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Title: Works of Martin Luther - With Introductions and Notes (Volume I)
Author: Luther, Martin, 1483-1546
Language: English
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Copyright, 1915, by A. J. HOLMAN COMPANY

    Introduction (C. H. Jacobs)
    Translation (C. M, Jacobs)
    Introduction (H. E. Jacobs)
    Translation (C. M. Jacobs)
    Introduction (H. E. Jacobs)
    Translation (C. M. Jacobs)
    Introduction (A. T. W. Steinhaeuser)
    Translation (A. T. W. Steinhaeuser)
    Introduction (A. T. W. Steinhaeuser)
    Translation (A. T. W. Steinhaeuser)
    Introduction (J. L. Neve)
    Translation (J. J. Schindel)
    Introduction (T. E. Schmauk)
    Translation (A. Steimle)
INDEX (W. A. Lambert)


No historical study of current issues--politics or social science
or theology--can far proceed without bringing the student face to
face with the principles asserted by the Reformation of the
Sixteenth Century and its great leader, Martin Luther. He has had
many critics and many champions, but neither his critics nor his
champions feel that the last word concerning him has been spoken,
for scarcely a year passes that does not witness the publication
of a new biography.

Had Luther been nothing more than a man of his own time and his
own nation the task of estimating him would long since have been
completed. A few exhaustive treatises would have answered all
demands. But the Catalogue of the British Museum, published in
1894, contains over two hundred folio pages, averaging about
thirty-five titles to the page, of books and pamphlets written
either by or about him, that have been gathered into this single
collection, in a land foreign to the sphere of his labors, and
this list has been greatly augmented since 1894. Above all other
historical characters that have appeared since the first years of
Christianity, he is a man of the present day no less than of the
day in which he lived.

But Luther can be properly known and estimated only when he is
allowed to speak for himself. He should be seen not through the
eyes of others, but through our own. In order to judge the man
we must know all sides of the man, and read the heaviest as well
as the lightest of his works, the more scientific and theological
as well as the more practical and popular, his informal letters
as well as his formal treatises. We must take account of the time
of each writing and the circumstances under which it was
composed, of the adversaries against whom he was contending, and
of the progress which he made in his opinions as time went on.
The great fund of primary sources which the historical methods of
the last generation have made available should also be laid under
contribution to shed light upon his statements and his attitude
toward the various questions involved in his life-struggles.

As long as a writer can be read only in the language or languages
in which he wrote, this necessary closer contact with his
personality can be enjoyed only by a very limited circle of
advanced scholars. But many of these will be grateful for a
translation into their vernacular for more rapid reading, from
which they may turn to the standard text when a question of more
minute criticism is at stake. Even advanced students appreciate
accurately rendered and scholarly annotated translations, by
which the range of the leaders of human thought, with whom it is
possible for them to be occupied, may be greatly enlarged. Such
series of translations as those comprised in the well-edited
Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Libraries of the Fathers have
served a most excellent purpose.

In the series introduced by this volume the attempt is made to
render a similar service with respect to Luther. This is no
ambitious project to reproduce in English all that he wrote or
that fell from his lips in the lecture-room or in the pulpit. The
plan has been to furnish within the space of ten volumes a
selection of such treatises as are either of most permanent
value, or supply the best means for obtaining a true view of his
many-sided literary activity and the sources of his abiding
influence. The aim is not to popularize the writer, but to make
the English, as far as possible, a faithful reproduction of the
German or Latin. The work has been done by a small group of
scholarly Lutheran pastors, residing near each other, and jointly
preparing the copy for the printer. The first draft of each
translation was thoroughly discussed and revised in a joint
conference of the translators before final approval.
Representative scholars, who have given more or less special
study to Luther, have been called in to prepare some of the
introductions. While the part contributed by each individual is
credited at the proper place, it must yet be added that my former
colleague, the late Rev. Prof. Adolph Spaeth, D. D., LL. D.
(died June 25, 1910), was actively engaged as the Chairman of the
Committee that organized the work, determined the plan, and, with
the undersigned, made the first selection of the material to be

The other members of the Committee are the Rev. T. E. Schmauk,
D. D., LL. D., the Rev. L. D. Reed, D. D., the Rev. W. A. Lambert,
J. J. Schindel, A. Steimle, A. T. W. Steinhaeuser, and C. M.
Jacobs, D. D.; upon the five last named the burden of preparing
the translations and notes has rested.

Their work has been laborious and difficult. Luther's complaints
concerning the seriousness of his task in attempting to teach the
patriarch Job to speak idiomatic German might doubtless have
found an echo in the experience of this corps of scholars in
forcing Luther into idiomatic English. We are confident, however,
that, as in Luther's case, so also here, the general verdict of
readers will be that they have been eminently successful. It
should also be known that it has been purely a labor of love,
performed in the midst of the exacting duties of large
pastorates, and to serve the Church, to whose ministry they have
consecrated their lives.

The approaching jubilee of the Reformation in 1917 will call
renewed attention to the author of these treatises. These
volumes have been prepared with especial reference to the
discussions which, we have every reason to believe, will then

    Henry Eyster Jacobs.
    Luther Theological Seminary,
    Mt. Airy, Philadelphia.


The languages from which the following translations have been
made are the Latin and the German,--the Latin of the German
Universities, the German of the people, and both distinctively
Luther's. In the Latin there is added to the imperfection of the
form, when measured by classical standards, the difficulty of
expressing in an old language the new thoughts of the
Reformation. German was regarded even by Gibbon, two hundred and
fifty years later, as a barbarous idiom. Luther, especially in
his earlier writings, struggled to give form to a language and to
express the highest thoughts in it. Where Luther thus struggled
with two languages, it is evident that they have no easy task who
attempt to reproduce the two in a third.

Modern Germans find it convenient to read Luther's German in a
modernized text, sometimes rather hastily and uncritically
constructed, and altogether unsafe as a basis for translation.
Where the Germans have had to modify, a translator meets double
difficulties. It may be puzzling for him to know Luther's exact
meaning; it is even more puzzling to find the exact English

In order to overcome these difficulties, in part at least, and
present a translation both accurate and readable, the present
group of translators have not simply distributed the work among
themselves, but have together revised each translation as it was
made. The original translator, at a meeting of the group, has
submitted his work to the rest for criticism and correction,
amounting at times to retranslation. No doubtful point, whether
in sense or in sound, has been passed by unchallenged.

Even with such care, the translation is not perfect. In places a
variant reading is possible, a variant interpretation plausible.
We can only claim that an honest effort has been made to be both
accurate and clear, and submit the result of our labors to a fair
and scholarly criticism. Critics can hardly be more severe than
we have been to one another. If they find errors, it may be that
we have seen them, and preferred the seeming error to the
suggested correction; if not, we can accept criticism from others
as gracefully as from each other.

The sources from which our translations have been made are the
best texts available in each case. In general, these are found in
the _Weimar Edition (D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische
Gesammtausgabe._ Weimar. Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1883 ff.),
so far as this is completed. A more complete and fairly
satisfactory edition is that known as the _Erlangen Edition_, in
which the German and Latin works are published in separate
series, 1826 ff. The text of the _Berlin Edition_ (Luthers Werke,
herausgegeben von Pfarrer D. Dr. Buchwald, etc., Berlin, C. A.
Schwetschke und Sohn, third edition, 1905, ten volumes) is
modernized, and where it has been used it has been carefully
compared with the more critical texts. The two editions of
Walch--the original, published 1740-1753, in twenty-four volumes,
at Halle, and the modern edition, known as the St. Louis, Mo.,
edition, 1880 ff.--are entirely German, and somewhat modernized.
For our purpose they could be used only as helps in the
interpretation, and not as standard texts for translation. A very
convenient and satisfactory critical text of selected treatises
is to be found in Otto Clemen, _Luthers Werke in Auswahl_, Bonn,
4 vols., of which two volumes appeared in 1912.






I would gladly have seen all my books forgotten and destroyed; if
only for the reason that I am afraid of the example.[2] For I see
what benefit it has brought to the churches, that men have begun
to collect many books and great libraries, outside and alongside
of the Holy Scriptures; and have begun especially to scramble
together, without any distinction, all sorts of "Fathers,"
"Councils," and "Doctors." Not only has good time been wasted,
and the study of the Scriptures neglected; but the pure
understanding of the divine Word is lost, until at last the Bible
has come to lie forgotten in the dust under the bench.

Although it is both useful and necessary that the writings of
some of the Fathers and the decrees of some of the Councils
should be preserved as witnesses and records, nevertheless, I
think, _est modus in rebus_,[3] and it is no pity that the books of
many of the Fathers and Councils have, by God's grace, been lost.
If they had all remained, one could scarce go in or out for
books, and we should still have nothing better than we find in
the Holy Scriptures.

Then, too, it was our intention and our hope, when we began to
put the Bible into German, that there would be less writing, and
more studying and reading of the Scriptures. For all other
writings should point to the Scriptures, as John pointed to
Christ; when he said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
[John 3:30] In this way every one may drink for himself from the
fresh spring, as all the Fathers have had to do when they wished
to produce anything worth while. Neither Fathers nor Councils nor
we ourselves will do so well, even when our very best is done, as
the Holy Scriptures have done; that is to say, we shall never do
so well as God Himself. Even though for our salvation we need to
have the Holy Spirit and faith and divine language and divine
works, nevertheless we must let the Prophets and Apostles sit at
the desk, while we sit at their feet and listen to what they say.
It is not for us to say what they must hear.

Since, however, I cannot prevent it, and, without my wish, they
are now bent on collecting and printing my books--small honor to
me--I shall have to let them put their energy and labor on the
venture. I comfort myself with the thought that my books will yet
be forgotten in the dust, especially when, by God's grace, I have
written something good. _Non ero melior patribus meis_.[4][1
Kings 19:4] The other kind will be more likely to endure. For
when the Bible can be left lying under the bench, and when it is
true of the Fathers and Councils that the better they were, the
more completely they have been forgotten; there is good hope
that, when the curiosity of this age has been satisfied, my books
too will not long remain; the more so, since it has begun to rain
and snow books and "Doctors," of which many are already forgotten
and gone to dust, so that one no longer remembers even their
names. They themselves had hoped, to be sure, that they would
always be in the market, and play schoolmaster to the churches.

Well, then, let it go, in God's Name. I only ask in all kindness
that the man who wishes at this time to have my books will by no
means let them be a hindrance to his own study of the Scriptures,
but read them as I read the orders and the ordures of the pope[5]
and the books of the sophists. I look now and then to see what
they have done, or learn from them the history and thought of
their time, but I do not study them, or feel myself bound to
conform to them. I do not treat the Fathers and the Councils very
differently. In this I follow the example of St. Augustine, who
is one of the first, and almost the only one of them to subject
himself to the Holy Scriptures alone, uninfluenced by the books
of all the Fathers and the Saints. This brought him into a hard
fray with St. Jerome, who cast up to him the writings of his
predecessors; but he did not care for that. If this example of
St. Augustine had been followed, the pope would not have become
Antichrist, the countless vermin, the swarming, parasitic mass of
books would not have come into the Church, and the Bible would
have kept its place in the pulpit.


[1] Text as given in the Berlin Edition of the Buchwald and
others, Vol. I pp. ix ff.

[2] I. e. The example set by preserving and collecting them.

[3] "There is moderation in all things."

[4] "I shall not be better than my fathers." Cf. 1 Kings

[5] _Des Pabats Drecet and Drecketal_. Luther makes a pun on
_decreta_ and _decretalia_--the official names for the
decrees of the Pope.


Above all things I beseech the Christian reader and beg him for
the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to read my earliest books very
circumspectly and with much pity, knowing that before now I too
was a monk, and one of the right frantic and raving papists. When
I took up this matter against Indulgences, I was so full and
drunken, yea, so besotted in papal doctrine that, out of my great
zeal, I would have been ready to do murder--at least, I would
have been glad to see and help that murder should be done--on all
who would not be obedient and subject to the pope, even to his
smallest word.

Such a Saul was I at that time; and I meant it right earnestly;
and there are still many such today. In a word, I was not such a
frozen and ice-cold[2] champion of the papacy as Eck and others
of his kind have been and still are. They defend the Roman See
more for the sake of the shameful belly, which is their god, than
because they are really attached to its cause. Indeed I am wholly
of the opinion that like latter-day Epicureans,[3] they only
laugh at the pope. But I verily espoused this cause in deepest
earnest and in all fidelity; the more so because I shrank from
the Last Day with great anxiety and fear and terror, and yet from
the depths of my heart desired to be saved.

Therefore, Christian reader, thou wilt find in my earliest books
and writings how many points of faith I then, with all humility,
yielded and conceded to the pope, which since then I have held
and condemned for the most horrible blasphemy and abomination,
and which I would have to be so held and so condemned forever.

Thou wilt therefore ascribe this my error, or as my opponents
venomously call it, this inconsistency of mine,[4] to the time,
and to my ignorance and inexperience. At the beginning I was
quite alone and without any helpers, and moreover, to tell the
truth, unskilled in all these things, and far too unlearned to
discuss such high and weighty matters. For it was without any
intention, purpose, or will of mine that I fell, quite
unexpectedly, into this wrangling and contention. This I take
God, the Searcher of hearts, to witness.

I tell these things to the end that, if thou shalt read my books,
thou mayest know and remember that I am one of those who, as St.
Augustine says of himself, have grown by writing and by teaching
others, and not one of those who, starting with nothing, have in
a trice become the most exalted and most learned doctors. We
find, alas! many of these self-grown doctors; who in truth are
nothing, do nothing and accomplish nothing, are moreover untried
and inexperienced, and yet, after a single took at the
Scriptures, think themselves able wholly to exhaust its spirit.

Farewell, dear reader, in the Lord. Pray that the Word may be
further spread abroad, and may be strong against the miserable
devil. For he is mighty and wicked, and just now is raving
everywhere and raging cruelly, like one who well knows and feels
that his time is short, and that the kingdom of his Vicar, the
Antichrist in Rome,[5] is sore beset. But may the God of all
grace and mercy strengthen and complete in us the work He has
begun, to His honor and to the comfort of His little flock. Amen.


[1] From the Preface to the Complete Works (1545). Text
according to the Berlin Edition of the Buchwald and others,
Vol. I, pp. xi ff.

[2] Evidently a play on the Latin _frigidus_, often used in
the sense of "trivial" or "silly"; so Luther refers to the
"_frigida decreta Paperum_" in his Propositions for the
Leipzipg Disputation (1519).

[3] i. e. Frivolous mockers at holy things.

[4] See Prefatory Note to the _Fourteen of Consolation_,
below, p.109.

[5] Long before this Luther had repeatedly expressed the
conviction that the Pope was the Antichrist foretold in 2
Thess. 2:3 f., and Rev. 13 and 17.



"A Disputation of the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" [1] is
the full title of the document commonly called "The Ninety-five
Theses." The form of the document was determined by the academic
practice of the Middle Ages. In all the Mediæval Universities the
"disputation" was a well-established institution. It was a
debate, conducted according to accepted rules, on any subject
which the chief disputant might elect, and no student's education
was thought to be complete until he had shown his ability to
defend himself in discussions of this kind. It was customary to
set forth the subject which was to be discussed, in a series of
"theses," which were statements of opinion tentatively advanced
as the basis of argument. The author, or some other person he
might designate, announced himself ready to defend these
statements against all comers, and invited all who might wish to
debate with him to a part in the discussion. Such an academic
document, one out of many hundreds, exhaling the atmosphere of
the Mediæval University, is the Disputation, which by its
historical importance has earned the name "The XCV Theses."

The Theses were published on the Eve of All Saints (Oct 31),
1517. They were not intended for any other public than that of
the University,[2] and Luther did not even have them printed at
first, though copies were forwarded to the Archbishop of Mainz,
and to Luther's own diocesan, the Bishop of Brandenburg. The
manner of their publication too was academic. They were simply
posted on the door of the Church of All Saints--called the
"Castle-church," to distinguish it from its neighbor, the
"Town-church"--not because more people would see them there than
elsewhere, but because that church-door was the customary place
for posting such announcements, the predecessor of the
"black-board" in the modern German University. It was not night,
but mid-day[3] when the Theses were nailed up, and the Eve of All
Saints was chosen, not that the crowds who would frequent the
next day's festival might read them, for they were written in
Latin, but because it was the customary day for the posting of
theses. Moreover, the Feast of All Saints was the time when the
precious relics, which earned the man who "adored" them, long
years of indulgence,[4] were exhibited to worshipers, and the
approach of this high feast-day put the thought of indulgences
uppermost in the minds of everybody in Wittenberg, including the
author of the Theses.[5]

But neither the Theses nor the results which followed them could
be confined to Wittenberg. Contrary to Luther's expectation and
to his great surprise,[6] they circulated all through Germany
with a rapidity that was startling. Within two months, before the
end of 1517, three editions of the Latin text had been printed,
one at Wittenberg, one at Nürnberg, and one as far away as Basel,
and copies of the Theses had been sent to Rome. Numerous
editions, both Latin and German, quickly followed. Luther's
contemporaries saw in the publication of the Theses "the
beginning of the Reformation," [7] and the judgment of modern
times has confirmed their verdict, but the Protestant of to-day,
and especially the Protestant layman, is almost certain to be
surprised, possibly deeply disappointed, at their contents. They
are not "a trumpet-blast of reform"; that title must be reserved
for the great works of 1520.[8] The word "faith," destined to
become the watchword of the Reformation, does not once occur in
them; the validity of the Sacrament of Penance is not disputed;
the right of the pope to forgive sins, especially in "reserved
cases," is not denied; even the virtue of indulgences is
admitted, within limits, and the question at issue is simply
"What is that virtue?"

To read the Theses, therefore, with a fair degree of
comprehension we must know something of the time that produced
them, and we must bear two facts continually in mind. We must
remember that at this time Luther was a devoted son of the Church
and servant of the pope, perhaps not quite the "right frantic and
raving papist" [9] he afterwards called himself, but as yet
entirely without suspicion of the extent to which he had inwardly
diverged from the teachings of Roman theology. We must also
remember that the Theses were no attempt at a searching
examination of the whole structure and content of Roman teaching,
but were directed against what Luther conceived to be merely
abuses which had sprung up around a single group of doctrines
centering in the Sacrament of Penance. He sincerely thought that
the teaching of the Theses was in full agreement with the best
traditions of the Church,[10] and his surprise that they should
have caused so much excitement is undoubtedly genuine and not
feigned. He shows himself both hurt and astonished that he
should be assailed as a heretic and schismatic, and "called by
six hundred other names of ignominy." [11] On the other hand, we
are compelled to admit that from the outset Luther's opponents
had grasped far more completely than he himself the true
significance of his "purely academic protest."

2. Penance and Indulgence.--The purpose of the disputation which
Luther proposed to hold was to clear up the subject of the virtue
of "indulgences," and the indulgences were the most striking and
characteristic feature of the religious life of the Church in the
last three Centuries of the Middle Ages.[12] We meet them
everywhere--indulgences for the adoration of relics, indulgences
for worship at certain shrines, indulgences for pilgrimages here
or there, indulgences for contributions to this or that special
object of charity. Luther roundly charges the indulgence-vendors
with teaching the people that the indulgences as a means to the
remission of sins. What are these indulgences?

Their history is connected, on the one hand, with the history of
the Sacrament of Penance, on the other with the history of the
development of papal power. The Sacrament of Penance developed
out of the administration of Church discipline. In the earliest
days of the Church, the Christian who fell into sin was punished
by exclusion from the communion of the Church. This
excommunication was not, however, permanent, and the sinner could
be restored to the privileges of Church-fellowship after he had
confessed his sin, professed penitence, and performed certain
penitential acts, chief among which were alms-giving, fasting and
prayer, and, somewhat later, pilgrimage. These acts of penitence
came to have the name of "satisfactions," and were a condition
precedent to the reception of absolution. They varied in
duration and severity, according to the enormity of the offence,
end for the guidance of those who administered the discipline of
the Church, sets of rules were formulated by which the
"satisfactions" or "penances" were imposed. These codes are the
"Penitential Canons." [13] The first step in the development of
the indulgences may be found in the practice which gradually
arose, of remitting some part of the enjoined "penances" on
consideration of the performance of certain acts which could be
regarded as meritorious.

The indulgences received a new form, however, and became a part
of the regular Church administration, when the popes discovered
the possibilities which lay in this institution for the
advancement of their own power and the furtherance of their own
interests. This discovery seems to date from the time of the
Crusades. The crusading-indulgences, granted at first only to
those who actually went to the Holy War, subsequently to those
also who contributed to the expense of the expedition, were
virtually the acceptance of this work as a substitute for any
penance which the Church might otherwise require. As zeal for the
Crusades began to wane, the indulgences were used more and more
freely to stimulate lagging interest; their number was greatly
increased, and those who purchased the indulgences with money far
outnumbered those who actually took the Cross. Failing in their
purpose as an incentive to enlistment in the crusading armies,
they showed their value as a source of income, and from the
beginning of the XIV. Century the sale of indulgences became a
regular business.

About the lame time a new kind of indulgence arose to take the
place of the now somewhat antiquated crusading-indulgence. This
was the Jubilee-indulgence, and had its origin in the Jubilee of
1300. By the Bull _Antiquorum Habet Fide_, Boniface VIII. granted
to all who would visit the shrines of the Apostles in Rome during
the year 1300 and during each succeeding centennial year, a
plenary indulgence.[14] Little by little it became the custom to
increase the number of these Jubilee-indulgences. Once in a
hundred years was not often enough for Christians to have a
chance for plenary forgiveness, and at last, unwilling to deprive
of the privileges of the Jubilee those who were kept away from
Rome, the popes came to grant the same plenary indulgence to all
who would make certain contributions to the papal treasury.[15]

Meanwhile the Sacrament of Penance had become an integral part of
the Roman sacramental system, and had replaced the earlier
penitential discipline as the means by which the Church granted
Christians forgiveness for sins committed after baptism. The
scholastic theologians had busied themselves with the theory of
this Sacrament. They distinguished between its "material," its
"form" and its "effect." The "form" of the Sacrament was the
absolution: its "effect," the forgiveness of sins; Its
"material," three acts of the penitent: "confession,"
"contrition," and "satisfaction." "Confession" must be by word of
mouth, and must include all the sins which the sinner could
remember to have committed; "contrition" must be sincere sorrow
of the heart, and must include the purpose henceforth to avoid
sin; "satisfaction" must be made by works prescribed by the
priest who heard confession. In the administration of the
Sacrament, however, the absolution preceded "satisfaction"
instead of following it, as it had done in the discipline of the
early Church.[16] To justify this apparent inconsistency, the
Doctors further distinguished between the "guilt" and the
"penalty" of sin.[17] Sins were classified as "mortal" and
"venial." [18] Mortal sins for which the offender had not received
absolution were punished eternally, while venial sins were those
which merited only some smaller penalty; but when a mortal sin
was confessed and absolution granted, the guilt of the sin was
done away, and with it the eternal penalty. And yet the
absolution did not open the gate of heaven, though it closed the
door of hell; the eternal penalty was not to be exacted, but
there was a temporal penalty to be paid. The "satisfaction" was
the temporal penalty, and if satisfaction was in arrears at
death, the arrearage must be paid in purgatory, a place of
punishment for mortal sins confessed and repented, but
"unsatisfied," and for venial sins, which were not serious enough
to bring eternal condemnation. The penalties of purgatory were
"temporal," viz., they stopped somewhere this side of eternity,
and their duration could be measured in days and years, though
the number of the years might mount high into the thousands and
tens of thousands.

It was at this point that the practice of indulgences united with
the theory of the Sacrament of Penance. The indulgences had to do
with the "satisfaction." [19] They might be "partial," remitting
only a portion of the penalties, measured by days or years of
purgatory; or they might be "plenary," remitting all penalties
due in this world or the next. _In theory_, however, no
indulgence could remit the guilt or the eternal penalty of
sin,[20] and the purchaser of an indulgence was not only expected
to confess and be absolved, but he was also supposed to be _corde
contritus_, i. e., "truly penitent." [21] A rigid insistence on
the fulfilment of these conditions would have greatly restricted
the value of the indulgences as a means of gain, for the right to
hear confession and grant absolution belonged to the
parish-priests. Consequently, it became the custom to endow the
indulgence-vendors with extraordinary powers. They were given the
authority to hear confession and grant absolution wherever they
might be, and to absolve even from the sins which were normally
"reserved" for the absolution of the higher Church authorities.

The demand for contrition was somewhat more difficult to meet.
But here too there was a way out. Complete contrition included
love to God as its motive, and the truly contrite man was not
always easy to find; but some of the scholastic Doctors had
discovered a substitute for contrition in what they called
"attrition." viz., incomplete contrition, which might have fear
for a motive, and which the Sacrament of Penance could transform
into contrition. When, therefore, a man was afraid of hell or of
purgatory, he could make his confession to the indulgence-seller
or his agent, receive from him the absolution which gave his
imperfect repentance the value of true contrition, released him
from the guilt of sin, and changed its eternal penalty to a
temporal penalty; then he could purchase the plenary indulgence,
which remitted the temporal penalty, and so in one transaction,
in which all the demands of the Church were formally met, he
could become sure of heaven. Thus the indulgence robbed the
Sacrament of Penance of its ethical content.

Furthermore, indulgences were made available for souls already in
purgatory. This kind of indulgence seems to have been granted for
the first time in 1476. It had long been been that the prayers of
the living availed to shorten the pains of the departed, and the
institution of masses for the dead was of long standing; but it
was not without some difficulty that the Popes succeeded in
establishing their claim to power over purgatory. Their power
over the souls of the living was not disputed. The "Power of the
Keys" had been given to Peter and transmitted to his successors;
the "Treasury of the Church," [22] i. e., the merits of Christ and
of the Saints, was believed to be at their disposal, and it was
this treasury which they employed in the granting of
indulgences;[23] but it seemed reasonable to suppose that their
jurisdiction ended with death. Accordingly, Pope Sixtus IV, in
1477, declared that the power of the Pope over purgatory, while
genuine, was exercised only _per modum sufiragii_, "by way of
intercession." [24] The distinction was thought dogmatically
important, but to the layman, who looked more to results than to
methods, the difference between intercession and jurisdiction was
trifling. To him the important thing was that the Pope, whether
by jurisdiction or intercession, was able to release the soul of
a departed Christian from the penalties of purgatory. It is
needless to say that these indulgences for the dead were eagerly
purchased. In filial love and natural affection the indulgence
vendor had powerful allies.

3. The Indulgence of 1515.--The XCV Theses were called forth by
the preaching of the "Jubilee Indulgence" [25] of 1510, which was
not placed on sale in central Germany until 1515. The financial
needs of the papacy were never greater than in the last years of
the XV. and the first years of the XVI. Century, and they were
further increased by the resolve of Julius II. to erect a new
church of St. Peter, which should surpass in magnificence all the
churches of the world. The indulgence of 1510 was an
extraordinary financial measure, the proceeds of which were to
pay for the erection of the new Basilica, but when Julius died in
1513, the church was not completed, and the money had not been
raised. The double task was bequeathed to his successor, Leo X.
On the 31st of March, 1515, Leo proclaimed a plenary indulgence
for the Archbishops of Magdeburg and Mainz, and appointed
Albrecht, of Brandenburg, who was the incumbent of both sees and
of the bishopric of Halberstadt as well, Commissioner for the
sale of this indulgence. By a secret agreement, of which Luther
was, of course, entirely ignorant, one-half of the proceeds was
to be paid to the Fuggers of Ausburg on account of money advanced
to the Archbishop for the payment of the fees to Rome, and of the
sums demanded in consideration of a dispensation allowing him to
occupy three sees at the same time; the other half of the
proceeds was to go to the papal treasury to be applied to the
building of the new church. The period during which the
indulgence was to be on sale was eight years.

The actual work of organizing the "indulgence-campaign" was put
into the hands of John Tetzel, whose large experience in the
selling of indulgences fitted him excellently for the post of
Sub-commissioner. The indulgence-sellers acted under the
commission of the Archbishop and the directions of Tetzel, who
took personal charge of the enterprise. The preachers went from
city to city, and during the time that they were preaching the
indulgence in any given place, all other preaching was required
to cease.[26] They held out the usual inducements to prospective
buyers. The plenary nature of the indulgence was made especially
prominent, and the people were eloquently exhorted that the
purchase of indulgence-letters was better than all good works,
that they were an insurance against the pains of hell and of
purgatory, that they availed for all satisfactions, even in the
case of the most heinous sins that could be conceived.[27]
"Confessional letters" [28] were one of the forms of this
indulgence. They gave their possessor permission to choose his
own confessor, and entitled him to plenary remission once in his
life, to absolution from sins normally reserved, etc. The
indulgences for the dead were zealously proclaimed, and the duty
of purchasing for departed souls release from the pains of
purgatory was most urgently enjoined. So great was the power of
the indulgence to alleviate the pains of purgatory, that the
souls of the departed were said to pass into heaven the instant
that the coins of the indulgence-buyer jinked in the

4. Luther's Protest--The Theses were Luther's protest against the
manner in which this indulgence was preached, and against the Use
conception of the efficacy of indulgences which the people
obtained from such preaching. They were not his first protest,
however. In a sermon, preached July 37th, 1516,[30] he had issued
a warning against the false idea that a man who had bought an
indulgence was sure of salvation, and had declared the assertion
that souls could be bought out of purgatory to be "a piece of
temerity." His warnings were repeated in other sermons, preached
October 31st, 1516, and February 14th, 1517.[31] The burden of
these warnings is always the same: the indulgences lead men
astray; they incite to fear of God's penalties and not to fear of
sin; they encourage false hopes of salvation, and make light of
the true condition of forgiveness, vis., sincere and genuine

These warnings are repeated in the Theses. The preaching of
indulgences has concealed the true nature of repentance; the
first thing to consider is what "our Lord and Master Jesus Christ
means," when He says, "Repent." [32] Without denying the pope's
right to the power of the keys, Luther wishes to come into the
clear about the extent of the pope's jurisdiction, which does not
reach as far as purgatory. He believes that the pope has the
right to remit "penalties," but these penalties are of the same
sort as those which were imposed in the early Church as a
condition precedent to the absolution; they are ecclesiastical
penalties merely, and do not extend beyond the grave; the true
penalty of sin is hatred of self, which continues until entrance
into the kingdom of heaven.[33]

The Theses are formulated with continual reference to the
statements of the indulgence-preachers, and of the Instruction to
the Commissaries issued under the name of the Archbishop of
Mainz. [34] For this reason there is little logical sequence in
the arrangement of the Theses, and none of the attempts to
discover a plan or scheme underlying them has been
successful.[35] In a general way it may be said that for the
positive views of Luther on the subjects discussed, Theses 30-37
and 41-51 are the most vital, while Theses 92-95 are sufficient
evidence of the motive which led Luther to make his protest.

5. Conclusion--The editors of this Translation present herewith a
new translation of the Theses, together with three letters, which
will help the reader to understand the mind of Luther at the time
of their composition and his motive in preparing them. The first
of these letters is that which was sent, with a copy of the
Theses, to Albrecht of Mainz. The second and third are addressed
respectively to Staupitz and Leo X., and were written to
accompany the "Resolutions," [36] an exhaustive explanation and
defense of the Theses, published in 1518, after the controversy
had become bitter.

6. Literature--(a) _Sources_. The source material for history of
indulgences is naturally widely scattered. The most convenient
collection is found in Koehler, _Dokumente zum Ablassstreit_,
Tübingen, 1900. For the indulgences against which Luther
protested, see, beside the Editions of Luther's Works, Kapp,
_Schauplatz des Tetselischen Ablass-Krams_, Leipzig, 1720;
_Sammlung einiger zum päbstlichen Ablass gehörigen Schriften_,
Leipzig, 1721; _Kleine Nachlese zur Erläuterung der
Reformationsgeschicte_, Leipzig, 1730 and 1733; also Loescher,
_Vollständige Reformationsacta_, I, Leipzig, 1720

(b) _Secondary Works_. Beside the general works in Church History
and History of Doctrine, see the Lives of Luther, in German
especially those of Köstlin-Kawerau, Kolde, Berger and Hausrath;
in English those of Beard, Jacobs, Lindsay, Smith and McGiffert;
also Boehmer, _Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung_, ad ed.,
Leipzig, 1910.

On the indulgences in their relation to the Sacrament of Penance,
H, C. Lea, History of Confession and Indulgence, especially Vol.
III, Philadelphia, 1896; Brieger, _Das Wesen des Ablasses am
Ausgang des Mittelalters_, Leizig, 1897, and Article
_Indulgenzen_ in PRE.3 IX, pp. 76 ff. (Eng. in Schaff-Herzog v.,
pp. 485-88); Gottlob, _Kreuzablass und Almosenablass_, Stuttgart,
1906 (especially valuable for the origin of indulgences).

On the indulgences and the XCV Theses, Koestlin, _Luther's
Theologie_, Leipzig, 1883 (Eng. Trans, by Hay, The Theology of
Luther, Philadelphia, 1897); Bratke, _Luther's XCV Thesen und
ihre dogmengeschictlichen Voraussetzungen_, Göttingen, 1884;
Dieckboff, _Der Ablassstreit dogmengeschichtlich dargestellt_,
Gotha, 1886; Lindsay, _History of the Reformation_, I, New York,
1906; Tschackert, _Entstehung der lutherischen und reformierten
Kirchenlehre_, Göttingen, 1910.

On the financial aspects of the indulgence-traffic, Schulte, _Die
Fugger in Rom_, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1904.

    Allentown, PA.


[1] _Disputato pro declaratione virutis indulgentiarum_.

[2] Luther says, _Apud nostros et propter nostros editae aunt_.
_Weimar Ed_., I. 528. On the whole subject see Letters to Staupitz
and the Pope, below.

[3] Cf. _Weimar Ed._, I, 229.

[4] The Church of All Saints at Wittenberg was the repository of
the great collection of relics which Frederick the Wise had
gathered. A catalogue of the collection, with illustrations by
Lucas Cranach, was published in 1509. The collection contained
5005 sacred objects, including a bit of the crown of thorns and
some of the Virgin Mother's milk. Adoration of these relics on
All Saints' Day (Nov. 1st) was rewarded with indulgence for more
than 500,000 years. So, Vol Bezold, _Die deutsche Reformation_
(1890), p. 100; see also Barge, _Karlstadt_, I, 39ff.

[5] Luther had preached a sermon warning against the danger of
indulgences on the Eve of All Saints (1516). See below.

[6] See below, Letter to Leo X.

[7] _Weimar Ed._, I, 230.

[8] The Address to the Christian Nobility and the Babylonian
Captivity of the Church.

[9] Introduction to the Complete Works (1545); above p.10.

[10] See Letter to Staupitz, below.

[11] See Letter to Leo X, below.

[12] Cf. Gottlob, _Kreuzablass und Almosenblass_, p. I.

[13] See Theses 5, 8, 85.

[14] _Non solam plenam et largiorem, imo plenissimam omnium
suorum concedemus et concedimus veniam peccatorum_. Mirbt,
_Quellen_, 2d ed., No. 243.

[15] This custom of putting the Jubilee-indulgences on sale seems
to date from the year 1390. Cf. Lea, _Hist. of Conf. and
Indulg._, III, 206.

No mention is here made of the indulgences attached to adoration
of the relics, etc. On the development of this form of indulgence
see Lea, _Hist. of Conf. and Indulg._, III, 131-194, 234-195, and
Gottlog, _Kreuzablass und Almosenablass_, pp. 195-254.

[16] See Thesis 12.

[17] See Theses 4-6, Note 2.

[18] For Luther's opinion of this distinction, see the Discourse
Concerning Confession elsewhere in the present volume.

[19] "Not even the poorest part of the penance which is called
'satisfaction,' but the remission of the poorest part of
penance." Letter to Staupitz, below.

[20] There is ample proof that in practice the indulgences were
preached as sufficient to secure the purchaser the entire
remission of sin, and the form _a culpa et poena_ was officially
employed in many cases (Cf. Brieger, _Das Wesen des Abiases am
Ausgang des M A._ and PRE3 IX. 83 ff., and Lea, _History of
Confession_, etc., III, 54 ff.). "It is difficult to withstand
the conclution that even in theory indulgences had been declared
to be efficacious for the removal of the guilt of sin in the
presence of God," Lindsay, _History of the Reformation_, I, 226.

[21] It is the basis of this theory that Roman Catholic writers on
indulgences declare them to be "extra-sacramental," i. e., outside
the Sacrament of Penance. So, e.g., Kent, in The Catholic
Encyclopedia, Art. _Indulgence_.

[22] See Theses 56-58.

[23] The doctrine of the "Treasury of the Church" grew up as a
result of the indulgences. It was an attempt to answer the
question, How can a "satisfaction," which God demands, be waived?
The answer is, By the application of merits earned by Christ and
by the Saints who did more than God requires. These merits form
the Treasury of the Church. Cf. Seeberg, PRE3 XV, 417; Lea,
_Hist. of Confession_, etc., III, 14-28.

[24] See Theses 26.

[25] i. e. A plenary indulgence similar to those granted for
pilgrimage to Rome in Jubilee-years. See above, p.18.

[26] See Theses 53-55.

[27] See Thesis 75.

[28] See Thesis 35.

[29] See Thesis 27.

[30] _Weimar Ed._, I, 63 ff.; _Erl. Ed._, I, 101 ff.

[31] _Weimar Ed._, I, 94 ff,; _Erl. Ed._, I, 171 ff., 177 ff.

[32] See Thesis 1.

[33] See Thesis 4.

[34] See Letter to Archbishop, below. The text of this
Instruction in Kapp, Sammlung, etc. (1721), pp. 117-206.
Tschackert has surmised that even the number of the Theses was
determined by the number of the paragraphs in this Instruction.
There were 94 of these paragraphs, and of the Theses 94 + 1.
_Enstehung d. luth. u. ref. Kirchenlehre_ (1910), p. 16, note 1.

[35] The following, based on an unpublished manuscript of Th.
Brieger, is an interesting analysis of the contents and subject
matter of the Theses. For the sake of brevity the minor
subdivisions are omitted:
    Introduction. The ideas fundamentally involved in the concept
        of _poenitentia_ (Th. 1-7).
    I. Indulgences for souls in purgatory (Th. 8-29).
        1. Canonical Penalties and the pains of purgatory (Th. 8-19).
        2. The relation of the Pope to purgatory (Th. 8-19).
    II. Indulgences for the living (Th. 30-80).
        1. The content and nature of the preaching of indulgences
            (Th. 30-55).
        2. The treasury of the Church (Th. 56-66).
        3. The duty of the regular church-authorities on the
            matter (Th. 67-80).
    Conclusion (Th. 81-95).
        1. The objections of the laity of the indulgence-traffic
            (Th. 81-91).
        2. The evil motive of the traffic in indulgences, with
            special references to the statements of Th. 1-4 (Th.
            91-95). H. Hermelink in Krüger's _Handbuch der
            Kirchengeschicte_ (1911), III, 66.

[36] _Weimar Ed._, I, pp. 525 ff.



OCTOBER 31, 1517

To the Most Reverend Father in Christ and Most Illustrious Lord,
Albrecht of Magdeburg and Mainz, Archbishop and Primate of the
Church, Margrave of Brandenburg, etc., his own lord and pastor in
Christ, worthy of reverence and fear, and most gracious.


The grace of God be with you in all its fulness and power! Spare
me. Most Reverend Father in Christ and Most Illustrious Prince,
that I, the dregs of humanity, have so much boldness that I have
dared to think of a letter to the height of your Sublimity. The
Lord Jesus is my witness that, conscious of my smallness and
baseness, I have long deferred what I am now shameless enough to
do,--moved thereto most of all by the duty of fidelity which I
acknowledge that I owe to your most Reverend Fatherhood in
Christ. Meanwhile, therefore, may your Highness deign to cast an
eye upon one speck of dust, and for the sake of your pontifical
clemency to heed my prayer.

Papal indulgences for the building of St. Peter's are circulating
under your most distinguished name, and as regards them, I do not
bring accusation against the outcries of the preachers, which I
have not heard, so much as I grieve over the wholly false
impressions which the people have conceived from them; to
wit,--the unhappy souls believe that if they have purchased
letters of indulgence they are sure of their salvation;[2] again,
that so soon as they cast their contributions into the money-box,
souls fly out of purgatory;[3] furthermore, that these graces
[i. e., the graces conferred in the indulgences] are so great that
there is no sin too great to be absolved, even, as they
say--though the thing is impossible--if one had violated the
Mother of God;[4] again, that a man is free, through these
indulgences, from all penalty and guilt.[5]

O God, most good! Thus souls committed to your care, good Father,
are taught to their death, and the strict account, which you must
render for all such, grows and increases. For this reason I have
no longer been able to keep quiet about this matter, for it is by
no gift of a bishop that man becomes sure of salvation, since he
gains this certainty not even by the "inpoured grace" [6] of God,
but the Apostle bids us always "work out our own salvation in
fear and trembling," [Phil. 2:12] and Peter says, "the righteous
scarcely shall be saved." [1 Pet. 4:18, Matt] Finally, so narrow
is the way that leads to life, that the Lord, through the
prophets Amos and Zechariah, calls those who shall be saved
"brands plucked from the burning," [Amos 4:11, Zech. 3:2] and
everywhere declares the difficulty of salvation.

Why, then, do the preachers of pardons, by these false fables and
promises, make the people careless and fearless? Whereas
indulgences confer on us no good gift, either for salvation or
for sanctity, but only take away the external penalty, which it
was formerly the custom to impose according to the canons.[7]

Finally, works of piety and love are infinitely better than
indulgences,[8] and yet these are not preached with such ceremony
or such zeal; nay, for the sake of preaching the indulgences they
are kept quiet, though it is the first and the sole duty of all
bishops that the people should learn the Gospel and the love of
Christ, for Christ never taught that indulgences should be
preached. How great then is the horror, how great the peril of a
bishop, if he permits the Gospel to be kept quiet, and nothing
but the noise of indulgences to be spread among his people![9]
Will not Christ say to them, "straining at a gnat and swallowing
a camel"? [Matt. 23:34][10]

In addition to this, Most Reverend Father in the Lord, it is said
in the Instruction to the Commissaries[11] which is issued under
your name, Most Reverend Father (doubtless without your knowledge
and consent), that one of the chief graces of indulgence is that
inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to God, and
all the penalties of purgatory are destroyed.[12] Again, it is
said that contrition is not necessary in those who purchase souls
[out of purgatory] or buy _confessionalia_.[13]

But what can I do, good Primate and Most Illustrious Prince,
except pray your Most Reverend Fatherhood by the Lord Jesus
Christ that you would deign to look [on this matter] with the eye
of fatherly care, and do away entirely with that treatise[14] and
impose upon the preachers of pardons another form of preaching;
lest, perchance, one may some time arise, who will publish
writings in which he will confute both them and that treatise, to
the shame of your Most Illustrious Sublimity. I shrink very much
from thinking that this will be done, and yet I fear that it will
come to pass, unless there is some speedy remedy.

These faithful offices of my insignificance I beg that your Most
Illustrious Grace may deign to accept in the spirit of a Prince
and a Bishop, i. e., with the greatest clemency, as I offer them
out of a faithful heart, altogether devoted to you, Most Reverend
Father, since I too am a part of your flock.

May the Lord Jesus have your Most Reverend Fatherhood eternally
in His keeping. Amen.

From Wittenberg on the Vigil of All Saints, MDXVII.

If it please the Most Reverend Father he may see these my
Disputations, and learn how doubtful a thing is the opinion of
indulgences which those men spread as though it were most

    To the Most Reverend Father,
        Brother Martin Luther.


[1] In the original editions the word Jesus appears at the head
of the works, and the present editors have retained the use,
which was apparently an act of obedience to the command,
"Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the
Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17).

[2] See Theses 18-24, 32, 52.

[3] See Thesis 27.

[4] See Thesis 75.

[5] See Theses 5, 6, 20, 21.

[6] _Gratia infusa_, meaning the working of God upon the hearts of
men, by means of which their lives become pleasing to God. Cf.
Loors' Dogmengeschicte, 4th ed., pp. 562 ff.

[7] See Thesis 5.

[8] See Theses 41-47.

[9] See Theses 52-55.

[10] See Thesis 80.

[11] See above, Introduction, p. 22 f.

[12] See Theses 21, 33.

[13] See Thesis 55, and Introduction, p.22.

[15] viz., The Instruction to the Commissaries.



OCTOBER 31, 1517

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light,
the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under
the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of
Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same
at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to
be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said _Poenitentiam
agite_,[1] willed that the whole life of believers should be
repentance. [Matt. 4:17]

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance,
i. e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no
inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers
mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty[2] [of sin], therefore, continues so long as
hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance,
and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any
penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own
authority or by that of the Canons.[3]

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it
has been remitted by God and by assenting to God's remission;
though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to
his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were
despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time,
humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and,
according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because
in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death
and of necessity.[4]

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in
the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of
purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown
while the bishops slept. [Matt. 13:25]

13. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not
after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are
already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released
from them.

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect
love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and
the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

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

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair,
almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror would
grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they
are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of
them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we
may be quite certain of it.

20. Therefore by "full remission of all penalties" the pope means
not actually "of all," but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who
say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every
penalty, and saved;

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

23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of
all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can
be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the
people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding
promise of release from penalty.

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over
purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has,
in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

36. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in
purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not
possess),[5] but by way of intercession.

27. They preach man[6] who say that so soon as the penny jingles
into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory]. [7]

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box,
gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the
intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be
bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less
that he has attained full remission.

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also
the man who truly buys indulgences, i. e., such men are most rare.

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their
teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because
they have letters of pardon.[9]

33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the
pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is
reconciled to Him;

34. For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of
sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.[10]

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition
is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of
purgatory or to buy _confessionalia_.[11]

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission
of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all
the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him
by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the
blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no
way to be despised, for they are, as I have said,[12] the
declaration of divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians,
at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance
of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal
pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at
least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

41. Apostolic[13] pardons are to be preached with caution, lest
the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works
of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the
buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or
lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes
better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free
from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need,
and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases
not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than
they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for
their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a
matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting
pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for
him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are
useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether
harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.[14]

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the
exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St.
Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be built
up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope's wish,
as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those
from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though
the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

53. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even
though the commissary,[15] nay, even though the pope himself,
were to stake his soul upon it.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word
of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that
pardons may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an
equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.[16]

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which
are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single
processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very
greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a
hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The "treasures of the Church," [17] out of which the pope
grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the
people of Christ.

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident,
for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily,
but only gather them.

58. Not are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even
without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and
the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the
Church's poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in
his own time.

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by
Christ's merit, are that treasure;

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of
reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

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

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the
first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally
most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which
they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now
fish for the riches of men.

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the "greatest
graces" are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with
the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of
apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and
attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own
dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

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

73. But he who guards against the lust and license of the
pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

73. The pope justly thunders[18] against those who, by any art,
contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use
the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a
man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the
Mother of God--this is madness.[19]

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able
to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could
not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter
and against the pope.

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any
pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the
Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I.
Corinthians xii.

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which
is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth
with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to
be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter,
even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope
from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

82. To wit:--"Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake
of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if
he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable
money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be
most just; the latter is most trivial."

83. Again:--"Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead
continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of
the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray
for the redeemed?"

84. Again:--"What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for
money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out
of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not
rather, because of that pious and beloved soul's own need, free
it for pure love's sake?"

85. Again:--"Why are the penitential canons,[21] long since in
actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied
by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive
and in force?"

86. Again:--"Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day
greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one
church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the
money of poor believers?"

87. Again:--"What is it that the pope remits, and what
participation[22] does he grant to those who, by perfect
contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?"

88. Again:--"What greater blessing could come to the Church than
if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does
once,[23] and bestow on every believer these remissions and

89. "Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls
rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and
pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?" [24]

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

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit
and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved;
nay, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of
Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! [Ezek. 13:10]

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of
Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross![25]

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in
following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and

95. And thus be confident of altering into heaven rather through
many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace. [Acts


[1] Matt. 4:17. Greek, _μετανοειτε_; English "repent"; German
_Bussetun_. The Latin and German versions may also be rendered, "Do
penance"; the Greek, on the other hand, can only mean "Repent."

[2] The Roman theology distinguishes between the "guilt" and the
"penalty" of sin. See Introduction, p.19.

[3] Decrees of the Church, having the force of law. The canons
referred to here and below (Cf. Theses 8, 85) are the so-called
penitential Canons. See Introduction, p.17.

[4] Commenting on this Thesis in the _Resolutions_, Luther
distinguishes between "temporal" and "eternal" necessity.
"Necessity knows no law." "Death is the necessity of necessities"
(_Weimar Ed._, I, 549; _Erl. Ed. op. var. arg._, II, 166).

[5] This is not a denial of the power of the keys, i. e., the
power to forgive and retain sin, but merely that the power of the
keys extends to purgatory.

[6] i. e., Merely human doctrine.

[7] An alleged statement of indulgence-vendors. See Letter to
Mainz and Introduction.

[8] Luther refers again to this story in the _Resolutions_
(_Weimar Ed._, I, p.586). The story is that these saints
preferred to remain longer in purgatory that they might have
greater glory in heaven. Luther adds, "Whoever will, may believe
in these stories; it is no concern of mine."

[9] Luther uses the terms "pardon" and "indulgence"

[10] For meaning of the term "satisfaction," see Introduction, p.

[11] Privileges entitling their holder to choose his own
confessor and relieving him of certain satisfactions. See
Introduction, p. 22.

[12] See above, Thesis 6.

[13] i. e., "Papal."

[14] Cf. Thesis 32.

[15] The commissioner who sold the letters of indulgence.

[16] The best texts read _illi_, "on it," i. e., the Word of God.
The _Erl. Ed._ has a variant _verbis evangelics_, "the words of the
Gospel" (_op. var. arg._, I, 289).

[17] See Introduction, p. 20, note 2.

[18] i. e., Threatens with "thunder-bolt" of excommunication.

[19] See Letter to Mainz, above p. 26. For repetition and defense
of the statement against which Luther here protests, see _Disp.
I. Jo Tetzelii_, Th. 99-101; Loescher. I, 513.

[20] Cf. Thesis 6.

[21] Cf. Thesis 5 and note.

[22] Cf. Theses 36, 37.

[23] The letter of indulgence entitled its possessor to
absolution "once in life and in the article of death."

[24] During the time when the Jubilee-indulgences were preached,
other Indulgences were suspended.

[25] In a letter to Michael Dressel, 22 June, 1516, Luther had
written: "It is not that man, therefore whom no one disturbs who
has peace--which is indeed, the peace of the world--but he whom
all men and all things harass and who bears all quietly with joy.
You say with Israel: 'Peace, peace,' and there is no peace; say
rather with Christ, 'Cross, cross' and there is no cross. For the
cross ceases to be a cross as soon as you say joyfully: 'Blessed
cross, there is no tree like you'" (Preserved Smith, _Luther_, p.




To his Reverend and Dear Father


Professor of Sacred Theology, Vicar of the Augustinian Order,

Brother Martin Luther,

his pupil,

sendeth greeting.

I remember, dear Father, that once, among those pleasant and
wholesome talks of thine, with which the Lord Jesus ofttimes
gives me wondrous consolation, the word _poenitentia_[1] was
mentioned. We were moved with pity for many consciences, and for
those tormentors who teach, with rules innumerable and
unbearable, what they call a _modus confitendi_.[2] Then we heard
thee say as with a voice from heaven, that there is no true
penitence which does not begin with love of righteousness and of
God, and that this love, which others think to be the end and the
completion of penitence, is rather its beginning.

This word of thine stuck in me like a sharp arrow of the mighty,
[Ps. 120:4] and from that time forth I began to compare it with
the texts of Scripture which teach penitence. Lo, there began a
joyous game! The words frollicked with me everywhere! They
laughed and gamboled around this saying. Before that there was
scarcely a word in all the Scriptures more bitter to me than
"penitence," though I was busy making pretences to God and trying
to produce a forced, feigned love; but now there is no word which
has for me a sweeter or more pleasing sound than "penitence." For
God's commands are sweet, when we find that they are to be read
not in books alone, but in the wounds of our sweet Saviour.

After this it came about that, by the grace of the learned men
who dutifully teach us Greek and Hebrew, I learned that this word
is in Greek _metanoia_ and is derived from _meta_ and _noun_, i.
e., _post_ and _mentem_,[3] so that _poenitentia_ or _metanoia_
is a "coming to one's senses," and is a knowledge of one's own
evil, gained after punishment has been accepted and error
acknowledged; and this cannot possibly happen without a change in
our heart and our love. All this answers so aptly to the theology
of Paul, that nothing, at least in my judgment, can so aptly
illustrate St. Paul.

Then I went on and saw that _metanoia_ can be derived, though not
without violence, not only from _post_ and _mentem_, but also
from _trans_ and _mentem_, [4] so that _metanoia_ signifies a
changing[5] of the mind and heart, because it seemed to indicate
not only a change of the heart, but also a manner of changing it,
i. e., the grace of God. For that "passing over of the mind," [6]
which is true repentance, is of very frequent mention in the
Scriptures. Christ has displayed the true significance of that
old word "Passover"; and long before the Passover, [Ex. 19:11]
Abraham was a type of it, when he was called a "pilgrim," [1 Cor.
5:7] i. e., a "Hebrew," [7] that is to say, one who "passed over"
into Mesopotamia, as the Doctor of Bourgos[8] learnedly explains.
With this accords, too, the title of the Psalm [Ps. 39] in which
Jeduthun, i. e., "the pilgrim," [9] is introduced as the singer.

Depending on these things, I ventured to think those men false
teachers who ascribed so much to works of penitence that they
left us scarcely anything of penitence itself except trivial
satisfactions[10] and laborious confession, because, forsooth,
they had derived their idea from the Latin words _poenitentiam
agere_,[11] which indicate an action, rather than a change of
heart, and are in no way an equivalent for the Greek _metanoia_.

While this thought was boiling in my mind, suddenly new trumpets
of indulgences and bugles of remissions began to peal and to bray
all about us; but they were not intended to arouse us to keen
eagerness for battle. In a word, the doctrine of true penitence
was passed by, and they presumed to praise not even that poorest
part of penitence which is called "satisfaction," [12] but the
remission of that poorest part of penitence; and they praised it
so highly that such praise was never heard before. Then, too,
they taught impious and false and heretical doctrines with such
authority (I wished to say "with such assurance") that he who
even muttered anything to the contrary under his breath, would
straightway be consigned to the flames as a heretic, and
condemned to eternal malediction.

Unable to meet their rage half-way, I determined to enter a
modest dissent, and to call their teaching into question, relying
on the opinion of all the doctors and of the whole Church, that
to render satisfaction is better than to secure the remission of
satisfaction, i. e., to buy indulgences. Nor is there anybody who
ever taught otherwise. Therefore, I published my
Disputation;[13] in other words, I brought upon my head all the
curses, high, middle and low, which these lovers of money (I
should say "of souls") are able to send or to have sent upon me.
For these most courteous men, armed, as they are, with very dense
acumen, since they cannot deny what I have said, now pretend that
in my Disputation I have spoken against the power of the Supreme

That is the reason. Reverend Father, why I now regretfully come
out in public. For I have ever been a lover of my corner, and
prefer to look upon the beauteous passing show of the great minds
of our age, rather than to be looked upon and laughed at. But I
see that the bean must appear among the cabbages,[15] and the
black must be put with the white, for the sake of seemliness and

I ask, therefore, that thou wilt take this foolish work of mine
and forward it, if possible, to the most Excellent Pontiff, Leo
X, where it may plead my cause against the designs of those who
hate me. Not that I wish thee to share my danger! Nay, I wish this
to be done at my peril only. Christ will see whether what I have
said is His or my own; and without His permission there is not a
word in the Supreme Pontiff's tongue, nor is the heart of the
king in his own hand. [Ps. 138:4 (Vulgate), Prov. 21:1] He is the
Judge whose verdict I await from the Roman See.

As for those threatening friends of mine, I have no answer for
them but that word of Reuchlin's--"He who is poor fears nothing;
he has nothing to lose." Fortune I neither have nor desire; if I
have had reputation and honor, he who destroys them is always at
work; there remains only one poor body, weak and wearied with
constant hardships, and if by force or wile they do away with
that (as a service to God), they will but make me poorer by
perhaps an hour or two of life. [John 16:2] Enough for me is the
most sweet Saviour and Redeemer, my Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom I
shall always sing my song; [Ps. 104:33] if any one is unwilling
to sing with me, what is that to me? Let him howl, if he likes,
by himself.

The Lord Jesus keep thee eternally, my gracious Father!

Wittenberg, Day of the Holy Trinity, MDXVIII


[1] "Penitence," "repentance," "penance," are all translations of
this word. See above, p.29, note 1.

[2] The _modus confitendi_, or "way of confession" is the
teaching of what sins are to be confessed to the priest and how
they are to be confessed. The subject is discussed fully by
Luther in his _Discussion of Confession_, below, pp. 81-102.

[3] Gr. _μετά_, Lat., _post_. Eng., "after"; Gr. _νους_, Lat.,
_mens_, Eng., "mind."

[4] The Greek _μετά_ can also be translated by the Latin _trans_,
which, in compounds, denotes movement from one place, or thing,
or condition, to another.

[5] Lat. _transmutatio_, "the act or process of changing," not
simply "a change" (_mutatio_).

[6] _Transitus mentis_.

[7] The derivative of the term "Hebrew" is still disputed (v.
PRE3 VII, p.507). Luther conceives it to mean _transitor_, "one
who passes through tor across the land," "a pilgrim." Cf. Genesis

[8] _Burgenesis_, i. e. Paul of Bourgos (1353-1435).

[9] Another bit of Mediæval philology.

[10] See Introduction, p. 19.

[11] Cf. Thesis 1, and foot-note.

[12] Here again, as above, we have the double sense of
_poentitentia_. Satisfaction is a part of sacramental penance.
Luther's charge is that in preaching the remission of this part
of the Sacrament the doctrine of true penitence (cf. Thesis 1) is
passed by.

[13] The Ninety-five Theses.

[14] Tetzel's reply to the Theses (_Disputatio II, Jo.
Tetzelli_), 1517. Loescher, I, pp. 517 ff.

[15] A Latin adage, _chorcorus inter olern_.



To the

Most Blessed Father,


Martin Luther,

Augustinian Friar,

wisheth everlasting welfare.

I have heard evil reports about myself, most blessed Father, by
which I know that certain friends have put my name in very bad
odor with you and yours, saying that I have attempted to belittle
the power of the keys and of the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore I am
accused of heresy, apostasy, and perfidy, and am called by six
hundred other names of ignominy. My ears shudder and my eyes are
astounded. But the one thing in which I put my confidence remains
unshaken--my clear and quiet conscience. Moreover, what I hear is
nothing new. With such like decorations I have been adorned in my
own country by those same honorable and truthful men, i. e., by
the men whose own conscience convicts them of wrong-doing, and
who are trying to put their own monstrous doings off on me, and
to glorify their own shame by bringing shame to me. But you will
deign, blessed Father, to hear the true case from me, though I am
but an uncouth child. [Jer. 2:6]

It is not long ago that the preaching of the Jubilee
indulgences[1] was begun in our country, and matters went so far
that the preachers of indulgences, thinking that the protection
of your name made anything permissible, ventured openly to teach
the most impious and heretical doctrines, which threatened to
make the power of the Church a scandal and a laughing-stock as if
the decretals _De abusionibus quaestorum_[2] did not apply to them.

Not content with spreading this poison of theirs by word of
mouth, they published tracts and scattered them among the people.
In these books--to say nothing of the insatiable and unheard of
avarice of which almost every letter in them vilely smells--they
laid down those same impious and heretical doctrines, and laid
them down in such wise that confessors were bound by their oath
to be faithful and insistent in urging them upon the people. I
speak the truth, and none of them can hide himself from the heat
thereof [Ps. 19:6]. The tracts are extant and they cannot disown
them. These teachings were so successfully carried on, and the
people, with their false hopes, were sucked so dry that, as the
Prophet says, "they plucked their flesh from off their bones";
[Mic. 3:2] but they themselves meanwhile were fed most pleasantly
on the fat of the land.

There was just one means which they used to quiet opposition, to
wit, the protection of your name, the threat of burning at the
stake, and the disgrace of the name "heretic." It is incredible
how ready they are to threaten, even, at times, when they
perceive that it is only their own mere silly opinions which are
contradicted. As though this were to quiet opposition, and not
rather to arouse schisms and seditions by sheer tyranny!

None the less, however, stories about the avarice of the priests
were bruited in the taverns, and evil was spoken of the power of
the keys and of the Supreme Pontiff, and as evidence of this, I
could cite the common talk of this whole land. I truly confess
that I was on fire with zeal for Christ, as I thought, or with
the heat of youth, if you prefer to have it so; and yet I saw
that it was not in place for me to make any decrees or to do
anything in these matters. Therefore I privately admonished some
of the prelates of the Church. By some of them I was kindly
received, to others I seemed ridiculous, to still others
something worse; for the terror of your name and the threat of
Church censures prevailed. At last, since I could do nothing
else, it seemed good that I should offer at least a gentle
resistance to them, i. e., question and discuss their teachings.
Therefore I published a set of theses, inviting only the more
learned to dispute with me if they wished; as should be evident,
even to my adversaries, from the Preface to the Disputation.[3]

Lo, this is the fire with which they complain that all the world
is now ablaze! Perhaps it is because they are indignant that I,
who by your own apostolic authority am a Master of Theology, have
the right to conduct public disputations, according to the custom
of all the Universities and of the whole Church, not only about
indulgences, but also about God's power and remission and mercy,
which are incomparably greater subjects. I am not much moved,
however, by the fact that they envy me the privilege granted me
by the power of your Holiness, since I am unwillingly compelled
to yield to them in things of far greater moment, viz., when they
mix the dreams of Aristotle with theological matters, and conduct
nonsensical disputations about the majesty of God, beyond and
against the privilege granted them.

It is a miracle to me by what fate it has come about that this
single Disputation of mine should, more than any other, of mine
or of any of the teachers, have gone out into very nearly the
whole land. It was made public at our University and for our
University only, and it was made public in such wise that I
cannot believe it has become known to all men. For it is a set of
theses, not doctrines or dogmas, and they are put, according to
custom, in an obscure and enigmatic way. Otherwise, if I had been
able to foresee what was coming, I should have taken care, for my
part, that they would be easier to understand.

Now what shall I do? I cannot recant them; and yet I see that
marvelous enmity is inflamed against me because of their
dissemination. It is unwillingly that I incur the public and
perilous and various judgment of men, especially since I am
unlearned, dull of brain, empty of scholarship; and that too in
this brilliant age of ours, which by its achievements in letters
and learning can force even Cicero into the corner, though he was
no base follower of the public light. But necessity compels me to
be the goose that squawks among the swans.

And so, to soften my enemies and to fulfil the desires of many, I
herewith send forth these trifling explanations of my
Disputation; I send them forth in order, too, that I may be more
safe under the defense of your name and the shadow of your
protection. In them all may see, who will, how purely and amply I
have sought after and cherished the power of the Church and
reverence for the keys; and, at the same rime, how unjustly and
falsely my adversaries have befouled me with so many names. For
if I had been such a one as they wish to make me out, and if I
had not, on the contrary, done everything correctly, according to
my academic privilege, the Most Illustrious Prince Frederick,
Duke of Saxony, Imperial Elector, etc., would never have
tolerated such a pest in his University, for he most dearly loves
the Catholic and Apostolic truth, nor could I have been tolerated
by the keen and learned men of our University. But what has been
done, I do because those most courteous men do not fear openly to
involve both the Prince and the University in the same disgrace
with myself.[4]

Wherefore, most blessed Father, I cast myself at the feet of your
Holiness, with all that I have and all that I am. Quicken, kill,
call, recall, approve, reprove, as you will. In your voice I
shall recognize the voice of Christ directing you and speaking in
you. If I have deserved death, I shall not refuse to die. For
the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof. [Ps. 24:1] He is
blessed forever. Amen.

May He have you too forever in His keeping. Amen.



[1] See Introduction, pp. 18, 21.

[2] i. e. The papal laws regulating the methods of collectors of

[3] The Ninety-five Theses.

[4] See Tetzel's _II. Disputation_, Theses 47, 48. Loescher, I, p.



This treatise is not a sermon in the ordinary acceptation of the
term. It was not preached, but, according to the Latin usage of
the word "sermo," was rather "a discourse," "a discussion," "a
disputation" concerning baptism. Even in popular usage, the term
"sermon" implies careful preparation and the orderly arrangement
of thought. Here, therefore, we have a carefully prepared
statement of Luther's opinion of the real significance of
baptism. Published in November, 1519, and shortly afterward in a
Latin translation,[1] it shows that the leading features of his
doctrine on this subject were already fixed. With it should be
read the chapter in the Large Catechism (1519), and the treatise
_Von der Wiedertaufe_ (1538).[2] The treatment is not polemical,
but objective and practical. The Anabaptist controversy was still
in the future. No objections against Infant Baptism or problems
that it suggested were pressing for attention. Nothing more is
attempted than to explain in a very plain and practical way how
every one who has been baptised should regard his baptism. It
commits to writing in an entirely impersonal way a problem of
Luther's own inner life, for the instruction of others similarly

He is confronted with a rite universally found in Christendom and
nowhere else, the one distinctive mark of a Christian, the seal
of a divine covenant. What it means is proclaimed by its very
external form. But it is more than a mere object-lesson
pictorially representing a great truth. With Luther, Word and
Spirit, sign and that which is signified, belong together.
Wherever the one is present, there also is the efficacy of the
other. The sign is not limited to the moment of administration,
and that which is signified is not projected far into the distant
future of adult years.

The emphatic preference here shown for immersion may surprise
those not familiar with Luther's writings. He prefers it as a
matter of choice between non-essentials. To quote only his
treatise of the next year on the Babylonian Captivity: "I wish
that those to be baptised were entirety sunken in the water; not
that I think it necessary, but that of so perfect and complete a
thing, there should be also an equally complete and perfect
sign." [3] It was a form that was granted as permissible in
current Orders approved by the Roman Church, and was continued in
succeeding Orders.[4] Even when immersion was not used, the
copious application of the water was a prominent feature of the
ceremony. No one is better qualified to speak on this subject
than Prof. Rietschel, himself formerly a Wittenberger: "The form
of baptism at Wittenberg is manifest from the picture by L.
Cranach on the altar of the Wittenberg _Pfarrkirche_, in which
Melanchthon is administering baptism. At Melanchthon's left hand
lies the completely naked child over the foot. With his right
hand he is pouring water upon the child's head, from which the
water is copiously flowing." [5]

Nor should it be forgotten that the immersion which Luther had in
mind was not that of adults, almost unknown at the time, and as
he himself says, practically unknown for about a thousand
years,[6] but that of infants. In the immersion of infants, he
finds two things: first, the sinking of the child beneath the
water, and, then, its being raised out, the one signifying death
to sin and all its consequences, and the other, the new life into
which the child is introduced. Four years later Luther introduced
into the revised Order of Baptism which he prepared, the Collect
of ancient form, but which the most diligent search of liturgical
scholars has thus far been unable to discover in any of the
prayers of the Ancient or Mediæval Church, expressing in
condensed form this thought. We quote the introduction, as freely
rendered by Cranmer in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI:
"Almighty and Everlasting God, Which, of Thy justice, didst
destroy by floods of water the whole world for sin, except eight
persons, whom of Thy mercy Thou didst save, the same time, in the
ark; and when Thou didst drown in the Red Sea wicked King Pharaoh
with all his army, yet, the same time, Thou didst lead Thy
people, the children of Israel, safely through the midst thereof;
whereby Thou didst figure the washing of Thy holy baptism, and by
the baptism of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, didst sanctify
the flood of Jordan, and all other waters, to the mystical
washing away of sin," etc.[7]

The figure is to him not that of an act, but of a process
extending throughout the entire earthly life of the one baptised.
Sin is not drowned at once, or its consequences escaped in a
moment. It is a graphic presentation in epitome of the entire
work of grace with this subject.[8] Life, therefore, in the
language of this treatise, is "a perpetual baptism." As the mark
of our Christian profession, as the sacramental oath of the
soldier of the cross, it is the solemn declaration of relentless
warfare against sin, and of life-long devotion to Christ our
Leader. As the true bride is responsive to no other love than
that of her husband, so one faithful to his baptism is dead to
all else. It is as though all else had been sunk beneath the sea.

In the distinction drawn between the sacramental sign and the
sacramental efficacy in paragraphs seven and eight, the
Protestant distinction between justification and sanctification
is involved. The one baptised, becomes in his baptism, wholly
dead to the condemning power of sin; but so far as the presence
of sin is concerned, the work of deliverance has just begun. This
is in glaring contrast with the scholastic doctrine that original
sin itself is entirely eradicated in baptism.[9] For baptism but
begins the constant struggle against sin that ends only with the
close of life. Hence the warning against making of baptism a
ground for presumption, and against relaxing the earnestness of
the struggle upon the assumption that one has been baptised. For
unless baptism be the beginning of a new life, it is without

Nor is the error less fatal which resorts to satisfactions,
self-chosen or ecclesiastically appointed, for the forgiveness of
sin committed after baptism. For as every sin committed after
baptism is a falling away from baptism, all repentance is a
return to baptism. No forgiveness is to be found except upon the
terms of our baptism. Never changing is God's covenant. If broken
on our part, no new covenant is to be sought. We must return to
the faith of our childhood or be lost. The Mediæval Church had
devised a sacrament of penance to supplement and repair the
alleged broken down and inoperative sacrament of baptism.
Baptism, so ran the teaching, blotted out the past and put one on
a plane to make a new beginning; but, then, when he fell, there
was this new sacrament, to which resort could be taken. It was
the "second plank," wrote Jerome, "by which one could swim out of
the sea of his sins." "No," exclaimed Luther, in the Large
Catechism, "the ship of our baptism never goes down. If we fall
out of the ship, there it is, ready for our return." [10]

There are, then, no vows whatever that can be substitutes for our
baptism, or can supplement it. The baptismal vow comprehends
everything. Only one distinction is admissible. While the vow
made in baptism is universal, binding all alike to complete
obedience to God, there are particular spheres in which this
general vow is to be exercised and fulfilled. Not all Christians
have the same office at the same calling. When one answers a
divine call directing him to some specific form of Christian
service, the vow made in response to such call is only the
re-affirmation and application to a peculiar relation of the one
obligatory vow of baptism.[11]

While the divine institution and Word of God in baptism are of
prime importance, the office of faith must also be made
prominent. Faith is the third element in baptism. Faith does not
make the sacrament; but faith appropriates and applies to self
what the sacrament offers. _Non sacramentum, sed fides sacramenti
justificat_. Nor are we left in doubt as to what is here meant by
the term "faith." In paragraph fourteen it is explicitly
described. Faith, we are then taught, is nothing else than to
look away from self to the mercy of God, as He offers it in the
word of His grace, whereof baptism is the seal to every child

Luther's purpose, in this discussion, being to guard against the
Mediæval theory of any _opus operatum_[12] efficacy in the
sacrament, he would have wandered from his subject, if he had
entered at this place into any extended discussion of the nature
of the faith that is required. A few years later (1528), the
Anabaptist reaction, which over-emphasised the subjective, and
depreciated the objective side of the sacraments, necessitated a
much fuller treatment of the peculiar office of faith with
respect to baptism. To complete the discussion, the citation of a
few sentences from his treatise, _Von der Wiedertaufe_, may,
therefore, not be without use. Insisting that, important as faith
is, the divine Word, and not faith, is the basis of baptism, he
shows how one who regards faith, on the part of the candidate for
baptism, essential to its validity, can never, if consistent,
administer baptism; since there is no case in which he can have
absolute certainty that faith is present. Or if one should have
doubts as to the validity of his baptism in infancy, because he
has no evidence that he then believed, and, for this reason,
should ask to be baptised in adult years, then if Satan should
again trouble him as to whether, even when baptised the second
time, he really had faith, he would have to be baptised a third,
and a fourth time, and so on _ad infinitum_, as long as such
doubts recurred.[13] "For it often happens that one who thinks
that he has faith, has none whatever, and that one who thinks
that he has no faith but only doubts, actually believes. We are
not told: 'He who knows that he believes,' or 'If you know that
you believe,' but: 'He that believeth shall be saved.' [14] In
other words, it is not faith in our faith that is asked, but
faith in the Word and institution of God. Again: "Tell me: Which
is the greater, the Word of God or faith? Is not the Word of God
the greater? For the Word does not depend upon faith, but it is
faith that is dependent on God's Word. Faith wavers and changes;
but the Word of God abides forever."[15] "The man who bases his
baptism on his faith, is not only uncertain, but he is a godless
and hypocritical Christian; for he puts his trust in what is not
his own, viz., in a gift which God has given him, and not alone
in the Word of God; just as another builds upon his strength,
wisdom, power, holiness, which, nevertheless, are gifts which God
has given us." [16] Even though at the time of baptism there be
no faith, the baptism, nevertheless, is valid. For if at the time
of marriage, a maiden be without love to the man whom she
marries, when, two years later, she has learned to love her
husband, there is no need of a new betrothal and a new marriage;
the covenant previously made is sufficient.[17]

In harmony with the stress laid in this treatise upon the fact
that baptism is a treasury of consolation offered to the faith of
every individual baptised, is the great emphasis which Luther, in
other places, was constrained to lay upon personal as
distinguished from vicarious faith. Neither the faith of the
sponsors, nor that of the Church, for which, according to
Augustine, the sponsors speak, avails more than simply to bring
the child to baptism, where it becomes an independent agent, with
whom God now deals directly. Thus the Large Catechism declares:
"We bring the child in the purpose and hope that it may believe,
and we pray God to grant it faith, but we do not baptise it upon
that, but solely upon the command of God." [18] Still more
explicit is a sermon on the Third Sunday after Epiphany; "The
words, Mark 16:16, Romans 1:17, and John 3:16, 18 are clear, to
the effect that every one must believe for himself, and no one
can be helped by the faith of any me else, but only by his own
faith." "It is just as in the natural life, no one can be born
for me, but I must be born myself. My mother may bring me to
birth, but it is I who am born, and no me else." "Thus no one is
saved by the faith of another, but solely by his own faith." [19]

The treatise is found in _Weimar Ed._, II, 724-737; _Erlangen
Ed._, XXI, 229-244; St. Louis Ed., X, 2113-2116; Clemen and
Leitzmann, _Luthers Werke_, I, (1912), 185-195.


Mount Airy, Philadelphia.


[1] _Erl. Ed., op. var. arg._, III, 394-410.

[2] _Erl. Ed._, XXVI, 256-294.

[3] _Erl. Ed., op. var. arg._, V. 66. For an exhaustive treatment
of Luther's attitude to immersion, sprinkling, and pouring, see
Krauth, _Conservative Reformation_, 519-544.

[4] For formulas, see Höfling, _Das Sacrament der Taufe_, II. 40.

[5] Riechschel, _Lehrbuch der Liturgik_, II, 67 f.

[6] "If Infant Baptism were not right, then for one thousand
years there was no baptism and no Christian Church," _Erl. Ed._,
XXVI, 287.

[7] More literally, but with no great difference, in the Lutheran
Church Book, p. 323. The Book of Common Prayer, following the II.
Prayerbook of Edward VI, has abbreviated it.

[8] _Small Catechism_: "Baptism signifies that the old Adam in us
is to be drowned and destroyed by daily sorrow and repentance,
together with all sins and evil lusts; and that again the new man
should daily come forth and rise, that shall live in the presence
of God, in righteousness and purity for ever."

[9] _Decrees of Trent_, Session V, 5: "If any one asserts that
the whole of that which has the proper nature of sin is not taken
away, but only evaded or not imputed, let him be accursed."

[10] _Book of Concord_, Eng. Trans., p. 475.

[11] Luther recurs to this subject in a subsequent treatise, the
_Confitendi Ratio_, below pp. 81 ff.

[12] i. e. The theory of the Roman Church that even without the
faith of a recipient, the blessing of the sacrament is bestowed.

[13] _Erl. Ed._, XXVI, 268.

[14] _Ibid._, 269.

[15] _Erl. Ed._, XXVI, 292.

[16] _Ibid_., 275.

[17] _Ibid_., 275.

[18] _Book of Concord_, English Translation, p. 473.

[19] _Erl. Ed._, XI, 63, 48, 2d Ed., XI, 65, 61. See discussion by
writer in _Lutheran Church Review_, XVIII, 598-657, where passages
cited may be found with full context translated, together with
other statements of Luther and those who followed him, on the
same subject.


[Sidenote: Meaning of the Word]

I. Baptism [German, _die Taufe_] is called in the Greek language
_baptismos_, in Latin _mersio_, which means to plunge something
entirely into the water, so that the water closes over it. And
although in many places it is the custom no longer to thrust and
plunge children into the font of baptism, but only to pour the
baptismal water upon them out of the font, nevertheless the
former is what should be done; and it would be right, according
to the meaning of the word _Taufe_, that the child, or whoever is
baptised, should be sunk entirely into the water, and then drawn
out again; for even in the German tongue the word _Taufe_ comes
undoubtedly from the word _tief_, and means that what is baptised
is sunk deep into the water. This usage is also demanded by the
significance of baptism, for baptism signifies that the old man
and the sinful birth of flesh and blood are to be wholly drowned
by the grace of God, as we shall hear. We should, therefore, do
justice to its meaning and make baptism a true and complete sign
of the thing it signifies.

[Sidenote: The Sign]

II. Baptism is an external sign or token, which so divides us
from all men not baptised, that thereby we are known as a people
of Christ, [Heb. 2:10] our Captain, under Whose banner (i. e.,
the Holy Cross) we continually fight against sin. Therefore in
this Holy Sacrament we must have regard to three things--the
sign, the significance thereof, and the faith. The sign consists
in this, that we are thrust into the water in the Name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; but we are not left
there, for we are drawn out again. Hence the saying, _Aus der
Taufe gehoben_.[1] The sign must, therefore, have both its parts,
the putting in and the drawing out.

[Sidenote: The Thing Signified]

III. The significance of baptism is a blessed dying unto sin and
a resurrection in the grace of God, so that the old man, which is
conceived and born in sin, is there drowned, and a new man, born
in grace, comes forth and rises. Thus St. Paul, in Titus iii,
calls baptism a "washing of regeneration," [Tit. 3:5] since in
this washing man is born again and made new. As Christ also says,
in John iii, "Except ye be born again of water and the Spirit of
grace, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." [John 3:5]
For just as a child is drawn out of its mother's womb and born,
and through this fleshly birth is a sinful man and a child of
wrath, [Eph. 2:3] so man is drawn out of baptism and spiritually
born, and through this spiritual birth is a child of grace and a
justified man. Therefore sins are drowned in baptism, and in
place of sin, righteousness comes forth.

[Sidenote: Its Incompleteness]

IV. This significance of baptism, viz., the dying or drowning of
sin, is not fulfilled completely in this life, nay, not until man
passes through bodily death also, and utterly decays to dust. The
sacrament, or sign, of baptism is quickly over, as we plainly
see. But the thing it signifies, viz., the spiritual baptism, the
drowning of sin, lasts so long as we five, and is completed only
in death. Then it is that man is completely sunk in baptism, and
that thing comes to pass which baptism signifies. Therefore this
life is nothing else than a spiritual baptism which does not
cease till death, and he who is baptised is condemned to die; as
though the priest, when he baptises, were to say, "Lo, thou art
sinful flesh; therefore I drown thee in God's Name, and in His
Name condemn thee to thy death, that with thee all thy sins may
die and be destroyed." Wherefore St. Paul says, in Romans vi,
"We are buried with Christ by baptism into death"; [Rom. 6:4] and
the sooner after baptism a man dies, the sooner is his baptism
completed; for sin never entirely ceases while this body lives,
which is so wholly conceived in sin that sin is its very nature,
as saith the Prophet, "Behold I was conceived in sin, and in
iniquity did my mother bear me"; [Ps. 51:5] and there is no help
for the sinful nature unless it dies and is destroyed with all
its sin. So, then, the life of a Christian, from baptism to the
grave, is nothing else than the beginning of a blessed death, for
at the Last Day God will make him altogether new.

[Sidenote: Its Completion]

V. In like manner the lifting up out of baptism is quickly done,
but the thing it signifies, the spiritual birth, the increase of
grace and righteousness, though it begins indeed in baptism,
lasts until death, nay, even until the Last Day. Only then will
that be finished which the lifting up out of baptism signifies.
Then shall we arise from death, from sins and from all evil, pure
in body and in soul, and then shall we live forever. Then shall
we be truly lifted up out of baptism and completely born, and we
shall put on the true baptismal garment of immortal life in
heaven. As though the sponsors when they lift the child up out of
baptism,[2] were to say, "Lo, now thy sins are drowned; we
receive thee in God's Name into an eternal life of innocence."
For so will the angels at the Last Day raise up all Christians,
all pious baptised men, and will there fulfil what baptism and
the sponsors signify; as Christ says in Matthew xxiv, "He shall
send forth His angels, and they shall gather unto Him His elect
from the four places of the winds, and from the rising to the
setting of the sun." [Matt 24:31]

VI. Baptism was presaged of old in Noah's flood, when the whole
world was drowned, save Noah with three sons and their wives,
eight souls, who were kept in the ark. That the people of the
world were drowned, signifies that in baptism sins are drowned;
but that the eight in the ark, with beasts of every sort, were
preserved, signifies that through baptism man is saved, as St.
Peter explains, [1 Pet. 3:20 f.] Now baptism is by far a greater
flood than was that of Noah. For that flood drowned men during no
more than one year, but baptism drowns all sorts of men
throughout the world, from the birth of Christ even till the Day
of Judgment. Moreover, it is a flood of grace, as that was a
flood of wrath, as is declared in Psalm xxviii, "God will make a
continual new flood." [3] [Ps. 29:10] For without doubt many more
people are baptised than were drowned in the flood.

[Sidenote: The Continuance of Sin]

VII. From this it follows that when a man comes forth out of
baptism, he is pure and without sin, wholly guiltless. But there
are many who do not rightly understand this, and think that sin
is no more present, and so they become slothful and negligent in
the killing of their sinful nature, even as some do when they
have gone to Confession. For this reason, as I said above,[4] it
should be rightly understood, and it should be known that our
flesh, so long as it lives here, is by nature wicked and sinful.
To correct this wickedness God has devised the plan of making it
altogether new, even as Jeremiah shows. The potter, when the pot
"was marred in his hand," thrust it again into the lump of clay,
and kneaded it, and afterwards made another pot, as it seemed
good to him. "So," says God, "are ye in My hands." [Jer. 18:4 f.]
In the first birth we are marred; therefore He thrusts us into
the earth again by death, and makes us over at the Last Day, that
then we may be perfect and without sin.

This plan He begins in baptism, which signifies death and the
resurrection at the Last Day, as has been said.[5] Therefore, so
far as the sign of the sacrament and its significance are
concerned, sins and the man are both already dead, and he has
risen again, and so the sacrament has taken place; but the work
of the sacrament has not yet been fully done, that is to say,
death and the resurrection at the Last Day are yet before us.

[Sidenote: Sins after Baptism]

VII. Man, therefore, is altogether pure and guiltless, but
sacramentally, which means nothing else than that he has the sign
of God, i. e., baptism, by which it is shown that his signs are
all to be dead, and that he too is to die in grace, and at the
Last Day to rise again, pure, sinless, guiltless, to everlasting
life. Because of the sacrament, then, it is true that he is
without sin and guilt; but because this is not yet completed, and
he still lives in sinful flesh, he is not without sin, and not in
all things pure, but has begun to grow into purity and innocence.

Therefore when a man comes to mature age, the natural, sinful
appetites--wrath, impurity, lust, avarice, pride, and the
like--begin to stir, whereas there would be none of these if all
sins were drowned in the sacrament and were dead. But the
sacrament only signifies that they are to be drowned through
death and the resurrection at the Last Day. [Rom. 7:18] So St.
Paul, in Romans vii, and all saints with him, lament that they
are sinners and have sin in their nature, although they were
baptised and were holy; and they so lament because the natural,
sinful appetites are always active so long as we live.

[Sidenote: Baptism a Covenant]

IX. But you ask, "How does baptism help me, if it does not
altogether blot out and put away sin?" This is the place for the
right understanding of the sacrament of baptism. The holy
sacrament of baptism helps you, because in it God allies Himself
with you, and becomes one with you in a gracious covenant of

[Sidenote: Man's Pledge]

First of all, you give yourself up to the sacrament of baptism
and what it signifies, i. e., you desire to die, together with
your sins, and to be made new at the Last Day, as the sacrament
declares, and as has been said.[6] This God accepts at your
hands, and grants you baptism, and from that hour begins to make
you a new man, pours into you His grace and Holy Spirit, Who
begins to slay nature and sin, and to prepare you for death and
the resurrection at the Last Day.

Again, you pledge yourself to continue in this, and more and more
to slay your sin as long as you live, even until your death. This
too God accepts, and trains and tries you all your life long,
with many good works and manifold sufferings; whereby He effects
what you in baptism have desired, viz., that you may become free
from sin, may die and rise again at the Last Day, and so fulfil
your baptism. Therefore, we read and see how bitterly He has let
His saints be tortured, and how much He has let them suffer, to
the end that they might be quickly slain, might fulfil their
baptism, die and be made new. For when this does not happen, and
we suffer not and are not tried, then the evil nature overcomes a
man, so that he makes his baptism of none effect, falls into sin,
and remains the same old man as before.

[Sidenote: God's Pledge]

X. So long, now, as you keep your pledge to God, He, in turn,
gives you His grace, and pledges Himself not to count against you
the sins which remain in your nature after baptism, and not to
regard them or to condemn you because of them. He is satisfied
and well-pleased if you are constantly striving and desiring to
slay these sins and to be rid of them by your death. For this
cause, although the evil thoughts and appetites may be at work,
nay, even although you may sin and fall at times, these sins are
already done away by the power of the sacrament and covenant, if
only you rise again and enter into the covenant, as St. Paul says
in Romans viii. No one who believes in Christ is condemned by the
evil, sinful inclination of his nature, if only he does not
follow it and consent to it; [Rom. 8:1] and St. John, in his
Epistle, writes, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with God,
even Jesus Christ, Who has become the forgiveness of our sins."
[1 John 2:2 f.] All this takes place in baptism, where Christ is
given us, as we shall hear in the remainder of the treatise.

[Sidenote: The Comfort of the Covenant]

XI. Now if this covenant did not exist, and God were not so
merciful as to wink at our sins, there could be no sin so so
small but it would condemn us. For the judgment of God can endure
no sin. Therefore there is on earth no greater comfort than
baptism, for through it we come under the judgment of grace and
mercy, which does not condemn our sins, but drives them out by
many trials. There is a fine sentence of St. Augustine, which
says, "Sin is altogether forgiven in baptism; not in such wise
that it is no longer present, but in such wise that it is not
taken into account." As though he were to say, "Sin remains in
our flesh even until death, and works without ceasing; but so
long as we do not consent thereto or remain therein, it is so
overruled by our baptism that it does not condemn us and is not
harmful to us, but is daily more and more destroyed until our

For this reason no one should be terrified if he feel evil lust
or love, nor should he despair even if he fall, but he should
remember his baptism, and comfort himself joyfully with it, since
God has there bound Himself to slay his sin for him, and not to
count it a cause for condemnation, if only he does not consent to
sin or remain in sin. Moreover, these wild thoughts and
appetites, and even a fall into sin, should not be regarded as an
occasion for despair, but rather as a warning from God that man
should remember his baptism and what was there spoken, that he
should call upon God's mercy, and exercise himself in striving
against sin, that he should even be desirous of death in order
that he may be rid of sin.

[Sidenote: The Office of Faith]

XII. Here, then, is the place to discuss the third thing in the
sacrament, i. e., faith, to wit, that a man should firmly believe
all this; viz., that this sacrament not only signifies death and
the resurrection at the Last Day, by which man is made new for an
everlasting, sinless life; but also that it assuredly begins and
effects this, and unites us with God, so that we have the will to
slay sin, even till the time of our death, and to fight against
it; on the other hand, that it is His will to be merciful to us,
to deal graciously with us, and not to judge us with severity,
because we are not sinless in this life until purified through
death. Thus you understand how a man becomes in baptism
guiltless, pure and sinless, and yet continues full of evil
inclinations, that he is called pure only because he has begun to
be pure, and has a sign and covenant of this purity, and is
always to become more pure. Because of this God will not count
against him the impurity which still cleaves to him, and,
therefore, he is pure rather through the gracious imputation of
God than through anything in his own nature; as the Prophet says
in Psalm xxxii, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven;
blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity."
[Ps. 52:1 f.]

This faith is of all things the most necessary, for it is the
ground of all comfort. He who has not this faith must despair in
his sins. For the sin which remains after baptism makes it
impossible for any good works to be pure before God. For this
reason we must hold boldly and fearlessly to our baptism, and
hold it up against all sins and terrors of conscience, and humbly
say, "I know full well that I have not a single work which is
pure, but I am baptised, and through my baptism God, Who cannot
lie, has bound Himself in a covenant with me, not to count my sin
against me, but to slay it and blot it out."

XIII. So, then, we understand that the innocence which is ours by
baptism is so called simply and solely because of the mercy of
God, which has begun this work in us, bears patiently with sin,
and regards us as though we were sinless, This also explains why
Christians are called in the Scriptures the children of mercy, a
people of grace, and men of God's good-will. [Eph. 5:1, 9] It is
because in baptism they have begun to become pure, [Luke 2:14]
and by God's mercy are not condemned with their sins that still
remain, until, through death and at the Last Day, they become
wholly pure, as the sign of baptism shows.

Therefore they greatly err who think that through baptism they
have become wholly pure. They go about in their unwisdom, and do
not slay their sin; they will not admit that it is sin; they
persist in it, and so they make their baptism of no effect; they
remain entangled in certain outward works, and meanwhile pride,
hatred, and other evils of their nature are disregarded and grow
worse and worse. Nay, not so! Sin and evil inclination must be
recognized as truly sin; that it does not harm us is to be
ascribed to the grace of God, Who will not count it against us if
only we strive against it in many trials, works, and sufferings,
and slay it at last in death. To them who do this not, God will
not forgive their sins, because they do not live according to
their baptism and covenant, and hinder the work which God and
their baptism have begun.

[Sidenote: Baptism and Repentance]

XIV. Of this sort are they also who think to blot out and put
away their sin by "satisfaction," [7] and even regard their
baptism lightly, as though they had no more need of it after they
had been baptised,[8] and do not know that it is in force all
through life, even until death, nay, even at the Last Day, as was
said above.[9] For this cause they think to find some other way
of blotting out sin, viz., their own works; and so they make, for
themselves and for all others, evil, terrified, uncertain
consciences, and despair in the hour of death; and they know not
how they stand with God, thinking that by sin they have lost
their baptism and that it profits them no more.

Guard yourself, by all means, against this error. For, as has
been said, if any one has fallen into sin, he should the more
remember his baptism, and how God has there made a covenant with
him to forgive all his sins, if only he has the will to fight
against them, even until death. Upon this truth, upon this
alliance with God, a man must joyfully dare to rely, and then
baptism goes again into operation and effect, his heart becomes
again peaceful and glad, not in his own work or "satisfaction,"
but in God's mercy, promised him in baptism, and to be held fast
forever. This faith a man must hold so firmly that he would cling
to it even though all creatures and all sins attacked him, since
he who lets himself be forced away from it makes God a liar in
His covenant, the sacrament of baptism.

[Sidenote: Baptism and Penance]

XV. It is this faith that the devil most attacks. If he
overthrows it, he has won the battle. For the sacrament of
penance also (of which we have already spoken)[10] has its
foundation in this sacrament, since sins are forgiven only to
those who are baptised, i. e., to those whose sins God has
promised to forgive. The sacrament of penance thus renews and
points out again the sacrament of baptism, as though the priest,
in the absolution, were to say, "Lo, God hath now forgiven thee
thy sin, as He long since hath promised thee in baptism, and as
He hath now commanded me, by the power of the keys,[11] and now
thou comest again into that which thy baptism does and is.
Believe, and thou hast it; doubt, and thou art lost." So we find
that through sin baptism is, indeed, hindered in its work, i. e.,
in the forgiveness and the slaying of sin; yet only by unbelief
in its operation is baptism brought to naught. Faith, in turn,
removes the hindrance to the operation of baptism. So much
depends on faith.

[Sidenote: Forgiveness and Sanctification]

To speak quite plainly, it is one thing to forgive sins, and
another thing to put them away or drive them out. The
forgiveness of sins is obtained by faith, even though they are
not entirely driven out; but to drive out sins is to exercise
ourselves against them, and at last it is to die; for in death
sin perishes utterly. But both the forgiveness and the driving
out of sins are the work of baptism. Thus the Apostle writes to
the Hebrews, [Heb. 12:1] who were baptised, and whose sins were
forgiven, that they shall lay aside the sin which doth beset
them. For so long as I believe that God is willing not to count
my sins against me, my baptism is in force and my sins are
forgiven, though they may still, in a great measure, remain.
After that follows the driving out of my sins through sufferings,
death, etc. This is what we confess in the article [of the
Creed], "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the forgiveness of sins,
etc." Here there is special reference to baptism, for in it the
forgiveness takes place through God's covenant with us; therefore
we must not doubt this forgiveness.

[Sidenote: Baptism and Suffering]

XVI. It follows, therefore, that baptism makes all sufferings and
especially death, profitable and helpful, since these things can
only serve baptism in the doing of its work, i. e., in the slaying
of sin. For he who would fulfil the work and purpose of his
baptism and be rid of sin, must die. It cannot be otherwise.
Sin, however, does not like to die, and for this reason it makes
death so bitter and so horrible. Such is the grace and power of
God that sin, which has brought death, is driven out again by its
own work, viz., by death.[12]

You find many people who wish to live in order that they may
become righteous, and who say that they would like to be
righteous. Now there is no shorter way or manner than through
baptism and the work of baptism, i. e., through suffering and
death, and so long as they are not willing to take this way, it
is a sign that they do not rightly intend or know how to become
righteous. Therefore God has instituted many estates in life in
which men are to learn to exercise themselves and to suffer. To
some He has commanded the estate of matrimony, to others the
estate of the clergy, to others, again, the estate of the rulers,
and to all He has commanded that they shall toil and labor to
kill the flesh and accustom it to death, because for all such as
are baptised their baptism has made the repose, the ease, the
plenty of this life a very poison, and a hindrance to its work.
For in these things no one learns to suffer, to die with
gladness, to get rid of sin, and to live in accordance with
baptism; but instead of these things there grows love of this
life and horror of eternal life, fear of death and unwillingness
to blot out sin.

[Sidenote: Baptism and Good Works]

XVII. Now behold the lives of men. Many there are who fast and
pray and go on pilgrimage and exercise themselves in such things,
thinking thereby only to heap up merit, and to sit down in the
high places of heaven. But fasting and all such exercises should
be directed toward holding down the old Adam, the sinful nature,
and accustoming it to do without all that is pleasing for this
life, and thus daily preparing it more and more for death, so
that the work and purpose of baptism may be fulfilled. And all
these exercises and toils are to be measured, not by their number
or their greatness, but by the demands of baptism; that is to
say, each man is to take upon him so much of these works as is
good and profitable for the suppressing of his sinful nature and
for fitting it for death, and is to increase or diminish them
according as he sees that sin increases or decreases. As it is,
they go their heedless way, take upon themselves this, that, and
the other task, do now this, now that, according to the
appearance or the reputation of the work, and again quickly leave
off, and thus become altogether inconstant, till in the end they
amount to nothing; nay, some of them so rack their brains over
the whole thing, and so abuse nature, that they are of no use
either to themselves or others.

All this is the fruit of that doctrine with which we have been so
possessed as to think that after repentance or baptism we are
without sin, and that our good works are to be heaped up, not for
the blotting out of sin, but for their own sake, or as a
satisfaction for sins already done. This is encouraged by those
preachers who preach unwisely the legends and works of the
blessed Saints, and make of them examples for all. The ignorant
fall eagerly upon these things, and work their own destruction
out of the examples of the Saints. God has given every saint a
special way and a special grace by which to live according to his
baptism. But baptism and its significance He has set as a common
standard for all men, so that every man is to examine himself
according to his station in life, to find what is the best way
for him to fulfil the work and purpose of his baptism, i. e., to
slay sin and to die. Then Christ's burden grows light and easy,
[Matt. 11:30] and it is not carried with worry and care, as
Solomon says of it, "The labor of the foolish wearieth every one
of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city." [Eccl.
10:15] For even as they are worried who wish to go to the city
and cannot find the way, so it is with these men; all their life
and labor is a burden to them, and yet they accomplish nothing.

[Sidenote: The Vow of Baptism and Other Vows]

XVIII. In this place, then, belongs the question whether baptism
and the vow which we there make to God, is something more or
something greater than the vows of chastity, of the priesthood,
of the clergy, since baptism is common to all Christians, and it
is thought that the clergy have taken a special and a higher vow.
I answer: From what has been said, this is an easy question to
answer. For in baptism we all make one and the same vow, viz., to
slay sin and to become holy through the work and grace of God, to
Whom we yield and offer ourselves, as clay to the potter [13] and
in this no one is better than another. But for a life in
accordance with baptism, i. e., for slaying sin, there can be no
one method and no special estate in life. Therefore I have
said[14] that each man must prove himself, that he may know in
what estate he may best slay sin and put a check upon his nature.
It is true, then, that there is no vow higher, better, or greater
than the vow of baptism. What more can we promise than to drive
out an, to die, to hate this life, and to become holy?

Over and above this vow, a man may, indeed, bind himself to some
special estate, if it seems to him to be suitable and helpful for
the completion of his baptism. It is just as though two men went
to the same city, and the one went by the foot-path, the other by
the high-way, according as each thought best. So he who binds
himself to the estate of matrimony, walks in the toils and
sufferings which belong to that estate and lays upon himself its
burdens, in order that he may grow used to pleasure and sorrow,
avoid sin, and prepare himself for death better than he could do
outside of that estate. But he who seeks more suffering, and by
much exercise would speedily prepare himself for death and soon
attain the work of baptism, let him bind himself to chastity, or
the spiritual order; for the spiritual estate,[15] if it is as it
ought to be, should be full of torment and suffering, in order
that he who belongs to it may have more exercise in the work of
his baptism than the man who is in the estate of matrimony, and
through such torment quickly grow used to welcome death with joy,
and so attain the purpose of his baptism. Now above this estate
there is another and a higher, that which rules in the spiritual
order, viz., the estate of bishop, priest, etc. And these men
should be well practised in sufferings and works, and ready at
every hour for death, not only for their own sake, but for the
sake of those who are their subjects.

Yet in all these estates the standard, of which we spoke above,
should never be forgotten, viz., that a man should so exercise
himself only to the end that sin may be driven out, and should
not be guided by the number or the greatness of works. But, alas
how we have forgotten our baptism and what it means, and what
vows we made there, and that we are to walk in its works and
attain its purpose! So, too, we have forgotten about the ways to
that goal, and about the estates, and do not know to what end
these estates were instituted, and how we are in them to keep at
the fulfilling of our baptism. They have been made a gorgeous
show, and little more remains of them than worldly display, as
Isaiah says, "Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with
water." [Isa. 1:22] On this may God have mercy! Amen.

[Sidenote: The Joy of Baptism]

XIX. If, then, the holy sacrament of baptism is a thing so great,
so gracious and full of comfort, we should pay earnest heed to
thank God for it ceaselessly, joyfully, and from the heart, and
to give Him praise and honor. For I fear that by our
thanklessness we have deserved our blindness and become unworthy
to behold such grace, though the whole world was, and still is,
full of baptism and the grace of God. But we have been led astray
in our own anxious works, afterwards in indulgences and such like
false comforts, and have thought that we are not to trust God
until we are righteous and have made satisfaction for our sin, as
though we would buy His grace from Him or pay Him for it. In
truth, he who does not see in God's grace how it bears with him
as a sinner, and will make him blessed, and who looks forward
only to God's judgment, that man will never be joyful in God, and
can neither love nor praise Him. But if we hear and firmly
believe that He receives us sinners in the covenant of baptism,
spares us, and makes us pure from day to day, then our heart must
be joyful, and love and praise God. So He says in the Prophet, "I
will spare them, as a man spareth his own son." [Mal. 3:17]
Wherefore it is needful that we give thanks to the Blessed
Majesty, Who shows Himself so gracious and merciful toward us
poor condemned worms, and magnify and acknowledge His work.

[Sidenote: The Danger of False Confidence]

XX. At the same time, however, we must have a care that no false
security creeps in and says to itself: "Baptism is so gracious
and so great a thing that God will not count our sins against us,
and as soon as we turn again from sin, everything is right, by
virtue of baptism; meanwhile, therefore, I will live and do my
own will, and afterwards, or when about to die, will remember my
baptism and remind God of His covenant, and then fulfil the work
and purpose of my baptism."

Baptism is, indeed, so great a thing that if you turn again from
sins and appeal to the covenant of baptism, your sins are
forgiven. Only see to it, if you thus wickedly and wantonly sin,
presuming on God's grace, that the judgment does not lay hold
upon you and anticipate your turning back; and beware lest, even
if you then desired to believe or to trust in your baptism, your
trial be, by God's decree, so great that your faith is not able
to stand. If they scarcely remain who do do sin or who fall
because of sheer weakness, where shall your wickedness remain,
which has tempted and mocked God's grace? [1 Pet. 4:18]

Let us, therefore, walk with carefulness and fear, that with a
firm faith we may hold fast the riches of God's grace, and
joyfully give thanks to His mercy forever and ever. Amen. [Eph.


[1] Literally, "lifted or raised out of baptism"; in common usage
simply "baptised." Cf. "_aus der Taufe beben_," "to stand sponsor."

[2] See above, p.56, note 1.

[3] Luther habitually quoted the Vulgate and quoted from memory;
hence the many variations from the familiar test of Scripture.

[4] See above, p. 58.

[5] See above, p. 57.

[6] See above, p. 57.

[7] Good works prescribed as "penances" upon confession to the

[8] Literally, "lifted up out of it." See above, p. 57, note 1.

[9] See above, p.58.

[10] Luther here refers to his _Treatise on the Sacrament of
Penance_, which was published just before the present treatise on
baptism, in 1519. See _Weimar Ed._, II, pp. 709 ff and p. 724.

[11] The power to forgive and retain sin, belonging, according to
Roman teaching, to the priest, and normally exercised in the
sacrament of penance.

[12] Cf. _Fourteen of Consolation_, Part II, ch. II; below, pp.
146 ff.

[13] See above, p. 59.

[14] See above, p. 67.

[15] The "spiritual estate" or "spiritual order" includes all
those who have deserted the world and worldly pursuits for the
religious life. It includes monks and friars and nuns, as well as
priests, etc.


The _Confitendi Ratio_ is the culmination of a series of tracts
published by Luther after the memorable October 31st, 1517, and
before his final breach with Rome.[1] In them is clearly
traceable the progress that he was making in dealing with the
practical problems offered by the confessional, and which had
started the mighty conflict in which he was engaged. They open to
us an insight into his own conscientious efforts during the
period, when, as a penitent, he was himself endeavoring to meet
every requirement which the Church imposed, In order to secure
the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, as well as to present
the questions which as a father confessor and spiritual adviser
he asked those who were under his pastoral care. First of all, we
find, therefore, tables of duties and sins, reminding us of the
lists of cardinal sins and cardinal virtues in which Roman
Catholic books abound. The main effort here is to promote the
most searching self-examination and the most complete enumeration
of the details of sins, since, from the Medieval standpoint, the
completeness of the absolution is proportioned to the
exhaustiveness of the confession. Although the first of these
briefer tracts closes with its note of warning that the value of
the confession is not to be estimated by the enumeration of
details, but that it rests solely in the resort that is had to
the Grace of God and the word of His promise, the transition from
the one mode of thought to the other is very apparent.

In the _Kurze Untetweisung wie man beichten soll_ of 1519, of
which this is a Latin re-elaboration, and, therefore, intended
more for the educated man than as a popular presentation, he has
advanced so far as to warn against the attempt to make an
exhaustive enumeration of sins. He advises that the confession be
made in the most general terms, covering sins both known and
unknown. "If one would confess all mortal sins, it may be done in
the following words; 'Yea, my whole life, and all that I do, act,
speak, and think, is such as to be deadly and condemnable.' For
if one regard himself as being without mortal sin, this is of all
mortal sins the most mortal." [2] According to this maturer view,
the purpose of the most searching self-examination is to exhibit
the utter impossibility of ever fathoming the depth of corruption
that lies beneath the surface. The reader of the _Tessaradecas_
will recall Luther's statement there, that it is of God's great
mercy that man is able to see but a very small portion of the sin
within him, for were he to see it in its full extent, he would
perish at the sight. The physician need not count every pustule
on the body to diagnose the disease as small-pox. A glance is
enough to determine the case. The sins that are discovered are
the symptoms of the one radical sin that lies beneath them
all.[3] The cry is no longer "_Mea peccata, mea peccata,_" as
though these recognized sins were the exception to a life
otherwise without a flaw, but rather, overwhelmed with confusion,
the penitent finds in himself nothing but sin, except for what he
has by God's grace alone. Most clearly does Luther enforce this
in his exposition of the Fifty-first Psalm, of 1531, a treatise
we most earnestly commend to those who desire fuller information
concerning Luther's doctrine of sin, and his conception of the
value of confession and absolution. He shows that it is not by
committing a particular sin that we become sinners, but that the
sin is committed because our nature is still sinful, and that the
poisonous tree has grown from roots deeply imbedded in the soil.
We are sinners not because particular acts of sin have been
devised and carried to completion, but before the acts are
committed we are sinners; otherwise such fruits would not have
been borne. A bad tree can grow from nothing but a bad root.[4]

In his _Sermon on Confession and the Sacrament_ of 1524, he
discourages habits of morbid self-introspection, and exposes the
perplexities produced by the extractions of the confessional in
constantly sinking the probe deeper and deeper into the heart of
the already crushed and quivering penitent. He shows how one need
not look far to find enough to prompt the confession of utter
helplessness and the casting of self unreservedly upon God's
mercy. "Bring to the confession only those sins that occur to
thee, and say: I am so frail and fallen that I need consolation
and good counsel. For the confession should be brief....No one,
therefore, should be troubled, even though he have forgotten his
sins. If they be forgotten, they are none the less forgiven. For
what God considers, is not how thou hast confessed, but His Word
and how thou hast believed." [5]

In this is made prominent the radical difference between the
Roman Catholic and the Lutheran conception of confession. In the
former, it is a part of penance, the second of the three elements
of "contrition," "confession," and "satisfaction," an absolute
condition of the forgiveness of every sin. In the Roman
confessional, sins are treated atomistically. Some are forgiven,
while others are still to be forgiven. Every sin stands by
itself, and requires separate treatment. No unconfessed sin is
forgiven. To be forgiven, a sin must be known and lamented, and
confessed in all its details and circumstances to the priest,
who, as a spiritual judge, proportions the amount of the
satisfaction to be rendered by the penitent to the degree of
guilt of the offence, as judged from the facts before him. Thus
the debt has to be painfully and punctiliously worked off, sin by
sin, as in the financial world a note may be extinguished by
successive payments, dollar by dollar. Everything, therefore, is
made to depend upon the fulness and completeness of the
confession. It becomes a work, on account of which one is
forgiven. The absolution becomes simply the stamp of approval
that is placed upon the confession.

The Lutheran conception is centered upon the person of the
sinner, rather than on his sins. It is the person who is forgiven
his sins. Where the person is forgiven but one sin, all his sins
are forgiven; where the least sin is retained, all sins are
retained, and none forgiven, for "there is no condemnation to
them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). The value of the
confession lies not in the confession itself, but in that,
through this confession, we turn to Christ and the word of His

In Luther's opinion, there are three species of confession.[7]
One to God, in one's own heart, which is of absolute necessity,
and which the true believer is always making; a second to our
neighbor, when we have done him a wrong, which is also of divine
command; and, a third to a "brother," "wherein we receive from
the mouth of that brother the word of consolation sent from God."
[8] This last species, the _verbum solatii ex ore fratris_, while
not commanded in Holy Scripture, is commended because of the
great value which it has for those who fed the need of
consolation, and the instruction for which it affords the
opportunity. It is only by the individualizing of the confession
that the comfort to be derived by the individualizing of the
promise can be obtained. Hence, as the Augsburg Confession
declares (Article XI.): "Private" [i. e., personal] "confession
is retained because of the absolution."[9] Not that, without the
absolution, there is not forgiveness, but that, through it, the
one absolved rejoices all the more in the possession of that
which he possessed even before the absolution, and goes forth
from it strengthened to meet temptation because of the new
assurance that he has of God's love. This form of confession,
therefore, instead of being a condition of forgiveness, as is our
inner confession to God, is a privilege of the justified man,
who, before he has made such confession, has been forgiven, and
whose sins that lie still concealed from his knowledge are just
as truly forgiven as those over which he grieves.

The confession, therefore, being entirely voluntary and a
privilege, penitents are not to be tormented with "the ocean of
distinctions" hitherto urged, such, e.g., as those between mortal
and venial sins, whereof he says that "there is no doctor so
learned as to draw accurately the distinction";[10] and between
the inner impulses that may arise without the least consent of
the will resulting from than, and those to which the will, in
varying measure, may actually consent. On the contrary, it is not
well to look too deeply into the abyss. When Peter began to count
the waves, he was lost; when he looked away from them to Jesus,
he was saved. Thus, while "the good purpose" to amend the life
must be insisted upon as an indispensable accompaniment of every
sincere confession, tender consciences may search within for such
purpose, and be distressed because they cannot find satisfactory
evidence of its presence. How excellent then the advice of this
experienced pastor, that those thus troubled should pray for this
"purpose" which they cannot detect; for no one can actually pray
for such purpose without, in the prayer, having the very object
he is seeking.

So also he rules out of the sphere of the confession the
violation of matters of purely ecclesiastical regulation. Nothing
is to be regarded a sin except that which is a violation of one
of the Ten Commandments. To make that a sin which God's law does
not make sin, is only the next step to ecclesiastical regulations
to the level of divine commands, we lower divine commands to the
level of ecclesiastical regulations. Even Private Confession,
therefore, useful as it is, when properly understood and
practised, since it rests after all upon ecclesiastical rule, is
so little to be urged as a matter of necessity that Luther here
defends the suggestion of Gerson, that occasionally one should go
to the Lord's Supper without having made confession, in order
thereby to testify that it is in God's mercy and His promise that
we trust, rather than in the value of any particular outward

The treatment of "Reserved Cases," with which this tract ends,
shows the moderation and caution with which Luther is moving,
but, at the same time, how the new wine is working in the old
bottles, which soon must break. The principle of "the
reservation of cases" he discusses in his Address to the German
Nobility.[11] It is critical also in Augsburg Confession, Article
XXVIII, 2, 41; Apology of the Augsburg Confession, English
Translation, pp. 181, 212. The Roman Catholic dogma is officially
presented in the Decrees of Trent, Session XIV, Chapter 7,[12]
viz., "that certain more atrocious and more heinous crimes be
absolved not by all priests, but only by the highest priests."
Thus the power is centralized in the pope, and is delegated for
exercise in ordinary cases to each particular parish-priest
within the limits by which he is circumscribed, but no
farther.[13] The contrast is between delegated and reserved
rights. The Protestant principle is that all the power of the
Church is in the Word of God which it administers; that wherever
all the Word is, there also is all the power of the Church; and
hence that, according to divine tight, all pastors have equal
authority. For this reason, Luther here declares that in regard
to secret sins, i. e., those known only to God and the penitent,
no reservation whatever is to be admitted. But there is still a
distinction which he is ready to concede. It has to do with
public offences where scandal has been given. As "the more
flagrant and more heinous crimes," If public, have to do with a
wider circle than the members of a particular parish, the
reparation for the offence should be as extensive as the scandal
which it has created. In the Apology, Melanchthon claims that
such reservation should be limited to the ecclesiastical
penalties to be inflicted, but that it had not been Intended to
comprise also the guilt involved; it was a _reservatio poenae_,
but not a _reservatio culpae_.[14] Luther suggests the same here,
but with more than usual caution.

In the same spirit as in his Treatise on Baptism, he protests
against the numerous vows, the binding force of which was a
constant subject of treatment in pastoral dealing with souls. The
multiplication of vows had caused a depredation of the one
all-embracing vow of baptism. Nevertheless the pope's right to
give a dispensation he regards as limited entirely to such
matters as those concerning which God's Word has given no
command. With matters which concern only the relation of the
individual to God, the Pope's authority is of no avail.

Literature.--Chemnitz, Martin, _Examin Concilii Tridentini_, 1578
(Preuss edition), 441-456. Steitz, G. E., _Die Privatbeichte und
Privatabsolution d. luth. Kirche aus d. Quellen des XVI. Jahrh._,
1854. Pfeisterrer, G. F. _Luthers Lehre von der Beichte_, 1857.
Klieftoth, Th. _Lit. Abhandlungen, 2: Die Beichte und
Absolution_, 1856. Fischer, E., _Zur Geschichte der evangelischen
Beichte_, 2 vols., 1902-1903. Rietschel, G., _Lehrbuch der
Liturgik_, vol 2, particularly secs. 44, 45, _Luthers Affassung
der Beichte_ and _Luthers Auffassung von der Absolution_.
Koestlin, Julius, _Luther's Theology_ (English Translation),
I:357, 360, 400. See also _Smalcald Articles_, _Book of Concord_
(English Translation), 326, 899.

    Henry E. Jacobs.
    Mount Airy, Philadelphia.


[1] 1. _Decem Praecepta Wittebergenai praedicata populo_, 1518,
_Erl. Ed., op. ex. lat._, I, 218. A series of sermons entering
into almost minute analyses of sins.

2. _Die zehen Gebote Gottes mit einer kurzen Auslegung ihre
Erfüllung und Uebertretung_, _Weimar Ed._, I, 247 ff; _Erl. Ed._,
XXXVI, 145-154. Reduces contents of the sermons to a few pages. A
brief handbook for use in the confessional first printed in
tabular form, giving a very condensed exposition of each
commandment, followed by a catalogue of sins prohibited and
virtues enjoined. Written a month before the publication of the
Theses, and published the next year.

3. _Instructio pro confessione peccatorum abbrevianda secundum
decalogum_. Latin form of the above, published shortly after the
original. _Erl. Ed., op. ex. lat._, XII, 229-230.

4. _Kurze Unterweisung wie man beichten soll_. _Weimar Ed._, II,
57 ff.; Erl. Ed., XXI, 245-253 prepared by request of Spalatin,
first in Latin, and then translated, Köstlin thinks by Spalatin,
into German. Published 1518. Contains eight introductory
propositions, followed by lists of sins against each commandment.

5. _Confitendi Ratio_, published in 1520, a re-elaboration by
Luther of the preceding German treatise. _Weimar Ed._, VI,
159-169; _Erl. Ed._, IV, 152-170; _St. Louis Ed._, XIX, 786-806.

[2] "_Ja, mein ganzes Leben, und alles, das ich thu, handel, red
und gedenk, ist also gethan, das es todlich und vordammlich
ist_." These are almost the words of the public confessional
prayer in the Kirchenbuch of the General Council of the Lutheran
Church in America: "_Also dans alle meine Natur und
Wesensträflich und verdammlich ist_."

[3] _Erl. Ed., op. var. arg._, IV, 89 aq. "_Si enim suum malum
sentiret, infernum sentiret, nam infernum in se ipso habet_." See
this volume, p. 115f.

[4] _Erl. Ed., op. ex. lat._, XIX, 1-154.

[5] _Erl. Ed._ (2d ed.), XI, 173.

[6] See the opening paragraph of this treatise.

[7] _Erl. Ed._, XI, 166, XXIX, 352-359. Cf. with this, the still
fuller treatment by Chemnitz, _Examin Concilii Tridentini_
(Preuss edition), 441-453.

[8] _Babylonian Captivity_, _Erl. Ed., op. var. arg._, V, 82.

[9] Cf. _Augsburg Confession_, Art. XXV; _Apology in Book of
Concord_, English Translation, pp. 133, 173, 185, 188, 196;
_Smalcald Articles_, 330-339; Small Catechism, 371.

[10] _Sermon vom Sacrament der Busse_, Erl. Ed., XX, 190. For
definition of "mortal and venial," see Introduction to XCV
Theses, above, p. 19.

[11] See Vol. II. of this edition.

[12] Deninger, _Enchridion Symbolorum_, soc. 782; Sceaff's
_Creeds of Christendom_.

[13] "As though the Word of God cannot forgive sins, except where
power derived from the Pope assist it." Chemnitz, _Examen
Concilii Tridentini_ (Preuss ed.), p. 456.

[14] _Apology_, p. 212; "There is a reservation of canonical
punishments; there is not a reservation of guilt before God in
those who are truly converted."





[Sidenote: Need of Faith]

In this our age, the consciences of almost all have been led
astray by human doctrines into a false trust in their own
righteousness and their own works, and knowledge about faith and
trust in God has almost ceased. Therefore, for him who is about
to go to confession, it is before all things necessary that he
should not place his trust in his confession--either the
confession which he is about to make or the confession which he
has made--but that, with complete fulness of faith, he put his
trust only in the most gracious promise of God; to wit, he must
be altogether certain that He, Who has promised pardon to the man
who shall confess his sins, will most faithfully fulfil His
promise. For we are to glory, not because we confess, but because
He has promised pardon to those who do confess; that is, not
because of the worthiness or sufficiency of our confession (for
there is no such worthiness or sufficiency), but because of the
truth and certitude of His promise, as says the xxiv. Psalm: "For
Thy Name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity." [Ps. 25:35] It
does not say, "for my sake," or "for my worthiness' sake," or
"for my name's sake," but "for Thy Name's sake." So it is evident
that the work of confession is nothing else than an occasion by
which God is called to the fulfilment of His own promise, or by
which we are trained to believe that we shall without doubt
obtain the promise. It is just as if we were to say: "Not unto
us, O Lord, but unto Thy Name give glory, [Ps. 115:1] and
rejoice, not because we have blessed Thee, but because Thou hast
blessed us, as Thou sayest by Ezekiel." [Ezek. 20:44] Let this be
the manner of our confession, that he who glories may glory in
the Lord, and may not commend himself, but may glorify the grace
of God; and it shall come to pass that "confession and majesty
shall be the work of God." [1] Psalm cxi [Ps. 111:3].


[Sidenote: God's Promises]

But God, for the glory of His grace and mercy, has promised
pardon. And this can be proved from Scripture. First from Psalm
xxxii, "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,
and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." [Ps. 32:5] Then from
II. Samuel xii, from which this Psalm is taken. David first
said, "I have sinned against the Lord," and Nathan straightway
said, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die."
[2 Sam. 12:13] Again, from Jeremiah xviii, "If that nation turn
away from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to
do." [Jer. 18:8] Once more from I. John i, "If we confess our
sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness." [1 John 1:9] The true
definition of the righteous man is found in Proverbs xviii, "The
righteous man is his own first accuser," [2] [Prov.18:17] that is
to say, he is righteous because he accuses himself. The verse
goes on to say, "His neighbor (i. e., Christ) cometh and searcheth
him," that is, He seeketh him, and suffereth him not to perish;
He will even find him and bring him back from the depths of hell.
Hence Joshua vii. also calls the confessing of sin the glorifying
of God, saying to Achan, "My son, give glory to God, and confess,
and tell me what thou hast done." [Josh. 7:19] St. Jerome
comments on this passage, "Confession of sin is praise of God."
No wonder! For he who confesses his own sins speaks truth; but
God is truth; therefore he also confesses God. Thus Manasseh,
King of Judah, says in his most beautiful Prayer,[3] which is
most excellently suited for one who goes to confession, "But
Thou, Lord, according to Thy goodness hast promised repentance
for the remission of sins, etc." [Prayer of Manasseh, 7] Truly,
"according to Thy goodness Thou hast promised," for our
confession is nothing unless the promise of God is sure, and it
is altogether of His divine goodness that He has promised
remission, which could not be obtained by any righteousness,
unless He had given the promise. Thus faith in that promise is
the first and supreme necessity for one who is about to go to
confession, lest, perchance, he may presumptuously think that by
his own diligence, his own memory, his own strength, he is
provoking God to forgive his sins. Nay, rather it is God Himself
Who, with ready forgiveness, will anticipate his confession, and
allure and provoke him, by the goodness of His sweet promise, to
accept remission and to make confession.


[Sidenote: The Purpose of a Better Life--Its Necessity]

Before a man confesses to the priest, who is the vicar, he ought
first to confess to God, Who is the Principal. But he should
regard this matter seriously, since nothing escapes and nothing
deceives the eye of God. Wherefore he ought here, without
pretence, to ponder his purpose to lead a better life and his
hatred of sin. For there is scarcely anything which deceives more
penitents than that subtle and profound dissimulation by which
they oftentime pretend, even to themselves, a violent hatred of
sin and a purpose to lead a better life. The unhappy outcome
proves their insincerity, for after confession they quickly
return to their natural bent, and, as though relieved of the
great burden of confession, they live again at ease, careless and
unmindful of their purpose; by which one fact they can be
convicted of their sad pretending. Wherefore a man ought in this
matter to be altogether frank, and to speak of himself within
himself just as he feels himself moved to speak, just as he could
wish to speak if there were do punishment, no God, no
commandment, and just as he would speak in the ear of some
familiar friend, to whom he would not be ashamed to reveal
everything about himself. As he could wish to speak quite freely
to such a one about his faults, so let him speak to God, Who
loves us far more than we love ourselves.

For if there is any one who does not find himself seriously
inclined toward a good life, I know not whether it is safe for
him to make confession. This I do know, that it were better for
him to stay away from confession. For in this matter he need not
care for the commandment of the Church, whether it excommunicate
him or inflict some lesser punishment. It is better for him not
to listen to the Church, than, at his own peril, to come to God
with a false heart. In the latter case he sins against God, in
the former case only against the Church; if, indeed, he sin at
all in such a case by not listening to the Church, seeing that
the Church has no right to command anything in which there is
peril to the soul, and a case of this kind is always excepted
from the commandments of the Church. For whatever the Church
commands, she commands for God and for the soul's salvation,
presuming that a man is capable of receiving her commandment and
able to fulfil it. If this presumption falls, the precept does
not hold, since nothing can be decreed contrary to the
commandments of God, which bind the conscience.

[Sidenote: The purpose of a Better Life--Its Difficulty]

It is certainly to be feared that many come to confession out of
fear of the commandment of the Church, who in their hearts are
still pleased with their former evil life. If, however, a man is
entangled in these difficulties, fearing to stay away from
confession, and yet perceiving (if the truth were told) that he
lacks the disposition toward a better life, let him lay hold of
the one thing that remains, and hear the counsel of the Prophet,
"Pour out your heart before Him"; [Ps. 62:8] and let him abase
himself, and openly confess to God the whole evil of his heart,
and pray for and desire a good purpose. Who, indeed, is so proud
as to think he does not need this counsel? There is no one whose
good purpose is as great as it ought to be. Let a man, therefore,
fearlessly seek from God what he knows he cannot find in himself,
until the thought of a better life begin seriously and truly to
please him, and his own life to displease him. For the doctrines
about the forming of a good purpose, which have been handed down
to us and are everywhere taught, are not to be understood in the
sense that a man should of himself form and work out this good
purpose. Such an understanding is death and perdition; as one
says, "There is death in the pot, O man of God." [2 Kings 4:40]
And yet very many are grievously tormented by this idea, because
they are taught to strive after the impossible. But in very
despair, and pouring out his heart before God, a man should say,
"Lord God, I have not what I ought to have, and cannot do what I
ought to do. Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou
wilt." For thus St. Augustine prays in his Confessions. [4]


[Sidenote: The Purpose of a Better Life--Its Nature]

But what has been said about a good purpose, I wish to have
understood with caution. For a good purpose ought to be twofold.
First, a purpose with regard to open, mortal sins, such as
adultery, homicide, fornication, theft, robbery, usury, slander,
etc. The purpose to avoid these sins belongs properly to
sacramental Confession, and to confession before God it belongs
at any moment after the sins have been committed; according to
the word of Ecclesiasticus, "My son, hast thou sinned? Do so no
more, but ask pardon for thy former sins," [Ecclus. 21:1] and
again, "Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord." [Ecclus. 5:8] In
the second place, however, as regards all the sins they call
"venial" (of which more below), it is entirely vain to labor
after the forming of a good purpose, because if one rightly
considers himself, he will find such a purpose altogether
impossible, if he wishes henceforth to live in the flesh; since
(as Augustine says) this life cannot be lived without such sins
as unnecessary and thoughtless laughter, language, imaginations,
sights, sounds, etc. As regards such things it is uncertain
whether they are sins, or temptations by which merit is
increased. And yet it is marvelous how a patent is vexed and
worried in these matters by the present wordy manner of
confessing. A purpose ought to be certain, and directed toward
things which are certain and which can be shunned in common
living, like the aforesaid open, mortal sins.


[Sidenote: Hidden Sins--Are They to be Confessed?]

Whether the hidden sins of the heart, which are known only to God
and the man who commits them, belong to sacramental confession or
not, is more than I can say. I should prefer to say that they do
not. For the need of confessing these sins can in no way be
proved, either by reason or by Scripture, and I have often
suspected that it was all an invention of avaricious or curious
or tyrannical prelates, who took this way of bringing the people
of Christ to fear them. This is, in my opinion, laying hands on
the judgment of God and is a violation of the rights of God,
especially if men are forced to it.[5]

Here comes in that whole sea of laws and impossible questions
about "cases of sin," [6] etc., since it is impossible for a man
to know when he has in his heart committed the mortal sins of
pride, lust, or envy. Nay, how can the priest know this, when he
is set in judgment upon mortal sins alone? Can he know another's
heart who does not thoroughly know his own? Hence it comes that
many people confess many things, not knowing whether they are
sins or not; and to this they are driven by that sentence of
Gregory, "A good mind will confess guilt even where there is no
guilt." They [i. e., the priests] wish that what is offered to God
shall be offered to themselves--so immense is the arrogance of
priests and pontiffs, and so haughty the pride of the
Pharisees--and they do not see, meanwhile, that if this offering
were made to man, the whole of life would be nothing else than
confession, and that even this confession would have to be
confessed in another confession by the man who fears guilt where
there is no guilt, since even good works are not without guilt,
and Job is afraid of all his works. [Job 9:28]


[Sidenote: Hidden Sins--What Hidden Sins Should be Confessed?]

Let some one else, then, explain this. I am content with this,
that not all the sins of the heart are to be confessed. But if
some are to be confessed, I say that it is only those which a man
clearly knows that he has purposed in his heart against the
commandments of God;[7] not, therefore, mere thoughts about a
virgin or a woman, nor, on the other hand, the thoughts of a
woman about a youth, nor the affections or ardor of lust, that is
to say, the inclinations of the one sex toward the other, however
unseemly, nor, I would add, even passions of this sort; for these
thoughts are frequently passions inspired by the flesh, the
world, or the devil, which the soul is compelled unwillingly to
bear, sometimes for a long while, even for a whole day, or a
week; as the apostle Paul confesses of his thorn in the flesh. [2
Cor. 12:7]

The consequence of all this is that a purpose to avoid these
things is impossible and vain and deceitful, for the inclinations
and desires of the sexes for one another do not cease so long as
occasion is given them, and the devil is not quiet, and out whole
nature is sin. But those who wish to be without sin and who
believe that man is sound and whole, erect these crosses for us
that we may not cease to confess (even to the priest) what things
soever tickle us never so little. Therefore, if these hidden
things of the heart ought to be confessed at all, only those
things should be confessed which involve full consent to the
deed; and such things happen very rarely or never to those who
wish to lead pious lives, even though they are constantly
harassed by desires and passions.


[Sidenote: Mortal and Venial Sins]

At this place we should also speak of that race of audacious
theologians who are born to the end that the true fear of God may
be extinguished in human hearts, and that they may smite the
whole world with false terrors. It might seem that Christ was
speaking of them when he told of "terrors from heaven." [Luke
21:11 Vulg.] These are the men who have undertaken to distinguish
for us between mortal and venial sin. When men have heard that a
certain sin is venial, they are careless and wholly leave off
fearing God, as if He counted a venial sin for naught; again, if
they have heard that the consent of the heart is a mortal sin,
and if they have failed to listen to the precepts of the Church,
or have committed some other trifling offence, there is no place
in their hearts for Christ, because of the confusion made by the
roaring sea of a troubled conscience.

Against these teachers it should be known that a man ought to
give up in despair the idea that he can ever confess all his
mortal sins, and that the doctrine which is contained in the
Decretals[8] and is current in the Church, to wit, that every
Christian should once in a year make confession of all his sins
(so the words run), is either a devilish and most murderous
doctrine, or else is sorely in need of a loose interpretation.

Not all sins, I say, either mortal or venial, are to be
confessed, but it should be known that after a man has used all
diligence in confessing, he has yet confessed only the smaller
part of his sins. How do we know this? Because the Scripture
says, "Cleanse Thou me from hidden sins, O Lord." [Ps. 19:12]
These hidden sins God alone knows. And again it says, "Create in
me a clean heart, O God." [Ps. 51:10] Even this holy prophet
confesses that his heart is unclean. And all the holy Church
prays, "Thy will be done"; [Matt. 6:10] and thus confesses that
she does not do the will of God, and is herself a sinner.

[Sidenote: Should All Mortal Sins be Confessed?]

Furthermore, we are so far from being able to know or confess all
the mortal sins that even our good works are damnable and mortal,
if God were to judge with strictness, and not to receive them
with forgiving mercy. If, therefore, all mortal sins are to be
confessed, it can be done in a brief word, by saying at once,
"Behold, all that I am, my life, all that I do and say, is such
that it is mortal and damnable"; according to what is written in
the cxliii. Psalm, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for
in Thy sight shall no flesh living be justified" [Ps. 143:2]; and
in the Epistle to the Romans, Chapter vii, "But I am carnal, sold
under sin; I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing; the
evil that I would not, that I do, etc." [Rom. 7:14, 18, 19]

But of all mortal sins, this is the most mortal, not to believe
that we are hateful in the sight of God because of damnable and
mortal sin. To such madness these theologians, with this rule of
theirs, strive zealously and perniciously to drag the consciences
of men, by teaching that venial sins are to be distinguished from
mortal sins, and that according to their own fashion. For we read
in Augustine, Cyprian, and other Fathers that those things which
are bound and loosed are not mortal sins, but criminal offences,
i. e., those acts of which men can be accused and convicted.

Therefore, by the term "all sins" in the Decretal we should
understand those things of which a man is accused, either by
others or by his own conscience. By "conscience" I mean a right
conscience, not a conscience seared and deformed by human
traditions, but a conscience which is expert in the commandments
of God, and which knows that much more is to be left solely to
the goodness of God than is to be committed to its own diligence.

But what if the devil, when a man is dying, raises the obstacle
of sins which have not been confessed, as we read in many of the
stories?[9] I answer. Let these sins go long with those of which
it is said, "Who can understand his faults?" [Ps. 19:12] and with
those others of which it is written, "Enter not into judgment
with Thy servant." [Ps. 143:2] Whatever stories have been made up
contrary to these sayings, have either been invented under some
devilish delusion, or are not rightly understood. It is enough
that thou hast had the will to confess all things, if thou hadst
known them or hadst been able. God wills that His mercy be
glorified. But how? In our righteousness? Nay, in our sins and
miseries. The Scriptures should be esteemed more highly than any


[Sidenote: Distinction between Sins]

By thus getting down to the thing itself,[10] the penitent, of
whom I have so often spoken, does away entirely with that riot of
distinctions; to wit, whether he has committed sin by fear
humbling him to evil, or by love inflaming him to evil; what sins
he has committed against the three theological virtues of faith,
hope, and charity; what sins against the four cardinal virtues;
what sins by the five senses; what of the seven mortal sins, what
against the seven sacraments, what against the seven gifts of the
Holy Spirit, what against the eight beatitudes, what of the nine
_peccata aliena_, what against the twelve Articles of Faith, what
of the silent sins, what of the sins crying to heaven; or whether
he has sinned by or against anything else.[11] That hateful and
wearisome catalogue of distinctions is altogether useless, nay,
it is altogether harmful. Some have added to these evils a most
troublesome business of "circumstances."

By all this they have produced two results. First, the penitent
makes so much of these trifles that he is not able really to give
heed to the thing of chief importance, namely, the desire for a
better life. He is compelled to tax his memory with such a mass
of details, and so to fill his heart with the business of rightly
expressing his cares and anxieties, while seeking out forgotten
sins or a way of confessing them, that he entirely loses the
present pangs of conscience, and the whole profit and salutary
effect of confession. When he is absolved, therefore, he
rejoices not so much because he is absolved, as because he has
freed himself once for all from the wretched worry of confession;
for what he has been seeking has been not the absolution, but
rather the end of the laborious nuisance of confessing. Thus,
while we sleep secure, everything is upset again. In the second
place, such penitents weary the confessor, stealing his time, and
standing in the way of other penitents.

[Sidenote: The Commandments a Guide to Confession]

We ought, therefore, to look briefly at the Commandments of God,
in which, if they are rightly understood, all sins are, without
doubt, contained.[12] And not even all of these are to be
considered, but the last two Commandments are to be excluded
entirely from confession. Confession should be brief, and should
be a confession chiefly of those sins which cause pain at the
time of confession, and, as they say, "move to confession." For
the sacrament of confession was instituted for the quieting, not
for the disturbing, of the conscience.

For example, as regards the Commandment, "Thou shalt not commit
adultery," let the penitent quickly say in what manner he has
given place to lust, either in act or word, or by consent, just
as though he were describing himself entirely, with all his limbs
and senses, in that Commandment. Why, then, should he uselessly
bring in the five senses, the mortal sins, and the rest of that
ocean of distinctions? So in the case of the Commandment, "Thou
shalt not kill." Let him quickly say by what kind of wrath he has
sinned, whether by hatred, slander or cursing, or by the act of
murder itself. And so with the rest; as I have tried to show in
my _Preceptorium_ and my writings on the Decalogue.[13]

Let it not disturb anyone that in the Decretals on Penance and in
the IV. Book of the Sentences[14] this matter is differently
treated. For they all are full of human inventions; and no
wonder! They have taken everything they say out of a certain
apocryphal and unlearned book called _De vera et falsa
poenitentia_,[15] which is widely circulated, and ascribed, by a
lying title, to St. Augustine.


[Sidenote: Commandments of God and of Man]

In making confession diligence should be used to distinguish with
great care between sins committed against the Commandments of God
and sins committed against the statutes of men. I say this
because of the mad opinion, which is now prevalent, that sins
which are committed against the decretals of the popes are to be
noted with wondrous care, but sins committed against God, with
little or none.

Let me give you some illustrations:

You will find priests and monks who are horrified, as at some
prodigy, if they stammer, or repeat even a syllable in the Canon
of the Mass,[16] though this may be a natural defect of the
tongue, or an accident, and is not a sin. Again, there is no
priest who does not confess that he was distracted, or failed to
read his _Preparatoria_, or other old-womanish trifles of the
kind. There was one who, even when he was at the altar
celebrating, called a priest three times and confessed that
something had happened. Indeed, I have seen these endless jests
of the devil taken by many so seriously that they almost lost
their minds. And yet the fact that they cherished hatred or envy
in their hearts, that they had cursed before or after Mass, that
they had intentionally lied or slandered, all this moved them not
at all. Whence this perversity? From the "traditions of men who
turn from the truth," [Tit. 1:14] as the Apostle says. Because we
have neglected to offer God a confession of true sins, He has
given us up to our reprobate sense, [Rom. 1:24] so that we delude
ourselves with fictitious sins and deprive ourselves of the
benefit of the sacrament,[17] and the more we seem to seek it,
the more this is true.

[Sidenote: They Tyranny of Ordinances]

Of this stuff are those who make the neglect of the canonical
hours[18] an almost irremissible sin, while they easily remit
fornication, which is against the commandments of God, or the
neglect of duty toward our neighbor. These are they who so
approve of that dream or story about St. Severinus[19] that they
think they cannot read their Hours in advance, or afterward make
them up without sin, even if they have been hindered at the
proper time by the most just cause, such as ministering to the
necessities of a neighbor, which is of six hundred times more
merit than their worthless and all but damnable prayers. So far
do they go in their failure to observe that the commandment of
God, in the service of one's neighbor, should be preferred to the
commandment of men, in the thoughtless mumbling of the words of
the Hours. To this class too belong those who think it a crime to
speak or to call a boy during the Canon of the Mass even in case
of the greatest necessity or danger. Finally, these men make the
fasting of nature one thing, and the fasting of the Church
another thing, and if one has thoughtlessly swallowed some drops
of liquid, or has taken some medicine, they exclude him utterly
from the sacrament, and make it a sin, even the very greatest
sin. I wonder whence these men have the authority to set up such
laws as these and to trouble consciences with sins of their own
invention. By these illustrations other, similar cases may be

Of the laity, one confesses that he has tasted sweets, another
that he has listened to jests, smelted perfumes, touched things
that were soft.

Let us come to greater things! The common people are persuaded
that to eat butter or eggs on fast-days is heretical; so cruelly
do the laws of men rave in the Church of God! And we
unconcernedly profit by this superstition of the people, nay, by
this tyranny of ours, caring nothing that the commandments of God
are taken in jest, so long as men tremble and turn pale at our
laws. No one calls an adulterer a heretic; fornication is a light
sin; schisms and discords, inspired, preserved and increased by
the authority and in the name of the Church, are merits; but to
eat meat on Friday is the sum of all heresies. Thus we teach the
people of Christ, and permit them to be taught! But I am
disgusted, wearied, shamed, distressed at the endless chaos of
superstitions which has been inflicted upon this most salutary
sacrament of confession by the ignorance of true theology, which
has been its own tyrant ever since the time that men have been
making its laws.


[Sidenote: Communion Without Confession]

I advise, therefore, as John Gerson[20] used to advise, that a
man shall now and then go to the altar or to the Sacrament "with
a scruple of conscience," that is, without confession, even if he
has been immoderate in drinking, talking, or sleeping, or has
done something else that is wrong, or has not prayed a single one
of the Hours. Would you know why this advice is given? Listen! It
is in order that a man may learn to trust more in the mercy of
God than in his own confession or in his own diligence. For
enough cannot be done toward shaking that accursed trust in our
own works. It should be done for this reason, too, that if a man
is assailed by some necessity, whether temptation or death, and
those hidden sins begin to appear which he has never been able to
see or to confess, then he may have, ready and prepared, a
practice of trusting in the mercy which God offers to the
unworthy; according to the word, "His heart is prepared to trust
in the Lord." [21] [Ps. 57:7] How shall a man hope, in the face of
the sudden inroads of such a great mass of sins, if he has not
learned in this life, while there was time, to hope in the Lord
against the smallest, nay, against even an imagined sin? If you
say, "What if this were despising the sacrament and tempting
God?" I answer, It will not be tempting God if it is done for the
glory of God; that is, if you do it, not because you despise
God's sacrament nor because you want to tempt Him (since you are
ready to make the fullest confession), but only in order that you
may accustom a troubled conscience to trust in God and not to
tremble at the rustling of every falling leaf. Do not doubt that
everything pleases God which is done to the end that you may have
trust in Him, since it is all His glory that we trust with our
whole heart in His mercy.

I do not wish, however, that a man should always go to the altar
without confession; but I say that it should be done sometimes,
and then only for the arousing of trust in God and the destroying
of trust in our own act of confession. For a man will hardly go
to mass without guilt, if he thinks his forgiveness sure because
he has confessed, rather than because God is merciful; nay, this
is altogether an impiety. The _summa summarum_[22] is, "Blessed
are all they that put their trust in the Lord." [Ps. 2:12] When
you hear this word, "in the Lord," know that he is unblessed who
puts his trust in anything whatsoever that is not the Lord
Himself. And such a man those "artists of confession" make; for
what has the "art of confession" done except to destroy the art
and practice of confiding, until at last we have learned to
confess a great deal, to confide not at all.


[Sidenote: Reserved Cases--No Hidden Sins can be Reserved]

In the matter of reserved cases,[23] many are troubled. For my
own part, because I know that the laws of men to be subject to
mercy, and be applied with mildness rather than with severity, I
follow the custom and advice of those who think that in hidden
sins no case is to be reserved, and therefore all penitents are
to be absolved whose sins are hidden, as are the sins of the
flesh, that is to say, every form of lust, the procuring of
abortion, and the like. For it should not be presumed that any
pope would be willing, in matters of hidden sin, to set so many
snares and dangers for men's souls. But when a sin has been
public, an open reserved case, it should be left entirely to the
authorities of the Church, no matter whether they are just or
unjust. In such case, however, the confessor may so moderate the
power of the keys[24] as not to let the penitent depart without
absolution, for those sins at least which he knows to be not
reserved. Just now, to be sure, I am in doubt, and have not yet
found a place for the proper discussion of it, whether any sin
can be reserved, or ever is reserved, so far as the remission of
guilt[25] is concerned; that the penalty can be reserved is not
doubted; but of this let others judge. But even in the remission
of the penalty, neither the confessor nor the penitent should be
too much troubled by scruples. The penalty I have especially in
mind is excommunication, or any other censure of the Church--what
they call their lightnings and thunders. Since excommunication
is only penalty and not guilt, and can be laid upon the innocent
and allowed to remain upon the man who has returned to his
senses, and, furthermore, since it is sometimes necessary to put
off satisfaction, because of the length of the journey required
or because of poverty; therefore the penitent who is
excommunicated or under censure should be absolved from all his
sins, if he seeks absolution, and be dismissed to the higher
authorities to be loosed from excommunication and to make
satisfaction. Thus he should be absolved in the judgment of God
and of conscience from guilt and sins, and sent to the judgment
of the Church to be freed from the penalty. This is what is meant
when it is said that the desire to make satisfaction[26] suffices
for the absolving of a sinner.


[Sidenote: Vows]

The subject of vows should also have consideration, for it is
almost the greatest question involved in this whole matter, and
gives rise to much more confusion than does the reservation of
cases, though this, too, rules its Babylon with great tyranny. If
one would wish to speak freely on this subject, "the land would
not be able to bear all his words," [Amos 7:10] as the impious
Amaziah says of Amos.

[Sidenote: Their Abuse]

The first and best plan would be for the pontiffs and preachers
to dissuade and deter the people from their proneness to the
making of vows, to show them how the visiting of the Holy Land,
Rome, Compostella,[27] and other holy places, as well as zeal in
fastings, prayers, and works chosen by themselves, are nothing
when compared with the works commanded by God and the vows which
we have taken in baptism.[28] These vows every one can keep in
his own home by doing his duty toward his neighbors, his wife,
his children, his servants, his masters, and thereby gain
incomparably greater merit than he can find by fulfilling vows to
do works chosen by himself and not commanded by God. The foolish
opinion of the common people and the ostentation of the Bulls[29]
have brought it to pass that these vows of pilgrimages, fastings,
prayers, and other works of the kind far outweigh in importance
the works of God's Law, although we never have sufficient
strength to do these last works. For my part, I could wish that
there should not henceforth be any vows among Christian people
except those which we take in baptism, and this, indeed, seems
formerly to have been the case; and I would wish all to
understand what is required of them, namely, that they be
obedient to the commandments of God. For the vows of baptism seem
to have been altogether cheapened by the too great practice,
parade, dispensation, and redemption of these other vows. Let us
put all our strength to the task, I say, and we shall find that
we have vowed in baptism more than we are ever able to perform.

Some vows, including oaths, are made to men, others to God. Those
made to men are admitted to be binding, so far and so long as he
may desire, to whom the vow is made. Accordingly, it should be
known that, as Gerson correctly thinks, the oaths and vows
usually taken in the Universities or to worldly lords[30] ought
not to be so rigorously regarded that every violation of them
should be regarded as the breaking of a vow or an act of perjury.
It is more just not to consider vows of this kind broken unless
they are violated out of contempt and obstinate malice. It is
otherwise in things that are vowed to God.

[Sidenote: Vows Made to God]

In vows made to God, I see dispensation granted by the pontiffs,
but I shall never be persuaded that he is safe to whom such a
dispensation is granted. For such a vow is of divine law, and no
pontiff, either mediate or supreme, has any more authority in
this matter than any Christian brother, though I know that
certain of the Decretals and the Glosses on the Decretals venture
many statements about it which I do not believe.

This, however, I would readily believe, that a vow of chastity
given before puberty, neither holds nor binds, because he who
made the vow was ignorant of what he was promising, since he had
not yet felt the "thorn of the flesh." [2 Cor. 12:7] It is my
pious opinion that such a vow is counted by God as foolish and
void, and that the fathers of the monasteries should be forbidden
by a general edict of the Church to receive a man before his
twentieth, or at least his eighteenth, year, and girls before
their fifteenth or sixteenth, if we are really concerned about
the care of souls.

[Sidenote: Commutation of Vows]

It is also a great piece of boldness, in commuting or remitting
vows, to impose what they call "a better work." In the eyes of
God there is no difference in works, and He judges works not
according to their number or greatness, but according to the
disposition of the doer; moreover, "the Lord is the weigher of
spirits," [Rom. 8:27] as the Scripture says, and He often prefers
the manual labor of the poor artisan to the fasting and prayer of
the priest, of which we find an illustration in St. Anthony and
the shoemaker of Alexandria.[31] Since these things are so, who
shall be so bold and presumptuous as to commute a vow into some
"better work"? But these things will have to be spoken of
elsewhere, for here we have undertaken to speak of confession
only as it concerns the Commandments of God, for the quieting and
composing of consciences which are troubled by scruples.

[Sidenote: Abuses of Penance]

I shall add but one thing. There are many who set perilous snares
for married folk, especially in case of incest; and when any one
(for these things can happen, nay, alas! they do happen) has
defiled the sister of his wife, or his mother-in-law, or one
related to him in any degree of consanguinity, they at once
deprive him of the right to pay the debt of matrimony, and
nevertheless they suffer him not, nay, they forbid him, to desert
his wife's bed. What monstrous thing is this? What new remedy for
sin? What sort of satisfaction for sin? Does it not show how
these tyrants make laws for other men's infirmity and indulge
their own? Show me the law-giver, however penitent and chaste,
who would allow such a law to be made for himself. They put dry
wood on the fire and say, Do not burn; they put a man in a
woman's arms and forbid him to touch her or know her; and they do
this on their own authority and without the command of God. What
madness! My advice is that the confessor beware of tyrannical
decrees or laws, and confidently sentence a sinner to some other
penance, or totally abstain from punishing, leaving free to him
the right of matrimony which has been given him not by man, but
by God. For no angel in heaven, still less any man on earth, has
the power to enjoin this penance, which is the burning occasion
of continual sin. Wherefore they are not to be heeded who wish
such things to be done, and the penitent is to be freed from this
scruple and peril.

But who may recount all the tyrannies with which the troubled
consciences of penitent and confessing Christians are daily
disturbed, by means of death-bringing "constitutions" and
customs, administered by silly manikins, who only know how to
bind and place on the shoulders of men burdens grievous and heavy
to be borne, which they themselves are not willing to move with a
finger? [Matt. 23:4] So this most salutary sacrament of penance
has become nothing else than a mere tyranny of the great, then a
disease, and a means to the increase of sins. Thus in the end it
signifies one thing and works another thing for miserable
sinners, because priestlings, impious and unlearned in the law of
the Lord, administer the Church of God, which they have filled
with their laws and their dreams.

_Here follows, in the original, a paraphrase of the apocryphal
Prayer of Manasseh._


[1] Luther quotes from the Vulgate and frequently from memory, a
fact which should always be remembered in comparing his
quotations from the text of Scripture.

[2] Vulgate, _Justus prior est accusator_.

[3] The apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh was included by Luther as
an appendix to this treatise.

[4] _Augustine Conf._, X, 29.

[5] i. e., Forced to confess hidden sins.

[6] The so-called "science of casuistry," by which the moral
value of an act is determined and the exact degree of guilt
attaching to a given sin is estinated.

[7] Cf. _Small Catechism_, "Of Confession," Ques. "What sins ought
we to confess?"

[8] The decrees of the Popes collected in the Canon Law. The
decretal here referred to is _C. Omnis Utriusque, X. de
poententiis et remissionibus_.

[9] Anecdotes illustrating the doctrines of the Church were
favorite contents of the sermons in Luther's day. Various
collections of these edifying legends are still extant. Cf. p.
224, and note.

[10] i. e., By thinking of the nature of confession.

[11] The reader of this minute classification of sins, which
could be duplicated out of almost any manual of casuistry, may
judge for himself whether Luther was correct in calling it a
"riot of distinctions."

[12] Luther steadily maintained that the Ten Commandments were a
complete guide to holy living and that every possible sin his
prohibited somewhere in the Decalogue. See, beside the various
smaller treatises (_Kurze Unterweisung wie man beichten soll_
(1518), _Kurze Form des zehn Gobte_ (1520), etc.), the large
Discourse on Good Works, below, pp. 184 ff.

[13] The writings mentioned are found in the _Weimar Ed._, Vol I,
pp. 250 ff, 258 ff, 398 ff. See above, p. 75, note 1.

[14] The _Sentences_ of Peter the Lombard was the standard
text-book of Medieval theology.

[15] "On True and False Penitence," now universally admitted not
to have been written by St. Augustine, but passing under his name
till after the Reformation.

[16] That part of the liturgy of the Mass in which the miraculous
transformation of the elements into the Body and Blood of Christ
is believed to take place.

[17] i. e., Of the sacrament of confession.

[18] The fixed hours of daily prayer observed in the monasteries,
afterward applied to the liturgy for these services, viz., the
Breviary. The daily reading of this breviary at the appointed
hours is required of all clergy.

[19] An Italian saint, d. 482, noted for the strictness and
severity of his ascetic practices.

[20] Professor of the University of Paris; one of the most
popular and famous of the later Scholastics. He died 1429.

[21] Vulgate, "_Cor ejus paratus est_."

[22] We would say, "the whole thing in a nutshell."

[23] i. e., Sins for which the confessor was not allowed to grant
absolution without reference to some higher Church authority, to
whose absolution they were "reserved." See Introduction, p. 79.

[24] The power to "bind and loose" (Matt. 16:19), i. e., to
forgive and to retain sins (John 20:23).

[25] The Roman Church distinguished between the "guilt" and the
"penalty" of sin. It was thought possible to forgive the former
and retain the latter. Submission to the penalty is
"satisfaction." See Introduction to XCV. Theses, p. 19.

[26] _Votum satisfactionis_. It was and is the teaching of the
Roman Church that, where the actual reception of any sacrament is
impossible, the earnest desire to receive it suffices for
salvation. The desire is known as the _votum sacramenti_.

[27] In Spain. The shrine of St. James at that place was a famous
resort for pilgrims. Cf. below, p. 191, and note.

[28] See the _Treatise on the Sacrament of Baptism_, above, pp. 68

[29] Luther doubtless refers to the decrees of the popes by which
special rewards were attached to worship at certain shrines.

[30] The oath of office and the oath of allegiance.

[31] The story is repeated by Melanchthon in the Apology of the
Augsburg Confession, Ch. XIII, Art. xxvii, 38 (_Book of Concord_,
Eng. Trans., p. 288). The "Alexander Coriarius" of text is






1. When Luther's Elector, Frederick the Wise (1486-1525),
returned to his residence at Torgau, after participating in the
election of Emperor Charles V, at Frankfort-on-the-Main, in the
summer of 1519, he was stricken with a serious illness, from
which there seemed little hope of his recovery Concerned for his
noble patron, and urged by Dr. George Spalatin, his friend at
court, to prepare a "spiritual consolation" for the Elector,
Luther wrote "The Fourteen of Consolation," one of his finest and
tenderest devotional writings, and, in conception and execution,
one of the most original of all his works.

Its composition falls within the months of August and September
of the year 1519. On August 29th, the Day of the Beheading of St.
John Baptist, we find him writing in Part I, chapter vi: "Does
not the example of St. John Baptist, whom we commemorate on this
day as beheaded by Herod, shame and amaze us all?" On September
22d, he sends the completed manuscript (in Latin) to Spalatin,
requesting him to make a free translation of it into German and
present it to the Elector. By the end of November Spalatin had
completed his task (one marvels at the leisureliness of this, in
view of the serious condition of the Elector; or was the
manuscript translated and administered piecemeal to the noble
patient?), and early in December he returned the original,
doubtless together with his own translation, to Luther, who had
requested its return, "in order to comfort himself therewith."

The work was, therefore, in the strictest sense, a private
writing, and not in the least intended for publication.[1] But
the importunities of those who had seen it, particularly of
Spalatin, prevailed, and on December 18th Luther writes to the
latter that "the Tessaradecas, in both Latin and German, is in
the hands of the printer." On February 8th, 1520, he sends
Spalatin a printed copy of the Latin, and six days later, one of
the German edition. The latter contained a dedicatory letter to
the Elector, which, however, by an oversight of the printer, and
owing to Luther's absence at the time, was omitted in the Latin

In 1535, fifteen years after its first appearance in print,
Luther issued his Tessaradecas in a new and final edition, adding
a brief prefatory note. He no longer holds many of his former
views, and there is much in his little book that he has outgrown
and might now correct. But with characteristic unconcern, he lets
it all stand, and even restores many passages that had been
corrupted or omitted to their original form. It is a revised
edition, with the errors, as it were, underscored. It is to be
chiefly an historical record, to show the world how far he has
progressed since its first writing (1 Tim. 4:15), a mile-post on
the road of his inner development.[2] And more than this--and
here one fancies he can see the sardonic smile on the
battle-scarred face--it is to furnish his enemies with weapons
against himself; he desires to show a favor to the hunters of
contradictions in his works, "that they may have whereon to
exercise their malice."

2. The plan of the work is in the highest degree original and
artificial. The title, _Tessaradecas consolatoria_, which we
have rendered "The Fourteen of Consolation," [3] is explained by
Luther in the dedicatory epistle to the Elector, pp. 110 ff. The
"Fourteen" were the fourteen patron saints of medieval devotion,
called the "Defenders from all evils" (_defendores_,
_auxiliatores_). Whence the cult arose is not altogether
certain. It is said to have become popular in Germany since the
vision of a Franconian shepherd, in 1446, to whom there appeared,
in the fields, the Christ-child surrounded by the fourteen
saints. The _Vierzehnheiligenkirche_ at Staffelstein, a famous
shrine for pilgrims, marks the spot. The names of the "Fourteen,"
each of whom was a defender against some particular disease or
danger, are as follows: Achatius (Acacius), Aegidius, Barbara
(cf. St. Barbara's cress), Blasius (the "defender" of those
afflicted with throat diseases), Catharine (cf. St. Catharine's
flower), Christopher (cf. St. Christopher's herb), Cyriacus,
Dionysius, Erasmus (Italian: San Elmo; cf. St. Elmo's fire),
Eustachius, George the Martyr (cf. St. George's herb), Margaret,
Pantaleon, and Vitus (cf. St. Vitus's dance). Luther's Sermons
on the First Commandment (1516) may be compared lot references to
some of these saints and to many others.

As over against these saints, Luther also invents fourteen
defenders or comforters, and arranges them in this writing in the
form of an altar tablet; but his is not a tablet such as those
found in the churches, representing the fourteen defenders, but
it is a spiritual tablet or painting, to uplift and strengthen
the pious heart of the Elector, and of all others who are weary
and heavy laden. The first division, or panel, of this figurative
altar-piece contains the images or paintings of seven evils
(_maia_); the second, those of seven blessings (_bona_). The
contemplation of the evils will comfort the weary and heavy laden
by showing them how small their evil is in comparison with the
evil that they have within themselves, namely, their sin; with
the evils they have suffered in the past, and will have to suffer
in the future; with the evils which others, their friends and
foes, suffer; and, above all, with those which Christ suffered on
the cross. Similarly, the contemplation of the blessings will
help them to forget their present sufferings; for they are as
nothing compared with the blessing within them, namely, their
faith; the blessings they enjoyed in the past, and those that
await them in the future, as well as those which arc enjoyed by
their friends and foes, and, finally, the highest blessing of
all, which is Jesus Christ, risen and glorified.

We can only conjecture as to the origin of this unique conception
of Luther's. Of course, the evils and blessings came to him from
the passage in Ecclesiasticus 11:26.[4] The order and arrangement
may follow some contemporary altar-picture of the "Fourteen
Saints." There was a famous altar-painting of the "Fourteen," by
Lucas Cranach, in St Mary's at Torgau, the residence of the
Elector. The fact is suggestive.[5]

3. The Tessaradecas was favorably received by the Elector, was
highly praised by Spalatin, who urged its publication, and must
have been dear to Luther's own heart, since he desired the return
of his manuscript for his own comfort. The little work soon
became very popular, and passed through numerous editions, both
in Latin and in German. During the first two years five Latin
editions were printed, and up to 1525 seven German editions. A
translation was published in the Netherlands in 1521, and one in
England in 1578. Erasmus commended it to Bishop Christopher of
Basle, in 1523; "I am sending your Highness Luther's book of the
fourteen pictures, which has won great approbation even from
those who oppose his doctrine at every point." Mathesius,
Luther's pupil and biographer, judged that there had never before
been such words of comfort written in the German language. The
Franciscan Lemmens speaks of "the beautiful and Catholic
thoughts" in it.

4. Our translation is made from the Latin text, as found in the
Weimar edition of Luther's works, volume vi, with continual
reference to the German text, as given in the Berlin edition. We
regret our inability to obtain a copy of the old English
translation (A right comfortable Treatise conteining sundrye
pointes of consolation for them that labour and are
laden....Englished by W. Gace. T. Vautrollier, London, 1578, sec.
ed. 1580), although the form of the title would seem to indicate
that it was made from Spalatin's translation, and not from the

The many Scripture quotations, all naturally from the Latin
Vulgate, and most of them freely quoted from memory, and
sometimes "targumed" and woven into the texture of the treatise,
are rendered by us, unless the sense should thereby be affected,
in the words of the Authorised Version. Important or interesting
variations are indicated in the foot-notes.

5. The Tesseradecas deserves to be more widely known and used.
Its value is more than merely that of an historical document,
representing a transition stage in Luther's reformatory views. It
gives us, besides this, a deep insight into the living piety of
the man, his great heart so full of the peace of God that passeth
all understanding. When we remember that this little work was
composed in the midst of a very "tempest" of other writings,
chiefly polemical (e.g., the savage onslaughts on Emser), it will
appear akin to the little book of Ruth, lying so peacefully
between the war-like books of Judges and First Samuel. At the
Leipzig Disputation, earlier in the same year, Luther was seen to
hold a bouquet of flowers in his hand, and to smell of it when
the battle waxed hot. The Tessaradecas is such a bunch of
flowers. Its chief glory, however, that of a devotional classic,
has been somewhat dimmed by Luther himself, who with the
carelessness of genius refused to revise his outworn views in it;
and yet, despite its relics of mediævalism, particularly by
reason of its firm evangelical foundation, its scriptural warp
and woof, its fervent piety, and its fresh and original
treatment, it is not less entitled to a high place in the
devotional and ascetic literature of the Church than the much
better known _Imitatio Christi_. In this sense it is herewith
offered anew to the English reader, with the hope that "the
diligent reading and contemplation of these 'images' may minister
some slight comfort."

6. Literature.--(1) The literary and historical introductions to
the Tessaradecas in the Weimar, Erlangen, and Berlin editions.
(2) Köstlin-Kawerau, _Martin Luther, sein Leben und seine
Schriften_. 5th ed., 1903, vol. I, pp. 280, 281. (3) H. Beck,
_Die Erbauungslit. der evang. Kirche Deutschlands_, 1883. (4) On
the fourteen Defenders see articles in Wetzer und Welte and the
Catholic Encyclopaedia, and especially the article _Nothelfer_,
by Zöckler, in PRE3, where also see further literature.

A. T. W. Steinhaeuser
Allentown, PA.


[1] Cf. the first sentence of the Prefatory Note, p. 109 of this
volume; also the dedicatory epistle of the _Treatise on Good
Works_, p. 184.

[2] We have noted a few of the more glaring relics of mediævalism
in the footnotes; the attentive reader will discover and dispose
of others for himself.

[3] The title furnishes peculiar difficulties to the translator.
Cole has simply transliterated it, "The Consolatory Terradecad."
Spalatin paraphrased it "Ein trostlichs Buchlein," etc. The
Berlin Edition renders it, "Vierzehn Trostmittel," etc.

[4] See p. 113.

[5] Did the comment of Bernard of Clairvaux, on Romans 8:18,
perhaps contribute its quota to the general conception? "The
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the past guilt, which is forgiven (_remittitur_); with the
present grace of consolation, which is given (_immittitur_); with
the future glory, which is promised (_promittitur_)."

[6] An English translation, with some omissions that Luther
himself did not care to make is found in Henry Cole's _Select
Works of Martin Luther_, vol. II, London, 1824.





This book was written, early in my career, for that most
excellent prince, Frederick, Duke of Saxony, when he was stricken
with a dangerous illness; but many desired that it be printed.
After passing through various editions it has now become so sadly
corrupted and mutilated that many passages are missing, whose
original form I myself have clean forgot. However, I have
restored the sense of them, as well as I was able, taking care to
set down only such views as I held when the work was first
written. I did not care to revise them now, as I might well do.
For it is my purpose in this book to put forth a public record of
my progress,[2] and also to show a kindness to the
"Contradictionists," [3] that they may have whereon to exercise
their malice. For me it is enough if I please my Lord Christ and
His saints; that I am hated of the devil and his scales, [4] I
rejoice with all my heart, and give thanks to God.


To the Most Illustrious Prince and Lord, Frederick, Duke of
Saxony, Arch-Marshal and Elector Of the Holy Roman Empire,
Landgrave of THuringia, Margrave of Meissen, his most gracious

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus hath left us a commandment, which
concerns all Christians alike,--that we should render the duties
of humanity, or (as the Scriptures call them) the works of mercy,
[Luke 6:36] to such as are afflicted and under calamity; [Matt.
25:34 ff.] that we should visit the sick, endeavor to set free
the prisoners, and perform other like acts of kindness to our
neighbor, whereby the evils of this present time may in some
measure be lightened. And of this command our Lord Jesus Christ
hath Himself given us the brightest example, in that, out of
infinite love to the race of men. He descended out of the bosom
of the Father into our misery and prison-cell, that is, our flesh
and life so full of ills, and took upon Him the penalty of our
sins, in order that we might be saved; as He saith in Isaiah
xliii, "Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, and wearied Me
with thine iniquities." [Isa. 43:24]

Whoever is not moved by so bright an example, and driven by the
authority of the divine command, to show forth such works of
mercy, he will deservedly hear, in the last judgment, the voice
of the angry Judge saying: "Depart from me, thou cursed, into
everlasting fire! For I was sick, and thou didst not visit Me;
but, basely ungrateful for the many blessings I bestowed on thee
and on all the world, thou wouldest not so much as lift a finger
to succor thy brethren, nay Me, Christ, thy God and Saviour, in
thy brethren." [Matt. 25:41]

Since, then, most noble Prince, I perceive that your Lordship has
been smitten with a dangerous malady, and that Christ has thus
fallen sick in you, I have counted it my duty to visit your
Lordship with a little writing of mine. For I cannot pretend to
be deaf to the voice of Christ crying to me out of your
Lordship's flesh and blood, "Behold, here am I sick." For such
ills as sickness and the like are endured, not by us Christians,
but by Christ Himself, our Lord and Saviour, in Whom we live.
Even as He plainly testifies in the Gospel, "Whatsoever ye have
done unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it
unto Me." [Matt. 25:40] And while we should visit and console all
who are afflicted with sickness, yet we owe this duty specially
to those who are of the household of faith. For Paul clearly
distinguishes between strangers and those of the household, or
those who are bound to us by intimate ties, Galatians vi. [Gal.

But I have yet other reasons for performing this my duty. For I
consider that, as one of your Lordship's subjects, I must needs
share in your Lordship's illness, together with the remainder of
your many subjects, and suffer with you as a member with the
Head, on which all our fortunes, our safety, and our happiness
depend. For we recognize in your Lordship another Naaman [2
Kings, 5:1], by whom God is now giving deliverance to Germany, as
in times past He gave deliverance to Syria. Wherefore the whole
Roman Empire turns its eyes to your Lordship alone, and venerates
and receives you as the Father of the Fatherland, and the bright
ornament and protector of the whole Empire, but of the German
nation in particular.[6]

Nor are we bound only to console your Lordship as much as in us
lies, and to make your present sorrow our own, but much more to
pray God for your health and safety; which I trust your
Lordship's subjects are doing with all diligence and devotion.
But as for me, whom your Lordship's many and signal benefactions
have made your debtor above all others, I count it my duty to
express my gratitude by rendering you some special service. But
now, by reason of my poverty both of mind and fortune, it is not
possible for me to offer anything of value; therefore I gladly
welcomed the suggestion of Doctor George Spalatin, one of your
Lordship's court chaplains, that I should prepare a kind of
spiritual consolation and present it to your Lordship, to whom,
he said, it would be most acceptable. Being unwilling to reject
this friendly counsel, I have put together the following fourteen
chapters, after the fashion of an altar tablet, and have called
them, "The Fourteen." [7] They are to take the place of the
fourteen saints whom our superstition has invented and called,
"The Defenders against all evil." [8] But this is a tablet not of
silver, but of a spiritual sort; nor is it intended to adorn the
walls of a church, but to uplift and strengthen a pious heart. I
trust it will stand your Lordship in good stead in your present
condition. It consists of two divisions; the former containing
the images of seven evils, in the contemplation of which your
present troubles will grow light; the latter presenting the
images of seven blessings, brought together for the same purpose.

May it please your Lordship graciously to accept this little work
of mine, and to make such use of it that the diligent reading and
contemplation of these "images" may minister some small comfort.

Your Lordship's humble servant,

    Martin Luther, Doctor.


The Apostle Paul, treating in Romans xv. of the consolations of
Christians, writes, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime
were written for our learning, that we through patience and
comfort of the scriptures might have hope." [Rom. 15:4] In these
words he plainly teaches that our consolations are to be drawn
from the Holy Scriptures. Now the Holy Scriptures administer
comfort after a twofold fashion, by presenting to our view
blessings and evils, most wholesomely intermingled; as the wise
Preacher saith, "In the day of evil be mindful of the good, and
in the day of good be mindful of the evil." [Ecclus. 11:26] For
the Holy Spirit knows that a thing has only such meaning and
value for a man as he assigns to it in his thoughts; for what he
holds common and of no value will move him but little, either to
pleasure when he obtains it, or to grief when he loses it.
Therefore He endeavors with all His might to draw us away from
thinking about things and from being moved by them; and when He
has effected this, then all things whatsoever are alike to us.
Now this drawing away is best accomplished by means of the Word,
Whereby our thoughts are turned from the thing that moves us at
the present moment to that which either is absent or does not at
the moment move us. Therefore it is true that we shall attain to
this state of mind only through the comfort of the Scriptures,
which call us, in the day of evil, to the contemplation of good
things, either present or to come, and, in the day of good, to
the contemplation of evil things.

But let us, for our better understanding of these two series of
pictures or images, divide each of them into seven parts. The
first series will treat of the evils, and we shall consider (1)
the evil within us, (2) the evil before us, (3) the evil behind
us, (4) the evil on our left hand, (5) the evil on our right
hand, (6) the evil beneath us, and (7) the evil above us.[9]




This is most certain and true--we may believe it or not--that no
suffering in a man's experience, be it never so severe, can be
the greatest of the evils that are within him. So many more and
far greater evils are there within him than any that he feels.
And if he were to feel those evils, he would feel the pains of
hell; for he holds a hell within himself. Do you ask how this can
be? The Prophet says, "All men are liars" [Ps. 116:11] and again,
"Every man at his best state is altogether vanity." [Ps. 39:6]
But to be a liar and vanity, is to be without truth and reality;
and to be without truth and reality, is to be without God and to
be nothing; and this is to be in hell and damned. Therefore, when
God in His mercy chastens us, He reveals to us and lays upon us
only the lighter evils; for if He were to lead us to the full
knowledge of our evil, we should straightway perish. Yet even
this He has given some to taste, and of them it is written, "He
bringeth down to hell, and bringeth up." [1 Sam. 2:6] Therefore
they say well who call our bodily sufferings the monitors of the
evil within. And the Apostle, in Hebrews xii, calls them God's
fatherly chastenings, when he says, "He scourgeth every son whom
He receiveth." [Heb. 12:6] And He does this, in order by such
scourgings and lesser evils to drive out those great evils, that
we may never need to feel them; as it is written, "Foolishness is
bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall
drive it far from him." [Prov. 33:15] Do not loving parents
grieve more for their sons when they turn out thieves and
evil-doers than when they receive a wound? Nay, they themselves
beat them until the blood flows, to keep them from becoming

What is it, then, that prevents us from feeling this our true
evil? It is, as I have said, so ordered by God, that we may not
perish on seeing the evils hidden in the depths of our hearts.
For God keeps them hidden, and would have us discern them only by
faith, when He points them out to us by means of the evil that we
feel. Therefore, "In the day of evil be mindful of the good."
[Ecclus. 11:26] Behold, how great a good it is, not to know the
whole of our evil! Be mindful of this good, and the evil that you
feel will press you less cruelly. Again, "In the day of good be
mindful of the evil." That is to say. Whilst you do not feel your
true evil, be grateful for this respite; then will the evil that
you feel sit lightly upon you. It is clear, then, that in this
life a man's freedom from pain is always greater than his pain.
Not that his whole evil is not present with him, but he does not
think about it and is not moved by it, through the goodness of
God, Who keeps it hidden.

How furiously do those men rage against themselves, to whom their
true evil has been revealed! How they count as nothing whatever
sufferings life may bring, if only they might not feel the hell
within! Even so would every one do, who felt or truly believed in
the evil within him. Gladly would he call down all external evils
on his head, and count them mere child's play; nay, he would
never be more sorrowful than when he had no evils to bear, after
the manner of certain of the saints, such as David in Psalm vi.
[Ps. 6]

Therefore, this is our first image of consolation, that a man
should say to himself: "Not yet, O man, dost thou feel thine
evil. Rejoice and give thanks that thou dost not need to feel
it!" And so the lesser evil grows light by comparison with the
greatest evil. That is what others mean when they say, "I have
deserved far worse things, yea, hell itself"--a thing easy to
say, but horrible to contemplate.

And this evil, though never so deeply hidden, yet puts forth
fruits that are plainly enough perceived. These are the dread and
uncertainty of a trembling conscience, when faith is assailed,
and a man is not sure, or doubts, whether he have a gracious God.
And this fruit is bitter in proportion to the weakness of one's
faith. Nay, when rightly considered, this weakness alone, being
spiritual, far outweighs every weakness of the body, and renders
it, in comparison, light as a feather.

Moreover, to the evils within us belong all those tragic
experiences described by the Preacher, when he refers again and
again to "vanity and vexation of spirit." [Eccl. 1:2, 14] How
many of our plans come to naught! How oft our hopes are deceived!
How many things that are not to our liking must we see and bear!
And the very things that fall out according to our wish fall out
also against our wish! So that there is nothing perfect and
complete. Finally, all these things are so much greater, the
higher one rises in rank and station;[11] for such a one will of
necessity be driven about by far more and greater billows,
floods, and tempests, than others who labor in a like case. As it
is truly said in Psalm ciii,[12] "In the sea of this world there
are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts,"
[Ps. 104:25] that is, an infinite number of trials. And Job, for
this reason, calls the life of man a "trial." [13]

These evils do not, indeed, cease to be evils because they are
less sharply felt by us; but we have grown accustomed to them
from having them constantly with us, and through the goodness of
God our thoughts and feelings concerning them have become
blunted. That is why they move us the more deeply when we do feel
them now and then, since we have not learned through familiarity
to despise them. So true is it, therefore, that we feel scarce a
thousandth part of our evils, and also that we estimate them and
feel them or do not feel them, not as they are in themselves, but
only as they exist in our thoughts and feelings.[14]




It will tend in no small degree to lighten any present evil if a
man turn his mind to the evils to come. These are so many, so
diverse, and so great, that out of them has arisen one of the
strongest emotions of the soul; namely, fear. For fear has been
defined by some as the emotion caused by coming evil. Even as the
Apostle says in Romans xi, "Be not highminded, but fear." [Rom.
11:30] This evil is all the greater because of our uncertainty in
what form and with what force it may come; so that there goes a
popular saying, "No age is proof against the itch," although this
is but a little children's disease. Even so, no man is safe from
the evils that befall any other; for what one has suffered
another may suffer also. Here belong all the tragic histories of
the ages, and all the lamentations of the world. Here belong the
more than three hundred diseases--which some have observed--with
which the human body may be vexed. And if there be so many
diseases, how great will be the number of other misfortunes that
may befall our possessions, our friends, and even our mind
itself, that target of all evils, and trysting-place of sorrow
and every ill!

And these evils increase in power and intensity as a man rises to
higher rank and dignity;[15] in which estate he must needs dread
every moment the coming of poverty, disgrace, and every
indignity, which may indeed swiftly overtake him, for they all
hang by but a slender thread, not unlike the sword which the
tyrant Dionysius suspended above the head of the guest at his

And if none of these evils befall us, we should count it our
gain, and no small comfort in the evil that does befall us; so
that we should feel constrained to say with Jeremiah, "It is of
the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." [Lam. 3:22 f.] For
when none of them befall us, it is because they have been kept
from us by the right hand of the Most High that compasses us
about with such mighty power (as we see in Job) that Satan and
all evils can but gnash their teeth in helpless rage. [Job 1:10]
From this we see how sweetly we ought to love our Lord, whenever
any evil comes upon us. For our most loving Father would by that
one evil have us see how many evils threaten us and would fall on
us, if He did not Himself stand in the way, as though He said,
"Satan and the host of evils have desired to have thee, to sift
thee as wheat; [Luke:22:31] but I have marked out bounds for the
sea, and have said, Hitherto shaft thou come, and here shall thy
proud waves be stayed [Job 38:10]," as He saith in Job xxxviii.

And, granted that perchance, if God please, none of these things
will come upon you; nevertheless, that which is known as the
greatest of terrors, death, is certain to come, and nothing is
less certain than the hour of its coming. Truly, this is so
great an evil that there are many who would rather live on amid
all the above-named evils than to die once and have them ended.
With this one thing the Scriptures, which hold all others in
contempt, associate fear, saying, "Remember thy end, and thou
shalt never do amiss." [Ecclus. 7:40] Behold, how many
meditations, how many books, how many rules and remedies have
been brought together, in order, by calling to men's minds this
one evil, to keep them from sin, to render the world
contemptible, to lighten suffering, to comfort the
afflicted,--all by a comparison with this great and terrible, and
yet so inevitable, evil of death. This evil even the saints
dreaded, and Christ submitted to it with trembling and bloody
sweat. [Luke 22:44] So that the divine Mercy hath been nowhere
more concerned to comfort our little faith than in the matter of
this evil, as we shall see below.[16]

But all these things are common to all men, even as the blessings
of salvation under these evils are common to all. For
Christians, however, there is another and a particular reason for
dreading the evils to come, which easily surpasses all the evils
that have been mentioned. It is that which the Apostle portrays
in I. Corinthians x, when he says, "He that standeth, let him
take heed lest he fall." [1 Cor. 19:12] So unstable is our
footing, and so powerful our foe, armed with our own strength
(that is, the weapons of our flesh and all our evil lusts),
attended by the countless armies of the world, its delights and
pleasures on the right hand, its hardships and the plots of
wicked men on the left, and, besides all this, master himself of
the art of doing us harm, seducing us, and bringing us down to
destruction by a thousand different ways. Such is our life that
we are not safe for one moment in our good intentions. Cyprian,
who in his _De Mortalitate_[17] touches on many of these matters,
teaches that death is to be desired as a swift means of escape
from these evils. And truly, wherever there have been
high-hearted men, who brought their minds steadily to bear on
these infinite perils of hell, we find them, with contempt of
life and death (that is, all the aforesaid evils), desiring to
die, that so they might be delivered at one and the same time
from this evil of the sins in which they now are (of which we
spoke in the previous chapter), and of the sins into which they
might fall (of which we are treating now). And these are, indeed,
two most weighty reasons why we should not only desire death, but
also despise all evils, to say nothing of lightly bearing a
single evil; if the Lord grant us to be moved thereby. For it is
God's gift that we are moved thereby. For what true Christian
will not even desire to die, and much more to bear sickness,
seeing that, so long as he lives and is in health, he is in sin,
and is constantly prone to fall, yea, is falling every day, into
more sins; and is thus constantly thwarting the most loving will
of his most loving Father! To such a heat of indignation was St.
Paul moved, in Romans vii, when after complaining that he did not
the good that he would, but the evil that he would not, [Rom.
7:19] he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver
me the body of this death? The grace of God," [18] he answers,
"through Jesus Christ."

That man loves God his Father but little, who does not prefer the
evil of dying to this evil of sinning. For God has appointed
death, that this evil might come to an end, and that death might
be the minister of life and righteousness, of which more




In this image, above all others, the sweet mercy of God our
Father shines forth, able to comfort us in every distress. For
never does a man feel the hand of God more closely upon him than
when he calls to mind the years of his past life. St. Augustine
says: "If a man were set before the choice either of dying or of
living his past life over, it is certain that he would choose to
die, seeing the many perils and evils which he had so hardly
escaped." This is a very true saying, if it be rightly pondered.

Here a man may see how often he has done and suffered many
things, without any exertion or care of his own, nay, without and
against his wish; of which things he took so little thought
before they came to pass, or while they were taking place, that,
only after all was over, he found himself compelled to exclaim in
great surprise: "Whence have all these things come to me, when I
never gave them a thought, or when I thought of something very
different?" So that the proverb is true, "Man proposeth, but God
disposeth"; [Prov. 16:9] that is, God turns things about, and
brings to pass something far different from that which man
proposes. Therefore, from this consideration alone, it is
impossible for us to deny that our life and all our actions are
under the direction, not of our own prudence, but of the
wonderful power, wisdom, and goodness of God. Here we see how
often God was with us when we knew it not, and with what truth
Peter has said, "He careth for us all." [1 Peter 5:7]

Therefore, even if there were no books or tracts, yet our very
life itself, brought through so many evils and dangers, if we
will but consider it, abundantly commends to us the ever present
and most tender goodness of God, which, far above all that we
purposed or perceived, carried us as it were in its bosom. As
Moses says in Deuteronomy xxxii, "The Lord kept him as the apple
of His eye, and led him about, and bore him on His shoulders."
[Deut. 32:10 ff.][20]

Hence arose those exhortations in the Psalter: "I remember the
days of old; I meditate on all Thy works; I muse on the work of
Thy hands." [Ps. 143:5] "Surely I will remember Thy wonders of
old." [Ps. 77:11] Again, "I remembered Thy judgments of old, O
Lord, and have comforted myself," [Ps. 119:52] These exhortations
and the like are intended to teach us that, if God was with us
when we thought it not, or when He seemed not to be with us, we
should not doubt that He is always with us, even when He appears
to be far from us. For He Who, in so many necessities, has
sustained us without our aid, will not forsake us in our smaller
need, even though He seem to be forsaking us. As He saith in
Isaiah, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great
mercies will I gather thee." [Isa. 54:7]

Moreover, who had the care of us so many a night, while we slept?
Who cared for us when we were at work, or at play, or engaged in
all those countless things wherein we had no care for ourselves?
Indeed, how much of our time is there in which we have the care
of ourselves? Even the miser, careful as he is to gain riches,
must perforce put by his care in the midst of all his getting and
gaining. And so we see that, whether we will or no, all our care
falls back on God alone, and we are scarcely ever left to care
for ourselves. Still, God does now and again leave us to care for
ourselves, in order to bring home to us His goodness, and to
teach us how great the difference between His care and ours.
Hence, He suffers us now and then to be assailed by some slight
malady or other ill, dissembling His care for us (for He never
ceases to care), and yet at the same time preventing the many
evils that threaten us on every side from bursting in upon us all
together. Hereby He tries us as His well-beloved children, to see
whether we will not trust His care, which extends through all our
past life, and learn how vain and powerless a thing is any care
of ours. How little, indeed, do we or can we do for ourselves,
throughout our life, when we are not able to stop a small pain in
one of our limbs, even for the shortest space of time?[21]

Why, then, are we so anxious in the matter of a single danger or
evil, and do not rather leave our care to Him? For our whole
life bears witness to the many evils from which He has delivered
us, without our doing. To know this, is indeed to know the works
of God, to meditate on His works, [Ps. 143:5, 119:52] and by the
remembrance of them to comfort ourselves in our adversities. But
they that know this not come under that other word in Psalm
xxvii, "Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the
operations of His hand, He shall destroy them, and not build them
up." [Ps. 28:5] For those men are ungrateful toward God for all
His care over them during their whole life, who will not, for one
small moment, commit their care to Him.




Hitherto we have seen, in all the evils that we endure, naught
but the goodness of God, which is so great and so near that of
all the countless evils with which we are surrounded in this
life, and in which we are shut up as in a prison, but a very few
are permitted to approach us, and these never for long together.
So that, when we are oppressed by any present evil, it is only to
remind us of some great gain with which God is honoring us, in
that He does not suffer us to be overwhelmed by the multitude of
evils with which we are surrounded. For what wonder that a man,
at whom an infinite number of blows is aimed, should be touched
by one now and then! Nay, it is a mercy not to be struck by all;
it is a miracle to be struck by but a few.

The first, then, of the evils beneath us is death, and the other
is hell.

If we will but consider the deaths, so diverse and so terrible,
with which other sinners are punished, we shall soon see how
great a gain is ours in that we suffer far less than we have
deserved. How many men are hanged, strangled, drowned or
beheaded, who perchance committed less sins than we! And their
death and misery are held up to us by Christ as in a mirror, in
which we may behold what we have deserved. For it is said in Luke
xiii, when they told Him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had
mingled with their sacrifices, that He replied: "Suppose ye that
these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because
they suffered these things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye
repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon
whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they
were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you.
Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." [Luke
13:1 ff.] For we need not expect that we, who have committed the
same or even graver sins, shall escape with a lighter punishment.
Nor will the justice and truth of God, which hath decreed to
render to every man according to his deeds, be turned for our
sake into injustice and a lie, unless we hasten to make
satisfaction by at least bearing our trifling evil with

And how many thousands are there in hell and everlasting
damnation, who have not committed the thousandth part of our
sins! How many virgins, youths, and those whom we call innocents,
are there! How many monks, priests, and married pairs! These
seemed all their life long to be serving God, and, it may be for
a single lapse, are now being punished for ever. For, it may not
be denied, the justice of God is the same in the case of every
sin, whatever it may be, and hates and punishes all sin alike, it
matters not in whom it is found. Do we not then see here the
inestimable mercy of God, Who hath not condemned us, though we
have so many times deserved condemnation? Pray, what are all the
sufferings life can bring, compared to eternal punishment, which
they indeed justly endure on account of one sin, while we go free
and unpunished for our many sins, which God hath covered! [Ps.
32:1] That we take no thought of these benefits of God, or but
lightly esteem them, that is ingratitude, and the hardening of
our unbelieving heart.

Moreover, we must include here the many infidels, Gentiles, Jews,
and infants, who, if to them had been granted the advantages that
we enjoy, would not now be in hell, but rather in heaven, and who
would have sinned far less than we. For this mirror also does
Christ set before us, when He says in Matthew xi: "Woe unto thee,
Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works,
which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they
would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say
unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the
day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art
exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the
mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in
Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I say unto you.
That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day
of judgment, than for thee." [Matt. 11:21 ff.] We see, therefore,
what praise and love we owe to our good Lord, in any evil
whatsoever of this life; for it is but a tiny drop of the evils
which we have deserved, and which Job compares to the sea, and to
the sand by the seashore. [Job 6:3]




Here we must set before our eyes the whole multitude of our
adversaries and wicked men, and consider, first, how many evils
they would have inflicted on our bodies, our property, our good
name, and on our souls, but could not, being prevented by the
providence of God. Indeed, the higher one's station and the wider
one's sway,[23] the more is he exposed to the intrigues,
slanders, plots, and stratagems of his enemies. In all this we
may mark and feel the very present hand of God, and need not
wonder if we be touched now and then by one of these evils.

Again, let us consider the evils which these men themselves
endure; not that we may exult over them, but that we may feel
pity for them. For they, too, are exposed to all these same
evils, in common with ourselves; as may be seen in the preceding
times. Only, they are in a worse plight than we, because they
stand outside our fellowship,[24] both as to body and soul. For
the evil that we endure is as nothing compared to their evil
estate; for they are in sin and unbelief, under the wrath of God,
and under the dominion of the devil, wretched slaves to
ungodliness and sin, so that, if the whole world were to heap
curses on their heads, it could wish them no worse things. If we
rightly consider this, we shall see how much more highly favored
we are of God, in that we may bear our slight bodily ill in
faith, in the kingdom of Christ, and in the service of God; and,
indeed, are scarce able to feel it, being so rich in those high
blessings. Nay, this wretchedness of theirs must so sorely
trouble a pious Christian heart as to make its own troubles seem
delights beside them. Thus St. Paul exhorts in Philippians ii,
"Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the
things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, took upon Him the
form of a servant, etc." [Phil. 2:4 ff.] That is to say, Out of
fervent love He took our form upon Himself, bearing Himself
amidst our evils as though they were His own, and so completely
forgetting Himself and all His goods, and humbling Himself, that
He was found in all things to be made in the likeness of men,
counting nothing human foreign to Himself, and wholly giving
Himself over to our evils.

Animated with this love, and moved by this example, the saints
are wont to pray for wicked men, even their enemies, [Luke 6:27
f.] and to do all things for them after the example of Christ;
and forgetting their own injuries and rights, to take thought
only how they may rescue them from their evils, with which they
are far more cruelly tormented than with any evils of the body.
Even as St. Peter writes of Lot, that he "dwelt among them who
from day to day vexed the just soul with unjust works." [2 Peter

You see, then, how deep an abyss of evils is here discovered, and
how great an opportunity for showing mercy and compassion, as
well as for overlooking our own trifling ills, if the love of God
dwell in us; since that which God permits us to suffer is as
nothing to that which those others endure. But the reason why
these things affect us so little is, because the eye of our heart
is not clear enough to see how great is the squalor and
wretchedness of a man lying in sin; that is, separated from God,
and in the possession of the devil. For who is there so hard of
heart that he must not sicken at the spectacle of those miserable
forms lying at our church doors and in our streets, their faces
disputed, and all their members hideously consumed with
putrifying sores; so that the mind is horror-struck at the
thought and the senses recoil from the sight! And what does God
intend, through these lamentable specimens of our flesh and
brotherhood, but to open the eyes of our mind, that we may see in
how much more dreadful a guise the soul of the sinner shows forth
its disease and decay, even though he himself go in purple and
gold, and tie among lilies and roses, as a very child of
paradise! Yet how many sinners are there to one of those wretched
creatures? When these evils on the part of our neighbors, so
great both in number and degree, are disregarded by us, it
follows that our one evil, be it never so trifling, will appear
as the sole evil, and the greatest of all.

But even in respect of bodily evils, the wicked are of necessity
in a worse plight than we. For what sweet and pure joy can be
theirs, so long as their conscience can find no peace? Or can
there be a more terrible evil than the unrest of a gnawing
conscience? Isaiah says, "The wicked are like the troubled sea,
when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is
no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." [Isaiah 57:20 f.] This
also, in Deuteronomy xxviii, applies to them: "The Lord shall
give thee a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of
mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou
shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy
life; in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and
at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear
of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of
thine eyes which thou shalt see." [Deut. 28:65 ff.] In a word, if
one regarded all the evils of the wicked in the right spirit,
whether they be those of his friends or his foes, he would not
only seem to be suffering nothing at all, but he would also, with
Moses and the Apostle Paul, [Ex. 32:32, Rom. 9:3] be filled with
an hearty desire to die for them, if it might be, and to be
blotted out of the book of life, as it is written in Romans ix,
that thereby they might be set free. With such zeal and burning
was Christ's heart kindled, when He died for us and descended
into bell, leaving us an example that we also should be so
regardful of the evils of others, and forgetful of our own, nay,
rather covetous of evils of our own.




On out right hand are our friends, in the contemplation of whose
evils out own will grow light, as St. Peter teaches, I. Peter v,
"Resist the devil, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same
afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the
world." [1 Pet. 5:9] Thus also does the Church entreat in her
prayers, that provoked by the example of the saints, we may
imitate the virtue of their sufferings; and thus she sings,

    What torments all the Saints endured,
    That they might win the martyr's palm!

From such words and hymns of the Church we learn that the feasts
of the saints, their memorials, churches, altars, names, and
images, are observed and multiplied to the end that we should be
moved by their example to bear the same evils which they also
bore. And unless this be the manner of our observance, it is
impossible that the worship of saints should be free from
superstition. Even as there are many who observe all these things
in order to escape the evil which the saints teach us should be
borne, and thus to become unlike those whose feasts they keep for
the sake of becoming like them.

But the finest treatment of this portion of our consolation is
given by the Apostle, when he says, in Hebrews xii: "Ye have not
yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have
forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto
children, My son, demise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor
faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye
endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what
son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without
chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards,
and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which
corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much
rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For
they verily for a few days chastened us after their good
pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of
His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be
joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the
peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised
thereby." [Heb. 12:4 ff.] Who must not be terrified at these
words of Paul, in which he plainly states that they who are
without the chastisement of God are not the sons of God! Again,
what greater strengthening and what better comfort can there be
than to hear that they who are chastened are beloved of the Lord,
that they are sons of God, that they have part in the communion
of saints, that they are not alone in their sufferings! So
forceful an exhortation must make chastisement a thing to be

Nor is there here any room for the excuse that some have lighter,
others heavier, evils to bear. For to every one is given his
temptation according to measure, and never beyond his strength.
As it is written in Psalm lxxix, "Thou shalt feed us with the
bread of tears, and give us for our drink tears in
measure";[25] [Ps. 80:5] and as Paul says, "God is faithful, who
will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but
will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may
be able to bear it." [1 Cor. 10:13] Where there is, therefore, a
greater evil, there is also more of divine help, and an easier
way to escape; so that the unequal distribution of sufferings
appears to be greater than it actually is. Does not the example
of St. John Baptist, whom we commemorate on this day[26] as
beheaded by Herod, shame and amaze us all!--that so great a man,
than whom there was none greater born of woman, [Matt. 11:11] the
special friend of the Bridegroom, [John 3:29] the forerunner of
Christ, and more than all the prophets, [Matt. 11:9] should have
been put to death, not indeed after a public trial, nor on a
feigned charge (as it was with Christ), nor yet for the sake of
the people; but in a dungeon, and for the sake of a dancing-girl,
daughter of an adulteress! [Matt. 14:3-11] This one Saint's
ignominious death, and his life so vilely and shamelessly given
over into the hands of his sworn and adulterous enemy, must make
ail our evil light. Where was God then, that He could look on
such things? Where was Christ, Who, hearing of it, was
altogether silent? He perished as if unknown to God, and men,
and every creature. Compared with such a death, what sufferings
have we to boast of; nay, what sufferings of which we must not
even be ashamed? And where shall we appear, if we are unwilling
to endure any suffering, when such a man endured so shameful a
death, and so undeserved, and his body, after death, was given up
to the insults of his enemies! [1 Pet. 4:18] "Behold," He saith
in Jeremiah, "behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the
cup have assuredly drunken: and art thou he that shall altogether
go unpunished? thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt
surely drink of it." [Jer. 49:12]

Therefore, that hermit, who was used to fall ill every year, did
well to weep and lament, when for one whole year he found himself
in sound health, because, he said, God had forsaken him and
withdrawn His grace from him. So necessary and so salutary is
the Lord's chastening for all Christians.

We see, then, that all our sufferings are as nothing, when we
consider the nails, dungeons, irons, faggots, wild beasts, and
all the endless tortures of the saints; nay, when we ponder the
afflictions of men now living, who endure in this life the most
grievous persecutions of the devil. For there is no lack of men
who are suffering more sharp and bitter pains than we, in soul as
well as in body.

But now some will say, "This is my complaint, that my suffering
cannot be compared with the sufferings of the saints; because I
am a sinner, and not worthy to be compared with them. They,
indeed, suffered because of their innocence, but I suffer because
of my sins. It is no wonder, then, that they so blithely bore
all." That is a very stupid saying. If you suffer because of your
sins, then you ought to rejoice that your sins are being purged
away. And, besides, were not the saints, too, sinners? But do you
fear that you are like Herod, and the thief on Christ's left
hand? You are not, if you have patience. For what was it that
distinguished the thief on the left hand from him on the right
but the patience of the one and the impatience of the other? If
you are a sinner, well; the thief, too, was a sinner; but by his
patience he merited the glorious reward of righteousness and
holiness. Go, and do thou likewise. [Luke 10:37] For you can
suffer nothing except it be either on account of your sins or on
account of your righteousness; and both kinds of suffering
sanctify and save, if you will but love them. And so there is no
excuse left. In short, just as soon as you have confessed that
you are suffering on account of your sins, you are righteous and
holy, even as the thief on the right hand. For the confession of
sins, because it is the truth,[27] justifies and sanctifies, and
so, in the very moment of this confession, you are suffering no
longer on account of your sins, but on account of your innocence.
For the righteous man always suffers innocently. But you are made
righteous by the confession of your merited sufferings and of
your sins. And so your sufferings may truly and worthily be
compared with the sufferings of the saints, even as your
confession may truly and worthily be compared with the confession
of the saints. For one is the truth of all, one the confession of
all sins, one the suffering of all evils, and one the true
communion of saints in all and through all.[28]




Finally, let us lift up our hearts, and ascend with the Bride
into the mountain of myrrh. [Song of Sol. 4:6] This is Jesus
Christ the Crucified, Head of all saints, and Prince of all
sufferers; of Whom many have written many things, and all all
things, as it is meet.[29] His memory is commended to the Bride,
when it is said, "Set Me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal
upon thine arm." [Song of Sol. 8:6] The blood of this Lamb,
signed upon the threshold, wards off the destroying angel. [Ex.
12:7, 13] By Him is the Bride praised, because "the hair of her
head is as the king's purple"; [Song of Sol. 7:5] that is, her
meditation glows red with the remembrance of the Passion of
Christ. This is that tree which Moses was commanded to cast into
the waters of Marah (that is, the bitterness of suffering), and
they were made sweet. [Ex. 15:23 ff.] There is nothing that this
Passion cannot sweeten, not even death itself; as the Bride
saith, "His lips are lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh."
[Song of So. 5:13] What resemblance is there between lips and
lilies, since lips are red and lilies white? But she says this in
a mystery, signifying that the words of Christ are most fair and
pure, and that there is in them naught of blood-red bitterness or
guile; nevertheless, in them He drops precious and chosen myrrh,
that is, the bitterness of death. These most pure lips and sweet
have power to make the bitterest death sweet and fair and bright
and dear,--death that, like precious myrrh, removes at once all
of sin's corruption.

How does this come to pass? When, forsooth, you hear that Jesus
Christ, God's Son, hath, by His most holy touch, consecrated and
hallowed all sufferings, even death itself, hath blessed the
curse, glorified shame, and enriched poverty, so that death has
been made a door to life, curse a fount of blessing, and shame
the mother of glory: how can you then be so hard and ungrateful
as not to long for and to love all manner of sufferings, now that
they have been touched by Christ's most pure and holy flesh and
blood, and made unto you holy, harmless, wholesome, blessed, and
full of joy?

For if Christ, by the touch of His most innocent flesh, has
hallowed all waters unto baptism, yea, and every creature
besides; how much more has He, by the same contact of His most
innocent flesh and blood, hallowed every form of death, all
suffering and loss, every curse and shame, unto the baptism of
the Spirit, or the baptism of blood![30] Even as He saith of this
same baptism of His Passion, in Luke xii, "I have a baptism to be
baptised with; and how am I straitened until it be
accomplished!" [Luke 12:50] Behold, how He is straitened, how He
pants and thirsts, to sanctify suffering and death, and make them
things to be loved! For He sees how we stand in fear of
suffering. He marks how we tremble and shrink from death. And so,
like a godly pastor or faithful physician, He hastens to set
bounds to this our evil, and is impatient to die and by His
contact to commend suffering and death unto us. So that the death
of a Christian is henceforth to be regarded as the brazen serpent
of Moses, [Num. 21:8] which indeed hath in all things the
appearance of a serpent, yet is quite without life, without
motion, without venom, without sting. Even so the righteous seem,
in the sight of the unwise, to die; but they are in peace. We
resemble them that die, nor is the outward appearance of our
dying unlike that of others; but the thing itself is different,
because for us death is dead. In like manner all our sufferings
are like the sufferings of other men; but it is only in the
appearance. In reality our sufferings are the beginning of our
freedom from suffering, as our death is the beginning of our
life. This is that which Christ saith in John viii, "If a man
keep my saying he shall never see death." [John 8:51] How shall
he not see it? Because when he dies, he begins to live, and so
he cannot see death for the life that he sees. For here the night
shines as the day; [Ps. 139:12] since the life that breaks upon
him is brighter far than departing death. These things are
assured to all who believe in Christ, to the unbelieving they are

Therefore, if you kiss, caress, and embrace, as most sweet
relics,[31] consecrated by His touch, the robe of Christ, the
vessels, waterpots, and what things soever He touched and used;
why will you not the rather caress, embrace, and kiss the pains
and evils of this world, disgrace and death, which He not only
hallowed by His touch, but sprinkled and blessed with His most
holy blood, yea, embraced with willing heart, and great
constraining love?[32] The more, since in these there are for you
far greater merits, rewards, and blessings than in those relics;
for in them there is offered to you the victory over death, and
hell, and all sins, but in those relics nothing at all. O could
we but see the heart of Christ, when, hanging on the Cross, He
was so eager to slay death, and hold it up to our contempt! With
what grace and ardor He embraced death and pain for us timid
ones, who shrink from them! How willingly He first drinks this
cup for us sick ones, that we may not dread to drink it after
Him! For we see that naught of evil befell Him, but only good, in
His resurrection. Could we see this, then doubtless that
precious myrrh, dropping from Christ's lips, and commended by His
words, would grow most sweet and pleasant unto us, even as the
beauty and fragrance of lilies. Thus saith also St. Peter, I.
Peter iv, "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh,
arm yourselves likewise with the same mind." [1 Pet. 4:1] And St.
Paul, Hebrews xii, "Consider Him that endured such contradiction
of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your
minds." [Heb. 12:3]

If we have learned, in the foregoing images, beneath us and above
us, to bear our evils with patience, surely in this last, lifted
above and out of ourselves, caught up unto Christ, and made
superior to all evils, we ought not only to bear with them, but
to love them, desire them, and seek them out. Whoever is yet far
from this state of mind, for him the Passion of Christ has little
value; as it is with those who use the sign and arms of
Christ[33] to ward off evils and death, that so they may neither
suffer pain nor endure death, which is altogether contrary to the
cross and death of Christ. Hence, in this image, whatever evils
we may have to bear must be swallowed up and consumed, so that
they shall not only cause us no pain, but even delight us; if
indeed this image find its way into our heart, and fix itself in
the inmost affections of our mind.


The second part also consists of seven images, answering to the
first; the first representing the internal blessing, the second
the future blessing, the third the past blessing, the fourth the
infernal blessing, the fifth the blessing on the left hand, the
sixth the blessing on the right hand, and the seventh the
supernal blessing.




Who can recount only those blessings which every one hath in his
own person? How great are, first, the gifts and endowments of the
body; such as beauty, strength, health, and the lively play of
the senses! To these there comes, in the case of the male, a
greater nobility of sex, that fits him for the doing of many
things both in public and in private life, and for many splendid
achievements, to which woman is a stranger. And if, by the grace
of God, you enjoy these excellent gifts for ten, twenty, or
thirty years, and in all this time endure suffering for a few
days now and then, what great matter is that? There is a proverb
among knaves, _Es ist umb ein bose stund zuthun_, and, _Ein gutt
stund ist eyner posen werdt_.[34] What shall be said of us, who
have seen so many good hours, yet are not willing to endure evil
for a single hour! We see, therefore, how many blessings God
showers upon us, and how few evils barely touch us. This is true
at least of the most of us.

But not content with these blessings, our gracious God adds to
them riches and an abundance of all things; if not in the case of
all, certainly in the case of many, and of those especially who
are too frail to bear the evil. For as I said before,[35] when He
grants fewer bodily gifts and possessions, He gives greater
mental gifts; so that all things may be equal, and He the just
Judge of all. For a cheerful mind is a greater comfort than much
riches. Moreover, to some He grants offspring, and, as men say,
the highest pleasure, influence, rank, honor, fame, glory, favor,
and the like. And if these be enjoyed for a long or even for a
short season, they will soon teach men how they ought to conduct
themselves under some small evil.

But more excellent than all these are the blessings of the mind;
such as reason, knowledge, judgment, eloquence, prudence. And,
here again, God tempers the justice of His dealing, so that when
He bestows more of these gifts on some men. He does not therefore
prefer them to others, since on these again He confers greater
peace and cheerfulness of mind. In all these things we should
gratefully mark the bountiful hand of God, and take comfort in
our infirmity. For we should feel no surprise if among so many
and great blessings there be some intermingling of bitterness;
since even for epicures no meat is savory without salt, nor
scarce any dish palatable that has not a certain bitter savor,
either native or produced by seasoning. So intolerable is a
continual and unrelieved sweetness, that it has been truly said,
"Every pleasure too long continued begets disgust"; and again,
"Pleasure itself turns at length to loathing." That is to say,
this life is incapable of enjoying only good things without a
tempering of evil, because of the too great abundance of good
things, has arisen also this proverb, "It needs sturdy bones to
bear good days"; which proverb I have often pondered and much
admired for its excellent true sense, namely, that the wishes of
men are contrary to one another; they seek none but good days,
and, when these arrive, are less able to bear them than evil

What, then, would God have us here lay to heart but this, that
the cross is held in honor even among the enemies of the cross!
For all things must needs be tempered and sanctified with the
relics of the cross, lest they decay; even as the meat must be
seasoned with salt, that it may not breed worms. And why will we
not gladly accept this tempering which God sends, and which, if
He did not send it, our own life, weakened with pleasures and
blessings, would of itself demand? Hence we see with what truth
the Book of Wisdom says of God, "He[36] reacheth from end to end
mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly." [Wid. 8:1] And if we
examine these blessings, the truth of Moses' words, in
Deuteronomy xxxii, will become plain, "He bore him on His
shoulders, He led him about, and kept him as the apple of His
eye." [Deut. 32:10] With these words we may stop the mouths of
those ungrateful praters who hold that there is in this life more
of evil than of good. For there is no lack of good things and
endless sweet blessings, but they are lacking who ate of the same
mind with him who said, "The earth is full of the mercy of the
Lord" [Ps. 33:5]; and again, "The earth is full of His
praise" [Hab. 3:3]; and in Psalm ciii, "The earth is full of Thy
riches" [Ps. 104:24]; "Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy
work," [Ps. 92:4] Hence we sing every day in the Mass; [37]
"Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory." [Isa. 6:3] Why do we
sing this? Because there are many blessings for which God may be
praised, but it is done only by those who see the fulness of
them. Even as we said concerning the evils of the first
image,[38] that a man's evils are only so great as he in his
thoughts acknowledges them to be, so it is also with the
blessings. Though they crowd upon us from every side, yet they
are only so great as we acknowledge them to be. For all things
that God made are very good, [Gen. 1:31] but they are not
acknowledged as very good by all. Such were they of whom it is
said in Psalm lxxvii,[39] "They despised the pleasant land." [Ps.

The most beautiful and instructive example of this image is
furnished by Job, who when he had lost all said. "Shall we
receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
[Job 2:10] Truly, that is a golden saying, and a mighty comfort
in temptation. For Job not only suffered, but was tempted to
impatience by his wife, who said to him, "Dost thou still retain
thine integrity? curse God, and die." [Job 2:9] As who should
say, "It is plain that he is not God who is thus forsaking thee.
Why, then, dost thou trust in him, and not rather, renouncing
him, and thus cursing him, acknowledge thyself a mortal man, for
whom naught remains after this life?" These things and the like
are suggested to each one of us by his wife (i. e., his carnal
mind[40]) in time of temptation; for the carnal mind[40] savoreth
not the things that be of God. [Matt. 16:13]

But these are all bodily blessings, and common to all men. A
Christian has other and far better blessings within, namely,
faith in Christ; of which it is said in Psalm xliv, "The king's
daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought
gold." [Ps. 45:14 f.] For, as we said concerning the evil of the
first image,[41] that no evil in a man can be so great as to be
the worst of the evils within him; so too the greatest of the
blessings which are in the Christian, he himself is unable to
see. Could he perceive it, he would forthwith be in heaven; since
the kingdom of heaven, as Christ says, is within us. [Luke 17:21]
For to have faith is to have the Word and truth of God; and to
have the Word of God is to have God Himself, the Maker of all. If
these blessings, in all their fulness, were discovered to the
soul, straightway it would be released from the body, for the
exceeding abundance of sweet pleasure. Wherefore, of a truth, all
the other blessings which we have mentioned are but as the
monitors of those blessings which we have within, and which God
would by than commend unto us. For this life of ours could not
endure to have than revealed, but God mercifully keeps them
hidden, until they have reached their full measure. Even so
loving parents give their children foolish little toys, in order
thereby to lead them on to look for better things.

Nevertheless, these blessings show themselves at times, and break
out of doors, when the happy conscience rejoices in its trust to
Godward, is fain to speak of Him, hears His Word with pleasure,
and is quick to serve Him, to do good and suffer evil. All these
are the evidence of that infinite and incomparable blessing
hidden within, which sends forth such little drops and tiny
rills. Still, it is sometimes more fully revealed to
contemplative souls, who then are rapt away thereby, and know not
where they are; as is confessed by St. Augustine and his
mother,[42] and by many others.




Those who are not Christians will find small comfort, amid their
evils, in the contemplation of future blessings; since for them
all these things are uncertain. Although much ado is made here by
that famous emotion called hope, by which we call on each other,
in words of human comfort, to look for better times, and
continually plan greater things for the uncertain future, yet are
always deceived. Even as Christ teaches concerning the man in
the Gospel, Luke xii, who said to his soul, "I will pull down my
barns, and build greater; and will say to my soul, Soul, thou
hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat,
drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night
thy soul shall be required of thee; and then whose shall those
things be which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up
treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." [Luke 12:18

Nevertheless, God has not so utterly forsaken the sons of men
that He will not grant them some measure of comfort in this hope
of the passing of evil and the coming of good things. Though they
are uncertain of the future, yet they hope with certain hope, and
hereby they are meanwhile buoyed up, lest falling into the
further evil of despair, they should break down under their
present evil, and do some worse thing.[43] Hence, even this sort
of hope is the gift of God; not that He would have them lean on
it, but that He would turn their attention to that firm hope,
which is in Him alone. For He is so long-suffering that He
leadeth them to repentance, as it is said in Romans ii, and
suffers none to be straightway deceived by this deceitful hope,
if haply they may "return to the heart," [44] and come to the true

But Christians have, beside this twofold blessing,[45] the very
greatest future blessings certainly awaiting them; yet only
through death and suffering. Although they, too, rejoice in that
common and uncertain hope that the evil of the present will come
to an end, and that its opposite, the blessing, will increase;
still, that is not their chief concern, but rather this, that
their own particular blessing should increase, which is the truth
as it is in Christ, in which they grow from day to day, and for
which they both live and hope. But beside this they have, as I
have said, the two greatest future blessings in their death. The
first, in that through death the whole tragedy of this world's
ills is brought to a close; as it is written, "Precious in the
sight of the Lord is the death of His saints"; [Ps. 116:15] and
again, "I will lay me down in peace and sleep"; [Ps. 4:8] and
"Though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be at
rest." [Wisd. 4:7] But to the ungodly death is the beginning of
evils; as it is said, "The death of the wicked is very evil,"
[Ps. 34:21] and, "Evil shall catch the unjust man unto
destruction." [46] [Ps. 140:11] Even so Lazarus, who received his
evil things in his lifetime, is comforted, while the rich glutton
is tormented, because he received his good things here. [Luke
16:25] So that it is always well with the Christian, whether he
die or live; so blessed a thing is it to be a Christian and to
believe in Christ. Wherefore Paul says, "To me to live is Christ,
and to die is gain," [Phil. 1:21] and, in Romans xiv, "Whether we
live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the
Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
[Rom. 14:8 f.] This security Christ hath won for us by His death
and rising again, that He might be Lord of both the living and
dead, able to keep us safe in life and in death; as Psalm xxii.
saith, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." [Ps. 23:4] If this
gain of death move us but little, it is proof that our faith in
Christ is feeble, and does not prize highly enough the reward and
gain of a blessed death, or does not yet believe that death is a
blessing; because the old man is still too much alive in us, and
the wisdom of the flesh too strong. We should, therefore,
endeavor to attain to the knowledge and the love of this blessing
of death. It is a great thing that death, which is to others the
greatest of evils, is made to us the greatest gain. And unless
Christ had obtained this for us, what bad He done that was worthy
of the great price He paid, namely, His own self? It is indeed a
divine work that He wrought, and none need wonder, therefore,
that He made the evil of death to be something that is very good.
[Gen. 1:31]

Death, then, to believers is already dead, and hath nothing
terrible behind its grinning mask. Like unto a slain serpent, it
hath indeed its former terrifying appearance, but it is only the
appearance; in truth it is a dead evil, and harmless enough. Nay,
as God commanded Moses to lift up a serpent of brass, at sight of
which the living serpents perished, [Num. 21:8 f.] even so our
death dies in the believing contemplation of the death of Christ,
and now hath but the outward appearance of death. With such fine
similitudes the mercy of God prefigures to us, in our infirmity,
this truth, that though death would not be taken away, He yet has
reduced its power to a mere shadow. [Matt. 9:24] For this reason
it is called in the Scriptures a "sleep" rather than death. [1
Thess. 4:13 ff.]

The other blessing of death is this, that it not only concludes
the pains and evils of this life, but (which is more excellent)
makes an end of sins and vices. And this renders death far more
desirable to believing souls, as I have said above,[47] than the
former blessing; since the evils of the soul, which are its sins,
are beyond comparison worse evils than those of the body. This
alone, did we but know it, should make death most desirable. But
if it does not, it is a sign that we neither feel nor hate our
sin as we should. For this our life is so full of perils--sin,
like a serpent, besetting us on every side--and it is impossible
for us to live without sinning; but fairest death delivers us
from these perils, and cuts our sin clean away from us.
Therefore, the praise of the just man, in Wisdom iv, concludes on
this wise: "He pleased God, and was taken away, and was beloved
of Him: so that living among sinners he was translated. Yea,
speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his
understanding, or deceit beguile his soul. For the bewitching of
naughtiness doth obscure things that are honest; and the
wandering of concupiscence doth undermine the simple mind (O how
constantly true is this!). He, being made perfect in a short
time, fulfilled a long time; for his soul pleased the Lord:
therefore hasted He to take him away from the wicked." [Wisd.

Thus, by the mercy of God, death, which was to man the punishment
for his sin, is made unto the Christian the end of sin, and the
beginning of life and righteousness. Wherefore, he that loves
life and righteousness must not hate, but love sin, their
minister and workshop; else he will never attain to either life
or righteousness. But he that is not able to do this, let him
pray God to enable him. For to this end are we taught to pray,
"Thy will be done," [Matt. 6:10] because we cannot do it of
ourselves, since through fear of death we love death and sin
rather than life and righteousness. And that God appointed death
for the putting to death of sin, may be gathered also from the
fact that He imposed death upon Adam immediately after his sin;
and that before He drove him out of paradise; in order to show us
that death should bring us no evil, but every blessing, since it
was imposed in paradise, as a penance and satisfaction.[48] For
it is true that, through the envy of the devil, death altered
into the world; [Wisd. 2:24] but it is of the Lord's surpassing
goodness that, after having thus entered in, it is not permitted
to harm us very much, but is taken captive from the very
beginning, and set to be the punishment and death of sin.

This He signified when, after having in His commandment foretold
the death of Adam, [Gen. 2:17] He did not afterward hold His
peace, but imposed death anew, and tempered the severity of His
commandment, nay. He did not so much as mention death with a
single syllable, but said only, "Dust thou art, and unto dust
shalt thou return" [Gen. 3:19]; and, "Until thou return unto the
ground, from whence thou wast taken"--as if He then so bitterly
hated death that He would not deign to call it by its name,
according to the word, "Wrath is in His indignation; and life in
His good will." [49] [Ps. 30:5] Thus He seemed to say that, unless
death had been necessary to the abolishing of sin, He would not
have been willing to know it nor to name it, much less to impose
it. And so, against sin, which wrought death, the zeal of God
arms none other than this very death again; so that you may here
see exemplified the poet's line,[50]

    By his own art the artist perisheth.

Even so sin is destroyed by its own fruit, and is slain by the
death which it brought forth;[51] as a viper is slain by its own
offering. This is a brave spectacle, to see how death is
destroyed, not by another's work, but by its own; is stabbed with
its own weapon, and, like Goliath, is beheaded with its own
sword. [1 Sam. 17:51] For Goliath also was a type of sin, a giant
terrible to all save the young lad David--that is Christ,--who
single-handed laid him low, and having cut off his head with his
own sword, said afterward that there was no better sword than the
sword of Goliath (I. Samuel xxi). [1 Sam. 21:9]

Therefore, if we meditate on these joys of the power Christ, and
these gifts of His grace, how can any small evil distress us, the
while we see such blessings in this great evil that is to come!




The consideration of this image is not difficult, in view of its
counterpart, of the past evils;[52] we would, however, aid him
who undertakes it. Here St. Augustine shows himself an excellent
master, in his Confessions, in which he gives a beautiful
rehearsal of the benefits of God toward him from his mother's
womb.[52] The same is done in that fine Psalm cxxxvii, 'Lord,
Thou hast searched me," [Ps. 139:2] where the Psalmist, marveled
among other things at the goodness of God toward him, says, "Thou
understandest my thoughts afar off, Thou compassest my path and
my lying down." Which is as though he said, Whatever I have
thought or done, whatever I shall achieve and possess, I see now
that it is not the result of my industry, but was ordered long
ago by Thy care. "And there is no speech in my tongue."[54] Where
is it then? In Thy power.

We learn this from our own experience. For if we reflect on our
past life, is it not a wonder that we thought, desired, did and
said that which we were not able to foresee? How far different
our course would have been, had we been left to our own free
will! Now only do we understand it, and see how constantly God's
present care and providence were over us, so that we could
neither think nor speak nor will anything except as He gave us
leave. As it is said in Wisdom vii, "In His hands are both we and
our words"; [Wisd. 7:16] and by Paul, "Who worketh all in all."
[1 Cor. 12:6] Ought not we, insensate and hard of heart, to bang
our heads in shame, when we learn from our own experience how our
Lord hath cared for us unto this hour, and given us every
blessing? And yet we cannot commit our care to Him in a small
present evil, and act as if He had forsaken us, or ever could
forsake us! Not so the Psalmist, in Psalm xxxix, "I am poor and
needy; yet the Lord thinketh on me." [Ps. 40:17] On which St.
Augustine has this comment: "Let Him care for thee, Who made
thee. He Who cared for thee before thou wast, how shall He not
care for thee now thou art that which He willed thee to be?" [55]
But we divide the kingdom with God; to Him we grant (and even
that but grudgingly) that He hath made us, but to ourselves we
arrogate the care over ourselves; as though He had made us, and
then straightway departed, and left the government of ourselves
in our own hands.

But if our wisdom and foresight blind us to the care that God
hath over us, because perchance many things have fallen out
according to our plans, let us turn again, with Psalm cxxxviii,
and look in upon ourselves. "My substance was not hid from Thee
when I was made in secret"--that is, Thou didst behold and didst
fashion my bones in my mother's womb, when as yet I was not, and
my mother knew not what was forming in her;--"and my substance
was curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth"--that is,
even the form and fashion of my body in the secret chambers of
the womb were not hidden from Thee, for Thou wast fashioning it.
What does the Psalmist intend with such words but to show us by
this marvelous illustration how God hath always been caring for
us without our help! For who can boast that he took any part in
his formation in the womb? Who gave to our mother that loving
care wherewith she fed and fondled and caressed us, and performed
all those duties of motherhood, when we had as yet no
consciousness of our life, and when we should neither know nor
remember these things, but that, seeing the same things done to
others, we believe that they were done to us also? For they were
performed on us as though we had been asleep, nay dead, or rather
not yet born, so far as our knowledge of them is concerned.

Thus we see how the divine mercies and consolations bear us up,
without our doing. And still we doubt, or even despair, that He
is caring for us to-day. If this experience does not instruct and
move one, I know not what will. For we have it brought home to us
again and again, in every little child we meet; so that so many
examples proposed to our foolishness and hardness of heart may
well fill us with deep shame, if we doubt that the slightest
blessing or evil can come to us without the particular care of
God. Thus St Peter says, "Casting all your care upon Him, because
He careth for you." [1 Pet. 5:7] And Psalm xxxvi, "Cast thy
burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee." [Ps. 37:5] And
St. Augustine, in the Confessions,[56] addresses his soul on this
wise: "Why dost thou stand upon thyself, and dost not stand? Cast
thyself on Him; for He will not withdraw His hand and let thee
fall." Again, we read in I. Peter iv, "Wherefore let them that
suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their
souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator." [1 Pet.

O could a man attain unto such a knowledge of his God, how
safely, how quietly, how joyfully, would he fare! He would in
truth have God on his side, knowing this of a certainty, that all
his fortunes, whatever they might be, had come to him, and still
were coming, under the guidance of His most sweet will. The word
of Peter stands firm, "He careth for you." [1 Pet. 5:7] What
sweeter sound than this word can we hear! Therefore, he says,
"Cast all your care upon Him." If we do this not, but rather take
our care upon ourselves, what is this but to seek to binder the
care of God, and, besides, to make our life a life of sorrow and
labor, troubled with many fears and cares and much unrest! And
all to no avail; for we accomplish nothing good thereby, but, as
the Preacher saith, it is vanity of vanities, and vexation of
spirit. [Eccl. 1:2,14] Indeed, that whole book treats of this
experience, as written by one who for himself made trial of many
things, and found them all only weariness, vanity and vexation of
spirit, so that he concludes it is a gilt of God that a man may
eat and drink and live joyfully with his wife, i. e., when he
passes his days without anxiety, and commits his care to God.
Therefore, we ought to have no other care for ourselves than
this, namely, not to care for ourselves, and rob God of His care
for us.

Whatever remains to be said, will easily be gathered from the
corresponding image of evils, as I have said,[57] and from the
contemplation of one's past life.




Thus far we have considered the blessings which are ours, and are
found within ourselves; let us now turn to those blessings that
are without us, and are found in others. The first of these is
found in those who are beneath us, that is, the dead and damned.
Do you wonder what kind of blessing can be discovered in the dead
and damned? But the power of the divine goodness is everywhere so
great that it grants us to descry blessings in the very greatest
evils. Comparing, then, these poor wretches, first of all, with
ourselves, we see how unspeakable is our gain; as may be gathered
from the corresponding image of evils.[58] For great as are the
evils of death and hell that we see in them, so great certainly
are the gains that we behold in ourselves. These things are not
to be lightly passed over, for they forcibly commend to us the
magnificent mercy of God. And we run the danger, if we lightly
esteem them, of being found ungrateful, and of being condemned
together with these men, and even more cruelly tormented.
Therefore, when we perceive how they suffer and wail aloud, we
ought so much the more to rejoice in the goodness of God toward
us; according to Isaiah lxv: "Behold, my servants shall eat, but
ye shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall
be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be
ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye
shall cry for sorrow of heart; and shall howl for vexation of
spirit. And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my
chosen." [Isa. 65:13 ff.] In short, as I have said,[59] the
examples of those who die in their sins and are damned are
profitable unto us for admonition and instruction, as St. Gregory
also observes in his Dialogues;[60] so that

    Happy are they who caution gain
    From that that which caused another's pain.

This blessing, indeed, affects us but little, because it is so
common and well known; nevertheless, it is to be ranked among the
very highest blessings, and is comforted of no slight value by
those who have an understanding heart; and many are the passages
of Scripture that bear upon it, those, namely, which treat of the
wrath, the judgments, and the threatenings of God. These most
wholesome teachings are confirmed to us by the examples of those
wretched men; and their examples only then have their effect on
us, when we enter into the feelings of them that endure such
things, and put ourselves as it were in their very place. Then
will they move and admonish us to praise the goodness of God, Who
has preserved us from those evils.

But let us also compare them with God, that we may see the divine
justice in their case. Although this is a difficult task, yet it
must be essayed. Now, since God is a just Judge, we must love and
laud His justice, and thus rejoice in our God, even when He
miserably destroys the wicked, in body and soul; for in all this
His high, unspeakable justice shines forth. And so even hell, no
less than heaven, is full of God and the highest good. For the
justice of God is God Himself; and God is the highest good.
Therefore, even as His mercy, so must His justice or judgment be
loved, praised, and glorified above all things. In this sense
David says, "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the
vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked."
[Ps. 58:10] It was for this reason that the Lord forbade Samuel
to mourn any longer for Saul (I. Samuel xvi), saying, "How long
wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from
reigning over Israel?" [1 Sam. 16:1] As who should say, "Does My
will so sorely displease thee, that thou preferrest the will of
man to Me?" In short, this is the voice of praise and joy
resounding through the whole Psalter,--that the Lord is the judge
of the widow, and a father of the fatherless; that He will
maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor;
that His enemies all be confounded, and the ungodly shall perish;
[Ps. 68:5, 149:12] and many similar sayings. Should any one be
inclined, in foolish pity, to feel compassion for that bloody
generation, that killeth the prophets, yea, the Son of God
Himself, and for the company of wicked men, he will be found
rejoicing in their iniquity, and approving their deeds. Such a
one deserves to perish in like manner with them whose sins he
would condone, and will hear the word, "Thou lovest thine
enemies, and hatest thy friends." [2 Sam. 19:6] For thus Joab
said unto David, when he grieved too sorely over his impious and
murderous son.

Therefore, in this image, we ought to rejoice in the piety of all
the saints, and in the justice of God which justly punishes the
persecutors of their piety, that He may deliver His elect out of
their hands. And so you may see no small blessings, but the very
greatest, shining forth in the dead and damned; even the avenging
of the injuries of the saints, and of your own as well, if you be
righteous with them. What wonder, then, if God, by means of your
present evil, should take vengeance also on your enemy, that is,
the sin in your body! You ought the rather to rejoice in this
work of the high justice of God, which, even without your prayer,
is thus slaying and destroying your fiercest foe, namely, the sin
that is within you. But, should you feel pity for it, you will be
found a friend of sin, and an enemy to the justice that worketh
in you. Of this beware; lest it be said also to you, "Thou lovest
thine enemies, and hatest thy friends." Therefore, as you ought
joyfully to consent to the justice of God when it rages against
your sin, you should do even the same when it rages against
sinners, those enemies of all men and of God. You see, then,
that in the greatest evils may be found the greatest blessings,
and that we are able to rejoice in these evils, not on account of
the evils themselves, but on account of the supreme goodness of
the justice of God our Avenger.




Here are our adversaries who are yet in this life; for in the
foregoing image we considered those who are already damned and
given over to devils. These we must regard with other feelings,
and find in them a twofold blessing. The first is this, that
they abound in temporal goods, so that even the prophets were
well nigh moved to envy thereby; as we read in Psalm lxii, "But
as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh
slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the
prosperity of the wicked" [Ps. 73:2 f.]; and again, "Behold,
these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in
riches." [Ps. 73:12] And Jeremiah says, "Righteous art Thou, O
Lord, when I plead with Thee: yet let me talk with Thee of Thy
judgments: wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?
Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?" [Jer.
12:1] Why does He lavish and waste so many blessings upon them
except to comfort us thereby, and make us to know how good He is
to "such as are of a clean heart"? as it is said in that same
Psalm lxxii. If He is so good to the wicked, how good will He not
be to the good? [Ps. 73:1] Except that He does not vex the wicked
with any evil, yet afflicts the good with many evils, in order
that they may acknowledge His goodness to them not only in the
present blessings, but even in those that are hidden and yet to
come, and that they may say, with the same Psalmist, "But it is
good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord
God." [Ps. 73:28] Which is as though he said. Even though I
suffer certain things, from which I see that those men are free,
nevertheless I trust that God is far more good to me than He is
to them. Thus the blessings which we see the wicked enjoy become
to us an incentive to hope for those blessings which are not
seen, and to despise the evils which we suffer. Even as Christ,
in Matthew vi, bids us behold the foul of the air and the lilies
of the field, saying, "Wherefore if God so clothe the grass,
which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He
not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" [Matt. 6:26 ff.]
Hence, by this comparison of the blessings in which the wicked
abound with the evils that we suffer, our faith is exercised, and
our consolation is placed in God alone, which is the only holy
consolation. So doth He make all things work together for good
unto His saints. [Rom. 8:28]

The other blessing, which is more marvelous, is this, that the
evils of our adversaries become blessings to us, under the
providence of God. For though their sins are a stumbling-block to
the weak, to such as are strong they are an exercise of virtue,
and an opportunity for conflict and the amassing of greater
merit.[61] For, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for
when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life." [Jas.
1:12] What greater temptation can there be than a host of evil
examples? For this reason, indeed, the world is called one of the
enemies of God's saints, because with its allurements and ungodly
works it incites, provokes, and entices us from the way of God to
its own way. As we read in Genesis vi, "The sons of God saw the
daughters of men, that they were fair, and they were made flesh."
[Gen. 6:2,3] And in Numbers xxv, "The people of Israel began to
commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab." [Num. 25:1] So it is
good for us to be always oppressed with some trouble or other,
that we may not, in our weakness, stumble at the offences of the
world, and fall into sin. Thus Lot is praised by Peter, in II.
Peter ii., because he suffered many things because of the evil
example of the people of Sodom, so that he made progress thereby
in his righteousness. [2 Pet. 2:8] It must needs be that these
offences come, which furnish us an occasion for conflict and for
victory; but woe unto the world because of offences! [Matt. 18:7]
But if God procures us such great blessings in the sins of
others, should we not with our whole heart believe that He will
work, us much greater blessings in our own troubles; even though
our flesh and blood judge it to be otherwise!

Nor does the world confer a smaller blessing on us from another
side of its evils; namely, its adversities. For, when it is
unable to swallow us up with its allurements, and through its
offences to make us one with itself, it endeavors through
sufferings to drive us out, and through pains to cast us forth;
always laying snares for us by the example of its sins, or else
visiting its fury upon us through the torment of its pains. This
is indeed that fabled monster, Chimaera,[62] with the head of a
maiden, seductive, the body of a lion, cruel, and the tail of a
serpent, deadly. For the end of the world, both of its pleasures
and its tyranny, is poison and death everlasting. Hence, even as
God grants us to find our blessings in the sins of the world, so
also its persecutions, that they may not remain fruitless and in
vain, are appointed unto us to increase our blessings; so that
the very things that work us harm are turned to our profit. As
St. Augustine says, concerning the innocents slain by Herod,
"Never could he have done them so much good with his favor as he
did with his hatred." And St. Agatha,[63] the blessed martyr,
went to prison as to a banquet chamber; "for," said she, "except
thou cause my body to be well broken by thy executioners, my soul
will not be able to enter paradise, bearing the victor's palm;
even as a grain of wheat, except it be stript of its husk, and
well beaten on the threshing-floor, is not gathered into the

But why waste words here, when we see the whole of the
Scriptures, the writings and sayings of all the Fathers, and the
lives and acts of all the saints, agreeing together in this
matter; namely, that they who bring the most harm upon believers
are their greatest benefactors, if only we bear with them in the
right spirit. As St. Peter says, "And who is he that will harm
you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" [1 Pet. 3:13] And
Psalm lxxxviii, "The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son
of wickedness afflict him." [Ps. 89:22] How is it that he shall
not harm us, seeing that oftentimes he even kills us? Because,
forsooth, in harming us he is working us the very greatest gain.
[Rom. 8:36] Thus we find ourselves every way dwelling in the
midst of blessings, if we are wise, and yet, at the same time,
also in the midst of evils. So wondrously are all things tempered
together under the rule of the goodness of God.




This is the Church of the saints, the new creation of God, our
brethren and our friends, in whom we see naught but blessing,
naught but consolation; not, indeed, always with the eyes of the
flesh (to which they would appear to belong rather under the
corresponding image of evils),[64] but with the eyes of the
spirit Nevertheless, we must not disregard even those blessings
of theirs which may be seen, but rather learn from them how God
would comfort us. For even the Psalmist did not venture, in Psalm
lxxii, to condemn all those who amass riches in this world, but
said, "If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend
against the generation of Thy children." [Ps. 73:15] That is to
say, If I should call all men wicked who possess riches, health,
and honor, I should be condemning even Thy saints, of whom there
are many such. Paul also instructs Timothy to charge them that
are rich in this world, that they be not high minded;[1 Tim.
6:17] but he does not forbid them to be rich. And Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob were rich men, as the Scriptures record. Daniel,
also, and his companions were raised to honor even in Babylon.
[Dan. 2:48 f.] Moreover many of the kings of Judah were saintly
men. It is with regard to such persons that the Psalmist says,
"If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the
generation of Thy children." [Ps. 73:15] God gives, even to His
people, an abundance of these blessings, for their own comfort,
and the comfort of others. Still, these things are not their
proper blessings, but only shadows and emblems of their true
blessings, which consist in faith, hope, love, and other gifts
and graces, which love communicates to all.

This is the communion of saints, in which we glory. And whose
heart will not be lifted up, even in the midst of great evils,
when he believes that which is indeed the very truth; namely,
that the blessings of all the saints are his blessings, and that
his evil is also theirs! For this is the sweet and pleasant
picture which the Apostle Paul depicts, in Galatians vi, "Bear ye
one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." [Gal.
6:21] Is it not a blessing to be in such a company in which,
"whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or
one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it"? [1 Cor.
12:26] as it is said in I. Corinthians vi[65]. Therefore, when I
suffer, I suffer not alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer
with me; as He saith, "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple
of My eye." [Zach. 2:8] Even so others bear my burden, and their
strength becomes my own. The Church's faith supports my
fearfulness, the chastity of others bears the temptations of my
flesh, the fastings of others are my gain, the prayer of another
pleads for me. In short, such care have the members one for
another, that the comely parts cover, serve, and honor the
uncomely; as it is beautifully set forth in I. Corinthians
vi.[65] others as though they were my own; and they are truly my
own when I find joy and pleasure therein. Let me, then, be base
and vile; yet they whom I love and admire are fair and beautiful.
And by my love I make not only their blessings, but their very
selves my own; so that by their honor my shame is made honorable,
by their abundance my poverty is filled, by their merits my sins
are healed. Who, then, could despair in his sins? Who would not
rejoice in his pains? For it is not he that bears his sins and
pains; or if he does bear them, he bears them not alone, but is
assisted by so many holy sons of God, yea, even by Christ
Himself. So great a thing is the communion of saints, and the
Church of Christ.[66]

If any one does not believe this, he is an infidel, and has
denied Christ and the Church. For even if it should not be
perceived yet it is true; but who could fail to perceive it? For
why is it that you do not sink in despair, or grow impatient? Is
it your strength? Nay: it is the communion of saints. Otherwise
you could not bear even a venial sin,[67] nor endure a word of
man against you. So close to you are Christ and the Church. It is
this that we confess in the Creed, "I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy Catholic[68] Church." What is it to believe in the holy
Church but to believe in the communion of saints. But what things
have the saints in common? Blessings, forsooth, and evils; all
things belong to all; as the Sacrament of the Altar signifies, in
the bread and wine, where we are all said by the Apostle to be
one body, one bread, one cup.[69][1 Cor. 10:17] For who can hurt
any part of the body without hurting the whole body? What pain
can we feel in the tip of the toe that is not felt in the whole
body? Or what honor can be shown to the feet in which the whole
body will not rejoice? But we are one body. Whatever another
suffers, that I suffer and bear; whatever good befalls him,
befalls me. So Christ says that whatsoever is done unto one of
the least of His brethren, is done unto Him. If a man partake of
the smallest fragment of the bread of the altar, is he not said
to have partaken of the bread? If he despise one crumb of it, is
he not said to have despised the bread?

When we, therefore, feel pain, when we suffer, when we die, let
us turn hither our eyes,[70] and firmly believe and be sure that
it is not we, or we alone, but that Christ and the Church are in
pain, are suffering, are dying with us. For Christ would not have
us go alone into the valley of death, from which all men shrink
in fear; but we set out upon the way of pain and death attended
by the whole Church, and the Church bears the brunt of it all.
Therefore, we can with truth apply to ourselves the words of
Elisha, which he spake to his timid servant, "Fear not: for they
that be with us a remote than they that be with them. And Elisha
prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may
see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw:
and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire
round about Elisha." [2 Kings 6:16 f.] This one thing remains for
us also; namely, to pray that our eyes may be opened (I mean the
eyes of our faith), that we may see the Church round about us.
Then there will be nothing for us to fear; as it is said also in
Psalm cxxiv, "Mountains are round about it: so the Lord is round
about His people from henceforth now and for ever." [Ps.




I do not now speak of the eternal blessings of Heaven, which the
blessed enjoy in the perfect vision of God; or father, I do speak
of them in faith, and in so far as they some within our
comprehension. For this seventh image is Jesus Christ, the King
of glory, rising from the dead; even as, in His Passion and
death. He formed the seventh image of evils.[72] Here there is
nothing at all of evil; for "Christ, being risen from the dead,
dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." [Rom. 6:9]
Here is that furnace of love and fire of God in Zion; [Isa. 31:9]
as Isaiah saith. For Christ is not only born unto us, but He is
also given unto us. [Isa. 9:6] Therefore, His resurrection, and
all that He wrought by it, are mine, and, as the Apostle exults
in exuberant joy, "how hath [73] He not also, with Him, given us
all things?" But what is it that He hath wrought by His
resurrection? Why, He hath destroyed sin and brought
righteousness to light, abolished death and restored life,
conquered hell and bestowed on us everlasting glory. These are
such inestimably precious blessings that the mind of man dare
scarce believe that they have become ours; as it was with Jacob,
in Genesis xlv, who, when he heard that his son Joseph was ruler
in Egypt, was like one awakened out of deep slumber, and believed
them not, until, after telling him all the words of Joseph, they
showed him the wagons that Joseph had sent. [Gen 45:26 ff.] So
difficult, indeed, would it be for us to believe that in Christ
such great blessings have been conferred on us unworthy
creatures, did He not teach us to believe it, with many words,
and by the evidence of our own experience; even as He manifested
Himself to His disciples[74] in divers appearances. [Acts 1:3]
Such are our "Joseph's wagons." This is indeed a most godly
"wagon," that He is made unto us of God righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption, and wisdom; [1 Cor. 1:30] as the
Apostle saith in I. Corinthians i. For, I am a sinner; yet am I
drawn in His righteousness, which is given me. I am unclean; but
His holiness is my sanctification, in which I pleasurably tide. I
am an ignorant fool; but His wisdom carries me forward. I have
deserved condemnation; but I am set free by His redemption, a
wagon in which I sit secure. So that a Christian, if he but
believe it, may boast of the merits of Christ and all His
blessings, even as if he had won them all himself. So truly are
they his own, that he may even dare to look boldly forward to the
judgment of God, unbearable though it be. So great a thing is
faith, such blessings does it bring us, such glorious sons of God
does it make us. For we cannot be sons without inheriting our
Father's goods. Let the Christian say, then, with full
confidence: "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy
sting? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the
law. But thanks be to God,[75] which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Cor. 15:55 ff.] That is to
say, the law makes us sinners, and sin makes us guilty of death.
Who hath conquered these twain? Was it our righteousness, or our
life? Nay: it was Jesus Christ, rising from the dead, condemning
sin and death, bestowing on us His merits, and holding His hand
over us. And now it is well with us, we keep the law, and
vanquish sin and death. For all which be honor, praise, and
thanksgiving unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

This, then, is the highest image of all, in which we are lifted
up, not only above our evils, but above our blessings as well,
and are set down amid strange blessings, brought together by
another's labor; whereas we formerly lay among evils, heaped up
by another's sin,[76] and added to by our own. We are set down, I
say, in Christ's righteousness, with which He Himself is
righteous; because we cling to that righteousness by which He is
well pleasing to God, intercedes for us as our Mediator, and
gives Himself wholly to be our own, as our High-Priest and
Protector. Therefore, as it is impossible that Christ, with His
righteousness, should not please God, so it is impossible that we
should not please Him. Hence it comes that a Christian is
almighty, lord of all,[77] having all things, and doing all
things, wholly without sin. And even if he have sins, they can in
no wise harm him, but are forgiven for the sake of the
inexhaustible righteousness of Christ that swalloweth up all
sins, on which our faith relies, firmly trusting that He is such
a Christ unto us as we have described. But if any one does not
believe this, he hears the tale with deaf ears,[78] and does not
know Christ, and understands neither what blessings He hath nor
how they may be enjoyed.

Therefore, if we considered it aright and with attentive hearts,
this image alone would suffice to fill us with so great comfort
that we should not only not grieve over our evils, [Rom. 5:3] but
even glory in our tribulations, nay, scarcely feel them, for the
joy that we have in Christ. In which glorying may Christ Himself
instruct us, our Lord and God, blessed for evermore. Amen. [Rom.


With these prattlings of mine, Most Illustrious Prince, in token
of my willingness to serve your Lordship to the best of my poor
ability, I commend myself to your Illustrious Lordship, being
ready to bring a worthier offering, if ever my mental powers
shall equal my desires. For I shall always remain a debtor to
every neighbor of mine, but most of all to your Lordship, whom
may our Lord Jesus Christ, in His merciful kindness, long
preserve to us, and at last by a blessed death take home to
Himself. Amen.

Your Most Illustrious Lordship's
        Brother Martin Luther,
            _Augustinian at Wittenberg._


[1] Written by Luther for the last edition of 1535.

[2] Compare to the Preface to the Complete Works (1545), page 11
of this volume.

[3] _Antilogistae_; the hunters of contradictions and
inconsistencies in Luther's writings, such as John Faber, who
published, in 1530, his _Antilogiarum Mart. Lutheri Babylonia._
Compare also reference in preceding note.

[4] As over against Christ and the saints in His train, the devil
and his followers are represented here, as frequently in Luther,
under the figure of a dragon with a scaly tail.

[5] Omitted, through on oversight, from the Latin _editio
princeps_. See Introduction, p. 105.

[6] On the political influence of Frederick, as a factor in the
German Reformation, see Hermelink, _Reformation und
Gegenreformation_ (Krüger's _Handbuch der Kirchengeschicte_, 3.
Teil), p. 67.

[7] _Tessaradecas_.

[8] See Introduction, pp. 106 f.

[9] In the body of the work Luther places (6) between (3) and

[10] A reminiscence of Luther's childhood?

[11] Luther has particular reference to the Elector's high rank.

[12] Luther follows the Vulgate numbering of the Psalms, which
differs from the Hebrew (and the English and German). As far as
Ps. 8 both agree; but the Vulgate (following the Greek version)
counts Ps. 9 and 10 as one, thus dropping behind one in the
numbering. But it divides Ps. 147 into two; vv. 1-11 being
counted as Ps. 146, and vv. 12-20 as Ps. 147; and so both
versions agree again from Ps. 148 to 150.

[13] Job calls it a "warfare" (militia).

[14] Luther harks back to his discussion of this point in the
Preface, p. 113.

[15] Particular reference to the Elector.

[16] See pp. 147 ff.

[17] _Cypr. de mortal_. c. V.

[18] Vulgate reading.

[19] See pp. 149 f.

[20] From the Vulgate.

[21] Luther is probably thinking of his own experience, when,
near Erfurt, he came near bleeding to death from an injury to his
ankle. See Köstlin-Kawerau, _Martin Luther_, I, 44.

[22] Luther no longer held this view of "satisfaction" in 1535.
See also pp. 150 and 161.

[23] Luther is thinking here specifically of the Elector.

[24] He means the communion of saints. See next chapter.

[25] According to the Vulgate (Douay Version).

[26] August 29th. See Introduction, p. 105.

[27] Cf. _A Discussion of Confession_, above, p. 82.

[28] Luther might have considerably revised this whole paragraph.

[29] This seems to refer to the writers of the Holy Scriptures.

[30] A reference to the threefold baptism, commonly accepted,
viz., (1) _fluminia_, (2) _flaminis_, (3) _sanguinis_; that is,
(1) the Sacrament of baptism, (2) the baptism of the Spirit, or
repentance, (3) the baptism of blood, or martyrdom. Cf. PRE3,
XIX, 414.

[31] Frederick the Wise was a pious collector of relics, having
5005 of them in the Castle Church at Wittenberg. They had
something to do with Luther's choice of October 31st as the date
of the posting of the XCV Theses. See Introduction to the Theses,
p. 16 of this volume, note 1.

[32] Cf. Letter to George Leiffer, 15 April, 1516. See M. A.
Cueriz, _The Letters of M. Luther_, p. 7.

[33] i. e., The sign of the cross.

[34] As much as, "We are in for a bad hour," and, "A good hour is
worth a bad hour."

[35] See p. 134.

[36] In this passage "Wisdom" is the subject.

[37] In the _Sanctus_.

[38] See p. 118.

[39] Luther quotes a verse from Ps. 106, which sums up the
contents of Ps. 78.

[40] Luther uses _sensualitas_ the first time, and _sensus_ the

[41] See p.115.

[42] _The Confessions of St. Augustine_, Book IX, chapter 1.

[43] Luther is probably thinking of the sin of suicide.

[44] From the Vulgate (Douay Version).

[45] Namely, the hope of the passing evil and the coming of good
things. See above.

[46] The last two passages read thus in the Vulgate.

[47] See p. 122.

[48] Cf. p. 127, note.

[49] Thus the Vulgate.

[50] _Ovid, Ars amat._, I, 656.

[51] Cf. _Treatise on Baptism_, above, p. 66.

[52] See pp. 123 ff.

[53] _The Confessions of St. Augustine_, Book I, chap. vi.

[54] Thus the Vulgate.

[55] _Comm. in Ps. xxxix, No. 27_.

[56] Book VIII, chap. xi.

[57] See p. 152.

[58] See pp. 126 ff.

[59] See pp. 126 ff.

[60] _Gregor. dialogorum libri iv_, containing number of examples
of the terrible end of the wicked.

[61] One of the passages Luther did not care to correct. Compare
p. 127, note.

[62] Luther here unites the mythological figures of chimaera and

[63] An Italian saint whose festival is observed on February 5th,
whose worship flourishes especially in South Italy and Sicily,
and whose historical existence is doubtful.

[64] See pp. 133 ff.

[65] Luther has mistaken the chapter.

[66] For the various interpretations of the "communion of the
saints" among mediæval theologians, See Reinh. Seeberg, _Lehrbuch
der Dogmengeschichte_, 1st ed., vol. ii, p.127, note. Luther in
the _Sermon von dem hochwürdigen Sacrament des heiligen wahren
Leichnams Christi_ (1519), still accepts the phrase as meaning
the participation in the Sacrament, and through it the
participation in "the spiritual possessions of Christ and His
saints." In our treatise, it is taken as the definition of "the
holy Catholic Church," in the sense of a communion with the
saints. In _The Papacy at Rome_ (later in the same year), it
becomes the communion or community (consisting of saints, or
believers; as a _Gemeinde oder Sammlung._ Compare the classical
passage in the _Large Catechism_ (1529): "nicht _Gemenschaft_,
sondern _Gemeine_."

[67] See _A Discussion of Confession_, above, p. 88.

[68] Changed to "Christian" in the Catechisms (1529), although
the Latin translations retain _catholocism_.

[69] The Apostle does not say, "one cup."

[70] The translation here follows the reading of the _Jena Ed.
(huc feratur intuitus)_, as against that of the _Weimar_ and
_Erl. Edd. (huc foratur intutus)._

[71] Thus the Vulgate.

[72] See pp. 137 ff.

[73] Vulgate.

[74] Namely, after His resurrection.

[75] Compare the different form of this verse on p. 112.

[76] He means the sin of Adam.

[77] The germ of _The Liberty of a Christian Man_ (1520).

[78] Cf. Terence's _surdo narrare fabulam. Heauton.,_ 222.





1. The Occasion of the Work.--Luther did not impose himself as a
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,[1]

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, 1515, 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
speared 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_,[2] written in 1519 and printed in 1530, a book of
consolation, which was originally intended for the sick Elector
of Saxony, was written by him only upon solicitation from outside

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;[3] 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

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 Spatatin 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 gutenwerckenn: D. M. L.
Vuittenherg_. On the last page it bore the printer's mark:
_Getruck zu Wittenberg bey dem iungen Melchior Lotther. Im
Tausent funfhundert vnud zweynitzsgen 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
conolatoria_ to the reigning Prince,[4] 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 hugely 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

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. 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 one's particular calling, and all works, let the name be
what it may, become good only when they flow from faith, the
"first, greatest, and noble of good works." (John 6:19.)_ 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 well-pleasing to him; it
is trust in His mercy even though He appear 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 of 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 would 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 (1.
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 repeated 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 15.--that he believed it to be
better than anything he had heretofore written. His 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 3:13-35) 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

This preposition, 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 dear 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 lone 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 Wittenberg, 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 translation
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 indifference regarding the
works commanded of God, the foolish opinion, that the path of
works leads to God's grace end 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.


[1] (Enders, _Luther's Briefwechsel_, I, p. 29.) Luther here
writers: Learn Christ, dear Brother, learn Christ crucified;
learn to sing unto him and, despairing of self, to say: "Thou,
Lord Jesus art my righteousness, I, however, am Thy sin. Thou has
taken unto Thyself what was mine, and has given me what is
Thine." In this faith, receive the erring brethren, make their
sins your own, and if you have anything good, let it be theirs.

[2] Above, pp. 103-171.

[3] On Feb. 24, Luther answered Spalatin: _Die sermone bonorum
operum nibil memini; sed et tot jam edidi, ut periculum sit, ne
emtores tandem fatigam;_ but on Feb. 26, he wrote again: _Memoria
mihi rediit de operibus bonis sermone tractandis, in concione
scilicet id promisi; dabo operam, ut fiat._ (De Weite, _Luther's
Briefe_, I, p. 419, 421, 430 ff.)

[4] See Dedicatory Letter, above, p. 107.

[5] We mention but one of many testimonies. John Dietenberger in
his book, _Der leye. Obe der gelaub allein selig mache_, printed
in Strassburg 1523, says on leaf B26: "Faith is a gift of God,
which may appear bare or ornate; still it remains but one faith,
which, however, has another effect when ornate than when bare.
Ornate faith makes man a child of grace, an heir of the kingdom
of heaven and justified. Bare faith, however, does not separate
man from devils, helps not to the kingdom of heaven, and leads to
no justification."





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,[2]
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 any 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
simple-minded man is so easily misled that our Lord Christ has
commanded us to watch carefully for the sheep's clothing under
which the wolves hide themselves. [Matt. 7:15]

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[3] 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 benefited by this than by the
great, deep books and _quaestiones_[4], 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[5] itself--how we are daily to pray or recite

I humbly commend myself herewith to your princely Grace,

    Your Princely Grace's
        Humble Chaplain,
            Dr. Martin Luther.

From Wittenberg, March 39th, A.D. 1520.


[Sidenote: Faith and the Commandments]

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." [Matt. 19:17] 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. [Matt. 19:18 f.] 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.

[Sidenote: Faith the Best Work]

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." [John 6:28 f.] 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[6] 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.

[Sidenote: All Works done in Faith are Good]

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."
[Eccles. 9:7] "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." [John 8:29] 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." [1 John 3, 19 ff.] Again: "Whosoever is born of God, that
is, whoever believes and trusts God, doth not commit sin, and
cannot sin." [1 John 3, 9] Again, Psalm xxxiv: "None of them that
trust in Him shall do sin." [Ps. 34:22] And in Psalm ii: "Blessed
are all they that put their trust in Him." [Ps. 2:12] 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.

[Sidenote: Faith the Test of Good Works]

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. [1 Cor. 13:3]
This is the teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv: "Whatsoever is not
done of or in faith is sin." [Rom. 14:23] 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

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_[7] of it, [John 6:29] 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. [Matt. 15:14] 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 became of your good
works, but when you believed the Word of God." [Gal. 3:2]

[Sidenote: Faith makes all Works Equal]

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

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." [1 Sam. 10:6] 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," [1 Sam. 1:17 f.] that
is, whatever occurred, it was all one to her. St. Paul also says:
"Where the Spirit of Christ is, there all is free." [Rom. 8:2]
For faith does not permit itself to be bound to any work [1 Cor.
3:17], 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,"
[Ps. 1:3] that is, as as a matter of course.

[Sidenote: An Analogy]

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

[Sidenote: The First Stage of Faith: Works]

So a Christian who lives in this confidence toward God, 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,[8] to Rome, to Jerusalem, hither and
yon, prays St. Bridget's prayer[9] 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 _Aven
amal_ [Ps. 90:10], 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." [Wisd.
5:6 f.]

[Sidenote: The Second Stage of Faith: Sufferings]

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" [Song 2:9]; 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 casts
off men, but He does it not willingly." [Lam. 3:32]

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." [Ps. 116:13] And just as
the confident 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.

[Sidenote: The Highest Stage of Faith: Torments of Conscience]

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." [Ps. 6:1] 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;[10] 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.

[Sidenote: The Works Rejected]

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, [Lev.
11:4] 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. [Matt. 7:16] 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 excel sis
Deo_, Glory to God in the highest, peace to earth, gracious favor
to man." [Luke 2:14][11]

[Sidenote: The First Commandment]

[Sidenote: Its Work is Faith]

IX. Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which
commands: "Thou shalt have no other gods," went which means:
"Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust
and faith on Me alone, and on no one 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." [John 4:24] 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,[12] 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.

[Sidenote: All Works Without Faith are Idolatry]

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." [Matt. 7:15] 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" [Isa. 9:13]; 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.

[Sidenote: Faith Must Do all Works]

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," [Rom. 1:17] 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," [Rom. 3:8] 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.[13] 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[14] 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.

[Sidenote: Works and Faith Contrasted]

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" [Matt. 24:23]; 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." [John 4:21 f.]

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. [Isa. 65:3, 66:17] 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.

[Sidenote: The Abundance of Works Included in Faith]

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

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." [1 Cor. 10:31] Now it
cannot be done in this Name except it be done in this faith.
Likewise, Romans viii: "We know that all things work together for
good to the saints of God." [Rom. 8:26]

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.

[Sidenote: Why Laws are Given]

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.

[Sidenote: Four Kinds of Men]

But now there are four kinds of men: the first, just mentioned,
who need no law, of whom St. Paul says, I. Timothy "The law is
not made for a righteous man," [1 Tim. 1:9] that is, for the
believer, but believers of themselves do what they know and can
do, only because they finally 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," [1 Pet.
2:16] 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." [Gal. 5:13] 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." [Rom.
13:3 f.] 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.

[Sidenote: Charity Endures Unnecessary Works]

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." [Rom. 14:1] 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." [1 Cor. 9:20] 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 apiece of money; take that and give
it for me and thee." [Matt. 17:25]

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.[15]

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, have 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.

[Sidenote: The Contradiction of Faith and Daily Sins]

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 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." [1 John 2:1] And Wisdom xv: "For
if we sin, we are Thine, knowing Thy power." [Wis. 15:2] And
Proverbs xxiv: "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up
again." [Prov. 24:16] 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 no man living be justified"
[Ps. 143:2]; 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" [Ps.  26:3];
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" [Ps. 4:7]; 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 fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy."
[Ps. 147:11] 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.

[Sidenote: The Source of Faith]

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. Paid 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" [Rom. 5:8]; 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 what 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. [Deut. 32:13]

[Sidenote: The Second Commandment]

XVII. 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.

[Sidenote: The Second Commandment]

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

And although I have said above,[16] 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 [Rom. 12:4, 1 Cor.
12]; 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

[Sidenote: Its Positive Works]

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." [Ps. 51:15] Again: "My tongue
shall sing aloud of Thy mercy." [Ps. 51:14]

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."
[Ps. 84:4] So also David says in Psalm xxxiv: "God's praise shall
be continually in my mouth." [Ps. 34:1] And St. Paul, I.
Corinthians x: "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever
ye do, do all to the glory of God." [1 Cor. 10:31] 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."
[Col. 3:17] 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.

[Sidenote: The Praise of God]

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. [Luke 18:10 f.] 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. [Rom. 2:23] 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" [Is. 48:1]; 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.

[Sidenote: Avoiding the Praise of Self]

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
subtle, 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.

[Sidenote: The Seeking of Honor as a Motive for Good]

XXII. Some think it is good for young people that they be enticed
by reputation and honor, and again by shame 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, [Matt. 6:2] 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 ensure 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.

[Sidenote: The Need and the Danger of a Good Name]

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." [Rom. 12:17] And II.
Corinthians iv: "We walk so honestly that no man knows anything
against us." [2 Cor. 4:2] 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." [Prov. 27:21] 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, demised 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_[17] 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." [Matt. 5:16] 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.

[Sidenote: The Profitableness of Dishonor]

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 you
yourselves; for concerning these things I have commanded 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." [Jer. 7:21] And Deuteronomy xii:
"Thou shalt not do whatsoever is right in thine own eyes, but
what thy God has commanded thee." [Deut 12:8, 32]

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." [Ex. 13:9]
And Psalm i: "A godly man meditates in God's Law day and night."
[Ps. 1:2] 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." [Deut 28:14,
Josh. 23:6]

[Sidenote: Calling on God's Name]

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 l: "Call upon Me in the day of
trouble; I will deliver you and thou shalt glorify Me; for I
desire the sacrifice of praise." [Ps. 50:15] 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 Thereby 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." [Ps.
54:7] 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." [Ps. 91:14]

[Sidenote: In Prosperity]

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 in dangerous trial of all, when
there is no trial and everything 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 fail on the left hand and ten
thousand on the right hand." [Ps. 91:7]

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." [Deut. 32:15] 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 [Judges 3:1 ff.]. So He deals with us also,
when 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.

[Sidenote: The Error of Calling on Other Names]

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 fortune-tellers; 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." [Bar. 3:17] But far greater is the courage
which the highest eternal Good gives, wherein trust, not men, but
only God's children.

[Sidenote: Motives for Calling on God's Name]

XXVII. Even if none of these adversities constrain us to call
upon God's Name and to trust Him, yet were an 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." [Prov. 18:10] And David, Psalm cxvi: "I will drink
the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." [Ps.
116:13] Again, Psalm xviii: "I will call upon the Lord with
praise: so shall I be saved from all mine enemies." [Ps. 18:3]
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.

[Sidenote: Other Works of the Second Commandment]

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.

[Sidenote: The Greatest Work of the Second Commandment:

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 most 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.

[Sidenote: Against Wrong]

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
demised 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.[18] 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." [Ps.
82:2 ff.] But it is not done, and therefore the text continues:
"They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in
darkness"; [Ps. 82:5] 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

[Sidenote: The Sin of Silence]

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" [Ps. 116:11]; 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 wilting 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.

[Sidenote: Against Spiritual Wickedness]

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." [Luke 10:6] 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_[19] 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.[20]

[Sidenote: The Third Commandment]

I.[21] 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." [22]
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.

[Sidenote: Worship]

The first works of this Commandment are plain and outward, which
we commonly call worship,[23] 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.

[Sidenote: The Mass]

II. In the mass it is necessary that we attend with our 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" [Matt. 26:26 ff., Luke 22:19 ff.]; 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." [1 Cor. 11:23 ff.] In these words Christ has
made for Himself a memorial or anniversary,[24] 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 into 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.[25]

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 form 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 _Eucharista_, 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.

[Sidenote: The Sermon]

III. The sermon ought to be nothing else than the proclamation of
this testament. But who can hear it if no one preaches it? [Rom.
10:14] Now, they who ought to preach it, themselves do not know
it. This is why the sermons ramble off into other unprofitable
stories,[26] and thus Christ is forgotten, while we fare like the
man in II. Kings vii: we see our riches but do not enjoy them. [2
Kings 7:19] 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." [Eccles. 6:2] 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 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." [1 Cor. 11:26] 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.

[Sidenote: Prayer]

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[27] 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." [Jas. 1:6 f.] This is a
clear statement, which says directly: he who does not trust,
receives nothing, neither that which he asks, nor anything

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." [Mark 11:24] 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!" [Luke 11:9

[Sidenote: Mistaken Prayer]

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." [Jas. 4:3] 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

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,
number, 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 [Rom. 8:26]; and God works and gives above all that we
understand, as he says, Ephesians iii [Eph. 3:20], 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. [John 4:24] 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 [Deut 6:16, 28:14], 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.

[Sidenote: Weak Faith no Reason for not Praying]

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" [Luke 17:5];
and He very frequently rebukes them because they have so little
faith [Matt. 14:30].

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.

[Sidenote: Prayer Without Ceasing]

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," [Luke 18:1] 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.

[Sidenote: Prayer is Work]

VIII. Where now are they who desire to know and to do good works?
Let them undertake prayer alone, and lightly 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.

[Sidenote: What Men Shall Pray For]

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." [Ps. 32:7] 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." [Ps. 142:2] 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 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.[28]

[Sidenote: Prayer for Holiness, not Because of Holiness]

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

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.

[Sidenote: Common Prayer]

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: "I 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."
[1 Tim. 2:1 ff.] 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.
[Jer. 29:7] 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." [Bar. 1:21 f.]

This common prayer is precious and the most powerful, [Isa. 56:7]
and it is for its sake that we come together. For this reason
also the Church is called a House of Prayer [Matt. 21:13],
because in it we are as a congregation with one accord to
consider our need and the needs of all men, present than 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 empathy 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.

[Sidenote: The Power of Common Prayer]

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 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.

[Sidenote: Proof From the Scriptures]

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 [Gen. 18:32], 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

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" [Jas. 5:16 ff.]
(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 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." [Ps.
33:18] Again, "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him,
to all that call upon Him in truth." [Ps. 145:18] Why does he
add, "call upon Him in truth"? Because that is not prayer nor
calling upon God when the mouth alone mumbles.

[Sidenote: Thoughtless Prayer]

What should God do, if you come along with your mouth, book or
_Paternoster_,[29] 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.

[Sidenote: Earnest Prayer]

XIV. We are masters in this form of prayer when suffer bodily
need; when we are sick we call here upon St. Christopher, there
upon St. Barbara[30]; we vow a pilgrimage to St. James[31], 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;[32] 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 at 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." [Isa. 64:7] 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." [Ezek. 22:30] With these words God indicates
how He wants us to withstand Him and turn away His anger from one
another [Ex. 32:11 ff.], as it is frequently written of the
Prophet Moses, that he restrained God, [Num. 14:13 ff., 21:7]
lest His anger should overwhelm the people of Israel. [Ps.

[Sidenote: The Indifference of Man]

XV. But what will they do, who not only do not regard such
misfortune of Christendom, and do not pray against Men it, but
laugh at it, take pleasure in it, condemn, malign, sing and talk
of their neighbor's sin, 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 Luke the thief on Christ's left band, who
blasphemed Him in His suffering, weakness and need; [Luke 23:39,
35] 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.[33] 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
[Luke 24:47]. 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 Turk, 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.

[Sidenote: Prayer Better than Good Works]

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 yourself, but how much good you have done to others,
even the very least. [Matt. 25:40, 45]

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, for they know not what they do," [Luke
23:14] 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.

[Sidenote: The Lord's Day]

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 [Gen. 2:3]. 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.

[Sidenote: The Rest of the Body]

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" [Col. 2:16]--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
it follow the other" [Is. 66:23]; 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.

[Sidenote: The Rest of the Soul]

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," [Gen.
8:21] 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. [Gal. 2:20]) 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. [Gal.
5:17] 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." [Gal. 5:24] 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

[Sidenote: The Two Means to the Rest of the Soul]

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." [Sir. 18:30] And Moses,
Deuteronomy xii: "Thou shalt not do what is right in thine own
eyes." [Deut. 12:8]

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," [Ps. 110:35, 37] 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 subtle
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." [Jer. 10:26]
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 [Ex. 13:21; 16:4 f.],
fed them with manna from heaven, and kept their garments and
shoes that they waxed not old [Deut. 29:5 f.], 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.

[Sidenote: Fasting]

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,[34] 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.

[Sidenote: The Limitation of Fasting]

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.

[Sidenote: Foolish Fasting and Foolish Neglect of Fasting]

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.

[Sidenote: Suffering]

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." [Is.
28:21] 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.

[Sidenote: The Holiness of Adversity]

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.[35]
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." [Ps. 116:15]

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." [Ps. 91:15]
Likewise Psalm xxxiv: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that
suffer, and will help them." [Ps. 34:18]

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.

[Sidenote: The Circle of the Three Commandments]

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,[36] 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 Sows 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. [Ecclus. 2:5] For it is a great thing to retain a sure
confidence in God, although He sends us death, shame, sickness,
poverty; [1 Pet. 4:12] 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 into its
setting and comes again unto its rising. [Ps. 19:6] 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. [John 9:4]

[Sidenote: The Parallel with the Lord's Prayer]

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." [Luke 17:21] 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.

[Sidenote: Second Table]

_The Second Table follows._

[Sidenote: The Fourth Commandment]

_"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

[Sidenote: Obedience and Honor to Parents]

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.

[Sidenote: Despising of Parents]

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
patents 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

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.

[Sidenote: Love without Fear]

III. There is another dishonoring of parents, much more dangerous
and subtle 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

This plague is so common that instances of the first form of
dishonoring[37] 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 [Is. 57:5, Jer. 7:31; 32:35], and they do like the king
Manasseh, who sacrificed his own son to the idol Moloch and
burned him, II. Kings xxi [2 Kings 21:6]. 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." [Ps.
78:5] 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

[Sidenote: The Folly of Parents]

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 [Acts 5:29]. 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." [Beth. 14:16 Vulgate] 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[38] 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." [1 Pet.
5:7] 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.

[Sidenote: Training Children a Good Work]

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,
[Matt 25:35] 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

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," [Ps. 128:1-4]
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,[39] indulgence-fairs. God have pity on
such blindness.

[Sidenote: Neglect of Children a Cause for Condemnation]

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." [Luke 23:28 f.]
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,[40] 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 well-pleasing 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.

[Sidenote: Obedience to the Church]

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.

[Sidenote: The Neglected Duty of the Church]

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. [Hos. 2:5] 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. [Tit. 2:1-10] 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.

[Sidenote: The Worldliness of the Church]

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 vitiations 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.[41]

[Sidenote: Abuses in the Church]

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. [1 Tim. 4:1 ff.]
For it seems as if we resisted their power if we do not do and
leave undone all that they prescribe. [2 Tim. 3:1 ff.] 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

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.

[Sidenote: The Duty of Resisting Abuses in the Church]

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[42] 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.

[Sidenote: The Hopelessness of General Councils]

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;[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

[Sidenote: Obedience to the Temporal Authorities]

XII. The third work of this Commandment is to obey the temporal
authority, as Paul teaches, Romans xiii [Rom. 13:1], and Titus
iii [Tit. 3:1], and St. Peter, I. Peter ii [1 Pet. 2:14 f.]:
"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." [Rom. 13:4]

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; [1 Pet.
2:19 ff.] 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

[Sidenote: Why Temporal Authority Dare not, though Spiritual
Authority Must, be Resisted]

XIII. This also is the reason why there is not such great danger
in the temporal power as la the spiritual, when it does wrong.
For the temporal power can do no harm, 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

[Sidenote: The Errors of Temporal Authority]

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." [Is. 3:2] Four
plagues God has named in Scripture, Ezekiel xiv. [Ezek. 14:13
ff.] the first and slightest, which also David chose [2 Sam.
24:13 f.], 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.

[Sidenote: Wisdom Needed in the Exercise of Authority]

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,[46] 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. [Esth. 6:1 ff.] For
examples and histories benefit and teach more than the laws and
statutes: there actual experience teaches, here untried and
uncertain words.

[Sidenote: Good Works for Rulers]

[Sidenote: Economic Reforms: Gluttony]

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?

[Sidenote: Luxury]

[Sidenote: Rent-charges]

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,[47] 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.

[Sidenote: Exections of the Church]

XVII. Here too ought to be mentioned the knavery which is
practised by _officiales_[48] 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

[Sidenote: Vice]

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 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.

[Sidenote: Obedience to Masters]

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" [Tit. 2:9
f. 8]; 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 [1 Tim. 6:1]. 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." [1 Pet. 2:18 f.]

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
[Eph. 6:5]; not that they would by their works gain much merit,
but that they do it all in the confidence of divine favor [Col.
3:22] (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

[Sidenote: Duties of Masters]

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."
[Col. 4:1] 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.

[Sidenote: Husband and Wife]

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 [1 Pet. 3:6 ff.] and St. Paul [Eph.
5:22 ff., Col. 3:18 ff.] have said much. But this has its place
in the further explanation of the Ten Commandments, and is easily
inferred from these passages.

[Sidenote: Summary]

XX. But all that has been said of these works is included in
these two, obedience and considerateness.[49] 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 ii: "He
that ruleth, let him do it with diligence"; [Rom. 12:8] 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,[50] 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; [Prov. 1:20 f.] 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 hem, 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." [Matt. 24:23-26]

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.

[Sidenote: The Limits of Obedience]

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." [Acts 5:29] 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.

[Sidenote: The Fifth Commandment]

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.

[Sidenote: The Duty of Meekness]

[Sidenote: False Meekness]

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.[51] 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.

[Sidenote: True Meekness]

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, in Matthew v: "Do good to them that despitefully use you.
Pray for them that persecute you and revile you." [Matt. 5:44]
And Paul, Romans xii: "Bless them which curse you, and by no
means curse them, but do good to them." [Rom. 12:14 f.]

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. [John 14:15, 21;

[Sidenote: Enemies an Occasion for Good Works]

How, 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." [Matt. 5:22] 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

[Sidenote: The Limits of Meekness]

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 [Sir. 45:4], he put
many of them to death, and thereby made atonement before God.
[Ex. 32:28] 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._

[Sidenote: The Sixth Commandment: The Duty of Purity]

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." [Rom. 7:18]

[Sidenote: Helps Against Unchastity]

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. [Rom. 13:12 f.] 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," [Ps. 137:9] 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.

[Sidenote: Faith as a Help to Chastity]

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," [Is.
11:5] 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." [1 John 2:27]

Yet we must not despair if we are not soon rid of the temptation,
nor by any means immune 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." [1 Pet. 2:11] And St Paul, Romans vi,
"Ye shall not obey the body in its lusts." [Rom. 6:12] 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._

[Sidenote: The Seventh Commandment: The Duty of Benevolence]

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,[52] 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." [Matt. 7:12] 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.

[Sidenote: Greed]

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." [Sir. 31:8 f.] 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, wonder-working, happy man, as Job xxxi says:
"I have never yet relied upon gold, and never yet made gold my
hope and confidence." [Job 31:24] And Psalm lxii: "If riches
increase, set not your heart upon them." [Ps. 62:10] 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. [Matt. 6:31 f.]

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." [Gen. 3:19] And Job v, "As the birds to flying, so is man
born into labor." [Job 5:7 Vulgate] 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!

[Sidenote: Faith the Source of Benevolence]

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." [Ps. 37:25] Therefore the Apostle calls no other
sin idolatry except covetousness [Col. 3:5], 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

And, indeed, in this Commandment it can be dearly 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.

[Sidenote: The Test of Liberality]

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. [Luke 6:32 f.] 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. [Matt. 5:45]

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 exposition 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. [Matt. 25:35 f.]

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.[53]

_Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor._

[Sidenote: The Eight Commandment: The Duty of Truthfulness]

[Sidenote: In Worldly Matters]

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 further
his neighbor's good cause; in doing which he does not do to his
neighbor as he would have his neighbor do to him. [Matt. 7:12]
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 fenced 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

[Sidenote: In Spiritual Matters]

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." [Ps.
82:3 f.]

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." [Matt. 14:9
f.] 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.

[Sidenote: Witnessing to the Truth Demands Faith]

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" [Ps. 15:4]; 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 band, 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. [Heb. 11:24 ff.]

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, has 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," [John 14:6]--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 not commanded, and neglect those that are
necessary and commanded?

[Sidenote: The Ninth and Tenth Commandments]

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. [Rom. 7:7] 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.[54] To this may God help
us. Amen.


[1] Col. 3:17. See above p. 25, note 1.

[2] The _Tessaradecas consolatoria_, printed in the present
volume, pp. 109-171.

[3] Sexternlein.

[4] Questions debated in the schools.

[5] Here "the Faith" means the Creed, as a statement of faith.

[6] I.e., In faith.

[7] A quality, state or condition, independent of works.

[8] _St. Jacob di Compostella_, a place in Spain, where the
Apostle James, the son of Zebedee, who was killed in Jerusalem
(Acts 12:2), is in Spanish tradition said to have died a martyr's
death; since the Ninth Century a noted and much frequented goal
of pilgrimages. The name Compostella is a corruption of _Giacomo
Postolo_, that is "James the Apostle."

[9] St. Bridget of Ireland, who died in 523, was considered a
second Virgin Mary, the "Mary of the Irish." Perhaps here
confused with another Bridget, or Brigita, who died 1373, a
Scottish saint, who wrote several prayers, printed for the first
time in 1492 and translated into almost all European languages.

[10] I.e., by us men.

[11] This translation indicates the imperfection of the German
form of Bible quotation throughout this treatise.

[12] Page 190.

[13] Page 190.

[14] A _Jarmarkt_; the reference here being to the bargaining
common at such fairs.

[15] The theme developed in the treatise _De Libertate_, 1520.

[16] Page 190.

[17] A gold coin, the value of which is very uncertain. It was an
adaptation of the _florin_, which was first coined in Florence in
the year 1252, and was worth about $2.50. Of the value of the
gold _gulden_ of Luther's time various estimates are given.
Schaff, _Church History_, 3 vi., p. 470, calls it a _guilder_ and
says it was equal to about $4.00 of the present day. Preserved
Smith, _Life of Luther_, p. 367, fixes its intrinsic value at
about fifty cents, but believes its purchasing power was almost
twenty times as great. To us a gold piece worth fifty cents seems
almost impossible; but the _New English Dictionary_ quotes, under
the year 1611: "Florin or Franc: an ancient coin of gold in
France, worth ij s. sterling." As the gold coins of those times
were not made of pure gold, rarely 17 carats fine, the
possibility may be granted. But in 1617, the _Dictionary_ quotes
"The Gold Rehnish Guldens of Germany are almost of the same
standard as the Crowne Gold of England," and the Crown was worth
at the time 6s. 3 1/2 d.--somewhat more than $1.50.

The later silver _gulden_, worth about forty cents was current in
Europe until modern times, and a _gulden_, worth 48 1/2 cents,
was, until recently, a standard coin in Austro-Hungary.

[18] _Grosse Hansen_.

[19] Men who exercised a delegated authority and acted as the
representatives of pope and bishop in matters of church law.

[20] See especially the _Address to the Christian Nobility_ and
the _Babylonian Captivity_.

[21] On the number of the sections see the Introduction, p. 178.

[22] Here, as also in his Catechism, Luther departs from the Old
Testament form of the Third Commandment. His restatement of it is
extremely difficult to put into English, because of the various
meanings of the word _Feiertag_. It may mean "day of rest," or
"holiday," or "holy day." By the use of this word Luther avoids
the difficulty of first retaining the Jewish Sabbath in the
Commandment and then rejecting it in favor of the Christian
Sunday in the explanation.

[23] _Gottesdienst_.

[24] A reference to the Requiem Mass, sung both at the burial of
the dead, and on the anniversary of the day of death. The word
translated "memorial," _Begängniss_, is literally, "a burial

[25] See also the _Treatise on the New Testament_, elsewhere in
this volume.

[26] The sermons were frequently either scholastic arguments or
popular, often comic tirades against current immorality; the
materials were taken from the stories of the saints as much as
from the Bible.

[27] Lived 1091-1153. Founder of the Cistercian monastery at
Clairvaux, of whom Luther says: "If there ever lived on earth a
God-fearing and holy monk, it was Saint Bernard, of Clairvaux."
_Erl. Ed._, 36, 8.

[28] Cf. _Discussion of Confession_, above, p. 81 f.

[29] The prayer-book and the rosary. The Breviary, a collection
of prayers, was used by the clergy; the Rosary, the beads of
which represent prayers, the smaller and more numerous _Ave
Marias_, the larger of the Lord's Prayer, _Paternoster_, was the
layman's prayer book.

[30] Cf. Introduction to _The Fourteen of Consolation_, p. 106.

[31] See note, p. 191.

[32] The German, _Oelgötzen_, means the wooden images of saints,
which were painted with oil paints. It was transferred to any
dull person, block-head, sometimes also to priests, who were
anointed with oil at their consecration.

[33] _Sinnlichkeit_.

[34] St. Barbara, a legendary saint, whose day falls on December
4, was thought to protect against storm and fire. See above, p.
237. St. Sebastian, a martyr of the third century, whose day
falls on January 20, was supposed to ward off the plague.

[35] Cf. The _Fourteen of Consolation_, above, p. 162.

[36] Page 194 f.

[37] I. e., by fear without love.

[38] The patron saint of music, of whose life and martyrdom
little that is definite is known.

[39] Canonisations, giving a dead man the rank of a saint, who
may be or shall be worshiped.

[40] I.e., faith.

[41] Cf. the similar statements in the _Sermon vom Wucher_
(_Weimar Ed._, VI, 59) and in the _Address to the Christian
Nobility_ (ibid., 438).

[42] A name for the dependents of the papal court at Rome.

[43] At Constance, 1414-1443; at Rome, the Lateran council,

[44] Or, "Who is said to rule the councils."

[45] This program of reform is further elaborated in the _Address
to the Christian Nobility_.

[46] Augustus Caesar, first Roman Emperor (B.C. 63-A.D. 14), the
Caesar Augustus of Luke 2:1.

[47] "The purchase of a rent-charge (_rent, census, Zins_) was
one of the methods of investing money frequently resorted to
during the later middle ages. From the transfer from one person
to another of the right to receive a rent already due the step
was but a short one to the creation of an altogether new
rent-charge, for the express purpose of raising money by the sale
of it...The practice seems to have arisen spontaneously, and to
have been by no means a mere evasion of the prohibition of
usury." _Dictionary of Political Economy_, ed. by R. H. Inglish
Palgrave, vol. ii. Cf. Ashley, _Economic History_, vol. i, p.t.
ii, §§ 66, 74, 75. For a fuller discussion of the subject by
Luther, see the _Sermon vom Wucher_ (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 51-60).

[48] See note above, p. 220.

[49] _Sorgfäitigkeit_, Luther's translation of the Vulgate
_solicitndo_ in Rom. 12:8, where our English Version reads
"diligence." The word as Luther uses it includes the two kinds of
carefulness and considerateness.

[50] A most strict monastic order; the phrase here is equivalent
to "becomes a monk."

[51] _Sanftmüthlgkeit_.

[52] Luther discusses these tricks in detail in his _Sermon von
Kaufhandlung und Wucher_ (1524) _Weimar Ed._, XV, pp. 279 ff.

[53] _Sermon von dem Wucher, Weimar Ed._, VI, 36 ff. Cf. also
_Address to the German Nobility_.

[54] Cf. _The Fourteen of Consolation_ above, p. 149.





The _Treatise on the New Testament, that is, on the Holy Mass_,
was published in the year 1520[1] In the beginning of August of
that year, Luther's Address to the Christian Nobility of the
German Nation had appeared, in which he had touched upon the
subject of the mass,[2] but refused to express himself fully at
that time, promising to take up this question later, a promise
which he had already made in his _Treatise on Good Works_, of
May, 1520.[3] He must have begun the preparation of this
_Treatise on the New Testament_ while the _Address to the
Christian Nobility_ was still in press, because on Aug. 3 it was
already finished and ready for publication.[4] The treatise,
therefore, takes its place between Luther's two famous writings,
the _Address to the Christian Nobility_ and the _Babylonian
Captivity of the Church_, which appeared in Oct, 1520. Its tone
is remarkably quiet, and its aim predominantly constructive. It
is one of those devotional tracts which Luther issued from time
to time between his larger publications, and which appear like
roses among the thorns of his polemical writings.

The doctrine of the Lord's Supper was one of the most corrupt
doctrines of the Roman Church, and it was, therefore, but natural
that Luther should have written extensively on this subject, even
at the beginning of the work of reformation. From this period,
when the opposition of the Sacramentarians[5] to the doctrine of
the Real Presence had not yet arisen we have four writings of
Luther in which he makes this sacrament a subject of special
discussion. These are (1) his mild-toned _Sermon von dem
hochwürdigen Sacrament_, etc., of 1519; (2) the present _Sermon
von dem neuen Testament_, etc., of Aug., 1520; (3) the
_Babylonian Captivity of the Church_, of Oct., 1520; (4) the
strongly polemical tract _On the Abuse of the Mass_, 1522.[6] We
shall have occasion to refer to some interesting points of
comparison among these works.

This treatise is divided into sections, ending with number 40,
but section 32 is omitted, so that there are only 39 in all.
Section 1 contains the introduction, section 40 the conclusion.
Sections 2-15 are the positive, constructive part of the
treatise, dealing with the question. What is the Lord's Supper?
In sections 16-34 the sacrificial theory of the Roman Church is
rejected; sections 35-31 discuss (1) in how far we may speak of
making an offering in the sacrament, and (2) what follows for the
conception of a true priesthood in the Church, viz., the
priesthood of all believers. Sections 33-39 deal, among other
things, with the abuses to which an unscriptural conception of
the Lord's Supper has led. Of special interest is section 12, in
which Luther gives a summary of all that enters into the
Sacrament of the Altar.

Knowing, as we do, that Luther developed his doctrine of the
Lord's Supper gradually[7] and under stress of much opposition
from all sides, it is interesting for us to note the stage of
that development which this treatise represents. We may,
therefore, inquire how he stood at this time on the question of
the Real Presence. This question is answered under the fourth
point of section 12. The true presence of the body and blood
cannot be more clearly admitted than is done in sections 11 and
12 of this treatise. We can safely say that there never was a
time when Luther was uncertain on this point. The point of view
from which he discusses the significance of the sacrament in the
_Sermon von dem hochwürdigen Sacrament_ (1519) has sometimes been
cited to the contrary, but even in this _Sermon_, with its
emphasis upon the spiritual body of Christ, of which even those
may be partakers whom the pope might exclude from the external
communion, he speaks of the bread and wine as being changed into
the Lord's "true, natural flesh" and into His "natural, true
blood," [8] which shows that Luther at that time, nine months
before the appearance of this _Treatise on the New Testament_,
still held even to the conception of transubstantiation. He
cannot, therefore, have had doubts about the Real Presence.

In view, however, of the rapid development of Luther's doctrinal
conceptions, we might further ask: Did Luther still retain his
belief in transubstantiation at the time when he wrote the
_Treatise on the New Testament_? At the beginning of October in
this same year, in his _Babylonian Captivity_, Luther comes out
for the first time with an attack on this Roman doctrine. He
regards it as a mere human opinion, which one may accept or not
accept, and clearly inclines to the belief that after
consecration not only the form (_Gestalt; species_), but also the
substance of bread and wine is still present.[9] In the _Sermon
von dem hochwürdigen Sacrament_ he spoke of the "shape and form
of the bread"; in the present treatise he chooses the expression:
"His own true flesh and blood under the bread and wine" (sec.
12). This would soon to indicate that in this writing he already
holds the opinion which he soon afterward expressed in the
_Babylonian Captivity_. But while he believed in the real
presence of Christ's "own true flesh and blood," this body of
Christ he regards--at this time, when he has not yet had to meet
the spiritualistic interpretation of the Sacramentarians--as a
sign only, a thing signifying the blessing of the sacrament,
which is forgiveness of sins and life eternal (sec 10). Exactly
the same view is expressed in the _Sermon_ of 1519[10]. "Luther
does not yet speak of 'any value which this body, sacramentally
imparted, is supposed to have in and of itself.'" [11]

The question next arises: How does the recipient of the sign
(body and blood under bread and wine) become partaker of that
which is thereby signified? It is through faith, as the receiving
organ (sec. 13). So, too, in the _Sermon_ of 1519, where it is
called the "third part of the sacrament," "in which the power
lies" (_wo die Macht anliegt_). At a later time Luther found it
necessary to emphasize the fact that it is not through the faith
of the recipient that the sacrament gains its power and efficacy,
since this attaches to it simply by virtue of the Word[12]; but
that faith is the receiving organ for the blessing of the
sacrament is a conviction which he never gave up.

The object of faith is the Gospel, i. e., the promise of the
forgiveness of sins contained in the Words of Institution, which
are a "testament," a "new and eternal testament" (secs. 5-10).
Hence the title of the work, _Treatise on the New Testament_.
While the _Sermon_ of 1519 speaks of the Gospel only in general,
we have here a special emphasis on the words of institution as
embracing "in a short summary" the whole Gospel (sec. 33). The
words of institution are still further emphasized and interpreted
in the work _On Abuse of the Mass_, of 1522. Because of the
importance of the Word in the sacrament, Luther declares that the
words of institution should be spoken aloud, not whispered, as
was and is done in the Roman churches, and in a language which is
understood by the people (sec. 16).

An especially striking feature of this treatise is the repeated
assertion that faith, which leans on the Word, and is the
"principal part of the mass," does not absolutely need the
sacrament. "I can daily enjoy the sacrament in the mass if only I
keep before my eyes the testament, that is, the words and
covenant of Christ, and feed and strengthen my faith thereby"
(sec. 17) [13]. He quotes Augustine: "Only believe, so hast thou
already partaken of the sacrament." In interpreting this passage
we must remember that Luther was writing at a time when he was
daily expecting to hear that the pope had excommunicated him from
the Church. His comfort was that he and his followers could not
be excluded by papal dictum from the communion of true believers
and saints, nor deprived of the spiritual feeding upon the true
spiritual body of Christ.

In this treatise Luther also attacks for the first time the Roman
doctrine of the mass as a bloodless repetition of the sacrifice
once made on Calvary--a theory which forgets that the mass is a
testament and a sacrament, in which God promises and gives
something to us, not we to Him (sec. 19). In much stronger
language, and quoting Scripture more extensively, Luther exposes
and rejects this error, so fundamental to the Roman system, in
his work of 1522, _On the Abuse of the Mass_. In the _Babylonian
Captivity_ he remarks, "When I published my Sermon of the
Supper,[14] I was still caught in the prevailing conception, and
was indifferent whether the pope was right or not." [15] In this
treatise, then, we have the first clear statement of the reformer
on this subject.

It shows, however, the beautifully conservative character of
Luther that even here, where he is compelled to reject the Roman
sacrificial theory, we see him laboring to detect at least an
element of scriptural truth in the refuted doctrine. He says
(secs. 26, 27) that in the Supper we use Christ as our Sacrifice
and Mediator, by bringing our prayer and thanksgiving to the
Father through Him. And this furnishes the basis on which he
builds the evangelical doctrine of the priesthood of all
believers (sec. 28); _alle Christenmänner Pfaffen, alle Weiber
Pfaffinnen, es sei jung oder alt, etc._ This is still more
strongly emphasized in the _Abuse of the Mass_ of 1522.

Two more points need to be mentioned,--the withholding of the cup
from the laity and the number of the sacraments. In the _Sermon_
of 1519 Luther attaches little importance to the communion in
both kinds, though he thinks it would be well for the Church in a
General Council to restore the two elements to all Christians.
But in this treatise of 1520 he is already beginning to use
stronger language. He would like to know who gave the power to
withhold the cup (sec. 34). In the _Babylonian Captivity_ and in
the _Abuse of the Mass_ he unsparingly condemns the Roman
practice. On the number of the sacraments, Luther seems not yet
to have been entirely in the clear when he wrote this work. In
Section 24 he mentions, besides baptism and the Lord's Supper,
"confirmation, penance, extreme unction, etc." In the _Babylonian
Captivity_ he definitely reduces the seven sacraments of the
Roman Church to baptism, the Lord's Supper and penance, but he
had his doubts on this point before he wrote this present work,
as we may conclude from a remark in the _Sermon_ of 1519, in
which he distinguishes "baptism and the bread" as the two
"principal sacraments," and also from a letter to Spalatin,[16]
in which he writes that no one need expect from him a publication
on the other sacraments until he shall first have been taught by
what passage of Scripture he may justify them.[17] In conclusion,
it may be said that this whole _Treatise on the New Testament_ is
a beautiful illustration of the constructive power of Luther's
work. In the work of tearing down he proceeds with the greatest
care, ever mindful of his duty to replace the old with something
new which can stand the test of Scripture.

    J. L. NEVE.

Wittenberg Theological Seminary,

    Springfield, O.


[1] As the earliest prints, the following may be mentioned: (1)
By Joh. Gruenenberg in Wittenberg, 11520 (the basis of the Weimar
text); (2) by the same publisher, 1520; (3) by Melchior Lotther
in Wittenberg, 1520; (4) by Silanus Ottmar in Wittenberg, Aug.
21st, 1520 (this is the text of the _Erlangen Edition_); (5) a
Wittenberg print with no mention of the publisher, but otherwise
identical in appearance with No. 4; (6) by Fridrichen Peypus at
Nürnberg, 1520; (7) a Wittenberg print, 1520, with no mention of
the publisher; (8) by Adam Petri in Basel, 1520; (9) a Wittenberg
edition of 1520, revised by Luther (_anderweit gecorigiert durch
D. Mart. Luther_); this edition in octavo, all the preceding in
quarto. The text of this treatise in the following collections of
Luther's works, Wittenberg, VII, 25 ff.; Jena, I, 329 ff.;
Altenburg, I, 514 ff.; Leipzig, XVII 490 ff.; Walch XIX, 1256
ff.; Erlangen XXVII, 141 ff.; Weimar VI. 353 ff.

[2] By the word "mass" Luther means the celebration of the Lord's
Supper. Even after this sacrament was understood in an
evangelical sense, the Lutherans for a long time kept the name
mass. Thus Melanchthon writes in the Augs. Conf., Art. xxiv, "Our
churches are falsely accused of abolishing the mass; for the mass
is retained on our part, and celebrated with the greatest

[3] Page 224.

[4] De Weite, _Luther's Briefe_, I, 475.

[5] The name given by the Lutheran theologians to those who
denied the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the
Lord's Supper.

[6] Two more might have been mentioned: (1) a discourse on the
proper preparation of the Lord's Supper (_Erl. Ed._, XVII, 55
ff.) and (2) the _Discourse on Excommunication_ (_Ibid._, XXVII,
29 ff.)

[7] In the Introduction to _The Babylonian Captivity of the
Church_ he writes: "I am compelled, whether I will or not, to
become daily more learned, having so many notable teachers
diligently pushing me on and keeping me at work." (_Weimar Ed._,
VI, 497.

[8] Cf. Koëstlin-Kawäeau, _Martin Luther_, 4th ed., I, 284;
Koëstlin-Hay, _Theology of Luther_, I, 399 f; _Luther's Werke,
Berlin Ed._, III, 261-264, 374.

[9] _Weimar Ed._, VI, 511 f.

[10] Cf. Koëstlin-Hay, op. cit., I, 340.

[11] Ibid., p. 350.

[12] _Erl. Ed._, XVI, 33, 92 ff.

[13] So also with much emphasis in the _Sermon v. d. hochw.
Sac._, 1519.

[14] He means the _Serm. v. d. hochw. Sac._, 1519.

[15] _Weimar Ed._, VI, 502.

[16] De Weite, _Briefe_, I, 378

[17] Koëstlin-Hay, op. cit., I, 355.





[Sidenote: The Multiplying of Laws]

1. Experience, all chronicles, and the Holy Scriptures besides,
teach us this truth: the less law, the more justice; the fewer
commandments, the more good works. No well-regulated community
ever existed long, if at all, where there were many laws.
Therefore, before the ancient law of Moses, the Patriarchs of old
had no prescribed law and order for the service of God other than
the sacrifices; as we read of Adam, Abel, Noah and others.
Afterward, circumcision was enjoined upon Abraham and his
household, until the time of Moses, through whom God gave the
people of Israel divers laws, forms, and practices, for the sole
purpose of teaching human nature how utterly useless many laws
are to make people pious. For although the law leads and drives
away from evil to good works, it is still impossible for man to
do them willingly and gladly; but he has at all times an aversion
for the law and would rather be free. Now where there is
unwillingness, there can never be a good work. For what is not
done willingly is not good, and only seems to be good.
Consequently, all the laws cannot make one really pious without
the grace of God, for they can produce only dissemblers,
hypocrites, pretenders, and proud saints, such as have their
reward here [Matt. 6:2], and never please God. Thus He says to
the Jews, Malachi i: "I have no pleasure in you; for who is there
among you that would even as much as shut a door for me,
willingly and out of love?" [Mal. 1:10]

[Sidenote: Sects and Divisions]

2. Another result of many laws is this, that many sects and
divisions in the congregations [Gemeinden] arise from them. One
adopts this way, another that, and there grows up in each man a
false, secret love for his own sect, and a hatred, or at least a
contempt for, and a disregard of the other sects, whereby
brotherly, free, common love perishes, and selfish love prevails.
So Jeremiah and Hosea speak, [Jer. 2:28, Hos. 8:11,12] yea, all
the profits lament that the people of Israel divided themselves
into as many sects as there were cities in the land; each
desiring to outdo the others. Thence also arose the Sadducees and
Pharisees in the Gospel.

So we observe to-day, that through the Spiritual Law[2] but
little justice and piety have arisen in Christendom; the world
has been filled with dissemblers and hypocrites and with so many
sects, orders, and divisions of the one people of Christ, that
almost every city is divided into ten parties or more. And they
daily devise new ways and manners (as they think) of serving God,
until it has come to this, that priests, monks, and laity have
become more hostile toward each other than Turks and Christians.
Yea, the priests and the monks are deadly enemies, wrangling
about their self-conceived ways and methods like fools and
madmen, not only to the hindrance, but to the very destruction of
Christian love and unity. Each one clings to his sect and
despises the others; and they regard the laymen as though they
were no Christians. This lamentable condition is only a result of
the laws.

[Sidenote: The Mass Christ's Law]

3. Christ, in order that He might prepare for Himself an
acceptable and beloved people, which should be bound together in
unity through love, abolished the whole law of Moses. And that He
might not give further occasion for divisions, He did not again
appoint more than one law or order for His entire people, and
that the holy mass. For, although baptism is also an external
ordinance, yet it takes place but once, and is not a practice of
the entire life, like the mass. Therefore, after baptism there is
to be no other external order for the service of God except the
mass. And where the mass is used, there is a true service, even
though there be no other form, with singing, playing,
bell-ringing, vestments, ornaments and postures; for everything
of this sort is an addition invented by men. When Christ Himself
first instituted this sacrament and held the first mass, there
were do patens, no chasuble, no singing, no pageantry, but only
thanksgiving to God, and the use of the sacrament. After this
same simplicity the Apostles and all Christians long time held
mass, until the divers forms and additions arose, by which the
Romans held mass one way, the Greeks another; and now it has
finally come to this, that the chief thing in the mass has become
unknown, and nothing is remembered except the additions of men.

[Sidenote: Christ's Institution and Man's Ordinances]

4. The nearer, now, our masses are to the first mass of Christ,
the better, without doubt, they are; and the farther from
Christ's mass, the more perilous. For that reason we may not
boast of ourselves, against the Russians or Greeks, that we alone
have a right to hold mass; as little as a priest who wears a red
chasuble may boast against him who wears one of white or black.
For such external additions and differences may by their
dissimilarity make sects and dissensions, but they can never make
the mass better. Although I neither wish nor am able to displace
or discard all such additions, still, because such pompous forms
are perilous, we must never permit ourselves to be led away by
them from the simple institution by Christ and from the right use
of the mass. And, indeed, the greatest and most useful art is to
know what really and properly belongs to the mass, and what is
added and foreign. For where there is no clear distinction, the
eyes and the heart are easily misled by such shamming into a
false impression and delusion; so that what men have invented is
reckoned the mass, and what the mass is, is never experienced, to
say nothing of deriving benefit from it. Thus, alas! it happens
in our times; for, I fear, every day more than a thousand masses
are said, of which perhaps not one is a real mass. O dear
Christian, to have many masses is not to have the mass. There is
more to it than that.

[Sidneote: The Chief Thing in the Mass]

5. If we desire to say mass rightly and understand it, then we
must give up everything that the eyes and all the senses behold
and suggest in this act, such as vestments, in bells, songs,
ornaments, prayers, processions, elevations, prostrations, or
whatever happens in the mass, until we first lay hold of and
consider well the words of Christ, by which He completed and
instituted the mass and commanded us to observe it. For therein
lies the whole mass, its nature, work, profit and benefit, and
without them (i. e., the words) no benefit is derived from the
mass. But these are the words: _Take and eat, this is My body,
which is given for you. [Matt. 26:26] Take and drink ye all of
it, this is the cup of the new and eternal testament in My blood,
[Mark 14:22, 23, 24] which is shed for you and for many for the
forgiveness of sins_ [Luke 22:19, 20]. These words every
Christian must have before him in the mass and hold fast to them
as the chief part of the mass, in which also the really good
preparation for the mass and sacrament is taught; this we shall

[Sidenote: Faith and God's Promises]

6. If man is to deal with God and receive anything from Him, it
must happen in this wise, not that man begin lay the first stone,
but that God alone, without any entreaty or desire of man, must
first come and give him a promise.[3] This word of God is the
beginning, the foundation, the rock, upon which afterward all
works, words and thoughts of man must build. This word man must
gratefully accept, and faithfully believe the divine promise, and
by no means doubt that it is and comes to pass just as He
promises. This trust and faith is the beginning, middle, and end
of all works and righteousness. For, because man does God the
honor of regarding and confessing Him as true. He becomes to him
a gracious God, Who in turn honors him and regards and confesses
him as true. Thus it is not possible that man, of his own reason
and strength, should by works ascend to heaven and anticipate
God, moving Him to be gracious; but God must anticipate all works
and thoughts, and make a promise clearly expressed in words,
which man then takes and keeps with a good, firm faith. Then
follows the Holy Spirit, Who is given him because of this same

7. Such a promise was given to Adam after his fall, when God
spake to the serpent: "I will put enmity between thee and the
woman, between her seed and thy seed: she shall crush thy head;
and thou shalt lie in wait for her foot." [Gen. 3:15] [4] In
these words, however obscurely, God promises help to human
nature, namely, that by a woman the devil shall again be
overcome. This promise of God sustained Adam and Eve and all
their children until the time of Noah; in this they believed, and
by this faith they were saved; else they had despaired. [Gen. 9:9
f.] In like manner, after the flood, He made a covenant with Noah
and his children, until the time of Abraham (Genesis xii), whom
He summoned out of his fatherland [Gen. 12:1, 3], and promised
that in his seed all nations should be blessed [Gen. 18:18]. This
promise Abraham believed and obeyed, and thereby was justified
and became the friend of God. [Gen. 22:18; 15:6] In the same book
this promise to Abraham is many times repeated, enlarged and made
more definite, until Isaac is promised him, who was to be the
seed from which Christ and every blessing should come. In this
faith upon the promise Abraham's children were kept until the
time of Christ, although in the mean time it was continually
renewed and made more definite by David and many prophets This
promise the Lord in the Gospel calls "Abraham's bosom," [Luke
16:22, 23] because in it were kept all who with a right faith
clung thereto, and, with Abraham, waited for Christ Then came
Moses, who declared the same promise under many forms in the Law.
[Ex. 3:6, 7, 8] Through him God promised the people of Israel the
land of Canaan, while they were still in Egypt; which promise
they believed, and by it they were sustained and led into that

[Sidenote: God's Promise in the Mass--the Testament]

8. In the New Testament, likewise, Christ has made a promise or
solemn vow, which we are to believe and thereto come to godliness
and salvation. This promise is the word in which Christ says:
"This is the cup of the New Testament." [Luke 22:20] This we
shall now examine.

Not every vow is called a testament, but only a last irrevocable
will of one who is about to die, whereby he bequeaths his goods,
allotted and assigned to be distributed to whom he will. Just as
St. Paul says to the Hebrews that a testament must be made
operative by death, and avails nothing while he still lives who
made the testament. [Heb. 9:16, 17] For other vows, made for this
life, may be hindered or recalled, and hence are not called
testaments. Therefore, wherever in Scripture God's testament is
referred to by the prophets, in that very word the prophets are
taught that God would become man and die and rise again, to the
end that His Word, in which He promised such a testament, might
be fulfilled and confirmed. For if He is to make a testament as
He promised, then He must die; if He is to die, He must be a
man. And so that little word "testament" is a short summary of
all God's wonders and grace, fulfilled in Christ.

[Sidenote: Difference between Old and New Testaments]

9. He also distinguishes this testament from others and says, "It
is a new and everlasting testament, in His own blood, for the
forgiveness of sins"; whereby He disannuls the old testament. For
the little word "new" makes the testament of Moses old and
ineffective, one that avails no more. The old testament was a
promise made through Moses to the people of Israel, to whom was
promised the land of Canaan. For this testament God did not die,
but the paschal lamb had to die instead of Christ and as a type
of Christ; and so it was a temporal testament in the blood of the
paschal lamb, which was shed for the obtaining and possessing of
that land of Canaan. And as the paschal lamb, which died in the
old testament for the land of Canaan, was a temporal and
transitory thing, so too the old testament, together with that
possession or land of Canaan allotted and promised therein, was
temporal and transitory.

But Christ, the true Paschal Lamb, is an eternal divine Person,
Who dies to establish the new testament; therefore the testament
and the possessions therein bequeathed are eternal and abiding.
And that is what He means when He contrasts this testament with
that other, and says: A new testament--so that the other may
become old and of none effect. An eternal testament, [Heb. 8:13]
He says, not temporal like that other; not to dispose of temporal
lands or possessions, but of eternal. In My blood, He says, not
in the blood of a lamb. All this is to the end that the old
should be altogether annulled and give place to the new alone.

[Sidenote: What is Promised in the Mass]

10. What then is this testament, and what is bequeathed us
therein by Christ? Forsooth, a great, eternal and unspeakable
treasure, namely, the forgiveness of all sins, as the words
plainly state, "This is the cup of a new eternal testament in My
blood, that is shed for you and for many for the remission of
sin." [Matt. 26:8, Luke 22:30] As though He said: Behold, man, in
these words I promise and bequeath thee forgiveness of all thy
sin and eternal life. And in order that thou mayest be certain
and know that such promise remains irrevocably thine, I will die
for it, and will give My body and blood for it, and will leave
them both to thee as sign and seal, that by them thou mayest
remember Me." [1 Cor. 11:25] So He says: "As oft as ye do this,
remember Me." [Luke 22:19] Even as a man who bequeathes something
includes therein what shall be done for him afterward [1 Cor.
11:25], as is the custom at present in the requiems and masses
for the dead, so also Christ has ordained a requiem for Himself
in this testament; not that He needs it, but because it is
necessary and profitable for us to remember Him; whereby we are
strengthened in faith, confirmed in hope and made ardent in love.
For as long as we live on earth our lot is such that the evil
spirit and all the world assail us with joy and sorrow, to
extinguish our love for Christ, to blot out our faith, and to
weaken our hope. Wherefore we sorely need this sacrament, in
which we may gain new strength when we have grown weak, and may
daily exercise ourselves into the strengthening and uplifting of
the spirit.

[Sidenote: Promises and Signs]

11. Furthermore, in all His promises God has usually given a sign
in addition to the word, for the greater assurance and
strengthening of our faith. Thus He gave Noah the sign of the
rainbow. [Gen. 9:9, 13] To Abraham He gave circumcision as a
sign. [Gen. 17:11] To Gideon He gave the rain on the ground and
on the fleece [Judg. 6:37 ff.]; and we constantly find in the
Scriptures many of these signs, given along with the promises.
For so also worldly testaments are made; not only are the words
written down, but seals and notaries' marks are affixed thereto,
that they may always be binding and authentic. Thus Christ has
done in this testament and has affixed to the words a powerful
and most precious seal and sign; this is His own true body and
blood under the bread and wine. For we poor men, since we live in
our five senses, must always have, along with the words, at least
one outward sign, on which we may lay hold, and around which we
may gather; but in such wise that this sign may be a sacrament,
that is, that it may be external and yet contain and express
something spiritual, so that through the external we may be drawn
into the spiritual, comprehending the external with the eyes of
the body, the spiritual and inward with the eyes of the heart.

[Sidenote: The Parts of the Testament]

12. Now we see how many parts there are in this testament, or the
mass. There is, first, the testator who makes the testament,
Christ. Second, the heirs to whom the testament is bequeathed, we
Christians. Third, the testament in itself, the words of Christ
when He says: "This is My body which is given for you. This is My
blood which is shed for you, a new eternal testament, etc."
Fourth, the seal or token, the sacrament, bread and wine, and
under them His true body and blood. For everything that is in
this sacrament must live; therefore He did not put it in dead
writ and seal, but in living words and signs which we use from
day to day.

And this is what is meant when the priest elevates the host,[5]
by which act he addresses us rather than God, as though he said
to us: Behold, this is the seal and sign of the testament in
which Christ has bequeathed us remission of all an and eternal
life. With this agrees also that which is sung by the choir:
"Blessed be He that cometh to us in the name of God" [Matt.
21:9]?[6] so that we testify how we receive therein blessings
from God, and do not sacrifice nor give to Him. Fifth, the
bequeathed blessing which the words signify, namely, remission of
sin and eternal life. Sixth, the obligation, remembrance or
requiem which we should observe for Christ, to wit, that we
preach this His love and grace, hear and meditate upon it, by it
be incited and preserved unto love and hope in Him, as St. Paul
explains it: "As oft as ye eat this bread and drink of this cup
ye show the death of Christ." [1 Cor. 11:26] And this is what an
earthly testator does, who bequeaths something to his heirs, that
he may leave behind him a good name, the good will of men and a
blessed memory, that he be not forgotten.

[Sidenote: How the Mass Should be Regarded]

13. From all this it is now easily seen what the mass is, how one
should prepare himself for it, how observe and how use it, and
how many are the abuses of it. For just as one would act if ten
thousand _gulden_ were bequeathed him by a good friend: so, and
with far more reason, we ought to conduct ourselves toward the
mass, which is nothing else than an exceeding rich and
everlasting and good testament bequeathed us by Christ Himself,
and bequeathed in such wise that He would have had no other
reason to die except that He wished to make such a testament; so
fervently desirous was He to pour out His eternal treasures, as
He says: "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with
you before I die." [Luke 22:15] Hence, too, it comes that in
spite of many masses we remain so blind and cold, for we do not
know what the mass is, what we do in it, nor what we get from it.

[Sidenote: Faith in the word the True Preparation for the Mass]

Since then it is nothing else than a testament, the first and by
far the best preparation for the mass is a hungry soul and a firm
joyful faith of the heart accepting such a testament Who would
not go with great and joyful desire, hope and comfort, and demand
a thousand _gulden_, if he knew that at a certain place they had
been bequeathed him; especially if there were no other condition
than that he remember, honor, and praise the testator? So, in
this matter, you must above all else take heed to your heart,
that you believe the words of Christ, and admit their truth, when
He says to you and to all: "This is My blood, a new testament, by
which I bequeath you forgiveness of all sins and eternal life."
How could you do Him greater dishonor and show greater disrespect
to the holy mass than by not believing or by doubting? For He
desired this to be so certain that He Himself even died for it.
Surely such doubt would be naught else than denying and
blaspheming Christ's sufferings and death, and every blessing
which He has thereby obtained.

14. For this reason, I have said, everything depends upon the
words of this sacrament, which are the words of Christ, and which
we verily should set in pure gold and precious stones, and keep
nothing more diligently before the eyes of the heart, that faith
be exercised thereby. Let another pray, fast, go to confession,
prepare himself for mass and the sacrament as he will. Do thou
the same, but know that all that is pure fool's-work and
self-deception, if you do not set before you the words of the
testament and arouse yourself to believe and desire them. A long
time would you have to polish your shoes, pick the lint[7] off
your clothes, and deck yourself out to get an inheritance, if you
had no letter and seal with which you could prove your right to
it. But if you have letter and seal, and believe, desire, and
seek it, it must be given you, even though you were scaly,
scabby, stinking and most unclean. So if you would receive this
sacrament and testament worthily, see to it that you bring
forward these living words of Christ, rely thereon with a strong
faith, and desire what Christ has therein promised you: then it
will be given you, then are you worthy and well prepared. This
faith and confidence must and will make you joyful, and awaken a
bold love for Christ, by means of which you will begin with joy
to lead a really good life and with all your heart to flee from
sin. For he who loves Christ will surely do what pleases Him, and
leave undone what does not please Him. But who will love Him
except he taste the riches of this testament which Christ, out of
pure mercy, has freely bequeathed to poor sinners? This taste
comes by the faith which believes and trusts the testament and
promise. If Abraham had not believed the promise of God he would
never have amounted to anything. Just as certainly, then, as
Abraham, Noah, and David accepted and believed their promises: so
certainly must we also accept and believe this testament and

[Sidenote: Who is Worthy]

15. Now there are two temptations which never cease to assail
you; the first, that you are entirely unworthy of so rich a
testament, the second, that even were you worthy, the blessing is
so great that human nature is terrified by the greatness of it;
for what do not forgiveness of all sin and eternal life bring
with them? If either of these temptations comes to you, you must,
as I have said, esteem the words of Christ more than such
thoughts. It will not be He that lies to you; your thoughts will
be deceiving you.

Just as though a poor beggar, yea, a very knave, were bequeathed
a thousand _gulden_: he would not demand them because of his
merit or worthiness, nor fail to claim them because of the
greatness of the sum; and if any one should cast up to him his
unworthiness and the greatness of the sum, he would certainly not
allow anything of that sort to frighten him, but would say: "What
is that to you? I know full well that I am unworthy of the
inheritance; I do not demand it on my merits, as though it had
been due me, but on the favor and grace of the testator. If he
did not think it too much to bequeath to me, why should I so
despise myself and not claim and take it?" So also must a timid,
dejected conscience insist, against its own thoughts, upon the
testament of Christ, and be stubborn in firm faith, despite its
own unworthiness and the greatness of the blessing. For this very
reason that which brings to such unworthy ones so great a
blessing is a divine testament, by which God desires above all
things to awaken love to Him. So Christ comforted those dejected
ones who thought the blessing too great and said: "Faint-hearted
little flock, fear not; it hath pleased your Father to give you
the eternal Kingdom." [Luke 12:32]

[Sidenote: Abuses of the Mass: 1. The Suppression of the Words]

16. But see now what they have made of the mass! In the first
place, they have hidden these words of the testament, and have
taught that they are not to be spoken to the laity, that they are
secret words to be spoken in the mass only by the priest. Has not
the devil here in a masterly way stolen from us the chief thing
in the mass and put it to silence? For who has ever heard it
preached that one should give heed in the mass to these words of
the testament and insist upon them with a firm faith? And yet
this should have been the chief thing. Thus they have been
afraid, and have taught us to be afraid, where there is no cause
for fear, nay, where all our comfort and safety lie.

How many miserable consciences, which perished from fear and
sorrow, could have been comforted and rescued by these words!
What devil has told them that the words which should be the most
familiar, the most openly spoken among all Christians, priests
and laity, men and women, young and old, are to be hidden in
greatest secrecy? How should it be possible for us to know what
the mass is, or how to use and observe it, if we are not to know
the words in which the very mass consists?[8]

But would to God that we Germans could say mass in German, and
sing these "most secret" words loudest of all! Why should not we
Germans say mass in our own language, when the Latins, Greeks and
many others observe mass in their language? Why should we not
also keep secret the words of baptism: "I baptise thee in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen"?
[Matt. 28:19] If every one may speak in German, and aloud, these
words, which are no less the holy Word and promise of God, why
should not every one also be permitted to hear and speak those
words of the mass aloud and in German?

[Sidenote: Word and Sign in the Sacraments]

17. Let us learn, then, that in every covenant[9] of God there
are two things which one must consider; these are Word and Sign.
In baptism these are the words of the baptiser and the dipping in
water.[10] In the mass they are the words and the bread and wine.
The words are the divine covenant, promise and testament. The
signs are sacraments, that is sacred signs. Now since the
testament is far more important than the sacrament, so the words
are much more important than the signs. For the signs might be
lacking, if only one have the words, and thus one might be saved
without sacrament, yet not without testament. For I can daily
enjoy the sacrament in the mass, if I only keep before my eyes
the testament, that is, the words and covenant of Christ, and
feed and strengthen my faith thereby.

We see, then, that the best and greatest part of all sacraments
and of the mass is the words and covenant of God, without which
the sacraments are dead and are nothing at all; like a body
without a soul, a cask without wine, a purse without gold, a type
without fulfilment, a letter without spirit, a sheath without a
knife, and the like; whence it is true that when we use, hear, or
see the mass without the words or testament, and look only to the
sacrament and sign, we do not even half keep the mass. For
sacrament without testament is keeping the case without the
jewel, quite an unequal separation and division.

[Sidenote: The Testament ignored]

18. I fear, therefore, that there is at present more idolatry in
Christendom through the masses than ever occurred among the Jews.
For we hear nowhere that the mass is directed toward the feeding
and strengthening of faith, for which alone it was ordained by
Christ, but is only used as a sacrament without the testament.

Many have written of the fruits of the mass, and indeed have
greatly exalted them; nor do I question the value of these
fruits. But take heed that you regard them all, compared to this
one thing, as the body compared to the soul. God has here
prepared for our faith a pasture, table and feast; [Ps. 23] but
faith is fed with nothing except the Word of God alone. Therefore
you must take heed above all things to the words, exalt them,
highly esteem them, and hold them fast; then you will have not
simply the little drops of blessing[11] that drip from the mass,
but the very head-waters of faith, from which springs and flows
all that is good, as the Lord says in John vii, "Whosoever
believeth in Me, out of his belly shall flow streams of living
water" [John 4:14, 15]; again: "Whosoever shall drink of the
water which I give, he shall never thirst, and there shall be in
him a spring of living water unto everlasting life." We see,
then, the first abuse of the mass is this--that we have lost the
chief blessing, to wit, the testament and the faith. What
consequences this has had we now shall see.

19. It follows of necessity, where faith and the Word or promise
of God decline or are neglected, that there arise in their place
works and a false, presumptuous trust in them. For where there is
no promise of God there is no faith. Where there is no faith,
there everyone presumptuously undertakes to better himself by
means of works, and to make himself well-pleasing to God. When
this happens, false security and presumption arise therefrom, as
though man were well-pleasing to God because of his own works.
When this does not happen, the conscience has no rest, and knows
not what to do, that it may become well-pleasing to God.

[Sidenote: Abuses of the Mass: 2. The Mass a Good Work]

So too I fear that many have made out of the mass a good work,
whereby they thought to do a great service to Almighty God. Now,
if we have rightly understood what has been said above, namely,
that the mass is nothing else than a testament and sacrament, in
which God pledges Himself to us and gives us grace and mercy, I
think it is not fitting that we should make a good work or merit
out of it. For a testament is not _beneficium acceptum, sed
datum_;[12] it does not derive benefit from us, but brings us
benefit. Who has ever heard that he who receives an inheritance
does a good work? He does derive benefit. Likewise in the mass we
give Christ nothing, but only take from Him; unless they are
willing to call this a good work, that a man be quiet and permit
himself to be benefited, to be given food and drink, to be
clothed and healed, helped and redeemed. Just as in baptism, in
which there is also a divine testament and sacrament, no one
gives God anything or does Him a service, but instead takes
something; so too in all the other sacraments, and in the sermon.
For if one sacrament cannot be a meritorious good work, then no
other can be a work; because they are all of one kind, and it is
the nature of a sacrament or testament that it is not a work, but
only an exercise of faith.

[Sidenote: Good Works Connected with the Mass]

20. It is true, indeed, that when we come together to the mass to
receive the testament and sacrament, and to nourish and
strengthen faith, we there offer our prayer with one accord, and
this prayer, which arises out of faith, and is for the increase
of faith, is truly a good work; and we also distribute alms among
the poor; as was done aforetime when the Christians gathered food
and other needful things, which after the mass were distributed
among the needy, as we learn from St. Paul. But this work and
prayer are quite another thing than the testament and sacrament,
[1 Cor. 11:21, 22] which no one can offer or give to God or to
men, but every one takes and receives of it for himself only, in
proportion as he believes and trusts. Now just as I cannot
receive or give the sacrament of baptism, of penance, or of
extreme unction in any one's stead or for his benefit, but I take
for myself alone the blessing therein offered by God, and there
is here not _officium_, but _beneficium_, i. e., not work or
service, but reception and benefit alone; so also, no one can say
or hear mass for another, but each one for himself alone, for it
is purely a taking and receiving.

This is all easily understood, if one only considers what the
mass really is, namely, a testament and sacrament; that is, God's
Word and promise, together with a sacred sign, the bread and the
wine, under which Christ's body and blood are truly present. For
by what process of reasoning could a man be said to do a good
work for another when, like the others, he comes as one in need,
and takes to himself the words and sign of God in which God
promises and grants him grace and help? Surely, to receive God's
Word, sign, and grace is not the imparting of good, or the doing
of a good work, but is simply a "taking to oneself."

[Sidenote: Abuses of the Mass: 3. The Mass as a Sacrifice]

21. Now, since the whole world has made a sacrifice of the mass,
wherein they bring an offering to God, which without doubt is the
third and very worst abuse, we must dearly distinguish between
what we offer and what we do not offer in the mass.

Beyond all doubt the word "offering" in the mass has arisen and
has remained until now, because in the times of the Apostles,
when some of the practices of the Old Testament were still
observed, the Christians brought food, money and necessities,
which were distributed in connection with mass among the needy,
as I have said before.[13] For so we still read in Acts iv, that
the Christians sold all that they had, and brought it to the feet
of the Apostles, who then had it distributed and gave of the
common possessions to every one as he needed. [Acts 4:34, 35]
Even so the Apostle Paul teaches, that all food and whatsoever we
use shall be blessed with prayer and the Word of God, and thanks
be given to God therefor [Rom. 14:6, 7; 1 Cor. 10:30,31]; hence
we say the _Benedicite_ and _Gratias_[14] at table. Thus it was
the custom of the Old Testament, when men thanked God for gifts
received, that they lifted them up in their hands to God; as is
written in the law of Moses. [Exod. 34:26; Num.15:19, 20]
Therefore, the apostles also lifted up the offerings in this way,
thanked God, and blessed, with the Word of God, food and whatever
the Christians gathered. And Christ Himself, as St. Luke writes,
lifted up the cup, gave thanks to God, drank of it, and gave to
the others, before He instituted the sacrament and testament.
[Luke 22:17]

[Sidenote: The Collect and Offeratory]

22. Traces of this usage have survived in three customs. The
first, that the first and last prayer of the mass are called
"collects," that is, "collections"; which indicates that these
prayers were spoken as a blessing and thanksgiving over the food
which had been collected, to bless it and give thanks to God,
according to the teaching of St. Paul [1 Cor. 10:30, 31]. The
second, when the people after the Gospel proceed to the offering;
from which the chant which is sung at that time is called
"Offertory," that is, an offering. The third, that the priest
elevates in the paten and offers to God the still unblessed host,
at the same time that the offertory is being sung and the people
are making their offering; by which is shown that the sacrament
is not offered to God by us, but only these "collects" and
offerings of food and gifts that have been gathered, in order
that God may be thanked for them, and they may be blessed, to be
distributed to the needy.

For afterward, when the priest, in the "low mass," [15] elevates
the blessed host and cup, there is not a word said about the
sacrifice, where he should most of all make mention of the
sacrifice, if the mass were a sacrifice: but, as I have said
above,[16] he elevates it not toward God, but toward us, to
remind us of the testament, and to incite us to faith in the
same. In like manner, when he receives or administers the
sacrament, he does not mention the sacrifice by a single word;
which must and should be done were the sacrament a sacrifice.
Therefore, the mass dare not and cannot be called or be a
sacrifice because of the sacrament, but only because of the food
which is gathered and the prayer with which God is thanked and
with which it is blessed.

[Sidenote: The Offering at the Mass]

23. Now the custom of gathering food and money at the mass has
fallen into disuse, and not more than a trace of it remains in
the offering of the _pfennig_ on the high festivals, and
especially on Easter Day, when they still bring cakes, meat,
eggs, etc., to church to be blessed. Now in place of such
offerings and collections, endowed churches, monastic houses and
hospitals have been erected, and should be maintained for the
sole purpose that the needy in every city may be given all they
need, that there be no beggar or needy one among the Christians,
but that each and all may have from the mass enough for body and

But all this is reversed. Just as the mass is not rightly
explained to men, but is understood as a sacrifice, not as a
testament, so, on the other hand, that which is and ought to be
the offering, namely, the possessions of the churches and
monastic houses, is no longer offered and is not given, with the
thanksgiving and blessing of God, to the needy to whom it ought
to be given. Therefore God is provoked to anger, and now permits
the possessions of the churches and monastic houses to become the
occasion of war, of worldly pomp, and of such abuse that no other
blessing is so shamefully and blasphemously managed and wasted.
And since it does not serve the poor, for whom it was appointed,
it is indeed meet and right that it should remain unworthy to
serve for anything but sin and shame.

[Sidenote: The Mass Not a Sacrifice]

24. Now if you ask what is left in the mass to give it the name
of a sacrifice, since so much is said in the Office about the
sacrifice, I answer: Nothing is left. For, to be brief and to the
point, we must let the mass be a sacrament and testament, and
this is not and cannot be a sacrifice any more than the other
sacraments--baptism, confirmation, penance, extreme unction,
etc.--are sacrifices.[17] Otherwise we should lose the Gospel,
Christ, the comfort of the sacrament and every grace of God.
Therefore we must separate the mass clearly and distinctly from
the prayers and ceremonies which have been added by the holy
fathers, and keep the two as far apart as heaven and earth, that
the mass may remain nothing else than the testament and sacrament
comprehended in the words of Christ. What there is over and
beyond these words we are to regard, in comparison with the words
of Christ, as we regard the monstrance[18] and corporal[19] in
comparison with the host and the sacrament itself; and these we
regard as nothing but additions for the reverent and seemly
administration of the sacrament. Now just as we regard the
monstrance, corporal and altar-cloths compared with the
sacrament, so we are to look upon all added words, works and
ceremonies of the mass compared with the words of Christ Himself,
in which He gives and ordains this testament. For if the mass or
sacrament were a sacrifice, we would have to say that it is a
mass and sacrifice when the sacrament is brought to the sick in
their home, or when those in health receive it in the church, and
that there are as many masses and sacrifices as the number of
those who approach the sacrament. If in this case it is not a
sacrifice, how is it a sacrifice in the hand of the priest, since
it is still one and the same sacrament, one and the same use, one
and the same benefit, and in all respects the same sacrament and
testament with all of us?

[Sidenote: The Spiritual Sacrifice in the Mass]

25. We should, therefore, give careful heed to this word
"sacrifice," that we do not presume to give God something in the
sacrament, when it is He who therein gives us all things. We
should bring spiritual sacrifices, since the external sacrifices
have ceased and have been changed into the gifts to churches,
monastic houses and charitable institutions. What sacrifices
then are we to offer? Ourselves, and all that we have, with
constant prayer, as we say: "Thy will be done on earth as in
heaven." [Matt. 6:10] Whereby we are to yield ourselves to the
will of God, that He may do with us what He will, according to
His own pleasure; in addition, we are to offer Him praise and
thanksgiving with our whole heart, for His unspeakable, sweet
grace and mercy, which He has promised and given us in this
sacrament. And although such a sacrifice occurs apart from the
mass, and should so occur, for it does not necessarily and
essentially belong to the mass, as has been said,[20] yet it is
more precious, more seemly, more mighty and also more acceptable
when it takes place with the multitude and in the assembly where
men provoke, move and inflame one another to press close to God,
and thereby attain without all doubt what they desire.

For so has Christ promised; where two are gathered together in
His name there He is in the midst of them, and where two agree on
earth as touching anything that they shall ask, all shall be done
that they ask. [Matt. 18:19, 20] How much more shall they obtain
what they ask, when a whole city comes together to praise God and
to pray with one accord! We would not need many
indulgence-letters if we proceeded aright in this matter. Souls
also would easily be redeemed from purgatory and innumerable
blessings would follow. But, alas! that is not the way it goes.
Everything is reversed; what the mass is intended to do, we take
upon us and want to do ourselves; what we ought to do we give
over to the mass. All this is the work of unlearned, false

26. To be sure, this sacrifice of prayer, praise and
thanksgiving, and of ourselves, we are not to present before God
in our own person, but we are to lay it on Christ and let Him
present it, as St. Paul teaches in Hebrews xiii: "Let us offer
the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of
the lips which confess Him and praise Him," [Heb. 13:15] and all
this through Christ. For He is also a priest, as Psalm cx says:
"Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" [Ps.
110:4]; because He intercedes for us in heaven, receives our
prayer and sacrifice, and through Himself, as a godly priest,
makes them pleasing to God [Heb. 5:6, 10, etc.], as St. Paul says
again in Hebrews ix: "He is ascended into Heaven to be a mediator
in the presence of God for us" [Heb. 9:24]; and: "It is Christ
Jesus that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, Who is even at
the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us."
[Rom. 8:34]

[Sidenote: Christ the Priest: Christians the Sacrifice]

From these words we learn that we do not offer Christ as a
sacrifice, but that Christ offers us. And in this way it is
permissible, yea, profitable, to call the mass a sacrifice, not
on its own account, but because we offer ourselves as a sacrifice
along with Christ; that is, we lay ourselves on Christ by a firm
faith in His testament, and appear before God with our prayer,
praise and sacrifice only through Him and through His mediation;
and we do not doubt that He is our priest and minister in heaven
before God. Such faith, forsooth, brings it to pass that Christ
takes up our cause, presents us, our prayer and praise, and also
offers Himself for us in heaven. If the mass were so understood
and therefore called a sacrifice, it would be well. Not that we
offer the sacrament, but that by our praise, prayer and sacrifice
we move Him and give Him occasion to offer Himself for us in
heaven, and ourselves with Him. As though I were to say, I had
brought a king's son to his father as an offering, when, indeed,
I had done no more than induce that son to present my need and
petition to the king, and made the son my mediator.

[Sidenote: All Christians Priests]

27. Few, however, understand the mass in this way. For they
suppose that only the priest offers the mass as a sacrifice
before God, although this is done and should be done by everyone
who receives the sacrament, yea, also by those who are present at
the mass and do not receive the sacrament. Furthermore, such
offering of sacrifice every Christian may make, wherever he is
and at all times, as St. Paul says: "Let us offer the sacrifice
of praise continually through Him," [Heb. 13:15] and Psalm cx:
"Thou art a priest forever." [Ps. 110:4] If He is a priest
forever, then He is at all times a priest and is offering
sacrifices without ceasing before God. But we cannot be
continually the same, and therefore the mass has been instituted
that we may there come together and offer such sacrifice in

But let him who understands the mass otherwise or uses it
otherwise than as a testament and sacrifice of this kind take
heed how he understands it. I understand it, as has been said, to
be really nothing else than this, that we receive the testament
and at the same time admonish ourselves and be minded to
strengthen our faith and not doubt that Christ is our priest in
heaven, who offers Himself for us without ceasing and presents us
and our prayer and praise, and makes them acceptable; just as
though I were to offer the human priest as a sacrifice in the
mass and appoint him to present my need and my praise of God, and
he were to give me a token that he would do it. In this case I
would be offering the priest as a sacrifice; and it is in this
wise that I offer Christ, in that I desire and believe that He
accepts me and my prayer and praise, and presents it to God in
His own person, and to strengthen this faith, gives me a token
that He will do it. This token is the sacrament of bread and
wine. Thus it becomes clear that it is not the priest alone who
offers the sacrifice of the mass, but every one's faith, which is
the true priestly office, through which Christ is offered as a
sacrifice to God. This office the priest, with the outward
ceremonies of the mass, simply represents. Each and all are,
therefore equally spiritual priests before God. [Rev. 1:6; 5:10,
1 Pet. 2:9]

[Sidenote: Faith the True Priestly Office]

28. From this you can see for yourself that there are many who
rightly observe mass and make this sacrifice, who themselves know
nothing about it, nay, who do not realize that they are priests
and can observe mass. Again, there are many who take great pains
and apply themselves with all diligence, thinking that they are
keeping the mass properly and offering a right sacrifice, and yet
there is nothing right about it. For all those who have the faith
that Christ is a priest for them in heaven before God, and who
lay on Him their prayers and praise, their need and their whole
selves, and present them through Him, not doubting that He does
this very thing, and offers Himself for them, these take the
sacrament and testament, outwardly or spiritually, as a sign of
all this, and do not doubt that all sin is thereby forgiven, that
God has become their gracious Father and that everlasting life is
prepared for them.

All such, then, wherever they may be, are true priests, observe
the mass aright and also obtain by it what they desire. For faith
must do everything. It alone is the true priestly office and
permits no one else to take its place. Therefore all Christians
are priests; the men, priests, the women, priestesses, be they
young or old, masters or servants, mistresses or maids, learned
or unlearned. Here there is no difference, unless faith be
unequal. Again, all who do not have such faith, but presume to
make much of the mass as a sacrifice, and perform this office
before God, are figure-heads. They observe mass outwardly and do
not themselves know what they are doing, and cannot be well
pleasing to God. For without true faith it is impossible to
please Him, as St. Paul says in Hebrews xi. [Heb. 11:6] Now there
are many who, hidden in their hearts, have such true faith, and
themselves know not of it; many there are who do not have it, and
of this, too, they are unaware.

[Sidenote: Masses for the Dead]

39. It has become a wide-spread custom to found masses for the
dead, and many books have been written about it. If we ask now,
Of what benefit are the masses celebrated for the souls which are
kept in purgatory? the answer is: What is custom! God's Word must
prevail and remain true, to wit, that the mass is nothing else
than a testament and sacrament of God, and cannot be a good work
or a sacrifice, although it may be taken to include sacrifice and
good works, as was said above.[21]

There is no doubt, therefore, that whoever observes mass without
the faith aforementioned benefits neither himself nor any one
else. For the sacrament in itself, without faith, does nothing;
nay, God Himself, Who indeed doeth all things, does and can do
good to no one unless he firmly believes Him; how much less can
the sacrament. It is easy to say, a mass is effective whether it
be performed by a pious or a wicked priest, that it is acceptable
_opere operati_, not _opere operantis_.[22] But to produce no
other argument except that many say this, and it has become a
custom, is poor proof that it is right. Many have praised
pleasures and riches and have grown accustomed to them; that does
not make them right; we should produce Scripture or reason for
it. Therefore let us take heed lest we be made fools. I cannot
conclude that the institution of so many masses and requiems can
be without abuse, especially since all this is done as a good
work and sacrifice by which to pay God, whereas in the mass there
is nothing else than the reception and enjoyment of divine grace,
promised and given us in His testament and sacrament.

30. I will gladly agree that the faith which I have called[23]
the true priestly office, which makes of us all priests and
priestesses, through which in connection with the sacrament we
offer ourselves, our need, prayer, praise and thanksgiving in
Christ and through Christ, and thereby offer Christ before God,
that is, give Him cause and move Him to offer Himself for us and
us with Himself--this faith, I say, is truly able to do all
things in heaven, earth, hell and purgatory, and to this faith no
one can ascribe too much. And as I have said above,[24] if
Christ promises to two persons the answers to all their prayers
[Matt. 18:19], how much more may so many obtain from Him what
they desire!

I know full well that some will be very ready to call me a
heretic in this. But, dear fellow, you should also consider
whether you can prove as easily as you slander. I have read all
that, and I know the books on which you rely, so you need not
think I do not know your art. But I say that your art has no
foundation, and that you cannot defend it, and that out of a
sacrament or testament of God you will never make a sacrifice or
a work of satisfaction, and, indeed, satisfaction itself is more
of a human than a divine law.[25]

Therefore my advice is, let us hold fast to that which is
sure[26] and let the uncertain go; that is, if we would help
these poor souls in purgatory or any one else, let us not take
the risk of relying upon the mass as a sufficient work, but
rather come together to mass, and with priestly faith[27] present
every besetting need, in Christ and with Christ, praying for the
souls [of the departed], and not doubting that we will be heard.
Thus we may be sure that the soul is redeemed. For the faith
which rests on the promise of Christ never deceives nor fails.

[Sidenote: The Need for the Sacrament]

31. So we read that St. Monica, St Augustine's mother, on her
death-bed, desired to be remembered in the mass.[28] If the mass
were sufficient of itself to help everyone, what need would there
be for faith and prayer? But you might say, if this is true,
anyone might observe mass and offer such a sacrifice, even in the
open fields. For every one may indeed have such a faith in Christ
in the open fields, and offer and commit to Him his prayer,
praise, need and cause, to bring it before God in heaven, and
besides he may also think of the sacrament and testament,
heartily desire it, and in this way spiritually receive it. For
he who desires it and believes, receives it spiritually, as St.
Augustine teaches.[29]

What need is there then to observe mass in the churches? I
answer: It is true, such faith is enough, and truly accomplishes
everything, but how could you think of this faith, sacrifice,
sacrament and testament if it were not visibly administered in
certain designated places and churches? The same is true in the
case of baptism and absolution, although faith is sufficient
without them, where no more can be done; still if there were no
place for their administration, who could think of them and
believe in them, or who could know or say anything of them?
Moreover, since God has so ordered this sacrament, we must not
despise it, but receive it with great reverence, praise and
gratitude. For if there were no other reason why we should
observe mass outwardly and not be satisfied with inward faith
alone, yet were this sufficient, that God so orders and wills it.
And His will ought to please us above all things and be
sufficient reason to do or omit anything.

There is also this advantage: since we are still living in the
flesh and are not all perfect enough to rule ourselves in spirit,
we need to come together to enkindle such a faith in one another
by example, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, as I have said
above,[30] and through the outward seeing and receiving of the
sacrament and testament to move each other to the increase of
this faith. There are many saints, who like St. Paul the
Hermit,[31] remained for years in the desert without mass, and
yet were never without mass. But such a high spiritual example
cannot be imitated by everyone or by the whole Church.

[Sidenote: The Mass a Proclamation of the Gospel]

33. But the chief reason for outwardly holding mass is the Word
of God, which no one can do without, and which must daily be used
and studied. Not only because every day Christians are born,
baptised and trained, but because we live in the midst of the
world, the flesh and the devil, who do not cease to tempt us and
drive us into sin, against which the most powerful weapon is the
holy Word of God, as St. Paul also calls it, "a spiritual sword,"
[Eph. 6:17] which is powerful against all sin. This the Lord
indicated when He instituted the mass and said: "This do in
remembrance of Me" [Luke 22:19]; as though He said, "As often as
you use this sacrament and testament you shall preach of Me," As
also St. Paul says in I. Corinthians xi, "As oft as ye eat this
bread and drink this cup ye shall preach and proclaim the death
of the Lord until He come" [1 Cor. 11:26]; and Psalm cii, "They
shall declare the glory of the Lord in Zion and His praise in
Jerusalem, as often as the kings (that is, the bishops and
rulers) and the people come together to serve the lord" [Ps.
102:21, 22]; and Psalm cxi, "He hath instituted a memorial of His
wonders in that He has given meat to all who fear Him." [Ps.
111:4, 5]

In these passages you see how the mass was instituted to preach
and praise Christ, to glorify His sufferings and all His grace
and goodness, that we may be moved to love Him, hope and believe
in Him, and thus, in addition to this Word or sermon, receive an
outward sign, that is, the sacrament, to the end that our faith,
provided with and confirmed by divine words and signs, may become
strong against all sin, suffering, death and hell and everything
that is against us. And but for the preaching of the Word He
would nevermore have instituted the mass. He is more concerned
about the Word than about the sign. For the preaching ought to be
nothing but an explanation of the words of Christ when He
institutes the mass and says: "This is My body. This is My blood,
etc." What is the whole Gospel but an explanation of this
testament? Christ has comprehended the whole Gospel in a short
summary with the words of this testament or sacrament. For the
whole Gospel is nothing but a proclamation of God's grace and of
the forgiveness of all sins, granted us through the sufferings of
Christ, as St. Paul proves in Romans x [Rom. 10:9, 11, 13]; and
Christ in Luke xxiv [Luke 24:46, 47]. This same thing the words
of this testament contain, as we have seen.

34. From this we may see what a pity and perversion it is that so
many masses are said, and yet the Gospel is kept altogether
silent. They stand and preach, and give to poor souls chaff for
wheat, yea, death for life, intending afterward to make up for it
with many masses. What sort of baptism would that be, if the
water were poured upon the child and not a word were said? I fear
that the holy words of the testament are read so secretly, and
kept hidden from the laity, because God in His wrath is
testifying thereby that the whole Gospel is no longer publicly
preached to the people, that even as the summary of the Gospel is
hidden, so also its public explanation has ceased.

[Sidenote: The Withdrawal of the Cup]

Next, they took entirely from us the one element, the wine,
although that does not matter much, for the Word is more
important than the sign. Still, I should like to know who gave
them the power to do such a thing. In the same way they might
take from us the other element and give us the empty monstrance
to kiss as a relic, and at last abolish everything that Christ
has instituted. I fear it is a figure and type that augurs
nothing good in these perilous, perverted latter days. It is said
that the pope has the power to do it; I say that is all fiction,
he does not have a hair's breadth of power to change what Christ
has made; and whatever of these things he changes, that he does
as a tyrant and Antichrist. I should like to hear how they will
prove it.

Not that I wish to cause a turmoil about it, for I regard the
Word as mightier than the sign, but I cannot permit the outrage
when they not only do us wrong, but wish to have a right thereto,
and force us not only to permit such a wrong, but also to praise
it as right and good. Let them do what they will, so long as we
are not obliged to acknowledge wrong as right. It is enough that
we permit ourselves, with Christ, to be smitten on the cheek
[John 18:22], but it is not for us to praise it, as though they
had done well therein and earned God's reward.

[Sidenote: Superstitious Use of Mass]

35. But what of those poor priests and laymen who have departed
so far from the true meaning of the mass and of faith that they
have even made of it a sort of magic? Some men have masses said
that they may become rich and prosper in their business, others
because they think if they hear mass in the morning they will be
safe during the day from all danger and want; some, again, on
account of sickness; others for still more foolish, yea, even
sinful reasons, and yet they find priests perverted enough to
take their money and do their bidding.

[Sidenote: Distinction of Masses]

Furthermore, they have now made one mass better than another; one
is valued as useful for this, another for that. Thus they have
made seven "Golden Masses." [33] The "Mass of the Holy Cross" has
come to have a different virtue from the "Mass of Our Lady." In
this matter every one is silent and permits the people to go on
for the sake of the cursed, filthy _pfennigs_, which through
these various titles and virtues of the mass come piling in. So
must faith, like Christ, be sold by its Judas, that is, by
covetousness and the thirst for money. [Matt. 26:15, 16]

Some are to be found also who have mass said privately, for this
and for that; in short, the mass must do all kinds of things,
except its own peculiar work--faith, which no one regards. They
now are the best men on earth who have many masses said, as
though they thought thereby to lay up many good works. All of
this is the work of ignorance, which does not separate the hymns
and prayers, which have been added, from the true, original mass.
For one mass is like another and there is no difference, except
in the faith. For the mass is best to him who believes most, and
it serves only to increase faith, and for nothing else. True,
indeed, the added prayers do serve, one this purpose, another
that, according to the meaning of their words, but they are not
the mass or the sacrament.

[Sidenote: Reduction in the Number of Masses]

36. I would advise then, that where the masses are not directed
toward such faith, they be abolished, and that there be fewer
masses endowed for the souls of the dead. Truly we provoke God
to anger with them more than we conciliate Him. To what purpose
are the priests in the chapter houses and cloisters so strictly
bound to observe the yearly[34] masses, since they are not only
without such faith, but also are often of necessity unfit. Christ
Himself did not desire to bind anyone thereto and left us wholly
free when He said: "This do ye, as oft as ye do it, in
remembrance of Me." [1 Cor. 11:25] And we men bind ourselves so
fast and drive ourselves on against our own conscience. I see too
that such an institution often has no good reason, but a secret
greed is at the bottom of the obligation and that we burden
ourselves with many masses in order that we may have sufficient
income in temporal things; afterward we say that we do it for
God's sake. I fear few would be found who gratuitously and for
God's sake would thus burden themselves. But if all these masses
are observed in the faith above mentioned, which I scarcely
expect, they are to be tolerated. But if not, then it would be
best that there be only one mass a day in a city, and that it be
held in a proper manner in the presence of the assembled people.
If at any time, however, we desire to have more, the people
should be divided into as many parts as there are masses, and
each part should be made to attend its own mass, there to
exercise their faith and to offer their prayer, praise and need
in Christ, as was said above.[35]

[Sidenote: Proper Preparation for the Mass]

37. If, then, the mass is a testament and sacrament in which the
forgiveness of sins and every grace of God are promised and
sealed with a sign, it follows of itself, what is the best
preparation for it. Without doubt, it is given to them that need
it and desire it. But who needs forgiveness of sins and God's
grace more than just these poor miserable consciences that are
driven and tormented by their sins, are afraid of God's anger and
judgment, of death and of hell, that would be glad to have a
gracious God and desire nothing more greatly? These are truly
they who are well-prepared for mass. For them these words have
force and meaning, when Christ says: "Take and drink, this is My
blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins." [Matt.
26:27] Where such a soul believes these words, as it ought, it
receives from the mass all the fruits of the mass, that is, peace
and joy, and is thus well and richly fed by it in spirit. But
where there is no faith, there no prayer helps, nor the hearing
of many masses; things can only become worse. As Psalm xxiii
says: "Thou preparest a table before me against all my enemies."
[Ps. 23:5] Is this not a clear passage? What greater enemies are
there than sin and an evil conscience which at all times fears
God's anger and never has rest? Again, Psalm cxi says: "He hath
made His wonderful works to be remembered and hath given meat to
them that fear Him." [Ps. 111:4, 5] It is certain then that for
bold, confident spirits, whose sin does not prick them, the mass
is of no value, for they have as yet no hunger for this food, but
are still too full. The mass demands and must have a hungry soul,
which longs for forgiveness of sins and divine favor.

[Sidenote: The Mass a Remedy against Despair and Doubt]

38. But because this despair and unrest of conscience are nothing
but an infirmity of faith, the severest malady which man can have
in body and soul, and which cannot at once or speedily be cured,
it is useful and necessary that the more restless a man's
conscience, the more should he approach the sacrament or hear
mass, provided that he picture to himself therein the Word of
God, and feed and strengthen his faith by it, and ever see to it
that he do not make a work or sacrifice of it, but let it remain
a testament and sacrament, out of which he shall take and enjoy a
benefit freely and of grace, by which his heart may become sweet
toward God and obtain a comforting confidence toward Him. For so
sings the Psalter, Psalm civ, "The bread strengtheneth man's
heart, and the wine maketh glad the heart of man." [Ps. 104:15]

[Sidenote: A Sacrament for the Deaf and Dumb]

39. Some have asked whether the sacrament is to be offered also
to the deaf and dumb. Some think it a kindness to practice a
pious fraud upon them, and think they should be given unblessed
wafers. This mockery is not right, and will not please God, Who
has made them Christians as well as us; and the same things are
due to them as to us. Therefore, if they have sound
understanding and can show by indubitable signs that they desire
it in true Christian devotion, as I have often seen, we should
leave to the Holy Spirit what is His work and not refuse Him what
He demands. It may be that inwardly they have a better
understanding and faith than we, and this no one should
presumptuously oppose. Do we not read of St. Cyprian,[36] the
holy martyr, that in Carthage, where he was bishop, he gave both
elements to the children, although that has now ceased, for good
reasons? Christ permitted the children to come to Him, and would
not suffer any one to forbid them [Mark 10:13 ff.]. And in like
manner He has withheld His blessings neither from dumb or blind,
nor from the lame; why should not His sacrament also be for those
who heartily and in a Christian spirit desire it?

[Sidenote: Conclusion]

40. Thus we see with how very few laws and works Christ has
weighed down His holy Church, and with how many promises He has
lifted it up to faith; although now, alas! all is turned about,
and we are driven by many long and burdensome laws and works to
become pious; and nothing comes of it. But Christ's burden is
light [Matt. 11:30] and soon produces an abundant piety, which
consists in faith and trust, and fulfils what Isaiah says: "A
little perfection shall bring a flood full of all piety." [Isa.
10:32 (Vulgate)] That burden is faith, which is a little thing,
to which belong neither laws nor works, nay it cuts off all laws
and works and fulfils all laws and works. Therefore there flows
from it nothing but righteousness. For so perfect is faith, that
without any other labor and law, it makes everything that man
does acceptable and well-pleasing to God. As I have further said
of it in my little book "Of Good Works." [37]

Therefore, let us beware of sins, but much more of laws and good
works, and only give heed to the divine promise and to faith;
then good works will come of themselves. To this may God help
us. Amen.


[1] See above, p. 25, note 1.

[2] Luther's customary term for the law of the Church, or "Canon

[3] For the application of this principle to the sacrament of
penance, see the _Discussion of Confession_ above, p. 82 f.

[4] Luther quotes from the Vulgate, St. Jerome's Latin version of
the Bible.

[5] The bread of the Lord's Supper.

[6] The _Sanctus_ in the mass.

[7] Luther says "feathers."

[8] _Darinnen die Messe steht und geht_.

[9] _Gelübde_, literally "vow."

[10] On the mode of baptism see the _Treatise on Baptism_ in this
volume. Cf. _Small Catechism_, Part IV, 4, and _Large Catechism_,
Part IV.

[11] _Tropffrüchtlein_.

[12] "Not a benefit received, but a benefit conferred."

[13] See p. 309.

[14] i. e., Blessing and Thanksgiving at Table; cf. Appendix II.
of the _Small Catechism_.

[15] Called the "still" mass because said without music.

[16] See p. 302.

[17] Luther at this period still acknowledges seven sacraments.
But see the _Babylonian Captivity_, written in October 1520.

[18] The receptacle in which the consecrated host is shown to the

[19] The corporal-cloth spread over the altar during the
communion service.

[20] See p. 306.

[21] See pp. 308 f., 311 ff.

[22] It is the teaching of the Roman Church that a sacrament is
effective _ex opere operato_, i. e., simply as a sacrament
ordained of God. Intended to guard against the idea that the
validity of the sacrament depended on the character of the priest
or of the recipient, it gave rise to the notion that the
sacrament worked a sort of sacred magic.

[23] See p. 316.

[24] See p. 313.

[25] Cf. XCV Theses, pp. 19, 41.

[26] _Lasst uns des gewissen spielen_.

[27] See p. 316.

[28] Confessions of St. Augustine, Book IX, Chapter XI.

[29] This is the _votum sacramenti_, which, according to Roman
teaching, suffices for salvation if participation in the
sacrament is impossible.

[30] See p. 313.

[31] Paul of Thebes, an Egyptian hermit of the III. Century,
whose life was written by St. Jerome.

[32] The translators have followed the numbering of the text in
the _Weimar_ and _Erlangen Editions_, which omit No. 32 in
numbering the paragraphs.

[33] The mass held for the Blessed Virgin in Hildsheim on the
second Sunday after St. Michael's Day is, on account of its
magnificence, called "golden." Du Cange.

[34] The masses which are observed every day throughout the year.

[35] See p. 313 f.

[36] Bishop of Carthage, died 258.

[37] See above, pp. 187 ff.





Luther's declaration of emancipation from the spiritual
pre-eminence of the Church of Rome, which, said he, "is proven
solely by the by the empty papal decretals of the last four
hundred years, and against which there stands the testimony of
the authentic history of eleven hundred years, the text of Holy
Scripture, and the decree of the Nicene Council," appeared in
print in spring 1519.[1] It was in the form of a
counter-thesis[2] to Eck's specious and celebrated "Thirteenth
Thesis." It culminated in the Leipzig Disputation in July.

Before another summer had passed, this Disputation bore marvelous
and unlooked-for fruits. In a series of epochal pamphlets,
written in part for the clergy, and in part for the newly
awakened laity, Luther with remarkable rapidity developed his new
and scriptural teaching on the nature of the Church, on the
duties of the state, on the essence of the sacraments, and on the
inner life of the individual Christian.

The tractates of 1520, to which that on "The Papacy at Rome"
belongs, like most of Luther's writings, were drawn forth from
him in large part defensively, under provocation from the other
side, or by the exigencies of the occasion. His correspondence[3]
during the first half of 1520 reveals them as a result (with
fresh causes arising) of the stir at Leipzig.

Said Luther (February, 1520), "You cannot make a pen out of a
sword: the Word of God is a sword. I was unwilling to be forced
to come forward in public; and the more unwilling I am, the more
I am drawn into the contest." Widely and eagerly read, these
piquant publications made Luther the awakener, the developer, and
as Harnack declares, the spiritual center of the reformatory
thought that was now rising to a crisis.

Fortunate it was, that the infancy of modern and the birth of
Luther were contemporary, and that Luther turned to the printing
press to such an extent in that critical period, that in the
single year under discussion the number of printed German works
was doubled.

Our little book of June 26, 1520, is the earliest of his writings
to present a full outline of his teaching on the nature of the
Christian Church. Driven by an antagonist, to whom his work is a
reply, to write[4] in German for the laity, Luther gives them a
clear and fundamental insight into this burning subject. His
teachings "which he had just one year before maintained at the
Leipzig Disputation are here unfolded, following to their logical
conclusions and clearly presented."[5] This flying counter-attack
against the "famous Romanist at Leipzig" thus becomes, in the
judgment of Köstlin,[6] "one of the most important of his general
doctrinal treatise of that period."

Luther's reply was written in short order during the last two
weeks in May.[7] It came about in this wise: Eck at the
Disputation had driven Luther to declare that belief in the
divine supremacy of Rome was not necessary to salvation.
Following this, in fall, a Franciscan friar, Augustine von
Avleld, had risen to attack Luther and glorify the papacy, having
received an appointment from Adolph, the Bishop of Merseburg (who
had posted the inhibition on the Leipzig churches against the
Disputation,[8] to write against the Reformer. Alveld's work,
justifying the divine right of the Apostolic Chair, to all
learned men, appeared early in May,[9] in the Latin language, in
a first edition full of errors, followed quickly by a second
edition.[10] Alveld attempted to cut Luther to pieces with
"seven swords," of which the first was _recta ratio_; the second,
_canonica scriptura_; the third, _vera scientia_ (gained through
the Church teachers and scholastics); the fourth, _pietas sacra_;
the fifth, _sanus intellectus_; the sixth, _simplex et pudica
sapientia_; the seventh, _pura et integra scientia_.

On Alved's miserable jumble, in which the Reformer is alluded to
as a "heretic," "lunatic," "wolf," Luther was not willing to
waste any time (despite a threatening letter from Alveld); but
jotted down some points for John Lonicer,[11] who on June 1st,
published a sharp exposé[12] of the Leipzig Romanist's
weaknesses[13]. Although the monastic authorities at Leipzig,
fearing Luther, now attempted to suppress Alveld, that worthy at
once came out[14] with a new work[15] on the same theme and this
time in the German language[16]. It stirred Luther's blood. "If
the jackanapes had not issued his little book in German to poison
the defenceless laity," he said, "I would have looked on it as
too small a matter to take up." As it was, with great rapidity he
wrote his "The Papacy at Rome against the Celebrated Romanist at
Leipzig." Going to press in May, the book was completed on the
26th of June. The twelve known editions are all quartos and range
in size from twenty-two to thirty-two leaves. The first[17] two
editions were printed by Melchior Lotther in Wittenberg; one by
Peypus in Nuremberg; two by Silvan Otmar in Augsburg; one by
George Nadler in Augsburg; one by Adam Petri in Basel and one by
Andrew Exatander.[18]

_Incidentally_ Luther handles the "Alveld Ass" [19] and the Roman
cause without gloves, but _in substance_ he explains to the
layman what Christianity really is,[20] i. e., unfolds to them
the essence of the Christian Church.[21] In doing so he takes
advanced ground for civil and religious liberty. The traditional
mediæval idea of universal monarchy is dealt a heavy blow.
Neither in Civil Government nor in the Church is the need of a
single monarchical head. "The Roman Empire governed itself for a
long time, and very well, without the one head, and many other
countries in the world did the same. How does the Swiss
Confederacy govern itself at present?"

Against the modern demand that the Church shall socialize itself,
that it shall organize as a public center in a community of the
people's civic life, that it shall enter the nation's political
activities for moral uplift, and that ministers should become
what Luther would call "preachers of dreams in material
communities," our book places itself on record[22].

Against the widespread demand that Christianity should get
together into one world-wide visible ecclesiastical order,
Luther's words are peremptory. He declares that the one true
Church is already a spiritual community composed of all the
believers in Christ upon the earth, that it is not a bodily
assembly, but "an assembly of the hearts in one faith," that the
true Church is "a spiritual thing, and not anything external or
outward," that "external unity is not the fulfilment of a divine
commandment," and that those who emphasize the externalization of
the Church into one visible or national order "are in reality

Luther refers to those without the unity of the Roman Church as
still within the true Church. "For the Muscovites, Russians,
Greeks, Bohemians, and many other great peoples in the world, all
these believe as we do, baptise as we do, preach as we do, live
as we do."

But if Luther attacks the supremacy of the outer organization in
the Church, he no less forcibly disputes the supremacy of man's
own inner thinking, his reasoning, in theology. He defines human
reason as "our ability which is drawn from experience in temporal
things" and declares it ridiculous to place this ability on a
level with divine law[24]. He compares the man who uses his
reason to defend God's law with the man who in the thick of
battle would use his bare hand and head to protect his helmet and
sword. He insists that Scripture is the supreme and only rule of
faith[25], and ridicules the Romanists who inject their reason
into the Scriptures, "making out of them what they wish, as
though they were a nose of wax to be pulled around at will."

As might be supposed, Luther's book, thus set against the
external unity of human ecclesiastical organization, and against
the inner rule of human thinking, is equally strong against the
human visualization of divine worship. He argues against those
who "turn spiritual edification into an outward show", and those
who chiefly apply the name Church to an assembly in which "the
external rites are in use, such as chanting, reading, vestments;
and the name 'spiritual estate' is given to the members of the
holy orders, not on account of their faith (which perhaps they do
not have), but because they have been consecrated with an
external anointing, wear distinctive dress, make special prayers
and do special works, have their places in the choir, and seem to
attend to all such external matters of worship."[26]

The fallacy of the argument that because the Old Testament was a
type of the New, therefore the material types of the Old
Testament must be reproduced in the New, is exposed by him. [27]
The open and fearless opposition to the popedom at Rome, which
already appeared in the Diet at Augsburg in 1518, and more
circumspectly, in the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, is very
free[28] in this booklet to the laity of 1520, and is preliminary
to the more intense antagonism which will appear in "The
Babylonian Captivity." At Leipzig, Eck had laid emphasis on the
Scripture passage, "Feed my sheep," and both this passage[29] and
the one of Matthew 16:18 ("Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I
will build my Church") are explained by Luther for the laity. He
charges the popes with having forsaken the faith, with living
under the power of Satan, and with being themselves

This tractate applies doctrine to existing institutions, and
makes the truth clear to the laity. We see in it the power of
Luther in stirring the popular mind. We do not regard the coarse
invectives of Luther (which many cultured men of to-day seem to
cite with outward horror--and inner enjoyment) as a remark of low
peasant birth, or of crudeness of breeding, but as the language
of a great leader who, in desperate struggle with the powers that
be, knew how to attach himself to the mind of his age in such way
as to influence it. How noble and great is his own remark at the
close of his booklet on others' allusion to himself in print!
"Whoever will, let him freely slander and condemn my person and
my life. It is already forgiven him. God has given me a glad and
fearless spirit, which they shall not embitter for me, I trust,
not in all eternity."

Luther in this pamphlet, insists that none are to be regarded as
heretics simply because they are not under the Pope; and that the
Pope's decrees, to stand, must endure the test of Scripture.
Luther wrote in May. In June he told Spalatin that if the Pope
did not reform, he would appeal to the Emperor and German
nobility. Within another month that appeal appeared.

The men of Leipzig feared the work of Luther, and the rector of
the University had pled for mercy. Luther replied that Leipzig
deserved to be placed in the pillory[31], that he had no desire
to make sport of the city and its university, but was pressed
into it by the bombast of the Romanist, who boasted that he was a
"public teacher of the Holy Scripture at Leipzig"; and by the
fact that Alveld had dedicated his work to the city and its
Council. Alveld answered Lonicer and Luther bitterly, but Luther
replied no more.

    Theodore E. Smauk.

_Lebanon, Pennsylvania._


[1] Still earlier, in his _Resolutions to the 95 Theses_
(Resolut. Disputat., etc. Erl. Fr. Ed. II, 122 sqq., 137
sqq.) Luther had in an historical and objective way spoken
of a time when the Roman Church had not been exalted over
the other churches, at least not above those of Greece; that
it was thus yet in the time of Pope Gregory I.

[2] Luther's Thirteen Theses against Eck's Thirteen Theses.
Frater Mar. Luth. Dsupt. etc., Erl.-Fr. Ed. III, 4 sqq., 11
sqq. "Bruder Martin Luther's Disputation und Entschuldigung
wider die Anschuldigungen des D. Johann Eck." St. Louis Ed.
XVIII, 718. The oldest print is doubtless one in possession
of the University at Halle.

[3] January 10, 1520, to Spalatin; January 26, to John Lang;
February 5, to Spalatin; February 18, to Spalatin; April,
Alved to Luther; Ma 5, May 17, May 31, June 8, and June 20,
to Spalatin, with a letter of July or August to Peter
Mosellanus, rector of the University at Leipzig.

[4] He alluded to the subject in his Sermon on the Ban.

[5] Köstlin, _Theology of Luther_, translated by Hay, I, 363.

[6] _Martin Luther_, I, 299.

[7] Alved's second book, the _Confutatio Inepti_, was dedicated
to the Council and honorable citizens of the city of Leipzig on
the 23d of April, and appeared in print in the middle of May. Its
smooth and popular form roused Luther to this reply, which was
put in press before the end of May, and published before the end
of June.

[8] See Luther to Spalatin, July 20, 1519.

[9] See Luther to Spalatin, May 5, 1520. "Exiit tandem frater
Augustinus Afveidenais cum sus offs," etc. He characterises Alved
in this letter, and refers to the approval it found in Meissen in
his letter to Spalatin of May 17th.

[10] The title is as follows: "Super apostolica ne-de, An
Videlicet diuino sit iure nec ne, anque pōtifex qui Papa dici
caeptus est, iure diuino in ea ipea president, nō parū laudanda ex
sacro Biblior. canone declaratio. sedita p. F. Augustinū Ahldēsem
Franciscanū, regularis (vt dicit) observuātíae sacredotē, Prouin
ciae Saxoniae, Sancte crucia, Sa-criq Bibliorū canonis publi-cū
lectorē i cōuētu Lipsico, ad Reurendū in Chro patrē & dom, dom
Adolphū pricipē Illust. i Anhaldt ic Episcopē Mersen-burgē sem."
See Super apostolica sed declario edita per Augustinum
Alveldensem Bl.; E. S. Cyprian, Nütsliche Urkunden, Leipzig,
1718, II S. 160 f.

[11] Luther's famulus. "Ich werde meinem Bruder Famulus
anstellen."--To Spalatin already on May 5th.

[12] "Contra Romanistam fratrem Augustinū, Alulden. Fran-ciscanū
Leipaica Canonis Biblici publicū lictorē eiusdem. F. Joānes
_ANNO. M.D.XX._"

[13] Lonicer's reply had been preceded by one more detailed and
less impetuous by Bernardī Feldkirch, teacher in the Wittenberg
High School. This work is wrongly regarded as Melanchton's. Its
title is: "CONFUTATIO INEP-ti & impli Libelli F. August. AL-VELD.
Franciscani Lipsici, pro D. M. Luthero. Vmittenbergae, apud
Melciorem Lottherum iuniorem, Anno M. D. XX."

[14] He requested the Nuncio Milits to secure authority for him
to write.

[15] Cf. Luther in the Tractate: "They cling to me like mud to a

[16] "Eyn gar fruchtbar vū nutsbarlich buchbleyn vō dë Babstlichē
stul:  vmud von sant Peter: vund vō den, die warhafftige
schef-lein Christi sein, die Christus vner herr Petro befolen hat
in sein hute vnd reglrung, gemacht durch bruder Augustinū Alueldt
sant Francisci ordens tzu Leiptsk."

See Cyprian, _Urkunden_, II, 161 f.

On May 31, Luther puts the whole situation graphically in a
letter to Spalatin as follows: "Lonicers Schrift wird morgen
fergig sein. Die Leipziger sind besorgt, ihre Schülter zu
behalten; sie rühmen, dases Erasmus zu ihnen kommen werde. Wie
geschäftig und doch wie unglüchlich ist der Neid. Vor einem
Jahre, da sie ührer uns, als währen wir besiegt, spotteten, saben
sie nicht voraus, dass ihnen dies Kreut bevorstebe. Der Herr
regiert...Ochsenfart soll sich wider das Büchlein Feldkirchens
rüston, in welchem er durch gehechbelt wird. Ich habe ein
deutsches Buch wider den Esel von Alveld fertiggestellt, welches
jetzt under der Presse ist."

[17] "Von dem Bapstum zu Rome: wid der den hochberupton
Romanisten zu Leipzck D. Martinus Lu-ther ther Agust.
Vuittenberg." 50 leaves, quarto, last page blank.

[18] For titles of these editions see _Weimar Ed._, vi, 281.

[19] Luther in this tractate aims beyond the "undersized scribe
of the barefoot friars at Leipzig," at the "brave and great
flag-bearers who remain in hiding, and would win a notable
victory in another's name," namely Prierias, Cajetan, Eck, Emser
and the Universities of Cologne and Louvaine. Luther uses the
epithet quoted above in one of his letters to Spalatin.

[20] "I welcome the opportunity to explain something of the
nature of Christianity for the laity."

[21] "I must first of all explain what these things mean, the
Church, and the One Head of the Church."

[22] "On this point we must hear the word of Christ, Who, when
Pilate asked Him concerning His Kingdom answered, My Kingdom is
not of this world. This is indeed a clear passage in which the
Church is made separate from all temporal communities. Is not
this a cruel error, when one places the Christian Church,
separated by Christ Himself from temporal cities and places, and
transferred to spiritual realms, is made a part of material

"No hope is left on earth except in the temporal."

[23] Among many things that Luther says on this point are the
following: "According to the Scriptures the Church is called the
assembly of all the believers in Christ upon the earth. This
community consists of all those who live in true faith, hope and
love, so that the essence, life and nature of the Church is not a
bodily assembly, but an assembly of the hearts in one faith.
Thus, though they be a thousand miles apart in body, they are yet
called an assembly in spirit, because each one preaches,
believes, hopes, loves, and lives like the other. So we sing of
the Holy Ghost: 'Thou, Who through diverse tongues gatherest
together the nations in the unity of the faith.' That means
spiritual unity. And this unity is of itself sufficient to make a
Church, and without it no unity, be it of place, of time, of
person, of work, or of whatever else, makes a Church."

"A man is not reckoned a member of the Church according to his
body, but according to his soul, nay, according to his faith...It
is plain that the Church can be classed with a temporal community
as little as spirits with bodies. Whosoever would not go astray
should therefore hold fast to this, that the Church is a
spiritual assembly of souls in one faith, that no one is reckoned
a Christian for his body's sake; that the true, real, essential,
Church is a spiritual thing, and not anything external or

"All those who make the Christian communion a material and
outward thing, like other communities, are in reality Jews, who
wait for their Messiah to establish an external kingdom at a
certain definite place, namely Jerusalem; and so sacrifice the
faith, which alone makes the kingdom of Christ a thing spiritual
or of the heart."

In this and the following notes, for brevity's sake, various
quotations are summarized and connected.

[24] "For the teachings of human experience and (Deut. xii:8)
reason are far below the divine law. The Scriptures expressly
forbid us to follow our own reason, Deut. xii: 'Ye shall not
do...every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes'; for human
reason ever strives against the law (Gen. vi:5) of God. Therefore
the attempt to establish or defend divine order with human
reason, unless that reason has previously been established and
enlightened by faith, is just as futile, as if I would throw a
light upon the sun with a lightless lantern, or rest a rock upon
a reed. For Isaiah vii makes reason subject to faith, when he
says (vii:9): 'Except ye believe, ye shall not have understanding
or reason.' He does not say, Except ye have reason, ye shall not
believe. Therefore this scribe would better not have put forth a
claim to establish the faith and the divine law by mere reason."

[25] "That the serpent lifted up by Moses, signifies Christ, is
taught by John iii. If it were not for that passage, my reasoning
might evolve many strange and weird fancies out of that type.
That Adam was a type of Christ, I learn not from myself, but from
St. Paul. That the rock in the wilderness represents Christ is
not taught by my reason, but by St. Paul. None other explains the
type but the Holy Spirit Himself. He has given the type and
wrought the fulfillment, that both type and fulfillment and the
interpretation may be God's own and not man's, and our faith he
founded not on human, but on divine words. What leads the Jews
astray but that they interpret the types as they please, without
the Scriptures? What has led so many heretics astray but the
interpretation of the types without reference to the Scriptures?"

[26] "The word Church, when it is used for such external affairs,
whereas it concerns the faith alone, is done violence to; yet
this manner of using it has spread everywhere, to the great
injury of many souls, who think that such outward show is the
spiritual and only true estate in Christendom. Of such a purely
external Church, there is not one letter in the Holy Scriptures.
The building and increase of the Church, which is the body of
Christ, cometh alone from Christ, Who is its head. Christendom is
ruled with outward show; but that does not make us Christians.
The Church is a spiritual and not a bodily thing, for that which
one believes is not bodily or visible. The external marks whereby
one can perceive this Church is on earth, are Baptism, the
Sacrament and the Gospel. For where Baptism and the Gospel are no
one may doubt that there are saints, even if it were only the
babes in their cradles."

[27] "It is evident that a type is material and external, and
fulfilment of the type is spiritual and internal; what the type
reveals to the bodily eye, its fulfilment must reveal to the eye
of faith alone. The bodily assembly of the people signifies the
spiritual and internal assembly of the Christian people in faith.
Moses set a serpent on a pole and whosoever looked upon it was
made whole. That signifies Christ on the cross. Whosoever
believeth in Him is saved. And so throughout the entire Old
Testament, all the bodily visible things in it signify in the New
Testament spiritual and inward things, which one cannot see, but
only possess in faith. St. Augustine says on John iii: 'This is
the difference between the type and its fulfilment: the type
gave temporal goods and life, but the fulfilment gives spiritual
and eternal life.'"

"Aaron was a type of Christ and not of the Pope. Paul says the
high priest typifies Christ; you say St. Peter. Paul says Christ
entered not into a temporal building. You make the fulfilment to
be earthly and external. If Aaron was a type in external
authority, vestments and state, why was he not a type in all
other external and bodily matters? The Old Testament high priest
was not permitted to have his head shorn. But why does the Pope
have a tonsure? The Old Testament high priest was a subject. Why
then does the Pope have men kiss his feet and aspire to be king,
which Christ Himself did not? Wherein is the type fulfilled?"

[28] Luther to Spalatin, June 8th: "Gegen den Esel von Alveld
werde ich menen Angriff so enrichten dass ich des römischen
Pabstes nich uneingedenk bin, und werde keinem von beiden etwas
schenken. Denn solches erfordert der Stoff mit Nothwendigkeith.
Endlicheinmal müssen die Geheimnisse des Antichrist offenbart
werden. Denn so drangen sie sich selbst hervor, und wollen nicht
weiter vorborgen sein."

To this Luther adds the significant statement: "Ich habe vor,
einen öffentlichen Zettel auszulassen an den Kaiser und den Adel
im ganzen Deutschland, wider die Tyrannei und die
Nichstwürdigkeit des römischen Hofes."

[29] "'Feeding' in the Roman sense means to burden Christendom
with many and hurtful laws. In 'feeding' it means to sit in the
highest place and to have an office, it follows that whoever is
doing this work of feeding is a saint, whether he be a knave, or
a rogue, or what not. Where there is no love, there is no
feeding. The papacy either must be a love, or it cannot be a
feeding of the sheep."

[30] "The greater part of the Roman communion, and even some of
the popes themselves, have forsaken the faith wantonly and
without struggle, and live under the power of Satan. The majority
of those who hold so strongly to the authority of the Pope, and
lean upon it, are themselves possessed by the powers of hell.
Some of the popes were heretics themselves and gave heretical
laws. These Roman knaves come along, place the Pope above Christ
and make him a judge over the Scriptures. They say that he cannot

[31] "Das Bemulhen der Leipziger Gehässigkeit." To Spalatin, Jan.
10. "Die Nichstwürdigkeitem der Leipziger." To Joh. Lang, Jan.
26. "Die Kunstangriffder Leipziger Partei." To Spalatin, Feb. 5.




[Sidenote: A New Adversary]

After all these years of fruitful rain and abundant growth
something new has appeared on the scene. Many have essayed to
attack me heretofore with vile abuse and glorious lies, yet
without much success. But the latest to distinguish themselves
are the brave heroes at Leipzig on the market-place, who desire
not only to be seen and admired, but to break a lance with every
one. Their armor is so wonderful that I have never seen the like
before. They have put the helmet on the feet, the sword on the
head, shield and breastplate on the back, they hold the spear by
the point, and the whole armor becomes them so well as to mark
them as horsemen of a new sort.[2] They would prove thereby not
only that they have not frittered away their time with
dream-books without learning anything, as I accused them, but
would also achieve a great name as people who were conceived,
born, nursed, cradled, fondled, brought up, and grown up in the
Holy Scriptures. It would be no more than fair that whoever
could, should be afraid of them, so that their labor and their
good intentions might not be entirely in vain. Leipzig, to
produce such giants, must indeed be rich soil.

That you may understand what I mean, observe: Sylvester, Cajetan,
Eck, Emser,[3] and now Cologne and Louvaine have shown their
knightly prowess against me in most strenuous endeavor, and
received the honor and glory they deserved; they have defended
the cause of the pope and of indulgences against me in such a
manner that they might well wish to have had better luck,
finally, some of them thought the best thing to do was to attack
me in the same manner as the pharisees attacked Christ [Matt.
22:35]. They put forward a champion, and thought: If he wins, we
all win with him; if he is defeated, he suffers defeat alone. And
the super-learned, circumspect Malvolio[4] thinks I will not
notice it. Very well, in order that all their plans may not
miscarry, I will pretend not to understand their game. And I beg
them in return, not to take notice, that when I strike the pack,
I am aiming at the mule. And if they will not grant this request,
I stipulate that, whenever I say anything against the newest
Roman heretics and blasphemers of the Scriptures, not merely the
poor, immature scribe of the bare-foot friars at Leipzig shall
take it to himself, but rather the great-hearted flag-bearers,
who remain in hiding, and yet would win a notable victory in
another's name.

I pray every honest Christian to receive my words--though
sometimes barbed with scorn or satire--as coming from a heart
that is made to break with sorrow and to turn seriousness into
jesting at the sight now beheld at Leipzig, where there are also
pious people who would venture body and soul for God's Word and
the Scriptures, but where a blasphemer can thus openly speak and
write, who esteems and treats God's holy words no better than if
they were the fabled pratings of some fool or jester at the
carnival. Because my Lord Christ and His holy Word, even He who
gave His own blood as the purchase-price, is held to be but
mockery and fools' wit, I must likewise drop all seriousness, and
see whether I, too, have learned how to play the fool and clown.
Thou knowest, my Lord Jesus Christ, how my heart stands toward
these arch-blasphemers. That is my reliance, and I will let
matters take their course in Thy name. Amen. They must ever abide
Thee as the Lord. Amen.

I notice that these poor people are seeking naught else than to
gain renown at my expense. They cling to me like mud to a wheel.
They would rather have questionable honor shamefully acquired
than remain quiet, and the evil spirit uses the designs of such
people only to hinder me from doing more useful things. But I
welcome the opportunity to give the laity[6] some explanation of
the nature of the Church,[7] and to contradict the words of these
seductive masters. Therefore I intend to treat of the
subject-matter directly, rather than to answer their senseless
prattle. I will not mention their names, lest they achieve their
true purpose and boastfully regard themselves capable of arguing
with me in the Scriptures.


We are discussing a matter which, taken by itself, is
unnecessary, for any one could be a Christian without knowing
anything about it. But these idlers who tread under foot all the
great essentials of the Christian faith, must needs pursue such
things and worry other people, in order to have some object in

[Sidenote: The Foundation of Papal Power]

This then is the question: Whether the papacy at Rome, possessing
the actual power over all Christendom (as they say), is of divine
or of human origin,[8] and this being decided, whether it is
possible for Christians to say that all other Christians in that
world are heretics and apostates, even if they agree with us in
holding to the same baptism, Sacrament, Gospel, and all the
articles of faith, but merely do not have their priests and
bishops confirmed by Rome, or, as it is now, buy such
confirmation with money and let themselves be mocked and made
fools of like the Germans. Such are the Muscovites, Russians,
Greeks, Bohemians, and many other great peoples in the world. For
all these believe as we do, baptise as we do, preach as we do,
live as we do, and also give due honor to the pope, only they
will not pay for the confirmation of their bishops and priests.
They will not, like the drunken, stupid Germans, submit to
extortion and abuse with indulgences, bulls, seals, parchments,
and other Roman stock in trade. They are ready, too, to hear the
Gospel from the pope, or the pope's ambassadors, and yet they are
not sent to them.

Now the question is, whether all these may properly be called
heretics by us Christians (for of such alone, and of no others,
do I speak and write), or whether we are not rather the heretics
and apostates, because we brand such Christians as heretics and
apostates solely for the sake of money. For when the pope does
not send the Gospel to them, and his messengers to proclaim it,
although they are eager to receive them, it is clear as day that
he is grasping for power and money through this confirmation of
bishops and priests. But to this they will not agree, and
therefore they are branded as heretics and apostates.

Now I have held, and still hold, that they are not heretics and
apostates, but perhaps better Christians than we are, although
not all, even as we are not all good Christians. This is
challenged, after all its predecessors, by the fine little
bare-foot book[9] of Leipzig, which comes along on clogs--nay, on
stilts. It imagines that it alone (among all the others) does not
step into the mud; perhaps it would gladly dance if some one
would buy it a flute. I must have a try at it.

[Sidenote: The Insincerity of the Roman Claims]

I say, first of all: No one should be so foolish as to believe
that it is the serious opinion of the pope and of all his
Romanists and flatterers, that his great power is of divine
right. Pray observe, of all that is by divine right not the
smallest jot or tittle is observed in Rome, nay, if they think of
it at all, it is scorned as foolishness; all of which is as clear
as day. They even suffer the Gospel and Christian faith
everywhere to go to rack and ruin, and do not intend to lose a
hair for it. Yea, all the evil examples of spiritual and temporal
infamy flow from Rome, as out of a great sea of universal
wickedness, into all the world. All these things cause laughter
in Rome, and if any one grieves over them, he is called a _Bon
Christian_, i. e., a fool. If they really took the commands of
God seriously, they would find many thousand things more
necessary to be done, especially those at which they now laugh
and mock. For St. James says, "He that keepeth not one
commandment of God, breaketh all." [Jas. 2:10] Who would be so
stupid as to believe that they seek God's command in one thing,
and yet make a mockery of all the others? It is impossible that
any one should take one command of God to heart, and not at least
be moved by all the others. Now there are ever so many who
zealously guard the power of the pope, yet none of them ever
ventures a word in favor of even one of the other much greater
and more necessary commandments, which are so blasphemously
mocked and scornfully rejected at Rome.

Furthermore, if all Germany were to fall on its knees, and to
pray that the pope and the Romans should keep this power, and
confirm our bishops and priests without payment, for
nothing--even as the Gospel says, "Freely ye have received,
freely give" [Matt. 10:8]--and provide all our churches with good
preachers, because they have a sufficient abundance of riches to
give money instead of taking it; and if it were urged and
pressed, that this is their duty according to divine command:
believe it surely, we should find all of them arguing with more
insistence than any one ever did before, that it is not a divine
command to go to so much trouble without pay. They would soon
find a little gloss[10] with which to wind themselves out of it,
just as they now find what they desire, to weave themselves into
it. All our beseechings would not drive them to it. But since it
means money, everything they dare to put forth must be divine

[Sidenote: Roman Greed and Extortion]

The bishopric of Mainz alone, within the memory of men now
living, has bought eight pallia[11] in Rome, every one costing
about 30,000 _gulden_--not to mention the innumerable other
bishoprics, prelacies and benefices. Thus are we German fools to
be led by the nose and then they say: It is a divine command to
have no bishop without Roman confirmation. I am surprised that
Germany, which is by one-half or more in the possession of the
Church,[12] still has so much as one _pfennig_ left by reason of
the unspeakable, innumerable, insufferable Roman thieves, knaves
and robbers. It is said that Antichrist shall find the treasures
of the earth; I trow the Romanists have found them to such an
extent as to make our very life a burden. If the German princes
and the nobility will not interfere very shortly, and with
decisive courage, Germany will yet become a wilderness and be
compelled to devour itself. That would furnish the greatest
pleasure for the Romanists, who do not think of us otherwise than
as brutes, and have made a proverb concerning us at Rome:
"Squeeze the gold from German fools, in any way you can."

The pope does not prevent this scandalous villainy. They all wink
at it, yea, they think far more highly of these supreme
arch-villains than they do of the holy Gospel of God. They
pretend that we are hopeless fools, and that it is a divine
command that the pope should have his finger in every pie and do
as he pleases with every one, just as if he were a god on earth,
and should not rather be the servant of all,[13] without any pay,
if he wished to be--or were--the very highest. But before
consenting to this, they would much rather surrender this power
and not call this a divine command any more than any other.

But I hear you say, why do they fight so hard against you in this
matter? Answer: I have attacked some higher things, which concern
faith and God's Word. And when they were not able to contradict
me, and saw that Rome does not trouble itself about such good
things, they dropped them too, and attacked me on indulgences and
the authority of the pope, in the hope of thus attaining the
prize. For they knew very well that where money was concerned,
the chief school of knaves in Rome would support them and not
remain quiet. But Dr. Luther is just a little proud, and pays
very little attention to the grunting and squealing of the
Romanists; and this is well-nigh heartbreaking to them. But that
does not bother my Lord Jesus, nor Dr. Luther, for we believe
that the Gospel will and must continue. Let a layman ask such
Romanists, and let them give answer, why they despoil and mock
all of God's commandments, and rant so violently about this
power, whereas they cannot show at all why it is necessary, or
what it is good for. For ever since it has arisen, it has
accomplished nothing but the devastation of Christendom, and no
one is able to show anything good or useful that has resulted
from it. Of this I will speak more fully if this Romanist comes
again, and then, please God, I will throw light upon the Holy
Chair at Rome and expose it as it deserves to be exposed.

I have said this, not as a sufficient argument for disputing
papal power, but in order to show the perverted opinions of those
who strain the gnats, but let elephants go through [Matt. 23:24],
who behold the mote in the brother's eye and permit the beams in
their own to remain [Matt. 7:3], only to the end that others may
be stifled by superfluous and unnecessary things, or at least
branded as heretics or by any other epithet that occurs to them.
One of than is this delicate, pious Romanist at Leipzig. Let us
now have a look at him.

I find three strong arguments by which this fruitful and noble
little book[14] of the Romanist at Leipzig attacks me.

[Sidenote: The Arguments of the Romanists--1. Luther a Heretic
and a Fool]

The first, and by far the strongest, is, that he calls me
names--a heretic, a blind, senseless fool, one possessed by the
devil, a serpent, a poisonous reptile, and many other names of
similar import; not simply once, but throughout the book, almost
on every page.[15] Such reproaches, slanders and calumnies are of
no account in other books. But when a book is made at Leipzig,
and issued from the cloister of the bare-foot friars, by a
Romanist of the high and holy observance[16] of St. Frauds, such
names are not merely fine examples of mediation, but likewise
strong arguments with which to defend papal power, indulgences,
Scripture, faith and the Church.[17] It is not necessary that any
one of these should be proved by Scripture or by reason; it is
quite enough that they have been put down in his book by a
Romanist and holy observant of the order of St. Francis.

And inasmuch as this Romanist himself writes that the Jews had
overcome Christ on the cross with such arguments, I, too, must
surrender, and acknowledge that as far as cursing and scolding,
abuse and slander are concerned, the Romanist has surely beaten
Dr. Luther. On this point he doubtless wins.

[Sidenote: The Argument from Reason]

The second argument, to express it tersely, is that of natural

This is the argument: A. Every community[18] on earth, if it is
not to fall to pieces, must have a bodily head, under the true
head, which is Christ.

B. Inasmuch as all Christendom is one community on earth, it must
have a head, which is the pope.

[Sidenote: The Futility of the Argument]

This argument I have designated with the letters A and B for the
sake of clearness, and also to show that this Romanist has
learned his A-B-C all the way down to B. However, to answer this
argument: Since the question is whether the pope's power is by
divine right, is it not a bit ridiculous that human reason (that
ability which is drawn from experience in temporal things) is
brought in and placed on a level with the divine law, especially
since it is the intention of this poor presumptuous mortal to
bring the divine law against me. For the teachings of human
experience and reason are far below the divine law. The
Scriptures expressly forbid us to follow our own reason,
Deuteronomy xii, "Ye shall not do...every man whatsoever is right
in his own eyes" [Deut. 12:8]; for human reason ever strives
against the law of God, as Genesis vi. says: "Every thought and
imagination of man's heart is only evil continually." [Gen. 6:5]
Therefore the attempt to establish or defend divine order with
human reason, unless that reason has previously been established
and enlightened by faith, is just as futile as if I would throw
light upon the sun with a lightless lantern, or rest a rock upon
a reed. For Isaiah vii. makes reason subject to faith, when it
says: "Except ye believe, ye shall not have understanding or
reason." [Isa. 7:9] It does not say, "Except ye have reason, ye
shall not believe." Therefore this scribe would better have left
his perverted reason at home, or first have well established it
with texts of Scripture, so as not to put forth so ridiculous and
preposterous a claim and establish the faith and the divine law
by mere reason. For if this reason of ours draws the conclusion
that a visible community must have a visible overlord or cease to
exist, it also must draw the further conclusion, that as a
visible community does not exist without wives, therefore the
whole Church[19] must have a visible, common wife, in order not
to perish. What a valiant woman that would needs be! Again, a
visible community does not exist without a common visible city,
house and country; therefore the Church[19] must have a common
city, house and country. But where will you find that? Verily, in
Rome they are seeking just this with impatient eagerness, for
they have made nearly the whole world their very own. Again, the
Church[19] would likewise need to have in common its visible
property, servants, maids, cattle, food, etc., for no community
exists without them. See how gracefully human reason stalks along
on its stilts.

A professor of theology ought to have considered in advance the
clumsiness of such an argument, and proved the divine laws and
works by the Scriptures, and not by temporal analogies and
worldly reason. For it is written that the divine commandments
are justified in and by themselves, and not by any external
help.[20] [Ps. 19:9]

Again, the wise man says of the wisdom of God: "Wisdom hath
overcome the proud with her power." [Prov. 11:3] It is most
deplorable that we should attempt with our reason to defend God's
Word, whereas the Word of God is rather our defence against all
our enemies, as St. Paul teaches us. [Eph. 6:17] Would he not be
a great fool who in the thick of battle sought to protect his
helmet and sword with bare hand and unshielded head? It is no
different when we essay, with our reason, to defend God's law,
which should rather be our weapon.

From this, I hope, it is clear that the flimsy argument of this
prattler fails utterly, and, together with everything he
constructs upon it, is found to be without any basis whatever.
But that he may the better understand his own mummery, even in
case I should grant that a process of reasoning might be entirely
valid without the Scriptures, I will show that neither of his
arguments is valid, neither the first, A, nor the second, B.

[Sidenote: The Argument Answered]

The first, A, is that every community on earth must have one
visible head under Christ. This is simply not true. How many
principalities, castles, cities, and houses we find where two
brothers or lords reign--and with equal authority. The Roman
empire governed itself for a long time, and very well, without
the one head, and many other countries in the world did the same.
How does the Swiss confederacy govern itself at present? Thus in
the government of the world there is not one single overlord, yet
we are all one human race, descended from the one father, Adam.
The kingdom of France has its own king, Hungary its own, Poland,
Denmark, and every other kingdom its own, and yet they are one
people, the temporal estate in Christendom, without one common
head; and still this does not cause these kingdoms to perish. And
if there were no government constituted in just this manner, who
could or would prevent a community from choosing not one, but
many overlords, all clothed with equal power? Therefore it is a
very poor procedure to measure the things which are of God's
appointing by such vacillating analogies of worldly things, when
they do not hold even in the appointments of men. But suppose I
should grant this dreamer that his dream is true, and that no
community can exist without one visible head; how does it follow
that it must likewise be so in the Church?[21] I know very well
that the poor dreamer has a certain conception, according to
which a Christian community is the same as any other temporal
community.[22] He thus reveals plainly that he has never learned
to know what Christendom, or the Christian community, really is.
I had not believed it possible to meet such dense, massive,
stubborn error and ignorance in any man, much less in a saint of

For the benefit, therefore, of this numskull, and of those led
astray by him, I must first of all explain what is meant by these
things--the Church,[23] and the One Head of the Church.[23] I
must talk bluntly, however, and use the same words which they
have so barbarously perverted.

[Sidenote: What is the Church?]

[Sidenote: The Communion of Saints]

[Sidenote: The Unity of the Church Not External]

The Scriptures speak of the Church[23] quite simply, and use the
term in only one sense; these men have added and brought into
general use two more. The first use, according to the Scriptures,
is this, that the Church[23] is called the assembly of all the
believers in Christ upon earth, just as we pray in the Creed: "I
believe in the Holy Ghost, a communion of saints." This community
or assembly consists of all those who live in true faith, hope
and love; so that the essence, life and nature of the Church[23]
is not a bodily assembly, but an assembly of hearts in one faith,
as St. Paul says, Ephesians iv, "One baptism, one faith, one
Lord." [Eph. 4:5] Thus, though they be a thousand miles apart in
body, yet they are called an assembly in spirit because each one
preaches, believes, hopes, loves, and lives like the other. So we
sing of the Holy Ghost: "Thou, who through divers tongues
gatherest together the nations in the unity of the faith."[24]
That means in reality a spiritual unity, because of which men are
called a communion of saints. And this unity is of itself
sufficient to make a Church,[23] and without it no unity, be it
of place, of time, of person, of work, or of whatever else, makes
a Church.[23] On this point we must hear the word of Christ, Who,
when Pilate asked Him concerning His kingdom, answered: "My
kingdom is not of this world." [John 18:36] This is indeed a dear
passage, in which the Church[23] is made separate from all
temporal communities, as not being anything external. And this
blind Romanist makes of it an external community, like any other.
Christ says even more clearly, Luke xvii, "The kingdom of God
cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here, or
lo, there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." [Luke
17:20, 21]

I am astounded, that such strong, clear words of Christ are
treated as a farce by these Romanists. For by these words it is
clear to every one that the kingdom of God (for so He calls His
Church[25]) is not at Rome, nor is it bound to Rome or any other
place, but it is where there is faith in the heart, be a man at
Rome, or here, or elsewhere. It is a nauseating lie,[26] and
Christ is made a liar when it is said that the Church[25], is in
Rome, or is bound to Rome--or even that the head and the
authority are there by divine right.

Moreover, in Matthew xxiv. He foretold the gross deception which
now rules under the name of the Roman Church, when He says: "Many
false prophets and false Christs shall come in My name, saying: I
am Christ; and shall deceive many, and show great signs, that if
possible they shall deceive the very elect. Wherefore, if they
shall say unto you: Behold, in the secret chambers is Christ,
believe it not; behold, He is in the desert, go not forth.
Behold, I have told you before." [Matt. 24:24-26] Is this not a
cruel error, when the unity of the Christian Church[25],
separated by Christ Himself from all material and temporal cities
and places, and transferred to spiritual realms, is included by
these preachers of dreams in material communities,[27] which must
of necessity be bound to localities and places. How is it
possible, or whose reason can grasp it, that spiritual unity and
material unity should be one and the same? There are those among
Christians who are in the external assembly and unity, who yet by
their sins exclude themselves from the inner, spiritual unity.

Therefore, whosoever maintains that an external assembly or an
outward unity makes a Church,[25] sets forth arbitrarily what is
merely his own opinion, and whoever endeavors to prove it by the
Scriptures, brings divine truth to the support of his lies, and
makes God a false witness, just as does this miserable Romanist,
who explains everything that is written concerning the Church[28]
as meaning the outward show of Roman power; and yet he cannot
deny that the large majority of these people, particularly in
Rome itself, because of unbelief and evil lives, is not in the
spiritual unity, i. e., the true Church.[28] For if to be in the
external Roman unity made men true Christians, there would be no
sinners among them, neither would they need faith nor the grace
of God to make them Christians; this external unity would be

[Sidenote: What Makes a Christian]

From this we conclude, and the conclusion is inevitable, that
just as being in the Roman unity does not make one a Christian,
so being outside of that unity does not make one a heretic or
unchristian. I should like to hear who would dispute this. For
that which is essential must make a true Christian; but if it
does not make a true Christian, it cannot be essential; just as
it does not make me a true Christian to be at Wittenberg or to be
at Leipzig. Now it is clear that external fellowship with the
Roman communion[29] does not make men Christians, and so the lack
of that fellowship certainly does not make a man a heretic or an
apostate. Therefore it must also be false, that it is a divine
command to be in connection with the Roman Church.[28] For
whosoever keepeth one divine command, keepeth them all, and none
can be kept without keeping the others[30]. Therefore it is an
open and blasphemous lie against the Holy Ghost to say that the
external unity under Roman authority is the fulfilment of a
divine commandment, since there are so many in that unity who
neither regard nor fulfil any of the Divine commandments. Hence,
to be in this place or that, does not make a heretic: but to be
without true faith makes a man a heretic.

Again, it is clear that to be a member of the Roman communion[31]
does not mean to be in true faith, and to be outside of it does
not mean to be in unbelief; otherwise those within it would all
be believers and truly saved, for no one article of faith is
believed without all the other articles.

Therefore all those who make the Christian communion[32] a
material and outward thing, like other communities, are in
reality Jews (for the Jews likewise wait for their Messiah to
establish an external kingdom at a certain definite place,
namely, Jerusalem), and thus sacrifice the faith, which alone
makes the kingdom of Christ a thing spiritual and of the heart.

[Sidenote: The Head of the Church]

Again, if every temporal community is called after its head, and
we say of this city, it is Electoral, and of that, it is Ducal,
and of another, it is Frankish; then by right all Christendom
should be called Roman, or Petrine, or Papal. But why, then, is
it called Christendom? Why are we called Christians, if not from
our head, although we are still upon earth? Hereby it is shown
that for Christendom there is no other head, even upon earth,
than Christ, for it has no other name than the name of Christ For
this reason St. Luke tells us that the disciples were at first
called Antiochians, but soon this was changed and they were
called Christians. [Acts 11:26][33]

Furthermore, though a man consists of two natures, namely, body
and soul, yet he is not reckoned a member of the Church according
to his body, but according to his soul, nay, according to his
faith. Otherwise it might be said that a man is a nobler
Christian than a woman, because his physical structure is
superior to that of a woman, or that a man is a greater Christian
than a child, a healthy person a stronger Christian than an
invalid; lords and ladies, the rich and powerful, better
Christians than servants, maids, and the poor and lowly; whereas
Paul writes, Galatians v, "In Christ is neither male nor female,
neither lord nor servant, neither Jew nor Greek," [Gal. 3:28;
5:6] but as far as the body is concerned they are all equal. But
he is the better Christian who is greater in faith, hope and
love; so that it is plain that the Church[34] is a spiritual
community, which can be classed with a temporal community as
little as spirits with bodies, or faith with temporal

This, indeed, is true, that just as the body is a figure or image
of the soul, so also the bodily community is a figure of this
Christian, spiritual community, and as the bodily community has a
bodily head, so the spiritual community has a spiritual head. But
who would be so bereft of sense as to maintain that the soul must
have a bodily head? That would be like saying that every live
animal must have on its body a painted head. If this literalist
(I should say, literary person) had really understood what the
Church[34] is, without doubt he would have been ashamed even to
contemplate such a book as his. What wonder, therefore, that from
a darkened and wandering brain issues no light, but thick, black
darkness St. Paul says, Colossians iii, "Our life is not on
earth, but hid with Christ in God." [Col. 3:3] For if the Church
were a bodily assembly, you could tell by looking at the body
whether any one were Christian, Turk or Jew; just as you can tell
by the body whether a person is a man, woman or child, or whether
he is white or black. Again, I can tell whether one is gathered
in temporal assembly with others in Leipzig, Wittenberg, or
elsewhere; but I cannot tell at all whether he is a believer or

[Sidenote: The Church a Spiritual Thing]

Whosoever would not go astray should, therefore, hold fast to
this, that the Church[34] is a spiritual assembly of souls in one
faith, and that no one is reckoned a Christian for his body's
sake; in order that he may know that the true, real, right,
essential Church[34] is a spiritual thing, and not anything
external or outward, by whatever name it may be called. For one
who is not a Christian may have all those other things, and they
will never make him a Christian without true faith, which alone
makes Christians. For this reason we are called Christian
believers, and on Pentecost we sing:

    We beseech Thee, Holy Spirit[35],
    Let true faith our portion be.

It is in this wise, and never in any other, that the Holy
Scriptures speak of the Holy Church and of Christendom.

[Sidneote: The External Church]

Beyond that, another way of speaking of Christendom has come into
use. According to this, the name Church[36] is given to an
assembly in a house or a parish, a bishopric, an archbishopric,
or the papacy, in which assembly external rites are in use, such
as chanting, reading, vestments. And primarily the name of
"spiritual estate" is given to the bishops, priests and members
of the holy orders; not on account of their faith, which they
perhaps do not have, but because they have been consecrated with
an external anointing, wear crowns, use a distinctive garb, make
special prayers and do special works, say mass, have their places
in the choir, and attend to all such external matters of worship.
But violence is done to the word "spiritual," or "Church," when
it is used for such external affairs, whereas it concerns faith
alone, which, working in the soul, makes right and true
_spirituales_ and Christians; yet this maimer of using it has
spread everywhere, to the great injury and perversion of many
souls, who think that such outward show is the spiritual and only
true estate in Christendom or the Church.

There is not one letter in the Holy Scriptures to show that such
a purely external Church has been established by God; and I
hereby challenge all those who have made this blasphemous,
damnable, heretical book, or would defend it, together with all
their followers, even if all the universities hold with them. If
they can show me that even one letter of the Scriptures speaks of
it, I am willing to recant. But I know that they cannot do it.
The Canon Law and human statutes, indeed, give the name of Church
or Christendom to such a thing, but that is not now before us.
Therefore, for the sake of brevity and a better understanding, we
shall call the two churches by different names. The first, which
is the natural, essential, real and true one, let us call a
spiritual, inner Christendom. The other, which is man-made and
external, let us call a bodily, external Christendom: not as if
we would part them asunder, but just as when I speak of a man,
and call him, according to the soul, a spiritual, according to
the body, a physical, man; or as the Apostle is wont to speak of
the inner and of the outward man. [Rom. 7:22] Thus also the
Christian assembly, according to the soul, is a communion[37] of
one accord in one faith, although according to the body it cannot
be assembled at one place, and yet every group is assembled in
its own place. This Christendom is ruled by Canon Law and the
prelates of the Church.[38] To this belong all the popes,
cardinals, bishops, prelates, monks, nuns and all those who in
these external things are taken to be Christians, whether they
are truly Christians at heart or not. For though membership in
this communion[37] does not make true Christians, because all the
orders mentioned may exist without faith; nevertheless this
communion is never without some who at the same time are true
Christians, just as the body does not give the soul its life, and
yet the soul lives in the body and, indeed, can live without the
body. Those who are without faith and are outside of the first
community, but are included in this second community, are dead in
the sight of God, hypocrites, and but like wooden images of true
Christians. And so the people of Israel were a type of the
spiritual people, assembled in faith.

[Sidenote: The Church as a Building]

The third use of the term applies the word Church, not to
Christendom, but to the edifices erected for purposes of worship.
And the word "spiritual" is so stretched as to cover temporal
possessions, not the possessions which are truly spiritual
because of faith, but those which are in the second or external
Church,[39] and such possessions are called "spiritual" or Church
possessions.[40] Again, the possessions of the laity are called
"worldly," although the laymen who are in the first or spiritual
Church[39] are much better than the worldly clergy and are truly
spiritual. After this fashion it now goes with almost all the
works and the government of the Church;[39] and the name
"spiritual possessions" has been so exclusively applied to
worldly possessions that now no one understands it to mean
anything else, and this has gone so far that men regard neither
the spiritual nor the external Church any more, and they squabble
and quarrel about temporal possessions like the heathen, and say,
they do it for the sake of the Church and of spiritual
possessions. Such perversion and misuse of words and things has
come from the Canon Law and human statutes, to the unspeakable
corruption of Christendom.

[Sidneote: The Head of the Church: Christ]

Now let us consider the head of Christendom. From the foregoing
it follows that the first-named Christendom, which alone is the
true Church, may not and cannot have Church: a head upon earth,
and that no one on earth, neither bishop nor pope, can rule over
it; only Christ in heaven is the head, and He ruleth alone.

[Sidenote: Why the Church Cannot Have an Earthly Head]

This is proved, first of all, in this way: How can a man rule
over anything which he does not know or understand? And who can
know whether a man truly believes or not? Aye, if the power of
the pope extended to this point, then he could take away a
Christian's faith, or direct its progress, or increase it, or
change it, according to his pleasure, just as Christ can do.

In the second place, it is proved by the nature of the head. For
it is the nature of every head joined to a body to infuse into
all its members life and feeling and activity. This will be
found to be true of the heads in worldly affairs. For the ruler
of a country instils into his subjects all the things which are
in his own mind and will, and causes all his subjects to be of
like mind and will with himself, and thus they do the work he
wishes to have done, and this work is truly said to have been
instilled into the subjects by the prince, for without him it
would not have been done. Now no man can instil into the soul of
another, nor into his own soul, true faith, and the mind, will
and work of Christ, but this Christ Himself must do. For neither
pope nor bishop can produce faith in a man's heart, nor anything
else a Christian member should have. But a Christian must have
the mind and will which Christ has in heaven, as the apostle
says, I. Corinthians ii [1. Cor. 2:16; 3:23]. It may also happen
that a Christian member has the faith which neither pope nor
bishop has; how then can the pope be his head? And if the pope
cannot give to himself the life of the spiritual church, how can
he instil it into another? Who has ever seen a live animal with a
lifeless head? The head must give life to the body, and therefore
it is clear that on earth there is no other head of the spiritual
Christendom but Christ alone. Moreover, if a man were its head
here below, Christendom would perish as often as a pope dies. For
the body cannot live when the head is dead.

It follows further, that in this Church Christ can have no vicar,
and therefore neither pope nor bishop is Christ's vicar or regent
in this Church, nor can he ever become such. And this is proved
as follows: A regent, if obedient to his lord, labors with and
urges on the subjects and instils into them the same work which
his lord himself instils, just as we see in temporal government,
where there is one mind and will in lord, regents, and subjects.
And if he were more holy than St. Peter, the pope can never
instill into or create in a Christian man the work of Christ his
Lord, i. e., faith, hope, love, and every grace and virtue.

And if such illustration and proof were not without flaw, though
founded on the Scriptures, yet St. Paul stands strong and
immovable in Ephesians iv, giving to Christendom but one head and
saying, "Let us be true (i. e., not external, but real and true
Christians) and grow up into Him in all things, which is the
head, even Christ, from Whom the whole body fitly joined together
and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to
the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh
increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." [Eph.
4:15,16] Here the apostle says clearly that the building up and
increase of Christendom, which is the body of Christ, cometh
alone from Christ, Who is its Head. And where can there be found
another head on earth to whom such nature could be ascribed,
especially since these "heads" in most cases have neither love
nor faith? Besides, St. Paul referred in these words to himself,
to St. Peter, and to every other Christian; and if another head
were necessary he would have been utterly false in saying nothing
about it.

I know very well that there are some who dare to say in reference
to this and similar passages that though Paul was silent [1 Cor.
3:1], he did not thereby deny that St. Peter was also a head, but
was feeding the unwise with milk. Just listen to this: they claim
that it is necessary for salvation to have St. Peter for a head,
and yet they have the effrontery to say that Paul concealed the
things which are necessary to salvation. Thus these senseless
goats would rather blaspheme Paul and the Word of God than be
convinced of their error, and they call it "milk for babes" when
Christ is proclaimed, and "strong meat" when St. Peter is
proclaimed, just as if Peter were higher, greater, and more
difficult to understand than Christ himself. And this is called
explaining the Scriptures and overcoming Dr. Luther; this is the
way to run out of the rain and fall into the trough. What could
such babblers accomplish if we should have a disputation with the
Bohemians[41] and the heretics? Truly nothing, except that we
should be made a mockery for all, and give them due cause to look
upon us all as blustering idiots, and they become more strongly
entrenched in their own belief through the foolishness of our

[Sidenote: The Equality of Bishops]

But then you ask: If the prelates are neither heads nor regents
of the spiritual Church, what are they?

Let the laymen answer this, when they say: St. Peter is a
messenger[42] and the other apostles are messengers too. Why
should the pope be ashamed to be a messenger, if St. Peter
himself is no more? But beware, ye laymen, or the super-learned
Romanists will burn you at the stake as heretics because ye would
make the pope a messenger and letter-carrier. But ye have a
strong argument, for the Greek _Apostolos_ is in German
"messenger," and thus are they called throughout the Gospel.

If, then, they are all messengers of the one Lord Christ, who
would be so foolish as to say that so great a lord, in a matter
of such great importance for the whole world, sends but one
messenger, and he, in turn, sends other messengers of his own?
Then St. Peter would have to be called, not a _Zwölfbote_ (one of
the twelve messengers), but an only-messenger, and none of the
others would remain _Zwölfboten_, but they would all be St.
Peter's _Elfboten_ (i. e., his eleven messengers). But what is
the custom at court? Is it not true that a lord has many
messengers?  Aye, when does it happen that many messengers are
sent with the same message to one place, as now we have priest,
bishop, archbishop and pope, all ruling over the same city, not
to mention other tyrants, who shove in their rule somewhere
between the rest? Christ sent all the apostles into the world
with His Word and message with full, equal powers, as St. Paul
says: "We are ambassadors for Christ." [1 Cor. 5:20] And in I.
Corinthians iii. he says: "What is Peter? What is Paul? Servants
through whom ye believed." [1 Cor. 3:5] This ambassadorship means
to feed, to rule, to be bishop, and so forth. But that the pope
makes all the messengers of God to be subject to himself, is the
same as if one messenger of a prince detained all the other
messengers, and then sent them out when it suited his pleasure,
while he himself went nowhere. Would that be pleasing to the
prince, if he found it out?

Should you say: True, but one messenger may be above another; I
would reply: One may indeed be better and more skilful than
another, as St. Paul was when compared with Peter; but since they
bring one and the same message, one cannot be above another by
reason of his office. But, put the other way, St. Peter is not a
_Zwölfbote_ at all, but a special messenger and lord over the
Eleven. What can it be that one has above the others, if they all
have one and the same message and commission from the one Lord?

Forasmuch then as all bishops are equal by divine right and sit
in the Apostles' places, I may gladly concede that by human right
one is above the other in the external Church. For here the pope
instils what is in his own mind, as, for instance, his Canon Law
and human inventions, whereby Christendom is ruled with outward
show; but that does not make Christians, as I have said
above[43]; neither are they heretics who are not under the same
laws and ceremonies or human ordinances. For customs change with
the country.

All this is confined by the article in the Creed: "I believe in
the Holy Ghost, one Holy Christian Church, the Communion of
Saints." No one says: "I believe in the Holy Ghost, one Holy
Roman Church, a Communion of the Romans." Thus it is clear that
the Holy Church is not bound to Rome, but is as wide as the
world, the assembly of those of one faith, a spiritual and not a
bodily thing, for that which one believes is not bodily or
visible. The external Roman Church we all see, therefore it
cannot be the true Church, which is believed, and which is a
community or assembly of the saints in faith, for no one can see
who is a saint or a believer.

[Sidenote: The Marks of the Church]

The external marks, whereby one can perceive where this Church is
on earth, are baptism, the Sacrament, and the Gospel; and not
Rome, or this place, or that. For where baptism and the Gospel
are, no one may doubt that there are saints, even if it were only
the babes in their cradles. But neither Rome nor the papal power
is a mark of the Church,[44] for that power cannot make
Christians, as baptism and the Gospel do; and therefore it does
not belong to the true Church[44] and is but a human ordinance.

Therefore I would advise this Romanist to go to school another
year, and to learn what the Church or the head of the Church[44]
really means, before he drives out the poor heretics with
writings of such height, depth, breadth and length. It grieves me
to the heart that we must suffer these mad saints to tear asunder
and blaspheme the Holy Scriptures with such insolence, license,
and shamelessness, and that they make bold to deal with the
Scriptures, whereas they are not fit to care for a herd of swine.
Heretofore I have held that where something was to be proved by
the Scriptures, the Scriptures quoted must really refer to the
point at issue. I learn now that it is enough to throw many
passages together helter-skelter, whether they are fit or not. If
this is to be the way, then I can easily prove from the
Scriptures that beer is better than wine.[45]

Of the same character is his statement in both his Latin and his
German treatise[46] that Christ is the head of the Turks,
heathen, Christians, heretics, robbers, harlots and knaves. It
would be no wonder if all the stone and timber in the cloister
stared and hooted this miserable wretch to death for his horrible
blasphemy. What shall I say? Has Christ become a keeper of all
the houses of shame, a head of all the murderers, of all
heretics, of all rogues? Woe unto thee, thou miserable wretch,
that thou thus holdest up thy Lord for all the world to
blaspheme! The poor man would write about the head of
Christendom, and in utter madness imagines that "head" and "Lord"
are one and the same. Christ is, indeed, Lord of all things, of
all the good and the evil, of the angels and the devils, the
virgins and the harlots; but He is not the head, except only of
the good, believing Christians, assembled in the spirit. For a
head must be united with its body, as I showed above from St.
Paul in Ephesians iv,[47] and the members must cleave to the head
and receive from it their activity and life. For this reason
Christ cannot be the head of an evil community, although it is
subject unto Him as Lord; even as His kingdom, namely
Christendom, is not a bodily community or kingdom, yet all things
are subject unto Him, be they spiritual or bodily, of hell or of

Thus in his first argument this reviler vilified and slandered
me; in this second argument he reviled Christ much more than me.
For even if he thinks much of his own holy prayers and fastings
in contrast to a poor sinner like me, yet he has not called me a
brothelkeeper and archknave, as he has Christ.

[Sidenote: III. The Argument from Scripture]

Now comes the third argument, in which the high majesty of God is
made a target, and the Holy Spirit becomes a liar and a heretic,
so that by all means the contention of the Romanists may be

The third argument is taken from the Scriptures, just as the
second was taken from reason and the first from folly, so that
everything may be done in proper order. It runs as follows: The
Old Testament was a type of the New Testament, and because it had
a bodily high-priest, the New Testament must have one
likewise--how else shall the type be fulfilled? For has not
Christ Himself said: "Not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass
away; it shall all be fulfilled"? [Matt. 5:18]

A book more foolish, senseless, and blind I have never seen. Once
before, another[48] wrote the same thing against me, so coarse
and foolish that I could not but scorn it. But because they have
not sharpened their wits, I must speak bluntly for the
thickheads; I see that the ass does not appreciate a harp, I must
offer him thistles.

[Sidenote: Type and Fulfillment]

In the first place, it is evident that a type is material and
external, and the fulfilment of the type is spiritual and
internal; what the type reveals to the bodily eye, its fulfilment
must reveal to the eye of faith alone, or it is not really a

I must prove that by illustration. By many miracles the Jewish
people came in a bodily manner out of the bodily land of Egypt,
as is written in the book of Exodus [Ex. 13:18 ff.]. This type
does not mean that we, too, shall in a bodily manner come out of
Egypt, but that our souls by a right faith shall come forth from
sins and the spiritual power of the devil; so that the bodily
assembly of the Jewish people signifies the spiritual and
internal assembly of the Christian people in faith. Thus, as
they drank water from a bodily rock, and ate bodily manna with
the bodily mouth, so with the mouth of the heart we drink and eat
of the spiritual Rock, the Lord Christ, when we believe in Him [1
Cor. 10:3]. Again, Moses set a serpent on a pole, and whosoever
looked upon it was made whole [Num. 21:8]. That signifies Christ
on the Cross; whosoever believeth in Him, is saved. And so
throughout the entire Old Testament, all the bodily, visible
things in it signify in the New Testament spiritual and inward
things, which one cannot see, but possesses only in faith. St.
Augustine understood the types in this manner, when he says[49]
on John iii, "This is the difference between the type and its
fulfilment: the type gave temporal goods and life, but the
fulfilment gives spiritual and eternal life." [John 3:14] Now the
outward show of Roman power can give neither temporal nor eternal
life, and therefore it is not only no fulfilment of the type of
Aaron, but far less than the type, for that was established by
divine direction. For if the papacy could give either eternal or
temporal life, all the popes would be saved and be in good
health. But he who has Christ and the spiritual Church, is truly
saved and has the fulfilment of the type, yet only in faith. And
since the pope's external show and the oneness of his Church can
be seen with the eyes, and we all see it, it is not possible that
he can be the fulfilment of any type. For the fulfilment of types
must not be seen, but believed.

[Sidenote: The High-Priest Not a Type of the Pope]

Now see--are they not skilful masters who make the high-priest of
the Old Testament to be a type of the pope, when the latter makes
as much, nay more of an external show than the former, and thus a
bodily thing is made to be the fulfilment of a bodily type! That
would mean that type and fulfilment are exactly alike. But if
this type is to stand, the new high-priest must be spiritual, and
his graces and adornment likewise spiritual. The prophets also
saw this when they said of us, Psalm cxxxii, "Thy priests shall
be clothed with faith or righteousness, and Thine anointed ones
shall be adorned with joy." [Ps. 132:9] As if he would say: Our
priests are types, and are clothed externally with silks and
purples, but your priests shall be clothed with grace inwardly.
Thus is this miserable Romanist routed with his "type," and his
jumbling together of much Scripture has been in vain. For the
pope is an external priest, and they think of him in his external
power and adornment. Therefore Aaron cannot have been a type of
him; we must have another.

[Sidenote: Scriptural Types Interpreted in Scripture]

In the second place--in order that they may realize how far they
are from the truth--even if they had been wise enough to give a
spiritual fulfilment to the type, yet that would not stand the
test, unless they had a clear passage from the Scriptures, which
brought the type and its spiritual fulfilment together; otherwise
every one could make out of it what he desired. For instance,
that the serpent lifted up by Moses signifies Christ, is taught
by John iii [John 3:14]. If it were not for that passage my
reason might evolve very strange and weird fancies out of that
type. Again, that Adam was a type of Christ, I learn not from
myself, but from St. Paul in Romans v [Rom. 5:14]. Again, that
the rock in the wilderness signifies Christ, is not so stated by
my reason, but by St. Paul in I. Corinthians x. [1 Cor. 10:4]
Therefore, let none other explain the type but the Holy Spirit
Himself, Who has given the type and wrought the fulfilment, in
order that both promise and performance, type and fulfilment, and
the interpretation of both, may be God's own and not man's, and
our faith be founded not on human, but on divine works and words.

What leads the Jews astray but that they interpret the types as
they please, without the Scriptures? What has led so many
heretics astray but the interpretation of the types without
reference to the Scriptures? And though the pope were something
spiritual, yet even then it would count for nothing if I made
Aaron to be his type, unless I could point to a passage where it
is explicitly stated: Behold, Aaron was a type of the pope.
Otherwise who could prevent me from assuming that Aaron was a
type of the bishop of Prague? St. Augustine has stated that types
are not valid in controversy unless supported by the

But now this poor chatterbox has neither: no spiritual, inward
high-priest and no passage of the Scriptures; he goes at it
blindly with his own dreams, and assumes as his basis that Aaron
was the type of St. Peter, the very thing which is in greatest
need of foundation and proof, and he just goes on prattling that
the law must be fulfilled and not one iota omitted. My dear
Romanist, who has ever doubted that the law of the Old Testament
and its types must be fulfilled in the New? There was no need of
your scholarship to establish that. But here you might make a
great show and demonstrate by your ingenuity that this fulfilment
occurs in Peter or in the pope. You are as mute as a stick when
it is time to speak out, and a chatterbox when speech is
unnecessary. Have you not learned your logic better than that?
You argue your major premises, which no one questions, and assume
the correctness of your minor premises, which every one
questions, and then you draw the conclusion to suit yourself.

[Sidenote: A Lesson in Logic]

Listen to me, I will give you a better lesson in logic. I agree
with you in saying: All that is typified by the high-priest in
the Old Testament must be fulfilled in the New, as St. Paul says
in I. Corinthians i. Thus far we agree. Now you continue: St.
Peter, or the pope, was typified by Aaron. Here I say, Nay. And
what can you do then? Now show your learning, and call the whole
crowd of Romanists to assist you, bring just one jot or tittle
from the Scriptures in defence, and I will call you a hero. On
what foundation have you builded, however? On your own dreams;
and yet you boast you will argue against me with the Scriptures.
It was not necessary for you thus to play the fool against me, I
should have had a fool to overcome at any rate.

[Sidenote: Aaron a Type of Christ]

Listen to me further: I say that Aaron was a type of Christ, and
not of the pope. And when I say this, I do not utter my own
invention, as you do; but I will prove it, so that neither you,
nor the world, nor all the devils shall overthrow it. In the
first place, Christ is a spiritual priest for the inner man; for
He sitteth in heaven, and maketh intercession for us as a priest,
teaches us inwardly in the heart, and does everything a priest
should do in mediating between God and man, as St. Paul says,
Romans iii, and the whole Epistle to the Hebrews. Aaron, the
type, is bodily and external, but the fulfilment is spiritual and
inward, and the two agree together. [Rom. 3:25]

Secondly, in order not to bring my own thoughts, I have the
passage, Psalm cx, "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent: Thou
art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." [Ps. 110:4]
Can you also bring a passage like that about St. Peter or the
pope? For I think that you will not deny that this passage refers
to Christ, as St. Paul, in Hebrews v. [Heb. 5:6] and at many
other places, and our Lord Christ Himself, in Matthew xxii, so
explain it [Matt. 22:44]. Thus we can see how beautifully the
Romanists treat the Scriptures and make out of them what they
like, as if they were a nose of wax, to be pulled around at will.

Now we have proved by the Scriptures that Christ is the
High-priest of the New Testament. Clearer still is Paul's
comparison of Aaron and Christ in Hebrews ix, when he says: "Into
the first tabernacle the priests went every day, to offer the
sacrifices; but into the second went the high-priest alone once
every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and
for the sin of the people. The Holy Ghost thus signifying that
the way to the true, holy tabernacle was not yet made manifest,
while the first tabernacle was yet standing, which was a type or
figure needful for the time then present. But Christ being come,
a high-priest of spiritual possessions to come, by a greater and
more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not
of this temporal building: neither by the blood of goats and
calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy
place, having obtained an eternal redemption." [Heb. 9:6 ff.]

What do you say to this, my super-learned Romanist? Paul says:
The high-priest typified Christ; you say, St. Peter. Paul says,
Christ entered not into a temporal building; you say, He is in
the temporal building at Rome. Paul says, He entered in once,
and hath obtained an eternal redemption, and makes the type to be
altogether spiritual and heavenly, which you make to be earthly
and external. What can you do now? My advice is this: Clench
your fist, smite him on the jaw, and say he is a liar, a heretic,
a poisoner, just as you do to me; and you will be like your
father Zedekiah, who smote Micaiah on the cheek [1 Kings 22:24].
Do you not see, wretched blasphemer, whither your counsellors and
your own madness have brought you? [John 5:43] Where are they
now, those big-wigs, who interdicted my sermon on both kinds in
the Sacrament?[51] It served them right. They would not tolerate
nor hear the Gospel, and now they shall hear instead the lies and
blasphemies of the Evil Spirit, even as Christ says to the Jews,
"I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; another
shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." [John 5:43]

But you might say, St. Peter too is typified by Aaron, along with
Christ; and I answer, if you must keep on, you could also say
that Aaron was a type of the Turk; and who could prevent you,
since you delight in such senseless chatter. But you have given
promise to argue from the Scriptures; now do it, and leave your
dreams at home. Moreover, where faith is concerned, one must
contend not with uncertain Scripture texts, but with those that
refer to the issue in a way that is certain, clear, and simple;
otherwise the Evil Spirit would toss us hither and yon, until at
last we should not know at all where we were; just as has
happened to many with these little words, _Petros_ and
_Petra_[52] in Matthew xvi [Matt. 16:18].

It would have been something less of a lie and a blasphemy for
you to have said that Aaron was a type of Christ and also of St.
Peter. But now you just scream with all your might that Aaron was
not a type of Christ, but of St. Peter, and wantonly you strike
St. Paul in the face. And in order that nothing may be lacking in
this perfect piece of folly, you go on to say: Moses was a type
of Christ. And you say this not only without any cause or
indication in the Scriptures--just as if you were more than God,
and everything which you emit must be taken for Gospel--but
contrary to all the Scriptures, which make Moses a type of the
Law, as St. Paul does in II. Corinthians iii. [2 Cor. 3:7] It is
not necessary to go into this just now, else you might strike him
on the jaw again in your wantonness and insolence. Such venom you
have imbibed from that man Emser's heretical and blasphemous
output,[53] which I will give the answer it deserves when Sir
Knight Eck comes along with his flourish.[54] You cannot carry it
off in that way, my dear Romanists. I cannot prevent it by force,
but you shall not bring any Scripture in support of it. Praise
God, I am not quite ready to bite the dust.

[Sidenote: Types of the Apostles]

Now it is clear, I take it, that the third argument of his
Romanist is rank heresy and blasphemy, for it flatly contradicts
God the Holy Ghost and makes Him a liar, and utterly demolishes
St. Paul. For since Aaron is a type of Christ, he cannot be a
type of St. Peter. For what the Scriptures ascribe to Christ must
not be ascribed to any other, so that the Scriptures may ever
have one simple, direct, indisputable meaning, on which our faith
may rest without wavering [Exod. 28:17 ff.]. This I will grant,
that Peter is one of the twelve precious stones in the
breastplate of Aaron, whereby there may be signified that the
twelve Apostles, chosen in Christ, and known from all eternity,
are the highest and most precious jewels in Christendom, but I
can never allow Peter to become Aaron. Again, I will admit that
St. Peter is one of the twelve lions that stood beside Solomon's
great throne [1 Kings 10:19], but Christ must remain for me the
one King Solomon. I will let the twelve Apostles be the twelve
wells of water in the wilderness of Elim [Exod. 15:27], on this
condition, however, that the bright cloud and pillar shall be
nothing other than Christ himself. And just as little as the
power of any one of these twelve extends over the others, so
little does Peter have power over the other apostles, and the
pope over other bishops and priests, by divine right.

[Sidenote: Wherein the Pope is Untrue to the Type of Aaron]

One thing more, my good, dear Romanists, and then I have done. I
ask most graciously for a correct answer. If Aaron was a type of
the pope in external authority, vestments and state, why was he
not a type in all other external and bodily matters; if it holds
in one thing, why not in all the others?

It is written that the high-priest shall not take a widow or a
divorced woman, but shall wed a virgin [Lev. 21:14]; why do they
not give the pope a virgin to wed, so that the type may be
fulfilled? Nay, why does the pope forbid matrimony to the whole
priesthood, not only contrary to the Old Testament type, but also
in opposition to God, and against right, reason, and nature, a
thing which he has no authority, nor power, nor right to do, and
over which the Church has never exercised authority, nor should
it ever do so. So by his own caprice, without need, he has caused
Christendom to be filled with whores, sinners, and guilty
consciences, as St. Paul says of him, I. Timothy iv: "In the
latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to
seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in
hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which
God hath created, etc." [1 Tim. 4:1 ff.]

Does Paul herein not hit the Roman laws, which forbid the
priesthood to marry, and command all Christians to abstain from
butter, eggs, milk, and meats on certain days, while God Himself
has left it to the free choice of Christians in every estate to
eat or to marry, as they desire? Where are you now, my Romanist
of the observance, with all your ranting that not one detail of
the Old Testament type shall be omitted, and that every iota must
be fulfilled? Yea, where is the pope, the successor of St. Peter,
who was married, as was St. Paul[55] and all the Apostles?

[Sidenote: The Tonsure]

Again, the Old Testament high-priest was not permitted to have
his head shorn [Lev. 21:5]. But why does the pope have a tonsure,
and all the other priests, too? Wherein is the type fulfilled
here to the very dot? Again, the High-priest was forbidden to own
any portion of Israel's land, but subsisted entirely on the
offerings of the people. Pray, why is the occupant of the papal
throne so furious to possess the whole world, and has not only
stolen lands and cities, principalities and kingdoms,[56] but has
arrogated to himself the power to make kings and princes, seat
and unseat and change them according to his pleasure, as if he
were Antichrist. Wherein is there here a fulfilment of the type?

[Sidenote: Worldly Pretensions]

Again, the Old Testament high-priest was a subject under the rule
of the kings. Why then does the pope have men kiss his feet, and
aspire to be king of kings, which Christ Himself did not? Wherein
is the type fulfilled here? Again, the high-priest was
circumcised. And, finally, if having the external things in the
New Testament identical with those of the Old be the fulfilment
of types, why do we not become Jews again and keep the whole law
of Moses? If we must observe it in one particular, why not in
all? If not in all, why in one?

[Sidenote: Holy Men Not Under the High-Priest]

If it be desired to elevate the New Testament above the Old in
the matter of outward splendor, would it not be the reasonable to
suppose that there should be more than one high-priest in the New
Testament, to make it more splendid and glorious than the Old,
which did not have more than one? If reason should judge in this
case and follow its own bent, what do you suppose it would do?
Again, in the time of the Old Testament high-priest there were
many holy men who were not under him, such as Job and his
family--for he was not alone. Likewise the king of Babylon, the
queen of Sheba, the widow of Zarephath, the prince Naaman of
Syria, and many others in Eastern lands, together with their
families, who are all commended in the Scriptures. Why does not
the type hold in these instances, even to the letter? And yet the
pope will let no one be a Christian except he be subject to him,
and buy his seals and parchments at any price his Romanists
please to charge. Or do the Romanists have power to interpret
types as they please and as far as they please, without any
warrant of the Scriptures?

Do you not see, my good Romanist, how envy and hatred have
blinded you and your kind? Would it not have been a more seemly
thing for you to have remained in your cell praying your vigils
until you had been called or urged into this case? You do not
know what a type is or signifies, and yet you boast of being a
teacher and master of all the Holy Scriptures.[57] Yea, verily, a
master in corrupting the Scriptures, and blaspheming God, and
libeling truth. Come again, my dear Romanist, and I will deck you
with lilies and give you for a new year's present[58] to those
who have sent you.

I, too, desire to say one thing that is not in the Scriptures.
In all estates which God has appointed there are always some who
are saved, and no estate is without living saints on earth, as
Christ says, Luke xvii, "Two men shall be in one bed; the one
shall be taken, and the other left," etc. [Luke 17:34] If the
papacy were from God it would be impossible for a pope to be
damned, because there is but one person at a time in that estate,
and whoever became pope would thereby be assured of his
salvation; which is contrary to all the Scriptures.

[Sidenote: The Scriptural Foundation of Papal Power]

Now let us see how these pious people treat the holy words of
Christ in this case. Christ says to St. Peter, Matthew xvi: "Thou
art, or art called, Peter; and on the _Petram_ (i. e., on the
rock) I will build My Church. And I will give unto thee the keys
of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on
earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose
on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." [Matt 16:18] From these
words they have claimed the keys for St. Peter alone; but the
same Matthew has barred such erroneous interpretation in the
xviii. chapter, where Christ says to all in common, "Verily, I
say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound
in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be
loosed in heaven." [Matt. 18:18] It is clear that Christ here
interprets His own words, and in this xviii. chapter explains the
former xvi.; namely, that the keys are given to St. Peter in the
stead of the whole Church,[59] and not for his own person. Thus
also John, in the last chapter, "He breathed on them and said,
Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are
remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are
retained." To maintain the sole authority of St. Peter, when
there are two texts against one, many men have labored in vain.
But the Gospel is too clear, and they have had to admit until now
that in the first passage nothing special was given to St. Peter
for his own person.

Thus it was also understood by many of the ancient Church
fathers. It is likewise proved by the words of Christ just before
He gave the keys to St. Peter, where He asks not Peter only, but
all of them: "What think ye of Me?" [Matt. 16:15] Then Peter
answers for them all, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living
God." [Matt. 16:18] Therefore the words in Matthew xvi. must be
understood in accordance with the words in chapter xviii. [Matt.
18:16] and in John xx [John 20:22], and one passage must not be
explained in a manner contrary to two strong ones, but the one be
properly explained by the two. The proof is all the stronger
where there are two instead of only one, and it is but fair that
one should follow the two, and not two the one.

[Sidenote: Equality Among the Apostles]

It is plain, therefore, that all the apostles were equal to Peter
in all matters of authority. This is shown by their acts as well
as by their words, for Peter never selected an apostle, nor made,
confirmed, sent out, or ruled over one; although if he had been
their superior by divine appointment this would have had to be,
or all of them would have been heretics. Moreover, all of the
apostles together could not make St. Matthias and St. Paul
apostles, but this must needs be done from heaven, as it is
written in Acts i. [Acts 1:23 ff.] and xiii. [Acts 13:2] How then
could St. Peter alone be lord over them all? This little nut no
one has been able to crack as yet, and I trust they will be so
gracious, even against their will, to leave it uncracked a while

[Sidenote: Roman Authority never Universal]

And just as this Romanist boasts that the papal chair survives in
spite of repeated assaults on its authority,[60] so I, too, boast
that the Roman See ofttimes, and to this very day, has striven in
mad frenzy for such power, yet has never been able to attain it,
and, God willing, shall never attain it. It is an utter farce
when a man boasts that he has always kept what he has never had.
Why does not our dear Romanist boast also that the city of
Leipzig has never been taken away from him, in which he does not
even have a house? It would be a boast of equal value with the
other. So they chatter on incessantly; anything that comes to
their tongues is blurted out. Therefore, I say, that though the
Roman tyrants have striven hard against the Gospel, to take the
common power of the Church and make it their own, yet the word of
Christ still stands, "The powers of hell shall not prevail
against it." [Matt. 16:18] Now if this power had been given to
the pope by divine right, God would not have desisted; at some
time it would have been fulfilled. For he says that "not a jot or
letter shall remain unfulfilled." [Matt. 5:18] But in the
extension of Roman power over all Christendom not one letter has
ever been fulfilled.

And it does not help to say, it is not the fault of the Romans,
but of the heretics, that it has not been fulfilled. Heretic
here, heretic there! God's order and promise cannot be hindered
or prevented by the gates of hell, much less by the heretics;
surely He is strong enough to make true His own Word, without the
help of heretics. And inasmuch as He has never done so, and
leaves it unfulfilled to this day, regardless of all the zeal,
diligence, toil and labor, and cunning and trickery besides,
which the Romans have expended on it, I hope it is sufficiently
established just what the pope's authority is, beyond that of
other bishops and priests; namely, that it is of human and not of
divine right. Christ's kingdom has been at all times in all the
world, as is written in Psalms ii. [Ps. 2:8] and xix [Ps. 19:4],
but never was it entirely under the pope, even for one hour, in
spite of those who say otherwise.

[Sidenote: Two Passages versus One]

Although all this is well-established truth, we shall
nevertheless proceed to demolish their idle fairy-tales still
more, and say: Even if it were not valid that the two sayings in
Matthew [Matt. 18:18] and John [John 20:22], which make the power
of the keys a common possession, should explain the one saying of
Matthew, which sounds as if the keys were given to Peter alone;
yet the case cannot proceed any further than to establish a
doubt, whether the one passage shall interpret the two, or the
two the one, and I hold as tenaciously to the two, as they to the
one. Furthermore, that doubt gives certainty to us, so that it is
entirely for us to say whether we will have the pope for a head
or not. For where a matter is in doubt, no one is a heretic,
whether he hold to one view or to another; this they themselves
admit. And thus their argument again is brought to naught, and
they can produce nothing but uncertainty and doubt. Therefore
they must either give up all three passages as inadequate to
establish their case, since their meaning is obscure; or else
they must cite others, which explicitly indicate that the two
must be interpreted by the one. This they cannot do; I defy them
to try it.

But I will cite passages by which I shall prove that the one
passage must follow the two.

Thus saith the Law--and Christ quotes it in Matthew xviii--,
"Every case shall be established through the mouth of two or
three witnesses, but at the mouth of one witness shall no man be
put to death." [Deut. 17:6] And once I have two witnesses against
one, my case takes precedence, and the one passage must follow
the two; namely, that Peter received the keys not as Peter, but
in the stead of the Church,[61] as Matthew xviii. and John xx.
clearly say, and not as Peter alone, as Matthew xvi. seems to

Moreover, I am astounded at the great arrogance by which they
would make the power of the keys a ruling power, which really
fits together as well as winter and summer. For a ruling power
means far more than the power of the keys. The power of the keys
extends only to the Sacrament of Penance,[62] to bind and loose
the sins, as Matthew xviii. [Matt. 18:18] and John xx. [John
20:22] clearly state; but a ruling power extends likewise to
those who are pious and have naught to be bound or loosed; its
scope includes preaching, exhorting, consoling, saying mass,
giving the Sacrament, etc. Therefore, none of the three passages
fits the power of the pope over all Christendom, except he were
made the one confessor, or penitentiary,[63] or anathematizer, to
rule only over the wicked and the sinners, which is not their
desire at all. And if these words should establish the papal
power over all Christians, I should very much like to know who
could absolve the pope when he sins. He must certainly remain in
his sins; neither will it do for him to transfer his power to
another for his own absolution, for that would make him a heretic
in acting contrary to divine command.

[Sidenote: Person and Office]

Some have invented the fiction that the pope's person and office
are two different things;[64] that the person can be made subject
to another, but not the office. That glitters for a moment, but
is, in truth, like all such wares. For in their own laws, with
great ado and show, they have forbidden any bishop of a lower
rank to confirm a pope, although this confirmation is not the
institution of the office, but the induction of the person into
the office. And if in this case the person is not subject to any
one, surely the same is true in absolution. But in all their
doings and glosses and interpretations, their minds are in a
whirl, and they say now this and now that; and in their twisting
of God's Word they lose its true sense, forget where they are, go
completely astray, and yet they would rule the whole world.

[Sidenote: The Keys Given to the Whole Church]

Therefore let every Christian believe that in these passages
Christ does not give either to St. Peter or to the other Apostles
the power to rule, or to soar so high. What then does He give? I
will tell you. These words of Christ are nothing but gracious
promises, given to the whole Church,[65] as was said above,[66]
in order that poor sinful consciences may find comfort when they
are "loosed" or absolved by man; and the words apply only to
sinful, timid, troubled consciences, and are intended to strength
en them, if they but believe. When these comforting words of
Christ, given for the benefit of all poor consciences in the
whole Church,[65] are thus made to strengthen and establish papal
power, I will tell you of what it reminds me.

[Sidenote: A Parable]

It reminds me of a rich, kind prince who threw open his
treasure-house, and gave complete freedom to all the poor to come
and take what they needed. Among the needy there came a rogue,
who made use of the permission all by himself and allowed none to
come in who did not bow completely to his will, and arbitrarily
explained the words of the prince to mean that the permission was
given to him alone. Can you imagine what the kind prince would
think of this rogue? If you cannot imagine it, hear what St.
Matthew says of that selfsame servant: "If that evil servant
shall say in his heart. My lord delayeth his coming, and shall
begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the
drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he
looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and
shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the
hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [Matt.
24:48 ff.]

And now see: in the same manner as this servant interprets the
intention of his lord, so the Romanists interpret the words of
God, and this is the very best that can be said of their
interpretation. For when they go stark mad, they act as if yon
servant had not only made barter of his lord's kindness for his
own profit, but as if he actually changed the goods, and gave
chaff and stubble for com, copper for gold, lead for silver, and
poison for wine. And therefore it is still a matter of grace,
that they claim the keys for the pope at least in such a manner
that we may buy them by giving money and everything that we
possess. But it is an utter calamity when they preach their
laws, authority, bans, indulgences and the like, in place of the
Gospel. That is what the Lord calls the smiting of the fellow
servants by the evil servant, who should rather feed them.

[Sidenote: Herod and the Romanists]

I will use a plain illustration, so that any one may see the
difference between the true and the false interpretation of these
words of Christ. The high-priest of the Old Testament wore, by
divine appointment, an official robe. When King Herod elevated
himself over the people of Israel, he took that robe, and
although he did not use it himself, yet he usurped the authority
to regulate its use, and the people were forced to pay for that
to which God had given them the right. The same is true now. The
keys have been given to the whole Church[65] as has been proved
above.[66] But along come the Romanists, and although they never
use them themselves nor exercise their office, yet they take to
themselves authority over the use of the keys, and we are forced
to buy with money what is in reality our own, given by Christ.
And, not satisfied with this, they apply the words of Christ
concerning the keys, not to the keys nor to their use, but to
their usurped power and authority over the keys, so that the
power of the keys, freely given by Christ, is now captive in the
hands of the Romanists; and both the power of the keys and the
power over the keys are supposed to come from the one word of
Christ, just as if Herod had said that it was his power of which
Moses was speaking, when he spake of the robe of the high-priest.

In like manner, a tyrant could obtain possession of a last
testament, and explain the words, wherein the property is
bequeathed to the heir, to mean that authority is given him over
this testament, to decide whether he will allow its provisions to
come to the heir gratuitously or for a price. So it is also with
the power of the keys and the authority of the pope, understood
as coming from one and the same word [of Scripture], whereas the
two things are not only different, but the authority claimed is
more than the power of the keys; and yet they make of it one and
the same thing.

[Sidenote: What is Meant by the Rock]

Their argument, that the external authority of the pope is
conferred in the words of Christ, "On this rock I will build My
Church," [Matt. 16:18] understanding the rock to mean St. Peter
and his authority, I have refuted many times,[67] and now I will
say only this: First, they must prove that the rock means
authority. They will not do this, nor can they do it, so they
just have voice to their own inventions, and all their drivel
must be divine command. Secondly, the rock can mean neither St.
Peter nor his authority, on account of the words of Christ which
follow, "And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Now
it is clear as day that no one is edified in the Church, nor
withstands the gates of hell by the mere fact that he is under
the external authority of the pope. For the majority of those who
hold so strongly to the authority of the pope, and lean upon it,
are themselves possessed by the powers of hell and are full of
sins and rascality. Then, too, some of the popes were heretics
themselves, and gave heretical laws; yet they remained in
authority. Therefore, the rock does not signify authority, which
can never withstand the gates of hell; but it signifies only
Christ and the faith in Him, against which no power can ever

[Sidenote: Prevailing Against the Gates of Hell]

That this authority continues to exist despite those who battle
against it, does not mean that it has withstood the gates of
hell. For so the Greek Church has continued, and all the other
Christians in the world; the Moscovites[68] and Bohemians
continue, yea, the kingdom of Persia has continued for more than
two thousand years, and the Turk for well nigh a thousand years,
in spite of various and repeated attacks against them. And to
tell you some more things that really should bring astonishment
to such an illustrious Romanist: The world in its wickedness has
stood from the beginning, and shall stand until the Last Day, and
forever, even if God Himself with all holy men and angels never
cease to preach, write and work against it. If you think good of
it, my dear Romanist, defy God and all the angels, because the
world has stood even against all their words and work. Why did
you not ascertain, you poor, blind Romanist, before rushing into
print, what it means "to prevail against the gates of hell"? If
every prevailing means just as much as prevailing against the
gates of hell, then the devil's kingdom prevails with a larger
following than God's kingdom. This is what it means to prevail
against the gates of hell: Not to be in an external
communion[69], authority, jurisdiction or assembly in a bodily
manner, according to your way of babbling about the Roman
communion[69] and its unity, but by a firm and true faith to be
built upon Christ, the Rock which can never be suppressed by any
power of the devil, even if he counts more followers and uses
unceasing strife, cunning, and violence against it.

[Sidenote: Evil Results of Roman Authority]

Now the greater part of the Roman communion,[69] and even some of
the popes themselves, have forsaken the faith wantonly and
without struggle, and live under the power of Satan, as is
plainly to be seen, and thus the papacy often has been under the
dominion of the gates of hell. And should I speak quite openly,
this same Roman authority, ever since the time it has presumed to
soar over all Christendom, not only has never attained its
purpose, but has become the cause of nearly all the apostasy,
heresy, discord, sects, unbelief and misery in Christendom, and
has never freed itself from the gates of hell. And if there were
no other passage to prove that Roman authority was of human and
not of divine right, this passage alone would be sufficient,
where Christ says, the gates of hell shall not prevail against
His building on the rock. Now the gates of hell ofttimes had the
papacy in their power, at times the pope was not a pious man, and
the office was occupied by a man without faith, without grace,
without good works; which God would never have permitted if the
papacy were meant in Christ's word concerning the rock. For then
He would not be true to His promise, nor fulfil His own word;
therefore the rock, and the building of Christ founded upon it,
must be something entirely different from the papacy and its
external Church.

Accordingly I say further, that the Roman bishop has often been
deposed or appointed by other bishops. If, however, his authority
were by divine appointment and promise, God would never have
permitted this to happen, for it would be against His word and
promise. And if God were found to be unfaithful in so much as
even one word, then would perish faith, truth, the Scriptures,
and God Himself. But if God's words stand firm, then my
adversaries must prove to me that the pope was never subject,
even once, to Satan or to man. I would much like to hear just
what my good Romanists have to say to this. I trust they are
slain with their own sword, like Goliath [1 Sam. 17:51]. For I
can prove that the papacy has been subject not only to Satan, but
to other bishops, yea, also to temporal powers, to the emperors.
How did the rock prevail then against the gates of hell? I will
leave the choice to them: either these words mean defeat for the
papacy, or God is a liar. Let us see which they will choose.

Nor is it enough that you try to squirm out of the dilemma by
saying that even if the papacy has been under Satan now and then,
yet there have always been pious Christians under it. I reply:
Under the rule of the Turk there are Christians, and likewise
there are Christians in all the world, as there were aforetime
under Nero and other tyrants. How does that help you? The papacy
and the pope himself must at no time have been under Satan if
Christ's word refers to them when He speaks of "a rock set
against the gates of hell." See, thus do the Romanists interpret
the Scriptures in accordance with their mad folly. Faith they
turn into authority, spiritual edification into outward show, and
yet they are not heretics--they make all others to be the
heretics. Such are the Romanists.

Another passage which they cite in support of their contention is
that in which the Lord says three times to Peter, "Feed My
sheep." [John 21:15] Here they reach real eminence as theologians
when they say: Since Christ said to Peter in particular, "Feed My
sheep," He thereby conferred on him authority above all others.

[Sidenote: Feeding the Sheep and Roman Authority]

Now we shall see to what labor and pains they are put to bring
about that result. In the first place, we must know what they
mean by "feeding." "Feeding," in the Roman sense, means to burden
Christendom with many human and hurtful laws, to sell the
bishoprics at the highest possible price, to extract the
annates[70] from all benefices, to usurp authority over all
foundations, to force into servitude all the bishops with
terrible oaths, to sell indulgences, to rob the whole world by
means of letters, bulls, seals and wax, to prohibit the preaching
of the Gospel, to appoint knaves from Rome to all the places, to
bring all litigation to Rome, to increase quarrels and
disputes--in short, to allow no one to come freely to the truth
and to have peace.

But if they say that by "feeding" they do not understand such
abuse of authority, but the authority itself, it is simply not
true. And I prove it in this wise: Where one protests very mildly
against such abuse, and with all deference to the authority, they
rail and threaten thunder and lightning, they clamor that it is
heresy and high treason, that it is a rending of the seamless
garment of Christ, and they would burn up the heretics, rebels,
apostates and everybody in the whole world. By all of which it is
clear that they hold "feeding" to mean naught else but such
preying and flaying. In the meanwhile, however, we think that
feeding does not mean preying on others. Let us endeavor to see
what it means.

[Sidenote: Distinction of Person and Office]

They have a high-sounding, keen and subtile speech--as they
imagine--when they say that person and office are not one and the
same, and that the office remains, and remains good, though the
person be evil. From this they conclude, and it must, indeed,
follow, that the word of Christ, "Feed My sheep," means an office
of external power, which even an evil man may have, for the
office makes no one holy. Very well. This is acceptable to us,
and we will ask the Romanists a question. Whoever keeps and
fulfils the word of Christ, he is truly obedient and pious, and
shall be saved, for His words are spirit and life [John 6:63].
If, therefore, "feeding" means to sit in the highest place and to
have an office--even if the incumbent be a knave--it follows that
he feeds who sits in the highest seat and is pope; and whoever
does this work of feeding is obedient to Christ; and whoever is
obedient in one particular is obedient in all and is a saint
Therefore it must be true that whoever is pope and sits in the
chief room is obedient to Christ and is a saint, though he be a
knave, or a rogue, or what not. Have thanks, my dearest
Romanists! Now I know, for the first time, why the pope is
addressed as "your holiness." Thus must the word of Christ be
explained, so that knaves and rogues are made out to be holy and
obedient servants of Christ, just as in the previous pages you
have made Christ an arch-knave and a brothel-keeper.[71]

[Sidenote: Being Fed in the Roman Sense]

Further, if "feeding" means to sit in the highest place, then
"being fed" must mean to be subject, so that just as "feeding"
means external governing, "being fed" must mean to be governed,
and, as they say, to live in the Roman fellowship.[72] Then it
must also be further true that all who are within the Roman
fellowship,[72] be they good or evil, are saints, because they
are obedient to Christ and are being fed. For none can be
obedient to Christ in one thing, without being obedient in all,
as St. James says [Jas. 2:10]. Now is that not a fine Church
under the Roman authority, where there are no sinners at all and
naught but saints! But what becomes of the poor indulgence, if
no one needs it any more in the Roman fellowship?[72] What
becomes of the father confessor? How shall the world be robbed,
if penance disappears? Nay, what becomes of the keys if they are
no longer needed? But if there are still sinners among them, they
must go unfed and be disobedient to Christ.

What do you say to this, my good Romanists? Come now and pipe
your lay. Do you not see that "feeding" must mean something else
than having authority, and "being fed" something else than being
externally subject to the Roman power, and how utterly senseless
it is to cite the saying of Christ, "Feed My sheep," in order to
strengthen Roman authority and its external unity or fellowship!

[Sidenote: Feeding and Loving]

Christ also says, "He that loveth Me, keepeth My word; he that
loveth Me not, keepeth not My words." Prick up your ears at this,
my dear Romanists. Ye boast that the word of Christ, "Feed My
sheep," [John 14:23] is a command and word of Christ. Let us ask,
then, where are they who keep it? You say, even the knaves and
rogues keep it. Christ says no one keepeth it, except he love and
be a righteous man. Now come to some agreement with Christ in
this matter, so that we may know if you or He is to be charged
with lying. Therefore, the pope who loves not, and is not
righteous, does not "feed the sheep," and does not keep Christ's
word: neither is he a pope, nor has he authority, nor anything at
all that is included in the term "feeding the sheep." For Christ
stands immovable, and says, "He that loveth Me not, keepeth not
My word"; nor does such a one perform any "feeding of sheep,"
i. e., he is no pope at all, as they explain it. Thus it comes
that the same passages which are cited in its favor are against
the papacy; a just retribution for those who treat the holy Word
of God in sheer madness, as though it were fool's talk, and who
would make out of it what they please.

Perhaps you might reply, that a subject can be obedient to
temporal authority even if that authority were not righteous; why
should one not be obedient to the pope's authority? Therefore to
"feed," or to "be fed," must not necessarily include the idea of
obedience. Answer: The Scriptures do not call temporal authority
"feeding," and in the New Testament there is no instance where
God publicly appointed any one to temporal power, although no
such power arises without His secret ordering. For this reason
St. Peter calls such powers "ordinances of men," [1 Peter 2:13]
because they rule not by God's word, but by God's governance, and
it is not needful, therefore, that such rulers should be
righteous. But inasmuch as we here have God's word, "Feed my
sheep," neither the shepherd nor the sheep can fulfil this word
except by obedience to God and righteousness of life. Therefore I
let bishop, pope, priest be what they may; unless they love
Christ and are righteous, this term, "feeding," is not for them,
and they are something entirely different from the shepherds and
feeders of sheep who alone are meant in this word. For this
reason it cannot be tolerated that this word of Christ shall be
made to cover external power, which has nothing to do with
obedience or disobedience to Him; "feeding" can mean naught else
but to be obedient.

And this is what Christ desired. For before saying three times to
Peter: "Feed My sheep," He asked him thrice if he loved Him, and
Peter thrice answered that he loved Him. [John 21:15 ff.] It is
evident, therefore, that there is no "feeding" where there is no
love. Therefore, the papacy either must be love, or it cannot be
a feeding of the sheep, and if the word "Feed My sheep"
establishes the papal chair, it follows that all are popes who
love Christ and feed the sheep. And this is perfectly true: for
aforetime all bishops were called popes, which title is now
restricted to the one at Rome.

[Sidenote: A Distinction in Love]

But here look you what our Romanists do when they cannot overcome
these words of Christ, and must admit, though with great
reluctance, that no one can feed except he love Christ, as the
clearly expressed words of Christ declare. Gladly they would give
Him the lie, or deny Him; but now that they are hit squarely
between the eyes, so that their heads swim, hear what they say.
They say that Christ indeed demands love in the office of the
pope, but not that high love, which, they say, is meritorious
unto eternal life; but the ordinary love is quite sufficient,
such as a servant has toward his master.[73] Now see, this lying
explanation[74] of love they bring forth entirety out of their
own heads, without warrant of the Scriptures, and yet they would
have it appear that they are dealing with me in the Scriptures.
Tell me, my dear Romanists, all of you melted together into one
heap, where is there so much as one letter in the Scriptures
concerning this love of which you dream? If your vile brew of
Leipzig[75] could speak, it would easily overcome such
feather-brains, and speak better than you do of love.

But let us follow this matter further. If there must needs be
some sort of love in the papacy, what becomes of it when a pope
does not love Christ at all, and seeks in it only his own gain
and honor? And there have been many such, yea, almost all since
the beginning of the papacy. You have not escaped me yet--you
must confess that the papacy has not always existed, it has often
perished, because it was ofttimes without love. But if it had
been established by divine right, in these words of Christ, it
would not have perished. Twist and turn as you will, these words
will not yield a papacy; or else the papacy must cease in
Christendom whenever the pope is without love. Now you have said
yourself that the person may be evil, but the office remains;
again you admit, and must admit, that the office is nothing if
the person be evil--or you must let "feeding the sheep" be
something else than the papacy. And this is true; let us see what
you can bring against it.

[Sidenote: A Shepherd's Love]

But let every one beware of the poisoned tongues and
devil-glosses which can invent a love of such description.
Christ speaks of the highest, strongest, best love of which man
is capable. He will not be loved with a false, divided love; here
there must be whole-hearted and pure love, or none at all. And
the meaning of Christ is that in St. Peter's person He is
instructing all preachers how they must be equipped; as if He
would say: "See, Peter, if you shall preach My word, and thereby
feed My sheep, there shall rise against you the powers of hell,
devil, world, and all that therein is, and you must be willing to
venture body, life, goods, honor, friends, and everything which
you have; and this you will not do if you do not love Me and
cleave close to Me. And if you should begin to preach, and the
sheep were being fed in the pastures, and the wolves would break
in, and you would then flee as a hireling, and not venture your
life, but leave the sheep without care, to the wolves [John 10:12
ff.], it would have been better that you had never begun to
preach and feed the sheep." For if he falls, who preaches the
Word and should stand at the head, offence is given to every one,
the Word of God is brought to deepest disgrace, and more harm is
done to the sheep than if they had no shepherd at all. Christ
cares much for the feeding of the sheep; He cares nothing at all
how many crowns the pope wears, and how in all his splendor he
lifts himself far above the kings of the world.

Let any one tell if he can, whether the papacy has such love, or
if Christ, in these words, has instituted such a worthless
authority as the papacy is. Without doubt he is truly a pope who
preaches with such love; but where can such a one be found? There
is no passage that gives me as much sorrow in my preaching as
this one does--of love I feel not much, of preaching I do more
than enough. They accuse me of being rabid and revengeful; I fear
that I have done too little. I should have pulled the wool[76]
much harder for the ravening wolves, who never cease to rend the
Scripture, to poison and pervert it to the great injury of the
poor, forsaken sheep of Christ. If I had only loved them enough I
should have dealt quite differently with the pope and his
Romanists, who with their laws and their prattle, their letters
of indulgence, and the rest of their foolery, bring to naught out
faith and God's Word. They make for us what laws they will, only
to capture us, and then sell them to us again for money;[77] with
their mouths they weave snares for money, and yet boast that they
are shepherds and keepers of sheep, whereas they are truly
wolves, thieves, and murderers, as the Lord says in John x.

I know right well that this little word, "love," scares the pope
and his Romanists and makes them weak and weary, nor are they
willing that it should be pressed, for it overturns the whole
papacy. It made Dr. Eck weary at Leipzig;[78] and whom would it
not make weary, since Christ directly commands Peter not to feed
the sheep except there be love? He must have love or there can be
no "feeding." I shall wait a while now to see how they will parry
this thrust. If they prick me with "feeding," I will prick them
much harder with "loving," and we shall see who prevails. This is
the reason why some of the popes in their Canon laws so neatly
pass in silence this word "love," and make so much ado about
"feeding," thinking that thereby they have preached only to
drunken Germans, who will not notice how the hot porridge burns
their tongue. This is the reason, too, why the pope and the
Romanists cannot bear any questioning and investigating of the
foundation of papal power, and every one is accused of doing a
scandalous, presumptuous and heretical thing, who is not
satisfied with their mere assertions, but seeks for its real
basis. But that one should ask if God is God, and seek in
frivolous presumption to penetrate all His mysteries, they suffer
with equanimity, and it does not concern them. Whence this
perverted game? From this, that, as Christ says, John iii, "He
that doeth evil, feareth the light." [John 3:20] Where is the
thief or robber who courts investigation? Thus the evil
conscience cannot bear the light; but truth loveth the light, and
is an enemy to darkness, even as Christ says in the same chapter,
"He that doeth truth, cometh to the light." [John 3:21]

Now we see that the two sayings of Christ, spoken to Peter, on
which they build the papacy, are stronger against the papacy than
all others, and the Romanists can produce nothing that does not
make them a laughing-stock. I shall let the matter rest here,
and pass by whatever else this miserable Romanist spues out in
his book; since I have controverted it all many times before, and
now also some others have effectually done so in Latin.[79] I
find nothing in it, except that he soils the Holy Scriptures like
a sniveling child; in no place does he show a mastery of his
words or an understanding of his subject.

[Sidenote: The Conclusion of the Matter]

On the subject of the papacy I have come to this conclusion:
Since we observe that the pope has full authority over all our
bishops, and has not attained it apart from the providence of
God--although I do not believe that it is a gracious, but rather
a wrathful providence which permits men, as a plague on the
world, to exalt themselves and oppress others--therefore I do not
desire that any one should resist the pope, but rather bow to the
providence of God, honor this authority, and endure it with all
patience, just as if the Turk ruled over us; in this wise it will
do no harm.

I contend for but two things. First: I will not suffer any man to
establish new articles of faith, and to abuse all other
Christians in the world, and slander and brand them as heretics,
apostates and unbelievers, simply because they are not under the
pope. It is enough that we let the pope be pope, and it is not
needful that, for his sake, God and His saints on earth should be
blasphemed. Second: All that the pope decrees and does I will
receive, on this condition, that I first test it by the Holy
Scriptures. He must remain under Christ, and submit to be judged
by the Holy Scriptures.

But these Roman knaves come along, place him above Christ, and
make him a judge over the Scriptures; they say that he cannot
err, and whatever is dreamed at Rome, nay, everything which they
dare to come out with, they would prescribe for us as articles of
faith. And as if that were not enough, they would introduce a new
kind of faith, so that we are to believe what we can see with our
bodily eyes; whereas faith, by its very nature, is of the things
which no one sees or feels, as St. Paul says in Hebrews xi [Heb.
11:1]. Now the Roman authority and fellowship[80] is a bodily
thing, and can be seen by any one. If the pope came to
that--which may God forbid!--I would say right out that he is the
real Antichrist, of whom all the Scriptures speak.

If they grant me these two things, I will let the pope remain,
nay, help to exalt him as him as they please; if not, he shall be
to me neither pope nor Christian. He that must do it may make an
idol of him; I will not worship him.

Moreover, I would be truly glad if kings, princes, and all the
nobles would take hold, and turn the knaves from Rome out of the
country, and keep the appointments to bishoprics and benefices
out of their hands. How has Roman avarice come to usurp all the
foundations, bishoprics and benefices of our fathers? Who has
ever read or heard of such monstrous robbery? Do we not also have
the people who need them, while out of our poverty we must enrich
the ass-drivers and stable-boys, nay, the harlots and knaves at
Rome, who look upon us as nothing else but arrant fools, and make
us the objects of their vile mockery?

It is a notorious fact that the Russians desired to come into the
Roman fellowship, but then the holy shepherds of Rome "fed" those
sheep of Christ in such a manner that they would not receive them
unless they first bound themselves to a perpetual tax of I know
not how many hundred thousands of ducats. Such "food" they would
not eat, and so they remain as they are, saying, if they must buy
Christ, they would rather save their money until they come to
Christ Himself, in heaven. Thus thou doest, thou scarlet whore of
Babylon [Rev. 17:4], as St. John calls thee--makest of our faith
a mockery for all the world, and yet wouldest have the name of
making every one a Christian.

Oh the pity, that kings and princes have so little reverence for
Christ, and His honor concerns them so little that they allow
such heinous abominations to gain the upper hand, and look on,
while at Rome they think of nothing but to continue in their
madness and to increase the abounding misery, until no hope is
left on earth except in the temporal authorities. Of this I will
say more anon,[81] if this Romanist comes again; let this suffice
for a beginning. May God help us at length to open our eyes.

As for the slanders and evil names with which my person is
assailed, although numerous enough, I will let my dear Romanist
off without reply. They do not trouble me. It has never been my
intention to avenge myself on those who rail at my person, my
life, my work, my doings. That I am not worthy of praise, I
myself know full well. But I will let no man reproach me that in
defending the Scriptures I am more pointed and impetuous than
some seem to like, neither will I be silenced. Whoever will, let
him freely scold, slander, condemn my person and my life; it is
already forgiven him. But let no one expect from me either grace
or patience who would make my Lord Christ, Whom I preach, and the
Holy Ghost, to be liars. I am nothing at all, but for the Word of
Christ I give answer with joyful heart and vigorous courage, and
without respect of persons. To this end God has given me a glad
and fearless spirit, which they shall not embitter, I trust, not
in all eternity.

That I have mentioned Leipzig, no one should consider an affront
to the honorable city and University. I was forced to it by the
vaunted, arrogant, fictitious title of this Romanist, who boasts
that he is a public teacher of ail the Holy Scriptures at
Leipzig,[82] which titles have never before been used in
Christendom, and by his dedication[83] to the city and its
Council. If the jackanapes had not issued his book in German, in
order to poison the defenceless laity, he would have been too
small for me to bother with. For this clumsy ass cannot yet sing
his hee-haw, and quite uncalled, he meddles in things which the
Roman chair itself, together with all the bishops and scholars,
has not been able to establish in a thousand years.

I should have thought, too, that Leipzig ought to have been too
precious in his eyes, for him to smear his drivel and snivel on
so honorable and famous a city; but in his own imagination he is
no ordinary man. I perceive that if I permit the petulance of all
these thick-heads, even the bath-maids will finally write against

But I pray that whoever would come at me arm himself with the
Scriptures. What helpeth it, that a poor frog puffeth himself up?
Even if he should burst, he is no ox.

I would gladly be out of this business, and they force themselves
into it. May God grant both of us our prayers,--help me out of
it, and let them stick in it Amen.

    All glory be to God on high
    And praise to all eternity. Amen.


[1] Augustin Alveld, so named from the town of his birth, Alveld
in Saxony, a Franciscan monk, Lector of his order at Leipzig. It
is said of him that what he lacked in learning he made up for in
scurrility, so that he himself complains that his own
brother-monks wanted to forbid his writing. John Lonicerus, a
friend of Luther, published a small book, _Biblia nova
Alveldensis_, Wittenberg, 1520, in which he gathered a long list
of Alveld's terms of reproach used against Luther. To him has
been attributed the origin of the undignified style adopted by so
many since 1520 on both sides of the controversy about Luther's
teachings. Vid. H. A. Erhard, in _Ersch und Gruber_,
_Encyclopaedia_, iii, 277; _Algemeine Deutsche Biographi_, I,

[2] Cf., Augustine's Confessions, III, vii: "Just as if in armor,
a man being ignorant what piece were appointed for what part,
should clap a greave upon his head and draw a headpiece upon his

[3] The four chief literary opponents of Luther in the earlier
years of the Reformation--Sylvester Mazolini, usually called
Prierias, after the city of his birth, a papal official
(_Magister sacri palatii_) who had published three books against
Luther prior to 1520; Thomas of Gaëtano, Cardinal, and papal
legate at the Diet of Augsburg, 1518; John Eck, professor in the
University of Ingolstadt, who had been Luther's opponent at the
Leipzig Disputation in 1519; Jerome Emser, also active at the
Leipzig Disputation, whom Luther was to make the laughing-stock
of Germany under the name of "the Leipzig goat," an appellation
suggested by his coat-of-arms.

[4] The Theological Faculties of Cologne and Louvaine officially
condemned Luther's writings; the former August 30th, the latter
November 7th, 1519. The text of their resolutions was reprinted
by Luther with a reply, _Responsio ad condemnationem
donctrinalem_, etc. (1520); _Weimar Ed._, VI, 174 ff; _Erl. Ed._,
op. var. arg., IV, 172 ff.

[5] _Neidhart_.

[6] The views which Luther expounds in this treatise had already
been expressed in a Latin work, _Resolutiones super Propositione
XIII. de protestate Papae_, 1519 (_Erl. Ed., op. var. arg._, III,
293 ff; _Weimar Ed._, II, 180 ff). The present work is written in
German "for the laity."

[7] _Christenheit_. Luther carefully avoids the use of the word
"Church" (_Kirche_). The reason will appear in the argument which
follows. In many places, however, the word "Christendom" would
not Luther's meaning, and there is, for the modern reader, no
such technical restriction to the term "Church" as obtained among
Luther's readers. Where the word _Christenheit_ is rendered
otherwise than "Christendom" it is so indicated in a foot-note.

[8] The chief point argued at the Leipzig Disputation, whether
the power of the pope is _jure divino_ or _jure humano_.

[9] _Das feine barfüssische Büchlein_--i. e., a book written by a
bare-footed friar. See below, p. 345.

[10] A comment explanatory of a passage of Scripture or of the
Canon Law.

[11] Pallium, a scarf made of sheep's wool, which the pope is
privileged to wear at all times, and others only on specified
occasions; conferred by the pope on persons of the rank of
archbishops; on its bestowal depended the assumption of the title
and functions of the office. The granting of pallis became a rich
source of revenue for the pope since each new incumbent of a
prelacy had to apply for his own pallium in person, or by special
representative, and to pay for the privilege of receiving it. At
the appointment of Uriel as bishop of Mainz in 1508, even the
emperor urged a reduction of one-half the usual fees, especially
since the previous incumbent had paid the full price but four
years previous. The request was denied. See Art _Mainz_ in PRE 1,

[12] _Zur Halfte, so nicht mehr, geistlich_. See below, page 356,
No. 2.

[13] Is this an allusion to the papal title, _servus servorum
Dei_, "the servant of the servants of God"?

[14] Alveld's German treatise described itself in the title as a
"fruitful, useful little book."

[15] Alveld's Latin treatise especially abounds in these

[16] Alveld belonged to the branch of the Franciscan Order known
as the "Observants" (_fratres reglaris observatiae_), from their
strict observance of the Franciscan Rule. See the title of the
Latin treatise in _Weimar Ed._, VI, 277.

[17] _Christenheit_.

[18] _Gemeinde_--the German equivalent for the Latin _communio_,
_communitas_, or _congregatio_. In Luther's use of the term it
means sometimes "community," sometimes "congregation," sometimes
even "the Church" (_Gemeinde der Heiligen_). In this case it
translates Alveld's _civilitas_ (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 278).

[19] _Christenheit_.

[20] Luther quotes, in German, the reading of the Latin Vulgate.

[21] _Christenheit_.

[22] _Gemeinde_. A play on the word. On the second use of the
term, compare the similar employment of the English word

[23] _Christenheit_.

[24] From _Veni Sancte Spiritus_, an antiphon for Whitsuntide
dating from the eleventh century.

[25] _Christenheit_.

[26] _Es ist erlogen und erstunken_.

[27] _Gemeinde_.

[28] _Christenheit_.

[29] _Versammlung_.

[30] _Gemeinde_.

[31] _Versammlung_.

[32] _Einigkeit oder Gemeinde_.

[33] A quaint interpretation of the passage: "The disciples were
called Christians first in Antioch."

[34] _Christenheit_.

[35] _Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist_, a popular
pre-Reformation hymn, of one stanza, for Whitsuntide, dating from
the middle of the thirteenth century; quoted in a sermon by
Berthold, the Franciscan, a celebrated German preacher in the
Middle Ages, who died in Regesburg in 1272. Published by Luther,
with three stanzas of his own added, in his hymn-book of 1524.
Vid. Wackernage, _Kirchenlied_, ii, 44; Koca, _Geachicte des
Kirchenlieds_, i, 185; Julian, _Dict. of Hymnology_, 821. Also
Miss Winkworth's _Christian Singers_, 38.

[36] _Christenheit_.

[37] _Gemeinde_.

[38] _Christenheit_.

[39] _Christenheit_.

[40] All sources from which the Church or the clergy derived an
income were called in the broader sense, "spiritual" possessions.
A further distinction was drawn between two kinds of
ecclesiastical income--the _spiritualia_ in this sense being the
fees, tithes, etc., and the _temporalia_ the income from
endowments of land and the like.

[41] The followers of John Huss.

[42] _Zwölfbote_, a popular appellation for the apostles, meaning
one of the twelve messengers.

[43] See page 351.

[44] _Christenheit_.

[45] Literally, "Rastrume better than malvoisie." "Rastrum" was a
Leipzig beer reported to be extraordinarily bad; "malvoisie," a
highly prized, imported wine, known in England as "malmsey."

[46] In the German treatise Alveld says: "It is not enough to
have Christ for a shepherd or a head; if that were sufficient,
all the heathen, all the Jews, all the errorists, all the
heretics would be true Christians. Christ is a lord, a guardian,
a shepherd, a head of the whole world, whether we want him or
not." (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 301) In the Latin he says: "No community
or assembly (_civilitars seu pluralitas_) of men can be rightly
administered except in the unity of the head, under the Head
Jesus Christ." This proposition he develops in detail, saying
that "No brothel (_contubernium meretricum_), no band of thieves,
plunderers and robbers, no company of soldiers can be ruled or
held together, or long exist without a governor, chief and lord,
that is to say, without one head." (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 278).

[47] See above, p. 358.

[48] Jerome Emser, _De disputatione Lipsicense_ and _A venatione
Luteriana aegocerotia assertio_.

[49] Augustine, _In Joannia Ev._, 12, 3, 11. (_Migne Ed._, 35 149

[50] Cf. Augustine, _De unitate ecclesiae_, 5, 8. (_Migne Ed._,
43, 396 f.)

[51] In his _Sermon von Sacrament des Leichnams Christi_ of 1519
(_Weimar Ed._, II, 742 ff.) Luther had made a plea for the
restoration of the cup to the laity. At the request of Duke
George of Saxony, the bishop of Meissen (Jan. 20th, 1520) forbade
the circulation of this tract in his diocese (_Weimar Ed._, VI,
76; Hauerbath, _Luther_, I, 316). The controversy, to which
Luther contributed is _Verklärung etlicher Artikel_, etc.
(_Weimar Ed._, VI, 78 ff.), was bitterest in the Leipzig circle
to which Alved belonged.

[52] See pp. 373 and 380.

[53] A reference to Emser's _De disputatione Lipsicense_, and _A
ventione Luteriana aegocerotis assertio_, see above, p. 363.

[54] Luther's greeting to a forthcoming and much heralded work of
Eck's, which appeared under the title _De primatu Petri_.

[55] This statement cannot be substantiated. But see commentaries
on Acts 26:10 f.

[56] The memory of the warlike and avaricious pope Julius II. was
still fresh in the mind of Luther and his contemporaries.

[57] Alveld so announced himself in the title of his Latin
treatise. In order go gain the necessary leisure for its
composition he had obtained a dispensation from all the capel
services of his monastery. See _Weimar Ed._, VI, 277.

[58] In a similar vein of satire Shakespeare uses this very
phrase in "Merry Wives of Windsor," III, 5.

[59] _Gemeinde_.

[60] Alveld had stated that the attempt had been made "more than
23 times"; and again, "The assembly has existed more than 1486
under the chair of St. Peter which Christ has established." See
_Weimar Ed._, VI.

[61] _Gemeinde_.

[62] Still the old terminology.

[63] Equivalent to father-confessor. The pope's own confessor is
so called.

[64] Alveld makes this distinction in both of his treatises.

[65] _Gemeinde_.

[66] See page 373.

[67] See especially the _Resolutiones super Propositione XIII_.

[68] i. e., The Russians, who were in ecclesiastical fellowship
with the Orthodox Greek Church. The metropolitan see of Moscow
represented the opposition to union with Rome, which had been
proposed in 1439; the second metropolitan see of Russia, that of
Kief, was until 1519 favorable to the union. See A. Palmieri and
W. J. Shipman, in _The Catholic Encyclopedia_, X, 594 ff; XIII,
255 f., and Adeney, _Greek and Eastern Churches_, 385 ff.

[69] _Gemeinde_.

[70] Annates (_annatae_, _annalia_), originally the income which a
bishop received from the vacant benefices in his diocese, usually
amounting to a year's income of the benefice. By a decree of John
XXII, 1317 (_Extrav. Jn. XXII, Lib. I, C. 2_), the annates are
fixed at one-half of one year's income of the benefice reckoned
on the basis of the tithes, and payable on accession of the new
incumbent. Two years later (1319) the same Pope set an important
precedent by claiming for himself the annates from all benefices
falling vacant in the next two years (_Extrav. Comm. 3, 2, C.
II_). The right to receive annates subsequently became a regular
claim of the popes. The term was extended after 1418 to include,
beside the annates proper, the so-called _servitia_, payments
made to the curia by bishops and abbots at the time of their
accession. Luther discusses the subject at greater length in the
_Address to the Christian Nobility_. (See Vol. II)

[71] See above, p. 362.

[72] _Römische Einigkeit_.

[73] This is Alveld's explanation in his German treatise.

[74] _Comment_, equivalent to "lie" or "invention."

[75] _Rastrum_, see above, note on p. 362.

[76] The sheeps' clothing in which they come.

[77] A reference to the sale of dispensations, more fully
discussed in the _Address to the Christian Nobility_.

[78] At the well-known disputation in the previous year.

[79] John Lonicer in _Contra romanistam fratrem_, etc., and John
Bernhardi in _Confutatio inepti et impii libelli_, etc.; both
replies to Alveld's Latin treatise which appeared shortly before
this treatise of Luther's.

[80] _Gemeinde_.

[81] A promise fulfilled in his _Address to the Christian

[82] In the title to his Latin treatise.

[83] Of the German treatise.




    Abraham's bosom
    Abuses, in the Mass
    Address to the Christian Nobility
    Adlolf of Merseberg
    Adversity, blessings of
        the greatest
    Aegidius, St.
    Agatha, St.
    Albrecht of Mainz
    Anthony, St.
    Articles of faith
    Assurance of salvation
    Augsburg Confession
        Diet of
    Augustine's Confessions
    Ave Maria
    Aven amal

    Babylon, king of
    Babylonian captivity
        three parts of
        the sign of
        a flood of grace
        a covenant
        and penance
        significance of
        makes guiltless
        comfort of
        always to be remembered
        false confidence in
    Baptismal collect
    Barbara, St.
    Barbara's, St., Day
    Bernard of Clairvaux
    Bernhardi, John
    Bible, Translation of
    Bishop, qualifications of
    Bishops all equal
    Blasius, St
        within us
        before us
        behind us
        beneath us
        on left hand
        on right hand
        above us
    bon Christian
    Boniface VIII.
    Books, heathen, are dangerous
    Both kinds, communion in
    Brandenburg, Bishop of
    Bridget, St.

    Canon of the Mass
    Canonical Hours
    Catherine, St.
    Celia, St.
        one instituted by Christ
    Charles V.
        vows of
    Children, training of
    Christ, our example
        our greatest blessing
        our Priest
        righteousness of
    Christ, the Rock
    Christian, the name
        Church membership does not make
        lord of all
    Christopher, St.
        authority of
        corruption of
        House of Prayer
        spiritual mother
        worldliness of
        not bound to Rome
        a spiritual community
        three uses of the term
        marks of
    Commandments, Ten
        First three
        First four
        Ninth and Tenth
        of God
        a guide in confession
            in prayer
        of the Church
    Communion without confession
        of saints
    Community, government of
        Roman Catholic conception of
        Lutheran conception of
        why we confess
        when not to make
        of sin
    Confessional Letters
    Cross of Christ
    Cup, why withheld
    Curse, a fount of blessing
    Custom, value of
    Cypriacus, St.

    Damned, the
    Day and night
    Death and dumb, Mass for
        a blessing
        bitterness of, due to si
        a door to life
        a penance and satisfaction
    Decrees, papal
    Dietenberger, John
    Dionysus, St.
    Diseases, number known
    Dispensation from vows

    Easter Day
    Elevation of the host
    Enemies, duties toward
    Erasmus, Disider
    Erasmus, St.
    Estates, why instituted
    Esther, Queen
    Eternal punishment
    Eustachiua, St.
    Evils, within us
        never fully known
        before us
        behind us
        beneath us
        on our left hand
        on our right hand
        above us
        to be loved
    Exodus, a type
    Extreme Unction

        the highest good work
    Faith makes works good
        the test of good works
        makes all works equal
        in the Mass
        true priestly office
        stages of
        work of the First Commandment
        includes all good works
        and daily sin
        and prayer
        infirmity of
    Fathers, Church
    Feeding, meaning of
    Fides, Informis, formata, informata
    Flesh, the
    Flood, a type of baptism
    Forgiveness of sin
    Fourteen defenders
    Frederick the Wise
    Fuggers, the

    General Councils
    George of Saxony
    George the Martyr
    German Books
    Germans, characterised
    God, Name
    God, praise of
        to have a god
        wants our help
        a type of sin
    Good name, danger of
        need of
        none pure
        how rejected
        how they differ
    Graces of pardon
    Gratia infusa
    Greek Church
    Guilt of sin
        remission of

    Head and lord
        of Christendom
    Heinse, Simon
        full of God
    Highpriest, a type of Christ
    History, value of
    Holiness and prayer
        as title of the pope
    Holy Spirit
    Home, a Church
    Honor as a motive to good works
    Husband and wife, duties of
    Hymns quoted

    Imitatio Christi
    Indulgence Letters
    Inner man
    Instruction to indulgence sellers
    Intercession of the Church
    Israel, a type

    James, St.
    Jesus, Name of
        the three
    Job's wife
    John XXII.
    John of Saxony
    John Baptist, St., Day of
    Joseph's wagons
    Jubilee Indulgence
    Julius II.
    Justice of God
        by faith

    Keys of the Church
        power of

    Last Day
    Law of Moses, abolished
    Lawrence, St.
        and works
        produce sects
        purpose of
    Legends of saints
        Disputation at
    Leo X.
        Letter to
    Letters of pardon
    Liberty of a Christian
    Life, a spiritual baptism
        beginning of death
    Lord's Day
    Lord's Prayer
    Love of God
        required in a bishop
    Low Mass
    Luther's coarse language
        indifference to slander
        lack of love
        love of peace
        submission to pope
        zeal for Christ
    Luther's zeal for the pope
        sense of duty
        master of theology
        called a heretic

    Mainz, Boshopric
    Man, two natures
        three parts of
    Manasseh, Payer of
    Margaret, St.
        a memorial
        not a good work
        not a sacrifice
        fruit of
        of the Holy Cross
        of our Lady
        for the dead
    Masters, duties of
    Matthias, St.
        limits of
    Meissen, bishop of
    Men, four classes of
    Modus confitendi
    Monastic houses
    Monica, St.
    Mortal sin
        when to be confessed
    Mother of God

    New Testament
        Treatise on
        Year's Present
    Nobility, German
        Address to

        to Church
        to masters
        to parents
        to state
    Offering, in the Mass
    Old Testament
    Opus operatum
    Orders, monastic
    Original sin
    Our Lady
    Outward man

    Pantaleon, St.
    Papacy, corruption of
    Papacy, Luther's conclusion of
        Treatise on
    Papal bulls
            of human right
    Parents, duties of
    Paschal, St.
    Paschal Lamb
    Passion of Christ
    Pater noster
    Paul, St.
        the hermit
    Paul of Bourgos
    peccata aliena
    Penalty of sin
        remission of
    Penitential Canons
    Person and office
    Personal faith
    Peter, St.
    Peter's, St., at Rome
    Petros, Petra
    Pharisee and Publican
    Pledge of Baptism
    Plenary indulgence
        power over purgatory
        powers of
        the devil's vicar
    Popes, some heretics
    Power of the Church
        of the keys
    Praise of men, to be avoided
        as a good work
        without ceasing
        outward and inward
        and holiness
            power of
        House of
        in pulpit
        what is to be prayed for
        for the dead
        in the mass
    Preceptorium, Luther's
    Precepts of the Church
    Preparation for the mass
    "Prevail against the gates of hell,"
        vicar of God
        arrogance of
    Priesthood of believers
        reforms suggested to
    Private confession
    Princes, duties of
    Promises of God
    Protests against Indulgences
    Proverbs quoted
    Purpose of better life


    Real Presence
    Reason of man, perilous
    Reforms, suggested to princes
        Roman Catholic doctrine
    Reservatio culpæ
    Reserved cases
        super prop. XIII.
    Rest, bodily
    Riches not sin
    Right hand and left band
    Righteous man defined
    Rock, a type of Christ
        does not signify authority
    Roman Church
        corruption in

    Sacrament of the Altar
    Sacramental sign
    Sacraments, number of
    Sacrifice, of the Haas
        worship of
        estimate of
        Roman usage of
    Sebastian's, St., Day
    Sentences, of Peter Lombard
    Sermon, the
        v. Sacrament des Leichnams
    Serpent, a type of Christ
    Servants, duties of
        mother of glory
        motive to avoid evil
    Seal, the sacrament a
    Sheba, Queen of
    Signs, given by God
        of the sacrament
    Silence, when a sin
        after baptism
        daily, and faith
        distinctions of
        the nature of the body
        the three armies of
    Sinful inclinations, do not condemn
        are truly sin
    Sixtus IV.
    Solomon, a type
    Spenlein, Georg
            contrasted with temporal
            when to be resisted
    Still Mass
        sanctified by Christ
        second step of faith
    Superstition in the Mast
    Sylvester, v. Prierias

    Temporal authority
        contrasted with spiritual
        sent by God
    Testament, defined
        of the Mass
        parts of
    Thanksgiving, in the Mass
    Theses, XCV.
        text of
    Thief on the Cross
    Treasure of the Church
    Trent, Decrees of
    Trust, in God
    Truth loveth light
        witnessing to
        Romans the true Turks
    Type and fulfilment

    Unity of the Church

    Veni sancte Spiritus
    Venial sin
    Verklärung etlicher Artikel
    Vicar, the pope no
    Vitus, St
    Votum saciamenti
    Vow, of baptism
        commutation of
        dispensation of

    Wahrheit sagen
    Wicked, prosperity of
    Will of man, perilous
    Witness to truth
    Wittenberg, castle church
    Word of God
    Words of the Sacrament
        of baptism
    Works and faith
    Work-righteous saints
    Works of mercy
    Writings of men
    Wrong, to be resisted

    Young, training of the

    Zarephath, widow of



    I. Samuel--
    II. Samuel--
    I. Kings--
    II. Kings--
    Esther 6:1f.
    Song of Songs--
    Daniel 2:48
    Micah 3:2


    Esther 14:10
    Wisdom of Solomon--
    Ecclesiasticus, or Wisdom of Sirach--
    Prayer of Manasseh--


    I. Corinthians--
    II. Corinthians--
    II. Thessalonians 2:3f.
    I. Timothy--
    II. Timothy 3:1ff.
    I. Peter--
    II. Peter--
    I. John--
        2:1 f.

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