subject of man's free will. . . . All who are honest and
fearless of consequences must admit in frankest terms that Luther's
teaching on free will, as expounded in his book, and explicitly making
God the author of man's evil thoughts and deeds, cannot but lend a
mighty force to the passions and justify the grossest violations of the
moral law. Indeed, the enemy of souls, as Anderson remarks, 'could not
inspire a doctrine more likely to effect his wicked designs than
Luther's teaching oil the enslavement of the human will.'" There is a
dogmatic reason for this excoriation of Luther: Rome's teaching of
righteousness by works and human merit. The same author says, in
immediate connection with the foregoing: "Likening man to a 'beast of
burden,' does Luther not maintain that man is utterly powerless 'by
reason of his fallen nature' to lead a godly life, and merit by the
practise of virtue the rewards of eternal happiness? Does he not say:
'It is written in the hearts of men that there is no freedom of will,'
that 'all takes place in accordance with inexorable necessity,' and
that, even 'were free will offered him, he should not care to have it'?
But does not all this contradict the Spirit of God when, speaking in the
Book of Ecclesiasticus, He says: 'Before man is life and death, good and
evil; that which he shall choose shall be given him'?"

We submitted in chap. 15 the Scriptural evidence on the spiritual
disability of man. (The passage from Ecclesiasticus in the last
quotation is not Scripture.) It is useless to argue with a person who
refuses to accept this teaching of Scripture. We can only repeat what we
said before: Let the advocates of human free will proceed to do what
they claim they are able to do, and do it thoroughly. No one will
begrudge them the crown of glory when they obtain it. On the other hand,
they will have none but themselves to blame if they do not obtain it. In
the light of God's holy Word, in the light, moreover, of the experience
of the most spiritual-minded and saintly men that have lived on earth,
we see in the claim of the advocates of human free will regarding the
fulfilment of God's Law nothing but a vain boast, and a most mischievous
attempt to be smarter than God. The theory of salvation by merit is the
most disastrous risk that the human heart can take. Christ has
mercifully warned men not to take this risk. If they will not hear Him,
they will have to perish in their sins (John 8, 24).

In chap. 15 we also explained Luther's views on human free will in the
affairs of this life. We only have to add a word on the subject of
contingency. Are Luther's Catholic, critics really so blind as not to
see that man even in his ordinary affairs of common every-day life is
subject to the inscrutable government of God? Our physical life in its
most trivial aspects is entirely dependent not only on the laws of
nature, which are nothing but the order which the Creator has appointed
for the created universe, but also on extraordinary acts of God over
which no man has control. The farmer sows his wheat and expects to reap
a crop. How? By reason of the power of germination which the Creator has
put in the grain, and the laws which govern atmospheric changes, which
laws, again, the Creator governs. The farmer can do nothing to make the
wheat grow and ripen. He is utterly dependent upon God.--A merchant
decides that he will make a business trip to New York. He will leave the
next morning on the nine o'clock train. He orders his transportation,
and the next morning-he does not leave. "Something happened; I had to
change my plans," he tells his friends. Ah, says our Catholic critic,
but was he not free to change his mind? We say: You may talk as much as
you wish about the person's freedom; the fact remains that the person
would not have changed his mind unless he had to. - Let us follow this
merchant a little further: He actually starts on his trip two days
later. He is to arrive at his destination at two o'clock in the
afternoon of the next day, and very much depends on his arriving just at
that time. But he does not even get to Cincinnati. "Something happened,"
he wires to his friend. And now his human free will goes into operation
again: he changes his mind. - "Man proposes, but God disposes," this
belief is ineradicably written into the consciousness of all intelligent
men, even of intelligent pagans, and no philosophy of free will will
wipe it out. The wise farmer, after he has finished sowing his field,
says, "God willing, I shall reap a good crop." The wise merchant says,
"God willing, I shall be in New York to-morrow." And God approves of
this wise reservation which causes the prudent to submit their most
ordinary actions to divine revision. He says in Jas. 4, 13-16: "Go to
now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and
continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain, whereas ye know
not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a
vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For
that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or
that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil."
Let Luther's Catholic critics wrestle with these and similar texts of
Scripture, with these and similar facts of daily life. Luther has
rightly declared the sovereignty of God a mighty ax and thunderbolt that
shatters the assertion of human free will.

We have shown that Luther is no fatalist. His warning, on the one hand,
not to disregard the secret will of God, and on the other, not to seek
to find it out, is a masterpiece of wisdom. In view of the absolute
sovereignty of God and man's absolute dependence upon it, Luther urges
man to go to work in his chosen occupation in childlike reliance upon
God. He is to employ to the utmost capacity all his God-given energies
of mind and body and work as if everything depended on his industry,
strength, prudence, thrift, planning, and arranging. Having done all,
he is to say: Dear Lord, it is all subject to Thy approval. Thou art
Master; do Thou boss my business. If Thou overrulest my plans, I have
nothing to say; Thou knowest better. Not my will, but Thine, be done.

This is the whole truth in a nutshell that Luther drives home in that
part of his reply to Erasmus which treats of contingency. If ever
statements garbled from the context are unfair to the author, what the
Catholics are constantly doing in quoting Luther on the Bondage of the
Will is one of the most glaring exhibitions of unfairness on record.
This treatise of Luther deserves to be studied thoroughly and
repeatedly, and measured against the facts of the common experience of
all men. For a profitable study of this treatise there is, moreover,
required a very humble mind, a mind that knows its sin, and is sincere
in acknowledging its insufficiency.

The generation of Luther and the generations after him have had this
particular teaching of Luther before them four hundred years. What
effect has it had on human progress in every field of secular activity
in Protestant lands? Has it created that chaos and confusion which
Catholics claim it must inevitably lead to? Quite the contrary has
happened. And now let the patrons of the theory of human free will
measure their own success as recorded by history against that of

25. "The Adam and Eve of the New Gospel of Concubinage."

This is the honorary title which Catholics bestow upon Martin Luther and
Catherine von Bora, who were married June 13, 1525, during the Peasants'
War. Luther was forty-two years old at the time and his bride past
twenty-six. She had left the cloister two years before her marriage, and
had found employment during that time in the home of one of the citizens
of Wittenberg. Their first child, Hans, was born June 7, 1526.

The grounds on which Catholics object to this marriage are, chiefly,
three. In the first place, they declare the marriage the outcome of an
impure relation which had existed between Luther and Catherine prior to
their marriage. The marriage had virtually become a matter of necessity,
to prevent greater scandal. Moreover, in this impure relationship Luther
with his lascivious and lustful mind, in which fleshly desires were
continually raging, had been the prime mover. The second ground on which
Catholics object to Luther's marriage is, because Luther held
professedly low views of the virtue of chastity and the state of
matrimony. He had stripped matrimony of its sacramental character, and
regarded it as a mere physical necessity and a social and civil
contract. Thirdly, Catholics criticize Luther's marriage because it was
entered into by both the contracting parties in violation of a sacred
vow: Luther had been a monk and Catherine a nun, both sworn to perpetual

Moral cleanness is indelibly stamped upon hundreds of pages of Luther's
writings. The Sixth Commandment in its wider application to the mutual
relation of the sexes and the sexual condition of the individual was to
Luther the solemn voice of God by which the holy and wise Creator guards
and protects the fountains whence springs human life. "Because there is
among us," he says, "such a shameful mixture and the very dregs of all
kinds of vice and lewdness, this commandment is also directed against
all manner of impurity, whatever it may be called; and not only is the
external act forbidden, but every kind of cause, incitement, and means,
so that the heart, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and afford
no opportunity, help, or persuasion for impurity. And not only this, but
that we may also defend, protect, and rescue wherever there is danger
and need; and give help and counsel, so as to maintain our neighbor's
honor. For wherever you allow such a thing when you could prevent it, or
connive at it as if it did not concern you, you are as truly guilty as
the one perpetrating the deed. Thus it is required, in short, that every
one both live chastely himself and help his neighbor do the same."
(_Large Catechism_, p. 419.) The reason why God in the Sixth Commandment
refers to only one form of sexual impurity Luther states correctly thus:
"He expressly mentions adultery, because among the Jews it was a command
and appointment that every one must be married. Therefore also the young
were early married, so that the state of celibacy was held in small
esteem, neither were public prostitution and lewdness tolerated as now.
Therefore adultery was the most common form of unchastity among them."

In his _Appeal to the German Nobility_ Luther says: "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 better thus than that
virgins, or married women, or honorable women should be dishonored. But
should not the spiritual and temporal powers combine to find some means
of meeting these difficulties without any such heathen practise? If the
people of Israel existed without this scandal, why should not a
Christian nation be able 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? . . . It is the duty of those in authority to see the good of their
subjects. But if those in authority considered how young people might be
brought together in marriage, the prospect of marriage would help every
man and protect him from temptations." (10, 349; transl. by Waring.)

This is the Luther of whom Catholic writers say that he would not be
considered qualified to sit with a modern Vice Commission.

But what about the many coarse references in Luther's writings to sexual
matters-references which are unprintable nowadays? Do these not show
that Luther was far from being even an ordinary gentleman, that he was
depraved in thought and vulgar nauseating, in speech whenever he
approached the subject of marriage and sexual conditions? We have just
cited a few of Luther's references to these matters. They are clean and
proper. We could fill pages with them, and they would prove most
profitable reading in our loose, profligate, and adulterous age. Those
other references which are also found in Luther's writings should be
studied in their connection. Leaving out of the account humorous
references and playful remarks, which only malice can twist into a
lascivious meaning, they are indignant and scornful expostulations with
the defenders and practisers of vice that flaunted its shame in the face
of the public. Righteous anger will give a person the courage to speak
out boldly and in no mincing words about things which otherwise nauseate
him. When Catholic writers cull from Luther vile and disgusting remarks
about sexual affairs, it should be investigated to whom Luther made
those remarks, and what reason he had for making them. There is another
side to this matter, and that concerns medieval Catholicism itself. We
have indicated in sundry places in this review the social conditions in
respect of the sex relations that existed under the spiritual
sovereignty of the Roman Church in Luther's day in the very city of
Rome, and had grown up and were being fostered by her leading men.
Luther's references to lustfulness are paraded as evidence of the lust
that was consuming him; they are, in reality, evidences of the lust that
he knew to be raging in very prominent people with whom he had dealings.

Luther's words and teaching would count for little if his personal
conduct and his acts were in open contradiction to his chaste
professions. We would simply have to set him down as a hypocrite. But so
would the people in Luther's own day have done. It is a poor argument to
say that the common people were no match for Luther in an argument. They
were cowed into silence, they were afraid to tell him to his face that
he ought to practise what he preached. Luther's work proved the
spiritual emancipation of the common people, and one of the effects
which mark his reformatory work is the intelligent layman, who forms his
own judgment on what he hears and sees, and speaks out to his superiors.
The Wittenbergers in Luther's day were not a set of ninnies; the
constant association with the professors and students of the university,
the growing fame of their town, which brought many strangers to it,
important civil and religious affairs on which they had to come to a
decision, had made many of them far-sighted and resolute men of affairs.
Luther's home life before and after his marriage was open to public
inspection as few homes are. The most intimate and delicate affairs had
to be arranged before company at times. In a small town-and Wittenberg
was no modern metropolis-what one person knows becomes public
information in a short time. Small communities have no secrets, or at
least find it extremely difficult to have any.

But the lewdness which Luther attacked in his writings on chastity
existed chiefly among persons of wealth and among the nobility. Not a
few of them resented Luther's invectives against their mode of life.
They surely did not lack the courage nor the ability to express
themselves in retaliation against Luther if they had known him to be
immoral himself while preaching morality to others. Last, not least,
there were the Catholic priests and dignitaries of the Roman Church
whose scandalous life Luther exposed. Aside from their disagreement from
Luther in point of doctrine, personal revenge animated not a few of them
with the desire to find a flaw in Luther's conduct. A few reckless
spirits among them insinuated and declared openly that Luther was
immoral, but the animus back of the charge was so well understood at
the time, and the people who were in daily and close touch with Luther
were so fully convinced of the purity of his life, that the charges were
treated with contempt.

Luther's life from the age of puberty to his marriage was, indeed, a
fight against temptations to unchastity. Is it anything else in the case
of other men? The physical effects of adolescence, as we remarked
before, are a natural and morally pure phenomenon; Luther's frank way of
speaking of them does not make them impure. But this physical condition
in a growing young man or woman may become the occasion for impure acts.
Against these Luther strove as every Christian strives against them who
has not the special grace of which our Lord speaks Matt. 19, 12, in the
first part of the verse. Luther had his flesh fairly well in subjection
to the Spirit. History has not recorded those acts of immorality which
his enemies insinuate or openly charge him with. The illegitimate
children which are imputed to him were born in Catholic fancy. His
constitutional amorous propensities, too, are fiction. Though Luther
admits a few months prior to his marriage that he wears no armor plate
around his heart, it is known that he had been all his life anything
rather than a ladies' man.

Luther's courtship of Catherine--if we may call it that--was almost void
of romance. The nine nuns who had fled from the cloister at Nimpschen to
escape "the impurities of the life of celibacy," had turned to
Wittenberg in their trouble. They were not seeking new impurities, but
running away from old ones. What was more natural than that they should
seek the protection of the man whose teaching had opened the road to
liberty for them. They did not come to Wittenberg to surrender
themselves to Luther, but to seek his protection, advice, and help in
beginning a new, natural life after the unnatural life which they had
been leading. Luther responded to the call of distress. He did not
receive them into his own domicile in the cloister where he lived, but
found shelter for them with kind citizens of the town. Next, he found
husbands for them. In less than two years after the escape from the
cloister all had been respectably married, except Catherine. A
love-affair of hers with Jerome Baumgaertner of Nuernberg had terminated
unhappily, in spite of Luther's urging the young man. Another choice
which Luther proposed to her--Dr. Glatz of Orlamuende--was declined
peremptorily by Catherine, because, it seems, she had read the man's
character. In declining this second offer, Catherine had made complaint
to Luther's friend Amsdorf that Luther was trying to marry her against
her will. She appears to have been a frank and resolute woman; in her
conversation with Amsdorf she remarked that her decision would be
altogether different if either he or even Luther were to ask for her
hand. This was not, as has been said, a bald invitation to either of
these two gentlemen, but only Catherine's energetic way of explaining
what sort of a husband she would like, and why she would not take Glatz.
Amsdorf so understood her remark and made nothing of it. By an accident
he came to relate it to Luther six months later, when the latter had
written to him in great despondency, describing his lonely life and the
disorderly state of his domicile which needed very much the care of a
woman's hand. Then it was that Amsdorf related what Catherine had
remarked. Luther had never thought of her in such a relation. He had
been attracted, it seems, by another of the nine escaped nuns, Ave von
Schoenfeld, but whatever affection he may have entertained for her must
have been a passing incident, never seriously entertained, for it must
be remembered that at that time Luther declared that he would live and
die a bachelor. Besides, Ave had now been happily married to another. At
this juncture the influence of another woman enters into the private
life of Luther. Argula von Staufen, a noblewoman who had been won over
to the cause of the Reformation and was actively engaged in breaking
down the power of the hierarchy even by her pen, wrote to Luther,
expressing her surprise that he who had written so ably and so well on
the holy estate of matrimony was still single. Among the peasants, too,
the question was being debated whether Luther would follow up his
preaching with the logical action. Luther was ruminating on these
matters when the Peasants' Revolt broke out, and with them in his mind
went to Mansfeld. He soon reached the conclusion that he owed it to his
profession as a preacher of the divine Word, to his Creator, to himself,
and to the lonely Catherine to marry. He foresaw that the celibate
clergy of Rome would raise a hue and cry about the act, but he
considered it a noble work to offend these men, because they had by
their law of celibacy offended the most holy God. He would marry to
spite all of them, and the Pope, and the devil. This resolution was
promptly carried out, for Luther was not in the habit of dallying long
with serious matters. If he had asked his timid friend Melanchthon, he
would most likely have been advised against his marriage. Faint-hearted
Philip was not the man to advise in a matter which at the time required
a heroic faith. Philip, therefore, was duly shocked when he heard about
it. His consternation is now used by Catholics to prove that he regarded
Luther's marriage as a wanton act prompted by lust. This is utterly
unhistorical: Philip was only afraid of the wild talk that would now be
started against all of them. On the right and duty of the clergy to
marry he believed with Luther.

And now a word about the chastity of Rome, particularly that peculiar
brand which was inaugurated by Gregory VII for the Roman clergy and the
religious of both sexes, and riveted upon them by the Council of Trent-
the chastity of the celibate state. That the unnatural principle had
never worked out toward true chastity, that the robbery which it has
perpetrated on men and women had to be compensated for by connivance at,
and open permission of, concubinage, is a matter of current knowledge.
Luther's advice to priests and bishops who had opened their hearts to
him on the state of their chastity to marry their cooks, even if they
had to do it secretly; rather than maintain the other relation to them,
was a good man's effort to meet a grave difficulty as best he could.
This advice is now used to show that Luther was ready to approve any
kind of cohabitation. The very opposite is true: it was because he did
not approve of any kind of sexual intercourse, but because he desired to
obtain some kind of a legal character for that relation, that he gave
the advice to which we have referred.

Before the assembled representatives of the Church and of the German
nation the following statements were read in Article XXIII of the
Augsburg Confession: "There has been common complaint concerning the
examples of priests who were not chaste. For that reason, also, Pope
Pius is reported to have said that there were certain reasons why
marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier
ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina writes. Since,
therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open scandals, they
married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract
matrimony. First, because Paul says (1 Cor. 7, 2): 'To avoid
fornication, let every man have his own wife.' Also (9): 'It is better
to marry than to burn.' Secondly, Christ says (Matt. 19, 11): 'All men
cannot receive this saying,' where He teaches that not all men are fit
to lead a single life; for God created man for procreation (Gen. 1, 23).
Nor is it in man's power, without a singular gift and work of God, to
alter this creation. Therefore, those that are not fit to lead a single
life ought to contract matrimony. For no man's law, no vow, can annul
the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons the priests
teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives. It is also evident that
in the ancient Church priests were married men. For Paul says (1 Tim. 3,
2) that a bishop should be the husband of one wife. And in Germany, four
hundred years ago for the first time, the priests were violently
compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered such resistance that
the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to publish the Pope's decree
concerning this matter, was almost killed in the tumult raised by the
enraged priests. And so harsh was the dealing in the matter that not
only were marriages forbidden for the time to come, but also existing
marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and human,
contrary even to the canons themselves, made not only by the Popes, but
by most celebrated councils.

"Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man's nature is gradually
growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into
Germany. Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human
infirmity. The old canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now
and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of
men; which, it is to be devoutly wished, were also done in this matter.
And it is to be expected that the churches shall at length lack pastors,
if marriage should any longer be forbidden.

"But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the
Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals,
adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just
magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty
exercised than against the marriage of priests. God has given
commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered
commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored.
But now men, and also priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the
intent of the canons, for no other cause than marriage. Paul (in 1 Tim.
4, 3) calls that a doctrine of devils which forbids marriage. This may
now be readily understood when the law against marriage is maintained by
such penalties.

"But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can
it be done by any vow. Accordingly Cyprian also advises that women who
do not keep the chastity they have promised should marry. His words are,
these (Book I, Epistle XIX): 'But if they be unwilling or unable to
persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by
their lusts; at least, they should give no offense to their brethren and
sisters.' And even the canons show some leniency toward those who have
taken vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally been the
case." (p. 48 f.)

Not a word of dissent arose in the august assembly while these facts and
arguments were presented. The Germans had not forgotten the riotous
proceedings and the cruel heartaches that were caused by the enforcement
of the decrees of the Lenten Synod of 1074 under the theocratic Gregory
VII, who wanted to set up a universal monarchy over the whole world and
required an unmarried priesthood as his consecrated army. In his
historical novel, _Die Letzten ihres Geschlechts_, M. Ruediger has
graphically described the scenes enacted throughout Germany when
Gregory's inhuman order was put into effect.

Similar statements regarding priestly celibacy are found in Art. XXVII
of the First, and in Art. XXIX of the Second Helvetic Confession of the
Reformed. The Episcopal Church has declared itself to the same effect in
Art. XXXII of the Thirty-nine Articles.

However, did not Luther and Catherine both perjure themselves by
marrying? What about their religious vow, which had been given to God?
Also on this matter we might cite Luther's numerous statements and
expository writings, but we prefer to quote again the Augsburg
Confession which grew out of Luther's testimony for the truth. In
Article XXVII the Lutheran confessors state: "What is taught on our part
concerning monastic vows will be better understood if it be remembered
what has been the state of the monasteries, and how many things were
daily done in those very monasteries, contrary to the canons. In
Augustine's time they were free associations. Afterward, when discipline
was corrupted, vows were everywhere added for the purpose of restoring
discipline, as in a carefully planned prison. Gradually, many other
observances were added besides vows. And these fetters were laid upon
many before the lawful age, contrary to the canons. [Catherine von Bora
had taken the veil at the age of sixteen.] Many also entered into this
kind of life through ignorance, being unable to their own strength,
though they were of sufficient age. Being thus ensnared, they were
compelled to remain, even though some could have been freed by the
provision of the canons. And this was more the case in convents of women
than of monks, although more consideration should have been shown the
weaker sex. This rigor displeased many good men before this time, who
saw that young men and maidens were thrown into convents for a living,
and what unfortunate results came of this procedure, and what scandals
were created, what snares were cast upon consciences! They were grieved
that the authority of the canons in so momentous a matter was utterly
despised and set aside.

"To these evils was added an opinion concerning vows, which, it is well
known, in former times, displeased even those monks who were more
thoughtful. They taught that vows were equal to Baptism; they taught
that, by this kind of life, they merited forgiveness of sins and
justification before God. Yea, they added that the monastic life not
only merited righteousness before God, but even greater things, because
it kept not only the precepts, but also the so-called 'evangelical

"Thus they made men believe that the profession of monasticism was far
better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was mere meritorious
than that of magistrates, than the life of pastors and such like, who
serve their calling in accordance with God's commands, without any
man-made services. None of these things can be denied; for they appear
in their own books. . . .

"These things we have rehearsed without odious exaggerations, to the end
that the doctrine of our teachers, on this point, might be better
understood. First, concerning such as contract matrimony." Here the 27th
Article rehearses in the main the argument of Article XXIII.

"In the second place, why do our adversaries exaggerate the obligation
or effect of a vow, when, at the same time, they have not a word to say
of the nature of the vow itself, that it ought to be in a thing
possible, free, and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? But it is not
known to what extent perpetual chastity is in the power of man. And how
few are they who have taken the vow spontaneously and deliberately!
Young men and maidens, before they are able to judge, are persuaded, and
sometimes even compelled, to take the vow. Wherefore it is not fair to
insist so rigorously on the obligation, since it is granted by all that
it is against the nature of a vow to take it without spontaneous and
deliberate action. . . .

"But although it appears that God's command concerning marriage delivers
many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce also another argument
concerning vows to show that they are void. For every service of God
ordained and chosen of men without commandment of God to merit
justification and grace is wicked as Christ says (Matt. 15, 9): 'In vain
they worship Me with the commandments of men.' And Paul teaches
everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought by our own observances
and acts of worship devised by men, but that it comes by faith to those
who believe that they are received by God into grace for Christ's sake."

The confessors then proceed to show how spiritual pride was fostered by
the monkish teaching of perfection, and how by their rites and
ordinances and rules the true worship of God was obscured, and men were
withdrawn from useful pursuits in life to be buried in cloisters. They
conclude: "All these things, since they are false and empty, make vows
null and void." (p. 57 ff.)

Luther never had taken his own nor other monks' vows lightly. He spoke
and wrote to Melanchthon from the Wartburg against the mere throwing off
of the vows on the ground that they were not binding anyway. He argued
the sacredness of the oath, and held that first the consciences of those
bound by vows must be set free through the evangelical teaching; then,
when they are qualified to make an intelligent choice on spiritual
grounds, they may discard their vows. When he married Catherine, he had
long become a free man in his mind. So had Catherine.

Luther is charged with having entertained a purely secular view of the
essence of marriage. It is true that Luther repudiated the Catholic view
of the sacramental character of matrimony. By the teaching of the Roman
Church a legal marriage can be effected only by the ratification of the
marriage-promise and the blessing spoken over the couple by a
consecrated priest, who thus, by his official quality, imparts to the
marriage which he solemnizes a sacred character. In Luther's days it was
held that "the Church alone properly had jurisdiction over the question
of marriage, and the canonical laws (of the Church) included civil as
well as spiritual affairs. Luther repudiated these canonical laws on the
subject of marriage, and separated its civil from its ecclesiastical
aspect. He maintained that marriage, as the basis of all family rights,
lies entirely within the province of the State, and mast be regulated of
necessity by the civil government. 'Marriage and the married state,' he
declared in his _Traubuechlein_ (10, 721), 'are civil matters, in the
management of which we priests and ministers of the Church must not
intermeddle. But when we are required, either before the church, or in
the church, to bless the pair, to pray over them, or even to marry them,
then it is our bounden duty to do so.'" (Waring, p. 221.)

In 1906, a papal decree was published which declares any betrothal or
marriage entered into by a Catholic with a Catholic, or by a Catholic
with a non-Catholic, to be valid only on condition that either the
betrothal or the marriage take place in the presence or with the
sanction of a Catholic priest  This decree is known as the _Ne Temere_
decree. It is called thus according to a custom prevailing in the
Catholic Church by which the official deliverances of the Popes are
cited by giving the initial word, or words, of such a deliverance. The
two Latin terms _Ne Temere_ are a warning against reckless action, and
the reckless action intended is the one indicated above.

We quote a few statements from the _Ne Temere_ decree, from the work of
Dr. Leitner of Passau, which was issued in its fifth edition at
Regensburg in 1908. Dr. Leitner is a Catholic professor at Passau and
bears the title "Doctor of Theology and Canon Law." Dr. Leitner's book
is in German: _Die Verlobungs- und Eheschliessungsform nach dem Dekrete
Ne Temere_, which means, "The Form of Betrothal and Marriage according
to the _Ne Temere_ Decree." Throughout his book the author cites the
original language of the papal deliverance. The decree reaffirms, in the
first place, the decree of the Council of Trent, to this effect: "The
Holy Congregation declares any person who dares to enter into the estate
of matrimony, except upon license from the parish priest or of some
other priest of the same parish, or of the ordinary, and of two or three
witnesses, incapacitated for such a contract, and contracts of this kind
are declared null and void." (p.9.)

Regarding betrothals the decree declares: "Only such betrothals are
regarded as valid and efficacious, according to the law of the Church,
as are set down in a document signed by the contracting parties and by
the parish priest, or the local ordinary, and by at least two

Regarding marriage the decree hands down the following ruling: "Only
such marriages are valid as are entered into in the presence of the
parish priest, or the local ordinary, or of a priest delegated for the
purpose by either of these, and of two witnesses." Again: "To the above
law are amenable all persons baptized in the Catholic Church, also who
have joined the Catholic Church from errorist or schismatic societies
(notwithstanding the fact that either former or the latter have
apostatized later) whenever they entered into betrothal or matrimony."
Lastly: "The laws apply to the aforenamed Catholics whenever they enter
into betrothal or matrimony with non-Catholics, baptized or not, even
when they have obtained a dispensation from the obstacle of a mixed
religion or of a disparity of cult; except the Holy See decrees
otherwise for a certain or locality."

The operations of this decree have been peculiar. Some countries as
Germany and Belgium, promptly secured exemption from it. In Canada the
decree has caused law suits. One of them, Morin _vs_. Le Croix, was
tried in Justice Greenshield's court at Montreal, June 21, 1912. The
judge in his ruling said; "No Church, be it the powerful Roman Catholic
Church, or the equally great and powerful Anglican Catholic Church,
possesses any authority to overrule the civil law. Such authority as any
Church has (in the matter of marriages) is given it by the civil law and
is subservient to the civil law."

The _Protestant Magazine_, in Vol. IV, No. 2, published a facsimile of a
baptismal certificate for Anna Susanna Dagonya, daughter of Stephen
Dagonya, Roman Catholic, and Mary Csoma, Reformed, who were married at
Perth Amboy, N. J., August 4, 1909, by Rev. Louis Nannassy, Reformed.
Their child was born November 6, 1910, and baptized by Rev. Francis
Gross, priest of the Holy Cross Church at Perth Amboy. In writing out
the baptismal certificate, the priest has stated that the child is
illegitimate, and that the parents are living in concubinage.

Under the civil laws of most states the _Ne Temere_ decree will lead to
actions for libel. As related to the authority of the State, it is
riotous and seditious. For the State will protect even those for whom
the decree is specially published in their civil rights as over against
their Church. But the decree shows to what absurdities the logical
application of Rome's teaching on matrimony leads. Concubinage--that is
the name which it applies to every marriage which she has not
sanctioned. Marriages of this kind began to be celebrated in countries
which Rome had theretofore held firmly under its jurisdiction, when
Martin Luther and Catherine von Bora were married. Accordingly, they are
entitled to the distinction of being called the Adam and Eve of the
non-Catholic paradise of concubinage which pretends to be matrimony.
Enough said.

26. Luther an Advocate of Polygamy.

During the debate on the abolition of polygamy Congressman Roberts of
Utah, on January 29, 1900, made a speech in the House of Representatives
in which he said: "Here, in the resident portion of this city you
erected--May 21, 1884--a magnificent statue of stern old Martin Luther,
the founder of Protestant Christendom. You hail him as the apostle of
liberty and the inaugurator of a new and prosperous era of civilization
for mankind, but he himself sanctioned polygamy with which I am charged.
For me you have scorn, for him a monument." Taking his cue from this
Mormon speaker, one of the most recent of Luther's Catholic critics
remarks: "Let the wives and mothers of America ponder well the
polygamous phase of the Reformation before they say 'Amen' to the
unsavory and brazen laudations of the profligate opponent of Christian
marriage, Christian decency, and Christian propriety. Compare the
teachings of Luther on polygamy with those of Joseph Smith, the Mormon
prophet and visionary, and see their striking similarity. Mormonism in
Salt Lake City, in Utah, which has brought so much disgrace to the
American people, is but a legitimate outgrowth of Luther and
Lutheranism." This, then, is what will have to be done: a comparison
will have to be instituted between the teaching of Martin Luther and
that of the Mormon prophet on the subject of polygamy. We may assume
that the teachings of the latter are universally known, and shall,
accordingly, confine ourselves to Luther.

Two curious facts may be noted before we start our investigation of
Luther's writings: 1. Is it not remarkable that Joseph Smith himself
does not cite Luther as his authority in defense of plural marriages?
What an impression would the man have made, had he known what Mr.
Roberts and some Catholics know! 2. Charging Lutheranism, that is, the
Lutheran Church, with teaching polygamy, implies that the confessional
writings of the Lutheran Church contain this teaching. The person who
will furnish the evidence for this charge from the Book of Concord,
which contains the symbolical writings of the Lutheran Church, will
become famous. Mr. Roberts was not so bold as to embrace Lutheranism
among the sponsors of his polygamous cult; he only spoke of Luther. He
was wise. And now, what does Luther say on the subject of polygamy? We
pass by, as unworthy of note, Luther's humorous remarks made in a spirit
of banter to his wife, that he would marry another wife. Only ill-will
can find in this friendly jest an evidence of Luther's polygamous

Serious references to this matter occur in Luther's remarks on the
practise of polygamy among the Israelites. The Mosaic account of
Abraham's relation to Agar, the two marriages of Jacob, the regulations
regarding women who had become captives in war, the harems of the kings
of Judah and Israel,--all these Biblical records, which have perplexed
many a student of the Bible, necessarily interested Luther as a
theologian and expounder of the Scriptures. Every reader of the Bible
has to form an opinion on these matters. Polygamous thoughts, therefore,
did not originate in the lustful mind of Luther, but statements on the
subject of polygamy were demanded of him as a religious teacher. He held
that the polygamous relations which the Bible notes among the
Israelites, even among saintly members of this people, must be explained
either on the ground of a special dispensation of God for which we do
not know the reason, or they must be regarded in the same light as
Christ regarded the divorces among the Jews of His day, namely, as
things which God permits among men because of their hardness of heart,
and in order to prevent greater evils. (3, 1556.) This view determined
Luther's attitude toward Carlstadt, after this turbulent spirit had
quitted Wittenberg and gone to Orlamuende, where he advocated, amongst
other things, the introduction of polygamy. Inasmuch as Carlstadt did
not mean to enforce his strange reforms by arms, as Muenzer and the
peasants were doing, Luther inclined to condone his views on polygamy.
He evidently regards this matter as a matter of public policy, like
prostitution, which every community and commonwealth must regulate by
such statutes as can be devised, "because of the hardness of men's
hearts." Luther has frequently propounded this perfectly sound view
regarding the life and conduct of non-Christians: since these people do
not acknowledge the laws of God as binding, it matters little what
practises they adopt. All that can be done to keep the animal impulses
in them somewhat in check is to fix certain limits by means of civil
laws beyond which their license may not go. For their rejection of God's
laws they will have to answer to their future Judge.

In a letter addressed to Joseph Levin Metzsch of December 9, 1526,
Luther says: "Your first question: Whether person may have more than one
wife? I answer thus: Let unbelievers do what they please; Christian
liberty, however, is regulated by love (charity), so that all that a
Christian does is done to serve his fellow-man, provided only that he
can render such service without jeopardy and damage to his faith and
conscience. Nowadays, however, everybody is striving for a liberty that
profits and pleases him, without regard for the profit and improvement
which his neighbor might derive from his action. This is contrary to
the teaching of St. Paul, who says: 'All things are lawful unto me, but
all things are not expedient' (1 Cor. 6, 12). Only see that your liberty
does not become an occasion to the flesh. . . . Moreover, although the
patriarchs had many wives, Christians may not follow their example,
because there is no necessity for doing this, no improvement is obtained
thereby, and, especially, there is no word of God to justify this
practise, while great offense and trouble may come from it. Accordingly,
I do not believe that Christians any longer have this liberty. God would
have to publish a command that would declare such a liberty." (21a, 901
f.) To Clemens Ursinus, pastor at Bruck, Luther writes under date of
March 21, 1527: "Polygamy, which in former times was permitted to the
Jews and Gentiles, cannot be honestly approved of among Christians, and
cannot be engaged in with a good conscience, unless in an extreme case
of necessity, as, for instance, when one of the spouses is separated
from the other by leprosy or for a similar cause. Accordingly, you may
say to the carnal people (with whom you have to do), if they want to be
Christians, they must keep married fidelity and bridle their flesh, not
give it license. If they want to be heathen, let them do what they
please, at their own risk." (21a, 928.)

In his comment on the question of the Pharisees regarding divorce (Matt.
19, 3-6), Luther says: "Many divorces occur still among the Turks. If a
wife does not yield to the husband, nor act according to his whim and
fancy, he forthwith drives her out of the house, and takes one, two,
three, or four additional wives, and defends his action by appealing to
Moses. They have taken out of Moses such things as please them and
pander to their lust. In Turkey they are very cruel to women; any woman
that will not submit is cast aside. They toy with their women like a dog
with a rag. When they are weary of one woman, they quickly put her
beneath the turf and take another. Moses has said nothing to justify
this practise. My opinion is that there is no real married life among
the Turks; theirs is a whorish life. It is a terrible tyranny, all the
more to be regretted because God does not withhold the common blessing
from their intercourse: children are procreated thereby, and yet the
mother is sent away by the husband. For this reason there is no true
matrimony among the Turks. In my opinion, all the Turks at the present
time are bastards." (7, 965.)

All this is plain enough and should suffice to secure Luther against the
charge of favoring polygamy. The seeming admission that polygamy might
be permissible relates to cases for which the laws of all civilized
nations make provisions. How a Christian must conduct himself in such a
case must be decided on the evidence in each case. Likewise, the
reference to the Christian's liberty from the law does not mean that the
Christian has the potential right to polygamy, but it means that he must
maintain his monogamous relation from a free and willing choice to obey
God's commandments in the power of God's grace. Polygamy, this is the
firm conviction of Luther, could only be sanctioned if there were a
plain command of God to that effect. Luther's remarks about matrimony
among the Turks should be remembered when Catholics cite Luther's
remarks about King Ahasuerus dismissing Vashti and summoning Esther, and
the right of the husband to take to himself his maid-servant when his
wife refuses him. By all divine and human laws the matter to which
Luther refers is a just ground for divorce, and that is all that Luther

But did not Luther sanction the bigamy of Philip of Hesse? So he did.
Luther's decision in this case must be studied in the light of all the
evidence which we possess. Catholic theologians, before all others,
should be able to appreciate Luther's claim that what was said to the
Landgrave was said to him "in the person of Christ," as the counsel
which a confessor gave to a burdened conscience. Catholics fail to
mention that Luther repelled bigamous thoughts in Philip of Hesse
fourteen years before the Landgrave took Margaret von der Saal. The
evidence was found in the state archives at Kassel, now at Marburg, in
a fragment of a letter which Niedner published in the _Zeitschrift fuer
historische Theologie_, 1852, No. 2, p. 265. The letter is dated
November 28, 1526; Philip's bigamous marriage took place March 9, 1540.
In this letter Luther says to Philip: "As regards the other matter, my
faithful warning and advice is that no man, Christians in particular,
should have more than one wife, not only for the reason that offense
would be given, and Christians must not needlessly give, but most
diligently avoid giving, offense, but also for the reason that we have
no word of God regarding this matter on which we might base a belief
that such action would be well-pleasing to God and to Christians. Let
heathen and Turks do what they please. Some of the ancient fathers had
many wives, but they were urged to this by necessity, as Abraham and
Jacob, and later many kings, who according to the law of Moses obtained
the wives of their friends, on the death of the latter, as an
inheritance. The example of the fathers is not a sufficient argument to
convince a Christian: he must have, in addition, a divine word that
makes him sure, just as they had a word of that kind from God. For where
there was no need or cause, the ancient fathers did not have more than
one wife, as Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and many others. For this reason I
cannot advise for, but must advise against, your intention, particularly
since you are a Christian, unless there were an extreme necessity, as,
for instance, if the wife were leprous or the husband were deprived of
her for some other reason. On what grounds to forbid other people such
marriages I know not" (21a, 900 f.) This letter effected that the
Landgrave did not carry out his intention, but failing, nevertheless, to
lead a chaste life, he did not commune, except once in extreme illness,
because of his accusing conscience.

How Luther, fourteen years later, was induced to virtually reverse his
opinion he has told himself in a lengthy letter to the Elector
Frederick. This letter is Luther's best justification. It is dated June
10, 1540, and reads: "Most serene, high-born Elector, most gracious
Lord:--I am sorry to learn that Your Grace is importuned by the court of
Dresden about the Landgrave's business. Your Grace asks what answer to
give the men of Meissen. As the affair was one of the confessional, both
Melanchthon and I were unwilling to communicate it even to Your Grace,
for it is right to keep confessional matters secret, both the sin
confessed and the counsel given, and had the Landgrave not revealed the
matter and the confessional counsel, there would never have been all
this nauseating unpleasantness.--I still say that if the matter were
brought before me to-day, I should not be able to give counsel different
from what I did. Setting apart the fact that I know I am not as wise as
they think they are, I need conceal nothing, especially as it has
already been made known. The state of affairs is as follows: Martin
Bucer brought a letter and pointed out that, on account of certain
faults in the Landgrave's wife, the Landgrave was not able to keep
himself chaste, and that he had hitherto lived in a way which was not
good, but that he would like to be at one with the principal heads of
the Evangelic Church, and he declared solemnly before God and his
conscience that he could not in future avoid such vices unless he were
permitted to take another wife. We were deeply horrified at this tale
and the offense which must follow, and we begged his Grace not to do as
he proposed. But we were told again that he could not abandon his
project, and if he could not obtain what he wanted from us, he would
disregard us and turn to the Emperor and Pope. To prevent this we
humbly begged that if his Grace would not, or, as he averred before God
and his conscience, could not, do otherwise, yet that he could keep it a
secret. Though necessity compelled him, yet he could not defend his act
before the world and the imperial laws; this he promised to do, and we
accordingly agreed to help him before God and cover it up as much as
possible with such examples as that of Abraham. This all happened as
though in the confessional, and no one can accuse us of having acted as
we did willingly or voluntarily or with pleasure or joy. It was hard
enough for our hearts, but we could not prevent it, we thought to give
his conscience such counsel as we could.--I have indeed learned several
confessional secrets, both while I was still a papist and later, which,
if they were revealed, I should live to deny or else publish the whole
confession. Such things belong not to the secular courts, nor are they
to be published. God has here His own judgment, and must counsel souls
in matters where no worldly law nor wisdom can help. My preceptor in the
cloister, a fine old man, had many such affairs, and once had to say of
them with a sigh: 'Alas, alas! such things are so perplexed and
desperate that no wisdom, law, nor reason can avail; one must commend
them to divine goodness.' So instructed, I have, accordingly, in this
case also acted agreeably to divine goodness.--But had I known that the
Landgrave had long before satisfied his desires, and could well satisfy
them with others, as I have now just learned that he did with her of
Eschwege, truly no angel would have induced me to give such counsel. I
gave it only in consideration of his unavoidable necessity and weakness,
and to put his conscience out of peril, as Bucer represented the case to
me. Much less would I ever have advised that there should be a public
marriage, to which (though he told me nothing of this) a young princess
and young countess should come, which is truly not to be borne and is
insufferable to the whole empire. But I understood and hoped, as long as
he had to go the common way with sin and shame and weakness of the
flesh, that he would take some honorable maiden or other in secret
marriage, even if the relation did not have a legal look before the
world. My concession was on account of the great need of his
conscience--such as happened to other great lords. In like manner I
advised certain priests in the Catholic lands of Duke George and the
bishops secretly to marry their cooks.--This was my confessional counsel
about which I would much rather have kept silence, but it has been wrung
from me, and I could do nothing but speak. But the men of Dresden speak
as though I had taught the same for thirteen years, and yet they give us
to understand what a friendly heart they have to us, and what great
desire for love and unity, just as if there were no scandal or sin in
their lives, which are ten times worse before God than anything I ever
advised. But the world must always smugly rail at the moat in its
neighbor's eye, and forget the beam in its own eye. If I must defend all
I have said or done in former years, especially at the beginning, I must
beg the Pope to do the same, for if they defend their former acts (let
alone their present ones), they would belong to the devil more than to
God.--I am not ashamed of my counsel, even if it should be published in
all the world; but for the sake of the unpleasantness which would then
follow, I should prefer, if possible, to have kept it secret. Martin
Luther, with his own hand." (21b, 2467; transl. by Preserved Smith.)

About a year later a Hessian preacher, by the name of Johann Lening,
undertook to justify the bigamy of the Landgrave. Under the pseudonym
"Huldricus Neobulus" he published a "Dialogus," that is, "an amicable
conversation between two persons on the question whether it is in
accordance with, or contrary to, divine, natural, imperial, and
spiritual laws for a person to have more than one wife at a time," etc.
The writer defended bigamy. In an unfinished reply to this book Luther
takes strong grounds against him. Referring to the author's argument
that bigamy was sanctioned by Moses, Luther says: "The reference to the
fathers of whom Moses speaks is irrelevant: Moses is dead. Granted,
however, that bigamy was legal in the days of the fathers and Moses,
--which can never be established,--still they had God's word for it that
such a permission was given them. That we have not. And although it was
permitted to the Jews and tolerated by God, while God Himself considered
it wrong, . . . it was merely a dispensation. . . . Now, there is a
great difference between a legal right and a dispensation, or something
that is tolerated or permitted. A legal right is not a dispensation, and
a dispensation is not a legal right; whoever does, obtains, or holds
something by a dispensation does not do, obtain, or hold it by legal
right." Luther then enters upon a brief discussion of the bigamous
relationships which were created by the Mosaic laws, and explains that
legislation as emergency legislation. He says: "What need is there why
we should try to find all sorts of reasons to explain why the fathers
under Moses were permitted to have many wives? God is sovereign; He may
abrogate, alter, mitigate a law as He pleases, for emergency's sake or
not. But it does not behoove us to imitate such instances, much less to
establish them as a right. But this Tulrich [so Luther calls the unknown
author] rashly declares carnal lust free, and wants to put the world
back to where it was before the Flood, when they took them wives, not
like the Jews by God's permission, or because of an emergency or for
charity's sake towards homeless women, as Moses directs, but, as the
text says, 'which they chose' (Gen. 6, 2). That is the way nowadays to
rise to the stars. In this way we have Moses and the fathers with their
examples as beautiful cloaks for carnal liberty; we say with our lips
that we are following the examples of the fathers, but in very deed we
act contrary to them. Lord, have mercy! If the world continues, what all
may we not expect to happen these times, if even now shameless fellows
may print what they please." (21b, 2691 f.)

One might go more exhaustively into the evidence, but the materials here
submitted will suffice to convince most men that, while Luther's advice
to Philip did create a bigamous relation, Luther was not a defender of
bigamy. Every one who has had to deal with questions relating to married
life knows that situations arise in the matrimonial relation which
simply cannot be threshed out in public, and in which the honest advice
of a pious person is invoked to find a way out of a complication. That
was the situation confronting Luther: what he advised was meant as an
emergency measure to prevent something that was worse. In the same
manner Luther had expressed the opinion that it would have been easier
to condone a bigamous relation in Henry VIII of England than the unjust
divorce which the king was seeking. As a matter of fact, however, Luther
and his Wittenberg colleagues were grossly hoodwinked in the matter,
both by the Landgrave himself and, what is worse, by the Landgrave's
court-preacher, Bucer. Had the true facts been known, the advice, as
Luther clearly states, would never have been given. But we can well
understand how Luther can declare that under the circumstances under
which he thought he was acting he could not have given any different
advice. Personally, we have always resented the veiled threat in the
Landgrave's request that he would apply to the Pope or the Emperor.
Perhaps the remark was not understood as a threat, but as an expression
of despair. At any rate, Philip was confident of getting from Rome what
he was not sure of obtaining from Luther.

Ought not this remark of the Landgrave caution Luther's Catholic critics
to be very careful in what they say about the heinousness of Luther's
offense in granting a dispensation from a moral precept? Have they
really no such thing as a "dispensation" at Rome? Has not the married
relationship come up for "dispensation" in the chancelleries of the
Vatican innumerable times? Has not one of the canonized saints of Rome,
St. Augustine, declared that bigamy might be permitted if a wife was
sterile? Was not concubinage still recognized by law in the sixteenth
century in Ireland? Did not King Diarmid have two legitimate wives and
two concubines? And he was a Catholic. What have Catholics to say in
rejoinder to Sir Henry Maine's assertion that the Canon Law of their
Church brought about numerous sexual inequalities? Or to Joseph
MacCabe's statement that not until 1060 was there any authoritative
mandate of the Church against polygamy, and that even after this
prohibition there were numerous instances of concubinage and polygamic
marriages in Christian communities? Or to Hallam in his _Middle Ages_,
where he reports concubinage in Europe? Or to Lea, who proves that this
evil was not confined to the laity? (See Gallighan, _Women under
Polygamy_, pp. 43. 292. 295. 303. 330. 339.)

All that has so far been said about Luther's views on the subject of
polygamy could be most powerfully reinforced by a review of Luther's
teaching on matrimony as a divine institution, which Luther consistently
throughout his writings regards as monogamous. But this is too well
known to require restatement, and is really outside of the scope of this
review, which must content itself with submitting the direct argument in
rebuttal of the Catholic charge of Luther's advocacy of polygamy. This
polygamous Luther, too, is a vision that is rendered possible only
through spectacles of hopeless bias.

27. Luther Announces His Death.

Mark Twain awoke one morning to find himself reported dead. He did not
accept the invitation suggested in the report, but wired to his friends:
"Reports of my death grossly exaggerated." Luther was placed in a
similar predicament by Catholics who were deeply interested in the
question how long he was to continue to live. One day, in the early part
of March, 1545, he was handed a printed letter in Italian which
contained the news of his demise under curious circumstances. He thought
that he ought not to withhold this interesting information from the
world: he had a German translation made of the document, which he
published with his remarks as follows:

"Copy of a Letter of the Ambassador of the Most Christian King regarding
a Horrible Sign which Occurred in the Shameful Death of Martin Luther.

"A horrible and unheard-of miracle which the blessed God has wrought in
the shameful death of Martin Luther, who went to hell, soul and body, as
may be clearly seen from a chapter of the letter of the ambassador of
the Most Christian King, to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ and the
confirmation and comfort of the faithful.

_"Copy of the Letter_.

"1. Martin Luther, having been taken ill, desired the holy Sacrament of
the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. He died immediately upon receiving
it. When he saw that his sickness was very violent and he was near
death, he prayed that his body might be placed on an altar and worshiped
as Cod. But the goodness and providence of God had resolved to put an
end to his great error and to silence him forever. Accordingly, God did
not omit to work this great miracle, which was very much needed, to
cause the people to desist from the great, destructive, and ruinous
error which the said Luther has caused in the world. As soon as his body
had been placed in the grave, an awful rumbling and noise was heard, as
if hell and the devils were collapsing. All present were seized with a
great fright, terror, and fear, and when they raised their eyes to
heaven, they plainly saw the most holy host of our Lord Jesus Christ
which this unworthy man was permitted to receive unworthily. I affirm
that all who were present saw the most holy host visibly floating in the
air. They took the most holy host very devoutly and with great
reverence, and gave it a decent place in the sanctuary.

"2. When this had been done, no such tumult and hellish rumbling was
heard any more that day. However, during the following night, at the
place where Martin Luther's corpse had been buried, there was heard by
everybody in the community a much greater confusion than the first time.
The people arose and flocked together in great fear and terror. At
daybreak they went to open the grave where the wicked body of Luther had
been placed. When the grave was opened, you could clearly see that there
was no body, neither flesh nor bone, nor any clothes. But such a
sulphuric stench rose from the grave that all who were standing around
the grave turned sick. On account of this miracle many have reformed
their lives by returning to the holy Christian faith, to the honor,
praise, and glory of Jesus Christ, and to the strengthening and
confirmation of His holy Christian Church, which is a pillar of truth."

Luther appended the following comment to this pious document:

"And I, Martinus Luther, D., do by these indentures acknowledge and
testify that I have received this angry fiction concerning my death on
the twenty-first day of March, and that I have read it with considerable
pleasure and joy, except the blasphemous portion of the document in
which this lie is attributed to the exalted majesty of God. Otherwise I
felt quite tickled on my knee-cap and under my left heel at this
evidence how cordially the devil and his minions, the Pope and the
papists, hate me. May God turn them from the devil!

"However, if it is decreed that theirs is a sin unto death, and that my
prayer is in vain, then may God grant that they fill up their measure
and write nothing else but such books for their comfort and joy. Let
them run their course; they are on the right track; they want to have it
so. Meanwhile I want to know how they are going to be saved, and how
they will atone for and revoke all their lies and blasphemies with which
they have filled the world." (21b, 3376 f.)

Similar, even more grotesque tales have been served the faithful by
Catholic writers. The star production of this kind was published years
ago in the _Ohio-Waisenfreund_. It related that horrible and uncanny
signs had accompanied Luther's death. Weird shrieks and noises were
heard, devils were flying about in the air; the heavens were shrouded in
a pall of gloom. When the funeral cortege started from Eisleben, a vast
flock of ravens had gathered and accompanied the corpse croaking
incessantly and uttering dismal cries all the way to Wittenberg, etc.,

These crude stories have now been censored out of existence. Catholics
nowadays prefer to lie in a more refined and cultured manner about
Luther's death: Luther committed suicide; he was found hanging from his
bedpost one morning.

Comment is unnecessary.

Luther died peacefully in the presence of friends, confessing, Christ
and asserting his firm allegiance to the faith he had proclaimed with
his last breath. The probable cause of his death was a stroke of
paralysis. Luther began to feel pains in the chest late in the afternoon
of February 17, 1546. He bore up manfully and continued working at his
business for the Count of Mansfeld who had called him to Eisleben. After
a light evening meal he sat chatting in a cheerful mood with his
companions, and retired early, as was his custom in his declining years.
The pains in the chest became worse, and he began to feel chilly.
Medicaments were administered, and after a while he fell into a slumber,
which lasted an hour. He awoke with increased pain and a feeling of
great congestion, which caused the death-perspiration to break out. He
was rapidly turning cold. All this time he was praying and reciting
portions from the Psalms and other texts. Three times in succession he
repeated his favorite text, John 3, 16. Gradually he became peaceful,
and his end was so gentle that the bystanders were in doubt whether he
had expired or was only in a swoon. They worked with him, trying to
rouse him, until they were convinced that he had breathed his last. The
Catholic apothecary John Landau, who had been called in while Luther was
thought to be in a swoon, helped to establish the fact of his death.

28. Luther's View of His Slanderers.

Luther was the subject of gross misrepresentation and vile slander
during his lifetime: At first he used to correct erroneous reports about
himself, usually in his polemical writings, later he merely noted them
with a brief and scornful comment, and finally ignored them altogether.
He relates that he had treated many slanderous publications of Eck,
Faber, Emser, Cochlaeus, and many others with silent contempt. (18,
1991; 14, 331.) It was a physical impossibility for him to reply to all
the misleading and vicious reports that were being circulated about him.
He was convinced that he must use his time and strength for more
necessary matters. His friends in many instances relieved him of the
unpleasant task. Moreover, after he had answered those who had first
assailed him in the beginning of his public activity, he could afford to
disregard many slanders, because they were mere repetitions.

Luther was aware that he was probably the worst-hated man of his times.
He declares his belief that in the last hundred years there has not
lived a man to whom the world was more hostile than to himself. (22,
1660.) Persons praising him, he says, are regarded as having committed
a more grievous sin than any idolater, blasphemer, perjurer, fornicator,
adulterer, murderer, or thief. (9, 553.) Anything that Luther has said,
he observes, is denounced as coming from the devil; what Duke George
(one of his fiercest enemies), Faber, or Bucer say or do is highly
approved, (4, 1606.) Like Elijah, he was charged with having disturbed
Israel: before he began preaching there was peace and quiet, now all is
confusion. (9, 587.) He is held responsible for the Peasants' Revolt and
the rise of the Sacramentarian sects. (22, 1602.) A laborer whom his
wife had hired became drunk and committed murder; at once the rumor was
spread that Luther kept a murderer as his servant. (21b, 2225.) What he
writes is represented as having been inspired by envy, pride,
bitterness, yea, by Satan himself; those, however, who write against him
are regarded as being inspired by the Holy Ghost. (18, 2005.) He
observes that beggars become rich, obtain favors from princes and kings,
remunerative positions, honors, and bishoprics by turning against him.
(18, 2005.) Some attribute the election of Adrian VI as Pope to Luther
(this Pope was believed to favor reforms: he did not last long); and
Luther expects that he is helping Dr. Schmid to become a cardinal
because he is opposing him. (19, 1347.) Dunces become doctors, knaves
become saints, and the most besotted characters are glorified when they
try their vile mouths and pens against Luther. (19, 1347.) The easiest
way for any man to become a canonized saint even during his lifetime,
though he were a person of the stripe of a Nero or Caligula, is by
hating Luther. (18, 2005.) On the cover of the pamphlet containing his
Sermon on the Sacrament Luther ordered a picture consisting of two
monstrances printed; this was promptly explained to mean that he had
adopted the Bohemian errors, for Hus had administered the Lord's Supper
in both kinds. (19, 457.) Some pretended that they could see two geese
in this picture; the meaning was plain: one of them signified Hus (Hus
in Bohemian means goose), the other, Luther. (19, 458.)

Luther would not have been human if incidents like these had not caused
him pain. Occasionally he would give vent to his grief, but his manly
courage, too, would soon assert itself, and he would expose the
hollowness, insincerity, and futility of the lying tales that were
spread about him. At a public meeting in Campo Flore he was cursed,
sentenced to death, and burned in effigy. (21a, 174.) He has read
offensive reports about himself, and puts them down with the calm
declaration: There is not a man that writes against Luther without
having to resort to horrible and manifest lies. (19, 583.) He is sure
that he has not had an opponent who in an argument would stick to the
point; they all had to evade the issue. (22, 658.) Shameful falsehoods
are canvassed about him at the court of King Ferdinand (15, 2623);
Luther comforts himself with the reflection that others have suffered
the same vilification before him, for instance, Wyclif, Hus, and others
(5, 308). Besides, he is able to understand that the real reason why
the papists regard him as such a perverse and untractable person is
because they are utterly perverse themselves. (4, 1499.)

But his sweetest comfort is in reflecting that it is his preaching which
has brought his manifold afflictions upon him. Poor Luther is always
wrong: the Sacramentarians and Anabaptists hate him worse than they hate
the Pope, and the Pope hates him worse than he hates other heretics,
because they all fight against the Gospel which Luther preaches. (22,
1015.) If I were to keep silent, he says, or preach as I used to do,
concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, adoration of the saints, purgatory,
the carnival of the Mass, I could easily keep the favor and friendship
of the great. (8, 569.) But for the sake of the true doctrine and those
who profess it,--whom his opponents wish to suppress, Luther is willing
to suffer hatred, persecution, calumnies, and everything else that his
enemies may devise against him. (5, 587.) What have I done, he exclaims,
to deserve the enmity of the Pope and his rabble, except that I have
preached Christ? (8, 569.) He is convinced from the papists' own
confession that he is being persecuted for no other reason than because
he is preaching the Gospel. (8, 399.}

Knowing the reason why he is hated, Luther glories in his tribulations.
Duke George, he says, calls me a desperate, low-bred, perjured knave: I
shall consider those ugly names my emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. (19,
457.) He would fear that there must be something wrong about his
teaching if the people whom he knows would not fight against him: if
these people do not condemn his doctrine, his doctrine cannot be
acceptable to God. (10, 351.) He prefers to have them rage against him.
Their violence shall not disturb him greatly, because he has championed
the Lord's cause, and that, in all sincerity, without malice toward any
person. (21a, 301.) . Let the papists exhaust themselves in slanders
against him: he knows he has the Scriptures on his side, and they have
the Scriptures against them. (5, 310.) They intend to grind Luther to
pieces, not a hair of him is to remain; he knows that they will not be
able to harm a hair on his head. (8, 119.)

Thus Luther thought and spoke of his detractors and defamers. Such was
his comfort and his courage in the face of base calumnies and undeserved
hatred. Those who know him best will continue to love him, and admire
him the more for the enemies he has made.


If the reader of this book has had the sensation of a traveler in a
storm-tossed vessel, he has experienced mentally what Luther faced in
dread reality during almost the whole of his agitated life. He had to
weather many a squall, and storm, and hurricane. Outwardly his life
seems a continuous hurly-burly. Yet there is in this man's heart a great
and holy calm. The tumult of his life is all on the surface. He reminds
one of the lines in Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Hymn":

     When winds are raging o'er the upper ocean,
     And billows wild contend with angry roar,
     'T is said, far down beneath the wild commotion,
     That peaceful stillness reigneth evermore.

     Far, far beneath, the noise of tempest dieth,
     And silver waves chime ever peacefully,
     And no rude storm, how fierce soe'er it flieth,
     Disturbs the Sabbath of that deeper sea.

We have had glimpses of the hidden depths in Luther's mind: his thought
reaches down to the lowest depths of human misery, and then goes deeper
still towards the limits of God's rescuing love and conquering grace
which human mind has never reached. For these divine profundities no
plummet will ever sound. He who could surrender himself wholly to the
study of the greatness and beauty of Luther's constructive thought would
enjoy a spiritual luxury and be drawn into that sublime and solemn peace
of God which passes all understanding. He would behold this strenuous
man; who has been shown mostly in his working-clothes in these pages, in
his holiday-attire, with that Sabbath in his heart which occurs wherever
Christ is the loved and adored object of the thinker's contemplation.

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