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´╗┐Title: A Treatise on Good Works
Author: Luther, Martin, 1483-1546
Language: English
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A Treatise on Good Works

together with the Letter of Dedication

by Dr. Martin Luther, 1520



INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M. REU.

WARTBURG SEMINARY, DUBUQUE, IOWA.



TREATISE ON GOOD WORKS

1520

DEDICATION

JESUS


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DR. MARTIN LUTHER.

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



THE TREATISE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Table follows.



"Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thou shalt not commit adultery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thou shalt not steal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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